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Zaydiyah: An Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudential Sects


The main source of the jurisprudence of Zayd b. Ali, the founder of Zaydīyah School, is a book named al-Majmū‘ al-Kabīr. This book is ascribed to Zayd, but it is compiled by his attendant and disciple, Abū Khālid Wāsiṭī. Zayd’s method was avoiding exaggeration and coordinating with the jurisprudence of the school of Medina, especially the jurisprudence of Ahl al-Bayt. Al-Majmū‘ consists of three parts:

  • Traditions of the Prophet (S.A.W) narrated by Imam Ali (A.S.),
  • Traditions of Imam Ali (A.S.),
  • Zayd’s personal ijtihāds and elicitations, which are mostly in agreement with Sunni jurists,

Zayd’s writings are regarded as the main principles for Zaydīyah, from which derivative issues must be elicited.

            Famous Zaydī scholars are as follows: Ḥasan b. Ṣāliḥ (d. 161 A.H.), Ḥasan b. Zayd b. Muhammad known as Imām al-Dā‘ī ilā al-Ḥaqq (who was ruling over Ṭabaristān from 250 to 270 A.H.), Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm ‘Alawī and his grandchild, al-Hādī Yaḥyā.

1- Sources of Deduction

In conclusion, we can assume that Zaydīyah rely on ten jurisprudential sources. However, not all these sources are within the same rank of reasoning. These ten deducing sources are explained according to their importance and rank as follows:

  • Absolute intellect: according to Zaydīyah, “absolute intellect” is the first source of knowledge. Because, resorting to the Qur’an and Sunnah is the next step after knowing God, and proving that the Qur’an is a Divine revelation to The Prophet. Then, proving these two subject matters is passible only by means of “absolute intellect”. Therefore, it has priority over all other sources. Of course, it is different from “non-absolute intellect” that is useful for obtaining jurisprudential derivatives.
  • Absolute Ijmā‘ (consensus): it is the second source in rank. Absolute ijmā‘ is the same as ḍarūrīyāt (necessary truths) of Islam, which means they are the issues that have been unanimously accepted by all the Prophet’s Companions and all their Successors and all the generations after them until now. The issues include such rulings as five obligatory prayers in one day, or midday prayer containing four rak‘ats (a cycle of prayer).
  • The Qur’an and a Sunnah that is absolute and widely transmitted. In the viewpoint of Zaydīyah, the Qur’an and an absolute Sunnah are in the same rank; therefore, limiting and abrogating one by another is acceptable.

Note: the elicited concept from the Qur’an and Sunnah are presented in two ways:

  • Nass: it is, in turn, of two kinds:
    • Nass jalī (express statement), which means that the words originally bear no meaning except the elicited concept,
    • Nass khafī (implied statement), which means that realizing that the elicited concept is the only meaning of words that needs thinking and consideration,
  • Ẓāhir (outer meaning): means that the elicited concept is the preponderant meaning that comes mind; however, there is a possibility of an inferior meaning, too.

According to Zaydīyah point of view, nass and ẓāhir are of the same grade. Therefore, ẓāhir is ignorable only in the case that there was a stronger nass against it; otherwise, they are within the same rank of credibility.

  • Single traditions: terms of resorting to a tradition with a single transmitter:
    1. The transmitter must be righteous and reliable, and someone who is from among the Prophet’s descendants is prior to others.
    2. Narrated subject was not of generally involved matters; otherwise, it would be a mustafīḍ (diffused) tradition.
  • Concepts: a harmonious meaning is prior to a divergent meaning,
  • Uncertain ijmā‘ (consensus): there are different levels of ijmā‘ as mentioned bellow:
    1. Absolute ijmā‘: that is the same as necessary truths of Islam, as was mentioned above.
    2. The consensus of Companions after their demise,
    3. The consensus of Companions before their demise,
    4. The consensus of Companions on a matter after having disagreement about that,
    5. The consensus of Successors after Companions’ disagreement,
    6. Tacit consensus, meaning the consensus of mujtahids of an era, except one or two,
  • Words of ṣiḥābah: however all companions of the Prophet (S.A.W) are called as ṣiḥābah, but here it means Imam Ali (A.S.), her eminence Fatimah (A.S.), Imam Ḥasan (A.S.), and Imam Ḥusein (A.S.). Only their words are considered as a proof in the viewpoint of Zaydīyah,
  • Qiyās (judicial reasoning by analogy): Zaydīyah believe that although qiyās only results in presumption, it is a proof. Because, God has ordered to take it in some cases like determining qiblah and time [of prayer]. Zaydīyah regard istiḥsān (juristic preference) and maṣāliḥ mursalah (consideration of public interests of the time) as kinds of qiyās, just like Mālikīyah.
  • Istiṣḥāb (the principle of continuance): Zaydīyah do not regard istiṣḥāb as an independent proof, and divide it into four kinds:
    1. The continuance of original exemption,
    2. The continuance of landed property and ownership,
    3. The continuance of ritual ablution for someone who was certain of his ablution and then has fallen into suspicion,
    4. The continuance of disposition and attribute, like continuance of life for someone who has disappeared so as to affirm the inheritance share for him,

