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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee

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Contents

Early Islamic History

Page 1

Persian Connection - Salman Parsi / Farsi

Raids on Caravans

Caravans & Trade as a Source of Wealth

The Trade Connection

First Three Raids

Mohammed Leads the Fourth & Fifth Raids

Sixth Raid & Intelligence

Seventh Raid at Nakhla - Success

Eight Raid at Badr - Turning Point

Page 2

The Quraysh Tribe

Succession: Mohammad's Bloodline & Wives

Islamic Divisions - Sunni & Shia

Mohammad's Children

Succession Through Ali.
Sharif & Sayyed

Mahdi & Shia Beliefs

Caliph & Caliphate

Imams & Ali

Ali, Hassan & Husain

Rashidun Caliphate

Umayyads

Muawiyah I

Yazid I

The Ajam Lands of Iran & Iraq - Stronghold of Shia Islam

The Hadith

Page 2


Related reading:

» Zoroastrian Revolutionary Sects 650-850

» Abu Muslim

» Babak Khorramdin

» Zoroastrianism in Post Arab Iran 650-1400s CE


The Quraysh Tribe

The Quraysh were the dominant tribe of Mecca. They were divided into numerous sub-clans. Mohammad was a member of the Banu Hashim or the Hashemite sub-clan (the present ruling family of Jordan call themselves Hashemites). After the consolidation of Islam, the Quraysh gained supremacy of the ummah, the Muslim community. The three caliphate dynasties, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Fatimid Caliphate all came from the Quraysh tribe.


Succession: Mohammad's Bloodline & Wives

[Also see Wives of the Prophet Muhammad at Islam Awareness. Sources include Sahih Muslim Hadith (Abul Husain Muslim bin al-Hajjaj al-Nisapuri), Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith, Sunan Abu-Dawud (Abu-Dawud Sulaiman bin Al-Aash'ath Al-Azdi as-Sijistani), History of Al Tabari Volume 9,Ibn Warraq and Al Ghazali. Modern sources are Wikipedia, Karen Armstrong and D.A. Spellberg. For an explanation of the Hadith, see below.]

According to Sahih al-Bukhari (1:5:268), narrated Qatada: Anas bin Malik said, "the Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number. I asked Anas, "Had the Prophet the strength for it?" Anas replied, "We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men)." And Sa'id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven)." According to other reports, the Prophet may have had up to thirteen wives.

At age 25, Muhammad wed his wealthy employer, the 40-year-old merchant Khadijah. While in her employ, she entrusted him with some of her wealth, asking him to trade with it in Syria on her behalf. According to the literature, Mohammad was already "well known for his honesty, truthfulness and trustworthiness." He returned from Syria after having made a large profit for Khadijah. On his return they wed.

Khadijah died in the 25th year of their marriage and out of respect Mohammad did not re-marry until two years after her death, after which he married Sawda bint Zama who was 55 years of age.

Prior to this marriage, Sawda had been married to a paternal cousin of hers. At about the same time as this marriage, Mohammad was betrothed to Aisha, young daughter of his close friend Abu Bakr who would later become the first caliph. By giving Mohammed his daughter in marriage, Abu Bakr became Mohammad's father-in-law. According to the Hadith of Sahih al-Bukhari quoted below, Aisha was six (some say nine) years of age at the time of her betrothal and she was betrothed to another man, but that agreement was set aside. Their marriage was consummated about three years later when she was nine and the Prophet Mohammad was fifty-six years of age.

The quotes from the Hadith of Sahih al-Bukhari (Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234-6) are as follows:
Narrated Aisha:
234: "The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, "Best wishes and Allah's Blessing and a good luck." Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah's Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age."

235: That the Prophet said to her, "You have been shown to me twice in my dream. I saw you pictured on a piece of silk and some-one said (to me). 'This is your wife.' When I uncovered the picture, I saw that it was yours. I said, 'If this is from Allah, it will be done."

Narrated Hisham's father:
236: Khadija (the prophet’s first wife) died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old.

Muhammad wished to divorce the middle-aged Sawda, but Sawda offered to give her turn of Muhammad's conjugal visits to Aisha to prevent this. Apparently, dissidents from Medina, the hypocrites spread false rumours in an attempt to create internal dissention amongst the Muslims. One of the rumours was that while Mohammad was defending Medina from a raid, Aisha left her camp to search her lost necklace, and returned with a Companion of Muhammad. Mohammad, however, disregarded the rumours and received a revelation from God, after which he smiled and said, "Do not worry, Aisha, for Allah has revealed proof of your innocence." She remained his favourite wife.

