Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects, Reblogged Posts

More of Zaida’s Writings

I hope that everyone enjoyed the series on Zaidism; the Zaidiyyah Muslims within Shia Islam seem to only be getting smaller and smaller and even Zaida’s blog is now inactive. My hope is that by doing this it’ll keep the movement alive. You can also find some of her other blogs linked below:

Unfortunately, they are also all inactive but they have more valuable information about Islamic thought that seem to be disappearing these days. It is my hope that you will open your mind to these thoughts and maybe they’ll even inspire something in your own faith!

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Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

The Question of Zaydi / Zaidi Identity

How would I define a Zaydi?

From what I have read so far, I would define Zaydism as “progressive, moderate, rational Islam”.
To elaborate on this simple definition, I would say:
“progressive, because it is inspired by the an early Muslim who challenged the corrupt status quo (Zaid bin Ali), moderate, because it represents the common ground between the two differing sects of Sunnism and 12erism, rational because it incorporates the rational school of thought within Islam (the mu’tazilah school.)”
Therefore I would define a Zaydi as a “progressive, moderate, rational Muslim”.

Let’s compare my definition with the Wikipedia definitions:

“Zaydis historically come from the followers of Zayd ibn Ali, the great-Grandson of ‘Ali b. Abi Talib. They follow any knowledgeable and upright descendant of al-Hasan and al-Husayn, and are less esoteric in focus than Twelverism or Ismailism.”
“Zaydism is a Shī’a madhhab (sect, school) named after the Imām Zayd ibn ˤAlī. Followers of the Zaidi fiqh recognize the first four of the Twelve Imams but differ from Twelver Shia in recognising Zayd ibn Ali — not his brother Muhammad al-Baqir — as the “Fifth Imām”. After Zayd ibn Ali, the Zaidi recognize other descendants of Hasan ibn Ali or Husayn ibn Ali to be Imams. Other well known Zaidi imams in history were Yahya ibn Zayd, Muhammad al Nafs az-Zakiyah and Ibrahim ibn Abdullah… In matters of theology, the Zaidis are close to the Mu’tazili school, but they are not Mu’tazilite, since there are a few issues between both schools, most notably the Zaidi doctrine of the imamate.”

I think these definitions do not do justice to Zaydism, because they portray Zaydis as followers (of Imams) rather than thinkers; in truth, Zaydism is a way of thinking, not a matter of blindly following an Imam. The Imams were, in my opinion, an inspiration and showed us how to think.
It has been well documented that Islam is in a state of intellectual stagnation compared to the West. The blame for this rests on the shoulders of the Sunnis and 12er Shi-ites. Instead of encouraging debate, reform, creativity, critical thinking, and self criticism, they have opted for a bigoted “holier than thou” attitude, refusing to admit that any mistakes or flaws may exist in their respective ideologies, demanding blind acceptance from their devotees, and promising Hell to anyone who questions the dogmas they inherited from their ancestors.
The remedy is to convince Sunni and Shi-ite Muslims to adopt a progressive line, like Zaydism, so they can free up their thinking, without resorting to Western ideologies.
However, as long as Zaydi intellectuals themselves refuse to be identified as Zaydis, for whatever reason, it will difficult to change the Sunnis and 12er Shi-ites’ negative perception of Zaydism.
Some “progressive, moderate, rational Muslims” are reluctant to be identified as Zaydis, putting forward the following reasons:
1. They agree with the Zaydi stand on every issue, but are happy to be Sunni!
2. Although they are from a Zaydi family, they disapprove of sectarianism, and think that by identifying as Zaydi they are joining a sect.
3. They prefer to be known as Muslims, not Zaydis.
4. They do not want to follow Zaydi Imams/ scholars, because they think that the judgements and theories made by imams and scholars of the past may not have been intended to be set in stone, and need reform.

Reasonable enough, …but perhaps their own definition of Zaydism is too narrow, like the narrow definitions in Wikipedia?

