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The Rifts within Shī‘ism

Ghulam-Husayn Muharrami

There were major rifts within Shī‘ism during the first and second centuries AH, and at the end of the second century remarkable splits among the Shī‘ah had emerged. As such, members of the different nations and religions, in dealing with Wāqifiyyah, have called the Shī‘ah Imāmiyyah who believed in the Imamate of Imām ar-Riḍā (‘a) as Qaṭ‘iyyah and Ithnā ‘Ashariyyah for believing in Imām ar-Riḍā (‘a) and the Imams after him up to the Imām of the Time (‘a). Of course, during the first century AH up to 61 AH (i.e. up to the martyrdom of Imām al-Ḥusayn (‘a)) these splits had not occurred within Shī‘ism, although Shahristānī regards the Ghulāt Saba’iyyah sect that emerged during the time of Ḥaḍrat Amīr (‘a) as Shī‘ah. This is while there is doubt concerning the existence of a person named ‘Abd Allāh ibn Saba’. At any rate, according to Rijāl Kashī, there had been some Ghālīs during the time of ‘Alī (‘a) who were asked by him to repent, and since they had not repented, he ordered for their execution.
Imām al-Ḥasan and Imām al-Ḥusayn (‘a) had excellent positions in the sight of Muslims and have been considered as progeny of the Prophet

#7779;). Apart from the Shī‘ah, other Muslims also regard them worthy of the caliphate. As such, there was no doubt concerning the matter of the Imamate and no rift whatsoever had ever occurred during the lifetime of these two personages. After Imām al-Ḥusayn’s (‘a) martyrdom, we witness rifts within Shī‘ism, and some of those sects that split from mainstream Shī‘ism are the following:
Kaysāniyyah: They believe in the Imamate of Muḥammad al-Ḥanafiyyah.
Zaydiyyah: They believe in the Imamate of Zayd ibn ‘Alī.
Nāwūsiyyah: They believe in the occultation [ghaybah] of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) and in his being the Mahdī.
Faṭḥiyyah: They believe in the Imamate of ‘Abd Allāh ibn Afṭaḥ, son of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a).
Samṭiyyah: They believe in the Imamate of Muḥammad Dībāj, another son of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a).
Ismā‘īliyyah: They believe in the Imamate of Ismā‘īl, yet another son of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a).
Ṭafiyyah: They believe that Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) entrusted the Imamate to Mūsā ibn Ṭaffī.
Aqmaṣiyyah: They believe that Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) entrusted the Imamate to Mūsā ibn ‘Umrān al-Aqmaṣ.
Yarma‘iyyah: They believe that Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) entrusted the Imamate to Yarma‘ ibn Mūsā.
Tamīmiyyah: They believe that Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) entrusted the Imamate to ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sa‘d at-Tamīmī.
Ju‘diyyah: They believe that Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) entrusted the Imamate to a person named Abū Ju‘dah.
Ya‘qūbiyyah: They reject the Imamate of Mūsā ibn Ja‘far (‘a), saying that Imamate could be entrusted to other than the sons of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a), and their leading figure is a person named Abū Ya‘qūb.
Mamṭūrah: They suspend their judgment concerning Imām al-Kāẓim (‘a), saying that they are not sure if the Imām really passed away or not.
Wāqifiyyah: They believe that Imām al-Kāẓim (‘a) did not die and that he shall remain alive till the Day of Resurrection (‘a).
Of course, some of these sects had also split into smaller sects. For example, Kaysāniyyah has two groups regarding the Imamate of Muḥammad al-Ḥanafiyyah:
Some believed that Muḥammad al-Ḥanafiyyah was the Imām after Imām al-Ḥusayn (‘a) while another group was of the opinion that he was supposed to be the Imām after his father, ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (‘a), and after ascribing the Imamate to pass to his son, Abū Hāshim after him, they were again divided into some groups: A group believed that Abū Hāshim had entrusted the Imamate to Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī al-‘Abbāsī. The second group maintained that Abū Hāshim had entrusted the Imamate to his brother, ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad al-Ḥanafiyyah. The third group opined that Abū Hāshim had entrusted the Imamate to his nephew, Ḥasan ibn ‘Alī. The fourth group held that Abū Hāshim had entrusted the Imamate to ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Amrū al-Kindī.
