Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Zaydis Sceptical about “AlQaeda” Bombings.

Recently, when 20 or more Zaidis were killed by a suicide bomber while celebrating a Shi-ite religious procession, the official spokesman of the Al Houthi Zaidis, Muhammad Abdussalaam, was quick to blame the U.S. and Israel, rather than blaming “Al Qaeda”. He told Al Sahwa. Net on 24/11/2010:
“Probe evidence indicates that U.S./Israeli intelligence activities were behind al-Jawf incident. The aim of the incident was to provoke sectarian tensions and end the celebrations of religious occasions.”
To read full article click on this link:
Update: Nov.30th:
Funeral of Zaidi Cleric/Spiritual Leader Comes Under Attack
It is with sadness that we read of the passing of Sayyed Badruddin al Houthi, rahimuhullah, a Zaidi spiritual leader, aged 86, last Thursday. Our condolences to al Houthi family members, including the son of the spiritual leader, AbdelMalik, (regional leader of the Zaidis), who led the prayer at his father’s funeral last Sunday.
Media Report:
“Despite tight security, the suicide bomber managed to drive into a convoy of about 30 cars of Maarib tribes that attended the funeral of Badruddin Al-Houthi who died on Thursday. Badruddin Al-Houthi is the father of Abdul Malek Al-Houthi, a field commander of the rebel group, and a prominent Zaidi figure. Abdulsalam, a spokesman, accused the United States and Israel of being behind "what is called the Al-Qaeda network." (Saeed al Batati’s report at Saudi Telegraph.)
The Zaidis know the Wahhabi/Salafis very well, and have fought against them (ideologically, politically and militarily) for years, but they are not blaming them (or “alQaeda”) for these attacks. They say US/Israel intelligence is searching for excuses to turn Yemen into another Iraq or Afghanistan. If there isn’t a good enough excuse, they will try to create one, even if it means bombing a few funerals and processions and blaming Alqaeda for it, hoping to start a sectarian conflict. Their spies infiltrate salafist/wahhabi groups and persuade the stupid ones amongst them to bomb civilians. Much as the Zaidis dislike the salafists /wahhabis, they insist AlQaeda does not exist; and its website where it supposedly “claims responsibility” for attacks could be manipulated by intelligence officers.
We wish Yemen’s Zaidis well in trying to stay alive and sane amongst all this U.S./Israeli inspired madness.

The claim that Al Qaeda “suicide bombers” and “suspicious packages” are manipulated by US and/or Israeli intelligence organizations is not new. F. William Engdahl, in his article “The Yemen Hidden Agenda, Behind the AlQaeda Scenarios”, speculates about why the U.S./Israel might be behind the emergence of “AlQaeda” in Yemen and “Pirates” off the Yemeni coast:
“The Pentagon and US intelligence have a hidden agenda in Yemen….
For some months the world has seen a steady escalation of US military involvement in Yemen, a dismally poor land adjacent to Saudi Arabia on its north, the Red Sea on its west, the Gulf of Aden on its south, opening to the Arabian Sea, overlooking another desolate land that has been in the headlines of late, Somalia. The evidence suggests that the Pentagon and US intelligence are moving to militarize a strategic chokepoint for the world’s oil flows, Bab el-Mandab, and using the Somalia piracy incident, together with claims of a new Al Qaeda threat arising from Yemen, to militarize one of the world’s most important oil transport routes. In addition, undeveloped petroleum reserves in the territory between Yemen and Saudi Arabia are reportedly among the world’s largest…….
The curious emergence of a tiny but well-publicized al Qaeda in southern Yemen amid what observers call a broad-based popular-based Southern Movement front that eschews the radical global agenda of al Qaeda, serves to give the Pentagon a kind of casus belli to escalate US military operations in the strategic region….
As if on cue, at the same time CNN headlines broadcast new terror threats from Yemen, the long-running Somalia pirate attacks on commercial shipping in the same Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea across from southern Yemen escalated dramatically after having been reduced by multinational ship patrols….
The open question is, who is providing the Somali "pirates" with arms and logistics sufficient to elude international patrols from numerous nations?”
To read the full article, click on the link below:

