Islam after the Death of the Prophet
AFTER the death of Prophet Muhammad, the Muslims elected Sayyidina Abubakar as their Caliph. When he died Sayyidina Omar was elected, and then Sayyidina Othman and ﬁnally Sayyidina Ali. These were the four Caliphs of Muslims after the death of the Prophet.
Differences among the Muslims came about during the last days of the third Caliph—Sayyidina Othman, and during the whole period of the last Caliph—Sayyidina Ali. To understand the reasons of the differences, we have to know something about the reign of each of the four Caliphs.
1. Sayyidina Abubakar
His full name is Abubakar Al-Siddiq Abdullah bin Othman bin Amur bin Umru bin Kaab Ibn Saad bin Tamim bin Murrah; and here his tree meets with that of the Prophet— Peace be upon him.
The Sahabas, companions of the Prophet, unanimously agreed that he was the most beloved person to the Prophet. He accompanied the Prophet when he migrated from Mecca to Al-Madinah. He was thus elected Caliph in the year 632. He enjoyed full conﬁdence of the Prophet and was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the prayer during the last days of the Prophet’s life.
There is no need to go into details about his leadership because, in spite of petty differences with his colleagues, Abubakar led the Muslims as an exemplary Caliph until his death in the year 634 the age of 63.
2. Sayyidina Omar
His full name is Omar bin Al-Khattab bin Naﬁyl bin Abd Al-Izza bin Karat bin Ribah bin Abdullah bin Razat bin Ady bin Kaab, and here he meets with the family of Prophet Muhammad—Peace be upon him. He was born 13 years after the Prophet’s birth and embraced Islam four years before the Prophet’s migration to Al-Madinah.
His physical strength, bravery and courage made him an outstanding ﬁgure in his society. When he decided to join the Prophet in Al-Madinah he did not go secretly but made his departure openly known and challenged anyone who dared to prevent him from migrating to Al-Madinah.
During his period as Caliph many countries such as Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Iran and Egypt came under his rule. He was the ﬁrst person to decide the Muslim calendar basing it on the Prophet’s migration from Mecca to Al-Madinah. In fact, he did many things for Islam but had a sad end when one, Abi Luiluah stabbed him in the stomach with a poisoned knife in the mosque when the Caliph refused his plea for the reduction of taxes imposed upon him by his master. The assassin killed himself and Sayyidina Omar died three days later in the year 645.
3. Sayyidina Othman
He is Othman bin Affan bin Abi Al-As bin Umayyah bin Abd Shams bin Abd Manaf—and here he meets with the Prophet’s tree. He was born six years after the Prophet’s birth. He married two daughters of the Prophet—Ruqayah and Um Kul-Thoum. Othman was a member of the committee of six appointed by the late Caliph Omar to select their next Caliph. Other members were Ali, Abdul Rahman bin Auf, Talha, Zubeir and Saad bin Abi Wiqas. As these were also candidates for the Caliphate after the death of Omar, they had to agree among themselves as to who should be the Caliph. Abdul Rahman bin Auf who withdrew his candidature voluntarily was requested by his colleagues to nominate a suitable candidate from amongst his colleagues. He chose Othman who was accepted by all but was opposed initially by Ali, who later withdrew his opposition in the interest of preserving stability and avoiding internal conflicts.
Othman was charged with nepotism and favouritism to his relatives and serious frictions developed among the Muslims and there were many attempted coups and upheavals challenging his authority. The dispute which led to the end of Othman’s life was between Amr Ibn Al-As who was appointed Governor of Egypt by Caliph Omar and Abdullah bin Saad who was appointed Governor of Egypt by Othman to replace Amr. This ended in a revolt by the Egyptian people who went to Al-Madinah and attacked Othman with a sword which ended his life in 656, after imposing a siege on his house lasting for one month while the people in Al-Madinah merely watched.
4. Sayyidina Ali
Following the death of Caliph Othman, Sayyidina Ali was elected Caliph. He was the last Caliph whose reign ended in 661. There was unrest and instability in Al-Madinah after the death of Othman but normal life returned when Ali was elected. Being brought up by the Prophet as an adopted son, Ali was very close to the Prophet. He also married the Prophet’s daughter Sayyida Fatma. When the Prophet took refuge at Al-Madinah, Ali was entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the Prophet’s property in Mecca and of restoring the property entrusted to the Prophet by their owners.
It was Ali’s desire to punish the people who killed Othman, but it was not possible for him to take immediate steps because the Muslim Army was not in Al-Madinah at that time.
