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About Shia Muslims

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 In the Name of Allah,
Most Gracious
Most Merciful

Shia History

The Shi'a sect of Islam has its origins in the dispute over the succession to Muhammed (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam), the prophet of Islam. The Shi'a maintain that Ali b. Abu Talib, cousin and son-in-law to Muhammed (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam) , was the rightful heir to the office of the caliph and not Abu Bakr. The word Shi'a literally meaning 'party' refers to Shi'atu Ali or Party of Ali.

On the death of Uthman, Ali was chosen as the fourth caliph. Despite this, he had to counter several rebellions from Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, and from Muawiyya, a cousin of Uthman. The Shi'a came to be identified as those who fought alongside Ali during these rebellions.

However, the Shi'a schism from the orthodoxy accelerated on the assassination of Ali in 661 AD and even more so on the martyrdom of Husayn son of Ali, by the army of Yazid, son of Muawiyya, in Karbala in 680 AD. This event is marked by the Shi'a to this day as a struggle against oppression.

But the struggle didn't end there. The Shi'a suffered from almost continuous oppression, slaughter and abuse during Ummayad and Abbasid dynasties, and more recently with the rise of the Wahhabi movement since the 18th century.

Sunnis and Shi'a both agree on the fundamentals of Islam: the belief in one God, the belief that the Qur'an is from God, and that Muhammed (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam)was the last prophet from God.

The main difference is the importance the Shi'a place on the imamate (imamah), the office of the descendants of Muhammed (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam) through his daughter Fatima. The imams [1] are regarded as infallible leaders of the Muslim community and the fount of law and authority.

Most Shi'a recognise the following imams:

  1. Ali b. Abu Talib (600-661 AD)
  2. Hasan (625-670 AD), son of Ali
  3. Husayn (626-680 AD), son of Ali
  4. Ali Zayn al-Abideen (659-c712 AD), son of Husayn
  5. Muhammad al-Baqir (676-733 AD), son of Ali Zayn al-Abideen
  6. Ja'far as-Sadiq (702-765 AD), son of Muhammad al-Baqir

After the death of Ja'far as-Sadiq, the question of imamate fell into dispute with one section accepting Musa al-Kazim as the imam, whilst the other taking Musa's elder brother Isma'il as the imam. The followers of Musa came to be known as the Twelvers (Ithna-Ashariyya) because they accepted a total of twelve imams. Muhammad al-Mahdi (b. 869 AD), the last imam of the Twelvers is believed to be alive and his followers await his return from seclusion to restore justice on earth. Twelver Shi'ism form the vast majority of the Shi'a and are predominant in Iran but can be found in large numbers in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and several other Arab countries. The imams recognised by the Isma'ilis, the followers of Isma'il, later became the founders of the Fatimid dynasty in North Africa and Egypt.

Difference Between Sunni muslims & Shia Muslims.
Both Sunni and Shia Muslims share the most fundamental Islamic beliefs and articles of faith. The differences between these two main sub-groups within Islam initially stemmed not from spiritual differences, but political ones. Over the centuries, however, these political differences have spawned a number of varying practices and positions which have come to carry a spiritual significance.

The division between Shia and Sunni dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammed (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam), and the question of who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim nation. Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet's companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. This is what was done, and the Prophet Muhammed (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam's) close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation.

The word "Sunni" in Arabic comes from a word meaning "one who follows the traditions of the Prophet."

On the other hand, some Muslims share the belief that leadership should have stayed within the Prophet's own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself.

The Shia Muslims believe that following the Prophet Muhammed (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam's) death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammed (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam) or God Himself. The word "Shia" in Arabic means a group or supportive party of people. The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical "Shia-t-Ali," or "the Party of Ali." They are also known as followers of "Ahl-al-Bayt" or "People of the Household" (of the Prophet).

From this initial question of political leadership, some aspects of spiritual life have been affected and now differ between the two groups of Muslims.

Shia Muslims believe that the Imam is sinless by nature, and that his authority is infallible as it comes directly from God. Therefore, Shia Muslims often venerate the Imams as saints and perform pilgrimages to their tombs and shrines in the hopes of divine intercession. Sunni Muslims counter that there is no basis in Islam for a hereditary privileged class of spiritual leaders, and certainly no basis for the veneration or intercession of saints. Sunni Muslims contend that leadership of the community is not a birthright, but a trust that is earned and which may be given or taken away by the people themselves.

Shia Muslims also feel animosity towards some of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, based on their positions and actions during the early years of discord about leadership in the community. Many of these companions (Abu Bakr, Umar, Aisha, etc.) have narrated traditions about the Prophet's life and spiritual practice. Shia Muslims reject these traditions (hadith) and do not base any of their religious practices on the testimony of these individuals. This naturally gives rise to some differences in religious practice between the two groups. These differences touch all detailed aspects of religious life: prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.

Sunni Muslims make up the majority (85%) of Muslims all over the world. Significant populations of Shia Muslims can be found in Iran and Iraq, and large minority communities in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Lebanon.

It is important to remember that despite all of these differences in opinion and practice, Shia and Sunni Muslims share the main articles of Islamic belief and are considered by most to be brethren in faith. In fact, most Muslims do not distinguish themselves by claiming membership in any particular group, but prefer to call themselves simply, "Muslims."

Muslim Shia Way. 
Muslims who have been cursed to follow the way the do.

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