ABŪ ʿĪSĀ MOḤAMMAD B. HĀRŪN AL-WARRĀQ, heretical theologian of the 3rd/9th century. His birthdate is unknown, and there are contradictory statements about the date of his death. Masʿūdī (Morūǰ VII, p. 236) says he died in 247/861-62. It is also stated, however (in a late work quoted in the notes to Ḵayyāṭ, Ketāb al-enteṣār, ed. H. S. Nyberg, Cairo, 1927, p. 205), that his pupil Ebn al-Rāwandī (q.v.) died shortly after him; and Ebn al-Rāwandī is often thought to have died about the end of the 3rd/9th century. Recently, however, G. Vajda has produced evidence suggesting that Ebn al-Rāwandī died much earlier; and so Masʿūdī’s date for Abū ʿĪsā may be correct (“Ibn al-Rāwandī,” EI2 III, pp. 905-06).

Abū ʿĪsā originally belonged to the Muʿtazilite school, as did also Ebn al-Rāwandī; however, he was attracted to Imamate Shiʿism, though this could not yet have reached its definitive form (the eleventh Imam did not die until 260/874). He wrote one or more books about the imamate (Ašʿarī, Maqālāt, p. 64; Masʿūdī, Morūǰ VI, p. 57), but did not remain with this view. Instead he moved on to a position often described as Manicheism, though he was probably not formally a Manichean but rather (as Luis Massignon said) an independent thinker. In some of his books he criticized the Islamic doctrines of prophethood and of the Koran. Ebn al-Nadīm (Fehrest, p. 338) describes him as secretly a zendīq. The stages in the intellectual development of Abū ʿĪsā were to a great extent followed by Ebn al-Rāwandī, and the latter had to bear the brunt of the attacks on their position by Muʿtazilites and others. Mātorīdī (see bibliog.), however, is fully aware of the differences between the two men. According to the late source mentioned above, Abū ʿĪsā was sought for by the authorities and executed, while Ebn al-Rāwandī went into hiding.

Abū ʿĪsā’s most influential book was probably his Maqālāt, in which he described the views of the different sects. This was an important source for the chief heresiographers, such as Ašʿarī (Maqālāt, pp. 33, 34, 345), Baḡdādī (Farq, pp. 49, 51) and Šahrestānī (pp. 141.11, 143.14, 188.14). The matters on which he is quoted include the views of Hešām b. al-Ḥakam, Hešām b. Sālem al-Jawālīqī, and the Aṣḥāb al-Tabāʾeʿ, as well as the doctrines of Mani, the founder of Manicheism. He is a source for the teaching of the Zaydīya and of the early Muʿtazilites Wāṣel and ʿAmr in Masʿūdī (Morūǰ V, pp. 473f., VII, pp. 236f.). Apart from these references to the Maqālāt of Abū ʿĪsā (or, in the case of the Zaydīya to his Maǰāles), there survives his “Refutation of the three sects of the Christians,” namely, the Jacobites, Nestorians, and Melchites (or Orthodox); this is preserved in a work of the philosopher Yaḥyā b. ʿAdī (d. 364/974), in which it is refuted in turn. Quotations from another work, al-Ḡarīb al-mašreqī, are contained in Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī, al-Emtāʿ wa’l-moʾānasa (Cairo, 1939-44, III, p. 192).



See also Ḵayyāṭ, Enteṣār, index. Mātorīdī, Tawḥīd, ed. F. Kholeif, Beirut, 1970, pp. 186, 191, 198-99, 201, 284.

Naǰāšī, Reǰāl, Tehran,n.d., pp. 47, 263.

Ṭūsī, Fehrest, pp. 58, 72, 99.

A. Abel, Abū ʿĪsā al-Warrāq, Brussels, 1949.

Brockelmann, GAL S. I, p. 341.

ʿA. Eqbāl, Ḵānadān-e Nawbaḵtī, Tehran, 1331 Š./1952, pp. 84f.

G. Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, Vatican City, 1944-53, II, pp. 239-41.

P. Kraus, “Beiträge zur islamischen Ketzergeschichte,” RSO 14, 1934, p. 374.

L. Massignon, Receuil de textes inédits concernant l’histoire de la mystique en pays d’Islam, Paris, 1929, pp. 182-85.

J. Schacht, “The History of Muhammadan Theology,” Stud. Isl. 1, 1953, pp. 41-42.

Sezgin, GAS I, p. 620.

G. Vajda, “Les zindiqs en pays d’Islam au debut de la periode abbaside,” RSO 17, 1937, pp. 196-97.


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(W. M. Watt)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 19, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 325-326

Cite this entry:

W. M. Watt, “Abu Isa Warraq,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, p. 325-326; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-isa-mohammad-b (accessed on 30 January 2014).