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 ..

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Zaidis judge ahadith by the Qur’an, not the other way around

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:

“Regarding the ahadith (reported sayings) of the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) their authenticity is to be judged by comparing them with the principals laid down in the Holy Qur’an, and any reported sayings of the Prophet which contradict with the Qur’an in any way are invalid.” (Brother Owais).
In this regard, there is agreement between the Zaidis and the 12 Imamers, according to the following quote from their book “Tathkira bi Usool al Fiqh”:
“And the intellects permit that the Book may be abrogated by the Book, and the Sunna by the Sunna, and the Sunna by the Book, however the tradition has brought that Allah ta`ala does not abrogate His speech by (anything) other than His speech with His saying “What we abrogate of a verse or cause to be forgotten We bring a better than it or its like”. (2:106) So we know that the Book is not abrogated by the Sunna, and we permit what is other than that of what we have mentioned.”
This may sound obvious to anyone with reason, however Sunni math-habs try to reconcile the Qur’an with their ahadith (refusing to accept that any of their ahadith could be erroneous), instead of reconciling the ahadith with the message of the Qur’an.
In the comments section Zaida also wrote…
To give an example, there is a reported hadith (saying) of the Prophet that “Allah comes down (yanzilu) in the third part of the night” which is found in Sunni ahadith collections.
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.
However, the Sunnis are unable to reject this hadith because it comes to them from Abu Hurairah, one of their most honoured hadith transmitters, and if they were to reject one of his reports, that would bring into question all of his other reports, and he has narrated more ahadith than any other individual in their famous ahadith collections.
So instead of rejecting the hadith, they have tried to interpret certain verses of the Qur’an in a way that reconciles the Qur’an with their hadith, pointing to verses saying that Allah is “Most High” for example, to reason that if Allah is “High” that proves he can “come down”. The Hanbali creed, inspired by Abu Hurairah’s narrative, even goes so far as to say that “Allah is separate to and above His creation”.
To any person with reason, (i.e. a mu’tazilah) Allah being “Most High” refers to him being far above anything that mere humans could ever imagine or attain to. Elevating the ahadith, which are basically reports/recollections by mere mortals, to a position of more importance than the Holy Quran, revealed by Allah himself, may seem illogical to anyone with reason, but not to sunnis, because the decision (to let the ahadith take precedence) was made for them centuries ago by their revered scholars. To admit that their scholars were in error would be to admit the unthinkable; that the Zaidi and Shi-ite scholars might be right.
Even when it is pointed out to them that Abu Hurairah only met the prophet shortly before his death, (around the time of Khaybar), and that he became a paid employee of the ruthless anti- Hashemite leaders after the prophet’s death (as Governer of Medinah), they still prefer his narrations over those of the Prophet’s descendants. These barely rate a mention in the sunni ahadith collections, due to the anti- Hashemite political climate at the time they were published. The Zaidis have Musnad Zaid, which provides Muslims with ahadith from an impeccable chain of narrators from the prophet’s family. When it has been translated to English, converts will finally have access to a collection of ahadith that sits comfortably with the Holy Qur’an, in sha Allah.
Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

What is the Zaidi position on the burqa?

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)

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Mu’tazilism Saved from Extinction by Zaydism / Zaidism

As part of my continued series on the Zaidiyya thought within Shia Islam, here is another post written by Zaida on her now inactive blog. Sorry for taking a little break myself there…

There are many Sunnis today who would love to be Mu’tazilis, but are under the mistaken impression that Mu’tazilism is “extinct”. Here is a typical comment from one of them:
“As a Mutazili Muslim from Turkey who abandoned the foolish dogmas and barbaric absurdities of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaah, who is fed up with secularist state-control toward Islam, and who perhaps is the last of the adherents of a revolutionary ‘dead sect’ that made such notable contributions to a logical and consistent monotheistic creed based on Quranic revelation, I must confess, I was overjoyed to discover the great theological and philosophical reasoning of Mutazilah the first time I encountered it early this year. Never before in any Islamic text or school had I seen such clarity and sophistication in thinking regarding ontological matters. The question of free will and existence of evil in the world were elucidated to such a level that no question or doubt remained. Even now, to my astonishment, I read to explore how Mutazilah has successfully answered all issues of faith, law, justice, morality, etc… in Islam more than a thousand years ago.

