The Twelver Shi’ites, the Zaydis & the Imamate

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The Zaydis follow Imam Zayd ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (r.a.), and are the Shi’ite denomination most similar to the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah.  They agree with the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, and contend with the Twelver Shi’ites that the question of the Imamate is a branch of religion which does admit rational interpretation and is, likewise, subject to independent judgement.  The Twelver Shi’ites hold their opinion to be established through express textual support, that is, authentically-narrated reports indisputably indicating the person of the imam.  Zaydis recognise texts indicating the person of the Imam but hold them to be less definitive, both in their transmission and their signification, and to describe the attributes of the Imam but not specify him by name.

Further distinctions between the Twelver Shi’ites and Zaydis are logically entailed by these differences, in that the former hold that one who denies the Imamate of ‘Ali (k.w.) and his descendants in effect denies decisive proof-texts and so disbelieves; while the latter hold that denying these matters means rather that one has sinfully erred in judgement but remains within the fold of faith.  The Zaydis hold that ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.) had precedence over Abu Bakr (r.a.), ‘Umar (r.a.), and ‘Utsman (r.a.) in that he had more right than them to the title of caliph, but due to his younger age and the perilous conditions in the troubled state of the time, it is permissible to admit the caliphate of those before him.  This again is opposed to the Twelver Shi’ites, who hold that the prior three Caliphs were flagrant usurpers.

The Twelver Shi’ites, Isma’ilis, and certain Zaydis affirm a doctrine of the awaited Mahdi (a.s.), as opposed to the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, of whom the majority believe in the Mahdi (a.s.) and another party do not, but in neither case, make this doctrine foundational to their creed.


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