An interesting perspective on this issue!
Source: The Guardian
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart has said he’ll risk going to jail rather than report what’s said to him in the sacrament of confession, even if what’s confessed relates to child sexual abuse.
His latest comments, made on ABC radio, were responding to a recommendation from the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse to make reporting child sexual abuse allegations mandatory in institutions including when an allegation is made in religious confession. Failure to report would be a criminal offence.
The recommendation is one of a suite of proposed reforms to improve transparency and reporting of sexual abuse and improve the law’s effectiveness to apprehend sexual abusers and protect children.
Archbishop Hart wouldn’t report something said in confession by a child who’s been abused or by an abuser. Non-Catholics don’t understand confession, he said. Confession is sacrosanct, above the law, which is what makes it…
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This is definitely an interesting contemporary issue in society…
Source: The Guardian
By Melissa Davey and agencies
The archbishop of the archdiocese of Melbourne, Denis Hart, said he would risk going to jail rather than report allegations of child sexual abuse raised during confession, and that the sacredness of communication with God during confession should be above the law.
He was responding to a report from the child sex abuse royal commission calling for reforms that, if adopted by governments, would see failure to report child sex abuse in institutions become a criminal offence, extending to information given in religious confessions.
Speaking to ABC radio 774 in Melbourne, Hart said he stood by comments he made in 2011 that priests would rather be jailed than violate the sacramental seal.
“I believe [confession] is an absolute sacrosanct communication of a higher order that priests by nature respect,” Hart said on Tuesday morning.
Here is another article about Zaidism from Zaida’s blog.
1. The Role of an Imam:
The role of the Imam is to carry on the Prophet’s task, including the carrying out of Divine Justice, writes a scholar from Imam Rassi Society:
“As human beings, the prophets are bound by the finality of death. This means that the prophet must be succeeded by either another prophet, or a leader who subsequently protects and carries out the dictates of Divine Justice. Otherwise, the prophetic mission will be null and void with the death of the prophet…..
The reality of Divine Judgment must be propagated; al-Mi’ād. All of this must be accomplished by means of a deputy charged with the message; an-Nubūwa. Divine justice must be carried out after the demise of the deputy; al-Imāma.”
He adds: “Historical examples of effective Zaydi imamates so far include those of Moulay Idris in Morocco, Imam al-Hadi ila al-Haqq in Yemen, and the Zaydi imamates in Persia.”
Regarding the Imam’s role, Abdullah Hamidaddin adds:
“The role of the imam in Zaidi literature is sometimes depicted spiritually which brings it closer to conventional Shii understandings of Imamah; but most depictions are political and pragmatic which brings it closer to Mu’tazili depictions of Imamah. The latter are closer to the culture of Imamah as it developed, where the Imam is a normal person; with no super-human capacities; even from a scholarly perspective his opinions are not considered special or unique. He is a scholar among scholars. A man among other men. Reverence to the Imam had to do with the convergence of reverence to rulers with reverence to Seyyids… both of which are external to the concept of the imamah.”
2. The Zaidi Criteria for being an Imam:
Here is a description of the traits needed to be an Imam, on top of the requirement of being descended from the Prophet’s grandsons:
“All of the following are the traits of Imamate: expansive knowledge, evident virtue, courage, generosity, excellence in opinionated thought without dissimulation, ability to carry out commands, and manifest religious scrupulousness.”
(Amir al Hussein bin BadrulDeen, died 662 AH)
These traits are found in many people. Competition usually determines who is finally chosen to be Imam.
3. How should a new Imam be selected?
The ideal scenario according to traditional Zaidism is that a board of scholars and dignitaries select the imam and keep him in check; he is obliged act according to the said criteria or else he can be deposed. The above mentioned board of scholars and diginitaries is normally responsible for ensuring a smooth and peaceful transition between Imams.
The dignitaries are an informal group of people created and sustained through a social system, and like all groups they can be abused and/or manipulated.
4. The Yemeni example:
During the history of the various Zaidi Hashemite Imamates in Yemen, which ruled for the most part of a thousand years (till 1962), the important role of the Selection Panel was downplayed, resulting in the following scenarios:
(a)The Imam’s oldest son automatically becoming Imam upon his father’s death, or another member of the same family if the older son was unsuitable.
In most cases he would be already considered eligible in terms of traits plus support.
In some cases, the Imamate may have been known as a Kingdom rather than an Imamate.
(b) Inter-clan rivalry. Regarding the Yemeni example, Abdullah Hamidaddin writes:
“ Imams from rival clans sometimes competed for the leadership role. When they did, no one really had a clear cut proof that he deserved it. In the end what really made a difference is that the traits required of the Imam meant that ultimately he who ruled did fairly well. Justice was a prime trait and most Imams stuck to it, even those who snatched it from another ruling family.”
