Ismaili History 701 - SHAMSUDDIN MUHAMMAD (655-710/1257-1310)

Muhammad, surnamed Shams al-Din, the elder son of Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah is said to have born probably in 646/1230 in the fortress of Maimundiz during the time of Imam Alauddin Muhammad. He was known as Agha Shams in Syria, and Shah Shams in India. He is also known as Shamsu'l Haq in few Iranian poems. Poet Nizari Kohistani (d. 720/1320) called him Shamsuddin Shah Nimroz Ali and Shah Shams. He is also said to have been known as Shams Zardozi owing to residing in the village, called Zardoz in Azerbaijan, but another tradition suggests that he had adopted profession of embroidery and silk to sustain his family, therefore, the term zardoz (embroiderer) became his title.The butchery of the Ismailis conducted by the Mongols in Qazwin and Rudhbar following the reduction of Alamut, is taken by Ata Malik Juvaini conclusively as an end of the Ismailis and the unbroken line of the Imamate as well. There appears however vacuous reports for the descendants of Ruknuddin Khurshah and his followers in the work of Juvaini. He writes in his 'Tarikh-i Jhangusha' (tr. J.A. Boyle, Cambridge, 1958) that, 'Ruknu-ad-Din now saw what he had to expect and realize that he could not resist. The next day (November 16, 1256), he sent out his son, his only one, and another brother called Iran-Shah with a delegation of notables, officials and leaders of his people' (p. 717). This was Juvaini's first narrative when Alamut was being reduced, but while describing the brutal massacre of the Ismailis after about a year, he writes, 'And Qaraqai Bitikohi went to Qazwin with the order that Rukn-ad-Din's sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and all of his seed and family should be laid on the fire of annihilation' (p. 723).

Juvaini writes in the first phrase, 'his son, his only one' (pesr khudra ki hama'n yak pesr), and then writes in contrast in the second phrase, 'sons and daughters' (banin wa bannat). It implies clearly that Juvaini contradicts his own account, as he had no knowledge of an exact figure of the sons of Ruknuddin Khurshah. Moreover, Juvaini was not present during the fall of Maimundiz on November 19, 1256 where the family of Ruknuddin Khurshah resided, and therefore, his account cannot be trustworthy and reliable. It is however, known from few Iranian manuscripts that Shamsuddin Muhammad had steathily escorted out of the fortress of Maimundiz most probably on 11th Shawal, 654/November 1, 1256; and the Mongols reached there on 17th Shawal, 654/November 7, 1256; while Juvaini himself joined the Mongol after 12th Zilkada, 654/December 2, 1256. The extermination of the descendants of Ruknuddin Khurshah, as boasted by Juvaini is not to be trusted.

According to Bernard Lewis in 'The Assassins' (London, 1967, p. 63), 'The extirpation of the Ismailis in Persia was not quite as thorough as Juvaini suggests. In the eyes of the sectarians, Rukn al-Din's small son succeeded him as Imam on his death and lived to sire a line of Imams.' Marshall Hodgson also writes in 'The Order of Assassins' (Netherland, 1955. pp. 270 and 275) that, 'Juvaini assures himself that every Ismaili was killed; yet even if all the members of garrison were in fact killed, a great many other will have escaped.' He further adds, 'but their spirit was more nearly indomitable; as it is from among them that the great future of Nizari Ismailism sprouted again. It is said the child Imam was carried to Adharbayjan, where the Imams lived for some time.' According to W. Montgomery Watt in 'Islam and the Integration of Society'(London, 1961, p. 77), 'In 1256, Alamut was surrounded, and was destroyed and in the following year the Imam met his death and there was a widespread massacre of the Nizaris. It may be further mentioned that, despite this catastrophe and the fact that it has never since had a territory of its own, the community was not exterminated and the line of Imams was maintained unbroken.' In the words Farhad Daftary, 'The Nizaris of Persia, contrary to the declarations of Juwayni and later historians, did in fact survive the destruction of their state and strongholds at the hands of the Mongols. Despite the Mongol massacres, the Persian Nizari community was not starkly extirpated during 654-655/1256-1257, and significant numbers escaped the Mongol debacle in both Rudbar and Quhistan. And while Rukn al-Din Khurshah was spending the last few months of his life amongst the Mongols, the Nizari leadership evidently managed to hide his son and designated successor, Shams al-Din Muhammad, who became the progenitor of the Nizari Imams of post-Alamut period. The Nizari Imamate was thus preserved.' (Ibid. p. 435)

It may be surmised in a question that Nasiruddin Tusi was the only person in the fortress of Maimundiz, from whom the internal affairs during the reduction of the Alamut can be well expected. It seems that he divulged nothing about it, suggesting his strictness in taqiya. Halagu however, included him in his forthcoming operations, impelling some scholars to draw a conclusion that he had given up Ismailism. Granted that Nasiruddin Tusi had abandoned, the Mongols must have known the trace of Shamsuddin Muhammad from him, but it cannot be ascertained. It appears almost conclusively that the prime objective of Halagu was to reduce the Ismaili powers, and the family members he had seen with Ruknuddin Khurshah dismounting from Maimundiz was enough for him to understand them as an entire family. It is however worth noting that Shahanshah, Iranshah and Shiranshah; the brothers of Ruknuddin Khurshah had personally come into the contact of Halagu during negotiations, and the whole family members later on were detained at Qazwin, where Shahanshah was significantly absent as he had fled with Shamsuddin Muhammad. No investigation had been made for Shahanshah, which transpires that the Mongols aimed mainly on the reduction of the Ismaili powers without taking notice of the descendants of Ruknuddin Khurshah. To summarize briefly, the Mongols were quite unknown with the other side of the coin.

