Department of Art and Art History News

The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is, and the Architecture of Coexistence by Stephennie Mulder

Thu. February 25, 2016

Stack of Mulder's new book
The Shrines of the 'Alids in Medieval Syria

Dr. Stephennie Mulder, professor of Islamic art and architecture, has published the first illustrated, architectural history of the 'Alid shrines, The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is, and the Architecture of Coexistence.

The 'Alids (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad) are among the most revered figures in Islam, beloved by virtually all Muslims, regardless of sectarian affiliation. This study argues that despite the common identification of shrines as 'Shi'i' spaces, they have in fact always been unique places of pragmatic intersectarian exchange and shared piety, even - and perhaps especially - during periods of sectarian conflict.

Using a rich variety of previously unexplored sources, including textual, archeological, architectural, and epigraphic evidence, Stephennie Mulder shows how these shrines created a unifying Muslim 'holy land' in medieval Syria, and proposes a fresh conceptual approach to thinking about landscape in Islamic art. In doing so, she argues against a common paradigm of medieval sectarian conflict, complicates the notion of Sunni Revival, and provides new evidence for the negotiated complexity of sectarian interactions in the period.

The book has garnered many awards including the 2015 University Co-op Robert W. Hamilton Book Award, co-winner of the Syrian Studies Association's Best Book on Syria published between July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2015, and Iran's World Book Prize. It was also recognized in ALA Choice magazine's Outstanding Academic Titles.