Cover of the Shi'ite Journal  al-Hujjat (Lahore, Pakistan,1977)

Cover of the Shi'ite Journal Payam-e Amal (Lahore, Pakistan, 1961)

 Top: Woman on the Iranian Island of Qeshm, Persian Gulf

Cover of the Shi'ite Journal Payam-e Amal (Lahore, Pakistan, 1960)

Von Schiiten lernen: Der Reiz des Martyriums für sunnitische Gruppen in Pakistan und Afghanistan (Learning from Shiʿites: The Appeal of Martyrdom for Sunni Groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan)

BEHEMOTH – A Journal on Civilisation 12,1 (2019): 52-68


In this article, I argue that a prevalent focus on sectarianism in conceptualizing contemporary Sunni-Shi‘i relations has blinded us to important processes of intellectual appropriation and mimicry between the two communities. In the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan, I focus on the anti-Shi‘i group of the Sipah-i Sahabah-i Pakistan (Army of the Companions of the Prophet, SSP) as well as Islamist Sunni groups active in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets during the 1980s in order to make the case that Shi‘ism in general and Iran in particular remain important fixtures for the Sunni imagination. This rings especially true as far as the issue of martyrdom is concerned. In Pakistan, the SSP tried to actively counter the symbolic power of Shi‘i symbols and concepts, styling itself as producing superior Sunni martyrs. In Afghanistan, Sunni groups made sense of the jihad by applying Iranian lenses of martyrdom to their battlefield experiences.




Third Wave Shīʿism: Sayyid ʿĀrif Ḥusayn al-Ḥusaynī and the Islamic Revolution in Pakistan

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 24,3 (2014)


This paper seeks to illuminate the intellectual impact of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 among Pakistani Shiʻas by focusing on Sayyid ʻArif Husain al-Husaini, the dominating Shiʻi leader of the 1980s. In particular, I am interested in exploring how al-Husaini adapted hallmark themes of the Iranian revolutionary message like Muslim unity or political leadership of the religious scholars (ʻulama) to the specific circumstances of Pakistan. Crucial for such processes of translation was not only, I argue, pressure from the Pakistani state but rather internal challenges and divisions among the Shiʻi community. While al-Husaini could draw on a strong, indigenous tradition of political mobilization, his revolutionary ʻthird-waveʼ of Shiʻi thought sat uncomfortably between Lucknow-educated traditionalists and Najaf-trained reformers who shied away from getting entangled in these novel forms of politics. By drawing on biographical accounts and al-Husaini's speeches in Urdu, I trace how his revolutionary rhetoric had to accommodate thorny local issues such as sectarianism, South-Asian mourning traditions or the lack of an established Shiʻi clerical hierarchy in Pakistan.



© Royal Asiatic Society, 2014



Failing Transnationally: local intersections of science, medicine and sectarianism in modernist Shiʿi writings

Modern Asian Studies 48,2 (2014)


This article adds to the growing literature on transnational Shiʿism which has so far mostly focused on social history and political contestations. By tracing the thought, transnational legacy and ultimate failure of the reformist Shiʿi scholar Muhammad al-Khalisi (d. 1963), I argue for the crucial importance of local contexts and ideas for the genesis of Islamic modernist projects. In his native Iraq, al-Khalisi not only distinguished himself as a guerrilla fighter and political activist but also was shaped by prevailing notions about the compatibility of Islam and science. Exiled to Iran for his opposition to the British from 1922 to 1949, he encountered there specific medicalizing discourses on modernity. This exposure and his experience as a practitioner of medicine in the Iranian countryside led al-Khalisi to identify medicine as the master key to unlock the secrets of the divine law, the shariʿa: his major work on Islamic law singles out human health as God's supreme concern. Back in Iraq during the 1950s, al-Khalisi's medical-scientific vision of modernity was finally complemented with an uncompromising call for intra-Muslim unity. This stance led to furious attacks against al-Khalisi which continue unabated in contemporary Pakistan where his name has become a term of abuse.




Do Excellent Surgeons Make Miserable Exegetes?

Negotiating the Sunni Tradition in the Ǧihādī Camps

Die Welt des Islams, 53,2 (2013)


This article is an attempt to explore how ǧihādī authors make use of the Sunni tradition to bolster their case. Islamicists have rarely embarked on such a discussion, given the tendency to a priori chastise extremist authors for their untenable misrepresentation of Islam. Similarly, ǧihādī arguments are frequently tossed aside as an already familiar rehashing of an insignificant, isolated stream of thought that stretches directly from Ibn Taimīya via Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Wahhāb to Sayyid Quṭb. In revisiting this claim, I employ a close reading of the crucial ǧihādī manual al-ʿUmda fī iʿdād al-ʿudda li-l-ǧihād fī sabīl Allāh (The Essential Guide of Preparation for ǧihād on the Path of God), written in the mid 1980ies in the context of the Afghan ǧihād by an influential ideologue who is widely known as Dr. Faḍl. After presenting and evaluating a selection of the religious sources and authorities on which the author draws, the article enters into a discussion of his political thought. I argue that Dr. Faḍl makes a convincing case for a political project in the camps that is deeply embedded within the Sunni tradition while reading Ibn Taimīya faithfully. Dr. Faḍl does not turn him into a proponent of violence but rather sticks to the profound quietism the Damascene scholar is known for, thereby questioning supposedly established, clear-cut paths of reception.


© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2013



Religious Government and Human Rights

(Ḥokūmat-e dīnī va ḥoqūq-e ensān)

Translated by Simon Wolfgang Fuchs

Die Welt des Islams, 52,1 (2012)


This is a partial translation of Ḥoseyn ʿAlī Montaẓarī’s book published in 2008, covering the pages 114-155 of the 1386 Sarāʾī edition. In this important work, Montaẓarī discusses the equality of all human beings within the boundaries of the shārīʿa. He extensively deals with questions relating to gender, apostasy, and transgressions of the divine law, advocating a rather restricted role of the religious government in commanding right and forbidding wrong.



© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2013

Copyright © 2019 Simon Wolfgang Fuchs. All rights reserved.

Cover of the Shi'ite Journal Payam-e Amal (Lahore, Pakistan, 1961)