Sunday, 11 June 2017

Confused Shi'ite Doctrine of Imamate (Part 1)


بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم

الصلوة والسلام على من لا نبى بعده



Confused Shi’ite Doctrine of Imamate



At present there are four major branches of Shi’ism that exist: 1. Zaidiya (mostly in Yemen), 2. Alawites (mostly in Syria), 3. Isma’iliya (further divided into Nizari and Musta’ali subdivisions), 4. Ithna Ashariya (twelvers) further divided into Usuli and Akhbari subdivisions.

The Ithna Ashariya are the largest sect of Shi’ism, forming the majority in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and being the largest denomination in Lebanon. There are also significant Ithna Ashari minorities in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
Be aware that while these are the four surviving branches of Shi’ism, historically there have been literally dozens of Shi’ite sects, though most of them were discontinued. In this entry I will discuss how the historical Shi’ites fractured and fragmented over the crucial issue of Imamate. The Imamiya Shi’a (including both Twelvers and Isma’ilis) in particular place great emphasis on the concept of Imamate, which for them is an Article of Faith. My thesis is that if the Imamiya Shi’ites are to be taken at face value and their contention that it is essential for the Muslims to recognize the Imam who is divinely appointed by Allah; their greatest challenge will then be to persuade us as to which particular line of Imams is legitimate. Remember, for each particular faction of Shi’ites, it is not sufficient to merely accept in principle the doctrine of an infallible, divinely appointed Imamate but it is critical for every Muslim to recognize their particular line of Imams and reject all others. Salvation is contingent to recognizing the true line of Imams and rejecting all other lines.
Now all Shi’ites are united in recognizing Sayyidina Ali b. Abi Talib كرم الله وجهه as the Prophet’s rightful successor and the first Imam. The Musta’ali branch of Isma’ilis have a slight difference in terminology, so while considering Ali b. Abi Talib as the rightful Wasi (executor of the will of the Prophet), they begin numbering the Imams from Ali’s son Hasan رضى الله عنهما.  The Nizari branch of Isma’ilis number Ali b. Abi Talib as the first Imam, but consider Hasan b. Ali as Imam al-Mustawda (“entrusted Imam”) as opposed to being an Imam al-Mustaqarr (“permanent Imam”). For this reason, the Nizaris do not number Hasan b. Ali in their line of Imams, and regard his brother Hussain b. Ali رضى الله عنهما as the second Imam. All other Shi’ites apart from these two branches of Isma’ilis regard Hasan as the second Imam and Hussain as the third Imam.

The first important division among the Shi’ites concerning the succession of Imams, however, centers around the fourth Imam – the successor of Hussain b. Ali رضى الله عنه. According to the Kaisaniya branch, the fourth Imam was Ali’s son, Muhammad b. Hanafiya رضى الله عنهما, who was an Alid but not a Fatimid – being a half-brother of Hasanain رضى الله عنهما. The other Shi’ites recognize Hussain’s son, Ali b. Hussain, known as Zain-ul-Abidin رضى الله عنهما as the rightful fourth Imam. For this reason, we can refer to the Kaisaniya as “Fourer” Shi’ites, because they disagree with the other Shi’ites concerning the identity of the fourth Imam.

Kaisaniya Line
1. Ali b. Abi Talib
2. Hasan b. Ali
3. Hussain b. Ali
4. Muhammad b. Ali

Opposing Line
1. Ali b. Abi Talib
2. Hasan b. Ali
3. Hussain b. Ali
4. Ali b. Hussain

