Episode 62: Sunni and Shi’a in Medieval Syria

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Stephennie Mulder, Assistant Professor of Art History and Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin

After the decline of the Fatimids, the medieval Middle East entered a period called the Sunni Revival, in which Shi’ism was officially discouraged and Shi’i institutions were closed and replaced with Sunni institutions. Or, at least, that’s what the official chroniclers tell us. The buildings themselves tell us a different story–one that tries to bring decades of conflict to an end by accommodating different beliefs.

Art Historian Stephennie Mulder has spent the past decade working in Syria and shares a new look at history of Sunni and Shi’a in Syria during the medieval period; and how both histories are threatened by ISIS and the Syrian Civil War.

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Episode 58: Islam’s First Civil War

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Shahrzad Ahmadi, Doctoral Student, Department of History

Miniature depicting Aisha (in the howdah) at the Battle of the Camel.

In 7th century Arabia, the Islamic community was nearly torn apart by a civil war over the assassination of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan (d. 656), and the accession to the caliphate of Muhammad’s adopted son Ali, supported by Uthman’s assassins. The events of the first fitna, as it is known, are often portrayed as a struggle over the right to rule the Islamic community, but it was much more—a power struggle between Muhammad’s wife Aisha and Ali, and a dispute over who had the right to avenge the murder of Uthman.

In picking up where Episode 57 left off, guest Shahrzad Ahmadi describes this tragic turn of events that sent shockwaves through the nascent Islamic community, and that continue to reverberate today.

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Episode 57: The Succession to Muhammad

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Shahrzad Ahmadi, Doctoral Student, Department of History

Persian miniature depicting courtiers pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr as leader of the community after Muhammad's death.

Nearly every world history textbook on the market explains the origins of sectarianism in the Islamic world as a dispute over the succession to Muhammad. Sunnis, they say, wanted an egalitarian society in which the leader was chosen from the people; the Shi’a, however, wanted the leadership of the nascent Islamic community to remain within Muhammad’s family. It seems simple—but is it really?

In the first of a series on the origins in Sectarianism in Islam, UT’s Shaherzad Ahmadi expands on this vastly oversimplified version of the story to introduce us to the key players involved—and to the intense rivalry between Aisha, Muhammad’s favorite wife, and his adopted son Ali.

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Episode 26: History of the Ottoman Empire, Part I

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Barbara Petzen, Director, Middle East Connections

The Ottoman Empire has long captured the public imagination in a way that few other royal houses and empires have managed to do. From the days when its armies threatened the gates of Vienna, its long-rumored decline as the “sick man of Europe,” and the Taksim demonstrations of 2013 when Turkish Prime Minsiter Erdo?an was accused of “neo-Ottomanism,” the legacy that the Empire left is long and vast. But who were the Ottomans? Why were they so successful?  And why have they lasted so long in the public’s imagination?

In the first of a two part series, guest Barbara Petzen helps to shed some light on the origins and rise of the empire that rivaled Europe for centuries. Turkish in origin, the Ottoman state at its best reveled in its diversity and played up the strengths of its multi-confessional multi-ethnic population.

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Episode 24: European Imperialism in the Middle East (part 2)

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, and editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

British troops depart from the port of Haifa in June 1948.

World War I had a profound impact on the Middle East and North Africa. With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, European powers carved the region into mandates, protectorates, colonies, and spheres of influence. Just a few decades later, however, World War II, however, left the colonial powers bankrupt and looking to get out of the empire business as quickly as possible, regardless of the consequences.

In the second half of a two part podcast, guest and co-host Christopher Rose from UT’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies discusses the lingering effects of 20th century European imperialism in the region and the transition to independence.

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