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JALALUDDIN HASAN (607-618/1210-1221), 25TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Hasan, surnamed Jalaluddin was born in 583/1187. He is also called as Hasan III. During his childhood, his father had designated him as his successor. According to John Malcolm in History of Persia (London, 1815, 1:405), "He is celebrated in Persian history for the kindness and generosity of his disposition; and we are informed that this prince of the Ismailis was the handsomest man for his age".

Culling up the different narratives, it appears that few Ismailis in northern Syria had misinterpreted the notion of the qiyama among the orthodox Muslims, who also in turn, ignored its inner Islamic substance and devised a derogatory imputation and engineered anti-propaganda in hyperbolic and opprobrious words. Dr. Nassih Ahmed Mirza writes that, "Among the Syrian Ismailis who lived far away from Alamut in a different environment, the teachings of the qiyama were probably not fully understood by all" (Ibid. pp. 156-7). Under these difficult circumstances, the basic teachings of the qiyama was bound to have been different in northern Syria from what was in Iran. Between 559/1164 and 607/1210, the orthodox machine sprouted out from all directions in Iran and Syria, reviling that the Ismailis had violated the Islamic Shariah. Dahalbi (d. 748/1348) writes in Zubat at-talab fi Tarikh-i Halab that, "The proclamation of qiyama in Iran was obvious, the more so since the Syrian historians clearly know nothing of the event of Alamut." Such episodes had possibly furnished further weighty excuse for the Muslim opponents of the Ismailis to accuse them of the outright abandonment of the Islamic law. One can judge from the imponderable and starkly fictitious accounts of the contemporary diplomats and travellers, about the nature of the rumours spread against the Ismailis. In a diplomatic report of 570/1175 of an envoy, Burchard of Strassburg, who had been sent to Syria by the Roman king Frederick I Barbarossa (1152-1190), indicates that Burchard had been ill-informed by the local Muslims about the Ismailis during his visit to Syria in 570/1175, which he produced in his report in a distorted form. He writes, "The Heyssessini live without law; they eat swine's flesh against the law of the Saracens, and make use of all women..." Ibn Jubayr, the Spanish traveler had also passed through the Syrian Ismailis territories on Friday, the 18th Rabi I, 580/June 29, 1184 and describes what he learnt through oral channels that, "On their slopes are castles belonging to the heretical Ismailites, a sect which swerved from Islam and vested divinity in a man (Sinan).... He bewitched them with these black arts, so that they took him as a god and worshipped him. They abased themselves before him, reaching such a state of obedience and subjection that did he order one of them to fall from the mountain top he would do so, and with alacrity that he might be pleased." (vide The Travels of Ibn Zubayr tr. by R.J.C. Broadhurst, London, 1952, p. 264). All this sounds that the unrealistic and incredible image of the Ismailis was portrayed in Syria. Dr. Nassih Ahmed Mirza continues to write: "This misunderstanding of the spiritual aims of the qiyama, which very likely were only understood by the most learned da'is, may together with political consideration have been the factor which prompted the grandson of Hasan Ala Dhikrihi al-Salam to reinstate the observance of the ordinary rituals of the Shariah." (Ibid. pp. 158-9).

And here we cannot but call attention to the fact that the qiyama involved an emphasis on the batin along with its counterpart, the zahir, was present in Ismailism from the earliest times. It is irrational judgment of some historians that the qiyama involved an abrogation of the Shariah, since the Ismailis had seldom deprecated it. Thus, Imam Jalaluddin Hasan restricted his followers not to preach the doctrine of qiyama. The most obvious inference from this action emerges that the esoteric teachings of Islam was since privatized, and the tradition of the Sufic khanaqah (cloister) came into existence in the Ismailis to observe the esoteric practices in solitude.

Imam Jalaluddin Hasan also cemented cordial relations with the Muslims rulers, so that the Ismailis living in the mountains for many years, can accelerate their economical conditions in the different cities. There are indications that at least some of the Ismailis were becoming increasingly weary of their isolation from the outside world. To make this possible, there had to be at least a measure of outward conformity. For generating friendship with the rulers, Imam Jalaluddin Hasan greatly needed first to make the people known that the Ismailis had never abrogated the Islamic Shariah. He ordered the building of mosques and public baths. He invited the Muslim theologians from Iraq and Khorasan. According to The Cambridge History of Iran (London, 1968, 5:476), "From the time of Hasan III, the Ismailis attracted to their libraries and to their learned patronage a large number of scholars from the outer world. Such scholars were free to maintain their prior religious convictions." Ibn Wasil (d. 697/1298) writes in Mufarrid al-Kurub (p. 211) that the Syrian Ismailis were also subsequently informed in 608/1211 to follow the policy of the Imam.