Scanning the meagre chains of few anonymous manuscripts, and the sparsely records of the traditions, it seems fairly certain that after leaving the fortress, Shamsuddin Muhammad arrived safely in Daylam with his uncle Shahanshah in eastern Gilan. The famous Ismaili dai Pir Shams (d. 757/1356) had seen him in his early life at Daylam, which he has recounted in his 'Chandrabann' (p. 40).

It has been indicated in the previous chapter that Imam Jalaluddin Hasan (d. 618/1221) was quick to diagnose the gushing forth of the Mongol storms in Iran, and therefore, he had taken few precautionary measures. He had commanded his army and gone to Arran and Azerbaijan to help Muzaffaruddin Uzbek, the Ildenizid ruler to fight against Nasiruddin Mengali in 610/1214. Jalaluddin Hasan seems to have prolonged his stay deliberately for 3 to 4 months, and selected most suitable zone to seek refuge for himself, or any other Imam in his descent during the time of Mongol's massacres. It seems probable that he had designed a safe route from Alamut to Azerbaijan. His great grandson, Shamsuddin Muhammad was finally destined to repair in Azerbaijan, most possibly on the tract mapped out in 611/1215.

Shamsuddin Muhammad would have arrived in Daylam before fall of Alamut, and thence he is reported to have stayed in the house of Kai-Ka'us bin Shahanshah at Kutum, a district of Gilan lying to the west of Safid-Rud. Kai-Ka'us was the brother of the wife of Imam Jalaluddin Hasan, and the hereditary ruler of Kutum, who lived till 658/1260. It seems likely that Shamsuddin Muhammad had been well treated at Kutum before resuming his onward journey.

Shamsuddin Muhammad further moved to Ardabil and in the surrounding towns. It is said that he also lived in Ahar, lying about 150 miles west of Ardabil. He is reported to have lived also in Tabriz, which he most possibly evacuated in the early months of 1257 as Halagu invaded Tabriz on July 26, 1257. He seems to have been known as Shams Tabriz by the local Sufis in Tabriz. Pir Shihabuddin Shah (d. 1884) writes in 'Khitabat-i Alliya' (Tehran, 1963, p. 42) that, 'Shamsuddin Muhammad who lived in Tabriz, was compared by the local people to the sun, because of his handsome countenance, and thus he came to be called Shams (the sun) of Tabriz. This gave rise to the confusion between him and Shams Tabrizi, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, but they were always in reality two different persons.'

It is also related that he passed considerable time in Angoda, lying on the old route linking Ispahan and Hamdan. In sum, the accessible fragments suggest that Shamsuddin Muhammad most probably lived from one to another place under different mantles in the province of Azerbaijan. The veritable locality of his residence, however, has not been substantiated. Azerbaijan was a big province spread over 104000 square kilometers, bounded on the south-east by Jibal, on the south-west by the eastern Jazira, on the west by Armenia, on the north by Arren, and on the east by shore-lands of the Caspian Sea and Gilan. The most famous towns in Azerbaijan were Tabriz, Ardabil, Ahar, Angoda, Urmiya, Marand, Khwai, Dilman, Miyana, Taruj, Laylan, Julfah, Nakjawin, etc. The north-eastern part of the province was thickly populated by the Turkomans, and the south-western was inhabited by the Kurds. Azerbaijan was a fertile land for the growing Sufi circles, and Shamsuddin Muhammad had settled in northern region with his family, where he professed in silk and embroidery works, for which the region was noted at that time. Abul Fida (d. 732/1331) writes in 'Taqwin al-Buldan' that, 'The northern region of Azerbaijan was rich with the products of silk and embroidery works. The silkworms fed on the oak trees and that the women went out to gather it up, and afterwards dried it in an oven on brass pans.'

Summing up the travel of Shamsuddin Muhammad from Maimundiz to Azerbaijan, it seems certain that there were hardly four to five main stations where he had effected junctions during the whole journey. He seems to have left behind at least two trusted dais at each station before he embarked, so that the necessary information be communicated from one to another station. It is most certain that poet Nizari Kohistani (d. 720/1320) had reached the residence of Shamsuddin Muhammad at Azerbaijan after getting information very privily from the above daisat any station, most probably at Tabriz. It was however most difficult for him to trace out the hidden Imam in a big province, had he not known the clues.

