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Ibadhism (also called Al Ibadiyah) is one of the earliest Islamic sects, the foundation of which goes back to the first half of the first century H.
The Imam (leader) of the Ibadhis, Abu Sha’thaa’ Jabir bin Zaid AI Uzdy, was born in the year 22 A.H., and died in the year 96 A.H. as many agree. In this regard, Ibadhism is the first of the moderate sects to emerge.
The school took its name from one of its early theologians Abdullah bin Abadh Al-Tamimy — one of the outstanding followers — a not comparable reference supported by some of the leading personalities of the Umayyad Empire during the reign of Abdul Malik bin Marwan, as it seems, because of the correspondence and long arguments which took place between Abdullah and Abdul Malik, and because of his stirring movement in criticising the attitude of the Umayyad’s rule because of its evading the system of the Orthodox Caliphs, and his frank call to the rulers of the Empire for moderation or to keep away from the Muslim affairs. Likewise his controversial and firm stand against the Khawarij (dissenters). This made him appear to the people as the leader.
The Ibadhis themselves used to call themselves people of the missionary activity, and were not known as Ibadhis until long after the death of Jabir bin Zaid, but they did not recognize this name until thereafter when it spread to all the people. They then accepted it as it became a reality to others.
The second Imam of the Ibadhis was Abu Obaidah Muslim bin Abi Karimah, who took the knowledge from Jabir and others. From the students of these two Imams, the Ibadhi sect spread to many Muslim countries, and among those students appeared carriers of knowledge to the East and the West.
Very little is known about the Ibadhiyah, their doctrines, origins and development. Modern European scholars have made useful contributions in the field of Ibadhi studies, but their studies were directed mainly to the history of the Ibadhi communities or some aspects of their present social and religious life. With the exception of a few articles on Ibadhi theology, Ibadhi teachings in general have not been dealt with seriously. The studies conducted by European scholars on Ibadhism were based mainly on historical sources. The vast Ibadhi writings on jurisprudence and theology were not properly utilized. This was no doubt due to the difficulty of access to such sources.
Writing and composition of books began earlier with the Ibadhis. Jabir wrote his voluminous book (Diwan) in which he compiled his narratives and ideas on what history books relate, but this work was lost during the Abbaside reign. Al-Rabii bin Habib wrote his volume (SAHIH) in the second century A.H., and it is still a reliable reference for Ibadhis in the Sunna, (the sayings of the Prophet) and it ranks higher than the volume (SAHIH) of Al Bukhari and Muslim, because it is tripartite in ascription. Abul Rahman bin Rostam wrote a translation of the Quran and also Hood bin Muhkam Al-Hawari wrote a translation of the Quran. Abu Al- Yaqdhan Mohamed bin Aflah wrote many books on faculty, and Abu Ghanim Bishir bin Ghanim wrote his volume on the Traditions (Hadith) and relics. All these were written during the first and the second centuries, but there are many other books written during that period. Thereafter, books on Islamic culture have been written in each century.
Many of Ibadhi books have been lost because of political pursuit which never relaxed — at any time — from chasing and disturbing them various means, reaching sometimes the stage of burning their books and libraries. On many occasions the hands of the fanatic scholars were behind the authority’s powers stirring them to inflict grievance on those with whom they differ. Until now the books on the Ibadhi sect, some of them most important, are still unknown even to the Ibadhis themselves, let alone others.
The Ibadhi library consists of a big wealth of Islamic law and Arabic language knowledge, and although much and most important of which is still unpublished, the researcher engaged in thorough study and who is not disturbed by difficulties, may derive from them much useful lessons if he takes the trouble of going to where they are on the shelves of their owners.