S. Abdullah Tariq
Shias and Sunnis
After the departure of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), a dispute arose for the Caliphate. After some discussion, a large majority accepted Hazrat Abu Bakar as the first Caliph but Hazrat Ali differed. He thought that the Prophet (Pbuh) had given sufficient indication in his lifetime that he should be appointed the Caliph after him. We know from a narration of Hazrat Ayesha that he undertook the Bai’at (pledge of allegiance) of Hazrat Abu Bakar after the demise of Hazrat Fatima, i.e. more than six months after he was chosen and accepted as 1st Caliph by the majority. There was another reason for such delay. He and his wife Hazrat Fatima were not happy over the Caliph’s decision not to hand them over the property of Fidak owned by the Prophet as he remembered to have heard the Prophet (Pbuh) say that there is no inheritance from the prophets’ property for their progeny. Apparently Ali and Fatima thought that he must have erred in hearing this from the Prophet (Pbuh) because had it been so, the Prophet’s descendants would have been the first to be informed of this by him. Hazrat Ali did not even inform Hazrat Abu Bakar of Hazrat Fatima’s death and he could not attend her funeral. However after his Bai’at, he remained a sincere and loyal advisor to the Caliph.
Shi’ate in the beginning:
The first Caliph at the time of his death nominated Hazrat Umar for the Caliphate and again the majority accepted it. When Hazrat Umar expired the candidature of Hazrat Ali was again rejected after hectic parleys and finally Hazrat Ali became the fourth Caliph after Hazrat Usman. Apparently Hazrat Ali and his minority followers remained all along firm on their opinion that he should have been made Caliph in the first place. Those who favoured Hazrat Ali were called the Shias of Ali. The word Shia means party. The concept of Shi’ate in the earlier days after the Prophet (Pbuh) was not much more than that the Caliphate was Ali’s right and of Ahle Bait. Hazrat Ali remained loyal to all the three earlier Caliphs.
The stand of Shias was based on the conduct and sayings of Hazrat Ali himself. According to Nahjul Balaghah (the most authentic and revered book after Qur’an, in the eyes of Shias), when the leader of Bani Umaiyya, Hazrat Abu Sufian made an offer of his support to Hazrat Ali for the Caliphate, he answered, “You had always been the enemy of Islam and Muslims but this could not harm Islam and the Muslims. We consider Abu Bakar, worthy of Caliphate. You only want to create sedition”. (P.30, Nahajul Balaghah Vol. 3, quoted in Ashshi’atu Wattashih by Dr. Musa Musavi)
On Hazrat Umar’s demise he expressed his praise in these words: “He straightened the disorders, treated the disease, left behind the sedition, established the Sunnah, passed away from the world with unblemished clothing and less evil, caught hold of virtues (of the world) and surpassed its evil. He abided by Allah and feared Him too...” (Nahajul Balaghah ; Sermon No. 225, published by Tublighate Imani Hind, Bombay)
About Caliphate, Bai’at and the opinion of majority of Ansaar and Muhajirin, his stand was: “Shura (membership of the advisory council) is the right of Ansaar and Muhajirin. If they agree over a person and name him Imam, therein lies the Will of Allah. If now a person withdraws from it (allegiance to Imam named by Ansaar and Muhajirin) for a blame or Bid’at, he will be brought back to its fold. If he refuses to join back then war shall be declared against him for going against the way of Muslims”. (Nahajul Balaghah, Vol.3, letter no. 6 written to Ameer Mu’awia Bin Abu Sufian.)
It is clear from the above sayings of Hazrat Ali that he did not consider Imamat, a direct divine appointment as present day Shias believe. On his personal relations with Hazrat Abu Bakar and Umar and Usman, it is sufficient to mention that he gave one of his daughters Umme Kulsoom in marriage to Hazrat Umar and named three of his sons, Abu Bakar, Umar and Usman.
Shi’ate of the present day basically means the belief in the divinity of the seat of Imamat. It means that like prophethood, Imamat is also fixed by divine decree. After the last Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Pbuh), Allah appointed Hazrat Ali as Imam to lead people on the path of the Prophet. Imamat is still continuing in the progeny of Hazrat Ali, again by divine decree. Owing to the divine appointment, an Imam is ma’soom (faultless) like a prophet. Some exaggerating Shia sects even declare that the purpose of prophethood was to establish imamat.
Division of Shias:
There have been hundreds of big and small sects in Shias but I will describe here only a few of those who still exist in a big way. All Shias are unanimous in the imamat of their first Imam Hazrat Ali.
