Abdullah Ibn Saba : The Man, His Teachings, and His Influence on the Modern Twelver Shi’ee Faith
The controversy that is the life, the existence, and the effects of Abdullah ibn Saba upon the early years of Islam has become a focal point in polemical circles during the last few generations. Originally, the existence of the man was a point of consensus amongst historians; however, it was in the 18th century when Orientalists noticed a peculiar pattern regarding his reports which caused a break in the consensus. These narrations came from a single source, namely, Sayf bin Omar Al-Tameemi, a historian that is regarded as weak in the eyes of the scholars of Hadith. This discovery led to the publishing of articles and then books on the subject, which ultimately led Shias, like Murtadha Al-`Askari to adopt the view that Ibn Saba’ was a figment of AlTameemi’s imagination. Not too long after this view spread within Shia circles did we find Sunni scholars like Sulaiman Al-`Awdah responding by simply providing alternative sources, in both Sunni and Shias books, which prove the existence of Ibn Saba. The irrefutable proofs provided by these Sunnis caused the spawning of a new book on the matter. This new study “Abdullah ibn Saba: Dirasah wa Tahleel” by the Shia scholar Ali Aal-Muhsin spread amongst the Shi`ee youth. His arguments were then translated into English in a book called “Abd Allah ibn Saba: Myth Exploded,” by Shi’ee apologist Toyib Olawuyi, the book of Ali Aal-Muhsin provides a new outlook on how the narrations about Abdullah ibn Saba should be consumed.
As for Olawuyi, he not only argues that Sunnis have no place accepting the ideologies attributed to Ibn Saba, but suggests that his very existence is questionable, due to the weakness of the chains. In most cases Olawuyi is correct, which is why it would be a waste of time to respond to most of the narrations that he successfully criticizes. Yet, his refutation falls short due to incorrect implementation of Hadith sciences, a lack of understanding of the historical method, and at times, simple incompetence. Unlike the vast majority of the works that deal with the historicity of Abdullah ibn Saba, we find that “Abd Allah Ibn Saba: Myth Exploded,” is not an introductory book in the matter. The author assumes that the reader has some background in the subject, as one can tell from the content of the book from the early chapters. The author jumps into arguing that Sunnis make twelve claims regarding Ibn Saba. He lists them as follows:
1. He was a descendant of Saba’, and belonged to one of the Saba’ee tribes.
2. He was a black Arab with a black slave mother.
3. He was a Jew from Sanain Yemen.
4. He accepted Islam during the khilafah of Uthman b. Affan.
5. He stirred up the public, especially the Egyptians, against Uthman and caused the latter’s bloody overthrow.
6. He was the first to claim that Ali, alaihi al-salam, was the designated successor of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa Alihi.
7. He was the first to proclaim belief in Al-Raja`ah– that is, the return to this world after death by certain dead people.
8. He was the first to publicly criticize or revile Abu Bakr and `Umar.
9. He was popularly called Ibn Al-Sawda’ – son of the black mother.
10. Imam Ali was frustrated with him, and abused him by calling him “the black container” and also banished him to Al-Madain.
11. Amir Al-Muminin `Ali b. Abi Talib saw it as legitimate to execute him for reviling Abu Bakr and `Umar, and would have done so had people not talked him out of the decision.
12. `Ali burnt him (i.e. Ibn Saba’) and his followers alive for calling him (i.e. `Ali) Allah.
The author is more or less correct, that Ahl Al-Sunnah do usually make statements like these. The author goes on to claim that all the statements above lack proper proof since the information above can only be found in narrations with weak chains.
Before carrying on, it is important to explain why Ahl Al-Sunna make such claims in the first place. The author did not delve into that matter since, as explained previously, his book is not an introductory piece of text for this very subject. The Sunni objective is to simply taunt the Shias by suggesting that their beliefs have evolved from the false ideologies that were incorrectly attributed to Ahl Al-Bayt. To make this clearer, we quote two of the earliest and most reliable Shia historians – Al-Hasan bin Musa Al-Nawbakhti and Sa’ad bin `Abdullah Al-Qummi. Together, they describe the formation of the Saba’ee sect (the followers of Abdullah Ibn Saba’): A group of scholars from the companions of Ali (alaihi alsalam) said that Abdullah ibn Saba was a Jew, who converted to Islam, and befriended Ali (alaihi alsalam), and he used to say, as a Jew that Yusha’ bin Noon is after Musa (alaihi alsalam) with this view, and so he said in Islam after the death of the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wa aalih) about Ali the same (belief). He was the first to say that it is mandatory that Ali (alaihi alsalam) was the Imam, and the first to disassociate from his enemies, and he made takfeer of them. It is in this light that those there were against the Shias said: The origins of Rafdh are taken from Judaism. In other words, Sunnis do not feel obligated to establish every one of those twelve claims. It is sufficient for Ahl Al-Sunnah to simply establish the existence of the man, who wasn’t from Ahl Al-Bayt, that had views that evolved into modern day Shiasm. Whether or not his mother was black or from Yemeni origins is irrelevant. To some extent, the Sunnis have already achieved their goals, and we find this clearly in Olawuyi’s introduction, for Olawuyi accepts the authenticity of a few narrations that condemn Abdullah bin Saba which can be found in Shia books. These narrations clearly state that Abdullah ibn Saba saw Ali as a deity and that Ali burned him alive for it. Olawuyi refers to these narrations as authentic. Soon though, he criticizes Ibn Taymiyah for holding the same view.
In other words, Olawuyi finds it acceptable for Shias to hold the view that Ibn Saba’ referred to Ali as a god, while believing that there is not enough binding evidence upon Sunnis to hold the same view about Ibn Saba’, and that he should be nothing more than a myth in the eyes of Sunnis. Therefore, according to Olawuyi, it is incorrect for a Sunni to claim that “the origins of Rafdh are taken from Judaism.” Yet, even if Sunnis were to stand down from such a claim, it would still be correct for them to claim that “the origins of Rafdh according to authentic Shia reports, which are binding upon Shias themselves, are taken from Judaism.” Even though the last claim is true, it would be more satisfying to the reader to get the full picture, since the claim that Ibn Saba’s views evolved into the Twelver faith is not exclusive to authentic Shia reports, but is also the correct position in the eyes of Ahl Al-Sunnah. However, before even studying the reports, it is important to understand the Saba’ee sect and establish its existence.Before carrying on, it is important for readers to be aware that our book, “Abdullah ibn Saba: The man, his teachings, and his Influence on the Modern Twelver Shi’ee Faith” was originally intended as a refutation to Olawuyi’s “Abd Allah Ibn Saba: Myth Exploded,” however, the first two chapters may be consumed as a standalone work that establishes and discusses the most important matters that revolve around Abdullah ibn Saba’.
DOWNLOAD HERE: Abdullah ibn Saba, the Man, his Teachings and his Influence on Modern Twelver Shi`ee Faith.
The Shia has attempted to alter and edit parts of his book after his mistakes were exposed, here we comment on some parts of his new revised book: