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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / Volume I: The first hundred years

IV: The Ismailites and the Assassins,   pp. 99-[133] PDF (7.4 MB)

Page 100

however, the Shi~ah was purely political, consisting only of the adherents
of a political pretender, with no distinctive religious doctrine and no greater
religious content than was inherent in the very nature of Islamic political
 The vast expansion of the Arabs under the early caliphs brought into the
Islamic fold great numbers of imperfectly Islamized converts who carried
with them from their Christian, Jewish, and Iranian backgrounds many religious
and mystical ideas unknown to primitive Islam. These new converts, though
Moslems, were not Arabs, and the inferior social and economic status imposed
on them by the ruling Arab aristocracy created a sense of grievance which
made them a rich recruiting ground for messianic and revolutionary sects.
The great increase in numbers among the Arabs during the first century of
Islam brought important social differentiations among the conquerors, and
many of the Arabs themselves, especially among the sedentarized or semi-sedentarized
southern tribes, began to share the resentments of the non-Arab converts.
Most of these had traditions of political and religious legitimism, the latter
exemplified in the Judaeo-Christian Messiah of the house of David and the
Zoroastrian Saoshyant of a Godbegotten line through which the divine light
is transmitted from generation to generation. Once converted to Islam, they
were readily attracted by the claims of the house of the prophet as against
the ruling caliphs, who were associated for them with the existing regime
of Arab aristocratic hegemony. All new faiths need their martyrs, and the
emergent ShI~ite heresy was watered with blood by the murder of cAll in 66i
and the dramatic slaying of his son }lusain and his family at Kerbela in
 The fusion between the pro-~A1id party and the nascent heresies did not
take long. In 68~ one Mukhtãr, a Persian Moslem of the Arab garrison
city of Kufa, led a revolt in favor of an ~A1id pretender, and after the
disappearance and reputed death of the latter, preached that he was not really
dead but was in concealment, and would in course of time return and establish
the rule of justice on earth. Here for the first time we find a clear statement
of the characteristic Shi~ite doctrine of the Mabdi, the divinely guided
one, a messianic personage who, after a period of concealment, will manifest
himself and initiate a new era of righteousness and divine law. With Mukhtãr
and his followers Shi~ism develops from a party to a sect. 
 During the early years of its development the Shi~ite heresy 
1 See above, chapter III, pp. 83ff. 

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