History of the Islamic Shiites (Shias)661 C.E. – 1800 C.E. By Sophie Harrington and Dajana Bozanovic
The Quran and Artwork of Shia’ism The Quran, Islamic Holy Scripture Court in the Safavid Dynasty Shah Abbas I in later life
Cities and Gatherings Left : A Shiite parade in Esfahan Right: Iranian pilgrims in chadors outside the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria Left: The holy Shiite Muslim shrine Dareeh of the Imam Ali Right: A mosque at the holy city of Karbala
Shiite Distribution Dark Green: Shiite; Light Green: Sunni
Chronology • 656 C.E. – First civil war in Islam breaks out following the assassination of Uthman, the third caliph. His assassins, rebels from the army, nominate Muhammad’s first cousin Ali to succeed Uthman. Ali is challenged by Aisha, Muhammad’s favorite wife and her army but he defeats them in the Battle of the Camel. This is the ultimate source of the Shiite (Shia)/Sunni split. The Shiites believe that caliphs should only be direct decedents of Muhammad, meaning Ali and his decedents. • 661 C.E. – Ali is assassinated by one of his own men. Mu’awiya, the governor of Syria, emerges as caliph after offering Ali’s son Hasan an impressive retirement to step aside. • 680 C.E. –Yazid becomes the successor of Mu’awiya and establishes the Umayyad Caliphate. Hasan’s brother Husayn revolts against Yazid in an attempt to reestablish the right of Ali’s family to rule. In this act, Shi’ism transforms into a religious sect. Yazid has Husayn killed, turning Husayn into a martyr in the eyes of the Shiites. • 750 C.E.- Umayyad dynasty falls to the efforts of a Shiite-Abbas alliance. Some Umayyad family members escape to Spain to later establish an Umayyad principality. • 755 C.E. – Abbas promises Husayn’s great-grandson Jafar that Jafar could claim his right as caliph, but Abbas dies before the deal is set and Jafar is murdered by Abbas’ son Al Mansur. Al Mansur establishes the Sunni Abbasid Caliphate. • 873 C.E. – The Shiite’s eleventh Imam Hasan al-Askari dies and his son, the twelfth Imam, disappears. The period of the Lesser Occultation begins.
Chronology Continued • 940 C.E. – The Lesser Occultation ends and the Greater Occultation of the twelfth, or Hidden Imam, begins. This is a time when the Shiites await the return of the twelfth Imam who will arrive as the messiah at the end of the world. • 945-1050 C.E. – The Shiite Buyid family takes control of western Iran and Iraq, thusly controlling the Abbasid caliph until the arrival of Sunni Turks in 1050 C.E. • 1258 C.E. – Mongolian invaders kill the last of the Abbasid family in Bagdad. The Mongolian conquests lead to relative tolerance between the Sunnis and Shiites who are forced to work together to fight off invaders. • 1501 C.E. – The Safavid Dynasty is established in Persia by Ismail I. He proclaims Shiism as the state religion. This ends the tolerance between Sunnis and Shiites and results in long-lasting conflict with the Sunni Ottomans. • 1587 C.E. – Abbas I, a man that becomes the greatest ruler in the Safavid Dynasty, is declared as shah at age 16. • 1623-24 C.E. – Shah Abbas fights with the Ottomans over the control of Baghdad in Mesopotamia, eventually seizing control. • 1639 C.E. – The Safavids and the Ottomans sign a peace treaty ending a century long conflict and the Safavid shah submits Baghdad to the Ottomans. • 1736 C.E. – Centuries of war with the Ottomans severely weakens the Safavid Dynasty and it ultimately comes to an end with the last ruler Abbas III.
