Monday, 9 August 2010

Shia Origins


Full Text of Classic Study of Shia Muslims.

Origins and Early Development of Shia Islam

S.H.M.Jafri (1976)

Ansariyan Publications (Qum, Islamic Republic of Iran)


Chapter 1 : Conceptual Foundations
Chapter 2 : Saqifa: The First Manifestations
Chapter 3 : Ali and the First Two Caliphs
Chapter 4 : The Re-emergence of the Alid Party
Chapter 5 : Kufa: Stage of Shia Activities
Chapter 6 : The Abdiction of Hasan
Chapter 7 : The Martyrdom of Husayn
Chapter 8 : The Reaction after Karbala
Chapter 9 : The Struggle for Legitimacy
Chapter 10 : The Imamate of Jafar as-Sadiq
Chapter 11 : The Doctrine of the Imamate
Notes to Chapters


Preface by the Author

Islam in general has been subject to numerous studies, but
Shia Islam has received insufficient attention, except heresay
founded on political and economic considerations.
A more reliable basis for research maybe found in the historical texts.
In light of evidence now available, it is possible to undertake critical reassessment of the origins of Shia Islam; to trace out and reconstruct those earliest tendencies and ideas which have Shia Islam its distinctive character.
My aim is to present the development of an Islamic ideal, that of a particular vision of religious leadership that first appeared after the Prophet's death, based on testimony of the historical sources.

27 August 1976.

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# Chapter 1
Conceptual Foundations

The division of the community of Islam into Sunni and Shi'i
branches has commonly been explained in terms of purely
political differences. Its origins have been attributed to
basically political partisanship with regard to the leadership
of the Umma, a partisanship which later exploded into
conflict in the civil war between 'Ali and Mu'awiya This war
not only established the Umayyads in power, but also
supposedly marked the advent of Shi'ism as a religious
movement divergent from the main body of believers. Such
an interpretation grossly oversimplifies a very complex
situation. Those who thus emphasize the political nature of
Shi'ism are perhaps too eager to project the modern Western
notion of the separation of church and state back into seventh.
century Arabian society, where such a notion would be not
only foreign, but completely unintelligible. Such an approach
also implies the spontaneous appearance of Shi'ism rather
than its gradual emergence and development within Islamic
society. The recent occidental conception of "a purely spiritual
movement" is exceptional. Throughout most of human
history religion has been intimately involved in the whole life
of man in society, and not least in his politics. Even the purely
religious teaching of Jesus-as it is commonly regarded-is
not without its political relevance. (1)

Just as the Prophet was basically a religious and spiritual
teacher and messenger and, at the same time, due to the
circumstances, a temporal ruler and statesman, Islam has
been since its very birth both a religious discipline and, so to
speak, a socio-political movement. It is basically religious
because of the status Muhammad attained as the Apostle of

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God appointed and sent by Him to deliver His message to
mankind, and political because of the environment and
circumstances in which it arose and grew. Likewise Shi'ism,
in its inherent nature, has always been both religious and
political, and these co-existing aspects are found side by side
throughout its history. It is therefore difficult to speak, at any
stage of its existence, about the "political" Shi'a as distinct
from the "religious" one. Throughout the first three or four
centuries of Islamic religious and institutional development,
one cannot fail to see that all religious discussions among
Muslims had both political and social relevance. When we
analyse different possible relations which the religious beliefs
and the political constitution in Islam bear to one another, we
find the claims and the doctrinal trends of the supporters of
'Ali more inclined towards the religious aspects than the
political ones; thus it seems paradoxical that the party whose
claims were based chiefly on spiritual and religious consid-
erations, as we shall examine in detail presently, should be
traditionally labelled as political in origin.

The term Shi'a, keeping in view its historical development,
must strictly be taken throughout this chapter in its literal
meaning as followers, party, group, associates, partisans, or in
a rather looser sense, the "supporters".(2) In these meanings the
word Shi'a occurs a number of times in the Qur'an.(3) In its
applied meaning as a particular designation for the followers
of 'Ali and the people of his house, and thereby a distinct
denomination within Islam against the Sunni, the term Shi'a
was a later usage. In the infant years of Islamic history, one
cannot speak of the so-called "orthodox" Sunna and the
"heretical" Shi'a, but rather only of two ill-defined points of
view that were nevertheless drifting steadily, and finally
irreconcilably, further apart. With this meaning of the term
Shi'a in mind, our main purpose here is to trace the
background of this support to 'All and to investigate its
origins in the Arabian society of the day in the midst of which
Islam arose. Consequently it will be illustrated how this
attitude became manifest as early as the death of the Prophet

The starting point in any study of Shi'a Islam must, by
historical necessity, be the nature and composition of the
Muslim community which emerged at Medina under the


leadership of Muhammad. This community was homogeneous
neither in cultural background and traditions nor in
politico-social institutions. The unification of different people
or groups of people in a new system does not imply a complete
elimination or even a change in some of their deep-rooted
values and traditions. It was therefore natural that certain
values, ideas, and inclinations of different component parts of
the Umma should reflect themselves in certain aspects of the
new religious order. Consequently, rather than a homogen-
eous approach to all issues, especially of a non-fundamental
nature, one must expect to find in the Umma a multiplicity of
approaches and points of view, with the acceptance of
Muhammad and his mission being the fundamental factor
binding the various groups together.

The inclination of some of the Arabs from among the
Companions of the Prophet to support 'Ali was thus a natural
corollary of the already existing ideas prevalent among the
various Arab tribes who together constituted Muhammad's
Umma at Medina. This Umma consisted of the Meccans,
both from the Quraysh al-Bitah (those who inhabited the
district immediately around the Ka'ba) and Quraysh az-
Zawahir (those whose quarters were in the outskirts); of
Medinese, who were divided into Aws and Khazraj, both
tribes of the South Arabian stock and still preserving many
of the characteristics of their original land; of the desert Arabs
surrounding Med ma; and even of some Arabs and non-
Arabs from distant places, such as Bilal of Abyssinia and
Salman of Persia. All of them together formed a common
society under Islam, but when we consider a problem
common among them we have to take into consideration the
different temperaments and inclinations of each group, and
not those of only one single people, group, or locality. We
must presume that the Arabs of different origins and socio-
cultural backgrounds understood Islam, at least in its early
stage, according to their own social and moral ideas.

Arab society, both nomadic and sedentary, was organized
on a tribal basis, and of all the social bonds, loyalty to the tribe
(al-'asabiya) was considered the most important. This feeling
of al-'asabiya, along with other aspects of tribal life, provides
the most emphatic expression of and a constant theme for
pre-Islamic poetry. The tribal system was based on the actual


or fictitious descent from a common ancestor through whom
the social and moral status of the members of the tribe was
determined. People who could not boast of their ancestors as
a symbol of greatness were of little social standing and often
subject to contempt. Knowledge and awareness of the
common ancestor was therefore the central point in Arab
social consciousness, and honour and glory of a tribe in
comparison with any other tribe consisted of the honour and
glory of its ancestors. Any claim to prestige and honour of the
individual members as well as the whole tribe was perhaps
exclusively dependent on that of the ancestors. The word
used for such claims is hasab, which is commonly explained
by the Arab philologists in the meaning of enumeration of
the famous deeds of ancestors.(4) This does not mean that the
word hasab excludes the enumeration of those ancestors
themselves who figure in the genealogical tree in both
paternal and maternal descent.(5) If the noble deeds of one's
ancestors are numerous enough to be cited and boastfully
enumerated by their descendants, the richer is their hasab or
sharaf as is evident from a popular expression, al-hasab or
sharaf al-dakham.(6) This means a nobility which becomes
"thicker" and stronger through accumulated noble deeds of
ancestors generation after generation.(7) Thus sings the famous
Arab poet Nabigha adh-Dhubyani:

"His father before him and his father's father
built the glories of life as models." (8)

A tribe with large numbers but few deeds of fame to its credit
coming down from its ancestors was not only of less social
standing but also subject to mockery from those who could
enumerate more of their ancestors' noble deeds. So we hear
from the poet Damra as he says:

"And the joint stock which they have begotten
among the race of Sa'd and Malik:
but some of the fire-sticks of the tribe fail to light
and are nothing worth." (9)

In a rigidly tribal system such as that of the Arabs, the fame
of ancestors for noble deeds was the foremost source of pride
and of claim to superiority. Nobility thus derived, a tribe
considered it a constellatory factor in claiming its higher


position in relation to other tribes. Within a tribe a particular
clan had higher claim to glory, and therefrom to leadership,
if its direct line of ancestors was more distinguished by their
noble deeds in relation to other clans of the same tribe. This
fame of ancestors was not mere genealogical ornament to the
descendants but had individual relevance to each man and
was of great significance in the claim of individual honour. (10)
Thus, for example, Nu'man b. al-Mundhir, King of Hira,
asked Amir b. Uhaymir b. Bahdala, who had claimed the
highest rank among all present, "Are you then the noblest of
all Arabs in respect of your tribe?" He replied, "The Ma'add
excel in nobility and number, and amongst them the Nizar,
and amongst them the Mudar, and amongst them the
Khindif, amongst whom the Tamim, and amongst these the
'Awf, within 'Awf the family of Bahdala. He who does not
admit this may contest with me." (11)

Not only physical characteristics were considered by the
Arabs to be hereditary ; (12) they firmly believed that noble
qualities as well were inherent in certain stocks. Moral
qualities thus being genetically transmitted, the best virtues
for an individual were therefore only those which were
handed down to him from his noble ancestors. The Arabs
made a clear distinction between inherited nobility and
nobility claimed only on account of personal merit, the former
being a source of great social prestige while the latter was of
little consequence. In other words, personal fame and merit
counted for little in securing for oneself an exalted position;
it was inherited fame and inherited merit which confirmed
proper estimation in the society.(13) There are numerous
references in pre-Islamic poetry where ancestral nobility and
virtues are described as a strong and lofty building which
they built for their descendants (14) and which it would be
shameful for the latter to destroy. (15) Ancestral fame of nobility
and virtuous deeds must therefore be preserved as the
strongest and most continuous incentive to be adopted by the
descendants. It was in this sense that the term Sunna had
frequently been used long before Islam. (16) After Islam the
institution of Sunna remained as forceful as ever, but its
content was drastically replaced by the Prophetic Sunna.
Nevertheless certain trends of the original Sunna did persist,
at least in certain sections of the Arab-Muslim community.


The most privileged in Arab society, in the midst of which
Islam arose, was therefore the one who could boast publicly
that he was destined to have ancestors who had nothing
undistinguished to leave to him as their Sunna. A word
commonly used to express the idea of ability to trace moral
qualities back to one's noble ancestors is 'irq, (p1. a'raq and
'uruq). 'Irq means root, origin of a man, and its plural a'raq
signifies ancestors of a man. Thus frequent expressions of a
man's inheritance from noble ancestors are found in phrases
such as, "he has an hereditary share in generousness or
nobleness," (17) or "noble blood lifted him up to his ancestors." (18)

It is clear that in the religious sentiments of the Arabs,
ancestral piety, noble deeds, and moral qualities as Sunna
played an important role. The religion of the Arabs, which
varied in strength and importance from locality to locality
throughout the peninsula, was originally the worship of tribal
symbols, which later became identified with certain forces of
nature represented by numerous deities. The tribal deity,
symbolized in the sacred stone (nasab), was called the lord
(rabb) of its temple. Allah, the supreme deity of the Meccan
sanctuary, was described as Rabb al-Ka'ba or Rabb Hadha al-
Bayt. (19) It is important to note that the word rabb often
referred not to the deity but to the person in charge of the

There was no organized priestly hierarchy, but certain
clans acted as guardians of the sanctuaries. This guardianship
passed from one generation to another, together with the
reputation for hereditary sanctity. (20) This sanctity, which had
its original source in the magical power attributed to the idol
which they served, was strictly connected with the idea of
nobility of race (sharaf) synonymous with the pride of descent
from noble ancestors. The nobility of the clan being
hereditary, the priestly clans of long standing represented the
highest aristocracy in pre-Islamic Arabia. Traces of this sort
of aristocracy are to be found in the belief of the Arabs,
especially of the South, that members of certain families have
a charisma or spiritual power, or sharaf The guardianship of
a sanctuary, a "house" (Bayt), and "honour" (sharaf) came to
be understood as being inseparable. (21) As a result, priesthood
in Arabia was very often combined with tribal leadership,
even with kingship. We may go even further by stating that


political leadership there was originally of a religious and
priestly nature. The South Arabian monarchial institution of
the mukarrib is a clear proof of the office of the priest-king
who embraces at once religious and temporal authority.

The clans of political rulers could have attained the status
of great nobility after first acquiring power by political means,
but nevertheless, they could not equal the sacerdotal lineages;
for example, the kings of Kinda ranked only after the three
most noble priestly houses. These three houses, "after the
house of Hashim b. 'Abd Manaf amongst the Quraysh", were
Az-Zurara b. 'Udas of the Tamim, Al-Hudhayfa b. Badr of
the Fazari tribe, and Dhu'l-Jaddayn b. 'Abd Allah b.
Hammam of the Shayban tribe. "And as far as the Kinda
were concerned they were not counted amongst the ahi-al-
buyutat, even though they were the kings."(22)

It is apparent that not only was priestly status the
foundation of political leadership, but when the latter was
attained by men of non-priestly clans, it imposed upon them
religious functions. They were also mediators between men
and deities. As a result, the idea of tribal leadership and
service to the God became synonymous. Those who led the
tribe were of necessity the guardians of the tribal bayt. They
were the ahl al-bayt, the "people of the house", or the bayt of
such and such a tribe.(23) Together these leading clans formed
the noble estate of Arabia, the buyutat al-'Arab.(24) Even later,
when the meaning of the ahl al-bayt became limited to the
descendants of the Prophet, the term Buyutat al-'Arab
survived into later centuries in the sense of the tribal
aristocracy and nobilitv.(25)

It is against this background that we have to consider the
status of the Banu Hashim, not only among the people of
Mecca but in a wider circle due to their vast contacts with the
people of different places through the yearly fair of Ukaz and
the pilgrimage to the Ka'ba. Some western scholars have
sceptically questioned whether the ancestors of Muhammad
were really as important in dignity, nobility, and influence as
the sources suggest, and they usually claim that the importance
of the Banu Hashim has in fact been grossly exaggerated.
The basis of this doubt is that the 'Abbasids were descendants
of Hashim, whereas the rivals whom they ousted, the
Umayyads, were the descendants of 'Abd Shams, and that


the latter have been treated unsympathetically by the
historians who happened to write under the 'Abbasid regime.
For this reason, it is claimed that Hashim and his family, the
ancestors of the 'Abbasid caliphs, had been given greater
prominence in extant histories than they really possessed.
This entire hypothesis, however, is open to considerable
criticism. Scrutiny of the sources suggests that this has not
happened to any appreciable extent, and that there are no
grounds for assuming any serious falsification or large scale
invention in presenting Muhammad's ancestry.(26)

There is no need to go as far back as Qusayy, father of 'Abd
ad-Dar and 'Abd Manaf, whom unanimous historical
testimony presents as the unrivalled supreme authority of
Mecca both in religion and in political matters.(27) After the
death of Qusayy, 'Abd ad-Dar inherited his father's authority,
but he died early and his sons were too young to effectively
maintain their rights. 'Abd Manaf, the younger son of
Qusayy, had been the powerful rival of his elder brother and
ultimately concentrated some of the chief offices of his father
in his person after the death of 'Abd ad-DAr.(28) Eventually the
sons of 'Abd Manaf inherited their father's influence; among
them, Hashim, though the youngest, was entrusted with the
most honourable offices pertaining to the Ka'ba, ar-r:f4da
and as-siqaya: providing food and water to the pilgrims.(29)
There are no serious grounds to doubt the accounts given by
the early tradition that Hashim achieved great success and
glory in his lifetime by his acts of public welfare and by his
splendid hospitality extended to the pilgrims visiting the
Ka'ba from all parts of Arabia.(30) When Hashim died, he was
replaced by his brother AI-Muttalib. For a short time it seems
that the fortunes of the family were declining under the
leadership of Al-Muttalib, but they soon recovered under
Hashim's son 'Abd al-Muttalib, who had been brought up in
Medina with his mother and then brought to Mecca by his
uncle Al-Muttalib.(31)

The other sons of Hashim having died without male issue,
'Abd al-Muttalib took charge of the family's affairs, which
meant the de facto merger of the Banu Hashim and Banu
'Abd al-Muttalib. This is not the place to discuss whether or
not the family of Hashim at that time was as prosperous and
influential in Meccan internal affairs as it used to be. The


same sources which are too often suspected of being biased in
presenting Muhammad's ancestors in unduly favourable
circumstances do not hesitate to relate how 'Abd al-Muttalib
faced serious set-backs at the beginning of his career. The
grand offices of ar-rifada and as-siqaya secured for the house
of Hashim a commanding and permanent influence, and it
seems natural that by the virtue of these offices a widespread
fame abroad must have guaranteed to the family at least some
regard in Mecca. 'Abd al-Muttalib seems to have been a man
of initiative and energy,(32) necessary prerequisites to become
a man of consequence in the Meccan merchant aristocracy.
He greatly enhanced his position by restoring the ancient
well of Zamzam. In the course of time, he became the chief
custodian of the Ka'ba and was also regarded as a renowned
judge of the customary law. Because of his position as the sole
person in charge of the main services pertaining to the most
respected sanctuary of the Peninsula, he became one of the
most, if not the most, prominent figures of Mecca. We are told
by Ibn Sa'd and Ibn Hashim that "he was the leader of the
Quraysh until his death," and that "his greatness in honour
(sharaf) attained an exalted position which no one from
amongst his fathers had reached before him. He commanded
great respect and the love of his people."(33)

After 'Abd al-Muttalib's death, his eldest surviving son
Abu Talib inherited his father's position. It seems, however,
that Abu Talib did not prove himself to be of that same
calibre and energy as his father and grandfathers, and
consequently the family lost much of that power and
command which it had previously enjoyed in the inner circle
of Meccan aristocratic society.(34) Nevertheless it does not
necessarily follow that the material decline of the family's
fortunes should have deprived it, in the minds of the people,
of the memory of their immediate past. The regard for a
successor of three or four illustrious generations could not
have faded so soon, especially among groups beyond Mecca.
The sanctuary of the Ka'ba, a shrine of extreme antiquity,
was a highly important and popular centre of worship in the
Peninsula,(35) and its offices of as-siqaya and imarat al-bayt
(keeper of the Ka'ba) are noted in the Qur'an.(36) Supplying
the pilgrims with water must have been a lucrative job in
Mecca, where water is so scarce, and the water of Zamzam,


which soon shared in the sacredness of the sanctuary, was
required not only by the yearly pilgrims but also by the huge
trade caravans halting at Mecca.(37) Many early writers have
recorded detailed accounts of the universal influence of the
Ka'ba, of the vast contacts of the people of Mecca due to its
being a centre for the trade caravans from Yaman in the
South, from Dumat al-Jandal in the extreme North, and from
other far-off places, and of the Ukaz, the greatest of the Arabs'
yearly fairs. It is therefore natural that the honorific services
attached to the sanctuary and rendered by the house of
Hashim for such a long period must have extended the
family's fame and prestige over a very wide area as the
pilgrims and the caravans left Mecca. We can thus conclude
that at the time of Muhammad's emergence, his family must
have retained the glory and memory of the long-standing
sacerdotal lineage of Hashim even though the family's
material and political fortunes were at a low ebb at that time.
Psychologically at least, the works and deeds of three
generations cannot be obliterated from the consciousness of
the people abroad by the sudden decline in wealth and
political power of the present generation at Mecca. The Banu
Hashim were commonly recognized by the Arabs as the
guardians of the Temple, the Ahl al-Bayt, of Mecca.(38)

It was in this family background that Muhammad arose as
the Messenger of God and restorer of the true religious Sunna
of Abraham and Ishmael(39) which had been corrupted and
distorted by the people through the ages. Abraham was not
only recognized by the Arabs as their tribal father and
progenitor but was also acknowledged by them as the founder
of the sanctuary of the Ka'ba and of Mecca. This tradition
was no Muslim legend. If it had not been an accepted truth
long before Muhammad's time, it could not have been
referred to in the Qur'an as an acknowledged fact; nor could
certain spots around the pre-Islamic Ka'ba have been
connected, as we know them to have been, with the names of
Abraham and Ishmael.(40) Muhammad was fully conscious of
this popular and deep-rooted tradition of Abraham's associa-
tion with the Ka'ba, with which the Arabs in general and
Muhammad's four generations of predecessors in particular
were so closely linked. Ibn Khaldun points out that it was
regarded as something extraordinary and most honourable if


the leadership continued in one and the same family for four

All the factors discussed above combine to form an
inseparable background against which the problem of
succession to Muhammad has to be considered. As has been
pointed out above, this problem must not be considered only
from the point of view of seventh century Meccan society, for
the Umma of Muhammad at the time of his death was
composed of people of a variety of background, values, and
ideas, drawn from different parts of Arabia. It was, therefore,
natural that different people should view the problem from
different angles. The way in which the problem of succession
was solved in the assembly of Saqifa between the death and
the burial of the Prophet will be discussed below. It will
suffice here to note in passing that the decision taken in Saqifa
was also in conformity with the common practice and ancient
tradition of the Arabs, at least of one important group from
among them.

The two main constituent groups of the Umma at the time
of Muhammad's death were the Arabs of northern and
central Arabia, of whom the tribe of the Quraysh was the
most important and dominant, and the people of South
Arabian origin, the Banu Qayla, whose two major branches,
the Aws and the Khazraj, were settled in Yathrib. They were
known as the Ansar, or "helpers", because they gave
Muhammad and Islam a shelter and a home at the most
critical moment of the Prophet's mission. Differences in
almost all aspects of life-social, cultural, economic, religious,
geographical, and even presumably racial and ancestral-
between the Arabs of the South and the North are too well
known to need elaboration here at length. Goldziher,(42)
Wellhausen,(43) Nicholson,(44) and many other outstanding
scholars have thoroughly studied the subject in depth. It
should, however, be pointed out that to consider all the Arabs
as one single cultural group is a grave mistake. They had
never been so. The North was cut off from the centre by the
desert as the South was separated from the rest of Arabia by
the Rub 'al-Khali. Widely different geographical and eco-
nomic conditions played their inevitable and natural role in
every aspect of development of the two kindred races. The
Arabs of northern and central Arabia, the Hijaz, and the


highlands of Najd, developed along different lines from the
southern Arabs of Al-Yaman in character, way of life, and
socio-political and socio-religious institutions. Ag in all other
aspects of life, the two groups differed widely from each other
in religious sensitivity and feelings. Among the people of the
much more advanced and civilized provinces of South Arabia
there was a clear predominance of religious ideas, whereas
among the people of the North religious sentiments were
evidently lacking. A South Arabian prince, for example, in
his votive inscriptions thanked the gods who made him
victorious over his enemies, and warriors erected votive
memorials to their divine helper for any success they achieved.
In general the thankful and submissive feeling towards the
gods is the basic theme of the existent South Arabian
monuments. In sharp contrast to this, the warriors of northern
Arabia boasted of their heroic courage and the bravery of
their companions. They did not feel obliged to thank divine
powers for their success, though they did not altogether refuse
to acknowledge such powers.(45) Even the scanty traces of
lukewarm religious sentiments amongst the northern Arabs
cannot be dissociated from the influence 9f the southern
Arabs settled down in the North.(46) This difference in
religious sentiments was naturally reflected in their pattern
of tribal leadership. The chiefs or the sheikhs in the North
had always been elected on a principle of seniority in age and
ability in leadership. There might sometimes be other
considerations, such as nobility and lineal prestige, but in the
North these were of less importance. The Arabs in the South
were, on the other hand, accustomed to hereditary succession
in leadership based on hereditary sanctity. Because of this
fact the South Arabian tribes of the Aws and the Khazraj at
Yathrib presented an atmosphere more easily conducive to
the religious thought which was of great importance in
Muhammad's success. Thus we may assume that the majority
of the North Arabians understood Islam, at least at the first
stage of their acceptance of it, as a socio-political discipline
based on the religion taught by the Prophet, since they had
been lukewarm to religious impulses. The Aws and the
Khazraj, South Arabian in origin, understood Islam as
basically a religious discipline coupled with a socio-political
movement, since in their cultural past, though remote, they


had been more sensitive to religion. It was only a matter of
emphasis in approach and understanding, at least at the first
spontaneous response.

When the Prophet died the question of his succession was
therefore understood to combine in it both political and
religious leadership, a principle well known to the Arabs
though naturally with different degrees of emphasis on one
or the other of these two aspects. To some it was more political
than religious; to others it was more religious than political
The majority of the Muslims, who readily accepted Abu
Bakr, laid more emphasis on the sociopolitical side in
accepting the customary procedure of succession to the
chieftainship in its new interpretation given by the first
caliph, as we shall examine below. They largely, if not solely,
disregarded the religious principle and the idea of the
hereditary sanctity of a certain house. This assumption is
strongly supported by the statement of 'Umar b. al-Khattab
to Ibn 'Abbas, "The people do not like having the prophethood.
and caliphate combined in the Banu Hishim."(47) We must
assume that both 'Umar and Abu Bakr were well aware of the
importance which the idea of inherited sanctity held in one
section of the Umma. At the same time they must have
realized that should the election of Abu Bakr be open to
doubt, the unity of the Umma would be seriously endangered.
They nevertheless considered it necessary to dissociate the
caliphate from the priesthood of the Ka'ba, which was
enshrined in the hereditary sanctity of the Banu Hashim.

There were others, especially of South Arabian origin; who
felt that in Mecca leadership, together with priestly preroga-
tives, was inherited in the clan of 'Abd Manaf by the
Hashimites,(48) though after the death of 'Abd al-Muttalib they
were overshadowed by the clan of Umayya in political
matters. The rise of Muhammad as the Prophet of God and
the supreme authority in Arabia again brought the Banu
Hashim to power, a fact acknowledged by Abu Sufyan's
surrender to the Prophet at the fall of Mecca. To some of the
Companions, therefore, a normal logical choice of successor
would have been another Hashimite, and the entire question
of succession to the leadership of the Muslim community
was, for them, a problem of great religious significance. In
addition to political expediency, deep-rooted religious


considerations had to be taken into account by certain of the
Companions. These, whom we may call more legalistically
minded individuals, could not agree to the interpretation
given by Abu Bakr and his supporters, because, as we shall
see below, they understood the leadership of the community
as above all a religious office. To them Muhammad was the
restorer of the true religion of Abraham and Ishmael, and so
in him the hereditary sanctity of his clan reached its highest
level. This idea was also strongly supported by the Qur'an
when it declared, for example, "Verily, God has chosen Adam
and Noah, the family of Abraham and the family of 'Imran
above all people."'(49) The commentators have all unanimously
explained that Muhammad belonged to the "family of
Abraham" referred to in this verse. Thus when he died his
successor could only be a man from the same family and
endowed with the same qualities by the same principles.

In this respect, there must be noted the Qur'anic concept of
the exalted and virtuous family, whose favour in the eyes of
God derives from their righteous deeds and services in the
cause of God. In all ages the prophets have been particularly
concerned with ensuring that the special favour of God
bestowed upon them for the guidance of man be maintained
in their families and pass to their progeny. The Qur'an
repeatedly speaks of the prophets praying to God for their
progeny and asking Him to continue His guidance in their
lineages. In the answer to these prayers, the verses of the
Qur'an bear direct testimony to the special favour of God
being granted to the direct descendants of the prophets to
keep their fathers' covenants intact, to become true examples
of their fathers' righteousness, and to keep fast to the path of
righteousness set by these prophets. Four terms are repeatedly
used in the Qur'an to express God's special favour for the
descendants of the prophets: Dhurriya, Al Ahl, and Qurba.

The word Dhurriya, meaning offspring, progeny, or direct
descendant, has been used in thirty-two verses of the Qur'an.
It is used either in direct connection with the prophets' own
concern that their children should remain on their path or
that their work of guidance should be continued through
their own progeny. Often the word is used in verses where the
prophets claim that God had selected them to become models
of righteousness based on their direct descent from other


prophets. This concern for a prophet's progeny is reflected in
a verse (II, 124) where Abraham was told by God: "I will make
you an Imam of the people." Whereupon Abraham pleads,
"And what about my offspring (Dhurriyati)?" God replies,
"My covenant will not go to evildoers." In a similar verse (XIV,
37) Abraham prays to God:

"Oh my Lord God! I have made some of my offspring to dwell
in a valley without cultivation by the Sacred House, in order, Oh
Lord, that they may establish regular prayer: so fill the hearts of
some among men with love towards them and feed them with
fruits: so that they may give thanks."

