Despite a growing interest in the last hundred years in both orientalism and comparative religions, and the fact that there are over fifty million Shi'a Muslims, until now there has been no thorough and objective study of that part of Islam called Shi'ism for Western scholars. The present work provides a clear account of the origin, history, and doctrines of an important sector of the Muslim religious community. It is written by a distinguished leader of that community, who, in addition to possessing a thorough knowledge of its traditional history and literature, presents its rational-philosophic, traditional-legal, and gnostic-mystical elements with warmth and sympathy. The result is a well-integrated general picture which succeeds in giving the reader a clear and comprehensive picture of how the Shi'ite Muslim views his religion.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr is Professor of the History of Science and Philosophy at Tehran University. Among his many books are Ideals and Realities of Islam, The Encounter of Man and Nature and Sufi Essays.