SHAFAQNA- There are many theories about the appearance of Shia that are completely baseless. Some believe, for instance, that Shia appeared as a result of political conflicts in the first century Hijri. Others have concluded that Shia appeared as a result of theological debates, as did some other Islamic sects. These claims are made because they believe that Shiism is something other than Islam itself that only appeared after the Prophet’s (PBUH) demise. Therefore, they look for its root causes and attempt to devise theories to explain its appearance.
All of these theorists, however, ignore the fact that Shiism is nothing other than Islam as taught by the Prophet’s (PBUH) Household and that, in this sense, it appeared during the Prophet’s (PBUH) own lifetime. Even at that time, Ali (AS) had some supporters and followers who were called his shia and who followed Ali (AS) as a result of the Prophet’s (PBUH) praise of him. Thus, these people loved Ali (AS) and took him as their leader and model of good conduct after the Prophet. That is why we may claim that the Prophet was the first person to sow the seeds of Shiism, to ask people to follow Ali (AS) and to call his followers Shia.
There are forty Ahadith bearing witness to the fact that the followers of Ali are called his Shia. We will consider some of these traditions, which are all taken from Sunni sources. Jabir ibn Abd-Allah (RA) reports that once Ali came when Jabir (RA) was with the Prophet (PBUH). On seeing Ali (AS), the Prophet (PBUH) said, pointing to Ali (AS):
‘By God in whose hand is my soul, this man and his Shia will be saved on the Day of Judgment!’
Then he recited the verse:
‘Indeed those who have faith and do righteous deeds – it is they who are the best of creatures’ (Quran 98:7).
For this reason, whenever Ali (AS) came to the Prophet’s Companions, they would say to one another, ‘there comes the best of creatures’ (Al-Durr Al-Manthūr 6/589).
Ibn Abbas reports that when the above verse was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH), he said to Ali (AS):
‘This verse refers to you and your followers who will be pleased with God and God will be please with you on the Day of Judgment’ (Al-Durr Al-Manthūr 6/589).
Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami reports in Al-Sawaiq that Umm Salama said: ‘One night when the Prophet (PBUH) was at my home, his daughter suddenly entered, followed by Ali (AS). The Prophet (PBUH) said:
‘Ali, you and your followers will be in paradise. You and your Shia will be in paradise’ (161).
Ibn Athir reports that once the Prophet (PBUH) said to Alī (AS):
‘You will be received by God while you are pleased with God and He is pleased with you, but your enemies will go before God while they are angry and their hands are chained to their necks’ (4/16).
Zamakhshari reports in Rabi Al-Abrar that the Prophet (PBUH) once said to Ali (AS):
‘On the Day of Judgment, I will seek help from Allah (SWT), you from me, your descendants from you and your followers from your descendants’ (808).
According to Mughzili, in Manaqib Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS), the Prophet (PBUH) once asked Ali (AS):
‘Will you not be pleased to be in paradise with me, while Hassan, Hussain and our other descendants are standing behind us and our followers are standing on both sides?’ (Sawa‘iq, 161).
He also quotes Anas ibn Malik who reports that the Prophet (PBUH) once declared,
‘Seventy thousands of my followers will enter paradise without being questioned’ and then looked at Ali (AS) and added: ‘They will be your followers and you will be their the Imam’ (293).
All of these Ahadith demonstrate that there were some people in the Prophet’s (PBUH) days that were called the Shia of Ali (AS) and who were promised paradise by the Prophet (PBUH). They also make it clear that the word ‘Shia’ was used by the Prophet (PBUH) himself to describe Ali’s (AS) followers who took as their path nothing more or less than the Prophet’s (PBUH) Islam, which they believed could be best followed by following the example Ali (AS). Therefore, we can say with certainty that Shiism was neither the fruit of political conflicts at Saqifah nor a result of theological debates. Rather, they were a group of people who believed that Ali(AS) was second to the Prophet (PBUH) in piety and personal conduct and maintained this belief after the Prophet’s (PBUH) death, gradually multiplying into a large sect.