This prayer is favourably answered when God declares
(XIX, 58):

"There are they on whom God bestowed His bounties from the
prophets of the posterity of Adam; and of those whom we carried
with Noah [in the Ark] and of the posterity (Dhurriya) of
Abraham and Israel and of those whom we guided and chose."

The term Al, meaning nearer or nearest relations by
descent from the same father or ancestor or a man's family or
kinsmen, is used in the Qur'an twenty-six times in connection
with the descendants of the prophets or those who succeeded
them in guidance and special favour from God. A verse
describing Muhammad as belonging to the descendants of
Abraham has been quoted above. In another verse (IV, 54) we

"Or do they envy the people for what God has given them of
His grace: But indeed we have given to Abraham's children (Al
Ibrahim) the book and the wisdom and we gave them a great

The word Ahl, which is used many times in the Qur'an, has
almost the same meaning as Al, though it is also used in a
broader sense in referring to the people of a town or
inhabitation, a group, or followers. When used in conjunction
with the term bayt: Ahl al-bayt, it refers to the immediate
descendants of a family or such a family of the same "house",
or bayt. In this compound form, Ahl al-bayt is used in the


Qur'an especially in reference to the immediate family of
Muhammad. In verse XXXIII, 33, we hear:

"And God only wishes to remove from you [all kinds of]
uncleanliness, O members of the family [of Muhammad] and
thoroughly purify you."

All the commentators of the Qur'an are unanimous in the
opinion that the term Ahl al-bayt in this verse refers to
Muhammad's daughter Fatima, his cousin and son-in-law
'Ali, and his two beloved grandsons, Hasan and Husayn.

The fourth term, Qurba (from the root qaruba, nearness),
means near or blood relationship, relatives, or kinsmen. As is
the case with the term AM al4ayt, the term Qurba was also
used specifically for the immediate relatives of Muhammad.
Thus the Qur'an (XLII, 23) reads:

'That is the bounty whereof God gives glad tidings to his
servants who believe and do righteous deeds.

"Say, [O Muhammad] I do not ask any reward from you for
this [apostleship] except the love of [my] relatives."

Commenting on this verse, the commentators are again
unanimous in their opinion that the word Qurba refers to
Muhammad's relatives---Fatima, 'Ali, Hasan, and Husayn.
The only point of disagreement arises in that the Sunni
commentators include the wives of the Prophet, whereas the
Shi'i writers do not.

The total number of verses that mention special favour
requested for and granted to the families of the various
prophets by God runs to over a hundred in the Qur'an. From
this we may draw two conclusions. If one accepts the axiom
that the Qur'an was revealed in terms understandable in the
cultural atmosphere of seventh-century Arabia, then it is
obvious that the idea of the sanctity of a prophet's family was
a commonly accepted principle at that time. Even more
important is the fact that the Qur'an's constant repetition of
this idea must have left the impression among some of the
Muslims that Muhammad's family had a religious prerogative
over others.

Neither Banu Taym b. Murra, the clan of Abu Bakr, nor
Banu 'Adi b. Ka'b, the people of Umar, had ever been
regarded with esteem on any religious grounds, thus those


who laid stress on the religious principle could not accept
them as candidates for succession to Muhammad. The
candidate could come only from the Banu Hashim, and
amongst them the figure of 'Ali was by far the most pr6minent.
Re too was the great-grandson of Hashim and the grandson
of 'Abd al-Muttalib. He was the son of Abu Talib, Muham-
mad's uncle, who had given the Prophet the care and love of
the father Muhammad had lost before birth. 'Ali was the
nearest and closest associate of Muhammad, for the Prophet
had acted as his guardian during the famine of Mecca, and he
had subsequently adopted him as a brother both before the
Hijra and again in Medina.(50) He was the first male to
embrace Islam,(51) Khadija being the first woman. He was also
the husband of Fatima, the Prophet's only surviving daughter,
and by her fathered two of the Prophet's grandsons, Al-Hasan
and Al-Husayn, both of whom Muhammad loved dearly.

It seems that these inherent personal qualities and virtues
secured 'Ali a unique and advantageous place over all other
family members and companions of Muhammad, and earned
him a group of friends who were devoted to him with a
special zeal and consideration even during the lifetime of the
Prophet. Perhaps it is because of this that the Shi'a claim the
existence of Shi'ism even in the lifetime of the Prophet; the
earliest heresiographers, Sa'd al-Ash'ari and An-Nawbakhti,
clearly state that Shi'ism (in the sense of a particular regard
and appreciation of 'Ali's personal merits) had already
appeared in Muhammad's lifetime.(52) Moreover, this idea of
'Ali's superior qualifications for the caliphate was further
strengthened by a series of events which took place during
the Prophet's life in which he showed some special
consideration for 'Ali. A few of these should be pointed out as
illustrations of 'Ali's growth in prestige and favour:

At the very beginning of his mission, when the verse "Warn
your tribe, the nearest kinsmen" (XXVI, 214) was revealed
(about three years after Muhammad's first revelation and the
conversion of Khadija, 'Ali, and Abu Bakr), the Prophet
gathered all the Banu 'Abd al-Muttalib and informed them
of his mission. Explaining his task, he asked for support and
help in furthering the cause. Instead of assistance, the Prophet
received only ridicule; the only exception was 'Ali, who,


though only thirteen years old, gave the Prophet his
enthusiastic support.(53)

2 The prerogative of the religious brotherhood between 'Ali
and Muhammad, which has already been mentioned above,
must be taken into special account in this series of events The
Prophet adopted 'Ali as his brother in faith (ukhuwwa) both
before the Hijra and again in Medina. This was such a
recognized historical fact that no historian has denied it.

3 'Ali's position can only have been elevated in the eyes of the
Companions when he was appointed by Muhammad as the
standard bearer at both Badr and Khaybar and in other

4 The nomination of 'Ali by the Prophet as his deputy at
Medina during the expedition to Tabuk was another
important record to 'Ali's credit.(55) It was on this occasion that
the famous tradition is reported in which Muhammad said to
'Ali, "You are to me what Aaron was to Moses except that
there will be no Prophet after me."(56) This tradition attached
to the event of Tabuk has been recorded by almost all
historians and traditionists, and when we see that Muhammad
was referring to many similarities in his person and mission
with other great prophets of the past, we find no difficulty in
accepting this tradition. In one of the several Qur'anic
passages dealing with this subject (XX, 2032), Moses asks of
God: "And give me a minister from my family, Aaron, my
brother; add to my strength through him, and make him
share my task." Muhammad's comparison of himself with
Moses would thus have been incomplete without an Aaron,
and obviously no other person in his family but 'Ali could
serve him as Aaron.

5Yet another very important event was the communication of
the chapter of al-Bara'a (Qur'an, IX). In the ninth year of the
Hijra, the Prophet sent Abu Bakr to lead the people in the
Hajj. After Abu Bakr's departure to Mecca the chapter of
Bara'a was revealed to the Prophet to communicate to the
people, especially to the polytheists. When people asked the
Prophet whether he would dispatch the chapter to Abu Bakr
to deliver it on his behalf, he replied, "No, I will not send it
except through someone from amongst the people of my
family (rajul-un mm ahli bayti)." The Prophet then called 'Ali
and ordered him to take his own camel and go to Mecca at


once and deliver the Qur'anic message to the people on his

There are no serious grounds to doubt the authenticity of
these events, which have been recorded by writers of all
schools of thought and which also seem plausible in their
context. Even if one is inclined to extreme caution and
scepticism, it cannot be denied that these events in favour of
'Ali were in such wide circulation that the majority of
historians and traditionists from the earliest times had to
record them. In this series of events, the famous but
controversial tradition of Ghadir Khum, upon which the
Shi'a place the utmost importance, has been intentionally
ignored. This event is named after a place called Ghadir
Khum, a pool or a marsh with some shady trees, situated only
a few miles from Mecca on the road to Medina, from where
people disperse to their different destinations. When Muham-
mad was returning from his Farewell Pilgrimage he stopped
at Ghadir Khum on I8 Dhu'l-Hijja (Io March 632) to make
an announcement to the pilgrims who accompanied him
from Mecca and who were to disperse from this junction. By
the orders of the Prophet, a special dais or pulpit made of
branches of the trees was erected for him. After the noon
prayer the Prophet sat on the pulpit and made his last public
address to the largest gathering before his death three months
later. Taking 'Ali by the hand, Muhammad asked his
followers whether he was not superior in authority and
person (awla) to the believers themselves. The crowd cried
out in one voice: "It is so, O Apostle of God." He then declared:
"He of whom I am the mawla [the patron, master, leader,
friend?], of him 'Ali is also the mawla (man kuntu mawlahu fa
'Ali-un mawlahu). O God, be the friend of him who is his
friend, and be the enemy of him who is his enemy (Allahumma
wali man walahu wa 'adi man adahu)."

As far as the authenticity of the event itself is concerned, it
has hardly ever been denied or questioned even by the most
conservative Sunni authorities, who have themselves recorded
it. Most noteworthy among them are Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal
in his Musnad, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Maja, Abu Da'ud and
almost all other Sunan writers, Ibn al-Athir in his Usd al-
Ghaba Ibn 'Abd al-Barr in his Isti 'ab, followed by all other


writers of biographical works and even Ibn 'Abd Rabbih in
his 'Iqd al-Farid, and Jahiz. in his 'Uthmaniyya.(58) The
traditions of Ghadir are so abundantly reported and so
commonly attested by hundreds of different transmitters
belonging to all schools of thought that it would be futile to
doubt their authenticity. Ibn Kathir,(59) a most staunch
supporter of the Sunni viewpoint, has devoted seven pages to
this subject and has collected a great number of different
isnads from which the tradition is narrated. It is also Ibn
Kathir who informs us that the famous historian at-Tabari,
in a two-volume unfinished work entitled Kitab al-Fada'il
(mentioned also by Yaqut in his Irshad, VI, p.452), wrote in
full details the Prophet's discourse in favour of 'Ali at Ghadir
Khum. A modern scholar, Husayn 'Ali Mahfuz, in his
penetrating researches on the subject of Ghadir Khum, has
recorded with documentation that this tradition has been
narrated by at least IIO Companions, 84 tabi'un, 355 'ulama',
25 historians, 27 traditionists, II exegesists, I8 theologians,
and 5 philologists.(60) Most of them were later counted by the
Sunnis as among their own number.

Horovitz(61) and Goldziher,(62) in their studies on the tradition
of Ghadir Khum, state that the oldest evidence of this
tradition is the verses of Kumayt (died 126/743-4), which
they consider undoubtedly genuine. The refusal of these two
scholars to accept any evidence before Kumayt is based on
their sceptical assumption that the verses of the Prophet's
poet, Hassan b. Thabit, composed on the spot, might not be
genuine. However, the Shi'i sources, and also some of the
Sunni authorities, claim that the oldest evidence is the verse
of Hassan b. Thabit, which the poet, with the Prophet's
approbation, instantly composed and recited(63) when the
people were congratulating 'Ali on the occasion. Keeping in
view the fact that Hassan was accompanying the Prophet at
his historical first pilgrimage after the migration, and the fact
that the poet used to compose and recite verses on all
noteworthy occasions of the Prophet's activities, it is highly
improbable that this event should have passed unrecorded by
Hassan, the official poet-reporter of Muhammad.

The event is, however, not recorded by some of those
Sources. which are commonly used for the study of the life of
the Prophet, such as Ibn Hashim, Tabari, and Ibn Sa'd. They


either pass in silence over Muhammad's stop at Ghadir
Khum, or, if they mention it, say nothing of this tradition.
Veccia Vaglieri explains the attitude of these few writers in
that they "evidently feared to attract the hostility of the
Sunnis, who were in power, by providing material for the
polemic of the Shi'is, who used these words to support their
thesis of 'Ali's right to the caliphate. Consequently, the
western biographers of Muhammad, whose work is based on
these sources, equally make no reference to what happened at
Ghadir Khum. It is, however, certain that Muhammad did
speak in this place and utter the famous sentence, for the
account of this event has been preserved, either in concise
form or in detail, not only by Ya'qubi, whose sympathy for
the 'Alid cause is well known, but also in the collections of
traditions which are considered as canonical, especially in the
Musnad of Ibn Hanbal; and the hadiths are so numerous and
so well attested by the different isnads that it does not seem
possible to reject them."(64)

The bone of contention between the Sunnis and the Shi'is
is not, however, and never has been, the authenticity of the
event of Ghadir Khum, nor the declaration of the Prophet in
favour of 'Ali, as quoted above; the real disagreement is in the
meaning of the word mawla used by the Prophet. The Shi'a
unequivocally take the word in the meaning of leader, master,
and patron, and therefore the explicitly nominated successor
of the Prophet. The Sunnis, on the other hand, interpret the
word mawla in the meaning of a friend, or the nearest kin and
confidant.(65)No doubt the richness of meaning of many an
Arabic word and the resulting ambiguity does render both
the interpretations equally valid. The Sunnis, while accepting
the tradition, assert that in that sentence the Prophet simply
meant to exhort his followers to hold his cousin and the
husband of his only surviving daughter in high esteem and
affection. Further, the Sunnis explain the circumstance which
necessitated the Prophet's exhortation in that some people
were murmuring against 'Ali due to his harsh and indifferent
treatment in the distribution of the spoils of the expedition of
Al-Yaman, which had just taken place under 'Ali's leadership,
and from where he, along with those who participated in the
expedition, directly came to Mecca to join the Prophet at the
Hajj. To dispel these ill-feelings against his son-in-law, the


Prophet spoke in this manner.(66) Accepting this explanation
as such, the fact still remains that this declaration of the
Prophet in such an extraordinary manner, equating 'Ali in
authority and person with himself, does provide a strong
basis for the Shi'i claims.

Taking for granted the controversial character in inter-
pretation of the Ghadir tradition, the events mentioned above
could have been understood by some of the Prophet's
Companions as indicative of his inclination towards 'Ali,
though he did not or could not nominate him explicitly,
perhaps because of the old North Arabian custom of leaving
the selection of a leader to the people. A commonly suggested
obstacle in the way of 'Ali is said to have been his
comparatively young age at the time of Muhammad's death.
However, our sources do not fail to point out that, though the
"Senate" (Nadwa) of pre-Islamic Mecca was generally a
council of elders only, the sons of the chieftain Qusayy were
privileged to be exempted from this age restriction and were
admitted to the council despite their youth. In later times
more liberal concessions seem to have been in vogue; Abu
Jahl was admitted despite his youth, and Hakim b. Hazm was
admitted when he was only fifteen or twenty years old.(67) Ibn
'Abd Rabbih tells us, "There was no monarchic king over the
Arabs of Mecca in the Jahiliya. So whenever there was a war,
they took a ballot among chieftains and elected one as 'King',
were he a minor or a grown man. Thus on the day of Fijar, it
was the turn of the Banu Hashim, and as a result of the ballot
Al-'Abbas, who was then a mere child, was elected, and they
seated him on the shield."(68) At the time of Muhammad's
death 'Ali was at least thirty-three years old, though in some
other sources his age is given as thirty-six.

In conclusion, the idea that the question of the succession
was primarily religious, rather than merely political, the
popular notion of the hereditary sanctity of the Banu Hashim,
coupled with the events which took place during the lifetime
of the Prophet in favour of 'Ali; led to the crystallization of a
point of view concerning the succession to the leadership of
the community in which a number of Muhammad's Com-
panions felt that 'Ali was the most suitable person to keep the
covenant intact. In the heated debates of the Saqifa incident,
right after the Prophet's death, these Companions did not


hesitate to voice their opinions. The resulting disagreement,
to which we now turn, marks the beginning of what was
eventually to develop into a permanent division of the Umma
into Sunni and Shi'i.

# Chapter 2
Saqifa: The First Manifestations

In any attempt to determine the origins of Shi'i feelings in
Islam, one must try to examine in detail the earliest incident
in which such feelings manifest themselves. The history of a
people in every branch, be it political, cultural, religious, or
constitutional, is an unbroken continuity. No religious or
political organization nor any particular viewpoint within a
religious tradition can be properly understood without due
reference to its first tangible appearance.

Historically the event of the Saqifa is inextricably connected
with the emergence of the Shi'i viewpoint. The Saqifa, after
which the event is named, was an old assembly hall in Medina
where the people used to discuss and resolve their crucial
problems. It was there that, as soon as the news of the
Prophet's death came out, the people of Medina gathered
together to choose their leader. It was there that a group of
Muhajirun forced on the Ansar their wish for the acceptance
of Abu Bakr as the sole leader of the community. In this
meeting at the Saqifa, some voices were raised in support of
'Ali's claims to the caliphate; thus "Saqifa" should be taken as
a generic name for the first split among the Muslims. To
ignore it in tracing out Shi'i history and subsequent
development in Islam would certainly lead to misunderstand-
ing and wrong conclusions. It is thus an historical imperative
to examine the proceedings of the Saqifa and attempt to
ascertain the points raised therein which ultimately found
expression in the establishment of the Shi'i discipline in

A characteristic historiographical problem has to be
seriously taken into consideration before any attempt can be


made to outline the Saqifa incident. One may well question
the authenticity of the reports in ascertaining the exact details
of what occurred in the selection of the first successor of the
Prophet. The controversial nature of the subject itself and the
difficulty inherent in the source material make the task of this
investigation far from easy. This difficulty becomes still more
serious when we note that the earliest extant report on the
event was committed to systematic writing not before the first
half of the second century of Islam, and during the reign of
the first two 'Abbasid caliphs. This was the time when the
division of the Muslim community into Shi'i and Sunni
groupings had set deep into the hearts of Muslims, and both
camps were accusing each other of deviation from the true
path of Islam. In these circumstances it seems quite possible
that the different reports describing the proceedings of Abu
Bakr's selection would have been circulated from different
quarters according to their respective interests. One might,
therefore, suspect the reports of the historians of Shi'i
sympathies such as Ibn Ishaq, Ya'qubi, and Mas'udi as being
biased in favour of the Shi'is; and similarly the writings of
Ibn Sa'd, Baladhuri, and even Tabari as reporting in Sunni
colour. Nevertheless, a close scrutiny of all early sources
named above shows that the event of the Saqifa is reported, in
its broad outline and essential points, in very similar ways,
with of course some differences in details, in treatment of the
material, and in emphasis on one report or the other. These
differences are clearly indicative of the inclinations of the
respective writers or their informants towards one side or the
other, and can be discerned, though not without some
difficulty. Similarly those reports of the very few writers who
take extreme positions to support one particular view can also
be easily distinguished when compared with other accounts.

For a study of this nature, it would be most appropriate to
extract and examine the earliest known coherent tradition as
a basis for comparison with accounts recorded by other
writers. The earliest extant work which reports the Saqifa
episode is that of Muhammad b. Ishaq b. Yasar (born 85/704,
died 151/768), whose Sirat Rasul Allah was the first
comprehensive biography of the Prophet. His report, though
concise and brief, gives almost all the essential information of
the event without dwelling on many of the details and


different reports given by the writers who immediately
followed him. The shortness of Ibn Ishaq's account of the
Saqifa is easily understandable in that his work deals mainly
with the life and career of the Prophet. The event of the
Saqifa in all its details is thus beyond the scope of his work;
that the incident is mentioned at all is probably due to the fact
that it took place before the burial of the Prophet. This is
evident from the arrangement of the closing chapters of his
biography, which deal with: 1: The illness of the Prophet, 2:
His death, 3: The affair of the Saqifa of Bani Sa'ida, 4:
Funeral preparations and burial of the Prophet.

Ibn Ishaq first introduces the event in only a few lines and
without citing his authorities.(1) It is Ibn Ishaq's usual
technique to introduce first a collective tradition by combining
different reports into a simple narrative which serves as an
introduction to the detailed account which follows. In this he
proves himself to be a loyal pupil of his master Az-Zuhri, who
was the first to introduce collective traditions.(2) Thus what
appears to be simply an introductory paragraph in Ibn Ishaq's
narrative of the Saqifa is given by others with different isnads
(chain of transmitters) and with slightly varying words and
lengths. After this brief introduction Ibn Ishaq relates the
whole event in one single tradition of considerable length,
which runs to about three and a half pages(3) and covers almost
all the essential points of the event. This tradition deserves a
few observations. Firstly, the whole story is related in the
very words of the second caliph, 'Umar b. al-Khattab, from
one of his Friday sermons in the mosque of Medina. 'Umar
being a strict disciplinarian in observance of religious
formalism, Friday prayers must have been attended by a
great number of people in Medina, and his exposition must
have had such a wide circulation among both the Muhajirun
and the Ansar that it could not be a later fabrication attributed
to him. Secondly, this speech is reported almost unanimously
by the majority of the historians who followed Ibn Ishaq,
such as Tabari and even Baladhuri, who often wrote
selectively to support the Sunni viewpoint of his day. Thirdly,
it is beyond any doubt true that 'Umar b. al-Khattab himself
played the most important role at that crucial moment, took
the initiative in the fateful event of the Saqifa, and indeed was
the moving spirit in the selection of Abu Bakr. A unanimously


accepted report in his own. words is therefore of the greatest
historical importance. Fourthly, Ibn Ishaq begins the tradi-
tion by prefixing the words "in connection with these events
(Saqifa) 'Abd Allah b. Abi Bakr told me..." This indicates
that, besides 'Umar's account, Ibn Ishaq was aware of other
reports and detailed accounts, but for the sake of brevity
picked out the one which he considered the most reliable and
at the same time comprehensive enough to cover the entire

The isnad of this tradition in Ibn Ishaq is direct, short,
based solely on Medinese informants, and prefixed with the
verb of certainty and personal contact, haddathani, "he told
me". The isnad reads: "'Abd Allah b. Abu Bakr told me from
(1) Ibn Shihab Az-Zuhri (2) from 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abd Allah
b. 'Utba b. Mas'ud (3) from 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas." Both
'Abd Allah b. Abi Bakr(4) (born ca. 60/679-80, died ca. 130/747-
8) and Zuhri(5) (born ca. 51/1671, died 124/742) belonged to the
third generation (Tab'i Tabi'un) after the Prophet, and to the
second generation of traditionists. Both were pioneers of
Muslim historiography, and both received their material
from the Tabi'un, who in turn were either eye-witnesses to the
events while in their early youth or had received the
information from the Companions of the Prophet. With the
recent researches in Islamic historiography by Nabia Abbott(6)
and others, it is now established beyond any doubt that the
life, wars, and career of the Prophet, collectively known as
Sira, along with subsequent events, became an object of
historical research beginning with the generation that
followed Muhammad. In this connection there appear names
such as Aban(7) (born ca. 20/641, died ca. 100/718-19), the son
of the Caliph 'Uthman; 'Urwa b. az-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam(8)
(born 23/644, died 94/712-13); Wahb b. Munabbih(9) (born
34/654-5, died 110/728-9); and others. This interest in
historical research gathered great momentum by the third
generation and reached its climax in the Sira or Maghazi
works of two of Ibn Ishaq's most prominent teachers, Zuhri
and 'Abd Allah b. Abi Bakr. It is reasonable to assume that
these two pioneers of historical writing in Islam must have
interested themselves in the event of the Saqifa, which was
certainly the most important event that took place at the time
of the death of the founder of Islam. It is equally reasonable


to assume that Ibn Ishaq preferred to narrate the event as it
was handed down to him from his two most intimate and
respected teachers rather than to quote from other sources,
especially when his interest in the Saqifa was limited to the
events related to the death of the Prophet. It is also important
to note that these two authorities, especially Zuhri, appear in
almost all the later works which describe the Saqifa incident.
Baladhuri and Tabari, whose interest in the event is not
confined to the events connected with the death of the
Prophet, quote these two sources in their accounts of what
they consider to be one of the most important historical events
in Islamic history.

In Ibn Ishaq's narrative, Zuhri's authority is 'Ubayd Allah
b. 'Abd Allah b. 'Utba b. Mas'ud,(10) one of Zuhri's four most
trusted and esteemed teachers. These four were Sa'id b. al-
Musayyib(11) (died 94/712-13), under whom Zuhri sat for ten
years as a faithful student, 'Urwa b. az-Zubayr, Aban b.
'Uthman, and 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abd Allah. All four are
among the most distinguished and recognized authorities on
Fiqh, Sira, and Maghazi. Zuhri is frequently quoted as
expressing his highest regard for them, and described them
as the "four seas of knowledge" and "the four seas of the
Quraysh".(12) Three of them, with the exception of Aban, are
also among the famous illustrious seven lawyers of Medina.
All these four have been credited with leaving written works
for the following generations in addition to what they had
transmitted orally to their pupils. Our interest in these four
celebrated scholars of Islamic history is due not only to the
fact that one of them appears in Ibn Ishaq's isnad, but also to
the fact that their names frequently appear in many of the
isnads of the Saqifa event recorded by other writers.

A word must be said concerning 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas(13)
(born three years before the Hijra, died 68/687-8), who
appears as the last authority in Ibn Ishaq and in many other
Saqifa accounts written by the historians and traditionists
who followed Ibn Ishaq. It will suffice to say that he has
always been respected as one of the most trustworthy
authorities in all periods and among all schools of thought in
Islam, not only in Qur'anic exegesis but in other branches of
learning cultivated at Medina. Re was in fact one of the
distinguished founders of the Medinese school of learning


and scholarship, which devoted itself mainly to religious
sciences. Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi, An-Nasa'i,
Ibn Maja, followed by many others, unanimously accepted
his traditions. In the scholarly research for which he was well
known, he gathered information concerning the life of the
Prophet by questioning senior companions.(14) Not only did
he witness the event of the Saqifa as a young man, but he also
must have carefully preserved the information received from
his father Al-'Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, who was
undoubtedly involved in the controversy which engulfed
Medina immediately after the death of the Prophet. It is not
surprising therefore that 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas appears in
almost all the sources describing the Saqifa.

The second author of note who deals with the Saqifa is
Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Sa'd (born ca. 168/784-5),
who wrote the first systematic and comprehensive biograph-
ical work, Kitab at-Tabaqat al-Kabir (The Book of Classes),
dealing with important personalities from the Prophet down
to the time of his own death in 230/844-5. In arranging his
material he deals in detail with the lives and careers of the
first generation of Muslims, especially the Companions and
close associates of the Prophet. One would have expected that
Ibn Sa'd, while writing a long forty-one page(15) biography of
Abu Bakr, would have discussed the event of Saqifa in much
greater detail than his predecessor Ibn Ishaq. As it was
perhaps one of the most important and most crucial events in
the entire career of Abu Bakr, it is surprising that Ibn Sa'd
does not seem to be interested in the proceedings as such. He
clearly attempts to hush up all those reports which might
reflect on the controversial character of the selection of Abu
Bakr, and carefully selects only those traditions which exalt
Abu Bakr's undisputed excellence and qualifications for the
leadership of the community at the death of the Prophet. He
makes every effort to praise and glorify the first caliph's
virtues, his services to Islam, and the qualities which befitted
him for immediate succession to Muhammad. Indeed he uses
the same technique in writing 'Ali's biography to show that
he was the best candidate for the office in his time. In this he
proves himself the true representative of the Sunni tradition
in Islam of the early third century and of the piety of the
Medinese school, both of which were built on the Murji'a


doctrine. This doctrine, in its more refined and developed
form in the third century, required a Muslim to refrain from
any discussion which might tarnish the respect and honour
with which the early personalities of Islam, especially the
Companions, were regarded. Anyone reading Ibn Sa'd's'
biography of Abu Bakr will immediately notice that the
writer is interested in presenting only the best qualities and
virtues of his subject. A brief summary of Ibn Sa'd's
arrangement of the material will help in understanding how
he wishes his reader to look at Saqifa.

