The word Rāfiḍī (Arabic: الرافضي, plural: Rafida, Rawafid), among Shi'as, refers to any of those who abandoned the army of Zayd b. 'Ali b. Husayn and left him alone. Some Sunni labeled all Shi'a as "Rafidi" because they refuse the caliphate of the first caliphs. Shi'as rely on some hadiths take the label as an honor.
Arabic verb "Rafada" (َرَفَض) means: to refuse, and Rafidi means the one who refuses his or her leader.
Abu l-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 330/942) believes Rafidi and Imami are different titles for the same group that along other groups, constitutes Shi'a. he says: these people are called Rafidi, because they refused the leadership of Abu bakr and 'Umar.
Ja'far Subhani believes that Rafidi is a political term and is used for those who oppose the government of the time. Since Shi'a, after the demise of the Prophet (s) did not follow the first three caliphs, they were called so.
According to some lexicologists, the word "Raifidi" is, in fact, a title given to a group of Shi'a. First, they were followers of Zayd b. 'Ali, but they later left him when they saw that he prohibited them from cursing and criticizing the Companions and also the two first caliphs. This title was later used for anyone who considered it permissible to curse and criticize the Companions. This view has some ambiguities such as:
- The commonness of this term before the uprising of Zayd
- Its existence in Shi’a hadiths
At the Time of Mu'awiya
In a letter to 'Amr b. al-'As, Mu'awiya called the companions of Marwan in opposing Imam Ali (a), "Rafida of Basra". From this report, it can be understood that whoever opposes the government, whether it be the government of truth or falsehood, he is called Rafida. Also, since Mu'awiya called his own followers Rafida, it can be concluded that it was not a negative title that time.
Ibn A'tham reported a letter from Mu'awiya to 'Amr b. al-'As, in which Mu'awiya called the companions of Imam Ali (a) "Rafida of Basra".
At the Time of Imam al-Baqir (a)
In al-Mahasin, al-Barqi mentioned two hadiths, according to both, this term was common at the time of Imam al-Baqir (a), before the Uprising of Zayd. Abu l-Jarud says: a man told Imam al-Baqir (a): O the son of the apostle of Allah, people call us Rafidi. The Imam pointed to himself and said, "I am Rafidi too" and he repeated it three times. Abu Basir says, I told Imam al-Baqir (a): may I be your sacrifice! by labeling us with a name the governors have legitimated all kinds of confiscation, prosecution, and killing of us. The Imam said: which label? I said: Rafidi; the Imam said: "seventy persons refused the participation in the army of Pharaoh and joined Moses, in comparison to the rest of Israelites they had a firmer faith in Moses and they loved Aaron more than others did; so Moses called them Rafidi, then it was revealed to Moses: record them in Torah by the same title (Rafidi) as I have chosen this name for them." Then the Imam said: "Allah has given you the same name."
Pride in the Title
One day 'Ammar al-Duhni testified in the court of Ibn Abi Layla (the judge of Kufa) the judge said: O 'Ammar! We know you, you are a Rafidi, your testimony is not valid. You shall go. As he was shaking and crying, 'Ammar stood up to leave. Ibn Abi Layla said: 'Ammar! You are a knowledgeable man, if you are unhappy with this name, quit this sect and you shall be our brother. 'Ammar then said, "no, it is not as you think, my tears were for me and you, I cried for myself because you ascribed a credit to me I don't deserve, you called me a Rafidi, whereas Imam al-Sadiq (a) says: the first to be known by this title, were the magicians of Pharaoh, once they realized the truth of Moses' divine miracle, they refused to obey the command and religion of Pharaoh, they joined Moses and accepted all the hardship and torture. Then, Pharaoh called them Rafidis (those who refuse) because they had refused his religion. So Rafidi is the one refusing all that is unpleasant by God. But I cried for you; because you dared to take the best title as the worst label, so how are you going to reply when you are questioned by your Lord about such serious crime on the day of Judgment?"
Upon hearing about this story of 'Ammar, Imam al-Sadiq (a) said, "If 'Ammar had sins greater than heavens and earth, they all would be forgiven because of this saying of his, and this saying will increase his reward to the point that each bit of his good deeds is a thousand times greater than the whole universe."
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