Title: A Statement by the Najdiyya Khārijites on the Dispensability of the Imamate
Author: Patricia Crone
Topic: Islam
Date: 1998
Source: Retrieved on 18th May 2021 from www.jstor.org
Notes: Published in Studia Islamica, No. 88 (1998), pp. 55–76. I should like to thank Michael Cook, Joseph van Ess, Etan Kohlberg and, last but not least, Fritz Zìmmermann for helpful comments on this article.
Editor's note: In her article Ninth-Century Muslim Anarchists, Patricia Crone explored the anarchistic tendencies within the Najdiyya Kharijites, an early Islamic sect that denied the necessity of the Imamate. In this article, Crone lays out the anti-authoritarian philosophy of the Najdiyya and their arguments against an islamic state, using translations of old texts that documented the thought of the sect.

Until recently, Khãrijite doctrine was known only from non-Khãrijite literature and a few Ibãdí works, mostly difficult of access. The systematic publication of the lìterary heritage of the Ibãdîs by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Oman has drastically changed the situation as far as the Ibãdís are concerned, but no such dramatic turn of fortune is to be expected for the extinct sects, whose literature must count as irretrievably lost except in so far as it survives in other people’s works. Other people did not tend to quote them much, however, as opposed to briefly summarize their views. The only work by a non-Ibãdí Khãrijite currently known to be extant is a long creed composed between 215/830 and 218/833 by a follower of the Sîstãnî sect which the heresiographers knew as the Hamziyya; we owe its preservation to the Ibãdîs, [1] Maybe other pieces will turn up in the Ibãdí literature, but meanwhile it may be reported that one is to be found nearer at hand: al-Shahrastãni’s Iqdãm contains a statement derived from a work by, or about, the Najdiyya. [2]

The Najdiyya

The Najdiyya or Najadät emerged along with the Azãriqa in the second civil war and retreated into obscurity after their defeat in 73/692f. It has been proposed that they disappeared soon thereafter, but they seem to have survived at the very least into the ninth century, and perhaps beyond. The Ibãdí epistle attributed to Sãlim b. Dhakwãn (probably put together c. 750–800) implies that they lived in quiescence for long enough to modify their views on their relationship with non-Najdite Muslims; al-Mubarrad (d. 286/900) observes that “many of them survive to this day”, and al-Baghdãdî (d. 429/1037), perhaps echoing an earlier source, claims that they were divided into four groups, of which one “are the Najadãt today”. [3]

The Najdiyya are notorious for having denied the obligatory nature of the imamate. [4] Contrary to what is sometimes stated in late sources and the secondary literature, [5] this was not a doctrine common to all Khãrijites. The Nukkãrî subsect of the Ibãdîs did apparently adopt it at some point, [6] but the Ibãdís at large affirmed that the imamate was prescribed by the law, [7] and other Khãrijites reportedly agreed with them. [8] A fair number of early Mu’tazilites, however, also rejected the obligatory nature of the institution, notably al-Asamm (d. 200/816 or 201/817), Hishãm al-Fuwatl (fl. c. 210/825), al-Nazzãm (d. 220-30/835-45), ‘Abbãd b. Sulaymãn (d. c. 260/874) and the so-called $ü/iyyat almu’tazila, Mutazilite ascetics. [9] The sources often report the Najdite and the Mu’tazilìte positions together, usually in a couple of lines. Al-Shahrastãnî also reports them together in his Iqdäm, but he allows unnamed adherents of the doctrine to expound their views at length, and it soon becomes clear that the adherents in question are Najadãt. What follows is a translation of al-Shahrastänì’s account, (1º) an attempt to separate its Najdite and Mu’tazilite components, and a general discussion of the doctrines it contains.


(481) (a) “The Najadãt from among the Khãrijites and number of the Qadariyya such as Abû Bakr al-Asamm and Hishãm al-Fuwatì say that the imamate does not have the obligatory legal character that would make the community liable to censure and punishment if it chose to live without it. Rather, it is based on the manner in which people deal with one another (mu’ãmalãt al-nãs). If they acted justly and cooperated and helped one another in piety and fear of God, [11] and if all legally obligated persons occupied themselves with their duties and obligations, then they could manage without the imam, (482) and without following him.

(b) For every one of the mujtabids is like the next in respect of religion, Islam, knowledge and tjtibãd. People are like the teeth of a comb, or like a hundred camels in which there is not a single female riding camel. [12] Why should they be obliged to obey someone like themselves?

(c) To this they added by way of affirmation (taqriran) that they said: The obligatory nature of obedience to a single member of the community (umma) could only be established in one of two ways, that is through designation (nass) by the Prophet but you have already shown that he did not designate anyone or through choice by the mujtabids.

(d) Now it is inconceivable in terms of both reason and fact (lã yutasaunoaru ‘aqlan uia-lã touqû/an) that there should be a unanimous choice by every single member of the community without any disagreement at all. As regards reason, since choice is based on ijtibãd and ijtibãd is based on the individual judgements with which every person of sound mind resolves his vacillations in matters of reason and authoritative information (fl ‘l-wu1·üh al- ‘aqüyya toa ‘l-sam ‘iyya), and since further this is something varied by (people’s) natures (mukbtalif fi’l-tibã’), it necessarily follows that there will be variation in the ruling (they arrive at) as well.

(e) [As regards fact] Is it not the case that the ruling which more than any other should have elicited agreement is the first caliphate? The most authoritative time for purposes of the law is the earliest time; the foremost persons in respect of trut lness and sincerity are the Companions; and the Companions most deserving of trust without suspicion or (fears of) treachery are the Muhãjirûn and the Ansãr, while the persons closest to the Messenger of God are Abü Bakr and <Umar.

(f) But consider how the Ansãr nonetheless went to the Saqifa, saying “(Let there be) a commander from us and one from you”, and how they agreed on Sa’d b. ‘Ubãda (and would have elected him) if <Umar had not obviated it by paying allegiance (to Abû Bakr) himself so that people followed him. [13]

(g) Later he said, “Verily, the allegiance to Abü Bakr was a coup (falta); God preserved (the community) from the evil it might have given rise to, but if anyone ever does anything like that again (483) you should kill him. So any man who gives allegiance to another without consulting the Muslims risks that both of them will be killed”; i.e. “I gave allegiance to Abü Bakr without consulting the community (jamã’a) and God preserved (it) from its evil, but do not do it again”. [14]

(h) So there was no agreement of the community (iuifãq al-famã’a) at the time of the allegiance (to Abü Bakr). The next morning, when (the rest of the Muslims) gave allegiance to him, the Umayyads and the Hãshimites went aside and Abü Sufyãn said to (Ali, may God be pleased with him, “Why are you letting this office go to the worst (sub-) tribe of Quraysh?”, to which (Ali replied, “You tempted us as an infidel and now you want to tempt us again as a Muslim”. [15] Al-Abbãs said something similar, for he had heard the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, [say], “You are my father and the father of the rest of the umma, the caliphate will be in your descendants for as long as night and day follow one another”. [16] (Ali, may God be pleased with him, did not go out to give allegiance (to Abû Bakr) so that (when he finally did) it was rumoured that he had (given) one oath of allegiance in secret and another in public. [17] Meanwhile Usãma b. Zayd had gone off as commander of the army, a position to which he had been appointed by the Prophet.

(i) If communal consensus (ijmã al-umma) is inconceivable in what is most important and most worthy of consideration, then we may infer that consensus can never be realized and that it does not constitute proof (dalil) in law.

