Abd Allah ibn Saba

Abd Allah ibn Saba (Arabic: عبد الله بن سبا) was an Arab Jewish religious leader in the 7th-century.[1] His followers were known as Saba'iyya.[2]

Abd Allah ibn Saba
عبد الله بن سبا
Bornc. 7th century
Died7th century
Other names
  • al-Himyari (nickname) and others

Ghulat careerEdit

Abd Allah ibn Saba is considered the first ghulat (extremist). He was the first one to declare faith in the Imamate of Ali.[3] After Ali’s death, he is said to maintain this idea that "a devil in ʿAli’s appearance had been murdered" and ʿAli had ascended to heaven and that his occultation (rajʿa) was imminent.[4] Saba probably invented the concept of ghayba and return.[5]

Heinz Halm records him as a representative of a Ghulat group from the city of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (al-Madā'in) who came to see ‘Alī in Kūfah. When Saba proclaimed divinity, then ‘Alī denied this angrily and exiled him back to Seleucia-Ctesiphon.[6]

Roles in Uthman’s assassinationEdit

Tabari and Sayf ibn Umar record Abd Allah ibn Saba from playing any major role in the political events that led to Uthman's killing.[7] He and his followers are said to be the ones who enticed the Egyptians against Uthman on the ground of Ali's special right of succession, and participated in further instigation at later conflicts.


There is a favorable Shia quote that formed around the figure of Abdullah ibn Saba.[8] The story of Saba has also been used by Shia factions to both attack and defend extreme Shia groups.[7] In an non-authentic Shia source, Abd Allah ibn Saba was cursed by Ja'far al-Sadiq.[9]


Jews view Saba negatively and historical Jewish sources regarded him as an apostate from Judaism.[10][11][12][13] Sunni Muslims view Saba as a ghulat seeking to corrupt the message of Islam from by introducing proto-Shia beliefs.[14][15][16] Since Saba used to hate Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman, Sunni Muslims view him negatively and curse him. Sa'd ibn Abdullah al-Ash'ari al-Qummi reported in al-Maqaalaat wal-Firaq p. 20:

Al-Sab'iyyah are the associates of Abdullah bin Saba and he is Abdullah bin Wahb al-Raasibee al-Hamdaanee, and he was supported in that by Abullah bin Khurasee and Ibn Aswad and they are the loftiest of his companions, and the first of what he manifested was revilement upon Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthmaan and the Companions and he freed himself from them.


  1. Gift2Shias (2010-07-04). "Abdullah ibn Saba". Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  2. Fischer, Michael M.J.; Abedi, Mehdi (1990). Debating Muslims: cultural dialogues in postmodernity and tradition. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 124–25. ISBN 978-0-299-12434-2.
  3. Rijal al-Kashshi 71, Anwar-ul-Na’umania Volume 2 page 234
  4. Halm, Heinz (December 15, 2001). "ḠOLĀT". In Ehsan Yarshater (ed.). Encyclopedia Iranica (Online ed.). Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  5. Bibliography: Shatrastani al-Milal, pp. 132 et seq. (in Haarbrücken's translation, i. 200-201); Weil, Gesch. der Chalifen, i. 173-174, 209, 259.
  6. Halm, Heinz (2004). Shi'ism. Columbia University Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-231-13587-0.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hodgson, M. G. S. (1960). "ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sabaʾ". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. p. 51. ISBN 90-04-08114-3.
  8. Anthony, Sean W. (2011). "The Legend of ʿAbdallāh Ibn Sabaʾ and the Date of Umm Al-Kitāb". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. (Third Series). 21 (1): 1–30. doi:10.1017/S135618631000060X. S2CID 163022275. JSTOR
  9. Rijal al-Kashshi, Volume 1, Page 323
  10. Dubnov, Simon (1980). History of the Jews. Associated University Presse. p. 330. ISBN 978-0-8453-6659-2.
  11. Steinschneider, Moritz (1857). Jewish Literature from the Eighth to the Eighteenth Century: With an Introduction on Talmud and Midrash. Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts. p. 59.
  12. Johnson, Paul (1987). A History of the Jews. Associated University Presse.
  13. There is also other non Muslim literature from near that time like The Chronography of Bar Hebraeus By Bar Hebraeus [1] Archived 2013-10-24 at the Wayback Machine
  14. Brann, Ross (21 Dec 2009). Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Islamic Spain. Princeton University Press. pp. 65–6. ISBN 978-1-4008-2524-0.
  15. Pall, Zoltan (31 Jan 2013). Lebanese Salafis Between the Gulf and Europe: Development, Fractionalization and Transnational Networks of Salafism in Lebanon. Amsterdam University Press. p. 55l. ISBN 978-90-8964-451-0.
  16. Anthony, Sean (25 Nov 2011). The Caliph and the Heretic: Ibn Saba and the Origins of Shi'ism (illustrated ed.). BRILL. p. 68. ISBN 978-90-04-20930-5.


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