Zaydi Mosques

First constructed in the ninth century, the Mosque of al-Hadi in Sa'da is one of the oldest mosques in Yemen. It is named after Al-Hadi Yahya bin al-Hussain, the founder of the Zaidi dynasty, whose tomb adjoins the mosque. The tombs of eleven of his successors are also found at this mosque.
A typical example of the early mosques in Yemen, this hypostyle mosque is square in plan with a central courtyard. The original ninth-century structure included only the section of the mosque south of the current court. This area has two mihrabs on its qibla wall. It is three bays deep and fifteen bays wide, with a flat roof carried on twenty-eight pillars. It measures approximately eight by forty-five meters.
In the middle of the thirteenth century, a large u-shaped prayer hall was added to the north of the old mosque, creating the mosque that exists today and its rectangular courtyard. This section has a large mihrab that is on axis with the larger of the old mihrabs. An impressive dome, visible from anywhere in the city crowns the mihrab. There is a single minaret inside the court.
To the south of the old sanctuary is a long irregularly shaped courtyard, lined by the domed tombs of the imams of various height and size. Some have mihrabs on their qibla walls. The tomb of Imam al-Hadi was originally open on all sides; it is now surrounded by three other tombs. The profusion of ornamentation and inscription on these tombs is not seen in the prayer hall where decorative treatment is focused on the mihrab.
The new section of the mosque has two entrances with stairs to the east while the old section has a side entrance to the west and doors along the qibla wall that lead into the new section. The courtyard with tombs is entered through entry halls to the east and west.
Sa'da, and the Mosque of al-Hadi in particular, is a well-known center for Islamic theology and, especially, Zaidi teaching. The mosque is the home to priceless manuscripts and books on Islam.

Located 242 km north of the capital, Sana'a, Sa'ada City rises 2261 meters above sea level, and was established on a plain known as Ka'a Al Sahn. First built as a trading point, Sa'ada spread out till it became a city. It came to the fore thanks to the attention it received from the Kings of Himiar, mainly because of its fertile soil and the crude iron that was discovered in its lands.

After the advent of Islam in Yemen, the city retained its great significance and flourished as a city of science, religion, culture, commerce and agriculture. Eventually, it became known as a city of Islamic monuments in Yemen as it contained several religious, civil and military buildings and movable rarities.

When Imam Hadi arrived in 897 A.D. to settle down in the city, he built a mosque and a house for himself outside the vicinity of the old city with an idea of making it the first stage of the construction of a new city that would develop and expand with time.

Today, the mosque is located at the southern east part of the city. It consists of an open nave in the middle surrounded by four porticos, the deepest of which is that of the kiblah. The mosque is accessible through thirteen doors and has two minarets, the bigger of which is placed in the nave. This minaret is considered the tallest minaret in Yemen as its 52 meters high. The second minaret is smaller and is located at the southern courtyard.

The Al Hadi Mosque has great religious status, in addition to its fabulous religious and artistic Islamic architecture. It contains several architectural elements that give the viewer an impression of the disparity of the artistic and architectural style that were carried out on the mosque in different eras.

The Al Hadi Mosque is considered the third mosque in Yemen to have a minaret -- the first is the Farwa bin Maseek Mosque and the second is the Grand Mosque in Sana'a. It is also the oldest mosque to have annexes for the devotees and expatriates, in addition to the fact that it is the only mosque with a two-level grade mihrab that tapers off as the building rises.

The mosque is also famed for its wooden pulpit which is considered the oldest pulpit with a recorded date of 922 A.D., in addition to eight other magnificent structures. These structures contain various types of Arab and Islamic decorations (arabesque).

Another extraordinary feature of the mosque is its walls, which have miscellaneous plans, as well as geometric and written decorations made out of gypsum. All the building materials used in the construction, were taken by architects from the area surrounding the mosque.

