Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Way Of The Sunnah And Its Adversaries

There are great debates about Sunni and Shia in the internet. 
In the past, we have heard of the debates with groups known as Mu’tazilah, Qadariah, Jabariah and so forth.  These debates, however, do not exist anymore.  But the debates between Sunni and Shia continue endlessly, and often mindlessly.

Why is it so?

The reason is because those groups known as Mu’tazilah, Qadariah and the likes have changed their clothes.  They are no longer called with those names, although their types are pretty much alive in the new reincarnations.  Their names have changed, but the basis for their arguments has remained the same.

In essence, the Mu’tazilites, the Qadarites, and their types, are rationalists.  What this means is that they put rational thinking first, and Divine proof second.  These groups would go the Quran and start to interpret it the way they fancy.  They rarely pay attention to what the Prophet, his Companions, and the generation of successors (tabi’en), say or practice.  Consequently, their opinions, outlooks, and practices have deviated from the opinions, outlooks and practices of the Prophet and his Companions. 

The opinions, outlooks and practices of the Prophet and his Companions are known as their Sunnah.   By resorting to their own rational thinking, these groups have therefore deviated from the Sunnah of the Prophet and his Companions.  This, in essence, is what differentiates the group known as Ahl al-Sunnah Wal Jamaah or Sunni and other groups. 

The great debates of the olden days that led to the labeling of various groupings such as Sunni, Shia, Mu’tazilah, Qadariah, Jabariah, etc., stem from this fact.  A group who held on the Sunnah of the Prophet and his Companions was known as Sunni, while those who chose to resort to their rational thinking were known by various names given to them, depending on the main themes of their outlooks.   

The Sunnis have won those debates.  Those who have lost such as the Mu’tazilites and the Qadarites have faded from the scene.  The Shias did not lose completely, but they continued to be in the periphery, forming a minority sectarian group among the Muslims.

Though they have lost the debates, the rationalists did not vanish from the Ummah.  From time to time, they pop up into the scene but are known by different names.  In the contemporary world, they are known as the secularists, pluralists, liberalists, anti-hadith and the like.  Like their predecessors such as the Mu’tazilites and the Qadarites, these are the groups who put the rational thinking first, Divine proof second.

Who are the Rationalists?  To illustrate what and who they are, let’s take the Secularists as an example. 

The Secularists are those who believe in secularism.  Secular means of this world.  Secularism means the separation between “of this world” and “of the Hereafter.”  In short, secularism means the separation between the State and the Religion.

As an ideology, secularism means that Religion is a private matter that has no place in public affairs.  To the Secularists, Religion has no place in political, economic or legal affairs.  Its place is only in worshipping rituals or some cultural matters such as solemnization of marriage ceremony.

This ideology originates from the Christians World, as a reaction to abuses in the name of Religion.   But the origin of Christianity and Islam is poles apart.

Christianity owes its origin from a hijacked troubled movement, the movement of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ came to rescue the Jews from their corrupt practices and to return to the true teaching of Moses.  As he said, “I come not to abolish the Law (Torah), but to fulfill it.”  But the leaders of the Jews rejected him.

He was also hailed as the Messiah by his followers.  The Messiah means the deliverer.  The same title was also given to King David, their great king and a prophet, who gave the then wandering Israelites a powerful state.  The similarity in the title indicates that Jesus’ movement was also political.  The Romans who were occupying their land, known then as Judea, must have feared him.

In the end, the Jewish leaders, in collusion with the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, crucified him.  Jesus’ movement was then hijacked by Paul of Tarsus, the leading persecutor of his movement.  On his way to persecute the followers of Jesus, who went hiding in Damascus, Paul changed his approach from being the persecutor to being the pretender.  He penetrated into their rank and changed the whole color of the movement. 

Jesus’ original movement, known then as the Nazarene, meaning the Maintainer, that is to maintain the original teaching of Moses, was then changed to a different ideology.  While Jesus focused his movement to the teaching of Moses, Paul focused his teaching on the person of Jesus the Christ.  It was to Paul that Christianity owes its name, that is, the belief in the Christ.

The religion that Paul hijacked and distorted broke out from the Jewish faith.  It was a faith without a state or political power.  It was confined to a sectarian faith until Constantine took it as an official religion of the Roman Empire about 300 years later.  Due to its origin, Christianity was never a complete religion, because its founder met untimely death (or was raised to Heaven) before he could make it a reality.  Furthermore, it was soon hijacked and distorted by its persecutor turned pretender, St. Paul.

