Ibadi - Islam's distinct sect
The Sultanate of Oman's state security court has handed jail terms to 31 Islamists charged of plotting to overthrow Omani leadership and membership of a banned organization. The men were arrested at the start of this year, apparently in the interior of the country, a traditional stronghold of the Ibadis, the dominant group in Oman.
Ibadism, a distinct sect of Islam that is neither Sunni nor Shi‘i, exists mainly in Oman, East Africa, the Mzab valley of Algeria, the Nafus mountains of Libya, and the island of Jerba in Tunisia.
The Ibadi sect developed out of the seventh-century Islamic sect known as the Khawarij, and shares with that group the desire to found a righteous Muslim society and the belief that true Muslims are only to be found in their own sect. Ibadis refer to themselves as “the Muslims” or “the people of straightness”. Nonetheless, Ibadis view themselves as quite different from Khawarij.
In the year 751, the Ibadi Muslims created an “imamate” in Oman. An imamate is a country ruled by an Imam, or any of various rulers who claim that they have descent from the prophet Muhammad. These leaders would exercise spiritual leadership over the country.
The Ibadi Muslims are considered by other Muslims to be a branch of the Kharijites, which is the earliest Muslim sect which was originally among the supporters of Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam. The Ibadi imamate managed to survive until the mid-20th Century.
Ibadi Muslims are generally regarded as conservative, but moderate. Ibadhism, for example, rejects the practice of Qunut where enemies are cursed during prayers.
Al-Ibadhiyah is the dominant form of Islam in only one Muslim country - Oman. One of the earliest schools, it was founded less than 50 years after the death of the prophet Muhammad.
The Sultanate of Oman
Most of Oman’s population is Arab, Arabic speaking, and belongs to the Ibadite sect of Islam. Other forms of Islam are also practiced. In Oman, there is also a significant foreign community that includes various nationals, such as Indians, Pakistanis and East African blacks.
The region of Oman was once known by its Sumerian name Magan. Oman constituted one of the Satrapies of the Persian empire, and was incorporated by that empire around 563 BC.
After Oman’s development in the 3rd century BC, the Persians developed an empire in the 4th century BC. This empire lasted until the 7th century AD. In the beginning of the 1st Century AD Arab tribes began to settle into Oman. In 632, the Persian Empire lost power and Oman’s Arab character was established.
In 1891, Oman became a British protectorate, which lasted until 1971. In 1970, Sultan Said ibn Taimur had been ousted by his son, sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said. Qaboos has since greatly improved the economic situation of the country.
Sultan Qaboos has liberalized some policies and worked to modernize the nation. His modernization program has opened the country to the outside world and has preserved a long-standing political and military relationship with the UK.
All the accused in the latest trial were convicted of attempting to overthrow Qaboos by force in order to set an Imama rule.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)