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Ibāḍī Dynasties

Ahmad Ubaydli, Adam R. Gaiser
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Ibāḍī Dynasties

The sect known as the Ibāḍīyah emerged from among the moderate Khārijīs in Basra who associated with Jābir ibn Zayd (d. before AH 104/722 CE). Although Sunnī tradition posits ʿAbdullāh ibn Ibāḍ as the founder and eponym of the sect, biographical information on him remains vague and often contradictory. Later Ibāḍī writings identify him as a spokesperson for Jābir. Nevertheless, it was Abū ʿUbaydah Muslim ibn Abī Karīma, a disciple of Jābir and leader of the nascent Basran Ibāḍīyah, who in the early eighth century established a treasury (bayt al-māl) and used it to train the Ibāḍī “carriers of knowledge” (ḥamalāt al-ʿilm). These missionaries spread Ibāḍism throughout the early Islamic world; they were especially successful in implanting the sect in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Early Ibāḍī political doctrine, born as it was in opposition to the ʿUthmān, ʿAlī, and the Umayyads, looked to the first two “rightly guided” caliphs, Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and ʿUmar, as models of the just ruler. The Ibāḍīyah likewise celebrated the first Khārijī leader, ʿAbdullāh ibn Wahb al-Rāsibī (d. 38/658), and several of the early Khārijī martyrs and rebels, such as Abū Bilāl Mirdās ibn Udayya (d. 61/681). Along with other Khārijī sects, the Ibāḍīyah rejected the requirement that an imam be from the tribe of Quraysh, preferring the qualities of justice, knowledge, and piety above all others. Unlike the Khārijī sects of the Azāriqah and Najdāt (whom the Ibāḍīyah rejected), Ibāḍīs permitted taqīyah (prudent dissimulation) and living among non-Ibāḍī Muslims.

An Ibāḍī-inspired uprising in 141/758 in North Africa under the leadership of the missionary Abū al-Khaṭṭāb al-Maʿāfirī captured several cities in what is today Libya and Tunisia. After four years, an ʿAbbāsid army defeated the rebels, and Ibāḍī refugees, under the leadership of Abū al-Khaṭṭāb's governor and fellow missionary ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Rustam, fled to Tahert, near modern-day Tiaret in Algeria. In either 159/776 or 161/778, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān became the first imam of the Rustamid dynasty. His progeny ruled until 296/909, when internal strife and the Fāṭimids brought about their end. Since the fall of Rustamids, North African Ibāḍīs have ruled themselves by councils, called ʿazzāba, which consist of learned individuals and a presiding shaykh. In principle, these councils were intended to provide a temporary government in the absence of the imamate. However, they remain in operation up to the present time.

In the Arabian Peninsula, the uprising of ʿAbdullāh bin Yaḥya al-Kindī, known as Ṭālib al-Ḥaqq, erupted in 128/745 in resistance to the Umayyads. He subdued Yemen and much of Arabia, including Mecca and Medina, before being defeated in 131/748. Ṭālib al-Ḥaqq's successor, the Omani al-Julandā ibn Masʿūd, defeated a rival Khārijī sect, the Ṣufrīyah, only to be overwhelmed and killed by an invading ʿAbbāsid army in 134/751. The Omani Ibāḍīyah, in conjunction with several Omani tribes, rose again against the ʿAbbāsids in 177/793. A council of Ibāḍī ʿulamāʿ appointed Muḥammd ibn Abī ʿAffān to the imamate, initiating the second Ibāḍī imamate in Oman.

The second Ibāḍī imamate ended in 280/893, when the internal dissention caused by the unseating of the imam al-Ṣalt ibn Mālik in 272/886 culminated in the defeat of the Ibāḍīs at the Battle of Samad. The ʿAbbāsids, who had been called to assist by the opposing tribal group, ruled Oman for the next century until a new imam, al-Khalīl ibn Shathān al-Kharūṣī (r. c.407–420/1016–1029), arose in the interior. His successor, Rāshid ibn Saʿīd al-Yaḥmadī, rid the Omani coast of the Būyids so that by the middle of the fifth (eleventh) century, the Ibāḍīs ruled Oman once more. Significant religious and tribal divisions, however, existed within the nominally unified Ibāḍī state. Two “schools” of thought developed around the issue of al-Ṣalt ibn Mālik's removal: the Rustāq group viewed those who supported his ousting as renegades, outside the fold of belief; the Nizwā group counseled suspension of judgment on the issue. In 443/1052, the Rustāq school, with the support of Imam Rāshid, issued a decree condemning the deposers of al-Ṣalt and compromising the possibilities for reconciliation between the parties. This intractability caused the Ibāḍīs of the Ḥaḍramawt (Yemen), who normally recognized the authority of the Omani imams, to break from them and establish their own imamate under Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm ibn Qays al-Ḥaḍramī (d. c.475/1082–1083). Abū Isḥāq's split eventually resulted in the disappearance of Ibāḍism from Yemen.

Additionally, tribal politics wore away at the veneer of Omani Ibāḍī unity. The Yaḥmad tribal group that had traditionally controlled the imamate was first opposed by the ʿulamāʿ of the Nizwā party, who attempted to establish their own line of imams, and later by the moderate ʿulamāʿ of the Rustāq party. By the beginning of the sixth (twelfth) century moderate Rustāqī scholars began to front their own candidates for the imamate in the Jawf region of Oman. The end of that century witnessed the collapse of the Ibāḍī imamate as power passed to the Nabāhina of Azd, a tribal group that made no attempt to rule in the name of Ibāḍism.