Zaydiyyah is also divided into three main groups:
Jārūdiyyah: They believe that after the Holy Prophet (‘a), ‘Alī (‘a) was the one worthy of the caliphate but the Prophet (‘a) introduced him to the people for the caliphate only by descriptions and not by name, and that due to the people’s failure to recognize him correctly, they chose Abū Bakr and for doing so, the people became infidels [kuffār].
Sulaymāniyyah: They believe that Imamate is determined through consultation [shūrā] and that the Imamate of ‘a deserving one’ [mafḍūl] while ‘the most deserving one’ [afḍal] is present is permissible. It is by means of this notion that they are proving the legitimacy of the caliphate of Abū Bakr and ‘Umar and that the ummah erred in not choosing ‘the most deserving one’ (viz., ‘Alī (‘a)) but their error does not reach the level of transgression [fisq]. Also, they declare ‘Uthmān as an infidel [kāfir].
Batriyyah: Their beliefs are similar to that of Sulaymāniyyah with the only difference that they suspend their judgment concerning ‘Uthmān.
Ismā‘iliyyah is also divided into three groups: One group is of the opinion that the Imām after Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) is Ismā‘īl who did not die as he is alive and the promised Mahdī.
The second group believes that Ismā‘īl died and the Imamate transferred to his son, Muḥammad, who is in occultation [ghaybah] and shall appear and fill the world with justice and equity.
The third group, like the second one, believes in the Imamate of Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl with the only difference that Muḥammad died and the Imamate has remained in his offspring.
Of course, most of these sects did not last long, and they could hardly be called “sects”. Rather, they were groups that faded away with the death of their respective leaders, and they had no appearance in the sociopolitical scenes. Among these sects, Kaysāniyyah, Zaydiyyah and Ismā‘īliyyah emerged and remained in the first, second and third centuries AH. Of course, although during the second century AH and after the martyrdom of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) the Ismā‘īlī sect was separated from the body of Shī‘ism, it had no appearance up to the middle of the third century AH, and in a sense, their Imāms were in hiding.
During the first century AH, next to the Shī‘ah Imāmiyyah and prior to the emergence of Zaydiyyah, Kaysāniyyah had been the most influential Shī‘ah sect. Kaysāniyyah emerged and made its appearance in the uprising of Mukhtār. Although we do not regard Mukhtār himself as a Kaysānī, many of his forces were adhering to Kaysāniyyah. This sect struggled politically until the end of the first century AH, and Abū Hāshim, ‘Abd Allāh ibn Muḥammad al-Ḥanafiyyah, who was the leader of this sect, had for the first time used the terms “dā‘ī” [propagator] and “ḥujjat” [proof] for his preachers. Later on, these terms were used by other groups such as the ‘Abbāsids, Zaydīs and Ismā‘īlīs. He was also the one who founded the “office of propagation” which was later imitated by the ‘Abbāsids. When the Umayyad caliph Sulaymān ibn ‘Abd al-Malik felt threatened by Abū Hāshim, he invited him to Shām and poisoned him. When Abū Hāshim realized that that was his end, he went to Ḥamīmah, the living place of his ‘Abbāsid cousins, declared Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī al-‘Abbāsī as his successor, and introduced to his successor his preachers and forces. From then on, the Banū ‘Abbas assumed the leadership of the followers of Kaysāniyyah and focused their activities in Khurāsān. As Abū’l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī says, The people of Khurāsān believed that Abū Hāshim was the successor of his father and that his father inherited the right of succession [waṣāyah] from his father (viz., ‘Alī (‘a)). He in turn appointed Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī al-‘Abbāsī as his successor and who, in turn, designated his own son, Ibrāhīm, as the Imām. In this manner, they were proving the right of succession of Banū ‘Abbās.
Even Shahristānī believes that Abū Muslim al-Khurāsānī had been a Kaysānī at the beginning but after the triumph of the ‘Abbāsids, they established their legitimacy based on the alleged right of succession of their forefather, ‘Abbās, from the Messenger of Allah

