Zackery M. Heern is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Idaho State University. Dr. Heern specializes in Middle East and Islamic history and his research and teaching interests include Iran, Iraq, modern Islamic movements, Shi‘i Islam, Intellectual History, and World History. His book, The Emergence of Modern Shi‘ism: Islamic Reform in Iraq and Iran, was published by Oneworld Publications in 2015 and was featured in The Economist. Dr. Heern is passionate about encouraging people of all backgrounds and levels of education to learn more about the Middle East and Islam.
The impact of World War One on the Middle East was tremendous! The end of the war signaled the fall of the great Ottoman Empire, which had ruled much of the Middle East and Eastern Europe for 500 years. For the first time in Islamic history there was no Caliphate, which accounted for the highest authority in the Islamic world. What and who would replace the empire? Much of the Middle East became directly controlled by the French and British empires, which created new states. The French territory included what is now Syria and Lebanon and British territory included Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq. This lecture is the story of war, nationalism, imperialism, and the creation of new identities.
After Christianity, Islam is the largest religion and global culture on the planet. However, in the United States relatively little is known about the beliefs, practices, and history of Islam, which was founded in the late 500s CE by Muhammad, whose claim to prophethood was the Qur’an. What are the ideals laid out in the Qur’an that provided the foundation for a new civilization? One generation after Muhammad, Muslims ruled the swath of territory from Spain to India. Today, more Muslims live east of this region than in the Middle East itself. What are the basic beliefs and practices of this global community? This lecture outlines answers to these questions.
Whether we realize it or not, Islamic culture has contributed greatly to our modern lives. The great literary tradition of the Islamic world lives on in the tales of Aladdin and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, as well as the poetry of Rumi. Islamic contributions to the field of mathematics include the invention of algebra and algorithms - both of which are English words borrowed from Arabic. Ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine is possibly the most famous medical textbook in world history and was used in European universities until the 17th century - 600 years after its author died. In terms of art and music, the violin and guitar are imitations of Middle Eastern instruments and many architectural spaces in the West are still adorned with silk carpets and arabesque designs.
This talk outlines the historical background and ideological roots of the most powerful religious movement in modern Iraq and Iran – Usuli Shi‘ism. The long-term impact of the Usuli Shi‘i revival was that Shi‘i scholars gained unprecedented social, political, and economic power in Iran and southern Iraq. Shi‘i clerics claimed authority to issue binding legal judgments, which, they argued, must be observed by all Shi‘is. By the early nineteenth century, Usuli Shi‘ism became a popular, fiercely independent, transnational Islamic movement. Shi‘i clerics continue to operate at the heart of social and political developments in contemporary Iraq and Iran, as evidenced by the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
We often hear the names of modern Islamic movements in the news, often referred to as Islamist organizations, which blend Islam and politics in new ways. However, news media outlets rarely provide background information for these organizations. This lecture outlines the 20th and 21st century contexts in which each of these movements emerged. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, was formed four years after the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924. HAMAS originated as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. The Cold War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Iranian revolution also contributed to the proliferation of new Islamist movements.