Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshawani | Imam Ali Chair
Sayed Ammar Nakshawani (born 1981) is a British Iraqi Islamic historian, lecturer, and author. He is listed as one of the The 500 Most Influential Muslims, and is the youngest person on the list at the age of 32.
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Imam Ali Chair

Imam Ali Chair

Introduction to the Sciences of Shi’i Hadith (SC-528)

Introduction to the Sciences of Hadith (Course Outline)

Readings in Shi’a Tradition (TH-652)

Preliminary Syllabus: SHI`ITE ISLAM: Thought and History

Press Coverage






Imam Ali Chair

The first academic chair dedicated to Shi’i Studies in North America had its formal debut on January 22, 2016, at an inauguration banquet at Hartford Seminary. Friends, family and supporters of the chair’s first occupant, Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakhjavani, were in attendance to mark the historic occasion, as well as students, donors and fellow academics from around the world, including the U.S. and Canada, Europe and Iran.

The Imam Ali Chair for the Study of Shi’i Islam and Dialogue Among Islamic Legal School was established to provide a voice in the academy for Shi’i Islam, as well as to encourage dialogue among the diverse Islamic legal schools, including Shi’i and Sunni. Master of Ceremonies Dr. Timur Yuskaev described the evening as an “important occasion when it comes to the history of Muslims in the United States” and “another step in the American tradition of Muslim unity.” read more…

Introduction to the Sciences of Shi’i Hadith (SC-528)

The Sciences of Hadith (pl. Ahadith) in the traditional realm of Islamic Scholarship are many diverse sciences which can be classified into one, these sciences are all pertaining to one thing and one thing alone namely
the safeguarding and authenticity of religious scripture; whilst the hadith are not part of the Qur’an according to all classical schools of Islamic theology- they carry the same weight.

The sciences of Hadith serve as unique because they highlight that whilst others attempt to gather as much information about and from their Prophetic figures as possible, the Muslims were concerned with minute
details such as compiling as much information about people who merely transmitted the statements of and about their Prophetic figures to ensure a degree of rigour in authenticating religion.

If you are not enrolled in a degree program but wish to register for this course, use the Online Registration for Special Students and Auditors.

Prelim Syllabus – Summer 2016

Introduction to the Sciences of Hadith (Course Outline)


The Sciences of Hadith (pl. Ahadith) in the traditional realm of Islamic Scholarship are many diverse sciences which can be classified into one, these sciences are all pertaining to one thing and one thing alone namely the safeguarding and authenticity of religious scripture; whilst the hadith are not part of the Qur’an according to all classical schools of Islamic theology- they carry the same weight.

The sciences of Hadith serve as unique because they highlight that whilst others attempt to gather as much information about and from their Prophetic figures as possible, the Muslims were concerned with minute details such as compiling as much information about people who merely transmitted the statements of and about their Prophetic figures to ensure a degree of rigour in authenticating religion.

Aims and Objectives:

The course aims to introduce to the community several details about the sciences of Ahadith namely a break down as to what these varying independent sciences are, what their main ghayah or objective is and what books are written in regards to these sciences. Particularly looking at the evolution and development of sciences in both the traditional Islamic seminaries, in addition to the introduction of new ideas as a result of the Muslim World’s encounter with the post-enlightenment West and the challenges and questions such an encounter forced the Muslim World to address within these sciences. 

Particular emphasis will be placed upon the converging and diverging methodologies of the Sunni Schools and the Twelver Shi’i school in the field of Hadith Sciences.

By the end of the course, a student would ideally be familiar with the basics of Hadith Sciences and would have a firm enough grasp of some of the more intermediate discussions in the field, they would also be able to distinguish between the different sciences and understand why the views of our ‘Ulema in this area can never be reduced or seen as monolithic.

