Therefore, we shall neither repeat anything here nor comment on what Dr. Howard has written – in spite of some points of disagreement that we have with him – because such differences can be seen by comparing the two discussions here, however, we shall only comment on some important points related to the book, al-Irshad, itself.
However, in many ancient and later references, and also in many manuscript copies of the book, the title appears in a more complete form as al-Irshad fi ma‘rifat hujaji 'llah ‘ala 'l-‘ibad. The same title also appears in the ijazah (permission) for narrating the book issued by the famous Imami traditionalist, Rashidu'd-Din, Abu Ja‘far, Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Shahrashub as- Sarawi al-Mazandarani (489/1096–588/1192)3 for as-Sayyid Muhyi 'd-Din, Muhammad ibn ‘Abdillah ibn ‘Ali ibn Zuhrah al- Husayni al-Halabi (566/1171–636/1239)4.
Similarly, the full title appears in another ijazah given to al-Halabi by the famous Shi‘ah jurist, ash-Shaykh Abu Ja‘far, Muhammad ibn Idris al- Hilli (543/1148 – 598/1202).The author (r.a.)5, himself has not described the title in the book; yet the longer title is descriptive of the purpose for which the book was written as mentioned in the author's introduction.
The only style adopted by the author is of description and narration – just as the historical events are described in books of history and just as the ahadith are narrated in the books of hadith – without providing, for what he has written, any proof or evidence except by quoting hadith and history. This is the style to which every reader and every listener's mind is moulded.
Indeed, the writer (r.a.), succeeded in his objective, since the book al-Irshad – although written a thousand years ago – has became one of the important sources for oratory in Imamiyyah gatherings, especially in the memorial ceremonies for the Master of the Martyrs, al-Imam al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him and all those who sacrificed their lives with him). Even today, the lecturers and the orators of the maqtal6 depend on it, at times even read directly from it. May Allah reward the writer on our behalf – the community of Imamiyyah – with the best of His rewards!
This is the reason why the writer (r.a.), did not resort to the polemical and theological style of writing which relies on rational arguments and scientific terminology – from philosophy, theology and the principles of jurisprudence – which cannot be complete without going into details, identifying the weak points, highlighting the ambiguous aspects, quoting differing views for each issue that he propounds, analyzing them and preferring one view and refuting the other as is the common practice of the theological and philosophical studies.
In short, the author (r.a.), has refrained from the theological style of writing; and, therefore, it would not be correct to consider the book as anything but a reflection of ash-Shaykhu 'l-Mufid's perspective in history and hadith; it cannot be considered as a sample of his theological and polemical style of writing. In the following pages, we shall mention some examples clarifying the difference between the style he has adopted in this book and the style of theologians he has adopted elsewhere when discussing the same issue.
In order to combine the style of relying on the narration without analyzing them minutely or without employing pro- found rational thinking, on the one hand, and the exercise of convincing the reader about the validity of the narration, on the other hand, ash-Shaykhu 'l-Mufid has relied in his narration of the lives of the Imams (‘a.s.)7, and their distinctive characteristics in most instances on what has been mentioned by the neutral historians and biographers.
I do not say that the attribute of neutrality can be applied to all of them and to all that they narrate, nor do I claim that the accusation of partiality and sectarian bias in presenting historical events for religious or political motivations are applicable to the sources not used by al-Mufid. I leave aside this discussion about the affiliations of the historians, narrators and jurists to the rulers, and that they choose to ignore whatever the rulers wanted to be ignored and that they presented favourably whatever the rulers wanted to be presented favorably.
At this stage, I would just like to state that the biased and official historians have ignored the lives of the later Imams of Ahlu 'l-bayt (‘a.s.), except where the events were connected to the rulers and the caliphs. This is the reason why ash-Shaykhu 'l-Mufid was compelled to rely on the Shi‘ah Imamiyyah narrators when discussing the Imams of Ahlu 'l-bayt (‘a.s.), who came after the first Islamic century.
The style of brevity which al-Mufid has imposed on him- self in al-Irshad has compelled him in many instances to rely on a single historian whom he has chosen against the others without giving reasons for his preference as a source for that particular event. This is so even in cases where there is a difference among the historians on that particular issue, for instance, when he mentions the death of al-Imam Musa al-Kazim (‘a.s.) in which he has relied entirely on Abu 'l-Faraj al-Isbahani. This is one of the objectionable points raised by the respected translator against the writer. Moreover, Abu 'l-Faraj is considered closer than others to neutrality by the opponents of the Imamiy- yah, and he is not accused by them of sectarian bias.
If I may say so, the translator himself was also acting under the same self-imposed restriction when he mentions in his foot- note (p.275) only one source for the event of Ghadir Khumm, that is, al-Baladhuri. Any scholar slightly familiar with hadith, islamic history and the discourses on imamate knows that very few events in the history of Islam and very few ahadith among the prophetic narration on imamate or the life of Amiru 'l- Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a.s.) have received that much attention at the hand of Muslim scholars and theologians (the Shi‘ahs and the Sunnis alike) as the event of Ghadir Khumm.
It would suffice to know the books written by the Muslim scholars and traditionalists sunni and shi‘ah alike on this subject; the latest and most important of all works on this issue is al-Ghadir fi 'l-Kitab wa 's-Sunnah wa 'l-Adab by one of the contemporary Shi‘ah scholar ash-Shaykh ‘Abdu 'l-Husayn ibn Ahmad al-Amini an- Najafi (1320/1902–1390/1970) of which eleven volumes have already been published, and the work is not yet complete.
Ash- Shaykh al-Amini has dedicated the first volume to the text of hadithu 'l-Ghadir and its narrators from our Sunni brethren and their scholars who number hundred and ten companions (ashab) of the Prophet, eighty-five disciples (tabi‘in) of the companions and about four hundred scholars of hadith and history over the thirteen Islamic centuries after the first century of the companions and their disciples.