10- Uncertain intellect: this source is applied in the case that there is no other source available. By meaning that, in the absence of any religious evidence, some scholars hold the principle of permissibility; some follow the principle of prohibition, and some of them practice the principle of continuance of original permissibility. However, intellect is the main scale for Zaydīyah in such cases, because it recognizes the good and evil of matters, and can judge about permissibility or prohibition, based upon having advantage or being harmful.

2- The Features of Zaydīyah School

  • Zaydīyah beliefs are identical to other Shi’a sects, except in some cases such as: refusing to say حي علي خير العمل in adhān (the call to prayer), allowing masḥ ‘alā al-khaffayn (wiping of shoes in ritual ablution), allowing to pray after any prayer leader, either righteous or sinner, permitting to eating the meat of animals that are slaughtered by People of the Book (Christians and Jews), and prohibiting temporary marriage. Muhammad b. Isḥāq al-Nadīm writes in his book al-Fihrist: most authorities in ḥadīth, including Sufyān b. ‘Uyaynah, Sufyān Thūrī, Ṣāliḥ b. Ḥayy and his son, were Zaydīs,
  • Zaydīyah reject the notion of Occultation, and are not waiting for the Hidden Imam,
  • Zaydīyah believe that Muslims who commit major sins will not stay in Hell forever; rather, they will be punished according to the sins they have committed. Zaydīyah believe in the principle of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, and do not believe in taqīyah (precautionary concealment).
  • Zaydīyah, just like Abū Ḥanīfah, maintain qiyās, and allow practicing istiṣḥāb. They, like Mu‘tazilah, believe in rational good and evil. They do not allow a mufti to issue fatwa without ijtihād. In contrast to Imāmīyah and Kīsānīyah, they reject badā’ (alternation in divine ruling) and rij‘at (return of some noble figures before the final Resurrection). Zaydīyah believe that God’s attributes are of His Essence. They exaggeratedly believe that consensus of Islamic scholars is the base of religious precepts, so, some scholars imagined that Zaydīyah prefer ijmā‘ to the Qur’an and Sunnah.

3- Important Jurists and Books

  • Zayd b. Ali, the martyred Imam Zayd b. Ali b. Ḥusein b. Ali b. Abī Ṭālib, leader of the school. He was living in Medina, and then he went to Kūfah and in 120 A.H. made a revolution against Hishām b. ‘Abd al-Malik in revolt over Umayyad’s oppression, on the ground of enforcing the sentence of the Qur’an and Sunnah. He was martyred and crucified in Ṣafar (second Arabic lunar month) of that very year.

Majmū‘ al-Ḥadīth and Majmū‘ al-Fiqh are the earlier books of  Zaydīyah in jurisprudence, which are both called as al-Majmū‘ al-Kabīr. The book contains the traditions and fatwas of Zayd. It is compiled by Abū Khālid ‘Umar b. Khālid Wāsiṭī, who was a companion of Zayd b. Ali and died in second half of the second century. Some years ago, the Milano Scientific Association published this book. If the book was truly ascribed to Wāsiṭī, it would be the first surviving Islamic jurisprudential book.