Equally, I am baffled as to how a rational, intellectual, meritorious, virtuous, well-principled school of Islamic thought as Mutazilah could fade away. Is it because of Asharite slanders against the magnanimously upright tenets of Mutazilah for centuries? Or the hatred caused by the Mihna unfairly attributed to Mutazilah? Was it Al-Ghazali who delivered the final blow with his inconsistence and irrationalism? The downfall and demise of this sect is shrouded in mystery. Whatever the cause, Mutazilah is too precious a phenomenon to neglect…” (by Ozan Yarman).

There are many modern Sunnis who feel the same way as Osman, and have no idea that the Zaydis are the only Muslims who, instead of neglecting the noble principles mentioned above, have let them flourish throughout the centuries. It is important to educate our Sunni brothers and sisters about Zaydism so that they can emerge from their Dark Age and join us in the Age of Muslim Enlightenment. Also to inform them that by adopting Zaydism, one can unashamedly be a Mu’tazili and at the same time be a loyal and faithful supporter of the Prophet’s family.

 

Posted in Everything Else, Islam & Interfaith Subjects, News & Relevant Topics, Personal & Opinion, Social Issues & Politics, The World Wars

LiveJournal: Today | June 14th 2017

This is an old post from my LiveJournal account that I’ve recently cleaned up but didn’t want to completely get rid of everything and I’m glad that I’ve preserved my about half dozen entries or so because this is a very important one. Anti-Semitism (and racism and discrimination in general) is rampant and never seems to go away. Did you look at CNN or any other American news outlet recently? The entire country is going crazy. Up here in Canada it’s not nearly as bad, but we certainly aren’t free from the monster. In the near future I want to continue posting about this topic because I can’t just sit here and do nothing anymore, despite that I’ve never felt so powerless in my life before.


Date originally posted: June 14th 2017 (7:23 p.m.)

Mood: anxious

Not much to add today, just my roommates driving me crazy for the millionth time. The more this goes on the more I want to live alone. Of course many things need to happen in order for that to happen before I’m able to do that, but I might just get that process started. I think it would do me some good to get away from all of this. Of course there are many advantages to having a roommate or two, the biggest one being that things like rent are far less expensive. When they were all gone a few weeks ago I stayed home alone with my cat just watching TV and it got really lonely after the first week, but it was nice to just unwind after so much tension everywhere. I usually don’t go far or do much, but the two of them bring a lot of drama home and unfortunately I can’t exactly escape. We all share the same apartment.

Otherwise tomorrow it’s my birthday. At last! I was really getting hungry for my cake and other junk food today. I wasn’t sure I wanted one this year because my mind is elsewhere but I ended up deciding to invite some people over and just take the day to relax and regroup. I’m no fan of conventional birthday parties, I much prefer a relaxing day spent in good company and thinking about things than matter than going crazy. I might wanna go to the park and read the Quran or something, that is if the weather holds up for an outdoor adventure. I haven’t checked the weather forecast yet today but most of the time it’s not accurate in this region. Things change way too fast and the best way to determine the weather is to look outside the window.

I finally got back to going on WordPress and Tumblr regularly after not really being there for a while and only posting a few minor things. I changed most of my names (not username, just public name) on my social media to 42375 which is the number I picked for my tattoo, which was my grandpa’s service number during WWII. Honestly it makes me sad to see all the rampant anti-Semitism all over the place, from right here down the street to governments and institutions spreading it around across a good chunk of the Middle East. It’s truly unfortunate that many Muslims are systematically taught to hate Jews despite that the two communities have lived in peace for over a thousand years until just very recently the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Personally, I believe in a two-state solution. Each person and each nation has the right to be itself and to live in peace. Peace, isn’t that what we all want?

After all of these years there’s no way to have peace if you give the whole land to only one side. The other will rise up and cause another conflict because there has been way too much meddling from all sides including the outside for this to ever end peacefully because each person believes that the place is rightfully theirs (I won’t get into that right now) and unless there’s a compromise with each side getting something equal, tensions are only going to rise more and more. You cannot blame the entire Jewish population for what an oppressive regime is doing and you can’t blame the entire Muslim population for what a few radical Palestinians are doing either. Everything about this situation seems to have been tainted by everybody meddling in it without ever bringing about a resolution.

I hate it how Islam is often portrayed as being some anti-Semitic cult because of that ongoing conflict. We are supposed to maintain good relations with Jews (and all others for that matter), not hate them or want them gone from the face of the Earth. Plenty of Muslims perished during the Holocaust too, as well as Polish and Slavic people, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, communists and endless others despite that the number of Jews was much greater than any of the other “unwanted minorities.” We also forget the stories of the Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust, the most famous stories being the ones of the Albanian Muslims. Muslim-majority Albania was the only European country that had more Jews after the war ended than before it started.

