Because of the significance of Husayn's martyrdom in Shiite thought this branch of Islam is sometimes compared to Christianity. His fate is reminiscent of Jesus' sacrifice since both died in order to intercede on behalf of the believers. Despite the extraordinary qualities attributed to Husayn and Ali by Shiites, mainstream believers insist on the human nature of Muhammad's relatives.

While there is no concept of original sin in Islamic thought, the common assumption is that the human condition turns people into sinners. They are in need of superior assistance to achieve salvation. Ordinary human beings can contribute to this possibility if they die as martyrs. In recent history—in particular during the Iran-Iraq war—the sacredness of martyrdom has been exploited in political propaganda.

Study Questions:
1.     How does the Muharram passion play shape Shiite spirituality?
2.     In what ways did Ghazali, a Sunni theologian, inform Shiite theology about the presence of evil in the world?
3.     How is Husayn's story comparable to that of Jesus in Christian theology?

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