The Shia Didn’t Like “Renegade Yemenite Jew” Abdullah Ibn Saba, Either!

At Pajamas Media I blogged about the mainstream Sunni doctrine which insists Abd Allah b. Saba, an alleged renegade Yemenite Jew was the founder of the heterodox Shiite sect. He is held responsible—identified as a Jew—for promoting the Shiite heresy and fomenting the rebellion and internal strife associated with this primary breach in Islam’s “political innocence”—a brutal and sanguinary historical legacy still very evident in the ongoing carnage within both Syria and Iraq.

But what is the Shiite position on Abd Allah b. Saba? Is this literature “silent” on the subject, for example, conceding the discussion to Sunni polemicists? In fact authoritative Shiite authors claimed he was guilty of perverting and warping the message of Caliph Ali’s true (Shiite) followers. Mainstream Shiites thus declared Abd Allah b. Saba an archetypal avatar of extreme, heretical beliefs, notably, the profession of  Ali’s divinity. This profession was an egregious heresy for which Caliph Ali purportedly had Ibn Saba burned alive, as described in a Shiite hadith (tradition):

“ ‘ Abd Allāh b. Saba’ made a claim to prophecy while asserting that the Commander of the Faithful (‘Alī) is God. This reached the Commander of the Faithful, and he called for him and questioned him. (Ibn Saba’) reaffirmed this and said, ‘Yes, you are he! It was cast into my heart that you indeed are God, and I am a prophet.’ The Commander of the Faithful said to him, ‘Woe to you, for Satan mocks you! Turn away from this, lest your mother be bereaved of you, and repent!’ (Ibn Saba’) refused. (‘Alī) imprisoned him and urged him to repent for three days, but he did not repent. Then ‘Alī burned him alive with fire and said, ‘Satan led him astray with false imaginings He would come to him and cast such things into his heart.’”

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at @andrewbostom.org

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