ISD221 – Shi’i Islam


  • Introduction to the sources
  • The Prophet’s succession and politico-religious leadership in the theocratic state
  • The origins of Shi’ism
  • Principles of Shi’a Islam
  • The leadership by religious appointment (nass) and the Imamis of Twelvers
  • Leadership by resorting to armed struggle and Zaydi Shi’ism
  • The “extreme Shi’a” (ghulat)
  • The Isma’ilis
  • Akhbari, Usuli and Shaykhi schools
  • Penetration of Shi’a Islam into the Indian Sub-continent and the Far East
  • Modern Shi’a thought
  • Shi’a Islam in Europe and America

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module successful students will be able to:

  • Evaluate the impact of the Prophet’s succession and its impact on constructing Shi’a theological and political thought up to the present times. (A2)
  • Describe the factors which facilitated the evolution of Shi’a Islam historically and geographically, grasping the context and circumstances in which Shi’as were received by diverse peoples, races, and nations in various parts of the world. (A7, A8)
  • Debate the ideological, ethnic and geographical diversity of the Shi’a. (A7)

This module will call forsuccessful student to:

  • Discuss primary sources, identifying Shi’a ones, and critically develop arguments based on these. (B4, B6, C1, C2, C5, D4, D6)

Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy

The module will be taught through lectures, discussion, seminars, and student presentations. Students work will be developed through class work and search of primary and secondary sources.  Students will present and discuss work in progress.  Students are expected to develop their skills independently.

Assessment Mode

Formative Assessment:
Questions arising from lectures form the basis formative assessment, through small group discussions leading to the development of theological understanding. Students may hand in their PowerPoint slides to the lecturer for guidance prior to the 9th learning week. They will also receive formative feedback on their presentations after completing them, and guidance and feedback can be gained from student-led discussion, which will help them improve future performance. Additionally, revision sessions are arranged that will cover topics in preparation for exams, providing constructive formative feedback to students.

Summative Assessment:
Assessment is by presentation and written examination. The 20 minute presentation to investigate one of the main topics covered in class and to present their research in an effective manner that demonstrates a critical understanding of the issues, and should consist of roughly 10 PowerPoint slides (Outcome 4). The 2 hour written examination will take place at the end of the semester (Outcomes 1, 2, 3).

Assessment Weighting
Presentation: 40%
Written examination: 60%

Learning Materials

Core readings

  • Shomali, M. A. (2003) Shi’i Islam: Origins, Faith & Practices, London: ICAS Press