Ibn Sabaʾ and the Origins of Shīʿism
Author: Sean Anthony
This book is an examination of the traditions and legends concerning early Islam’s first and most infamous heretic, the Yemenite Jew known as ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sabaʾ. Tracing the evolution and transformation of the many stories and narratives about Ibn Sabaʾ as adapted by Sunnī and Shīʿī scholars alike, this work attempts for the first time to give a comprehensive account of the formation of the image of Ibn Sabaʾ as the quintessential heretic of Islam’s early years. It also offers a new interpretation of the historical importance and beliefs of Ibn Sabaʾ and those early Shīʿa reviled as his followers, the Sabaʾīya. The end result is a revolutionary, new portrait of Shīʿite origins and early Islamic sectarianism.
Author: Sean W. Anthony

Abstract

This study highlights a hitherto neglected trope of Muslim apocalyptic literature—namely, that in a region known as al-Ṭālaqān there awaits the future Mahdī a great treasure that will gain him a mighty army to aid him fight the final battle against evil. Tracing the trope’s origin in Zoroastrian apocalypticism and its subsequent dissemination in a wide array of Muslim apocalyptic traditions, this paper argues that this apocalyptic trope ultimately entered into Muslim apocalypticism, in particular Šīʿite apocalypticism, during a Zaydī revolt against the ʿAbbāsids led by the Ḥasanid Yaḥyā b. ʿAbd Allāh in the year 176/792. The paper then explores how the revolt of Yaḥyā b. ʿAbd Allāh shaped the function of the ‘treasures of al-Ṭālaqān’ trope in Muslim apocalypticism and how Yaḥyā’s personality and the revolt he inspired continued to leave an indelible imprint on Imāmī apocalypticism thereafter.

In: Arabica
Author: Sean Anthony

Abstract

This study examines the historical reports on the 'false prophet (kaddāb)' known as al-Hāritb. Sa'īd from both a historical and literary perspective. From the historical perspective, I investigate how a Syrian mawlā began a prophetic movement in the Umayyad mosque of Damascus during the caliphate of 'Abd al-Malik, which subsequently spread throughout the caliph's army. My study then follows the second phase of al-Hārit's career in which he flees Damascus to initiate an underground movement in Jerusalem where, once uncovered and captured, the would-be prophet is crucified on a cross. By examining al-Hārit's alleged associations and followers, such as Umm al-Dardā' al-Suġrā and Ġaylān al-Dimašqī, I attempt to gauge the scope and subsequent influence of al-Hārit's brief prophetic career. From the literary perspective, my study argues that one of the principal transmitters of the ahbār on al-Hārit's prophetic career, Abū Bakr b. Abī Haytama (d. 279/892), considerably doctored the early accounts in order to fashion a parodic, expanded narrative largely of his own making. I thus contend that Ibn Abī Haytama, by culling tropes and anecdotes from sīra- and qisas-material on the lives of Muhammad and Jesus, constructed a biography of al-Hārit that cast him as a farcical version of a genuine prophet.

In: Arabica
In: Analysing Muslim Traditions