The New International Encyclopædia/Mohammedan Sects
MOHAMMEDAN SECTS. The movement which led to the division of Islam into opposing parties was at first a political one, though religious, theological, and philosophical questions soon arose which added to the complexity of the situation and caused a further subdivision into sects. Mohammed died without naming his successor; and while Abu Bekr was looked upon by many as the natural leader, others felt that Ali, who was not only the cousin and son-in-law, but also a decided favorite of the Prophet, should be his successor. Among the Arabs, however, leadership was not a matter of inheritance, but of election; and when Abu Bekr was chosen Caliph, he received the recognition of all, including Ali. Omar's election likewise resulted in general satisfaction, although the Ommiads, who, even when they had accepted Islam, were still rivals of the Prophet's family, began to show their opposition to those who had been the Prophet's intimate companions. On Omar's death the caliphate was again denied to Ali, Othman being chosen. Othman's misrule, however, caused great dissatisfaction, and when he was assassinated Ali finally came to the caliphate. The hostility of the Ommiads, however, continued, and soon turned into open revolt, with Moawiyah, the Ommiad Governor of Syria, at its head. The question as to the right of succession, which was soon to cause the permanent separation of the whole Mohammedan world into Shiites and Sunnites, had even then presented itself in great seriousness, the followers of Ali claiming that only the Prophet's family had the right to the caliphate, the Ommiads opposing this claim.
There was also a third party, afterwards known as the Kharijites (‘those who go forth’), who held the old Arab view on the question of succession, and were thus directly opposed, in principle, to the ‘legitimists.’ They were, in reality, theocrats; and they claimed that any man might be called to the imāhmah, or leadership, even if he did not belong to the Koreish, or was not even a freeman, provided only that he was just and pious and fit in every other respect. As a result of this they also claimed that an unrighteous imam might be deposed, or even put to death; and furthermore, that there was no absolute need for any imam at all. Since Ali, however, united in his person the claims of heredity and of election, they were at first among his partisans. But when at the battle of Sitlin Ali submitted to arbitration the decision of his right to the caliphate as against Moawiyah, they refused to stand by the decision and swear allegiance to either one or the other. Twelve thousand of them consequently deserted Ali's camp in a body; they proclaimed “no rule but that of Allah alone.” The Kharijites, though often defeated in this and succeeding caliphates, appeared again and again as the assailants of the established government.
After Ali's death, when Moawiyah had finally succeeded in establishing himself in control, he induced Hasan, the elder son of Ali, to yield up his prerogatives. Ali's followers, however, refused to recognize Moawiyah and espoused the cause of Hosein, Ali's second son. A bloody struggle followed, in which Hosein lost his life. The division of the Mohammedans into Sunnites and Shiites was now fixed, and the Shiites, consistently developing the theory of legitimism, refused to recognize that there had ever been any legitimate caliph between Mohammed and Ali. See Shiites; Sunnites.
Despite the fact that with Ali's death and the Ommiad supremacy the question as to the caliphate was settled, the Shiites still looked to the descendants of Ali as their religious leaders, or imams. But even among the Shiites themselves unanimity in regard to the imamah did not long prevail, and discussions of a theological nature likewise proved a source of trouble. The impulse to such discussions came from Persia, into which Mohammedanism had well penetrated, and which, since the principle of hereditary succession had always obtained there, naturally espoused the cause of Ali.
Down to the sixth imam, Jafar al-Sadik (died 765), there was agreement among the Shiites; Jafar, however, had two sons, Ismail and Musa al-Kasim. The former, as the elder, should have been successor to the imamah. The father, however, is said to have declared in favor of Musa; and on Jafar's death, a division ensued between the adherents of Ismail—the Ismailians (Ismā‘iliyyah)—and those of Musa, the greater part of the Shiites following the latter.
