Abu l-Khattab

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Abū l-Khaṭṭāb Muḥammad b. Abī Zaynab al-Miqlāṣ al-Asadī (Arabic: اَبُوالخَطّاب مُحَمَّد بن أبی زَینَب المِقلاص الأَسَدی), also known as al-Barrād al-Ajdaʿ (Arabic: البَرّاد الأَجدَع), is the founder of the Ghali sect of Khattabiyya. He was also among the revolutionaries of the begging of the Abbasid era. He is also counted among the founders of Isma'ilism and one of the Abwab (Gates) of the Nusayriyya.

Biographical Information

Al-Miqrizi mistakenly mentions his name as Muhammad b. Abi Thawr or Abi Zayd. Al-'Allama al-Hilli also mentions Zayd as his name mistakenly. His teknonym was Abu l-Khattab, but he is mentioned in some sources also as Abu Isma'il, Abu l-Tayyibat (or Abu l-Zabyat or Abu l-Zayban).

In some sources, the epithet al-Barrad (or al-Zarrad) is also mentioned. In Nusayri sources, the epithet al-Kahili (and sometimes al-Kabuli) is mentioned for him.

Abu l-Khattab was from Kufa. He was a mawla of the tribe Banu Asad. We do not have much information on his date of birth and early life. Nor do we know anything about his relation with Imam al-Baqir (a).

Some reports reflect his relation with Imam al-Sadiq (a) before Abu l-Khattab began his Exaggeration. In a report quoted by al-Shaykh al-Kulayni from 'Ali b. Uqba, Abu l-Khattab would ask Imam al-Sadiq (a) the questions of the Imam's companions and would convey the Imam's responses to them. Al-Qadi al-Nu'man states that before his deviation, Abu l-Khattab was one of the greatest "da'is" of Imam al-Sadiq (a).


In Imami sources, several hadiths are quoted from Abu l-Khattab from Imam al-Sadiq (a). In some of these hadiths, it is clearly stated that the hadith is quoted from Abu l-Khattab when he was not yet deviated.

Al-Shaykh al-Tusi has mentioned in 'Uddat al-usul that the Imamiyya has relied on the hadiths quoted by Abu l-Khattab "while he was on the right path"; whereas Ibn al-Ghada'iri has emphasized on rejecting these hadiths in his al-Du'afa'.

Teachers and Students

Among the teachers of Abu l-Khattab, Jabir b. Yazid al-Ju'fi has been enumerated.

It is also reported that figures like Zurara b. A'yan, Hisham b. Salim, Muhammad b. Muslim, Hannan b. Sudayr, Humran b. A'yan, Mufaddal b. 'Umar, and Ishaq b. 'Ammar al-Sabati heard hadith from him.

According to some reports, Abu l-Khattab had some ties with Zayd b. 'Ali (d. 122/740).

Conversion to Exaggeration (Ghuluww)

As to the beginning of Abu l-Khattab's inclination to exaggeration, we have no reports except what is mentioned in the book Umm al-kitab. The reports mentioned by al-Saffar and Furat al-Kufi in this regard are not correct.

In an account narrated by al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Abu l-Khattab together with al-Mughira b. Sa'id and Bayan b. Sam'an are mentioned as the claimants of prophethood in the presence of Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah (r. 132/749-50 - 136/754). The report of al-Himyari indicates that Abu l-Khattab started his heresy when Imam al-Kazim (a) was a child, based on which we can conclude that the heresy started around 135/752-3.

Political Activities

Abu l-Khattab appears to have engaged in political activities against the Abbasids rule. He would use his heretical ideas to call people to his cause. Different sources attest that Abu l-Khattab and his followers started an uprising against the caliphate in Kufa where 'Isa b. Musa was the governor.

According to Sa'd b. 'Abd Allah al-Ash'ari, Abu l-Khattab and his seventy companions gathered in the Mosque of Kufa, each of them worshiping next to a pillar of the mosque and would secretly call people to their cause. The news reached 'Isa b. Musa, the governor, who sent his soldiers to arrest them. The resistance of Abu l-Khattab and his companions led to a violent conflict, which led to the detention of Abu l-Khattab and the murder of his companions. He was taken to 'Isa b. Musa and was beheaded by the latter's command on the shore of Euphrates. Then the bodies of Abu l-Khattab and his companions were crucified and then burned, and their heads were sent to the caliph al-Mansur.

Although we do not know the exact date of this episode, it seems to have taken place in 138/755-6 or a little before that.

