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The Ibāḍī movement, Ibadism or Ibāḍiyya or also known as the Ibadis (Arabic: الاباضية‎, al-Ibāḍiyyah) is a school of Islam dominant in Oman and Zanzibar;[1] Ibāḍī are also found in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and East Africa. The Ibāḍī movement is said to have been founded 20 years after the death of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, predating both the Sunni and Shia denominations. Historians and a majority of Muslims believe that the denomination is a reformed sect of the Khawārij or Khārijite movement;[2] Ibāḍīs, however, deny anything more than a passing relation to the Khawārij and point out that they merely developed out of the same precursor group.[2]

Although the Ibadis' strict adherence to the sharia in public and private matters has been described as puritanical, the character of their denomination is considered to be one of moderation and tolerance towards other views and religions.[3]


  • History 1
    • Relations with other communities 1.1
  • Views 2
    • Doctrinal differences with other denominations 2.1
    • Views on Islamic history and caliphate 2.2
    • View of hadith 2.3
    • View of jurisprudence 2.4
  • Demographics 3
  • Notable Ibadis 4
    • Individuals 4.1
    • Dynasties 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The school derives its name from ʿAbdu l-Lāh ibn Ibāḍ of the Banu Tamim.[4] Ibn Ibad was responsible for breaking off from the wider Kharijite movement roughly around the time that Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, the fifth Umayyad ruler, took power.[5] However, the true founder was Jābir ibn Zayd of Nizwa, Oman.[6][7] Initially, Ibadi theology developed in Basra, Iraq.[8] The Ibadis opposed the rule of the third caliph in Islam, Uthman ibn Affan, but unlike the more extreme Kharijites the Ibadis rejected the murder of Uthman as well as the Kharijite belief that all Muslims holding differing viewpoints were infidels.[9] The Ibadis were among the more moderate groups opposed to the fourth caliph, Ali, and wanted to return Islam to its form prior to the conflict between Ali and Muawiyah I.[10][11]

Due to their opposition to the Umayyad Caliphate, the Ibadis attempted an armed insurrection starting in the Hijaz region during the 8th century. Caliph Marwan II led a 4,000 strong army and routed the Ibadis first in Mecca, then in Sana'a in Yemen, and finally surrounded them in Shibam in western Hadhramaut.[9] Problems back in their heartland of Syria forced the Umayyads to sign a peace accord with the Ibadis, and the sect was allowed to retain a community in Shibam for the next four centuries while still paying taxes to Ibadi authorities in Oman.[9] For a period after Marwan II's death, Jabir ibn Zayd maintained a friendship with Umayyad general Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, who supported the Ibadis as a counterbalance to more extreme kharijites. Ibn Zayd ordered the assassination of one of Al-Hajjaj's spies, however, and in reaction many Ibadis were imprisoned or exiled to Oman.[6]

It was during the 8th century that the Ibadis established an imamate in the inner region of Oman. The position was an elected one, as opposed to Sunni and Shi'a dynasties where rule was inherited.[3][12] These imams exerted political, spiritual and military functions.[13]

By the year 900, Ibadism had spread to Sind, Khorosan, Hadhramaut, Dhofar, Oman proper, Muscat, the Nafusa Mountains, and Qeshm; by 1200, the sect was present in Al-Andalus, Sicily, M'zab (the Algerian Sahara), and the western part of the Sahel region as well.[7] The last Ibadis of Shibam were expelled by the Sulayhid dynasty in the 12th century. In the 14th century, historian Ibn Khaldun made reference to vestiges of Ibadi influence in Hadhramaut, though the sect no longer exists in the region today.[14]

Relations with other communities

Despite predating all Sunni and Shi'ite schools by several decades, the Ibadis and their beliefs remain largely a mystery to outsiders - both non-Muslims and even other Muslims.[2] Ibadis have claimed, with justification, that while they read the works of both Sunnis and Shi'ites, even the learned scholars of those two sects never read Ibadi works and often repeat myths and false information when addressing the topic of Ibadism without performing proper research.[15] The isolated nature of Oman granted the Ibadi denomination, secretive by nature, the perfect environment to develop in isolation from the Islamic mainstream.[4] Ibadhis were even cut off from the Kharijite sect due to Ibn Ibaḍ's criticism of their excesses and rejection of their more extreme beliefs.[4] The spread of Ibadism in Oman essentially represents the triumph of theology over tribal feudalism and conflict.[8]

