Zaidiyyah or Zaidism (الزيدية‎ az-zaydiyya, adjective form Zaidi or Zaydi; occasionally known as Fivers) is one of the Shia sects closest in terms of theology to the Ibadi and Muʿtazila schools. Zaidiyyah emerged in the eighth century out of Shi’a Islam. Zaidis are named after Zayd ibn ʻAlī, the grandson of Husayn ibn ʻAlī and the son of their fourth Imam Ali ibn ‘Husain. Followers of the Zaydi Islamic jurisprudence are called Zaydi and make up about 50% of Muslims in Yemen, with the vast majority of Shia Muslims in that country being Zaydi.


The Zaydi madhab emerged in reverence of Zayd’s failed uprising against the Ummayad Caliph, Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (ruling 724–743 AD), which set a precedent for revolution against corrupt rulers. It might be said that Zaydis find it difficult to remain passive in an unjust world, or in the words of a modern influential Zaydi leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, to “sit in their houses”.

Zaydis are the oldest branch of the Shia and are currently the second largest group after Twelvers. Zaidis do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms, but promote their leadership and divine inspiration. Zaydis believe that Zayd ibn Ali in his last hour was betrayed by the people in Kufa. Zaydis as of 2014 constitute roughly 0.5% of the world’s Muslim population.


In matters of Islamic jurisprudence, the Zaydis follow Zayd ibn ’Ali’s teachings which are documented in his book Majmu’ al-Fiqh (Arabic: مجموع الفِقه‎). Zaydi fiqh is similar to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. Abu Hanifa, a Sunni madhab shaykh, was favorable and even donated towards the Zaydi cause. Zaidis dismiss religious dissimulation (taqiyya).


In matters of theology, the Zaydis are close to the Mu’tazili school, though they are not exactly Mu’tazilite. There are a few issues between both schools, most notably the Zaydi doctrine of the Imamate, which is rejected by the Mu’tazilites. Of the Shi’a, Zaydis are most similar to Sunnis since Zaydism shares similar doctrines and jurisprudential opinions with Sunni scholars.

Zaydis’ theological literature puts an emphasis on justice and human responsibility, and its political implications, i.e. Muslims have an ethical and legal obligation by their religion to rise up and depose unjust leaders including unrighteous sultans and caliphs.


In the context of the Shi’a belief in spiritual leadership or Imamate, Zaydis believe that the leader of the Ummah or Muslim community must be Fatimids: descendants of Muhammad through his only surviving daughter Fatimah, whose sons were Hasan ibn ʻAlī and Husayn ibn ʻAlī. These Shi’a called themselves Zaydi to differentiate themselves from other Shias who refused to take up arms with Zayd ibn Ali.

Zaydis believe Zayd ibn Ali was the rightful successor to the Imamate because he led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate, who he believed were tyrannical and corrupt. Muhammad al-Baqir did not engage in political action and the followers of Zayd believed that a true Imām must fight against corrupt rulers. The renowned Muslim jurist Abu Hanifa who is credited for the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, delivered a fatwā or legal statement in favour of Zayd in his rebellion against the Umayyad ruler. He also urged people in secret to join the uprising and delivered funds to Zayd.

Unlike the Twelver and Isma’ili Shia, Zaydis do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms and do not believe that the Imāmate must pass from father to son but believe it can be held by any descendant of Hasan ibn ʻAlī or Husayn ibn ʻAlī.

Qurʾān with illuminated manuscript pages featuring ink, gold, and lapis, late 18th–early 19th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art, 2009 (accession no. 2009.294);

Qurʾān with illuminated manuscript pages featuring ink, gold, and lapis, late 18th–early 19th century.


See Battle of Fakhkh and Alid revolt of 762–763 for further information.

