Succession to Muhammad and its Sectarian Ramifications Open Access

Gilani, Sahil Khawar (2014)

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One may ask: What is the purpose of reading early Islamic history, especially in relation to the succession of Prophet Muhammad? The answer to this question is quite simple compared to the actual topic itself. Around our world today, we see a lot of sectarian differences and conflicts between the Shia and Sunni sects of Islam. These sects have developed out of the issues and events surrounding the death and succession of Prophet Muhammad. The question of succession is arguably the single-most, essential difference between Shias and Sunnis. In fact, Wilferd Madelung, in his book, The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate, has stated that "no event in history has divided Islam more profoundly and durably than the succession to Muhammad." He goes on to claim that, "the right to occupy the Prophet's place at the head of the Muslim community after his death became a question of great religious weight which has separated Sunnites and Shi'ites until the present." The issue of succession has gone on to impact the beliefs, practices, rituals, and theologies of the two sects.

This thesis will explain how sectarianism within Islam needs to be understood through the binary of religion and politics. Through the Syrian case study, I will demonstrate how sociopolitical tensions take on the form of and are exacerbated as theological sectarianism. I will also show that these sectarian issues are not just a result of sociopolitical circumstances, but are deeply rooted in theological and hermeneutical differences in the interpretations of the issues and events surrounding the succession to Muhammad. This will be done by analyzing Shia and Sunni internet chat rooms and forums.

Table of Contents

Literature Review 1
Introduction 3
Chapter One: Ghadir Khumm: A Shia-Sunni Interpretive Split 5
Chapter Two: Ali: The Rightful Successor? 12
Chapter Three: Death of the Prophet 18
Chapter Four: Ali during the Caliphates 24
Chapter Five: Contemporary Shia-Sunni Sectarian Conflicts 33
Chapter Six: Contemporary Shia-Sunni Discursive Dialogues and Debates 41
Conclusion 54
Works Cited 56

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