To see a picture of the minaret of the ancient Kawkaban mosque, click on this link:
And here are some pictures of the Ali bin Talib mosque in Sana'a, Yemen:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zaydism and Hajj

Imam Rassi Society writes:

This month is Dhul-Hijjah. We just wanted to remind you and ourselves of some of the great virtues of this month.

It is recommended for one to fast on the Day of Arafat which is the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah. Imam al-Hadi (as) said in his Kitab al-Ahkam regarding fasting on the Day of Arafat: "Many virtues have been related regarding fasting on the Day of Arafat. It is an expiation of sins for the year." What our imam is referring to is the hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny: ((It is expiation for the past and remaining years)).

One can also recite the dua of Arafat by Imam as-Sajjad (as). You can find an English translation of it here:

Also for this month our imams recommend that we fast on the Day of Ghadir (the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah). Imam Murshid Billah (as) narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayra: "The one who fasts on the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah shall have written for him/her a fast of 60 months." Contemporary scholar, Sayyid Hamud bin Abbas al-Mu'ayyidi (ra) narrated in his Nur al-Ansa: "It is recommended to fast on the Day of Ghadir Khumm, which is the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah. The one fasting should pray two units. One should recite the Fatiha in both and recite Sura Ikhlas 20 times, Sura al-Qadar 10 times, and Ayat al-Kursi 10 times. It is narrated that the Prophet , peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, did so."

If anyone has questions relating specifically to Hajj, please post them below.
Eid Mubaarik to all of our readers!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Challenging the Sunnification of Yemeni Zaidism

In a recent Article, Zaidism expert N. Haider pointed out that Yemeni Zaidism has come under the influence of Sunnism over the past 700 years. Haider writes:

Zaydism: A Theological and political Survey.
By N. Haider, July 2010.
“Zaydism, one of the three major branches of Shi‘ism, emerged in the early 2nd/8th century in the southern Iraqi city of Kūfa around the claims of the ‘Alid rebel, Zayd b. ‘Ali (d. 122/740). The sect initially consisted of a range of Shi‘i? groups that shared a common political agenda but differed in their opinions of the first two caliphs. The next three centuries witnessed the development of a cohesive Zaydi theology constructed primarily on the Mu‘tazili belief in a just and rational God. Specifically, the Zaydis affirmed free will and a theory of the imāmate that required armed uprising against tyrants under the leadership of a learned descendant of ‘Ali and Fātima. Zaydi Imāms established a number of long-standing political states, the most important of which was centered in northern Yemen around the city of Sa’ada. Intellectually, Yemeni Zaydism was challenged by a gradual Sunnification that began in the 9th/15th century”.

Re-emergence of Zaidi Mu’tazilism:

It is my humble opinion that “Traditional Yemeni Zaidism”, is overly influenced by Sunnism.
In my opinion, there needs to be a re-emergence of Zaidi Mu’tazilism, which is free of Sunni influences and based on the Qur’an, reason, and the historical examples set by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his descendants. Such a school of thought would have widespread appeal to Western Muslims, Muslim Youth, and Muslim intellectuals, and could spark a Renaissance in Islamic intellectual scholarship. I believe it is the Sunni character of Yemeni Zaidism that is holding it back and lessening its appeal.

The type of Zaidi Mu’tazilism I am envisaging would limit itself to:
(1) the study of the Qur’an,
(2) the tenets written by the learned mu’tazili (rationalist) theologians, who relied upon the Qur’an and reason in their works,
(3) the historically proven political activism of the Prophet Muhammad and the early ahlul bait Imams, all of whom fought for justice and fought against tyranny; this was their “political agenda” as mentioned above
(4) the encouragement of spiritualism, as modeled by the early ahlul bait Imams, especially Zain ul Abideen.

