Religion and Politics in Iraq: Shi’ite Clerics between Quietism and Political Activism by Dr Christoph Marcinkowski
Date : 13 Mar 2006
Venue : N/A

Religion and Globalisation Study Group Seminar

Religion and Politics in Iraq: Shi’ite Clerics between
Quietism and Political Activism
Christoph Marcinkowski
Visiting Research Fellow,
Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies,
 Nanyang Technological University
Monday, 13 March, 2006
3.00 p.m. – 4.30 p.m.
AS7, ARI Seminar Room 04-09
Shaw Foundation Building, National University of Singapore

Programme         Registration        Speaker        Abstract       About Singapore




The history of the Iraqi Shi’ah cannot be separated from events in neighboring Iran: since 1501, Twelver Shi’ite Islam is the “religion of state” in Iran. During certain periods between the early 16th and 18th centuries, Iraq had been ruled by several Shi’ite dynasties of Iran. The Shi’ite shrines in Iraq, often covered by magnificent golden domes, had been built or restored by them. Iraq houses several of Shi’ite Islam’s most sacred shrines. The Shrine cities of Najaf, Karbalā’, Samarrā’, and Kāzimayn (Baghdad) are known in Arabic as ‘atabāt. They are also centres of Shi’ite learning and several leading Shi’ite scholars (many of them them of Iranian origin) have been and are still residing there. Shi’ite ulema are financially (and thus also politically) largely independent from the state, relying primarily on religiously prescribed taxes and contributions from the faithful. Their situation is thus different from that of their Sunnite “colleagues” who are mainly relying on funds provided or channeled to them by the state. The history of Shi’ism has often shown a certain tension between active response to the events and realities of life (which meant often persecution) and “prudent dissimulation” (Arab.: taqiyyah).



Dr. Christoph Marcinkowski, a German citizen, was born in 1964 in West Berlin. He’s published 7 books and about 50 articles, annually mentioned in Marquis' Who's Who in the World.

He did his MA in 1993 in Iranian Studies (major), Islamic Studies and Political Sciences, from Free University Berlin, Germany (thesis dealing with the State-Shiite clergy relations in Iraq during the last 100 years, updated version published in 2004 in English translation in Singapore). He got his PhD in 1998 in Islamic Civilization from the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (award-winning dissertation dealing with 17th-century Persian administration, published in 2002 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). From 1999-2001, he was a Senior Research Fellow, ISTAC. From 2002-2004, he was Associate Professor of History, ISTAC and from 2004-2005, he was Associate Research Scholar and Assistant Editor at Encyclopaedia Iranica, Columbia University, New York City, United States. Since February 2006: Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He is currently writing a book/monograph on Shiism in contemporary Southeast Asia for IDSS. His research interests are Islam in SE Asia (history and current), Persian and Arabic cultural influences in the region. Sufism, Shiism, Islamic philosphy.


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