Who Are the Shia?

History Q & A

Dr. Sullivan is a professor of economics at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect those of the National Defense University of any entity of the US government.

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An initial caveat: Shia Islam is a very complex religion and society. One could hardly do justice its the depth and breadth in a short article. This is an attempt to get some of the salient points across.

Why should we care about the Iraqi Shia?

The Shia constitute about 60 percent of the population of Iraq, mostly in the south upwards to Baghdad. They are hankering for the political and economic power their numbers should have had in the past, but never have. The Shia were discriminated against and brutalized during the entire time of the Ba'ath regime. Even during the time of the British rule they were not represented politically in the numbers warranted by their population.

They had been subject to genocide on a large scale during the regime of Saddam Hussein. Hundreds of thousands were also deported because of their alleged anti-Arabness. Many fled to Syria, Iran, Lebanon and the West to escape the brutality of the Ba'ath. The assumption was that anyone who migrated from Iran, as some Shia did, could not be a true Iraqi. The fact that most Iraqi Shia are Arabs, and that their families have been in the present territory of Iraq for centuries, was apparently lost on the regime. Most of the "Iranian" Shia Iraqis have also been in the country for generations. This discrimination even intruded on marriage vows: Arab Shia men were often forced and subsidized to divorce their "Iranian" wives in order to marry Arab wives.

During the uprising in 1991 Iraqi tanks were seen attacking Shia towns and cities. The flags they carried stated "No more Shia after today." Tens of thousands of Shia died in that uprising. There were many other instances of torture and murder of Shia and their religious leaders. The Ba'ath regime also seized financial assets, land, and other assets of the Shia religious organizations and religious leaders. The Shia learning centers in Iraq were damaged severely by the regime. Many Shia businessmen were thrown out of Iraq during the 1970s, and especially after the Iranian revolution. Ba'ath leaders feared that the Shia businessmen would team up with the Shia ulema (mullahs) and topple the government, as had happened in Iran.

The fact that many Iraqi Shia fought on the Iraqi side during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) was also lost on the regime. Most of the infantry was Shia. No upper-level officer was Shia. They fought hard for Iraq. Many died. The government brutalized them later on. Some families that were being exiled to Iran had their military-aged sons taken from them by the Iraqi government during the war with Iran (1980-1988). Most were never seen again.

The US did not back up the Shia uprising in 1991. The Shia have not forgotten this. This should be taken into consideration by policymakers. If the murders of men centuries ago still ring out over the Shia husseiniyas, mosques, and shrines, then the Shia will hardly forget how they were allowed to be slaughtered by helicopter gunships and tanks during the 1991 uprising. The no-fly zone in the south allowed the use of helicopter gunships. There is a problem of trust in the Shia community. That explains partly why they seem to be pretty much ignoring the US in Iraq and developing their own power their own way. One has to be very careful with this development.

Over the years of the Ba'athist regimes and sanctions the Shia had the worst of it. They have the worst hospitals, the worst schools, the lowest incomes, and the worst infrastructure. Most of the major rebuilding schemes occurred in the Sunni center of Iraq. The major infrastructure project directed at the Shia was the draining of the marshes in the south. This literally drained the "marsh Arabs," almost all Shia, of their culture, their livelihoods, their homes, and more. Many were driven out of the marshes and were forced to resettle. Many were murdered. Some fled to the wretched suburbs of Basra, Baghdad and elsewhere. Many fled to Iran. There are well over 1 million Iraqi Shia refugees in Iran.

The nationality law and the Ba'athi constitution in Iraq directly target Shia for mistreatment. Although there are some provisions in this constitution to allow for some religious freedom the Shia have been severely constrained from practicing their religion, especially when it comes to the pilgrimages to the holy sites in Kerbala, Najaf and elsewhere in Iraq. Saddam Hussein banned most Shia festivals and commemorations.

