In “Memories of Muhammad, Why the Prophet Matters,” Omid Safi appears to be sympathetic to Shi’a doctrine. For example, he describes a “horrific” march in which women, children, and a few young men were forced to process by the army through the Iraqi dessert after the death of Hussein. This was not mentioned in the “Massacre of Karbala: A Historical Analysis” video; in fact, the video mentioned only one young man who stayed in the tents of the women due to a high fever. Safi also cites Tabari as a primary source of early Islamic history. According to Tabari, the army marched with seventy-two heads of members of the Prophet’s family propped on their lances. In contrast, the video does not mention this type of behavior as well, although the story of Ibn Ziyad’s treatment of Hussein’s head is related in both sources. Safi, on the other hand, describes Hussein’s martyrdom as a cosmic event, which Shi’as remember and commemorate. Shi’ism concentrates on remembering those who came before, their lives, and their deaths, particularly the death of Hussein, which inspires the possibility of rebellion and living a heroic life. In this respect, Shi’ite prayer is also connected to Hussein’s death by the prostration on a square or oval piece of clay made from the dust of Karbala, which is said to be made fragrant by Hussein’s blood. Although Hajj is the only pilgrimage included in the five pillars of Islam, Shi’ites also journey to shrines of the “Abl al-Bayt,” or the family of the Prophet, particularly the shrines of the Imams. Most of these monuments are in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The birth dates, deaths, and martyrdom of these Imams, numbering about fifty commemorations, are included on the Shi’ite calendar as well.
The Winter reading focuses on Shi’ite theology, which formed after interacting with Mu’tazilite theology and “falsafa” theology and is comprised of two aspects. The first characteristic particularly emphasizes the characteristics of the Imamate, such as infallibility, the Imam’s knowledge, and their spiritual and political descent from the Prophet. The second trait defends the Imamate and discusses human worth, “istita’a” or responsibility of actions, and the nature of God. Winter then discusses a few theological differences between Zaydis and Isma’ilis, which we have already discussed in class, such as the Zaydi refusal to believe in the infallibility of the Imam. Isma’ili theology became influenced by Neo-Platonist philosophy. However, in the twelfth century, Twelver Shi’ism was affected by the Mu’tazilite theology of Abu’l-Husayn al-Basri, particularly because of its willingness to philosophize.
Goldziher opens by discussing the belief of the “Mahdi.” This belief and the belief of the return of the hidden Imam (raj’a) are the basic and essential doctrines of Shi’ism. Shi’a scholars have also dedicated much time to prove the possibility of the Mahdi’s long life, especially in response to Sunnis. Sunni and Shia doctrines differ because Shi’a perspectives of God, law, and prophecy are guided by their teachings of the Imams. Even within Shi’ism, different strands view God in different ways; for example, one strand holds an anthropomorphic view of God. Goldziher also describes certain Shi’ite scholars called al-adliya, which means “those who profess justice” and who incorporated Mu’tazilite doctrines in their theology. Shi’ite theology is so influenced by Mu’tazilism because Shi’ites believe that the founders of Mu’tazilite theology were Ali and the Imams, and that the basic theology was later expounded upon. Thus, when a Mu’tazila doctrine is described in Shi’a theology, an Imam is attributed to it.