Course Outline: Dr Seyed Ammar Nakhjavani

5 Sessions

Session 1: The History of Ahadith

1. The Message: The film and beginning the hadith debates

2. Linguistic breakdowns and technical definitions of Hadith

3. The Prophet Muhammad’s concern with gathering and preserving narrations

4. Why Arabia was ideal for such a science to have organically developed

5. The Systematic Ban on Hadith by the Saqeefa Dynasty

6. The Imams (A) concern with preserving Ahadith in such a period

Session 2: Main Hadith Sources amongst the Muslim Schools

1. Lifting the Ban

2. The Muwatta

3. The Musannaf Literature

4. The Sihah Sittah

5. Hakim al-Naysaburi’s Mustadrak

Session 3: The Imamiyyah and their efforts in Hadith

1. The 400 Usual

2. Kitab al-Saqifa (The Book of Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali)

3. Basa’ir al-Darajat and al-Mahasin

4. Masa’il ‘Ali b. A’far

5. The Four Books

Session 4: The Science of Rijaal

1. The Science of Rijaal as is recorded earliest (Sunni-Shi’a pioneering debate)

2. Early Sunni Rijaaliyoon

3. The Companions of the Imams involved in Rijaal

4. The Main Sunni Sources of ‘Ilm al-Rijaal

5. The Main Shia Sources of ‘Ilm al-Rijaal

6. The Ibn al-Ghada’iri Debate

 The Science of Riwayah and the Science of Dirayah

1. Do the Sciences even differ?

2. Who first authored books in this field?

3. Why the late start for the Imamiyyah in this field?

4. Basic Terms and Categories of the Science

5. The Four-Tier System of Ibn Tawus/Allamah Hilli and the Akhbari rejection

6. What was used before the Four-Tier System?

7. Moving beyond the four-tier system and the ability to produce more convenient classifications

Session 5: The Salafi Era and Its Effect on Sunni Hadith Sciences

1. Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida and the effects of Modernity in Hadith Rejection

2. The Sunni Revivalist Al-Ghumari and his condemning the Nasibi tendencies of Early Ahl al-Hadith

3. Al-Albani and his attempt to cleanse the Sunni World of Taqleed in Hadith

4. Jamal al-Banna in Modern Egypt and Rejection of the Sahihayn 

Contemporary Debates in ‘Ilm al-Rijaal

1. The Early Qummis: Strict and Pious Rijaliyoon or paranoid puritans with a deficient ‘Aqeedah (Taqseer)?

2. Hisham b. Al-Hakam and Hisham b. Salim al-Jawaliqi as Anthropomorphists?

3. Sahl b. Ziyad, Hal Amruhu Sahl am Sa’ab? (An easy case or difficult one)

4. The Khoei School of Rijal and It’s Development: Towards Purification of our Literature

5. The Revival of Akhbarism in a Sophisticated Guise: The School of Mashhad

6. The Theological Defence of High Imamology in Rijaal: The New Approach of Muhammad al-Sanad

7. Between Matn Criticism and Isnad Criticism: The Uber-strict Methodology of Haider Hobbullah in Contemporary Qom

8. Sayyed Kamal al-Hayderi: Moving from ‘Ulum al-Hadith to the Qur’anic Approach to Ahadith

Session 8: The Hatred of Amir al-Mo’mineen in the Science of Hadith

1. How Rijal Rules are broken to accommodate hatred of Imam ‘Ali

2. How Dirayah classifications are broken to accommodate such hatred

3. How Sahaba can be weakened due to love for Imam ‘Ali

4. Why the Imams recommended doing the opposite of the Opponents as a result of the above discussions.

5. Contemporary Wahabi ‘Ulema and their tendencies against Imam ‘Ali in the Sciences of Hadith.

Readings in Shi’a Tradition (TH-652)

This seminar will examine the Shi’ite tradition from within. We shall read and discuss primary-source materials in English translation including samples of Qur’an exegesis (tafsir), hadith tradition, philosophy, mysticism and theology. Additionally, we will examine some of the writings of Imams Khomeini and Ali Shari’ati, the two most important makers of modern Shi’ite thought and history.

If you are not enrolled in a degree program but wish to register for this course, use the Online Registration for Special Students and Auditors.

Preliminary Syllabus: SHI`ITE ISLAM: Thought and History

Hartford Seminary

Fall 2015

Instructor: Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakhjavani

E-mail: sanakhjavani@hartsem.edu

Course Description:

This course will be based on the assumption that Islam is both a belief system and a world civilization. Therefore, all movements, sects and schools of thought will be treated as an integral part of Islam, broadly understood. The course will introduce Shi`ism as a general phenomenon within Muslim history, but will concentrate on Twelver Imami Shi’ism, as it is the most developed and influential Shi’ite legal school (madhhab). We will study Shi’ism in Muslim history from its beginning to the present. We will examine primary texts in translation, and when possible, in original languages. We will also read and discuss a good sampling of secondary literature.

This is a graduate seminar that will be based on class participation and lectures. Grading will be based on class attendance and participation, weekly readings and discussions, and a class presentation of an individual research of a topic that will be developed into a 12-15 page final term paper.


Grades will be computed as follows: class participation, discussion and leading weekly book discussions 30%; class presentation of research topic 20%; and final term paper 50%.

