Who are the Nusayrîs? Are they Muslims or Unbelievers?
[Note that the present government of Syria is by the Nusayris. To describe this ancient tribe living in the mountains with epithets such as: gruesome, horrific, grisly, repulsive, dreadful, frightening, is to say little].
The Nusayriyyah sect is attributed to Muhammad b. Nusayr al-Basrî, a slave of Banî Numayr, originally from Persia, from Khuzistân. It was founded in the third century AH as one of the sects that advocated hidden doctrines (al-Bâtiniyyah). These were sects that advanced the idea that Islam has open rites as well as hidden rites that differ from the open ones. The Nusayriyyah prefer to be called `Alawiyyah, attributing themselves to `Alî bin Abî Tâlib. This name was given to them by the French during the time of their colonial occupation of Syria in 1920, as a ruse to hide the sect from the other Muslims, since Muslim scholars had long ago ruled that the Nusayrî sect were unbelievers.
Determining whether this sect is to be considered an Islamic sect or an unbelieving sect is a two-step process. First, we must come to know the beliefs and doctrinal teachings of this sect from its own intellectual heritage. Second, we need to weigh these doctrines according to the Qur’ân and Sunnah. It is the Qur’ân and Sunnah that give us as Muslims the decisive rulings for all our affairs, great and small. For Allah says:
“If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (Submission to Allah) never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost.” [Sûrah Âl-`Imrân: 85]
Returning to the first factor, the Nusayriyyah consider their creed to be a deeply guarded secret, as mentioned in their book al-Haft al-Sharîf: “O Preferred One: You have been conferred with great favors and have come to learn hidden knowledge. You have to hide Allah’s secret and not disclose it but to a sincere saint.”
There is the famous story about Sulymân al-Udhanî who was a son of a Nusayrî sheikh. He authored a book called: al-Bâkûrah al-Sulaymâniyyah and disclosed within it many of the secrets of the Nusayrî creed. They burnt him alive for doing so. Even though the Nusayriyyah consider their creed to be a deeply guarded secret, and in spite of their keenness in concealing their beliefs; nonetheless, some of their teaching have come to light. This has enabled scholars and researchers to study the beliefs of this sect and come to a determination as to its status with respect to belief and unbelief. This sect believes in the doctrine of incarnation and manifestation. They believe that divinity had incarnated itself in the person of `Alî b. Abî Tâlib. Moreover, the Nusayrî doctrine holds that Allah had been manifested in mankind since the dawn of time.
In their book Ta`âlîm al-Diyânah al-Nusayriyyah (The Teachings of the Nusayrî Faith) a manuscript of which is housed at the National Library in Paris (no. 6182), it says that there are seven stages for the manifestation of the divine, each of which has taken a messenger for a speaker. The first manifestation of the divine was in Seth, and Adam was the speaking messenger. Divinity was then transferred to Sam and prophecy to Noah. Then divinity was transferred to Ishmael and prophecy to Abraham. Then it was transferred to Aaron with prophecy going to Moses. Divinity then manifested itself to Shim`on, the Pure, known to the Christians as Peter, and prophecy to `Jesus.
At the final stage, divinity manifested itself in `Alî with prophecy going to Muhammad (peace be upon him). This creed is mentioned by the Ismâ’îlî scholar Mustafâ Ghâlib in his introduction to the Nusayrî book al-Haft by al-Ja`fî. On the basis of this doctrine, `Alî will be God in concealment but an Imam in our visible life. This is mentioned in the book al-Majmû`. It is clearly stated in chapter (8-9-10):
“O `Alî b. Abî Tâlib! You are our God in concealment and our Imam in the manifest life.”
“I witness that the visual image that appeared among mankind is the utmost goal, and it is the light manifest, and there is no God besides it, and it is `Alî b. Abî Tâlib.”
Another of the Nusayrî doctrines is the doctrine of reincarnation, as mentioned in their book al-Haft (21-22 and 121, 146, 162, 190). This is also mentioned in al-Bâkûrah al-Sulaymâniyyah by Sulaymân Afandî al-Udhunî. He had been one of their scholars who then embraced Christianity. From these sources, it would appear that reincarnation is one of the main pillars of Nusayrî belief.
For them, reincarnation takes the place of the Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, and for being held to account in the Hereafter. According to their beliefs, reward and punishment will not take place in Heaven or Hell in the Hereafter, but it will occur in the worldly life according to the bodily forms, physical manifestations, and transformations that the soul will undergo. Turning from questions of theology to the topic of worship, we find that they regard acts of worship to have other meanings intended by Allah (swt) that are other than their apparent meanings. In their book al-Haft (page 64) it reads:
I said: O my master! Were not his family of those who offer prayers?
He said: Beware! Do you know what the meaning is of Allah’s words: “He used to enjoin prayer upon his people”?
I said: It means his people of the believers of his sect whom conceal their faith, and that is the highest rank of knowledge, acknowledgement and monotheism. And that He is the highest and the supreme, meaning Imam `Alî.
With regard to the meaning of Allah’s words: “He used to enjoin on his people prayer and charity,” the meaning of prayer is the Commander of the Faithful and charity means his knowledge. As for “observing prayer” it means our knowledge and our observance.
These are some of the Nusayrî beliefs and articles. When we compare them with the two authentic sources of Islam, Allah’s book and the Prophet’s Sunnah, we can see that they are diametrically opposed. This is obvious to anyone possessing even the least knowledge of Islam.
The scholars of Islam, on this basis, have ruled that they are unbelievers. This is on account of their disbelief in Allah, their associating partners with Him in their worship, their overturning of His law by making lawful what Allah has clearly made unlawful, and their gross misinterpretation of the main pillars of Islam.
Ibn Taymiyah writes [Majmû` al-Fatâwa (35/149)]:
“These people who are called the Nusayriyyah along with the sects like the Qarâmitah who uphold the idea of hidden doctrines are more severe in their unbelief in Islam than the Jews and Christian. Indeed, they are greater in their unbelief than many of the polytheists. The harm that they cause for the followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him) is greater than the harm inflicted by the unbelievers who attack us, like the disbelieving Mongols or Franks.
“This is because these people pretend, in front of ignorant Muslims, to be Shî`ah following the family of the Prophet (peace be upon him), while, in reality, they do not believe in Allah, His Messenger, His book, His commands, His prohibition, His reward, His punishment, Paradise, or Hell. Nor do they believe in any of the Messengers before Muhammad (peace be upon him) nor in any of the religions from before. Instead, they take some of Allah’s words and the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that are well known to the scholars of the Muslims and reinterpret it among themselves in conformity with their own teachings pretending it to be hidden knowledge.”
Ibn al-Qayyim declares them to be unbelievers in Ighâthat al-Lahfân (2/247-249). Ibn Hazm does so in al-Muhallâ (13/139). Al-Daylamî does so in Bayân Madhhab al-Bâtiniyyah wa Butlâlanuh (71). Al-Ghazâlî declares them to be unbelievers in his famous book on the hidden sects, Fadâ’ih al-Bâtiniyyah (37).
And Allah knows best.