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  The Origins and Early Development of Shi`a Islam

Chapter 10

The Imamate of Ja`far as-Sadiq

The sixth Imam, Abu `Abd Allah Ja'far, the eldest son of
Muhammad al-Baqir, was born in Medina either in 80/690
700 or 83/703-704.
1 On his father's side Ja'far was of course a
Husaynid descendant of the Prophet, and like his father he
had a doubly strong relationship to `Ali, since Muhammad
al-Baqir was an `Alid on both his father's and his mother's
On his mother's side Ja`far was the great-great-grandson of
Abu Bakr,
3 and thus he was the first among the Ahl al-Bayt
who combined in his person descent from Abu Bakr as well
as from 'Ali. His mother Umm Farwa was the daughter of
Al-Qasim b. Muhammad b. Abi Bakr.
4 Qasim married the
daughter of his uncle 'Abd ar-Rahman b. Abi Bakr, and thus
Umm Farwa was the great-granddaughter of Abu Bakr on
both the father's and the mother's sides.
For the first fourteen years of his life Ja'far was brought up
under the guardianship of his grandfather Zayn al-'Abidin.
He observed the latter's acts of charity, his love for long series
of prostrations and prayers, and his withdrawal from politics.
At the same time, Ja'far noticed his grandfather's claims to
the Imamate and his efforts, though meagre and limited, to
collect around himself some devoted followers who resisted
the popular appeal of the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-
Hanafiya and then the latter's son, Abu Hashim. Ja'far also
saw the respect with which Zayn al-`Abidin was held by the
famous lawyers and scholars of Medina and elsewhere.
5 In
his mother's house young Ja'far saw his maternal grandfather,
Qasim b. Muhammad b. Abi Bakr, considered by the people
of Medina as one of the most erudite and esteemed
traditionists of his time.
Outside the family the childhood of Ja`far coincided with
a rapidly growing interest in Medina in the acquiring of
knowledge of Prophetic traditions and of seeking explanations
of the Qur'anic verses. His boyhood also witnessed the
culmination of Umayyad power, the final establishment of
their administrative imperium, a period of peace and plenty,
but hardly of religious fervour, as will be elaborated below. It
seems probable that an environmental background of this
kind in the life of a boy of fourteen may have influenced his
thinking and personality, giving his future work a certain
With the death of Zayn al-'Abidin, Ja`far entered his early
manhood and spent about twenty-three years under his father
Muhammad al-Baqir. In all these years not only did Ja`far see
his father's efforts to establish himself as the Imam of the
House of the Prophet, but as the eldest son he participated in
these activities. When Al-Baqir died, Ja'far was thirty-seven
or thirty-four years old and was destined to live for a period
of at least twenty-eight years as the head of the Shi'a following
the elder line of the Husaynid Imams-a period longer than
any other Imam of the House attained.
Ja`far's fame for religious learning was great, greater than
that of his father or of any other Twelver Imam except for
`Ali b. Abi Talib himself. Perhaps the earliest historical
reference presenting Ja`far as one of the most respected and
highly esteemed personalities of his epoch, and as having
profound knowledge and learning, is Ya`qubi's statement that
it was customary for scholars who related anything from him
to say: "The Learned One informed us."
8 Even the famous
jurist of Medina, the Imam Malik b. Anas, is reported to have
said, when quoting Ja`far's traditions: "The Thiqa (truthful)
Ja`far b. Muhammad himself told me that ..."
9 Similar
compliments for Ja`far are attributed to the Imam Abu
10 who is also reported to have been his pupil
Shahrastani said of Ja'far:

"His knowledge was great in religion and culture, he was fully
informed in philosophy, he attained great piety in the world, and
he abstained entirely from lusts. He lived in Medina long enough
to greatly profit the sect that followed him, and to give his friends
the advantage of the hidden sciences. On his father's side he was
connected with the tree of prophecy, and on his mother's side
with Abu Bakr."

The Imamate of Ja`far as-Sadiq saw the most crucial period
of Islamic history, both in political and in doctrinal spheres.
It coincided with many epoch-making events, violent move-
ments, the natural results of various undercurrent activities
and revolutionary attempts, and above all the compromising
attitude between the Ahl al-Hadith and the Muri'ites in their
efforts to standardize a corpus of doctrine for the synthesis of
the Muslim community, or Jama`a. The very existence of
this many-sided and complex situation facilitated the rise of
Ja`far's Imamate to a prominence not previously attained by
the Imamates of his father and grandfather. Thus the
fundamental point to be investigated is how the Imamate of
Ja`far attained so great a prominence, as attested to by the
testimony of Shi`i as well as Sunni sources, after having been
reduced to an insignificant following by the abandonment of
the line of the quiescent Imams by the majority of the Shi`is,
who had been persuaded to join the extremist and revolutionary
factions. The answer to this question, however, cannot be
found without examining a series of events and their ultimate
results-the results which appeared in the success of the
`Abbasid house and the subsequent repudiation and frustration
of the Shi`i cause. As Moscati has observed, after their
success the 'Abbasids joined hands with the rest of the
Muslims and pushed the Shi`is, on whose strength they had
risen to power, into the role of an opposition.
12 It is not
possible, nor would it be desirable, to go into the details of all
those events of far-reaching consequences which took place
before and during the Imamate of Ja'far and, as we have
tentatively assumed above, made it crucial. Nevertheless, a
broad outline and brief survey is necessary.
When the Umayyad's autocratic rule and their libertine
way of life frustrated the expectations of Muslims, especially
after the massacre at Karbala, many Muslims conceived the
idea of Al-Mahdi; a leader they considered as directly guided
by God. Though the use of the term Mahdi became the chief
characteristic of the Shi`is, it had a great appeal among non-
Shi`is as well. The first to be proclaimed as the Mahdi was
`Ali's third son Muhammad,
13 born of a Hanafite woman.
The mass acre of Husayn,
14 the only surviving grandson of
the Prophet, at Karbala, the destruction of the Ka'ba, the
siege of Medina and the misfortunes inflicted on the pro-
`Alid Kufans were sufficient grounds for a Mahdi uprising,
though vengeance for "the blood of the Son of the Prophet"
was the main cry.
15 The reluctance of Husayn's surviving
son Zayn al-'Abidin to involve himself in political adventures
caused the restless Kufan sympathizers of the House to seek
the moral support of any other member of 'Alid descent.
Thus, in the beginning it was perhaps not the personality of
Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya which impressed the Kufans, but
rather the basic need for a figurehead in whose name the
movement could be launched. In fact, even Muhammad b. al-
Hanafiya had always been reluctant to claim the role of the
Mahdi for himself.
Mukhtar understood the situation only too well and made
full use of it. He gathered the Kufan Shi`is in his house and

"Al-Mahdi Muhammad b. 'Ali, the son of the Wasi; sent me to
you as his trusted man, minister, and chosen supporter, and as his
commander. He ordered me to fight against the blasphemers and
claim vengeance for the blood of the people of his House, the
excellent ones."
It is interesting to note that the emphasis is placed not on
Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya, but on the "Mahdi" and on the
"son of the Wasi" Ibn al-Hanafiya in fact may have agreed to
Mukhtar's suggestions, when the latter said, "Your silence is
your agreement," but nevertheless maintained an uncommitted
attitude. In any case, Mukhtar might have so understood
Ibn al-Hanafiya's behaviour, as he interpreted it before the
people of Kufa.
Mukhtar's propaganda for Ibn al-Hanafiya's Mahdism
gained the unqualified support of the great majority of the
Shi`is, comprising both the Arabs and a large number of
Persian mawali living in Kufa, who, as we have already seen,
had by this time outnumbered the former. These mawali,
who formed the backbone of Mukhtar's movement, called
themselves shi`at al-Mahdi (the party of Al-Mahdi), Shi'at
Al-Muhammad (the party of the Family of Muhammad), or
the shi`at al-Haqq (the party of Truth).
