Friday, September 15, 2006

I think I know

the main difference between Shi'ates and Sunnis.

It involves who took over as leader of Islam (caliph or imam) after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Only his daughter (although there is some dispute whether he had one or four daughters) survived him so there was apparently, later (between 100 and 400 years later) disagreement over who should (have) take(n) over among his sons-in-law. Ali ibn Abi Talib, who ended up being the fourth caliph, was the one the Shia'tes claim was supposed to take over (using a speech Muhammad gave as justification) whereas Abu Bakr was the one who took over (followed by two more of his fellow sons-in-law). Sunnis claim he was elected by the muslim community. After that it gets a great deal more technical but most of it is (as far as I can determine from an afternoon of research) about as important as the main divisions between different Christian sects (which is to say terribly important to them - worth killing over even - but not necessarily quite as significant to outsiders or the rational).

But his life is an amazing read. He was rather progressive for the time. Around this time (he lived 570-632) men started becoming more wealthy and they wanted to ensure that their legacy was inherited by their own sons rather than any of their sister's sons. So women started becoming considered the property of their husbands and couldn't themselves, own property and upon the death of their husbands, all property went to his sons. He instituted changes in these rights as well as shifting personal responsibilty from tribal laws to a unified set of divine laws, eliminating many of the more barbaric customs of the region. It's interesting to note that now muslim countries are considered to be backwards in regards to women's rights. I wonder what he would think of this were he alive today?

He also, as a military leader, required a code of behavior of his soldiers which included not harming or molesting women or children and other rules which didn't enter western practice until hundreds of years later (the First Geneva Convention was held in 1864).

Most of this came from wikipedia,


But I'm going to have to do some more searchs on the internet to find other material and see what it has to say.


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