Islamic history, Shiahs maintain, began to go wrong when Hazrat Ali, married to Hazrat Fatima, daughter of the Prophet, was not made the first Caliph after the death of his father-in-law. To make matters worse Hazrat Ali was assassinated. Hazrat Ali’s two sons, Hazrat Hassan and Hazrat Hussain, following in their father’s footsteps, opposed tyranny and upheld the puritan principles of Islam. Both were also martyred. Hazrat Hussain was martyred, facing impossible odds on a battlefield, with his family and followers, at Karbala. Among those killed at Karbala was Hazrat Hussain’s six-month-old son, Hazrat Ali Asghar (who appeared to Naseem in Chakwal). The Prophet, Hazrat Fatima, Ali, Hassan and Hussain are the five key figures for Shiah theology and history. These are the panjtan pak, “the pure five,” of Shiahs in Pakistan, including those in Chakwal. Since five of them were martyred in the cause of Islam, death, martyrdom, tears and sacrifice form a central part of Shiah mythology. Members of the Shiah community are expected to respond with fervour (jazba) to a call for sacrifice by the leadership. A sense of sectarian uniqueness, group loyalty, faith in the leadership, readiness for sacrifice, and devout ecstasy during the divine ritual, characterise the community. It has been called “the Karbala paradigm” and would have been exhibited in Chakwal. In Pakistan, today, where about 20 per cent. of the population of 90 million are Shiahs, Shiah-Sunni differences can degenerate into conflict. This is especially so during the Muharram, the ten days of Shiah mourning for the events at Karbala. During this period Shiahs mourn, flagellate themselves, organise processions symbolic of Karbala, and recite moving poems of the tragedy at Karbala which reduce those present to tears and quivering rapture. Conflict with Sunnis is often sparked as a result of overzealous Shiahs abusing figures respected by Sunnis, such as Hazrat Umar. It was one such riot which had paralysed Karachi when the party from Chakwal arrived there on its way to the Arabian sea. Chakwal society itself is riven with Shiah and Sunni opposition which has a long and bitter history. Local politics, marriages and economics are based on this opposition. Sectarian tension and loyalties also divide families. Some of Willayat’s own nearest kin were either secret Sunnis or suspected of being sympathisers. These divided loyalties must have led to severe tension both for him and his daughter. A sense of sectarian uniqueness, group loyalty, faith in the leadership, readiness for sacrifice and devout ecstasy during the divine ritual characterise the community. An appreciation of the five central figures of the Shiahs also helps us to understand the role of women in that community. The position of Hazrat Fatima is central. Her popularity among the Shiah in Chakwal may be judged by the fact that seven women in Willayat Shah’s family carry her name. Two of these are called Ghulam Fatima, or slave of Fatima. Always a great favourite of her father, Hazrat Fatima provides the link between her father and husband and between her sons and their grandfather. The Sayyads, those claiming descent from the Prophet, do so through Hazrat Fatima. So do the twelve Imams, revered by the Shiah. In addition, Fatima’s mother and the Prophet’s first wife, Hazrat Khadijah, is also an object of reverence. Two other women feature in Shiah mythology, but neither is a popular figure. They are Hazrat Ayesha and Hazrat Hafsa, both wives of the Prophet. The reason for their unpopularity is linked to the question of Hazrat Ali’s succession. Ayesha was the daughter of Abu Bakar and Hafsa of Umar, the two who preceded Ali as Caliph. Ayesha is singled out as she opposed Ali actively after her husband’s death. Thus, one of the five revered figures of the Shiah is a woman. Among the Sunnis, a similar listing of the Prophet and the first four Righteous Caliphs consists entirely of males. In other matters, too, Shiah women are better off than Sunnis. Shiah women, for example, often inherit shares equal to that inherited by male kin, whereas among educated Sunni, women receive, at best, one-half of what a male inherits. In the rural areas, they seldom inherit at all. Shiah women also play a leading role in rituals. The organisation of marsyas and azadari, and the enactment of the death dramas of Karbala, all involve the active participation of women. Of the eighteen people who died at Hawkes Bay, ten were women, a notably large number in view of the fact that only sixteen of the forty-two who set out on the pilgrimage were women. Willayat Shah lost both his mother and daughter. It may be argued that the women were unequivocally committed to sacrifice. By locking themselves in trunks they had sealed their fates. For them, there was no coming back from the waves. Their sense of sacrifice and passion for the cause was supreme. The attitudes of the two communities to the Hawkes Bay incident reveal their ideological positions. Sunnis, as we saw above, condemned the entire episode as “bizarre” and dismissed it as “insanity.” This, they argued, was mumbo-jumbo and quackery and not in keeping with the logic and rationality which is Islam. For Shiahs, all the ingredients of high devotion were amply displayed. Through it, they felt they had once again established their superior love for Islam. Here there was sacrifice, persecution, death and martyrdom, the Shiah paradigm. Educated Shiah, who found it awkward to explain the Hawkes Bay case, nonetheless, applauded the jazba of the group. As one journalist concluded his report: “There are millions who don’t have the slightest doubt that they have demonstrated the highest degree of sacrifice by answering the call and order of the Hidden Imam.” The idea of sacrificing life and property for Allah exists both in Shiah and Sunni Islam and is supported in the Holy Quran. Sacrifice and its symbolism are part of Islamic religious culture. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, for example, is celebrated annually throughout the Muslim world at Eid-ul-Zaha. But for the Shiahs, sacrifice holds a central place in social behaviour and sectarian mythology. Here it is necessary to distinguish between suicide-throwing away life given by God and sacrifice, or dedication of that life to God. Suicide is a punishable offence in Islam. Sunnis, therefore, seeing the deaths at Hawkes Bay as suicide, disapproved. They saw the episode as a throwing away of valuable lives, whereas Shiahs saw it as a sacrifice, which would confirm their devotion. Willayat Shah was convinced his mission was divine and that he had proved this through a dramatic act of sacrifice. Reward, he was certain, would be paradise in the afterworld. In interviews after the event, he expressed his wish to be martyred (shaheed). There was no remorse; there was only jazba. To a remarkable degree Shiah tradition, and the practice of death and sacrifice, coincided in this case. For the Shiah in Chakwal, text and practice were one. Suffering thus became as much an expression of faith as of social solidarity. “As a religious problem, the problem of suffering is, paradoxically, not how to avoid suffering but how to suffer, how to make of physical pain, personal loss, worldly defeat, or the helpless contemplation of others’ agony something bearable, supportable-something, as we say, sufferable.” Suffering, martyrdom and death, the Karbala paradigm, create an emotionally receptive social environment for sacrifice. Death in our case, therefore, became a cementing, defining, and status-bestowing act for the community. It consoli dated the living as it hallowed the memory of the dead. (Editorial Note: We published these articles from MAN Royal Anthropological institute, London, due to their importance and relevance today.) (Concluded) The writer is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies (School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC) and a Wilson Center Global Fellow.