|Ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi, a painting by Bint Ibadh|
Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi Al-Azdi was a pious and abstinent Imam, who worked for his Hereafter during the limited worldly life. He was known for his fervour in reciting the Quran, and was nicknamed "Dhul-Thafanat", which means, the one whose kneecaps appeared like two humps of a camel because of the intense and extended nature of his prostration in prayers. He was also knowledgeable of the religion, ascetic, wise, brave, steadfast to his religion and principles, and strong in personality. He devoted his life to the service of Islam and Muslims. Al-Mubarrad said about him: "Abdullah ibn Wahb was a man of opinion, eloquence and bravery."
Was He a Companion or Not?
There was a disagreement between scholars whether Abdullah Al-Rasibi was a companion or not. Abu Al-Mu'thir mentioned in his book "Al-Siyar" what indicates that he was not a companion. After he mentioned Hurqus ibn Zuhair and Zaid ibn Husn among the companions of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), he followed that by saying: "Then, after them is Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi".
Ibn Hajar mentioned in his book "Al-Isabah" that he lived during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) but he did not mention that he met him. Al-Thahabi said that Abdullah Al-Rasibi had seen the pre-Islamic days. Ibn Hazm denied that Abdullah Al-Rasibi was a companion but he considered him as one of the best followers.
Al-Tabari, on the other hand, reported in the tradition of the conquest of Masbithan (in Iraq) that Umar ibn Al-Khattab wrote to Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, ordering him to depute an army and to appoint Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi as commander of one of the flanks. However, although Ibn Hajar has reported that Abdullah Al-Rasibi had contributed efficiently to the Conquests of Iraq, under the leadership of Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, but he did not mention about the order of Umar for Sa'd to appoint Abdullah ibn Wahb as commander of one of the flanks.
Based on what was previously mentioned that Abdullah ibn Wahb had seen the pre-Islamic days, and what was decided by Ibn Hajar that only companions were appointed as commanders at that time. Therefore, it is concluded that Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi was a companion. This conclusion is also confirmed by Al-Darjini and Al-Barradi.
Al-Rasibi, The Fifth Legitimate Caliph:
Ibadhis consider Ibn Wahb to be the fifth legitimate Caliph. He was given the pledge of allegiance as Commander of the Faithful and caliph of the Muslims, and successor to Imam Ali.
When the Muslims gave their oath of allegiance to Ali ibn Abi Talib to become Commander of the Faithful, the ﬁrst to do so were Talhah ibn Abdullah and Al-Zubayr ibn Al-‘Awwam. But the oath of allegiance had scarcely been given when Talhah and Al-Zubayr took up the banner of rebellion together with some of the leading Companions, seeking support also from the mother of the believers, Aishah. The Caliph, however, adopted a ﬁrm and resolute stance against the rebels. A signiﬁcant number of Muslims were killed in this destructive revolt, including Talhah and Al-Zubayr, while the mother of the believers backed down and returned, along with the remaining rebels, into the fold of the imamate and the community. This destructive war had scarcely ended, and peace and stability returned to the land, when Mu‘awiyah, learning of the failure of the revolt and realizing his imminent removal from the governorship of Greater Syria, was proclaiming a revolt in that province. At the time he was just one of the many agents of the Caliph, but he claimed to be seeking revenge for the blood of ‘Uthman. Imam Ali prepared to put down this revolt just as he had done the previous one. He prepared a strong army and set off towards Syria where he met the rebel army in the well-known spot called Sifﬁn and ﬁghting ensued. Fighting continued with signs of victory becoming manifest, and the Caliph’s army on the verge of taking the battle. It was only a matter of time before this deﬁant revolt would be crushed: Al-Ashtar al-Nakha‘i called it ‘the death rattle of the she-camel’. The rebels then resorted to trickery and deception, and they plotted and schemed, raising copies of the Qur’an and shouting, ‘People of Iraq, the Book of Allah is between us!’
