History of Shia Sect
Shia sect began as a political party among the Arabs and looked to Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, and his descendants for leadership. Soon this movement was localized in Iraq and identified with local patriotism. The Arabs there resented being ruled from Damascus and getting a smaller share of the wealth of the state than the Arabs of Syria. Agitation led to the execution of 12 of the leading men of Kufa. When the first Umayyad Caliph died, Husain a son of Ali listened to a call from Iraq and left Medina with his family and a few followers to seek a kingdom there. He was intercepted by government troops. The Arabs of Kufa, who had invited him, stayed safely at home, so the little band of men was slain and the women and children were made prisoners. Hussain became a martyr.
The Shias render exclusive devotion to the Hashimite section of the Prophet Muhammad's survivors. Fatima was his only surviving child. Ali, her husband, was his first cousin and Hasan and Hussain, his two well-loved grandsons. They regard these 4 and the 12 Imams as infallible and the only group worthy of love and reverence after the Prophet.
Belief of Shia Sect
The cardinal articles of the Shiite creed are belief in the greatness of God, in the Prophets, and in the Imams after them. What marks the Shia off from other Muslims is the doctrine of the Imam for so they preferred to call the head of the state. The Imam is an essential part of religion. He is chosen by God either directly or through a preceding Imam. Sometimes he is announced by name and sometimes only a description of him is given. God must appoint him as an act of grace so that men can perform the duties imposed by reason and avoid evil. He can make no mistake and commit no sin. He is the intermediary between God and man. He is the interpreter of the word of God as written in the Holy Quran, the guardian of the law.
Organisation of Shia Sect
The organisation of the Shia belief includes collections of traditions, interpretations of the Quran, system of law and standard of life which might be called its Sunna. In theology they teach that God can change his mind, this is a transfer of the idea of annulment (Naskh) from the sphere of law to that of history. They allow a man to conceal his religion if public acknowledgement of it would endanger his life.
Festivals of Shia Sect
The Shia has its special festivals, among them the 'Pool' which commemorates Muhammad's appointing Ali his successor at the Pool of Khumm. The most spectacular festival is the mourning for Husain which takes place during the first 10 days ofMuharram. During the day, men parade the streets beating their backs with chains. At night processions recall the events of the fatal day. Closed liners carried by horses or camels represent the women of the party. Husain’s daughter had just been married so the meats for the wedding feast are carried in the procession. The villain of the piece, the man who slew Husain is in red. In India, the tomb of Husain made of Bamboo and paper is part of the procession. Afterwards it is thrown into the sea, burnt or buried. On the last night enthusiasts gash themselves with swords. Another form of the celebration is to have a regular miracle play acted in the courtyard of a big house.
Pilgrimage of Shia Sect
The Shias make pilgrimages to their holy places in Iraq. Once he arrives at the shrine, the pilgrim purifies himself by the prescribed ablutions. At the threshold, he asks the Saint's permission to enter, circumambulates the grave thrice, and then prostrates himself twice before the tomb; all to the accompaniment of prayers and recitations and, it may be added as gifts to the keepers of the shrine.
The strongholds of the Shia Sect are Iraq, Persia and North India. In India, they are mostly concentrated in Oudh, Rampur and Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh and towards the south in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.