One of Muhammad's wives, Zaynab bint Jahsh, was his cousin. She was close to Aisha's age. When she became a widow, Muhammad arranged for her to marry his adopted son Zayd. Zaynab and her brothers disapproved of the arrangement because (according to Ibn Sa'd), she was of aristocratic lineage and Zayd was a former slave. The marriage nevertheless took place and was then dissolved after which Mohammed married Zaynab. Sanction for such a marriage was given by God in the Quran / Kuran (33:36-37).

At about the same time, Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya became widowed and Mohammad proposed marriage. She said she was reluctant to accept for three reasons that might lead to an unsuccessful marriage: she suffered from jealousy, her old age, and the need to support her young family. But Muhammad replied that he would pray to God to free her from jealousy, that he too was of old age, and that her family was like his family. She eventually consented.

It is not clear if Mariah al-Qibtiyya was also one of Mohammad's wives. Some sources state that she was an Egyptian Coptic Christian slave, sent as a gift to Muhammad from Muqawqis, a Byzantine official, and she may have remained a slave. But other sources say that since serving as a concubine is forbidden in Islam, Mohammad married Mariah.

Mohammad had other wives. For further information on the wives listed above and on his other wives, see Wives of the Prophet Muhammad at Islam Awareness.

According to the Quran, to preserve their respect and honour, God forbade anyone to marry the wives of Muhammad after he died.


Mohammad's Children

Mohammed and his first wife Khadijah had two sons, Qasim and Abd-Allah (nicknamed al Tahir and al Tayyib), and four daughters - Zaynab, Ruqaiya, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah. Qasim died before his second birthday. Abd-Allah also died in childhood in 615. Only one daughter, Fatima (and her children) survived her father. Some say that his daughter Zaynab, mother to a daughter called Amma or Umama, survived him as well.

Shia scholars dispute the paternity of Khadijah's daughters, as they view the first three of them as step-daughters - daughters from previous marriages and only Fatimah as the daughter of Muhammad & Khadijah. The Shia scholars conclude that the other 'daughters' were step-daughters.

Khadijah purchased a slave Zayd ibn Harithah (c. 588-629 CE) who she and Mohammad later adopted. Zayd became a prominent figure in the early Islamic community and the only one of Sahaba, Mohammad's companions and inner council, named directly in the Qur'an. He died at the Battle of Mu'tah.

Of his other wives, only one, Mariah al-Qibtiyya, bore him a son, but the child died when he was ten months old.


Succession Through Ali. Sharif & Sayyed

Other than Fatimah, all of Mohammad's children died during his lifetime. Fatimah married Ali, Mohammad's cousin. From what we understand, Muhammad told Ali that God had ordered Muhammad to give his daughter, Fatimah, to Ali, his cousin, in marriage. As such the only direct blood line of which we have information is that through Fatima and Ali.

Fatima died six months after the prophet's death.

While Fatimah was his most beloved, Ali had several wives. He had four children by Fatimah, two sons Hassan and Husain, and two daughters, Zaynab and Umm-Kulthum.

Ali's other sons were al-Abbas born to another Fatimah, and Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah born to Khawla, another wife who was part of the Hanifa clan.

Mohammad's great-grandchildren are titled 'Sharif' for descendants of Hassan, and 'Sayyed' for descendants of Husain. A number of Muslims have these titles as last names though we are not sure if in the process they are claiming lineage to the Prophet.

Today, there are many who claim to be descendants of Muhammad. One of them is the Hashemite King of Jordan. There are also a number of people with the name Sayyed in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.


Islamic Divisions - Sunni & Shia

With the death of Islam's prophet Muhammad (570-632), disagreement broke out over his succession. While Ali was preparing his father's body for burial, Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Muhammad's long-time friend, collaborator and general Abu Bakr, as Mohammad's successor and first caliph. The choice was disputed by some of Ali's supporters, but the election of Abu Bakr was announced to the community as a fait accompli. When Fatimah questioned the decision, the response was "O daughter of the Messenger of God! We have given our allegiance to Abu Bakr. If Ali had come to us before this, we would certainly not have abandoned him." to which Ali responded, "Was it fitting that we should wrangle over the caliphate even before the Prophet was buried?"

