|Major Prophets||Amad, Arik (Ariel), Elyas (Eliyahu), Ahmad|
|Holy City||Helem (Kafuristan)|
|Scripture||Book of Amad, Katub, Annunciation, Book of Bliss|
|Last Imam||Zahir al-Muntadhir|
|Founded||ca. 3600, Wantuni|
|Liturgical language||Classical Majatran|
|Members||ca. 20 million|
Zahirism (Majatran: ظاهرية Ẓāhirīyyah) is a heterodox offshoot of Abadi Ahmadism emerging in 37th century Wantuni in response to the rise of the contested Razamid Caliphate. Zahiris are distinguished from Abadis by their belief in the office of the Imam (lit. "Leader"), the spiritual and political successor to Prophet Ahmad. More specifically Zahiris accept Zahir al-Muntadhir, a 37th century Majatran from Wantuni, as the rightful Imam in opposition to the usurper Caliph Khalid I, and they believe that al-Muntadhir is still alive and his return will herald the end of the world.
In mainstream Abadism the terms Caliph and Imam are used interchangeably to refer to the rightful ruler of the Ahmadi community and the successor to the Prophet, and although the Caliph needs to be from the prophetic family and is divinely appointed to his office, all members of the Afnan ("branches", Ahmad's descendants) have an equal right of being appointed Caliph by being elected to the office by a Kurultai. Zahiris on the other hand believe that the rightful Imams have been chosen by divine decree in a patrilineal line of descent from the Prophet, and that only these Imams have the right to be Caliphs, meaning that all other Caliphs, whether elected by a Kurultai or not, are usurpers of the Caliphate.
Zahir al-Muntadhir, born Zahir ibn Yaqub al-Wantuni, son of Yaqub al-Wantuni and Tahira, an Asli servant, is believed to be a direct male descendant of Ahmad and the Last Imam or the Muntadhir ("Awaited One"). He was born in the 37th century and according to Zahiri beliefs is still alive, and will one day return to fulfill the eschatological expectations of Ahmadism; he will rule for 29 years before the Day of Judgement and will rid the world of all evil. Caliph Khalid I is believed to be a usurper of the Caliphate as the Razamids are only indirectly descended from the Prophet. Moreover, Khalid I is believed to have fulfilled the apocalyptic prophecies concerning the False Caliph, an anti-messianic figure awaited at the end of the world as the culmination of injustice and tyranny, and who according to a number of hadiths is believed to arise from the House of Razama. However, although his rise heralded the Day of Judgement, God's mercy postponed the end of the world and preternaturally granted Zahir al-Muntadhir a long life in hiding, until the world is prepared to accept the rule of the Last Imam.
Zahirism was born as a reaction to both the Hosian monarchy of the House of Maraton ruling Kalopia at the time, as well as to the rise of the Razamid Caliphate in neighboring Kafuristan. Laying claim to the Caliphal title in 3653, which had been dormant in Abadism for centuries, the Razamids were controversial for both Abadis and Israis, the former contesting the Razamid claim of descent from the Prophet and the latter citing the lack of a Kurultai confirming the Razamid Caliphate. Criticism of the Razamid claim was strongest in Kalopia, where a local religious leader came to the forefront of religious and nationalist opposition to the new Caliphate. Citing a number of hadiths according to which the False Caliph, an anti-messianic figure awaited at the end of the world as the culmination of injustice and tyranny, was to arise from the House of Razama, Zahir ibn Yaqub al-Wantuni proclaimed himself al-Muntaẓir (منتظر, the "Awaited One") and the Last Imam in 3656, and soon gained a wide following among Wantunis and Ahmadi Kalopians fearful of a potential Kafuri takeover of Kalopia. Due to Kalopian persecution against the new sect, seen as a threat to the rule of the House of Maraton, Zahir al-Mundadhir went into hiding in 3658, entrusting the leadership of his movement to a Da'i (Missionary), Farouk ibn Aqil Saqqaf, as his deputy. Saqqaf founded the Army of the Awaited One in the same year, a religious and nationalist militia proclaiming the imminent end of the world and the arrival of the Muntadhir. In 3659 Saqqaf gained power in Wantuni, backed by Kalopian and Wantuni nationalists who saw the new religious movement as a bulwark against Razamid imperialism, and the nation was proclaimed a Zahiri Emirate the same year, ruled by Farouk ibn Aqil Saqqaf as Emir and the Deputy of Zahir al-Muntadhir, establishig a Zahiri theocracy. The Zahiri Emirate lasted until December 3673, when, by way of bribes and orchestration of an internal coup, the Razamids of Kafuristan overthrew Emir Farouk and Kalopia became a province of the fast expanding Razamid Caliphate. The Siphinian secret police boss Kostaq Fisnik ruled Kalopia for the Razamids with a Razamid Prince appointed Wali (Governor). Fisnik's regime was dominated by his fellow Siphinans and Abadis, and he pushed through a religious settlement between the major sects in the country in 3674, a settlement which did not however include the young sect. Zahir al-Muntadhir's fate after the coup remains uncertain; according to Zahiri belief, his occultation continued, and Emir Farouk was succeeded by three other Da'is until 3697, when Zahir entered a Major Occultation, which continues to the present day.