The Shia have been moving fast to establish themselves as a political force in the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. This is their time of chance. For decades they have been abused, murdered, tortured, raped, and discriminated against at many levels.

The Shia of Iraq are connected by family or other ties to many surrounding countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain (another country in the region with a majority Shia population, but run by Sunnis), India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. They are also tied politically and financially with some Shia communities in the west, including in the US and the UK. The Shia leaders are an internationally connected, sophisticated group.

The entire Shia world is watching what is happening in Iraq. What happens over the next days, months and years in Iraq could determine the relations of the Shia community with the Sunni community, with the West and with others.

Who are the Shia?

There are about 150 million Shia out of the 1.4 billion Muslims. The Shia are called Shia from the term Shi'at Ali (the faction of Ali, the cousin of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed).* They broke from the Sunni essentially from the time of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr was chosen for his seniority and by a vote of a shura council (a group to be made up of the most educated, respected and religious of the Muslim community) soon after the death of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. The Shia thought Ali should have been the first caliph. The distance of Shia from the Sunni increased after the murder of Ali, by the Khajarites (the first real extremist jihadists in Islam) while he was at at prayer in Kufah. Ali was the fourth Muslim Caliph at the time. (A Khajarite killed Ali to fulfill the wishes of his fiance, another jihadist extremist.) All of the Shia Imams (the Shia version of the Caliph) were 'Alid, from the family of Ali.

Other tipping points for the Shia include the murders of Ali's sons Hassan and Hussein. Hussein and Ali were killed in Kerbala. Hussein's tomb is found in Karbala, Ali's in Najaf. Their tombs are important places of pilgrimage for Shia. The emotional outpouring that we saw in Najaf a few weeks ago was the anniversary of the day Shia mourn Hussein's death. History and religion mean a lot to the Shia of Iraq. (Hussein was murdered on the 10th of Muharrem, the first month of the Islamic calendar in the 8th century. On the 40th day after a person's death there is a special time of mourning in that part of the world. Hussein's tomb is in Najaf. Hence the arbaeen (40th) commemoration is in Najaf. For more on arbaeen, see below.)

Iraq is in many ways the theological center of Shia Islam. Most of the 12 Imams are buried there. Most of the holiest shrines for the Shia are there.

Most Shia in Iraq are Ithna' Ashara Shia (Twelver Shia), as in Iran. They believe that there were 12 Imams, with the last one still in occultation until the "last days." This last Imam will come back as Al-Mahdi, sort of the savior for the Shia. When he returns then there will be a just government, according to some Shia. Until then some believe that all governments will not be entirely just.

How do Shia differ from Sunni?

The great Islamic scholars could answer this question in many books. One should refer to them for some of the more detailed and nuanced answers. However, the basic points of difference include the historical schism. They feel that Ali should have been the first caliph, and that Mohammed had said so during his last days. They even have a holiday, Eid Al-Ghadir, for the day that they believe Mohammed said that Ali would be the caliph after him. This holiday is called that because Mohammed was to have said at a spring in Saudi Arabia called Ghadir Al-Khumm (the pool of Khumm) that whoever has him as a master has Ali as a master. That quotation, of hadith, has led many Shia to believe that only Ali should have been the first caliph, not Abu Bakr, and that all caliphs, excepting those in the family of Ali, the Alids, were falsely chosen and were not the true leaders of the Muslim umma (community). There is also the problem of the murders of Ali, Hussein and Hasan. Those murders are a history that is alive today in the lives of many Shia.

Theologically, the Shia and the Sunni have much in common. They both follow the Hadith Al-Jabreel's statement on the five pillars of Islam: (1) The shehada, or statement of faith, that there is no God but God and Mohammed is his messenger; (2)salah, the five daily prayers; (3) zakat, a voluntary religious tax paid directly to the poor (the Shia add in a khums tax, 20 percent of one's profits, to aid in the protection and development of the umma); (4) sawm, fasting for the entire month of Ramadan if you are physically up to it and not traveling; (5) Hajj, performing a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is financially and physically able to without harming other commitments, like to one's family.

