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HASAN ALI (1071-1106/1660-1694), 42ND IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

Hasan Ali I, also known as Bakir Shah was born in Kahek. He had also gone to the city of Kirman with his father, but returned to Kahek after assuming the Imamate. In 1085/1674, he betrothed to a Safavid lady, and soon afterwards, there is likelihood that the Imam had taken certain interest in the political arena. In 1105/1693, he was made the governor of Kirman.

The cursory glance of the Iranian empire reveals that Shah Abbas II had died in 1077/1666. He was succeeded by Shah Suleman. Henceforward, the Safavid kingdom took a rapid march towards decline. Under weak and ineffective king, the ulema tended to reassert their independence of the political institution, and were at the height of their power. The mujtahids fully reasserted their independence of the Shah, and reclaimed their prerogative to be the representatives of their hidden Imam. The mujtahids moved gradually towards a position of actually controlling the king. Some sources suggest a direct religious rule by means of a concourse of mujtahids above the monarch.

The Russian ambassador also visited Iran to conclude a truce, and as a result, Mazandaran, Jurjan etc. went into the pocket of Russia. The Ottoman sultans in Turkey were also so weak that the whole empire had been isolated in different states. They however marched in Europe, near Vienna, but the Russians were devouring the Turkish territories behind the door.

Imam Hasan Ali directed the Ismaili mission in view of the changing situation of Iran. The names of few Ismaili da'is, viz., Pir Mihrab Beg, Pir Ali Asghar Beg and Pir Ali Akbar Beg are however located, but nothing is known about them. The Turkish word beg in their names however sounds that they would have preached in the Iranian regions inhabited by the Turkomans, or more possibly, had come into the contact of the Kizilbash circle in Iran.

In the flourishing liberty of the Shi'ite mujtahids in Iran, the latent differences came readily to the fore. Two major schools of theological thought emerged in Shi'ite society. The majority stressed constant reference to the first principles, to all the sources (usul) of law: these were the Koran, reports about the Prophet and the Imams. They became known as the Usuli. But a vigorously protesting movement arose, which threw doubt on the validity of reason as an independent basis of law; it stressed the massive use of reports (akhbar) were available from Prophet and the Imams, and they were known as the Akhbari. One of the most important features of this period is the greatly enhanced influence of the religious classes as they freed themselves from political control apart from the internal differences of the Usuli and Akhbari groups. Powerful theologians emerged, of whom a typical example is Muhammad Bakir Majlisi (1037-1110/1628-1699), who held the office of Shaikh al-Islam in 1687, and then as Mulla-bashi (head of the mullas) until his death.

It is a significant point that the Usuli and Akhbari Shi'ite groups jointly made the Sufis as their victims. Under these circumstances, the Ismailis had to change their Sufic mantles to the Shi'ite. It appears that Imam Hasan Ali also followed similar trend in Kirman, and adopted the Shi'ite sounding name, Bakir Shah few years before becoming the governor of Kirman in 1105/1693. It is also said that he had purchased some estates in Baghdad, Basra and Kazamain Sharif. The last will of the Imam, indicating his burial in Najaf also suggests a sort of taqiya in Shi'ite garb.

The Safavid Shah Suleman is reported to have used the fortress of Alamut as a state prison for the rebellious persons from among his courtiers, amirs and relatives. At that time, only a few Ismaili families resided in the lower Caspian region.

Imam Hasan Ali I executed the governorship of Kirman for one year, and died in 1106/1694, and his body had been taken to Najaf for interment.


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