Shia Culture

General Statistics

The latest statistics show that the Sh:!a number more than 500 millions.193 They are to be found in all countries of the world, in the east and west, and are distributed throughout all Islamic lands and in many non-Islamic countries. They have a civilisation which is derived from the Holy Qurv"n, and the Prophetic traditions, and the conduct of the household of the Prophet (N).

In Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan, the Gulf, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Arabia, and the Yemen they have many scholars and jurist-consults, religious schools, educational institutions, mosques and Islamic centres, charitable bodies, libraries and centres with all types of books, Qurv"n schools and many other Islamic projects. In one Islamic land there are almost a quarter of a million scholars, speakers, writers and students. Throughout Islamic history they have had governments, scholars, writers, poets, philosophers, thinkers, schools, writings, libraries, speakers and guiders.

Since the time of the Messenger of Alla>h (N) they have taken noble religious stances and that continues until today. Whoever seeks more information about the precious knowledge of the Sh:!a, and their dedication and struggle in the way of Alla>h should refer to any country where the Sh:!a are to be found.

The Shia and the History of Islam

The Sh:!a played a prominent role in the early Islamic conquests and also in stemming the tide of attacks on Islam and the Muslims. They helped to consolidate the pillars of Islam in the land and sent 47 missionaries and preachers to guide mankind and propagate the teachings of the Qurv"n all throughout the history of Islam:'

  1. The Buwayhids played a great part in propagating Islam in Iraq and its environs.

  2. The .amd"nids played their role in Syria and the surrounding area.

  3. The Safavids did a great service to Islam in Iran and Afghanistan.

  4. In India the kings of QuUb Sh"h: played their role.

  5. The great statesman NaN:r al-D:n al-ھYs: had a great role in stemming the attacks of the Mongols.

  6. !All"ma .ill: did a great service in protecting the land from deviation in the affair of ‘Khuda Bandeh’.

  7. Sayyid Mu9ammad ibn !Al: al-ھab"tab"v: al-."vir:’s struggle against the Tsarist Crusaders.

  8. The struggle of M:rza Mu9ammad .asan al-Shirazi against the western colonialists.

  9. The struggles of Sharaf al-D:n al-MYs"w: to free Syria and Lebanon from French colonialism.

  10. M:rza Taq: Sh:r"z:’s fomenting of the 1920 revolt in Iraq to expel the colonisers.

All of this and more is the best evidence to prove the continuing struggle of the Sh:!a and their protection of the land, their concern with propagating and protecting Islam, their sacrifices for it, and their defending it against attack.

As for their efforts at the current time, it is sufficient to know that a number of prominent Sh:!a scholars have spent their lives in exile or in prison and under arrest in defence of Islam and protecting the Muslims. Similarly they have played a well acknowledged part in defending Palestine and Jerusalem and other occupied territories.

In addition, the services the Sh:!a have provided to Islamic culture and economics, peace and politics, developing the land and industry, are great in number and would require large volumes to enumerate.

The Shia and Islamic Sciences

The Sh:!a laid the foundation of Islamic sciences.194 For example, AbY Aswad al-Duval: (605-688 C.E.) was the first to write about grammar under the tutelage of Imam !Al: ibn Ab: ھ"lib (a.s.). Al- Khal:l ibn A9mad195 was the person to lay down the science of prosody. J"bir ibn .ayy"n the student of Imam Ja!far al-£"diq (a.s.) was the pioneer of modern chemistry. In over 700 books he dealt with subjects such as: metals and their oxides and salts; nitric, sulphuric, and chloric acids; he also dealt with the preparation of alkalis and their purification through crystallisation, distillation, filtration, and sublimation. He added to Chemistry the fields of experiment and method and hence the world considers him to be the father of Chemistry.

According to Abdul-Ra9m"n al-MiNr:, J"bir alluded to the radioactivity present in bodies. He also discovered new chemical elements unknown to the ancients. He would say: ‘I know from my experiments that there are other elements present in earth. However, I do not have the means at present to extract them.’ Historians say that J"bir pioneered the telephone and telegraph. He had a kind of small box connected to another box with wires with which he communicated with other people at long distances. He also invented a small aeroplane in which Kh"lid al-Barmak: used to sit and fly in the air. This aircraft could remain in flight for extended periods of time and was perhaps was of the helicopter type.

He also invented a robotic doorkeeper made of iron for the abode of a certain minister. This doorkeeper would move and walk and deal with gatecrashers who did not obey the protocols for visiting a minister. In sum, J"bir ibn .ayy"n had a far-reaching influence on many modern inventions, and this age is indebted to him for his laying the foundations of Chemistry. NaN:r al-D:n al-ھYs: was the founder of the famous astronomical observatory at Mar"gheh. He produced some original ideas about astronomical bodies and critiqued the Ptolemaic system in a scientific manner. He was the first to lay down the science of triangles and because of this he is considered by the west to be the founder of the science of missiles. He had many new and useful ideas in all other fields of mathematics. He also invented the new equipment which was used in the observatory to great effect. Shaykh Bah"v al-D:n al-!wmil: (d. 1622 C.E.) discovered laws relating to sound waves which he put into use in some mosques in Isfahan, Iran. He also made use of the laws of water pressure and surface tension in the Fayn gardens in Kashan, Iran. He laid down new principles in Arithmetic.

There are many other Sh:!a scholars and thinkers whose lifestories may be found in the relevant literature.