Persecution of the Zahiri sect ended with the collapse of the Caliphate in 3713, although by that point the community was drastically reduced in numbers, especially since the decision of Uthman ibn Jafar al-Tukari, the third Da'i, to no longer accept new converts to the sect. Since then the Zahiris have been well integrated within the countries they reside in while retaining a strong community identity, due to their practice of blending with groups next to which they live while forbidding interfaith marriage.
The Zahiri conception of God is one of strict and uncompromising unity. In Zahirism, God's attributes are not distinct from his essence. God is both transcendent and immanent, being above all attributes while at the same time being omnipresent. As God is not distinct from his attributes, the Holy Spirits, the manifestation of the Light of God into the material realm, are a part of God. Zahiri theology follows a Neo-Piletan (OOC: Neo-Platonic) view about how God interacts with the world through emanations, linking God's transcendence with the corporeal nature of his creation. The Cosmic Intellect (Nous) or Light of God is described as God, or more precisely the image of God, and is referred to as the Demiurge. The Nous thinks his own thoughts, believed to be the Piletan ideas or forms, and the actualization of these thoughts is the being of the forms. God is prior to the Cosmic Intellect, but not in the sense of a normal cause and effect, but instead the Intellect is an emanation of God.
Prophethood and Imamate
For Zahiris the Imam is the manifestation of truth and the path to salvation. In Zahiri theology divine revelation was given in seven periods entrusted to seven prophets, each called a Natiq (speaker), commissioned to establish a new religious dispensation within their communities. Whereas the Natiq is concerned with the rites and outward shape of religion, each Natiq is accompanied by a Wasi (Representative), who is commissioned to reveal the esoteric/secret meaning of all rites and rules to a small circle of initiates. The Natiq and the Wasi are succeeded by a number of Imams, and the last imam of each era becomes the Natiq of the next, culminating with Prophet Ahmad, who was both a Natiq and a Wasi, establishing the outward ritual and legislation of the Ahmadi religion while also revealing their hidden meaning to the Afnan, the prophetic family. Ahmad was the Natiq of the last era, and the last Imam of the last era would thus not become a new Natiq and bring about a new religion of law, but rather supersede all previous religions and abrogate religious law, introducing the original religion practiced by the first man and the angels in paradise before the fall, without ritual or law but consisting merely in all creatures praising the creator and recognizing his unity. Zahiris believe that the secret meaning of the Ahmadi religion, as well as succession to the Prophet, was transmitted in a patrilineal line of succession from Ahmad to his direct descendants, and as such the Imams, the divinely chosen, infallible, and sinless rulers of the Ahmadi community, are divinely appointed to their office, irrespective of confirmation by Kurultai.