The decision to appoint new governors to replace those appointed by Othman was challenged by Muawiya who was the Governor (and king) of Syria. Muawiya charged Ali that he had failed to punish those who killed Othman. Fierce ﬁghting took place and thousands of people lost their lives and Muawiya was nearly defeated but he resorted to a trick demanding compromise. Ali sought the advice of his people but many of them refused any compromise with Muawiya on the grounds that Muawiya and his supporters were Muslims and since Ali was the Caliph for all the Muslims, they had no right to wage war against him; and since they decided to ﬁght him, they were mistaken; hence no reason for a compromise. If Muawiya’s group wished to point out mistakes, they had the right to approach the Caliph with their complaints, which would have been dealt with peacefully according to the teachings of the Kuran, but not to wage war against the Caliph. Hence there was no need for a compromise. That was the ruling of Ali’s people, but on the other hand, another group from among his people favoured the compromise, and through much persuasion, Ali agreed to a compromise. This marked the beginning of the division between the supporters of Caliph Ali.
A big group consisting of many companions of the Prophet defected from Ali in protest against the compromise. This resulted in the creation of three groups—Muawiya’s group, Ali’s group and the defectors’ group.
The compromise, however, was not in Ali’s favour for he was removed from the Caliphate and Muawiya was placed in power. The results being that, Ali refused the compromise, but it was too late as a long period had already passed since ﬁghting was stopped, and Ali could not convince the group which refused the compromise to come back to him, and at the same time Muawiya’s group had already gathered strength and it was not possible to attack them. Ali was attacked when he was going to a mosque and died three days later in the year 661 at the age of 63.
His full name is Al-Hassan bin Ali bin Abi Talib. He was the son of Caliph Ali bin Abi Talib and the grandson of the Prophet from his daughter Sayyida Fatma.
Al-Hassan was elected Caliph but he resigned after nine months in favour of Muawiya.
On being elected, he made two conditions, viz.:
1. All people should support him if he decides to wage war against whoever he decides to ﬁght.
2. All people should support him if he decides to make a compromise with anyone.
With these two conditions people with speculation understood that Hassan would not ﬁght Muawiya, but would leave the Caliphate to him in order to save the people from distress. The inference was correct. When one person congratulated him on being elected Caliph and told him that he should lead them according to the Kuran and the prophetic traditions and ﬁght the rebels who destroyed the rule of Islam, Hassan made it quite clear to all the people that it was enough to emphasize on following the Kuran and the traditions because these two include everything. Hence there was no need to add other things. With this statement people who did not like peace and stability became unhappy.
When Muawiya heard about the election of Hassan as a new Caliph he organised an army of 60,000 people and set off to ﬁght Hassan. Hassan on his part, when he heard about Muawiya’s army, organised his army of 40,000 people and set off to meet Muawiya’s army. Muawiya was coming from Syria and Hassan from Iraq, and they met somewhere on the borders between Arabia and Iran. There happened some dishonesty in Hassan’s army and Hassan sensed that he could not trust his soldiers, and accordingly he called his colleagues and asked them for their advice according to the Kuranic teachings that people should consult each other. When they met, Hassan told them that he had seriously considered the situation and had prayed to the Almighty to show him what is beneﬁcial in his Caliphate, and he had decided to:
(a) Abdicate, and
(b) Leave the Caliphate to Muawiya on the following condition:
(1) That when he dies (Muawiya being older than Hassan) then he takes the Caliphate.
(2) When he (Hassan) dies, Hussain should take over.
(3) That he (Muawiya) should not harm or annoy anyone who supported his father (Ali) or himself.
(4) That he should be allowed by Muawiya to settle in Al-Madinah with complete freedom of speech and movement.
(5) Anybody among his supporters and his father’s should be allowed to settle anywhere he liked without any hindrance.
(6) That Muawiya should help him in maintaining the poor people who are dependent upon him.
(7) That Muawiya should help him in other things also.
After long discussion with his colleagues a consensus was reached in support of Hassan. Hassan then wrote a letter to Muawiya informing him of his decision and entrusted Amr bin Salamah to send it. Muawiya replied to him and delegated Abdul Rahman bin Samura and Abdullah bin Amur with full powers to conclude an agreement on the issue. When discussions were held with Hassan, an agreement was reached favouring all conditions put forward by Hassan.
The two armies met on the borders at Miskin and Sayyidina Al-Hassan made a speech and informed his Army about the compromise. Many people were disappointed but they could not do anything. Qais bin Saad, however, revolted against Hassan and defected with some soldiers who supported him to ﬁght Muawiya. Muawiya, however, succeeded to persuade Qais to join him—an incident which ended the conflict.
