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:



  1. I agree that Imam Ali (as) was the most qualified to rule over the Ummah. However, if the Shura was illegitimate then why did Imam Ali (as) himself allow it when the sahaba made him calipah. Also, where was Imam Ali's (as) waliyah when the shias forced him to accept the arbitration between him and Muawiyah ? When the sahaba came, and gave him bayah why didn't he include the concept of Waliyah within that bayah ?

    Also in the Quran, Talut (as) was appointed as a King while being present in front of a Prophet. The Bani Israel asked Allah (swt) to appoint them a King. Couldn't they just have made the Prophet (as) the King ? Next, Talut (as) along with 313 momins fought against the opposition. There is no example in the Quran where unity was formed while a ruler was appointed to rule and an non-legit ruler takes his place.

    Next the concept of Shura is found in the Quran.

    Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance" [are praised] (Quran 42:39)

    The shia schools best defense for divine appointment is Nahj al Balagha. However, the reality is this book has no chain of narrations. Therefore, how can we conclude this as proof? Ibn Hadid al Mutazilla believed that a liar is to enter hell for eternity. He was very careful when he did its commentary. Therefore, if he couldn't agree with the shias are the rest of the Muslims placed under blame ?

  2. To Pro Ahlul bait: I am just as sceptical about Najh al Balagha and other historical accounts as you are, but I think Madelung's point that the Qur'an endorses the concept of a prophet's descendants being heirs to spiritual and worldly leadership roles is a powerful one. The fact that Ali's bid for the leadership was a messy affair doesn't change the general principal, which I think is still valid today. We have only to look at the great leadership provided by Ahlul bait kings in Jordan and Morocco, compared with the brutal, unjust regimes of men like Saddam Hussein and President Saleh, to see that lineage does make a difference.

  3. Regarding ProAhlulbayt:
    I think that your points make a lot of mistaken assumptions.

    1. Mistaken Assumption #1-There was a shura that elected Abu Bakr. This mistaken assumption was addressed by Madelung in his book. Also, many scholars, Sunni and Shi'i have refuted the assumption that Abu Bakr was elected by shura. If he was elected by shura and it was a praiseworthy means to attain caliphate, why did Umar say that it was a falta and if anyone repeated it, he would kill them?!

    Mistaken Assumption #2-Just because Imam Ali (as) allowed it doesn't mean that he considered it legitimate. There are authentic reports in the Sahihs and other books of the Sunnis in which Imam Ali, once attaining the caliphate, made the Companions testify that the Prophet appointed him as leader in Ghadir. This incident is known as Munashshada at Rahba.

    Mistaken Assumption #3-It wasn't the shia that forced Imam Ali to make arbitration! This is totally contradictory to the Shia concept of Wilayat itself! Rather, the books of history testify that it was the khawarij that forced Amir al-Muminin to make arbitration. In the Nahj al-Balagha, Imam Ali argues against the Khawarij that they forced him to arbitrate and later rebelled against him.

    Mistaken Assumption #4-Madelung cites sources from the books of history in which Imam Ali DID include the concept of wilayat in his bayah. Also, refer to the Munashshada at Rahba. Even if he didnt, this does not contradict the concept of Wilayat.

    Mistaken Assumption #5-It was Allah that appointed King Talut. Please refer to the relevant verses. Allah said that Talut was qualified because of his knowledge and strength not because the Children of Israel appointed him.

    Mistaken Assumption #6-Although shura is mentioned in the Qur'an, the concept of leadership of the ummah is not mentioned in relation to it. Furthermore, even if shura was mentioned in connection to leadership of the Muslims, there should have been a methodology as to how the shura should be conducted. The fact that the first three caliphs used three different methods of selecting their successor shows that there was no clear relationship between shura and caliphate.

    Mistaken Assumption #7-The best argument for the Imamate of Amir al-Muminin (as) is intellectual (aqli) and textual (naqli). Regarding the intellectual proof, if you acknowledge the superior virtues of Ali over others than it would be illogical to select someone who is inferior over someone who is superior! It would be similar to appointing a novice over an expert. Regarding the textual proofs, they are mentioned in the texts that we've traslated. Please refer to them.

    I dont understand your reference to Ibn al-Hadid. What are you implying?

    Even if we get rid of all of the textual references, logic dictates that the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, appointed his successor. Knowing what will befall his fledgling ummah after he dies, it would be illogical to assume that the Prophet would fail to appoint his successor. Otherwise, one is left with the following mistaken assumptions:

    1. Either the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, didnt know what would befall his ummah,
    2. He didnt care.

