Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ashura: A Zaidi Perspective

Imam Rassi Society writes:

Although we are busy with new family responsibilities, we saw fit to write at least something regarding the occasion of the Martyrdom of Imam al-Hussein bin Ali (as) from a Zaydi perspective. As we know, the imam was killed on the plains of Karbala on the 10th of Muharram. This occasion is known as Ashura.

Technically, there is no problem commemorating the martyrdom of Imam al-Hussein (as) and his family and companions. This is consdiered praiseworthy when practice under the umbrella of the Shari'ah.

Among the things that it is praiseworthy to do on Ashura is fast.

--Imam al-Mutawakkil ala Allah, Ahmed bin Suleiman (as) said in his Kitāb Usūl al-Ahkām :
It is narrated on the authority of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, that he used to fast on ‘Ashura.
It is narrated on the authority of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, that he said: (There are no days that has as much reward as the month of Ramadan and ‘Ashura.) There are two reports that mention the recommendation of fasting on ‘Ashura, which is the tenth of al-Muharram. Some of the Imamis discourage fasting because al-Hussein bin Ali (as) was killed on ‘Ashura. That is not reliable (‘itimād) because fasting does not prevent grief. Also, breakfast is closer to the pleasure of fasting. He was killed after the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, and it is not permissible to change something after a Shari`ah law has been established. It is narrated on the authority of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, that he fasted on ‘Ashura and encouraged others to fast. It was said to him: “O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that is esteemed by the Jews and Christians.” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, replied: ((Then, next time, we fast on the ninth day.))
Elsewhere in the book, there are other narrations that state that Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, commanded those who ate on ‘Ashura to make it up.

--Imam Nātiq Bil Haqq, Abu Talib Yahya bin al-Hussein al-Hārūni (as) said in his Kitāb at-Tahrīr :
It is recommended to fast during times where there is no difficulty or detriment to the body. One is to break the fast [i.e. not fast] on the days of the 2 Eids and the Days of Tashrīq. It is recommended to fast during the months of al-Muharram, Rajab, and Sha’ban. It is also praiseworthy to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. It is recommended to fast on ‘Ashura, which is the tenth of al-Muharram. It is also recommended to fast on the day of ‘Arafat for those in other cities. [It is also praiseworthy to fast] on the 13th, 14th, and 15th days of every month.

--Imam al-Qasim bin Ibrahim ar-Rassi (as) said in his Kitab al-Wāfid:
“The fasts of great reward include: Rajab, Sha’ban, the White Days, ‘Ashura, the day of ‘Arafat, Mondays, and Thursdays.”

--Imam al-Hadi ila al-Haqq, Yahya bin al-Hussein (as) says in Kitāb al-Ahkām :
There’s no problem fasting on ‘Ashura. It is a good thing to do so. It is narrated on the authority of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, encouraged fasting on that day as something special. It is recommended to fast during times where there is no difficulty or detriment to the body. This is because Allah, the Exalted, does not desire hardship in acts of worship and desires ease for them. Allah says: {Allah desires ease for you and not difficulty} (Q. 2:185). If one is strong, they can fast this fast.
It is not permitted to fast during the days of al-Fitr and al-Ažha, as well as the Days of Tashrīq. This is because the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, forbade fasting on these days. He also said that eating and drinking are to be done during these days, and one is to break the fast. One is not to fast on these days.
I relate on the authority of my father on the authority of his father who was asked about fasting on ‘Ashura, which day is it, and fasting on ‘Arafat: He replied: “Fasting on that day is a beautiful act and there is a lot of reward in doing so. There’s no harm in refraining from it. It is also a lot of reward in fasting on the day of ‘Arafat. It is expiation for that year. Concerning ‘Ashura, it is on the 10th. There is no disagreement concerning that.

Among the blameworthy things to do is wail and strike oneself out of grief.

--Imam al-Mutawakkil ala Allah, Ahmed bin Suleiman (as) says in his Kitāb Usūl al-Ahkām :
It is narrated on the authority of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny: ((Two evil sounds are cursed in this world and the hereafter: the sound of lamenting from one in mourning who rip their pockets, scratch their faces, and laments the lamentations of Satan; as well as the sound of one who celebrates a blessing with mindless entertainment (lahw) and the flutes of Satan)).
It is narrated on the authority of Zayd bin ‘Ali—his ancestors—‘Ali, upon them be peace: “The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, said: ((The one who shaves, lashes, rips, and calls out of woe and grief, is not one of us)). Zayd bin ‘Ali said: “‘Shaves’ refers to shaving one’s hair. ‘Lashes’ refers to cries of the wailers. ‘Rips’ refers to ripping one’s pockets.
Our comments: The proof of lashing out severely is in the statement of Allah, the Exalted: {But when fear departs, they lash at you with their sharp tongues} (Q. 33:19).
It is narrated on the authority of ‘Ali, upon him be peace, that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, prohibited wailing.
It is narrated on the authority of ‘Abdur-Rahmān bin ‘Awf who said: I took the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, by the hand and we went with to his son, Ibrāhīm, may Allah bless him, who passed away. He buried him and then cried. I then said: “O Messenger of Allah, do you cry after prohibiting it?” He replied: ((I did not prohibit crying. However, I did prohibit two types of evil sounds: the sound of one who celebrates a blessing with mindless entertainment and the flutes of Satan; as well as the sound of lamenting by slapping one’s cheeks (laŧm) and ripping one’s pockets. This [i.e. crying] is a mercy. The one who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy)).

