Discrimination toward Shia Muslims – Examples from History

Hatred toward Shia Muslims & followers of Imam Ali with Examples from The History of Islam

By: Hussein Al-Rumaith

Recently a human rights organization named Shia Rights Watch was able to list the term Anti-Shi’ism in Urban and Merriam Webster dictionaries as mean of introducing a definition for a marginalized crime, which has been taking place for a long time. The term is defined, prejudice against or hatred toward Shia Muslims, which includes a huge amount of grievances and calamities that Shia Muslims have been facing throughout history. Unfortunately, due to political agendas and corrupt means of legitimacy and containment, the notion of anti-Shi’ism has been on the rise, and many innocent Muslims are paying the price with their lives. However, this type of brutality against Shia Muslims is rooted in Islamic history and many of the historical Islamic figures have been praised and even glorified for their genocides against Shia Muslims.

Ever since the death of Prophet Mohammad and marginalization of Imam Ali, who was the rightful successor of the Prophet, the followers of Imam Ali have been labeled as rejecters and outlaws. They faced persecution and sever punishments for their faith and during certain periods, Shia Muslims were prisoned and killed for the simplest reasons such as their names and affiliations. A person named Ali, Ja’afar, Hassan, Hussein or Sajjad was subjected to capital punishment and death, which forced many Shia Muslims to migrate and flee their home towns to remote destinations and mountains. In addition, many Muslims chose to hide their identity and faith in the public, which meant they would act and pray like a random Sunni Muslim to save their lives and prevent persecution.

Therefore, this article would present the names of some commanders and rulers who are known to be the most brutal against Shia Muslims, and mainstream Islamic history has glorified them as heroes and noble men.

Obeidallah Ibn Ziyad

This man was the governor of Basra and Kufa during the era of Yazid Ibn Mu’awiya (the second king of Umayyad dynasty). Yazid decided to force certain individuals to give their allegiance and for this purpose he chose to take a coercive measure against them. However, when Yazid found out about the intention of Imam Hussein to travel to Kufa, he sent his notorious governor Obeidallah Ibn Ziyad to Kufa to stop Imam Hussein. Ultimately, Yazid decided to send an army and kill Imam Hussein in a famous battle, which is known as Battle of Karbala on the 10th day of Muharram (the first month in lunar-Islamic calendar).

Ibn Ziyad was known for his hatred toward Imam Ali and his followers and anyone affiliated with the family of Imam Ali. Therefore, when he became the governor of Kufa, he imprisoned majority of Shia Muslims, who were the followers of Imam Ali and Hussein. Finally, Ibn Ziyad led the army of Yazid in Karbala and committed the most horrific crime of history and killed Imam Hussein and his seventy two companions, in the most vicious way. The army captured the women and children of Imam Hussein and his companions as well and paraded them throughout the countries in a degrading manner.

Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi

This man might be the only historical figure who has been criticized and degraded by all Islamic sects, due to his crimes against Muslims in general. However, Hajjaj was known for his absolute loyalty to the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, and he considered any individual, who would reject the authority of the caliph as an infidel, and therefore deserves to be killed. Hajjaj’s hatred toward the followers of Imam Ali and Shia Muslims was publicly known to everyone, including the caliph himself, which encouraged the caliph to send Hajjaj to Kufa, for the purpose of crushing any uprising that might arise. After crushing all the oppositions in Arabian Peninsula, Hajjaj was sent to Iraq as governor of Kufa, which was known as an unstable place, due to high numbers of Imam Ali followers (Shia Muslims).

History has not presented a specific number for Hajjaj’s crimes, but they are believed to be in thousands, and they were mostly killed for their faith or opposing the corrupt and brutal Umayyad caliph. Hajjaj is cursed in some historical narrations for his crimes against some of the most pious and respected figures of that time, like Sa’eed Ibn Jubair, Kumail Ibn Ziyad and many other companions of the Prophet and Imam Ali.

Haroon Al-Abbasi

Known as Aron in western literature and Alun in Indo-Chinese literature, Haroon was the fifth ruler in the Abbasid dynasty that ruled the Muslim Empire after the collapse of Umayyad dynasty. He is considered the most famous king of this dynasty and the city of Baghdad was established during his reign. The sixth and seventh Imams of Shia Islam, Imam Ja’afar Al-Sadeq and Imam Musa Al-Kadhem lived during his period, and they were put under tremendous amount of pressure and oppression.