(c) The Imam being overthrown by revolutionaries, and not replaced by another Imam at all. Regarding the Yemeni example,, Abdullah Hamidaddin writes:
“In the 1950’s and 60’s there was a revolutionary fervor in many Arab countries, so some of the elites in Yemen wanted to change the system. A new world order was being created. At that time internal solidarity was key. Yet there was a lot of internal struggle amongst various factions in Yemen from within the ruling circle as well as those opposing. The Imamah in Yemen wasn’t living up to its responsibilities after Imam Yahya’s assassination. With the help of Egyptian soldiers the rebels succeeded. It was the Egyptian army that made the coup successful. Yemen is considered Egypt’s Vietnam. They lost their best forces there. In 1967 the defeat against Israel is attributed to the fact that the best of the best were either killed injured or stuck in Yemen. Had the Egyptian army not intervened, maybe things would have improved. But we can never know.”
To read more details of how thw Imamate system worked in Yemeni history, click on the following link:
The republic which was formed continues to the present day. In recent times, there are many who remember the past nostalgically, regretting that they supported the anti-Hashemite rebellion. Some Zaidis have recently thrown their support behind a particular Hashemite family (al Houthis), while others, who prefer a political solution, support the Al Haq political party which is in opposition to the ruling party, (its leader recently survived an assassination attempt).
5. Critics of the Yemeni example:
Critics of the Zaidi leadership system (i.e. 12 Imamers) have tried to fault the system by pointing to Yemen’s failure to sustain an unbroken line of Imams. They claim that their system (an unbroken line of supposedly “divinely appointed” Imams, the 12th of whom is in “occultation”) is far superior. (see Shia-chat comments by MacIsaac for example). But Zaidi scholars point out that, if the dictates of a system are not implemented correctly in every case, this does not mean that the system itself is invalid.
Can democracy and Zaidi leadership selection work in unison?
Yemen’s Zaidi democrats look to democratic solutions which incorporate the Zaidi ideals of a just society. This raises the possibility of the Imam being elected democratically rather than by a council of the elite. Perhaps this could work rather like the Presidential elections in USA, i.e. the Imam being elected in a separate election from the Parliamentary one.
It is debatable, however, whether having a Hashemite elite with the exclusive privilege of eligibility for leadership is compatible with the egalitarian nature of democracy. Then there is the issue of females being eligible to become Imams; a democracy usually implies equal opportunity for women. (There have been successful female leaders in Yemen in the past, e.g. the legendary Queen Arwa, who successfully ruled over an Ismaili state, and a Zaidi woman ruler who is less famous than Arwa.) The possibilities are yet to be fully explored.
Here is another post from Zaida’s blog.
There is a link between the Prophets,a just society, and Divine Justice, writes a scholar from Imam Rassi Society:
The role of prophets was multifold. They served as living, breathing visual representations of the Creator reaching out to His creation. One of the prophetic functions was to perfect and correct concepts of the Deity that were subsequently coloured by human frailties and weaknesses. Some human beings brought the Divine to their level by ascribing lowly attributes that robbed Allah of His Transcendence, others tried to elevate themselves to the level of the Divine by promoting themselves as Sovereign entities that subjugated the masses by “Divine Right”.
The prophets came as heralds, to free the minds of the masses from these gross travesties of human invention. They utilized many creative means to instruct the masses in the Divine realities, by affirming the Divine attributes. They also “spoke truth to power” in order to remind despotic leaders that their earthly power and authority does not denote an ounce of Divine power; even a bothersome fly could unseat a king.
One of the functions of the prophets was to establish justice. It is not enough to exercise the individual human soul with sublime concepts but leave him to fend for himself in a chaotic society. It is rather the role of a teacher to make sure that the learning environment is suitable for the mental and spiritual development of the student. Likewise, prophets fought to establish just societies in their immediate locales. The establishment of justice also served as a material paradigm of Divine Justice; meaning that if a human despot would be improper, then a Divine despot would be even more improper.
Here is another post about Zaidism from Zaida on her defunct blog.
The biggest obstacle that Islam faces today is disunity. Fighting over petty things drains energy, resources, and lives. The mainstream groups, the sunnis and 12er Shi-ites, both stubbornly insist that they, and only they, are right, and refuse to budge even a centimeter from their standpoints, which are etched in ideological concrete. The salafis have made the situation even worse by branding as non-Muslims anyone who disagrees with the Sunni standpoint. Once they have branded someone with disbelief (takfir) they think that killing them is a good deed. Hence the massacres of innocent 12er shi-ites and Zaidis in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, to name a few countries, by Salafi zealots. To an outsider, the issues Sunnis and 12ers are differing on seem trivial. What can be done to mend these rifts, so that Muslims can be one nation, working towards the ultimate goal of world peace?