    If the first assumption is correct then this would strengthen the argument of the enemies of Islam who say that he was a false prophet, audhu billah.
    If the second assumption is correct then he wouldnt be "ar-rauf ar-rahim" as mentioned in the Qur'an.

    Thanks for your comments!


  4. Brother IRS:
    I will address some of your points because in most of them you have assumed I believe so and so.
    I never said Abu Bakr (ra) was elected by the shura or by a fair method. However, he was given bayah by the majority of the sahaba after, and this bayah included Imam Ali (as) bayah.
    If you want more details please refer to Syed Ninowy's Q& A section.

    I'm not familiar with Munashshada at Rahba! Is is a report which has a chain narration ?

    For your 3rd point, let me point out to you that the Khawarij did not exist at the time of the arbitration. They appeared after.
    Also the Khawarij were a minority, not a majority. If a minority came in Imam Ali's (as) way he would have easily stopped them. On the contrary, it was the majority who forced Imam Ali (as) into accepting Muawiyah's deception. Most of them repented and did not become Khawarij.

    Let's stick to these point and then move further.

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  6. Dear IR and PAB1,

    I am enjoying the discussion and appreciate both of you raising such good points. The issue of Imam Ali (A) being the first khalifa, while not being central from a practical perspective in our day to day lives, is very important from the overall discussion of zaidi vs. sunni. So while some might say, 'its history who cares', the reality is it opens a far larger discussion of shia, and specifically Zaidi, as a legitimate alternative. As mature adults we all are well aware that history and politics have place a very central role in development of fiqh, aqidah, hadiths, and Islam itself. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble in this regard, but that is just the sad truth.

    A few random points:
    1. Following the Ahl Bayt: PAB1, the line of questioning you are pursuing is a good one, and I encourage you to continue. You can look to historical evidences, rational arguments, textual reasoning for Imam Ali (a) being the first khalifa, or for any issue of difference between Zaidi and Sunni for that matter. I did want to offer a different and simple perspective. All early Ahl Bayt scholars believed Imam Ali (a) was the rightful first khalifa, I dont think there is anyway to prove otherwise, this was in fact the defining issue early on before aqidah issues arose. So if an individual as part of their decision process and proofs (as per the Thaqalayn hadiths) asks 'what the did the early Ahl Bayt believe?', they will come to this conclusion. It wasnt until members of the Ahl Bayt became Sunnized (several centuries later) that you find some descendants of Imam Ali (a) differing on this issue. This is the essential difference between being *pro* ahl bayt (which some sunnis are, the non nasabis at least!) and *following* the ahl bayt (which is what Zaidis do). So this is a 'shortcut' in concluding this discussion, but I still encourage you to continue with your line of rational research. You will find the Zaidis perhaps more than any other madhab open to debate and dialog on any issues, they do not try and squelch research in the search for truth because that is what true belief is (Sunnis get squeamish when discussing history, and 12vrs as well esp regarding the last Imams and the development of the madhab). There are no hidden beliefs in Zaidiya, it is all an open book for anyone to challenge and accept or reject. During my introduction to Zaidiya this was one thing that struck me as powerfully unique, Zaidis were simply 'comfortable' about their beliefs and with no issues could pick up a Sunni or 12vr book and engage and read through with no hang ups. Is it because they have conviction it is the truth and thus there is no latent 'worry' that someone might bring up uncomfortable issues (like the fitna/muawiya etc)? Is it because it is a golden mean between Sunni and Shia? Is it because Zaidi require their followers to ask questions and seek the truth so its just part of the mindset? Maybe its a little of all of that....May Allah grant us all proper understanding of this deen...Ameen.

  7. 2. Tafdhili: Many sunni ulema would claim you to be fasiq at best, and a kafir at worst for believing Imam Ali (a) was the most qualified ('tafdhili') vs the first three, and some would even say the same for Muawiya! And the vast majority are completely against even talking about history, which is a convenient way to not have anyone ever learn what actually happened lest they should figure out that Shia/Zaidi actually have some very legitimate viewpoints. I know you will say this is not all sunnis, but honestly PAB1, putting aside the rare exceptions, you know that it is quite nearly all of them.

    3. Sunna of Imam Ali: It is well known that Imam Ali (a) himself refrained from giving baya to Abu Bakr for 6 months in protest, some say this was because of fadak, but most affirm this was because he felt it was was his right and responsibility from the Rasul (saws).

