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SHAYKHIYAH. A branch of Twelver Shiism, Shaykhiyah is named after Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa’Y (1753-1826), a theologian born in Bahrain. Ahsa’f had a predisposition for mystical experiences and spiritual visions. He spent fifteen years in Iran, where he won the esteem of many believers, including the Qajar ruler Fath ‘Ali Shah. But Ahsa’i was eventually anathematized by some `ulamd’ (religious scholars) because of his doctrine on the resurrection. He was obliged to retire in Mecca, far from any Shi’i center of learning. Ahsa’f opposed the mainstream of clerical Shiism called Usdliyah. He was influenced by the Akhbari school (which stresses the importance of the Shi’i traditions [akhbar] coming from the Twelve Imams) and by the theosophical teachings of Mulla Sadrd and his disciples. In this doctrine there is an intermediary stage, called barzakh or Hurqalyd, between earthly life and celestial spirituality in which the body becomes spirit. The spiritual being’s survival in Hurqalyd solves the problem of corporal resurrection after death: only the spiritual corpse remains (as a luminous substance) and is resurrected in a new elemental corpse.

Like the Akhbaris, the Shaykhis deny the division of believers in the two categories: muqallids (laymen) and mujtahids (formally trained jurisprudents). According to them, everyone has to understand his faith, and the only accepted religious authority is the Hidden Imam. Thus, leaving `adl (justice of God) as a mere attribute, the Shaykhis accept three fundamental principles of Shiism: the unity of God, the prophethood of Muhammad, and the imamate of ‘Ali and his descendants. To this, they add a “Fourth Pillar” (rukn-i rabic), the vicegerency of the Perfect Shi`i, also called the bdb (“gate”), who, in revelatory meditation, comes into the presence of the Hidden Imam.

Through his visionary experiences, Shaykh Ahmad alAhsa’i thought he had received such a mission from the Imam and believed that in each era there is a Natiq Vahid (Singular Spokesperson), whose existence is not publicly manifested during Occultation. After the rise of the Babi doctrine, which took its justification in this theory, the later Shaykhis tried to minimize the importance of the Fourth Pillar. Ahsa’i’s disciple, Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d. 1843/44), continued his teaching in Karbala, where he made Shaykhiyah an independent school. Shaykhis suffered further excommunications, which did not, however, keep the doctrine from spreading in Iran, where there was a climate of exacerbated expectations that the Hidden Imam would appear. Many future Babis were Rashti’s disciples, including the Bab himself. [See Babism.] The later Shaykhis, starting with Muhammad Karim Khan Kirmani (d. 1871), established in the Iranian town of Kerman, had good relations with the ruling dynasty and emphasized their attachment to orthodox Shiism. Nevertheless, the opposition of the dominant Usuli `ulamd’ brought renewed persecution after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The Shaykhis’ leader, Sarkar Aqa `Abd al-Riza Khan Ibraliuni, who wore the frock of mullahs, but was an agronomist as well as a theologian, was assassinated in the first year of the Islamic Republic. Soon before the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War, his successor, Sayyid `All Musawi Basri, moved the community’s headquarters to Basra in Iraq, where it would face new difficulties.

[See also Akhbariyah; Imam.]


Antanat, Abbas. Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 18¢4-i85o. Ithaca, N.Y., 1989.

Bayat, Mangol. Mysticism and Dissent: Socioreligious Thought in Qajar Iran. Syracuse, N.Y., 1982.

Corbin, Henry. En Islam iranien: Aspects spirituels et philosophiques, vol. 4, L’Ecole d’Ispahan, l’Ecole Shaykie, le douzieme Imam. Paris, 1972.

Corbin, Henry. Corps spirituel et Terre cileste: De l’Iran mazdien a 1’Iran shi ite. 2d ed. Paris, 1979.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/shaykhiyah/

  • writerPosted On: August 5, 2017
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