18 Consequently, a
sect in its own right, considerably well organized, active, and
equipped with ideas of different extractions, emerged with
the name of the Kaysaniya, named after either the kunya of
Mukhtar himself or the highly controversial figure of Abu
`Amra Kaysan, the mawla of Mukhtar.
Though Mukhtar's rule was soon ended by his being killed
with the majority of his followers, Kaysanism, introduced by
his followers to various provinces, became too widespread to
be eradicated. These sectarians, some of whom lived as far
away as Khurasan, continued to recognize Ibn al-Hanafiya as
their Imam-Mahdi and to revere him to an extravagant
degree. After his death in 81/700-701,
20 the extremists of the
sect believed in his concealment (ghayba) and return (raj`a),
while the majority accepted the eldest of his sons, Abu
Hashim `Abd Allah, as the new Imam directly appointed by
21 The former group was represented by three notable
poets, Abu'1-Tufayl `Amir b. Wa'ila, Kuthayyir, and Sayyid
al-Himyari ;
22 the last of these later became a follower of Ja'far
Kashshi records an interesting story about two men from
the entourage of Ja`far as-Sadiq, As-Sarraj and Hammad b.
'Isa, who were known to believe that Muhammad b. al-
Hanafiya was still alive. Ja'far reproached them and pointed
out that Ibn al-Hanafiya was seen being buried, and his
property had been divided and his widow had re-married.
Nevertheless, the doctrine of "return" from that time became
one of the chief characteristics of most branches of the Shi'is.
The messianic expectations of the Kaysanites, however,
influenced a great number of the Muslims, Shi'is as well as
non-Shi`is. Mahdism in fact became a common vehicle for
the expression of the general feelings of the epoch, and was
used as an effective instrument for political adventures.
There was a widespread dissatisfaction of both a political
and a social nature which had many causes The Arabs of
Iraq were opposed to the hegemony of the Syrians. The non-
Arab mawali resented the high-handed treatment meted out
to them by the Arab ruling class, and the increasing number
of Arabs entitled to the allowances must have added to the
burdens imposed on the subject and conquered peoples.
Because of the omnipresence of religion in every sphere of
life, the social ferment and opposition against the existing
regime were expressed in religious terms. General discontent,
however, was not directed against the legal and religious
foundations of the Islamic state as such.
24 The laws contained
in the Qur'an and the Sunna were the Word of God and the
example of the Prophet under divine inspiration, and so they
could not be wrong. But the rulers who applied these 1-aws,
and whose duty it was to maintain and administer justice,
were responsible for distorting or neglecting the commands
of God and the custom of the Prophet. Thus the hope for
liberation and a change in the political and social system
meant not the abolition of the existing legal basis and the
introduction of another law, but the faithful application of the
divine rules.
Thus anti-Umayyad propaganda found expression mainly,
and perhaps spontaneously, in religious terms. "The main
concern of the Umayyads," as Schacht remarks, "was not with
religion and religious law, but with political administration,
and here they represented the organizing, centralising, and
increasingly bureaucratic tendency of an orderly administration.
They were interested in questions of religious policy and
theology insofar as these had a bearing on loyalty to
26 To this another observation may be added.
The close proximity in time of Umayyad rule with that of
Muhammad and the Rashidun caliphs and the vast difference
between their respective ways of life made the Muslims watch
with shock and concern the personal lives, conduct, and
behaviour of the Umayyads, addicted to wine-bibbing and
singing-girls. Thus, with emphasis placed on their impiety
and ungodliness, the Umayyads were regarded as usurpers,
who deprived the family of the Prophet of their rights and
inflicted untold wrongs upon them.
27 The sack of Medina
and the burning of the Ka`ba were also a black spot on the
record of the dynasty.
These observations by the Muslims led them to decry the
Umayyads and depict their rule as an epoch of tyranny (zulm),
at the same time placing before the eyes of the masses a hope
for liberation. The victory of justice being understood as one
of faith over impiety, it could be achieved only by divine
sanction and under a God-inspired leader. Thus rather
naturally the majority believed that this leader, Al-Mahdi,
should be a man descended from the Prophet, or at least a
member of his family, the Ahl al-Bayt. At the same time it
should be particularly noted that the Messianic idea did not
imply a mere passive waiting for salvation or spiritual
guidance, a policy distinctly adopted by the legitimist line of
the Imams: Ja`far and his predecessors. The concept of Yihad,
which required every believer to expose his life and property
in the cause of religion, did not allow for such a passive
The first `Alid of the Husaynid line who rose against the
tyranny of the Umayyads was Zayd, the second son of Zayn
al-`Abidin. After the death of Zayn al-`Abidin, when his eldest
son Al-Baqir, who became the legitimate Imam of the house,
strictly followed his father's quiescent policy and restricted
himself to the claims of religious leadership, Zayd proclaimed
the principle of establishing good and prohibiting evil by
force if necessary. Zayd preached that if an Imam wanted to
be recognized, he should claim his rights sword in hand. It
was, in fact, an expression of the deeply felt feelings not only
of the Shi`is of Kufa, but also of the majority of Medinese,
which Zayd understood only too well. Thus many followers
of Zayn al-`Abidin left Al-Baqir and went over to Zayd. They
were joined by a considerable number of those of the Shi`is
who had previously upheld the Imamate of Ibn al-Hanafiya
and Abu Hashim, but the moderate views of Zayd's followers
could not be reconciled with the extremist doctrines of the
Kaysanites. At the same time, Zayd, by adhering to Wasil b.
`Ata' and his doctrines, gained the whole-hearted support of
the Mu`tazilites, and his acceptance of the legitimacy of the
first two caliphs earned him the full sympathy of the
traditionist circles. These combinations reveal two fundamental
points. Firstly, Zayd and his close followers rejected
the ideas prevailing among other Shi`i groups. Zayd and his
followers wanted no quiescent or hidden Imams, like Al-
Baqir and Ibn al-Hanafiya. The Imam, in their eyes, although
he had to be a descendant of 'Ali and Fatima, yet could not
claim allegiance unless he asserted his Imamate publicly.
Secondly, Zayd realized the fact that in order to run for the
caliphate, he must have the main body of Muslim opinion
behind him, and must, therefore, accept the main body of
Islamic traditions. Thus he expressed this attitude by
declaring his acceptance of Abu Bakr and `Umar as legally
elected caliphs. At the same time, he maintained the Shi`i
belief that 'Ali was superior; nevertheless, he accepted the
"Imamate of the Inferior" (Mafdul), that is, of Abu Bakr and
'Umar, as permissible in order to secure certain temporary
After the death of Al-Baqir, Ja'far maintained his father's
policy towards Zayd and his movement and remained a
rather passive spectator. Being the uncle of Ja`far, Zayd had
the superior position and Ja'far could not dare to deny his
merits outwardly. It does not mean, however, that Ja'far did
not have a close group of his own followers whom he inherited
from his father and who resisted the Zaydite viewpoint
Moreover, the concession to non-Shi'is 'given by Zayd,
especially his emphasis on the rights of the first two caliphs,
raised objections and ultimately caused many zealous Shi'is
to abandon him. They revoked their oath and transferred
their allegiance to Ja'far.
According to one tradition Zayd said to the deserters: "You
have abandoned me (rafadtumuni)" and zealous Shi'is have
since been called Rafida.
31 A party of Kufan Shi'is went to
Medina and informed Ja'far of Zayd's ideas and activities.
Maintaining his regard for his uncle, Ja'far simply said, "Zayd
was the best of us and our master."
Zayd's revolt took place in Safar 122/December 740 and
was unsuccessful. He himself was killed, and many of his
followers were massacred.
33 The Caliph Hisham then
commanded that all eminent Talibis should publicly dissociate
themselves from the insurrection and condemn its
34 Among them were 'Abd Allah b. Mu'awiya and
'Abd Allah al-Mahd,
35 but the name of Ja'far as-Sadiq is
nowhere mentioned. It shows that Ja'far must have shown
himself distinctly and categorically opposed to the movements
of the activist members of the family. It also recalls the time
of Ja`far's grandfather, Zayn al-'Abidin, in the reign of Yazid,
when, after the suppression of the Medinese revolt, all of
Banu Hashim were forced to swear allegiance and declare
themselves slaves of the Caliph, while Zayn al-'Abidin was
36 Now Ja'far was spared in a similar situation,
which indicates the continuity of the same policy in the
legitimist line.
