Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database. Guests are not required to login during this beta-testing phase

ALA MUHAMMAD (561-607/1166-1210), 24TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Nuruddin Muhammad, surnamed Ala, also called Ala Muhammad or Muhammad bin Hasan, was born around 550/1155 or 553/1158 in Alamut. He is also known as Muhammad II, and sometimes as Ziaruddin Muhammad. His mother related to the Buwahid family. Immediately upon his accession, he arrested Hasan bin Namavar and his relatives and sentenced them to death, who were responsible to kill the Imam's father.

Bernard Lewis writes in The Assassins (London, 1967, p. 95) that, "Hasan was succeeded by his son Muhammad, who proceeded to confirm that his father and therefore he himself were descendants of Nizar, and Imams. He is said to have been a prolific writer, and during his long reign, the doctrine of the Resurrection was developed and elaborated." B. Hourcade writes that, "Hasan's son, Nur al-din Mohammad II (d. 607/1210), consolidated the work of his father, whom he pronounced the true Imam, the secret son of a descendant of Nizar who had hidden at Alamut." (cf. Encyclopaedia of Iran and Islam ed. by Yarshater, London, 1982, p. 800).

Imam Ala Muhammad was greatly engaged in his interest on philosophy and esoteric doctrines. His literary output was voluminous and had compiled several books on Koranic exegesis to broach the doctrines of the Ismailis. He was well steeped in Arabic and composed many proverbs and poetry in Arabic, whose fragments had been into the memories of the Muslims in Qazwin. Few misconceptions had started among the Muslims during his period about the qiyama in Iran and Syria, therefore, Imam Ala Muhammad wrote several tracts to justify the doctrines of qiyama. In his elaboration of the doctrine of qiyama, he also assigned as usual a central role to the Imam. It further implied a complete personal transformation of the Ismailis who henceforth were expected to see nothing but the Imam and the manifestation of the divine truth in him. The Imam was defined in his essence as the epiphany (mazhar) of God.

The period of Imam Ala Muhammad was longer, in which there had been no war between the Ismailis and neighbouring rules. It is possible that the Abbasid and Seljuq powers were at their downfall, and were incapable to attack the Ismaili castles. Meanwhile, an important political change took place in Iran and other eastern lands. The Seljuqs disintegrated after Sanjar's death in 552/1157, being replaced by the Turkish amirs and generals. It must be remembered that Tughril Beg (d. 455/1063) had founded the Seljuqid empire in 447/1055 and was declined in 590/1194. This dynasty produced 15 rulers belonging to seven generations.

Towards the end of the twelfth century a new power emerged in the east. South of the Aral sea lay the land of Khawaraz in Central Asia, whose rulers assumed the title of the Khwarazmshahs. In about 586/1190, the Khawarazmshah Alauddin Tekish (d. 596/1200) occupied Khorasan, thus becoming master of eastern Iran. The Khawarazmians soon came to have an impressive empire of their own, stretching from the boarders of India to Anatolia. The Seljuq dynasty came to an end everywhere except in Anatolia when Alauddin Tekish defeated Tughril III at Ray in 590/1194. The triumphant Khawarazmshah was the obvious ruler to fill the vacancy created by the Seljuqs, and in the following year, the Abbasid caliph Nasir (d. 622/1225) invested Alauddin Tekish with the sultanate of western Iran, Khorasan and Turkistan.

We come across an instance of Ustandar Hazarasf bin Shahrnush (560-586/1164-1190), the Baduspanid ruler of Rustamdar and Ruyan, who had harboured himself at Alamut. According to Jamiut-Tawarikh (pp. 170-173), Hazarasf had cemented his close relation with the Ismailis residing at Rudhbar and granted them few castles in his territories. When his relation deteriorated with his superior, Husam ad-Dawla Ardashir (567-602/1172-1206), the Bawandid Ispahbad of Mazandarn, he took refuge at Alamut as a result. In due course, Hazarasf raided his former territories with the help of the Ismaili fidais and killed an Alid ruler of Daylaman. He was at last arrested and killed by Ardashir in 586/1190.