The Kaisaniya (“Fourers”) further subdivided over the succession of Muhammad b. Hanafiya. I have already detailed on a separate entry the fact that a group of Kaisaniya asserted that Muhammad b. Hanafiya, their fourth Imam, didn’t die but went into occultation. He is for them the Mahdi and the Qa’im, who will reappear before Judgment Day. They are known as Karibiya named after Abu Karib al-Darîr, who invented this doctrine. Some Kaisaniya claim that Muhammad b. Hanafiya was the direct successor of his father Ali b. Abi Talib كرم الله وجهه as mentioned in the books of heresiography, making him the second Imam, while the vast majority say he was the fourth Imam after his half-brothers Hasan and Hussain رضى الله عنهما. Those Kaisaniya who accepted the death of Muhammad b. Hanafiya split into two groups initially. One group which stated the Imamate reverted to his nephew, Zain-ul-Abidin Ali b. Hussain رضى الله عنه while most others believed the fifth Imam was Muhammad’s son, Abdullah b. Muhammad, known as Abu Hashim, hence known as the Hâshimiya. After the death of Abu Hashim, the Hashimiya fragmented into numerous camps as to the identity of his successor. Many were absorbed into the Abbasid movement and gradually the Kaisaniya vanished into the dustbin of history. The Rizâmiya (founded by Rizam b. Razm) were a subsect of Kaisaniya who held to the following line of Imams:

1. Ali b. Abi Talib
2. Muhammad b. Ali b. Abi Talib
3. Abdullah b. Muhammad (Abu Hashim)
4. Ali b. Abdullah b. Abbas b. Abdul Muttalib
5. Muhammad b. Ali b. Abdullah b. Abbas
6. Ibrahim b. Muhammad b. Ali b. Abdullah b. Abbas

Now let us move on to the next major schism within the world of Shi’ism. As mentioned earlier, the other Shi’ites reject Muhammad b. Hanafiya as the fourth Imam and instead believe that Hussain’s son Ali b. Hussain (Zain-ul-Abidin) was the rightful fourth Imam. However, they became divided over the identity of the fifth Imam. The Zaidiya assert that the true fifth Imam was Zaid b. Ali رضي الله عنهما, who led an important uprising against the Umayyads. For this reason, we can refer to the Zaidis as “Fivers” because they differ with the other Shi’ites over the identity of the fifth Imam, who regard Zaid’s brother, Muhammad al-Baqirرضى الله عنه , as the rightful fifth Imam.

Zaidiya Line
1. Ali b. Abi Talib
2. Hasan b. Ali
3. Hussain b. Ali
4. Ali b. Hussain
5. Zaid b. Ali b. Hussain

Opposing Line
1. Ali b. Abi Talib
2. Hasan b. Ali
3. Hussain b. Ali
4. Ali b. Hussain
5. Muhammad b. Ali b. Hussain

Generally speaking, the Zaidis are closest to Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jama’ah, and they do not regard the Imams as infallible. As opposed to the Imamiya factions, the Zaidiya are lenient with regard to the issue of Imamate, regarding any just and pious Alid who uprises against the tyrants as a rightful Imam. They accept Zaid’s son, Yahia b. Zaid, as the rightful sixth Imam. They generally accept Muhammad b. Abdullah b. Hasan b. Hasan b. Ali (Nafs al-Zakiya رضى الله عنه) as a rightful Imam because of his piety and leading an armed uprising against the Abbasids.

As for the Imamiya, the Shi’ite factions that confirm Muhammad al-Baqir as the fifth Imam, they are the tendency whose variation in the rightful line of Imams we will examine in greater detail. This is because it is the Imamiya more than any other branch of Shi’ites who emphasize the importance of the Imamate and recognizing the true line of Imams as an Article of Faith.

The Bâqiriya

A faction of Imamiya of assert that Muhammad al-Baqir did not die, that he is the Mahdi and the Qa’im. They cite an alleged tradition of the Prophet that he gave glad tidings to Jabir b. Abdullah al-Ansari رضى الله عنه that he would meet the Mahdi, and he (Jabir) recognised Muhammad al-Baqir as the one. The Baqiriya can therefore be regarded as “Fivers” because they acknowledge a line of five Imams terminating with Muhammad b. Ali (al-Baqir).

