Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Karram al-Sijistani (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد بن كَرَّام السجستاني) was an ascetic, hellfire preacher, hadith narrator, and a literalist theologian who founded the Karramiyya sect. His views were considered heretical, schismatic, and abominable by the majority of Sunni scholars. He was accused of holding the doctrine of anthropomorphism, and that his chief theological doctrine was that God is a substance (jawhar) and that he had a body (jism); for which reason his followers were commonly called the "Mujassima" (corporealists) and "Mushabbiha" (anthropomorphists).[6][7][8][9][10] [Note 2]

Muhammad ibn Karram
Born190 H/ 806 CE
Died255 H/ 868 CE
EraEarly Islamic
(Abbasid Era)
DenominationKarramiyya[1][Note 1]
Main interest(s)Aqeedah, Hadith
Notable idea(s)Iman-Iqrar Equivalence
Notable work(s)Kitab 'Azab al-Qabr, Kitab al-Tawhid
OccupationScholar of Islam
Muslim leader
Influenced by

Some sources reported that he was of Arab descent,[13] and his lineage belongs to the Bani Nizar, or Bani Turab (the people or sons of Turab),[14] and according to some, to the Arab tribe of the Banu Nadhir.[15] It has been said that the 14th century Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) took inspiration from him.[16]


His name was Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Karram ibn 'Arraf (or 'Iraq) ibn Khuraya (or Khizana or Hizaba) ibn al-Bara' al-Sijistani al-Nisapuri.[17][18]


He was born in Zarang in Sijistan, in around 190/806.[19] He traveled to Khurasan and studied with Ahmad b. Harb, Ibrahim b. Yusuf, 'Ali b. Hujr in Marw, and 'Abd Allah b. Malik in Herat. Then he moved to Mecca and stayed there five years. Then he returned back to his home country Sijistan, and went to Nisapur and the local governor Tahir b. 'Abd Allah (230–48/844–62) expelled him, because his teachings caused unrest and strife within society. Then he went to the Levant and returned to Nisapur to preach to the masses.[20] His preaching attracted large crowds. In his speeches, he was opposed and attacked both Sunni and Shi'a theology. For this reason, the Tahirid governor Muhammad b. Tahir b. 'Abd Allah jailed him for eight years. After his release from the jail in 251/865, he traveled to Jerusalem.[21][22]

Ibn Kathir in al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya (The Beginning and the End) and Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Maqdisi (c. 945–991) in Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Ma'rifat al-Aqalim (The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions), both of them confirmed that Ibn Karram preached his controversial views while sitting near the "column of the cradle of Jesus, where many people used to meet him."[22][23] Due to his views about iman (belief), his books were burned and he was expelled from Jerusalem by the governor to Ramla.[13]


There are several books attributed to Ibn Karram, such as Kitab al-Tawhid (Book of the Unification), and Kitab 'Azab al-Qabr (Book of the Torment of the Grave), but none of them remain today. However, his beliefs are mentioned in a number of tabaqat works (biographical dictionaries) and heresiographical works, including Maqalat al-Islamiyyin (The Ideas of the Muslims) by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 324/936), Al-Farq bayn al-Firaq (The Difference between the Sects) by 'Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi (d. 429/1037), al-Tabsir fi al-Din by Abu al-Muzaffar al-Isfarayini (d. 471/1078), Kitab al-Milal wa al-Nihal (The Book of Religions and Creeds) by Abu al-Fath al-Shahristani (d. 548/1153), and I'tiqadat Firaq al-Muslimin wa al-Mushrikin by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606/1210).[13]

Theological viewsEdit

According to heresiographical works, Ibn Karram is considered one of the Murji'a who held that iman (faith or belief) to be only acknowledgment with the tongue, without the need for recognition by the heart, and confirmation by acts.[13]

He used to say: "Allah is a body unlike bodies" and "Allah is firmly seated on the throne and He is in person on the upper side of it." He and his adherents accepted the materialistic pictures of God found in the Qur'an and tried to understand them in human terms. The followers of Ibn Karram were unsure "whether Allah is as big as his throne, whether it is equal to his breadth."[24] 'Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi gave an exhaustive description of their doctrines in al-Farq bayn al-Firaq.[25][26]

In his book, which is entitled 'Azab al-Qabr (The Punishment of the Grave), he described God as He is high above, localized on the Throne, and that God touches His Throne and that the Throne is a place for Him, and that He is sitting on it. He wrote also that God is a Unit of essence and a Unit of substance, had a body with flesh, blood, and limbs, and had direction and so could move from one point to another. He affirmed the beatific vision (seeing God in the hereafter) without securing the doctrine against its potential spatial implications.[27][Note 3]

Scholarly views on himEdit

Although he claimed to be a follower of Abu Hanifa, his theological views were criticized by the Hanafis, such as Abu Bakr al-Samarqandi (d. 268/881–2), al-Hakim al-Samarqandi (d. 342/953), Abu al-Yusr al-Bazdawi (d. 482/1089), Abu al-Mu'in al-Nasafi (d. 508/1114), and al-Saffar al-Bukhari (d. 534/1139).[28]

