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The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran [Paperback]

Roy Mottahedeh
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
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Book Description

1 Oct 2008
Drawn from the first-hand accounts of eyewitnesses, Roy Mottahedeh's absorbing tale of Islam and Politics in revolutionary Iran is widely regarded as one of the best records of that turbulent time ever written.

This revised edition includes a new chronology detailing events in Iran from the revolution right up to the present day and Ahmadinejad’s controversial regime. There is simply no better resource for understanding Iran’s past, present, and future.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications; 2 edition (1 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851686169
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851686162
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 114,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Mottahedeh has drawn on a massive amount of learning, but he has got the scholarly apparatus out of the way and made his book accessible to a wide audience." (New York Times Book Review)

"He has a sharp feeling for the sensous aspects of the traditional Iranian town - the texture of bricks and tiles, the movement of breezes, the sound of the side alley, the precious burst of greenery and of trees." (The Times Literary Supplement)

"A remarkable treasure." (The Wall Street Journal)

"The beauty of [Mottahedeh’s] book is in his ability to explain sophisticated ideas and difficult subjects in a way which is widely accessible… an extraordinary book." (London Review of Books)

"One of the top 75 books of the twentieth century" (Foreign Affairs)

"The graceful prose and factual command… make [this book] a fascinating read." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Even with news breaking daily in Iran, the first book I send myself and other readers back to has to be Roy Mottahedeh’s “The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran,” which was first published in 1985. A professor at Harvard, Mottahedeh has written an intellectual history as stirring and graceful as any novel. He sets the intimate biography of a young cleric against the vast epic of Iranian thought from Zoroaster to Avicenna, Kasravi to Khomeini. “The Mantle of the Prophet” is literary, learned, and deeply felt; the writing is splendid, and the story is an education for the Western reader unaware of the powerful tides of Shi’ite and Persian thought over a period of centuries. (The New Yorker)

Book Description

Informed by eyewitness testimony, the foremost account of Iran’s 1979 Revolution and its impact today