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Zaidism and Women’s Liberation [Comments]

Here are some of the other interesting comments from the previous articles that I thought would contribute to the discussion.

What a fantastic article!! Zaidism is paving the way for womens rights in the Islamic world by setting clear rights for women.

Its really interesting to read first-hand how a Saudi Woman feels. We so often judge their plight from the outside, without consulting those who are affected. Her response is moving.

I’m not sure I agree with the Zaidi theology on the issue of Hijab (covering everything but the face and feet)

I think the exterior appearance of a woman is trivial and of personal choice, not a condition of faith.

Men should just Butt out and instead concern themselves with protecting their own modesty.

Resisting temptations and ‘seductions’ should bear an onus on both women and men. Why should we walk the streets in cotton helmets with only our hands exposed to sunlight, while men gallivant around in whatever they choose!?

Instead of bestowing that responsibility fully on women, why not share the load?

Thanks for your comment. As far as women’s dress in Islam is concerned, I think the hope lies with the re-interpretation of the Quranic verses relating to women’s dress in a less literal way. Muhammad Asad (English translator with mu’tazili tendencies) points out, in his commentary of these verses, that they are to be understood as a general message of modesty and decency in dress, rather than as specific guidelines of exactly what to wear for all women-kind everywhere. What was appropriate, in order to distinguish oneself from a prostitute or promiscuous woman, in the days of the early Muslims of Arabia, may not be necessary in other cultures or in later times in order to achieve the same outcome. I think the best way to judge what is appropriate in a given society, is to look at the societal norms regarding decent dress and indecent dress and go from there. It should not be necessary to look like a medieval Arab if you happen to live in Australia or Romania in 2010. It should not be necessary for a Muslim woman living in a non Muslim society to be stigmatized where-ever she goes because she stands out and looks so different. But Muslim women should never imitate the dress codes of prostitutes and loose women living in their society. That might mean, for example, staying away from the high heels/ mini-skirt/ heavy make-up combination which has become so commonplace among today’s young Western women, and wearing instead a pair of loose jeans and a shirt.

Here’s another article confirming the dismal plight of women in the Wahhabi state of Saudi Arabia:

Saudi women are being kept in perpetual childhood so male relatives can exercise “guardianship” over them, the Human Rights Watch group has said.
The New York-based group says Saudi women have to obtain permission from male relatives to work, travel, study, marry or even receive health care.
Their access to justice is also severely constrained, it says.
The group says the Saudi establishment sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women.
The report says that Saudi women are denied the legal right to make even trivial decisions for their children – women cannot open bank accounts for children, enroll them in school, obtain school files or travel with their children without written permission from the child’s father.
Human Rights Watch says that Saudi women are prevented from accessing government agencies that have no established female sections unless they have a male representative.
Male guardianship over adult women also contributes to their risk of exposure to violence within the family as victims of violence find it difficult to seek protection or redress from the courts.
Social workers, physicians and lawyers say that it is nearly impossible to remove guardianship from male guardians who are abusive, the group says. (BBC news, 21st April 2008).

This Western Puppets must be Stopped.Muslims unlike Other Religions(Except Confucianism)Encourage Sex,Reproduction and See it as a Sin not to Engage in Sexual Pleasures.Sex is Clean in Islam.and Provided it Is thru The right Outlet,it is a Great source of Godly Rewards,and Form of worship.

Now We All Know the Women of Ahl ul-Bayt(a.s)Wore The Niqab.

In regards to Women :
1.Muslim Women Had the right to Vote Since the Days of Our Prophet Muhammad(SWS),Whereas ion The civilized west,you didnt Get this right until the 20th Century.
2.Muslim Women Have Inheritence rights and Property Rights ,And this is Based on the quran and Traditions and PRactice of All Muslim States, something Not granted to Them in Western countries Until the 20thb Century.