According to Jamiut Tawarikh (pp. 170-3), once Fakhruddin Razi (543-606/1149-1209) in his lectures to theological students in Ray harshly reviled the Ismailis. He used to say in his lectures that, "This is against the Islam. May God curse and disgrace them." Hearing intolerable words, a fidai was sent from Alamut to have it stopped. There he enrolled himself as a student, and attended Fakhruddin's lectures daily for seven months, until he found an opportunity of seeing him alone in his room. The fidai brandished a dagger and menaced him. Fakhruddin jumped aside, and said: "What do you want?" The fidai replied: "I want to slit your belly from the breast to the navel, because you have cursed us from the pulpit at each mention." After a tussle, the fidai hurled him to the floor and sat on his chest with his poniard at his throat. The terrified theologian promised to repent, and to refrain from such attacks in future. The fidai allowed him to be persuaded, and accepting a solemn undertaking from Fakhruddin to mend his ways, produced a bag containing 365 gold dinars with two Yamenite garments, being the first payment of a pension that the Imam granted for him, and assured him for a similar amount of grant for every year if he kept his promise. Henceforth, Fakhruddin Razi took good care to avoid expressions offensive to the Ismailis. One of his students, noting this change, asked, why he no longer assailed the Ismailis. The theologian replied: "It is not advisable to curse the Ismailis, for they have both weighty and trenchant arguments." Fakhruddin Razi had truly changed his attitude, and condemned one Sunni theologian, who tried to refute the Ismaili doctrines with fanatical and ill-informed abuse, and praised another for correctly citing an Ismaili text. His point, of course, was that the theological controversy must be based on correct information and an intelligent understanding of an opponent's point of view. Farkhruddin Razi received the annual grant from Alamut for five years through Ra'is Muzaffar until he was in Ray.

It is recounted that Qais bin Mansur al-Dadikhi was known to have visited Alamut during the period of Imam Ala Muhammad. He was born in Dadikh, a town in the district of Aleppo. He lived till the time of Imam Ala Muhammad and returned to Aleppo in 648/1250, where he died in 655/1257.

The celebrated Ismaili poet hailed from Khorasan, called Ra'is Hasan had visited Alamut around 587/1191, and glorified Imam Ala Muhammad in his poem, vide An Old Ismaili Poem tr. by W. Ivanow (cf. Ismaili, March, 1940, pp. 7-8). It was also a sort of prayer for seeking forgiveness for a breach of the mission rules in the Syrian community, and arrived in Iran to behold the Imam.

In Alamut, the period of Imam Ala Muhammad was noted for learning and prosperity. Taylor writes in The History of Mohammedanism and its sects (London, 1851, p. 187) that, "He was a diligent student himself and wrote several treatises on philosophy and jurisprudence which are valued highly even by those who were enemies of his order."

During the last 16 years of Imam Ala Muhammad's Imamate and reign, the Iranian Ismailis were engaged once again in petty warfare with their close neighbours. The Ismailis of Rudhbar had certain disputes with Mazandaran, and they had actually given refuge to Bisutun, the ruler of Ruyan who had engineered rebellion against the Bawandid Husam ad-Dawla Ardashir. In the meantime, the Ismailis began to spread their influences in Mazandaran and killed Rukn ad-Dawla Qarin, the younger brother of the Bawandid Shams al-Mulk Shah Ghazi Rustam II (602-606/1206-1210).

Meanwhile, the Ismailis of Rudhbar were confronted with the Khwarazmian general, who had replaced the Seljuqs in western Iran and were expanding their influence in Daylam. In 602/1205, Miyajiq, a Khwarazmian general, trickled and murdered a bulk of the Ismailis from Alamut and thereupon the Khwarazmian troops made themselves as the friends of the Qazwin, the traditional enemies of the Ismailis, and made raids from time to time on Rudhbar

Imam Ala Muhammad died on 10th Rabi I, 607/September 1, 1210 after the longest rule of 46 years. He had two sons, of whom the elder, Jalaluddin Hasan was succeeded to the Imamate.

Back to top