and Muslim Movements
Regarded as Being
A Brief Introduction to Shi'ism
Ithna 'Ashari (Twelver)
Movements Regarded as Heterodox
The name "Shi'ism" is derived from the Arabic phrase "shi'at 'Ali," which literally means
partisans or party of 'Ali (d. 661). The cousin and son-in-law of the
Prophet, 'Ali was believed by most Muslim historians (but not all) to be the first
male to embrace
the Prophet's message of Islam. His partisans were
those who believed that 'Ali was the rightful successor of the Prophet and that 'Ali had
chosen by the Prophet to succeed him in his role as the
political and spiritual leader of the Muslims. This was in contrast to the belief
of the Sunnis, who did not believe the Prophet had selected 'Ali to serve in that
role. The vast majority of Shi'ites are the twelve imam or twelver shi'ites
(ithna 'ashari) and live today primarily in Iran, Iraq, and
Lebanon. Although it is not uncommon to find Sunni Muslims who
are wary of Shi'is, generally Shi'ites are accepted as being
authentic Muslims by Sunnis.
Shanay of Lancaster University briefly surveys some of the beliefs and history of the
Ithna 'Ashari (twelve imam) Shi'ites.
of Differences between Shi'is and Sunnis from the viewpoint of Shi'ism.
This was written by the scholars who have compiled the Shi'ite Encyclopedia,
This is an on-line book by the famous Shi'ite scholar Tabataba'i and translated
by Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr.
Encyclopedia Developed by Shi'ites, this encyclopedia covers the main
lines of Shi'i thought. It can be browsed by topic or searched with its
own search engine.
Al-Islam: Subject Index This
is the topical index to the Al-Islam
website, a massive site on Islam as viewed from a Shi'ite perspective.
It contains many articles useful to students of Islam. This site was developed
by Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project.
On the Beliefs of the
Shi'a Imamiya is a translation of a primary text by one of the most important
medieval Twelver Shi'ite scholars, Ibn Babawayh, also known as Shaykh al-Saduq (link fixed 15 March, 2006).
The Nahj al-balagha: Sermons, Letters, and
of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shi'i Imam and the fourth of the "Rightly-Guided
Nahj al-balagha another online version.
al-kafi The four books of volume one of this work translated by
by al-Kulayni is a scholarly article concerning the first of the four
major works of Shi'i hadith. The article, written by Dr. I.K.A. Howard,
discusses al-Kafi and its author, Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni
(d. 328 or 329 / 939 or 940). Unlike hadith in Sunni Islam, hadith collections
in Shi'i Islam include the sayings of the Shi'i imams.
Man La Yahduruh
al-Faqih by al-Saduq is a scholarly article concerning the second
of the four major collections of Shi'i hadith. Written by Dr. I.K.A. Howard,
this article also includes a discussion of al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Ibn Babawaih
al-Qummi (d. 381).
and Al-Istibsar by al-Tusi is the title of an article by Dr.
I.K.A. Howard concerning the third and fourth of the four major works of
Shi'i hadith. Both of these works were written by Abu Ja'far Muhammad b.
al-Hasan, known as al-Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 460).
Origin and Growth of the Shia (link fixed 17 August 2005). This useful summary
is presented at the
website of the World Federation of the Khoja
Shia Ithna-Asheri (sic) Muslim
Communities (KSIMC). See their list of
Islamic Resources (link fixed 15 March, 2006). Currently the best description of this organization is to
be found in the Constitution
of the World Federation (link fixed 17 August 2005).
Website of Ayatullah Muhammad
Shirazi, who is one of the more important Shi'ite religious leaders
alive today. Based in Qum,
Ayatullah Shirazi is a marja'-i taqlid (model whose guidance is to
be followed). His website includes a variety of materials, among them
being some of his articles and a short biography of him.
and the Imam Husayn in Persian and Indo-Muslim literature This article,
by Annemarie Schimmel, emeritus professor at Harvard, surveys the literary
use of the image of the martyed Imam Husayn (the third Shi'i Imam).
The Shrine of the
Hidden Imam "Twelver" (Ithna 'ashari) Shi'ites believe that including
'Ali there were twelve rightful descendants of the Prophet in his role
as political and spiritual leader of the Muslims. They believe that the
twelfth of these, the Hidden Imam, never died but rather "occulted," which
is to say that he left this material plane of being and went to a metaphysical
plane of being, from where he will return to the material plane near the
end of time in order to inaugurate a new era for humankind. Through this
link you can view a good quality image of the shrine of the Hidden Imam
in Samarra, Iraq.
The Silencing of
Abdulaziz Sachedina Ayatollah Sistani, the chief Shi'ite religious
authority (marja' al-taqlid) of the majority of the 12 Imam Khoja
Shi'ites, in 1998 recommended the silencing of Professor Sachedina, a
12ver Shi'ite, who is also a professor of Islamic Studies at the University
of Virginia. Among the issues for which he was criticized are his views
on religious pluralism. (Link fixed, February, 2004; formerly online at
Shi'ites in Iraq a section of
Muslims, Islam, and Iraq website,
contains information on the history of
Iraq as well as various news articles and other related links.
on Shaykhism, also known as the Shaykhi school of Shi'ism, written
by Juan R. I. Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan. These papers
all concern Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i, the central figure of the Shaykhi school,
which developed in 19th century Iran.