    There is more that can be written, but we'll leave it at this. Rome wasnt built in a day!

    By the way, I should mention that this is coming from the perspective of a Muslim who was born & raised Sunni. I do not consider being a Zaidi a conversion (in fact I rarely use the term Zaidi, I started the blog and facebook because I wanted to do my part to introduce the thought because I believe it has a lot to offer), we are all Muslims who seek to be closer to Allah, and only Allah knows where we will end up in our searches. All I can humbly recommend to all is they do it with sincerity and a desire to please Allah, and loyalty to Haqq alone....

    Ya Allah!

  8. Salaam
    I am aware the Ahlul Bayt's (as) belief on calipate and their takfir against Muawiyah. This is well known among Sunni scholars.
    However, they also defended the calipahs from insults too.
    Imam Zain Ul Abideen's (as) defense in mentioned in this clip below.
    It starts at 5:00
    Also the second part.


    Also here is Imam Zayd ibn Ali (as) defense as well.

    As for labels such as Tafdhili,fasiq, well Syed Ninowy wrote an entire book in order to defend the Sunni stand. Let me know if you interested. I can email you the book.
    This book has powerful proof from Sunni sources.

    Lastly I am aware of the opposition when one love the Ahlul Bayt. If the Imams (as) themselves faced trouble do you think their supporters will have an easy life ? I don't think so.

    As for me become choosing Zaydism, let's just say Zaydis already know who the Ahlul Bayt (as) are. We don't need to teach them. Its Sunnis who need guidance as it is found in our own books.

  9. I just wanted to make a comment in regards to the Nahj al-Balagha. The book in it's entirety does not have an isnad, but almost all of it's contents do have sound isnads from other sources. The two most important contemporary books in this regard are by abd Allah al-Zahra al-Husayni al-khatib and Abd Allah Ni'ma titled Masadir Nahj al-Balagha wa asaniduh and Madarik Nahj al-balagha respectively. In any case, the Nahj was written, to quote Reza Shah-Kazemi, "to edify and inspire, not to corroborate and authenticate", which explains why isnads were not included in it. I think it is a book all sides could benefit from even if they don't believe every last word in it. I think in general Imam Ali is a figure that Muslims in general can come together around and benefit from as he has a high position amongst all groups.

  10. I wanted to echo Zaidiya's comments on confronting the reality of history and the development of our faith. I think that all reformists, whether we are coming from a Zaidi persecutive, or a Mutazili 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.

  11. Thanks Devin for mentioning the Iranian scholar Soroush, I just looked at his website and noticed his thought provoking article about the present Iranian system; it echoes the pro-secular points made by A. Hamidaddin earlier in my blog, and is well worth reading. I particularly liked this part:
    “There’s no reason why we should, for example, model ourselves on France. There’s no need for it. But you may find rulings, such as the rulings relating to apostasy, that contravene human rights. Here, we must exercise ijtihad[reasoned formulation of new rulings based on the circumstances of time and place] and bring them into line with Islamic morality. Islam is not just fiqh; it is also a philosophy and a morality. We must also bear them in mind. In this way, an Islamic system, which Muslim people approve of, can be established, with rulers who are committed to a just and democratic Islam.”
    Here’s the link for other readers:

  12. Thanks to everyone for their valuable contributions!

    Regarding the point made by ProAhlulBayt that the khawarij did not exist during the time of Imam Ali (as), this is true and false. True to the extent that they were not known as the "Khawarij" by name. False to the extent that these people DID later become the Khawarij. Please refer to ANY book of Islamic history as well as the Nahj al-Balagha.
    This hypothesis is alot more feasible than the idea that it was the "Shia" who forced Imam to arbitrate which has no textual or intellectual basis!
    The reason why the pre-Khawarij were so successful in convincing the people to force Imam Ali to arbitrate was not because they were in the majority. Rather, they were able to appeal to the masses who only held to the authority of the non-speaking Book [i.e. the Qur'an] and not also to the speaking Book [i.e. Imam Ali]. Please refer to Nahj al-Balagha. One does not have to be in the majority to convince the majority!

    Regarding the mass testimony of Munashshada at Rahba, the sources are included in our upcoming translation of Sayyid al-Houthi's book, inshaAllah. Stay tuned!

    As much as I believe in the truthfulness of the Zaydi school over others, it is not my purpose to make other people into Zaydis just as it is not my purpose to make non-Muslims into Muslims. I can't do that! I can only bring up points and try to make the Truth known to others. Whether they accept it or not is entirely up to them.