The two armies went to Al-Kufa where Sayyidina Al-Hassan handed over the Caliphate to Muawiya. The Scene was sad and many people were disappointed but that was how it came about through the wisdom of Sayyidina Al-Hassan who is considered the ﬁfth Caliph.
The dissatisﬁed people remained unchanged, and we have seen that when Sayyidina Ali accepted a compromise with Muawiya, people were divided into three groups.
(1) Supporters of Ali who was no longer Caliph because of accepting a compromise and be ousted by Muawiya.
(2) Supporters of Muawiya.
(3) Those who refused a compromise and left Ali. These elected their own leader whom they called Imam and led their lives according to the teachings of the Prophet.
The Islamic law requires that Muslims should have their leader whether they call him Caliph or Imam. For this reason, those who opposed a compromise elected their Imam before they knew the results of the compromise, which they opposed. When the results of the compromise were unfavourable to Sayyidina Ali, he decided to resume ﬁghting with Muawiya, but failed as his army was weak.
At this stage we shall stop discussing the disputes and misunderstandings which led to divisions among the Muslims. The theme of the discussion is about Oman and Ibadhism; hence we shall base our discussion now on how Oman emerged out of the diversity with a doctrinal unity that has been subjected to many misrepresentations.
Causes of Misunderstanding
FOR the mistakes made by writers of Islamic history in explaining the events of Tahkim, it has come to be widely believed that the people who refused the arbitration between Caliph Ali and Muawiya—an event which was known as “Al-Mahakama—” against whom Caliph Ali waged war at Nahrawan, are the Khawarij, (the breakaway sect). This is wrong understanding.
After refusing the Tahkim, these people settled at a town called Nahrawan and were later killed at their own town and only nine persons survived. Thereafter many people revolted against the rule of Bani Umayya until the appearance of Khawarij under the leadership of Nafy bin Al-Arzaq.
The Nahrawan battle, therefore, is a discord between the companions which resulted in ﬁghting between Caliph Ali and people who refused arbitration (Tahkim). As for Khawarij—the defectors—they were of two types:
(1) Political, like Al-Hussein, Ibn Al-Zubeir, Bilal, Mukhtar, Suleiman bin Hard and others.
(2) Politico religious; and this too was initiated by Nafy bin Al-Arzaq and resulted in Khawarij.
To explain the meaning of Fitna (discord) among the companions, it simply means differences of opinions and what follows therefrom in disputes and ﬁghting. A number of cases happened among the companions which led to disputes and wars and these became known as discords or Fitan. The most noteworthy among these were four:
(1) Fitnat Al-Dar (House discord)
(2) Fitnat Al-Jamal (Jamal discord)
(3) Fitnat Saﬁyn (Saﬁyn discord)
(4) Fitnat Nahrawan (Nahrawan discord)
The ﬁrst discord happened during the last year of Caliph Othman when some people criticised and accused him of misrule. When they told him their charges, he apologised for some of the criticisms and prayed for God’s forgiveness. For some criticisms he rejected them and said it was his right as a Caliph to act as he did. This caused resentment from his opposers to the extent that they asked him to abdicate to which he refused. They attacked him and killed him; an incident which resulted in two opposing groups—those who supported him and those who opposed him. This incident was called Fitnat Al-Dar, and it was the ﬁrst discord between the Muslims.
The second discord was in connection with election of Caliph Ali when the opposers and supporters disputed and fought on the day known as the Jamal Day. According to Al-Masuudy, eighteen thousand people were killed. This was the second discord between the Muslims.
When Caliph Ali was elected, he decided to remove the governors in different countries, among whom was Muawiya. Muawiya resented and demanded the blood of Caliph Othman claiming that he was his successor. He also accused Caliph Ali to have had a hand in the assassination of Othman or at least in allowing the assassination. Fierce ﬁghting took place at a place called Saﬁyn. According to Al-Masuudy in Muruji Al-Dhahab, one hundred and ten thousand people died in this battle. This was the third discord between the Muslims.
