Origins

For the next five years, the entirety of his reign, Ali faced opposition and revolts. In 656, he faced and defeated an uprising led by one of the prophet's widows, Aisha, and her supporters Talhah and al-Zubayr. This event, dubbed the Battle of the Camel because Aisha herself is said to have ridden into battle in a litter on a camel's back, was not the last obstacle Ali would face. Contenders for power in Syria, relatives of Uthman, faced off in the Battle of Siffin in 658. This prolonged battle came to a close when Muawiya, the leader of the Syrian opposition, had his troops ride into an arbitration with copies of the Quran affixed to the ends of their lances. Ali agreed to arbitration, a fact for which he would pay dearly. Secessionists from his own group of supporters, called Kharijites, betrayed him and declared him an illegitimate leader. Ali was assassinated by a Kharijite in 661.

Muawiya, poised for leadership from his base in Syria, became caliph. His was the first caliphate to end with the explicit designation of a successor, his son Yazid. The institution of dynastic succession for leadership over the numerical majority of the Muslim community, while not entirely uncontroversial, signified a decisive answer to Shi'i claims about Muhammad's direct descendants (Ali had married the prophet's daughter, Fatima, so her children and their descendants were the most direct hereditary line going back to Muhammad) having the right to lead, and entrenched the Sunni/Shi'i divide.
Shi'a Sunni
*believe Muhammad named Ali as successor *Do not believe Muhammad named succesor
*Muhammad's family has sole claim to legitimate leadership *the Prophet's companions have authoritative leadership
*rely on authoritative teaching of Muhammad's decedants *rely on consensus (Arabic, ijma) of religions and religious scholars

Study Questions:
     1.     In what ways can it be said that Sunni Islam developed out of controversy?
     2.     Who was Abu Bakr? What was his relationship to Muhammad?
     3.     Why did Umar’s death solidify the divide between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims?
     4.     Describe the relationship between political instability and Islamic sects.

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