Sunnis of the Hanafi School

Afghanistan Table of Contents

The Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence was founded by Abu Hanifa, one of the earliest Muslim scholar-interpreters to seek new ways of applying Islamic tenets to everyday life. He died in Iraq in AD 767. Abu Hanifa's interpretation of Muslim law was extremely tolerant of differences within Muslim communities. He also separated belief from practice, elevating belief over practice. Sunni are found throughout Afghanistan.

Ithna Ashariya (Twelver or Imami) Shia

Religious succession is basic to Shia/Sunni differences, and also divides the Shia. The two major Shia communities in Afghanistan are the Ithna Ashariya or Twelvers, also called Imami, and the Ismaili, sometimes called the Seveners. The Imami Shia recognize twelve successive Imams, beginning with Ali and ending in AD 874 with the disappearance of the twelfth who will return as a messianic figure at the end of the world.

The most numerous Imami Shia groups in Afghanistan are the Imami Hazara living in the Hazarajat of central Afghanistan, and the Imami Farsiwan of Herat Province. Mixtures occur in certain areas such as Bamiyan Province where Sunni, Imami and Ismaili may be found. Imami Shia are also found in urban centers such as Kabul, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Mazar-i-Sharif where numbers of Qizilbash and Hazara reside. Urban Shia are successful small business entrepreneurs; many gained from the development of education that began in the 1950s.

The political involvement of Shia communities grew dramatically during the politicized era during and following the Soviet invasion. Politically aware Shia students formed the hard core of the Afghan Maoist movement of the 1960s and early 1970s After 1978, Shia mujahidin groups in the Hazarajat, although frequently at odds with one another, were active in the jihad and subsequently in the fighting for the control of Kabul. During the political maneuvering leading up to the establishment of The Islamic State of Afghanistan in 1992, the Shia groups unsuccessfully negotiated for more equitable, consequential political and social roles. This heightened profile created a backlash among some Sunni groups, notably those associated with the Hezb-i Islami of Mawlawi Yunus Khalis and the Ittihad-i-Islam of Professor Abd al-Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf. Violent sectarian confrontations took place, particularly in and around Kabul.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress