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Maghāriyya, al- (The Cave Sect)

(703 words)

Author(s): Steven M. Wasserstrom
Al-Maghāriyya (The Cave Sect) is mentioned by the Karaite scholars Jacob al-Qirqisānī and Judah Hadassi, as well as by the Muslim writers al-Bīrūnī and al-Shahrastānī, deriving in part from works by Severus ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, David ibn Marwān al-Muqammiṣ, and Abū ʿĪsa al-Warrāq. Stroumsa observes that David ibn Marwān al-Muqammiṣ was interested in the sect in connection with Christian origins. However, the historical evidence for the al-Maghāriyya as an ancient sect is slim, consisting solely of al-Shahrastānī’s claim that they lived four hundred years before Arius (ca. …

ʿAbd Allāh ibn Saba’

(259 words)

Author(s): Steven M. Wasserstrom
ʿAbd Allāh ibn Saba’, also called Ibn Sawdā’ (Ar. son of the black woman), was a  Jewish convert to Islam during the caliphate of Uthmā̄n (r. 644–656). Classical Sunni sources portray him as a progenitor of Shiʿism. Both Shīʿī and Sunni sources relate that a Yemenite Jew named ʿAbd Allāh ibn Saba’ was the first person to publicly proclaim that Muḥammad was the expected messiah.  After Muḥammad’s death, however, he transferred his allegiance to ʿAlī, announcing that ʿAlī was the messiah who would return (Ar. rajʿa) at the end of time, riding on the clouds. The earliest Shīʿī groups, largely…

ʿAbd Allāh ibn Salām

(431 words)

Author(s): Steven M. Wasserstrom
ʿAbd Allāh ibn Salām (d. 663/64), a member of the famous Jewish-Arab tribe of Banū Qaynuqā’ in Medina, was one of the   ṣaḥāba (Ar. companions), or original disciples, of Muḥammad. Given the primordial status of his conversion at the hand of Muḥ̣̣ammad, ʿAbd Allāh came to be portrayed as a Jewish convert mouthing sometimes identifiably Jewish material; for example, in the Qur’ān commentary of al-Ṭabarī (d. 923). ʿAbd  Allāh b. Salām eventually functioned as a symbol of the Islamization of the Jews, and as such the tales about him have been very long-lived…