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Acknowledgements ..... VII
Abstract.... VIn
Abbreviations .... IX
Transliteration .. .. X

I - Survey of the Sources .... 3

1 - 'Uyiin Akhbar al-Riqii .... 3

2 - The Monographs Dedicated to the Lives of the Imams .... 8
3 - The Books of Tradition .... 11
4 - The Books of Rijiil and the Fihrists .... 14
5 - The Historical Sources .... 16
6 - Heresiographical Works.... 18
7 - Western-language Works on the Subject .... 20

II - Historical and Ideological Background .... 25



- The Followers of Isma'i1 b. Ja'far and the Proto-Isma'iliyya .... 49

II - The


.... 67

III - The Nawusiyya .... 82

IV - The


.... 87



- Miisa's Kunyas and Epithets .... 92

II - The Birth of the Imam and His Early Years .... 94

III - Miisa
IV -



is Proclaimed as the Successor to al-$adiq .... 98

in the Eras of


al-Mahdi and al-Hadi

(148-1701765-786) .... 108

V - The Era of al-Rashid and the Arrest of


.... 124

1 - First Years preceding the Revolt of Daylam .... 124

2 - :\1- Kazim Disapproves of the Revolt of Daylam .... 126
3 - The Confinement of al-Kazim .... 128
3.1 - Different Accounts about the Cause of the Confinement



3.1.1 - The Jealousy between Y~ya al-Barmaki and Ja'far b. r.lu1:tammad b.

al-Ash 'ath .... 129
3.1.2 - The Denunciations of the Sons of Isma'il b. Ja'far .... 130
3.1. 3 - The Role of Hisham b. al-Hakam .... 134
3.1.4 - The Role of Ya'qub b. Dawud .... 136
3.2 - Shl'i-originated Activities and the Counter-moves of the 'Abbasid
Governm ent .... 137
3.3 -


is Arrested and Taken to Basra .... 146

3.4 - His Detention in Baghdad .... 152

3.4.1 - Which Family is more Entitled to Take over the Imama .... 152
3.4.2 - Al-Fa~l al-Barmaki Takes over the Custody of al-Ka~m .... 157

- The Death of al-Kazim .... 160

VII - The Offspring of


.... 172

VIII - Al-Kazim as a Traditionist .... 175


- The Miracles of al-Kazim in the Imami Literature .... 177

- The Asceticism of


and His Alleged Link to some Early Sufis .. 181



- The Birth of


his Kunyas and Epithets .... 187

II - The Split in the Party .... 193

1 - The Emergence of the Waqifa : A Serious Challenge to the Leadership of

al-Rida .... 195
2 - The Extremist Waqifa : The Bashiriyya .... 215
3 - The Supporters of A1:tmad b. Musa .... 217
4 - The Qar'iyya : The Followers of


.... 218

III - 'Ali al-Ri~a's Designation to the Imama .... 219

1 - The Written Testament of al-Ka~im .... 219
2 - Other Signs of the Designation .... 222
3 - The Propaganda of the Imama and the Attitude of the Government ... 226
IV - Al-Ri~a as the Leader of the Party between 183-2001799-816 .... 229
V - The Revolt of Ibn Taba~ba and the Involvement of the Musawid Family .. 234
VI - The Nomination of al-Ri9a as Heir to the 'Abbasid Throne .... 245
1 - The Role of the Vizier al-Fa(;H b. Sahl .... 247
2 - \Vhat Led the Caliph al-r.la'mun to tvlake this Decision .... 253
2.1 - The Imami-Shi'j Explanation .... 253
2.2 - AI-Ma'mun's r.tu'tazilism and Sht'ism .... 255
2.3 - Consolidation and Reinforcement of the Caliphate..



2.3.1 - The Provision of Peace and Security by Virtue of the Reconciliation of

the two Families .... 259
2.3.2 - The Provision of Legitimacy for al-Ma'mun's Rule .... 264
VII - The Summons and the Journey to Merv .... 268
VIII- The Pledge of Allegiance to al-Ri"a as the Heir .... 278

1 - Al-Ri9a's Acceptance and the Excuses for it..... 278

2 - The Solemnity of the Pledge and the following Observances .... 284
IX - Al-Ri9a at the Royal Court .... 295
1 - With al-Ma'mun .... 295

2 - The Symposia .... 298

3 - The Marriages .... 302

4 - The Life at the Court .... 305

5 - The Imam and the Poets .... 309

5.1 - With Di'bil b. 'Ali .... 309

5.2 - With Ibrahim b. al-'Abbas al-Suli .... 311
5.3 - With Abu Nuwas .... 312

6 - Zayd b. Musa, The Mischievous Brother .... 314

7 - Hisham b. Ibrahim, A Treacherous Shi'l at the Court .... 316

- A Crisis for al-Ma'mun and al-Rida's Interference .... 320

XI - The Death of al-Rida .... 326

1 - The Place and Date of His Death .... 326
2 - Speculations on the Cause of His Death .... 329

XII - Al-Rida
.... 351
. in Sunni Radith
XIII - Al-Rida and the Ghuliit .... 357
XIV - Al-Ri9a the Saint .... 365
1 - Miracles Ascribed to Him .... 365

2 - Claims concerning His Religious Merits .... 368

3 - His Place in Sufism .... 370
XV - The Family of al-Ri"a .... 373
1 - Some Speculations about the Fate of some of His Brothers .... 373
2 - His Alleged Children and Mu1:Iammad al-Jawad b. al-Ri"a .... 376


AND AL-RIDA .... 381

- Imami-Shili Infiltration into Governmental Ranks .... 384

II - Underground :\ctiyities of al-Ka~im and al-Rida and the System


iLlkaJa .. 3\)7

III - The Foremost RijaJ of the Two Imams .... 412

1 - The Theologians .... 415
1.1 - Hisham b. aI-Hakam .... 415
1.2 - Hisham b. Salim al-Jawiliqi .... 423
1. 3 - 'Ali b. Maytham .... 424

1.4 - MuJ;tammad b. Sulayman al-Nawfali .... 426

1.5 - Yunus b. 'Abd al-Rahman .... 427
2 - The Jurists .... 432
2.1 - MuJ;tammad b. Abi 'Umayr .... 432
2.2 - 'Abd Allah b. Mughira al-Bajali .... 434
2.3 - Ahmad
b. Muhammad
. . .... 434
2.4 - ai-Hasan
b. Mahbub
.... 435
2.5 -


b. Ayy\ib .... 435

2.6 - Zakariyya b. Adam .... 435

APPENDIX ONE: Works Attributed to al-Kazim
and al-Rida
. .... 440
APPENDIX TWO: The Isma'ili Version of the Argument: What Led
al-Ma'mun to Designate


as His Heir? .... 449


First and foremost, I am greatly indebted to my supervisor, Dr. I. K.A. Howard, for
his invaluable assistance, furtherance and patience throughout the period of this study.
I also wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Andrew J. Newman whose sympathetic
criticism and many useful suggestions were of significant help to the final draft of this
work. My gratitude is also due to other members of the staff of the Department of
Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies in particular and those of the University of
Edinburgh in general. My special thanks go to Miss Leslie Sco bie, the secretary of
the Department, who always extended every possible help. Appreciation is also
extended to the staff of the Edinburgh University Library, the National Library of
Scotland and the ISAM Library in Istanbul.

This work could not have materialised without the support and encouragement of my
beloved parents, Hedayet and Salma Buyukkara, as well as of my brother Fatih,
especially whose prayers for my success, I believe, were much more significant for
me than all the other matters. Finally I must thank my wife Aisha for her
understanding and tolerance of my idiosyncrasies during the period of the study when
I was working under great pressure to write this work. I would like to dedicate this
study to my charming sons, Jabir and little Salman, who brought joy in my life during
the years of the study.


23 Dhu al-l:fijja. 1417 / 1 May, 10 97



The present study aims to identify the main events related to the Imami-Shi'i
movement in the time of the Imams, Musa


and 'Ali al-Ric,ia (148-203 765-

818). The thesis consists of four chapters following an introduction which surveys
briefly the main sources used in the study, and gives some background information
about the religio-political party which is the central subject of the work.
Chapter One outlines the crisis that the Imarru: party lived through after the death of al~adiq.


Four splinter groups; the proto-Isma'iliyya, the



the Nawusiyya and

are examined in the chapter. How they emerged, their leaders and

prominent figures, their principle doctrines and finally their destinies are the main
themes analysed in detail.
Chapter Two is devoted to the life of the Imam


A critical biography is

presented. The process in which he stood out as a leader and then was proclaimed as
the successor to


is explored. His political attitude towards the present

'Abbasid regime, and the latter's policy towards all the Shi'i elements in general and

party in particular are outlined.


is also treated in the chapter as a

traditionist and ascetic. His alleged link to some early sufis is briefly examined.
Chapter Three is concerned with the period of 'Ali al-Ri<;la. The Waqifi group which
was a serious challenge to the continuity of the line of the Imams is investigated in
detail. The main focus in the chapter is the caliph al-Ma'mun's remarkable decision


nominate al-Ri<;la as his heir apparent. A detailed discussion about this matter throws
some light on the factors which drove al-Ma'mun to propose it. The importance of this
event in 'Abbasid history is also traced. The Imam's sudden death and speculations
concerning it are other matters of investigation presented in the chapter. Like alKa~im,

al-Ri9a is also treated as a traditionist and saint. The chapter also provides

information about al-Ri9a's policy towards


elements and their ideas.

Chapter Four traces the dimensions of the Imami infiltration into governmental ranks
of the 'Abbasid state. It also attempts to unearth the underground activities of the two
Imams and examine the structure and the functions of the system of wakala in their
times. The chapter includes a section in which some foremost rijru of the t\vo Imams.
such as Hisham b. al-Hakam and 'Ali b. Maytham, are introduced.
In the conclusions, there is a summary of the findings of the study. The thes1s also
contains an appendix which describes works attributed to a1-Ka~im and al-Rida. The
second appendix reveals the Isma'iIi version of the argument about what led al~
t\ta' mun to nominate al-Rida as his heir



BSMESB British Society for Middle Eastern Studies Bulletin


Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1st edition (Leiden 1913-1938)


Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition (Leiden 1960-


Islamic Culture


International Journal of Middle east Studies


Journal of the American Oriental Society


Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland


Muslim World


Studia Islamica


<f s

~ k

L? sh








j; z






> dh



c..? y



a (in constract state: at)

The article is written as "al_" even when used before sun letters and after vowels, e.g.
Abu al-Ri9a (not Abu'r-Ri9a or Abu'l-Ri9a).

Short: ~ a

Long: \

or t...S

Doubled: "'7'!


(final fonn: i )




The present thesis attempts to identify the main events in the time of the Imams
Musa al-Ka~m and 'Ali al-Ri~a. The information about these events. which was
brought together from fragmentary information in the works of history. biographical
dictionaries and the books of tradition, has formed a chronological framework for a
limited historical period. This study should be identified as a work which tries to
inquire hi~orically and ~dy critically a period when a continuing political-religious
party was guided by the two Imams who are at the centre of this thesis. This work has
been constructed mainly on historical reports and traditions. Because it is not an
attempt to examine the historical evolution of the Imami-Shi'i thought or
jurisprudence, dogmatic, doctrinal and juridical traditions have only been considered
when the history deals with them. However, the critical proof of the historical
information related to this period, which is one of the aims of this work. can help
further researchers, who want to seek knowledge of the evolution of the early Imaml
doctrine, to reach their objectives within an accurate historical background. We have
also striven to distinguish what the Imams really did and said from what they are
attributed to have done and said. In addition, we have tried to provide information in
some areas about what was ascribed to them. This shows how the followers exalted
their Imams.

I have faced. during my research, like many students of the early stages of
Shl (ism, the particular difficulty of what should be the criteria to appraise Shl'l reports
which carry a great risk of being spoiled by later contributions or being totally
fabricated by later apologists. Therefore. a great deal of caution m u~ be eXL'rclSL'ci in
accepllfig the real nature of the events described. firstly. we have lried Lo be e\treml)
cautious with regard to information which critical hi~ory cannot accept as true. In lhc

course of this, however, the histcrical traditions bearing fictitious elements have not
been completely di~egarded because they may indicate some real historical points but
have been subjected lata-to embellishments of different legends and miracles. But we
have tried


show the unacceptable sides of this information. Secondly. we ha\"e

presented Shi'i-originated reports comparatively, i. e. alongside other non-Shl'l

accounts on the same matter, in the hope of presenting a mex-e accurate picture.

We prefer to use the term "Shi'a" to identify generally all the groups and
individuals upholding a privileged position for the descendants of the Prophet in the
political and religious leadership of the Muslim community. This term includes proto'Alids or proto-Shi'is who were individuals ambitious to gain power using Shi'l
movements as a vehicle for their own aspirations. The use of the name "Imamiyya"
refers to the certain group of proto-Shi'is who followed al-$idiq, al-Kil?im or al-Ri~a
as their religious or political leaders in their times. "The Ja 'fariyya" also refers to the
adherents of Ja 'far al-$idiq; it is not used to indicate the law school which is accepted
to have been found by him. As well as these names, since the followers of the Imams
constituted an important movement as a religious sect, the word "party" is also largely
preferred to identify them. When the subject deals with a time after the Occultations
(after 260i874, especially after 329i941), the name "Imamiyya" is applied as the
synonym of the Ithni' ashariyya or the Twel ver Shi 'a.

Befcre passing on to the main topics of the thesis, a brief survey of the main
sources used in the study is presented in this introduction. It is followed hy another
section which gives background information about early Shl 'J movements, in general,
and the Imam! party. in particular.

I - Survey of the Sources

1 - 'UyilD Akhbir al-Ri<:ti

The most impcrtant source of this research is 'Uyiin Ak.bbic al-Ri"a ("The
Sources of Information about al-Ri~i"), a work which was intended to collect all the
traditions relating to the life of the Imim 'Ali
information about the arrest of the Imim Musi

al-Ri~i. It


also includes useful

and his death. As well as

historical materials, it contains numerous traditions attributed to al-RiWi about different

subjects from theology


medicine. 1 The author of the book is Ibn Babuya

Mul:tammadb. 'Ali al-Qummi (d.381/991), well-known as al-Shaykh al-$aduq, who

was the foremost Imimi scholar and traditionist of his time and whose listed works
reach about three hundred.

Ibn Bibuya is also the author of another four books about 'Ali


: Jami'

Ziyiriit al-Ri<:ti 2, Zuhd Abi al-l:Iasan al-Ri<:ti 3, Mas.' it al-Ri".4 and alMi~b~ al-l:Iadi 'ashar Dhikr man Rawa 'an Abi al-l:Iasan at- Ri <:t a .5

'Uyiin seems to be written subsequently, and thus it probably includes most, perhaps
all, of the contents of the above-mentioned non-extant books. For exam pIe, the
traditions in 'Uyun about the merit of visiting al-Ri~a's grave and other information

As the result of E. Koblberg's investigation, the version of the 'U yu n as we

Kohlberg has found that four of six excerpts from 'Uyun cited hy
'All b. Musa Ibn Tawus in some of his books are missing from the lithographs and
printed editions o('Uyun, see A Medieval Muslim Scholar, p.379.


al-Najashl, p. 2 77: al-Tihraru, xii, p. 78 .

.\ al:-\JaJash1. p.27R; al-TihrdJl1, xii, p.bS.


al-NaJasht, p.279; al-Tihram, xx, p.349.

5 al 1\'ajasht, p ~ 7R.

concerning the Imam's tomb in Mashhad

were probably derived from the book

Jimi' Ziyirit aI-RidS..

In the introduction of 'Uyun, Ibn Babiiya says that he wrote this book to
present to Abii al-Qasim Isma'il ibn 'Abbad, the vizier and man of letters of the Biiyid
period, known as Kafi al-Kufat or more frequently al-$a.l;lib (d.385/995). 7 He added
his hope that his book would remain well-preserved in Ibn' Abbad's excellent
library. 8 He also explained as follows why he chose 'Uynn particularly among all of
his books to present to Ibn 'Abbad :
Because I have found nothing more preferable in his (Ibn 'Abbad's)
view and more impressive in his mind than the knowledge about the
Ah1 al-Bayt by virtue of his affectionate attachment towards them. his
loyalty to their (right of) leadership, his belief in the necessity of
obedience to them. his acceptance of their imama and his kindness
towards their descendants; may Allah make permanent his support
and beneficence to their adherents ... ".9

Ibn Babiiya then quoted two qasidas of Ibn 'Abbad which he had written in
memory of al-Ri<.ia. After the qllSidas, he related a


attributed to the Imam al-

$adiq that whoever recited a verse of a poem about Ahl al-Bayt, God would build a
house for him in Paradise. 10

see 'Uyiin. ii. pp.271-92.

For al-$aJ:tib ibn 'Abbad. see Cl. Cohen and Ch. Pellat. "Ibn 'Abbiid". E12.
iii. pp. 671-3.

For some information about this library. see Kohlberg. A Medieval

Muslim Scholar. pp. 734


'U yii n. i. p. 2

'Uyiin. i. pp.2 5.

After this short introduction, Ibn Babuya starts to relate traditions classifying
them in different chapters (bab). There are sixty-nine chapters in the book. I I The
titles of the chapters clearly indicate the contents of the traditions related in each
chapter. The classification of the chapters follows a historical and logical order. The

title of the first chapter is "the reason why 'Ali b. Musa was named
other chapters concerning the birth of


and the death of his father

follow it. The last chapter contains stories about the blessedness of




tomb in

Mashhad, people's extraordinary experiences which occurred there and examples of

prayers which were answered by God after being said in this tomb. Some of the
chapters were p:-obably made up of separate books. Masi 'il


(d.220/835)12, 'Ilat (at-Fa~l) Ibn Shidhan (d. 260/873)

ai-Islam wa Sharii'i' at-Din which is attributed to al-Ri~a



b. Sinan
and Kitab

appear to be

preserved respectively in chapters thirty-three, thirty-four and thirty-five. 15

Ibn Babuya apparently utilised some other early Shi"i works, which are not
extant now, when he compiled 'Uyiln. We frequently encounter the names of some
early Shi'l riiwis in the sanads of the traditions. These riiwis, in the meantime.
were the authors of some books, and the topics of these books are very relevant to
those traditions in 'U yil n which were related on the authority of these authors. For
instance, in the two chapters related to the symposia in which al-RiQa debated with

liThe number of chapters is different in other editions of the book, but this
does not imply that some manus~pts contain material.~s~ng from others, b.ecause
these different numbers represent different methods of dlV1dmg the same matenal, see
Kohlberg. A Medieval Muslim Scholar. pp.378-9.

see al-Najashl, p.230; al-Tihrilni, xx, p. 349; Fa~l Allah, p.200.

see al-Najashi, p.216; al-Mamaqaru, ii, biography no: 9472: E Kohlberg,

"Imam and Community", p.34; Tabm, p.85-6: Fa~l Allah, p.200-1.


see H.M. al-Hasam, ii, p.427: Fa41 Allah. p.199.

I :)

sec 'U y un, ii, pp. 86- I .2 6.

several scholars from different religions and sects, the traditions are related on the
authority of al-~asan b. Mu1.tammad b. Sahl al-~awfali.16 Al-Kavdali is reported to
have written the book "Dhikr Majilis al-Ri"a ' alayhim at-Salim rna' a Ahl
al-Adyin". 17 As another example, the title of chapter sixty-three is

what was

narrated by Abu al-!?alt about the death of al-Rif:1a -peace be upon him-". 18 Al-Najasbi
records a book, "Kitab Wafit al-Ri"a" written by Abu al-$alt 'Abd al-Salam b.
~i1i1:l al-Harawi. 19 However, Ibn Babuya never refers to the names of these books in

the related chapters.

Ibn BabUy'a also quotes much information from some valuable historical works
which are not extant now. This fact gives 'Uyiln a considerable value. But, unlike the
above-mentioned Shi'i books, these works are referred to with the names of their
authors. The first one of them is Ticikh Khurasin of Abu 'Ali al-~usayn b.


al-Sallami who flourished in the first half of the 4thJ 1Otb century. 2 0 Another important
work is Kitab al-Awraq fi Akhbir AI al-' Abbas wa Ash' irihim which was
written by Abu Bakr M~ammad b. Yal:lya al-$Uli (d. 335/946). Although some parts
of this source have reached us, the part containing information about the early
'Abbasid period has been 10st. 21 Ibn BabUy'a also quotes many passages from Tankh
Nisibur of his younger contemporary


al-Nisaburi (d.404/1014). a

prominent Khurasanian traditionist and historian. Tarikh Nisabur was an

encyclopaedic work devoted to the biographies of famous personalities who li ved in


see 'Uyun, i, chapters 12 (p.126) and 13 (p.l44).


aI-Najashl, p.27.


'U yun. It.

.. p. 24 .


aI ~aJashl. p.172.


see Sezgin, GAS (T. a1-Turath). i. pp.568-9.


see Sczgln. GAS (T. a1-Turatb). i. pp.530-1

the city of Nishapur. 22 It seems that s1nce al-Ri~ ~yed in Nshapur for a while wht!n
he was going to


al-J:Iilim devoted a separate part in his book for him Ihn

Boo-uya's quotations were probably from this part.

Ibn Babuya, when he relates the traditions, does not hesitate to give
contradictory narrations one after another. For example, he does not consider anything
wrong in relating a narration indicating that al-Ric.1a was not killed by the caliph alMa'mu.n, a matter which contradicts the official Imruru opinion. 24 Another example is
that, after he quotes al-Sallami's report that the vizier al-Fac.11 b. Sah1 was behind alMa'mun's decision to nominate al-Ric.1a as his heir, he says that the fact, in his
opinion, is not what al-Sa1lami reported; another narration which is related before it is
true and the only one which can be relied upon. 25

Ibn Babuya sometimes gives some comments on riiwis in the sanads of the
narrations and speaks about the authenticity of these sanads. 26 He also gives some
explanation about traditions which might lead the reader to a misunderstanding. For
example, when he relates a narration in which al-Ric.1a is reported to have accepted
some gifts from al-Ma'mun, he tries to explain the permissibility of acceptance of gifts
from an illegitimate ruler by giving confirmative examples from the times of the
Prophet and 'Ali b. Abi Talib. 27


see Sezgin, GAS (f. al-Turilth), i, pp.369-70.


see pp. 274-6 below.


see Uynn. ii, pp.243-4.


see 'Uyun, ii, p.l64.


For ex .. see Uynn. it p.162. it. p.240.

27 U yu

n. ii. p. 173.

In this thesis I have used the edition of ~ajaf published in 1390:'1970.

Mu~ammad Mahdi al-Khurasaru, who wrote an introduction for the book. says that

before the edition of Najaf, 'Uy1in Akhbir al-RiC;ti was published three limes in
Tehran (in 1275/1858, 1317/1899 and 13n/1957)inalitbographededition.2~ It was
also published later in Qum (1377/1957-8) and Mashhad (1987 and 1993) and
translated into Persian in Tehran (1993).

2 - The Monographs Dedicated to the Lives of the Imams

The majority of works dedicated


the lives of the Imams were written by

Imami authors. Kitiib al-Irshiid is the most well-known of these books. It was
written by the Baghdadi Imami scholar al-Shaykh al-Mufid (d.413/1022), who was
the pupil of Ibn Babuya and is generally regarded as the first exponent of rationalist
Imami scholarship.29 AI-Irshiid contains traditions concerning the lives of the
Imams, their miracles and outstanding merits as well as the


of their

designations for the imama. The majcrity of the traditions in the chapters related to alKa~im




seem to be derived especially from al-Kulayni's al-Kiifi and al-

Maqiitil. Ibn


al-I:liHi, well-known as 'Allama al-Hilh

(d.726/1325), abridged al-Irshiid and entitled it al-Mustajad min Kitib al-


Tirikh al-A'imma of the Baghdadi scholar Ibn Abi al-Thalj (d. 325/936-7)
is one of the earliest books of its kind. In comparison with al-Irshid, Tinkh alA'imma is quite small and contains only the accounts of the Imams' names and

k.unyas, the dates of their births and deaths, the names of their children and the
places of their graves. Some accounts are presented with isniid. This pamphlet. SL'ems


Uyun. xxxii.

29 sec Halm. pp.51-3: \1omen, p.79; \1oezzi. p. 12

to be important as some accounts in it differ from those in other Imanu sources.

Another Baghdadi scholar, Ibn al-Khashshab (d.S67/ll7l), wrote Tarith alMawilid al-A'imma wa Wafayitihim, a pamphlet, the contents of which are
almost the same as Ibn Abi al-Thalj's, but since there are many disagreements between
the records of the two authors, it appears that sources which they utilised were
different. A contemporary of Ibn al-Khashshab, al-Fa~l b. al-I:Iasan al-Tabarsl
(d.548/1154), who is the author of the well-known commentary of the Qur' an.

Majma al-Bayan, wrote another similar work, Tij al-Mawilid. Its content is the
same again except al-Tabarsi additionally gives the details about how long the Imams
lived with the previous Imams and who was the caliph during the course of his
imama. Two Shiti calendars also become useful for the subjett: Masarr aI-Shit a of
al-Mufid and



of Mul;tammad b. al-I:Iusayn al-I:Iarithl

(d. 1031/1622); they indicate several dates related to the lives of the Imams in addition
to the important days and times in the Shi'a history. There is disagreement on many

dates in these two works.



is attributed by al-Najashi to 'Ali b. al-I:Iusayn al-

Mas'udi (d. 3461957-8), the celebrated geographer and historian who is the author of
Murilj al-Dhahab. 30 In the words of al-Tihrilni, Itbbit mentions lithe nature of the
link of divine designation (l:aujja) between the Prophets from Adam until the last of
them, our Prophet. It also mentions the same link between al-AVI~iyii (the Imams)
until their Qa'im -peace be upon them-". 31 In addition to several nu~u~ (the proofs of
the designation) for each of the Twelve Imams, there are also many traditions in the
hook about their actions. The sanads of the traditions were usually om itted.
Although Shill authors are unanimous in considering al-\las'udl one of their number


al-Najasht. p. 179.

:\ I

a\-Tihram, i. p.llO.

and this was largely accepted by the Sunnis also adding \t u' tazilism to his Shi' ism. it
has remained doubtful whether Ithbit


comes from al-t-.1as'udi s pen,

because this work is not mentioned by any Sunni author and


also did not

indicate it himself in any of his surviving works. 32 Dali'il al-Imama is another

book giving information about the Twelve Imams. Its author, Mul;lammad b. Janr b.
Rustam al-Tabari (d. circa 400/1009-10), must not be confused with



Jarir b. Yazid al-Tabari, the author of the famous Tirikh. Al-Dhababi describes the
fonner as a "Rafi~". 33 Although Dali'il usually gives the traditions with isnad. it is
of little historical value as information on the Imams is buried beneath immense
legendary accounts.

Mul:tammad b. 'Ali al-Mazandararu, known as Ibn Shalmishub (d.S88/1192),

the prominent Shi'i juri~ of Aleppo, is chiefly remembered for his Manilqib AI Abt

Ti1ib on the biographies of the Imams.


b. al-1:Iasan al-Tabarsl's I'la.m a.1-

Warii and 'Ali h. 'Isa al-Irbili's (d.692/1293) Kashf al-Ghumma. fi Ma crifat a1A'imma also consists of the biographies of the Imams. The traditions in these books
were usually quoted from earlier works such as ai-Kill and al-Irshid except
Kashf al-Ghumma additionally presents some valuable documents such as the
mutual letters of al-Rida and al-Ma' mun, which are absent in the early Imami worlc.s.

Apart from these Imami works, another three books wriuen by Sunru authors
which are dedicated to the lives of the Twelve Imams are worth mentioning. The fi~
book is Tadhkirat al-Khaw~~ of Sib~ ibn al-JawZl (d.654/12S6), a Shafi'. scholar
who taught in Aleppo and Damascus. Sib~ sometimes quotes passages from the non
extant volume of Abu Bakr al-~U1i's Kitiib a.1-Awraq. lie confirms the episode of

see C.H. Pellat, 'al-Mas'udt". E12, vi, pp.7R7-R: T. Khahdl. Islamic

Historiography: the Histories of Mas' udt, pp. 163-4,


al-Dhahabt, Mtzan. lIi, p.499.


Ghadir Khumm, which is a tradition confirming 'Ali b. Abi Talib's position as the
Prophet's successor. Niir al-Din 'Ali b.


known as Ibn al-$abbagh

(d. 855/1451), a Maliki jurist resident in Mecca, also cites the I)adith of Ghadlr
Khumm in his


but unlike


al-Muhimma fi Ma'rifat al-A'imma: he explicates the

b. al-Jawzi, he does not interpret it as a proof of . All

succession to the Prophet. Ibn al-$abbagh usually refers the traditions to al-Mufid s
al-Irshad in the chapters related to the lives of


and al-Ri9a. The last

important Sunni work is al-Shadhariit al-Dhababiyya fi Tariijim al-A'imma

al-Ithna 'Ashariyya of Shams al-Din


b. Tulu.n (d.953/1546). The

book is made up of compilations from earlier Sunni works, chiefly from



Baghdadi's Tarikh Baghdad.

3 - The Books of Tradition


al-Darajit of al-$affar al-Qummi (d.290/903) is regarded as the

oldest large compilation of Imam! dogmatic traditions known to us. 34 The compiler.
M~am.mad b. al-I:Iasan al-$affar al-Qummj, was a contemporary of the tenth and

eleventh Imams. Ba~i' ir contains traditions about early Imami metaphysics and
mystical theology including those related to the knowledge of the Imams and their
esoteric possessions. Qurb al-Isnid (the Nearness of the Chain) is another early
work of Imami lJ,adith. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far b. a1-l:I usa yn al-l:Iimyan (d. after
297/910), , . described by al-Najashi as the shaylh of the Qummi Shl'a, is the

compiler of the book. The book has three main chapters: Qurb al-Isnad 'an al-

$tidiq, 'an al-Ka~im. and 'an al-Rit;la. Although in the cha~ers of al-~adiq and

see M.A. Moezzi. "Al-Sanar al-Qumml (d.290/902-3) el son Kllah Basa'lr

al-Daraiat" , Journal Asiatiq ue.vol.: 280, num.: 3-4, 1992, pp. 221-50: idem. The
Divine Guide in Early Shi'ism, Albany 1994, p.20.


a1-Ri~a the traditions

are presented without any classification. in that of al-K~ they

are arranged under titles about different subjects. 35

AI-Kafi fi '11m aI-Din is one of the most important works of the Imaml
tradition. It is the first of the four major canonical collections of the Imam1 I)adith. It
was completed in the period of the Lesser Occultation. The compiler of al-Kaft is

b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni (d.329/941), who was from the Persian village

K ulayn near Qum, but resident in Baghdad. AI- K ifi is a collection of over 15,000
traditions. It arranges the sayings of the Imams by subject and each I)adith is
provided with an i&nad. The first volume deals with


ai-Din (the Principles of

Religion). In this volume, the chapter entitled Kitab al-lJujja (the Book of the
Proof) is entirely devoted to the doctrine of the imama and contains much information
about the lives of the Imams and the beliefs of the Imamiyya about them.

In addition to 'UyUn Akhbir al-Ri,=,a, another three books wrinen by Ibn

Babuya were also useful for this research. In 'Ilal al-Shari'i, some traditions
explain several factors behind different decisions and actions of the Imams such as the
factor behind al-Ric.ia's acceptance of being successor to al-Ma' mun's throne. Amali
(the Dictation) contains traditions which were dittated by Ibn Babuya to his students
during his visit to Mashhad in the year 368/978-9. There is important information in
the book about the relations of al-K~ and al-Ri~a with the 'Abbisid caliphs. The
author's Ma 'ant al-Akhbar also contains similar narrations concerned with our

Tu~af al- Uq ill is another book worth mentioning. Its author


al- 1.1 as an b.

'AlI al-Harraru. known as Ibn Shu'ba, who was a contemporary of Ibn Babuya and


For Qurb al-Isnad. also see Kohtbcrg. A Medieval Muslim Scholar



among the teachers of al-~1ufid. The traditions in Tu1:Jaf mostly deal WIth the spiritUal
counsel and admonitory sayings of the Prophet and the Eleven Imams. Al- It.hti~a~
is attributed to al-Mufid. 36 This book of hadith
and al-FusUl
al-Mukhtara .
another work of al-Mufid, contain useful material about the two Imams. In the last
chapters of al-Fu~ul, al-Mufid introduces different splinter Imanti and non-lmanu
Shi'i sects giving some examples of their traditions and then tries to refute their

Al-I\ltijij of


b. 'Ali al-Tabarsi (d. early 6th/12th century) largely

presents traditions related to the Imams' argumentation and debates with their rivals.

'Ali al-Ri<;ta's debates with several scholars in the symposia arranged by al-Ma'mu.n
take up a large part of the book. Belonging to the same period, Sa'id b. Ribat Allah
al-Rawandi (d.573/1178), a Shi'i scholar from Kashan, wrote at-Khara'ij wa al-

J arii' i~ which was completely devoced to the miracles of the Prophet and the Twel ve

Three books from the ghayba literature of the Imamiyya are quite important
for the present thesis: Kamil at-Din wa Tamam at-Ni'ma of Ibn Babuya, alGhayba of M~ammad b. Ibrahim al-Nu'mani (d.360/971) and al-Gbayba of
b. al-Hasan
al-Tug (d.460/1~7). Particularly Kamal and al-Tusi's al.
. '
Ghayba contain very useful infonnation about the Shi 'i groups which proclaimed the
occultation of some Imams such as the Isma'iliyya and the Waqifa. Ai-Tust quotes
forty-one Waqifi traditions from an early book wriuen by a certain \Vaqifi 'All b.
Al.1mad al- 'A1awi. This should be regarded as precious since no \Vaqifl work has
reached us.

AI-Tihrani discusses whether al-Ik.hti~a~ really belongs to a1-~lufld, sec

at-Zan'a, i. pp.358-60.



al-Anw ar, the voluminous encyclopaedic collection of Imaml /:ladith

which was compiled by Mul;1ammad Baqir al-t-.fajlisi (d. 11ll! 1700), the foremost
Sbi'i scholar of the Safawid period, is another important source. The 48th and 49th
volumes of


were devoted only to al-Ka7?im and




and Musnad al-Ric:ti are not original works. They are tbe collections of lJadith
which were related from al-Ka?im and al-Ri<;ta. The editor of the book' A. al-'Utaridi
compiled these traditions from the early Imanu sources and


them by subject.

These two works help us to trace present information back to tbe early books of

4 - The Books of Rijal and the Fihrists

The earlie~ surviving book of the Shi'i rijal (biographies of the scholars and
transmitters ofthelJadith) is al-Riji.l of A1;lmad b. Abi 'Abd Allah al-Barqi (d.274-

80/887-94). This small treatise gives only the lists of the rijal according to tbe Imam
with whom they associated. The Riji.l of M~ammad b. 'Umar al-Kashshl
(d. 340/951) is different from al-Barqi's one. It is a collection of traditions about the
members of the early Sbi'i movement. Each tradition is presented with isnad. The
important point regarding this work is that, unlike later Imami rijalliterature, alKashshi gives many unfavourable remarks by the Imams against several prominent
figures of early Shi'ism. Therefore, this work appears to be the most important source
for one who seeks to trace the opinions of the splinter Shi'i groups back to the early
period and for one who wants to fmd out doctrinal and personal disagreements within
the community especially between the Imams and their disciples. The original wock of
al-Kashshi was entitled Kitib Macrifat al-Niqilin can al-A'immat al~adiq in. This was abridged by Mul;1ammad b. al-I:Iasan al-TUSl under the title of

Ikhtiyar Ma crifat al-Riji.l. which is the version which we have


For the significance of this work. see A. ,-\ Sachedln.a. "The Slgn~ficance of
Kashshl's Rij8.l in understanding the Early Role of the Shl'tte Fuqaha, tn Logos


Kitiib al-Rijil of al-Najashi (d.4501l058) and Fihrist of


are also

biographical works which record important information about the followers of the
Imams. Ibn Dawud al-J:Iasan b. 'Ali al-l:lilli's (d.647/1249) Kitab al-Rijil was a
compendium of the early Imami books of rijal.


al-Maq i..l of 'Abd Alhih 31-

Mamaqaru (d. 1933), who was a marja' al-taqlid in 1\ajaf, is a very extensive
encyclopaedia of Shi'i rijal. It enables researcher


find out all the traditions and

other information about most of the individuals whose names are recorded in the

sanads of the Imami #:Jadith.

SUnn1 rijal books were also helpful in this research. Many Shl"i rijal or
those rijal who were suspected of Shi'i tendencies could be found in the Sunni rijiil
works which are devoted to the biographies of ~a 'if (weak, i. e. unreliable) rawi s.
Of these works we have used Kitiib al-Jar~ wa al-Ta'dil of Ibn Abi I:Iatim ai-Ran
(d.327/938-9), Kitiib al-Majrii~in of M~ammad ibn J:Iibban (d.354/965), Mizan

al-I'tidil fi Naq4 al-Rijil of al-Dhahabi (d.748/1348), Lise al-Mizan and

Tahdhib al-Tahdhib of Ibn l:lajar al-Asqalani (d. 852/1449). Tahdhtb is a much
later and more comprehensive work which includes all the early Sunni critics on
numerous rawis.

AI-Ansib of al-Sam'ani (d.562/1166-7), another Sunnl

traditionist, intends to list early rijal according to their nicknames and family-names.
Ibn al-Atbir wrote an imfl"oved compendia of al-Ansib, al-Lubab fi Tadhhib alAnsib. Both books have separate sections for the biographies of al-Ka~im and alRidil.

Islamikos Studia Islamica In Honorem Georgii Michaelis Wickens, cd.

hy R.tv1. Savory and D.A.~gius, (Toronto t9R4), pp.IR3-206. Aha 'iCC \\
Mudelung, "aJ-Kashshl. E12. IV, pp.711-2.


5 - The Historical Sources

Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310/923) is worth mentioning as the first author in this
regard because of his elaborate and accurate history, Tirikh aI-Rusiil wa aIMuliit. These annals cover the whole period with which this thesis is relating.
Tirikh al-Tabari served as a major source for later historians such as Ibn al-Athir
(d.630/1232), Abu al-Fida (d.732/1332) and Ibn Kathir (d.774/1372). Ai-Ya'qiibi (d.
after 292/905) is generally accepted as a historian sympathetic to the 'Alids. He
sometimes gives some rare information related to our subject in his Tirikh. AlMas'udi (d. 346/957-8) in his principal surviving work, Muriij al-Dhahab, used the
topical method of writing history. His narrations and accounts on the symposia which
were arranged in the 'Abbasid court were very valuable for this research. From the
earliest sources, Tirith of Khalifa b. Khayyat (d. 240/854-5) and Akhbir al-Tiwil
of Abu


al-Dinawari (d.2B2/896), despite the fact that they are quite brief

histories in comparison with the above-mentioned ones, provide checks on the dates
of events and the names of high state officials. Ibn A 'tham 's (d. 314/926) Kitib alFutiil;l, a major source for the early history of the Arabs, continues its narrative until
the time of Hartin al-Rashid. Tirikh al-Maw,il of al-Azdi (d.334/945), Kitib alBaghdad of ~mad b. Tahir b. Tayfur (d.2BO/833) and Wulit Mi,r of al-Kindi
(d. 350/960-1) are books of local history. Ibn Tayfur especially gives valuable
information about the religious opinions of al-Ma'mun. Ai-Kindi also reports some
events which took place in Egypt in connection with the nomination of 'Ali al-Ri~a as
heir apparent in Khurasan.

The anonymous book of early 'Abbasid history, Akhbir al-Dawlat &1'Abbisiyya, and Ansab aI-Ashrif of al-Baladhuri (d.299tB92-3) are among the
early works. Therefore, their information on the' Alid-' Abbasid co-operation In the
course of tht: 'Abbasid revolution and the relationshi p having developed between them
in the post-revolution period are very valuable. :\l-Jahshiyari



331/941) wrote the


of the viziers and secretaries of the Islamic states, Kitib al- Wuzara' wa al-

Kuttib. His infonnation on the administrative and political activities of the' Ahbasid

viziers gives many indications to us about their relations with the Imams and the state
policy carried out towards the Imams and their followers. Maqitil al-Tilibiyyln is
a historical work composed by Abu al-Faraj


(d. 356/966-7). It contains

biographies of the descendants of Abu Talib who were asserted to have been killed for
political reasons, including those who died in pri~n or in hiding. In the book there are
two chapters dedicated to al-Ka~m and


The book also gives detailed accounts

of the various rebellions and includes li~ of those who participated in them.

Although they are not directly related to the subject of this research. the earl)"
books of iidiib are also important.


al-Aghant, Ibn Qutayba's

(d.276/889) cUyUn al-Akbbir and Ibn 'Abd Rabbih's (d.328/93940) al-' Iqd alFarid have valuable literary materials which give many details about the relationship

between the caliphal court and some of the prominent 'Alids including the Imams. Ibn
al-Tiq~aqa's (d. 70111300) al-Fakhri is a much later historical work.. The author was

a descendant of the prominent 'Alid family in the second century H., the Banu
Tabatabi. This fact seems to have affected his narrative and therefore his information
sometimes differs from the tthers. Ibn al-Tiq~a gives more space to the accounts of
Abu al-Saraya's revolt and the nomination of al-Ri~a in p-opation to the small size of
his book.

Large biographical dictionaries are also impcrtant even though their reports are
predominantly laudatory. The works of al-Kha~ib al-Baghdadi (d.463/1072). Ibn alJawZl (d.597/1201). Ibn Khallikan (d.681/1282). al-Dhahahi (d. 748/1348), al-Safadl
(d. 764/1363): al-Yafi'l (d. 768/1367) and Tbn al-'Imad (d.l089:1678) have sections
devoted to the lives of al-Ka~im and al-Ri9a. Ibn I.lazm's (d.456/t064) book on the
genealogy of the Arabs, lamharat Ansab al-' Arab. traces the lineage of famous


personalities who lived in the early centuries of Islam. It gi H~ only little infonnatlon
about historical events related to these persons. Another two works on ...genealogy
belong to the Imami authors al- 'Umari (d.mid 5th/II th c.) and Ibn 'Inaba
(d.828/1425). These books, al-Majdi fi Ansib al-Tilibiyyin and 'Umdat alTiilib fi Ansib

AI Abi Tatib, are devoted only to the lineage of 'Ali b. Abi Tillib.

However, Ibn 'Inaba has sections giving accounts of the lives of prominent 'A1ids
such as al-Ka7?im and


6 - Heresiagraphical Warks
The most important sources of heresiographical information presented in this
thesis are Firaq al-Shi'a of al-J:Iasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti (d. 310/922) and alMaqatit wa al-Firaq of SaId b. 'Abd Allah al-Qummi (d.299-301/91 1-4). These
two authors are Imimi Shi'is. Al-Nawbakhti was a close relative of al-J:lusayn b.

al-Nawbakhti (d.326/938), the third safir (agent) of the Hidden Imam. Since

many parallels exist between the works of al- Nawbakhti and al-Qummi, it is suggested
that al-Qummi used al-Nawbakhti's work and added sources of his own. Also W.
Madelung suggests that al-Nawbakhti used Hisham b. al-J:Iakam's Kitib Ikhtilaf
al-Nils fi aI-Imama as a source fer the first part of his book. 38

'Abd Allah b.


al-Anban, well-known as al-Nasbi' al-Akbar, is a

poet and Mu 'tazili theologian who died in 293/906. He wrote a heresiographical work,
a section of which on the imama is preserved. According to its editor, Joseph Van
Ess, al-Nas.hi' used sources belonging to an earlier date than the period at which he
was writing. Kitiib al-Inti~ir of Abu al-J:Iusayn al-Khayyat (d. circa 300/913), who
was the foremost representative of the Baghdad school of the Mu'tazila. is one of the
eight books wriuen by the author against Ibn al-Rawandi. an arch-heretic who died in

tvladelung, Hisham b. al-l:lakam Ell. IIi, p.497; t\ole by Madc\ung" In

S.tvl Stern. Studies in Early Isma'ilism. p.47


circa 297/910. From al-Inti~it we get information about the early Imamiyya in the
words of both al-Khayyat and Ibn al-Rawandi. Another Mu 'tazili author is 'Abd Allah
b. Al:tmad al-Balkhi (d.319/931), who was a disciple of al-Khayyat. His work on the
Shi"i sects is preserved in the last volume of al-Qa9i 'Abd al-Jabbar's famous alMughn1.

Abu al-J:Iasan al-Ash"an's (d.324/936) Maqilit al-Islim.iyyiJl occupies a

unique place. Maqilit not only reports the doctrines of the sects but also gives the
detailed views of individual thinkers such as Hisham b. al-J:Iakam and Yunus b. 'Abd
al-RaJ;tman, who were the disciples of

Radd 'ali al-Ahwi wa al-Bida' by



and al-Ri9a. AJ- Tanbib wa alb. AJ;tmad



8), the Shafi "i faqib and specialist in the Qur' anic readings, gives quite hostile
comments on the doctrines of sects and certain individuals, and he often accuses the
believers of these doctrines of being heretics. Another Sunni writer is al-Isfara'ini
(d.47111078-9), the Ash'an scholar. His


fi al-Din. classifies the sects and

gives brief accounts of the beliefs which they held. 'Abd al-Qahir ai-Baghdadi
(d.429/1037-8) also belongs to the Ash"an school of thought. His frequentlyconsulted book, al-Farq bayn al-Firaq, is a polemical work. AI-Baghdadi takes
each sect, judges all from the standpoint of the Sunnism and condemns all which
deviate from the straight path. Unlike al-Baghdadi, al-Shahristani (d.S48/11S3) tries to
give plain information about the sects in his outstanding work, al-Milal wa alNiJ:lal. However, both authors, since they made the tradition about seventy-three
sects, one of which is "the saved one", a foundation to construct the framework of
their books, seem to produce several sect names to ensure the number of seventy
three. For instance, they give the names of the Hishamiyya, the Zuranyya or the
Yunusiyya as the Shi'i sects the founders or which are taken by aI-Ash' art as
indi vidual thinkers. :\ contemporary of al- Baghdadi, the famous :\ndalusian Zihiri
scholar Ibn Hazm wrote Kitib al-Fas! Althoug h a1-Fa~1 is an encyclopaedia of

religions, like al-Shahristani s al-Milal. it also deals with heresiography. Ibn I.Iazm
concentrates on the theological ideas of the sects rather than their histay.

Two little heresiographical treatises written by the celebrated theologian and

exegesist Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d.606/1210) are worth mentioning.



largely with Ic.aLQm, but one of its seaions is dedicated to the opinions of the different
sects with regard to the imima rtiqidit Firaq ai-Muslimin contains most of the
Muslim sects in addition to those of the Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians. There is
also a special


reserved for the Sufis. F. aI-Ran points out that he is the only

one to regard the Sufis as a sect. Kitib aI-Mawi'iz wa al-I'tibir, commonly

referred to as


written by the Egyptian historian AJ;unad b. 'Ali al-Maqnzl

(d.845/1441-2), has a small section in which the Shi'i seas are classified. AbiJ lIatim

b. J:Iamdan al-Razi (d. 322/934) was the chief Isma'ili dai of Rayy. His

work, Kitib al-Zina, intends to find out the origins of the names of the Islamic
sects. He sometimes gives useful information about whether these sects still survived
at his time.

7 - Western-language Worb on the Subject

A monographic study written particularly foc the Imam al-K~m and al-Ri~a
has yet to appear in the Western languages. Although some academic wocks have been
done foc other Imams,


the period of al-Ka~ and al-Ri~a has n~ been studied by

the critical method of Western scholarship. Rev. C. Sell was perhaps the first
Western-language author to write the biographies of the Twelve Imams. He devoted

see some recent Ph. D. theses, for instance, A. E Lalani, "The Role of Imam
Muhammad al-Baqir in Early Islam", unpublished Ph. D. thesis (U. of Edi~burgh.
1988): s. F. Wardrob, "The Lives of the Imams, .\'1u~ammad al-Jawad and\lt al
Hadi and the De\"elopment of the Shi'ite Organisatton" '. unpubltshed Ph. D. :he~~s (t?
of Edinburgh, 1988): R.P. Buckley, "Ja'far al-$adtq and early proto-Shl Ism,
unpublished Ph.D, thesis (U. of Exeter, 1993).


two short chapters


the lives of al-Ka~ and al-Ri9a in this Yrork.40 D. \t

Donaldson followed him writing The Shi'ite Religion in 1933. He also deyoted
two chapters to al-Ka~ and al-Ri~. He seems to have used all the SOlrCes available
for him at that time including 'Uyiln Akhbir al-Ri"i. 41 The three different entries
in the Ell and EI2 on


and al-Ri"a do not give the whole picture of the

Imams' lives and activities. 42 In 1973, M. W. Wan examined the scholarly attivities of
some of the followers of


and al-Ri"a and their impacts on the formative

period of Islamic thought. 43 F. Omar, in 1975, briefly discussed the detention of alKa~

and traced its possible reasons. 44 In 1978, J. Hussain investigated the agent

network of al-Kazim and touched on

some dimensions of the Imami infiltration

into the governmental offices, but without giving detailed information. 45 The same
author, in 1982, in the Occultation of the Twelfth Imim, touched on the same
subjects. He also gave information about the crisis of the imama after the death of al~adiq and al-K~, the attitude of the 'Abbasids towards al-Ka~im 's party and the

position of the lanerin revolutionary Shi'i activities especially under the leadership of

40 Rev. Canon Sell, Ithna'ashariyya or the Twelve Shi'ah Imams.

(Madras 1923).

D. M. Donaldson, The Shi'ite Religion. (London 1933), pp. 152-69.

42 Cl. Huart, 'Ali al-Ri"a", Eh. i, pp.296-7; Strothmann, "Musa al-Ka~m",

Ell, iii, p.741; B. Lewis, 'Ali al-Ri"a", EI2, i, pp.399-400.


M.W. WaU The Formative Period of Islamic Thought, (Edinburgh

1973) pp.158-9. 186~9. Watt has also repeated this maner briefly in his artic.l~, "T~e
Significance of the Early Stages of Imami Shi 'ism", in Religion and PohtlCS to
Iran, ed. N.K. Keddie. (New Haven & London 1983), pp.24-S.

Farouk Omar, "Some Aspects of the 'Abbasid-I:Iusaynid Relations during

the Early 'Abbasid Period 132-193 A.H.i7S0-809 AD.', Arabica, 22 (197S'"
pp. t 7R-9.

Jassim M. Hussain, "'\Jew Light on the AClivities of the ImamilCs during the
Time of Musa al- Ka~im ( 148-183 A. H.) , AI serat 4 ! IV ( 197P.), pp ..\{}. 43



In 1980, W. Madelung wrote about the acti\.'ities of 'All b. Yaq~n. who

a secret Imami official in the 'Abbasid court. 47 In 1984. Sachedina mentioned the

agent system of al-Ka.?im, emphasising the collection of khums, but he said nothing
about the continuation of the system into the time of


D. Thomas, in 19RR.

translated the large part of a tradition in which al-Rida debates with a Christian scholar
in a

~m posium.

He then argued against the historicity of this tradition. 49 H. Algar, in

1990, examined in detail the links found in some sources between al-Kazim and three
early famous mystics. 50

In three general works on the history of Shi'ism written by M. Momen. H

Halm and Y. Richard, al-Ka.~im and al-Ri~a have received some mention. 51 Moez7i.
in 1994, has paid some attention




some of the aspects of the political lives of al-

Most recently Arjomand has given the sociohistoricaJ

perspecrive of the crisis of the imama in the history of the early Imiimlyya. On this

46 J.M. Hussain, Occultation of the Twelfth Imam, (London 1982),

47 W. Madelung, "A Treatise of the Sharif al-Murta~a on the Legality of
Working for the Government (Mas'ala fi '1-'Amal ma'a'I-Su1~)", BSOAS, 43
(1980), pp.18-20.
48 AA. Sachedina, "The Significance of Kashshi's Rijal in Understanding the
Early Role of the Shi'ite Fuqaha."', in Logos Islamikos ~tudia Islarnica in
Honorem Georgii Michaelis Wickens, ed. R.M. AglUS, (Toronto 1984),
49 D. Thomas, "Two Muslim-Christian Debate from the Early Shl'ite
Tradition", J. of Semitic Studies, 33 (1988), pp.65-80.
50 H. Algar, "Imam Musa al-Ka~ and $uli Tradition". Islamic Culture,
64 (1990), pp. 1- 14.
M. Momen, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, (New Haven & London
1985), pp. 71-2: H. Halm, Die Schia, trans. by.J. Watson as Shiism, (Edinhurgh
t 991), pp. 30-4: Y. Richard, Shi' i~e Islam: Poltty, Ideology and Creed, trans.
by A. Nevill, (Oxford UK&Cambndge USA t 995), pp 37-9.

52 M ..c\.A. Moezzi, Tbe Divine Guide in Early Sbt'tsm, ('\Jl:~ Y<rk

1994), pp.6J :1

occasion. he bas made comments on some religio-political eyents which took place in
the time of al-Kazim
and al-Rida.
. 53

The most complete inve~igation of this period remains the brief entries of E.
Kohlberg in the Ell and W. Madelung in the Encyclopaedia Iranica. These
articles give very useful information and a large number of references to tbe student to
start a detailed study on the subject. 54

Al-Ma'mun's choice of al-Ri<:1a as his heir apparent drew the attention of many
scholars due to its unique position in the history of Islam. Such scholars as F.
Gabrieli. l:Iamdi ~idqi, D. Sourde1, M. Wan. M. Zahniser. H. Kennedy, M. Rekaya.

l.A. Nawas focused on this subject by suggesting some possible explanations of this
unusual step of al-Ma'mun. 55 Madelung translated two important documents
concerning this historical event and made some useful contribution to the subject by
his comments on them.56 P. Crone and M. Hinds also translated another document
and traced al-Ma' moo's policy in this regard. 57

53 S. A. Arjomand. "The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of

Occultation in Twelver Shi'ism: A Sociohistorical Perspective", IJM ES, 28 (1996).
54E. Kohlberg, "MUsaal-K~", Ell, vi, pp.645-8; W. Madelung, 'All alRezi", Encyclopaedia Iranica (Yarshater ed.). i, pp.877-80.

55 F. Gabrieli. Al-Ma'mlin e gli 'A1idi, (Leipzig 1929), pp.29-61; Hamdt

Sidql, "The pro-Alid policy of al-Ma'mun", Bull. Coil. of Arts and Sci.
(Baghdad). 1 (1956), pp.96-105; D. Sourdel, "~a Politique religieuse du calife
'Abbasideal-Ma'mun", Revue des Etudes Islamlques, 30 (1962), pp.27-48: M.
Wan, The Formative Period of Islamic Thought, (Edinburgh 1973), pp.t7S
8; M. Zahniser, "Insights from the 'Uthmaruyya of a1-Jru.u~ into the Religious Policy
of al-Ma'mun", Muslim World, 69 (1979), pp. 14-7; H. Kennedy, The Early
Abbasid Caliphate. (London 1981), pp. 157 ff.; M. Rekaya, "al-t\'la' mun b. Barun
al-Rashid", E12, vi, pp.334-5. J.A. Nawas, when he examined the c~rrent
explanations for al-Ma'mun's introduction of the. mi/:Jna, also .touc~ed on thiS ~ssuc.
see "A Reexamination of Three Current Explanatlons for al- \la mun s IntroductIOn of
theMibna". IJMES. 26 (1994), pp.616-20.
56 W. Madelung, "~ew Documents Concerni.ng al-t\1a'mun .. ai-Fadl h. Sahl
and 'Ah al-Ri~a", in Studia Arabica et Islamlca. Festschrift for Ihsan


It is also worthwhile to mention some Ph. D. theses which deal partially with

the period of al-Ka~ and al-Ri<;la. Raj kowslci, in his large study, . Early Shi 'ism in

, gave some information about the personalities of these Imams and some of their

activities. 58 Wardrob, when she has examined the development of the Imami
organisation, spoke about the Imami waluila system under a1-K~m and al-Ri<.Ji. 59
One of the aims of Takim in his thesis is to identify the importance of the rijal of the
Imams in early Sbi'ism. He has given the detailed biographies of the renowned rijal
of al-Ka~im and al-Ri<;la such as Hisham b. al-I:Iakam, Hisham b. Salim and Yunus b.
'Abd al-R~man. 60 Finally Cooperson has examined the biographical representation
of four third/ninth century figures,


b. I:Ianbal, Bishr al-J:lifi, al-Ma'mun and

'Ali al-Ri<;la, in Arabic biographical writings extending from the fourthltenth to the
fourteenth/twentieth centuries. According to the author, these figures espoused a
distinct claim


authority based on the prophetic legacy. He has explained that his

study exposes the biographical genre as a literary ordering of social and spiritual

'Abbas, (Beirut 1981), pp.333-46, and in Religious Schools and Sects in

Medieval Islam of the same author, (London 19&5), article: VI.

P. Crone and M. Hints, God's Caliph: Religious authority in the

first centuries of Islam, (Cambridge 1986), pp.94-6, translation: pp. 133-9.

W. W. Rajkowski, "Early Shi'ism in Iraq", unpublished Ph. D. thesis, (U.

of London SOAS, 1955).

59 S.F. War-drob, "The Lives of the Imams, Mul.tammad al-Jawad and '~1 alHadi and the Development of the Shi'ite Organisation", unpublished Ph. D. thesIs (U.
of Edinburgh, 1988), pp.180-93.

L.N. Takim, "The Rijal of Shi'i Imams as depicted in Imaml Biognlf)hical

Literature", unpublished Ph.D. thesis, (U. of London SOAS, 1990), pp.51-RR. 14056.

61 M. D. Cooperson. "The Heirs of the Prophets In Cla~sical Anlbtc

Biography", unpublis~ed P~.D. thesis, (Harv~ 0.,> 1994) .. UntortunalelY',l huyc
not been able to see this theSts. The above-mentIoned lnformullon has been eted from
the Dissertation Abstract Ondisc Jan. 1993-Dec. 1996.


II - Historical and Ideological Background

One of the main dogmas in Islam is that Prophet M~ammad (d.13 Rabi' 1. 10!
8 June, 632) is the seal of all the prophets,62 therefore no prophet after him would be
commissioned by God. After the death of tbe Prophet, tbe necessity of a successor to
him wbo undertook his duty as a leader of the Muslim community and the state, and
the fact that there did not seem to be any designated successor to him, led the
community to cboose a new leader. Abu Bakr emerged as tbe leader (imam or

Ic.hali/a) and was accepted by the Prophet's companions. 'Umar b.


'Uthman b. 'Aflan and 'Ali b. Abi Talib succeeded to him respectively. who were also
appointed to the post by different procedures. These four leaders (ruled between
10/632 and 40/661) were usually named "Rightly Guided Caliphs" ("Khulafa' al-


However, tbe large part of 'Ali b. Abi T8.lib's caliphate was involved in civil
war, bringing about important religio-political divisions within the Muslim nation (al-

umma). The party which gave its support to 'Ali was named "the Shi'a" ("Shi'at

the Party of 'Ali). In their eyes 'Ali occupied a unique position, because he

belonged to the Banu Hashim, the Prophet's own branch of the tribe of Quraysh. and
he was a close relative of the Prophet being his cousin, son-in-law and the father of
his only surviving descendants, being married F~ma, the daughter of the Prophet

When 'Ali b. Abi T8.lib, who was the first Imam of the Shi 'a, was murdered
in 40/661, tbe governor of Syria, Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan, who had been an
opponent of 'Ali in the civil war, took over the caliphate. The party of' .-\11 recognised
al-l,Iasan, the eldest son of 'Ali and the grandson of the Prophet. as their new leader

62 "Muhammad is not lhe father of any of '..-our men. but (he

Allah, and the seal of t.he Prophets' . aI-Qur-,oan : xxxiii. 40.


the Apo~"tlc of

and also they proclaimed that he was the only legitimate caliph after 'Ali. However.
Mu'awiya prevailed upon al-I:Iasan to abdicate. Thus,


gained power. Later

nominating his son, Y azid, to the caliphate after him, he established the bereditary rule
of the Umayyads (40-132/661-749).

Al-I:Iasan died in 50/670. His younger and full brother al- ~Iusayn, who bad
lived in retirement at Medina throughout the reign of Mu 'awiya, refused to
acknowledge Yazid. He, relying on the insistent appeals of the Shi'is in Iraq, decided

wrest the caliphate from Yazid. As a reply to the Kufan summons, 6:\ he set off on a

journey from Medina


Iraq in 60/680. However, at Karbala, near Kufa, he was

surrounded by the Umayyad troops, and after his refusal to surrender, he was cut
down and his relatives and companions were massacred with bim on 10


61/100ttober, 680.

Al-l:Iusayn was regarded later by the Shi'a as their third Imam, and his beroic
struggle against "illegitimate rulers" became a sub~al symbol in Shi'i history and
ideology. His martyrdom inspired the party with a new religious fervour, which
would stir up rebellions in early Islamic history. It also motivated Ah1 aI-Bayt (the
People of the House = the Family of the Prophet) to establish or strengthen their own
organisation to protect their honour and regain their lost rights.

Almost all the Shi'i groups agreed on the succession passing from 'All to 81I:Iasan and then to al-l:Iusayn. After the latter's death, the date of the first division
within the Shi'ism might be marked. Al-Mukhtiir b. Abi 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi. after
organising his own pro- 'A1id movement, revolted in Kufa in 66/6R5 against the
Umayyad government with a general call to avenge al-l.Jusayn's murder. lIe

Kufa was the capital of 'All s caliphate. After'

importance as the centre of the Stu' t movements.



the city maintruned


succeeded in winning a mass support from the Shi'ls in Iraq .'........ ~~prevlous1y been
under the leadership of the group known as al- Tawwiihiin (the Penitents) becausL'
of their failure to support al-1:Iusayn in his struggle. 64 Al-\lukhtar also claimed that
Mu~ammad b.

'Ali al-I:Ianafiyya, the son of 'Ali by a woman other than the Prophet s

daughter F3.!.ima, was his real leader and the Mahdi (the Divinely Guided One) who
would restore justice and equity on the earth. This is the first time that a clear
declaration of the characteristic Sill'i doctrine of the Mahdi was used in a messianic
context. 65 Although at its early stage the revolt had been very successful. it was later
defeated and al-Mukhtar was killed. However, the influence of this group lasted for
some time. When Ibn al-I:Ianafiyya died in 81/700-1, many of the partisans of this
movement did not accept his death as a reality and they maintained that he would
return and fill the earth with justice. 66 This was the beginning of two central beliefs in
the idea of the Mahdi in the Shi'ism: the ghayba (occultation) and the raj a (return)
of the Islamic Messiah. 6 7 As well as the Messianism, the doctrine of bada' was also
formalised during this period. When al-Mukhtru" who had promised his followers

victory before the revolt, was defeated, he tried to justify his failure by putting
forward the doctrine of bada', namely, that God may change His previous decision.
so the ultimate decision often appears to men after first having been concealed. 68


Ibn KhaldUn, al- "Ibar, iii, pp. 175-6.

Lewis, "The Isma'i1ites and the Assassins" p.IOO; Sacbedina, Islamic

Messianism, p. 9; Daftary, The Isma "ilis, p.52.


al-Nawbakhti, pp.24-6; al-Baghdadi, p. 48; al-Shahristiuli, p. 22.

Sachedina, Islamic Messianism, p. 10. For the early development of

the Mahdism and the doctrine of the raj a , also see M. O. Salih. "tvlahdism in Islam
up to 260 A. H. /874 AD. and its R.elation to ~oroastrian, Jewish and Christian
Messianism", unpublished Ph.D. theStS (U. of Edinburgh 1976)

ill-Baghdadi, p.58; al-Shahristaru, p. 127; Frie?lander,T_h,e Heterodoxies",

t 908 (29), p.
Foc a detailed examination on the doctnne of bada .. see \1 :\you~.
"Divine Preordinaton and Human Hope: a study of the concept of.bada tn Imaml Shl t
tradition,JAOS. 106 (1986), pp.623-632. Also see aI-As.h'm, 1.
3?: alKhayyat.
pp. 93-5; al-Kulaynt, i. pp. 146-~; Sache~ina, .. ~slamlc MeSSlaOlsm
t 9R.
Madelung. "Rada' , f.:ncyclopaedla Iranlca. lit. pp. _~:S4-5.



Meanwhile, a small group of Shi'is preferred to stay quiet during a1-~1ukhtar s

rebellion. It seems that these Shi'is took' Ali Zayn al-' Abidin (the Ornament of the
Pious). al- J:Iusayn's sale surviving son (d. 95/713-4). as their model when they
withdrew from political activity. 'Ali b. al-J:Iusayn. who would be later accepted as
fourth Imam by the ImWnis, adopted a quiescent policy towards Umayyad rule



with this attitude he became an ideal precedent which would be followed by his son,
al-Baqir, and his grandson, Ja'far al-~adiq. However, the mass support which was
reportedly given to Ibn al-J:Ianafiyya, who was 'Ali b. Abi Tat.ib's sole surviving son
and the eldest 'Alid, being some twenty years older than his nephew 'Ali Zayn al'Abidin, could prove that he was considered the head of the 'Alid family, a position
which was never publicly challenged by Zayn al- 'Abidin. 70

Another Shi'i challenge against the government was Zayd b. 'Ali 7.ayn
al~ Abidin's revolt in 122/740. Zayd was persuaded by Kufan Shi 'is to lead them in an

anti-government revolt. However, the Kufans again demonstrated their unreliability.

They deserted Zayd like they had done

al-I:Iusayn befcre in Karbala The revolt was

suppressed and Zayd was executed. Zayd, unlike al-Mukltir, did not adopt Messianic
ideas. Instead, he tried to have the main body of Muslim opinion behind him in order
to overthrow the Umayyads successfully and then to rule the caliphate effectively. He
took the view of the majority of the Mu'tazili thinkers and the Sunni traditionists that

When the Medinan people rebelled against YaZld in 63/681. Zayn al- 'Abidtn
left the city and ~ayed at a property of his outside Medi_na (al-Tabari, ii. pAlO). Then
he was offered the leadership of the Shi'is by al-Mukhtar. But he .re~used lt and cursed
al-Mukhtar publicly in the Mosque of the Prophet because of thiS lnappropnate offer
(Muro} iii, p. 74).

F. Daftary ciles this argument as the .\leW of. some Islami~lS ~Thc
Isms' illS, p.59). \.1. ~lomen also arg~es that at that t~e poltl1cal consld~dllons such
as the subversion of the Umayyad regime were domrnant over the rehglous l~sue of
the identity of an Imam and the rights of the House of 'All ( An Introduction to
Sbi'i Isl~m, p.64).


Abu Bake and 'Umar had been legitimate rulers, but adding lhat 'Ali was supenor. 71 It
was probably for this reason that he was abandoned by most of Kufan Shi'ls who
deemed that the first two caliphs had usurped 'Ali's right to succeed the Prophet. It
seems that his close association with W~l b. A~' (d. 1311748-9), who is generally
regarded as the founder of the Mu'tazila sett, led to his adoption of the opinion that the
order to do right and the prohibition


do wrong (amr bi al-marii/



an al-munlar) involved the view that drawing the sword against illegitimate
government was obligatory when the repulsion of wrong was impossible without it.
This opinion was another different point which contradicted those who offered a
political.lyquietist leadership as well those who were waiting passively for the return
of the Mahdi after the death of Ibn al-I:Ianafiyya. These new opinions meant the rise of
anocher sect within the body of the Shi'a, which was called "at-Zaydiyya". 72


al-Baqir, unlike Zayd, his half-brother, meticulously eschewed

active political action ~ck.ing to his father's pinciple. 73 Instead, he contented himself

with teachingfiqh, interpreting the meanings of the Qur in and relating l;aadith.
He built up a very good reputation as a scholar and a devout ascetic. Hence, he
inherited the affinity between his father and his sincere followers, so he was approved
as the new religious leader by them and later the fifth Imam by the Twel ver Shi' a. 7 4


Ibn Khaldu.n, al-Muqaddima, i, pp.40S-6.

al-Nawbakhti, pp.SO-l; at-Baghdadi, p.43; al-Sh~ri_stanl, pp.132-5.

Zayd's son Ya.l;1ya ~so assume.d th~ im~a and revolted In Kh.u rasan . b")ut he shared
the same fate wlth hlS fatherbelng killed In 1251743, see Maqa111, pp. 1S .... -8.


al-Shahristan1, p.133: Ibn KbaldUn, al-Muqaddima, i, pp.40S-6.

See A. E. Lalani. "The Role of Imam Muhammad al-Baqlr in Early Islam',

unpublished Ph. D. thcsi.s (lJ. of .Ed~nburgh. 1988): Jafn, Early Development
252-3: Sachedina. IslamiC Messlarusm, p. IS.


Al-Baqir's time was the hay-day of the ghuiQt (extremi~) Shi' a. "GhuiQt"


a term of disapproval for individual Shi'is accused of exaggeration (ghuluWlw) in

religion and in respect to Shi'i leaders. 7 5 When the Muslims reached Syria, Iraq. and
the Persian Gulf, they found themselves within a milieu in which the effect of ancient
civilisations was still influential. Especially in Iraq, Zoroastrianism,


Judaism, Christianity, Gnostic and Indian ideas were introduced to Islam and this
resulted in a confrontation between the new religion and those ancient notions. Among
religious debates and speculations, new and quite interesting ideas according to the
viewpoint of Islam emerged. Because the Shia of 'Ali were numerous in Iraq and
among them there were a considerable number of mawali


originally Persians.

who were familiar with such notions, the owners of these extreme ideas adopted this
party as the embodiment of their religious speculations and political ambitions
although the Shi'is, particularly the family of 'Ali, usually looked on them with
suspicion. 77

The heresiographers usually regard 'Abd Allah b. Saba' as the first of the

ghuliit. 78 Especially attributed to him is the wa~iyya (testament) doctrine that 'Ali
was the divinely appointed heir after the Prophet. He is also alleged to have claimed
'Ali's divinity. 79 The followers of Ibn Saba' are said to have later joined al-Mukhtilr's
movement, which has been mentioned earlier. Al-Mukhtiir seems likely to have been
impressed by the ideas of these partisans when he developed the ghayba and the

raja doctrines. The ideas of al-Mukhtilr and his followers, which later became bases


Hodgson, "Ghuhh" , E12. ii, p.l093.

M awali is the plural of mawla, a tenn which means client or freed sla\ l'
but it was usually used as synonymous with non-Arab converts to Islam.


Marnen, pp.65-8; Lewis, "The Isrna'ilitcs and the Assas~'ins', p.10l.


al-Nawbakhtt. p.19; aI-Baghdadt, p.34.


al-Nawbakhll. p. 20; aI-Shahri~1.aru, pp. 150- t.


for a sect called the Kaysaruyya, were more effective in Islamic history than their
revolutionary movements. After being quelled, the movement of 31- \iukhtar
bequeathed its radical sentiments to some Shi'i groups.


Morony suggests that

by the early eight century AD, Kufa and Mada'in were the main Shiei centres where
small, extremist subgroups of the Kaysaruyya were focmed. There were at le~ five
such groups at Kufa: The followers of Bayan b. Sam'an (d. 119.'737), of Mughira b.
Sa'id (d.119/737), and of Abu Ma~r al-'Ijli (d. 1241742): the Jan~iyya who
followed 'Abd Allah b. Mu'awiya (d. 129/747), and the circle of Abu


(d. 138/755). 80 All these men including 'Abd Allah b. Saba' were executed by the
government fcrces at different times. 81 The heresiographers attribute to these sects the
beliefs of anthropomorphism (tashbih), infusion or incarnation (I)ulul) and the
transmigration of souls (tanasuklJ). The public condemnation of the Prophet's
companions (sabb


particularly that of the first two caliphs as the

usurpers of 'Ali's right, was also among their innovations. The notions that the Imams
were divinely protected


against any kind of error and that the Imams

possessed a spark of the divine light (al-nur al-ilahi) inherited from Adam through
a line of prophets including Mu1;lammad were other novelties, which would later enter
into the principles of the Twelver Shi'a. 82

Although these ghulQt sects had appeared as the subgroups of the Kaysiniyya
which had adopted the imama of Ibn al-I:Ianafiyya and then, mostly, that of Abu

M.G. Mcrony, Iraq after the Muslim Conquest, p. 498. For detailed
information about these extremist Shi'is, their movements and beliefs, see \V F
Tucker's articles, "Bayan b. Sam'an and the BayaruyyaOl,.MW. 65 (1975), pp.241253' "Rebels and Gnostics: 31 !vtughira ibn Sa'id", Arabtca. 22 (1975), pp.33 47:
OIAb'u Mansur al- 'Ij1i and the Man~yya', Der Islam, 54 (1977), pp. 66-76:
"'Abdulhihibn Mu'awiyaandtheJa.ruil:tiyya ,SI. 51 (19RO). pp.39-5P,

81 al-~awbakhtt,

pp.31, 35,55, 59: al-Shahri~1.anl. pp.131, 153.

al-Nawhakhll, pp. 19. 55: al- Baghdadt, p.49 a1-Shahri~lant, pp 131. 1.C:;::!.

Hodgson, "Ghulat", EI2 P 1094.

."\ I

Hashim, the laner s son, their leaders showed special interest in the descendants of alJ:Iusayn. 83 For example, Mughira and Abu

M~, at first,

claimed that they were the

agents or the legatees (wulc.ala': the plural of waiil) of al-Baqir hoping to legitimise
their own beliefs and to use the support of the I:Iusayni party to reach their political
goals. However, al-Baqir, during his leadership, did not indulge these ambitious
extremists and dissociated himself from them. 84

The propaganda of the 'Abbasids probably began in the early years of the
second century H .. The 'Abbasids, who were the descendants of al-'Abbas b. 'Abd

the half-uncle of the Prophet, had learned important lessons from the

unavailing revolts afthe 'Alids and those whO' had appeared on behalf af an 'Alid.
Therefoce, they were very careful nat to repeat their mistakes. Accordingly, first, their
palitical mavement needed a lang periad af incubatian before implementation. Second

for this activity, a virgin soil had to be chosen. These determinations were carried out
in practice. After undergoing a long Jreparation period, a remote province, Khurasan,
became the main recruiting ground of the 'Abbasid da &wa (propaganda) even though
Kufa, the refuge of the Shica, still remained the administrative centre of the
movement. 85

During the incubation period of the revolution, the 'Abbasids always identified
themselves with the 'Alids. The sources suggest that at the beginning of the second
century H., the Banu Hashim, i.e. the descendants of Hashim which included the
descendants of 'Ali and Ja'farb. Abi Talib and those of their uncle al-'Abbas b. 'Abd


WatL Formative Period, p.5t.


al-Nawbakhti, p.34: al-Sh ahri stant , p.153.


M. Sharon, Black Banners, pp 45-7.



were united. 86 The well-known meeting in al-Abwa' in which the chIefs

of the Barrii Hashim clan had agreed on collective action against the Umayyads was
clear evidence of this unity. 8 7 Besides, the 'Abbasid allegation that the headship of the
family had passed from Abu Hashim, the son of Ibn al-I:Ianafiyya, to the' Ahbasid
Mu.l;lammad b. 'Ali by the

Vla~iyya 88

probably reinforced the 'Abbasid da'wa

acquiring the mass support of the revolutionary Kaysarus and other heterogeneous
religio-political factions harboured in Iraq. However, because of the fact that the
majority of the Shi'a still persisted in their loyalty to 'Ali's family, it seems that the
above-mentioned claim was not the one most favoured, therefore they usually used the
slogan "al-Rit)a min A1 Mul:Jammad" C'for One well-pleasing [to God] from the
House of


referring ambiguously to the one from the family of the

Prophet whose imama would be acceptable to all. 8 9

The success of the 'Abbasid propagandists in Khurasan resulted in the

dramatic fall of the Umayyad dynasty. The fi~ of the 'Abbasid caliphs, 'Abd Allah b.
Mu~ammad al-SaffaJ:t (ruled 132-136/749-754), was proclaimed in Kufa, on 12 Rabi'

II, 1321 28 November, 749. 90 Al-Saff8l:t took a soft line of approach towards the
'Alids who had been their collaborators in the revolution. The 'Abbasids invited the
'Alids to the court to take their advice, honour them and also pay them allowances in
order to persuade them to accept the present official rule. In this way, figures, whO,

al-SuyU~, p.277; al-Qa~i 'Abd al-Jabbar, !athbit Dali.'il al-Nubuwwa,

Beirut 1386/1966, i, pp. 16-7 quoted by M. Sharon tn Black Banners, p.25.