Another version of what happened after the election is that after the election, Umar and Abu Bakr went to Ali's home to demand his oath of allegiance, failing which they would set the house or door on fire - which they did, pushing open the burning door onto Fatimah. Fatimah threatened to 'uncover her hair' at which point Bakr and Umar withdrew. Ali, it would seem did not assert his claim further in order to prevent dividing the community. Ali did eventually pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr, then Umar and to Uthman as well, saying he did so for the unity of Islam but it was also clear to him that he did not have the support of the larger part of the Muslims. The Bakr-Umar-Uthman coalition, however, seemed not just strong, but able to gain fairly wide-spread acceptance of their authority.

As far as we can understand the politics of the dispute, it appears the the principle argument was whether Mohammad's successor should be appointed by the Sahaba, the inner circle of Mohammad's companions that was now a supreme council of Muslim leaders, or should be a member of Mohammad's family and bloodline. Ali was Mohammad's son-in-law but he was also his cousin, thereby making him and his children a part of Mohammad's bloodline through both himself and his wife Fatimah.

The Sunnis state that Abu Bakr was the first caliph and successor to leadership of the Islamic ummah. Sunnah means traditions. The Sunnis accept Ali as the fourth caliph.

The Shia, however, only accept Ali as the first caliph and imam. The Shia hold that Muhammad's (570-632) family, the Ahl al-Bayt (People of the House) are imams who have special spiritual and political authority over the community, and Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was the first of these imams and was the rightful successor to Muhammad rather than the caliph Abu Bakr. Ali's supporters called themselves Shia meaning supporters of Ali.

The Sunni's are Shia are further divided.

The Ismaili Shia trace their own leadership from the seventh imam, Ismail bin Jafar (721-755), and believe that the law, embodied in the Quran and the sayings and practices of Muhammad, is accompanied by a mystical teaching passed from one imam to the next.

In summary, the Sunni argue that the Caliph, the successor of the prophet Muhammad, should be elected. The Shia argue that succession should remain within the direct line of the prophet's closest relatives, the Imams. The Sunnis, stressing Islam's historic emphasis on effective political engagement, opted for caliphs who were primarily political and military leaders; the Shia looked for leaders known for wisdom and spirituality.


Mahdi & Shia Beliefs

Both the Sunni and Shia believe as part of Islamic prophesized eschatology, that the Mahdi or Mehdi will appear as a prelude to the Day of Judgment, and who with Jesus will rid the world of all wrongdoing, injustice and tyranny.

The Mahdi will be known to the world by possessing certain features. These are listed at Wikipedia. These include him of Mohammad through Fatima, bearing the name Mohammad and that he will carry a black flag (cf. Abbasids Revolt at our page on Abu Muslim).

The majority of Shia believe there was an unbroken line of 12 imams - the last of whom, Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali, was born in 868 CE. In 939, rather than allowing him to die, God hid Muhammad ibn Hasan. The Twelver, or Imami Shia believe that Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali eventually will return as the Mahdi to usher in a reign of justice.

The concept of the Mahdi was used by Iranian Revolutionary Sects that emerged after the death of Abu Muslim. These sects either thought of Abu Muslim returning as the Mahdi or accompanying the Mahdi.

While both Sunni and Shia accept the coming of the Mahdi, some reject the notion. Allama Iqbal's Iqbal Nama (Volume 2, Bazm-e-Iqbal, Lahore, Pakistan, Letter No. 87) is quoted in Wikipedia as stating, "As I think, the concept of the Mahdi, Masih and Mujaddad is a completely Iranian and Ajmi (cf. Ajam below) perception. This concept has no link to the Qur'an, Islam and Arabic perceptions."


Caliph & Caliphate

With the support of the factions within Mohammad's inner circle, Abu Bakr was installed as the first caliph and the first caliphate, or Islamic government - whose legal constitution was Shariah law - was established. Some sources state that it was Abu Bakr who was the first to accept Mohammad's teachings and Mohammad's closet companion.

By way of further explanation, the caliph is the head of state in a caliphate, and the title for the leader of the Islamic ummah, that is, the Islamic community ruled by the Shariah law. The caliph is more that a leader in Islamic eyes. The word caliph stems from the word khalifah meaning successor or representative. The caliph is then seen as a successor to Mohammed.