The era of Haroon is known to be the hardest for Shia Muslims in history, as he initiated the forceful migration of Shia Muslims to remote destinations and imprisoned thousands of them. His guards and commanders innovated several brutal ways to torture and kill Shia Muslims, which are narrated in numerous historical resources. Haroon was known for his glorious palaces, which were built on the bodies of innocent Shia Muslims killed in his prisons. In addition, Kufa and surrounding areas witnessed the elimination of thousands of Shia Muslims by throwing them in water wells and sealing the wells. Haroon’s biggest crimes against Shia Muslims was the imprisonment of their Imam, Imam Al-Kadhem for seventeen years in some of the most notorious prisons of that time. Ultimately, Haroon ordered Sendi Ibn Shahek (Notorious Prison Guard) to poison the Imam and through his body on one of Baghdad’s bridges.

Mutawakel Al-Abbasi

He is the tenth Abbasid caliph, who was known for his hatred toward the holy household of the Prophet and Shia Muslims. During Mutawakel’s era, Shia Muslims were banned from visiting the shrine of Imam Hussein and heavy taxation and tariffs were enforced for this purpose. However, when Mutawakel witnessed the insistence and determination of Shia Muslims to visit the grave of their third Imam, regardless of heavy taxation, he ordered his guards to chop of one hand of each visitor to Karbala (Shrine of Imam Hussein). This decision of Mutawakel did not prevent the Shias from visiting the grave of their Imam, and the insisted on continuing with their pilgrimage toward Karbala. Therefore, Mutawakel raised the bar and ordered that from each ten people visiting the grave of Imam Hussein, one of them must be killed, which did not have noticeable results as well. Ultimately, Mutawakel ordered nine people out of ten must be killed, for the purpose of visiting the grave of Imam Hussein, which still did not prevent Shia Muslims.

Mutawakel’s hatred toward the holy household of Prophet Mohammad was so evident and public that led him to reroute the Euphrates toward the grave of Imam Hussein, and demolish the grave. Historians narrate that when Mutawakel rerouted the Euphrates toward the grave of Imam Hussein, the water would come near the grave and circle it, which was miraculous. For the purpose of torturing and killing the Shia Muslims and terrorizing them, Mutawakel appointed one of his most brutal commanders named, Ibrahim Al-Yazdaj in that region.

Saladin (Salah Al-Deen Al-Ayoubi)

Saladin or Salah Al-Deen in Arabic is founder of the Ayoubi Dynasti, who is respected by many western and mainstream Sunni historians, is one of the most brutal murderers, who killed thousands of Shia Muslims in Egypt and other places. Saladin is famous for his noble conduct with Kind Richard (Lion’s Heart) and how he acted nobly with the crusaders in Jerusalem. However, this king did not show any nobility and mercy with Shia Muslims and killed them in cold blood.

The end of Fatimid dynasty was on his hand, and in order to convert Egypt to Sunni Islam, Saladin is used the most brutal coercive approach a ruler can use against his subjects. Egyptian resources from that era suggest that Saladin killed over one hundred thousand Egyptian Shias and forced their families to convert and embrace Sunni Islam. To Shia Muslims, Saladin and his ear are considered a reign of pain and sorrow, due to the tremendous and vicious crimes this man committed against Shia Muslims. In addition, Saladin is held responsible for the loss of thousands of books in Cairo, which were kept in the famous Cairo Library. He ordered his army to burn down the library and demolish any sign and remaining for the Shia Islam literature in that country.

Saddam Hussein

Although in modern political definitions Saddam Hussein is considered a secular dictator, but his actions and policies were primarily targeting the Shia majority of Iraq and led to their sever marginalization and persecution. The crimes of Saddam Hussein should not be thrown on the burden of Sunni Muslims of Iraq, as there are numerous victims among Sunni Muslims of this country. However, Saddam Hussein knew the Shia majority of his country would ultimately rise against his and reject his rule and tyranny. Therefore, he drew many of his family members and Sunni tribes around him and appointed them in high governmental positions and gave them authority to ravish and slaughter the oppositions, who were mostly Shia Muslims.