The style of brevity and strict adherence to its objective also defined the contents of the book, and that is why al-Mufid does not narrate the life of the Holy Prophet (s.‘a.w.a.)8 or the life of Fatimatu 'z-Zahra’ (‘a.s.). Otherwise, the lives of these two personalities are inseparable from any discourse about the lives of the Imams as can be observed in what has been done by al- Kulayni in "Kitabu 'l-Hujjah" of Usul al-Kafi; by at-Tabrisi in I‘lamu 'l-wara bi a‘lami 'l-huda; by al-Irbiliyy in Kashfu 'l- ghummah fi ma‘rifati 'l-aimmah; and by al-‘Allamah as-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin in his A‘yanu 'sh-Shi‘ah.
1. at-Tusi, al-Fihrist, p.187; an-Najashi, al-Fihrist, p.311.
2. Ibn Shahrashub, Ma‘alimu 'l-‘ulama’, p.101; al-Quhba’i, Ma‘jma‘u 'r- rijal, vol.6, pp.33-34; al-Hurr al-‘Amili, Wasailu 'sh-Shi‘ah, vol.20, p.43;
3. al-Majlisi, al-Bihar, vol.107, p.156.
4. Ibid, vol.109, p.44. The same title also appears in adh-Dhari‘ah, vol.10, pp.509-10; the introduction by as-Sayyid Hasan al-Khirsan to Tahdhibu 'l-ahkam, (an-Najaf al-Ashraf [Iraq] edition), vol.1, p.22; Brockelmann, Tarikhu't-turathi 'l-‘Arabi, (Arabic transl.), vol.12, p.278. The last two references have mentioned numerous manuscripts of al-Irshad.
5. Rahimahu 'llah, i.e., May Allah have mercy upon him.
6. Narration of the martydoms of al-Imam al-Husayn's (‘a.s.), and his companions
7. ‘Alayhi/‘alayha/‘alayhima or ‘alayhimu 's-salam (i.e., Peace be upon him/her or them)
8. Salla 'llahu ‘alayi wa alih (i.e., May the blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny).
However the ahadith about imamate have propounded the issue in so much detail defining the meaning of imamate and the qualities of an imam that it becomes difficult, nay impossible, to derive a brief and concise definition of imamate encomia passing all its necessary elements1. I have, therefore, preferred to quote from the specific books of theology.
The Imamiyyah theologians have defined imamate as “a universal and direct authority bestowed by God to a particular person in religious and worldly matters2."
And your Lord creates and chooses whom He pleases; to choose is not theirs; (28:68).
Allah knows best where to place His message. (6:124).
The Almighty Allah is Aware of His servants, knows what their hearts conceal and what they portray; He is the Wise who neither engages in amusement nor creates without a purpose. Allah does not choose a messenger unless all the necessary conditions and qualities for carrying the divine message are found in him for his entire life. So is the case of imamate in view of the Imamiyyah except for one difference which distinguishes the Imam from the Messenger: The later receives the shari‘ah from the Almighty Allah directly whereas the former receives it from the latter only and not through the direct divine revelation.
The qualities of an imam according to the Imamiyyah are as follows:
i.Infallibility (al-‘ismah): Divine protection from sins and from failure in fulfilling the obligations, a protection which prevents the person from forgetfulness and mistakes in conveying the message, implementing the divine laws, and guiding the people.
ii. He should be the best person in his time in all virtues.
iii. He should be knowledgeable about the shari‘ah in all its scopes and dimensions. He should also be an expert in managing the ummah, with insight in regulating its affairs, and capable of leading and guiding it.
iv. He should be the most brave and courageous person of his time. The kind of courage, which is necessary to lead the ummah at war as well as in peace. He should also be the wisest of all in regard to the ummah's interest, and the most conscious of the needs and the demands of its members in their personal and social life.
v. There should be, in the Imam, no blemish physical or moral, in lineage or descent which would prevent him from commanding total control over the various elements of the ummah and from subjugating them completely to his divine leadership.
The imamate as defined above is established through:
i) A clear text (an-nass),
ii) Performance of miracles (mu‘jizah), which clearly proves the divine link that would, in turn, proves a divine position for the performer. The numbers of the imams, the identifying process for each one of them, and their relationship to one another (e.g., one is the father and the other is the son; or one is the brother of the other) depends on the nass only3.
The conditions for Imamate and the Imam have not been selected arbitrarily; rather, there must be a rational proof or a clear and definite religious text which proves that this or that condition is essential for establishing the Divine Leadership (imamate) and that without it the imamate is not complete. The scholars in line with this basic principle outline the conditions mentioned above.
All other conditions and qualifications are either non-essential in the view of the Imamiyyah or they are special characteristics of the Imams, which the Almighty Allah has bestowed upon them as a mark of honor and status for them. They do not form the general and necessary conditions for imamate.
Examples of conditions which are not considered essential i.e., the conditions not proven by a rational proof or a clear and definite religious text for imamate is that an imam must have a successor from his own children or that the imamate cannot go except to his son or that only son of an imam can succeed an imam.
These are not essential conditions for imamate because imamate depends on the nass. So, for example, if there is a nass, which says that, the imam after al-Hasan (‘a.s.) is al- Husayn (‘a.s.), then the presence of al-Imam al-Hasan's sons does not prevent his brother from the position of imamate; similarly, it would not even prevent the transferring of imamate to al-Husayn's children or descendants.
Another such example is of a supposed condition that the Imam must be the eldest son of his father. This is also not an essential condition because, just as prophethood, imamate depends on the nass; so if there is a nass for a particular person then it is obligatory to go by the nass even if that person is not the eldest of his father's sons. We shall point out some real examples of this kind when we talk about the Isma‘iliyyah and the Fatahiyyah.
An-Nassu 'l-Jaliyy and an-Nassu 'l-Khafiyy: Certain terminologies exist in the Imamiyyah books on imamate, which do not have any positive meaning to the Imamiyyah themselves. The Imamiyyah mentions these terminologies only because they have a positive meaning in the view of the non-Imamiyyah. This is not, however, restricted to the discussion of imamate; rather, it is found in other theological subjects also like in at-tawhid and an-nubuwwah.
