As for [the Shi'a sects that are loosely referred to as] the Rafida, they fall into three major categories, namely the Ghaliya, the Zaidiyya, and the Rafida [properly so called].
As far as the Ghaliya [Extremists] are concerned, twelve subsects have divided off from them, namely the Bannaniyya, the Tayyariyya, the Mansuriyya, the Mughiriyya, the Khattabiyya, the Mu'ammariyya, the Bazi'iyya, the Mufaddaliyya, the Mutanasikha, the Shurai'iyya, the Saba'iyya and the Mufawwadiyya.
In the case of the Zaidiyya, six offshoots have branched out, namely the Jarudiyya, the Sulaimaniyya, the Batariyya, the Na'imiyya, the Ya'qubiyya, and a sixth group, which does not reject the notion of the raj'a [the return of 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) to the life of this world]. They all wash their hands of Abu Bakr and 'Umar (may Allah be well pleased with them both).
As for the Rafida [properly so called], they have split up into no fewer than fourteen subsects, namely the Qat'iyya, the Kaisaniyya, the Kuraibiyya, the 'Umairiyya, the Muhammadiyya, the Husainiyya, the Nawusiyya, the Isma'iliyya, the Qaramidiyya, the Mubarakiyya, the Shumaitiyya, the 'Ammariyya, the Matmuriyya, the Musawiyya and the Imamiyya.
If there is one thing upon which all the various factions and sectarian groups of the Rafida are united in common agreement, it is the affirmation of the validity of the institution of the Imamate, both on rational grounds and also because they believe the Imamate to be a divinely prescribed article of faith [nass]. They are also in agreement on the doctrine according to which the Imams are immune [ma'sumun] from such unfortunate shortcomings as falling into error, behaving absent-mindedly, and making mistakes.
This accounts for their refusal to recognize the appointment to the Imamate of one whom they consider less qualified than their own candidate for the office, as well as their rejection of the elective procedure [ikhtiyar], which we have mentioned in previous discussion of the subject of the Imams.
It also accounts for their according precedence to 'Ali over all the rest of the Companions, their insistence on his right to the Imamate after the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and their refusal to accept the leadership of Abu Bakr and 'Umar, or of any others from among the Companions. (This applies to all but a small group of them, apart from what has been reported concerning the Zaidiyya, for they were in disagreement with the majority on this point).
This has yet further relevance, in that it explains the reason for their accusation that the entire Muslim community [umma] became guilty of apostasy [irtaddat] because of their failure to support the Imamate of 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him), with the exception of only six individuals, namely 'Ali, 'Ammar, Miqdad ibn al-Aswad, Salman al-Farisi, and two other men.
Other noteworthy doctrines of the Rafida are the following:
1. That it is permissible for the Imam to say: "I am not an Imam," in a situation where he finds himself under duress or threat of injury [fi hal at-taqiyya].
2. That Allah does not know what is to be before it comes into being.
3. That the dead will return to this lower world before the Day of Reckoning [Yawm al-Hisab]. (This particular belief is not shared by the Extremists [Ghaliya] amongst them, however, since they maintain that there will be no Reckoning and no Resurrection.)
4. That the Imam knows everything that has been and everything that is yet to be, in matters of both worldly and religious concern, down to the number of all the pebbles, all the drops of rain, and all the leaves on the trees.
5. That the Imams are personally capable of producing miracles [mu'jizat], just like the Prophets [anbiya'] (peace be upon them).
6. According to the doctrine professed by the majority of the Rafida, anyone who wages war against 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) must be a disbeliever [kafir] in Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). Other doctrines of theirs have been mentioned elsewhere.
Let us now consider the teachings peculiar to each of the subsects:
1. The Ghaliya [Extremists]. They make the claim that 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) is the most excellent of the Prophets (may the blessings of Allah be upon them all). They also claim that he does not lie buried in the earth like all the rest of the Companions (may Allah be well pleased with them), but that he is up there in the clouds, fighting His enemies (Exalted is He) above the clouds, and that he (may Allah ennoble his countenance) will return at the end of the age, to rid the earth of his haters and foes. They claim that 'Ali and the rest of the Imams have never died. They insist that they will continue to survive until the Final Hour is at hand, and that death has no way of gaining access to them.