Email Policy:

The instructor will use the official Hartsem student email addresses for all communications. Please check your Hartsem email account regularly.

Office Hours:

Office hours will be determined by the needs and schedules of the students.

Required Readings:

1. Abu Mikhnaf, Lut ibn Yahya ibn Sa’id. (Hamid Mavani, trans. And ed.). Kitab Maqtal al-Husayn: Narrative of the Martyrdom of al-Husayn. Montreal: Privately Printed, 2002.

2. Amir-Moezzi, Mohammad Ali. (David Streight, trans. And ed.). The Divine Guide in Early Shi'ism: The Sources of Esotericism in Islam. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994.

3. Ayoub, Mahmoud. Redemptive Suffering in Islam: A Study of the Devotional Aspects of `Ashura’ in Twelver Shi`ism. The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1978.

4. Bayhom-Daou, Tamima. Makers of the Muslim World: Shaykh Mufid. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications, 2005.

5. Crone, Patricia. God's Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

6. Daftary, Farhad. A Short History of the Ismailis. Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

7. Daftary, Farhad. The Study of Shi'i Islam: History, Theology and Law. I. B. Tauris, 2014.

8. Haider, Najam. Shi'i Islam: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

9. Hussain, Jassim M. The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam: A Historical Background. Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 1982.

10. Madelung, Wilferd. The Succession to Muḥammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge University Press, 1998.

11. Mavani, Hamid. Ayatullah Khomeini's Concept of Governance (Wilayat al-Faqih) and the Classical Shi‘i Doctrine of Imamate. Published online, 2011.

12. Modarressi, Hossein. Crisis and Consolidation in the Formative Period of Shi’ite Islam. Princeton, NJ: The Darwin Press, Inc., 1993.

13. Momen, Moojan. An Introduction to Shi’i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi’ism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

14. Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam will Shape the Future. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.

15. Newman, Andrew J. The Formative Period of Twelver Shi'ism: Hadith as Discourse Between Qum and Baghdad. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 2000.

16. Sachedina, Abdulaziz A. Islamic Messianism: The Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shi’ism. Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 1981.

17. Schmidtke, Sabine. The Theology of Al-ʻAllāma Al-Ḥillī. Berlin: K. Schwarz, 1991.

Recommended Readings:

1. al-Sistani, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni. (Hamid Mavani, trans. And ed.). Contemporary Legal Rulings in Shi’i Law. Montreal: Organization for the Advancement of Islamic Knowledge, 1996.

2. Amir-Moezzi, Mohammad Ali. The Spirituality of Shi'i Islam: Beliefs and Practices. London: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

3. Arjomand, Said Amir. The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

4. Arjomand, Said Amir. The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran. Oxford Paperbacks, 1989.

5. Bill, James A. and John Alden Williams. Roman Catholics and Shi’i Muslims: Prayer, Passion, and Politics. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

6. Brunner, Ranie and Werner Ende, eds. The Twelver Shia in Modern Times: Religious Culture and Political History. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2001.

7. Corbin, Henry. Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis. London: The Institute of Ismaili Studies Ltd., Kegan Paul Int’l with Islamic Publications, 1985.

8. Dabashi, Hamid. By What Authority? The Formation of Khomeini's Revolutionary Discourse, 1964-1977. Social Compass. 1989.

9. Dakake, Maria. The Charismatic Community: Shi’ite Identity in Early Islam. Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 2007.

10. Gleave, Robert. Conceptions of Authority in Iraqi Shiism: Baqir al-Hakim, Ha'iri and Sistani on Ijtihad, Taqlid and Marja'iyya, Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 24, no. 2, 2007, 59-78.

11. Gleave, Robert. Early Shi'i Hermeneutics: Some Exegetical Techniques Attributed to the Shi'i Imams, in The Development of Method in Islamic Exegesis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

12. Gleave, Robert. Inevitable doubt: Two Theories of Shi'i Jurisprudence, Leiden, Brill Academic Pub, 2000.

13. Gleave, Robert. Recent Research into the History of Early Shi'ism, History Compass, vol. 7, no. 6, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2009, 1593-1605.

14. Gleave, Robert. Political aspects of modern Shi'i legal Discussions: Khumayni and Khu'i on ijtihad and qada', Mediterranean Politics, vol. 7, no. iii, Routledge, 2002, 96- 116.

15. Halm, Heinz. Shi’a Islam: From Religion to Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1997.

16. ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti, al-Hasan. (Abbas Kadhim, trans. And ed.). SHI'A SECTS: Kitab Firaq Al-Shi’a. ICAS PRESS LTD, 2007.

