Ismaili History 400 - Syrian period - Ismail to Radi Abdullah

Ismail Bin Jafar Sadik (148-158/765-775)The line of Musa Kazim
Abul Khattab
The doctrine of taqiya
Maymun al-Qaddah
Death of Ismail
Muhammad Bin Ismail (158-197/775-813)
The Qaddahid theory
Sacrifice of Ishaq bin al-Abbas
Muhammad bin Ismail in Nihawand
Muhammad bin Ismail in Khuzistan
Muhammad bin Ismail in Farghana
Organisation of Ismaili Dawa
Zubaida wife of Harun ar-Rashid
Muhammad b. Ismail al-Imamu'n Natiq
Wafi Ahmad (197-212/813-828)
Beginning of Dawr-i Satr
Wafi Ahmad in Salamia
Ahmad bin al-Kayyal al-Khasibi
Martyrdom of Imam's son and brother
Search of the Imam
Incomparable sacrifices
TAQI Muhammad (212-225/828-840)
Trend of philosophy in Islam
Abu Tirmizi in Abbasid court
Origin of the Mutazalism
The Rasail Ikhwan as-Safa
Radi Abdullah (225-268/840-881)
Ahmad bin Abdullah bin Maymun
Mission of Ibn Hawshab in Yamen
Khalaf al-Hallaj
Hidden Imams in Dawr-i Satr

Ismaili History 401 - ISMAIL BIN JAFAR SADIK (148-158/765-775)

Abu Muhammad Ismail, surnamed al-Wafi was born in Medina between 100/719 and 103/722. Ismail (Listening by God) is also known as an absolute Lord (az-azbab-i itlaq). He was born by the first wife of Jafar Sadik, named Fatima. According to 'Sharhu'l Akhbar' (comp. 350/960), the mother of Ismail was Fatima bint Hasan bin al-Hussain bin Ali, but Ahmad Inaba (d. 825/1422) writes in 'Umadatu't-talib'that she was Fatima bint al-Hussain al-Athram bin al-Hasan bin Ali. Shahrastani (1076-1153) writes in his 'Kitab al-milal wa'l nihal'that during the lifetime of Fatima, Jafar Sadik never got another marriage like Muhammad with Khadija and Ali with Fatima.
Hatim bin Imran bin Zuhra (d. 498/1104) writes in 'al-Usul wa'l Ahakam' that, 'Ismail was the most perfect, the most learned and the most excellent of the sons of Jafar as-Sadik.' He is also reported to have well steeped in the esoteric interpretation of the Koran.

Ismail was declared many times by his father as his successor, and said on an occasion, while Ismail was present, according to 'Asraru'n-Nutaqa' (comp. 380/990) that 'He is the Imam after me, and what you learn from him is just the same as if you have learnt it from myself.' It is also related that when the health of Imam Jafar Sadik became impaired, he summoned the most trusted amongst his followers, and those members of his family who were alive, and did what his predecessors had done, i.e., he handed over the authority of Imamate to Ismail. It must be known that the most trusted followers of Imam Jafar Sadik had supported Ismail, notably Abu Hamza Thabit bin Abu Sufiya Dinar as-Samali (d. 150/767), a mawla (freed slave) from Kufa. Jafar Sadik is reported to have said that Abu Hamza was in his time like Salman al-Faras in his own time (Abu Hamza fi zamani'hi mithl Salman fi zamani'hi).

The early biography of Ismail is not traceable except few fragmented records. Our authority 'Asraru'n-Nutaqa' adds, 'When Ismail completed 7 years of age, the Lord of religion (Jafar Sadik) declared him the master of religion and his heir-apparent, as his next in descent. He guarded him from his other sons, kept him away from the contact with the public, and his education went on under his own supervision.' According to 'Marifat Akhbari'r-Rijal' (comp. after 280/890) that in the absence of his father from Medina, Ismail acted on behalf of his father as the head of family. It is also narrated in 'Uyun'l-Akhbar' (comp. 842/1438) that Mualli bin Khunyas, a wealthy Iranian and a famous narrator was killed and his property was confiscated by the order of the Abbasid governor of Medina, Daud bin Ali. Masudi (d. 346/958) also asserts in his 'Kitab al-Tanbih wal Ishraf' (ed. de Goeji, Leiden, 1894, p. 329) that Daud bin Ali had killed many persons by order of Abul Abbas, the first Abbasid caliph and the number of victims was about eighty persons. While in the matter of Mualli bin Khunyas, however, Jafar Sadik was absent from Medina, therefore, the dispute was solved by Ismail in the year 133/751.

The Abbasid caliphate founded in 132/750 by uprooting the Umayyads. They were the bitterest foes of the Alids, and did everything to stamp out their propaganda. They had gained power by the Alids support, and started sweeping their accessible ashes. Mansur, the second Abbasid caliph, according to Tabari (d. 310/922) in 'Tarikh al-Rusul wa'l Muluk' (ed. de Goeje, Leiden, 1879-1901, 3rd vol., p 426), spread news everywhere that the Abbasids were the Ahl-al-Bait and minted many fabricated Hadiths for his cause. He said of himself, 'Innama an sultan Allah fi ardihi' i.e., 'Verily! I am the authority of God on earth.' He also claimed that 'the rule is God's shadow on earth, all those troubled find refuge in it' (al-sultanu zillu'llahi fi'l ardi ya'wi ilayhi kullu malhufin).

Ibn Jawzi (d. 597/1200) writes in 'Sifat al-Safwa' that, 'Jafar Sadik was quite aloof altogether from the state affairs because of his pre-occupation with devotional observances.' He was however marked by caliph Mansur as one of his opponents. This time the Abbasids had firmly determined to expunge the Alids from the state, and were bent upon an utter annihilation of the institution of Imamate with the death of Jafar Sadik, pitching deadly opposition to them. Under such policies, Mansur was closely watching to know the name of the successor of Jafar Sadik to motivate his objective. He tried to harass the Imam through various means. Ibn Jawzi writes in 'Sifat al- Safwa' (2nd vol., p. 96) that Mansur was also worried about the khums which used to be paid as a religious dues to Jafar Sadik by his followers and had asked many questions to the Imam on the matter when he visited Medina in 147/764.

In 141/758, caliph Mansur appointed Ahd al-Jabbar al-Azadi as the governor of Khorasan with an order to watch Alid activities as well as the followers of Jafar Sadik. Riyah bin Uthman al-Murri, the Abbasid governor in Medina from 144/761 at first attempt, burnt the house of Ahl-al-Bait. Even Ismail was decided to be killed being an expected successor of Jafar Sadik. Ahmad bin Ali Najashi (d. 450/1058) writes in his 'Kitab al-Rijal' (Bombay, 1917, pp. 81-2) that once caliph Mansur summoned Jafar Sadik and his son Ismail to Iraq, where he found no chance to kill them, and thus their lives were spared, but only Bassam bin Abdullah al-Sayrafi was executed instead. Muhammad Hussain al-Muzzafari quotes Jafar Sadik as saying in his 'al-Sadik' (2nd vol., p. 119) that, 'Ismail was planned two times for killing, but I prayed for his life, and God protected him.'

The succession issue of Jafar Sadik has become a mystery in the extant traces. We are faced with fact as with legend and myth; conjecture and hypothesis; the passions and prejudice of the historians. Committed in the heat of strife and argument by the early Shiite authors, they were continuously repeated by those who followed them. And finally, all this was inherited by the modern orientalists, who, after relying too much on these crumbs, accepted and endorsed many of these errors. Some elements of the traditions are quite fictitious, and exist only in the ingenious guesses and conjectures of the Shiite authors, on which the conclusions of the modern writers are based. The derogatory conclusions of the Sunnis sources from the hotchpotch, who lacked the concept of Imamate, have also created unnecessary complications. They assailed the Ismailis in view of their own sense of propriety in opprobrious words. It is highly probable that the early Ismailis, living in an extremely hostile milieu, did not produce any substantial volume of literature, preferring instead to propagate their doctrines. In analysing the accessible materials, therefore, the scholars will have to exercise a careful selection.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr writes in 'Ideals and Realities of Islam' (London, 1966, pp. 165-6) that, 'The question of the successor to the Imam (Jafar Sadik) having been made particularly difficult by the fact that the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur had decided to scourge to death whoever was to be chosen officially by the Imam as his successor thereby hoping to put an end to the Shiite movement.' Caliph Mansur began to hatch animosity with Jafar Sadik, whose activities were closely watched. He moreover invested his successor, Muhammad (158- 169/775-785) with the epithet al-Mahdi to turn the attention of his subjects from the Alid family and attract them towards the house of Abbas. Under these circumstances, different traditions had been contrived and many ideas were constructed in determining the real successor of Jafar Sadik. Farhad Daftary writes in 'The Ismailis: their History and Doctrines' (London, 1990, pp. 93-4) that, 'According to the majority of the available sources, Jafar al-Sadiq had designated his son Ismail as his successor, by the rule of the nass. There can be no doubt about the authenticity of this designation, which forms the basis of the claims of the Ismailiyya and which should have settled the question of al-Sadiq's succession in due course.'

W.Ivanow (1886-1970) writes in 'Ismailis and Qarmatians' (JBBRAS, Bombay, 1940, p. 57) that, 'According to the overwhelming majority of the available sources, both sectarian and of their opponents, Imam Jafar appointed as his successor his eldest son Ismail, by his first wife, a highly aristocratic lady, great grand-daughter of Hasan.' W.Montgomery Watt writes in 'The Formative Period of Islamic Thought'(Edinburgh, 1973, p. 271) that, 'The Ismailites derive their name from the fact that they consider that the Imam after Jafar as-Sadik was his son Ismail and not Musa al-Kazim.' Nawbakhti (d. 310/912) however admits in his 'Kitab Firaq al-Shia' (comp. 286/899) that Musa Kazim was not the heir-apparent.

The historians quote the tradition that Ismail had died during his father's lifetime, but the followers of Ismail refused to believe the rumours of his death. Shahrastani (1076-1153) writes in 'Kitab al-milal wa'l nihal' (tr. by A.K. Kazi and J.G. Flynn, London, 1984, p. 144) that, 'Some of them (followers of Ismail) say that he did not die, but that his father had declared that he had died to save him from the Abbasid caliphs; and that he had held a funeral assembly to which Mansur's governor in Medina was made a witness.' This tradition, most possibly familiar in Iraq, however could not solve the complications in a question.

Thanks to the new evidence in this context, shrouded behind an impenetrable veil for centuries, has been delved recently from one anonymous manuscript in Khwabi, which perhaps is a key to solve the complications hitherto remained unsolved. It is written in the manuscript of 'Kitab Fusul wa'l Akhbar' by Nuruddin b. Ahmad (d. 233/849). This manuscript was copied mostly by the end of 17th century at Khwabi, Syria and the scribe had described a tradition in it regarding Ismail bin Jafar Sadik. It relates that Abdullah, surnamed al- Aftah, or al-Aflah and Ismail were the twin brothers in the house of Jafar Sadik, which was unknown to the people in Medina. Its veracity however cannot be substantiated from any other sources. Nevertheless, it cannot be brushed aside as untrue, especially when contemporary evidence is absent or scant. Whether literally true or not, the story seems to contain certain germs of truth, revealing some interesting insights about this important period. Its clues however can be judged from 'Asraru'n-Nutaqa' (comp. 380/990) that Ismail was brought up at home, and the same source also mentions at another place that Abdullah was also brought up at home. The historians write that Ismail predeceased his father in 145/762 at Medina. But, our above Syrian tradition goes on to unmask in relating that in the year 145/762, it was the death of Abdullah in reality and not that of Ismail. It further relates that both Abdullah and Ismail almost resembled each other physically, and none among those present could perceive the death of Abdullah due to an alikeness among the identical twin and therefore, the death was considered that of Ismail. On that juncture, Jafar Sadik was constrained to remain silent, since the Abbasids had conspired to kill Ismail and therefore, it became a mystery, making Ismail publicly death during his father's time, but in reality he was not dead. Abul Fawaris Ahmad bin Yaqub writes in his 'ar-Risala fi'l Imama' (comp. before 408/1017) that, 'Ismail died during his father's life time is not substantiated, nor can it be proven without some clear evidence that reliable person saw the face of (actual) Ismail at his interment. This is untrue and impossible'.

The Syrian tradition has it further that Ismail had been sent steathily out of Medina on the night when Abdullah was expired on Ramdan, 145/November, 762. Thus, the tradition of a mock funeral came to be originated to this effect among the group, whom Nawbakhti and al-Qummi have regarded as 'pure Ismailis' (al-Ismailiyya al-khalisa). It is quite possible that the people were unaware of the physical resemblance of two brothers as well as the death of Abdullah, resulting the coinage of a story of mock funeral. W.Ivanow writes in 'Ismailis and Qarmatians' (JBBRAS, 1940, p. 57) that, 'On the whole, this story seems to be very strange, especially because it seems really old. As it is narrated in one and the same version, it is quite probable that it was invented and put into circulation by someone at a very early time, and was ever since repeated in the absence of any other material referring to Ismail in general literature.' The mock funeral stood on the face of the tradition, while its other side seems to have been unveiled in the above Syrian tradition. W.Ivanow was unaware of the above Syrian tradition, therefore, his doubt seems correct to this effect that, 'Although how this could be a ruse, and how a complete likeness was achieved in the substitute for a successful disguise, is not explained' (Ibid).

The Syrian tradition lastly attests that the dead body of Abdullah, being publicly known that of Ismail's was interred in Janat al-Baqi in Medina, and it was attended by a huge multitude. Henceforward, it became to be known that Ismail's grave existed in Medina. Hasan bin Nuh Broachi (d. 939/1533), the author of 'Kitabu'l Azhar' had visited Medina in 904/1498 and described that the grave of Ismail was situated within the city's walls, near the Baqi's gate. In reality, it was the grave of Abdullah being visited by Hasan bin Nuh Broachi provided the above Syrian tradition is genuine. By then onwards, Ismail assumed the name of Abdullah, and our Syrian tradition also relates that Abdullah had also assumed the name of Ismail before 145/762 in some cases to protect his brother. The fact of which also sounds in a letter of the Fatimid Imam al-Mahdi, written around 308/921 to Yamen, vide 'Kitab al-Fara'id wa Hudud ad-Din' (pp. 13-19) by Jafar bin Mansur al-Yamen. In his letter, Imam al-Mahdi curiously discloses that: 'Ismail was substituted for Abdullah' and also 'Abdullah bin Jafar, who was styled Ismail.'

Idris Imaduddin (d. 872/1468) writes in 'Zahru'l-ma'ani,' that Abdullah predeceased his father. While 'Asraru'n-Nutaqa' makes him to have died many years after his father. Similar discriminations are also narrated for Ismail, but in view of our Syrian tradition, the death of Abdullah had taken place in 145/762. It must be noted that a sizable faction in Kufa believed Abdullah as their Imam, known as Fathiyya. Ali bin Hasan was an eminent follower, who according to Najashi (d. 450/1058) in 'Kitab al-Rijal' (p. 196), had compiled 'Kitab ithbat Imamat Abd Allah' in affirmation of the Imamate of Abdullah.

The rule of the first Abbasid caliph, Abdullah as-Saffah lasted for 4 years and 9 months, during which period the Alids in Medina kept quiet and affairs remained stationary. But when Mansur assumed the caliphate in 136/753, the Alids embittered by the usurpation of their rights, began to voice their complaints. Thus, an-Nafs az-Zakia, the son of Abdullah al-Mahd refused to take the oath of allegiance to Mansur. The traditionist orbits of Medina wholeheartedly supported his cause. It was the month of Ramdan, 145/December, 762 when the Abbasid commander Isa bin Musa spurred his horses towards Medina to crush the uprising of an-Nafs az-Zakia. It was very critical moment, and many families evacuated the city to avoid persecution. On that juncture, Ismail also managed to leave Medina privily with the outgoing caravans. Tabari (3rd vol., p. 226) and Baladhuri (d. 279/892) in 'Ansab al-Ashraf' (5th vol., p. 617) write that, 'On 12th Ramdan, 145 (December 4, 762), Isa bin Musa camped at al-Jurf, where he entered into correspondence with many notables of Medina, including some Alids. Many of them left the city with their families and some even joined Isa, a move which created a sense of insecurity and led to a large scale evacuation of Medina.' When the veritable fighting took place with the Abbasids, an-Nafs az-Zakia was left with only a small number of his followers, mainly drawn from the tribe of Juhayna and Banu Shuja. Tabari (3rd vol., p. 249) writes that, 'His followers took to flight, and he himself was killed on the 14th Ramdan, 145 (December 6, 762).' His brother, Ibrahim, wandering from Medina to Aden, Syria, Mosul, Anbar until he finally settled in Basra in 145/762 to propagate for his brother. He also rebelled two months after his brother's revolt, and seized control of Basra.

