Sunnis of the Hanafi School
The Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence was founded by Abu Hanifa, one ofthe earliest Muslim scholar-interpreters to seek new ways of applying Islamictenets to everyday life. He died in Iraq in AD 767. Abu Hanifa's interpretationof Muslim law was extremely tolerant of differences within Muslim communities.He also separated belief from practice, elevating belief over practice. Sunniare found throughout Afghanistan.
Ithna Ashariya (Twelver or Imami) Shia
Religious succession is basic to Shia/Sunni differences, and also divides theShia. The two major Shia communities in Afghanistan are the Ithna Ashariya orTwelvers, also called Imami, and the Ismaili, sometimes called the Seveners. TheImami Shia recognize twelve successive Imams, beginning with Ali and ending inAD 874 with the disappearance of the twelfth who will return as a messianicfigure at the end of the world.
The most numerous Imami Shia groups in Afghanistan are the Imami Hazaraliving in the Hazarajat of central Afghanistan, and the Imami Farsiwan of HeratProvince. 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 suchas Kabul, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Mazar-i-Sharif where numbers of Qizilbash andHazara reside. Urban Shia are successful small business entrepreneurs; manygained from the development of education that began in the 1950s.
The political involvement of Shia communities grew dramatically during thepoliticized era during and following the Soviet invasion. Politically aware Shiastudents formed the hard core of the Afghan Maoist movement of the 1960s andearly 1970s After 1978, Shia mujahidin groups in the Hazarajat, althoughfrequently at odds with one another, were active in the jihad and subsequentlyin the fighting for the control of Kabul. During the political maneuveringleading up to the establishment of The Islamic State of Afghanistan in 1992, theShia groups unsuccessfully negotiated for more equitable, consequentialpolitical and social roles. This heightened profile created a backlash amongsome Sunni groups, notably those associated with the Hezb-i Islami of MawlawiYunus 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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