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Ismaili History 613 - Muhammad bin Kiya Buzrug Ummid

Muhammad bin Kiya Buzrug was born in 490/1097 probably in the fortress of Lamasar. He was given training by his father, and proved an able and competent administrator. He was assisted by his one young brother Kiya Ali, who led many expeditions and died in 538/1144. In the early part of Muhammad bin Kiya's reign, the area under the control of Alamut was extended in Daylam and Gilan, where several new castles were taken or constructed, such as Sa'adatkuh, Mubarakkuh and Firuzkuh. These castles were acquired chiefly through the efforts of an Ismaili commander, called Kiya Muhammad bin Ali Khusaro Firuz. The Ismailis are also reported to have extended their mission to Georgia, and penetrated their influence in an entirely new region, Ghor (also called Ghoristan), to the east of Kohistan, between Ghazna and Herat in central Afghanistan, around 550/1155 during the period of the Ghorid ruler Alauddin (544-556/1149-1161). His son and successor Saifuddin Muhammad (d. 558/1163) was a deadly enemy of the Ismailis, and conducted a massacre of the Ismaili dais and the new converts in 557/1162 at Ghor. Henceforward, it became a tradition of the Ghorids to hunt and kill the Ismailis in Afghanistan and India. Ghiasuddin (d. 599/1203), the nephew of Alauddin ascended the throne, who appointed his brother, Muhammad to the government of Ghazna with a title of Shihabuddin. After the death of Ghiasuddin, his brother Shihabuddin Muhammad rose to the power, assuming the title of Muizzuddin instead of Shihabuddin, who made several military operations in India.
Meanwhile, the northern Iranian Ismailis were confronted with Shah Ghazi Rustam bin Ala ad-Dawla Ali (534-558/1140-1163), the Bawandid ruler of Mazandaran and Gilan. It is recounted that Shah Girdbazu, the son of Shah Ghazi, was sent to Khorasan to serve at the court of Sanjar, but he had been killed by the Ismailis in 537/1142, and in another attempt, Shah Ghazi himself was rescued. The sources at our disposal admit that the Bawandid ruler Shah Ghazi shook his hand with the Seljuqs and fought the Ismailis on numerous occasions, and also invaded Alamut, which remained foiled all the times. He however seized the castles of Mihrin and Mansurakuh from the Ismailis in Qummis. On one occasion, Shah Ghazi attacked on the Ismaili inhabitants of Rudhbar and devastated their properties. He had reportedly killed a large number of the Ismailis and erected towers of their heads.

In 535/1141, the Ismailis are said to have killed their deadly enemy Jawhar, the Seljuqid commander in Sanjar's camp in Khorasan. Abbas, the Seljuq amir of Ray, had slaughtered a large number of the Ismailis in reprisal. He also raided the Ismaili localities near Alamut. His terrible operations remained continued, therefore, the Ismailis sent an emissary to sultan Sanjar in 541/1146, asking his invervention in this context. It appears that Abbas did not refrained from his hostalities despite several attempts of Sanjar. He was however killed on his way to Baghdad, and the Seljuqs sent his head to Alamut.

The Seljuqid sultan Sanjar once arrived in Ray, where he had been misinformed the doctrines of the Ismailis. He sent his messenger to Alamut to know the creeds of the Ismailis. The Ismailis gave a reply to the messenger that, 'It is our principle to believe in the grandeur and greatness of God, to obey His ordinances, to act on the Shariah as shown by God in Koran and by His Prophet, and to have a faith in dooms-day, reward and punishments of deeds. No one is authorized to alter these ordinances at his will.' The messenger was further told, 'Tell to your king that these are our beliefs. It is well if he is satisfied, otherwise send his scholar, so that we may discuss with him.' It appears that Sultan Sanjar refrained from his inimical attitude towards the Ismailis after getting above reply. Juvaini (p. 682) writes that, 'I saw several of Sanjar's firmans which had been preserved in their (Ismailis) library (of Alamut) and in which he conciliated and flattered them; and from these, I was able to deduce the extent to which the sultan connived at their actions and sought to be on peaceful terms with them. In short, during his reign they (the Ismailis) enjoyed ease and tranquillity.'

