This seminar explores historical formations of religiously-defined identities in the history of Islam. The most commonly known such religiously-defined identities are those of Sunnis and Shias (for the sake of convenience, the word Shia is used consistently throughout this course instead of Shīʿī, Shīʿite, Shiite, etc.). Besides Sunni and Shia, many other religiously-defined identity labels have been and continue to be used in the history of Muslim societies. Sufis, for instance, may identify themselves as either Sunni or Shia, even though sometimes they are shunned by both Sunnis and Shias. Tens of different Sufi group affiliations, also known as Sufi Brotherhoods, or ṭarīqas, are known. Still, there have existed many other identity labels that mostly are forgotten, deemed irrelevant or sometimes subsumed other labels: Salafis, Ismailis, Ahmedis, Azalis, Nuṣayrīs, and Alewis are but few examples of such religiously-defined identities. Covered themes include theology, politics, jurisprudence. Thematic material is presented chronologically, from the 7th century to the present, with examples drawn from the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and elsewhere. Historical processes of making, unmaking, and remaking of various forms of “orthodoxy” are linked with the ways in which various religiously-defined identities may come under a unifying rubric.
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