(j) They continue: establishing the imamate by election is self-contradíctory in two ways. First, the elector (sãbib al-thbttyar) is imposing an obligation on the imam while setting him up, until he actually becomes imam; yet the elector is obliged to obey him as soon as he takes up the imamate. How can he claim a right to obedience by virtue of his imamate when he owes it to him? Secondly, every one of the mujtahids who elevate (candidates) to the imamate would be entitled to disagree with the imam in questions of ijtihãd by exercising his own ijtihãd. There is not a single issue on which you have prescribed obedience to the imam which such a man could not lawfully disagree with him over (484) on the basis of ifttbad. How can we make him an imam whom it is obligatory to obey if at the same time we stipulate that the muftabid may disagree with him whenever ijtibãd leads him to do so?

(k) They continue: all this shows that the imamate is not a legal duty. To be sure, if they need a chief (rais) to defend the territory of Islam and maintain the unity of the community (lit. mankind), and if further their ijtihãd leads to conclusion that they should set tip such a person to be in charge of them, then that is perfectly lawful on condition that he abides by justice and equity in his transactions, so that they are obliged to depose him and resist him if he makes wrongful decisions against anyone. This is like what they did to ‘Uthmãn and ‘Ali, may God be pleased with them, [18] for when ‘Uthmãn made those innovations of his they declared him deposed, and when he refused to step down of his own accord they killed him; and when ‘Ali accepted the arbitration, doubting his own imamate, they deposed him too and fought hìm”,

[Al-Shahrastãni leaves the subject to set out the position of the Shí’ìtes, then moves on to refutation].

(487) (l) “The Sunnis respond as follows to the doctrine of the Najadãt regarding the fundamentally non-obligatory nature, in terms of reason and law, of the imamate: in our view obligations rest on law, and the evidence ( madrak) for this duty is the consensus of the community (tjmã al-umma). The disagreement you mention regarding the choice of a particular man for the role of imam is one of the strongest [19] proofs that the imamate as such is fundamentally obligatory; for if it had not been obligatory, they would not have taken it upon themselves to find a particular person, nor would they have devoted all this attention to it”.

[Al-Shahrastãni’s refutation continues. His last point before he turns to the Shî’ites is]

(490) (s) “As for their doctrine that people could do without an imam if people behaved with justice and equity, we say that this is possible as far as reason is concerned, in the way that theoreticians can get things right in their theorizing (about things) before the coming of the law. In the normal course of events and customary way of things, however, people do not settle down on the paths of justice and law of their own accord, but only when someone forces them to do so by making them afraid and being stern with them. That only comes about through the governance of the imam, who is harsh with the evil-doer and induces fear in him with the sword.”

The component parts

Al-Shahrastãnî’s account contains two quite different arguments. The first, which is set out in a and refuted in s, denies the obligatory nature of the imamate with reference to a hypothetical situation: if people acted justly and cooperated and helped one another in piety and fear of God, and if all legally obligated persons occupied themselves with their duties and obligations, then they could manage without an imam. The rest, that is b and the long taqrir which follows, rejects the obligatory nature of the imamate in a non-hypothetical vein. Its gist is not that people could dispense with the imam, but that they can do so, and indeed that they must do so since the institution is fundamentally impossible.

The first argument is al-Asamm’s, He is widely reported to have held that -if people desisted from wrongdoing (law takãffa ‘l-nãs/law kaffu ‘an al-tazãium/maeãlim), they would not need an imam-, ( 2<>) or -ìf people acted justly (law ansafa ‘l-nãs) to one another and stopped harming one another and no badd punishments were necessary, then they could do without an ìmam. [21] Precisely what he meant by this is debatable. Though some accounts replace law by in or idbã, suggesting that he envisaged the hypothetical state as realizable, [22] he was hardly voicing belief in the perfectibility of man and future dispensability of government. Rather, his point seems to have been that since one could envisage a situation in which the imamate was superfluous, one could not show it to be obligatory on the basis of reason; and since further it was not enjoined in the Qur’ãn (as he must have taken for granted), there was no reason to think that the imamate was prescribed by the law at all: rather, it arose from mu’ãmalãt al-nãs (cf. a), i.e. it was merely a convention evolved by humans in response to needs perceived by themselves. The sources usually respond that people do not behave as they should of their own accord, i.e. reason does show the imamate to be obligatory after all, [23] or, as al-Shahrastãnî seems to argue, the law overrules reason by taking account of how people actually behave (s). There was much more to al-Asamm’s views on the imamate, but al-Shahrastãnî does not go into them, nor does he say anything that reflects the views of Hìshãm al-Fuwatî.

The rest of the account, that is b and the long affirmation, reproduces the argument of the Najdiyya. Unlike al-Asamm, the Najdiyya are reported to have rejected the obligatory nature of the imamate without reference to hypothetical conditions: “the Najdiyya from among the Khãrijites say that the umma does not need an imam or anyone else, and that they and people (in general) are only obliged to uphold the book of God in their dealings with one another”; [24] “Zurqãn relates from the Najadãt that they say that they do not need an imam and that they are only obliged to act by the book of God in their dealings with one another”; [25] “as for what the Najadãt from among the Khãrijites hold regarding people not needing an imam and only being obliged to uphold the book of God in their dealings with one another, that doctrine of theirs is worthless”. [26] When al-Bazdawî describes al-Asamm and “some Khãrijites” as denying the obligatory nature of the imamate, adding that in their view “it is only necessary for people to act by the book ... the book of God (exalted is He) suffices and makes the imam dispensable”, the argument is clearly the Najdiyya’s, not al-Asamm’s. [27] In al-Shahrastãni’s account the same is true of band the long affirmation that follows it.

This conclusion is reinforced by three further considerations. First, the argument in b-k differs from Mu’tazílìte affirmations of the dispensability of the imamate in that it displays more interest in the imam as a source of law than as a political leader. The imamate is deemed to be impossible on the grounds that all mujtabids are equally authoritative: [28] the imam would be no more authoritative than the rest; people have no reason to defer to someone no different from themselves (b), and one could not ask them to obey the imam with the proviso that they would be free to disobey him whenever their ijtihãd caused them to disagree with him (j). By contrast, nothing is deemed to be wrong with having a political leader (ra’îs), should the mujtabids regard this as desirable; the only proviso is that they must depose him if he strays from the paths of justice (k). [29] But the text displays no particular interest in this leader: it does not explain how ijtihãd can lead to agreement on him or how the problem of obedience would be solved; nor is there any sign of interest in the question how one might maintain order and conduct defence, should the mujtabids decide against a rats. or how the law in general and the budud in particular might be dispensed without an imam or quasi-imam such as the rats. or whether it would be better to have several imams/political leaders. All these were questions which preoccupied al-Asamm and other Mutazilites who held the imamate to be optional.

Secondly, b-k is structured as a defence of ijtihãd against ijmã. if the imamate were obligatory, it would be on the basis of ijmã, bt1t it is not, for ijtihãd can never lead to consensus (e-i); if the imamate existed, it would be incompatible with ijtihãd, for people cannot exercise ijtihãd and submit to other people’s reasoning at the same time (b, j). Censensus is equated with restrictive authority on a par with the imamate, and both are rejected out of hand: the imamate is an impossible institution while consensus is not a source of law (i). This is in keeping with the information that the Najdiyya permitted ijtihãd ft furü al-sbarra and rejected bujjat al-ijmã. [30] On the Mu’tazilite side it only fits the information on al-Nazzãm: and since he denied the obligatory nature of the imamate with reference to the same hypothetical argument as al-Asamm, it cannot be his argument that al-Shahrastãni is reproducing here, nor does al-Shahrastãni mention him. [31]

Thirdly, the taqrir unambiguously reveals itself as Khãrijite in k, where (Uthmãn and ‘Ali are adduced as examples of how one should deal with leaders who go astray. Several Mu’tazilites shared the Khãrijite conviction that an erring imam should be deposed and that ‘Uthmãn had been justly killed for his innovations, but only Khãrijites held that ‘All had been justly killed for falling into error by accepting the call to arbitration at Sìffîn. Al-Shahrastãni’s source explains that ‘Ali’s acceptance of the arbitration showed him to have doubted his own imamate: this was why he forfeited it. The Ibãdîs usually say that his acceptance of the call to arbitration constituted transgression of the Qur’ãnic injunction to fight an unrighteous party “till it reverts to God’s command” (Q.49:9). [32] But whatever sin ‘Ali was held to have committed when he agreed to the tabëim, the view that sin he did was specific to the Khãrijites. In short, from b to k al-Shahrastãni’s account reproduces a Najdite argument, as al-Shahrastãni himself seems to take for granted when he he turns to its refutation: “The Sunnis respond as follows to the doctrine of the Najadãt”, as he observes in l.

