Ibadi Islam is mainly found in Oman and also in some places of eastern African countries, such as Somalia, and further in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Ibadism’s founding figures are Jabir ibn Zayd and Abu Ya’cub Yusuf bin Ibrahim al Warijlani. Their main hadith collection is Al Jami’i al Sahih, also called Musnad al Rabi ibn Habib. Many of these traditions were reported by Jabir ibn Zayd and Abu Ja’cub, however, the majority are reported Sunni ahadith. The second hadith collection is called Tartib al Musnad by Al Warijlani. Jabir ibn Zayd is seen as a reliable narrator by Sunni scholars too. Ibadism accepts the first two Caliphs Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn al Khattab, but critisizes ‘Uthman (introducing innovations and corruption) and ‘Ali (weak leadership).
Jabir ibn Zayd was probably born in 18 of 21 AH (639 of 642 AD) in Oman, however, he grew up in Basra, where he met many of the Prophet’s companions. At young age he learned many Qur’anic verses and ahadith by heart, thanks to the large number of the Prophet’s companions he had come to know. This makes him one of the second generation transmitters of ahadith, the tabi’in. He was a frequent hajj-traveler, he is said to have performed it at least fourty times and frequented the Mesjid an Nebewi, where he gave lessons. He has met at least seventy Companions who had taken part in the Battle of Badr and knew ‘Aishah ra, the Prophet’s wife, well. He discussed with her some her political problems and her daily life with the Prophet at home. Besides ‘Aishah, Jabir ibn Zayd studied under a number of scholars who were among the Prophet’s companions, such as ‘Abdullah ibn Umar, ‘Abdullah ibn Massoud, and Anas ibn Malik. However, his most important teacher was ‘Abdullah ibn Abbas. The two became close friends with great respect for each other. It is reported that Ibn Abbas said: “If the people of Basrah would only listen to Jabir ibn Zayd, he would give them thorough knowledge of God’s book.” A man from Basrah called al-Rabie asked Ibn Abbas his views on a certain question. Ibn Abbas’s reply was: “Why ask me when you have Jabir ibn Zayd in your midst?” Among contemporaries, Jabir ibn Zayd was considered an important scholar of great merit and the leading Mufti in Basrah, issuing rulings on problems put to him. Wheather Jabir ibn Zayd indeed was the founder of a school of fiqh is a question under debate; Ibadi sources recognize him as such. Sunni sources, though recognizing and appreciating his great scholarschip and hadith knowledge, do not. Another important figure in the Ibadi movement is Abu Ubaydah Muslim ibn Abi Kareemah, student under Jabir ibn Zayd.
Ibadi Islam is the only school to survive and reach maturity since the Kharijite or Khawarij movement. The Kharijites were an involved party in the struggle over the issue of the Prophet’s succession, which led to a civil war and the murder of Caliphs ‘Uthman and ‘Ali. Sunni Islam believes that the ummah may choose a leader and should then follow him without rebellion, even if he should lack in piousness and rulership. Shi’a Islam believes in infallible leadership by the descendants of the Prophet. Kharijites believed that an unjust, unpious leader who deviates from the Prophet’s way is to be removed, and that the caliph is not God’s representative on earth. The Kharijites killed ‘Ali ra, but failed in murdering his competitor running for the Caliphate, Mu’awiya and his assistant Amr ibn al As. The movement also saw it as a religious duty to distance oneself from those Muslims who do not meet the demands of the religion and consider those people unbelievers, who even may be killed. For this reason, several modern ulema nickname radical groups practising takfir and killing innocent people, as the new Kharijites. The main era of Kharijite influence was in the years 690-730, around Basra, in southern Iraq (which had always been a center of Sunni theology.) Kharijite ideology was a popular creed for rebels against the official Sunni Caliphate, inspiring breakaway states and rebellions (like Maysara’s) throughout the Maghrib, and sometimes elsewhere.
Kharijite’s surviving school of thought, Ibadism, today, maintains the view that there is no Godgiven infallible leadership that must be obeyed. The Prophet saws, and the first two Caliphs in his succession, set the ideal for perfect rulership without human innovations the faithful have to aspire for, even today. Concerning the Hereafter, Ibadism thinks, it is not possible to escape Hell, where Sunni Islam thinks that believing sinners may leave it, if their faith is sincere. Ibadism also thinks that Muslims will never be able to see Allah swt, not even on Judgement Day, which Sunni Islam still holds possible, and reject any anthropomorphic descriptions and concepts of Him. Sunni Islam acknowledges all these items, however, Ibadi Islam always goes at least one step further. The modern Sultanate of Oman gave Ibadism a more or less secular, practical and modern role in the country’s rule. The present sultan dynasty Qaboos does not hold the title Imam; they first used the title Sayyid, an honorary title for any member of the royal family, and later Sultan, implying purely coercive power. They reject any pretense of spiritual authrity. The Omani sultans yet consider Ibadism as the state religion and protect Ibadi scholars and institutions, but keep them at distance from formal political power.