Examples of such terminologies are an-nassul-jaliyy (obvious nass) and an-nassu'l-khafiyy (concealed nass). The nass, according to the Imamiyyah, as discussed in Usulu'l-Fiqh (the Principles of Jurisprudence) of both the Shi‘ahs and the Sunnis and used in their theological books, means "a statement which has only one meaning that cannot be interpreted otherwise and which creates certainty in the mind of the listener about the intention of the speaker in clear terms without any doubt or ambiguity in it."
So the nass, in this definition, can only be obvious (jaliyy) and clear in its meaning, which cannot accommodate any other interpretation or explanation. This is so, if al-jaliyy means a meaning, which is obvious and clear; and al-khafiyy means a meaning, which is concealed and ambiguous. If al-jaliyy, however, means a nass which is clear for all people in general in the sense that the nass had been heard and received by the people so that there is no room for doubt in its occurrence; and al- khafiyy means a nass which is concealed from the people in general and heard only by a few selected persons.
If this is the meaning of al-jaliyy and al-khafiyy – then it has no relevance for the Imamiyyah because they say that the nass for Amiru 'l-Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a.s.) the first Divine Imam as well as the father of the Imams (‘a.s.) and their foremost in sequence was a clear nass (al-jaliyy) heard by the Muslims in general. Referring to the traditions narrated by the Imamiyyah and others on the event of Ghadir will suffice to prove this point.
Add to this the fact that if the nass is khafiyy in the sense that only a few people heard it and then these few people narrated it to others creating certainty about its authenticity, this will not harm the fact that it was stated during circumstances when only a few people were able to hear it, because fear of the hypocrites or persecution by the rulers can force the Prophet or the Imam not to reveal the nass except to a selected few whose narration of the nass, at a later stage, would create conviction in the minds of the people about its occurrence and leave no room for doubts and suspicions about its authenticity.
But the non-Imamiyyah, including some of the Zaydiyyah sects, has divided the nass about the imamate of Amiru 'l- Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a.s.) into an-nassu 'l-jaliyy and an-nassu 'l- khafiyy. They have taken an-nassu 'l-khafiyy in both the above meanings:
i) That it was concealed from the Muslims in general and heard only by a few persons.
ii) That it is liable to interpretation and explanation, leading the person who interprets and explains it to practically violate the injunction embedded within the text (nass). They also adhere to the belief that the nass on the imamate of ‘Ali (‘a.s.) was of the second type, an-nassu 'l- khafiyy; and, therefore, they do not consider those who have opposed the nass as those who have betrayed and opposed Allah and His Messenger, nor transgressed their bounds or blantatly disobeyed the Messenger of Allah (s.‘a.w.a.). In fact, the nass has been divided by these groups into jaliyy and khafiyy in order to defend others [who did not follow that nass] and not because they had doubts concerning the imamate of Amiru 'l-Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a.s.).
when the later Imamiyyah theologians wanted to prove the nass on the imamate of Amiru 'l-Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a.s.) a binding nass which would compel a Muslim to follow it and which would leave no room for the excuse of not having heard it or for interpretation in its meaning they were faced with this dual division of nass and were forced to present their textual evidence as an-nassu 'l-jaliyy even if they did not agree with the validity of this division of nass.
This can be seen even in the present author, ash-Shaykhu 'l-Mufid (r.a.), who has a treatise entitled as Mas’alah fi 'n-nassi 'l-jaliyy ‘ala imamat Amiri 'l- Mu’minin, ‘alayhi 's-salam, printed in Baghdad in 1375 AH. This is the reason why we do not see the term an-nassu 'l-jaliyy, based on the dual division of the nass, in the works of the Imamiyyah theologians of the first three Islamic centuries; it is only found in the writings of the later Imamiyyah theologians4.
We would most certainly like to draw the attention of our readers to the fact that many terminologies of non-Imamiyyah sects of Islam have entered into the writings of Imamiyyah scholars on theology as well as other subjects for the same reason that we have stated above. One more example of such terms is "imamatu 'l-afdal imamate of the most superior" and "imamatu 'l-mafdul imamate of the less superior".
1. See "Kitabu 'l-Hujjah" in Usul al-Kafi; Basairu'd-darajat of as-Saffar and the numerous volumes on imamate in al-Bihar.
2. See al-Alfayn, p.2; Nahju 'l-mustarshidin, p.62; Qawa‘idu 'l-maram, p.174; al-Lawami‘u 'l-Ilahiyyah, p.254.
3. On this subject, refer to al-Mufid, al-Ifsah fi imamat Amiri 'l-Mu’minin‘alayhi 's-salam, Awailu 'l-maqalat, Tashihu 'l-i‘tiqad; as-Saduq, I‘tiqadatu'l-Imamiyyah; at-Tusi, al-Iqtisadu 'l-hadi ila 'r-rashad, Talkhisu 'sh-Shafi, (especially its first volume); as-Sayyid al-Murtada, ash-Shafi; Nasiru 'd-Din at-Tusi, Tajridu 'l-i‘tiqad, and its commentary known as Kashfu 'l-murad by al-‘Allamah al-Hilli, and also the references mentioned under the definition of imamate
4. See at-Tahrani, adh-Dhari‘ah, vol.20, p.397; vol.24, pp.172-4
The most important of these sects are:
The only argument that can be put forth to them is, first, regarding the concept and essence of imamate: Is imamate a divinely invested position in which the imam and his essential conditions cannot be defined except by Allah? Is there any religious text indicating the imamate of any particular person? These are also other issues on which the Zaydiyyah is not in agreement with the non-Imamiyyah Muslims. So, the dispute is not just on the imamate of one person against the other.
We shall not discuss this category of "Shi‘ah" sects because it is not our intention to discuss the history of Shi‘ah sects or to evaluate their opinions or argue about the validity or otherwise of their beliefs.
a) The Isma‘iliyyah; b) The Fatahiyyah, and c) The Waqifah.
What has prompted us, partially, to put this limitation in our discussion is that the respected translator1 has apparently faced some ambiguity or has not been able to fully comprehend all aspects of the issue wherever ash-Shaykhu 'l-Mufid (r.a.), has talked, in his theological/polemical style, about these three sects, especially the Isma‘iliyyah. The translator, for example, makes the comment that: "al-Mufid takes great trouble to demonstrate that Ja‘far did not nominate Isma‘il . . ." (Intro. p.xxxi, [London's edition])
We have already mentioned the justification of al-Mufid in the method that he has adopted in writing al-Irshad, but here we wish to elaborate, particularly, on the issue of Isma‘il's imamate in order to dispel any wrong impression from the reader's mind when he reads the translator's introduction, especially the readers whose only exposure to this issue would be whatever is in this book and its introduction.