Zahiris believe that the Muntadhir is still alive but in occultation in an unknown location on Terra, communicating with his followers through dreams and visions, but otherwise not interfering with worldly affairs until mankind is ready to accept the rule of the Awaited One. The idea of occultation is not new; previous Abadi Imams had been in hiding while governing their community through deputies, in order to escape persecution from the Israi Caliphs, and scholars have also drawn parallels with the Hosian belief in the Great Hiding, Eliyahu's Exile in Heaven until the end of the world. What is new in the Zahiri concept of occultation is the idea that the Muntadhir has not experienced physical death, having been preternaturally granted a long, centuries-long life, but is otherwise present somewhere on Terra.
Drawing from both Abadi eschatology and aspects of Halawi and Sahabi tradition, Zahir ibn Yaqub al-Wantuni claimed that he had been appointed as the Muntadhir by the prophetic assembly (hadra), the gathering of all prophets from the time of the first man to Ahmad as well as many Ahmadi holy men, chaired by Prophet Ahmad. The hadra was also the source of Zahiri belief that the Muntadhir was created from the Light at the center of the Prophet's heart, that the Awaited One is the incarnation of the Universal Intellect and Soul of the world, that the Muntadhiriyya was eternal, that all living creatures had recognized the Muntadhir's claim since his birth, and that al-Muntadhir did not die but withdrew into occultation, to return one day and reveal the Zahiri wisdom to the world in order to inaugurate a golden age.
In a clear break from orthodox Abadism, Zahiris reject the traditional Shahadah, replacing it with a new formula explicitly recognizing Zahid al-Muntadhir as the Last Imam: "I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Akeem, that Ahmad is His Messenger and that Zahir is the Last Imam".
In addition to the Qedarite (OOC: Abrahamic) Prophets and the Imams, Zahiris also revere as inspired a number of ancient figures, like Kalopian philosophers Sokriatos, Piletos, and Aristoblichos, as well as Augustus the Great.
Zahiris are distinguished from most other Ahmadi sects by their belief in reincarnation. Zahiris believe that members of their own community can only be reincarnated within the Zahiri community, and that all Zahiris in their past lives signed a Charter recognizing Zahir al-Muntadhir as the Last Imam. Unlike other faiths that believe in reincarnation, humans can only be reincarnated as humans, and a male Zahiri can only return as a male Zahiri, while a female Zahiri can only be reborn as a female Zahiri. Reincarnation happens immediately after death, as neither body nor soul can exist without the other. The cycle of reincarnation is continuous, and the only way to escape is through the unity of the soul with the Light of God.
Similarly to other Ahmadi sects, Zahiris recognize the Book of Bliss as an inspired and inerrant text containing the divine revelation received by the Prophet. In addition to the Book of Bliss Zahiris believe that the Imams are guided by a number of secret texts in their possession, first written down by Prophet Ahmad and handed down to the Imams. These secret texts are now the property of the Muntadhir, and thus their location is unknown. Zahiris also revere as inspired a number of pastoral letters, penned by Zahir al-Muntadhir himself and by his Da'is.
Due to the Zahiri belief that the Muntadhir abolished all religions and religious ritual, Zahiris are not obliged to observe most religious rituals, which they believe to be symbolic and having a spiritual effect on the individual. Most Zahiri practices are nonetheless indistinguishable from those of mainstream Abadism, with the exception of polygamy, which Zahiris reject. Zahiri practices are thus centered more on ethics, which emphasize honesty, filial piety, patriotism, monotheism, and altruism.
Zahirism also does not have any clergy or religious hierarchy, although roughly 10% of the Zahiri community, both men and women, are known as al-ʻUqqāl (عقال "the Knowledgeable Initiates"), being initiated in Zahiri holy books, while the rest of the community are known as al-Juhhāl (جهال), "the Ignorant". Although the ʻUqqāl and the Juhhāl are equal in rights and responsibilities, the former are allowed access to the holy literature and secret doctrines, forbidden to the latter. Moreover the ʻUqqāl have some stricter ethical requirements, including prohibition of pork, which do not apply to the Juhhāl. Although the "Ignorant" are normally not allowed to know the secret beliefs of the faith, due to close ties within the community and frequent intra-communal social interaction, most Zahiris have a broad understanding of the sect's beliefs and ethical requirements.