They also claim that 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) is a Prophet [nabi], and that Gabriel (peace be upon him) made a mistake in failing to deliver the Divinely inspired revelation [wahy] to him. They have gone so far as to claim that 'Ali was a god [ilah].
May they be subjected to the curse of Allah, of His angels, and of all the rest of His creatures, until the Day of Judgment! May He eradicate all trace of them. May He destroy them root and branch. May He leave them no place on earth in which to dwell, because they have gone far beyond all acceptable bounds in their wildly heretical extravagance.
They have carried their rebellion to the point of unbelief [kufr]. They have abandoned Islam and parted company with faith [iman]. They have repudiated God [al-Ilah], the Messengers [Rusul], and the revelation of scripture [tanzil]. We must therefore take refuge with Allah from all those who subscribe to this doctrine.
(a) The Bannaniyya, an offshoot of the Ghaliya. Their name and origin can be traced to Bannan ibn Sam'an. Their fabrications and futile notions include the doctrine that Allah (Exalted is He) is shaped in the form of a human being. They have propagated lies about Allah. Exalted is Allah, far above and beyond everything of this kind! As He has said (Almighty and Glorious is He):
There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (42:11)
(b) The Tayyariyya, another offshoot of the Ghaliya, are related historically to 'Abdu'llah ibn Mu'awiya ibn 'Abdi'llah ibn Ja'far at-Tayyar. They teach the doctrine of the transmigration of souls [tanasukh], and maintain that the spirit [ruh] of Adam (peace be upon him) is the spirit of Allah, which entered him by way of metempsychosis.
The most extreme of all the Ghaliya are those who teach the doctrine of the transmigration of souls. They maintain that when the spirit is transported back to these earthly realms, after it has left this world because of death, the first stage of its transmigration is into a camel. Then it is transferred into the physical form of the next inferior creature, and so on down the scale, stage by stage, until it takes on the form of the worms and maggots that thrive in human excrement, and of creatures similar to these, at which point it has reached the end of the process of transmigration. Some of them go so far as to maintain that the spirits of disobedient sinners are transformed by metempsychosis into iron, mud and potter's clay, and are then tormented by exposure to the fire and the processes of baking, hammering and smelting, and by the undignified and humiliating handling and treatment they must undergo, as a punishment for the sins they have committed.
(c) The Mughiriyya trace their name origin to Mughira ibn Sa'd, who laid claim to Prophethood [nubuwwa]. He maintained that Allah is a light in the shape of a man. Among other things, he claimed the ability to bring the dead to life.
(d) The Mansuriyya take their name from their founder, Abu Mansur. He used to assert that he had ascended to heaven, and that the Lord had anointed his head. He maintained that Jesus (peace be upon him) was the first to be created by Allah, then 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him). He also taught that the Messengers of Allah will never cease [to arrive in succession], and that there is no Garden of Paradise and no Fire of Hell.
This faction [ta'ifa] maintains that if someone kills forty souls from among those who differ with them, that person will surely enter the Garden of Paradise. They consider it lawful to confiscate the property of other people. They maintain that Gabriel (peace be upon him) made a mistake in delivering the Message [to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)]. This amounts, of course, to unadulterated unbelief [kufr].
(e) The Khattabiyya trace their origin to Abu'l-Khattab. They maintain that the Imams are Trustee-Prophets [anbiya' umana'], and that in every period of time there is a Messenger who speaks out and one who remains silent [rasul natiq wa samit]. Thus [according to their doctrine] Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is a vocal Messenger, while 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) is a silent one.
(f) The Mu'ammariyya profess the same doctrine as the Khattabiyya. What sets them apart from the latter is their excessive neglect of the ritual prayer [salat].
(g) The Bazi'iyya take their name from their founder, a man called Bazi'. They maintain that Ja'far is Allah; although He cannot be seen, He nevertheless assumes this outer form. May they be doomed to perdition! They also claim that the Divine inspiration [wahy] will come to them and they will be raised up to the Kingdom of Heaven [Malakut]. May they be doomed to perdition! How monstrous are their fabrications, their lies and their falsehoods! In actual fact, they will descend to the lowest of the low [asfal as-safilin], into the pit [hawiya] and down to the lowest depth of the Fire of Hell, because of their evil doctrine and their false assertion.