There are also many articles of faith that they share. They both see the Koran as the revealed word of God through Mohammed. They also look to the life of Mohammed as an example for how to live. The hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, are also used to consider moral, ethical, and practical decisions. Many Shia take pilgrimages to the holy sites in the Atabat, "the holy thresholds" in Iraq of Najaf, Kerbala, Samarra, and Kazimayn. The Sunni do not normally consider these as places of pilgrimage, but some do revere Ali as one of the rashidoon, the rightly guided caliphs.

These similarities might per chance bring the Sunnis and the Shia closer together in the future. The differences, however, are also important. The most important distinction seems to be that the Shia revere their Imams, and that many Shia look upon the first 12 Imams as being near prophetic status. Some Sunni see this as heresy and look upon their caliphs as the true leaders of the umma. Others see only the rashidoon, or the first four "rightly guided' caliphs, as being the best examples of Muslim leadership. There are many different viewpoints on leadership in both communities, but there seems to be general disagreement between the two about the place and stature of the Shia Imams, most of the Shia Imams were never recognized by the Sunni as leaders of the faithful.

For the Sunni an Imam is simply a leader of prayer in the mosque and a preacher, a knowledgeable man (part of the ulema). There are tens of thousands of such Imams in Sunni Islam. To the Shia an Imam is a vaunted character and has a special place in their lives. There have been no true Imams for the Shia since the 12th Imam, Mohammed, went into the "greater occultation." Many Shia felt uncomfortable when some called the Ayatollah Khomeini "Imam Khomeini." The late Ayatollah Khomeini was not an Imam in the sense of belonging in the same group as the 12 Shia Imams. He was considered a marja' at-taqlid, a source of emulation, and a great man by many Shia. Others found his ideas extreme, especially his concept of a cleric running the state, the wilayet-e-faqih.

The combination of the concepts of the Imam, the Mahdi, and adel (justice with its opposite zulm, or tyranny) lead to the historical delineation of church and state in Shia Islam. In Iran, for example, until the time of the Ayatollah Khomeini and especially after his intellectual discourse on the concept of wilayet-e-faqih, the Shia ulema had been at the best of times in a polite, but contentious, relationship with the government. At the worst of times they were leaders of uprisings and dissent. Similarities could be found in the relations between the Shia mullahs and ayatollahs in Iraq and the Ottoman (Sunni) Empire, most certainly in their relations with British when they ruled directly, and with the British-installed Hashemite (Sunni) monarchy that began with King Faisal, son of the Sharif of Mecca (a Sunni). The Shia religious leadership were the vanguard of the anti-British rebellions in the 1920s. Some of the families of the present-day leaders in the Iraqi Shia community were involved: the Al-Hakims, Al-Sadrs, Al-Khoeis and Al-Sistanis. There is a strong history of dissent from the leaders the Shia community in Iraq that policy makers should be aware of.

In Iraq there have always been Shia religious leaders who challenged the state for religious, ethical and other reasons. During the time of the Ba'ath they were often tortured, killed or imprisoned. Many of the leaders of the Shia were point-blank murdered by the government, sometimes en masse, for allegedly challenging it. Some of the Shia and their leaders survived during the time of the Ba'ath and Saddam Hussein by applying the concept of taqiyyah. They would hide their true beliefs in order to protect themselves from harm. This is an accepted practice by many Shia. Now that the Shia see their time for power on the horizon they will not shirk their duties as they see them, and taqiyyah will not be needed.

