Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Zaidism and Hadith Authenticity.

Followers of the Zaydi / Zaidi math-hab are at a distinct advantage when it comes to the study of ahadith (prophetic narrations) and the study of the authenticity of ahadith. This is because, unlike the Sunnis, the Zaidis do not require taqleed (blind acceptance) of ahadith, and unlike 12 imamers, Zaidis do not believe in the infallibility of some of the ahadith narrators.
With these two restrictions lifted from them, Zaidi scholars are in a position to review ahadith critically and logically, taking into account the historical / political context of the hadith’s appearance, its conformity with Qur’anic principals, and applying reason/logic in an effort to ascertain the hadith’s authenticity.

Why do Sunnis and 12 Imamers uncritically accept their ahadith collections?

The sunnis have idolized two of their ahadith collectors, namely Bukhari and Muslim, to such an extent that they do not acknowledge that either of them could have made a mistake when selecting the ahadith that went into their collections. They have labeled their collections as “Sahih al Bukhari” and “Sahih Muslim”, and if anyone challenges any ahadith from these two collections, they are considered non-sunnis. This is despite the fact that these two scholars, who are not from ahlul bait or even from Qr’aish, never claimed infallibility.
The 12 Imamers have idolized their 12 Imams to such an extent that any narrations supposedly originating from them go unchallenged as well. They have an advantage over the sunnis in that their narrations come from ahlul bait, however, their insistence that their Imams are infallible makes serious scientific study, with a critical approach, very difficult.

Contrast this with the Zaidi position as articulated by Imam Rassi Society:
“A hallmark feature of the Zaydi school is that all of our hadith literature are subject to scrutiny; even ahadiths from our imams! We don't have any book called "Saheeh this" or "Saheeh that". The Qur'an and logic are used to judge the ahadith.”

As discussed in an earlier post, the Zaidis and 12 Imamers agree that “Allah ta`ala does not abrogate His speech by (anything) other than His speech” i.e. the Qur’an can not be abrogated by the Sunna (the ahadith). However, the sunnis, also known in history as “ahlul hadeeth” have a tendency to give ahadith precedence over the Qur’an where there is a contradiction.

As well as using the Qur’an and logic to judge the validity of a hadith, another way of evaluating ahadith, which was refined by the mu’tazili scholars, is to identify and promote those ahadith which are “mutawatir’, i.e. found in the books of all Islamic math-habs including sunni, Zaidi and 12 imamer, in other words:
“those (ahadith) that have come down to later generations through a large number of chains of narration, involving diverse transmitters such that it is virtually impossible that all these people, living in different localities and espousing (at times radically) different views, would come together, fabricate the exact same lie and attribute it to the Prophet of Islam or any other authority. A large number of narrators is not a sufficient criterion for authenticating a report because people belonging to some sect or party may have an interest in fabricating reports that promote their agendas. The power of this mode of transmission, tawatur, rests on both the number and diversity of narrators at each stage of transmission.” (quoted from Wikipedia summary of Mu’tazili doctrine).
This is a very scientific and logical way to identify the accurate ahadith, and it surprises me that nobody has yet published a book of these “mutawatir ahadith” for hadith skeptics like myself to reflect upon.
We have seen that Zaidism and Mu’tazilism are intricately interwoven, therefore I think it is fair to say that Zaidi scholars, like Mu’tazili ones, would have given preference to ahadith which are mutawatir, when quoting from narrators other than Imam Zaid bin Ali. (further research on this point is on its way).

Zaidi scholars also have a tendency to re-interpret ahadith from other schools so that they conform with narrations on the same topic from the Imam Zaid.
Imam Rassi Society has provided an example of this tendency in these words:

“Another thing about our imams is that they made themselves familiar with the narrations of other schools, taking all of the narrations on a topic and seeing if one can interpret the others to conform (with the Zaidi view). For example, in the issue regarding whether touching one's private parts violates ritual purity, our (Zaidi) imams take the position that it doesn’t. As for those (non- Zaidi) narrations that seemingly contradict that view, they interpret those reports that say: ((Whoever touches one's private parts should make ablution)) to mean: "Whoever touches one's private parts should wash their hands". This is because the literal meaning of wudu is to wash one's limbs.”