Ibn Sa'd begins by writing two pages on the clan, family
name, and title of Abu Bakr.(16) Even in this biographical data
his main emphasis is on his title of As-Siddiq, the truthful. He
inserts a tradition to the effect that after Muhammad's ascent
to heaven (Mi'raj), which he feared people would not accept,
the angel Gabriel assured him that Abu Bakr would do so
since he was a Siddiq. The second section, entitled "Abu
Bakr's Conversion to Islam",(17) contains five traditions all to
the effect that Abu Bakr was the first among men to believe
in Muhammad's Prophethood and completely ignores many
traditions which describe 'Ali as the first man to become
Muslim.(18) This is followed by the third section, with the
heading, "Description of the Cave and the Migration to
Medina",(19) in which Ibn Sa'd records twenty-six traditions.
These traditions emphasize Abu Bakr's close friendship with
Muhammad, that he was "only one of the two" when
Muhammad took refuge in the cave on his way to Medina,
and that his services were invaluable at that critical moment.
Then, after a few traditions about Abu Bakr's abode at
Medina, he immediately records Abu Bakr's brotherhood in
faith with 'Umar b. al-Khattab and the Prophet's declaration
that Abu Bakr and 'Umar were the leaders or Lords of the
adults of Paradise of all times, with the exception of the
Prophets and the apostles. This is followed by the traditions
which describe Muhammad's special favour to Abu Bakr
when he ordered the latter's house to be built adjoining the
mosque in Medina while others were denied this honour,
that Abu Bakr defended Muhammad in all the battles, and
that the Prophet appointed him as his standard-bearer at
Tabuk. The last five traditions in this section describe
Muhammad's statements that if he was to choose a friend


(Khalil) for himself he could name no one other than Abu
Bakr, that "No one is more beloved to me in my entire
community than Abu Bakr," and that "The most zealous and
vigilant after me in my community is Abu Bakr."

The fourth section, entitled "Description of the Prayer
which the Prophet Ordered Abu Bakr [to lead] before his
Death",(20) is perhaps the most indicative of Ibn Sa'd's attitude.
Here he gives ten traditions, the first five of which describe
the Prophet's insistence that only Abu Bakr must lead the
prayer while Muhammad was sick. The following three
traditions describe Muhammad's request for writing material
to write down his will and command to the effect that Abu
Bakr should succeed him, so that people should not doubt or
disagree on this question. When 'Abd ar-Rahman, the son of
Abu Bakr, went out to bring the writing material, people said,
"Sit down. Who could dispute over Abu Bakr?" In the ninth
tradition, 'A'isha the widow of the Prophet is reported to
have replied when she was asked: "O mother of the faithful,
who did the Prophet appoint to succeed him?" "Abu Bakr,"
she replied. "Who after Abu Bakr?' she was asked. "'Umar,"
she answered. "Who after 'Umar?" again she was asked. "Abu
'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah," she answered, on which the enquirer
kept silent. The section closes on the tenth tradition, coming
back to the topic given to the heading, saying, "The Prophet
was sick for thirteen days; whenever he felt better he led the
prayer, but whenever his condition was not so well Abu Bakr
led the prayer." It is interesting to note here that except for
two rather unimportant reports, all of these traditions are
reported from 'A'isha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, whose
rivalry with and dislike for both 'Ali and Fatima are well

Anyone who reads this section of Ibn Sa'd will immediately
feel that the author has a specific task set before him. The
entire section is carefully planned to show that Abu Bakr, by
the special favours and indications shown by the Prophet,
was beyond any doubt the only deserving candidate to
succeed the dying Prophet. The author becomes so impatient
that he even abandons the main theme of the section, and in
the second tradition, which would have otherwise been under
the event of the Saqifa, describes 'Umar's argument against
the Ansar in favour of Abu Bakr, based on the latter's being


the leader of the prayer. The tradition reads: "When the
Prophet died, and the Ansar suggested [in the assembly of the
Saqifa), 'Let us have a leader from among ourselves and a
leader from among yourselves (Muhajirun),' 'Umar said, 'Did
not you know, O people of Ansar, that the Prophet appointed
Abu Bakr to lead the people in prayer?' The Ansar said 'Yes.'
'Then would you like to prefer yourselves to Abu Bakr?' 'We
take refuge in God, to prefer ourselves over Abu Bakr,' said
the Ansar. (21)

Immediately after this section, Ibn Sa'd comes to the event
of the Saqifa. Unlike other writers before and after him, he
does not name this section "Affair (amr) of the Saqifa", but
gives the heading, "Description of the Homage [paid] to Abu
Bakr" (Dhikr bay 'at Abi Bakr). One cannot fail to see that in
the four preceding chapters Ibn Sa'd has carefully prepared
a psychological background for his reader to accept his
account of the undisputed selection of Abu Bakr on the basis
of his merits and qualities so far enumerated. On the Saqifa
he records a total of fifteen traditions (22) of which only six
directly or indirectly are related to the Saqifa. The first
tradition reports that when the Prophet died 'Umar came to
Abu 'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah and said, "Open your hand and I
will pay homage to you (Li ubaya'uka) because the Prophet
declared you trustworthy of this community." Abu 'Ubayda
replied, "O 'Umar, I never found you so misled since you
accepted Islam. Would you do me fealty while there is among
you As-Siddiq only second of the two [in the cave]?" The
second tradition is almost identical.

The third tradition is a peculiar example of Ibn Sa'd's
treatment of the subject. In this report he extracted a small
sentence from the lengthy three-page tradition reported by
Ibn Ishaq and others in the form of 'Umar's speech in the
mosque of Medina. Ibn Sa'd's fragment reads: "Ibn 'Abbas
said, 'I heard 'Umar saying, while describing Abu Bakr's
bay'a, "There is none among you to whom people would
devote themselves as they did to Abu Bakr." ' " In the fourth
tradition Ibn Sa'd can no longer completely ignore the
controversy which arose on the question, but even this is
presented as an argument in favour of Abu Bakr. It reads:
"When people held back from Abu Bakr, he said, 'Who could
be more deserving for this thing (amr) than I? Was I not the


first to pray with the Prophet?' Then he mentioned those
good deeds [lit. attributes] which he performed with the
Prophet." The fifth tradition is, in fact, the only one which, on
the authority of Abu Bakr's grandson, Qasim b. Muhammad
b. Abi Bakr,(23) refers to the debate of the Saqifa. It is hurriedly
hushed up in only seven lines; the rest of the tradition deals
with the distribution of some goods by Abu Bakr. The rest of
the ten traditions have hardly anything to do with the Saqifa
event as such, and are mainly devoted to Abu Bakr's
excellence, frugality, simplicity, devotion, and piety.

There is hardly any need for further comments on Ibn
Sa'd's treatment of the Saqifa. It should suffice here to note
that an historical investigation into the controversial nature
of the subject was outside the scope of his work. Nevertheless,
his importance as an early writer cannot be overemphasized.
He is one of the foremost authorities of his time and represents
a school of biographer-traditionists of great importance; in
any study of the Saqifa he cannot be ignored. Ibn Sa'd
becomes much more important when we notice his adherence
to the "pious" traditional technique and the adoption of many
a tradition given by him in this subject by those who followed
him. He represents a school which came to dominate the
development of the Sunni point of view in Islam. His
presentation of the Saqifa leads his reader to believe that Abu
Bakr's selection went smoothly, without any noticeable
opposition or controversy, and that it was readily and
instantly accepted by everyone, including 'All, who himself
admitted the former's superior claims and merits.

We now must turn to Ibn Sa'd's younger contemporary
Ahmad b. Yahya b. Jabir al-Baladhuri(24) (died 279/892-3),
whose voluminous Ansab al-Ashraf is perhaps the most
important historico-biographical work of the third century.
On the one hand, he follows Ibn Sa'd in technique and
incorporates much of his material; on the other, he goes much
deeper and collects every possible report and version of the
Saqifa event from divergent sources and different schools.
While Ibn Sa'd depends mainly on Medinese informants,
Baladhuri finds them unsatisfactory; he goes further and
frequently quotes Mada'ini; who takes up a kind of middle
position between Kufan and Medinese traditionists. He also
narrates from Ibn al-Kalbi, Abu Ma'shar, 'Awana, and, in at


least two cases, even from the Shi'i Abu Mikhnaf.(25) He
thereby demonstrates not only his keen historical interest in
investigating the event of the Saqifa but also its great
importance in the annals of early Islam. The pietistic attitude
which was a dominant characteristic of the Medinese schools,
especially when dealing with the differences among the
prominent companions, was not so prominent with the more
historically-minded authors of the Kufan and Basran schools.
Baladhuri's preservation of the latter tradition is thus of
considerable importance for the present discussion.

In Baladhuri's scheme, the Saqifa is treated in a manner
similar to that of Ibn Ishaq, with the events connected with
the death of the Prophet. In the chapter entitled "Affair of the
Saqifa", Baladhuri records a total of thirty-three traditions,(26)
seven of which are exactly identical to material in Ibn Sa'd.
In this Baladhuri shows his great respect for his elder
contemporary, whom he always quotes with the direct verb,
haddathani (he told me), indicating that he took Ibn Sa'd's
material not from the Tabaqat but by direct dictation from
Ibn Sa'd himself.(27) The rest of the twenty-six traditions deal
with the controversy over the question of succession, the
heated debates which took place in the Saqifa, rival claims of
the Ansar and the Muhajirun, 'Ali's protest over the selection,
the opposition of Banu Hashim and some of the Ansar to Abu
Bakr, and Abu Bakr's own statement that though he was not
the best candidate, he accepted the caliphate to save the
community from dissension. Eleven of these twenty-six
traditions are taken from Mada'ini, who frequently quotes
Zuhri, whose own isnads often go back to the sources of the
"four seas of the Quraysh" discussed above.(28) The most
revealing point here is that four of these twenty-six traditions
(1: a complete description of the controversial debate in the
Saqifa; 2: Abu Sufyan's offer of help to 'Ali; 3: Abu Bakr's
statement that though he was not the best candidate, he
accepted the caliphate only to avoid dissension; and 4: a small
part of 'Umar's speech that even if Abu Bakr's selection was
a hasty affair, it did save the community from evil) are
narrated by Baladhuri from Ibn Sa'd with the verb "he told
me". Ibn Sa'd knew these traditions and found them
important enough to transmit them orally to Baladhuri but
he himself shrank from including them in his Tabaqat.


The long speech of 'Umar which describes the Saqifa in
full and comprises the comprehensive account in Ibn Ishaq,
as we have seen above, is reported by Baladhuri three times;
first (No.1173) from Ibn Sa'd, where only a small sentence
justifying Abu Bakr's merits (as in Tabaqat) is reported; a
second time (No. 1176) when only the first part of it is given;
then finally the full text (No. 1181), as in Ibn Ishaq, is
recorded. In all three places the final three authorities are the
same as in the Sira: Zuhri, 'Ubayd Allah, and Ibn 'Abbas,
though the first authorities change in all three instances. In
No.1173 Zuhri's narrator is salih b. Kaysan;(29) in No.1176 it
is Mu'ammar b. Rashid(30) and in No.1181, the full text is
taken by Baladhuri from Mada'ini through Ibn Ju'daba.(31)
There are a few differences between the text of Mada'ini
quoted by Baladhuri and that of 'Abd Allah b. Abi Bakr
quoted by Ibn Ishaq. To conclude it will suffice to say that
although Baladhuri displays a tendency in favour of Abu
Bakr's excellence for the office, as is evident from the order of
preference in the arrangement of the material, he does not
suppress many traditions which show the inclination of some
of the important companions towards 'Ali.

The picture of the Saqifa still remains rather incomplete
until one takes into consideration Baladhuri's younger
contemporary Ibn Wadih al-Ya'qubi (died 284/897). Anyone
reading Ya'qubi's rendering of the Saqifa immediately after
Ibn Sa'd and Baladhuri will notice a sharp contrast both in
substance and in emphasis. Whereas Ibn Sa'd would have us
believe that Abu Bakr faced hardly any opposition from those
who favoured 'Ali, Ya'qubi would impress upon his reader
that there was rather serious opposition to Abu Bakr from a
group which supported 'Ali's rights to the caliphate.

Unlike Ibn Sa'd and Baladhuri, Ya'qubi does not give
separate traditions prefixed by isnad, nor does he follow his
sources verbally except in quotations and direct speeches.
This is his method throughout his history, the Saqifa being
no exception. Opening with the heading, "Information
(khabar) of the Saqifa of Banu Sa'ida and the Fealty to Abu
Bakr", he writes a cohesive, uninterrupted four-page narrative
from all the sources available to him.(32) It of course paraphrases
many traditions into one continuous account, but all the
quotations and speeches are faithfully preserved without any


transformation. This is evident from comparisons with other
sources before and after him.

As regards his sources, we know that, as a general rule and
perhaps for the sake of a literary cohesive text, he rarely cites
his authorities. Nevertheless, it is usually not difficult to
ascertain their identity.(33) In the case of the Saqifa, some of his
sources, such as Mada'ini and Abu Mikhnaf, are the same as
those used by Tabari. Here we must point out that it is beyond
any doubt an historical fact that the event of the Saqifa
became an object of keen historical interest right from the
very beginnings of historical writing in Islam. This is evident
from Ibn Nadim's and Tusi's Fihrists, Najashi's Rijal and
other bibliographical works which list numerous treatises on
the Saqifa under the names of a great many writers beginning
from the early second century onward. For example, both
Abu Mikhnaf (34) and Mada'ini(35) are reported to have written
independent treatises on the subject, and when we read the
Saqifa account in Tabari, Baladhuri, and others, we find a
number of traditions on their authority. Ibn Abi 'l-Hadid
(died ca. 656/1258) in his voluminous Sharh Nahj al-Balagha,
a mine of valuable historical material composed with the help
of a rich library of rare manuscripts in his possession, writes
forty pages on the Saqifa(36) that incorporate some of these rare
treatises which survived until his time. Among these is a text
by Abu Bakr Ahmad b. 'Abd al-Aziz al-Jawhari(37) (died
298/910-11), who cites many early authorities in his treatise
on the Saqifa. A modern scholar of note, Agha Buzurg at-
Tehrani, records in his exhaustive work on Shi'i literature a
great number of treatises written down on the Saqifa in the
early centuries of Islam.(38) Many of them considerably pre-
date Ya'qubi; a few of them even originate from the circle of
traditionists who gathered around the Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq
(died 148/765-6).

By the time Ibn Sa'd, Baladhuri, and other Sunni writers
set out to write, Sunni Islam had already defined and fixed its
attitudes and loyalties based on the Murji'i principles of
synthesis and tolerance. It was, therefore, natural for these
writers to suppress or ignore any report that might clash with
the accepted norms of the day. Most of that material which
could support the Shi'i position in favour of 'Ali was
thus either suppressed or conveniently suspected of being


fabricated. This was exactly what happened to Ya'qubi There
is a common tendency to suspect his accounts, which could
support the Shi'i cause, mainly because he himself was a Shi'i
But quite logically, if Ya'qubi can be suspected of bias in
favour of the Shi'i position, why cannot other historians of the
opposite affiliation be equally suspected of suppressing those
reports which serve the Shi'i purpose? In this situation, we
feel that Ya'qubi's history should be considered a valuable
compendium of historical documents which survived the
tendentious efforts of the historians of the majority party. The
argument for the overall authenticity of his material is
enhanced by the fact that most of his Saqifa material is also
reported in fragmentary fashion by his non-Shi'i successors.
We may thus conclude that certain data handed down to us by
Ya'qubi, but omitted by his three predecessors, are of immense
historical importance for the reconstruction of the Saqifa
event. These four writers cover every point of view and leave
little to be added by the encyclopaedic annalist Muhammad
b. Jarir at-Tabari (died 311/9234). He generally displays a
remarkably unbiased and uncommitted attitude in his history,
undoubtedly the most comprehensive that has survived to us.
He does not base his selection of sources on religious
affiliations, but uses them according to his own historical
judgement in relation to each event. He builds his narrative
by recording several parallel and co-ordinated traditions or,
wherever necessary, by giving divergent reports coming to
him from different sources. In the latter case he gives his own
historical opinion either by explaining how each event is to be
placed and interpreted or by arranging his material in order
of preference. This second method he uses when reporting on
the Saqifa. He completely ignores Ibn Sa'd's account of the
event, incorporates most of the material of Ibn Ishaq, Ya'qubi,
and Baladhuri through his own sources, and makes some
additions of his own. He reports 'U mar's speech on the Saqifa
in full, exactly as did Ibn Ishaq, but the former's authority is
'Abbad b. 'Abbad(39) (Al-Muhallabi) from 'Abbad b. Rashid,(40)
while the last three authorities are the same as in Ibn Ishaq.
He is also the one who, alone among all the historians of Islam,
preserves Abu Mikhnaf's treatise on the Saqifa.(41) On the
whole, Tabari's history presents a balanced and unbiased
account of the Saqifa. He makes it absolutely clear that there


was a strong body of support for 'Ali, but on the other hand,
emphasizes that Abu Bakr was duly elected by the majority of
the people.

There is little need to examine in detail the works of those
writers who followed these five early sources. Subsequent
authors, such as Mas'udi(42) (died 344/955-6), Ibn Athir(43)
(died 630/1232-3), Ibn 'Abd Rabbih(44) (died 327/938-9), and
even Suyuti (died 911/1505-6) in his specialized work on the
subject of the caliphate,(45) add hardly anything substantially
important to our knowledge on the event. Later Shi'i works
by authors such as at-Tabrasi(46) and al-Majlisi(47) are mainly
polemic in nature and give a very tendentious pro-Shi'i
account of no historical value.

In an attempt to reconstruct the events at the Saqifa, the
best approach is to take, as a basis, Ibn Ishaq, who is not only
the earliest authority, but also the one whose work has reached
us in the recension of Ibn Hisham (died 218/833), himself a
die-hard Sunni and earlier than the other four writers
mentioned above. Moreover, Ibn Hisham never hesitates in
his task of editing Ibn Ishaq's Sira to correct or comment on
any point with which he disagrees, and he often inserts some
additional information he thinks was overlooked or omitted
by the author.(48) Ibn Hisham makes none of these comments,
additions, or corrections in the account of the Saqifa, however.
The tradition of the Saqifa in the Sira is thus an account
recorded by a writer of Shii leaning,(49) approved by an editor-
critic of Sunni belief, and also reported by the majority of the
writers following Ibn Ishaq through different authorities, as
we have seen above. For other necessary details not presented
by Ibn Ishaq, we must draw from our other four authorities.
It is our intention here to base our reconstruction of the
Saqifa on a translation of 'Umar's speech as recorded by Ibn
Ishaq.(50) Since a speech of this sort naturally is not supposed
to cover every detail, frequent breaks will be utilized to draw
in other sources and attempt to form a complete picture of the
proceedings. Sources of the additions filling the gaps will be
given within the narrative so that the reader will be able to
notice them immediately.

Before narrating 'Umar's speech, Ibn Ishaq opens with an
introduction, without isn4d, which can be found in Baladhuri
(I, p. 583) on the authority of Ahmad b. Muhammad


b. Ayyub(51) from Ibrahim b. Sa'd(52) from Ibn Ishaq from
Zuhri. It reads as follows:

"When the Apostle died, this clan of the Ansar gathered round
Sa'd b. 'Ubada in the hall of Banu Sa'ida; and 'Ali and az-Zubayr
b. al-'Awwam and Talha 'Ubayd Allah separated themselves
in Fatima's house while the rest of the Muhajirun gathered round
Abu Bakr accompanied by Usayd b. Hudayr with the Banu
'Abdu'l-Ashhal. Then someone came to Abu Bakr and 'Umar
telling them that this clan of the Ansar had gathered round Sa'd
in the hall (Saqifa) of Banu Sa'ida: 'If you want to have command
of the people, then take it before their action becomes serious.
Now [the dead body of] the Apostle was still in his house, the
burial arrangements not having been completed, and his family
had locked the door of the house. 'Umar said, 'I said to Abu Bakr
"Let us go to these our brothers of the Ansar to see what they are
doing." '"(53)

After this Ibn Ishaq records 'Umar's famous speech, for
which the chain of transmitters has been examined in each of
our sources above. Passing over those parts which do not deal
with the Saqifa, it reads:

"In connection with these events [selection of Abu Bakr] 'Abd
Allah b. Abu Bakr told me from Ibn Shihab Az-Zuhri from
'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abd Allah b. 'Utba b. Mas'ud from 'Abd Allah
b. 'Abbas who said, 'I was waiting for 'Abd ar-Rahman b. 'Awf in
his station in Mini while he was with 'Umar in the last pilgrimage
which 'Umar performed. When he ['Abd ar-Rahman] returned
he found me ['Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas] waiting, for I was teaching
him to read the Qur'an. 'Abd ar-Rahman said to me: "I wish you
could have seen a man who came to the Commander of the
Faithful ['Umar] and said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, would
you like a man who said, "By God, if 'Umar were dead I would do
fealty to so-and-so."? Fealty given to Abu Bakr was an unpre-
meditated affair (falta) and was ratified." ' "

Here we must point out that this speech, though recorded
by the vast majority of writers, includes neither the name of
the person who talked to 'Umar nor the name of the one to
whom he wished to pay fealty, except in Baladhuri, I, pp. 581,
582. In tradition No.1176 Baladhuri quotes 'Umar as saying
that the person speaking to 'Umar was Zubayr, and that the
person Zubayr wanted to hail as caliph was 'Ali. In tradition
No. 1181, Baladhuri gives only one name: "'Umar delivered


a sermon in which he said that 'so-and-so says if 'Umar dies
we Will pay our homage (baya'na) to 'Ali. "'Baladhuri's report
can be confirmed by later writers such as Ibn Abi '1-Hadid,
who gives the name of 'Ali on the authority of al-Jahiz(54) It is,
however, of great importance to note that it was 'Ali's name
which caused 'Umar to deliver such an important and fiery

"'Umar was angry [when he heard this) and said, 'God willing,
I shall get up among the men tonight and warn them against
those who desire to usurp power over them. 'I ('Abd ar-Rahman)
said, 'Do not do it, Commander of the Faithful, for the festival
brings together the riff-raff and the lowest of the people; they are
the ones who will be in the majority in your proximity [assembly]
when you stand among the people. I fear lest you should stand
and say something which they will repeat everywhere, not
understanding what you say or interpreting it correctly; so wait
until you come to Medina, for it is the home of the Sunna and you
can confer privately with the jurists (fuqaha') and the nobles of
the people. You can say what you like and the jurists will
understand what you say and interpret it properly.' 'Umar
replied, 'By God, if He wills, I will do so as soon as I reach

"We came to Medina at the end of Dhu'l-Hijja and on the
Friday I (Ibn 'Abbas) returned [to the mosque] quickly when the
sun had set ... 'Umar sat on the pulpit, and when the muezzins
were silent he praised God, as was fitting, and said: 'Today I am
about to say to you something which God has willed that I should
say and I do not know whether perhaps it is my last utterance. He
who understands and heeds it let him take it with him wherever
he goes; and as for him who fears that he will not understand it,
he may not deny that I said it.'

"... I have heard that someone [Zubayr as in Baladhuri said,
'If 'Umar were dead I would do fealty to so-and-so ['Ali].' Do not
let a man deceive himself by saying that acceptance of Abu Bakr
was a hasty mistake (falta) which was ratified. Admittedly it was
that, but God averted the evil of it. There is none among you to
whom people would devote themselves as they did to Abu Bakr.
He who accepts a man as ruler without consulting the Muslims,
such acceptance has no validity for either of them: and they are
subject to death [punishment.]

"What happened was that when God took away His Prophet
[from among us], the Ansar opposed us and gathered with their
leaders in the Saqifa [hall] of Banu Sa'ida, and 'Ali and az-Zubayr


and their companions [and those who were their supporters]
withdrew from us, while the Muhajirun gathered to Abu Bakr."

From 'Umar's own statement, it is clear that there was
serious opposition to Abu Bakr's candidacy not only from the
Ansar, but also from 'Ali and his supporters. Thus, no sooner
had the news of Muhammad's death come out than the Ansar
of Medina, undoubtedly fearful of Meccan domination and
perhaps aware of their designs, hastily assembled in the
Saqifa Banu Sa'ida to elect a leader from among themselves.
'Umar b. al-Khattab, upon hearing people saying that
Muhammad was dead, stood and furiously remonstrated that
the Prophet could not die. Claiming that Muhammad had
simply disappeared for a time, he threatened he would kill
anyone who claimed that Muhammad was dead.(55) Abu Bakr,
who had been at his house in Sunh, a suburb of Medina, then
arrived on the scene. Hearing 'Umar's altercations, he went
straight into the Prophet's house. Discovering that Muham-
mad had passed away, Abu Bakr came back and confirmed
his death to the people gathered around 'Umar.

At this point we have three different versions. The first
reports that when Abu Bakr was addressing the people, an
informant came and told him and 'Umar about the Ansar's
meeting in the Saqifa. Both Abu Bakr and 'Umar, along with
those around them, then rushed to the Saqifa. This version
must be rejected on the simple grounds that Abu 'Ubayda b.
al-Jarrah does not appear anywhere in this tradition, contra-
dicting all other reports, where he is one of the three most
important persons in the whole drama. The second version
reports that after confirming the death of the Prophet to the
people, Abu Bakr and 'Umar went to the house of the Prophet
and joined his relatives, who were busy with the burial
preparations. Two informants then came and told them about
the Saqifa, whereupon the three-Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and Abu
'Ubayda--ran to the Saqifa. This version also does not appear
to be correct because: 1: it presupposes that these three most
important companions were completely unaware of both the
serious tension, often conflict, which had been developing
over the last few years between the Muhajirun and the Ansar,
and the gravity of the situation under the circumstances; 2: it
contradicts 'Umar's statement that 'Ali and his supporters


separated themselves from the others and locked the door of
the house; 3: it is a tradition recorded only by Baladhuri (I, p.
581), and on a rather weak isnad. The third version, which is
repeatedly narrated by all of our sources with the exception
of Ibn Sa'd, reports that after addressing the people regarding
Muhammad's death, Abu Bakr, along with 'Umar and Abu
'Ubayda, went to the house of; most probably, Abu 'Ubayda.
There they met to deliberate on the critical leadership crisis
which had arisen owing to the death of the Prophet, and
certainly keeping in view the resentful feelings of the Ansar
which had been developing for quite some time.(56) It was
there that the council of the Muhajirun was interrupted by
an informant who rushed in to tell them what the Ansar were
doing. Hearing that, Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and Abu 'Ubayda
rushed to the Saqifa to prevent any unexpected development.
Returning again to 'Umar's speech, we are told:

"I told Abu Bakr that we should go to our brothers the Ansar,
so we went off to go to them when two honest fellows ['Uwaym
b. Sa'ida(57) and Ma'n b. 'Adi(58)] met us and told us of the
conclusion the people had come to. They asked us where we were
going, and when we told them they said that there was no need
for us to approach them and we must make our own decision. I
said, 'By God, we will go to them.' And [when we arrived] we
found them [the Ansar] in the hall of Banu Sa'ida. In their midst
was a man wrapped up. In answer to my inquiries, they said that
he was Sa'd b. 'Ubada and that he was sick. When we sat down
there, a speaker pronounced the Shahada and praised God as was
fitting and then continued: 'We are God's Helpers and the
squadron of Islam. You, O Muhajirun, are a family of ours and a
company of your people have come to settle down [among us].' I
[at this point 'Umar interrupted and] said: 'And look, they were
trying to cut us off from our origin and wrest authority from us.
When the Ansar's speaker finished, I wanted to speak, for I had
prepared a speech in my mind which pleased me much. I wanted
to produce it before Abu Bakr and to repulse the roughness and
asperity of the speaker of the Ansar. But Abu Bakr said, 'Gently,
'Umar!' I did not like to anger him and so he spoke. He was a man
with more knowledge and dignity than I, and by God he did not
omit a single word which I had thought of and he uttered it in his
inimitable way better than I could have done. Abu Bakr said: 'Ali
the good that you have said about yourselves you duly deserve.
But the Arabs will not recognize authority except in this tribe [lit.


clan] of Quraysh. They are the best and the noblest of the Arabs
in descent, blood, and country [i.e. settled in the centre).'"

An addition from Baladhuri (I, p.582) completes Abu
Bakr's speech and shows further how he argued against the
Ansar: "We are the first people in Islam; and among the
Muslims, our abode is in the centre, our descent is noblest,
and we are nearer to the Prophet in relation; and you [Ansar]
are our brothers in Islam and our partners in religion; you
helped us, protected us and supported us, may God reward
you His best. So we are the rulers (umara') and you are the
deputies (wuzara'). The Arabs will not submit themselves
except to this clan of the Quraysh. Certainly a group from
among you [present] knows well that the Prophet said, 'The
leaders are from the Quraysh (al-a'immat-u min al-Quraysh),
therefore, do not compete with your Muhajir brothers in
what God has bestowed upon them."'

Now we return again to 'Umar's speech.

"[Abu Bakr said,] 'So I offer you one of two men; accept
whichever you please.' Thus saying he took hold of my hand and
that of Abu 'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah, who was sitting between us.
Nothing he ever said displeased me more than that. By God, I
would rather have come forward and have had my head struck
off--if that were no sin-than rule over a people of whom Abu
Bakr was one...

