Alawi means ‘devoted to Ali’ or ‘followers of Ali’. Their roots are therefore considered to be in Shiism, defined essentially by the traditions and reverence for Imam Ali and the belief that he was the rightful successor to the Prophet (PBUH) and should have been the first Islamic Caliph. Like the Shia, Imam Ali’s death for many minority traditions was the loss of a more spiritual and internalised approach to Islam. Imam Ali was renowned for his gentleness, concern that Muslims develop themselves spiritually and for his scholarship. The Alawites, like the Shia, formalise a system of leadership that effectively sees the succession of the Prophet (PBUH) in both spiritual and theological terms; they both believe that Islamic scholarship effectively moved to Imam Ali and his sons, then passed onto other imams over the progression of time, in short, the ‘Twelvers’.
The Alawis are an Arabic-speaking, ethno-religious Muslim tradition, centred in north-west Syria and its surrounding plains. Historically, they were a largely rural community. However, since the 1970s they have had significant populations in urban areas. Smaller populations also exist today in Lebanon, southern Turkey and Iraq. It is generally believed that Alawis constitute 12 – 13% of the Syrian population.
The first wave of Alawite migration to Australia was in the 1960s when they resettled for economic reasons. Later, in the 1970s, Alawis began migrating to Australia as refugees due to a series of civil wars in the Middle East. It is estimated that today Victoria is home to about 13,000 Alawis, and New South Wales to approximately 30,000.
Alawis believe in the five pillars of Islam:
- Shahada – Unity of God or Indivisibility of God (tawheed) and that the Prophet is his Messenger;
- Salat – Prayer;
- Zakat – Almsgiving;
- Sawm – Fasting for the holy month of Ramadan (always for 30 days);
- Hajj or Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Alawites maintain the belief in Prophethood (from Adam to Muhammad, the latter being the final messenger of God), the four Holy Books (the Qur’an being the final holy book, and the source of truth), the Angels, and the Day of Judgement. Like all other Muslims, the Alawites rely on the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the consensus of scholars, and analogical deduction or human reasoning/intelligence in the formulation and practice of Islam. In addition to the four established Sunni jurisprudence schools (of Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi and Shafi’i), the Alawites also rely on and give precedence to the Jafari (6th Imam of the Shia’s 12 Imams) school of Islamic jurisprudence.
Like all other Muslims, the Alawites rely on the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the consensus of scholars, and analogical deduction or human reasoning/intelligence in the formulation and practice of Islam Introduction to Muslim diversity
Alawis consider themselves as followers of a religion of peace and respect all other faiths.
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