For all of these reasons, the Zaidi math-hab is clearly the superior math-hab of the three, when it comes to the scientific and logical study of the ahadith. Having said that, Zaidis must be on their guard not to uncritically accept ahadith from their own school, in the event that any of them seem not to conform to the guiding principles of hadith validity mentioned above (i.e. being in accordance with the Qur’an, being logical, and, wherever possible, being mutawatir.)
An example of a possible inconsistency within Zaidism: (?) Debate welcome…
I personally find it surprising that all three schools (Zaidi, sunni and 12 imamer) have accepted the ahadith prescribing the punishment of stoning for married adulterers, which contradicts with the Qur’anic ayat prescribing flogging (i.e. a much more lenient penalty). Here we have an example of a hadith which is mutawatir (agreed upon by all schools of thought) yet in contradiction with the Qur’an. I personally would go with the Qur’an on this one; even though I identify myself as a Zaidi, and it is a mutawatir hadith. On this particular issue I am taking the position of the “Ahlul Qu’ran”, (a group of scholars who have rejected al ahadith because their respect for the Qur’an), because I am not yet convinced by the following justifications for the “unQur’anic” hadith, given by the three math-habs:
A Zaidi justification (from AwsMekka):
“In the written history about leaders (imams)in Yemen (and in Gilan and Dailman) I didn’t read that any did stoning ...but there are ahadith that imam Ali(as) lashed the married adulterer while saying “I lash according to Quraan” and then stoned him saying “I stone according to the sunna”. Imam Hadi (founder of Zaidism in Yemen) only did stoning when the adulterer confessed and chose to be stoned, i.e. to restore their honour”

A 12 Imamer justification (from MacIsaac):
“The usual explanation is that it is abrogated in recitation while not abrogated in ruling. Regardless, yes we do have hadiths indicating that the punishment for the muhsan (married, and whose spouse is sexually available to them) adulterer is to be stoned. However, our fiqh is compatible with what the Quran says in that the adulterer is also lashed a 100 times, like the ayat says. The stoning is an additional punishment on top of that.”

A Sunni justification (a hadith from Sahih al Bukhari, kitab ul hudood)
“The Prophet S.A.W said; “For unmarried persons, one hundred lashes and one year’s exile, for married adulterers, 100 lashes and stoning.”

With all the freedom to evaluate and re-consider its hadith literature, the Zaidi math-hab is the only math-hab that has the potential to develop and flourish into the future, weeding out any inconsistencies; with objective research and open minded scholarship, the true ahadith can be uncovered from the false. Zaidi scholars are in the perfect position to carry out this task. Sunni and 12 Imamer scholars are not. I believe the Zaidi math-hab will be the only math-hab left standing when truly objective and scientific research into all of the ahadith has been thoroughly completed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mu’tazilism Saved from Extinction by Zaydism / Zaidism

There are many Sunnis today who would love to be Mu’tazilis, but are under the mistaken impression that Mu’tazilism is “extinct”. Here is a typical comment from one of them:
“As a Mutazili Muslim from Turkey who abandoned the foolish dogmas and barbaric absurdities of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaah, who is fed up with secularist state-control toward Islam, and who perhaps is the last of the adherents of a revolutionary 'dead sect' that made such notable contributions to a logical and consistent monotheistic creed based on Quranic revelation, I must confess, I was overjoyed to discover the great theological and philosophical reasoning of Mutazilah the first time I encountered it early this year. Never before in any Islamic text or school had I seen such clarity and sophistication in thinking regarding ontological matters. The question of free will and existence of evil in the world were elucidated to such a level that no question or doubt remained. Even now, to my astonishment, I read to explore how Mutazilah has successfully answered all issues of faith, law, justice, morality, etc... in Islam more than a thousand years ago.
Equally, I am baffled as to how a rational, intellectual, meritorious, virtuous, well-principled school of Islamic thought as Mutazilah could fade away. Is it because of Asharite slanders against the magnanimously upright tenets of Mutazilah for centuries? Or the hatred caused by the Mihna unfairly attributed to Mutazilah? Was it Al-Ghazali who delivered the final blow with his inconsistence and irrationalism? The downfall and demise of this sect is shrouded in mystery. Whatever the cause, Mutazilah is too precious a phenomenon to neglect...” (by Ozan Yarman).
There are many modern Sunnis who feel the same way as Osman, and have no idea that the Zaydis are the only Muslims who, instead of neglecting the noble principles mentioned above, have let them flourish throughout the centuries. It is important to educate our Sunni brothers and sisters about Zaydism so that they can emerge from their Dark Age and join us in the Age of Muslim Enlightenment. Also to inform them that by adopting Zaydism, one can unashamedly be a Mu’tazili and at the same time be a loyal and faithful supporter of the Prophet’s family.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Relationship Between Mu’tazilism and Zaydism / Zaidism

The relationship between Mu’tazili theology and Zaydism has been raised; claims that Zaydism “borrowed” mu’tazilism from Sunni theologians, and claims that Zaid bin Ali was a follower of the mu’tazili school rather than a person who inspired it, are worth discussing and clarifying. A Zaidi scholar has also said it is erroneous to label Zaydism as “Mutazili in theology”, when in fact Zaydism comprises more than just Mu’tazilism, as the Mu’tazili school does not deal with the issue of Imamate.

