What is the creedal sects accepted as innovators? How many types of innovation creedal sects are there in islam?
It is feasible to gather the sects of bidʿah or innovators, which are considered as people of false beliefs or heretics that do not have a consensus on most fundamental issues, and which sometimes put forward contradictory views, under six groups: Mu’tazilites, Jabariyya, Kharijiyya, Shia, Murjiah, and Mushabbiha. We will briefly deal with the first four of them, which have had an impact on the Muslim world.
The word Muʿtazila literally means “those who leave, those who move away, those who withdraw”. This is the sect founded by Wasil Ibn Ata (d.131/148), who abandoned the teachings of Hasan al-Basri (d.110/728), one of the Ahl al-Sunnah scholars, saying that the person who commits a major sin is at a level between belief and disbelief. Mu’tazilites define themselves as “Ahl al-ʿadl wa al-tawḥid”. Being labeled as a rational sect, the Muʿtazila gave priority to reason in interpreting the verses and hadiths that they thought contradicted reason.
Among the representatives of the Muʿtazila are Abu al-Huzayl al-Allaf (d.235/850), Nazzam (d. 231/845), Jahiz (d. 255/869), Bishr Ibn Mu’tamir (d.210) /825), Jubbai (. 303/916), Qadi Abduljabbar (d. 415/1025) and Zamahshari (d. 538/1143). The Muʿtazila, which had its heyday during the Abbasid period, later lost its influence and in time, even ceased to exist as a sectarian group. Yet, today, the views of the Mu’tazila survive in the Ja’fariyya and Zaydiyya branches of Shiism and in the Ibadiyya branch of Kharijites.
The five principles that the Mu’tazila is based on are as follows: a) Allah is one with His being and attributes (tawḥīd), b) The servant acts with his free will, and Allah creates the most appropriate (ʿadl), c) He who does good is rewarded, and for those who do evil there is punishment (waʿd and waʿid), d) Those who commit a major sin remain at the level of fisq between faith and unbelief (al-manzila bayn al-manzilatayn), e) It is obligatory for every Muslim to command good and forbid evil.
The “Qadariyyah” school, which believes in a destiny determined by the human being instead of the destiny determined by God, and attributes man’s actions to man, not God, continued its existence with the basic theses of Muʿtazila, although it was represented by various people. Maʿbad Ibn Khalid al-Juhani, one of the first leaders of this movement, who claimed that God does not have a will and knowledge over man’s will and actions and that God only knows man’s actions after they appear, was executed by governor al-Hajjaj during the period of Umayyads and another leader of this same movement, Ghaylan Ibn Muslim al-Kipti al-Dimashqi, was executed by the order of Caliph Hisham Ibn Abdulmalik.
It is a sect that supports the opposite view of the Qadariyyah on the subject of destiny and free will. It is reported that Ma’bad ibn Khalid al-Juhani (d. 85/704) was the first to bring the issue of fate to the agenda in the Islamic world. Ghaylan al-Dimashqi followed him and further developed his views on destiny. Ma’bad argued that there is no destiny predetermined by Allah, and that man is completely free in his actions and behaviors. He probably commenced by arguing that Umayyad oppression could not be part of destiny, especially by observing the notion that those who supported the extreme oppression and tyranny of the Umayyads relied on fatalism. He eventually ended up arguing that there was no such thing as destiny. As a matter of fact, the murder of both Ma’bad and Ghaylan (who followed him) by the Umayyad rulers shows that the issue is closely related to the political context of that time.
Jahm Ibn Safwan (d. 128/745) reacted strongly to the denial of destiny by Ma’bad basing his opinion on the Qur’anic verses stating that everything happens under the knowledge and will of Allah, and that man has a written destiny. He introduced the creedal principle of jabr, which is that a person does not have a choice in the things he does but he is coerced to do the things that he does due to fate. According to this belief, man has no will and power in his work and actions. A servant is like a leaf drifting in front of the wind, the wind determines the direction of the leaf, not the leaf itself. Just as God creates the motions of inanimate plants, He also creates human actions. Some members of the Jabariyya accept that there is power in man, but that it is not effective on man’s actions.
Ahl al-Sunnah, on the other hand, while accepting that all the voluntary or involuntary actions of the servants are created by Allah, they follows a middle path between the Qadariyyah and the Jabariyya, saying that Allah can direct the partial will given to man (iradah al-juz’iyyah) in any direction. In many places in the Qur’an, it is stated that “as a return for your deeds…” and “deed” is attributed to man. The fact that Allah knows what a person will do beforehand and writes it in his destiny does not mean that a person is forced into this deed. On the contrary, a person carries out that deed with his free will and he does it voluntarily. Therefore, he is responsible for the result of such action.
When the appointment of the caliph was left to an arbitrator after the battle of Siffin (37/657), which took place between Ali and Muawiya, a group emerged by rebelling against Ali and claiming that those who committed major sins would leave the religion and that the sinful head of state would not be obeyed. This group was called the “Kharijites”. Its plural form is khawārij. They are also called Haruriyya or, as a name they use for themselves, “Shurat (the ones who sell themselves to Allah).”