Tradition has it that Ismail went to Basra after leaving Medina, but it seems improbable as after the defeat of an-Nafs az-Zakia in Medina in 145/762, his brother Ibrahim mustered a large army in Basra, hatching a massive revolt against the Abbasids, where the political condition was alike Medina, therefore, Ismail must have hidden himself elsewhere in Arabia, and when the condition had become congenial, he would have harboured himself in Basra. Abul Faraj Ispahani writes in 'Maqatil al-Talibiyin' (Tehran, 1949, p. 365) that, 'Abu Hanifah, Sufian al-Thawri, Masud bin Kudam and many others wrote to Ibrahim, offering him to their city and issued fatwa favouring his cause.' It is to be noted that Muhammad bin Hurmuz, Muhammad bin Ajlan and Abu Bakr bin Abu Sabra also sympathized with an-Nafs az- Zakia and Ibrahim.

Ibrahim had left Basra for Kufa after some time, but was killed in a battle at Bakhamri, about halfway between Wasit and Kufa. His rebellion lasted for 2 months and 25 days. 'After the end of these revolts' according to 'Tarikh-i Baghdad' (13th vol., p. 380), 'Mansur ordered Malik bin Anas to be flogged, and considered Abu Hanifah as an enemy so dangerous that he imprisoned him until his death.' After these revolts in 145/762, there was a gap of 24 years until the next attempt to overthrow the Abbasids in 169/786.

The critical examination of the extant traces suggests that the Abbasids had added a twist to this puzzle after few years with the help of the predeceased tradition for Ismail, broadcasting everywhere that Jafar Sadik had changed the nass (investiture) in favour of his another son, Musa Kazim. This newly contrived theory enjoyed its early nourishment among the people who absolutely lacked the concept of the Imamate. The later sources, trusting on it, however mention three different reasons for the change of nass i.e., Ismail's indulgence in drink in 138/755, Ismail's intriguing in the extremists circles in 143/760, and his death during his father's life time in 145/762. It deserves to note here that some florid and bombastic stories of Ismail's indulgence in drink and his alleged association with the extremists have been added, which had been condemned by many historians. Mufazal bin Umar as-Sayrafi however relates that Jafar Sadik, in view of his son's piety had already warned the people in Medina that, 'Do not wrong Ismail' (la tajafu Ismaila). The later sources however firmly clang to their idea in the predeceased tradition.

Caliph Mansur, however, had not yet exhausted in his plan, for he had yet another card to play, and there is a reason to suppose that the story of change of nass had been concocted in the Zaidite orbits by the orders of caliph Mansur. It was however rolled publicly most probably after the death of Jafar Sadik in 148/765, otherwise the Imam himself would have refuted it. It aimed to force Ismail to expose from concealment to repudiate the claim of Musa Kazim. But, as we have heretofore seen that Ismail had tenaciously determined not to expose himself as it was a diplomacy of the Abbasids to arrest him. As a result, the predeceased tradition became all alone unchallengable and authentic in the historical works. Ismail's exposition would have also given free rope to the Abbasids to upbraid Jafar Sadik, who is said to have produced a document to caliph Mansur, bearing signature of the persons, testifying the alleged death of his son.

It should be recalled that the Abbasids had gained power on the slogans of the Alids. Later, their slogans took a political shape to the right of caliphate in the house of Abbas on religious ground. Abbas as-Saffah, the founder of the Abbasid dynasty, was to be succeeded by his son like the tradition of the Imamate in the house of Ali bin Abu Talib from father to son. Conversely, Abbas as-Saffah was succeeded by his brother, Mansur. He also boosted to legitimize the line of Banu Abbas on religious ground, and determined to have a same effect in the house of Ali bin Abu Talib, that a brother could succeed by a brother. He diplomatically seems to have rolled a tradition of change of nass in the house of Jafar Sadik by bringing Musa Kazim to the line of Imamate. Thus, in the theory of change of nass, the Abbasids gained more than one benefit. The Shiite orbits, who had acquired the knowledge of the doctrines of Imamate from Imam Muhammad Bakir and Imam Jafar Sadik, however, ruled out the theory of change of nass.

The landmark principle of Shia Islam is that the Imamate can only be passed on from one Imam to the next in succession by the divinely-inspired investiture (nass). It is a divine ordination and a cardinal article of Shiism. This principle is sometimes referred to the covenant (ahd) from father to a son. According to 'Basa'ir ad-Darajat' by as-Saffar (vide BA, vol., 23, p. 73), Imam Jafar Sadik had said: 'Each Imam knows the Imam who is to come after him, and so he appoints him as his successor.' It implies therefore that the three different reasons shown by the aggressive historians for change of nass in favour of Musa Kazim, seem to have been fabricated, challenging the spiritual knowledge of Jafar Sadik. According to Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina in 'Islamic Messianism' (New York, 1981, p. 153), 'It implied God's change of mind (bada) because of a new consideration, caused by the death of Ismail. However, such connotations in the doctrine of bada (change of mind) raised serious questions about the nature of God's knowledge, and indirectly, about the ability of the Imams to prophesy future occurrences.'

Jafar Sadik is also reported to have said: 'Inlillah fi kullo shain bida illah imamah' means, 'Verily, God makes changes in everything except in the matter of Imam.' It tends, however, to prove one thing that once Ismail had been designated as an Imam, the spiritual power inherited by Jafar Sadik, came to the hands of his real successor. On that juncture, the status of Jafar Sadik becomes same as he was before acquiring spiritual power from his father. This point merits further indicattion that Jafar Sadik had no power to cancel, revoke or alter the first nass in favour of Ismail, and therefore, the tradition of change of nass carries no historicity. The European scholar Marshall Hodgson writes in 'The Order of the Assassins' (Netherland, 1955, p. 63) that, 'Such a withdrawal (of nass) evidently was not historical.' Nawbakhti (d. 310/912) writes in 'Kitab Firaq al-Shia' that, 'Yet another version is that by appointing his son, Ismail, as an Imam, Jafar Sadik thus resigned. Ismail was therefore a real Imam, and after him, the Imamate has to pass to his son, Muhammad.' Shahrastani (1076-1153) also writes in 'Kitab al-milal wa'l-nihal' (p. 144) that, 'Designation (nass), however, cannot be withdrawn, and has the advantage that the Imamate remains in the descendants of the person designated, to the exclusion of others. Therefore, the Imam after Ismail is Muhammad bin Ismail.' According to 'Dabistan al-Mazhib' (comp. 1653, vide English tr. by David Shea and Anthony Troyer, Paris, 1843, p. 332), 'The appointment does not return by retrocession; and a convention reversed from whence it came is impossible. Jafar was not likely to appoint, without traditional credentials from noble ancestors, one from among his distinguished descendants, and to be uncertain and unknown is not suitable to an Imam.' Granted for a while that Ismail predeceased his father, then he must have declared his successor before his death according to the ruling of the principle of nass, since the authority to appoint the next Imam was in the sole hands of Ismail and none else. Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406), for instance, accepting the predeceased tradition, has however ruled out the theory of change of nass by saying in his 'Muqaddimah' (tr. Franz Rosenthal, London, 1958, 1st vol., p. 412) that 'Ismail died before his father, but according to the fact that he was determined by his father as his successor, means that the Imamate should continue among his (Ismail's) successors.' Among the modern writers, H. Lammens remarks in 'Islam Beliefs and Institutions' (London, 1929, p. 156) that, 'The Ismailis, more logical in their Alid legitimism, claim that his (Ismail's) title (of Imamate) must have passed to his son Muhammad.'

While inspecting the later Shiite sources, it appears that the theory of change of nass became an only tool for the later Twelvers to justify the claim of Musa Kazim. The theory of change of nass however contradicts the reports of Imam Jafar Sadik, being selected by the Shiite scholar, Abu Jafar Muhammad bin Yaqub al-Kulaini (d. 329/940) in his 'Usul al-Kafi' (Tehran, 1972). Regarding the new Imam and his successor, Kulaini cites the alleged reports of Imam Jafar Sadik, whose few examples are as under:

Imam is created in the best shape and form. (11:6)

Before conception, the preceding Imam is sent through an heavenly syrup which he drinks. (93:3)

Imam is born pure and circumcised. (93:5)

Imam's mother experiences light and noises before the birth of the Imam. (93:5)

Imam is created from sublime water and his spirit is created from a matter above that. (94:1)

The Imam hands over the books, knowledge and weapons to his successor. (59:1)

These are the qualities of the Imam's successor theorized by the later Twelvers. The average Shiite and Sunnite sources unanimously concur that Jafar Sadik had declared Ismail as his successor by rule of nass (investiture), suggesting quite clearly that Jafar Sadik must have found above qualities in his son Ismail, and not in other sons. Granted that he had changed the nass in favour of Musa Kazim, then how it can be possible that both sons had qualified the above merits at a same time for succession? Besides the preceding, Kulaini has devoted space about the knowledge of an Imam, whose few examples are given below: Imam is the treasure of God's knowledge in the heavens and earth. (11:2)
Imam is informed by God what he intends to know. (46:3)

He inherited the knowledge of future events. (48:1)

He is learned than Moses and al-Khidr, who possessed the knowledge of the past only. (48:1)

His knowledge is from three directions: past, present and future. (50:1)

He can inform about what is going to happen the next day. (62:7)

He is endowed with a secret from the secrets of God, knowledge from the knowledge of God. (102:5)

Granted that Ismail predeceased his father, it will mean that Jafar Sadik had no knowledge of the future, or he was unknown with the death of Ismail during his life time. Nothing prevents us in concluding therefore, that Ismail had not died during his father's time, and the theory of change of nass was absolutely an Abbasid fabrication to motivate their inimical objectives, which also became a tool of the later Twelvers.

In sum, the Abbasids brought Musa Kazim to claim for his right on one side, and made an intensified search of Ismail on other, indicating to understand that Ismail was a legitimate Imam in the eyes of the Abbasids. W.Ivanow writes in 'Ismailis and Qarmatians'(JBBRAS, Bombay, 1940, p. 58) that, 'Musa apparently was recognized by the secular authorities as the legitimate successor of Imam Jafar in his position, so far as it was concerned with the outer world.' W. Montgomery Watt also writes that the political moderates had preferred Musa Kazim, vide 'The Formative Period of Islamic Thought' (Edinburgh, 1973, p. 271). We have to admit that the Abbasids mustered a large following for Musa Kazim in Medina, and the snares of spies were also planted to watch signs of disloyalty emanating from him. It was also a policy to gather the scattered Shiites at Medina under the leadership of Musa Kazim, and strike a final blow upon them to get an end of the belief of the Imamate among the Shiites.

It must be noted that Medina and Mecca were the nerve-centres of the Muslims since the advent of Islam. Medina was in particular the city of the Hashimites of whom many were descended from Abu Talib. Medina had been the headquarters of the previous Imams since beginning, and after Jafar Sadik, a tradition almost began to be hatched among the Shiites to adhere one who claimed for Imamate at his base in Medina, and as a result, Musa Kazim could procure a large following in Medina with the virtual hands of the Abbasids.

It is also worth mentioning that Musa Kazim never condemned the claims of Ismail in Medina. He was being watched without harassment from 148/765 to 158/775, during which time, the Abbasids failed to reach their seminal objectives. When the Abbasids found that Musa Kazim was being seriously adhered as an Imam, or another line of Imamate was about to emerge in the house of Jafar Sadik, their harassment reached a climax during the rule of Harun ar-Rashid. He arrested Musa Kazim and brought him to Baghdad in 177/793, where he died in prison in 183/799. Even more serious was the bifurcation among the followers of Musa Kazim after his death. Abu Hatim ar-Razi (d. 322/934) writes in 'Kitabu'z-Zina' that the Waqifiya and Mamtura sects believed in the immorality of Musa Kazim, claiming that he would return as a Mahdi before dooms-day. They also rejected the claim of his son, Ali ar-Rida. Aside from this schism, the Qati'a sect believed in the death of Musa Kazim and the claim of his son upto Ali bin Muhammad al-Askari. W.Ivanow writes in 'Early Shiite Movements' (JBBRAS, 1941, Bombay, p. 20) that, 'This was the atmosphere in the family of the descendants of Imam Jafar as-Sadik, the line of his son Musa, who lived in the full light of publicity at the court of the Abbasids. It is therefore easy to understand that many of their devout supporters might easily lose all respects for them, and come over to support the elder line, of Ismail b. Jafar, who lived in the impenetrable mystery of concealment, and about whom the public could know only what their dais were authorised to tell them.'

Ismaili History 402 - The line of Musa Kazim

Ismail Bin Jafar Sadik (148-158/765-775)- The line of Musa Kazim
- Abul Khattab
- Al-Mubarak
- The doctrine of taqiya
- Maymun al-Qaddah
- Death of Ismail
- Muhammad Bin Ismail (158-197/775-813)
- The Qaddahid theory
- Sacrifice of Ishaq bin al-Abbas
- Muhammad bin Ismail in Nihawand
- Muhammad bin Ismail in Khuzistan
- Muhammad bin Ismail in Farghana
- Organisation of Ismaili Dawa
- Zubaida - wife of Harun ar-Rashid
- Muhammad b. Ismail - al-Imamu'n Natiq
- Wafi Ahmad (197-212/813-828)
- Beginning of Dawr-i Satr
- Wafi Ahmad in Salamia
- Ahmad bin al-Kayyal al-Khasibi
- Martyrdom of Imam's son and brother
- Search of the Imam
- Incomparable sacrifices
- TAQI Muhammad (212-225/828-840)
- Trend of philosophy in Islam
- Abu Tirmizi in Abbasid court
- Origin of the Mutazalism
- The Rasail Ikhwan as-Safa
- Radi Abdullah (225-268/840-881)
- Ahmad bin Abdullah bin Maymun
- Mission of Ibn Hawshab in Yamen
- Khalaf al-Hallaj
- Hidden Imams in Dawr-i Satr

Ismaili History 403 - Abul Khattab

Abul Khattab Muhammad bin Abi Zaynab Maqlas al-Asadi al-Kufi (d. 167/783), surnamed Abul Khattab was an eminent disciple of Jafar Sadik. He was first to have preached the Shiite doctrines tinctured with esoteric interpretation. For quite some time, he was closely associated with Jafar Sadik, who had commissioned him as his chief dai in Kufa. Kashi narrates that once Imam put his hand on Abul Khattab's breast, and said: 'You know the mystery (ghayb).' This may be linked with Nawbakhti's expression that Imam revealed to him a solemn word (ism-i azam), and also called him the 'casket of our knowledge, the lodging place of our secrecy, the one who is trusted with our people's life and death.' One can thus easily judge the status of Abul Khattab before Jafar Sadik.
Soon afterwards, it is related that Jafar Sadik disliked his so called habit of never transmitting intact and unaltered the tradition which he heard, causing his relation with the Imam strained, and was excommunicated in about 138/755. This is perhaps an earliest glaring example of taqiya in Jafar Sadik's time, revealing outwardly a rupture between him and the Imam, to which some historians hazarded wrong opinion and concocted false stories around it. This sort of a taqiya seems to have intended to make the Shiite to dissociate themselves from Abul Khattab, and to make the Abbasids to implant in minds a consideration that there was no relation between Abul Khattab and Jafar Sadik. Abul Khattab's faith however was deep-rooted that had been never wavered for a single moment.

It is related that when Ismail had been in Iraq, he adopted the title of Abul Khattab most probably after 151/769 for exercising taqiya. Granted that Abul Khattab was not a secret follower of Jafar Sadik, then why Ismail assumed his name? Ismail henceforward, became known as Abul Khattab among the small group in Kufa, while Abul Khattab hid his identity. Nawbakhti in 'Kitab Firaq al-Shia' (ed. Ritter, Istanbul, 1931, pp. 60-61) and al-Qummi (d. 300/912) in 'Kitab al-Maqalat wa'l-Firaq' (ed. M.J Mashkur, Tehran, 1963, p. 83) write that the followers of Abul Khattab (i.e., Ismail) became known as Khattabiyya, believing that 'the divine light had transferred from Jafar Sadik into Abul Khattab, and on the death of the latter, it passed into Muhammad bin Ismail.' The term Abul Khattab here in reality was the epithet of Ismail. In Central Asia, a treatise 'Ummu'l-Kitab' is preserved among the Ismailis in which the Khattabiyyas are mentioned as the founders of Ismailism. It states further that the Ismailism was founded by the children of Abul Khattab, who gave their lives for the love of Ismail.

