In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful.
May Allah bless Muhammad and his Family and damn their enemies.
The 73 Sects of the Islamic Nation
It would not be a mistake to refer to ourselves as a sect based solely on the narrations of the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) that revealed the fact that there would be division in the nation of Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him and His Family). Divisions that birth sects. The universally accepted narration by the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him and His Family):
My nation shall be divided into seventy-three sects, all of them in Hell; except one.
Furthermore, Imam Baqir (Peace be upon him) revealed that the Shia, also, will divide into sects:
Thirteen sects claim adherence to us and affection towards us; of these, twelve sects are in Hell and one in Heaven.
Al-Kafi, volume 8, page 224
It’s apparent that the source of this incorrect assumption – that is referred to as a sect is wrong – stems from confusions and misunderstandings concerning certain Islamic concepts. This “mixing-up” of concepts occurs when one attempts to apply Islamic laws arbitrarily, without careful forethought. For instance, despite the Prophet (Peace be upon him and His Family) making it clear that 72 sects are deviant, he still calls them “my nation” i.e, people within the Islamic community. This, in turn, means that He is stating that adherents of these deviant sects are Muslims. This is not the only time the Messenger of Allah (may the blessings of Allah be upon him and his purified progeny) uses the expression, “my nation” to refer to those who shall deviate. E.g., it is narrated on many occasions that he spoke about the tragedy of Karbala and those who will behead his grandson, Imam Hussein (peace be upon him), referring to them as His “nation”, stating that he will never mediate for them in the Hereafter. His nation. Muslims, yet deviant…
Dimensions of Islamic Rulings
Likewise, Imam Baqir’s (peace be upon him) narration concerning divisions among their followers, the Shia, strengthens this further. This implies that Allah, the Highest, has decreed that those following these deviant paths are Muslims in the worldly life, but disbelievers in the Hereafter; hence, the consequence of their deviations being eternal torment. This is known in Islamic jurisprudence as apparent rulings concerning our existence within this worldly life, versus the realistic ruling that takes effect in the Hereafter. There are many deviant Shia sects, all claiming to be adherents of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them). That includes the deviant Batris. While these sects are not true adherents, they are still Shia in principle. To clarify further, Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him), referred to one of the deviant Shia sects as the “Thamud of Shia”. Thamud – who are mentioned in the Quran – were disbelievers, yet the Imam (peace be upon him) attributes a name associated with disbelief (that is the people of Thamud) with that which is associated with belief (that is Shiism). This begs the question: If we truly cannot use the expression “a sect within Shia Islam” because it legitimizes sects, and somehow accepts that there are various sects within the Shia faith, then did the Imam (peace be upon him) do that too – Allah forbid – when He spoke of a deviant sect of Shias in such a manner, calling them the “Thamud of Shia”? Indeed, the Imam (peace be upon him) is decreeing that while they are apparently Shia in this world, they are not truly so in reality, and are akin to the disbelievers claiming to be followers.
Why not just use ‘Muslim’?
One must ask: “Why does the term ‘Shia’ exist in the first place? Why not simply ‘Muslim’? Is the faith not called Islam? Why have the Infallibles (peace be upon them) referred to their followers as ‘Shia’, and ‘Rafida’?”
The answer to these questions can be found in the narrations of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them):
If the people have become distinguishable, you, too, must become distinguishable.
The Infallibles (peace be upon them) are signifying something important here: That their followers are not part of the masses that claim adherence to Islam. They are unique and different; a sect. The Shia have always been seen as such. When one takes these matters into account, and also the narration that reveals that even those who claim adherence to Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) are plagued with division, it becomes clear that we must become distinguishable in a time where many call themselves Shia. After all, it was the Infallibles (peace be upon them) themselves that referred to their true adherents as ‘Rafida’. It is a sacred name and a title given to those who are most faithful and on the truest of all paths. It is not an invented or innovated one.
Some might object saying:
We are theologically similar to other Shias.
That is incorrect. The Batri sect, for example, does not believe in or follow the doctrinal principle of Dissociation from the enemies of Allah. They do not simply reject the practical juridical branches of the religious duty of carrying out dissociation. Yet the Batri faith is still a Shia sect. If we were to exclude them from the Shia faith for the reason of not being true adherents, then we must also revoke the Muslim title from them. So we must also do with anyone else who claims adherence to Islam, but who is not a true adherent, in terms of doctrinal beliefs, were we to be fair and had the same standards throughout. However, the narrations we have mentioned make it clear that as denounced as these sects may be, they are still within the apparent fold of Islam as far as the ruling of the worldly life is concerned.
Unfortunately, we are forced to call ourselves a sect, but that is a reality that we cannot change. Social reality has forced itself upon the believers, forcing them to distinguish themselves from the masses; those claiming to follow the same faith as they, in a society plagued by so many divisions and contradictions. We are not legitimizing other sects in Islam when we call ourselves a ‘sect’, nor are we claiming that Islam is a universal concept that accepts all sorts of ideologies. Divisions in Islam stemmed from the failure of Muslims to obey the directives of Allah, His Messenger and His Purified Progeny. Humanity’s disastrous failure to adhere to Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) is what created this reality. Allah has granted us free will in this worldly life to make our choices. Our choices, however, have their consequences. Such was the consequence of disobeying the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him and his Family); to be divided so much that we are forced to distinguish ourselves from others, rather than be simply known as purely Muslims.
