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Combining or Separating the Daily Prayers: Shi‘i and Sunni Perspectives

In this paper, the writer initially discusses sectarian polemics in the eighth and ninth centuries as stated in Shi‘i and Sunni polemical and heresiographical texts.

The emergence of distinct Shi‘i legal and theological schools can be traced to the time of the fifth Shi‘i imam, Muhammad al-Baqir (d. 735). Respected by and contemporary to many Sunni jurists in Medina and Kufa, he is credited with laying the foundations of what was subsequently called the Ja‘fari school of law. Al-Baqir is also the first Shi‘i figure from whom a vast corpus of hadith in the legal field has been transmitted. His legal pronouncements were later elaborated on by his son, the sixth Shi‘i imam, Ja‘far al-Sadiq (d. 765) after whom the school was named. Al-Sadiq was contemporary to prominent Sunni jurists like Abu Hanifa  (d. 767) and Malik b. Anas (d. 795). Al-Baqir and al-Sadiq are also credited with enunciating Shi‘i theological doctrines like the doctrine of the imamate, the infallibility and esoteric knowledge of the imams, and other related doctrines.

The formation and crystallization of distinct Shi‘i theological and legal schools in the seventh and eighth centuries precipitated disputations between the Shi’is and their adversaries. In this paper, I will initially discuss sectarian polemics in the eighth and ninth centuries as stated in Shi‘i and Sunni polemical and heresiographical texts. I will also examine the role that the disciples (the rijal) of the imams played in the elaboration of Shi‘i dogma and their engagement in polemical discourses.

In the second section of the paper, I propose to examine sectarian polemics in contemporary times. More specifically, I will discuss the differences between the Shi‘is and Sunnis on the question of combining the daily prayers that they offer. To highlight the debate last century, Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi (d. 1957).

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