It is related that seventy followers of Abul Khattab had assembled in the mosque at Kufa, who had been killed by order of the governor. Abul Khattab was also captured and crucified. It is impossible to confess the notion advanced by the historians that his death took place in 138/755 or 145/762. He was killed most possibly in 167/783

Ismaili History 404 - Al-Mubarak

Besides, it is also known that Ismail had to assume the pseudonym of al-Mubarak in certain cases to protect his life. Al-Mubarak was a servant of Ismail in Medina, and a potential dai too. Very little is known about him. He was however hailed from Hijaz and an expert in Arabic calligraphy of the type known as muqarmat. In all probability, al-Mubarak was also the epithet of Ismail. More evidence of the application of the name al-Mubarak to Ismail have now come to light, lending strong support to W.Ivanow's hypothesis, vide 'The Alleged Founder of Ismailism' (Bombay, 1946, pp. 108-112), describing that, 'I have happened upon such clear and unequivocal testimony concerning al-Mubarak. The fact that it was in reality the surname of Ismail b. Jafar is revealed in at least four different passages in the early Ismaili esoteric work, 'Sullamu'n-Najjat' by Abu Yaqub as-Sijistani' (p. 111). It can be also ascertained from another work of Abu Yaqub as-Sijistani, entitled 'Ithbat al-Nubuwwat' (ed. Arif Tamir, Beirut, 1966, p. 190). Farhad Daftary also writes in 'A Major Schism in the Early Ismaili Movement' (Stvdia Islamica, Paris, LXXVII, 1993, p. 127) that, 'It has now become evident that the name Mubarak (the blessed) was the epithet of Ismail himself and it was applied as such to him by his followers.'
Hence, another small following of Ismail became known as Mubarakiyya. The Fatimid Imam al-Mahdi had routed a letter in Yamen after 308/921, which is reproduced by Jafar bin Mansur al-Yamen in 'al-Fara'id wa Hudud ad-Din' (pp. 13-19), in which the Imam has also disclosed that the Imams descending from Jafar Sadik wished to resuscitate the true dawat, and feared the treachery of hypocrites, therefore, they assumed names other than their own, and used for themselves esoterically names denoting the rank of proofs (hujjats) and styled themselves as Mubarak, Maymun and Sa'id because of the good omen in these names.

The terms Mubarakiyya and Khattabiyya therefore, were the original names of the nascent Ismailism, as well as the regional identifications of the followers of Ismail, who, on the whole, merged into the main fold of Ismailism in the time of Imam Muhammad bin Ismail. Concluding his judgment, al-Mutawakkil (532-566/1137-1170) writes in his 'Kitab Haqa'iq al-Marifa' as quoted by Bernard Lewis in 'The Origins of Ismailism' (London, 1940, p. 35) that, 'The Ismailiyya are the Mubarakiyya and the Khattabiyya.'

Returning to the thread of our main narrative, it is seen from the scrutiny of the historical traces that Ismail mostly lived in Salamia, and then moved to Damascus. Mansur knew his whereabouts, and wrote to his governor to arrest Ismail, but the latter quitted Damascus for Basra. Ismail's presence in Basra had been noticed by the people in 151/769. According to 'Tarikh-i Jhangusha', 'A paralytic begged alms of him. Ismail took him by the hand and he was healed; and rising to his feet he departed in his company. Ismail also prayed for a blind person and he recovered his sight.'

Ismaili History 405 - The doctrine of taqiya

We have heretofore noted that Imam Muhammad al-Bakir had articulated the implication of the doctrine of taqiya in Shiism, and we may attribute the rudiments of its theory to him. But it left to his son, Jafar Sadik to give it a final form abreast of time and make it an absolute condition of the faith.
Looking the changing condition radically then prevailing in the Arab society, it was a wise move by Imam Jafar Sadik to broach his followers the doctrine of taqiya (precautionary dissimulation), and made it the Shiite article of faith. He is reported to have said that, 'Taqiya is of my religion and of the religion of my forefathers. One who does not keep taqiya he has no religion.' He also said on another occasion that, 'Fear for your religion and protect it with taqiya.' He further said, 'Our belief concerning taqiya is that it is obligatory and he who forsakes, it is in the same position as he who forsakes prayer.'

Jafar Sadik had certainly worked out that an open dawat based on esoterism in the line of Ismail would mean a sure doom in the powerful Abbasid regime. It was, of course, risky for the Imams and their followers to openly propagate their minoritarian beliefs then onwards, therefore, the secret mission system was introduced with the help of taqiya, which could also avoided great deal of persecution. Farhad Daftary writes in 'The Ismailis: their History and Doctrines' (London, 1990, p. 85) that, 'The practice of taqiya conveniently protected the Shi'is, especially the later Ismailis, from persecution, and served in the preservation of their sectarian existence under hostile circumstances.'

The word taqiya is derived from the root tuqat, means 'conceal' or 'hide'. It is also suggested that it is rooted from waqqa, means 'keep or guard from someone'. The Koranic term tauqqat is also taken in the meaning of taqiya, to which divergance of opinions have been advanced. Baidawi (d. 685/1286) writes in his 'Anwar al-Tanzil' that, 'The qirah of Imam Yaqub (d. 205/820) contains the word taqiyainstead of tauqqat.' Similar word is also traced in the meaning of taqiya in Bukhari (vide 'Kitab al-Iqrah', 28:50). Ibn Hajar (d. 852/1449) also admits in 'Fateh al-Bari' (28:50) that tauqqat and taqiya are same in meaning. Zamakhshari (d. 538/1144) in 'Tafsir al- Kashshaf' (Cairo, 1953, 2nd vol., p. 16), Raghib Ispahani (d. 502/1108) in 'Tafsir al-Gharaib al-Koran' (Cairo, 1894, 1st vol., p. 313), Baidawi (d. 685/1286) in 'Anwar al-Tanzil' (Beirut, 1958, 1st vol., p. 153) and Fakhruddin Razi (d. 606/1209) in 'Tafsir al-Kabir'(Cairo, 1890, 2nd vol., p. 646), etc. have concured the doctrine of taqiya permissible in Islam in the light of the Koranic verse, which reads:- 'Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers, and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of God, except when you have to guard yourselves against them for fear' (3:27).

Another Arabic word kitman is also used for taqiya. The Arabic lexicons however render the meaning of taqiya as 'to arrange for protection.' In sum, taqiya is a practice permissible in Islamic jurisprudence. It is a doctrine allowing the disciples to conceal their faith during the time of trouble. According to 'Urdu Encyclopaedia of Islam' (6th vol., p. 581), 'The Shiites were suspected in some matters in non-Shiite rules, therefore, the doctrine of taqiya exercised special importance among them.'

Imam Jafar Sadik also then seems to have realized the significance of a tight, well-knit and secret organisation to face the emerging challenges in Arab society. For that purpose, he employed his Iranian client (mawla), named Maymun al-Qaddah, who had a skill for organising the vast network of an underground mission. The Arabs, it must be noted, were not traditionally and temperamentally suited for secretive and underground functionings. They had always lived in an open and free society in the desert without the paraphernalia of state and political intrigues. Comparatively, the character of the Abbasid empire at the same time, was also different from that of the Umayyads in as much as it was an empire of neo-Muslims of which the Arabs were only a part. It was mainly due to the support and strategy of the non-Arabs sections of people of Iran that the Abbasid succeeded in establishing their empire, chiefly by Abu Muslim Khorasani, who did much to bring the Abbasids to power

Ismaili History 406 - Maymun al-Qaddah

Maymun al-Qaddah was born in Ahwaz in Iran. He belonged to the Makhzumi clan and was the mawla (freed slave) of Imam Muhammad Bakir and Imam Jafar Sadik. His surname 'al-Qaddah' is usually taken to mean 'oculist', which seems extremely doubtful. It is a word connected with al-qidah i.e., an ancient Arab play or a form of divination with the help of arrows. Tusi (d. 460/1068) in 'Tahdhibul Ahkam' while dealing with Maymun al-Qaddah, explains the word as 'a man who practises the game of qidah (yabra'ul qidah). Thus, he was a specialist in divination with the help of arrows.
Maymun al-Qaddah was a very pious man of ascetic life. Because of his close association and faithfulness, he was chosen for the task of stimulating the secret Ismaili mission, and became the primary architect in articulation of the Ismaili mission.

It also appears that the activities of Maymun al-Qaddah had been exaggerated by the Arabs because of being an Iranian. The derogations of his Arab enemies can be judged from their baseless propaganda that he and his son, Abdullah bin Maymun were against the Islamic tenets, and had planned to blow it up, and broadcast that the Ismailism was typically an Iranian. Silvestre de Sacy (1758-1838) therefore, is inclined to make his judgement curiously in his 'Expose de la Religion des Druzes' (Paris, 1838, p. 31) that the Ismaili doctrine is typically Iranian, and later E.G.Browne in 'A Literary History of Persia' (New York, 1902, 1st vol., p. 405) also advanced same views. Being influenced with the Arab propaganda, the orientalists adopted the theory that the Ismailis were of Iranian origin, which has been however falsified by W. Montgomery Watt, vide 'Islamic Philosophy and Theology' (Edinburgh, 1985, p. 126). This idea led the other scholars to theorize the Ismailism not merely an anti-Arab movement, but more so an anti-Islamic revolution; but the recent researches have ruled out such groundless propaganda.

Allegorical interpretation (tawil) of the Holy Koran was in vogue among the people of all walks of life, attempting the evolution of a religious philosophy. The Ismaili dais had purified the Islamic Shariah polluted by the ignorants. The draining off the adulterated tenets through the agency of tawil by Maymun al-Qaddah and his son was violently opposed and misinterpreted by the Arabs, who were basically against the philosophical approaches. Most of the historians tried to project Maymun al-Qaddah as an enemy of Islam, planning to destroy it from within by founding the Ismaili movement and evolving its doctrines in such a way as to present Zoroastrian or Manhchean teachings in the Islamic garb. These historians want us to believe that Maymun al-Qaddah had nothing but contempt for Islam and fierce hatred towards the Arabs and that they conceived the idea of a secret society which should be all things to all men, and which, by playing on the strongest passions and tempting the inmost weaknesses of human nature, should unite malcontents of every description in a conspiracy to overthrow the then existing Abbasid regime. These are fantastic allegations levelled with a calculated purpose to discredit the Ismailis in the eyes of orthodox Muslims. Many eminent orientalists like de Goeje, R.A. Nicholson, etc., have erred in taking this story from the prejudiced historians.

Evincing their utter ignorance, the philosophy was officially banned in the orthodox orbits, propagating that it was the tool used by the Ismaili dais to undermine Islam. Syed Abid Ali Abid writes in 'Political Theory of the Shiites' (cf. 'A History of Muslim Philosophy' ed. by M.M. Sharif, Germany, 1963, 1st. vol., p. 740) that, 'The orientalists - nay even such an erudite Iranian scholar as Muhammad Qazwini, the editor of 'Tarikh-i Jhangusha' by Ata Malik Juvaini - were misled by the voluminous Abbasid propaganda, hostile commentary of the orthodox Shiites, and the specious argument of those opposed to the Ismailites, into thinking that Maimun and his son Abd Allah were opposed to the tenets of Islam or were inspired by the hatred for the Arabs.' J.J. Saunders also advanced his doubts in this context, vide 'A History of Medieval Islam' (London, 1965, p. 128). Besides, Maymun al-Qaddah is shown as a real founder of Ismailism, which is starkly a fabrication, and it was apparently a 'brain-wave' on the part of Ibn al-Razzam, whose historical character is yet doubtful.

Maymun al-Qaddah was canonised in the rank of hijab (screen), whose function was in addition to screen the real Imam from his enemies, and was thus the hijab of Imam Ismail and his son. According to W.Ivanow in 'The Rise of the Fatimids' (Calcutta, 1942, p. 56), 'The idea of the hijab, or a dignitary, whose duty was to pretend to be the Imam, thus sheltering the real holder of the office.'

It must be known that the functions of the hijab in pre-Fatimid period was the same as the hujjat. The hijab was the most trusted, tested, devoted and reliable dignitary who was ostensibly assigned with high religious authority, posing as an Imam to the ordinary people, accepting oath of allegiance on behalf of the concealed Imam.

According to 'Kashfu'l-Asrar' by Jawbari, quoted by L. Massignon, Maymun al-Qaddah died in 210/825, leaving behind two sons, Aban and Abdullah.

De Lacy O'Leary writes in 'Short History of the Fatimid Khilafat' (London, 1923, p. 25) that, 'The Ismailians alone have inherited the accurate knowledge of secret mysteries bequeathed by Jafar as-Sadik to his son Ismail.' W. Ivanow writes in 'Ismailis and Qarmatians'(JBBRAS, Bombay, 1940, p. 59) that, 'The successors of Ismail were therefore compelled to pay more attention to the other aspect of Imam Jafar's heritage - the philosophical and esoteric theories, which were more in demand here. This probably defined the further course of the evolution of Ismailism, which though it never gave up its strictly Islamic substance, had, nevertheless, to reconcile it with the philosophy of the time.'

Ismaili History 407 - Death of Ismail

Ismail lived for the most part in Salamia, where he died after bequeathing the office of Imamate to his son Muhammad. According to 'al- Usul wa'l Ahakam' by Hatim bin Imran bin Zuhra (d. 498/1104) that, 'Ismail had sent his dais to all parts and ordered him (Muhammad) to administer the oath in his name according to the custom of all preceding Imams. When his death drew near, he appointed as his heir, his son Muhammad who showed great perfection.'
The predeseased tradition assigns Ismail's death in 145/762, but 'Dustur al-Munajjimin' (comp. 450/1056) places it in 152/769. According to the Ismaili tradition, Ismail died in 158/775, and was interred in Salamia. Besides Muhammad, he had a son called Ali, who was born in 130/748 and a daughter, Fatima.

Ismaili History 408 - MUHAMMAD BIN ISMAIL (158-197/775-813)

Abu Abdullah Muhammad, surnamed ash-Shakir was born in 122/740 in Medina. He passed his early life with his grandfather for 24 years and 10 years with his family in Medina. He however kept himself silent (samit) so long as he lived in Medina. He most probably left Medina soon after the death of his grandfather in 148/765.
The Abbasid caliph Mansur also died in 158/775 and was succeeded by his son Mahdi, who according to Ignaz Goldziher in 'Muslim Studies'(London, 1971, 2nd vol., p. 106), 'was listed by Ibn Adi as an inventor of hadiths.' He also died in 169/785 after ruling for 22 years, and was succeeded by his son, Hadi. He died in 170/786, and then his brother, Harun ar-Rashid became the next ruler till 193/809. He was also succeeded by his son, Amin.

The inimical opposition of the Abbasids against the Ismaili Imams was vigorously in continual. Abul Faraj Ispahani writes in 'al-Aghani' (12th vol., p. 17) that, 'Harun al-Rashid demanded of his poets that they combine his own praise with refutation of the claims of Ali's descendants and with attacks against the latter.' Abul Faraja further writes that, 'Harun ar-Rashid permitted himself to be glorified with things by which the prophets were praised; he did not disapprove of it and did not refuse it.' (Ibid. 12th vol., p. 18)

The most earliest description of Muhammad bin Ismail is found from the work of Tabari (3rd vol., p. 2218), and in the Ismaili sources summed up in the 4th volume of 'Uyun'l-Akhbar' (comp. 842/1438). Accordingly, Muhammad bin Ismail resided in Medina from where he sent his dais not only to spread Ismailism, but to search for a land of refuge where he could live unscathed. When Harun ar-Rashid learnt news of it, he sent his officials to arrest and bring the Imam to his court. When the caliph's men came to the house to carry out the orders, Muhammad bin Ismail entered an underground passage he had constructed inside his house and remained concealed until they had left. When the search for him had abated, he started on his journey, leaving behind his two sons. His whereabouts had been kept a closely guarded secret only the few specially privileged being acquainted with it and even they being pledged to the strictest secrecy.

It has been heretofore discussed that Musa Kazim had been staged as an Imam by the Abbasids on the ground of the fabricated theory of change of nass. The Abbasids had instituted an intensive search for Ismail, because they were well aware that Musa Kazim was not the true successor, otherwise he would have been executed very soon. They however failed to trace out Ismail and his son Muhammad. On the other side, the Abbasids noticed its reverse effect in Medina, where Musa Kazim was being truly adhered as an Imam. In the time of Harun ar-Rashid, finally Musa Kazim was arrested, who died in prison in 183/799. He should have been arrested and executed in 148/765, had he been truly succeeded his father.

Cyril Glasse writes in 'The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam' (London, 1989, p. 197) that, 'The followers of Ismail, whose conception of the Imam was more absolute than that of the other Shiites, maintained on the contrary that the next Imam should be Ismail's son.'

