This article will be a detailed analysis of Shia Islam and its branches.
Instead of Caliphate, Shia believes in Imamate. There is also a concept of infallibility among Shia Muslims. Infallible means a person who cannot sin. According to Shia all the imams, Prophet Muhammad, and his daughter Fatima were infallible.
Shia Muslims are further divided into three branches. Zaidi, Twelver, and Ismaili. Twelver is the most followed Shia branch. Twelver are also called Jafari, as they follow the Imam Jafar Sadiq. Twelver or Jafri Shia believes in 12 Imam. Ismaili Shia believes in 7 Imams, and Zaidi believes in 5 imams respectively.
The first four imams are common among all the branches of Shia. The first Imam is Ali ibn Talib, the second is Hassan ibn Ali, the third is Hussain ibn Ali, and the fourth one was Al Sajjad also known as Zain ul Abideen. Following four people are considered Imam by all the branches of Shia Muslims.
After the death of Imam Zain ul abideen, Shia had a disagreement on his succession. Zaydi Shia believed that Imam Zayd was the fifth Imam. Contrary to that Ismaili and Jafari Shia believed that Imam Muhammad al baqir was the next Imam after Imam Zain ul abideen. Imam Baqir was the half-brother of Imam Zayd.
Zaydi Shia abolished the imamate after Imam Zayd and stick to five imams. Zaidi Shia is the oldest branch of Shia. Unlike Jafari and Ismaili, Zaydi Shia doesn’t attribute the characteristic of infallibility to the Imams. currently, Zaidi Shia constitutes 0.5% of the total Muslim population with the majority in Yemen.
After Imam Muhammad Al Baqir, Imam Jafar Sadiq became the sixth imam of Ismaili and Jafari Shia. Both the branches accept the Imamate of Imam Jafar. Again a disagreement arose about who should succeed Imam Jafar. Following Ja’far’s death, the Shia community split between those who believed the Imamate was passed to Musa ibn Jafar, who would become the Twelver Shia, and those who believed that the Imamate passed to Ismail ibn Jafar, who would become the Ismaili branch named after Ismail.
Ismaili Shia ended the imamate after Imam Ismail bin Jafar and stick to seven imams. At one time from the 10th to 12th century during the Fatimid Caliphate Ismaili was the largest branch of Shia Islam. Ismaili Shias are mainly present in central Asian countries. A sub-branch of Ismaili is known as Nizaris. they recognize Aga Khan 4 as the 49th hereditary Imam.
The Twelver is the largest branch of Shia Islam, with about 85% of all Shias. As mentioned earlier, Twelver considered Imam Musa as the seventh Imam. After Imam Musa, Imamate remained in his family through his descendants. The eleventh Imam of Jafari Shia was Hassan ibn Ali. His Imamat was abolished in 874 CE when he was poisoned on the order of the Abbasid caliph. The 12th and the present Imam of Twelver Shia is Imam Mahdi. Twelver Shia believed that Imam Mahdi was born in 869 CE. afterward, he went into hiding, from which he will one day emerge and establish global justice. He will continue his hiding as long as God wills. All of the Imams met unnatural deaths, with the exception of the last Imam who, according to Twelver belief, is living in occultation.