Krom this time on the question of the imamah received more and more a theological, mystical treatment. The notion of the imam, in general, was that of an ever-living, though at times hidden, supreme guide of the people, who after a time is restored to humanity, or at least to the believing part of it. (See Mahdi.) The Ismailian doctrine was that the imam had been revealed in Ali, whereas during the preceding ages the imams had been concealed; that Ali himself had reappeared in every imam till the time of Ismail, and had then become invisible again; but that he would descend some day from the clouds' to unite all believers and to restore the pure faith. The real importance, however, of the Ismailians, who existed unobserved for some time, dates from Abd Allah ibn Maimun, whose father had been executed for professing materialistic doctrines and trying to turn people away from the doctrines of Islam. Abd Allah seems to have practically carried out his father's notions. Aided by favorable circumstances, he matured a plan which, for the boldness and genius of conception and for the energy and vigor with which it was carried out, has not many parallels in history. Nothing less was contemplated than the union of the Arabic conquerors and the many races they had subjected since Mohammed's death, and the enthronement of what afterwards was called ‘Pure Reason’ as the sole deity to be worshiped. The advanced should be free of all so-called religious fetters, which, as symbols and allegorical actions, should be laid all the heavier on the necks of the less advanced strata of society. The ‘believers’ and ‘conquerors’ were to be made missionaries for unbelief and the implements for the destruction of their own empire. With an extraordinary knowledge of the human heart and human weakness, he offered devotion to the believer; liberty, if not license, to the ‘free in spirit’; philosophy to the ‘strong-minded’; mystic hopes to the fanatics; miracles to the masses. The Messiah whom Abd Allah preached stood higher than Mohammed himself, and, though he did not reject the Koran, he yet contrived to allegorize and symbolize away nearly all its narratives and precepts. An elaborate secret doctrine was worked out, into which the members of the sect were initiated by degrees. Missionary schools were established, and the instruction given to the young missionaries was artfully designed to win over not merely all the different Mohammedan sects, both Sunnites and Shiites, but also Jews and Christians. By the time the neophyte had completed the ninth and concluding degree of initiation, all his earlier religious beliefs had been explained away. He had learned that no miracle had ever been performed; that the prophet is merely a man distinguished by his purity and the perfection of his intelligence; and that this purity of his intelligence is precisely what is called ‘prophecy.’ God throws into the prophet's mind what pleases Him, and that is what is understood by the ‘Word of God.’ The prophet clothes this Word afterwards with flesh and bones, and communicates it to the churches. He establishes by this means the systems of religious institutions which, appear to him the most advantageous for the ruling of men; but these institutions and behests are but temporary, and intended for the preservation of order and worldly interests. No man who has knowledge need practice any single one of them; to him his knowledge suffices.
The creed of the Ismailians was gradually built up, and many changes were introduced into it at different times; from it sprang various other sects. The most notable is that of the Karmathians, or Carmathians (so called from one of their leaders, surnamed Al-ḳarmaṭ). This sect sprang up in the ninth century, under the caliphate of Al-Mutamid, and by a combination of extraordinary circumstances succeeded in establishing itself for a time as a political power which threatened to overturn the caliphate itself. The practical exertions of Abd Allah ibn Maimun and their wonderful results had soon attracted the attention of the authorities. Obliged to flee from place to place, he sought refuge successively in Karaj, in Ispahan, in Ahwaz, in Basra, finally in Salamia, in Syria, where he died, leaving his son Ahmad his successor as chief of the Ismailians. One of Ahmad's missionaries (or, according to other accounts, a convert of a missionary) was Al-Karmat. He lived in Irak, and was a fit man to carry out the plans of Abd Allah ibn Maimun. His house in Kufa became the centre whence all the missionaries were sent forth, and where all the details of a great conspiracy were directed. One of the most noted of the