What is Shi'i Islam? How is it different from Sunni Islam? Is Shi'ism an ideology of revolt or an esoteric cult? What does it even mean to ask such a question? We will delve into the early history of the Muslim community to understand the contested ways in which religious authority, knowledge, and charisma were interpreted by different parties. We will read from classical primary sources about the Shi'i creed and compare and contrast it to the Sunni perspective. Finally, we will explore the many ways in which Shi’ite communities across the Muslim world have responded to the challenge of modernities, nationalisms, and their persecution as minorities. 3 hrs. lect./disc.