The period under review is noted to have left the Ismaili mission in disarray and it appears that in many regions, it was conducted passively and that too very secretly in accordance with the directives of the elder persons. However, the period between 1257 and 1265 was possibly barren for the dawa, but was noted for the Ismailis in searching peaceful regions. They had absolutely lost their contact with the Imam. The Syrian Ismailis seem to have acquired few clues of Imam's whereabouts, and some of them had travelled towards Azerbaijan by taking routes of Jazira and Mosul in the cloaks of the Sufis or traders. The deprivation of regular guidance from the Imam had compelled the surviving Ismailis to observe strict taqiya by taking a flood of inspiration and fillip from the events of their past history.

After Alamut operations, Halagu marched on Baghdad and reached on January 18, 1258. On January 30, the Mongols opened a heavy bombardment. On the morning of Wednesday, February 13, 1258, the Mongols entered Baghdad. The citizens were mercilessly massacred, and the city was plundered and then set on fire. Thus, Baghdad, the proud capital of the Abbasids, was razed to dust, groaning under the pagan heels of the Mongols. Diyarbakri (d. 982/1574) writes in 'Tarikh-i Khamis'that, 'The massacre continued in Baghdad for 34 days during which 1,80,000 persons were put to the sword. For four days, the blood ran freely in the streets and the water of Tigris was dyed red for miles.' The savage massacres can be further judged from the example quoted by Steven Runciman in 'A History of the Crusades' (London, 1954, p. 303) that, 'One Mongol found in a side-street forty new born babies, whose mothers were died. As an act of mercy, he slaughtered them, knowing that they could not survive with no one to suckle them.' The victorious army pursued and attacked at full gallop. The 37th Abbasid caliph al-Mustasim (640-656/1242-1258) was destined to be the last caliph, and was beaten to death on Halagu's orders, and according to another version, trampled on by horses. Abul Faraj writes in 'Tarikh Mukhtasar al-Duwal' (pp. 445- 6) that, 'The Abbasid caliph al-Mutasim was devoted to entertainment and pleasure, passionately addicted to playing with birds, and dominated by women. He was a man of poor judgement, irresolute, and neglectful of what is needful for the conduct of government. When he was told what he ought to do in the matter of the Tatars, either to propitiate them, enter into their obedience and take steps to gain their goodwill, or else to muster his armies and encounter them on the borders of Khorasan before they could prevail and conquer Iraq, he used to say, `Baghdad is enough for me, and they will not begrudge me if I renounce all the other countries to them. Nor will they attack me when I am in it, for it is my house and my residence.' Such baseless fancies and the like prevented him from taking proper action, and so he was stricken by calamities which he had never imagined.'

In sum, Prof. Masudul Hasan writes in 'History of Islam' (Lahore, 1987, 2nd vol., p. 192) that, 'The gravest fault of the Abbasid caliphs was that they suffered the state to be fragmented thereby weakening the power structure and exposing the state to foreign attack. Thus our value-judgement is that the Abbasid caliphs were themselves responsible for their fall.' According to Vladimir Minorsky in 'Iran: Opposition, Martyrdom and Revolt' (Chicago, 1955, p. 192), 'Ata Malik Juvaini sheds tears over the misfortunes of the Muslims, and at the same time attributes to his infidel masters the role of those of whom God said: `They are My troops through whom I take My vengeance upon the rebels.''

Halagu's third major campaign was directed against the Ayyubids in Syria. He seized Aleppo in 658/1260, while his commander, Ket-Buqa made his triumphal entry in Damascus on Rabi I, 658/March, 1260. It was the same year that four Ismaili strongholds, including Masiyaf were surrendered to the Mongols. Halagu had to return to Iran upon hearing the news of Mongke's death in 657/1259. On 25th Ramdan, 658/September 3, 1260, the Mongols suffered a drastic defeat at Ayn Jalut (Goliath's Spring) near Nazareth in Palestine at the hands of the Mamluk armies of Egypt. Ket-Buqa was taken prisoner and scourged to death. Ayn Jalut was one of the world's decisive battles. The Muslim Asia seemingly on the verge of ruin, made a surprising recovery. Ayn Jalut destroyed the Mongol power and kept the pagan hordes out of Egypt and the Maghrib. Soon afterwards, the Mongols were expelled from all of Syria, where the Mamluk sultan Baybars rapidly emerged as the ruling power, and became an unchallenged ruler of Egypt and Syria. The Ismailis evidently collaborated with the Mamluk sultan and other Muslim rulers in repelling the Mongols from Syria, and after the battle of Ayn Jalut in 658/1260, they recovered their four strongholds.

If a balance sheet of the merciless massacres is drawn up, the most modest estimate reveals that the Mongols during the period between 1228 and 1260 had slaughtered at least eight million Muslims in cold blood for the establishment of their political authority over the Muslim lands.