The Sunni ulema, unlike the Shia ulema, have historically been more in concordance with the government leadership from Empire to Empire and after the times of independence, from state to state. Some of the ulema, prayer leaders and preachers, the Sunni version of Imams, have been appointed by the state and are in some ways beholden to the state for financing and their employment. There are some who clearly distinguish themselves as being anti-state. But these are now usually found either outside of the countries where they became ulema, or within extremist and other opposition groups. The mukhabarat (secret police) of some of the Muslim states have often made a point of replacing any Imam who could cause political or other trouble. The most vocal contrarians have been either expelled, imprisoned, stripped of their employment, or have fled to safer ground. There is no assumption of a necessary potential conflict between the "church and state" as in Shia Islam, but there is the concept gained from the Koran of the "evil prince". In the Koran Muslims are enjoined to put forth effort (jihad) to enjoin evil and ensure that which is good. Over the centuries some of the Sunni ulema have sometimes backed down to the wishes of the governments to preserve peace in the kingdom, empire or country. However, there is an underlying theme of adelin Sunni Islam as well. Justice is an important part of both branches of Islam. What it means and how one gets to it differ sometimes across the branches. The Shia ulema have been sometimes more anti-state than the Sunni ulema. The development of a Shia cleric-controlled state in Iran has certainly confused the situation.

What was the "arbaeen" that occurred a few weeks ago?

This was the 40-day (arbaeen is 40 in Arabic) ceremony of the Ashura (the 10th (ashura) of Muharrem (the first month in the Islamic calendar) when Imam Hussein was murdered by Sunni rivals in Kerbala. The self-flagellation one saw on the TV news represents for some Shia their sense of guilt for having allowed Hussein to be murdered. In a way this is atonement for other guilts as well. This is a powerful event for the Shia. Why the 40th day? In that part of the world the 40th day after the funeral of a person is an important day of morning.

The Tomb of Hussein has been a focus of Shiite agitation for centuries. Sunni leaders destroyed it many times over the centuries. Each time it was in response to Shia uprisings. The Shia kept on rebuilding it.

The Tomb of Hussein is not just the holiest site for Iraqi Shia, but for ALL Shia. Many from throughout the world were attending this event -- including many Iranians.

How did the Shia become a majority in Iraq?

There is an interesting tie in here between the tribes of the south and the Shia sense that the Ottoman (Sunni) Caliphs were not the true representatives of the Muslims. The tribes in the south did not like the increasing influence of the Ottomans in the Wilayets of Basra and Baghdad, the Ottoman governates that covered most of the South of Iraq during the late 18th and 19th centuries. The tribes were converting from Sunni Islam, in part, more out of protest against the Ottoman rule it seems than as a theological"epiphany." Also, as the tribes in the south began to settle into towns rather than as bedouin they were subject to the proselytizing of the Shia ulema. There were also many Persians, later Iranians, and Indians who migrated to the south of Iraq.

Iraq contains the "Atabat" (spiritual doorways) of Kerbala (containing Hussein's tomb), Najaf (containing Ali's tomb), Kazmimayn (now a suburb of Baghdad and a place of tombs for some of the Imams), and Samara' (containing the tombs of many Shia Imams). These have been religious magnets for many Shia from around the world.

We have a combination of conversion (especially in the 19th century after the Tanzimat changes in the Ottoman empire), migration, and high birth rates contributing to the rise of the Shia in Iraq. It was not until the early 19th century that the Shia became a majority in Iraq. Even though the Shia have been a majority for almost two centuries they have never had the political power that such a majority engenders.

Where do the Shia live in Iraq?

They are mostly found in the south of the country, but there are many in Baghdad. A few are also found amongst the Turkmen, Kurds and others in the north. The major Shia population centers are in the south and in Baghdad. Most Iraqi Shia are Arab.

Who are the main leaders within the Iraqi Shia?

Until the Mahdi returns many Shia believe that there will be just ayatollas (a 20th century designation) and other levels of Shia scholars in hawzas (scholarly systems) to help explain the religion. The Hawza Al-Ilimi in Najaf is a socially, politically, culturally, and theologically powerful institution. The ayatollas in Iraq are seen as something like translators of the Koran, the Hadith, sayings of Mohammed, and the lives, words and deeds of the 12 Imams. They are also political leaders. They have massive power in Iraq. Some of them control vast throngs of former and present students, some who have power in Iraq and elsewhere, and control large amounts of financial and other assets - or at least the ability to garner them for what they see as their cause. Some, like Al-Hakim, have their own armies. His is called the Badr Brigade and it may have as many as 40,000 soldiers.