Imam Jalaluddin Hasan sent his envoys to the Abbasid caliph Nasir, Muhammad Khwarazmshah, the rulers of Iraq and Azerbaijan to notify them of his religious policy, making them informed that the Ismailis were the true Muslims. Very rapidly, the Ismailis restored the lost prestige and began to spread in the Muslim cities. The Abbasid caliph Nasir also issued a decree in Baghdad in Rabi I, 608/August, 1211, proclaiming his close ties with Alamut. It is curious that the decree indicates that the Ismaili Imam had embraced Sunnism, which apparently is the addition in the original text by the later Sunni writers.

Some historians have curiously inflated in their narratives that Imam Jalaluddin Hasan had accepted the suzerainty of the Abbasids, which is also quite incorrect. Granted that the Alamut had recognized the supremacy of Baghdad, then the Abbasid khutba should have been recited in the Ismaili territories, which, of course did never occur. Secondly, if Alamut had been made the Abbasid's enclave, the rulers of Alamut followed by Imam Jalaluddin Hasan should have been directly appointed from Baghdad according to the prevalent custom, which also never took place. Imam Jalaluddin Hasan had actually cemented his friendly ties with the Abbasids and other Muslim rulers to restore the prestige of the Ismailis.

Imam Jalaluddin Hasan thus was held in high esteem and accepted as a chief amongst other chiefs, and his rights to the territories he dominated were officially acknowledged by the Abbasids. His mother went on the pilgrimage to Mecca in 609/1213 under the patronage of caliph Nasir, who received her with great pomp and deference. On that occasion, according to A Short History of the Khawarzamshahs (Karachi, 1978, pp. 72 and 207) by Prof. Ghulam Rabbani Aziz that the Abbasid caliph placed the flag of Khwarazamshah behind that of Jalaluddin Hasan, the ruler of Alamut, in the caravan of the pilgrims. She gave great amounts in charity, and had many well dug.

The improved relations were naturally beneficial to the Sunni Muslims as well. For instance, at the end of Imam Jalaluddin Hasan's rule, many Muslims including prominent scholars who were fleeing from the Mongolian strikes in Khorasan, found asylum in the Ismaili towns of Kohistan.

It is seen that the reforms of Imam Jalaluddin Hasan have been taken into wrong sense by Juvaini and other historians, tincturing with dubious stories. Juvaini claims that Imam Jalaluddin Hasan had given up the creeds of his forefather (p. 698) and professed Sunnism (p. 699). He seems to make a dogmatic different between the Imam with the previous Imams of Alamut. Granted that Imam Jalaluddin Hasan had deserted the creeds of his forefather and embraced Sunnism, then why he retained with him till death the spiritual authority of Imamate, and nominated his son as the next Imam in accordance with the fundamental concept of Shi'ism? Secondly, it is unlikely to confess the notion advanced by the historians that an Imam had adhered to the Sunnism on one hand and his followers continued to profess Shi'ism of an Ismaili tariqah on other. Imam Jalaluddin Hasan was absolutely an Imam of the Shi'a Ismaili Muslims, therefore, the opinions of the historians are utterly irrational and unrealistic. According to The Cambridge History of Iran (London, 1968, 5:470) that, "From an Imamate point of view, he (Jalaluddin Hasan) was undeniably the Imam: he had received the irrevocable designation by the preceding Imam and whatever he ordered was to be received in faith". Suffice it to say that the Syrian scholar, Arif Tamir cited a letter of Jalaluddin Hasan, in which he claims his Imamate and traces his descent from al-Nizar through Hasan II, vide Sinan Rashid-ad-Din aw Shaikh al-Jabal (cf. al-Adib, 23:45; May, 1953). It is also a matter worth consideration that his actions were not rejected by his followers, and he was also able to leave Alamut fearlessly and visited in foreign lands for 18 months and returned with no difficulty or mishap. W. Montgomery Watt writes in Islam and the Integration of Society (London, 1961, p. 77) that, "For the Ismailis, too, the Imam was an absolute autocrat, whose decrees had to be accepted. However strange his new decision might seem, a loyal follower could not question it, since he was bound to regard the Imam as knowing better than himself. In fact the community seems to have followed al-Hasan III without hesitation. He himself may genuinely have believed that he was acting in the best interests of the community."

