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MOHTADI BIN AL-HADI (530-552/1136-1157), 21ST IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Muhammad bin Ali, surnamed al-Mohtadi is reported to have born in 500/1106. He was the first Ismaili Nizari Imam to be born in Iran. He is also called Muhtab and Muhammad I.

The Seljuq sultan Sanjar was ruling in Iran, while Iraq was under the control of sultan Masud. Sultan Malikshah III (547-548/1152-1153) was followed by Sanjar, and then Muhammad II (548-555/1153-1160). In Baghdad, the Abbasid caliph Rashid (529-530/1135-1136) was dethroned by sultan Masud, and Muktadi had been placed on the throne, who ruled till 555/1160. He was harsh against the Ismailis, and caused the manuscripts of Ikhwan as-Safa burnt in Baghdad, along with the writings of Ibn Sina in 545/1150. In Egypt, the Fatimid empire was in the hand of Abdul al-Hafiz (524-544/1130-1149), succeeded by al-Zafir (d. 549/1154) and al-Faiz (d. 555/1160).

Imam al-Mohtadi is said to have reorganized the Ismaili mission from his base in Lamasar. In 530/1136, he deputed da'i Zayn bin Abi Faraj in Syria with a sealed letter. This letter is preserved in the manuscript of da'i Ibrahim bin Abi'l Fawaris, who copied it on 16th Shawal, 890/1502, in which Imam al-Mohtadi addressed to his Syrian followers that:

"Verily, I am your Mawla Muhammad bin Ali bin Nizar. May God curse one who denies to believe the truth and covers it. We have charged da'i Zayn ibn Abi Faraj ibn Abi'l Hasan ibn Ali with this pledge to make the truth cleared for you for the manifestation of the truth...."

In this letter, Imam al-Mohtadi traces his lineage from Imam al-Nizar for four times, and concludes that, "After the termination of the 40th time (dawr-i arb'in), and (then) also after passing away of the 70th period (mudatu's sab'in), the time will be approaching for the appearance of the manifest truth (haq-i mubin) that will cause all the matters to obliterate and the earth will be glorified with the light of faith. The truth with his word (i.e., Imam) shall manifest in near future in the hearts of the seekers of gnosis."

The above letter was written as soon as Imam al-Mohtadi assumed the Imamate in 530/1136, describing the passing away of 40 years of dawr-i satr (concealment period) from 490/1097. He also foretold the appearance of an Imam in his descent after completion of 70 years on the whole. It was a prediction most probably for the Great Resurrection (qiyamat-i qubra) celebrated in 559/1164.

Kiya Buzrug had laid a firm foundation of the Nizari state for an independent territorial rule, and also minted the Nizari coin. He died in 532/1138 after ruling for 14 years. Imam al-Mohtadi appointed his son Muhammad bin Kiya as the third hujjat and ruler.

In 1966, the American Numismatic Society, New York acquired a great rarity of a coin, minted in 553/1158. It was illustrated in the American Numismatic Society's Annual Report for 1966 (pl.III,2). George C. Miles gave its detail in Coins of the Assassins of Alamut (Orientalia Lovaniensa Periodica, 3-5, 1972-74, pp. 155-162). Its size is 14 mm., weighing 0.635 gm. Its obverse side bears the name, "Muhammad bin (Kiya) Buzrug Ummid" and in the marginal legend, the name of the mint, kursi al-Daylam and the date 553 A.H. (1158 A.D.) have been clearly inscribed. The reverse area begins with the Shi'ite formula: "Ali is the friend of God" and the next three lines read: al-Mustapha li dinillah, Nizar (Nizar, the chosen for the religion of God). These three lines are followed by the marginal legend: amir al-mo'minin, salwat Allah alayhi wa-ala aba'ihi al-tahirin wa-abna'hi al-akramin (the blessings of God be upon him and upon his ancestors, the pure ones; and upon his descendants, the most honourable ones). George C. Miles reproduced the photographs of the six coins: There are few other coins minted at kursi al-Daylam with the same legends, differing only in dates.

It implies that the six coins from above had been struck during the period of Imam al-Mohtadi (530-552/1136-1157), and the two coins during the period of Imam al-Kahir (552-557/1157-1162). The early Imams in Alamut lived in concealment. They could show their slight appearances, but not whereabouts. None among them had taken power of the Nizari state at that time, and therefore, the name of the ruler, Muhammad bin Kiya Buzrug (532-557/1138-1162) was struck in the coins for governing the state. Paula Sanders however remarks in his Ritual, Politics, and the City in Fatimid Cairo (New York, 1994, p. 85) that, "The authority of the Fatimid caliph was challenged by the coins struck by the Nizaris at Alamut in the name of Nizar."

The above coins however bear the benedictory words, invoking the prayers for Imam al-Nizar, his ancestors and his descendants. This antique and numismatic evidence further concludes that the descendants of Imam al-Nizar in fact existed in Alamut, and rules out the views of the historians, purporting the discontinuation of the Nizarid line. Ibn Khallikan (1211-1282) writes in his Wafayat al-A'yan (tr. de Slane, Paris, 1868, 1:160) that, "Nizar is the person from whom the Ismaili princes (Imams), the possessors of the fortress of Alamut and other castles in Persia; trace their descent."

Meanwhile, the Seljuq sultan Daud, who had severely domineered on the Ismailis in Azerbaijan and was becoming a major threat. In 538/1143, four Ismaili fidais had to kill him at Tabriz to avoid further massacres.

Muhammad Taqi bin Ali Reza compiled Athar-i Muhammadi in 1310/1893, dealing with the history of the Ismaili Imams. It relates one incredible story that Kiya Buzrug Ummid had made a will to his son, Muhammad bin Kiya that he must give up the power in favour of Imam al-Mohtadi when he grew young. One day, when Muhammad bin Kiya asked about it to Imam al-Mohtadi, the latter said, "This is the task of my son Hasan after our death." Muhammad bin Kiya feared to hear it, since Imam al-Mohtadi had no male issue at that time. When Imam al-Mohtadi was at death-bed, he summoned Muhammad bin Kiya, and said, "My wife is expecting a child. You take her to your house after me and do not make a little snag in her treatment. She will bear a son, whom you name "Hasan", because he will be like his forefather in beauty, virtue, knowledge, ethic, fame and grandeur. You must consider him as your own son, and deliver him the power."

Granted that the above story is historically genuine, it will mean that Imam al-Kahir would have been born in 552/1157 immediately after the death of his father, Imam al-Mohtadi. It determines the age of Imam al-Kahir for five years when he died in 557/1162, which is absolutely false. Secondly, the above story indicates the name of the son of Imam al-Mohtadi as "Hasan" instead of al-Kahir, brushing off the historicity of Imam al-Kahir. Granted for a while that the son of Imam al-Mohtadi was Hasan, then it means that Hasan (or Hasan II) was hardly nine years old during his death in 561/1166, which is also unbelievable. In sum, the story of Athar-i Muhammadi is quite fictitious and contrary to the Ismaili traditions.

Imam al-Mohtadi was also taking care of the horses bred by his father in the fortress of Lamasar. He is also reported to have taken several visits of surrounding castles in Rudhbar. He died in 552/1157 at the age of 52 years. He vested the office of Imamate in his elder son, al-Kahir.


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