Although the Kharijites can be perceived to be a sect that showed meticulousness in preserving religious decrees at first glance, it is observed that they formed the first seeds of anarchy in the Muslim society due to their excessive involvement in subjects that are open to subjective evaluation. This sect initially emerged as a view adopted by the ignorant masses, and then had more or fewer followers in every period. Today, the Ibadiyya branch of Kharijites is mostly found in the sultanates of North Africa, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and Oman. Since they are based only on the literal meaning of the Qur’an, they have different views in regard to Islamic law than the Ahl al-Sunnah.
The word shia literally means supporter, helper. As a denomination, it is the common name of the communities that regarded Ali (ra) as the person most worthy of the caliphate after the death of the Prophet (saw). They accepted him as the first legitimate caliph and believed that the son of Ali should have inherited the caliphate after his death. Only second to the community of Ahl al-Sunnah, Shia is the most important creedal, jurisprudential, and political denomination that has survived until today and has a significant number of followers in the Muslim world.
In the events that took place after the martyrdom of Uthman (ra), those who took sides and fought on Ali’s side were called “Shia al-ʿAlī ibn Ṭālib (the supporters of Ali ibn Talib).”
The three major branches of Shia that have survived to the present day are Zaydiyya, Ismailiyya, and Imamiyya-Ithna Ashariyya. Zaydiyya was named after Ali’s grandson, Zayd Ibn Ali Zaynal Abidīn. Zaydiyya, who has supporters in the Yemen region today, has views close to the Mu’tazilites in matters of faith and close to the Ḥanafi sect in matters of Islamic law. Although the Zaydiyya believe that the caliphate is the right of the descendants of Ali (ra), they also see the caliphate of Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) as legitimate. They do not accept the view that the caliphate belongs to the sons of Husain and that the imams are innocent. Due to such beliefs, Zaydiyya is known as the closest sect to Ahl al-Sunnah.
After the death of Ja’far al-Sadiq in 148/769, the claim that his son Ismail and his descendants, not his son Musa and his descendants, had the right to the leadership of the state led to the emergence of the Ismailiyya sect, which is known within the wider Shia group for its extreme views. The Ismaili school, which was ruled by secret imams and missionaries (dais) for one and a half century, gained strength with the establishment of the Fatimid State at the beginning of the fourth Hijri century. Later, it was divided into two sub-fractions as eastern and western Ismailis. It had many extreme views because of its influence from ancient Greek and Eastern philosophies and Middle Eastern religions and its immersion in esoteric interpretations. Today, this minority group is mostly found in Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asia.
The Imamiyyah is the largest branch of the Shia, comprising about ten percent of the world’s Muslims today. Since the sect’s view of imamate and politics is shaped around twelve imams, they are also known as “Ithna Ashariyya (The School of Twelver Schism)” and “Ja’fariyya” because they are based on the views of Ja’far al-Sadiq in faith and Islamic law.
The main views of the Twelver Schism can be summarized as follows: a) The imamate is a pillar of religion, so there must always be an imam. b) They believe that the Prophet (saw) appointed Ali as the caliph and that this is an ongoing process. c) They believe that imams are innocent. Imams do not commit major or minor sins, knowingly or unknowingly. This belief is important in order to obey the words of the imam. d) It is necessary to believe that there are twelve Imams. e) to believe that the twelfth imam Muhammad al-Mahdi, who disappeared at a young age, will return as the Mahdi; to hide one’s identity (taqiyya) in cases of danger. Moreover, taking a stand against the Companions who did not obey Ali and cursing them are also among the fundamental principles adopted by Imamiyya.
The Imamiyya, which started during the caliphate of Ali and continued throughout the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, isolated itself from the majority of the Muslim ʿummah as a result of the failures, and oppression, tyranny, and injustices and developed its own theories around the imamate and politics. It was criticized by the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah because of the differences of opinion it caused in the Muslim world, its uncompromising attitude, and the creedal views it supported. However, the moderate Shiites, who are in agreement with the majority of Muslims, on certain rules of Islam, such as the principles of faith, ritual prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, zakāt, alcohol, gambling, and adultery, have never been called disbelievers.
It is our view that a peaceful process should be started by studying the issues that led to the disagreement between Muslims in history. This should be carried out with scholarly methods and comparing the events with the valid sources that are in the hands of the Ahl al-Sunnah. At a time when political, cultural, and economic cooperation is being carried out by countries dominated by non-Muslims, and dialogue and tolerance meetings are held, it should not be difficult to meet on a scholarly basis with societies that refer to the Qur’an and the Sunnah to a large extent.
 See al-Aʿraf, 7: 178; al-Tawba, 9: 51; Raʿd, 13/8; al-Zumar, 39: 62; al-Qamar, 54: 49; al-Insan, 76: 30.
 Al-Shahristani, al-Milal wa al-Nihal, Beirut 1975, I, 85.
 Al-Shahristani, ibid, I, 146.
 For more information see Bekir Topaloğlu, Kelam İlmi, İstanbul 1981, p. 218; Mustafa Öz, “Ca’fer es-Sadık”, TDV İslam Ansik., “Şia”, Şamil İslam Ansik.; Hamdi Döndüren, “Ca’fer-i Sadık”, Şamil İslam Ansik.; Komisyon, İlmihal, I, 29-31.