Abul Khattab

Abul Khattab Muhammad bin Abi Zaynab Maqlas al-Asadi al-Kufi (d. 167/783), surnamed Abul Khattab was an eminent disciple of Jafar Sadik. He was first to have preached the Shiite doctrines tinctured with esoteric interpretation. For quite some time, he was closely associated with Jafar Sadik, who had commissioned him as his chief dai in Kufa. Kashi narrates that once Imam put his hand on Abul Khattab's breast, and said: "You know the mystery (ghayb)." This may be linked with Nawbakhti's expression that Imam revealed to him a solemn word (ism-i azam), and also called him the "casket of our knowledge, the lodging place of our secrecy, the one who is trusted with our people's life and death." One can thus easily judge the status of Abul Khattab before Jafar Sadik.

Soon afterwards, it is related that Jafar Sadik disliked his so called habit of never transmitting intact and unaltered the tradition which he heard, causing his relation with the Imam strained, and was excommunicated in about 138/755. This is perhaps an earliest glaring example of taqiya in Jafar Sadik's time, revealing outwardly a rupture between him and the Imam, to which some historians hazarded wrong opinion and concocted false stories around it. This sort of a taqiya seems to have intended to make the Shiite to dissociate themselves from Abul Khattab, and to make the Abbasids to implant in minds a consideration that there was no relation between Abul Khattab and Jafar Sadik. Abul Khattab's faith however was deep-rooted that had been never wavered for a single moment.

It is related that when Ismail had been in Iraq, he adopted the title of Abul Khattab most probably after 151/769 for exercising taqiya. Granted that Abul Khattab was not a secret follower of Jafar Sadik, then why Ismail assumed his name? Ismail henceforward, became known as Abul Khattab among the small group in Kufa, while Abul Khattab hid his identity. Nawbakhti in "Kitab Firaq al-Shia" (ed. Ritter, Istanbul, 1931, pp. 60-61) and al-Qummi (d. 300/912) in "Kitab al-Maqalat wa'l-Firaq" (ed. M.J Mashkur, Tehran, 1963, p. 83) write that the followers of Abul Khattab (i.e., Ismail) became known as Khattabiyya, believing that "the divine light had transferred from Jafar Sadik into Abul Khattab, and on the death of the latter, it passed into Muhammad bin Ismail." The term Abul Khattab here in reality was the epithet of Ismail. In Central Asia, a treatise "Ummu'l-Kitab" is preserved among the Ismailis in which the Khattabiyyas are mentioned as the founders of Ismailism. It states further that the Ismailism was founded by the children of Abul Khattab, who gave their lives for the love of Ismail.

It is related that seventy followers of Abul Khattab had assembled in the mosque at Kufa, who had been killed by order of the governor. Abul Khattab was also captured and crucified. It is impossible to confess the notion advanced by the historians that his death took place in 138/755 or 145/762. He was killed most possibly in 167/783.

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