• Counter :
  • 1273
  • Date :
  • 10/31/2012

The Origin and Growth of SHI'ISM

ghdir khom

Shi'ism began with a reference made for the first time to the partisans of Ali (shi'ah-i 'Ali), the first leader of the Household of the Prophet, during the lifetime of the Prophet himself. [1] The course of the first manifestation and the later growth of Islam during the twenty-three years of prophecy brought about many conditions which necessitated the appearance of a group such as the Shi'ites among the companions of the Prophet.

The Holy Prophet during the first days of his prophecy, when according to the text of the Qur’an he was commanded to invite his closer relatives to come to his religion,[2] told them clearly that whoever would be the first to accept his invitation would become his successor and inheritor. Ali was the first to step forth and embrace Islam. The Prophet accepted Ali's submission to the faith and thus fulfilled his promise. [3]

From the Shi'ite point of view it appears as unlikely that the leader of a movement, during the first days of his activity, should introduce to strangers one of his associates as his successor and deputy but not introduce him to his completely loyal and devout aides and friends. Nor does it appear likely that such a leader should accept someone as his deputy and successor and introduce him to others as such, but then throughout his life and religious call deprive his deputy of his duties as deputy, disregard the respect due to his position as successor, and refuse to make any distinctions between him and others.

The Prophet, according to many unquestioned and completely authenticated hadiths, both Sunni and Shi'ite, clearly asserted that Ali was preserved from error and sin in his actions and sayings. Whatever he said and did was in perfect conformity with the teachings of religion4 and he was the most knowledgeable of men in matters pertaining to the Islamic sciences and injunctions. [4]

During the period of prophecy Ali performed valuable services and made remarkable sacrifices. When the infidels of Mecca decided to kill the Prophet and surrounded his house, the Holy Prophet decided to immigrate to Medina. He said to Ali, "Will you sleep in my bed at night so that they will think that lam asleep and will be secure from being pursued by them?" Ali accepted this dangerous assignment with open arms. This has been recounted in different histories and collections of hadith. (The emigration from Mecca to Medina marks the date of origin of the Islamic calendar, known as the hijrah.) Ali also served by fighting in the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khaybar, Khandaq, and Hunayn in which the victories achieved with his aid were such that if Ali had not been present the enemy would most likely have uprooted Islam and the Muslims, as is recounted in the usual histories, lives of the Prophet, and collections of hadith.

For Shi'ites, the central evidence of Ali's legitimacy as successor to the Prophet is the event of Ghadir Khumm [5] when the Prophet chose Ali to the "general guardianship" (walayat-i 'ammah) of the people and made Ali, like himself, their "guardian" (wali).[6] It is obvious that because of such distinctive services and recognition, because of Ali's special virtues which were acclaimed by all,[7] and because of the great love the Prophet showed for him,[8] some of the companions of the Prophet who knew Ali well, and who were champions of virtue and truth, came to love him. They assembled around Ali and followed him to such an extent that many others began to consider their love for him excessive and a few perhaps also became jealous of him. Besides all these elements, we see in many sayings of the Prophet reference to the "shi'ah of Ali" and the "shi'ah of the Household of the Prophet."[9]


1. The first designation to have appeared during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet of God was shi'ah, and Salman, Abu Dharr. Miqdad and 'Ammar were known by this name. See Hadir al'alam al-islami, Cairo, 1352, vol. I, p.188.

2. Qur’an, XXVI, 214.

3. According to this hadith, Ali said, "I who was the youngest of all have submitted that I am your vizier. The Prophet put his hand around my neck and said, 'This person is my brother, inheritor and vicegerent. You must obey him.' People laughed and told Ahu Talib. 'He has ordered you to obey your son.'" Tabari, al-To'rikh, Cairo, 1357, vol.II, p.63: Abu'l.Fida', al-Ta'rikh, Cairo, 1325, vol. I, p.116: Ibn al-Athir, al-Bidayah wa'l-nihayah, Cairo. 1358, vol.III, p.39; Bahrani, Ghayat al-maram. Tehran. 1272, p.320. [Editor's note: The reader Will notice that this hadith and certain others which are quoted more than once appear each time in a slightly different form. This is because the author has made use of different transmitted versions in each place.]

4. Umm Salmah has recounted that the Prophet said: "Ali is always with the Truth (haqq) and the Qur’an, and the Truth and the Qur’an are always with him, and until the Day of Judgment they will not be separated from each other." This hadith has been transmitted through fifteen channels in Sunni sources and eleven in Shi'ite sources. Umm Salmah, Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Bakr, A'ishah. Ali, Abu Sa'ld Khudri, Abu Layla and Abu Ayyub Ansari are among its transmitters. Ghayat al-mararn pp.539-540. The Prophet has a1so said, "God bless Ali for the Truth is always with him." al-Bidayah wa'l-nihayah, vol. VII. p.36.

5. The Prophet said: "Arbitration has been divided into ten parts. Nine parts are given to Ali and one part is divided among all the people." al-Bidayah wa'lnihayah. vol. VII, p.359. Salman Farsi has transmitted this saying from the Prophet: "After me the most learned of men is Ali." Ghayat al-maram, p.528. Ibn 'Abbas has said that the Prophet said: "Ali is the most competent among people in judgment." From the book Fada'il al-sahabah, mentioned in Ghayat al-maram, p.528. Umar used to say: "May God never afflict me with a difficult task where Ali is not present." al.Bidayah wa'l-nihayah. vol. VII. p.359.

6. Editor’s note:' According to Shi'ite beliefs, on returning from the last pilgrimage to Mecca on 'the way to Mednia at a site called Ghadir Khumm the Prophet chose Ali as his successor before the vast crowd that was accompanying him. The Shi'ites celebrates this event to this day as a major religious feast marking the day when the right of Ali to succession was universally acclaimed.

7. The hadith of Ghadir in its different versions is one of the definitely established hadiths among Sunnis and Shi'ah. More than a hundred of the companions have recounted it with different chains of transmission and expressions, and it has been recorded in books of Sunnism and Shi'ism alike, Concerning details refer to Ghaayat al-maram, p. 79, 'Abaqat of Musawi India, 1317 (Volume on Ghadir) and al-Ghadir of Amini, Najaf, 1372.

8. Tarikh-i Ya'qubi, Najaf, 1358, vol, II, pp. 137 and 140; Tarikh-i Abi'l-Fida', vol. I, p.156; sahih of Bukhari, Cairo, 1315, vol. IV, p.207; Muruj al-dhahab of Mas'udi, Cairo, 1367, vol.ll, p.437, vol.lll, pp.21 and 61.

9. Sahih of Muslim, vol. XV, p.176; Sahih, of Bukhari, vol. IV, p.207; Muruj al-dhahab, vol.lll, p.23 and vol.ll, p.437; Tarikh-i Abi'l-Fida', vol.l, pp.127 and 181.

Taken from the book: SHI'A

By Allamah Seyyed Muhammad Hussein Tabatabai

Other links:

The Cause of the Separation of the Shiite Minority from the Sunni Majority

The Two Problems of Succession and Authority in Religious Sciences

The Caliphate of Imam Ali (A.S) and His Method of Rule (Part 1)

The Caliphate of Imam Ali (A.S) and His Method of Rule (Part 2)

  • Print

    Send to a friend

    Comment (0)

  • Most Read Articles