An incomplete and distorted religion such as Christianity was not fit to run the country.  It did not have the answer to various political, economic, legal or scientific matters.  For that kind of religion to rule supreme, something must give.

This is what happened to Europe.  When the kings were under the control of the popes, cardinals and archbishops, progress stalled.  Amplified further by the progress of Islam, they were thrown into Dark Ages.

But Islam did not originate that way.  Its founder managed to establish a complete way of life and a sovereign state before he died.  His Companions further expanded this state and built an empire along this complete way of life which saw no separation between the so-called state and religion.  There was no such thing as secular or religious, for what is religious can be “secular” or invalid if applied wrongly, and what is secular is also religious.

But like any other thing that would rise and fall, Islam too met its decline.  Islamic civilization was at the lowest of the low at the time the Western Christian World took off religion from their public life. 

Seeing that the West grew stronger and dominated the world when they stripped off Religion from their public lives and confined it to a private faith and rituals, the fools among the Muslims thought that Religion is the culprit, the cause for their decline.  The Muslims too wanted their lives to be secularized, to separate Islam from their public lives.  The cry for secularism among the Muslims rose to its peak when Kamal Ataturk demolished the Ottoman Dynasty and abolished “Religion” from public appearances. 

In those days, if you talk about Islam being the Deen, the way of life, people will laugh at you and mock you as outdated.  Sharia is the Law of the primitive people, they said.  No progress can be made if we continue to adorn Islam in public life, they argued.

None of their arguments, one may notice, is founded on Divine proofs.   All are based on their rational thinking, that is, whatever their minds deem to be right at that time.  They are not Mu’tazilites but Secularists, but the basis of their argument is the same.  Like the Mu’tazilites a thousand years ago, the Secularists of the modern world are the Rationalists who based their outlooks, and subsequently their practices, not on Divine proofs, but on rational thinking.

But nowadays, it is no longer fashionable to be a secularist.  More and more Islamic nation want to go back to Islam. 

A few days ago, after about one year of successful uprising, the Egyptians elected the member of Muslim Brotherhood to be their new President. A few years back, the Palestinians elected a member of Hamas for their Prime Minister. Before the United States invaded Afghanistan a decade ago, the country was run by an Islamist Taliban. Even the hardcore secular nation like Turkey has been gradually controlled by those inclined to Islam. And yes, the Shia majority nation of Iran has been an Islamic State for more than three decades already.

There have been various issues and problems with the return of the Religion in public affairs. Sudan has yet to rise to its Islamic promise when the country was taken over by the Islamists. The short reign of Taliban in Afghanistan did not bring much awaited expectations. But Turkey has really been making good progress with their modern and moderate Islamic approach, given that it had been totally secularized by Kamal Ataturk. And yes, the Shiite Islamic State of Iran is still standing strong after more than 30 years, in spite of strong opposition from various countries to bring her down.

The rationalistic ideology of secularism, like its distant ancestors such as Mu’tazilah and Qadariah, is currently dying.  Rational thinking has its place in Islam.  It is among the most important thing that mankind is endowed with, which separate them and make mankind superior against other creatures.  But rational thinking should be subservient to Divine Proof, not the other way around.

From time to time, the groups who rely more on their rational thinking rather than the Divine Proof would come and go, but the orthodox way of the Sunnah would remain.

Shias too, in large measure, employ rational thinking above Divine Proof.  The unorthodox way of the Shia, interestingly, also remains.  Shia and Shiism refuse to go away in spite of the fact that rational thinking takes precedent over Sunnah.

There is something interesting about them.  We shall cover it in the concluding remarks about Shia and Shiism series.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Simplified Creed of Shiism

We have seen how Shia and Shiism come into the picture.  We have also seen that, although all of them are known as Shias, they are not the same.

To understand what they are, and how they are different from the masses, known as Ahl al Sunnah or simply the Sunnis, I have developed a simplified model as below.  This model, it has to be mentioned, is applicable mostly to the Shia Imamiyah.  Shia Ismailiyah’s creed is more complex while Shia Zaydiyah is simpler.

Since Shia Imamiyah is the largest sect, and it is to them that we refer when we mention Shia nowadays, this simplified model would suffice for us to understand the ideology (or theology) of Shiism.