Zayd's son Yahya, however, continued his father's activities
and managed to reach Khurasan in order to win the
sympathies of the Kufan Shi'is, whom Al-Hajjaj and other
Umayyad viceroys of Iraq had exiled to that distant province.
But in 125/743, after three years' futile efforts, Yahya met the
same fate as his father.
37 Zayd's movement, in fact, was unable
to captivate the hearts of the activist groups because he did
not claim to be the Mahdi-an idea which had become so
dear to the Shi`i masses. Moreover, his moderate policy
eventually deprived him of the popular support of the Shi`is.
Yet his revolt left a very deep mark upon the development of
the whole Shi`i movement. Numerous learned men of Kufa,
among them the great jurists Abu Hanifa an-Nu`man and
Sufyan ath-Thawri, the traditionist Al-A`mash, the Qadi of
Mada'in Hilal b. Hubab, and others, along with other leaders
from other cities, supported or at least sympathized with his
The movement of Zayd, however, though it ended in
failure, paved the way for other claimants and offered ready
ground for a more effective revolt. His and his son's deaths,
which created a vacuum for active leadership, enhanced the
prospects of two of their relatives and hitherto rivals: Ja`far
as-Sadiq and Muhammad an-Nafs az-Zakiya. Since the
former adhered to the quiescent policy of his father and
grandfather, he was not inclined to make a bid for the
leadership of an active movement with political implication.
Here we should note that the whole of Shi`ism at this stage
was divided into three doctrinal groups. Firstly, there were
the extremist and messianic groups originating from the
Kaysanites; secondly, there was the moderate group which
emerged from the teachings of Zayd and was backed by the
Mu`tazilites and the traditionists of Medina and Kufa; and
finally, the third group was under the personal influence of
Ja'far as-Sadiq, who had been quietly propounding and
expressing his own views and theories about the Imam and
his function, which had neither Messianic pretensions nor
Zaydite conciliatory moderation, as we shall see later.
Thus there remained only Muhammad an-Nafs az-Zakiya,
from the House of the Prophet, who could attract both the
Zaydites and the pro-Shi`i Mu`tazilites as well as a number of
extremists on account of his Messianic claims. Though the
actual revolt of An-Nafs az-Zakiya took place long after, in
the sequence of events it would be in order to note that his
Messianic movement in fact originates at this point.
Muhammad an-Nafs az-Zakiya was designated from his
childhood for the role of Al-Mahdi by his father `Abd Allah
b. al-Hasan al-Muthanna b. al-Hasan b. `Ali b. Abi Talib,
known as Al-Mahd. A grandson of Hasan b. `Ali b. Abi
Talib, Muhammad b. `Abd Allah was renowned as one of the
most virtuous men of his time and was famous for his
religious learning and eloquence.
39 When he reached man-
hood `Abd Allah spared no efforts to extol the expected
destiny of his son. A tradition from the Prophet on the
authority of `Abd Allah b. Mas`ud was circulated, in which
the Prophet is reported to have said:

"Even if there remains for the world but one single day, God
will extend it until He sends a man from the people of my House,
whose name will he the same as mine, and the name of his father
will be that of my father. He will fill the earth with equity and
justice, just as it now is filled with tyranny and oppression."

As this tradition could also be applied to Muhammad al-
Mahdi, the son of Manstir,
41 another tradition was produced
to assure the role of the Deliverer to An-Nafs az-Zakiya: "On
the authority of Umm Salima, who reported; 'I heard the
Apostle of God say, Al-Mahdi will be from the descent of
The candidature of An-Nafs az-Zakiya for the position of
the Mahdi was supported not only by his close relatives, but
also by the extremist Al-Mughira b. Sa`id al-Ijli.
43 He had a
reputation for being an extremist Shi`i, and Ja`far as-Sadiq
repeatedly warned his followers not to accept Mughira's
Even after Al-Mughira was executed, his followers
remained faithful to An-Nafs az-Zakiya.
45 Besides, a number
of moderate traditionists as well as the Mu`tazilites, led by
`Amr b. `Ubayd and Wasil b. `Ata',
46 recognized the young
`Alid as the most suitable person to take the place vacated by
Zayd and Yahya.
After the death of Al-Walid b. Yazid, however, when the
Umayyad dynasty was apparently disintegrating and the
revolt of `Abd' Allah b. Mu`awiya had gained a certain
success in Khurasan, `Abd Allah al-Mahd, along with other
partisans of the `Alid cause, decided to act.
48 During a
pilgrimage to Mecca, `Abd Allah al-Mahd invited his relatives
and followers to take the oath of allegiance to his son. That
was done first in the Haram of Mecca and again at Al-Abwa,
in the neighbourhood of Medina.
49 According to Abu'l-
50 among those who took the oath were the three
`Abbasid brothers Ibrahim al-Imam, Abu'l-Abbas as-Saffah
and Aba Ja`far al-Mansur (b. Muhammad b. `Ali b. `Abd
Allah b. al-Abbas) as well as other members of the `Abbasid
house. There is no confirmation of this report that all these
Abbasids took part in the ceremony at Al-Abwa Only the
name of Aba Ja`far al-Mansur is given by some other
51 This latter report seems acceptable as Al-Mansur
in his youth was a Mu'tazihte
52 and a companion of `Amr b.
53 who probably induced him to pay homage to An-
Nafs az-Zakiya. The only opposition from the Hashimites to
An-Nafs az-Zakiya at Al-Abwa is reported to have come from
Ja`far as-Sadiq's side,
54 for he considered himself the only
rightful person for the function of the Imamate, and was
against any military organization.
However, in spite of An-Nafs az-Zakiya's popularity,
neither he nor his father acted with sufficient energy, and
they allowed the `Abbasids to take the initiative. Both the
father and the son were but passive spectators' to the great
upheaval and downfall of the Umayyad dynasty. Indeed, all
the necessary elements for a successful revolution were
present, and it was only a matter of strike and action. Whoever
could strike first would gain the prize.
Ideas as to who should and who should not be regarded as
the Ahl al-Bayt were no doubt much confused at this time.
Every claimant in `Ali's family and their supporters and
followers spread different theories to justify their own claims
One group of the Shi`is held that after `Ali only the sons
through Fatima had the right to the heritage of the Prophet
as the "family of the Prophet", and among them, since Husayn
succeeded Hasan by the latter's expressed will, all rights were
transferred to Husayn and his posterity to the exclusion of
the Hasanid branch. This group, which we are referring to
as the legitimist faction of the Shi'a, though it never ceased
to make its existence felt, was undoubtedly reduced to a
small minority at this particular time, after the Tawwabun
movement. others believed that any descendant of `Ali and
Fatima, whether from the line of Husayn or Hasan, was
entitled to the leadership of the community. In this group
come the followers of Zayd and An-Nafs az-Zakiya. The third
and major group of the Shi`a in this transitional period, the
Kaysanites, included also `Ali's progeny by other women, in
particular Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya and after him his son
Abu Hashim. These distinctions were largely understood and
observed by the more theoretical and legalistically-minded
people in Medina and Kufa. The mass of the people, however,
full of hatred, discontent, and the feeling of being suppressed
by the Umayyad aristocracy, were ready to swarm around
any member of the revered clan of the Talibis who could
liberate them from their sufferings.
Swayed by these feelings, therefore, a large part of the local
population of Kufa, especially of the lower classes, were
prepared to range themselves with any anti-Umayyad
movement. Such was the support given to the dubious claims
of `Abd Allah b. Mu`awiya,
55 a great-grandson of `Ali's elder
brother Ja'far b. Abi Talib. Tabari mentions that the majority
of his supporters consisted of the slaves and commoners of
Kufa and the villagers of the Sawad.