The rebels called for a truce and proposed, to the legitimate Caliph and his army, the appointment of two arbiters to produce a judgment. The Commander of the Faithful and several of his men realized the deception involved in this call for a truce. However, instead of standing ﬁrm in his resolve and continuing with his war against the rebels until he was granted victory — the signs were already there — and the aggressors put down their weapons and returned within the fold of the community, from which they had seceded and against which they had transgressed, he gave in to the plea that would bring disaster. He took the advice of the meek ones, most of whom had been promised some reward by Mu‘awiyah or ‘Amr ibn Al-‘As, accepted the arbitration (Tahkim) and the truce, and ordered an immediate halt to the fighting.
Thus, this revolt paused in this indecision — putting Ali’s right to the caliphate on the same level as that of Mu‘awiyah, and putting the aggressors who rebelled against the right way on the same footing as the army from among the community that had fought for a caliphacy that had been legitimately instituted through consultation and effected through oaths of allegiance.
Those companions of Ali -who had seen through the trickery intended by the truce came together to warn him against accepting it. They informed him that to accept such a truce was to doubt his own caliphacy and renounce it. They insisted that a legitimate caliphacy was something that could not be doubted, nor retracted, nor put up for bargaining.
When it came to Ali to accept the appeal of those among his army, and of those plotters from among his enemies, that would lead him to defeat; when he doubted his own self and the truth of that which he held in his hand; when he renounced the honour that had been accorded to him by the Muslims, and put himself on an equal footing with one of his agents in a matter with regard to which the community had given him a compact, and in return for which he made with them a covenant — when he did this, he yielded to the arbitration of mere men a matter on which Allah had sent down His judgment.
Those who refused to recognize the arbitration came together to warn‘Ali against accepting it. They believed that Mu‘awiyah was an aggressor without any right. When Ali agreed to the truce and accepted the arbitration, they believed that the pledge of allegiance given to him had been broken: there was no longer any allegiance or covenant incumbent upon anyone. They called each other to separate from Ali’s army and sought refuge in a place called Harura’, awaiting the turn of events and the action that the community would take in the light of what was happening to the caliphacy.
This separation from Ali’s army was a revolt that initially involved only passive resistance, since its members had taken up a neutral stance and were awaiting the turn of events. But events soon got out of hand. No sooner had the appointed time arrived, as agreed by the two sides for the end of the truce, and the people assembled, than Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari, Ali’s representative, was proclaiming that Ali had been removed from the office of caliph, leaving the matter open for Muslims to choose what they wanted by consultation.
Those who had adopted a neutral stance awaited the tum of events, the actual outcome, for they saw Mu‘awiyah as an aggressor trying to impose himself through deceit and trickery. For this reason, they gave no weight to the calls to remove him from office, since at the time he had not been appointed caliph, whether by force or consultation: it was nonsense to remove him from a position that he did not hold. Similarly, they gave no weight to the appointment of ‘Amr ibn Al-‘As, since the Muslims had not made him a delegate of the Commander of the Faithful. As for what concerned Ali, they had been expecting that the two arbiters would agree to the affirmations of his rule, whereupon the legal nature of that which he had relinquished in order to reaffirm would be his again. It was incumbent on Muslims at that point to unite themselves in obedience to him, so long as he ruled according to Allah’s Book. The representative, however, chosen by Ali, in this unjust matter, announced that he had distanced Ali from the affairs of the Muslims, and that the matter was now one of election by consultation. Consequently, the position of these neutrals was enhanced as more of those who had stood by Ali up until that point began to join their ranks. In the light of the fact that Muslims no longer had a caliph, they discussed the matter among themselves: on the one hand, there was Mu‘awiyah the unjust aggressor who could not be given the leadership of the Muslim community, on the other hand, there was Ali renounced by the very representative he himself had appointed for the arbitration. All that was left was for them to choose.
