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04. Muhammad Hanafia or Ibm Al-Hanafia

Muhammad Hanafia was born in 11/632. His name was Muhammad Akbar, surnamed Abul Kassim, known as Ibn al-Hanafia. He was the son of Hazrat Ali and his mother was Khawla bint Jafar bin Qais al-Hanafia.

After the event of Kerbala, Mukhtar Thaqafi rose in Kufa against the Umayyad to take revenge of Imam Hussain’s blood. He turned to Imam Zayn al-Abidin to seek his support. Baladhuri (d. 279/892) writes in “Ansab al-Ashraf” (5th vol., p. 272) that, “Mukhtar wrote to Zayn al-Abidin to show his loyalty to him, asking if he could rally the Kuffans for him. He sent with the letter a large sum of money. Zayn al-Abidin refused this offer and declared Mukhtar publicly to be a liar who was trying to exploit the cause of Ahl al-Bayt for his own interests.” Ibn Sa’d (d. 230/845) also writes in “Kitab al-Tabaqat” (5th vol., p. 213) that, “Imam Zayn al-Abidin had publicly denounced Mukhtar’s mission.” Mukhtar lost all hopes of winning Imam Zayn al-Abidin; he then turned to Ibn al-Hanafia in Mecca, the third son of Hazrat Ali from a Hanafite woman. On his part, Ibn al-Hanafia did not repudiate Mukhtar’s propaganda for his Imamate and Messianic role; he nevertheless, maintained a non-committal attitude and never openly raised his claims to the heritage of Imam Hussain. Baladhuri (5th vol., p. 218) writes that, “Ibn al-Hanafia gave Mukhtar only a non-committal reply. He neither approved nor disapproved of Mukhtar’s intention to avenge Imam Hussain, and only warned him against bloodshed.” In the event, however, the hesitation and political inactivity of Ibn al-Hanafia induced Mukhtar more and more to exploit his name for his own interest. In Kufa, Mukhtar propagated that Ibn al-Hanafia was an awaited Mahdi, and he was his minister (vizir) and commander (amir). It is curious that Ibn al-Hanafia did not refute the propaganda of Mukhtar.

Mukhtar mustered large following around him, propagating the Messianic role of Ibn al-Hanafia and captured Kufa. Ibn Sa’d (4th vol., p. 15) writes that Ibn al-Hanafia once thought of going to Kufa to join his over-energetic agent Mukhtar. This would by no means have suited Mukhtar’s purpose, who was well aware of the advantage of professing to act for a master who was at a distance. He therefore let it be known that the Mahdi (Ibn al-Hanafia) was to be distinguished by the following test: if any one struck him with the sword in the street, the weapon would be unable to penetrate the Mahdi’s flesh, and would effect no injury. Ibn al-Hanafia naturally regarded this as a threat that if he came to Kufa he would be assassinated, whence he kept away, and never visited Kufa till death.

In the meantime, the circumstances changed when Abdullah bin Zubayr proclaimed himself caliph in 64/683 in Mecca. Ibn al-Hanafia refused to pay homage to Abdullah bin Zubayr in Mecca. In 66/685, Abdullah bin Zubayr detained Ibn al-Hanafia and his family and threatened them with death if they did not pay homage within a specific time. Ibn al-Hanafia wrote letter to Mukhtar, apprising him of his perilous condition. Mukhtar marshaled out four thousand soldiers and managed to liberate Ibn al-Hanafia, who left Mecca for Taif. Mukhtar was killed in 67/687 in an another encounter with Musab bin Zubayr in Kufa, while Ibn al-Hanafia died in 81/700 at the age of about 70 years, and was buried in Mecca.

Abu Hashim, the eldest son of Ibn al-Hanafia however continued the mission of Mukhtar, and his followers became known as the Kaysanias, who believed Ibn al-Hanafia as the successor of Hazrat Ali. Abu Hashim was poisoned by the Umayyad caliph Hisham in 99/718. Before his death, he quickly rushed to Humayma, and handed over his right to the caliphate and charge of the Kaysania sect to Muhammad bin Ali, the leader of the growing Abbasid power as he had no male issue.

The followers of the Kaysania also held Ibn al-Hanafia as their Imam Mahdi and believed in his concealment and immortality. The fact is that he had died his natural death. The famous Umayyad poet, Kuthayyir bin Abd Rehman Azza (24-105/644-723) however was first to propagate that Ibn al-Hanafia was alive on the Mount Radwah, west of Medina that he was being guarded by a lion and a tiger, and that he had two rich springs of water and honey, and that he would reappear to fill the earth with justice, vide his “Diwan” (ed. By Ihsan Abbas, Beirut, 1971). In sum, the Kaysania sect held the doctrine of raja (the return to life of some of the dead before the resurrection). Syed Himyari, one of the poets of Kaysania sect describes that, “Ibn al-Hanafia had not tasted death nor would taste it until he had led his hosts to victory. The place of his retirement was Mount Radwah, where food is miraculously supplied him, and he had a society of angels, besides that of lions and panthers.” Shaharastani writes that, “This is the first appearance of the Shi’ite doctrine of concealment and return from concealment.”

Kashi also records a story about two men from the entourage of Imam Jafar Sadik, viz. as-Sarraj and Hammad bin Isa, who were known to believe that Ibn al-Hanafia was still alive. Imam Jafar Sadik reproached them and pointed out that Ibn al-Hanafia was seen being buried, and his property had been divided and his widow had remarried.

Undoubtedly, Ibn al-Hanafia neither came to help Imam Hussain during the terrible sufferings in Kerbala nor took revenge from a single person thereafter. He passed his peaceful life in Mecca and Taif, where he died. It is possible that the Sunni circle would have charged, why he did not come to help his brother, Imam Hussain in Kerbala? In order to cover it, the followers of the Kaysania sect had cultivated stories that he took revenge from the Kuffans, making it flooded with blood to such extent that his horse swam in it. These stories are not historical but fictitious. The reason for his concealment neither is known nor understood. Since the story of his revenge from the Kuffans and the Umayyads is quite incorrect and imaginary, the second story of his concealment becomes itself cripple and null.

The above details indicate that the concealment of Ibn al-Hanafia was not historical, but he met a natural death. In addition, his name was Ibn al-Hanafia, not Amir Hamza, Amir Pir or Pir Amir Ahmad. It has been also admitted that he was not granted the office of the Hujjat or Pir. The oral tradition however claims that there is a cave of Ibn al-Hanafia at the location 10 km from Jhimpir.

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