Akhbar al-Dawla, pp.385-6; Ibn al-Tiq~a, p.158.

al-Nawbakhti, pp.29-30; al-Sbahristant. P: 129; Ibn Taymiyya, ii, p 131,

Ibn Khaldun, al-'Ibar. iii, p.173; idem, al-Muqaddtma. 1. pp.409-10.


'A. Zarrinkiib, "The Arab Conquest of Iran and its aftermath", r50.


Muruj, iii, p.251; a1~Ya'qubI, iiI. p.89; Ihn KaLhIr. \. pp.40, 52.

might stimulate revolt would be soothed and the government could keep them under
surveillance. 91

However, after al-SaffaJ;t, his brother Abu Ja'far a1-Man~iir. the second
(Abbasid caliph (ruled 136-158/754-775), changed the former's policy sharply.
because he was very anxious about the activities of two 'Alids. They were Mu1;lammad
and Ibrahim, the sons of 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan
al-Hasan b. 'Ali b. Abi Tilib
. b..
was said to have been the chief of the I:Jasani line of the family. 92 According to the


allegiance to

his father and other leading 'Abbasids had given their oaths of


who was called al-Nafs al-Zakiyya (the Pure Soul), with

other Hashim! chiefs to accept him as leader of the revolutionary movement against the
Umayyads. 93 MuJ:1ammad had also been introduced as the Mahdi since an early age. 94
When the government passed to the 'Abbasids, Mu1)ammad did not accept this.
instead, he continued his political activity until his rebellion in 1451762.




catch Mul)ammad had failed. However. the

imprisonment of his father and some of his relatives precipitated his rebellion.
Consequently. in Medina he declared himself prematurely. Although he won a mass of
the support of Hijaz over


his revolt, he could not resist the 'Abbasid army.

Eventually he was killed with many of his votaries. Meanwhile, Ibrahim. his brother.
rebelled in Basra This was a much more dangerous threat to the government than had


H. Kennedy. p.667.


Maqitil. p.i80.

Maqatil, pp.209, 295;. Akhbar al-Dawla. pp.385-6; al-Kamil, \,

p. 391: Ibn Kathir, x, p.80; Ibn aI-Tlq~aqa, p.158.
A. Elad highlights the pro-J:!asaru and t~e tendentl~us character ~f these
reports that seek to justify Mu1)ammad's revolt aga1n~ al-\-1an~r as nec~sar,Y m order
to claim his legal rights which al-f\,1an~iir had recogrused 1fi the past, see The Stege of
aI-Wasit (132/749)". pp.M-5.


Maqatil. pp.239-244.



revolt. l':evertheless this, too. met with the same fate and was

suppressed very harshly. 95 The lauer revolt had gained the support of the Zaydiyya
and the Mu'tazila as well as someghuLat groups in Kufa. Al-Mughlra b. Sa'ld, the
founder of the Mughiriyya sect, claimed, on M~ammad al-1\afs al-Zakiyya s death,
that he had not died, but he was in concealment at one of the hills on the way between
Mecca and Najd, and would retum. 96 What emerges from this account is that al-

Mughira, after al- Baqir had dissociated from him, inclined at this time to be committed
to the

J:Iasani cause and supported al-Nafs al-Zakiyya in his case.

The 'Abbasids only just overcame this dangerous uprising. Even before this

expensive experience, they had begun to justify their legitimacy on religious grounds.
They called themselves with messianic names such as "al-M~" ("the Divinely
Supported Oneil), and "al-Mahdi". 97 They also circulated abadith which included
prophecies concerning the Abbasid rulers and analogies between the revolution and
the rise of Islam. 98 During this p-ocess, al-M~ perhaps did bis best in the matter
using the arguments that the 'Alids had not been able to carry out their struggle
successfully but had always failed. However, the' Abbasids had managed to obtain
power and revived the honour of the Prophet's family which bad been destroyed by

Maqatil, pp.260-299, 315-386; al-Ya'qubi, iii, p. ~ 15-8; M uru l Iii.

pp.294-6; al-Asb'ari, i, p.79; Ibn Kathir, x. pp.82-95; al-Kamil, v, pp.402-421,
428-437; Ibnal-Tiq~a, pp.159-161; Kennedy, pp.199-204.

96a1-Nawbakhti, pp.52-4: al-Qummi. pp.76-7; al-Ash'an, i. pp6-9, 23-24.

Maqitil, p.240; Ibn Kath.lr, ~. p. ~6: For t~is ~~cific topic, .also see B.
L eWl's , "The Regnal Titles of the FlfSt Abbasld Cahphs 1n ZDr. Zaktr
"Th ()
Presentation Volume, New Delhi 1968. pp.13-22; M.()_aman.
e, ue~l
p.148; Hodgson, Venture. pp. 287.289.

al-SUyU~1 relates some of these traditions in hi~ Tan kb al- K h ulafa'

265-6,278. Also see Sharon, p.87: Crone, Slaves, p.6..,).



the Umayyads. Therefore, he said: " If you give the oath of allegiance to someone
else, you will not give a better oath to him than to us


On the other hand, al-M~r particularly wanted to gain for his caliphate the
acceptance of the main body of Muslims who were the traditionists (A~jb &1-

.fraditb) and their adherents. 100 This meant the detachment of the 'Abbasid court
from all extremist religious groups who had a tendency to provoke the more moderate
elements of the Shi'a. It seems that
tenets of the



wanted to found a state religion on the

al-.(Jaditb. An attractive example was Abu l:Ianifa (d. 1501767).

who was the renowned jurist and the founder of the l:Ianafi school of law; he was
offered the position of the head judge of the state court. However, he did not accept
it.l0l On the other hand, many Sunni scholars and jurists recognised the 'Abbasid
legitimacy. They perhaps did not proclaim it publicly, but they showed their
recognition either by remaining quietist or by accepting posts which were offered to
them. This policy, in the meantime, aimed to reduce the power of independent
scholars ('ulalDa'), who were always able to criticise the government by using their
position and reputation. Zaman observes the result of this new legalisation process of
the state :
" ... the religious system came to be gradually formalised and
hardened, an inevitable secularisation came to attend upon the
ideological state. By an apparent paradox, the rel.igious pretensio~ ?f
the 'Abbasid caliphs came to be the most conspIcuous character1stIc
of this secularisation. "102

al-Mansiir made this speech after he had arrested ':\bd .. \llah b. al-l.lasan.
see al-Tabari. iii. pp.430-2: MuMlj. iii, pp.300-1.

100 Rajkowski. pp.367-9: Jafri. Early Development. p277.

101 Ibn Khallikan.
to:! Z,unl.1.Il.


p 406.

"The 'Ahhiisid Revolution. p. 14 q

This structure would continue, at least, until the time of the caliph al-\1a'mUn
who would try to reunite the religious and administrative authority by nominating an
"Alid leader and scholar, 'Ali al-Ric.1a, as heir to his throne in 2011817.

The Hashimi claim to the caliphate had materialised after a long struggle with
the Umayyads. However, this realisation also had brought about an open
confrontation between the two Hashimi branches, one of which, the 'Alids.
considered themselves more appropriate to hold power than the other, the 'Abbasids.
During these crucial years of transition from the Umayyads to the 'Abbasids, Ja 'far
al-$adiq, the son of the Imam al-Baqir, was the leader of the party inherited from his

Ja"far al-$adiq spent about twenty-three years under his father al-Baqir. He
observed that his father's preference of non-militant leadership benefited his party and
led it to prosper. He also witnessed the failure of his uncle Zayd and his cousin Yal:tya
b. Zayd in their revolts and, as a result, their tragic deaths. When al-Baqir died in
1131731-2, al-$adiq was in his late thirties and was destined to lead a life as a leader

for thirty-five years, longer than any of his descendants, who would later be
considered as Imams by the Twelver Shi'a. For that reason, al-$adiq's time is
exceedingly important to understand the development of the pro-l:Iusayni party of
those Shi"is who accepted a non-militant imama after his death in 148/765.

We do not see al-$adiq among those who gave their oath of allegiance to
Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya at the meeting which had t.aken place in al-c\bws'
before the 'Abbasid rT\'olut.ion. Mu~ammad's father .. :\bd :\11<i.h. had not wanted al
$iidiq to come to the meeting. because he had feared that he would have caused
disagreement am ong the s)'m pathisers of his son s affair. However. Ja' far al-$adiq
came to the meeting but refused to give the oath of allegiance


\iuhammad. He also

made some remarks in which he favoured the 'Abbasids over him. for which al-~adiq
was accused by 'Abd Allah of envy for his son.

Al-$adiq considered the uprising of Mu~ammad in 1451762 a sedition (fiClJa)

and declined to give his support to it. 103 This attitude may have been because he
believed that he or his branch of the family had the only valid claim for the imama. 104
However. perhaps, he also feared the disastrous results of such revolts which were
attempted without being well-prepared. 105 The traditions attributed to al-$idiq
prophesy that the caliphate would pass to the 'Abbasids, not to the 'A1ids. and the
'Abbasids would defeat


and his brother in their revolts and kill them. 106

These traditions seem to have been fabricated later by the Imamis to justify the
decision of their Imam in


case. It might be thought that these prophecies

were believed to have been connected with an alleged book of predictions called al-

Jimi'. or Jalr among the possessions of al-$adiq which was alleged to contain
information about what would happen to the family of the Prophet in general and to
certain members of it in particular. This mysterious volume. which was believed by
his supporters to have come to al-$adiq as an act of divine grace and would pass to
future Imams from his descendants, would play an important role during the
development of the Imami sect. 107

. Maqitil. pp.254-6.
Maqitil. p.248; aI-Kimil. v, p.422. This also might be evidence for the
existence of jealousy between the l:Iasani and ~h~ l:Iusayni branches of :h~ family.
Another tradition in al-Kifi also corroborates thls Jealousy, see al-Kulaylll, 1, p.349.

As Jafri (Early Development. p.269) and al-Laythi (Jihad al-Shi'a,

p. 193 ) observed.


Kennedy. p.200; \Vatt, Islamic Philosophy. p.Sl: Salih.


pp. 2 79-80.

Maqati1. p.233. al-Shahristani. p.134 aJ-Kimil. v. p.422

107 For this book. see al-Kulayni. i, pp.23842: Ibn Khaldun, alMuqaddima. ii. pp.20910; Friedlander. "The Heterodoxies. lq()8 (29). pp.l05 6 .


According to some historical narrations, some of the foremost figures of the

Hashimiyya movement, which eventually brought the' Abbasids to power, are alleged
to have contacted al-$adiq and offered him the caliphate. The first of these men is

alleged to have been Abu Muslim who was the victorious general of Khurasan who
had led the revolution. He sent a message to al-$adiq asking him to accept the
caliphate, but the latter refused the offer. 108 However, this report appears rather late in
the evidence. The other man was Abu Salama al-Khallal, the chief propagandist of
Kufa and then the first vizier of the new state. He also offered him the same. But,
Ja'far al-$adiq burnt the letter without replying. He also warned 'Abd Allih b. all:iasan, who had received the same letter, not to overestimate the 'Alid power in
comparison with the 'Abbasid power and pointed out the weakness of the 'Alid
position in Khurasan.


These reports are further confirmation of his quietist policy

which he carried out towards the state with prudence. This, with all the abovementioned arguments, led


to distinguish him as the noblest of the many

'Alids, setting him up as a perfect example to al-Nafs al-Zakiyya. 110

The depoliticization of the leadership of the party protected al-$adiq and the
partisans from the direct results of the harsh persecution of the 'A1ids by the 'Abbasid
state. Besides, the transition from the Umayyads to the 'Abbasids, which occupied the
latter overwhelmingly in establishing the structure of their own state, created a secure
and easy atmosphere for the Ja 'fari party. In addition to these factors, the time was
that of the recording (tlldwill) of traditions and of the formation of the Islamic


al-Shahristaru, p.132: Maniqib, iv, p.229.

al-Ya'qubi, iii. pp.92-3; Murilj, iii. pp.253-5; Ibn al-Tiqtaqa, pp.147-8:

J. Lassner, The Shaping of 'Abblisid Rule. p.84: idem. 'Propaganda in Early
Islam". pp.77-8.

alTabari. iii, p.213. However. it must not be forgotten that al$adiq was
frequently harassed by al-M~ur o~ several occasion~ according to some reports, see
Maqitil, pp.273. 350-1: al-Kulayru, 1, p.475: al-..\zd1. p.196.


schools of law. Therefore it becomes comprehensible why most of the Imami

traditions and legal decisions are referred back to al-Baqir's and al-$adiq's time. III

Distinctive Sm'i positions in Islamic Law began to appear at al-Baqir's and al$adiq's time. It can be seen that al-$adiq not only had a study circle which his Shj'i
followers attended, but also had another wider circle containing some prominent
doctors of the time who often consulted him such as Abu I:Ianifa, Sufyin al-Thawri,
Malik b. Anas, and it is probably therefore that he was accepted in Sunni


(chain of traditions), and also he appeared in Sunni tradition to a degree.



addition, it is in al-$adiq's time that most of Shi"i traditions were written. The "Four
Hundred Sources"


ai-Arb. 'umj'a), 400 collections of traditions which

served as a basis for the subsequent Twelver literature, are alleged to have been
compiled by al-$adiq's disciples. 113 It could also be said that the clear enunciation of

'aqiyya (precautionary dissimulation), which is a distinctive theory in Shi'ism,

might be traced back to the generation of Ja"far al-$adiq, because the latter managed to
lead his party for more than thirty years without being harmed as far as has been
reported by the historical sources. 114

According to the reports, Ja 'far al-$adiq was a specialist not only in theology
and religious law but also in positive sciences like chemistry in the form of

III Fayya~,

p.150; Takim, pp.21-2; Buckley, ~.~49; Nasr, "Introduction" to

Taba~aba'i, A Shi'ite Anthology, trans. by W.C. ChIttIck, p.9.
Abu Nu'aym, iii, pp.193, 198-9; Ibn I:Iajar. Tahdhib. ii. p.103; Jafri.
Early Development. p.292; Hodgson, "How". p.ll; "Ilia'far al-$adiq". Ell. ii,

Kohlberg, "The Evolution", p.4; idem, "A1-U~ul al-arba'umi'a", p130-1.

Moezzi. p 26.

for this matter. see Made1ung, Religious Trends, p.78; Kohlberg,

"Taqiyya". p.396; Daftary,,,~~e hmi"ilis, p.85 ~or s~me t~aditions related _on the
authoritv of the Imam al !?adlq about the necessity ot caqlyya, see Ibn Babuya
Risila. pp.llO-2.


alchemy. 115 This peculiarity of

and worldly knowledge seems



as the one who merged in himself religious

have attracted around him some philosophers such

as Zurara b. A Cyan (d. 1501767), Abu Ja'far al-A-':1wal (d. about 1501767) and Hisham
b. al-J:lakam (d. after 186/803), and even extremists from several gbulil groups like


(d. 136/754). These quasi-independent disciples of the Imam largely

contributed to the formation of many Shili beliefs. They were also responsible for
attributing many creeds

to al-~adiq,

i. e. extremist beliefs, which he always publicly

rejected. 116

As a result, Ja far


rightly had a good reputation during his life and

after his death as the leader of his followers adopting wisely an appropriate policy at a
very crucial time, and as a great scholar founding his own school of theology and law
like some of his contemporaries among the Sunnis had done, therefore the title "imam"


have been one which he deserved.

Several modern scholars hold the view that


disinclination for

political leadership and his well-known attitude against militant Shili activities were the
result of his thoughts about the imama. According to this opinion,
of the




(the idea of the imama transmitted by inheritance or designation

according to divine commands) made it no longer necessary for him to rebel against
established governments in order to become an actual leader, because, according to al~idiq, the real Imam was not one who took the power, but one who was appointed by
na~~ (divine designation). If circumstances were not suitable, political leadership

must be suspended until the victorious Imam (al-Mahdi) would appear, in whom the

For Jibir b. al-J::Iayyan. the renowned alchemist. who regarded al-$idiq as

his master, see Daftary. The Ismi'i1is. p.88; Hodgson. Venture, p.417

al-Kashshi. pp. 146-150. 290-7: al-'\awbakhti. pp.37-8: Ivanow.

Alleged Founder. pp.117-2.4: Lewi.s. <?rigins. pp.32 7: Daftary. The hmi'ilis.
pp 88-90: ~achedlna. Islam1c Mes~uan.1!m p. 1()

1 \

temporal (political) and spiritual (religious) authorities would merge again like had
happened at the time of the Prophet. Hence. as a main duty. the Imam should provide
his followers with spiritual knowledge (Cilm), which had been inherited from the
Prophet through the previous Imams to the present Imam, and guided them with it to
the straight path. 1 1 7

Although there is no doubt that the doctrine of the


and the belief of

the Mahdi were largely circulated among the intellectual disciples of a1-~diq and some
zealot partisans, there is no clear and sufficient evidence in support of this abovementioned hypothesis except for several narrations in some collections of traditions of
the Shi'a such as aI-Kill of al-Kulayni (d. 329/940-1), one of the earliest corpora of
the Shiei tradition which was compiled. at least, some 160 years after al-~idiq's death.

Al-Isfarii'ini says: " Whenever they (the Rifi<:Ja) want to invent an innovation
(bidCa) ex- to fabricate a lie, they attribute it to al-Sayytd


who is actually free

from their attitude". 118 Al-Shahristiini also agrees on this judgement particularly
emphasising the beliefs of ghayba, raj ca and bada'. 119 Mc Eoin notes that "such
traditions are, for the most part, attributed to Ja'far


but the probability of

their authenticity is, of course, no greater than that for the generality of a#:Jadith

Jafri, Early Development, pp.281-3, 290-1; Sachedina, Islamic

Messianism. pp.14-7; Daftary, The Isma'iIis, pp.84-5; Omar, 'Aspects' ,
pp. 174-5. Rajkowski seems to be i~ doubt whe~~ such tenets belo~ged to al-~a~iq
himself. He points out in several tunes the aCtiV1ty of the productlo.n of tradltlon
carried out by the circle of al~adiq's zealot adherents. However, he attnbutes all such
beliefs to al-~adiq. which he draws from al-Kulayni sal-Kill, when he expresses
the Imam's political attitude, see pp.499, 505-8, 518-9.


aI-Isfara'tnt, p.26.

1 19 al-Sha.hn~1.aJlt,

p. 142.


ascribed to him and other early Imams". 120 .t-.10darressi agrees with this point stressing
the role of the extremist Shi'ls in this activity. 121 One report shows that al-$adiq did
not hesitate to express a high regard for Abu Bakr and 'Umar. 122 This might also
indicate that some of his theological views seem to have contradicted mo!l of the late
official Shi'i ones. On the other hand, he may have been practising taqiyya.

Accordingly, it seems right to judge that because of his outstanding

knowledge, indisputable reputation and leadership lasting succesfully for thirty-five
years, it was wise for later sectarians to pick Ja'far al-~adiq out among other Imams to
attribute to him such beliefs. Quoting from Buckley,

"In the last resort, al-~adiq's contribution to the development of

Shi'ism lies perhaps not so much in what he himself did, but rather in
what he was perceived as doing, the ultimate validating authority that
he became in the eyes of the proto-Shi' a and their spiritual
descendants, the Im8.mis and the Isma'ilis". 123

Ja'far al-~adiq's party was called by several names in his time. They were the
Sbi'at 'AliI the Turibiyya, 124 the Ja'fariyya and the Rafi~a.125 The name Rafida was
often used by opponents, whereas other names were welcomed within the party. The
name Rafida included all the Shi'i groups as well as ghuLQt Shi'is, except for the
Zaydis. It is reported that when some zealot Shi'ls discussed the question of the

120 Mc Eoin, "Quietism", p.2l. R.P. Buckley also touches emphatically on the
same point in his unpublished Ph. D thesis, "Ja 'far al-~adiq and early proto-Shi 'ism"
(U. of Exeter, 1993), see pp.249-50, 254,257-9,265,267.

Modarressi, pp.42-3.

122 see Ibn Ba~a, Kitab al-Sharh wa al- Ibana, Arab. text: pp.43-4;
French trans., pp.72-3.
123 Buckley, p. 371.
124.-\bu Turilb (the father of soil) was the kunya of' All h. >\bt Tahb.




imama of Abu Bake and 'Umar witb layd b. 'Ali, and noticed that be recognised their
im.ama and did not renounce them, they deserted (rafat;la) him in his uprising and did
not accept his leadership, therefore tbey were called

al-Rafi~a. 126

The question that

when tbe name Rafi~a was replaced by tbe name Imamiyya is answered by Wau
suggesting that the new name came into use about 287/900 though its first
employment might be before 236/850. 127

The period after the death of the eleventh Imam, al-I:Iasan al-Askari
(d. 260/874), was the time when the Twelver !manu Shi'ism took explicit shape
stopping the number of the Imams at twelve and, more importantly, defining its
creeds. 128 Ibn Bibuya (d.381/991), one of the leading doctors of the Twelver
Shi'ism. in his "the Treatise on the Creed". unfolds the Imami belief about the Twelve
Imims as follow>8fter enumerating them:
"Our belief regarding them is that they are in authority (ulirl-amr).
It is to them that Allah has ordained obedience, they are the witnesses
for the people and they are the gates of Allah (abwab) and the road

(sabif) to Him and the guides (dalil pi. adilla) thereto, and the
repositories of His knowledge and the interpreters of His revelations
and the pillars of His unity (taw/:lid). They are immune from sins
(k.ha~a") and errors (zalaf); they are those from whom "Allah has
removed all impurity and made them absolutely pure" [33:33]; they
are possessed of (the power of) miracles and of (irrefutable)
arguments (dala" if); and they are for the protection of the people of
this earth just as the stars are fer the inhabitants of the heavens. They
may be likened, in this community. to the Ark of Noah; he who
boards it obtains salvation crreaches the Gate of Repentance (hi"a).
They are the most noble slaves of Allah, who "speak not until He
hath spoken; they act by his command" [21:27]. And we believe that
love fer them is true belief (iman) and hatred for them is unbelief
(lc.ufr); that their command is the command of Allah, their prohibition


Ibn Khald\in, al-Muqaddima. i, pp.405-6.

M. Wall points out that the term "Imamiyya" appears to be used hy a

7.aydi. Sulayman b .. J~r (!10uris~e~ be~ore 20~ ~.), as is _un~e~ood fro~ A~,l alHasan al-Ash'ari's CltatIOn trom him In hiS Maqi.1at al-IslamtYYln, see \\ au, The
Rafi~ltes" . p. 119. /\lso see Kohlberg. 'From ImWniyya" p.521.

The Significance of the Early Stages". pp. 21 , 26-7: idem. "The

Rafidttes" , p. 120; Kohlherg, "From Imami)'ya" . p.532-3.
12 ~ \\' all,"


is the prohibition of Allah; obedience to them is obedience to Allah,

and disobedience to them is disobedience to Allah; their friend (wali)
is the friend of Allah, and their enemy the enemy of Allah" .129

According to the list of the Imams of the Twelver Shi'a, after

chain of the imama continues with Musa




and 'Ali al-Ri~a as the seventh and

eight Imams of the sect. Of course, the period of these two Imams was one of the
most important times in the formation of Twelver Shi'ism. The deeds of these Imams
and the activities of their party largely influenced not only the Shi'i movements in their
times but also the internal affairs of the Islamic state and the caliphate. This period is
also marked as one of the most momentous eras in Islamic political and cultural

Ibn Babuya. Risalat aI-l'tiqad. trans. by <\. Fyzee as A Shi'itc

Creed. p.96.







This chapter proposes to outline the crisis that the Imami party lived through
after the death of a1-~adiq. The party of a1-~adiq split into four groups: The protaIsma'iliyya, the Af~iyya, the NawUsiyya and the Musawiyya. The latter supported
the imama of Milsa b. Ja 'far. It will be examined in the next chapter. The Af~iyya
was formed by the followers of 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far. Some partisans declared the
imama of


deceased son Isma'Jl and formed the nucleus of taday's

Isma'iliyya. Another group denied


death and proclaimed that he was the

Qa'im. They were called the NawUsiyya. The heresiographers often add to these
groups the


despite the strong probability that its emergence was later.

Following these heresiographers, we also add the


to our investigation in

this chapter not because it was related to the crisis of succession after



because its leader Mul:tammad b. Ja'far and his activities are closely related to the
period which this study aims to investigate.

Except for the Isma'iliyya, none of the above-recorded groups have been
examined in detail in the Western-languages. At best, they have received a somewhat
cursory mention in a number of articles and chapters. 1. Friedlaender was perhaps the
first author to give some information about them. 1 In 1955, M. Hodgson touched


the rivalries of Ja'far al-~adiq's sons in oroerto indicate the state of confusion among
early Imamls about the ideaofthe designated imam a

M. Watt paid some attention to

the Af~al:tiyya The information given by \Vatt was largely derived from alNawbakhtt's Firaq and al-Tusi's Fihrist. He also gave the names of some falhl

see I. Fncdlaeoder, The HeteredoXles ,JAOS, 190R (29). pp.3 Q -41.

2 f'.1.(j,S,

Hodgson, "How, p, 12.


rijal such as .Abd Allith b. Bukayr and 'Ali b. Asb~. 3 ~1. O. Salib, in his thesis, Satd

that the

and the Nawiisiyya were of little significance to his study because

there was a lack of information about their founders and followers and they
di sappeared shortly after the death of

al-~adiq. 4

Sacbedina's main objective in

Islamic Messianism is to investigate the Mabdiship of the twelfth Imam. He has

touched on, as background information, some early ImWni groups including tbe
Af~yya 5 Momen has listed the splinter Imami groups considering after which Imam

they split off, following the method of al-Nawbakbti and al-Qummi. In this regard. he
has given brief information about the groups which split off from


party. 6

Finally Modarressi has given brief information about these groups. Some of his
suggestions about the identity of the Nawiisiyya are new and quite interesting. 7
Neither the first nor the new edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam has an entry on


There is a very brief entry written by the Editorial Committee on the

Nawusiyya in the EI2. 8 On the Isma'iliyya, numerous academic works have been
done for more than one century. The latest and most comprehensive work among them
is F. Daftary's The Ismi'ilis. Daftary has summarised in his book the historical and
heresiographical accounts of Isma'i1 b. Ja far, Mu.J;1ammad b. Isma 11 and their

supporters. 9 There is also an article written by the same author, devoted to early

Wau, liThe Reappraisal", p.647; idem, Formative Period, p. 160; idem.

"Sidelights", pp.293-5.

M.O. Salih, "Mahdism in Islam", unpublished Ph.D thesis, (U. of

Edinburgh, 1976), p.281.

5 t\..

A. Sachedina, Islamic Messianism, pp.40, 52.

M. tvlomen, An Introduction, pp.54-6.

sec H. Modarressi. Cri si s. pp.54-61.

"at-Nawusi))'a", El2 , vii, p. l04R,


Darlar),. The lsma'tlts, (Camhndgc 1992). pp. 93-103.

Isma'ili movements. It has investigated the period which began with al-~adiq and
ended with 'Lbayd Allah


the fi~ F~imid Imam. 10

The first group which we will start to investigate is the followers of Isma'il b.
Ja 'far or the proto-Ism a 'iliyya.

I - The Followers of Isma'il b. Ja'fac and the


This section is an attempt to trace three splinter groups

the imama of Isma'il b. Ja'far and his son MuJ;1ammad after


which promulgated


death. To

provide background information, we also explore the life of Isma'll b. Ja'far. The
activities of al-Mufa~~a1 b. 'Umar, as the pioneering efforts to spread the idea of the
succession of Isma'il to his father, are examined too. As well as these historical
materials, we also provide brief information about the approach of some Isma' ill
authors to MUsaal-~ and hisimama presented inlaterIsma'ili.1iterature.

Above all, it must be stressed that information about the life of Isma'il b.
Ja'far, his connections and the movement carried out by his followers is extremely
rare. Among the early works, only a few Imami sources give some information about
the subject. However, due to open rivalry between the !sma'ilis and the Im8.mis, the

10 F. Daftary, "The Earliest Isma'ilis", Arabica, 38 (1991), pp.214-45. Also

see another article of Daftary which also touchs on the subject, "A Major Schism in the
I':arly lsma'ili Movement" , S I, 77 (1993), pp. 126-8.

According to Daftary, two main Isma'll1 groups emerged after al-$adiq's

de-at.h: The Isma'iliyya al-Khali~a and the Mubarakiyya, see The Isma'ills, pp 95-6;
idem. "The Earliest lsma 'Ills" . pp. 200-1: idem, "A Major Schism' , p. 126. -\s a re~""Ult
of our investigation. there should be another earliest lsma'lll group. These Isma tllS
are reported to ha\'c recognised 1\1u~ammad b. Isma'il as their Imam after al Sadiq.
They should be distinguished from another group of Mu~am mad s followers. the
Mubaraki)'a, hy their claim that al-~adiq. not Isma' tl, designated \1 uhammad as hiS
succe~or, see pp.62-3 below.


information derived from the Imami books always carries the risk of being one-sided
and thus its authenticity is open to doubt. On the other hand, early Isma' ill sources
give almost nothing for this period. Some few treatises which are supposed to have
been written in that period, as F. Daftary observes, because of being religious and
philosophical in their character contain little historical information on the initial period
of the sect, and those which have information, because of the views contained in them
were in conflict with the official F~imid doctrines, probably were subjected to later
censorship by the F~imid Isma'ilis. 12 An important Isma'ili work is 'UYUB alAkhbar written by 'Imad al-Din Idris (d.8WI468), an Isma'ili


in Yemen. One

volume of this work contains some important historical material relating to Isma'il b.
Ja 'far and his son Mu1;Jammad. According to Ivanow, Idris quoted this information


aI-Akbbar fi Fa"a'i1 aI-A'imma al-Athir.

written by the Isma'ili jurist and theologian Abu I:Ianifa Nu'man b. MuJ:tammad alTamimi, who is well-known as Oa~i Nu'man (d. 363/974). 13 Another work of Idris is

Zabr ai-Ma'am. It gives a review of the IsnUi'ili Imams. But, the infcrmationgiven
by Zabr sometimes contradicts 'UyilB al-Akhbar. The third Isma'ili work which
should be mentioned is Asric


written by la'far b.



(d. after 380/990), a contemporary of Oa,,! Nu'man. One of the main subjects of the

book is the proofs of the right of Isma'il to the imama As lvanow says, it contains a
strong controversial element directed against the Imamis. 14 Another two sources also
deserve to be mentioned: Ta'rikh-i Jahan-gusbayof 'Ala ai-Din


Juwayni (d.681/1283) and Jami ( al-Tawarikh of Rashid al-Din Fa"l Allah

(d. 718/1318). luwayni was the high officer of the Mongol conqueror IIulagu, and

Rashid ai-Din was the vizier of the Mongol llkhans of Iran. Both historians found


F. Daftary. The Earliest Ism a 'ills" , pp. 214-5.


hanow. "Early Shl'ite \1ovements". ppA-5.


Iv ana w. R i s c. p. 1R.


opportunity to utilise for their histories locall\izan-Isma'ili sources, most of which

were no longer extant mainly because of the destruction of tbe


library at

Alamlit. Accocdingly, these works also contain some valuable materials related to the

period of the proto-Isma'ilis. 15 Of the Imami sources, the treatises of aI- ~awbakht1
and al-Qummi give useful information about divisions within the party of al-~diq
which were caused by the Isma'ili movements. Al-Kashshi's Rijil also contains
some narrations related to Isma'il b. Ja'far's position in the family and some partisans
acting on behalf of him.

Isma'il b. Ja'far was the eldest son of the Imam Ja'far al-~adiq. His mother,

was the granddaughter of the Imam al-J:Iasan b. 'Ali, who was also the

mother of 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far. 16 Isma'il was called "al-A ~raj" ("the lame")

1 7,


whether this nickname really described his handicap is not known. His birth is


have taken place sometime during the initial years of the second century

H.. 18 The exact date of his death also remains unknown. From the genealogists, al'Umari gives the year 132/749-50 as the date of Ismil'il's death


whereas Ibn 'Inaha

gives it as 133/750-1. 20 According to the historian 'Ala al-Din Juwayru, he died in

145/762-3. 21 Ivanow is of the opinion that he died in 143/760-1. 22 A. Tamir quotes


Foc Juwayru, Rashid aI-Din and their works, see Daftary, The Ism.'ilis,

She is Fa~ma bint al-I:Iusayn b. al-Hasan b. 'Ali b. Abi Tatib (alNawbakhti, p.58; al-Qummi, p.80).


Ibn 'Inaba, p.263;



see Daftary, The lsmi'ilis, p.97; idem, "The

Ivanow, Ismailis and Qarmatians", p.57.



al 'Umari. p. tOO.


Ihnlnaba, p.263.


Juwaynl. ii, p. 64~.


\vanow, "Imam Ismatl", p.30R.



Isma'ihs ,p.223;

from some obscure Isma'ili sources that Isma'il's death occurred in 1381755-6 or
158/775. 23 But the last date is probably the record of those Isma'ilis who believed that
Isma'iI did not die during the lifetime of


but the latter had pretended to show

him as being dead.

Apart from these records, according to some Shi'i reports, Isma'il was alive in
133/751. When Dawud b. 'Ali, the governor of Medina,24 executed Mu'alli b.
Khunays probably because of his agency on behalf of


and his involvement in

some revolutionaty activities of MuJ;tammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya,25 al-$idiq, as soon

as he heard the news of the execution of Mu 'alli, went


the governor with his son

Ismi'iI and called him to account for this murder. The governor Diwiid put the blame
on his chief of sbW18 (the chief of his police force), al-Sayrafi. 26 According to alKashshi, al-$idiq directed Ismi'il to kill al-Sayrafi, which he did. 27 In Idris's report,
al-~idiq then handed him over to al-M u' alii's associates and they killed him. 28

Probably because of his prominent status in his family, Ismi'il attracted the
attention of his father's disciples. Perhaps, as the eldest son of his father, he was
thought to have been the next leader. Among these partisans,
stood out. Al-Mufa~~al b. 'Umar al-Ju 'fi




was a prominent supporter of the

11T. ,1, p. 117 .


Diwud b. 'Ali's governorship took place in the first three months of the
year 1331750, see al-Taban, iii, p.37.


For MU'alla, see p.399 below.


In Idris's 'Uyiin al-Akhbir (p. 326), he is called al-Sarraqi " .


al-Kashshi, p. 378.


Idns, 'Uylin al-Akhbir. p.327


For detmled information about al Mufaddal, see




400-1 below.

extremist Shi'i Abu al-Kha~~ab \1u~ammad b. Abi Zaynab al-Asadi. Al-\lufa9dal is

reported to have addressed Abu


seems to have adopted some practices of the

once as a





He also

In a narration of al- Kashshi ,

it is recorded that he did not perform the morning prayer. 3 1 Al- ~lufa"9al used to
maintain that Ja 'far al-~adiq and the JYevious Imams were able to p-ovide people with
the means of subsistence (rizq). 32 Acccrding to al-Maqrizi, he regarded al-$adiq as
God, so the Imam repudiated him and publicly cursed him. 33 Probably after 138/755-

6 when Abu al-Khattab was crucified because of his unsuccessful rebellion in

Kufa34 , al-Mufa~~al, with a group of the Kh~bi remnants, organised a movement
which was called al-Mufa<:i~aliyya. 35 However, as far as is understood from some
accounts, there occurs a change in al-Mufa""al from extremism to orthodoxy. The
Mufa<:i<:ia1iyya, after al-~adiq's death, became an important group which supported and
propagated Musa b. Ja 'far's imama. 36 This is why al-Ash'sri reports that the
Musawiyya was also called the Mufa~~aliyya


and al-Shahristani states that the

Musawiyya and the Mufa~~aliyya formed one group. 38 Al-Balkhi also records the


al-Mamaq8..ni, ii, biog raphy no: 12084.


al-Kashshi, p. 325.


al-Kashshi, p.323.


al-Maqrizi, ii, p.352. Also see al-ShahristiLni, p.155.

For this rebellion and its aftermath, see al-Nawbakhti, pp.59-60; al-Nashi' ,
p.4l; al-Ash'ari, i, p.ll; IbnI:Iazm, al-Fa~l, iv, p.187.


al-Ash'ari, i, p.13; al-Maqrizi, ii, p.352.

For a na~~ confirming Musa's imama related hy aI-Mufa<:idal b. 'Umar, see

al Kulaynt, i, p.308; at Irshad. p.437.


aI-Ash'an, i, p.29.

38 aI-Shahristam, p. 144. AI-Maqnzt also makes the same statement, hut he

adds that the Mufaddali\'ya after \1usa h. Ja'far, recognised ~1u~ammad h tvlusa a~
their Imam (al-\1aqnzt:(i. p.35l). There was a son of \1usa called Mu~ammad I.le IS
known as a man of merit and rightcousne~ (al-Irshad, p.459 I However, thL'f'c I S no


Mufac;lc;la1iyya as the sixth group from the Jafariyya, who accepted \1usa b. Ja'far as
their Imam after Ja 'far al-$adiq. 39

From some narrations in the Rijil of al-Kashshi, al-~1ufac;1c;1a1 seems to be a

man responsible for the Jroclamation of Isma'il b. la'far's imama as successor to his
father during the latter's lifetime and introducing him to Kufan extremists and their
ideas. J:Iammad b. 'Utbman said that al-Mufac;lc;1al dedicated himself to Isma'il Cwa
k.Qna munqa~i ~ an ilayhi"). 4 0 In another narration, Isma'i1 b. . Amir listed the

names of the Imams in front of the Imam al-$3.diq and then said: after you, !sma 'i1" .

Al-$adiq rejected it. Afterwards, !sma'i1 b. 'Amir explained that al-Mufac;1c;tal ordered
him to add Isma'il's name to those of the Imams. 41 Al-$adiq was very concerned
about this relationship of his son with the extremist al-Mufac;lc;lal. Once he inveighed
againstal-Mufac;lc;lal: "0 infidel, o idolater ! What do you want from my son ? Do you
want to

kill him !"


A narration shows that, because of his involvement in extremist circles Isma'll


was nearly executed by the 'Abbasid government. 'Anbasa al-' Abid, the witness of
the incident, reports that lsma'il b. Ja'far and the extremist Bassam
before the caliph



were taken

Bassam was brought out dead. Isma'U was spared

probably due to his father's status. He came out. la'far


was waiting at the

report from other heresiographers that MuQ.ammad declared his own imama or some
people declared it on behalf of him.
al-Balkhi, p.181. In the text of al-8alkhi, the person who gave his name to
this group is recorded as al-Mufac;1c;1al b. 'Amr. However, it seems that this name
should be corrected to al-Mufac;l<;ial b. 'Umar.


al-Kashsht, p.321.


al-Kashsht, pp.325-6.


al- Kashsht, p.323.

Hassam h .. '\hd Allah aI-Sa)"nlrt was a companion of aI Baqtr and alSadtq

see alt\1amaqant. i, biography no: 1236.


gate. He turned to his son ; he scolded him and accused him of causing Bassam to be
executed. 44

On another occasion, al-~adiq forbade Isma'il from giving his money to "the
wine drinker". 45 Al-~adiq probably means by this word those extremists who saw the
drinking of wine permissible (mubQ~). 46 Other followers were also anxious about
Isma'll's behaviour and activity. 'Abd al-Ra1;Iman b. Sayaba, a Kufan votary of al~adiq, wrOCe to the Imam cautioning him about Isma'i!. A1-~adiq wrote back: "The

word of Allah is the truest one: 'No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another'
(al-Qur'an, xvii: 15). By God, I have no knowledge, I have not ordered (what he
has done) and I have not approved (his actions)". 4 7 He said on another occasion that
Ismit'il's character neither looked like his nor

any of his fore-fath~.48

There is no convincing evidence that Isma'il was designated explicitly to the

imama by his father by the rule of the nQ~~. 49 There is also no reliable tradition or


al-Kashshi, pp.244-5.

al-Mamaqaru quotes it from a narration related by Ibn Babuya, see v. i.

biography no : 794.

46 For the Kb~i idea of libertinism (ibQ~Q), see al-Nawbakhti, pp.38-9;

al-Qummi, p.S1. There are also some reports and Imam! narrations that Isma'il was
himself addicted to drink (see al-Kashshi, pp.473-4; Ibn Babuya, Kamal. i, p.159;
al-Rawandi, ii, p.637; Juwayni, ii, p.642; Rashid al-Din, p.S19). However. it
remains doubtful whether this was a real fact or whether the SunnlS or other Shl 'IS
fabricated this kind of information to discredit the personality of Isma 'i1 and the claims
of his imama.


AI-Kashshi, p.390.


Ibn Babuya, Kamal, i, p. 159.

According to the Isma'ilt sources, such a design~ti~n occurred. -,\I-Sadiq

said: "lIe is the Imam after me, and what you learn from him IS JUst the same as 1t you
have learnt it from myself" (Ja'farb. !\1an~ur, Asrar, trans.: p.292. Ar&!. tex't: p.95).
In another tradition,' when Isma'tl was se\en years of age. a1-~adlq declared his
imama. Ile was separated from his other brothers and kept away from cornact with the
public. AI-~diq himself ~n~ertook ~is educatl.on (lhld., trans.: p.293. '\rab. t~xt .
p.96) According to the da, Idns. thiS declaratIOn was made secretly on the haslS of


narration that a1-~adiq, because of Isma'ils association with the extremist circle or his
addiction to some bad habits, repudiated him and dismissed him from the right of the

imama so But, itis a1mo~ certain that, because Isma'11 was the oldest in years among
his brothers and his father's favourite, the followers largely believed that he would be
the next Imam. 5 1 There were even rumours within the party that al~adiq nominated
him as his heir in the imama by an explicit designation. 5 2 Furthermc:re. according to
Idris, these rumours reached a1-Ma~, so he wrote to al-~adiq to send Isms.'il to
him. The Imam did not respond. He went himself to Iraq. After his return, he hid
Isma'il in his home for a whole year and four months until he died. 53

It seems that Isma'il b. Ja'farunexpectedly died. Itis reported that Isms.'t1s

body was brought to Medina on men's shoulders from 'Urayc;l, a village which was
six mils away from Medina, where he had died. 54 According to al-Mufid, al-$adiq
led the funeral procession, barefoot and without a cloak. He crdered his coffin to be

put on the ground many times; he uncovered his son's face and looked at it. 55
Probably in crder to indicate that the claim that Isma'il was the appointed successor to

taqiyya. Only certain selected followers of al-!?s.diq knew this fact CUyun aJAkhbar, pp.332-3).

The Imami sources give this kind of narration. According to two different
narrations related by al-Kulayni and al-Kashshi, when Isma'il b. Ja'far was alive, the
Imam al-~adiq started to declare the intiima of his small son MusS., who was five years
old or less at the time, and told his followers that Isma'11 would not be the next Imam
as was expected (al-Kashshi, pp.354-5; al-Kulayni, i, p.?09). Al-Mufid say~ that
none of the disciples of al-$adiq related a na~~ from the Imam about the declaratton of
lsmacil's imamaeither in an exceptional (shadhdh) or a well-known (ma riij) form
(aI-Fu~U1 al-Mukhtira, p.250).




al-Mukhtara. p.250; al-Irshad, p.4j 1.


al-Nawbakhtt. p.5S; al-Razi, p.288.


Idns, 'Uyun al-Akhbar, p.334.


Juwaym, ii. p.643; Rashtd al-DlO, p.521.

al-Irshad. pAj1. Also see Ibn Bahuya Kamal. t, pp.160-j.\cconhng

to a narration in Kamal. al-Sadiq wrote on the edge of lsma'tl's shroud
(Tsma'd) attests that there is no god hut c\llah' (ibid., P 161).


the imama was invalid by his death and to obviate probable gbuljt-originated
rumours that he actually did not die, al-$adiq let Isma'l:rs body remain in his house
for three days. At this time, the Imam summoned the governor of Medina on behalf of
the 'Abbasid government and numerous people from the Banu Hashim and the
notables of Medina, and showed them Isma'iI's body. He then took their signatures as
a sign of testimony on a document attesting Isma'iI's death. Then he was buried in alBaqi' cemetery. 56

Al-Nawbakhti reports that al-$adiq's party never experienced schism until the
time of Isma'il's death. When Isma'il died, a small group (lJafar yasir) who
believed that al-$adiq had designated his son to the imama after him broke away from
the main body, maintajning that al-$adiq was not an Imam because a real Imam did not
lie and say what would not happen. 57 Apparently it can be said that this group
probably held an opinion that the order of the Imams had been divinely prefixed so

due to the fact that al-$adiq had designated Isma'il as his successor and Ismii'iI had
predeceased his father, it became obvious that neither al-$iidiq nor Ismii'il were real
Imams. It seems that the reintroduction of the early Kaysaru idea of badj' to the
Imami Shi'ism coincided with this time. This break away, despite its insignificant
nature, probably made this introduction urgent and necessary in order to preclude a
more serious schism within the party.

Ja 'far al-$iidiq is reported to have said : "God has never changed His
consideration [mj bad. li'11ib badj'un (or shay'ulJ)] as much as in the case of

Ja'far b. ~1ansur. Asrlir. trans.: p.301, ..\rab. text: p 103; Juwaynl. p.643;
Rashtd al Din. p.521: Idris. 'Uyiin al-Ak..bbir. p.334


al-Nawhakllti. p.S5.


my son Isma'H [kama bad. labu fi Isma'il ibruT'.58 In this way, the cbange in
the alleged indication (isbBra) or designation (I1a~~) of al-$adiq that Isma'il would
be the next Imam was also connected with another divine decision. It means that the
previous divine decision on Isma'i1's imama was changed by a new divine decision
that Isma'H would die before his father, so al-$adiq's knowledge and the verity of his
imama should not be questioned on the grounds of this unexpected change. It seems
that this reintroduction of the badi' doctrine attained its object. Although, as alNawbakhti says, the above-mentioned small group was not satisfied by this
explanation and joined different factions of the Zaydiyya


the sources do not

mention any further split within the party. 60

Ibn Babuya, Kamil, i, p.158; al-Majlisi, Bi1;lir, iv, p.109. In another

variant of the tradition al-$idiq said: "God has never changed His consideration as
more importantly (a '?a.m) as in the case of my son Isma'il". Al-Majlisi quotes it from
"the Book of Zayd al-Nursi" on the authority of 'Ubayd b. Zurara b. A'yan, see
Bi1;lir, iv, p.122.


al-Nawbakhti, p.55.

The doctrine of badj' continued to be used by the Imamis especially in

times of crisis. Probably after al-$adiq's death, when Musa b. la'far was proclaimed
as his father's successor, the tradition of badj' was presented with a small change by
Musa's supporters against the Ismi'Hi groups. According to this version, when the
appointed successor, Isma'il, was involved in some seditious enterprise, God changed
His decision and ordered al-$adiq to designate Musa in~ead of Isma'il (see al-Majlisi,
B~ir, iv, p. 123). The same doctrine was introduced again when Mu1:tammad b. 'Ali,
the son of 'Ali b. Mu1:tammad, the tenth Imam, who was widely believed to have been
designated by his father as the next Imam, unexpectedly died. The Imam 'Ali is
reported to have said: " God has changed His consideration about Mu1:tammad like He
had changed it before in the case of Isma'il " (see al-Ghayb., p. 121).
However, it seems that. when the supporters of the line of "the Twelve
Imams" became superior to other Imami groups and they eventually formed a united
sect called the Imamiyya, which coincides with a time about a half century after the
death of the eleventh Imam, al-Hasan al-Askari, in 260/874, the official view of the
sect about the badj' doctrine dramatically changed. The theory of the di vinel)'
preordained line of the Twelve Imams from Ali b. Abi Tilib to al-Mahdi was now
settled. Because the last Imam al-Mahdi was in Occultation for an unfixed period,
there would be no longer a challenge by a living candidate for the imima. On the other
hand. at that time Isma'ili groups were quite influential: they continued to claim that
the right of the imama after al-$adiq was in the descendants of Isma'il b. la'far and
rejected the badj' doctrine .. In addition,. es~ecially Sunnt and Za),di scholars
mercilessly criticised th1s doctnne on the basts ot IslamiC theology and descnbed It as
an unhelief in God's uruty (u"'~id). Therefore, it seems that the Imami doctors had
to make some radical changes In the doctrine (for different trJ.dilions about the badj'


There is no clear evidence that al-$adiq publicly designated another of his sons
after Isma'il's death. After al-$adiq had died, his surviving sons, outstandingly 'Abd
Allah and Musa, simultaneously claimed their successions, supporting their claims
with several na" which were said to have been related from al-$adiq. It seems that
some other groups which had kept on believing in Isma'il's right to the imama but had
not revealed it during al-$adiq's life also declared at the same time that the real
successor of the previous Imam was Isma'il, so there was no right of other sons of al$adiq to take it over. Juwayni reports that those who declared Isma'il's imama had the
Kaysani background. 61 But, as shall be seen, there is no doubt that the most
influential groups which took part in the propaganda of Isma'il's imama after al$adiq's death were the subdivided groups of the


with which Isma'il had

been in contact when he was alive. 62

see al-Kulayru, i, pp.146-9). With this change, the early .fJaditb about al-badj'
attributed to al-$idiq was reconsidered. First of ali, they declared that al-$idiq had
never designated Isma'il to the imama, so the traditions indicating it must have been
inauthentic (see Ibn Bibuya, Kamil, i, p.158; al-Mufid, al-Fu~ul al-Mukhtir.,
p.250). Then a new variant of the first tradition about badj' appeared. In this new
version, the word of "my son (ibJJ1) Ismi'il" was changed with the word of "my
father (abi) Ismi'il". Thus, it now referred to the belief that al-$adiq's predecessor
the Prophet Ishmael, the son of Abraham, was saved from being slaughtered by the
change of God's decision although He had previously commanded Abraham to
sacrifice his son (for this version, see al-Majlisi, Bil;lar, iv, p. 109). Furthermore,
they narrowed the scope of the badj'. Al-Mufid cites a consensus among the doctors
of the Imimiyya that the change in God's consideration does not include the changes
in the designations of the Prophets and the Imams (al-Mufid, al-Fu~ul alMuk.htira, p.251). It is interesting to note that the statement of this consensus was
exactly the same as what the Isma'iliyya had claimed from the beginning in order to
refuse the claim of the early Imamis that Isma'il had lost his right to the imama with
the change of God's decision (see Ja 'far b. M~ur, Asriir. trans.: p. 291, Arab. text.
p.95; Ra~hid at-Din, pp.519-20).

Juwayru, ii, p.643

The MU'tazili heresiographer a1 \:ishi' calls the beltevers in Isms'it's imama

al-Khau,abi)J'a" (p.4 7). He records no other particular name such as t.he Isma' ihyya
or the Mubm~lklYJ'a in oUler parts of his work.




the heresiographical accounts, three different groups emerged

proclaiming Isma'il's imama. One group denied the death of Isma'il during.... his
father's lifetime. They maintained that his death was just a ruse by



he must have declared it in order to save Isma'il from the 'Abbasid persecution, so he
arranged a false funeral assembly to show the Abbasid governor that the death had
really taken place. They also believed that Isma'il was the Mahdi who would return
someday to rule over the whole earth. 63 The rumour that Isma'il was seen in Basra
five years after al-~diq's death and healed a paralytic person


was probably a claim

put forward by this group. Al-Nawbakbti and al-Qummi report that this group was
formed~~ the K.h~biyya. 65

They also call the members of this group "the Pure

Isma'iliyya" ("al-Isma'iliyya a1-Khali~a"). 66 Al-Shahristimi, a later heresiog rapher,

designates the same group as "al-Isma'iliyya al- W aqi fa"


which refers to those who

stopped their line of Imams with Isma'i1 b. Ja'far. It seems that this group could not
have become influential and active in the course of time as much as other Isma'iii

al-Nawbakhti, p.58; al-Qummi, p.80; al-Shahristimt, p.144; al-Ash'an, i,

p.26; Juwayni, ii, p.643; Rashid al-Din, p.251; al-Mufid, al-Fu~ul al-Mukhtara,
pp.247-8; al-Razi, p.288.

Juwayni, ii, p.644; Rashid al-Din, p.521. According to the Isma'ili sources
of the historians Juwayni and Rashid al-Din, this event took place five years after al~adiq's death. However, two other Isma'ili authors, Ja'far b. M~ and Idris, give
an account that it happened when al-~adiq was still alive. It is reported that when the
news that Isma'il had been seen in Basra reached the caliph al-M~r in Baghdad, he
immediately summoned al-~adiq and questioned him about this maUer. He showed al~adiq the leuerin which the Imam had infonned the caliph of Isma'il's death. Then he
showed the reports of his spies in Basra. Therefore, al-~diq produced the testimony
containing the signatures of those who had witnessed Isma'il's death. So, aJ-Man~r
was satisfied. He dismissed al-~adiq also giving him some presents, see Ja'far aJMan~ur, Asrar, trans.: p.302, Arab. text: p.l04; Idns, Zahr, trans.: p.234; Arab.
text: p.48.


al-\Jawbakhti, pp.58-9: al-Qumrnt, p.81.


aI. \Jawbakhu, p.58: al-Qummt. p.80.


7 al-Shahri~ant,

p. 144.


groups. Al-Mufid (d.413/1022) records that in his time they were extremely rare and
there was no knowledge of anyone from them who could be pointed out. 68

The second proto-Isma'ili group, in contrast to the first group. accepted

Isma 'il' s death in the lifetime of al-$adiq. They held that Isma'l1 was the rightful
successor of al-$adiq. They denied the doctrine of badii'. In their opinion, it was an
important indication of the rightfulness of Isma'il's imama that al-$idiq, following the
example of the Prophet in regard to Khadija and that of 'Ali b. Am Tatib in regard to

never took any wife so long as Isma'il's mother was alive, nor took any

concubine. 69 This group was known as the Mubarakiyya. Mubirak was the name of
the mawlii of Isma'il, who gave his name to the group as its leader.70 The
Mub3rakiyyaclai.med that, when Isma'il was alive, he appointed his son Mul:tammad
as his heir and sent his dii is to different regions to administer the oath in his name. 71
Another argument they used against the supporters of other sons of al-$idiq was that
the right of the imama must pass from Isma'il, the father, to MuJ:tammad, the son,
because the imama could not be transferred from brother to brother after ai-Hasan and
al-J:Iusayn, the sons of 'Ali b. Abi Talib 72; for that reason, the claim that Mu~arnmad
b. al-I.Janafiyya was the successor of al-I:Iusayn b. 'Ali had been rejected by the


al-lI"shad, p.431.

la'farb. Man~ur, Asrir, trans.: p.29S, Arab. text: p.98; al-Shahristilni,

p. 163; Idris, 'Uyiin al-Akhbir, p.332.

70 al-Nawbakhti, p.S8; al-Qummi, p.81; al-Ash'ari, i, p.27; al-Shahristanl,

p.l44; al-Mufid, al-Fu~ul al-Mukhtira, p.247; al-BaUchi, p.180: al-Razi, p.289.
For the hypothesis that Mubarak was actually the epithet of Isma'll himself. see
lvanow, The Alleged Founder. p.111; Daftary, The Isma'ilis, p.96; idem. The
Earliest Isma '111s" ) p. 221; idem) A Major Schism" , p. 127.

71 sec. la'farh. Ma~r. Asrar. trans.: p.296, ~rab. text: p.99 ldns, 'Uyun
al-Akhbar. pp.331) 334, 350; M. Stem, Studies in Early Ismaci.lism (pp.167R). cites from l.1atim b. 'lmran (d.497l1103-4)"s Khams Rasa'it.
Forthc Imamt traditions and lheiropinion ahout this mauer, sec al-Kulaym,
i, pp.2R4-6: Ihn Bahuya 'lIal. pp.207-8: idem. Kamal. ii. pp.R6-9 al-Ghayba
pp. 13.'1 6.


majorily~hi'a. 73 According to an account, a group from the Pure Isma'iliyya later

accepted the death of Isma'il and joined the Mubarakiyya. 74 After



Isma'il's death, the Mubarakiyya split into two groups. One of them held an opinion
went into concealment; he was the Mahdi and would return someday
that \1uhammad
to set everything right. Nevertheless, the main body of the Mubarakiyya did not stop

the line of the Imams with MuJ;1ammad, but they transferred the imama from him to
some hidden Imams, and after them to those Imams who were publicly known. 75 AlShahristani and al-Baghdadi say that they were called the


who believe

the so-called "secret meaning of the religion"). 76 Al-Mufid ncrices that they were those
who were known as the Isma'iliyya in his time. 77 Hence, in the light of these records,
the theory that it was this group which conveyed the movement of the Isms'ili imama
through a series of hidden Imams until the time of 'Ubayd Allah, the first


caliph, and the latter disclosed it is quite reasonable. 78

The third proto-Isma'ili group which is recorded by the sources deemed that
al-$sdiq, not Isms'iI, designated MuJ;1ammad b. Isma'il as the seventh Imam, and he
was the last Imam and the Mahdi who remained alive and would return


the Qa'im.

They put forward a tradition as evidence that the seventh Imam was the Qa'im. This
group is said to have fonned the nucleus of the heretical sect the



regarded M~am.mad as their seventh and last Imam. 79 Al-Nawbakhti mentions some


al-Nawbakhti, p.58; al-Qummi, p.81; al-Irshid, p.431.


al-Nawbakhti, p.58-9; al-Qummi. p.8t.


al-Shahristam, p. 144; al-Balkhi, p.180.


al-Raghdadi. p.65; al-Shahristani, p.144


al-Irshad. p.431.


For this lheory. see Daflaf)'. ".:\ \tajor Schism", pp 12R-9.

al-Ash'an. i, p.26: al-\1uftd, al-Fusul al-Mukhtara. p.24R: at

'\.Jawha1chll., p. 61.


who, after the death of their leader Abu al-Khattiib
' attached themselves to

b. Isma'il and proclaimed his imama: They believed that the spirit of

Ja'far al-~adiq was inside Abu al-Kh~ and later, in the latter s concealment. this
spirit passed into MuJ;tammad. 80 However, the connection between those Kb~bis
and the above-mentioned third prtto-Isma'ili group is not very clear in al-i\awbakhti's

MuJ;tammad was the eldest of Isma'il b. Ja'far's two sons. The name of the
other is recorded as 'Ali. 81 MuJ;tammad's mother was a slave-wife (umm al-

walad)82 called Umm Farwa. 83 It is reported that, at the moment of


death, Mul:Iammad, exceptfcr his full uncle 'Abd Allah, was the eldest male member
of the family. 84 Idris records that he was twenty-six years old when al-~adiq died


which means that his birth date was 1221740. We know little about the early years of
his life. There is no record about MuJ;tammad's participation in any anti-' Abbisid
rebellion. Juwayrn records that. during the 'Abbasid persecution carried out against
Isma'il b. Ja'far, MuJ;tammad and his brother 'Ali were in hiding in Medina. 86
Although the deaths of his grandfather,


and his eldest uncle, 'Abd Alhib, one

after antther, gave MuJ;tammad a chance to proclaim his own imama on the basis of
his seniority in the family, the mass support given to Musa b. Ja'far seems to have


al-Nawbakhti, pp.60-l.




al-Nawbakhti. p.S8; al-Qummi, p.B1.

I:Iazm, Jambara, p.60.

ldns, 'Uyun al-Akhbar, p.333. Al-Mufid records.an Umm Farwa. ~ the

full sister of Isma'tl b. Ja'far (al-Irsbad, p.430). So, there mIght be a posstbtltty of
confusion in Idns's record.

Ivanow says that this fact is explicitly staled by Abu J:lattm al-Razl and
Qa~l ~u' man. see "(~arly Sht '\ \10vements" . p. 17.


'Uyun al-Athbar, p.3Sl.


Juwaym. ii.

r 644.

discouraged him from doing it publicly. Probably for that reason, he left

Iraq where the




partisans had already declared his imama. Severn.l accounts

about his activities and his long journeys as far as Transoxiana or India are provided
by some Isma'ili sources but with numerous

anachronisrru~ 7

His death is supposed to

have taken place in the 1astquarter of the second c.1 eight c .. 88

It seems that Musa b. Ja 'far was not on good terms with



Medina. According to a narration of al-Kashshi, MUsa tells his brother 'Ali b. Ja'far
that their father,


told their older brother, 'Abd Allah, that he should get his

cousins, MuJ;1ammad and 'Ali, the sons of Isma'il, under his control. because they
infuriated him.


also added that they were the partners of Satan. 89

Furthermore, some Imami-originated traditions accused MuJ;1ammad of denouncing

Musa to the caliph al-Rashid. As shall be seen, this caused Musa's imprisonment and
consequently his death. 90 It can also be understood that Mu~ammad's followers were
very hostile towards Musa and his party. Al-Nawbakbti reports that they interpreted a
verse of the Qur'in (ii: 35) about the reason for Adam's fall to earth that the
statement, "eat of the bountiful things therein", meant the attachment for Isma'il and

and the other statement in the same verse, "do not approach this tree",

rep-esented the disavowal of Musa b. Ja 'far. 9 1

see Ja'far b. Man~ur, Asrar, trans.: p.297, Arab. text: p.l00; ldns,
'Uyun al-Akhbir, pp.351-?; .~dem, Zabr, ~s.: pp.240-1, Arab~. t~~t: pp.53-4;
Rashtd al-Din, p.522; Juwayru, ll, p.645; Holhster, p.206; al-Nashshar, t1, pp.285-6;
Tam if, i, pp. 117-9; . Ivanow, "Isn:'-ailis and 9arm~,ians'.', p.58; ,Dartary, The
Isma'llls, pp.102-3; Idem, AssaSSin, pp.l6-7; Idem, Earhest Isma 1115 ,pp.225-8.

R81vanow, "Ismailis and Qarmatians", p. 79; Daftary, Assassin, p. 16.


al-Kashsht, p.265.


see pp.131-2 helow.


al-Nawbakhtt. p.63 ..-\lso see al-Qummi, p.M.


Ingeneral, two contradictory approacbes to \tlusa b. la'far and his imama are
observed in the later Isma'ili literature. The first approacb is quite sympathetic. In

Kali.m-i Pir, an Isma'ili work attributed to


Kbusraw, Musa b. la'far is

accounted among the Imams. However, the author says that J\1usa's position in regard
to the imama was like that of the Imam al-J:Iasan after 'Ali b. Abi Tilib. Al-J:Iasan had

become amustawda (temporary) Imam between two mu~taqarr(real hereditary)


Imams, 'Ali and his son al-J:Iusayn. Musa's case was a similar one; he was a

mustawda Imam between


and Isma'il. He had not the privilege of

transmitting na~~. 92 It is also mentioned in the same book that since Isma'il knew that
the imama remained with his own descendants after the

mu~tawda C

Imam Musa, he

agreed to Musa's imama, so that they were not opposed to each other. MUsS. remained
loyal to this agreement. He is reported to have prayed in favour of the descendants of
Isma'il, when he was in prison in Baghdad, saying: "God, do not deprive my
descendants of the blessing of the descendants of Isma 'i1" .93 These reports, of course,
are obviously anachronistic because of the fact that Isma'il died before bis father and
brother. Another IsmS.' ili account recorded by Rashid al- Din, although there is nothing
in it with regard to matter of the imama, is also in favour of Musa. It is said that MusS.
b. Ja'far gave his life in ransom for Isma'il and 'Ali b. Musa did the like in favour of

b. Isma'il. Due to these sacrifices, the real Imams were prevented from

being harmed. 94

These kinds of statements, in fact, are contradictory to tbe official and the
generally-accepted view of the Isma'iliyya. It might be thought that these statements
were the result of tbe fact that the two sects became close in some regions of the


Khayrkhwah-i Hardti, Kalam-i Pic trans.: pp.41. 70. original text:

'I.' Kha>Tkhwah-i HaraLt. trans.: p. 71. original text:

Rashtd al-D1I1. p.531.


r 75.


Islamic land in later times. Or, as Ivanow observes,95 it was due to the requirements
of taqiyya on tbe part of authors carried out against tbe Imamiyya.

On tbe other hand, in tbe work of tbe Isma'ili diii Idris, the story is quite
different. There is no agreement at all between the two brothers. In contrast, there is
an open rivalry between them. According to IOOs, al-$adiq actually appointed Musa as
a screen (sitr) and trustee (lc.a/il) for Mul;1ammad b. Isma'il so tbat the latter s
position might be concealed from his enemies. But Musa began to act as a real Imam
and claimed that the imama would continue in his progeny until tbe rise of the Mahdi

in the east wbo would be the twelfth Imam after 'Ali b. Abi Tilib. Idris maintains that
God has not proved this claim. This Mahdi has never come. However, the real \fahdi,
al-Mahdi bi'l1ah ('Ubayd Allah), the first


caliph (d. 322/934), arose in the

west. 96

It is a fact tbat the Isma'iliyya has always continued to be a serious ri val

against the Im8.miyya within the framework of the Shi 'i interpretation of the religion of
Islam. Except for certain believers of the imama of Musa b. Ja'far who would
transform the Imamiyya to the Twelver Shi 'a, the Isma'ihyya is the only group which
succeeded in surviving until this time among other subdivided groups wbich had been
split from the main body after Ja'far al-$adiq's death.


see Khayrkhwah-i Haral1. p. 41 . footnote: 1.

(l61dns. Zahr. tnUlS.: pp.236-R. Amb. text: pp49-51.


II - The


'Abd Allah b. Ja'far, the eldest living son of the Imam al-~adiq. was
acknowledged by the majority of the Ja'fari Shi'a as the successor to his father after
the death of the latter. Abd Allah was the full brother of Isma'il, whose mother was
F~ima, the granddaughter of the Imam al-I:Iasan b. Ali. He was flat-headed or flat-

footed (aft.al} al-ra's or aftal} al-rijlayn). Due to this fact, his followers were
named "M~yya" or "FarJ;Uyya". Another account is that the sect derived its name
from the name of its leader 'Abd Allah b. F~y~, a certain Kufan Shi'l. 97

Al-Maqrizi (d. 845/1442) gives the name of the sect as the "Mu'ammariyya",
the followers of Mu'ammar, an unknown individual, who were the supporters of the
imama of 'Abd Allah a1-M~. 98 I. Friedlaender suggests that he was Mu'ammar b.
'Abbad al-Sulami (d.215/830), a Basran Mu'tazili scholar. 99 But there is no evidence

97 al-Irshid, p.432; al-Kashshi, p.254; al-Nawbakhti, pp.65-6; al-Qumml,

p.87; al-Razi, p.287; al-Shahristiini, p. 143. Ibn Taymiyya gives "Ab~yya" as the
name of the sect.. "Ab,al}" also means "aft.al} " . see Minhaj al-Sunna, ii, p.133.
Rajkowski highlights the name of 'Abd Allah b Fu~yQ. He suggests that
because no such person is quoted among the Shi'i notables, this is only an example of
the tendency to attribute the origin of every sect to some particular founder, see
Rajkowski. "Early Shi 'ism in Iraq", p.570 (footnote).
Ivanow is of the opinion that 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far was a half-wit, which was
the reason that the Shi'is accepted Isma'il as the proper successor although 'Abd Allah
was older than him (fhe Alleged Founder. pp.123. 155). Rajkowski's suggestion
is that 'Abd Allah wasadullard. therefore al-~adiq appointed Musa as his successor
in~ead of 'Abd Allah ("Early Shi'ism in Iraq", pp.563-4). These opinions are unlikely
to be true. First of all, it is reported that Isma'u was the eldest son of al-~adiq (alIrshad, pp.431-2; al-'Umari, p.IOO; Ibn 'Inaba, p.263; al-Tabarst, I'lam, p.284).
The fact that al-~adiq's k.unya was Abu' Abd Allah does not necessarily mean that
'Abd Allah was his eldest son. For example, Musa al-K~m and 'All al-Ri~a were
called Abu al-Hasan, but the name of al-Kazim's eldest son was 'All and that of alRida's one was Muhammad. On the other harid, there is no proof in the sources which
indicates that 'Abd Allah was weak-minded. His being "al-af,a/:J" prohably
i Uustrates his physical imperfedion rather than a mental handicap.
9 R al- \1 aq n Zl,


p.~) 51

99 I. Friedlaender. "The Heterodoxies". 29 (1908). p. 114. For t-.1u 'ammar h.

'Abhad, see al-Shahristani, pp.579: \Van, Formative Period, p220.


in the sources to JX"<>'f e \1u'ammar's Shi'ism and his career was probably later than the
time in question. It might be suggested that another Shi 'j sect recorded also by alM~rizi

as being named the Mu (ammariyya, a branch of the Kh~iyya, might have

led al-Maqrizi or copyist into confusion on the name of the

Af~yya. It

is also

possible that the Mu (ammariyya is a distorted form of the 'Amman yya which is
another name fer the Af~yya. 100

Al-Nawbakhti says:
"Upon the death of Ja'far, the majority of chiefs of the Shi'a and its
jurists inclined towards this party and the imama of 'Abd Allah. They
never doubted the imama of 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far and, after him, that
of his son". 10 1

This big attachment to 'Abd Allah's proclamation was probably the result of
the circulation of some traditions attributed to


Perhaps the most effective

I)adith among them was the Imam's following statement: "The imama should belong
to the eldest son of the Imam". 102 Besides this tradition. the custom of the Arabs at
that time required the acceptance of the same principle. According to other reports,
Ja'far a1-~adiq said:
"The Imam is he who sits in my seat". and "No one washes the
Imam, no one prays at the funeral service for him, and no one
removes his seal or buries him except the Imam" .


see p. 76 helow.

al-Nawbakhti, p.66. For other statements indi~atin~. the support of the

majority, see al-Qummi, p.87; al-Kashshi. p.254; Ibn Taymlyya, 11. p.133.

al-Shahristant, p.143; al-Kashsht, pp. 154,254: al-Nawbakhtl. p.65 alQumml, p.B7.

Al-Mufld puts forward that thtS tradtllOn can only be narrated With Its condltlOn
which was related with it, which is "the imama should belong to the eldest son of the
Imam so long as he has no infirmity Caha)" (al-Kulaym, i p.2R5). According to alMuftd. 'Ahd Allah was infirm in religion. btx::ause he was a t\lurji 'I. see al- Fu~ul alMukhtara, p.253.


Al-Shahristaru reports that it was' Abd Allah who did all these things.
Furthennore, al-~diq entrusted something to one of his followers with a direction to
hand it over to one who should claim his imama. No one asked for it save 'Abd
Allah. 103

However, some of the prominent doctors of the party did not find what they
expected from 'Abd Allah when they questioned him on some religious matters. One
of the questions' Abd Allah was expected to answer was how much zak.al had to be
paid on a hundred dirhams possessions. He answered that it required two and a
half dirhams. 104 Accordingly, Abu Ja'far al-~wal and Hisham b. Salim, the two
most celebrated scholars of the Shi'a, were disappointed in this answer which
reflected -in their words- the Murji'i view although 'Abd Allah implied that this was
his own conclusion and he did not know the doctrine of the Murji 'a. Hisham b. Salim
related that, on their visit to 'Abd Allah, the latter's insufficient knowledge was
perceived and thus they decided to find another-Imam. So they went to Musa b. Ja'far
with some other notables of the party and acknowledged him. 105 According to al-


al-Shahristani, p.143. Also see al-Riizi, p.287.


According to Islamic law, the zak.at is not required for an amount less

than 200 dirhams.

105 al-~affar,

pp.270-1; al-Kulayni, i, pp.351-2; al-Kashshi, pp.282-5; &1Irsbid, pp.440-2; Maniqib, iv, p.290; Itbbit, p.206; al-Rawandi, i, pp.331-2.
Ibn Shahriishub reports a narration about a more serious examination of 'Abd
Allah. According to the story, the Shi'is of Nishapur prepared questions in 70 pages
in order to examine the new Imam. An envoy was in charge of the examination. If
'Abd Allah succeeded in answering the questions, 30,000 dinars, 50.000 dirhams
and 200 pieces of clothes collected in the city would be handed over to him.
Unfortunately' Abd Allah failed in the examination. Therefor~, the envoy went to
Musa h . .Ia'far; he examined him in the same way, so, upon hls correct answers, he
delivered the taxes and gifts sent from Nishapur to him, see Manaqib, pp.291-2.
This ~ory is highly improbahle. Firstly, it contains some prophecies attributed
to al-Kazim which shake its reliability in advance. Secondly. hecause of the long
di~ance between Nishapur and Medina, it seems impossihle for the envoy to complete
this journey in two months, also taking the duration of preparation of questIons and
cotlectionofgifts int.o account. .-\.s we know, 'Abd Allah hved only some seventy
days after his father's death.

"lufid, 'Abd Allah was also said to have mixed with the J:-Iashwiyya. 106 ThIS might
have been another handicap for 'Abd Allah in the eyes of those who followed al~adiq's

teachings strittly.

The imama of 'Abd Allah lasted for a very shcrt period. He died about seventy
days after the death of his father, 107 leaving no male progeny behind him. 108 Hence,

of his supporters went over to Musa who had also proclaimed his imama and had

already been recognised by some partisans as the legitimate successor to his father.

The unexpected death of 'Abd Allah probably brought about a situation of

confusion in terms of his followers. It seems that a tradition attributed to


became veryprevaleot during this crucial time, which is that "the imama never passes
from brother to brother after the case of al-J:Iasan and al-I:Iusayn". 109 Al-Kashstti says

106 al-Irshid, p.432. The J:Iashwiyya was the sed of some early traditionists
(Abl al-J:tadith) who professed anthropomorphic ideas, see al-Shahristiini, pp.88-92.

al-Kashshi, p.254; al-Qummi, p.88; al-Nawbakhti, p.66; al-Raz., p.287.