Saddam Hussein, used deadly and lethal weapons against his population in 1991 revolution in Southern Iraq, and the mass graveyards are still being found until this day, which show how innocent men, women and children were buried alive. He demolished entire cities and bombed the Shrines of Shia Imams in Karbala and Najaf. Saddam Hussein executed several Shia scholars and jurists and ordered his general to commit several genocides in Southern Iraq to deter the Shia Muslims from ever rising against him again.


History is filled with genocides and crimes against Shia Muslims, which have not been disclosed to the world. The intention of Shia Muslims was not different than anyone else during all times, as they were only seeking to live a peaceful life and practice their faith freely. Unfortunately, the Muslims Empires and dynasties were not capable of accepting such a simple notion, and physical elimination and slaughtering was their only answer to the existence of any Shia group.

In addition, many Shias have not been able to study their history and deliver it to the world to witness the amount of oppression they had to face during different eras. Therefore, Shia Muslims are obligated to use different methods such as: writing, mass media, certification, Museums and art to register these genocides and keep them as a resource for the future generations to observe and learn from.

The Emigrant

By: Contributed Content 

During the seventh century and precisely in the year of 670 (AD) Islam entered Europe through some islands and European coasts of the  Mediterranean Sea, and it spread during the Ottoman expansion in the Balkan countries and south Europe countries and Muslim historical colonies existed in Russia.

In the last years, Muslims emigrated especially from the western Arabic countries and turkey to Europe and they count as emigrants and the population and the temporary workers.

According to the latest statistics from the year 2010, by the Pew academy, the number of Muslims in all of Europe, except Turkey, reached 44 million Muslim, representing about (6%) of the total population of Europe. The number of Muslims in the European Union countries reached about 16 million (3.2%).

According to the Center of the German Archive of Islam (DI) academy , the number of Muslims in Europe is about 53 million (5.2%), the figure includes both Russia and the European part of Turkey. The number of the Muslims in the European Union countries is about 16 million (3.2%).

Islamic presence in the West is shaped as two types: the first one is as old settlements as in the Balkans as a result of the Islamic conquests of those areas, and the second  one is the new immigrations which began since the late nineteenth century and grew after World War II, and accelerated the beginning of the sixties of the twentieth century.

The first migrations were mostly for economic reasons, and the aim of them was to amass a fortune and then return to the mother lands, but who returned of them were few and mostly they settled down, either by invoking their spouses or – sometimes – marring people of those countries.

The migrations in the late stages (starting from the eighties) was for humanitarian and political reasons  (for asylum) and sometimes they were for scientific reasons, as some of the carriers of advanced degrees from Arab countries preferred the stability in these countries purely for scientific reasons.

We notice that the migration to the Germanic Latin parts, France and Germany especially, is for economic reasons, and that the migration to the Anglo-Saxon parts, Britain and the United States and Canada, is for scientific reasons,and the political immigrations are scattered in all of the Western countries as far as the worsening of the human rights situation in the Arab – Islamic countries.

In the recent years, and particularly after the events of 11th of September  in 2001 the Islamic presence  in the West exposed many harassment, and a number of Muslims in those countries have contributed with their actions in increasing the restrictions on others ..

The deceased Imam Mohammed al-Husseini al-Shirazi (the grace of God be upon him) notified a lot of the subjects about the Muslim immigrations to the West, and was the first to talk about this issue and draw the attention to it ..

In his book (to our sons in a foreign countries), which was issued first time in 1984 he discussed a lot of important issues and focused on them, he directs his speech to these immigrants in Western countries who traveled from their homelands as a result of tyranny and dictatorship ..

The immigrants who traveled in order to study, or work, have to pay attention to the definition of Islam to non-Muslims, as its their legitimate duty, it’s also humanitarian service, and strengthening of the Islamic lands and Muslims. He didn’t leave that advice without a detailing how to do that and giving the methods to follow to achieve this .. through several ways, including:

People have to do individual interviews, and do speeches in the crowd, and speak out  in the media.

Muslims have to publish their words in newspapers, or writing books and publish them.

Muslims have to Encourage authors and broadcasters, teachers and the owners of newspapers to publish articles and their words , through friendship or help people with their needs or things like that.

Help those who define and introduce Islam, with money or other things that requires the expansion their activities.