He was accused of being a fabricator of Hadith by several scholars, including Ibn Hibban (d. 354/ 965), al-Dhahabi (d. 748/1348), Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1373), and Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani (d. 852/1449), all of them confirmed that the reporting of Ibn Karram is unreliable, because he is a fabricator.[29][8][22][9]

Salah al-Din al-Safadi (d. 764/1363) in his work, entitled: Al-Wafi bi al-Wafayat (Arabic: الوافي بالوفيات, lit.'The Complement to the Deaths'), described him as a deviant and misguided anthropomorphist, and he said that Ibn Karram was praised by Ibn Khuzayma (d. 311/923) and met him more than once.[30]

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) in his book Sharh al-'Aqida al-Asfahaniyya (Arabic: شرح العقيدة الأصفهانية) considered him to be a Sunni, as he stated in his own words:[2][3]

Sharh al-'Aqida al-Isfahaniyya

Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Karram was also raised up in Sijistan and its aspects, supporting the doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama'a (the Sunnis), the affirmers of God's attributes, the Qadr (predestination, fate, or the divine destiny) and love of the Sahaba (the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad) and so on, and countering/responding to the Jahmiyya, the Mu'tazila, the Rafida (refusers, rejectionists or defectors; often used as a derogatory term for Shi'ites) and others, and agreed with them on the basis of their articles in which they said what they said, and disagreed with them in their requirements, as Ibn Kullab and al-Ash'ari disagreed with them, but those are affiliated with the Sunna and Hadith, while Ibn Karram is affiliated with the doctrine of the Ahl al-Ra'y (people of reasoned opinion, often referring to the Hanafis).

وقام أيضاً أبو عبد الله محمد بن كَرَّام بسجستان ونواحيها ينصر مذهب أهل السنة والجماعة، والمثبتة للصفات والقدر وحب الصحابة وغير ذلك، ويرد على الجهمية والمعتزلة والرافضة وغيرهم، ويوافقهم على أصول مقالاتهم التي بها قالوا ما قالوا، ويخالفهم في لوازمها، كما خالفهم ابن كلاب والأشعري، لكن هؤلاء منتسبون إلى السنة والحديث، وابن كرام منتسب إلى مذهب أهل الرأي

Ibn Taymiyya, "Sharh al-'Aqida al-Isfahaniyya". p. 378.


He died in Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) in Safar in the year 255 AH/869 CE, and was buried at Bab Ariha (Gate of Jericho).[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ However, Ibn Taymiyyah did not consider him to have been an anthropomorphist.[2][3]
  2. ^ The Mujassima (corporealists), as indicated by their name, are those who maintain that God has a body,[11] whose rationalized views on God's corporeality resembled the Stoic ideas of the early Christian theologians.[12] Accordingly, they were literalists: hence the derogatory terms Mushabbiha (anthropomorphists) and Hashwiyya (roughly, “know-nothings”) applied to them by the Ash'aris and Maturidis.
  3. ^ The Qur'an states that God will be seen in Paradise in person, which mentioned in Surat al-Qiyama (75:22-23): "Some faces on that Day will be radiant (with contentment), looking towards their Lord". The seeing God in the afterlife became a pillar of the Ash'ari and the Maturidi schools. But the Nature, Perfection, and Attributes of God being all infinite, and exalted above comprehension or encompassing, and the Understanding of Man not only finite, but also of small Extent. According to the Ash'aris and the Maturidis, God will be seen in the Hereafter by the believers, but with the rule of Bila Kayf ("without considering how and without comparison").


