ʿABDĀN B. AL-RABĪṬ, early Ismaʿili missionary (dāʿī) and author active in the rural district (savād) of Kūfa. According to the account of Abu’l-Qāsem Kāšānī (Zobdat al-tawārīḵ, chapter on Esmāʿīlīya, ed. M. T. Dānešpažūh, Tabrīz, 1343 Š./1964, p. 19), he came from a village called D-v-r-vā in the savād. However, in a passage of Maqrīzī’s al-Moqaffā, based on the account of Aḵū Moḥsen, he is called Ahvāzī (Sohayl Zakkār, Taʾrīḵ aḵbār al-Qurāmeṭa, Beirut, 1391/1971, p. 97). This nesba is missing in the parallel quotations from Aḵū Moḥsen’s account and could have been added to ʿAbdān’s name owing to a confusion with a well-known Sunnite traditionist ʿAbdān Ahvāzī (q.v.). On the other hand, it is to be noted that, in the account of Aḵū Moḥsen, ʿAbdān is not listed among the dāʿīs of the savād converted by Ḥamdān Qarmaṭ and appears as more a partner and the chief propagandist of the movement than a follower. Such a position would well agree with his having initially been sent from Ahvāz, then the seat of the leadership of the Ismaʿili movement, or his having at least been trained there as an ideological counselor and aid to Ḥamdān Qarmaṭ.
ʿAbdān’s closeness to the leadership is also indicated by the fact that his brother Maʾmūn, according to Daylamī, was the dāʿī of Fārs after whom the Ismaʿilis there were called Maʾmūnīya (Bayān maḏhab al-bāṭenīya, ed. R. Strothmann, Istanbul, 1939, p. 21). ʿAbdān trained and appointed many of the dāʿīs in lower Iraq and perhaps also some of the dāʿīs in the Yaman and Baḥrayn, including Abū Saʿīd Jannābī, though the reports are not unanimous in this regard. According to the account of Aḵū Moḥsen, HÂamdān Qarmaṭ later sent ʿAbdān to Salamīya in Syria, where the leadership had moved, in order to investigate some changes in the doctrinal instructions he received from there. When ʿAbdān returned, confirming serious deviations from the previous doctrine, the two decided to break with Salamīya and to discontinue the religious propaganda. ʿAbdān was soon afterwards murdered by the supporters of Zekrūya b. Mehrūya, one of his dāʿīs who was opposed to the discontinuation of the propaganda. This happened about 286/899.
After his death, ʿAbdān continued to be recognized by the Ismaʿili (Qarmaṭī) dāʿīs in lower Iraq as their authoritative teacher. They considered Moḥammad b. Esmāʿīl b. Jaʿfar as their imam and the Expected Mahdī and repudiated the claim of the Fatimid caliph ʿObaydallāh al-Mahdī to the imamate. A leading role was played among them by ʿAbdān’s nephew, Abu’l-Qāsem ʿĪsā b. Mūsā, who was captured by the ʿAbbasid army during the Qarmaṭī revolt in the savād in 316/928. A few years later he escaped from prison and remained active in Baghdad spreading the doctrine of his uncle. He and other dāʿīs ascribed their own doctrinal writings to ʿAbdān. According to Aḵū Moḥsen, they were trying to create the impression that ʿAbdān had been learned in all branches of philosophy and other sciences and had truthfully predicted later events. The number of works, authentic or spurious, ascribed to ʿAbdān was evidently large; for Ebn al-Nadīm mentions a list containing their titles, of which he names eight as belonging to books generally available in his time. None of these seem to be extant, though his Ketāb al-mīzān (read thus for al-mīdān, Fehrest, p. 267) is still mentioned by a Syrian Ismaʿili author of the early 10th/16th century as one of his sources. Some of the works ascribed to him were evidently esteemed and transmitted among the Ismaʿilis loyal to the Fatimids in spite of their heterodoxy. The Fatimid Qāżī al-Noʿmān quoted with approval from a Ketāb al-ebtedāʾ of his (al-Resālat al-moḏheba in Ḵams rasāʾel esmāʿīlīya, ed. ʿĀref Tāmer, Salamīya, 1956, p. 41). A Resālat al-šamʿa, also known as Resālat al-mafātīḥ, of ʿAbdān is listed, according to W. Ivanow, in the Fehrest of Ismaʿili books of the 12th/18th century Bohra author al-Maǰdūʿ. However, in the published edition of this work (Fehrest al-kotob wa’l-rasāʾel, ed. ʿAlī-Naqī Monzavī, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965) there is no mention of it. A Ketāb al-rosūm wa’l-ezdewāǰ of Abū Moḥammad ʿAbdān is quoted by Zāhed-ʿAlī (Hamāre Esmāʿīlī maḏhab kī ḥaqīqat awr os kā neẓām, Hyderabad, 1373/1954, pp. 548, 615) from a manuscript in his possession.
Masʿūdī, Tanbīh, pp. 374, 391. Fehrest, pp. 187-89. Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 295.
Ebn al-Davādārī, Kanz al-dorar VI, ed. Ṣ. al-Monaǰǰed, Cairo, 1380/1961, pp. 46-47, 55, 65-68.
Maqrīzī, Etteʿāẓ al-ḥonafāʾ, ed. J. al-Šayyāl, Cairo, 1387/1967, I, pp. 155, 160, 166-68, 185.
M. J. de Goeje, Mémoire sur les Carmathes du Bahraïn et les Fatimides, 2nd ed., Leiden, 1886, pp. 31, 35, 58-58, 66-69.
B. Lewis, The Origins of Ismailism, Cambridge, 1940, pp. 68, 77-78, 86.
W. Ivanow, Ismaili Tradition concerning the Rise of the Fatimids, Bombay, 1942, p. 78.
Idem, Ismaili Literature, Tehran, 1963, p. 17.
W. Madelung, “Fāṭimiden und Baḥrainqarmaṭen,” Der Islam 34, 1958, pp. 38-40, 84-85.
I. K. Poonawala, Bibliography of Ismāʿīlī Literature, Malibu, 1977, pp. 31-33.
Originally Published: December 15, 1982
Last Updated: July 15, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, p. 207
W. Madelung, “Abdan B. Al-Rabit,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, p. 207; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abdan-b-al-rabit-early-ismaili-missionary-dai (accessed on 21 January 2014).