Taqiyya of our Imams (Zaydi sources)


In the mid 8th century CE, Zayd ibn Ali – the son of Imam al-Sajjad (as) – launched an unsuccessful rebellion against the Umayyad  state. 

What Zayd initiated was a failed uprising –

Yet, his act of rising began an endless current of revolutionary movements all rising against state rule under the banner of Al Muhammad.

These movements all favored an electorate leadership (Imamate), chosen from fallibles with proven descent from the prophet Muhammad - along with passing criterion of knowledge and piety.

Behind this revolutionary wave loomed the shadow of the quietist Imamiyya Shi’a, who opposed such revolutions on theological grounds.

In fact, Zayd’s rebellion failed largely due to lack of support from the Imamiyya populace. 

This is because the Imamiyyah occupied a substantial numeric position, if not the majority itself, among the Shi’a.

The rationale provided by the Imamiyyah (as historical sources show) for their lack of support of Zayd was simple:

It is haram to fight under the banner of a false claimant to Imamate.

Even if the valid Imam orders fighting under that false claimant, his order is out of taqiyya.

(Ansab al-Ashraf, vol 2, page 379)

“It is said that Zayd requested from them [i.e, the Rāfiḍa] that they ask Abā Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Baqir (on whether to revolt with Zayd).

If he [al-Bāqir] ordered them to rise with him (Zayd), they would rise with him.

So they then told him (Zayd): Even if he orders us to rise with you, we wouldn’t rise because we know that is out of taqiyya - out of shyness from you.

So he [Zayd] said what he said (about the Rāfiḍa).

ويقال أن زيدا طلب منهم أن يسألواء ابا جعفرمحمد بن علي فإن أمرهم بالخروج

معه خرجوا فاعتلوا عليه ثم قالوا : لو أمرنا بالخروج معك ما خرجنا لأنا نعلم أن

ذلك تقية واستحياء منك فقال ما قا

Accordingly, the Imamiyyah believed that even if Imam al-Baqir ordered them to follow Zayd, it is in dissimulation (taqiyya) from Zayd.

This understanding was so unanimous among the Imamiyyah, that only a single person among the companions of Imam al-Baqir (out of tens of thousands) followed Zayd in his revolt.

That man was Sulayman ibn Khalid al-Hilali.

Shaykh al-Tusi says:

Sulayman ibn Khalid Abu al-Rabi’ al-Hilali, Kufan, died during the lifetime of Abu Abdullah (al-Sadiq), peace be upon him. 

He rose up with Zayd and his finger was cut off in fighting for Zayd’s cause.

No one rose with Zayd - among the companions of Abu Ja’far (al-Baqir) except him.

سليمان بن خالد أبو الربيع الهلالي مولاهم، كوفي، مات في حياة أبي عبد الله عليه السلام، خرج مع زيد وقطعت إصبعه معه، ولم يخرج منأصحاب أبي جعفر عليه السلام غيره

Therefore –

The purpose of this research article is to discern whether taqiyya as a justification by the Imamiyyah to not support Zayd, is a purely imaginative Imamiyya framework?

Or can the works of their opponents - the Zaidiyya - prove there is basis in this concept being reliably traced to Imam al-Baqir?


Most revolts – like that of Zayd – consist of armed uprisings against a political system.

Meanwhile, the Imamiyyah’s revolt was theological – an aspect that branched to all walks of life and society (including politics).

Their foundational pillar was taqiyya (dissimulation), a concept which allowed them to maintain a false cover to mask the fact that they profess the truth.

With regards to Zayd, the Imamiyyah argued that their Imams (al-Baqir and al-Sadiq) had engaged in taqiyya when enjoining Zayd’s revolt. 

To them, it was abominable to fight and die for a false claimant of Imamate.

However, the question remains:

Just how truthful is the Imamiyyah’s attribution of taqiyya to their Imams?

Our quest to answer this question begins with the book, Kitab al-Busat.

