Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.
March 12, 2004
fuzzy analogies: Shi'a and Catholics.
Razib takes exception
to the Shi'a-Catholic/Sunni-Protestant analogy, and makes some very good points about why the mapping is not 1:1. However, as a Shi'a myself, though, I still find the analogy useful when discussing religion with Christians, because there are some string parallels that I think Razib overlooked:
Sunnis and Protestants focus more emphasis on the individual as the route to God. These can be loosely termed "democratic" though of course that allows for all sorts of grassroots-driven diversity. However that has its downside, as the rise of Christian and Islamic fundies alike who take a literalist view of the holy book, manufacture religious sources to support their interpretations (think hadith and historical revisioninsm ala "America was founded on Christian values") .
Shia/Catholics are more hierarchical driven and see te path to God as lying through an intercessor who has divine authority. This imposes a discipline of the range of interpretations possible of the holy sources. Shi'a dont accept any hadith that doesnt have an isnad (record of narration) that traces to Ali AS, for example. The role of Imam and Pope ar not equal but they certainly are analogous.
Note that Iranian and Iraqi Shi'a (and other Ithna Ashari "Twelver" groups) are very similar to Sunnis in the way they organize their religious authority structures. My own sect, the Ismaili Bohras (separate from the Ismaili Aga Khanis), is more traditional and thus follows the Catholic analogy (without equivalence) more closely.
As always, I urge anyone interested in learning more about Shi'a practices and beliefs as well as my own community's response to the challenges of integrating modernism and tradition, to read Jonah Blank's excellent ethnography, Mullahs on the Mainframe
posted by Shi'a Pundit
About Shi'a Pundit
Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining
to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi
Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the
Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam,
headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna
Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).