Caroleen Marji Sayej’s meticulously chronicled study examines Ali al-Sistani’s immense influence upon Iraqi politics, all the more potent against the backdrop of the fractured state that emerged after the 2003 American invasion.

Faced with the perennial question of how democracy or something resembling it could ever come to the Middle East, few would argue for getting clerics more involved in running the state. Indeed, there is ample history showing how political Islam has posed significant challenges to republican rule.  And yet it is Iraq’s most senior religious figure who has defied conventional wisdom multiple times and effectively ended political stalemates to promote nationalism, not factionalism.

Click here to read the full book review at the Middle East Centre blog.