Status of Caliphs and the Sahaba

There was a difference of opinion among the companions and supporters of Zayd ibn ‘Ali, such as Abu al-Jarud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad, Sulayman ibn Jarir, Kathir al-Nawa al-Abtar and Hasan ibn Salih, concerning the status of the first three Caliphs who succeeded to the political and administrative authority of Muhammad. The earliest group, called Jarudiyya (named for Abu al-Jarud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad), was opposed to the approval of certain companions of Muhammad. They held that there was sufficient description given by the Prophet that all should have recognised ‘Ali as the rightful Caliph. They therefore consider the Companions wrong in failing to recognise ‘Ali as the legitimate Caliph and deny legitimacy to Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Usman; however, they avoid denouncing them.

The Jarudiyya were active during the late Umayyad Caliphate and early Abbasid Caliphate. Its views, although predominant among the later Zaydis, especially in Yemen under the Hadawi sub-sect, became extinct in Iraq and Iran due to forced conversion of the present religious sects to Twelver Shi’ism by the Safavid Dynasty.

The second group, the Sulaymaniyya, named for Sulayman ibn Jarir, held that the Imamate should be a matter to be decided by consultation. They felt that the companions, including Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, had been in error in failing to follow ‘Ali but it did not amount to sin.

The third group is known as the Tabiriyya, Butriyya or Salihiyya for Kathir an-Nawa al-Abtar and Hasan ibn Salih. Their beliefs are virtually identical to those of the Sulaymaniyya, except they see Uthman also as in error but not in sin.

Zaidis accounts state the term Rafida was a term used by Zayd ibn Ali on those who rejected him in his last hours for his refusal to condemn the first two Caliphs of the Muslim world, Abu Bakr and Umar. Zayd bitterly scolds the “rejectors” (Rafidha) who deserted him, an appellation used by Salafis to refer to Twelver Shi’ites to this day.

A group of their leaders assembled in his (Zayd’s presence) and said: “May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar?” Zayd said, “I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them…when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah”

Twelver Shia references to Zayd

While not one of the 12 Imams embraced by the Twelver denomination and current largest branch of Shi’ite Islam, Zayd ibn Ali features in historical accounts within Twelver literature in a positive light.

In Twelver Shia accounts, Imam Ali al-Ridha narrated how his grandfather Ja’far al-Sadiq also supported Zayd ibn Ali’s struggle:

he was one of the scholars from the Household of Muhammad and got angry for the sake of the Honorable the Exalted God. He fought with the enemies of God until he got killed in His path. My father Musa ibn Ja’far narrated that he had heard his father Ja’far ibn Muhammad say, “May God bless my uncle Zayd… He consulted with me about his uprising and I told him, “O my uncle! Do this if you are pleased with being killed and your corpse being hung up from the gallows in the al-Konasa neighborhood.” After Zayd left, As-Sadiq said, “Woe be to those who hear his call but do not help him!”.

— Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā, p. 466

Jafar al-Sadiq’s love for Zayd ibn Ali was so immense, he broke down and cried upon reading the letter informing him of his death and proclaimed:

From God we are and to Him is our return. I ask God for my reward in this calamity. He was a really good uncle. My uncle was a man for our world and for our Hereafter. I swear by God that my uncle is a martyr just like the martyrs who fought along with God’s Prophet or Ali or Al-Hassan or Al-Hussein

— Uyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, p. 472



The Justanids ( جستانیان‎) were the rulers of a part of Daylam (the mountainous district of Gilan) from 791 to the late 11th-century. After Marzuban ibn Justan converted to Islam in 805, the ancient family of Justan’s became connected to the Zaydi Alids of the Daylam region. The Justanids adopted the Zaydi form of Shi’ism.

Karkiya dynasty

The Karkiya dynasty, or Kia dynasty, was a Zaydi Shia dynasty which ruled over Bia pish (eastern Gilan) from the 1370s to 1592. They claimed Sasanian ancestry as well.

Alid dynasty

Alid dynasties of northern Iran or Alavidsعلویون). In the 9th–14th centuries, the northern Iranian regions of Tabaristan, Daylam and Gilan, sandwiched between the Caspian Sea and the Alborz range, came under the rule of a number of Arab Alid dynasties, espousing the Zaydi branch of Shia Islam.

