Ka'ab al-Ahbar

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Abū Iṣḥaq Ka‘b ibn Mati‘ al-Humyari al-Aḥbār
Died AH 32 (652/653)[1]
Era Medieval era
School Sunni Islam
Main interests
Islamic theology

Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār (Arabic: كعب الأحبار‎‎, full name Abū Iṣḥaq Ka‘b ibn Mati‘ al-Humyari al-Aḥbār) was a prominent rabbi from Yemen who was one of the earliest important Jewish converts to Islam.[2] He is counted among the Tabi'in and narrated many Isra'iliyat.[3] He was an influential figure in the reigns of the Khalifs Umar and Uthman. Associated with the development of the Sunni tradition, Ka'ab's influence is deprecated within the Shia tradition of Islam.


Ka‘ab was a Jewish rabbi, who moved from Yemen to Bilad al-Sham (Syria).[4] He was of the clan of Dhu Ra'in or Dhu al-Kila. Ka‘ab came to Medina during the time of Umar where he converted to Islam. He lived there until Uthman's era.[2] Ka‘ab did not meet Prophet Muhammad.[3]

Ka‘ab accompanied Khalif Umar in his voyage to Jerusalem (Al-Quds). It is reported that when Umar marched into Jerusalem with an army, he asked Ka‘ab: "Where do you advise me to build a place of worship?" Ka‘ab indicated the Temple Rock, now a gigantic heap of ruins from the temple of Jupiter.[5] The Jews, Ka‘ab explained, had briefly won back their old capital a quarter of a century before (when Persians overran Syria and Palestine), but they had not had time to clear the site of the Temple, for the Rums (Byzantines) had recaptured the city. It was then that Umar ordered the rubbish on the Ṣakhra (rock) to be removed by the Nabataeans, and after three showers of heavy rain had cleansed the Rock, he instituted prayers there. Umar is said to have fenced it and, some years later, an Umayyad Khalif built the Dome of the Rock over the site as an integral part of the Aqsa Mosque. Until this day, the place is known as ḳubbat al-ṣakhra, the Dome of the Rock.

According to tradition, Ka‘ab believed that "Every event that has taken place or will take place on any foot of the earth, is written in the Tourat (Torah), which God revealed to his Prophet Moses".[6] He is said to have predicted the death of Umar using the Torah. According to one narration, Ka‘ab told Umar "you ought to write your will because you will die in three days." Umar responded "I do not feel any pain or sickness". Abu Lulu assassinated Umar two days later.[7]

After Umar's death Ka‘ab went to Syria and became one of Mu‘awiyah's advisers. He died in Hims[1] during the Caliphate of Uthman, said to have been over 100 years of age.[4]

Scholarly disputes[edit]

Abd Allah ibn Abbas disputed a view attributed to Ka'ab that "on the day of the judgement the sun and the moon will be brought forth like two stupefied bulls and thrown to hell". According to Al-Tabari Ibn Abbas responded "Kaab is a liar!" three times, quoting the Quran that the sun and moon are obedient to Allah. He accused Ka'ab of trying to introduce Jewish myths into Islam.[8]

Sunni view[edit]

Further information: Isra'iliyat

Within the Sunni tradition Ka'ab is seen as a trustworthy scholar. Ibn Hajar Asqalani, a 14th-century Sunni Shafi'i scholar, wrote,

Ka`b Ibn Mati` al-Himyari, Abu Ishaq, known as Ka`b al-Ahbar, is trustworthy (thiqah). He belongs to the 2nd [tabaqah]. He lived during both Jahiliyyah and Islam. He lived in Yemen before he moved to Sham [~Syria]. He died during the Caliphate of `Uthman exceeding 100 years of age. None of his reports are in al-Bukhari. He has one narration in Muslim from Abu Huraira from him on the authority of al-A`mash from Abu Salih.[4]

Shi'a view[edit]

Within the Shia tradition Ka'ab is seen as an unreliable figure. Muhammad al-Tijani a 20th-century Shi'a scholar writes that "He was a Jew from Yemen who pretended to have embraced Islam then went to Medina during the reign of Umar ibn al-Khattab."[1] Muhammad Jawad Chirri writes, after having quoted a hadith, "This dialogue should alert us to the deceptive and successful attempt on the part of Ka'b to influence future events by satanic suggestions. It contains a great deal of deception which produced many harmful results to Islam and the Muslims."[9]


  1. ^ a b c The Shi'a: The Real Followers of the Sunnah by Muhammad al-Tijani chapter "Is it "the Book of Allah and my Progeny" or "the Book of Allah and my Sunnah"?" on Al-Islam.org
  2. ^ a b c d e f Al-Islam.org
  3. ^ a b ::: 'ULUM AL-QUR'AN #3 - THE HISTORY OF TAFSIR :::
  4. ^ a b c Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, Op Cit., p. 135.
  5. ^ The History of al-Tabari, vol. XII, Albany: State University of New York Press 2007, pp. 194-195
  6. ^ Yusuf ibn Abd-al-Barr - al-Istiab, v3, p1287 Printed in Cairo 1380 A.H
  7. ^ Tarikh al-Tabari v4, p191 Printed by Dar al-Maarif - Cairo
  8. ^ Tabari - History of al-Tabari, v1, p62 - 63
  9. ^ The Shi'ites Under Attack by Muhammad Jawad Chirri, chapter "Did Muslims Other Than Shi'ites Borrow Religious Teachings from Jews?" on Al-Islam.org