Abdullah Ibn Saba :Myth or Reality
Enemies of Islam whose goal were/are to split the Muslims, in their effort
to explain the emergence of Shia, claim that the Shia are a sect which was
originated by Abdullah Ibn Saba, a Jew who embraced Islam during the reign
of Uthman Ibn Affan, the third caliph. They further state that Abdullah Ibn
Saba traveled in Muslim cities and towns, from Damascus to Kufa to Egypt,
propagating among Muslims that Ali is the Prophet's successor. He provoked
Muslims to kill Uthman since he believed Uthman had occupied the seat of
Imam Ali. He also made mischief in the armies of Ali and his opponents in
the battle of Camel. He was also responsible for all the false ideas of the
Shia forward. These mercenary writers believe that Abdullah Ibn Saba is the
ORIGIN of Shia; and since he himself was a hypocrite and a falsifier of
tales, then all the knowledge and beliefs of the Shia are also false. In
fact, Abdullah Ibn Saba is the best scapegoat for all the claims of some
While the existence of a person in the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba in the
early history of Islam is seriously under question, what is clear after
extensively researching this topic is that even if a poor man with such
name ever existed at that time, the stories propagated about this person
are legendary, false, fabricated, and fictitious, and there exists no proof
for the validity of these stories attached to him. This point will be
studied in this discussion, by the willing of Allah.
The fabricated stories around the character of Abdullah Ibn Saba are the
malicious production of one of the disciples of the devil, namely Sayf Ibn
Umar al-Tamimi. He was a story teller, lived in the second century after
Hijrah, who shaped his stories by some primary facts he found in the
documented history of Islam available at that time. Sayf wrote a novel much
the same as what Salman Rushdi did in "Satanic Verses" with similar
motives, but with the difference that the role of Satan in this case was
given to poor Abdullah Ibn Saba.
Sayf Ibn Umar distorted the biographies of the companions of the Holy
Prophet (PBUH&HF) to please the government of his time, and to distort the
history of Shia and to ridicule Islam. Sayf was a staunch advocate of the
Umayads, who were known throughout history to be one of the worst enemies
of Ahlul-Bayt, and as such, it was in his best interest to invent such
stories to degrade the Shia. In his stories however he followed many other
goals one of which was to cleverly elevate the status of his tribe over
others by inventing some imaginary companions form his tribe. However many
Sunni scholars found numerous unjustifiable heresies in his reports which
was not limited to the issue of Abdullah Ibn Saba, and consequently they
abandoned his reports, and accuse him as a man of forgery and lies. Yet
Sayf's works enjoyed the support of a minority of Sunnis to this date.
Here, later on, I give the sayings of several leading Sunni scholars, who
all confirmed that Sayf Ibn Umar was an untrustworthy person and his
stories are void.
Ideological studies indicate that most of those who hate the Shi'ite school
of thought (a lot of whom being the enemies of Islam anyway) justify their
enmity on this obvious heresy which they would exploit to backup their
attack on Shia. The approach which resembles the one adopted by Sayf Ibn
The Origin of The Tale
The tale of Abdullah Ibn Saba is over twelve centuries old. Historians
and writers, one after the other recorded it, adding more and more to it.
With a glance at the chain of transmitters of this story, you will find the
name of Sayf sitting in there. The following historians recorded directly
(2) Dhahabi. He has also cited from Tabari(1).
(3) Ibn Abi Bakir. He has also recorded from Ibn Athir(15), who has
recorded from Tabari(1).
(4) Ibn Asakir.
The following have recorded indirectly from Sayf:
(5) Nicholson from Tabari(1).
(6) Encyclopedia of Islam from Tabari(1).
(7) Van Floton from Tabari(1).
(8) Wellhauzen from Tabari(1).
(9) Mirkhand from Tabari(1).
(10) Ahmad Amin from Tabari(1), and from Wellhauzen(8).
(11) Farid Wajdi from Tabari(1).
(12) Hasan Ibrahim from Tabari(1).
(13) Saeed Afghani from Tabari(1), and from Ibn Abi Bakir(3), Ibn
Asakir(4), and Ibn Badran(21).
(14) Ibn Khaldoon from Tabari(1).
(15) Ibn Athir from Tabari(1).
(16) Ibn Kathir from Tabari(1).
(17) Donaldson from Nicholson(5), and from Encyclopedia(6).
(18) Ghiath al-Din from Mirkhand(9).
(19) Abul Fida from Ibn Athir(15).
(20) Rashid Ridha from Ibn Athir(15).
(21) Ibn Badran from Ibn Asakir(4).
(22) Bostani from Ibn Kathir(16).
The above list gives evidence to the fact that the fictitious stories
around the character of Abdullah Ibn Saba has been started by Sayf and
cited next by Tabari directly from Sayf's book as Tabari mentioned himself
(See the chain of narrators of traditions related to Abdullah Ibn Saba,
inside the History of Tabari. For instance, see the index of Vol. 15,
English version, under the name of Sayf Ibn Umar or Abdullah Ibn Saba).
Therefore, Sayf's character and his history should be studied and analyzed
with a great care.
Who Is Sayf?
Sayf Ibn Umar al-Dhabbi al-Usayyidi al-Tamimi lived in the second century
of the Muslim era (8th century AD) and died after the year 170 AH (750 AD).
al-Dhahabi said that Sayf died during the rule of Haroon al-Rashid in
Baghdad (Iraq). During his life, Sayf wrote the following two books which
were available even during the reign of Umayad:
1. "al-Fotooh wa al-Riddah" which is the history of the period before the
death of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) until the third Caliph Uthman resumed
office as the ruler of Muslim world.
2. "al-Jamal wa Maseeri Aisha wa Ali" which is the history from the
murder of Uthman to the battle of Jamal (the fight that happened
between Imam Ali and some companions).
These books are now lost but survived for a number of centuries after
Sayf's own lifetime. Based on what we found, the last person who had said
that he had possessed Sayf's books was Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852 AH).
These two books of Sayf contained more action than truth, some forged
stories, and some true events which, intentionally, have been recorded in a
Since Sayf spoke about some of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and
also invented some companions with strange names, his stories have affected
the history of early Islam. Some biographers such as the authors of "Usdul
Ghabah", "Isti'ab" and "Isabah" and geographers such as the authors of
"Mu'jamul Boldan" and "al-Rawzul mi'tar" have written the life of some
companions of the Prophet, and named places which exist only in the books
written by Sayf. Because of this, the life and character of Sayf and his
credibility should be carefully investigated.
What Do Sunni Scholars Say About Sayf?
The following leading Sunni scholars confirm that Sayf Ibn Umar was a well-
known liar and untrustworthy:
(1) al-Hakim (d. 405 AH) wrote: "Sayf is accused of being a heretic. His
narrations are abandoned."
(2) al-Nisa'i (d. 303 AH) wrote: "Sayf's narrations are weak and they
should be disregarded because he was unreliable and untrustworthy."
(3) Yahya Ibn Mueen (d. 233 AH) wrote: "Sayf's narrations are weak and
(4) Abu Hatam (d. 277 AH) wrote: "Sayf's Hadith is rejected."
(5) Ibn Abi Hatam (d. 327 AH) wrote: "Scholars have abandoned Sayf's
(6) Abu Dawud (d. 316 AH) wrote: "Sayf is nothing. He was a liar. Some of
his Hadiths were conveyed and the majority of them are denied."
(7) Ibn Habban (d. 354 AH) wrote: "Sayf attributed fabricated traditions
to the good reporters. He was accused of being a heretic and a liar."
(8) Ibn Abd al-Barr (d. 462 AH) mentined in his writing abut al-Qa'qa:
"Sayf reported that al-Qa'qa Said: I attended the death of the Prophet
Muhammad." Ibn Adb al-Barr continued: "Ibn Abu Hatam said: Sayf is
weak. Thus, what was conveyed of the presence of al-Qa'qa at the death
of the Prophet is rejected. We mentioned the Sayf's traditions for
(9) al-Darqutini (d. 385 AH) wrote: "Sayf is weak".
(10) Firoozabadi (d. 817 AH) in "Towalif" mentioned Sayf and some others by
saying: "They are weak."
(11) Ibn al-Sakan (d. 353 AH) wrote: "Sayf is weak."
(12) Safi al-Din (d. 923 AH) wrote: "Sayf is considered weak."
(13) Ibn Udei (d. 365 AH) wrote about Sayf: "He is weak. Some of his
narrations are famous yet the majority of his narrations are
disgraceful and not followed."
(14) al-Suyuti (d. 900 AH) wrote: "Sayf's Hadith is weak."
(15) Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852 AH) wrote after mentioning a tradition:
"Many reporters of this tradition are weak, and the weakest among them
It is interesting to see that although al-Dhahabi (d. 748 AH) has quoted
from the book of Sayf in his History, he has mentioned in his other book
that Sayf as a weak narrator. In "al-Mughni fi al-Dhu'afa'" al-Dhahabi
"Sayf has two books which have been unanimously abandoned by the
scholars." (al-Mughni fi al-Dhu'afa', by al-Dhahabi, p292)
The result of the investigation into Sayf's life shows that Sayf was an
agnostic and an unreliable story teller. Stories told by him are dubious
and are entirely or partly forged. In his stories, he has used names of
cities which never existed in the world. Abdullah Ibn Saba are the star of
those stories. He also introduced some 150 imaginary companions for the
Prophet to fill out the empty characters of his scenarios, by giving them
some strange names which are not found in any other documents. Also the
timing of the events given by Sayf's narrations contradict the authentic
Sunni documents. Sayf has also used imaginary chains of narrators, and
reported many miraculous events (like talking cows with human etc...).
Some of the defenders of Sayf hold the opinion that eventhough he was known
as a weak transmitter and many scholars of Hadith do not trust his reports,
it is only in the matter of the Shari'ah (the Law), but not in the matter
of historical report!
By that, they want to rely on the "historical" stories of someone who was
regarded a liar and "zindeeq"! If the problem of Sayf was just lack of
knowledge about Shari'ah (divine law), one could say he can be trusted on
other accounts. But the problem with Sayf was that he was a liar, and made
lots of forgery by constructing the events, attributed fabricated
traditions to good narrators. Then such person becomes questionable for
almost everything. As for his historical accounts we will witness in
Part V that even Christian historians have confirmed great inconsistencies
between his historical report and other sober transmitters. No need to
mention Sunni and Shia opinion on the heretical nature of Sayf.
The stories about Abdullah Ibn Saba which do
NOT have any source or any chain of transmitters
There are some reports from both Shia and Sunni scholars, historians, and
story tellers of ancient cultures who wrote few lines about Abdullah Ibn
Saba but did not supply any evidence for their claims, nor did they provide
any chain of supportive authorities (isnad) for their reports to be
For instance, their reports start with: "some people say so and so ..." or
"some scholars say so and so ..." without mentioning who that scholar was,
and where they got it from. It was based on rumor which was propagated by
Umayads (AFTER Sayf's work) which had reached them, and some based on the
authors' own creativity. This is inferred when we see these authors have
reported some legends which are clearly false and rejected by logic. These
reports are provided by those who wrote books about "al-Milal wa Nihal"
(stories about civilizations and cultures) or "al-Firaq" (divisions/sects).
Among the Sunnis who mentioned the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba in their
stories WITHOUT bringing any source for their claims, are:
(1) Ali Ibn Isma'il al-Ash'ari (d. 330) in his book "Maqalat al-
Islamiyin" (Essays about the People of Islam).
(2) Abdul-Qahir Ibn Tahir al-Baghdadi (d. 429) in his book "al-Farq Bain
al-Firaq" (Differences of the Sects).
(3) Muhammad Ibn Abdil-Karim al-Shahrastani (d. 548) in his book "al-Milal
wan Nihal" (Nations and Cultures).
The above mentioned Sunnis do not give any source or any chain of authority
for their story about Abdullah Ibn Saba. They have competed with each other
to increase the number of sects in Islam with strange names such as al-
Kawusiyyah, al-Tayyarah, al-Mamturah, al-Ghrabiyyah, al-Ma'lumiyyah !!,
al-Majhuliyyah !!! and so on WITHOUT giving any source or reference for
their claims. Living in medieval times, these authors presumed that writing
stranger stories and attributing unrealistic events to different Muslim
nations will make them more reputable than the other competitors in this
area. And by that, they caused a tragic damage to the history of Islam and
committed a great crime for what they have falsely attributed to the Muslim
Some of them have provided silly legends and fairy-tales whose falsehood
are easy to detect nowadays, though it would have been possible for them to
succeed in passing off such stories as history in those times. For
instance, al-Shahrastani in his book "al-Milal wan Nihal" has mentioned
that there was a group of semi-human creatures in the name of "al-Nas-Naas"
with only half face, one eye, one hand, and one leg. Muslims could talk to
these semi-human creatures and they even exchanged poetry!!! Some Muslims
even used to go hunting these semi-human creatures and they used to eat
them!!! These semi-humans could jump faster than a horse and were
ruminant/cud- chewers!!! al-Shahrastani further mentioned that al-
Mutawakkil, the Abbasid Caliph, ordered the scientists of his time to
investigate about these creatures!!! (See al-Milal wan Nihal, by al-
People at that time did not have the modern tools that would enable them
to discover the falsehood these unrealistic stories and fairy-tales, and
perhaps they would have preferred more extensive and more strange
collections which may have seemed a guarantee of their accuracy, eventhough
they were provided with no reference.
Also by chronological study of the life time of these authors, we can
conclude that ALL of them were long after the era of Sayf Ibn Umar, and
even after al-Tabari. So it is quite possible that they all got the story
of Abdullah Ibn Saba from Sayf. This claim becomes more strong when one
observes that non of them mentioned the source of their reports which might
be due to the fact that Sayf Ibn Umar's scandal was known to every body by
that time and they did not want to discredit their books by mentioning its
source. Moreover there exists NO document available related to Abdullah Ibn
Saba BEFORE Sayf. The scholars or historians who lived before Sayf Ibn Umar
NEVER mentioned the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba in their books. This shows
that if Ibn Saba ever existed he was not anything important for the
historians before Sayf. This is also another reason to believe that what
was propagated around the personality of Abdullah Ibn Saba was initiated
by the mass propaganda of Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi.
Among the Shia who mentioned the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba but without any
information regarding to their source, are the following two historians:
(1) Sa'ad Ibn Abdillah al-Ash'ari al-Qummi (d. 301) in his book "al-Maqalat
wal-Firaq" mentioned a report in which there exists the name of
Abdullah Ibn Saba. But he did not mention any chain of authorities nor
did he mention from whom (or which book) he got the story and what his
source was. Moreover al-Ash'ari al-Qummi has narrated many traditions
from Sunni authorities. al-Najjashi (d. 450) in his "al-Rijal" said
that al-Ash'ari al-Qummi traveled to many places and was well-known
for his relation with Sunni historians and heard many stories from
them. He wrote many weak reports from what he heard, one of which is
a short story about Abdullah Ibn Saba, with no reference.
