A brief history of political-social state of shi ism from the 2nd to the 14th centuries
Shi'ism during the 2nd / 8th century
During the tatter part of the first third of the 2 nd /8 th century, following a series of revolutions and bloody was throughout the Islamic world were which were due to the injustice, repressions, and wrongdoing of the Umayyads, there began an anti- Umayyads, movement in the name of the House hold of the prophet in Khurasan in Persia. The leader of this movement was the Persian general, Abu Muslim Marwazi, who rebelled against Umayyad rule and advances his cause step by step until he was able to overthrow the Umayyad government (Ya’qubi, VOI, III, p, 79, Abu ‘I – Fida, VOI, p, 208).
Although this movement originated from a profound shi’ite background and came into being more or less with the claim of wanting to avenge the blood of the House hold of the prophet, and although people were even asked secretly to give allegiance to qualified member of the family of the prophet, it did not rise directly as a result of the instructions of the Imams.
This is witnessed by the fact that when Abu Muslim offered the caliphate to the sixth Imam in Medina he rejected it completely saying “You are not one of my men and the time is not my time (Ya’qubi VOI, III, p, 86, Muruj al- dhahab, VOI, III p 268).
Finally the Abbasids gained thecaliphte in the name of the family of the prophet and at the beginning showed some kindness to people in general and to descendants of the prophet in particular. In the name of avenging the martyrdom of the family of the prophet, they massacred the Umayyads, going to the extent of opening their graves and burning whatever they found in them. But soon they began to follow unjust ways of the Umayyads and did not abstain in any way from injustice and irresponsible action. Abu Hanifah, the founder of one the four Sunni schools of law, was imprisoned by al-Mansur and tortured Ibn Hanbal, the founder of another school of law, was whipped. The sixth Imam died from poisoning after much torture and pain (Bihar al- an war, VOI, XII,life of Imam ja’ far al – sadiq). The descendants of the Holy prophet were some times beheaded in groups, buried alive, or even placed within walls of government buildings under construction.
Harun al- Rashid, the Abbasid caliph, during whose reign the IsIamic empire reached the apogee of its expansion and power, occasionally would look at the sun and address it in these words, shine wherever thou wilt, thou shalt never be able to leave my kingdom. On the other had his armies were advancing in the East and west, on the other hand a few step from the palace of caliph, and without his knowledge, officials had decided on their own to collect tolls from people who wanted to cross the Baghdad Bridge. Even one day when the caliph himself wanted to cross the bridge he was stopped and asked to pay the toll (Al- Aghani of Abu’ I- Faraj Afghani, cairo 1345- 51 ,the story of bridge of Baghdad).
A singer, to chanting two lascivious verses, incited the passions of the Abbasid caliph, Amin, who awarded him three million dirhams. The chanter in joy threw him at the feet of the caliph saying, Oh leader of the faithful! YOU give me all this money?
The caliph answered, It does not matter. We receive money from an unknown part of the country (al- Aghani, the story of Amin).
The bewildering amount of wealth that was pouring every year form all corners of the Islamic world into the public treasury in the capital helped creating luxury and a mundane atmosphere. Much of it in fact was often spent for the pleasures and iniquities of the caliph of the time. The number of beautiful slave girls in the court of some of the caliphs exceeded thousands. By the dissolution of Umayyad rule and the establishment of the Abbasids, shi’ism did not benefit in any way, its repressive and unjust opponents merely changed their name.
Shi'ism in the 3rd / 9th century
At the beginning of the 3 rd / 9 th century shi’ ism was able to breathe once again. This more favorable condition was first of all due to the fact that many scientific and philosophical books were translated from Greek, Syriac, and other languages into Arabic, and people eagerly studied the intellectual and rational sciences. Moreover, al-Ma’mun, the Abbasid caliph from 198/8131o 218/833, had Mu’tazilite leaninge and since in his religious views he favored intellectual demonstration, he was more inclined to give complete freedom to the discussion and propagation of different religious views. Shi’ite theologians and scholars took full advantage of this freedom and did their utmost to further scholarly activities and propagate shi’ite teaching. Also, al- Ma’mun, following demands of the political forces at the time, had made the eight shi’ ite Imam his successor, as is recounted in most standard histories. As a result the descendants of the Holy prophet and their friend were to a certain extent free from pressures from the government and enjoyed some degrees of liberty. You before long the cutting edge of the sword once again turned toward the shi’ites and the forgotten ways of the past came upon them again. This was particularly true in the case of al- Mutawakki (233/847-247/861) who held a special enmity to wards Ali and the shi’ites. By his order the tomb of the third Imam in Karbala was completely demolished (Abu’ I. Fida and other histories).
Shi'ism in the 4th / 10th century
In the 4th / 10th centuries certain conditions again prevailed which aided greatly the spread and strengthening of shi’ism. Among them were the weaknesses that appeared in the central Abbasid government and administration and the appearance of the Buyid rulers. The Buyids, who were shi’ite, had the greatest influence not only in the provinces of Persia but also in the capital of the caliphate in Baghdad, and even upon the caliph himself. This new strength of considerable proportions enabled the shi’ites to stand up before their opponents who previously had tried to crush them by relying upon the power of the caliphate. It also made it possible for the shi’ites to propagate their religious view openly.
