Islam / Orientations /
Other spellings: batiniyah, batiniyya, batiniyyah
Batiniya sought the inner, hidden or spiritual meaning of the Koran and the Sunna. The method employed was allegorical interpretation, ta'wil. Prophetic imams were central individuals in understanding and defining the inner meaning, as these certain imams were possessors of a divine light. The doctrine of the prophetic imams was launched by Abu al-Khattab in the first half of the 8th century.
When dealing with the inner meanings of religious words and statements, batiniya could avoid the literal meaning altogether, called zahir.
From Batiniya emerges several sects or orientations, some have survived into modern times. The most important of these is Isma'ilism, which has nearly a million adherents in today's Middle East. Isma'ilism was not purely Batiniya, seeing both the literal meaning and the hidden meaning of religious texts.
Another group coming from Batiniya were the Qarmatians, who established viable states in the lands corresponding to modern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Also, from Batiniya comes the Nusayris and Druze, and from the Nusayris, an important part of the origins of Alevism can be traced.
What is common among groups with Batiniya background surviving into modern times, is that they no longer can be counted as part of Islam. Alevism and Isma'ilism are often called branches of Islam, but this is wrong. Druze call themselves "Muslims" but are entirely not accepted by any other Muslim group as part of Islam.
Some evidence suggest that there is a connection between Batiniya and Sufism, and at times Sufis have been called Batini.
Historically, there have been great animosity between mainstream Islam, mainly Sunni, and Batiniya groups. Sunni scholars have accused Batiniya for causing confusion and controversy by their multiplicity of interpretations.