(2) Hasan Ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti (d. 310) who was a Shia historian who
provided in his book "al-Firaq" a report in which is the name of
Abdullah Ibn Saba. However he never mentioned from whom he got the
report and what his source was.
The above two were the Shia who originally provided some information about
the existence of an accursed man in the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba at the
time of Imam Ali (AS). Notice that all of them reported these information
long after Sayf Ibn Umar and even after al-Tabari wrote his history. Thus
they might perhaps got the information from Sayf or those who quoted from
him such as al-Tabari. This becomes more probable when we see that they
wrote "Some people say so and so..." without giving any documented support
(isnad) or the name of those "some people"!
Reports about Abdullah Ibn Saba which
were NOT transmitted through Sayf Ibn Umar
We should point out however that there are less than 14 reports available
in the collections of Shia and Sunni which mentions the name of Abdullah
Ibn Saba, and are supplied with the chain of authorities, but in their
chain of authorities the name of Sayf does not exist.
As for the Shia, he was al-Kushshi (or al-Keshshi; also abbreviated as
Kash) (d. 369) who wrote his book "Rijal" in 340 AH. In that book he
mentioned few traditions in which there exists the name of Abdullah Ibn
Saba, from the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt which were quoted below. As we will see,
these traditions give a very different picture than those mentioned by
Sayf. However, it has been proven for Shia scholars that the book of al-
Kushshi (Kash) has a lot of errors, especially in the names and also few
errors in quotations. He has reported many weak traditions in his book of
al-Rijal, and as a result, his book is not considered a reliable source for
Shia. Not to mention that the reports of al-Kushshi (Kash) are not found in
any of the major 4-books of tradition for Shia. (For a critical evaluation
of his errors, please see al-Rijal by al-Tusteri as well as al-Askari.)
Other Shia scholars who mentioned Abdullah Ibn Saba, have quoted al-Kushshi
or the two historians mentioned above (i.e., al-A'sh'ari al-Qummi and al-
Nawbakhti who did not provide any chain of transmitters or any source for
their report). Among those who quoted al-Kushshi (Kash) are: Shaikh al-Tusi
(d. 460), Ahmad Ibn Tawoos (d. 673), Allama al-Hilli (d. 726), etc.
As for the Sunnis, beside those who quoted from Sayf Ibn Umar whose names
were given earlier, there are few reports from Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani which
provide the very similar information of what al-Kushshi (Kash) provided
For these very few Shi'i and Sunni reports, we would like to mention the
1. The story that these few Sunni and Shia traditions provide, are totally
different than the heavy narrations propagated by Sayf Ibn Umar. These
tradition say that there was a poor man in the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba
appeared AT THE TIME OF government of Imam Ali (AS). He claimed that he was
a Prophet and Ali was God, and as soon as Imam Ali heard the news, he
imprisoned him, and asked him to repent. He did not do so, and thus, Imam
Ali ordered to burn him. The traditions confirm that Imam Ali and his
descendants cursed this man and disassociated themselves from his claim of
deity for Imam Ali (AS). This is all there is about it, provided that
these few traditions are genuine in the first place.
2. These few (less than 14) traditions do NOT exist in any authentic book.
In fact, there is NO mention of Abdullah Ibn Saba in ANY of the six
Sunni collections (Sihah). Moreover, these few reports were NEVER rated
by Shia or Sunni scholars, and there is a great possibility that a person
in the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba never existed in the world, and was the
total invention of Sayf Ibn Umar, similar to his invention of 150 imaginary
companions for the Prophet (PBUH&HF) which do not exist in any other
independent report. Granted that Abdullah Ibn Saba ever existed, Sayf has
used his character and attributed many events to him for which there exists
NO SIMILAR REPORT by other Sunni narrators. Not only that, but also Sayf's
reports clearly contradict other reports by the Sunnis, as we will show in
this part and the next parts. Such malicious construction of the events
were easy to detect even by the Sunni scholars.
Now, let me give you some of these few traditions which have NOT been
reported by Sayf, and compare what Sayf attributed to Abdullah Ibn Saba.
As for Shia:
It is attributed to Abu Ja'far (AS) saying:
Abdullah Ibn Saba used to claim being a prophet and claimed that The
Commander of Believers, Ali (AS) is God. Allah is Higher than such
(claim). This news reached to The Commander of Believers (AS), so he
called him and questioned him. But he repeated his claims and said:
"You are Him (i.e., God), and it has been revealed to me that you are
God and I am a prophet." So The Commander of Believers (AS) said: "How
dare you! Satan has made a mockery of you. Repent for what you
said. May your mother weep at your death! Quit (your claim)." But he
refused, so (Imam Ali) imprisoned him and asked him three times to
repent, but he didn't. Thus he burnt him with fire and said: "Satan
had taken him into his whim, he used to come to him and to induce
these (thoughts) in him." (Rijal, by al-Kushshi)
Moreover it is reported that Imam Ali Ibn Husain (AS) said:
"May the curse of Allah be upon those who tell lies about us. I
mentioned Abdullah Ibn Saba and each hair in my body stood up, Allah
cursed him. Ali (AS) was, by Allah, a proper servant of Allah, the
brother of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF). He did not earn the
graciousness/honor from Allah except with the obedience to Allah and
His Messenger. And (similarly) the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) did
not earn the honor from Allah except with his obedience to Allah."
(Rijal, by al-KuShshi)
It is reported that Abu Abdillah (AS) said:
"We are a family of truthfulness. But we are not safe from a liar
telling lies about us to undermine our truth with his lies in front of
people. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) was the most truthful among
people in what he said (Lahjatan) and the most truthful among all
humanity; and Musaylima used to lie on him. The Commander of Believers
(AS) was the most truthful one among the creation of Allah after the
Messenger of Allah; and the one who used to lie on him, and tried to
undermine his truthfulness and claimed lies about Allah, was Abdullah
Ibn Saba." (Rijal, by al-Kushshi)
"As he (Aba Abdillah - Ja'far al-Sadiq) was telling his companions in
the subject of Abdullah Ibn Saba and that he claimed in Godness of The
Commander of Believers, Ali Ibn Abi Talib. He said: When he claimed
that in Ali, he asked him to repent and he refused, so he burnt him
with fire." (Rijal, by al-Kushshi)
As for the Sunnis, few reports from Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani which provide the
very similar information of what al-Kushshi (Kash) provided. Ibn Hajar
"Abdullah Ibn Saba was one of the extremist (al-Ghulat),
dualist/seducee/manichaeist (Zindeeq), and misguided, which is
conveyed that Ali burnt him with fire." (Lisan al-Mizan, by Ibn Hajar
al-Asqalani, v3, p289)
Then Ibn Hajar continues:
"Ibn Asakir mentioned in his History that `his origin (Abdullah
Ibn Saba) was from Yemen and that he was a Jew who adopted Islam and
traveled in the cities of Muslims and preached them to disobey their
rulers, to induce evil amongst them, then he entered Damascus for that
purpose.' Then Ibn Asakir mentioned a LONG STORY from the book of
al-Futooh of Sayf Ibn Umar, which does not have correct support/
authorities (isnad)." (Lisan al-Mizan, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani,
Then Ibn Hajar gives a tradition among whose chain of authorities two
individuals are missing. In footnote he says that its has been dropped.
This is the tradition:
"Ali ascended the pulpit and said: What is wrong with him? people
said: He is denying (or lying upon) Allah and His Messenger." (Lisan
al-Mizan, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v3, p289)
In another tradition, Ibn Hajar reported:
"Ali said to Abdullah Ibn Saba: I have been told that there shall be
thirty liars/imposters (who claim prophethood) and your are one of
them" (Lisan al-Mizan, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v3, p290)
He also wrote:
"Ibn Saba and his followers believed in the deity of Ali Ibn Abi
Talib, and certainly Ali burnt them by fire during his rule."
(Lisan al-Mizan, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v3, p290)
These Sunni traditions were not rated authentic either. The total of these
tradition by both Shia and Sunni (reported by other than Sayf), do not
exceed fourteen at most. They will be even less if you remove repetitions.
These few Sunnite and Shi'ite traditions convey that:
1. Abdullah Ibn Saba appeared during the Caliphate of Imam Ali (AS), and
not during the rule of Uthman as Sayf alleged.
2. Abdullah Ibn Saba did not say that Ali is the successor of Prophet
(PBUH&HF) as Sayf claimed. Rather he said Ali (AS) is God.
3. Imam Ali (AS) burnt him along with all other extremists (al-Ghulat).
This is while Sayf does not state such a thing.
4. There is no mention of his existence or his playing a role at the time
of Uthman. There is no mention of his agitation against Uthman which
ended up with assassination of Uthman as Sayf attributed to Abdullah Ibn
5. There is no mention of the role of Abdullah Ibn Saba in the battle of
Camel as Sayf attributed to him.
6. These traditions do not indicate that any righteous companions of
Prophet followed Abdullah Ibn Saba. This is while Sayf maliciously
alleged that some of the most faithful pioneers of Islam such as Abu
Darr (RA) and Ammar Yasir (RA) were the students of Abdullah Ibn Saba
during the reign of Uthman.
al-Saba'iya and the Multiple personality of Ibn Saba
Since pre-Islamic times, the term "Saba'iya" used to indicate those related
to Saba son of Yashjub, son of Ya'rub, son of Qahtan; synonymous to
"Qahtaniya", also used to be known as "Yamaniya" referencing their place of
This group of people (i.e., Saba'iya/Qahtaniya/Yamaniya) in contrast to the
"Adnaniya", "Nazariya" and "Mudhariya", which used to refer to relation to
Mudhar son of Nazar, son of Adnan, from the sons of Ishmael (AS) the son of
Abraham (AS). There were some allies for each tribe who were under
protection of that tribe, and at times they were referred by the name of
In general, Arabs trace their roots to one of these two major tribes. When
the two tribes joined in Medina to create what became the first Islamic
society led by the Prophet(PBUH&HF) (year 0 AH), those related to Qahtan
were named al-Ansar (Helpers) who were the residents of Medina at that
time; and those from Adnan and their allies who traveled to Medina and were
called al-Muhajireen (Immigrants).
The personality Abdullah bin Wahab al-Saba'i, the first leader of al-
Khawarij (the group which opposed Ali (AS) during his rule), was from the
first tribe, the Saba'iya or Qhatan above. As the friction increased
between the two tribes of Adnan and Qahtan in Medina and Kufa, the Adhanies
reportedly used to nickname the Qhantanies by the term Saba'iya. However,
this name-calling was purely tribal and ethnical until the appearance of
the work of Sayf Ibn Umar (of Adnan) in the beginning of the second century
(AH) during the Umayad rule, in Kufa. Sayf took the advantage of this
purely tribal friction and created the mythical Saba'iya religious entity,
with Abdullah Ibn Saba as its leader, altering the meaning of the tribal
reference to Qahtan to that of the ill inference attributed to Abdullah Ibn
Saba's deviant sect.
To come up with the alleged name of the creator of the sect (Abdullah Ibn
Saba), Sayf Ibn Umar either transposed the name Abdullah (bin Wahab) al-
Saba'i, described above, to Abdullah Ibn Saba as appears from reports by al-
Ash'ari, al-Sama'ani and al-Maqrizi; or he created the story and invented
the name on his own altogether. Either way, there was no strong proof for
the existence to Abdullah Ibn Saba during the time of Uthman and Ali,
except as Abdullah bin Wahab al-Saba'i who was the leader of Khawarij, as
One also finds that "Saba'i" tag in persons' names, who belong to the
tribes of Qahtan, ceased especially in Iraq, the origin of the fairy tale,
after that date. This naming convention then continued throughout the
second and third century (AH) in the areas of Yemen, Egypt and Spain, where
a number of Sunni Hadith narrators (including some of the narrators of the
traditions in six Sunni collections) were labeled Saba'i due to their
relation to Saba Ibn Yashjub and not Abdullah Ibn Saba the Jew who created
disturbance per Sayf's allegations.
Later as the books of the Tabari and others spread the fairy tale across
the land, the naming convention of Saba'i was dropped every where. Whence
this mention in the books is used to indicate a following to Abdullah Ibn
Saba alone, even though they never enjoyed existence outside the covers of
those books. The tale evolved over the years to include a multiple of its
creator's persona and beliefs. At the same time, while Abdullah Ibn Saba
was Ibn al-Sawda' to the inventor of the tale (Sayf), you find them
becoming two separate persons around the 5th century, along with the
variation in their news (see "al-Farq" by Abdul-Qahir Ibn Tahir al-
Baghdadi). We can delimit these variations in the fifth century onwards,
in three personalites:
1. Abdullah bin Wahab al-Saba'i, head of the Khawarij, who opposed Imam
2. Abdullah Ibn Saba who established the Saba'iya clan/group which
believes in the deity of Ali. He and his followers were burnt with fire
3. Abdullah Ibn Saba, also known as Ibn al-Sawda' to those who reported
from Sayf. He was the creator of the Saba'iya clan/group who believed
in successorship to Ali, who agitated against Uthman and then they
started the war of Jamal (Camel).
The first one existed in reality, and some of the traditions related to
Abdullah Ibn Saba actually refers to this man who was the leader of al-
Khawarij. For the second person, there are few traditions which was
mentioned earlier, yet they were not authenticated by either schools.
The third personage, however, was the imagination of Sayf who perhaps
invented it based on the original story he heard about the first and the
second persons, and then attaching his own story to them.
Ibn Saba and Shia
One should distinguish between those Sunnis scholars who reported the story
of Abdullah Ibn Saba (either from Sayf's mass production (such as al-
or otherwise (such as Ibn Hajar)), and those pseudo-Sunnis who not only
reported it, but also declared that Shia are the followers of this
fictitious character. It has been proven that those pseudo-scholars (i.e.,
the second group) who attributed the foundation of Shia to Abdullah Ibn
Saba were never Sunnis. They were rather the followers of Sunnah of the
House of Abu Sufyan and Marwan. This is clear when one observes their
tendencies to these two families when they discuss their history.
When these pseudo-scholars want to talk about Imami Shia, they use the word
of al-Saba'iyyah to undermine the devotion of the followers of the Members
of the House of Prophet (PBUH&HF) to Islam, in the same way that they
undermine the devotion of a group of Muslims who were killed in the reign
of Abu Bakr since they followed what the Messenger of Allah ordered them in
distributing the Zakat (alms) among their own poor people and thus did not
give it to Abu Bakr. Yet these mercenary scholars, when talking about those
people, they mix them with the issue of Musaylamah who claimed Prophethood,
and attribute these martyrs to him, in order to justify shedding their
bloods, plundering their wealth and taking their women. But Allah will soon
judge between us and them, for He is the best judge.