Moreover, the sects that affiliate them- selves to Shi‘ism and those that have been mentioned in this book have almost all become extinct except the Zaydiyyah – who, as mentioned earlier, are to be discussed at a different level – and the Isma‘iliyyah, which is still alive, with its numer- ous sub-sects, who, willingly or unwillingly, engage in religious and theological confrontation from time to time.
We do not intend to discuss here the doctrine, the jurisprudence, the literature or the various extinct and existing sub-sects of the Isma‘iliyyah. Nor are we going to discuss the differences between their sub-sects, the sons of Isma‘il who revolted in north Africa, one of the most glorious political revolutions in the Islamic history that founded the Fatimid caliphate which com- peted and in various aspects even superseded the ‘Abbasids in Baghdad especially after setting anchor of caliphate in Egypt. Nay, it was quite often even superior to that of the ‘Abbasid caliphate.
We do not wish to discuss here about their imams who are in hiding or living openly, or about the truth of their claim of descent from Isma‘il, or whoever they mention in his family tree. All these are beyond the scope of our present discussion. What we intend to discuss here is only Isma‘il himself in con- text of one question: Was Isma‘il an imam designated to that position by his father, al-Imam as-Sadiq (‘a.s.)? What are the positive and negative arguments surrounding this issue? We only intend to present various views on this issue and analyze them.
They were known for this in their political and religious activities long before the establishment of the Fatimid caliphate and also in the role they played after its fall in Egypt.
This secrecy even includes their literature and intellectual legacy. Until very recently, no outsider had access to their religious literature and tradition except for small number of unreliable tracts written about them by non-Shi‘ah opponents. And what we possess of their literature does not represent even minutely the literature and sources that we hear are preserved in extreme secrecy with their imams and leaders one cannot see them or read them even if he is very closely related to them in family ties and religious affiliation.
Yet I do not know how much truth there is in this claim. We also hear that the Isma‘ilis, or at least some of them, privately disbelieve in what they openly declare or what is publicly attributed to them or what others or themselves publish about their faith. This is also an issue, which I can neither confirm nor deny2.
The only way open to me, and probably to other research scholars also, is to refer to whatever has been collected in our Shi‘i sources from the literature and books of the Isma‘iliyyah. It is on this that I shall base my discussion comparing what we have from the Isma‘iliyyah with what exists in the non-Shi‘ah sources.
However, the responsibility to expose what has been kept secret, to publicly declare what has been believed privately for some many centuries, to confirm what is their true belief and what is untrue, and to explain the difference between az-zahir that they have declared and al-batin that they have hidden (if there is any truth to such division) lies entirely upon the Isma‘iliyyah themselves.
Yet, I apologize to the Isma‘ilis and other Muslim brethren for I do not intend – and Allah is my witness – to insult any Muslim brother, to diminish his personality and honour, or to put down their ideas and views when I present the difference in the opinions and analyze them. I surely do not intend that especially when it comes to those brethren who are closer to us theologically as well as historically, and who are one with us in our devotion to the Ahlu 'l-Bayt (‘a.s.) even though we differ in the imamate of the later imams.
This lady was also the mother of the second son of al-Imam as-Sadiq (‘a.s.), ‘Abdullah al-Aftah, with whom the Fatahiyyah sect was associated.Isma‘il was the eldest son of al-Imam as-Sadiq (‘a.s.). The Imam himself was born in 83/706; and Fatimah, Isma‘il's mother was his first wife, before whom he never married on a permanent or temporary basis, as asserted by the Isma‘iliyyah sources and we shall discuss later on.
Although history has not recorded for us the time of their marriage, the most probable date – that would be in line with the personality and biography of the Imam (‘a.s.), as well as the socio-economic conditions of the time – would be when he was eighteen years old, that is, around 100/719.
I have not found the date of Isma‘il's birth in the biographical and genealogical works of the Imamiyyah as well as of the non-Imamiyyah. However, ‘Arif Tamir, who is an Isma‘ili himself, has mentioned that Isma‘il was born in 101/719–7204 but he has contradicted himself in the appendix of al-Qasidatu 'sh- Shafiyah (an Isma‘ili literature that he has edited) by mentioning the birth year as 113/731-732 (on p.98). Moreover, Dr. Mustafa Ghalib, also an Isma‘ili, writes that Isma‘il was born in the year 110/728-7295.
I am personally inclined to accept the first date or something closer to it, rather than the second date because of what the shaykhs: al-Kulayni and at-Tusi have narrated (and as-Saduq has also narrated something closer to it) through authentic sanad (chain) from Zurarah ibn A‘yan who said, "I saw a son of Abu ‘Abdillah [as-Sadiq, ‘a.s.], in the lifetime of Abu Ja‘far [al- Baqir, ‘a.s.], who was known as ‘Abdullah, who was already weaned and was walking but unsteadily6.
So I said to him, 'O child! Who is this standing besides you?' – Pointing to a young follower of the Imam – The child replied, 'He is my follower.' The follower in a joking mood responded, 'I am not your follower.' The child said, 'This is bad for you.' Then the child was stabbed and he died." The hadith goes on to say that al- Imam al-Baqir (‘a.s.), said the funeral prayer on that child in al- Baqi‘ graveyard and also explained the reason as to why he prayed on the child even though it was not obligatory to say the funeral prayer on a child who has not reached the age of six7.
This hadith shows that ‘Abdullah was a child between the age of three and four. We also know that al-Imam al-Baqir (‘a.s.), who said this child's funeral prayer, died in the year 114/733. So this child must have been born in at least 110/728 or before it. This means that ‘Abdullah al-Aftah, Isma‘il's younger brother, was born after the death of the child mentioned above because al-Aftah was carrying the dead child's name. Obviously, it is very unlikely that two sons of a person would have same names while both are alive. This brings us to the conclusion that Isma‘il, who is the eldest child of al-Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (‘a.s.), was born years before 110/728.