56 After an unsuccessful
rising in Kufa, Ibn Mu`awiya managed to reach Persia and
controlled a large area there until he was assassinated,
probably by Aba Muslim.
57 It might be accepted that Ibn
Mu`awiya attained success in Persia by connecting himself
with the Kaysaniya through the claim that he was the
emissary of Aba Hashim. Ibn Mu`awiya's propaganda in
Khurasan, however, made the task easier for a more vigorous
leader to organize a successful revolt.
After all the preceding movements and revolts, the time
was now ripe for a successful rising which was not, in fact, in
favour of an `Alid; but rather for the 'Abbasids, who had for
some time been plotting in the background and watching for
their opportunity. 'Ali b. 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-
Muttalib was the first person of the Abbasid house to nourish
political ambitions, but had nothing tangible to support him
from a legal point of view. His grandfather Al-'Abbas, the
uncle of the Prophet, had never claimed the caliphate for
himself Moreover, his being a late convert to Islam and his
opportunistic policy
58 had marred his reputation among the
Muslims. `Abd Allah b. `Abbas too, though renowned for his
learning, had no political a8pirations and always championed
the cause of 'Ali b. Abi Talib.
59 He was 'Ali's governor in
Basra and also his personal representative attached to the
arbiter Abu Musa al-Ash'arl.
60 It is possible that `Ali b. `Abd
Allah might have been inspired by certain rights based on old
tribal customs. The Meccan clan of Priest-Sayyids included
all the descendants of `Abd al-Muttalib, and so, from the
viewpoint of legitimism, their claims were better than those
of the Banu Umayya, which were based mainly on political
factors. The Umayyads on their part endeavoured to prove
that the whole clan of the Banu 'Abd Manaf were the ruling
house of the Quraysh.
61 Nevertheless, even if `Abbas, once
the custodian of the Ka`ba, and his progeny had as strong a
claim to supreme leadership as `Ali b. Abi Talib, the 'Abbasids
had neglected it for too long. Moreover, the fact that 'Ali was
one of the earliest converts to Islam, while 'Abbas tarried
until the conquest of Mecca, was detrimental to the position
of the 'Abbasids within the Muslim community. Then, the
Shi'is had accustomed themselves to the idea that the rights
to the caliphate belonged to the 'Alids. Obviously, therefore,
it was not possible for the 'Abbasids to claim the caliphate
'Ali b. 'Abd Allah saw an opportunity, in inducing Abu
Hashim, the son and successor of Ibn al-Hanafiya, who had
no son and was a lonely person under the detention of the
Umayyads in Damascus, to bequeath to the 'Abbasids his
rights to the Imamate. He instructed his youthful son
Muhammad to gain the Imam's favour and confidence. After
some time, the Caliph Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik allowed
Abu Hashim to return home. On his way to the Hijaz, it is
said that he was poisoned, either at the instigation of the
Caliph Sulayman or by Muhammad on his own account.
He died at Humayma, the headquarters of the 'Abbasids,
where he stayed as the latter's guest. Before his death he made
Muhammad b. 'Ali his legatee and gave him letters addressed
to Shi'i circles in Khurasan.
63 In this way Muhammad
became Imam and was recognized by the majority of the
Hashimiya sect, and thus "the 'Abbasids inherited the party
and organization of Abu Hashim, along with his claims."
Though the 'Abbasid movement was first organized and
directed from Kufa, it seems that the `Abbasids were not very
sure of the Kufans, due to the latters' pro-`Alid sympathies,
and so were afraid that the Iraqis would be unwilling to
accept their claims to the Imamate. Although many of the
Hashimiya sectarians recognized the validity of the `Abbasids'
claims, some of them refused to accept the transfer of the
Imamate from the 'Alids to another branch of the Hashimites.
This was particularly characteristic of the attitude of the
Kufans, whose pro-`Alid sympathies were very strong. Some
Shi`is believed that Abu Hashim was not dead, but had
concealed himself, and that he was Al-Mahdi. Others
admitted that he had died, but had appointed his brother `Ali
to the Imamate, which then passed from father to son in the
same line.
On the other hand, Khurasan was still largely a virgin land
insofar as sectarian conflicts were concerned. The majority of
the so-called Shi`is in that distant country were not so much
interested in the differences between the various branches of
the Ahl al-Bayt, but they were ready to follow any leader
from the House of the Prophet against the Umayyads.
66 Still,
Abu Muslim, the chief organizer of the movement, though
appointed by Ibrahim,
67 the head of the `Abbasid family,
claimed to be acting on behalf of an Imam from the Ahl al-
Bayt who had not yet been chosen or designated. In this way
he gained the support of many who would not have been
ready to support him had they known that the Imam from
the family of Hashim would in fact be from the family of Al-
68 The support given by the followers of Al-Mukhtar
may strengthen this assumption.
However, Ibrahim was arrested by the orders of the Caliph
Marwan b. Muhammad, brought to Damascus, and
subsequently dispatched to Harran and imprisoned, where he died
either of plague or-as the `Abbasids assert-was put to death
at the Caliph's command.
69 According to Ibrahim's instructions,
his brother Abu'1-`Abbas, in the company of a third
brother, Abu Ja`far `Abd Allah, and fourteen other members
of the family, left Al-Humayma and reached Kufa.
70 In Kufa
the local representative of the `Abbasids was Abu Salama
Hafs, a Kaysanite follower of Abu Hashim. At this critical
moment Abu Salama is reported to have thought of breaking
his allegiance to the 'Abbasids since he felt bound by loyalty
to Imam Ibrahim, but not to his brothers.
71 He lodged the
`Abbasid fugitives in a house and tried to conceal their
whereabouts from the Khurasanian leaders in Kufa.
According to what Jahshiyari and Tabari report, when the
news of the death of Ibrahim al-Imam reached Kufa, Abu
Salama "on the suggestion and advice of some other Shi'is of
Kufa, intended to establish the Imamate of the `Alids,"
73 and
accordingly he wrote letters to Ja'far as-Sadiq, `Abd Allah al-
Mahd, and `Umar b. `Ali Zayn al-'Abidin, asking each one of
them in turn to come to Kufa in person and he would support
their claims to the Imamate. The messenger was ordered first
to contact Ja'far, and only if he refused, then to go to 'Abd
Allah, and in case of his refusal, to `Umar b. 'Ali. When the
messenger, however, presented the letter first to Ja'far, the
latter called for a lamp, burned the letter, and said to the
messenger, "Tell your master what you have seen."
74 Mas'udi
tells the story in a different colour, saying: "When the
'Abbasid leader Ibrahim al-Imam was killed by Marwan II,
Abu Salama feared that this would mean the failure of their
undertaking, and he attempted therefore to induce Ja'far as-
Sadiq, and in case he refused, then 'Abd Allah and lastly
'Umar b. 'Ali, to come to him in person and to openly declare
his claims to the Imamate."
The same story asserts that 'Abd Allah al-Mahd accepted
the offer and was only too delighted to receive the help of Abu
Salama. Ja'far as-Sadiq, in all the sources which have recorded
this story, is reported to have severely warned 'Abd Allah
"not to indulge and endanger his and his son's life in this
game of power and treachery, as Abu Salama is not our Shi'a
and the Khurasanians are not our followers." 'Abd Allah
bitingly retorted, "You are jealous of me and my son."
76 If this
conversation is true it would throw light on Ja'far's extremely
cautious policy of keeping entirely out of politics. As for Abu
Salama, Moscati points out that in his wavering attitude "one
can perhaps see a consequence of the deliberate ambiguity
about the rights of the 'House of the Prophet', put into
circulation by the revolutionary propaganda."
The events in Kufa moved quickly in favour of the
'Abbasids. Their presence or concealment
78 in Kufa was
betrayed through one Abu Jahm to Abu Humayd, who, with
other Khurasanian chiefs encamped in the vicinity of Kufa,
came and at once paid homage to Abu'l-`Abbas
79 as the Imam
and Caliph, compelling Abu Salama to comply.