Such blending of falsehood and truth is not anything new for us when we see
in today's world of technology those who see Islam a barrier for their
illegitimate interest in the world, accuse Muslims of terrorism, in order
to justify shedding their bloods and taking their wealth. To prepare their
agenda, they take advantage of some foolish individual(s) who happened to
be Muslim in ID, and who did a violation out of his/their anger. They call
devoted Muslims terrorists because a pseudo-Sunni-Muslim blew up the World
Trade Center. By that, they follow exactly the footsteps of Sayf Ibn Umar
who in turn learnt this great idea from the devil. Moreover, if they could
not find any foolish act from Muslims to cover the media at any period,
they pay money to emulate it artificially, and attribute it to the Muslims,
much the same way that Sayf Ibn Umar shaped the character of Abdullah Ibn
Saba (and most probably invented him by picking up his name at the middle
of the night). They do this to provide an excuse for their malicious
accusations and their attacks to the whole Muslim world, much the same as
what Sayf and his disciples did to the House of Prophet (PBUH&HF).
According to both Shia and Sunni scholars, Sayf Ibn Umar was one of those
who manipulated the truth and made some fake traditions based on some
partial truth. Believing in the existence of Ibn Saba does not mean
believing in the stories of Sayf who tried to relate him to Shia. The fact
is that people like Abdullah Ibn Saba are useless without a story attached
to their names. Fake stories around such characters are different than
actual existence. Such a person might be existent while the stories around
him might not be.
Sayf's Achievements: An Overview
What follows in this article and the next parts of this series is a
comparison between Sayf's stories and others. First I give a general view
of achievements of Sayf Ibn Umar:
Sayf was paid to write some stories as a relief for the contradictions and
disputes happened in the early history of Islam. Those critical disputes
were from year 11 AH (demise of Prophet) till 40 AH. Sayf only focused on
that period (11-40 AH) and left the rest.
The first dispute he has talked about is the dispute related the dispatch
of the army of Usamah and the death of prophet. The Prophet (PBUH&HF),
about four days before his death, ordered all Helpers and all Immigrants
except Ali to leave Medina, and to go Syria in order to fight with the
Romans. But companions disobeyed and complained about the leadership of
Usamah (See Sahih al-Bukhari, Arabic-English version, Traditions
numbers 5.552, 5.744 and 5.745) and delayed in joining the camp, and
returned to Medina, in order to prepare themselves for discussion about
successorship as soon as the Messenger of Allah dies. Sayf tried to forge
the story to show that there was no delay. Sayf said that after the death
of Prophet, when Abu Bakr dispatched the army of Usamah, he said to them:
"March on! May God destroy you by murder and plague!"
Sunni references: History of al-Tabari and History of Ibn Asakir, reported
from Sayf, Events of Year 11 AH
This is while other narrators never mentioned such a stupid thing from Abu
Bakr. Sayf being a heretic, wanted to make a mockery of Islam as a
religion, as well as to please the Caliph of his time.
The next thing he has talked, is about the pavilion of Saqifa. Sayf
"Ali was in his house when he was told that Abu Bakr had sat to
receive the oath of allegiance. So He went out immediately wearing his
night shirt only, out of dislike that he might be late. Then He gave
the oath of allegiance and sat with Abu Bakr, and then sent for his
clothes. When (the clothes) were brought to him, he put them and
stayed in (Abu Bakr's) assembly."
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v9, pp 195-196
reported from Sayf Ibn Umar.
This ridiculous report is in clear contradiction with Sahih al-Bukhari
where it has been mentioned that Imam Ali did NOT give the oath to Abu Bakr
for the first six month of his reign (Sahih al- Bukhari, Arabic-English
version, Tradition 5.546).
Sayf has told seven stories about Saqifa, and has used three imaginary
characters as the companions of prophet who played his scenarios in Saqifa,
whose names are not mentioned anywhere else except in the work of those who
reported from Sayf himself. He named them: Qa'qa, Mubashshir, and Sakhr.
His main legend is the malicious stories attributed to Abdullah Ibn Saba,
by which he had tried to solved the following puzzles:
-Creation of Shia
-Problem of exile of Abu Dhar
-Murder of Uthman
-The War of Jamal (Camel)
Sayf has also maliciously tried to link the forged stories of Abdullah Ibn
Saba to the Shia Imam Ali (AS) which shows he did not know too much about
Shia, otherwise he would not had attributed some of the beliefs which are
not held by the followers of the members of the house of Prophet.
Insha Allah, in the next parts, I will analyze the fictitious story of
Abdullah Ibn Saba in comparison with the other Sunni reports.
I should mention that al-Askari had a very distinguished achievement. He
proved beyond any doubt, in his book named "Abdullah Ibn Saba and Other
Myths", that Ibn Saba _with_ such achievements never existed, and that he
was invented by Sayf Ibn Umar. If there was any Abdullah Ibn Saba at that
time, his story was much different than what Sayf manipulated.
For brothers and sisters who like to know more about the business of
Abdullah Ibn Saba and his fictitious character, I introduce the following
two interesting books, in English, which can be ordered immediately:
1- "Abdullah Ibn Saba and Other Myths," (English) by al-Askari, S. M.
To order, send $15.00 to:
al-Khoei Foundation Library,
89-89 Van Wyck Expressway,
Jamaica, NY 11435-4123 U.S.A.
Unfortunately only first volume, out of four volumes of this book is
available in English which still gives enough information, however the rest
are available in Arabic. The second two volumes in Arabic are separately
named "One Hundred Fifty Companions".
2- "The Shiites Under Attack," (English) by Chirri, M. J.
To order, send $8.00 to:
Muhammad Javad Chirri,
The Islamic Center of America,
15571 Joy Road,
Detroit, MI 48228 U.S.A.
After an overview in the previous part, I will Ensha Allah analyze the
fictitious story of Abdullah Ibn Saba reported by Sayf, in comparison with
the other Sunni reports. First I give a brief tour of the allegations of
Sayf Ibn Umar attributed to Abdullah Ibn Saba:
Sayf alleged that a Yemenite Jew, called Abdullah Ibn Saba (also known as
Ibn Amutus-Sawda'; son of a black slave), declared his Islam at the time of
* Uthman *. He willfully associated himself with Muslims and traveled in
their cities and towns, from Damascus to Kufa to Egypt, propagating among
Muslims that Muhammad (PBUH&HF) will be resurrected like Jesus. He also
said Ali is Prophet's executor and was deprived of his divine office by
Uthman. He provoked Abu Dhar and Ammar Ibn Yasir to agitate against Uthman
and Muawiyah. He provoked Muslims to kill Uthman since he had usurped the
seat of Ali. Sayf also alleged that Ibn Saba was the key element in the
tragedy of the battle of Camel. Let us now discuss each of the above
allegations one by one:
The Return of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)
Sayf alleged Abdullah Ibn Saba was the one who invented the idea that
Prophet Muhammad would return before the Day of Judgment. Sayf wrote that
Ibn Saba based his allegation on the return of Jesus, saying: If Jesus is
going to come back, Muhammad will also return because he is more important
than Jesus. He alleged that Ibn Saba also quoted the following verse from
the Quran to support his claim:
"Certainly the one who ordained the Quran to you, shall return you."
The attribution to Ibn Saba of the idea that the prophet would return is
ridiculous. It shows the ignorance of Sayf and his disciples throughout the
history who repeated such allegation. They misunderstood the history of
Islam. Had these mercenaries studied the Islamic history carefully, they
would have known that the first one who declared the idea of the return of
the Messenger of God was Umar Ibn al-Khattab. Muslim historians agree that:
Umar stood at the Mosque of the Prophet when the Prophet passed away,
and said: "There are hypocrites who allege that the Messenger of God
has died. Certainly the Messenger of God did not die, but he went to
his Lord, as Moses, son of Imran, went to his Lord (for receiving the
heavenly commandments). By God, Muhammad will return as Moses
returned, and he shall cut off the hands and legs of those who alleged
that the Messenger of Allah has died."
Sunni Reference: al-Sirah al-Nabawiyah, by Ibn Hisham, v2, p655
We can not say that Umar took this idea from Abdullah Ibn Saba or any other
person. Ibn Saba did not exist at that time, not even in the imagination of
Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi, who invented the entire allegation. Sayf wrote
that Ibn Saba came to Medina and became Muslim during the reign of Uthman,
which is far after the death of Prophet. So if any Muslim believes in this,
it would only be logical to say that the source of this doctrine is the
second Caliph's speech on the day that the Messenger of God died, rather
than Ibn Saba. Sunni history does not have any record of such allegation
before the speech of Umar on the death of Prophet (S.A.W.).
The Doctrine of Ali's Executorship
Sayf further alleged that Ibn Saba is the one who propagated the idea that
Ali Ibn Abi Talib is the executor and the successor of the Messenger of
God. He said that there were a thousand prophets before Muhammad, each of
which had an executor after him, and that Ali is the executor of the
Prophet. Furthermore, Sayf alleged that Ibn Saba said that the three
caliphs who ruled after the Prophet were usurpers of the Islamic rule.
Sayf and his disciples forgot that they mentioned in their fiction that
Abdullah Ibn Saba came to Medina and adopted Islam during the reign of
Uthman. This is long after the death of the Messenger of Allah. On the
other hand, Sunni history testifies that the Messenger of God himself is
the one who declared that Ali would be his executor right at the *beginning
of his mission*. Here is the tradition concerning the first open preach the
Ali (AS) narrated: When the verse: "And warn your closest tribe" was
revealed, the Messenger of God called me and said:" Ali, certainly
Allah commanded me to warn my closest tribe, and I feel the difficulty
of this mission. I know that when I confront them with this warning, I
will not like their response." Then Prophet invited the members of his
clan to dine with him on a small amount of food and little milk. There
were forty of them. After they ate, the Prophet spoke to them:
"O Children of Abdul Muttalib, by God, I do not know of any young man
from the Arabs who brought to his people better than I brought to you.
I have brought to you the goodness of this world and the Hereafter.
The Almighty commanded me to invite you to it. Who among you will
assist me on this mission and become my brother, my executor, and
No one accepted the invitation, and I said: "O Messenger of God, I
shall be your assistant." He held my neck and said to them: "This
is my brother, my executor (Wasi), my successor (Caliph) among you.
So listen to him and obey him." They laughed, saying to Abu Talib:
He (Muhammad) commanded you to listen to your son and to obey him.
(1) History of Tabari, English version, v6, pp 88-92 (two traditions)
(2) History of Ibn Athir, v2, p62
(3) History of Ibn Asakir, v1, p85
(4) Durr al-Manthur, by al-Suyuti, v5, p97
(5) al-Sirah al-Halabiyah, v1, p311
(6) Shawahid al-Tanzil, by al-Hasakani, v1, p371
(7) Kanz al-Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, v15, p15, pp 100-117
(8) Tafsir al-Khazin, by Ala-ud-Din al-Shafi'i, v3, p371
(9) Dala'il al-Nabawiyah, by al-Baihaqi, v1, pp 428-430
(10) al-Mukhtasar, by Abul Fida, v1, pp 116-117
(11) Life of Muhammad, by Hasan Haykal, p104 (First Edition only. In the
second edition the last sentence of Prophet (PBUH) has been removed.)
(12) Tahdhib al-Athar, v4, pp 62-63.
The above tradition was also reported by important Sunni figures such as
Muhammad Ibn Is'haq (who is the most celebrated Sunni historian), Ibn Abi
Hatem, and Ibn Mardawayh. It is also recorded by orientalists such as T.
Carlyle, E. Gibbon, J. Davenport, and W. Irving.
Here we would like ask the following question: Imam Ali reported that the
Messenger of God is the one who granted him the office of executorship,
brotherhood, and successorship. Sayf Ibn Umar reported that the idea of the
executorship of Ali had came from a Jew called Abdullah Ibn Saba. We should
ask the members of the Takfeer University (who call everyone who disagree
with them unbeliever) the following question: Do you believe in Imam Ali's
report or Sayf Ibn Umar's? Sayf was accused by prominent Sunni scholars of
weakness, forgery, and heresy.
Of course, we should not expect any true Muslim to choose the report of a
liar such as Sayf Ibn Umar and to reject the report of the Imam Ali Ibn Abi
Talib, the Leader of the Faithful, the "brother" of the Prophet (S.A.W.).
The Messenger of God used to say to Ali:
"Your position to me is like the position of Aaron to Moses, except
that there shall be no Prophet after me"
(1) Sahih al-Bukhari, Arabic-English version, Traditions 5.56 and 5.700
(2) Sahih Muslim, Arabic, v4, pp 1870-71
(3) Sunan Ibn Majah, p12
(4) Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, p174
(5) al-Khas'is, by al-Nisa'i, pp 15-16
(6) Mushkil al-Athar, by al-Tahawi, v2, p309
The Prophet (PBUH&HF) thereby meant that as Moses had left behind Aaron to
look after his people as his Caliph when he went to receive the
Commandments, in the same way he was leaving Ali behind as his deputy to
look after the affairs of Islam after him. Allah said in Quran:
"... And Moses said unto his brother Aaron: Take my place among my
community." (Quran 7:142). ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Notice that "Ukhlufni" and "Khalifa" (Caliph) are exactly from the same
Do the mercenary writers who endeavor to spread hostility among Muslims
forget that while returning from his farewell pilgrimage, and in the
presence of over a hundred thousand pilgrims in Ghadir Khum, the Messenger
of God declared:
"Do I not have more right over the believers than what they have over
themselves?" People cried and answered: "Yes, O' Messenger of God."
Then Prophet (PBUH) held up the hand of Ali and said: "Whoever I am
his leader, Ali is his leader. O' God, love those who love him, and be
hostile to those who are hostile to him."
Some of Sunni References:
(1) Sahih Tirmidhi, v2, p298, v5, p63
(2) Sunan Ibn Maja, v1, pp 12,43
(3) Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, pp 84,118,119,152,330, v4, pp 281,368,370,
372,378, v5, pp 35,347,358,361,366,419 (from 40 chains of narrators!!
(4) Fada'il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Hanbal, v2, pp 563,572
(5) al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v2, p129, v3, pp 109-110,116,371
(6) Khasa'is, by al-Nisa'i, pp 4,21
(7) Majma' al-Zawa'id, by al-Haythami, v9, p103 (from several transmitters)
(8) Tafsir al-Kabir, by Fakhr al-Razi, v12, pp 49-50
(9) al-Durr al-Manthur, by al-Hafiz Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, v3, p19
(10) Tarikh al-Khulafa, by al-Suyuti, pp 169,173
(11) al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah, by Ibn Kathir, v3, p213, v5, p208
(12) Mushkil al-Athar, by al-Tahawi, v2, pp 307-308
(13) Habib al-Siyar, by Mir Khand, v1, part 3, p144
(14) Sawaiq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, p26
(15) al-Isabah, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v2, p509; v1, part1, p319,
v2, part1, p57, v3, part1, p29, v4, part 1, pp 14,16,143
(16) Tabarani, who narrated from companions such as Ibn Umar, Malik Ibn
al-Hawirath, Habashi Ibn Junadah, Jari, Sa'd Ibn Abi Waqqas,
Anas Ibn Malik, Ibn Abbas, Amarah,Buraydah,...