Imams & Ali

The choice of Abu Bakr as successor and leader of the ummah was disputed by another faction of Muhammad's companions. This faction held that it was an Ahl al-Bayt or 'person of the (Mohammed's) house, a male family member of Mohammad, who was the true inheritor of Mohammad's leadership over the ummah. They further held that Ali - Ali ibn Abi Talib - Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, had been designated as successor by Muhammad himself at Ghadir Khumm. The Shia therefore rejected the legitimacy of Abu Bakr's claim to inheriting the leadership of Islam and the Islamic community.


Ali, Hassan & Husain

Ali was appointed the fourth caliph by the Sahaba (Muhammad's companions / council) in Medina after the assassination of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan. Ali too was assassinated in 661 CE. His assassin was Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam, a Kharijite who slashed Ali with a poisoned sword. The assassination took place at Kufa, in today's Iraq, a town that Ali had made his base and garrison town. Ali was buried at the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq.

Ali's eldest son, Hassan, the next Shiite Imam, succeeded Ali as the caliph in Kufa. However, under terms of a peace treaty he negotiated with with Muawiyah I, he relinquished control of Iraq following a reign of seven months. The Shia believe that Hassan was poisoned by his wife in Medina, in 680 CE, Arabia, on the orders of the Caliph Muawiyah.

Hassan was succeeded by the younger brother Husain who was killed the same year leading an uprising against the newly installed caliph Yazid I. Husain questioned the legitimacy of Yazid's caliphate and was killed returning to Kufa by Yazid's forces in what is called the Battle of Karbala. The slain bodies of Husain and his supporters were mutilated by the victors. For the Shia, Husain came to symbolize resistance to tyranny and his martyrdom in 680 CE is commemorated on the 10th (Ashura) day of Moharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Ashura is a day of mourning for the Shia, some of whom indulge in including self-flagellation as a way of experiencing the pain felt by Husain. Shia also believe that the battle of Karbala was battle between good and evil, the forces of Yazid I representing evil, injustice, tyranny, and oppression. The Shia believe that the path that Yazid was directing Islam was motivated by personal greed, and further that Yazid was publically going against the teachings of Islam and changing the sunnah of Muhammad. Yazid I was the second Umayyad caliph, the first being Muawiyah I.


Rashidun Caliphate

The first four caliphs after the death of Mohammad were known as the Rashidun Caliphate. The first three of the Rashidun caliphs were friends and mutual supporters. Ali was the outsider despite being a member of Mohammad's family.

Abu Bakr held the caliphate for two years (632-634) and was succeeded by his nominator Umar (also Omar).

Umar ibn al-Khattab (c. 586/59-644) was caliph from 634 to 644. He was a brilliant general and a tough administrator. He was responsible for defeating the Persian armies in 636 at the battle of Qadisiyyah (now in South-Central Iraq), securing the Persian lands west of the Zagros, and again in 642 in the battle of Nehavand (near Hamadan), securing the Persian lands east of the Zagros. The Persian captives were taken to Arabia in shackles as slaves, one of whom, Firooz, an enslaved artisan, managed to assassinate the Caliph Umar. It is quite remarkable that despite all their internal problems, the Muslims were still able to set about conquering a great part of the Persian empire.

Upon Umar's assassination, Uthman became the caliph from 644 to 656 when he was assassinated by rebel Muslims. Ali finally became caliph between 656 and 661, the last of the Rashidun caliphs, after which the caliphate was taken over by the Umayyads.


Umayyads

The Umayyads claimed that Umayya and Mohammed were cousins having descended from the same grandfather Abd Manaf belonging to the Quraysh tribe. The Shia state that Umayya was an adopted son and therefore not a blood relative.


Muawiyah I

Muawiyah was the son of Abu Sufyan (560-650), the Quraysh Meccan commander who fought against Mohammad during Mohammad's eight caravan raid (see previous page). Abu Sufyan was the commander of the guards protecting the caravan. Both Mohammad and Sufyan belonged to the same tribe, the Quraysh (of which Mohammad's Hashemite were a sub-clan), and as his successors claimed - to the same family. Sufyan later helped negotiate the surrender of Mecca to Mohammad.