As recorded by historians, during this century most of the Arabian Peninsula was shi’ite with the exception of some the big cities. Even some of the major cities like Hajar, Uman, and sh’dah were shi’ite. In Basra, which had always been a Sunni city and competed with kufa which was considered a shi’ite center, there appeared a notable group of shi’ites Also in Tripoli, Nablus, Tierias, Aleppo, Nayshapur, and Heart there were many shi’ites while Ahwaz and the cost of the Persian Gulf on the Persian side was also shi’ite (al- Had rat al islmiyah of Adam Mez, Cairo, 1366, VOI, I, p, 97).
At the beginning of this century Nasir Utrush, after many years of propagation of his religious mission in northern Persia, gained power in Tabaristan and established a kingdom which continued for several generations after him. Before Utrush, Hasan ibn zayd al- Alawi had regned from many years in Tabaristan (Muruj al- dhahab, VOI, IV, p, 373, al,- Milal wa’ l – nihal of sharistani, Cairo, 1368, VOI, I, p 254).
Also in this period the Fatimids who were IsIma’ili conquered Egypt and organized which lasted for over two centuries ( 296/ 908- 567/1171) (Abu ‘I- Fida, VOI, II, p, 63, and VOI, III, p, 50).
Often disputation and fighting occurred in major cities like Baghdad, Cairo and Nayshapur between shi’ites and sunnis, in come of which the shi’ites would gain the upper hand and come out.
Shi'ism from the 5th / 11th to the 9th / 15th centuries
From the 5th/ 11th to the 9 th/ 15th centuries shi’ism continued to expand as it had done in the 4 th /10 th century. Many kings and rules who were shi’ite appeared in different parts of the Islamic world and propagated shi’itsm Toward the end of the 5 th / 11 th century the missionary activity of Ismai’lism took root in the fort of Alamut and for nearly a century and a half the Ismai’lis lived in complete independence in the central regions of persia. Also the sadat –i Mar’ ashi, who were descendants of the Holy prophet ruled for many years in Mazandaran (Tabristan) shah Muhammad Khudabandah, one of the well known Mongol rulers, became shi’ite and his descendants rules for many years in Persia and were instrumental in spreading shi’ism. Mention must also be made of the king of the Aq Qoyunlu and Qara Qoyunlu dynastied who rules in Tabriz and whose domain extended to Fars and Kerman as well as of the Fatimid government which was ruling in Egypt.
Of course religious freedom and the possibility of exerting religious power by the populace differed under different rulers for example, with the termination of Fatimid rule and coming to power of the Ayyubids the scene changed completely and the shi’ite population of Egypt and Syria lost its religious independence. Many of the shi’ites of Syria was killed during this period merely on the accusation of following shi’ism. One of these was shahid i- awwal (the first Martyr) Muhammad ibn Makki, one of the great figures in shi’ite jurisprudence, who was killed in Damascus in 786/ 1384 (Rayhant al- adab of Muhammad, Ali Tabrizi, Tehran 1326- 32- VOI, II. P, 362, and most works on the biography of famous men). Also Shaykh al- ishraq shilhab al- Din suhrawardi was killed in Aleppo on the accusation that he was cultivating Batini teachings and philosophy (Rayhanat a- adab, VOI, II,P, 380). Altogether during this period shi’ism was growing from the point of view of numbers, even though its religious power and freedom depend upon local conditions and the rulers of the time. During this period, however, shi’ism never became the official religion of any Muslim state.
Shi'ism from the 10th / 16th to the 11th / 17th centuries
In the 10th/ 16th centuryIsmai’l, who was of the household of shaykh safi al- Din Ardibili (d 735/ 1334) a Sufi master and also a shi’ite, began a revolt in Ardibil, with three hundred Sufis who were disciples of his forefathers, with the aim of establishing an independent and powerful shi’ite country. In this way he began the conquest of Persia and overcame the local feudal princes. After a series of bloody wars with local rulers and also the ottomans who held the title of caliph, he ducceeded in forming Persia piece by piece into a country and in making shi’ism the official religion in his kingdom (Rawdat al- safa, Habib al- siyar and other).
After the death of Shah Ismai’l other safavid king reined in Persia until the 12 Th/ 18 th century and each continued to recognize shi’ism as the official religion of the country and further to strengthen its hold upon this land. At the height of their power, during the reign of shah Abbas, the safavids were able to increase the territorial expansion and the population Persia to twice its present size (Tarikh- i- alam abbasiof Islander Bayk, Tehran, 1334, A,H. solar ). As for other Muslim lands, the shi’ite population continued the same as before and increased only through the natural growth of population.
Shi'ism from the 12th / 18th to the 14th / 20th centuries
During the past three centuries shi’ism has followed its natural rate of growth as before. At the present moment, during the latter part of the the 14 Th / 20 th century, shi’ism is recognized as the official religion in Iran, and in the Yemen and Iraq the majority population is shi’ite. In nearly all Iands where there are Muslims one can find a certain number of shi’ite It bas been said that altogether in the world today there are about eight to ninety million shi’ites.
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