Iraq is usually thought to be divided in three main demographic units: Kurds, Shi‘ite Arabs, and Sunni Arabs. The seventeen essays on the sociology of religion in Iraq presented here offer a definitive commentary on that perception, somewhat confirming it and somewhat altering it. Many of the authors bring out the ways in which Arab Sunnis dominate Iraqi government, economy, and society, something that had become particularly marked under the Baath Party's rule after 1968. Other chapters introduce nuance into the picture; several chapters, for example, document how Kurdish society is marked by receptiveness to religious pluralism, including a proliferation of heterodox sects.
Only one essay, by Basim al-‘Azmi on the Muslim Brethren, centers on the Arab Sunni community; it would have been interesting to know more about organized religion and religious practice in that community.
The particular strength of Ayatollahs, Sufis, and Ideologues lies in its analysis of Shi‘ites. The fourteen authors include the world's leading experts on the matter, drawn from universities across Europe and America (including an Israeli-American, Yitzhak Nakhash). Faleh Abdul-Jabar analyzes the religious leadership of the community, including a useful table on the main leaders of the last 150 years. Pierre-Jean Luizard and Ali Babakhan explore conflicts between the Baath government and the Shi‘ite community. Abdul-Halim al-Ruhaimi recounts the history of the main Shi‘ite Islamist party, the Da'wa Islamic Party. Four essays analyze the main trends in modern Iraqi Shi‘ite thought, including expositions on the positions of the two most important past leaders, Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Kho'i (by his relative Yousif al-Kho'i) and Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr Sadr (by Talib Aziz). The picture that emerges is of a community that is devout but also nationalistic, frequently politically quietistic but also dissatisfied with its second-class status.