In the battle of Saﬁyn we have seen that when Muawiya felt the weakness of his army he demanded arbitration. This resulted in hot contentions between supporters and opposers of Muawiya’s plea. Finally, Caliph Ali agreed to a compromise following the opinion of the majority. Representatives of the two sides were nominated to conclude an agreement. Ali’s representative announced that he had agreed with Muawiya’s representative that the two leaders be ousted from their positions and people should elect their new leader. Muawiya’s representative denied having made that announcement and said that he had agreed with Ali’s representative to oust Ali and to establish Muawiya as the Caliph. Ali then denounced the arbitration—Tahkim—because the arbitrators had not relied on the Kuran and that they did not agree with each other. Ali then resorted to the people who opposed the Tahkim and had abandoned the army when Ali agreed to the Tahkim and who had by then elected their Imam. Ali asked them to rejoin him and continue to ﬁght the people of Sham, but these people refused. Long discussions followed between them and Ali’s people but to no avail. Ali then decided to ﬁght them at their town of Nahrawan. According to Al-Masuudy four thousand people were killed. This was the fourth discord.
In looking into these four discords, it is clear that the main cause was difference opinions between two parties. On one side there was the Caliph with his followers and on the other the opposition, and each side believed in its opinion. Yet another party stood aloof and did not take sides with the contending parties. An interesting thing to note is that in each party there were a number of the companions of the Prophet—Sahabas.
It is noteworthy, in spite of disagreement among the historians, that in the ﬁrst discord, the problem came from the opposers only and the Caliph, i.e. Othman, did not use force even during the critical moments. Thus, the discord ended in his assassination without involving others. It is known that his assassination came after a siege which lasted for one month and nobody fought the assassins—an indication that he was unpopular.
As for the second and third discords, the problem also came from the opposition and the Caliph did not remain passive, but met the force with force. Thus, the result was mass loss of lives.
The fourth discord came from the Caliph after he had failed to convince the opposition to join him; and they retaliated with force when attacked. The result was, again, loss of lives.
Again, the fundamental cause of all discords was religion in that in each case each party believed that its opinion was the most correct.
An illustration of each of these events may clarify the Stand of each party. In the ﬁrst event, Othman was accused that he was giving his relatives wealth and positions and when he was criticised and told that Omar did not do that, he replied saying that Omar prevented his people because for God and he was giving them because of God.
In the second event, Ali was elected but he did not wish to take immediate revenge against Othman’s assassins. When those interested in taking revenge told Ali that they would not listen to him or obey him until he killed Othman’s assassins, Ali replied to them saying “Listening and obeying ﬁrst, then decide the targets. And how can the Caliph decide the targets, if among the people are those who do not listen and obey!”
In the third event, Ali was too preoccupied to think of killing Othman’s assassins or he did not wish to; but Muawiya claimed that he was responsible for (revenging) for Othman’s blood and insisted on retaliation. Ali told him that he should ﬁrst pledge and join the Muslims and then ﬁght for his rights. But Muawiya insisted on retaliation ﬁrst and foremost. Muawiya used Othman’s assassination only as a pretext to come to power because he never took any revenge after becoming a ruler.
In the fourth event, the Holy Kuran was raised in asking for the truce. Ali’s people disagreed among themselves, then a truce was granted in compliance with the wish of the majority and before arbitration—Tahkim—many of his people left him. Those who supported Ali said that they had accepted the truce knowing that it was a trick, but in fear of the army and following the Prophet’s example in similar cases. The others said that it was known that these were a band of transgressors and that he (Ali) was ﬁghting them by God’s authority and it was not up to him to leave them until either they yielded to God’s cause or one of the parties perished.
From these simple references, it is clear that all the events were strictly religious, and that each party’s persistence to its opinion had nothing to do with worldly gains. For us, it is worth our while to restrain ourselves from getting involved in these past disputes. Those were matters between the companions of the Prophet, and whether they were correct or wrong, it is a fact that they were ﬁghting for justice.
Tracing the historical effect of the events, it is encouraging to note that the memory is now fading away. The people of Nahrawan were killed and those who survived scattered here and there and that was all. Also, Caliph Ali was assaulted in a plot in which the Khawarij were accused as it had been the practice of the day to accuse them for any unfortunate event in the history of Islam. The facts are known to the Almighty alone, though it is believed that Ali’s assassin was Al-Ashath Ibn Qais. Then Imam Al-Hassan handed over power to Muawiya after a few months of his being elected Ca1iph. That marked the end of the chapter between the people of Nahrawan and Caliph Ali.
An important question is the relation between the people of Nahrawan and Khawarij. Much has been said about this but a straightforward answer to this question is that there has been no relations whatsoever between the people of Nahrawan and Khawarij. The event was a discord among the companions similar to other discords and it is not up to us to ﬁnd out who was right and who was wrong. We have to leave it to the Almighty.