In Ya'qubi's account (II, p.123), "[Abu Bakr said] The
Quraysh are closer to Muhammad than you, so here is 'Umar
b. al-Khattab, for whom the Prophet prayed, "O God, confirm
his faith," and the other is Abu 'Ubayda, whom the Prophet
declared "a trustee of this Umma"; choose either one whom
you like and pay homage to him.' But both of them refused
and said, 'We cannot take preference over you, you are the
companion of the Prophet and only second of the two [in the
cave at the time of the Hijra]."' In one of Baladhuri's accounts
(I, p.582), when Abu Bakr suggested the name of 'U mar, the
latter exclaimed: "And while you are alive? Who could set
you aside from your place in which the Prophet had installed
you?" Ya'qubi (II, p.123) describes Abu 'Ubayda as saying:
"O people of Ansar, you were the first to help [Islam] so do not
be the first to differ and change." Ya'qubi continues: "Then
'Abd ar- Rahman b. 'Awf stood and said: 'You have your


merits, but you do not have [any one among you] like Abu
Bakr, 'Umar, and 'Ali.' On this, one of the Ansar, AI-Mundhir
b. Arqam,(59) sharply replied: 'We do not reject the merits you
have mentioned; indeed there is among you one with whom
no one can dispute, if he seeks this authority, and that man is
'Ali b. Abi Talib."'

It was at this stage of suggestions and counter suggestions
by Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and Abu 'Ubayda for each other that
Al-Hubbab b. Mundhir(60) from the Ansar offered a compromise
solution. Thus continues 'Umar:

"One of the Ansar said, 'I am the rubbing post and the fruitful
propped-up palm [i.e. a man who can cure people's ills and is held
in high esteem because of his great experience]. Let us have one
ruler from among ourselves, and another ruler from among
yourselves, O Quraysh.' Altercations waxed hotter and voices
were raised until, when a complete breach was to be feared, I said,
'Stretch forth your hand, Abu Bakr.' He did so and I paid him
homage; the Muhajirun followed and then the Ansar. [In doing
so] we jumped on Sa'd b. 'Ubayda and someone said that we had
killed him. I said, 'God kill him."'

Here ends 'Umar's historic speech, accepted by almost all
of those who wrote on the Saqifa. Before we proceed further
it might be of interest to note 'Umar's reply to Hubbab's
suggestion as it is recorded by Tabari (I, p.1841) in a separate
account narrated by Abu Mikhnaf: "'Umar said: 'How
preposterous; two swords cannot be in one sheath. By God,
the Arabs will never agree to your authority while their
Prophet is from others [i.e. from ourselves]."'

It is also Tabari (I, p. 1818) who records for us from one of
his most trusted and frequently cited authorities, Abu
Ma'shar, that even after 'Umar's homage to Abu Bakr, there
were still some of the Ansar who protested against the
decision and exclaimed: "We will not pay our homage to
anyone except 'Ali." But this and some other similar voices
were lost in the tumult and, following the examples of 'Umar
and Abu 'Ubayda, those of the Muhajirun present paid
homage to Abu Bakr, and were followed by the. Ansar for one
reason or another, as we shall see presently.

Before we describe the events which followed the assembly
of Saqifa, it would be helpful to examine briefly the complex
situation and unique circumstances which made Abu Bakr's


selection possible. Firstly, clan rivalries among the Quraysh,
or among the Muhajirun in particular, made it easier for
them to accept the leadership of Abu Bakr-a man of an
insignificant branch, Banu Taym b. Murra.(62) Because of its
inconspicuous place among Meccan ruling clans, Banu Taym
had never been involved in the power struggle and political
conflicts that had plagued the rival clans of the Quraysh.
Secondly, the Muhajirun, as a whole, were also fearful of the
possibility of Medinan domination should the' Muhajirun
involve themselves in their own clannish rivalries and
internecine fighting. To them Abu Bakr was thus the best
compromise candidate. Thirdly, as far as the Ansar were
concerned, we should take note of the deep-rooted and old
enmity between the Banu Aws and the Banu Khazraj. Sa'd
b. 'Ubada 62 was the chief of the Khazraj; the Banu Aws
accordingly found it much more tolerable and profitable to
submit themselves to a Qurayshite leader than to allow a chief
of the rival tribe to rule over them. This is evident from the
fact that the first among the Ansar to pay homage to Abu
Bakr was one of the chiefs of the Banu Aws, Usayd b.
Hudayr.(63) According to Tabari (I, p.1843), "Some of the
Aws, among them Usayd b. Hudayr, spoke among themselves,
saying, 'By God, if the Khazraj become rulers over you once,
they will continue to maintain this superiority over you and
will never let you have any share in it, so stand up and pay
homage to Abu Bakr.' Then they [the Aws] stood and paid
homage to Abu Bakr." We may also recall that this Usayd '0.
Hudayr was the only one from the Ansar who took part if' the
deliberations of the Muhajirun, certainly knowing of Sa'd b.
'Ubada's candidacy and thus acting against him and the

As for the Banu Khazraj, they realized that their position
was far too weak to face a united front of the Muhajirun and
the Banu Aws, their old rivals, or rather enemies, in the city
politics of Medina. The constant wars and deadly feuds
between the Aws and the Khazraj are commonplace stories
of the ayyam al-'Arab ("Battle Days") literature. Thus the
Khazraj found it unwise to lag behind in giving support to
and gaining the favour of the ruling authority upon which
agreement had very nearly been reached. Moreover, Sa'd b.
'Ubada was envied by some of his own cousins or clansmen,


as was a common feature of the Arab clans; and according to
some the first who paid homage to Abu Bakr was Sa'd's own
cousin Bashir b. Sa'd.(64) It is thus clear that as a result of group
politics, clan rivalries, and personal jealousies, Abu Bakr was
able to exact homage from most of the people. To these factors
must be added the overall impression in the sources that Abu
Bakr did enjoy a certain prestige and was held in high esteem
for his sobriety, old age, his close association with and support
of Muhammad, and his valuable services to Islam from the
very advent of the Prophet's mission. Thus the impact of his
personality, which grew over the years under the Prophet,
should not be ignored in analysing the results of the Saqifa.
The material preserved in the sources also strongly suggests
that Abu Bakr and 'Umar had formed an alliance long before,
possibly with Abu 'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah as a third member,
and that these three did carry considerable weight and
influence in the newly emerging Islamic nobility, as well as in
group politics against the old Meccan aristocracy.(65) Finally,
it must also be noted that Abu Bakr's succession was realized
neither through a free election in any sense of the term nor
through a free choice of the community. It was simply a
decision by a particular group from among the Muhajirun
which was hastily forced or thrust upon all others. Its success
was due only to the delicate existing group conflicts in
Medina. This is obvious from 'Umar's own statement quoted
above that, "Admittedly it was a hasty affair (falta) but God
averted the evil of it" The arguments advanced by 'Umar
and Abu 'Ubayda in favour of Abu Bakr-lineage in the
Quraysh, early conversion to Islam, long companionship to
the Prophet, services to the cause of Islam, and lastly his close
relationship to and the esteem in which he was held by
Muhammad---are in effect of the same nature as those
advanced in favour of 'Ali against Abu Bakr, and they
certainly lend more strength to 'Ali's claims than to those of
Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr's only exclusive claim to the succession-
his leadership of the prayer during the Prophet's illness-
reflects later theological colour, and the traditions pertaining
to it are often confused and contradictory.

Keeping in view the arguments and counter-arguments
at the Saqifa, the choice of Abu Bakr seems to have been
an accident of circumstances. The conflict between the


supporters and the opponents of Abu Bakr centred on
considerations of what is necessary under the circumstances,
and what ought to be. The former principle soon resulted in
the establishment of a mighty and sweeping caliphate-empire.
The latter principle of what ought to be led a group of the
community, though small, to develop its own interpretation
of Islamic ideals and polity.

The task of consolidation of Abu Bakr's authority as the
successor to the Prophet, however, was still far from complete
after the Saqifa meeting. 'Ali b. Abi Talib, the most important
candidate from the Prophet's family, as is unanimously
attested by Sunni and Shi'i sources alike, along with his Close
associates and the family of Hashim, was not even aware of
the decision taken in the Saqifa. They came to hear about it
only when, after securing homage at the Saqifa, Abu Bakr,
along with his supporters, came to the mosque of the Prophet
and an unusual tumult arose from the gathered mob. Though
the timing of the events which followed is confused,(66) it is
perhaps at this point that 'Ali and a number of his supporters
both from the Ansar and the Muhajirun assembled in
Fatima's house and started deliberating on what was to be
done. Besides numerous references to this effect, it is also
supported by the first part of 'Umar's speech when he said,
"And 'Ali and Zubayr with their companions withdrew from
us." Abu Bakr and 'Umar, fully aware of 'Ali's claims and also
of the respect he commanded in a certain group of the
companions, and fearing lest there be some serious reaction
on his and his partisans' part, summoned them to the mosque
to pay homage. They refused to come. 'Umar, with his cut-
and-thrust policy, advised Abu Bakr to act promptly before it
was too late. The two men marched to 'Ali's house with an
armed party, surrounded the house, and threatened to set it
on fire if 'Ali and his supporters would not come out and pay
homage to the elected caliph. 'Ali came out and attempted to
remonstrate, putting forward his own claims and rights and
refusing to honour Abu Bakr and 'Umar's demands. The
scene soon grew violent, the swords flashed from their
scabbards, and 'Umar with his band tried to pass on through
the gate. Suddenly Fatima appeared before them in a furious
temper and reproachfully cried:


"You have left the body of the Apostle of God with us and you
have decided among yourselves without consulting us, and
without respecting our rights. Before God, I say, either you get
out of here at once, or with my hair dishevelled I will make my
appeal to God."

This made the situation most critical, and Abu Bakr's band
was obliged to leave the house without securing 'Ali's
homage.(67) He could not, however, resist for long and had to
yield before the growing pressure. The traditions vary and
are often contradictory as to when he was reconciled with
Abu Bakr. According to one or two very weak and isolated
traditions, which clearly reflect later theological tendency,
'Ali paid homage to Abu Bakr instantly, only complaining
that he had not been consulted; according to some others he
did so the same day but under compulsion and with the
conviction that he had better claims to the office. But
according to the most commonly reported traditions, which
must be accepted as authentic because of overwhelming
historical evidence and other circumstantial reasons, 'Ali held
himself apart until the death of Fatima six months later.(68)

Insisting that 'Ali should have been chosen, a number of
his partisans from among both the Ansar and the Muhajirun
who had delayed for some time in accepting Abu Bakr's
succession were fain to yield, however. They gradually, one
after the other, were reconciled to the situation and swore
allegiance to Abu Bakr. Their names and number vary in
different sources, but the most distinguished among them
and most commonly recorded by the majority of the sources
are as follows.(69)

1 Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman,(70) a Medinese halif of the Aws and a
most distinguished Companion of the Prophet. Known as a
great warrior who fought at Uhud and served the Prophet as
a special counsellor at Khandaq, his personal loyalty and
attachment to 'Ali remained unchanged even after his
allegiance to Abu Bakr. Before his death, he asked his two
sons to support 'Ali, which they did until they were killed at
the battle of Siffin while fighting for 'Ali against Mu'awiya.

2 Khuzayma b. Thabit,(71) from the tribe of Aws, whom the
Prophet called "Dhu'sh-Shahadatayn", the one whose testi-
mony was worth that of two men. He fought alongside 'Air at


the battles of Al-Jamal and Siffin and was killed in the latter
by Mu'awiya's army.

3 Abu Ayyub al-Ansari,(72) whose father, Khalid b. Kulayb,
belonged to Banu Najjar and whose mother was from the
Khazraj. He was one of the most important Companions
among the Ansar and was the host of the Prophet in Medina
until his house was built. He fought for the cause of 'Ali in the
battles of Al-Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan.

4 Sahl b. Hunayf,(73) from the tribe of Aws, who fought for the
Prophet at Badr and other battles. He was a great friend of
'Ali, came with him from Medina to Basra, and fought at
Siffin. 'Ali appointed him governor of Persia.

5 'Uthman b. Hunayf,(74) brother of Sahl and a great favourite
of 'Ali, who appointed him governor of Basra.

6 Al-Bara'a b. 'Azib al-Ansari ,(75) from the tribe of Khazraj and
one of the aristocrats of Medina representing pro-'Alid Ansar.
He came with 'Ali to Kufa and fought for him at Al-Jamal,
Siffin, and Nahrawan.

7 Ubayy b. Ka'b, (76) from a branch of the Banu Khazraj and one
of the leading jurists and Qur'an readers among the Ansar.

8 Abu Dharr b. Jundab al-Ghifari, (77) one of the earliest followers of Muhammad, an ascetic, and extremely devoted to piety.
He had always been a most vocal supporter of 'Ali and is one
of the four pillars of the first Shi'a. The Caliph 'Uthman
exiled him to his birthplace, a small village known as Rabdha,
where he died.

9 'Ammar b. Yasir,(79) a south Arabian affiliated with the clan of Makhzum of the Quraysh, an early convert to Islam, and one
of the four pillars of the first Shi'a.

10 Al-Miqdad b. 'Amr, 79 a south Arabian either from Kinda or
Bahra, adopted by a certain Aswad b. 'Abd Yathuth of the
Banu Makhzum. He was one of the seven early converts to
Islam and one of the four pillars of the first Shi'a.

11 Salman al-Farisi,(80) a Persian by origin and an ardent follower and companion of the Prophet, who ransomed him from
slavery and adopted him as his mawla and member of the Ahl
al-Bayt. He had always been an ardent supporter of 'Air, and
his support to 'Ali at the time of Abu Bakr's selection has been
mentioned distinctly even by Baladhuri.

12 Az-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam,(81) one of the most distinguished
Companions of the Prophet from the Quraysh. He was the


most energetic supporter of 'Ali and no doubt sincere in his
enthusiastic attitude. He came out of the house of Fatima,
sword in hand, when 'Umar arrived there and tried to force
those in the house to pay homage to Abu Bakr. A serious
encounter between him and 'Umar is recorded by almost all
of our historians. It was, however, only twenty-five years later
that ambition made him strive for the caliphate, which
resulted in the battle of al-Jamal between him and 'Ali.
Khalid b. Sa'id,(82) from the clan of Umayya, only third or
fourth after Abu Bakr to become Muslim, and the only one
from this clan who seriously resisted Abu Bakr's succession
in favour of 'Ali. As the representative of the Prophet, he was
at San'a' when Muhammad died. When he reached Medina
a few days after Abu Bakr's selection, he offered his allegiance
to 'Ali saying, "By God, no one among all the men is more
entitled to take the place of Muhammad than you." Though
'Ali declined to accept his homage, Khalid refused to
recognize Abu Bakr for three months.

The seriousness of their opposition to or resentment of
Abu Bakr before they become reconciled to him is almost
impossible to ascertain, since the Shi'i sources exaggerate this
to the extreme(83) whereas the Sunni sources try to ignore or
minimize it as much as possible.(84) Historically it cannot be
denied, however, that these men formed the nucleus of the
first 'Alid party, or the Shi'a. It cannot be claimed that all
were equally enthusiastic and warm supporters; some of them
were lukewarm supporters who recognized 'Ali's position as
the most worthy for the office of the caliphate because of his
personal merits, but nevertheless paid homage to Abu Bakr
without much resentment. The attitude of 'Ammar, Miqdad,
Abu Dharr, and Salman must have been different from that
of the others. These four companions are regarded by all the
Shi'is as "the Four Pillars" (al-arkan al-arba'a) who formed
the first Shi'a of 'Ali. After 'Ali's compromise with Abu Bakr,
however, reasons for further opposition on the part of his
supporters ceased to exist and this elite of the first Shi'a
dwindled away physically. But can ideas, once introduced,
ever die out? The later years in the history of the development
of Islamic thought provide an answer to this question.

# Chapter 3
'Ali and the First Two Caliphs

The discussion above will suffice to elucidate our view that
the origins of Shi'i feelings and inclinations may be found in
the conception of the sanctity for which the Banu Hashim
were widely known, in the special consideration with which
'Ali was held by Muhammad (who was, above all, fully
conscious of his family's traditionally religious heritage and
exalted position), and lastly, in the events in favour of 'Ali
which took place during Muhammad's lifetime. Since the
first convergence of these convictions focused on the questions
and issues involved in the Saqifa incident, this episode marks
both the first open expression of and the point of departure
for what ultimately developed into the Shi'i understanding of
Islam. However, after the initial defeat of 'Ali's supporters
and his own recognition of Abu Bakr's administration six
months later, circumstances were such that Shi'i tendencies
lost most of their open and active manifestations. The period
of the caliphates of Abu Bakr and 'Umar, between the Saqifa
episode and the Shura (the election of 'Uthman), is thus one
of comparative dormancy in the history of the development
of Shi'ism.

Nevertheless, a close scrutiny of the early sources, and
especially a careful comparison of the Shi'i and Sunni early
records, reveals two distinct and important undercurrents in
operation throughout this period ; firstly, 'Ali's passive attitude
towards the ruling authorities; and secondly, the attempts of
Abu Bakr and 'Umar to displace Banu Hashim, and especially
'Ali, from their prerogative claims to the leadership of the
community according to their own understanding of the new
order and the form they felt it should take. Both of these


trends apparent in this period form an inseparable phase in
the development of Shi'i ideas and therefore should be taken
into consideration.

'Ali's passive attitude can easily be illustrated by comparing
the active role played by him during the lifetime of
Muhammad with his completely inactive and withdrawn life
in the period immediately following the Prophet's death. The
most active and enthusiastic participant in all the enterprises
in the cause of Islam and a great warrior in the forefront of all
the battles fought under Muhammad,(1) 'Ali suddenly reverted
to leading a quiet life, almost confined to the four walls of his
house. This marked contrast cannot have been without
serious causes.(2) Seeing 'Ali's firm conviction that he had the
best claims to succeed Muhammad, as is evident from all the
sources, one would have expected him to fight for his rights
to the bitter end. He did not resort to this course of action,
however, even though such opportunities presented them
selves. He declined to make use of the strong military support
offered to him by Abu Sufyan to fight for his rights, for he
considered that such action would lead to the destruction of
infant Islam.(3) At the same time, on the other hand, he did not
recognize Abu Bakr and refused to pay him homage for six
months. In addition to the demoralizing factor of Fatima's
death, which occurred six months after the succession of Abu
Bakr, what perhaps compelled 'Ali to reconcile his position
with the existing order was the serious eruption of apostasy
and rebellion among the Arab tribes in the peninsula. This
coincidence of Abu Bakr's succession and the rebellion of the
tribes naturally forced people in Medina to forget whatever
ideological or personal differences they had and to unite
themselves against a common danger. Such a serious external
threat to the very existence of the Islamic order proved to be
a great advantage to Abu Bakr in reducing internal opposition
to his rule. The character of 'Ali as presented by both Sunni
and Shi'i sources alike suggests that his feelings of love,
dedication, sincerity, and undivided loyalty to the cause of
Islam were above personal considerations. From the age of
thirteen he had been committed to the service of the mission
of the Prophet; seeing such a dangerous and widespread
rebellion of the tribes against Islam, 'Ali had no choice but to
reconcile himself with the existing order. This he did. But he


did not take any active part in any of the apostasy wars, thus
still preserving his withdrawn attitude; nor did Abu Bakr ask
him to participate in the wars outside Medina.

In spite of maintaining his withdrawn and passive attitude
towards Abu Bakr and 'Umar, 'Ali did occasionally help the
caliphs. This co-operation rendered to the ruling caliphs
appears to have been of the same nature as that expected of
any reasonable opposition leader. He recognized that, under
the circumstances, the solidarity, security, and integrity of the
community could only be preserved if the diverse groups
which it comprised were willing to co-operate and maintain
harmonious relations among themselves. Yet within this
framework he attempted, again as was to be expected, to
correct what he regarded as mistakes of the government, and
criticized policies which differed from his viewpoint.

The points of difference in religious and political matters
between 'Ali on the one hand, and Abu Bakr and 'Umar on
the other, are difficult to ascertain because both the Sunni
and the Shi'i source materials are extremely tendentious. The
Sunni sources, such as the works of Ibn Sa'd and those who
followed him, were written in the period when the recognition
of the first four caliphs as the Rashidun was firmly established
in the fama'a. (The English term "orthodoxy", which is
usually used for the central body of the Muslims, is in an
Islamic context not only incorrect but misleading; we shall
therefore use the Arabic term fama'a for this so-called
orthodoxy.) Naturally, every effort was made to show as much
agreement as possible, at least between 'Ali, Abu Bakr, and
'Umar. 'Uthman tends to be excluded in religious and
political matters, though attempts were nevertheless made to
save even 'Uthman's position by blaming the abuses of his
caliphate on Marwan, his notorious secretary. On the other
hand, the Shi'i sources give a completely different and
extreme view of 'Ali's disagreement, not only with 'Uthman,
but also with Abu Bakr and 'Umar, on almost every matter,
whether religious or political. In short, according to the Sunni
sources, 'Ali was a valued counsellor of the caliphs who
preceded him; according to the Shi'i sources, he was the
person who, dominated by his heroic love and sense of
sacrifice for the faith and disregarding his personal grievances,
saved the caliphs from committing the serious mistakes to


which they were often prone and which would otherwise
have been suicidal for Islam. 'Umar is thus often reported to
have said: "Had there not been 'Ali, 'Umar would have
perished." It is very interesting to note that this statement is
reported by some of the important early Sunni authors too.(4)

Apart from some of the serious points of disagreement
between 'Ali and his first two successful rivals, for which
there is unanimous historical testimony, as we shall point out
below, exactitude in the determination of the mass of this
material is probably beyond our reach. The truth, however,
seems to have been, as Veccia Vaglieri suggests, that "'Ali was
included in the council of the caliphs, but although it is
probable that he was asked for advice on legal matters in view
of his excellent knowledge of the Qur'an and the Sunna, it is
extremely doubtful whether his advice was accepted by
'Umar, who had been a ruling power even during the
caliphate of Abu Bakr."(5) Moreover, evidence of 'Ali's opinions
not being accepted on religious matters is manifested in the
fact that his decisions very seldom find a place in the later-
developed Sunni schools of law, whereas 'Umar's decisions
find common currency among them. On the other hand, 'Ali
is a frequently quoted authority on matters of law in all Shi'i
branches.(6) On political and administrative matters, his
disagreement with 'Umar on the question of Diwan (distri-
bution of stipends) and his absence from all the wars fought
under 'Umar can be well cited. Without further elaboration,
it may safely be assumed from our evidence that, regardless
of the exact nature of his feelings and aspirations, 'Ali
maintained a passive and withdrawn attitude towards the
caliphates of both Abu Bakr and 'Umar.

'Ali accepted the political realities of his day, but never the-
less remained convinced of the fact that he was better
qualified for the caliphate and that he had been unjustly
deprived of the leadership of the community. 'Ali's feelings
regarding his predecessors are best expressed in his own
words in one of his famous speeches at the mosque of Kufa
during his own caliphate. This historic exposition of 'Ali,
known as ash-Shaqshiqiyya, is recorded by Ash-Sharif ar-
Radi in the Nahj al-Balagha,(7) which contains 'Ali's sermons,
speeches, letters, and maxims. As with most of the material
presented in this valuable work, there can hardly be any


doubt as to the authenticity of this speech, since it was
reported by many early authors long before Ash-Sharif ar-
Radi 'Ali says:

"Nay, by God, the son of Abu Quhafa [Abu Bakr] had exacted
the caliphate for himself while he knew full well that my position
in it was like that of the pivot in a mill; the flood waters flow down
beneath me and the birds do not soar high up to me; yet I hung
up a curtain before it and turned aside from it [the caliphate]. I
then started thinking whether I should attack with a severing
hand or should watch patiently the blind darkness in which the
old man becomes decrepit and the young man old, in which the
believer tries his utmost till he meets his Lord, and I came to the
conclusion that patience in a situation like this was wiser. So I
adopted patience, although there was a mote rankling in my eye
and a bone sticking in my throat on seeing my heritage being
plundered, till the first one [Abu Bakr] died and handed over the
reins of the caliphate to another person ['Umar] after him. [Here
'Ali quotes a verse from the poet A'sha, which reads] 'How vast
is the difference between this day of mine when I am on the back
of the camel [i.e. suffering from the hardship of a rough journey]
and the day of Hayyan, brother of Jabir [i.e. when he was
comfortably placed under the power and prestige of Hayyan.(8)
How hard did they [Abu Bakr and 'Umar] squeeze its udders
and how they made it [the caliphate] travel on a rugged path,
which inflicts deep wounds and is rough to the touch, in which
one stumbles frequently and has to offer excuses, so that its rider
is like the rider of a difficult mount: if he draws its reins tight, its
nose is pierced, and if he relaxes it, he plunges into destruction.
And so the people were afflicted, by God, with stumbling,
refractoriness, capriciousness, and cross-purposes. But I kept
patience in spite of the length of time and the severity of the
ordeal, until he ['Umar] went his way."(9)

'Ali thus describes his feelings towards the reign of his two
predecessors and summarizes their periods in the caliphate.
Ibn Abi 'l-Hadid, writing a long commentary on this speech,
explains major characteristics of the first two caliphs, their
policies in arranging the affairs of the community, their
attitude towards 'Ali, and 'Ali's reservations about the
handling of matters by them.

We may now turn to the second observation made above
concerning this interim period in the development of Shi'ism:
the attempts made by both Abu Bakr and 'Umar to displace


the Banu Hashim in general and 'Ali in particular from
prerogatives in the leadership of the Umma. The first and
most important step in this direction was taken by Abu Bakr
on the day following the Prophet's death, when Fatima came
to claim the estate of Fadak. She asserted that this estate was
given to her father unconditionally as his share of the spoils
of Khaybar.(10) Quoting Muhammad's words: "We [the
Prophets] do not leave as inheritance what we make legal
alms," Abu Bakr refused her claim, maintaining that Fadak
belonged to the community as a whole and that Fatima,
although entitled to the usufruct, could not hold the right of

This question of inheritance soon became one of the most
debated problems in the conflict between the Shi'a and their
opponents.(12) It might seem that Abu Bakr's refusal in effect
meant that no claims would be justified on family grounds.
To acknowledge the justice of one claim of inheritance based
on family ties would open the door to further and more
extensive claims, and Abu Bakr felt that to accept the rights
of the family of 'Ali to the inheritance of Fadak might be
regarded as equal to admitting their rights to the succession
of the Prophet in all spheres, spiritual as well as material.
This fear was perhaps based on the grounds that Muhammad,
as leader of the community, was entitled to one fifth of the
spoils of war (Khums), and by this special right he became
owner of the Fadak. To inherit a property as a token of an
exalted position and prerogative was somewhat different
from an ordinary inheritance. It is almost unanimously
reported that after this event Fatima did not speak to either
Abu Bakr or 'Umar till her death six months later. She asked
'Ali to have her buried at night, and not to allow Abu Bakr
and 'Umar to take part in her funeral. 'Ali accordingly carried
out her wishes and buried her at night, with only the family
members accompanying her coffin.(13)

The caliphate of Abu Bakr lasted just over two years, and
on his deathbed he explicitly appointed 'Umar, already a
ruling power behind him, as his successor. The way he
arranged the problem of succession after him leaves us in no
doubt that Abu Bakr had made up his mind in favour of
'Umar since his assumption of the caliphate. He took careful
measures to preclude any possibility of opposition to his


nomination of 'Umar and made sure that the latter should
not face any difficulty. He was fully aware of 'Ali's claims to
the caliphate and the support and respect he enjoyed from a
certain group. Abu Bakr therefore first called 'Abd ar-
Rahman b. 'Awf, told him about his decision, and after some
persuasion secured his consent. The only other person whom
the dying caliph called in to make his decision known was
'Uthman b. 'Affan. When the news of Abu Bakr's decision
came out, some of the prominent Companions of the Prophet
became extremely disturbed and apprehensive. Under the
leadership of Talha, they sent a delegation to protest against
the decision and tried to persuade the Caliph not to nominate
'Umar.(14) Nothing could change Abu Bakr's mind, and he
asked 'Uthman to write down his testament in favour of
'Umar. The community at large had no share in the choice
and was told by the Caliph to accept his nomination and obey
'Umar as the new caliph after him, for he could not think of
anyone more suitable than him. The testament he announced
before the people reads:

"This is a testament of Abu Bakr, the successor of the Prophet
of God, to the believers and the Muslims... I have appointed as
ruler over you 'Umar b. al-Khattab, so listen to him and obey
him. I have not made him your ruler except for [your] good.(15)

Anyone reading the account of 'Umar's nomination by
Abu Bakr will immediately notice that the decision was
neither based on the method of consultation with the elite of
the people, nor was the opinion of the community in general
sought before the choice was made. It was simply Abu Bakr's
own personal and arbitrary decision, which he wanted to be
endorsed by only those of the Companions whom he
considered most important from a clannish point of view, as
will be seen below.