The establishment of Islamic institutions, which serve this purpose. To other means of dissemination of Islam.

And because Imam Shirazi was a ware and familiar with a lot of immigration experiences of Muslims, and the consequent problems and challenges as a result of cultural differences between immigrants and the the natives of the places which they go to, he (Peace be upon him) emphasizes to maintain the Islamic personality of immigrants, (the doctrine and morals and deeds, and not dissolving in those communities, and drift with the currents and dont lose his personality and take other countries personalities, and leave his faith to atheism.

Or to the doctrine of non-Muslims, and acquiring a characteristic of those societies, to the moralities which is contrary to Islam, the preservation of the personality, as well as its evidence of the strong personality, it’s also authentic, and brings you the respect of others, people like the steadfast perseverance person, and hate the one which lose his personality).

And the way to maintain the Islamic personality is the immigrant Muslim should be a ware and know the religion and its principle before his emigration, and avoid such as these dilemmas, and gain the respect of others.

Imam AlShirazi also confirms the scientific aspects of the migrants and tells them to gain them, through studying and perseverance on it, until they get the highest degree in the science, the culture doesn’t raise but with knowledge , and which nation who is more informed , and had higher culture, the more likely deserved to lead the world, and if Muslims could gain both faith and and knowledge they were able to take their old position in history, when they were leading the world, and nations and the people owed them them a lot.

And learning in its highest grades is not only an Islamic duty, but it is also the duty for your civilization, because (the nation that wants to excel on other civilization, must take the highest means of civilization as science and work, not getting satisfied to reach the level of other nations but even higher).

And another advice provided by the Imam is (a Muslim who lives in a foreign country, whether he was going to study, or to make money, or other purposes, he has to make his biggest main concern to occupy the sensitive positions).

And also leave the blind mimicry and discarded it, and measure all things by reason and logic, if they saw a thing good, they take it, otherwise They refuse it, and if they were suspicious in its goodness or corruption, they wait until it is clear, because waiting when you suspicious is better than getting into perdition.

If those tips and guidance were personal for immigrants alone, there is a lot for the immigrant to go on and do with other immigrants as groups via charities which do a number of things within the countries they live in, including:

  1. build a mosque for prayers and celebrations, and so on.
  2. open a library of various Islamic books, and other books which are needed.
  3. league meeting to deliberate their affairs, and the other associated things with Islam or Islamic countries or the relations between the countries , or missionary affairs, or other affairs.
  4. The establishment of a weekly magazine, monthly or semi-monthly, or a newspaper that they could afford it.
  5. establishment of a radio or TV station, broadcasting different programs that are important for Islam, and useful for Muslims in the matters of their faith or their life.
  6. The supervision of the Islamic activities in the country, and the the young students and workers, and care to revive the spirit of the movement and activity in them, so they move forward.

Greatest Shia Scholars of All Time

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

The uniqueness of Shia traditional seminaries and schools of thoughts lays in the independence and continuous innovation being presented to the world, throughout history. Majority of people tend to think of Shia seminaries and religious schools as a place of radicalization, where the only subjects being taught are Quran and history of Prophet’s life. Many observers, who have visited the Shia seminaries in Najaf, Karbala and Qom have been shocked by the level of intellect and thoroughness, which these schools operate by. The numerous types of subjects and majors that are taught in the seminaries are limited to jurisprudence, Quran, Hadith and history. Students in Shia seminaries study the different philosophical schools of the west and the east, mathematics, science, biology and physics, which help the scholars understand the contemporary challenges of each era precisely and extract religious rulings according to the circumstances of modern age. Therefore, we tend to see some religious rulings and Fatwas have been changes according to time and position, which mandates different variables of their own.

However, after the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, the Shia community have introduced many great scholars, who have been very influential domestically and globally. These scholars developed and delivered new methods of discretion and interpretation, which has helped Shias and even other sects to understand their religion in a more effective approach.