Ibadis have been referred to as tolerant puritans or as political quietists due to their preference to solve differences through dignity and reason rather than with confrontation,[3][10] as well as their tolerance for practicing Christians and Jews sharing their communities.[10] Due to Ibadism's movement from Hijaz to Iraq and then further out, Ibadi historian al-Salimi once wrote that Ibadism is a bird whose egg was laid in Medina, then hatched in Basra and flew to Oman.[7]


Ibadis state, with justice, that their school predates that of mainstream Islamic schools, and Ibadism is thus considered to be an early and highly orthodox interpretation of Islam.[3]

Doctrinal differences with other denominations

Ibāḍīs have several doctrinal differences with other denominations of Islam, chief among them:

  • God will not show himself to Muslims on the Day of Judgment, a belief shared with Shi'ites. Sunnis believe that Muslims will see God on the Day of Judgment.[16]
  • The Quran was created by God at a certain point in time. This belief is shared with the Mutazila,[17] whereas Sunnīs hold the Quran to be the word of God, as exemplified by the suffering of Ahmad ibn Hanbal during the miḥnah.
  • Like the Mutazila, they interpret anthropomorphic references to God in the Qur'an symbolically rather than literally.[17]
  • It is unnecessary to have one leader for the entire Muslim world, and if no single leader is fit for the job then Muslim communities can rule themselves.[9][11] This is different from both the Sunni belief of Caliphate and the Shi'ite belief of Imamah.[10][18][19]
  • It is not necessary for the ruler of the Muslims to be descended from the Quraysh tribe, which was the tribe of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.[10][11] This is different from both Shi'ites as well as a majority of Sunnis.[20]
  • They believe it is acceptable to conceal one's beliefs under certain circumstances (kitman). This doctrine is analogous to the Shia taqiyya.[17]

Views on Islamic history and caliphate

Ibāḍīs agree with Sunnīs regarding Abū Bakr and 'Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb as rightly-guided Caliphs.[11][20] They regard the first half of 'Uthmān ibn 'Affān's rule as righteous and the second half as corrupt and affected by both nepotism and heresy.[20] They approve of the first part of 'Alī's caliphate, and (like Shī'a) disapprove of 'Ā'ishah's rebellion and Mu'āwīyah's revolt. However, they regard Alī's acceptance of arbitration at the Battle of Ṣiffīn as rendering him unfit for leadership, and condemn him for killing the Khawarij of an-Nahr in the Naharwān. Modern Ibadi theologians defend the early Kharijite opposition to Uthman, Ali and Muawiyah.[21] Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta observed Ibadis praying Jumu'ah in Oman - which he said they prayed in the same manner as Zuhr prayer - and noticed that they invoked God's mercy on Abu Bakr and Umar but not Uthman and Ali.[3]

In their belief the next legitimate Caliph was Abdullah ibn Wahb al-Rasibi, the leader of the Kharijites who turned against Ali for his acceptance of arbitration with Muawiyah.[21] All Caliphs from Mu'āwīyah onward are considered tyrants except 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Azīz, on whom opinions differ. Numerous Ibāḍī leaders are recognized as true imams, including 'Abdullāh ibn Yaḥyā al-Kindī of South Arabia and the imams of the Rustamid dynasty in North Africa. Traditionally, conservative Omani Ibadism rejected monarchy and hereditary rule,[22] and Ibadhi leaders were elected.[12] Despite bitter religious disputes elsewhere, the Ibadis are realists and believe that reason and political expediency must temper the ideal Islamic state.[3]

View of hadith

Ibāḍīs accept as authentic far fewer hadīth than do Sunnīs, and some of those accepted by Ibāḍīs are rejected by Sunnīs. Ibāḍī jurisprudence, naturally, is based only on the ḥadīth accepted by Ibāḍīs. Several of Ibāḍīsm's founding figures were noted for their ḥadīth research, and Jābir ibn Zayd is accepted as a reliable narrator by Sunnī scholars as well as by Ibāḍī ones. After the death of Ibn Ibad, Ibn Zayd took leadership of the Ibadis and withdrew to Oman, where his hadith along with those of other early Ibadis formed the corpus of their interpretation of Islamic law.[11]

View of jurisprudence

The fiqh or jurisprudence of Ibadis is relatively simple. Absolute authority is given to the Qur'an and hadith; new innovations accepted on the basis of qiyas, or analogical reasoning, were rejected as bid‘ah by the Ibadis. They differ in this from the majority of Sunnis,[23] but find agreement with most Shi'ites[24] as well as the Zahiri and early Hanbali schools of Sunnism.[25][26][27]


Ibadi majority countries are coloured in blue.