3.Muslim Women Are Told To cover up,Because as many women Who CHOOSE to Wear the Niqab :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXzUuKdfnRE Hijab, Niqab or Nothing

Have Said,Men Respect Them,they See Them As a Object of Dignity ,Virtue And Appreciatte Their Value in society

in the West Women Are seen as Sex Objects Showing their Awrat for a Bottle Of Water!

A Great Lecture on This subject is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKi2JBUSFkw Dr. Shomali – Islam and Sexuality – PressTV, ‘Minbar’

4.Comparing the Rates of Rape,Divorce,Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harrasment at the workplace in Muslim countries VS.The” Liberated West”’We Find

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cr…pes-per-capita

That Saudi Arabia and other muslim Countries has the Lowest for Example on The List While Western-christian-Countries have the Highest Rates .

1 of 6 U.S. women has experienced an attempted or completed rape. (according to Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault)

Also 47% of rapes, both the victim and the perpetrator had been drinking. In 17%, only the perpetrator had been. 7% of the time, only the victim had been drinking. Rapes where neither the victim nor the perpetrator had been drinking were 29% of all rapes.

Now you Can See Why Islam,Forbids Alcohol completely .

Alcohol also is the major Source of Western Countries Debts,Social problems,Incest,Homicide(Al-Qatil),and other Crimes almost 86 % ,to my knwoledge Atleast,Of the Cases involve Alcohol.

Now in the U.K the Bastion of ”’Freedom”’the Rates of Rape Are 230 cases every day

In muslim countries ,we Respect Our women,and do not See Nakedness adn Lewdness As Freedom.

May i Remind you :60 % of Parlement in some muslim Countries,like iran,and i think Saudi Arabia Are women

In The West,this is unheard of Practicly,but Nominally Women have Freedom.

Finally Feminism is a Ideolgoy Like Nazism

it was Created to Enslave Women

http://www.savethemales.ca/

See the Backround on Feminism and how the Powers That Be,Promoted it To Destroy the Family.

The Worst Type of Slavery is When You Think your Liberated!

The opinion and Irreligiousity of A Few Saudis Should not Spoil it for all these Millions of Women.

The Fact is Saudi women on the Internet always Say They dont nmind this Treatment Because They Are Treated As Queens.

In Regards to the south,Aden was Communist,and the Regime Openly Encouraged Irreligiousity.

im not Saying Niqab Should Be Forced.

but i am Saying it Should not be fought Against Either.

You Know there Were many Muslim women who Chose To Wear Niqab and Do Very Well for Themselves in the Society.

In Yemen there Are many women Who Function Very Well with Niqab.

some Yemeni Beloved Rulers Like Queen Hurrat al-Malika Wore Hijab.

also the Bana’at Al-Risalah Wore niqab.

and you Saw That the worst Thing that Happened To The Ahl Ul-Bayt in the Battle of Karbala Was when The Bana’at Al-Risalah Had their Niqabs torn off of Them(a.s).

had it been Any further allah would Have Destroyed This Earth.

Thanks for your comments! I agree with you about the statistics, but I think the prohibition of alcohol and the wearing of modest dress would be sufficient to keep down rape stats, without women having to cover their entire bodies, which is frankly impractical if women are to lead an active life and experience what life has to offer (in a halal way of course). I am trying to ascertain whether Zaidi fiqh actually has a clear policy on the niqab. Anyway, we both agree that it shouldn’t be compulsory. The Saudi Qur’ans make it seem that it is compulsory, and this is what I object to.