This report shows that 'Abd Allah died in 1481765. There is also no other indication of
his survival after this dare. Therefore, al-I~aharu's repcrt that 'Abd Allah joined in the
revolt of al-Fakhkh in 169/786 is likely to be an error, see Maqitil, p.466. It has also
been repeated by H. Kennedy relying on that report (The Early Abbasid
Caliphate, p.206).

al-Razi, p.287; Ibn J:Iazm, Jamhara, p.59; Ja'far b. M~ur al- Yam an ,
Asrar, Arab. text: p.83, trans.: p.278; Idris, Zabr, Arab. text: p.50, trans.: p.237;
idem, '{Jynn al-Akhbar, p.335. Ibn I:Iazm states that 'Abd Allah had only one
daughter named F~ma and her second marriage was wi~ ~~ cousin '.Ali b. Isma' il ~.
Ja 'far. He also said: liThe rulers of Egypt today (the F~tmlds), at first, traced their
ancestry to 'Abd Allah b. Ja'farb. MuJ:ta.m.mad, but when the fact that this 'Abd Allah
had left only one daughter became known, they renounced this claim and traced back
their ancestry (this time) to Isma'il b. Ja'far " (Jamhara, pp.. 59-60: ~lso ~ee ~
'Uman, p. 103). For the letter of 'Ubayd Allah al-Mahdl, the first Fa~lmld cahph, 10
which he claimed an 'Abd Allahi ancestry, see A. Hamdani and F. De Rlois, 'A ReExamination of al-Mahdi's Letter to the Yemenites on the Genealogy of the Fatlm id
Caliphs" ,JRAS, 1983. pp. 175-8.
Daftary suggests that this claim of 'Cbayd Allah which prohably tOOk, place
after 297i91 0 may have auracted some Fathls and led them to convert to Isma til \m.
see Daftary, . A \olajorSchism" , SI. 77 (1993), p.137.


i. p.2R5: al-Ghayba, pp.1.'t1-6.


that, after the death of 'Abd Alhih, his followers, except for a mlnor group.
acknowledged the imama of \1usa b. Ja'far. They consulted this tradition and struck
the imama of 'Abd A11ih out between those of al-$adiq and

~,. lisa. 1 10

However, a certain group maintained the legitimacy of 'Abd Allah's seventy

day-imama though they recognised Musa as their next Imam. According to these
Shi'is, the above-mentioned tradition was authentic, but, for the vindication of their
cause. they claimed that there were many other traditions confirming the imama of
'Abd Alliih and Musa one after another and al-!?adiq knew that 'Abd Allah would die
leaving no son who would be appropriate for the imama. Therefcre, on the grounds of
these facts, the tradition about the imama of two brothers one after another must have
been related with the condition that the Imam had to have a son who would succeed to
him. If he did not leave a son, like 'Abd Allah, the succession of a brother to the dead

Imam must have been legitimised by virtue of dire necessity. The


maintained, too, that Musa's imama was substantiated by the testimony of 'Abd Allah.
not by the testimony of al-~adiq. They also repeated early Shi 'i idea about "ai-Imam

that Musa was the silent (~iimit) Imam in the existence of 'Abd Allah

who was the real and speaker (nii~iq) Imam. 111

If the narrations reflecting controversy between the two groups are examined,

it can be clearly seen that this argument became very severe: Musa b. Ja'far accused
'Abd Allah of proclaiming his imama unfairly. According to the former, 'Abd Allah


al-Kashsht, p.254.

al-Nawbakhtl, pp. ~2, 93; al-Qummt. p. 111.~ccording t<:> man)' Sht't sects
including the Imamiyya and the Isma'tliyya. the world cannot eXt~t for a moment
without an I mam and there can only be a Single Imam at the same ttme although there
might he a silent one. as his successor, heside him, see Daftary, The Isma'tlts



did this intending that God should ntt be worshipped property. 112 It seems that' Abd
Allah's early death and the fact that that the majority of his followers had joined \'tllsa
b. Ja'far's party caused the dissension between the two sides to cease. The fact that
the traditions about the


in the Imami sources are mostly prophetic and

legendary in nature, and also the fact that no serious quarrel between the subsequent
Imams and the notables of the


group has been narrated in the sources lead to the

possible presumption that antagonistic policy camed out by the Imamiyya against the
Af1.al:riyya and the real controversy against its convictions did not


until the death

of al-J:-Iasan b. 'Ali, the eleventh Imam. When the latter died and the supporters of
Ja 'far b. 'Ali, the brother of the eleventh Imam put the F~~i belief that brother could

succeed brother on the agenda in order to use it for their cause, those who intended to
acknowledge al-I:Iasan's alleged son as their new Imam initiated a hostile campaign
agairuJt Ja'far's group. To turn back to the time after al-$idiq's death and to
ideological debate on the matter of 'Abd Allah




succession to al-$adiq

seemed to be the wisest way to disprove the arguments of the supporters of Ja'far b.
'Ali. It is probable that the activities of the fabrication of #.Jadith against the ~iyya
coincided with this time. Of course, the other side did not stay behind this, so they
also put forward their arguments using the same method to that of those Imamls who
claimed the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. Hence, it might be suggested that the
traditions about the ~iyya possessing polemical character developed after 260/874,
the time at which schism took place within the Imam! party following the death of the
eleventh Imam.

The following lmami traditions attributed to al-$adiq seem to serve the abo\'ementioned goal. According to one of them, al-$adiq foretold to \1usa that . Ahd Allah
would fTOclaim his imama, and he admonished him netther to try to stop' ,>\hd Allah


al-Irshad. p44\.


from doing it ncr to dispute with him, because the latter would be the ftrst member of
the family who would die after himself. 113 In another tradition, a1-~adiq compared
'Abd Allah with Musa. He asked 'Abd Allah what stopped him from being like his
brocher(Musa). 'Abd Allah replied that their fathers and crigins were the same, but al~adiq

rejected this answer saying: "He is from my soul and you are (only) my

son".114 Al-Mufid a1soreportsthata1-~diq, after coming out from the home of 'Abd
Allah, told his followers that his son was a Murji'i.115

A miracle attributed to Musa

though its substance was contrary


to al-~adiq

also served the same purpose even

s above-mentioned recommendation to

Musa. When 'Abd Allah made his claim to the imama, Musa ordered that a big heap of
firewood should be collected in the courtyard of his house, where a group of his
followers and also 'Abd Allah were invited to assemble. Musa commanded that the
firewood be ignited. When the flame of the fire died down and the wood was
transformed into embers, Musa stood up and then sat down in the middle of the ftre
where he preached to the guests for a while. Mterwards, he returned to his seat
without any injury


him or his clothing and then challenged 'Abd Allah to do the

same if he felt that his claim to the imama was proper. However, the rawi of the
narration relates that the colour of 'Abd Allah changed and he left the assembly
immediately. 116

113 al-Kashshi, p.255; al-Qummi, p.87-8; al-Nawbakhtl, p.66; Dala'il.

114 alIrshad, p.438; al-Tabarsl, I'lam, p.289; al-Rawandl, ii, pp.R96-7.

al-\1uftd, al-Fu~ul al-Muk..htara p.2S3.

Kashf, iii, pp.36-7; al-Rawandl. i, pp ..)OR-I0; Donaldson, The Shi Cite

Religion, p. 154 quotes it from Sayyid \1u~ammad t-..1ahdl s Khulasat al- Akhbar.


The sources give the names of the pioneers and the notable figures of the

group. The most famous one of them is Zurara b. A 'yan. His real name is

'Abd Allah b. A'yan b. Sunsun. The grandfather Sunsun was an enslaved Greek
monk, who converted to Islam. The father A 'yan was a slave of the tribe of the 8anu
Shayban. After learning the Qur in, he was freed. He was offered the use of his own
origin (LJisba) , but refused it, preferring to stay in his treaty of clientage (wali')
with the 8anu Shayban.

Zurara b. A Cyan is described as "the greatest man of the Sbi'a in jurisprudence,

,padjtb, theology and Shi'i partisanship". 117 He was a devout companion of al~adiq.

The latter said: "If not for Zurira, I think my father's traditions would have

vanished". 118 However, his belief in


knowledge of the unknown through

the divinely imparted 'ilm and his ideas about "God's knowledge" and "al-

istiti 'a" (the capacity to perform act) seem to have annoyed the Imams. Musa b.
Ja'far thought that Zurara was " the most hated one of our enemies and (also) the most
beloved one of our associates for the sake of God" . 119

It is reported that the foHowers of Zurara b. A Cyan, who were called the

Zurariyya, believed in the imama of 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far.120 One of the early
heresiographers, al-8a1kbi (d.319/931), reports that this group still held this belief in

117 Ibn al-Nadim, p.220.

118 al-Kashshi, p.133: Ibn Dawud, pp.155-6.
119 Ibn Babuya, Kamal, i, p.166. For other narrations and delailed
information about Zurara, see al-Kashshi, pp.133-161: al-Najashi. p 125; al-Tusi.
Fihrist, p.142: Ibn Shahrashub, Ma'alim, p.53; al-t\himaqani, i. biography no:
4213: Takim, pp.123-140.
120 al-Ash'an. i. p.28; alBaghdadi, p. 71: al-Shahristini. p.160: aI-Isfara im.
p.24: al-Maqnzl, ii,p.3')1.

his time. 121 According to some records, Zurara, after posing 'Abd Allah some
questions and finding him not well-informed, went over to the imama of Musa alKa~im. 122

Al-Ash'ari adds to this report the allegation of the


that Zurara

died believing in the imama of 'Abd Allah. 123 However, there is actually no report
about the journey of Zurara, who was resident in Kufa where he died in 150/767. to
Medina after 148/765 in order to question 'Abd Allah. On the other hand. there is an
account which seems to be more reliable according to the facts about Zurara's
historical and geographical situation that Zurara sent his son 'Ubayd to Medina in
order to know the real situation about the acknowledgement of the new Imam among
the partisans and reminded him that 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far had already been recognised
by some who had complied with the indication of al-$idiq that the imama should have
belonged to the eldest son of the Imam. 'Ubayd went to Medina, but, before his
return, Zurira fell ill seriously. He felt the closeness of his death. so he took the
Qur" in and declared that he accepted all that was revealed in it and his faith and
religion was whatever 'Ubayd would bring. 124

It seems that this uncertain situation of Zurara encouraged the two parties to
show that Zurira, the great jurist and theologian, had died believing in their sects even
though he probably did not recognise any candidate for the imama during the two
years before his death.


A rare report from Ibn I:Iazm can corroborate this

al-Balk.hi, p.180. If al-Balk.hi's information is .true,. it is very inter.esting

that a group which held the opinions of Zurara b. A 'yan sull eXlsted at the beglnmng
of the fourth century H ..

aI-Ash'ari. i. p.28; al-Balkhi. p.180; al Baghdadi. p.71; al-Shahristani.

p.160; aI-Isfara'im, p.24; al-~1aqrizi, ii,p.351.


ai-Ash 'an. i. p.28.


aI-Kashshi, pp. 154-5

The Imaml Ibn Bibuya reports that Zurara acknowledged al-Kazim He

also namlll'S a tradition from al-Rida confirming this matter. see Kami.1 1. p 165


assumption, if it has historical accuracy. According to the report, when Zurara had
come back to Kufa afterque~ioning 'Abd Allah in Medina, Shi'is asked him who was
his and their new Imam. Zuriira, indicating the Qur' in in front of him, declared that it
was his new Imam and there was no longer any other Imam for him. 126

'Ammar b. Musa


He gave his name


must be regarded as the protagonist of the

the sect, so the


also became known as the

'Ammariyya 127 'Ammar was amawla from Mada'in (Ctesiphon). He was a disciple

of al-~adiq. 128 Although he maintained the legitimacy of' Abd Allah's imama after the
latter's death, he seems to have been on good terms with Musa


The latter

said: "I had wanted 'Ammarfrom my God, so He gave him to me".129 There is also
no report in the sources related from Musa b. Ja 'far concerning his censure of
'Ammar. This fact can bear out a suggestion that for Musil one's recognition of
legitimacy of Abd Allah's imima was unimportant as long as he accepted his imama; if
this person was an influential and learned one like 'Ammar, there was no reason to
start a dispute with him


'Ammar was usually regarded as a reliable (thiqa) riiwi. AI-TUst states the
existence of a consensus of the Imamiyya on giving judgement and atting in the legal
area according to 'Ammar's traditions. 130

126 Ibn Hazm, Jambara, p.59. Also see al-8alkhi, p.IBO.

127 see al-Ash'an, i, pp.27-8; al-Balkhi, pp. 180-1; al-:sfarn' lnt, p.23. AIShahri~'s account that the 'Ammanyya was the followers of ~lu~ammad h. la'far
(p.23) must be a mistake. This group was called the Shumaytiyya, see p.87 below.
12R al-l1arql, pAR: al-~ajash1. p.206; al-Tusi, Rijal. p.354.
129 al-Kashshl. p.253; Tbn Dawud, pA87.
130 aI \1amaqam quotes it from al-TUSI (ii. hiography no: 8595).


In addition to 'Ammar al-Sab~i, al-Kashshi gives tbe names of other F~i

chiefs describing them as "the jurists of our believers. They are al-I:fasan b. 'Ali b.
al-Fw;lc;twand his two sons, 'Abd Allah b. Bukayr, Yunus b. Ya'qub and Mu'awiya
b. I:Iukaym. 131 Yunus b. Ya'qub is reported to have given up his F~~i belief and
become an agent of al-Ka?iro. 132

Al-J:Iasan b. 'Ali b. al-Fac;tc;til was a Kufan Shi'i from the associates of alRida. His true devotion to the Imam and his outstanding asceticism, piety and
godfearingness are particularly emphasised in the sources. 133 Al-I:Iasan is repated to
have stayed as a


until the last days of his life. According to a narration, while al-

J:Iasan's funeral rite was being performed, Mul:tammad b. 'Abd Allah b. Zurira came
to 'Ali b. Rayyan and said that he wanted to announce good news, and then started to
narrate that he and his friend,


b. al-I:Iasan b. Jahm, bad visited al-I:fasan

in his last days; MuJ;iammad b. al-J:Iasan had wanted al-J:Iasan to aUest the formula of
the Shi 'i creed (shahada). Al-I:Iasan bad testified to it enumerating the names of the
Imams, but he had left 'Abd Allah b. la'far out and passed to




Mul:tammad b. al-J:Iasan had asked where 'Abd Allah was and repeated this question
three times. Al-J:Iasan had replied that he had looked through the books, but he bad
found nothing in them about 'Abd Al1ah. 134

This is the only report which indicates the conversion of al-J:Iasan b. 'Ali b. alFac;tc;til and seems to show a tendency to rehabilitate him as he was a very prominent
figure among the ShielS and the narrator of many traditions related from the Imam al-


al-Kashshi, p.345.


see p. 405 helow.

al-Kashsht, p.565; al-Najasht, pp.24-5; al-TUSl, Fihrist. pp.93 4 Ihn

Dawud. p.114.

t 34






When ~ad b. al-l:Jasan, the son of Ibn

father, he refused



heard this story about his

accept its authenticity and said that "\<1u1;1ammad b. .--\bd Allah

has distocted (the account of) my father (~arrafa


abi)".135 AI-Hasan b. 'Alt

b. al-Faddal died in 224/839.

Al-l:Jasan b. 'Ali b.


two sons, A1;unad (d.260/874) and 'Ali, were

also among the p-ominent members of the ~iyya. Numerous books were attributed

'AH by al-Najashi including "The Book of the Demonstration of the Imama of 'Abd


Another leading figure of the


was 'Ali b.


al-Muqri, an

adherent of al-Ri~a and al-Jawad. Despite being a Kufan, he was reported to have


and watched him carefully in order to describe, when he returned to

Egypt, the stature of the Imam for the Egyptian Shi 'a. 13 7 'Ali was persuaded to
abandon his F~ be1iefby the letters of 'Ali b. Mahziyar, an Imami scholar, but he is
reported to have returned later to his former sect. 13 8

'Abd Allah b. Bukayr a1-Kilfi was another


He was probably among

early F~s acting with 'Ammaral-sab~i.139

135 al-Najashi, pp.25-6.

136 al-Najashi, pp.58-9, 181-3.
137al-Kulaym. i. p.494.
138 al-Kashshi, p.562; al-Najasm, p.178; Ibn Dawud. pAR1; al-\"1amaqant.ti.
hiography no: 8172.
139 a.1-Ka..'ihsht. p.345: al-TUst. Fibrist. p.188: al-"'\Iajasht. p.154: al-Dhahaht.
Mlzan, ii. p.399.


Mu'awiya b. I:Iukaym al-Duhni is regarded as a reliable rawi. He is reported

to have related twenty-four original l:Jadith books (a~l) wriuen directly from the

Imams, which no other rawi had related before. Ko further information is given
about him. 140

Apart from those


who acknowledged Musa and then 'Ali al-Rif:la after

the death of 'Abd Allah, another three factions of the F~1;tiyya are recorded by Sa' d alQummi. The first group stopped the line of the imama after' Abd Allah and recognised
no Imam after him. The second group appeared after the death of



claimed that' Abd Allah had a son named MuJ;1ammad bern to him by a concubine and
'Abd Allah had sent him off to Yemen where he grew up and, after his father, left for
Khuriisan where he still resided. This Shi'i group asserted that this MuJ;1ammad was
the Qa'im who would set everything right. They circulated a l:Jadith attributed to the
Prophet that "the Qa'im's name is my name and his father's name is my father's
name" and put it forward as

evidence for their allegation. Another of their

arguments was a tradition ascribed to


that the Imam should not die without

leaving any male progeny, so 'Abd Allah must have bad a son who was the awaited
Q8.' im. Al-Qummi states that the number of the followers of this group was very
small. They were in Yemen and Iraq but the majority lived in KhUrasW1. 141

It is very interesting to see that this Shi'i group went back to the previous
Imam and acknowledged his son as their new Imam despite strong Arab and Shl"i
convention that the right of succession should be inherited from the father. There is
also no indication in the sources why they did not recognise al-Rif:la or, like the
W aqi fa, did not ~op their line of imama with al-K~m claiming him to be the Oa' im.


al-Najasht, p.293.


al-Qummt, p. AA.


Despite these obscure matters, however, it might be suggested with some confidence
that this group, after about eighty years, inspired some subsequent Shi 'i leaders to put
the idea that al-J:lasan al- 'Askari, the eleventh Imam of the Imamiyya, whose son s
existence was quite dubious, actually had a son named


who was born

some years before his father's death to a concubine and he was the awaited tvlahdi
who would


the Imamiyya is

justice and equity on earth. 142 It is clear that this official belief of
exactly same as that of this marginal


group which emerged

after 183/799 and perhaps disappeared or joined another groupashort time later.

The last


group recorded by al-Qummi was also a small group. They

claimed that the imama remained among the progeny of 'Abd Allah until the day of
resurrection. There is no report about its fate.


The impact of the main Af!-Rl;tiyya continued for a long time. It played an
important role in the period after 260/874 in which the death of


al-' Askari,

who either had left no son cr left one but an infant, threw the Imami community into
confusion. It is reported that those who believed the imama of al-l,Iasan broke up into
eleven groups after his death. One of these groups held the F~ theory that brother
could succeed brother and thus they acknowledged Ja'far b. 'Ali, al-l,Iasan's brother,
as their new Imam. 144 They asserted that God had changed His decree (badii') when
He had caused Isma'il b. Ja'far to predecease his father and had decreed the imama of
'Abd Allah and then that of Musa; this time He repeated the same in the case of al-


see al-Shahristam. p.147.


al-Qummt, p.M.

Ibn Babuya calls this group "the second Fal~iy)"a Cal FalhiYY8 alThaniyya"). see Macan. at-Akhbar. p.65


J:Iasan and Ja'far, the sons of 'Ali, the tenth Imam. 14 " Another example of the
employment of this theory in the early Shi'i history can be seen in the recognition
some Sh1'is o1-lkimama of ~ad b.

Musa after the death of 'Ali al-Ric:ta b.


Musa who

had left a child of seven years of age. However, its effect on the Shi'i community does
not seem to be as significant as that of the above-mentioned split after al-'Ask.ari. 146

Consequently. it seems that the tradition which averted the possibility of the
imama being held by two brothers one after another was not kept strictly by many
Shi'is. They do not appear to have considered there to be any harm in infringing this
principle, especially in the periods of crisis in wbich the Shi'a needed vitally to find a
mature imam to succeed to previous Imam who had left an infant or bad no issue.
Hence, one can suggest that the Shi'i theory tbat all tbe Imims were divinely
predetermined to succeed one after another did not prevail among the Sbi 'a during that
time and the traditions in which the divinely foreordained Imams were


were the

products of later sectarians who needed to defend the accuracy of tbeir line of imama
against the claims of other sects or groups which



other lines.

rijiil were usually considered by the Imamiyya as trustworthy

transmitters in relating I)adith even though they were regarded as fiisi d al-

madhhab (those who have corrupt doctrine). Besides, the

Fa~l?is were


carefully from the members of all other Shi'i or non-Shi'i sects. The following
statements of al-Mamaqaru clearly show how the Imamiyya have made numerous
traditions or legal conclusions which had been related on the authority of the F ~~t

rijiil serviceable for use on the grounds of a process of rehabilitation. AI- \1 am aqant

al-Nawbakhtt, pp.81-2; al-Qumml, p.llO;_al-Shahri.stanl. p.147 .. For t~is

group. also see Sachedina. Islam ic Messiaoi SID. p ..)2: Hussatn. Occultatt 00. )9


see al-Qwnml. p.9:); alNawhakhll. p. 72; alShahnstanl. p.146.


states that "the


was the closest Shi'i sect to the truth". He connects this

conclusion with two reasons: Firstly, other sects denied one or some of tbe twelve
Imams despite the fact that the denial of one Imam indeed meant the denial of all the
Imams. However, the Af~yya accepted all the twelve Imams, but they added' Ahd
Allah among them. Therefore, they ascribed the traditions informing the number of the
Imams as twelve to the mean that this number did not include the first Imam 'Ali b.
Abi Talib. Furthermore, the


their times. However, those

died mostly as the believers of the real Imams of


who died during the seventy days when 'Abd

Allah proclaimed his imama and invited people to accept it, died as unbelievers. 147
Secondly. unlike the F~is, all other sects acquired their doctrines and other religious
rules from ordinary persons rather than the twelve Imams. Because 'Abd Allah lived
only seventy days after his father, there was little chance to a


to relate tradition

from 'Abd Allah or ask him his opinion to solve a legal problem. These facts provided
the Af~yya with a privilege which the Imamiyya did not give to~'I

'1 ik other

Shi'i groups.148

III - The Niwiisiyya

According to heresiographical accounts, after Ja'far


bad died, one

group of his followers held that a1-~adiq had not died; he was still alive in concealment
and he would stay there until he would reappear as the Qa'im or the Mahdi to fil t the
earth with justice as it was filled with injustice. 149

147 According to a well-known I)adith attribu~d ~o Ja'f~ al-~adiq, wh.oever

dies without having acknowledged the true Imam of hIS tlme, dIes as an unbeltever
see al-Kulayni. i, pp. 3 76-7.
14R al-Mamaqant. i, pp.193-4. Also see the biography of 'Ammar al-Saball.
Ihid. , ii, no: R595.
149al-Nawbakhtl. p.57; al-Qummi, p.79; al-I'ashi', p.46; al-l"laBc,h, p.169:
aI-Ash 'art , i, p.2S; al-Razl, p.2R6: Ihn Hazm. al-Fa~l, I~' p.IRO; ai-Isfara Int, p22:
al-Muftd, al-Fu~ul al-Mukhtara. p.247; al-Shahnstam. p 14~: F. al Razi.

The sources cite some sayings of


which were used by this group as

- evidence for their belief. The Imam al-~adiq allegedly said: "If you should see my
head rolling down to you from a mountain, do noc believe what you see, for I am your
master". 150 Another#:Jadith is related on the authority of 'Anbasa b. ~lu~'ab, a
Nawiisi Shi'i, in which


said again: "If somebody comes to you and informs

you of me that he nursed me, washed me and shrouded me, do not believe him, for I
am your master, the master of the sword



A man of Basra called Nawus is reported to have been the head of the
group. 152 The name of the sect was derived from his name. 153 Al-Shahristiuli also
mentions another account that the members of the group belonged to the village of

I'tiqadat, p.53; idem,

(29). p.4 t.


p.242; Friedlaender, "The Heterodoxies", 1908

al-Nawbakhti, p.57; al-Qummi, pp.79-80; al-Razi, p.286; al-Shahristani,

p.143; F. al-Razi, Mu~~~a1. p.24.

151 al-Nawbakhti, p.57; al-Qummi, p.80; al-Mufid, al-Fu~l al-Mukbtara,

p. 247. According to al-Mufid. al-~adiq might have made this statemenl just before he
went to lr~ in order to make his followers sure that he would certainly come back. In
this way, a1-~adiq prevented some possible rumours about his death intended to make
mischief among people. Al-Mufid also sees it possible that the Imam made these
statements to those people whom he knew would predecease him. The final po~bility
is that al-~adiq might mean that nobody from the ordinary people could wash or
shroud an Imam. These works were only the duties of an appointed Imam, see alFu~l al-Mukhti.ra, p.249.

al-Shahristiini. p.143. Other records about his name are: Nawus (Ibn
l.{azm, al-Fa~l, iv, p.180). Ibn al-Nawus (al-Razi, p.286), 'Ajhin b. 1\awus (alAsh'an, i, p.2S), 'Abd Allah b. al-Nawus (al-Tabarsi, I'lam, p.286), 'Abd Allah b.
Nawus (al-Mufid, al-Fu~ul al-Mukhtara, p.247), Fulan b. al-'\Jawus (al-Qumml,
p.SO), Fulan b. Fulan al-Nawus (al-~awbakhti, p.57; ~-Kashshi, p.365), Ful~ b.
Yawus (al-flalkhi. p. t 70). Ibn I~azm s record (al-Fa~l. lV, p.180) that he was aiM i~ ri" (the Egyptian) should be "al-Ba~ri" (the Basran). AI-Isfara' \01 connects the
name of the sect with aNawus (Sarcophagus) in Basra, see al-hfara'ini, p.22.

Other different namesgiyen to the sect are: al-~awusi}'ya (al-Ash'an, i,

p.2S; alTabarst. IClam, p.2~6), al-Namusiyya (F al-Razi, I'tiqadat, p.53), alRarusiyya (al-Ralkhl, p.169).

\Jawusa 154 which was one of the villages around Hit, a town near Baghdad situated
on the right bank of tbe Euphrates. 155 The fact that all of the three men reported as the
NawUsls were from Kufa and the fact that the leader of the group was recorded as a
Brunn evidently show that the group was fOtmed in Iraq.

'Anbasa b.


al- 'Ijli al-Kufi is reported by al-Kashsbi as a

He is the transmitter of the #:Jadith in which




tells his followers not to believe

in any news of his death. 157 Another two Nawilsis are listed by Ibn Dawild. 158 Sa'd
b. Turayf al-J:Ian~a1i al-Kufi was a shoemaker (islc.aJ or Ic.haffaj) in Kufa. He was

also a famous story narrator

(qa~~).159 A1-~diq

praised Sa' d because of the stories

he publicly narrated about the merits of the Imams and their rights to the imama. 160
However, Sa'd al-Iskif, after al-~adiq's death, stopped the line of the Imams with al~adiq

and did not recognise any successor to him. 161 The second name recorded as a

Nawusi is Aban b. 'Uthman al-AJ:lmar al-Bajali. 162 He was one of the twelve most
learned among the disciples of al-~diq.163 Aban was distinguished in his time with
his knowledge about ancient Arab poetry, genealogy and the important hist<rical
events in the pre-Islamic Arab calendar (ayyam al- CArab). He was originally from

154 al-Shahri~, p.l43.

155 see al-Yaqut, iv, pp.
156 al-Kashsbi, p.365.
157 al-Mufid, al-Fu~U1 al-Mukhtara, p.247.
158 Ibn Daw-ud, Rijiil, Najaf 1392/19n, p.293.
al-Najasht (p.l27) erroneously records that Sa'd was a qaf/i (judge). This
be a result of the misreading or mi~ecording of the word "qa~~".




160 al-Kashsht, p.2 15.

161 al-Kashsht, p. 215; al-Mamaqaru, ii, bioghraphy no: 469~ and 4657.
162 al-Kashsht. p ..352: Ibn Dawud, R i jiil, "Ja jaf t 972 p. 293.
16 ~

al- K as h sh t, p. 3 75 .

Kufa and lived there, but he was reported to have frequented Basra. 164 Therefore. it
might be thought that Aban was the person who provided the link between Kufan
members of the group and its leadership in Basra.

Except for these three personalities from


circle. no name is assigned

to the group. About the activities of the Nawiisiyya and its fate among other groups
divided after


death, almost nothing is known. However. a Shi'i scholar,

Abu Talib 'Ubayd Allah b. AJ;tmad b. Abi Zayd al-Anbari (d. 356/966-7). who
flourished about 150 years after


death, is recorded as a Nawusi as well. 165

Al-Najashi simply says that he was a Waqifi, without any reference about whom he
stopped (waqlda) the line of the Imams at. Al-Najashi also adds that he later returned
to the Imamiyya. 166 According to Ibn al-Nadim's report. this prolific scholar belonged
to the Babushiyya sect. 167 When we put together these accounts about 'Ubayd Allah
and take into consideration another record that he was accused of irtifj'



means elevation, i.e. synonymous with ghuluww). it appears that his belonging to
the Nawusiyya was different from those of the previous Nawusis. He had extremist
tendencies and these tendencies were related to Ja 'far


Maybe the Babusbiyya

was the name of this form of the Nawusiyya. 169 When Abu l:fatim al-Razi
(d.322/934) said that no one in his time held the opinions of the Nawusiyya. 170 he


al-Najashi, p.10; Ibn l:fajar. Lisan, i, p.24; aI-Tusi, Fihrist, Beirut

1403/1983, p.46.


Ibn Dawud, Rijil, Najaf 139211972, p.293 cited from al-Tusi.


aI-Najashi, p. 121.


Ibn aI-Nadim, p.198.


al-Najashi, p. 121.

Another possibility is that, like al- Balkhi recorded the name of the sect as
the Ihirusiyya (p. 169), Ibn al-Nadlm's record might also be a distorted form

\ 70 al

RaZl, p.286.

probably did not mean these extremists. This may be indicated by a rare report from
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi which gives more details about the situation of the sect.
According to this report, there were two different NawUsi groups. One group held that

did not die; some of his disciples were able to see him on some occasions and

he promised them that he would reappear, but he did not fix any time for this. The
second group accepted


death, but they did not recognise any Imam after

him.171 Hence, it can be suggested with some confidence that the first group was
those NawUsis who held some extremist ideas about Ja 'far with the belief that he was
alive. 'Anbasa b.


might be regarded as the prominent figure of this group

since he claimed that some I)adith about this belief were related from al-~adiq. This
form of the Nawusiyya seems to survive for a long time and took some different
names and fonus at much later times. The second group simply stopped the line of the
Imams with


They did not have any belief in


occultation. This

group probably took the Sunni line and lost its Shi'i identity in time. However. this
group. because they did not continue the line of the Imams after


too. was

confused by the heresiographers with the other extremist group. so both two groups
were classified under one title. Therefore, in this light it makes sense that Aban b.
'Uthman, who is introduced as a NawUsi in the Shi'i sources. is regarded as a
trustworthy (thiqa) riiwi in the Sunni rijiil sources. 172 He was among the
followers of the Imam


but. after his death. he probably could not have found

any knowledgeable personality fitting to fill the place of al ~adiq among the Imam's
sons, so he recognised none of them who proclaimed their irnama. 173

171 F. al-Razl, Mu~~~al. p.242.

172 For Ibn Hibban (d. 354i965)'s judgement for him, see Ibn 1.1 ajar . Lisan, i,
p.24. The fact that the name of a famous Sunnl sch?l~, Abu '.U?ayd 9asim h. Sallam
(d. 224i839). was recorded as the pupil of Aban~. l!t.hf!1an (tbtd.) might he regarded
a"i another indication of his freedom from extremtst optnlOns.
II. Modarressi is of the opinion that some followers of al-~adiq simply
considered none of the candidates for al-Sadiq' s post to he knowledge-dhle enough to


IV - The


Muslim heresiographers record the Shuma~iyya


as a sect which emerged

after the death of Ja'far al-~adiq declaring the imama of Mu~ammad b. la'far al-

~adiq. 175 However, it seems that the emergence of this sect was~later time and, for
that reason, n~ related to the time of the crisis when the supporters of the some sons
of al-~adiq, namely Isma'il, 'Abd Allah and Musa, proclaimed simultaneously the
imama of their leaders. 176 M~ammad b. Ja'far, who was the youngest full brother of
Musa b. Ja'far, 177 must have been a teenager oc much younger when his father died.
Therefore, he would not have been mature enough at that time to attract the followers
of the party as a proper candidate to succeed al-~adiq.

be recognised as a religious authority, therefore al-$idiq became their last Imam.

Modarressi maintains that it was Muslim heresiographers who made a special sect out
of this group calling them the Nawusiyya which believed in the occultation of the
Imam al-~8diq although they actually did not claim his occultation. For this opinion
and the arguments supporting it, see H. Modarressi, Crisis, pp.S4-7.
174 Other different names given to the sect are: al-SumaJ!.iyya (al-Qumml,
p.87; al-Asb'an, i, p.27), al-Sam~iyya (al-Nawbakhti, p.65; al-Nishi', pA7; Idns,
'UyilD al-Akhbir, p.335), al-Sham~yya (Abu Zayd al-'Alawi, Arab. text: p.l77,
trans.: p.2ll; al-Rizi, p.286; al-Mufid, al-Fu~l al-Mukhtira, p.248; F. al-Ra7j,
I'tiqadit, p.54), al-Sab~yya (Murilj. iii, p.439), al-Mu~ammadiyya (Ja'far b.
Man~. Asrar. trans.: p.279, Arab. text: p.80).

al-Nawbakhti, pp.64-5; al-Qummi. pp.86-7; at-Nishi', p.47; al-Balkhi.

p. 180; al-Asb'an, i, p.27; Muruj, iii, p.439; al-Razt, pp.286-7; al-'Uman, p.9.6; Ibn
Hazm, al-Fa~l, iv. p.93; al-Mufid, al-Fu~l al-Mukbtara. p.248: al-Shahnstam.
144; al-Isfara'tru, p.23; F. al-Rizi. I'tiqidit, p.54; al-Maqrizi, ii, p.351; Idns,
'Uyun al-Akhbar. p.335.


H. Modarressi is also of the same opinion. He sees it possible that the

belief in Muhammad h. Ja'far's imama started with his uprising in 200:815 "iee
Cd si s. p.2 (1, footnote: 19.

t 77

at -Irshad. p.4.)O; al-Qumml. p.86: al-1\awbakhll. p.64; al-RaJJ, p 286.


\t1uhammad b. Ja'far was well-known as a traditionist. Some famous

traditionists are recorded to have related I)adith of al-$adiq from

\1~ammad. I 7""


200/815, after the revolt of Abu al-Samya had failed, "tu~ammad attempted anocber

rebellion in Hijaz. He adopted the title of "Commander of the Faithful". Although he

gained considerable support at the begjnning, he was defeated by the (Abbasid forces
and had to apologise publicly for what he had done. 179

It is not exactly known whether a political group which surrounded

MuJ:tammad existed before his rebellion. Al-Mas'udi gives the name of the
Shuma~iyya as

the group who supported MuJ;tammad and fought under his leadership

in his unsuccessful revolt in 200/815. 180 Since it is also reported that the JilrUdiyya
branch of the Zaydis was an important force in the rebellion,181 it can be suggested
that the


was the name of a group from the Jarudiyya who supported

Mul;1ammad b. Ja'faragainst the 'Abbasid government. These JilrUdis must have heen
from the one of two subgroups of the sect who saw that the Imam after al-J:Iasan and
al-I:Iusayn, the sons of (Ali b. Abi Talib, should belong to a wise and godly man
among the children of al-I:Iasan and al-I:Iusayn upon whom was agreed by a
consultation (shiirQ), and this man should unsheathe his sword and summon to his
faith. 182 The rising of MuJ:tammad b. Ja'far in arms was in accord with all aspects to
this Zaydi faith.

178 Maqatil, p.538.

179 For this revolt and its aftermath, see pp.239-41 below.
180 Muruj, iii, p.439.
181 Maqatil, p.53R: al-Irshad, p.433.
182 For the Jarudiyya sect. see al-Nawhakhtl. p.19: al-Qummt. pp.lR-9, 7t:
at-Ash' an. i, p.67: al-l1aghdadt. pp.43-4: al-Shahristant. p. 135.

yaI:tya b. Abi



was known as the leader of the group. 183 The name of

was taken from his name. Almost nothing is known about YaJ;tya.

According to Ibn J:Iazm, the


was a small group. 184 Al-Masludi says that

among the group there were both extremist and moderate factions of the Shila. The
moderates then joined the Imamiyya. 185 The sources give some examples of .padit.b
spread by the


for the purpose of the propaganda. According to one of

them, while MuJ;tammad b. Ja'far, while still a child, was running, he fell forward on
his face. Al-$adiq lifted him, kissed him, cleaned the dirt from his face and embraced
him. Then al-$adiq said that his father, al-Baqir, had told him that when a child, who
would look like al-Baqir, would be born to him, he should have him named
MuJ;tammad, so that he would be like the Prophet and al-Baqir.l86 In another .padit.b,
al-$adiq says: "The name of your master is the same as that of your Prophet". 187 It
seems that MuJ;tammad b. Ja 'far was pleased with these sayings. Maybe he started to
believe that he was actually the Mahdi. According to a report in Maqitil, MuJ;tammad,
who had a defect in one of his eyes, which he kept secret, used to say: "I hope to be
the Mahdi, for I am informed that he would have something wrong with one of his
eyes". 188

al-Qummi, p.87; al-Shahristani, p.144. Other records about his name are:
y~ya b. Shuma~ (al-Balkhi, p.180; ~l-Isfar~'ini, p.23), Yal;1ya b. ~huma~ alAhmasi (al-Maqrizi, ii, p.35I), YaJ;tya b. Abl Suma~ (al-Nawbakhtl, p.65, alAsh'an, i, p.27), Yal:tya b. Asma~ (Idris, 'Uyiin al-Akhbir, p.335), Ibn al-A:hm~
(al-IUman, p.96), Yal:tya b. Abi al-Sham~ (al-Razi, p.286; al-Mufid, al-Fu~ul alMukhtira, p.248).


Ibn J:Iazm, a1-Fa~l, iv, p. 93.


Muriij, iii, p.439.

al-Nawbakhti, p.65; al-Qummi, p.86: al-Razi, pp.286-7: al-Mufid. alFusul al-Mukhtira, p.248.


al-Shahristani, p.144.

Maqitil, p.539. The Isma'iii da'i Idris (d.87211468) ~dicules this

argument of i\ 1u~ammad, ~le says that this defect. is not that of ~.he \1,ahdl, but It IS lhL'
sign of the Dajjru (the Anuchnst) who, It was belteved, would light agrunst the ~lahdl
in the last days of the world ('Uyiin al-Akbbic, p. :'48).


The group probably survived a little longer after their leader had di ed in
203/818-9 in exile in Kb Ur3.S an. Al- 'Umari reports that the group, after \tuJ:tammad,
agreed on the imama of his son Isma'il. 189 There is almost no report about Isma'il b.
Mu1:Jammad and his activities. Therefore, it could be presumed that the Shumay~yya
did not flnd in him what they had expected and, a short time later. his followers were

in other factions of the Muslim community.

t R9

al- "ll m an. p. 96.






This chapter attempts to present a critical account of the life of the Imam \ lusa

The process in which he stood out as a leader and then was proclaimed as

the successor to


is explored. His political attitude towards the present

'Abbasid regime, and the latter's policy towards all the Shi'i elements in general and
al-Ka~'s party in particular are



is also treated in the chapter as a

traditionist and ascetic. His alleged link to some early sufis is briefly examined. The
chapter starts providing information about MUsa b. Ja'far's kunyas and epithets.

I - Musi:s Kunyas and Epithets

Musa b. la'far's Ic.unyas were Abu al-I;Iasan. Abu Ibrahim, Ahu 'Alt and
Abu Isma'i1. 1 Mter his son


started to use "Abu al-J:iasan" as kunya, Musil is

said to have preferred to use other kunyas

to in #Jadith as


despite the fact that he is usually referred

Abu al-I;Iasan". Since the kunyas of


and 'Alt h.

MuJ:tammad, the tenth Imam, were the same, "al-Awwal" (the first) or "al-M iit;li" 3
(the prior) were attached to "Abu al-I:Iasan" MUsa in order to distinguish him from the
two others. His famous nicknames were al-Ka~im (the one who vanquishes anger),

Ihn Abi al-Thalj, p.30; a1-Irshad, p.436; Maqi.til, p.499: Manaqib, vi.
p.323: Ibn al-Khashshab. p.192; al-Tabarsi, Taj. p.4S; idem, l'lam, p.2R6: Alqab,

see 1thbat. p.211.

For example, see al-l.1imyan, p.336.


al- 'Abd


(the righteous servant of God), al-$abir (the patient), al-Amin (the

honest), al-' Alim (the learned) ,4 some of which were used in traditions. 5

Musa is often called


Al-Mufid says that he was called


because of his restraint of his anger and the patience which he showed in the face of
the acts of oppressors right up until his death. 6 According


Ibn al-Sa'i and Ibn al-

Athlr, MUsa always used to do good to one who dealt badly with him, which was the

reason that he was known as a1-Ka~. 7 Ibn Babuya gives an interesting rep<rt that
Musa knew those who would stop the line of the imama with him and reject the imama
of the next rightful Imam, i. e. the W aq ifis, but he always kept his wrath against them
under control and never let them see it. 8

Apart from these explanations, in the Imam! belief it is God who named the
Imams. Their nicknames and kunyas were also given by Him. Therefore the respect
for these names symbolises the respect for God and the Imams. 9 These honorary
appellations which express a merit also functioned for the Shi'l followers as code
names for the Imams used in correspondence with them and in the a~Qdith which

For the term "al-'Alim" see E. Kohlberg, "Imam and Community", pp.25-


IbnAbi al-Thalj, p.28; al-Irshild, pp.436, 451; Dalil'it, p.14R~ a1-Kha~ib.

xiii, p.27; Ibn al-Khashshab, p.19~; al-Tabarsi, Taj, p.45; Ibn al-$abbagh. p.2l8:
Ibn IJajar, Tahdhib, x,p.340; Alqab, p.63.

al-Irshild. p.451. Also see Manilqib, iv, p.323.

al-Kamil, vi, p.112; Ibn ai-sa'1, p.28.

Ibn Babuya, 'lJyun, i, p.9!: idem, '1lal, p.235. In .Ma'am ~l-Akhbar of

the same author, this information is foretold by the Prophet In a I}adllh related by
'All h. Abl Talib, scepp.64-5.

Alqab. pp.4-5.

tbeyrelatedfrom tbem, whicb were used for reasons of taqiyya, as it was deemed
best way to conceal the Imams' names. 10

II - The Birth of the Imam and His Early Years

Musa b. Ja'far was born on 7 $afar, 12818 November, 745 or 17 !?afar, 128
118 November, 745 at al-Abwa', a village between Mecca and Medina. 1 I

In addition

to the date reported by most authors, another date is given as 1291746-7. 12 His mother

was a slave-wife (umm walad) wbose name was al-J:Iamida al-Barbariyya (or alAndulusiyya), who was probably brought from North-Africa and was a Berber. It is
reported that due to her husband's calling her "the purified


from the


She was

uncleanness like a golden ingot" , she was often referred to as

also the mother of F~ima, Isl.taq and


who revolted in Mecca against the

'Abbasid government in 200/815. 13

According to a rather fanciful story, al-Baqir delayed giving Ja'far aJ-$adiq in

marriage, because he used to f<retell that a Berber slave trader would come over and
bring the mother of the future Imam, Musa. The anticipated trader came with only two
weak and ill slaves. Al-Baqir bought one of them for seventy dinars and gave her to


see al-Kulayni, i, p.308; al-Qummi, p.105.

al-Kulayni, i, p.476; al-Nawbakhti, p.81; al-Qum~j,. p.9.3; al-Irshad,

p.436; al-Kha~ib, xiii, p.27; Ibn al-Khash~a~, p.188; M!l_naqlb, IV, p.323; aJTabarsi, Tij, p.46; idem, I'lim, p.286; al-I:I~111, ~-~~staJad, p.182; ~lb~, p.348:
Ihn al-'Imad, i, p.304; aJ-I:Iarithi, p.6; al-Mamaqaru, I, 187. For the vtllage of alAbwa' , see Yaqut, i, pp. 99-1 00.

Ihn Ahl al-Thalj, p.1l; Ibn Khallikan, v, p.310: Ahu al-Fida, ii, p.l6;
Kashf, iii, p.2. Ihn Rustam al-Tabari gives the date of Dhu al-1.lijja 127 II
(Dala'il, p. 146).

al-Kulaynt. i, p.467: 'Uyun, i. pp.33, R5; al-Irshad. pp.430, ~36: a~

Ya'quhl, iii, p.150: Maqitil, p.499: al-"\Jawhalchtl. p.72 .. Thn .-\hl ai-ThalJ P 2.~
Dala'il. p. t4R: Ihn Kha'ihshab, pp.IR9-90: at-Taharsl, TaJ. p.46: Kashf, Ht, pp 67: Sih~. p.34R. fun 'lnaha, p.225.



his son

Al-Baqir asked her whether she was virgin, adding, though it was

unlikely foc those who belonged to a slave trader. Al-J:Iamida answered that whenever
the trader attempted to have sexual intercourse with her, an old man with white hair
and a white beard appeared, he slapped the trader s face and took him away from her.
so she was able to remain a virgin. 14

In another extended


which was probably produced to elucidate the

Shi'i-Imami belief that the designations of the Imams were a result of God's
predetermination, Ja'far
conceived Musa



narrates the miraculous event of how al-J:Iamida

to a group of his disciples who accompanied him on a

pilgrimage to Mecca. Accocding to this narration, in the night in which the seed. which
was to become Musa, was predetermined to be conceived, a mysterious being came
and had


drink something "finer than water, softer than butter. sweeter than

honey. colder than snow, and whiter than milk". It then commanded him to unite with
his consort. Thus the seed was conceived. After four months, the spirit was merged in
the seed. Then God sended a celestial creature (lJayawan) to inscribe on


embryo's upper arm the verse beginning with the sentence "The word of your Lord
finds its fulfilment in truth and in justice" (al-Qur' an. vi : 115). Immediately after he
had been born. Musa spoke to God. God endowed him with the whole of knowledge

(al- ilm al-awwal and al- 'ilm al-iikhir= the first and the last knowledge). 15

Littleis known of al-K~m's life in his youth. There are some reports in the
Imaml books showing his great knowledge and ability of discernment in his youth.
His comment on the state of the heretic Abu a1-Kh~~b's faith fascinated his father and
the riiwi of the ~adith because Musa was very young insofar as he used to play


al-Kulayru. pp.476-7; Dala'il. p. 148-9.


al-KulayOi. i. pp. 3&.1-7.


with a young goat and it was not expected that such a comment would come from
him.16 When Abu I:Ianifa (d.150 l 767), the celebrated jurist and the founder of the

I:Ianafi law school, visited Ja'far a1-~adiq to ask him some theological matters, he met
Musa at the gate, when he was still a child. Abu I:Ianifa was so affected by 1vlusa s
answers about some problems on the matter of predestination (qadar) that he
cancelled his visit and returned being satisfied as a result of Musa's explanations. 17 In

tradition, Musa, when he was five years old, caused a Jew to convert to Islam

following his convincing arguments with him. This incident was regarded by his
father as a sign of Musa's imama after him. 18 It is obvious that these traditions are
tendentious narrations trying to show divine knowledge which was believed to have
been bestowed on Musa at the beginning of his life. Therefore, they have nothing to
do with the reality.

The only serious information about Musa's early life is concerntng his
participation in the revolt of MuJ;1ammad b. 'AbdAllah al-Nafs al-7.akiyya in 145/762.

the son of the Imam Zayd b. 'Ali, reports that from the descendants of al-

J:Iusayn b. 'Ali b. Abi Truib only four men took part in this revolt: Himself his

16 al-Kulayni, ii, 418.

17 Ibn Shu'ba, 303-4; Mancqib , iv, p.214. For similar narrations about such
meetings between Musa b. Ja'far and Abu I:Ianifa, s_ee Dali'il, p.262; al-Tabarsi.
I'lam, pp.297-8; al-I':Aufid, ~1-Fu~_u~ a1-~~kht~a. pp.43-4; al-Tabarsl, alIl;ttijij, pp.387-8. In this narratIon, ~usa al-K~m trles to pro~e the dependence.of a
man's destiny on his own efforts, wh1ch w~.one of t~e maln.V1ews of the QadanyYa
sect. Ihn Taymiyya objects to the authenticity of thiS narration. He says that. as IS
well-known, neither Abu J:Ianifa nor the Imams from Ahl al-Bayt accepted the Qadan
principle of human free wilt, so this n~on :which relates M~sa's defence of this
principle and Ahu I.Janifa's acceptance of It Without any questlOn should be t?tally
discredited. He maintains that, on the other hand, the arguments \1usa uses tn the
narration are very simple ones which even "the hays. (~u.bya~) of the ()adari)}a"
knew and used in their arguments, therefore the fasCtnatlOn ~t a s~holar ltke Abu
Hamra with such simple explanations is almost senseless (Mlnha] al-Sunna, II
I R al- Himyan,

pp. 317-30.

brother. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far and Musa b. Jafar.19 If we consider the fact that
J:Iusayn b. Zayd and his brother were adopted by al-~adiq after their father had been
lcilled,2o we can say that all these four men were from the House of Ja'far al-$adiq. It
is known that


had refused to give the oath of allegiance to 1'-.lul:tammad and

had not taken part in his rebellion. 2 1 According to another report in



al-I~aharu s

came to Mu~ammad and wanted to get permi~on not to take part

in that revolt. MuJ:tammad gave him permission.

two sons, 'Abd Allah and Musa. there.



and sent them back to their father. However,

went back but he left his

gave the same permission to them


did not consent to their return.

He said: "Return! I have not wanted to with old you in addition to myself from hi m" .
and sent them back to Muhammad b. 'Abd AURh.22

Al-$adiq is reported to have escaped from Medina and gone to Fur'



the revolt of Mu.J:tammad broke out. He stayed tbere until the revolt was suppressed. 24
If the above-mentioned report is true, it might show that. although

al-~adiq did


anticipate that the revolt would succeed. he left the door open for that possibility.
Therefore he wanted some of his sons to represent him in the revolt so that he would
not lose his esteem with the 'Alid family in particular and with other Muslims in
general if this possibility turned out to be true. However. this bargain between al~adiq and Mu~ammad b. 'Abd

Allah must have been kept secret since al-~adiq

appears as one of the few Talibj figures who were not harmed by the government after

19 Maqatil. p.389.
20 al-Najashi, p.38.
21 see p.38 above .


.( p._-,_.
-- M aqsU.

23 Fur' was a large village t\e.ar


"edina on the road of Mecca (Yaqul. Ili,




p. 347quotcd from



the revolt due to their involvement in it. It can also be suggested that the roles of . Abd
Allah and Musa, who was seventeen years old at that time, in the rebellion were nonfunctional. We cannot find their names in the historical reports among those who faced
violent persecution from the caliph


after he had crushed the rebellion.

Furthennore, Ibn Atbir's long list containing the famous participants of this incident
does not give their names. 25

III - Musi


is Proclaimed as the Successor to


We have mentioned the groups which appeared after Ja'far

either claiming the succession of different sons of
Isma'iliyya and the





to the imama, the

or stopping their line of the Imams with




Apart from these groups, some of


disciples followed Mlisa b. Ja'far

and acknowledged him as their new Imam. It is a fact that the party of Ja'far


fell into a state of chaos after the death of their leader who had done his job
successfully during thirty-five long and difficult years. The large number of Shi'l
extremists, whom al-~adiq had succeeded to keep within the party thanks to his
charisma, although he had always been troubled by them, formed their own group
proclaiming the imama of Mu~ammad b. Isma'il b. Ja'far. On the other hand, at the
beginni ng, many favourites of al-~adiq,


shall be seen decided to support' Abd


Allah b. Ja' far who had already been declared by some followers as the successor of

his father. These developments suggest that Musa b. la'far was not able to gain the
support of the majority of the Ja'fan Shi'a at the beginning. One Shl', later described


see al- Ka.m it. v. pp.42 t -2.


this situation to al-Ka~m: . Wben al-~diq died) people were going away from you in
all directions (literally left and right)". 2 6

According to a l;Jadith) two leading figures of the party, Mu~ammad h.

>Ju'man al-AJ:twal, who was well-known as SbaJ!.in al-Taq


and Hisham b.

sa1im 28 , were in Medina after the deatb of al-~adiq. Tbe Ja'fari Shi'is of Medina had
agreed on 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far as the new Imam. These two men visited 'Abd Allah b.
Ja'far with a group of people in order to question him. However, after the
examination, they were disappointed. 29 His cilm (knowledge) was not sufficient.
They lost a1mo~ all their hope that tbe party left by al-~adiq could survive under such
a leader, whose capacity was not enough to keep the party united and his ideas
contradiC1ed the spirit of Sbi'i ideology. Tberefcre, they seriously considered joining


al-Kasbshi, p.451.

Abu Ja'far MuJ;tammad b. 'Ali b. NU'man "al-~wal" ["squint-eyed"] was

one of the distinguisbed rijal of al-Baqir and al-~adiq (for bis profile, see alKashsbi, pp. 185-191; Ibn al-Nadim, p.176; al-Najashi, p.228; al-TUst, Fibrist,
p.323; Ibn Dawild, p.394). He was regarded as one of four ruin [literally basis or
corner, i.e. the basis of the religion] in favour of whom al-~adiq said that they were
the most loved persons by bim whether tbey were alive or dead (al-Kashshi, p.185;
Ibn Dawild, p. 394). A1-~wal was a money-changer [al-.Jayrafi]. lIe had a shop in
the bazaar in Kufa under an arcb known as Taq al-M~ami1. He was very expert in his
job. When a coin was given to him to check, he was able to find out immediately
whether it was counterfeit or low quality, therefore he was nicknamed "Sha~ alTaq" [lithe Devil of the Archway"], which later Shiels changed into the less abusive
"Mu'min al-Taq" [lithe Believer of the Archway"] (al-Mufid, al-Ikbti~i~, p.204).
Al-A~wal wastbe counterpart of the great Sunni jurist Abu I:Ianifa. He is reported to
have held heated debates with bim. Once, when Abu J:Ianifa reminded him of the death
of al-~adiq, al-AJ:twal responded that the death of Abu J:lanifa's imam had been given
respite by God to Live until the day of resurrection, meaning Satan these words (alKashshi, p.187; al-rUSt, Fibrist, p.308). He is reported to have worsted the Khariji
leader al-I!al:t~ak b. Qays in a dispute (al-Kasbshi, p.187-8). Befcre al-~adiq, he also
defended against Zayd b. 'Ali the legitimacy of al-Biqirs imama (al-Kashshi. p. 1R6).
A circle established by him seems to have continued to have held some of his
thcolo&ical ideas after hi m. For example, his idea that God di d not kno~ a thi ng
[shay] until it came into existence was represented by the members of thts school
which was known ali al-Nu' maniyya ( al-Shahristani, pp. 160-1 ) or al-Sha~aniyya (alIlaghdadi, pro 72-3; al-Isfara'mt, p.24: al-t\"l~rizj, ii, p.353).

2 R For

hi m see p. 423-4 below.



and .-\bd



answer;, see p.69 aho\e.

other groups, namely the Qadariyya, the Mu'tazila, the Zaydiyya, and the \1urji'a.
They never thought to go to Musa b. la 'far until they encountered a man who would
take them to him. They questioned Musa too. They were satisfied and then
acknowledged him as their new leader. 30

Another four prominent followers, Zurara b. A'yan, Abu

Burayd and Mu1;tammad b. Muslim, who were described by




as "tent pins

(awliid) of the world" 31, were probably not among those who declared their
allegiance to Musa b. la'far. Zurara, as has been seen, in the year 150i767, two years


death, sent his son, 'Ubayd, to Medina in order to know the real

situation about the acknowledgement of the new Imam among the followers.
However, before 'Ubayd's return, he died having not recognised any successor to al~adiq.

Or, according to another report, he simply asked for a Qur' an and declared

that it was his new Imam and there was no cx.her Inull'll any longer for him. 32



Layth b. al-8akhtari al-Muradi was an eminent partisan who was

promised paradise by al-~adiq.33 As a learned man who received 'lim from both alRaqir and al-$adiq, he had a distinguished position in the Shi'i community. Prohably
on this basis, he felt that he had the right to criticise others who claimed knowledge for
themselves. Musa b. Ja'far was also criticised by Abu Ba~r in this regard since he
was seen to be contradicting his father: Shu'ayb b. Ya'qub asked Musa about a man
who married a woman who was already married. Musa judged that the woman should
be stoned to death although for the man punishment was not necessary. Shu' ayb told

30 al-~affar, pp.270-1; al-Kulayru, i, pp.351-3; al-Kas~S~I, pp.282-5; allrshad, pp.440-2: lthbit, p.206; al-Rawandi, 1, pp.331-2: Manaqlb, IV, p.290.

al- Kashshi, p.238.


see pp. 75-6 ahove .

., 3

al-Kashshl. p. 1 70.


this judgement


Abu B~r. The latter bad asked al-$adiq about the same matter

before and be had said that the woman should be stoned and the man be flogged
because of his negligence in investigating tbe woman. Abu B~ put bis hand on his
chest and said : "J think the knowledge of our companion (~alJibuna. i. e. \fusa) has
not matured yet" . 34

It can be seen that serious doubts were raised about the extent of f\.1usa's
knowledge. Although there is no report about their refusal of tbe imama of Musa.
another two learned companions. Burayd b. Mu'awiya al-'Ijli


and Mu~ammad b.

Muslim al-Thaqafi 36, also seem to have withheld their recognition. They are regarded
as Apostles (#:Jawari) of al-~adiq. 3 7 It is related from al-~adiq tbat they were from
those "Foremost" ("al-sabiqiin


in the faith and "Nearest" ("al-muqarrabiin") to

God. 38 For Mu~ammad b. Muslim, it is said that no one among the Shi'a was more
learned (afqah) than him. 39 Despite such fame which they had rightly gained in the
community and the fact that both men died in 150/767 40 , the absence of any report in
the sources showing which side they took in the dispute about the imama might
indicate that they, like Zuriira, did not recognise any Imam after al-$adiq. There is a
report attributed to al-~diq, which may indicate the disposition of these three men. He



al-Kashshi. p.l


For his profile, see al-Kasbshi, pp.238-40.


For his profile, see al-Kashshi, pp.161-6 .


al-Kashshl. p.IO.

38al-Kasbsht,p.136-7. Thesctermsarereferredtoal-Qur'an, LVI: 10-11.

3 9 al- Kas hsh 1. p. 167.
40 al-Naj'L,)ht. pp. R1 . 227.


said: "Those who have claimed leadership



like Zurara, Burayd.

b. Muslim and Isma'il al-Ju'fi, will perish":n

Al-Kashshi records Zuriira, Burayd, Abu


and Mul;Jammad b. Muslim

among the "eminent six" scholars from the older generation of al-$adiq's disciples.
whose agreements upon a legal decision are seen as enough
the concurrence of the Im3.m.i community



accept it according to

Among another "eminent


scholars from the younger generation 4 3, two persons are also reported not to have
recognised Musa's proclamation: Aban b. 'Uthman al-Bajali stopped with al-$adiq
and acknowledged no Imam after him. 44 The second person, 'Abd Allilh b. Bukayr,
was among the supporters of 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far and the pioneers of the Af~~iyya
acting with 'Ammar al-Sab~i who was the leader of the group. 45

Yunus b.


is another example of a favourite disciple of al-$adiq who did

not follow Musa after him. Al-$adiq prayed to God to build him a house in
paradise. 46 Although his name is entered among those follower rawis who reported
the designation of Musa to the imama 47. his po~ition was certainly not with Musa.
He, after a1-~adiq. shifted his position to extremism. He claimed that he saw Gabriel
and received some massages from him. He participated in the funeral of the sister of


al-Kashshi, pp.169. 199,239.


al-Kashshi, p.238.


see al-Kashshl, p.375.


al-Kashshl, p.352. See also pp.84-6 above.


al-Ka'ihshi, p. 345; ai-rust. Fihrist. pp.93-4. See also p. 78 above.


al-Kashshl. pp.363-5.

at lrsbad. pp.436-7. For the tradition i.n whtch Yunus narrates a1-~adtq s
designation of t\,1usa to the imama see al-Kulaynt. t. p.309.


the extremist leader Abu al-Kh~ and addressed her as lithe sister of the Apostle of

'Abd Allah b. Abi Ya'fur is another name who must be mentioned in this
regard. He was the agent of al-~3diq in Kufa. 49 He was counted among "the Apostles
of al-~idiq" 50. for whom the latter said: "I found nobody who accepts my direction
and obeys my command (like) 'Abd Allah b. Abi Ya'fUr".51 He died in


lifetime. 52 He seems to be the closest personality to the Sunni line among the foremost
figures of the Kufan Shi' a. Probably for that reason, his funeral ceremony was
performed by a crowd greater than anybody expected. In a Shi'i narration, it is
reported that among the participants at his funeral there were a considerable number of
"the Murji'is of the Shi'a". 53 This description might fit those Shi'is who did not see
the acknowledgement of a certain line of Imams as an essential part of the faith like
most of the Shi'is did, and they thought that this did not harm the faith. 54 A group
called the Ya'furiyya continued to represent the ideas of 'Abd Allah b. Abj Ya'fur.55
This la'fari group also did not recognise any Imam after la'far


like some

others. According to Fakhr al-Rizi's report, the Ya'furiyya stayed undecided

48 al-Kashshi. pp.363-5.
49 see p.400 below.

al-Kashshi. p.lO.

51 al-Kashsht. p.246.

For his profile, see al-Kashshi, pp.246-50; al-Najashi, p. 147; Ibn Dawud.


al-Kashshl, p.247.


For the Shl'l-Imaml use of the term of the \lurjt'a, see \\'atl, Formalive
Period, pp. 121-2.


see al-Kashsht, p.266.


(tawaqqafii) in the matter of whether al-~ac:hq handed the imama over to somebody
either one of his sons or someone else. 5 6

From all these reports, itis highly 1ikelythatal-~adiq did not make any eXplicit
designation for anyone of his sons. Therefore, some partisans discontinued the line of
the imama after him. Most of the extremist partisans proclaimed the imama of Isma '. I
b. Ja'far and then of Mu~ammad, his son. The majority


of the followers

acknowledged 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far on the basis that he was the senior member of the
family. Only a minority followed Musa b. Ja'far. AI-Asb'an calls this group alM usawiyya. 5 8

Some Shi'i reports which give the names of the prominent disciples of al~adiq

who recognised the imama of Musa b. Ja'far are unreliable. Al-Nawbakhti and

al-Qummilist eight names. 59 Two of them, Aban b. Thaghlab and 'Abd Allah b. Abl
Ya'fur, must be excluded from this list since 'Abd Allah is reported to have died in al~adiq's lifetime 60 and the date of Aban's death was given as 14 t 1758-9. 61 Al-Mufid

narrates that ZurSra b. A'yan was among those who acknowledged the imama of Musa
in Medina. 62 However, Zurilra's story was quite different and he probably was on his
deathbed in Kufa at that time. 63 Al-Kashshi gives the name of al-Mufa~~al b. 'Umar

Mu~~~a1, p.243.


F. al-Razi,


see al-Nawbakhti, p.66; al-Qummi. p.87; al-Kashshi. p.254.


al-Ash' an, i, p.29.


al-Nawbakhti. p.66; al-Qummi, pp.88-9.


al-Kashshi. p.246.

al-Naja'iht. p.lO; al-Kash~hi,. p.3?O. Wau also reveals ~is ~~ about Ahan
h. Thaghlah'srecognitionofa1-K~lm Slmama. see The Reappraisal ,p.647,


al-Irshad, p.442.


see p. 75 ahove.

instead of Zurilra in another variant of the same narration. 64 This variant is likei y be
true and the one which should be accepted.

Although Musa b. Ja' far's group represented a minority at the beginning,

unexpected developments helped him later to gain the support of the majority of the
party. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far's alleged connection with the Murji' a and the J:Iashwiyya
led some followers to leave him.65 The decision of some prominent partisans that
'Abd Allah's knowledge was not enough for him to undertake the imama accelerated
this break-up. Finally, with the death of 'Abd Allah a short time later, Musa got a full
chance to attain his ambition. Although some


such as 'Ammar


continued to believe in the legitimacy of' Abd Allah's imama after al~adiq, this matter
does not seem to have disturbed Musa very much. 66

It is noteworthy to mention the assistance of some Musawid propagandists.

without whom Musa b. Ja'far might not have succeeded. Hisham b. Salim was the
man who,


'Abd Allah b. Ja'far, claimed him to be inadequate for the

imama and then invited people to recognise the imama of Musil. 67 For this reason.
there were several attempts to beat him by the frustrated Fa~~is in Medina. 68 AlMufa~al b. 'Umar, the fermer extremist. 69 also backed Musa joining him with his

64 al-Kashshi, p.238. In al-Kulayni's account, the name is al-Fu~ayl (i.

65 al-Irshad, pp.432, 440.
66 see p. 76 above.
67 al-~affar, pp.270-1; al-Kulayni.
I rs had. pp. 440-2.



al-Kula)TIt. i. p.352; aI-Kashshl. p2B4.

69 For him. see pp.52-4 above, pp.400-1 helow.


al-Kashshl, pp.2R2-5; al

own group, the Mufa~a1iyya.7 Al-Fay~ b. al-Mukhtilr al-Ju'fi

man who heard from



is introduced as a

the designation of \liisa for the imama when the latter

was still five years old. 72 He says that al-~adiq told him that Musa with regard to him
was in the same position as the Prophet Joseph with regard to tbe Prophet Jacob.
Josepb's fatber. 73 On another occasion, al-Fay~ relates, al-~adiq said to his followers
that they were a ship and Musa was its captain.


maintains that, upon this

remark, he sent his religious tax (khums) whicb amounted to 2,000 dinars to both

and Musil dividing it into two equal parts. 74 The assistance of Musil's two



and 'Ali, also seem to be noteworthy.


b. Ja'far relates that al-

said that the next Imam was the owner of two yellow clothes and two locks of

hair, a description which was just like the appearance of Musil when he later came into
the room. 75 It can be suggested, too, that Mu~ammad b. Nu'man al-~wal and
Hishilm b. al-I:fakam, as two eminent Shi'i scholars of Kufa, one of whom was from
the elder and the other was from the younger generation of

al-~adiq' s

ci rcle, should

have largely contributed to the propaganda activities carried out for Musa's imama as
al-Nawbakhti records their names among the pioneers of the Musawid group. 76

see al-Ash'an, i, p.29; al-Balkhi, p.l8l; al-Shahristilni, p. 144; al-Maqrizi.

ii. p. 351. For the two nii~ii~ of the designation of Musa related by a1-Mufa~~a1, see
al-Kulayni, i, pp. 308-9, no: 4 and 8.

For his profile, see al-Kashshi, pp.354-6; al-Najashi, p.220; Ibn Dawud.
p.274; al-Mamaqani. ii, bioghraphy no: 9541.


al-Kasbshi. pp.354-5.


al-Kashshl, p.356.


al-Kulaym, i. p.3 \ 1.

al-Kulaynt, l, p.308. no: 5: al-lrshad. p.439. For a nQ~~ related by . \It

h. Ja' far. see al -lrshad, p.440.


al-Nawhakhtl. p.66.

It is plausible to think that the activities of the House of la'far started to be

watched by the 'Abbasid government more carefully after al-$adiq's death. It is

understood from a tradition that in those days the Shj'j followers in Medina were very
worried about the government spies; the leadership problem used to be discussed only
among the well-known members of the community. 17 It is reported that when the
news of al-$adiq's death reached


despite his sadness because of it. he

immediately had a letter written to Medina commanding one of his spies to discover
the identity of the new leader (the


or legatee) of la'far's party. It seems that

Ja'far al-~diq had been aware of this dangerous situation and let it be known that he
had appointed five successors: The caliph al-M~r, Mu~ammad b. Sulayman 78,
'Abd Allah b. la'far, Milsa b, Ja'far and al-I,lamida, his slave-wife. 19 This naming of
five successors, including the inclusion of a woman, would have created confusion
for those who were anxious for hostile reasons to learn of al-$adiq's successor.
Although al- M~r formerly had planned to execute al-$adiq IS successor. after taki ng
this infonnation he gave up his plan. 80

Because of this insecure situation, Musil b. la'far acted very prudently when
he began the propaganda for his imama. Shi'lS had to swear firmly to keep seaet what
theyheard from him before directing their questions about his leadership.81 His
answers, even to the close companions of his father such as al-Al:twal and Hisham h.

77 For example see al-Kulayni. i, p. 351; al-Kashshi, pp.282-3; al- Irshad.


He was the governor of Kufa at that time, see al-Tabari, iii. pp. 352-4,359.

79 I n another ve~'ion, "the mawlii of al-~adiq" is counted instead of al

llamtda, see al-Kulaynt. i, p.310, no: 14. In Itbbat ~p.207), .the numher of the
L~ppointed legatees are four: AI-Man~r, 'Abd .\,llah, 'Musaand Fa~lma, the daughter of

al-Kulaynt. i. p.310, no: 13: al-Ghayba. p.119: Manaqib, iv, p.320.

R 1 see

al K ulaynt, i. p. 3RO.

Salim, were full of implications of his dangerous situation. After replying to their
questions he said, pointing
take place



his neck: If you spread it around, then slaughter will



IV -


in the Eras of


al-Mahdi and

al-Had! (148-170/765-786)

Miisa b. Ja'far must have been very circumspect in his activities in the early
years of his imama since there is almost no information about any conflict between
him and the government of


who is known to have been an apprehensive,

intolerant and violent ruler against opposing movements especially those of the
members of the 'Alid family. In sharp contrast, a report shows that they were even on
good terms. Ibn Shahrashiib reports that


invited Miisa

participate in the Nawriiz (Persian New Year's day) celebrations.

approve of this celebration because of its non-Islamic origin.





did not

told him that

they arranged such celebrations only for reasons of expediency as a policy towards the
Persian soldiers employed in the 'Abbasid army and persuaded the Imam to participate
in it. On this occasion, a1-K~m received many gifts from guests. 83 However, this
report must be treated as suspect because it is the only report showing


in the

early years of his leadership, in Baghdad, which seems to have been the only place in
which there was such a celebration. Its occurrence in Mecca or Medina seems to be
unlikely and


was never present in these cities between 1481765 and

158/775. the year in which Miisa's imama began and the year in which al-Man~iir



al-Kulnym, i. p.351: al-Kashshi. p.283: al-Irshid, rr4411


Maniqib, iv. pp.318-9.


In this period, the name of the 'Alid al-J:Iasan b. Zayd stands out. who is alJ:IaCian b. al-J:Iasan b. Zayd b. al-J:Iasan b. 'Ali b. Abi Tilib. He was loyal to the
'Abbasids. Due to this fact, he was always regarded as a traitor among the AJid
family. When al-M~r investigated the hiding place of the rebel
Allah al-Nafs al-Zakiyya,



b .~bd

the members of the Banii Hashim about this.

only al-J:Iasan b. Zayd responded to the caliph's demand and informed him of where

was in hiding.84 This favour and his loyalty did not remain unrequited.

In 150n67 the governorship of Medina was granted to him. 85 When the head of . Ahd
Allah al-Ashtar, the son of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, was sent by al-Man~r to him. he went
up onto the pulpit placing the head in front of him and said that God would continue to
protect the caliph from anybody who committed outrage and took a different way from
the way the caliph pointed out. 86 However, al-Man~r's mind was different. He
wanted a governor over Medina like al-J:Iajjaj 87 who, according to al-M~ur, had
never betrayed the caliphs who had


him with power and he had served them

very well. 88 He probably saw al-J:Iasan as unreliable and passive, so he dismissed

him from his post in 1551772 and confiscated his possessions. 89 It seems that all:Iasan b. Zayd's appointment to Medina was a conciliatory gesture by the 'Abbasid

84 see al-Kimil, v, pp.390-1; Ibn Kathlr, x, pp.81-2. Al-J:Iasan b. Zayd is

also accused by the Imami tradition of setting ftre to the house of Ja 'far al-~a~iq. at the
order ofal-MansiIr(Maniqib, iv, p.236). As al-l:Iasan took the governorship In 150
H., some two 'years after a1-~adiq's death, this tradition might be treated as
apocryphal. Nevertheless, he was not saved from ~e~ ~pe<:!. in ,~he rij~/lite~e
of the Imamiyya as "the weakest of the weak raWlS ln #:Jaddh (al-Mamaqaru, I,
biography no: 2448).
85 aI-TOOari. iii, p.358; al-Kamil, v, p.454.

Maqatil, p.313.

87 AI-~Ia.ijaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqar~, (d.~5~7.14!" the celebrated governor of lr~q

for the 'Umayyads. He was called al-!Alim (the tyrAnt) because of hlS
, violent attitude again~ OppOSlng moyements.

al-Tahan, iii, pp.400-t.

89 a l-Tah,u-t, Iti. pp.377.454; al-Kamil. vi. p.4.


government towards the (Alids after their difficult and grievous years following the
rebellion of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya. Perhaps, \1usa al-Ka~m enjoyed this tolerant
conduct of both al-M~r and al-J:Iasan b. Zayd in the important early years of his

Abu Ja'far al-MansUr

MansUr inherited the
. died in 158/775. Muhammad
. b.
caliphate as the legal successor of his father. Mu1;tammad had been named al-Mahdi hy
his father. The latter probably had chosen this title in an effort to derive for his heir the
support of those who sought the guide of a "divinely appointed" leader. He, thus, had
attempted to use the Mahdism for dynastic interests. 90

As well as the caliphate, al-Mahdi also inherited the violent policy carned out
by his father against 'Alid elements. Al-Tabari narrates that when al-Mabdi ascended
to the throne, the keys of the treasmy and secret rooms were handed over to him. One
of the keys was a key to a chamber which


had instructed should not be

opened until after his death. Al-Mahdi opened it and saw a dreadful scene of a
collection of corpses belonging to the Talibis. Among them were also children and old
men. There were pieces of paper in their ears on which their genealogies were written.
Al-Mahdi ordered that a grave be dug and they were buried in it. 91

Al-Mahdi does not seem to have acted in the same way as his father. Rather,
he seems to have sought ways of reconciliation between the (Alids and his
government, especially in the first years of his rule. His era lasting some ten years
reflected , as Mottahedeh observes, "an inevitable shift from the fervour of a revolution

90 It is reported in Maqitil that when al-Man~ur heard ~at al-\Jafs aJ-Zaki:a

called himself al-Mahdl, he said : " The enemy of Allah has !ted. He (al-\1ahdl) IS
rather myson!" (Maqatil, p.240).

pp. 445-6. T. Noldeke cannot bn ng hI mself to bel ieve thl s dlfC

, sec Sketches from Eastern History, p. 123.

al-' l"uh(lf1,

li I,

\ \0

In which extravagant and ultimately unfulfillable hopes are raised, to a post

revolutionary situation in which an astute government seeks a moderate fulfilment of
some of these hopes in order to survive". 92

The most important of the first operations of al-Mahdi was a general amnesty
declared in 1591775-6. He released all the inmates who were imprisoned by


except some who were accused of killing. This amnesty was also of use to political
prisoners, most of whom were the Tilibis and their supporters. 93 He also returned
wealth confiscated by al-Man~ijr to its owners. 94 He made his first visit to the Holy
Cities in the season of the pilgrimage in 1601777. On this occasion, he distributed a
great deal of money to the inhabitants of Mecca and Medina, which is said to have
amounted to 500,000 dInars and thirty million dirhams. As well as money,
150,000 garments were also distributed. 95 This generosity shown towards the people
of Mecca and Medina, which was not repeated in other cities, should be viewed as part
of a deliberate policy to conciliate the rebellious attitude of these people who were
often dangerous subjects to the government with the mass support given to the 'Alidoriginated rebellions. One report shows that this bounty to the Tilibis did not remain
limited to this occasion. They received a regular allowance during al-Mahdi's reign in
addition to other gifts which they occasionally received. 96 For instance, once alI:Iusayn b. 'Ali, who was the leader of the 'Alid rebellion in al-Fakhkh in 1691786,
went to Baghdad to request al-Mahdi to help him pay his debts. The caliph gave al-


R. Mouahedeh, "The 'Abbasid Caliphate in Iran", p.66.


al-T ab ari, ii i. P.461.


al-Tabari. iii. p.454.


al-Tabari. iii. p.483.


al-Ya'qiibl. iii. p.142.

11 1

l:Iusayn a great deal of money, much more than he needed. 97 Ibn a1-Tiq~aJaquotes tbe
sum al-J:Iusayn received as 40,000 dinars. 98

AI-Mahdi, when he stayed in Medina, continued to conciliate the people. He

started works to extend the Mo~ue of the Prophet. He decided


reduce the height of

the pulpit in the mosque and return it to its original state at the time of the Prophet.
removing from it what Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan had added. However, this was not
done for technical reasons. 99 He also selected 500 An~iir and brought them to Inq


employ them as his personal guards. They were put on a salary and each given
property (qa!ia) around Baghdad. 100 Al-Mahdi thus removed a considerable
number of people from Medina where they were potential soldiers for a possible antigovernment revolt and made them his own soldiers in the capital.

