The Holy Sites and Cities of Shia Islam

April 11, 2015

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi Majority of the religions on earth are emotionally, spiritually and physically attached to a specific destination or a geographic region that is directly associated with their belief. This association can be linked to the origin of that belief, historical grievances, residence of a holy figure or his/her burial and a socio-religious importance that has been accumulated through time. Shia Muslim are among the religious sects and groups within Islam and even other religion, which has the highest numbers of holy sites, cities and towns. The holy sites and cities of Shia Muslims are divided into two categories. First category are the sites and places that are shared with rest of the Muslim sects and second category are the sites that are sacred and glorified by Shia Muslims exclusively. A combined list of these sites and cities is as following:

  1. Mecca: (Arabian Peninsula) Birth Place of Islam & Prophet Mohammad, Ka’aba and many other historical holy sites
  2. Medina: (Arabian Peninsula) The burial place of Prophet Mohammad and his daughter lady Fatima Al-Zahra (Unknown) and first capital of the Islamic nation. In addition, this city holds extra importance for Shia Muslims, as four of their Imams are buried in historic cemetery of Al-Baqe’e. (Imam Al-Hassan, Imam Al-Sajjad, Imam Al-Baqir, Imam Al-Sadiq).
  3. Najaf: (Iraq) The burial place of Imam Ali and his capital city, when he became the Caliph. In addition two of the holiest mosques for Shia Muslims (Al-Kufa Mosque & Al-Sahla Mosque) are located in the town of Kufa (outskirts of Najaf) as well. According to Shia traditions, Prophet Noah, Hud and Saleh are buried in this city as well.
  4. Karbala: (Iraq) the location of one the bloodiest battles in the history (Battle of Karbala). This place is the burial position of Shia Muslims third Imam, Imam Al-Hussein and his household along with his companions, who were slaughtered by the army of Yazid.
  5. Kathemiya: (Iraq) this city is now considered as one of the neighborhoods of Baghdad, and its importance is derived from the Al-Kathemain Shrine, which is the burial place of Imam Al-Kadhem and Imam Al-Jawad (7th Imam & 9th Imam of Shia Muslims).
  6. Samara: (Iraq) this city is located north of Baghdad, which is the burial place of Imam Ali Al-Hadi and Imam Hassan Al-Askari (10th Imam & 11th Imam of Shia Muslims). In addition, this city is the birth place of Shia Islam’s 12th Imam, who is currently in occultation and he is expected to come back and spread justice and equality in the world.
  7. Mash’had: (Iran) this city is located in North East province of Khorasan, which is the burial place of Imam Ali Al-Redha (8th Imam of Shia Muslims).
  8. Qom: (Iran) this city is 130 Km south of the Iranian capital Tehran, and it is the burial place of Imam Ali Al-Redha’s sister, Lady Fatema Al-Ma’asuma. In addition, this city has gained extra importance due to its religious seminaries and some of the most important scholars of Shia Islam were from this specific city.
  9. Damascus: (Syria) this city is the burial place of Imam Ali’s older daughter and sister of Imam Al-Hassan and Imam Al-Hussein. Her name is Sayeda (Lady) Zainab. She is buried in a village outside of Damascus, which is currently named after her, and it has become a tourist attraction for thousands of Shia Muslims from around the world.
These sites and cities are considered very sacred and holy to Shia Muslims and any attempt to harm these places is considered as an official war against Shia Islam, as Shia Muslims are very sensitive about these places and their importance to them. However, some of these places have been attacked and demolished in the course of history by different groups and sides, which is considered as a black page in the history of Shia Islam. A detailed history and importance factors of each city will be published in series for this sites and cities. To Be Continued.

Shia Imams & Infallibility

March 19, 2015

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi The previous part of this article covered the logical proves for infallibility of Imams in the Shia school of thought, and how it is a logical and intellectual necessity to have an infallible Imam. This part will cover the Quranic & narrative evidence that legitimize the notion of infallibility. The Sunni school of thought argues that Imams, Prophets and messengers are not infallible and they are bound by desires just like any random human being, which means they can commit wrongdoings and impermissible actions. In addition, there are opinions, which present the notion of a limited infallibility that is intended only for missionary roles and during direct revelations to prophets and messengers. Therefore, there are numerous Quranic verses and narrations that proves the notion of infallibility for messengers and Imams. Quranic evidence:

