Shī‘ism in the Modern World
Section 3 documented the development of three Shī‘ī communities from their origins in early Islam to their assumption of a “classical” form. The Zaydīs oscillated between Sunnī and Shī‘ī orientations depending on political circumstances. The Ismā‘īlīs were led by an inerrant Imām from a single genetic line with the unilateral ability to create doctrine and law. After the disappearance of their twelfth Imām, the Twelvers vested his authority in rationalist scholars, who were increasingly complicit in the exercise of political power.
In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Zaydī, Ismā‘īlī, and Twelver Shī‘ism were challenged by the emergence of new technologies, political ideologies, and religious forces. Similar changes had occurred in previous centuries, but the pace and scope of modern transformations were unprecedented. In addition, each community had to deal with the rising power of Europe, the influence of which was difficult to avoid even in areas spared direct colonization, such as northern Yemen and Iran.