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Changes in charismatic authority in Qajar Shiʿism

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Chapter Summary

A marked feature of the Iranian perspective has been its continuing concern with Babism and, more particularly, its offshoot Bahaʾism, as the favourite tools of first Russian, then British, and, eventually, American and Zionist policies within Iran. The search for a new form of Shiʿi orthodoxy since the late eighteenth century has been largely, centred on the question of authority. Traditional methods of clerical organisation have necessitated the resolution of this question within a charismatic rather than a strict rational-legal or traditional context. It is of the very essence of Shiʿism that knowledge of God cannot be obtained without knowledge of the Prophet and that this, in turn, is unattainable without knowledge of a living Imam. The very existence of the Safavid, Qajar and Pahlavi states did much to enhance the charismatic authority of the 'ulamāʾ, providing them with a political role which was clear throughout the nineteenth century.

Keywords: Bahaʾism; charismatic authority; Imam; Qajar; Safavid Iran; Shiʿism; ulamā



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