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Ibadi Texts from the 2nd/8th Century

  • Book Title:
 Ibadi Texts From The 2nd 8th Century
  • Book Author:
Abdulrahman al-Salimi, Wilferd Madelung
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The extant religious literature of the Ibāḍī communities in Oman and North Africa has preserved a sizable number of theological, legal and political texts produced in the late 1st and the 2nd century of Islam.

 Since relatively few simi-lar texts of such early age have been preserved by other Muslim communities, the source value of these texts for modern scholars of Islam goes well beyond their immediate interest for sectarian history. The present volume assembles 14 texts dating mostly from the first half of the 2nd/8th century whose authen-ticity now seems unquestionable.

While a few of them have been edited and published before, the majority of them are published here for the first time. All the texts but one are edited on the basis of modern ʿUmānī manuscripts gathered by Abd al-Rahman al-Salimi. No early manuscripts of any of these texts are extant, and all the manuscripts on which the editors had to rely contain considerable corruption requiring emendation.

 Indeed some other texts the editors would have liked to include in the volume proved too corrupt for any attempt to establish a publishable version. We thank Wadad Kadi for carefully reading all the texts and suggesting corrections and emendations.

The Texts

Sīrat (Kitāb, Risālat) ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ ilā ʿAbd al-Malik b. Marwān, Letter of ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ to ʿAbd al-Malik b. Marwān. This text was long considered as an authentic letter of ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ, the alleged founder of the Ibāḍiyya sect, to the Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik b. Marwān (65–86/685–705). Its authenticity was first questioned by J. Wilkinson and M. Cook who argued that it could not have been addressed to a caliph. Cook suggested that it might rather be a letter of Jābir b. Zayd to the Muhallabid amīr ʿAbd al-Malik b. al-Muhallab b. Abī Ṣufra (d. 102/720–21).1

Wilkinson proposed in his more recent Ibāḍism: Origin and Early Development in Oman2 that the ʿAbd al-Malik to whom it was addressed was in fact the son of the caliph ʿUmar ii and the great-grandson of Marwān b. al-Ḥakam, the founder of the Marwānid branch of the Umayyad caliphate.

Wilkinson considered the ascription of the letter to ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ as fictitious and suggested that the author was a militant early leader of the Ibāḍiyya rather than Jābir b. Zayd. The authenticity of the letter has been upheld by W. Madelung who agreed with the view of Wilkinson that the addressee of the letter was the son of the caliph ʿUmar ii, ʿAbd al-Malik, who died during the caliphate of his father (99–101/717–720).3 The letter thus can safely be dated to ca. 97–99/715–717. 

In the letter, ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ replies to a previous letter of ʿAbd al-Malik in which the latter earnestly appealed to him to distance himself from the extrem-ist enemies of the caliphate of ʿUthmān and the Umayyads and to accept the legitimacy of their reign. ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ rejects ʿAbd al-Malik’s overture, denounces the tyrannical rule of ʿUthmān and Muʿāwiya, and justifies the violent overthrow of ʿUthmān by his opponents and their continued revolt against Muāwiya and his successors. He polemically argues that the Umayyads and their supporters are the extremists in religion, not the Khārijites accused by ʿAbd al-Malik of extremism.

ʿAbd al-Malik was indeed guilty of extrem-ism by following ʿUthmān and the Umayyad caliphs after him in their rebel-lion against God. ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ distances himself, however, from Nāfiʿ b. al-Azraq and his followers who, when they first revolted, had seemed good Muslims, but then had turned away from Islam and become infidels.

Previous editions of the letter of ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ on the basis of other manuscripts are listed by M.H. Custers, Al-Ibāḍiyya: a Bibliography, vol. i: Ibāḍīs of the Mashriq (Maastricht 2006), p. 3.

2. Risālat ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ al-thāniya, long known as ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ’s sec-ond letter to ʿAbd al-Malik. The authenticity of this letter was first questioned and rejected by M. Cook, who pointed out that it was written in response to a letter of a Shīʿī and dated it to the middle of the 2nd century / ca. 770. ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ, who in the historical account of Abū Mikhnaf is described as the leader of the Ibāḍiyya in the early 60s of the 1st century H/ca. 680–685, could not be the author of the letter.4 The authenticity of the letter has been defended by W. Madelung on the basis of a report of Abū ʿUbayd Allāh al-Marzubānī according to which ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ was imprisoned by the ʿAbbāsid caliph al-Manṣūr after having accused the Shīʿī poet al-Sayyid al-Ḥimyarī of cursing the Companions of the Prophet.

Madelung suggested that the early leader of the Ibāḍiyya may have been Ibāḍ b. ʿAmr who was presumably succeeded by his young son ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ in the late 80s or early 90s of the 1st century/ca. 705–710. The addressee of the letter may well have been the poet al-Sayyid al-Ḥimyarī, who is known to have been sharply reproached by ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ for abandoning the Ibāḍī faith of his parents and espousing Shīʿī belief in his poetry.5

The letter contains a polemical denunciation of the caliph ʿAlī for his agree-ment to arbitration in his conflict with the Umayyad Muʿāwiya and his later conduct. The author defends the Ahl al-Nahrawān, the early seceders from the army of ʿAlī, against the charge of the author’s correspondent that they were rebels against the legitimate caliph. The author goes on to denounce ʿAlī’s son and successor al-Ḥasan as a traitor of Islam for his surrender to the caliph Muʿāwiya and castigates the later Shīʿa for their rejection of the caliphate of Abū Bakr and ʿUmar and their claim that only descendants of ʿAlī were entitled to rule in Islam.

3. Sīrat Abī Mawdūd Ḥajib raḥimahu Allāh, Epistle of Abū Mawdūd Ḥājib, may God have mercy upon him. Abū Mawdūd Ḥājib b. Mawdūd al-Ṭāʾī al-Azdī, a merchant from Oman, was for some time leader of the Ibāḍī community in Baṣra jointly with Abū ʿUbayda Muslim b. Abī Karīma al-Tamīmī, client (mawlā) of ʿUrwa b. Udayya who had manumitted his father Abū Karīma. Ḥājib is known as a major organizer of the rising of ʿAbd Allāh b. Yaḥyā Ṭālib al-Ḥaqq in Arabia in 129/748 and armed supporter of his Ibāḍī imamate. He died before Abū ʿUbayda during the caliphate of al-Manṣūr (136–158/754–775).6

The epistle is addressed to all faithful Muslims, i.e. all Ibāḍīs. The author admonishes them to continue strictly performing God’s commandments. They must not obey the unjust caliphs who have claimed the rule of the Muslims after Abū Bakr and ʿUmar, but must obey their just imams, who are not identi-fied in the letter, and their scholars of the law (fuqahāʾ). The author details the obligations of the Muslims towards their just imams as well as the obligations of the imams towards the Muslims. The epistle may well have been written in the time of the imamate of ʿAbd Allāh b. Yaḥyā Ṭālib al-Ḥaqq, but may also date from a later time when there was an active Ibāḍī claimant of the imamate.

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