As the above model shows, Shia’s central creed rests on what they call Imamate.  Imam means leader.  One who leads the prayer is called Imam.  In Shia’s creed, however, it means the appointed successor to the Prophet.  Imamate is therefore the series of Imams who are supposed to occupy the Seat of Caliphate as the religious (spiritual) as well as secular (temporal) leaders of the Ummah.  The Shias hold this Imamate to be divinely ordained, except for Shia Zaydiyah, who hold it as a matter of preference.

Here, one should note that the word Imams is reserved to those Ahl al Bayt who make up the line of their Imamate: five for Zaydiyah, seven for Ismailiyah and twelve for Imamiyah.  It is in this specialized sense that we are using here.

In their line of Imamate, Ali is the first Imam, and hence should be the first caliph.  Ali, however, was not chosen as the first Caliph, nor the second or the third, but the fourth.  Since Abu Bakar, Umar and Uthman were successively appointed as the caliphs by the Companions (or approved and accepted by them), this has caused the Shias to reject the Companions.  With the exception of Shia Zaydiyah, they consider these first three caliphs to be the usurpers. 

As we know, our Prophet is unlettered.  He did not write his own autobiography about his life or his sayings.   Thus, everything that we know about the Prophet comes from people close to him, namely his Companions or spouses.  Since the Shias reject the majority of these Companions and the Prophet’s wives, whatever is narrated by them, except those narrations that meet their fancy, is therefore rejected. 

In this connection, as the above model shows, we can see that since they reject the companions (cause), it has resulted in them rejecting the body of Sunnah or Ahaadith (effect). 

This rejection of the Companions, and subsequently the Prophetic Sunnah brought down by them, has led to schism or great division between the Ummah.  The majority of the Ummah who have accepted the Companions and the Prophetic Sunnah brought by them are called the Sunnis.  While those who have rejected these companions and the Prophetic Sunnah brought by them are known as Shias (other sects such as Mu’tazilah, Qadariyah, etc., are excluded in this simplified model).

This schism has led to perpetual polemic that is continued until these very days.  It has also led to occasional bloodshed between the two parties, as shown in the model above.

In the like manner, since they reject the Companions, the Shias develop their own interpretation of the Quran to suit their fancies.  The Imamiyah interpretation tends to be rationalistic and extrapolative, while Ismaliyah tends to be esoteric and mystical. Some even claim to have a different Quran, although the majority of them believe in the same Quran as the Sunnis.

In the same vein, we know that the Quran only provides general guidelines especially on matters relating to worshipping rituals (ibadah).  These details are known only through the Sunnah.  Since the Shias have rejected the Prophetic Sunnah as brought down by the Companions, they therefore have to develop their own set of Ahaadith.  The most important one of these is called Al Kafi, which is the Shia equivalent to our collections of authentic Ahaadith such as Imam Malik’s Al-Muwatta’ and the Six Canonical collections (Six Canonical is referred to the Ahaadith collections by Bukhari, Muslim, Ibnu Majah, Abu Dawood, Tirmidzi and Nasa’i).

As a result of their extrapolative Quranic interpretation and innovative formulation of Ahaadith, these have led to differences in Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh).  The majority of the core rituals such as prayer and fasting remain the same, with some differences in the details, but they also develop a few innovative rituals such as the pilgrimage to the Shrine in Karbala and the celebration of Ashura, which have no place among the Sunnis.

Their innovative approaches with regard to Quranic interpretation as well as having their own corpus of Ahaadith, which they attribute to their Imams, have led to many innovative rituals and beliefs, as shown in the model above.

Furthermore, the difference in their approach on this matter has also resulted in some fundamental differences in the jurisprudential rulings (Sharia).  For instance, Nikah Mut’ah (temporary marriage) is declared unlawful by all Sunnis, but lawful to them.  This is because they have rejected the hadith concerning the declaration of its unlawfulness by the Prophet at the Battle of Khaybar.  Instead, they attribute the ruling only to the decision made by Umar when he was the Caliph. 

Since they have rejected the above mentioned hadith, reportedly made by the Prophet at Khaybar and related by Ali himself (among others), and since they have rejected Umar and considered him to have apostatized after the death of the Prophet, and since they do not consider the Consensus (Ijma) among the Companions to be binding, having rejected them as well, what is declared unlawful by the Sunnis is therefore held as lawful to them.

At this point, it may be asked: where do they get all these ideas about Imamate? 