Ya'qub b. Dawud should be mentioned in this regard as he represented in

himself the policy of reconciliation carried out by al-Mahdi towards the' Alid-Shi'i
elements. Dawud, the father of Ya'qub. was an official of the Umayyad government
in Khuriisan. Despite Ya'qub's excellent education, DawUd was not able to find him a
government appointment. These circumstances drove them


the 'Alids. They joined

the rebellion of the 'Alid Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah in 145 II. in Basra. Due to this
involvement, Ya'qub was imprisoned by al-Man~ur.10l He was set free in the
amnesty of al-Mahdi in 1591775-6. When al-Mahdi was looking for a man from the
Zaydiyya who was able to give him information about some wanted 'Alid leaders.


Maqatil, p.440; al-Kamil. vi, p.24.


Ibn al-Tiq~qa, p. 187.


al-Tahart. iii, p.4R3.


al-Tahan. iii. p.4R3.

alTahan. iii. p.50?; al-Jahshlyan. pr.155-7: aI-Kamil.

Khaldun. al 'lbar. iii. p.447; Kennedy, p. 100.



p.46: Ihn

Ya'qub was introduced to him by the chamberlain al-Rabi' b. yunus. He gained the
confidence of the caliph: he was named by the caliph "brother in God' and then he
was made vizier in 163/779-80. 102 He was himself a Zaydi and was reported to have
used his position to provide his sectarians with many offices in the administration. AlMahdi suspected the possibilty of danger from Ya 'qub's activities. To test him, he
handed over to him one of his men, and told him that he was an 'Alid and that he
should kill him. Ya'qub set him free. Al-Mahdi then asked him about the 'Alid. He
said that he had killed him. However, the man was brought and shown to Ya'qub. He
was immediately put in prison. This occurred in 166n82-3. 103 As shall be seen, his
release did not take place until the time of Harun al-Rashid. He also will be seen as
one who was accused in some Imarru traditions of betraying Musa


to the


It seems that al-Mahdi, especially after the treachery of his vizier Ya'qub b.
Dawfld, felt that he had over-indulged the 'Alid-Shi'i elements and this tolerance might
have endangered him and his reign. He also might have been anxious about the
organised Shi'i-Zaydi structure in the governmental ranks formed by Ya'qub h.
Dawud. It could be suggested, too, that his tolerance remained unanswered. He saw
that Shi'i components continued to see themselves as separate from the official
structure and that no desired combination of the two could be set up between these
opposing communities. The perceptible change in the policy of al-Mahdi from
tolerance to harshness towards Shi'i elements in the last four years of his reign could
be connected with these attitudes.

al-Taban, iii. p.464; a1-Jahshiyan, p.155; Muruj .

Kathtr, x. p. 182; Ibn a1-Tiq~qa. pp. 179-80.

. .


p.312; Ibn

al-Taban. iii, pp.St2-3; al-Jahshiyan. pp.160-1.: Ibn Kathtr, x,pr147-~;

al-Kamil. vi, pp.47-R; Ibn a1-Tiq~ga. pp.IRO-3. According to a report tn. MuruJ.
Ya 'gub b. Dawud w~ of the. opinion that the eldest. me~her of t~e 'Ahhasld f 3!ndy
should become the cahph. which was why al-Mahdt Impnsoned him. '1L'C MuruJ. 111.


Al-Mahdi took his first step by changing the official 'Abbasid propaganda that
the right of the imama which they deserved had come to them through the descendants
of 'Ali b. Abi Talib. According to the new claim, the testament of the imama was
handed over to al- 'Abbas b. 'Abd


their forefather, by the Prophet himself.

Therefore, the names of 'Ali b. Abi Tilib, Mu1;lammad b. al-J:Ianafiyya and his son
Abu Hashim were taken out from the list of the 'Abbasid imams.


No common

name between them and the Shi'is in the lists of the Imams was left, so the 'Alid claim
had no basis at all in the opinion of their view of their legitimate


and any claim or

activity which could be started on the basis of 'Ali b. Abi Talib's right to the imama
was totally illegitimate and should be obliterated. lOS

The year of 167/783-4 is recorded as the starting date of the harsh policy of alMahdi carried out against the Zindiqs (Zanjdiqa).


The term "Zindiq" was a

vague term. In a strict sense, it referred to the members of dualist and Manichaean
cults. However, nearly all the historians and researchers evidently agree that this term
covered all those who disagreed with al-Mahdi's policy. Al-Mahdi used it as a pretext
to kill or intimidate his opponents. It is understood from different historical reports
that many victims of this policy were good Muslims. 107

Akhbir al-Dawla, p.165; al-Nawbakhti, p.43; al-Qummi, p.65; alNashi', p.31.


When the testament of al-Qasim b. Mujashi' al-Tamimi, one of the

nuqabj' (agents) of the 'Abbasids in Khurasan, was presented.to al-\lahdi, .he read
it until he saw a statement in which 'Ali b. Abi Talib was descnbed as the heir of the
Prophet. Then he threw the leuer away and did not look at it again, see al-Tab an, iii,

al-Tabari, iii, pp.519-20; al-Ya'qubi, iii, p.138: al-Jahshiyan, p.153: alSUyU~i, p.280.

see Ahmad :\min, Dul;li ai-Islim, i, pp.162-4: F. Omar. "The Reign of

al-Malldi", pp. 140-4; Shaban, ii, p.22: \1 Ibrahim, "Religious Inquisition As Social
Policy: The Persecution of the Zanadiqa in the Early 'Abbasid Caliphate'. Arab
Studies Quarterly. 16/2 (1992), p5~

t 14

Al-Suy\i!1 reports that'al-Mahdi was the first who commanded the writing of
polemical works in refutation of the Zindiq s and the heretics". 108 \Ve find its
confirmation in an early work, the Rijil of al-Kashshi. It is reported that, at the
request of al-Mahdi, Ibn al-Muq 'ad (or Ibn


wrote a book about sects. In

the book, the author classified the sects under different titles. It included accounts
about some of the foremost Imami Shi'is. The Zuriiriyya


the Jawiliqiyya



the' Amman yya

and the group of Sulayman al-Aq~'

1 10,




among the sects which were cited in the book. Afterwards, the book was read in
public in the main cities including Medina. 114

As has been seen, all the groups al-Kashshi records are Shi'i groups and it is
likely that many of them were the supporters of MUsa al-Ka?im's imama This means


party was one of the direct targets of the official persecution carried

out against the Zaniidiqa. Due to this insecure situation, Muss

108 al-Suyfl~,



Tirikh al-Khulafa', p.278.


It was auributed to Zurilra b. A'yan. For him, see pp. 74-6 above.


It was attributed to the


leader 'Ammar al-Sab~. For him, see p.76

It was attributed to 'Abd Allah b. Abi Ya'fUr. For him, see pp.l03-4 above
and p.400 below.


It was attributed to Hisham b. Salim al-Jawaliqi. For him, see pp.423-4

He is Abu al-Rahi' Sulayman b. Khalid b. Dahqan h. Nafila who was one
of the learned disciples of al-Baqir and al-~ad~q. He is recorded as t~e o~ly p~rson
among the followers of al-Baqir who took part to the revolt of Zayd b. Allin Kuta In
the revolt, he lost an arm, therefore he was nicknamed "al-Aq~' (the one-armed").
He died in the time of al-~adiq. Al-~adiq is s~d t? have felt deep .grief due to hiS
deat.h. There is no information about his theologtcalldeas as well as hiS group. for hiS
profile, seeal-Kashshl. pp.356-61; al-Najashi. pp.130-1: al-t\lamOCIant. ii, biography
no: 5195.

I 14

al- Kashsht. pp. 265 6.

1 15

some of his followers, especially those who were present in Kufa and Baghdad.


He sent a letter to Hisham b. al-J:Iakam as well, whose name was not mentioned in the
book by Ibn al-Muq 'ad, and ordered him
dangerous situation. According



avoid speakjng out, reminding him of the

one narration, Hisham obeyed this order and did

not say anything publicly about the party of


or his own ideas. 116 However,

in another narration, Hisham was able to keep this command just for a month and then

he started to speak out again. Therefore,


had to send 'Abd al-Ra1;unan b. al-

J:Iajjaj to him. Hisham defended himself saying that a man like himself should not
have been banned from speech. 'Abd al-Ra1;unan told him, repeating the words of alKazim:
"0 Hisham, (al-Ka~) has said to you: " - Do you find easy to share
in the blood of a Muslim ?" Hisham said: "No". ('Abd al-R~man
continued to repeat) : "How do you share in my blood! If you are not
silent, then slaughter will take place!".

However, Hisham turned a deaf ear to all these warnings. 117 AI-Kashshi
quotes from Yunus b. 'Abd al-R~man that this banning-order took place in the time
of al-Mahdi. 118 Therefore, it seems likely that the irresponsibility of Hisham b. alJ:Iakam brought about the first imprisonment of al-K~, which occurred in Baghdad
in the time of al-Mahdi.

According to some traditions, al-K~ had met al-Mahdi before the latter had
him arrested. Once, in Mecca, probably in the season of the pilgrimage of 1601777 in
which al-Mahdi distributed a great sum of money to the inhabitants of the city, Musa

For example, he sent a letter for this matter to Hisham b. Salim, see al
Kashshi, p.269.


al-Kashshi. p.266.


al-Kashshi. pp270-1. for another \"ersion, see pp.278-9.


al-Kashshi, p.267

al-Ka?-im was in the presence of the caliph. \t1usa b. Abd Allah b. al-J:lasan the
brother of Mul:tammad al-)Jafs al-Zakiyya, came and asked for a guarantee of
pmtettion. The caliph gave it to him. Musab. 'Abd Allah introduced himself. Then be
started to speak aboutal-!?adiq. He mentioned his prudence which had led him not to
take part in any 'Alid revolt, and his predictions concerning the results of the revolts
which had happened exactly as he had said. He then indicated '.


and said

that he was the son of this man, al- ~adiq. Therefore, al-Mahdi crdered al-Ka~jm to be
given 5,000 dinars. Al-Ka~m gave 2,000 dinars of the gift to Musa h. 'Abd
Allah. 119

In another tradition of al-Kulayni, al-Mahdi became very pleased with alKa~im's

answer to his question about the prohibition of drinking and said that this

answer was a perfett

this conversation,

'1atwa Hashimiyya" (Hashimi legal opinion). 120 As well as

al-Ka~im 's

discussion with Abu Yusuf Ya'qub h. Ibrahim

(d.IB2/798), one of the founders of the J:Ianafi law school, before the caliph al-Mahdi.

also seems to have taken place in this pilgrimage season. The subject was whether a
pi 19rim could shade himself from the sun with something like umbrella. According to

it was not permissible in terms of religion. Abu Yusuf asked what his

opinion was about a pilgrim who pitched a tent and came in it.


told him that

it was permissible. Therefore, Abu Yusuf said that there was no difference between
the two cases. However, al-Ka~im gave another example and asked: "What do you
think about a woman who did not pray because of her menstruation? Does she
compensate later for her prayers?" Abu Yusuf said "No". A1-Ka~im asked agai n:
"What ahout her fasts?" Abu Yusuf replied that she had to compensate for her fasts

It q

For the whole tradition. see al-Kulaynt. i. pp.35R-66.



11 7

and added that these rules were reported by religious texts

. 121


that his opinion about shade from the sun in the pilgrimage was also reported by

and it was necessary to follow it. 122

Al-Ka?im's second meeting with al-Mahdi took place at least seven years later,
but this time in a quite different way. He was arrested at the caliph's crder and taken to
Baghdad. Since this incident is supposed to have related to the persecution of the
Zindiqs, the arrest probably occurred after 16717834. This detention of al-K3.?:im
seems to have been brief. According to al-Tabari, al-Mahdi, when he was performing
prayer at night, read this verse of the Qur' in: "Then it is to be expected of you, if you
were put into authority, that you will do mischief in the land and break your ties of
kith and kin" (al-Qur'an, XLVII: 22). The meaning of the verse impressed him very
much. He called his chamberlain, al-Rabi' b. Yunus, who was responsible for alKa~im,

and asked him to release the Imam.. 123 According to another version of the

narration, 'Ali b. Abi T8lib indicates this verse to al-Mahdi in his dream and scolds
him for his ill-treatment of Musa al-K~, which results in the Imiim's release. 124 AlMahdi made him promise that neither he nor any of his children would rise in rebellion
against him, and sent him back to Medina, giving him 3,000 diniir5.

121 According to Islamic law, such a wom~ would h~ve to compensate ~ or

her obligatory fasts which she did not perfonn at thetr proper Urnes due to .her spect~
condition. However, she does not have to compensate for the prayers whtch she dtd
not perform fer the same reason.

'Uyun, i, p.64; al-Tabarsi, al-I~tijaj, p.394. For another argument of

al-Kazim over the same matter with Mul:tammad al-Shayhanl, see p. 148 below.


al-Taban, iii, p.533; a1-I:l~b, xiii, pp.30-l: al-Kamil, vi, pp.56-7.

Ibn Kathtr. x, p.lR3; Ihnal-Jawzi, al-Munta?-am, 1\. p.87: idem, ~ifat,

ii, p. 104; Ih n al- ' I m ad, i, p. 304: al-Irb i it. K h u 1a ~ a ,. p. 135; . 1b n aI-Sa' t. p. 2? .~ i hr.
pp.349-50; Ihn al-~ahbagh. pp.218-9: al-Dhahabl, Styar. \'1. pr 272-3: aI' aft 1, I,

11 R

The caliph al-Mahdi died on 22 Mul)arram, 16914 August. 7&5. On the same
day the oath of allegiance was given to his son, \lusa al-Hadi, as the new caliph. The
historian Ibn al-Tiq!3qa desaibes al-Hadi as a forceful, extremely violent and boldhearted man. 125 He continued his father's policy against the Zindiqs. 126 According to
al-Ya'qubi, he was especially insistent on the pursuit of the Tilibis. He cut their
regular allowances which had been given by his father. Al-Ya 'qubi indicates that this
harsh policy ensured a suitable atmosphere for the 'Alids to start a revolt against the
'Abbasid government. 127

The leader of the revolt was al-J:Iusayn b. 'Ali, who was the grandson of alJ:Iasan b. 'Ali b. Abi Tilib. 128 He was also called ~~b al-Fakhkh (the commander of
al-Fakhkh).129 According to al-Tabari, the main reason behind al-J:Iusayn's revolt was
that 'Umarb. 'Abd al- 'Aziz, the govemorof Medina, arrested Abu al-Zift al-1:Iasan h.
MuJ;Iammad, the son of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, and a number of his friends. accusing
them of organising a wine-drinking session. They were beaten as a punishment. and
ropes were placed round their necks and then they were paraded around Medina. At
this shameful event for the 'Alid family, al-J:Iusayn went to the governor 'Umar and
demanded that he release them. The governor was eventually persuaded and he
released them all. However, when he called them back for inquiry. tbey were not able
to be found. Before their release, the governor bad made al-J:Iusayn b. 'Ali

responsible for al-J:Iasan's appearance, therefore he gave him a time to bring al-~Iasan.

125 Ibn al-Tiq~aqa, p. 1&5.


see al-Taban. iii, pp.548-50.

127 alYa'qubl, iii, p.142.

His whole pedigree is al-tlusayn b. 'All b. al-Hasan b. al-Hasan b. all.lasan h. 'All h. Ahl TaIih.

129 AI-Fakhkh is the name of the baule area where al-l,lusayn fought and ""as
killed, which wa'i localed helween \1ecca and tv1edina, si, mils awa) from Mecca,
see Muruj, iii, p.326; al.-\sh'an, i, p.RO: Ihnal-Tiq~qa, p.lR7

AI-J:Iusayn and the other members of the family did not know where al-J:Iasan was.
As a result, the notables of the family gave to al-J:Iusayn b. 'Ali the oath of allegiance
for a rebellion on the basis of the Qur' an , the Sunna and "the one pleasing [to God]
from the House of Mu1;tammad" Cal-Ri{la min AI Mubammad").130

The rebellion was ftrSt proclaimed in the


of the Prophet. It is reported

that because of some ignominious behaviour by the rebels like fou1ing~osque. the
people of Medina largely held back from giving them their support. 131 However.
according to


except for two men, all the members of the Talibi family in

Mecca and Medina supported the revolt of al-J:Iusayn. Al-J:Iasan b. Ja'far b. al-J:Iasan
b. al-J:Iasan, the cousin of al-J:Iusayn b. 'Ali. requested his exemption from the revolt.
but he never repudiated the cause of the revolt. The other man was M usa al- K~ m.
The rawl 'Unayza


relates that he saw that Musa b. Ja 'far went to al-

l:Iusayn b. 'Ali in the night; he bowed before him like in the rulii'


and requested

him to exempt him from the revolt. Al-J:Iusayn bowed his head in silence. stayed in
this ~ for a long while, and then he raised his head and gave him permission. 133

In another narration in ai-Kill, al-J:Iusayn invited al-Ka?im to give the oath of

allegiance. The conversation between them is the following:


al-Tabari, iii, pp.552-3.Also see al-Kamil. vi, pp.60-1.

see al-TOOari. iii, p.556. It can also be suggested that, ~e dire memory of
the previous' Alid revolt in 145 H. had not been e:ased from. the mtnds of ~he people
yet. which was why they immediately came to the1r homes Wlt.hout performlOg prayer
and locked their doors when they saw the rebels gathered 1n the ~osque (see alTahan, iii, 554-5). In addition. as Kennedy says, the prevlOus cal1ph al-~lahdt s
generosity seems to have won the people of Medina over (Kennedy. p.206).

This gesture of al-Ka?.im seems to be only an e\pre~;on of his. \cnerdlion

for a senior memher of the family. I do not suppose that the hranches ot the TaItht
family, especially the Hasants and the Husaynts, agreed on anyone leader at any ttmL'
who represented the whole fami Iy or some hranches together


Maqatil. p.447.

"(al-.Ka~im! said:

-.0 cousin, do not burden me with what your

cousIn (al-::-Jafs aI-Zakiyya) burdened your uncle Abu 'Abd Allah (al~adiq). What emerges from me about something which I do not like
is like what emerged from Abu 'Abd Allah about something which he
did not like". 134 Al- I:Iusayn said: " - I proposed a matter to you; if
you want, you join in; if you dislike it, I do not impose it on you,
(because) Allah is the (only) one whose help is sought". He then took
leave of him. Abu al-J:Iasan Musa b. Ja'far, while he was going out,
0 cousin. you will be killed by a severe blow. The
said to him:
people are extremely sinful; they expose their faith but they hide their
polytheism. To Allah we belong. and to Him is our return. I ask
Allah's reward for your sacrifice out of our family relationship


Ca~aba) ".135

This narration clearly shows


However, another report contradicts it.

l.lusayn b. 'Ali and


posture with regard to this rebellion.


relates on the authorities of al-

b. 'Abd Allah, who was al-f:lusayn's right arm in the

revolt, that they consulted the members of Ah1 al-Bayt including


about the

rebellion; the latter ordered them to rebel. 136 If this report is authentic, it is probable
that it was rumoured by the leadership of the rebellion so that they gained the support
of the partisans and sympathisers of


because there is no evidence

corroborating such suppcxt from the Imim.

Al-I.lusayn b. 'Ali departed to Mecca and stayed there preparing for his revolt
until the pilgrimage season of the year 169/786. After the season, he and his troops
met the 'Abbasid army in al-Fakhkh where a severe battle took place between the two
sides. Finally, al-J:Iusayn was defeated. He and most of his followers were killed. His
head was cut off and taken


ai-Ham. His body was abandoned in the hattie area. It is

AI- Kazi m me-dJ1S that his attitude against al- ~I usayn S revolt will be exact) y
same as al-~diq 's attitude against ~-"Jafs al-Zakiyya's f'e\"olt. ~I-~adiq. as is known.
did not approve of that revolt and dId not take part to It.


ai-Kula) nt. i. p.366.


Maqatil. p.47S.
12 I

reported tbat nobody dared


bury it, eventually be~ ate it. 137 Before al-tIusayn s

head was dispatched to al-Hadi, it had been shown to a group of the AJids.
Everybody was silent. Only Musa


is reported to have said anything. After

praising al-I:-Iusayn, he said that there was nobody in Ahl al-Bayt similar La him. 138

Mter the revolt had been suppressed, Musa b. 'Isa, the commander-in-chief of
the 'Abbasid army, stayed in Medina for some time. According to



forced the people of Medina to curse the family of Abu Talib. There was no one in tbe
city who did not carry out this order.


reportedly adds that it was said that

only Musa b. 'Abd Allah, the brother of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, did not perform the
order. 139 On one occasion, Musa b. 'Abd Allah and al-Sari b. 'Abd Allah
Sari showed Musa



met. Al-

as an exemplary 'Alid to Musa b. 'Abd Allah who

represented in himself the rebellious side of the family. Acrording to al-Sari, al-Kim

al-Tabari, iii, pp.551-60; Maqitil, pp.431-60; Muriaj, iii, pp.326-7; alYa'qubi, iii, p.142; al-Ash'ari, i, p.80; at-Kimil, vi, pp.60-3; Ibn Kathir, x, p. 157;
Ibn al-Tiq~a, p. 187.

138 Maqitil, p.453. In the works of some ImWni authors, al-I:lusayn b. 'Ah
is a likeable personality who is not described in the same way as other' Alid rebels
such as al-Nafs al-Zakiyya and YaJ;1ya b. 'Abd Allah. According to MuJ:tsin al-Amin,
al-J:Iusayn never aspired to the post of the imama or the caliphate. His summons was
merely to the Book of God and the Sunna of the Prophet, which was an appropriate
but untimely summons (see A Cyan at-Shit a, xxvi, p.4(4). Al-Mamaqani regards
him as a martyr and trustworthy (thiqa). He says that al-I:Iusayn's revolt was like
Zayd b. 'Ali's revolt, both of which were started after consultations with the Imams
although the Imams knew that these uprisings would fail and not attain their
objectives. However, sometimes it became necessary to remind people of real
principles and justice on account of which it was worthy to be killed. Moreover, if
they had succeeded, they would have handed over the right of the leadership to the
Imams who were the real holders of this right. Al-Mamaqaru adds that the restraint of
al-Ka?-im from supporting al-~lusayn was for the reason of taqiyya. Rut al-Nafs alZakiyya's position waC) apparently different. When he anempted a revolt in 145 II., he
yearned for the imama to which he had no right at all (al \1amaqanl, Tanql ~. i.
hiography no : 2989).

Maqatil. p.454.

He is al-San h. 'Ahd Allah h. al-l:larith h. 'Ahd \llah b. al~ <\hhas h. 'Ahd

alt>.luualih. He was the go\emorof \1ecca between 1431760 1 and 1461763-4. see alTooan': iii. p.32R.


had never desired what he had no right for and as a result of this attitude he had
remained safe, whereas "the infringement of it by other 'A1ids had provided them with
nothing except humiliation" .141

In spite of this esteem of al-Ka~im in the eyes of the 'Abbasids, he does not
seem to have been left in peace by them. Probably following the revolt of al-F akhkh.
al-Hadi intended to arrest al-K~, accusing him of encouraging al-I:Iusayn in revolt.

In al-Maj1isi's report, the caliph was dissuaded by the judge Abu Yusuf Ya'qub b.
Ibrahim. Abu Yusuf told al-Hadi that those who were involved in this revolt were tbe
Zaydis; Musa b. la'far's well-known policy did not require such an uprising. 142
According to Ibn Babuya's narration, this intention of al-Hadi reached
probably through 'Ali b.



a secret Imami official in the court, who held the

Khatim (the seal ring, i.e. the authority of signet). 143


consulted his

companions about the situation. They advised him to remove himself and hide. The
Shi'l report maintains that al-K8:?im was content only to curse al-Hadi. Immediately
afterwards, the news of al-Hadi's death reached Medina. 144

Indeed, during al-Hadi's life the Imam was not arrested. Al-Hadi suddenly
died on 15 Rabi' I, 170 / 14 September, 786. His brother HirUn, nicknamed alRashid, ascended to the throne. Al-I:limyari quotes a letter of condolence written by alKa?-im to ai-Khayzuran. the mother of ai-Hadi and al-Rashid, which was dated 7
Rabt' TI, 170 H .. In the lener, the Imam recommended her to be patient and

the necessity of submission to the decree of God. He also congratulated


Maqatil, pp.454-5.


al-Majlist. XLVIII, pp. 150-1.


For 'Alt h.


see pp.385-90 helow.

Ihn Bahuya, . U yu n, i, pp.64-6: Amah, pp. 336-7. The text of the curse
was also narrated in the tradition.


her due

her son's ascendance to the throne and wished for a long life for the new


caliph. 145 k is probable that, when al-Ka~m was detained in Baghdad in the time of
al-Mahdi, he established relations with al-Khayzuri.n, who was very powerful in the
court due to her influence over al-\1ahdi and al-Hadi. 146


might wish to

continue this relationship which might be useful for his interest in the coming
years. 147

v - The

Era of ai-Rashid and the Arrest of ai-Kirim

t - First Years preceding the Revolt of Daylam

The first five years of the reign of Harun ai-Rashid show some similarities to
the first five years of his father ai-Mabdfs reign. Like his father, ai-Rashid, as soon as
he ascended to the throne, visited Mecca and Medina. He led the pilgrimage of the year
170/787. On this occasion, he granted numerous gifts and a huge sum of money to the

inhabitants of the cities. 148 Also on that journey, he dismissed 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz
al-'Uman from the governorship of Medina. 149 The latter had caused the revolt of al-

Fakhkh to break out because of his repremve policy against the (Alids, and had been
responsible for the demolition of their houses, the burning down of their palm groves

145 al-~imyari,
14 6


For her, see al-Tabari, iii, pp. 569-71 , 578-80, 590-1, 604.

AI-Majlisi says after quoting th~ letter:. "Look at the high degree of
taqiyya in his time, which even compelled him to wnte ~uch a l~tter for the death of
an unbeliever who did not believe in the Day of Reckomng. ThiS (behaVIour of the
Imam) makes it possible for you to apply every aspect of taqiYr a [literally 'This
opens for you every gate of taqiyya"] , see Bi~ar, X1.V111. p.l~.).


al-Taban, iii. p.611<;; al-Ya'qubl. iii. p.l44.


aI-Taban. iii. p. 603.


and the confiscation of their properties. 150 In this way, ai-Rashid wanted to show,
still at the beginning of his reign, his benevolence towards the Alids and aimed to
make them forget the suffering which they had been exposed to after the rebellion of
al-J:Iusayn b. 'Ali. In the year 173/788-9, al-Rashid confiscated the valuable estates,
which amounted to sixty million dirhams, of


b. Sulayman b. 'Ali after

his death. He was one of the victorious commanders of al-Fakhkh. 151 This probably
gave the' Alids further pleasure.

Meanwhile, al-Rashid took precautionary measures against any potential 'A1id

threat which might have been perilous for his government. He ordered all the T8..1ibis
living in Baghdad to be expelled to Medina. 152 It is obvious that an 'Alid rebellion in
the capital, directed and supported by the residents of this city, would have seriously
undermined the 'Abbasids. To put them altogether in Medina, which was always
c10sly supervised, could be thought as an aptropriate step against such a danger.

However, this moderate policy and the precautions that were taken did not
prevent another' Alid uprising. This time it occured in a remote region of the empire.
YaJ:tya b. 'Abd Allah, who was the half brother on his father's side to al-Nafs alZakiyya and the second man of the rebellion of al-Fakhkh, had managed to escape
from al-Fakhkh. 153 He reached Daylam


- Ul,
... p. 563 .
. an,


al-Tabari, iii, p.607.


where he started to preach his ideas. He

at Taban, iii, p.606; al-Kamil, vi, p.79. AI-Laytht's statement ~hatthlS

was an amnesty for the Talibts in prison,which allowed them to return to thetr home
city seems to be an error. Or he conf~sed it with !l!-M~dl'S general amnesty which
took place in 15~r775 (see al-l..a)1ht, Jt had aI-Shl a. p. _RO).


a1-Taban, iti, p.562.


The mountain region or the westL,-n part of the Elhurl. mountains in IrdIl.

gained considerable support and finally proclaimed his rebellion agatnst the
government in 176/792. 155

2 - Al-Kazim Disapproves of the Revolt of Daylam

The actual supporters of Yal;tya b. 'Abd Allah were the local Shi'is of Daylam
and provincial capitals other than the leading figures of the T8.1ibis of Hijaz and Iraq.

But, of course, he had to win the support of the latter. He probably wrtte a number of
letters and sent them to some 'Alid leaders to ask their assistance. He sent a letter to
Mlisa al-Ka~m too. According to a tradition in ai-Kill, Yal;tya asked him to give him
the oath of allegiance. However,


answer was in the negative. Therefore,

Yal.tya wrote back a letter in which he accused the Imam of hampering people's
inclination towards his movement. He said:
min Al
Mu/:lammad" ("the one pleasing [to God] from the Family of
M~ammad"). (However), you have withdrawn (from this
consultation or giving the oath of allegiance) like your father had
withdrawn before you. Once you alleged what you had no right to
and you spread your expectations beyond what Allah did not allow,
so you have been seduced (by this attitude) and overcome by it. I
threaten you with what Allah has threatened you Himself" .

I consulted about the appeal to "al-Rit;la


wrote a letter in reply. In the letter, he reprimanded Yal;tya for his

claims about him and forewarned him about the possible dangers of his rebellion:
" .... To continue: I threaten you and myself with Allah. I also remind
you of His grievous punishment, rigorous penalty and complete
vengeance, and recommend you and myself to fear Allah, because
(this recommendation) is the beauty of the words and the
confirmation of (Allah's) grace. Your letter has reached me. You have
mentioned in it some claims about me and my father before me e\"t.~n
though you did not hear these from me. The statements (of those who
make a claim) will he recorded and they will he called to account
(referring to at-Our'an, XLIll : 19). Desire for the world and


secal Taban,ltt. p.D13.


wishes for it do not provide for its inhabitants anything in favour of

their hereafter. In contrast, (this desire) spoils tbeir desires for the
~en:afu:rin this wcrld. You ~ave mentioned that I ob~C1ed people's
tnchnatJon towards you by vtrtue of my desire for your position. If I
had a desire for it, what would have driven me to be involved in your
situation would have been lack of knowledge of the Sunna and the
paucity of insight with proof. However, Allah, tbe Rlessed and tbe
Exalted, has created people by mingling sperm (am&haj) 156,
through wond.e.r'.s (ghara'ib) and with instinctive natures
(ghara1iz). Tell me about these two words: I ask you what is al'a!raJ i':l your body and what is al-~ahlaj in the human being ?157
Then wnte me about them. I am senior to you, so I caution you
against disobeying the caliph, and urge you to be dutiful towards him
and obedient to him. I also urge you to seek a safe-conduct for
yourself before nails take hold of you. You will be choked from all
sides, so you will want to find rest from all directions, but you will
get none. Eventually, Allah will grant to you His favour, grace and
the friendliness of the caliph - may Allah make it stay -, therefore be
will safeguard you, spare you and protect in yourself the kinship of
the Apostle of Allah. Peace be upon those who obey the right
guidance. It was revealed to us that the punishment is upon those
who have disbelieved and turned away" .

It is reported that Hariin ai-Rashid came across this letter; he read it and said

that Musa al-Ka~im was completely innocent of all the accusations which were made
by some informers. iSS It is more than probable tbat some parts of this letter were
produced later because of the fact that the predictions of




rebellion and its result happened in exactly the same way as he had described in the
letter. Nevertheless, whether this assumption was a fact ex- not, it was almost certain
that the Imamis were quite happy in the foresight of their Imam who, by not taking
part in the ill-planned and untimely rebellions of the (Alids, had protected himself and
his followers from the disastrous consequences of the rebellions .

It probably refers to al-Qur'an, LXXVI: 2 : " \Ve created man from a

drop of m i ngl ed sperm ".

These two words, as the editor of ai-Kart says, seem to be unknown

names of some organs, secretions or spiritual elements ina humru:t body AI- Ka"?.i rn
through asking yal:tya these questions, probably wanted to show hiS own knowledge
as welt as to reveal Ya~ya's ignorance.


al-Kula)'Ol, i, pp. 366-7.


Harlin aI-Rashid sent


b. "Abd Allih.



b. Yal;1ya aI-Barmaki with 50,000 men against

communicated with him, offering him kindness and

threats. This worked and Y ~ya asked a safe-conduct. Al-Rashid agreed to that and
had him brought to Baghdad. He installed him in a fine house and ordered him to be
given a large sum of money. Then he suspected


of continuing his suspicious

relationship with the "Alids and put him in prison. Yal;1ya died there and there was a
suspicion that he had been murdered at the order of the caliph. 159


3 - The Confinement of

3.1 - Different Accounts about the Cause of the Confinement

The date of Musa


arrest is most commonly given as 179/795. 160 It

seems that his non-interventionism with regard to the two Alid rebellions which took

place in 1691785 and 1761792, and the discreet policy which he carried out in the
activities of his party protected him from being disturbed until the end of 170s. The
Shi"i sources give detailed reports about the background of



but they are different. Each story might be one part of the chain of the events which
brought about this result. The reports and some comments on them are presented as
follows, being classified according to the people who are concerned in the episode. As
shall be seen, the first three reports clearly indicate that the Imam's imprisonment was
a result of the vizier Y~ya b. Khilid al-8armaki's intrigues and denunciations rather
than the caliph's own investigation and decision.

see al-Tabari. iii. pp.613-24; Maqitil. pp.463-86; al-Ya'qubi, iii, p.145:

Ibn Kathir. x. pp. 167-8; Ibn a1-Tiq~qa, pp 190-1.

al-Kulavni. i, p.476: al ~awbakhti, p. 71. al-Qumml. r 93: 'Uyiin. i,

p.R5; alKha~ib. xfi~. p.27. a1-Kimi1 .. \~l. p.l!2: Ibn, al-Jawzi, al-Munt.~.m lX,
p.88; al Irbili. Khu1a~a, p.136; al~1aJL1Sl. XL\III. r_07.


3.1.1 - Tbe Jealousy between


al-Barmaki and Jacfar b.

Mubammad b. al-AsbCath

When Harim al-Rashid put his son, M~ammad, who was the future caliph alAmin, in the care of Ja'far b.


b. al-Ash 'ath, who was probably the

commander of the caliphal guard (tJaras) in Baghdad at that time

161, Y~ya


Khalid was jealous of that, because he feared that if MuJ;tammad became caliph, the
privileged position of himself and his children at the court might have been
endangered. He established close relations with Ja 'far. This friendship led Yal:Iya to
know of Ja'far's inclination towards Shl'a. Yal:Iya also pretended to belong to the
same Shi'i group in order to gain his confidence. Consequently, Ja'farb. MuJ;lammad
did not see any danger in revealing his secret connection with Musa


Afterwards, as a part of his plan, Yal.tya b. Khalid praised Ja'far in front of the caliph
and spoke about his virtues. Therefore, al-Rashid granted him 20,000 dinars. Some
days later, the vizier Yal.tya disclosed to ai-Rashid the seaet connection between Ja'far


He maintained that Ja'far always sent some part of his possessions to

his Imiim and presumably he did the same with the 20,000 dinars. Ai-Rashid became
very angry; he called Ja'far and questioned him about this accusation. He also asked
him about the money which he had granted him. However, Ja'far had all the money
brought and showed it to the caliph. At-Rashid was satisfied. As a result, Yal)yil b.
Khalid's plan failed. 162

At-Jahshiy3ri gives some information about Yal)ya b. Khalid which seems to

support some of this Shi 'I narration. According to al-Jahshiyan, Yahya always used to

Khallfa, ii, p.502: al Ya'quhi, iii, p.166; Crone, Slaves, p.l85. For him,
also sec pp.390-1 helow.

'Uyun, i, pp.57-9; allrshad, pp.451-2; al-lIilll, al-Mustajad,

190-1. As hrief, see Maqatil, pp.500-1.



say that he did not enjoy the world because of three men, one of whom was la' far b.
Vfu~ammad b. al-Ash'ath. 163 He also

reports that t\'lu~ammad al-Amin, at ftrst. was

in the care of la'far, but afterwards. al-Rashid put him in the care of al-F~l h. Yal.lya
al-B ann aki. 164 This led to YaJ;tya's second machination, which will be mentioned: it


and he managed to obtain charge of the care of al-Amin for his son, al-


3.1.2 - The Denunciations of the Sons of Ismi'll h. Ja'far

According to the continuation of this narration, YaJ;tya b. Khalid sought out a

member of the 'Alid family to get information about the financial network of alKa~im's

party. He reportedly wanted to find an 'Alid who was not in comfortable

circumstances and also had desire for worldly things. Y ~ya b. Abi Maryam, who
was al-Rashid's close companion 165, indicated to him 'Ali b. Isma'il b. la'far, alKa~im 's


The Shi'i sources reports that


was friendly with 'Ali b. Isma'il. He

used to trust him and tell him some of his secrets. Yal.lya b. Khalid sent to 'All
requesting him to visit ai-Rashid. He also sent some gifts. 'Ali acc~d this offer and
started preparing for his journey. Al-K~m knew of 'Ali's intention and realised that
there might some dangerous consequences from this journey for himself. He called
him and asked him why he was going. 'Ali b. Isma'il told him that he was poor and in
debt. Although al-Ka?-im guaranteed that he could pay his debt, he was not able to
persuade him not to go to Baghdad. AI-Ka~im could do nothing but warn him not to


al-lahshiyan, p.193.

al-Jahshiyan, p.193. Ibn A'tham (d.314/926) also records that al-Amln

was in the care ofal-Fa,,' h. Yahya (Kitab al-Futu~, viii, p.270).


For hIm, see al-Tuhan.




bring about his and his children's death by giving information concerning his affairs.

also ordered him to be given 300 dinars and 4,000 dirhams.

'Ah b. Isma"i! went to Baghdad. Firstly he met with Yal.1ya b. Khalid and gave
him some news about his uncle. The vizier conveyed this information to al-Rashid,
adding some additional material to it. Immediately afterwards 'Ali was taken into the
caliph's presence. There 'Ali spoke of a1-Ka~'s financial activities. He said that alKa?im was receiving money from all corners of the eart.b and he had recently bought
an estate called al-Busriyya


for 30,000 dinars in cash. AI-Rashid, after hearing

that, ordered 'Ali to be given 200,000 dirhams and granted him a living in whatever
area he chose. However, 'Ali fell seriously ill. Although the money was brought to
him, he did not accept it. According to the narration, he did penance for his
denunciation and he was not able to enjoy his new possessions. 16 7

Al-Kulayni and al-Kashshi give the name of


b. Isma'il, the

seventh Imam of the Isma"iliyya, in place of 'Ali b. Isma"il's name as the informer in
another tradition 168 The two stories except for some unimportant details are
approximately the same. It seems possible that these two narrations may be merged in
another narration related by Ibn Babuya. According to it, when


knew that

'Ali was going to Baghdad in the company of al-Rashid, he tried to persuade him not

to, but he failed. So he sent the above-recorded amount of money to (Ali b. Isma'il

The other variants: al-Bishriyya, al-Yasiriyya, al-Yasircl, al-Tayslriyya.

AI-Ka,?-im then granted this estate to his son AJ:tmad, see al-Irsbid, p.459: aITabarst, I'lam, p.301; Ibn a1-~abbagh, pp.224, 228.

pp.452-~; 'Uyun,
Ibn al-Ttq~aqa ~so

i, p.59; a1-~a~andt,
ii, p.945: al-l.Jillt, al-Mustajad, rp190-3.
menttons thtS event,
but he did not give the name ofthe.lnformer. H~ says that the tnformer was one of t.he
relatives of al-Ka?-im who was Jealous of htm. He told aI-Rashtd that aI-Ka,?Jm
intended to revolt against the government, see al-Fakhn, pp. 192-3.

Maqatil. pp.501-2; al-lrsbid,


al-Kulaym. t. pp.4R5-6; al-Kashsht, pp 264-5.


with Mu~ammad b. Isma'il. 169 It seems that M~ammad went to Baghdad with 'Ali
as well or some time later he went and, according to the narration, he said to alRashid: "I did not suppose that there could be two caliphs in tbe world until I saw my
uncle Musa b. la'far". 170

There is a hint which might give the correct date of this epime. It is stated that
the pilgrimage season in which this episode occurred was al-Rashid's last pilgrimage
before his pilgrimage in 179/796 in which

al-K~'s arrest

took place. 171 Therefcre,

if this account is true, this date would be 177n94. 1 72

Some attempt must be made to analyse the authenticity of these narrations. It is

clear that the narrations intend to blacken the two sons of Isma'il b. Ja'far. For that
reason, some modern authcrities conclude that they were the products of the hostility
of the Twelver Shi'a against the Isma'l1iyya and have nothing to do with the
history. 173 In some Isma'ili sources, the date of the departure of Mu~ammad and 'Ali
from Medina is much later than is stated in these Imiimi narrations. 174 However, these
Isnui 'Iii reports are probably unreliable because they are largely coloured by legends.

169 'Uyun, i, pp,59-60.

170 al-Kulayni, i, p.486; al-Kashshi, p.265. In a similar narration in 'Uyun,
it is Muhammad b. Ja'far, the brother of al-Kazim, who said these words to alRashid, He said: "I did not suppose that there could be two caliphs in the world until I
saw my brother Musa b. Ja'far", see 'Uyon, i, p.60, no: 2. Al-Irbili (Kasbf, iii,
p.42) also records the name of Mu~ammad b. la'farbesides M~ammad b. Isma'il as
the one who betrayed a1-K~im to al-Rashid.

ai-Tab an , iii, p.629; al-Ya'qubl, iii, p.167.

173 Ivanow, The Alleged Founder. p.157: Daftary, The Isma'tlts,

1sma '1"
'") '") 7-0.
p. 103.
I IS . pp.~~
, .fhe r.

174 According to Idns, Mu~ammad left \-tedina after a1-Ka~im's death, see
'lJyun al-Akhbar. p ..\52 'A. Tamir's record shows the date as 159 ll. see
Tankh. i. p. 118.


Isma'lli sources show different locations as the place of the death of 1\lul;1ammad h.
Isrna 'i1. but none of them is Baghdad. 175 But. Imami sources report that the graves of

Mul:tammad and 'Ali were in Baghdad, 176 substantiating the above-mentioned I.r:naml
narrations. 177 As has been seen, there is no reliable evidence which proves whether
these traditions are true or false. Perhaps what should be dane is to leave them as they
are without building any conclusion from them. To reject their authenticity in advance
by virtue of the biased features in them does not also seem to be the mo~ acceptable
method, for it seems that, especially after Musa al-Ka?im had taken over the leadership
of the party, the relationship between him and his cousins became very tense. 178 This
fatt with some other factors such as poverty, as is stated in the narration, might drive
one of or both of the brtthers to commit such an act.

Idris says that Mu~ammad b. Isma'tl died in Farghana ('Uyun alAkhbir, p.365). According to Ivanow and Daftary, the place of his death was
probably Southern Persia (Ivanow, "Ismailis and Qarmatians" , pp.62-3; Daftary, Tbe
Ismi "itis, p.l03; idem, "The Earliest Isma'ilis", p.227). Ivanow also quotes from an
Isma'ili book, Dastur al-Munajjimin, that the Imam Mu~ammad was buried in
Navsari, North of Bombay ("Ismailis and Qarmatians", p.6l). Syria is also given as
another place where the Imilm died (famir, i, p.119; M. Ghillib, "Introduction" to
Idris's 'Uyiin al-Akhbir, p.l0). Rashid al-Dinmentions little about 'Ali b. Isma'il.
He says that 'Ali set forth from Medina for Syria where he died and descendants of
some of his kinsmen stil11ived there (Rashid al-Din, p.522).

al- 'Uman, pp.99-100; Ibn 'Inaba, p.264. In the appendix of the volume
48 of al-Majlisi's Bi-':1ir, the Imiimi author Ja'far At BaI;tr al-'Ulum mentions in his
Tubfat al-' Alim fi Sbar~ Khu~at al-Ma'ilim two graves in Baghdad. One of
them belongs to 'Ali b. Isma'il, which was known by the people of Baghdad as the
grave of al-Sayyid Su1~iln 'Alt. The other graves belongs to Mul;1ammad b. Isma'il.
The di strict in which this grave was located was called Maf:1allat al-F a<;ll (the quarter of
the Eminent), see Ri~ar. XLvlI1, p.295.

Although there is no definite statement in the narrations that 'All b. lsma'll

or Muhammad h. Isma't\ died in Raghdad after their acts of betrayal, some words
could i'ndicate this. For example, in the narration of Maqatil (p. 502), it is said that
All was in the throes of death (yanzi 'u) when the granted money was hrought to
him. In the narrations of al-Kulaynt ~v. i, p.486) and al-Kashshl ~p.2~';), tvlul;1ammad
catches diphtheria or angina (dhub/:la) from which he hecame seriously ill.

1 7R

sec pp.63-4 aho\c


3.1.3 - The Role of Hisham b. al-Hakam .

Further information concerning the cause of


arrest is related to

Hisbam b. al-I:Jakam, the celebrated Imami theologian. 179 The content of the report
has it that Ya1;tya b. Khalid al-Barmaki denounced Hisham to al-Rashid due to his
opinions about the imama and, consequently,


was arrested because of his

connection with Hisham. 180 It has been mentioned that at the time of al-Mahdi, alKa~im

had banned some of his companions, including Hisham b. al-J:Iakam, from

speaking openly in order to escape from the official persecution carried out against socalled heretical groups. But, Hisham did noc seem to follow this ban scrupulously. 181

At-Mas'lidi tells of symposia arranged by the vizier Ya1;tya al-Barmaki. In

these symposia, various theological issues were discussed. He also gives the names of
two Im8.mi theologians. 'Ali b. Maytham


and Hishiim b. al-J:Iakam. Al-Mas'udi's

descriIrion shows that these men were on friendly relationship with the vizier. 183

Two different narrations show how the incidents developed. The first namltion
is related by al-Kashshi on the authority of Ylinus b. 'Abd al-Ra1;tman, who was

among the audience of the symposium. 184 It is reported that once Hisham had made a
speech before al-Rashid about the heritage (irth) of the Prophet and ai-Rashid had


For him, see pp.415-22 below.


al-Kashshi, pp.258-62.


see p. 116 above.

"Haytham" in the text should be "Maytham". For 'All b. \1aytham, see

pp.424-6 below.


see M uruj, iii. pp.370-1.

Yunus's cousin, Salim. was the pre~'ident of Ha)t al-Hikma (the House of
Wisdom), an academy where these symposia probably took place (see al-Kashsht,


been very pleased with this. However, the caliph s inclination towards Hisharn
disturbed the vizier YaI;lya. The latter, who knew of Hisham's ideas, told al-Rashid
one of Hisham's opinions that the existence of a divinely appointed Imam was
necessary and obedience to him was obligatory, but this Imam was not the caliph. AIRashid decided to listen to a debate in which Hisham participated, but he hid behind a
curtain. Among the participants were the great \1u'tazilj thinker J?iriir b. 'Amr, the
'Ibadi leader 'Abd Allah b. Yazid and the foremost Zaydi Sulayman b. Jarir. The
lauer, who was the founder of the Sulaymaniyya branch of the Zaydiyya, 185 pressed
the point of the necessity of obedience to an Imam. Some of his deliberate questions
such as whether it was obligatory to obey an Imam who ordered men to rise in arms
put Hisham under stress. Although Hisham tried
evasive answers, these were enough



escape from such questions with

exasperate ai-Rashid. Mer the symposium,

the caliph ordered his vizier to start a prosecution against Hisham and those who were
in contact with him. Yunus says that this episode was one of the reasons which
brought about the arrest of al-Ka?im. 186

Ibn Babuya's long narration also seems


relate to this subject. In it, those

who trapped Hisham were the Mu'tazili scholars. 187 YaI;lya ai-Barmaki, as the
organiser, explained to ai-Rashid that the purpose of such symposia was



information about the ideas of different sects and groups. AI-Rashid watched the
symposium in secret. The Mu'tazili scholars, before the symposium, decided among
themselves to discuss with Hisham only the subject of the imama, because they knew
lIisham's opinion about the matter as well as that of al-Rashid and they wanted to trap


see alNawbakhtt. pp.9. 55-7; al-Shahristimi. pp.136-7.


al-Kashsht. rp.258-62. \lso see pp.266-7.

The names of these scholars are not given in the narrdtion. ~ev<..~eless.
some records from al- \1as'udt.
give some \1u'tazill names with whom lhsham
frequently debated. They are Ab~ al.-Hudhayl. al'l'~am, Rishr b. al-Mu'tamir and
Thumamah. Ashrath, see MuruJ. lIt, p.37!.
I R7


him in this way. At first Hisham did not want to enter into this SUbject. But. after
some argumentation, he could not hold himself hack. He started to mention the
outstanding merits of a real Imam. The Mu'tazilis asked who this Imam was. Hisham
prevaricated that the Imam was "the owner of the palace of the commander of the
faithful". In secret, al-Rashid asked Ja"far b. YaJ;tya al-8annaki, who was also with
him behind the curtain, who Hishim meant. Ja'far answered that he meant \1usa alKa7?im. However, Hisham recognised the dangerous situation. He pretended to go to
the toilet and fled immediately. 188

The fact that at a meeting 'Ali al-Ri<;ta sought for God's forgiveness for
Hisham, after the latter's death, because of his above-mentioned role 189 could show
that this great theologian continued to be blamed because of his unfortunate part in the
death of a1-Ka~m, which had not been deliberate.

3.1.4 - The Role of Ya'qlib b. Diwlid :

Another Shi"i report accuses Ya'qub b. DawUd of denouncing the Imam to the
authorities. After his vizirate, Ya'qub had been put in prison by al-Mahdi because of
his inclination towards Sru'ism which had been so strong that it had made him betray
tbecaliph.190 He stayed in prison unti1175/791-2. 191 When he was released, he was
a blind man. He went to Mecca where he died in 187/803. 192

188 Ibn 8abuya, Kamal, ii, pp.31-40.

189 al-Kashshi. p.278.
190 sec p. 113 above.
191 a>Jahshivan, p. 161.
192 al-Taban. iii. p.688; al-Jahshiyan, p.162. Ihn al-Tiqlaqagives the dale of
Ya'quh's death a~ lR6 i 802 (al-Fakhn. p.183). whereas al-lrb11t gives it as 182'79R
{Khula~a. p. \."\3).

Ibn Babuya states that one of the informers against


was Ya'qub b.

Dawud) neither giving any evidence nor dating. 193 It is impossible that thl s affair
could have occurred while Ya'qub was in prison between 1661782-3 and 175791-2.
After his release, its occurrence seems to have been unlikely again, because he was
now a broken and feeble man who had cut off all his relationship with the authorities.
Furthennore, he converted to the Imamiyyasomeyears after his release and the Imami
traditionists began to relate tJadith from him. 194 The possibility that this denunciation
took place during al-Ya'qub's vizirate period between 1631779-80 and 166/782-3 is
unlikely too. We know that he spent his time during his vizirate on helping the 'Alids
which cost him a nine years of suffering in prison. Therefcre this character of his does
not seem to indicate a man who would betray Musi al-Kim.

3.2 - Shiel-originated Activities and the Counter-moves of the


Abbisid Government

Whatever the reason for the arrest of


it is worth stressing that some

disturbing developments caused by some members of the' Alid family had started to
make the 'Abbisid regime feel anxiety before this arrest. Three years before the arrest
of at-Ki~im, in 176/792, at-Rashid only put down a dangerous revolt led by Ya.l;lya b.
'Abd Allah in Daylam with difficulty. On the other hand, Ya1;tyi's brother, Idns b.
'Abd Allah, who had escaped from the combat of al-Fakhkh with Y~ya, went
towards the West and reached Morocco with the help of some Shi'ls who were
...government officials, such as Wa~i~ (or Wa~~~). who was a mawlti of a1-Man~r


'Uyun, i, p.60, no: 2


set: 'Uyun.


p.60, no: 3.

and was in charge of the postal system (barid) of Egypt at that time. 195 Idris
established a Shi'i state, which was called the Idrisid Dynasty of Sharifs, in Morocco
in 1n/788. 196 He died in 175/791. There was a suspicion that he was poisoned by

his physician al-Shammikh, who was claimed to have been sent by al-Rashid for this
purpose. Also


was beheaded and then gibbeted because of his part in the

escape of Idris. 197

When these events happened, al-Rashid showed his detennination not to allow
any further' Alid-originated disorders by appointing iron-fisted governors over
Medina which was the stronghold of the 'Alid opposition. They seem
carefully chosen for this job. The governcr 'Abd Allah b.



have been

was a descendant of

al-Zubayrb. 'Awwam, one of the close companions of the Prophet. There was an
ancient hostility between the' Alid and the Zubayri families which dated back at least to
the time of the Battle of the Camel in which' Ali b. Abi Talib's troops had killed alZubayr. After 'Abd Allah b.


his son Bakkar became the governor of

Medina 198 Al-Tabari describes him as a man with a violent hatred for the 'A1ids. He
used to send reports to the caliph about them and give the wo~ possible interpretation
of their doings. 199 Al- I~ahani gives the names of two TWibis who were killed at the
hands of Bakkar. He put MuJ;1ammad b. Yal;tya b. 'Abd Allah


in jail where be

al-Tabari, iii, p.561; Maqitil, pp.487-91; al-Ya'qubi, iii, p.123; alKamil, vi, p.63.


al-Taban, iii, pp.560-1.


al-Taban, iii, p.561; al-Ya'qubi, iii, p.142: al-Kamil, vi. p.63.


al-Taban, iii, p. 739.


aI-Tuban, iii. p.616.


He is the son of


b. 'Abd Allah, the rebel of Day-lam.


died. 20t Another man, al-l:1usayn b. 'Abd Allah


was arrested by Bakkar in

Medina and then received a very violent flogging from which he died. 203

In Baghdad, the opposition to the 'Abbasids by the Shi'is seems to have heen

more at a scholarly dimension. Therefore, it was different in nature from other

continuing Shi'i movements in other regions of the state which were much more
involved in military activities. Among the intelligentsia of the capital, the activities of
some Imiimi scholars were outstanding. F<r instance, Hisham b. al-J:Iakam and 'Ali b.
Maytham were among the regular participants of the symposia arranged by the vizier
ya1:tya al-Barmaki. Although they seem


have been in a good relationship with the

royal court, in fact, the vizier at first and those around him were probably uneasy at
their connections and activities. These Shi'i doctors wrote books about the matter of
the imama. For example, Hisham wrote a "Refutation of those who Accepted the
Imama of the Inferior (man qala hi imama al-ma/t!iil)". Another of his books
was" The Book of the Testament
Reject it



and the Refutation of those who

Although we do not know whether these no longer extant books

declared that al-~adiq and


were the rightful rulers of the Islamic world as a

part of the series of Imams which began with 'Ali b. Abi T81ib, it seems to be that
these books were characterised by significant opposition to the legality of the' Abbasid
regime. The legitimacy of the imama of the inferior, which was rejected by Hisham's
work, could justify the legitimacy of the 'Abbasid caliphate, because the caliphs


carry on ruling despite the fact that there might have been someone who

was mere excellent (aJt!al) than them, therefore more approJriate to rule.


Maqiltil, pp.495-6.


lie is


Maqalil, p.497.


h. 'Abd Allah h. lsma'll h.' <\hd Allah h. Ja'far


20~ al-Tusl. Fibrisl, p.3.'-'.\ al-r\ajashl. pp.304-5



Hisham b. al-l:Jakam's second book also might be another criticism. It might

have criticised the theory which was put forward by the' Abbasids that Abu H8.shim.
the son of Mul)ammad b. al-l:Janafiyya, had designated one member of tile 'Abbasid
family as his successor or he bad appointed him througb a testament and this line of
Imams tbat passed from father to son continued until the caliph al-Mahdi's time
including the first two 'Abbasid caliphs. Al-Mahdi reconstructed this tbeory that this
line did not come through 'Ali b. Abi Tilib's descendants, but through tbose of al'Abbas b. 'Abd


On the other hand, tbe insistence on "the testament"

and "the designation" 206 means that authority can only be conferred by someone who
already has authority and the way of appointment of an Imam must be designation by
his predece~or. Tberefcre, the autbority cannot be taken from below such as human
electcrs and the act of allegiance of ordinary people. 207

As well as Hishim, 'Ali b. Maytham also used to participate frequently in such

discussions on several subjects including the imima. He is desaibed as "the first who
theologised about the doctrine of the imima". He wrote "The Book of the Entitlement"
("Kitib al-Isti~qiq").208 This work probably considered the subject of who was
more deserving of the leadership of the Muslim community.

205 see p. 114 above.

206 Abu 'Ali al-Sakkak (or al-Shakkal), the pupil of Hi sh am , wrote another
hook entitled "The Book Against One who Rejects the Necessity of the Imama through
Designation (na~~)", see Ibn al-Nadtm, p. 176.
207 Fa- a more elaborate examination of the wa~iyya doctrine of Hisham and
his friends, the effect of the doctrine in Islamic thought and politics. see \Vau.
Formative Period, pr 159-60; idem. "Farly Stages". pp.24-5.
20Rlhnal-Na<itm. p.175: al-TUS1. Fihrist. p.212.

Although these figures were on friendly terms with the vizier and they might
not have had any idea of overthrowing the' Abbasid dynasty and replacing it with an
'Alid one as Watt says,209 it does not mean that, as has been seen, they were not
serious critics of the regime. The above-mentioned books alone seem to be serious
criticisms of the regime. Hisham's insistent reluctance to enter into the subject of the
imama in the discussions 210 may show his anxiety about consequences which might
have put him in jeopardy. From several reports it can be clearly seen that something
began to rouse the suspicions of the ruling institution preceding the arrest of al-Ki~m.
Especially after the imprisonment of the latter, conditions became worse for the Shi'i
community. Hisham b. al-l:Iakam had to escape to Kufa where he died in hiding. Then
his corpse was displayed and his death was proclaimed in order to stop the official
pursuit. 2 11

AI-Kashshi gives an undated report that 'Ali b. Maytham was in prison with
another eminent Imami, M~ammad b. Sulayman al-Nawfali. 212 It could be the case
from the content of this narration that this took place before the escape of Hisham.
AnotherImWni scholar, Mu~ammad b. Abi 'Umayr213, was also put in prison by alRashid. It is reported that the government wanted him to reveal the names and the
locations of aI-Ka~im's followers in Iraq. Accocding to another report, ai-Rashid tried
to force him to accept the office of judge, but he refused. Therefore, he was violently

tortured. His ceU-mate in prison was another familiar name, Mul:tam mad b. Yoous, the
son of the Imanll theologian Yunus b. 'Abd


but why he was in jail is not

209 Walt, Formative Period, p. 159.

210 For cx.ample, see Ibn Babuya, Kamal. ii. p.33.
211 Ibn Bahuya, Kamal, ii, pp.30-1.
21:! al-Kashshl, pp.262-3. For a.l-1'\awfalt's profile, see pp.426-7 helo~

For his profile, see pp.432 -4 below.


known. 214 A companion of yunus. Hisham b. Ibrahim al-Hamd3..ni. was also another
who was persecuted because of his Shi'ism. He is described as a learned and
intelligentman. 215 He had to go into hiding. He was able to escape from the pur-mit
only after writing a book defending the legitimacy of al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Mu~ib's
imama after the Prophet. 216 The famous Imami 'Ali b. Y aq~in, who had become a
high official in the government, died in prison in Baghdad in 1821798 after four years
of incarcerati on. 21 7 Another two Im3.mis who were reported to have been in prison in
the time of al-Rashid are DawUd b. Kathir


218 and Hind b. al-l:Iajjaj.219 The

reason behind their imprisonment was probably the same. An Imami poet was also a
vittim of this policy.


Salama al-Namari was on good terms with ai-Rashid.

He used to keep his belief secret. However, it was disclosed to the caliph. His
panegyrics about some 'Alids were recited before al-Rashid.


was in Raqqa at

that time. AI-Rashid sent one of his men there commanding him to execute


adding that, before it, his tongue should be pulled out as an admonition. However,
when the man arrived in Raqqa, he met the funeral procession of


He had

already died. 22o Although he was not a Shi'i, the Mu'tazili scholar Bishr b. al-

214 al-Kashshi, pp.591-2; al-Najasru, p.229.

215 For his proftle, see p. 316 below.
216 al-Kashshi, pp.50 \-2.
217 al-Najasht. p.195.
218 Al-l:Iimyan relates the letter of 'Ali al-Ri~ ,:"rit~n fo~ Dawud in which the
Imam prayed for patience for him hecause of the condltton tn which he was, see Qurb
at -lsnad, p.394.
219 al-Kashshl. pp.438-40.

Ibn aI \tu'lazz, Tabaqal aI-Shu'ara', p.244.


Mu'tamir was imprisoned, too, by al-Rashid for his alleged sympathy towards
Shi'ism. 221

In addition to Musa al-Ka?iJn and Yal;tyi b. 'Abd Allah who were alleged to
have been killed by al-Rashid, al-I~aharu also gives some other names of prominent
'A1ids as martyrs who were killed by the caliph. Is~aq b. al-I:Iasan b. Zayd b. alI:Iasan b. 'Ali b. Abi Talib was put in jail where he died. 222 'Abd Allah b. al-l:iasan b.
'Ali b. 'Ali b. al-I:Iusayn b. 'Ali b. Abi Tilib who was known as Ibn al-Af~ was also

jailed for an allegation that al-I:Iusayn b. 'Ali, the rebel of al-Fakhkh, had bequeathed
to him the leadership of the revolutionary' Alid movement. He was beheaded in jail by

Ja'far al-Barmaki and his head was sent to al-Rashid. 223 Another victim was al'Abbis b. Mul;lammad b. 'Abd Allah b. 'Ali b. al-I:Iusayn b. 'Ali b. Abi Tilib. He
spoke boldly before al-Rashid. When the latter shouted at him that he was "the son of
a bitch", he replied that al-Rashid's mother, who was a slave-wife, was indeed in the
same position, because slave-traders would have used her for their enjoyments. AlRashid started to beat al-'Abbas with an iron stick, from which he died. 224

Ibn al-M~a, p.52; al-Mal~i, p.30. Bishr always took a favourable view
of 'Ali b. Abi Tilib. He was the leader of the Mu'tazili school of Baghdad and this
school is known for its opinion that' Ali was aft;lal than the first two caliphs, see
Watt, Formative Period, p.l64.


Maqitil, p.506.


Maqitil, pp.493-4.


Maqatil, p.498. In addition to t~ese reports whic~ ~robabl~ n:flect ~he

truth, there are also some apocryphal narratIons about al-Rashid s antl- Ahd pohcy
which seem to be the product of Shi'i hatred. One indicative example is related by Ihn
Rabuya in Uyun. In th.e n~o~, l:l.umayd b. Q.al.I~aha, the powerlul g.ovcrnor of
Khurasan. says that he killed sixty Alld pnsoners Including ol~ me? and tnfants and
then threw their corpse in a big well at the order of al-R~hld ( U yu n. ~, pp. P'P'-90).
However, it is a fact that l.lumayd died in 152069, which was some eighteen years
hefore ai-Rashid ascended to the throne and seven years after he was born.
~evert.heless, .I.M. Hussain accepted it as true and repor;e.d it b.oth in his hook ~d
article. see Occultati on of the Twelfth 1mam, p. 39: ~ew LIght on the -\ctJVltJes
of al-Ka?-im". pAO.

In conclusion, the arrest of

~usa al-K~m

could be determined as one of the

steps which was taken by the caliphal court as a part of the official anti-' Alid policy
Before passing to the discussion of the arrest of al-Ka~, it is worthwhile to make
some remarks about two different features of Zaydism at that time. As is known. the
sect derived its name from Zayd b. 'Ali, who had led an unsuccessful uprising in
122n40 agai~ the 'Umayyad government. His followers were called the Zaydiyya.

Almost every rebellion which was led by a member of the 'Alid family which aimed to
overthrow the present regime was largely supported by this group. A sub-group of the
Zaydiyya, the Jarudiyya, is a good example of these revolutionary Zaydis. 225
However, from some reports it seems that, especially at the time of al-Rashid. a group
called the Zaydiyya appeared and their ideas were quite different from the well-known
fonn of Zaydism. These new Zaydis were not only non-revolutionary in thought and
practice, but also they backed the 'Abbisid government against tther opposing 'AlidShi'i movements. The only reason why they were called the Zaydiyya seems to be
their point of view that the imama of the infericr (maft!iil) was legitimate and thus the
caliphates of Abu Baler and 'Umar were lawful despite the fact that 'Ali b. Abi Talib
was mere excellent (aft;lal) than them, which was the view of Zayd b. 'Ali. They also
did not believe that the imama should remain in the descendants of al-J:Iasan and alI:Iusayn, which was in sharp contrast to the view of the Zaydi group the Jarudiyya.
The most well-known representative of this form of Zaydism was Sulaymin b. Jarir.
Little is known about him. However, al-Shabristiini mentions a group called the
Sulaymamyya who held the views of Sulayman b. Jarir. 226 Sulayman seems to have
been very close to the royal court. He was a frequenter of the symposia arranged by
Ya~ya al-Barrow. On one occasion, the vizier demanded that be should debate with

Hisham h. al-~Iakam on the subject of the necessity of ohedience to an Imam. a

For this group. see al-"'Jawb,akhtl, pp.48-9; al-Qummt, pp. lR 9: al

Ash'an, i. p.67; al-Baghdadt, pp.43-4: alShahn~ant, r 135.

226 al-Shahri~1.afl1.

pp. 136-7.

subject into which Hisham particularly did not


to enter. 227 A report shows that

Sulayman was among those who went to Morocco at the government s order to kill
Idris b. 'Abd Allah, who had founded there an independent Shi'i

state. 228

In view of this kind of Zaydism, it becomes easier to explain some

reports. For example, ai-Rashid put Ibn



'Abd Allah b. al-J:Iasan in prison

because he accused him of gathering the Zaydiyya around him to plot to overthrow his
govemment. 229 However, the same al-Rashid commimoned a Zaydi. Abu 'I~ma, to
kill the Imami poet M~r al-Namari. 230 As has already been mentioned. when
Hisham b. Ibriihim went into hiding because of his possible connection with the party
of aI-Kazim. he wrote a book, "The Confmnation of the Imama of al-' Abbas" and the

official prosecution for him was lifted. This book was described in the narration as a
"Zaydi book".231 From all this, it appears that while the 'Abbisid government made
every effort to root out revolutionary Zaydi activities, it used another group called the
Zaydiyya for its own interests. This Zaydiyya, accepting the legality of the imama of
the inferior, made a very useful contribution to the religio-politica1 basis on which the
'Abbasid regime stood. In their point of view, other Shi'i parties. both the
revolutionary Zaydis who frequently rose in arms to overthrow the regime and the
quietist Imamis who acted secretly but with the much the same aim were in profound
enur, because, like in the case of Abu Bakr and 'U mar who became the leaders of the

Muslims at the time of the existence of the more excellent' Ali b. Abi T8.1ib and this
was accepted as lawful by the majority including leading' Alids such as Zayd b. 'All.

227 see al-Kashshi, p.261.

228 Maqatil. p.4R9.
229 Maqatil, p.493.
230 Ibn al-Mu'tazz, p.244.
231 al-Kashsht. p.501.

the imama of the' Abbasid rulers should have been accepted as lawful on the same
basis. A1-M~i makes the Mu'tazila of Baghdad a sect of the Zaydiyya 232 It was a
fact that the political attitude of the Baghdad school of the Mu'tazila and that of the
Sulaymaruyya was very close. 233 This fact explains the co-operation of their
representatives in the symposia to worst the Imami thinker Hishim b. al-J:Iakam and to
force him to reveal his ideas,234 which has been seen as one of the factors which
brought about the arrest of Mtisa al-Ka~.

3.3 - Al-Kazim is Arrested and Taken to Basra

There is some information that al-Ka?im met with H8riin al-Rashid on several
occasions before his arrest in 179/795. These meetings seem to have taken place in the
seasons of some of ai-Rashid's pilgrimages,235 but there is no indication in the
sources to fix their exact dates.


reports that a1-~ came to meet al-Rashid when the former was

on a mule. The chamberlain


b. al-Rabi' rebuked the Imam because of this

disrespectful behaviour. But al-K~m explained this comportment as an example of

modesty.236 According to another narration related on the authority of al-Ma'mun,
who was with his father on an occasion of the pilgrimage,237 in Medina, the people of

232 a1-M~i, p.27.

233 For the Baghdad school of the Mu'tazila, see


Formative Period,


see pp. 135-6 above.

235 The years in which aI-Rashtd was present in the pilgrimage rite: 170, 173,
174,175,177, 179.1Rl, lR6, lRRH., seeal-Ya'qubi, iii, p.167.

Maqatil. p.SOO.

2.,7 AI-Ma' mun m\l.')1 slill have been a child when he witnessed thIS tncident as
he was hom in 17017R6. In this narration. al t\ta'mun claims that al-Ka?im in this

the city were coming into the presence of al-Rashid and introducing themselves. A1Rashtd granted them money amounting to 500,000 dinars commensurate with their
nobility and their fcrefathers' priority in the Hijra. On this occasion, al-K~im came
as well on a dOnkey. Al-Rashid kissed his eyes and had him sat next to him. The
caliph asked him about his family. A1-Ka~jm responded that his family contained mere
than 500 persons of which at least thirty were his children and the rest were his
malllali and servants. A1-Rashid asked why he did not give his daughters in

marriage. Al-Ka~ complained of his poverty and his debt which reached about

10,000 dinars. Al-Rashid told that he would pay his debt as well as the expenses for
the marriages of his daughters. A1-Ka~ was very pleased; be thanked the caliph and
made a short speech about the closeness of their families and the merit of doing a
favour for a relative. However, al-Rashid sent him only 200 dinars. AI-Ma'mu.n
found the sum very little and asked its reason. AI-Rashid said that the poverty of alKa:~im

and his family gave more security to the 'Abbasids. 238 In this narration, al-

Rashid also states that al-K~m, in fact, was more deserving to become caliph than
him, but he adds: "However, the reign was barren (ai-mull aqim)", i. e. the reign

meeting told him secretly that he would become caliph in future and added that, when
this would happen, he should do favours for his son, 'Ali al-Ric;tii CUyiin, i, p.74).
AI-Ma' mun also asserts that when he saw his father's reception of al-Kii#m and his
venenltion of him, he began to love a1-K~m and his family and this was the reason
for his inclination towards Shi'ism (Ibid.) i. p. n). It seems that aI-Ma'mun spoke
these words in favour of 'Ali al-Rj"a after he had proclaimed him as his beir apparent
in 201/817. Al-Ma'mun went further by saying that his fight with his brother al-Amln
and his killing him had been prophesied by al-K~m and this fact had be~n known by
aI-Rashtd. AI-Ma' mun. in thtS way. probably tned to escape from the gUilt of an evtl
action Ii ke kill ing his own br~her by c?n~ecting i~ with a di~n~ predesti.nat~on. He, at
the same time, attributing thts prophettc Infonnatlon to al-Ka?.1m. put hIm In a sacred
position, which also autom~ca1ly gives ~ste~m to his.heir apparent, al-Ri~a, as he
was the son of al-Kazim. ThiS last narratlOn tS related tn the two early works wntten
by the non-Sht'i authors. Abu l.~anifa aI-Dinawar~ (d. 2~2/~96) and .lhn .\ 'tham
(d.314/926), see al-Akhbar al-Ttwal, pp.3~8-9; Kltab al-Futu~, VIIt, p.266.




is the most important so tbat other values such as kinship or excellency must be
sacrificed to seize the reign and protect it. 239

On another occasion, this time in Mecca, in tbe presence of al-Rashid, alKa~im and MuJ:tammad b. al-J:Iasan al-Shaybarn (d. 189/805), who was the fcremost

pupil of Abu J:Ianifa, discussed the permissibility of a pilgrim being shaded by his
camel train. 240 Al-ShaybWli applied the method of analogy of reasoning (qiyas) to
solve the problem. However, al-K~ related a tradition from the Prophet which was
contrary to the decision of al-Shaybarn. Therefcre,


told him that to judge by

qiyas meant to stray from the ~ght path. 241

From a report related by al-Mufid,


was arrested twice, but on the

first occasion, after defending himself in the presence of ai-Rashid, he was released.
Al-Rashid showed him a report about him. The report alleged



with extremist Shi'is. According to it, this extremist group claimed that whoever did
not accept aI-K~m's imama and did not se~ his religious tax (namely 'ushr, i.e.
tenth part of farm produce) to him was an unbeliever. They also saw it as licit to
violate woman when the Imam permitted it. They used to declare their freedom from
the opinions of previous Muslim scholars (sala/) and to curse them in their prayers.
AI-Kazim denied all these accusations and said that there was no connection between
him and them. He maintained that the only things he accepted were gifts and khums

is related that, before al-Rashid, this expression was spoken by Musa b.

'Isa, the 'Abbasid commander-in-<:hief in the battle of al-Fakhkh, after he had quelled
the rebellion. W"hen he visited the tomb of the Prophet, he said tbat even if that
Prophet disputed with him about the ~i~n, he would strike his ~eC.k with his sword.
because the reign was barren, see Maqattl, pp.452-3.

According La the Imam! t111dition, it is not permissible for a pilgrim to be

shaded by an instrument hke an umbrella (see Thn Babuya, 'llal, pAS2; Musnad alR i':i a , ii ~ pp. 223-4), whereas other law schools consider it perm issihle.


al.lrshad, pp.450-1.

al-Tab~l, al-l~tijaj,


p.394: Alqab, p.M

tax, reminding him that the khums was assigned to tbe family of the Prophet hy God

in the Qur" an. Therefore, ai-Rashid released him and gave him 100,000 dirhams.
He also asked the Imam to write for him a pamphlet which contained brief knowledge
of thefiqh of al-~adiq. This reque~ was accepted by the Imam. 242

An incident which seems to have helped to destroy the good relationship



and al-Rashid probably took place in one of al-Rashid's visits to

Medina. Safwin b. Mihrin, a camel driver who was a disciple of

hire his camels to al-Rashid in his journeys on the pilgrimage.



used to

forbade him

to do so and threatened him that if he continued it, he would go to Hell. Safwin

followed this command. But al-Rashid called Safwin and told him that he knew that

had caused him to stop hiring his camels. Safwin denied his connection with

the Imam. Al-Rashid was not satisfied and said that if Safwin did not show good
companionship towards him, he would kill him. 243

Eventually, in 179/795,


arrest took place. In this year aI-Rashid

went to Mecca in the month of Ram~an (Nov. -Dec.), and perfamed an umTa as an
act of thanksgiving to God because of his suppression of the Khariji rebel al-Walid b.

Tanf. After the umTa he returned to Medina and remained there till the time of the
pilgrimage. 244 Al-Ka~'s arrest occurred during this pilgrimage. 245 According to a

al-Mufid, al-Ik.hti~i~, pp.54-8. For other reports of al-Kazim's

temporary release, see pp. 155-6 below.


al- Kashslu, pp.440-1.

aI-Tabari, iii, p.638; al-Azdi, pp.282-3. Al-Waqidi sta.testhatal-Rashtd did

not return to Medi na; he stayed in Mecca till Dhu al-l.lijja, see al-Azdi, p. 283.