    The overall purpose of our society is to make the scholarship of our imams and scholars known and available to the English-speaking public.

    As to whether they adapt the madhhab of Ahl al-Bayt, that's up to them!

    Although we wholly approve of the development and progression of thought, we would like to make it clear that this does not entail that we are under the umbrella of what's called in the West "Progressive Islam." This label is confusing and contradictory because it implies that Islam is in need of progression. Rather we say that Islam was "progressive" 1400 years ago. 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. This can't and won't be accomplished by adopting the theories of Deconstructionists, New Age gurus, or homosexual theorists!
    This will only be accomplished by adhering to those Two Weighty Things that the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, told us to hold on to.

    Allah knows best!


  13. As long as Zaydis don't call us kaffir for being Sunnis there won't be much problem here.
    The Wahabis openly do takfir against Sunnis. The 12rs on the other hand, use taqiyah.
    The 12r scholar Al-Khoei, specifically states: " Others ( Sunni four schools Muslims, Zaydi Shia, Mu'tazilah, Ibadyyah- basically others than 12'ers) are what we call Muslims in this Dunya, but infact Kuffar in the Akhira".

    فالصحيح الحكم بطهارة جميع المخالفين للشيعة الاثنى عشرية واسلامهم ظاهرا بلا فرق في ذلك بين أهل الخلاف وبين غيرهم وان كان جميعهم في الحقيقة كافرين وهم الذين سميناهم بمسلم الدنيا وكافر الآخرة.

    “And saheeh that all opposition to shia isna ashariya are pure, and apparent their islam, and there is no difference between people of opposition and others, and in real all of them are disbelievers, and they are from people, that called moslem in this world, and (would be call) disbelievers in doomsday”.

  14. I hope I am not dragging things too far from the topic, but the above comments impelled me to respond. Firstly, no one here, nor Dr. Soroush, have advocated the type of progressive Islam IRS is mentioning. One of the problems with sunnism is that it is very ossified and zaydism strikes me as being similarly under-developed, but perhaps has more hope for growth in the future.

    Secondly, the ithna ashari have generally divided between mu'mins (Shia) and Muslims. There was a difference with the Shia being in a higher position, but all being considered Muslim. This is based on narrations of the Imams making clear distinctions between the two groups. There is a minority who take it further, but to present that as THE Shia position is disingenuous. I mean, when I was in Iran that had a Muslim unity day for bringing Sunnis and Shia together. It is more galling if you have any idea of the type of fatwas some Sunnis have written about the Shia. In any case, we should be striving to bring Muslims together instead of drive them apart by catering to a small group of extremists.

  15. Salaam Brother Devin
    Iran seems to have a lot of unity days, but I can never understand why they don't allow Sunnis to have their own mosques in Tehran.
    Also brother can you give me a verse from the Quran where it distinguishes between Momins and Muslims ? I mean the 12rs also have the concept of Aql so they shouldn't have a problem with challenge. I asked a 12r this question and he pointed to a verse that indicated toward Monafiqeen.
    From the Quran I've see 3 categories of people. They are the Momins, Kaffirs and Monafiqeen. I never seen a verses which distinguished
    Also let me point out the in the 12rs creed if a 12r leaves it and becomes another type of Muslim he is considered an apostate.


    Also can you quote us ahadith which indicate that non-12r Muslims can enter jannah ?

  16. Salaams,

    There are no Shia mosques in Tehran either. They are committed to having all Muslims come pray together. I don't think it's the best idea, but what can we expect from the gentlemen in charge of Iran?
    The qur'an distinguishes between iman and Islam in regards to the bedouins who said they believed (had iman), and Allah tells them that they do not believe, but they have submitted. And the Shia believe that Iman is not complete without wilayat. There is an entire chapter on this issue in Massi Dakakes book "The Charismatic Community". There is a lengthy Hadith from Imam al-Baqir there where he discusses this issue and says of those in the middle position that if God wishes He will admit them to paradise by His mercy and if He wishes he will enter them into hell for their sins. The Iranian Marja Saanei has gone so far as to say that people who were not Muslim with enter jannah if they were good people so we are not exclusionists. It is also reported that Imam Husayn told a Christian slave who fought for him at Karbala that he was headed to heaven.
    I have to go to work now, but I would just ask you to consider why you are trying so hard to support the views of those who are dividing Muslims instead of those who uniting people. Yes there have been excesses amongst the ithna ashari, but there are amongst every religious group.