Ismaili History 702 - Foundation of Ilkhanid dynasty

The great Khan Kubilai (1260-1294), absorbed in the administration of China, had lost interest in the western provinces and was happy that Iran should be governed by his brother Halagu (1256-1265), on whom he bestowed the title of Il-Khan(tribal khan, local khan or subordinate khan), which all the descendants of Halagu were to assume. Halagu thus founded in Iran the Il-Khanid dynasty (1265- 1335). He died in February 8, 1265 and was succeeded by his seven successors one after another, namely Abaqa (1265-1282), Takudar (1282-1284), Arghun (1284-1291), Gaykhatu (1291-1295), Ghazan (1295-1304), Uljaytu (1304-1316) and Abu Sa'id (1317-1334). With the death of Abu Sa'id the Illkhanid dynasty in Iran virtually came to an end. One key aspect of the Mongol conquest however was that for the first time, Iran and other large areas of the Muslim world founded themselves governed from 1221 to 1295.The fall of Alamut must have had a tremendous impact upon the Syrian Ismailis, and greatly impaired their morale. They were now deprived of the leadership and occasional practical guidance formerly given to them from Alamut. The Mongols had constituted befalling and perennial distress to the Ismailis in Syria. During the Mongol's incursion in Syria, the Ismailis were under the leadership of dai Radi al-Din Abul Ma'ali (d. 659/1261), who had punished the Ismaili chiefs who had surrendered their castles to the Mongols. Ibn Muyassar (1231-1278) writes in 'Tarikh-i Misar' (p. 68) that, 'Radi al-Din had become the chief dai in Syria in 656/1258, and before succeeding to that office, he had gone to Mamluk Egypt as an Ismaili envoy in 655/1257.' The Syrian Ismailis established friendly relations with sultan Baybars (658-676/1260-1277). Ibn Abd al-Zahir (d. 692/1293) writes in 'Sirat al-Malik al-Zahir' (pp. 138-9) that, 'In 659/1261, sultan Baybars granted rights to the Ismaili territories to al-Malik al-Mansur (642-683/1244- 1285), the Ayyubid prince of Hammah.' Meanwhile, the Syrian Ismailis sent an embassy to sultan Baybars, demanding successfully the privileges they had enjoyed under the Ayyubids. Baybars appointed Jamaluddin Hasan bin Thabit as the head of the Ismailis in place of Radi al-Din, which was evidently opposed and scourged to death. Radi al-Din died and the aged Najmuddin Ismail bin al-Sharani (d. 672/1274), who was probably above 80 years old, became the head of the Syrian mission in 660/1262. He was later on assisted by his son Shamsuddin and his son- in-law Sarimuddin Mubarak, the son of Radi al-Din. The Syrian Ismailis continued to hold possession of eight strongholds, namely, Masiyaf, Qadmus, Kahf, Khwabi, Rusafa, Maynaqa, Ulayqa and Qulaya.

In 661/1263, when sultan Baybars was engaged in his campaign against the Franks, an Ismaili deputation under Shamsuddin and Sarimuddin is reported to have come to the sultan with gifts. According to 'Sirat al-Malik al-Zahir' (comp. in 663/1264) by Ibn Abd al-Zahir (d. 692/1293), 'Ambassadors of the Ismailis arrived with presents, and the two sons of the rulers, who were the commanders of the Ismailis, also came; the sultan treated them with kindness, after which they departed.' In 664/1265, however sultan Baybars ordered the collection of taxes on the gifts being sent to the Ismailis by the Frankish kings and the ruler of Yamen. Soon afterwards, the Ismailis began to pay tribute to Baybars, following the truce concluded in 664/1266 between the Mamluk sultan and the Hospitallers, the terms of which stipulated that the latter must renounce the tribute hitherto they used to levy upon the Ismailis and other Muslim rulers in the districts of Hammah and Hims. In 665/1267, the Ismailis became tributaries of Mamluk sultan, paying him what was paid previously to the Hospitallers.

In 669/1271, when sultan Baybars was besieging the Frankish castle of Hisn al- Akrad, two Ismaili fidais from Ulayqa were alleged to have joined hands with Bohemond IV of Tripoli to kill sultan Baybars, Thus, Baybars took swift action, and ordered that the stronghold of Ulayqa should be besieged. Ulayqa and Rusafa were reduced at first, and Khwabi, Qulaya, Maynaqa and Qadmus also capitulated in 671/1273. Only the garrison of Kahf mustered some resistance. Having taken the control of the Ismaili territories, sultan Baybars, however tolerated the Ismailis and did not eliminate them. The Ismailis were allowed to exist as loyal subjects of the Mamluks.

Indeed, there are however, some historical reports that sultan Baybars and his successors used to employ the services of the Ismaili fidais against their own enemies, whose benefit was acquired by the Mamluks, and the defamations were put on the Syrian Ismailis. Hence, the Ismaili fidais had been used as an instrument to threaten the enemies of the Mamluks. The historians however have painted it in gloomier colours than it merits. The Mamluk sultan Baybars (d. 676/1277) subjugated the Ismailis since 671/1273, making them devoid of any political significance, and existed as the loyal subjects of the Mamluks and later the Ottoman of Turkey. In sum, with the surrender of Kahf, the last Ismaili castle, on 22nd Zilhida, 671/July 10, 1273 and the elimination of the Ismaili power in Syria, sultan Baybars I completed what Halagu Khan had began in Iran in 654/1256.