(17) Tarikh, by al-Khatib Baghdadi, v8, p290
(18) Hilyatul Awliya', by Abu Nu'aym, v4, p23, v5, pp26-27
(19) al-Istiab, by Ibn Abd al-Barr, Chapter of word "ayn" (Ali), v2, p462
(20) Kanzul Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, v6, pp 154,397
(21) al-Mirqat, v5, p568
(22) al-Riyad al-Nadirah, by al-Muhib al-Tabari, v2, p172
(23) Dhaka'ir al-Uqba, by al-Muhib al-Tabari, p68
(24) Fayd al-Qadir, by al-Manawi, v6, p217
(25) Usdul Ghabah, by Ibn Athir, v4, p114
(26) Yanabi' al-Mawaddah, by al-Qudoozi al-Hanafi, p297
... And hundreds more...
No Muslim would ever doubt that the Messenger of God is the leader of all
Muslims for all generations. The Prophet in his statement granted Ali the
same position as his, when he said that Ali is the leader of everyone who
follows the Prophet.
This declaration which was narrated by more than one hundred and ten
companions and rated authentic (Sahih) and frequent (Mutawatir) by the
leading Sunni scholars, not only indicates that Ali is the executor of
Messenger, but also indicates that Ali takes the place of the leadership of
all Muslims after the Messenger of Allah. However, these mercenaries still
allow themselves to say that the belief that Ali was the executor of the
Messenger had come from a Jew who declared his Islam during the days of
Abdullah Ibn Saba has no base on the disputes immediately after the death
of prophet related to his successorship, and all relevant claims of Shia is
proven to be on the death of the prophet or even before that, not during
the reign of Uthman which is far long after prophet's demise. At the very
start and immediately after the death of the prophet (S.A.W.), the Shia of
Ali included those companions who where loyal to Imam Ali, such as Ammar
Ibn Yasir, Abu-Dhar al-Ghafari, Miqdad, Salman al-Farsi, Ibn Abbas ...etc.,
all gathered in the house of Fatimah (AS). Even Talha and Zubair were loyal
to Imam Ali at the beginning and joint the others in the house of Fatimah.
Umar said: "And no doubt after the death of the Prophet we were
informed that the Ansar disagreed with us and gathered in the shed of
Bani Sa'da. 'Ali and Zubair and whoever was with them, opposed us,
while the emigrants gathered with Abu Bakr."
Sunni Reference: Sahih al-Bukhari, Arabic-English, v8, Tradition #817
Other Sunni traditionists narrated that on the day of Saqifah:
Umar said: "Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Zubair Ibn Awwam and those who were
with them separated from us (and gathered) in the house of Fatimah,
the daughter of the messenger of Allah."
- Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, p55
- Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, by Ibn Hisham, v4, p309
- History of Tabari (Arabic), v1, p1822
- History of Tabari, English version, v9, p192
They demanded confirmation of the oath, but Ali and al-Zubair stayed
away. al-Zubair drew his sword (from the scabbard), saying, "I will
not put it back until the oath of allegiance is rendered to Ali." When
this news reached Abu Bakr and Umar, the latter said, "Hit him with a
stone and seize the sword." It is stated that Umar rushed (to the door
of the House of Fatimah) and brought them forcibly while telling them
that they must give their oath of allegiance willingly or unwillingly.
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v9, pp 188-189
Certainly that Jew did not have any role in the division of the companions
into two factions right at the death of Prophet since he was non-existent
at that time.
Attacking Two of Most Beloved Companions of
the Prophet (S.A.W.) and Their Disciples
Sayf alleged that Ibn Saba is the one who instigated the two prominent
companions of the Prophet Muhammad, namely Abu Dhar (RA) and Ammar Ibn
Yasir (RA), against Uthman. He said this Jew met Abu Dhar in Damascus, and
that he introduced to him the idea of prohibiting treasuring gold and
silver. Sayf included the following great companions of prophet and their
disciples, among the list of the followers of Ibn Saba:
(1) Abu Dhar (RA),
(2) Ammar Ibn Yasir (RA),
(3) Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr (RA), son of the first Caliph,
(4) Malik Ashtar (RA).
... and more
To better understand the heresy of Sayf and his allegation, let us quickly
review the biography of the above great Muslim pioneers:
(1) Abu Dhar al-Ghafari (Jundub Ibn Jonadah): He is the THIRD person in
the list of the four pioneers who first embraced Islam. He was a
monotheist even before his conversion. He frankly declared his faith
in Islam at Mecca beside the Holy House of God. The infidels of Mecca
beat him almost to death but he survived, and on the instruction of
the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) he returned to his tribe. After the
Battles of Badr and Uhud he came to Medina and stayed with Prophet
until the demise of the Prophet (S.A.W.). During the reign of the
early Caliphs, Abu Dhar was sent to Damascus where he could not agree
with Muawiyah. Later Muawiyah complained about Abu Dhar to Uthman, the
third Caliph, and thus Uthman sent Abu Dhar into exile at Rabadha
where he later died. Rabadha was known for having the worst climate.
(2) Ammar Ibn Yasir: He was also known as Abuyaqzan. His mother's name was
Somayyah. He and his parents were pioneers in embracing Islam, and he
was the SEVENTH person to declare his faith. His parents were executed
after the torture by the infidels of Mecca, because of their
conversion to Islam, but Ammar managed to escape to Medina. Ammar
fought on Imam Ali's side in the battle of Jamal (Camel) and later in
the war of Siffin where he was killed in the battle field by Muawiyah
soldiers, at the age of ninety-three.
(3) Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr: He was adopted by Imam Ali after his father,
Abu Bakr, died. Muhammad was one of the commanders of the army of
Imam Ali (AS) in the battle of Camel. He was also in the battle of
Siffin. Imam Ali appointed him as the governor of Egypt, and he took
his office 15/9/37 AH. Later, Muawiyah sent an army under the
leadership of Amr Ibn al-Aas to Egypt in the year 38 AH, who fought
and captured Muhammad, and then killed him. His body was placed in a
belly of a dead donkey and then was brutally burnt. (See al-Istiab,
v1, p235; History of al-Tabari, v4, p79; Ibn Kathir, v3, p180; Ibn
Khaldoon, v2, p182)
(4) Malik Ashtar al-Nakha'i: He met the Prophet and was one of the
trustworthy disciple of companions (Tabe'in). He was chief of his
tribe, and after receiving an injury to one of his eyes in the battle
of Yarmuk, he became known as Ashtar. He was the general of the army
of Imam Ali in the battle of Siffin and known for his bravery and
combating the enemies of Islam. At the age of 38, he was appointed by
Imam Ali as the governor of Egypt. But on his way to Egypt, near the
Red Sea, he died after eating poisonous honey which had been planned
The above were the short bibliographies of some eminent Muslim pioneers. It
is regrettable that some historians who reported from Sayf's heresy, allege
that they followed a mysterious Jew. The mercenary workers did not even
hesitate to attack such outstanding companions. They said that Abu Dhar and
Ammar Ibn Yasir met Ibn Saba, were affected by his propaganda, and thus
turned against Uthman. However, we should not forget that by their
attacking those two prominent companions, they are actually attacking the
Messenger of God who attested to their purity and righteousness frequently:
The Messenger of God said: "Certainly Allah commanded me to love four
persons and informed me that He loves them." The companions asked:
"O' Messenger of God, who are those four persons?" The Prophet
(S.A.W.) said: "Ali is from them (repeating that three times),
Abu Dhar, Salman al-Farsi, and Miqdad."
- Sunan Ibn Majah, v1, pp 52-53, Tradition #149
- al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p130
- Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v5, p356
- Fada'il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v2, p648, Tradition #1103
- Hilyatul Awliya', by Abu Nu'aym, v1, p172
The Messenger of Allah also said:
"Every prophet was given by God seven righteous companions. I was
given fourteen righteous companions". He included in them Ali, al-
Hasan, al-Husain, Hamza, Ja'far, Ammar Ibn Yasir, Abu Dhar, Miqdad,
- Fada'il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v2, Traditions #109, #277
- Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, p329, p662
- Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, pp88,148,149 from several chain of narrators
- al-Kabir, by al-Tabarani, v6, p264, p265
- Hilyatul Awliya', by Abu Nu'aym, v1, p128
Also al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad, al-Hakim and many others narrated that the
Messenger of Allah said:
"Heaven has not shaded, nor has the earth carried a person more
straight forward than Abu Dhar. He walks on earth with the
immaterialistic attitude of Jesus, the son of Mary."
- Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, p334, Tradition #3889
- Tahdhib al-Athar, v4, pp 158-161
- Musnad Ahmad Hanbal, #6519, #6630, #7078
- al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p342
- al-Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa'd, v4, part 1, pp 167-168
- Majma' al-Zawa'id, by al-Haythami, v9, pp 329-330
Ibn Majah, in his authentic Sunan, narrated that Imam Ali said:
I was sitting in the house of the Prophet and Ammar asked to see him.
Then Prophet said: "Welcome the good and the purified." Ibn Majah
also narrated that Aisha narrated that the Messenger of God said
"Whenever Ammar is given two alternatives, he always chooses the most
righteous of the two."
There are much more authentic narrations told by the Prophet (S.A.W.)
about Ammar, such as "Ammar is full of faith." Also Prophet said:
"A band of rebels will kill Ammar."
- Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter # MCCV, pp 1508-1509,
Trditions #6966-6970 (five traditions).
- al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p383
Now to see who those rebels were, look at Musnad Ahmad and Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd
"In the Battle of Siffin, when the head of Ammar Yasir (RA) was cut
off and taken to Muawiyah, two people were arguing over it, each one
claimed that he had killed Ammar."
- Musnad Ahmad (Pub. in Dar al-Maarif, Egypt 1952), Tradition #6538, #6929
- Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa'd, v3, p253
Also it is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said:
"Paradise longs for three men, Ali, Ammar and Salman."
Sunni reference: Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, p332, Tradition #3884
Moreover al-Tirmidhi narrated:
When the Messenger of God heard that Ammar and his parents were
tortured in Mecca, he (S.A.W.) said: "Members of Yasir's family, be
patient. Your destination is paradise."
Sunni Reference: Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, p233,
Thus, Ammar and his parents were the first people declared by the Prophet
to be dwellers of paradise.
Here we should say: When a Muslim knows that the Prophet has commended
these two important companions (Abu Dhar & Ammar Ibn Yasir) so highly, and
if he is a believer in the truthfulness of Muhammad, he does not allow
himself to insult these two companions. Such an insult discredits the
Prophet. As we just saw, the above authentic traditions in the six Sunni
collections claim that Prophet said he has only four or fourteen righteous
companions, out of his 1400 companions. Interestingly enough that Abu Dhar
and Ammar Ibn Yasir were mentioned among those very few individuals.
We find that the hostility of Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi, who lived during the
second century after the Prophet, and the hostility of his students towards
the Shi'ites, motivated them to spread such cheap propaganda. Sayf knew
that attributing the revolt against Uthman to the work of Ibn Saba
contradicts known historical facts which show that the two companions, Abu
Dhar and Ammar, were opposed to Uthman's ever coming to power. Because Sayf
knew of their opposition to Uthman, he tried to smear their reputations by
adding the names of the two prominent companions to the list of students of
that fictitious Jew.
If Ibn Saba ever existed, he had declared his Islam after Uthman was
killed. Now let us suppose we accept what Sayf alleged concerning that
Abdullah Ibn Saba declared his faith after Uthman came to power. Abu Dhar
and Ammar Ibn Yasir, on the other hand, had been opposed to Uthman's
caliphate before he came to power. The two companions were followers of the
Imam Ali (AS), and they firmly believed that Ali was appointed by the
Prophet to be his successor. Since this was their belief before the
appearance of Ibn Saba, the story of Sayf about their being influenced by
Ibn Saba, is unfounded and untrue.
Thus, in order to clear the third caliph from all accusations pertaining to
his ill-management of the Islamic treasury, Sayf accused the revolters
being the students of Ibn Saba. He then completed his story by adding the
two companions to the class of Ibn Saba's students, intentionally
overlooking the fact that the two companions belong to the first successful
class of the school of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). They were among the
important companions who were honored by the Prophet. In fact, Sayf was led
by his untrue story to reject the testimony of the Prophet. By this, Sayf
had disproved his whole tale.
Agitation Against Uthman
Sayf alleged that the main reason behind the agitation against Uthman was
Abdullah Ibn Saba. He provoked Muslims of different towns and provinces
such as Basra, Kufa, Syria, and Egypt, to rush to Medina and to kill Uthman
since he believed Uthman had occupied the seat of Ali. Sayf also alleged
that the companions inside Medina such as Talha and Zubair did not oppose
Similar to his other allegations, this allegation of Sayf Ibn Umar about
Abdullah Ibn Saba has NOT been reported by any other reporters. No trace of
Ibn Saba can be found on the issue of agitation against Uthman, except
through Sayf. In fact, other authorities have a totally the opposite story.
Should a reader of Islamic history be liberated from his emotion toward
or against the third Caliph, he can be assured that the call for a revolt
against Uthman did not start in Basra, Kufa, Syria, or Egypt. The weakness
of Uthman in handing the affairs of the State caused many companions to
oppose him. This naturally resulted in a power struggle among the
influential companions in Medina. Sunni historians such as al-Tabari, Ibn
Athir, and al-Baladhuri and many others provide traditions (reported by
other than Sayf) which confirm that the agitation against the Caliph
started right inside Medina by some influential individuals among the
companions. These companions were the first who asked the other companions,
resided in other cities, to join them in revolt against Uthman. Ibn Jarir
When the people saw what Uthman was doing, the companions of the
Prophet in Medina wrote to other companions who were scattered
throughout the frontier provinces: "You have gone forth but to
struggle in the path of Almighty God, for the sake of Muhammad's
religion. In your absence the religion of Muhammad has been corrupted
and forsaken. So come back to reestablish Muhammad's religion." Thus,
they came from every direction until they killed the Caliph (Uthman).
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, p184
In fact al-Tabari quoted the above paragraph form Muhammad Ibn Is'haq Ibn
Yasar al-Madani who is the most celebrated Sunni Historian and the author
of "Sirah Rasool-Allah".