After the martyrdom of Ali, all Shias except Agha Khani accept Imam Hassan as 2nd Imam of the series but Agha Khanis say that since Hazrat Hassan abdicated his temporal seat to Mu’awia after being a Caliph for less than a year, the Imamat was transferred to Ali’s second son from Hazrat Fatima, Hussain and then to his descendants. Hazrat Ali Zain-ul-A’bideen s/o Husain became the next Imam. He was the 3rd. of the series of Imams according to Agha Khanis and 4th according to all other Shia sects.
A notable division occurred after the death of Imam Zain-ul-A’bideen. A group of Shias expressed allegiance to his son Zaid and his descendants. Those were called Zaidi Shias, a bulk of them live in Yemen today.
Others swear to Imam Zainul-A’bideen’s other son Muhammad Al-Baqar and then his son Imam Ja’afar Sadiq and his descendants. Thus Imam Ja’far Sadiq was the 5th Imam of Agha Khanis and 6th of all the other Shias except Zaidi Shias.
A major division occurred after Imam Ja’far Sadiq. A large number of Shias accepted the imamat of his elder son Imam Ismail. Those who followed him and the descendants of his son Mohammad bin Ismail as imams were called Ismailis or Fatimis or Batinis. Ismailis were later divided into many sub-sects.
The first noteworthy division occurred after the death of Imam Al-Hakim Bi-Amrallah. A group of Ismailis claimed that he did not die, and that one day he will reappear to terminate the world and bring the Divine justice back. This group is called Druzes and this sect lives in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.
But the majority of Ismailis followed the son of Imam Al-Hakem, Al-Zaher, and his descendants up to Imam Mustanser Billah. Here a major division took place in Ismailism. After the death of Mustanser, his son Nizar was imprisoned but he escaped with the help of his followers in Cairo, and specially Hassan Bin Sabbah, his Da’i in Iran, and went to Syria and then to Iran. Those who followed Imam Nizar up to present Imam, H. R. H. Karim Agha Khan, were known as Ismaili Nizari or Ismailis or Agahakhanis (Khoja).
When Nizar was placed in prison, the commander of the Army declared his brother Al-Musta’li as the succeeding Imam. Those Ismailis who followed Al-Musta’li became known first as Musta’lians, and nowadays as Bohra, and are mainly living in Yemen, India and East Africa.
Going back to Imam Ja’far Sadiq a majority of Shias believed that his second son Musa-Al-Kazim succeeded him to imamate instead of first son Ismael. These Shias forming the majority followed up to 12th Imam Mohammad Bin Hasan Askari who according to them went into concealment to come back to earth one day as Imam Mehdi. Born in 260 AH, he is, according to them, still alive. He was five years old when imamat was transferred to him after his father Imam Hasan Askari’s demise by the divine decree. He went into hiding due to danger to his life from enemies immediately after assuming imamat. Till 329 AH, he discharged the duties of imamat from the hiding through his naibeen (deputies) and then he went into a long concealment. The year 329 AH is called the year of Ghuyubat-i-Kubra by the Shias of this sect. These Shias forming the biggest of all Shia sects are called ‘Isna Asharia’. Those usually simply referred to as Shias in India are in fact ‘Isna Asharia Shias’.
Shi’te of Isna A’sharia in the first three centuries AH:
After the tragic martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain, the gulf between Ahle Bait and the rulers widened. The Caliphs of Bani Umaiyya initiated ‘Tabarra’ (Character assassination) of Hazrat Ali, Hussain and other Ahle Bait from the pulpit of the mosque and it continued for about 50 years till Hazrat Umar Bin Abdul Aziz stopped it. By the beginning of 2nd century Hijrah Shi’ate became a Fiq’h school with some political connotations. Ahle Bait rallied around Imam Ja’far Sadiq, undisputedly a great authority on Fiq’h while non-Shias followed Imam Abu Hanifa, Shafa’i, Malik and Ibne Hambal for religious guidance. This was the time when the name Sunni crept up for non-Shia majority. Sunni became an abbreviation for Ahle Sunnah wal Jama’at. In their campaign against misrule of the rulers, the sympathies of masses should have been with Ahle Bait but what made the majority distant from Shias was the difference of opinion over the issue of Caliphate of Hazrat Ali, which sharpened by each day. Apart from this difference of opinion, the imams from Ahle Bait commanded respect in masses.
In Abbasai rule, the respect for Imams became more distinct and vocal so much so that Mamun Rashid nominated Imam Ali Raza his successor for Caliphate. Imam passed away before Mamun and Mamun’s son succeeded him. Up to 3rd century Hijarah, the Shi’ate was limited to
The belief that Hazrat Ali had first right to Caliphate over others but since he himself, though with difference of opinion, pledged allegiance to the first three Caliphs, therefore it is not a matter of accusation.
Hazrat Ameer Mu’awia should not have revolted against Hazrat Ali and the Caliphate should have gone to Ahle Bait.
Spiritual leadership of Ahle Bait and adherence in Fiq’h to Ja’fari school of thought.