Comparison Shiite Beliefs Sunni Beliefs Similarities • The caliphate should only be direct descendents of Muhammad, and therefore Ali • Muhammad designated Ali as his successor • Al-Mahdi, the eleventh Imam’s son, is the savior and has already come as the Hidden Imam and will return at the end of time • The Imam’s authority is infallible • Two additional holy cities: Najaf and Karbala. • Celebrate Ashura • Additional two pillars: jihad and the requirement to do good works and to avoid all evil thoughts, words, and deeds • The Shiites are split into three main factions: Twelvers, Isma'iliyah, and Zaydiyah • The Sunnis do not believe that the prophet left a successor. This is the major difference in the two groups and is the primary reason for the split between them • The Sunnis believe that the savior will come in the future • Leadership of the community (Imam) is an earned trust that can be given or taken away by the people • The Shiites and the Sunnis share the five pillars of Islam, that is: shahada (confession of faith); namaz (ritualized prayer; zakat (almsgiving); sawm (fasting and contemplation during daylight hours during Ramadan); and hajj (pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina once a lifetime) • The holy cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem • Holidays: Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr Eid.
Comparison Analyzed • The reasons for these differences are predominantly political. The core beliefs are the same because the two are merely sects of the same religion. Since the Sunnis followed the traditional Islamic religion, not much changed for them. But because the Shiites broke away from the Sunnis and ended up fighting bloody battles with them, they were forced to move, developing additional holy cities and traditions.
Change Over Time • The religion of Islam develops from the teachings of Muhammad who dies in 632 CE. • Islam begins to divide into two sects with the conflict of who shall succeed Muhammad as the Imam. Muslims who come to be called Shiites, (which means “partisans” of Ali), separate from the majority of the Muslims called Sunnis. • This conflict is best seen in 656 CE when the disagreement over the rightful caliph turns into civil war. Muslims who are not Ali’s followers are angered by Ali’s lack of concern with bringing Uthman’s murderers to justice. • The first subsect of Shia’ism develops under Zayd who leads an unsuccessful rebellion against the Umayyad caliph in 740 CE. The Zaydis, sometimes called Fivers, believe that Ali, Husan and Husayn are the first three rightful caliphs. However, after them, they believe that the caliphate is open to whoever of Ali’s descendents can ascertain themselves through revolt. The primary difference between this subsect and the majority of Shiites is that they believe Zayd is the fifth Imam while most Shiites believe his brother Al-Baqir is the fifth Imam. • In the early to mid 750’s, when the Umayyad dynasty is defeated, the Shiite sect begins to further divide. The Sevener Shiites, or the Ismailis, develop with the death of Jafar, the sixth Shiite Imam. They believe that Jafar was the last Imam and his heir, the seventh Imam, will come back at the end of time.
Change Over Time Continued • The majority of the Shiites who are neither Seveners nor Fivers are considered to be Twelver Shiites. Twelver Shiites believe that the line of rightful Imams ends with Hasan al-Askari, the eleventh Imam. His son Al-Mahdi is believed to be the twelfth and final Imam who disappeared and will return at the end of time. • The primary difference in all sects and subsects of Islam is simply the conflict over who are the rightful Imams. Yes, different practices and beliefs developed over time between the Sunnis and the Shiites and even the subsects of the Shiites, but all these differences are rooted to the disagreement of the true Imams. What stayed the same in Shiite Islam all this time is the belief that Ali was the rightful heir to the caliphate and that he was denied his right by the Sunnis for the first three caliphs. He was the first Imam and his two sons were the rightful second and third Imams. Ultimately, the core beliefs of Islam remain constant throughout Shiite history, and the core beliefs of Shia’ism remain constant in the three subsects.
Shiites Today • Iran is primarily made up of Shiites with the total percentage reaching about 89%. • Hizbollah, which are made up of Shiites, forced the Israelis out of Southern Lebanon. • The Shiites and the Sunnis are still at war with one another. Numerous bombings and killings have occurred as a result of their long-term conflict. • Iran has a Shiite theocratic republic. Their supreme leader, which is the political office in which the person rules for life, is Ali Hoseini-Khameni.
How The Work Was Split • P.I.R.A.T.E.S, Role that the element plays in today’s world, and Bibliography by Dajana Bozanovic • Chronology, Comparison and Analyses, and Visuals by Sophie Harrington
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