Thursday, 17 February 2011

From Amma, with Love

My maternal grandmother (Amma) passed away recently, at the ripe old age of 84, physically crippled but a mental athlete, i shall miss my long existential conversations and theological debates with her.

My father also shared a deep bond with his mother-in-law, my Amma, and she would go to my parents in Calcutta - her winter capital during the coldest months of the year... this year, for the first time in 6 years, she stayed on to brave the Delhi Winter...

During one of my many conversations with Amma, this one happened to be on Christmas Day last year, when she was fondly remembering Granny - my  paternal grandmother, Mrs. Venetia Noorjehan Seth ( née Hussain) and asked me to Share this article with my father, that she read out to me... From the Times of India dated  24 December 2010

Many faces of ISLAM

The different ways in which Sunnis and Shias observe the current month of Muharram, point to the factions in the Muslim world. Despite Quranic injunctions that Muslims should not create divisions among themselves, the community split. TOI looks at some of the contemporary sects and sub-sects in Islam
Mohammed Wajihuddin | TNN 

    Sunni Muslims are the largest sect of Islam. Derived from the word Sunnah, which means the examples or actions of the Prophet, Sunnis are those who follow the Sunnah. They believe in the legitimacy of the four caliphs — Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Hazrat Ali. The caliphate is collectively called Khulfaul-Rashidun (the rightly guided caliphs). The four caliphs were democratically elected. But after the death of Hazrat Ali, the caliphate degenerated into dynastic rule. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s, the caliphate formally ended. Sunni Islam is divided into four schools of law or fiqh (religious jurisprudence): Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali. There are minor differences among these schools of law. Hanafi: Followers of Imam Abu Hanifa, the Hanafis see Quran, the Sunnah, the ijma (consensus) and qiyas (deduction from analogy) as the sources of law. Hanafis are based mostly in the Indian subcontinent, Iraq, Turkey and the western world. Maliki: Followers of Imam Malik, the Malikis lay great emphasis on istadlal — juristic deduction. It is practised mostly in North and West Africa. Shafi: The Shafis are the followers of Imam Shafi and give emphasis on ijma (consensus). Hanbali: The Hanbalis are followers of Imam Hanbal. 

The Shias are the second largest sect of Islam. Followers of Hazrat Ali, the fourth Caliph and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, the Shias oppose the institution of the caliphate and follow imamate (divine appointment as imams among the descendants of Hazrat Ali). The Shias believe that the Prophet’s family (Ahl al-Bayt), including his descendants known as Imams, have a divine right to rule over the community. Though a minority in the Muslim world, the Shias are in a majority in Iran (70 million). Over 90 per cent of the population in Iran is Shia while the minorities comprise Sunnis, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. The differences between the Shias and the Sunnis were accentuated by the murder of Ali in 661 AD. His chief opponent, Muawiah, became caliph. Caliph Muawiah was later succeeded by his son Yazid, but Ali’s son Hussain refused to accept his legitimacy and differences between the two erupted. Hussain and his followers were massacred in battle near Karbala and this gave rise to the Shia cult of martyrdom. To this day, the Shias and Sunnis have a schism. Shia and Sunni militias have fought pitched battles in Iraq. The Shia militia led by Muqtada al-Sadr has tried to gain control over several areas in Iraq. The Shias of Iraq and Lebanon are believed to receive support from Iran. 

    Shia Islam has several branches. 

The Twelvers (Ashna Asari): Named after their adherence to twelve imams, is the largest group of Shias. These imams are: Hazrat Ali, Imam Hasan, Imam Hussain, Imam Zainul Abideen, Imam Al-Baqir, Imam Jafar-us-Sadiq, Imam Musa Al-Kazim, Imam Ar-Riza, Imam Al-Jawwad, Imam Al-Naqi, Imam Al-Askari and Imam Al Mahdi who mysteriously disappeared. The Shias believe that the last Imam is alive and in hiding and and will reappear to establish true law. 

The Akhbaris: A sub-sect of Twelvers or Ashna Asari, the Akhbaris believe that the learned divines are to be regarded as representatives of imams. 

The Usulis: Also a sub-sect of Ashna Asari, the Usulis hold that the believers can themselves follow law in the light of reason without the intervention of the learned divines. The Zaidis: Followers of Zaid, son of Imam Zain-ul-Abdin, the Zaidis, unlike other Shia sects Shias, believe that people can choose their imams from among the descendants of Hazrat Ali. 

The Ismailis: Followers of Imam Ismail, son of Imam Jafar-us-Sadiq, the Ismailis believe that the imamate fell on Ismail’s son Al-Maktum, and not on Jafar’s son Musa Al-Kazim as held by other Shias. 

Nizaris: An important sub-sect among the Ismailis, the Nizaris are the only Shia group to have a temporal leader in imamate. After the death of Fatimid Caliph al-Mustansir in 1094, his eldest son Nizar was dethroned by his brother Al-Mustali. It led to the birth of the Nizari sub-sect which believes that the imamate descended differ to Nizar and his descendants. 

Khojas: Primarily Ismaili Shias, the Khojas are concentrated in South Asia. Derived from the word Khwaja, most Khojas in India live in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajsathan. They are sub-divided as Ismaili Khojas, twelver Khojas and Sunni Khojas. Pakistan’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and his sister Fatima were twelver Khojas.
Mustalians: They believe that after the death of Fatimid Caliph Al-Mustansir, the imamate vested in Al-Mustali and his descendants. Dawoodi Bohras: A Mustali sub-sect of Ismaili Shias, the Dawoodi Bohras are based mostly in India. The spiritual head of the Dawoodi Bohra community is called Al-Daial-Mutlaq (summoner with comprehensive authority). Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, 98, is the 52nd Al-Dai-al-Mutlaq. The Dawoodi Bohras believe that the 20th imam, Mansur Al-Amir, instructed his grand emissary Syeda Arwa Binte Ahmad to establish the office of the Al-Dai-al-Mutlaq. The Al-Dai-al-Mutlaq enjoys full authority to govern the Dawoodi Bohra community. He chooses his successor. It’s said that the word Bohra is derived from Gujarati vehwhar, meaning trade. Small wonder that most Bohras are successful traders and entrepreneurs. Dawoodi Bohra men wear a traditional white three-piece outfit, and a white gold cap and the women wear the rida, a distinctive form of burqa. It’s different from the common veil in that it can be coloured and with patterns. A closely-knit community, the Dawoodi Bohras seek advice from the Al-Dai-al-Mutlaq in all matters spiritual and temporal. 

    This religious group is called Heterodox as it is not recognised as a part of Islam by mainstream Islamic faith. Followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadiyan (1835-1908) who claimed to be the awaited messiah, the Ahmadiyas believe that their form of Islam is purest. Headquartered in Qadiyan (Indian Punjab), the sect has adherents spread across the world. But they don’t proclaim it openly for fear of persecution. The majority of mainstream Muslims consider them to be non-Muslims and in many parts of the world, especially Pakistan, the Ahmadiyas are persecuted. Many Muslim clerics in Pakistan have declared Ahmadiyas wajibul qatl (to be killed justifiably). But some scholars denounce killing of Ahmadiyas.

I offer this post, as an oblation to God to give my Amma & Granny eternal peace

Thank you for being part of my life

I miss you

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