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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: October 2011

9 - Conclusion


Historical studies of early Shī‘ism are generally limited by a lack of contemporaneous sources and a reliance on theological works such as heresiographies. Although many scholars have made use of these materials to construct careful and erudite narratives for the origins of sectarianism, it is difficult to dispel doubts that they are simply back-projections intended to validate subsequent political and theological developments. This book is an attempt to make use of recent methodological advances in the dating of early sources (particularly traditions ascribed to the Prophet or other early authorities) to test the reliability of the origin narratives of Imāmī and Zaydī Shī‘ism.

Modern studies of early Imāmī Shī‘ism emphasize the institution of the Imāmate in a wide variety of interpretive frameworks (from theological to legal) to date the emergence of the sect to the early 2nd/8th century. A particular importance is ascribed to al-Bāqir and al-Ṣādiq who are said to have gathered a circle of disciples in Medina and commanded a large following in Kūfa. The Imāmī community crystallized around a belief in the unquestioned authority of these ‘Alids, although differences over the scope of that authority persisted, with some positing a rationalist position and others venturing into the esoteric. The Imāmī perspective on the Companions aligned with that of the Jārūdī Zaydīs (see further discussion here) and included a total rejection of those who had opposed ‘Alī’s claims. These figures were deemed untrustworthy and rarely appeared in the chains of transmission of Imāmī traditions.

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The Origins of the Shī'a
  • Online ISBN: 9780511862618
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