The Charismatic Community: Shi'ite Identity in Early Islam

Publication Year



Looks at the emergence of Shiism as a distinct communal identity within Islam.

The Charismatic Community examines the rise and development of Shiite religious identity in early Islamic history, analyzing the complex historical and intellectual processes that shaped the sense of individual and communal religious vocation. The book reveals the profound and continually evolving connection between the spiritual ideals of the Shiite movement and the practical processes of community formation. Author Maria Massi Dakake traces the Quranic origins and early religious connotations of the concept of walayah and the role it played in shaping the sense of communal solidarity among followers of the first Shiite Imam, Ali b. Abi Talib. Dakake argues that walayah pertains not only to the charisma of the Shiite leadership and devotion to them, but also to solidarity and loyalty among the members of the community itself. She also looks at the ways in which doctrinal developments reflected and served the practical needs of the Shiite community, the establishment of identifiable boundaries and minimum requirements of communal membership, the meaning of women’s affiliation and identification with the Shiite movement, and Shiite efforts to engender a more normative and less confrontational attitude toward the non-Shiite Muslim community.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Author’s Notes

Part I: The Principle of Walayah and the Origins of the Community
1. Walayah in the Islamic Tradition
2.  The Ghadir Khumm Tradition: Walayah and the Spiritual Distinctions of Ali b. Abi Talib
3. Walayah, Authority, and Religious Community in the First Civil War
4. The Shiite Community in the Aftermath of the First Civil War

Part II: Walayah, Faith, and the Charismatic Nature of Shiite Identity
5. Walayah as the Essence of Religion: Theological Developments at the Turn of the Second Islamic Century
6. Membership in the Shiite Community and Salvation
7. Predestination and the Mythological Origins of Shiite Identity
8. The Charismatic Nature and Spiritual Distinction of the Shiites

Part III: Creating a Community within a Community
9. Shiites and Non-Shiites: The Distinction between Iman and Islam
10. Degrees of Faith: Establishing a Hierarchy within the Shiite Community
11. “Rarer than Red Sulfur”: Women’s Identity in Early Shiism
12. Perforated Boundaries: Establishing Two Codes of Conduct


 Reviews and Endorsements

“In this richly documented study, Maria Dakake traces with great care and deep erudition the nuances in the pronouncements recorded on behalf of the earliest voices of the Shiites, such as they survive, principally, but not exclusively, in Shiite hadith literature … Dakake’s reconstruction is as convincing as it is thoroughly and thoughtfully based on a close analysis of the sources.” — Journal of the American Oriental Society

“Dakake’s book is a welcome addition to the scant number of works on classical Shiism. [Her] landmark book does much to fill in the gaps of existing scholarship and leaves the reader with a more comprehensive understanding of Shiism’s formative period.” — Philosophy of Religion

“The author admirably manages to highlight the major developments of early Shiite events and ideas within the general development of Islamic thought and history. This book enriches our knowledge and discussion of one of the most crucial periods of Muslim history.” — Mahmoud M. Ayoub, author of The Quran and Its Interpreters, Volume II: The House of Imran

Series Title
SUNY Series in Islam
State University of New York Press
Cloth: 9780791470336; paper: 9780791470343