The Shi!a in Brief
The Shi!a (or Shi’ites) are those Muslims who follow [after the Prophet Mu9ammad] !Al: ibn AbY ھ"lib Commander of the Believers, and his pure progeny, peace be upon them.5 They constitute more than 500 million people and are spread throughout all the Muslim lands and make up minorities of differing number in most other countries of the world. Their numbers have increased day by day particularly since the crystallisation of Islamic thoughts and the opening of the door to dialogue and the rejection of blind partisanship.
They believe in All"h as their Lord, Cherisher and Sustainer, in Mu9ammad, blessings and peace be upon him6, as their prophet, in Islam as their religion, in the Qur’"n as their holy book, in the Ka!bah in Mecca as their direction of prayer (qiblah), in the questioning in the grave by the angels Munkar and Nak:r, in the accounting on the day of resurrection, in heaven and hell, and in all that Allah’s messenger – Mu9ammad (N) – brought from his Lord.
They also establish the daily prayer (Nal"h), and pay the tithe (khums) and obligatory alms (zak"h), and they fast the month of Rama+"n, and make pilgrimage to the Holy House in Mecca, and they make it incumbent to struggle with might and main (jih"d) in the way of elevating the word of Islam, and they enjoin what is good and they forbid what is bad, and they ally themselves with the friends of Alla>h, and are against the enemies of Alla>h. They are foremost in good and charitable deeds, and are steadfast in fulfilling extra and recommended acts of worship, and adopting virtues and avoiding unlawful things and vices.
They believe that Islam is a complete religion which was revealed by Alla>h for the happiness of mankind. Hence, everything in Islam should be implemented in the various areas of life since there is no happiness without implementing the laws of Islam and having no need for the laws of the east or the west.
Almighty Alla>h has said: eAnd whoever desires other than Islam as a religion, it will never be accepted from him and in the afterlife he will be amongst the losersf7 Also, in the traditions it is said: ‘That which Mu9ammad has declared lawful will remain lawful until the day of resurrection and that which he has declared unlawful will remain unlawful until the day of resurrection’8. They also believe that it is obligatory to unite the Muslims under one banner as Almighty Alla>h has ordered: eAnd hold on firmly to the rope of Alla>h and do not be disunitedf9 and eAnd do not dispute amongst yourselves so that you will fail and your power will gof10.
They also believe that it is necessary to solve the differences that have arisen and caused disunity between Muslims, doing so in the light of the book of Alla>h and the authentic traditions (sunnah) far from different groupings and hateful and unwarranted partisanships and cliques.
They also believe that any law which goes against Islam is unlawful and wrong and should not be acted upon, as Almighty Alla>h has said: eAnd whoever does not rule by what Alla>h has revealed, then they are the unbelieversf11.
The top scholars of the Sunni school of thought have ruled that it is permissible to follow and adopt the Sh:!ite school of thought. They include Shaykh Ma9mYd ShaltYt the former rector of the University of al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt and others.
The Sh:!a are distinguished in that they hold that the door to independent legal judgement (ijtih"d) remains open; and in that reason (!aql) is central to the divine law as well as the Qur’"n, the traditions and consensus. They have a glowing history from the dawn of the message of Islam until today. The Sh:!ite element was the most active in establishing Islamic thought and in building Islamic civilisation. They have to their credit innumerable writings.12 They have a tremendous number of schools, institutes, libraries, scholars and preachers in Islamic and non-Islamic lands.
They controlled [throughout history] a number of states in differing lands.13 They distinguished themselves throughout history with their long struggle against the unbelievers, the crusaders, the heretics, the Zionists and the colonialists. All along the way there was between them and their Sunni brothers brotherhood and friendship and interaction and companionship.
They are found today in most if not all of the countries of the world. However, the main Sh:!a population centres are Iraq, Iran, the Gulf states, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Indonesia. Currently thay have educational and cultural institutes and top scholars in Najaf, Karbala, Baghdad, Kadhimiyyah, Samarra, Beirut, Cairo, Qum, Khurasan, Tehran, Karachi, Mumbai, Jakarta, Kuwait, Qatar, Ahsa’ and QaUif provinces (Arabia), Afghanistan, Damascus, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, African countries, Europe, America and elsewhere.14