Who are the Rawāfid?

Written By: Agha Shabbir Abbas

Who are the Rawāfiḍ?

The term روافض Rawāfiḍ derives from the tri-consonant root ر ف ض which means ‘to reject’ or ‘to refuse,’ hence the Rawāfiḍ are the ‘rejectors.’ This term in the Muslim populace is seen as something derogatory in nature, analogous to the label ‘Refusenik’ put on the Soviet Jews who were deemed as security liabilities and traitorous in nature. This supposed nomen odiosum, abusive name, throughout history has been used by some in the majority Sunni population to label the Shīʿah for they ‘rejected’ the Khulafāʾ Rāshidūn, the Caliphate of Abi Bakr, ‘Umar, Uthman; for they instead only accepted the khilāfa of Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (A) and his descendents. This rejection by the Shīʿah was and still is seen as something disgraceful by the majority and deserving of intolerance.

Example of the term Rawāfiḍ being used in a derogatory manner:

However in regards to the Shīʿah the term Rawāfiḍ is in fact an honorific and not something negative. This is rather odd that a term used as an insult by some is welcomed by the insulted. To understand this we must delve into the narrations. In the fourth section of Kitab al-mahasin, Kitab al-safwa wa l-nur wa l-rahma, we find a disciple of Imam Ja`far ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq (A) complaining to him that he was being abused and labelled as such, in response the Imam (A) said:

“By God, this name which God has granted you is excellent, as long as you follow our teachings and don’t attribute lies to us.”

The predecessor of Imam al-Ṣādiq, his father Imam Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī al-Bāqir (A) explained the origins of the Rawāfiḍ for they were not a new phenomena, they were present during the time of Mūsa (A). In the same Kitab al-mahasin Imam al-Bāqir (A) is recorded to have said that:

“Seventy men from Fir’awn’s camp rejected Fir’awn and came to Mūsa (A); there was no one among the people of Mūsa (A) whose dedication and love for Hārūn (A) exceeded theirs.”

Ignoring the similitude between Hārūn (A) and Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (A) we must instead look at the two groups as mentioned in the Qur’ān. In Surat Al-‘A`rāf (7:120-126) and Surat Ţāhā (20:70-74) those who rejected Fir’awn are mentioned such that they were threatened with death for their rejection, nevertheless they remained firm in their stance.

Fir’awn threatened:
“Be sure I will cut off your hands and your feet on apposite sides, and I will cause you all to die on the cross.” (7:124)

The seventy men bravely responded:
“For us, We are but sent back unto our Lord” (7:125)

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This rejection of tyranny and evil and the threat of death is equivalent to the life of persecution faced by the Shīʿah. Hence the Shīʿah must proudly call themselves the Rawāfiḍ, by doing so evil is rejected and justice is upheld for the Rawāfiḍ will always stand up against the Fir’awn of their time whether they call themselves Muslim (e.g. ISIS) or they ironically call themselves the followers of Mūsa (A) (e.g. Israel).

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