The stance of the Orientalists

March 23, 2015
Refutation of these assertions and a brief overview of the sources which prove the existence of Ibn Sabaʼ
March 23, 2015

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The stance of the Orientalists

As far as the Orientalists are concerned, they deny his existence completely. They claim that he is a myth, invented by the muhaddithin of the second century. Amongst the Orientalists who deny his existence are, the British Dr. Bernard Lewis[1], J. Wellhausen[2], who began his learning with the study of theology, the American- Friedlaender[3] and the Italian born Caetani Leone[4].

It is well-known that one cannot depend upon the research and narrations of these enemies of Islam as far as our din, ‘aqidah (beliefs), tarikh (history) and legacy is concerned. They are those who have united beneath the war-banners of Christianity waging an ideology and propaganda war, not only a war with swords or guns. If their intentions were sincere then they would have been guided to Islam through their research, when they discovered the purity of Islam and its unstained legacy. Instead they dedicated all their efforts and their lives to create doubts, misconceptions and ultimately departure from the Qurʼan, Sunnah, ‘aqaʼid, Islamic system and its history. These Orientalists are mainly from amongst the Christians and Jews, whose practices and beliefs are supported by the church, intelligence agencies and foreign governments, with the exception of a few who take on such research as a hobby or pastime.


The followers of the Orientalists

The followers of the Orientalists are those who have been duped and fooled by their imaginary prowess in scholarship. They are impressed by the deductions they assert and their teachings, buzzing around their presumptions so as to draw closer to them. The leader of this group is Dr. Taha Hussain[5], who has been nourished with the ideologies of the Orientalists such that he used to say: “I think in French and I write in Arabic.”[6]

It is sufficient as a disgrace for him that he was a servant of the Jews. In fact, at the beginning of this century all proponents of communism in Egypt, such as Henri Curiel, Raoul Curiel, and Raymond Aron, were Jews. They and others like them were involved in providing financial and material support to communists movements. They aligned themselves with Dr. Taha Hussain to establish a publishing house in Egypt. Dr. Taha Hussain publicly announced his support for Jewish Talmudic beliefs early on when he denied the existence of Ibrahim ‘alayh al Salam and Isma’il ‘alayh al Salam, in addition to denying the Qurʼan and Torah. At this early stage it was impossible to fathom that this was the prelude to Zionism[7] and other deviant ideologies unprecedented until the rise of Orientalism.[8]


Dr. Taha Hussain

Taha Hussain’s father is known to have moved to al Minyah district in Upper Egypt from an unknown city in the west. His father was an employee of a Jewish sugar company. Taha Hussain is the very person who spearheaded the motion to appoint a Jewish rabbi, Chaim Nahum Effendi, when he was a member of the academy of Arabic Language Academy in Cairo, so as to spy upon the thinkers and linguists. He also imported and appointed a number of foreign professors at the Faculty of Arts. Some were Jews, but all were either antagonistic towards Islam or sowing skepticism around it. The first doctorate conferred by the Faculty of Arts under the supervision of Dr. Taha Hussain was entitled “Jewish tribes in Arabia”. It was submitted by Israel Wolfensohn, the current rector of Hadassah University in Tel Aviv.[9]

In light of this brief overview of Dr. Taha Hussain, his denial of Ibn Saba’s existence is not surprising.He states:


The actions of the Sabaʼiyyah and their leader Ibn al Saudaʼ are fabrications invented in the course of polemical strife between the Shia and other denominations. In an effort to conspire against the Shia and harm their cause, their opponents inserted a Jewish element into the foundation of this sect.[10]


Proof of Dr. Taha Hussain

He cited as proof for his deduction the fact that the historian, al Baladhuri, did not mention anything about Ibn Sabaʼ or his companions, regarding what transpired with Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He finds it strange that the incident narrated by al Tabari on Sayyidina ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu burning those who deified him was neither mentioned nor dated by other historians; in fact they completely omitted any reference to it.[11]


Refutation of Dr. Taha Hussain

Al Baladhuri not mentioning anything about Ibn Sabaʼ does not mean that he did not exist, because at times some historians will report what others have not. Thereupon when did al Baladhuri take responsibility of reporting every single incident that transpired? Even if al Baladhuri had reported the incident of Ibn Sabaʼ, Taha Hussain would have said: “The reports of al Baladhuri are not relied upon, as his credibility is not a matter of consensus.”[12]

Sayyidina ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu burning those who deified him will be discussed under the stance of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu towards Ibn Sabaʼ and his companions, as reported in sources second only to the Qurʼan in authenticity, whose narrations obviate the need for historical reports. In addition, this has also been reported in the most relied upon works of the Shiah.


Dr. Muhammad Kamil Hussain

Following Taha Hussain, Dr. Muhammad Kamil Hussain considers the incident of Ibn Sabaʼ more likely to be a myth than anything else.[13] He fails to produce any evidence to that effect.


