The Origin of Shi'ism
- :Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
Adopted from the Book : "Shi'ism; Imamate and Wilayat" by : "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"
The Origin of Shi'ism is not separated from the origin of Islam since the Prophet himself sowed its seed by Proclaiming the wisaya (succussorship) and khilafat (caliphate of Ali bin Abi Talib in the first open call to Islam the he made in Mecca.
Islam began when the Prophet Muhmmad (peace be upon him and Progeny) became forty years old. Initially, the mission was kept a secret. Then three years after the advent of Islam, the Prophet was ordered to commence the open declaration of his message. This was the occasion when Almighty Allah revealed the the verse "And warm thy nearest relations". (The Qur'an 26:214)
When this verse was revealed, the Prophet organized a feast that is known in history as "Summoning the Family - Da'wat dhu 'l-Ashira". The Prophet invited about forty men from the Banu Hahim and asked 'Ali bin Abi Talib to make arrangements for the dinner. After having served his guests with food and drinks, but the Prophet wanted to speak to them about Islam, Abu Lahab forestalled him and said, "Your host has long since bewitched you," All the guests dispersed before the Prophet could present his message to them.
The prophet then invited them the next day. After the first, he spoke to them, saying:
O, Sons of Abdu l-Muttalib By Allah I do not know of any person among the Arabs who has come to his people with better than what I have brought to you. I have brought to you the good of this world and the next, and I have been commanded by the Lord to call you unto Him, Therefore, who amongst you will support me in this matter so that he may be my brother (akhhi), my successor (wisaya) and my caliph (khalifti)
This was the first time that the Prophet openly and publicly called the relations to accept him as the Messanger and Prophet of Allah, He also uses the words "akhi wa wasiyi wa khalifati-- my brother, my successor, my caliph" for the person who will aid him in this mission. No one asnwered him; they all held back except the youngst of them --'Ali bin Abi Talib. He stood up and said, "I will be your helper, O Prophet of God".
The Prophet put his hand on the back of 'Ali's neck and said:
"Inna hadha akhhi wa wasiyyi wa khalifiti fikum, fasma'u lahu wa ati'u -- Verily this is my brother, my successor, and my caliph amongst you; therefore, listen to him and obey."1
This was the first statement because the audience understood the appointment of 'Ali very clearly. Some of them, including Abu Lahab, even joked with Abu Talib that your nephew, Muhammed, has ordered you to listen to your son and obey him! At the least, this shows that the appointment of Ali bin Abu Talib was clear and explicit, not just implied.
After that, the Prophet at various places emphasized the issue of loving his Ahlul Bayt, seeking guidance from them, and drew the attention of the people to the special status that they had in the eyes of God and His Messenger.
Finally, just two months before his death, the Prophet clearly appointed 'Ali in Ghadir Khumm as the leader (religious as well as political) of the Muslims. He said, "Whomsoever's Master I am, this 'Ali is his Master." He also said, "I am, leaving two precious things behind, as long as you hold on the them both you will never go astray; the Book of Allah and my Progeny."2
A lot has been discussed and written on these events. The reader may refer to the following works in English :
* A Study on the Question of Al-Wilaya by Sayyid Muhammed Baqir as-Sadr, stranslated by Dr. P. Haseltine. (This treatise was first translated in India under the appropriate title: "Shi'sim: the Natural Product of Islam".)
* The Origin of Shi'a and Its Principles by Muhammed Husayn Kashiful Ghita.
* Imamate: the Vicegenrency of the Prophet by Syyid Saeed Akhatar Rizvi.
* Origins and Early Development of Shi'a Islam by S. Hussain M. Jafri.
* The Right Path by Syed 'Abdulhussein Sharafuddin al-Musawi.
* "The Meaning & Origin of Shi'ism "by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi in The Right Path, vol, I (Jan -Mar 1993).#33
Anyone who reads theese materials will see that the beginning of Islam and Shi'ism was at the same time and that, just like Islam, Shi'ism was a religious movement that also encompassed social and political aspects of society. As Dr. Jafri writes,
"When we analyse different possible relations which the religious beliefs and the political constitution in Islam bear to one another, we find the claims and the doctrinal trends of the supporters of 'Ali more inclined towards the religious aspects than the political one, thus it seems paradoxical that the party whose clains were based chiefly on spiritual and religious considerations, as we shall examine in detail presently, should be traditionallly labelled as political in origin.4
It is indeed unthinkable that the famous companions of the Prophet like Salman al-Farsi and Abu Dharr al-Ghafari thought of 'Ali primarily as a political leader, and only later on started thinking of him as a regious leader also.
In his academic work, Islamic Messianism, the learned scholar counts the civil war as the beginning of "regious Shi'ism" From the early days of the civil war in A.D 656, some Muslims not only thought about the question of leadership in political terms, but also laid regious emphasis on it."5 But in his article that was presented in a community gathering and published by one of the religious centres, he places the beginning of Shi'ism from the time of Ghadir Khumm. He writes, "The proclamation by the prophet on that occasion gave rise to the tension between the ideal leasdership promoted the wilaya of Ali ibn Abi Talib and the real one precipitated by human forces to suppress the purposes of Allah on earth."6
This dichotomy between "the academician" and "the believer" is indeed disturbing. May Almitghty Allah grant all workers of the faith the confidence to stand for their faith in all gatherings, of insiders as well as outsides (fis sirri wa 'l'-alaniyya).
1. For references of this event and discussion on this event, see the chapter "Self-Censorship in Muslim History".
2. For further discussion on the event of Ghadir Khumm, see the chapter "Ghadir Khumm & the Orientalists" below. For authenticity of this version of the hadith (that is, "Book of Allah and my Progeny" as opposed to "Book of Allah and my sunnah), see the Sunni author, Hasan bin Ali as-Saqqaf, "The Book of Allah and Waht Else? The Right Path, vol.6 (3 & 4 Oct-Dec 1997) p.44-49.
3. To this list we may also add The Succession to Muhammed by Wilfred Madelung pulished in 1997. This is the first study by a Western scholar of high stature who acknowledges that the caliphate of Abu Bakr was not unanimous, and that it was challenge by 'Ali bin Abi Talib and his followers. This is a new breakthrough in Western/non-Muslim scholarship which till now stated as a matter of fact that the Shi'a -Sunni dispute atarted only after the civil war, that is after the murder of Uthman bin Afan and during the battle between Imam Ali and Mu'awiya.
4. S. Hussain M. Jafri, Origns and Early Development of Shi'a Islam (London: Longmans, 1979) p.2.
5. Islamic Massianism, p.5.
6. Sachedina, "Wilaya of Imam Ali and its Theological-Juridical Implications for the Islamic Political Thought" in Ghadir (Toronto, Islamic Shi'a Ithna-'Asheri Jamaat & NASIMCO,1990) p.54.
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