A narration from Ibn Babuya states that in the season of the pilgrimage of
179 in which al-Kazim wa~ seized, aI-Rashid proclaimed the nominations of three of
his sons, al-Amln,' al Ma'mun and al-Mu'taman, respectively, as the heirs of his
throne, who, after the death of each. would ascend to the throne (' U yu n. i, P 51 7).
However this informatIon must be incorrect since this proclamation lOOK place in
186;802. 'three years after al-Ka?-im s death, according to reliahle hl~1.orical accounts


popular narration. on one occasion ai-Rashid encountered aI-Kazim at tbe bead of the
Prophet's grave. Whilst the caliph was praying, he greeted the Prophet addressing 0
cousin". Then al-Ka~m greeted him as "0 my father". Therefore, ai-Rashid gO(
nervous and said: "This is a very


boast. 0 Musa


It is reported that aI-Ka~im was arrested when he was praying in the Mosque
of the Prophet. Before his arrest, ai-Rashid went to the tomb of the Prophet and
presented there his apology, saying that he had to imprison al-K~ because he was
intending to bring division into the community and cause the shedding of its blood. 247
The following day he sent a1-Fa~ b. al-Rabi', his chamberlain, to arrest al-Ka~m. He
was seized in the mo~ue and brought befcre the caliph, shackled. 248

It is unclear whether al-Rashid took the Imam with him on his journey from
Medina to Mecca for the pilgrimage. Some sources report that



under arrest on 10th of Shaww8.l, 179 H. from Medina to Mecca and then to Banl. 249
According to some other reports, he was sent directly to Baghdad. 250 However, the

(see al-Tabari, iii, pp.651-3; Ibn Kathlr, x, 187). AI-Mas'udi gives the date of alMu'taman's nomination as 187/803 (Muruj, iii, p.354), whereas al- Ya'qubt gives it
as 189/805 (al- Ya'qubi, iii, pp.161-2).
al-Kh 8!-i b , xiii, p.31; al-Mufid, al-Fu~U1 al-Mukhti.ra, p.16; al-Tabarsi,
al-Il)tijij, p.393; Ibn al-Sa'i, p.28; Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Mun~am, ix, p.88; Ibn
Kathir, x, p.183; aI-Kimil, vi, p.1l2; al-Irbili, Kbuli~a. pp.135-6; al-Haytami.

247 In another narration in al-J:Iilli's al-Mustajid. when the royal convoy

returned from the pilgrimage to Baghdad, al-Rashid and his entourage stayed over
night in Kufa. When everybody fell asleep, the caliph went to Akma where the alleged
tomb of 'Ali b. Abi Tilib was situated. He prayed two ralc. la5 and presented his
apology for the Imam's arrest saying similar things, see al-J:Iilll. aI-Mustajid,


'Uyun, i. p.60; al-Irshad, p.453.


al-Kulaynt, i. p.476: al-"\.Jawbakhti, pp.71-2 al-Qummt, p


al-Khattb, xiii, p.27: lhn al-Jawzl. aI-Munta?-arn, ix, p.RR; a) -Karnil.

vi, p. 112; al-Ir-hih, Khula~a, p. D6: Thn al-Tiq~a,


r 19~


sources which give the detailed


of this event report that. in \1edina, two awnings

which were completely covered were prepared on two separate mules and a group of
cavalry was assigned in order to accompany each of them. Then al-K~im was put in
one of them secretly in the dark. He was handed over to J:Iassan al-Sharawi

2S 1

to be

taken to Basra. The crlter em~ awning was sent to Kufa departing an the next day in
the morning. It is reported that making two separate awnings proposed to confuse
people about what happened to the Imam al-Ka~. 252

The troopscanying the Imam arrived in Basra on 7th of Dhli al-J:Iijja (a day
before the day of tarwiya).253 Al-Sharawi handed him over to 'Isa b. Ja'far b. alMan~r, the govemorof Basra. 254 He kept al-Ka~m fer about a year. This detention

took place in a room of the governor's house. A servant was assigned to watch him
and fulfil his needs. Although it is reported that the door of his room was always
locked and he was allowed only to go to the bath and toilet. infonnation shows that his
detention was not so strict. His sympathisers were allowed to visit him. Al-Najashi
records a


Shiel. Yasin al-Zayyat al-B~, who related ~Qdith from the Imam

when he was in detention. 255 Afterwards, al-Rashid wrote to 'Isa b. Ja'far demanding
that he should execute a1-K~. 'Isacalled some of his trusted associates and sought
their advice about this matter. They advised him to refrain from doing that and to ask
to be excused from it. Therefore, 'Isa wrote a letter to ai-Rashid. He said that

"Al-Sarawi" in the text of 'Uyiln (i. p.70) should be "ai-Sharawl", who

was the freedman of Muhammad b. 'Ali. the father of al-M~r. He later became the
governor of Mosul. see at-Tabari. iii. pA91.


Uyun. i. p.70; Maqatil. p.502; al-Irshad. pp.453-4.

'Uyun. i. p.70. This arrival date ~hows that ~-K~?-im was sent directly
from Medina and he was not with al-Rashld dunng the tauer S pllgnmage.

'Isa h. Ja'far was the governer of Basra under al-Ra'ihid on four sepanilc
occasions from 17:)1789 until t &)i786. see al-Tabans indcx


aI t\ajashl. p.315.


throughout this period he had spies on al-Ka~, so he was able to follow his sirualion
very well. but he had never heard from him any word against the caliph or the
caliphate. He also added that either al-Rashid should send someone to whom he could
hand over


or he would let him free. because he was troubled at detaining

him. After this letter, al-Rashid ordered that al-Ka~ should be taken to Baghdad and
handed over to al-Fa~ b. al-Rabi', his chamberlain. 256

3.4 - His Detention in Baghdad

A possible reason behind 'Isa b. Ja'far's determination not to keep al-Ki?im in


any longer might be his uneasiness about the Shi'i population of the city or the

sympathisers of the Alids, who were possibly anxious about the Imam's detention
and his fate. 257 The governor might have thought that by getting rid of



might avoid possible civic turmoil.

In Baghdad al-Fa<;U b. al-Rabi' received


It is reported that the Imim

stayed for a long time with al-Fa9l.258

3.4. 1 - Which Family is more Entitled to Take over the Imama

The transfer of the caliphate from the Umayyads to the 'Abbasids did not make
much changes in terms of the 'Alids. As they had done in the time of the Umayyads.
they continued to promulgate their claims that only the 'Alids had a right to rule the

256 'U yu n. i, pp. 702; Maqatil. p.502; al Irshad. p.454.

257 The underground ao.iviLies of the Sht'a in Basra seem to be guile strong as
they were ahle to succeed in hiding a Zaydt revolutionist. A~mad b. 'Tsa b. Zayd al'.-\Iawt. for sixty difficult years when he had sought refuge from the persecution of al
RashId. see Maqatil, pp.619-27; al-Ya'quht. iii. p.160.
25~ at

lrshad. p.454.

Muslims. They denied the legitimacy of the 'Abbasid imama. The historical sources
narrate many debates which took place about this matter between the prominent figures
of the two families. According to some sources, a similar discussion about which
family was entitled to take over the imamaorthe caliphate also took place between the
'Abbisid al-Rashid and the 'Alid


when the latter was probably under the

surveillance of al-Fa<;tl b. al-Rabi' in Baghdad. Because of the importance of the

contrasting arguments put forward by both sides, it is necessary to summarise these
discussions. According to one account, al-Rashid has


brought and shows

him a large scroll conta) ning offences which put the blame on him and his followers.

recognises the caliph's anger; he repeats the following #:Jadith attributed to

the Prophet: "When kinship touches kinship, (at first) it surges and then tranquillises".
Therefore, al-Rashid takes hold of
seems to be over.



hand and embraces him. His anger

complains that since the Prophet'S time Ah1 al-Bayt have

always been accused of what they have never committed. Al-Rashid asks him about
the relationship between the 'Alids and the Zindiqs. The Imam categorically denies...this

Afterwards, al-Rashid says that he wants to ask some questions which have
annoyed him for a long time; if he answers them truly, he would release him and no
longer accept denunciations about him. He asks firstly why the descendants of 'All b.
Abi Tatib give themselves a fl"ecedence over the 'Abbasids despite the fact that both
families are the offspring of 'Abd al-Mu~ib, and the 'Alids' forefather Abu Talib and
the 'Abbasids' forefather al-' Abbas are both uncles of the Prophet. A1-K~im replies
that the Talibts are closer to the Prophet, because Abd Allah, the father of the
Prophet, and Abu Talib are full hr~hers, whereas al-' Abbas is their half brother. :\\.Rashtd's second que~ion is marl' complicated. He asks why the' o\lids claim that they
arc the heirs of the Prophet although, according to Islamic inheritance law, If an uncle
was alive, cousins would not inherit. He maIntains that Ahu Talih died hefore the


Prophet, but al- 'Abbas was still alive when the Prophet died, therefore 'Ali b. _-'\bl
Talib should not have been heir while al- 'Abbas. the uncle. was alive. Al-Kazim asks

for an assurance of protection before answering the question; he told al-Rashid that
otherwise he cannot answer it. The caliph guarantees it.


states that al-' Abbas

did not emigrate from Mecca to Medina, therefore he had no right to inherit the
Prophet, because God says: "Those who believed, but did not emigrate, you owe no
duty of protection to them until they emigrate" (al-Qur'in, viii: 74). He also asserts
that to put the uncle in the position of the father in inheritance has no basis either in the
Qur' an ex- the Sunna; it is a matter of ijtihiid which was formulated at the time of
the Umayyads. He also gives some names of the judges of al-Ras.h1d whose ijtihiids
are in accord with his own claim.

Another question al-Rashid asked was how the 'A1ids approved of people
addressing them as "the sons of the Prophet" even though they were the descendants
of 'Ali b. Abi Ta.t.ib.


makes an analogy: If the Prophet supposedly wanted to

many one of al-Rashid's daughters, he could do so, because this is permissible in

tenns of Islamic law. However, the descendants of al-I:Iasan and al-I:Iusayn could not
give their daughters in marriage to the Prophet, because he is their grandfather and
they are his _srclfidsons.

Al-Rashid asks his last question: Why do the 'Alids regard themselves as the
progeny of the Prophet? He also gives his arguments: The 'Alids are, in fact. the
progeny of F~ima. She is the daughter of the Prophet. But, the progeny continues
only with sons, not with daughters. A1-Ka~m again asks to be excused from
answering this question. but ai-Rashid insists that he should answer it. AI-Ka?-im
points out that although Jesus did not have a father. God regarded him as from the
progeny of the propheL~ belonging to the c'hildren of Israel (al-Qur'an.



because his mother, Mary, was from this progeny_ AI-Kazim also indicates this Verie


of the Qur' an: "If anyone disputes in this matter (the fact that Jesus had no father)
with you, now after knowledge has come to you, say: let us gather together, our sons
and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then let us
earnestly pray, and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!"' (al-Qur' in. iii: 61).
The Prophet brought to this mutual cursing (mubahau,) , which occurred with the
Christians from Najriin, al-J:Iasan and al-J:Iusayn as "our sons",


as "our

women" and 'Ali as "ourselves" in the verse, which is a clear evidence that al-Kazim
and other 'Alids are really from the progeny of the Prophet. AI-Rashid becomes very
pleased with these answers


and asks al-Ka~

tells him that his only wish is to go back



tell him his wishes. A1-K~m

Medina. Al-Rashid says that he will

consider it. But al-Kazim is not released. 260

However, acccrding to some reports, when



was in the custody of al-

b. at-Rabi', he was probably released for a while. Befoce this release. some of al-

Kazim's followers offered to use their influence with the authorities in order to
provide for his release. The Imam refused it. He said that


seek the support of

people who were created instead of the support of God who is the Creator would
cause the support of God to be broken off (literally: the ropes of the skies would be
cut oft)". 261

A rare report from Ibn Tayfiir (d.280/893) indicates that ai-Rashid was of
the opinion that (Ali b. Abi Tilib w~ more e~ce~ent (a[r)aJ! than al-' Ab~as b .. Abd
a1-Mu~ib. According tothe narratlOn, when All b. Abl Tallbw.~ proclatmed h~ alMa'mun as the best of mankind after the Prophet (see al-Taban. 111, p.l099), al-Stndt
b. Shahik, who was the former security chief of Baghdad, said that he never supposed
to hearsu'ch a prod wn ati on from an 'Abbasid caliph. 0-1 Fa~1 b. al.-~ahl responded
that this was n~ so surprising development, because thts was the optmon of al-Rashld
a., well as al-Ma'mun, see Ibn Tayfur. Kitab al-Raghdad, p. 17.

Uyun. i, pp.66-70. Also see al-\1ufld, al-Ikhti~a~ p.66: al-Taharit,

al-l~tijaj, pp.~'R9-92; al-Ha)taml. p.124.


al-Ya'quhl. iii, p.1S1.


Some narrations confirm that


release was the effect of God's

assistance which he always used to seek. Most of them contain legendary stories and
therefore they have little relevance to the real events behind the release. However. if
the legendary elements are disregarded, we learn that, after the release, the caliph used
to receive al-KimeveryThursday.262 It is also reported by two sources that he was
allowed to return to Medina, but they give no information about this alleged return 263
and there is no confirmation of this in any other sources.

The traditions report that al-Rashid released the Imam at some point in
consequence of a dream he had. The contents of the dream are repcrted with different
scenarios. One report has it that al-Rashid saw al-J:Iusayn b. 'Ali b. Abi T8.lib in his
dream in which al-J:Iusayn. holding a lance, threatened that if he did not release alK~im at that night,

he would kill him. 264 In another tradition, the one who threatened

the caliph was a black man. who is described as huge. He sat on al-Rashid's chest.
grasped his throat and told him that his behaviour against the Imam was completely
unjust. 265 After these nightmares he had the Imam released. 266 He also gave him a
some sum of money 267 and five robes of honour (lc.hiIC a ).


refused all the

gifts considering them to belong to the rights of the community (l:auqiiq al-umma).

262 Ibn Babuya. Amili. p.338; 'UyilD. ii, p.77.

263 'UyilD. i. p.61; Muruj. iii. p.346.
Ibnal-'Imad, i, pp.304-5: al-Yafi'i, i. pp.405-6. According to al-Haytaml
ai-Rashid saw 'Ali b. Abi Talib in his dream (p.l25).

265 'UyUD. i, pp.61. 76.

al-Mas'lidi reports that the person who was .in .~~arge of the release of alKa7jm was 'Ahd Allah h. ~1alik al-Khuza'i (MuruJ, lit, p.346~:. who was the
commander of the securit), police (shur,a) in laghdad (al-Tahan Ill, pp 548,692:
Crone. Slaves, p. 18 t). Accordi~S to Khalifa. he was also the commander of the
cali phat guards (/:Iaras) (Khallfa. 11. pp. 50 t -2).

al-Haytamt, p.125 (300 di_rhams): Ihn ~-'lmad. i, p.304 (300,000

dirhams): al-\1ufid, al-Ikhli~i~. pp.)9-60 (80,000 dirhams).


He explained this release by the fact that he had said prayers which had been taught to
him by the Prophet in a dream.

3.4.2 - At-Fad! al-Bacmaki Takes over the Custody of



freedom did not last for long. He was rearrested and imprisoned.

Al-Mufid reports that ai-Rashid wanted al-Fa~l b. al-Rabi "to cany out some matter in


affair" but


refused. Thereupon,


was handed over to al-

b. Y~ya al-Bannaki. He kept him under house arrest. 268 It is noteworthy that

the Imam was always treated as a noble prisoner. His detention reportedly took place
in the houses of high


officials bcx.h 1n Basra and Baghdad. He was never put in

(or Mu~baq the famous dreadful dungeon of Baghdad

political prisoners including several 'Alids suffered.

Sib~ b.


where many

aI-Jawzi, quoting from the

historian Abu Bakr aI-$uli, states that when the Imam was in Baghdad. he used to
receive an allowance of 300,000 dirhams a year, but it was then reduced



dirhams. 270 This information seems to be interesting. If it is true, the accuracy of

several reports, especially those of Shi'i books, about the bad treatment meted out to

by al-Rashid should be reasse~ed. According to a report. the Imam had the

freedom of correspondence. 'Ali b. Suwayd al-Sa'i sent the Imam a letter containing
questions about some religious and legal matters. A1-Ka~ wrote back answers to
him in a letter, which is narrated by al-Majlisi in his B~ilr271 He, even during his

al-Irsbad, p.454. According to 'Uyun. ai-Rashid wanted al-Ka'ljm to be

executed, see v. i, p.R7.


see Le Strange, Baghdad During tbe Abbasid Caliphate. p. 2. 7.

2 70 Sih~,

p. 355.

271 B i ~ar, XLV 11 1. pp. 2424. t\lso see al""Jajashl. p. 196.


mo~ severe detention in the house of al-Sindi b. Shabik 272, was able to keep contact

to some extent with his sympathisers and teach them. ~tusa h. Ibriihim al-\tarwazi.

who was the teacher of al-Sindi's children, compiled a book from what he learned
from the Imam in his several meetings with him. 2 73

It is reported that when al-K~ was in the custody of aI-Fa~1 b. Y~ya. the
latter recognised his outstanding merits: The Imam used to keep awake the whole
night occupied in worship such as prayer and the recitation of the Qur' an, and he
used to fast most days. Therefore,


took great care in order to make the Imam

comfortable and treate him with honour. 274

In 180/796 Harun ai-Rashid left Baghdad for Raqqa where he stayed until
184/800. 275 According to
Y~ya to

kill al-Ka~m.

a story, in Raqqa, he sent an instruction to aI-Fa~1 h.


rejected it. Therefore, ai-Rashid sent MasrfJr aI-Kabir,

his khadim (chief servant), to Baghdad telling him to go directly to

found him in comfort, he was to deliver a letter to aI-'Abbas b.


If he



also handed him another letter for ai-Sindt b. Shihik who was ordered in that letter to
obey al-'Abbas.

Marir arrived attbe place where al-K~m was detained. He found him as alRashid had informed him. He then went directly to aI- 'Abbas b.


and aI-

272 Ai-Sindi was the mawia of al-M~ur. He was appointed, probably after
at- 'Abbas b. Mu~ammad, as the chief of the shur~a (Crone, Slaves. pp. 194-5).
273 al-Najashi, p.291. For this book called al-Musnad, see pp.440-1 below.
274 al-Irshad, pp.454-5.
275 al-Tahart. iii. pp.646-9.
276 This person was probably al-'Ahb~ .b. Mu~ammad h. a1 \1usay)ah~.
Zuhayr who was apP0.nted in 180/796 as the chtd of the secunty pollcc (shur~a) 10
l1aghdad (ai-Tahart. til, p.639).

Sindt to deliver the letters. Consequently, al-'Abbas had al-Fac;il b. YaJ;tya brought to
his place where al-Sindt was with him. Al-Fa91 was ordered to be stripped. AI-Sindt
flogged him in front of al- 'Abbas as a punishment for his good treatment of al-K~im.

Masrur wrote the news to al-Rashid, so the latter ordered that al-Kazim should
be handed over to al-Sindt. At-Rashid also gathered a large assembly in which he
ordered people to curse al-Fac;il b. Yal;tya because of his disobedience. When the news


b. Khalid, al-Fac;il's father who was the vizier, he rode to al-Rashid.

He managed to persuade the caliph that his son was still obeying him, adding that alFa91 was only a young man and he would take care of him for al-Rashtd in the way
the latter would wish. Hence, al-Rasmd stopped the cursing.

As for the continuation of the story, YaJ;tya b. Khalid went to Baghdad where
he gave the impression that he had come to improve the administration of the province
and to look into the affairs of the tax collectors. But his real aim was different. He
summoned al-Sindt b. Shiihik and gave him his instruction to kill al-Ka?-im by

When aI-Ka~m was in the house of ai-Sindt, his cu~dian was Bashshar who
was the mawlii of al-Sindi. 218 He used to watch him with his wife. 219 It is also
reported that at-Sindi's sister used to look after the Imam during his detention. 280 The
reports related from these persons about al-K8.?-im's supererogatory prayers in his

217 al-Irsbad, pp.454-6; Maqatil, pp.502-4.

He was probably Bashshar b. Maymun. lie laler hecame the chamberlain
(/:Jiijib) of al-Rashid, see al-lmilt. Khula~a, p.113.

279 al- Kashsht, p.439.


280al-Khalth, Xlii, p.3l: Ihnal-Sa'l, p.28: al-Kamil.

15; at- D h ah ah I. S i Ya r, \'j. p. 2 7.) .


p.l12; Ahu al-Fida,

prison days are fully cited. According to these reports, when they saw the merit of alKa~m, their wrong opinions about him changed and

they began to serve him. 281

It is reported by several Sunni sources that when al-K~m's detention was

prolonged, he sent a letter to aI-Rashid in which he said: "My time runs out in
tribulation, whereas your time runs out in happiness, (but this will continue only) until
a time which will not expire, in which the dealers in falsehood will perish 1" .282

VI - The Death of al-Kizlrn

The date most commonly given for the death of Musa al-K~m is 5 Rajah.
1831 12 August, 799. 283 Al-Mufid gives it in his al-Irshid as 6 Rajab 1 13 August

whereas he gives it in his Masarr al-Shi'a as 15 Rajab / 22 August. 284 Another

account is 25 Rajab, 183 1 1 September, 799. 285 The place of his death was known as

In a long tradition, al-Musayyab b. Zuhayr, the chief of the shurla in 1n

H. (see al-Azdi, p.269), is seen as the custodian of al-K~m and one who witnessed
his murder. Al-Musayyab repats that the Imam went to Medina in the twinkling of an
eye; he delivered his wa~iyya to his son' Ali as the next Imam and came back
CUyiln, i, pp.81-5). This tradition, as well as its legendary nature, is also full of
inaccuracies. The mo~ obvious one is that al-Musayyab died almost eight years before
al-K~im's death, in 175/791 (al-Kh~b, xiii, p.137; al-Kimil, vi, p.M). So this
fact completely undermines the stay.

282 al-Kh~ib,

xiii, p.32; Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Mun~am, ix, p.88; idem, ~ifat,

ii, p. 105; Ibn al-Sa'i, pp.28-9: al-Kimil, vi, pp.112-3; Ibn Kathir. x, p.183: alIrbilt, Khuli~a, p.136; al-Dhahabi, Siyar, vi, p.273.
283 IUyiln, i, pp.81, 85; al-Qu~mi~.p.93; al-~awbakhtl. p.!2; al~Tabarst,
Taj, p.47; idem, I'lim, p.286; al-Kh~b, XU1, p.32; Ibn al-JaW7.l, ~lfat. tt, p.l05;
idem, al-Muntazam, ix, p.R8; Ibn Kathir, x, p.1R3: Ibn Khalltkan, v. p.310:
Kashf, iii, p.6; 3.t-Ir-bilt. Kbulasa, p.136; Abu al-Fida, ii, p.16: Ibn al-~abbagh,
p.227: Tbn al-Sit'1, p.30; Ibn TUlun, p.93.

al- Irshad. p.436; Masarr, p.36. Ibn Shahrashub also agrees on 6th of
Rajab(Manaqib, iv, pp.323-4)

al-Mamaqant. i. p.IR7 Al \1asudt's date as 1R6/R02 .\Muruj, tii,.p.355)

is most 1i kc1y a mistake. hecause his additional statement that aI Ka~tm waC) fItly-four
when he died poi fitS out that he died in 1R3i799. Other exccf1.ional dates gi vcn as the


the House of al-Musayyab or the Mosque of al-Musayyab (probably \fusayyab b.

Zuhayr) near the Kufa Gate in Baghdad. This residence was probably used hy al-Sindl
b. Shabik, in whose custody al-Ka?im died. 286

There are several accounts of the cause of al-K~m's death. Most of the Suruti
authors give the report of his death without any comment, whereas some of them cite
the Shiei anecdote that he was murdered, using the passive form (i. e. "qila" and
others) and avoiding making;definite ~ents. 28 7

The Imami sources agree that al-Ka?im was murdered on the order of Hariln
ai-Rashid. Before giving the narrations portraying al-K~m's assassination. it is
worth stressing that in fact whether he died a natural death or whether he was killed
can never be known. 28B The well-known Imam! belief that all the Imams were
murdered particularly with poison save 'Ali b. Abi Talib and his son



were killed by the sword,2B9 and lru of legendary elements mixed up with reports of

murder make us suspicious about the authenticity of the accounts of al-Ki?-im IS death.
However, it is always probable that in surroundings in which intrigues, slanders and
denunciations were in vogue and most of the authority was in the hands of vi7iers and
date of the Imam's death are 184/800 (Dali'il, p.148), 188/804
1811797 (at-Maillst, XLVIII, p.207).


p.350) and

286 'Uyiln, i, p.81; Maniqih, iv, p.324.

287 see al-Tabari, iii, p.649; al-Kh~b, xiii, p.32: Ibn al-JaW7..1, ~ifat, ii,
p. 105; Ibn Kathir, x, 183; Ibn Khal1ik~, v, p.310; a1-Shahri~l.' p.14S al-l~ilt,
Khula~a, p.136. However, Ibn ~aJar al-Haytamt (al~~awa Iq. al-Mul:tnqa,
p. 12~) and Ibn al-Sa't (Mul:tta~ar, p.30) belive that the Imam was polsoned.
W.W. Rajkowski ("Early Shi'ism in Traq", p.609) F. Oma~ (' Some
A~l)t?cts' , p. 179: "Harun aI-Rashtd", p.233) and~. Clot (Harun II:l-R ashl d p 65)
think that the death of the Tmam was from natural causes. J. Phtlby (liarun AI
Rashid, p. 130) and E.n. Palmer (Haroun, p.l3 t) record that al-Rashld killed the
Imam. H.I. Hassan (" \spects of Shi 'ah History', p.279') A. ,'\mln (Du~a alIslam, iii, p.294), ' . \ S. ~a~hsh~(Nash'a, ii, p.2l2) and H. ModwTc'-.sl (Crisis
p. 10) arc of the opinion that al-Ka?Jm was murdered.

2R9lbn Bahuya. 'l1yun, \, p. 170: idem. Risa1a pp.l01'


other officers of high rank rather than of the caliph 290, a plot or an impulsive decision
made by anybody in the court might have resulted in the death of al-K~. 291

However, the above-mentioned Shi'i belief, according to which, all the Imams
died as martyrs who were killed by tyrants in their times, is not completely acceptable
especially to early Imami scholars. Al-Tabarsi (d.548/1153), for example, although he
confirms that


was murdered by poison, states that the reports which reported

that the fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth, tenth and eleventh Imams had been killed were not
reliable and there was no evidence implying sound knowledge of them being
murdered. 292 Before al-Tabarsi, al-Mufid, also pointed to the same matter. He says
that the reports that all the Imams were murdered are not other than false rumours
. . ;;F\
( lrJ~J.


The historical sources report that in 1781794-5 al-Rashid entrusted all his
affairs to yaJ;tya b. Khalid al-Barmaki (al-Tabari, iii, p.631; al-Azdi. p.280; alKimil. vi, p.l00).


Jurji Zaydan illustrates this corrupt situation accurately in the following


.. Plots and accusations against leading statesmen were the

order of the day; espionage became common in the palace and the
bureaux of viziers and public clerks. Each official kept spies to watch
the others and report what they were doing. The humbler citizens
began to calumniate the b~n~r class and add~ss t~ the Caliph or person
in authority libels conta1rung charges a~a1nst 1nnocent person.s by
whose ruin the informers hoped to proht. And these were ch1efly
directed against retired statesman or _perso~s whose acc.ession to
authority the informers.had reas.on to tear: \\ hole bo~es hlled With
such libels accumulated 1n the off1ces of Cal1phs and \lZlers; when they
became a nuisance, or were of no further use. tl1t:y would be burned
[1. Zaydan. Umayyads and 'Abbisi~s b~i~g. th~ fourth part
of Jurji Zaydan's History of Islam1c Ctvillsation. trans. hy
D.S Margoliouth. (London 1907). p.238].

al-Taharsl. Tij. pp. 47. 58-9.


al ~1ufld. T.~I;1~. pp.131 2


It is interesting that one of the earliest authors who give an account of alKa~m's death, al-IsfaJ:tant (d. 356/966), although he reports the same stories about the

Imam's arrest and ocher events after the murder as those of the Shi'i narrations, gives
a completely divergent account of the way the Imam was murdered, that is, al-K~m
was wrapped in a rug, some Christian servants sat down on it and crushed him to
death. 294

Another account which maintains that it is al-Fac;tl b. Y~ya who sent the table
on which there was poisoned food to al-Ka~m295 is in sharp contrast to the reports
that the fonnertceated the Imam with respect when he was in his custody and refused
the order of al-Rashid to kill him, which we have cited.2 96

AI-Sindt b. Shahik is the man held by the Imamis to be the one most
responsible for the murder, because it took place in his house. AI-Sindt received an
order from the vizier Y~ya b. Khilid or from Harun aI-Rashid, who was in Raqqa, to
kill aI-Kazim and he camed it out.

In a narration, a Sunni scholar who was described as very respected mentions

a meeting arranged by aI-Sindi shortly before
eighty men and brought them to



death. A1-Sindi gathered

Showing the latter's room and bed, aI-

Sindi said that there was not any harassment against him and he was well-treated in
contrast to the rumours that he had been maltreated, and also he added that aI-Rashid

294 Maqatil, p.504; aI-'Uman, p.I06 . .Also see Ibn 'Inaba, p.226.
Tn a very odd story, aI-Rashtd was not able to find ~y man whom he could
employ to kill al-Ka?-im. Eventually he was forced to h~ve ftfty Franks brough~ f~om
Europe, who are described as those ~en who had neither a faith nor a religion
However, wh~n they ~ame and met ~Ith the Imam '. they .aCC.erled ~ slam and then
returned to their countnes as good f\1usltms, see aI- \1aJltSl. :\1.\ III p_49.

'Uyun, i. R7-R.

2 (H)

sec pro 15R-9 aho\"c


was waiting foc him


come and


some scholarly mallers with him.


acknowledged that his comfort and living conditions were just as aI-Sindt had said
but added, "I had been given poison in seven dates 297; tomorrow I shall turn green
(from the effect of the poison) and on the following day I shall die". The Sunnl
scholar reports that at that time violent fear seized aI-Sindi and he began to tremble like
apalm-Ieaf. 298 It is also reported that after the Imam had been poisoned, a physician
examined him. He saw a green spot on the hollow of


hand, which was

explained as being the poison which had accumulated at that point. 299

The narrations about


arrest and death introduced an important

problem into the Imami theology. If the Imam was supposedly omnipotent and
omniscient why did he not - or could he not - do anything in order to p-event the end
which had been prepared for him, and if he did not, would not that mean that he
assisted in bringing about his own demise (muin ala naftihi)?

Beforehand, this question had been asked by the Imam's brother' Ali b. la'far
when his nephew


b. Isma'il was about to go to Baghdad to betray al-

to the caliph and al- Ka~im tried to stop him. When he failed to stop him, he

gave him 300 dinars and 3,000 dirhams for the expenses for his journey although
he knew his real purpose. On this basis, 'Ali b. la'far asked him why he had assisted
Mu~ammad in a matter which might have given rise to a dangerous situation for

himself. AI-Ka~im replied that when M\ll.1ammad arrived at Baghdad, the latter's death

297lJnlike al-Kulaynt and al-~limyari, aI-Kashsht reports in another narration

that at-Ka?-i ITI was poisoned \''1 thirty dates (p.604), whereas Ibn Rahuyas account IS
nine dates ('Uyun. i. p.79). Ibn Rustam al-Taban adds to dates sweet basil as the
poisoned food (Dala'il. r 14R).
al-Kulu'')"nt, i. pp.2.:iR-9: 'lJyun. i, 79: ul-llimyan, pp 3Y'4 al
Ghayba. p.24: at-"(uhan. Dala'il, p. 14R.

299 'Oyun. i. p.RR.


hour would be due. However, in the same narration Muhammad s denunciation

brought about


arrest. 300

Anoher report shows that al-Ka~im was afraid of being murdered. When he
thought that he might be murdered in prison, he began to pray to God, entreating Him:
"0 my Lord, rescue me from the prison of Hat-un and bring me to safety from his
hand". 301 This and other such prayers, according to narrations. resulted in his release
for a while.



explanation of his father's death is also reported. According to

it, the Imam knew when he would die and took all the necessary measures in order to
prttecthimselffrom being murdered, but when the decisive time of death came, God
made him forget this information (literally: God threw forgetfulness over his heart)
and he ate the poisoned food which caused his death. 302

However, the above report is in sharp contrast to this narration that, again in
the prison, poisoned foods were brought to the Imam on three successive days, but he
would not eat them. When the food was brought in on the fowt.h day, the Imam called
out: "0 my Lord, you know that if I had eaten it before today I would have assisted in
my own death". 303


alKulaynt , i, pp.4&5-6: al-Kashsht. pp,264-5


Ihn f1ahuya,

Arnall, p,337:

302 al Saffar, pp.503-4:




'Uyun, i, p. 76: Manaqib, iv, pp.305b

al \1aJlisl ILl~. p236

pp.R7-R: Manaqib, iv. p.327


Another different account has it that, in prison, a1-K~m did not have the
freedom to do as he wanted. Therefore, he was obliged to eat the poisoned foods and
consequently died without any chance of protecting himself. 304

Some Shi'i accounts state that al-Kazim sacrificed himself to save his
followers from total destruction. God was angry with the iniquitous Shi'is and told alKa~m

to choose between sacrificing himself to save his followers or having the Shi'is


He chose to protect his partisans at the expense of his own life. 305 Al-

Majlisi (d. 111 1 I 1699) says that God's anger was the result of their lack of loyalty
and obedience to their Imams, and their abandonment of taqiyya, which led to the
secret network and the activities of the Imam being brought into the open and this
caused his arrest. 306

Baron ai-Rashid was in Raqqa in those days, therefore it was impossible for
him personally to carry out the plot of al-K~im's murder in Baghdad. 307
Consequently, the accounts showing ai-Rashid as a cruel plotter seem to be the
products of Shi'i abhorrence which made him direttly responsible for the murder of
the Imam. According to one of these accounts containing exaggerated components, alRashid's beloved dog ate from the poisoned dates which had been prepared for al-


'Uyun, i, p.1'2


- t,. p.....")60 .


Mir'at al-'Uqul, iii, pp.126-7.

The reports of al-Ya 'qubl and I?n Rahuya that it was aI-Rashid who
asscmhled the people in order to mak~ t.hem witnesses of al-Ka?Jm s natural deathare
also historically impossible, because It IS c~n that the former s reSidence at that lime
was Raqqa, not Baghdad, sec al-Taban. 111. pp.647-9. For these reports also see al.Ya'quot. iii. p.150: Ibn Rabuya, 'Uyun, I, p.R.'). Idem Kamal. I. pp 11'120.


Ka?im and died suddenly. Al-Rashid became very perturbed at its death and also Yery
sorrowful due to his failure in killing al-Ka?im. 308

It is reported that


remained three days in a fever from the poisoning

and died on the third day. Al-Sindi b. Shahik

~embled juri~,

the representatives of

the Hashimis and the Tatibis and other eminent men of Baghdad to look upon the
corpse of al-Ka?im. Before the meeting, al-Sindi called Umar b. Waqid, a notable of
Baghdad, and asked him


invite those people who knew


and associated

with him to the house where the latter had died. About fifty men came, whose names.
addresses and occupations were recorded. At first the face of the corpse was exposed.
The witnesses testified that it was Musa


Mter that, covering only the

genitals of it, the whole body was shown. The witnesses testified again that there was
no mark from any wound on it, nor any evidence of strangulation, and accordingly he
had died a natural death. 309 Al-Isf~ adds that, after this meeting of testimony. the
body was taken out and put on a bridge on the Tigris, then an announcement was
made that that man Musa b. Ja'far bad died. 310 According to Ibn 'Inaba. the coffin
stayed there for three days. Those who knew bim came and looked at him, and then
their names were recorded in a minute-book. 31 1


Uyon, i, pp.82-3; Dala'il, p.154; Manaqib, iv, pp.3034.

Ibn Babuya, Kamal, i, pp.117-8; Uyon. i, pp.79~~.O; al-Kba~ll. xiii.

p.32; Ion al-Tiq~a, p.193; Al;tmad Amin. J?uJ:li al-Islam. 111, p.294; Hassan.
"Aspects of Shi 'ah History", p.279.

310 Maqatil. pp.504-5. Also see at-Irs.bad, p.45~; at-Gbay.ba. p. ~9 In a

Sht't tradition, when ill-Sindt b. Shahik was puttIng the COfflD on the hndge, hts hOf\C
oalked and threw him down in the river where he was drowned (Manaqib. iv.
p ..'2R) The tradition which punishes the murder~r. howe\'cr is anachronistic,
hecause al-Sindl's death was prohahly much later Stnce we saw hIm as an eager
adherent of lorahi mo. al \1ahdl during the ci Yil war taken place hetween hI m and al\,1a'mun hetwcen the years 202-204 H .. see aJ-Tahan. iii. p.1016 .

., tIl 0 n

In ah a.

r 226.

Such kinds of narrations in the Shi'i books, in the meantime, serve to deny the
claim of the Waqifis that al-Ka~m did not die and he was the awaited Imam who
would return some day and set everything right, just as the narrations used against the
Isma'ilis, which give the account of Isma'il b. Ja'far's death, who was also belieyed
by some not to have died but to have disappeared to return some day as the Mahdi.

Ibn Babuya's report mentions some trouble after the Imam's death. On alSindi's order, the body of al-~m was taken out, four members of his
the charge of the body and called out: "This is the leader of the


Rafi~i s,


know hi m !

Whoever wants to see the evil man (al-lhabith) who is the son of the evil man,
come out (and look upon the body)". Sulayman b.

Am Ja'far, the son of the caliph al-

hearing clamours, went out from his palace. When he knew the reason for

the situation, he gave instruction to his sons and retainers to take the body from the
hands of al-Sindi's men; if necessary, they should fight against them for it. They did
what Sulayman wanted. They took the body, put it at a cross-roads and called out:
"Whoever wanlS to see the noble man


who is the son of the noble man

come out". The episode was informed to Harun al-Rashid in


so he wrote to

his granduncle Sulayman to thank him due to his behaviour and to let him know that
al-Sindi had not done it on his in~ction. 312

Nevertheless, aI-Sindi, in the narration which has been mentioned previously,

where he tried to deny the claims that al-K~m had been killed, 313 did not behave in
the way reported in the last narration. Hence, it is again probable that the obvious
hostility against al-Sindi and the 'Abbasid court prompted the last narration. despite

.\l~ lhn Bahuya, 'Uyun. i. pp.81 ~. idem. Kamal. pp.l1R-9.

313 SL'C

p. 167



the fact that it is not exactly clear why Sulayman b. Abi Ja'far, who belonged to the
same court, was chosen as the benevolent man.

According to yet another narration, Sulayman b. Abi Ja'far took over the duty
of washing a1-Ka~im's corpse. 314 The fact that his son 'Ali a1-Ri~a was in ~1:edina and
therefore unable to wash the body of his father aeated a problem; that is, if
was the real successor of



who had been appointed by divine testimony, he

should perfonn the washing duty, because Ja'far al-~diq said: "Nobody can wash an
Imam except the (successor) Imam"


so al-Ri~a was not a legal succe~or.

Ibn Babiiya tries to solve this problem which was put forward especially by
the Waqifa. According to him,


meant by this statement to prohibit anybody

from washing the cocpses of the Imims except an Imam. In spite of this prohibition, if
somebody attempted to wash the Imam and did it, this would not abolish the imama of
the next Imam. He adds:
" It was also narrated in some reports that al-Ri~ washed (the corpse
of) his father Musa h. Ja'far invisibly. Nobody saw this washing.
However, even the Waqifis cannot deny that it is (always) possible
that Allah folds down the earth so the Imam may traverse long
di~ances in a short time" .316

Ibn Babuya narrates this tradition as well: Al-Ri93. came over to Baghdad and
C'<rmed his father's washing, then embalmed the body and shrouded it. After that,


'Uyun, i, p.85; al-Tabarst, I'him, p_300.

~l-Kulaynt., i, p.384. Also see Dahi'il. p.163. Thi~ tra~ition is p~hably
h a I:zadith of the Prophet who is related to have satd to .~h b. Am Tahb.
Suy washes me except you". This /:Iadilh is retat.ed from the lm~ ~.

of Zurara h. A Cyan. However, according to the .rradltlOntSl

,. (d.16li778), Zurilra neither met with al-Baqlr nor saw him, see Ihn


i, p.86 ..-\l-Rida declared that it was he who had washed his

i. pp.384-S Musnad al-Ri~a. I pp92~

he cited to the surprised narrator the following, referring to a verse of the Qur' an (xii:
58): "I am similar to Joseph the righteous and you are similar to his brethren: \Vhen
they entered his presence, he knew them, but they knew him not. Then al-Ri9a took
the body to the Cemetery of the Quraysh and buried it there. 317

Apart from this miraculous story, it is also reported that it was the maw/a of

who shrouded him in Mashra'at a1-Q~b: Al-Sindi asked the Imam to permit

him to shroud him, but he refused it saying:

" I am a member of the House (of the Prophet). The giving of

dowries foc our women, the performing of pilgrimages on behalf of
those of us who have not made the pilgrimage, and the shrouding of
our dead can only be performed by one of our retainers who is pure. I
already have my shroud and I want the washing and preparation (of
my body) to be carried out by my retainer strand-so". 318

'{lyun gives, instead of the maw/a of


the name of Sulayman b.

Abl Ja'far as the one who shrouded him. On the shroud, the whole Qur' an was
written using a special ink bought for 250 dinars. 319 According to the same source.
al-Sindt, who was the murder suspect, led the people in the funeral prayer of the
Imam. 320

Al-Kazim was buried in the cemetery of the Arab aristocracy called "the
Cemetery of the Quraysh or the Cemetery of ShUnlZl (or Shuniziyyin and
Shufllziyya)", which was used especially by the Banu Hashim branch of the tribe of

317 Uyun. i. pp.84-? Ibn Rust~ al-~aban states with,~ut adding any
narration oc comment that al-Rl~a washed hiS father s body, see Data II. p. 148.

bv 1. K. A. Howard. al- Irshad. p.4S7. Also see al-Ghayba. p.23:

Maqatil, p.504; Ihn Shu'ba. p.304; al-Taharst. l'lam. p300.
31 R trans.

'Uyun. i. pp.82, R5-6. Ibn Shahrashub s account that the ink. cost 2~SOO
dinars seems to he exaggerated. (Manaqib. iv, p.328) .


Uyun. i. r80.

the Quraysh. It is in north-west Baghdad at the Bah al-Tibn (the straw gate) 321, in the
area which became known more recently as


al-Ka~iyya'. 322

made a testament that his grave should

_not be . higher than the

grave of al-J:Iusayn b. 'Ali in Kamala and nothing (for example, soil) should be taken
from his grave to be used to for his blessing (Ii tatabarrakii bihi), because it was
not permissible in religion. However, Ibn Babuya says that although this testament
was fulfilled at first just as


had wanted, afterwards, people made the grave

higher and built a tomb aboveit. 323 MterM~ammadb. 'Alial-Ri~a, the ninth Imam,
had been buried in the same cemetery,


became one of the most

celebrated pilgrimage centres of the Shi' a. There is even one tradition which states that
to visit al-K~'s tomb is equivalent to visiting al-I:Iusayn b. 'Ali's tomb. 324 It seems

that to be buried in this cemetery became popular later especially among the Shi'i
upper class. The famous Shi'i poet Ibn al-J:Iallaj (d.391/1001) was buried in this
cemetery and a verse of the Qur' in, "Their dog stretches forth his two-legs on the
threshold" (al-Qur' an, xviii: 18), was inscribed on his grave-stone at his request. 325
In this way, Ibn al-J:Iallaj pretended to be the dog of al-K~m, recalling the story of
the A~htib aI-KahJ, the Companions of the Cave, and their dog in the Qur' an.


see Yaqilt, i, p.443.

"Uyiln, i, p.BI; al-Irsbid, pp.456-7; al-Ya'qubi, iii, p.150; al-Kha~.ib,

xiii, p.32; Ihn Khallikan., v, p.310; al-Dhahabi, Siyar, iv. p.274. For. more detailed
information ahout this cemetery and its history, see Yaqilt, iv, p.587; Mu~ammad
I.Iasan al-Yasin. Tartkh al-Masbbad a1-Ki~imi, (Baghdad 1387/1967) ; I.e
Strange, Bagbdad during the Abbisid Calipbate, pp.160-5; Donaldson, The
Shi "ite Religion, pp. 198-208; M. Streck, A. Dixon, "Ka~imayn". Ell, iv, pp.


'Uyun. i, pp.M-5


al-Kulaynt, iv, p.583.

'2 ~

d1. M'
a at h'tr.



VII - The Offspring of


\1usa al-Ka~m"s family was very large. The number of his offspring. as given
in the sources, varies between 33 and 60. 326 All these children were from slave-wives

(ummuhal al-awlatf). He never had a legal wife.

All the sources agree on the names of 'Ali al-Ri~, Ibriihim, al-Qisim. Isma'i1.
Ja'far, Hamn, al-l:lasan, Al;lmad, l:larnza, 'Abd Allah,
the sons of



Zayd. MuJ:tammad as

Only Ibn Abi al-Thalj failed to give the name of al-'Abbas.

However, al- 'Abbas b. Musa comes to notice in a report about his quarrel with 'Ali alRi~a

about their father's testament. 32 7 He is also well-known as the governor of Kufa

on behalf of al-Ma' mun. 328 Other names given by several sources as the sons of the
Imam are 'Ubayd Allah


another al-l:Iasan 330, another 'Abd Allah




18 sons and 15 daughters (al-Nawbakhti, p.73; al-Qumml, p.95; Ibn Abi

al-Thalj, p.20), 18 sons and 19 daughters (al-Tabarsi, Tij, pp.47-8; idem, I'lam.
p.301; al-I:Iilli, al-Mustajad. pp.200-1), 19 sons and 18 daughters (al-Irsbid.
pp.457-9), 19 sons and 19 daughters (Sib~, p.351), 20 sons and 18 daughters (Ibn alKhashshab, pp.190-1; Kasbf, iii, pp.6-7); 18 sons and 21 daughters (Dala'il,
p.149); 40 children without giving their names (Ibn Kathir, x, p.183; al-Irhi1i,
Khula~a, p.135); 18 sons and 23 daughters (al-Ya'qubi, iii, p.151); 22 sons and 37
daughters (al-'Uman, pp.l06-7); 23 sons and 37 daughters (Ibn 'Inaba, pp.226-7).

see pp. 221-2 below.


see p. 321 below.


Only Dala' it (p. 149) failed to give his name.

al-lrsbad. p.458; al-Tabarst. Taj. pp.47-8; idem, p.301; al-l:lilli, aIMustajad. pp.200-1


Dala'il. p.149; Ibn 1.lazm. Jamhara. p.61.


332, al-Fa~1333, Sulayman334 , 'Aqil 335, Y~ya 336, 'Abd al-R~an 337, la'far al~ghar

338, Ibrahim


'Cmar 340, 'Amr 341, Dawud 342, .-\bu Bakr 34 :

The sources also give the names of the daughters. But, because the records are very
variant, to make a true table of their names would seem to be impossible.

Al-Ya'qubi, without giving any reason, reports that


prohibited his

daughters from marrying; none did so except Umm Salama, who was married in
Egypt to al-Qasim b.


b. Ja'far al-$adiq. Al-Ya'qubi also


that some

discord took place between al-Ka~m and al-Qasim's family.344 According to

Rajkowski, this prohibition by the Imam was for the reason that he considered himself
to have no equal in rank and nobility, so that there was no one who could be
considered as a proper candidate to be a husband for his daughters. 345 However it

332 al-Tabarsi, al-I:lilli and

Sib~ failed to give

his name.

333 Ibn Abi al-Thalj, Ibn al-Khashshab,


and Kashf failed to give his

334 Ibn Abi al-Thalj, Ibn al-Kbashshab,


and Kasbf failed to give his



335 Ibn Abi al-Thalj, Ibn al-Khashshab, al- 'Umari, Ibn 'Inaba and Sib~.
336 Ibid.
337 Ibid.
338 Ibn al-Khashshab,


and Kasbf.

339 Ibn 'Inaba.

340 Ibn a\-Khashshab and Sibt.
341 Ibn 1.1azm, Jambara, p.61.
342 al-'Uman and Ibn 'Inaba.
343 Kash f.
344 aI Ya'qubt.


p. 151.

345 Rajkowski, p.599.


seems more likely that some statements in the written testament of

about a misunderstanding about the marriages of




daughters and al-

Ya'qubi's report might be a result of this. This testament is reported by al-Kulayru and
Ibn Babuya. In the testament,


made the marriages of his daughters subject to

'Ali al-Ri<;ta's approval; none of the other brothers was able to make a decision about

this matter. 346 Moreover, the daughters could not marry of their own accord. If they
did so, they would lose all their rights of inheritance from

al-Ka~. 347

However, we

do not know if al-Ri<;ta approved of the marriage of any of his sisters.

It seems that because


offspring was plentiful, more than any other

of the Imams, some of later prominent Shi'is found it easy to claim descent from him.
The Shahs of the Safavids, who were probably of Turkoman or Kurdish origin,
concealed their ancestry so as to claim descent from

al-Ka~im. 348

Also Mir

Amin (d. 1145/1732), the founder of the Kingdom of Oudh in India,

traced its ancestry through Musa al-Ka~im. 349 Some leaders of the several Mahdi
movements also made the same claims. For example, the Shi'i dervish Fa<;tl Allah
Asuu-abadi (executed in 804/1401), who claimed to be a prophet, was known among
his followers as a descendant of al-Ka~im. 350 Another example was Sayyid
Muhammad Nurbakhsh (d.869/1464), the founder of the Shi'i Nurbakhshi order. He


al-Kulayni, i, p.317; Uylin , i, p.28; al-Majlisi, XLIX, p.279.


'Uylin. i, p.30.


see Hollister. pp.62, 78;


Momen. p.l0l; H. Halm, p.8S; H. Algar.

p. 10.

see Hollister. p.IS!; !\1. Momen, p.129. E\'en some Isma'ili genealogists
traced back the lineage of the Fiitimids to al-Kazim. For this claim and its criticism, see
Mamour. Polemics~ pp.93-l00, 129-30.


Ii. Balm, p.77


claimed to belong to a Musawi lineage before being introduced as the awaited

Mahdi. 351

As well as these Shi'is, we also know some names among famous SUnnl or
semi-Sunni sufis who were known as the descendants of Musa al-Kazim. The
celebrated early mystic Junayd al-Baghdadi (d.298/910), the founder of the Rita'i
order Al:tmad aI-Rifaei (d.578/1183) and, much later, the first shaykh of the Ba1ctiishi
order J:Iajji Bektash (7th/13th century) can be given as examples of sufis who claimed
to be descendants of al-Kazim. 352

VII - Al-KiZlm as a Traditionist

Since Musa


was surrounded by a Shiei circle among whom there

were those who did not consider it wrong to foist upon him sayings which he had
never uuered, non-Shi'l traditionists seem to have refrained from relating #:Jadith
from him. There are only two al)iidith of his which are found in al-Kutub al-

Siua, the six major #:Jadith collections of the Sunnis. The first is a tradition which
has a Shiei inclination. The Prophet holds the hands of al-J:Iasan and al-J:Iusayn and
says: "Whoever loves me and these (children) with their father and mother, will
become with me in my rank in the hereafter". 353 This tradition was also related with
the same sanad by AJ;unad b. J:Ianbal in his al-Musnad. 354 A1-K~ also appears


Balm. p.7S. H. Algar, pp.l0-1.


see 1L Algar, pp. 9-1 O.


al-Tinnidhl, Sunan, v. pp.641-2, no: 3733.

354 .-\~mad

b. Hanbal. ii, pp.576-7, no: 576.


in asanadin the Sunan of Ibn Majain which his son 'Ali al-Ridarelates from him a

/:ladith about the characteri~ics of the faith (al-iman). 355

The Sunni rijaI scholars accept Musa



as a trustworthy (lhiqa and

rawi. 356 'Abd Allah b. Dinar and 'Abd al-Malik b. Qudama

(d. after 160/776-7) are recorded as those rawis from whom




l;Iadith. 357 However, since 'Abd AJJ.ah b. Dinar is reported to have died in 12717445, a year before


was born, the sanad between him and


must be

disconnected (munqa,i ~). 358 The other traditionist, 'Abd al-Malik b. Qudama, is
usually regarded as a weak rawi, because of gross errors which he made when he
related l;Iadith. 359

In comparison with the numerous traditions which were related from the Imam

in the Shi'i books about almost every aspect of the religion. Musa b. Jalfar's

conlribution to the Shili theology and juriSfI1ldence seems to be quite smalL. The fact
that he was only twenty years old when his father


died may explain this. Al-

Ka?-im was not able to spend enough time with his father to utilise his considerable
knowledge. Another factor could be that after taking over the imama, because of the
severe 'Abbasid persecution,


was not able to find enough opportunity


communicate with his followers. His communication was usually in secret and related


3 ."i 5

Ibn M;-aJa,
.. S unan,l,pp.
354 b eow.
__5 -6 . F orltstext,seep.


see Ibn Abl }~atim, viii, p.139; al-Dhahabi, Mizan, iv, p.201; idem,
r.270; Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib, x, p.340.


see ibid ..


see Ibn Hajar, Tabdhtb, v, pp.201-3. \. pp.340.


sec Ibn 1.laJ'lf. Tabdhtb,




much more to the organisation and management of his party. 360 Therefore, scholarly
activities gave way to his effort.s to keep the party alive.


should be regarded as among the representatives of the Medinan

school who tended to lay great emphasis on traditions rather than ijtihad. He used to
recommend strictly to refer only to the Qur'in and the Sunna. Once he said that
whosoever tried to solve religio-legal problems by applying qiyas, would not only
fall into error in his judgement but also would be punished in the hereafter. 361 This
accords with the general policy that is alleged to have been held by the Imams with
regard to qiyiis.

IX - The Miracles of al-Kizim in the Imimi Literature

Like other Imams, Musil al-Ki?im is believed by the Imarruyya to have had
many supernatural abilities as important signs of his imama. When a Shi 'j wanted alKa~im

to show a proof of his imima, the Imim told him to tell a tree that al-K~m

wanted it to draw near. The tree furrowed through the ground until it stopped in front
of him. Then he indicated to it to go back and it went back. 362 One day a lion came to
him and asked him to pray for his lioness who had difficulty in giving birth. The lion
also asked him whether she bore a male. The Imim prayed for her and replied to his
question. In response, the lion prhyed that God never imposed on al-Ka~m nor any of
his followers any trouble from wild beasts. 363


sec the relating chapter pp.397-412 below.

3 ttl a1-~affar, pp. 321-2.


al-Irshad. p.443.

363 al-Irshad. p.447: al-Rawandl,

Alqab. pp. {):1 6.



pp.649-50; Manaqib.



Once he saw a woman with a group of children who were all crying. The
children were hungry, because the cow on which the family depended had died. AlKa~m

prayed and then hit the dead cow with a stick. It immediately arose and stood

up. The woman shouted:


Behold, he is Jesus, the son of Mary!". 364 On another

occasion, he met with a man whose donkey had died and thus he was left on the road
without transport.


resuscitated the donkey by hitting it with a twig. 365

As well as dead animals, he was also able to give life to painted figures. When
a magician from the 'Abbisid court attempted to humiliate the Imam in front of alRashid, he brought a lion to life which was painted on a piece of curtain; the animal
swallowed the magician before the eyes of the caliph and the courtesans. 366 A1-K~
went further to show his deceased father to a follower who was very eager to see him.
He told him to enter a house. He entered and saw al-$adiq sitting on the ground; he
had come to visit his son. 367

His supernatural power enabled him to change day into night or the
opposite. By virtue of this ability, he took a Medinan Shi'i through Mecca, Karbala
and Kufa, and then brought him back to Medina in a night. 368 On one occasion, he
struck the ground with a stick; the earth was cleft apart and a gate appeared. Through
the gate


saw a group of people whose faces were black and whose eyes were

light blue. They were described by him as those companions of the Prophet

al-$affiir, pp.292-3: al-Kulayni, i, p.484. For the Prophet Jesus who

brought the dead to life, see ai-Qur'in, \': 110.


al-Rawandi, i, pp.314-5: al-Majlisi. XLVIII, p.7l.

'Uyiin, i, p.78: Maniqib, iv, p.299. 'Ali al-Ri9ii also did the same and
frightened t.he caliph al-Ma'mun, see al-Rawandi. ii. p.259.

.167 ..11-~:

p. -'96 .

16" Datilil, pp.173-4.


who had given oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr. those who had fought against 'Ali b.
Abl Talib in the battle of the Camel such as Tal1;la and Zubayr, the people of the Banu
Umayya and the other enemies of the first Imam. 369


miracles which occurred when he was in prison are exceptional: A

snake appearing behind al-Rashidforced him to bow to


A rod at the hand of

al-Rashid transformed into a snake and wrapped around his neck.. 370 In the Imam's
cell, there was a fruit tree which was planted by God and he used to eat from it.
Moreover, a table set with viands used to come down from the sky and



other prisoners dined miraculously in this way.371 Once al-K~m rose to the sky and
returned with a spear made from light; al-Rashid was very frightened and he fainted
three times because of it. All these miracles which happened when


was in

prison are related by Ibn Rustam al-Tabari in his Dali'i1. 372 It is interesting to note
that the sanads of these narrations were chosen from those which were constructed
by some famous Sunni traditionists. For example, the miracle about the tree of fruit
planted in the cell is related with the chain of "Sufyin al-Thawri (d. 161/778) - Walti'
b. al-JarraJ::t (d. 197/812) - A'mash (d. 148/765)" , which is a very famous and reliable

sanad in the Sunm lJadith. Ibnihim b. Sa'd and Ibnihim b. al-Aswad another two
Sunni rawis 373 who were placed by Ibn Rustam in the sanads attesting



miracles. In conclusion, it can be said that Ibn Rustam or someone before him

369 al-Majlisi, XLVIII, p.84.

370 According to the Qur' in, the Prophet Moses did a similar thing before
Pharaoh, see al-Qur'an, xx: 66-9, xxvi: 44-5.
371 This Minick probably referredlDlverse of the Qur' an (v: 114) in which it
is said that God sent down a tahle for Jesus and his disciples upon their request.

3n Data'il. pp.157-8.
373 al-Dhahabt describes Ibrahtm b. Sa'd (d. 1831799) as a reliable rawi
(M I zan, I. Pf .,.3--5), wher~'i he .says that Ihrahim h. al- .-'\SVo'ad's reliabilty was open
to question (jihi na~ar) (Tbai. . 1, p,20),

probably intended by relating these narrations with th ese sanads that they should
become a factor which might lead Sunni Muslims to believe in these amazing
incidents. However, despite this, it is unlikely that anyone believed in them except for
some credulous Shi'i partisan5.


is repated to have seen events in the future. He informed one of his

disciples of the exad. time in which the former would return after his release from the
detention of al-Mahdi. 374 He would know the times in which his disciples would die
as well as the places where their deaths would take place. He sometimes told them
these prediC1ions to their faces. 3 75 On one occasion, he saved the life of a Shi'i by
predicting that his house would collapse. The Shili removed his family from it and
took the necessary things with him. When they went out, the house crashed down. 3 76

According to some traditions.


was able to speak Persian


Ethiopian language 378 and Chinese 379. He was also able to understand the language
of birds. 380 He could read the Bible perfectly. A Christian named Abraha is alleged to


al-Kulayni. i. pp.477-8; al-Rawandi. i. 315-6.

For examples, see al-~aff8r. pp.283-6; al-Kulayni. i. p.484; al-Kashshi,

pp.442-3; al-Rawandi. i. pp.310. 317,324.



al-l.funyan, p.336.
al-Irshad, p.444; al-I:limyari. p.339; Dati'il, p.169; al-Rawandi, i,
al-llimyan, pp.335-6; Dala'il. pp.169-70; al-Rawandl. i, p.312.

379 al-Rawandt,
3RO aJ-~atTar,

i. p.313.

p.336; Dala'il, p.17!: al-Tabarsi, I'lam, pp.294-5.


have said: "Only the Messiah can read so" . and embraced

Islam. 381

~tan.y other

miracles ascribed to al-Ka~ are fully narrated in several Imarru sources. 382

x - The Asceticism



and His Alleged Link to

some Early Sufis

Ibn Taymiyya reports: "Miisa b. la'far was celebrated for his style of worship
and good manners". 383 Indeed he seems to have drawn more attention from the sufis
or those who sought to pursue a spiritual1ife than most of the Imams were able to
from his predecessors or successors.

It is reported that al-Kii?-im used


prolong his prostrations (sujiid) for the

whole night. 384 He never used to give up any supererogatory prayers. The reports of

b. al-Rabie and the sister of al-Sindi b. Shabik. who were witnesses of the

Imam's daily life when he was in detention. about his style of worship are narrated in
full in both Sunni and Shi'i sources. 385 When this merit of the Imam was told



Rashid. he said that al-K~m was the monk of the Banu Hashim. 386

Al-Ka?-im's prodigious generosity is presented as another aspect of his

asceticism. He is reported to have searched for the poor people of Medina and given


M anaqt
_. b'
. tV, p. 310 .

382 For these miracles as a group. see Dati'il, pp.152-74; al-Rawandi. i.

pp.307-36; Manaqib, iv. pp.2R7-305; al-Tabarsi, I'lim, pp.291-5; al-Maj1isi,
XLVIII, pp.29-1 00.

Ibn Taymiyya, Minhaj. ii, p.155.

384 a1-Kh~b,

. pp. 77 , 87 .
p.-'7' '\J yun. I,

Uyun. i. pp.R6-7;
Fida, ii, p.15







xiii. p.31; al-Kamil. vi. p.112: ..-\hu al-

them baskets in which were money, flour and dates. 387 He always bad several purses
in which there were 300,400 or 2000 dinars. He used to give them to needy people
according to their needs. When anybody received such assistance from the Imam, his
financial difficulties were usually solved. 388 Therefore, "the purse of Musa" became a
proverbial phrase foc financial


coming unexpectedly from somebody.389 It

is reported that a slave was sent to him for service. He bought the slave from his
owner with the

e~ at

which the slave had worked. Then he set him free and gave

the estate to him.390 A man from the descendants of 'Umar b. al-Khattiib often
disturbed the Imam by cursing him and his family.


followers wanted to

kill the man. But he would not consent to it. One day he went to him and asked how
much money he hoped to make from his farm. The man expected about two hundred

dinars income.

A1-Ka~m gave

him three hundred dinars. This favour immediately

affected the man's behaviour towards the Imam. He began to praise him publicly in
the mosque. 391

His excessive expenditure on the banquets of his sons' weddings became a

matter of gossip in Medina. However,


was satisfied with what he had done.

He felt the need to remind people of a verse of the Qur'in in which God told the
Prophet Solomon: "Such are Our bounties: Whether you bestow them (on others) or
withhold them; no account will be asked" (al-Qur' in, xxxviii: 39).392

387 al-Irshad, p.448.

38fLal- Kh'a~tb, Xl11,

'il, p. 150 .
pp._17-8', Dal-a


Ibn 'Inaba, p.226; al-Tabarst, I'lam. p.296.


Ibn Kathtr. x, p. lR3; al-Irbilt.


39\ al Irshad. p.449; Data'il. pp. 150-1.

39~ aI-Kula) Ill. \1.

P 2R 1.


Shaqiq al-8alkhi (d. 194/810), the famous Kburasanian mystic



is reported

have encountered al-Ka~ at al-Qadisiyya while on his way to the pilgrimage in the

year 1491766. According


the story, Shaqiq thought that he was a mendicant sufi.

However, some remarks and signs from the Imam attracted him, so he began to
follow him. During the journey, he witnessed some miracles of al-K~m. It was not
until they reached Mecca that Shaqiq finally discovered


identity. When he

saw him surrounded by a huge crowd, he asked who it was and he was told that it
was Musa al-Karim. 394



says that al-Ramahurmuzl related this story in his Kariimit

al-Awliyi' .395 The author is Abu Mu~ammad al-~asan b. 'Abd al-R~an alRamahurmuzi (d. circa 360/970). the judge of Khuzistan. His above-mentioned work
is not extant. According to H. Algar's research, al-Ramahurmuzi appears to be the

author to record the story. The story is absent in the early sufi biographical

dittionaries and in the early works of the Im8.m.iyya which give the accounts of lives of
the Imams such as al-Irsbad. Algar determines this fact as an argument against the
authenticity of the story even though he sees it quite plausible that Shaqiq and alKa~m could ~\It~on such an occasion. 396 Ibn Taymiyya objects to the authenticity of

the story and regards it as a "lie". He says that in the year 149 H. , a year after Ja'far
a1-~adiq' s


death, al- K~m was in Medina and it was well-known that he was never

For him, see al-Sulami, p.54.

Dala'il. pp.155-6; Ibn al-Jawzi. ~ifat. ii. pp.l04-5; Sib~, pp.34R-9;

Kashf, iii. pp.3-4; al-l,lilli. Minhaj al-Karima. pp.l01-2; Ibn al-~abbagh.
pp.219-20; al-Haytarni, pp.124-5.



al-~abbagh, al-Fu~ul

al-Muhimma, p.220.

11. Algar. "Imam Musa al-Ka~im and ~ufi Tradition", pp.3-6, 9.,-\lgar
Indicates Ibn al-Jawzl's ~ifat al-~afwa, after al-Ramahurmuzi's non-extant work,
a~ the oldest work narrati ng the story. However, before Ihn al-Jawzl, a certai n Shl' I
author, Ibn Rustam al-Tahan (d. circa400/t009-tO), narrates it with its sanad in his
Dala'il al-A'imma (pp.155-6), which apparently makes ~ifat al-~afwa a later

present in Iraq until al-Mabdi had him arrested and brought to Baghdad. 397 \ly own
research in this thesis also confirms this conclusion.

The second sufi whose name has been linked to that of al-Kazim
is Abu Nasr
Bishr b. al- l:hirith al-I:Iafi (d. 226/840 or 227/841-2). 'Allama al-I:Wli narrates a story
about how Bishr gave up his life of dissipation and became repentant. According to
the story, when the Imam was passing in front of Bishr's house, he was distressed to
hear the sound of music. A slave girl came out from the house.



whether the owner of the house was a freeman or a slave. She replied that he was a


observed that this must be true, because if he was a slave ('abd),

he would fear God with regard to what he had done. The girl returned to the house
and told Bishrwhat al-Kazim had said. Bishrbecame so affected that he came out and
declared his repentance before the Imam. 398

Ibn Taymiyya again refuses to accept this story, putting forward that when the
Imam was in Baghdad, he was under the detention by aI-Rashid and had no freedom
to walk about Baghdad. 399 However, in fact, some sources report that a1-K~ was
released by al-Rashid for a brief while and then rearrested. 4oo But in any case, the
stocy, again, seems unlikely. Unlike the story of Shaqiq al-Balkhi, the story of Bishr
has no widesfX"ead circulation. Early Shi'i and Sunni works which give the accounts
of the lives of the Imams or those of famous sufis report nothing about this link.
Furt.henn ore, al-Qushayri connects Bishr's repentance with another incident: He found

a piece of paper on the road on which the name of God was written; he cleaned it and


Ibn Tuymiyya, Minhaj, ii, p.155.

al-llilh, Minhilj al-Karama, p.l02. Also Ibn Taymiyya quotes it in

Minhaj al-Snnna, ii, p.143.


Ibn Ta) mij)'Ll, Mi nhaj, ii, p. 155

400 SL"e

pp. 155-6 above.


perfumed it with an expensive perfume. So it was this act which became the turning
point in his life. 401

In conclusion, these alleged links between


and the two famous sufis

remain unproved. Numerous narrations about al-IGi~im's asceticism in boch Sunni and
Sh1 '1 sources might encourage some sufis to find such a link. The pro- 'Mid feature of
sufi opinion is well-known and therefore the sufis, whether they have SUnnl or Shi'i
inclinations, liked

their masters to enjoy such a relationship with noble descendants

of the Prophet. 402


al-Qushayn, p. 11. Ibn Khallikan also cites it (v. i, p.275).

402 For a similar Itnk hetween 'Ali b. tvlusa and t\1a'ri.lf al-Kark.ht. another
famous mystic. see pp.370-1 helow. Also for a detailed examination of \1usa alKa!-im's place in the sufi tradition, see Hamid Algar. "Imam Musa al-Ka?-im and Suft
Tradition" . Islam ic c.ulture. 64 (1990), pp. 1-14.





This chapter attempts to present a critical account of the life of the Imam Ali

The main focus in the chapter is the caliph al-Ma' miin's remarkable decision

to nominate al-Ri~a as his heir apparent. A detailed discussion about this matter

throws some light on the factors which drove al-Ma'mun to propose it. The
importance of this event in (Abbasid history is also traced. The Imam's sudden death
and speculations concerning it are other matters of investigation presented in the
chapter. In order to give a complete account of


he is also treated as a

traditionist and saint. The chapter provides information about al-Ri~a's policy towards
ghuLQt elements and their ideas. It also includes a large section investigating the crisis

of succession which was chiefly caused by the Waqifi group following



I - The Birth of al-Ri"i, His Kunyas and Epithets

'Ali al-Rida
His mother was one of al. was the eldest son of Musa al-Kazim.

slave-wifes, who was also the mother of Ibriihim, al-'Abbas and al-Qasim. 1

There are different accounts in the sources of her origin. Some authors record that she
was "Marsiyya", i.e. from an anchorage town, whose location is unknown.2
According to another account, she was a Nubian, 3 which is the name commonly given
to the people living in villages located between Aswan in southern Egypt and northern

al-Irshad, p.4S7.

2 Manaqib, iv, p.367; Kashf. iii, p.49. Tbn al-Khashshab (p. 193) says that
she wa~ "1\'luravsiyya"
or "\1arayslyya".


3 'lJyun, i, p.14: al-Tahar.il. Taj. p.49: Ibn al-~ahhagh, p.230: Kashf. iiI,
p.49; at Dhahab1. Si yar, i'\. p. 387: al-Safadl, '\xi i, p.24R.


Sudan. 4 These two accounts might sugge~ that she was from an anchorage village in
West Nubia on the coast of the Red Sea. 5 It can also be propounded that, because
'Ali's complexion was very dark (asmar am iq).6 his mother was of Negro origin.

Fernea sees it possible that the name "Nubian" was broadly applied to Africans who
had entered the Muslim world as part of the Nubian slave trade. 7 Ibn Abi al-Thalj's
description of her as "Butiyya"

is probably a mistake in transcription through a

of "Nubiyya" .

The original name of 'Ali al-Ri~a's mother was probably "T.k.t.m". Her other
name was "Najma" ("star") which is said to have been given to her by al-Ki?:im's
mother, al-I:Iamida, and when 'Ali was born to her, al-I:Iamida added "al-Tahira" ('the
pure oneil) to "Najrna". 9 In the I:zadith of Jabir b. 'Abd Allah, which is said to have
been reported from the Prophet, giving the names of the twelve Imams with their
mothers' names, she was also called "Najma". 10 Her other names given in the sources
are "al-Khayzaran" ("reed"), Arwa


"Sakan al-Nubiyya" ("the

wife of Nubia"), "Sukayna" ("the young wife"), "Suha" (the name of a dim star in

Yiqut, iv, p.820-l; R. Fernea, "Nubians", in Muslim Peoples, ii, 559.

Yaqut reports that Nuba was also the name of a region on the coast of the
Red Sea in South-west Arabia. which was given this name because of its Nubian
population. see Yaqut, iv, p.821.

Ibn al-~bagh, p.2l8;


xxii, p.251; al-Qunduzi, p.385.

7 R. Fernea, op. cit., p.560. If al-Ri~a's mother attuallywas of Negro origin,

this would conflict with an Imami tradition attributed to al-$idiq, according to which,
the latter did not approve of buying Sudanese concubines. He says that they are those
about whom God has said: "From those who call themselves Christians, we did take a
covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent them" (al-Qur' an,
v: 14). In another tradition, 'All b. Abi TaIib prohibits marriage with Negro women,
hecause, he said. they are "ugly creatures" ("khalq mushawwah"), see al-Kulayni.

Ibn Ahl al-Thalj. p.2S.

'lJyun. i. pp.13-4.


'lJ yu n.


p. 33..

Ursa Major), "TaJ:tiyya" ("salute"), "Sumana" ("quail'),


("falcon"), "Salama"

("peace"), "Shahda" ( honey"), "Safra'" ("yellow"). Her nickname was 'Shaqni'"

("brown-haired") whereas her kunya is recorded as "Umm al-8anin" ("the mocher of
sons" ).11

Some traditions narrate the stay of the purchase of Najma. According to the
story, al- Ka~ said that he had bought this concubine at the order of God. \Vhen he
was sleeping, his father and grandfather came with a peace of silk fabric. They spread
it out. In it a picture of a slave-girl was placed, covered by a wrap. They told him to
buy her and, when she gave birth, to name the baby 'Ali. 12 Another tradition has it
that a slave trader bought Najma for himself from a remote area of al-Maghrib. A
woman from Ahl al-Kitab (the People of the Book, i. e. Jews and Christians) met him
on the road and told the trader that it was not appropriate that she should have been
with the like of him, because she would soon give birth to a son who had not been
born in the east or the west, therefore this slave-girl should be with the best person on
earth. The trader came to Medina. He did ntt sell the girl. Al-Kim was offered other
good slave-girls to buy, but he insisted on buying that girl although she was described
as being sick. At last al- Ka~m bought her paying the maxim urn price which the trader
demanded for her. D However, another account indicates that it was al-l:Iamida, the
mother of al-K~, who bought Najma: Al-l:Iamida saw the Prophet in her dream; he
ordered her to grant Najma to


because, the Prophet said, she would give

'Uyun. i, p. 14; al-Kulayni, i, p.486; al-Mufld, al-Ikhti~a~, p.197; alIrshad. p.461; al-Qummi. p.95; Ibn Abi al-Thalj. p.25; aI-'Umari, p.l'28; Dala'il,
p. 183; Manaqib,.iv. p.367; Ibn al-~~ashsbab, p.193;al-Tab~1. IClam, p.302;
idem. Taj. p.49; Slb~. p_351; Kasbf. 111, p.49; al-Dhahabl, Styar, lX, p.387; Ibn al~ahbagh, p. 230; al-~afadl, xxii, p.248.


D at a ' i I. p. 176.

al-Muftd, al-Ikhti~a~. p.197; al-Irsbad, pp.465-6; al-Kulaynl, i.

pp.4S6-7; 'Uyun, i, pp.14\ al-Rawandt. ii. pp653-4.


birth to one who would be the most excellent of the people of the earth. 14 It is also
recrrded that she was a virgin when she was bought. 15

'Ali b. Musa was born in Medina About his birth year several dates have been

given. The year 148/765 as his date of birth corresponds with year of the death of the
Imam al-$3diq. 'Ali is reported to have been bom some months after his grandfather's

death. 16 As the date of al-$adiq's death was Rajab or Shawwat of 148/765,17 'Ali
might have been born in one of the last months of the year, probably in Dhil al-Qa'da I
December, 765 - January, 766 as Taj al-Mawalid records. 18 Another date given for
the birth of the Imam is 153/770. 19 Al-Nawbakhti's account gives the date as 151
H .. 20 There are two other accounts of later dates. Ibn Abi al-Thalj's account in his

"History of the Imams" that al-RicJa died in 202 H. at the age of forty-seven indicates
the year 15517n as his date of birth. 21 From al-Ya'qubi's statement that al-Ri~ died


'Uyiln. p.14.

'Uyl:in. i, pp.12, 14. Al-Shaybi highlights the abundance of fabulous

stories in the ImWni books of tradition about the slave-wives who gave birth to the
Imams. He suggests that these traditions tended to cover up bad characteristics which
were normally expected to be inherited from slave-girls, from which the descendants
of the Prophet were clear, see al-Shaybi, al-~il a. i, p. 237.


al-Tabarsi, Taj, p.49.


al-Kulayni, i, p.472; al-Tabarsi, I'lam, p.266; idem, Taj, p.44.

al-Tabarsi, Taj. p.48. Other sources giving the date as 148 H. are alKu1aym, i, p.486; al-Irshid, p.461; al-Kimil, vi, p.249; Abu al-Fida, ii, p.23; al~afadi, xxii. p.248.

19 The months of 153 H. recorded as al-Ri~a's date of birth are Rabi' I.

Shawwal and Dhu al-l-:lijja. see 'UynD, i. p.l5; Murilj. iii, p.44l; lthbat, p.229:
Dala'il, p.175; Ibn al-Khashshib, p.192; Maniqib. iv, p.367; Ibn Khallikan, iii,
p. 270; Ibn al-lmad. ii, p.6; Kashf. iii. p.49: Ibn Tulun. p. 93: al-Qunduzl, p.3R3.

