By Fuad Khury
Readers in a variety of fields will find this book a reliable source . . .
Well researched, amply documented and highly readable.' --Middle East Journal
' . . . An excellent book.' --Middle East International
Imams and Emirs is a comparative study of Islamic sects in the contemporary
Arab world. It spotlights the Sunnis, Shi'as, Alawis, Druze, Ibadis, Zaidis
and Yazidis. The Christian Maronites are added to this group because they share
the same distinguishing features, which include geographical isolation, territorial
exclusiveness, intensity of rituals and duality of religious organization. The
book's unique contribution is to examine not only issues of dogma, but also
the ecological, historical and structural variables that differentiate a religion
from a sect and a sect from a religious community or minority. This is the first
time Islamic religious communities have been placed on a single comparative
The book focuses on religious ideology and ulama organization. Ideology refers
to the genesis and formation of the religious community; organization, to the
recruitment, training and roles of the ulama (imams) in society. Whereas Sunni
ideology and organization are adapted to the sovereignty of centralized authority
(state, government), those of other sects are adapted to the sovereignty of
the religious community. Thus Sunni ideology tends to be conformist, and that
of the other sects, rebellious. Many Islamic sects began as rebellious groups
and subsequently developed into stable, routine systems.
Conflict and contradiction among Muslims centre around two poles: the ulama,
who derive their authority from religious dogma, and the emirs and sultans who
base their authority on power and coercion. In Sunni Islam, for instance, the
ulama's role is subsidiary to that of the power elites, but among the Shi'a
it is theulama themselves who form the power elites. After reviewing the ideological
and organizational characteristics of individual sects, Khuri addresses the
issue of religious change under the heading 'Brethren or Citizens'. Here, he
deals with the interplay between religions, state and nationalism and discusses
the contradictions between modern state structures and the Islamic umma. Already,
he argues, some religious concepts are taking on nationalistic meanings.
1990, Paperback, 270 pages, 6.0" x 9.0"