To Ali, re “khumr” verse (24/31):
When Allah revealed this verse, as you pointed out, the word “khumr” meant a veil which was draped loosely around the womens’ body, in some kind of attractive way, without covering the bosom. If the word “khumr”, before the verse was revealed, already had the meaning of “covering the head and face”, why would Allah have needed to tell the women to cover their heads and faces with their “khumr”? They would have already been doing so! No, at that time, khumr simply meant veil. The reason why, in post -revelation dictionaries, the word “khumr” is translated as a “veil covering the head and face” is that at some stage after the verse was revealed, the word gradually became associated with the full head covering which some women wear and have worn in some societies (even before Islam). We need to understand the words as they were understood at the time and place of revealing, not how they were understood afterwards. So, in the context of this particular verse, “khumr” simply means “veil” and “juyoobihinna” means “bosoms”. There is no need to read extra words into it. In the Hadith you mentioned from Aisha (funny how Shi-ites use Aisha’s sayings only when it suits them), she used the verb ikhtamara which, according to what I said above, simply meant “veiled themselves”. She did not say “veiled their heads” or “veiled their faces”. Therefore her hadith (if we even accept hadeeth from Sunni sources) means that when women in Medina heard the verse saying that they should cover their bosoms with their veils, they cut their aprons and veiled themselves (i.e. presumably they covered their bosoms as the Qur’an had instructed them to) with them. Perhaps they did not have veils, so they used their aprons instead. The addition of the words “heads and faces” in English translations of Bukhari must be based on the dictionary meaning which the word “ikhtamara” later came to have. I see no need to add the words “head and faces” in the translation of this hadith, as the words “ikhtamara” at that time did not yet mean anything more than “veiled”. I think the practice of concealing the entire body like the Prophet’s wives did (because, as the Qur’an says, they are “not like other women”) is not compulsory. Some women may do it to imitate the wives of the Prophet, but most women do it either because they have been led to believe it is compulsory, or because they have no choice. I have worn it and I can tell you it is not a pleasant experience. If I were to wear it it would make my life extremely difficult. I do not believe religion is meant to be a source of suffering. It is meant to be a source of enlightenment.

”When Allah revealed this verse, as you pointed out, the word “khumr” meant a veil which was draped loosely around the womens’ body, in some kind of attractive way, without covering the bosom. If the word “khumr”, before the verse was revealed, already had the meaning of “covering the head and face”, why would Allah have needed to tell the women to cover their heads and faces with their “khumr”? ”’

i never said Khumr,ment covering the face,i said Khumr ment a Headscarf wich covers the head.i am not opposing your statement on that niqab is not Quranic,i am opposing your statement that The Quran does not Mandate Hijab for the head!

Now,you can Put a Hat on your Feet or your Back,
but its intended to be put on your Head.

The Saying of allah to cover their bosoms is because they wore these hijabs but did not cover there bosoms.

””The reason why, in post -revelation dictionaries, the word “khumr” is translated as a “veil covering the head and face” is that at some stage after the verse was revealed, the word gradually became associated with the full head covering which some women wear and have worn in some societies (even before Islam). We need to understand the words as they were understood at the time and place of revealing, not how they were understood afterwards. So, in the context of this particular verse, “khumr” simply means “veil” and “juyoobihinna” means “bosoms”. ””

actually,in order to make such a argument you need to prove this was a later day fabrication.All dictionaries from Muslim history define Khumr,and Jilbab as something wich covers the head. Unfotenatly WE DONT have any images or depictions or inscriptions wich show how muslim women dressed in the days of Ignorance and wether this refers to Khumr. Now i can Say Taharah refers to cleaning and not something religiouis,i can also claim that Qur’an means just any recitation and does not refer to allah’s Book!i can also claim Nabi just means news giver and Rasool just means a postman but since certain words have special meanings i can not jump easily away from the Correct Interpretation.
i can also claim when allah Says:إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُه ُُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ

005.055 Your Guardians Are Only Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of)Are believers,- those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship). Notice the Word”إِنَّمَا”’
”إِنَّمَا”is like a Fortress that keeps all invaders out,Now i can claim that other hadith wich mention the Wali for marriage are Void,since my Wali is only allah ,his Messenger ,the Beleivers and and Ali(a.s)according to the Above ayat.therefore i dotn Need the Permisision of the Wali of a Kitabiya Fiancee is i take sucha Approach.and on the other hand,since my wali is the beelivers.i can marry a Muslima with my noones permission,since i am her Wali ,because i am a Beleiver too

but since Certain things have Special meanings,one cannot take such a Approach.