(h) The Mufaddaliyya are historically related to al-Mufaddal as-Sairafi. They arrogate to themselves both the Messengership [risala] and Prophethood [nubuwwa]. On the subject of the Imams, their doctrine is similar to that of the Christians concerning the Messiah [Masih].
(i) As for the Shurai'iyya, their name and origin can be traced to a man called Shurai'. They maintain that Allah (Exalted is He) is incarnate in five persons-the Prophet and his family; that is to say, in the Prophet and [four members of] his family, these being al-'Abbas, 'Ali, Ja'far and 'Aqil.
(j) As for the Saba'iyya, their name and origin can be traced to a man called 'Abdu'llah ibn Saba'. Their doctrines include the claim that 'Ali did not die, and that he will return to this world prior to the Day of Resurrection. One of their number is as-Sayyid al-Humairi.
(k) The Mufawwadiyya [Delegationists] take their name from the fact that, according to their doctrine, Allah has delegated [fawwada] the management of the creation to the Imams, and that Allah (Exalted is He) actually endowed the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) with the power to create and manage the universe, while Allah Himself played no part at all in this creation. They make the same claim on behalf of 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him). There are some among them who, when they catch sight of a cloud in the sky, will greet it with the Islamic salutation [sallama 'alaih], thereby expressing their conviction that 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) is up there inside it, as we have explained in a previous account of this belief.
2. The Zaidiyya. They have come to be so called simply on account of their inclination to accept the pronouncement of Zaid ibn 'Ali concerning the legitimacy of the rule of Abu Bakr and 'Umar (may Allah be well pleased with them both).
(a) As for the Jarudiyya, their name and origin can be traced to a man called Abu'l-Jarud. They maintained that 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) was the legatee [wasi] of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and therefore the rightful Imam. They did say, however, that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had designated 'Ali by giving a description of his character, not by mentioning his name.
They regard the Imamate as having passed to al-Husain [after his father 'Ali], and then as being a matter of consultation [shura] among themselves, for the purpose of choosing a candidate from those of their own persuasion.
(b) The Sulaimaniyya are historically related to Sulaiman ibn Kathir. According to Zurqan, they maintained that 'Ali (may Allah ennoble his countenance) was the rightful Imam, that the pledge of allegiance [bai'a] to Abu Bakr and 'Umar (may Allah be well pleased with them both) was an error, since neither of them was entitled to take precedence, and that the Muslim community [umma] had departed from the most correct course.
(c) As for the Batariyya, their name and origin can be traced to a man who bore the nickname al-Abtar ["The Man Without Offspring"], although his proper name was an-Nawwa'. They maintained that the pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr and 'Umar (may Allah be well pleased with them both) was not an error, because 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) had voluntarily abdicated the leadership [imara].
They have serious reservations about 'Uthman, and they say: "'Ali is an Imam as soon as allegiance has been pledged to him."
(d) As for the Nu'aimiyya, their name and origin can be traced to Nu'aim ibn al-Yaman. Their doctrines coincide with those of the Batariyya, except for the fact that they completely washed their hands of 'Uthman ibn 'Affan (may Allah be well pleased with him), and accused him of being an unbeliever.
(e) The Ya'qubiyya are prepared to accept the Imamate of Abu Bakr and 'Umar (may Allah be well pleased with them both), although they do profess the belief that 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) should really have taken precedence over them both. They reject the doctrine of ['Ali's eventual] return [raj'a]. Their name and origin can be traced to a man called Ya'qub. There are some among their number who have never accepted Abu Bakr and 'Umar (may Allah be well pleased with them both), and who do profess the doctrine of ['Ali's eventual] return.
3. The Rafida [in the narrower sense of the term]. The fourteen subsects that have branched off from this group are the following:
(a) The Qat'iyya [Positivists]. They came to be called by this name on account of their positive certainty [qat'] concerning the death of [the Imam] Musa ibn Ja'far.