The main Ayatollahs are Al-Sistani and Al-Hakim. The one who was murdered a couple of weeks ago, Al-Khoie, was from a long line of Ayatollahs from the Al-Khoie family. Their Al-Khoie Foundation also gets about 80 percent of the khums tax (a 20 percent tax of profits of all businesses). This foundation also controls a huge number of prominent scholars, schools, and more. Al-Hakim is the head of SCIRI, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iran. He is supported by the Iranians and has lived in Iran for a couple of decades. He has real clout in Iraq. Al-Hakim was one of the most important voices calling for the 100s of thousands to go to Kerbala a few weeks ago. He also called for the demonstration asking the US to leave Iraq to occur at the end of the event. Sistani is the Grand Ayatollah of Iraq and has massive power in his community. The followers and the family of the slain Ayatollah Al-Sadr also have a significant following. The slain Ayatollah's son Muqtada is their leader. He is only 30 years old, however. In this part of the world age can matter. But time will tell how much.

In Shia Islam a given population swears its loyalty to its given leader or marja at- taqlid, reference point of emulation -- usually a high-ranking Ayatollah. Everyone who is not a marja al-taqlid is a muqallid, a follower. The Shia in Iraq have split loyalties. That is, loyalty of a specific group to a specific marja' is solid, but not all groups follow the same marja'. It will take time for this to work its way through.

What do the Shia in Iraq want?

The Shia are looking for justice (a big part of Shia political philosophy and as a result of their long term persecution), and political and economic power.

Do the Shia want a "theocratic state" in Iraq?

Historically, that is until the Iranian revolution of 1979, the Shia ulema have often taken an anti-governmental tone. It was unheard of that the Ayatollahs would take over a government. There are some Shia who believe that the only truly good government will come only when the Mahdi returns. Until then they believe that all the governments are to some degree or other corrupt and lacking in justice (adel), a very important part of Shia political philosophy. Some of the Ayatollahs in Iraq believe that the idea of a cleric ruling as a wilayet-e-faqih is not proper. The grand Ayatollah Sistani is one of these.

There may be others, such as Muqtada Al-Sadr, who want an Islamic state, but not one exactly like the Iranian one. Ayatollah Al-Hakim, who was in exile in Iran for 23 years before returning recently, may have been supported by the Iranians for years and may be close to Ayatollah Khamenie, but he also has made certain ambiguous statements about what sort of government he sees for Iraq in the future. Al-Sistani and Al-Hakim have clearly stated that they understand that Iraq is a multiethnic and multireligious country and that the views of those other than Shia need to be considered. Muqtada Al-Sadr, the youngest of these three major Shia power players, has kept his views closer to the vest. He seems to be the most radical of the three, and, possibly, the most dangerous. He is also the son and grandson of major Shia figures. His father was the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sadr, a person seen as a martyr by many Shia Iraqis, and a person who was a very important marja' at-taqlid. Much of Al-Sadr's clout comes from his family's history and clout, and his growing following of the dispossessed, downtrodden, and poor in the slums and villages of Iraq.

It is unclear who wins out in that conceptual and actual battle. However, it would be problematic for the US if the Iraqis voted for an Islamist leadership or an Islamic state, and then the US decided that is not what it wanted to happen in Iraq.

Then we could be facing another Algeria. The Algerians voted in an Islamist leadership in 1991. The government of Algeria annulled the elections. Many western governments tacitly and actively agreed to this annulment. The result has been a massive tragedy in the country with over 110,000 dead.

