Origins

As Islam spread and the diversity of Muslims increased, the influences on Shiism also became more diverse. The Turkish invasions in the Middle East, which began with the employment of Central Asian slave soldiers in the early 9th century and continued with independent dynasties (most notably the Seljuks and the Ottomans, both staunch Sunnis), had an enormous impact. When they arrived in the Middle East, the Turks had only recently converted to Islam and often maintained elements of their nomad shamanism. The Shiite veneration of the descendants of Muhammad may have connected well with Central Asian beliefs in holy men. The Qizilbash, who provided the initial supporters and fighting force of the Safavids in the 16th century, combined these old legacies with Gnostic tendencies and thought of Muhammad, Ali, the Imams, and Shah Ismail as manifestations of the divine light.


Study Questions:
1.     What does Shiism share with other monotheistic religions?
2.     What roles did the citizens of Kufa play in the early development of Shiism?
3.     How did the influence of non-Arab converts to Shiism affect the development of faith?

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