  1. Sheikh Al-Tusi. His full name is Abu Ja’afar Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Tusi, who was born in 996 in modern day Iran. He moved to Baghdad for the purpose of finishing his religious studies under the supervision of scholars like the Great Sheik Al-Mufid and Sayed Al-Murtatha. When Sheikh Al-Tusi realized that Baghdad was not a safe place anymore, due to political instabilities and conflicts, he moved to Najaf and established the seminary (Hawza) of Najaf, which is still active until present day. He is considered one of greatest scholars of Shia Islam and his books and opinions are being taught until this day by scholars. He mastered numerous subjects like, jurisprudence, philosophy, mathematics, theology and medicine.
  2. Sheik Al-Mufid. Sheikh Al-Mufid was born in a small town north of Baghdad named, Ukbara in 948. He migrated to Baghdad and studies alongside the prominent Shia Scholar Sheikh Al-Saduq. He is considered one of the forefathers of philosophical theology, and wrote numerous books in different subjects, which are considered very important resources for Islamic studies. Sheikh Al-Mufid lived during the Golden era of Islamic history and taught some of the Shia Islam’s most prominent Shia scholars.
  3. Sheikh Al-Saduq. Sheikh Al-Saduq is considered one of earliest scholars of Shia Islam during the beginning stages of Imam Al-Mahdi’s occultation. His full name is: Abu Ja’afar Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Babawaih Al-Qummi and he was born in 923, in the city of Qom, which was considered a center for religious studies and intellectual work. He is regarded as the father of Shia jurisprudence and tradition, which makes him an important part of legitimizing many narrations and traditions of Shia Imams.
  4. Mohammad Ibn Ya’qub Al-Kulayni. Born in modern day Iran in 941, during the minor occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, Sheikh Al-Kulayni is considered one of the main tradition and narrations compilers of Shia history. He is the author of “Kitab Al-Kafi”, which is the main book of “Hadith” narrations for Shia Muslims and many of Islamic beliefs and pillars are based on the narrations stated in his book.
  5. Baha’a Al-Din Mohammad Ibn Hussain Al-Amili. He is also known as Sheikh Al-Bahae’e, who was born on February 18th of 1547 in the Amil mount of modern Southern Lebanon. Sheikh Al-Bahae’e is known to be a scholar in jurisprudence, Islamic traditions, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and architecture, and he was also a prominent poet. He migrated to the city of Isfahan during the Safavid era, who ruled Iran for a long time, and Shiekh Al-Bahae’e is considered the founder of Isfahan’s religious school of jurisprudence and philosophy. He wrote 100 books and commentaries in Arabic and Persian, which are being used as primary resources in Islamic studies, and some of the most fascinating architectural and engineering wonders of Islamic era were built by him. From these wonders the famous “Naqshe Jahan Square”, “Charbagh Avenue” and “Manar Jonban” in Isfahan can be mentioned. The Manar Jonban are the famous shaking minarets, which are shakable by hand, without any destruction.
  6. Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Hurr Al-Amili. He is known as Al-Hurr Al-Amili, who was born on April 26th 1624 in Amil mount region of Southern Lebanon. He studied under the wing of his father, who was a prominent Shia scholar and other Shias scholars of that era, which enabled him to receive a permission to teach and transmit narrations. He is one of the authors of Shia Muslims great “Four Books” which is known as “Wasa’el Al-Shia” that has thousands of narrations from the Prophet and his holy household.
  7. Mohammad Baqir Al-Majlisi. His known as Allamah Al-Majlisi, who was born in the city of Isfahan, Iran in 1616. Allamah Al-Majlisi is considered one of the greatest Shia scholars after Sheikh Al-Tusi and Sheikh Al-Saduq, as his legacy is beyond the notion of jurisprudence and Islamic traditions. Allamah Al-Majlisi lived in the era of Saffavid dynasty, and held numerous official and unofficial positions, which transformed the era of traditional Shia seminary into a politically active institution, but with total independence from the political foundation. Allamah Al-Majlisi, studies under the wing of famous Mulla Sadra and other prominent Shia scholars, and he gathered the largest amount of narrations and traditions in Shia history in a book called: “Bihar Al-Anwar”, which translates to “Oceans of Lights”.