Al-Shahrastãni’s source

From b to k the argument is so coherent in terms of thought and terminology alike that it must be the work of a single author. It seems unlikely that it should have been composed by al-Shahrastãni, however, though the wording is likely to be his in places; [33] for it is written with a passion and eloquence that could hardly have been mustered by a polemicist stepping into the shoes of his opponents with a view to refuting them. Moreover, al-Shahrastãnî twice introduces statements with qãlü, suggesting that the piece is made up of quotations O, k); and several layers of transmission are visible in g, where the Najdiyya cite a statement by ‘Umar, adding yant and then much the same statement again. The pointless repetition would not have been made in a freshly composed account, and it suggests that somewhere along the line a Persian source was involved: a Persian source would have given ‘Omar’s statement in Arabic followed by a Persian paraphrase and whoever translated the passage into Arabic (possibly al-Shahrastãnî himself) will have translated the Persian rendition of ‘Umar’s words back into Arabic instead of dropping it. In short, al-Shahrastãni must have found the account in another work.

This is also suggested by the fact that he presents the extracts as an affirmation. Just as he summarizes the Najdite-Qadarite case for the dispensability of the ìmamate with the comment that to this they “add by way of affirmation (taqñran)”, so on reaching the Shî’ites he sets out their case for the obligatory nature of the institution with the comment that they “affirm (qarrarû dbãlika) in another way”, in both cases appending some two pages of sustained polemics in which the sectarians address their opponents in the second person plural. [34] In other words, taqñrwould seems to be the term he used to introduce sections in which sectarians were allowed to present their views in words of their own.

Wherever al-Shahrastãni may have found it, it would appear to be the same account that lies behind al-Iji’s summary of the reasons why the “Khãrijites” deny the obligatory nature of the imamate, for though the sectarians here start by claiming that the institution of an imam leads to civil war thanks to people’s different inclinations, which is closer to what they say in Nashwãn al-Himyarì’s account than in al-Shahrastãni’s, [35] they continue, “To be sure, if the community chooses to set up a commander or chief (amir aw rats) to take charge of their affairs, organize their armies and defend their land, then that is permitted to them, without them being guilty of any sin under the law if they do not”, [36] This is strikingly reminiscent of k. But al-Ijî’s account may well be a distant descendant of al-Shahrastãnî’s own, much modified by constant use in madrasa teaching.

Al-Shahrastãnî’s source comes across as quite late. It was obviously written after the ‘Abbãsid revolution, since it refers to al-‘Abbãs as the ancestor of the caliphs (b). Further, it uses expressions such as mukbtaliffi ‘l-tibã , lã yutasaunoaru ‘aqlan wa-lã touqüan and al-wujüb al’aqliyya wa ‘l-sam’iyya, which can hardly have been current before the mid-ninth century and are suggestive of an even later date; but if the source was once in Persian, its terminology could have been updated by whoever translated it back into Arabic, the most obvious candidate being al-Shahrastãnî himself. Assuming that he was not its author, it could still have been composed by a heresiographer such as Zurqãn (d. 278/891), or Abu ‘l-Qãsim al-Balkhi, alias al-Ka’bí (d. 319/93, both of whom were Mu’tazìlites, [37] or Abu ‘l-Husayn al-Karãbîsì, a Sunni mutakallim who died in 245/859, [38] or Yamãn b. Ribãb, a Khãrijite of the non-Najdite (first Tha’labí, then Bayhasi) variety, who flourished in the late eighth or early ninth century. [39] But these men only suggest themselves because most of what the sources have to say about the Khãrijites appears to go back to them. Nothing in al-Shastãni’s account points to any of them in positive terms, [40] and if the passionate eloquence of the piece makes it unlikely that al-Shahrastãnî composed it, it makes their authorship implausible as well. One would assume the piece to have been written by a Najdite. At the very least it can be said that whoever the author may have been, he allowed the Najdiyya to argue with such coherence and persuasiveness that directly or indirectly it is the Najdiyya themselves that we hear in his work.

The argument concernìng the imamate

According to the Sunnis, the imamate was an institution enjoined by the law and this was known on the basis of authoritative information (sam’), not on that of reason (‘aql), though there was no explicit text (nass) from God or the Prophet in its favour: the institition did not rest on the Qur’ãn or Hadith, but rather on consensus (ijmã): the Companions had agreed to establish such an office and subsequent generations agreed to maintain it. This is the position that al-Shahrastãni’s Najdiyya are 9ut to refute. The Sunnis further held t the proper way of filling the office was by election (ikhtiyãr), not by nass in the sense of designation (by the incumbent imam of his son), for the Prophet had not designated anyone (i.e. ‘Ali), and he had thus left the believers free to choose for themselves. The Najdiyya also held the proper way of filling the office to be by election, so one would not have expected them to raise this question in polemics against Sunnis, especially as it seems to have no bearing on that of the legal status of the institution. But al-Shahrastãni’s Najdiyya raise both questions and indeed conflate them.

The Najdiyya start by declaring that the obligatory nature of the imamate would have to rest on either designation or election ( nass, tebtiyar), not, as one would have expected, on explicit texts or consensus (nass, ijmã), or on authoritative information versus reason (sam’, ‘aql). In other words, they tie the legal status of the office to the different methods whereby its incumbent may be singled out rather than the different sources from which knowledge may be derived. But then, as one soon realizes, they are only talking about the incumbent, not an office distinct from him. “The obligatory nature of obedience to a single member of the community could only be established in one of two ways”, they say (e), and the personal rather than institutional formulation should clearly be taken seriously, for they proceed to infer from the disagreement over the election of Abu Bakr as imam that the Companions disagreed over the necessity of the imamate itself. Al-Shahrastãní reasonably retorts that disagreement about the right man for the office in no way points to disagreement over the office itself (l), [41] but the Najdiyya clearly did not agree.

The Najdiyya disagreed because their argument was based on an archaic point of view. Initially, all Muslims identified the office and its incumbent, for the imamate was by definition right leadership by the right person, not simply an office waiting to be filled by whoever came along. It had no existence independently of the right person but was rather an attribute of his. If the wrong man seized power, he was not an imam at all, merely a tyrant or king or imãm al-dalala, while conversely the right person remained the imam even if power escaped him. This is the assumption on which the Najdiyya’s argument rests. They make it clear that in their view an imam was a man on whom there was unanimous agreement (d): without such agreement, the candidate was just an ordinary ruler. If Abu Bakr’s election was contested, it would follow that the Companions did not establish an imamate at all. The Najdiyya argue that his election was in fact contested: the Sunni contention that the Companions agreed to establish the imamate is therefore false.