missionaries, Abu Said, won over a great part of the people of Bahrein, the majority of whom were not Mohammedans and impatient of the Moslem rule. In 900 Abu Said defeated an army of 10,000 men sent against him by the Caliph, and captured the latter's general. He then gained undisputed possession of the whole country, destroyed the old capital, Hajar, and made Lhasa, his own residence, the capital. At the same time two other Karmathian chieftains arose to threaten the Court of Bagdad, one near Kufa and the other in Syria. The former was defeated, captured, and tortured to death. The latter at first defeated the Governor of Damascus most ignominiously, but in 907 the Caliph's general, Wasif, won a decisive victory and made an end of this branch of the Karmathians. Meanwhile both Al-Karmat and Abu Said disappear from view, and the leadership passed to Abu Said's son, Abu Tahir. In 923 he seized Basra. The next year he pillaged the Meccan caravan and plundered Kufa. In 927 he gained a decided victory over the Caliph's troops in Irak. In 929 he appeared at Mecca at the head of his army, when the pilgrimage was at its height. Attempts to buy him off were unavailing, and a fearful massacre, lasting several days, ensued. The holy places were desecrated and the Black Stone was carried off. Abu Tahir may have thought that this act would destroy the sanctity of Mecca and the Kaaba in the eyes of the faithful; but if so he was mistaken; the caravans still went on their usual annual pilgrimage as often as he did not restrain them by force. In 939 the emir of the pilgrimage, Abu Tahir's personal friend, persuaded him to conclude a treaty by which the pilgrimage was again allowed, on payment of 5 dinars for every camel and 7 for every horse. The Black Stone was returned for an enormous ransom in 950, seven years after Abu Tahir's death. At that time the Karmathians were masters of Irak, Syria, and Arabia. Little of importance is heard of them again till 990, when they were defeated before Kufa—an event which seems to have made an end of their dominion in Irak and Syria. About 993 they were again defeated by Asfar, and their chief lost his life. They retreated to Lhasa, where they fortified themselves, while Asfar marched against Al-Katif, captured it, and carried away all the baggage, slaves, and animals of the Karmathians of that town and then retired to Basra. The Karmathians retained Lhasa for a considerable time, but nothing further is heard of them in history. In 1862-63 Palgrave found remnants of them still living in Najran, and in Bahrein and Oman, and their hatred of Islam seemed in no wise abated.
Concerning the special beliefs of the Karmathians, so far as they have been preserved, their system seems in the beginning to have been merely a sort of reformed Islam. The prophet Al-Karmat, it was held, had brought a new law into the world, by which many of the tenets of Mohammedanism were altered, many ancient ceremonies abrogated, new forms of prayer introduced, and an entirely new kind of fast inculcated. Wine and a few other things prohibited by the Koran were allowed. Certain of the precepts of the book were turned into mere allegories. Instead of tithes they gave the fifth part of their property to the imam. Prayer was merely the symbol of obedience to the imam. Fasting was the symbol of silence, or rather of concealment of religious doctrine from the stranger.
Another offshoot of the Ismailians is the sect known as Assassins (ḥashshishin, a name derived from ḥashish, a drink drawn from hemp, to which the members of the sect were addicted). The sect owed its origin to Hasan ibn Sabbah, a Persian fanatic, who at the beginning of the eleventh century formed a secret society, the members of which swore blind obedience to their leader, known to history as the ‘Old Man of the Mountain.’ From their mountain fastnesses in Persia (Alamut) they bade defiance for two centuries to the strongest armies sent against them by Moslem rulers, and they were reduced to harmlessness only by the Mongol invasion (1255). They owed their power chiefly to the perfection of their secret organization and to the unscrupulousness with which they carried out their plans. They were perhaps best known for the countless assassinations of which the members of the sect were guilty. From Persia they spread into Syria and Asia Minor, while Hasan ibn Sabbah was still alive, the Governor of Aleppo had invited them to settle in his territory, and they had taken possession of various mountain fastnesses from which they were enabled to play an important role in the Crusades. There are still a few Assassins in the neighborhood of Homs. See Assassins.