What is Mu’tazilism?
An Islamic school of speculative theology, often described as rationalist because it states that human reason is more reliable than tradition and prefers speculation over “taqleed” (blind acceptance).
The Mu’tazilis believe that it is speculation and reflection which leads to the knowledge of Allah, particularly Allah’s unity (tawheed), His Justice (adl) , Prophecies (nubuwaat), and what is lawful/unlawful. For Zaydis, knowledge of Imamate is added to this list (see Imam alHaadi’s credal statements on our translations blog).
Non mu’tazilis oppose this notion and state that knowledge is gained through uncritical acceptance of ideas (al ilm bil taqleed), and that there is no need to reflect and speculate.
Early Hanbali credal statements encourage “ acceptance of traditions as they are without questions of “why” and “how”, no interpreting of traditions, and no discussion of predestination and other issues.” Even the Hanafi school has a “Laa kaif” policy on some of the issues Mu’tazilis speculate about.

Is Mu’tazilism based on the Quran?
Mu’tazilis state that the proof that speculation is obligatory is in the Qur’an, e.g. “Speculate about what is in the Heavens and the Earth” (10.101)
Mu’tazilis say that there are systems which are right and others which are wrong, it is impossible that all systems can be wrong, for the truth lies within one of them, and the truth can only be found through speculation, not through other people. Therefore speculation is obligatory, and taqleed is incorrect.
The Wikipedia summary of Mu’tazilism states:
“Mu'tazilis believed that the first obligation on humans, specifically adults in full possession of their mental faculties, is to use their intellectual power to ascertain the existence of God, and to become knowledgeable of His attributes. One must wonder about the whole existence, that is, about why something exists rather than nothing. If one comes to know that there is a being who caused this universe to exist, not reliant on anything else and absolutely free from any type of need, then one realizes that this being is all-wise and morally perfect. If this being is all-wise, then his very act of creation cannot be haphazard or in vain. One must then be motivated to ascertain what this being wants from humans, for one may harm oneself by simply ignoring the whole mystery of existence and, consequently, the plan of the Creator. This paradigm is known as wujub al-nazar, i.e., the obligation to use one's speculative reasoning to attain ontological truths. About the "first duty," 'Abd al-Jabbar said (Martin et al., 1997): It is speculative reasoning (al-nazar) which leads to knowledge of God, because He is not known by the way of necessity (daruratan) nor by the senses (bi l-mushahada). Thus, He must be known by reflection and speculation.”

What came first, Mu’tazilism or Zaydism?
The mu’tazili school got its name (given to it by other theologians) around the same time as Zaid bin Ali was alive, however, some of its principals were being discussed before Zaid’s time, as a result of the Karbala tragedy (e.g. Divine Justice, Reward and Punishment) when people became became disillusioned with the Umayyad leadership. It could be said that Zaydism and Mu’tazilism grew up together, as each of the following issues arose and were dealt with:

1. Al-Manzilah bayna al-Manzilatayn المنزلة بين المنزلتين - the intermediate position. That is, Muslims who commit grave sins and die without repentance are not considered as mu'mins (believers), nor are they considered kafirs (non-believers), but in an intermediate position between the two.
Wasil bin Ataa (died 131 AH) is credited by Western historians as being the first to voice the view “Those who commit major sins are neither believers or unbelievers”, and the one who started a study circle independent his previous study circle (that of Hassan al Basra). This standpoint is known as the position between 2 positions, i.e. between khawaarijism and murjism.
It is said that Zaid bin Ali and Wasil sat in the same circles and agreed on this point. Some say that Wasil was Zaid’s student. According to a sunni source, Wasil ibn Ata (ra) and Imam Zayd ibn Ali (as) were considered "blood brothers" because their views were synonymous on various issues. Then it is no surprise that Zaidis adopt this position.
The 12 Imamer view is similar to the mu’tazili view, except that, in their view, 12 Imamers will have special privileges in regards to entering paradise, compared to other Muslims. This is justified by a narration they attribute to Imam Jaf'ar as Sadiq: "Verily, God has angels who cause sins to fall off the backs of our Shi'ites, like the wind does to leaves in autumn” and also by narrations, attributed to their Imams, saying that the Prophet, 12 Imams and righteous Shi'ites will intercede for the rest of the Shi'a (and presumably not for other Muslims).