These verses, which have been sent to prove the legitimacy of Prophet Mohammad and his conduct and statements, present a clear indication that infallibility is a literal and textual evidence within the Holy Quran. However, these verses can be used for other messengers and prophets, since the notion of obedience mandates the obeyed person shall be an infallible to be worthy of being obeyed and followed.
  • Chapter 15, verses 39 and 40: I will surely make disobedience attractive to them on earth, and I will mislead them all. Except, among them, your chosen servants.
These verses clearly indicate the impossibility of eluding certain individuals, which the almighty consider as his sincere servants, which asserts the notion of infallibility that is given to these individuals.
  • Chapter 4, verse 59: O’ you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the messenger and those in authority among you.
Once again the notion of obedience is presented, as this verse equalized the obedience of those who have authority and messenger to the obedience of Allah. This type of obedience must be to an individual or individuals, who have full knowledge and wisdom and are infallible. Narrative evidence:
  • Sunan Al-Tirmithi, Narration # 3718. Narrated by Prophet Mohammad, as he said: I have left among you the two heavy weights, as you will not err and go astray if you abide by them. The book of Allah (Holy Quran) and my household.
This verse is a clear indication by Prophet Mohammad about the infallibility of his holy household, who are the 12 Imams and Lady Fatima Al-Zahra. The Prophet, has put the Imams in an equal status as the Quran, and since the Quran is sanctioned from any mislead and mistake, the same notion applies to the household of Prophet Mohammad.
  • Al-Mustadrak, Volume 3, Page 134. Narrated by Prophet Mohammad, as he said: Ali is with certainty (Rightness) and certainty (rightness) is with Ali.
Although this narration has specifically mentioned the name of Imam Ali, but the notion of Imamate, which starts from him can be linked to infallibility by this specific narration, as having such an absolute legitimacy and authenticity requires infallibility as a necessity.
  • Hilyat Al-Awliya’a, Volume 1, Page 6. Narrated by Prophet Mohammad, as he said: whomever desires to live my life, and dies my death and resides in a paradise created by my Lord, shall obey and be loyal to Ali after me and obey his successors, and he/she must follow my household after me, as they are my holy household, created from my flesh, inherited my knowledge and apprehension, doom to whomever disproof them from my nation …
This narration is another evidence that shows the notion of infallibility is given to the Imams and holy household of Prophet Mohammad, as the phrase: inherited my knowledge and apprehension is directly connected to infallibility. TO BE CONTINUED

Shia Imams & Infallibility

March 18, 2015

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi The notion of infallibility is very sensitive issue that is viewed differently by all religions and ideologies, since the predominant belief indicates that infallibility is hard to prove, especially when the private life of people cannot be observed and dissected. However, the Shia Muslims are among the few sects on the face of earth that believe in the infallibility of all messengers of God from Adam to Mohammad, and the infallibility of their twelve Imams alongside Lady Fatima Al-Zahra. The notion of infallibility within Shia school of thought is not limited to the missionary role of messengers and Imams, as it includes their whole life, which is their statements, conducts, response, dialogue, actions, morals and even conjecture. Shia Muslims even refuse the notion of omission and heedlessness, when it comes to messengers, prophets and Imams, and believe full awareness is a necessary characteristic of them in all circumstances.

Infallibility & Logic

The necessity of belief and religion is among the invariant fundamentals agreed upon by majority of school of thoughts and philosophers, as the state of supplication is a natural characteristic and attribute of all humans. Therefore, presenting any religion and belief requires several necessities, which from the legitimacy of that religion and whether it holds any accountability. Among the main necessities of presenting and delivering any religion and ideology is the notion of credibility and trust, which must be combined by cognitive awareness and knowledge. The primary response to any new ideology is entirely dependent on the credibility and trustworthy of the bearer of that ideology, which means if that person is known to have no credibility and knowledge, his statements and presented ideas would not even be heard by majority of people. However, when it comes to the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) the followers of these religions believe their faiths have been directly sent by the almighty, which mandates the presenter and deliverer of these religions must hold an accountability that matches the source of these religions. Therefore, the notion of infallibility insures the credibility and the legitimacy of the ideology and its sponsors. The logical rationales for the necessity of infallibility of Imams can be presented as follow:
  • The Imam is the guardian of Sharia and religion and therefore, he has to be infallible to ensure there is no imperfection and insufficiency or increment in any aspects of the religion.
  • The Imam is the political leader of Muslims and his subjects, therefore his infallibility will ensure there will be no oppression, aggression and violation against their rights.
  • The Imam must be infallible and sanctioned against any mistakes and wrongdoings, as if he is not infallible, he would require guidance and consultation in his affairs, which means the one who might guide an Imam is more worthy of having this position.
  • Infallibility of an Imam would prevent him from being an adulator or flatterer, as this action would create turmoil and instability in society.
  • An Imam should not commit any sins and wrongdoings, as if this attribute is not given to an Imam the notion of interdiction of wrong and ordering good would be inapplicable since it can’t be implemented on the Imam as the leader of society.
  • An Imam should be a role model and the perfect example in all of his deeds, actions and statements, which affirms the necessity of infallibility.
  • An Imam should be the most credible and trustworthy person at his time, as the notion of legitimizing his message is dependable on his credibility and authenticity, which also affirms the notion of infallibility.
  • An Imam should refrain from doing any indecent, disgraceful and shameful action, as his popularity and legitimacy can be questioned.
  • An Imam should be obeyed at all times, and obedience of a non-infallible is not mandatory.
  • The Imam must hold a higher status than rest of the society through his refrainment from sins and wrongdoings, and his absolute awareness and intellectual superiority. Therefore, without having the attribute of infallibility, an Imam is not different than any random individual of the society.
  • The Imam must be infallible and away from all actions that are considered evil, wrong, impermissible and non-recommended to be in the highest status before the almighty, as anything other than this notion would equalize the Imam with any random individual in society.
To be Continued  

Greatest Shia Scholars of All Time

February 26, 2015

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.

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