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SHAMSUDDIN MUHAMMAD (655-710/1257-1310), 28TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Imam Shams al-Din Muhammad is said to have born in 646/1230 in the fortress of Maimundiz. 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, also known as Shams Zardozi due to residing in the village, called Zardoz in Azerbaijan, but another tradition suggests that he had adopted profession of embroidery, the term zardoz (embroiderer) became his epithet.

Ata Malik Juvaini wrongly considers the butchery of the Ismailis conducted by the Mongols in Qazwin and Rudhbar following the reduction of Alamut, as an end of the Ismailis and the unbroken line of the Imamate as well. It is however, ascertained from few manuscripts that Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad had left the fortress of Maimundiz probably on 11th Shawal, 654/November 1, 1256; and the Mongols reached there on 17th Shawal, 654/November 7, 1256; while Juvaini joined the Mongols after 12th Zilkada, 654/December 2, 1256.

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."

Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad went to Daylam, and thence moved to Ardabil. It is said that he also lived in Ahar, about 150 miles west of Ardabil. He had been also in Tabriz, which he most possibly evacuated in the early months of 1257 as Halagu invaded Tabriz on July 26, 1257. It seems that he became known as Shams Tabriz in the Sufic circle in Tabriz. Pir Shihabuddin Shah (d. 1884) writes in Khitabat-i Alliya (Tehran, 1963, p. 42) that, "Imam 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."

The tradition has it that Imam 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 Turkomans thickly populated the north-eastern part of the province, and the Kurds inhabited the south-western. Azerbaijan was an ideal land for the growing Sufi circles, and the Imam had settled in northern region with his family, where he professed in the embroidery works.

Halagu 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 Ramzan, 658/September 3, 1260, the Mongols suffered a drastic defeat at Ayn Jalut at the hands of the Mamluk armies of Egypt. Ket-Buqa was taken prisoner and scourged to death. Ayn Jalut destroyed the Mongol power and kept the pagan hordes out of Egypt and the Maghrib. Soon afterwards, the Mongols were expelled from Syria, where the Mamluk sultan Baybars emerged as the ruling power, and became the ruler of Egypt and Syria. The Ismailis evidently collaborated with the Mamluk sultan and other Muslim rulers in repelling the Mongols from Syria, and recovered their four strongholds.

The Ismailis in Iran, however, became absolutely disorganized and disoriented. Despite the repressions and debacles, the Ismailis' fortune continued to rise gradually in Iran. 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 did not attract the attention of the historians, 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, 2:202), 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." 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, 3:294) 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. The final surrender had taken place on 29th Rabi II, 669/December 15, 1270.

The great Khan Kubilai (1260-1294), absorbed in the administration of China, and lost interest in the western provinces. He 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.

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 was therefore charged the main Mongol expedition of Iran. On other side, Shamsuddin, the chief Qadi of Qazwin, after returning from Mongolia, assailed in bitter sarcasms against Alamut in Qazwin, giving also high tidings of the arrival of the Mongols. The frightened Muslims began to evacuate the vicinity of Rudhbar and Kohistan during the period of Imam Alauddin Muhammad to escape the brunt of the Mongols. The stampede of the Muslims had also carried away with them the 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 far from the Alamut territory, 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 Imam Alauddin Muhammad," incorporating the then report they had brought from their villages. This report received credence in some circles, ignoring palpably the rule of Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah followed by Imam Alauddin Muhammad. When the Mongol storms diffused in Iran, the historicity of Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah began to be floated itself. But, it seems that the above report prevailed many years in Qazwin, Daylam and Tabriz, making Imam Alauddin Muhammad as the last ruler of Alamut, which also curiously sounds in the account of Marco Polo (1254-1324), who had heard from them in 671/1272. Marco Polo writes: "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." (The Travels of Marco Polo, London, 1958, pp. 40-42).

When Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad had been in Tabriz, he became known as Shams Tabriz. There had been another contemporary Shams-i Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 672/1273), who was not traceable after 645/1247 in Koniya. It is therefore possible that Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad had cloaked his identity in Tabriz under the name of the master of Jalaluddin Rumi. 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 actually seen Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad in the mantle of Shams-i Tabriz. When Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad was identified as the "son of the last ruler of Alamut", he was made the "son of Alauddin Muhammad," incorporating him in the above report.

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 Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad, known as Shams Tabriz had been identified as same Shams-i Tabriz after few years. Thus, Imam 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 Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah as the last ruler, most probably after 671/1272, one another tradition seems to have originated to distinguish these two characters. Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad was deleted from that story from being the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, but Shams-i Tabriz was made known as the son of Imam 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 Imam 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 Imam 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 Imam Alauddin Muhammad. It was only Daulatshah, who made him the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad. Prof. Muhammad Iqbal of Punjab University, who prepared the Lahore edition of Daulatshah's work, makes his remarks that: "...it 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 (3:436) that, "This is an entertaining but inaccurate work, containing a good selection of historical errors."

It is also curious 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 (6:291) 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.

There is also a reason to believe that Jalaluddin Rumi must have 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.

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 operated Ismaili mission as far as Gilan. Momin Shah also visited Syria 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. Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad died in 710/1310 in Azerbaijan after vesting the office of Imamate in Kassim Shah.


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