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For the surname Zaidi and other uses, see Zaidi (disambiguation).

Zaidiyya or Zaidism (Arabic: الزيدية az-zaydiyya, adjective form Zaidi or Zaydi) is an early sect which emerged out of Shi'a Islam named after Zayd ibn ʻAlī, the grandson of Husayn ibn ʻAlī. Followers of the Zaydi Islamic jurisprudence are called Zaydi Shi'a and make up about 35% of Muslims in Yemen.[1] The Zaydi Shi'a have a unique approach within Shi'a Islamic thought. Its adherents are also known as Fivers.

Zaidi Imāms[edit]

The first three Zaidi imams were Ali ibn Abu Talib, Hasan ibn Ali, and Husayn ibn Ali.[2] The Zaidis believe that these three, along with the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and Fatima, are part of the Ahl al-Kisa. After these three imams, the Zaidis have a number of imams beginning with Zayd ibn Ali[2] followed by his son Yahya ibn Zayd.[3] They believe any descendant of Hasan or Husayn can be an imam[4] if he exhibits two attributes; "excel[ing] in knowledge" and "call[ing] others to fight against oppressors".[2] If an individual possesses one of these two attributes, he can be considered an imam of a lesser degree.[2]

For example, Zaydis consider the fourth, fifth, and sixth Twelver imams, Zain al-Abidin, Muhammad al-Baqir and Ja'far al-Sadiq, imams in this lesser sense due to their high levels of knowledge, but do not consider them imams in the absolute sense because they did not revolt against the oppressors of their time.[2] An example of an imam from the lineage of imam Hassan is Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya.[2]

Zaydi (early period) imams as listed in Al-Masaabeeh fee As-Seerah by imam Ahmad bin Ibrahim after Ali are:

  1. - Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  2. - Al-Husayn bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  3. - Al-Hasan al-Mu'thannā bin Al-Hassan al-mujtaba bin Ali al Murtaza bin Abi Talib
  4. - Zayd bin Ali Zayn al-'Ābidin bin Al-Husayn
  5. - Yahya bin Zayd bin Ali Zayn al-'Ābidin bin Al-Husayn
  6. - Muhammad bin Abdillah al-Kāmil bin Al-Hasan al-Mu'thannā bin Al-Hasan An-Nafs-Az-Zakiyyah
  7. - Ibrahim bin Abdillah al-Kāmil bin Al-Hasan al-Mu'thannā bin Al-Hassan al mujtaba bin Ali al Murtaza bin Abi Talib
  8. - Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Abdillah al-Kāmil bin Al-Hasan al-Mu'thannā bin Al-Hassan al-mujtaba bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  9. - Al-Hasan bin Ibrahim bin Abdillah al-Kāmil bin Al-Hasan al-Mu'thannā bin Al-Hassan al-mujtaba bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  10. - Al-Husayn bin Ali bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan al-Mu'thannā bin Al-Hassan al-mujtaba bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  11. - Isa bin Zayd bin Ali bin Al-Husayn
  12. - Yahya bin Abdillah al-Kāmil bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  13. - Idris bin Abdillah al-Kāmil bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  14. - Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Isma'il bin Ibrahim bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  15. - Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Zayd bin Ali bin Al-Husayn
  16. - Muhammad bin Sulayman bin Dawud bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  17. - Al-Qasim bin Ibrahim bin Isma'il bin Ibrahim bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
  18. - Yahya bin Al-Husayn bin Al-Qasim Al-Hadi
  19. - Abul Qasim Muhammad bin Yahya bin Al-Husayn
  20. - Ahmad bin Yahya bin Al-Husayn
  21. - Al-Hasan bin Ali An-Nasir


Zaydis, the oldest branch of the Shia and the largest group amongst the Shia before the Safavid Dynasty in the sixteenth century and currently the second largest group, are the closest to the Sunnis and do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms after Husayn. Zaydis believe that on the last hour of Zayd ibn Ali, he was betrayed by the people in Kufa who said to him: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?" Zayd ibn Ali said, "I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them...when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah."[5]


In matters of Islamic jurisprudence, the Zaydis follow Zayd ibn ’Ali's teachings which are documented in his book Majmu’ al-Fiqh (Arabic: مجموع الفِقه‎). Zaydi fiqh is similar to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence.[6] Abu Hanifa, a Sunni madhab founder, was favorable and even donated towards the Zaydi cause.[7]