They claim that this Imamate is Divinely Ordained by Allah Himself.  They quote Quranic verse 5:55 to support their claim.  The verse reads:  Your ally (wali) is none but Allah and His Messenger and those who have believed - those who establish prayer and give zakah, and they bow [in worship].

Their leading commentators such as At-Toosi and At-Tubrusi equate the word Wali (ally, protector) in the above verse to be the Imamate of Ali, and declare this verse to be the strongest evidence for the support of Imamate. 

Another evidence they bring to prove the validity of Imamate is the verse known as the Verse of Mubaahalah (Quran 3:61) which reads:  Then whoever argues with you about it after [this] knowledge has come to you - say, "Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then supplicate earnestly [together] and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars [among us]."

How they arrive to the strange conclusion of Imamate from these two verses is a long story that we shall reserve for other installment, insyaAllah.

As for the Prophetic Signals, they base their arguments on a few authentic traditions or events such as Ghadeer Khumm and the appointment of Ali to be in charge of Madinah during the Battle of Tabook, and a few fabricated traditions such as the Hadith of the Bird, The Hadith of the House, and the Hadith “I am the city of knowledge, and Ali is its gate…”

We shall likewise reserve these Prophetic Signals for other installment, insyaAllah, but if you like to wet your beak, here is the interesting Shia site on Ghadeer Khumm, and the equally interesting rebuttal by the Sunni.

The Shias further amplify their claim on the Sacred Bloodline of the Prophet, giving prominence and superiority of Ali and his descendants above all others, and hide under the Love of Ahl al Bayt.  Together with Divine Appointment and Prophetic Signal, these make up the sources for their claim on Imamate, as the model above shows.

To strengthen their belief on Imamate, they develop the reinforcing doctrines of the Infallibility of Imams and Taqiyyah.  They declare that, like the Prophets, the Imams too are infallible, incapable of committing mistakes, sins or errors.   Because of these infallibility, whatever the Imams say must be true and acting upon these sayings are obligatory.  Capitalizing on this infallible doctrine, they concoct lies and attribute these lies to the Imams.

But the Imams whose lies they attribute are the descendants of the Prophet.  They are pious and honorable people.  For that reason, these Imams, who are the descendants of the Prophet, always denied these strange things attributed to them while they were still alive.  The Rafidi Shias, however, have a convenience doctrine at their disposal, namely the Taqiyyah, to counter the contradictions due to these denials. 

Taqiyyah means deliberate denial or deliberate lying.  The purpose is to avoid persecution.  This is one of their pillars of faith, and exercising Taqiyyah is considered an act of worship (ibadat).  Thus, when these Imams deny saying those things attributed to them, the Rafidi Shias say that these Imams are exercising Taqiyyah.  In other word, when the Imams make the denials, they are in fact deliberately lying to conceal the truth so as to avoid persecution.   Hence, whatever they deny is therefore the truth.

These reinforcing doctrines of Imams’ Infallibility and Taqiyyah further strengthen their claim on the Imamate Creed, as shown in the model above.

The net effect of the Imamate Creed, as shown in the model above, is that it has created an elite class of clergy and shaykh.  These are the religious positions enjoyed by the leading elite in their sect.  This special elite is necessary due to the complexities of their doctrines, whereby one evidence often cancels the other.  This special class is also required because of the need to extrapolate just about everything (the Arabic term is ta’wil, namely creating a meaning which is different from the apparent).  Their situation is pretty much like the Christians who need the special class of priest because Christianity Creed is extremely complex.

That, in its most complete but simplified form, is what Shiism is all about.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Among The Shias

When I want to relax, I watch movies.  Since I just want to relax, my favorite movies tend to be the senseless ones, especially starred by Clint Eastwood.  I especially like Clint Eastwood because he is the type who would shoot first, asks later.

One of Clint Eastwood’s movies that I like is “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.”  If you're used to watch this movie, then you would probably agree that this is quite a senseless movie.  But I like it because the movie is full of intrigues, betrayals and violence. 

In many ways, the history of Shia and Shiism is pretty much like this movie.  It is full of intrigues, betrayals and violence.  Furthermore, some of the ideas being promoted are quite senseless.   Like the title of this movie, one would see that among the Shias, there are The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Let’s see which one is which.

There are many variations among the Shias, but we can simply categorize them into three main categories:  Zaydiyah, Imamiyah and Ismailiyah.  

