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The Ghurabiyya Shia was a Ghulat sect of Shia Islam. They were the best known sect of a few extremist Shia sects from the Middle Ages who adopted the belief that the angel Jibra’il (Gabriel) was mistaken when passing on the prophecy to Muhammad instead of Ali.[1]


The name of the sect “Ghurabiyya” is Arabic for “Ravens[2] and was derived for the sect because the Ghurabiyya Shia said that Muhammad resembled Ali very much, like one Raven resembles another Raven or even more similar than that.[3]


While Traveling through Syria at the turn of the 13th century, the Andalusian traveler Ibn Jubayr noted that the Ghurabiyya Shia were among the Shia sects represented in Syria at that time.[4]

Furthermore, a document written around 1200 C.E. called “al-Maqama al Kilwiyya” discovered in Oman, gives details of a mission to reconvert Kilwa (an island of Tanzania) to Ibadism, as it had recently been effected by the Ghurabiyya doctrine from southern Iraq. The document also mentions an apostate from Ibadism called al-Munghirah. Another reference to the influence of the Ghurabiyya Shia comes from the Syrian biographer and geographer Yaqut, who writing before 1224 C.E., reported that the Sultan of Pemba (another island of Tanzania) was an Arab who had recently emigrated from Kufa, suggesting that the doctrines of the Ghurabiyya (which were strongly present in Kufa) had also spread to Pemba.[5]


The Ghurabiyya Shia had the following beliefs:

  • They believed God’s knowledge is temporally produced.
  • They believed God does not know anything until after he creates it.
  • They believed God may change his mind about matters just like a person who acquires one opinion after another. This belief was an extreme form of Bada’.
  • They believed that Ali was supposed to be the Messenger and Prophet of God.
  • They believed that God dispatched the angel Gabriel to Ali and had ordered him to take the Qur'an to Ali, but Gabriel turned away from him with the message and went to Muhammad due to his enthusiasm for him, or by mistake on his part due to being confused by the exact similitude between Muhammad and Ali and (consciously or not) is said to have revealed and transmitted the Qur'anic message to Muhammad instead of to Ali.[6][7][8] When Gabriel returned to God, God said, “Were it not that the Quraysh would say that the Lord of Muhammad is irresolute, I would send you to Ali once again and I would dismiss Muhammad. But go instead back to Muhammad and tell him I am appointing Ali to share prophecy with him as long as both shall live, and say: “but you are only a warner (i.e. Muhammad) and for every nation there is a guide (i.e. Ali).” When Gabriel came back to Muhammad and informed him of the message of God, Muhammad said to Ali at that moment, “You are to me in the position of Harun (Aaron) to Musa (Moses) except that there will not be a prophet after me.”
  • They believed that Muhammad was a warner and Ali was a guide by drawing upon further support from the words of God in the Qur'an: “Can they be like those who accept a clear sign from their Lord and there follows him (i.e Muhammad) a witness (i.e. Ali) from Him.“
  • They believed they were justified in cursing Gabriel, for the reason of Gabriel going to Muhammad instead of Ali.[9][10]
  • They believed that it had been verified in a report that Ali was the partner of Muhammad in prophecy during his lifetime just as Aaron was the partner of Moses in the apostleship. For that reason Muhammad said, “No prophet after me” but did not say, “no prophet alongside me,” since Gabriel visited them both together with the revelation.
  • They believed that when Muhammad died, the inspiration was withdrawn from Ali.
  • They believed that the Imamate is only restricted to the offspring of Ali.
    • They believed that the descendents of Fatimah and the other descendents of Ali all have an equal right to the Imamate.
    • They believed the descendents of Ali are from the lineages of 5 people: Hasan ibn Ali, Husayn ibn Ali, Umar, al-Abbas and Muhammad.
    • They believed that the Imam is anyone who rises from among the descendents of Ali with sword unsheathed, summoning to the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Muhammad and who is just and knowledgeable.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pg.32 of 34, Footnote 96
  2. ^ p. 59 Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry, Bernard Lewis, Oxford U. Press, NY.
  3. ^ Translation of Radd-i-Rawafid
  4. ^ “Shi’ites and Shi’ism in Medieval Syria,” by Stephennie Mulder
  5. ^ The Swahili: the social landscape of a mercantile society, By Mark Chatwin Horton, John Middleton, pg.67, 222
  6. ^ Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, by H. Lammens, S.J., pg.179
  7. ^ Translation of Radd-i-Rawafid
  8. ^ Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, by Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi, pg.160
  9. ^ Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, by H. Lammens, S.J., pg.179
  10. ^ Translation of Radd-i-Rawafid