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The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,198 ratings  ·  168 reviews
Iranian-born scholar Vali Nasr has become one of America's leading commentators on current events in the Middle East, admired and welcomed by both media and government for his "concise and coherent" analysis (Wall Street Journal, front-page profile). In this "remarkable work" (Anderson Cooper), Nasr brilliantly dissects the political and theological antagonisms within Isla ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2006)
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 ·  2,198 ratings  ·  168 reviews

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Julian Haigh
This is obviously from the Shia perspective, but in my limited-knowledge opinion (which I'd argue we all speak from) I'd say calling Khomeini the Sunnification of Shiism went a little far. Basically, the author appeared to back-peddle from his established opinion that Shia was the democratic and modernist alternative to a backward, fundamentalist Sunniism. Of course Khomeini is Shia and there was a Safavid empire based in Iran - but he tries to take what would be scary to the west and label it S ...more
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone confused about Islam & current ME political conflicts
The first chapter of this book is the single best explanation I have ever seen explaining the distinction between Shias and Sunnis. Nasr has performed a valuable service in writing this book. Most explanations reduce the Shia/Sunni distinction to a mere theological point, rendering both sides foolish in the telling. Nasr explains the economic, political, and often ethnic differences that gave rise to such passionately held ideological differences. And he does so in an easy-to-read, captivating a ...more
Dec 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
In spite of its obviously pro-Shia bias, which many other readers have also noted, this is a superb book; I cannot imagine a better introduction to the current sectarian religious strife in the Middle East and Central Asia, nor to the general theological as well as political differences between Shia and Sunni believers. In fact, it's hard to imagine a better introduction to the history and theology of Islam, period. Nasr achieves what I think I most admire in a writer of this sort of study, mana ...more
Khairul Hezry
Oct 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in current affairs
Shelves: religion, politics
Should be read both by (Sunnah) Muslims and non-Muslims. Let's face it, what do we know about the Shia Muslims? Next to nothing, most probably. And yet we want to discuss about them and some of us want to bomb them to the stone age. Read. Understand. Chill out.
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ben by: Max Gasteen
This book basically has two parts and both are very informative. The first part is a sort of history or introduction to the Shias, who they are, and how they fit in the middle east vis-a-vis the Sunnis. The second part of the book is less historical, more of an analysis of the current situation along with thoughts on how the middle east is shaping up and what the rise of the Shias (and, the rise of Iran's influence - read influence, not domination or control) could do to change the region.

It app
Stephanie Bluth
I don't want to speak ill of Vali Nasr and I hope this review doesn't come off like I am. I've never met him, but I know of him and he seems much loved and respected. That being said, I kind of really hated this book. I think what happened is you have a man who knows SO MUCH about this and tried to write a book for a general audience and then handed the transcript off to an editor who didn't really get it and didn't want to come across as stupid, so they gave the green light to have it published ...more
Brett C
Feb 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-east
Relevant and important information on the Shiite-Sunni issue from both the historical context and well as today. The book was written in 2007 (and that's when I read it) but the information can still be used to help the Western world understand the Shia and their community. A worthy read at helping get a glimpse into the Middle Eastern current affairs.
This is a popular work on what Vali Nasr calls the "Shia Revival," and it must be understood that this is, more or less, an introduction to the topic. Nasr works in broad strokes, but essentially argues that--since the Iranian Revolution--Shia communities have been empowered and are taking more control of their own destiny. He spends a great deal of time examining Iraq (the first Shia Arab country to undergo this revival) and Iran (its point of origin).

Ultimately, he argues that a great deal of
Richard K
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
From a completely neutral perspective the wool seemed biased towards the Shia perspective with very little good things to say for the Sunni side of the argument. Hence, whilst a good read, I would caution caveat emptor
Interesting central hypothesis about how the position of Shiites within the Muslim world is changing, but wasn't overly impressed with his argument. Too much of it felt a bit anecdotal.
David Harris
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for a more succinct review of this book, I highly recommend the one by Valerie above, who briefly describes the contents of each chapter in the course of her review.