Dr. Hamid Hifni Dawood

A similar view is held by Dr. Hamid Hifni Dawood, dean of the Faculty of Arabic at ‘Ayn Shams University. He believed that Ibn Sabaʼ was one of the greatest historical inaccuracies that slipped beyond the grasp of scholars. The resulting obfuscation led to a failure to understand and detect this fallacy. This is one of many fabrications invented against the Shia. The incident of Ibn Sabaʼ was one such incident that was fabricated and thereafter considered to be a blemish upon the Shia[14].


Refutation of Dr. Hamid Hifni Dawood

Dr. Hamid Hifni Dawood is amongst those who fell for the deception of the idea of sunni-shia rapprochement, and one of its promoters. Such claims from him are not strange considering that he seeks rapprochement with those who raise doubts regarding the authenticity of the Qurʼan, criticise the Sahabah and casts slurs against the Mothers of the Believers K, such as Murtada al ‘Askari- the author of Khamsun wa Miʼatah Sahabi Mukhtalaqun (One hundred and fifty fabricated Sahabah) and Ahadith Umm al Mu’minin Aisha.


Shia who deny the existence of Ibn Saba

As far as the Shia in the present era are concerned, they deny the existence of Ibn Sabaʼ completely. The true reason for this denial is on account of the beliefs he propagated, which filtered down through the various sects of the Shia until even the latter day sects. We will mention the views and opinions of those who deny his existence and we will then prove his existence from the most relied upon Shia works.


Muhammad Jawwad Mughniyyah and Ibn Saba

‘Abdullah ibn Sabaʼ in the opinion of Muhammad Jawwad Mughniyyah is that it is a fabricated tale, relied upon by all those who attribute to the Shia what they have no knowledge about and which they fallaciously ascribe to them out of ignorance and hypocrisy.[15]


Murtada al ‘Askari and Ibn Saba

Murtada al ‘Askari was under the impression that he had studied all the sources regarding the existence of Ibn Sabaʼ from which he deduced that Ibn Sabaʼ is a fictional, imaginary character, conjured up by Saif ibn ‘Umar[16]. He wrote a book specifically about Ibn Sabaʼ entitled- ‘Abdullah Ibn Sabaʼ wa Asathir al Ukhra.


Dr. ‘Ali al Wardi and Ibn Saba

As far as Dr. ‘Ali al Wardi is concerned, author of Wu’az al Salatin; he is of the opinion that Ibn Sabaʼ is in actual fact Sayyidina ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He cites the following as proof for his conclusion:

Ibn Sabaʼ was commonly called Ibn al Saudaʼ and so was ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu was of Yemeni descent, which would mean that he too is of the children of Sabaʼ (a city in Yemen) and it is correct to refer to anyone from Yemen as Ibn Sabaʼ.

In addition, ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu had great affection for ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, campaigning for him and encouraging others to pledge their allegiance to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu travelled to Egypt during the caliphate of ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan radiya Llahu ‘anhu and incited the people to rebel against him. The governor of Egypt admonished him for this and even intended to arrest him.

The following statement of ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu has been attributed to Ibn Sabaʼ: “‘Uthman claimed the caliphate without any right to it whereas the rightful successor to it, in light of Shari’ah, was ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib.”

The stance of ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu in the battle of Jamal and his attachment to Abu Dharr radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

It is from this that Al Wardi concluded that Ibn Sabaʼ is no one else but ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu and it was he who the Quraysh considered to be amongst the chief agitators against ‘Uthman ibn Affan radiya Llahu ‘anhu, except that ‘Ammar radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not desire to use his name and thus adopted the nom de plume of Ibn Sabaʼ or Ibn al Saudaʼ. Those narrators who reported these accounts later, did so using the nom de plume, unaware of who was the actual person making these statements[17].


Dr Al Wardi says:


It is apparent that this strange character was invented by the wealthy individuals who were the target of the revolution.[18]


Dr. Kamil Mustafa and Ibn Saba

Another author arrived on the scene shortly after Al Wardi by the name of Dr. Kamil Mustafa al Shaybi, who leaned towards the research of Al Wardi and attempted to strengthen the findings inferred to in his works from nusus (reported text). He also followed the view of Taha Hussain regarding the incident of Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu burning the followers of Ibn Sabaʼ saying:


As for the alleged incident of burning the followers of Ibn Sabaʼ, it is a fabricated tale from its very inception. It has not been reported by any credible narrator in any of the reliable books of history. It is possible that the origin of this incident in reality refers to the burning by Khalid ibn ‘Abdullah al Qasri and his extremist disciples. As time passed, slowly it was reported to have occurred earlier than it actually did, until finally it was said to have transpired during the caliphate of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu[19].


Refutation of Al Wardi and Al Shaybi

As far as the opinions of Al Wardi and Al Shaybi are concerned that Ibn Sabaʼ is in actual fact Sayyidina ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu; the most relied upon sources of scrutiny amongst the Shia refutes this claim entirely. The books of the Shia mention in the biography of ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu that he was one of the companions of Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and also of those who narrated from him. They regard ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu amongst the four faithful[20]. They then discuss the biography of Ibn Sabaʼ separately, reporting that he was cursed by the Imams, whereas ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu was praised by ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. How then do they reconcile between these two contradictory biographies?[21]

As for the incident of burning the followers of Ibn Sabaʼ, we will soon mention the authentic reports in this regard and the stance of Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu towards them.