Indeed, religion in the sight of Allah is Islam…
after all. The Infallibles (peace be upon them) themselves have distinguished the followers by calling them Shia, as well as Rafida in a society that made many empty claims to adhere to Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them). The truth remains that a true Rafidi is a true Shia, and a true Shia is a true Muslim.
Follow up questions:
1. Is it correct that the ‘Rafidi Sect’ has nothing to do with the ‘Rafidi Methodology, but only to do with doctrinal beliefs?
One could belong to the Rafidi doctrine, but not to the Rafidi methodology and in this case, still belong to the Rafidi sect. As an example, what we refer to as ‘2nd World Category Shias’ are Rafida who have the correct doctrinal beliefs, but not necessarily the correct methodology, but yet belong to the Rafidi sect. That being said, it is important to be able to distinguish the difference between the Rafidi methodology and Rafidi doctrine when approaching this subject and to understand the implications that follow. An individual might have the correct doctrinal beliefs, but maybe lacking in terms of ‘approach’, such as being a person from the ‘2nd World Category Shias’. Therefore, they may belong to the ‘sect’, but not to the Rafida ‘community’. By ‘community’ we mean those Rafida who accomplish both the correct doctrine and methodology when carrying out their religious duties.
How one carries out their religious duty, is what sets apart the ‘sect’ from the ‘community’. As explained previously, not having the correct approach or methodology, does not mean you are not a Rafidi. Having the correct Rafidi doctrine, but not having the right approach of carrying out one’s religious duties, is akin to having knowledge but not acting upon it, and hence one does not conduct themselves as a true Rafidi should in this manner.
2. Will labelling ourselves as ‘Rafidi Sect’ make the general Shia masses, who are upon the right doctrine, assume that we are making a sect for ourselves in relation to the methodology we practice? Are we saying that only we who follow this methodology are the saved sect? Will this lead people to be more isolated and far from us, making it harder to call people towards our methodology?
We explained that due to pressing circumstances, we saw no other means of being able to distinguish ourselves from others, but to carry the title of the ‘Rafidi Sect’. It is a necessity, not an option. If the general Shias – those who are upon the right doctrine – feel shunned away, rejected or excluded from the faith because they do not share our methodology, then both sides need to endeavour to clarify that our differences, no matter how significant in approach, are not so major as to polarize the Rafidi community in such a way.
The only way to avoid misconceptions such as these is through intellectual discussions. However, it is necessary to clarify that even if this was the case – i.e. that such misconceptions are distancing many from our methodology – then it would be a small price to pay compared to the alternative, which is irreparable damage to the faith itself. The latter cannot be considered. It is necessary to be able to distinguish ourselves from the masses in these very critical times. Submission to adversities is not an option.
3. Does initiating the use of a term in the meaning of a name of a sect, something that requires a Grand Authority, or permission from one?
This is untrue. The duty of the authority is to direct and guide the followers in matters of jurisprudence, and not in matters of doctrine. There is no legal emulation in matters of doctrine. Meaning that when it comes to the core beliefs of faith, we cannot follow another fallible human being, even if he may be a grand religious authority. Rather, we must attain certainty in our beliefs by educating ourselves, by learning the concepts and principles of the faith.
Saying that we need the permission of a Grand Authority to label ourselves as the ‘Rafida Sect’ is to imply that it’s a matter of jurisprudence, when in fact, it is not.
4. Do Grand Authorities agree with referring to ourselves as Rafida in the meaning of a sect?
They may, but they may also disapprove. However, taking the previous answer into account, if a Grand Authority was to object, his objection would be a technical one, i.e, disapproving the use of the term itself. His objection would not exceed the boundaries of disapproval, meaning that it would not include a jurisprudential objection. Therefore, if he was to disapprove, it does not mean that the use of the term now becomes illegitimate.
5. While it is obvious that the Grand Authority falls within the Rafida Sect, if he was asked, would he say yes?
While the Grand Authority does fall within the ‘Rafida Sect’, as mentioned previously, he might object to being referred to as such, on technical grounds only. He might, as well, agree to be referred to as such. We do not know for certain. However, if a Grand Authority was to deny being a Rafidi (in terms of doctrine), he ceases to be a legitimate authority. At any rate, his objection would not, in any way, delegitimize the use of the term ‘Rafida Sect’.
You must search for the teachings that find their direct legitimacy and authenticity in the narrations of the Family of Muhammad (peace be upon them). It is from there that all doctrinal truth is derived. From here, you will access the truths of this beautiful religion. You will not reach the truth through Rumi, Ibn ‘Arabi or any other mystical ‘guides’ who do not even attribute themselves to the Family of Muhammad (peace be upon them) and their teachings.
The Office of Sheikh al-Habib