Writers of Islamic history will do well to avoid calling people of Nahrawan, Khawarij, just to ﬁnd themselves confronted with the problem of ﬁnding a proof for that. Those who have done so have been in a difﬁcult position in getting convincing grounds for their accusations to the end that they related imaginary stories and connected them with events which took place long before the battle of Nahrawan. Then they mix strange references between defection (Khuruj) from religion and defection from loyalty to the government. The fact is that all that has been said about Khawarij is subject to criticism, and doubt is more accurate than a fact.
According to Abu Is-Haq Atfeish, Khawarij are a community who were led by Naﬁy bin Al-Arzaq, Najdah bin Amar and Abdullah bin Al-Safar. They were called Khawarij because they abandoned righteousness, and deserted the Caliphs, and judging those who committed sins as polytheists. They allowed what was forbidden by God by giving themselves the right to shed the blood of Muslims and conﬁscate their properties basing their judgement by interpreting the Kuran wrongly thus: “If you obey them then you are polytheists:” They claimed that the meaning of this revelation is obeying in eating the dead, whereas the correct meaning is “Obeying in permitting (to eat) the dead”; which is permitting what God has forbidden; and this is polytheism.
They thus judged the sinners as polytheists and permitted shedding of Muslim blood and taking their property. They massacred women, children and old people. When Imam Al-Rabiy bin Habib Al-Farahidy was told about these peoples’ activities, he said “If they remain with their theory, let them free, but if they put their theory into practice then we shall deal with them according to God’s Judgement.” When they practiced their wrong interpretation, they were chased away from every corner and everywhere people cursed them and announced their non-involvement with them.
It is interesting to note here that it was an Omani, Al-Muhallab bin Abi Safrah Al Uzdi who took leadership in ﬁghting these people.
Since the Khawarij happened to be among the opposers of Tahkim, many people have accused the Ibadhis as being Khawarij as opposition to Tahkim is the only thing in common between Khawarij and Ibadhis. Those writing about the subject ﬁnd good, but unacceptable, excuses to call Ibadhis, Khawarij.
When people of Nahrawan chose their Imam—Abdullah bin Wahab Al-Rasby Al-Uzdi, Imam Ali felt that the leadership has been in favour of Al-Uzdi instead of Qureishi and he decided to ﬁght them before they became strong and retain the power. This is the sole reason for the Nahrawan event. For this he invited them, when he debated with them to join him in ﬁghting their common enemy, Muawiya and his group, but it was late, because Muawiya had, by then, already taken the decision from the two arbitrators—Amru bin Al-As and Abi Musa Al-Ashary, in maintaining the downfall of Imam Ali. The Muslims were then free to decide their cause because election of Abdullah bin Wahab as Imam the of people of Nahrawan did not take place until the results of Tahkim were known (and which were expected and warned against by those who could speculate them that Tahkim was merely a plot organised by Al-Ashath bin Qais against Ali in favour of Muawiya).
It is not, therefore, correct, as historians like to put it, that the Nahrawan event was a result of the revolt against Ali, because people of Nahrawan did not step out after pledging allegiance to Imam Abdullah bin Wahab.
The term Khawarij was not known before and was never used to refer either to supporters or opposers of Tahkim. It was used for the ﬁrst time after Muawiya was installed into power, when Al-Ahnaf bin Qais Al-Tamimy, who was from Nahrawan, visited Muawiya. Muawiya told him “How do the people like you since you are one of the Khawarij?” Al-Ahnaf replied to him saying, if people condemned water, he would not drink it. He meant those who opposed Muawiya.
It is not clear whether Muawiya branded Al-Ahnaf bin Qais with the title of Khawarij, because he was one of the people of Nahrawan against whom Ali waged war or because he did not support him. If Muawiya’s choice to call Al-Anaf, Kharij, because he was from Nahrawan, then Muawiya himself was more appropriate to be called Kharij, because it was he who withdrew his sword against Ali in the battle of Saﬁyn, in spite of the fact that it was he who opposed Ali’s election as Caliph, whereas the situation was such that Ali was the appropriate candidate and his being elected Caliph was most legal for which all the Muslims had to support.
In all the preceding discussions with regard to disputes among the companions of the Prophet, we have seen that the people of Nahrawan did not take sides. But these people who later became known as Ibadhis are being accused as being segment of the Khawarij. Judging from the preceding discussion it will be found that the only thing in common between Khawarij and Ibadhis is their resentment of Tahkim. Apart from this the Ibadhis do not accept that they are Khawarij.