When the Assassins came into Syria they found the mountain regions around Hama in possession of the Nosairians, apparently a remnant of the ancient Syro-Phœnician population of the land, which had preserved its own religion through the centuries despite all the efforts of Christianity. Most of the Nosairians displayed a bitter enmity toward the Ismailians, though some embraced their cause, and at the end of the tenth century there was a strong infiltration of Ismailian doctrines into the general Nosairian religious system. In fact, the Nosairian religion, without being identical with Ismailism, shows many strong points of analogy with it. The Nosairians are divided into four sects—Ḥaidariyyah, Ḳalaziyyah (or Kamaviyyah), Shamaliyyah (or Shamsiyyah), and Ghaibiyyah. The Shamaliyyah and Ḳalaziyyah are the most important. They all possess the same religious book (Kitāb al-Majmu‘), and differ from one another only on points of minor importance. The chief variations from the Ismailian doctrines are these: While the Ismailians taught that of the seven cycles corresponding to the various manifestations of the deity, the sixth, that of Mohammed, was closed with the death of Jafar, and the seventh, which was to be characterized by the coming of the Mahdi, or Messiah, was thereby opened, the Nosairians taught that the seventh was closed by the seventh divine manifestation, that of Ali. Furthermore, the Nosairians recognized Musa instead of Ismail as the successor of Jafar al-Sadik. This was probably due to the fact that they had accepted as their leader Mohammed ibn Nosair, who was a partisan of the eleventh imam, a descendant of Musa. And with Musa (died 799), who was the seventh imam, they considered the number of imams to have been completed. Another striking characteristic of the Nosairian belief was their attitude toward the natiḳs, the various divine incarnations. The Ismailians held that all the natiks excepting Mohammed were superior to their assas (foundations) or sameṭs, while the Nosairians placed all of their assas above the natiks. But of greatest importance was the degree to which they carried their doctrine of the divinity of Ali. Ali, while he confided the word to Mohammed, had reserved the ma‘na (meaning) for himself. Ali is their god in heaven and their imam on earth; he is concealed from man because of his divine nature; he is not created and has no attributes: his essence is the light. He created Mohammed to be the veil with which he conceals himself, the place in which he resides, the bearer of his name. Mohammed in his turn created Salman al-Farisi to be the bab, or gate—the one through whom man communicates with the deity, and who is charged by the divinity with the making of his propaganda. Salman created the five ‘incomparables’ (in reality five planets) which created the world. The Nosairians are sometimes called Ansaries (q.v.).
Besides the Assassins and Nosairians, a third sect with Ismailian tendencies found refuge in the Syrian mountain districts—the Druses. When Abd Allah ibn Maimun found himself persecuted by the authorities be fled to Syria, and continued to preach there the coming of the Mahdi. His son Mohammed continued the propaganda, and finally the Mahdi himself appeared among the Berbers of North Africa. This Mahdi founded the Egyptian dynasty of the Fatimites (909), the sixth of which, Hakim, probably under Ismailian influence, declared himself an incarnation of the deity. He disappeared mysteriously, which helped to support his contentions. Hamza and Al-Darzi (whence the name ‘Druze’) were his propagandists (dā‘i), and gained many followers in the Lebanon mountains. It is interesting to note that one of Hamza's treatises was intended as a refutation of the Nosairian doctrines, and tried to show that Hakim, not Ali, was God. See Druses.
A sectary whose name has become familiar through the use made of his story by Thomas Moore in his Lalla Rookh was Hakim ibn Allah, better known as al-Mokanna, ‘the veiled,’ because he wore a mask to conceal the disfigurement of his face. He lived in the eighth century, and headed a revolt against the Mahdi, the third Abbasside Caliph. He claimed to be an incarnation of the deity, and won repute as a miracle-worker. He made many followers, and for a time maintained himself against the Caliph, but was ultimately defeated and committed suicide. He left word that he would reappear as a gray man riding a gray beast, and his followers long expected his coming. They dressed only in white. See Hakim ibn Allah.
All of these Shiite sects were political, or at least politico-religious, sects, whose doctrines turned about the question of the imamah. But there were in Islam also some sects purely theological, differing on such questions as predestination, free will, belief, idea of God, and revelation—points upon which Mohammed had not expressed himself clearly. It was again in Persia that the movement looking toward independent religious views took its rise, under the influence of Greek philosophy.