17. Jafri, S. Husain M. The Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002.

18. Khumayni, Ayatu’llah Seyyid Ruhu’llah (Hamid Algar, trans. And ed.) Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini. Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1981.

19. Kohlberg, Etan. The Abu Basir tradition: Qur'anic verses on the merits of the Shi`a, in: Law and Tradition in Classical Islamic Thought: Studies in Honor of Professor Hossein Modarressi. 2013.

20. Kohlberg, Etan. Authoritative scriptures in early Imami Shi`ism, in: Les Retours Aux Ecritures: Fondamentalismes Presents Et Passes. 1994.

21. Kohlberg, Etan. Belief and Law in Imami Shi`ism. Aldershot, Variorum Reprints, Collected Studies CS. 1991.

22. Kohlberg, Etan. Early attestations of the term “Ithna-'ashariyya," in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. 2000.

23. Kohlberg, Etan. Imam and community in the pre- Ghayba period, in: Authority and Political Culture in Shi’ism. 1988.

24. Kholberg, Etan, ed. Shi’ism. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003.

25. Kohlberg, Etan. Shi`i views of the death of the Prophet Muhammad, in: Medieval Arabic Thought: Essays in Honour of Fritz Zimmermann. 2012.

26. Kohlberg, Etan. Taqiyya in Shi`a theology and religion, in: Secrecy and Concealment: Studies in the History of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Religions. 1995.

27. Kohlberg, Etan. Western studies of Shi`a Islam, in: Shi’ism, Resistance, and Revolution. 1987.

28. Madelung, Wilferd, and Sabine Schmidtke. Studies in Medieval Shi'ism. Farnham: Ashgate Variorum, 2012.

29. Mavani, Hamid. (Abbas Ahmadvand, ed.). Crystallization of the Doctrine of Imamate: The Theology of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and ‘Allamah Hilli,” in Shi‘I Historiography. I. B. Taurus and ICAS, 2015.

30. Mavani, Hamid. Religious Authority and Political Thought in Twelver Shi‘ism: From Ali to Post-Khomeini. New York and London: Routledge, 2013.

31. Modarressi, Hossein. Tradition and Survival: A Bibliographical Survey of Early Shi'ite Literature vol.1, 2003.

32. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, Hamid Dabashi and Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, eds. Expectation of the Millennium: Shi’ism in History. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988.

33. Newman, Andrew J. Fayd Al-Kashani and the Rejection of the Clergy/State Alliance: Friday Prayer as Politics in the Safavid Period. The Most Learned of the Shiʿa. 2001.

34. Newman, Andrew J. Minority Reports: Twelver Shi`i Disputation and Authority the Buyid Period. In The Study of Shi'i Islam: History, Theology and Law. I.B. Tauris, 2014.

35. Newman, Andrew J. The Myth of the Clerical Migration to Safawid Iran: Arab Shiite Opposition to Ali Al-Karaki and Safawid Shiism. Die Welt Des Islams 33.1, 1993.

36. Newman, Andrew J. Sufism and Anti-Sufism in Safavid Iran: The Authorship of the "Hadiqat Al-Shia" Revisited. Iran 37, 1999.

37. Rizvi, Sajjad. Political Mobilization and the Shi'i Establishment. International Affairs, vol. 86, no. 6, Chatham House, 2010, 1299-1313.

38. Rizvi, Sajjad. Shi’ism in Bahrain: Marja'iyya and politics. Orient, vol. 50, no. 3, 2009, 16-24.

39. Saanei, Ayatullah Yusef (Hamid Mavani, trans. And ed.). Paradigm Shift in Twelver Shi‘i Legal Theory ( Uṣūl Al-fiqh ). The Muslim World, 2009.

40. Sachedina, Abdulaziz A. The Just Ruler in Shīʻite Islam: The Comprehensive Authority of the Jurist in Imamite Jurisprudence. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

41. Tabataba’i, ‘Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husain. (Seyyed Hoseyn Nasr, trans. And ed.). Shi’ite Islam. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1975.

42. Takim, Liyakat. Ijtihad: A Brief History of Ijtihad in Twelver Shi’ism.

43. Takim, Liyakat. The Origins and Evaluations of Hadith Transmitters in Shi`I Biographical Literature.

44. Takim, Liyakat. Shi'ism in America. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

For further research and additional readings, please consult the extensive library of Shi`ite sources on line: www.al-islam.org and http://www.noorlib.ir/View/en/Default All required books will be assigned for weekly readings, where two students will introduce a book and lead a discussion of it. It is of course assumed that all students will also have read each book in the assigned, and not listed order. This is an important part of your class participation, which will constitute 30% of your final grade.