The Ismailis in Khorasan and Badakhshan including upper Oxus were relatively not accessible to the Mongol sword during the turbulent period. They continued to develop a distinctive tradition of their own and played prominent role in preserving the Nizari Ismaili literature. It is important to note that the Ismailis of the upper Oxus considered Aziz Nasafi as a co-religionist. He was a celebrated Sufi master and a prolific writer in Central Asia, who later emigrated to Iran and died there around 661/1262. His famous Sufic treatise, 'Zubdat al- Haqaiq' (Quintessence of Metaphysical Truth) is preserved still in Badakhshan being an Ismaili work, which was lithographed in Tehran in 1903.

The Indian Nizari Ismailis, designated chiefly by the term Khoja since the time of Pir Satgur Nur, also continued to retain their own traditions under the leadership of local elders in Gujrat until they merged with the growing Ismaili community in India.

The Ismailis in Iran, however, became absolutely disorganized and disoriented immediately with the destruction of their state. Despite the repressions and debacles, the Ismailis' fortune continued to rise gradually in Iran during the turbulent years. Those who managed to survive the Mongol massacres in Rudhbar and Kohistan, had entered a new era of their history. They mostly had taken refuge in obscurity, cloaked by the forms of a Sufi tariqah, and most of them referred to their spiritual leader not as an Imam but as a Pir for many years. The underground existence of the Ismailis in whole Iran did not attract the attention of the historians, who did not have any direct link or approach with them and who, like Juvaini, also wrote that the Mongols had completely extirpated the Nizari Ismailis in Iran. It however appears that many of them had escaped the main brunt of the Mongol onslaughts and did exist in Kohistan, Daylam, Rudhbar etc. A facsimile of a manuscript dating 690/1290 composed by Wahid al-Muluk, unearthed by Sir E. Denison Ross (cf. Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1931, 2nd vol., p. 202), indicating that, 'In Persia, the Ismaili communities were decimated by massacre, but survived after the surrender of Alamut and other fortresses in Daylam and Kohistan.' Poet Nizari Kohistani (d. 720/1320) very watchfully describes the survival of the Ismailis in Kohistan, Birjand, Rudhbar etc. in his 'Kulliyat', a manuscript in the Institute of Language and Literature of the Academy of Science of the Tajik. Mustapha Qazwini compiled his 'Nuzhat al-Qulub' in 740/1340 also gives a condensed account of Rudhbar in Mazandaran, whose inhabitants were Ismailis. The Ismailis also lived in Gilan, probably in the mantle of the local Sufis. H.L. Rabino writes in 'Rulers of Gilan' (JRAS, 1920, vol., III, p. 294) that, 'It is generally believed that the fall of castle of Alamut in 654/1256 marks the end of the Ismaili influence in Gilan. This is a great mistake. Either the destruction of Alamut cannot have a complete as reported by the Persian writers, or the castle was rebuilt.'

Yet, Lamasar held out for another year before cholera broke out and killed the bulk of garrison. The few who survived the epidemic had no alternative but to surrender in 655/1258. The valiant garrison of Girdkuh however continued to resist its Mongol besiegers for 13 years after the reduction of Alamut. In the biography of Kuo K'an, the Chinese officer in Mongol forces, it is recorded that Girdkuh was situated on the top of the mountain Tan-han (i.e., Damghan), and was only accessible by ladders, which were guarded by the most valiant troop, vide 'Mediaeval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources' (London, 1888, 1st vol., p. 122) by E. Bretschneider. In another Chinese source, 'Hsi Shin Chi', we find a record of the journey of a Chinese envoy, Chang Te, sent by Halagu in 1259; wherein it is described Girdkuh as a mountain fortress 'on a very steep rock, which could not be reached by arrows or stones. The rock was so steep that when one looked up, his cap fell off.' Haython however writes in 'Flos Historianrum Terrae Orientis' that, 'Tigado (Girdkuh) was an impregnable castle, well furnished with all necessaries, and was so strong that it had no fear of attack on any side.' At length, the garrison came down not due to starvation, but it was the lack of adequate clothing against the severe winter cold that ultimately broke their spirits. The final surrender reported to have taken place on 29th Rabi II, 669/December 15, 1270.

It has been learnt that when Halagu quitted Iran for his operations against Baghdad, the Ismaili commanders at remote distance had also surrendered their castles upon receipt of official orders without knowing veritable picture. Few among them are reported to have treked in Rudhbar after the massacre of the Ismailis in 656/1257. They made an intensive search of the succeeding Imam after being known locally that Ruknuddin Khurshah had been also killed. With the help of few local fidais, the Ismaili commanders obtained possession of Alamut around 674/1275, about five years after the fall of Girdkuh. The fortress underwent temporary construction and renovation. The reason for re-occupation, as we have been informed, was to give an inkling to the hiding Imam and the Ismailis to come out of concealment. If this version certainly embodies grain of truth, it implies that the Ismailis of Rudhbar were not yet acquainted with the whereabouts of the Imam. According to 'Tarikh-i Guzida' (1st vol., p. 583), 'They retained Alamut for almost one year before they were dislodged by a force sent against them by Halagu's son and successor Abaqa (d. 680/1282).' It is also related that the Ismaili dais of Rudhbar had communicated a report to some unknown dais, and the latter had transmitted it onwards till it reached to the Imam. Shamsuddin Muhammad is reported to have instructed his Iranian followers to observe taqiyaand adjust themselves in pursuant of the conditions of their localities. Henceforward, the Iranian Ismailis came to know of Shamsuddin Muhammad as their Imam.

