Shia Islam Number




Tableof Contents

Introduction 2

History of Shia Islam 2

Major Differences between Shia and Sunni 4

Principal Foundations of Shia Islam 5

Shia Rituals, Practices, Holidays and Buildings 6

Cases and Examples of Shia Islamic 7

Shia Genocide in Pakistan 8

Shia leadership structure and organization 9

Conclusion 9

References 11


Definedas a monotheistic and also an Abrahamic religion that is enunciatedby the Quran, Islam religion is one of the globally recognizedreligions. An adherent of Islam is commonly known as Muslim. Muslimsbelieve that God is one who is incomparable, and they believe thatIslam is universal and complete faith that was proclaimed throughprophets to man. In a nutshell, Islam is the religion practices ofMuslims, with their faith revealed through a prophet of God (Allah)known as Prophet Mohammad (Pinault, 2010). With reference to the wayChristianity is divided on the line of their denominations such asCatholic, Protestants, The Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans amongothers the same division applies even to the Islamic religion. TheIslamic community itself is made of different groups with the mainones being Shia, and Sunni. Others include Sufism, and other smallerdenominations. This paper will address the Shia Islam, focusing onthe denomination’s history, their principal platform and caseswithin the Shia Islamic religion

Historyof Shia Islam

ShiaIslam is the second largest branch of Islam after the Sunni with upto 150,000,000 followers accounting for approximately 15 % of thetotal Muslim community globally (Morgan,2010).It’s believed to be made by more about Muslims who are notclassified under the Sunni community. All Muslim denominations sharecore fundamental Islamic beliefs. The primary location where the ShiaMuslim is highly concentrated is Iran, Yemen and Iraq. The maindifference between the sunning and the Shia Muslims is the fact that,Shia community/denomination beliefs that Muhammad designated asuccessor, while the Sunni community understands that, he (Muhammad)designate a successor. This in turn led to differences between thetwo main denominations Shia and Sunni both spiritually andpolitically. In a summarized way, the term Shia(Shi`a) is the plural form of the word Shiite, referring to peoplewho follows the teachings of Shiism, while the term Shiism (orShiaism) is a word that is commonly used to refer to the religiousbeliefs or ideology of the Shia Islam (Amin,2001).

ShiaIslam originated in the Middle East in 632 C. E. As a result ofdisputes in the Muslim community after the death of the prophetMohammad. After the death of Prophet Mohammad, disputes arose in theMuslim community as to who should take over the prophecy andleadership of the Muslim nation. The major group of Muslims, theSunni believed that the one to occupy the position should be electedfrom among the people capable of doing the job. What followed is theelection of Abu Bakr, who was Prophet Mohammad’s close friend andadvisor to take up the leadership and prophecy. He had followed theprophet Mohammad in the Hijra in Medina. He became the first Caliphof Islam, according to the Sunni, but not according to the Shia whobelieve Ali to be the first. Abu Bakr’s reign was however shortlived as he died after two years of being an Imam (Amin, 2001).

Afterthe death of Abu Bakr, Umar was named Caliph as he was also acompanion of the prophet and after his death a council was formed toselect the next leader. They elected Uthman of the Umayad clan, butAli, who was part of the council disagreed with the decision but didnot challenge it. He was the prophet’s cousin and son in law andsome believed that the prophet had named him as his successor duringhis death. This led to a dispute as to who should lead. Followers ofAli and those of Uthman clashed for the first time in the history ofIslamic religion and this led to a split into two groups: the Sunniand the Shia. The dispute resulted in the murder of Uthman in a partyin Medina. Following his death, Ali assumed the position, but was notaccepted by all. As a result, the Sunni acknowledges Ali as thefourth imam while the Shia Muslims acknowledge him as the first imamdue to his family lineage with Prophet Mohammad (Morgan,2010).

MajorDifferences between Shia and Sunni

TheSunni believed in the council electing the best leader as theyinsisted that the prophet had left the decision in their hands. TheShia group on the other hand did not agree with the Sunni on whoshould become the leader of the Muslim community. They believed thatthe position should have remained within the prophet’s family’slineage, among those whom the prophets appointed himself or among theimams appointed by Allah himself. According to the Shia group, theprophet’s cousin and son in law Ali should have been the rightfulheir of the position.

Theterm Shia in Arabic means a party of people who support someone. Theterm is shortened Shai-t-Ali which means the party of Ali. They havealso been referred to as the followers of Ahl-al-Bayt or people ofthe household of prophet due to their beliefs that their leader camefrom the family line of the prophet. The Shia emphasized on thespiritual authority of leaders and therefore believed that leader’sselection should be spiritual in nature. They did not respect theauthority of elected Muslim leaders. They chose to follow imams whowere appointed by the prophet himself or Allah. The Sunni on theother hand, believed in political leadership as they choose theirleader on a political basis from the close friends of Mohammad andfrom those they deemed qualified to take up the position.