Therefore crying for Imam al-Husswen (as) and his family is permissible, but wailing isn't.

And Allah knows best!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Muhammad Badr: A Noble Defender of Zaidism

Muhammad al-Badr Hamidaddin was born in 1926 as oldest son of Ahmad bin Yahya, imam of the Zaydis.
Muhammad Badr and his relatives spent almost a decade defending the 1,000 year Zaidi Imamate from a band of republicans in collusion with Egypt’s Gamal Abdu Nasr.
Abdu Nasr had looked to a regime change in Yemen since 1957 and finally put his desires into practice in January 1962 by giving the “Free Yemen Movement” office space, financial support, and radio air time.
On 19 September 1962 Imam Ahmad died, Muhammad al-Badr was proclaimed Imam, but a week later rebels shelled his residence in Sana'a and set up a republic. Abdullah as-Sallal, whom al-Badr had appointed commander of the royal guard, led the coup, and declared himself president of the Yemen Arab Republic.
Badr is quoted as saying: "Now I'm getting my reward for befriending Nasser. We were brothers, but when I refused to become his stooge, he used Sallal against me.”
Al-Badr had, like most young Arab leaders of his generation, been a great admirer of Abdu Nasr and had even arranged during his father's absence for Egyptian experts to come and help modernize the Yemen. His father had incorporated Yemen into the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria, which then became the United Arab States. It is thus ironic that the coup was largely instigated and planned by Egyptians and that without a massive Egyptian presence in the Yemen for five years afterwards, the “Yemen Arab Republic” would never have survived.
Although the republicans had announced to the world that al-Badr had died beneath the rubble of his home, he had in fact managed to escape unhurt and set out to the north. As he proceeded on his journey, the loyal Zaydi tribes rallied round him pledging him their allegiance as Amir al-Mumineen ("Prince of the Faithful"), as loyalty to an imam from the Ahl al-Bayt (the descendants of the Prophet) is an important part of the Zaydi belief system. . Badr was joined by his childhood pen pal, American Zaidi convert Bruce Conde, who set up the post office and would later rise to the rank of general in the Royalist forces.[36]
Al Badr lived alongside his supporters, sharing with them every deprivation and hardship. Al-Badr was a man of great courtesy, kindness and personal charm. He loved dearly the Yemeni people and was essentially a man of peace. He said he would never allow a terrible civil war to rage once again in his country.
The hill tribes were Zaidi while the Yemenis of the coast and the south were Sunni, as were most Egyptians. Sallal was a mountain Shia but he was fighting alongside the lowland Sunnis and Egyptians in order to retain his Presidency.
Mohamed was a diplomat; his policy was to keep officers as prisoners for exchange, and to allow soldiers to go in return for their arms. He promised amnesty to all non-royalists once the Egyptians were withdrawn. He also promised a new form of government: "a constitutionally democratic system" ruled by a "national assembly elected by the people of Yemen" if his side was victorious.
In February, 1967, Nasser vowed to "stay in Yemen 20 years if necessary", while Prince Hussein bin Ahmed said "We are prepared to fight for 50 years to keep Nasser out, just as we did the Ottoman Turks."
As well as aerial bombardent, Egypt resorted to gas attacks. The gas attacks stopped for three weeks after the Six-Day War of June, which was lost because Egypt had sent too many troops to Yemen, but resumed on July, against all parts of royalist Yemen.[82] Casualty estimates vary, and an assumption, considered conservative, is that the mustard and phosgene-filled aerial bombs caused approximately 1,500 fatalities and 1,500 injuries.
In later peace negotiations involving Egypt, Badr said: "It is essential that the conflict which has devastated our beloved country be brought to an end by peaceful negotiations between the Yemeni people themselves."[63] In another reconciliation attempt, Badr promised to send his troops to fight with Egypt against Israel, should Nasser live up to a truce brokered by the Saudis.[85]However, Sallal kept frustrating the peace efforts. One of Sallal’s deputies resigned, saying "It is obvious that Sallal and his cronies are more interested in war than peace".
In 1970, despite the fact that territorially most of the Yemen remained under the control of al-Badr and the Hamid al-Din family, Saudi Arabia, which had been the principal opponent of the Sana'a regime, recognized the Yemen Arab Republic and other nations like the United Kingdom swiftly followed suit.
Stunned by Saudi Arabia's recognition of the republican regime which had been negotiated without any consultation with him whatsoever, al-Badr went to England, where he lived quietly in a modest house in Kent, only going abroad to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. He died in 1996 in London.
Historians call the Yemeni Civil War “Egypt’s Vietnam” because of its disastrous consequences, which include the loss of most of Palestine in the 6 day war, the senseless loss of life, the negative impact on Egypt’s economy, and the postponement of Yemen’s development as a modern nation.
For Zaidis, the War signaled the end of the 1,000 year Zaidi Imamate of Yemen. Today’s Zaidis propose that Muhammad Badr’s dream of a "a constitutionally democratic system" ruled by a "national assembly elected by the people of Yemen" will one day be realized, instead of the corrupt presidency currently led by Abdullah Saleh, which has continued to wage war on the Zaidi tribes of North Yemen, and encourages the Saud-backed Wahhabists to attack the Zaidis in their own region.
Sources: Wikipedia pages on Muhammad Badr and North Yemen Civil War.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Imam Rassi’s Mu’tazili/Zaydi Theories described in English