Ibadhism as a sect was born in Basra but it was essentially conceived in Al-Madinah. The Omanis have a saying that “The egg was laid in Al-Madinah, it was hatched in Basra and (the bird of knowledge) then flew to Oman.” This brings us to the discussion of Ibadhism in Oman.
Ibadhism in Oman
IBADHISM in Oman is almost as old as Islam itself. Sheikh Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Salmy in his reference to the doctrine of the people of Oman says: “The Ibadhis have clung to the original doctrine and have not changed anything.”
After the battle of Nahrawan the Khawarij dispersed, and as there is no evidence that any Omani forces fought in this battle, it is presumed that some of these Khawarij fled to Oman.
After Amr bin Al-As, the Omanis maintained continuous contact with the Prophet’s companions and learned much about Islam from them. Out of this contact emerged a renowned theologian called Jabir bid Zaid who was born in the village of Faraq near the old centre of learning of Nizwa. He was born sometime between the year 18 to 21 after the Hijra during the Caliphate of Omar Ibn Al-Khattab. Jabir can rightly be said to be the rock foundation of Ibadhism. He spent his childhood in his native town and showed a remarkable aptitude for learning. He learned the Kuran at a young age and then dug deep into theology. His thirst for knowledge took him to Basra which was then a great centre of learning. He spent the rest of his life between Basra and Al-Madinah in the course of which he came into contact with the greatest authorities on Islam among the companions of the Prophet, and took from them much of the tenets of Islam in all its aspects. He is quoted as having said that he met seventy of the survivors of the Battle of Badr among the companions of the Prophet and he learned all they had to teach him with the exception of Ibn Abbas whom he called “Al-Bahar” that is, an ocean of Islamic knowledge which was inexhaustible.
From Ibn Abbas, Jabir acquired a wealth of knowledge and also from Sayyida Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, Abi-Huraira, Anas Ibn Malik, Abi Said Al-Khudry and Muawiya among many others. Ibn Abbas is reported to have told people to resort to Jabir whenever they had problems “for if the people of the East and the West asked him questions, he would be able to satisfy them.” Referring to the people of Iraq at the time, Ibn Abbas is also reported to have said: “It is surprising that the people of Iraq need us when they have Jabir with them.” This is when Jabir was in Basra preaching the doctrine of Islam as he had received it from his tutors. He eventually became a tutor himself in Basra and had many followers some of whom became great scholars themselves, amongst whom was Abdullah bin Abadh.
The Ibadhis of Oman, and indeed of many other countries such as North Africa drank from the fountain of Jabir’s knowledge. This could explain how the “Bird of Islamic Knowledge” ﬂew to Oman. The saying indicates the earliest links between Al-Madinah and Oman and how the people of Oman drank from the foundation of Islam at its very source.
Jabir bin Zaid collected many prophetic traditions, Hadith, from the companions of the Prophet. Thus, Ibadhism depends upon Jabir’s collection of Hadith which he learnt from the companions who, in turn, received them direct from the Prophet himself.
From a number of Jabir’s students, it is sufficient to mention only a few who played important roles in teaching the Religion in different countries. Abdullah Ibn Abadh and Murdas Ibn Hadyr who were his contemporaries in Basra and Abu Ubayda Muslim bin Abi Karima, all of whom are cornerstones of Ibadhism.
Ibadhism takes its name from Abdullah bin Abadh. The people of Nahrawan who refused Tahkim during the dispute between Caliph Ali and Muawiya requested Abdullah bin Abadh to give a formal legal opinion as to which group among the three groups was on the right path. Abdullah’s ruling was that the group which refused Tahkim i.e., the people of Nahrawan was correct. People of this group were known as people (or followers) of Abdullah bin Abadh—hence Ibadhis. It should be clear that these people did not call themselves Ibadhis, but they were branded with this name by others.
Among the later scholars, or students of Jabir’s students, Al-Rabia Ibn Habib Ibn Amr Al-Farahidy Al-Azdy deserves special mention. He compiled the famous books of traditions—Al-Jamii AI-Sahih—in which he compiled a collection of quotations from three people of unquestionable integrity. These are Abu Ubayda, Jabir bin Zaid and Abdullah Ibn Abbas. The book is generally known as “Thulaathiya” meaning the work of the three people. Sheikh Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Salmy produced a commentary “Sharh” on Al-Rabia’s book which ran into four volumes. A foreword to Al-Salmy’s book was written by Izzi-Din Al-Tanukhi of Damascus—who is a Sunni—and he said in his foreword: “The Thulaathiyat Al-Rabi Ibni-Habib Al-Azdy and the traditions in his book are among the most authentic, and the people quoted, Abu Ubayda Al-Tamimy and Jabir bin Zaid, and that mine of information—Abdullah bin Abbas—Jabir’s tutors—are all famous for their knowledge, precision, and faithfulness and modesty.”