The Ibāḍīyah again revived the imamate in the seventeenth century when Imam Nāṣir ibn Murshid al-Yaʿrubī (r. c.1624–1649) established the Yaʿrubid dynasty in the course of his struggle against the Portuguese. This dynasty was replaced by the present ruling family of Oman, the al-Bū Saʿīdīs, whose first ruler was Imam Aḥmad ibn Saʿīd al-Bū Saʿīdī (r. 1749–1783). Succeeding al-Bū Saʿīdī rulers eschewed the title of imam, preferring to rule as sayyids (an honorific title) and later sultans (a title implying temporal, rather than religious, power). Nevertheless, interest in the imamate remains strong among Ibāḍī ʿulamāʿ, who continue to theorize on (and occasionally attempt to establish) the institution. The al-BūSaʿīdīs extended the influence of Ibāḍism down the East African coast; several Ibāḍī sultans ruled Zanzibar from 1832 until 1964, when it became part of Tanzania.

Rulers of the Ibāḍī Dynasties

The Rustamid Dynasty
ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn Rustam (r. 161–171/778–788)
ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān (r. 171–208/788–824)
Abū Saʿīd Aflah ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (r. 208–258/824–872)
Abū Bakr ibn Aflah (r. 258–260/872–874)
Abū al-Yaqzān Muhammad ibn Aflah (r. 260–281/874–894)
Abū Hātim Yūsuf ibn Muhammad (r. 281–282/894–895)
Yaʿqūb ibn Aflah (r. 282–286/895–899)
Abū Hātim Yūsuf ibn Muhammad (second reign;  r. 286–294/899–907)
Yaʿqūb ibn Aflah (second reign; dates unknown)
Yaqzān ibn Muhammad (r. 294–296/907–909)
First Ibādī Imamate in Arabia and Oman
ʿAbdullāh ibn Yahya al-Kindī (Tālib al-Haqq)  (r. 128–131/745–748)
al-Julandā ibn Masʿūd al-Azdī (r. 132–134/749–751)
Second Ibādī imamate in Oman
Muhammad ibn Abī ʿAffān al-Yahmadī  (r. 177–179/793–795)
al-Wārith ibn Kaʿb al-Kharūsī (r. 179–192/795–807)
Ghassān ibn ʿAbdullāh al-Yahmadī (r. 192–208/808–823)
ʿAbd al-Mālik ibn Humayd al-ʿAlawī (r. 208–226/823–840)
al-Muhannā ibn Jayfar al-Yahmadī (r. 226–237/840–851)
al-Salt ibn Mālik (r. 237–273/851–885)
Rāshid ibn al-Nazr al-Yahmadī (r. 273–277/885–890)
ʿAzzān ibn Tamīm al-Kharūsī (r. 277–280/890–893)
Third Ibādī Imamate in Oman and Yemen
al-Khalīl ibn Shathān al-Kharūsī (r. c. 407–420/1016–1029)
Rāshid ibn Saʿīd al-Yahmadī (r. 420–445/1029–1053)
Hafs ibn Rāshid (r. 445/1053)
Rāshid ibn ʿAlī (r. 446/1054)
After 446/1054: competing Imamates in Nizwa, Rustaq,  and Jawf
(Imamate in Hadramawt, Yemen) Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn  Qays al-Hadramī (r. c. 443–475/1052–1083)



  • Hoffman, Valerie J.“The Articulation of Ibādī Identity in Modern Oman and Zanzibar.”Muslim World94, no. 2 (2004): 201–216. Overview of contemporary Ibāḍī intellectual history, including a discussion of Ibāḍī theology and mysticism.
  • Hoffman, Valerie J. The Essentials of Ibadi Islam. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2012.
  • Ibn Dhakwān, Sālim. The Epistle of Sālim ibn Dhakwān. Translated and edited by Patricia Crone and Fritz Zimmerman. Oxford and New York, 2001. Text and translation of an early Ibāḍī epistle with discussion of the Khārijīs and Ibāḍīyah.
  • Izkiwī, Sirḥān ibn Saʿīd. Kashf al-ghummah al-jāmiʿ li-akhbār al-ummah. 2 vols.Beirut, Lebanon, 2006. Critical edition of an important Omani Ibāḍī manuscript that contains references from early sources and a comprehensive account of the imamate in Oman.
  • Lewicki, Tadeusz. “The Ibadites in Arabia and Africa.”Journal of World History13 (1971): 51–103. A geographical and historical overview of early Ibāḍism that suffers from a lack of source-critical perspective.
  • Sālimī, ʿAbd Allah ibn Humayyid al-. Tuḥfat al-ʿayān bī-sirat ahl ʿUmān. Muscat, 1997. Comprehensive history of Oman by the eminent Ibāḍī scholar of the twentieth century.
  • Savage, Elizabeth. A Gateway to Hell, a Gateway to Paradise: The North African Response to the Arab Conquest. Princeton, N.J., 1997. One of the only works in English on the transformation of the Ibāḍī imamate in North Africa, though the author's treatment of the early imamate institution is somewhat anachronistic.
  • Wilkinson, John C.“The Early Development of the Ibāḍī Movement in Basra.” In Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society, edited by G. H. A. Juynboll. Carbondale, Ill., 1982, pp. 241–249. An introduction to the formative period of Ibāḍism that raises critical historiographical issues.
  • Wilkinson, John C.The Imamate Tradition of Oman. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1987. A wide-ranging study of the imamate institution in Oman with a focus on twentieth-century events.
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