The Historical Context of the Ibadi School of Law
|The Village of Farq, Nizwa|
The early roots
The early roots of the Ibadi School of law go back to the time of the second rightly guided Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab (radhi Allahu anhu, RA), who, in his time, a great Omani scholar was born in Nizwa, a well-known city in Oman and what is known nowadays as “the Cultural Capital of Islam” or “the Cultural Capital in the Arab Worlds in 2015”; and it became, during the course of Omani history, the religious and political capital of Islam.
So, in Nizwa, Jabir ibn Zaid was born in the year 18 of al-Hijrah just after the death of Prophet Mohammed (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, SAW). As it is known that the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) died in the year 11th of al-Hijrah, and he was succeeded by his great companion Abu Bakr al-Siddiq for two years. Then Abu Bakr was succeeded by the Prophet’s great companion Omar ibn al-Khattab (RA) for 10 years; starting from the year 13 to almost the year 23.
So at the time of Omar ibn al-Khattab (RA), Jabir ibn Zaid was born in the village of Farq, which belongs to Nizwa; (wilayat Nizwa nowadays).
Despite Jabir ibn Zaid being born in too religious Omani family - his father was a jurist and a scholar - but that didn’t satisfy his the thirst. So he went to a journey from Farq to al-Basrah to meet the jurists of Islam for the sake of the knowledge and to pursue the religious sciences. And there, in al-Basrah, he met so many companions of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW).
As it is known that al-Basrah and al-Kufah, which are both part of Iraq nowadays, were capitals of Islam especially al-Kufah in the time of Sayyidina Ali (may Allah honor his face, MAHHF).
So at the time of Ali ibn Abi Talib (MAHHF) he moved the political capital of Islam from al-Madinah, which has been the Capital of Islam during the time of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) and during the time of the three rightly guided Caliphs, i.e. Abu Bakr, Omar ibn al-Khattab, and Othman ibn Affan. Ali ibn Abi Talib (MAHHF) also sent the great companion of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW), i.e. Abdullah ibn Masoud (may Allah have a mercy on him), as a religious teacher there.
So at that time, Jabir ibn Zaid moved from Oman to Iraq to study and he met there many of the companions of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW). And from there, he moved later on to al-Hijaz, where most of the Prophet’s companions were still alive there.
His Teachers’ Witnesses
So he studied under many of the Prophet’s Companions, who witnessed to him with the great knowledge. So he met, for example, the great companion of the Prophet, Abdullah ibn Abbas, to whom the Prophet (SAW) said: (اللهم فقهه في الدين وعلمه التأويل) “O Allah make him a jurist and make him like an interpreter of the Holy Qur’an.”
He also met there Aisha (may Allah have a mercy on her), Abu Hurairah (RA), Ibn Omar (RA), and so many other companions. And all of them witnessed to Jabir ibn Zaid with the great knowledge. All of them authenticated Jabir ibn Zaid and witnessed to him with the great knowledge.
For example, Abdullah ibn Abbas (may Allah have mercy on him and his father al-Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib), who was called al-Bahr (the ocean or the sea) because of the deep knowledge of the religious sciences that he had, says:
( عجبا لأهل العراق! كيف يحتاجون إلينا وفيهم جابر بن زيد؟!)
“It is amazing the affairs of the people of Iraq! How is it that possible that they are in need of us here in al-Hijaz while they have Jabir ibn Zaid over there in Al-Iraq?!” And this is a great witness from the great companion of the Prophet (SAW), Abdullah ibn Abbas (RA).
Another witness came from Ibn Omar (may Allah have a mercy on him and his father Omar ibn al-Khattab). Ibn Omar is narrated to have met Jabir ibn Zaid in al-Harum in the sacred mosque of Makkah and he said to Jabir ibn Zaid:
(يا جابر إنك من فقهاء البصرة وإنك ستستفتى فلا تفتين إلا بقرآن ناطق أو سنة ماضية)
“Oh Jabir! You are among the jurists of al-Basrah, and you will be asked. So don’t answer unless in accordance with Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW).”