Though the Najdiyya deny that Abu Bakr was an imam, they do not say that he was a tyrant or king or imãm al-dalãla. They plainly approve of him: he and ‘Umar were “the persons closest to the Messenger of God” (e). What they say is that Abu Bakr was only a quasi-imam or ra îs such as the political leader that one is free to elect for purposes of order and defence: ‘Uthmãn and ‘Ali were also such quasi-imams until they went astray (cf. k). But a real imam is much more than that: he is a religious teacher, a link between man and God, a person of such manifest superiority that everyone can agree on him and accept his decisions. Had Abu Bakr been chosen by unanimous agreement, he would have been such a man; but he was not and could not have been, for unanimous agreement in matters of leadership can never in fact be achieved (d). An imam in the full sense of the word is an impossibility.

All this is documented in the section on the contested nature of Abû Bakr’s election. The Najdiyya point ot1t that the Ansãr wanted an amir for themselves and another for the Muhãjirün, or in other words the Ansãr did not want an imam at all and in view of their religious eminence they cannot have wanted something unlawful (e-j). ‘Umar himself a itted that the election of Abü Bakr had been a coup which should not be repeated, i.e. Abü Bakr had been elected without any kind of consultation (g). Abü Sufyãn, the ancestor of the Umayyad dynasty, tried to incite ‘Ali, of all people, against Abü Bakr; ‘Ali was in fact reluctant to pay allegiance to Abü Bakr, while al-Abbas was nursing hopes for his descendants; and Usãma b. Zayd left for Syria, i.e. without paying allegiance to Abû Bakr, which shows that he was not aware of a duty to pay allegiance to anyone at all (h). Where, the Najdiyya are asking, does one find the unanimous agreement that an institution so exalted as the religio-political leadership of all Muslims required? Where is the evidence that everyone wanted a wholly new type of leadership unique to Islam? All that the evidence showed was political disputes of the normal kind. Al-Shahrastãnî’s seemingly reasonable objection that disagreement over the office should be distinguished from disagreement over its incumbent would have struck the Najdiyya as absurd: the alleged agreement on the office stood and fell with the alleged agreement on Abü Bakr himself.

It is instructive to compare the Najdiyya’s argument with that of unnamed, but undoubtedly Mu’tazílìte, adherents of the optional imamate familiar to al-Jãhìz. [42] Unlike the Najdiyya, they tie the obligatory nature of the institution to sources of knowledge rather than modes of succession, i.e. to ‘aql, kbabar (the latter apparently in the sense of sam’) and unambiguous interpretation of the latter; [43] and though they too argue that Abü Bakr’s succession was contested, they do not thereby mean to cast doubt on Abü Bakr’s capacity to elicit consensus. What interests them is the altogether different question whether the Companions could be construed as acting in the knowledge that the Prophet had prescribed the imamate. This they deny on the grounds that the behaviour of the Ansãr rules it out, for the Ansãr would have been the first to know if such an order had existed, yet they said minnã amir waminkum amírwhile Sa’d b. ‘Ubãda (rather than Usãma b. Zayd) left for Syria without having paid allegiance to Abü Bakr. [44] Unlike the Najdiyya, moreover, the Mu’tazilìtes have trouble with Hadith, They stress that when the Ansãr abandoned their plans for a leader of their own, they did not do so in response to Abû Bakr and ‘Umar’s citation of the Prophetic tradition “the Imams are of Quraysh” or to the claim that “we are the imams and you are the wazîrs”, for the Ansãr did not see any bujja in these statements, as is clear from the fact that Sa’d b. ‘Ubãda got angry and left. [45]

Al-Iãhíz’ Mu’tazìlites and al-Shahrastãni’s Najdiyya are thus fielding different arguments, the obvious similarities notwithstanding. Both focus on the behaviour of the Companions, but the former wish to know what it tells us about the Prophet and worry about Hadith, the latter wish to know what it tells us about Abü Bakr and worry about ijmã’; the former distinguish between the institution and its first incumbent, arguing that the institution is optional; the latter conflate the two, arguing that the institution is impossible. Both are nonetheless told by their opponents that the succession disputes fail to disprove the obligatory nature of the institution. [46] Since this is not a good argument in al-Jãhiz’ case, one assumes that he adduced it as a matter of routine, the retort having become conventional already by his time. Since further it is an excellent argument in al-Shahrastãnî’s case, it corroborates the impression that the Najdiyya’s argument was rooted in early discussions.

Unlike the Mu’tazilites, they clearly had not responded by abandoning the conflation. On the contrary, they convey a strong impression of playing it up, just as they play up the degree of unanimity required for the imamate to exist, because this made it easier to reject the institution: it was a form of leadership so elevated and rested on consensus in a sense so stringent that it would have to be dismissed as utopian along with ijmã itself.

Originally, the Najdiyya probably rejected the imamate because they wished to free themselves from the obligation to rebel: if the true imamate had never existed and never could, there was no reason why the Najdiyya should risk their lives by trying to set one up. But the original motivation, if such it was, is not apparent in al-Shahrastãnî’s account.

Here their message seems rather to be that they did not want any political or religious authority between themselves and God, be it in a state of quiescence or otherwise. They grant that one may wish to elect a political leader, i.e. under conditions of revolt or independence, but this ra’is would be an ordinary human leader answerable to the believers themselves. He would not be an imam, for one cannot elect such a person (j”): the election would have to be unanimous, which is impossible (d); ( 47) and the imam would not have any religious authority over and above that possessed by everyone else (b,j). The Shi’ìtes agreed: it would indeed be nonsensical to have an elected imam; this was why the imam had to be someone singled out by God Himself. [48] But the Najdiyya did not think that God complied with human wishes in this respect and so they concluded that no such thing as an imam existed.

The argument for ijtibãd over ijmã’

The key idea in al-Shatãnî’s account is that all mujtabids are equal, with a strong suggestion that every Najdite was a mujtabid.

There is no difference between one mujtabid and the next, the text says in b, for people (al-nãs) are like the teeth of a comb and like a hundred camels without a single riding camel; and in d it equates the mujtabids who elect the ímam with “every member of the community” (kullu uabiâ min al-umma) and “people of sound mind” (at-uqala’), All Najdites were equally authoritative, then: no imam could compel them to defer to his authority, nor could the collective body compel them to defer to an alleged consensus, past or present, for ijmãwas not a source of law at all (i). Every Najdite of sound mind was responsible for his own religion.

That the Najdiyya thought of ijtibãd in a radically egalitarian vein is corroborated by their famous doctrine of excuse through ignorance. The Najdiyya divided the religion into t · gs that one was obliged to know and things regarding which it was excusable to be ignorant, a distinction also made by the Jbädïs. According to the Najdiyya, it was obligatory to know God, His messengers, the sanctity of Muslim (i.e. Najdite) lives and property, and to affirm the revelation in its entirety. All this was essential, but the rest was not, and ignorance about it was permitted. If one mistakenly declared a forbidden matter of the non-essential kind to be la 1 on the basis of ijtibãd because one did not know any better, then one was excused, for God would not punish a muftabid for a mistaken conclusion reached in ignorance. Anyone who thought otherwise was an infidel. [49]

All one needed to be a Najdite, then, was knowledge of the essentials, and all one needed to be a mujtabtd was knowledge of the same. The mistaken conclusions that such minimally qualified persons might reach were forgivable, though they had to abandon their errors if they could be demonstrated to them. [50] No wonder that the epistle of Sãlim b. Dhakwãn depicts the Najdiyya as a sect with which every kind of heinous sin was tolerated. [51] The Najdite doctrine is quite different from that expressed in the famous dictum that “everyone who excercises independent reasoning is right” (kullu muftabid mustb), for this dictum presupposes that ijtibãd is applied to questions on which certainty cannot be, or at least has not yet been, reached, and that the mujtabid is a qualified scholar, whereas Najdite ijtibãd was the sort of reasoning that everyone will engage in when no answer is readily available whether the answer is known to the experts or not. The Najdiyya were saying that freedom of religious thought was preferable to authority and conformity. As long as the essential body of doctrines was protected, it did not matter if people disagreed, or even if they were wrong. Anybody who rejected the mujtabids’ freedom to decide for themselves, however mistakenly, in matters not covered by the essentials ipsofacto ceased to be a member of the community,