2. Al-Tawhid التوحيد - Divine Unity. Mu'tazilis believed in the absolute unity and oneness of God. and denied the existence of attributes distinct from Divine essence, and they used metaphorical interpretations of Qur'anic verses with seemingly anthropomorphic content.
Imam Zaid approved of the metaphorical interpretation (ta’wil) according to this narration:
Ubaidullah ibn al-‘Ula said, I heard Zayd ibn ‘Ali say about the following ayat:
And the Jews say, “God’s hand is shackled; and manacled [by Allah] are their hands because of this their assertion. No, but wide are His hands stretched out... 5: 64
Imam Zayd says that the reference here is to Allah’s magnanimity and generosity. In other verses in the Quran the words speak of Allah: “giving abundantly.” In Arabic discourse when it is said that a person is indebted to another person’s hand it is another way to express how one person extends is helping self to another person.
Allah also says:
And neither allow your hand to remain shackled to your neck...
17: 29
and this, according to Imam Zayd, this means do not withhold your hand from spending in good causes as it would be tantamount to having your hand tied to your neck.
Allah also says:
Said He: “O Iblis! What has kept you from prostrating yourself before that [being] which I have created with My hands?
38: 75
This would mean that “I [God] personally created him [Adam] without parents. This is not a specific reference to human-like “hands” as much as it is a reference to Him as a whole being responsible for Adam’s creation. It could very well be that Allah said to Adam “be” and he was without ever having His “hands” involved in the act of creation.
...and the heavens will be rolled up in His right hand...
39: 67
“right hand” in the above ayat refers to His ability and potency. Likewise:
rolled up in His right hand... would refer to His possession and dominion. It is like saying: If it is in my hand it is mine. Which does not necessarily and literally mean that I have it clenched in my fist. There are examples of this in Arabic poetry.”

In contrast to Zayd bin Ali’s position, his contemporary, Abu Hanifa, said in his book Fiqhul Akbar:
“He (Allah) has a hand, a face and a soul, as Allah mentioned in the Qu'ran, and whatever Allah mentions in the Quran regarding the face the hand and the soul, these are His attributes, and (let there be) no discussion about this (laa kaif). It should not be said that His "hand" signifies His "power" or His "kindness", for that would be cancelling out the attribute, and that is what the Qadariyyah and Mu'tazilah are saying. His hand is (one of) His attributes, with no discussion, (just as) His Anger and His Pleasure are two of His attributes, with no discussion ."
This indicates that Zaid bin Ali had the mu’tazili view on this issue, but his student, Abu Hanifa, did not follow his view in this regard. Zaidis follow Zaid’s position, not Abu Hanifa’s, yet many people desribe Zaydism as “close to Hanafism”.

3. Al-'Adl العدل - Divine Justice. Facing the problem of existence of evil in the world, the Mu'tazilis pointed at the free will of human beings.
Muhammad and his early companions, the Sahabah, always insisted on the theory of Sovereignty of Allah, and the freedom of human will, based on the doctrine that man would be judged by his actions. These teachings were predominant until the Umayyad period.
Due to public hatred after the tragedy of Battle of Karbala, the sack of Medina, and many political blunders committed by theUmayyad Caliphate , they were in need of a theory of Predestination,(see Predestination in Islam ), fatalism, (jabr), that "a man is not responsible for his actions which proceed from God". So with their help a school of thought was emerged and was called "JABRIA", which appealed to many because pre-Islamic values were fatalistic. The mu’tazili school, in response, reaffirmed the “adl” concept, which was not something new, but the original concept held by the first generation of Muslims.
Ash’ari opposed it and created the Kasb standpoint as an alternative. Maturidi created a similar standpoint to Ash’ari. The Hanbali school opposed Ash’ari and the Mu’tazilil and created a position even closer to jabr (compulsion).
The Mutazili became known as “People of Divine Unity and Justice”(ahlul tawhid wal adl) .
Judging by his actions in rebelling against the pro-jabr Umayyad leadership, Zaid had the view of the mu’tazili school on this issue, and the Zaydis have adopted it.
There appear to be differences of opinion in the 12 Imamer camp on the issue of Divine Justice.
The leading Iranian ayatollah, Ja’far Subhani, wrote: “ What God has ordained for man is, precisely, free will, the very feature which distinguishes him from animals; man has been ordained a free agent, capable of choosing to perform or abstain from actions.” This sounds like the mu'tazilil position, but then he adds:
"In other words, although action revolves upon man, it is also dependent upon God; for the action proceeds from the human agent, but since in reality the agent, along with his power, is created by God, how can one consider the action of such an agent to be independent of God?" which sounds like the Maturidi position.
He later mentions that God also has foreknowledge of what people will do, but does not compel them.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq’s view, “The reality is neither pre-destination, nor absolute free will, but something between the two” is a statement of non-committal which does not part with the Ash'ari or Maturidi view.
THE 12 imamers also have a narration they attribute to Imam Ali, saying: “This (doctrine of predestination) is a dark path - do not traverse it; a deep ocean - do not enter it; and a divine mystery - do not try to unveil it.” This statement reminds me of the Hanbali school’s warnings not to discuss predestination at all, and goes against the mu’tazili spirit of speculation in order to gain knowledge.
Therefore, it could be said that the Zaydi math-hab holds a unique position on this issue, which goes right back to the early days of theological discussions.
As for sunnis who agree with the mu'tazili/Zaidi position on adl, they have been disowned by the vast majority of their sunni brethren, especially since the "Mihna" instigated by the caliph Ma'mun.