Jabir’s great teacher, Anas ibn Malik (RA), used to serve the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) for more than 10 years; and he witnessed to Jabir ibn Zaid because he studied for a long time under the hands of Anas ibn Malik (May Allah have a mercy on him). And it happened that both of them died just in the same week in the year 93 after al-Hijrah. So it is narrated that when the news of Jabir’s death reached to Anas ibn Malik (RA), he said:
(اليوم مات أعلم من على وجه الأرض)
“Today, the most knowledgeable person on the surface of the earth has just passed away.”
And these witnesses are not only confined to the Prophet’s companions. We find such witnesses given by the followers of the companions, like al-Hassan al-Basri, and so and so forth, and all scholars of Hadith. For example, we find that Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, who is called (أمير المؤمنين في الحديث) “the Master of Believers in the Science of Hadith’, said about Jabir ibn Zaid himself: (ثقة فقيه) “He is jurist and he is trustworthy”. And that goes along with the successors of Jabir ibn Zaid, i.e. the imams or the founders of the Ibadi School of Law.
For example, it is reported that Ibn Ma’een, who is called (إمام الجرح والتعديل) “the Senior of the Science of Hadith”, has written in one of his biographies about Abu Obeidah Muslim ibn Abi Karimah, who was the first successor of Jabir ibn Zaid, that “no harm in him”(لا بأس به) , which means he is well-known in the science of Hadith. When Ibn Ma’een says about someone (لا بأس به) there is “no harm in him” that is equal to him saying “he is trustworthy” or “he is truthful”. So this is another authentication to Abu Obeidah.
A third authentication is given to al-Rabee’ ibn Habib, the third founder of the Ibadi School of Law. Al-Rabee’ collected a very valuable collection of Hadith called (مسند الإمام الربيع بن حبيب) “Musnad al-Imam al-Rabee’ ibn Habib”, i.e. “the collections of Hadith of al-Imam al-Rabee’”, in which he narrated many narrations all the way back to Prophet Mohammed (SAW). Musnad al-Imam al-Rabee’ is considered one of the most authoritative books of Hadith nowadays because it got a very small chain of the narration to the Prophet Mohammed (SAW). All the chain of narrators or transmitters to the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) consist of only three narrators: Abu Obeidah, Jabir, the companion of the Prophet (SAW), then the Prophet (SAW) saying or the Prophet practicum.
Jabir is the Head of Al-Qa’adah
Jabir ibn Zaid in the year 64 of al-Hijrah became well-known as the head of a group called “al-Qa’adah”. Why were they called al-Qa’adah?
The word “qa’ada” from the Arabic verb (قعد), means “to sit down”. Therefore, “al-Qa’adah” means “the group who sit down”.
Why were they called “al-Qa’adah”? They were called “al-Qa’adah” because there was an extreme group called “al-Khawarij” who decided to take violence and offensive actions against the followers of the Prophet (SAW), and even against the companions of the Prophet (SAW), but those people opposed them, refused to agree with them, and went against to them. In fact, they declared and wrote many statements that go against this group, i.e. al-Khawarij. So that’s why they were called “al-Qa’adah” by al-Khawarij.
Al-Khawarij (or Kharijites) were of three types: al-Azariqah, al-Najdiyah, and al-Sufriyah. Those three groups were extreme groups. They were, let’s say, in the modern term, “terrorist groups”. They attack Muslims and take their spoil and so on and so forth.
So al-Qa’adah refuted the Kharijites’ thoughts and oppose all what the Kharijites say. For example, Salim ibn Thakwan al-Hilali, one of the early Ibadi scholars in the second half of the first century of al-Hijrah, wrote refutations in his letters against al-Khawarij.