  1. ^ Much Hasan Darojat, Mohd Fauzi Hamat, and Wan Adli Wan Ramli. "Al-Baqillani’s Critique to Anthropomorphist’s Concept of The Attributes of God." (2016). p. 2
  2. ^ a b c A group of researchers under the supervision of 'Alawi ibn Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf. "كتاب موسوعة الفرق المنتسبة للإسلام - الدرر السنية" (in Arabic). dorar.net. وقام أيضاً أبو عبد الله محمد بن كرام بسجستان ونواحيها ينصر مذهب أهل السنة والجماعة، والمثبتة للصفات والقدر وحب الصحابة وغير ذلك، ويرد على الجهمية والمعتزلة والرافضة وغيرهم، ويوافقهم على أصول مقالاتهم التي بها قالوا ما قالوا، ويخالفهم في لوازمها، كما خالفهم ابن كلاب والأشعري، لكن هؤلاء منتسبون إلى السنة والحديث، وابن كرام منتسب إلى مذهب أهل الرأي
  3. ^ a b c A group of researchers under the supervision of 'Alawi ibn Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf. "كتاب موسوعة الفرق المنتسبة للإسلام - الدرر السنية" (in Arabic). dorar.net.
  4. ^ Much Hasan Darojat, Mohd Fauzi Hamat, and Wan Adli Wan Ramli. "Al-Baqillani’s Critique to Anthropomorphist’s Concept of The Attributes of God." (2016). pp. 6-7 "Another Anthropomorphist, Ibn al-Karram, also maintained his [referring to Muqatil bin Sulayman who was quoted above] theological belief relying on Christianity in terms of the concept of God"
  5. ^ Zysow, Aron (15 October 2011). "KARRĀMIYA". Iranica. Vol. 15. Encyclopوdia Iranica Foundation. pp. 590–601. Retrieved 1 October 2020. Among later Muslim thinkers Ebn Taymiya (d. 728/1328) stands out as a sympathetic, if critical, student of Karrāmi theology, and he took it upon himself to write an extensive commentary on Faḵr-al-Din Rāzi’s anti-Karrāmi work Asās al-taqdis, in which he defended the traditionist and Karrāmi positions on the key points of dispute
  6. ^ Moshe Gil (1997). A History of Palestine, 634-1099. Translated by Ethel Broido. Cambridge University Press. p. 301. ISBN 9780521599849.
  7. ^ Nile Green (2012). Sufism: A Global History. John Wiley & Sons. p. 45. ISBN 9781405157612.
  8. ^ a b Al-Dhahabi. "Siyar A'lam al-Nubala' (The Biographies of the Most Noble)" (in Arabic). Islamweb.net.
  9. ^ a b Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani. "Lisan al-Mizan (Tongue of the Balance)" (in Arabic). al-eman.com.
  10. ^ "من هم "الكرامية" ولماذا وصفهم أهل السنة والجماعة بأصحاب البدعة؟" (in Arabic). Youm7.
  11. ^ William C. Chittick (1992). Faith and Practice of Islam: Three Thirteenth-Century Sufi Texts. State University of New York Press (SUNY Press). p. 194. ISBN 9780791498941.
  12. ^ Yohanan Friedmann; Christoph Markschies, eds. (2018). Rationalization in Religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Walter de Gruyter. p. 235. ISBN 9783110446395.
  13. ^ a b c d Oliver Leaman, ed. (2015). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Islamic Philosophy. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 197. ISBN 9781472569455.
  14. ^ "MUHAMMED b. KERRÂM". islamansiklopedisi.org.tr (in Turkish). İslâm Ansiklopedisi.
  15. ^ "Abdullah ibn Karram". eslam.de (in German). Enzyklopädie des Islam.
  16. ^ Zysow, Aron (1988). "Two Unrecognized Karrāmī Texts". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 108 (4): 577–587. doi:10.2307/603146. ISSN 0003-0279.
  17. ^ Gerlof van Vloten (1899). Les Hachwia et Nabita (in French). Imprimerie nationale. p. 16.
  18. ^ a b Ibn 'Asakir (January 2012). "Tarikh Madinat Dimashq (History of the City of Damascus)" (in Arabic).
  19. ^ "Ibn Karram". Oxford Reference.
  20. ^ Al-Zirikli. "Al-A'lam (The Notable Personalities)" (in Arabic). al-maktaba.org.
  21. ^ "Early Sufism in Iran and Central Asia". independentphilosophy.net.
  22. ^ a b c Ibn Kathir. "Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya (The Beginning and the End)" (in Arabic). Islamweb.net.
  23. ^ "The Cradle of Jesus and the Oratory of Mary in Jerusalem's al-Haram al-Sharif" (PDF). Institute for Palestine Studies. p. 112.
  24. ^ Ovey N. Mohammed (1984). Averroesʼ Doctrine of Immortality: A Matter of Controversy. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. p. 62. ISBN 9780889201781.
  25. ^ Gibril Fouad Haddad (2015). The Biographies of the Elite Lives of the Scholars, Imams & Hadith Masters. Zulfiqar Ayub. p. 216.
  26. ^ "Al-Baghdadi's Al-Farq bayn al-Firaq" (in Arabic). arrabita.ma.
  27. ^ "An Introduction to Kalam: (Islamic Theology)" (in Arabic). Egypt's Dar al-Ifta.
  28. ^ Ulrich Rudolph (2014). Al-Maturidi and the Development of Sunni Theology in Samarqand. Translated by Rodrigo Adem. BRILL. p. 77. ISBN 9789004261846.
  29. ^ Abd al-Hadi al-Fadli (2011). Introduction to Hadith. ICAS Press. p. 172. ISBN 9781904063476.
  30. ^ Salah al-Din al-Safadi (January 2010). "Al-Wafi bi al-Wafayat (The Complete Work of Necrologies)" (in Arabic).

Further readingEdit

  • Clifford Edmund Bosworth, "The Rise of the Karamiyyah in Khurasan", Muslim World, 51 (1960), pp. 5-14.
  • Margaret Malamud, "The Politics of Heresy in Medieval Khurasan: The Karramiyya in Nishapur", Iranian Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1-4, Religion and Society in Islamic Iran during the Pre-Modern Era (1994), pp. 37-51.
  • Suhair Muhammad Mukhtar, "al-Tajsim 'inda al-Muslimin, madhhab al-Karamiyyah" (Arabic: التجسيم عند المسلمين: مذهب الكرامية), Alexandria, (1971).

External linksEdit