I don't know that I would recommend this as a first book for someone with very little knowledge of Islam. It might be better to start with something like _After the Prophet_ (Hazleton) or a book on the basics of Shi'a Islam. Once you have that background, you'll be much better positioned to take advantage of the wea
A look at history and politics between the Shias and the Sunnis. Interesting, but a bit biased in his viewpoint.
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
Just a warning: I have mixed feelings about this book and they come in difficult-to-articulate forms, so this review is going to be a mess.

First, I do not think I was the target audience for this book. I was expecting a more accessible overview of the Sunnis-Shia conflict, while the author was expecting his readers to come in with a fair bit of knowledge already (at least it felt that way to me). However, even this observation of mine is a bit complicated by the fact that the author seems to os
Raghdan fawakhiri
Provocative, informative, but misleading. Fiction disguised as nonfiction!
First, Nasr manipulates the Western reader into believing that only he (not even Khomeini, p.135) can define Shia: Claiming Ashoura celebrations define it (p.48), yet admits the Shia scholars deem them as heresy. On p.31, he claims “Shia..see spirituality in passion..rather than in law" and ‘Shia scholars emphasis on Law is sunnification of Shia’ (misleading Western readers then to seeing Sunnis as less spiritual and as ri
Nura Yusof
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
The sectarian conflict that has taken and is taking place in the Middle East is certainly not what the Prophet had in mind in propagating Islam, in my opinion.

Are the Shia, Muslims? Are the Sunnis right? Honestly, no one knows. Instead, we have both groups, each trying to out-shout each other, saying that theirs is the true Islam. And most often, by violent means.

What a waste of time and resources. They are sitting on huge deposits of oil which could greatly help them build their countries and
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are a few paradigms to explain regional violence in the Middle East. The Sunni - Shia divide is one of them, also known as "civil war within Islam". This book is probably the best articulation of that paradigm, starting from the origins of the split to current events. The author traces upheavals in the region to readjustments of political and social trends between these two main branches of Islam.

As many pointed out, it's a one sided analysis from the Shia perspective. I don't think it is
Ghada Arafat
Oct 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: kobo-reads
I am really hesitant to give this book 3 starts but I gave it that because it is a great book in terms of covering many untouched issues and it leaves the reader with enough curiosity to read more on the issue.
What was apparent for me in the book, which I did not like especially that the author has a big academic back ground, is his apparent sympathy with Shies. I noticed that when ever he talks about bloody acts committed by Shies he is giving them the excuse that they were retaliated. He stres
Mehwish Mughal
What I liked:
- Accessible narrative
- Engaging

What I did not like:
- Not just biased towards Shia-Islam but also towards one particular sect within Shi'ism (12 Imams)
- Oversimplification of issues.
- At times it felt like the author was forcing the entire Middle Eastern issues to fit into the Shia-Sunni conflict box

I think in order to understand the Shia-Sunni split within the historical framework with minimum subjectivity, the best book around is Shi'ite Islam by Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn T
Ashik Uzzaman
Heavily pro-Shia. More descriptive and not enough food for thoughts. But still good in the sense that it captured several important events.
Raghdan fawakhiri
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Provocative, informative, but misleading. Fiction disguised as nonfiction!
First, Nasr manipulates the Western reader into believing that only he (not even Khomeini, p.135) can define Shia: Claiming Ashoura celebrations define it (p.48), yet admits the Shia scholars deem them as heresy. On p.31, he claims “Shia..see spirituality in passion..rather than in law" and ‘Shia scholars emphasis on Law is sunnification of Shia’ (misleading Western readers then to seeing Sunnis as less spiritual and as ri
Metal Nyankos
I began reading this book with the notion that the Middle East - with its various religions, sects, forms of government, cultures, languages, and individual nations - was a quagmire beyond repair. That the area home to so many and to so much history was a veritable hot mess, prone to perpetual inter- (and intra-) religious violence, with most major players struggling to come out on top of one another as opposed to bridge-building and establishing a kind of tolerance or even outright peaceful coe ...more
Sarmat Chowdhury
The book does a great job at explaining Shi’a Islam and it’s perspective on politics and theology since the schism between Sunni and Shi’a Islam in the 7th century.