So the distinction between Ibadis and Kharijites is there from the second half of the first century of Islam. In fact, Abdullah ibn Ibad, to whom this group is attributed later, refuted many of al-Khawarij notions, ideas and ideology. So at this time, when al-Khawarij decided to take these extreme attitudes towards Muslims, Jabir ibn Zaid refused their ideas and he became like the head of the religious authority of this group, which was called “al-Qa’adah”. And they were the early roots or basis of what’s known later on “al-Ibadiyah”.
The Attribution to Ibn Ibad
It is just mentioned that Jabir ibn Zaid, in fact, is the religious authority for this group and he is the first spiritual leader for this group. So why weren’t they called Jabiriyah, for example? Why were they called Ibadiyah? Why were they attributed to Abdullah ibn Ibad?
It is important to bear in mind that this name, i.e. “al-Ibadiyah” (الإباضية) was given to this group not by them, but by their opponents, i.e. the Umayyad rulers and governors. This because the Ibadi ideology doesn’t agree with so many notions that the Umayyad hold. For example, the Umayyad turned the rightly guided Caliphate into hereditary kinship, instead of the leader being chosen by Muslims at best one of them; it became like inherited system. So the son inherits the ruling or the caliphate from his father irrespective of him being righteous or being corrupt son.
So because of that Ibadis oppose the Umayyad and in a return to that the Umayyad called them “Ibadis”. They didn’t call them, e.g. “Jabiriyah”, they didn’t call them even Muslims. Although the Ibadis themselves didn’t agree with this attribution to other than Islam, to other than the Prophet of Islam Mohammed (SAW), and they insisted on this attribution to Islam. They called themselves “Muslims” just like the Qur’an called them. They called themselves “the People of Da’wa” they called themselves “People of Islam” and they insisted on that. But the Umayyad, on the other hand, tried to make like a media war in the modern day terms.
So they tried to deviate or direct the public’s attention away from this group. So they called them “Ibadiyah” because there was a conflict between what became known as “Ibadis” later on and the Umayyad.
Jabir ibn Zaid hid himself due to the unjust pursue of the Umayyad. So the Umayyad were aggressively chasing Jabir ibn Zaid because he is the founder and religious authority of this group and the moment they caught Jabir ibn Zaid they imprisoned him.
Actually towards the end of Jabir’s life, Jabir was imprisoned and then exiled to his homeland, i.e. Oman. So that’s why Jabir ibn Zaid hid himself and he wasn’t known by lay people. So he pushed Abdullah ibn Ibad to be the political spokesman and public representative for this group in public life. So Jabir hid himself, withdraw, and confined himself to his own students. So that’s why the Umayyad called them Ibadyiah; attributed them to Abdullah ibn Ibad.
On the other hand, if they ascribed them to Jabir ibn Zaid, people would have inclined to Jabir ibn Zaid and his thoughts; as he is well-known with the scholars of the time. So this is a kind of media war the Umayyad adopting.
Did the so-called Ibadis acknowledge this attribution?
As mentioned before, Ibadis didn’t accept or acknowledge this attribution to Abdullah ibn Ibad because Abdullah ibn Ibad was not their religious leader, spiritual founder, or religious theorist. He was just a member of this group, who insisted to be in line with the Prophetic tradition, and Prophetic methodology, and who insisted to call himself a Muslim.
So Ibadis insisted on the name “Islam”, “Muslims”, “the People of Da’wa” (أهل الدعوة), “the People of Truth and Righteousness” (أهل الحق والاستقامة); and they didn’t admit this attribution to Abdullah ibn Ibad for three centuries.
When we read the early Ibadi literature, which are still available, i.e. from the first, second, and third centuries of Islam, we don’t find the word “Ibadis” or “Ibadism” on them because Ibadis didn’t acknowledge this attribution for three centuries.
For example, when we read “Musnad al-Imam al-Rabee’”(مسند الإمام الربيع) “al-Rabee’ Collections of the Prophet’s Hadith”, although it is very authoritative book in Ibadi literation, we don’t find any single word of “Ibadi” or “Ibadism” written there. In other word, we don’t find this ascription to Abdullah ibn Ibad.