The promising time for Ismaili Imam's appearance from dawr-i satr (concealment period) was very near, therefore, Imam al-Kahir bin al- Mohtadi bin al-Hadi bin al-Nizar took over the power of Nizari state from Muhammad bin Kiya Buzrug in 554/1159 and designated him as his vizir.

Muhammad bin Kiya Buzrug died on 3rd Rabi I, 557/February 20, 1162 and was buried next to the tombs of Hasan bin Sabbah and Kiya Buzrug Ummid. He governed as a ruler for 22 years, and 2 years as a vizir of al-Kahir.

Hitherto, the Nizari Ismaili rule in Alamut had been governed by the following three hujjats as the territorial rulers:-

1. Hasan bin Sabbah : 483-518/1090-1124 : 35 years
2. Kiya Buzrug Ummid : 518-532/1124-1138 : 14 years
3. Muhammad bin Kiya : 532-554/1138-1159 : 22 years

Henceforward, the Ismaili Imams themselves began to govern both the political and religious affairs in Alamut, and before that, there were three Imams in concealment. It must be known that in the veiled era, according to the Ismailis, the Imam would have to be represented by his hujjat among his followers. Thus, the hujjat was himself a living proof, acting as the custodian until the time of the Imam's reappearance. In sum, when the Imam is concealed, his hujjat must be visible to act as a link between the Imam and the followers. The extant sources however admit that Hasan bin Sabbah, Kiya Buzrug Ummid and Muhammad bin Kiya had executed themselves as the hujjats, which is one of the strongest evidences to admit that one Imam in every time indeed existed in Alamut. The term hujjat in the Ismailis was ample to understand the existence of the Imam in concealment, known only to his hujjat. The brief biographies of the three concealed Imams are given below:-

AL-HADI BIN AL-NIZAR (490-530/1097-1136)

Abu Ali Hasan, or Ali, surnamed al-Hadi was born in Cairo in 470/1076. He was about 17 years old on the eve of the death of Imam al- Mustansir, and 20 years during assumption of Imamate in 490/1097. Henceforward, the seat of Imamate transferred from Egypt to Iran owing to the bifurcation among the Ismailis, where Hasan bin Sabbah had founded the Ismaili state in the fortress of Alamut.

Imam al-Nizar is reported to have been killed in Cairo, most probably in 490/1097 in imprisonment. Hafiz Abru (d. 833/1430) writes in his 'Majma al-Tawarikh-i Sultaniyya' (p. 242) that, 'Only one of al-Nizar's sons was arrested with him, and the other son disappeared in Alexandria, who was neither arrested nor recognised.' This seems an erroneous account, as the arrested sons were Abu Abdullah al-Hasan and Abu Abdullah al-Hussain, who were prominent figures in the Fatimid court. The third son under shadow was Ali al-Hadi, who had managed to escape from Alexandria.

After the death of al-Nizar, there appeared no Nizari Ismailis opposition in Egypt against the ruling Fatimid empire. Certain influences of the Nizari Ismailis however have been known in Egypt, whom according to 'Tarikh-i Misr' by Ibn Muyassar, Hasan bin Sabbah is said to have sent material aids in 518/1123-4. It is reported that al-Afdal closed down the Dar al-Hikmah where he found many professions supporting the cause of al-Nizar. Ibn Zafir (d. 613/1216) states in 'Akhbar ad-Dawla al-Munqatia' (pp. 97-111) that the two sons of al- Nizar rebelled in turn after escaping from prison. Abu Abdullah al-Hasan rebelled against al-Hafiz (524-544/1131-1149) in 528/1133, while Abu Abdullah al-Hussain rose against al-Adid (555-567/1160-1171) in 557/1161, assuming the title of al-Muntasir billah. These rebellions ultimately were suppressed due to having handful supporters, but it most possibly forced the Fatimid authority to focus their attention upon the handful followers of al-Nizar in Egypt, resulting al-Nizar's third son, al-Hadi to escape from their notice.