[Because they were so convinced that the latter had in fact died] they regarded the Imamate as having passed on to Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, he being the righteous leader who is expected to reemerge one day from mysterious concealment [al-qa'im al-muntazar].
(b) The Kaisaniyya. Their name and origin can be traced to an individual called Kaisan. They uphold the legitimacy of the Imamate of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, on the grounds that the standard was transferred to him at al-Basra.
(c) The Kuraibiyya. They are the companions of Ibn Kuraib ad-Zarir ["The Blind"].
(d) The 'Umairiyya. They are the companions of 'Umair, he being their Imam until the advent of the Mahdi.
(e) The Muhammadiyya. This group is noted for maintaining that the rightful holder of the Imamate [at a certain stage in the succession] was Muhammad ibn 'Abdi'llah ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Husain, and that he bequeathed his authority by testamentary disposition to Abu Mansur, rather than to a member of the Banu Hashim, in just the same way as Moses (peace be upon him) bequeathed his authority to Joshua, the son of Nun, rather than to his own sons or to the sons of Aaron.
(f) The Husainiyya maintained that Abu Mansur bequeathed his authority by testamentary disposition to his son, al-Hasan ibn Abi Mansur, and that he was therefore the next Imam after his father.
(g) The Nawusiyya. They have acquired this appellation because they can trace their origin to Nawus al-Basri, who is regarded as their chief. They uphold the legitimacy of the Imamate of Ja'far, maintaining that he is still alive and has never died, and that he is biding his time in concealment, since he is the Mahdi.
(h) The Isma'iliyya. They maintain that Ja'far is the one who is dead, and that the Imam after him is Isma'il. They say that the latter is still reigning [in concealment], and that he is the one who is expected to return [as the Mahdi].
(i) The Qaramidiyya. They accept the regular succession to the Imamate as far as Ja'far, but then they maintain that Ja'far specifically designated Muhammad ibn Isma'il as his successor. They believe that Muhammad [ibn Isma'il] did not die, but is still alive, and that he is the Mahdi.
(j) The Mubarakiyya. They trace their name and origin to their chief, al-Mubarak. They maintain that Muhammad ibn Isma'il did in fact die, and that the Imamate was then passed on to his son.
(k) The Shumaitiyya. They are historically related to a chieftain known by the name of Yahya ibn Shumait. They maintained that the rightful Imam was Ja'far, then Muhammad ibn Ja'far, and that the office then passed to his [Muhammad's] son.
(l) The Mu'ammariyya. They are also referred to as the Aftahiyya, because 'Abdu'llah ibn Ja'far was bandy-legged [aftah ar-rijlain]. They maintain that the next Imam after Ja'far is his son 'Abdu'llah. They are a very numerous group.
(m)The Matmuriyya. They came to acquire this name because they once got into an argument with Yunus ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman, he being a member of the Qat'iyya, the group who are positively convinced of the death of Musa ibn Ja'far, and Yunus happened to say to them: "You are more despicable than the dogs that lurk in subterranean storehouses [al-kilab al-matmuriyya]." This nickname has stuck to them ever since.
They are also called the Waqifa [Steadfast Supporters], because of their steadfast devotion to [li-wuqufihim 'ala] Musa ibn Ja'far, and their assertion that he is still alive, that he did not die and will never die, since he is the Mahdi according to their view.
(n) The Musawiyya. They came to be so called because of their hesitant attitude toward Musa ibn Ja'far, and the fact that they said: "We do not know whether he is dead or whether he is still alive." They also said: "If someone else has a legitimate claim to the Imamate, put it into effect!"
(o) The Imamiyya. They accept the regular succession to the Imamate as far as Muhammad ibn al-Husain, whom they regard as the righteous leader who is expected to reemerge one day from mysterious concealment [al-qa'im al-muntazar], in order to fill the earth with justice, as it has been filled with tyrannical oppression.
(p) The Zurariyya. They are the companions of Zurara. They make the same claim [on behalf of 'Abdu'llah ibn Ja'far] as that made by the Mu'ammariyya.
It has been said, however, that Zurara himself abandoned their doctrine, because he once asked 'Abdu'llah ibn Ja'far about certain problems, and he did not know the answers, so Zurara transferred his support to Musa ibn Ja'far.