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love and deep understanding of Iran 30 Oct 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wonderful book that reconstructs Iranian history while telling the story of one religious teacher - who basically remains anonymous - who grew up in Qom and lived through the political tumult over the decades that led to the 1979 Islamic Revolution (that may sound a little contrived but the rather unusual structure works very well and gives the book many different dimensions). Shows the roots of the basis of Islamic education in the Shia madrasehs in the Greek 'trivium' of logic, rhetoric and grammar. Looks too at the continuing vitality of Persian consciousness and the Persian language after the Arab invasion and the triumph of Islam, while also exploring the links with Shia in the Arab world. Clearly written with a lot of love and a deep understanding, and goes well beyond some of the trivial books written by western journalists about Iran. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly researched, erudite and detailed 5 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an exceptional piece of work, not surprising given that Mottahedeh is Professor of Islamic History at Harvard and half Iranian by heritage. He gives a detailed account of the Religious and spiritusl training of the Clerical establishment in Iran since the medieval period upto to modern times using as a prop the story of a young cleric Ali and his evolution from exoteric to more esoteric understandings of Islam during the years leading upto Khomeinis revolution. All of the key religious figures of Iran are profiled in this panoramic sweep, and their relations with the powers of the day. Borujerdi - Khomeinis intellectual guide, Sadeq and a host of lesser knowns are all described in some detail.
The training of a Mullah in Shia Islam is rigorous, based on the trivium of Classical Greek learning with logic and rhetoric and public speaking drilled into the students at an early age. Mottahedeh makes it very clear that many in the clerical establishment were and are men of formidable learning and erudition, and a bedrock that cannot be easily moved by the forces of secularism which are far less marshalled in their learning, and for the most part not a match for the intellectually rigorous Mullocracy. This may come as a shock to those who have assumed that the term 'Mad Mullah' is definitive of the Clerical establishment. This is very far from the case.
Mottahedeh covers their influence in education, the development of the law, their attempts to challenge the millenial rule of Monarchy and autocracy with a Persianised interpretation of classical Greek inspired democracy over several centuries. Key figures in Iranian history little known to the West are brought to the fore in this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! First rate!!! 10 Nov 2011
By mabus
I cannot recommend this book more highly enough.... Its an interesting way of telling history...the book is not chorological in the way it choose to tell history... and the book is fairly anecdotal it starts of with Roy Mottahedeh meeting his friend who is a muller from Iran.. and using his life he tells us 3,000 years of Iranian history. The chapters is organised according to theme rather than historical period.. he will look at religious dissent for example and charter it through different figures who lived in different ages.. It also contains a biography of Ahmed Kasravi one of the most important figures in 20th century Iranian history..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that left a lasting impression 27 Jan 2004
By Alessandro Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
I read The Mantle of the Prophet many years ago. OSmehow the Amazaon computer knew me well enough to reccomend it, and it brought back the impression that this book left me. It is wonderfully written and relates the mix of socio-economic events and the Shi'a culture that coalesced to foment the Islamic Revolution in 1979. However, the sense the reder gets while rapidly going through it, is that the book presents this very thoughtful and clear historical and sociological argument in the manner of a novel, you can't put the book down. This no ordinary academic text and Mottahedeh combines the skills and art of the poet and novelist with the clarity and facts of an academic. I have never read such an interesting and clear - devoid of controversy or criticism - description of what's it like to study in a Shiá Madrasa, to undertand the curriculum and the stages that a student must follow to become an Ayatoallah. Mottahedeh also offers a simple and brilliant, powerful description of the cultural contrast that existed between the supericially modern and wealthy cosmopolitan Teheran and the countryside, which supplied so many of the clerics that influenced the masses living on the fringe. This book is as invaluable to the specialist, and is an excellent complement to the socio-hiostorical classic text by Ervand Abrahamian "Iran Bewteen two Revolutions", yet it can also be read and enjoyed by the non-specialist just the same. This was, however I look at it, one of the finest books I've ever read in my life
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rise of learned 21 July 2003
By Muzaffer Muctehitzade - Published on Amazon.com
Very comprehensive information about the shia, shia philosophy, development of learned in shia hierarchy and finally Islamic revolution in Iran. The story is written about a certain person as he grow up in Iran, got his education in religious centers and involved in the actions. The history and information are given as the situation requires background about it. It is very nicely written, easy to read entertaining and informative.
Sometimes I found names mixed, to many names with too different philosophies to keep up, so it is a fast book to read, time to time you may have to come back and repeat.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history of Iran through one man's life story. 9 Dec 1997
By shedd@fas.harvard.edu - Published on Amazon.com
Anyone with an interest in history,philosophy, religion, the Middle East, Iran, or human nature, would find this erudite, beautifully written, very readable and sensitive story of one man's life as a religious scholar in Iran, a thoroughly satisfying read. Iran's history from ancient times to the Revolution of 1979 is interwoven with the biography of a Shiah Islamic cleric. The book's strength comes from the author's clarity of expression and his deep and broad understanding of his subject.A wonderful book!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Education In Iranian History, Politics And Values 18 Aug 2005
By Dai-keag-ity - Published on Amazon.com
Though deliberate in its pace and what I might call dry in tone, I believe this book, which I read over the summer, masterfully reveals the real Iran as it was in the last two decades of the twentieth-century, and gives the best insights I've yet found into that nation today: a country founded on the principles of a blood-soaked revolution. Forget what you hear on the evening news, read this book and approach Iranian culture with an open mind. I think you'll be startled, as I was, at much of what you learn. If the culture of Iran at the time of the Islamic uprising of 1979 was justifiably viewed by Americans as shocking, then it was also certainly fascinating in all its depth. This book takes us inside Iran from the point of view of a number of its citizens, as the pro-western nation in which they'd grown up retreats 1300 years in an effort to save itself from what it views as destruction from the outside. It is too easy to characterize Islamic fundamentalists as unintelligent and backward, but let us make no mistake, many who take that stance are shrewd, brilliant, and above all proudly commited to their way of life. In The Mantle of the Prophet, the reader will meet many of these.

This book gives descriptions of all areas of life under the Ayatollahs, from the law courts, to the marketplaces, the army, to the mosques themselves, and introduces us to real people who lived through those frightening times. This book is as important today in the age of nuclear proliferation as it was when first published in 1985. Anyone who wants to learn about life inside fundamentalist Iran would do no better than to add The Mantle of the Prophet to her reading list.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and Pleasant Read 21 Sep 2001
By Erik Monti - Published on Amazon.com
Roy Mottahedeh skillfully weaves together the lives of several people from Iran to present a personal point of view of modern history with a vantage point rarely presented in other modern history texts. He also does not fail to address all the necessary points in history that set the stage for actions in Iran's recent history and give the reader an adequate foundation for understanding Iran's revolution.
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