The Nâwûsiya

As opposed to the Baqiriya, the rest of the Imamiya recognise Muhammad’s son, Ja’far al-Sadiq رضى الله عنه as the rightful sixth Imam. However, the Nawusiya believe that Ja’far al-Sadiq did not die, that he is the Mahdi and the Qa’im. They cite alleged traditions of Ja’far al-Sadiq that he said: “If you should see my head rolling down to you from a mountain, do not believe what you see, for your master is the man of the sword.”

The Nawusiya may be termed “Sixers” because they acknowledge a line of only six Imams, terminating with Ja’far al-Sadiq. However, the rest of the Imamiya acknowledged the death of Ja’far al-Sadiq, but the next major schism that occurred within the world of Shi’ism was the dispute over the identity of Ja’far’s successor, the seventh Imam.
Reference: Firaq al-Shi'a (Nawbakhti); p.77



The Aftahiya

1. Ali b. Abi Talib
2. Hasan b. Ali
3. Hussain b. Ali
4. Ali b. Hussain
5. Muhammad b. Ali
6. Ja’far b. Muhammad
7. Abdullah b. Ja’far
8. Muhammad b. Abdullah (?)

This faction recognised Ja’far’s son Abdullah al-Aftah as the rightful seventh Imam. This Abdullah lived approximately seventy days after the death of his father, Ja’far, then died without any male issue. Some of the Aftahiya maintained that Abdullah had a son named Muhammad, who is the Mahdi (he bears the name Muhammad son of Abdullah). The rest of the Aftahiya were reabsorbed into the main group of Imamiya who recognised Ja’far’s son Musa al-Kadim رضى الله عنهما as the true seventh Imam.

The Shumaitiya

This faction recognised Ja’far’s son Muhammad al-Dîbâj as the rightful seventh Imam and as the Mahdi. This doctrine was championed by Yahia b. Abi Shumait.

The Wâqifa

The main branch of Imamiya recognised Ja’far son, Musa al-Kadim as his rightful successor and the true seventh Imam. However, they differed about the succession to the seventh Imam. The Waqifa were a prominent group that held that Musa al-Kadim did not die, and that he is the Mahdi and the Qa’im. They cite alleged traditions of Ja’far al-Sadiq which speak of the Mahdi as bearing the name of the Prophet who received the Torah, namely Moses (Musa) عليه السلام.
Reference: Ibid; p.87

The Isma’iliya al-Khâlisa

The other major branch of the Imamiya are the Isma’iliya. They consider Ja’far’s son, Isma’il b. Ja’far, as the true seventh Imam:

Isma’iliya Line
1. Ali b. Abi Talib
2. Hasan b. Ali
3. Hussain b. Ali
4. Ali b. Hussain
5. Muhammad b. Ali
6. Ja’far b. Muhammad
7. Isma’il b. Ja’far

However, the Isma’iliya differed about the reality of Isma’il b. Ja’far. It is generally known that Isma’il died within the lifetime of his father, despite the fact that he was designated as Ja’far’s successor to the Imamate. This resulted in the other Imamiya sects transferring the designation from Isma’il to one of the other sons of Ja’far al-Sadiq. The Isma’iliya al-Khalisa (“pure Ismailis”) believe that Isma’il did not die in reality, but that his father only proclaimed his death as dissimulation to protect his life from the Abbasids. They claim that Isma’il is the Mahdi and the Qa’im.
Reference: Ibid; p.78

 The Mubârakiya

This faction of Isma’ilis agreed with the general view that Isma’il b. Ja’far had died within his father’s lifetime, but since he was already designated as his father’s successor, therefore, the Imamate must continue within Isma’il’s descendants. Hence they regard Isma’il’s son, Muhammad b. Isma’il, as the rightful successor and true Imam.

We shall discuss the remaining divisions of the Imamiya and the Isma’iliya in particular in future entries ان شاء الله

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