Ismaili History 409 - The Qaddahid theory

Admittedly, it is learnt that after leaving Medina, Muhammad bin Ismail made his way towards Iran and Syria accompanied by Maymun al- Qaddah. The bitterest of the Abbasids' enmity was daily growing in intensity. Apprehending lest the enemies should resort to some violent measures against him, Muhammad assumed the name of Maymun al-Qaddah to elude discovery. Thus, the name Maymun al-Qaddah came to be used by two characters at one time. It was also resolved, if the real identity of the Imam be traced, Maymun al-Qaddah was to come forward as Muhammad bin Ismail to sacrifice his own life in order to protect the line of Imamate from extinction.
Henceforward, Muhammad bin Ismail had also a sobriquet of Maymun al-Qaddah to conceal his identity. In fact, Maymun al-Qaddah had a son, named Abdullah (d. 260/874), while Muhammad bin Ismail had also a son at the same time, called Abdullah (d. 212/828), surnamed al-Wafi Ahmad. With the passage of time, Muhammad became known as Maymun al-Qaddah in the places he resided, while Maymun al-Qaddah was treated as Muhammad bin Ismail in the regions he propagated Ismailism. Abdullah, the son of Maymun al-Qaddah was consequently considered as the son of Muhammad bin Ismail in the regions where the Imam had assumed the title of al-Qaddah. It therefore gave rise to the contrivance of a story that Abdullah (al-Wafi Ahmad) was the son of Maymun al-Qaddah on one hand, and Abdullah (bin Maymun al-Qaddah) was the son of Muhammad bin Ismail on other. Later on, it became an instrument for the anti-Fatimid propagandists, notably Ibn Razzam to join the lineage of the Fatimid Imams with that of Abdullah bin Maymun al-Qaddah instead of Abdullah (al-Wafi Ahmad) bin Muhammad bin Ismail. This is known as Qaddahid theory and became a weapon of the later Abbasids to discredit the Fatimid origin in 401/1010.

In the face of these facts, the Ismaili Imams had assumed the titles of the dais in one or more time during the veiled period, which is also sounded expressly in the letter of the Fatimid Imam al-Muizz (341-365/953-975), written in 354/965, addressing to his dai in Sind, called Jaylam bin Shayban. This important letter is well preserved by Idris Imaduddin (d. 872/1468) in the 5th volume of 'Uyun'l-Akhbar'(comp. 842/1438). It reads:- '.... These people have arbitrarily limited (the period of Imamate) by (the death of) Muhammad bin Ismail; and when he died, they said about him all what was said by them. They (also) thought that he entrusted the Imamate to some one who was not his son. And that his successor (similarly) entrusted the Imamate (to his own) successors, whose number has (also) reached the number of seven. They thought that the first (of these pseudo-Imams) was Abdullah bin Maymun al-Qaddah. All this is preached in order to prove their theory that there was no Imam after him (i.e., Muhammad bin Ismail), and that those who succeeded him were ordinary people. Thus they have cut what God ordered to be continuing (the line of Imams), opposing the command of God, given in the Koran (47:27). '....and We have made a word to remain after him.' The cause of this requires explanation. When the preaching in favour of Muhammad bin Ismail has spread, the Abbasid usurpers tried to lay their hands upon him, i.e. the person whose rights were claimed. Therefore (he and other) Imams went into concealment. Their dais used to refer to them under allegorical names, in accordance with the principle of taqiya, alluding to what they possessed and what was appropriate to them. They used to say, for instance, that the Imam, the son of Muhammad bin Ismail was Abdullah. And this was true. And with regard to his being the son of Maymun al-Qaddah, it was true that he was the son of Maymunu'n naqibat, i.e. of the 'Divinely blessed with success in his affairs,' of al-Qaddah (the flint) 'striking the sparks of guidance', i.e. 'lighing the light of the Divine wisdom'. Similar allegorical expressions were applied also to other Imams after him, at their own orders and instructions given to their dais. When such allegorical expressions reached those who know nothing about their real implications, and only took them literally, as we mentioned above, they fell into an error, and made others err after them, straying from the straight path. But if they would only do what God has ordered them to do, rallying around the Imams, they surely would know those who were otherwise hidden from them. Just as you know them now. But the blind, who has no one to lead him, or a stick in his hand, falls into an abyss from which no one can save him. The self-conceited fall into sin and error. So beware of thinking that God ever abandons humanity to itself. No, He does not abandon them even for a moment, leaving them without an Imam from the descendants of the Prophet. And the Imams can come to their office only by the commandments relating to Imamate....'

In addition, Hatim bin Imran bin Zuhra (d. 498/1104) writes in his 'al-Usul wa'l-Ahkam' that, 'The dais used their own names as nick-names for the Imams in order to protect them from persecution; some people were misled by this to such a degree that they said that the Imam, descendant of Muhammad bin Ismail was Abdullah bin Maymun al-Qaddah.' According to Arif Tamir in 'al-Qaramita' (p. 87), 'When Muhammad bin Ismail fled from the east and established in Palmyra in Syria, the centers of his activities; he called himself Maymun al-Qaddah.' Syed Abid Ali Abid writes in 'Political Theory of the Shiites' (cf. 'A History of Muslim Philosophy', ed. by M.M. Sharif, Germany, 1963, 1st. vol., p. 740) that, 'As a matter of fact, as the latest research has established beyond any doubt, Maimun was the name adopted by Imam Muhammad when he went into concealment. In other words, during the period of concealment those who were in his confidence knew Imam Muhammad to be a Maimun.' Husayn F. al-Hamdani (1901-1962) writes in his 'On the Genealogy of Fatimid Caliphs'(Cairo, 1958, p. 18) that, 'It is likely that Muhammad b. Ismail, who did not, and could not, according to accounts, live a settled life at one place, went underground during his wanderings by assuming the name of Maymun.'

Before biding goodbye to his ancestral abode, Medina, Muhammad had secretly convened an assembly of his dais, inviting them from all the regions. When caliph Harun ar-Rashid came to know the secret assembly, he resolved to arrest Muhammad bin Ismail in Medina. In the meantime, Zubeda, the wife of Harun ar-Rashid and a secret follower of the Imam, managed to send her trusted servant towards the Imam in Medina, informing him the plan of the caliph. Thus, Muhammad bin Ismail had to make his footing out of Medina at once.

Tradition however has it that Muhammad first went to southern Iraq, where he acquired the epithet of al-maktum (veiled one), and then at Nishapur in disguise, where he lodged for some times. Nishapur was one of the most important of the four great cities of Khorasan. The word 'Nishapur' is derived from New-Shapur. In Armenian it is called Niu-Shapuh, then became Nishwpur, finally Nishapur. It is situated on the east side of a plain surrounded by hills. To the north and east of the town lies the ridge of Binalud-Kuh, which separates it from the valley of Mashhad and Tus. It was divided into 42 wards, 1 farsakh in length and breath. Muhammad afterwards proceeded towards Ray (the ancient Ragha), a town in Media, about 15 miles from Tehran. Ray was situated in the fertile zone which lies between the mountains and the desert. The Abbasids rebuilt and surrounded it by a ditch. Harun ar-Rashid was also born in Ray and used often to recall with pleasure his native town. In 195/810, caliph Mamun's general Tahir bin Hussain won a victory over caliph Amin's troops near Ray.

Ismaili History 410 - Sacrifice of Ishaq bin al-Abbas

Ishaq bin al-Abbas al-Farsi, the Abbasid governor of Ray privily professed Ismaili doctrines. Muhammad betrothed to Fatima, the daughter of Sarah, sister of Ishaq bin al-Abbas; who gave birth to a son, who was named Abdullah, also known as Wafi Ahmad. When the news of Muhammad bin Ismail's stay at Ray reached the ears of Harun ar-Rashid, he wrote to Ishaq bin al-Abbas, ordering to arrest Muhammad and send him to Baghdad. Upon receipt of caliph's letter, he showed it to the Imam and replied to the caliph that he found no trace of Muhammad, and would send as soon as he was arrested, and thus he tried to put the caliph off the scent. But the spies planted by Baghdad were vigilants and reported to the caliph that Muhammad bin Ismail not only was living at governor's house, but that he was directing his mission from there. Upon this, the caliph wrote another letter to Ishaq bin al-Abbas, impugning him to come in person with his forces if his orders were not obeyed forthwith. The governor however made his usual reply.
Meanwhile, the complaints about Ali bin Musa bin Mahan, the governor of Khorasan reached the point where Harun ar-Rashid could no longer ignore them. With the intention of deposing his governor and to make a search of the Ismaili Imam, Harun ar-Rashid adopted a militant stance. In 189/805, he marched towards Ray with a detachment of his army, and after searching for the Imam through a tracking party, ordered the arrest and torture of Ishaq bin al-Abbas. He however did not give away any clue of the whereabouts of the Imam. Ishaq died as a result of severe and cruel torture that was inflicted upon him, and was rigorously flogged till death. He did not waver and stood firm in spite of excruciating tortures. In spite of the gloomy situation, however, his faith remained unshakable.

Ismaili History 411 - Muhammad bin Ismail in Nihawand

Muhammad selected Hurmuz as a chief dai of the mission, and then had made his footing at the fortified city of Nihawand, where he stayed with the governor, Mansur bin Jowshan, who had close ties with Ishaq bin al-Abbas. He allotted the Imam a piece of land in the district of Sarha, where he led a peaceful living.
Nihawand was a town, lying about forty miles south of old province of Hamdan. It lies on the southern road, which coming from Kirmanshah, leads into Ispahan. The district of Nihawand was formerly called Mah-Bahrajan or Maha-Dinar. Among the products of Nihawand the Arab historians mention willow-wood which was used for polo-sticks (sawalija), aromatic reeds (kasbat al-dharira) to be used for hanut (a kind of perfume).

Ismaili History 412 - Muhammad bin Ismail in Khuzistan

It is related that Muhammad was traced out on one day in Sarha by the Abbasid agent, named Muhammad bin Ali al-Khorasani, who surprised the Imam in a mosque. He was greatly impressed to behold the Imam, and lost courage to arrest him, and permitted the Imam to escape. Thence, Muhammad went to Azar in Khuzistan, a province of south-western Iran. It was bounded on the west by the Iran-Iraq border; on the north by Luristan, on the south by the Persian Gulf; and on the east by the river Hindiyan. Muhammad thence proceeded to Shapur. Disguised as a merchant, he stayed in Shapur with a certain Qamas bin Nuh, whose daughter Rabta, he married. Shapur (Arabic Sabur), the Shapurgird of Firdusi; became an unscathed place for the Imam for some times.

Ismaili History 413 - Muhammad bin Ismail in Farghana

When the Abbasids intensified their search for the Ismaili Imam to its extreme, Muhammad had to travel out of Iran and reached as far as the valley of Farghana, which was a large, prosperous and pleasant region. Farghana was known as the "Gate of Turkistan" and now it is in Uzbekistan and partly in Tajikistan. It must be however noted that the history of Tajikistan is bound up with that of Uzbekistan in Central Asia, for the two countries are not only contiguous, but have often been governed by the same rulers and subject to the same invasions. The dominant tradition has it that Muhammad bin Ismail had taken refuge at Farghana valley, situated mainly in the eastern Uzbekistan and partly in Tajikistan and Kyrgstan, covering an area of 8500 sq. miles. The old city of Faghana, however, is in Uzbekistan, spread over 2750 sq. miles with ancient ruins, wherefrom Muhammad bin Ismail seems to have dispatched his dais in the Pamir, the highland region of Central Asia, which is centered in the Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan.

It is necessary here to remark that the Ismailis in upper Oxus were reportedly deep-rooted in their faith, but unfortunately we do not have details of the Ismaili mission during the veiled era in Central Asia. These Ismailis however retained a specific literary tradition by preserving and transmitting from generation to generation an anonymous treatise, entitled "Ummu'l-Kitab" that had certainly exercised a sole source of their religious inspiration for about three hundred years till the arrival of Nasir Khusaro in this region.

"Ummu'l-Kitab" consists of the discourses of Imam Muhammad al-Bakir in response of his disciples and the famous narrators of the traditions, such as Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari, Jabir al-Jufi and Muhammad bin al-Mufazzal bin Umar. It was composed originally in Arabic and was translated into Persian in later period. W. Ivanow assigns its compilation before the beginning of the 5th/11th century, while Henry Corbin (1903-1978) places its origin in 2nd/8th century.

"Ummu'l-Kitab" remained wrapped in mist for a long period. In 1898, A. Polovtsev, a Russian official in Turkistan, who was interested in the study of Ismailism and later became the Russian Consul-General in Bombay, while visiting the upper Oxus, he discovered a copy of "Ummu'l-Kitab". In 1911, its another Persian version was unearthed from Wakhan by the Russian official, called J. Lutsch. The photocopies of both these manuscripts were deposited in the Asiatic Museum of the Imperial Russian Academy of Science at St. Peterburg. Carl Salemann, the director of the Museum was editing its text, but his death in 1916 prevented the task. Later on, W. Ivanow was destined to edit and publish the text of "Ummu'l-Kitab" in 1936. He however based his edition on the copy which was obtained by Ivan I. Zarubin (1887-1964) in 1914 at Shagnan. "Ummu'l-Kitab" is a volume of 210 pages and was also translated into Italian by Pio Filippani- Ronconi in 1966 from Naples.

After some times, Muhammad returned to his ancestral abode, Salamia and died in 197/813. He left behind six sons, viz. Jafar, Ismail, Ahmad, Ali, Hussain and Abdullah. He had also a son named Yahya.

Ismaili History 414 - Organisation of Ismaili Dawa

The word dawa (pl. du'at) is derived from du'a means to call, invite or summon, and thus the term dai denotes, 'he who summons', whose corresponding term in English is 'missionary' (derived from the Latin, mittere). The word dawa is also used in the sense of prayers, such as dawat al-mazlum (prayer of the oppressed), or dawa bi'l shifa (prayer of the health). The word dawat virtually originated in the time of Imam Jafar Sadik, and Abdullah bin Maymun had founded the Ismaili dawa organisation in Basra.
T.W. Arnold writes in 'The Preaching of Islam' (Aligarh, 1896, p. 277) that, 'The Ismailis were the master of organisation and tactics at the time of Abdullah bin Maymun.' W. Ivanow writes in 'Collectanea' (Holland, 1948, p. 20) that, 'The only branch of Islam in which the preaching of religion, dawat, was not only organised but even considered of special importance, was Ismailism.' According to 'The Encyclopaedia of Islam' (Leiden, 1965, 2nd vol., p. 168), 'The word dawat is well known as applied to the wide-spread Ismaili propaganda movement, appealing to Muslims to give their allegiance to an Imam descended from Ismail bin Jafar Sadik.'

Soon afterwards, Salamia became the headquarters of Ismaili dawat after Basra, while Yamen later on became the dai generating hub. Indeed, very little is known about the actual mission (dawa) system of early Ismailism, but it is however certain that the Ismaili mission was brisk and pervasive throughout the Islamic regions. In the broadest terms, it seems that Muhammad bin Ismail was represented by twelve hujjats in different regions, and beneath the hujjats, a hierarchy of missionaries (dais) conducted the different tasks of initiation and instruction. The Ismaili dais stimulated a network of the mission in many parts of the Abbasid empire and there was plenty of its activity even outside it. They fully exploited the socio-economic conditions of the weaker sections of society to attract them towards the mission on one hand, and the philosophical interpretations of the teachings of Islam to attract the thinking sections of the society on the other.

For purposes of mission, the world was divided into twelve parts, each being called jazira (usually translated as an island), known as the island of the earth (jazira al-arad). It is difficult to say whether jazira really meant an island. One can broadly agree with W.Ivanow when he says: 'It appears that in this sense jazira does not mean the island, as it usually means, but is taken here in its basic sense, from the root j-z-r = to cut off, and therefore means a slice, cutting, or a part, a section. Therefore the expression 12 jazair should be translated as the 12 sections of the world population. They are: Arabs, Turks, Berbars, Negroes, Abyssinians, Khazras, China, Daylam, Rum and Saqaliba. Thus this classification is partly based on geographical, and partly on ethnographical principle, and plainly belongs to the fourth/tenth century.' (vide 'The Rise of the Fatimids', Calcutta, 1942, p. 21)

Ismaili History 415 - Zubaida - wife of Harun ar-Rashid

Most of the adherents of Ismaili faith during the period under review are hardly known due to the practice of taqiya. But, the Ismaili dais had best records of it, who became the source of informations for the later Ismaili authorities. Among the secret followers, the name of Zubaida, the wife of caliph Harun ar-Rashid is a significant. She was the daughter of the Abbasid caliph Mansur's elder son, Jafar; and her mother was Salsal, the sister of Harun ar-Rashid's own mother, named Khaizuran. Zubaida was thus the cousin of Harun ar-Rashid, and professed batini tariqah of the Ismailis secretly. Her marriage with Harun ar-Rashid took place in 164/781. Zubaida, in middle life, built herself a palace of her own, surrounded by a very large garden. She had employed a large staff of secretaries and agents to manage the properties she had acquired in all over the empire. She also undertook projects for the digging of canals for irrigation and water supply. She was famous for the extensive engineering works which she had carried out in Mecca, to bring water sufficient for the increasing number of pilgrims. One of the most of her projects was the improvement of the pilgrim road across 900 miles of desert from Kufa to Medina and Mecca, which still in south Kufa is known as Darb Zubaida. She died in 226/841, about 32 years after her husband's death. It appears that she advocated Ismaili faith before her marriage in 164/781 and used to inform Imam Muhammad bin Ismail in advance the measures of Harun ar-Rashid through her trusted agents. It also appears that her close link with the Imam had ceased after the death of Muhammad bin Ismail.
According to 'Zahru'l-ma'ani', 'Muhammad spread religious knowledge, explained esoteric doctrines, and revealed to the chosen ones the great mystery, so much of these as never was revealed by any Imam before him.'

