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Heirs of the Prophet, The

Charisma and Religious Authority in Shi'ite Islam

Liyakat N. Takim

Publication Year: 2006

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, different religious factions within the Muslim community laid claim to the Prophet’s legacy. Drawing on research from Sunni and Shi>ite literature, Liyakat N. Takim explores how these various groups, including the caliphs, scholars, Sufi holy men, and the Shi>ite imams and their disciples, competed to be the Prophetic heirs. The book also illustrates how the tradition of the “heirs of the Prophet” was often a polemical tool used by its bearers to demand obedience and loyalty from the Muslim community by imposing an authoritative rendition of texts, beliefs, and religious practices. Those who did not obey were marginalized and demonized. While examining the competition for Muhammad’s charismatic authority, Takim investigates the Shi>ite self-understanding of authority and argues that this was an important factor in the formation of a distinct Shi>ite leadership. The Heirs of the Prophet also provides a new understanding of textual authority in Islam by examining authority construction and the struggle for legitimacy evidenced in Islamic biographical dictionaries.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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The Heirs of the Prophet

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p. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

“The scholars are heirs of the prophets” is a famous tradition that has been reported from the Prophet Muhammad. When I examined the provenance and deployment of this tradition in the classical period of Islam (570–1258 c.e.), I realized that the title “heirs of the Prophet” was more than an honorific epithet. As scholars belonging to different factions contested the right to assume the title...

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1. “The Scholars Are Heirs of the Prophets”

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pp. 1-36

Since time immemorial, diverse groups have wielded authority in the name of religion. These groups have espoused primitive or archaic religions and even founded religions.1 The manifestation of religious authority in societies has taken different forms, ranging from traditional, scriptural, and charismatic to ecclesiastic and imperial forms...

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2. The Holy Man in Islam

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pp. 37-77

Religious authority is not confined to the scholarly elite. It can also be conferred to or acquired by a holy man. In this chapter, I intend to examine the emergence of the holy man in Sufism and the authority that he wielded in the Muslim community. I will contrast this with the genre of authority that was exercised by the...

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3. Routinization of Charismatic Authority: The Shi͑i Case

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pp. 78-108

In chapters one and two, I traced the emergence of the shari͑ and holy men in Islam, and examined the basis of their claims to be the heirs of the Prophet. The needs of the times and the dissolution or transmission of the Prophet’s charismatic authority precipitated the rise of multivariate forms of authority. In chapter one, I also discussed the routinization of the Prophet’s comprehensive, charismatic authority soon after his death...

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4. The Office of Charismatic Authority:The Functions of the Rijal

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pp. 109-144

In chapter three, I examined the process of the institutionalization of charismatic domination in Shi͑i Islam. I argued that the process of the routinization of the imams’ charisma and the creation of the office of charisma in the eighth century were linked to the need to perpetuate religious teachings by those personages who were trained by the imams. I further stated that the delegation...

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5. Textual Authority and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Biographical Texts

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pp. 145-180

Besides the modes of authority that I have discussed in the previous chapters, authority can also be constructed by and anchored in texts. In this chapter, I intend to examine the construction and animation of authority in biographical texts. My discussion of the literary construction and depiction of authority will be cast within the framework...

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pp. 181-184

To comprehend the development of sacred authority and its implications for Muslim polity, it is essential to engage the classical heritage that has played a significant role in the exposition and legitimation of religious authority. My study into the significance and ramifications of the title “heirs of the Prophet” has shown that it was deeply interwoven with the question of authority...


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pp. 185-216


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pp. 217-228


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pp. 229-236

E-ISBN-13: 9780791481912
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791467374
Print-ISBN-10: 0791467376

Page Count: 252
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 71850965
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Heirs of the Prophet, The

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Shīʻah -- Government.
  • Charisma (Personality trait) -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
  • Authority -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
  • Temporal power of religious rulers.
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