The most important of these theological or philosophical sects was perhaps the rationalistic sect of the Motazilites, or Mutazilites (Mu‘tazilah, from ‘azala, to separate). They were called also Moattalites—i.e. those who divest God of His attributes (Ar. Mu‘aṭṭilun)—and Kadarites—i.e. “those who hold that man has a free will (Ar. ḳadar), and deny the strict doctrine of predestination.” The first beginnings of this sect are traced to Mabad, who already in the time of Mohammed himself began to question predestination by pointing out how kings carry on unjust wars, kill men, and steal their goods, and all the while pretend to be merely executing God's decrees. The real founder of the sect, as such, however, was Wasil ibn Ata (c.745). He denied God's ‘qualities,’ such as knowledge, power, will, life, as leading to, if not directly implying, polytheism. As to predestination, he held that it existed only with regard to the outward good or evil that befalls man, such as illness or recovery, death or life, while man's actions are entirely in his own hands. God, he said, had given commandments to mankind, and it was not to be supposed that He had at the same time preordained that some should disobey these commandments, and that, further, they should be punished for it. Man alone is the agent in his good or evil actions, in his belief or unbelief, obedience or disobedience, and he is rewarded according to his deeds. These doctrines were further developed by Wasil's disciple Abu al-Hudhail al-Allaf (died c.845), who did not deny so absolutely God's ‘qualities,’ but modified their meaning in the manner of the Greek philosophers, holding that every quality was also God's essence. The attributes are thus not without, but within Him, and so far from being a multiplicity, they merely designate the various ways of the manifestations of the Godhead. God's will he declared to be a peculiar kind of knowledge, through which God did what He foresaw to be salutary in the end. Man's freedom of action is possible only in this world. In the next all will be according to necessary laws immutably preordained. The righteous will enjoy everlasting bliss, and for the wicked everlasting punishment will be decreed. A dangerous doctrine of this system was the assumption that before the Koran had been revealed, man had already come to the conclusion of right and wrong. By his inner intellect, Abu al-Hudhail held, everybody must and does know—even without the aid of the divinely given commandments—whether the thing he is doing be right or wrong, just or unjust, true or false. His belief in the traditions was also by no means an absolute one; indeed, it was held by the Mutazilites that even some of the earliest ‘traditioners’ may have told untruths, or have been imposed upon, and every tradition was to be rejected which was opposed to the Koran, to more authentic traditions, or even to mere reason. As to the Koran, although its authority was recognized, it was held to be created and not an object of worship.
Many were the branches of the Mutazilites. There were, apart from the disciples of Abu al-Hudhail, the Jubbaians, who adopted Abu Ali ibn Abd al-Wahhab's (Al-Jubbaï, d. 914) opinion to the effect that the knowledge ascribed to God was not an ‘attribute’; nor was his knowledge ‘necessary’; nor did sin prove anything as to the belief or unbelief of him who committed it, who would anyhow be subjected to eternal punishment if he died in it. Besides these, there were the Hashimites, the disciples of Abu Hashim Abd al-Salam, son of Al-Jubbaï, who held that an infidel was not the creation of God, who could not produce evil. Another branch of the Mutazilites were the disciples of Ahmad ibn Habit (or Haït), who held that Jesus was the eternal word incarnate, and that He had assumed a real body; that there were two gods or creators, one eternal—viz. the most High God—and the other not eternal—viz. Jesus—not unlike the Socinian and Arian theories on this subject; that there is a successive transmigration of the soul from one body into another, and that the last body will enjoy the reward or suffer the punishments due to each soul, and that God will be seen at the resurrection with the eyes of understanding, not of the body.
Four more divisions of this sect are mentioned—viz. the Jāḥiziyyah, whose master's (Amr ibn Bahr al-Jahiz) notion about the Koran was that it was “a body that might grow into a man, and sometimes into a beast, or to have, as others put it, two faces, one human, the other that of an animal, according to the different interpretations.” He further taught that the damned would become fire, and thus be attracted by hell; also that the mere belief in God and the Prophet constituted a ‘faithful one.’ Of rather different tendencies was Isa al-Muzdar, the founder of the branch of the Muzdariyyah. He not only held the Koran to be uncreated and eternal, but so far from denying God the power of doing evil, he declared it to be possible for God to be a liar and unjust. Another branch was formed by the Bishriyyah (from Bishr ibn al-Mutamir), who, while they carried man's free agency rather to excess, yet held that God might doom even an infant to eternal punishment—all the while granting that He would be unjust in so doing. The last of these Mutazilite sectarians to be mentioned are the Thumumiyyah, who held, after their master, Thumamah ibn Ashras, that sinners will undergo eternal damnation and punishment; that free actions have no producing author; and that, at the resurrection, all infidels, atheists, Jews, Christians, Magians, and heretics will be returned to dust, and will not enter either paradise or hell. For the scientific development which the doctrines of the Mutazilites begot, and which resulted in the encyclopædic labors called “The Treatises of the Sincere Brethren and True Friends,” see Sincere Brethren.