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  18. Salaam
    Again I've seen the same attempt made by a 12r, and after checking the tafseer for those verses, it indicated that these people were monafiqeen in history. Therefore, I don't if this a taqiyah type of response or if the 12rs are actually parroting information they get from their marjas.

    You ask why I am trying to divide the Muslims ? The reason is, to me a momin is not only a 12r shia Muslim. Therefore, if a 12r says you are not a momin for nothing accepting his/her aqeeda, how do you expect me to unite with such a person ? In fact, my offense isn't against 12rs only. I stayed with lived another Muslim happens to be from a Deobandi background. This person would preach his ideas, but when I presented my knowledge to him, he would reject it or show his doubts about it. After these incidences, I have refused to pray behind him.

    It is not me that's dividing the Muslims. In fact the group who doubt others Muslims as momins are the ones who are causing division. in reality.
    I hope you understand where I am coming from.

  19. This is my last comment on this as it is far from the purpose of this blog. As far as the verse, your tafsir may say that, but that is clearly how Imam al-Baqir understood the verse and we believe him to have the greatest knowledge of the Qur'an. As for the insinuation that it is taqiyya, is Maria Massi Dakake performing taqiyya in her book as well when she discusses the Shia view on this issue even though she is not even Muslim (as far as I am aware)?

    I didn't want to get into this, but let's be honest. The Sunni position is that the ithna ashari are either kafir or people of bidah destined for hell. There is a 30 some page long thread on a horrible Internet forum called sunniforum on the supposed scandalous beliefs of the Shia along with many fatwas of Kufr on the Shia. The Shia on the other hand consider Sunnis to be Muslims, albeit deficient Muslims, who may or may not enter paradise depending on their life, with some going further and saying this includes non-Muslims as well. Who is being exclusionary? We have real differences and they are important, but that doesn't mean we can't work together instead of trying to tear each other down. One of the things we believe is that God shows us aspects of ourselves in other people that may not be evident to ourselves, so we can grow and benefit from the differences we encounter.

  20. Brother let me assure you that I will stand up against any Sunni who calls a 12r shia a kaffir or even says that they can't be momin. Can I get the same level justice from you since you are willing to unite ? In fact, I even stepped against the Zaydi fatwa which says praying behind 12rs is wrong because of fiqh on wudhu.

    Taqiyah as far as I understand it used to save one's life. I am aware of Imam Jafar's (as) explanation. Refer to the Sunni acceptance of it.
    However, I don't accept Shaykh Saduq's narration on this matter.

    Also, you never commented on Al Khoei's fatwa who considers both Sunnis and Zaydis Muslim in the dunya and kaffir on the aqira. Refer to the post above. Next he says lying is permitted in order to promote the 12r aqeeda.
    Grand Ayatullah Al Khoei'i Says in reply to a question in one of his books(Sirat al Najat / صراط النجاة):

    Question"1245": Is it Possible to Lie or produce Arguments which contain Lies when Debating with a person who Is a Follower of Bida'a (Innovation) and a spreader or Dala'la (Ignorance) If this Lie would Destroy my Opponent's Arguments?

    Imam Khoei'i Answers: If it will stop his Falsehood then it is Permissible to do So.


    Also, if a 12r leave their sect and becomes a non-12r Muslim they are considered murtad.

    Bring me a Sunni scholar who calls shias kaffir or says they are non-momins, I will openly tell you that they are wrong. I don't have a problem with this.

    Remember the 12th Imam is in gaib, so there is no infallible guide to show us the correct path. If he appears and then a Sunni rejects him then I have no hesitation to say that Sunni has become a kaffir. The reason is Bibi Ayesha (ra) hadith indicates those who reject the Mahdi are kaffirs. On the contrary, today we only have fallible men to lead us. Therefore, to declare one momin for trust him and others non-momins for not trusting them is ridiculous.

  21. I think Khoei is wrong in this, but as you know he is a major figure and what I think doesn't change what he wrote. Also, I stick to the position that I heard, I think from Dr. liyakat Takim that in general the time of taqiya has passed. There may be exceptional circumstances if you live in places like Iraq or even Pakistan or something like that, but in the West or places like Lebanon it's day is done. There are also little things like praying without a mohr (can't remember arabic name of the clay stones we pray on) with Sunnis or in irfan hiding extra worship a person is doing, but this is not, I think, what we are talking about.