The Making of Shia Ayatollahs offers both insider and outsider views of how a scholar becomes an Ayatollah in Shia Islam, how ayatollahs suggest diverse perspectives on faith, and how the grand ayatollahs are recognized by a balance of many factors including piety, scholarship, popularity and networking. This book consists of two parts. The first begins with the core value of knowledge in Islam and the Ulama’s interpretation of jurisprudence and the subjects, values, and methodology they have developed and are applying to challenges found in the faithful practices in modern life. The author reveals the mechanisms of madrasa, hawza, their curricula, and the recognition of a scholar as an ayatollah. The second part elaborates the rich and sometimes bitter pluralism and debate within the community of ayatollahs regarding topics including denominational identity and intra-faith work, Sufism and mysticism, Philosophy (falsafa and wisdom), modernization and the West, political power and government, and women in public life. After providing a historical background on each subject, the author takes the reader into the heart of current debates among ayatollahs in Qum, Mashhad, Najaf, and Beirut without sacrificing accuracy and originality to educate a wide range of readers.
Sayed Hassan Akhlaq teaches Religion as a Professorial Lecturer at The George Washington University and Philosophy at both Marymount University and Coppin State University.
Part One: Nature and Structure
Chapter One: From Knowledge to Jurisprudence
Chapter Two: Madrasa, Hawza, and Hierarchy
Chapter Three: Ayatollah and Mujtahid
Chapter Four: Jurisprudence: Significance and Becoming
Chapter Five: Grand Ayatollahs, Marja'iyyah, and the Division of Imitated and Imitator
Part Two: Dynamism and Diversity
Chapter Six: Sec-centrism and Ecumenism
Chapter Seven: Sufism and Spirituality
Chapter Eight: Philosophy and Wisdom
Chapter Nine: Modernization and the West
Chapter Ten: Politics and Government
Chapter Eleven: Women
About the Author
Dr. Akhlaq’s study of the most important religious institution of Shi’ite Islam, the marja’iya, illuminates different views about the Ayatollah-concept that emerge from the confluence of theology and jurisprudence in Shi’ite history. While arguing for the centrality of orthopraxy through interpretive juridical heritage, it illuminates the logical foundations of the Shi’ite legal tradition. I strongly recommend this informative book to understand politics and faith that Shiite scholars promoted for more than a millennium.
The word "ayatollah" usually evokes negative connotations in Western minds, yet Sayyed Hassan Akhlaq shows us in this meticulously researched study how unnecessary this is. He retraces the genealogy and the phenomenology of the forms of knowledge presupposed in the independent reasoning that is the hallmark of any ayatollah as "sign of God." On top of that, he shows the great variety of ideas and cultures among various ayatollahs and their schools.
Dr. Akhlaq informs the readers of the complexity of the process of educational and religious training as well as spiritual and ethical preparation that an aspiring religious scholar goes through to achieve the rank of a mujtahid, the first step toward attaining the rank of an ayatullah. Beyond that phase, production of original scholarly works that demonstrate a mujtahid’s superiority in scholarship (a‘lamiyyat), the simplicity of life style, piety, dignity, and trustworthiness earn an aspiring mujtahid the recognition as an ayatullah. Among these high ranking ayatullahs usually four or five achieve that rank of “Grand Ayatullash” and function as the “Sources of Emulation” or the Marja‘”.
This is an interesting timely book that demonstrates in detail the diversity of views among the high ranking Shi‘a clergy and informs the lay reader and experts alike of the significance and enormous power this position carries, especially at the time that the title has lost its historical glorious and respected stature and has been abused by its free application to many unqualified members of the Shi‘a clergy.