For our interest, however, at once the most important and
revealing point is that in this entire process of the nomination
of 'Umar by Abu Bakr, 'Ali was totally ignored and excluded
from the ranks of those the dying Caliph called for
consultation, if consultation it was, and whose support he
tried to secure. In fact, as all of our sources unanimously
report, from all the Companions of the Prophet only two,
'Abd ar-Rahman b. 'Awf and 'Uthman, were selected by Abu


Bakr for consultation and then were entrusted with the
charge of wholehearted support for 'Umar.(16) This in all
probability must have been on the suggestion of 'Umar
himself, who planned to counteract any possible opposition
from the Banu Hashim by appealing to this branch of the
Quraysh. 'Abd ar-Rahman belonged to the Banu Zuhra and
'Uthman to the Banu Umayya, both of which had been
serious rivals of Banu Hashim before Islam. The emergence
of these two Companions was very characteristic in many
ways, especially for the development of the later history of the
caliphate, for they represented the wealthiest circles of the
Muslim community.(17) 'Abd ar-Rahman was 'Uthman's
brother-in-law, and the two men could be expected to support
each other. The former also had the wholehearted support of
Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, a fellow clan member and cousin from
the Banu Zuhra. In this way the direct support and influence
of the most important political elements among the Muhaji-
run were secured to oppose any possible activity from the
Banu Hashim and their partisans in favour of 'Ali's candidacy.

'Ali's serious disagreements with the policies of 'Umar in
both political and religious matters will be discussed below in
connection with the selection of 'Uthman. Here it may be
pointed out in passing that during the most active and
eventful ten years of 'Umar's caliphate, in which the most
spectacular conquests of Persian and Byzantine provinces
took place and in which all the prominent Companions of the
Prophet took active part, 'Ali remained uninvolved. Nor did
'Ali hold any office under 'Umar, as had been the case under
Abu Bakr and would continue later under 'Uthman. The
only exception was his being in charge of Medina during
'Umar's journey to Palestine, when he took with him all the
other leading Companions of the Prophet and military
commanders to approve regulations of the conquest and the
Diwan. 'Ali alone was absent from the historic surrender of
Jerusalem and Syria. 'Umar is reported to have strictly
prevented the Banu Hashim from going out of Medina.(18)
This is evident from the very fact that neither 'Ali nor any
other member of the Banu Hashim has been reported to have
taken part in any activity outside the capital.

'Umar's attitude towards 'Ali is best illustrated by a
dialogue which took place between the former and Ibn


'Abbas. On a certain occasion 'Umar asked Ibn 'Abbas, "Why
did 'Ali not join us and co-operate with us? Why did the
Quraysh not support your family while your father is the
uncle and you are the cousin of the Prophet?" "I do not know,"
replied Ibn 'Abbas. "But I know the reason," said 'Umar.
"Because the Quraysh did not like to allow both the
Prophethood and the caliphate to be combined in your house,
for with this you would feel arrogant and rejoice."(19) In
another version, when 'Umar heard some verses of Zuhayr b.
Abi Sulma which described the glory, nobility of descent,
and virtues of the clan of Banu 'Abd Allah b. Ghatfan, he said
to Ibn 'Abbas: "I do not know any other clan among the
Quraysh to whom these verses can be better applied than the
Banu Hashim, because of their relationship and superior
claims to the Prophet, but the people did not like to allow the
Prophethood and the caliphate in your family so that you
would become arrogant and rejoice at it among the people.
The Quraysh, therefore, preferred to choose the leader for
themselves and they made the right choice and were guided
by God in that." "O, Prince of the Faithful," said Ibn 'Abbas,
"as for your statement that the Quraysh chose their own
leader and were guided in the right choice, it may be correct
if the choice of Quraysh for their leader was in the same sense
as the choice of God from among the Quraysh. As for your
statement that the Quraysh did not like to allow both the
Prophethood and the caliphate to be with us, it is not
surprising, for God has described many people who disliked
'what God has sent down to them and thus render their deeds
fruitless'."(20) At this point 'Umar became angry and said: "I
have heard many things about you but I ignored them
because of my regard for you. I am told that you think that we
have taken away the caliphate from you through oppression
and because of envy." "As for oppression, it is evident," said
Ibn 'Abbas, "and as concerns envy, so it is obvious; Satan
envied Adam and we are the children of Adam." 'Umar lost
his temper and retorted, "Alas, O Banu Hashim, your hearts
are full of hatred, rancour, and false pretensions." "Be gentle,
O Prince of the Faithful," said Ibn 'Abbas, "and do not
describe the hearts of the people from whom God has
removed all kinds of uncleanliness and purified them with
complete purification.(21) Moreover, the Prophet himself


belonged to the Banu Hashim." "Let us leave this topic," said
'Umar.(22) The dialogue speaks for itself and needs no
comment. It will suffice to say that it is one of the most
revealing statements in explaining the attitude of 'Umar
towards 'Ali on the one hand, and the Hashimite attitude
towards 'Ali's predecessors in the caliphate on the other.

However, the dominating personality of 'Umar and his
realistic understanding of the tides of the time were strong
enough not to allow any manifestation of discontent during
his rule, which was continuously involved in the conquest of
rich new lands for Islam. The occupation of Abu Bakr with
quelling the rebellion of the apostate tribes within the Arabian
peninsula, and of 'Umar in conquering foreign lands, served,
consciously or unconsciously, to keep internal feuds at rest.
On the whole, the caliphate of 'Umar, as that of his predecessor
Abu Bakr, characterizes a period in which Islamic ideals of
simplicity, justice, equality, devotion to the cause, zeal for the
faith, and a socio-economic equilibrium according to their
understanding of these, were best represented. After a
successful rule of ten years, however, the powerful caliph met
his end by the dagger of a Persian slave and died on 26 Dhu'l-
Hijja 23/3 November 644.

Unlike Abu Bakr, 'Umar during his long caliphate could
not develop complete trust and confidence in any one person
to justify nominating him as his successor.(23) He nevertheless
restricted the choice to six of the early Companions among
the Muhajirun, who had to choose one of themselves as the
new caliph. The members of this committee, later referred to
by the Muslim jurists and theorists as the Shura or electorate
body, were: 'Uthman, 'Abd ar-Rahman b. 'Awf, Sa'd b. Abi
Waqqas, 'Ali, Zubayr, and Talha, with 'Umar's own son 'Abd
Allah only in the capacity of an advisor, not as a candidate.(24)
Two conspicuous factors are to be observed here. First, the
community at Medina as a whole had no say in the selection
of the new leader, as both candidacy and decision-making
power were confined to the six persons nominated by the
Caliph; thus the principle of so-called democracy or election
by the people in choosing their leader cannot be applied.
Second and more important is the fact that the Ansar of
Medina were completely excluded from expressing their
opinion in the affair of the leadership. Perhaps this was due


either to their pro-'Alid sympathies manifested at the Saqifa,
or to 'Umar's desire to eliminate any possibility of an Ansari
being suggested as a candidate. This proved to be a serious
blow to the political influence of the Ansar, and one from
which they were never able to recover.

It is not intended to record here in detail the events of the
Shura as such, but rather to recall what had a direct bearing
on the development of Shi'ism. According to the unanimous
account given by our sources, 'Umar meticulously laid down
the regulations which had to be followed by the committee.
These regulations were that: 1 : the new caliph must be one of
this committee, elected by the majority vote of its members;
2: that in the case of two candidates having equal support, the
one backed by 'Abd ar-Rahman b. 'Awf was to be nominated;
3: that if any member of the council shrank from participating,
he was to be beheaded instantly; and lastly, 4: that when a
candidate had been duly elected, in the event of one or two
members of the conclave refusing to recognize him, this
minority, or, in the case of equal division of three members on
each side, the group opposed to 'Abd ar-Rahman, were to be
slain. To enforce this order 'Umar called in Abu Talha al-
Ansari(25) of the tribe of Khazraj, commanding him to select
fifty trusted persons from his tribe to stand at the door of the
assembly with swords in hand to ensure that the members of
the committee should follow these orders.(26) By appointing
the Khazrajites, who immediately after the death of the
Prophet had wanted the leadership for themselves, 'Umar
guaranteed that his orders would not be taken lightly.

There is hardly any room to doubt the authenticity of the
report that 'Umar imposed such stern regulations on the
members of the committee. Few accounts in the early history
of Islam have received such unanimous historical testimony
as that of 'Umar's arrangements of the Shura and the
regulations laid down by him. A comparison of the texts of
Baladhuri, Ya'qubi, Tabari; and Mas'udi, followed by
numerous other historians such as Dhahabi and Ibn al-Athir,
shows that the basic account is the same in all of them. All
these writers cite different authorities belonging to different
and often conflicting schools of thought and inclination.(27)
Nabia Abbott (28) has recently published a papyrus fragment of
Ibn Ishaq's Ta'rikh al-Khulafa' (with valuable commentary)


which deals with the Shura and the terms fixed by 'Umar.
Ibn Ishaq wrote at least one hundred years before any one of
the historians cited above, and it is of great importance to note
that the account given by Ibn Ishaq is strikingly the same.
This confirms the account of our historians. Besides this
unanimous historical testimony, the circumstances of the
time and other guiding factors strongly attest to the accuracy
of the account. When we compare 'Umar's characteristic
sternness dominant in his personality and the decisive policies
that characterized his rule, with the nature of the regulations
imposed by him on the members of the electorate council at
such a critical moment, the two factors are in conformity with
each other. In addition, the manner in which all the historians
record the conditions makes it clear that, on the one hand,
'Umar was sure that only one of these six companions could
become the next caliph, but, on the other hand, he was certain
that they would oppose each other in order to avail themselves
of the opportunity for leadership. He was therefore afraid of
critical dissension among the possible candidates and the
disastrous consequences this would have for the young
community. This is clearly evident from the report that
'Umar called in the members of the Shura and said: "I looked
around and found that you are the leaders of the people and
the caliphate cannot go except to one of you; but I am afraid
that dissension will arise among you and [because of your
dissension] the people will also split among themselves.(29)
Thus motivated, he laid down such stringent restrictions as
he deemed necessary to protect the community from the
effects of disastrous schism.

These measures, however, did simultaneously accomplish
two main purposes which seem to have been in the mind of
the dying Caliph, and which he must have thought to be in
the best interests of the community. On the one hand, these
measures saved the young Umma, though only for the time
being, from serious dissension; on the other hand, through
these meticulous arrangements 'Umar completed the task of
keeping the caliphate away from the Banu Hashim, an
endeavour he had undertaken immediately after the Prophet's
death. Being fully aware of 'Ali's claims and remembering
that he had not even recognized Abu Bakr for six months,
'Umar knew that 'Ali would not agree to make his claims the


subject of debate in a self-instituted council of electors unless
he was bound to do so under compulsion. Though aware of
the considerable ambitions of both Zubayr and Talha, 'Umar
also realized that 'Ali and 'Uthman, among all other members
of the council, carried much more weight and realistically
were the only ones who had the support necessary to advance
themselves as serious candidates, each backed by his own
clan, the Banu Hashim and the Banu Umayya respectively.
'Umar also seems to have realized that 'Ali stood a much
better chance of success now than 'Uthman on the grounds
which have been discussed in Chapter I. It was no longer
possible for the Caliph to simply ignore the claims of 'Ali; and
had he not forced him to become a member of the Shura, he
would have given the Prophet's cousin and the candidate of
the Banu Hashim a free hand to strive for office for himself.(30)

By bestowing both the chairmanship and the final authority
of the committee on 'Abd ar-Rahman b. 'Awf, 'Umar
effectively blocked the chances of 'All and virtually guaran-
teed the nomination of 'Uthman. This was such an obvious
fact that almost all of our sources record it in the very words
of 'Ali himself. When he heard the regulations laid down by
'Umar and that 'Abd ar-Rahman was given the casting vote,
'Ali remonstrated, saying:

"By God, the caliphate (Amr) has again been taken away from
us because the final authority rests in the hands of 'Abd ar-
Rahman, who is an old friend and brother-in-law of 'Uthman,
whereas Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas is 'Abd ar-Rahman's cousin from
the Banu Zuhra; naturally these three will support each other,
and even if Zubayr and Talha vote for me it would be of no

In this way, 'Umar dealt a final blow to the superior claims
of the Banu Hashim by giving their old rivals, the Banu
Umayya, a new lease of power. The clan of Umayya, on its
part, saw this as its golden opportunity, and Abu Sufyan in
particular regarded the accession of 'Uthman as the return of
the entire clan to a position of power which they should at all
costs preserve.(32)

'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet's uncle and head
of the Banu Hashim, is reported to have warned 'Ali not to
participate in the Shura and to maintain his freedom of
action,(33) but 'Umar's provisions precluded such a course of


action. All of our sources agree that 'Ali yielded only under
direct pressure, threatened by fear of arms if he declined to
abide by 'Umar's will.(34) When one recalls 'Ali's protests
twelve years earlier against the nomination of Abu Bakr after
the death of the Prophet, it is not difficult to imagine how
deeply disappointed 'Ali must have been to see, for a third
time, another man given preference over him. This he
describes in his speech of Ash-Shaqshiqiyya, the first part of
which has been quoted above:

"'Umar [from his deathbed] entrusted it [the choice of caliph]
to six persons among whom he claimed one was I. By God, and
what a council [i.e., "what chance did I stand in it?"]. When did
doubt about me cross anyone's mind, even in the case of the first
of them [Abu Bakr] so that I was associated to a member of his
like?(35) But I went along with them in all situations and I dropped
low when they dropped and flew up when they flew. Then one of
them [Sa'd] inclined towards his companion ['Abd ar-Rahman]
while 'Abd ar-Rahman swayed in favour of his brother-in-law
['Uthman], and they did other unmentionable things.(36)

It is by no means easy to establish what really transpired in
the deliberations and debates of the council which resulted in
the appointment of 'Uthman. In the mass of the material
handed down to us, there is, however, a commonly reported
tradition, at once very important and most revealing. It is said
that, after three days of long debates and wrangling, at the
time of the morning prayer when the Muslims assembled in
the mosque to hear the decision of the electoral body, 'Abd ar-
Rahman b. 'Awf first offered the caliphate to 'Ali on two
conditions: one, that he should rule in accordance with the
Qur'an and the Sunna of the Prophet; and two, that he must
follow the precedents established by two former caliphs.
Accepting the first condition, 'Ali declined to comply with
the second, declaring that in all cases in which he found no
positive law of the Qur'an or decision of the Prophet, he
would only rely on his own judgement. 'Abd ar-Rahman
then turned to 'Uthman and put the same conditions before
him. 'Uthman readily consented to them, whereupon 'Abd
ar-Rahman declared him caliph.(37) As will be discussed below,
this point was later made the basis of the differences between
Sunny and Shi'i legal theory and practice, whereby the Shi'i
jurists rejected the decisions of the first three caliphs.


This tradition bears the unanimous testimony of both
Sunni and Shi'i historians alike, and therefore its authenticity
can hardly be questioned, as has been done by some scholars.
If later Sunni theologians attempted to ignore it, it was simply
because of the fact that the tradition compromised the newly
established concept of the acceptance of the first four caliphs
as the Rashidun (rightly guided), and their decisions as
precedents for the foundation of the fama'a. Apart from this
historical evidence, the most convincing factor in support of
the accuracy of this tradition lies in 'Ali's own independent
nature and in the marked individuality of his character.
When we try to delineate 'Ali's character from his conversion
to Islam at the age of ten or so until his death, the following
characteristics emerge. He was uncompromising in his
principles, straightforward, and above all too stern in his
religious outlook, a factor which may have contributed to the
later failure of his own caliphate. These features predominate
throughout his career. It is not possible here to go into the
details of his biography, but the clearest expressions of his
independent attitude are to be found in instances such as
when he insisted that hadd (punishment) be carried out on
'Abd Allah b. 'Umar for the murder of Hurmuzan.(38) On
another occasion, when all others refused to administer the
flogging punishment on Walid b. 'Uqba, guilty of drunken-
ness, 'Ali took this task on himself.(39) A still stronger
manifestation of his rigid adherence to principles was when
he issued orders of dismissal to Mu'awiya and other Umayyad
governors, though advised by his friends to first consolidate
his strength in the capital.(40)

As has been discussed above, even during 'Ali's period of
general inactivity there were points of serious disagreement
between him and the Caliphs Abu Bakr and 'Umar. He was
entirely opposed to 'Umar on the question of Diwan, and
recommended the distribution of the entire revenue, holding
nothing in reserve, a policy which 'Umar did not accept.(41)
Involving, as it did, so many administrative and financial
questions, this disagreement can hardly be considered
insignificant, and in fact it was only one of several major
disputes to which the sources allude. Nasr b. Muzahim al-
Minqari (died 212/827), one of the earliest writers of great
importance and credibility, preserved for us the revealing


correspondence exchanged between 'Ali and Mu'awiya.
Mu'awiya, in his letter to 'Ali, besides accusing him of
responsibility for the murder of 'Uthman, which is the main
theme of the letter, levelled other charges against him as well.
One of them was that 'Ali tried to rebel against Abu Bakr,
delayed in recognizing him as the caliph, did not co-operate
with the first two caliphs during their caliphates, and
continually disagreed with them.(42) 'Ali in his reply, while
rejecting all other accusations as false, argued that his delay
in recognizing Abu Bakr and his resentment towards him
was due to the fact that he considered himself better qualified
for the leadership of the community on the same grounds as
Abu Bakr had put forward against the Ansar. That is, if the
Quraysh had better claims as against the Ansar because of the
former's relationship to the Prophet, then the Banu Hashim
had the strongest rights, being nearest to the Prophet in

'Abd ar-Rahman knew these differences full well and at
the same time he also knew equally well 'Ali's independent
and uncompromising nature. But this time, with the deaths
of the dominating personalities of Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and Abu
'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah, it was not so easy to set 'Ali aside without
serious cause, for his possible rivals (or rival in the person of
'Uthman) were much inferior to him in many ways. The
deed was, however, accomplished by involving 'Ali in an
elective committee in which he had no chance of gaining
solid majority support, and then offering him the caliphate
on terms which would be unacceptable to him.

'Uthman was a weak man; apart from considerations of
family relationships and personal friendship, this weakness
was probably one of the reasons why 'Abd ar-Rahman
supported him. Realizing the weakness of his own claims to
the office, 'Abd ar-Rahman wanted to establish as caliph a
man who would rely on him and serve his interests, which
were those of the Quraysh aristocracy and the rich. 'Ali, who
belonged to the poor and ascetically minded (zuhhad) class,
had little in common with such interests and is reported to
have repeatedly denounced worldly comforts by saying, "O
gold and silver, try to tempt someone other than me."(44) In
contrast to this attitude, 'Abd ar-Rahman and other members
of the Shura were men of prosperity and wealth, and now


with the conquests of the Byzantine and Persian empires,
they were avidly seeking the tremendous new opportunities
opened up before them. 'Uthman's caliphate provided them
with such an opportunity and within a few years they had
accumulated enormous wealth and had become the richest
people of the community. 'Uthman himself left at his death
100,000 dinars, 1,000,000 dirhams, and estates worth over
100,000 dinars in addition to herds of horses and camels.
Similarly the riches of 'Abd ar-Rahman, Zubayr, Talha and
Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas are described as running into millions.(45)
Apart from group politics and party partisanship, it was
therefore quite natural for such men to elect someone
representing their own class.

The selection of 'Uthman did not pass without serious
protest from 'Ali himself and opposition from some of his old
and ardent partisans. Keeping in view the long-standing
disputes between the Banu Hashim and the Banu Umayya,
going back to the days of Hashim b. 'Abd Manaf and his
brother 'Abd ash-Shams over the religious and political
leadership of the Quraysh, one can well imagine Banu
Hashim's feelings now that the new authority stemming from
Muhammad, a Hashimite, had been taken over by an
Umayyad. The speeches made and the harsh words ex-
changed between the supporters of 'Ali and those of 'Uthman,
following 'Abd ar-Rahman's announcement of the selection
of the latter, manifest not only partisanship for one or the
other, but the trends of thinking and the fundamental
differences in approach. Ibn Abi Sarh, a notorious Umayyad,
once condemned to death by the Prophet,(46) spoke enthusi-
astically in support of 'Uthman, with whom he had been
suckled by the same wet-nurse, and said to 'Abd ar-Rahman,
"If you desire that the Quraysh should not split among
themselves, then appoint 'Uthman." On this 'Ammar b. Yasir,
an ardent supporter of 'Ali, rebuking Ibn Abi Sarh and
referring to his past anti-Islamic career, reproachfully said,
"Since when have you become an advisor to the Muslims?"(47)
A heated exchange of words followed between the Banu
Hashim and the Banu Umayya. Here the statement of
'Ammar is worth noting, when he said, "O people, God has
made us most honourable through His Prophet and distin-
guished us through His religion, but you are turning away


from the people of the house (Ahl al-Bayt) of your Prophet."
In reply to this, someone from the clan of Makhzum, an old
rival of the Banu Hashim, retorted, saying: "This is a matter
to be settled among the Quraysh themselves ['Ammar was a
South Arabian]. Who are you to interfere in our affairs ?" (48)
The protest 'of Miqdad in favour of 'Ali was even stronger
than that of 'Ammar. He said: "It is very hard to see how the
people are paying their respect to the members of the family
(Ahl al-Bayt) of their Prophet after him. It is indeed shocking
to see that the Quraysh have forsaken and by-passed the man
who is the best among them." Then someone asked Miqdad:
"Who are these Ahl al-Bayt, and who is that man from them?"
"Ahl al-Bayt means Banu 'Abd al-Muttalib and the man is
'Ali b. Abu Talib," replied Miqdad.(49) These protests may be
taken as some of the documented remnants of much more
serious vocal disputes: fragments that survived the dominant
trends in the history of this critical period of Islam. What
must particularly be noted here is the frequent use of the term
Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet in relation to the leadership of the
community. Keeping in mind the importance of the noble
families and the concept of sacerdotal lineages among some
sections of the Arabs, as discussed in Chapter 1, it is easily
understandable that some people were shocked to see the
family of the Prophet so deprived after his death.

The most significant point in this whole event of the Shura,
however, lies in 'Ali's historic refusal to follow the precedents
established by the first two caliphs. This intransigent
declaration of 'Ali forms the most important and the earliest
theoretical point which ultimately gave rise to the later
development of two different schools of law under the titles of
Shi'i and Sunni, the former including the Ithna 'Ashari,
Isma'ili, and Zaydi, the latter including the Hanafi, Maliki,
Shafi'i and Hanbali. If ideological differences between the
two schools date back to the event of the Saqifa, the
differences, in legal matters at least theoretically, must be
dated from 'Ali's refusal to follow the precedents of the first
two caliphs. This refusal thus serves as a cornerstone in the
development of Shi'i legal thought. An exponent of the
history of ideas would tell us that it often takes a considerably
long time for a given idea to present itself in a complete form,
and as we shall see later, the idea expressed by 'Ali in the


Shura took at least fifty years to become manifest in a
distinguishable independent form and was not fully devel-
oped until the imamate of Ja'far as-Sadiq.

To conclude this phase, we can remark that the selection of
'Uthman was very largely based on economic, social, and
tribal considerations, as exemplified by the speeches made on
his behalf. On the other hand, the protests against 'Uthman's
nomination and in support of 'Ali from men like 'Ammar
and Miqdad were very largely based on religious aspirations.
The arguments put forward by these supporters of 'Ali, as
quoted above, concerning his relationship with the Prophet
and his unsurpassed services to Islam, practically echo the
statements made in favour of 'Ali's cause at the Saqifa over a
decade earlier. Despite his passive and withdrawn attitude,
'Ali still retained a devoted core of supporters in the Muslim

# Chapter 4
The Re-emergence of the 'Alid Party

The sixteen-year period beginning with the caliphate of
'Uthman (24/644) and ending with the assassination of 'Ali
(41/661) represents a marked difference from the preceding
period of the caliphate of Abu Bakr and 'Umar in the
development of Shi'ism in Islam. It was a turning point in
many ways. Firstly, this period created an atmosphere which
encouraged Shi'i tendencies to become more evident and
conspicuous. Secondly, the events which took place gave an
active and sometimes violent character to the hitherto inactive
Shi'i movement. Finally, the circumstances which prevailed
involved the Shi'i outlook, for the first time, in a number of
political, geographical, and economic considerations. The
period was therefore one in which the desire of the first Shi'is
to express their ideas on the succession of 'Ali, the religious
zeal of the Companions, personal hatreds, provincial and
economic interests, political intrigues, and the discontent of
the poor against the rich were fused together. This fusion not
only provided a new sphere of activity for the Shi'i movement,
but also widened its circle of influence to those who needed
an outlet for their political grievances, especially those against
Mu'awiya, the representative of the Umayyad aristocracy and
Syrian domination. Seeing in 'Ali a champion of the political
independence of Iraq, as opposed to this Syrian domination,
these groups supported him and were for the time being of
the same mind as the religious supporters of 'Ali, who believed
in his right to the caliphate based on the theocratic principle.
The emergence of the political Shi'a is characterized both by
the increase in its influence and its numbers and by the
sudden rapidity with which it henceforth grew. An exami-


nation of the period in which this emergence occurred Will
result in a clearer insight into the split which developed
within the main body of Islam.

Abu Bakr and 'Umar did not give their respective clansmen
any particular share in the rule of the Muslim community,
nor were their clans of much political consequence. Such was
not the case with 'Uthman. His clan wanted to regain its past
political importance after having taken second place to the
Hashimites after the victory of Muhammad. When 'Uthman
was elected, the Umayyads regarded this as a triumph for the
whole clan, not solely as 'Uthman's personal success.(1) They
considered it natural that the Caliph should give them a share
of the profits, and their demands could hardly be refused by
the new caliph, who felt that his strength lay in the support
and good will of his powerful clansmen. He did what he
could to satisfy their demands, and the people were painfully
disillusioned when they found the Caliph committed to the
improvement of the lot of his own family and clan rather than
to the welfare of the community as a whole. 'Uthman made
no secret of bestowing favours on his kinsmen, and justified
this action by saying: "The Prophet used to bestow offices on
his kinsmen, and I happen to belong to people who are poor.
So I let my hands a bit loose in regard to that with which I
have been entrusted by virtue of the care I take of it"(2)

It is an historical fact that within a few years of 'Uthman's
accession the Umayyads claimed among themselves the
governorships of Kufa, Basra (capital of a vast territory
including Iran and Central Asia and extending to Sind),
Syria, and Egypt: all the important provinces of the empire.
These Umayyad governors, in turn, relied on the support of
their own kinsmen, whom they placated and allowed to
dominate the caliphal councils.(3) The critical problem here
was not so much that the Umayyads dominated all positions
of power and advantage, but rather that they were allowed
enough latitude to use their powers arbitrarily and unfairly
for the benefit of themselves and their kinsmen, thus incurring
the dissatisfaction and hatred of many Muslims. 'Abd Allah
b. Sa'd b. Abi Sarh, 'Uthman's milk-brother, who adminis-
tered Egypt, was an extremely unpopular man, whom the
Prophet had ordered to be killed during the conquest of
Mecca.(4) Al-Walid b. 'Uqba, 'Uthman's half-brother, was even


more intensely hated by the Kufans, whom he treated in
brutal fashion. He divided lands among his favourites and
finally disgraced himself by drunkenness.(5) 'Uthman was
obliged to recall him and appointed another close relative,
Sa'id b. Al-'As, who infuriated the local notables by his high-
handed treatment of them, then alarmed them by declaring
that the Sawad of Kufa would become a "Garden of the
Quraysh". Provoked by such abuses, a group of the Qur'an
readers in Kufa, such as Malik b. Harith an-Nakha'i,
Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza'i, Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi,
Shurayh b. 'Awf al-'Absi, and others, protested in vain against
Sa'id's behaviour. Instead of making proper inquiries,
'Uthman ordered the agitators to be sent to Syria for
Mu'awiya to deal with.(6)

The names of these distinguished Qur'an readers are to be
taken seriously as they afterwards appeared as the leaders of
the Shi'i movement in Ku fa. They stood at the forefront of
'Ali's army at the battles of Al-Jamal and Siffin, and even
after 'Ali's assassination they never reconciled themselves
with Mu'awiya. Similarly, the groups of the Qur'an readers
from Egypt and Basra were not less violent in their protests
against the free hand given by the Caliph to his Umayyad
governors and their highhanded treatment of the people.
This clash with the Qur'an readers set the seal on 'Uthman's
unpopularity in religious circles in the provinces. Here we
must point out that the word qurra' (Qur'an readers) used by
our sources implies those who distinguished themselves and
were recognized by the people as learned in religious matters,
and who taught the people the Qur'an and religious
observances. Naturally they carried great prestige among the
masses and were regarded as the intelligentsia of the people.