Shia Zaydiyah gets their name from Zayd bin Ali Zaynal Abidin, the grandson of Al-Husayn.  As Zayd is considered as their fifth and last Imam, this Shia sect is also known as the Fivers.  Shia Imamiyah is the term given to those who believe in the twelve rightful Imams.  For that reason, they are also known as the Twelvers.  Shia Ismailiyah is also known as the Seveners, because their last Imam, Ismail bin Jaafar Sadiq, was the seventh.

All Shia groups, including these three which have survived until our times, formulate the concept of Imamate as their central doctrine.  Imamate is the concept of rightful Imams or successors to the Prophet.  In other words, they believe that after the death of the Prophets, the Muslim Ummah should be ruled by these respective Imams. 

These three groups agree on the first four Imams, but after that they diverge.  The first four are Ali bin Abu Talib, Al-Hassan and Al-Husayn (both the sons of Ali), and Ali Zaynal Abidin, the son of Al-Husayn. 

Although all of them are known as Shias, they are quite a pole apart in their outlooks.

Zaydiyah is the closest to the Sunnis in every aspect.  They differ only with the Sunnis in the matter of leadership.  While the Sunnis believe that any pious, knowledgeable and capable Muslim can be the leader or the caliph, the Shia Zaydiyah believe that he has to come from Ahl al Bayt (The Household of the Prophet), especially from the House of Ali.  They, however, do not revile the caliphs who came before Ali, such as Abu Bakar, Umar and Uthman.  They do not even consider these three caliphs as usurpers, but instead hold them in highest regard.

As we have seen in the last entry, Zayd had led the revolt against the House of Umayyah.  Many of his followers, however, were either cowards or extremists.  The cowards left him and joined the House of Umayyah.   The extremists, on the other hand, had demanded him to renounce and curse the companions whom they claimed had denied Ali from his Imamate, especially Abu Bakar and Umar.

Zayd, however, had refused to curse the Two Chiefs (Abu Bakar and Umar) as well as other companions, because he held all of them in high regard.   They betrayed and rejected him for his refusal.  In return, he called them Rafidis, or the Rejecters.   Zayd called them Rafidis not so much because they had rejected him, but because they had rejected the majority of the Companions.

It should also be mentioned that the revolt led by Zayd was supported by many leading personalities at that time, including the celebrated Abu Hanifah, the founder of Hanafi’s School of Thought (Mazhab).  Abu Hanifah was jailed for that support.  

After Zayd was killed in 740 CE, his followers, known as the Shias, continued their opposition until the House of Umayyah was finally toppled in 750 CE.  The seat of power, however, was snatched by their cousins from the House of Abbas (Abbasiyah).   They continued the struggle and often gained sympathy and support from the leading personalities of those times, including As-Shafie, the founder of Shafie’s Mazhab and the first to develop the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul Fiqh).   

Many other scholars in those days also had a Shi’ite tendency, supporting the struggle of the Shias and giving prominent to Ali as compared to other companions.  Many of their views have reached us, giving the impression that the Shias are the good guys. 

The fact of the matter is that these Shias were the good guys.  They had the tendency to uphold justice and fight against tyranny.  While others in their days went with the motto that the leader has the right to be obeyed, even if he is a tyrant, these Shias considered a tyrannical leader is to be opposed and ousted. 

In other aspects, they were pretty much like the Sunnis.  They essentially believe in what the Sunnis believe, and adopt the Sunni’s School of Thoughts for their Sharia (Islamic Law), although most of them nowadays belong to Hanafi’s Mazhab.  Due to their similarity with the Sunnis, they constitute only the small minority among those we call Shias, numbering perhaps not more than five percent of the total Shias.  They are not even considered as Shias by the majority of the Shias, but a branch of Sunni.

For the reasons enumerated above, the Zaydiyah are considered as the acceptable Shias.  They are The Good.

Those who had rejected Zayd and the majority of the Companions, the Rafidis, as we have narrated, went looking for other descendants of Ali to be their Imams.  Since they carried with them the concept of Imamate, and since the Imam can only come from the House of Ali, many Rafidi groups were then created, based on which descendants of Ali they chose as their Imams.  The most important and the lasting ones are the Twelvers and the Seveners, or Imamiyah and Ismailiyah, respectively.

It should be mentioned that Zayd and those who had supported him simply said that the Imamate or Caliphate should be from the House of Ali, but they did not denounce the Rightly Guided Caliphs, nor the Companions.  The Rafidis, however, had gone to the extreme.