Immediately after, Abu'l-`Abbas, together with hi8 sup-
porters, went to the mosque where he made his inaugural
speech. In this speech he named himself as-Saffah (the
Bloodshedder) and identified the glory of God with his own
interests and those of his house. He named "the Abbasids as
the Ahl al-Bayt from whom uncleanness was removed", and
denied that the ~Alids were more worthy of the caliphate.
As-Saffah's address was followed by a speech from his uncle,
Da'ud b. `Ali, who emphasized that the rights of the `Abbasids
were legally inherited and there were but two legal caliphs in
Islam: `Ali b. Abi Talib and As-Saffah. He added that the
caliphate would remain in the hands of the `Abbasids until
they passed it over to `Isa b. Maryam (Jesus).
The accession of Abu'l-`Abbas was followed immediately
by the first breach with the extremist Shi`is. The testament of
Abu Hashim was of the utmost importance to the `Abbasids,
for at the onset of their propaganda it allowed them to take
over the sectarian circles in Persia and so establish the nucleus
of their own religio-political party. Once the aim was achieved,
the `Abbasids, on their own accession to the caliphate, justified
their rights by different arguments, without even mentioning
Abu Hashim's name. Now they found it necessary to allow
the memory of the bequest to pass into oblivion, for its
connections with Shi`i extremism were too strong and could
be dangerous or embarrassing. The first task, therefore, before
As-Saffah was to break the alliance with the extremists and to
remove those who supported the cause basically on that
sectarian ground. Thus the first who had to pay with his life
was Abu Salama, either on account of his strong connections
with the extremist Shi`is or because of his alleged pro-`Alid
leanings and his offer of support for their bid for the caliphate.
The second reason cannot be completely ignored as an
immediate cause of his assassination. There seems no
difficulty in accepting that, at first, knowing nothing about
Abu Salama's recent pro`-Alid activities, the `Abbasids called
him by. the title Wazir Al Rasul Allah,
83 but as soon as
As-Saffah came to know about his fickleness he successfully
arranged for his assassination. This is what both Tabari and
Mas'udi clearly describe as the reason for Aba Salama's
84 Nevertheless, this immediate cause was
coupled with As-Saffah's policy to get rid of revolutionary
sectarians, of whom Abu Salama was the most powerful
As-Saffah's rule lasted for four years, during which period
the `Alids in Medina, "disorganized by the frustration of their
85 kept quiet and affairs remained stationary. But
when Mansur assumed the caliphate in 136/753, the `Alids,
embittered by the usurpation of their rights by the house of
`Abbas, began to voice their complaints. On the other hand,
except for the shi`at Bani `Abbas, who regarded As-Saffah
not only as Caliph and Imam but also as the Mahdi, the Shi`i
masses were also dissatisfied; and this popular dissatisfaction,
which became manifest even during As-Saffah's rule,
86 grew
with the accession of Al-Mansur. They felt that the expected
Kingdom of Righteousness had not materialised: one evil
rule had been replaced by another.
Thus, at the accession of Mansur, Muhammad an-Nafs
az-Zakiya, who had long been coveting the role of Al-Mahdi,
refused to take the oath of allegiance to him and started his
Messianic propaganda. This angered Mansur, and in 140/758
he decided to compel An-Nafs az-Zakiya and his brother
Ibrahim to pay him homage. He ordered the arrest of `Abd
Allah al-Mahd and many other `Alids; of the thirteen
arrested, some were cruelly scourged to try to force them to
disclose the hiding place of the other fugitives, but in vain.
It is important to note that though An-Nafs az-Zakiya tried
to gain support in many parts of the Muslim population,
88 it
was chiefly the people of the Hijaz, rather than Kufa, who
enthusiastically responded to his appeal, and with few
exceptions, swore the oath of allegiance to him.
89 The
traditionist circles of Medina wholeheartedly supported
and upheld his cause; Malik b. Anas declared that the oath
sworn to the `Abbasids was no longer binding as it had been
taken under compulsion.
90 The Zaydites and Mu`tazilites of
Kufa and Basra were also ready to help him.
91 In
Ramadan 145/December 762, however, a fierce battle was
engaged and resulted in the utter defeat of the Medinese and
in the death of An-Nafs az-Zakiya while fighting the `Abbasid
army. The experience and death of An-Nafs az-Zakiya
resulted in many traditions, some of them attributed to
Ja`far as-Sadiq, who was said to have foreseen the fate of
An-Nafs az-Zakiya.
An-Nafs az-Zakiya's abortive uprising was followed by
another by his brother Ibrahim in Basra, where he was
collecting supporters for the former. The Zaydite and
Mu'tazilite circles of Kufa and Basra supported Ibrahim in a
93 The jurists of Ku fa-Abu Hanifa, Sufyan al-Thawri,
Mas`ud b. Kudam, and many others-wrote letters to
Ibrahim inviting him to their city or backed him by issuing
legal decisions (fatawa) favouring his cause.
94 With a force of
15,000 men Ibrahim left Basra for Kufa to join his Kufan
sympathisers, but was encountered by the `Abbasid army at
Bakhamra, which resulted in Ibrahim's death.
95 This was the
end of `Alid risings of any consequence and of Messianic
hopes aspired to by them or placed in them. Some of An-Nafs
az-Zakiya's followers then found an outlet for their hopes in
certain supernatural ideas. They regarded him as the Mahdi
and refused to accept the fact of his death, asserting that or\ly
a devil in human form had been killed in his stead, while he
was concealed in a mountain in Najd.
96 The failure of
Ibrahim's revolt also practically marked the end of the
Medinese desire to establish a caliphate of their own choice.
The long cherished hopes of the Shi`is, especially those of
activists and extremists, were frustrated.
All these events and circumstances, however, form the
background against which the Imamate of Ja`far happened to
fall. Rut before we try to examine his position and his
standpoint in this religio-political setting, there remains still
another vital aspect to be elaborated.
We have seen that the great Hashimite party of the
Umayyad era was now split into 'Alids and `Abbasids. So the
struggle assumed a new form. It was no longer a deadly
struggle between "a usurping dynasty" and a legitimist
opposition, but rather between the two factions of Banu
Hashim, each claiming legitimist rights for itself with the
total exclusion of the other: the descendants of the Prophet's
uncle and the descendants of the Prophet's cousin and
daughter, `Ali and Fatima. And to further complicate the
situation, the house of `Ali was itself divided into three
factions: the line of Husayn; the line of Ibn al-Hanafiya; and
the line of Hasan, which emerged later. Thus the house of
`Abbas was on one side, and the house of 'Ali, divided into
three groups, was on the other.
The first 'Abbasid caliph, As-Saffah, fully anticipated this
situation and from the very first moment of his caliphate
began the task of justifying the rights of his house on legitimist
grounds, as is evident from his inaugural speech discussed
above. In this way he laid down the foundation of his family's
policy in the forthcoming struggle t6 repudiate the claims of
the house of 'Ali. But, owing to the fact that during the short-
lived reign of As-Saffah the 'Alids themselves could not come
out with any serious or visible opposition, things remained
rather confused and stationary.
It was Mansur who had to face the most threatening
opposition from the 'Alids to the newly established authority
of his house. Thus in order to save, strengthen, and consolidate
his caliphate, Mansur concentrated his efforts on two basic
and fundamental objectives. The first was to justify the rights
of his house on legal and religious grounds. This logically
implied the repudiation of the claims of the 'Alids through
legal argumentation. The second was to gain for his caliphate
the acceptance of the Muslim Jama'a. This required the
severance of all relations and connections with all revolutionary
and extremist groups and organizations. Mansur realised
only too well that Kaysanite Shi'ism, Rawandite extremism,
revolutionaries of Abu Muslim's following (who held beliefs
which comprised a mixture of Kaysanite Shi'ism and
Mazdakism), or the Shi'at of 'Abbasiya, could not serve as the
religious basis for the 'Abbasid caliphate. Repudiating all of
the above groups, Mansur approached the traditionist circles
(Ahl al-Hadith), which he recognized as the representative
section of the Muslim community and the exponents of 'the
Jama'a. It would be in order if we consider this aspect later
and examine first his endeavour to vindicate the rights of his
house to the caliphate.