In addition to appointing many of his clansmen to lucrative
posts, 'Uthman made large gifts to others.(7) At the same time,
he treated some of the Companions of the Prophet very
harshly. 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud, then in charge of the treasury
in Kufa, was recalled after a quarrel with Al-Walid b. 'Uqba,
and the Caliph allowed him to be manhandled in his
presence.(8) Even worse was the treatment received by 'Ammar
b. Yasir, who was reviled and beaten into unconsciousness
when he arrived from Egypt with a letter of complaint against
Ibn Abi Sarh.(9)


During the last few years of 'Uthman's reign, the major
part of the population was seething with discontent over the
spectacle of Umayyad aristocrats seated in high offices,
enjoying wealth and luxury, indulging in debauchery, and
lavishly spending the immense wealth which they appropri-
ated to themselves illegitimately. The resulting disequi-
Librium in the economic and social structure naturally aroused
The jealousy of various sections of the population and provided
ample combustible material for an explosion. One outspoken
leader of the criticism against 'Uthman's regime was Abu
Dharr, a fearless and uncompromising partisan of frugality
and asceticism who violently protested against the accumu-
lation of wealth in the hands of a few and demanded the
distribution of lands among the community. 'Uthman, who
did not like the idea of Abu Dharr thundering against the
wealthy in the mosque of Medina, sent him to Syria. Before
long, the Caliph received a letter from Mu'awiya complaining
of Abu Dharr's dangerous activities and ordered that Abu
Dharr be bound to a wooden camel saddle and be sent back
to Medina under escort. He arrived in the city half dead, with
the flesh torn off his thighs, and he was shortly thereafter
exiled to Ar-Rabdha, where he soon died.(10) His misadventures
were widely related throughout the provinces, awakening an
echo of bitterness against 'Uthman and the class of the rich
concurrently with the propagation of 'Ali's claims to the

In this connection the speeches of Abu Dharr, frequently
delivered in the mosque of Medina, are of special interest.
Gathering people around himself, he used to say:
"...'Ali is the legatee (wasi) of Muhammad and the inheritor
(wraith) of his knowledge. Oh you bewildered and perplexed
community after its Prophet, if you give preference [in leadership]
to those whom God has given preference, and set aside those
whom God has set aside, and if you firmly place the succession
and inheritance in the people of the house of your Prophet, you
will certainly be prosperous and your means of subsistence will
be made ample.(11)

We must strongly dissent from the viewpoint of such
writers as have laboured to present the rebellion against
'Uthman as being due to only the evil machinations of some
mischief-mongers, and the grievances they voiced as being all


forged and artificial. Such writers ignore the fact that these
mischief-mongers-if such they were-had real grievances to
protest and the tacit support of the Sahaba to provide the
necessary sanction. For discontent to develop into open
rebellion, two things are essential: leadership, which must
come from those who command respect in society, and the
time and opportunity to organize and concert action. Both of
these prerequisites were present in the last few years of
'Uthman's caliphate.(12) The attitude of the Sahaba, prominent
among them being 'Ali, Talha, and Zubayr, is quite clear.
There is ample material to prove that almost all of them, and
especially these three, were equally loud in their opposition to
the ways of 'Uthman. Even 'Abd ar-Rahman b. 'Awf (died
32/652), who had played an all-important role in the election
of 'Uthman, is reported to have hinted long before the
outbreak of disturbances that he held 'Uthman's actions to be
a violation of the pledge given by him at the time of his
election.(13) Even if we disagree with the reports that they
wrote letters to the provincials or actually incited them in a
systematic manner, the fact remains that they made no secret
of their views and moral support for the rebels.

'Ali's attitude towards the situation in this period is clearly
illustrated by his reaction to the punishment given to Abu
Dharr. When 'Uthman ordered the latter to be exiled, he
gave strict orders that no one should see him off except
Marwan, who was to escort him out of Medina. Despite these
orders, 'Ali, accompanied by Hasan, Husayn, and his partisan
'Ammar b. Yasir, went along with Abu Dharr for quite a long
distance. When reminded of the Caliph's directive by
Marwan, 'Ali replied by cursing him and striking the head of
Marwan's beast with his stick. When it was time to part, Abu
Dharr wept and said, "By God, whenever I see you, I
remember the Prophet.(14) To console Abu Dharr, 'Ali said to

"You were annoyed for the sake of God, so entertain hope from
Him for whom you were angry. These people were afraid of you
for the sake of their world, and you feared them for the sake of
your religion. So leave in their hands that by reason of which they
were afraid of you, and flee away with that by reason of which
you feared them; for how badly do they need what you have
denied them, and how little do you need what they have denied


you. If you had accepted their world they would have loved you;
and if you had appropriated to yourself some part of it, they
would have felt more secure in your presence."(15)

Marwan reported the entire matter to 'Uthman, who
became quite indignant at such a breach of orders. When he
questioned 'Ali, the latter replied that he was not obliged to
obey orders that were not compatible with common sense
and justice. "My merits and excellences are far beyond yours;
I am far superior to you in every respect.(16) Later these points
were more commonly argued by supporters of 'Ali. The Shi'i
poet Sayyid al-Himyari availed himself of these arguments to
express his extreme Shi'i views.

After his acceptance of Abu Bakr and the subsequent
weakening of his initial party of supporters, 'Ali remained
aloof from all government activities until the end of 'Umar's
rule, as mentioned above. The protest raised after the selection
of 'Uthman demonstrated that 'Ali's candidacy still had many
partisans, but these acted only as individuals and did not
form any particular group. Once the caliphate of 'Uthman
gained widespread acceptance in the community, the spon-
taneous protests of men such as Al-Miqdad and 'Ammar
ceased, though their dissatisfaction remained. As the Caliph
gradually began to lose popularity, the old partisans of 'Ali
soon revived their grievances and gave full rein to their long-
suppressed desires to see 'Ali as caliph. Fresh support rallied
to the Hashimite candidate as discontented elements in the
empire began to crystallize into factions that needed an
effective and acceptable leader. Though Talha and Zubayr
had considerable local followings in Kufa and Basra respec-
tively, they were far less important than 'Ali and their
support was doomed to remain limited in character. 'Ali
found himself surrounded by groups of protesters arriving
from the provinces, men who called upon him to support
their cause, while at the same time 'Uthman approached 'Ali
and appealed to him to mediate with the rebels. Perhaps
compelled by the demands of justice, 'Ali had no choice but
to stand in Defence of the offended Companions and demand
punishment for the blame-worthy. He himself protested
against the rich gifts made by the Caliph to his kinsmen.
From this position, he was urged by the qurra' to act as their
spokesman, which he did to help meet the just demands of


the people on the one hand, and to extricate the Caliph from
his difficulties on the other.(17)

Two groups, different in outlook but with the same goals,
were working simultaneously and serving each other's
purposes, though not consciously. One group consisted of the
discontented provincial elements discussed above which had
been hardest hit by the disequilibrium in the economic
structure of the empire, while the other mainly comprised the
loyal partisans of 'Ali. This latter group, led by men like Abu
Dharr, Miqdad, 'Ammar, Hudhayfa, and several of the
Ansar, enlisted a number of new activist supporters such as
Ka'b b. 'Abda an-Nahdi; Malik b. Habib ath-Tha'labi and
Yazid b. Qays al-Arhabi.(18) Also included in this circle were
the Hashimites as well as 'Ali's clients and servants. Among
the latter were Qanbar b. Kadam,(19) Mitham b. Yahya at-
Tammar, and Rushayd al-Hujuri Due to their religious zeal
for and devotion to the person of 'Ali as the custodian of
Muhammad's message and the true exponent of Islam, these
men are symbolic of this stage in the growth of Shi'ism. Both
Mitham at-Tammar(20) and Rushayd al-Hujuri(21) were cruci-
fied in Kufa in 61/680 by 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad because they
refused to curse 'Ali and continued their zealous adherence to
him and to his house even after his death. Their hands, legs,
and tongues were cut off and their bodies were hanged, a
typical example of Ibn Ziyad's brutal behaviour. Besides these
supporters, later writers mention the name of 'Abd Allah b.
Wahb b. Saba, known as Ibn as-Sawda', as having become a
great supporter of 'Ali, travelling from place to place sowing
discontent against the rule of 'Uthman.(22) He is described as
a former Jewish rabbi converted to Islam; however, modern
Muslim scholars such as 'Ali al-Wardi strongly suggest that
'Abd Allah b. Saba never existed, and that the activities
attributed to him were carried out by 'Ammar b. Yasir, whose
nickname was also as-Sawda'.(23) Modern European scholars
have also expressed their doubts as to the historical personality
of Ibn as-Sawda' and tend to agree that he is a legendary

It is an interesting phenomenon that both the hatred
against 'Uthman and the numbers of the supporters of 'Ali
grew side by side. The pious opposition to the Umayyad
aristocracy became eagerly involved with the partisanship for


'Ali.(25) In addition to 'Ali's ardent supporters, Talha and
Zubayr also conducted propaganda activities against 'Uth
man. When Muhammad b. Abi Bakr and Muhammad b. Abi
Hudhayfa went to Egypt to rouse the people against the
Caliph, they met Muhammad b. Talha, sent there by his
father for the same task.(26) Even the widows of the Prophet
opposed the Caliph, and 'A'isha was especially loud in her
denunciations of "Na'thal" (of the big beard and the hairy
chest), as she nicknamed him.(27)

The simmering discontent exploded into revolt in 35/656,
when rebel contingents from Kufa, Basra, and Egypt marched
on Medina under the leadership of the qurra'. It is interesting
to note that most of the activists leading these contingents
happen to have been of Yemeni origin. These were joined by
some of the pro-'Alid Medinese Muhajirun and Ansar such
as 'Ammar and others. The situation soon became chaotic.
The events leading to the murder of 'Uthman are beyond the
scope of this study, but it seems fairly certain that his
assassination exceeded the desires of even those of the Sahaba
who were openly opposed to the Caliph. Their objectives had
been only to depose 'Uthman, not to kill him. It also seems
clear that even during these last tumultuous days 'Ali
continued to play his conciliatory. and mediatory role. He
many times did succeed in dispersing the unruly mob that
wanted to hurt the Caliph, and during the siege he appointed
his sons Hasan and Husayn to stand at the house of 'Uthman
and protect him from the angry crowd. They were, however,
jostled and pushed aside by the mob, and the Caliph was
killed. Hearing the news, 'Ali was the first to reach the scene
and was so furious at what had transpired that he slapped the
face of Husayn and hit Hasan for failing to save the life of the

In the confused atmosphere following the murder of the
Caliph, the only candidate for the caliphate that was
acceptable to the Muhajirun and the Ansar, as well as to the
rebellious qurra', was 'Ali.(29) After three previous but
unfulfilled aspirations to gain the office, however, 'Ali was
now reluctant to accept the responsibility of leading a
community so badly entangled in the question of regicide,
and thus to implicate himself in the murder. Ibn 'Abd Rabbih
has preserved for us 'Ali's own statement on the situation in


the form of an address delivered at the time of the battle of Al-
Jamal. In it, 'Ali says:

"After 'Uthman was killed, you came to me saying that you
wanted to pay homage to me. I said, 'I do not want it.' I pulled
back my hand, but you stretched it forth. I tried to snatch it [my
hand] away from you, but you seized it. You said, 'We will accept
no other than you, and we would not have gathered together
except around you.' You thronged around me like thirsty camels
on their watering day, set loose by their keeper who had
unfastened their tethers, until I thought you would kill me [by
rushing upon me] or that some one of you would kill the other [by
jumping one over the other]. In this way all of you paid me your
homage, and so did Talha and Zubayr." (30)

Pressed by the demands from almost all quarters, 'Ali
finally agreed to accept the office, but he specified that he
would rule strictly according to the Qur'an and the Sunna of
the Prophet and that he would enforce justice and law
regardless of any criticism or clash with the interests of any
group. Talha and Zubayr, though they both had some
followings from Basra and Kufa, realized that they had no
chance of mustering enough support to contest 'Ali's
candidacy, and they were the first to swear allegiance to him.
The Medinese, joined by multitudes of those from the
provinces present in the capital, acclaimed 'Ali as caliph.(31)
Through this election, 'Ali became the first and the only
caliph in whose selection a great majority of the community
took an active part. He was also the first among the caliphs
who, because of the circumstances of his birth, combined in
his person both the dynastic and the theocratic principles of

From the very start, 'Ali inherited great problems which
none of his three predecessors had had to face. Marwan b. al-
Hakam, 'Uthman's secretary, along with some other members
of the clan of Umayya, managed to escape to Syria to join
Mu'awiya, carrying 'Uthman's blood-stained shirt and the
severed fingers of Na'ila, the murdered caliph's widow, to use
for propaganda purposes. From Syria then came the call for
vengeance for 'Uthman's death and a continuous propaganda
campaign against 'Ali.

The murder of 'Uthman was not a simple assassination
committed by an individual to settle personal grievances, as


had been the case in 'Umar's death. 'Uthman's murder was
the result of a popular revolt of the poor, discontented,
suppressed, and deprived people against the economic,
political, and feudalist domination of an old aristocratic
family. The more religiously-minded people revolted to
safeguard the Islamic ideals of socio-economic justice and
equality taught by the Qur'an, enforced by the Prophet, and
jealously maintained by Abu Bakr and 'Umar. 'Ali's role as
the mediator between the rebel qurra' and the Caliph
demonstrates that, on the one hand, he himself was convinced
that the resistance movement had been based on just and
right demands (and thus asked the Caliph to redress their
grievances), while, on the other hand, he had tried his best to
save the Caliph from the hands of the unruly mob. Tempers
had flared beyond anyone's control, however, and the Caliph
was killed by extremists who escaped in the midst of the utter
confusion that followed. 'Ali found himself in a hopeless
situation. The actual murderers had fled, and it was impossible
for him to locate them for punishment; yet the fact remained
that many of the qurra' around 'Ali had been nearly as
responsible for the tragedy as the murderers themselves. 'Ali
himself repeatedly declared that:

"...the murder of 'Uthman was an act of the days of ignorance
[al-Jahiliya: the common term for the pre-Islamic period in
Arabia] I am not indifferent to the demand [of 'Uthman's blood],
but at present [the murderers] are beyond my power. As soon as
I get hold of them, I will not hesitate to punish them.(32)

Even Talha and Zubayr agreed on this point and said "the
insolent and imprudent people overcame the gentle and sober
ones and killed ['Uthman]." (33) In vain, however, did 'Ali try
to find a peaceful solution to the problem. The paradoxical
position of deploring the murder of 'Uthman while supporting
the justified demands of the qurra', and cursing the murderers
of the Caliph while surrounding himself with their associates,
would have been a serious challenge to even the shrewdest
and most cunning politician, and this was even more so in the
case of 'Ali, whose rigid adherence to principles so often
prevented him from adopting a practical political policy.

Before long, it became obvious that 'Ali's attempts to
resolve the crisis by peaceful means had failed. Challenges to


his authority included even 'A'isha, who refused to return to
Medina from the 'Umra (lesser pilgrimage) and turned back
to Mecca when informed of the nomination of 'Ali. Some
time later, Talha and Zubayr saw an opportunity to dissociate
themselves from 'Ali, and asked permission to perform the
'Umra. Though aware of their plans, 'Ali granted their
request. The two joined 'A'isha in the Holy City and then
announced that they had been compelled to swear allegiance
to 'Ali under duress.(34) Though both men were ambitious for
the caliphate, neither of them had been a real leader of the
masses with great popular support at his command; they
could never have concerted their efforts had it not been for
'A'isha, who now shifted from the position of an extreme
critic of 'Uthman to assume the role of his avenger. By
marching to Basra in 36/656, the triumvirate threatened to
cut 'Ali off from the east and compound the problem of a
rebellious Syria by creating a similar problem in Iraq. After
much hesitation, 'Ali finally marched to Kufa, where he
succeeded in gathering a force strong enough to defeat 'A'isha
and her associates in the battle of Al-Jamal. Talha and Zubayr
were slain, and 'A'isha was taken prisoner and sent safely
back to Medina.

Having secured his position in Iraq for the moment, 'Ali
then turned to deal with the much more dangerous problem
of Mu'awiya, who, as 'Uthman's kinsman, called for venge-
ance,(35) a protest which 'Ali rejected on the grounds that the
sons of 'Uthman were more entitled to this right.(36) Mu'awiya
realized that if 'Ali managed to consolidate his authority he
would dislodge the former from his position as governor of
Syria. The only way to avoid this was to question the validity
of 'Ali's title to the caliphate; given the circumstances in
which the new caliph had been installed in office, this was not
difficult. 'Ali's supporters, especially the qurra', were vigor-
ously opposed to any compromise with Mu'awiya, and Malik
al-Ashtar advised the Caliph not to enter into correspondence
with the governor of Syria. Nevertheless, 'Ali tried peaceful
means in dealing with his adversary; only when this failed
and it became obvious that Mu'awiya had resolved to fight
did 'Ali march with his forces to meet the Syrians.

The conflict of Siffin and the resulting arbitration have
been thoroughly and critically studied by a number of


scholars, and it is not our purpose here to re-cover well-
trodden ground. It will suffice to note that 'Ali's position
rapidly became critical as the emergence of the Kharijites
and the arbitration of Adhruh steadily eroded his strength.
While he was preparing for a final struggle against Syria, a
Kharijite fanatic, 'Abd ar-Rahman b. al-Muljam, struck him
with a poisoned sword in the mosque of Kufa. The fourth
caliph died on 21 Ramadan 40/25 January 661.

This entire period is discussed by 'Ali in the last part of his
speech of Shaqshiqiyya, and his own comments are useful in
examining this confused era:

"In the end, the third of them ['Uthman] stood up shrugging
his shoulders arrogantly; and there stood with him the sons of his
father, eating up the property of God as the camels eat up the
springtide verdure, until what he had twisted became untwisted.
His destruction was complete, and his greediness made him fall
to the ground. Then all of a sudden I was frightened to see a
crowd of people around myself, thick as the hyena's mane,
thronging towards me from every direction until [my sons]
Hasan and Husayn were mobbed and my two sides were split,
gathering around me like a herd of goats.

"But when I took up the government, one group broke its
pledge, another rebelled, and some others transgressed, as if they
had not heard the words of God, who says: 'That is the abode
hereafter which we allot to those who do not seek greatness and
corruption on the earth, and the end is for those who fear.' (XXVIII,
83) Nay, by God, they have heard these words arid comprehend
them, but the world is sweet in their eyes and they are pleased by
its gaudiness.

"Nay, by Him who has split the seed and created the soul, but
for the presence of those who are present and the establishment
of the arguments by the existence of the helpers, as also the fact
that God has disliked for the knowing ones to watch idly the
fullness of the oppressor and the hunger of the oppressed, I would
have thrown back its [the caliphate's] rope on its shoulder and
made its last drink from the cup of the first one, and you would
have found that your world is as distasteful to me as the dripping
from the nose of a goat."(37)

With this brief summary as a foundation, we will attempt
to analyse the causes and consequences of the major events of
'Ali's short-lived caliphate. It must be remembered that his
succession was greatly resisted by some of the Companions of


the Prophet and resulted in the first civil war in Islam; but at
the same time, his so-called "failures" proved to be epoch-
making in the history of the development of Shi'ism. The
bitterness of the supporters of 'Ali created by his defeats and
disappointments provided an historical foundation for the
development of their sectarian tendencies, and the destruction
done to him gave the later Shi'a enough material for the
formation of their own discipline within the body of Islam.

An attempt to grasp the situation as a coherent whole
reveals the fact that the selection of CAll was at once a triumph
for a particular view of succession hitherto frustrated, and a
great shock to all those who had successfully adopted a
principle of leadership devoid of notions of primacy based on
hereditary sanctity after the death of the Prophet. With the
succession of CAl!, these two rival views came into genuine
conflict for the first time and crystallized into definite forms.
The former view, soon defeated again, was to find expression
in a separatist tendency towards a, so to speak, sectarian
organization; the latter re-emerged victoriously and more
vigorously, and eventually shaped itself in such a way as to
become the centre of the Islamic Umma, or Jama'a.

Ya'qu‎bi records for us those speeches with which 'Ali was
hailed by his enthusiastic supporters, mostly from the Ansar,
on the occasion of his installation, and which illustrate those
tendencies and sentiments with which he was viewed by this
group. For example, Malik b. al-Harith al-Ashtar pledged his
allegiance with the declaration that 'Ali was the wasi al-
awsiya', the legatee from among the legatees [of the prophets),
and the warith ilm al-anbiya', heir to the knowledge of the
prophets.(38) Hodgson doubts whether these terms were really
used in reference to 'Ali at such an early date.(39) In the first
place, we must bear in mind that MAlik b. al-Ashtar was of
Yemenite origin. South Arabia was a land of ancient
civilization where for a thousand years kings had succeeded
one another according to a dynastic principle and had been
regarded as having extraordinary qualities. Even if the
seventh-century Arabs had no personal experience of king-
ship, they must have been unconsciously influenced by this
continuing tradition.(40) In this case, the use of terms like wasi
and warith by a man of Yemenite origin occurs as a natural
and spontaneous corollary of a deep-seated cultural tradition.


In the second place, there are numerous references in
contemporary writings which reflect the same spirit. In praise
of 'Ali, Abu'l-Aswad ad-Du'ali sings:

'Thou art the noblest of the Quraysh in merit and religion.

I see God arid the ftiture state through my love for 'Ali.

'Ali is the Aaron, 'Ali is the wasi.''(41)

Still more informative is the fact that the term wanth appears
frequently in the Qur an, especially in connection with the
family of 'Imran and Isma'il, and Muhammad uses it as a
proof in his efforts to attract the "peoples of the book".(42) It is
thus very likely that some of the partisans of 'Ali could have
used the same terminology to express their views.

Moreover, in reading the accounts of the battles of Al-Jamal
and Siffin, one encounters a great bulk of war poetry
exchanged between combatants of both sides in which wasi
and such expressions are repeated by the partisans of 'Ali.
Extensive quotations here would be cumbersome, and it will
suffice to refer the reader to Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, who collected
the verses describing 'Ali as the wasi(43) from the Kit4b al-
Jamal of Abu Mikhnaf (44) (died i57/774). Another very early
work wherein these verses are abundantly quoted is the Kitab
Waq'at Siffin by Nasr b. Muzahim (died 212/827), who also
frequently quotes Abu Mikhnaf in addition to other early

Apart from these considerations, we have already seen that
there had been a devoted party which from the very beginning
had expressed personal enthusiasm for 'Ali largely based on
religious considerations. That this group should express its
allegiance in appropriately religious terms is only to be
expected. Later generations of Shl'l poets, best represented
by Kumayt, Kuthayyir, Sayyid al-IIimyarl, and Farazdaq,
frequently used the terms wasi and the like in reference to
'Ali, especially when describing the battles of Al-Jamal and

The purpose of the preceding discussion has been to
demonstrate that there was a party who viewed 'All's accession
to the caliphate from an angle quite different from the
viewpoint of the rest of the community. Ilis rise to power was
a great victory for his party, which held a particular
conception regarding the leadership of the community, and


thus it raised questions that had not arisen under the three
previous caliphs, therefore causing him to face serious
opposition from various quarters almost right from the start.
The initial resistance came from 'A'isha, Talha and Zubayr,
who raised the call for vengeance and offered themselves as
the agents for exacting satisfaction for the murder of 'Uthman.
But the question to be raised here is whether this was really
the reason for their revolt. How could 'Ali alone be held
responsible for the killing when Talha and Zubayr themselves
had been equally active in supporting the grievances of the
people? Was 'A'isha not an equal participant in arousing
people against 'Uthman?(46) For the highly emotional and
violent atmosphere in Medina at that time, we can do no
more and no less than hold all the dissident groups and critics
of the Caliph about equally responsible. In one of his speeches,
'Ali questions these pretenders, saying:

"By God, they have shown their dislike against me for anything
unpleasant and have not appointed an arbitrator between me and
themselves; yet they are demanding a right which they had
themselves given up and revenge for a blood for which they
themselves are responsible. Even if I had a share in it with them,
they would still have a share of it; but if they were held responsible
for it without me, the blame lies only with them: thus their
strongest argument goes only against them. They are still
suckling a mother who has already weaned them, and they are
reviving an innovation which had been made to die." (47)

In the final analysis, it would appear that the vengeance for
'Uthman was made an easy pretext both by the triumvirate
and later by Mu'awiya for efforts to check the obvious danger
of the rule of the ascetic group in Islam, supported by the
lower classes of society and by some of the Ansar of Medina,
of whom 'Ali happened to be the representative. The
emergence of these groups was a real threat to the old Meccan
aristocracy, which had been suppressed by Muhammad's
victory and his concept of society and had been kept under
strict control by Abti Bakr and 'Umar. When 'Uthman, a
member of the wealthiest clan of Umayya, came to power, the
old aristocratic ideals of his clan and other ruling families of
Mecca found an opportunity to re-establish their power and
aristocracy. Ironically enough, the impetus given to the ideas
of unity and organization by Islam were brought to the


service of this group to revitalize itself and re-emerge in
power. The revolt of the triumvirate represents Talha and
Zubayr's last struggle to protect their interests. 'A'isha served
as a symbol behind which they could unify their forces, and
it certainly was not difficult to involve her in an attack on 'Ali.
Her dislike for him is said to have been based on several
factors, one of which was 'Ali's advice to Muhammad that he
inquire with 'A 'isha's slave girl concerning an incident
wherein 'A'isha's late return after having been left behind on
a journey caused people to start talking maliciously about
her.(48) 'A'isha's quarrels with Fatima and 'Ali's questioning of
the election of Abti Bakr, 'A'isha's father, also contributed to
the hostility.(49) It is therefore clear that in the battle of Al-
Jamal the triumvirate was fighting for personal reasons rather
than for the blood of 'Uthman, which was only a convenient
pretext. Though they failed in their objectives, they made the
task of Mu'awiya, the unseating of 'Ali and the reassertion of
the ideals threatened by his succession, much easier. The fact
that the claim of Mu'awiya for the blood of 'Uthman was
only an excuse to enable him to remove 'Ali from power is
further evident from a conversation between 'Amr b. al-'As
and 'A'isha soon after the battle of Al-Jamal. 'Amr said to

"I wish you could have been killed on the day of Jamal, and
thereby you would have entered Paradise and we would have
used your death as our strongest means for reviling and defaming

The conflict at the battle of Al-Jamal brought about a
serious split in the Muslim community. All of our sources
reporting on these events use a number of particular
designations to express the position adopted henceforth by
different groups. These designations are important in that
they indicate how the religious outlook, personal loyalties,
regional interests, and politico-economic considerations be-
came involved with one another. Those who supported 'Ali
at the battle of AI-Jamal and later at Siffin were at first called
the "people of Iraq" (ahl al-'Iraq) as well as the "party of 'AIr'
(shi'at 'Ali or al-'Alawiya). Their opponents were called shi'at
'Uthman, or more commonly al-'Uthmanyya. They included
the faction of 'A'isha, Talha, and Zubayr (called the "people


of the camel," or ashab al-jamal) and the Syrians (ahi ash-
Sham), who were also known as the shi'at Mu'awiya.
According to the tendency of the epoch, their positions were
also described in more religiously oriented terms through the
use of the word din, which was used in reference to both 'Ali
and 'Uthman in expressions such as din 'Ali and din 'Uthman.
Another way of expressing this was to assert that one held the
'Alawi or 'Uthmani opinion, ra'y al-'Alawiya or ra'y al-
'Uthmaniya.(51) However, besides these general terms used to
describe opposing factions, the more precise titles of Shi'at
Ahl al-Bayt and Shi'at Al Muhammad were frequently used
from this time onwards by the religiously enthusiastic
followers of 'Ali. Occasionally the nickname at- Turab:ya was
also used. This title was derived from 'Ali's kunya Abn Turab,
Father of Dust, given to him by Muhammad.(52) More
revealing is the fact that 'Ali himself called his opponents by
names which indicated their being misled from the true
religious path. Those who fought against him at AI-Jamal he
referred to as An-Nakithun, "those who break their allegiance".
This is a derivation from the Qur'anic verse which says:
"Then anyone who violates his oath (nakatha) does so to the
harm of his soul."(53) 'Ali named his opponents at Siffin Al-
Qasitun, "those who act wrongfully", taken from the Qur'anic
verse which reads: "Those who swerve (al-qasitun) are fuel for
Hell-fire."(54) Lastly, referring to a tradition of the Prophet,
'Ali referred to the Kharijites of Nahrawan as al-Manqun,
"those who missed the truth of religion".(55) Obviously these
names became common among 'All's followers to describe
their opponents.