Have we forgotten about all the imams (not to mention countless other individual Muslims) who visited Auschwitz on more than one occasion? The photo below is from a trip in 2013 and there was another one in 2010. Undoubtedly in moments of anger we’ve all wanted to figuratively send someone to Auschwitz, but emotional reactions during a conflict are completely different than the horrors that actually happend there and all the other camps like it. If I can take any lesson from this it’s that we must stop making issues and conflicts all about ourselves and instead focus on humanity, because the world needs a whole lot more of that right now.

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Muslim leaders from across the globe paid tribute Holocaust victims this week during a visit to Auschwitz, the former Nazi concentration camp, where they prayed at the Wall of Death for those who were killed by genocide and suffered under violent anti-Semitism.

The imams, who hailed from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bosnia, Palestine, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey and the United States, performed Islamic prayers while facing Mecca as part of a Holocaust awareness visit organized in part by the International Religious Freedom office of the U.S. State Department.

“What can you say? You’re speechless. What you have seen is beyond human imagination,” Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the U.S.-based Islamic Society of North America, told Agence France-Presse.

“Whether in Europe today or in the Muslim world, my call to humanity: End racism for God’s sake, end anti-Semitism for God’s sake, end Islamophobia for God’s sake, end sexism for God’s sake… Enough is enough,” said Magid, who leads the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia.

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Zaidism and Hadith Authenticity

This is another interesting post written by Zaida from a Zaidi perspective on the much disputed Hadith books. My opinion on them is well-known and is quite similar to this one but not quite identical. I’ll take the Quran over the Hadith any day and crap like stoning to me is not Islamic at all because it’s contrary to the one infallible source, despite being in the Hadith books across the board.

Followers of the Zaydi / Zaidi math-hab are at a distinct advantage when it comes to the study of ahadith (prophetic narrations) and the study of the authenticity of ahadith. This is because, unlike the Sunnis, the Zaidis do not require taqleed (blind acceptance) of ahadith, and unlike 12 imamers, Zaidis do not believe in the infallibility of some of the ahadith narrators.

With these two restrictions lifted from them, Zaidi scholars are in a position to review ahadith critically and logically, taking into account the historical / political context of the hadith’s appearance, its conformity with Qur’anic principals, and applying reason/logic in an effort to ascertain the hadith’s authenticity.

Why do Sunnis and 12 Imamers uncritically accept their ahadith collections?

The sunnis have idolized two of their ahadith collectors, namely Bukhari and Muslim, to such an extent that they do not acknowledge that either of them could have made a mistake when selecting the ahadith that went into their collections. They have labeled their collections as “Sahih al Bukhari” and “Sahih Muslim”, and if anyone challenges any ahadith from these two collections, they are considered non-sunnis. This is despite the fact that these two scholars, who are not from ahlul bait or even from Qr’aish, never claimed infallibility.

The 12 Imamers have idolized their 12 Imams to such an extent that any narrations supposedly originating from them go unchallenged as well. They have an advantage over the sunnis in that their narrations come from ahlul bait, however, their insistence that their Imams are infallible makes serious scientific study, with a critical approach, very difficult.

Contrast this with the Zaidi position as articulated by Imam Rassi Society:

“A hallmark feature of the Zaydi school is that all of our hadith literature are subject to scrutiny; even ahadiths from our imams! We don’t have any book called “Saheeh this” or “Saheeh that”. The Qur’an and logic are used to judge the ahadith.”

As discussed in an earlier post, the Zaidis and 12 Imamers agree that “Allah ta`ala does not abrogate His speech by (anything) other than His speech” i.e. the Qur’an can not be abrogated by the Sunna (the ahadith). However, the sunnis, also known in history as “ahlul hadeeth” have a tendency to give ahadith precedence over the Qur’an where there is a contradiction.

