My latest article is out in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: “Legalised Pedigrees: Sayyids and Shiʽi Islam in Pakistan” is part of a special issues on Sayyids in South Asia, co-edited by Laurence Gautier and Julien Levesque.
In my contribution, I am doing the following:
“This article draws on a wide range of Shiʽi periodicals and monographs from the 1950s until the present day to investigate debates on the status of Sayyids in Pakistan. I argue that the discussion by reformist and traditionalist Shiʽi scholars (ʽulama) and popular preachers has remained remarkably stable over this time period. Both ‘camps’ have avoided talking about any theological or miracle-working role of the Prophet’s kin. This phenomenon is remarkable, given the fact that Sayyids share their pedigree with the Shiʽi Imams, who are credited with superhuman qualities. Instead, Shiʽi reformists and traditionalists have discussed Sayyids predominantly as a specific legal category. They are merely entitled to a distinct treatment as far as their claims to charity, patterns of marriage, and deference in daily life is concerned. I hold that this reductionist and largely legalising reading of Sayyids has to do with the intense competition over religious authority in post-Partition Pakistan. For both traditionalist and reformist Shiʽi authors, ʽulama, and preachers, there was no room to acknowledge Sayyids as potential further competitors in their efforts to convince the Shiʽi public about the proper ‘orthodoxy’ of their specific views.”