Asa result of these differences, there arose many differences in thepractice of the Islamic religion. Shai Muslims believe that an imamis sinless and his authority is unquestionable as it is directly fromAllah. As a result, they honor them by performing pilgrimages attheir tombs and shrines hoping for divine intervention. The SunniMuslim on the other hand, believes that there is no need of having aclass of privileged Muslim leaders. They believe that leadership isnot a birthright, but rather is earned by gaining trust in thepeople. They therefore believe the people have the ultimate power toselect a leader. Sunni Muslims do not intercede on the shrines andtombs. The hostility between the two groups of Islam from the historyis still rampart today. Shia Muslims are particularly hostile towardssome other Muslim denominations. This is due to the disagreements inthe early years after prophet Mohammad died. This includes therejection of some of the teachings known as hadith where they do notapply them in the practice of their religion (Shaykhutdinov &ampAchilov, 2014).

PrincipalFoundations of Shia Islam

Onekey school of thought that is believed to be the foundation of Shiais the ‘Jafaryia’ also known as the ‘Twelver’s’. The majorfoundation of Shia Islam is the worship of Ali and his descendants aswell as the belief in imamah (&quotShia Islam&quot). Imamah is abelief that leadership should be appointed and given directly byAllah. The leader is protected by Allah himself and no one appointshim to the nobility. Therefore, Shia Islam is based on the successionof Allah appointed leaders from the family line of Mohammad. Thelargest group of Shia Islam is referred to as the Twelver’s whichinclude twelve divinely appointed imams from Mohammad’s lineage(Morgan,2010).

ShiaIslam has five major beliefs and practices also known as usulal-din.These beliefs include Taw hid,which is the belief of one truesupernatural being. The second one is Adi, which refers to divinejustice that is granted by the supernatural being alone. The thirdbelief is Nubuwwah which is the belief of prophecy (Amin, 2001). Thefourth is the belief of imamah which refers to the succession ofProphet Mohammad from a descendant of his and finally the Miad whichis a belief in the judgement day and resurrection.

Inaddition to the five pillars, Shia Muslims also have 10 otherpractices. These practices are: Salat which refers to the practice ofcompulsory prayer five times a day that is in the morning, the noon,afternoon, evening and at night. The second practice is ‘sawn’which means abstaining from eating and drinking during the holy monthof Ramadan. The third is Zakat which is the giving away about 2.5% ofone’s wealth to the poor as all things belong to Allah.

Thefourth is known as Khums which is annual taxation of 20% of one’sall grain to give to the imams. Hajj is the fifth practice whichentails the pilgrimage in Mecca during the Islamic month of Dhu alHijjah at least once in a lifetime of every Muslim. Jihad is thesixth practice which refers to an obligation to struggle those who donot believe in the Islamic god. The seventh is the commanding of goodand forbidding of evil. The eight are the Tawalla which is expressinglove towards Allah and finally Tabarra which is expressing hatredtowards evil.

ShiaRituals, Practices, Holidays and Buildings

Inaddition to the major practices of the Islamic community, such as theprincipal tenets of faith, when it comes to Shia Islamic community,there are other practices that define and associated to the ShiaIslam only. Such practices include the observation of the month ofmartyrdom, pilgrimages to the shrines of the 12 imams, and theMuharram. Moreover, there are Shia holidays and recognized dates inaddition to the known Muslim recognized holidays. These entailholidays such as Arba`eenArba`een, Eid al-Mubahila, Eid al-Ghadeer, Mid of Shaban, and Miladal-Nabi.In addition to the mosque, the Shia communities have other recognizedbuildings such as the hoseiniyeh,and also institutions which are the main religion, education centersi.e., madrasehs&nbspand&nbspmaktabs(Coughlin,2006).

Casesand Examplesof Shia Islamic

Thereare several doctrines of the Shia Islamic. These doctrines sharecommon beliefs, especially in the initial imams. However, they alsoshow some differences which arose as a result of disputes in terms ofleadership. Among this doctrine in Shia Islam include the Twelver’sand the Ismailis with each one of them discussed below.


Thisis the largest branch of Shia Islam. In this doctrine, the adherentsbelieve in 12 imams who were divinely selected by Allah and aredescendants of the Prophet Mohammad through his daughter Fatimah andson in law Ali. The twelve imams have the duty to lead the Islamiccommunity spiritually and politically with justice. An imam is theson of another imam and the cycle continues with each one passing themantle of leadership to the son. This branch believes that the imamsare free from sin and have divine wisdom. 11 imams have alreadysucceeded Mohammad with the twelve being alive but hidden. TheTwelver’s believe that the last twelfth imam known as Mohammed alMahdi disappeared in 941 CE and is currently alive but occulted. Theybelieve that one day he will be revealed to the world and come backto bring peace and justice to the humans. He is portrayed as thesavior of Islam as he will emerge to save the world alongside Isabefore the resurrection.