It appears from the historical report that al-Nizar had managed to send away his son and successor al-Hadi in Maghrib before his submission through his most confident follower, named Abu'l Hasan as-Sa'idi. It is almost certain that they boarded a vessel from Alexandria for Meila, and after crossing Mount Bouiblan and Muluya river, they reached at Rissani, near Erfoud and stayed in the house of al-Nizar's aunt in Sijilmasa. Ali bin Yousuf (480-500/1087-1106), the Almoravid ruler had captured Sijilmasa in 450/1056 and dominated it when al-Hadi had been there. Al-Hadi however kept his identity completely secret in Sijilmasa.

The narrative of al-Nizar, however, in 'Kitab al-Akhbar wa'l Athar' by Muhammad Abu'l Makrem is absolutely inaccurate and far from the truth. It recounts that the escaping Imam from Alexandria was al-Nizar himself, who came in Sijilmasa, and then made his way to the castle of Alamut. This narrative is most probably spurious as it does not occur in any well-established sources. Ibn Khallikan, Ibn Athir, Ibn Khaldun and Makrizi are the accredited authorities on Fatimid history, and they also admit that al-Nizar was taken prisoner to Cairo, and was killed in the prison. De Lacy O'Leary is an outstanding European scholar, who had investigated the primary sources of Fatimid period, and writes in 'The Short History of the Fatimid Khilafat' (London, 1923, p. 212) that, 'Nizar's subsequent life is totally unknown. He was either imprisoned in absolute secrecy, or put to death: stories were told of both these ends, but nothing was ever known for certain.' It seems that the entire matter was over in the beginning of 489/1096, because al-Musta'li had intimated the whole story to the governors of his realm through a letter dated 8th Safar, 489/February, 1096.

Granted for a while that al-Nizar had escaped from Alexandria, then it is most possible that al-Afdal had not returned to Cairo and had made an intensive search. Besides the preceding, his most confident supporter, Iftigin had also accompanied him, had al-Nizar made his secret way out of Alexandria. It is therefore, not possible to value the doubtful version of Muhammad Abu'l Makrem.

The Nizari Ismaili influence also penetrated in the Maghrib, and we are told that some of the followers of al-Nizar in Berber tribe had engineered revolts against the later Fatimid rulers from their base in the Maghrib, which was not in the Fatimid control since 442/1050.

It seems probable that Abu'l Hasan as-Sa'idi had moved from Sijilmasa with Imam al-Hadi after the death of al-Musta'li in 495/1095. After a long and tedious journey, they alighted in the vicinity of Rudhbar, the chief city of Daylam in Iran after crossing the ranges of Mount Taliqan. Since Alamut was immured and stormed ceaselessly by the Seljuqs at that time, al-Hadi had to conceal either in the villages of Rudhbar, or in some remote place. He was taken to the vicinity of Alamut after restoration of peace, which was only known to Hasan bin Sabbah and none else. He caused Imam's dwelling in a village at the foot of Alamut. Abu'l Hasan as-Sa'idi is said to have stayed about six months, and then he returned to Egypt. Imam al-Hadi finally made his footing in the castle of Alamut after the death of Hasan bin Sabbah in 518/1124. The period under review denotes the second dawr-i satr of the Ismaili history (490-559/1097-1164), wherein three Imams lived in concealment during about 70 years, viz. al-Hadi, al-Muhtadi and al-Kahir. During the period of satr, the Ismaili hujjats governed the Nizari state, viz. Hasan bin Sabbah, Kiya Buzrug Ummid and Muhammad bin Kiya. The tradition widely famous about al-Hadi's arrival in Iran consists of very meagre details. The Ismaili tradition is cited in the later sources, namely 'Dabistan al-Mazahib' (comp. in 1653), 'Janat al-Amal' (comp. in 1886), 'Athar-i Muhammadi' (comp. in 1893) etc. It reads:- 'It is recounted by the Ismailis of Rudhbar and Kohistan that during the time of Hasan bin Sabbah, Abu'l Hasan as-Sa'idi, one of the confident persons, came in Alamut and brought a son of al-Nizar bin al-Mustansir, who was a legitimate Imam. Nobody except Hasan bin Sabbah knew about this secrecy. Hasan bin Sabbah treated Abu'l Hasan as-Sa'idi with honour and consideration and caused the Imam to dwell in a village at the foot of Alamut. Abu'l Hasan as-Sa'idi was allowed to return back after six months. Imam remained engaged in divine worship in seclusion, and then betrothed to a woman in that village, who bore a son, named al-Mohtadi.'

