Zaydiyyah, Zaydism, or Zaydi Shia (Arabic: الزيديةaz-zaydiyya, adjective from Zaydi or Zaidi (occasionally called incorrectly as Fiver Shias) is one of the Shia traditions closest in terms of theology to the Ibadi and Mutazila schools.

Zaydiyyah emerged in the 8th century from Shi'a Islam. 

Zaydis are named after Zayd ibn ʻAlī, the grandson of Husayn ibn ʻAlī and the son of the 4th Imam Zayn al-Abidin.

Followers of the Zaydi Islamic jurisprudence are called Zaydi Shia

and make up about 50% of Muslims in Yemen, with the greatest majority of Shia Muslims in that country being of the Zaydi school of thought.


The Zaydi madhab emerged in reverence of Zayd's failed uprising against the Umayyad Caliph, Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (ruling 724–743 AD), which set a precedent for revolution against corrupt rulers.

It might be said that Zaydis find it difficult to remain passive in an unjust world, or in the words of a modern influential Zaydi leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi (1959-2004), to "sit in their houses".

Zaydis are the oldest branch of the Shia and are currently the 2nd largest group after Twelvers.

Zaydis do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms, but promote their leadership and divine inspiration.

Zaydis believe that Zayd ibn Alī in his last hour was betrayed by the people in Kufa.


In matters of Islamic jurisprudence, the Zaydis follow Zayd ibn ’Alī's teachings which are documented in his book Majmu’ al-Fiqh (Arabic: مجموع الفِقه‎).

Zaydi fiqh is similar to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence: Abu Hanīfa, a Sunni madhab sheikh, was favourable and even donated towards the Zaydi cause.

Zaydis dismiss religious dissimulation (taqiyya).


In matters of theology, the Zaydis are close to the Mu'tazili school, though they are not exactly Mu'tazilite:

There are a few issues between both schools, most notably the Zaydi doctrine of the Imamate, which is rejected by the Mu'tazilites.

Of the Shi'a, Zaydis are most similar to Sunnis since Zaydism shares similar doctrines and jurisprudential opinions with Sunni scholars.

Zaydis’ theological literature puts an emphasis on justice and human responsibility, and its political implications,

i.e. Muslims have an ethical and legal obligation by their religion to rise up and depose unjust leaders including unrighteous sultans and caliphs.


In the context of the Shi'a belief in spiritual leadership or Imamate, Zaydis believe that the leader of the Ummah or Muslim community must be Fatimids:

descendants of Muhammad () through his only surviving daughter Fatimah, whose sons were Hasan ibn ʻAlī and Husayn ibn ʻAlī.

These Shi'a called themselves Zaydi to differentiate themselves from other Shias who refused to take up arms with Zayd ibn Alī.

Zaydis believe Zayd ibn Alī was the rightful successor to the Imamate because he led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate, who he believed were tyrannical and corrupt.

Muhammad al-Baqir (677-733) did not engage in political action and the followers of Zayd believed that a true Imām must fight against corrupt rulers.

The renowned Muslim jurist Abu Hanīfa who is credited for the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam,

delivered a fatwa or legal statement in favour of Zayd in his rebellion against the Umayyad ruler. He also urged people in secret to join the uprising and delivered funds to Zayd.

Unlike the Twelver and Isma'ili Shia, Zaydis do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms

and do not believe that the Imāmate must pass from father to son but believe it can be held by any descendant of Hasan ibn ʻAlī or Husayn ibn ʻAlī.


Status of Caliphs and the Sahāba

There was a difference of opinion among the companions and supporters of Zayd ibn 'Alī, such as Abu al-Jarud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad, Sulayman ibn Jarir, Kathir al-Nawa al-Abtar and Hasan ibn Salih, concerning the status of the first three Caliphs who succeeded to the political and administrative authority of Muhammad ().

The earliest group, called Jarudiyya (named for Abu al-Jarud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad), was opposed to the approval of certain companions of Muhammad ():

They held that there was sufficient description given by the Prophet that all should have recognised Alī as the rightful Caliph.

They therefore consider the Companions wrong in failing to recognise Alī as the legitimate Caliph and deny legitimacy to Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthmān; however, they avoid denouncing them.

The Jarudiyya were active during the late Umayyad Caliphate and early Abbasid Caliphate.

Its views, although predominant among the later Zaydis, especially in Yemen under the Hadawi sub-sect, became extinct in Iraq and Iran due to forced conversion of the present religious sects to Twelver Shi'ism by the Safavid Dynasty.

The 2nd group, the Sulaymaniyya, named for Sulayman ibn Jarir, held that the Imamate should be a matter to be decided by consultation:

They felt that the companions, including Abu Bakr and Umar, had been in error in failing to follow Alī but it did not amount to sin.

The 3rd group is known as the Tabiriyya, Butriyya or Salihiyya for Kathir an-Nawa al-Abtar and Hasan ibn Salih:

Their beliefs are virtually identical to those of the Sulaymaniyya, except they see Uthmān also as in error but not in sin.

Non-Zaydi accounts state the term Rafidha was a term used by Zayd ibn Alī on those who rejected him in his last hours for his refusal to condemn the first two Caliphs of the Muslim world, Abu Bakr and Umar.

Zayd bitterly scolds the "rejecters" (Rafidha) who deserted him, an appellation used by Salafis to refer to Twelver Shi'ites to this day.

A group of their leaders assembled in his (Zayd's presence) and said:

"May God have mercy on you!
What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar?"