In addition, we have “Mudawwanat al-Imam Ghanim” (مدونة الإمام غانم), “the letters of Jabir ibn Zaid”, “the Answers of Jabir ibn Zaid”, “the letters of Abu Obeidah”, and so many books, letters, and literature that are available up to today. But we don’t find the word “Ibadi” in any one of them, because this group didn’t acknowledge this attribution to a man who is not their religious authority.
But towards the end of the third century, it seems that Ibadis accepted this ascription, why?! We find that in the book called “Usool al-Daynounah al-Safiya” (أصول الدينونة الصافية) for a Libyan Ibadi scholar called “Amroos ibn Fath al-Nafusi”. He is the first Ibadi scholar to mention the words “Ibadi” and “Ibadiyah” in his book. So he is considered the first Ibadi scholar to mention the word “Ibadi” and that was in the late third of the third century after al-Hijrah.
Why did the so-called Ibadis acknowledge this attribution to Abdullah ibn Ibad at the end after three centuries?
They accepted that because it has become like a reality with others. They wouldn’t be known unless with this name “Ibadis”, while they believe in the fact that they don’t belong to anybody except to the Prophet Mohammed (SAW).and that even the role of Jabir ibn Zaid is not the role of a legislator or a lawgiver but it is just the role of a transmitter. The knowledge of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) through the companions, to his students, and to his followers.
So this is the role of Jabir ibn Zaid. He didn’t initiate new rulings that are not found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. His role was just to transfer the knowledge of the Prophet, i.e. what the companions of Prophet Mohammed (SAW) witnessed the Prophet would say or do and he transfered that knowledge to his students and to his followers.
So that’s why Ibadis didn’t acknowledge this attribution at first, but it seemed, at the end of the third century, this name, i.e. “Ibadis”, became like a reality with others. So they wouldn’t be known unless with this name. And on the other hand, they saw that although Abdullah ibn Ibad isn’t their founder or religious authority, he is still a member of this group and is a righteous man. So they saw no shame to accept this ascription to Abdullah ibn Ibad for the sake of distinguishing themselves from the other groups.
The Features of the Ibadi School of Law
The Earliest Islamic Legal School
The Ibadi School of Law is considered the earliest Islamic legal school. Why is that? As it is just mentioned, Jabir ibn Zaid, the founder of the Ibadi School of Law, died in the year 93 of al-Hijrah. So that’s why the Ibadi School is considered the earliest legal school in relation to other schools of law.
When we look at the other schools of law, for example, the Hanafi School of Law, which is the earliest school of law in the mainstream Muslim, we find that Imam Abu Hanifa is the earlier imam the first founder of Sunni schools of law. He was born in the year 80 of al-Hijrah, while Jabir was born in the year 18 of al-Hijrah. When Imam Jabir ibn Zaid died, in the year 93, Imam Abu Hanifa was 13 years old. So there is a long time between them.
The second Sunni imam, i.e. Imam Malik ibn Anas, was just born in the year 93 of al-Hijrah. That means he was born in the same year in which Jabir ibn Zaid died. The other two imams are Imam al-Shafi’i, who was born in the year 150 of al-Hijrah, and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal, who was born in the year 164 of al-Hijrah.
So all of these imams were born earlier a few years before Imam Jabir ibn Zaid like the case of Abu Hanifa, or in the same year of Jabir’s death like Imam Malik, or a few decades or more than actually 50 years later after Jabir’s death like it is the case in Imam al-Shafi’i and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal. So that’s why the Ibadi School of Law is considered the earliest Islamic legal school.
The second feature is that Jabir’s direct teachers were, as mentioned before, the companions of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW), who witnessed to Jabir ibn Zaid with the great knowledge in the religion of Allah (SWT).
The third feature of the Ibadhi School of Law is that Jabir’s school combined between the Iraqi School of Ra’i (opinion) and the Hijazi School of Hadith.