Successors of the Prophet

As was mentioned previously, the Sh:!a believe that the Prophet Mu9ammad (N) appointed twelve successors to come after him and made it mandatory for the Islamic nation to follow them and learn from them and refer to them. He said in a well known tradition: ‘My successors will be twelve in number.’196 He also said: ‘I am leaving with ye the two weighty things (thaqalayn); the book of Alla>h, and my family; the people of my house(Ahl al-Bayt). As long as you adhere to these two you will never go astray after me ever’.197

These successors as appointed by the Prophet (N) in the tradition of J"bir ibn !Abdull"h al-AnN"r: and others are in the following order as in the table below, together with the dates of their births and deaths and the location of their graves. The names of the other two of the fourteen inerrant ones – the Prophet Mu9ammad (N) and his daughter F"Uima (a.s.) are included.

The twelve Imams and F"Uima al-Zahr"v (a.s.) the foremost of the women of the worlds (Sayyidato-Nis"’ al-!wlamin) the daughter of the Prophet are all like the great Prophet Mu9ammad (N) as regards knowledge and wisdom, virtue and morals, purity and inerrancy, and all other spiritual virtues and perfections; all except the station of prophethood which is particular to the Prophet Mu9ammad (N). They are all one light and whoever adheres to them will be saved and whoever lags behind them will drown and perish.198 F"Uima al-Zahr"v is the wife of the Imam, mother of the purified imams, but she is not an imam.

A Brief History of the Imams

The Prophet Mu9ammad (N), his daughter F"Uima (a.s.) and the twelve Imams, his successors who he ordered the Islamic nation to obey and follow, laid down a complete plan for a good life. They provide a complete constitution for a virtuous life and are role models for mankind for all times and in all their affairs:

governmental, economic, political, commercial, moral, military, agricultural, industrial, cultural, judicial, individual, familial and so on. This is because they undertook different roles in life such as ruler, minister, leader, soldier, revolutionary, teacher, educator, reclusive, trader, farmer, defender, prisoner, exiled, warrior, peacemaker etc. If the world were to follow the way of these leaders it would become an earthly paradise. Such a day is in store at the coming of Imam Mahd: (a.s.).

What follows is a brief history of each one of these twelve infallible Imams and their mother F"Uima (a.s.), the wife of the first successor of the prophet, with a selection of hadith from each one of them, together with what notable people, including their enemies, have said about them:

Fatima al-Zahra’ daughter of the Prophet

F"Uima al-Zahr"v (a.s.) is the daughter of the Prophet Mu9ammad ibn !Abdull"h (N) and her mother was the great lady Khad:ja, Mother of the Believers (a.s.). F"Uima al-Zahr"v was married to Amir al-Mo’mineen !Al: ibn Ab: ھ"lib the master of the successors of the Prophet. Her sons and grandsons are the pure Imams (a.s.). She was born on the 20th day of Jam"d" I in the 45th year of the Prophet’s life. She died unjustly at the age of 18 on Tuesday the 3rd of Jam"d" II in the 11th year of the migration or 9ijra. She was prepared for burial by her husband who buried her in a secret location in Medina according to her will. She was like her father in her worship of Allah and in her asceticism and virtue. Allah revealed a number of verses about her in the Holy Qurv"n199. The Messenger of Allah (N) named her the ‘foremost of the women of the worlds (Sayyidato-Nis"’ al-!wlamin)’200, and the ‘foremost of the women of paradise.’201 The Messenger of Allah (N) used to love her a great deal and whenever she came to visit him he would welcome her and stand up for her and sit her in his place and would often kiss her hands. He used to say that ‘Allah is pleased when F"Uima is pleased and angry when she is angry.’202 He would also say: ‘Fatima is a part of me.’203 She had a number of children to her husband !Al: (a.s.) who were Imam .asan (a.s.), Imam .usayn (a.s.), Mu9assin (a.s.) who was miscarried due to an injury she sustained [when she was brutally assaulted], Lady Zaynab (a.s.), and Lady Umm KulthYm (a.s.).

Hadith from Fatimah al-Zahra’(AS)

‘He (Allah) invented all things not from a thing which existed before, and designed them not by emulating other samples. He created them by His might, and gave them life by His will; not because of a need He had for their creation, or a benefit He had for their design, except for the establishment of His wisdom, awareness (of His creation) about His obedience, appearance of His might, (to invite) His creation to servitude and worship, and to glorify His invitation.

‘ . . . So my father (Muhammad (S)) rose amongst the people to guide them. He saved them from perversion and aberration, and turned their blindness into enlightenment, and guided them towards the right religion, and invited them to the straight path.’

‘The holy Qur’an . . . following it leads to the pleasure of Allah, listening to it (implementing its teachings) results in salvation. Through it can be achieved the clear and enlightening proofs and evidences of Allah, His forewarned prohibitions, His conspicuous arguments, His comprehensive reasoning, His desired virtues, His bestowed permissions, and His written divine laws.’

‘Therefore Allah set faith as the purifier, for you, from polytheism, And (He set) the daily prayers to distance you from arrogance and egoism, And the (giving of) Zakah as the purity of your soul and the growth of your sustenance, And rendered fasting for the firm establishment of sincerity, And the Hajj pilgrimage for the consolidation of the religion, And rendered justice for the harmonisation of the hearts, And (He set) the obedience of us (the Ahl-ul-Bayt) as the order (organising factor) for the religion, and our leadership (the Ima>mah) as the guarantor against disunity and division, And Jiha>d as the honour for Islam, and humiliating for the infidels and hypocrites, And perseverance as an aid for obtaining reward, And the ‘Enjoining good and forbidding evil’ for the interest and correction of the society and the public, And He rendered kindness to the parents as a shield from displeasure, And (He set) keeping bond with the kinship the cause for lengthening of life span, ‘O Allah! Belittle myself in my eyes, and glorify and magnify Your Station to me. Inspire me Your obedience, and the practice which brings about Your pleasure, and (inspire me) the avoidance of anything which may bring about Your wrath, O most merciful of all.’