Some sources state that after the massacre of Abul Khattab and his followers in Kufa, the remnants joined al-Mubarakiyya, and that out of this union arose a group who preached that Muhammad bin Ismail was the last Imam, anticipating his return. It was however this group who was the predecessors of the later Qarmatians, who refused to accept the death of Muhammad bin Ismail, who, according to them remained alive and would return in the imminent future as the promised Mahdi or Qaim. The main loyalist branch of Ismailism however traced the Imamate in the progeny of Muhammad bin Ismail.

The period of Muhammad bin Ismail also saw an early growth of the Sufism in Islam. The eminent Sufis who flourished in the period under review were Hasan Basri (d. 110/728), Ibrahim bin Adham (d. 160/776), Abu Hashim Kufi (d. 160/775-6), Rabia Basri (d. 185/801), Shaqiq Balkhi (d. 194/810), etc.

Ismaili History 416 - Muhammad b. Ismail - al-Imamu'n Natiq

It is worth mentioning that the Sunni historians had no basic idea of the Shiite concept of Imamate and arrayed hostility with the Ismailis in the light of their own sense of propriety. They championed in dressing up the baseless stories in their notion, and then used it a tool to defile Ismailism in aggressive and hyperbolic words. Under such derogatory attitude, Muhammad bin Ismail is accused of claiming the prophethood and abolishing the Shariah of the Prophet.
The institution of the Imamate is a cornerstone and paramount position in Ismaili tariqah, and according to their theory, the seven millennial periods (adwar'i azam) form a part of a great cycle of 360,000 years. At its end, during the last period of 7000 years, there were six natiqs (speakers, pronouncers or law-givers), viz. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, the last Prophet. They are the seven law-givers. Each great period is started by the introduction of a new religion. This religion, exercising great influence upon mankind at the outset, but lost its original force with the passage of time. It is ultimately replaced by a new system to retain its originality and make it forceful then onwards. Each natiq lays down the Shariah for his period, and appoints an asas (base, foundation or executor). The asas lays the foundation of hidden knowledge (ilm al-batin), who is also called wasi, organizing the dissemination of the hidden knowledge among the faithfuls only. The asas is followed by a chain of Imams, who stimulate the mission on the basis of hidden teachings. The period (dawr) of one natiq comprises six ones and the seventh one becomes another natiq, who either proclaims another Shariah setting aside the earlier one, or cancelling (tatil al-shariah) its manifestation, and gives it a new interpretation on the ground of hidden secrets (asrar'i batin). The Prophet Muhammad was preceded by five natiqs, each natiq had cancelled his predecessor's Shariah. With this cycle, the Prophet stands as the sixth natiq who appointed his son-in-law Ali as his wasi, and there followed after him six Imams, bringing the Prophet's period (dawr) to a close. The seventh Imam, Muhammad bin Ismail was the seventh natiq in the new heptad. Muhammad Bakir Majlisi quotes a Hadith in his 'Biharu'l Anwar' (13th vol., p. 156) that, 'The next expected (natiq) Imam would be 'the son of six' (ibn sitta), means the next natiq would be preceded by six Imams.' Since there was no Shariahafter the Prophet, Muhammad bin Ismail was not to announce a new religious law. Instead, he would reveal the esoteric truths concealed behind all the preceding messages. He abrogated the adulterated parts of the Shariah by explaining the hidden meaning of the true Shariah and revealing its purpose. The Islamic Shariah had lost much of its pristine purity, and many unhealthy practices crept into the religion, therefore, the tawil was applied to protect its dynamic force.

Abrogation of the Shariah, therefore, by every seventh natiq encompasses the meaning of the law only, not its exoteric or practical and ritualistic aspects. The Prophet was ar-Rasulu'n-Natiq, whereas Muhammad bin Ismail was al-Imamu'n-Natiq. The former was the natiq in the capacity of the Prophethood, and the latter was the natiq in the role of Imamate. Thus, Muhammad bin Ismail had never repudiated or suspended the Shariah for his followers. Arif Tamir writes in 'al-Qaramita' (pp. 86-87) that, 'The Imamate of Muhammad bin Ismail was the beginning of a new era in the history of the Ismaili movement. We go even further to say that he came with some new teachings, setting aside some exoteric teachings which preceded. He was in fact the first Imam to have done away with the trouble of manifestation and gave call for tawil and esoteric meaning, and for spreading his mission, he relied on his hujjat and great dai, Maymun al-Qaddah.' Idris Imaduddin (d. 872/1468) writes in 'Zahru'l-ma'ani' that, 'Muhammad bin Ismail was named the seventh natiq, because he rose to preach by the command of God, incorporating in himself all the virtues which are to be crowned in him. He is neither the Revealer of the final religion, nor the Apostle of God, but he is in a class by himself, of a unique rank.'

It must be noted that the period of Muhammad bin Ismail was a turning point in the history of the Ismaili mission. The Abbasids revolution had been consolidated, and the Iranian influence in particular and Greek influence in general were being applied in the intellectual field. In a century that followed, the wave of Muslim conquest reached upto Samarkand, beyond the Oxus. With the extension of Muslim territory, there cropped up a number of new problems neither contained in Koran, nor anticipated by the Prophet. Hundreds of schools of jurisprudence appeared to mould the Muslim system of laws, but none could crystallize into definite system, acceptable by all. 'Some five hundred schools of jurisprudence' writes Adam Mez in 'The Renaissance of Islam' (London, 1937, p. 212), 'are said to have disappeared at or about the beginning of the 3rd/9th century.'

The Schools of Law represented by Abu Hanifah (d. 150/767), Malik bin Anas (d. 179/795), al-Shafi (d. 204/819) and Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 241/855) also emerged prominently in this period. The major collections of Hadiths also were done mainly by Bukhari (d. 256/870) and Muslim bin al-Hajjaj (d. 261/875).

The problem however was to find a correct balance among all these developments when the Islamic world was undergoing radical changes. Islam had to keep pace with, and adjust to, the fast changing world and the growing of new trend. Muhammad bin Ismail had to impart the true Islamic teachings through tawil (the allegorical interpretation) based on reason to his followers. It was thus absolutely a false propaganda of the historians that Muhammad bin Ismail - he being the seventh natiq had claimed for his apostleship or cancelled the Shariah of the Prophet. P.J. Vatikiotis writes in 'The Fatimid Theory of State' (Lahore, 1957, p. 90) that, 'Abrogation of the Shariahby every Seventh natiq, as for example Muhammad b. Ismail, encompasses the meaning of the law only, not its zahir or practical and ritualistic aspect. Muhammad b. Ismail did not abolish anything of the formal worship and law of the Shariah; on the contrary, he strengthened it, and ordered everyone to act according to it. What Imam al-Muizz meant by the expression al-shariah uttilat, or the Shariah of Muhammad was purified by his mission, refers to his explaining its meaning and clarifying its hidden points. Tatil of Shariah, then, means its purification through tawil. A revelation of the external truths behind the Shariah to the closest initiates in the dawa constitutes Fatimid abrogation of law. It is not an abrogation that overthrows accepted legal ritual in the Quran, but rather the reconciliation of such law with religious philosophy.'

It should also be known that the mis-interpretation of the theory of Muhammad bin Ismail as the Seventh natiq by the Sunni historians had engendered the coinage of the name 'Seveners' (sabiya) for the Ismailis, which is a glaring instance, sounding their misconception in the Ismaili belief of Imamate. The Muslim knowledge of the Ismailis in the field of tawil had not progressed much beyond what they had transmitted on the subject. They knew little and broadcast more, and the field therefore continued to be dominated by the fanciful impressions and fictitious hodgepodge.

Ismaili History 417 - WAFI AHMAD (197-212/813-828)

Abdullah bin Muhammad, surnamed ar-Radi, Nasir or al-Wafi (True to one's word) was also known as ar-Radi Abdullah al-Wafi or Wafi Ahmad, was born in 149/766. The tradition relates that Wafi Ahmad was locally known as attar (druggist) in Nishapur and Salamia as well, a surname he earned after his profession in drug and medicine as a protection against his real position. He was however represented by his hujjat, Abdullah bin Maymun (d. 260/874). It is also learnt that he was called Muhammad bin Ismail among the Ismailis, who lived at remote distance and had not seen the Imams. He, being the son and successor of Imam Muhammad bin Ismail is admittedly asserted in the work of Tabari (3rd vol., p. 2218). His mother was Fatima, the daughter of Sarah, sister of Ishaq bin al-Abbas.The Abbasid caliph Amin (193-198/809-814) was murdered after ruling for 4 years and 8 months, thereupon, his foster brother, Mamun Rashid (198-218/814-833) became the next caliph, who transferred his capital to Khorasan in early period of his rule, and as a result he followed a mild attitude with the Alids. After coming to Baghdad, Mamun Rashid changed his mind, and followed the doctrines of Mutazilite. He was however a bitterest foe of the Ismailis.

Ismaili History 418 - Beginning of Dawr-i Satr

The word satr (pl. satur) is derived from astar, meaning hide, cover or shield. As it is said, masatra (he concealed enmity), or tastir(to hold within a curtain). According to 'Arabic-English Lexicon' (New York, 1872, 4th vol., p. 1304) by Edward William Lane, the word satr means to veil, conceal or hide a thing. The early Ismailis had employed the term satr with regards to those periods in their history when the Imams were hidden from the eyes of their followers. When the animosity of their enemies reached to its extreme, the Ismaili Imams had to hide themeselves to elude discovery. On that juncture, the hujjats represented the Imams in the community. Thus, the hujjat was himself a living proof, acting as the custodian until the time of the Imam's reappearance. This period is called Dawr-i Satr (period of concealment) in Ismaili history. In contrast, the period following the concealment is known as an unveiling (Dawr-i Kashf), or the period of manifestation (Dawr-i Zuhur), when the Imams publicly made their appearance.
With the death of Jafar Sadik in 148/765, Ismail (d. 158/775) and Muhammad (d. 197/813), the gravity of brutal persecutions of the Abbasids had considerably increased. The Abbasids left no chance to grind the Ismailis under the millstone of cruelty. The Ismaili Imams were impelled to thicken their hiding, therefore, the first Dawr-i Satr came into force from 197/813 to 268/882, wherein the Imams were known as al-A'immatu'l masturin i.e., the concealed Imams. Achilles des Souza writes in 'Mediation in Islam - an Investigation' (Rome, 1975, p. 35) that, 'For the first century and a half after the death of Ismail, the Ismaili Imams remained hidden and little is known. This period could be characterised, as we have seen earlier, as the period of the quietists.'

And here we cannot but call attention to a fact that the doctrine of ghayba among the Twelvers should not be confounded with that of the concept of satr among the Ismailis. Seyyed Hossain Nasr writes in this context in his 'Ideals and Realities of Islam' (London, 1966, p. 159) that, 'The idea of being hidden (mastur) must no, however, be confused with the occultation (ghayba) of the twelfth Imam (of the Twelvers). The first implies simply being hidden from the eyes of the crowd and from public notice, while the second means disappearance from the physical world.'

Idris Imaduddin (d. 872/1468) writes in 'Zahru'l-ma'ani' (p. 59) that, 'He (Wafi Ahmad) was the first of the three concealed Imams by the order of God and His inspiration.' Hamiduddin Kirmani (d. 412/1021) also admits in his 'ar-Risalat al-Wai'za' (comp. 408/1017) that, 'Muhammad bin Ismail became qaim, and after him, the concealed Imams (aima'i masturin) succeeded to the Imamate, who remained hidden on account of the persecution of the tyrants, and these were three Imams, viz., Abdullah, Ahmad and Hussain.' Hatim bin Imran bin Zuhra (d. 498/1104) writes in 'al-Usul wa'l Ahakam' that, 'When Muhammad bin Ismail died, his authority passed to his son, Abdullah bin Muhammad, the hidden one, who was the first to hide himself from his contemporary adversaries.' According to Hasan bin Nuh Broachi (d. 939/1533) in 'Kitab al-Azhar' (comp. 931/1525) that, 'The three hidden Imams were Abdullah bin Muhammad, Ahmad bin Abdullah, surnamed at-Taqi and Hussain bin Ahmad.' The fact that the Dawr-i Satr virtually came into force in the time of Wafi Ahmad has been also asserted by the modern scholars, such as W.Ivanow, Dr. Sami Nassib Makarem, Sir Johj Glubb, Husayn F. al-Hamdani, etc.

Shahrastani (1076-1153) writes in 'Kitab al-milal wa'l nihal' (p. 164) that, 'Then begins the era of the hidden Imams, who went about secretly but sent out emissaries, who appeared openly on their behalf. They hold that the world can never be without an Imam who is alive and a qaim, either visible and manifest, or hidden and concealed. When the Imam is manifest it is possible for his hujjat (proof) to be hidden, but if the Imam is hidden it is necessary for his hujjat and emissaries to be manifest.'

On account of the strictness of Imam's concealment, when his hujjats were accepting on his behalf the oath of allegiance from neophytes, they used to tell them that they should obey the Lord of the Time (Sahib al-Asr or Waliyul Asr) without pronouncing the name of the Imam. This practice was in use among the neophytes through the whole period of the concealment of the Imams.

Summing up the condition of the hidden Imams in the veiled period, Ibn Khaldun writes in his 'Muqaddimah' (1st vol., pp. 44-5) that, 'These people (Imams) were constantly on the move because of the suspicions various governments had concerning them. They were kept under observation by the tyrants, because their partisans were numerous and their propaganda had spread far and wide. Time after time they had to leave the places where they had settled. Their men, therefore, took refuge in hiding, and their (identity) was hardly known, as the poet says: `If you would ask the days what my name is, they would not know, and where I am, they would not know where I am.''

Wafi Ahmad settled in Nihawand, and betrothed to Amina, daughter of Hamdan, son of Mansur bin Jowshan, who was from Kazirun. By this wife, the Imam had a son, Ali bin Abdullah, surnamed al-Layth, and a daughter, Fatima. The brother of Wafi Ahmad also married here and had a posterity.

Meanwhile, the Abbasids intensified their operations, thus Wafi Ahmad made his son as the chief of the Ismaili mission, and himself went from the knowledge of the people, so that none of his followers and other knew where he was. It is however known from the fragment of the traditions that he had gone to Syria and lived in the castle of Masiyaf for some time

Ismaili History 419 - Wafi Ahmad in Salamia

The Ismaili dais in search of a new residence for their Imam came to Salamia and inspected the town and approached the owner, Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Saleh, who had transformed the town into a flourishing commercial centre. They told him that there was a Hashimite merchant from Basra who was desirous of settling in the town. He readily accepted and pointed out to them a site along the main street in the market, where existed a house belonging to a certain Abu Farha. The Ismaili dais bought it for their Imam and informed him about it. Wafi Ahmad arrived to his new residence as an ordinary merchant. He soon pulled down the old building and had new ones built in its place; and also built a new wall around it. He also built a tunnel inside his house, leading to the desert, whose length was about 12 miles. Money and treasures were carried on camels to the door of that tunnel at night. The door opened and the camels entered with their loads inside the house.

Salamia was a small town in Syria in the district of east of the Orontes, and is located at a distance of 32 kilometers to the south- east of Hammah, or 44 kilometers to the north-east of Hims. It lies in a fertile plain, about 1500 feet above the sea level, south of the Jabal al-A'la and on the margin of the Syrian steppe, standing on the main entrance of the Syrian desert.

It is an ancient Salamias or Salaminias of the Greek, which flourished in the Christian period. According to Yaqut in 'Mudjam' (3rd vol., p. 123), the town was originally called Salam-miyyah (a hundred safe) after the hundred surviving inhabitants of the destroyed town of al-Mutafika, who migrated to this town, which they built and the expression was changed with the years until it became Salamia. There is a foundation inscription of a mosque on a stone at the entrance to the citadel, dating 150/767 founded by the local Hashimites and was destroyed by the Qarmatians in 290/902. It will be perhaps appropriate to say that the modern Salamia in Syria was prospered by the Ismailis. According to 'The Encyclopaedia of Islam' (Leiden, 1995, 8th vol., p. 921), 'The fact that Salamiyya was the centre of an important branch of the Hashimids and the isolated position of the town perhaps account for its important role in the early history of the Ismaili movement as the secret headquarters of the pre-Fatimid Ismaili dawa.'

The adherents and dais began to rush privily to Salamia. Like in Nishapur, Wafi Ahmad was also known locally as attar (druggist) in Salamia.

