Elisheva Machlis

Dr. Elisheva Machlis

Associate Fellow
Elisheva  Machlis

Research Abstract

"Modern Islamic Trends, Sunni Shi'a Relations, Mysticism"

This study will evaluate the relationship between theosophy, mysticism and law in al-Azhar and Qom in the post-1980 period. It will examine the link between the scholarly production, and the socio-political context. The broader political and religious context will also come into play including the challenge of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the competition between factions and centers of power in the Islamic Republic, as well as the rise of puritanical anti-Shi‘i Jihadist movements in the Muslim world. The comparison between Qom and al-Azhar has both historical and contemporary basis. Over the centuries, Sufism acted as a bridging agent between the Sunni and Shi‘i world, while Muslim theosophy provided space for a cross-sectarian religious discourse. There was also an intellectual link between Sunni mysticism and Shi‘i notions. In both Egypt in Iran, the post-1980 era was an important period in defining religion and state relations.

How can we understand the revival of theosophy and mysticism in the centers of Islamic learning in the contemporary Muslim world? How is it related to the renewal of jurisprudence; and to what extent did socio-political dynamics have an impact on this scholarly production? Addressing these questions, this project will provide further insight to the multi-message of Islam in its contemporary understanding and present a more nuanced picture of inter-Muslim relations in an era of growing sectarianism. It will assess the unique elements of the Egyptian and Iranian frameworks and also the common themes. The research is based on inter-textual examination of scholarly production and a historical setting that explores the relationship between theory and socio-political dynamics. It will look into questions of authority and religious knowledge, social status and power, through the prism of religion-state relations.

List of Publications

Doctoral Dissetation

  • Elisheva Machlis, Imami Sectarianism and the Challenge of Modernisation: Renewal and Reform of Shi'i Thought in Iraq and Lebanon (1918-1958), University of Cambridge (2010)
    Supervisor: Amira Bennison


Chapters in Collections

  • Elisheva Machlis, “The Arab State between Sectarianism, Nationalism and Islamism”, Inglorious Revolution (Dayan Center, 2014).
  • Elisheva Machlis, “Revolution in Shi‘ism”, in Meir Bar Asher and Meir Hatina (eds.) Introduction to Islam: History, Belief and Ritual (forthcoming HUMP), [Hebrew]


  • Elisheva Machlis, “The Cross-Sectarian Call for Islam: A Sample of Shi'a Reformist Thought”, Journal of Shi‘a Islamic Studies, 2:2 (2009), 195-219.
  • Elisheva Machlis, “Shi‘ism in the Modern World: Sectarian Identity and a Universal and Enlightened Islam”, History 27 (Dec., 2011), 29-60 [Hebrew].
  • Elisheva Machlis, “A Shi'a Debate on Arabism: The Emergence of a Multiple Communal Membership”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 40:2 (June 2013).
  • Elisheva Machlis, “Ali Shari'ati and the Notion of Tawhid: Re-exploring the Question of God's Unity”, Die Welt des Islams 54:2 (2014), 183-211.
  • Elisheva Machlis, “Shiʿism, Culture and Group Membership Amidst Social Change”, Bustan: The Middle East Book Review 4 (2013) 1–16.
  • Elisheva Machlis, “The Islamic Republic: A Bastion of Stability in the Region?”, Middle East Critique (2016).
  • Elisheva Machlis, “Al-Wefaq and the February 14 Uprising: Islam, Nationalism and Democracy—the Shi‘i-Bahraini Discourse”, Middle Eastern Studies (2016).

Other Publications

  • Elisheva Machlis, “Stars in her Eyes: The Radiance of Persian Literature”, Women: A Cultural Review, 20:1 (2009), 103-105.
  • Elisheva Machlis, "Iran's Spin on the Arab Spring," Iran Pulse, No.46 (November 13, 2011).
  • Elisheva Machlis, “Book Review”: Post-Saddam Iraq: New Realities, Old Identities, Changing: Patterns, Amnon Cohen and Noga Efrati (eds.), Hamizrah Hahadash: The New East 51 (2012), 229-232 [Hebrew].
  • Elisheva Machlis, “Iraqi Shi'i Politics in the Wake of ISIS”, Tel Aviv Notes 8:14 (Dayan Center, July 27, 2014).

Lectures and Confernces

  • Conference: Cambridge Symposium on Middle Eastern Studies: Knowledge and Language in Middle East Societies
    Elisheva Machlis, "Shi'i Reform and the Concept of Knowledge" (17.10.08).
  • International Conference: The Levzion Center for Islamic Studies and the Center for Iranian Studies: The Shi'a: Theology, Law and Culture.
    Elisheva Machlis, "Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita and the Birth of a Multiple Shi'i Identity" (2-3.6.10).
  • Tel Aviv University, The Partner Institute for Internet Studies, Elisheva Machlis, Shi‘a Online: The Virtual Shi‘i Crescent.
    Annual Lectures: The Middle East Online (23.5.11) [Hebrew].
  • Elisheva Machlis, “Ali Shari‘ati and the Call for Tawhid”, Iran Forum, The Alliance Center for Iranian Studies, Tel Aviv University (1.6.11) [Hebrew].
  • Elisheva Machlis, "Exploring the Role of New Media in the Latest Uprising in the Region", Tel Aviv University, Diploma in Security Management Program (14.9.11).
  • Elisheva Machis, “Islam and Music: Sectarianism, Culture and the Challenge of Westernization”, ILMA Conference, Tel Aviv University (June 2013) [Hebrew].
  • 2015, Haifa University, International Conference: Modern Preaching for Islam, Elisheva Machlis, “Shi'is in Bahrain between Islam, Sectarianism and pan-Shi'i Tendencies”.
  • June 2015, University of Cambridge, CRASH, Topographies of Citizenship. Invited to participate in a five-year workshop (Harvard University Grant).
  • June 2016,   University of Cambridge, CRASH, Topographies of Citizenship Workshop (Harvard University Grant). Elisheva Machlis, “Democratization in the Shi‘i World: The Bahraini Case”.
  • February 2015, University of Cologne, Elisheva Machlis, “A Shi‘i Economic Model: From Baqr al-Sadr to Contemporary Iraq”. Invited to lecture in a workshop on Islamic economics: Non-Capitalist Islam-Yesterday’s Ideology or New Horizon?
    The participants of the conference are working towards a special edition journal.

Click here for CV>

Contact Information