The Shiism of the Idrisids

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What is Shiism?

Indeed, Shiism cannot be reduced to a single current or trend, or a monolithic ideological block. Let's go through each of these currents.

During the political conflict between Ali ibn Abi Talib (son in law to Prophet Muhammad) and Muawiya (Umayyad Caliph), the followers of Ali were called “Shi'at Ali” which translated to "the followers of Ali".

Ali had two sons with Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad: al-Hassan and al-Husayn, who will be our main focus excluding his third son Mohammed Ibn Al Hanafiya whom he had with Khawlah Bint Ja'far.

Upon his death, two currents emerged within the political “Shiism” that had formed around him: the Shiites who followed al-Hassan, and the Shiites who followed al-Husayn.

al-Husayn had a son, Ali, who himself had two sons: Muhammad al-Baqir, and Zayd Ibn Ali. The group of Zaydis (which we'll explore in detail later) considered that Zayd Ibn Ali was the best successor, while the rest of the Shiite currents agreed on the fact that Mohammed al-Baqir was, of the two, the one to follow.

Muhammad al-Baqir's successor was Ja'far al-Sadiq (very influential and respected in the Maliki madhab by the way). The succession of Ja'far Al-Sadiq again created two divergent currents, which will give rise to the two largest Shiite currents to date. Among his five children, two stood out: Ismail was considered a successor by the Ismaelis, and Moussa al-Kazhim was considered to be the successor by the Twelvers.

Thus we understand that “Shiism” was primarily political. The dogma of infallibility, the esotericism around imams, and other innovations, were only developed later, around the 10th century, by the Twelver Shias.

For example, Yahya Ibn Ma'in was questioned by Imam Ahmad, because he did not understand why he thought that Imam al-Shafi'i was a Shiite. Yahya Ibn Ma'in replied that in his fiqh chapter on the unjust, al-Shafi'i had placed Ahl Al Bayt among the victims of injustice, and the Umayyad Party as the oppressors. It can thus be understood that the fact of being affiliated or not with “Shiism” was essentially conditioned by his position on the conflict between Mu'awiya and Ali.

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The current of Zaydism

Today, when we talk about “Shiism” or “Shiites”, several elements stand out in the imagination of many people: the insult of companions, a fiqh and a heritage drastically different from those of Sunnis, the elevation of “imams” to the rank of infallible and mystical individuals, the belief in the falsification of the Quran etc…

These elements however are foreign to traditional Zaydism.

One of the reasons the Twelvers and Ismailis did not follow Zayd Ibn Ali is the fact that he clearly, and famously, affirmed his respect for the first well-guided Caliphs (Rashidun) and companions, saying that he only heard good things about them from his father, and frequently asked for the mercy of the Lord for them.

Following this clear position, some Shiites rejected Zayd Ibn Ali and his religious legitimacy, it was from there that the name "Rafidhi" (the one who rejects/refuses) began to be used to refer to Shiites who were systemically hostile and without nuances to the first Caliphs and companions. An appellation that is therefore by definition contrary to Zaydism and its foundations.

Not to mention the numerous words of great Zaydi scientists going in this direction and supporting it. For example, the 14th century Imam al-Mahdi Ahmad Ibn Yahya did not differentiate between those who insulted Ali, and Abu Bakr or Omar.

Another huge reference of the 9th century Zaydism, Imam al-Hadi, ruled firmly and clearly on the flogging of those who insulted the companions.

There are still hundreds of quotes following this trend, which reveals that Zaydism in its tradition and essence is deeply opposed to the insult and curse of companions. Note that among the Zaydis, the Quran was not considered as corrupted by the companions but rather preserved.

When it comes to the infallibility of imams, Zaydism sets itself apart from other Shiite currents, by affirming that a governor can be legitimate politically, even if other contenders for the regency exist and are better. The conditions for coming to power are also much broader than simply being a descendant of Nabi: you must be notoriously pious and reliable, and have reached the level of ijtihad in all Islamic fields. Here we are far from the esotericism and mysticism put forward by the Ismailis and Twelvers in relation to imams and their legitimacy.

So, at the level of fiqh, how can we situate Zaydism in relation to traditional Sunni schools?

Zaydi fiqh is extremely similar to Hanafi fiqh, and for good reason: Imam Yahya Ibn al-Husayn al-Hadi, seen above, is the founder of Zaydism as a distinct ideological and even political entity and he took his fiqh from the Hanafi school.

This is verifiable by observing his legal positions in his fiqh books like "Al Ahkam Fi Al Halal wa Al Haram" among others, where a large part of the opinions are those of Abu Hanifa. When we know that Abu Hanifa was very attached to Ahl Al Bayt (his school being considered to be that of Ahl Al Bayt, because a lot of opinions come from Ali and Abdullah Ibn Mas'oud), and that he had financed and supported the revolt of Zayd Ibn Ali (with whom he studied) against the Umayyads, this seems more than logical.

The Zaydis also use the various Sunni collections of hadith in their ijtihad (al-Bukhari the best known among others), especially since references to Zaydism are found in several transmission chains of the various collections. Add to this the words of very great Zaydi scholars such as Ibn al-Wazir or even Ibn Ismail al-San'ani (from the 15th and 18th centuries respectively), who have repeatedly refuted the Twelvers and clearly affirmed their proximity to the Sunnis, considering Zaydism to be one Sunni school among others.

Thus, all these elements objectively and unambiguously differentiate the Zaydites from the Rawafids, and by extension from all the excesses and dogmas specific to the latter.

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And Idriss I in all this?

After showing that Shiism was very diverse in its currents, and that the school of Zaydism was in many ways similar (even affiliated) to Sunnism, how can we situate Idriss Ibn Abdallah Al-Kamil in the Shiite spectrum?

As seen above, Shiism was first and foremost a political statement. And it was as a descendant of the Prophet, and a political opponent to the Abbasids (who had initially rebelled against the Umayyads as defenders and standard bearers of Ahl Al-Bayt) that Idriss was fought and forced into exile from the Hejaz to the Maghreb to flee the massacres of the Prophet's descendants. There, he was going to found his own kingdom, the first a Muslim political entity that is truly distinct from any Abbasid influence in Iraq and the Umayyad influence in Andalusia.

Thus, the foundation of his kingdom and his dynasty are in no way based on an esoteric/mystical heresy, based on the rejection and traditional curse of companions, such as that of the Ismaili Fatimids of Egypt, or the Twelver Safavids of Iran.

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Références :

Al-Shabah al-Zaydiyid of al-Husayn

Taree Algiers

Manor in Abu Dhabi

Al-Shafari Mosque

The House in Ali Hulal Al-Haram

Al-Harouas and al-Qasr in al-Sub al-Que