It ensues from a careful examination that the whole story of about 10 years has been packed and summed in the above single tradition. Al-Hadi was brought from Maghrib through the routes of Egypt, while the tradition simply indicates his arrival from Egypt to Iran. Secondly, it admits that this tradition was widely known among the Ismailis of Rudhbar and Kohistan, which must have been famous possibly long after the departure of al-Hadi from those places. Thirdly, Hasan bin Sabbah caused the living of al-Hadi at the foot of Alamut, which was only known to him, gives further clue to understand that the existence of al-Hadi around Alamut was also kept secret. Fourthly, it speaks al-Hadi's marriage in that village and the birth of his son. It transpires that al-Hadi would have been in the village till 500/1106 when his son al-Mohtadi was born. Fifthly, Ata Malik Juvaini has quoted the last will of Hasan bin Sabbah, whose concluding lines run:- 'And he charged, until such time as the Imam came to take possession of his kingdom' (p. 682). It also indicates that al-Hadi was yet in the vicinity of Alamut when Hasan bin Sabbah died in 518/1124. These narratives conclusively seem to show that al-Hadi had come in the castle after 518/1124. He must have inspected the administrative fabric and the Ismaili mission from Kiya Buzrug, and then had gone to live in the castle of Lamasar most probably after 526/1132.

Another less reliable story relates that the Imam brought from Egypt to Alamut was al-Mohtadi, the grandson of al-Nizar. This story seems to have been prevalent in the orbits, who believed that al-Nizar had only two sons and were imprisoned with him. It has been heretofore discussed that the whereabouts of al-Hadi had not been exposed in Cairo, and instead, the two other sons of al-Nizar were familiar in the court of Egypt. These sons had been also taken prisoners in Alexandria, which was enough for their opponents to cultivate a report that they had also arrested all the sons of al-Nizar. The age of al-Hadi was about 16-17 years during the ascension of al-Nizar, and those who definitely knew him, had spoken of him as the minor son of al-Nizar, which was a term continued to be employed for al-Hadi till his arrival in Alamut after 518/1124 when he was about 50 years old. On that juncture, the scholars seem to have drawn the conclusion that the arriving minor son of al-Nizar in Alamut should have been the son of al-Hadi, who was also 17-18 years old at that time. The theory of minor son thus became specific for al-Mohtadi, making him born in Egypt too. There is probably much truth in the traditional view, according to which the marriage of al-Hadi was actualised in the village at the foot of Alamut, and his son al-Mohtadi was the first Nizari Imam to be born in Iran, and therefore, the above assumption, purporting the arrival of al- Mohtadi seems doubtful and indecipherable.

It must be noticed that the major part of the life of al-Hadi passed in the shadow of the striking personalities of Hasan bin Sabbah and Kiya Buzrug Ummid. Abu Muhammad al-Iraqi in his 'al-Firaq' (Ms. 791 in the library of Sulemaniyya mosque, Istanbul) compiled soon after the fall of Alamut in 654/1256, and Zakariya Qazwini (1203-1283) in 'Athar al-Bilad wa-Akhbar al-Ibad' (comp. in 661/1263) admit the very presence of al-Hadi in Alamut. The Egyptian historian Ibn Muyassar (1231-1278) writes in 'Tarikh-i Misr' (p. 68) that, 'Hasan bin Sabbah introduced an Imam to his successors during his death-bed.'

Imam al-Hadi continued to guide his followers in the religious matters through Kiya Buzrug from Lamasar without making public appearance. The fragments of the traditions inform nothing for him. It is however sparsely recorded that there had been an open ground inside the castle of Lamasar, where he used to take interest in horse-riding and its breeding. It is also said that al-Hadi used to visit several times in the vicinity of Lamasar at night on horse in seclusion, and distributed foods and clothes to the poor villagers.

Imam al-Hadi died in 530/1136 at the age of 60 years, after bequeathing the office of the Imamate to his son, al-Mohtadi, when Kiya Buzrug was governing the Ismaili state in Alamut.

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