The Shia leadership in Iraq seems to be very sophisticated in many ways. They seem to understand that the Islamic revolution in Iran has not brought prosperity or freedom for the Iranians in many ways. They also seem to understand that many Iranians are also unhappy with what has been happening in Iran over the last 24 years. There may be powers in Iran who want to export the revolution and the Iranian form of government. But Iraq is a very different place.

What influence might Iran have in a Shia-dominated Iraq?

Ayatollah Al-Hakim has been protected and subsidized by the Iranians for many years. The Badr brigades of SCIRI have been based in Iran for decades. Clearly, the Iranians may be looking for a "payback" for their aid in the past. But, again, the Shia in Iraq are mostly Arab. Some are Kurd or Turkoman or other groups. Most of the Iraqi Shia seem to see Shiism in an Arab light. They also hope to see the return of Najaf as the center of Shia thinking and scholarship. Since the Iranian revolution and the severe weakening of the hawza and other religious institutions in Iraq, Qom in Iran seems to have taken the place of Najaf in Iraq as the center of Shia learning and thinking worldwide. Najaf may have a real chance for a comeback.

Are the Iraqi Shia necessarily anti-West?

Not unless we help make them that way.

*Ali was Muhammad's adopted son AND son-in-law as well as his cousin.

Related Links

  • What You Need to Know About the Kurds by Paul Sullivan
  • What Is the Difference Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims--and Why Does It Matter?

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    More Comments:

    a f m - 12/13/2010

    This article was impressive from start to finish, although some events are not accurate such as those mentioned by (altaf hussain malik)

    Especially the fact that "Ali and his followers didn't break away from mainstream Islam, rather the Sunni leaders refused to follow Ali when he was chosen as the fourth caliph of Muslims. The breakaway group was called Shias of Muawia and the followers of Ali were called, " Shias of Ali" Actually,in Arabic Shia means, a group of followers."

    Other than that Dr. Sullivan has done justice to Shia people and gave an Insight to the real Shia Iraqis.

    Nisar Haider Abbas - 3/28/2010

    Just took a bird's eye view of the context stated above and noted the two things that require clarification and correction in the text wherever necessary please.

    How do Shia differ from Sunni? (3) zakat, a voluntary religious tax paid directly to the poor (the Shia add in a khums tax, 20 percent of one's profits, to aid in the protection and development of the umma)

    The Khums is EXCLUSIVELY payable to the Fatemi Sadaat only (the muslims from the family of The Prophet's daughter Fatima Zahra Salamullah Aleyha) and Zakat is for any other deserving muslim other than Fatemi Sadaat. Zakat & Sadqah is strctly forbidden (haraam) for Fatemi Sadaat to take. The word "UMMA" stands for the entire muslim word including Sadaat & Non-Sadaat.

    Are the Iraqi Shia necessarily anti-West?

    Not unless we help make them that way.

    *Ali was Muhammad's adopted son AND son-in-law as well as his cousin.

    ALI (A.s) was never declared as an adopted SON by the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). On conducting the brotherhood amongst the muslims of Madina & Makkah, The Prophet (PBUH) declared ALI as his brother by the consent of The Almighty ALLAH. Apart from having the blood-relation with The Prophet, there are so much distinctions possessed by ALI (Alehiss Salaam) which prove him as the rightful successor of The Holy Prophet MUHAMMAD (PBUH).

    About me
    My name is "Nisar Haider Abbas". I am 46 years old male business executive from Lahore-Pakistan. I am a Shiite Muslim, married and having two kids.
    My cellular phone number is: +92 321 4300977.