The Imamiyah, or the Twelvers, claimed that the Imams were divinely appointed by God, as told in the Quran, according to their warp interpretation.  They claimed that the names of these Imams had been communicated by the Prophet to Ali privately.  This succession of Imamate, starting from Ali to the Twelfth Imam, had occurred continuously, one after another.

It may be pointed out that their Twelfth Imam, Muhammad Al-Mahdi, the son of Hassan Al-Askari, had died young; or according to them, Al-Mahdi had disappeared.  Because he died or disappeared during his youth, he had no progeny, being unmarried while he was alive.  From this, we can see why the number of their Imams had to be twelve.  If Muhammad Al-Mahdi had left a son, the number of their Imams would have been more.

Since Al-Mahdi had died young, these Rafidis had to develop the theory of his disappearance.  They said he did not die, but lived in occultation (ghayb), pretty much like Jesus Christ.  He would come back and rule the world as the much awaited Imam Mahdi.  In the meantime, in his occultation, he deputized the Imamate to whoever was leading the group at that moment in time (including our time, since he does not yet appear).

Furthermore, since they rejected the majority of the Companions, they likewise had to reject most of the ahadith (Prophetic Traditions) that came to us.  This is only logical, because those ahadith came to us through the Companions.  Since the details of Sharia came from ahadith or the Sunnah of the Prophet, they had to make one to replace what they had rejected.  Thus they concocted a list of ahadith and attributed these to the Imams of their choice especially Imam Jaafar Sadiq.  Imam Jaafar Sadiq was the son of Muhammad Al-Baqir.  He was the great grandson of Al-Husayn as well as the nephew of Zayd bin Zaynal Abidin, the founder of Shia Zaydiyah.

Thus, while Zaydiyah can hardly be distinguished from the Sunnis, the Imamiyah tend to have their own somewhat distinct feature.  While outwardly they still retain most of Islamic beliefs and rituals, the Imamiyah mix these with their own peculiar set of beliefs and rituals, which make them problematic.   

All in all, they are The Bad.

Another group of Shia that lasted until our time is the Ismailiyah.  This group gets their name from Ismail, the son of Jaafar Sadiq.  They are noted for their peculiar belief in Ali’s divinity, esoteric interpretation of the Quran, and the mystical outlook on just about everything.  They branched off into many sects and denominations, among the prominent ones that lasted until our times are the Alawid, the Druze and the Nizari. 

Their beliefs are mystical and strange.  It is difficult to consider them Muslims at all.  For instance, their belief in Ali’s Divinity is pretty much the way the Christians believe about Jesus.  Most of them also believe in reincarnation like the Hindus.  They also have traces of Zoroaster’s beliefs, in addition to the mythical Greek or European belief in demigod.  In general, their ideas are so heretical that they would probably not constitute much of a threat to the Muslims at large, except to those with heretical leaning.

In short, they are The Ugly.

To recap, we have among the Shias those who are acceptable, problematic and heretical.  Borrowing the Clint Eastwood’s movie, there are The Good, The Bad and The Ugly among them.

Shia Zaydiyah are largely acceptable; they are The Good.  Shia Imamiyah are more problematic; they are The Bad.  Shia Ismailiyah meanwhile border on heresy; they are the Ugly.

Nowadays, when we talk about Shia and Shiism, we generally refer to Imamiyah, for they constitute the majority, about 80 percent or more of them.  Ismailiyah come a far second while Zaydiyah constitute only a tiny minority. 

In the beginning, the Zaydiyah actually constituted the majority among the Shias.  It is not difficult to see why they are the tiny minority now.  Being largely indistinguishable from the majority of the Ummah who followed the Sunnah of the Prophet and his Companions, most of them returned to the fold of Ahl al Sunnah (Sunnis).  Some of them were forced to follow the Imamiyah while the few who still feel nostalgic about the right of Ali and his descendants continue to remain as Shias.

Being the dominant group, and due to their missionary nature, the threat of Shiism largely comes from Shia Imamiyah.  They make it their habit to actively propagate their ideas to unsuspecting but ignorant Muslims all over the world.  For that reason, there is a need to know who and what their teachings are.  Without knowing who they are and what are their teachings, one could fall into their propaganda, as many already do.

In the next few installments, I shall try to highlight some of their teachings, insyaAllah.

Stay tuned.