In matters of theology, the Zaydis are close to the Mu'tazili school, though they are not Mu'tazilite. There are a few issues between both schools, most notably the Zaydi doctrine of the Imamate, which is rejected by the Mu'tazilites. Of the Shi'a, Zaydis are most similar to Sunnis[8] since Zaydism shares similar doctrines and jurisprudential opinions with Sunni scholars.[9]


Like all Muslims, the Zaydi Shi'a affirm the fundamental tenet of Islam known as the Shahada or testament of faith  – "There is no deity (worthy of worship) but ALLAH and Muhammad is His Messenger." Traditionally, the Zaydi believe that Muslims who commit major sins without remorse should not be considered Muslims nor be considered kafirs but rather be categorized in neither group.

In the context of the Shi'a Muslim belief in spiritual leadership or Imamate, Zaydis believe that the leader of the Ummah or Muslim community must be Fatimids: descendants of Muhammad through his only surviving daughter Fatimah, whose sons were Hasan ibn ʻAlī and Husayn ibn ʻAlī. These Shi'a called themselves Zaydi so they could differentiate themselves from other Shi'is who refused to take up arms with Zayd ibn Ali and the later Zaydi Imams.

Zaydis believe Zayd ibn Ali was the rightful successor to the Imamate because he led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate, who he believed were tyrannical and corrupt. Muhammad al-Baqir did not engage in political action and the followers of Zayd believed that a true Imām must fight against corrupt rulers.[10] The renowned Muslim jurist Abū Ḥanīfa who is credited for the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, delivered a fatwā or legal statement in favour of Zayd in his rebellion against the Umayyad ruler. He also urged people in secret to join the uprising and delivered funds to Zayd.[11]

In contrast to other Shi'a Muslims, the Zaydis do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms after Husayn. Zaydis also do not believe that the Imāmate must pass from father to son but believe it can be held by any descendant from either Hasan ibn ʻAlī and Husayn ibn ʻAlī. Orthodox Shi'is do not necessarily believe in Imamate passing from father to son either, as can be seen from the transition of Imamate from the second Imam, Hasan ibn Alī, after his death, to his brother, Husayn ibn Alī.

Zaydis, like Sunni Muslims, further reject the notion of Occultation (ghayba) of the Imām. Like the Nizaris, they believe in a living visible Imām.[12]

The Twelver Imam Ali al-Ridha narrated how his grandfather Ja'far al-Sadiq also supported Zayd ibn Ali's struggle:

Jafar al-Sadiq's love for Zayd ibn Ali was so immense, he broke down and cried upon reading the letter informing him of his death and proclaimed:


Status of Caliphs and the Sahaba[edit]

There was a difference of opinion among the companions and supporters of Zayd ibn 'Ali, such as Abu al-Jarud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad, Sulayman ibn Jarir, Kathir al-Nawa al-Abtar and Hasan ibn Salih, concerning the status of the first three Caliphs who succeeded to the political and administrative authority of Muhammad. The earliest group, called Jarudiyya (named for Abu al-Jarud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad), was opposed to the approval of certain companions of Muhammad. They held that there was sufficient description given by the Prophet that all should have recognised 'Ali as the rightful Caliph. They therefore consider the Companions wrong in failing to recognise 'Ali as the legitimate Caliph and deny legitimacy to Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman; however, they avoid denouncing them. They further condemn two other companions of Muhammad, Talhah and Zubayr ibn al-Awam, for their initial uprising against Caliph Ali.

The Jarudiyya were active during the late Umayyad Caliphate and early Abbasid Caliphate. Its views, although predominant among the later Zaydis, especially in Yemen under the Hadawi sub-sect, became extinct in Iraq and Iran due to forced conversion to Twelver Shi'ism by the Safavid Dynasty.

The second group, the Sulaymaniyya, named for Sulayman ibn Jarir, held that the Imamate should be a matter to be decided by consultation. They felt that the companions, including Abu Bakr and 'Umar, had been in error in failing to follow 'Ali but it did not amount to sin.

