13.4 The legal system of the Shi’ites

13.4 The legal system of the Shi’ites7

Among the Shi’ites the true legal authority lies with the doctors of religion and law called Mujtahids. They seem to have in their hands the teaching power which strictly belongs to the Hidden Imam (see below). They thus represent the principle authority which is the governing concept of the Shia. The Shi’ites also utterly reject the idea of the various Sunni schools of law, and the idea of unity in diversity

The Shia sect originated from Hazrat Ali, purely for political reasons. There were people who believed that Hazrat Ali should have been the rightful Khalifa after the death of the Prophet because he was the son-in-law of the Prophet. Like the Sunnis the Shias are also divided into five groups, of which one group, called the Ghali, is now extinct. The main sect – the Imamia sect – has 12 Imams. The Shias regard the Imams as the representative of Allah. The Imams are therefore infallible. Laws are then developed depending on what the Imam says. Their main sect, as well as the sub-sects, start from Hazrat Ali. Incidentally, Hazrat Ali is also highly regarded by the Sunni Muslims as he was the fourth Caliph. The last Imam of the Imamia sect (the12th Imam) disappeared without trace from a cave. The Shias say that Allah has concealed him, and sometime later, when the time is right, he will reappear to save the world. That is the philosophy behind the disappearance of the Imam. As far as the other sub-sects are concerned, they originate from the main sect, which does not agree with this line. One sub-sect is from Hazrat Ali’s other wife Hanfia who gave birth to a son named Muhammad bin Hanfia. The people who follow him are a sub-sect called Kais’ania, but here again his followers  believe that in spite of his death he is going to come back to make sure that everything is put right. At present, he is supposedly being kept concealed by Allah. There is another sub-sect which is called the Zaidia. They believe up to the fourth Imam (Imam Jainal Abedeen) and after him they follow Imam Zaid. Finally, there is the Ism’ailia sub-sect. They are a small community, but very wealthy. They follow up to the 6th Imam (Imam Jafar Sadiq), and thereafter Imam Ismail. They are very secretive, but recently a member of that that group published a book revealing some of their activities. The Shias, as such, do not believe in the Sunni Schools of Laws.