  • Nafs Zakīyah, Imam Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah Maḥḍ b. Ḥasan Muthannā b. Ḥasan b. Ali b. Abī Ṭālib. He revolted against Manṣūr in 144 A.H., and dominated over Medina for a while, but was defeated by Manṣūr’s great army in Ramadan of the same year, and was killed.
  • Ahmad b. ‘īsā, Abū ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. ‘īsā b. Zayd b. Ali b. Ḥusein b. Ali b. Abī Ṭālib. He performed thirty Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca on foot. Muhammad b. Manṣūr has narrated the book al-Amālī fī al-Fiqh al-Murtabiṭ bi al-Dalīl from him. He revolted over Ḥārūn al-Rashīd and was captured. He fled to Baṣrah and hid after releasing from the jail. He died a blind man at the age of 80 in 247 A.H.
  • Imām Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm Rassī Ḥasanī (177-244 A.H.), he wrote some jurisprudential books and treatises.[1]
  • Al-Imām al-Hādī Yaḥyā b. al-Ḥusein (245-298 A.H.),
  • Al-Imām al-Nāṣir al-Kabīr al-Aṭrūsh, Abū Muhammad al-Ḥasan b. Ali b. al-Ḥasan b. Ali b. ‘Umar b. Ali b. al-Ḥusein b. Ali b. Abī Ṭālib (230-304 A.H.): al-Rasā’il al-Fiqhīyah,
  • Ahmad b. Yaḥyā al-Hādī b. al-Ḥusein al-Ḥasanī, al-Imām al-Nāṣir (d. 325 A.H.),
  • Imām al-Hādī ilā al-Ḥaqq Yaḥyā b. Ḥusein (245-298 A.H.): al-Muntakhab, al-Aḥkām fī al-Ḥalāl wa al-Ḥarām,
  • Imām Abū Ṭālib Yaḥyā b. Ḥusein b. Hārūn (d. 424 A.H.): al-Taḥrīr fī al-Fiqh,
  • Al-Imām al-Mu’yyad bi-Allāh Ahmad b. al-Ḥusein b. Hārūn Ḥasanī Āmulī (333-411 A.H.) he was an expert in grammar, lexicology, and ḥdīth: al-Tajrīd Fīqh al-Imāmayn al-A‘ẓamayn al-Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm wa al-Hādī Yaḥyā b. al-Ḥusein,
  • Abū ‘Abd Allah ‘Alawī (d. 445 A.H.): al-Jāmi‘ al-Kāfī. It contains the jurisprudential views of Zaydī laeders from Kūfah (Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm, Ahmad b. ‘Īsā b. Zayd, Ḥasan b. Yaḥyā b. Ḥusein b. Zayd, ‘Abd Allah b. Mūsā jūn, Sheikh al-‘Itrah Muhammad b. Manṣūr Murādī),
  • Al-Imām ‘Abd Allah b. Ḥamzah b. Sulaymān b. Ali b. Ḥamzah b. Abī Hāshim al-Ḥasanī al-Qāsimī, Manṣūr Billāh (561-614 A.H.),
  • Al-Imām al-Murtaḍā li Dīn Allah Muhammad b. Imām al-Hādī Yaḥyā b. al-Ḥusein (d. 310 A.H.): Kitāb al-Manāhī,
  • Yaḥyā b. Ḥamzah b. Ibrāhīm b. Ali al-Ḥuseinī (d. 749 A.H.): al-Intiṣār ‘alā ‘Ulamā’ al-Amṣār,
  • Imām al-Mahdi Ahmad b. Yaḥyā b. al-Murtaḍā (d. 840 A.H.): al-Baḥr al-Zikhār al-Jāmi‘ li Madhāhib ‘Ulamā’ al-Amṣār, it is a comprehensive jurisprudential compilation that is elicited from the book of al-Amṣār, by Imām Yaḥyā b. Ḥamzah. However, only three volumes of the total 18 volumes are printed.
  • ‘Allāmah Ḥusein b. Imām Qāsim (d. 1050 A.H.): Kitāb al-Ghāyah, regarding uṣūl al-fiqh,
  • Qāḍī ‘Allāmah Ḥusein b. Ahmad b. Siyāghī (d. 1221 A.H.): al-Rawḍ al-Naḍīr Sharḥ al-Majmū‘ al-Kabīr, it is regarded as an encyclopedic compilation of comparative demonstrative


1- Masā’il Jafar b. Muhammad al-Nīrūsī wa ‘Abd Allah b. al-Ḥasan al-Kallārī, Kitāb al-Ṭahārah, Kitāb Ṣalāt al-Yawm wa al-Laylah, Masā’il Ali b. Jahshiyār=Jāmi al-Ajzā’ al-Majmū‘ah fī Tafsīr Qwāri‘ al-Qur’an, al-Farā’iḍ wa al-Sunan, ‘Uqūd al-Masā’il, Kitāb al-Manāsik.

The article was written by Hujjat al-Islam Mujtaba Elahi Khorasani (Teacher of Advance Level of Mashhad Seminary) and Translated by Sayyid Dilawar Ali Naqavi  (Seminary Member, Researcher, English Translator and M.A. Student in Quranic Interpretation and Sciences).

About Alireza Mosaddeq

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One comment

  1. I am a sunni muslim interested in original teaching s of Shia Imams, can I get a copy urdu or english of Mujumah al Fiqa by Imam Zaid bin Ali.

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