Ibāḍī Muslims make up a majority (roughly 57%) of the population in Oman.[28] There are roughly 1.45 million Ibadis worldwide, of which 0.25 million live outside Oman.[29] As a result, Oman is the only country in the Muslim world with an Ibāḍī-majority population.[28]

Historically, the early medieval Rustamid dynasty in Algeria was Ibāḍī,[30] and refugees from its capital Tiaret founded the North African Ibāḍīs communities which exist today in M'zab.[31] The Mozabites, a Berber ethnic group in M'zab, are Ibadis.[32][33][34] Ibadis are also found in East Africa (particularly Zanzibar), the Nafūsah Mountains of Libya, and Djerba Island in Tunisia.

Notable Ibadis



See also


  1. ^ Schism between Sunni and Shia has been poisoning Islam for 1,400 years - and it's getting worse
  2. ^ a b c Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials of Ibadi Islam, pg. 3. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780815650843
  3. ^ a b c d e f Donald Hawley, Oman, pg. 201. Jubilee edition. Kensington: Stacey International, 1995. ISBN 0905743636
  4. ^ a b c Uzi Rabi, The Emergence of States in a Tribal Society: Oman Under Saʻid Bin Taymur, 1932-1970, pg. 5. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press, 2006. ISBN 9781845190804
  5. ^ Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials, pg. 11.
  6. ^ a b Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials, pg. 12.
  7. ^ a b c Donald Hawley, Oman, pg. 199.
  8. ^ a b Joseph A. Kechichian, Oman and the World: The Emergence of an Independent Foreign Policy, pg. 24. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 1995. ISBN 9780833023322
  9. ^ a b c d Daniel McLaughlin, Yemen and: The Bradt Travel Guide, pg. 203. Guilford: Brandt Travel Guides, 2007. ISBN 9781841622125
  10. ^ a b c d e Diana Darke, Oman: The Bradt Travel Guide, pg. 27. Guilford: Brandt Travel Guides, 2010. ISBN 9781841623320
  11. ^ a b c d e Donald Hawley, Oman, pg. 200.
  12. ^ a b J. R. C. Carter, Tribes in Oman, pg. 103. London: Peninsular Publishers, 1982. ISBN 0907151027
  13. ^ A Country Study: Oman, chapter 6 Oman – Government and Politics, section: Historical Patterns of Governance. US Library of Congress, 1993. Retrieved 2006-10-28
  14. ^ Daniel McLaughlin, Yemen, pg. 204.
  15. ^ Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials, pg. 4.
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b c d
  18. ^ Uzi Rabi, The Emergence of States, pg. 22.
  19. ^ Joseph A. Kechichian, Oman and the World, pg. 25.
  20. ^ a b c Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials, pg. 7.
  21. ^ a b Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials, pg. 10.
  22. ^ Hasan M. Al-Naboodah, "Banu Nabhan in the Omani Sources." Taken from New Arabian Studies, vol. 4, pg. 186. Eds. J. R. Smart, G. Rex Smith and B. R. Pridham. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997. ISBN 9780859895521
  23. ^ Uzi Rabi, The Emergence of States, pg. 21.
  24. ^ Mansoor Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, Nationalism, and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse, pg. 32. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  25. ^ Camilla Adang, This Day I have Perfected Your Religion For You: A Zahiri Conception of Religious Authority, pg. 15. Taken from Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies. Ed. Gudrun Krämer and Sabine Schmidtke. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2006. ISBN 9789004149496
  26. ^ Christopher Melchert, The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law: 9th-10th Centuries C.E., pg. 185. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1997.
  27. ^ Chiragh Ali, The Proposed Political, Legal and Social Reforms. Taken from Modernist Islam 1840-1940: A Sourcebook, pg. 281. Edited by Charles Kurzman. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  28. ^ a b
  29. ^
  30. ^ The Rustamid state of Tāhart. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed 10 April 2014.
  31. ^
  32. ^ Tumzabt - Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  33. ^
  34. ^ Cyril Glassé, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, pg. 39. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2008.

External links

  • Ibadi Islam: an introduction
  • A Concise History of al-Ibadiyyah
  • Ibn-Ibad and the Ibadi School of Islamic Law
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