Academic Programs 

Readings in the Shi’i Tradition   (TH-652)
Winter/Spring 2010

This seminar will examine the Shi’ite tradition from within. We shall read and discuss primary-source materials in English translation including samples of Qur’an exegesis (tafsir), hadith tradition, philosophy, mysticism and theology. Additionally, we will examine some of the writings of Imams Khomeini and Ali Shari’ati, the two most important makers of modern Shi’ite thought and history.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Mondays, 7 p.m. – 9:20 p.m., beginning Jan. 25

Mahmoud Ayoub
Faculty Associate in Shi'ite Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

Contact Information:
(860) 570-6905


Course Syllabus

Course Description

This course is intended to familiarize students with the rich diversity of Shi’I primary sources in English translation. Although students who took my course on Shi’I Thought and History may find the readings chosen for this course especially relevant, the two courses are independent, neither of them is a prerequisite for the other.

The course will be conducted as a graduate seminar, where student participation is essential. Brief lectures introducing a given topic or theme will be presented as needed. The course will concentrate briefly on Isma’ilism, but largely on ImamiTwelverShi’ism.


Attendance and on-time arrival is expected at all class sessions. If you are unable to attend a class session please inform the instructor or teaching assistant in advance so arrangements for make-up work can be made. Since attendance and participation constitute 10% of your grade, excessive tardiness or absence will lower your grade. Students who miss more than three classes will not be able to successfully pass the course.

Course Schedule and Weekly Readings
Most readings, unless otherwise noted, will be found in the extensive library of Shi`ite sources online:

Week 1: Introduction to the course

Week 2: Ismailism
An Anthology of Ismaili Literature: A Shi'i Vision of Islamby Samira Sheikh (Editor), K. Kassam (Editor), H. Landolt (Editor)

Week 3: General Readings
a. Shi’i Islam: Origins, Faith and Practices by Mohammad Ali Shomali

b. Doctrines of Shi`i Islam: A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices by Ayatollah JafarSobhani (Author), Reza Shah Kazemi (Translator)

Week 4: Biographies of the Imams ‘Ali IbnAbiTalib and his great grandson Ja’far al-Sadiq. Kitab al-Irshad by al-Mufid

Weeks 5 and 6: Tafsir and Hadith
a. Selections from Al-Mizan

b. Usul al-Kafi: the book of Aql and Jahl, the book of excellence of knowledge, the book of Hujjah to the end of the section, “the earth will never be devoid of the proof”

c. Nahjul-Balaghah: the letter to Malik al-Ashtar, the letter 31 to Imam al-Hasan, Kalimat al-Qisar

d. Jesus Christ through Shi’i narrations

Week 7: Devotions, rituals and the ethos of martyrdom
a. Selections from Sahifa al-Sajjadiyyah

b. Dua’ al-Kumail

c. M. Ayoub Redemptive Suffering in Islam selections from chapters 4 and 5 on
Martyrdom and the ziyarah ritual

Week 8: Fiqh
a. Selections from Khamenei’sAjwibat al-Istifta’at

b. Questions on Jurisprudence (by Sharaf al-Din al-‘ameli explaining the peculiar Shi’i juridical viewpoints)

Weeks 9 and 10: Kalam and Irfan

a. Tenets of Islam by Nasir al-Din Tusi

b. Shiite Creed by al-Shaykh al-Saduq (Ibn Babawayh al-Qummi)
Shiite Creed can be found here:

c. Light within me (an anthology from Mutahhari, Khomeini and Tabatabai)

d. Attributes of the nobles (Awsaf al-Ashraf) By khwajaNasir al-Din al-Tusi (All readings are on line)

Weeks 11 and 12: Shia contemporary political thought
a. Shi’a Political Thought by Ahmed Vaezi

b. Islam and Revolution 1: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini by HamidAlgar (editor)

c. On the Sociology of Islam: Lectures by Ali Shari’ati by HamidAlgar (editor)

Course Requirements

All students are expected to read all weekly readings on time and participate in discussions. Every week a student will be assigned the task of introducing the readings for the week and lead the discussion on them. Every student will prepare a final term paper of 15-20 pages in length, with proper footnotes or endnotes and bibliography. All students will be asked – beginning week 9 – to share the fruits of their research and ideas for the final paper with the rest of the students in a 15-20 minutes class presentation.


Grades will be computed as follows:

-Class attendance and general participation 10%
-Introducing the readings and class presentations 40%

-Final term paper 50%

Required Texts
Algar,Hamid (translator). Islam and Revolution 1: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini, Mizan Press, 1981.

Algar, Hamid (translator). On the Sociology of Islam: Lectures by Ali Shari’ati, Mizan Press, 1979

Samira Sheikh (Editor), K. Kassam (Editor), H. Landolt (Editor). An Anthology of Ismaili
Literature: A Shi'i Vision of Islam,
Institute for Ismaili Studies, 2008

Shomali,Mohammad Ali.Shi’i Islam: Origins, Faith and Practices, Islamic College for
Advanced Studies, 2003

Sobhani, Jafar (Author), Reza Shah Kazemi (Translator). Doctrines of Shi`i Islam: A
Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices by Ayatollah Jafar Subhani,
IB Tauris, 2001

For Further Reading

Ayoub, Mahmoud. Redemptive Suffering in Islam: a Study of the Devotional Aspects of `Ashura’ in TwelverShi`ism, the Hague, Mouton Publishers, 1978

----------------------. TheCrisis of Muslim History: Religion and Politics in Early Islam, Oxford, Oneworld Publications, 2003

Brunner, Ranie and Werner Ende, eds. The TwelverShia in Modern Times: Religious
Culture and Political History.
Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2001

Corbin, Henry. Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis. London: The Institute of Ismaili
Studies Ltd., Kegan Paul Int’l with Islamic Publications, 1985 ed

Chittick, William, AShi’ite Anthology , London: Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 1980

Daftari, Farhad. A Short History of the Ismailis. Edinburgh University Press 1998

Halm, Heinz.Shiism. Second Edition. New York: Columbia University Press 2004

Halm, Heinz. Shi’a Islam: From Religion to Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1997

Jafri, S. Husain M. The Origins and Early Development of shi’a Islam.Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002

Kitab al-irshad -

Martin, Vanessa. Creating an Islamic state: Khomeini and the making of New Iran. (London: I.B. Tauris, 2000)

Nasr, SeyyedHossein, HamidDabashi and SeyyedVali Reza Nasr, (eds). Expectation of the Millennium: Shi’ism in History. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988

Psalms of Islam -

Sachedina, Abdulaziz A. Islamic Messianism: The Idea of the Mahdi in TwelverShi’ism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981

Sadra,Mulla and William Chittick. The Elixir of the Gnostics: A parallel English-Arabic text (Islamic Translation Series), Bringham Young University, 2002

Tabataba’i, ‘Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husain, SeyyedHoseynNasr(translator). Shi’ite Islam. London: George Allen &Unwin, 1975

Tabataba'I, ‘AllamahSayyid Muhammad Husayn (Author), SeyyedHosseinNasr
(Contributor), Mohammad H. Faghfoory (Contributor), Sayyid Muhammad
HusaynHusayniTihrani (Contributor). Kernel of the Kernel: A Shi’a approach to Sufism, Suny Press, 2007

Walker, E. Paul. Orations of the Fatimid Caliphs: Festival Sermons of the Ismaili Imams
(Ismaili Texts and Translations), IB Tauris, 2009

For further research and additional readings, please consult the extensive library of Shi`ite sources on line:

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500