Condemnation of rulers of Bani Umaiyya.
Up to this period there was no trace of belief in Shi’ate that people had no right to choose a caliph and that it was through a divine decree. Imam Abu Hanifa himself took lessons of Fiq’h from Imam Ja’far Sadiq and Imam Ja’far Sadiq took pride in declaring that he was a descendant of Hazrat Abu Bakar from his mother’s side.
Shi’ate after the 3rd. century Hijrah
It is after Ghuyubat-e-Kubra (going into hiding of 12th Imam) that new beliefs entered into Shi’ate of Isna A’sharia Shias. The intense love for Ahle Bait and the consistent indifference to the recognition of Ahle Bait a due place by masses led Shias to introduce such things in maslak and mazhab, which were not hitherto its part. The belief was now spread that imamat is divine decree and public or shura had no right to choose a caliph. It was expedient to declare that Hazrat Ali’s Bai’at of three earlier Caliphs was only a deception on his part necessitated by the compulsion of the circumstances. The concept of taqiyyah (concealment) was thus introduced. The words were added to azan: “I bear witness that Ali is Waliullah (the friend of Allah)”. The 12th Imam had been declared to go into hiding and it was necessary that the powers be delegated to some other who could contact the public as the representative of the imam. The concept of Baab (the gate) was introduced. These and other innovations were further strengthened after 907 AH when Shah Ismael Safawi became the king of Iran and he declared it a Shia state.
Fundamentals of Islam in Asna Asharia Shi’ate:
There are five Usool-e-Deen (Roots of Religion) and Ten Furoo-e-Deen (Branches of Religion), according to the theology of Isna Asharia
A’dl: It means that Allah is Just, He has not predestined the acts of mankind to whom He has given discretion of choosing good and bad.
Imamate: The Almighty Allah appointed through the Holy Prophet himself, 12 guides (Imams) to protect mankind from misrepresenting and misinterpreting the truth. Imams did not bring or implement their own law but interpreted the Qur’an and Sunnah under Allah’s guidance. They were sinless and infallible. The 12th Imam is still alive and will reappear as Imam Mehdi to lead the world when Allah wills.
Ten Branches of Religion are:
Salat, Saum, Hajj, Zakat, Khums, Jihad, Am’r Bil-Ma’roof (enjoining what is good), Nahi Anil Munkar (Forbidding what is wrong), Tawalla (Love and respect Ahl-e-Bait and their friends), Tabarra (Dissociate from the enemies of Ahl-e-Bait).
Ismaeli and Dawoodi Bohras:
Ismaelis Imams founded great kingdoms in Africa. They founded the City of Cairo and Al-Azhar university. From Egypt, the centre of Batini movement shifted to Yemen. Like in most Shia sects, the 21st Imam went into seclusion in 1132 AD after announcing that the seat of imamate has come to an end. He appointed and started the tradition of Imam’s vicegerent which were called Dai-e-Mutlaq. In all 23 Dai-e-Mutlaq functioned in Yemen and the center was then transferred to Gujarat in India. The first Dai to hold office in India was Syedna Yusuf Najmuddin in the year 1539 A.D. Present Dai-e-Mutlaq Syedna Burhanuddin is the 52nd Dai-e-Mutlaq.
Ismaelis are also known as Fatimis or Batinis. Batini is derived from Batin which means hidden. The main theme of the Batini philosophy was that by the Will of God- all beings in this Universe, were divided into two parts: The Zaher, and the Batin. Even the verses of the holy Qur’an have two explanations: Zaher and Batin.
The Batin explanation is not known except by the Imams, the great Da’is. With this concept the masses were cut off from the knowledge of Deen as they did not know the hidden meaning of Qur’an. Batini movement, according to Prof. Yusuf Salim Chishti was mainly responsible to mix the anti-Islamic concepts in Tasawwuf. Batinis, when their seat of power was Egypt had many battles with the Sunni rule in Arabia. Once they attacked and snatched away Hajar-e-Aswad for many months from Ka’abah after much bloodshed in Haram.
Dawoodi Bohra Dai-e-Mutlaq is practically the sole owner of life and property of all Bohras. His well organised machinery of collectors start collecting money from them even before the birth of child till well after his death. There is a revolt in Dawoodi Bohra community against the authority of Syedna but as they will have to part with most of their property in case of a legal dispute, the revolt is dying down. Asghar Ali Engineer is one of the prominent names of the reformist group of Dawoodi Bohras.
Dawoodi Bohras are in general a prosperous and religious community but the religion in their terminology means bowing to the Syedna’s will. Without his will no one can be redeemed of sin and enter paradise. Bohras have always 30 days in the month of Ramadhan and their Arafa day in Hajj is also usually a day after rest of the Muslims have departed from Arafat.