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Beliefs

Although the concept of original sin has no equivalent in Islamic thought, in particular spiritual-minded Muslims share the idea of an initial state of mankind, characterized by intimacy with the divine and spiritual piety. The aim of spiritual exercise and the direction of salvation history is that this state is established again. Furthermore, there is an idea of pure spirituality and authentic religion at the beginning of human history, before the Deluge. Shiites with antinomian trends consider Islamic law a superficial, outer element of religion that can be abandoned in favor of this pure, initial state.

Minority groups associated with Shiism have presented further ideas concerning human nature and the relationship between God and mankind. In the 8th century, a certain Abu al-Khattab presented himself as the deputy of Jafar al-Sadiq, who eventually repudiated him. After Abu al-Khattab was killed in ca. 755, a variety of groups maintained that he was a prophet and sent by Jafar who was God. One of these groups claimed immortality, another that the world would not end. As in many other extremist Shiite groups, some believed in the transmigration of souls.


Study Questions:
1.     How do Shiites handle the paradox of divine sovereignty and human free will?
2.     What theological traditions do Shiites share with Sufis?
3.     What place does the idea of a hierarchy of beings have in Shiite theology?

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