Towards the second half of the first century of Islam, there were two major schools of law. The first one, “the Hijazi School of Hadith”, have more Hadith at that time because most of the Prophet’s companions were based in al-Hijaz and they didn’t move from it.
The other school, i.e. “the School of Ra’i” (the school of opinion), was based in Iraq. There was kind of lack of Hadith due to the lack of the Prophet’s companions in Iraq. In addition, there were so many new incidences as Iraq became, for few periods of time, the capital of Islam after al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, especially at the time of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (MAHHF). So jurists were forced to derive new rulings from the primary sources of Islam, i.e. Qur’an and Sunnah. That’s why they have so many new rulings that are not found in al-Hijaz, where most of the Prophet’s companions resided.
So because Jabir studied in both, Iraq and al-Basrah, his school of law combined between the Iraqi school of ra’i and the Hijazi school of Hadith. So being a student in both schools of law gave him a full awareness of the Hadith of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) and his students taking place in the new capital of Islam.
The Distinction between Ibadis and Kharijites
There are so many misconceptions out there about Ibadis. For example, many considered them as remnants of Kharijites and many considered them a branch stemmed from this extremist group, which is absolutely nonsense. Actually, there are so many differences between this well-established Ibadi School of Law and that extremist group, of which we find new forms like what’s called nowadays “ISIS” or “Islamic State”.
The differences between the Ibadi School of Law and Kharijites can be classified into two main categories:
1) The political differences
2) The theological or theoretical differences
The Political Differences between Ibadis and Kharijites
a) The rebellion against the unjust ruler.
Kharijites hold many notions that are extremist thoughts. For example, they think that the rebellion against the unjust ruler is mandatory. So all Muslims should rebel against any unjust, wrongful ruler; which is not realistic nowadays. Even those days, we cannot say to all Muslims, “you need to just rebel against the unjust rulers, and this is mandatory upon you”. That is not a practical thing to say.
But Ibadis opposed this notion and they said, it is not mandatory or obligatory to rebel against the unjust ruler unless there are conditions. For example, if the moderate group of Muslims are plenty and it is most likely they can overthrow this unjust ruler, then it is lawful, but not mandatory, to go and revolt against the unjust ruler.
b) The ruling of isti’rad
This is one of the very bad horrific practices of Kharijites. Isti’rad means that they give safety and security for innocent people then they assassinate them; they kill them without any warning, without any sin.
While Ibadis consider every individual who says, “La ilaha illa Allah” (لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله) their brother or their sister. All Muslims as long as they witness there is no god but Allah, Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah. They don’t distinguish between Muslims being followers of the Ibadi School or not. All of them are brothers and sisters. They have the same rights and the same duties. There is no distinction, either in the early Ibadi history or in the later Ibadi history up to day. So all Muslims should enjoy the same rights and the same obligations under the Ibadi State. So, of course, Ibadis don’t agree with such brutal attacks or brutal assassinations for their fellow Muslims.
c) The ruling of khuruj or making hijrah
Al-Khawarij believe that every individual Muslim should make hijrah from his own land to al-Khawarij land because they considered their Muslim opponents’ lands abode of war, or Dar al-Haram, or abode of kufr, or Dar al-kufr, or abode of disbelief. So they make obligatory upon every Muslim to migrate or make hijrah from his land to al-Khawarij land.
While Ibadis didn’t acknowledge this notion. They said what Prophet Mohammed (SAW) said, “لا هجرة بعد الفتح”, “There is no immigration after al-fath (i.e. the conquest of Makkah al-Mukarramah).” They consider all Muslim lands the land of belief, or the land of iman, or the land of Muslims. So they don’t have to move from their own houses, from their own lands, to the Ibadi land, for example. All lands are lands of Islam. All lands are lands of peace and security.
d) The property of their opponents
Al-khawarij consider the property of their opponents lawful for them, i.e. they can take their fellow Muslims property. Just if you are non-Khariji they can take your belongings because they consider it to be a spoil of war; just like the non-Muslims belongings in the war; which is opposed by the Ibadi School of Law.