Thanks for your comments but I intend to keep up my hobbies of rock climbing and bush-walking in the great outdoors. I don’t see why such pursuits should only be enjoyed by men. I don’t believe Allah wanted women to miss out on enjoyable outdoor pastimes and hobbies which help them to get fit and healthy.

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Zaidism and Women’s Liberation (Part 2 of 2)

Here is the rest of the previous article that Zaidi copied and pasted in the article. I’ve left everything the same way she wrote it.

Here is the article by Abdullah Hamidaddin, entitled ” Segregating women from their humanity”:

Part 1: I was visiting a friend a few days ago in Little Rock, Arkansas, state of President Clinton and other prominent American leaders. He took me around the city starting from the Clinton Presidential Library and ending in Little Rock High School, the center of political and social events that constituted a turning point in the social history of the United States.

Though the American constitution grants individuals equal rights, yet there were those who interpreted it in a way that legitimized racial segregation between blacks and whites; thus “constitutionally” not allowing blacks to mix with whites in schools and other public areas. The legal principle which proponents of segregation upheld was “separate but equal”. Whites and blacks are equal in the eyes of the law, but each in their own geographical space. Opponents of segregation resisted such a principle more than one time of which one was in 1923 where the majority of the Supreme Court supported that principle justifying it by saying: “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution cannot put them on the same plane.”

In 1954 the Supreme Court rejected that principle and considered racial segregation unconstitutional. As one would expect, things didn’t simply end here. In spite of a constitution that guarantees equal rights and supported with an interpretation that prohibits racial segregation, some southern states rejected the court’s decision. Three years later 9 black students decided to act upon their constitutional right and attend school in the whites only Little Rock Public High School. Events escalated till President Eisenhower intervened in 25th September 1957 sending 1200 soldiers to the high school to protect the students and uphold the law. The legal victory of 1954 was based on psychological considerations. Opponents of racism presented evidence proving that racial segregation creates a feeling of inferiority leading to a permanently unhealthy person, who despises him/her self and has low self esteem. Those studies helped turn the case around to the side of the opponents of racial segregation.

The whole story is rich in meaning and deserves much contemplation, but at the time the foundations of the court’s ruling particularly caught my attention. The wording of the Constitution did not change, but consideration of the psychological impact of racial segregation lead to a change in its interpretation in a way that invalidates legalization of segregation even criminalizing it.

What can we say about the consequences of the demeaning situation of the Saudi woman? And how important is it to include those consequences in the legal and jurisprudential debate?

On different occasions I would ask Saudi women of different age groups to briefly describe their social experience of womanhood. One of the more expressive answers was:

Part 2:

“I am a “seduction”. This sums up how I look into myself. I am in the eyes of everyone first and foremost a body that is desired. A body that must continuously be concealed so as to protect men from the evils of my beauty. My mind cannot be seen unless I hide my body. And to the degree that I reveal my body less is seen of my mind even if it was casual and modest. I don’t own myself. My life is a set of roles that I didn’t choose and have no right to question. My duties and “rights” are tailored for me by others, and I must be grateful for whatever comes. My feelings have no value. Few look at me as I am and consider what it is that I really want. Rarely am I looked upon as a rational being that has the right to be a full human, has the right to have a body, and has the right to act as she will without considering its impact on others. I have no decision. I am an all time minor. I pass from the guardianship of one to another. From my father, to my brother, my husband and then even my son. And if neither of those then to a judge who knows nothing of me or my needs. I am a tag. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a wife but I am never simply a “me”. Don’t believe those who tell you that they accept this with satisfaction. Whoever accepts this is either a woman afraid of the responsibility of independence individuality and humanity. Or a woman who has no more sense of her marginalized character while she is being treated as a minor. Any person is choked by this. Some of us reject silently. Some of us vocally. I cannot be silent. The situation chokes me. But I pay the price dearly. Look how people talk about me.”