Idrisid dynasty

The Idrisid dynasty or Idrisids الأدارسة al-Adārisah) were an Arab Muslim dynasty from 788 to 974, ruling most of present-day Morocco and parts of present-day western Algeria. Named after the founder, Idris I, the Idrisids were an Alid and Hasanid dynasty, descended from Muhammad. The Idrisids are traditionally considered to be the founders of the first Moroccan Muslim state, setting the stage for subsequent dynasties and states centered in this region. Their reign played an important role in the early Islamization of Morocco and also presided over an increase in Arab immigration and Arabization in major urban centers.

Banu Ukhaidhir

The Banu ‘l-Ukhaidhir (بنو الأخيضر), informally as Ukhaydhirites, was an Arab dynasty that ruled in Najd and al-Yamamah (central Arabia) from 867 to at least the mid-eleventh century. An Alid dynasty, they were descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah and his grandson Al-Hasan, and at least one contemporary traveler describes them as having been Shi’ites of the Zaydi persuasion. Their capital was known as al-Khidhrimah, which lay near the present-day city of Al-Kharj in Saudi Arabia.

Hammudid dynasty

The Hammudid dynasty (بنو حمود, Banū Ḥammūd) was a Berberized Arab Muslim family that briefly ruled the Caliphate of Córdoba and the taifas of Málaga and Algeciras and nominal control in Ceuta.


The Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen (المملكة المتوكلية اليمنية al-Mamlakah al-Mutawakkilīyah al-Yamanīyah), also known simply as the Kingdom of Yemen or as Yemen, or, retrospectively, as North Yemen, was a state that existed between 1918 and 1962 in the northwestern part of what is now Yemen. Its capital was Sana’a until 1948, then Taiz. From 1962 to 1970, it maintained control over portions of Yemen (frequently most) until its final defeat in the North Yemen Civil War. Yemen was admitted to the United Nations on 30 September 1947.

Community and former States

Since the earliest form of Zaydism was Jaroudiah, many of the first Zaidi states were supporters of its position, such as those of the Iranian Alavids of Mazandaran Province and the Buyid dynasty of Gilan Province and the Arab dynasties of the Banu Ukhaidhir of al-Yamama (modern Saudi Arabia) and the Rassids of Yemen. The Idrisid dynasty in the western Maghreb were another Arab Zaydi dynasty, ruling 788–985.

The Alavids established a Zaydi state in Deylaman and Tabaristan (northern Iran) in 864; it lasted until the death of its leader at the hand of the Sunni Samanids in 928. Roughly forty years later, the state was revived in Gilan (Northwest Iran) and survived until 1126.

From the 12th-13th centuries, Zaydi communities acknowledged the Imams of Yemen or rival Imams within Iran.

The Buyid dynasty was initially Zaidi as were the Banu Ukhaidhir rulers of al-Yamama in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The leader of the Zaidi community took the title of Caliph. As such, the ruler of Yemen was known as the Caliph. Al-Hadi ila’l-Haqq Yahya, a descendant of Imam Hasan ibn Ali, founded this Rassid state at Sa’da, al-Yaman, in c. 893-7. The Rassid Imamate continued until the middle of the 20th century, when a 1962 revolution deposed the Imam. After the fall of the Zaydi Imamate in 1962 many Zaydi Shia in northern Yemen had converted to Sunni Islam.

The Rassid state was founded under Jarudiyya thought; however, increasing interactions with Hanafi and Shafi’i schools of Sunni Islam led to a shift to Sulaimaniyyah thought, especially among the Hadawi sub-sect.

In the 21st century, the most prominent Zaidi movement is the Shabab Al Mu’mineen, commonly known as Houthis, who have been engaged in an uprising against the Yemeni Government in which the Army has lost 743 men and thousands of innocent civilians have been killed or displaced by government forces and Houthi, causing a grave humanitarian crisis in north Yemen.

Some Persian and Arab legends record that Zaidis fled to China from the Umayyads during the 8th century.

