Imams and Emirs is a comparative study of Islamic sects in the contemporary Arab world. It spotlights the Sunnis, Shi'as, Alawis, Druze, Ibadis, Zaidis and Yazidis. The Christian Maronites are added to this group because they share the same ...
he same distinguishing features, which include geographical isolation, territorial exclusiveness, intensity of rituals and duality of religious organization. The book's unique contribution is to examine not only issues of dogma, but also the ecological, historical and structural variables that differentiate a religion from a sect and a sect from a religious community or minority. This is the first time Islamic religious communities have been placed on a single comparative scale.
The book focuses on religious ideology and ulama organization. Ideology refers to the genesis and formation of the religious community; organization, to the recruitment, training and roles of the ulama (imams) in society. Whereas Sunni ideology and organization are adapted to the sovereignty of centralized authority (state, government), those of other sects are adapted to the sovereignty of the religious community. Thus Sunni ideology tends to be conformist, and that of the other sects, rebellious. Many Islamic sects began as rebellious groups and subsequently developed into stable, routine systems.
Conflict and contradiction among Muslims centre around two poles: the ulama, who derive their authority from religious dogma, and the emirs and sultans who base their authority on power and coercion. In Sunni Islam, for instance, the ulama's role is subsidiary to that of the power elites, but among the Shi'a it is theulama themselves who form the power elites. After reviewing the ideological and organizational characteristics of individual sects, Khuri addresses the issue of religious change under the heading 'Brethren or Citizens'. Here, he deals with the interplay between religions, state and nationalism and discusses the contradictions between modern state structures and the Islamic umma. Already, he argues, some religious concepts are taking on nationalistic meanings.