from Middle East Program

The Shia Revival

How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

An editors' choice pick in the New York Times, which calls the book "a fast-moving, engaging, and ultimately unnerving book."

As nations around the world struggle with the threat of militant Islam, Vali Nasr, one of the leading scholars on the Middle East, provides us with the rare opportunity to understand the political and theological antagonisms within Islam itself. The Shia Revival is a penetrating historical account of sectarian conflicts in the Muslim world, showing that the future rests in finding a peaceful solution to the ancient rivalries between the Shias and the Sunnis.

Nasr provides a unique and objective understanding of this 1,400-year bitter struggle between the two sects—tracing its roots from the succession of the Prophet Mohammad—forcing us to differentiate the religious and theological aspect of Islam from its political and military rivalries. Outlining the rich history of a people and a vibrant culture that has spanned not only the Middle East but also modern-day Pakistan and India, Nasr explains the traditional hostilities and scrutinizes their current embodiment in the power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for political and spiritual leadership of the Muslim world.

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Race and Ethnicity

From the provocative rise of Ayatollah Khomeini to the Saudi pressure on the United States to keep Saddam Hussein in power in 1991; from the critical role of the Ayatollah Sistani and the religious establishment in Najaf (Iraq) to the consequences of the recent shift toward Shia power in Iraq through American intervention, Nasr's poignant and timely analysis of the Shia/Sunni schism brings clarity and insight to the complex, often bloody, events shaping the Muslim world and its relations with the West.

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Race and Ethnicity

Reviews and Endorsements

The Shia Revival is a treasure trove of information and analysis on political Islam in general, and the rise of the Shia in particular. Vali Nasr provides crucial insights into the current problems in Iraq, the Middle East, and the broader Muslim world. Equally important, he does so in clear, compelling prose. This book is a 'must read' for anyone interested in American foreign policy today.

Joseph S. Nye Jr., Sultan of Oman Professor at Harvard University and author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics

Brilliant, clear, and erudite. This is indispensable reading for anybody who is trying to make sense of the tragic conflict in the Middle East.

Karen Armstrong, author of Islam, A Short History

The Shia Revival is the best book by far on Shiism and Shia-Sunni conflicts. Powerfully written, Nasr, one of our nation's top experts, provides an extraordinarily insightful analysis, engaging and accessible, to policymakers, scholars, students, and non-specialists alike.

John L. Esposito, University Professor and Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, and author of Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam.

As enlightening as it is thought-provoking, The Shia Revival is important to both the expert and the layperson…. It is lively, engaging, provocative, and should not be missed.

Kenneth M. Pollack, Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution and author of The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America

Smart, clear, and timely.

Warren Bass, Washington Post

So enlightening and perspective-altering that no one concerned about the Middle East should miss reading it.

Ray Olson, Booklist

Historically incisive, geographically broad-reaching, and brimming with illuminating anecdotes.

Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books

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