Virtually, nothing else is known about the activities of Shamsuddin Muhammad in northern Azerbaijan. Certain allusions in the still unpublished 'Safar-nama' of poet Nizari Kohistani indeed indicate that Shamsuddin Muhammad and possibly his successor lived in concealment in Azerbaijan, or southern Caucasus.

Ismaili History 703 - Poet Nizari Kohistani

Naimuddin bin Jalaluddin bin Muhammad Nizari Kohistani was born in Birjand in 645/1247. He got the rudiments of his formal education at home from his father, who was also a poet himself and a devout Ismaili. Later on, Nizari attended school in Birjand and Qain, and studied Persian and Arabic literature. His father was a land- lord in Birjand, but lost his estate during the Mongol onslaught in Kohistan and subsequently, Nizari had to serve at the court of Shamsuddin Muhammad I (643- 684/1245-1285), the founder of the Kurt dynasty of Herat; and became a court-poet.Nizari travelled excessively for supervising the revenue and expenditure of Azerbaijan and Arran. He set out from Khasp in Birjand on a long journey with a certain Tajuddin Amid in Shawal, 678/February, 1280. He fell ill in Tabriz, and resumed his journey in Safar, 679/June, 1280 with a certain Shamsuddin Juvaini, who was also travelling there for same purpose. Nizari visited Azerbaijan, Arran, Georgia, Armenia and Baku, which lasted for two years (678-679/1280-1281). Muqaddasi had reported earlier in 'Kitab al-Akalim' (comp. in 375/985) that Azerbaijan, Arran and Armenia formed part of a single province, which he designated as Iklim ar-Rihab(the region of high plains). It was during this journey that Nizari did see Shamsuddin Muhammad and his successor. He recounted the account of his journey in his 'Safar-nama' in mathnawi form, comprised of 1200 verses. Nizari has termed the Ismailis significantly as 'Ikhwan as-Safa'.

After his return, Nizari got married and entered the service of Kurt rulers, who had penetrated their influence in Afghanistan and Khorasan. His enemies aroused the Kurt ruler and was dismissed and his properties were confiscated. He composed 'Munazara-i Shab-i Rauz' (conflict of day and night) wherein he described the troubles he had faced. Nizari took up agriculture during retiring life and died in Birjand in 720/1320 during the reign of Ghiasuddin (d. 729/1328). He also composed 'Mathnawi Azhar-u-Mazhar' in 700/1300, narrating the terrible operations of the Mongols in Iran. His another famous work, 'Dastur-nama' (book of rule) which he composed for his son, reflecting the doctrines of Sufism and Ismailism. According to Daulatshah (d. 900/1494) in 'Tazkertu'sh Shu'ara' that, 'This is a book to be treasured by gifted and intellectual minds.' In 'Mathnawi' (verse 43), Nizari Kohistani writes eloquently in praise of Shamsuddin Muhammad that:-

'He is the prince of the universe, the crown of the faith. He is the son of Ali, who is the light of the eyes of the great king (Muhammad). He (Shamsuddin) Muhammad is the father of spiritualism, and the sweetest fruit of the eternal garden of creation.'

One can hardly paint a true picture of the condition under which the Ismailis lived in different regions after an end of their power. The overt hostility of the general Muslims continued to be unchanged in all corners on one side, and the Mongol sword was hunting them on other. The survived Ismailis were forced to exist in various cloaks, that had made the ostensible appearances so conclusive as if there had been not a single Ismaili on the surface. The underground existence of the Ismailis had become congenial condition for the contemporary historian, like Juvaini (1226-1283) and the traveller, like Marco Polo (1254-1324) to shift the fictions and cheap stories to the account of the Ismailis to win the hearts of their pagan masters. Hence, Iran for the most part became a breeding ground of fictions for bigoted historians. Henceforth, whatever was salvaged of various types of Ismaili works came to be preserved secretly and in private collections. As a result, the history of the Ismailis and doctrines came almost exclusively from the pens of Sunni historians who, as a rule, were hostile towards the Ismailis. Thus, numerous distortions and negative biases are contained in the tracts of these chroniclers.