Rarely is the blame for a disagreement only on one side. As each side states their case, they exaggerate, even lie, to get you on their side. So it is with the sunnis and 12er Shi-ites. Without going into unnecessary detail, the exaggerations in both of their collections of “prophetic” narrations, and versions of history, are obvious and laughable. The Zaidis are the only Muslims who have not resorted to political propaganda, mythical fairytales and intimidating threat tactics, to get people on their side.
It doesn’t really matter who is right and who is wrong about the leadership issue and the theological debates; what matters is that both sides reach a compromise. In the case of sunnis and 12ers, the compromise position (Zaidism) is already established. It has been there all along, sadly ignored by most of the Muslim world.
Zaidism has not, in the words of the 12ers “had its day”. Its day has only just begun. As the world becomes better educated, as historians delve more and more into Islamic history using a scientific and objective approach, as reason and logic increase in the minds of muslims and non-muslims, the Zaidi alternative will become more and more sought after. It may not always be called “Zaidism”, it may one day simply be called “Islam”; it may become the accepted norm and the majority view, while those other views will become relics of the superstitious and intolerant past.
In an argument, it is the person who stops fighting who is the better of the two… I invite the Sunnis and 12ers to show who are the better ones amongst them, by making those first steps towards reconciliation. The Zaidis are in the perfect position to be the peacemakers because while the Sunni an 12er views are poles apart, the Zaidi view has much in common with both the Sunni and 12er views.
There is much work to be done, in (a) reconciling the Muslims and (b) working towards world peace and (c) the fair and just distribution of the world’s resources, without ruining the planet for future generations. There is no time for petty arguments, let alone civil sectarian wars. Sunnis and 12ers, join us in our efforts for justice and peace in the path of Allah.
Here is another post from Zaida’s now-dead blog about Zaidism. I hope that by reposting these articles that the movement will not die out.
In a detailed article, a 12-er Shi-ite has expressed the view that Zaidism has an unsuccessful history, therefore it is not the version of Islam that people should prefer. Interesting argument, but it calls into question, how does one measure success in this regard?
1.He points out that Yemen, where Zaidism has flourished, is “backward” compare to other nations. But, according to this logic, all Muslims should convert to Christianity because the Muslim nations as a whole are backward compared to the Christian/Western ones.
2. He points out that 12-er Shi-ites have more books than Zaidis. But, isn’t quality more important than quantity? The Shi-ite books I have read are mostly (a) about the superhuman qualites of their Imams, or the nayure of the hidden Imam on the green island or wherever he is, or (b) philosophical treatises which you need to study shi_ism for 20 years before you can understand them or (c) harping on about the leadership struggle, whereas Zaidis say, get over it, it happened, let’s move on.
3. He says Zaidis have been busy fighting the Ismailis, but forgot that 12er Shi-ites were busy fighting the Zaidis too. Some say they wiped out an entire Zaidi autonomous nation in Northern Iran, forcing the Zaidis to become 12ers if they wanted to survive.
4. Zaidis may be backward compared to other nations, but at least they are not guilty of:
(a) colonising weaker countries and treating their indiginous residents as second class citizens or slaves
(b) plundering the environment to manufacture useless luxury items which people really don’t need
(c) sending missionaries all over the world to force their views onto others
If this is what it takes to be successful, then I don’t think Zaidis want to be successful…
In my view, Zaidism is really Islam without the additions that have happened by various groups during the past centuries. The Zaidis of Yemen, unlike the Sunnis, Hanbalis, Wahhabis and Shi-ites of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Arabia, did not introduce the following concepts/practices to Islam:
The hidden imam, infallible imams, anthropomorphism, fatalism, the kasb theory of appropriation, taqleed (blind acceptance of dogma without debate), the Laa Kaif principal (prohibition of speculation about meaning of Qur’anic verses), tolerance of corrupt leadership, takfir (calling muslims in other math-habs or sects unbelievers), khawarijism (calling people who do sins unbelievers), judging Qur’an according to the prophet’s reported sayings, glorification of the prophet’s companions, to name a few.
Therefore Zaidism is Islam in the purest form we can find it today.
Calling Zaidism a “sect” implies that some other version of Islam is the norm and Zaidism is the aberration, just as calling Zaidism a type of Shi-ite-ism implies that the Sunni version of Islam is the norm while Zaidis are part of a deviant group.
Do Zaidis see themselves as a sect?
Abdullah Hamidaddan writes:
Zaidis nowadays do have a “sectarian identity”. This may be partly a result of the various attempts to destroy Zaidism in Yemen, which have forced them to identify themselves as Zaidis rather than as Muslims, in order to survive, and in order to preserve their world view for future generations.