Abu Hatim ar-Razi and the author of Dasturu 'l-munajjimin, both Isma‘ilis, have said: "Verily as-Sadiq (‘a.s.), remained for twenty-five years without any child except Isma‘il and ‘Abdu- llah8."al-Imam al-Kazim (‘a.s.) – the eldest child after Isma‘il and ‘Abdullah – was born in the year 129 AH (although some less reliable sources say 128 AH).
In light of the information provided by the Isma‘ili sources, if we deduct 25 years from 129, we get the year 104 AH (or 103 AH if we go by the other version of al-Imam Kazim's birth) as the birth year of Isma‘il. Moreover, the Dasturu 'l-munajjimin says that Muhammad ibn Isma‘il – the eldest child of Isma‘il – was born in 13th Dhi 'l- Hijjah, 121/20th November, 729. The lowest possible age of Isma‘il at the birth of his son would be seventeen. So when we take out 17 from 121, we get 104 as the birth year of Isma‘il.
Isma‘il died at al-‘Arid, [a valley in Medina with streams and farms in it12, and he was carried on the shoulders of men to (the cemetery) of al-Baqi‘(in Medina) where he was buried. When his corpse reached Medina, al-Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) shrouded him with one of his outer garments and permitted the prominent Shi‘ahs to see his face so that they may be assured of his death and not entertain any thoughts about him [as a future leader]13.The number of such prominent Shi‘ahs whom the Imam (‘a.s.) used as eye-witness reached about thirty, and their names have been recorded14.
Even when Isma‘il's litter was brought to the cemetery of al- Baqi‘, al-Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) ordered that his litter to be put on the ground many times before he was buried, then he uncovered (Isma‘il's) face and look at it, intending to establish the fact of (Isma‘il's) death to those who had thought that he was to succeed after him, and to remove from them any mis- taken belief with regard to him (still) being alive15.
As an example of what al-Imam as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) did, we may quote the authentic hadith from Sa‘id ibn ‘Abdillah al-A‘raj who said, "Abu ‘Abdillah [as-Sadiq, ‘a.s.], said, 'When Isma‘il died, I ordered that his face be uncovered, while he was on his back, then I kissed his forehead, his chin and his neck. Then I ordered that (his face) be covered. Then I said, "Uncover (his face)."Again I kissed his forehead, his chin and his neck.
Then I ordered them to cover him, and ordered that he be given the ritual bath (ghusl). Then I went to him when he had been shrouded and said, "Uncover him [i.e., his face]." Then I kissed his forehead, his chin and his neck and prayed (for him). Then I said, "Wrap him in his shroud.” ‘“al-A‘raj says, "Then I asked [the Imam], 'by which did you invoke [Allah for] his protec- tion?' He answered, 'By the Qur’an, so that Allah may protect him by it from His own torment16.' "
It is an unanimous view that al-Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) died in the year 148/76517 , and that he was a contemporary of the first two ‘Abbasid caliphs, Abu 'l-‘Abbas as-Saffah (b. 104/722, caliphate 132/749–136/754) and Abu Ja‘far al- Mansur (b. 95/ 714, caliphate 136/754–158/775). His son Isma‘il died during his father's lifetime: so, when did he die?
a)Ash-Sharif al-Husayn ibn Ja‘far ibn al-Husayn Abu 'l- Qasim ibn Khida‘ al-Husayni al-Misri (b. 310/922 d. after 373/ 983), one of the famous genealogist with expertise in the genealogy of the Egypt's sadat (descendants of the Holy Prophet of Islam) and who had lived under the Fatimid rule in their capital, says: "Verily Isma‘il died in the year 133/750-751 twenty years before the death of as-Sadiq (‘a.s.)18."
If this is true then Isma‘il died at the beginning of the ‘Abbasid rule during as-Saffah's reign; but his death was not twenty years before that of his father as claimed by Ibn Khida‘, rather it was five years less than that. However, Abu 'l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn as- Sufi al-‘Umari al-‘Alawi, the famous genealogist who was alive in 443/1052, quotes Ibn Khida‘ as saying that Isma‘il died in the year 138/755-75619.This coincides with the date given by al-Maqrizi, as will be explained later. Therefore, if al-Majdi's manuscript is correct and the quotation given in it, then it will be correct to say that Isma‘il died ten years before the death of his father.
b) Abu 'l-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Maqrizi al-Husayni al-‘Ubaydi ash-Shafi‘i (766/1365–845/1441), the famous historian whose genealogy goes back to the Fatimids, say: "Surely Isma‘il ibn Ja‘far as-Sadiq died in the lifetime of his father Ja‘far in the year 138/755-756 . . .20"
c) Nasiru 'd-Din at-Tusi Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al- Hasan (597/1201–672/1274), the famous scholar and philoso- pher, in his Tarikhu l-mulahidah, ‘Alau 'd-Din al-Juwayni (623/ 1226–681/1283) and Rashidu 'd-Din al-Hamadani (646/ 1248–718/1318) the famous Mongol minister – all had either accom- panied the Mongols in their attacks upon the Isma‘ili forts or were ministers of Mongol rulers and had direct access to the Isma‘ili literature which the invaders had looted – said, "Isma‘il died five years before the death of his father Ja‘far as-Sadiq (‘a.s.), in the year 145/762-763 . . .21"
But this date (i.e., 145 AH) precedes that of the death of as- Sadiq (‘a.s.) in three years and not five. Because of this contra- diction, historians have taken one or the other side of this state- ment. For example, Cl. Huart, while writing the entry under "Isma‘ilism" in the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam, says that Isma‘il died in 143/760, that is, five years before the death of his father. az-Zirkili has followed him in al-A‘lam22.
Whereas the Soviet orientalist, Petrochevski, editors of al- Munjid, and Dahkhuda have given Isma‘il's death year as 145AH23. This latter date is also the view of Ivanow, the famous expert on Isma‘ilism while writing in the Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam (p.179), he says: "Isma‘il died a short time before the death of Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq."
