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Updated: May 11, 2021

Author: Janhavi Jain, II Year of BBA.,LL.B from Jamnalal Bajaj School of Legal Studies, Banasthali Vidyapeeth.

Various Sects of Shia School

Islam follows the words of Allah which were told directly to Prophet Mohammad by angel Gabriel, the messenger of God.

During the life span of Prophet Mohammad, there was no such classification in Islam as it is now. This classification arose after the death of Prophet Mohammed on a question of who will be the next head of Islam.

A group of people agreed on the method of election and another group was sticked to their opinion of making someone from Prophet Mohammad’s family as their new heads. The ones who agreed to the elections became the Sunni Muslims and another group came to be known as Shia Muslims. Shias are known for their firm nature in opinions and stick to what they say.

Shias exclusively believe in traditions imitating from Prophet Mohammad’s family, especially from Ali. They are not likely to believe in Qiyas.

The first Khalifa after Prophet Mohammed’s demise was Abu Bakr. 4th one was Hazrat Ali following Umar and Usmaan as the 2nd and 3rd Khalifas. But Shia believed Hazrat Ali as their 1st Imam as they were not in favour of elections, and Hazrat Ali was the only one in these four to be a family member of Prophet Mohammed. Khalifa is a temporal leader and Imam is a spiritual leader. Impliedly, khilafat is temporal leadership and Imamat is spiritual leadership.

Shias are further divided in four different sects. These different schools emerged out of political reasons that who will be the next successor. These schools are namely – Zaidiya, Ismailiya, Ithna-Ashariya and Mutazila.

For better understanding of this division, first we need to know about the Imams of the Shia sect-

  • Hazrat Ali

  • Hasan (Ali’s son)

  • Hussain( Hasan’s brother)

  • Ali Asghar Zainul-abdin

  • Mohammed-al-Baqir

  • Jafar as Sadiq

  • Musa ul Kazim

  • Ali ar Raza

  • Mohammad al Taqi al Jawad

  • Al-an-Naqi-al-Hadi

  • Al-Hasan-al-Askari

  • Mohammad-al-Muntazur also known as Mohammad-al-Mehedi

The first issue arose when some people opposed Mohammad al Baqir’s appointment as Imam because they wanted his brother Zaid’s appointment as Imam instead of Mohammad al Baqir.

These people collectively came to known as Zaidiya.

Second issue arose when Zafar al Sadiq declared his son Ismail as the next Imam but Ismail died before Sadiq and therefore Musa ul Kazim was appointed as the new Imam following Sadiq. Appointment of Musa as a new Imam was unacceptable to some people because they had already accepted Ismail as their Imam without considering the fact of his death and hence, Ismailiya sect.

The third group of people live with a belief that their twelfth Imam Mohammad al Muntazur is disappeared and he will surely reappear on the day of Qayamat (Last day of Earth) and this is the reason that no new Imam after Mohammad al Muntazur has been appointed until date.

Zaidiya School

It is the oldest branch of Shia and are currently the second largest group after Twelvers. They are mainly found in Northern Persia and southern Saudi Arabia.

Ismailiya School

These people are also called as Seveners or Sabiya because they followed only 7 Imams. They are subdivided into Khojas and Bohras. Khoja Muslims are found in Eastern regions, Maharashtra. Bohras are mainly found in western regions, western Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Their sacred book is Daaimul Islam.

Itna Ashariya

It is the state religion of Persia. It is subdivided into Usuli and Akbari. Usuli Muslims believe that any legal matter can be dealt with our understanding in absence of Imam i.e. they followed Ijma in absence of Imam and on the other hand, Akbaris are rigid traditionalist and can only be guided by Imams or Mushtahids (Jurists).

Mutazila / Mutazili Sect

This sect is the offshoot of Shia muslims. It was found by Wasil bin Ata. This school is not organized and it is doubtful that is there any follower is left or not in the present time.


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