20 al-Nawbakhll. p. 73. Also see al-Qumml, p.94.


Ibn Aht al-Thalj. p. 12.


at the beginning of the year 203 H. at the age of forty-four, the latest date of birth

appears as 1581774-5 or 1591775-6. 22

lmami sources give some miraculous reports about


birth. According

to a narration in 'Uyiin. 'Ali's mother, when she was pregnant with him, did not feel
the weight of the pregnancy. She used to hear, when she was sleeping. voices
glorifying Allah (tasbil:l) , utterances of "Lii iliiha iliii Alliih" (tahlii) and
praises to Allah (tamjitf), but, when she woke up, these sounds used to disappear. It
;s also reported

that "'Ali came into the world, like his father, laying his hands on the

ground, but raising his head to the sky and his lips were stirring as if he was
speaking". Then his mother took him to


He called for water and smeared it

on 'Ali's palate (/:Jannakahu bihi).23

Ali's well-known kunya was Abu al-I;Iasan. It is reported that al-Ka?im, by

gi ving 'Ali his own kun ya, wanted to indicate the latter's succession to the imama
after him. 24 In order to prevent confusion among three Imams called Abu al-I:Iasan
(i. e. al-Ka.?im) al-Ric;ta and (Ali al-Hadi). traditionists, who had a tendency to use the

kunyas of the Imams in place of their names in their isnad. usually preferred to
record al-Rif:ia instead of his kunya or added it to his k.unya. They also added "al-


al-Ya'qubi, iii, p.188.

'Uyun, i. p.17; al-Rawandi. i, p.337. 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Ir"hili gives a detail

about this Islamic tradition (ta/:lnik) practised by al-K~im. He records another
version of the above-mentioned narration in which al-Kazim smeared the water of the
Euphr~es (ma' al-Furat) on the palate of his son. Ai-Trbili thinks that this water
was probably sweet water (ma'un furatun). not the water of Euphrates (ma' alFurat). although he observes that it was possible for the Imams to have water
brought from Euphrates to \1edina instantly see al-Kashf. iii. p.B8.


Uyun. i. p.18: al-Irsbad. p.471; al-Tabarsi. 1" tm. pp.303-4.


Tharu" ("the second") or "al-Kburasaru" ("Khuriisaruan") to Abu



otberwnyas recorded by the sources are Abu Bakr, Abu al-Qasim and Abu ':-\11. 26

The history sources and some records in the Imami traditions agree that the
nickname "al-Ric;1a" ("the contented oneil) was given to 'Ali by the caliph al-Ma'mUn
when the laller designated him as his heir to the throne. 21 However, according


narration in 'Uylin, which seems to be tendentious in order to avoid the name al-Ric;1a
from being given to him by al-Ma'mlin who was regarded by the Imamiyya as an
unjust ruler as well as the murderer of the Imam, Af:tmad b. MuJ:tammad al-B~~, an
Imam1 follower, asked MuJ;tammad b. 'Ali, the son of al-Ri<;la:
A group which is in opposition to you claims that the nickname
"al-Ri<;la" was given to your father by al-Ma'mlin since he consented
(rat)iya) to become al-Ma' mlin's successcr !
Mu1;tammad said: - They have lied, by God, and acted immorally. On
the contrary, Allih, the Blessed and the Exalted, called him "al-Ri<;la",
because he was contented with Allah (raf)iya lilUih) in His heaven,
and also contented with His Apostle and with the Imams after him on
His earth.
I (the narrator) asked: -- Has not each of your former fathers been
contented with Allah, the Apostle and the Imams?
He said: -- Yes, indeed.
I asked again: -- So, why was only your father called "al-Ri<;la"
He said: -- Because as well as those who were contented with him
from his associates, his opponents from his enemies were also
contented with him. None of his fathers was in this situation.
Therefore, he was called "al-Ric;1a" (" the contented one").28


25 For example, see al-Kashsh1, pp.145, 490,491,498; al-Tabarsi, Taj.


Maqatil. p.561; Manaqih. iv, p.366; al-Mamaqaru, i. p.lR9.

... p. 101")'
_.". p...~ 63 ; U yun, 11,
. . p. 146 ; a I - I rs h a d .
-1 1 al-.T ahan. 111,
-. M aqatt,
p.471: Ihn Kathtr. x. p.247; al-Kamil. vi. p.230; Ibnal-Tiq~a. p.216.
28 U yu



p. 11.

His other nicknames (/aqah) were




("the patient"). "al-'AYafi" ('the

("the testator"), "al-Zalci" ("the pure") and 'al-Wali (the

guardi an "). 29

There are


no accounts of 'Ali b. Musa's childhood and youth. It is only

reported by some Sunni sources that he started to give!atwiis in his twenties. 30

II - The Split in the Party

Despite the fact that the split which was caused by the Waqifa in the Imami
party after


death was one of the important incidents in the history of

Shi'ism because it was long-lasting and of quite serious dimensions, no

comprehensive academic work. examining it has yet been done in Western languages.

1. Friedlaender, in 1908, gave some brief information about the Waqifa in his
commentary on his translation of a section of Ibn J:Iazm's


about Islamic

sects. 31 Rajkowski was perhaps the first author to write some important historical
facts about the W~ifa. He, after outlining different Waqifi groups. suggests that these
groups were probably not separate sub-groups of the sect; they only represented
various opinions as to the real meaning of al-Ka~1m's concealment and his future role
as the Qa'im. 32 M. Wan is another scholar who paid brief attention to the sect. The
information given by Watt was largely derived from two sources; Firaq al-Shi' a of



Ibn Abi al-Thalj, p.28; Ibn al-Khashshab, p.194;

p.230 .


p.351; Ibn al-

As quoled from al-Waqidl (d.207/823) and al-J:-lilim al-Ntsabun

(dA04:1014), see Sib~, pp.351-2: Ihn al-Jawzi, al-Munta?-am, x. pp.119-20; allrbill, Khula~a, p.200; Ibn Hajar, Tahdhtb, vii, p.387.

~ I

Friedlaender, "The HeterodoxIes". 1908 (29') pp.49-52 .

.1, 2

Rajkowsk,l, "Farly Shi' Ism . pp.616-8.


al-Nawbakhti and the Fihrist of al- TUst. 33 M. O. Salih, in his Ph. D. thesis, only
touched on the


even though this sect should have been central to

the topic of his study. 341. Hussain mentioned briefly the roles of some of


agents in the emergence of the Waqifa. 35

W. Madelung has spoken about the early Shi'. belief of the Qa'im and, in this
regard, briefly examined the Waqifi belief of the Qa'im. He emphasises that some of
the Waqifi traditions were later used by the Twelver Shi (a when they declared that the
Twelfth Imam was the Qa'im. Madelung also gives the names of some of the
Waqifi scholars who wrote on the ghayba. 36 Moezzi has also recorded the authors
and titles of some Waqifi and


works which were probably written for polemical

purposes. 3 7 H. Modarressi, when he investigated the crisis of succession in the Imimi

party, has touched on the Waqifi sect. His two large footnotes about the Waqifa
contain some valuable information. 38 There is no entry on the Waqifa in the first
edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam. In its second edition, an entry on the sect is
expected to appear soon.

There is no adequate information about the extremist Waqifa, the Bashiriyya,

in modern studies. Moreover, despite the fact that the proclamation of A.t)mad b.
Musa's imama firstly took place just after


death, no works traced this

when they investigated this period of crisis. This section of the thesis aims to examine


see Watt, Formative Period, pp.160-1; "Sidelights", p.295.

sec M.O. Salih, "Mahdism in Islam up to 260 A. H./874 A. D. and its

Relation to Zoroastrian, Jewish and Chri~an Me~anism", p.297.


.1. Hussain, Occultation, pp.80-1; "New Light", p.40.


Mudclung. "at "1ahdt". EI2. v, p.1236.


Moczzi, pp.lOl-2.

3S "10darrl'ssl pp.602, footfl(~t:s 30,33.


these splits within the Imami party by using all the information availahle in the

1 - The Emergence of the Wiqifa - A Serious Challenge to the

Leadership of al-RiC!fi

When Musa


died in 183/799, a big division took place within the

Imami community. A considerable number of people who followed some prominent

disci pies of al-K~ denied the death of the Imam and declared that he had gone into
occultation (ghayba) and would come back some day as the Qa'im to restore justice
and equity on earth. They also refused to accept the imama of 'Ali


whom was

claimed by some to have succeeded his father through a testament. Because they
stopped (waqa/a) the line of Imams with


and did not continue it, they were

called the Waqifa. 39

This kind of claim was not new in the history of Shi'i ideology. The Shi'is
were quite familiar with the belief of the ghayba and this factor seems to have
facilitated the belief of the Waqifa to be adopted easily by large numbers. AlNawbakhti asserts that the first W{qifi claim in Islam was that of 'Abd Allah b. Saba' ,
an extremist Shi'i from the circle of 'Ali b. Abi Talib. When 'Ali died, 'Abd Allah
contended that he was still alive and that he would not die until he came back to the
world and drove the Arabs with his ~ck.40 The followers of 'Abd Allah believed that
'Alt was in the skies; the thunder was his sound and the lightning was his whip. When

sec al t\awhakhtl, pp.67-70; al-Qumml, pp.R9-9l: al-Balkhl, p.ISl: al

:\sh'an. i, pp.28-9; al Razl. pp.2R9-90; al-Shahristant, r 145.

40 al-Nawhakhu.


they heard a sound of thunder they used to say: "Peace be upon you, 0 the
Commander of the faithful !". 41

Another similar group denied tbat al-I:Jusayn b. 'Ali b. Abi Tatib had been
killed at Kamala. They maintained that be was raised to the heavens like Jesus had
been raised before. They put forward a verse of the Qur'in as evidence that "God
will never grant to the unbelievers a way over the believers" (al-Qur'in, iv: 144), so
the killing of al-I:Iusayn did not actually happen. 42 Al-Mufid calls this group the
Mufawwi~a. 43

After Mu~ammad b. al-I:Ianafiyya had died in 81nOO, several groups

declared that he had not died and he was the Qa'im. 44 One group of them believed that
he was on the hill of Rac;1wa between Mecca and Medina. He was nourished by God
with food and drink. A lion on his right and a tiger on his left always protected him
and this would continue until his reappearance. 45 His son, Abu Hashim, was also
claimed to have been the Qa'im by an extremist group called the Bayaruyya. They
stopped their line of Imams with him and started to wait for his reappearance. 46


grandfather al-Baqir and his father al-$idiq became the targets of

similar Waqifi claims as well after their deaths. A minority group which is called by
the heresiographers the Baqiriyya believed in Mu~ammad al-Baqir's concealment. 4 7
The group maintained that he was the Mabdi - Qa'im and this fact had been told by the


F. al-Razi, Mu~~~al, p.242; idem, I'tiqidit, p.53.








sec al-Nawbakhu, pp.15, 26,28.


al-Nawbakhtl, p.26.


al-Nawbakhtl, p.30.


al ShahnSlanl, p. 142; al-Isfara'tnl. p.22: F al-Razl. l'tiqadat, p.53:

ii, pp.503-4.
al-Mukhtira, p.254.

idem. Mul:l~~al p.242


Prophet to Jabir b. 'Abd Allill, a Medinan disciple of the Prophet who is said to have
met with al-Baqir. The Prophet told Jabir that he would meet the Qa'im and, when it
would happen, he should give the Prophet's greeting to him.48 Another group called
the Nawusiyya denied al-$adiq's death proclaiming him as the Qi'im.49 Similarly, a
body of proto-Ism a 'ilis disclaimed the death of Ismi'il b. Ja 'far during his father's
lifetime and alleged that his death was a ruse of al-$idiq's in order to save Isma'il
from the "Abbasid persecution. Al-Shahristani designates this group "al-Isma'iliyya al- fa . 50
W aql

The belief that al-Ki?:im would be the Qa'im seems to have already spread to
some extent within the Imami community when


was still alive. It seems that

this was so especially as the result of the circulation of a


in which al-$adiq

was related to have said that the seventh Imam would be the Qa'im.51 This created an
expectation that it was al-Ka?:im who would establish justice and equity on earth. For
that reason, when the Imam died in custody, the vizier Yaf:1ya b. Khalid ordered it to
be announced that Musa al-Ka?:im, whom the Shi"is


claim was the Qa'im

who would not die, had died and that they should come and look at his dead body.52
Although the identity and the number of these people are not known, they must have
been a considerable number of people since the government delayed the Imam's
funeral by displaying his body on a bridge in Baghdad for three days in order to
convince the people of al-Ka~'s death. 53


al-Baghdadi, pp.64-5.

49 For this group, see pp. 82-6 above.


alShahrisrant. p. 144. Also see p.60 above.


see al-Kashshl. pA7S al-Shahristaru. p.144.


Maqitil, p.505: al-Irshid. p 456.


Ibn' Inaba. p.26.


All the Waqifis agreed that Musa al-Kil?:im went into concealment and would
return some day and carry out the tasks of tbe Qa'im. However, there was
disagreement among them about the immcrtality of the Imam and tbe function of CAll

who bad already been proclaimed as the new Imam by a number of tbe

followers. Some heresiographers reveal this disagreement. It is understood from these

reports that many Waqifis thought that


had not died. He went out from tbe

prison and nobody saw him after that. But al-Rashid falsified this fact and announced
that al-K~m had died. These ShielS circulated a #:Jadith in which


said that if

head was rolled down to them from a mountain, they should not believe it,

because he was the Qa'im. 54 In another #:Jadith a1-~adiq was related to have said:
"Whosoever comes to you and tells you that he has nursed my son, closed his eyes,
washed his body, put him in his grave, and shaken off his bands

the dust of his

grave, do not believe him 1\.55

Other Waqifis accepted the death of

them was that



The opinion of one group of

after his death, returned to tbe world and went into hiding

where he continued to command his followers. A small selected group of his disciples
was able to visit him and see him. They relied on a #:Jadith attributed to



the Qa'im was called so because he would rise (yaqiimu) after baving died. The
opinion of another group was that


died and he would return sometime near

the day of resurrection, like Jesus, to fill the earth with justice as it was filled with
injustice and despotism. They relied on a statement ascribed to al-$adiq that in al-

al-Nawbakhlt. pp.67-8: al-Qumml, pp.89-90; al- Mufld, at Fu~ul al

MukhLara. p.254.

This is related on the authority of .. \1.1 b.

the \\aqita. sec al~TuSl. al-Ghayba. p37.


:\hl Harnza.

one of the leaders of

Ka-?..im there was a resemblance (shibh) with Jesus and be would be killed at the
hands of "the children of al-'Abbas".56

All these Shi'is were called the Waqifa. The majcrity of them did not accept
any Imam after al-Ka~m and they categorically rejected the imama of 'Ali al-Ri<;1a.
However, some of them gave some place


him and his descendants in their beliefs.

They did not accept them as Imams; they were only the representatives of


until he would return to the earth as the real Imam. 5 7

There was another group which could be regarded as the sceptical Waqifa
They considered the contradictory statements about the life of


equal in

reliability. They also did not regard the traditions of al-Ri<;1a's designation to the irnama
as explicit enough for them


set aside other traditions showing al-Kii?im as the last

Imam and the awaited Qa'im. Therefore, they decided to wait and did not come to any
conclusion about the matter until the truth emerged. 58 Al-Nawbakhti rep<rts that many
people from this group later accepted al-Ri<;1a's imama and joined his party. AlKashshi gives some names from these Waqifis. According to al-Kashshi, from the

'Ali b.


Ibrahim b. Shu'ayb. Ibriihim b. Abi Sammal

and his brother Isma'il b. Abi Sammw died in doubt about whether


was the

last Imam or not. 59 Al-Nawbakhti and al-Qummi consider this group as being within

56 al-Nawbakhu, p.68: al-Qummi. p. 90; al-Razi, p.290.

57 al-Nawbakhtl, p.68; al-Qummi, p.90. Al-t..1ufid likens these WaqiflS to
those Kaysants who accepted the Imam al-J:Iasan and al-J:Iusuyn as the representatives
of the real Imam Mu~ammad h. al-Hanafiyya. According to al-Muftd, the corrupt
nature of this belief was quile ohvious, see al-Fu~ul al- Mukhtara, p. 254.

al-Qumml, p.91: al-Ash'an,

pp.65-6; al-Isfara'lnl, p.23.

59 set.' al- Kashshl, pp.469-74:


'\Jaja"ihl, p. 16.


p.29 a1 Baghdadi,

the Waqifa. 60 Al-Nashi' and al-Balkhi show them as the third group besides the
Waqifis and those who accepted

al-Ri~a' s imama following

the dispute and the schism

within the party over al-Ka~'s death. 61 At-Baghdadi reports that they were called
the Musawiyya, because they awaited the return of Musa b. lafar. 62 Al-Shahristiini
and Fakhr al-Razi also separate them from other Waqifi factions and call them the
Mam~ura 63,

which was another name for the Waqifa, the meaning of which will be

explained presently. The doubt of this group does not seem to have remained for a
long time. According to al-Nasbi' , most of these sceptics later accepted the death of alK~m

and joined the party of al-Ri<;ta. The rest gave up their doubts and decided to

continue with the Waqifa. 64

The dimension of the schism caused by the Waqifa seems to have been much
greater than has generally been thought. Al-Tust in his Rijil indicates fifty-four
Waqifi names among the disciples of al-K~m. This number is about one fifth of all
the disciples of the Imam whose names are given by al-Tusi. 65 The Waqifis even
managed to win Ibriihim, the son of al-K~, over to their sects. 66 Although,
according to the majority of the sources,


had only one son named Ibnihim.

al-'Uman and Ibn 'Inabagive two names as the elder and the younger Ibrihim among


al-Nawbakhti, p. 70; al-Qummi, p.91.


al-Nashi' . pp.47-8; al-Balkhi, p.l81.

al-Baghdadi, p.66. According to al-Ash'ari, the Musawiyya were those

Sht'ts who followed the imama of t\1usa al-Ka~im after al-$adiq's death. not
belonging to the Isma'lliyya, the A~iyya or the Nawusiyya (Maqalat, i. p.29).


al-Shahristant, p. 145: F. al-Razi,


al 1\.1asht, pp.4 7 -R.


sec al-Tusl. Rijal. pp.342-66.


al Kulaynt.



Mu~~~al, p.243.

the sons of al-Ka?-im. 67 For this reason, we cannot say with any certainty that this
Waqifi Ibrahim b. Musa was the same Ibrahim who was the bloodthirsty governor of
Yemen on behalf of the rebel Abu al-Saraya and the caliph al-Ma'mun respecti vely. 68

No work of the Waqifa has reached us. Only al-TUst relates a large number of
Waqifi I)adith in his Kitib al-Gbayba in order to criticise them. These fcrty-one
traditions were quoted from the book of 'Ali b. Al:lmad al-'Alaw!. Al-Tust says that
the authcr wrote it to support the Waqifi belief. 69 Most of the traditions are attributed
to the Imarmal-Baqir and al-~adiq. For example, in a #:Jadith al-~diq said that there

was no father between him and the Qa.'im (literally: /Oa father does not knit (nasaja)
me and the Qa'im"). 'Ali b. Abt: Talib is related to have said on the pulpit of Kufa that
he was like the son of al-I:Iamida who would fill the earth with justice as it was filled
with injustice and despotism. A man stood up and asked whether the Qa'im was
indeed 'Ali or not. 'Ali said that he was from his offspring. 70 Al-I:Iamida, as has been
known, was the name of al-Kli?..im's mother. In another I)adith,


said that for

there were two sorts of concealment (ghaybatayn): The first was "a

change of residence (naql)" and the second was lithe extended one (ta~aVlVlul)". 71
As it is seen, the detention of the Imam in

Iraq was regarded by the W~ifa as a sort of

concealment, but his second and real concealment was extended by God until a time
which only He knew. A #:Jadith attributed to al-Baqir was also used to support. the
Waqift claim. Al-Baqir says that "tpe Master of this authority" C$ii#:Jib hiidhii alamr", i.e. the Qa' im, the Mahdi)wi1l be a model (sunna) of four prophets: Like the


al- 'Uman, p. 122; Ibn 'lnaba, p.231.


For him, see pp.237-R, 373-4 below.


al-Gbayba, pp.29-42.


al-Gbayba. p.35.


al-Ghayba. p.3R.


model of \J1oses, he will be watchful in a state of fear (Jc.ha'ifun yataraqqab);72

like the model of Joseph, he will be imprisoned; 73 like the model of Jesus, it will be
said that he died although he would actually not die;74like model of M~ammad, he
will fight with the sword. 75 In this tradition, the anxiety of al-K~m because of the
'Abbasid persecution against him and his detention which took place in the last four
years of his life were shown as the signs of the awaited Mabdi. The dispute over his
life after his death was another sign. What remained was to wait for his return to fight
against the enemies of God in order to provide real


on earth. Similar traditions

emphasise the same point. He, like his name-sake Moses (Musa) had done it before,
would rescue the Muslim nation from its Pharaoh. 76 The name of the Qa'im would be
that of "the owner of the Torah and the splitter of the sea f/aliq al-balJr)", i. e.
Moses oc Musa. 77 The Imam Zayn al- 'Abidin is related to have said that the name of
the Qa' im is "the iron of the barber" (lJadidat al-lJallDq), i. e. "the razor" which is

"mu&a" in Arabic. 78 The name "razor" also indicates the sword as well as the name of
its owner.

All these traditions which were circulated among the Shiea resulted in the
emergence of the Waq ifa sect. However, another important factor must not be
overlooked. According to Imam1 sources, a large amount of money belonging to al-


It refers to al-Qur' in, xxviii: 18,21.

73 It refers to al-Qur' an, xii: 32-53.


It refers to al-Qur' in. iv: 157.


al-Ghayba. p.40.


al-Gbayba. p.30.


al-Ghayba. p.31.


al-Ghayba. p.32


was hoarded by several Imam! agents (wukalj') in different towns. 79 When


died in custody, some agents did not accept 'Ali


as his father siegal

successor and did not forward the money and other valuables to him. As they had
used the money for their own interests, they put forward that


had not died,

but he had gone into concealment and thus they had a right to keep the money until he
would return as the Qa'im and ask for his possessions from them. These covetous
agents are shown by the Imamiyya as the protagonists of the Waqifa. Their identities
and the sum of money which they held are revealed by the sources.

'Ali b. Abi I:famza

among the followers of



was perhaps the most well-known Waqifi

He was the chief assistant (qi'id) of the blind

Imam! scholar Abu B~r Yal:tya b. Abi al-Qasim al-Asadi.&O 'Ali b. Abi I:famza was
the author of three books about the ritual prayers, the fast and the exegesis of the
Qur'in.81 He worked as the agent of


in Kufa. He expropriated 30,000

dinars which belonged to al-Ka~im. 82 'Ali firstly maintained that al-Ka~im would

return in eight months. It seems that when this prediction was not realised, he lost his
prestige in the community. &3 His death was reported to


when he was in Merv.

Thereupon, he is related to have said that 'Ali b. Abi I:famza was interrogated in his
grave by angels about the Imams; he enumerated all the Imams until al-K~, but he

For the financial activities of a1-Ka~im's party and the system of wdila.
see pp.403-8 below.


For Abu Basir al-:\sadi, see the index of al-Kashshi: al~ajashi, pp.308-9:
al-Mufid, a1-Ikhti~~. p.83; al-Mamaqaru. ii, biography no: 12975.

ai-rusi, Fihrist, pp.210-1: ai~ajashl. p.l75: Ibn Dawud, pp.478-9.

alKashshi, pp.405, 493; Ibn Babuya. 'Uyiin. i. p.91; Idem. 'Ilal. p23)
alTust, al-Ghayba, pp.42-3.


al Kashshl, pp 405 6.

was not able to pass to al-Ri<;ta, so he was beaten by them with a stick made from
ftre. 84

Another Waqifi agent was Abu al-Fac.:t1 Ziyid b. Marwan al-Qindi. a ma1llia
of the Banu Hashim. 85 Ziyad is said to have expropriated 70,000 dinars of alKim's after the death of the latter. 86 M~ b. Yunus al-Qurashi is also reported to
have taken possession of the money which was entrusted to him by



amount of which is not reported by the sources. 8 7 Besides 'Ali b. Abi ~amza, another
Kufan agent, I:Iayyan al-Saniij, was also a Waqifi. 88 He spent the money which he
expropriated by buying very expensive houses and making several contracts for
investment. Just before his death, he transferred by will all the possessions to the
inheritors of al-Kazim. 89

Some agents, although at the beginning they had acted with the Waqifa and
kept the trust money, not delivering it to al-Ri<;ta.later repented and returned it to him.

b. Abl Bishr al-Sarraj. according to al-I:Iasan b. 'Ali b.





scholar who was the son-in-law of AJ:tmad al-Sarraj, took 10,000

Dati' iI, p.188; Maniqih, iv. p. 337. For another version, also see alKashshi, pp.403-4.


For him, see al-rusi, Fihrist, p.146; al-Najashi. p.122; Ibn Dawud,

al-Kashshi, pp.467. 493; Ibn Babuya, 'Uyun. pp.25-6. 91; idem, 'Hal.
pp.235-6; al-rUSt, al-Gbayba. pp.42-3.


al-Kashshl, p.468; al-Najashi. p.294; Ibn Dawud, pp.507.

88 al-J:limyan. p.35l: al-Kashsht. p.459. Al-Kashsht gives the name of

another I1ayyan al-Sarraj who lived at the time of al-~.adiq. But h~ was. a Kaysant, not
a \V~ift. whohe1ieved that l'v1u~ammad h. al-l,Ianaftyya was stlll alJve (pp.314-6).
A1-Mam~ant ohserves that these two ":len are different persons and sug~.ests thaL the
name of the \Vaqift could he Hannan tnstead 01 Hayyan. see Tanqlh 11. htography
no: 34RO and 34R t.

al- Kashsht. pp.459-60.


dinars, which belonged to a1-K~im, into his possession, but, just before his death,
he enjoined al-I:fasan to return all the money to al-Ri~a. 90 'Uthman b. 'Isa al-Raw8..si
aI-Kufi was the agent of


in EgypL He is described as the shaykh of the

Waqifa. He was the author of several books onfiqh


and was considered as one of

the jurists of al-Ki?iro. 92 He had 30,000 dinars and six (or five) concubines which
were the possessions of al-K~im. When the latter died,
'Uthman to take delivery of



sent one of his men to

trusts. 'Uthman refused to deliver them. He

wrote a letter in which he said that al-Kazim had not died and he had not commanded
him to deliver the possessions to anybody. He also added that he had emancipated the
concubines and married them. 93 But, al-Kashshi reports that he later became penitent
and returned the possessions to al-Ri~a. 94

In addition to these agents, several other members of the Waqifa can be

identified in the sources. AI-J:Iusayn b. Qayama


("money changer") is

regarded as one of the leaders of the sect. 95 It was al-l:lusayn who told al-Ri~a to his
face that he was noc Imam because al-~3diq had said that an Imam must not be barren.
It is reported that a short time later M\ll.1ammad was born to al-Ri9a. This was told alJ:Iusayn. He said that this could be deemed as an important sign corroborating alRi~a's

imama, but he still would not disregard the traditions related from

which indicated a1-Ka~ as the Qa'im. 96


al-Gbayba, p.44; Maniqib, iv, p.336.


al-Najashi, p.212; Ibn Dawud, pp.476-7.


al-Kashshi. p.556.


Ibn Babuya. 'ltal. p.236; 'Uyun, i, p.92; al-Kashshl, pp.598-9.


al-Kashsht. pp.597-8.




al-Kula)'m, i. p.320: al-Kushshl, p.553; 'Uyun. it. p.21Q,





Al-Najashi describes al-J:Iusayn b. Abi Sa'id al-Mukari and his father Hashim
al-Mukan as prominent members of the Waqifa (wajhayn


al-WaqiJa).97 A1-

J:Iusayn al-Mukari and al-J:Iusayn b. Mihriin, another Waqifi leader, were among those
who criticised


because of his neglect of taqiyya. According to them, this

behaviour was not the way of the previous Imams and this fact was a clear indication
imama. 98 A tradition tells that al-Rida
of the false nature of al-Rida's
. tried to win alJ:Iusayn b. Mihriin over by sending to him a long admonitory letter. However, al-Ri<:Ja
preferred to send it to al-I:Iusayn's companions instead of sending it directly to him. In

this way al-Ri~a made them witnesses to his warnings and admonitions. Otherwise, it
was al-I:Iusayn's custom that whenever an unpleasant thing was asked from him by a
letter, he denied that he had received such a letter. 99 It seems that this letter did not
work. In another tradition,

al-Ri~a is

said to have prayed to God to make al-J:Iusayn b.

Mihrin and his family paupers due to his conduct with the Waqifa. 100

Some Waqifi traditionists seem to have made a large contribution in support of

the sect by their fabricated or misinterpreted traditions. Zur'a b. Mul:tammad alHadraml was one of them. He is seen as the first transmitter of the /:Iadith
designating al-Ka?oim as the Mahdi who was a model of some of the Prophets. IOl
Zur'a was the imam of a mosque in Kufa belonging to the Arab l:fa~rami tribe. t02
This mosque might have been used as a seminary foc the Waqifi group. Another two


al-Najashi, p.28.


'Uyun, ii, pp.214-5.


For the letter, see al-Kashshi, pp.599-603; Musnad


ii, pp.429-


al-Kashsht, p.405.


al-Kashsht, pp.4 76-7. For a similar'l.Jadith, see pp. 20 1-2 above.




13R. For I.ur'a' s profile, sec Ihid. , p. 125.


traditionistswere Yal;tyab. al-Qasim al-Azrli and Mu~ammad b. al-J:Iasan b. Shamun.

They were the rawis of the traditions in which al-~adiq was related to haye advised
his followers not to believe in the death of his son al-Kii?im. because he would be the
Qa'im. 103 Y~ya b. al-Qasim al-Azdi "al-J:Iadhdha'" ("shoemaker") must not be
confused with Abu

B~ Y~ya

b. Abi al-Qasim al-Asadi because of the similarity

between their names. Al-Kashsru and al-Najiisru seem to have fallen into this
mistaice. 104 Abu Ba~r al-Asadi,

who was a blind scholar from the prominent

disciples of al-~adiq, died in 150/767


and thus he must have had no connection

with the Waqifa. Al-Mamaqam recognised this mistake and explained it in his
book. 106 On the other hand, M~am.mad b. al-J:Iasan b. Shamun is reported to have
inclined later from

W~ifism to

extremism. Since he died in 258/8n being then 114

years old, 107 his contribution to the sect may be conjectured to be considerable .

. A Waqifischolar, 'Altb.


mentioning as he was the

first who wrote a book about the ghayba hased on the Waqifi thought. He was a
disciple of


At-Tust says that he wrote several books supporting his sect.

Another of his books was about the imfuna 108 Al:tmad b. MuJ:tammad b. 'Ali b.
'Umar b.


al-Qalla was also a learned Waqifi from the disciples of


Among his several books, his collection of traditions relating what had been said about


and his treatise criticising the Zaydi sub-group the 'Ajaliyya are worth


al-Kashshi. pp.475-6; al-Najashi, p.237.


sec al-Kashshi, pp.474-6; al-Najashi. pp.308-9.


al-Najasht. p.309.

106 sec Tanql ~.

ii. biography no: 12975.


all\ajasht, pp. 237 -R.


al-Tust. F i hrist, pp.2 16-7; al-NaJashi, p. 179.


noticing. 109 His younger brother. 'Ali b. MuJ;1ammad al-Qalla. wrote another \\-~ifi
work about theghayba.


Al-J:Iasan b. \1uJ;1ammad b. Suma'a al-Kindi (d. 263':877)

is described as a zealot Waqifi. He was the pupil of 'Ali a1-T~. He followed his
teacher and wrote another Kitib al-Ghayba in the Waqifi line of tbought. III It is
also reported that 'AbdAlHlh b. Jabala al-Kittiini and al-J:Iasan b. 'Ali b. Abi J:1amza.
who lived at the time of al-Ri~a, wrote books on the ghayba in Waqifi focm.

It seems that the books of the ghayba. which



to be written in the early

days of the Waqifa, firmly established the foundations of the sect. From all the reports
it appears that a severe contest took place from the begj ooj og between the party of 'Ali
al-Ric;ta and the Waqifi factions. The Waqifis attacked


in different ways. They

alleged that due to the fact that a1-Ri~a had not been able to be present in the funeral
procession of his father, he must not have been an Imam, because a Shi'i tradition
considered that lithe body of the dead Imam could not be washed by anyone except the
next Imam". 113 They also criticised

al-Ri~ because

of his proclamation of his imama

publicly without any fear. According to them. this conduct was nCX in accord with the
principle of taqiyya of the Shi'a and this was not the way which the previous Imams
had followed. 114 Furthermore, they



al-Ri~a's answers to

the questions

asked by his followers contradicted the traditions which had been related from his
predecessors. 1 15 The fact that


was left for a long time without any chi Id


al-Najashi, p.67.


al-Najashi. p.183.


al-Najashl. pp.29-31; al-Kashshi, p.469.


al-Najashi, pp.27, 150.


'Uyun, i, p.86. For the statement of this tradition. see al-Kulayru, i,


Uyun. ii. pp.214-5.


alllimvan, pp. 34R-9.



fanned anocherbasis of attack. They maintained tbat a real Imam amId not bave been



of course, did not leave tbese attacks undefended. According to

several traditions, the Imam accused the Waqifis of being Zindiqs and said that their
place in the hereafter would be Hell. 117 He allowed his followers to make qunu! (to
curse in


against the Waqifis and prohibited them from giving any zak.at to

them. 118 Al-Ri~a also used to send letters to some Waqifis in crder to convince tbem
of the trutb of his leadership. Although this failed in the case of al-I:Iusayn b. Mihriin
119, he managed to win ~ad b. Mu~ammad al-B~an~ over. 120 Prominent
members of al-Ri~a's party took part in this dispute as well. Once, Yunus b. 'Abd alRaJ;iman 121 and 'Ali b. Maytham 122 had a discussion with some Waqifis at a
meeting. The discussion became tense, therefore 'Alib. Maytham told them: "You are
more contemptible in my eyes than "al-mampjra" ("the rain-drenched dog "). 123

116 al-Kulayni, i, p.320; 'Uyiin, ii, p.210; al-Kashshi, p.553; al-Irshid,

117 al-Kashshi, pp.455-6, 461.
118 al-Kashshi, pp.456, 461.
119 see al-Kasbshi, pp.599-603; al-Mamaqaru, i, biography no: 3087.
120 al-Ghayba, p.47.
121 For him, see pp.427-30 below.
122 For him, see pp.424-6 below.
123al-Nawbakhti, p.69; al-R8.z.i, p.290; al-Shahristilni, p.145. According to alAsh'an (i, p.29), al-Baghdadt (p.66) and Fakhr al-Razi (Mu~~~al. p.243), this
statement wa~ made by Yunus b. 'Abd al-Ral:tman. Al-lsfani'tm says that it was
Zurara b. A'yan who said it (p. 23) . Ho.wever-. this last infonnati~n seems to h~ wrong
since Zurara is reported to have dl~d In 1501767, more than thirty years b:tore the
\Vaqifacame into existence. There IS also another story that, at the ttme ofal-Sadlq an
argument took place hetween the follow~ of Isma'tl b, Ja'far and the supporters of
Musa al-Kazim. They agreed to go to a platn and to pray to God to show them which
side was right. They went there as they had decided. ,\ftcr they had prayed, a rdin
cloud appe~fl~d and it rained only oyer al-Ka?jm'sgroup. This incident was told to alSadiq, so he called alKazim's group al-Mamtunl (lthbat, r 204. \Iso see al Balkhl.

This name seems to have become popular and it started to be used as an opprobrious
name for the Waqifi group. In addition, 'Ali b.
of 'Ali



al-Abwazi, another partisan

and one of his agents, 124 wrote liThe Book of the Qa'im" .125 This

book was probably written for the purpose of replying to tbe Waqifi polemics on tbe
identity of the Qa' im.

The effect of tbese counter-attacks started to show itself very quickly. It is

reported that 'Abd al-Ral:tman b. al-I:Iajjaj


Jamil b. Darraj

al-Ba~i 131,



Rifa'a b. Musa al-Asadi


Yunus b.

J:fammad b. 'lsi! al-Jubani 130, ~ad b. MuJ;tammad

and al-l:lasan b. 'Ali al-Washsha'


left tbe Waqifaduring tbe time of

p.182). However, in the last story the name al-Mam~ura is used as a compliment
rather than a derogatory title. Theref<re this is in sharp contrast to the real meaning of
the name. The dog is considered unclean in Islam and, when it is wet, it becomes
worse in terms of purity as well as appearance, as is explained by the sources, see alNawbakhti, p.69; al-Qummi, p. 92; al-Razi, p.290; F. al-Razi, I'liqadil, p.54.

For him, see p.410 below.


al-Najasbi, p.178.


A prominent agent of al-Ka?im and al-Ri~a. For him, see pp.405-7 below.

Rifa'a was a companion of al-~adiq and al-K~im. He was regarded as

thiqa in #:Jadith. He is the author of a book on inheritance ifarii'it/), see alNajasht, p.119; al-Mamaqani, i, biography no: 4129.


A former F~J;ti and the agent of a1-K~, see p.405 below.

Jamil was among the most eminent six jurists from the young generation
of al-$adiq's disciples, see al-Kashshi, pp.375, 251-2; al-Najashi, p.92.

Hammad was also among the most eminent six jurists from the young
generation of al-~adiq's discipl~_s. He died in 209/824-5 in a flood in \1edina, see alKashsht, pp.375, 316-7; al-NaJashi, p.103.

13 1

For him, see p. 434 below.


For him, see pp.41 \-2 below.



and joined his party.i33 'Abd Allah b.


134 and Yazid b.



alleged that, as a result of their prayers, they, themselves, relinquished the \V~ifi
belief and discovered the right guidance of al-Ri~a. 136 A group of Shi'is were also


have renounced the sect after witnessing some miracles by


137 Abu

Khalid al-Sijistani states that, when he was a Waqifi, he looked towards the stars and
came to the conclusion that al-Ka~ had died, therefore he left his group and accepted
-' . 138
al -Rid astmama.

One of the methods of the Waqifa to strengthen its position 1n the

Shiei community was


bribe some leading figures of

that a large sum of money was offered to Safwan b.



party. It is repated

the agent of al-Ri~a, 139 to

leave the Imam. He rejected the offer. 140 They also attempted to bribe Yunus b .. Abd

with 10,000 dinars not to make known his acceptance of al-Ri9a's imams

and not to criticise their opinions publicly. He did not accept. 141 As another tactic,
they used to show that the substratum of al-Ri9a's claim was quite weak. They spread
a rumour that Safwan h. YaQya's acceptance of al-Ri"a's claim was only a
consequence of his salat and prayer (istilhara), not a result of convinci ng
evidences. They also circulated a narration that 'Ali Baqbaqa, a Waqifi, had asked
133 al-Ghayba, p.47; Maniqib, iv, p.336; Musnad


i, pp.206-7.

134 He is one of the famous jurists of al-K~m. For him, see p.434 below.
135 For him. see al-Najashi, p.314.
136 al-Kulaym, p.355; al-Kashsru, pp.594, 605-6; al-Mufid,
p.M; al-Rawandt, i, pp.360-1.


137 sec al-Kulayni. pp.354-5; al-Kashshi, p.469; al-Ghayba, pp.47-50.


al'vlajlist. XLVIIl. p.274.

\ 39

For him. sec p.4 t t below.

140 al T'\ajasht. p. 139.

\41 al-Kashsht. p.493: Ihn Bahu.Ya. 'lIal. pp.235-6; al-Ghayba. pp.42-3
2t \

Safwan b. Y~ya and other prominent partisans what had driven them to accept alRi~a's imama. They could not answer satisfactorily. instead, they turned to AJ:lmad alB~3ll!i,

who must stil1 have been a young and inexperienced man. to answer this

question. The Waqifi rawi said that the followers of


had no strong

arguments; they only followed blindly the words of some ignoramuses. 142

Similar machiavellian tactics seem to have been implemented by


follower.; and later Imamis as a counter-attack. A number of traditions were attributed


the two previous Imams, al-Baqir and


who were both alleged to have

prophesied the emergence of the Waqifa and cursed them. 143 MUsil al-K~ was also
said to have informed


when he was still a child, of the names of the two

prominent Waqifis, 'Uthman b. 'lsi al-Rawasi and Ziyid al-Qindi and cursed
them. 144 The Imamis, furthermore, maintained that the reason why Musa b. la'far
was nicknamed


was that he knew all those who would stop the line of the

imama with him and reject


imama among his disciples, but he always kept

his wrath (Ic.a~ama) against them under control and never let them see it. 145 They
also replied to the Waqifi allegation about the absence of


in the funeral

procession of his father. They probably fabricated a lJadith that, when al-Ka?-im had
died in prison, al-Musayyab b. Zuhayr, who was the warder of the Imam, had
witnessed al-Ri~i coming miraculously from Medina and washing his father's body,
invisible from the people. 146


al-Ghayba. p.4l.


see al-Kashsht, pp,458. 462-3.


al-Ghayba. p.4S


Ibn Babuya. 'l1a1. p 235; 'U yu n. i. p.91.


'lJ yu n. i. pp. R2 S Also see pp. 169-70 above.


A group of /:Jadith in al-Kafi also seem to be later fabrications of the

Imamiyya. In one of these three traditions, al-$idiq is reported to have said: "\\'hen
we have said anything about a man; if this did not happen to him, it would happen to
his son or his grandson. You never reject it. Allah, the Exalted, does what He
intends". 147 This /:Jadith apparently indicates that even if al-$adiq said something
about the Mahdiship of al-K~, as the Wfqifa maintained, it did not mean that this
predittion would be definitely realised in him; it was always possible that one person


offspring might have been the real intention of the I)adith. It is

obvious that Twelver Shi'i doctors, adding these traditions into their collections,
aOluired the advantage of being able to corroborate their Qa' im without rejecting other
numerous Shiel traditions in circulation which indicated several numbers in the series
of the Imams other than twelve or different historical and physical signs describing
who would be the Qa' im or his countenance and the time of his appearance.

It is understood from several reports, which have been mentioned, that the
followers of


managed to convince many members of the Waqifa and

strengthened their position in the community against the Waqifi opposition. Especially
after al-Ri~a had been nominated by al-Ma' mun as heir to the throne, the popularity of
the Imam peaked in the Shi'i community. It is pomble that, if events had continued to
develop along the same course, the Waqifa might have disappeared in the community
at an earlier time. However, it seems that the unexpected death of


and the

succession of his seven year old son Mu1)ammad to his place became a serious setback
for the party of


Al-Waqifa probably put this opportunity to good use. Many

discussions about this matter seem to have taken place between the two sects at that






time. 148 According to some reports, a group from the party of al-Ri~a joined the
Waqifa on account of this problem. 149


al-Jawad maintained the struggle against the Waqifa. He called

them "asses of the Shi'a". He also stated that al-Waqifa had nothing to do with the
Imams; they were of the same rank as the Zaydiyya. 150 It seems that continuing
internal problems in the Im3mi party let the Waqifa sect survive in the Shiel community
without clashing with any serious rival until, at least, the beginning of the fourth
century H .. Abu I:Iatim al-Razi (d. 322/934) states that the Waqifa still existed in his
time. 151 However, when the Imamiyya emerged as the Twelver Shi'a after 260/874
and then the latter firmly established their basis, especially on the matter of the
concealment of the Twelfth Imam, no place seemed to be left for the Waq ifa. The sect
must have started to disappear gradually from the first half of the fourth century on.
Eventually no vestige of the Waqifa remained.

The Waqifi contribution to Twelver Shi"l thought must not be overlooked. As

W. Madelung rightly observes, several Waqifi traditions, having been circulated to
support the idea of the seventh Imam's concealment, were later adopted by the
Twelver Shi'a in order to advocate the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. 152 On the
other hand, it could be suggested that the attitudes of al-Ka~'s Waqifi agents became
good examples for the agents of the eleventh Imam al-IJasan al-'Askari to follow.

For example, 'Ali b. Ja'far al-~adiq's fight with a Waqifi as a result of a

discussion between them about the imama of Mu1:Jammad b .. All al-Ri~a, see alKashsht, p.429.


a l-Balkht, p.181: al-Mufid, al-Fu~Ul al-Mukhtara, p 256.


al-Kashshl. p460.

15 I

al-Ra'l.l. p.290.


for some examples. secV\: Madelung. "al-Mabdl


E12. v. p.1236.

Therefore, the history of Islam witnessed for a second time the foundation of another
sect largely through the zeal of the powerful financial agents of a Shi'i Imam.

2 - The Extremist Wiqifa : The Bashiriyya

As is understood from the heresiographical reports. a group of people. like the

Waqifa, denied the death of a1-Ka~ and stopped the line of the Imams with him, but
this group must have differed completely from the well-known \Vaqifa because of
their extremist ideas. This group seems to have represented another example of Kufan
Shi't extremism. Their ideas were quite similar to those of previous


extremist sects such as the Mughiriyya and the Bayaruyya. 153

The leader of the group was


b. Bashir 154, a mawia of the Banu

Asad from Kufa. Because of its leader's name, the group was called the Bashiriyya 155
or the Bishriyya. 156 According to al-Kashshi, MuJ:tammad started to spread his
extremist ideas about al-Ki~ in the latter's lifetime, therefore the Imam repudiated
him and publicly cursed him.157

153 For these groups, see pp.31-2 above.


154 "Mu~ammad b. Bishr" in al-Mufid, al-Fu~l al-Mukhtara, p.254;

Mut:t amm ad b. Bishran" in F. al-Rizi, Mu~~~al, p.243.

155 According to al-Nashi', the group of M~ammad b. Bashir, the

Bashiriyya. emerged after the death of al-$adiq. Mu1:tammad claimed that the imama
p~ed to him from al-$adiq and ascribed to himselfprophethood. He maintained that
he knew the unseen and he could bring dead people to life (Masa'il aI-Imama.
p. 41). Although the extremist ideas of Mu~am~ad ~hich are p~sented by a1 "'Jashi'
are in accord with the reports of other hereSlologlsts. the POtnt that ~1ul:tammad
pretended tohe Imam as the successor of al-$adiq is not mentioned in other sources.
Hence. it is not exactly known whether Mu~ammad b. Rashtr started to spread hiS
cxtremi~ allegations just after a1-~adiq 's death or whether this is simply an error of al
Nashi' by confusing the names of al-~adiq and al-K~im.
156 al, t\awbakhli, p.70: F. al-Razl,
1:" 7

at- K Llshshl. pp.4R2 -3




According to


b. Bashir, despite the fact that


was seen as

a human being. he was not actually a human being: He was seen as a light by" the
people of the light" ("ahl al-nur"). as the one in impurity (tudra) by "the people of
impurity", and as a human being by normal people. He was then screened from the
views of the people, even though he was

present in reality among them. He was

not imprisoned and he never died. Since he was the Qa'im and the Mahdi in this way.
he went into concealment and would return to the earth. Muhammad b. Bashir claimed
that, when al-Ka?im went into concealment, he appointed him to his post. Before that.
the Imam had taught him every thing necessary for the
hereafter, therefore, the only lawful Imam after
The latter also proclaimed his son,






of this world and the

was Mul)ammad h. Bashir.

as his successor. The imama

of Sami' and his descendants over all the Muslims would continue until the return of
Miisa a1-K~ as the Qa'im. The group did not accept the imama of 'All
Moreover, they excluded


from kinship with



and charged him and his

followers with unbelief.

While the Bashtriyya used to practice the ~alat five times a day and fast in

they rejected the obligation of the zalat and the #:Jaji They used to

consider adultery and homosexuality permissible. The group also believed in

incarnation (#.Julul) and the transmigration of souls (tana5ukh), therefore they
claimed that the souls of the all Imams was only one soul and it continued to p~ from
one Imam to another. Muhammad b. Bashir ascribed divinity to al-Ka?im and asserted
that he was




b. Ra'ihlr is described as a very proficient juggler and conjurer.

ltc had a big statue looking like al-Ka?-im in silk clothes. He used to Inyite his
followers to his house and, by using different tricks, make this statue seem as if al-



was still alive and lived in Mu~ammad's bouse. He used to make the statue

speak and, in tbis way, give commands to his followers. 158

Al-Kasbshi reports that Mu~ammad was arrested and taken to the court on the
charge of being Zindiq. Although, at first, he bad managed


gain bis freedom fer a

while by promising that he would make magic for the caliph which was so
extraordinary that it would astound all the kings and rulers, after tbe trickery of his
juggling had emerged, he was captured and immediately executed. 159

3 - The Supporters of


b. Miisa

Presumably it was only a small group of the Sbi'a

A1;lmad b. Musa, a younger brother of 'Ali



which proclaimed

as the new Imam after al-

K8.?i m . 161 Al-Kashsbi gives the names of two supporters of ~ad h. Musa: Ibrahim
and Isma'i1 who were brothers and sons of Abu Sammal. When Al:tmad joined the
revolt of Abu al-Sariiya in 199/815, they disapproved of this action and left Al:tmad.
Al-Kashshi maintains that they then adopted the Waqifi opinion. 162

There is no further information about these Shieis. This small group probably
disappeared a short time later. However, al-Balkhi states again that A1;lmad was

for all these features of the Bashiriyya, see al-Kas.hshi, pp.4 77-82; alQummt, pp. 62-3 , 91-3; al-Nawbakhti, pp.70-1.


al-Kashshi, p.481.

According to al-Balkht (p. 181), the suporters of AJ;1mad b. ~1 usa were a

large number of people. However, this inform~ion seems unlikely to be true si~ce. as
is understood from the sources, ltttle trace of thtS group was left and, p-obably tor that.
reason, they were unkown to most of the heresiologists. Only a few of them mention
these Sh. et~ in their books.


al-Halkht. p.ISI; al .-\sh'an, i. pp.29-30: F. al-Razt. Mu~as~al. p.243

I b2

al-Kashsht, pAn.


proclaimed as the Imam after al-Ri~a's death. 163 This last proclamation is also
reported by al-Nawbakhti, al-Qummi and al-\Jufid


and seems to have been the

riposte of some partisans to the controversial succession of al-Ri~a's seven year old
son, Muhammad al-Jawad, to the imama. 165

It is noteworthy that only the reemergence of the group of ~ad b. Musa

after al-Ri~ has been taken into account by some of the modern works. 166 Except for
J. Hussain, 167 none of them seem to have noticed that this group emerged fir.Uyafter

the death of al-Kazim.

4 - The Qariyya : The Followers of al-Ri"a

Besides the Waqifa and the tiny group of ~mad b. Musa, a large body of the
Imamiyya maintained the line of the Imams with Ali b. Musa
called the Qariyya, because they affirmed confidently



They were

calQ) that al-Ka?-im

had died and the new lmiun after him was 'Ali b. MUsa. 168 This group was one of the


al-Balkhi, p.18!.


al-Nawbakhti, p.n; al-Qummi, p.93; al-Mufid,


see pp. 379-80 below.




See Watt, "The Reappraisal", p.648; idem, Formative Period, p. 160;

idem, "Materials", p.37; idem, "Sidelights", p.294; Momen, pp.57-8. \10men calls
the group "the A1:tmadiyya".

J. Hussain mentions this in one sentence. He said: "Al-Ri~a faced many

difficulties in proving his right to the Imamate, not only to his father s promtnent
followers, but also to his brother A~mad". The only source HUSSaIn refers to IS alKashshl's Rijal. See J. Hussain, "i\ew Light", pAO; idem ,The Occultation. p ..~9
1t> 7


al-l'\ashi', pA7; al-Ash'an, I, p,17;

alflalkhl, p.176: al-Mas'udl. al-Tanbth, p.199; Ibn Taymiyya. 1\, p,130:
Friedlaender, liThe lIeteredoxies 190R (29), pp.S 1-2,


links of the chain of the Imami groups, after the Ja'fariyya and the Musawiyya, which
would form in the future the sect of the Ithrui 'ashariyya (the Twelver Shfa).

III - 'Ali


Designation to the lmama

Musa aI-Kazim
b. Ja'far died in 183/799. It seems that al-Kazim
took every
opportunity to proclaim the succession of al-Ri':1a, who was his eldest son, to the
leadership of the party in order to prevent a possible quarrel among the brothers after

him like'


. happened at the beg1nn1ng of his own imama. The most important


left for this purpose was his written testament indicating 'Ali's

imam a clearly.

t - The Written Testament of al-Kizim

This undated testament was recounted by al-Kulayni and Ibn Babuya. Its
authenticity is uncertain. But, four different traditions related with four different
~anad~ 169

narrating the text of the testament or simply mentioning it might

cOfTobocate the existence of such a document though we cannot exclude the p-obability
of there being some later 1m ami embellishments in it.

Ten names are recorded by al-Kulayni as the testifiers of the tenment. 170 At
the heginning of the testament,


said that he had transcribed the testaments of

al-Kulaym, i, p.316no:15; 'Uyilo, i, p.27 no:1, p.30 no:2, p.32 no:4.

Except the l~ one U yu n, i, p.32 no:4) which only confirms the existence of such a
te~ent and shows the number of a1-K~m's heirs as five, the other three narrations
are reports which are complementary to each other; they indicate possible details of the
testament and the dispute which took place among the family members io the court
when the testament was read. From these extended narrations. we ha\'e summarised
the episode, indicatl ng in the foct-nexes impcnant differences among the narrations.

see . U yu n, i, p. 27.


p.316. However, Ihn Bahuya's account is nine testifiers,


the fonner Imams word for word and bequeathed it to his son Ali. In addition to . Ali.

the names of Ibrahim, al-'Abbas, al-Qasim. Isma'il and A1;lmad, who were the cxher
sons of al-Ka~im, and the mother of Al;unad are accounted in the testament as other
heirs. 111 However, the whole disposition of the testament was given to .Ali alone.
Consequently, if he wished to deprive other heirs of their rights, he could have done
so. 'Ali also had the right to use one-third of the possessions bequeathed in the
testament as he wanted. According to the will, 'Ali's sisters could not get married
without his approval. Besides, he could annul the marriage contract between his father
and his wives. In just the same way, he got a divorce for Umm Farwa, one of his
father's wives. 172 If al-Ka~'s daughters got married, they would have lost all their
rights given in the testament. The wives of


as long as they stayed in the

house of 'Ali al-Ri<:1a, would be treated and looked after in the same way as when al-

The name of al-Qasim is omitted in the text of U yO n (i, p.28). In another

tradition in which 'Abd al-R~man b. al-J:Iajjaj narrates the text of the testament, alKa~m made a bequest to only two of his sons, 'Ali and lbrihim, subjett to that if one
of them died, respectively al-Qasim, Isma'il and al-'Abbas would replace him and if
all these names died, the two eldest ones from the other sons would replace them.
These two sons to whom al-Ka~m made a bequest held the right of disposition of the
te~ent. It seems that in this order al-K~ did not respect the seniority of his sons,
because, at the end of the tradition, 'Ali al-Ri <:1 a highlights that although al-'Abbas was
senior to Isma'il, al-Ka~m gave precedence to Isma'il over al-'Abbas, see 'UyUD, i.

112 a1-~'far,

p.487; al-Kulayni, i, p.381. According to the narration, 'Ali alRi<:1 a . although the news of his father's death did not come yet to Medina, knew the
time of the death and. on the following day. divorced Umm Farwa as the trustee of his
father. M. Raqir al-Majlisl regards it as a legal divorce because of al-Ri9a's divine
knowledge which enabled him to know everything instantly. According to al-MajliSl,
this divorce was for the purpose of removing from her the nobility which she had won
through her marriage with al-KCl?-im like Ali b. Abl Talib had declared on the day of
the Episode of the Camel that' A' isha, the wife of the Prophet, had been divorced
from the Prophet Al-Majlisl also sees it po~ble that al-Ri9a knew that she wanted to
get remarried, therefore, by expelli~g her from th~ family (from among 'the mothers
of the faithful"). he rendered It posSlble and made It easy for her to get remamed. see

Bil:lar, XLVlll, p235



had been alive, but if they remarried, they could not return to the care of the

family unless 'Ali approved of it. 173


had closed the testament with a seal and declared that nobody should

break the seal except 'Ali


He had also cursed anyone who might have broken

the seal. However, after opening and reading the testament in the court, some brothers
of 'Ali, particularly al- 'Abbas, objected to its content. Al- 'Abbas asked the judge to
break a seal below of the testament. He believed that there should have been
something under the seal for them to regain their rights, because, he said: "our father
has left nothing (for us) but he has given the all to him (Ali), so he left us indigent" 174

This tense situation led to some troubles among the members of the family.
First, Ibrahim b.


al- 'Abbas were a good man,

al-Ja 'fari, one of the testifiers, stood up and said that if


would have known it and would not have left

him in such a situation, so al- 'Abbas had no right to speak. Mter Ibrahim al-Ja 'fari,

b. Ja'far, the uncle, rushed to al-'Abbas and held his collar; he blamed him for

being foolish, feeble-minded and dumb. However, al-'Abbas still maintained his
criticism. Abu 'Imrin al-Ta.J..I;1i, the judge of Medina, refused to break the seal, because
he feared


curse, but he allowed al- 'Abbas to break it himself. Al- 'Abbas

broke the seal. Under the seal it was written that


deprived all his sons except

for' Ali of their rights and put them under the wardship of 'Ali.

According to a narration. 'Ali b. Ja'far, the brother of al-Ka~im, told a

Waqifi who asked him whether al-Ka~im had died that the latter had died; his
possessions had been distributed and his wives had been remarried (al-Kashshi,
p.429). The Isma'Hi author la'far b. Man~ur also says that al-Ka~im's wives ("the
mothers of the faithful") were forced to get remarried to the enemies of the Imam
(Asrir, Arab. text: p. B5. trans.: p.2BO). :\lthough the last report has an Isma'i11
tendency to show the successor of al-Ka~im as a false Imam who was not able to
protect ~\'en his famtly, the first account might indicate that some wives of al-Ka~im
did not want to stay in the family home after their husband's death, instead. they
remarried at the expense of losing their rights given in the te~ament of al-Kazim.


'Uyun, i. p.29; al-Kulaym. i, pp.317-B.


According to the narration, the testifier.i also called Umm AJ.unad,


wife, to the court and wanted her to open her veil to know whether she was really
Umm ~mad. She objected to that and claimed that her husband al-K~ had f<retold
her. "You will be taken forcibly and moved into the meetings". The uncle



up again and said that women could not understand such things because of being
weak-minded, so she must be quiet.

After these quarrels, (Ali defended his father's testament and put forward that
he wanted to regard the benefits of all the members of the family. He then turned to al'Abbas and offered to take over all his debts. Al- 'Abbas was not satisfied. He said that
if he remained alive, he would go to the wakil Safwan h. YsJ.1ya and kill him in front
of 'Ali. He left the meeting saying: "Allah has not made your opinion prevail over us,
so this is (simply) due to our father's jealousy of us and his desire for what Allah does
not allow to him and to you" 175

2 - Other Signs of the Designation

Apart from the official testament of


which has been presented, there

are several narrations in the sources indicating the imama of (Ali after his father.
Although majority of them are apparently later products, it seems to be more than
probable that some of them were actually heard from al-K~ himself. He especially
emphasised that 'Alt was his eldest son,176 because, according to al-$adiq, the eldest
son of the present Imam deserved to be the true successor to his father.


al-Kulaynt. i, p.319.


'Uyun. \. p.25: al-Kashshi, pA53.

1 77

al- Kula y nt. \. P 2M.


1 77


statements in the narrations whicb are said to bave been used by al- K~ to confinn
'Ali's succession are the followings: 'He is my khaliJa and the proof (I)ujja) of


the people after me", "be is tbe lord (sayyitl) of my sons") "be is the most

understanding, tbe most excellent and the best one among my sons", "he is the one
wbo follows most closely my sayings and be is more obedient to my orders tban
tbem", "he is the one most preferred and most loved by me", "his writing is my
writing and his words are my words" . 1 78

Like the names of otber Imams of the Twelver Shi'a and their motbers, those
of 'Ali and Najma were also entered in the tradition whicb is related on the authority of
Jabir b. 'Abd Allah from the alleged document of F~ima) the daugbter of the Prophet,

($a#:Jifat Fa,ima). A similar tradition giving an account of the Tablet of


(Law#:J Fa,ima) gives 'Ali's name as the eight Imam. In it God says the following
about 'Ali al-Ri~ato his Propbet mediated by Gabriel:
"Whoever denies the eighth would deny all myawliya'. 'Ali is my
wali and my helper and also he is the one on whom I have laid tbe
burden of JrOphetship. Tbe devil and imperious man will kill him. He
will be buried next to tbe most evil one from my creatures in a city
which the virtuous servant bas built" 179

For tbe traditions as a group indicating the designation of al-Ri~a for tbe
imama by his father. see al-Kulayni, i, pp.311-9; 'Uyiln, i, _pp.17-27; al-Irshad,
pp.461-5; al-Ghayba, pp.24-9; Ithbat, pp.213-8; al-~affar, p.I84; al-Kasbsht,
pp.451, 467.
I 78

'U yun, i, pp.34-5; al-Kulayni, i) 527-8. in the same tr-adition related by

Muhammad h. Ibrahim al-Nu'mani (d. 360/971) in his Kitib al-Gbayba, . the
virtuous servant" Cal-' abd al-~ali#:J") is specified as Dhu al-Qarnayn (p 31). the
two-horned one, the powert'ul ruler of east and west as mentioned in the Qur' an,
xviii: 83-98.
The grave which is ne~t to lhm. of al-Ri~a belongs to. Haru~, al-Ras~ld. All
these traditiOns are narrated In U yu n (I. pp. 32-56) under the title of the deslgnaltOn
texts (nu~u~) of al-Ri~a's imama amongst those of the other Imams \lso sec alKulaynl, i. pp.525-3S


Ancx.her narration also indicates the divine order of the succession. According

it, al-Ka~m actually desired al-Qasim, one of his sons, to be his successor, but this

authority had not been given to the Imam. He saw the Prophet in his dream; al-K3.#m
asked him who was the next Imam. The Prophet replied:
" I have not seen anyone from the Imams who had been more
impatient to quit this authority than you. If the designation of an
Imam was determined by love, Isma'il (b. Ja'far) would be (the
Imam) because he was more loved by your father than you !" 180

Musa al-Kazim confirmed 'Ali's succession on different occasions. His

companions usually would ask about this matter and he would indicate his son' Alt
though he was still a child. On one occasion, he called his associates and some
notables of Medina and declared the nomination of 'Ali. On another occasion. he sent
some possessions to 'All with a companion. In this way, he wanted to indicate the
authority to which appeal should be made after him. 181

Before he was taken to Baghdad,


had declared agaIn 'All's

succession in front of the leading figures of the Medinan Sh1'is and gave to 'Ali his
own kunya, Abu


He is also reported to have smuggled out some

messages declaring the new Imam after him to his companions when he was in
detention in Basra. 183

180 al-Kulayru. i. pp.314-5.

18\ Uyun. i. pp.1727; al-Kula)'n!, i, pp.3119; allrshad. pp.461 5.
182 Ithbat. p.211. In another tradition, al-Ka?-im said to Muhammad h.
Sinan. a zealot follower of the Imam, that he would he taken to Iraq, so whoe\'er
usurped the right of' Alt, would he like one wh9 had usurped the right of . \It h. Abt
Talib, see al-Ka~hsht. p.50P.: at -Ghayba, p.b.
un al-Kulavm. t,


13; 'Uyun,




According to al-Kifi.


before being taken to Iraq, ordered 'Ali to

sleep in the porch of rus house until he died. Al-Musafir. 'Ali's servant, says that he,
himself, used to prepare at nights the bed of 'Ali in the porch for four years. In the
mornings 'Ali used to go back to his own home. But when the news of his fathers
death reached him, he entered his father's house for the first time in four years and
asked Umm

~mad to

give him the trust which


she handed 2,000 or 4,000 diniirs over to him.

had left for him. Therefore


wanted her not to tell

anybody anything about his father's death until the official news reached the governor
of al-Madina. 184 Al-Kulayni narrates this tradition under the title of "when does an
Imam know that the office has come to him". According to the traditions in this
section, the death of an Imam was told to his legal successor instantly by God's
inspiration even if there was a long distance between him and the place where the
former Imam had died. Al-Kulayni indicates 'Ali


awareness of


death in terms of this creed.

AI-Kulayni narrates in Kitiih al-lJujja of aI-Kart sixteen

designation of' Ali al-Ri<;ta.185 which is the



on the

section among others dealing with

the designations of all the twelve Imams as the leaders of the Muslims. 186 This seems
to be because of the emergence of the W~ifa which did not recognise the imama of alRic;ta. For that reason, the supporters of the laner had to narrate many more traditions
than had been needed before for the confirmation of his succession to his father.

AI-Kulayru's sixteen and al-Mufid's twelve traditions on the designation of alRidu are related on the authority of twelve different companions of al-Ka?-im


al-KulU)'nt. i, pp.3Rl-2. Also sec Ithbat, pp.212, 21R: al-Rawandt,

p. 370-1.




11\6 Sachedina, Just Ruler. p.52

., ., -



However, five of them are regarded as unreliable (t)a ~if) rawis in the rijal books
of the Imamiyya. Dawud b. Kathir al-Raqqi is accounted among the extremist Shia. It
is reported that authentic a~adith related from him were very few. 187 \tu~ammad b.
Sinan al-Zahin was also an unreliable rawi due


his connection with the extremists.

It is recorded that traditions related on his authocity cannot be relied upon, because be
confessed just before his death: "Do not narrate anything from what I have related,
because they are the books which I bought from the bazaar". 188 Two otber rawis,
Ziyad b. Marwan al-Qindi and al-J:Iusayn b. Mukhtiir al-Qalanisi, are regarded as
having belonged to the Waqifa sect.t 89 The fifth rawi, Mu~ammad b. I~aq b.
'Ammar al-Taghlabi, is treated by Ibn Dawud in the chapter in which he gives tbe

accounts of t)a eif rawis because of his being a Waqifi. However, al-Najashi regards
him as a trustworthy (thiqa) rawi. 190

3 - The Propaganda of tbe Imima and tbe Attitude of tbe


The im8.ma of 'Ali al-Ri~afound support within the family. Two uncles of alRi~a, Isl:taq b. Ja'far and 'Alt b. Ja'far, put their weight as senior members of the

family behind al-Ri~a's imama. 191 The support coming from some of the notables of

al-Najashi says: "{lala A~mad h. ~Abd al-Wal:aid: {lalla ma

raaytu lahu l:Jadithan sadidan" (p.112). Also see Ibn Diwud, p.452.

Ibn Dawud, pp.504-5, See also al-Najashi. pp.230-l; al-TUSt, Fibrist,

p.295. However, in another ~dition, ~he Imam al-~awad praised Mul:tammad b.
Sinan recalling his truthful obechence to hiS father and h1mself, see al-Kashsht, p.504;
al-Ghayba, p.l t 1.


al Najasht, p.l22; al~Tusi. Fibrist. p.146; Ihn Dawud , p.454.


al- Naja.'ihl, p.256; Ibn DUwUd. p.499.

'Uyun, I. p.31-2; Ithbs,t. p.2l7: al-Ghayba, pp.28-9. lshaq h. Ja'far

is mentioned as a rawi who related trom Musa al-Ka?-Iffi. lIe had uphdd the Imama
of hIS brother relating a nQ~~ on this matter on the authority of his father al-Sadiq (~
I rs had, p.432). It is intcrcsli ng to mention that although the text of thL' report IS


the party was also remarkable. Yunus b. 'Abd a1-R~an, a juri~ and theologian, not
only accepted


imama, but also called other Imamis to accept it. 1 Q~

Mu~ammad b. al-Fa~l al-Hashimi said the following for the same purpose: "I have

seen some of the distinguishing marks of al-RieJa - peace be upon him -. If I had lived
at the time of the Commander of the Faithful CAli b. Abi Tilib), I would not see (on
him) more than what I have seen (on al-Ri~a)" .193

As well as other questions, the question of who was the new Imam was also

answered by


himself promulgating his succession. Those who were not

satisfied cross-examined him. 194 Ibn Shahrashub gives the number of questions
replied by

al-Ri~a in

order to show his knowledge as 18,000. 195

The first task of 'Ali al-Rida was


convince his followers of the truth of his

imama so that he could reunite the party under strong leadership and provide it with its
fonner power and esteem. He faced many que~ons directed by doubtful Shi'is. One
tradition is worth quoting to understand the continuing confusion among the Shi'ts,
even that of foremost disciples such as Yunus b. 'Abd al-RaJ;unan, because of the
extensive propaganda of the Waqifa and other splinter groups. Abu Jarir al-Qummt
(Yunus h. 'Abd al-R~man) relates:

I said to Abu al-I:Iasan ('Ali al-Ric.ia): "May God make me your

ransom. you have known my devotion to your father and then to
you". Then I swore: "By the rightness of the Apostle of Allah and

vague, Ibn 'Tnaba reports that a g~up of S~i'is cl~ed I~aq's imama (Umdat alTalib, Qum 1409/t988, p.279), tnformatton which has not been recorded tn any
other sources.

al-Kashshi, p.493.


lLhbaL, p.l17.


'Uyun, i. p.ll, al-Kulaym, i, p.354.




pp.350-1 . .-\l-Tust gives lhis numher as 15.000

Ghayba. p.4R)



those of so-and so (i.e. Yunus is enumerating the names of the

Imams including aI-Ri~a), I am not going to tell anybody anything
about what you infam me". Tben I asked him whetber bis father was
alive or dead. He said: "By God, he died. I said: "~ray God make
me your ransom, your followers have an opinion that he (aI-K~)
was able to live as long as four prophets". He responded: "By God,
apart from Whom there is no god, he perished". "By an occultation
(ghayba) or by a death ?" I asked. "He perished by death" he
replied. I asked again: "This (answer) may be taqiyya by you ?".
He said: "God above all imperfections, no, it is not". I asked: "(AlKa~m) entrusted to you ?". He replied: "Yes". I said: "Does anybody
have any share in your imama ?". He replied: "No". I asked: "Is there
any Imam from your brothers over you ?". He replied: "No". I asked
again: "You are the Imam ?". He said: Yes

Although some of the followers were very worried about the open
proclamation of


succession to the leadership of the Imami party because of

Hariln ai-Rashid's persecution of Shi'i elements, the Imam seems to have been content
with the present situation. 197 It is reported on the authority of SafW8.n b. Y~ya that

that ai-Rashid would not harm him. Again


reports from a

nameless person in the 'Abbasid court, who is called thiqa by the TaWli, that the
vizier Yal.1ya b. Khalid aI-Barmaki told ai-Rashid that aI-Ri~a had declared his imama.
But the caliph thought tbat their attitude towards





enough for them as sin, so he asked his vizier: "Do you want us to kill all of
.. 198
th em ?"

According to the traditions, al-Ri~a applied taqiyya in order to avoid the

per.;ecution of the government. Mu1:tammad b. Sinan asked him:
" --You have invested yourself with this authority and sat in your
father's seat even though tbe sword of Harun has dripped blood!
(The Imam) replied: --W"hat the Apostle of Allah said has encouraged


al- Kulaynt, i, p.380. Also see al- Kashsht, p.494.

I Q7

see al-Kashsht, p,465 ,

Uyun. it, p.22R; Ihn al-~ahhagh, p.231 Ithbat, p.2l0: al-Taharst.

I'lam. p ..'I3: at -lrshad. pp,466-7.


me in this act, (the Prophet said:) "if Abu Jahl seized my head. you
(should) attest that I was not Prophet". And I also tell you: If Harun
seized my head, you (should) attest that I was not an Imam". 199


is also reported to have bought a dog. a ram and a cock in the market.

He thus pretended


be a peasant who had nothing


do with political affairs. Spies

informed al-Rashid of it. It was for this reason that al-Rashid did not want to believe
in information in the letter of the governor of Medina. Bakkar b. 'Abd Allah alZubayri, which infonned the caliph of al-Ri~a's promulgation of his leadership. 200

IV - Al-RiC!la as the Leader of the Party between


H3riJn al-Rashid's harsh policy against Shi'l elements seems to have continued
after the death of al-K~im. We know that Hisham b. al-J:Iakam, after escaping from
the 'Abbasid capital, died in about 187/803 in hiding and then his corpse was
displayed and his death was proclaimed in order to stop the pursuit. 20t Especially in
Medina, under the governorship of Bakkar al-Zubayri, an extreme adversary of the
'Alids. the activities of al-Ri<;la and his party were probably restricted. This insecure
situation seems to have lded, at least, until the death of at-Rashid in 193/808.

There is no good evidence that al-Ri<;la ever left Medina for a long journey
during these years. Although some lmami reports describe his visits



places. they do not have any historical substratum. The first of his alleged journeys

Manaqib. iv. pp.339-40; al-Majlisi. Xl.IX, p.IIS quoted It from

Rawdat al- Karl.






I'lam, p.313.

Ihn Babuya. Kamal ii. pp.30-1. For more infamatlon ahoutthi\ event,
see pp.41 7-R helow.


was a miraculous visit to the Shi'i communities in Basra and Kufa. According



extended story, when al-Ri~a took delivery of the holy possessions inherited from alKa~m,

such as the outer garment and the rod of the Prophet. from


b. al-

al-Hashimi, the latter mentioned a disagreement among the Basran Imami

community on al-Ri~a"s imama and added that they would ask him for proof of the
new Imam.


told him not to worry about it because he would arrive in Basra

three days after Mu~ammad's arrival.




Basra as he had pumised and

participated in a meeting in which opponents including Jewish and Christian scholars

were gathered. He told them that he had been in the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina
for the morning prayer. They asked the Imam many questions, which were answered
in a scholarly way by him. Mterwards, he sent Mu~ammad to Kufa to assemble the
Kufan Shi'a. The Imam did the same there as he had done in Basra and went back to
Medina. Hence, the doubts of the Shi'i inhabitants of these two important cities about
the troth of ru-Ridii's imama were removed. 202

The second report about another of his journeys has it that 'Ali al-Ri~a went to
Qazwin in secret, where he met Dawud b. Sulayman al-Ghazi. The Imam was hidden
in his house during his stay. Daw-ud, using this opportunity, related from the Imam a

nu&k.ha (a small collection of I)adith). 203

Howeve~ there

is no report in the early

works of the Imamiyya which can corroborate this Persian journey of al-Ri~a. The
Sunnt rijiil scholar al-Dhahabi notes this nu&lc.ha of DawUd b. Sulayman. According
to him, it was completely f abric:ated (maw~ii C). 204


al-Rawandt, i. pp.341-51: al-MaJhSl, XLIX. pp.73-Rl.


al-Rafi ',. al-Tadwtn fl Akhbar al-Qazwt n. iii, pp.3. 42R.


aJ-Dhahaht, Mlzan. ii. p.8.


'Ali al-Ri~a's only real departure from Medina which was recorded by the

sources was probably for Mecca to make the pilgrimage and the 'umra. There aI-Ri~a
saw the cal.iph aI-Rashid accompanied by the Barmakt family. This pilgrimage must
have been in the year 186/802, because it was aI-Rashid's first pilgrimage after alK~im's death in 183/799 and also his last pilgrimage accompanied by the

Barmakis. 205 No conversation among them is repated) except that the Imami sources
relate that the Imam cursed the Barmakts due to their part in the murder of his
father. 206

In the pilgrimage of 1861802, al-Rashid redec1ared the succession of his sons.

