2. In the Middle East
Zaydis by country
Last column: % Zaydis of the populationOman
60,0002.2%Saudi Arabia1,400,0005.5%Yemen11,200,00047.0%TOTAL *)12,700,0002.8%
*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000.
Shi’i group, that diverged from the dominant Shi’i Islam in the years following the death of Ali Zayn al-Abidin in 713. Zayd was claimed to be the rightful 5th imam instead of Muhammad al Baqir.
Zaydi Shi’i Islam is the dominant religion in Yemen where the Zaydi Imam took the title of Caliph. This local caliphate has continued all up until modern times. The Caliph had strong political power until the 1960s. For about 260 years, the Yazidi orientation dominated in an area corresponding to the northwestern parts of modern Iran, in the lands of the Daylamites. From them, the Buyids came, which would influence Muslim politics in the Abbasid Caliphate.
Despite the differences, there has always been good relations between Yemeni Zaydis and other Shi’is, involving that Shi’is have been allowed refuge there in times of persecution.
Presently the Zaydis is the most moderate of the Shi’i orientations, and is the one closest to the Sunnis in terms of theology, although their system of faith involves their own madhhab, school of Sharia.
The Zaydis give less importance to the qualities of the Imam than dominant Shi’i groups. With their theology, the imam has no supernatural powers, it is merely a matter of theological and political preference. But the imam must be a descendant of Ali. Moreover, there may well be more than one imam at a time, and times of no imam is not interpreted in negative terms.
The Zaydi theology is largely influenced by the rationalist orientation of the Mu’tazilis. They do not allow mut’a, temporary marriage, as do the Twelvers.
In the Middle East
Zaydis represent the majority of Muslims in Yemen, and are still effectively the leading religious group, although their imam-governed political system is gone.
In Saudi Arabia the situation is quite different, being an outcast group, which is under great threat of persecution from the governments. There are no longer any Zaydi mosques in Saudi Arabia, and most Zaydis hide their faith, jf. taqiyya. Still, with Saudi Arabia controlling areas traditionally controlled by Zaydis, their numbers are believed to be more than 1 million. Though they originate in the regions of Najran, Zaydids now live in large cities in western Saudi Arabia.
Early in the 21st century, Saudi authorities confiscated a Zaydi mosque, placing a Sunni Hanbali imam to lead in prayer.
The Zaydis have professed military and violent activities in this century. Modern examples of this are the stubborn fight against the British colonialists in Aden and the occupation of the great mosque in Mecca in 1979.
713: Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin dies, and a dispute over who should succeed him occurs. Followers of Zayd break with the majority of Shi’is.
864: The Daylamites form their own state in lands corresponding to the northwest of modern Iran, with Zaydi Shi’ism as the state religion.
10th century: Zaydis establish themselves in Yemen. They would soon establish the Rassi Dynasty which would rule much of Yemen from their capital in San’a.
1126: The Daylamite state comes to an end.
1962: The Zaydi ruler of Yemen, Muhammad al-Badr, is removed from power by the Yemeni military, but fights back.
1970: Muhammad al-Badr takes refuge in Great Britain.
1972: Fighting between followers of Muhammad al-Badr and the republicans comes to an end, marking the effective end of religious rule over Yemen.