Mohammedan traditionist of Dhimar (two days' journey from Sanaa) in Yemen; died at the age of ninety, in a year variously given by Arabic authorities as 725, 728, 732, and 737 C.E. On his father's side he was descended from Persian knights, while his mother was a Himyarite. His father, whose name was Munabbih, had been converted to Islam in the lifetime of the Prophet, although a single authority, the "Al-Tibr al-Masluk" (ed. 1306 A.H., p. 41), states that Wahb himself had turned from Judaism to Mohammedanism. His other biographers, however, including Al-Nawawi and Ibn Ḥallikan, do not note that he was a Jew either in race or in religion. The fact that he was well versed in Jewish traditions, on which he wrote much, probably gave rise to the statement that he was a Jew, although he might have acquired his knowledge from his teacher Ibn 'Abbas. Wahb is said to have read more than seventy books on the prophets, and he was an extremely prolific narrator ("rawi") of stories regarding Mohammed and Biblical personages. Although the Mohammedans regarded him as a reliable authority in these accounts, many of them, such as Ibn Khaldun, declared that in his other writings he simply lied (comp. "Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits," xx.part 1, p. 461; De Slane, Ibn Ḥallikan, iii. 673, note 2). Among Wahb's many writings may be mentioned his "Ḳiṣaṣ al-Anbiya" and "Kitab al-Isra'iliyat" ("Ḥajji Khalfa," iv. 518, v. 40). The former, which is believed to be his earliest literary work, is, as its title indicates, a collection of narratives concerning Biblical personages, the accounts being drawn from Jewish folk-lore though presented in Islamitic guise. Thus, like Ibn 'Abbas and Ka'b al-Aḥbar, he was an authority for many legends narrated by Al-Ṭabari, Mas'udi, and others. The "Kitab al-Isra'iliyat," or "Book of Jewish Matters," is lost, but was apparently a collection of Jewish stories, many of them incorporated by a Jewish compiler into the "Arabian Nights." In the latter collection there are indeed many stories that bear the Jewish stamp, and some of them, such as the "Angel of Death," are ascribed to Wahb by the author of "Al-Tibr al-Masluk." There are also other stories which are attributed to Wahb, and many more which, from their Jewish character, may be traced to him. His Jewish learning may be illustrated by his opinion of the Shekinah (Arabic, "Sakinah") as stated by different Arabic authors. According to Al-Baghawi in his "Ma'alim al-Tanzil" (Goldziher, "Abhandlungen zur Arabischen Philologie," i. 182, Leyden, 1896), Wahb believed that the Shekinah was the spirit of God. On the other hand, Al-ḥabari ("Annals," i. 544), in recording the fact that the Israelites sometimes took the Ark of the Covenant into battle when they were at war with their enemies (comp. I Sam. iv. 4 et seq.), quotes Wahb as saying in the name of a certain Jewish authority that the Shekinah which rested in the Ark was a being in the shape of a cat, and that when the Israelites heard the mewing of cats coming from the interior of the Ark, they were sure of a victory. See also Arabian Nights.
Bibliography:J. M. Sel.
- V. Chauvin, La Récension Egyptienne des Mille et Une Nuits, pp. 31-32, 50 et seq., Brussels, 1899;
- Ibn Ḥallikan, French translation by De Slane, iii. 671 et seq.;
- Hammer-Purgstall, Literaturgesch. der Araber, ii. 177 et seq.;
- Brockelmann, Gesch. der Arabischen Litteratur, i. 64;
- Steinschneider, Die Arabische Literatur der Juden, § 14.