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The Rise of New Sects

If Wahhabism was the result of extremist tendencies on the part of a particular branch of Sunnism (Hanbalism), Shaykhism was the counterpoint of this development on the Shi`ite side. Shaykhism was founded by Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa’i (mid 12th to early 13th century AH). His views of the infallible Shi`ite imams (PBUH) bordered on guluww (exaggeration). In Shaykhism the imam is the link between God and creatures, and even if there is no belief in other forms of causality, there is belief in the sufficient cause.

The hurqalya’i body is another one of the Shaykh’s innovations. It is a body possessed by all men and is one that is subtler than the physical body. Muhammad Khan Kirmani also postulates two types of human bodies. The Karim-Khani followers of Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa’i added a new element to the religion: the fourth pillar, i.e. human intermediaries (wasa’it) for the transmission of the knowledge of the Hidden Imam (PBUH) to men.

Sunusim is another modern sect which spread in the western part of the Islamic world. It was founded by Muhammad b. `Ali Sunusi in the second half of the 13th century AH and attracted a large following in Jabal Akhdar in the western Trablus where it was first propagated. The sect spread throughout north Africa, especially after the death of Muhammad, during the days of his son Mahdi, who claimed himself to be messiah and established what resembled a government, a fact that aroused the suspicion of the Ottoman caliphate. The Sunusis stressed devotion in faith and close adherence to the immediate sense of the Quran and the prophetic hadiths. They considered sama’ (audition) and dance as unlawful and advocated both dhikr (spiritual remembrance) and working for a living. Muhammad b. `Ali Sunusi aimed at establishing an Islamic community through peaceful means. His followers, however, did not remain loyal to the ideals of their leader and adopted a revolutionary style in their struggle against the colonialists.

The counterpoint to the Sunusis, with their strict devotion to shari`ah and unequivocal Islamic rules, were the followers of the two sects founded in the opposite end of the Islamic world, i.e. the Qadiyaniyyah or Ahmadiyyah, with their relaxed attitude towards religious rules. Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani (the second half of the 13th and the first quarter of the 14th century) declared himself as messiah and claimed to be the recipient of divine revelation. Influenced by Hindu teachings, he even went as far as considering himself as the incarnation of God. Ahmad’s followers may be divided into two groups: the minority who practice close adherence to Islamic rules and view Qadianism as a mere movement of reform in Islam, and the rest who are loyal to the teachings of the founder and consider him as a prophet, in spite of their confession as being real Muslims. To them Qadianism is the second advent of Islam.

source: Jalali moghadam , Masood " Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.438 - 439

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