  8. Al-Muhaqqiq Al-Karaki. The term ‘Muhaqqiq” is an Arabic word, which means the “researcher” and this name was given to Al-Karaki due to his extensive and precise work in Islamic sciences and intellectual subjects. Muhaqqia Al-Karaki was born in southern Lebanon and studies under the wing of numerous prominent Islamic scholars. Ultimately he travelled to Iran during the Saffavid era and was welcomed by the King and assumed the post of Grand Jurist of Iran. Muhaqqiq Al-Karaki was the first Shia scholar who assumed such a position, and his opinions and intellectual works are taught and examined until this day in Shia seminaries.
  9. The Great Sheikh Murtadha Al-Ansari. He is also referred to as the Great Sheikh. Sheikh Al-Ansari was born in modern day Iran in Dezful, which is located in Khuzestan province in 1803. He started his studies in his hometown and then migrated to Iraq and resided in the city of Najaf. He studies under the wing of some of the most knowledgeable scholars of Shia Islam, like Ayatollah Mohammad Hassan Al-Najafi, Mirza Ahmad Al-Naraqi and Kashif Al-Gheta’a. After the death of his primary teacher, Sheikh Al-Najafi, who was the highest religious authority of Shia Muslims, he assumed that positions based on the suggestion of Sheikh Al-Najafi. His intellectual and jurisprudential work is considered as an essential part of seminary studies, which is one of the main pillars for any individual to become a jurist. Sheikh Al-Ansari’s pupils are considered among the greatest Shia scholars of all times, who include the Great Mirza Al-Shirazi (Tobacco Revolution) and Mohammad Kadhem Al-Khorasani, who wrote another religious book that is being taught until this day in Shia seminaries.
  10. Mirza Mohammad Hassan Al-Shirazi (The great Miraza Al-Shirazi). Mirza Al-Shirazi is considered one of the greatest scholars of Shia Islam, who actually used his religious authority to advert a political policy during the Qajar era. He transferred the Shi’s seminary from the city of Najaf to the city of Samara. The city of Samara is known to have a Sunni majority population, but Mirza Al-Shirazi was known for his tolerant and co-existential conduct toward other Islamic sects. Many of the modern day era scholars of Shia Islam are considered to be the followers of his school, and hundreds of Shia scholars have graduated from under his wing and his pupil’s classes.
  11. Sayed Abul Qasim Al-Khoie. Sayed Al-Khoie is considered one of the greatest modern Shia scholars who had thousands of pupils and his legacy is believed to be continuous for many future decades. He was born in Khoi, Iran, and he migrated to Iraq and attended the lectures of great prominent Shia scholars like, Sheikh Al-Nae’eni, Al-Kompani, Thia al-Deel Al-Iraqi, Mirza Ali Al-Qadhi and other Shia scholars. He assumed the highest religious authority for Shia Muslims after the death of Sayed Mohsin Al-Hakeem and taught thousands of scholars and jurists, who are still alive in present day.
  12. Sayed Mohammad Ibn Mahdi Al-Shirazi. Sayed Al-Shirazi’s legacy is without doubt beyond religious and Islamic studies and subjects, as this Shia scholar has written over one thousand books in a wide range of subjects. He wrote in politics, philosophy, management, sociology, psychology, ethics, history, finance, economic and many other matters that affected the lives of people. In addition, he has written the largest series of jurisprudential series in the history of Shia Islam, which is more than 135 volumes. He presented modern political theories for Islamic governance, which based on pluralism and democracy. Sayed Al-Shirazi was believer in the foundation of institutions and organized efforts, which he thought would be more effective for introducing Islam. He is considered the first Shia scholar to call for taking advantage of mass media production means, and his followers established the first Shia TV network in 2001.

