Here is interesting passage from the introduction to the translation of the book Kitab al-Irshad (Book of Guidance) by Mohammed al-Baghdadi, known more commonly as Sheikh al-Mufid. He was born in the late 10th century and is renowned for being one of the greatest Shia scholars. The introduction by translator I.K.A Howard, University of Edinburgh, gives us an insight into sectarian life in Baghdad a thousand years ago.
“Although the period was a much more favourable time for Imami-Shi’ite scholars, it was not without friction between the Shi’ites and their opponents. Two Shi’ite festivals had been established. The commemoration of Ghadir Khumm on the 18th of the month of Dhu al-Hijja, and Ashura on the 10th of the month of Muharram. These festivals were instituted by the Buwayhid Mu’izz al-Dawla in 962. The Ghadir Khumm festival commemorated the occasion on which the Prophet, when returning from the farewell pilgrimage, declared Ali to the mawla (master) of the people and commended him to them. This was taken by Shi’ites to be an explicit designation of Ali for the Imamate. Ashura commemorated the martyrdom of al-Husayn in Iraq. In retaliation to these two festivals, the Sunnis instituted two rival festivals in 999 on the 26th of Dhu al-Hijja and 18th of Muharram, on which they celebrated respectively Abu Bakr’s stay in the cave with the Prophet during his emigration from Medina to Mecca, and the death of Mus’ab b. al-Zubayr, who had defeated the rebel al-Mukhtar, who had risen in vengeance for the death of al-Husayn. These festivals became a frequent source of violence between Shi’ite and Sunni partisans. There were several occasions on which serious violence occurred between the rival factions. On these occasions al-Mufid was banished from the city of Baghdad because of disturbances but it does not appear that al-Mufid was in any way responsible for instigating these disturbances. Rather it appears that the Buwayhids, in order to preserve order and give an appearance of even-handed justice, felt it necessary to find a scape-goat among the Shi’ites. Al-Mufid was sufficiently important for them to pacify Sunni sentiments.”
I wanted to write an essay on how depressing it is to see how much Iraq has progressed in terms of sectarianism (amongst other things) over the past millennium but I found a quote that saves me a lot of time.
“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” - George Bernard Shaw