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Sunni Vs Shia
Jul 2015

 The current spate of killings of Shia all over the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan is nothing new.  The seeds of conflict between the Sunnis and Shias were sown after the death of Prophet Muhammed. Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, died in 632 AD. The first two Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar appear to have enjoyed widespread support among the Believers However, dissension arose under the third Caliph Uthman. Rightly or wrongly, Uthman was accused of favouring his relatives. This dissension culminated in the murder of the caliph in 656. This is the First Civil War (656-661) for the leadership of the community of Belivers.  Some recognized Ali ibn Abi Talib, son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad as the next Caliph. The First Civil War came to an end in 661 when a Kharijite (meaning seceder) killed Ali.  Shortly afterwards, majority of Belivers agreed to recognize Muawiyah as Caliph in order to provide stability. Second Civil War began (680-692) on Muawiyah's death in 680. Ali's younger son al-Husyan and his family were massacred in 680 by Umayyad troops at karbala.

In short:

(1)  Kharijites held that true piety and righteous behaviour were the only qualities that provided true legitimation.

(2)  Shiites contended that only a member of the Prophet's clan of Hashim should hold power, legitimacy was essentially genealogical.

(3)  Umayyads claimed that the concensus of the community of Believers was the most important.

(4) Some faction of Ummayyads claimed that the very act of ascent to power was an expression God's will.

The Sunni and the Shia differed over the right of temporal succession of the Prophet and over the right of authoritative interpretation of divine law. The Sunnis holding that the right to inhere is in the consensus of scholars. The Shias, on the other hand believe in an infallible Imam or descendant of the Prophet. A Shii empire in Iran was founded by Shah Ismail Safawi (1501-1524).

The Sunnis comprise 90 percent of the Muslim population and the remaining 10 percent are Shias in the entire world. Only time will tell whether Shias will survive this all round attack in all parts of the world.

Position In India

There was a school of thought in India, led by Chin Qulich Khan, first Nizam of Hyderabad (1724-48) that saw salvation for the empire in greater discrimination against non-Muslims, including the levy of Jizya. Sunni Muslims resented the rise to power of the Shii Nawabs of Awadh who made Lucknow a Shii capital. Shia means a general name for all those Muslims who regard the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhamad, and his descendants as the only legitimate leaders (Imam) of the Muslim community after Muhammad's death. The majority of the Shia, the Ithna-ashiriyya accept a line of twelve imams ending with Muhammad al-Muntazar. Ismaili Shias are member of the Shia sect who believe that the descendants of Ismail ibn Jafar al-Sadiq (died 763), the seventh in the line of Imams, should lead the community.


November 2017


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