Ibadhiyah - Oman's Islamic School of Law of Religious Tolerance

Jabir bin Zayd was the founder of the Ibadhi Islamic School of Law in 93 nH (711 AD). Born in Nizwa, Oman, he later went and settled in what is now Basra, in Iraq. In spite of the distance he continued to remain in close contact with his home country. The Al-Muhallab and Al-Azd tribes both supported him in the creation of this school. 

After the bloody confrontation between the fourth caliph Ali and Muawiyah (the first Ummayad caliph, from which later developed the Shiite and Sunni schools of jurisprudence), it was decided by Abd bin Al Julanda that Oman would not follow either of these schools, and initially Oman remained largely independent of Umayyad rule. However, due to military attacks attempting to coerce submission, the Al Julanda dynasty was forced to relocate to Africa, and as a result, a center of political resistance against the Umayyad rulership developed in Oman.

After various historical and religious developments the "Ibadhi school" was formed. Oman was one of the most important areas of the Ibadhi school, in addition to Basra in Iraq.

The philosophy of the Ibadhis is based on the principle of religious tolerance and avoidance of conflict and violence, and other religious views or models of interpretation must be considered. Bloodshed due to theological differences is regarded as shameful.

Prayers in the mosques throughout the country are conducted with Sunnis and Shiites at the sides of the Ibadhis. The communal prayer to God knows no theological disputes. Everyone must answer for himself before God.

The Sunni imams are always chosen from among the members of the tribe of the Prophet Mohammed, the Quraish. The Shiites claim that the choice of the imam may only be a successor of Caliph Ali. For the Ibadhis however, the ancestry of the imam to be elected is irrelevant. The Ibadhis assume that every faithful and theologically educated Muslim is a potential candidate for the office of imam. The imam is the religious and secular head with full governmental power. He is “the first among equals” in the eyes of Ibadhis, just as a human being is first among God's other creatures. Therefore the umma, the community of Muslims, selects from its ranks a believer who is best qualified for the office. If no one can meet the high demands of the office of imam, the position should remain temporarily unfilled. Similarly, an elected imam who does not meet expectations can be voted out of office. The first Ibadhi imam was chosen in 132 AH (750 AD).

The system of the Imamate lasted until the end of the 19th century. Sunnis and Shiites have always lived in harmony and accord with the Ibadhis, who have always been and continue to be the majority in Oman. There are Ibadhis also in other countries, such as Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and countries of East Africa.

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