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Evolving Attitudes towards "Others" in Modern Shiʿi Thought and Practice
Author: Meir Litvak
In Know Thy Enemy, Meir Litvak analyzes the re-articulations of the “Others” in modern Shiʿism, as a novel way to examine the formulation of modern Shiʿi identity and place in the world. Among these others, which have transformed into "enemies" in the modern period are the West, apostates, Wahhabism, Jews, Baha'is and feminism.

Looking at the rhetorical themes that Shiʿi writers use, the book demonstrates the contrast between the collective positive “We” and the negative threatening "Other" as a major principle in the evolution of Shiʻism as the minority branch of Islam. It offers a complex view of Shiʿi identity combining a sense of victimhood and insecurity together with conviction of intellectual and moral superiority and long-term triumph.
Volume Editors: Sergey Minov and Flavia Ruani
Chapters gathered in Syriac Hagiography: Texts and Beyond explore a wide range of Syriac hagiographical works, while following two complementary methodological approaches, i.e. literary and cultic, or formal and functional. Grouped into three main sections, these contributions reflect three interrelated ways in which we can read Syriac hagiography and further grasp its characteristics: “Texts as Literature” seeks to unfold the mechanisms of their literary composition; “Saints Textualized” offers a different perspective on the role played by hagiographical texts in the invention and/or maintenance of the cult of a particular saint or group of saints; “Beyond the Texts” presents cases in which the historical reality behind the nexus of hagiographical texts and veneration of saints can be observed in greater details.
Learning, Religion and Rulership at the Mamluk Court of Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (r. 1501–1516)
Christian Mauder’s In the Sultan’s Salon builds on his award-winning research and constitutes the first detailed study of the Egyptian court culture of the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517), one of the most important polities in Islamic history. Based mainly on understudied Arabic manuscript sources describing the learned salons convened by the penultimate Mamluk Sultan al-Ghawrī, In the Sultan’s Salon presents the first theoretical conceptualization of the term “court” which can be fruitfully applied to premodern Islamic societies, thereby facilitating comparative and interdisciplinary research. It uses this conceptualization to demonstrate that al-Ghawrī’s court functioned as a transregionally interconnected center of dynamic intellectual exchange, theological debate, and performance of rule that triggered novel developments in Islamic scholarly, religious and political culture.
A Critical Edition of Ḥāfiẓ-i Baṣīr’s Maẓhar al-ʿAjāʾib
The Maẓhar al-ʿajāʾib is the devotional work written to expound upon the teachings of Aghā-yi Buzurg, a female religious master active in the early 16th century in Bukhara. The work was produced in 16th century Central Asia, when the region underwent major socio-economic and religio-political changes in the aftermath of the downfall of the Timurid dynasty and the establishment of the Shibanid dynasty in Mavarannahr and the Safavid dynasty in Iran.
In its portrayal of Aghā-yi Buzurg, the Maẓhar al-ʿajāʾib represents a tradition that maintained an egalitarian conception of gender in the spiritual equality of women and men, attesting to the presence of multiple voices in Muslim discourse and challenging conventional ways of thinking about gender history in early modern Central Asia.
From the early phases of modern missions, Christian missionaries supported many humanitarian activities, mostly framed as subservient to the preaching of Christianity. This anthology contributes to a historically grounded understanding of the complex relationship between Christian missions and the roots of humanitarianism and its contemporary uses in a Middle Eastern context. Contributions focus on ideologies, rhetoric, and practices of missionaries and their apostolates towards humanitarianism, from the mid-19th century Middle East crises, examining different missionaries, their society’s worldview and their networks in various areas of the Middle East. In the early 20th century Christian missions increasingly paid more attention to organisation and bureaucratisation (‘rationalisation’), and media became more important to their work. The volume analyses how non-missionaries took over, to a certain extent, the aims and organisations of the missionaries as to humanitarianism. It seeks to discover and retrace such ‘entangled histories’ for the first time in an integral perspective.

Contributors include: Beth Baron, Philippe Bourmaud, Seija Jalagin, Nazan Maksudyan, Michael Marten, Heleen (L.) Murre-van den Berg, Inger Marie Okkenhaug, Idir Ouahes, Maria Chiara Rioli, Karène Sanchez Summerer, Bertrand Taithe, and Chantal Verdeil
In: Christian Missions and Humanitarianism in The Middle East, 1850-1950
In: Christian Missions and Humanitarianism in The Middle East, 1850-1950


The first Arab-Zionist war has been mostly narrated through the use of military sources, even by the so-called revisionist historians. Therefore, less attention has been devoted to social, cultural, economic and religious aspects of the conflicts, as well as the perceptions and the reactions to the events by specific actors and communities. This lack of studies also influenced the narration of the establishment of the Catholic humanitarian machine set up in the aftermath of the conflict in order to provide assistance to the Palestinian refugees. Archival reflections enable us then to transition from a global overview to the local analysis of a specific case study: that of the Franciscan casa nova in Jerusalem. Originally a structure that hosted pilgrims, at the end of 1947 it became one of the places in which one of the most important institutions of the Jerusalem Church—the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land—performed its work of humanitarian aid in the Palestine war. The use of unpublished sources collected in the archives of the Catholic Near East Welfare Associations in New York, as well as in the Latin Patriarchate and in the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem can contribute to the historical narration of the “long 1948” and its more relevant consequence: the formation of the Palestinian refugee issue.

In: Christian Missions and Humanitarianism in The Middle East, 1850-1950
Author: Seija Jalagin


This chapter discusses the Finnish Lutheran missionaries in Jerusalem and their attitudes towards the Jews and the Arabs in light of a relief operation during World War II and the respective refugee crisis of the Jews entering Palestine, and eventually the violence of the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. As the example of the British missions during the Mandate period shows, it would have been possible to foster amiable relations between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine. The Finnish missionaries, nonetheless, were pro-Zionist and pro-Israel, and committed to the nation building in Israel. Based on the analysis of the Finnish missionaries’ correspondence and published texts the chapter argues that they promoted a religiously motivated historical and ethnic interpretation of the Jews’ right to their own homeland in Palestine. Despite showing some empathy, they prejudiced the Palestinian Arabs, and explained that they were of mixed ethnic origin and lagging behind in comparison to the industrious Jews. The missionaries’ own experiences of the independence of Finland from Russia in 1917 and the following modernisation process resonated to how they interpreted the development of the Israeli society. The missionaries’ religious, and political agenda also helped them to provide a setting for their own Christian work among the Jews.

In: Christian Missions and Humanitarianism in The Middle East, 1850-1950
In: Christian Missions and Humanitarianism in The Middle East, 1850-1950