TheTwelver’s believe in the five pillars of Shia Islam as discussedabove. These pillars include the Taw hid, which is the belief of onetrue supernatural being, the ‘Adi’ which refers to divine justicethat is granted by the supernatural being alone, Nubuwwah which isthe belief of prophecy, the belief of ‘imamah’ which refers tothe succession of Prophet Mohammad from a descendant of his andfinally the ‘Miad’ which is a belief in the judgement day andresurrection. These pillars are adhered to by the Twelver’s(Coughlin,2006).


Thisis the other group of Shia Islam. This group believes that Ismail‘ibn jatar’ was the appointed leader of the Muslim community.They consider him as the spiritual successor to be an imam. TheTwelver’s believe that Musa al Kadhim who is Ismail’s youngershould have been the successor. Contrary to this belief, the Ismail’sbelieve that Ismail was the appointed successor. Both the Ismail’sand the Twelver’s accept the same initial imams but differ when itcomes to the successor of Jafar al Sadiq, who is the sixth Imam(MarshallCavendish Reference, 2010).With the Ismail’s choosing the seventh as Ismail while theTwelver’s choose Musa al kadhim. These two were brothers and thechoosing of them by either side led to the differences in all theother succors from the seventh (Amanat, 2009).

TheIsmaili also have their own pillars, some of them include Walayahwhich is the commitment to Allah, the prophets and Imams, the Taw hidwhich refers to the existence of one true God. Salat which isdifferent from that of the Twelver’s, the Ismaili give the imam thepower to decide the style of prayers. They also practice Zakat whichis the giving away of one’s wealth to the less fortunate. They alsopractice sawn which is fasting, hajj as well as a jihad (Coughlin,2006).

ShiaGenocide in Pakistan

Pakistanis inhibited with more that 40million, with 20% of these being ShiaMuslims who are ranked second biggest religious group after the SunniMuslims. However, the group had been a target for attacks in theregion leading to the deaths of several thousands. This issue hasbeen of concern as the state has been unable to contain the killingsand protect the Shia Muslims. There has been claimed that the Shiacommunity is infidels and worthy being killings and in turn the Shiacommunity has become an easy target by anti-Shia militants. Theworrying trend has been the blind eye over the issue by the stateagencies. According to statistics given out in 2014, almost 12000have been killed from direct attacks to the Shias, while more than9000 have been killed through terrorism. The philosophy of ‘Takfir’i.e, which has labeled the Shias as infidels or apostates has donemore harm than good as it has led to killing of the Shia communitydue to their ‘religious teachings’ reason behind theirfaith-based killing. The group that has been held responsible for thekilling was formed in 1985 (Sipah Sahaba), which has been over timebeen against the growth and development of the Shia Muslim community(Hazleton,2009).

Shialeadership structure and organization

Accordingto the Shia Muslim community, their first leader recognized is Ali,whose name is used to mean leadership abilities as well as used tosignify blood relations with Mohammad the prophet. Within the ShiaMuslim doctrine, Marjah is the highest ranked authority within theShia Islamic law and religion. Shia Muslim is organized in regionssuch as the case of catholic where they have diocese, Shia Musliminstead has Ayatollah (sign of God), who is in charge of a specifiedarea. After ayatollah, there are the imams and the mullahs who followthe Ayatollah rulings. In a specific country, there is a supremeAyatollah who is in charge. The imams act as both political andspiritual leaders of the Shia community (Morgan,2010).


Inconclusion, the Shia Islamic is widespread and shows numeroussimilarities with its other counterpart the Sunni. However, the ShiaIslamic group is different in the way it is led with leaders beingdivinely appointed. The belief that leaders are from the bloodline ofMohammad has led to the existence of familial leadership among theShia Islamic practices where leaders have to be from a particularlineage. The other groups have councils that select the leaders thatqualify for such positions. This has diversified their leadershipwith certain people who earn the trust of the people becoming leadersdespite their family lineage.

Despiteall this difference in opinion and doctrine, the Shia and SunniMuslim community share major articles and beliefs about Islam. Thishas led to their unity as one group sometimes referring to each otheras brethren in faith. They choose to refer to themselves as Muslimsrather than discriminate themselves according to their particulargroups. This has united them in the whole of the world making them avibrant religion. Some instances of discrimination and hostilitybetween the two groups have been recorded in history and currently.As a result, it is important to address and protect each of thedenominations as well as everyone by the constitution as everyone hasthe freedom of worship.


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