Ibadis believe all Muslims’ properties are unlawful; and they are for their owners and no one can take Muslims’ belongings without permission, without just causes.
In fact, there are many incidences in the Ibadi history, for example, the conquest of Sana'a, which is part of Yemen in the first third of the second century of Islam, by Abdullah ibn Yahya al-Kindi, called Talib al-Haqq (طالب الحق), i.e. “the seeker of justice”, and one of the conquerors in the Ibadi history. When he conquered San’aa, by invitation of the people of San’aa because their Umayyad governor was unjust. So they called Abdullah ibn Yahya al-Kindi (Talib al-Haqq) to conquer Sana’a, to liberate them, to free them from the unjust ruling system of the Umayyad. So when he liberated them, the belongings of the governor of Sana’a was brought before Talib al-Haqq. He didn’t take anything from these belongings; but he returned them and distributed them to the people of Sana’a.
The Theoritical Differences between Ibadis and Kharijites
a) Accusing their Muslim opponents of disbelief
As mentioned before, Kharijites accused their Muslim opponents of disbelief. So either you are Khariji, part of us, or you are disbeliever. This can be considered the main distinguishing mark of Kharijites because most of the other opinions, either the political opinions, or the theological opinions, like symptoms of this one; because they considered their opponents disbelievers and they considered their lands the land of disbelief. So that’s why they kept accusing them, and giving them the rulings of disbelievers; because in the first place, they considered their oppositions as disbelievers.
b) Accusing any one committing a major sin of kafir kufr sherk
Kharijites accused any one committing a major sin of being kafir kufr sherk. It is very worth noting when reading the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic traditions that there are two types of kufr. The first of which is called “kufr ne’mah”, i.e. like denying the favor of Allah (SWT) upon you. This kind of kufr doesn’t take you out of Islam. You are still Muslim, i.e. all of Muslims’ rulings are applicable to you. Kufr ne’mah simply means “to sin or to commit just a minor sin less than sherk”.
We find that in many verses in the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) says, for example:
(إنا هديناه السبيل إما شاكرا وإما كفورا)
“Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he (shakiran) grateful or be he (kafooran) ungrateful.”
He contrasts between “shukr”, which means “thankfulness”, and “kufr”, which can’t be translated here as “disbelief” but may be translated as “ingratitude”, “unthankfulness” or “being ungrateful”, which all mean “kafir kufr ne’ma”.
The second type of kufr is “kufr al-sherk”, or “the major kufr”, which means associating partner with Allah SWT. Al-Khawarij applied the rulings of “kafir kufr al-sherk” over all Muslims and over all acts. While many verses in the Qur’an, including the verse which was just quoted and so many verses, do not denote this kind of kufr, i.e. the “major kufr”. They denote the minor kufr or kufr al-ne’ma. For instance, Allah SWT says:
(ومن لم يحكم بما أنزل الله فأولئك هم الكافرون)
“Those who doesn’t act according to the rulings of Allah then it is those who are (al-kafiroona) ungrateful”
So (فأولئك هم الكافرون) “al-kafiroona” cannot be translated here into “disbelievers”.
c) Denying some Islamic punishments, Hudud, which have not been mentioned in the Qur’an.
Kharijites denied some Islamic punishments (hudud) which haven’t been mentioned in the Qur’an; for example, the hud or the punishment of stoning the married adulterer or adulteress. We don’t find this kind of punishment in the Holy Qur’an, while it is narrated consecutively by so many companions of the Prophet (SAW) that the Prophet (SAW) did apply in his lifetime this kind of punishment for the married adulterer or adulteress.
Al-Muatasim Al-Maawali "The Ibadi School of Law" YouTube
Lecture transferred freely by Bint Ibadh
Al-Muatasim Al-Maawali "The Ibadi School of Law" YouTube
Lecture transferred freely by Bint Ibadh