Shiite Muslim Holiday Celebrated in Houston

March 2, 2002

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On March 2, 2002, The Houston Chronicle featured an article on the Ghadir Khumm holiday, "a centuries-old and contested event of Islamic history... [celebrated] by Shiite Muslims at the Islamic Education Center [in Houston]... Shiite Muslims... account for at least 15 percent of the world's roughly 1.2 billion Muslims... 'Ghadir Khumm is uniquely a Shiite holiday,' said David Cook, assistant professor of religious studies at Rice University and a specialist in early Islam... The story behind Ghadir Khumm concerns Muhammad's return to Medina from his final hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. On the route, the prophet announced that his cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali, would be his successor as leader of the growing Muslim community, said Hadi Elmi, chairman of the board of directors of the Islamic Education Center. But 'when the prophet died, Ali was not in fact his successor,' Cook said... 'The festival of Ghadir Khumm is designed to show that Ali should have been the person who succeeded the prophet,' Cook said... For Sunni Muslims, Ali is highly regarded for his contributions to the faith, said Basheer Khumawala, a professor in the business college of the University of Houston and a frequent lecturer on Islam... A common respect for Ali is something that could unite Shiite and Sunni Muslims, groups that have battled for control in various Muslim countries for centuries."