History (reported by other than Sayf) testifies that those influential
people who were the key element in agitation against Uthman include Talha,
Zubair, Aisha (the mother of believers), Abdurrahman Ibn Ouf, and Amr Ibn
Talha Ibn Ubaydillah was one of the biggest agitator against Uthman and was
the one who plotted his murder. He then used that incident for revenge
against Ali by starting the first civil war in the history of Islam (i.e.,
the battle of Camel). I just give few paragraphs from both of al-Tabari and
Ibn Athir to prove my point. Here is the first one which is narrated by Ibn
Abbas (in some manuscripts it is Ibn Ayyash):
I entered Uthman's presence (During the agitation against Uthman) and
talked with him for an hour. He said: "Come Ibn Abbas/Ayyash," and he
took me by the hand and had me listen to what the people were saying
at his door. We heard some say, "what are you waiting for," while
others were saying, "wait, perhaps he will repent." While the two of
us were standing there (behind the door and listening), Talha Ibn
Ubaydillah passed by and said: "Where is Ibn Udays?" He was told, "He
is over there." Ibn Udays came to (Talha) and whispered something with
him, and then went back to his associates and said: "Do not let anyone
go in (to the house of Uthman) to see this man or leave his house."
Uthman said to me: "These are the orders of Talha." He continued, "O
God! Protect me from Talha for he has provoked all these people
against me. By God, I hope nothing will come of it, and that his own
blood will be shed. Talha has abused me unlawfully. I heard the
Messenger of God said: 'The blood of a Muslim is lawful in three
cases: apostasy, adultery, and the one who kills except in legitimate
retaliation for another.' So why should I be killed?"
Ibn Abbas/Ayyash continued: I wanted to leave (the house), but they
blocked my path until Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr who was passing by
requested them to let me go, and they did so.
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, pp 199-200
The Sayf's claim is shattered into pieces when its is compared with any
other reports similar to above. The above report gives evidence to the fact
that Uthman himself knew companions like Talha were doing all this to
him, and not the personage of Abdullah Ibn Saba. Do these mercenaries claim
that they understand the situation better than the Caliph Uthman while they
were born centuries after the incident? The following report also supports
that the murder of Uthman was led by Talha, and the killers came out to
inform their leader that they took care of Uthman:
Abzay said: I witnessed the day they went in against Uthman. They
entered the house through an opening in the residence of Amr Ibn Hazm.
There was a skirmishing and they got in. By God, I have not forgotten
that Sudan Ibn Humran came out and I heard him say: "Where is Talha
Ibn Ubaydillah? We have killed Ibn Affan!" ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, p200
Uthman was besieged in Medina while Imam Ali (AS) was in Khaibar. The Imam
(AS) came to Medina and found people gathering at the residence of Talha.
Then Imam Ali (AS) went to met Uthman. Ibn Athir wrote:
Uthman said to Ali: "You owe me my Islamic right and the right of
brotherhood and relationship. If I have non of these rights and if I
were in pre-Islamic era, it would be still shame for a descendants of
Abd Munaf (of whom both Ali and Uthman are descendants) to let a man
of Tyme (Talha) rob us of our authority." Ali said to Uthman: "You
shall be informed of what I do." Then Ali went to Talha's house. There
were a lot of people there. Ali spoke to Talha saying: "Talha, what is
this condition in which you have fallen?" Talha replied: "O' Abul
Hasan! it is to late!"
Sunni reference: al-Kamil, by Ibn Athir, v3, p84
Tabari also reports the following conversation between Imam Ali and Talha
during the siege over Uthman:
Ali said to Talha: "I ask you by Allah to send people away from
(attacking) Uthman." Talha replied: "No, by God, not until the Umayad
voluntarily submit to what is right." (Uthman was the head of Umayad).
Reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, p235
Talha even deprived Uthman of water:
Abdurrahman Ibn al-Aswad said: "I constantly saw Ali avoiding (Uthman)
and not acting as he formerly had. However, I know that he spoke with
Talha when Uthman was under siege, to the effect that water skins
should be taken to him. Ali was extremely upset (from Talha) about
that until finally water skins were allowed to reach Uthman."
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, pp 180-181
To know why Imam Ali (AS) deserted Uthman, see the traditions close to the
end of this article.
Furthermore, the historians confirm that those who plotted his killing, did
not let the body of Uthman be buried in a Muslim Cemetery, and that he
was finally buried in a Jew Cemetery called "Hashsh Kawkab", without
washing and without a shroud. (See History of al-Tabari, English version,
v15, pp 246-250). If Jews were doing all that, they wouldn't permit to
bury him in their own Cemetery!!! After Muawiyah came to power, he joint
that Jew Cemetery to al-Baqi including the land between them. (See History
of Tabari, English version, v15, pp 246-250).
Talha was not the only collaborator against Uthman. Sunni history tells us
that his cousin, Aisha (the mother of believers), was collaborating and
campaigning against Uthman as well. The following paragraph also from the
History of al-Tabari shows the cooperation of Aisha with Talha in
While Ibn Abbas was setting out for Mecca, he found Aisha in al-Sulsul
(seven miles south of Medina). Aisha said: "O' Ibn Abbas, I appeal to
you by God, to abandon this man (Uthman) and sow doubt about him among
the people, for you have been given a sharp tongue. (By the current
siege over Uthman) people have shown their understanding, and light is
raised to guide them. I have seen Talha has taken the possession of
the keys to the public treasuries and storehouses. If he becomes
Caliph (after Uthman), he will follow the path of his parental
cousin Abu-Bakr." Ibn Abbas said: "O' Mother (of believers), if
something happens to that man (i.e., Uthman), people would seek asylum
only with our companion (namely, Ali)." Aisha replied: "Be quiet! I
have no desire to defy or quarrel with you."
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, pp 238-239
Many Sunni historian reported that Once Aisha went to Uthman and asked for
her share of inheritance of Prophet (after so many years passed from the
death of Prophet). Uthman refrained to give Aisha any money by reminding
her that she was one those who testified and encouraged Abu-Bakr to refrain
to pay the share of inheritance of Fatimah (AS). So if Fatimah does not
have any share of inheritance, then why should she? Aisha became extremely
angry at Uthman, and came out saying:
"Kill this old fool (Na'thal), for he is unbeliever."
- History of Ibn Athir, v3, p206
- Lisan al-Arab, v14, p141
- al-Iqd al-Farid, v4, p290
- Sharh al-Nahj, by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, v16, pp 220-223
As we can see, the main figures in plotting against Uthman are some highly
influential individuals, like Talha and Aisha. These Sunni reports are in
clear contradiction with the reports related to Abdullah Ibn Saba, which
were made up to cover up for those individuals centuries after the
Another Sunni historian, al-Baladhuri, in his history (Ansab al-Ashraf)
said that when the situation became extremely grave, Uthman ordered Marwan
Ibn al-Hakam and Abdurrahman Ibn Attab Ibn Usayd to try to persuade Aisha
to stop campaigning against him. They went to her while she was preparing
to leave for pilgrimage, and they told her:
"We pray that you stay in Medina, and that Allah may save this man
(Uthman) through you." Aisha said: "I have prepared my means of
transportation and vowed to perform the pilgrimage. By God, I shall
not honor your request... I wish he (Uthman) was in one of my sacks so
that I could carry him. I would then through him into the sea."
Sunni reference: Ansab al-Ashraf, by al-Baladhuri, part 1, v4, p75
Certainly the revolution against Uthman * started * in Medina, and not in
Basra, Kufa, and Egypt. The prominent people of Medina are the ones who
first wrote to those outside Medina and instigated them against Uthman. To
say that a Jew, named Ibn Saba, is the one who inspired people to revolt
against the Caliph is not logical unless we accept that he was the one who
also inspired Aisha, Talha, and Zubair to revolt. But those who speak of
Ibn Saba and his role, do not include Aisha and people of her position as
the followers of Ibn Saba.
The alleged role of Ibn Saba, in the revolt against Uthman, would also be
credible if we were to say that Ibn Saba was the one who persuaded the
Caliph to follow a path contrary to the first two Caliphs, and that he was
the one who advised Uthman to give Islamic funds to his relatives and
appoint them governors of Islamic provinces.
The manner in which Uthman conducted the affairs of the Islamic states gave
Aisha, Talha, and Zubair and others, a reason to provoke Muslims against
Uthman. However those who attribute the revolution against Uthman to Ibn
Saba, do not accept that Ibn Saba was the one who advised Uthman to follow
that wrong policy. They are right, because that alleged Jew with such
achievements never existed except in the imagination of Sayf Ibn Umar
al-Tamimi and those who quoted from him. A few (less than 15) traditions
(which are not even in any authentic Sunni books nor in any reliable Shia
books) related to Abdullah Ibn Saba narrated by people other than Sayf give
a totally different story in compare with Sayf's heavy documentation which
is being distributed everywhere. These traditions do NOT mention the
presence of Ibn Saba in the revolt against Uthman.
c) Amr Ibn al-Aas
It is amazing that such an important role in the revolution against Uthman
is attributed to a Jew for whose existence neither Shia nor Sunni have any
strong evidence. Yet historians forget the important role which was played
by a person well known in Islamic history, namely Amr Ibn al-Aas. He was
more intelligent and more clever than any Jew ever existed in that era. Amr
had all the reasons to conspire against the Caliph, and he had all the
abilities to instigate most of the people of Medina against him.
Amr Ibn al-Aas was one of the most dangerous agitators against Uthman. He
was the governor of Egypt during the reign of the second Caliph. However,
the third Caliph dismissed him and replaced him with his foster brother,
Abdullah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abu Sharh. As a result of this, Amr became
extremely hostile towards Uthman. He returned to Medina and started a
malicious campaign against Uthman, accusing him of many wrong doings.
Uthman blamed Amr and spoke to him harshly. This made Amr even more bitter.
He used to meet Zubair and Talha and conspire against Uthman. He used to
meet pilgrims and inform them of the numerous deviations of Uthman.
According to Tabari, when Uthman was besieged, Amr settled in the palace of
al-Ajlan and used to ask from people about the situation of Uthman:
...Amr had not left his seat before a second rider passed by. Amr
called him out: "How is Uthman doing?" The man replied: "He has been
killed." Amr then said: "I am Abu Abdillah. When I scratch an ulcer,
I cut it off. (i.e., when I desire an object, I attain it). I have
been provoking (people) against him, even the shepherd on the top of
mountains with his flock." Then Salamah Ibn Rawh said to him: "You,
the Quraishites, have broken a strong tie between yourselves and
the Arabs. Why did you do that?" Amr replied: "We wanted to draw the
truth out of the pit of falsehood, and to have people be on an equal
footing as regards the truth."
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, pp 171-172
The divider of Muslims ignored what is well known in the history of Islam
which was reported by important Sunni reporters. The revolt against Uthman
was as a result of the efforts of prominent personalities in Medina, such
as Aisha, Talha, Zubair, Aburrahman Ibn Ouf, and Amr Ibn al-Aas. Instead of
attributing the revolution to real people who rebelled against Uthman, the
dividers of Muslims refuse to accept the truth or to mention it. They
attribute the revolution to a fictitious Jew, relying on the reports of
Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi, a man who was accused by prominent Sunni scholars
to be a man of lies and innovations. They chose to accept Sayf's report in
order to cover up for the Caliph, Aisha, Talha, and Zubair.
It is even more amazing that Aisha, Talha, and Zubair, and Muawiyah Ibn Abu
Sufyan fought Imam Ali in two wars, unprecedented in the history of Islam,
yet non of them accused the followers of Imam Ali to be students of Ibn
Saba. Sunni history books and Sunni collections of traditions clearly
state that Muawiyah commanded all the Imams of the mosques throughout the
Muslim world to CURSE Imam Ali in every Friday prayer. If the fictitious
Jew, Ibn Saba, had any small role in the revolt against Uthman, Muawiyah
would have made it the main topic of his defamation campaign against the
Imam and his supporters. He would have publicized throughout the world that
those who killed Uthman were the student of Abdullah Ibn Saba, and that
they were ones who brought Ali to power. However neither Muawiyah nor Aisha
took this route, because such stories attributed to Ibn Saba was invented
by Sayf Ibn Umar who lived in the second century after Hijrah, long after
The murder of Uthman provided a nice scapegoat for those who were fighting
over more power, while serving under the government of Uthman. They were
mainly his relatives, the Umayads such as Muawiyah and Marwan, who
thoroughly took advantage of Uthman's life as well as his death. The story
of Ibn Saba in this regard has served to cover the face of those power-
hungry individuals, and yet another way to attack Imam Ali and his true
Few Reasons behind the Revolt Against Uthman
The Third Caliph, Uthman, was given the allegiance of the people with the
stipulation that he would manage the affairs of the nation according to the
book of God and the teachings of the Prophet (S.A.W.). He was to follow
the method of Abu Bakr and Umar, if there was no instruction from the Quran
or the Prophet.
It is well-known that the first two caliphs lived simple lives. They
did not give members of their clans a preference over other people, nor did
they appoint any of their relatives to prominent positions in the State.
Uthman, on the other hand, had his own opinions. He allowed himself to live
luxuriously. He put members of his clan (Umayad) in prominent and strong
positions in the State, preferring them over other Muslims, without
monitoring their affairs. However, his relatives were not righteous.
Perhaps Uthman thought that his preference towards them was in accordance
with the Book of God because Quran urges people to be kind to their
relatives! This method of handing the affairs of the State did not please
many companions. They found it extravagant and extreme.
The Companions criticized the Caliph for the following issues:
1. He brought his uncle, al-Hakam Ibn Abi al-Aas (son of Umayyah, son of
Abd Shams), to Medina after the Prophet had exiled him from Medina.
It was reported that al-Hakam used to hide and listen to the words of the
Prophet as he spoke secretly to prominent companions, and then circulated
what he heard. He used to imitate and ridicule the Prophet in the way he
walked. The Prophet one time looked at him while he was being imitated and
said: "This way you will be." al-Hakam immediately started shaking and
continued that way until he died. It is also reported that:
One day, while sitting with some of his companions, the Messenger of
God said, "A cursed man will enter the room." Shortly thereafter,
al-Hakam entered. (He was the cursed man.)
Sunni reference: al-Isti'aab, by Yusuf Ibn Abd al-Barr, v1, pp 359-360
2. After bringing him to Medina, Uthman gave his uncle al-Hakam 300,000
3. He made Marwan, son of al-Hakam, his highest assistant and top advisor,
giving him influence equal to his own. Marwan bought a fifth of the
revenues of the North Africa for 500,000 Dinars!!! However, he did not pay
this amount. The Caliph allowed him to keep the money. This amount was
equal to ten million dollars!!!
Imam Ali (AS) frequently reminded Uthman about the danger of Marwan, but in
vain. The following conversation between Imam Ali and Uthman testifies this
fact. It happened when Uthman was being attacked, and thus he asked Ali for
help. Uthman said to Imam Ali:
"You see the trouble caused by this band of dissidents when they came
to me today. I know that you enjoy prestige among people and that they
will listen to you. I want you to go to them and send them away from
me. I do not wish them to come before me, for that would be an
insulting act toward me on their part. Let others hear this as well."
Ali said: "On what grounds shall I send them away?"
