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Introduction to Shi’i Islam

Introduction to Shi’i Islam

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Introduction to Shi’i Islam

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  1. Introduction to Shi’i Islam Mohammed M. Hafez, Ph.D. National Security Affairs Department Naval Postgraduate School NS3330 Middle East 2009

  2. Islam – Demographics • 85-90% of Muslims are Sunnis • 10-15% are Shiites

  3. Origins of Islam - Successors • After Muhammad’s death, he was succeeded by four leaders: • Abu Bakr al-Siddiq • Umar Ibn al-Khattab • Uthman Bin `Afan • Ali Bin Abi Talib • Sunnis consider these to be Al-Khulafa al-Rashidun (Rightly-Guided Caliphs) • Majority of Shiites (Twelver) only see Ali as the legitimate leader

  4. Sunni-Shiite Divide • Shiite comes from Shia of Ali … “Followers of Ali”…”Partisans of Ali” • Shiites are a minority in Islam, but majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain • 10-15% of Muslims worldwide

  5. Origins of the Sunni – Shiite Divide • Origins is a political dispute over who should lead the Muslim community after the death of the Prophet Muhammad – Who has the legitimate authority to rule? • Should rule go to any Muslim? • Should it go only to the companions of the Prophet? • Should it go only to Prophet’s family and blood descendants?

  6. Origins of the Sunni – Shiite Divide • Shiite view is that only those who are from the Prophet’s family and their direct male descendants should rule • After death of the Prophet, Shiite view is that Ali should have been chosen as leader • Sunni view is that Abu Bakr al- Siddiq was correctly chosen

  7. Origins of the Sunni – Shiite Divide • Uthman, the third Caliph, was killed in a dispute by dissidents from Egypt and Iraq • Ali succeeded Uthman and becomes Caliph in Kufa (Iraq) • Uthman’s relatives, Mu`awiyya and the Prophet’s wife, `Aisha, demanded that Ali avenge Uthman’s death • Community splits between those who see Uthman’s killing as legitimate: • Followers of Ali felt that his death was justified and Ali should now rule • Followers of Mu`awiyya and `Aisha felt that Ali does not deserve to rule because he did not avenge Uthman’s death

  8. Origins of the Sunni – Shiite Divide • First civil war (fitna) breaks out between Ali and Mu`awiyya • Ali has the upper hand and is about to win, but Mu`awiyya calls for arbitration • Ali accepts calls for arbitration, resulting in another split in the community: • Those who accept arbitration, see Ali as wise and just • Those who reject arbitration, see Ali as violating God’s command … they are known as the kharijites (those who seceded)

  9. Origins of the Sunni – Shiite Divide • Kharijites end up killing Ali • Mu`awiyya becomes the ruler of Muslims and moves the caliphate to Damascus • Few years later, Ali’s son, Hussein, decides to reclaim the Caliphate from Mu`awiyya’s son, Yazid • Hussein is surrounded in Karbala, killed, decapitated These political events form the basis of a new religious sect in Islam, developed at the end of the Umayyad Empire (661-750) and beginning of Abbasid Empire (750-1258)

  10. Twelvers (Imamis) Beliefs • Theology developed in 8th and 9th centuries, but took its present form in 10th and 11th centuries • Imamis say that before he died, the Prophet Muhammad declared his wish that Ali be his successor • Imam is mortal, but infallible being touched with divine grace, wisdom

  11. Twelvers (Imamis) Beliefs • Imam is necessary for communal salvation and personal guidance (Imam is like Pope in Catholicism) • Those who succeeded the Prophet Muhammad after his death, except Ali, are usurpers of power and, therefore, illegitimate • The legitimate leaders are twelve, the last of which, the Mahdi, entered into occultation in 9th century

  12. Prophet Muhammad Fatima married to… 1. Ali (d. 661) 2. Hassan (d. 669) 3. Hussein (d. 680) 4. Ali Zayn al-Abidin (d. 714) Shiite Divisions Twelvers Zaydi Isma`ili Druze Alawites 5. Muhammad al-Baqir (d. 731) Zayd (d. 740) 6. Jafar al-Sidiq (d. 765) 7. Musa al-Kazim (d. 799) Isma`il (d. 760) 8. Ali al-Rida (d. 818) 9. Muhammad al-Jawad (d. 835) 10. Ali al-Hadi (d. 868) 11. Hasan al-Askari (d. 874) 12. Muhammad al-Mahdi (occultation)

  13. Twelvers (Imamis) • Largest Shiite sect; largest number of Muslims after Sunnis • Iran (90%) • Iraq (60%) • Lebanon (South and Beirut, 35%) • Bahrain (80%) • Kuwait (35%) • Saudi Arabia (Eastern province 10-15%)