They chose Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi and gave him the pledge of allegiance as Commander of the Faithful and caliph of the Muslims, and successor to Ali ibn Abi Talib; in their view he was lawfully the ﬁfth caliph.
With this development, the Muslim community became divided into three camps: one led by Mu‘awiyah (even though at the time no one had given him any pledge of allegiance to that effect); a second led by Ali ibn Abi Talib, for whom the arbitration had been a failure, and who re-acknowledged the original pledge of allegiance given to him, ignoring the fact that his representative in the arbitration Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari had removed him from office; and a third state led by Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi, following the pledge of allegiance given to him by a large number of those who had stood apart from Ali’s side when he agreed to the arbitration, and following the arbiter’s announcement that Ali had been removed from office (also known as Al-Muhakkimah). Within the ranks of each of these factions there were a considerable number of eminent Companions. But there was a fourth camp who distanced themselves from these debates that had preoccupied the Muslims, and from the matter of the caliphate, neither seeking to acquire it for themselves, nor supporting any of those claiming it. Among them were the following eminent Muslims: Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, Muhammad ibn Maslamah Al-Ansari and Usamah ibn Zaid.
When Imam Ali had regrouped his forces, including those soldiers who had remained loyal to him, he thought he would recommence the ﬁght against Mu‘awiyah in the hope of extinguishing his rebellion and forcing his submission. Some of his companions, however, suggested that he should fight Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi, who had become caliph through a pledge of allegiance, which is the lawful way to acquire the caliphal ofﬁce.
Ali agreed with this suggestion, abandoning the ﬁght against Mu‘awiyah in favour of that against Abdullah ibn Wahb. The followers of Abdullah ibn Wahb believed that their imam was the lawful imam, and that both Ali, after the arbitration and his removal, together with Mu‘awiyah, were rebels who were under obligation to return within the fold of the imamate and the ummah (nation).
Ali was very severe on himself when he reckoned his deeds, giving lots of thought to his actions and weighing up the events that confronted him. There is evidence for this in Al-Shamakhi’s important book, Al-Siyar, where he wrote: Al-Ash‘ath said: He struggled against the people, but every time they spoke to people they would turn them against us’.
The Shi‘a who surrounded Ali were anxious, in their efforts to create their state, lest the people of Nahrawan should establish relations with the rest of the people and convince them with arguments and proof that the acceptance of arbitration had been a political mistake, that Ali’s caliphacy (after the arbitration and his removal from office) was no longer valid, that the oath of allegiance to him was no longer binding, and that the real caliph was Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi, who was given the oath of allegiance by a good number of Muslims. The Shi‘a feared that those at Nahrawan would establish contact with the people, and it was for this reason that they wanted to eradicate their opinions, lest they be disseminated among people, who might then understand them and become convinced of their validity.
It was only possible to eradicate these opinions by eradicating the people who held them. Had Ali hesitated in this matter and avoided bloodshed, everything would have been lost. Thus, he had to be pushed to take this decisive and crucial step by any means possible.
They were able to convince him through Al-Ash‘ath. He took the step, initiated the ﬁght and eradicated the people of Nahrawan. But he was not able to eradicate the idea that they proclaimed, that idea which has ﬁltered through with its truth and reality into the minds of many, until it became a principle that its upholders defend with patience, courage and resilience.
4000 of Al-Muhakkimah, were killed in Al-Nahrawan Battle, including the Imam of the people of Nahrawan, Abdullah ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi. Ibadhi sources indicate that most of the martyrs were jurists, Quran reciters and people of hounor in religion and opinion. Among them were Owais Al-Qurni, Hurqus ibn Zuhair Al-Sa'di, and other best companions, may Allah be pleased with them.
Ibadhism in History: The emergence of the ibadi school; by Ali Yahya Muammar
Kharijites and the Absent Truth; by Dr. Nasser Suleiman Al-Sabi'i
Al-Ibadhiyah Approach on Dawah; by Dr. Muhammed Salih Nasser