Uthman replied: "On the grounds that I shall carry out what you have
counseled me to do and you thought right, and I will not deviate from
you direction." Then Ali said: "In fact I have spoken to you
time after time, and you and I discussed such matters at length.
All this is the doing of Marwan Ibn al-Hakam, Saeed Ibn al-Aas, Ibn
Amir, and Muawiyah. You have listened to them and defied me." Uthman
said: "then I shall defy them and listen to you."
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, p173
Then Imam Ali spoke to people and asked them to go away from Uthman, and
thus many of them retreated. Then Imam came to Uthman and informed him
that people are gone, and said:
"Make a statement which the people will testify that they have heard
from you, and God will be witness as to whether or not you desire to
repent in your heart."
Thus, Uthman went out and preached the sermon in which he laid before
the people his heartfelt desire to repent, and said: "By God, O
people, if any one of you has blamed (me), he has not done anything
that is unknown to me. I have done nothing unknowingly. But my soul
has raised vain hopes within me and lied to me, and my virtue has
slipped away from me. ...I ask God's forgiveness for what I have done
and I turn to him. A man like me yearns to repent."
Then people had pity on him, and some among them wept. Saeed Ibn Zayd
stood up before him (Uthman) and said: "O commander of faithful, (from
now on) no one comes to you who does not support you. Fear God, in
your soul fear God, and fulfill what you have said!"
When Uthman descended (from the pulpit), he found Marwan Ibn al-Hakam
and Seed Ibn al-Aas, and a few other Umayad at his house. Marwan said:
"Should I speak (to people) or remain silent?" Uthman's wife said:
"Nay! Be silent, for they will kill him of sin. He has made a public
statement from which he can not rightfully withdraw." Marwan said:
"What does this have to do with you?"
Then Marwan said to Uthman: "To persist in an error for which you must
seek God's forgiveness is better that to repent because you are
afraid. If you so will, you may seek repentance without acknowledging
error." Uthman said: "Go out and speak to them, for I am ashamed to
So Marwan went (to people) and said: "Why have you gathered here like
looters? ... You have come to snatch our power (Mulk; kingship) from
us. Go! By God, if you mean us (any harm), you will encounter
something distasteful from us, and you will not praise the result of
your opinions. Return to your homes, for by God we are not men to be
robbed of our possessions."
People informed Ali of the news. Then Ali came to Uthman and
said: "Surely you have satisfied Marwan (again), but he is satisfied
with you only if you deviate from your religion and reason, like a
camel carrying a litter that is led around at will. By God, Marwan is
devoid of sense in regard to his religion and his soul. I swear by
God, I think he will bring you in and then not send you out again.
After this visit, I will not come again to chide you. You have
destroyed your own honor and you have been robbed of your authority."
When Ali departed, Uthman's wife told him: "I have heard that Ali said
to you that he will never return to you, and that you have obeyed
Marwan (again), who leads you wherever he wishes." Uthman said: "What
shall I do?" She responded: "You should fear God alone, who has no
partner, and you should adhere to the practice of your two
predecessors (Abu Bakr and Umar). For if you obey Marwan, he will kill
you. Marwan enjoys no prestige among the people, and inspires neither
awe nor love. People have only abandoned you due to Marwan's position
(in your councils). Send to Ali, then, and trust in his honesty and
uprightness. He is related to you and he is not a man whom people
disobey." So Uthman sent to Ali, but he refused to come, saying: "I
told him I would not return."
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, pp 176-179
On the death of Uthman, Imam Ali (AS) said:
By God! I have persisted in defending him (Uthman) until I was filled
with shame. But Marwan, Muawiyah, Abdullah Ibn Amir, and Sa'd Ibn al-
Aas have dealt with him as you witnessed. When I gave him sincere
counsel and directed him to send them away, he became suspicious of
me, until what you now see has happened.
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, p198
Marwan and his descendants were the basis for some of the most serious
charges of corruption and nepotism levied against Uthman. Marwan, of
course, ultimately seized the Caliphate and ascended the throne in year
64/684, and was the lineal ancestor of all succeeding Umayad kings in
Damascus as well as the Amirs of Cordoba till after 756 AD.
4. The Caliph appointed his foster brother, Abdullah Ibn Sa'd, as the
governor of Egypt. At that time, Egypt was the largest province in the
Muslim State. Ibn Sa'd had declared his Islam and moved from Mecca to
Medina. The Prophet listed him as a recorder of the revelation. However,
Ibn Sa'd then deserted the faith and returned to Mecca. He used to say: "I
shall reveal equal to what God revealed to Muhammad."
When Mecca was conquered, the Prophet ordered the Muslims to kill Ibn Sa'd.
He was to be killed even if he was found tying himself to the cloth of the
Ka'aba. Ibn Sa'd hid himself at the house of Uthman. When the situation
calmed down, Uthman brought Ibn Sa'd to the Prophet and informed him that
he had put Ibn Sa'd under his protection. The Prophet remained silent for a
long while, hoping that one of those who were present, would kill Ibn Sa'd
before he honors Uthman's request. The companions, however, did not
understand what the Prophet meant by his long silence. Since no one moved
to kill Ibn Sa'd, the Prophet approved the protection of Uthman.
5. The Caliph Uthman appointed Walid Ibn Aqabah (one of his Umayad
relatives) as the governor of Kufa after dismissing the previous governor,
the famous companion of Prophet, Sa'd Ibn Abi Waqqas. Sa'd was a famous
marksman known for combating the enemies of Islam in the Battle of Uhud.
On the other hand, the behavior of Walid during the time of the Prophet
was not honorable. Quran discredited him and called him a transgressor.
For instance, the Messenger sent him to Bani al-Mustalaq to collect their
Zakat. Walid witnessed from a distance that Mustalaqites coming toward him
on their horses. He became frightened due to a previous hostility between
the Mustalaqites and him. He returned to the Messenger of God and informed
him that the Mustalaqites wanted to kill him. This was not true. However,
Walid's information infuriated the Muslims of Medina, and they wanted to
attack the Mustalaqites. At this time, the following revelation came down:
"O you who believe, if a transgressor comes to you with news, try to
verify it, lest you inflict damage on people unwittingly; then you may
consequently regret your hasty action."
Walid continued in his non-Islamic way for the rest of his life. He used to
drink wine and several witnesses testified to the Caliph that they had
witnessed Walid drunk while leading a congregational prayer!!! Upon the
testimony of good witnesses, Walid was lashed eighty times and was
dismissed by the Caliph. The Caliph was expected to replace this
transgressor with a good companion of the Prophet but, instead, he replaced
Walid with Saeed Ibn al-Aas, another member of his Umayad relatives!
The following dialog between Imam Ali (AS) and Uthman, is also written in
the History of al-Tabari which gives more insight to the situation of
Uthman long before his murder:
People gathered and talked to Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Thus Ali went to
Uthman and said:
People came to me, and they have spoken to me about you. ...
Remember God! You will be not awarded your sight after you become
blind, by God!, nor you are being instructed after you were in
ignorance. Verily the Path is manifest and clear, and the signs of
true religion are standing upright.
Know, Uthman, that the best servant in the eyes of God, is a JUST
IMAM (leader), one who has been guided to the way, and who himself
gives the right guidance (to people), for he upholds the true Sunnah
and destroys rejected innovations. By God, every thing is clear. Sound
and true Sunnah stands clearly, as do blameworthy innovations. The
WORST IMAM in the eyes of God, is a tyrannical leader, the one who
has gone astray himself, and by whom others are led astray, for he
destroys a true Sunnah and revives a rejected innovation.
Verily I heard the messenger of Allah saying: 'In The Day of
Resurrection, the tyrannical leader will be brought while he will
have no helper and no advocate, so that he will be cast to the Hell,
and he will be turning about in Hell as the mill turns, and he then
will plunge into the fiery flood of Hell.'
I tell you (Uthman), to be aware of God and His sudden assault and
His retaliation, for His punishment is harsh and painful indeed.
I tell you to beware lest you be the murdered leader of this
community. Indeed it is said that a leader will be killed in this
community, and its bloody strife will be loosed upon it until the
day of rising (of Imam Mahdi), and its affairs will become hopelessly
entangled. It will leave people as sects, and they will not see the
truth due to the great height of falsehood. They will toss therein
like waves and wander in confusion.
Then Uthman replied:
By God, I knew that (people) would be saying what you have said. But
by God, if you were in my place, I would not have blame you nor left
you in the lurch nor shamed you nor behaved unfairly. If I have
favored my relatives, and appointed them as governors, some of them
are those whom Umar used to appoint. I appeal you by God, O Ali, do
you know that al-Mughirah Ibn Shubah is not there? Ali said: Yes.
Then Uthman said: Do you know that Umar made him a governor? Ali
said: Yes. Then Uthman said: So why do you blame me for having
appointed him Amir, simply because he is my relative?
Then Ali said:
I would tell you that every one appointed by Umar, was kept under
close inspection by him, and Umar would trample on his ear. If Umar
would hear a single word concerning him, he would flog him and
punish him with the utmost severity. But you do not do that. You
have been weak and easygoing with your relatives. Uthman said: They
are your relatives as well. Ali replied: By my life, they are
closely related to me, but merit is found in other people.
Then Uthman said:
Do you know that Umar was the one who kept Muawiyah in the office
throughout his entire reign, and I have only done the same.
Then Ali said:
I ask you by Allah, do you know that Muawiyah was more afraid of
Umar than was Umar's own slave, Yarfa? Uthman said: Yes. Ali
continued: Now it has been reached to the point that Muawiyah makes
decisions on the issues without consulting you, and you know it.
Muawiyah says to people "This is Uthman's command", and you hear of
this, but you do not denounce him.
Then Ali left Uthman, and Uthman went out on his heels. Then Uthman
ascended the pulpit and said:
By God, you have surely blamed me for things like those you accepted
from Umar. But he trampled you underfoot, smote you with his hand, and
subdued you by his tongue, and thus you submitted to him whether you
liked it or not. But I have been lenient with you. I let you step on
my shoulders while I restrained my hand and tongue, and therefore you
have been rude toward me. By God, I am stronger in the number of
relatives, and have allies closer at hand, and possess more
supporters. I have appointed your peers over you. But you have
attributed to me a nature that I do not possess. Restrain your tongue
from slandering your rulers... By God! I have achieved no less than my
predecessors or those about whom you have not disagreed. There is a
surplus wealth, so why should I not do as I wish with the surplus?
Otherwise why did I become leader?
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, English version, v15, pp 141-144
Who Started The Battle of Camel?
The battle of Camel (Jamal) was the first war declared against Imam Ali
(AS) in Basra in year 36/656 after people appointed Ali as their leader of
the Muslim community. It was called so, because Aisha, one of the leaders
of the opposition group was riding a camel. The other leaders among the
opposition were Talha and Zubair who were two well-known companions of the
messenger of Allah. This war is also known in the history as the battle of
Basra. The result was shedding the blood of more than ten thousand Muslims.
The circulators of false accusation against the Followers of the Members of
the House of the Prophet quote from Sayf that the followers of Ibn Saba
started the battle of Basra at night just before the negotiations between
Imam Ali and his three opponents (Aisha, Talha, and Zubair) were about to
succeed. They started the battle at night by attacking the two armies
simultaneously in order to make them plunge into battle. Ibn Saba wanted to
make each of the two armies accuse the other of starting the battle. This
would abort the peaceful efforts whose stipulations were supposed to
include the punishment of Uthman's killers.
This allegation is in contradiction with many clear historical facts,
of which the following events were recorded by the Sunni historians and
1. al-Sha'bi (Amir Ibn Sharahil al-shi-abi) reported the following:
The right side of the army of the Commander of Believers (Ali)
attacked the left side of Basra's army. They fought each other
and people resorted to Aisha and most of them were from Dhubbah
and al-Azd tribes. The Battle started after sunrise and continued
until afternoon. The Basrites were defeated and a man from the tribe
of al-Azd said: 'Come back and attack.' Muhammad (Ibn al-Hanafiya),
son of Ali, hit him with his sword and severed his hand. The man
shouted: 'Azdites, run away.' When the Azdites were overwhelmed by
the army of the Ali, the Azdites shouted: 'We belong to the religion
of Ali Ibn Abi Talib.'
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, Arabic version, Events of year 36 AH
v4, p312. (The English version of this part is not yet
published at the time of writing of this article)
The above report gives evidence to the fact that the fight did NOT start
during the night as the inventor of Ibn Saba claimed. Rather it started
AFTER the sunrise. This collapses the whole alleged conspiracy of
simultaneous attack to both armies during the night.
2. Qatadah reported the following:
When the two armies faced each other, Zubair appeared on his horse
while he was well armed. People said to Ali, 'This is Zubair.' Upon
that Ali said: 'Zubair is the more expected of the two to remember
God, if he is reminded.' Talha also came to face Ali. When Ali faced
them, he said: 'Certainly you have prepared arms, horses, and men. Did
you prepare an excuse for the Day of Judgment when you meet your Lord?
Fear God and do not be like the lady who unravels her weaving after
she had woven it strongly. Was I not your brother and you used to
believe in the sanctity of my blood? Did anything happen to make it
legal for you to shed my blood?' Talha said: 'You have instigated
people against Uthman.'
Imam Ali replied, quoting from the Quran: 'On that day (the day of
judgment), Allah will pay them their just due, and they will know
that, indeed, Allah is the Manifest Truth.(Quran 24:25).' Then
Ali continued: 'Talha, you are fighting for the blood of Uthman?
May God curse those who killed Uthman. Zubair, do you remember
the day when you passed by with the Messenger of God at Banu Ghunam
and he looked at me and smiled? I smiled back at him and you said
to him: 'Ibn Abu Talib is always conceited. 'The Messenger of God
said to you: 'He is not conceited, and you shall fight him unjustly.'
Zubair said: 'By God, this is true. Had I remembered that, I would
not have made this journey. By God, I shall never fight you.' Then
Zubair left and informed Aisha and his son Abdullah that he took an
oath to never fight Ali. His son counseled him to fight against Ali
and pay atonement (Kaffaarah) for breaking his oath. Zubair agreed
and made his atonement by freeing his slave Mak'hul.
- History of al-Tabari, Arabic version, Events of year 36 AH, v4, pp501-502
- History of Ibn al-Athir, v3, p240
- al-Isti'ab, Ibn Abd al-Barr, v2, p515
- Usdul Ghabah, v2, p252
- al-Isabah, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v2, p557
This event clearly tells us that Talha and Zubair confronted Imam Ali (AS)
BEFORE the start of the battle, and the confrontation was in the day time
rather than at night. Otherwise, people could not have seen the
confrontation or heard the conversation between the Imam and his opponents
and recognize each other in the Helmet (metal head-cover). We are sure that
there was no electricity for light, nor was there any voice amplifier to
make conversations heard.
Since the conversation and the confrontation took place before the start of
the battle, it is clear that the report of Sayf about the battle starting
during the dark night and unpredictably, is a sheer lie.
