TwelverShi'a
Is it correct to say that there are two broad groups within Twelver Shia, the Usuli, Akhbari and Shaykhi being the orthodox group and the other group being the Alawi, Alevi and Nimatullahi? If so, which one or ones are correct and by what criteria?
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64079
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Amina Inloes,

Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the Islamic College in London and also the Managing Editor of the Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies.

291 Answers
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Dr Rebecca Masterton graduated with a BA in Japanese Language and Literature; an MA in Comparative East Asian and African Literature and a PhD in Islamic literature of West Africa. She has been teaching for seventeen years through different media, and has also worked in media for ten years, producing and presenting programs for several TV channels.

76 Answers
Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi,

Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to religious questions. In the past, he has also spent significant time in India guiding the community.

1344 Answers
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15 Answers
Passed
Saleem Bhimji,

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15 Answers
Passed
Zoheir Ali Esmail,

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255 Answers
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Nour Tessie Jørgensen,

Nour Tessie Jørgensen has an MA in Islamic studies from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and a degree in Philosophy of Ethics at Al Mustafa International University in Qum, Iran. She works as an Islamic Studies teacher and a counselor in spiritual and female-related issues.

18 Answers
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Abbas Di Palma,

Shaykh Abbas Di Palma holds a BA and an MA degree in Islamic Studies, and certifications from the Language Institute of Damascus University. He has also studied traditional Islamic sciences in London, Damascus and Qom and taught for different institutions in Italy and UK.

198 Answers
Passed
Abolfazl Sabouri,

Abolfazl Sabouri is based in New Zealand and has an MA in Jurisprudence and Islamic Studies. He is a graduate of Elmiyeh seminary in Qom with more than 15 years of study and research where he has also taught Tafsir, Theology and Jurisprudence.

39 Answers
Passed
Sayyed Muhammad Husaini Ragheb,

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54 Answers
Passed
Zaid Alsalami,

Shaykh Dr Zaid Alsalami is an Iraqi born scholar, raised in Australia. He obtained a BA from Al-Mustafa University, Qom, and an MA from the Islamic College in London. He also obtained a PhD from ANU, Canberra. He has written and translated several Islamic texts and also prepared educational videos on Islamic rulings and practices.

163 Answers
Passed
Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answered 11 months ago

It is difficult to answer the question of "who is right" since everyone thinks their religion is right! Answering the question of "who is orthodox?" also brings up the question of who has the right to determine what is orthodox.

(Keeping in mind many Muslims consider all Shi'is to be unorthodox!)

Anyway, as you say, many people today consider the strongly fiqh-based approach to Twelver Shi'ism (i.e. the first stream of thought, in that Shaykhism also emerges from that line) to be the "mainstream" or "orthodox" one.

It is also argued by scholars of religious history that Alawism and Alevism are heavily syncretic religions (i.e. strong mixes of Islam/Shiism and other religions). My understanding is that some Nimatullahis self-identify in this way today (that is, as strongly integrating beliefs prior to Islam), but I don't know if that reflects the whole tradition, and, in any case, just because a belief is ancient does not necessarily mean that it is wrong. However, it could be construed as "less orthodox" insofar as it there is no evidence that it comes down a direct line from the Prophet/Twelve Imams. 

My impression has always been that today's Alawism and Alevism are more "cultural religions", i.e. they are practiced in some areas as local traditions but don't absorb outsiders easily. 

Anyway, my view on this is, firstly, to follow the advice of Imam Ali (A) - namely, first know the truth, and then you will come to know the people who are on the truth.

Second, insofar as Islam is a scriptural religion, you can read Qur'an and hadith, especially the Qur'an, and compare the beliefs and practices of these different groups and see what seems to fit best with it.

Third, there is no harm in taking what is good from different places. If you have the option to practice Shi'ism in one or more of these interpretations, you can see what leads you to the truth, what beliefs and practices are healthy or unhealthy, which reflect the spirit of the Qur'an, what you think best reflects the intent of the Prophet (S), etc.

Lastly, of course, seek divine guidance.

Usually we already know what is true and the kernel of the answer is already in our heart, but sometimes we aren't ready to act on it yet, and we have to wait until the time when we are ready to acknowledge whatever we know is true. 

Rebecca Masterton, Dr Rebecca Masterton graduated with a BA in Japanese Language and Literature; an MA in Comparative East Asian and African Literature and a PhD in Islamic literature of West Africa. She has been... Answered 11 months ago

People have always sought to arrange people into groups and to declare which are correct or not correct, or orthodox or not orthodox. First of all, what do you mean by 'orthodox'? Secondly, the Usuli and Akhbari both accuse each other of heterodoxy. Both are Twelver Shi'a. The Shaykhis are Twelver Shi'a and the Ni'matullahis are Sufis and are also Twelver Shi'a, except that one branch of the Ni'matullahis praises 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. Much Sufism that developed among the Shi'a during the medieval period incorporated elements of the Sunni Sufi silsilas, yet practitioners of that Sufism would consider themselves to be Twelver Shi'a. There are different 'Alawi groups - so which ones are you referring to? In the early period, the name 'Alawi was just another name for the Shi 'a of 'Ali [as]; the term 'Alawi also came to be use for the descendents of Abu Talib's [ra] household; there are also Sunni 'Alawis descended from Imam al-Hasan [as]. You say which ones are correct and by what criteria: correct from what perspective? A Sunni perspective? A Shi'i perspective? A secular perspective? Please clarify.

Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answered 11 months ago

 This statement is not correct.

The name of Twelvers came from the Prophetic statement that my successors will be twelve. This most authentic Hadeeth is narrated in main Sunni books including Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmithi, Ibn Maajah, Musnad Ibn Hanbal hundreds of Hadeeth books.

While all Muslim scholars believe that the Prophet said this, but only Shia Muslims follow the Prophetic teachings by following the Twelve successors.

In fact every Muslim must believe and follow the Twelve Imams If he really wants to abide to the Prophetic orders.

The Osooli and Akhbari and Shaikhi are not different sects, as all of them believe and follow the Twelve Imams from Ahlul Bayt (AS), but some of their scholars have their attitude to derive the Islamic rules from the Hadeeths.

The criteria to know the truth among all the different opinions and sects is the authentic evidence from Quran and authentic Hadeeth.

Wassalam.