This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Divisions within Shiism

Geographically, Shiites are a majority in Iraq, Iran, and Azerbaijan, but considering the fact that they constitute only 15 percent of the Islamic world, it is important not to confuse geographical concentration with religious separation, which is to say that Shiite populations exist elsewhere and the divisions are not always clean or ‘exclusive’ based on majority.

While fault lines within Sunni Islam correspond to the different schools of jurisprudence, the same is not true of Shiism, or at least it is not true in the same way, and the preferred criteria for distinguishing between one Shiite branch and another is their understanding of the Imams. That is the approach we will adopt here.

Regarding the Imams in general, we have already said that Ali, the fourth caliph, is considered by Shiites to be the firm Imam. After Ali, his son Hasan was Imam. His life was politically quiet but his brother Husayn, who became the third Imam, was involved in a struggle against Yazid, whose father had opposed Ali. It happened that in 680, after being promised support by the people of Kufa, Iraq, Husayn set out from Medina, but on his way he encountered Yazid’s army and was killed along with every male member of the family of the Prophet, save Zayn al-Abidin, who happened to be ill. This event crystalized the Shiite movement and united its members, and precipitated the downfall of the Umayyad caliphate (established by Yazid’s father).

Zayn al-Abidin became the fourth Imam, and as the only male survivor of the Prophet’s line, all other Imams after would be his descendants. With this background, we can proceed to a discussion of how the Shiite branches differ in their understanding of the progression of Imams, since they generally agree on the details already provided.

The vast majority of Shiites belong to Twelve-Imam Shiism, a branch so-called due to its acceptance of a chain of Imamas descending from Zayn al-Abidin (fourth Imam), to his son Muhammad al-Baqir (fifth Imam), to his son Ja-far al-Sadiq (sixth Imam), on down to Muhammad al-Madhi (the twelfth Imam).

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