Shi’ism is the Islam which differentiates itself and selects its direction in the history of Islam with the “No” of the great Ali, the heir of Mohammad and the manifestation of the Islam of Justice and Truth, a “No” which he gives to the Council for the Election of the Caliph, in answer to Abdul Rahman, who was the manifestation of Islamic aristocracy and compromise. This “No”, up until pre-Safavid times, is recognized as part of the Shi’ite movement in the history of Islam, an indication of the social and political role of a group who are the followers of Ali, known for their association with the kindness of the family of the Prophet. It is a movement based upon the Qoran and the Traditions; not the Qoran and the traditions as proclaimed by the dynasties of the Omayyids, Abbasids, Ghaznavids, Seljuks, Mongols and Timurids, but the ones proclaimed by the family of Mohammad.
The history of Islam follows a strange path; a path in which gangsters and ruffians from the Arab, Persian, Turk, Tartar and Mongol dynasties all enjoyed the right to the leadership of the Moslem community and to the caliphate of the Prophet of Islam, to the exclusion of the family of the Prophet and the rightful Imams of Islam. And Shi’ism begins with a “No”; a “No” which opposes the path chosen by history, and rebels against history. It rebels against a history which, in the name of the Qoran, Kings and Caesars, follows the path of ignorance, and in the name of tradition, sacrifices those brought up in the house of the Qoran and the Traditions!
Shi’ites do not accept the path chosen by history. They deny the leaders who ruled the muslims throughout history and deceived the majority of the people through their succession to the Prophet, and then by their supposed support of Islam and fight against paganism. Shi’ites turn their backs on the opulent mosques and magnificent palaces of the Caliphs of Islam and turn to the lonely, mud house of Fatima. Shi’ites, who represent the oppressed, justice-seeking class in the Caliphate system, find in this house whatever and whoever they have been seeking:-
the heir of the Prophet, the manifestation of the “rights of the oppressed” and, at the same time, the symbol of the first objection, a strong and clear embodiment of the “seeking of justice”. In the ruling system, these are the cries and slogans of subject nations and oppressed classes.
the manifestation of a justice which serves the oppressed, a sublime embodiment of the Truth who is sacrificed on the altar of inhuman regimes, and which lies hidden in the layers of the formal religion of the rulers.
the manifestation of the last resistance of the garrison of “Imamate Islam”, who confronts the first garrison of “Islamic Rule”.
bears witness to those who have been martyred by the oppressors throughout history, heir of all the leaders fighting for freedom and equality and the seekers of justice, from Adam to himself, forever the messenger of martyrdom, the manifestation of bloody revolution.
bears witness to all of the defenseless prisoners in the system of executioners, and is the messenger left after martyrdom, and the manifestation of the message of revolution.
Shi’ites take their slogans from the embodiment of the tribulations and hopes of the masses of the oppressed. Aware of the rulers, and in rebellion against them, they cry out:-
“Seek the leadership of Ali and flee from the leadership of cruelty. Choose Imamate, and stamp ‘cancelled,’ ‘disbelief’ and ‘dispossession’ upon the forehead of the Caliphate.
Choose justice, and overthrow the system of paradox and discrimination in ownership.
Choose the principle of being ready to protest against the existing conditions, where the ruling government, religious leaders and aristocracy try to show that everything is in accordance with the Will of God, the Divine Law and the satisfaction of God and his creatures. Such things, to the ruling government, included their conquests, their plundering of mosques, associations, schools, gifts, trusts, and charities and the observance of religious ceremonies and practices.
Choose religious leadership for the central organization of the movement.
Choose the concept of imitation of your betters so as to properly organize your energies and bring order, discipline and direction.
Choose the viceregency of the Imam so as to have a responsible leader.
Give a share of the funds to provide for the socio-political struggle, for educational foundations and for teaching, in a system where all religious funds are forcibly collected by the government acting as a government of the Law.
Choose mourning, to continue the constant historical struggle of the Shi’ites against usurpers, treachery, cruelty, and the sources of fraud, lying and degeneration, and especially to keep alive the memories of the martyrs.