The best and probably the most authentic and relevant
documentary evidence in this connection is an exchange of
letters between Mansur and his most serious 'Alid rival,
Muhammad an-Nafs az-Zakiya. In order to understand
Mansur's method of argumentation and his approach to the
problem it is necessary to first consider An-Nafs az-Zakiya's
letter to him. It reads:
"Our father `Ali was the Wasi and the Imam. How is it that you
appropriate his inheritance while we are still alive? You know
that there is no one among the Hashimites who himself has
points of excellence and honour comparable to our past and
present, our descent and our cause ... We are the children of
Fatima, the daughter of 'Amr, at the time of paganism, whereas
you are not; we are the children of the Prophet's daughter Fatima
at the time of Islam, and you are not. And I happen to be the
golden medium in the line of descent amongst Banu Hashim,
and the best of them all as regards parentage. No Persian did I
have for a mother and no slave-girls were on the maternal side of
my ancestors...
98 I was twice-born from the loins of Muhammad
the Prophet ... amongst my grandfathers I have the highly
esteemed in Paradise and the least tormented in Hell; I am
therefore the son of the best of the excellent people.
'As for the amnesty you have given me, may I ask what kind
of amnesty it is? Is it the same that you gave to Ibn Hubayra or
to your uncle `Abd Allah b. `Ali or the one that was given to Abu
Muslim ?"

It is clear from this letter that first of all An-Nafs az-Zakiya
claims his rights on the basis that his ancestor `Ali b. Abu
Talib was the Wasi and the Imam, and then he strengthens
this by emphasizing the circumstance of his birth from both
his father's and his mother's sides: sharaf from the father's
side and dignity from the mother's side. At the end he alludes
to the treacherous nature of the `Abbasids. It is particularly
interesting to note that in spite of his reference to `Ali as the
Wasi and the Imam, and to Fatimid descent,
100 the Hijaz was
unanimous in supporting the cause of An-Nafs az-Zakiya.
It would be most revealing to see how Mansur argued
against the claims of his 'Alid rival and how he justified his
own rights to the supreme leadership of the community.
Mansur replied to An-Nafs az-Zakiya in this way:

"I received your letter. You know that our greatest honour in
the times of ignorance, namely the dispensing of water for the
pilgrims and the guardianship of the well of Zamzam, become
the privilege of `Abbas alone among all his brothers. Your father
[`Ali] litigated concerning this privilege with us' but `Umar has
given judgement in our favour so that we have never ceased to be
in possession of this honour in the times of the Jahiliya as well as
in those of Islam...
"Most of your pride is based on descent from the mother's
101 which would only deceive the uncouth and the common.
God has not made the women like uncles, fathers, fathers-in-law
and the responsible relatives... As for your claim that you are the
son of the Apostle of God, Almighty God has rejected such a
claim when he said, 'Muhammad is not the father of any of your
men, but he is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets.'
102 But you are the children of the daughter. Verily it is a close
relationship, but she is a woman who can inherit but cannot
become an Imam. How on earth then could the Imamate be
inherited through her?... You know that after the death of the
Prophet no son of `Abd al-Muttalib remained alive other than Al-
`Abbas, and that `Abbas inherited his rights as the uncle of the
Prophet. Then more than one of the Banu Hashim sought the
caliphate, but none attained it except the descendants of 'Abbas,
and so the Siqaya and the inheritance of the Prophet, as well as
the caliphate, belong to him and his progeny, and will remain in
their possession. For 'Abbas was heir and legatee to every honour
and virtue that ever existed in the times of the Jahiliya and of

This letter is a most important document for our under-
standing of the line of argument which Mansur adopted
against his 'Alid rivals. If we analyse the contents of the letter
the following points will be evident. Firstly, he resorted to the
customary law of the Arabs according to which when the
lather dies, the paternal uncle takes his place. Secondly, he
placed special stress on 'Umar's ruling in favour of 'Abbas
thus emphasizing the second caliph's authority in the same
way as the Ashab al-Hadith. Thirdly, 'Abbas, as the uncle,
had better claims to the heritage of the Prophet than 'Ali did
as a cousin and son-in-law. Fourthly, he rejected any claim
through Fatima, which was a great prerogative for command-
ing respect among the Shi`is in particular and among the
Muslims in general. Finally, the 'Alids, due to the weakness
of their legal claim, coupled with their lack of energy,
successively failed in their attempts to procure the caliphate
for themselves, while the progeny of 'Abbas attained it due to
their better claims, coupled with competence and ability. It is
also very important to note that both An- Nafs az-Zakiya and
Mansur go back for their arguments of rights to the Jahiliya
period and consider the prerogative of that time honourable
and applicable to the Islamic era.
It is, however, evident from the support given to the risings
of An-Nafs az-Zakiya and his brother Ibrahim, which took
place after this correspondence, by the Ahl al-Hadith (whether
of Murjite brand or otherwise) that they were not impressed
by the arguments of Mansur for the alleged rights of `Abbas;
they continued to assert that the only just candidates to the
Imamate were the 'Alids. We have pointed out that when An-
Nafs az-Zakiya rose in rebellion, Malik b. Anas declared that
the oath of allegiance taken by the inhabitants of Medina to
the 'Abbasids was unlawful, as it had been enforced under
104 Similarly, during the revolt of Ibrahim b. 'Abd
Allah, Abu Hanifa, Sufyan ath-Thawri, Al-A'mash and other
Ku fan jurists and Ahl al-Hadith gave their most emphatic
support and encouragement to those who wished to participate
in insurrection.
After the reconquest of Medina and the suppression of the
revolt of Ibrahim, Mansur ordered Malik b. Anas to be
flogged, and considered Abu Hanifa as an enemy so dangerous
that he imprisoned him until his death.
106 Apart from these
few strong and rather irreconcilable personalities who actively
opposed him and were to be severely punished, Mansur did
not attack the traditionists as such. On the contrary, he
regarded them as the basic element on which he could
establish the foundation of a theocratic state, headed by the
Khalifat Allah, the vice-regent of God, obedience to whom
was an absolute religious duty ( fard ).
107 Thus, for example,
when Mansur said in a sermon "Only I am the authority of
God upon His earth,"
108 he was not announcing himself
merely as a defender of religion or its protector. He identified
his interest with the faith of Islam and treated the will of God
as synonymous with his own aims.
Gradually, however, whether because of the fact that no
powerful member of the 'Alid house was ready to lead a
rising, or due to Mansur's successful policy of blandishment
or coercion, most of the Ahl al-Hadith and jurists of Medina
and Kufa came to be reconciled with the caliphate. Eventually,
willingly or unwillingly, they abandoned the 'Alid cause and
ranged themselves obediently under Mansur's orders.
Now, keeping in view this religio-political setting of events,
we are better able to examine the re-emergence of the
legitimist Imamate of the Husaynid line under the leadership
of Ja'far as-Sadiq, and the role played by him in the midst of
these circumstances. By an analysis of all that has been
brought out above, one major and fundamental point is
certain. All the successive claimants of the `Alid house based
their claims on the principle that they were the rightful
Imams due to their virtues and circumstances of birth, and
that the Imamate and the caliphate cannot be separated:
therefore it is exclusively their legitimist right as well as their
religious duty to take the caliphate back from the usurpers,
whether Umayyad or `Abbasid. In other words, they thought
it the function of the rightful Imam to run the caliphal
administration, which is meant to establish the rule of justice
and equality, and thus it is necessary for an Imam to be a
caliph. This principle was accepted by the representative
groups of the Muslim Jama`a-Mu`tazilites, Murjites, Ahl
al-Hadith and the jurists of Medina and Kufa-which is
evident from the wholehearted support given by them to the
`Alid claimants and to their risings. On the other hand, the
'Abbasids too held the same view that the Imamate and
the caliphate are inseparable, and a rightful Imam alone has
the right to command the caliphal authority. But at the same
time they disputed and rejected the claims of the `Alids for
this office and asserted that only they themselves were the
legitimist Imam-caliphs. Ultimately Mansur, however,
succeeded in crushing the `Alids and gaining the submission
of the representative groups of the Jama`a.
