Book Launch, The Caliph and the Imam: The Making of Sunnism and Shiism

Copies of Toby's book will be on sale at the event at a 30% discount, £17.50 (RRP £25). Payment by card only please, we are not able to accept cash payments on this occasion.

Based on a synthesis of decades of scholarship in numerous languages, The Caliph and the Imam: The Making of Sunnism and Shiism, is the first truly global and longue durée history of Sunni-Shii relations. The dispute over who should guide Muslims, the Caliph or the Imam, marks the origin of the Sunni-Shii split in Islam. Toby Matthiesen explores this hugely significant division from its origins to the present day. Moving chronologically, his book sheds light on the many ways that it has shaped the Islamic world, outlining how over the centuries Sunnism and Shiism became Islam’s two main branches, and how Muslim Empires embraced specific sectarian identities. Focussing on connections between the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, it reveals how colonial rule and the modern state institutionalised sectarian divisions and at the same time led to pan-Islamic resistance and Sunni and Shii revivalism. It then focuses on the fall-out from the 1979 revolution in Iran and the US-led military intervention in Iraq. As Matthiesen shows, however, though Sunnism and Shiism have had a long and at times antagonistic history, most Muslims have led lives characterised by confessional ambiguity and peaceful co-existence. Tensions arise when sectarian identity becomes linked to politics.

Toby Matthiesen is a Marie Curie Global Fellow at Stanford University and Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, leading a project on Sunni-Shii Relations in the Middle East. In the fall of 2023, he is joining the University of Bristol as Senior Lecturer in Global Religious Studies/Global Islam, and he has previously held fellowships at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and the LSE. The Caliph and the Imam: The Making of Sunnism and Shiism is published by Oxford University Press in 2023.

The lecture will be chaired by Professor Eugene Rogan.