Imam Jalaluddin Hasan also procured close relation with the ruler of Gilan, and in 608/1212, he betrothed to the four women of Gilan. One among them was the sister of Kai'kaus bin Shahanshah, the ruler of Kutum, who bore Imam's successor, named Alauddin Muhammad.

Imam Jalaluddin Hasan developed close relation with Muzaffaruddin Ozbek bin Pahlawan Muhammad (607-622/1210-1225), the sixth and last Ildenizid ruler of Arran and Azerbaijan. When Ozbek decided to deal with Nasiruddin Mengli, his deputy in Irak-i Ajam who had rebelled, he sought help from Alamut. Imam Jalaluddin Hasan departed from Alamut under command of his army in 610/1214 to Azerbaijan, where he stayed at Ozbek's court. He remained for sometimes in Bailaqan with Ozbek, whence they sent joint ambassadors to Baghdad, Syria and other lands, seeking reinforcement in expelling Mengli from Irak-i Ajam. The Abbasid sent their army in command of Muzaffaruddin Wajh Sabu and an army was likewise sent from Syria. In 611/1215, a battle was fought near Hamadan, whereupon Mengli was defeated. After the victory, Imam Jalaluddin Hasan was granted the provinces of Abhar and Zanjan.

During the year and a half when Imam Jalaluddin Hasan was in Azerbaijan, Muzaffaruddin Ozbek treated him with great consideration and that was a brotherly feeling between them. Ozbek used to send him abundant supplies of provisions and excessive quantities of money, so much so that after meeting the requirements of Imam Jalaluddin Hasan in the way of rations of every kind and after dispensing the gifts and robes of honours which he showered not only upon his great officers but also upon the generality of his troops he would still every day sent 1,000 gold dinars to his treasury for current expenses.

The beginning of 7th/13th century was a terrible age for the whole Islamic rulers of Central Asia when the Mongol hordes emerged from Mongolia and began to threaten the Islamic world. The Mongols were a people of the Siberian forest who came from north into the slippers of Mongolia. They lived in a wild and primitive state of society, and their invasion inflicted more suffering on the human race than any other incident recorded in history of mankind. The monstrous hosts indiscriminately annihilated populations, pillaged towns and cities, wreaked special vengeance upon those who dared to resist them, and to whom they had promised immunity, converted the rich and smiling fields into deserts, and left behind the smoke of burning towns. Ruthlessly exterminating young and old, male and female, they obliterated cities and towns with their denizens, their schools, their mosques, their palaces, their libraries, their art treasures, largely nomadizing the region.

The Mongol empire, carved out at the expense of the Chi'n dynasty in North China, and the Sung in South China, was founded by Temujin (1162-1227), who assumed the name of Chenghiz Khan. He united the Mongol tribes and was acclaimed paramount Khan of the Mongols by an assembly (quariltai) of Mongol chiefs in 602/1206 at Karakorum. Beginning with campaigns in 601/1205, 603/1207 and 605/1209, he led the Mongols to destroy the rules of western Asia. Late in 625/1219 he advanced towards the Jaxartes. In 626/1220, he crossed Jaxartes and marched straight on Bukhara, whose cultural heritage, the accumulated intellectual wealth of centuries were obliterated in plunder, bloodshed and arson.

It must be remembered that the Ozbek's war with Mengli ended in 14 to 15 months, but Imam Jalaluddin Hasan prolonged his stay in Azerbaijan for 18 months. He was well kept with the terrible storms of the Mongols in Iran, therefore, he at once sent his envoys to Chenghiz Khan in Karakorum on 616/1219. The ambassadors of the Imam met Chenghiz Khan in the spring of 618/1221 at Balkh. He was the first among the Muslim rulers to send messages of good will to the Khan. His other precaution seems to reveal from his prolonged stay in Azerbaijan, where he had possibly selected a most suitable region to repair during emergency for himself or for his son, or grandson or any other. It seems that he had mapped out in this context an unscathed route from Alamut to Azerbaijan.

In 618/1221, Imam Jalaluddin Hasan attended a banquet, where his enemies poisoned him. His vizir, who was the tutor of his successor, accused Imam's Sunni wives of Gilan in the conspiracy. It however resulted his death of dysentery in Ramzan, 618/November, 1221. His period of Imamate and rule lasted for 11 years, and was succeeded by his only son Alauddin Muhammad, who was then nine years old.

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