Previously indicated that in the time of Imam Alauddin Muhammad (d. 653/1255), the Mongols were spurring to their operations against Alamut. Shamsuddin, the chief Qadi of Qazwin had also lodged false allegations against Alamut at the court of Mongke (1251-1258) in Mongolia. Halagu therefore had been charged the main Mongol expedition across Central Asia to Iran, where he did not arrive before 654/1256. But already in 650/1252, he had dispatched an advance army of 12000 men under the command of Ket-Buqa, who reached Iran in 651/1253 and began his onslaught on the Ismaili strongholds in Kohistan; and sent raiding parties into Rudhbar and Tarum. On other side, Shamsuddin, the chief Qadi of Qazwin, immediately after returning from Mongolia, assailed in bitter sarcasms against Alamut in Qazwin and the surrounding regions, giving also high tidings for the coming of the Mongols in Iran. The scrutiny of the sources indicates that a bulk of the frightened Muslims calmly began to evacuate the vicinity of Rudhbar and Kohistan during the period of Alauddin Muhammad to escape the main brunt of the Mongols. The stampede of the Muslims had also carried away with them the then latest report that 'Alauddin Muhammad is the ruler of Alamut, and the Mongols are about to come to reduce Alamut.' These Muslims ultimately settled down in Qazwin, Daylam and Tabriz; where they came to know the fall of Alamut. On that juncture, they seem to have generalized an image in minds that the Alamut's fall would have been taken place in the time of Alauddin Muhammad, incorporating the then report they had brought from their villages. This tradition received credence in some circles, ingnoring palpably the one year rule of Ruknuddin Khurshah followed by Alauddin Muhammad. When the Mongol storms diffused in Iran, the historicity of Ruknuddin Khurshah itself began to be floated. But, it seems that the above idea continued to remain prevailed many years in Qazwin, Daylam and Tabriz, making Alauddin Muhammad as the last ruler of Alamut, which also curiously sounds in the account of Marco Polo (1254-1324), who had most possibly heard these fantastic stories from these orbits in 671/1272. For instance, Marco Polo narrates: 'I will tell you his story just as I Messer Marco, have heard it told by many people.... The Shaikh was called in their language Alaodin.... So they were taken, and the Shaikh, Alaodin, was put to death with all his men.' (vide 'The Travels of Marco Polo' by Ronald Latham, London, 1958, pp. 40-42).

When Shamsuddin Muhammad had been in Tabriz once or more times, he became known as Shams Tabriz. There had been another Shams-i Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 672/1273) in the same period, who was not tracable after 645/1247 in Koniya. It is therefore possible that Shamsuddin Muhammad had chosen to cloak his identity in Tabriz for some times under the name of the master of Jalaluddin Rumi in the Sufic circles. Rida Quli Khan (d. 1872) writes in 'Majmau'l Fusaha' that, 'Shaikh Abu Hamid Awhadu'ddin Kirmani had seen and met Shams-i Tabriz in Tabriz.' To this we must add the likelihood that Shaikh Abu Hamid had veritably seen Shamsuddin Muhammad in the mantle of Shams-i Tabriz. When Shamsuddin Muhammad was identified as the 'son of the last ruler of Alamut', he was ultimately considered as the 'son of Alauddin Muhammad,' incorporating him in the above tradition.

A cloud of mystery has surrounded the life of another contemporary Shams-i Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi after 645/1247. Shamsuddin Aflaki, who wrote in 754/1353 that the death of Shams-i Tabriz took place in Koniya in 645/1247. It seems that a group of the Sufis had cultivated a story that after leaving Koniya, Shams-i Tabriz had gone to Tabriz, and there Shamsuddin Muhammad, known as Shams Tabriz had been identified as same Shams-i Tabriz after few years. Thus, Shamsuddin Muhammad began to be equated with that of Shams-i Tabriz, and henceforward, two Shams Tabriz at one period were confounded.

When the people conclusively identified Ruknuddin Khurshah as the last ruler, most probably after 671/1272, one another tradition seems to have been originated to distinguish these two characters. Shamsuddin Muhammad had been deleted from that story from being the son of Alauddin Muhammad, but Shams-i Tabriz was made known as the son of Alauddin Muhammad instead. Being influenced with this tradition, Daulatshah (d. 900/1494) was the first to show Shams-i Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi as the son of Alauddin Muhammad, in his 'Tazkertu'sh Shu'ara'. A question then arises, who was Shams-i Tabriz? He indeed was an Ismaili, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, but not the son of Alauddin Muhammad. As to the early life of Shams-i Tabriz, we are yet in dark. Shamsuddin Aflaki (710-754/1310-1354) in 'Manaqibu'l Arifin' and Abdur Rahman Jami (d. 898/1493) in 'Nafhatu'l Uns' concur that Shams-i Tabriz was the son of a certain Muhammad bin Ali bin Malikad. Rida Quli Khan (d. 1872) in his 'Majmau'l Fusaha' also relied on Aflaki and Jami. According to 'Silsilatu'ad-Dhahab', it is wrong to allege Shams-i Tabriz to have been the son of Alauddin Muhammad. It was only Daulatshah (d. 900/1494) who made him the son of Alauddin Muhammad being influenced by the wrong tradition. Prof. Muhammad Iqbal of Punjab University, who prepared the Lahore edition of Daulatshah's work, makes his remarks that: ' is evident that Daulatshah has not written historical facts carefully in his book. He has accepted all sorts of traditions, right or wrong, owing to which several errors have crept into his work.' Edward G. Browne writes in 'A Literary History of Persia' (3rd vol., p. 436) that, 'This is an entertaining but inaccurate work, containing a good selection of historical errors.'