This meant the complete collapse and defeat of the `Alid
claims to the Imamate, since, as they held, the Imamate was
bound up with the caliphate, which they had failed to procure
for themselves. This critical situation, however, required a
fresh interpretation and elucidation of the whole concept of
the Imamate.
It was at this point that the Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq emerged
with his comprehensive interpretation of the function of the
Imamate. He differed categorically from the hitherto
dominating view that an Imam should be a caliph as well, and put
forward the idea of dividing the Imamate and the caliphate
into two separate institutions until such time as God would
make an Imam victorious. This Imam, who must be a
descendant of the Prophet through `Ali and Fatima, derives
his exclusive authority, not by political claims but by Nass,
that is, explicit designation by the previous Imam, and he
inherits the special knowledge of religion coming down in
the family from generation to generation. Thus the sphere
and domain of this Imam is chiefly religious leadership and
the spiritual guidance of the community, not the temporal
power. We shall see in detail in the following chapter how
Ja`far elaborated this theory of the Imamate and the nature
and function of an Imam. But let us make it clear here that
Ja`far was by no means the originator of this theory of the
Imamate. We have already pointed out that the idea of a
legitimist Imam inspired with special knowledge had already
been adopted by Zayn al-`Abidin, and then it was further
advanced by Muhammad al-Baqir. It was, however, the time
and circumstances which provided Ja`far with a most suitable
and propitious opportunity to elaborate and explain the ideas
propounded by his father and grandfather. This great
opportunity therefore made Ja`far's Imamate crucial.
Before we close this chapter, two more points are to be
noted in passing. One is the question whether Ja'far, by
presenting the theory pertaining to his own and his father's
Imamates, thought of establishing a sect, group, or party of
his own, separated from the rest of the Muslims, or whether
he wanted his Imamate with the above-mentioned preroga-
tives to be accepted and acknowledged by the whole body of
the Muslim. The audience of Ja'far and the wide range of
people whom he addressed and tried to convince is a sufficient
proof that Ja`far himself did not intend to establish a separate
sect which alone should follow his doctrine of the Imamate.
But in the event, only those who had already a background of
Shi`i inclination of one sort or another accepted Ja`far's
doctrine of the Imamate and ultimately became a section of
the Muslim community distinguishable from the rest of it.
The second point is that the doctrine of the Imamate and
the function of the Imam elaborated by Ja`far at this stage
provided a basic authority for the later Twelver theologians
and theorists to explain and solve many problems of the pre-
Ja'far period. This was done by applying Ja`far's theory of the
Imamate to the actions of the Imams of the House who came
before him, for example, `Ali's acceptance of the first three
caliphs, the abdication of Hasan, the inactive attitude of
Husayn and the quiescent policies of Zayn al-`Abidin and
Muhammad al-Baqir. All these questions were solved in
accordance with Ja`far's explanation that it is not necessary
for a rightful Imam to combine the temporal power in his
person or even claim the political authority--the caliphate--
if the circumstances did not allow him to do so. On the other
hand, it can also be said that Ja`far's theory of the Imamate
was in fact a natural corollary of his family's past history and

Notes to Chapter 10

1 For the former date, see Ya'qubi, Ta'rikh, II, p. 381; Ibn
Khallikan, I. p.327; Ibn al-Jawzi; Safwa, II, p.93; 'Amili, A'yan, IV,
p.54; Muhammad b. Talha, Matalib al-Su'ul, p.89. For the latter,
see Mas`udi, Muruj, III, p.219; Sa'd al-Ash'ari, Maqalat, p.79;
Kulayni, Kufi; p.193; Majlisi, Tadhkirat al-A'imma p.139. It is
difficult to choose between these two dates, but the former is
probably correct, since Ibn Khallikan and others record his birth in
the 'Amm al-Juhaf the year of the flood in Mecca, which according
to Tabari, II, p.1040, occurred in 80/699-700.
2 Ibn Sa'd, V, p.320; Ya'qubi, II, p.320; Qadi Nu'man, Sharh
al-Akhbar, MS. fol. 32a.
3 Ibn Khallikan, I, p.327; Qadi Nu'man, loc. cit.
4 Tabari, III, p.2509; Ya'qubi, II, p. 381; Sa'd al-Ash'ari,
Maqalat, p.79; Ibn Khallikan, loc. cit.; Kulayni, Kufi, p.194; 'Amili;
A'yan, IV, p.452
5 See Ibn Sa'd, V, p.216; Ibn 'Imad, Shadharat, I, p.104;
Ya'qubi, III, p.46; Kashshi, Rijal pp. 7-79; Abu Nu'aym, Hilya,
III, p.135
6 Ibn Sa'd, V, pp. i89 ff; Tabari, II, p. ii83; Ibn Imad,
Shadharat, I, p.62
7 See Kulayni, Kafi; p.i93. His Imamate would have been of
twenty-eight years' duration based on a birth date of 83/703-704; if
80/699-700 is accepted, his period in the Imamate would be thirty-
one years.
8 Ya'qubi, II, p.38i
9 Qadi Nu'man, Sharh al-Akhbar, MS. Fo1. 42a
10 ibid., fo1. 39a
11 Shahrastani, Milal, I, p. i66
12 S. Moscati, "Per Una Storia De la'Antica Si'a," RSO, i955,
13 B. Lewis, The Origins of Isma'ilism, p.25
14 Husayn was also called "al-Mahdi; son of al-Mahdi', but this
as yet had no messianic implications. See Tabari, II, p.546
15 Baladhuri, V, p.218; also see Tabari, II, pp.606 f., 633
16 See Ibn Sa'd, V, p.94
17 Baladhuri, loc. cit.
18 Tabari, II, pp.672-710; Baladhuri, V, p.253. For the other
titles which they were given, see Tabari, II, p.691; Baladhuri;
loc. cit.
19 For the name Kaysaniya there are a number of suggestions,
and the person of Aba 'Amra Kaysan has also been a great
problem. For various suggestions and possibilities see
Milal, I, p. 147; Baghdadi, Farq, p. 26; Baladhuri, V, p.229;
B. Lewis, The Origins of Isma'ilism, p.27
20 Ibn Sa'd, V, p.115
21 Ibn Khaldun, 'Ibar, III, p.172. Thus Aba Hashim became
recognized as the official head of this branch of the Shi'a; see
De Goeje, "Al-Baladhuri Ansab", ZDMG, 1884, p.394
22 See the verse of Kuthayyir in Aghani; IX, p.14, and the eulogy
of Ibn al-Hanafiya by Al-Sayyid al-Himyari in Aghani; VII,
23 Kashshi, Rijal, p.314
24 W.Ivanow, "Early Shi'ite Movements", JBBRAS, 1939, p.3
25 ibid.
26 Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, p.23
27 Mubarrad, Kamil, I, p.710
28 Jahiz. Rasa'il, "Kitab Fadl Bani Hashim", p.99; "Risala fi
Bani Umayya", p.66. Also see the commentary on the Qur'anic
verse XVII, 50 in the tafsir works.
29 See Montgomery Watt, "Shi'ism Under the Ummayyads",
JRAS, '960, pp.169 f.
30 Tabari, II, p.1700
31 Tabari, loc. cit. For the use and meaning of the word Rafidi
see Montgomery Watt, "The Rafidites", Oriens, XVI (1963), p.116
32 Tabari, loc. cit.
33 Tabari, II, p.1709; Abul-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.140 f.
34 Jahiz Bayan, I, p.311-312
35 ibid.