Ismaili History 420 - Ahmad bin al-Kayyal al-Khasibi

It is related that during the Abbasid campaign of energic search for Wafi Ahmad, the hujjat, dais and the followers demonstrated matchless example of their firm faith. But one of the dais, called Ahmad bin al-Kayyal al-Khasibi had deviated from Ismailism. He had acquired Ismaili teachings from Imam and was well steeped in esoteric doctrines (kalimat ismiyya), but concocted his own theories that were contrary to the Ismaili faith. When Wafi Ahmad was informed about his negative propaganda, his having created confusion in the community, he excommunicated him, ordering his followers to separate from him. When Ibn al-Kayyal learnt the severe actions of Wafi Ahmad against him, he publicly renounced his allegiance and proclaimed himself first an Imam, and later on the promised Mahdi on earth to establish peace. Shahrastani also writes in 'Kitab al-milal wa'l-nihal' (p. 17) that, 'Ibn al-Kayyal had claimed the Imamate for himself and asserted that he was the promised Qaim on earth.' He founded a sect called after him Kayyaliyya, who incorporated different heretical ideas in their doctrines. Ahmad bin al-Kayyal was however executed by his own followers in 207/822 who depended upon him, when they understood his impiety and his idea to spread trouble in the world. With the end of Ahmad bin al-Kayyal, the Kayyaliyya sect also disappeared and its handful followers reverted to their original faith of Ismailism.
Wafi Ahmad further on repaired to Daylam with his 32 trusted dais, where he got married with an Alid lady in the village of Ashnash, and had a son by her, whom he named Ahmad, who later on became known as Taqi Muhammad. The adoption of strict taqiya, and moving from one to another place, forced Wafi Ahmad to assign the mission works to his brother, Hussain bin Muhammad. He ordered his followers to obey his brother, saying: 'One who obeys him, he obeys myself, and one who disobeys him, he disobeys me.' Hussain bin Muhammad with a party, disguised as merchants, went on pilgrimage to Mecca. He then arrived in Ahwaz from Samarra. A certain dai started preaching in favour of Hussain bin Muhammad, stating that Wafi Ahmad appointed him instead of himself. When Hussain heard about this, he went to the place where the dai resided, collected the concerned people, and declared that he was not the Imam, but a lieutenant of his brother, his servant and his slave. When the people heard this, their allegiance to the Imam increased.

Ismaili History 421 - Martyrdom of Imam's son and brother

Ali al-Layth, the elder son of Wafi Ahmad had also converted a multitude of people. He was a generous and brave soldier, and fond of hunting and raised a small force of about two thousand men. Once he was on a hunting excursion with his friends in woods, where they were raided by the Abbasids force sent from Ray. He had a handful men with him, but fought valiantly until an arrow struck him in his throat and fell from his horse. He was arrested and beheaded and his head was sent to the Abbasid governor at Ray.
Hussain bin Muhammad was busy with his correspondence and the affairs of the community on other side. He was much frightened when the news about the murder of Ali al-Layth reached him. He decided to emigrate a safe place together with his associates. They were also ambushed by the Abbasids in the hills of Nihawand. Hussain bin Muhammad performed outstanding feats of bravery, and after a heroic resistance, he was killed with his associates with their families.

Ali al-Layth had a son, called Ahmad bin Ali al-Layth, a learned and highly talented. When his father was killed, his nurse concealed him and saved from the enemies. He took refuge in the village called Mahdi kad-gah in Khuzistan. With him there were those of his relatives from among the sons of Hussain bin Muhammad. When he grew up, he resolved to take revenge of his father's murder from the people closely involved. Hence he gathered around him those of the Shiites, who were supporting him. Thus, he is said to have mustered four thousand men around him. He proceeded with them and pitched his tents at Shaliba, near Damawand, where he posed himself as an Abbasid commander. He summoned the local inhabitants, assuring them to read an official letter received from the government for his commandership. When the people came, he, with his Shiite supporters, slaughtered them all. It is recounted that they were the people who had killed his father and Hussain bin Muhammad. After taking revenge, Ahmad bin al-Layth repaired to Asak, a village in the district of Ramhurmuz in Khuzistan.

Ahwaz (the Elymais of the Greeks) was a province in Abbasid realm, whom the Iranians coined in the form of Susiana. Ahwaz is an Arabic name (pl. of the sing. Huz, corresponding with Syriac Huzaye). It was bounded by Iraq on the west side, by the province of Faras, on the east and south, and on the north by the part of the province Jabal (now Luristan). Its capital was Suk al-Ahwaz (market of Ahwaz) and hence simply as al-Ahwaz.

It is most possible that Wafi Ahmad lived in Suk al-Ahwaz for a short period. When he received news of the misfortunes that befell his brother and son, he left Ahwaz, which was so far an unscathed place for him.

Wafi Ahmad next moved to Samarra with his son, Taqi Muhammad. Samarra lies on the east bank of the Tigris, half way between Takrit and Baghdad. The original form of the name is probably Iranian, and in this context, the following etymologies have been proposed: Sam-rah, Sai-Amorra and Sa-morra. The last two meaning the place of payment of tribute. On the Abbasid coins, it was written as Surra man ra'a(delighted is he who sees it). Samarra was founded in 221/836 by the Abbasid commander, Ashnas, two parsangs south of the village of Karkh-Fairuz. Between 221/836 and 276/889, seven Abbasid caliphs lived in Samarra. It seems that Wafi Ahmad found no proper respite at Samarra, therefore, he ultimately settled in Salamia, where he built a house and resided in the cloak of a local merchant.

There lived many eminent Hashimites in Salamia. Most of them belonged to the posterity of Aqil bin Abu Talib, but some of whom were related to the Abbasids. So Wafi Ahmad pretended to be one of these, and was regarded as one of the Hashimites. He however kept in secret his own real name and the name of his son.

Ismaili History 422 - Search of the Imam

The constant change of the Imam's abode made the Ismailis and dais a complete loss of the trace of Wafi Ahmad, making them to remain in great confusion. Dai Hurmuz and his son Mahdi, dai Surhaf bin Rustam and his son Imran finally came forward to institute a search of the Imam. They collected four thousand dinars in cash from the donations of the faithfuls. They started on their journey, dispersing everwhere, each of them carrying with him a description of the appearance and characteristic features of the Imam. They travelled in guise of wandering hawkers, carrying with them on their donkeys different wares, such as pepper, aromatic plants, spindles, mirrors, frankincense and different kinds of millinery that find demand amongst women. Among themselves they agreed to meet on a fixed date at a certain place, selected in every province, different districts of which were alloted to every one of them to be toured. Whenever children and women came around them, they would ask these whether there was in their locality a person, bearing such features. At length, they came to the district of Hims in Syria. They appointed a mosque of that town as their meeting place. So it happened that the Imam also was in the same district, namely in the hills of Jabal as-Summaq, in 'the monastery of sparrows' (dayr asfurin), near Kafrabhum. As usual, they were shouting for the items for sale in the Jabal as-Summaq. Some women and children came out to them, and they, as usual, asked whether there was amongst them a man, having such and such appearance. To their utter surprise, a boy and a woman demanded from them as a price from their goods, promising to show them where the person answering their description could be found. They offered to them mastic, frankincense and other things. The woman and child told them that when just a short while ago they were passing near the monastery of sparrows, where they had seen the person with his pages. At length, they succeeded after hard searching for a year to find the Imam with great relief and jubilation.

Ismaili History 423 - Incomparable sacrifices

During the period of concealment (dawr-i satr), it is known that the Ismailis had offered great sacrifices for the cause of their faith, the detail of which is not accessible. They had been severely domineered and tortured by the Abbasids, the equal of which is hardly seen in other period. Suffice it to elite here one instance: a Syrian daily news, 'al-Baath' on October 28, 1966 highlighted a report that a team of workers had discovered human skulls beneath the earth while digging a location to lay a pipeline, about 150 miles north of Salamia. The exhumation was immediately suspended, and the experts were summoned from Damascus for investigation. During the excavation, about 382 human skulls were exhumed, pitching with small iron nails, emanating a trembling story of severe torture and maltreatment. One skull, for instance was pierced with 151 nails. The matter was referred to the archaeological department, and after a minute examination of two months, it had been discovered that the above location originally was an old Ismaili cemetery, belonging to the period between 150/777 and 275/900. These Ismailis had to live in the teeth of very bitterest opposition, and were tortured with heartless during brutal persecutions, who could not escape the snares of the Abbasids. Being ingrained in their faith, they would not recant even under hardest trials.
Wafi Ahmad is known to have summoned his most trusted dais, called Abu Jafar and Abu Mansur at Salamia before his death, and said in presence of his son, Taqi Muhammad that: 'I bequeath the office of Imamate to this my beloved son. He is your Imam from now onwards. You take an oath of allegiance from him, and must remain faithful with him in the manner you have been with me, and obey his orders.' It is said that shortly before his death, Wafi Ahmad retired into solitude and died in Salamia in the year 212/828.

Wafi Ahmad had two sons, Ahmad surnamed Taqi Muhammad and Ibrahim. Nothing is virtually known about Ibrahim, save the fact that his posterity was still living at the time of Imam al-Mahdi in Salamia and were slain by the Qarmatians in 290/902.

According to Ibn Athir (10th vol., p. 184), Khalaf bin Mulaib al-Ashhabi (d. 499/1106) had captured Salamia in 476/1084 and acknowledged the Fatimid suzerainty. There is an evidence of this in an inscription in Kufic character, dated 481/1088, on the door beam of a mosque in Salamia. In the inscription, studied extensively by Rey, Hartmann, van Berchem and Littmann, Khalaf bin Mulaib says that he has erected a shrine on the tomb of Abul Hasan Ali bin Jarir. But, the Syrian Ismailis however have traditionally regarded this tomb as that of Imam Wafi Ahmad (Abdullah bin Muhammad), calling the mausoleum locally as Makam al-Imam. Later on, Prof. Heinz Halm studied and reinterpreted the aforesaid inscription in 1980, lends support to the local Syrian Ismaili tradition by holding that the mausoleum was in all probability originally erected, about 400/1009, over the tomb of Imam Wafi Ahmad by the Fatimid commander, called Ali bin Jafar bin Falah, known as qutb ad-dawla (magnate of the state), who, after subduing the rebellion of Mufraj bin Dagfal al-Jarrah Taiy, had seized Salamia for the Fatimids and whose name also appears in the inscription, and that Khalaf bin Mulaib merely repaired the site, some four decades later, vide 'Les Fatimides a Salamya' (Revue des Etudes Islamiques, LIV, 1986, pp. 133-149) by Heinz Halm.


Ismaili History 424 - TAQI MUHAMMAD (212-225/828-840)

Ahmad bin Abdullah, Muhammad al-Habib, or Abul Hussain, surnamed at-Taqi (God-fearing), also called Taqi Muhammad, was born in 174/790 and ascended in 212/828. He lived secretly with his followers as a merchant at Salamia. He is also called Sahib al-Rasail (Lord of the epistles). He however retained the services of Abdullah bin Maymun (d. 260/874) as his hujjat.
W.Ivanow writes in 'Ismailis and Qarmatians' (JBBRAS, Bombay, 1940, p. 73) that, 'The second hidden Imam, the author of the Encyclopaedia of the Ikhwanu's Safa, or Sahib al-Rasail, as he is usually referred to in the Ismaili theological works, is also known definitely as Ahmad.'

Taqi Muhammad was known as an eminent Hashimite trader, making the people to flock at his residence. It suspected the Syrian governor, who communicated its report to caliph Mamun Rashid, who issued order to arrest Taqi Muhammad, but the latter had quitted Salamia in advance for few years.

Ismaili History 425 - Trend of philosophy in Islam

To understand the meaning of philosophy in Islam, it is best to examine the use of the terms falsafah and hikmah in various traditional sources. The term hikmah appears in several places in the Holy Koran, of which perhaps the most often cited is, 'He gives wisdom (hikmah) to whom He wills, and he to whom wisdom is given' (2:269). It also appears in the hadith literature that 'The acquisition of hikmah is incumbent upon you. Verily the good resides in hikmat' and according one another hadith, 'Speak not of hikmah to fools' (alaika bil himkati fa-innal ghair).
After the rise of the Abbasids, the Iranian who excelled the Arabs in learning and scholarship, became associated with their empire. In fact they were the intellectual cream of that society, being greatly inclined towards philosophy, for which the Arabs had no taste. It was for this reason that during the Umayyad period in Damascus, known as the Arab national rule, the intellectual discipline like philosophy never acquired popularity. But during the Abbasid rule, because of the close association of the Iranians, the Greek philosophy acquired great currency. Thus in those days, it was the Muslim intellectuals who kept the torch of Greek philosophy burning. They realized that the old religious ideas must not be taken in their literal meaning, imparting that the mystical philosophy of esotericism owed its distinct origin to the words of Koran. The Mutazalites were in front to see Islamic teachings on the scale of philosophy. Baghdad became not only the metropolis, but also an important centre at that time.

The function of philosophy is nothing more than speculating on the beings and considering them in so far as they lead to the knowledge of the Creator. The Holy Koran exhorts man to this kind of rational consideration (i'tibar) in many a verse such as: 'Consider, you who have vision.' Thus al-i'tibar is a Koranic term which means something more than pure speculation or reflection (nazar). M.M. Sharif writes in 'Philosophical Teachings of the Quran' (cf. 'History of Muslim Philosophy', Germany, 1963, 1st vol., p. 137) that, 'The Quran claims to give an exposition of universal truths with regard to these problems - an exposition couched in a language and a terminology which the people immediately addressed, the Arabs, with the intellectual background they had at the time of its revelation, could easily understand, and which the people of other lands, and other times, speaking other languages, with their own intellectual background could easily interpret. It makes free use of similitude to give a workable idea of what is incomprehensible in its essence.'

According to 'al-Kafi' (Tehran, 1978, p. 76) by Kulaini (d. 329/941), Jafar Sadik once said: 'It is obligation on you to gain sound comprehensions of the religion of God and not to be like the rustic Bedouin Arabs, since God on the day of judgement, will neither cast even a glance at nor will He purify the deeds of a person who has developed no understanding of the religion.' The Arabs with scarce means and resources at their disposal in the desert, had no tradition of speculative philosophy. They could not achieve intellectual sophistication, and therefore, they were both physically and intellectually very simple people. Islam too bore this imprint, and its teachings were comparatively simple and speculative thought having an emphasis on external observations. The situation had changed drastically during the Abbasid period. Islam was no longer a simple faith it used to be believed in the Arabian desert. It was a Semitic religion universalized to embrace non-Semitic elements. The Iranians who embraced Islam had intuitive and speculative minds, and they saw Islam with such minds. In sum, the Iranians were so more cultivated, both in education and tradition, that the ordinary Arabs were looked down upon as coarse ruffians and uncouth barbarians. Nor did the Arabs have anything special to point to in self-defence against such sneers, except their priority as a cradle within the Islam. In sum, the Arabs were only in exceptional cases mystically minded, who were generally content with the literal and the way to God along extrinsic lines had been enough for them. The cultivation of philosophical trend therefore, had been strongest among the Muslims in non-Arabs lands.

Ibn Sina writes in 'al-Isharat' that, 'Philosophy is the exercise of intellect, enabling man to know Being as it is in itself. It is incumbent upon man to do this by the exercise of his intellect, so that he may ennoble his soul and make it perfect, and may become a rational scientist, and get the capacity of eternal bliss in hereafter.' During the time of new philosophical approach, the orthodox circles had two options open before them; either to adopt a rigid stance, or to assimilate the trend. The orthodox orbits, however, tenaciously reacted against this pattern.

It must be noted that the legacy of Greek philosophy had ended with the school of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), but it reappeared blended with Oriental thought under the name of Neo-Platonism (al-aflatuniyat al-muhdathah), propounded by Plotinus (207-270 A.D.). He was succeeded by his pupil, Porphyry (233-305), who made certain modifications. Proclus (411-485) was the last great schoolman, who had left it in a form in which it was taken up by the Muslim thinkers.

The Ismaili dawa was yet in the cradle during that period, who opted the philosophical course, and provided an ideal climate for the new philosophical tendency with the ever living role of the Imams. The Ismaili dais were well aware of the intellectual trend, who sincerely desired to creatively apply Neo-Platonism in the teachings of Islam. What is known as tawil in Ismaili jargon was nothing but the esoteric explanation of the exoteric teachings and practices of Islam. This assimilation attracted a number of eminent persons towards Ismailism. The Neo-Platonism readily found a congenial home for itself within the world of Shiism. It was for this principal cause that the orthodox theologians vehemently opposed the rational interpretation, and wrongly accused Ismailism of having suspended the operation of the Islamic Shariah. The Ismaili Imams however never allowed their followers to disregard the observance of the outward injunctions, but imparted the hidden meaning of the Koranic verses. They had nothing to do with political opportunism and remained away from its vortex and clung fast to their doctrines.