Najdite-Mu’tazilite Interaction

Van Ess has suggested that the Mu’tazilìte believers in the optional imamate, notably al-Asamm and his school, developed their views under Khãrijite influence. [52] There is a good case for this view. More precisely, the Mu’tazìlìte and the Khãrijite conceptions of the imamate come across as different developments of the same basic stock of ideas, which will have been freely available in Basra. There were not only Khãrijite, but also Mu’tazilìte adherents of the views that the imam owed his position to communal agreement, indeed unanimity, [53] that he had to be the most pious and meritorious person but not necessarily a Qurashi, [54] that he had to be deposed if he strayed, [55] that it would be easier to depose him if he were a non-Arab devoid of tribal support, [56] that ‘Uthmãn had been rightly deposed and killed for his innovations, [57] that the community was free to dispense with the imamate altogether and that a plurality of imams might be acceptable too. [58] On the Khãrijite side only the Najdiyya believed in the dispensability of the imamate, [59] while only the Ibãdìyya permitted several imams, and both did so in a different vein from the Mu’tazilites. [60] But it is certainly hard to avoid the impression that the two sides developed their ideas in interaction.

There are three further suggestions of interaction on the Najdite side. First, as seen already, both the Najadãt and al-Iãhiz’ presumed Mu’tazilites adduced the Ansãrî minnã amir wa-minkum amírand other disagreement over the succession to Muhammad in support of their denial that the imamate was prescribed by the law. Secondly, both the Najdiyya and the Mutazilite believers in the optional imamate arrived at their conclusion via a conviction that the imamate was a unique and exalted institution. The sufiyyat al-mutazila, for example, argued that government in Islam was quite different from that of other nations, for other nations had kings who enslaved their subjects whereas the Muslims did not; but since the imams of the Muslims now tended to develop into kings, whom one was obliged- to depose, and since further one could not depose them without destructive civil war, it was now better not to have an imam at all: [61] Unlike the Najdiyya, all the Mutazilites accepted that the institution had been real in the past; they merely said that it could no longer be maintained because it kept turning into kingship, [62] or because the community had grown too large for agreement on its leader [63] or too sinful for agreement on the truth. [64] In short, the imamate had become utopian. The position of the Najdiyya, if the interpretation of al-Shahrastãní’s fragment proposed here is correct, was that the imamate had always been utopian: agreement had never prevailed, even Abû Bakr had only been a righteous ra’is.

Finally, Mu’tazìlìtes such as Dìrãr; Hafs al-Fard and Abü ‘l-Hudhayl are reported to have accepted Abü Bakr’s superior merit on the basis of independent reasoning (here qiyãs) and historical reports (kb abar) about the general agreement on his imamate (ijtimã al-nãs ‘alaybi wari . — um bi-imãmatibi), adding that the community would never agree on an error. [65] They did not thereby mean to assert that the imamate was prescribed by the law (though they would all appear to have accepted this), only that Abü Bakr had been a valid imam in his time. But the Najadãt will not have accepted, or even seen, the distinction, and it could be this very doctrine, rather than Sunni equivalents, that they are out to squash in al-Shastãni’s fragment. It would explain why they base their position entirely on historical reports and independent reasoning, and rail against ijmã without wasting words on Sunni Hadith.

The Najdiyya and the Mu’tazilítes developed their common ideas in different ways because they lived in different worlds. Both started from a conviction that the imamate had ceased to be practicable, but this was an easier conclusion for the Mu’tazílites to reach than for the Najdites. The Mutazilites moved in circles in which it was widely accepted· that the true imamate had only lasted for a short time and could not be restored: the Prophet himself had predicted that it would only last for thirty years, as Sunni Hadith says. The normal response was to cling to the imperfect ‘Abbãsìd form in which it survived, but it is hardly surprising that there were some who looked for alternatives: why stick with an institution that could never be more than a quasi-imamate? Shî’ísm apart, the only alternative was to do without an imam or to have several, either of which presupposed that the original imamate was not a God-given institution. Since the Mu’tazilìtes who considered these options were animated by a concern to find an alternative to the caliph, they could not ignore the question how one might enforce the law, dispense the budud and maintain order if one chose to do without him, and they duly discussed these questions. They must also have been asked how the community would manage in religious terms, for many Mu’tazilìtes persisted in seeing the caliph as a source of religious instruction, including al-Nazzãm if Pseudo-Nãshí’ is to be trusted; [66] but on this question their answers do not seem to survive, possibly because they were deemed unremarkable: that the imam had no say in the definition of the religion was after all becoming generally accepted.

The Najdiyya, on the other hand, were members of a wider sect which had never recognized the ‘Abbãsids and which deemed the establishment of a true imamate to be a prime duty of the believers: to the Ibãdîs, the fact that the institution had gone wrong under ‘Uthmãn and his successors merely showed that one should try again. But the Najadãt had tried and failed in the second civil war and they no longer wished to persevere. In principle they could have historicized the institution on a par with the Mu’tazilìtes, arguing that it had been real in the past but that now it had become utopian so that there was no longer any duty to rebel in order to establish it. But in practice they are likely to have felt that so fundamental a duty needed a more radical denial to be safely abolished, especially as the Ibãdís and Sufrîs were successfully establishing imamates in North Africa and Oman. Consequently, they took the drastic step of denying that the institution had ever existed. All that had existed was a quasi-imamate that one was free to have or not to have as one wished, very much as the Mutazilites said about the quasi-imamate of the ‘Abbãsìds, ln the Najdite case, however, the quasiimam was a hypothetical figure in that he was the leader of a Najdite polity that did not exist and never would. The Najdiyya thus had no reason to speculate how the law might be applied, the budud dispensed or order maintained in his absence, or to consider whether a plurality of leaders would be a better idea. All that interested them was religious authority.

Like other Muslims, the early Khãrijites accepted the imam as a religious as well as political leader. The Ibãdîs even continued to call him khalifat allãh. [67] He owed his authoritative position to the fact that he was generally acknowledged to be more learned and pious, and thus more likely to be right, than everyone else, and he had to be obeyed in all respects as long as his superiority held; the Najadãt are depicted as obeying, and eventually disobeying, Najda himself along such lines at the time of their emergence. [68] They could have retained the imamate as a purely religious institution in Basra, or wherever they lived; but they emphatically did not want it. Nor did they want ijmã, It may well have been ijmã, rather than the imamate that they saw as the main threat by the time of al-Shahrastãnî’s source, but they contrived to reject them together. There is no parallel to their concatenation of the dispensability of the imamate and the invalidity of ijmã on the Mu’tazilite side, nor would the Mu’tazilìtes have approved of the spirit in which it is made, for anti-authoritarian though some Mutazilites may have been in political matters, they all saw themselves as forming an intellectual elite. But the Najdiyya formed a sect rather than an elite, and what their joint rejection of the ìmamate and ijmã amounted to was an assertion of intellectual equality within it.


The Najdite doctrine is the most radical affirmation of intellectual and political freedom encountered in the formative centuries of Islam. The need for political authority was acknowledged, but the quasi-imam that one might or might not elect for purposes of internal order and defence owed his position to the community, maintained it by deference to his electors’ notions of justice and lost it when they ceased to approve of hìm, He was their agent and had no source of legitimate power other than their agreement on him. As far as government was concerned, the Najadãt certainly did not reject consensus; on the contrary, they insisted on it as a safeguard against tyranny, the subjection of humans to humans.