Al-Rabia Ibn Habib himself was a student of Abu Ubayda. The other students of Abu Ubayda were Abdul-Khattab Al-Maaﬁry and Abdul Rahman bin Rustam and Abdullah bin Yahya Al-Kindy. The ﬁrst two were Ibadhi Imams in Africa and Al-Kindy in Yemen.
Referring to Al-Salmy, Al-Tanukhy said that he was one of the more recent Omani scholars who wrote many books. He must have been a very great intellectual and a highly intelligent scholar to have been the author of so many books, considering that he died before he reached the age of ﬁfty and was blind from his childhood. Al-Tanukhy listed seventeen of Al-Salmy’s books in his foreword.
In going through Al-Salmy’s commentary Al-Tanukhy was very impressed with his wide knowledge and the clarity and precision of his style. Another thing that impressed him was Al-Salmy’s objectivity, for he found that Al-Salmy was unprejudiced and would quote from outside the sect if he found truth there. He, therefore, placed truth before sectarianism. Al-Tanukhy went on to show that among the “Khawarij” Ibadhism was the closest to the Sunni sect and the most moderate. He was not correct, however, to call Ibadhis Khawarij.
For all this, one can conclude that the Ibadhi sect is older than its name, for it derives its name from Abdullah bin Abadh who grew up during the period of Muawiya bin Sufyan and lived up to the time of Abdul Malik bin Marwan. He was a great teacher and a staunch Muslim who would not compromise his faith or allow himself to be lured by worldly attractions. His belief was unshakable and he knew no fear except his fear of God, and would not hesitate to speak the truth or reprimand when necessary. He always preached to people to go back to the Kuran and to the Prophet’s traditions to preserve the purity of Islam.
Abdullah bin Abadh received a letter from Abdul Malik bin Marwan in which he sought his opinion with regard to the then prevailing events and those which took place previously, and in reply, he wrote, his famous letter of reproach explaining to him the mistakes which have been made by religious leaders after the death of Caliph Omar which caused divisions among the Muslims into various groups and sects.
Among other things, Abdullah wrote in his letter to Marwan the following: “You have written to me (asking me) to reply to your letter and I make an effort to advise you. I make it clear to you that I have explained to you from my personal effort and I explained to you about the people, and it was my duty to advise you and explain to you what I have learnt.”
“God says that those who conceal with what we have revealed in manifestations and guidance after we had made it clear to the people in the Book, that God curses them as well as people (who have been permitted to curse i.e., Prophets) except those who repent and correct (their mistakes). To those I forgive, and I am the forgiving and Merciful. So, God has not created me to become ungrateful to Him nor to deceive people in ought not in myself and do the opposite of what He has forbidden. I call upon you to the Book of God and traditions of his apostle—Peace be upon him—to legalise what He allows and forbid what He had forbidden and to accept His judgement and to lean to your Lord and to return to His Book; and I call upon you to God’s Book to (which should) judge between me and you in matters which we differ, and we forbid what God has forbidden, and we swear in God’s oath, and judge according to God’s judgement and purify what God has puriﬁed and His apostle, and avoid what God has avoided, and obey what He has allowed us to obey in his Book and disobey whom God has instructed us to disobey. This is what we have learnt from our Prophet—Peace be upon him—and these people have not forbidden what has been forbidden, and have not shed blood except when they ignored the Book of their Master which has ordered them to adhere to it and believe in it; and they are still divided until they return to the Book of God and to the traditions of His Prophet, and take advance from the Book of God for themselves and take from it judgement in what they dispute among themselves. God says: “In God my Master—on Him I trust and Him I lean, and this is the clear path which cannot be compared with anything, and it is this path that God hath guided before us, Muhammad—Peace be upon him—and the two appropriate Caliphs after him. So, whoever follows him does not go astray and whoever abandons him does not receive guidance.”
In conclusion, Abdullah bin Abadh winds up his letter saying: “Do not exhibit to me the world because I have no ambitions in it, but let your advice be on religion, and what comes after death will be the best advice. God is most able to bring us together in obedience, because there is no good for any person who does not live in God’s obedience.”