36 Mubarrad, Kamil, I, p. 260
37 See Tabari, II, p.1774; Abul-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.152 ff
38 Abul-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.145 ff
39 See Jahiz,, Bayan, I, p.353; Abul-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.233 ff
40 Abu Da'ud, Sunan, II, p.135
41 See Aghani, XII, p.85
42 Aba Da'ud, Sunan, II, p.135; Ibn Maja, Sunan, II, p.269
43 Sa'd al-Ash'ari, Maqalat, pp.74, 77; Nawbakhti, Firaq, p.59
44 Sa'd al-Ash'ari, Maqalat, p.77; Nawbakhti, Firaq, p.43
45 Nawbakhti, Firaq, p.52; Baghdadi, Farq, pp.36 if.; Sa'd al-
Ash'ari, Maqalat, p.74
46 Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.209 f., 292 ff.
47 ibid.
48 Tabari, III, pp.143 ff.; Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.206, 253
49 Tabari, III, p.52; Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.209, 256. For Al-
Abwa, see Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Buldan, I, p.79. According to another
report, this homage was paid at Suwayqa; See Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil,
pp.293 ff.; E11 article 'Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah"
50 Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil pp.208,253, 178
51 See, for example, Tabari III, p. 152
52 'Tabari, III, pp.143, i52; E11 article 'Muhammad b. 'Abd
53 Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil p.209
54 Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil pp.207 f, 254 ff; El1 article 'Muhammad
b. 'Abd Allah"
55 See Aghani, XII, pp.213 ff; Tabari II, pp. 1879, 1881;
Montgomery Watt, 'Shi`ism Under the Umayyads", p.170
56 Tabari; II, pp. 1881, 1883, 1887
57 See Montgomery Watt, 'Shi`ism Under the Umayyads",p.170
58 See Montgomery Watt, El2 article "Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib"
59 Kashshi, Rijal 4l, pp. 56 f.
60 See Kashshi Rija1, pp. 57 ff; Veccia Vaglieri, EP article "Abd
Allah b. 'Abbas"
61 Mubarrad, Kamil, I, p. 180
62 See Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, p.126; Kamil V, pp. 32-9 S.
Moscati, "Testamento di Abu Hashim", RSO, XXVII (1952),
pp. 24-8
63 Mas`udi, Muruj, III, p.238; Abu'l-Faraj, loc. cit.; Kamil
loc. Cit; Moscati, loc. cit; Bernard Lewis, El2 article 'Hashimiya"
64 Lewis, El2 articles 'Hashimiya" and "Abbasid?
65 See Nawbakhti, Firaq, pp. 28-29; Nashwan al-Himyari; Hurr
al-Ayn, pp. 159-6O
66 For the readiness of the Khurasanians to follow any branch of
the Ahl al-Bayt, see Ibn Qutayba, `Uyun al-Akhbar, I, p. 204; Yaqut,
Mu`jam al-Buldan, II, p.352
67 Aba Muslim was adopted by Ibrahim as a member of the Ahl
al-Bayt; see Tabari, II, pp.1937, '949. For Aba Muslim himself, see
Ibn Khallikan, III, pp. '45-55; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.239; Ibn
Qutayba, Ma`ani, p.145; Dinawari, p.337; Tabari II, pp.1949 f.,
'987 ff; R. N. Frye, "The Role of Aba Muslim", Muslim World,
January '947
68 See Wellhausen, Arab Kingdom, pp.492-566; Lewis, EP
article "Abbasids"
69 Tabari III, pp.25 ff., 42 ff., Dinawari; p.357; Mas'udi,
Muruj, III, p. 244
70 Tabari, III, p.27; Mas`udi Mural, III, p.253
71 Jahshiyari, Al-Wuzara' wa'l-Kuttab, p.83; Mas'udi, Mural,
III, p.253; Ibn Khallikan, III, pp.148 f; Tabari, III, pp.27 f.;
Ya'qubi II, pp. 345, 449
72 Mas'udi, loc. Cit.; Tabari, loc. cit; Wellhausen, Arab Kingdom,
p.544; S. Moscati, El2 article "Abu Salama"
73 Jahshiyari; Al-Wuzara' wa'l-Kuttab, p.86; Tabari; III, p.27
74 Jahshiyari, loc. cit.; Ibn Tiqtaqa, Al-Fakhri P. 109
75 Mas`udi Muruj, III, p.253 f.
76 See Ya'qubi loc. cit.; Mas`udi; loc. cit; Jahshiyari, loc cit
77 S. Moscati, EP article "Aba Salama"
78 Ya'qubi, II, p.345, gives the period of concealment as two
months; Tabari III, p.27, makes it forty day Other sources do not
mention the precise period.
79 See Lewis, EP article "'Abbisids"
80 Tabari, III, pp.28 f0f.; Jahshiyari Al-Wuzara', pp.86 ff.;
Ya'qabi II, pp.245 f; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, pp.255 f.
81 Tabari III, pp. 29 ff Ya'qubi; II, p.350, says Abu'l-'Abbas did
not speak at all because of fever. Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.255 gives
only a summary of the speech in two lines.
82 The speech of Da'ud is widely recorded, esp. Tabari, III,
pp.31 ff; Ya'qubi, II, p.350. Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.256 again only
summarizes the main points.
83 See Tabari, III, pp.60 f.; Ya'qubi, II, pp.352 f.; Mas'udi,
Muruj, III, p.270; Ibn Khallikan, II, p. 196
84 See Tabari; III, pp. 58 ff; Mas'udi, loc. cit.
85 Lewis, E12 article "'Abbasids"
86 See Tabari, III, pp.75 f, 8s; Maqrizi an-Niza`, p.52
87 Ya'qubi, II, p.369; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.295; Tabari, III,
pp.151 ff
88 See Tabari, III, pp.149 ff
89 Tabari, III, p.199; Abu'l-Faraj, Maqati1, pp.277 ff.
90 Tabari, III, p.200
91 Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.291 ff
92 Tabari, III, pp.248, 252, 254; Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.248,
271; Shahrastani, Milal, I, p. 156
93 Tabari, III, pp.291-300. For the names and details see Abu'l-
Faraj, Maqatil, pp.360 f., 365 ff
94 Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.365 ff
95 ibid., pp. 344 ff
96 Baghdadi, Farq, pp.36 ff., 148; Sa'd al-Ash'ari, Maqatil, p.76
97 The name Rawindiya is given to the sect which held that Aba
Hashim bequeathed the Imamate to Muhammad b. 'Ali (the
'Abbasid). See Lewis, Origins of Isma`ilism, p.28
98 Mansur himself was a son of a slave-girl, and perhaps it was
because of this that, though he was older than As-Saffah, Ibrahim
al-Imam did not appoint him as his successor.
99 Mubarrad, Kamil, IV, pp. 114 f; Tabari, III, pp.209 ff; Ibn
Tiqtaqa, AI-Fakhri; pp.225 ff.
100 Tabari, III, p.189
101 i.e., Fatima, the mother of Abu Talib; Fatima, the mother of
'Ali; Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet; Fatima bint al-Husayn,
the mother of 'Abd Allah al-Mahd; and finally Hind bint Abi
'Ubayda, a descendant of 'Abd al-Muttalib, the mother of An-Nafs
az-Zakiya. See Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, p.202. Mansur belittled this
"descent through women", being himself a son of a slave-girl.
102 Qur'an, XXXIII, 40
103 Tabari, III, pp.211 ff; Mubarrad, Kamil IV, pp. 116 ff.
104 Tabari; III, p.200
105 Khattab al-Baghdadi, Ta'rikh Baghdadi, XIII, p.380; Abu'l-
Faraj, Maqatil, pp.366 ff., 365 ff
106 Khatib al-Baghdadi; Ta'rikh Baghdadi, XIII, p.422; Shahrastani,
Milal, I, p.158. Abu'l-Faraj (Maqatil, pp.367, 368) asserts that
Abu Hanifa was poisoned at the orders of the Caliph.
107 Tabari, III, p.426. See Arnold, The Caliphate, p. 51. This
principle was also stressed by the later 'Abbasid caliphs; see Tabari,
III, p.1565
108 Tabari, III, p.426