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:

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