Houthi Yemen

Main article: Houthis

Since 2004 in Yemen, Zaidi fighters have been waging an uprising against factions belonging to the Sunni majority group in the country. The Houthis, as they are often called, have asserted that their actions are for the defense of their community from the government and discrimination, though the Yemeni government in turn accused them of wishing to bring it down and institute religious law.

On 20 September 2014, an agreement was signed in Sana’a under UN patronage essentially giving the Houthis control of the government after a decade of conflict. Tribal militias then moved swiftly to consolidate their position in the capital, with the group officially declaring direct control over the state on 6 February 2015. This outcome followed the removal of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012 in the wake of protracted Arab Spring protests. Saudi Arabia has exercised the predominant external influence in Yemen since the withdrawal of Nasser’s Egyptian expeditionary force marking the end of the bitter North Yemen Civil War.

There is a wide array of domestic opponents to Houthi rule in Yemen, ranging from the conservative Sunni Islah Party to the secular socialist Southern Movement to the radical Islamists of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and now ISIS in Yemen.

Imams of Zaidis

Further information: Imams of Yemen

Time line indicating Zaidi Imams amongst other Shia Imams:

Zaydi (early period) Imams as listed in Al-Masaabeeh fee As-Seerah by Ahmad bin Ibrahim:

  1. Ali ibn Abi Talib
  2. Al-Hasan bin Ali ibn Abi Talib
  3. Al-Husayn bin Ali ibn Abi Talib
  4. Hasan Al-Muthana bin Al-Hassan bin Ali
  5. Zayd bin Ali ibn Husayn bin Ali
  6. Yahya bin Zayd bin Ali bin Al-Husayn
  7. Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Hasan Al-Muthana
  8. Ibrahim bin Abdillah bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  9. Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  10. Al-Hasan bin Ibrahim bin Abdullah bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  11. Al-Husayn bin Ali bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  12. Isa bin Zayd bin Ali bin Al-Husayn
  13. Yahya bin Abdullah bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  14. Idris bin Abdullah bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  15. Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Isma’il bin Ibrahim bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  16. Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Zayd bin Ali bin Al-Husayn
  17. Muhammad bin Sulayman bin Dawud bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  18. Al-Qasim bin Ibrahim bin Isma’il bin Ibrahim bin Al-Hasan Al-Muthana
  19. Yahya bin Al-Husayn bin Al-Qasim Al-Hadi
  20. Abul Qasim Muhammad bin Yahya bin Al-Husayn
  21. Ahmad bin Yahya bin Al-Husayn
  22. Al-Hasan bin An-Nasir Ahmad
  23. Yahya ibn Umar
  24. Hasan ibn Zayd
  25. Muhammad ibn Zayd
  26. Hasan ibn Ali al-Utrush
  27. Hasan ibn Qasim or Abu Muhammad Hasan ibn Qasim
  28. Ahmad ibn Hasan or Abu ‘l-Husayn Ahmad ibn Hasan
  29. Ja’far ibn Hasan or Abu ‘l-Qasim Ja’far ibn Hasan
  30. Muhammad ibn Ahmad or Abu Ali Muhammad ibn Abu ‘l-Husayn Ahmad
  31. Husayn ibn Ahmad or Abu Ja’far Husayn ibn Abu ‘l-Husayn Ahmad
  32. Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Ukhaidhir
  33. Yusuf ibn Muhammad
  34. Isma’il ibn Yusuf
  35. Al-Hasan ibn Yusuf
  36. Ahmad ibn al-Hasan
  37. Abu ‘l-Muqallid Ja’far
  38. Idris II
  39. Muhammad ibn Idris
  40. Ali ibn Muhammad
  41. Yahya ibn Muhammad
  42. Yahya ibn Yahya
  43. Ali ibn Umar
  44. Yahya ibn Al-Qassim
  45. Yahya ibn Idris ibn Umar
  46. Al-Hajjam al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Qassim
  47. Al Qasim Gannum
  48. Abu l-Aish Ahmad
  49. Al-Hasan ibn Kannun
Zaidi and Shiat-ul-ALI

Zaidi and Shiat-ul-ALI

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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