Ethics and Community

Another crucial struggle concerning methods took place in the Safavid period between the Akhbaris, who accepted only the word of the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet and the Imams, and the Usulis, who promoted ijtihad. They also clashed over what the Akhbaris regarded was a too close relationship between the Usulis and the rulers. With the increasing power of the scholars the Safavid Shah turned more and more into a secular ruler with merely political authority.

Important examples for morality and commitment are the martyrs of Karbala. The prominence of the martyrdom theme in Shiite religious and political language—as exemplified not least during the Iran-Iraq war—has led some observers to suggest that suicide missions as we are seeing them in the modern world, are employed by Shiites rather than Sunnis. While martyrdom may have played an important role in Iranian political propaganda before the theme became popular elsewhere, suicide attacks can now be found invariably in Sunni and Shiite communities, but remain a strategy endorsed by small minorities.

Study Questions:
1.     How does the esoteric interpretation of sacred texts affect the development of the Shiite morality?
2.     What is antinomianism and how has it been expressed in Shiite communities?
3.     What example do the martyrs of Karbala give to Shiite ethics?

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