ʿABD-AL-RAḤĪM B. MOḤAMMAD B. ʿOṮMĀN AL-ḴAYYĀṬ, ABU’L-ḤOSAYN, Muʿtazilite theologian of Baghdad. He must have been born before 220/835, since he began his theological studies still under the Muʿtazilite Jaʿfar b. Mobaššer (d. 234/848-49). His chief teacher of kalām (theology) seems to have been ʿĪsā b. Hayṯam Ṣūfī. He was also noted for his learning in Hadith and the law of inheritance (farāʾeż) and is known to have transmitted traditions from the renowned Kufan traditionist Yūsof b. Mūsā Qaṭṭān (d. 253/867). After the death of his teacher ʿĪsā Ṣūfī in 245/859, he belonged to the circle of Abū Moǰāled Baḡdādī, now the chief of the Muʿtazilites of Baghdad. When Abū Moǰāled died in 268 or 269/881-83, Ḵayyāṭ in turn came to be recognized as the head of the Muʿtazilite school of Baghdad. His reputation as a Muʿtazilite theologian was, however, in his own lifetime overshadowed by that of his prime student, Abu’l-Qāsem Balḵī Kaʿbī, the initiator of the later phase of the Muʿtazilite school of Baghdad. Ḵayyāṭ appears to have taken pride in the success of his student: When Balḵī took leave of him in Baghdad, before 287/900, Ḵayyāṭ asked him not to visit Abū ʿAlī Jobbāʾī, the head of the Basran Muʿtazilite school, so that he would remain known as Ḵayyāṭ’s student. Later they maintained a regular correspondence, Ḵayyāṭ answering the questions of Balḵī. The date of his death is not given in the sources. Balḵī, however, referred to him as still alive in his Ketāb al-maqālāt written between 291 and 297/903-10 (on this work, see Abu’l-Qāsem Balḵī). He probably died not much later.

Ḵayyāṭ’s literary activity was directed in particular to the refutation of the heretical books of Ebn al-Rāwandī. The latter, before becoming a freethinker and an Emāmī Shiʿite, had been a student of ʿĪsā Ṣūfī, like Ḵayyāṭ, and was evidently personally well known to the latter. Ḵayyāṭ’s only extant work is the K. al-Enteṣār, a refutation of Ebn al-Rāwandī’s K. Faẓīḥat al-Moʿtazela, an attack on the Muʿtazilites in defense of Emāmī doctrine (ed. H. N. Nyberg, Cairo, 1925; ed. and Fr. tr. by A. Nader, Beirut, 1957). It was written after the death of Abū Moǰāled and Ebn al-Rāwandī. This makes it unlikely that Ebn al-Rāwandī died as late as 298/910-11 or 301/913-14, as some sources state, though the early date given for his death by Masʿūdī (245/859) is also untenable. Other works of Ḵayyāṭ mentioned in the sources include a refutation of the K. al-Jārūf of Abū Ḥafṣ Ḥaddād, another Muʿtazilite who turned heretic; a refutation of a K. fi’l-ʿaks of the Basran Muʿtazilite ʿAbbād b. Salmān; a book on analogical reasoning about God (Estedlāl al-šāhed ʿala’l-ḡāʾeb, see ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, al-Moḥīṭ bi’l-taklīf, ed. ʿOmar Sayyed ʿAzmī, Cairo, 1965, p. 167); a book repudiating the validity of reports of single transmitters (ḵabar al-wāḥed) which was refuted by his student Balḵī; a refutation of a K. al-Borhān. Ḵayyāṭ engaged in disputations with the Muʿtazilite Abu’l-Ḥosayn Ṣāleḥī about the doctrine of erǰāʿ to which the latter inclined. He was reputed to be, and frequently quoted as, an authority on the history and doctrines of the early Muʿtazela.

Ḵayyāṭ generally espoused the doctrine of the Muʿtazilite school of Baghdad, and only a few of his specific views are mentioned in the sources. Most often noted was his thesis that the non-existent (al-maʿdūm) is not only a thing, substance, or accident in the state of non-existence, as the Basran Abū ʿAlī Jobbāʾī held, but also a body (ǰesm), though it can not have motion. Jobbāʾī wrote a refutation of this doctrine, arguing that it implied the eternity of bodies, and Balḵī disassociated himself from his teacher’s view. Other opinions ascribed to him show that he admitted a greater degree of causality in nature than the Basran Muʿtazilites, thus anticipating Balḵī in this regard. In concordance with the general attitude of the school of Baghdad he affirmed that ʿAlī was the most excellent of the Companions of the Prophet, arguing that all the virtues dispersed in other men were assembled in him. At the same time he maintained that the Companions had evidently been right in supporting the imamate of Abū Bakr, as ʿAlī did not object to it. His position on the imamate is thus close to some Zaydī (Batrī) theses. He sharply denounced, on the other hand, the Emāmī repudiation of the caliphate of Abū Bakr and ʿOmar and defended ʿOṯmān’s conduct as caliph against his critics. (See the quotations from a book of his in ʿAbd-al-Jabbār’s K. al-Moḡnī as cited by Ebn Abiʾ l-Ḥadīd, Šarḥ nahī al-balāḡa, ed. Ḥasan Tamīm, Beirut, 1963, I, pp. 523-40; in the edited text of K. al-Moḡnī [XX/2, ed. S. Donyā and ʿA. Maḥmūd, Cairo, n.d.] the corresponding passages appear to be abridged.)


Ašʿarī, Maqālāt al-eslāmīyīn, ed. H. Ritter, Istanbul, 1929-33, pp. 314, 353, 518.

Abu’l-Qāsem Balḵī and ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, Fażl al-eʿtezāl wa ṭabaqāt al-moʿtazela, ed. Foʾād Sayyed, Tunis, 1974; see index and p. 51.

Fehrest, p. 184; ed. M. T. Houtsma in WZKM 4, 1890, pp. 223-24; ed. J. W. Fück in ZDMG 90, 1936, p. 32; idem in Professor Mohammad Shafi Presentation Volume, Lahore, 1955, pp. 61, 71.

Taʾrīḵ Baḡdād XI, p. 87.

Zereklī, Aʿlām, Beirut, 1389/1969, IV, p. 122.

Maqdesī, Badʾ II, p. 121. ʿAbd-al-Qāher Baḡdādī, Farq, pp. 163-65.

Šahrastānī, pp. 19, 53. Ebn Jawzī, al-Montaẓam, Hyderabad, 1357-59/1938-41, VI, p. 99f.

Ebn al-Mortażā, Ṭabaqāt, see index. Lesān al-mīzān IV, p. 8f.

H. Nyberg, ed. of Ḵayyāṭ, K. al-Enteṣār, Cairo, 1925, intro.

A. S. Tritton, Muslim Theology, London, 1947, pp. 155-57.

Brockelmann, GAL S. I. p. 341.

(W. Madelung)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 14, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, pp. 143-144

Cite this entry:

W. Madelung, “'Abd-Al-Rahim Kayyat,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, pp. 143-144; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abd-al-rahim-kayyat (accessed on 16 January 2014).