Remember Ashura, to humiliate the ruling group who call themselves the inheritors of the traditions of the Prophet, for the remembrance of it will prove that they are the inheritors of the killers and murderers of the Prophet’s family. It will show you a path of action, and provide an answer to the recurring question “What should be done?”. It will help you to decide on the best agenda for the struggle against the rule of tyranny. It will avoid allegiance to cruelty. It will provide a pattern for the unbroken continuity of history. It will declare an unending struggle between the inheritors of Adam and the inheritors of the devil. Ashura reminds us of the teaching of the eternal fact that the present version of Islam (in1972), is a criminal Islam in the dress of tradition, and that the real Islam is the hidden Islam, hidden in the red cloak of martyrdom.
And finally, concealment; creating a clever camouflage for the organization, and its activities, affiliations, leadership, personalities and plans, to protect the leadership, people and groups from being harrassed by the rulers of the day and from the hard-heartedness of the religious organisation associated with them, who might either slander the Shi’ite movement through excommunication and rouse the ignorant masses against them, or destroy it through persecutions, or weaken it through wholesale murders, imprisonment and deportations, and thus to create the best conditions for the struggle and its continuation; to practice, carefully, the principle of secrecy, and maintain the distinctive conditions of an underground movement.”
We can see that for over eight centuries (until the Safavid era), Alavite Shi’ism was more than just a revolutionary movement in history which opposed all the autocratic and class-conscious regimes of the Omayyid and Abbasid caliphates and the kingships of the Ghaznavids, the Seljuks, the Mongols, the Timurids and the two Khanids, who had made the government version of the Sunni School their official religion, and it waged a secret struggle of ideas and action. Like a revolutionary party, Shi’ism had a well-organized, informed, deep-rooted and well-defined ideology, with clear-cut and definite slogans and a disciplined and well-groomed organization. It led the deprived and oppressed masses in their movements for freedom and for seeking justice. It is considered to have been the rallying-point for the demands, distress, and rebellions of the intellectuals seeking to gain their rights, and for the masses in search of justice.
Because of this, throughout history, as the power of the rulers grew, the difficulties, injustice, dispossessions, and the denial of the rights of the people, and the exploitation of the farmers, increased. Inequality became more pronounced because of the system of aristocracy, class-inequalities, brain-washing, ideological prejudices, the connection between the theologians and the temporal rulers, the poverty and privation of the masses, and the power and wealth of the rulers. When this occurred, the Shi’ite front became stronger, the basic slogans of the movement more powerful, and the struggle of the Shi’ites more intense and more important. It changed from a School of thought, a way of study and religious sectarianism reserved for the intellectuals and the chosen few, to a way of correctly understanding Islam and the culture of the people of the house of the Prophet, when confronted by Greek philosophy and oriental Sufism, to a deep-rooted and revolutionary, socio-political movement of the masses, especially the rural masses. It caused greater fear among the autocratic rulers and the hypocritical religious bodies who rule the people in the name of the Sunni sect.
It is for this reason that the pseudo-intellectual and free-thinking rulers, at whose courts the Jews, Christians, Magians and even the materialists enjoy freedom, honor and influence, talk of the Shi’ites with such anger and vexation that a massacre of all of them would not quench the thirst of these rulers. They flay them alive, pass iron rods through their eyes, pull out their tongues and burn them alive. These are all current practices of the day. It reaches the point that the historians, theologians and even philosophers and men of piety of the court considered it to be part of their prayers to invent any false accusations, forgeries and falsified records that they could against the Shi’ites! It is in such circumstances that Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazni declares “I search the world over for a Shi’ite”. It is his government which sponsors the Sunni theological decree that marriage of a Moslem man with “people of the Book” i.e. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, is legal, but it is illegal to marry a Shi’ite woman.
With the coming to power of the Seljuks, prejudices and bias become stronger against the world of thought and religion. From the social point of view, the feudal and guardianship system accentuates the degree of the exploitation of the masses, expecially the farmers, to an unbearable degree. In order to maintain the policies of the state, floggings and torture are necessary, resulting in the construction of many piles of skulls and eyes.
The religious body of the Sunni sect, which had from the beginning become ‘the government’s Islam’, becomes a conglomeration of the most debased and prejudiced beliefs and harsh rules. It turns into a tool for the justification of the inhuman ways of the rulers. It compromises with the autocratic regimes of the Ghaznavid and Seljuk Turks and the Mongols. It becomes an opiate for the masses, and an instrument for murder to be used to prevent any thought or action that jeopardizes the interests of the strong and harms the landlords and feudal chiefs.
Red Shi’ism (the religion of martyrdom) vs. Black Shi’ism (the religion of mourning) – by Dr. Ali Shariati