Zayd said,

"I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them...

when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah"

Twelver Shia references to Zayd

While not one of the 12 Imams embraced by the Twelver denomination and current largest branch of Shi'ite Islam, Zayd ibn Alī features in historical accounts within Twelver literature in a positive light.

In Twelver Shia accounts, Imam Alī al-Ridha (766-818) narrated how his grandfather Ja'far al-Sadiq (702–765) also supported Zayd ibn Alī's struggle:

he was one of the scholars from the Household of Muhammad and got angry for the sake of the Honourable the Exalted God.

He fought with the enemies of God until he got killed in His path.

My father Musa ibn Ja’far narrated that he had heard his father Ja’far ibn Muhammad say,

"May God bless my uncle Zayd... He consulted with me about his uprising and I told him,

"O my uncle! Do this if you are pleased with being killed and your corpse being hung up from the gallows in the al-Konasa neighbourhood."

After Zayd left, As-Sadiq said,

"Woe be to those who hear his call but do not help him!".

— Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā, p. 466

Jafar al-Sadiq's love for Zayd ibn Alī was so immense, he broke down and cried upon reading the letter informing him of his death and proclaimed:

From God we are and to Him is our return. I ask God for my reward in this calamity. He was a really good uncle. My uncle was a man for our world and for our Hereafter.

 I swear by God that my uncle is a martyr just like the martyrs who fought along with God’s Prophet or Alī or Al-Hassan or Al-Hussein

— Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā, p. 472



The Justanids were the rulers of a part of Daylam (the mountainous district of Gilan) from 791 to the late 11th-century.

After Marzuban ibn Justan converted to Islam in 805, the ancient family of Justan's became connected to the Zaydi Alīds of the Daylam region.

The Justanids adopted the Zaydi form of Shi'ism.

Karkiya dynasty

The Karkiya dynasty, or Kia dynasty, was a Zaydi Shia dynasty which ruled over Biapish (eastern Gilan) from the 1370s to 1592. They claimed Sasanian ancestry as well.

Alīd dynasty

Alīd dynasty of Tabaristan.

Idrisid dynasty

The Idrisid dynasty was a Zaydi dynasty centred around modern-day Morocco. It was named after its first leader Idriss I.

Banu Ukhaidhir

The Banu Ukhaidhir was a dynasty that ruled in al-Yamamah (central Arabia) from 867 to at least the mid-11th century.

Hammudid dynasty

The Hammudid dynasty was a Zaydi dynasty in the 11th century in southern Spain.


Muttawakili Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Yemen or, retrospectively, as North Yemen, existed in 1918-1962 in the Northern part of what is now Yemen.

Its capital was Sana`a until 1948, then Ta'izz.

Community and former States

Since the earliest form of Zaydism was Jarudiyya, many of the first Zaydi states were supporters of its position,

such as those of the Iranian Alavids of Mazandaran Province and the Buyid dynasty of Gilan Province and the Arab dynasties of the Banu Ukhaidhir of al-Yamamah (modern Saudi Arabia) and the Rassids of Yemen.

The Idrisid dynasty in the western Maghreb was another Arab Zaydi dynasty, ruling 788–985.

The Alavids established a Zaydi state in Deylaman and Tabaristan (northern Iran) in 864; it lasted until the death of its leader at the hand of the Sunni Samanids in 928.

Roughly 40 years later, the state was revived in Gilan (Northwest Iran) and survived until 1126.

From the 12th-13th centuries, Zaydi communities acknowledged the Imams of Yemen or rival Imams within Iran.

The Buyid dynasty was initially Zaydi as were the Banu Ukhaidhir rulers of al-Yamamah in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The leader of the Zaydi community took the title of Caliph. As such, the ruler of Yemen was known as the Caliph.

Al-Hadi ila'l-Haqq Yahya (859-911), a descendant of Imam Hasan ibn Alī, founded this Rassid state at Sa'dah, al-Yaman, in c. 893-7.

The Rassid Imamate continued until the middle of the 20th century, when a 1962 revolution deposed the Imam.

The Rassid state was founded under Jarudiyya thought;

however, increasing interactions with Hanafi and Shafi'i schools of Sunni Islam led to a shift to Sulaimaniyyah thought, especially among the Hadawi sub-sect.

In the 21st century, the most prominent Zaydi movement is the Shabāb Al Mū’minīn, commonly known as Houthis,

who have been engaged in an uprising against the Yemeni Government, backed by Saudi Wahhabis, causing a grave humanitarian crisis in north Yemen.

Some Persian and Arab legends record that Zaydis fled to China from the Umayyads during the 8th century.

Houthi Yemen

Since 2004 in Yemen, Zaydi fighters have been waging an uprising against factions belonging to the Sunni majority group in the country. °

The Houthis, as they are often called, have asserted that their actions are for the defence of their community from the government and discrimination.

On 20 September 2014, an agreement was signed in Sana'a under UN patronage essentially giving the Houthis control of the government after a decade of conflict.

Tribal militias then moved swiftly to consolidate their position in the capital, with the group officially declaring direct control over the state on 6 February 2015.

This outcome followed the removal of Yemen's President Alī Abdullah Saleh in 2012 in the wake of protracted Arab Spring protests.

Saudi Arabia has created a coalition from several Saudi-loyal Arab states in response and has started an invasion in Yemen to support Sunni government supported in South Yemen.

There is a wide array of domestic opponents to Houthi rule in Yemen, ranging from the conservative Sunni Islah Party to the secular socialist Southern Movement to the radical Islamists of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and now ISIS in Yemen.