The need for religious authority was emphatically denied. Neither the ruler (imam or quasi-imam) nor the community could impose their views on anyone who knew the essentials and thought for himself. There did of course have to be agreement on the essentials: otherwise the community would not exist. It was also clear that some people would reach conclusions which were demonstrably wrong: others would have to show them where their error lay. But anyone could do this, and no penalty attached to such mistakes, which were the inevitable by-product of reasoning by fallible and sometimes poorly educated human beings. It was not desirable that such reasoning should be replaced by unquestioned obedience to authority. As far as intellectual life was concerned, the Najdiyya emphatically rejected consensus, for here it was on a par with imams: both stood for the subjection of humans to humans. Politically and intellectually, every Najdite was an autonomous person subject only to God.

The Najdite doctrine owed its viability among its adherents to the fact that the Najdite community was very small, and probably also homogeneous. The obverse of the libertarian principles which prevailed within the community was extreme intolerance of outsiders. All non-Najdites were classified as idolatrous infidels who did not in principle enjoy any legal protection whatever, so that they could be indiscriminately slaughtered, despoliated and enslaved. In practice the Najdiyya lost their urge to fight their qawm (as non-Khãrijite Muslims were known) after their great revolt in the second civil war, and like the Sufrís they seem to have adopted a double set of rules whereby it was lawful to have legal relations with the alleged infidels in the abode of taqiyya, meaning that one could intermany with them, inherit from them and so forth, whereas it was unlawful to have such relations in the abode of ‘alãntya. all ties would have to be cut if the believers made a bijra to establish a polity of their own. [69] The Najdiyya seem to have lived amicably enough with their Mu’tazilite and other neighbours, but their narrow definition of who was and was not a Muslim spared them the painful task of considering how far their libertarian ideas might work if the community were redefined to include the vast majority of Muhammad’s followers. It was the Sunnis who undertook this task, and what they lost in the way of libertarianism they gained in communal solidarity over geographical and social distances that the Najdiyya could barely have dreamed of. The Najdite ideal must be seen as an Islamic restatement of the small face-to-face society of the tribal past in which no free man had been subjected to another in either political or religious terms. Extraordinarily modern though their vision sounds, it was too conservative to survive.

[1] The creed was composed by one Abû ‘l-Fadl b. Fürak al-Khãriji and is presented with comments by the Omani scholars Muhammad b. Mahbùh (d. 260/8730 and Abü Sa’ld al-Kudami (fl. fourth/tenth century) in Abû ‘Abdallãh Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Kindi, Bayõn al-sbar, iii, Oman 1988, 277–94; also in Jumayyil b. Khamis al-Sa’dí, Qãmüs at-sbarra, Zanzibar 1297–99, viii, 285–95, citing al-Kindi. A new edition and translation has been promised by A. Paketchy; meanwhile, see P. Crone and F. Zimmermann (ed. and tr.), Tbe Epistle of Sãltm b. Dbakuiõn, Oxford, forthcoming, ch. 8, where the creed is briefly discussed.

[2] Al-Shahrastãni, Kttãb Ntbãyat al-tqdãm (or aqdãm) ft ‘tim at-ëalãm, ed. and tr. A. Guillaume, London 1934, 48lff — 152f.

[3] Crone and Zìmmermann, Epistle, ch. 5; al-Mubarrad, at-Kãmtt, ed. Z. Mubãrak and A. M. Shãkir, Cairo 1936–7, iii, 913.7; al-Baghdãdl, al-Farq bayna ‘l-flraq, cd. M. Badr, Cairo 1328, 69.-2.

[4] The documentation is given below, notes 24–26.

[5] E.g al-Ïji, at-Mauiõqtf, Cairo 1907, viii, 348.tilt., 392.-6; al-Sanandajî, Taqrib al-marãm fi tabdbdïb al-kalãm, Bulaq 1319, ii, 322; E. A. Salem, Political Theory and lnstttutions of the Khatoõrtj, Baltimore 1956, 51f (with reference to these two sources), H. Laoust, Essat sur les doctrines sociales et politiques de Tatä-d-Dtn Ahmad b. Taimtyya, Cairo 1939, 282; A. K. S. Iarnbton, state and Gouernment in Medieval Islam, Oxford 1981, 23 (with reference to Laoust).

[6] Al-Jannãwuni, Kitãb al-toad’, ed. Abü Ishãq Ibrãhîm Atfayyish, sixth printing, Oman (Maktahat al-istiqãma) n.d., 23 and note 1 thereto: R. Rubinacci, “La professione die fede di al-Gannãwunl”, A1111ali de/l’Istituto Orientale dt Napoli NS 14, 1964, 588.

[7] Cf. jannâwunl in the preceding note; Abû ‘Ammãr, below, note 26; al-Bisyãnl in S. T. Kãshif (ed.), al-Styar ua’l-fauãtat ti-ïulamã’ uia-a’tmmat ‘Umã11, Cairo 1986, i, 77.6, ii, 175.

[8] Cf. Shahrastãni, ïqdãm, 478.6; Nashwãn al-Himyari, a/-Hür at-tn, ed. K. Mustafa, Cairo 1948, 150.2; al-Nu’mân b. Muhammad b. Mansür, Da’ã’im al-tstãm, ed. A. ‘A. A. Faydi, Cairo 1969, i, 39.6.

[9] Cf. J. van Ess, Tbeologte1111d Gesellschaft im 2. und .3. [abrbundert Htdscbra, Berlin and New York 1990–97 (hereafter TG), ii, 408ff (al-Asamm); iii, 132 (sï{iyyat al-mu tazüa), iii, 416 (al-Nazzãrn): iv, 14f, 44; vi, 234, 269f, no. 39, 102, 106–8 (Hishãm al-Fuwatî, ‘Abbãd b. Sulaymän): cf. also id.. ‘Une lecture à rebours de l’histoire du Mu’tazllisrne’, Revue des Etudes Islamiques 47, 1979, 21ff (al-Asarnm): id., ‘al-Asarnrn’, in E/2, Supplement, 56

[11] Cf. Qur, 5:2.

[12] For these expressions, see L. Marlow, Hierarchy and Egalttartanism i11 Islamic Tbougbt, Cambridge 1997, 18, 21.

[13] Cf. W. Madelung, The Succession to Muhammad, Cambridge 1997, cl1. l .

[14] Cf. al-Tabarî, Ta ..ñkb al-rusul ioa ‘l-mulue, ed. M.. J. dc Gocje and others, Leiden 1879–19()1 (hereafter Tab.), i, 1822; Madelung, Succession, 30.

[15] Compare Tab. i, 1827f.

[16] Compare the traditions in which the Prophet says of al-Abbãs that he “is my father, my uncle, my legatee and my heir” (Ibn al-Jawzi, at-Maudüãt, Dãr al-fikr 1403, ii, 31; al-Shawkãni, at-Paioãtä a/majmüa fi ‘l-a’1ãtlitb at-maioäüa, ed. (A.-R. Y. al-Mu’allã al-Yamãni, Matba’at al-sunna al-muharnmadiyya 1398, 402). I owe these references to Amikam F.lad.

[17] Many early sources say that ‘Ali withheld allegiance for six months, until Fãtima died, or until he was shunned or forced to pay allegiance (e.g. Tab, i, 1820, 182Sf; cf. Madclung, Succession, 43f). Others said that he paid allegiance straightaway (e.g. T~1lJ. i, 1825). Later Sunnis disposed of the former reports by presenting the delayed baya as a mere renewal of the first (cf. Ibn Kathlr, a/-Bidãya toa ‘l Ntbõya, v, Cairo 1351, 249f, 286. I owe both the reference and the thought that goes with it to Hossein Modarressi). That the first oath of allegiance was taken in secret was a natural inference, though not one that Ibn Kathir seems to have made.