Allied to the Mutazilites in their view of the divine attributes, but diametrically opposed to them in their view of predestination, were the Jabarites (Necessarians). They held that man's every act is the result of the will of God, and that there is no human responsibility. There are pure Jabarites and middle Jabarites.
Opposed to both the Mutazilites and the Jabarites were the Sifatites (‘Attributists’). With them God's attributes, whether essential or operative, or declarative or historical—i.e. used in historical narration (eyes, face, hand); anthropomorphisms, in fact—were considered eternal. But here again lay the germs for more dissensions and more sects. Some, taking this doctrine of God's attributes in a strictly literal sense, assumed a likeness between God and created things, while others gave it a more allegorical interpretation, without, however, entering into any particulars beyond the reiterated doctrine that God had no companion or similitude. The different sects into which the Sifatites split were, first, the Asharians, so called from Abu al Hasan al-Ashari (883-951), who, at first a Mutazilite, disagreed with his masters on the point of God's being bound to do always that which is best. He became the founder of a new school, which held (1) that God's attributes are distinct from His essence, and that any literal understanding of the words that stand for God's members in the Koran is reprehensible. (2) That predestination must be taken in its most literal meaning—i.e. that God preordains everything. The opinions on this point of man's free will are, however, much divided, as, indeed, to combine a predestination which ordains every act with man's free choice is not easy. The middle path, adopted by the greater number of the doctors, is expressed in this formula: There is neither compulsion nor free liberty, but the way lies between the two, the power and will being both created by God, while the merit or guilt is imputed to man. Regarding mortal sin, it was held by this sect that if a believer die guilty of it without repentance, he will not, for all that, always remain a denizen of hell. God will either pardon him or the Prophet will intercede in his behalf. Further, he in whose heart there is faith but of the weight of an ant shall be delivered from hell fire. From this more philosophical opinion, however, departed a number of other Sifatian sects, who, taking the Koranic words more literally, transformed God's attributes into grossly corporeal things; the Mushabbihites, or Assimilators, conceived God to he a figure having limbs like those of created beings, either of a bodily or of a spiritual nature, capable of local motion, ascent, or descent, etc.
The Murjites, likewise regarded as a sect of the Sifatites, are sometimes regarded as the representatives of the whole sect, for their doctrines were very widespread, and they counted among them such men as Said ibn Jubair. The sect arose in Syria or North Arabia. It is worthy of note that some of the Murjites hold views approaching closely not only to those of the Mutazilites and Jabarians, but even, with reference to the imam, to those of the Kharijites.
Aside from the sects which owed their rise to political or theological differences, there were others in Islam which sprang from mysticism and asceticism. It is true that the secluded life of the monastery or hermitage was forbidden to Mohammedans by the Koran; nevertheless as early as the first and second centuries of the Hejira a sect of mystics had come into existence the distinguishing external mark of whom was a garment of coarse wool (ṣuf), such as had been worn by the founder of the sect, Abu Said ibn Abi al-Khair (815); they came therefore to be known as Sufis. Their main idea was that to attain to a nearer friendship with God there was necessary a certain course of life which, without demanding entire withdrawal from the world, insisted that religious laws be scrupulously observed, and that, God being loved above all else, everything worldly be despised. Merx has shown that this Oriental mysticism goes back finally to Palestine and Neo-Platonic philosophy, having come to the Mohammedans through the writings of Syrian philosophers. The main stronghold of the sect, however, was, like that of so many others, in Persia, where Sufiism made many converts from among the heterodox, and also gradually altered its original character. At first the Sufi had aimed by ascetic practices and religious contemplation to enter into a state of ecstasy in which he might attain to a real knowledge of the deity; but later Sufiism became in certain regards a real pantheism, and its adherents in the ecstatic state felt themselves united with, and a part of, the Godhead. Sufiism had its organization like other religious orders; the religious meetings were called dhikrs; novices (murid) were held to regular and exacting duties, as well as to strict compliance with the commands of the sheikh.