The year 145 AH has also been mentioned in the surviving literature of the Isma‘ilis. For example, the famous critic, Muhammad Qazwini says that this date [145 AH] is also stated in Dasturu 'l-munajjimin.24The same view is expressed by Arif Tamir, an Isma‘ili; even though he has contradicted himself in the appendix of al-Qaramitah (p.44) by writing Isma‘il's dates of birth and death as 101 and 159 AH respectively25.
Isma‘ilis have another view also. They say that the year 145 AH was the beginning of the occultation of Isma‘il, and that he died in the year 158/77526. Based on these two last views, Isma‘il died during the reign of Abu Ja‘far al-Mansur.
Besides the unanimity found in the Isma‘ili sources, there is evidence in our hadith and historical sources, which suggest that Isma‘il lived till the reign of al-Mansur. See what Rizam ibn Muslim has narrated that Isma‘il was with his father al- Imam as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) in Hirah, Iraq, during the caliphate of al- Mansur;27 and somewhat similar narration by Abu Khadijah from a man from Kindah who was an executioner for al-Mansur;28 and what Bakr ibn Abi Bakr al-Hadrami has narrated about the misfortune that has afflicted his father during the time of Isma‘il's illness and eventual death29.
Based on these evidences, we cannot accept the first date of Isma‘il's death (133 AH) as given by Ibn Khida‘even though many scholars have relied on him. We are, therefore, left with the second (138 AH) and the third (145 AH) dates which place Isma‘il's death during al-Mansur's reign. Abu Ja‘far at-Tabari has provided for us evidence, which gives credence to the third date.
He narrates from ‘Umar ibn Shabbah from his narrators that Muhammad and Ibrahim, sons of ‘Abdullah ibn al-Hasan, got together with their followers in Mecca during the time of their concealment, and devised a plan to assassinate the Caliph al- Mansur in the hajj of the year 144/762. (Obviously, the hajj is performed during the last month of the lunar Arabic calendar.) One of the military leaders of al-Mansur entered their gathering ". . . then Isma‘il ibn Ja‘far ibn Muhammad al-A‘raj protested to Abu Ja‘far [al-Mansur] who informed him of their plan. He then sent for the leader [of the conspirators] but did not succeed in arresting him; instead a group of his companions were arrested while the leader disappeared . . 30."
All this ambiguity about Isma‘il's year of death brings us to a problem for which I have yet to see a proper explanation covering all its angles. Isma‘il did not live a short life, probably forty years or more (104/723–145/762); and a major part of his life coincided with significant events during which a revolution removed the Umayyids from power and sat the ‘Abbasids onto the seat of caliphate.
The caliphate, during its early days, wit- nessed quite a few political movements many of which ended in bloody revolts led by sectarian groups seeking political ends or by political groups using sectarian guise. The most significant of these revolts were led by the Hasanids (the cousins of Isma‘il descending from al-Imam al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali, ‘a.s.) from the days of the Umayyids and reached its peak in the year 145/762 against al-Mansur in Medina the city where Isma‘il lived and Basrah. Why did not Isma‘il have any significant role in these events? This phenomenon has led Khayru’d-Din az-Zirkili to make the following comment on Isma‘il: "There is nothing in our available historical sources to suggest that he was of any significance during his lifetime31."
Could the reason for this be that Isma‘il was associated to an extremely secret underground movement and had failed in lead- ing it to a political success? Or was it that when his underground political movement failed (like that of Abu 'l-Khattab and his companions in Kufah, as we shall discuss below), Isma‘il adopted an entirely negative and reclusive attitude towards political activism, parties and events?
There is another problematic phenomenon related to the death of Isma‘il itself: When al-Mansur came to power, he changed the ‘Abbasid government's policy towards the ‘Alids from what it was during his predecessor, as-Saffah. The latter was lenient and tolerant towards the ‘Alids, while the former was bent upon keeping them under surveillance, closely monitoring their activities and movements, appointing spies over them and penetrating their ranks with informers.
Al-Mansur even ordered his governors to follow the same policy towards the ‘Alids, and if he found them to be incapable of following his policy or sensed lukewarm response towards it, he would not hesitate to replace them with others who were willing to follow his whims and desires. In the Hasanid revolt, especially in the events preceding it, we see sufficient evidence to prove the change in the policy of the ‘Abbasids towards the ‘Alids.
The stance of al-Mansur towards the al-Imam as-Sadiq is a sufficient evidence to prove what we have said32. Soon after assuming the caliphate, al-Mansur targeted the Imam: "He ordered that the Imam be brought from Medina to Basrah, addressed him rudely, mistreated him and even accused him of organizing a revolt against the ‘Abbasid government33."
History and its custodians followed the official policy of al- Mansur in the sense that historians started to give importance to the ‘Alids by recording their activities and events related to them unlike the days of as-Saffah when historians chose to ignore them. Therefore, if the death of Isma‘il occurred during the reign of al-Mansur, then the historians would have recorded it, especially so when we see the extraordinary steps taken by al- Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq to publicize his death (by showing the face to the people and also recording it in writing with the governor of Medina). This would have been more likely also because of the year in which he died 145/762, the year of the famous revolt of the Hasanids against al-Mansur.
So, how can it be correct to accept that an event like the death of Isma‘il – with all its extraordinary circumstances related to his death – takes place in the city of revolt (Medina) and the year of revolt (145 AH) but stays unnoticed and unreported by the officials, the spies and the informers, and consequently be overlooked by the historians also?
Isma‘il's "Imamate": Isma‘il's name is connected with a famous sect of the Shi‘ahs that relates itself to him and calls itself as "Isma‘iliyyah", and claims imamate for him. It is obvious that the position of imamate which they ascribe to Isma‘il cannot be the actual imamate as long as his father, the actual Imam, was alive because the imamate could not be transferred from his father to himself except if the father dies or is removed from the position of imamate.
But Allah does not bestow imamate, being a divine position, to someone who will cease to deserve it at a later time. Neither can two persons, in view of those who see imamate as a divine position, claim to hold actual imamate at the same time. In light of the above, the only plausible explanation for the Isma‘iliyyah belief vis-à-vis Isma‘il and imamate is that Isma‘il had been appointed as the imam-designate to succeed the previous imam; however, as long as the previous imam was alive, he could be considered as an imam-designate only. Or, in terminology of usulu 'l-fiqh, we may express their view by saying that Isma‘il was designated (ja‘l) as an imam but the actualization (fi‘liyyah) of that appointment would happen only after his father's death.
