This March, Cambridge University Press will release “The Shi’a in Modern South Asia: Religion, History and Politics” edited by Justin Jones (University of Oxford) and Ali Usman Qasmi (Lahore University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Shi‘i communities of South Asia, roughly 60 million people, represent, after those of Iran, the second largest grouping of Shi’as in the Muslim world. Until recently our knowledge of them has not matched their numbers. Indeed, they have suffered from the paradox of being both highly visible but in scholarly terms largely invisible. Where the Shi‘a live in South Asian towns and cities, arguably, no community has been more visible or more audible: visible because of their great processions at Muharram; and audible, certainly at Muharram, but also throughout the year in their majalis, as they recount the events of Karbala, often transmitting them by loudspeaker to the muhalla. The essays in this volume illustrate how scholars are beginning to develop a grasp of religious change amongst the Shi’as over the past two centuries to match that which has been achieved for the Sunnis. The following themes, all present to a greater or lesser extent in modern scholarship on the Shi‘a of South Asia, run through these essays: there is the role of political power, but also its lack, in establishing and shaping Shi‘i communities; there is the centrality of the tragedy of Karbala to Shi‘i identity and to the Shi‘i sense of community; there is the tendency, as time moves towards the present, for Shi‘i practices of pluralism and inclusiveness to weaken in favour of exclusiveness; then, associated with this development, there is the impact of religious reform, and significant religious change, which compares suggestively with religious change in the Sunni world; there is the enduring impact of Iran, the Shi‘i centres in Iraq and more recently Shi‘i activism in the Lebanon; and finally there is the specific role of women in fashioning Shi‘i devotion and community. The contributions to this volume add to the understanding of power and the shaping of Shi‘i communities.