It is also worthy of notice, however, that Daulatshah quoted another tradition of parentage of Shams-i Tabriz that, 'Some people say that he was originally a native of Khorasan and belonged to the town of Bazar. His father had settled in Tabriz for the purpose of doing business in cloth.' It is probable that Shams-i Tabriz was the son of Muhammad bin Ali bin Malikad according to Aflaki and Jami, and he seems to be a native of Khorasan as per another tradition cited by Daulatshah. Nurullah Shustari (d. 1019/1610) in his 'Majalis al-Mominin' (6th vol., p. 291) states that Shams-i Tabriz descended from 'Ismaili headman' (da'iyani Ismailiyya budand). His father had settled in Tabriz, and was a cloth merchant. Shams-i Tabriz was indeed an Ismaili like his father, but it needs further scholarly scanning to trace his biography.

There is also a reason to believe that Jalaluddin Rumi must have been known both Shams-i Tabriz and Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad, but did not described palpably in his Diwan. He however addresses Shams as the heir of the Prophet (verse no. 2473) and compares him to Ali (verse no. 1944), which seems to have been referred only to the Imam.

Shamsuddin Muhammad is reported to have betrothed to a Sufi lady at Daylam in 675/1276, or next year. His sons, Momin Shah and Kiya Shah penetrated Ismaili dawaas far as Gilan. Momin Shah also travelled in Syria and served many years as a hujjat of the Imam. When he returned to Gilan, a section of the Syrian Ismailis, considered him the Imam's successor, who later on, became known as the Momin-Shahis. Muhibb Ali Qunduzi however writes in 'Irshadu't Talibin' (comp. in 929/1523) that, 'The schism took place after the death of Momin Shah in 738/1338.' The descendants of Momin Shah mostly lived in Khwand, a village in Qazwin, where they became known as Sadat-i Khwandia.

Shamsuddin Muhammad died in 710/1310 in Azerbaijan after vesting the office of Imamate in Kassim Shah.

It appears that the Ismaili sources have designed the history of the Imams in a sequence of father to son, emanating each succeeding Imam being the son of the preceding Imam. We have been told in this context that Kassim Shah was the son and successor of Shamsuddin Muhammad. But, the scrutiny of the sources and the fragments of the traditions, reveals starkly a different story, suggesting that Kassim Shah was the successor, but not a son, rather a grandson of Shamsuddin Muhammad. In other words, he was Kassim Shah bin Momin Shah bin Shamsuddin Muhammad. The chronicles of Momin Shahi sect, such as 'Irshadu't Talibin' (comp. 929/1523) by Muhibb Ali Qunduzi and 'Lamat al-Tahirin' (comp. 1110/1698) by Ghulam Ali bin Muhammad; contain variations in the names of the descendants of Shamsuddin Muhammad. 'Tarikh-i Firishta' (comp. 1015/1606) by Muhammad Kassim Firishta, and few other sources also offer a diverse account of the sons of Shamsuddin Muhammad. These sources however divulge some traces that Shamsuddin Muhammad was succeeded by his grandson, Kassim Shah bin Momin Shah. It is worthwhile that 'Haft Bab' of Abu Ishaq Kohistani, who died in the beginning of the 10th/16th centuries, places Momin Shah in the list of Imams, making him the successor of Shamsuddin Muhammad, and Kassim Shah as the successor of Momin Shah. It ensues from the episode that Abu Ishaq Kohistani must have identified Kassim Shah being the grandson of Shamsuddin Muhammad in his period, and had inserted the name of Momin Shah between them, to adjust the succession list in an order, and to give coherence to the traditional notion.

Later on, it seems that the Ismailis, after knowing Kassim Shah being followed by Shamsuddin Muhammad, had omitted the name of Momin Shah in the list to distinguish themselves from Momin Shahi sect. It resulted possibly the historicity of a grandsontransformed into a son, and one can find the like effect in India in 'Satveni'ji Vel' by Sayed Nur Muhammad Shah (d. 940/1534).

In sum, it ensues that Shamsuddin Muhammad seems to have succeeded by his grandson, Kassim Shah. Besides, the tradition of the succession of a grandson can be seen equally potent in the famous Will of the Aga Khan III, who has unmasked the succession of the grandson in the light of the past tradition while appointing his grandson to succeed him. It reads: 'Ever since the time of my ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years, it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants, whether they be sons or remote male issue....' This would thus tend to be a safe conclusion that the appointment of a grandson (the remote male issue) was enfoced in view of the tradition of last 1300 years, and thus it was not a new effect in this age. It unveils in a question that a like effect most probably had been taken place in the line of Shamsuddin Muhammad, who seems to have been succeeded by his grandson, Kassim Shah bin Momin Shah. W.Ivanow (1886-1970) and Farhad Daftary and other modern scholars have also shown almost pertinent possibility. The ardent students must investigate this field to unearth further historical truth.


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