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KA'B AL-AḤBAR:

One of the most prominent fathers of Moslem tradition, and one of those who introduced into this branch of Arab literature the method as well as many details of the Jewish Haggadah; died 32 or 35 a.h. (652 or 655 C.E.). Of his earlier life nothing is known except that he was a Jew, a native of Yemen. His complete name was Abu Isḥaḳ Ka'b b. Mati' b. Haisu (Hosea ?). A genealogy attributing to him a purely Arabic descent also exists; it was probably invented after he had embraced Islam. This he did during the califate of Abu Bakr (according to others, of Omar), whom he joined at Medina. On account of his theological learning he was styled "Al-Ḥibr" or "Al-Aḥbar," which is an adaptation of the Hebrew "ḥaber." He lectured on the Koran and the career of Mohammed, not from the merely exegetical and biographical points of view, but in a homiletic and haggadic manner, just as Abdallah b. Salam had done. Both these men laid the foundation for the legends which glorify Mohammed's youth and prophetic call.

The most prominent of Ka'b's disciples were Ibn 'Abbas and Abu Hurairah, prolific traditionists, who developed the art of apotheosizing the prophet's life to its utmost extent, and are therefore not very reliable authorities. Ka'b was a great favorite of the calif Omar, who frequently consulted him, chiefly on religious matters. As a politician Ka'b was a partizan of Othman, and was once even flogged by Abu Darr, who disapproved of the calif's administration. There are many sayings attributed to Ka'b, among them being the statement that "the world will last six thousand years" (comp. Sanh. 97). Several other sayings refer to the superiority of Egypt over other countries. Ka'b retired toward the end of his life to Emesa. He left a son named Tubai.

Bibliography:
  • Ṭabari, Annales, Index.
G. H. Hir.
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