I heard a similar answer from a woman living outside the bonds of customs and norms even outside religious boundaries. Assuming that she had a more positive answer I asked her: “How could you say this and your life is as free as it is?” Her reply was shockingly telling: “I am like this because it coincided that that my husband wants this life of me (not for me). My freedom is his freedom. My choices are his. Though I am happy being better than others, but my sense of humanness and personhood remains incomplete.”

Part 3:

Feelings of frustration, anger, sadness of the way she is perceived manifest differently according to the woman’s temperament. Some women rebel openly against norms and traditions. Some go further and reject religion silently or as the case of some openly and publicly such those who wrote against everything including religion. Some accept this subjugation unwillingly sometimes due to survival necessities. And then there is she who decides to wipe off herself to relieve herself from the inner struggle between her individuality and her restraints.

I don’t blame those whose anger takes them far.

The least right a woman in such a situation is to be angry at a patriarchal male dominated society that reduced her to a body and deprived her of her most basic human rights.
We may not be practicing racial segregation, but when we separate a woman from her humanness we are practicing segregation from humanity which in some ways may be lead to experiences worse than that those experienced by blacks.

We need to acknowledge this, making it an integral part of the debate on women rights. Legislative debates that focus on Islam and its view on women rights are fundamental but not sufficient. Getting closer to the psychological situation of women enhances our ability to interpret legislative texts. The laws of the United States changed when their judges looked into the psychological consequences of racial segregation. It may take some time for our laws to immediately change but we would at least change our perspective on the predicament of women in a way that would set the ground for future change in legislation.
And as a first step, I would suggest to every man believing that a woman has rights to wear a veil for two hours daily. Then to follow the instructions of his wife (or other relevant woman) regarding travel and stepping out of the house. Or he should just place himself under her guardianship in the same way she is under his. After that he should look at the suffocation he will experience. This is despite that this is a self imposed temporary situation. So how would it be for those whose whole life is such? Once we start doing that, once we start trying to be closer to the predicament of women, then we can speak of women rights.

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Zaidism and Women’s Liberation (Part 1 of 2)

Here is a great article about women’s rights in Zaidiyyah thought by Zaida on her blog that is unfortunately no longer active.

A writer from a distinguished Zaidi family has likened the treatment of Muslim women in Wahhabi Arabia, I mean, Saudi Arabia, to the way African Americans were treated 60 years ago, before they achieved their civil rights. After speaking directly to Saudi women about how they feel about being covered from head to toe and unable to participate freely in society, and inspired by the Zaidi principle of a just society, Abdullah Hamidaddin was moved to become a champion of their cause.

Abdullah Hamidaddin’s article includes the following quote from a Saudi sister fed up with being treated as an “irrational human being” by her male guardians:

“I am a “seduction”. This sums up how I look into myself. I am in the eyes of everyone first and foremost a body that is desired. A body that must continuously be concealed so as to protect men from the evils of my beauty. My mind cannot be seen unless I hide my body. And to the degree that I reveal my body less is seen of my mind even if it was casual and modest. I don’t own myself. My life is a set of roles that I didn’t choose and have no right to question. My duties and “rights” are tailored for me by others, and I must be grateful for whatever comes. My feelings have no value. Few look at me as I am and consider what it is that I really want. Rarely am I looked upon as a rational being that has the right to be a full human, has the right to have a body, and has the right to act as she will without considering its impact on others. I have no decision. I am an all time minor. I pass from the guardianship of one to another. From my father, to my brother, my husband and then even my son. And if neither of those then to a judge who knows nothing of me or my needs. I am a tag. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a wife but I am never simply a “me”. Don’t believe those who tell you that they accept this with satisfaction. Whoever accepts this is either a woman afraid of the responsibility of independence individuality and humanity. Or a woman who has no more sense of her marginalized character while she is being treated as a minor. Any person is choked by this. Some of us reject silently. Some of us vocally. I cannot be silent. The situation chokes me. But I pay the price dearly. Look how people talk about me.”