Throughout this period, however, the followers of 'Ali were
developing a continuously broadening base of support. Until
the battle of Al-Jamal, the Shi'at 'Ali consisted only of a small
personal following who from the very beginning regarded
him as the most worthy person for the office of the caliphate
to lead the community after the death of the Prophet. After
the battle of Al-Jamal the term Shi'at 'Ali came to include all
those who had supported 'Ali against 'A'isha, and from this
point onwards the original Shi'a group was confusingly
included with other groups and individuals who supported
'Ali for other than religious reasons. It was in this wider sense
that the term Shi'a was used in the document of arbitration


at Siffin.(56) A few decades later, when the Shi'a started to
formulate their official position, some attempts were made to
sort out the various groups of 'Ali's supporters which had
been so confusingly mixed up at that earlier stage. The ranks
of the Shi'a were divided into four categories: Al-Asfiya, the
"sincere friends"; Al-Awliya, the "devoted friends"; Al-Ashab,
the "companions"; and the Shurtat al-Khamis, the "picked
division".(57) To whom the first three terms refer is not quite
clear, though various Shi'i sources indicate the group of
earlier followers-Miqdad, Salman, 'Ammar, Hudhayfa,
Abu Hamza, Abu Sasan, and Shutayr-as belonging to the

The idea of these classes is certainly of a later date.
Nevertheless, we must make some distinction between those
followers of 'Ali who emphasized the religious factor of his
succession as the wasi and those who supported his cause
mainly on political grounds, especially after he made Kufa
his capital. In addition to a large political following, 'Ali left
behind him a zealous personal party which had sworn to him
that they would be "friends to those whom he befriended, and
enemies of those to whom he was hostile."(58) Insisting that 'Ali
was in accordance with truth and guidance" ('ala'l-haqq wa'l-
huda) and his opponents consequently in error, they main-
tamed that 'Ali, by the circumstances of his birth, was
specially qualified to bear supreme authority in the commu-
nity. The existence of this devoted band of religious supporters
largely explains how Shiism managed to survive the
multitude of decisive political defeats inflicted on the
movement over the years.

# Chapter 5
Kufa: Stage of Shi'i Activities

From the time 'Ali moved to Kufa in 36/656, or even earlier,
the city became the main centre of Shi'i movements,
aspirations, hopes, and sometimes concerted efforts. It was in
and around Kufa that so many of the stormy events which
make up the early history of Shi'i Islam took place: events
such as the mobilization of forces by 'Ali for the battles of Al-
Jamal and Siffin the election and abdication of Hasan, the
uprising of Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi, the massacre of Husayn
and his companions, the movement of the Tawwabun, and
the revolt of Mukhtar. Yet Kufa also proved to be a source of
setbacks, disappointments, frustrations, and even treachery
and failure in the Shi'i desire to see the house of 'Ali in
command of the affairs of the Muslim community. This
chapter, therefore, endeavours to examine in brief the nature
and composition of the city of Kufa and the characteristic
tendencies of its people.

The city of Kufa was founded in the year 17/638, about
three years after 'Umar b. al-Khattab assumed the caliphate
at Medina.(1) After the Muslim victories at the battles of Al-
Qadisiya in 15/636 and that of Jalula' in the following year,
the Caliph ordered Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, the commander of
the Muslim armies in Iraq, to remain where he was, no doubt
with the idea of consolidating Muslim control of Iraq and
then making further advances into Persia whenever this
might prove advisable. Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas therefore stationed
the Arab armies at the newly conquered Sassanian capital of
Al-Mada'in, which soon proved to be unsatisfactory to the
Arabs because of its damp climate, crowded living conditions,
and the lack of a desert environment providing pure air and


open pastures for grazing cattle. Informed of the hardships
the Arab troops were experiencing in a strange environment,
the Caliph wrote to Sa'd to remove the armies from Al-
Mada'in and find a place which would suit the Arab way of
life and meet their requirements. After two or three places
had been tried, and with the help of Salman al-Farisi and
Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman, the choice fell on a plain lying on the
west bank of the Euphrates close to the old Persian city of Al-
Hira.(2 ) Subsequently Sa'd ordered his forces to encamp there
and make it their home. This was the beginning of Kufa. The
choice of the place for the envisaged city was not a hasty one,
but was made after careful consideration and a thorough
search of the area lasting almost two years.(3)

The description of the founding (Khitat) of Kufa given by
the sources leaves us in no doubt that at first it was not meant
so much to develop a township as to establish a strong,
permanent, and strategically located garrison for the Arab
armies in the newly conquered distant territory of Iraq. This
is clear from 'Umar's directive when he wrote to Sa'd "Choose
for the Muslims a place for migration (dar hijra) and a centre
[for carrying out] war (manzil jihad)."(4) By dar hijra at this
particular time, 'Umar meant a permanent home for those of
the fighters of Al-Qadisiya who came for the conquest of Iraq
from far-off places and who were supposed to stay there to
maintain Muslim control over the new territory; by manzil
jihad he most probably indicated that these settlers would be
expected to undertake further military actions into Persia.

Baladhuri gives a slightly different version of 'Umar's
directive in which besides "a place to which Muslims could
migrate" he adds the phrase "and which the Muslims could
use as a meeting place (qayrawan)."(5) This again means that in
'Umar's mind Kufa was meant as a garrison town where
different contingents from distant places could stay and
should be readily available whenever required. The first
settlers in this garrison town were, therefore, those hurriedly
collected contingents who fought at the battle of Al-Qadisiya
and were known as ahl al-ayyam wa'l-Qadisiya.

The planning of the new city and the organization of the
quarters for the first inhabitants, especially when they were
drawn from such a great variety of tribes, as will be seen
presently, must have been a great task for Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas.


Except for Basra, which had been founded only a year earlier
and was still in the formative stages, the Arabs of northern
and central Arabia had little experience in establishing
townships. The conception of a town as a political or social
unit was still something foreign to the Arab sense of
belonging. Even in old cities in northern and central Arabia
such as Ta'if, Mecca, and Medina, socio-political units were
not the cities, but the tribes.

With the beginning of 'Umar's caliphate and the thrust of
outward expansion, those Arabs who seized the first opportunity
to fight, and accordingly migrated to Syria, were
organized in relatively cohesive groupings since they belonged
to large and homogeneous tribes. Similarly, in the Basran
territories there were mainly two predominant tribes, Tamim
and Bakr, and only a negligible number of 300 other people
who came from distant areas.(6)

At Kufa, on the other hand, the number of those who came
to live from far-off places ranged between 15,000 and 20,000,
and were exceedingly heterogeneous in tribal composition.

There was a marked absence of large dominating clans or
groups of clans. At first, Sa'd found the solution in dividing
them not into individual clans or tribes, but into their broader
tribal categories of Nizari (North Arabs) and Yemeni (South
Arabs). The Nizaris were therefore quartered on the western
side of the plain, and the Yemenis on the eastern side,
according to the lots drawn with arrows, as was the custom of
the Arabs.(7) The large plot of land which he demarcated for
the mosque was to be the centre of the city. Adjoining the
mosque the governor's residence and the treasury were built.

This first arrangement of the population of Kufa, however,
had to go through three successive reorganizations in the
following 33 years.

The organization of the Kufan population into the two
broad groupings of the Nizaris and the Yemenis soon proved
to be unsatisfactory. Firstly, neither the various tribes of the
Nizaris nor the different groups of the Yemenis found ita
congenial to put up together and soon encountered serious
problems. Secondly, such an arrangement presented serious
difficulties in forming compact military contingents. Kufa
was founded as a garrison town intended to furnish well-
organized contingents ready for action. This was difficult


when people were grouped into two broad divisions. Finally,
the lack of small groupings into clans or groups of allied clans
made it difficult to organize the distribution of stipends on
which the population depended. Experiencing these difficulties
Sa'd, after consulting the Caliph 'Umar, reorganized the
population into seven groups. This reshuffling or balancing
out, 'addala, ta'dil, was made on the basis of genealogies and
alliances with the assistance of two recognized experts in
Arab genealogies (nussab).(8) The guiding principle employed
in the reorganization was clearly the pre-Islamic or traditional
Arabian pattern of tribal organization in which tribes or clans
of tribes made political alliances in the form of loose

The entire population of Kufa was thus divided into seven
groups, described as asba', in the following units:(9)

1 Kinana with their allies from the ahabish and others and the
clan of Jadila. Kinana was a Meccan tribe and Quraysh was
one of its branches, whereas Jadila, a branch of Qays 'Aylan,
was also from the Hijaz and had some connections with
Kinana. Both of them were regarded as people of prestige (ahl
al-'aliya). Kinana and Quraysh, along with some other tribes,
had in the past formed a group known as Khindif. It was
natural that in Kufa both Kinana and Jadila should enjoy a
close relationship and collaborate with the Qurayshi governors
and, even though small in number, maintain a privileged

2 Quda'a, Ghassan, Bajila, Khath'am, Kinda, Hadramawt, and
Azd, (11) combined together, formed a strong Yemeni contingent.

Two of them, the Bajila, led by their chief Jarir b. 'Abd
Allah,(12) who was a personal friend of the Caliph 'Umar, and
Kinda, whose leader was Ash'ath b. Qays,(13) had dominating
positions in this group.

3 Madhhij,(14) Himyar,(15) Hamdan,(16) and their allies. This was
another powerful Yemeni group, in which the Hamdan
attained a significant position in Kufa and played an
important role and produced some staunch supporters of the
Shi'i cause.(17)

4 Tamim, Rihab, and Hawazin, all three belonging to the
Mudar group.(18)

5 Asad, Ghatfan, Muharib, Nimr, Dubay'a, and Taghub,(19)


most of these belonging to the Nizari group from Rabi'a and

6 Iyad, 'Akk, 'Abd al-Qays, Ahl al-H ajar, and Hamra'. Iyad (20)
and 'Akk, (21) of Nizari 'Adnani origin, had long been resident
in the Iraqi region and had joined the Muslim forces against
the Sassanian armies. 'Abd al-Qays, (22) also an 'Adnani branch
had migrated to Bahrayn and was known as Ahl al-H ajar.

They sent a large delegation from Bahrayn to Medina in the
year 9/630 and accepted Islam, many of them distinguishing
themselves as Companions of the Prophet. (23) Though com-
posed of a hodge-podge of Arab tribes, their importance can
hardly be under-estimated, as the 'Abd al-Qays came to Al-
Qadisiya under a powerful Tamimi chief, Zuhra b. Hawiya,
one of the chief architects of the Muslim victory at Al-
Qadisiya, who solidly united these three tribes under his
command to inflict heavy losses on the Persians. Soon after
Al-Qadisiya, the strength of this group was immensely
increased when 4,000 Persian slaves under their leader
Daylam (hence the name Daylamites) accepted Islam on
special terms secured from Sa'd, and joined this Tamimi
dynastic chief, who became their patron. They were thus
united in a confederacy with the Iyad, 'Akk, and the 'Abd al-
Qays. The name Hamra' in this group refers to these 4,000
Persians.(24) This group, however, at least numerically, formed
one of the strongest units at Kufa, and consequently their
numerically advantageous position was bound to come into
direct conflict, in the not too distant future, with the interests
and superior claims of the tribes of high social standing in the
Kufan socio-political complex. Elements of this group,
especially the 'Abd al-Qays, are particularly noted by the
sources for their strong support for 'Ali at both AI-Jamal and

7 The seventh group, Sub', not specifically named by Tabari, is
certainly the Tayy, a powerful tribe of Yemen. The fact that
it must have been the Tayy is evident from numerous
references to it spread over hundreds of pages which Tabari
devotes to the events in Kufa until the time of Mu'awiya. The
Tayy converted to Islam in 9/630, and when in 11/632 all
other distant tribes apostatized, the Tayy remained steadfast
in Islam. They joined Muthanna b. al-Haritha in the wars of
Iraq at the conquest of Al-Hira, and then took part in the


battle of Al-Qadisiya. We then hear of Tayy as one of the
strongest supporters of 'Ali at Al-Jamal and Siffin. (26 Again
we come across 'Adi b. Hatim, the chief of Tayy, among the
supporters of Hasan, urging the people of Kufa to respond to
the call of "their Imam, the son of the daughter of their
Prophet".(27) It seems, however, that the number and strength
of Tayy gradually declined in Kufa itself and most of them
went and joined their tribesmen in the stronghold of the
mountains between Basra and Kufa.(28) Thus we hear of
Tirimmah b. 'Adi at-Ta'i who met Husayn on his way to
Kufa and made a strong appeal to him to abandon his plan of
going there and, instead, to come with the former to the safety
of the invincible Tayy mountains.(29)

The city of Kufa was thus organized into seven tribal
contingents (muqatila) divided into seven military districts
which became the gathering points for mobilization and the
administration of stipends and booty. Each group was given
its own jabbana: open places for the grazing of cattle and for
graveyards. These jabbanas were of great importance in the
later development and expansion of the city, because they
provided enough space for those who came to Kufa later and
joined their respective clansmen.

This grouping of the tribes continued for nineteen years
until it underwent another change in 36/656, when 'Ali came
to Kufa. As will be seen later, during the previous twenty-odd
years the power structure within each of the seven groups
had drastically changed: certain clans in the various groups
had acquired an undue dominating position over the other
component parts of the group. Also in this period, some tribes
were joined by a large number of newcomers of their
tribesmen and became exceedingly numerous, thus upsetting
the power balance in the group. 'Ali, therefore, while retaining
the number of groups as seven, made some significant changes
in the composition and external make-up of these seven
groups by way of reshuffling or shifting certain tribes from
one group to the other. According to Massignon's analysis,
'Ali rearranged the tribes as follows:

1: Hamdan and Himyar (Yemenis);

2: Madhhij, Ash'ar, and Tayy (Yemenis);

3: Kinda, Hadramawt, Quda'a, and Mahar (Yemenis);


4: Azd, Bajila, Khath'am, and Ansar (Yemenis);

5: All the Nizari branches of Qays, 'Abs, Dhubya, and the
'Abd al-Qays of Bahrayn;

6: Bakr, Taghlib, and all the branches of the Rabi'a

7: Quraysh, Kinana, Asad, Tamim, Dabba, Ribab (Nizaris). (30)

Three important points must particularly be noticed in
this new grouping. First, there are a few clan names, such as
Ash'ar, Mahar, and Dabba, which di4 not appear in the
grouping of Sa'd. This probably means that these clans were
numerically negligible at the time of Sa'd in 17/638; by
36/658, however, they had become numerous enough to
require an individual identity. Secondly, in Sa'd's organization
there were three Yemeni groups and four Nizari. In
'Ali reorganization the number of Yemeni groups was raised
to four and the Nizaris' reduced to three. It will be pointed
out below that from the very beginning the Yemenis were
greater in number than the Nizaris (12,000 and 8,000
respectively). 'Ali seems to have taken into consideration the
population strength of the two branches of the Arabs and
reorganized the groups according to their numbers, thus
giving the Yemenis their due importance in Kufa. Finally,
'Ali did not change the tribal basis of genealogies on which
Sa'd had organized the population.

The fourth and last change in Kufan administration took
place fourteen years later, when Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan took
charge of the city as governor in 50/670. He totally abolished
the tribal organization into seven groups and re-organized
the entire population into four administrative blocks (arba')
as follows:

1: Ahl al-'Aliya;

2: Tamim and Hamdan;

3: Rabi'a (Bakr) and Kinda;

4: Madhhij and Asad.(31)

There are many important points to be observed in Ziyad's
reorganization. Firstly, he was governor not only of Kufa but
also of Basra, where, from the very beginning, the entire
population was divided into four administrative blocks
(arba'). This division had proved so successful in controlling
the people of Basra that Ziyad decided to apply the same


administration system in Kufa as well. Secondly, he com-
pletely disregarded the recognized Arabian principle of
genealogies and alliances in forming tribal groupings. Instead,
he mixed the Nizaris and the Yemenis together, except for
the first group, the Ahl al-'Aliya. Thirdly, again excepting
the first group, he picked out the six most powerful tribes and
merged all the other smaller clans or tribes with them.

The first group, the Ahl al-'Aliya consisted of the branches
of the Meccans and Quraysh which he did not disturb
because they had been the natural allies of the Qurayshi
governors from Sa'd onwards. Moreover, this was the smallest
allied group of the population in Ku fa, and Ziyad had nothing
to fear from them. In the second block (rub) he combined the
Tamim (Nizari) and Kinda (Yemeni). In the third were Bakr
(Nizari) and Kinda (Yemeni), and in the fourth, Asad (Nizari)
and Madhhij (Yemeni). Over each block he appointed a chief
or supervisor of his own choice, (32) among whose duties must
have been the maintenance of a firm control over the
component parts of their respective groups. Finally, one
cannot fail to observe that Ziyad's reorganization of the Kufan
asba' into arba' was based neither on genealogies nor on
alliances, but totally on political considerations intended to
consolidate Umayyad power in the city.

The exact number of the first settlers in Kufa is difficult to
ascertain; nevertheless, from the various reports given by the
sources we can make a fairly clear estimate of this. Tabari
gives a detailed account of the Arab forces who fought at the
battle of Al-Qadisiya, and says there were about 30,000 Arabs
in this battle. (33) This figure might be an exaggerated one, and
in any case not all of the Al-Qadisiya veterans stayed at Kufa.

According to one report given by Yaqut, 'Umar ordered Sa'd
to plan the mosque of Kufa so that it could accommodate the
40,000 troops who were to be stationed there.(34) A more
moderate and perhaps more reliable report is given by
Baladhuri, who reports on the authority of Ash-Sha'bi that
the total number of the first Arab settlers at Kufa was 20,000
12,000 Yemenis and 8,000 Nizaris. To this Baladhuri adds
4,000 Daylamites (al-Hamra'), who were certainly among the
first settlers alongside the Arabs. (35) It seems that the total of
24,000, being a moderate estimate compared to other inflated
figures, was the number of settlers with which the city of


Kufa started its history. Of these first settlers or early comers,
as they are often described, special mention must be made of
a sizeable body of 370 Companions of the Prophet, from
among both the Muhajirun and the Ansar, who were
domiciled at Kufa soon after its foundation (36) . Among them
were such important personalities as 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud,
'Ammar b. Yasir, Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman, Al-Bara'a b. 'Azib,
Salman al-Farisi, Zayd b. al-Arqam, and Abu Musa al-
Ash'ari. Ibn Sa'd counts 70 of them as among those who
fought for Islam in the first encounter with the Meccans at
Badr in 2/623, and 300 as among those who renewed their
pledge of loyalty to the Prophet at the occasion of the treaty
of al-Hudaybiya in 7/628.(37) This pledge is known as the
Bay'at al-Ridwan, and was later considered a source of great
Islamic prestige and honour for those who had demonstrated
their unshaken belief in Muhammad at that moment of trial.

The heterogeneous nature of the Kufan population, with
the absence of any one single tribe as a dominating group,
prompted 'Umar to take a special interest in the new city. He
thought that the very agglomeration of so many clans and
tribes, never experienced before in the Arabian social system,
and the presence of so many companions of high standing to
infuse Islamic spirit in them, would shape Kufa into a
genuinely Islamic c6smopolitan city. So great was 'Umar's
interest in Kufa that he described it as "tower of Islam" (qubbat
al-Islam) and "the head of the people of Islam" (ras ahl al-
Islam). Similarly, in describing the settlers of Kufa he said,
"They are the lance of God, the treasure of faith, the cranium
of the Arabs, who protect their own frontier forts and
reinforce other Arabs."(38) It is important to note that these
epithets of honour and distinction were not accorded to any
other city, such as Damascus or Basra. 'Umar was certainly
opposed to the tribal supremacies so predominant in Arabian
socio-political system. The heterogeneous character of the
Kufan population provided him with a suitable ground for
establishing an Islamic socio-political system in which tribal
hegemony might be submerged under Islamic hegemony.

This in effect meant that predominance and leadership must
be exercised only by those who possessed Islamic priority
(sabiqa), and that tribal authority must be submerged under
Islamic authority. The selection of 'Ammar b. Yasir, of no


tribal prominence, but one of the earliest converts and a man
most devoted to the cause of Islam, as the governor of Kufa,
and 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud as deputy governor, was a clear
manifestation of his policy.(39) At the time of their appointments
'Umar wrote to the people of Kufa:

"I am sending you 'Ammar as the governor and 'Abd Allah as
your teacher [in Islam] and the deputy [to 'Ammar]. Both of them
are from among the most illustrious and distinguished (nujaba')
companions of the Prophet. Listen to them and follow them. I
preferred you over my own self [otherwise I would have liked to
keep them with me)."(40)

The emphasis put on the qualifications and distinctions of
'Ammar and Ibn Mas'ud as being among the most illustrious
Companions of the Prophet and therefore chosen for the
leadership of Kufa reveals 'Umar's intention to replace tribal
claims with Islamic claims, and in this way to maintain the
political hegemony of Medina.

When in 20/641 'Umar organized the system of distribution
of stipends (diwan) his sole criterion was the principle of
Islamic priority. He divided the settlers of Kufa into three
groups: the various groups of the Muhajirun and the Ansar;
people who took part in operations against the apostasy and
rebellion or, say, prior to Yarmuk and Al-Qadisiya, and then
took part in these battles and were known as ahl al-ayyam
wa'l Qadisiya; and the rawadif, people who came to Kufa
after Yarmuk and Al-Qadisiya, or the second and third waves
of migrants, who were graded depending on the time when
they first participated in the conquests.(41) Accordingly, their
stipends were fixed at the rates of 5,000 to 3,000, 3,000 to 2,000,
and ranging from 1,500 to 200 dirhams per annum respec-
tively. The most important point for our purpose here is that
for the distribution of the stipends each category was divided
into smaller groups or units, and a person from each group
was appointed as the supervisor of distribution. These groups
were known as 'irafa and the person in charge as the 'arif (pl.
'urafa'). In most cases 'irafas were probably composed of
people from the same clan, but essentially or coincidentally a
group of people with identical standing in Islam,(42) since
usually it was a clan as a whole or a group of related people
who converted, rather than one individual. These 'urafa of


Kufa must have had some dominating position in the political
affairs of the city. The term Ashraf al-qaba'il in the descriptions
of Kufan affairs is generally understood to be only the tribal
leaders, but the numbers of these leaders cannot be as high as
the impression one gets from the sources. It is, therefore,
highly possible that these 'urafa' might have assumed the role
of leading their respective groups or 'irafas in the troubled
days of 'Uthman, 'Ali; and later. It seems rather difficult to
identify and apply the term ashraf, as it is so commonly and
widely used by the historians, if the body of Kufan 'urafa' is
not included in it.

The Muslim empire was expanding at an amazing rate
during the caliphate of''Umar, and so grew also the population
of Kufa. Two important new influxes must immediately be
recognized. First, there were waves of the Arab newcomers
called the rawadif who, after the completion of the conquests
of Syria, Egypt and the Jezira by 20/64I, seeing no more
chances for booty on these western fronts, anticipated a
renewal of the offensive into the Persian Empire and thought
this would bring them fresh opportunities for booty and gain.

This caused a new Arab influx into Kufa. When the Muslim
forces from Kufa were mobilized for the battle of Nihawand
in 21/642, these newcomers were naturally the most enthu-
siastic to make their services available, and in the encounters
with the Persians these were the people who demonstrated
extraordinary valour. 'Umar was so impressed by them that
he made some modifications in the policy of his diwan, and
raised the stipend of these newcomers to the level of the first
settlers, the ahl a1-Qadisiya.(43) This gave a further incentive to
others to flock into Kufa, thus increasing the city's Arab
population, in most cases adding to the number of the existing
tribes and clans. The second influx into Kufa was that of the
new waves of Persians. There were many reasons (which will
be elaborated shortly) for their flocking into Kufa in greater
numbers than in any other city.

As a result of these new influxes, however, the population
of Kufa in a few years' time, even before the close of 'Umar's
caliphate, had risen considerably. We are told that soon after
'Umar's death, when 'Uthman appointed Al-Walid b. 'Uqba
as governor of Kufa in 24/645 or 25/646, the number of
fighting men (muqatila) alone was 40,000.(44) Taking into


consideration many of those early comers of Al-Qadisiya, who
were no longer capable of bearing arms but made Kufa their
permanent home, and a great number of slaves and family
members of these 40,000 troops, the population in a decade
must have risen to well over 100,000. To this figure we must
add a good number of those who gradually occupied the
Sawad of Kufa--the rich agricultural land of Iraq--, which
'Umar had ruled should not be divided among the conquerors
of Al-Qadisiya, but must be left for those who would come to
the region later. The original inhabitants of the Sawad were
to be allowed to cultivate the land as people under protection
(dhimma), and were to pay taxes to be used for the stipends of
the Kufans.(45) On the other hand, the lands belonging to the
Sassanian kings and the royal families (known as sawafi)
were reserved by 'Umar for the exclusive use of the conquerors
of Al-Qadisiya. They were allowed to divide it among
themselves, settling on it if they so wished, or to put in charge
of it administrators of their own choosing. The result was that
in a short period of time the city of Kufa was surrounded by
densely populated villages inhabited by, besides the original
cultivators, those who went there to work on the newly
acquired estates. This was possible because of the increased
number of slaves and labourer classes who were now
assembled in the Kufan territories. Moreover, with the
expansion of economic life in Kufa, as in other newly founded
garrison cities, a great number of tradesmen, craftsmen, and
domestics thronged into the towns and settled there

With this brief outline of the foundation and early
development of Kufa, we must now turn to our main purpose
of examining the general structure, characteristics, and
features of the population which influenced their religio-
political tendencies and aspirations. This is not an easy task,
however. There were many complex factors--geographical,
historical, ethnic, racial, and economic--mixed together, and
these made the city and its people most difficult to analyse.

What must be noted first of all is that the population of the
city almost since its very foundation was composed of two
distinctly unique groups: the Arabs and the Persians. We
may call the Arab group the "founding element" and the
Persians the "second basic element".


The Arab element in Kufa was extremely complex in its
Composition--more so than in any other Arab city. Looking
at the list of the seven groups of the tribes enumerated earlier
and the subsequent waves of the Arab early comers, one
immediately notices that the "Arab element" was extraordinarily
heterogeneous in origin and background. It was, in the
first place, sharply divided into two groups, the Nizaris and
the Yemenis, among which we may further distinguish:

1 A small number of the Quraysh from the Hijaz, with their
long-standing reputation for sedentary living, nobility, and

2 Elements that were strongly nomadic, such as Mudar
groupings, especially the Tamim and some of their Yemenite
neighbours from among the Tayy;

3 Semi-nomadic elements such as Rabi'a, Asad, Bakr, belonging
to or coming from the north, northwest, east, and southeast of
Arabia, and 'Abd al-Qays from Al-H ajar;

4 Truly south Arabian elements coming from further a field,
from Hadramawt and Yemen, some of whom had been living
a semi-sedentary life there, such as Kinda and Bajila, and
others who had lived in true and very ancient settlements,
such as Madhhij, Himyar, and Hamdan;(46)

5 Yet another section of the Arabs who settled down in Kufa at
the time of its foundation were some of the Christian tribes
such as Taghlib, Nimr, Iyad and even some Christians from
Najran.(47) These Christian tribes had been accorded special
terms and privileges by the Prophet, which were maintained
by Abu Bakr and 'Umar.

6 Still another section from among the Arabs counted above
must necessarily be recognized: this consisted of the outstand-
ing noble families known as the buyutat al-Arab. Ibn Sa'd
particularly notes this point and says that all the noble houses
of the Arabs were represented in Kufa, whereas this was not
the case in Basra.(48)

The second basic element of the Kufan population in
shaping the character of the city was that of the Persians.

There were many factors which account for their great influx,
particularly into Kufa rather than into any other city. Three
of these are conspicuous. First, the Arab conquests of Al-
Mada'in, Al-Qadisiya, and ultimately the great victory at the


battle of Nihawand resulted in a large number of Persian
captives falling into the hands of the conquerors as slaves and
being brought to the city of Kufa. Most of them soon
embraced Islam and earned their freedom from their Arab
masters, but remained their allies or clients. Secondly, the
geographical affinity of Kufa, being on the border of Sassanian
Iraq, made the city the most suitable place for migration for
those of the Persians who had lost much of their means of
livelihood in the Persian Empire. To them Kufa promised
fresh opportunities. Similarly, a large number of peasants,
with the collapse of the Sassanian feudal system and the
freedom provided by Muslim rule, found the land no longer
profitable and moved to the growing cities for alternative
occupations. Kufa was the most attractive place for them.