Ismaili History 426 - Abu Tirmizi in Abbasid court

Abu Sa'id Tirmizi, known as Abu Tirmizi was an Iranian Ismaili dai. He seems to have been active in the villages of Iraq. Tradition has it that he once happened to visit Baghdad and joined the philosophical deliberations of the Mutazalites in the Abbasid court. It is recounted that someone informed caliph Mamun that Abu Tirmizi was an Ismaili dai, whereupon, he summoned him in a separate chamber. Mamun treated him tactfully, pretending that he was too a secret follower of Taqi Muhammad and said, 'I am an ardent lover of the Imam. I cherish a desire to hand over my caliphate to the Imam when I behold him and will serve him whole- heartedly.' Abu Tirmizi delighted on Mamun's words, but did not divulge his identity and left the court. He resided in Baghdad for few months and when he found that nobody followed him, he made his way towards Salamia and visited Imam's residence. During the course of discussion, he said to Taqi Muhammad that, 'Mawla! caliph Mamun feels himself ashamed in his actions against us. He is ready to abdicate the temporal power in your favour, therefore, you manifest publicly and assume the caliphate.' Taqi Muhammad said, 'O' Tirmizi! you have not yet known the deceitful trick of the Abbasids. The heart of Mamun is full of animosity. He is a liar and hypocrite. His heart is harder than stone.' Abu Tirmizi however continued to insist, whereupon the Imam said, 'I allow you to go once again to Mamun's court if you have still trust on his words and claim yourself as if an Imam. He will swiftly hand over you his caliphate if he is truly a follower. If so, you let me know, so that I may manifest publicly.' Abu Tirmizi said, 'Mawla! Mamun is very clever and will persecute me if I fail to show him the signs of Imamate if asked.' Taqi Muhammad replied, 'The time itself will favour you. He will be surprised through my light and you will surely pass through his trials. But remember, Mamun is not a faithful and he will execute you.'
Abu Tirmizi returned to Baghdad and managed to see caliph Mamun once again and said, 'O'caliph! I am an Imam on earth. I have concealed my legitimate claim during our first meeting due to your fear. You must trust me, as I am indeed an Imam.' Upon hearing, Mamun discoursed with him on religious matters and asked many questions. When he became satisfied, he ordered his soldiers, who brutally beheaded Abu Tirmizi in the court. It is also said that caliph Mamun was made known that he had executed an Ismaili dai and not the Imam, therefore, he ordered to find whereabouts of Imam Taqi Muhammad.

Ismaili History 427 - Origin of the Mutazalism

The account of the origin of Mutazalism given by Shahrastani is widely accepted as the standard one. According to his account, once Hasan Basri (d. 110/728), one of the earliest Sufis, was imparting instructions to his pupil in a mosque. Before the lessons were finished, someone turned up and asked, whether they should regard the grave sinner as a believer or an unbeliever. Hasan Basri was on the point of giving a reply to this query when a long-necked pupil, Wasil bin Ata (d. 131/748), burst into discussion with the assertion that the perpetrator of grave sins is neither a complete unbeliever nor a perfect; he is placed midway between unbelief and belief - an intermediate state, i.e., manzila bayn al-manzilatayn (a position between the two positions). Having spoken he strode to another pillar of the mosque followed by a number of those in the circle. Hasan Basri shot a swift glance at him and said that, 'He has withdrawn (i'tazala anna) from us.' From this remark originated the name, Mutazila or Mutazalite, i.e., the Withdrawers or Secessionists. Other versions have a similar story, but the man who withdraws is not Wasil bin Ata but Amr bin Ubaid (d. 144/761). About the same time as al- Khayyat Ibn Qutayba wrote of Amr that he held the doctrine of Qadar and made propaganda for it; and he and his followers withdrew (i'tazala) from Hasan Basri and were called the Mutazila. Ibn Munabbih says that the title of Mutazila came into vogue after the death of Hasan Basri. When Hasan passed away, Qatada succeeded him and continued his work. Amr bin Ubaid and his followers avoided the company of Qatada, therefore, they were given the title of al-Mutazila.
The material so far examined shows a divergence of view on whether the leader was Amr or Wasil. Yet other considerations, however, suggest that the originator of the sect in the form in which it became famous was neither of these men but Abul Hudhayl and his generation. The statement of Ibn Hazm shows that the Mutazalites were a group of rationalists who judged all Islamic beliefs by theoretical reason and renounced those that related to all that lay beyond the reach of reason. They raised the problems of freewil and determinism, the attributes of God, the nature of the soul, the createdness of the Koran, etc. In sum, an endless chain of polemics was started by them in the Muslim society to such extent that Islam began to be assailed both from inside and outside. The situation was fraught with great danger for the faith. When the various forces arrayed themselves against the extremism of the rationalists, the orthodox ulema also reacted against them negatively.

Ismaili History 428 - The Rasail Ikhwan as-Safa

The Abbasid caliph Mamun (d. 218/833) also patronized philosophy and professed Mutazalism. It was an interesting trend among the educated elite to drift towards Greek philosophy and ultimately a bulk of the contradictions raised among the Muslims in interpretating Islamic practices. It must be known on this juncture that the intellect is an indispensable faculty in man, but despite this, its power of penetration has a definite limit. It may enjoy apparent supremacy and mastery in certain fields, but there are many things which are baffling and incomprehensible to it. The intellect cannot grasp a thing as a whole and its entirety. Its range of operation is limited, and therefore a true spiritual master is needed to guide a proper method.
When the independent philosophical trend was perceived a threat to the Islamic Shariah from liberal sciences, a knot of earnest thinkers began to flock in a house in Basra at a fixed season to reconcile the philosophy and religion. They were the Ikhwan most probably an agency or organ of the Ismaili mission. They tried to evolve a new synthesis in order to save Islamic teachings from being swept away by the new flood of knowledge. Sayed Amir Ali writes in 'The Spirit of Islam' (London, 1955, p. 432) that, 'It was at this epoch of travail and sorrow for all lovers of truth that a small body of thinkers formed themselves into a Brotherhood to keep alive the lamp of knowledge among the Muslims, to introduce a more healthy tone among the people, to arrest the downward course of the Muslims towards ignorance and fanaticism, in fact, to save the social fabric from utter ruin. They called themselves the Brothers of Purity, Ikhwan-as-Safa.'

The Arabic phrase 'Ikhwan as-Safa' has been variously translated by orientalists as 'Brethren of Purity' (R.A. Nicholson), 'The Pure Brethren' (H.A.R. Gibb), 'Sincere Brethren' (W. Montgomery Watt), 'Sincere Friends' (G.E. Von Grunebaum), 'die lauteren Bruder' (C. Brokelmann), 'die treuen Freunde' (ibid), 'die aufrichtigen Bruder und treuen Freunde' (G. Flugel), or 'les Freres de la Purete' (A. Awa). The full name of the association was Ikhwan al-Safa wa Khullan al-Wafa wa Ahl al-adl wa abna al-Hamd (i.e., 'The Brethren of Purity, the Faithful Friends, the Men of Justice and the Sons deserving praiseworthy Conduct'), a name which was suggested to them by the chapter of the 'Ring-Necked Dove' in Kalimah wa Dimnah. Different explanations are offered for the appellation, Ikhwan as-Safa. Nicholson and Levy write on the authority of Ibn Qifti (d. 646/1248) that its title is derived from their declaration that the Islamic Shariah in their time had become defiled with ignorance and adulterated with errors, and the only way to purify it was by means of philosophy. Tibawi rather than Goldziher was therefore closer to the truth when he observed that the name 'Ikhwan as-Safa' was chosen as an imitation of the Sufi tendency to associate their name with safa (purity).

It is said that the members of the Ikhwan as-Safa formed a sort of Masonic Lodge, who lived in the Lower Mesopotamian river port of Basra; debating on literature, religion, philosophy and science. The association or club kept their proceedings concealed, and none were admitted. They were classed into four grades according to their moral and age, rather elevation of soul. The first grade consisted of young men between 15 and 30 years of age, who were initiated into complete obedience to their teachers. The second grade included men between 30 and 40 years, who were given secular education and awareness of philosophy as well. To the third grade belonged men between the ages of 40 and 50 who had a more adequate knowledge of divine law working in the universe. The fourth grade comprised men over 50 years, who were supposed to have an insight into the reality of things. Their philosophical meetings took place three evenings each month at the start, middle and sometimes between 25th and the end of the month. They also celebrated three major feasts in the year, and both the meetings and feasts were closely related and coincided with the entry of the sun into three Zodiacal Signs of the Ram (Aries), the Scorpion (Cancer) and the Balance (Libra). These feasts were also co-related with the Islamic feasts of Id al-Fitr, Id al-Adha and Id al-Ghadir. They also held special gathering (majlis), each one on every twelve days. This secret association has left behind a standing monument of its achievements in an encyclopaedia, known as 'Ikhwan as-Safa', comprising of 52 epistles (rasail) with the following topics:-

14 epistles on Mathematics.

17 epistles on Natural Sciences.

10 epistles on Psychological and Rational Sciences.

11 epistles on Theological Sciences.

It also classified the science in three major groups as under:-

a) Mathematics: includes theory of number, geometry, astronomy, geography, music, theoretical and practical arts, ethics and logic.

b) Physics: includes matter, form, motion, time, space, sky, generation, minerals, planets, animals, human body, senses of life and death, microcosm, pleasure, pain and language.

c) Metaphysics: divided into psycho-rationalism and theology.

i) psychics, rationalistic, being, macrocosm, mind, love, resurrection and causality.

ii) belief, faith, divine law, prophethood, etc.

The Epistles of the Ikhwan occupy a place in the first rank of Arabic literature. It is also the great treasure house of Sufic thought. For example, it says: 'Know, O brother, that your soul is potentially an angel, and can become One in actuality if you follow the path of the prophets and the masters of the divine laws.' (Rasail 4th vol., p. 122), and also 'All creation will ultimately return to Him since He is the source of their very existence, substance, immortality and perfection' (Rasail 3rd vol., p. 285).
The Epistles were distributed in various mosques of Baghdad. It played an important role by attempting a creative synthesis of Greek philosophy and the doctrines of Islam, giving a new dimension to the religion. It attracted the best intellectuals of its time and saved Islam from the heritical inroads that were preying upon it. It aimed to impart that if the tawil is carefully studied similarities with philosophical tools, the essence of the Islamic teachings can be easily discovered logically. It must be known that it greatly impacted the rationalists and after 270/850, even the Mutazalites became more and more a small coterie of academic theologians cutt off from the masses of the people and exercising no more influence on the further course of Islamic thought.

The compiler of Ikhwan as-Safa concealed his identity so skillfully that modern scholarship has spilled much ink in trying to trace the members of group. Using vivid metaphor, the members referred to themselves as 'sleepers in the cave' (Rasail 4th, p. 18). In one place they gave as their reason for hiding their secrets from the people, not fear of earthly rulers nor trouble from the common populace, but a desire to protect their God-given gifts (Rasail 4th, p. 166). Yet they were well aware that their esoteric teachings might provoke unrest, and the calamities suffered by the successors of the Prophet were a good reason to remain hidden until the right day came for them to emerge from their cave and wake from their long sleep (Rasail 4th, p. 269). To live safely, it was necessary for their doctrines to be cloaked. Ian Richard Netton, however writes in 'MusIim Neoplatonists' (London, 1982, p. 80) that, 'The Ikhwan's concepts of exegesis of both Quran and Islamic tradition were tinged with the esoterism of the Ismailis.' Strangely enough, in dealing with the doctrines of Qadariya and Sabaeans of Harran, the Epistles do not mention the Ismailism. Yet it was the Ismailis, perhaps more than any other, which had the most profound effect on the structure and vocabulary of the Epistles. Almost the average scholars have attempted to show that the Ikhwan (brothers) were definitely Ismailis. A.A.A. Fyzee (1899-1981), for instance, writes in 'Religion in the Middle East', (ed. by A.J. Arberry, Cambridge, 1969, 2nd vol., p. 324) that, 'The tracts are clearly of Ismaili origin; and all authorities, ancient and modern, are agreed that the Rasail constitute the most authoritative exposition of the early form of the Ismaili religion.' According to Yves Marquet, 'It seems indisputable that the Epistles represent the state of Ismaili doctrine at the time of their compositions' (vide, 'Encyclopaedia of Islam', 1960, p. 1071) Bernard Lewis in 'The Origins of Ismailism' (London, 1940, p. 44) was more cautious than Fyzee, ranking the Epistles among books which, though 'closely related to Ismailism' may not actually have been Ismaili, despite their batini inspiration. Ibn Qifti (d.646/1248), reporting in the 7th/13th century in 'Tarikh-i Hukama' (p. 82) that, 'Opinions differed about the authors of the Epistles. Some people attributed to an Alid Imam, proffering various names, whereas other put forward as author some early Mutazalite theologians.'

Tibawi in 'Ikhwan as-Safa and their Rasail' (p. 37) has aptly linked their content to the draft of deliberations by a learned society composed by a well educated secretary, and this could be very close to the truth. It is certainly possible that the Epistles could be the work of one author only, for there are significant lapses from the usual plural mode of address into the first person singular. It also appears that the Epistles were not completely authored by a specific person, but it was the outcome of the intellectual deliberations of the learned thinkers inspired from the close directive of the specific person. It may also be possible that the specific author had been referred the deliberations in writing for approval, who had edited and deleted the irrelevant portions, and projected into different Epistles. When the Epistles had been circulated widely, the secret club founded in Basra and its branches were liquidated with a view that their secret mission had been accomplished.

Among the Syrian Ismailis, the earliest reference of the Epistles and its relation with the Ismailis is given in 'Kitab Fusul wa'l Akhbar' by Nurudin bin Ahmad (d. 233/849). Another important work, 'al-Usul wa'l-Ahakam' by Abul Ma'ali Hatim bin Imran bin Zuhra (d. 498/1104), quoted by Arif Tamir in 'Khams Rasa'il Ismailiyya' (Salamia, 1956, p. 120), writes that, 'These dais, and other dais with them, collaborated in composing long Epistles, fifty-two in number, on various branches of learning.' It implies the Epistles being the product of the joint efforts of the Ismaili dais.

Among the Yamenite traces, the earliest reference of the Epistles is found in 'Sirat-i Ibn Hawshab' by Garar bin Mansur al-Yamen, who lived between 270/883 and 360/970, and writes, 'He (Imam Taqi Muhammad) went through many a difficulty and fear and the destruction of his family, whose description cannot be lengthier, until he issued (ansa'a) the Epistles and was contacted by a man called Abu Gafir from among his dais. He charged him with the mission as was necessary and asked him to keep his identity concealed.' This source not only asserts the connection of the Epistles with the Ismailis, but also indicates that the Imam himself was not the sole author (sahibor mu'allif), but only the issuer or presenter (al-munsi). It suggests that the text of the philosophical deliberations was given a final touching by the Imam, and the approved text was delivered to Abu Gafir to be forwarded possibly to the Ikhwan in Basra secretly. Since the orthodox circles and the ruling power had portrayed a wrong image of Ismailism, the names of the compilers were concealed. The prominent members of the secret association seem to be however, Abul Hasan al-Tirmizi, Abdullah bin Mubarak, Abdullah bin Hamdan, Abdullah bin Maymun, Sa'id bin Hussain etc. The other Yamenite source connecting the Epistles with the Ismailis was the writing of Ibrahim bin al-Hussain al-Hamidi (d. 557/1162), who compiled 'Kanz al-Walad.' After him, there followed 'al-Anwar al-Latifa' by Muhammad bin Tahir (d. 584/1188), 'Tanbih al-Ghafilin' by Hatim bin Ibrahim (d. 596/1199), 'Damigh al-Batil wa haft al-Munazil' by Ali bin Muhammad bin al-Walid al-Anf (d. 612/1215), 'Risalat al-Wahida' by Hussain bin Ali al-Anf (d. 667/1268) and 'Uyun'l-Akhbar' by Idris Imaduddin (d. 872/1468) etc.

Virtually, nothing is known in detail about the Ismailis during the veiled era, and it seems that most of the renowned Ismailis had adopted taqiya. According to 'Ikhwan as-Safa' (Rasail 21st., p. 166), 'Know, that among us there are kings, princes, khalifs, sultans, chiefs, ministers, administrators, tax agents, treasurers, officers, chamberlains, notables, nobles, servants of kings and their military supporters. Among us too there are merchants, artisans, agriculturists and stock breeders. There are builders, landowners, the worthy and wealthy, gentlefolk and possessors of all many virtues. We also have persons of culture, of science, of piety and of virtue. We have orators, poets, eloquent persons, theologians, grammarians, tellers of tales and purveyors of lore, narrators of traditions, readers, scholars, jurists, judges, magistrates and ecstatics. Among us too there are philosophers, sages, geometers, astronomers, naturalists, physicians, diviners, soothsayers, casters of spells and enchantments, interpreters of dreams, alchemists, astrologers, and many other sorts, too many to mention.'

The preceding inventory suggests that the Ismaili faith had been penetrated privily in the people of all walks of life. Joel Carmichael writes in 'The Shaping of the Arabs' (London, 1969, p. 386) that, 'The Ismaili sect seems to have elaborated its doctrines in such a way as to attract a great part of the social discontent into its own channels and to have had immense appeal for the common people who were suffering so much from the social afflictions of the period. Beginning with the substantial peasant support and gradually infiltrating the urban workers, especially the craftsmen, with their revolutionary ideas, the Ismailis seem to have created some of the Islamic craft guilds.'