[18] The blessings are clearly later additions.

[19] Reading ada/lt (cf. 154, note 2) or autã with 487, note 5) al-dalãüfor adba//a al-datü.

[21] ‘Abd al-Iabbâr; Mt1gb11i, xx/I, cd. ‘A.-H. Mahrnüd and S. Dunyã, Caire) n.d., 48.4.

[22] “Some Mu’tazilites, both ancient and recent ones ...say that if the cornrnunity is just (i11 ‘ada/at al-umma) and there is no sinner in it, then it does not need an imam” (al-Mas’ûdi, Murüj a/-dbabab, ed. C. Barbier de Meynard and A. J. B. Pavet de Courteille, Paris 1861–77, vi, 25; ed. C. Pellat, Beirut 1966–7, par. 2258); “it is transmitted from al-Asamrn ....that it (the imamate) is not obligatory when the members of the community act justly to one another (idbã tanãsafat al-umma) and don’t do eachother any harm” (Ibn Abi ‘l-Hadid, .. Sbarb nabj a/-ba/ãgba, ed. M. A.-F. Ibrâhlm, Caire) 1965–67, ii, 308f — van E$, TG, v, 207f, no. 33, with further references).

[23] Al-Jãl)i~, ‘Fi ‘1-jawãbãt fi ‘l-imãrna’ in his Rasãil, ed. ‘A.-S. M. Hârün, Cairo 1965–79, iv, 287ff; ‘Abd al-Jabbãr, al-Mugbnì, xx/I, 48.

[24] Al-Nawbakhti, Ftraq al-sbra. ed. H. Ritter, Istanbul 1931, 10 (a11 nuqtma eitãb a/lãb etc).

[25] Ash’arî, 125.11, reading yamalû bt-ettãb a/lãb with the note. Cf. also al-Ka’hî below, note 29.

[26] Abü ‘Ammãr, a/-Müjaz, ed. ‘A. ‘“fãlibi tinder the title Ãrã al-kbauãrt} al-ëalãmtyya, Algiers 1978, ii, 233.3.

[27] Al-Bazdawl, U.,,ï1/ at-dtn. cd. H. P. Linss, Cairo 1963, 186 = 1’G, v, 207. Van Ess takes the argument to be al-Asamm’s (TG, ii, 410 and note 15 thereto) .

[28] For Ijtibãd in connection with caliphal election, compare the Zaydi Sulaymãn I)..Tarir al-Raqqi (fl. 16osn80s): the Companions elected Abü Bakr on the basis of ijtibãd, for one has to use fjtibãd whenever there is no nass; the mistake they had made in not electing ‘Ali was accordingly minor (Pseudo-Nâshi’ in J. van Ess (ed.), Prübe Mu’tazttittscbe Hãresiographte, Beirut 1971, par. 69; cf. van Ess, TG, ii, 478f).

[29] It is presumably this optional rats that Nawbakhti has in mind with his statement that the Najdiyya deny the need for an imam “or anyone else” (above, note 24). Cf. also al-Ka’bi’s report in al-Shahrastâni, Kitãb al-mila/ 1,,a’l-11ibal, cd. W. Cureton, London 1846, i, 92 (almost identically in Ïji, Mai,,ãqif, viii, 393f): “The Najadãt agree that people have no need of an imam at al], they arc only obliged to act justly to one another. But should they find that this cannot lJC achieved without an imam to force them so that they set one up, then that is allowed”. Here the imam they may set tip is presumahly the man elsewhere labelled a rats.

[30] Baghdãdl, Usül, 19.6, 11 .

[31] Van E.55, TG, iii, 385, 416; cf. vi, 195 (• Nawbakhtl, Piraq, 100.

[32] Crone and Zimmermann, f:Pistle, ch. 4.

[33] When he has the Najdiyya declare that “you have already shown that he did not designate anyone” (e), one would assume them to be referring to Iqdãm, 480, on ai-qauüfl taytn al-tmãm, though no specific reference seems to be intended when they speak of issues “on which you have prescribed obedience” (j).

[34] Iqdãm, 485.8.

[35] According to Nashwãn, 150, the Najdiyya, 1:fashwiyyaand some Murii’a reject the obligatory nature of the imamate on the grounds that it is only allowed to set tip an imam if it can be done without war and bloodshed; if not, it is better for every man to apply the law, ìncludíng the budtd, among his kinsmen and neighbours. Compare also Sanandaji, Taqñb al-marãm, ii, 322: the Khãrijites say that the establishment of an imam leads to flhia and wars thanks to people’s different views and that it is only allowed to set tip an imam in case of agreement. The Najdite contribution to this account appears to be largely or wholly limited to the observation that people’s different natures lead to disagreement (cf. above d: below, note 47). That every man could apply the f?udüd among his kinsmen and neighbours is the argument of the unnamed, but probably Mutazìlíte, believers in the optional imamate discussed by Jãl)i;, in his :Jawãbãt fi ‘l-ìmãma’ tRasãû, iv, 286.5–9). TI1e rest may be Sunni (Murji’ite and Hashwite), cf. below, notes 42, 47.

[36] Ïji, Maivãqif, viii, 348f.

[37] Van Ess, TG, iv, 119ff; cf. above, note 25, where Ash’arî cites Zurqãn on the Najadãt; Sezgin, Gescbtcbte, 622f. Whether Zurqän denied the necessity of the imamate along with the Najdiyya we do not know, but Ka’bi did not, cf. Ïji, Mauaqtf, viii, 345.9 (he held it to be obligatory on the basis of reason and authoritative information alike).

[38] F. Sezgin, Gescbtcbte des arabtscben Schrifttums, i, Leiden 1967, 599f.

[39] H. Ritter, ‘Philologica III. Muhammedanísche Häresiographen’, Der Islam 17, 1929, 35; W. Madelung, ‘The Shi’ite and Khãrijite Contribution to Pre-Ash’arìte Kalãm’, in P. Morewedge (cd.), Islamic Pbttosopbtcal Theology, Albany 1979, 127; M. Cook, Early Muslim Dogma, Cambridge 1981, 98f.

[40] Al-Ka’bì, whose date, Mu’tazilìte persuasion and Iranian whereabouts (towards the end of his life) combine to make him the most obvious candidate at first sight, can be practically ruled out on the grounds that Nashwãn al-Hìmyarî used his work without displaying any familiarity with al-Shahrastãnl’s fragment, cf. above, note 35.

[41] Ïji makes the same point (Mawãqif, viii, 346.6), though not specifically against the Najdiyya.

[42] Al-Jã~i~, Rasati, iv, 290ff; cf. van Es..5, 7’G, ii, 410 and note 16 thereto, where they arc also taken to be Mu’tazìlitcs, indeed pupils of al-Asarnrn, There is a problem here in that Nashwãn presents the Najdiyya, J:Iashwiyya and some Murjí’a as rejecting the necessity of the ìrnamatc on grounds that seem to come partly from Jãhiz’ account (cf. above, note 35; compare also Jãhiz, Rasati, iv, 285, and Nashwãn, 151.10). TI1is suggests that he took jãhlz to be talking of Murjì’ites, or even Hashwiyya, rather than Mu’tazìlítes. It is also possible that he knew of Sunnís (Murji’ites and J:bshwiyya) who held the avoidance of bloodshed to be more important than the establishment of the imamate and conflated their views with those of Jãhiz’s people, whom he took to be Najdiyya. But either way he must be wrong.

[43] Jãhiz, Rasati, iv, 290.9–11.

[44] Jãhiz, Rasãtl, iv, 290f; compare Ps.-Nãshì’, par. 82 (- TG, v, 329), where some Mu’tazilites deny the obligatory nature of the imamate on the grounds that if it had been a religious duty, the Prophet would have instituted it (nassa ‘alaybã) by appointing someone, just as he instituted (nassa ‘atã) the qibla, prayer and alms.