The first heir apparent was MuJ:1ammad. Al-Rashid appointed him as the governor of

Iraq and Syria, giving him the honorific title of "al-Antin". As his second heir, he
designated 'Abd Allah naming him "al-Ma'mun" and giving him the governorship of
Khurasan. He also took the oath of allegiance for his other son al-Qisim, named "alMu'taman" by his father, and conferred on him the governocship of al-Jaztra. 207 After
accomplishing the rites of the pilgrimage, the caliph al-Rashid took from aI-Amin and
aI-Ma' moo two promissory letters which comprised mutual obligations between these
two aown Jrinces. He also had another letter written as a document stating the oath of
aIlegiancefor his successors, which he had extracted from the notables and common
people. Then he placed these documents together in the Ka 'ba. 208

executed in the following year, 187/803, see alTahan, iii, p.667. Forthlspilgrimageofal-Rashid, also see Ibid., pp.651-2.
205 Ja'far b. Yahya was

'lJyun, ii, p.227; al-Irshad, p.468; Manaqib, iv, p.340; Ihn al

pp.231 2.



al-Tahan, iii, pp.651-3. Before this proclamation, al-Amln had been

declared as the'succe~or in 175'791-2. In 182/79R al-\1a'mun was proclaimed as the
second succcssorafteral-Amtn, see Ibid .. pp.610, 647: aI Ya'quht. iii. pp.1528.


al Tahan. iiI. pp.654-66.


In 192/808 al-Rashid set out for Khuriisan accompanied by al- "fa' m un to

suppress a rebellion. He was taken seriously ilIon the journey. He reached Tus in a
sick state, where he remained until he died in 193/808. At the same time, the oath of
allegiance was immediately sworn to


al-Amin at the camp of al-Rashid

and then in Baghdad. In 194/810 al-Amin removed his brother al-Qasim from
everything over which al-Rashid had given him charge, and the following year he
ordered that the dinars and the dirhams which had been SUlck with the name of alMa'mu.n should be invalidated. He also forbade prayer from pulpits for al-Ma'mun
and, instead, he commanded that Jrclyer should only be made for himself and after him
for his son Musa. 209 Al-Ma'mUn did not submit to al-Amin, who had openly violated
the mutual obligations they had signed in the time of their father, so he proclaimed his
own caliphate in Khurasan. He appointed Tahir b. al-J:Iusayn as chief commander.
Tahir was very successful in his assignment. He and Harthama b. A 'yan, anocher
general of al-Ma'mun, supported by overwhelmingly Persian soldiers, overcame the
armies of al-Amin in many battles and captured all the cities one by one in the course
of three years. Finally Tahir entered Baghdad and killed al-Amin in 198/813.
Accordingly, the reign of 'Abd Allah al-Ma'mun, which was to survive for twenty

~arted. 2 10

Apparently, during the rule of al-Amin which continued into the civil war, all
Shi'i groups lived through their most secure and easiest period since the' Abbasid
revolution which had oa::urred sixty years ago. This outcome was not only because of
the civil war, but also because of al-Amin's character, which was described by al-

Mas 'udt as "Muhammad was extreme in violence, power, valour, brilliancy and

I'-ex- all these developments. see al-Taban, iii, pp. 730-3, 764, 795-6; alYa'qubl, iii, p.172; Muruj, iii, pp.389-91; Ibn Kathir. x, pp.224-)

For the Important stages of the collapse of al-Amln s reign, st..'e al-Taban.
iii, pp.R29-30, 864-8, 911.938: al-Ya'quhl. iii, pp.17.~-7; Muruj, iii, pp.410)
438: Ibn Kathtr. x. pp. 240-1. Ibn a1-Tlq~aqa, pp. 212-4.


beauty, but he was (also) feeble-minded, weak in his management and he did not think
(properly) about his work". 211 ~o report has informed us of any conflict between tbe
government and the Imimi party during this period.


(d. 356/966), in his

Maqatil al-Tilibiyyin which is devoted to the TaIibis who were murdered or

executed by the caliphate forces or by the caliphs themselves, says only the following
without reporting any account of any murder or execution in the chapter which he
opened for the reign of al-Amin :
" Ai-Amin's position with regard to the family of Abu TaIib was in
contrast to the position of those who had preceded him because of his
occupation with and addiction to amusements, and because of the war
which took place between him and al-Ma'mUn till (al-Ma'mun) killed
(the former). No incident has been mentioned about any of them (the
TaJ.ibis) in his days either in any sense or for any reason "212

It is indisputable that this struggle within the (Abbasids delighted all the 'Alids
and their followers. It seems that a spontaneous growth took place for



during this period. The fact that no action against the government was carried out by
other Shi (1 revolutionary groups during this period was perhaps because of the lack of
a proper leader as al-Laythi and Rajkowski suggest. 213 However, soon after, befcre

al-Ma'mun had firmly established his rule, a substantial and well-timed Shi'l: revolt
broke out in Iraq.


MUfUj. iii, p.394.

212 Maqatil. p.509.

\., all.aythl. Jihad al-Sh.'a f. al-'Asf ai-'Abbas., p.316:

Rajkowski. The Farly Sllt'ism in Iraq". p.2R2
2t.' S.


v - The

Revolt of Ibn


and the Involvement of

the Musawid Family


Shubayb, a Shi'i sympathiser from al-Jazira, came over to Medina for

the occasi on of the pilgrimage in 198/814. The real aim of his journey was to find a
proper man amongst the family of the Prophet who could lead a revolt against the
'Abbasid government. After his investigation, three names were recommended to him.
The first man, 'Ali b. 'Ubayd Allah b. al-J:Iasan b. 'Ali, the grandson of Zayn al'Abidin, who had devoted himself to worship, did not seem to have accepted this
offer. The second man, 'Abd Allah b. Musa, a J:Iasani. was in hiding, therefore to
reach him was not possible.


however, after a meeting, persuaded the last one of

the recommended men, MuJ;tammad b.


a I:Iasaru who had been a participant

in the revolt of al-Fakhkh. 214

In the following year Ibn Tab$ba with his supporters set off for al-Jazlra to


b. Shubayb. However,


could not convince his follow-tribesmen to

take part in a pro-' Alid revolt, because it is said that the people of al-Jazira were wel1known for their opposition to the 'Alids. N~ sent his regrets and could offer only
turned back
5 , 000 dinars and some other fiscal assistance. Ibn Tabataba
disappointedly towards his home. On his way, he met Sari b. Man~ur al-Shaybini,
known by his iunya as Abu al-Saraya, who was formerly a soldier of Harthama h.
A 'yan. hut, after his allowance had been cut, had left the army and then wandered in
Iraq with his three servants. They decided to work together. Although Abu aI-Saraya
is not recorded as having heen involved hefore in any pro-Shl '1 activit),. he found that

Maqatil, p457. He wa~ Mu~ammad h. Ihrahim Tabataha h. Isma'tl h

Ihrahim b al-H~l'i3n h al- Hasan b. :\It b ..-\h1 Talih.


he had a great oppoctunity to win support, which he had not been able to draw in his
own name, for an uprising as a commander on behalf of an . Alid leader. On 10
Jumada II, 199 I 26 January, 815 the revolt was proclaimed for the name "alRit)a min AI MulJammad" ('the One well-pleasing [to God] from the House of

in the Shi'l stronghold Kufa. The revolt does not seem to have been

well-prepared and planned. However, it managed to gain the mass support of the
people, as al-I~ahanj describes: "The people of Kufa were spread like grasshoppers,
but they were not organised and they did not have power; they had no weapons except
sticks, ploughshares and baked bricks". 215

Ibn Tab~a suddenly died. There is a suspicion that he was poisoned by Abu
al-Samya who could have no authority over him. According to Ibn Tab~ba's will,
Abu al-Saraya set up in the place of the former a young 'Alid,



Muryammad b. Zayd, the grandson of Zayd b. 'Ali who was the leader of the
unsuccessful revolt in Kufa in 122n40. 216

Before his death, Ibn Tab~a had appointed his governors over the important
cities of the empire. The names of Musa al-Kii?im' s three sons are reccrded among the
governors of the revolt. Ibrahim b. Musil was appointed over Yemen. Zayd b. Musa
was appointed over Ahwaz. But, he was not content with it; he occupied Basra and
expelled from the city al- 'Abbis b. Mu1;tammad al-Ja'fari who had also been appointed
by the leader of the revolt. 217 According to al-Mas'udi, the governor of Basra was
'All b. Mul;tammad b. Ja'far, the nephew of al_K~m.218 Another son, lsma'il h.


Maqatil, p.523.


a1-Taban, iii, p.978; Maqatil, p. 532.

Maqatil. p.533 : al-Kamil, vi, p.214: Ibn. Khaldu~. al-'har.

p.24.\ al-Ruraqt, Tankb al-Kufa, p ..~62; Musnad al-Rt<;ta, 1. p.':d.


Muruj. Iii, p.439.


Musa, was appointed over Fars. 219 ~ad h. \o1iisa is also recorded as having
participated in the revolt,220 but whether he held a significant office in it is unknown.

'Ali al-Ri~a, unlike his brothers, following the policy of his father and

grandfather, did not have any involvement in the rebellion. He was invited by
Mu~mad b.

Sulayman, the governor of Medina on behalf of the revolt, 221 to attend

the ceremony of the oath of allegiance. He did not go, but he asked for twenty days
delay before making the oath. However, before that time came to an end, the
government troops had entered the city and put down the rebels. This narration is
related as evidence for a1-Ri~'s ability to prophesy. 222

Although in its early stage the revolt was quite successful taking advantage of
the weak condition of the imperial army which had already been involved in a severe
civil war and had thus undergone divisions within itself, thanks to Harthama b. A'yan
and other skilled commanders, the revolt was quelled after ten months. Abu al-Sariiya
was seized and decapitated on

to Rabi' I, 200 Its October,

815. 223 Abu al-Sariya.'s

protege, the so-called leader of the revolt, Mul;tammad b. Mul;tammad b. Zayd, was

219 Maqitil, p.533; al-Kimil, vi, p.2l4; Ibn Kbald\in, ai-'Ibar, iii, p.243.
Unlike other above-mentioned brothers, Isma'i1 b. Miisa's involvement in politics is
not recorded by tbe early rija I books of the Imamiyya. He resided in Egypt. His great
knowledge and the several books which were written by him _are partic~arly
mentioned. He is reported to have led the funeral prayer ~f Safwan b. Y~ya. ~e
agent of al-Ri~a, in Medina in 2J~~. ~ the order of the Imam Mul;tammad al-Jawad,
see al-Najashi, p.19; al-Mamaqaru, 1, blography no: 890.
220 al-Kashshi. p.4n.

He is Muhammad b. Sulayman b. Dawlid b. al-J:lasan b. alJ:lasan h. 't\11

b. AbiTalib, seeal-Taban, iii, p.981; Maqatil. p.540.


'Uyun. ii, p.208.

For detailed i nformatton about the revolt of Abu al-Saru.ya. see alTahan, iii, pp.976-986: Maqatil. pp.518-~~: M.uruj, iii, pp.4~MO: al-Ya quht. iii
pp.180-2; Ibn Kathlf, x, pp.244-5: al Kamtl. vt, pp.211-8; Kennedy. pp207 ff.

)3 b.

also captured and taken to Merv, where, after a short time, he died in 2011816-7.
There is a suspicion that he was poisoned. 224

During the revolt, Zayd b. Musa al- K~ had gained mastery over Basra. He
was called "Zayd al-Nar" ("Zayd of the Fire") , because he burnt down a large number
of houses belonging to the 'Abb3sid family and their maW/ali in Basra and threw
their supporters alive into the fire. His men also plundered wealth and possessions.
'Ali b. Abi Sa'id, the 'Abbasid commander, recovered Basra at the end of 199/815

and took Zayd prisoner. 225 'Ali b. Abi Sa'id, after settling the opposition of Zayd,
sent the commanders 'lsa b. Yazid al-Juludi to Mecca, H8riin b. al-Musayyah to
Medina and l:famdawayh b. 'Ali b. 'Isa b. Mahan to Yemen with orders to make war
on any of the Tatibis in these places. 226

The situation of Yemen was very aitical for the 'Abbisid government. Ibrahim
b. Musa a1-Ka~,


of Yemen, was in Mecca when the news

of the fate of Abu al-Saritya and of the Tilibis involved in the revolt in Iraq reached
him. Thereupon, Ibriihim set out from Mecca with his men and his family for Yemen.
Upon hearing about Ibrahim's approach, the governor of Yemen,

Isa al-' Abbasi,


b. Musa b.

abandoned the country to Ibrahim and escaped. Ibriihim b. M usa

acquired the nickname of "al-Jazzar" ("the butcher") because of the large number of
people whom he killed in a bloodthirsty fashion and because of taking people as slaves
and confiscating their wealth. In the pilgrimage season of 200/816, Ibnlhim dispatched
a man called al-'Aqtli, who was a descendant of 'Aqil b. Abt Talib, to Mecca to lead


Maqalil, p ..549; al-Tahari, iii, p.1015; Ihn Kathlr, x, p.248; al-Ka.mil,

vi, p.240.

al-Tahan, Iii, p.986; Ibn Kathtr, x, p.246; al-Kamil, VI, r218: Ihn
Khaldul1, al-'ibar, iii, p.244.


al-Tahan, iiI, p. 986.


the pilgrimage. When al- 'Aqili knew that Mecca had come under the control of the
'Abbasids and they had appointed their own leader of the pilgrimage. he did not
attempt to enter Mecca because of lack of his forces; he halted outside the city where
he stopped a caravan of pilgrims which was carrying the covering of the Ka'ba and
fragrant perfumes for it. He seized them as well as the goods of the merchants who
were also in the caravan. The pilgrims and the merchants reached Mecca naked and
robbed. Therefore, 'lsa al-Juludi marched against al- 'Aqili and scattered his troops. 22 7

Mu1;lammad b. Sulayman al- 'Alaw!, the governor of Medina on behalf of the

revolt, had taken the city from Diwud b. 'lsi al- 'Abbasi without fighting. He held
Medina during the year of 199 H .. At the beginning of 200 H. 'Abbasid troops
recaptured the city, which was put under the governorship of Hiiriin b. alMusayyab.228 It is not difficult to reckon that the 'Alids of Medina, who were largely
responsible for starting and carrying out the rebellion, were under intense pressure.

was probably among those who were watched by the spies of the

government. According to a narration, a disciple of al-Ri<;li, al-Ghifari, used to inform

the Imam about the governor Harun b. al-Musayyab. This man was probably close to
the governor's entourage, because he told al-Ri~a that he did not want to be seen with
the servants of


when the latter had offered to send to al-GhifWi. his four

servants to accompany him. 229

On the other hand, again in Medina, when the news of Abu al-Saraya's
execution and of the expulsion of the Talibi residents in the cities of Iraq arrived. all.lusayn b. a1-~~asan a1-Af~as b. 'Ali, the grandson of 'Ali Zayn al-Abidin, who was


al-T'aban. iii. pp.987-8. 995-6; al-Kamil. vi. pp.218, 220-1; al-lrshad,

p.460; Ihn Kathtr. x, p.246: "ll-Ash'an, i, p.B1.

22 R al-Taban,


iii, pp. 984- 5.

al-lrshad, pp.467R It has not heen


to identify this al(Jhifan

the governor of Mecca for Abu al-Saraya, and other notables of the family went
together in a body to Mu1;1ammad b. Ja'far al-~adiq in the hope of convincing him to
lead the TaJ..ibis in another anti -' Abb8sid revolt. 230

Mu1;1ammad b. Ja'far was well-known for his piety, asceticism and generosity.
He is reported to have fasted on alternate days. He is also said to have slaughtered
every day a ram for his guests. He was among the traditionists who related ~adith on
the authority of his father a1-~adiq.231 Mu~ammad was nicknamed "al-Dibaja" or
simply "al-Dibaj" ("elegance, handsome [facer) from his handsomeness and
brilliance. 23 2 With his high status in the eyes of people and being older, he was able to
attract people's support which many of the members of the Prophet's family were not

able to do because of their activities especially when they were involved in a rebellion.
For example, al-I:Iusayn


one of those who persuaded


to rebel,

had seized the wealth in the treasury of the Ka'ba at the time of Abu al-Sariya's revolt.
He had also swept through many houses in the city and confiscated the valuables of
the people under the pretext of seizing the wealth which had been previously entrusted
to them by the 'Abb8sids. Al-I:Iusayn's men had also extracted gold-plated windows

and other golden ornaments from the pillars of the I:Iaram Mosque and looted them.
Ibn Khaldun reports these incidents to explain why al-I:Iusayn could not shelter in
Mecca after the revolt, instead, he went immediately to


b. Ja'far to

persuade him to have another revolt. 23 3


al-Taban, iii, p. 989.

ai-ruban, iii, pp.989-90; Maqatil. p.538: al-Irsbild. p.4:)2: al-Tabar.;t.

I'lam, p.27S.


Muruj. iii, p.439; Ibn Hazm, Jambara. p.59: Ibn 'lnaba. p27S


al--'Ibar. iii, p.244. For these incidents. alsoseeal-Tabun. iiI. pp.9RR-Q

Although Mul;1ammad had refused this offer at first, his son 'Ali and alJ:Iusayn al-Af~ kept on at him until they persuaded him. Therefore, the 'Alids and all
the people of Mecca gave their oath of allegiance to him as caliph on 6 Rabi' II, 200i
13 November, 815 and addressed him as "Commander of the Faithful", a title which

was not adopted by any 'Alid rebel either before or after him. 234

After receiving the pledge of allegiance, MuJ;tammad b. Ja'far spent his first
month in Mecca without being involved with the government forces. However, in
these days, two different shameful acts in which al-Aftas
son were
. and Muhammad's
involved damaged the spirit of the revolt. Al-I:Jusayn a1-~


a woman from

Quraysh. who was described as outstandingly beautiful. He sent a message to her that
she should come to him, but she refused. He also frightened her husband, so the Isner
had to go into hiding. Then al-J:Iusayn sent a gang who broke down the house door
and carried the woman off to al-J:Iusayn. But she then managed to escape



family, who were preparing at that moment to fight at Mecca. On the other hand, 'Ali

h. Mul;1ammad b. Ja'far assaulted a youth from Quraysh, a son of a judge, who was
said to have been extremely handsome. 'Ali seized him openly in the middle of Mecca
and rode off with him. Therefore, native Meccans and foreign visitors gathered and
went to Mul;1ammad. They threatened to renounce their allegiance to him unless he
re~ored the youth to them. Mul;tammad required a guarantee from them to allow him

al-Tabari, iii, p.990; Muruj, iii, p.439. Unlike al-Tabari's information, alMas'udt, al-Ash'an and Ibn 'lnaba, without mentioning any attempt of Muhammad's
persuasion, report that T\1ul;1ammad supported the re~lt ?f Ibn Tab~ba publicly. ar:t.d .
when it failed. he auempted to lead another revolt tn hiS own name. see MuruJ, 111.
p.439; al-Ash'an, i. p.82; Ib~ .Inab~, p.27?o\ccording toan?therreport. a letter
written probably hy an . Abbasl~ 1fl whtc~ F~lma. the daughter ot the Prophet. ~d all
the members of the lauer's famtly were tnsulted was read to Muhammad. He did not
say a word; he entt.."fcd his home and then went out with his sword havlfig put on hiS
armour. and proclaimed h~~ rebellion. It Is.rep.~~ that f\Jtu~amma? had always
segregated himsel f from pO\lttcal actlVll1eS unt.l thts t nctdent. SL't..' Maq atl t, pro 53R-9.


to go to his son. They gave it, so he went, took back the youth from' Ali and restored
him to his family. 235

Meanwhile, the 'Abbisid troops had surrounded Mecca. Mu~ammad, at first.

asked the 'Abbasid commanders for a guarantee of protection so that his forces could
evacuate Mecca and go to wherever they liked. This was accepted. M~ammad went
towards the Red Sea coast. After some clashes, in one of which he lost one of his
eyes, MuJ;iammad had to seek a guarantee of personal. security from the commander
'Isa aI-Juludi and from Raja' b. Abi al-1)~~ak, the cousin of the vizier al-Fa~l b.
Sah1. 236 Raja' guaranteed on behalf of the caliph that Mu~ammad should not be
harassed and should be honoured. He agreed to it. Raja' took him to Mecca. A pulpit
was brought forward near the Ka'ba, at the same point where the oath of allegiance
had been given to M~ammad. The residents of the city were assembled. Mul:tammad
went up on the pulpit and proclaimed his allegiance to the caliph aI-Ma'moo. lIe said
that he had received news that aI-Ma' mun had been killed in the civil war and this had
led him to receive for himself the oath of allegiance as Commander of the Faithful, but
now he was infcrmed that the caliph was alive, so the pledge which had been given to
him had expired and he was from that time an ordiruuy Muslim. 237

'Ali al-Rida's attitude to this revolt was as

expected. He continued his non-

intervention policy. However, his stand seems to be closer to the government rather
than to his uncle's cause. As is understood from the reports, al-Ri9a was present at

235 al-Tahan, iii. pp.990-1.

2361hn al-Athtr gives the name as Raja' b. Jamtl. the son of
paternal aunt or uncle (al-Kamil, vi, p.220).


b Sahl s

237 al.Tahan. tii, pp.992-4. Also sec Maqatil. pp.537-41: Muruj. Itt.
pp.439-40; al.\a'quht, iii,p. tR.\ al-Ash'ar;. i, pp' .. ~2-:~: Thn Kathtr. x"pp 245~6: allrbilt, Khula~a. p.201; Thn Khaldun. al- Ibar. ttl, pp.244-5: Thn al lmad. tl, p.7:
Kennedy. pp.2 to-I.

!'vfecca at the time of the revolt, probably to make his farewell pilgrimage before his
journey to Merv. 238 Al-Ri~a was the envoy of Hartin b. al-!'Vtusayyab to \lu~ammad
b. Ja 'far to persuade him to obey the government. He met his uncle at Tbabir. 239 But
Mu1;lammad neither took note of him nor of the governor's letter which he brought
with him.24o According to a narration, 'Ali al-Ri~and his uncle Isl;taq b. Ja'far went
to Mu1;lammad.


admonished him not to disown the line of


and al-

because the time of insurrection had not yet come. 241 Another tradition related

to this event tends to prove


al-Ri~a's prophecy.

The Imam sent his mawLa Musruir to

to warn him that if he went out on the following day, he would be put to

flight and his companions would be killed. Musafir gave the warning to hlm. The
latter asked from where had he learned this. Mus8.fir, following the Imam's
irun-uction, said that he saw it in his dream. On this answer Mul:tammad retcned: "The
slave only dreams when he has not washed his buttocks!" But on the following day
the prophecy was realised. 242

A tradition shows that in any case the relationship between Mu1;lammad b.

Ja'far and 'Ali al-Ri~a was not so good. The Imam told one of his companions that he
did not want to be together with bis uncle Mu1;lammad in any place, because, he
thought that, when Mu1;lammad was present with bim, people gave credence to what

238 Despite its legendary nature, a tradition shows that th~ ~~ al-Ri~ made
a pilgrimage before setting off for Khur8.san, see Musnad al-Ri"a, 1, p.53.
239 Thabir was the name of one of tbe high bills in Mecca, see Yaqut, i,
240 Maqitil, p.540. The text of this report is vague. In tb~ ligbt of some ocher
information which has been presented, I have preferred t? read it that l~e governor
Hamn sent al-Ri~a as his envoy to Mu~ammad b. Ja far. S. M. Aqomand has
understood it in different way that Mu1:tammad sent the Imam to sue for peace wl.th the
governor Bariln, see S. M. Arjomand, "Crisis of the Imamate and OccultatlOn In
Shi 'ism", IJM ES, 28 (1996), p.495.
24 1

'U Y un, ii, pp. 207 -S: K ash f, iii, p. 90.


al-Kulayn1, i, p.491: al-Irshad, p.476-7: Kashf




MUJ;tammad said. but. in otber situations, his sayIngs were not taken into
consideration. 243 This might indicate that there was a difference of opinion between
them on some matters which have n~ been dearly presented by the sources. 244

After MuJ;tammad b. la'far had withdrawn his claim and restored his oath of
allegiance to the caliph publicly, he was taken to Iraq by 'Isa al-luludi and handed
over to al-I:Iasan b. Sahl, the governor of Iraq. Then al- I:Iasan sent him under the
custody of Raja' b. Abi al-1)~~ to al-Ma'mun at Merv. 245 His being taken to Merv

243'U yun,

p. 204 .

Another of al-Ri~a's uncles 'Ali b. la'far, the youngest son of al-~adiq, is

recorded by al-I~aharu among the leading figures of MuJ;tammad b. la'far's revolt
(MaqatiJ, p.540). This information is also repeated by two Shiei genealogist, al'Umari and Ibn 'Inaba. The genealogists say that although 'Ali h. la'far joined this
revolt, he did not continue this revolutionary attirude and turned repentant!y to the line
of the Imams. (al-'Umari, p.136; Ibn 'Inaba, p.271).
We know 'Ali b. la'far as a Shi'i scholar and a rawi transmitting from alKa~im and Sufyin al-Thawri. He was also a propagandist for the imama of al-Ri~a
and al-lawad. Except for this event, there is no information of his involvement in any
political activity. Acccrding to Ibn al- 'Imad, he died in 210/825-6 whereas Ibn 'Inaba
reports that he died in the time of the Imim 'Ali al-Hadi (after 220 H.). His death
place was al-'Uray~, a village which was six mils away from Medina. (al-Irsbid,
pp. 434, 440; Ibn 'Inaba, pp. 270-1; Ibn al- 'Imad, ii, p. 24).
If 'Ali b. la'farwas a sincere disciple of his brother al-K~ and then that of
al-Ri~a as is shown in the sources, he should have followed their policy and not
joined in such a rebellion which was repUdiated presently by al-Ri~a. Therefae. there
is a possibility that a1-I~ahini or later copyists dropped the name IMul;Iammad"
between 'Ali" and "la'far" like a copyist bad done in another part of the book and
this mistake has been corrected by the editor (see p.534). Because. al-I~fabanl,
according to the text of the book, failed l? record the ~e a! 'Ali b. MuJ;tammad b.
la 'far, who is expected to have been menttoned due ~ blm belng one _of..t.he two men
who invited Muhammad b. la'far to lead the rebellion (see al-Taban. 111, p.990). If
this conjecture is true. it might be suggested that the accounts of al- 'Umari and Ibn
'Inaba were based on the text of Maqatil.
A similar mistake exists in lamhara of Ibn Hazrn. who notes 'Ali h. la'far as
arebe1 in Basra (lambara, p.59). However. the rebel in Basra was, in.fact, 'Ali h.
Muhammad b. la'far who is recorded as the governor of Basra app01nted hy Ibn
Tabataba. He rose in Basra together with Zayd b. Musa against the 'Abhasids (see
Muruj. iii. p.439; Ivanow, "EarlySht't \1ovements". p.12. quoting from al-Qa~t alNu'man).
Sibt h. al-lawzt's record that 'All b. la' far was the leader of the reb ell ton of
200 ll. in 'Mecca (Tadhkirat. pp.346-7) is definitely an error. \Ve know that its
leader wa., Mut:tammad b. Ja'far.



al-Tabari. ii i. pp.994-5.

was probably a part of al-Mat mun' s plan in whicb 'Ali


would also be

proclaimed as heir to the 'Abbisid throne, and it seems that he was with a1-Ri~a
during his journey to Merv as will be mentioned later. 246 With


a group

of the Tilibis who bad participated in the revolt were also taken to Merv. At first aIMat mun had not wanted them to be with


on the journey; be ordered them

be taken under the custody of another Tilibi, who was called 'Ubayd Allah b. aI-

l:Iusayn. But the Tilibis refused to do this and kept themselves close in their bomes.
So al-Ma' mun later accepted that they could ride with whomever they preferred on tbe
journey. They favoured to be with Mu~ammad.247 This incident might indicate that he
had not yet lost his esteem within the family after the defeat of his rebellion.


b. Ja'farspenthislast two years in Khurisan. He was present in

the ceremony of the oath of allegiance for al-Ri~a as the heir of ai-Ma' mlin. 248 He was
often with ai-Ri~a in the symposia arranged in the court of ai-Ma' mlin. 249 He died in

203/820 in Jurjan on his journey to Baghdad with ai-Ma' mlin. 250 The death probably
took place in one of the last two months of the year 203 H. on the basis that aiMa'mUn stayed in Jurjan for a month and then he left for Rayy in Dhu ai-I:Iijja of 203
H. ,251 the time which corresponds


nine or ten months later than the date of ai-

death given by al-Tabari. Tbe cause of his death is reported to have been that he

246 see p.270 below.

247 Maqatil, p.537; al-Irshid p.433; al-Tabarsi, I'lim, p.275.
248 Maqatil. pp.563-4; Kashf. iii. p.67.
249 see 'Uyun. i. p.128; al-Tab~i, al-I~tijij, p.42S.
250 al-Kaimil. vi. p.252; Ihn al-'lmad. ii. p.7.

al-Tabari, iii.

r 1036; al-Kamil. vi, p.253.


underwent blood-letting followed by sexual intercourse, and then he went to the bath
where he died. 252

At-Ma' mun participated in his funeral. He led his funeral prayer. He was
among the people who carried Mu~ammad's coffin to the graveyard. He went down in
the grave and buried him. It is reported that when al-Ma'mlin was asked to ride his
horse so that he would not get so tired, he answered that this gesture was the
demonstration of kinship between the two families which had been broken for two
hundred years. The caliph also took over Mu~ammad's debts amounting to about

30,000 diniirs.253

VI - The Nomination of al-Ridi as Heir to the cAbbisid


The civil war between the two' Abbasid princes ended at the beginning of the
year 198 H .. The caliph al-Amin had been killed by his brother. This resulted in
discontent among the' Abbasid family and in the Baghdad court. Instead of coming to
Baghdad and taking over the government, the new caliph aI-Ma' mun preferred



in Merv, the capital of Khuriisan, and sent aI-l:Iasan b. Sahl, the brother of his Persian
vizier, to Iraq as a governor of a large domain including Baghdad. This became an
important factor which incited further discontent. At this time in which uncertain and
insecure conditions dominated, a series of rebellions, which were very dangerous in
tenns of the !)UUe's security broke out, seizing the opportunity of these circumstances.

25 2 1b n al - 'I m ad,

ii, p. 7; ai-I rb ilt, K h u 1a ~ a, p. 20 I

p.54l: al-Irbilt, Khula~a. p.201; Stbt. p.347: Ibn al-JaWZt.

Munlazam, x, p. 121.ln the report of aI-Muttd. the debt is 1~ ,000 dinars. see aIIrshad, p.434.
253 Maqatil,


Al-J:Iasan ai-Hirsh rebelled with a large number of his tribesmen in Dhil alJ:Iijja, 198 I July-August, 814. Although the rebellion had not a Shi'i nature, it was
proclaimed with the slogan "fer the cause of al-Rit;lii min Al



J:fasan terrorised a large part of Iraq, seizing the po~essions of merchants, plundering
villages and exacting taxes. The revolt was suppressed in a short time and its leader
was killed. 254 However, a few months later, a more serious and dangerous revolt
started. This uprising which was conducted by Abu al-Saraya and supported largely
by the Shi'is lasted for about ten months and was only quelled with difficulty.
According to al-I~ah8.ni, on the side of the 'Abbasid army two thousand soldiers lost
their lives in this episode as recorded in the account books of the government

(diwiin).255 This rebellion was followed by other local outbreaks directed by some
prominent' Alid figures. The most momentous were led by MuJ;tammad b. Ja 'far and
Ibrahim b. Musa, the uncle and the brother of 'Ali


These took place in the

first half of the year 200 H .. If the report that Raja' b. Abi al-I;:>a1;lJ;tak, the official who
had been sent by al-Ma'mun with the responsibility for bringing 'Ali


to Merv,

arrived in Hijaz in the last month of 200 H. 256 is taken into consideration, it can be
said that the decision to summon al-Ri~a as heir to the throne was possibly made in the
first half of the year 200 H. , the time in which the government was exerting itself to
defeat the 'Alid rebellions in the several places in Iraq and Arabia.

We can now examine the factors which led the caliphate to make such an
extraordinary decision, to which nothing similar had ever been recaded in the history
of the 'Abbasids. Before observing the general views about which factor or factors
came first to make such a decision, it is appropriate to examine fi~ whether the caliph


ai-Tabari, ii i, pp.975-6.


Maqatil. p.5S0.


al-Taban, iii, p.993.


was the only one who decided it or whether his vizier


b. Sahl induced him to

do it, a matter on which much discu~on has taken place among~ the hi~orians.

1 - The Role of the Vizier aI-Fadl b. Sahl

The vizier al-Fa<;U b. Sabl, formerly a Manichaean, was introduced to Islam by

al-Ma'mOO. It is also said that his father Sahl accepted Islam thanks to the caliph alMahdi when the former was the prisoner of the caliph. Ya1;tya al-Barmaki is
accounted, too, to have been influential in the conversion of the two sons of Sahl, alFa~l

and al-I:Iasan; then they lived as proteges of the Barmakis and then were

commissioned in the service of al-Ma'mun. 257 After al-Ma'mlin had become caliph,
he assigned


to the vizirate of the state giving him both civil and military

commands. For that reason he was called "Dhu al-Riyasatayn" ("the man with two
powers").258 AI-Ma'mun also granted to


brother, al-l:lasan, the

governorship of the districts of al-Jibw, Fars, Iraq, Hijaz and Yemen .259

The only report indicating that al-Ma'mlin had decided himself previously to
nominate 'Ali al-Ri~a as his heir and, after having him brought to Merv, opened his
mind about the Imam to al-Fa~l b. Sahl was related by al-I~aharu on the authority of
an 'Alid, Ya1;tyi b. al-I:Iasan. Acccrding to this report, al-Ma'moo summoned al-Fa~l
and his brother al-I:Iasan into his }X1!sence and explained to them his desire to appoint
al-Ri~a as his successor. Al-I:Iasan did not enjoy this news, because he thought that

2.57 'lJyun, ii, pp. 163-4; al-Kamil. vi, p.134; Ibn al-Tiq~a. p.220.
25~ al-Jahshiyari. pp.30S6; 'lJyun. ii, p.163;

Kamil. vi. p. 134.


al-Tuban. iii, p. 975.


Ihn Khallikan, iv. pAt. al-

this might lead to taking this privileged position out of their own family.
. 260 But they.
had to go to al-Ri~a at al-Ma'mun's order to persuade him to accept the caliph s
offer. 261

This report, however, includes a significant inaccuracy. In contrast to this

narration, al-J:Iasan b. Sahl, the governor, did not appear at that time in


according to the historical annals. Instead, we see him in Iraq busy with the
suppression of the opposition movement which accepted


b. al-Mahdi as the

new governor and expelled al-~asan's officials from Baghdad. 262

W. Madelung has translated the letter Kitab al-Shart wa al-Hibii', which

was written for the ceremony of


succession to the throne, to


b. Sahl

to guarantee him all his rights and to explain the caliph's desire to retain his services.
As part of his introduction to the translation, Madelung observes that



the caliph for his retirement and his desire of withdrawal from the world as were
mentioned in the letter, could inA'c.Q1e. that al-Fa~l initially opposed this step of alMa'mun and was fully aware of the hazardous nature oftrus policy for al-Ma'mun and
himself who would likely be held responsible for it. So Madelung concludes that the

However, according to E. Kohlberg, a story, which was presented by

Radi ai-Din 'Ali b. Musa ibn Tawus in his Facaj al-Mahmum fi Tankh al'Uiama' al-Nujum, depicts al-J:Iasan b. Sahl as a follower of al-Ri~a. Ibn Tawus
cited this story from al-J~mi' of Mu~ammad b. al-J:Iasan ibn al-Waltd al-Qumml
(d. 343/954-5), see A MedIeval Musltm Scholar, p.202.

Maqatil, pp.562-3. AI-Mufid and a1-Irbi~~. also quote it w~th~~t gi.\ing alIsfahant's name, see al-Irshad, pp.470-1; Kashf, 111, p.66. The raWl 1S 'iahya h.
ai-llmian h. Ja/far h 'lJhayd Alhih h. al-l~usayn b .. Aft b. al-1.lusayn h. '-\.11 b . .A.h1
Tat"ih. He related from al-Ri<,1a. He is regarded by the Imam1 al ~aJashl as a
truth worthy rii wi and an expert in #:Jadith, see al- Najash" p.309.

see al-Tahan. iii. pp. tOOl-lOll: al-Kamil. \i. pp.:!:?5-7 \tu~sin a1Am1n sees that it is' plausihle that al-Ma' mun summoned al-l.Iasan for thIS matter and
then sent him back to Iraq. see A' yan at -Sh1' a. ry'~. p. I ~4.


initiative probably belonged to the caliph rather than the vizier, a conclusion which
also confirms the assumption of F. Gabrieli and D. Sourde1. 263

However, if some other reports and a new document which the authors do not
seem to have consulted are taken into consideration, it appears that the factor of aI-Fadl
b. Sabl in the process of makjng the decision should not be omitted. First of all, it
must be stressed that the original of the above-mentioned letter, which was preserved
with ancxherexplanatory letter, was dated 7 Ramw;tan, 201. If my assumption that the
decision of al-Ri9a's nomination was made in the first half of the year 200 H. is

this would mean that the letter was made public, at least, fourteen months

after the decision had been made. Therefcre, there is no reason not to think that ai-Fadl
induced the caliph to this step or, at least, agreed with him from the outset, but, upon
an abrupt and dangerous change of the situation, he then wanted to withdraw himself
from the government in order to escape from the responsibility for the dangerous
situation. Even before al-Ri9a was proclaimed as heir, the 'Abbasids in Baghdad had
already held al-Fa91 b. Sahl responsible for several decisions of al-Ma' mun such as
the appointment of al-J:Iasan b. Sahl as governor with great authority over the
mainland of the empire. Furthermore, the J:Iarbiyya troops, who were mainly Persian

malA/ali, blamed him for the murder of their commander Harthama b. A Cyan at the
end of 200 H .. So the first half of the year 201 H. witnessed a civil war between the
side of al-Hasan b. Sahl who represented the Khuriisan-based government and the
side of the' Abbasids in Baghdad and Abna' al-Dawla (persian mawiili) who
were very uneasy due to al-Ma'mun's policy. Besides, this state caused Mansur b. al-

W. Madelung. "New Documents concerning al-Ma'mun ..al-Fa~l h, Sahl

and 'Alt al-R i 9 a", in Studia Arabica et Is~amica, Festschrtft !or Ihsa,n
'Abbas, (Beirut 1981). pp.333-9. For the ArabiC t~xt.of the l~tter. see
pp. 152.7. For the same conclusion. also see F. Gabneh. al- M.a m un e glt Ahdl.
(Leipzig 1929), p.32 ff.; D. So~rdel,,,Le Vizir~t ',~bbast~e de 749 a 936.
(Dama.~cus 1959-60), pp.208 ff.: Idem. al-Fa~ h. Sahl . Ell, II p.731


264 set..'

p. 246 shove.

Mahdi to be acc~d by the opposition in Baghdad as their new governor from 25

Jumada II, 201 onwards, so they expelled the officials of al-\ta' moo from the city. 26~
We think that these circumstances compelled al-Fa~l b. Sabl to leave his office.
Nevertheless, al-Ma'mun reassured his vizier through this letter to retain his services
which he deemed essential for the well-being of the


Another letter seems to corroborate our assumJXion about the responsibility for
the decision. This document is a letter of summons which was written by



Sahl and sent to al-Ri~a in Medina. 266 In it al-Fa~l says that "he had sacrificed his
lifeblood to return (al-Ri"a's) rights to him and had worked night and day in order to
fulfil it" and he adds his expectation of God's blessing in return fer his effcrt torea1ize
it.267 These sentences seem to be clear statements explaining


part in the


According to the sources, al-Fa"l b. Sahl so dominated al-Ma'mun that he

meddled in everything, even as far as a slave-girl the caliph wanted to buy. 268 Perhaps
for that reason, when the 'Abbasids in Baghdad received the news of 'All al-Ri~a's
succession to the throne, the first man they held responsible for it was al-Fa91: they
said: "All this is nothing but machinations on the part of a1-Fa~1 b. Sabl" 269

265 FaraH these developments. see al-rabari, iii, pp.l001-6.

266 The lener is presented hy the Shari '1 scho~ar ~bu al-Qasim 'Abd al-Karim
h. Muhammad al-Rafi't al-Qazwini (d.623J1226) In hls al-Tadwtn fl Akhbar
Qazwt n. For the full translation of the letter, see pp. 268-9 below.
267 see al-Rafi 't, iii. p.425.
2 6 R M u r u j,

ii i. p.41 7: 1hn al- Ti q ~aq a. p.:2 17 .

269 al-Tahan. ill. p.l013. Also sec 'Uyun. ii, p.150.

The sources which see al-Fa<;tl as author of the scheme give two different
factors which drive the vizier to put such a dangerous decision into effect. According
to Ibn al-Athir, al-Fa<;tl was a sympathiser with Shi'ism; this was the reason why he
proposed this offer of appointment to al-Ma' mun. 270 Another report from alJahshiyan indicates that al-Fa<;tl b. Sahl, as a former Manichaean or still holding this
faith, desired an 'A1id heir in order to restore the Sasarud monarchy. Nu'aym b.
!:fazim271 asserted before the caliph and the vizier that after the caliphate passed from
the 'Abbasids to the 'A1ids, it would be easy for al-Fa<;tl to achieve this intention, and
he added that it was the fact that the vizier chose green instead of white as the official
colour of the caliphate that strengthened his suspicion since white was the traditional
'Alid colour whereas green was the cloth of the Kisra. Nu'aym then turned to Ma'mun
and asked him not to nominate a man from a family whose blood still dripped from the
swords of the KhurS.sinians. 2n Ibn


also emphasises this matter stating that

al-Fa<;tl employed all means to further his interest and in his efforts to win the caliphate

270 al-Kimil, vi, pp.134-5. Ja'far M. al-'Amili denies this claim giving
several evidences from Imami narrations, see al-I:fayit al-Siyisiyya, pp.262-8.
According to al-Mamaqaru, the Shi'ism of this sort of Zindiq ~d ~~am~worthy man
should be only in a deformed and confused form, see Ta.nql~, 11, biography no:
271 Nu'aym was a Khurasanian supporter of al-Ma'mun. He carried the flag
of al-Ma'mful in the civil war, see al-Tabari, iii, p.841.
al-Jahshiyan: pp.312-3. This assu~ptio_n s~ems. to h~v~ !ed to an
uneasiness among the caliph s entourage, hence, '\ aI;1ya b. Anllr ~-I:fanthl, ventured
to greet al-Ma'mun as ~ir ~-KjfiriD. (commande~ ~~.the unbehevers). 1 hiS lnsult
resulted in Yahya's executton 111 200 H., see al-Taban, 111, p.1001.
Nabia 'Abbott (Two Queens, p.223), H. Ibrahim Hassan ("Aspects of
Shi'ah History", p.281) and A~mad Amin (I;)u~i a1-IsI~, iii, p.295) connecta
bond between al-Fa<;tl's Shi'ism and his being a native Persian and explatn hl.S role 1fl
the nomination proposal from this conjecture. According to them, _the Persians h~d_
been, from early days. associated with the Shi'a or, in Ahmad Aml_n.s wo~d, yaJn
fi 'uriiqibim al-tasbayyu'" ("Shi'ism flows in th~ir veins"). J.UfJ~ Zaydan s~es \~,
possible that al-Fa<;tl imposed the nomtnaUon of al-R19a on al_ ~1a mun as a cone I~ I~"
for his assistance to him in fighting his brother ai .\min (Tirikh al-Te.madl.1un lllIslimi, iv, p.169).


for himself. 2 73 In another report quoted by Ibn Babuya from Tirikh K.hurasan of
Abu' Ali al-Sallami (writing in the first half of the 4th/10th century), a1-Fa~1 is shown
as one who pretended to become another Abu Muslim:


had transferred the

caliphate from one brother to another (from al-Amin to al-Ma'mun), but the next step
now was to transfer it from one family to another family (from 'Abbisids to tbe
'Alids) just like Abu Muslim had done in the 'Abbasid revolution. 2 74

Apart from these two principal explanations, another report seems to be more
revealing of the real factor which made the vizier make such a decision or, at least, to
consent to this plan from the outset. Ibn Babuya relates on the authority of the Tahirid
'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abd Allah b. Tahir that al-Fac;tl pointed al-Ma'mun to the nomination
of al-Ri"a by suggesting that this was an opportunity to gain God's favour by
reconciling the kinship between the two families, so in this way Harun al-Rashid's
negative attitude towards the 'Alids would be obliterated. 2 75 As Hugh Kennedy
rightly observes, such a policy of reconciliation with the 'Alids was a continuation of
the policy of the Barmakis, so al-Fac;tl b. Sahl, who was the author of the scheme, as a
pupil of the Barmakis was developing their ideas. 2 76


al-Fakhri, p.217.

'Uylin, ii, p.163. An interesting narration in 'Uylan A~hbir a1-Ri~a,

which denotes the great ambition of al-Fa~l b. Sahl to transfer the c~hphate to 'Alt. alRi<;1a, is definitely not in agreement wi~ the ~nown charaC1~ and attitude of th~ VIZier.
According to it, the vi!ier al-~a"l, Wlt~ Htsham b. Ibrahim, went ~o ~-RI"a and
offered him co-operation to kill al-Ma mun and then to restore hiS nght to the
caliphate. The Imam refused it and scolded the.m because o.f the offer. Afterv: ards , the
vi7jer who noticed the hazardous results of thiS conversation went LO al-\1a mun and
told him that he had put al-Ri~a to the test in order to reveal what he had concealed In
his mind, see 'Uyun, ii, pp. 164-5.


'IJyun. ii, p. 145: Musnad al Ri~a. i. p.71


II. Kennedy, The Early Abbasid CatiphaLc, p. 1SR.

2 - What Led the Caliph aI-Ma'muD to Make this Decision

2.1 - The Imimi - Shiei explanation

The Imimi sources usually hold al-Ma' mUD responsible for the Domination of
the Imam


The most popular of the factors put forward to explain the reason

behind the decision is al-Ma'mun's fulfilment of an earlier vow. According to the

narration of al-Rayyan b.

al-~t who

was an Imami Khurasanian official of the caliph.

al-Ma' mun mentioned to al-Rayyan rumours which showed al-FaC;ll b. Sahl as the
plotter of the nomination, and said that it was tota1lyimaginary that somebody came to
the caliph and asked him to appoint ancxher person from a different family. Then he
began to narrate that when al-Amin summoned him to Baghdad, he refused to obey
him. So al-Amin sent his troops to force him to obey. At the beginning his situation

in Khuriisan was very miserable. He had no power and money in order to resist alAmin's military strength , therefore he decided to seek refuge from the king of Kabul,
but then he gave that up,being concerned that the king might have handed him over to
al-Amin if the latter granted something to him.

Exc~ for

prayer be could do nothing.

He put on white clothes, the colour of the Propbet's family, and turned to God in
repentance. In his prayers be vowed that if he could stay alive and manage to come to
power, he would leave the caliphate to a man who was entitled by God to this post.
AI-Ma'mun finished his talk with al-Rayyan saying that this was tbe reason why he
nominated' Ali al-Ri~a as his beirto the caliphate. 277

'Uyun, ii. 149-51: al-Taharsl, l'lam, p.~20; Musnad al-~ida, I,

pp. 75-6 ..:\.tl~fahant also mentions thiS VOW, see Maqat~1. p.563, and al-Irbtlt qu~es
It in Kashf. iii. p.66. Ihn Bahuya ad?pts thiS n~lOn, therefore he rejects at
Sa11amt's report that the real person behtnd the dectSton was the \'IZler al radl see
'lJyun, Ii, p.l64.


Another Shl'i explanation which was introduced by Abu al-$alt al-Harawi has
it that al-Ma'mun aimed to ensnare the Imam in worldly affairs and, in this way, to
turn the devotion of his followers away from him., but he could not see the effect of
this plan and eventually killed the Imam. 278 Although he is a non-Shl'i author, 'Ali b.


(d.646/1248)'s statement also puts forward the same point. When he

relates a narration from 'Abd Allah b. Sahl b. Nawbakht, who is introduced as the
astrologer of al-Ma'mun, he recounts, in the course of the narration, what drove the
caliph to nominate al-Ri<:Ja as his heir:
Al-Ma'mun saw that the family of the Commander of the Faithful,
'Ali b. Abi Talib, were in fear and hiding because of al-Man~r and
those who had come after him from the Banu 'Abbas. He also
observed that the common people, to whom the affairs of these 'Alids
were completely unknown, believed that the 'Alids had a similar
position to the Prophets, and they made claims about their capacities
which were far outside the sbari'a. At first, he (al-Ma'mun)
intended to punish these people because of this. Then he considered
that if he punished these common people in this way, they would
become more agitated. He thought about this meticulously. He felt
that if the 'Alids were able to reveal themselves to the people and the
people could see the sinfulness and unfairness of the 'Alids, they
would fall into disfavour in the eyes of the people; (otherwise), it was
not possible to undermine the people's great respect for them.
Then he said: If we ordered them (the 'Alids) to appear, they would
fear and hide; they would think ill about us. Hence, the (proper)
decision is to place one of them at the head and to proclaim him as an
imam for them. So, when they see this, the 'A1ids would forget
(themselves), appear (as they are) and display all the actions peculiar
to (ordinary) human beings. Consequently, their (real) status and
what they have concealed very carefully (so far) would become
confirmed to the people. When it happens, I can remove the
sweepings and bring the matter to an early resolution". 279

-- ------------27~ 'Uylin, ii, p.241.

M.H. Taba~aba:i .also mentions this factor, see A

Shi'ite Anthology, ed. and trans. by W.C. ChlttIck, p.139.
al-Qif~i, Kitib Akhbir aI-IUlami' bi Ak.hbir. al-l:Iukami',
pp.149-50. AI:tmad Amin's suggestion .is in accord with a1-Qlf.~i's Informa~lO~ He
thinks that aI-Ma'mun might ha\'e contn\'~d to reduce the worthIness of the Altds In
the eyes of people by drawing the Imam into. governme~ta1affaIrs. because It was the
fact that the lack of the . Alids' involvement 1fl state affairs Increased I? common eyes
their holiness and sanctity which sometimes ~ncouraged some of the tamlly members
to get involved in dangerous business in terms of the secunty of the state. ~o, In thIS
wav, the Imam who would make a lot of mIstakes and c~mmlt ~anYSlns In worldly
affrurs could obliterate this image of the' Ahds, see I;)u1;la at-Islam. 111, P 295


To remove a potential peril permanently is another Shi'i explanation for the

decision of al-Ma'mun: In a tradition related by the eleventh Imam al-J:Iasan al-' Askari
from his father 'Ali and grandfather al-lawad, al-Ma'mun explains his conspiratorial
intention in the following sentences:
"This man (a1-Ri~) was hidden from us cal l1ngthe people to himself,
therefore we wanted to designate him as our heir in order to make him
pray for our favour, and as a result of the nomination, he would
acknowledge our authority and caliphate, and (consequently) evildoers ("muftinun", i.e. supporters of the Imam) would believe that
the Imam's previous claim was an unconvincing one, so the authority
would (totally) belong to us rather than to him. We have feared to
leave him in that situation as it would allow him to act in such a way
as to cause splits which might not be able to be stopped, and to
achieve things we could not tolerate. Now, since we have done to
him what we have done, we have sinned in the matter what we have
sinned and we have exhausted all our effort at it, the contempt of his
authority is not permitted. However, it is necessary to reduce his
influence by and by in order to illu~e him to be, in the opinion of
the people, a person who is not entitled to such a position, and then
we would have prepared for him something by which the trouble
which he was for us would be permanently removed from us \1.280

2.2 - Al-Ma' muo's MuCtazilism aod Sb.cism

Some historians think. that the Mu 'tazili effect was dominant as a factor behind
the decision of al-Ma'm\in. Ibn Kathir states that al-Ma'mun was a Mu'tazili. 281
According to AJ:tmad Amin, because al-Ma'mun adopted the ideas of the ~luCtazih
school of Baghdad, whichgenera1ly accepted that 'Ali b. Abl Talib was more entitled
to the caliphate than Abu Baler and 'Umar, he nominated al-Ri~a as his successor
order to carry the idea of the precedence of the' Alids into effect. 282


'Uyun, ii, pp.167-R.

28 \

al Bidaya. x. p.275.


Duha al-lslam,




This hypothesis is open to doubt. Although it can be admined that some

Mu'taziH scholars in the court 283 might have considered this step to be appropriate,
there is no clear evidence that the caliph himself was a thoroughgoing Mu'tazilt. His
declaration of the doctrine that the Qur' in was created and his opinion on the unity of
God (taw~id)


may indicate a tendency towards Mu'tazilism. However, the fatt

that some of his comments and actions on several occasions were contrary to some of
the principles of the sect might suggest that the caliph's theological views were rather
eclectic. 28s This eclecticism also shows itself in his choice of al-Rids. as his heir as
will be explained.


puts forward that al-Ma'mUn's extravagant attachment to Sht'ism

induced him to the nomination of al-Ri~a. 286 Ibn Bs.buya relates two narrations about
the cause of al-Ma'mun's Shi'ism. However, these narrations seem to have been
designed to show the Imam al-K~im's superiority and


rather than the first step

of al-Ma' mun's inclination to the sect. According to the narrations, when the caliph
was still a child, Harun al-Rashid's reception of al-Ka~im and his veneration of him
made a deep impression on al-Ma'mun. Ai-Rashid told the latter: "I am the imam of
the community in appearance in terms of victory and force (al-ghalaba \Va al-


for these scholars, see pp.265-6 below.


see al-Ma' moo's letters on the mi~na, al-Tabari, iii, pp. 1112-1127.

285 John A. Nawas, who examines in his article the current explanations for
a1-Ma' moo's introduction of the mil;lna, has collected evidence of ai-Ma' mun s anliMu'tazilt actions and comments, see" A Reexamination of Three Current Explanations
for at-Ma' mun's Introduction of the Mi~na". IJMES, 26 (1994), pp.616-7. "'Jawas
gives an evidence from the History of Ibn Tayfur that ai-Ma'mun is sa.id to have
abandoned the position of hum an free will, which was a crUCtal pnnci pie. ?f the
Mu'tazih ideology. Another rep~ from Ibn Tayfu~ ~so shows that ontwo dttterent
occasions ai-Ma' mun declared himself to he a \1urp t, a comment which would, of
course show him not to he a \01u'ta7jll. Upon these evidences and other
determi nations on the mil;lna letters. Nawas concludes that the \1u 'lazil ism
hypothesis must he.rejected as the principal explanation for the calirh's action in thL'
mil)na episode (Ibid. p.61 7).

-'86 S

1_ .

qahr), but Musa b. Ja'far is the true Imam. 0 my son, by God, he is truly more

emitled to the place of the Apostle of Allah than me and than the whole of creation".
After narrating the stay, al-Ma' mun expressed his feelings in his own words: "At that
time the affection far them (the Imam's family) was planted in my heart.

Indeed al-Ma' mun's sympathy to Shi'ism was



fact. This fattar laid

behind several of his actions. In 211/826-7 he banned the favourable mention of the
name of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan and giving him superiority over other companions
of the Prophet. 288 The following year he proclaimed the pre-eminence of 'Ali b. Abi
Talib, emphasising that he was the best of mankind after the Prophet. 289 It has been
reported that he also attempted to permit officially the mutcQ marriage, but as a result
of the persuasion of the Sunnt judge YaJ;1ya b. Aktham, he turned away from this

see 'Uyiin, i. n-6. S. B. Samadi links al-Ma'mun's sru'i inclination

with the influence of Ja'farb. Yal:tya al-Barmaki who was the tutor of the caliph. see
"Some Aspects of the Theory of the State and Administration under the Abbasids" ,
Islamic Culture, 29 (1955), p.112.


al-Tabari, iii, p.l098; Muriaj, iii, p.454; al-Kimil, vi, p.286.

al-Tabari, iii, p.l099; al-Azdi, p.373; al-Kimil, vi, p.288; Ibn Kathir, x,
p.266-7. A1-Ma'~Un, by way of ~s pro?~ation, ab~lished ~e caliph al-Mahdi's
claim that the hereditary nghts of the Abbastds to the caliphate dId not come through
'Ali b. Abi Talib's descendants but came from ai-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Mu~ib himself
(see p.114 above). This fact ~s ~sse~ .in al-Ma' ~un's ans~~ to the 'Abbasids who
did not yet approve the cal1ph s deCtS10n to nomtnate al-Ru;ta even though the laner
had already. JieJ . He said:,
. ,_
" As for your placing al- Abbas befere htm ( ~ b. Abi Taitb) t~ rank,
God, the Exalted, says: "Do you make the giV1ng of water to ptlgnms
and the maintenance of the Holy Mosque equal to someone who
helieves in God and the Last Day and fights in the path of God?"
(Our'an, 9: 19). By God, if oruY,a ~ngle tn:u t of the merits and
virtues of the Commander of the Fatthtul were In any man of you or
anyone else, he would have deserved: and have been suited fo~ the
caliphate in preference to the Companions of t~e \1essenger of lJO~,
may God bless him and his family, hy thts tnul. ~trclns~: \~
\1adelung, "~ew Documents" , p, 341 , ,-\rah. text a1 \1aJltsl, XLIX,

plan. 290 The 'Alids asked him to return to tbem the land of Fadak, so be did it. 291
\1oreover, bis last recommendation to the next caliph
descendants of 'Ali witb



was to treat tbe

and forbearance. 292

However, it seems tbat these actions were motivated by his attempt to remove
tbe ongoing hostility between the two branches of the Banu Hashim for the sake of the
well-being of the state, as will be mentioned, rather tban his Shi'ism or bis inclination
to Sbi'ism. The same al-Ma'mun, although he always expressed his regard and love
of 'Ali b. Abi Talib and his descendants, interrogated 'Abd Allah b. Tahir, the
governor of Egypt, Syria and al-Jazira, after hearing that be bad an inclination towards
the family of Ali b. Abi Talib. 293 Because 'Abd Allah was an important man as the
governoc, aI-Ma'moo could not tolerate him to have such a sympathy for the security
of his state. The Imami sources also give accounts of two scholars from the circle of


al-Ri~a; Mu~ammad

b. Abi 'Umayr and Ja'far b. Bashir al-Bajalt who were

tortured by order of al-Ma'mun after the Imam's death. Ya1;tya died as a result of the
torture. 294

It remains to say that al-Ma 'mun' s sect was the attainment of his policy. for the
sake of which there was no objection for him to adopt freely one or some of the
principles of different sects, or to champion one of them, even though it was to the
disadvantage of others.


lhn Khallikan, vi, pp. 149-50.


al-Ya'quhi. iii, pp.203-4: Data'il, p. 177.


al-Tahari. iii, p. 1139; lbn Kalhir, x, p,2RO; al-Kamil. vi, p.~04.


al-Taban, iii, p.l094.

294 al-Kashsht. pp.590, 605:

lhn Dawud. pp.2R7 R

2.3. - Consolidation and Reinforcement of the Caliphate

The consolidation and reinforcement of the 'Abbasid caliphate seems to be the

only facter which explains this remarkable decision of the caliphal court. This section
focuses on furnishing evidence in order to reveal the decision-makers' real objectives
when they introduced al-Ric;ta's succession to the 'Abbasid throne.

2.3.1 - The Provision of Peace and Security by Virtue of the

Reconciliation of the Two Families

The outburst of the Shi'i-originated revolts one after another against the
'Abbasids, who were accused of infringing the rights of the descendants of 'Ali and

probably urged aI-Ma' mun to put into effect a reconciliation plan between the

two branches of the Prophet'S family, the Banu Hashim. He started it by sparing
many 'Alids who had rebelled against the government including Mu1;tammad b. Ja'far,
Zayd and Ibrahim b. Musa al-K~m. Mterwards he chose 'Ali b. Musa as his heir.
Ali b.


the leader of a papu1ar Shi'i party with a non-revolutionary policy,

was the most fitting person among the 'Alids for the succession. 295 In this way, alMa' moo would have diminished the 'Alid threat by nominating a man from them


his heir and created an easy atmosphere to strive against the opposition in Baghdad,
who had supported at-Amin against him in the civil war. Maybe he had a hope that he
might have used these' Alid - Shi'i elements against them.

It mu~ not be forgouen that when N~ h. Shubayb came to Medina at the

beginning of 199 H. t.o investigate t~e . Alids to find among them one who could lead
an anti-government revolt, nobody Indicated that he should go lo\ll h. Musa. see
p.234 above. The latter was known as a person who maintained the traditional nonintervention policy of the Imaml party. He anyhow proved thiS through hiS attllude tn
the ft.'volts in which hi s uncle and some of hts hrothers were I nvohed.


This step carried a hope of unity of the two families which had materialised in
the spectacular revolution against the Umayyads. Therefore, this attempt was
expressed by al-Ma'mun as "the second summons" (" al-d. 'wi al-tbwy."). 296

In spite of this successful co-operation about seventy years previously, the following
developments resulted in an extended hostility between them. Al-Ma'mun confessed
the unfaithfulness of his own family to the previous unity in the following sentences in
his letter to the 'Abbasids:
" Thus we and they were a single party, as you claimed, until God
decreed the power for us. Then we frightened them, harassed them,
and killed them more (ruthlessly) than the Banu Umayya had killed
them. Woe to you, for the Banu Umayya killed of them only him
who drew a sword; but we, the kindred of Banu l-'Abbas, killed
them altogether. So may the bones of al-Hashimiyya be asked: "For
what sin was she (were they) killed" (Qur'iJl, 81:9), and may the
souls who were thrown into the Tigris and the Euphrates be asked,
and the souls who were buried alive in Baghdad and in Kufa. But
alas, "Whoever has done an atom's weight of good shall see it, and
whoever has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it" (Qur'in, 99:

But, now it was the time for the removal of the hostility and the time for the
repair of damage between them, and this was realised at his hand. He said about his
" Al-Ma'mun has further shown reverence to the Apostle of God.
may God bless him and grant him salvation, in his offspring and has
fastened the bonds of kinship of the People of hiS House. Thus he
has restored their concord and re-joined their disarray. repaired their
rift and mended their split. Through him God has removed the
rancours and feuds among them and has lodged mutual support and
affection, friendship. and love in their hearts. Thus their hands have
become one through his success. his protection, his blessing. piety.
and generosity: their word has become united, and their desires concurrent. He took care of the rights of those entitled to them. put the
legacies in their proper place. requited the beneficence of the

In Kitjb a1-Sbar~ wa al-Hibj' presented in 'Uyun

trans.: Madelung, "New Documents", p.336.


From al \1a'mun's letter to the 'Abbasids: trans.: \1adelung.

Documents", p.342, Arab. text: a1 \1ajlisi, XLIX. pp.210-1


p. 155.

beneficent, rememb~ the ~bul~on of the afflicted, and brought

near and removed (his assoClates) in accordance with the religion" .

The example of this fidelity was not left without response from tbe Imam. He
" I am 'Ali b. Musa al-Rida b. Ja'far. The Commander of tbe
~aith~ul -may God supp~ .him. with good fortune and give him
unegnty of conduct- has dlstl..ngw.shed our right of which others ha-.t.
been ignorant, has united kinship which had been broken off, has
reassured souls which had been frightened, rather he has lent life to
them who perhaps had been annihilated; he bas protected them when
they had become divided, desiring (only) the satisfaction of the Lord
of the Worlds. He (al-Ma'mlin) does not want a reward other tban it.
"God will reward those who (serve him) with gratitude" (alQur'in, 3: 144). "He does not omit the remuneration of the
beneficent persons" ( al-Qur'in, 3: 171)." 299

Al-Ma' mun made known that this nomination was a delayed response to what
'Ali. b. Abi Talib had done for the favour of the 'Abbasids. He said to Zaynab. the
daughter of the 'Abbasid prince Sulayman b. 'Ali b. 'Abd Allah, who asked him what
had driven him


this act, that neither Abu Bakr nor 'Umar and 'Uthman had

appointed anybody from the Banu Hashim, but 'Ali, when he bad succeeded to the
government, had appointed, from the sons of al-'Abbas b. 'Abd a1-Mu~ib, 'Abd
Allah to Basra, 'Ubayd Allah to Yemen, Ma'bad


Mecca and Qutham to Bahrain.

From Kitiib al-Shar~ wa al-ljihii': trans.: \ltadelung, "New

Documents". pp.334-S, Arab. text: Uyiln. ii, p.IS3.

For al-Ri~a's answer of acceptance to al-"1a'mun's lelter of the

designation, see K as.h f, i11, p .. 127. These lines are also presented b>: Ihn Hahuya
CU yu n, i i. p. 144-5) to a narrtll.1on related from Abu Bakr al-~ult. Rut, to contrast to
at-Tr-nilt's report.. this narration is p--esemed here as ~ oration (lc.hu~ba) of th~ Imam.
not his letter which he made after the oath of allegtance had been taken tor hun. It IS
po~ihle lhal'al-Ri(.ta addressed lh~ people on th~ ~ccasion of the ceremony of barla
hy reading from the document which he had wnUen as hts ~er o~ acreptance to ali\1a'mun's letter. However, it is noteworthy that the narratIOn 10 Uyun IS shorter
than that in Kashf; some sentences at the end of the letter are missing In Uyun.

Nevertheless, nobody from the 'Abbasid family, when power had come to them, had
repaid it, so this nomination was a repayment of it. 300

The caliph

~ngly believed

that the reconciliation could avert the turmoil and

consolidate the caliphate. He emphasised the importance of the succession in this

" God, great and mighty is He, has made the covenanting of the
caliphate part of the completion, perfection and might of the
government (am,) of Islam and the well-being of its people. In His
making sovereign of him whom His caliphs choose for Him [to
succeed them], God has inspired them with something in which there
is great blessing and all-encompassing security, and He has thereby
untwisted the rope (marr) of the people of schism and enmity, [those
given to] striving for disunity and looking out for sedition" 301

In this way, al-Ma'mlm thought, the two families in particular and the whole

umma in general were largely and considerably benefited:

" [Do so] thanking God for His counsel, with which He has inspired
the Commander of the Faithful in [the matter of] taking care of you,
and for His solicitude for your guidance (,ushd) and well-being
(~ala#:J), and hoping for the benefit of that, by way of the uniting of
your fellowship, the sparing of your blood, the bringing of you
together after dispersal, the defence of your frontier-ways of access,
the strength of your religion, the subduing of your enemy, and the
good state of your affairs. 302

Hence, after this, the 'Alids should have had no reason to revolt against the
authority ex- at least to side with any such leader who rose in revolt. The following was

Ibn A'tham, viii, p.324: al-Irhili, Khula~a, pp.218 9; Ibn at Tiq~aqa,

pp.218-9; al-SUyU~l, pp.320-1; Tbnal-'lmad, ii, p.3.

From aI-Ma'mun's letter of the designation: trans.: Crone and 1-hnds,

God's Caliph, pp.136-7, Arah. text: Kashf. iii, pp 124-5

From at :v'a'mun's letter of the designation: trans.: Crone and Hinds.

Ihid. , p. 139, Arah. text: Kash f. p. 126.




them: "This (designation) is the affair which you have desired) the justice

which you have expected and the ble~ng which you have looked fcrward

to' . 303

The Abbisids who refused this designation should have reflected on it wisely,
because it was wholly beneficial to avoid the danger which threatened the family AlMa' moo told them:
" ... it (the designation) was only that I might become the sparer of
your blood and your protector by perpetuating the love between us
and them. This is the way I pursue in honouring the kindred of Abu
Tilib in giving them a share of the fay in the sm all amount that
accrues to them, even though you claim that I desire that its income
and its benefits should pass to them. Thus I am occupied with
managing your affairs and with taking care of you and your offspring
and sons after you, while you occupy yourselves with carefree
amusement. 304

In conclusion, this unusual course of ac1ion seems to have attained its object as
al-Ma'mun had expected. Ibn al- 'Imad records that in 203 H. his sovereignty was
firmly consolidated (istawthaqa al-mamalilc.).305 Sa'd al-Qummi and a1Nawbakhti mention a group of Zaydiyya who recognised the imama of



al-Ma' m un had chosen him as his heir. 306 Indeed it could be taken into account,
together with the continuation of this reconciliation policy during the reign, that the
revolts which were undertaken by Shi'i -especially Zaydi- fomentation almost
disappeared during the rest of the reign of ai-Ma'mu.n. Only two supposedly Shi'i
seditions are recorded: The rebellion of 'Abd


b. Ahmad al- 'Alawl in

From the Ic.hutba which was delivered by the lieutenant 'Abd al-Jahbar h.
Sa'd al-MasaI:tiql in Medina on the occasion of the designation of al-Ri~a. see Ihn
'Abd al-Rabbih, al-'Iqd al-Fand, v, p.381.

From al tvla'mun's letter to the 'Abbasids; trdIlS.: \ladelung,

Documents" , p. 34.), Ardh. text: Majlisl, XLIX, p.213.


Shadharat al-Dhahab, ii. p.5.



94; al- "JawhakhtJ., p. 73.



Yemen in 207/822-3 and the disobedience of the people of Qum in 210/825-6, but
both of these were motivated by financial reasons such as the heaviness of taxes rather
than political reasons. 301

2.3.2 - The Provision of Legitimacy for al-Ma'mon's Rule

It was a fact that the caliphal institution had lost much of its religious essence

since the Umayyads had come to power. While the typical separation between
religious and political authority brought about the semi-secularisation of the



religious authority started to be represented by independent scholars from different

theological and legal schools. Thereby, the designation of 'Ali b. Mllsa could be
regarded as an attempt to reunite worldly-political and religious authority within the
caliphate. Thus the title of "k.halifat Allah" returned


the coinage accompanied

with the name of the hei~ the Imam al-Ri~a on this occasion. 308 Also the title of

"Amir al-Mu'minin" was substituted by the word "Imam" which was inscribed
on all of al-Ma'mful's coins. 309 The title "Imam" camed greater weight. because it
was accepted not only by the Sbi'is but also by the Sunnis. Hence. the caliph means
now God's deputy on earth, instead of the simple meaning of successor. 31 0


see ai-Tabari, iii, pp.l062-3 and 1092-3.

see S. Lane - Poole, Catalogue of Oriental Coins in the British

Museum, IX, p.SS; G.C. Miles, The Numismatic History of Rayy. pp.l03-6:
idem. "Numismatics" . p. 370 .


P. Hitti. History of Arabs, p. 185.

For more elaborate discussions of this issue see, S B. Samadl, Some

Aspects of the Theory of the ~tate an~ ~dministra1ion under t~e Abbasids, pp 12.2-3:
M.A. Shahan, Islamic lit story. tI, p.47: Crone and Hinds, God s Caliph,
pp.94-6. The authors of the latter ho~k, regarding there to he a c.lose SI mtl~ty
hetween al-Ma' mun's lener for al-Rl9a s succession and that of the l)ma)yad caliph
al-Waltd 1I examine the zeal of these two caliphs in order to unite worldly and
religious a~thority for the caliphate. For the translation of the leueri, see God's
CaJiph}pp.1 16-126,133-139,


It is reported in the sources that

"al-~1a' mun

considered the members of the

'Alid and the 'Abbasid families and found 'Ali b. \1usa among them tbe most exceUent
and the most suitable person for the caliphate and nominated him as beir". 311 AlMa' mun made it known clearly in tbe following :
As for your mention of al-Ma' mun's baving reached discernment
(istib~ar) with regard to the pledge of allegiance for Abu l-J:lasan
al-Ri<;13., peace be on him, al-Ma' mun took the pledge of allegiance for
him on!y with full discernment in his regard, knowing that no one of
clearer excellence remained on tbe face of tbe earth, no one of more
manifest integrity, no one more pious, more abstemious toward
worldly gain, freer in spirit (a,laq naftan), mere agreeable (ar(lQ)
to the elite and the common people, more severe in respect to tbe
essence (?) of God than he, and that the pledge of allegiance for him
is in agreement with the pleasure of the Lord, Powerful and Lofty is
He. I have endeavoured and do not find (just) censure of anyone with
respect to God. By my life, if the pledge of allegiance to him were
one of personal partiality, al- 'Abbas, tbe son of tbe Commander of
the Faithful, and the other sons of tbe Commander of the Faithful
would be dearer to his beart and more pleasant in bis eyes. But the
Commander of the Faithful wanted a matter, and God wanted another
matter, and his matter would n~ forestall the matter of God." 312

Sourdel and Wall approach the issue from a subtler side: Tbey suggest that the
designation of < Ali a1-Ri~a as the heir on the ground that he was af(lal was a
preparation for the defence of the' Abbasid rule as that of the mo~ excellent of the clan
of the Banu Hashim. The idea also implied that in future the caliph should be the most
excellent among the' Alids and the' Abbasids, which migbt have been oriented by the
Mu'tazih and the Zaydi principle that the most excellent of the community was best
able to rule. They allude that the two important Mu'tazili names, Bishr b. al-tv1u'tamir

al-Tabari, iii, p.l013; al-Azdi, p.342; Muruj, iii. p.441; Ibn KaLhtr, x.
p.247; Ibn Khathkan, iii, pp. 269-70: Ibn al-Jawzt, al-Munta?-am x p.94: Ibn al
Tiq~aqa, p. 216 .

From a.l-Ma'mun's letter to the .\hbasids: trans. \I1adelung. "'\Jew

Document')" , p. 342, Arah te~t: al~Majl iSt, XLI\:. p. 211 . For 'ii m ilar SUitem L'TltS. _see
al-Ma'mun's letter of the destgnatlon of al-Rtda: Arah. text: Kashf III rr 12.-'-6,
mg. tra.ns.: Crone and Hinds, God's Caliph, p. 13R.


and Thumama b. Ashras, were probably behind this crucial decision. 313 Because of
the fluidity in the relations between Zaydism and l\1u'tazilism at this period. the abovenamed Mu'tazilis may well have been Zaydis too. Watt also suggests that this was an
attempt of al-Ma'mun which was made against the "constitutionalist bloc", which
possibly reflected the tradition and was congenial to the culama', in favour of the
"autocratic or absolutist bloc", which was mainly represented by the caliph himself.
the seaetaries of the state and proto-Shi'l and Mu'tazili elements of the community
who, when they needed security in the time of stress, looked to the guidance of an
inspired <r charismatic leader. The latter bloc considered that the caliph should have
been able to overrule the interpretations of the culama', advocating an absolutist and
autocratic form of government. This was an important step which could strengthen alMa'mun's authority.314

The question of whether al-Ma' mUD was determined to carry on this decision
until the end if al-Ri~a had stayed alive, has still remained without response. In order
to answer the question, the Imami claim that al-Ri~a was murdered by the caliph must

be excluded from the argument.

313 They were two witnesses of the document declaring 'Ali al-Ri~il heir, sec
Kashf, iii, p. 128.
314 M. Wan, Formative Period. p.175 ff.: idem, "The Political Altitudes of
the Mu'tazila", pp.42-4; idem, "Early Stages of Imami Shi'ism", pp.25-6: D.
Sourdel, "La politique religieuse du calife 'Abbaside al-Ma'mun", pp.27-48; idem,
"The (Abbasid Caliphate" , p. 121.
M. Zahniser who examines the religious policy of al-~1a' mun on the hasis of
the mai n theme of al-JaI)i( s 'Uthmani yya comes close to Sourdel and Watt s points
of view. He. setting off from the fact that Utbmani.yya was written ~or the
information of al-Ma' mun himself and the latter found that tt had excellent dtctlon and
smoothne~ of style. concludes that al- Ma' mun' s policy was not to. cham pion Sht' ism
against Sunnism or non-A~bs ag~~st Arabs, hut rather to champt?n a potnt o~ Vtew
which might hest be tdentlfied polttlcally as absoluttst ~d the010g~~ally as "1u ta7Jh.
which found confirmatio~ tn the wcr~ of al-Jah.t"?- (d.25)/R6?). see Instg~ts from the
'UthmWliyya ofal Jaht"l. tnto the Reltgtous Pottey of al \ta mun Muslim World,
69 ( 1979),


~. 16- 7.