During dawr-i satr, the Ismaili dais preached that an Imam in the descent of Jafar Sadik would manifest in near future as a promised Mahdi. The fragment of this prediction is also sounded in 'Ikhwan as-Safa' (2nd vol., p. 290) that: 'We hope that there will appear from our community the Imam, the Mahdi, who is the expected one (al-muntazar) from the house of Prophet Muhammad.'

Prof. Masudul Hasan writes in 'History of Islam' (Lahore, 1987, 1st vol., p. 486) that, 'Al-Habib (Taqi Muhammad) had his headquarters at Salamiah near Hims in Syria, and from there he sent missionaries in all directions to propagate the Ismaili creed and enrol adherents.'

The period of Taqi Muhammad is also noted for the several skilled exponents of Sufi thought, such as Harith Muhasibi, Dhun al-Nun Misri (d. 243/859), Bayazid Bustami (d. 260/874), Junaid Baghdadi (d. 298/910), etc.

Taqi Muhammad exercised taqiya during the period of his Imamate to escape the snares of the Abbasids. A rhetorical reference to him is found in 'Rasail Ikhwan as-Safa' (Rasail 4th, p. 199), indicating that the veiled Imam was apparent in reality.

Taqi Muhammad is reported to have died in 225/840 in Salamia after bequeathing the office of Imamate to his son, Hussain surnamed, Radi Abdullah. His another son, Muhammad surnamed Sa'id al-Khayr, whose posterity were living in Salamia and killed at the hands of the Qarmatians in 290/902.

Ismaili History 429 - RADI ABDULLAH (225-268/840-881)

Hussain bin Ahmad or Abu Abdullah, surnamed az-Zaki, known as Hussain ar-Radi, or Radi Abdullah (Servant of God who is satisfied and content), was born in 210/825 and assumed the Imamate in 225/840. He is also called Muhammad and al-Muqtada al-Hadi. His also kept his identity secret being represented by his hujjat, Ahmad, surnamed al-Hakim.
Tabari (3rd vol., p. 2232) refers to his son, al-Mahdi under the name of Ibn al-Basri (the son of Basra), emphasising the connection of Radi Abdullah with southern Mesopotamia and the adjoining province of Khuzistan.

The Abbasid caliph al-Mutasim (218-227/833-842) was followed in succession by al-Wasik (227-232/842-847), al-Mutawakkil (232-247/847- 861), al-Muntasir (247-248/861-862), al-Mustain (248-252/862-866), al-Mutaz (252-255/866-869), al-Muhtadi (255-256/869-870) and al- Mutamid (256-279/870-892).

Radi Abdullah is celebrated in devoting time to complete the task of his father, his teachings and institutions. In his time, the faith of the Ismailis spread by leaps and bounds with galloping speed through out the length and breath of Arabia.

Radi Abdullah was an erudite scholar and is celebrated to have epitomised 'Ikhwan as-Safa' into an instructive synopsis (al-jamia). Its full name was 'ar-Risalat al-Jamia' (the comprehensive espistle). It served as a substitute for the Epistle of 'Ikhwan as-Safa' and was intended for private circulation among the more advanced members of the groups. The al-Jamia is the backbone of the Epistles, which was further summarized in 'Risalat al-Jamiat al-Jamia an al-Zubdah min Rasail Ikhwan as-Safa' (the condensation of the comprehensive epistles, or the cream of the epistles of Ikhwan as-Safa).

It must be known that the monograph of 'ar-Risalat al-Jamia' was awarded the first Howard Bliss Prize by the American University of Beirut in 1929, and was subsequently published serially in the Journal of that institution, vide 'al-Kulliyat' (vol. xvii, 1930-1).

Ismaili History 430 - Ahmad bin Abdullah bin Maymun

He was born in 204/828 and had joined the Ismaili mission at youth. He conducted his activities in Iran and Iraq. His father had sent him with a deputation to make a survey in Yamen, where he collected the informations for the headquarters and also travelled as far as Bahrain. After his father's death in 260/874, he returned to Salamia, where Radi Abdullah promoted him to the rank of hujjat. He was known in Salamia as Ahmad al-Hakim, and died in 275/888. He was a man of great ability and is credited with having surveyed the above regions for forthcoming mission works.

Ismaili History 431 - Mission of Ibn Hawshab in Yamen

Radi Abdullah had dispatched his dais in all directions, the most acclaimed among them was Abul Qassim Hasan bin Farah bin Hawshab, generally known by the epithet, Mansur al-Yamen (the victorious one of the Yamen). Ibn Hawshab was originally a Twelver, and is said to have spent most of time in a secluded spot on the bank of Euphrates. In such state, he is reported to have met Radi Abdullah and discoursed with him on religion. Imam left him after promising to see him again. Ibn Hawshab was impressed by his chance meeting with the Imam, and was eager to further meeting. After an anxious wait for several days, the Imam did not appear again, thus he became restless and began to search him. Despite his frantic efforts to locate the Imam's whereabouts, he could not trace him. After sometimes, he accidently met the Imam's deputy, and through him, Ibn Hawshab eventually succeeded in reaching the Imam's presence. Radi Abdullah answered his queries to his satisfaction and assuaged his doubts, and at length he espoused Ismailism. Radi Abdullah imparted him the knowledge of Islamic creed, tenets and esoterism.
When the Imam found that Ibn Hawshab was firmly grounded in Ismaili faith and groomed enough for the responsibility of its promulgation, he jointly entrusted him and his colleague, Ibn Fazal, with the task of Ismaili mission in Yamen. Before they set off on their venture, Radi Abdullah summoned them in a private audience and urged to respect each other, and avoid any sort of religious difference. He also entrusted Ibn Hawshab with a voluminous tome which comprehensively dwelled upon the exoteric and esoteric aspects of Ismaili faith. Thus, being equipped with verbal as well as written guidances, both of them set forth on their mission to Yamen in 266/880. Mecca was their first destination, and accosted the pilgrim caravan from Yamen. They proceeded at last to Yamen, and after reaching, both of them separated. Ibn Hawshab headed towards the southern region, and focused his mind on the village of Adanla'a, thickly populated by the Shiites. He married to a local woman and settled down in Adanla'a under strict taqiya. He succeeded to convert the inhabitants. When he found the time appropriate to reveal his identity, he discreetly started his mission, inviting the people to the Ismaili fold and accepting oath of allegiance on behalf of Radi Abdullah and his successor. On other side, Ibn Fazal also followed similar tract, and succeeded in winning the sympathy and adherence of the people of Saroyafoa.

Ibn Hawshab had managed to take possession of a stronghold constructed on a hillock and made it his headquarters. He arranged military training for his followers. He also took possession of Jabal al-Jusaysah and Jabal al-Maswar. Ibn Hawshab however assured the people that his campaigns were neither after booty nor personal glory, but these were meant to promulgate true Islamic message through Ismailism. Finally, he conquered Sana'a, the capital of Yamen, and exiled the ruling tribe of Banu Laydir, and established Ismaili authority in Yamen.

The Ismaili mission reached the apex of its influence in Yamen, from where Ibn Hawshab dispatched many dais to the farthest corners. Thus, Yamen became a vital zone and an important hub of Ismaili dawa. In the time of Radi Abdullah, Abu Abdullah al-Shi'i had embraced Ismailism, who was sent to Yamen for further training. Ibn Hawshab was loyal to the Imam till his last breath and died in 302/914. While reading his biography, we will greatly move the streak of intellectual honesty which ran through his very nature.

Ismaili History 432 - Khalaf al-Hallaj

Abdullah bin Maymun (d. 260/874) is reported to have also sent a dai called Khalaf al-Hallaj, the cotton-dresser to Ray in about the middle of the third century with the instructions: 'Go to Ray, because there are many Shias in Ray, Aba, Qumm, Kashan and the provinces of Tabaristan and Mazandaran, who will listen to your call.' Khalaf went to the neighbourhood of Ray and resided in the district of Fashafuya, in a village called Kulin. He examined the local situation and started his secret mission. His secret activities however attracted attention, therefore he moved to nearby city of Ray, where he died. He is remembered as the founder of Ismaili dawa in Iran, and the converted people locally became known as Khalafiyya. He was succeeded by his son Ahmad, whose chief disciple was Ghiyath from the village of Kulin.

Radi Abdullah continued his peaceful living in Salamia, associating the local Hashimites. He also kept on good terms with the local governor. He seems to have been active in scholarly matters without a bearing in the politics. He was rolling in plenty; yet he contented himself with plain dress and simple food. He was humble in disposition and very hospitable. He is said to have granted allowances from his wealth to the poor and disabled persons in Salamia without discrimination between the Ismailis and non-Ismailis. Tradition has it that he was fond of horsing, shooting, hunting and archery, which had been also a favourite pastime of the Hashimites in Syria.

When Radi Abdullah felt that the shadows of his death were closing upon him, he consigned the office of Imamate to his son, Muhammad al- Mahdi, saying, according to Ibn Khaldun that: 'You are the promised Mahdi. You would take refuge in a remote land after my death, where you would have to submit to hard trials.' (vide 'Tarikh', Karachi, 1966, 5th vol., p. 93).

Radi Abdullah died in 268/881 at Salamia while he was travelling in the vicinity, appointing before his death as his trustee his own brother, Muhammad bin Ahmad, surnamed Sa'id al-Khayr as the guardian of his son, al-Mahdi. His death in 268/881 remarkably marks the termination of dawr-i satr (concealment period) in the Ismaili history.

Ismaili History 433 - Hidden Imams in Dawr-i Satr

It is worth mentioning that the most important aspect of the Ismailism, which deserves serious treatment is to keep everything secret under the garb of taqiya connected with their faith, tending their enemies to contrived baseless stories and myths against them. The veiled period (dawr-i satr) thus became benigh climate for them to cultivate different wrong genealogies of the Imams. Thus, the ancestry of the Fatimids has confounded the students of history due to divergent accounts given by the historians, which had been developed round the persons of the 'hidden Imams' (aima'i masturin) during concealment period. The widespread Abbasid propaganda, the derogatory attitude of Sunnite and Shiite authors make difficult to decide one way or the other about the legitimacy of their claim. In the light of the Fatimid policy, we are inclined to believe that the Fatimids deliberately seem to have avoided discussing the matter of their ancestry. It emerges from this a safe conclusion that it was a preconceived plan of the Fatimids to keep their genealogy a top secret, owing to the intricate and dark passages it passed through and due to contradictions involved in the adoption of assumed names by the hidden Imams.

The variety of lineages suggested by the writers amounted to several hundreds, and the lineage between Wafi Ahmad and Radi Abdullah alone has been altered in no less than fifty ways. Since the hidden Imams had assumed different names in various regions to outsiders, in order to evade the vigilance of the Abbasids, the historians derived their informations on hearsay. The Ismaili Imams of that period were too cautious to disclose their true names; instead they assumed names, other than their owns and used for themselves the names of their dais. The hidden Imams, for the most part, could not pass the settled lives in specific places, but were known by names other than their own, sometimes by names of their dais and hujjats as a precautionary measure designed to ward off the danger of their persons being discovered.

The absence of detailed biographies of the three hidden Imams is also the result of their having lived in strict disguise. This seems quite probable, if one realizes the situation very seriously. What in fact would the popular memory preserve about the Imams when these were living ostensibly as local merchants, carrying on their business, associating with friends, directing their followers through secret agency of mission, marrying, educating their children, etc. The memory of these traditions is very meagre, retaining only reminiscences of the most important names and events. Similarly, the Ismaili dais also disguised as pious merchants of slightly lower standing, also left behind very trivial traces. Thus the leaving of any trace of their activities in writing was obviously avoided as much as possible. W.Ivanow writes in 'The Rise of the Fatimids' (Calcutta, 1942, pp. 43-44) that, 'Thus the long blank period in the story of the Imams, living in such conditions, cannot reasonably be taken as valid proof of the falsity of their claims to continuous succession from their original ancestor, Ismail b. Jafar.'

Even though the period of concealment and fear of the Abbasids were no longer in existence, the Fatimids were insistent not to divulge the names of their earlier three hidden Imams, the link between Imam al-Mahdi and Imam Muhammad bin Ismail. It seems quite possible that these Imams had assumed names for more than one time, and hid their true names, and were too complicated to be clarified. The followers also seem to have given much priority on the Imam of the time, descending from Muhammad bin Ismail. This secrecy however led too much confusion and made it too hard to locate the real names of the hidden Imams. It is also a striking feature that these three hidden Imams are not mentioned by the early renowned Ismaili scholars, viz. Abu Hatim ar-Razi (d. 322/934), Qadi Noman (d. 363/974), Jafar bin Mansur al-Yamen (d. 365/975) and other authors of 4th/10th century.

Commenting the aggressive attitude of the historians, Ivanow writes in 'The Rise of the Fatimids' (Calcutta, 1942, p. 29) that, 'With their predominantly hostile tendency, each author vie with the others in inventing something more humiliating and scandalous for the dynasty.' The diversity of the names of the three hidden Imams can be judged from the following list of some special surname and epithet, whose implications were intelligible only to the trusted followers, indicating a causative factor of the contradictions in the sources:

ABDULLAH : Radi, Ahmad, Abu Muhammad, al-Wafi AHMAD : Wafi, Muhammad, Abul Hussain, at-Taqi. HUSSAIN : Muhammad, Taqi, Ahmad, Abu Abdullah, az-Zaki, al-Muqtada al-Hadi, ar-Radi.

The fact about the Imams assuming the above code names in one or more times can be derived from the letter of Imam al-Muizz (341-365/953-975), which he routed in 354/965 to his dai in Sind, named Jaylam bin Shayban, which is preserved in the 5th volume of 'Uyun'l-Akhbar' by Idris Imaduddin. According to 'Expose de la Religion des Druzes' (Paris, 1838, p. 252) by de Sacy, 'These men (hidden Imams) obliged to seek concealment, took sometimes one name and sometimes another, in order to shelter from the pursuit of their enemies.' John Nicholson also writes in 'Establishment of the Fatemide Dynasty in Northern Africa' (1840, p. 12) that, 'They themselves have taken different names at different times in order to elude discovery.'

According to 'an-Naqdu'l-Khafi' by Hamza (cf. 'Expose de la Religion des Druzes' by Silverstre de Sacy, Paris, 1838, p. 74) that the Fatimid Caliph, al-Muizz had once said: 'I am the seventh in the second heptad.' As is well known, al-Muizz was the 14th Imam in the second heptad. The Imams of the first heptad were seven and the seventh one was Muhammad bin Ismail, and the Imams followed after him were also seven to make al-Muizz as the 14th Imam. Hence, the 13th Imam was al-Mansur, the 12th was al-Qaim and 11th was al-Mahdi. It therefore emerges conclusively that there must have been three Imams between al-Mahdi and Muhammad bin Ismail, whose names were Abdullah (Wafi Ahmad), Ahmad (Taqi Muhammad) and Hussain (Radi Abdullah) from 8th to 10th in the sequence. W. Ivanow writes in 'Ismailis and Qarmatians' (JBBRAS, Bombay, 1940, p. 74) that, 'Being the fourth Fatimid Caliph, al-Muizz was the seventh Imam after Muhammad bin Ismail. Thus this formally rejects the theory of the Fatimids descending from Abdullah bin Maymun.'

The statement of al-Muizz however does not contain the explicit names of the 'three hidden Imams', but before that, it is known that al-Mahdi had sent a letter in Yamen, which reached there after his arrival in Mahdiya in 308/921. Jafar bin Mansur al-Yamen (d. 365/975) had quoted the letter in his 'al-Fara'id wa Hudud ad-Din' (pp. 13-19), wherein the names of the three hidden Imams have been mentioned, viz. Abdullah, Ahmad and Muhammad. Dr. Sami Nasib Makarem writes in 'The Hidden Imams of the Ismailis' (al-Abhath, 21, 1969, p. 24) in this context that, 'If al-Mahdi's letter is authentic, it is one of the oldest documents that have come to light until now, and, consequently a most reliable document, especially because it was written by the Caliph al-Mahdi himself.'

Among the later Ismaili historians, Ahmad bin Muhammad an-Naysaburi, the author of 'Istitaru'l-Imam', compiled under Imam al-Aziz (365-386/975-996) seems first to have mentioned the names of the three hidden Imams. Later on, such references appear in the works of Hamiduddin Kirmani (d. 408/1017), in his 'Tanbihu'l-Hadi wa'l-Mustahdi' and 'ar-Risalat al-Wa'iza'. Idris Imaduddin (d. 872/1468) in 'Uyun'l-Akhbar' and Hasan bin Nuh Broachi (d. 939/1533) in 'Kitabu'l Azhar', had also advanced brief biographies of the three hidden Imams.

In sum, R. Strothmann writes in 'Gnosis-Texte der Ismailiten' (Gottingen, 1943, p. 59) that, 'The three Imams followed by Muhammad bin Ismail were in concealment: Abdullah al-Rida, Ahmad al-Wafi and Hussain al-Taqi, and finally the beginning of the Fatimid dynasty with al-Mahdi.'