3. al-Dhabbi narrated:
We were in the camp of Ali on the day of Battle of Camel, where Ali
sent for Talha to talk to him (before the beginning of war). Talha
came forward, and Ali told him: I adjure you by Allah! Didn't you hear
the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) when he said: `Whoever I am his
MAWLA, this Ali is his MAWLA. O God, love whoever loves him, and be
hostile to whoever is hostile to him'?" Talha replied: "Yes." Ali
said: "Then why do you want to fight me?"
- al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, pp 169,371
- Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, on the authority of Ilyas al-Dhabbi
- Muruj al-Dhahab, by al-Mas'udi, v4, p321
- Majma' al-Zawa'id, by al-Haythami, v9, p107
4. Yahya Ibn Sa'id narrated:
Marwan Ibn al-Hakam who was in the ranks of Talha, saw Talha is
retreating (when his army was being defeated in the battlefield).
Since he and all Umayad recognized him and al-Zubair as the murderers
of Uthman, he shot an arrow at him and severely wounded him. He then
said to Aban, the son of Uthman, that: "I have spared you from one of
your father's murderers." Talha was taken to a ruined house in Basra
where he died.
- Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa'ad, v3, part 1, p159
- al-Isabah, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v3, pp 532-533
- History of Ibn al-Athir, v3, p244
- Usdul Ghabah, v3, pp 87-88
- al-Isti'ab, Ibn Abd al-Barr, v2, p766
- History of Ibn al-Kathir, v7, p248
- A similar report is given in al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, pp 169,371
5. al-Zuhri, another important Sunni narrator who is famous for his dislike
of Ahlul-Bayt, reported the following dialogue of Imam Ali with Zubair and
Talha before the battle:
"Ali said: 'Zubair, do you fight me for the blood of Uthman after you
killed him? May God give the most hostile to Uthman among us the
consequence which that very person dislikes.' He said to Talha:
'Talha, you have brought the wife of the Messenger of God (Aisha) to
use her for war and hid your wife at your house (in Medina)! Did you
not give me your allegiance?' Talha said: 'I gave you the allegiance
while the sword was on my neck.'
(At this point, Ali tried to invite them to peace, leaving them no
excuse.) Ali addressed his own army saying: 'Who among you will
display this Quran and what is in it to the opposing army with the
understanding that if he loses one of his hand he will hold the Quran
with his other hand...?' A youth from Kufa said: 'I will take the
mission.' Ali went through his army offering them the mission. Only
that youth accepted it. Then Ali said to him: 'Exhibit this Quran and
say to them: It is between you and us from its beginning to its end.
Remember God, and spare your blood and our blood.'
As the youth called upon them to resort to the Quran and surrender to
its judgment, the Basrites army attacked and killed him. At this time,
Ali said to his army: 'Now the fight has become legal.' The battle
Sunni reference: History of al-Tabari, Arabic version, Events of year 36 AH
All these reports and the similar ones clearly indicate that the battle
started in the day time rather than at night as Sayf Ibn Umar alleged. The
breaking war was not abrupt since the two armies met and talked to each
other just before the start of battle. Had the confrontation between Imam
Ali and Talha and Zubair taken place at night, the final call of Imam Ali
would have had no benefit because the two armies would not have been able
to witness it or hear their conversation. Also, the confrontation between
the carrier of the Holy Quran and the Basrites would have been useless.
None of the opposing soldiers could have seen the Quran in the hands of the
young man at night.
Furthermore, the alleged agreement between the Imam and the three
rebellious leaders, to punish the individuals who murdered Uthman, would be
logical only if the three leaders were serious in seeking punishment for
the killers. But the three leaders (Aisha, Talha, and Zubair) were the main
agitators who provoked people to kill the Third Caliph. As we see in the
above tradition, Imam Ali clearly stated that Zubair was among those who
Had the revolters elected Talha or Zubair instead of Imam Ali (AS) as
Caliph, they would have given the killers of Uthman the biggest prize.
Certainly the leaders did not seek revenge for the blood of Uthman, for
they themselves were behind the plot. They only pretended to do that as a
means of destroying the Imam's caliphate.
Imam Ali said in the battle of Camel:
"Truth and falsehood can not be identified by the virtue of people.
First understand the truth, you will then realize who is adhering to
it." (Nahjul Balaghah, by Imam Ali)
reports on the Character of Abdullah Ibn Saba
Story of Abdullah Ibn Saba based Story of Abdullah Ibn Saba based
on the reports provided by Sayf on the reports whose chain of
Ibn Umar and those who quoted him authorities do not include Sayf
1) Sayf provided a mass of 1) The number of these reports
information and a huge number of which have the chain of narrators
lengthy and verbose reports for do not exceed 14. And they are very
which there exists no similar short.
report by the sober traditionists.
2) These and all other reports 2) These few traditions were NOT
of Sayf were rejected since he rated authentic by Shia or Sunni
was accused of forgery, heresy, scholars, and thus, the existence
inquisition and manichaeism by of a person in the name of Abdullah
the leading Sunni scholars. Ibn Saba remains under question.
3) Abdullah Ibn Saba appeared when 3) Abdullah Ibn Saba appeared when
Uthman came to power. Imam Ali (AS) came to power.
4) Ibn Saba claimed that Prophet 4) Nothing was reported about Ibn
Muhammad will return like Jesus Saba in this regard. Other Sunni
before the day of judgment. He reports claim that Umar was the
claimed that Prophet Muhammad has first who claimed the return of
not died. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and that
he did not die.
5) Abdullah Ibn Saba claimed that 5) Abdullah Ibn Saba claimed that
Ali is the successor of Prophet. he is a prophet and Ali is God.
6) Ibn Saba claimed that Uthman 6) Nothing was reported about Ibn
should be overthrown because he has Saba in this regard. Other Sunni
occupied the seat of Ali. Ibn Saba reports claim that Talha, Zubair,
was the main agitator in revolt Aisha, and Amr Ibn al-Aas were the
against Uthman. The agitation did main agitators against Uthman. They
not start from Medina, and Talha started the campaign in Medina and
and Zubair did not oppose Uthman. then invited others to join them.
7) Ibn Saba instigated the battle 7) Nothing was reported about Ibn
of Camel at night in order to Saba in this regard. Yet other
plunge the two armies into battle. Sunni reports say that the battle
started after sunrise and after the
final speech of Imam Ali to the
rebellions when the two armies
faced and met each other.
8) Some of the pioneers of Islam 8) No report about the relation of
among the companions of Prophet any companions of Prophet with
such as Abu Dar and Ammar Ibn Yasir Abdullah Ibn Saba. Other authentic
were the students of this Jew.
Sunni traditions indicate that Abu Dar and Ammar were among the best
companions and the most beloved ones to the Prophet (S.A.W.).
The Opinion of the Historians
I have already provided the opinion of 15 famous Sunni scholars about the
weakness of the reports of Sayf Ibn Umar in
of this article.
Beside them, many Sunni historians have also denied the existence of
Abdullah Ibn Saba and and/or the forged stories attributed to him. Among
them are Dr. Taha Husain, who has analyzed these stories and rejected them.
He wrote in "al-Fitnah al-Kubra" that:
In my opinion, those who have tried to emphasize on the story of
Abdullah Ibn Saba, have committed a crime in the history and hurt
themselves too. The first thing that is observed is that in the
important collections the name of Ibn Saba does not appear when they
discuss the agitation against Uthman. Ibn Sa'd does not mention the
name of Abdullah Ibn Saba when he discusses the Caliphate of Uthman
and the revolt against him. Also the book by al-Baladhuri, "Ansab al-
Ashraf", which I think the most important and the most detailed book
about the revolt against Uthman, the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba has
never been mentioned. It appears that al-Tabari was the first who
reported the story of Ibn Saba from Sayf, and then other historians
quoted al-Tabari in this regard.
In his other book "Ali wa Banuh", he also mentioned:
The story of Ibn Saba is nothing but myth, and is the invention of
some historians, since it contradicts other historical documents. ...
The fact is that the friction between Shia and Sunni have had many
shapes, and each group was advocating itself and denouncing the other
by any means possible. This requires a historian to be much more
cautious when analyzing the controversial reports related to seditions
, we briefly mentioned the masterpiece of Allamah al-Askari
which was released in 1955 AD. Before that time, no analytical research had
been done on the character of Abdullah Ibn Saba to investigate if he really
existed in physical world and/or if the stories around this man had any
single truth in it. Although Sayf's heresy was well-known for a number of
centuries, no research had been done about the origin of the tale of
Abdullah Ibn Saba. In his research, al-Askari proved that Sayf's narration
attributed to Abdullah Ibn Saba and many other things are sheer lie since
they contradict ALL other Sunni documents in content, timing of the events,
names of cities and companions, imaginary chain of narrators, and
miraculous records by Sayf (like talking cows with humans and so on). If
there was any Abdullah Ibn Saba at that time, his story was much different
than what Sayf manipulated.
Here is the response of a Sunni learned man, Dr. Hamid Dawud, the professor
of Cairo University, after reading al-Askari's book (I just give only a
part of his letter):
The 1300th birthday of Islam has been celebrated. During this time,
some of our learned writers have accused Shia of having un-Islamic
views. Those writers influenced public opinion against Shia and
created big gaps between Muslims. In spite of wisdom and learning, the
enemies of Shia followed their own chosen beliefs and partiality,
covering the truth, and accusing the Shia of being superstitious etc.
Hence Islamic science suffered much, as Shia views were suppressed.
As a result of these accusations, the loss to Islamic science was
greater than the loss suffered by Shia themselves, because the source
of this jurisprudence, though rich and fruitful, was neglected,
resulting in limited knowledge. Also, in the past, our learned men
were prejudiced, otherwise we would have benefited from many Shia
views. Anyone who wishes to do research in Islamic Jurisprudence must
consider Shia sources as well as those of Sunni.
Was not the Shia leader, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (d. 148 AH), the teacher
of two Sunni Imams? i.e., Abu Hanifa al-Nu'man (d. 150 AH), and Malik
Ibn Anas (d. 179 AH). Imam Abu Hanifa said: "Except for the two years
Nu'man would have starved," referring to the two years he had
benefited from the knowledge of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq. Imam Malik also
confessed straightforwardly that he had not met anyone learned in
Islamic Jurisprudence better than Imam Jafar al-Sadiq.
Yet, some of our so-called learned men, unfortunately disregard the
rules for research to suit their own ends. Hence knowledge is not
fully disclosed to them and thus they create a wider gap between
Muslims. Ahmed Amin is one of those deprived of the light of
knowledge, remaining in darkness. History has recorded this stain on
the robe of Ahmed Amin and his friends, who blindly followed one
special Madhab. Of many mistakes made by him, the biggest is told in
the story of Abdullah Ibn Saba. This is one of the tales told in order
to accuse Shia of heresy and foregoing events.
The great contemporary researcher, al-Askari, in his book, has proved
with substantial evidence, that Abdullah Ibn Saba was fictitious, and
it is therefore a greater lie to say that he was the founder of
God has decreed that some learned men disclose the truth regardless of
blame they may get. The pioneer in this subject is this man who has
made the Sunni learned men of research revise the history book of
Tabari (History of Nations and Kings), and to sift out the authentic
stories from the false. The stories which have been preserved as God's
The honorable writer, with much evidence, has stripped the veil or
ambiguity from those historical events, and disclosed the truth, to
some extent that some facts seem frightful. But we have to obey the
truth no matter how difficult they appear. The truth is the best to be
Dr. Hamid Hafni Dawud
Oct. 12, 1961
We just heard from a Sunni Muslim. Now let us see what a third party has
to say about Sayf and his character, Abdullah Ibn Saba. The following is
the comment of Dr. R. Stephen Humpherys, from the University of Wisconsin
at Madison, who has translated the Vol. 15 of the History of al-Tabari into
English. This comment is written in the foreword of Vol. 15 of the History
of al-Tabari. (again, I just give some parts of it. Please refer to Vol. 15
For events in Iraq and Arabia (the real key to the crises of Uthman's
caliphate) Tabari relies chiefly on Muhammad Ibn Umar al- Waqidi (d.
823) and the MYSTERIOUS SAYF IBN UMAR. Both of these authorities raise
real problems ... It is Sayf Ibn Umar who is most troubling, however.
Tabari shows a unique fondness for him, in two senses. First, SAYF IS
THE SOURCE MOST HEAVILY USED BY TABARI for the whole period from the
Riddah wars to the battle of Siffin (11-37 AH). Second, no one beside
Tabari appears to use Sayf at all. There is no obvious way to explain
Tabari's preference. It is certainly not explained by the formal
characteristics of Sayf's narratives, for he relies on informants who
are usually OBSCURE and often very recent. likewise, he makes heavy
use of the collective report, which blends together in unspecified
ways the accounts of several transmitters.
I would suggest that Sayf appealed to Tabari for two reasons. First,
Sayf presents a "Sunday school" interpretation of Uthman's caliphate.
In his presentation, one sees a profound unity and harmony within the
core community of Muslims, a unity and harmony founded on strict
fidelity to the legacy of Muhammad. It is unthinkable that men such as
those portrayed by Sayf could have been moved by worldly ambition and
greed. On the contrary, in Sayf's presentation most conflicts are
illusory, a reflection of malicious misinterpretations by later
commentators. Where real conflicts did arise among sincere Muslims,
they were instigated by outsiders like the notorious Abdullah Ibn
Saba, a converted Jew from Yemen.
On this level, at least, Sayf's version of events is obviously a very
naive one, and no doubt Tabari perceived that as clearly as we do.
Even so, it served a very useful function for Tabari: By making Sayf's
reports the visible frame work of his narrative, he could slip in the
much less flattering interpretations of early Islamic history
presented by his other sources. Ordinary readers would dismiss this
dissident testimony as irrelevant, and only few critical readers would
catch his hint and pursue the issues raised by such secondary
accounts. In this way, Tabari could say what needed to be said while
avoiding accusations of sectarianism. Accusations of this kind were of
course no small matter in view of the enormous social and religious
tensions in Baghdad during the late 9th and early 10th centuries.
Reference: History of al-Tabari, v15, pp xv-xvii
Also in the foreword of Volume 11 of the English version of the History of
al-Tabari, the translator writes:
Although Tabari scrupulously cited his sources and can be shown to
have often quoted from them almost verbatim, these source themselves
can be traced with certainty only to an earlier stage in the
collection of Islamic history, represented by the writers Ibn Is'haq
(d. 151/767), Ibn al-Kalbi (d. 204/819), al-Waqidi (d. 207/822), and
Sayf Ibn Umar (d. ~170/786). From the first three, all of whom are
cited in this volume, there are works extant that enable us to assess
their tendencies to some extent, as well as to verify their use of
their own sources. For an assessment of the value of their
transmission, the reader is referred to the relevant articles in the
Encyclopedia of Islam and other secondary literature.