Muawiyah became a scribe for Muhammad, and during the first and second caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar, fought with the Muslims against the Byzantines in Syria. When Uthman ibn Affan, a cousin of Muawiyah, became the third caliph, he appointed Muawiyah Governor of Syria. After his murder, Ali was appointed the fourth and final Rashidun Caliph. He expelled Muawiyah from the Governorship because Muawiyah refused to pledge allegiance to him. Because the murderers of Uthman supported Ali's caliphate, Muawiyah refused to pledge allegiance to Ali until the murderers were brought to justice.

Muawiyah began an insurrection that eventually led to his seizing the caliphate after Ali's assassination while praying in a mosque at Kufa (Iraq).


Yazid I

Yazid I (645-683) was the second Umayyad caliph. He ruled for three years from 680 CE until his death in 683 CE, and it was during his rule that Husain. Mohammad's grandson was killed. Yazid succeeded to the caliphate by birthright and not by election by a grand council of the inner circle of Islamic leaders. His father Muawiyah took it upon himself to appoint his son as successor and crown prince. Husain protested this appointment as being against the spirit of Islam and debated the move with other Islamic leaders in Medina back in Arabia. During this debate Muawiyah died in 680 and Yazid assumed the title of caliph. It is reported that several leaders back in Kufa wrote Husain letter supporting him should he decide to seek becoming caliph.

In order to procure the loyalty of the different Islamic governors, Yazid sent them a letter asking them to swear allegiance to him. Husain was among three who refused to take the oath of allegiance. Despite being advised by notables such Abdullah ibn Umar and Abdullah ibn Abbas, Husain decided to travel to Kufa with a group of about a hundred supporters that included women and children in his immediate family. While in transit, the people of Kufa abandoned their loyalty to Husain switching their loyalty to the new caliph Yazid instead. Yazid had one of Husain's supporter in Kufa, Muslim ibn Aqeel, killed. Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, governor of Basra and a Yazid loyalist, captured and executed one of Husain's messengers riding to Kufa instigation an uprising. Ziyad sent his own messengers, one to Kufa warning its residents against any attempts at an insurgency and another to Husain informing him and he could "neither proceed to Kufa nor return to Mecca, but you can go anywhere else you want." Undaunted by the threat Husain continued his journey to Kufa.

One of the other notables who opposed Yazid's appointment as Caliph and had not sworn allegiance was Abdullah ibn Zubair, nephew of Aisha, Muhammad's third wife. Zubair launched an insurgency in the Hejaz. Yazid sent armies against him in 683. After the Battle of al-Harrah, Medina was recaptured and Mecca was also besieged. During the siege, the Kaabah was damaged. The siege ended when Yazid died suddenly in 683 CE.

By all accounts Yazid was not popular. According to a Wikipedia page, Ibn Kathir, a pupil of Ibn Taymiyya and a 14th century Sunni scholar, wrote in his book Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, "Tradition inform us that Yazid loved worldly vices, would drink, listen to and kept the company of boys with no facial hair, played drums, kept dogs, not a day would go by when he was not in a drunken state." According to Muhammad Zakariya al-Kandahlawi, "Yazid sent an army to Medina comprised 60,000 horsemen and 15,000 foot soldiers. For three days they shed blood freely, 1,000 women were raped and 700 from the Quraysh and Ansar were killed. Ten thousand women and children were made slaves." Ibn Kathir further states, "Muslim was ordered to ransack Medina for three days. Yazid committed a major sin. Sahaba and their children were slaughtered openly; other heinous acts were also perpetuated." Also, "When Yazid wrote to Ibn Ziyad (governor of Basra) ordering him to fight Ibn Zubair in Mecca, he (Ziyad) said 'I can't obey this fasiq (order). I killed the grandson (Husain) of Rasulullah upon his orders, I'm not now going to assault the Kaaba." Al-Dhahabi, another 14th century Sunni author cite a Ziyad Hurshi as saying, "Yazid gave me alcohol to drink, I had never drunk alcohol like that before and I enquired where he had obtained its ingredients'. Yazid replied 'it is made of sweet pomegranate, honey from Isfahan, sugar from Hawaz and grapes from Burda... .Yazid indulged in alcohol and would participate in actions that opposed the dictates set by Allah." Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, a 16th century Sunni Islamic scholar called Yazid one of the most debased men in history and a kafir (infidel). Sharh Fiqh Akbar writes, "Following the murder of Husain, Yazid said 'I avenged the killing of my kafir relatives in Badr through killing the family of the Prophet.'"