Commenting on this sister’s predicament, Hamidaddin writes:

“Feelings of frustration, anger, sadness of the way she is perceived manifest differently according to the woman’s temperament. Some women rebel openly against norms and traditions. Some go further and reject religion silently or as the case of some openly and publicly such those who wrote against everything including religion. Some accept this subjugation unwillingly sometimes due to survival necessities. And then there is she who decides to wipe off herself to relieve herself from the inner struggle between her individuality and her restraints. I don’t blame those whose anger takes them far…..We may not be practicing racial segregation, but when we separate a woman from her humanness we are practicing segregation from humanity which in some ways may be lead to experiences worse than that those experienced by blacks.”

To read more of Hamidaddin’s ground-breaking article, click on comments.

In neighbouring Yemen, not a Wahhabi state but a republic with a Zaidi and Sunni population, women are also under immense pressure to conform to the Wahhabi interpretation of women’s role (or lack of role to be more accurate).

We have already seen in my post “What is the Zaidi Position on the Burqa?” (in June section), that women’s groups in Yemen have blamed the Saudi funded Salafi/Wahhabi invasion of Yemen since the Afghan war, for the revival of the burqa in their country. It would appear that, when the salafi women wore it, the non-salafi husbands may have wanted to “keep up with the neighbours” in keeping their women-folk out of view.
The Qur’anic verses relating to hijab (which do not mention covering the face) are also quoted and discussed in the June post in this blog.

In response to that post, Imam Rassi society has confirmed that Zaidi fiqh, like 12 Imamer fiqh and moderate sunni fiqh, does not require women to cover their faces or stay out of public life. A scholar from Imam Rassi society writes:

“I do not know of any opinion that precludes women from public life! Indeed, the perfect model for women, Fatima az-Zahra, alayha as salaam, went out herself to demand her rights from the first caliph! The isolation and confinement that is practiced is probably more cultural than textual!

As far as the burqa, the Zaidi opinion is that only the khimar (head scarf) is obligatory for women. In a book of fiqh written by a contemporary scholar, he cited that the Zaydi opinion is that the only portion of a female body that can remain uncovered is the face and hands. There is even a minority opinion amongst the scholars that allow the feet to be uncovered. However, the general view is that only the face and hands. What’s practised in Yemen may be more cultural than anything. A woman is free to wear niqab if she wants, but it would be incorrect to force it upon her as an obligation. As for child marriages, a precondition of marriage is that the person reaches the age of baligh (past puberty).”

The lack of female representation in the arenas of politics, religion, business, the Arts and the Sciences in Yemen, when compared with other Muslim countries such as Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Malaysia and Pakistan, raises questions about the whether Yemen’s Zaidi women are being treated according to the Zaidi principles of justice and social progress. This backwardness in the development of women’s role in society may be more to do with Yemen’s lack of education in general than with interpretations of Islam. Yemen has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the Muslim world, for males and females, and continues to struggle economically even more than the Muslim countries mentioned above.

It would be interesting to see how Zaidi ijtihad would respond to the need for reform regarding women’s rights and self determination if Zaidism flourished in a highly developed Muslim nation or a Western nation.

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Selecting an Imam

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.

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

The Role of the Prophets: A Zaidi Perspective

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.

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Zaidism: The Key to Muslim Unity?

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.

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Is Zaidism Successful?

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…

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Is Zaidism a sect?

Zaida writes:

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.

Zaida:

Why do you see this sectarian identity as an obstacle?

Abdullah:

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 ..