An Introduction to the Shia Tradition in Islam

  • David Pinault


In the weeks that followed my first encounter with the Moths of Husain I learned about many aspects of Shia devotionalism, from preachers, dirge-chanters, avid flagellants, and disapproving skeptics. But before I examine Shia ritual practices and the controversies surrounding them, it might be useful at this point to sketch the historical events commemorated every year in Shia ritual: the seventh-century death of the Imam Husain and the sufferings of his family at the battle of Karbala.


Muslim Community Walk Away Islamic Community Power Devolve Islamic Empire 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    For more information on early Shia history, see Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shi’i Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 1–22. For Fatima’s death from grief over the Prophet, see Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni, Usul al-kafi (Teheran: Intisharat ’Ilmiyah Islamiyah, n.d.), with Persian translation and commentary by Sayyid Jawad Mustafawi, vol. 2, 355–56. For other incidents in the life of Fatima, see Michael Fischer, Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), 14–15.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Shi’ite Islam (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977), 194–95.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    I. K. A. Howard, trans., The History of al-Tabari, volume 19: The Caliphate of Yazid b. Mu’awiyah (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), 74–75, 87–88.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    S. Husain M. Jafri, Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam (London: Longman Group, 1979), 198–205; Momen, 31–33.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For an introduction to the topic of intercession in the Shia tradition see D. Pinault, The Shiites: Ritual and Popular Piety in a Muslim Community (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 17–19.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Rafiq Zakaria, The Struggle Within Islam (London: Penguin Books, 1989), 396–97; Momen, op. cit., 277. Compare with Nadeem Hasnain and Abrar Husain, Shias and Shia Islam in India (Delhi: Harnam Publications, 1988), 225, who estimate the Shia population to be somewhat larger.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Clarence Maloney, Peoples of South Asia (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1974), 158.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    J. R. I. Cole, Roots of North Indian Shi’ism in Iran and Iraq (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 117.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Munir D. Ahmed, “The Shi’is of Pakistan,” in Martin Kramer, ed., Shi’ism, Resistance, and Revolution (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987), 276.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    John Norman Hollister, Islam and Shia Faith in India (Delhi: Taj Publications, 1989), 103.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, A Socio-Intellectual History of the Isna ’Ashari Shi’is in India (Canberra: Ma’rifat Publishing, 1986), vol. 1, 251–52.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Quoted in Hollister, op. cit., 124.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Cole, op. cit., 24–26; Annemarie Schimmel, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1980), 80–83.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Cole, op. cit., 38–41.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Ibid., 117.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    P. Hardy, The Muslims of British India (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 1–30; Cole, op. cit., 87–91, 249–50, 285–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 18.
    Diana L. Eck, Darshan: Seeing the Divine Image in India (Chambersburg, PA: Anima Books, 1985), 3, 87.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Cole, op. cit., 117.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    Ibid., 224–27.Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    Hardy, op. cit., 29–30, 73–76; Cole, op. cit., 286–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 22.
    Sandria B. Freitag, “Sunnis and Shi’a: From Community Identity to Communal Sectarianism in North Indian Islam,” in Peter Gaeffke and David A. Utz, eds., Identity and Division in Cults and Sects in South Asia (Philadelphia: Proceedings of the South Asia Seminar, University of Pennsylvania, 1984), 142.Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    Ibid., 138.Google Scholar
  23. 28.
    T. Vedantam, ed., Census of India 1971, Series 2, Andhra Pradesh: A Monograph on Muharram in Hyderabad City (Delhi: Government of India Press, 1977), 12–13.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    Pinault, op. cit., 158–62.Google Scholar
  25. 30.
    For more information on Ashura observances at Hyderabad’s Hazrat Abbas shrine, see David Pinault, The Shiites: Ritual and Popular Piety in a Muslim Community (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 143–45.Google Scholar
  26. 31.
    David Pinault, “Shi’a Muslim Men’s Associations and the Celebration of Muharram in Hyderabad, India,” Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 16 (1992), 48–49.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Pinault 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Pinault

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations