Andrew Newman is a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, where he teaches courses on Shi’a Islam, the history of Islamic medicine, modern Persian literature, and Middle Eastern Studies. Newman is also the founder and moderator of “Shii News”, an email list that serves more than 470 academics and non-academics across the world who are interested in all forms of Shi’ism and their study both past and present. Prior to his arrival at Edinburgh, Newman was a Research Fellow at both University of Oxford’s Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine and Green College whilst researching topics in the history of Islamic medicine. He holds a BA in History from Dartmouth College, where he graduated summa cum laude, as well as MA and PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Newman is presently completing both a book on the history and development of Twelver Shi’ism and other research projects, which address how prominent Twelver scholars viewed and made use of the faith’s earlier history.
“They would mediate the East-West trade with Europe. Part of the shah’s avenue to reach out to the Europeans to satiate their demand for luxury goods which passed through the Safavid polity, but also achieve political alliances as against the Ottomans and keep the Ottomans…you know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, therefore, the European powers—the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English—by signing treaties, by reaching agreements with them, hoping to keep the Ottomans off-balance so they would relent in their attacks on the Safavid state.”
“No sitting Safavid shah was ever assassinated, and, this bespeaks the increasing success of the Safavid Project. The Safavid signed a peace treaty in 1639 with the Ottoman Turks. They gave up some of their territory in Iraq. But, for that, they bought peace, and this meant that you didn’t necessarily have a huge standing army.”
“But, by the end of the Safavid Period, you have a bunch of these things established again. You have Persian. You have nation state. You have the establishment of the faith on the ground through the religious infrastructure, the clergy-ulema alliance.”
“Now, if we look at such concepts, for example, as Vilayat-e Faqih the principle that the senior professional cleric is entitled to run the state, which is he cornerstone of the Islamic Republic in Iran, one can look to Iraq, one can look to Bahrain, one can look to Lebanon, to India, Pakistan and other places where the Shiite community exists, and not all Shiites agree on that.”