In my view the Zaidi’s concept of sectarian identity is the major obstacle facing Zaidis today. Their theology, worldview and concept of ijtihad maybe progressive ; but sectarian identity has a profound impact on how the theology functions; and it can even be an obstacle to genuine ijtihad.
Why do you see this sectarian identity as an obstacle?
1. Genuine itjihad and sectarian identity have competing ends. The former seeks truth while the latter seeks self preservation. And in many cases self preservation means sticking to tradition as much as possible and emphasizing clerical authority, both of which lead to nominal ijtihad. In my view, tradition should nourish and inspire, but it shouldn’t define the borders or shape the outcome.
2. The concept of ijtihad is, in itself, an antithesis to specific borders for thought systems. There is no “real islam” per se. Islam is not a closed system with well defined and specific borders. It only becomes such through an identity process; where the need to border who “we” are leads to putting borders around our system of belief.
But Zaidis started to think in terms of “real islam” versus “other” because everyone else was thinking that way. They started playing the identity game without even realizing it, or one could even say that they did it for political reasons ..
In the comments, Zaida also wrote…
Abdullah Hamidaddin later added this comment:
On the issue being defined as a zaidi , historically the imams were not characterized as zaidi until the 7th century hijra. Another thing is that their project was not of proselytizing at all .. it was always about sharing knowledge and upholding justice ..
I want to see zaidi thought as a source that guides the future but not shape .. I don’t see it as a sect, I see it as a collection of thoughts and experiences that people need globally, once you start using labels then the issue of identity comes in .. its easier to tell someone those are sources for your enrichment, or those are references for you to follow ..
This is probably the primary reason why I decided to join the Zaidiyya movement but I still have my own personal views about certain Hadith books beyond this. I also hope that Zaida would decide to revive her blog! In the meantime I’ll continue to link her articles here so the beauty of Zaidism doesn’t disappear.
According to a Zaidi brother/scholar from Arabia, the Zaidi scholars only accept ahadith (i.e. reported sayings of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.) which are compatible with the Holy Qur’an. He writes:
This hadith is rejected by Zaidis and 12 Imamers because it does not say anywhere in the Qur’an that Allah descends, and the concept of Allah descending goes against the names Allah gives to Himself in the Qur’an such as “Assamad”, which means limitless in time and space, infinite, everlasting.
There is always going to be much debate about this issue in both Muslim-majority countries and the Western world and I really liked what Zaida had to say about it but I also think that women’s rights would include a woman’s right to wear the niqab if that’s what she really wants. My personal position on the veiling (hijab, niqab and everything else) is that it’s not Islamic to force someone to wear it but it’s also against human rights to force someone to remove it. I’m not a fan of the burqa, but if it’s a personal choice and not mandatory, then it’s your life and you can do what you like.
The following article would suggest that the widespread use of the burqa in Yemen these days is a salafi inspired phenonomen (perhaps encouraged by the ikhwanis as well?). ….
The niqab, with its unrelenting blackness broken only by a narrow slit for the eyes, has become a symbol for the lack of women’s rights in the Islamic world, and in Yemen, it has become a point of contention between conservative sheiks and Yemeni politicians on the one hand, and westernized Yemenis and Yemeni women’s rights activists on the other.
“I am a Muslim. I pray, I fast, I follow what is in the Koran,” said Ramzia Aleryani, head of the Yemeni Women’s Union in Sana. “[The niqab] is not in the Koran. There is nothing Islamic about it — there is nothing in the Koran that says a woman must cover her face.”
Aleryani arms herself and her visitors with photocopied packets of Koranic passages and the prophet Muhammad’s sayings defending women’s rights. She says the niqab was imported to Yemen by Salafists, followers of an ultraconservative sect of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia.
Thirty years ago, many Yemeni women wore traditional dresses or Western attire, and shared meals with men. The current vice governor of the southern port city of Aden said his mother used to walk around “in a miniskirt.”
To accept the niqab, Aleryani said, would be to accept many more often intolerant and regressive edicts.
“We are at war with the Salafists,” she said, unblinkingly. “It us versus them.”
Salafists and conservative political groups in Sana have in the last two decades gained an extraordinary amount of power in government and society. In the last few years, Salafists have threatened the Yemeni Women’s Union, left menacing phone messages for its leaders and published pamphlets decrying it as an anti-Muslim organization.
“Our women are cared for, respected and protected according to the Koran,” said Sheik Ali Werafi, a Salafist and a conservative member of parliament. “We cover them up to protect them. They have everything they need. The world comes to them. We do not need Western ideas imposed on our culture.”
(excerpt from “The Bridal Shower”, by Haley Sweetland Edwards, in the L.A. Times)