So, when the Isma‘ilis claim imamate for Isma‘il in the life time of his father, they cannot claim the actual imamate for him unless they believe that al-Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) was removed from the position of imamate since that is the only case in which the imamate could transfer from the father to the son while the former was still living.
The Isma‘ilis accept the imamate of al-Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) for as long as he was alive; but they were compelled to believe in a form of imamate for Isma‘il so that they may consider him as the legitimate link through whom the imamate transferred to his children with the exclusion of his brother al-Imam al-Kazim and his descendants (‘a.s.). This was a necessary link to authenticate the imamate of Isma‘ili imams including the Fatimid caliphs who ruled North- West Africa and then Egypt from 297/910 to 567/1171.
The scholars of religions say that the Khattabiyyah sect believed in Isma‘il as an actual imam during the lifetime of his father, as-Sadiq (‘a.s.). The Khattabiyyah are followers of Abu 'l-Khattab ibn Abi Zaynab, Muhammad ibn Miqlas al-Ajda‘ al-Asadi al-Kufi (d.137/755).
In the beginning, Abu 'l-Khattab was follower of the true madhhab and sound in his ideas; he associated himself with al-Imam as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) and narrated ahadith from him. But then he started exaggeration and went beyond the proper limits he started to say erroneous things about the Imams, in particu- lar about al-Imam as-Sadiq (‘a.s.); he even invented laws and falsely attributed them to the Imam in his narrations.
A group of people started following his views. Al-Imam as-Sadiq, however, disassociated himself from Abu 'l-Khattab, rejected his sayings, and cursed him and his followers. Many narrations have come to us from him and the later Imams cursing Abu 'l-Khattab and condemning him and his views. The followers of Abu 'l-Khattab have been accused of exaggerating even about Abu 'l-Khattab himself to the extent of claiming prophethood, and even higher status, for him. They also believed in transmigration of souls and incarnation.
Abu 'l-Khattab and his followers used to display piety, asceticism and devotional acts by staying constantly at the main mosque of Kufah, engaged in prayers and worship. They continued their show of piety, in words of the biographers, until someone reported to ‘Isa ibn Musa ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Abdillah ibn al-‘Abbas (102/721–167/783), the nephew of al-Mansur, the ‘Abbasid Caliph and his governor in Kufah (132/75–147/764), that the Khattabiyyah are openly indulging in licentiousness and calling people to believe in the prophethood of Abu 'l-Khattab.
He sent an army to arrest them, but they refused to surrender and fought the army in the mosque itself. The fighting was intense although the only weapon they possessed was sticks and canes, until all seventy of them were killed, and Abu'l-Khattab himself was arrested and later killed in the worst manner. This happened around 137/75534.
The Khattabiyyah are considered, to some extent, a continu- ation of al-Mughayriyyah, the group that was associated to al- Mughirah ibn Sa‘id al-‘Ijli al-Kufi (d. 119/737), which was formed a few years before in Kufah. It started as a religious group, and then turned into a political revolt during the last days of the Umayyad reign, but it was crushed together with its leader. Both these groups have many similar characteristics, including the exaggeration regarding the status of the Imams (‘a.s.). It was this similarity (and also the fact that they were almost contemporary) that has led many to confuse one for the other35.
The Khattabiyyah used to believe in the imamate of Isma‘il during his lifetime36. Probably it is somewhat exaggerated when it is said that the idea of Isma‘il's imamate itself originates from the Khattabiyyah and that they are the ones who invented it and adopted it37.
Abu Hatim ar-Razi, the Isma‘ili missionary (ad-da‘i), says: "al-Khattabiyyah: associated to Abu 'l-Khattab . . . believed in the imamate of Isma‘il ibn Ja‘far in the lifetime of his father Ja‘far. But when Isma‘il died, they returned to the belief in the imamate of Ja‘far.38" Sa‘d ibn ‘Abdillah al-Ash‘ari and an- Nawbakhti have mentioned a sect which "assumed that the Imam after Ja‘far is his son Isma‘il ibn Ja‘far, and it rejected Isma‘il's death during his father's lifetime; and said that [the death] was an attempt on the part of his father to confuse the people because he feared for his life, therefore, he concealed him from them . . .
This sect is the true Isma‘iliyyah sect39. After mentioning other sects, they say: "The true Isma‘iliyyah is the Khattabiyyah, the followers of Abu 'l-Khattab, Muhammad ibn Abi Zaynab al-Asadi al-Ajda‘(may Allah curse him); and a group from them has entered in the sect of Muhammad ibn Isma‘il and accepted the death of Isma‘il during his father's lifetime40."
Probably the reason which caused Abu 'l-Khattab and his followers to adopt the view of Isma‘il's imamate, was to call the people towards him, and to show or pretend that they were associated with him and even carried his name. Naturally, they linked all these together in order to claim that their views are actually his, and that they only execute his order – while his father, as-Sadiq (‘a.s.) was still alive and known as an Imam whose words were followed by his Shi‘ahs.
The Khattabiyyah did not exist but during the time and days of the imamate of as- Sadiq (‘a.s.). They, previously, prompted the Mughayriyyahs to affiliate themselves to Muhammad ibn ‘Abdillah al-Hasani – as we shall point out later – even though this sect began in the time of al-Imam al-Baqir (‘a.s.)41; it grew during the time of as- Sadiq (‘a.s.), and its revolt took place during his imamate.
The reason, and probably the main reason, was the stand taken by the two Imams, al-Baqir and as-Sadiq (‘a.s.), vis-à-vis these two sects and their followers, which forced them to form their affiliations with others. I do not know whether their affiliation to Isma‘il was with his knowledge and consent or not? Nor do we know what his stand in the beginning was when these groups started as sectarian movements and at the end when they turned into revolutionary movements.
