Shia Islam

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According to Encyclopædia Britannica and others,[48] Shias are believed to have started as a political party and developed into a religious movement, influencing Sunnis and produced a number of important sects.

Hossein Nasr disagrees with this as he writes:

Shi'ism was not brought into existence only by the question of the political succession to Muhammad as so many Western works claim (although this question was of course of great importance). The problem of political succession may be said to be the element that crystallized the Shi'ites into a distinct group, and political suppression in later periods, especially the martyrdom of Imam Husayn-upon whom be peace-only accentuated this tendency of the Shi'ites to see themselves as a separate community within the Islamic world. The principal cause of the coming into being of Shi'ism, however, lies in the fact that this possibility existed within the Islamic revelation itself and so had to be realized. Inasmuch as there were exoteric [Zaheri] and esoteric [Bateni] interpretations from the very beginning, from which developed the schools (madhhab) of the Sharia and Sufism in the Sunni world, there also had to be an interpretation of Islam, which would combine these elements in a single whole. This possibility was realized in Shi'ism, for which the Imam is the person in whom these two aspects of traditional authority are united and in whom the religious life is marked by a sense of tragedy and martyrdom... Hence the question which arose was not so much who should be the successor of Muhammad as what the function and qualifications of such a person would be.[49]

Early

Disagreement broke out over who would succeed Muhammad as leader of the Muslim community. While the Sunnis followed the companions of Muhammad, the Shias followed Ali. This dispute eventually led to the First Fitna, which was the first major civil war within the Islamic Caliphate. The Fitna began as a series of revolts fought against the first Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, caused by the assassination of his political predecessor, Uthman Ibn Affan. It lasted for the entirety of Ali's reign, and its end is marked by Muawiyah's assumption of the caliphate (founding the Umayyad dynasty), and the subsequent recorded peace treaty between him and Hassan ibn Ali.

The Second Fitna was when the first Umayyad Caliph Muawiya I was succeeded upon his death in 680 by his son, Yazid I. Yazid's first opposition came from supporters of Husayn ibn Ali, who was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and the son of the former Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, who had been assassinated. Husayn and many of his closest supporters were killed by Yazid's troops at the Battle of Karbala. This battle is often cited as the definitive break between the Shi'a and Sunni sects of Islam, and until this day it has been commemorated each year by Shi'a Muslims on the Day of Ashura.

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