The myth of Abdullah ibn Saba

“Moreover, cover not Truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when you know.” (Qur’an 2:42)

You need to first listen to what respected Dr. Khalid Yahya Blankinship has to say.  Dr. Blankship is a Sunni historian who specializes in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies.  He is a tenured professor at Temple University.

The following audio is taken from an excellent Sunni-Shi’ah course found here: https://lamppostedu.org/product/sunni-shiah-course-shaykh-abdullah-ali-and-dr-khalid-blankinship

It is truly worth the less than 10$ you will be paying for a very non biased appraisal of the situation, excellent pdf files, notes and slides. Not to mention the time it took for them to collate the material and you will be supporting some American Muslim converts; as well as the Philadelphia community at large.

The weakness of the story of Abdullah ibn Saba

Ibn Saba-is said by modern Muslims that are Anti-Shia, he was half black descended from Ethiopia,
and that motif was added considerably later. Defame the Shi’a.

Abdullah ibn Saba, -character who represented the violence of the Yemeni. Sabat (was never the name of any person) in the history of the human race.

The baseless lie that Shi’a Islam was started by a Jew.

Just some selections from the above audio:

Abdullah Ibn Umar was mishandled by Sayf Ibn Umar a Sunni historian who came from Kufa and later moved to Baghdad and lived in the 2nd century.  The Sunni scholars of ‘ilm al rijal (the knowledge of men in narrations)  Say that he (Sayf Ibn Umar)  is kadhaab (liar) and munkar al hadith (he is relinquished in hadith)  He is matruk (abandoned).  Dhahabi says ,”He was a knowledgeable historian” and than in Mizan al Itidal he attacks Sayf Ibn Umar for two pages!  Sayf Ibn Umar is completely discredited as a transmitter.

He would fabricate traditions and attribute them to honest people.  

The only ones in our time from among modern Muslims or among the Sunni  who tries to make a case for Sayf Ibn Umar is Muhidin al-Khatib a Syrian Salafi writer. He wrote a polemical tract against the Shi’a.

The following information is taken from: The History of al-Tabari Volume XI: The Challenge to the Empires: Translated by Khalid Yahya Blankinship.    Anyone who wishes can consult the Arabic text of Tabari volume 11.

“Abu ‘Abdallah Sayf b. ‘Umar al-Usayyidi al-Tamimi was a Kufan traditionalist who died in the reign of Harun al Rashid. (170-93/786-809) “

“However, Safy’s narratives differ in the extent to which he introduces traditions not found elsewhere, often reporting them from transmitters not otherwise known. These unique narratives frequently contain fantastic or legendary motifs to an extent far greater than is found in the versions of other historians.”

“The exaggerated language characteristic of oral transmission in Sayf is especially apparent in the narratives of the conquest of Iraq, which have a clear tribal origin and bias. These narratives can be traced mostly to two rival groups, the Rabi’ah and the Tamim, whose enmity had originated in pre-Islamic times.”

“In Sayf’s account Khalid is improbably assigned the command and credited with the victory at the Battle of al-Yarmuk (pp. 89-90, 94-95, 97-98, 102, 104) though other sources attributed this victory to Abu ‘Ubaydah b al-Jarrah.”

“In general, the tribal traditions transmitted by Sayf are most unconvincing in detail. Even Fred Donner, who reacts against the tendency to denigrate Sayf, ‘nevertheless denounces his “Battle of Bu-wayb” (pp. 196-213) as a complete fabrication.”

Source: (Donner, Conquests, 198-200)

“Despite certain concessions to the ‘Abbasid dynasty, the work of Sayf b Umar is propelled mainly by other concerns entirely: opposition to the extreme claims of the ‘Alids and justification of all the Companions of the Prophet (saw).”

“With the advent of the ‘Abbasids, an event that Sayf probably witnessed, a party had come to power that ultimately derived its legitimacy from ‘Alid claims, even though the ‘Alid party itself rejected the Abbasid parvenus.”

” ‘Alid legitimist claims had been disappointed by the ‘Abbasids’ usurpation of what the ‘Alids considered their rightful place, and ‘Alid supporters could, of course, not publicly criticize the new dynasty. Therefore, in order to vent their frustrations, the partisans of ‘Ali laid blame in even more strident tones on those Companions of the Prophet (saw) who had deprived ‘Ali of the succession in the first place: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, the Umayyads, and the Quraysh in general.”

“The egregious tendentiousness of Sayf’s corpus comes out most plainly in other volumes of al-Tabari, in such episodes as Saqifat Bani Sa’idah (Tabri, 1,1844-50), the burial of Uthman (3049-50), and the tale of ‘Abdullah b Saba’ (2858-59, 2922, 2928, 2942-44,2954, 3027, 3163-65, 3180). In each of these instances, other versions that do not conform to Sayf’s own are available for comparison and reveal the impudence of his “daring constructions.”

“Beside having fabricated many of the personages who appear in his transmissions, it also appears that Sayf fabricated the names of many, perhaps most, of his alleged authorities. In fact, medieval Muslims already had noticed that most of his authorities were majhulun, or unknowns, the quality of whose transmissions could not be verified because no information about them existed.” (see note 21)

“Given the shared traits found in many of Sayf’s traditions that we can attribute with some confidence to Sayf himself, it would appear that many of his alleged “authorities” are simply his own inventions.”