The Qur’an has to be the basis of any Islamic school. The Mu’tazili scholars used reason, and their vast knowledge of the multi-layered Arabic language, to interpret the message of the Qur’an for their lesser educated contemporaries. These were the learned, educated Muslims of their time, and they were either from ahlul bait or consulted with ahlul bait.
Meanwhile, the less educated Muslims busied themselves with ahadith, mostly about trivial subjects, which were simpler to understand. Many of these hadith were fabricated or irrelevant. These lesser educated Muslims became known initially as “ahlul hadith” and later as “Sunnis”, because they were obsessed by the “Sunna”. “Sunna” is a term originally used by Sunnis, but later embraced by Traditional Yemeni Zaidism as it fell under the Sunni influence.

There is unanimous agreement that Imam Zaid and his grandfather Imam al Husayn rose up against the ruling Umayyad authorities of his time because of their injustice, their suppression of Islam, and their corruption. Knowing this, we are able to deduce what the aims of the ahlul bait were, (i.e. to install justice and goodness via political activism). By taking Imam Zaid and Imam al Husayn as our inspiration, we can be true Zaidis, i.e. Islamic activists, rather than Muslims who passively accept injustice and corruption. And by taking the example of Imam Zainul Abideen, we can appreciate the spirituality of Islam.

Under the influence of Sunnis, I believe that Traditional Yemeni Zaidis have become distracted by the intense study of ahadith about trivial matters, and arguments with Sunnis about the leadership controversy after the death of the Prophet. The study of ahadith and the obsession with mimicking minute details of the Prophet’s lifestyle (sunna), diverts and distracts our attention away from the real issues: the eradication of poverty, the making of peace in the world, the education of the masses, and so on. It was through political activism that the ahlul bait attempted to achieve these goals. Judging by their historically proven actions, these goals were the things the ahlul bait would have strived for, not the trivial matters which one finds discussed in ahadith books.

I believe there needs to be a re-emergence of Zaidi Mu’tazilism, which is focused on Qur’an, Reason, Political struggle and Spirituality, as modelled by the early ahlul bait. I hope that through this blog I will meet others who share my interest in uncovering the Zaidi Mu’tazilism that flourished before the Sunnification of Yemeni Zaidism took place.

In Zaidi Mu’tazilism, a recontextualization of Revelation, using Reason, becomes possible. This holds out hope for those who believe that traditional Islam is out of context with today’s societies worldwide.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Zaydism and Sunna

What is “Sunna”?
Sunna is defined as “habitual practice, customary procedure or action” and “Sunna annabee” is defined as “The Prophet’s sayings and doings, later established as legally binding precedents (in addition to the Law established by the Qur’an)”. (definition from Wehr Cowan dictionary).
Almost as soon as the prophet passed away, disagreements arose between the prophet’s household (ahlul bait) and his companions/in-laws about things he had said, e.g. whether or not his family would inherit from him; Fatimah claiming she was entitled to an inheritance and Abu Bakr claiming the Prophet had said otherwise.
Given that there were disagreements between ahlul bait and companions (sahaaba) about what the Prophet said and did, it follows that there are different versions of what “Sunna anNabee” is. So when a Zaidi or 12 Imamer talks about “The Qur’an and the Sunna” this does not mean the same thing as when a Sunni or Salafi talks about “The Qur’an and Sunna”.
Moreover, there were disagreements later on between the “ahlul hadith” (people who loved to quote hadith) and the “mutakallimoon” (Muslim theologians) about what the Prophet had said and done. The mutakallimoon claimed that traditions (hadith) had been fabricated by the following groups to support their positions: Murji-ites, Qadarites, Jabrites, Rafidites, ascetics, fuqahaa, and anthropomorphists. They wrote a letter to Ibn Qutayba expressing their concern that “The traditionists (ahlul hadith) relate follies which cause people to disparage Islam, the unbelievers to laugh at the faith, those who wish to embrace Islam to abstain from it, and which increase the doubts of the skeptics”.
Given the historical context of the ahadith, the term “Sunna” can not be used to mean anything that is written in a hadith book. Zaidi Imams have attempted to preserve the true “sunna”, as described by the ahlul bait, for future generations.