The Isma'ili Shi'ites (or 7-Imam Shi'ites), diverged from the majority Ja'fari or 12-Imam
since they regarded the seventh and last Imam to be Isma'il, the
eldest son of Ja'far al-Sadiq. In contrast, the 12-Imam Shi'ites do not accept Isma'il,
who predeceased his father, as their seventh imam. Instead, after the death
of Ja'far al-Sadiq (d. 765 CE), they followed his still living son, Musa
al-Kazim (d. 799 CE) and, after him, his descendants.
Not following Musa al-Kazim and his descendants, the Isma'ilis followed Muhammad the son of
Imam Ismail and his descendants up to the present day. An important Isma'ili movement was the
9th century Qarmati movement in 'Iraq, comprised of followers of Hamdan Qarmat. See the
brief summary of the movement, Qarmatiyyah,
written by Bulend Shanay of Lancaster University (UK).
significant was the Ismaili Fatimid dynasty, which ruled in North Africa from the 10th to the
12th centuries. Another significant Ismaili movement of 12th century Iran is commonly
known as that of the
"Assassins." The following linked article Assassins
, written by the eminent scholar Philip Hitti, although dated is still informative.
On the other hand, the contemporary scholar Farhad Daftary seems to have overturned
many of the assertions of the previous generation of scholars such as Hitti. See
the following review of Daftary's The
Assassin Legends: Myths of the
Isma'ilis. The Ismailis underwent the following sub-divisions:
Druze-- A minority of Ismailis who, after the death of the Fatimid, Imam Al-Hakim
al-Hakim was divine and did not in fact die. Today this group is found in Lebanon, Syria,
See a brief summary of this sect, titled Druzes, written
by Bulend Shanay of Lancaster University.
The majority, however, followed Imam al-Hakim's son, al-Zahir and his descendants until
Billah. At his death, another split occured:
Buhras or Bohras (originally known as Musta'lians)-- Ismailis who followed Imam Musta'li, a
son of Imam
billah, instead of Imam Nizar, who was another son of Imam Mustansir. The Bohras
primarily in Yemen, India, and East Africa. See the scholarly article Bohras by Mustafa
Abdulhussein, from the Oxford
Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (if that link is down, the page is archived here 15 March, 2006) and the Dawoodi Bohra website.
Nizaris, Khoja Ismailis, or Agakhanis-- followed Imam Nizar, the other son of Imam Mustansir,
from prison (after being deposed by the supporters of Imam Musta'li) and made his way from
Cairo to Syria and from there to Iran. Today the Nizaris are
Imam Karim Agha Khan.
A Brief History of the Ismaili
Community based on material from Prof. Farhad Daftary, the leading scholarly authority
on Ismaili history.
Introduction to Ismailism by Dr.
Sheikh Khodr Hamawi
Ismaili Web, constructed by Ismailis, is a
useful resource containing among other things a number of scholarly articles.
The Importance of Studying
a short essay
by the famous "White Russian" scholar of Ismaili history and thought, Professor W. Ivanov.
Nasir Khusraw (d. 481 AH) was an
poet, philosopher, traveller, and Ismaili propagandist (da'i).
and Authority in Medieval Ismailism by Prof. Simonetta Calderini, lecturer
at the Roehampton Institute in London, is a scholarly article on the web
addition of Diskus, but it was originally published there in Vol.4,
No.1 (1996) pp.11-22. (Linked fixed, October 13, 2001.)
Qasidas in Persian and Arabic Listen to these
with Real Audio.
The Institute of Ismaili Studies
The Zaydi or five imam Shi'ites are those who follow Zayd ibn 'Ali, the grandson of the
imam, Imam Husayn, who was in turn a grandson of the Prophet. Zayd's father was 'Ali,
the fourth Shi'ite imam. Yemen became a Zaydi country toward the end of the ninth
century CE and has
continued to be Zaydi until today. See the brief article
Bulend Shanay of Lancaster University (UK).
who are generally regarded by Muslims as
being outside the limits of Islam, regard themselves as originating with the eleventh
Shi'a Imam al-Hasan al-Askari (d.873) and
his student Ibn Nusayr (d.868). They are particularly important in Syria even though
they are only about 11% of the population. The reason for their importance in
Syria is because Hafez al-Asad, the former Syrian president, was a Nusayri.
Though neither Shi'i nor Sunni, the Ahmadiya consider themselves
to be Muslims,
although they are generally regarded as being outside the fold of
Islam by other Muslims.
is a useful article from the Banglapedia, an online encyclopedia
concerning all things related to Bangladesh. The editorial board
is comprised of professional scholars.
Muslim Community, the Jamaat-i-Ahmadiya, also known as the
Qadianis (Qadiyanis), regard
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet. See also the official website of
Ahmadiyyah Muslim Community.
Ahmadiyya Movement , the Ahmadiyya Anjuman
Ishaat-i-Islam, is one of two branches of the Ahmadiyya. Unlike
the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement does
not regard Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet. See also The Official website
of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (US office) as well as
another Lahore Ahmadi