#7779;) himself.
In retrospect, the sociopolitical appearance of the Kaysānīs can be found in the uprising of ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mu‘āwiyah, a descendant of Ja‘far ibn Abī Ṭālib aṭ-Ṭayyār. As Shahristānī says, A number of the Kaysānīs believed in the right of succession of ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Amrū al-Kindī and when they found him committing treachery and making lies, they believed in the Imamate of ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mu‘āwiyah ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Ja‘far aṭ-Ṭayyār… There was a serious difference over the issue of Imamate between the companions of ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mu‘āwiyah and the companions and followers of Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī.
Besides the Kaysāniyyah, the second sect that was active in the sociopolitical scene, was the Zaydiyyah, which emerged after the uprising of Zayd and the most politicized Shī‘ah sect. Of all the Shī‘ah sects, it is the closest to the principles of Ahl as-Sunnah. For example, in addition to acknowledging the caliphate of Abū Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthmān, Batriyyah Zaydiyyah was not also considering Ṭalḥah, Zubayr and ‘Ā’ishah as infidels. For this reason, many of the Sunnī jurists [fuqahā] used to approve the uprising of Muḥammad Nafs az-Zakiyyah who was a Zaydī. Mas‘ar ibn Kudām, a leading Murjite [murja’ah] figure, had written to Ibrāhīm, brother of Muḥammad Nafs az-Zakiyyah, to come to Kūfah. Abū Ḥanīfah, the Imām of the Ḥanifī school of thought [madhhab] participated in Muḥammad Nafs az-Zakiyyah’s uprising, encouraging the people to support the leader of the uprising. Regarding the Zaydiyyah Batriyyah sect, Sa‘d ibn ‘Abd Allāh Ash‘arī al-Qummī thus says, “They mix together the guardianship [wilāyah] of Abū Bakr and ‘Umar.” In particular, regarding the roots of religion [uṣūl ad-dīn], they follow Mu‘tazilism [mu‘tazilah] and concerning the branches of religion [furū‘ ad-dīn], they follow Abū Ḥanīfah while some follow Shāfi‘ī.
The Zaydī school of thought, that is Shī‘ism in a general sense, does not differ much from the Sunnī beliefs. It is for this reason that in some Zaydī uprisings, such as that of Muḥammad Nafs az-Zakiyyah and his brother Ibrāhīm, a number of the Sunnī ‘ulamā’ and prominent figures had participated. Similarly, the Shī‘ah who had participated in the Zaydī uprisings were probably of the opinion that the ‘Alawī leaders of the uprisings were designated by the infallible Imāms and perhaps the scattering of Shī‘ah and their being away from the Imām of the time were the reasons behind it. In the end, only the Zaydīs had remained with their leaders. For example, as narrated by Mas‘ūdī, Ibrāhīm ibn ‘Abd Allāh, Muḥammad Nafs az-Zakiyyah’s brother, had fought in the end with only four hundred Zaydīs on his side who were all killed.
The third sect which had presence and been active in the sociopolitical scenes is the Ismā‘īlī sect. This sect separated from the body of Shī‘ism during the second half of the second century AH. Yet, until the end of the third century AH, they did not have much public appearance and their leaders remained in hiding until 296 AH, i.e. the year of appearance of ‘Abd Allāh al-Mahdī, the first Fāṭimid caliph in North Africa. For this reason, the evolutionary phases of this sect remained completely unknown. Nawbakhtī who lived during the third century AH used to link their initial activities with the Ghulāt and followers of Abī’l-Khaṭṭāb.
Their beliefs have also remained in the halo of ambiguity. In this regard, Mas‘ūdī thus writes: The scholastic theologians [mutakallimūn] of the various sects—Shī‘ah, Mu‘tazilah, Murja’ah, and Khawārij—have written about the sect and reputation of the objections against it… But none of them has expressed opposition against the doctrines of the Qarāmaṭah (Ismā‘īlī) sect. There are also those who have written against them such as Qudāmah ibn Yazīd an-Nu‘mānī, Ibn ‘Abdak al-Jurjānī, Abī’l-Ḥasan Zakariyya al-Jurjānī, Abī ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī ibn ar-Razzāq aṭ-Ṭā’ī al-Kūfī, and Abū Ja‘far al-Kalābī. Each of them had described the creeds of the people of falsehood. Yet, others have not discussed those matters. Besides, the followers of this sect disregarded the claims of these writers, not confirming them.
This is the reason why the followers of this sect have been referred to by diverse names in the different regions. In this regard, Khwājah Niẓām al-Mulk has thus written: They had been called by different names in every city and every province; “Ismā‘īlī” in Ḥalab and Egypt; “Saba‘ī” in Qum, Kāshān, Ṭabaristān, and Sabzewār; “Qarmaṭī” in Baghdad and Mesopotamia; “Khalafī” in Rey; and in Iṣfahān…
Prior to the establishment of the Fāṭimīd state, the Ismā‘īlīs were less engaged in political struggles, and instead focused on drawing people’s attention toward them, propagation, training and education. As such, we are witnesses to the travel of the Ismā‘īlī leaders, such as Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl, ‘Abd Allāh ibn Muḥammad, Aḥmad ibn ‘Abd Allāh, and Ḥusayn ibn Aḥmad, to the regions such as Rey, Nahāvand, Damāvand, Syria, Jabāl Qandahār, Nayshābūr, Daylam, Yemen, Hamedān, Istanbul, and Azerbaijan where they dispatched their preachers and propagators.
It was by considering these grounds that the Qarmaṭīs [qarmaṭiyān] designated “Ismā‘īliyyah” for themselves. Given such an expansion, they used to try their best for the ‘Abbāsid not to be able to extinguish the fire of their sedition.
In 296 AH the Fāṭimid state, based on the Ismā‘īlī sect, was established in North Africa and a vast part of the Muslim territories was detached from the ‘Abbāsid sphere of influence.

The most prominent Shī‘ah sects emerged during the first and second centuries AH, and notable rifts within Shī‘ism had occurred after the end of the second century AH. As such, in contrast to Wāqifiyyah, the Shī‘ah Imāmī who believed in the Imamate of Imām ar-Riḍā (‘a) were called Qaṭī‘ah and Ithnā ‘Ashariyyah.
No rift within Shī‘ism occurred during the time of Imām al-Ḥasan and Imām al-Ḥusayn (‘a) on account of their towering station.
Most sects mentioned in the books about nations and religions could hardly be called “sects”. Rather, they were groups that eventually faded away with the death of their respective leaders and founders.
But the sects that have appeared in the sociopolitical scenes are the Kaysāniyyah, Zaydiyyah and Ismā‘īliyyah.

1. From which period up to which period did sects emerge within Shī‘ism?
2. Name the sects that had a presence in the sociopolitical scenes?
3. In terms of the roots [uṣūl] and branches [furū‘] of religion, which way and method does the Zaydiyyah sect follow?

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