Dr. ‘Abdullah Fayyad and Ibn Saba

Similarly Dr. ‘Abdullah Fayyad has also denied his existence in his book- Tarikh al Imamiyyah wa Aslafahum min al Shia, which in itself is a book based entirely upon the research of the Orientalists. His chief surpervisor is Dr. Constantine Zurayq Ahmed, professor of history in the American University in Beirut.

Dr. Fayyad says:


It is apparent that Ibn Sabaʼ was more of a fictional person than a true historical personality. His role, if he had any whatsoever, has been greatly exaggerated for political and religious motives. The proofs for the weakness of the tale of Ibn Sabaʼ are numerous.


He then quotes the same proofs as Murtada al ‘Askari, namely that these narrations have been reported only by Saif ibn ‘Umar, who has been criticised by the scholars for fabricating narrations. He therefore rules this to be contradictory and an exaggeration. He also fortifies his stance with the opinion of Al Wardi and Al Shaybi’s corroboration of him.


Talib Rifa’i and Ibn Saba

After these theorists, Talib Hussaini al Rifa’i emerged, who said in the sub-notes of Muhammad Baqir’s introduction to the book History of the Imamiyyah, which was published by Al Kutub al Khaniji in Cairo (1397 A.H/ 1977) under the title- Al Tashayyu’ Zahirah Tab’iyah fi Itar al Da’wah al Islamiyyah, that if Ibn Sabaʼ was indeed a true historical personality (as we will prove later) then there is no link between what he propagated and the ‘aqidah of the Shia regarding leadership being bequeathed to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu, as this belief is established by narration, reported in the authentic books of hadith of the Shia and Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah, as well as in their books of tafsir, history, and ‘aqa’id. Therefore the opinion that Shi’ism is a product of the ideologies expounded by Ibn Sabaʼ, as is claimed, is baseless.[22]

This statement is not astonishing from a person such as this, who assumes that the first person to proclaim the belief of Raj’ah (resurrection) was Sayyidina ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu because of his statement: “Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not die and will not die.”; in addition to his fabrications, deviation, and open denial of clear historical facts.


NEXT⇒ Refutation of these assertions and a brief overview of the sources which prove the existence of Ibn Sabaʼ

[1] Usul al Isma’iliyyin wa l-Isma’iliyyah page 86, 87

[2] Al Khawarij wa l-Shia

[3] ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ wa l-Shia

[4] Bernard Lewis, The Origins of Ismailism. A few of the Orientalists do consider Ibn Sabaʼ to be a real personality of history such as Reynold Allen Nicholson in his book, A literary history of the Arabs, as well as Ignaz Goldziher in his book, Muhammedanische Studien. One can refer to their opinions regarding ‘Abdullah ibn Sabaʼ in the work ‘Abdullah Ibn Sabaʼ wa Atharuhu fi Ahdath al Fitnah fi Sadr al Islam by Sulaiman ibn Hamd al ‘Awdah, who in 1402 /1986 attained a masters degree from Imam Muhammad ibn Sa’ud University in Riyad.

[5] ‘Ali wa Banuhu page. 98-100, Al Fitnah al Kubra

[6] Taha Hussain by Anwar Jundi page. 43,44

[7] See Al Mukhathathat Al Talmudiyyah Al Sahyuniyyah fi Ghazw al Fikr al Islami by Anwar al Jundi

[8] Taha Hussain by Anwar al Jundi

[9] See Murtada al ‘Askari, Ma’a Rijal al fikr fi l-Qahirah, page 166

[10] Taha Hussain, ‘Ali wa Banuhu, pages 98-100

[11] ibid

[12] Refer to the biography of Ahmed ibn Yahya ibn Jabir ibn Dawood al Baladhuri (279 A.H) in Mujam al Adibba of Yaqut al Hamawi, 5/92, also Lisan al Mizan 2/ 323-332, Tahdhib Tarikh Damashq 2/109, Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah 11/65,66, Al Nujum al Zahirah 3/83

[13] Adab Misr al Fatimiyyah page 7

[14] Ma’a Rijal al Fikr fi l-Qahirah page 8 of Murtada al ‘Askari page 93

[15] Al Tashayyu’ page 18

[16] Al Tashayyu’ page 18, 19

[17] Wu’az al Salatin page 274-278

[18] Ibid page 151

[19] Al Silah bayn al Tasawuf wa al Tashayyu’ page 41-45

[20] The four faithful are ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Hudhayfah ibn Yaman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Salman al Farsi radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and Jundub Ibn Junadah al Ghaffari (Abu Dharr radiya Llahu ‘anhu) –Firaq al Shia page 36, 37

[21] Refer to a few of their books on narrators such as Rijal al Tusi– page 46 and page 51, Rijal al Hilli– page 255 and page 469, Ahwal al Rijal of Al Kashshi, Qamus al Rijal of Al Tastari, Tanqih al Maqal of Al Mamaqani, etc.

[22] Al Tashayyu’ page 20