There are hundreds of other scholars, who have enriched the Islamic history with their work, which many Muslims even are not aware of, but these scholars have impacted the Shia schools of thought in numerous ways, which is evident until present day.

Why Most of Shia Imams are Buried in Iraq?

Iraq & Shi’a Muslims

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

When the name IRAQ is mentioned majority of people tend to think of ancient Mesopotamia, Babylon Gardens, Hammurabi’s code of laws, the Akkadians and many historical realities, which chose this place to exist. However, there are other notions that are revived every time the name of Iraq is mentioned, which distort the image of this beautiful nation and its long history of tolerance and diversity that accepted numerous ethnic and religious groups alongside each other. The one fact that makes Iraq a unique place with all its minorities and different ethnicities, is its majority population, and their acceptance of others along with their continuous struggle against tyrants and regimes.

Iraq’s majority population are Shi’a Muslims, and it has been like that for centuries, which gives this groups a historical depth and root within the sociological foundation of this country. However, the majority of Iraq’s population wasn’t always the Shi’as, and there are numerous historical, political and religious aspects, which caused this demographic transformation. The actual map of this nation has been subjected to many changes throughout history, but there were always political and geographical facts that mandated certain realities upon this part of the world that could not exclude specific parts.

Iraq of Basra & Iraq of Kufa

The southern city of Basra was founded in 636 as an encampment for Arab for tribesmen and armies of the Islamic state, and gradually it became a civilized position due to its location, which was near the Persian Gulf. Throughout the Islamic history Basra witnessed numerous battle and confrontations, and was the host to the first Islamic civil war, which was raged by Ayesha (wife of the Prophet) against Imam Ali (the rightful Caliph of Prophet Mohammad, SAWS).

Kufa, which is located in central Iraq was founded in 637, and it was founded as a military camp and command center during the Caliphate of Omar Ibn Khattab. However, Kufa came to be known for its Arab tribes, who were loyal to Imam Ali, which was considered a hub for Shi’a Muslims. When Imam Ali became the Caliph, he transferred his capital from Medina to Kufa, and chose this city as the center of his Caliphate. During this era, many of the followers of Imam Ali migrated to this country and resided in different parts of this land, and Iraq officially became to be known as the center for Shi’a Muslims. This was a huge factor for later Sunni dynasties to assign their most brutal governors for Kufa and Basra, since they had realized, these places (Basra and Kufa) would become the spark locations revolts and uprisings.

