Zaydis (also: Zaidi, Zaiddiyah, Zaydite or in the West Fivers) are the most moderate of the Shi’ite groups and the nearest to the Sunnis in their theology. They say that they are a "fifth school" of Islam (in addition to the four Sunni orthodox schools). This Shi’ite sect is named after Zayd b. Ali, grandson of Husayn. The Zaydi sect was formed by the followers of Zayd b. Ali, who led an unsuccessful rebellion against the Umayyad caliph Hisham in 740.

Historically according to Zaydi political theory, Ali, Hasan and Husayn are the first three rightful Imams; after them, the imamate is open to whomever of their descendants establishes himself through armed rebellion. Shi’ite regard Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin as the fourth imam. While most Shi’ites take Muhammed Al-Baqir to be the next Imam, Zaydis take Al-Baqir's brother Zayd as imam.

These Zaidis believe in twelve Imams and are part of the Shia Ithna Asharia. Most of them settled in India and Pakistan. The biggest group of Zaidis believing in twelve Shi’ite Imams is known as Saadat-e-Bara. Saadat means descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and Bara means twelve in Hindi and Urdu. Saadat-e-Bara's numbers are highest in Karachi (Pakistan) and Muzaffarnagar (India).

Yemen is a country with deep Muslim traditions, but is often most mentioned for its relatively large Zaydi Shi'i group, even if this represents a minority in the country as a total. In Yemen, a Zaydi state was established in 893 by a Hasanid who had originally been invited to mediate between quarrelling Yemeni tribes. A succession of occupations by foreign dynasties beginning in the tenth century occasionally forced the Zaydi imamate to retreat northwards; however, the imamate survived until the death of its last imam in 1962.

Yemen's north is the centre of Zaydism. The Zaydi order of Shi'ite Islam represents approximately 25 percent t of the total population. Zaydism is known for putting less importance on the position of the Imam, than among the Twelver (Iran), perhaps because the Zaydis have enjoyed far more political and religious freedom than the other. 

In the rugged mountains of northern Yemen live some four hundred Zaydi tribes with a total of some five million members. For over one thousand years they have been the dominant community in the Yemen, often fighting against the Sunni Shafi'i tribes and the smaller Isma'ili and Twelver Shi'a communities.

Zaidi beliefs are moderate compared to other Shia sects. The Zaidis do not believe in the infallibility of the Imams, nor that they receive divine guidance. Zaidis also do not believe that the Imamate must pass from father to son, but believe it can be held by any descendant of Ali. They also reject the Twelver notion of a hidden Imam, and like the Ismailis believe in a living imam, or even imams.

In matters of law or fiqh, the Zaidis are actually closest to the Sunni Shafie school.



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