Friday, 10 October 2014

The Sunni-Shia Schism in Islam, Iran, Iraq and the origins of ISIL

The Sunni-Shia Schism in Islam, Iran, Iraq and the origins of ISIL

ISIL- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Sometimes called ISIS - Islamic State of Iraq & Syria-

have been in the news for sometime now. Ever wondered about the origin?

After Muhammed 's death in 632BCE ( at the age of 62) , there were disputes over religious and political leadership .

These would give rise to schism in the Muslim community.

The majority accepted the legitimacy of the three rulers after Muhammed ( Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab and Uthman ibn al-Affan) but won't accept the 4th Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib

They became known as Sunnis.

A minority disagreed, and believed that Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib, as his successor and only certain descendants of Ali could be Imams.

As a result, they believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib was the first Imam (leader), rejecting the legitimacy of the previous Muslim caliphs Abu Bakr, Uthman ibn al-Affan and Umar ibn al-Khattab.

-they became known as the Shiites


Remember this dude, Sheikh Ismail I (pix 1):

Iran’s population was mostly Sunni of the Shafi`i and Hanafi legal rites until the triumph of the Safavids

The Safavids were one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Persia (modern Iran)

(From 1500–2 Sheikh Ismail I, the founder of the Safavid dynasty, conquered Tabriz in Iran, as well as Azerbaijan.

He would take most of the next decade to consolidate his control over Iran, where most of the Persian population was still Sunni.

His hatred of the Sunnis knew no bounds: he was the most intolerant Shia ruler since the fall of the Fatimids and his persecution of Sunnis was ruthless.

He aimed at no less than the complete destruction of Sunnism.

The Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunnism to Shiism made Iran the spiritual bastion of Shia Islam against the onslaughts of Sunni Islam, and the repository of Persian cultural traditions and self-awareness of Iranianhood, acting as a bridge to modern Iran

Earlier on in history, the Muslims had taken over Persia:

The Persian ( Sassanid) Empire ( Iran) used to be the major player in the region and Iraq used to be it's capital state

This changed at the battle of Al-Qadissiyah fought in 636BCE:

It was the decisive engagement between the Arab Muslim army and the Sassanid Persian army ( supported by the Byzantines )during the first period of Muslim expansion.

It resulted in the Islamic conquest of Persia and was key to the conquest of Iraq.

As documented above, both Iran and Iraq ended up having Shia majorities. Sunni Muslims were in the minority

Then Saddam Hussein- pix 2 ( became President in 1979) and his Ba'ath party ( took power via a coup in 1968) happened to Iraq. He was a Sunni

This led to the persecution of Shiites in Iraq and frequent turf wars with Shia-dominated Iran

-In 1979, the Revolution happened in Iran

-The Ayatollah ( Ruhollah Khomeini, pix 3 ) encouraged repressed Shiites to revolt in Iraq

-this was one of the reasons ( including centuries of animosity and perceived wrongs) for the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq wars. It ended in a stalemate

-Saddam was deposed in 2003, following the Gulf war. He was executed in 2006 having been found guilty of many atrocities-including killing 148 Shiite Iraqis

- the Shia majority now took over Government and started persecuting the Sunni minority

-this is the genesis of the current terrorist group, ISIS or ISIL

-the group has grown significantly under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ( pix 4), gaining support in Iraq as a result of alleged economic and political discrimination against Iraqi Sunnis. They have also incorporated the Sunni insurgents in the Syrian Civil war



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