It is the fourth writer extensively quoted by al-Tabari, SAYF IBN
UMAR, with whom we are mainly concerned here. As his work survives
principally in the transmission of al-Tabari and those who took from
him and IS FOUND NOWHERE IN INDEPENDENT FORM, he has unfortunately
been rather ignored in modern criticism. Yet it is Sayf's lengthy
reports that fill most of the pages of this and several other volumes.
The historical evaluation of this volume therefore depends to a large
extent on our assessment of the nature of Sayf's reports and al-
Tabari's use of them, and it is to these problems that we must turn
Abu Abdillah Sayf Ibn Umar al-Usayyidi al-Tamimi was a Kufan
traditionist who died in the reign of Harun al-Rashid (170-93/786-
809). Other than the possibility that he was accused of MANICHAEISM
(Zandaqah) in the inquisition (Mihnah) that began under al-Mahdi in
166/783 and continued into the time of al-Rashid, nothing is known of
his life, except what can be determined from his tradition. (On Mihnah
itself, see History of al-Tabari, v3, pp 517, 522, 548-551, 604, 645;
and the book called "Zindiqs" by Vajda, pp 173-229. On accusations
against Sayf, see Majruheen, by Ibn Hibban, v1, pp 345-346; Mizan, by
al-Dhahabi, v2, pp 255-256; Tahdhib, by Ibn Hajar, v4, p296).
As he is alleged to have transmitted from at least nine traditionists
who died in 140-146/757-763, and even from two who died in 126-128/744-
746, he may have been elderly when he died. This is also suggested by
the possibility that Abu Mikhnaf, who died considerably earlier than
Sayf in 157/774, may have quoted from him. Sayf's work was originally
recorded in two books which are now lost but survived for a number of
centuries after Sayf's own lifetime. They made an enormous impact on
the Islamic historical tradition, especially because al-Tabari chose
to rely mainly on them for the events of 11-36/632-656, a period that
spanned the reigns of the first three caliphs and included all the
early conquests of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Iran. Although al-Tabari
also quoted other sources in this volume, as we have indicated, the
overwhelming bulk of his material for this
period is from Sayf. In deed, it is also probable, though not certain,
that he has reproduced the vast majority of Sayf's work. Sayf is only
rarely cited by other writers independently of al-Tabari.^^^^^^^^^^^^
Generally, Sayf's description of the conquests transmitted in this and
other volumes of al-Tabari emphasizes the heroism of the Muslim
warriors, the hardships they endured, and the toughness of their
opponents, features that seem plausible enough and are also found in
other conquest narratives beside those of Sayf. However, Sayf's
narratives differ in the extent to which he introduces traditions not
found elsewhere, often reporting them from transmitters not otherwise
known. These UNIQUE narratives frequently contain fantastic or
legendary motifs to an extent far greater than is found in the
versions of other historians. Although the fantastic and tendentious
nature of Sayf's reports has often been noted, for example, by Julius
Wellhausen (see skizzen, pp 3-7), the exact value of his corpus as a
primary source has never been assessed in detail.
...Although he hailed from Kufa, the crucible of early Shi'ism, Sayf
belonged to a completely anti-Shi'i undercurrent, representing the
Kufan faction that had earlier opposed the rebellions of al-Husain Ibn
Ali and Zayd Ibn Ali. (This is also indicated by his quotation from
sources who were involved in the killing of al-Husain. See for
instance v11, pp 204, 206, 216, 222)...
The egregious tendentiousness of Sayf's corpus comes out most plainly
in other volumes of al-Tabari, in such episodes as Saqifah Bani
Sa'idah (Tabari, v1, pp 1844-50), the burial of Uthman (3049-50), and
the tale of ABDULLAH IBN SABA (2858-59,2922,2928,2942-44,2954,3027,
3163-65,3180). In each of these instances, other versions that do not
confirm Sayf's own are available for comparison and reveal the
impudence of his daring constructions.
... Beside exaggerating the roles of certain Companions in the early
conquests, Sayf also embellished his work with the exploits of other,
IMAGINARY COMPANIONS and with heroes whom he invented, especially to
represent his own tribal group. The most outstanding of these
fabrications is al-Qa'qa Ibn Amr, a hero and alleged Companion of the
Prophet, who is, not surprisingly, said to be a member of Sayf's own
subtribe, the Usayyidi (in this volume, pp 8,24,36,40,42-43,45,48,60-
63,65,90,95,166,168). His being an Usayyidi suggests that his
fabrication is owing to Sayf himself and not to any of Sayf's alleged
sources, as none of the latter is identified as an Usayyidi. In
addition, many other persons supposedly belonging to the Tamim tribal
group appear to be fabrication, some of them having stereotypical
names that suggest almost playful invention, like "Wrap, the son of
Skirt", "Spring Herbage, the son of Rain, the son of Snow", and "Sea,
the son of Euphrates". The reader will find dozens of persons who are
named only in Sayf's traditions recorded in this volume. ...
Beside having FABRICATED many of the personages who appear in his
transmissions, it also appear that Sayf FABRICATED the names of many,
perhaps most, of his alleged authorities. ...
Frequently it seems that these invented "authorities" served as
intermediate links between Sayf and earlier genuine traditionists
whose authority Sayf wished to use to bolster his own inventions.
This assessment of Sayf in no way undermines the authority of other
early Muslim writers whose works may have an entirely different
character, just as the Late Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus is in
no way affected by the fraud of the Historia Augusta. On the contrary,
it is greatly to the credit of the medieval Sunni Muslims who assessed
the quality of traditions in the Rijal books that they unanimously
rejected Sayf's authority in the most absolute way possible. They did
so despite the fact that his traditions could have been used to back
their emerging Sunni consensus on early Islamic history. This suggests
that their condemnation of Sayf's traditions was motivated by a
concern for the truth, rather than by a wish to gain advantage in the
partisan arena of the time. They realized that his transmissions were
exaggerated and fraudulent, and they said so. In fact, the
condemnation of Sayf by the medieval Muslim Ulama ought to serve as a
reminder to modern scholars that ancient and medieval texts were not
always dictated by the prevailing political or religious climate and
that the search for truth had its place in earlier times as well as in
our own. ...
In describing the conquests generally al-Tabari scarcely deviated from
Sayf's reports. This brings us to the second attraction that Sayf may
have had for al-Tabari: DETAIL. Sayf's transmissions are almost always
far more verbose than parallel reports of more sober traditionists.
This characteristic probably not only made them preferable to al-
Tabari but may have seemed a guarantee of their accuracy. Living in
medieval times, al-Tabari did not, in the majority of instances, have
available to him the modern tools that would have enabled him to
discover Sayf's tendentiousness. And, after all, Sayf's reports have
continued to receive the approbation of a minority of scholars even up
to the present.
Reference: History of al-Tabari, v11, pp xv-xxix
Also Professor James Robinson, (D.Litt., D.D.Glasgow, U.K.) wrote:
I would like to make a remark about Tabari who had no hesitation in
quoting from Sayf. His history is not a historical work in the manner
of modern writing, for his main purpose seems to have been to record
all the information in his possession without necessarily expressing
an opinion on its value. One is, therefore, prepared to find that some
of his material is less reliable than others. So, perhaps we can
excuse him for using a method not approved nowadays. He has at least
provided a mass of information. It remains for acute scholars to
distinguish between the genuine and the false.
It is shown that Sayf often quotes men who are unknown. This raises
the question why none of them should have been quoted by other
transmitters, and leads one further to suggest that Sayf has invented
them. This serious accusation is a reasonable assumption by comparing
Sayf with others.
It is pointed out that Sayf has stories miraculous of happenings which
are difficult to believe, such as desert sands becoming water for
Muslim armies, seas becoming sand, cattle speaking and informing the
Muslim army where they were hidden, etc. In Sayf's time it was
possible for him to succeed in passing off such stories as history,
but nowadays the critical student naturally finds such stories quite
impossible. Effective arguments are also used to show how Sayf's
information about Ibn Saba and the Saba'iyya is quite unreliable.
Sayf who lived in the first quarter of the second century belonged to
Tamim, one of the Mudar tribes who live in Kufa. This helps one to
study his tendencies and the influences leading to this legends. There
is discussion of Zindeeq and of Manichaeism. Party spirit is said to
have continued from the Prophet's time, till that of the Abbasids.
Sayf upholds the northern tribes, inventing heroes, poets praising the
tribe's heroes, companions of the Prophet from Tamim, wars and battles
which had no reality, millions killed and large numbers of prisoners
with the purpose glorifying the heroes he invented, Poems attributed
to imaginary heroes were in praise of Mudar, then Tamim, then Ibn Amr,
the subtribe to which Sayf traced his origin. Sayf mentioned men of
Mudar as leaders of battles which were led by men of other tribes, his
fictitious leaders sometimes being real people, sometimes names
produced by his imagination. It is argued that the falseness of his
information was partly to upset the faith of many and partly to give
non-Muslims a wrong conception. He was so skillful in his forgeries
that they were accepted as genuine history.
There is a big difference between a Hadith work, such as Sahih al-Bukhari,
and a history work such as the History al-Tabari. al-Bukhari was selective
toward the traditions and might have recorded 1/10 of traditions that was
conveyed to him, since he dropped all traditions which might have been weak
in his point of view. However al-Tabari, though he was selective in his
other works, but for his History he recorded 9/10 of what he had heard, and
this is due to the nature of historical documentations which are not
necessarily as accurate as the Hadith collections.
As a result, al-Bukhari did NOT transmit EVEN ONE SINGLE TRADITION about
Abdullah Ibn Saba in his nine-volume Sahih. But historians who favored
heavy documentations more than the authenticity of narrators, recorded
heavily about Abdullah Ibn Saba through Sayf.
The Shia historians are not exempt from the above reasoning. They have also
recorded most of the things they have got. This includes those reports that
they were not sure about. The final research by Shia related to Abdullah
Ibn Saba was released only in 1955 AD, and it was not so clear before that
time that the stories related to Abdullah Ibn Saba have been the total
manipulation of Sayf with political motives. The two Shia historian who
mentioned the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba, lived 10 centuries before the
publication extensive research about Abdullah Ibn Saba. A person is called
expert in the history of Islam, if s/he has read all the early history
books. As a matter of fact, many early history books were written by the
Sunni authors under the direct fund of Umayad and later Abbasid rulers. A
Shia historian does not ban Sunni sources, and consequently his work is
affected, one way or another, by previous works. This is clear when one
observes that the two Shia historians who mentioned the name of Abdullah
Ibn Saba, did not give any chain of transmitters for their report meaning
that they got it from rumor the mouth people which the result of Sayf's
As for those few traditions which have the chain of narrators (independent
of Sayf), they provide a much different story which do not support any of
the allegations of Sayf. These traditions picture an accursed man whom
Ahlul-Bayt have declared their innocence from what he attributed to Imam
Ali (declaring Ali as God). The Shia, their Imams and their scholars
declare the curse of Allah to that man (if ever existed) he was lost,
misguided and cursed. There is nothing in common between us and his name
except our curse on him and all other extremists who believed in deity of
The followers of Ahlul Bayt never claimed that Ali is God, nor did they
claim the rest of 12 Imams are God. This, in fact, shows that those who
gave life to the stories attributed to Abdullah Ibn Saba had hatred toward
Shia, and tried to misrepresent the Followers of the Members of the House
of Prophet. If Shia were the followers of that mysterious Jew, they should
have believed in deity of Ali and should also respect their mentor Abdullah
Ibn Saba, instead of cursing him!
If Abdullah Ibn Saba is such an influential and important figure for the
Shia, how come they NEVER quote him like they do with the Imams of Ahlul
Bayt? Surely, if Abdullah Ibn Saba was their Master Teacher, they must
quote him and be proud to do so? A religious student always quotes his
teacher, why then would the Shia be any different? Why should they curse
him instead? If one answers that the reason that the Shia do not quote from
him is that he was a Jew who converted to Islam, then I would ask him what
was the religion of the companions before converting to Islam? Was not Abu
Huraira a Jew who killed a Muslim before converting to Islam? Was not that
he converted to Islam just 2 years before the death Prophet? Then why do
the bulk of traditions in the Sunni collections come from him? while the
traditions reported by Imam Ali (who was the first male who embraced Islam)
in the Sunni collections is less than 1% of what is reported by Abu
Huraira? This is a sign for those who reflect.
Moreover, It is a custom of Shia that they celebrate the birthday of
Prophet and 12 Imams and Lady Fatimah, peace be upon them all. They also
mourn in the memory of their martyrdom. Why then they do not hold the same
practice for Abdullah Ibn Saba if he was their master?
Besides, are the Shia so stupid and ignorant that after 1400 years, they
have never figured out that their belief and faith are based on fabricated
traditions and tales going back to Abdullah Ibn Saba? I doubt, then, how
the Shia, if they were indeed so stupid as to believe a so-called hypocrite
Jew in their theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, history, and
interpretations of the Quran, have survived to this day? Surely if the
knowledge of the Shia was based on such a shaky foundation as Abdullah Ibn
Saba, they would have perished a long time ago. It is more interesting when
we see the Imams of the majority of the Sunnis were the students of the
Imams of Shia (Imam Muhammad Baqir and Imam Ja'far Sadiq, peace be upon
them). Then one would say the Sunni schools got the basics of their Fiqh
from Shia, which means the Sunnis along with Shia were the followers of the
very same person, the mysterious Abdullah Ibn Saba! Who is left then?
Perhaps the followers of Muhammad Ibn Abdil Wahhab!
Moreover, if Abdullah Ibn Saba did in fact exist with such stories that
Sayf attributed to him, then there is 150 years between his birth and the
publication of the story of Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi. During those 150
years, there lived an innumerous number of scholars, scribes, historians,
and philosophers who contributed many books. Why didn't any of them EVER
mention the name of Abdullah Ibn Saba? Surely, if he was such an
influential figure for the Shia, you can bet that the Sunnis would have
known him before Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi! The fact that he was NEVER
mentioned in ANY book before the book of Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi is enough
to cast doubt on the entire story attributed to him and even his existence.
Can you believe that in the 150 years or so between the so-called birth of
Abdullah Ibn Saba and the publication of Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi, no book
ever mentioned Abdullah Ibn Saba? Yet some people still claim he with such
More strange thing is that even in the next 160 years after the publication
of Sayf Ibn Umar al-Tamimi not too many people knew the story of Abdullah
Ibn Saba. It wasn't wide-spread until the story of Ibn Saba extensively
showed up in the History of al-Tabari (160 years after Sayf's publication),
and it was at that time when some mercenaries started giving it weight as
a means of defense against Shia.
Now, what do these mercenaries have to offer? NOTHING!!! They still cling
to their own-made version of history, thereby contradicting themselves and
the above proofs as well as the documented Sunni history, simply to defend
their ignorant statements about the Shia.