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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. The Zaydi Shi'a have a unique approach within Shi'a Islamic thought. Its adherents are also known as Fivers.
The first three Zaidi imams were Ali ibn Abu Talib, Hasan ibn Ali, and Husayn ibn Ali. 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 followed by his son Yahya ibn Zayd. They believe any descendant of Hasan or Husayn can be an imam if he exhibits two attributes; "excel[ing] in knowledge" and "call[ing] others to fight against oppressors". If an individual possesses one of these two attributes, he can be considered an imam of a lesser degree.
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. An example of an imam from the lineage of imam Hassan is Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya.
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."
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. Abu Hanifa, a Sunni madhab founder, was favorable and even donated towards the Zaydi cause.
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 since Zaydism shares similar doctrines and jurisprudential opinions with Sunni scholars.
|Beliefs and practices|
|Current Branches of Shi'ism|
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. 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.
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.
|“||The death of Imam Ali Zayn ul Abidin triggered the struggle for leadership between his two sons, Muhammad al Baqir and Zayd... Zayd rejected the principle of hereditary succession to the Imamate, and asserted his own right to it on the ground that he was better qualified for it, because he fulfilled all the necessary conditions for this purpose including the one that the Imam must rise in revolt against the unjust, oppressive rulers.||”|
—Abdul Ali in Islamic dynasties of the Arab East: state and civilization during the later medieval times
|“||Of all the Shi'a schools of thought the Zaydis are the most moderate and tolerant as well as the nearest to Sunni Islam. They differ fundamentally from other Shi'a sects, especially the Twelvers and the Seveners, on the issue of Imamah.||”|
—Abdul Ali, Islamic dynasties of the Arab East: state and civilization during the later medieval times
|“||he was one of the scholars from the Household of Muhammad and got angry for the sake of the Honorable the Exalted God. He fought with the enemies of God until he got killed in His path. My father Musa ibn Ja’far narrated that he had heard his father Ja’far ibn Muhammad say, "May God bless my uncle Zayd... He consulted with me about his uprising and I told him, "O my uncle! Do this if you are pleased with being killed and your corpse being hung up from the gallows in the al-Konasa neighborhood." After Zayd left, As-Sadiq said, "Woe be to those who hear his call but do not help him!".||”|
—Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā, p. 466
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:
|“||From God we are and to Him is our return. I ask God for my reward in this calamity. He was a really good uncle. My uncle was a man for our world and for our Hereafter. I swear by God that my uncle is a martyr just like the martyrs who fought along with God’s Prophet or Ali or Al-Hassan or Al-Hussein||”|
—Uyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, p. 472
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.
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. 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.
|“||A group of their leaders assembled in his (Zayd's presence) and said: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar?" Zayd 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"||”|
The Hammudid dynasty was a Zaydi dynasty in the 11th century in southern Spain.
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.
Since the earliest form of Zaydism was Jarudiyyah, 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 of al-Yamama (modern Saudi Arabia) and the Rassids of Yemen. The Idrisid dynasty in the western Maghreb were another Arab Zaydi dynasty, ruling 788-985 CE.
The Alavids established a Zaydi state in Deylaman and Tabaristan (northern Iran) in 864 CE; 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.
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.
The Rassid state was founded under Jarudiyya thought,; 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. 
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. 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).