[45] Jãhiz, Rasati, iv, 293.

[46] Jãhiz, makes this point at Rasãtl, iv, 306.

[48] Al-Qadi al-Nu’mãn even adduces the same argument as the Najdiyya in his Datam, i, 39f: how could people agree on one man, given their different dispositions and persuasíonsî They did not in fact agree on Abü Bakr.

[49] Ash’arî, 90f; Baghdädì, Parq, 67f; Nashwãn, 170; Shahrastãni, Mt/a/, i, 91.

[50] The excuse was only valid as long as the muftabtâ had not seen the J?ußa against him.

[51] Sãlim, 111, 82, in Crone and Zimmermann, Epistle: cf. the commentary thereto and the discussion in ch. 5.

[52] TG, ii, 41 lf (where the influence is envisaged as Ibãdl rather than Najdite or mixed).

[53] The Mu’tazilites said that the imamate was established by reflexion, election and tjmã alumma (Nawbakhti, 10); for al-Asamm’s insistence on consensus, or even unanimity, see Ash’ari, 460.6; Baghdãdi, Parq, lS0.4; Shahrastãni, i, Mt/a/, 19; van Ess, TG, ii, 408ff.

[54] T11us Dirãr and Hafs al-Fard (Ps.-Nãshi’, par. 93 — 1-C, v, 248; Nawbakhti, 10; Baghdãdí, Usial, 275); al-Nazzãm (Nawbakhti, 1Of), some Mu’tazìlìtes, including al-Nazzãm (Nashwãn, 1S2); the presumed Mu’tazilites in Jãhiz (Rasãü, iv, 258), most Mu’tazllìtes (Bazdawi, Usü, 187), the Mu’tazílítes without further qualification (Nawbakhti, 10); or the Mutazilítes in their entirety (stc, Mas’üdî, Murüj, vi, 24; ed. Pellat, iv, par. 22S7; cf. also iii, 107; ed. Pellat, ii, par. 9SS — TG, v, 248).

[55] Thus Dirãr and Hafs al-Fard, who would prefer a non-Arab because he would be easier to depose (Nawbakhti, 10; Ps-Nãshi’, par. 93 — TG, v, 248). Similarly the Mu’tazilite ascetics (Ps.-Nãshi’, par. 82 — TG, v, 3290.

[56] Cf. the previous note. On the Ibãdl side the argument turns tip in the deliberations leading to the election of ‘Abd al-Rahmãn b. Rustum in North Africa in 161m8 (reported by Ibn Saghir on Ibãdi authority in A. de Motylinski (ed.), ‘Chronique d’íbn Saghir stir les imams Rostemides de Tahert’, Actes du XIV Congrë: Internattonat des Onentattstes, Alger 1905, Paris 1908, 9). It seems to be hy mere confusion that it is reported as an Jbãd! doctrine in Bazdawi, Usië, 187.

[57] Thus Dìrãr and Bìshr b. al-Mu’tamír (van Ess, TG, iii, S7, 130), both reflecting a Kufan rather than Basran environment. For a passionate Ibãdl defence of this view, sec the second part of Sãlim’s epistle in Crone and Zimmermann, Epistle.

[58] Cf. above, note 9.

[59] The Ibãdis never thought that humans might be able to live without authority, as van Ess implies in connection with al-Nazzãm (TG, iii, 416); cf. note 9.

[60] Al-Asamm thought that it would be positively preferable to have a plurality of imams in his own time (Ps-Nãshi’, pars. 103f- TG, v, 208), and his presumed pupils speak of one imam, several or none as equally good solutions (Jãhiz, Rasãtt, iv, 285). But to the Ibãdis, a single imam remained the ideal. Muhammad b. Mahbüb (d. 26o/8730 accepts a plurality in a spirit of regret: though there cannot be two imams in one misr, there can be one in each as Jong as their jurìsdìctions arc separate; stich an imam is not amîr al-mu’minin, however, for this title is reserved for a man who rules all the ab/ al-qibla after the fashion of Abü Bakr and ‘Umar (in Kãshif, Styar; ii, 265ff; cited by Bisyãni, ibid., 186, cf. also 191; cf. also J. C. Wilkinson, Tbe tmamate Tradttton of Oma11, Cambridge 1987, 163–69). It was apparently Abü Sufyãn Mal)büb b. al-Rahíl (fl. c. 200/815 who first formulated this view (ibid., 268; cf. Crone and Zìmmermann, Epistle, appendix 1, for his date).

[61] Ps.-Nãshi’, par. 83 — TG, v, 329f.

[62] Thus the Mu’tazilite ascetics (cf. the preceding note).

[63] A4i al-Asamm seems to have argued. According to him, the last caliph to elicit consensus was Mu’ãwiya (Ash’ari, 456 — TG, v, 204, with numerous further references); there could be no real agreement on the imam now, nor could he control his subjects or cooperate with unknown people of merit in distant provinces, so it would be better to have a federation of imams (Ps-Nãshí’, par. 104 — TG, v, 208).

[64] Thus Hlshãm al-Fuwati: the cornmunìry which was not of one will and which sinned and killed its ruler had no need of an imam (Hìshãrn in Baghdädì, Farq, 149f; td., U~ül, 271.15 = TG, vi, 234, with further references; also pt1t in the mouth of ‘Abbäd, cf. Ibn J:Iazm in TG, vi, 269). T11c last legitimate caliph was ‘Ali, for the agreement that it was possible to have an imam came to an end when he died; Muslims should now rebel when they could in order to do what the imam used to do, or they should take the law into their own hands (‘Al)l)ãd in Ash’arl, 459, 465, 467 — TG, vi, 2690.

[65] Nawbakhtî, 11 (• TG, vi, 195f, with discussion); similarly Ps.-Nãshì’, 52, par. 87 (= TG, v, 249). Van Ess is surely right that Nawbakhti’s citation of al-Nazzãm’s views comes to an end with the passage labelled din TG, so that al-Nazzãm is not among those who held that the community would never agree on an error.

[66] Ps.-Nâshì’, par. 85, where he is among the Mu’tazilltes who held that the imam must be at-afdat because he is the one who yu’addibu ‘l-umma ua-yu’arrtfubã maiütm dtntbã. But the adherents of this view are described as believers in the obligatory nature of the imamate in the previous paragraph, and al-Nazzãm held it to be optional. Perhaps his presence here is mistaken, but it certainly seems to have been possible to combine belief in the optional nature of the imamate with the conviction that if one were to have an imam, he had to be a superior person capable of teaching the community. Al-Asamm said that the Prophet’s governors had functioned as local imams: each one had executed the normal functions of government and taught people the taus of Islam; this was why it would be lawful to have several imams now (Ps.-Nãshi’, par. 103). And a fair number of the Baghdadi Mutazilites who held the imamate to be optional were Zaydi sympathizers, including the famous Sahl b. Salâma alAnsãñ (W. Madelung, ‘The Vigilante Movement of Sahl b. Salãma al-Khurãsãnl and the Origins of Ijanbalism Reconsidered’, journal of Turkish Studies 14, 1990 (Festschrift Fabir Iz), 335; van Bss, 7tl, iii, 174, where Sahl is reasonably, but probably wrongly, seen as violating the convictions of al-Asamm and the Mu’tazilite ascetics by offering the caliphate to a Hasanid).

[67] Wã’il b. AyyCib in Kãshif, Styar; ii, 57.11; Abü ‘l-Mu’thir, ibtd., i, 157.8; unknown to J>. Crone and M. Hinds, God’s Caltpb, Cambridge 1986, 12, 57.

[68] Ash’arî, 89f, 91f.