The Ajam Lands of Iran & Iraq - Stronghold of Shia Islam

Today, the strongholds of Shia Islam are Iran and that part of Iraq which the Arabs called Eraq-e Ajam - Iraq east of the Euphrates and south of ancient Ctesiphon up to the borders of Iran. The Arabs called the Persians 'ajam' meaning mute or dumb - a very unfortunate term towards people with this physical impairment which we regrettably use in this context. The Arabs also appear to have used the same descriptor for the portion of Iraq that embraced Shia Islam.

When Ali was caliph, rather than Mecca or Medina, he made Kufah (near present day Najaf in Iraq), his capital. Today, Kufah remains a Shia centre.

According to Rasul Ja'fariyan in his Four Centuries of Influence of Iraqi Shi'ism on Pre-Safavid Iran, the migration of members of a tribe of the Ash'ari from Iraq to the city of Qum (south of today's Tehran), Iran, towards the end of the seventh century CE was one of the first major steps towards the establishment of Imami Shi'ism in Iran. This was followed by the influence of the Shi'i tradition of Baghdad and Najaf on Iranians during the eleventh and twelfth centuries CE.

The Safavid dynasty (1501 - 1722) that came to rule the lands that were previously Iran-Shahr, made Shia Islam the official state religion in the early sixteenth century. The Safavids laid the foundation of alliance between the religious classes, the Ulama, and the merchant class, the Bazaari - descendants of the old Iranian-Aryan traders. In some ways, this move reverted to the power alliances during the Sassanian years and earlier. The priests and merchants became power brokers and had the ability to change governments. They were also conduits through which the ruling class asserted their rule over the people. The tillers of the soil were traditionally the least empowered and worked in a servile manner for the feudal landed nobility, priests and wealthy merchants. The most recent revolution in Iran against the Pahlavi monarchy was precipitated by the Shah's launch of his own White Revolution, a redistribution of land to farmers, a move greatly opposed by the land-owning mullahs or priests and the Bazaari merchants. During Sassanian times, it is the oppression of the working farmers by the landed wealthy that weakened the Zoroastrian state and left it vulnerable to the Arab Islamic invasion. Such is the way the world turns and history repeats itself.

The Shia-Sunni divisions now appears to have become an Iran-Arab division. Today, Iran's influence in the Islamic world works through its Shia connections in those countries, noticeably in southern Iraq and Lebanon. The influence in Iraq goes beyond southern Iraq since the Shia now form the largest religious group in Iraq. The Saudi Arabians are greatly concerned about the increase of Iranian influence in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim who had persecuted the Iraqi Shia. The present Shia led government sent the Sunni Saddam to the gallows, and from what we hear, Sunni Muslims have been bombing Shia mosques and shrines. The Saudi Arabians have also launched a campaign for international recognition to rename the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Gulf.


The Hadith

Hadith are words or actions ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad. While the Quran contains the Prophet's revelations (wahy), the Hadith contain all that he did, said, enjoined, forbade or did not forbid, approved or disapproved. Sanction to record the Hadith apparently stems from the Prophet Muhammad himself who encouraged his followers to write down his words and actions.

A sub-category of the Hadith is Hadith Qudsi, meaning Sacred Hadith. They are sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims regard the Hadith Qudsi as the words of God, Allah, repeated by the Prophet.

The two main denominations of Islam, Shi'ism and Sunnism, have different sets of Hadith collections. Sunni and Shia Hadith collections differ because scholars from the two traditions differ as to the reliability of the narrators and transmitters. On the one hand, Sunnis favour narrators who took the side of Abu Bakr and Umar rather than Ali in the disputes over leadership that followed the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The Shi'a on the other hand see these narrators as unreliable. Sunnis also accept narrators such as Aisha, his favourite wife, whom the Shia reject. The Shia prefer narrations sourced to Ali, the family of the Prophet Muhammad, and their supporters. Differences in Hadith collections have contributed to differences in worship practices and shari'a law and have hardened the dividing line between the two traditions.

There is another group of Qur'an alone Muslims, also known as Quranists. They are Muslims who follow the Qur'an exclusively considering it to be the only sacred text in Islam. They reject the religious authority of Hadith.

Some of the Hadith are found online at http://www.cmje.org/religious-texts/hadith/. Another online resource is http://ahadith.co.uk/.


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