When we follow the first stage of the life of the Muslim Ummah during the lifetime of the Prophet (sas) we find that there were two different principal trends accompanying the development of the Ummah and the beginning of the Islamic experience from the earliest years, which co-existed within the embryonic Ummah established by the guiding Prophet.
This difference between the two trends led to an ideological schism immediately after the death of the Prophet which divided the Ummah into two sections, one of which was destined to rule and extend its influence so as to include the majority of the Muslims, while the other section was forced further from power and was destined to exist as an opposing minority within the framework of the greater Muslim Ummah. This minority was in fact the Shi’a.
The two principal trends which accompanied the development of the Ummah during the lifetime of the Prophet from the beginning were:
i) The trend which believed in devotion to Islam and its arbitration, and in total submission to the religious texts in every sphere of life.
ii) The trend which believed that belief in Islam did not necessitate devotion except in the special scope of religious observances and metaphysics, and believed in the possibility of ijtihad (independent judgement), and the permissibility of making judgements on this basis with changes and modifications in the religious texts according to their interests in matters other than the above in the sphere of life.
Although the sahaba, as the believing and enlightened van guard of Islam, were the most perfect and most important seeds for its religious development to the extent that there has never in the course of history been an ideological generation more magnificent, purer or more nobler than that established by the Prophet, we find that it is necessary to accept the existence of a large trend, from the very lifetime of the Prophet who inclined towards proposing the use of ijtihad and circumstantial considerations in determining their interests, above strict adherence to the religious texts.