Abstract and Keywords
This article examines the divide between the Sunni or mainstream Islam and the Shi'i branches of Islam. There are many types of Shi'ism, the largest being the Imami or Twelver Branch of Shi'ism, which is the religion of the majority of Muslims in Iran, southern Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Lebanon. The discussion provides a historical overview of the divide between Sunnis and Shi'ites before raising the question of the renewed political thrust of the once politically quiescent Shi'ism in modern times, beginning with its construction as a radical ideology in Iran in 1979. It holds that the Sunni–Shi'ite divide is effectively more a political and sociological category than a theological one, as it becomes significant only at times of political and social upheaval.
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