We have known that this step of al-~1a' mfln provided many advantages in the
short term although it brought about the insubordination of the' Abbasids in Iraq. ~ut
this problem was also solved in the short term. The first thing which comes to one's
mind is the obvious disparity in age between al-Ma' mun and al-Ri~a. The heir al-Ri~a
was twenty-seven or, at least, twenty-two years older than the present caliph alMa'mun. This is an unusual disparity between a ruler and his successor. Secondly, in
spite of this fact, during al-Ri<;ta's time -also after his death- al-Ma'mfln did not
mention any rule governing the succession for the future by virtue of personal merit
according to which he had chosen


He could have appointed an electoral

council which would choose the successor from the distinguished members of the
Hashimis or have given this responsibility to


But he failed to do that. His

only attempt in this regard was his offer of 'Ali


place, after the laner's death.


a rebel 'Alid in hiding, 'Abd Allah b. Musa b. 'Abd Allah b. al-I:Iasan b. al-lJasan

b. 'Ali b. Abi Tatib. 315 This offer was not accepted by 'Abd Allah. However, this
offer of al-Ma' mun which was made to a rebel, for whom no distinguished merit was
mentioned, instead of an esteemed member of the family leads us to think that these
attempts of al-Ma' mun were no more than a political ploy, which was able to provide

him with some short or long-term benefits in the political area. This absolutist caliph
seems to have always given preference to the survival and the intere~ of his state over
all matters, including the benefits of some religious groups or sects he championed
and even the intere~ of his own family. He showed it by nominating as his heir Abu
Is~aq a1-Mu't~m.who

is reported to have been a good soldier and a brave man but

was destitute of education and there was no other reports about his merits and
religious knowledge. 3 16 He did not nominate his oldest son al-' Abhas using the
hereditary rights of his offspring, because al-' Abhas was too young to govern a state


Maqatil. p.62R.

316 Sl'C

Ihn Kathtr. x. 295: al Suyutt.

r 34R

He did not nominate, too, M~ammad b. 'Ali al-Ri~a, his son-in-law and the son of
his most excellent successor, because no one would have accepted bim as caliph in the
absence of himself.

VII - The Summons and the Journey to Merv

It is probable that the command of al-Ma' mun reached' Ali al-Ri~a before tbe
pilgrimage season of the year-200 H .. We have the text of a letter of summons, which
seems to be the first letter which Raja' b. Abi al-Pa1;ll;tak brought to Medina. It is
presented by 'Abd al-Karim b. MuJ;1ammad al-Rifi'l al-Qazvini (d.623/1226) in his
al-Tadwin fi Akhbar Qazwin. 317 The translation of it is as follows:
" In the name of Allih, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
To 'Ali b. Musa aI-Ri~a, the son of the Apo~e of Allah, the chosen
one, who is the guide with his right guidance, the exemplar in his
deeds, the protector of Allah's religion and the safekeeper of Allah's
revelation; from his companion aI-Fa"l b. Sahl, who has sacrificed
his lifeblood to return his (the Imam's) right to him and has worked
night and day in order to fulfil it.
The peace be upon you and also Allah's mercy and benediction. I
praise Allih, there is no god but He, and ask Him to bless
Mul;tammad, His servant and His apostle. To continue:
I verily hope that Allah has led and permitted to return your right to
you from those who have deemed you weak, and He has enhanced

al-Rafi'l, al-Tadwin, iii, pp.42S-6.

This letter is translated from the printed text of al-Rifi'i in his al-Tadwtn. I
have also utilised another printed text given by Ja'far M. al-' Antili in his book, al~ayat al-Siyasiyya Ii al-Imim al-Ri"i (pp.445-7), for some variant readings.
At-'Amili's text was taken from a manuscript of al-Tadwin located in the Daftar
Tab hg hat IslilJIll Library in Qum.
The authenticity of the letter cannot be proved. However, the fact that alRafi't. following this letter. records another letter, which is al-Ri"a's answer of
acceptance to al-Ma'mfm's letter of the designation. and this last letter is found
partially in Ibn Babuya's 'Uylin (ii, pp.144-5) and wholly in aI-Irbilt's Kasbf (Iii,
pp. t 27-8) might indicate that the letter of s~mmons was. also taken from an eart.lL'T"
source. Recause at-Rafi't does not say anyth1ng about thIS source, Its name rematns
unknown. The letter does not reflect Shl'l ideology, therefore it seems to he unlikely
that it was forged for the purpose of Shl 'I propaganda. It also does not contain any
statement which contradicts the historical facts. There is no aspect in the leucr wh1ch
refutes the strong conjecture that it was written hy a royal pen. This teller can he
considered as one of the impoctant evidences showing the v1zier al Fa,,1 h Sahl s pan
in the plan of designation of ' \It al-Ri"a as heir apparent.


His favour over you, and made you the heir imam. so your enemies
and those who have disliked you perceive in you what they should
beware of.
This letter of mine is a determination of the Commander of the
Faithful, 'Abd Allah, the Imim al-Ma'mun, and of me to reject
iniquity 318 which bas been done to you, to put your rights in your
hands and to establish them for you, on (a basis), through which I
ask Allah, Who has knowledge about it, to make me become the
happiest one in the worlds, and become one from those who are
succes~u1 in the opinion of Allah, join the Apostle of Allih -peace be
upon him and his family- (in the hereafter) being from those who
accomplish (their duties), and become one of your ~stants to help
you to achieve it, so that I reach, in your administraive position and
government, both of two glorious things [i.e. victory and manynh:m,
referring to the verse of the Qur' in, ix, 52].
When my letter comes to you, ~h, could I but saaifice myself for
you- it is necessary for you not to leave it from your hand until you
arrive at the gate of the Commander of the Faithful, who considers
you a partner in his work, a full brother in his kinsfolk, and the
worthiest one of the people under his power. I have done what I have
done, surrounded by Allah's blessi~s. and guarded by His angels,
and protected by His watch. Allah IS the guarantor for you of the
whole good benefit 319 which is collected for you and of the
goodness of the Mmli m nation.
Allih is enough for us, who is the Best as a Disposer of affairs. The
peace be upon you and also Allah's mercy and benediction.

At first the Imam did not accep. this JrOPosal. But when al-Ma'mu.n insisted,

by sending letters, one after another, according to the sources,

alternative but to accept it. 320 Before leaving Medina,


al-Ri~i gathered

had no

his family and

wanted them to lament for him, because he believed that he would never see them
again. He left for them 12,000 dinar. and set off for Khurisin. 321 The fact that alRi~ did

not take his family and, more importantly, his five-year-old son M~ad

with him may indicate his concern with regard to the suspicious nature of the proposal
of succession and its uncertain aftermath. At f~. he was taken to Mecca in the bope

I read "mlllllzmlltilur". instead of .. ",.~, .. in the

manusaipt of Qum.


I read "a'idll", instead of .. .'itlIJ.... a ialbe 8I881IICript c:I Qurn.

320 al-Kulayni.

i. pp.488-9; u~ . ii, ,.148. ~

u,-., ii, p.219; )h.71 ..


i. p.52.

of employing him as a mediator who could persuade his uncle

who had revolted in Mecca. into ending his turbulence.
He probably remained there until




b. la'far.

failed to do that. 322

b. Ja'far surrendered. Afterwards. 'Ali

Mu1)ammad b. Ja'farand a group of the Tatibis set off towards Iraq. 323 The

man in charge of their journey was 'Isa al-Juludi, the general and the governor of
Mecca. 324 Al-Juludi handed them over to al-l:Iasan b. Sahl, the governor, in Iraq and
the latter sent them in the custody of Raja' b. Abi


and the eunuch

Firnas. 325


see p.242 above.

Idris, the Isma'ill dii i and author, gives the names of some of the Tilibis
who were taken to Merv with 'Ali al-Ri<;ta ('UyUn al-Akhhir, p.359). They are
Mu~ammad b. Ja'far, Isma'il b. MUsil and 'Ali b. al-J.Iusayn b. Zayd, the grandson of
Zayd b. 'Ali Zayn al- 'Abidin . He also gives the name of Ibn al-Arq~ ("the son of the
leopard"). "Al-Arq~" was the nickname of Mu~ammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, the leader
of the famous rebellion in 145 H., and that of 'Abd Allah b. 'Ali b. al-J.Iusayn b. 'Ali
h. Abi Twib, the son of 'Ali Zayn al-'Abidin (see Ibn J.Iazm, Jambara, pp.45, 53).
The name of 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan b. 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas b. 'Ali b. Abi
Tatib appears, too, in another report of Idris, which narrates the ceremony of alRi<;ta's succession ('Uyiln al-Akhbir, p.361). He might be among these T8liblS.
But, his name needs to be corrected because Ibn J.Iazm records that there was no issue
from the sons of al- 'Abbas b. 'All b. Abi Twib except from 'Ubayd Allah b. al'Abbas b. 'Ali b. Abi Twib and the name of 'Ubayd Allah's grandson was 'Uhayd
Allah b. al-J.Iasan b. 'Ubayd Allah b. al- 'Abbas b. 'Ali b. Abi Tatib (Jambara,
p.67). Accordingly, it seems likely that Idris read 'Ubayd Allahs as 'Abd Allahs. This
'Ubayd Allah led on behalf of al-Ma'mlin the pilgrimages of the years 204 /820,
205/821 and 206/822 (al-Tabari, iii, pp. 1039, 1044, 1062).
B.S. al-Qurashi also quotes from Tu~fat al-Azhir of Ihn Shaqdam 'Ali b.
ai-Hasan al-Madani (d. 1033/1623-4) that I:Jamza b. Musa, the brother of al-Ri<;ta, was
with the Imam and served him on the journey, but, on the way, he was attacked by the
men of al-Ma' mun and killed (~ayit al-Imim Musi, ii, p.419). However, there is
no substantiation of this report in the early sources. Therefore, it seems to be a later
innovation reflecting antagonism towards aI-Ma' mlin. It would be very unusual for
the caliph to have the brother of his heir killed without any ob~ous reason.
Al-Kashshl gives another name, al-Jawaru (?), reporung that he was from the
Imam's associates and he accompanied him on the journey (p.506).

Maqatil. p.562; al-Irsbad. p.469; al-Tabarsi, I'lam. p.320. In 'Uyun

al-Akhbar of Idns, "al-Khuludi" must be "al-Juludt" (p.359) .

al-Taban. iii. pp.994-5 and 1001. This report of al-Tahan solves the
contradiction hetween two different accounts about who was the responsible official
on the journey Some sources give t~e narr:'e, o~ 'lsa al-1.uludt (see the previous
footnote). whereas the others name hIm Raja ( U yu n, It, P 17R: aI- "J awhakhtt .
pp.73-4: al-Qumml. p.95; al-Ya'quhl, iii. p.1R3: Sih~. p.351; Ihn ai-Jaw?!. at


According to some of the narrations, al-Qadisiyya, a town lying the south-west

of Kufa, was one of the stops on the journey. There the Imam met with one of his


b. Mu1;lammad al-B~art!i. He instructed him to cany out some of his

affairs. Beforehand, al-Ri<;lii wanted him to hire a room which had two doors opening
both to the outside and to the caravanserai in which the caravan stayed, because he did
not want to reveal the identity of his followers who would frequent him. 326

Al- Ba~ reports that the caravan did noc enter Kufa; instead it took the route
towards Basra. 327 This route had been decided by al-Ma'mun. 328 The reason
probably was that Baghdad and Kufa at that time were in the hands of the opposition
camp in Baghdad. From the report of ai-Tabari, we know that when al-Juludi arrived


accompanied by Mu1;Jammad b. Ja'far, the war between the troops of al-

I:Iasan b. Sahl and the Abnii' troops was still continuing.329 Another suggestion
from ai-Rawandt is that ai-Ma'mun ordered this route to be followed because he
thought that ai-RiC;la's arrival in Kufa might tempt the people of the city, the majority
of whom were Shi'is, so that it would become an occasion for some disturbances. 330
It is quite possible that the leaders of Shi'i community in the city, which was not under

Munta?-am, x, p.120). Another report in 'UyiJn names, instead of Firnas, the

eunuch Ya..\'ir (ii, p. 146), who later appears in the personal service of al-Ri<:Ja in ~ferv.

i, p.53; al-Kashshi, pp.588-9.




al-Kashshl. p.588-9.


al-Kulaym. i. p.4R9: 'Uyun, ii, p.178.

32 q a1

Tab an , iii, p. 1003.

3.\0" ... \Va lam yamurra bihi alii ~ariq al-Kufa fa yuftutina bihi
ahluha". sL'cal-Rawandl a.1Khara'ij ,ii. p.661.

the control of the Khurasan-based government. might not have let the Imam corrinue
his journey because of concern for his fate in Merv. 331

There were two main roads to Khuras3.n from Iraq. The first was the road of
Jibal, via Baghdad, Hulwan, Kirmanshah, Ramadan, Ray and Damghan, the route
which al-Ma'mun followed when he returned to Baghdad. The second was a road
starting from Basra continuing via Ahwaz, Fars (Shiraz) and the Great Desert of
Iran. 332 It is reported that the Imam used the second road. 333 He, after al-Qadisiyya,

did nOC enter Kufa; he headed towards Basra. Hence, the repcrt of the Shi'i rawi Abu
al-~alt al-Harawi



at Kufa


and that of al-Ya 'qubi which gives an

account of al-Ri~a's arrival in Baghdad 335 are thus erroneous. 336

For the Sbi'i identity of Kufa, see al-Ash'ari, i, p.64; Fayya~, pp.174-80;
Frye, The Golden Age, p.156. 'A. al- 'U!Midi. the editor of Musnad a1-Ri~i,
maintains that the purpose of the caliph in choosing the Basra - Ahwaz route for alRi~a's journey was that Basra, Abwaz and Fars were in the hands of al-Ri~a's
brothers, Isma'il and Zayd, who were the governors of the rebel Abu al-Samya, so
the Imam's presence in the region might playa sedative role and stop the revolt (i,
p.52). However, this view seems to be mistake, because the date of the journey was
201 H., but these cities must have been freed from the rebels at least at the beginning
of 200 H. , see p. 237 above.

see the map I in The History of al-Tabari. The War between

Rrathers, xxxi, (Albany 1992).

'UyilD, ii, pp.140, 178; al-Kulayni, i, p.489; al-Dhahabi, Siyar.

p. 390 quotes from al-l:lilim al-Nisabun.


'Il yun, 11,

.. p. 140 .


al-Ya'quhi, iii, p.l83.


Donaldson and Rajkowski give, as al-Ri~a's route, the names of some

cities which it would have heen only possible for the Imam to pass through if he
followed the road of Jibal. Therefore, they probably rely on al-Ya'qubt's statement,
see n.M. Donaldson, The Shi'ite Religion, p.l66; \V. Rajkowski, "Early Shi'ism
in Iraq", p.6JO .
.\l-Shaybt shows as evidence for al-Ri~a s not being present 1n Baghdad that
al-Kha~th ai-Baghdadi did not mention anything about al-Ri9a in his \'oluminous
Tan kh Raghdad. According to al-Shaybl, if al-Ric:ta had entered the city, al-Khattb
should ha\e opened a part about his life like he did for the Imams father, son and
gnlndson, see al-~ila bayn a1T~awwuf wa al-Tashayyu'. i. p.243.


The sources present tr'aditioll5 about some events which happened during this
journey. Although many of them have a legendary nature which were probably
fabricated by local Shi'is to honour their venerable guest. they still give some
indications about the Imam's stopping places and his relationship with the locals.

Ibn 'Ulw3.n. a Basran Shi'i,


that he saw in his dream that the Prophet

came to Basra and went down to a garden. In the morning he heard that 'Ali


came to the city and went down to the same garden. 337


next stop was Ahwaz. He asked for sugar cane from the locals.

They told him that in the summer season it could not be found. The Imam said that
they would find it. Finally the hired man of a Shi' i resident brought some sugar cane,
which had been stored as seed. 338
mosque which had been built by
named after him

Yaqut also records that in the


city there was a

when he had been present there and it was


Al-Ric;ta then appears to be p-esent in ~ Amaq (the bridge of Arbaq) in a

tradition. 340 There he told Ja'far b. Muhammad al-Nawfali that the Imam after him
was his son

Mu~ammad. 341

The caravan passed through Manuat al-Khurasan, Dasht-

i Kawtr as its name is today. the northern section of the central desert of Iran. The





'Uyun. ii, 206, al-Rawandi, ii. pp.66l-2.

i. pp.54-5.

Yaqut. i. pp.411-2. He also mentions tbat Ahwaz was famous for its high
qual it)' sugar.

340 Qan~nlt

Arhuq was a place near Ramahurmuz in the pro\ince of

Khuzislan, see Yaqut, i. p.1RS, iv, p.1R7.

'Uyun, ii. p.2l7.

:. 73


was all gone, so al-Rir;la indicated a place where the travellers found water

which was sufficient for them and their riding animals. 342

After the desert, the caravan eventually reached

~ishapur. 343

The Imam

entered the city in a silver-made howdah on a grey mule. The scholars of the city went
to meet him. According to the reports of Abu al-~a1t al-Harawi and the historian al-

Waqidi,344 these prominent scholars were Is~a:J. b. Rahuya 345,


b. Ya1;lya 346,

b. Harb 347 and Muhammad
b. Rafi' 348.

Another report is that of


entrance into the city in a detailed fam. 349

al-Nisaburi which narrates the Imam's


records two names who met al-

Rir;li as the representatives of the city's intelligentsia. They then requested him to
narrate #:Jadith. The first name is


b. Aslam al-TUSt (d.242/856), a

342 'U yun,

.. p. 218 .
343 Al-~akim's account that the year in which al-Ri~a arrived in Nishapur was
200 H. (quoted by al-Dhahabt, Siyar, ix, p.390) is unlikely to be true. According to
reliable historical reports, the Imam's arrival in the city took place in 201 H ..
344 Ibn Babuya relates this report on the authority of Abu al-~alt ('Uyun, ii,
p. 132). Sib~ b. al-Jawzl (p.352) and Ibn al-Jawzl (al-Mun~am, x, p.120) quote it
from al- W~idl's report.
345 The well-known Sunni traditioni~. He died in 238/852-3.
346 Ya1;lya b. YaJ:tya b. Bukayr al-Nisaburi. A Sunni traditio ni st. He lived
between 142/759-60 and 224/838-9 (Ibn ~ajar, Tahdhib, xii, p.298).
347 He was an ascetic from Nishapur. He is said to have been a propagandist
for the Murji'a He lived between 176/792-3 and 2341848-9 (al-Dhahabi, Mlzan, i,
pJ\9). In the text of 'Uyun (ii, p.132), "~mad b. al-J:Iarth" should he "A~mad h.

Muhammad h. Rati' b. Aht Zayd al-Qushavn. lIe died in 245/859-60 (Ibn

I.Iajm-, Tahdhlb, ix, pp. 160-1)
quoted by alIrbih, Kashf, iii. pp.97-8: Ibn at
lIa)tamt, pp. t 25-6.



pp.239-40; at

Khurasaruan traditionist. exegesist of the Qur' an and theologian. 350 Although his
birth date is not known, his presence in this welcoming parade is historically and
geographically possible. However, the second name given by al-J:Iilim raises doubts
about the report. He is the celebrated SUnnl traditionist Abu Zur'a 'Cbayd Allah b.
'Abd al-Karim al-Razi who was born in 200/815 and died in 264/878. 351 From his
birth date, it can be clearly seen that Abu Zur'a was a one-year-old infant when the
Imam came to Nishapur. How this error was made by al-I:Jilim (d.404/1014), who
was also a renowned traditionist. is almost not understandable. But this narration
might be accounted as one of the examples of the attitude of some Shi'i traditionists
who were very eager to attribute falsely traditions about the merits of their Imams or
sectarian beliefs about them to famous Sunni scholars. Abu Zur'a might have been
chosen as such a person, and the narrations then managed to enter the work of alI.Iakim, whose sympathy with Shl'ism is recorded in spite of the fact that he has been
regarded as a prominent scholar by the Sunnis. 352

All the above-mentioned reports agree that these prominent scholars requested
the Imam to narrate a #:Jadith related through his father and grandfathers. The rest of
the stay is as follows according to al-I:Jakim's narration:
" The mwe stopped and the sunshade was lifted; the Muslims
delighted in his blessed and fortunate appearance: His hair had two
tresses like the tresses of the Apostle of Allah. All the people were
standing in accordance with their rank: Their (emotional) states were
between yelling and weeping. tearing their clothes, rolling in the dust,
kissing the halter of his mule and stretching their necks towards the
sunshade of the howdah. (This situation) continued until midday.


al -".Safa d-l,ll.p._
"04 .

Fer him, see Ibn


Tahdhib. vii. pp.30-3 .

.,:-;~ It is said about al-l.hlkim that although he was a thiqa rawi in /:Iadith.
hL' was "an evil (lhabilh) RaJi9' . IlL' is also said to have had severe fanaticism for
the Shl' a. but he professed Sunnism. especially on the mauer of the caliphate, see alDhahahl. Mlzan. ii i. p.60R: at Safadt, iii. pp.320-1. For the accounts of some Imam,
authors about him. see Kohlberg. A Medieval Muslim Scholar, p.366.

Tears ran like rivers. (Eventually), sounds ceased and the imams and
the judges shouted: Oh ye people, listen and pay attention! Do not
mole~ the Apostle of Allah by molesting his descendant; give your
ears and record this tJadith !


The Imam, accounting the names of his father and grandfathers as the sanad
of the tJadith, narrated from God mediated by the Prophet and Gabriel: "The words
of La ilaha ilLQ Allah (there is no god but Allah) is My fort: Whoever declares it,
enters My fort and whoever enters My fort, becomes safe from My punishment". 353


stayed in Nishapur for a while. Ibn Babuya mentions a bath in the city

called "J:lammam al-Ri~a". He says that when the Imam was in Nishapur, he went to
this bath; but there was too little water. The Imam put somebody in charge of
excavating fer water. Consequently, the water became abundant, so the Imam took a
bath there and then prayed behind it. Ibn Babiiya reports that people still respected this
bath. They took baths there, drank its water and prayed for blessings and to request
the help of God for their necessities. The spring of the bath was called "CAyn alKahlan" which was a well-known place at the time of Ibn Bilbuya. 354

The Imam left Nishapur for Merv. Onhis way another miracle occurred. When
he entered the village of "al-J:lumra'", he wanted to pray the midday prayer, but there
was no water for the ablution; he scraped the ground slightly, so enough water sprang
for the ritual. Ibn Shahriishub (d.588/1162) states that this spring still existed in his
time. It was called "Cllasma-i Ri~". 355 D. M. Donaldson also mentions a shrine near
Nishapur. In it there was a stone on which there was a huge impress of foot. It was


quoted from al-l.lakim's Tartkh al-Ntsabur by al-Irbili, Kasbf, iii,

3.5 4

'U Yun, ii, p. 134.


Manaqib. iv, p.343. Fer the original narration related on the authority of
Ahu at-Salt, see Uyun. ii. p.135.


believed to be the footprint of 'Ali a1-Ri~a. Donaldson adds that pilgrims who travel to
"1ashhad by motor-lorry always insisted that the driver should stop in "Qadamgah"
(tbe place of the fottprint) to enable tbem to visit the shrine. 356

A1-Ri~a arrived

in Sanabath, a village of al-Tus. According to one narration, in

Sanabath the Imam prayed for a hill whose clay was used to make pots, and then he
ordered tbat a pot should be made for him from it and all meals should be cooked in it.
Accordingly, the foods whicb were cooked in it fer the Imam's guests during his stay
there became enough and sufficient. In the same narration al-Ric;ta also indicated to his
followers his grave next to that of Harun aI-Rashid. 357


was put up in tbe palace


of I:Iumayd b.



Sanabath. 358 This mansion was probably used by high officials of the state or for
guests of a high rank. Its real owner had been I:Iumayd b.


the powerful

general and the former governor of Khurasan. who died in 1591775-6. 359
Nevertheless, the rawi of a tradition related by Ibn Babuya seems to have supposed
that J:Iumayd had been a contempcrary of al-Rif:1a, so he made them meet in this palace
on this occasion According to the story, a concubine of J:Iumayd found a slip of paper
in the pocket of al-Ric;ta's garment which had been given to her for washing. and took
it to her master. J:Iumayd asked the Imam what it was. The Imam replied that it was an
amulet which protected him from "Satan and the Su#an" and told
contents of it at his request. 360


Donaldson. Thc Shi'ite Rcligion, pp 266-7.


'lJyun. ii, p.135.


'Uyun, ii. p.135


For Humayd. see al-Taban. iii. pp.45R-9.


'lJyun. ii, pp 136-7.




Eventually the caravan arrived in Merv. Idris gives the date of arrival as 10th
of ]umada (? I or II), 201. 361 Al-Ma'mun received the 'Alids in his presence. He
separated al-Ri~a from them and settled them in different houses. 362


VIII - The Pledge of Allegiance to

Sometime after 'Ali


as the Heir

arrival, al-Ma'mun proclaimed that he had

chosen al-Ri~a as his heir to the caliphate. This section outlines the situation in which

accepted the proposal of al-Ma'mun. It also gives information about the

excuses which are reported to have been made by


for his acceptance.

Historical reports about the solemnity of the bay~a and the following observances are
also presented to understand the real character of the event.

t - AI-Ri4i's Acceptance and the EIcoses for it

It is clear in the letter of summons which was sent by al-Fa~l b. Sahl to al-Ric.ta
that the purpose of taking the Imam to Merv was to designate him as al-Ma'mun's
successor to the throne. However, some Shi'l accounts report that al-Ma'mun, after

had come

Imam. 363



Merv, proposed to resign from the caliphate in favour of the

explicitly rejected it. It is reported on the authcrity of Abu



l Iarawt that al-Ri~a said to the caliph:


Idns, 'Uyuo al-Akhbar, p.359.


Maqatil. p.562 .

.'()3 Uyun. tI. pp. 147-R. no:~l and pp.138-9. no:3. Roth narrations are
related on the authority of 'All h. Ihrahtm h. Hashim al ()umml. who IS regarded hy
at -Najll'ihl as lhiqa iawi wut ~al)i" al-madhhab (p. 14R). ror the same account


" If this caliphate belongs to you, God designed it for you, so it is not
pennissible for you to take off a robe which God has dressed you in
and to give it to somebody other than you, ex- if the caliphate does not
belong to you, it is (also) not permissible for you to give me what
does not belong to you. 364

AI-Ri~a resi~ed this proposal for about two months. At the insistent refusal of

the Imam, al-Ma'mun had to change his proposal and forced him this time to accept
becoming his heir.365 In the historical sources there is no confirmation of this
surprising attempt which would not normally be expected from a ruler who had
already been involved in a civil war in which he took part in order to capture the
caliphate for himself and as a result killed his own brother to achieve it. If these
narrations can be relied upon, it could only be suggested that in this way al-Ma' mun
wanted to make his manoeuvre more effective. An institution of the caliphate, whose
authority were shared by two men,


the most excellent and meritcrious caliph

but alone, helpless and inexperienced, and al-Ma'mun, a victorious ruler who
sacrificed his throne in favour of the just ruler, could function for the same purpose
quite adequately. Or al-Ma' mun made this proposal firstly to the Imam in order that the
latter could find no excuse to refuse his following proposal.

Finally 'Ali


consented to an appointment as heir to the caliphate but on

the following conditions:

a - A1-Ri~a did not command nor fCYbid anything.
h - He did not give legal decisions ifatiiwii) nor judge (qat;lQ).

c - He did not appoint nor dismi~ anybody.

also sec al-Irshad, pp.469-70: Manaqib, iv. p.363: aJ-Taharst, I'lam

~8fadl, x xii, p.249: til Qunduzl, p. :~M; Musnad a.l-Ri~a. I, p.73.

.\ (J

'lJyun, it. pr. \3R-9 .

'lJ Yun. i i. p. 14 R.

320: aJ-

d - He did not change anything from how it was at present. 366

The early books of the Imamiyya, also Maqitil of al-I~ah3.ni, agree that alRi~a

had the choice between compliance and death. 367


reports that al-

Ma'mun threatened the Imam reminding him the condition in 'Umar b.


electaa1 committee in which 'Ali b. Abi Tat.ib had taken part. The caliph 'Umar
stipulated that any of the members of the committee who opposed the decision on
which the maja-ity agreed should be executed. Al-Ma'mUn meant that therefore there
was no escape for al-Ri<;ta from accepting his proposal. 368

The Imimi books have also included traditions in which the Imam al-Rida
expressed his excuse for accepting this proposal. According to one of them, alMa' MUnos threat of death obliged al-Ri~ to accept it, because if he did not, he would
make his own hands contribute to his destruction, but that was prohibited by God. 369

It was also a similar situation of constraint which had led the Prophets Joseph and
Daniel to accept an office in an illegitimate government. 370 A tradition related by the
Imamt exegesist Mu1:tammad b. Mas'ud al-'Ayyisbi (d.320/932) designates an
analogy between the succession of
Pharaonic Egypt: A man asked



to the caliphate and Joseph's rule in

why he consented to the nomination. The

Imam replied :

'Uyun, ii, pp.148, 164; al-Irshid, p.470; al-Kulayni, i, p.489;

Manaqih, iv, p.363; al-Tabarsi, I'lim, p.320.

367 Ibn Babuya, 'Ilal, p.239; 'Uyun, i, p.16, ii, p.138; Maqitil, p.563; allrshad, p.470; al-Kashsht, p.501; Kashf, iii, p.65; Manaqih, iv p.363: alTabarSl, I'lam, p.320 .


al-lrshad, p.470. Also see Maqitil, 563, ldris, 'Uyun al-Akhbar,


See al Qur' an, ti: t 95 : "wa La tuLqii bi aydilum iLa al-lahlu"~z' .


'U yu n. i, p. 16. Also see Ihid. , ii, p. 13R, 169; Ihn Bahuya. 'llai. p.239:
idem, Amah, p.5R9.
.\ 70


0 man, which one is more excellent. the nabi (the prophet) or the
wa~i (the regent, i.e. the Imam) ? ([he man) replied: It is a nabi.
(The Imam) asked (again): Which is more excellent, a t>.1uslim or a
mushrik (polythei~t) ? (fhe man) replied: It is a \1uslim. (The
Imam) said: The Ruler. the ruler of Egypt, was a mushrik and
Joseph was a nabi, (but) al-Ma'mun is a ~luslim and I am a wa~i.
Moreover, Joseph himself asked the Ruler to assign him as he said,
"Set me over the storehouses of the land: I will indeed guard them as
one that knows" (at-Qur'in, xii: 55), but I have been obliged to do
it. 371


The Imam also likens his position to that of 'Ali b. Abi Tatib who was said to
have been obliged to take part in the electoral committee of 'Umarb.



says that the reasons in both incidents are exactly the same. 3 72

Although it cannot be known whether these excuses were really put forward
by al-Ri<;la himself, it is a fact that the nomination of the Imam has stayed in


theology as a problematic matter, so the Imami scholars always need to explain it and
these excuses have often been narrated in their books to exonerate the Imam and his
action. According to some narrations, there were also reactions to al-Ri<;la within his
own circle. The prominent scholar Ylinus b. 'Abd


when he heard of al-

Ri<;la's journey to Khutiisan and learned the reason for it, said that if the Imam
accepted it either willingly cr unwillingly, he, from now on, was a~iighiit (an idol or
a tyrant). 3 73 In another tradition, Yunus said, too, that by this act the institution of
prophetship which had started with Adam was destroyed. 3 74 It was quite reasonable


Uyun. ii, pp.137-8.

372 'Uyun, ii, pp.139 40. This committee was arranged h> 'Umar (ruled 15
23 I 634-(44) to elect the new caliph after him. Among the StX memhers of the
committee wa~ A1I h. Aht Talih who has been regarded hy Sht'1S as the only legal
successor (1 mam) of the Prophet.


al-Kashsht, pp.492 3 .


al-Kushsht. p.496.
2R 1

for Yunus to think this because he was a pupil of Hisham b. al-I:-Iakam,375 and
Hisham should perhaps be regarded as tbe one who created a doctrine from tbe

idea of the Sbi (a, which considered a line of the Prophets and the Imams

who had been determined by divine order and people bad no right to interfere with this
order either by cboosing or appointing a nabi (prophet) or a


(1mam),376 a

doctrine which became later a fundamental principle of the Imamiyya. Yiinus, as a

famous theologian and the author of "the Book of Imima" ,377 which probably
reflected the idea of divinely ordered imama, was right to condemn




was the

on the basis of his ideology.

Another proof of the Shi'ls' disapproval of the agreement by

attitude of Kufan Shi'is when al-' Abbas b. Musa, the brother of the Imam who was
the governor of Kufa on behalf of al-Ma'miin, asked them for support against tbe
troops of Ibrahim h. al-Mahdi wbo had been proclaimed in Baghdad as tbe new
caliph. Al-Tabari reports that almost all the extremist Shi'i factions and most of the
moderate Sht'isrefused to assist al-'Abbas. They said that if al-Ma'miin's name was
placed in the sennon, and only after him 'Ali


name was placed as the heir,

that would be unacceptable to them, but if al-' Abbas invoked





the name of himself or any name from the 'A1ids, they would join him. Al- (Abbas did
not do what they wanted. The Shi'is also did not change their attitudes, so, al-Tabart
reports that, not a single one of them joined al- (Abbas b. Musa, who, for this reason,
was defeated by the troops of Baghdadi opposition. 378


al-Kashsht, p.278.

376 SCL'

p.420 he!ow.

377 al 1\ <lJUsht

, p. 312.



It seems that these sorts of objections continued to be brought to the agenda by

some individuals both within the Imamis and non-Imamis, therefore some Imami
doctors might have attributed some sayings to mouth of their Imam in order to remove
doubts from their doctrines. Apart from these traditions, it is worthwhile quoting one
of the convincing explanations which belongs to the Imami theologian al-Sharif alMurta~a.

In his book "Tanzih al-Anbiyi ' ("the Blamelessness of the Prophets")


he exonerates the act of


If it is asked how 'Ali b. Musa al-Ri~a undertook the succession to

the throne after al-Ma'mun in spite of the fact that the imama is not
designated in this way, and also if it is asked whether this (the
succession) was a matter of criticism (ihim) with regard to the
religion, we say as an answer that we have already discussed the
reason for the Commander of the Faithful's participation in the
electoral council (of 'Umar, the second caliph), which is the basis of
this subject and its sum total. 379
The one who has a right is entitled to get this (right) using all means
and all occasions. Particularly, if he could reach this right (the imama)
by an authorisation (of somebody), it would become requisite for him
to get it (tawa~~uJ), to take it up (t~lUIlmul) and to administer
this duty (t~arruJ) just like in the case of al-Ri~a -peace be upon
him and his family- who has been entitled to this right by the
designation of his fathers. When it (the imama) was taken away from
him, (but) on another occasion it was consigned to him to administer
it, it was his duty to take this occasion to reach his right. There is no
criticism in this case, because the evidence for his entitlement to the
imama prevent this doubt from entering the matter.
Even if there could be some criticism (ibim) of it because of
adequate protection (li.fJasanati ilja'in), he was compelled to do
it by necessity just as he and his fathers had been forced to appear to
follow the wrongdoers and acknowledge their imama. Perhaps he
accepted the succession out of caution (taqiyya) and fear. He did
not choose to refuse the authorisation of the one who forced him to
accept it and burdened him with it. (If he refused), the matter would
have led to conflict and fighting, (but) the situation did not require it.
This is clear. 380





179 . Ali

b. Abi T8..lib's participation in the council might haye indicated the

manifestation of his oath of allegiance to the first two caliphs and also to the new
elected caliph. AI Sharif al- Murtada tried to refute this signification using similar
arguments to those used in the case of al-Ri~a, see Tanzih al-Anbiyi' . pp 141-3.

ai-Sharif al \\urtada, Tanzih al-AJ1biyi' . pp.179-80.

2 - The Solemnity of the Pledge and the following Observances

The pledge of allegiance to al-Ri~a was most p-obably made on 7 Rama~an,

201 I 29 March, 817. 381 This date coincides with the day on which the letter of the

designation of 'Ali


was signed and despatched to Medina. 382 It is also the

same day on which another letter, "the Letter of Gift and Stipulation" (Kitlib alShar~

wa al-lJiba'), was written for the vizier al-Fa~l b. Sahl. 383 Al-Tabari's date

as 2nd of Rama~an


is probably the day on which a letter containing the news of

the designation and some orders of al-Ma'mun in this regard was despatched to al1:Iasan b. Sahl in Iraq. Maniqib gives the date as 5th of

Rama~an, 385

whereas al-

Mufid and Idris give it as 6th of Rama.9an. 386

Probably before the ceremony of the pledge, letters in which the designation
was proclaimed were sent to the different parts of the state. The most impatant one of
these letters was certainly the letter which was sent to Iraq. It was despatched to alHasan b. Sahl and
then al-Hasan forwarded it to his commander 'Isa b. Muhammad

Abi Khalid


with the order that the latter should inform all his appointees and the


This date is given by al-Ya 'qubi, iii, p. 183.


Kashf, iii, p.127.

383 'UYOD, ii, p.155. In the

Rama~an of the year 201, which is

letter it is said: "The seventh of the month of

the day on which God made the reign of the
Commander of the Faithful complete, and he appointed his successor to the throne and
made the people wear green dress." (from trans. of the letter: Madelung, "\Iew
Documents" , p.336).

aI-Taban. iii, p.IOt3.


Manaqib, i \', p.367.

3~t, at

\1uftd, Masarr. p.6: ldns. 'Uyun al-Akhbar, p.360 .

'lsa was the son of the Abna' leader Muhammad h. Abi Khalid. He later
hecame the go\"emor of Armenia and \zerbaijan in 205:R20-1 , see :.11 Taban. iiI

r 1044.

Hashimis in Baghdad. Cpon the order of al-Ma'mun, al-Hasan also commanded that
they should take an oath of allegiance to 'Ali al-Ri~a and throw off their black robes:
instead, they should put on green ones. When

'Isa received these instructions, be

declared to the Baghdad troops that they should put tbem into practice. 388 However,
although some of the people agreed
allegiance to



it, most of them refused to give their oath of

they threw off their allegiance to al-Ma'mun and gave it to

Ibrahim b. al-Mabdi, the son of the third 'Abbisid caliph, al-Mabdi. This occurred,
according to al-Tabari, on 28 Dhu al-I:lijja, 201 I 17 July, 817 and it was declared on
the pulpit on 1 M~arram, 202/20 July, 817.389

Another two letters were sent to Egypt and Medina. One of them arrived in
Egypt in Mlarram of 202 H., therefore, the governor,al-Sari b. al-J:Iakam, took the
pledge of allegiance from the people on behalf of the caliph. 390 Another letter was sent
to 'Abd al-Jabbar b. Sa'id 391 in Medina and be proclaimed it on the pulpit. His

was "Do you know who has been designated as the heir to your caliph ?" and

the answer of the Medinans was "No, we do not know" , could indicate that the people
of Medina probably did not already know the reason for


journey to Merv.

'Abd al-Jabbar ended bis speech with a verse of a poem:

" Seven of his fathers! Who are they?

:\88 al-Tabari, iii, pp.l012-3.

389 al-Tabari, iii, pp. 1014-6. The different dates given by other sources are 5
Dhu al-l.iijja, i01 (al-Kamit, vi, 230) and 5 M~arram, 202 (al-Ya'gubt, iii, p.185:
Muruj, iii, p.441). Acccrding to Ibn Khallikao, the first oath of ~legtance was taken
on 5 Dhu al-~lijja. 201 by the 'Abbasids. The secon~ pro:lamat~on was ~ade on 1
"-'luharram. 202 in order that the people of Baghdad mIght give thetr oaths. Ftnally, on
:) Muharram. 202, it was announced again by Ibrahim b. al-Mahdl himself on the
pulpit' on Friday, see Ibn Khallikan. i, pp.39-40, iii, pp.26970. Also see Levy, A
Baghdad Chronicle, pp.80-1.
390 ai-Kindt. Wulat


p. 192 .

In al-'lqd a1-Fand of Ihn ':\hd al-Rahhih. he is 'Ahd al-Jahharh. Sa'd

v, p.381. r\I-Mufld's account (at-lrshad, p.472) gives \hd alHamld whIch
should he ". \hd al-Jahhar ".

They are the most excellent of those who drink the ratn of the
clouds" 392

Anexher letter is also presented by several books. It is the document of the

designation of


written by al-Ma'mun. 393 It was probably written and signed

by the witnesses before the ceremony and another letter, the acceptance of


which was written by the Imam himself, was attached to it. A statement in the letter
that al-Ma'mun called his generals and troops who were in "al-Madinat al-

Mal;lriisa" (the protected city) to give allegiance to

al-Ri~a 394

drives Crone and

Hinds to sugge~ that this document was intended to be proclaimed in Medina. 395

At the bottom of the letter there are some names as witnesses who signed the

document. 396 They are the vizier al-Fa~l b. Sahl, the judge Y~yii b. Aktbam, 'Abd

392 'Uylin, ii, p.I44; Mumad al-Ri~i, i, p.69. Also see Maqitil, p.565;
al-Irsbad, p.4n; Ibn 'Abd al-Rabbih, v, p.381. The words of "seven of his fathers"
refer to the seven Imams before al-Rida.
393 For the text of
Mu~am, x, pp.94-9;

the document, see Kashf, iii, p. 123-8; Ibn al-Jawzi, alal-Qalqashandi, ~ub~ al-Acshi, ix, pp.362-6; idem,
Ma'athir, ii, pp.325-6; in abridged form Sib~ b. al-Jawzi, Tadhkira, pp.352-4. F.
Gabrie1i translated it into Italian relying on the versions transmitted by Sib~ b. al-Jawzi
in his Mir' at ai-Zaman and al-Qalqashandi in his ~ub~ al-A csha (see AlMa'muo e gli Alidi, pp.38-43). P. Crone and M. Hinds made an English
translation using also the text of ~ub~ and Gabrieli's notes of variant readings in
Sib~ b. al-Jawzi's versions (see God's Caliph, pp. 133-9).
How this document appeared is reported in aI-Mun~am of Ibn al-Jawzi
(d.597/1200). Hibat Allah b. Fa~ b. ~a'id al-Kitib, who was probably a clerk in the
court, said that his maternal uncle YaJ:lya b. ~a'id bought the document for 200
dinars and presented it to the Mazyadid ruler Say{ al-Dawla ~daqa h. Man~Ur (ruled
479-501/1086-1108) (al-Munta~am, x, p.99). Also 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Irbili (d.6921
1293) reports that, in 670/1271, one of the attendants of the shrine of 'All al-Ri~a
hrought the document to him and then he presented it in his book (Kash f, iii, r 123).


Kasbf, iii. p.126.


Crone and Hinds, God's Caliph. pp.133, 13R .

Kashf. tii. p.12R; Ihn al-Jawzl, al-Munta?-am. \. pp.98-9 (he omitted

the name of Sahi h. a1-Fa~1); al-Qalqashandt. Ma'athir, ii, pp.334-6 (he omitted the
name ofThumama h. Ashrath)

., Q _ob

Allah b. Tahir, the son of the commander Tahir b. al-J:Iusayn, who became la.ter the
governor of Egypt and Syria, the Mu'tazili scholars Bishr b. al-Mu'tamir and
Tbumama b. Ashrath


Sahl b. al-Fa~l, another witness, was probably Abu SaW al-

b. al-Nawbakht al-Farisi (d.202/817-8), the famous astrologer of al-Ma'mun,

whose name has usually been confused with the vizier al-Fa~l b. Sahl. 398 Another
name, I:Iammad b. Nu'man, creates a little confusion.


b. al-Jawzi records the

name as I:Iammad b. Abi I:Ianifa, the son of the imam Abu I:Ianifa Nu'man b.
Thabit. 399 However, this Hammad died in 176/792-3 or, at the latest, 180/796-7,400
so the witness I:Iammad b. Nu'man must be another person in the court other than
J:Iammad b. Nu'man Abu I:Ianifa. He might be Isma'il, the son of I:Iammad b. Abi
I:I ani fa , who was appointed by al-Ma'mun in 208/823-4 to the office of judge in
Baghdad. 401 The name of Abu Baler


is given only by


b. ai-Jawzi as

another witness. 402 This is another error of his, because Abu Baler



Mul:tammad b. Yal:tya, the historian, who died in 335/946. His presence at the time of
the designation is bistaically impo~ble. This
ai-'Abbas al-



might be Abu Isl:taq Ibrahim b.

(d.243/857), the latib (clerk) and the poet in al-Ma'mun's

cowt. 403

For Bishr, see Ibn ai-Murta~a, p.52; al-Mal~, p.30; Watt, Formative
Period, p.222. For Thumama, see ai-Dhahabi, Mizin, i, pp.371-2; ai-~afadi, xi,
pp.20- t; Wau, ibid, p.222.


For Abu Sabl, see Ibn al-Nadim, p.274;


Tadhkira, p.354.

400 Ibn Khallikan, ii, p.205;

pp.168, 266.

xiii, p.147.


Forthis appointment, see aJ-Tabari, iii, p.l066.


Tadhkira, p.354.

For Ahu lshaq al Sult, sec Ibn al-Nadlm. p.122: Ihn Khalltkan, i, pp44

t). Y.




Ibn Babuya cites the historian Abu Baler al-~ulj as saying that the time of alRi~a' s designation became a matter of astrological discussion. Al-~uli relates on the

authority of al- Fa~l Abu

saW b.



that the latter considered that the tim e

of the designation was not appropriate according to the movements of the



wrcxe this to al-Ma'mun. However, the caliph did not want any postponement in the
plan of the designation. He wrote back to Abu Sabl and demanded that he should not
inform anything about it to the vizier al-Fa~l, who was canying out the p-oject. But alFa~l, who was an astrologer himself,405 bad come to the same conclusion. Thereupon

Abu Sabl feared that al-Ma'mun would suppose that he had informed the vizier of it
and would make him responsible for any delay by the vizier in the process of the
designation, therefore he went immediately to al-Fa~l and, after a long discussion on
astrological matters, managed to persuade him that the time was just appropriate for
the designation. 406

The sources give detailed information about the ceremony of


designation. A narration has it that, in the ceremony, the pledge of allegiance was
taken not only foral-Ri~a as the heir but also for al-Ma'mu.n as the caliph and


404 The name al-Fadl b. saW al-Nawbakhti in the text should be al-Fadl Abu
Sahl b. Nawbakht. The fath'er, Nawbakht, was also an astrologer. He was employed
in the palace by the caliph al-M~r. Then he converted to Islam and participated with
the caliph in the construction of Baghdad. Mterwards, he was replaced by his son
Abu Sahl, who served the caliphs al-M~, al-Mabdi, al-Hadi, al-Rashid, al-Amin
and al-Ma'mu.n. He died in 202/817-8. He is an ancestor of al-J:Iasan b. Musa alNawbakhtt (d.31 0/922), the Imami scholar who is the writer of Firaq al-Sht' a. For
fW1.her information, see Ibn al-Nadim, p.274; H. Ritter's introduttion for Firaq aIShl'a.
According to a later source, Kitab al-Akbbar ai-cUiama' of 'Ah b. Yusuf
al-Qif~1 (d.646/1248), this person was 'Abd Allah b. Sahl b. Nawbakht, who was
probably the son of Abu Sahl h. Nawbakht, see a1-Qif~, p. ISO.
40:; Ibn
wa~ an

al-'Imad, ii, p.4; al-Rifa'l, i, p.297. Ibn Khallikan (i\', p.4l) says that
al foa<.ll
expert in astrology; many of his decisions made hy using astrological
knowledge were right.
'Uyun, ii, pp.146-7. The same story is also related hy' al-()if~1 on the
authontyof 'Ahel \llah h. Sahl h. \Iawhakht, see Kitab Athbar al'Ulama'

b. Sahl as tbe vizier. 407 This could be corrooorated by the fact that Kitab al-Shar!
wa al-Ifiba', a letter which was written for al-Fa91 b. Sah1 to guarantee him all his

rights and to explain al-Ma'mun's desire to retain his service, was dated on 7
Rama9an, 201,408 the day on which the solemnity took place.

On that day, all the officials - the military commanders, the judges, the
chamberlains and others - were present at the field of the ceremony on their horses, all
wearing green. Two great cushions were prepared for al-Ri~i. He came. He was
dressed in green and wearing a turban and sword. Al-Ma'm-un seated him next to
himself. Then ai-Ma' mun ordered his son, al- 'Abbas, to make the pledge of allegiance
to al-Ri~a. Al-Ri~ lifted his right hand and held it with his palm towards the people.
Al-'Abbis slapped the Imim's hand; then he kissed his father's hand and sat down.
The protocolist Abu 'Abbid called Mul:tammad b. Ja'far


as the second man.

He did the same, but he did not kiss al-Ma'mun's hand. Then all the officials and the
members of both the 'Alid and the 'Abbisid families made their pledge of allegiance in
this way.409

407 Ibn Bilbuya, 'Ilal, p.239; 'Uyon, ii, p.240.

408 'll yun,
.. p. 155 .
409 Maqitil, pp.563-4. Also see al-Irshid, pA71; Kashf, iii, pp.66-7. In
Idns's version, there are the names of some men who were present at the solemnity.
They made their pledge of allegiance and took their gifts from the caliph ('Uyun alAkbbar. p.361). However, these accounts need to be corrected. First of all, one of
them, 'Abd a1-~amad b. 'Ali, could not have been present in this congregation. He
was the uncle of al-Man~ur and died in 185/801 (al-Tabari, iii, p.650). The second
name is Ts~aq b, Musa b. 'Ysa b. Mu~ammad b. 'Ali b. 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas h.
'Abd al-Mu~~alib. The name must be corrected as Isf.1aq b. Musa b. 'Isa b. tvlusa b.
"1u~ammad h. 'Alt b. 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas. He was the great-grandson of al~affa~'s hrother Musa, who was the fermer governor of Yemen (al-Taban, iii. p. 9~7)
and among the commanders who suppre~ed Mu~ammad b. Ja'far's revolt in Mecca
(aITaban, iii, pp.99t-2). Healsoledthepilgrimageoftheyear20t H. (al-Taban, iIi
p tOI5). The third name is 'Tsa b. Ya'quh h. Tsma'il b. '<\hd Allah h. al-':~hha~ h,
'Abd al-Mu~alib. Since, according to Ibn I.Iazm, '\bd Allah b. aI-'Abhas's progeny
continued only with his son 'AI! (Jambara. p. 19), the true name mu~t be 'Ysa h.
Ya'qub b. lsma'tl b. 'Alt b. 'Ahd Allah b. aI-'Abbas. 'Ysa s grandfather Ismail h.
',\it, who WU5 the paternal uncle of al"1an~r, wa~ the governor of Kufa (Ibn Hazm.
Jam hara, p.20).

Ibn Bibiiya relates on the authority of al-Rayyan b. Shubayb, the maternal

uncle of the caliph al-Mu '~im, that


after the oath of allegiance had been

completed, told al-Ma'miin that the rite should have been repeated, because when they
slapped his hand for the bay'a, they began with his thumb and drew their hands
across his hand to the little finger; this meant the abolition of allegiance according to
the tradition, so, instead, they should have slapped his hand and began with his little
finger, drawing their hands across his hand to his thumb. Thereupon, aI-Ma'mun
made them repeat the rite in this manner, but, the ri"i Shubayb adds that, this led the
people to grumble that the one who knew how the pledge was made should have been
more entitled to become caliph than the one who did not know it. 410

According to aI-Mufid, 10,000 dirbams were granted to the participants in

the ceremony.411 On this report it could be said that Idris's account about the sum of
money which was conferred on this occasion is very exaggerated. He reports that
Mul:tammad b. Ja'far received 60,000 dinars as a grant and the same amount was
given to each of five men. The rest of the participants also received 30,000 diJJirs
each.412 Therefore, aI-Mufid's account seems to be more plausible because the
amount is much less, even though

rather large.

After the people had given their oath of allegiance, al-Ma' mun asked



address the people. The Imam praised and glorified God and then he said: "We have a
light due to us from you through the Apostle of God and you also have a right due to
you from us through him. If you carry out your duty to us, then it is necessary for us


Ibn Babuya, 'l1al. pp 239-40: 'Uyiin. ii, pp.240-1


al-Irshid. p.472


Idns, 'Vy\in al-At..hbir. p.361.


to carry out our duty to you."


During the ceremony, orators mentioned al-Ri~a s

merit and the part played by al-Ma'mun in the affair. Poets also did the same with their
poems. 414 Abu Bakr a1-~ijJj cited a verse which was quoted by an . Abbasid orator in
the ceremony: He said:
"It is inevitable that the people need the sun and the moon
You are the sun and he is the moon"


On this occasion, al-Ma'mun ordered a year's wages to be paid to the

soldiers. 416 While al-Ma' mun endowed money so extravagantly, the governor of Iraq,
al-l:lasan b. Sahl, was not even able to pay the monthly stipends of the soldiers. 417
This seems to indicate that the caliph was not being informed about the real situation in

InKJ, which was being concealed from him, as will be discussed h~er.

All the officials in Merv made their pledge of allegiance to 'Alt


as the

heir. A narration in UyOn reports that only three commanders refused to do it. They
were 'Isial-Juludi, 'Ali b. Abi 'lmritn and Abu Yunus (or Abu Mu'nis). Al-Ma'mun
hadthemjailed. 418 Another narration has it that before al-Ma'mun set off for Iraq,
these commanders had been brought to the caliph's presence and then he demanded
once more that they make the pledge of allegiance, but they refused again. So al-

trans. by I.K.A. Howard, al-Irsbid, pAn. Also see Maqitil, p.S64;

Kashf, iii, p.67.


Maqitil, p.564; al-Irsbid, p.471.

415 Sih~,


416 al Azdt. p.342; 'Uyun. ii, p.l46. Idris's account is that it was paid to all
the officials ofthestatc ('Uyun al-Akhbar, p.360). AI-I~ahant and al-\luftd do not
mention the soldiers; from their reports it can be understood that all the partici pants in
thesotemnityreceivedtheiryeartywages, see Maqatil. p.564; al-Irshad, 471.


7 sec


al Tahan, iii. pp. 99R- 1000.

'Uyun. Ii. p.14R.


Ma'mun had them executed although al-Ric:1a had requested the caliph to spare alJuludi. 419

It seems difficult to give these reports any credibility. Although nothing has

been mentioned about Abu Yunus and 'Ali b. Abi 'Imran, 'lsa al-Juludi is a wellknown and a frequently mentioned personality in the sources. His date of death is nO(
given, but he appears in al-Tabari's History participating in the ceremonies of the
pilgrimage of 202


which was about six months after be bad been executed in

the narration of '{Jyun. Moreover, al-Ya'qubi states that the governor of Basra,
Isma'.1 b. Ja'far b. Sulayman al-Hashimi, refused


ordered al-Juludi to arrest him. He carried out this

dress in green, so al-Ma'mun


This report is clear

evidence fer the loyalty of al-Julooi in the matter relating to aJ-Ri~a's designation.

The change in the official colour from black to green on the occasion of alRi~a's

designation must now be taken into consideration. It does not seem that the

green colour was at this date specifically associated with the 'A1ids. However, it is no
doubt that the black was the official colour of the 'Abbasids, which, according to Ihn
Kbaldun. was especially used at the time of revolution as a sign of mourning for their
martyrs and also a sign of reproach directed against the 'Umayyads who had killed

them. Therefore, they were called "al-Musawwida" ("the black ones"). In contrast, the
'Alids used to be called


("the white ones") as they used white flags.

Ihn Khaldun also reports that this was maintained by many' Alid-originated states and
groups, for instance, the


r 346.


the Zaydt missionaries of Tabaristan and the

'Uyun, ii, pp.15R-9. It is also quoted by Ibn al-Shahrilshub, Manaqib,

420 al

Tahan, Iii. p. 1029.

421 al

Ya'yuhlll\' pp lR34.

extremist~is.422 We also know that the 'Alid rebels always adopted the white

colour. AI-J:Iusayn b. 'AE in al-Fakh1ch in 1691786 and Ahu al-Sariiya in Kufa in

199/815 proclaimed their rebellions on the pulpit in white cl<xhes. 42 3 Hence, ~u 'aym
b. Khazim was right to protest to


b. Sahl before al-Ma'mun that white was

traditional 'Alid colour whereas green was the clothoftldGsra. 424 Although Ibn 31Tiq~a reports

that the green was chosen because it was the colour of the clothes

worn by the people of Paradise, 425 the change seems to mean nothing except an
attempt to please the Persian elements of the imperial court who were the pillars of alMa' mun's reign. Possibly because of the fact that green had nothing with the 'Alids,
the Imam


does not seem to have adopted this change completely although it

had been made on the occasion of his designation. It is reported that he went out in
Merv on the festival day to lead the prayer putting on a white cotton turban, not a
green one. 426

AI-Ma' mun, on this occasion, is said to have given cAli b. Milsa the nickname
"al-Ri~a" [lithe one well pleasing

(to God)"J.427 Ibn Babuya reports a tradition in

422 Ibn Khaldun, al-Muq addima, ii, pp.SO-l.

423 see al-Tabari, iii, pp.554, 1017.

al-JahshiyWi, pp.312-3. Also see p.2S1 above.

425 Ibnal-Tiq~a, p.216.

426 al-Kulayni, i, p.489; 'Uyiin, ii, p.149; al-Irshid, p.474.
At-Ma' mun, the members of his family and the officials of the ~e continued
to stay in green clothes until he reverted to wearing black clothes. It is said that it wa~
on account of the reque~ of some members of the 'Abbasid famity and especially that
of his commander Tahir h. al-J:Iusayn. This officially took place on 22 ~ar, 204 I 1R
:\UgU~l, R19, the time twenty-seven days after al-Ma'mun's entry into Baghdad, see
at-Tahart, iii, pp. t037R: Ihn Tayfur, pp.9-tO; al--\zdl. p.3S:\ ~~Ya'qubt. iii, p.1RR:
Muruj, iii, p.442; Ihn al-Tiq~aqa, pp.2tR-9; Ihn al-'lmad, tI, p.3. Three years
afterwards, in 207'R23, following the rehellion of the' c\lid 'Ahd at Rahman h.
:\hmad in "emen, al \-1a'mun ordered the Talihts in f1aghdad to start wearing hlack
garments, see al-Tahan. iii. P t 063.

alTahart, iIi, p. t013: 'Uyun, ii, p.146: Maqatil, p.S63; allrshad


which al-Ma'mun was claimed to have chosen the nickname al-Rida , which also
means "the contented one' , because the Imam consented to become his successor. 428
In fact, this name was not an innovation of al-Ma' mun. It had been adopted largely by
the Shilts -especially by the revolutionary Shi'is- for a long time. Firstly. the 'Alids
shared this slogan with the 'Abbasids during the revolution which resulted in the
collapse of the Umayyad dynasty.429 Al-J:Iusayn b. 'Ali rebelled in 169 H.
proclaiming that his rebellion was for the cause of lithe one well-pleasing (to God)
from the House of Mu1:tammad" ("al-Rit;lii min iii MulJ.ammad").430 It was
repeated in the revolt of Abu al-Saraya. 431 The same name was also used by non-Shi'i
rebels; for example, al-J:Iasan al-Hirsh found this slogan more popular despite its Shi'i
nature and did not see any objection to ad~ it in his revolt in 198/814. 432 Sa'd alQummi says, when he explains the principles of the Zaydiyya, that for the Zaydis if
someone rebelled against an illegitimate government and his call and sermon was for
the cause of "al-Rit;lii", he would be a proper Imam to whom it is necessary to obey
and to fight against the enemy under his flag is obligatory. 433 In the light of these fads
al-Ma' mun's choice of this particular name becomes more understandable. As given
this name to the heir apparent, the most desired zeal of the . Alids and the Shi'is was
fulfilled and thus no reason remained for them any more to revolt against the authority.

428 U yia n, i, p. 11. For this tradition related from the Imam al-Jawild, which
reflects the lmamiyya's criticism of this claim and its allegation that the Imam 'All b.
Musa had already been named al-Ri~ by God see p. 192 above.
429 al- Taban, ii, p. 1957.
430al-Tabari, iii, p.554; Maqitil, pA50.

Maqatil, p.532; al-Kamil, vi, p.2l2.

4.'2 al-Taban, iii, p.975. For a more elabomte examination of the meaning of
the name and Its use in more previous times especially in the time of the 'Abbasid
revolution, see P. Crone. "On the \-1eaning of the . Ahba~id Call to al-Rt~a", in The
Islamic World from Classical to Modern Times: essays in honor of
Bernard I.ewi s, ed. C. E. Bosworth. pp. 95-111.

al-(.)umml, p. 71.


Another official decision which was made for the honour of al-Rida was


mint silver coins (dirham) with his name. 434 Some of these coins have been found in
archaeological excavations. They were minted in Samarqand and


(Rayy), and the dates of their minting were 202,203 and 204 H .. 435

IX - Al-Ri"i at the Royal Court

1 - With aI-Ma'mun

If we consider that a1-Ri~a came to Merv just before Rajab, 20t/January and

February, 817,436 it means that the Imam spent a whole year at the court until he left
the city with al-Ma'mun on 10 Rajab, 202 / 22 January, 818 for the journey to
Baghdad. 437

434 Ibn J:Iabib, p.201; 'Uyun, ii, p.146; Maqitil, p.564; al-Irsbid, pAn;
al-Kashshi, pp.546-7. According to some reports CUyun, ii, p.148, Muruj, iii,
p.44 t; Ibn Kha1likan, iii, p.269), also golden coin (dinar) was minted. However, it
seems that al-Ri~a's name was struck only on silver coin as the first-referred sources
say. The fact that only silver coins have been found in archaeological excavations
could prove it. An account from al-Najishi (pp.197-8) marks that these coins were
called "Darahim Rit;lawiyya".
435 At the obverse area of the coins is the word "al-Mashriq" (the East)
following the sentence of "There is No God but Allah, the Single, there is no partner
with Him". At the outer margin of the same side is a verse of the Qur' an, whicb is
"Allah's is the command, before and after; on that day the believers sball rejoice in tbe
help of Allah" (al-Qur' an, xxx: 4,5). On the reverse it is read in seven lines that "To
God (lillah) , Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah, al-Ma'ffiu.n, the caliph of Allah;
among those things ordered by al-Amir (the commander) al-Ri9a, heir apparent of
the Muslims, 'Ali b. MUsab. 'Ali b. Abi Tatib. Dhii al-Ri.yasatayn (the man with
two powers: at Fa91 b. Sahl)". The verse ix: 33 of the Qur' in is at tbe margin of this
side. (G.C. Miles, The Numismatic History of Rayy, pp.l03-6; idem.
"'!umismatics", p.370; Lane-Poole Stanley, Catalogue of Oriental Coins in the
British Museum, i, p. 103 and Additions to the Oriental Collection 18761888, i x p.550).

see Idns's account p.27R above.


For the departure date. see Rakaya, "at-Ma' mun , EI2, ,,;,





Shi'l reports, al-Ri~a is reported to have stayed in a house

adjoining al-Ma'mun's residence, so they used to frequent each other. 438 A..l-\la'mun
would address the Imam in a very close and respectful manner: "0 my master" ("ya

sayyidi") 439 and "0 my cousin" ("ya ibn 'ammi") 440 were the ways of address
the caliph frequent1yused.

Some meetings between al-Ma'mun and


are narrated in several

sources. In one of them, the caliph asked the Imam to recite poetry; he recited some

secrecy (sirr) and how


win over an enemy, so the

delighted caliph crdered him to be given 300,000 dirhams. 441



time, the subject of talk was more serious. We quote it from the

translation of M. Sharon:
(Al-Ma' mun said:) "On what grounds do you claim the caliphate for
yourself?" 'All b. M usa replied: "Through the nearness in kin of 'Ali
to the Prophet, may Allah save him and give him peace, and by the
descent from F~ah, may Allah be pleased with her". "If it is all
nothing but a question of kinship" said the Caliph, "then surely there
are amongst the Prophet'S relatives -people who are nearer in kin to
the Prophet or on the same level as he. Whereas, if it is only the
descent from F~mah which counts in this mauer, then truly the
rights of F~mah belong after her to J:Iasan and J:Iusayn and not to
'Alt. It follows that 'Ali robbed them both in their lifetime while they


'Uynn, ii, p.152.


al-Kulaym, i, p.491.


'tJ yu n, 1,
. P 144 .


'U yu n, ii, pp. 172 -3. The narrator Ihn Rahuya needs to make a comment

that al-Ri~a s acceptance of this grant was similar to the case of the Prophet, who had
accepted gifts from several kings and rulers, and to the case of al-l.lasan h .. All h ..\hl
Talih who had also accepted gifts from \1u'awiya h. Abl Sufyan, hecause, he said.
"whoever had the worldly things, (hut) they were snatched (hy someone) and then
\omc of t.hem were returned to hi m (i. e. to the true owner of them), it would he lawful
for him to receive them" (Ihid., r 173).


were in good health, and seized something to which he had absolutely

no right". 'Ali b. \Hisa had no reply." 442

Although we do not know whether this conversation really occurred or

whether it was the product of the unsolved controversy on this subject between the
'Abbasids and the' Alids, it seems that, especially on the side of the Imanus. this


association between al-Ri9a and al-Ma'munhas been seen as an opportunity

explain or to justify some of their beliefs by producing false conversations between

them. There is no strong evidence to prove their authenticity. For example, al-Mufid
narrates a conversation, without giving any sanad, that as an answer to ai-Ma' miln
who had expressed his view that he did not see any difference in excellence between
the two families and accused the 'Alids of zealous partisanship, al-Ri9i repeated his


daughters of

argument which he had put forward against al-Rashid



that the

descendants supposedly could not get married with the Prophet

because he was their grandfather, but this marriage was permissible for the daughters
of the' Abbasids, which was a fact corroborating their nearness to the Prophet and
thus their excellence. 444 It is well known that al-Ma'mun later proclaimed the preeminence of 'All b. Abl Talib, emphasising that he was the best of mankind after the
Prophet. 445 Therefore, this fact seems appropriate to be a criterion to examine such

M. Sharon, Black Banners from the East. p.31. The narration is

rccordcdhyIhn Qutayba, 'Uyun al-Akhbiu. ii. pp.140-1: Ibn 'Abd Rahhih. al1
e Iq d
. p...
al -F an d'
, \ , p. 38
~ ...


see p. 154 aho\ e.


al \1uftd.


al Tunan, itt. p 1099: a}-Azdt. p.373: aI-KamH.


at Mukhtara. p.16-7.




2 - Tbe Symposia

Perhaps the most p-evalent occasions when al-Ri~a cut a dash at the court were
the symposia which were arranged by al-Ma'mun himself. Due to a fact that the
narrations about such symposia are unusually extended and seem to have a tendency to


ability in discussion and his wide knowledge, we must stress again

that they must be treated as highly suspect. Nevertheless, the popularity of such
symposia in the time of al-Ma' mun is well known 446 and the participation of al-Ri~a
in them as the heir apparent and a respected scholar is very natural. What is doubtful is
the authenticity of the narrations related especially by the !manti Ibn Babuya in his
'Uyiin. 447 However, at least, in order to know the participants with whom



shown to have debated it is useful to mention a little about these symposiums.

Ibn Babuya narrates three different sessions of discussion in which al-Ri<.Ja

debated. He narrates two of them, the session with several scholars from different
religions and the other session with Sulayman al-Marwazi,448 on the authority of 81I:lasan b. Mul)ammad b. Sahl al-Nawfali. 449 Al-Najashi records this

TaW; and his

hook on al-Ri~a's discussions, Dbikr Majilis al-Ri"i 'alayhim al-Salam ma'a

Ahl al-Adyin, which is likely the same book that these narrations were derived

446 see M uru-'J, 111,

... p. 432 .
447 D. M. Donaldson thinks that these reports were not written until nearly two
hundred years after the event. He ~sert.s tha~ it was easi~ for Ibn Babuya, the
compilerof 'Uyun al-Akbbar al-Rt"a ln which ~e n~o~ are fully related, ~o
supply appropriate sayings f.or the 1mam than to Inve~~ .1ntelhg~n.t repltes for hiS
Jewish, Olristian orZoro~an opponents, seeThe Shiite Reltglon, p.168.
44~ He might be Abu Dawud Sulayman b. \1a 'bad al-MarWa7J, a traditionist
and grammarian who died in 258/872 (see Ibn Abt Khiitim, ii. il, p. 147 (no:632]: at

Safadt, xv, pp.42Pt-9). If this man was the same ~-M~:azl In the n~ton he must
have been a very young man when he debated wtth al-Rt~a, and theretore he was an
Inappropriate n val for the Imam.

see 'Uyun,


p \26 (bah:


p. \44 (bab: 13)

from. However, he regards al-Nawfali as a weak rawi although he says that this
book has a la: of beneficial things. 450

Ibn Babuya states that al-Ma'mun summoned to the symposia those scholars
who were very zealous to defeat the Imam in discussion, but, through the promised
assistance of God for His apostles, the Imam managed to overcome all of them. 4S1
This finds its corroboration in a tradition narrating a debate between the Imam and
Sulayman al-Marwazi. Before the debate, al-Marwazi told al-Ma' mun that he did not
want to compete with


because this might lead the latter to be disparaged

before the Banu Hashim and other notables, so this was not a permissible thing to do
against an heir apparent. At-Ma' mun replied that this was what he desired and this was
also why he chose al-Marwazi as a very learned scholar to debate with a1-Ri~i. 452
However, at the end of the debate which was made on the subjects of badii' (change
in God's knowledge) and iriida (the will of God), Sulayman al-Marwazt was
defeated. Al-Ma'miln then said that


was the most learned man of the Banu

Hashim. 453

Another debate of the Imam happened with 'Ali b. Mu~ammad b. Jabm. 454
The subject, that time, was the sinlessness of the Prophets Ci~mQt al-Anbiyii').
IbnJahm gave several examples from the Qur' in which might indicate some sins or
errors of the Prophets. A1-Ri~a explained one by one all the verses which Ibn Jahm



al-Najashl, p.27.


'Uyun, i, p.152.


'Uyun, i, p.l44.


sec 'Uyun,


He is dcscrihcd hy lhn Babuya as an "Ql-Nii~ibi" I ~Ulli--\lld) CUyun.




had asked and proved the infallibility of the Prophets. At the end, Tbn lahm confessed
his mistake and then repented in tears. 455

The third narrated debate of al-Ri"i took place with several scholars from
different beliefs under the organisation of al-Fa91 b. Sahl. The participants were alliUhiliq (the Catholicos or the Patriarch)


Ra's al-lilut

457, Nus~


the Greek), al-Harbadh al-Akbar (the Great Harbadh) 458 and the heads of the

Sabian and the Zoroastrian communities. 459 According to the narration, al-Rida
debated with them one by one and defeated all; they had to give up the discussion.


the representative of the Sabians, became a Muslim and

afterwards attended later symposia on behalf of the Muslims. At-Ma' mun granted him

'IJyiln, i, pp.153-5. The narration is related on the authority of Abu al-~

alt al-Harawi. For another conversation on the same subject between al-Ri~a and alMa'mun, see Ibid., i, pp.155-62.

He is not identified by name, but he might be Abu Qurra, ~~b al-Jathihq

(the companion of the Catholicos), who appears debating with al-Ri"a in another
tradition CUyun, ii, p.232; Maniqib, iv, pp.351-2). For Abu Qurra, see
footnote: 459 below.

M.l. Mashkur says that he was the head of the Jewish community in Iraq
in the time of the Sisanid empire. The name came from "Rt:sh gawta', and then
was lr'dflsformed to "Ra'~ al-Jallit" (see Ta 'liqat in al-Qummi, al-Maqatil, ed.
M.J. Mashkur, p. 1n). "Rt:~h galQta' is probably Rt:~h galuta who was the
Exilarch, the head of the Exilarchate in Iraq (Babylon).


I have not been able to identify Nu~ and al-Harbadh.

'Uyun, i, pp. 126-144; al-Tabarsi, al-I~tijij, pp.415-25. We have also

another account of a similar symposium before al-Ma'mun recorded in the book of a
Christian author who is anonymous, but the manuscript of the book is ascribed by the
author of the Paris Library Catalogue to the fifteenth cenrwy, as A. Guillaume says
Guillaume has narrated it and commented on it in his article" A Debate between
Christian and Muslim Doctors", JRAS, 1924, pp.233-44. The Imam al-Ri~a is not
mentioned in it. ~everthetess. Abu Qurra, the Christian scholar. who IS recorded to
have debated with at Ri~rUyun. ii, p.232, Manaqib. iv, pp.351-2), is among the
contestanLs in this symposium. He is described by Guillaume as Theodore Ahu Qurra.
the Rishop of Han-cUl (p. 233). Other cont~ts recorded in the article are Sa' ~a' a h
Khaltd at B~n and Husayn b. l.awt (or Ltwa) aI-Fanst (pp.240. 242)


1 have na. heen able to identify him.


10,000 dirhams.

A1-Ri~a also put him in charge of the ~Q~qal (charitable lands)

in BaJkh. 461

At the end of the narration, a talk between MuJ:tammad b. Ja'far, the uncle of

the Imam and one of the audience of the symposium, and the raVli al-J:Iasan alNawfali is recorded.


was very surprised, because he did not expect such

success from his nephew. He said that


had never met the theologians before;

he only used to reply in Medina to the questions of pilgrims about the pilgrimage. He
added that he was worried about al-Ma'miin's jealousy of him, which might lead him

be poisoned or to meet with other troubles and thus asked al-Nawfali to request al-


no longer to take part in such symposia. 462

Anocher narration related by Ibn Bab-uya is a very long discussion between alMa' miln and the Ahl al-J:Iadith arranged by Y~ya b. Aktham, the chief judge of alMa'mun,


the subject of the pre-eminence of 'Ali b. Abi Tatib over the first two

caliphs. The narration seems to reflect the familiar arguments of the Imamiyya about
the subject. Ibn Babilya relates it in a special chapter under the title of "the report of
debates on the imama and the precedence (la/f)i/) with the opponents through which

'Uyuo, i, pp.1434; al-Tabarsi, al-I~tijij, p.425.

David Thomas has translated a large part of this tradition, in which al-Ri~
debates with the Catholicos, from Kitib al- Taw~id of Ibn Babuya, see "Two
Muslim-OtristianDebates",l. of Semitic S., 33 (1988), pp.65-75. Then he has
argued against the authenticity of the tradition. He has suggested that the tradition
seems to he Ibn Babuya's own production and intended to demonstrate al-Ri~a's
superhuman knowledge. According to Thomas, certain features of the discussion in
the narration appear to derive from an earlier tradition of anti-Christian polemic. He
ha'i regarded it as one of the su~tly c~~struct.ed.and entert~ni~g examples of the S~I'I
endeavour to secure the group s pOSitton Within the Mushm Intellectual community,
\ee Ihid., pp. 75-~O. However, as we have suggested, the source of the tradition goes
hack to an e-ar1ier work, the hook of al I.la'ian a1 1\awfalt. and Ihn Rabuya appears to
have derived the tradition from this book. If Thomas's suggestions are correct, they
are com.'Ct for a1 ~awfall not Ihn Babuva.


'Uyun, i, p. 143.

aJ-\1a'mOO sought to gain al-Ri~a's favour". 463 Nevertheless, in another tradition in

the same chapter, al-Ri~a, by warning his disciples not to believe in these gestures of
al-Ma'mun and foretelling that he would kill him, thwarted the caliph's intention. 464

3 - The Marriages

Al-Ma'munreinfcrced a1-Ri~a's nom 1oation by marriage alliances. On one day

three marriages were proclaimed: The marriage of Umm I:Iablb, the daughter of alMa'mu.n,465 with al-Ri~a, that of Umm al-Fa~l. another daughter of the caliph. with

the son of al-Rida, and that of al-Ma'mun himself with BUran the
daughter of al-I:Iasan b. Sabl. According to the sources this happened in 202/8 t 78. 466 However, these were only the engagement proclamations. The wedding of the
caliph with BUrin took place in 210/825-6 and that of


with Umm


in 215/830. 467 There is no report about al-Ri~a's wedding. But some reports show

463 Uyun. ii. pp. 183-200.

464 'Uyian, ii, p.183. For other traditions narrating such symposia in which
al-Ri~a took part, see Ibn Shu'ba. pp.312-25; al-Tabarsi, aI-I~tijii. Pr. 396-44 t. In
addition, for