Its author Zaydi Imam al-Nasir lil Haqq al-Atrush al-Hasan ibn Ali (d. 304 AH / 914 CE) narrates:

“Muhammad ibn Mansur narrated to us, from Abdullah ibn Dahir, from Salim:

Jafar (al-Sadiq) said:

I heard my father [al-Baqir] say: ‘Taqiyya is my religion, and religion of my fathers. There is no imaan to he whom has no taqiyya”

قال : وحدثنا محمد بن منصور قالحدثنا عبد الله بن داهر عن سالم قالسمعت جعفرا يقولسمعت أبي يقول : (التقية ديني ودينآبائي ولا إيمان لمن لا تقية له

The words of Ja’far al-Sadiq clearly defined taqiyya as defining his very notion of what “religion” is to him, and his forefathers.

It is to the extent he stated there is no imaan (faith), to one who has no taqiyya.

Elucidating this statement is a hadith from Twelver hadith corpus, the book of al-Kafi, in which Imam al-Sadiq says:

(Al-Kafi, vol 2, page 217)

O Aba Umar, 9/10th of religion consists of taqiyya. There is no religion to he whom has no taqiyya.

Taqiyya is permissible in everything except in drinking wine and passing the (wet) hands over the slippers (during the ritual ablutions)”

أبا عمر إن تسعة أعشار الدين في التقية ولا دين لمن لا تقية له والتقية في كل شئ إلا في النبيذ والمسح على الخفين

This Imamite hadith would indicate that Imam al-Sadiq’s idea of “Taqiyya is my religion” –

Is that the Imam had given religious orders out of taqiyya, and most of his religious orders had been out of taqiyya. 

Yet, there are two things (according to the above hadith) - which the Imam cannot order out of taqiyya.

Continuing on those matters in which taqiyya is impermissible –

Zaydi Imam Ahmad ibn Isa narrates, in his Amali – of the most prominent and accepted Zaydi hadith books, the following hadith from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq:

(Amali Ahmad ibn Isa ibn Zayd)

“Abu Abdullah Ja’far ibn Muhammad (al-Sadiq said:

Taqiyya is from my religion. 

There is no taqiyya – to me –in drinking winepassing the (wet) hands over the slippers (during the ritual ablutions), and uttering the Basmala out loud in prayer.

حدثنا محمد، قالحدثني علي بن محمد بن جعفر، عن أبيه والرضى، قالاقال أبو عبد الله جعفر بن محمدالتقية من ديني، ولا تقية عنديفي شرب النبيذ، والمسح على الخفين، والجهر ببسم الله الرحمن الرحيم.

According to this report – any of form of disobedience to God is permitted out of taqiyya, except three:

  1. Drinking wine
  2. Passing the (wet) hands over the slippers (during the ritual ablutions)
  3. Uttering the Basmala out loud in prayer.

Zaydi Imam Yahya ibn al-Husayn confirms the attribution of this notion to Ja’far in the following hadith.

He further elaborates that Ja’far narrated it from his father al-Baqir

(Al-Ahkam by Yahya ibn al-Husayn 456)

“It has been narrated to use from Ja’far ibn Muhammad (ra), from his father (al-Baqir): that he said

There is no taqiyya in three matters:

Drinking winepassing the (wet) hands over the slippers (during the ritual ablutions), and uttering the Basmala out loud in prayer.

وبلغنا عن جعفر ابن محمد رضي الله عنه عن أبيه انه قاللا تقيه في ثلاثشرب النبيذ، والمسح على الخفين، والجهر ببسم الله الرحمنالرحيم.

Something is clear now:

Zaydi literature shows us that Imams al-Baqir and al-Sadiq had permitted disobedience to God out of taqiyya, in all matters but three mentioned above.

Yet however –

Could those Imams have ordered disobedience of God to their followers, out of taqiyya?

Such a matter would support the Imamite notion that 9/10th of religion being taqiyya is that their Imams issued religious commandments out of taqiyya.

