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Zaydi

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Zaydi

    The Zaydis are a moderate sect of Shi'i Muslims founded after the death of the fourth imam in 713 . They are sometimes known as Fivers because they broke with the other Shi'is over support for the fifth imam, Muhammad al-Baqir . The Zaydis chose to follow Zayd ibn Ali , who was a grandson of the martyr Husayn ibn Ali , the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

    The Zaydis chose to follow Zayd ibn Ali because he was the first of Husayn's descendants to rebel against the Umayyad dynasty, which persecuted the Shi'is. Zayd ibn Ali died in 740 while leading an uprising against the Umayyads, and Zaydis took part in several more uprisings after his death. In 864 al-Hasan ibn Zayd founded the first Zaydi state in Iran, which lasted until 1126 . Another Zaydi state arose in northern Yemen in 893 and survived over 1,000 years until a coup in 1962 removed the last imam from power.

    Zaydi religious beliefs differ from those of other Shi'i sects in several ways. For example, Zaydis do not believe that the imam is God's representative on earth or has special God-given powers. For them anyone descended from Muhammad's daughter Fatimah and her husband Ali ibn Abi Talib may become imam as long as that person is a faithful Muslim and has no physical imperfections. Zaydi belief thus allows for the possibility of several imams at once or no imam at any given time.

    Zaydis maintain that an imam must be able to take up arms to defend Islam. Thus, an infant cannot be imam. Zaydis also reject the idea of the “hidden imam” popular among Twelver Shi'is, which holds that a descendant of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatimah is waiting in some otherworldly realm to reclaim the title of imam and bring about a golden age on earth. The Zaydis also tend to follow a strict moral code and to disapprove of Sufi teachings. See also Shi'i Islam; Umayyad Caliphate; Yemen.

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