Thinking ahead : Shi'ite Islam in Iraq and its seminaries (hawzah 'ilmiyyah)
Date of Issue2007
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
In this "position paper", the author tries to develop his thoughts with regard to the future role of Shi'ite Islam and the Shi'ite seminaries (hawzah 'ilmiyyah) in Iraq, looking beyond the country's present occupation by the US-led coalition forces. Contrary to what is usually held by the wider public, Twelver Shi'ite Islam hd been characterized in the course of its history by quietism, intellectual activity, and the pursuit of scholarship, rather than by political assertiveness. These features should be taken into consideration when discussing the future of Iraq, a country with an Arab Shi'ite majority. Iraq's Shi'ite seminaries, especially those in Najaf, had been centres of learning prior to the rise to prominence of those in Qom (Ghom) in neighbouring Iran. The rise of Qom ought to be considered an exceptional (and not necessarily irreversible) phenomenon within the context of Shi'ite history that is peculiar to 20th century Iran. Consequently, and in spite of the daily increasing communal violence, the revival of the Iraqi seminaries - situated in a multi-confessional country - could contribute towards moderation within Shi'ism, and beyond that, in the Islamic and Arab world at large, given the quietist tradition of Shi'ite Islam during its formative and classical periods. Moreover, within the conext of a secular Iraqi republic, the restoration of the leading position of Iraq's hawzah alongside the reassertion of traditional religious leadership from the part of the country's senior Shi'ite clerics, could also become a corrective and stabilizing factor vis-a-vis the influence of Iranian Qom. However, the crucial prerequisite for such a development would be the successful and long-lasting pacification and consolidation of Iraq, the continuation of some form of national coherence and territorial integrity, and the containment of Iran, which is ulilzing the aspirations of the non-Iranian Shi'ites in order to achieve hegemony over the Middle East.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Military and naval science::Strategy::Asia
RSIS Working Papers ; 125/07
Nanyang Technological University