GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The Shi’a of the Arabian Gulf: Citizenship, Loyalty and Spiritual Affinities
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper examines the complexities of identities and sub-identities among the Shi’a of Arabian Gulf. While they have a history of incontestable loyalties to their respective countries of citizenship, the Shi’a in this region have often been suspected as holding loyalties to other nations, especially Iran. This paper argues that, while accusations are often exaggerated and motivated by political and sectarian conflict, the charges are not always completely baseless. The contribution of this paper is to shed light on the two reasons for such suspicion. First, it is true that some Shi’a, especially among the political and religious leadership do have well-established relations with Iran. But this leads to the first question of the paper: To what extent can this fact validate the tone of holding all Shi’a in the region responsible for the connection some of them maintain with the Islamic Republic? The second reason is connected to the fact that all Shi’a are obligated to follow the most accomplished Ulema on all spiritual and legal matters (marriage, divorce, inheritance, contracts, etc.), and those Ulema reside either in Iran or Iraq. This, in turn, will lead us to the second question: can this obligation to emulate those foreign Ulema be considered a form of loyalty that contradicts the obligations of citizenship? And if so, how different is this practice from the practice of Sunnis in the region in following Ulema from Al-Azhar in Egypt or other Ulema not residing in the region? Finally, there is the question of how the Islamic Republic and the Shi’a Ulema in other countries view this relation and form their positions toward the region’s Shi’a. My answer to this question is informed my multiple interviews with leading Ulema, including Grand Ayatollahs Ali Sistani and Ishaq al-Fayyadh in Najaf.

Abbas Kadhim, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Naval Postgraduate School