Imam Sadiq Institute

Doctrines of Shi'i Islam: A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices

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Author: Ayatollah Ja'far Sobhani | Translated and Edited by: Reza Shah Kazemi Paperback | 262 pages 

An edited translation of Manshur–i ‘aqayid–i Imamiyya (literally A Charter of Imami Beliefs) by Ayatollah Ja‘far Sobhani, this book offers an overview of the principal tenets of Shi‘i Islam with particular reference to Twelver Shi‘ism. Useful both as an introductory text on Shi‘i thought and practice as well as a contemporary expression, from within, of this vibrant and dynamic branch of the Muslim community, Doctrines of Shi‘i Islam upholds the validity of Shi‘i perspectives by rational arguments based on the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet. The work focuses its attention on the most essential elements of Imami belief and those aspects which have been particularly misunderstood or misrepresented. The explanations offered and clarifications of the foundations on which particular concepts and practices are based, will be of value to those seeking understanding between different communities of interpretation and schools of thought in Islam.

Although the author approaches the subject theologically, juridically and ethically, the book also includes philosophical, gnostic and metaphysical modes of inquiry. In his discussion of certain subjects – such as the nature of being, the problem of evil and the question of theodicy – Sobhani confronts the aesthetic and sceptical worldview with arguments that, to a certain extent, reveal the influence of traditional philosophy or hikmat in Iran: philosophy expressed through logic, guided by revelation and nourished by inward faith, spiritual certainty and, at its highest, by mystical illumination.

Despite its comprehensive scope, Doctrines of Shi‘i Islam is a concise work composed of 150 short ‘articles’, some consisting of no more than a paragraph and others a few pages in length, providing an overall sketch of the essential elements of Shi‘i Islam and a vantage point from within the tradition itself.

The book is divided into three chapters, the first dealing with the worldview of Islam, the second with general beliefs such as the Unity of God (tawhid), Prophecy (nubuwwa), the Imamate (Imama) and the Hereafter (ma’ad) while the third chapter addresses specific religious questions, practical rulings and contemporary issues. The first two chapters broadly mirror the paradigm of theological treatises in Shi‘i Islam established by Nasir al–Din al–Tusi (d. AH 656/1274 CE) in his celebrated work Tajrid al–i‘tiqad, beginning with what has been called ‘theology in the general sense’ (al–ilahiyyat bi ma‘na’l–‘amm) and then proceeding to ‘theology in the specific sense’ (al–ilahiyyat bi ma‘na’l–khass). The final part of the book discusses some of the more heavily debated religious issues, elucidating concrete details pertaining to the practicalities of religious life and legal rulings in the light of contemporary exigencies.

While beginning with the most universal of Islamic themes – relating to knowledge, being and the nature of man – he finishes with the most specific, tackling issues pertaining to practical religious life. The author also welcomes debate over differences and pleads for an end to internecine diatribes and anathematisation by one school or group against another, pleading for an ecumenical affirmation of what constitutes the essential principles of Islam.

Published as a joint project between The Institute of Ismaili Studies and the Imam Sadiq Institute in Qom, this book makes an important contribution to the field of Shi‘i Studies by providing a unique insight into the theological thinking, which is broadly representative of religious seminaries in Iran today.

About the Author:

Ayatollah Ja‘far Sobhani (b. 1930) is a senior member of the Council of Mujtahids in the Seminary of Qom and Director of the Imam Sadiq Institute, Iran. He is a well–known and highly respected contemporary religious scholar with over 80 published works to his name, covering such subjects as Qur’anic commentary, theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, and history.


Among his publications are two ongoing multi–volume commentaries on the Qur’an in Arabic and Persian and his biographies of the Prophet Muhammad, Furugh–i abadiyyat (The Resplendence of Eternity), and of Imam ‘Ali, Furugh–i velayat (The Resplendence of Sanctity), have received high critical acclaim.

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