So, Abdullah bin Abadh’s letter to Abdul Malik bin Marwan is a sufﬁcient evidence of his sagacity and religious fervour. Ibadism, which is based on these roots is a sect to which a big majority of the people of Oman adhere. In simple terms, Ibadhis seek no more than to worship their God in accordance with the Kuran and the Hadith, regarding all Muslims as their brothers, and treat those of other faiths with respect while preserving the sanctity of their religion.
IT has often been said that the Ibadhi sect is in harmony with the Sunnis. There should be no controversy about this since the four Imams of the Sunni sects came after Jabir bin Zaid from whom must have descended their tutors.
Imam Jabir bin Zaid was born in the year 21 Al-Hijri (A.H.). He died in the year 98 A.H.
Imam Abu Hanifa (leader of the Hanafy sect) was born in the year 80 A.H. He died in the 150 A.H.
Imam Malik bin Anas was born in the year 95 A.H. and died in the year 179 A.H. He is the Imam of Maaliky sect.
Imam Muhammad Idris Shaafy—Imam of the Shaafy sect—was born in the year 150 A.H. and died in the year 204 A.H.
Imam Ahmed Muhammad Hanbal—Imam of the Hanbaly sect—was born in the year 164 A.H., and died in the year 241 A.H.
Looking into dates of birth and death of these Imams, it is quite clear that Imam Jabir bin Zaid was the earliest Imam. When Imam Jabir died, Imam Hanafy was 16 years old, and Imam Malik was only one year old, whereas the other two Imams—Shaafy and Hanbal—were not yet born when Jabir died.
Jabir’s colleagues and students became tutors in different parts in the Muslim countries. It is not strange, therefore that of these, some could have been the tutors of the four Imams of Ahli Sunna.
During the early days of Islam, there were no sects and all Muslims in Al-Madinah, Mecca, Iraq, Egypt, Oman etc. lived as Muslims and not as Ibadhis or Sunnis. It was only when people began to think in terms of leadership rather than the Islamic orthodox that disputes emerged and people played with religion and divided the Muslims into sects. Countries which lie far from Hijaz, Sham and Iraq, where disputes were prevailing, were saved from the discords. Oman being far from those centres of disputes, retained the original teachings of Islam based on the Kuran and traditions.
Apart from Abdullah bin Abadh many others studied from Jabir, among them the most distinguished were Amr bin Diynar, Murdas bin Hadyr, Abu Ubayda Muslim bin Abi Karima, Dhamam bin Al-Saib, Abu Nouh Saleh Al-Dahan, Hiyan Al-Aaraj, and Salmah bin Saad.
Salmah bin Saad went to Maghrib to teach and from his teachings the Ibadhi sect spread there and many students went to Basra to study from Abu Ubayda.
There is a wider scope to dwell on the subject but since the story of Muslim sects is, strictly speaking, limited to only three points; viz—those supporting Caliph Ali; those supporting Muawiya and those opposing Tahkim, we shall summarise this book by emphasising that Ibadhism has been saved from many inventions which ﬁnd no trace to the Religion. It is thus the duty of each and every Muslim to preserve his Religion and go according to the Kuran and the recognized prophetic traditions.
There has been much attempt to distort the facts about Islam by the non-sympathisers of this Religion, but even the Muslims themselves, through lack of proper understanding of their own Religion, have tended to lean against the wrong picture presented by those seeking to sow seeds of discord among the Muslims. A simple reference in this is to believe that Ibadhis are a segment of Khawarij which is incorrect, as Khawarij and Ibadhis only meet in their common resentment of the Tahkim, but are, otherwise widely apart; or to believe that Ibadhis recognise only the ﬁrst two Caliphs, Abubakar and Omar, which is also incorrect. There is a difference between being loyal to a leader and recognising a leader. All the Muslims have been loyal to the ﬁrst two Caliphs following the advice of the Prophet when the said “Fallow thou the example of two persons,” pointing to Abubakar and Omar. When the two Caliphs had died and until the last days of Caliph Othman there were no sects yet; hence all the Muslims recognised him and obeyed him. When Othman died and Ali was elected, that was the time when divisions into sects began as all the Muslims, except the followers of Muawiya recognised Ali as their Caliph. The Ibadhis who were branded with that name were known after the last discord at Nahrawan and only after rejecting the Tahkim, and consequently being attacked by Caliph Ali; but from the time Imam Ali was elected until he waged a war against the people of Nahrawan, there was no sect known as Ibadhi, and those who later became known as Ibadhis recognised Imam Ali as the Caliph of the Muslims. Thus, the accusation that Ibadhis recognise only the ﬁrst two Caliphs is not valid.