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4. Ibn Sabaʾ and the Heresiographers

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the Ibn Saba' traditions, seeking to uncover just how deep, and how early, one may delve. In this chapter, therefore, the heresiographical tradition shall be the foremost concern, particularly as a source for the construction of the persona of Ibn Saba' as the heresiarch of Shi?ism and/or the Shi?i ghulat. With the focus falling nearly exclusively on Ibn Saba' here the attention is directed toward an examination of the evolution of Ibn Saba' as a persona of the heresiographical literature independent of the Sayfian account. In dealing with the Shi?ite 'extremist' sects, or ghulat, in general and the Saba'iya in particular, one can distinguish an ever-present heresiological mode of writing, which can either be staunchly combative or outwardly sober and descriptive. The heresiological perspective starkly contrasts with the methodological perspective of the akhbaris, and this contrast manifests itself in the formal features of the genre.

Keywords:akhbārīs; heresiarch; heresiographical tradition; Ibn Saba'; Saba'īya; Sayfian account; Shīʿī scholar



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