However, besides the major Shi’a bias that seeks to cast Shi’a Islam as the “enlightened” and more acceptable version of Islam to the West (aka moderate and friendly), the book only focuses on Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan to discuss the Shi’a populations and their yearn for governance against the Sunni hegemony and oppression.

Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be mandatory reading for those Americans (i.e. virtually all) who conflate all of Islam into Moslem (i.e. terrorists). The difference between Sunni and Shia Moslems goes back to nearly the beginning of Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammed. In Western tradition, this is the equivalent of the Protestant severing it's relationship with the Catholic church, but that is a simplistic analogy. Is the hard shell Baptist the same as an evangelical Christian? But, that is too sim ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Really helped me appreciate the intricacies not just between Sunni and Shi’a, but those among and within each larger group. And this definitely put many Middle Eastern (and beyond!) conflicts into a clearer light.

My only quibble is that this at times reads as almost simplistically “Shi’a good, Sunni bad.” Nasr is a little too willing to give Iran a pass as compared to some Sunni states he cites, and the lack of discussion (or, rather, the lack of prescience) about the Syrian/Shi’a-
Reza Omrani
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book gives a good overview of the conflicts in the Middle East and their historical background. Although the book is written in 2006, so much has happened in that region since then that makes the book look like an ancient book. I would love to see a sequel to the book about the events of the past decade in Middle East.
The author is Shia, and obviously he is biased, and parts of the work sounds like he is expressing his wishes rather the realities on the ground. All these being said, he is a
Alexandra Skokandic
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Despite being written largely about “current events” more than 10 years ago, “The Shi’a Revival” is still a very informative survey of (briefly) Islamic history and (in greater depth) modern sectarianism and its impact on both domestic and international politics and stability throughout the Middle East (with some mentions of South Asia and Africa). My only concern about this book is the persistent aftertaste of bias that made me suspicious of the editorializing it contains.
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If yo want to learn about the history of the Shia, their unique beliefs, and the why it is practices around the world, Vali Nasr provides a brief, yet authoritative introduction. His academic pedigree shines through in his analysis and predictions (this was written almost 15 years ago) is uncannily accurate. The book provides a wealth of information about the Shia sect of Islam and why some Sunni's such as the Wahhabis detest them.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, islam-etc
Really 4.5 stars. The first three-four chapters are pure gold. The latter chapters' analysis of (then) current events was a bit free-flowing and somewhat disjointed, albeit erudite and informed. Biographies of people like Sadr , Ayatollah Sistani and even Zaqhawai at the foot of the pages would have been useful.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Explanation of the origination of (poliitcal) sectarian differences was easy to follow and informative.

Great explanations and examples of key moments that have shaped the Shia Revival, such as Khomeini in Iran and Sistani in Iraq, as well as briefly touching upon the rise of extremism.

Would recommend to all who are interested in gaining an insight into the root of sectarian conflict.
Umar Lee
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really good book. Written in 2007 it gives a lot of information on Shia history, various scholarly camps, political trends and more. Nasr also discusses the Iranian model of revolution as opposed to Sunni revival. Of course reading this had me wishing for a part two as the very issues discussed in this book exploded in recent years throughout the region.
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Son of renowned Iranian academic Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Vali Nasr was born in Tehran in 1960, went to school in England at age 16, and immigrated to the U.S. after the 1979 Revolution. He received his BA from Tufts University in International Relations summa cum laude. He earned his masters in International Economics and Middle East Studies from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1984, then ...more

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Author and illustrator Alice Oseman is known to her long-time fans for her young adult novels about—as she calls them—"teenage disasters," start...
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“The Shia-Sunni conflict is at once a struggle for the soul of Islam… and a manifestation of the kind of tribal wars of ethnicities and identities… with which humanity has become wearily familiar.” 0 likes
“Ultimately, the character of the region [the Middle East] will be decided in the crucible of Shia revival and the Sunni response to it.” 0 likes
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