The third group is known as the Tabiriyya, Butriyya or Salihiyya for Kathir an-Nawa al-Abtar and Hasan ibn Salih. Their beliefs are virtually identical to those of the Sulaymaniyya, except they see Uthman also as in error but not in sin.[15]

Zaidis accounts state the term Rafida was a term used by Zayd ibn Ali on those who rejected him in his last hours for his refusal to condemn the first two Caliphs of the Muslim world, Abu Bakr and Umar.[16] Zayd bitterly scolds the "rejectors" (Rafidha) who deserted him, an appellation used by Sunnis and Zaydis to refer to Twelver Shi'ites to this day.[17]


Idrisid dynasty[edit]

Extent of Zaydi dynasty in modern-day Morcocco

The Idrisid dynasty was a mostly Berber Zaydi dynasty centered around modern-day Morocco. It was named after its first leader Idriss I.

Banu Ukhaidhir[edit]

The Banu Ukhaidhir was a dynasty that ruled in al-Yamamah (central Arabia) from 867 to at least the mid-eleventh century.

Hammudid dynasty[edit]

The Hammudid dynasty was a Zaydi dynasty in the 11th century in southern Spain.


Zaydi regions in red.

Muttawakili Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Yemen or, retrospectively, as North Yemen, existed between 1918 and 1962 in the northern part of what is now Yemen. Its capital was Sana`a until 1948, then Ta'izz.

Community and former States[edit]

Since the earliest form of Zaydism was Jarudiyyah,[15] many of the first Zaidi states were supporters of its position, such as those of the Iranian Alavids of Mazandaran Province and the Buyid dynasty of Gilan Province and the Arab dynasties of the Banu Ukhaidhir[citation needed] of al-Yamama (modern Saudi Arabia) and the Rassids of Yemen. The Idrisid dynasty in the western Maghreb were another Arab[18] Zaydi[19][20][21][22][23][24] dynasty, ruling 788-985 CE.

The Alavids established a Zaydi state in Deylaman and Tabaristan (northern Iran) in 864 CE;[25] it lasted until the death of its leader at the hand of the Sunni Samanids in 928 CE. Roughly forty years later, the state was revived in Gilan (Northwest Iran) and survived until 1126 CE.

From the 12th-13th centuries, Zaydi communities acknowledged the Imams of Yemen or rival Imams within Iran.[26]

The Buyid dynasty was initially Zaidi[27] as were the Banu Ukhaidhir rulers of al-Yamama in the 9th and 10th centuries.[28]

The leader of the Zaidi community took the title of Caliph. As such, the ruler of Yemen was known as the Caliph. Al-Hadi ila'l-Haqq Yahya, a descendant of Imam Hasan ibn Ali, founded this Rassid state at Sa'da, al-Yaman, in c. 893-7 CE. The Rassid Imamate continued until the middle of the 20th century, when a 1962 revolution deposed the Imam. After the fall of the Zaydi Imamate in 1962 many Zaydi Shia in northern Yemen had converted to Sunni Islam.[29]

The Rassid state was founded under Jarudiyya thought,;[6] however, increasing interactions with Hanafi and Shafi'i schools of Sunni Islam led to a shift to Sulaimaniyyah thought, especially among the Hadawi sub-sect.

Currently, the most prominent Zaidi movement is the Shabab Al Mu'mineen, commonly known as Houthis, who have been engaged in an uprising against the Yemeni Government in which the Army has lost 743 men and thousands of innocent civilians have been killed or displaced by government forces and Houthi, causing a grave humanitarian crisis in north Yemen. [30][31]

Some Persian and Arab legends record that Zaidis fled to China from the Umayyads during the 8th century ce.[32]

Houthi rebels[edit]

Since 2004 in Yemen, there have been Houthi rebels who have been fighting against the government. The Houthis have asserted that their actions are for the defense of their community from the government and discrimination, though the Yemeni government has in turn accused them of wishing to bring it down and institute religious law.[33] On September 20, 2014, an agreement was signed in Sana'a under UN patronage essentially giving the Houthis control of the government after a decade of conflict. Tribal militias then moved swiftly to consolidate their position in the capital. This outcome followed the removal of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012 in the wake of protracted "Arab Spring" protests. The shift to Houthi (and thus Zaidi) control is significant because it affects the broader power balance in the Middle East, tilting the country from Saudi to Iranian influence. Saudi Arabia has exercised the predominant external influence in Yemen since the withdrawal of Nasser's Egyptian expeditionary force marking the end of the bitter Royalist-Republican Civil War (1962-1970).[34]