What do Zaydi sources have to say about this?

In Kitab al-Aghani by esteemed Zaydi historian and author Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani –

Imam al-Baqir gives permission and order to his companion Kumayt to say whatever he wishes in praising the tyrannical Umayyads.

The Imam declares that Kumayt will be absolved from sin in doing so.

Jafar ibn Muhammad ibn Marwan al-Ghazal al-Kufi narrated to me, my narrated to us, from Arta'ah ibn Habib, from Fudayl al-Rassan, from Ward ibn Zaid, the brother of Al-Kumayt, who said:

Al-Kumayt sent me to Abu Jafar (al-Baqir), and I said to him, "Al-Kumayt sent me to you, and he has done to himself what he had done (i.e, praise Bani Umayyah)“

So (O Abu Ja’far al-Baqir) – do you give him permission to praise the Umayyads?

He said, "Yes, he is absolved from any sin, so let him say whatever he wishes."

أخبرني جعفر بن محمد بن مروان الغزال الكوفي قال حدثني أبي قال حدثنا أرطأة بن حبيب عن فضيل الرسان عن ورد بن زيد أخيالكميت قال

أرسلني الكميت إلى أبي جعفر فقلت له إن الكميت أرسلني إليك وقد صنع بنفسه ما صنع فتأذن له أن يمدح بني أمية قال نعم هو في حلفليقل ما شاء 

When Kumayt wrote back to Imam al-Baqir, enquiring why he is absolved from sin.

The Imam tells Kumayt his praise of the Umayyads is permissible out of taqiyya

(Kitab al-Aghani)

Narrated Muhammad ibn Khalaf Wakee’, from Ishaq ibn Muhammad ibn Aban, from Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Mahran, from Rub’i ibn Abdullan ibn al-Jarud, from his father: 

Al-Kumayt ibn Zayd al-Asadi entered upon Abi Ja’far, Muhammad ibn Ali [al-Baqir].

So he (al-Baqir) said to al-Kumayt: You are the one who says ‘I have went on path of Umayya, and the matters [i.e, my actions] are firm on their faith’?

He [Kumayt] said: ‘I have said that, but by Allah - I only desired dunya by saying this, and I know your virtue now.

He [al-Baqir] said: If you said that, it is halal (permissible) out of taqiyya

أخبرني محمد بن خلف وكيع قال حدثني إسحاق بن محمد بن أبان قال حدثني محمد بن عبد الله بن مهران قال حدثني ربعي بن عبد اللهبنالجارود بن أبي سبرة عن أبيه قال 

دخل الكميت بن زيد الأسدي على أبي جعفر محمد بن علي عليهما السلام فقال له يا كميت أنت القائل 

فالآن صِرُتُ إلى أُمَيةّ ... والأمورُ إلى المصايِرْ ) 

قال نعم قد قلت ولا والله ما أردت به إلا الدنيا ولقد عرفت فضلكم قال أما أن قلت ذلك فإن التقية لتحل


Zaydi works clearly present to us that our Imams taught rendition of Shi’ism that prioritized taqiyya at its core.

While clearly setting a somewhat bigger limit to the concept than Imamite works, which contain even reports permit taqiyya to every possible contex:

(Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol 16, page 314)

“We heard Aba Ja’far (al-Baqir):

Taqiyya is halal (permissible) in everything which the son of Adam is compelled to use it for”

سمعنا أبا جعفر (عليه السلاميقولالتقية في كل شئ يضطر إليه ابن آدم فقد أحله الله له.

It is clear that the Imamite notion of Imams al-Baqir and al-Sadiq enjoining taqiyya is not far off.

It is also clear that they had ordered religious commandments exhibiting taqiyya to their followers

This makes it likely they had taught their followers not to rise with Zaydi even if the Imam he orders them. Because if he does, it will be out of taqiyya.

Wa Allahu A’lam

May Allah bless you all

John Andaluso