Thanks to one of our readers, it has come to our attention that an academic named Abrahamov has made a detailed study (originally in Hebrew, now also in English) of Imam Rassi’s Mu’tazili study of the Holy Qur’an, and his position on the subject of Imamate, which is the Zaydi position.
These are available online, at the following links, and provide an excellent insight into Imam Rassi’s thinking, as well as the views of his contemporary opponents:
1. Regarding the Interpretation of the Qur’an in the Theology of al Qasim bin Ibrahim (an excellent summary of Mu’tazili Qur’anic interpretation)
2. Regarding Al Kasim bin Ibrahim’s Theory of the Imamate, which includes his theories on:
(a) the obligation to appoint an Imam
(b) the signs attesting to the legitimate Imam
(c) A refutation of the Rafidite (i.e. 12 Imamer) doctrines concerning the Imamate
When we refer to “Imam Rassi” we mean Imam al-Qāsim bin Ibrāhīm bin Isma„īl bin Ibrāhīm bin al-Hasan al-Muthanna bin al-Hasan bin Fātima bint Muhammad, the Chosen Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny. Al Qasim bin Ibrahim was born in 169/785 and was based in a place called Rass, near Medina. Translations of some of his other works are available at the imam rassi society scribd page and the zaydiyyah.wordpress blog.

Zaydism and Taqiyah

What is “Taqiyah”?
Taqiyah is defined as “fear, caution, dissimulation of one’s religion (under duress or in the threat of damage)” (Hans Wehr dictionary). The word is often used by 12 Imamer Shi-ites to refer to the practice of hiding the fact that they are 12er in order to be safe, or to lead a normal way of life, in a non 12er environment.
The reasons 12er Shi-ites find it necessary to do this include:
1. They are usually in the minority (with the exception of 12ers living in Iran and some parts of Iraq), and therefore tend to be the targets of bullying and discrimination. With the spread of Saudi Wahhabism, today’s Sunnis often label the 12ers as unbelievers, and anti-12er violent attacks seem to be on the rise.
2. The 12er version of Islam, with its far-fetched claims, and provocative version of history, has whipped up the Sunnis into an anti-Shi-ite frenzy.

Taqiyah for new Zaidis?
The question facing Zaidis living in non-Zaidi societies is, do we also need to hide the fact that we are Zaidi Shi-ites from Sunnis, and/or from 12er Shi-ites?

Personally, I think the answer to this question is no, for the following reasons:
1. The Zaidi version of Islam is not, and never has been, an extreme position, and we need to calmly explain this to Sunnis and 12ers rather than hide from them.
2. Zaidis have never officially allied themselves with either group and can not therefore be accused of really being allied to one side or the other.
3. Zaidis are not linked by the Western media to any suicide bombings or other terrorist acts, so they are unlikely to receive a hostile reception in non Muslim environments.

It is, of course, a matter for personal judgement, how/when/where/whether to make one’s Zaidism public.

It could be argued that a Sunni or 12er who has become a Zaidi stands to lose their spouse, and/or the goodwill of their parents, children, employers, work colleagues, and Muslim friends, and that taqiyah should be employed to avoid these types of relationship breakdowns.
I would disagree with that view because these are not life and death matters, and the precedents for hiding your religious beliefs (in Muslim literature) seem to be linked with the threat of immediate execution, not relationship breakdowns or loss of employment.
I decided to avoid confrontation by relocating before switching to Zaidism. Moving to a place where nobody knew me (and there are hardly any Muslims) made the change-over very easy and non confrontational.
It’s ridiculous that non Muslims accept you as a Zaidi more easily than Sunnis and 12 Imamers. It just goes to show how intolerant Muslims have become of each other in recent decades. May Allah guide us all to the Straight Path.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ask a Zaidi: December Edition

Welcome to Ask a Zaidi, December edition. We encourage you to post your questions about Zaidism here, so that we may all benefit from the answers provided.