As well as using the Qur’an and logic to judge the validity of a hadith, another way of evaluating ahadith, which was refined by the mu’tazili scholars, is to identify and promote those ahadith which are “mutawatir’, i.e. found in the books of all Islamic math-habs including sunni, Zaidi and 12 imamer, in other words:

“Those (ahadith) that have come down to later generations through a large number of chains of narration, involving diverse transmitters such that it is virtually impossible that all these people, living in different localities and espousing (at times radically) different views, would come together, fabricate the exact same lie and attribute it to the Prophet of Islam or any other authority. A large number of narrators is not a sufficient criterion for authenticating a report because people belonging to some sect or party may have an interest in fabricating reports that promote their agendas. The power of this mode of transmission, tawatur, rests on both the number and diversity of narrators at each stage of transmission.” (quoted from Wikipedia summary of Mu’tazili doctrine).

This is a very scientific and logical way to identify the accurate ahadith, and it surprises me that nobody has yet published a book of these “mutawatir ahadith” for hadith skeptics like myself to reflect upon.

We have seen that Zaidism and Mu’tazilism are intricately interwoven, therefore I think it is fair to say that Zaidi scholars, like Mu’tazili ones, would have given preference to ahadith which are mutawatir, when quoting from narrators other than Imam Zaid bin Ali. (further research on this point is on its way). Zaidi scholars also have a tendency to re-interpret ahadith from other schools so that they conform with narrations on the same topic from the Imam Zaid.

Imam Rassi Society has provided an example of this tendency in these words:

“Another thing about our imams is that they made themselves familiar with the narrations of other schools, taking all of the narrations on a topic and seeing if one can interpret the others to conform (with the Zaidi view). For example, in the issue regarding whether touching one’s private parts violates ritual purity, our (Zaidi) imams take the position that it doesn’t. As for those (non- Zaidi) narrations that seemingly contradict that view, they interpret those reports that say: ((Whoever touches one’s private parts should make ablution)) to mean: “Whoever touches one’s private parts should wash their hands”. This is because the literal meaning of wudu is to wash one’s limbs.”

For all of these reasons, the Zaidi math-hab is clearly the superior math-hab of the three, when it comes to the scientific and logical study of the ahadith. Having said that, Zaidis must be on their guard not to uncritically accept ahadith from their own school, in the event that any of them seem not to conform to the guiding principles of hadith validity mentioned above (i.e. being in accordance with the Qur’an, being logical, and, wherever possible, being mutawatir.)

An example of a possible inconsistency within Zaidism: (?) Debate welcome…

I personally find it surprising that all three schools (Zaidi, sunni and 12 imamer) have accepted the ahadith prescribing the punishment of stoning for married adulterers, which contradicts with the Qur’anic ayat prescribing flogging (i.e. a much more lenient penalty). Here we have an example of a hadith which is mutawatir (agreed upon by all schools of thought) yet in contradiction with the Qur’an. I personally would go with the Qur’an on this one; even though I identify myself as a Zaidi, and it is a mutawatir hadith. On this particular issue I am taking the position of the “Ahlul Qu’ran”, (a group of scholars who have rejected al ahadith because their respect for the Qur’an), because I am not yet convinced by the following justifications for the “unQur’anic” hadith, given by the three math-habs:

A Zaidi justification (from AwsMekka):

“In the written history about leaders (imams) in Yemen (and in Gilan and Dailman) I didn’t read that any did stoning …but there are ahadith that imam Ali(as) lashed the married adulterer while saying “I lash according to Quraan” and then stoned him saying “I stone according to the sunna”. Imam Hadi (founder of Zaidism in Yemen) only did stoning when the adulterer confessed and chose to be stoned, i.e. to restore their honour.”

A 12 Imamer justification (from MacIsaac):

“The usual explanation is that it is abrogated in recitation while not abrogated in ruling. Regardless, yes we do have hadiths indicating that the punishment for the muhsan (married, and whose spouse is sexually available to them) adulterer is to be stoned. However, our fiqh is compatible with what the Quran says in that the adulterer is also lashed a 100 times, like the ayat says. The stoning is an additional punishment on top of that.”

A Sunni justification (a hadith from Sahih al Bukhari, kitab ul hudood):

“The Prophet S.A.W said; “For unmarried persons, one hundred lashes and one year’s exile, for married adulterers, 100 lashes and stoning.”

With all the freedom to evaluate and re-consider its hadith literature, the Zaidi math-hab is the only math-hab that has the potential to develop and flourish into the future, weeding out any inconsistencies; with objective research and open minded scholarship, the true ahadith can be uncovered from the false. Zaidi scholars are in the perfect position to carry out this task. Sunni and 12 Imamer scholars are not. I believe the Zaidi math-hab will be the only math-hab left standing when truly objective and scientific research into all of the ahadith has been thoroughly completed.