THE MARTYRS OF KARBALA: Shi 'i Symbols and Rituals in Modern Iran

Kamran Scot Aghaie, Author . Univ. of Washington $60 (248p) ISBN 978-0-295-98448-3 ISBN 978-0-295-98455-1

In 680 CE, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hoseyn and 70 associates were slaughtered by troops of the rival Umayyad caliphate. This massacre, known as the Battle of Karbala, was a decisive event in the schism between Sunni and Shi 'i Muslims, and as such is remembered by Shi 'ites in story, song, drama and ritual procession. In this book, Islamic historian Aghaie traces the political uses of Karbala symbolism in 19th- and 20th-century Iran, arguing that it has been a "very flexible" narrative for Iranian rulers. Some, like the Qajar regime (1796–1925), enthusiastically sponsored the story in drama and song, and found that their use of Karbala symbolism helped legitimate their rule. Others, like the more secular and Westernized Pahlavi regime (1925–1979), ignored or suppressed the story's retelling—at their peril. Although the prose is dry and formal, Aghaie is sensitive to the way that Karbala symbolism serves as a valuable lens for examining change in modern Iranian society. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Religion
Open Ebook - 248 pages - 978-0-295-80078-3
Hardcover - 248 pages - 978-0-295-98448-3
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