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IslamicPoliticalThoughtPaper

IslamicPoliticalThoughtPaper - Arnold Gregory Arnold...

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Arnold Gregory Arnold Professor Faghfoory REL 3990 As Threads in a Carpet: Persian Cultural Norms that Allowed for the Acceptance of Shi’ism The Islamic world is, despite the single title, far from a uniform entity. There are, under this umbrella term, various ethnicities, languages, and sects that have, at various points in history, been both allies and adversaries. Perhaps the biggest divides are exemplified by a national division and a subsequent denominational split. In regards to Islamic ethnicities, the largest and most violent divide has been between the Arab and Persian peoples. These groups have, since the Muslim conquest of the region in the 600s, been culturally and sometimes militaristically opposed. As if to further strengthen this gap, the people of Persia, now Iran, embraced the Shi’a school of Islam, a view diametrically opposed to the “orthodox” Sunni school followed in most of the Islamic, particularly the Arab, world. 1 These radical divisions have led to many hypotheses as to why Persia chose to continue the path of Shi’ism, rather than conform to the beliefs of its neighbors. 2 Rather than being a rapid change, the introduction and implementation of Shi’a thought and belief on the Persian people was a gradual process that began with the birth of the indigenous Persian and was finally brought to concrete climax with the institution of Safavid power. This paper will be divided into two sections. The first sections will delve into the history of Persia from its formation as a nation to the rise of Shi’a thought and rule under the Safavid Empire. Special interest will be paid to the developments that related to the development of an 1 Arjomand, Said Amir, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1984) 2 Dorraj, Manochehr, From Zarathustra to Khomeini (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 1990) pp. 9
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Arnold Iranian-Islamic identity. The second section will discuss the major structural implementations that created a framework for the institution of the modern Shi’a Iranian state and mentality. I. History of Persia The Persian culture has the honor of being one of the worlds oldest. The first Persian Empire formed under Cyrus the Great in the 6 th century BCE, and continued under the Achaemenid dynasty until the invasions of Alexander the Great. It is not until the last pre-Islamic dynasty, the Sassanids (CE 224-651), that we see clear documentation of Persian socio-religious dynamics. 3 In Sassanid society, there was a separation between most secular and religious leaders, these two facets of society were tied together in the institution of the king, or shāh . The shāh was said to represent God on earth, or, in Persian, farr-e izadi . 4 However, in order for this representation to be considered valid by the community, and in particular, the religious community, the king was required to be a virtuous individual, and one who reflected the nikki , or the forces of goodness. Under the state religion of the time, Zoroastrianism, true believers were
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