*note 21

“On pp 106-107 we are presented with the incredible information that the al-Muhallab and ‘Abd al-Rahman, both included in this list, actually participated in the early conquest with Khalid. That would make them about 150 years old when they were transmitting to Sayf!”

“Frequently it seems that these invented “authorities” served as intermediate links between Sayf and earlier genuine traditionalists whose authority Sayf wished to use to bolster his own inventions. Had Sayf himself alleged to have transmitted from, say, the famous al-Sha’bi, the fraud would have been quickly discovered, for Sayf was probably a notorious and controversial celebrity in his own time. Had he claimed to have transmitted from one of al-Sha’bi’s known pupils, he would also have been denounced had he deviated from that pupil’s tradition. But, when he alleged an unknown pupil of al-Sha’bi as his intermediary, no one could offer a sure proof against his forgery based on the chain of transmission alone, especially when the generation of Sayf had passed from the scene.”

“As he apparently did not even quote his reliable informants accurately, he was roundly condemned in the Sunni tradition for having foisted falsehoods on trustworthy transmitters.”

“It is greatly to the credit of medieval Sunni Muslims who assessed the quality of traditions in the rijal books that they unanimously rejected Sayf’s authority in the most absolute way possible.”

Comments: This roasting of Sayf ibn Umar was just from the preface let alone going through the entire volume (which I have) to show each case of exaggeration, inconsistency, aggrandizing and pure invention.

If this man, Abdullah Ibn Saba, had such influence and power as we are led to believe then why are there so few reports and narrations about him?

In fact in the following video with the title: Abdullah IBN SABA: Myth or Reality? made by Sunnah Discourse they desperately combed through all the books to scoop up with a handful of narrations that did not have Sayf ibn Umar in the chain of narrators.  Yet, the role, the power and the influence that Ahl Sunnah alleged that this individual is said to have had is so grandiose that one really wonders why they are able only to scoop up a handful of narrations that don’t really tell us much about him at all.

Not mentioned of Abdullah ibn Saba in Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Al-Nasa’i at all.

Yet we are to believe that this individual played such a huge role turning people against Uthman and stirring up trouble during the battle of the Camel.

I choose this video out of all the available ones that the Sunni would use because I think it is their best attempt and trying to make the unbelievable believable.

The first narration they quote is:


Zayd bin Ghafla entered upon Ali during his rule and said: “I passed by a group that were mentioning Abu Bakr and Umar claiming that you hold the same view towards them both, among them was Abdullah Ibn Saba and he was the first to manifest that. So Ali said, “From what does this evil Blackman want from me?” Then he said, “I seek Allah’s refuge. My opinion of them both, Abu Bakr and Umar is nothing but good and beautiful. Then he sent a messenger to Abdullah ibn Saba and exiled him to al Madain.”
And said: “He shall not live in the same town as me ever again.” Then he rushed to the pulpit and gathered the people and delivered a long speech to praise them both, Abu Bakr and Umar.”
And at the end he said, “Verily if it reaches me that anyone places me above them both, I will whip him with the whipping of a lying slanderer.”

My comment: Why does it escape everyone’s attention that this report has Ali making derogatory and racially hateful remarks about a person’s skin colour?  Also, this report makes Abdullah Ibn Saba as someone who must carry some weight and importance because his remarks make Ali “rush to the pulpit”. Also notice the slight of hand in the report. On the one hand, it makes Ali openly proclaim good about Abu Bakr ad Umar and at the same time the clandestine behavior on behalf of Ali is not the tad bit suspicious? Like for example: Why nor bring Abdullah Ibn Saba in front of everyone and have him whipped? Why not bring him to the pulpit and denounced? Instead Abdulllah Ibn Saba is whisked away as if he was in the FBI witness protection program.

Amr bin Marzuq narrated to us that he said:
“Shoiba told us from Sulayma ibn Kuhayl from Zaid bin Wahab he said, Ali said, What do I have to do with this black container? He meant Abdullah ibn Saba and he used to attack Abu Bakr and Umar. This is what Sulayma said from Zaid ibn Wahab likewise in Tarikh Madina Dimashq of Imam Ibn Asakir Volume 29 pg. 7 to 8. We have four narrations regarding Abdullah ibn Saba. Two from Zayd one from Abu Zahara, and another from Hujaya who is Abu Zahara and these are reliable chains free from the weak narrator Sayf Ibn Umar.”

My comment: This is not a report at all just some more disparaging remarks about the amount of melanin a person has.

Why was Ali so focused on the guys skin colour being black?  The first martyr in Islam was a woman, and a black woman. She was the mother of Ammar, and her name was Sumaya (May Allah honour her noble face).  

This is not to say that Shi’i don’t have very disparaging things to say about Black people because the majority Shi’ia sect does.

All of this with Abdullah ibn Saba just does not add up.  

The Ahl Sunnah can try and spin it any way they want. The role that this person is alleged to have had the Ahl Sunnah are going to have to allot better and I do mean allot better than to dig through all the massive tomes of history and scoop up a handful of hadith that make Ali out to be someone obsessed with the colour of a man’s skin.

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