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Zaydi Islam

Zaydis (also: Zaidi, Zaiddiyah, or in the West Fivers) are the most moderate of the Shi'a groups and the nearest to the Sunnis in their theology. They say that they are a "fifth school" of Islam (in addition to the four Sunni orthodox schools). This Shi`ite sect is named after Zayd b. Ali, grandson of Husayn. The Zaydi sect was formed by the followers of Zayd b. Ali, who led an unsuccessful rebellion against the Umayyad caliph Hisham in 740.

According to Zaydi political theory, Ali, Hasan and Husayn are the first three rightful Imams; after them, the imamate is open to whomever of their descendants establishes himself through armed rebellion. Shia regard Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin as the fourth imam. While most shias take Muhammed Al-Baqir to be the next Imam, Zayadis take Al-Baqir's brother Zayd as imam.

Zaidi see Zayd as the fifth Imam because of the rebellion he led against the Umayyad dynasty, which he believed was corrupt. Muhammad al-Baqir did not engage in political action, whereas Zayd preached that a true Imam must fight against corrupt rulers.

Not all Zaidis believe that Zaid is the true Imam. Zaidis known as Wastis believes in Twelver Imams. They are part of Shia Ithna Ashiri. Most of them settled in India, Pakistan. The biggest group of Zaidis having their belive on Twelve Shia Imams is known as Saadat-e-Bahra. Saadat means descendents of Imam Husayn bin Ali and Bahra means twelve in Hindi and Urdu Languages.

The first Zaydi state was established in Tabaristan (northern Iran) in 864; it lasted until the death of its leader at the hand of the Samanids in 928. Forty years later the state was revived in Gilan (north-western Iran) and survived under Hasanid leaders until the 12th century.

In Yemen, a Zaydi state was established in 893 by a Hasanid who had originally been invited to mediate between quarrelling Yemeni tribes. A succession of occupations by foreign dynasties beginning in the tenth century occasionally forced the Zaydi imamate to retreat northwards; however, the imamate survived until the death of its last imam in 1962.

Yemen is a country with deep Muslim traditions, but is often most mentioned for its relatively large Zaydi Shi'i group, even if this represents a minority in the country as a total. The Zaydi order of Shi'a Islam represents approximately 25 percent t of the total population. Yemen's north is the center of Zaydism. Zaydism is known for putting less importance on the position of the Imam, than among the Twelver (Iran), perhaps because the Zaydis have enjoyed far more political and religious freedom than the other.

In the rugged mountains of northern Yemen live some four hundred Zaydi tribes with a total of some five million members. For over one thousand years they have been the dominant community in the Yemen, often fighting against the Sunni Shafi'i tribes and the smaller Isma'ili and Twelver Shi'a communities.

Zaidi beliefs are moderate compared to other Shia sects. The Zaidis do not believe in the infallibility of the Imams, nor that they receive divine guidance. Zaidis also do not believe that the Imamate must pass from father to son, but believe it can be held by any descendant of Ali. They also reject the Twelver notion of a hidden Imam, and like the Ismailis believe in a living imam, or even imams.

In matters of law or fiqh, the Zaidis are actually closest to the Sunni Shafie school.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:59:47 ZULU