Book review: The Shia Revival

In a time when much attention has been paid to Sunni Jihadi groups, relatively little has been written about Shia Islamism for the mass-market. Of these, Vali Nasr’s “The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future”. Originally published in 2007, its second edition was released earlier this year (October), with the addition of a new and updated afterword.

Offering an account of the sectarian struggle between Sunnis and Shias from the latter’s perspective, Nasr argues the importance of them finding a settlement between themselves if a peaceful future is to be found.

Although set against the backdrop of Iranian-Saudi rivalries, this book takes in far more. Surveying Shiism across and outside of the Middle East in its Indian and Pakistani strongholds, Nasr also does well to differentiate between Khomeinist and more traditional Shia streams, i.e. the school represented by Ayatollahs Al-Khoei and Sistani.

Given regional changes in the nine years since this book was first published, Nasr’s afterword is much welcomed. Discussing how the Arab Spring – especially Islamic State’s rise in Iraq and Syria – has affected the sectarianism, it is particularly timely.

Readable and impeccably well researched, Nasr’s latest offering provides much-needed current analysis on a dynamic and important region. Highly recommended.

About the Author
Daniel J. Levy is a graduate of the University of Leeds and Oxford, where his academic research primarily focused on Iranian proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. He is the Founding Director and Lead Consultant of the Ortakoy Security Group, and has contributed editorial pieces to The Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and Israel Policy Exchange. In his free time, he enjoys reading, running, and cooking. He can be followed on Twitter @danielhalevy.