Imam Rassi Society says:
“The Zaidi Imams consider the normative practice of the ahlul bait to be the sunna. For example, even though there are hadiths circulating which say one should say the word “Ameen” during prayer, this was not the opinion of the ahlul bait, and according to them it is an innovation. The preserved practice of the Imams of ahlul bait is considered the most authentic source of the sunna, even in the presence of contradictory ahadith.
The Zaidi attitude is similar to the attitude of Imam Malik, who considered the normative practice of the people of Medina to be the Sunna, even in the presence of contradictory ahadith. For example, he thought that the Sunna was to pray with one’s arms by one’s sides, even though there were ahadith quoted in his “Al Muwatta” saying to place the right hand over the left. His opinion was based on his observations of the people of Medinah.
In other words, the Sunnah is not something that can be written down. It is acted out and lived. Hadith, on the other hand, is what was recorded.”

What is the Zaidi version of “Sunna”?
Zaidis are fortunate to have in their possession the Musnad Zaid, the Amali of Abu Talib, the Amali of Imam Murshid billah, and Kitab ul ahkam of Imam al Hadi, which are sources of the “Sunna annabee” as transmitted by the Prophet’s great great grandson Zaid and other descendants.
Being passed from father to son, these are a more accurate and authentic source than that of the Prophet’s companions and their descendants.

Note: The works of Imam Rassi, now translated to English at the scribd website: (as well as at refer frequently to non- Ahlul bait (sunni) hadith transmitters as well as the ahlul bait Imams.
In this regard, Imam Rassi Society stresses that this does not mean they are considered to be authentic. He adds: “We refer to Sunni ahadith for the sake of our Sunni readers (they are, after all, in the majority). They do not, however, form the basis of Zaidi jurisprudence.”
In other words, this is done to be diplomatic to the Sunnis, not because Zaidis are in need of non-Zaidi ahadith.

Does the Qur’an tell us to Practise the “Sunna”?
There isn’t a verse that specifically mentions following the prophet’s “Sunna”.
The following verses speak in general of the Prophet’s role:
“Whatever the Messenger brought to you, take hold of it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it” (59:7)
“And We have sent to you the message, that you may clarify what is sent to them” (16:44)
These verses mean that it was the Prophet’s role to clarify the message of the Qur’an, and that it was his right to forbid things which are not mentioned in the Qur’an.
However, they do not say that Muslims should copy every aspect of the Prophet’s lifestyle for generations to come, which is what Sunnism encourages. As its name suggests, Sunnism places a huge importance on “Sunna”, with some Sunnis placing it on a level equal with the Qur’an.

Do Zaidis Place as much Importance on “Sunna” as Sunnis do?

In Imam Rassi Society’s view, Zaidis and Sunnis are in agreement as to the importance of the Sunnah. They disagree on some points about what the Sunna actually was, and also share some common ground. He says:
“The Sunnis did not and do not have a monopoly on what the Sunna is. Each group recorded the various statements and actions of the Prophet…inmost cases there is similarity but occasionally there are differences.”

Imam Rassi Society agrees with the Sunni view that, based on the above Qur’anic verses, Muslims should strive to imitate the Prophet in all aspects. He says:
“If the Prophet’s role was to elucidate the Qur’an, then those matters mentioned in the Qur’an (which range from worship to everyday dealings to character development) must be referred back to the normative practice of the Prophet (s.a.w.). Even in those matters which we may feel irrelevant to our lives, our love for the Prophet should encourage us to strive towards mimicking his life in all aspects.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Spirituality in Zaidism

This post has been moved to

Ask a Zaidi: November edition

Welcome to the November edition of "Ask a Zaidi". Please check previous "Ask a Zaidi" sections to check that your question hasn't already been answered.

For questions and answers relating to Ismailism, please refer to where there is information about Ismailism and an "Ask an Ismaili" section.

For questions and answers relating to Pro- ahlul bait Sunnism, please refer to where there is information about "pro ahlul bait sunnism" and an "Ask Pro ahlul bait" section.