4. The concept of “commanding good and forbidding evil” was/is another of the mu’tazili tenets. During his lifetime, Imam Zaid put this concept into practice, by rising up against the corrupt leadership. In Yemen, the Zaydi Imam al Haadi (died 300 AH) added the concept of rising up against corrupt leadership as a tenet of Zaydism, and added the knowledge of Imamate (Zaydi imamate) to the mu’tazili list of knowledge that Muslims must speculate about in order to know Allah. This is why Zaydis would say that their theology is more than just mu’tazilism; the Zaydi Imamate doctrine stands alongside the mu’tazili tenets and holds equal importance.

Zaidis believe that the unbroken chain of truth goes from the prophet's family passed down knowledge generation after another. The mu'tazili tenets form part of this unbroken truth, but were not known as "mu'tazili" tenets by the ahlul bait. The name was later given by sunni scholars who perceived their own views as the norm and the ahlul bait's views as somehow unorthodox. Wasil bin Ataa was a student of ahlul bait members, like Muhammad bin al Hanafiyyah and Zaid bin Ali, who became known for separating himself from the main Basran school.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Zaydi/Zaidi Activism versus Sunni Quietism.

We have seen that one of the five tenets of mu’tazilism, which is the theology of the Zaidis, is “Commanding right and forbidding wrong”. The Western scholar Michael Cook has written a book about this concept, and to what extent it has been put into practice by the different math-habs, including Zaydis, 12 Imamers, quietist Sunnis and Hanbalis. To read excerpts of the book, entitled “Commanding Right and Forbidding wrong in Islamic Thought”, click on this link:

Here's the blurb by Google books: “What kind of duty do we have to try to stop other people doing wrong? In the Islamic tradition, commanding right and forbidding wrong is a central moral tenet mentioned in the Koran. This book covers the origins of Muslim thinking about forbidding wrong , the relevant doctrinal developments over the centuries, and its significance today. In this way the book contributes to the understanding of Islamic thought, its relevance to contemporary Islamic politics and ideology, and raises fundamental questions for the comparative study of ethics.”

While the Zaydis have always consistently emphasized the importance of forbidding the evil, in particular by their rejection of corrupt leadership, this trend has been more recent among the 12 Imamers (who started off in the “quietist” camp) and the majority of Sunnis (who are still “quietist”, with the exception of some Hanbalis). The book describes the unique way the Hanbalis have put the “forbidding wrong” concept into practice throughout history, which seems to be by accepting the political leadership no matter how corrupt, and instead approaching individual wrong-doers in the street and giving them a hard time (e.g. by smashing musical instruments, overturning chess boards, and interrogating couples to make sure they are married).
Although political activism got off to a slow start among the 12er Imamers, in today’s world it is they who have excelled in this regard, earning themselves the admiration of many non-12 Imamers including the Zaydis of Sa’ada. The political solidarity that is now felt between Zaydis and 12 Imamers is acknowledged here by Imam Rassi Society:

“The Sunni world has been either wholly complacent or incompetent when it comes to dealing with Islam's enemies. You've had the occasional Sunni uprising like Sh. Uthman dan Fodio, Sh. Muhammad as-Sanussi, Sh. Wali Allah Dehlawi, etc. but these isolated incidents pale in comparison to the historical political quietism of the traditional Sunni world. There were some responses to this inability of the traditional Sunni world by politicised Sunnis like the Ikhwan al-Muslimin or the occasional caliphate-restoration groups. However, due to their failure to accomplish much of anything short of securing recognition as a party in some countries and due to the current witchhunt against them, they are simply confined to their liquor-store-money-funded mosques whining about Palestine! Other politicised Sunnis simply abandoned the insufficiency of their own madhhab and adopted Western political models such as communism and Arab nationalist republics, who have failed their people miserably!
The 12er Shiites have been successful in forwarding resistance movements and establishing a Shiite state in the 20th century after the fall of the Sunni caliphate and even the Zaydi imamate. They have also voiced opposition on behalf of those outside of their own madhhab (on behalf of the Sunni Palestinians, Bosnians and the Zaydi Houthis) and religion (on behalf of the Black South Africans during aparteid). Like them or not, they have actualised the ideals of Islamic statehood and governance that the Sunnis have only theorised.
The solidarity between all Shiites is something real. Despite their differences, the fact remains that all Shiites are united in the wilayat of Amir al-Muminin Ali bin Abi Talib, alayhi as salam. This is the reason why despite the fact that Sayyid al-Houthi wrote works refuting the 12ers and was exiled from Iran because of his converting too many 12ers to Zaidism, Ayatullah Sistani was sought to mediate between the Houthis and the Yemeni govt. When the smoke clears, what really matters is not what one says but what one does! You have all of these Sunni so-called "lovers of Ahl al-Bayt" and "Ahl al-Bayt supporters" but when the Hassani and Husseini sayyids in Sa'ada are being massacred and made orphans, they say and do nothing!
In contrast to that, the 12ers adhere to the Wilayat of 'Ali, alayhi as salam, and they put their support of Ahl al-Bayt into action!”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comments from readers about Progressive Zaydism:

This week I’ve been inspired by some of the remarks in the comments section of this blog. Comments like…

“Rather than making Islam fit the pre-casted mold of Western secular humanism, we should bring the progression BACK into Islam. This should be done by progressing our minds to the point that we prefer revelation and reason over stale and unfounded traditions. This should also be done by progressing from oblivious ritualistic practices to actions of constant renewal of faith. This should be done by progressing from outward displays of religiosity to the inward pursuit of spiritual truths and refinement of the soul.”
by Imam Rassi Society

“I think that all reformists, whether we are coming from a Zaidi persecutive, or a Mu’tazili perspective, or the perspective or the religious intellectual movement propagated most successfully by Soroush, who has greatly influenced me, agree that we have to be honest and look in those dark corners which are troubling to us. Covering our eyes does not make them go away and the only way out of our current impasse is with great intellectual courage. It is time that Muslims progressed from child-like faith to the complexities of a more mature faith even if that means a few are overwhelmed by doubts”.
By Devin

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Should Zaidis Outside Yemen support the al Houthi bid for leadership?

The history of the Zaid Revival in Sa'ada:

A Zaidi revival was sparked in Sa’ada during the 1990’s in response to an aggressive campaign by the Wahhabis to stamp out Zaidism. In 1995, a journalist travelled to Sa’da and wrote about the revival, and the scholars who inspired it. He also named some of their important writings, some of which are being translated to English at present.
The Zaidi revival continues today, and many Zaidis have sacrificed their lives in order to preserve the Zaidi heritage from extinction, since Haykel’s article was written. Many civilians, including women and children, have been killed or maimed, due to the Wahhabi policy that all non-Wahhabis are unbelievers so it’s halal to murder them, even women and children. (Or will the Wahhabi supporters tell us that their pilots don’t know the difference between a chicken farm or home and a military target?) The Yemeni government has been encouraging the Wahhabi onslaught for political reasons, (i.e. to weaken opposition to their corrupt leadership), and the day will surely come when they will regret that decision.
The Wahhabi campaign against Zaidism is nothing new. Wahhabis have overrun Yemen twice before the 1990’s. On one of these occasions they were driven out by the Ottomans, and on another occasion by the Zaidis themselves.

The Al Houthi leadership:
When Zaidis outside Yemen start looking around for a living Zaidi Imam, the most obvious choice would seem to be Abdul Malik al Houthi, the (self proclaimed?) leader of the recent rebellion against the corrupt Yemeni regime of Abdullah Saleh.
Here are some reasons for and against supporting, or allying ourselves with al Houthi:

Reasons for:

1. Al Houthi fits the criteria for a Zaidi Imam because he has risen up against the corrupt leader of his region. His father and brother did the same and were killed (martyred?) by the Yemeni Regime for that reason. There is no other Zaidi leader openly challenging the corrupt Yemeni government.
2. Al Houthi’s father wrote a book confirming the Zaidi theology as we know it, and criticizing the 12 Imamer Shi-ite “Hidden Imam” which he described as a “fantasy.” Therefore rumours that the Al Houthis are 12 Imamers hiding behind a Zaidi mask seem to be fabricated. The mere fact that al Houthi travelled to Iran does not make him a 12 Imamer, even if he was drumming up support for his cause.
3. The Al Houthi movement is not aggressive or expansionist. It began as a peaceful protest against the pro- U.S./Israel policies of the Yemeni regime and the enforced spread of Wahhabism in Zaidi regions. An official sanction was introduced to replace Zaidi teachers in Sadah with those who understood the so-called ‘correct’ form of Sunni Islam, i.e. Wahhabism…. And then:
“On June 18, 2004, the police arrested and temporarily detained 640 Huthi demonstrators in front of the capital’s Great Mosque. On June 20, 2004, the governor of Sada traveled to Marran District but tribesmen, possibly affiliated to Husain al-Huthi, denied him access. The same day security forces in some 18 military vehicles attempted to arrest al-Huthi, escalating the fighting into full-blown war” (Professor Megalommatis, Buzzle.com)
4. Zaidis living in Yemen are unable to voice their support for the Al Houthi leadership bid, as they will be jailed or even killed if they do. There is no such restriction on Zaidis living outside Yemen.