Shi’a Imams & Iraq

  • Imam Ali (a): Imam Ali moved the capital city of Muslim Empire from Medina and Kufa as mentioned above, which was a huge factor in many of his followers migrating to this place. In addition, the centrality of place made Iraq a strategic place politically, socially and militarily, since it was close to Persia, which was the newly conquered nation under the Muslim’s rule. It was close to the Levant and it was considered as central defence location against possible Roman invasion from the north. Ultimately, Imam Ali was assassinated in Kufa, while he was praying and he was buried in modern day city of Najaf, which was the outskirts of Kufa during that time.
  • Imam Al-Hussein (a): Imam Al-Hussein, who is the third Imam of Shi’a Muslims came to Iraq after the ruler of his time, Yazid Ibn Muawiya, who was known for his corruption and was hated by majority of Muslims, decided to either assassinate him or force him to give allegiance. Therefore, Imam Al-Hussein decided to leave Medina and go to Mecca for Haj, which later he found out that Yazid would not hesitate in violating the holiness of Mecca for the purpose of killing him. Finally, Imam Al-Hussein left Mecca for Iraq after he received thousands of invitations from dignitaries of Kufa. Prior to his arrival, the army of Yazid surrounded Imam Al-Hussein in a place called vally of Karbala, which is modern day city of Karbala. In a historic battle, Yazid’s army, which exceeded thirty thousand troops stood against Imam Al-Hussein and his seventy two companions. The battle of Karbala represented the victory of blood over sword, and how a small group are glorified through their ultimate sacrifice, and how a large group are doomed and cursed in history for carrying the most vicious crime in history of mankind. Imam Al-Hussein and his companions were slaughtered in Karbala and later on they were buried in that location. Karbala became the aim for all Shi’a Muslims from all over the world, and visiting the shrine of Imam Al-Hussein became the ultimate goal of each Shi’a Muslim, which gave Iraq as a country and Shi’a Muslims in this country an extra importance.
  • Imam Al-Kadhem (a): Imam Al-Kadhem is the seventh imam of Shi’a Muslims, and he is known for spending the lengthiest time in the prisons of the Abbasid dynasty under the rule of Harun Al-Abbasi. Imam Al-Kadhem was exiled from Medina, his birth city and brought to Baghdad, by the order of Harun. Harun’s strategy was keeping the Imam of Shi’a Muslims under his supervision would prevent any attempt for revolt and uprising, since the Shi’as were afraid for the life of their leader. Finally, Harun could not accept the presence of Al-Kadhem anymore and ordered his assassination by poison, while he was in prison. He was buried in Baghdad, and the area around his shrine became a a destination for Shi’as from around the world.
  • Imam Al-Jawad (a): He is the ninth Imam of Shi’a Muslims and the shortest-lived Imam. Al-Jawad is the grandson of Imam Al-Kadhem and after the death of his father, Imam Al-Redha, who was assassinated by Al-Mammoun (son of Harun) in Iran, he was summoned to stay in Baghdad. After a while he was allowed to go back to Medina and he devoted his life to education and helping the needy. When Al-Mammoun passed away, the next Abbasid king (Al-Mu’tasem) summoned him to Baghdad again, and forced him to stay there. Al-Mammoun had forced Imam Al-Jawad to marry his daughter, and later on  Al-Mu’tasem ueged Imam Al-Jawad’s wife, Um Al-Fathl (daughter of Al-Mammoun) to poison the Imam and end his life. Imam Al-Jawad was buried next to his grandfather, Imam Al-Kadhem in Baghdad and Shi’a Muslims around the world had another reason for visiting this holy site in Baghdad.
  • Imam Al-Hadi (a): He is the tenth Imam of Shi’a Muslims and the son of Imam Al-Jawad. During the era of Mutawakkil Al-Abbasi, the governor of Medina sent a letter to Mutawakkil and explained the popularity of the Imam and how the people were gathered around him. Mutawakkil feared that such a notion would encourage uprising and unrest against his survival, therefore, he ordered his governor in Medina to exile the Imam to Samara, which was the new capital of the Abbasids. Mutawakkil placed the Imam under house arrest and limited his access to the outside world, and only few people were allowed to see the Imam and interact with him. Mutawakkil tried to assassinate the Imam, but his fear of unrest and angering the Shi’a Muslims prevented him. Ultimately the next Abbasid king, Al-Mu’taz decided to assassinate Al-Hadi and end his life, since even though Al-Hadi was under house arrest, his popularity was growing even among the army leaders. Therefore, Al-Mu’taz ordered his guards to poison Imam Al-Hadi and bury him in Samara as well. Samara became another destination for Shi’a Muslims and the list of Shi’a holy sites expanded, and Samara was added to Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad.
  • Imam Al-Askari (a): Imam Al-Askari is the eleventh Imam of Shi’a Muslims and son of Imam Al-Hadi and father of last Imam of Shi’a Muslims, who is in occultation, Imam Al-Mahdi. Imam Al-Askari almost spent his entire life under house arrest, which many Shi’a scholars consider this era a preparation for the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, since Imam Al-Askari was preparing the Shi’a Muslims for the notion of not being able to see their Imam. Al-Askari spent majority of his life in Samara, and his daily life activities were limited to minimal and interaction with the outside world was only possible under the supervision of guards. The criticism of Imam Al-Askari against the Al-Mu’tamid (the Abbasid King) and the corruption of his officials very worried about the impact of such statements. Al-Mu’tamid was known for favoritism and corruption during his reign, which made him one the worst rulers of the Abbasid dynasty. Finally, Al-Mu’tamid got to a point, where he could not accept the existence of Imam Al-Askari, and house arrest was not sufficient anymore. Therefore, he ordered his guards to poison Imam Al-Askari and bury him beside his father, Imam Al-Hadi in Samara. Imam Al-Askari’s burial in Samara made the number of Shi’a Imams buried in Iraqi a total number of six Imams, which is the highest number any other country has.
  • Imam Al-Mahdi (a): He is the last of Imams in Shi’a Islam, and currently he is in occultation, which it shall end at the end of time, when the world is filled with oppression and tyranny. Imam Al-Mahdi’s return would restore order and hope in the world and end all calamities for humans. However, his birth in Samara (Iraq) and his occultation from the same place, gave Iraq an added importance for Shi’a Muslims. Shi’a Muslims also believe that Imam Al-Mahdi will choose the city of Kufa as the capital city of Muslim world. Therefore, Iraq is the future command center for Imam Al-Mahdi and the ultimate destination for all Muslims to come and visit.

The enormous amount of importance that Iraq has in Shi’a literature is unlike any other place on the face of this planet. This is why, we witness many of the Salafi groups, who are the back bone of all terrorist groups are eager to kill as many as Iraqi Shi’a Muslims in Iraq, and cause as much pain and destruction in this country. Regardless, of who believes in what, the importance of Iraq as a strategic location has been identified by all sides and groups, which has cost Iraq and its people a high price.