A later development (twelfth and thirteenth centuries) of mysticism is represented by the various orders of Dervishes—Kadiriyyah, Rifaiyyah, Maulawiyyah, etc.—each with its own garb and symbols, rules of faith and practice as determined by its founder. Their dhikrs take place once or oftener every week in their religious houses (takkiyyah). There are howling, whirling, and dancing dervishes, and in some orders the members become so insensible to physical sensation while in the state of esctasy that they swallow glass or glowing coals, and often wound themselves severely in other ways. Most dervishes follow a trade, and do not withdraw from the affairs of life. There are also some begging dervishes, who have no dwelling places and live entirely from alms. See Dervish.
The last of the Shiite religious movements is known as Babism (q.v.). In the earlier half of the nineteenth century Mirza Ali Mohammed al-Bab (gate) made propaganda for a mixture of Sufic and cabalistic doctrines which was soon accepted by a large following. They even threatened the Persian Government at one time, and had to be put down by force of arms.
Such were the numerous sects against which orthodox Mohammedanism was forced to contend; but, although Shiite doctrines more than once threatened to gain the ascendency, Sunnism remained the victor in the end. The four sects into which the Sunnites are divided—the Hanbalites, Malikites, Hanifites, and Shafi‘ites—differ only in regard to a few points of minor importance connected with religious observances and civil and religious jurisprudence. These sects have remained almost without change since their foundation under the Abbasside dynasty. Nevertheless, certain innovations had crept into the life of orthodox Mohammedans, principally an exaggeration of the reverence paid to the numerous saints, which amounted often to actual worship. It was against such abuses, as well as against all forms of luxury in everyday life, tobacco-smoking, etc., that Abd al-Wahhab and his followers (the Wahabis) arose in the latter half of the eighteenth century. From Nejd they carried on an iconoclastic warfare throughout the country; they conquered Mecca and Medina, and in destroying the many sanctuaries there did not even spare the grave of Mohammed. Previous to this they had taken Kerbela, a holy city of the Shiites in Mesopotamia. They were defeated finally by Egyptian troops, and driven back into the interior of the peninsula, and the Wahabis lost their importance. They still exist, however, as a sect.
Bibliography. Consult: Shahrastani, Book of Sects, translated into German by Haarbrücker (Halle, 1850); Steiner, Die Mu‘taziliten (Leipzig, 1865); Brünnow, Die Charidischten unter den ersten Omayyaden (Leyden, 1884); Kremer, Geschichte der herrschenden Ideen des Islam (Leipzig, 1868); Spitta, Zur Geschichte Abu ’l-Hasan al As‘ari's (ib., 1876); Schmölders, Essai sur les écoles philosophiques chez les Arabes (Paris, 1842); Krehl, Beiträge zur Charakteristik der Lehre vom Glauben im Islam (Leipzig, 1877); Tholuck, Sufismus sive Theosophia Persarum Pantheistica (Berlin, 1821); id., Blüthensammlung aus der morgenländischen Mystik (ib., 1825); Merx, Idee und Grundlinien einer allgemeinen Geschichte der Mystik (Halle, 1893); Goldziher, Mohammedanische Studien (ib., 1880-90); id., Die Zahiriten (Leipzig, 1884); De Goeje, Mémoire sur les Carmathes de Bahraïn et les Fatimides (Leyden, 1886); Sylvestre de Sacy, Exposé de la religion des Druzes (Paris, 1828); Goldziher, Beiträge zur Litteraturgeschichte der Schi‘a und der sunnitischen Polemik (Vienna, 1874); Guyard, Fragments relatifs à la doctrine des Ismaïlis (Paris, 1874); Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins and Wahhabis (London, 1820); Gobineau, Les religions et les philosophies de l'Asie centrale (Paris, 1865); E. G. Browne, A Year Among the Persians (London, 1893); id., A New History of the Bab (Cambridge, 1893); Chantepie de la Saussaye, Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte, vol. i. (Freiburg, 1887); De Boer, Geschichte der Philosophie im Islam (Stuttgart, 1901); Dussaud, Histoire des Nosairis (Paris, 1900); Macdonald, Development of Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence, and Constitutional Theory (New York, 1893).