The Women of Karbala: Ritual Performance and Symbolic Discourses in Modern Shi'i Islam

The Women of Karbala: Ritual Performance and Symbolic Discourses in Modern Shi'i Islam

The Women of Karbala: Ritual Performance and Symbolic Discourses in Modern Shi'i Islam

The Women of Karbala: Ritual Performance and Symbolic Discourses in Modern Shi'i Islam

Excerpt

This book deals with the minority group called Shi'is, which today make up approximately fifteen percent of Muslims. While Iran has the single largest concentration of Shi'is, our analysis will include Shi'i communities in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, and the United States. Before discussing the arguments put forth in this book, we should review the emergence and historical development of Shi'i symbols and rituals.

Karbala and the Emergence of Shi'ism

The roots of the Sunni-Shi'i schism lie in the crisis of succession that occurred upon the death of the Prophet Mohammad in 632 CE. However, this sectarian division took several centuries to fully develop. Upon the death of the Prophet Mohammad, the main challenge facing the young Muslim community was who should succeed the Prophet and in what capacity. It was also unclear who had the right to select a successor. The caliphate is the system of government that evolved out of this crisis. According to this system, the empire was ruled by a caliph, who commanded both temporal and religious authority but did not possess any of the supernatural or metaphysical qualities of the Prophet, such as infallibility, supernatural knowledge and ability, or the ability to receive revelation. While some Muslims supported the ruling caliphs, others believed that the Prophet's son-in-law and cousin, Ali Ebn-e Abi Taleb, should have succeeded the Prophet upon his death. Later, they believed that Ali's descendants should be his successors, beginning with his two sons, Hasan (d. 669) and Hosayn (d. 680).

These Muslims believed that the Prophet named Ali as his successor on more than one occasion before his death. For example, they believed that . . .

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