Course Outline:

September 17

I – Background

A. Islam: Abrahamic legacy

B. Abu Talib

II – Formative history of the Muslim Ummah

A. The Prophet Muhammad and the theocratic community

B. The end of theocratic rule and the beginning of the Caliphate

C. The normative or “rightly guided” first four Caliphs

III – The beginnings of Shi’i history and the Umayyad Caliphate

A. Succession of Hassan son of Ali

B. Treaty with Muawiyah


Amir-Moezzi – The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism

Crone – God's Caliph

Madelung – The Succession to Muḥammad

Momen – An Introduction to Shi’i Islam (ch. 2-5)

October 8

IV – The tragedy of Karbala, and its devotional and ritualistic aspects

A. Poetic portrayals of the tragedy

B. The ziyarah or spiritual visitation to the Imam’s tomb

C. Memorial services

D. Visual portrayals, the Persian Passion Play (A video of Shi’i rituals will be shown)

V – The Shia Imams after Karbala

A. Ali ibn Husayn, Zayn al-‘Abidin (son of Husayn)

B. Muhammad ibn Ali, al-Baqir (son of Ali)

C. Ja'far ibn Muhammad, as-Sadiq (son of Muhammad)

VI – Taqiya (Dissimulation): A tool for survival

A. Quranic tradition

B. Hadith debates concerning taqiya

C. The Wikala


Abu Mikhnaf – Kitab Maqtal al-Husayn

Ayoub – Redemptive Suffering (ch. 4-6)

Hussain – The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam

Kitab al Irshad (Imams 4-6)

October 29

VII – Shia sects and the early Shia extremist movements: penitents, avengers and rebellious mawali

A. The Kaysaniyyah

B. The Khattabiyyah

C. Other temporary fringe movements

VIII – The Isma`iliyyah

A. The rise and pre-Fatimid developments

B. The Fatimid period

C. The Druzes sect

D. Post Fatimid developments

IX – The Ithna`ashariyyah or Twelver Shia

A. The period of the Imams to the end of the Minor Occultation (al-ghaybah alsughra) of the Twelfth Imam

B. Beginning of the Greater Occultation (al-ghaybah al-kubra): crisis and consolidation


Daftary – A Short History of the Ismailis (from pg. 21 to the end)

Hussain – The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam

ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti – Kitab Firaq Al-Shi’a

Modarressi – Crisis and Consolidation in the Formative Period of Shi’ite Islam

Sachedina – Islamic Messianism

November 19

X – Development of the Religious Sciences

A. The Qur’an and Sunnah in the view of the Shi’ah and rise of Shi’i hadith: the Four Books and other sources

B. Jurisprudence

C. Theology

D. Philosophy and mysticism

XI – Development of Shi’i centers of learning

A. Hilla

B. Baghdad, and Najaf

C. Reyy, Qom, Shiraz, and Isfahan


Bayhom-Daou – Shaykh Mufid

Newman – The Formative Period of Twelver Shi’ism

Schmidtke – The Theology of Al-ʻAllāma Al-Ḥillī

December 10

XII – Safavid Iran [1600] to the 20th Century and Pahlavi Era

A. Consolidation of Shi’ite power under the Safavids and the role of the `Ulama’

B. Post Safavid developments: the religious establishment and the authority of the supreme Mujtahid or Marja`

XIII – Iranian Islamic Revolution, 1979

A. Shi`ism in the twentieth century, before the Revolution

B. The Islamic Revolution and after: whither Shi`ism?


Arjomand – The Turban for the Crown

Dabashi – Theology of Discontent

Khomeini – Islam and Revolution (pg. 27-167)

Mavani – Ayatullah Khomeini's Concept of Governance and the Classical Shi‘i

Doctrine of Imamate

Nasr – The Shia Reviva


Press Coverage

Historic Shi’i Chair Celebrated at Inauguration Banquet

Fiqh for Minorities: Shi’i Law in the Diaspora

کرسی امام علی (ع) در دانشگاه هارتفورد آمریکا افتتاح شد

Hartford Seminary establishes first Shia chair in North America

The first academic chair dedicated to Shia Studies in North America launched



March 22nd, 2016 @ 7:00pm – Fiqh for Minorities: Shi’i Law in the Diaspora

April 28th, 2016 @ 6:30pm – The Formative Period of Shi’i Thought: Debates and Discussions

May 3rd, 2016 @ 7:00pm – Is My Kind Uncle Doomed? Debates on the Salvation of Abu Talib