Ka’b al-Ahbar

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Abū Isḥāq Ka‘b ibn Mati‘
Died 32-5AH/652-6AD
Era Rashidun Caliphate
Main interests
Isra'iliyyat

Ka‘b al-Aḥbār (Arabic: كعب الأحبار‎, full name Abū Isḥāq Ka‘b ibn Mati‘ ibn Haysu‘ or Haynu‘) was a 7th-century Yemenite Jew who converted to Islam. He was considered to be the earliest authority on Isra'iliyyat and South Arabian lore.[1][2] According to Islamic tradition, he accompanied Umar in his trip from Medina to Jerusalem, and afterwards, became a supporter of Uthman. He died in Hims around 652-6AD.[1]

Name[edit]

Aḥbār is the plural of ḥibr/ḥabr, from the Hebrew ḥābir, a scholarly title referring to a rank immediately below rabbi as used by Babylonian Jews.[1]

Biography[edit]

Little is known about Ka'b, but according to tradition, he came to Medina during the reign of Umar. He then accompanied Umar in his voyage to Jerusalem. It is reported that when Umar marched into Jerusalem with an army, he asked Ka‘b: "Where do you advise me to build a place of worship?" Ka‘b indicated the Temple Rock, now a gigantic heap of ruins from the temple of Jupiter.[3] The Jews, Ka‘b 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‘b 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".[4] He is said to have predicted the death of Umar using the Torah. According to one narration, Ka‘b 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.[5]

After Umar's death, Ka‘b vigorously supported Uthman. Subsequently, Mu'awiya asked Ka'b to become his counsel in Damascus, but he most likely chose to withdrew to Hims, where he died in 652-6 AD, according to various accounts. His burial place is disputed.[1]

According to Shia sources[which?] Ka‘ab was a Jewish rabbi, who moved from Yemen to Bilad al-Sham (Syria).[6] He was of the clan of Dhu Ra'in or Dhu al-Kila. Ka‘b came to Medina during the time of Umar where he converted to Islam. He lived there until Uthman's era.[7] Ka‘b did not meet Prophet Muhammad.[8][unreliable source?]

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'b of trying to introduce Jewish myths into Islam.[9]

Sunni view[edit]

Some Sunnis[who?] believe Ka'b 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.[6]

Al-Tabari quoted intensively about Ka'b in his History of the Prophets and Kings.[10] Other Sunni authors also mention Ka'b and his stories with Caliphs Umar, Uthman and Muawiyah.[11]

On a website operated and owned by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs (Qatar) of the State of Qatar, one may find a fatwa on Ka’b al-Ahbar.[12]

Mention in hadith cannons[edit]

Ka'b al-Ahbar is mentioned in numerous authentic hadith canons; Sahih Muslim [1], Muwatta Malik [2] etc. One reports that the Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab appointed him personally an amir over Muslims; [3].

Shi'a view[edit]

Within the Shia tradition Ka'b 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."[13] 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."[14]

Jewish view[edit]

Ka'ab is intensively mentioned within Jewish sources as a rabbi who had influence over early Sunni Islam.[15][16][17] Liran Yagdar of Yale University said that "Christians and Jews adopted [sic] ka'b into their legends on the emergence of Islam, wishing to refute the credibility of the Quran by referring to Jewish converts such as Ka'b who corrupted Muhammads scripture from within".[18]

Influence on Islam[edit]

He has been accused in some traditions of introducing Jewish elements into Islam.[1]

It has been argued that Ka'b maybe more of a legendary figure and accounts of his life and influence on Islam have been referred to as myths.[19] According to Rabbi Joseph Schwarz (de; he) he is associated with the development of the Sunni tradition,[15][16][17]. Liran Yagdar of Yale University said that Ka'b did not have much influence on Sunni tradition and states "Christians and Jews adopted [sic] ka'b into their legends on the emergence of Islam, wishing to refute the credibility of the Quran by referring to Jewish converts such as Kab who corrupted Muhammads scripture from within".[18] Ka'b's influence is deprecated within the Shia tradition of Islam.[13][14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Schmitz, M. (1974). "KaʿB al-Aḥbār,". Encyclopaedia of Islam. 4 (2nd ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 316–317. ISBN 9004057455. 
  2. ^ Ṭabarī (1999-11-04). The History of Al-Tabari: The Sasanids, the Lakhmids, and Yemen. 5. SUNY Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-7914-4356-9. 
  3. ^ The History of al-Tabari, vol. XII, Albany: State University of New York Press 2007, pp. 194-195
  4. ^ Yusuf ibn Abd-al-Barr - al-Istiab, v3, p1287 Printed in Cairo 1380 A.H
  5. ^ Tarikh al-Tabari v4, p191 Printed by Dar al-Maarif - Cairo
  6. ^ a b Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, Op Cit., p. 135.
  7. ^ "The Companions and the Jewish Influence Part 1". Al-Islam.org. Archived from the original on 4 October 2006. 
  8. ^ "Muslimuzbekistan.com". archive.muslimuzbekistan.com. Archived from the original on 9 August 2007. 
  9. ^ Tabari - History of al-Tabari, v1, p62 - 63
  10. ^ See: Tarikh al-Tabari v4, p191, v1, p62-63. Printed by Dar al-Maarif – Cairo.
  11. ^ See: Mahmood Abu Rayyah, in his book Adhwa (lights) on AI-Sunnah AI-Muhammadiyyah, reported that Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalani, recorded in his book (Al-Isabah, part 5, page 323). Also, Yusuf ibn Abd-al-Barr – al-Istiab, v3, p1287 Printed in Cairo 1380 A.H
  12. ^ "Kab al-Ahbar". Archived from the original on 18 August 2017. 
  13. ^ a b 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"? Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine." on Al-Islam.org
  14. ^ a b The Shi'ites Under Attack by Muhammad Jawad Chirri, chapter "Did Muslims Other Than Shi'ites Borrow Religious Teachings from Jews? Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine." on Al-Islam.org
  15. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 August 2017. Retrieved 22 August 2017. 
  16. ^ a b "Yakub of Syria (Ka'b al-Ahbar) Last Jewish Attempt at Islamic Leadership - Alsadiqin English". www.alsadiqin.org. Archived from the original on 13 May 2015. 
  17. ^ a b "KA'B AL-AḤBAR - JewishEncyclopedia.com". www.jewishencyclopedia.com. Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. 
  18. ^ a b "The Ka`b al-Ahbar legends among Muslims, Christians and Jews". 
  19. ^ Frank, Daniel H. The Jews of Medieval Islam: Community, Society, and identity. London England: Institute of Jewish Studies. p. 182. it must be said that the figure of Ka'b belongs more to the realm of myth than of history