The Trivialization of Shi’i Marja’iyyat: Impeaching Iran’s Supreme Leader on his Marja’iyyat 


Mohsen Kadivar
Mohsen Kadivar

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ABSTRACT: Hojjatol-Islam wal-Moslemin Seyyed Ali Hosseyni Khamenei (b. 1939 in Mashhad) was one of the famous combatant broad-minded orators of Khorasan in the 1970s. After the success of the revolution, he was assigned to important positions, such as membership of the Council of the Revolution, leader of Tehran’s Friday prayer, and the third President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. At fifty, the Assembly of Experts chose him as the second Supreme Leader of I.R.I. on 4 June 1989, after Ayatollah Khomeini’s passing. After Ayatollah Araki’s death, Jame’eye Moddaresin Hawzeye ‘Elmiyeye Qom (the Association of the Teachers at the Qom Seminary) introduced seven jurists as marjae’ jayezol-taqlid (qualified for marja’iyyat) in a newsletter on 2 Dec 1994. “The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei Supreme Leader” was the third one. The Jame’eye Rawhaniyyate Mobareze Tehran (the Association of the Combatant Clergy of Tehran) also introduced three jurists as marja’ jayezol-taqlid, of whom Khamenei was the first.

“Grand Ayatollah Khamenei”, in a speech on 14 Dec 1994, announced that he humbly accepted the marja’iyyat abroad, since it was abandoned outside of Iran. His treatise titled Ajwibat al-Istifta’at (Requested Fatwas) was published in Arabic in 1994 in Kuwait and in Farsi in 1996 in Tehran. In 1998, he concluded that it is incorrect to have seven marja’s, and that instead, only one person should take on marja’iyyat. He assigned the Jame’eye Moddaresin Hawzeye ‘Elmiyeye Qom the task of introducing the supreme leader as the unique and supreme Marja’. From then, in official circles, especially outside of Iran, he is referred to as “Imam Khamenei”. Continue reading

Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Rouhani, Slander, and Marja’iyat


Mohsen Kadivar
Mohsen Kadivar

ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ABSTRACT: Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Rouhani was one of the best-known opponents of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic movement between 1965-1977 at the Najaf Seminary. In the first five years in Najaf, he was the main force in imposing pressure and restrictions on the exiled marja’ and the combatant clergies around him.

During the next seven years at Najaf, Ayatollah Rouhani and his companions continued to harass Ayatollah Khomeini, his son Seyyed Mostafa, and revolutionary clergies. Unfortunately, in August 1970 and June 1971, some of Ayatollah Khomeini’s companions also defamed Ayatollah Rouhani with three unsettling fabrications, stripping Ayatollah Rouhani away from his position of service. Continue reading


Muhammed Haron (left) and Gil Merkx
Muhammed Haron (left) and Gil Merkx

Many Muslim institutions of higher learning have emerged on the African continent over the past few decades. These institutions have in one way or another made their contributions towards the societies and environments where they are situated. Despite the noble objectives of some that were set up, the objectives often have been unrealized as a result of a lack of financial and other resources. There have, however, been other institutions that have flourished and made invaluable inputs to their respective communities.

It is hard to find a text that adequately covers these institutions, even in places where one might expect it, including in Paul Scrijver’s authoritative Bibliography of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (Leiden: E.J. Brill 2009),

So when Duke University’s Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) announced a workshop to discuss and engage scholars on “Islamic Institutions of Higher Learning in Africa: Their History, Mission and Role in Regional Development,” there were eager responses to participate in what may be regarded as an oft-neglected area of Islamic studies research. The Duke Islamic Studies Center and its Carnegie Corporation of New York-supported Transcultural Islam Project (to be explained in-depth later in this paper) offered an interesting platform for this exploratory workshop.

AfricaIslamGraphicThe workshop organizers, under the co-directorship of Duke professors Mbaye Lo and Bruce Hall, hosted a group of scholars who came from different parts of the continent (and elsewhere from the US and Europe) — scholars who have been evaluating these types of institutions’ status in the transnational Muslim arena.

The organizers were interested to know, inter alia, to what extent these institutions were involved in pursuing research, perpetuating traditional Muslim scholarship, and creatively contributing towards the society’s economic development.

With these noble aims and objectives in mind, let us offer an overview in this report of our two-day workshop at Duke University. (Other sponsors included the International Institute of Islamic Thought  (headquartered in Virginia); The Africa Initiative (Duke); Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (Duke); African & Afro-American Studies (Duke); Duke History Department; Duke Religion Department; Center for Muslim Life (Duke); Franklin Humanities Institute (Duke), Duke Center for International Development; The Kenan Institute for Ethics; Duke Divinity School; and Duke University Center for International Studies.)

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by EMILIE ANNE-YVONNE LUSE for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on JANUARY 8, 2014: 

A 2009 poster combining the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah with the "Biggest Sushi Party in the City." Sao Paolo, Brazil
A 2009 poster combining the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah with the “Biggest Sushi Party in the City.” Sao Paolo, Brazil

The study of ethnic identity is a daunting endeavor, which, if treated too simply, fails to account for the richness and complexity of human existence.

In diasporic studies especially, the researcher faces heterogeneity and hybridity that escape tidy categorization and require constant re-assessment of the object of study itself. This was the consensus of a vivid and productive workshop “The Jewish & Muslim Diasporas in Latin America: New Comparative Perspectives,” held in early October 2013 at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University, with the goal of providing “new approaches to the comparative study of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Argentina and Brazil.”

The workshop was part of a project on “Jews & Muslims: Histories, Diasporas, and the Meaning of the European,” launched by the Duke Center for European Studies in the spring of 2013 and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Duke University Office of the Provost.

New Approaches to the Study of Jews and Muslims in the Americas

The workshop began with a methodological presentation, “New Approaches to the Study of Jews and Muslims in the Americas,” given jointly by Jeffrey Lesser, Professor and Chair of History at Emory University, and Raanan Rein, Professor of Latin American and Spanish History and Rector of Tel Aviv University. Building on a theoretical paper the two published together in Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, the two drew on years of experience researching Jews in Brazil and Argentina respectively to argue for a change in the way ethnic diasporas are studied.

Too often, they argued, scholars rely on sources and archives (community groups, religious organizations and umbrella groups) which privilege the ethnic or religious identity of the group without accounting for the variety of experiences, especially national experiences, within such groups. Alternately, study of the diaspora often focuses on how negative experiences, i.e. discrimination in the host country, shaped identity, and fails to account for the lived reality of diasporic subjects, who are just as likely to identify as nationals as they are to see themselves as part of their ethnic group.  Indeed, they might decide to stress certain parts of themselves in different contexts.”

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Kecia Ali I recently published an essay in the British quarterly Critical Muslim. In it, I chose books on Muslim thought and reform by three prominent, well-regarded male scholars and I counted mentions of individual women in their indexes, their texts, or both. I didn’t have to count very high. I looked at how often they cited – or didn’t cite – books by women in their notes and bibliographies. And then I wailed and gnashed my teeth.

I didn’t really. But I wanted to.


A study of modern Muslim intellectuals with a chapter on women, law, and society, that names only three women, none of them Muslim as far as I can tell, in an index which names 240 individuals? Continue reading