Some contemporary Zaidi scholars[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "YEMEN 2012 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT". U.S State Department. 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Why are the Zaydis called "Fivers"?". Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  3. ^ "Why is the Zaydi school named after Imam Zayd bin Ali, upon him be peace?". Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Zaidi Shia - Research into Other Sects". Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  5. ^ a b The waning of the Umayyad caliphate by Tabarī, Carole Hillenbrand, 1989, p37, p38
    The Encyclopedia of Religion Vol.16, Mircea Eliade, Charles J. Adams, Macmillan, 1987, p243.
  6. ^ a b Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, A short History of the Yemenite Shi‘ites (2005)
  7. ^ The Princeton encyclopedia of Islamic political thought - Page 14, Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza - 2012
  8. ^ "Telling the truth for more than 30 years - Sunni-Shi’i Schism: Less There Than Meets the Eye". WRMEA. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  9. ^ Yemen: The Bradt Travel Guide - Daniel McLaughlin - Google Books. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Islamic dynasties of the Arab East: state and civilization during the later medieval times by Abdul Ali, M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1996, p97
  11. ^ Ahkam al-Quran By Abu Bakr al-Jassas al-Razi, volume 1 page 100, published by Dar Al-Fikr Al-Beirutiyya
  12. ^ The Arab lands under Ottoman rule, 1516-1800 Jane Hathaway, Karl K. Barbir, 2008, p47
  13. ^ Islamic dynasties of the Arab East: state and civilization during the later medieval times, Abdul Ali, M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1996, p.98
  14. ^ a b Ibn Bābawayh al-Qummī, Muḥammad ibn ʻAlī. Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā. 
  15. ^ a b Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, A short History of the Yemenite Shi‘ites (2005) Referencing: Momen, p.50, 51. and S.S. Akhtar Rizvi, "Shi'a Sects"
  16. ^ The waning of the Umayyad caliphate by Tabarī, Carole Hillenbrand, 1989, p37
  17. ^ The Encyclopedia of Religion Vol.16, Mircea Eliade, Charles J. Adams, Macmillan, 1987, p243. "They were called "Rafida by the followers of Zayd...the term became a pejorative nickname among Sunni Muslims, who used it, however to refer to the Imamiyah's repudiation of the first three caliphs preceding Ali..."
  18. ^ Hodgson, Marshall (1961), Venture of Islam, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 262 
  19. ^ Ibn Abī Zarʻ al-Fāsī, ʻAlī ibn ʻAbd Allāh (1340), Rawḍ al-Qirṭās: Anīs al-Muṭrib bi-Rawd al-Qirṭās fī Akhbār Mulūk al-Maghrib wa-Tārīkh Madīnat Fās, ar-Rabāṭ: Dār al-Manṣūr (published 1972), p. 38 
  20. ^ "حين يكتشف المغاربة أنهم كانوا شيعة وخوارج قبل أن يصبحوا مالكيين !". Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law - Ignác Goldziher - Google Books. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  22. ^ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics - James Hastings - Google Books. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "The Institute of Ismaili Studies - The Initial Destination of the Fatimid caliphate: The Yemen or The Maghrib?". Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  24. ^ "25. Shi'ah tenets concerning the question of the imamate". Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  25. ^ Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, A short History of the Yemenite Shi‘ites (2005) Referencing: Iranian Influence on Moslem Literature
  26. ^ Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, A short History of the Yemenite Shi‘ites (2005) Referencing: Encyclopedia Iranica
  27. ^ Walker, Paul Ernest (1999), Hamid Al-Din Al-Kirmani: Ismaili Thought in the Age of Al-Hakim, Ismaili Heritage Series 3, London; New York: I.B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies., p. 13, ISBN 1-86064-321-3 
  28. ^ Madelung, W. "al-Uk̲h̲ayḍir." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. Brill Online. 7 December 2007 [1]
  29. ^ Ardic, Nurullah. Islam and the Politics of Secularism: The Caliphate and Middle Eastern. 
  30. ^ "Map : Islam". Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  31. ^ "The Gulf/2000 Project - SIPA - COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY". Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  32. ^ Donald Daniel Leslie (1998). "The Integration of Religious Minorities in China: The Case of Chinese Muslims". The Fifty-ninth George Ernest Morrison Lecture in Ethnology. p. 6. Retrieved 30 November 2010. 
  33. ^ "Deadly blast strikes Yemen mosque". BBC News. 2 May 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2009. 
  34. ^

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