Reasons Against:

1. Most of Yemen’s Zaidis do not appear to support the al Houthis. However, it is difficult to know whether this is because of the dangers of doing so, or because they see flaws in the AlHouthi leadership bid, or both.
2. In recent history (1940’s to 1962), the performance of the Sayyid monarchical rulers was below expectations. It was quite autocratic. Older Yemenis would still remember the days of the Zaidi Royals and they do not seem to remember it fondly. Perhaps they doubt that the al Houthis will do a better job than the previous ruling family.
3. On the other hand, if there is to be a re-establishment of the Zaidi Imamate in Yemen, perhaps Yemen’s Zaidis would prefer the return of the former Royal Family (the Hamidaddins) who were ousted by the revolution in 1962, rather than the introduction of a lesser known family with no track record at all, and that might explain the unenthusiastic response.
4. It is conceivable that Yemen’s Zaidis prefer to work within a democratic/secular framework rather than returning to the rule of the Sayyids, which was accompanied by a slightly arrogant Sayyidi elite/ aristocracy. For a history of the Sayyids’ role in Yemeni society pre 1962 click on the following link: http://ambassadors.net/archives/issue18/features3.htm
and for an Iranian scholar’s arguments in favor of secular democracy rather than theocracy for shi-ite societies, see this link:
5. Since unification of North and South Yemen in the 1990’s, the majority of Yemenis are not Zaidi, therefore most Yemenis would deem it inappropriate to impose a Zaidi Imamate on the entire population of Yemen. Given this context, perhaps the Zaidi Imam’s role should be no more than a Mufti advising on religious matters, within a parliamentary democratic system.

English Translation of Zaidi Book on Fasting

A Book on Fasting has just been translated into English by scholars at the Imam Rassi Society. Below is the title of the Book and the Table of Contents. To read the new translation, please go to our sister blog, www.zaydiyyah.wordpress.com
You will also find English translations of books about Zaidi Credal Statements, Prayer (Salaat), Wudhu (Purity), Funeral rituals, and Imamate at the same blog. For Spanish translations, go to www.zaydi.org, a brand new website created by Zaidis in Chile.
Thanks Imam Rassi Society for making these important Zaidi books accessable to Zaidis outside the Arabian Peninsula!

An Abridgement of the School of the Two Imams:
The Star of the Messenger’s Family, al-Qāsim bin Ibrahim and
The Guide to Truth, Yahya bin al-Hussein
(Book of Fasting)
Imam al-Muayyad Billah, Ahmed bin al-Hussein bin Harūn

Translation of: Tajrīd Madhhab al-Imāmayn: An-Najm Āl ar-Rasūl, al-Qāsim bin Ibrāhīm wa al-Hādi ila al-Haqq, Yahya bin al-Hussein (Kitāb aš-Šiyām)

Book of Fasting

1. Concerning the Manner of Entering the Fasting
2. Concerning the Recommended and Disliked Actions during a Fast
3. Concerning the Recommended and Disliked Fasts
4. Concerning That Which Invalidates the Fast, Does Not Invalidate the Fast, and What Obligates a Sacrifice
5. Concerning the Fast of Oaths, Unlawful Declarations (az-zihār), and Unintentional Homicide
6. Concerning Making up the Fast
7. Concerning Religious Confinement (al-I’tikaaf) and the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ask a Zaidi: Ramadan edition

In this noblest of months we are proud to present "Ask a Zaidi" Ramadan edition. In July's edition of "Ask a Zaidi", the questions and answers focussed on Sufism in Zaidism and the issue of Infallibility of Imams. This month we welcome your questions about fasting or any other topic relating to Zaidism.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Western scholar supports Zaidi Imamate Position:

Wilferd Madelung, a non-Muslim expert in Islamic history, in his book “The Succession to Muhammad” strongly refutes the arguments of the Sunnis that Muhammad (pbuh) was not to be succeeded by any of his family according to God’s design, and that Muhammad (pbuh) wished to leave the succession to be settled by the Muslim community on the basis of consultation (shura). He does this because of the overwhelming evidence he finds in the Qur’an that lineage from Prophets is a prerequisite for legitimate Islamic leadership. He writes in his Introduction:

“The Qur’an accorded the Ahlul Bait of Muhammad an elevated position above the rest of the faithful, similar to the position of the families of the earlier prophets…. It is evident that he could not have considered Abu Bakr his natural successor or have been pleased by his succession…. He could not have seen his succession essentially other than in the light of the narrations of the Qur’an about the succession of the earlier prophets… These earlier prophets considered it a supreme divine favor to be succeeded by their offspring or close kin, for which they implored their Lord…. Even if the meaning of the term “The Seal of the Prophets” is accepted to be the “last of the prophets”, there is no reason it should imply that Muhammad , as the spiritual and worldly leader of the Muslim community, aside from his prophethood, should not be succeeded by his family. In the Qur’an, the descendants and close kin of the prophets are their heirs also in respect to kingship (mulk), rule (hukm), wisdom (hikma), the book and the imamate. The Qur’an advises the faithful to settle some matters by consultation, but not the succession to prophets.” (pp 16-18)

After the introduction, his book goes on to describe the way the leadership was wrongfully handed over to the Prophet’s companions, in great detail, based upon the early source material. But, historical material is fairly subjective, and the best way to judge the historical events is by comparing them with the clear message of the Qur’an, as he has done very thoroughly in his introduction.
To read the complete introduction to the book, and parts of the first chapter, click on this link:


Monday, August 9, 2010

The War on Zaidism: Sa’ada Update:

Here are some recent updates from Jane Novak’s excellent website “Armies of Liberation” which keeps us informed about the Sa’ada tragedy:
1. al Houthi Letter to Parliament:
Yahya al-Houthi, an MP and brother of Abdel-Malik, leader of the Zaidi insurgency, sent a letter to the Yemeni parliament about the Senate’s finding that the US military aid may have been mis-used (diverted) to President Saleh’s military campaign against the Houthi-led Zaidis of Sa’ada region in Yemen. He wrote:
“We continue to expose our deep concern about the military and financial help of the United States and European Union to the regime in Yemen, and the Arab aid provided in response to Western demands. Our concern is that such assistance is increasing tensions in our country and increasing the unjust use of force, because the aid is being used for the further suppression of the people, and to further strengthen the corrupt dictatorship, rather than strengthening a democratic political and institutional governance, and it will therefore lead to even more popular discontent against the corrupt system, thereby expanding the cycle of violence and prolonging it.”

2. UN Refugee Agency reports on Sa’ada:
“Nearly 350,000 people have been displaced since 2004 and hundreds of others killed, according to the UN Refugee Agency. But many IDPs say they are unable to return home, as the government has requested, without assistance to rebuild damaged homes.
“They [authorities] ask us to return after their jets destroyed our homes,” said Yahya Hajouri, an IDP from Saada’s Malaheeth District who is living with his family in al-Mazraq I camp in neighbouring Hajjah Governorate.
SRF teams are still assessing the damage in his home district. “Do they want us to sleep in the open? Do they want us to lose our dignity?” Hajouri asked.
According to a 12 July update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the destruction in Malaheet is severe, with 80 percent of houses damaged or destroyed.
“Many people are living in partially damaged houses, which poses severe safety risks. Urgent repair of homes and provision of NFIs [non-food items] is needed,” it said.
A 14 July report by the local independent news website al-tagheer.com estimated that the clashes from mid-August 2009 to mid-February 2010 had cost US$850 million – $750 million in weapons and soldiers, and $100 million in reconstruction. Some 4,141 homes, 201 public institutions and 24 poultry farms had been damaged or destroyed, it said.”

3. Saudi Hypocrisy:
As mentioned in earlier posts, the jets which destroyed the homes of these Zaidi families mentioned above were the Flying Wahhabi Air Brigade from Saudi Arabia. All this makes Saudi King Abdullah’s latest public statement a real joke. Here it is:
MAKKAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on Saturday described disunity as "the greatest enemy" of Muslims and called upon Islamic scholars across the world to work for unity.
In his keynote speech at the opening of an international Islamic conference here, he commended the Muslim World League's (MWL) efforts to spread the message of Islam and confront extremism and terrorism. "Disunity is the beginning of downfall ... rather it is the greatest enemy of people ... Muslims should beware of division and improve their relations," he said. (Arab News, 1st August 2010)
I posted a comment to this article at the “Arab News” website asking why King Abdullah was bombing the Zaidis if he wanted to improve relations between Muslims? But my comment wasn’t published, instead they’ve published 13 positive comments from naïve Muslims who don’t know what the Saudi agenda really is; to “unify” Islam by destroying the opposition!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010