    Asgar Kay - 9/11/2008

    well said

    Asgar Kay - 9/11/2008

    Probably not. BTW, you have to be more clear than that, to start making any sense.

    zuhair haider rizvi - 2/27/2007

    to understand shias better visit
    to understand christians better visit www.worldslastchance.com this one is hillarious

    zuhair haider rizvi - 2/27/2007

    the reason for mourning and self flagellation is that its done in remmeberance of hussains pain and misery rather than guilt this concept is from the sunnis to undermine their guilt. its called maatam wich is done upon death of a loved ones it is simillar to what some chrisitan priests do to suffer the pains of christ.love rahter than guilt makes a big difference.

    altaf hussain malik - 2/25/2006

    Ihave read the article and found some mistakes which I want to correct
    1- The artcle says, Ali was killed in Karbala alongwith Hussain.Actually
    Ali was martyred in the mosque of Kufa while he was going to lead the morning prayers.
    2- Hussain"s tomb is in Karbala, not in Najaf. This is why, the main focus on Arbaeen is in Karbala, not in Najaf.
    Here is some information:---
    1-Abubakar was chosen in the absence of Ali. Ali was busy in the burial and funeral of the Holy Prophet. He was not consulted.
    2- According to Shia belief, twelfth Imam Mohammad al Mahdi will appear to receive the Christ. Both will fight against the evil together and will also bring justice and peace in the world.
    3- Ali and his followers didn't break away from the mainstream, rather the Sunni leaders refused to follow Ali when he was chosen as the fourth caliph of Muslims. The breakaway group was called Shias of Muawia and the followers of Ali were called, " Shias of Ali" Actually,in Arabic Shia means, a group of followers. Thanks.

    Dennis E Kelly - 8/14/2005

    This article states:
    "Some of the Shia and their leaders survived during the time of the Ba'ath and Saddam Hussein by applying the concept of taqiyyah. They would hide their true beliefs in order to protect themselves from harm. This is an accepted practice by many Shia. Now that the Shia see their time for power on the horizon they will not shirk their duties as they see them, and taqiyyah will not be needed."
    Isn't just the opposite the case? Isn't taqiyyah an ingrained part of the culture which is liberally used? Isn't taqiyyah a major problem for the US/coalition effort in Iraq, when dissembling is justified as a religious right if not duty? Isn't taqiyyah a very big (MAJOR) problem for the US and the rest of the international community (including the Sunnis) who are seeking a democratic Iraqi government as a stable and reliable partner in international relations?

    samia fatima naqvi - 2/13/2005

    EXACTLY. the mistakes Mr.munir has pointed out should be noticed so that the article can be read with FULL understanding!

    samia fatima naqvi - 2/13/2005

    ofcourse he was not the first caliph. he was the SECOND caliph.

    sohail zuberi - 1/20/2005

    the shias is iran are persian first and shias later. they are extremely proud of their old pre islamic culture. there is a general dislike of arabs in iran. although the most persian converted to islam, they always kept their culture paramount e.g. the iranians still follow the old calendar. this is the point that makes the arab shias different from iranian shias. the iranian clergy/government would not like shiism hijacked by arab shias when they get hold of the government in iraq. they would definitely like an iranian stooge so that iran remains the spiritual home for the 150 million or so shia of the world

    Munir Eljaouhari - 11/25/2003

    The first Caliph was Abu Bakr not Umar. It is Arbaeen not Ashreen (Ashreen is 20 in Arabic). THere are over 300 million Shias. When addressing The Aytollahs it is disrespectful to say Al-Hakim or Al-Sadr without putting Ayatollah in front. You should also put Peace Be Upon Him or (PBUH) after Prophet Muhammed's name (pbuh) and Prophet before his name. SHia are called Shia because it means follower usually said as Shia Of Ahlulbayt, meaning followers of the holy household (the 12 Imams and the Prophet pbuh).
    Thank you.

    Ali - 11/17/2003

    Abubakr was first caliph. Umar was second

    Mikael Govani - 10/24/2003

    i am a shia my self and this is the very true discription of shias from the sunnis.
    i am very impressed by his written article especially from a
    non-shia person, as i have read many false statement s about the shias and how shias became shias.

    please could i have Dr Pauls email

    mani shah - 10/10/2003

    iam mani shah and i would like to work for shia in pakistan wt would i do for this resion plz i will bw waiting fo r urs good responce