Viewpoints and Beliefs

Generally speaking, such beliefs as the incarnation of God, transmigration of souls, and indulgence are attributed to Abu l-Khattab. According to Sa'd b. 'Abd Allah al-Ash'ari, Abu l-Khattab first claimed that Imam al-Sadiq (a) had appointed him as his legatee and taught him God's Greatest Name. Later, he claimed that he was a prophet and a messenger. Then, he claimed that he was an angel, sent by God to the people of the earth.

According to Sa'd b. 'Abd Allah's report, the early Khattabiyya believed in the divinity of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and that the Imam had sent Abu l-Khattab as his prophet and commanded people to follow him. Sa'd adds that early Khattabis believed that there would always be two messengers (rasul), one speaking (natiq) and the other one silent (samit); for example, Prophet Muhammad (s) was the speaking messenger of his time and Imam 'Ali (a) was the silent messenger. Al-Baghdadi reports that Khattabis had this belief about all the Imams (a). They regarded Imam al-Sadiq (a) as the speaking messenger of his time and Abu l-Khattab as the silent messenger.

At any rate, the foundation of Abu l-Khattab's thought was a kind of exaggeration about the Imams (a), especially Imam al-Sadiq (a). When Abu l-Khattab announced his ideas, he faced severe rejection and condemnation from Imam al-Sadiq (a), who, according to several hadiths, cursed Abu l-Khattab and his followers several times in different situations and informed his companions of their deviation.

In Shi'a Sources

In various traditions, Abu l-Khattab is called fasiq (sinner), kafir (unbeliever), mushrik (polytheist), and God's enemy. In a hadith quoted by al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Imam al-Sadiq (a) is said to have counted Abu l-Khattab among those on whom the Satan descends.

In other hadiths, it has been stated that Abu l-Khattab would attribute lies to Imam al-Sadiq (a) and distort his sayings. It is reported that after his deviation, Abu l-Khattab would still go to visit Imam al-Sadiq (a), but the Imam would drive him away.

Since different groups of Ghulat in the 2nd/8th and 3rd/9th centuries were inclined to Abu l-Khattab, Imam al-Mahdi (a) is reported to have written a letter and repudiated Abu l-Khattab in it.

All these criticisms of Abu l-Khattab have created a very negative image of him in Imami sources. In Isma'ili sources of the Fatimid era and after, Abu l-Khattab is severely reproached as an exaggerator and an unbeliever. However, in the book Dastur al-munajjimin (the Manual of the Astrologers), which is an important work among Nizari Isma'ilis, Abu l-Khattab and 'Abd Allah b. Maymun are counted among the most well-known companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a).

Political and Religious Viewpoints

It is said that Abu l-Khattab commanded his followers to support their fellow-Khattabis in any way possible, even by falsely testifying against their enemies in courts. It is also reported that Abu l-Khattab claimed that maghrib prayers had to be performed when the stars appeared in the sky.

Relation with other Exaggerators

Apart from early Khattabis who directly related to Abu l-Khattab, various groups among Khattabis became inclined to other Ghali figures. They would sometimes discard their certain beliefs about Abu l-Khattab and would sometimes preserve those beliefs. As a result, later Khattabis developed specific ideas about Abu l-Khattab, which were not in line with the thoughts and viewpoints of the early Khattabis.

Abu l-Khattab had a special place in the eyes of some Isma'ili exaggerators, who gave him the position of Gate (bab) after the positions of Meaning (ma'na) and Name (ism). They would compare him with Salman al-Farsi and regard Imam al-Sadiq's (a) dissociating himself from Abu l-Khattab as related to taqiyya. They would also attribute many traditions on the virtues of Abu l-Khattab to the Imam (a).

Also, in the book Umm al-kitab, which was considered a sacred book of the Isma'ilis of Pamir Mountains, Abu l-Khattab is regarded as a person who said the truth but was burnt because he disclosed the secrets. In this book, Abu l-Khattab is mentioned together with Salman as "the family of the Messenger" (s).

On the other hand, exaggerators such as Muhammad b. Bashir, who claimed to be a prophet himself, denied the prophethood of Abu l-Khattab.

Relation with Isma'ilis

Although in some early sources, it is said that Abu l-Khattab had close ties with Isma'ilies, official Ismai'li sources do not mention anything in this regard.

In some recent studies, it has been claimed that Abu l-Khattab had reserved a special place for Isma'il b. Ja'far in his religious-political movement. In this regard, Massignon believed that the teknonym Abu Isma'il was given to Abu l-Khattab because he was the spiritual father of Isma'il. Such claims are still in need of further evidence.


  • The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from ابوالخطاب in Farsi WikiShia.