Ethics of War and Peace in Iran and Shi'i Islam

Ethics of War and Peace in Iran and Shi'i Islam

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By Mohammad Jafar Amir Mahallati
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016
World Rights
336 Pages
ISBN 9781442629516
Published Nov 2016
Online discount: 25%
 $39.95    $29.96
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442629530
Published Nov 2016
Online discount: 25%
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Nearly four decades after a revolution, experiencing one of the longest wars in contemporary history, facing political and ideological threats by regional radicals such as ISIS and the Taliban, and having succeeded in negotiations with six world powers over her nuclear program, Iran appears as an experienced Muslim country seeking to build bridges with its Sunni neighbours as well as with the West.

Ethics of War and Peace in Iran and Shi’i Islam explores the wide spectrum of theoretical approaches and practical attitudes concerning the justifications, causes and conduct of war in Iranian-Shi‘i culture. By examining primary and secondary sources, and investigating longer lasting factors and questions over circumstantial ones, Mohammed Jafar Amir Mahallati seeks to understand modern Iranian responses to war and peace. His work is the first in its field to look into the ethics of war and peace in Iran and Shi'i Islam. It provides a prism through which the binary source of the Iranian national and religious identity informs Iranian response to modernity. By doing so, the author reveals that a syncretic and civilization-conscious soul in modern Iran is re-emerging.

Mohammad Jafar Amir Mahallati is Presidential Scholar in Islamic Studies at Oberlin College. From 1987 to 1989 he was the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations.



Part I - The Ethics of War and Peace in Iran: Epic Literature, Philosophy, Theology, and Chivalry

Chapter One - The Ethics of War and Peace in Epic Persian Literature: Shahnameh of Ferdows

Chapter Two - Iranian Classical Thinkers on War and Peace: A Select View

Chapter Three - War and Chivalry in the Annals of Iranian History and Ethical Imagination

Chapter Four - Modern Iranian Intellectuals on the Ethics of Enmity and Nonviolence

Part II – The Jihad Jurisprudence, its Developments and Critics in Iran

Chapter Five - War and Peace in Shi‘i Primary Narratives of Sources

Chapter Six - The Traditional Shi‘i Ethics of War and Peace Untested: Jihad, Ideology, Revolution and War

Chapter Seven - Modern Iranian-Shi‘i Ethics of War and Peace: Revisions and the Reconstruction of Modern Iranian Shi‘i Ethics of War and Peace

Chapter Eight - Terrorism, Martyrdom, Nonviolence and Forgiveness

Chapter Nine - Diplomacy in between Nuclear Technology and anti-Bomb Theology

Conclusions - Beyond the Minority Mentality: The Emerging Iranian-Shi‘i Cosmopolitanism

Appendix I - “Jihad”: A Historical Overview of the Concept and its Politics (English translation of an entry article published in The Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, First Edition, Iran)

Appendix I I - “Jang” (war in Persian): Laws in War According to Twelver Shi‘i Jurisprudence (English translation of an entry article published in The Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, First Edition, Iran)

Appendix III - Iran’s Official Position on War Crimes by Daesh

Appendix IV - Advice and Guiding to the Fighters on the Battlefields: A Shi‘i Manual



"An inspired and original treatment of the ethics of war in the Islamic tradition, with particular regard to Shi'i and Iranian views on this subject. Mahallati's work will be particularly welcomed by readers interested in discussions of jihad in the modern period."

Roy P. Mottahedeh, Gurney Professor of History, Harvard University

"The literature on the Islamic ethics of war and peace has grown steadily in recent years. But overwhelmingly these works have focused on Sunni Islam. By focusing on Shi’ism and contemporary Iranian thought in this important new book, Dr. Mahallati helps fill a critical gap at just the right time. He gives us the insights of not only a scholar but also a diplomat and litterateur deeply immersed in his nation’s culture and history."

Sohail H. Hashmi, Professor of International Realtions, Mount Holyoke College

"The study underscores the importance of understanding the Iranian political theology and culture on Iranian terms rather than allowing hegemonic episteme determine the validity of Iranian claims about the development of peaceful nuclear energy."

Abdulaziz Sachedina, IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies, George Mason University

‘Highly recommended.’

P.S. Spalding, Choice Magazine vol 54:11:2017