Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / Volume I: The first hundred years
IV: The Ismailites and the Assassins, pp. 99- PDF (7.4 MB)
100 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES I 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 authority.' 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 68o. 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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