I do not intend to discuss here the life of Isma‘il or to analyze him religiously and ethically, specially so after what our Shaykhu 'l-Mufid (r.a.) – the scholar of the Imamiyyah, its teacher and one of its intellectual leaders has said Isma‘il in Kitab al-Irshad. (See p.431 of the Eng. transl.)
In view of the here biographers, the Khattabiyyah considered itself as the Isma‘iliyyah. After the execution of Abu 'l-Khattab, and the deaths of Isma‘il and then his father al-Imam as-Sadiq (‘a.s.), the majority of the Khattabiyyah were either inclined to the imamate of Muhammad ibn Isma‘il or became divided into two groups: those who remained on the imamate of Isma‘il, and those who joined his son Muhammad and accepted his imamate. This is the point of disagreement between the heresiographers42.
It seems necessary to raise a point which would enlighten some ambiguous aspects of the Mughayriyyah's history; and that is the fact that although the Mughayriyyah existed during the time of the two Imams, al-Baqir and as-Sadiq (‘a.s.), it associated itself – and we do not wish to scrutinize the validity of their claim of affiliation to Muhammad ibn ‘Abdillah ibn al- Hasan al-Hasani who led the revolt against the ‘Abbasids. The Mughayriyyah claimed that this Muhammad was the Awaited al-Mahdi who will go into occultation and then re-appear after the occultation to lead the revolution, which has been promised to us in the religious texts. They continued in this belief even after Muhammad rose in revolt and was killed43.
Why did the Mughayriyyah affiliate itself to the descendants of al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali, in particular, and not to any of the sons of Imams al-Baqir and as-Sadiq (‘a.s.)? What caused them, at a later stage, to associate with Isma‘il and not with his uncles from the descendants of al-Hasan even though the latter continued their political revolt against the ‘Abbasids? What were the motivating factors, something contradictory, in the minds of the leaders of this sect? These questions re-enforce what I have said earlier about the ambiguity surrounding Isma‘il; and, perhaps, finding the right answers would lead us to under- stand the unknown aspects of his life and personality.
It is important to note that the famous Isma‘ili writer, al-Qadi Abu Hanifah an-Nu‘man ibn Muhammad, and the Isma‘ili missionary, Idris, both have reported statements of al-Imam as- Sadiq (‘a.s.) against Abu 'l-Khattab himself, his views, and fol- lowers similar to what the Imamiyyah scholars have narrated44.
This is, however, contrary to what the Isma‘ili missionary, Abu Hatim ar-Razi, believes in as we have quoted in above. Muhammad Qazwini, quotes the famous Isma‘ili document, Dasturu 'l-munajjimin, (foil 333/B), about al-Imam as-Sadiq's companions as follows: "Among his famous companions, other than Abu 'l-Khattab, are al-Mufaddal ibn ‘Umar, Jabir ibn Hayyan as-Sufi (author of many books), and ‘Abdullah ibn Maymun from him was secured [sic; probably it is 'with whom'] the seventh of the children of [blank; probably it is 'Ja‘far'] who was known as al-Qaim Muhammad ibn Isma‘il45."
Even more amusing is what ‘Arif Tamir the Isma‘ili says about the Khattabiy- yah: "al-Khattabiyyah is a sect of the Ja‘fariyyah which follows Abu 'l-Khattab, a student of Ja‘far, who was known as Muhammad ibn Zaynab [sic] al-Asadi al-Ajda‘. This sect proclaims the imamate of Ja‘far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq following the style of the Extremists and the Batinis. And after the death of Ja‘far, they moved to the Musawiyyah group which proclaimed the imamate of Musa al-Kazim ibn Ja‘far (?); and finally it affiliated with the Isma‘iliyyah46."
Before concluding this section, I would like to quote what the Isma‘ili scholar, Dr. Mustafa Ghalib, has said on this topic: We ought to mention what the famous British orientalist, Bernard Lewis, has written on this subject, [giving reference to the footnote of The Origins of Isma‘ilism, pp.106, 104 99(?),28].
Bernard Lewis assures that "the revolutionary movements of the second quarter of the second hijri century [151/768–200/815, during which period neither Abu 'l-Khattab nor as-Sadiq (‘a.s.), or Isma‘il were alive! Perhaps, he meant the first quarter, i.e., 101/719–150/767] brought about the existence of the Isma‘iliyyah, and that the first person to organize the group was Abu 'l-Khattab in collaboration with Isma‘il ibn al-Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq. When Isma‘il and Abu 'l-Khattab died, their followers turned to Muhammad ibn Isma‘il."
After discussing the difference over the death of Imam Isma‘il and the division which occurred among the Shi‘ahs, he says: "It is most likely that Ja‘far as-Sadiq had deposed his son Isma‘il just because he was in contact with Abu 'l-Khattab and had rebelled against the authority of his father al-Imam as- Sadiq." Lewis concludes the discussion by saying, "The Isma‘ili sect was founded by the children of Abu 'l-Khattab."
We are truly amazed that a famous orientalist like Bernard Lewis would state such erroneous views concerning us that betray his lack of indepth in the study of Isma‘ilism. We declare that all the manuscripts that exist in our possession reject any connection between the Isma‘iliyyah and the Khattabiyyah, and that most of the Sunni and Shi‘ah sources acknowledge that no such connection existed. Moreover, the Isma‘ilis them- selves consider the Khattabiyyah sect as one of the renegade extremist sects.47 ...
We have already described the difficulty we face on the sources of the Isma‘iliyyah and the tradition of secrecy that they have carried on till now. Therefore, until they publish their hidden literature – which contains only some, not all, of their heritage and until they acknowledge that it is authentic in the eyes of all their sub-sects and that it truly reflects their views and beliefs, and until they satisfy others that it is being published with integrity, in complete form without any deletion or interpolation – I stand alone, without ascribing anything to others, in doubt about the defense of this brother [Dr. M. Ghalib] of ours regarding his sect.
I say this especially after having found that our brother, Dr. Ghalib, in his A‘ l amu 'l-Isma‘iliyyah (p.162) and Tarikhu 'd- da‘wati 'l-Isma‘iliyyah (p.138) attributes a statement to al-Maqrizi in his Itti‘azu 'l-hunafa