Thirdly, the presence of those 4,000 Persians known as the
Daylamites, who had settled down in Kufa from its very
foundation, and the addition of a sizable number of Nihawand
prisoners of war, provided a congenial social atmosphere for
other uprooted Persians to join their countrymen there.

Moreover, among the prisoners of war there was a consider-
able number of women who had fallen to the lot of their Arab
conquerors. These women became the lawful wives of their
Arab captors and bore them children. The result was that in
less than twenty years' time, by the time 'Ali came to Kufa,
there was a youthful new generation of Kufan Arabs who
had Persian mothers. Thus, for example, the mother of the
famous scholar of Kufa of this period, Ash-Sha'bi, was a
woman captured at the battle of Jalula. (49) It is important to
note here that the Persians in Kufa were not granted equal
status by their Arab co-citizens in the social system of the city.

They were called mawali (sing. mawla), or clients, a term to
indicate inferior social standing. Since the mawali played an
important role in Kufan religio-political history, especially in
Shi'i movements, it would be helpful to know a little more
about them. Though the term mawali was originally meant
for freed slaves, after the Muslim conquest it was extended to
a variety of non-Arab peoples. In Kufa, the mawali can be
divided into five groups:

The non-Arab soldiers who adopted Islam and joined the
Arab armies. These were mostly the Persian soldiers, who
accepted Islam and fought alongside the Arab forces, such as


the Hamra', or the Daylamites. They were used by the Kufan
governors as the police force, and received fair treatment
from the Arabs. In most cases they had to join an Arab clan
or associate themselves with an Arab chief as their patron, as
did the Daylamites when they accepted the leader of the tribe
of Tamim as their patron.

2 The peasants (mainly Persians) whose towns and villages
were destroyed during the Muslim conquests and who left
their cultivable land and moved to Kufa in search of other
work. The collapse of the Sassanian feudal system and the
freedom given by the Muslim rulers allowed the peasants to
abandon their land, which was no longer profitable. Due to
this fact, the treasury began to lose land taxes and, as a result,
the administration increased taxation on those who were still
working on their land. This led to many more peasants
leaving their land to avoid increased taxation and coming to
Kufa for more lucrative employment These peasants,
however, made up a group of mawali who were not associated
with any tribal group. They were under the direct jurisdiction
of the governor, who had extensive powers over them and in
return was responsible for their protection. In case of an
unintentional homicide committed by any of them, the
treasury had to pay the blood-wit.(50)

3 The vast groups of Persians and others who converted to
Islam, many of them coming to Kufa as traders and craftsmen.

Their lands were conquered by the Muslims, yet they were
not enslaved. They embraced Islam on their own, and in
order to improve their economic conditions they moved to
Kufa and worked as traders and craftsmen. In terms of
numbers they probably formed the largest mawali group in
Kufa; and with the economic development of the city their
numbers were constantly increasing. They were almost
independent members of the tribes with which they were
associated for administrative purposes.

4 Freed slaves. This group consisted of those who were taken
by the Arabs as prisoners of war, converted to Islam, and
earned their freedom, but were bound to be associated with
the family of which they had been the slaves. In the technical
or rather the original meaning of the term, they were the real
mawali and, in Kufa, their numbers were second only to the
third category mentioned above.


5 Persians and other converts to Islam who belonged to noble
families. They were exempted from the poll-tax (jizya), which
they regarded as degrading, but they had to pay on their own
lands (kharaj). They seem to have been treated by the Arabs
somewhat differently from the other groups of the mawali,
since they were the nobles of their own people, even though
defeated. They were free to change their wala if they so
desired from one tribe to another. Nevertheless, their status
remained that of mawali; or second-class citizens, and
therefore of subservient positions in the tribe. In many cases,
however, their interest in Kufa coincided with that of the
Arab tribal leaders.(51)

The total number of all classes of mawali; however,
increased to the extent that within only a few decades they
almost outnumbered their Arab counterparts. In the battle of
Jamajim, the mawali forces which came to fight for Ibn al-
Ash'ath are reported to have been 100,000. (52) With all their
numbers and strength, on the whole they were treated by the
Arabs as second-class citizens. The Arabs maintained against
them not only the idea that they were the conquerors, but also
a superior racial attitude. This naturally led to an ever-
growing feeling of discontent among the mawali in Kufa.

To this population structure three observations must be
added. Firstly, from its very beginning Kufa was not a purely
Arabian city such as Mecca, Medina, or even Damascus.

Secondly, the majority of the first settlers in Kufa, whether
Arabs or Persians, were the military contingents who, in most
cases, came without their families and for quite some time
lived as a standing army ready for action. It seems natural
that their militant character should persist even though
ultimately they settled down as civilians and were joined by
other sophisticated groups from among both the Arabs and
the Persians. This, along with many other factors, explains
their restlessness, their resentful and often rebellious be-
haviour. Finally, and perhaps most important, Kufa had no
tradition of its own which could have absorbed or influenced
the people. After the great outward thrust from the Peninsula,
those of the Arabs who migrated to the cities of Syria, Egypt,
and Persia came under the direct impact of and were
influenced by the existing traditions of those cities. Kufa, on


the other hand, was founded as a garrison on a virgin plain
lying between the Arabian Desert and the old city of the
Lakhmid kingdom of Al-Hira, which had been under the
suzerainty and cultural influence of Persia. The newly
founded city had to evolve its own character, which was not
so easy in such an agglomeration of people, where the Arabs
of the North and the South, or the Nizaris and Yemenis, the
nomads and the sedentaries, the old aristocracies of the
famous noble houses (buyutat al-'Arab) and the commoners,
and the Persians of various classes came to live together. Yet
there was one factor to dominate the trend of the majority of
the people. Among the Arab element of the population, the
Yemenis, or South Arabians, were more numerous (12,000)
than the Nizaris, or the North Arabians (8,000). It has been
discussed in detail in Chapter I that the South Arabians, due
to their long and deep-rooted tradition of the priest-king with
hereditary sanctity and therefore hereditary succession, were
more prone toward what we called the Shi'i ideal of leadership
of the community. In this they were joined by the Persian
element of the population, which had an almost similar
tradition of religio-political leadership. Thus, the Yemenis
and the Persians together, making more than two-thirds of
the population, set the trend of the city well on the road
toward Shi'i inclinations and moods of thinking. This does
not, however, mean that all the Yemenis residing in Kufa
were Shi'is, or that none of the Nizaris of the northern Arabs
sided with the Shi'i school of thought. In such a complex
situation a clear-cut categorisation would not be correct. What
is suggested reflects general tendencies of the major groups
based on certain backgrounds which might be easily sup-
pressed should there arise politico-economic considerations.

The first serious tension in Kufa, however, appeared on the
surface as a clash of interests between the two power groups,
which we may term the newly emerging "religious or Islamic
hierarchy" and the "traditional tribal aristocracy". The first
group consisted of those Companions of the Prophet whose
claim to the leadership of Kufa rested on their early
conversion, their services to the cause of Islam, and above all
the esteem in which they were held by the Prophet himself.

As has been said earlier, 'Umar wanted to govern Kufa
through those who possessed Islamic priority and thereby to


undermine and suppress tribal authority. He did not,
therefore, allow anyone from among the ridda leaders to have
any position of command, no matter how powerful they were.

The other power group consisted of tribal leaders whose
claims, according to the old Arabian tradition, were based on
their wealth and the status, strength, and prestige of the tribes
they led. Naturally, it was difficult for them to tolerate for
long the supremacy and leadership of those who had no tribal
authority or who belonged to no ruling family.

As long as 'Umar lived, the tribal leaders could not do
much to exert their power. With the death of 'Umar and the
succession of the weak 'Uthman in 23/643, things started to
change drastically and the struggle for power, so far
suppressed, came into the open. The appointment of Al-
Walid b. 'Uqba, 'Uthman's half brother and an aristocrat
himself, as the governor of Kufa greatly helped the tribal
leaders to restore their power and authority. Thus we find
that not only the strong tribal leaders but even the ridda
leaders emerged with full vigour and were soon at the helm
of affairs in the province.(53) For example, Al-Ash'ath b. Qays
al-Kindi, a famous leader of the apostates, was entrusted with
sole command of Ardabi1, and a large number of people
dispatched there to form a permanent settled force were put
under his command.(54) This was done at the expense of those:
Kinda leaders, such as Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi, who had mort
Islamic prestige than tribal. Another glaring example was the
appointment of Sa'id b. Qays al-Hamdani to Rayy,(55) where
Yazid b. Qays al-Arhabi had been in charge since 221643.(56)
The former belonged to one of the most influential families of
Hamdan, but had no Islamic priority, whereas the latter
possessed status mainly as an Islamic leader, though in
Hamdani tribal hierarchy he had hardly any significant
place. That a leader such as Al-Ash'ath, with his ridda
background, and Sa'id b. Qays, with no standing in Islamic
terms, should receive high offices, was clearly a major
departure from the existing order. This suddenly changed
the power structure and resulted in the displacement of those
early comers whose social status and power base was Islamic
rather than tribal In the long list of such displaced leaders, of
particular interest are Malik b. Ashtar an-Nakha'i, Musayyab
b. Najaba al-Fazari; Yazid b. Qays al-Arhabi, 'Adi b. Hatim


al-Ta'i and Sa'sa'a b. Suhan al-'Abdi. Unseated from their
positions, these notables of Kufa, also described by the sources
as among the leading qurra' of Kufa,(57) were among the
strongest opponents of Al-Walid b. 'Uqba and his successor,
Sa'id b. al-'As, another aristocrat of Mecca, and consequently
of 'Uthman, who allowed himself to be dominated by the old
aristocracy. Not long afterward, the opposition grew both in
strength and dimension and was joined by a large number of
people who came to Medina. The rebellion resulted in the
murder of 'Uthman. The mode of the city was thus set,
dividing the population into two groups:

1: The strong and influential tribes and clan leaders along
with their followings, especially from among the early comers.

These leaders are generally described as the ashraf al-qaba'il;

2: People less influential in terms of tribal or clan leadership,
who nevertheless had been in privileged positions during the
time of 'Umar due to their Islamic priority, and who were
now deprived of their power. They included most of the late
comers, a large number of the qurra' or religious intelligentsia
of different affiliations and backgrounds, a number of splinter
clan groups, and a great majority of hodge-podge people from
among both the early comers and the late settlers. The Persian
element, or the mawali; of the city naturally had to throw in
their lot with this second category.

It is against this background that the third and most critical
phase of Kufan history began. The first phase had seen the
city's foundation in 17/638 and extended until the death of
'Umar in 24/644; the second ended with the death of''Uthman
in 35/655; this ushered in the third phase, which was
dominated by the rise of 'Ali to the caliphate in the same year.

As has been discussed in Chapter 4, 'Ali was installed as the
caliph mainly by the popular vote of the Ansar of Medina
and the rebel contingents who came from the provinces. The
Kufan contingent was the first to pay homage to 'Ali under
the leadership of Malik al-Ashtar.(58) Naturally, the over-
whelming support of these elements for 'Ali's election to the
supreme authority was taken as a serious threat not only by
the Umayyad aristocracy, which during twelve years of
Uthman's rule had appropriated all positions of power and
advantage for themselves, but also by Quraysh in general. In


opposition to 'Ali, therefore, besides the Umayyads in Syria,
there emerged at Mecca a body of Quraysh, many of them
Companions and Muhajirun, who, while being opposed to
Umayyad domination, in fact under their mask as Muhajirun
favoured overall domination by Quraysh.(59) Military power
was now divided into two rival military camps, Kufa and
Basra, with large territories under their influence, whereas
Syria was wholly under the firm control of the Umayyads.

Taking advantage of the rivalry between Basra and Kufa, the
Meccans moved to Basra to mobilize tribal support from
there. 'Ali was thus left with no choice but to leave Medina
for Iraq and count on the support of the Kufans, who had
shown their inclinations towards him. He arrived in the
neighbourhood of Kufa with about 1,000 men who accom-
panied him from Medina, and was readily joined by about
12,000 Kufans.(60) They formed the main part of his army at
the battle of Al-Jamal. The Meccan-Basran alliance was
defeated, and 'Ali was able to bring Basra well under his
control and appointed 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas as his governor.

'Ali then entered Kufa, not to make it his capital, but only to
mobilize further support and organize the Kufans for another
much more serious encounter with Mu'awiya.

What should be noted here, however, is that at the battle of
Al-Jamal, while a large section of the Kufans supported 'Ali,
the clan and tribal leaders who had entrenched themselves
during the caliphate of 'Uthman did not wish to side with
him, or at least they remained uncommitted. These tribal
leaders, such as Al-Ash'ath b. Qays, Jarir b. 'Abd Allah, and
Sa'd b. Qays, undoubtedly felt the same fears of 'Ali as did the
Meccans and the Umayyads. In order to consolidate his
power in Kufa, 'All had to establish a purely Islamic socio-
political system, which meant that the old Islamic leadership
in Kufa had to be restored at the expense of traditional tribal
aristocracy that had emerged during the caliphate of''Uthman.

As has been said earlier, the population of Kufa was organized
in seven tribal groups according to either genealogies or
alliances. It was in that tribal grouping that the new leadership
had established its roots. The first step 'Ali took to weaken
this leadership was to make some drastic changes in the
external composition of these seven groups by reshuffling
and reorganizing the tribes from one group to the other. In


this way he tried to restore to power those erstwhile leaders
whose claims were based on Islamic priority. We see that men
such as Malik b. Harith al-Ashtar, Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi; and
'Adi b. Hatim al-Ta'i, eclipsed by the strong tribal leaders, re-
emerged once again. For example, Al-Ash'ath b. Qays was
replaced by Hujr b. 'Adi, and in the battle of Siffin Hujr was
given the leadership of Kinda.(61) AI-Ashtar became the leader
of a new clan group consisting of Madhhij, Nakha'i, and
some other sub-clans. His position was further strengthened
when he was appointed by 'Ali as the governor of the Jazira.(62)
Similarly, another early leader, 'Adi b. Hatim, was supported
by 'Ali to become the sole leader of the Tayy, even though
there was considerable opposition from other branches of the

Leaders such as Al-Ashtar, Hujr, and 'Adi, together with
their following, especially from the newcomers of their tribes,
formed the backbone of 'Ali's supporters and were the nucleus
of the Shi'i of Kufa. On the other hand, the strongest clan
leaders, who had built themselves up on the strength of their
tribes, did not show much interest in 'Ali. The sharp contrast
between these two groups is clearly illustrated by the fact that
since 'Ali's arrival in Kufa, Al-Ashtar, Hujr, 'Adi and other
Shi'i leaders consistently urged 'Ali to attack Mu'awiya
without delay and without entering into correspondence with
him, while most of the strong tribal leaders advised him not
to take any early action.(64) When, however, the armies of 'Ali
and Mu'awiya came to meet at Siffin, these tribal leaders of
Kufa saw their position as precarious. They could not remain
completely aloof from 'Ali and had to appear with him on the
battlefield; yet they remained half-hearted and lukewarm. In
fact, they saw their interests best served by a deadlock between
Ali and Mu'awiya. They were in a dilemma, in that 'Ali's
success would mean a loss of their tribal power, but on the
other hand, Mu'awyia's victory would mean the loss of the
Iraqi independence upon which their power depended. In
short, "from the time of 'Ali's arrival in Kufa, through the
time of the confrontation at Siffin and subsequent develop-
ments in Iraq, and until the time of his death, the position of
these two alignments remained consistent. The Shi'i leaders
urged 'Ali to fight Mu'awiya, they were opposed to the
arbitration proposal, and they pledged themselves to 'Ali


unconditionally. Most of the clan leaders, on the other hand,
showed no inclination to fight Mu'awiya went to Siffin in a
spirit of indifference, and accepted with alacrity the peace
offered by the arbitration proposal."(65)

It is generally suggested that the qurra' forced 'Ali to
submit to arbitration, but it seems that the tribal leaders and
their following were in fact responsible, for they had nothing
to gain from fighting and much to gain from a stalemate.

Similarly, it is also stated that it was the qurra' group which
compelled 'Ali to accept Abu Musa al-Ash'ari as his arbitrator,
though Abu Musa's record indicated that he had been in
favour of the Meccans and of overall domination by Quraysh,
and therefore must have been the choice of the tribal leaders.

The word qurra' as used in the accounts of Siffin must be
approached with some caution. The early qurra' of Kufa who
led the revolt against 'Uthman had as their leaders such men
as Malik, Hujr, and 'Adi; and were the die-hard supporters of
'Ali. Besides these original qurra' of Kufa, at Siffin we meet
a great number of people who are described by the sources,
rather conveniently, as qurra'. Some of them came from
Basra, others from far-off outposts of both territories. They
must have been, therefore, tribesmen who were trying to
advance their claims through Islamic priority. And these
were the people who, misled by the tribal leaders, at first
supported arbitration and then revolted against it. They
became the Khawarij, and in the events that followed Siffin
they further weakened 'Ali's position both at home and
against Mu'awiya.

The main reason for the resentful attitude of the ashraf al-
qaba'il of Kufa was perhaps 'Ali's egalitarian policy. In the
first place, in the distribution of stipends he abolished the
distinction made between early and latecomers to Kufa and
instead made his criterion not only Islamic priority, but also
adherence to Islamic values and standards. This is so very
clear from the numerous addresses he delivered in this period,
as preserved in the Nahj al-Balagha.(66) When 'Ali came to
Kufa, there was another influx of newcomers to the city, those
who came with 'Ali himself, and he treated them with
equality irrespective of their early domicile. This was a
serious threat to the tribal leaders who had been enjoying a
larger share of the Kufan treasury, which had already been


shrinking in its resources due to the lull in the conquests In
the second place, 'Ali observed equality in the allotment of
stipends to Arabs and non-Arabs. This was especially
offensive to the ashraf al-qaba'il since, besides financial
considerations, they believed that the non-Arab mawali, as
conquered people, should not and could not be treated equally
with their conquerors.(67)

It was beyond any doubt clear to the tribal leaders and
their clansmen that under Ali's rule they stood to lose
whatever they had managed to gain due to their tribal
strength under 'Uthman. It was, however, still not possible or
advisable for them, in the conditions in Kufa at the time, to
come out in open revolt against 'Ali. Nevertheless, after the
inconclusive results of Siffin and the unfavourable outcome
of the arbitration that followed, the tribal leaders hitherto
wavering between indifference and treachery became more
pronounced in their resentful attitude toward 'Ali. They did
remain in the rank and file of his army, which he was
mobilizing for a final and decisive encounter with Mu'awiya,
yet totally ignored his call to go out to fight the Syrians.

Instead they insisted on dealing with the Khawarij who had
gathered at Nahrawin.(68) What they were concerned with
was the maintenance of their own position as Kufan tribal
leaders: the Khawarij were a threat to that, Mu'awiya was
not. After the Khawarij were defeated at Nahrawan and 'Ali
then called upon them to move against Mu'awiya, Al-Ash'ath
and other strong tribal leaders refused, ostensibly on lame
excuses, and 'Ali was thus obliged to return to Kufa. (69) 'Ali's
position was further weakened since the battle of Nahrawan
had earned him many enemies among the relatives and
kinsmen of the slain Khawarij; additionally, the tribal leaders
took further advantage of his increasing unpopularity among
the large number of tribes. Moreover, since the arbitration
Mu'awiya had been in constant touch with these tribal
leaders, trying to win them over through offers of power and
wealth. They were thus deliberating on what could best serve
their purposes.

The attitude of these Kufans is best indicated by 'Ali
himself in a number of speeches which he delivered in this
period. In one of his speeches shortly before he was
assassinated, he addressed the people and said:


"Behold, I have called upon you day and night, secretly and
openly, to fight these people [the Syrians]. I have said to you:
'Fight them before they fight you, for, by God, never do a people
fight within their own territory without being dishonoured.' But
you tarried and vacillated until you have been attacked repeatedly
and your territory has been lost to you ... How strange indeed--
a strangeness in which God makes the hearts dead and brings
grief--is the gathering of these people [Mu'awiya's supporters] in
their falsehood and your standing aloof from your right. Woe
unto you, and fire upon you, for you have become a target which
is shot at; you are raided and you raid not; you are attacked and
you do not fight back; and God is disobeyed and you are content
to see that.

"When I order you to march toward them during the summer
season, you say: 'This is the season of intense heat; grant us
respite until the heat has abated from us.' And when I command
you to proceed toward them in winter, you say: 'This is the season
of intense cold; give us time until the cold is dispelled from us.'
With all this fleeing from heat and cold, by God, you will flee
even more readily from the sword.

"O you who look like men but are not men, having the intellect
of children and the wits of women, I wish I had never seen or
known you, for acquaintance with you has drawn regret and
brought in its wake grief and sorrow. May God destroy you. You
have filled my heart with pus and have lined my breast with
anger. You have made me drink draughts of anxiety one after the
other and have corrupted my judgment by your disobedience
and desertion, so that Quraysh say that the son of Abu Talib is a
brave man but had no knowledge of warfare. For God be their
father! Is any one of them more experienced in warfare or does
any of them occupy a place in it higher than mine? I started
fighting when I was not yet twenty years of age, and here I am the
same fighter when I have passed the age of sixty. But there could
be no judgment for him who is not obeyed.(70)

'Ali thus left behind the people of Kufa divided into two
groups of conflicting interest which could now be more easily
defined and categorised than when he arrived at Kufa five
years earlier. There was, firstly, a group of his faithful
followers, both from the early and the late comers, who were
not only committed to his person, but also believed that the
leadership of the Muslims must remain in the house of the
Prophet. In this, indeed, there appear to have been some
considerations of a socio-economic nature, but these were only


concomitant with the idea of justice and religious values
which, they thought, could be realized only through a divinely
inspired leader. Among them there were people, however
small in number, to whom religious and spiritual considerations
were the only driving force: economic factors, even
though these seem to have been the cause of certain incidents,
had nothing to do with their adherence to 'Ali. For others,
economic factors were just as important as religion; they felt
that an appropriate combination of the two could be realized
only through 'Ali. Whatever the degree of emphasis on one
aspect or the other, the conviction of both sections of 'Ali's
firm supporters was the same: the leadership of the Muslim
community must come from the family of the Prophet.

Secondly, there was a group consisting of clan and tribal
leaders, along with those whose interests were dependent on
these leaders. They were basically interested in preserving
and maintaining their political positions and economic
monopolies, which would be seriously threatened should 'Ali
succeed in firmly establishing his rule in Kufa. They were,
therefore, indifferent to 'Ali and were inclined towards
Mu'awiya, in whom they saw security for their privileged
positions and vested interests. But at the same time, they were
hesitant to openly submit to Mu'awiya and thereby lose their
bargaining position. It was for this reason that outwardly
they remained in the rank and file of 'Ali's army while putting
pressure on Mu'awiya for the guaranteeing of their privileges.

They thus pretended to be the supporters of the Shi'i cause.

These were the people who composed the political supporters
of 'Ali, as discussed in Chapter 4.

To these two groups of opposite interest we must add a
third, consisting of the vast masses of Kufa, mostly the
Yemenis and the non-Arab mawali, who theoretically were
inclined to the Shi'i ideal of leadership but were hopelessly
devoid of resolve in the face of any danger which might befall
them. Emotionally, whenever they saw any hope of success of
someone from the Ahl a1-Bayt, they swarmed around him;
practically, they deserted him as soon as they saw the hope of
success dwindling away. They lacked the necessary courage
or the firmness of character to withstand a moment of trial.

The events described in the following two chapters will
explain the behaviour and attitude of these three groups.


Here it remains to note that after the death of 'Ali and the
abdication of his son Hasan, when Mu'awiya took control of
Kufa, the strong tribal and clan leaders were made to serve as
the intermediaries in the power structure of the province.

The central authority in Damascus was concerned with
exercising power both over and through them. The old style
tribalism was reinforced and governmental power was
grounded on a tribal organization in which tribal leaders
supported and in turn were supported by the government. At
the time of 'Ali's death, the tribal leaders were on one side of
the scale, the committed shi'at 'Ali on the other, while the
great masses were wavering between the two. The following
years were to prove decisive in resolving this basic contradiction
of interests.

# Chapter 6
The Abdication of Hasan

During the last year of 'Ali's caliphate, Muawiya b. Abi
Sufyan, the governor of Syria and the main challenger of 'Ali,
managed to bring a large part of the Muslim empire under
his control. He also had the authority vested in him, though
under doubtful and ambiguous circumstances, by 'Amr b. al-
As at the arbitration of Adruh after the battle of Siffin.
Nevertheless, he could not claim for himself the title of Amir
al-Mu'minin while 'Ali was yet alive. 'Ali was still the
legitimate caliph chosen by the community at large in
Medina; this was not publicly repudiated by the community
as a whole, nor was the declaration of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari
deposing 'Ali and that of 'Amr b. al-'As installing Mu'awiya
accepted by the Muhajirun and the Ansar. Thus, despite all
his military and political successes, Mu'awiya could do no
more than style himself only as Amir.(1) With 'Ali's assassination,
the road was finally cleared for the realization of the
ultimate goal of Mu'awiya's ambitions. The very favourable
circumstances that prevailed in the form of the impotence of
Medina and the remnant of the pious section of the
community and the vacillating nature of the Iraqi supporters
of 'Ali's successor Hasan, coupled with the characteristic
shrewdness of Mu'awiya, made it easier for him to complete
the task he had initiated after the death of 'Uthman: the
seizure of the caliphate for himself and his clan.

Hasan, the elder son of 'All and Fatima, was acclaimed as
caliph by forty thousand people in Kufa immediately after
the death of his father. (2) We are told that at the battle of Siffin
(Safar 37/July 657), less than three years before his death, 'Ali
had in his army seventy Companions who fought for the


Prophet at Badr, seven hundred of those who renewed their
allegiance to Muhammad (bay'at ar-ridwan) at the time of the
treaty of Hudaybiya, and another four hundred from other
Muhajirun and Ansar.( 3 ) Many of them were still residing in
Kufa with 'Ali as he prepared for a final encounter with
Muawiya. They must have participated in the election of
Hasan and must have accepted him as the new caliph,
otherwise our sources would have recorded their opposition
to his succession. To this there is no testimony at all. The
people of Medina and Mecca seem to have received the news
with satisfaction, or at least with acquiescence. This is evident
from the fact that not a single voice of protest or opposition
from these cities against Hasan's accession can be located in
the sources.

Two major reasons can be advanced for this attitude. First,
at the time of 'Ali's death almost all the distinguished
Companions of the Prophet from among the Muhajirun were
dead. Of the six members of the Shura appointed by 'Umar,
only Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas was still alive; the other members of
the leading elite of the community had also died. Among the
younger nobility such as 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas, 'Abd Allah
b. az-Zubayr, Muhammad b. Talha, and 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar,
none could match Hasan, the elder and dearest grandson of
the prophet. The people of Medina still remembered that
ardent love and affection which the Prophet had showered
upon his grandsons: that he interrupted his sermon and
descended from the pulpit to pick up Hasan, who had
stumbled over his long tunic and fallen down while entering
the mosque ;(4) that he allowed his grandchildren to climb on
his back while he was prostrating himself in prayer.(5) There
are numerous accounts describing extraordinary favours
being bestowed by Muhammad on his grandsons; these are
preserved not only by the Shi'i sources, but are overwhelm-
ingly transmitted by the Sunni works as well.(6) Hasan is also
unanimously reported to have resembled the Prophet in
appearance.(7) Secondly, the people of Mecca and Medina
naturally could not be expected to be pleased to see Mu'awiya,
the son of Abu Sufyan, the representative of the clan of
Umayya, become their leader. It was Abu Sufyan who had
organized the opposition to Muhammad and had led all the
campaigns against him. The Umayyads in general, and the


Sufyanids in particular, did not acknowledge Muhammad
until the fall of Mecca; their Islam was therefore considered
to be of convenience rather than conviction. Mu'awiya, for
his part, depended on the support of the Syrians, whom he
had consolidated behind himself, and to whom he had been
attached for close to twenty years as governor of the province,
and on the support of his large and powerful clan and their
clients and allies who swarmed around him. It was therefore
natural, under the circumstances, that the inhabitants of the
holy cities, who formed the nucleus of the Islamic Umma,
would not oppose Hasan's caliphate, especially since the
alternative was the son of Abu Sufyan and Hind.

As for the people of Iraq, the eldest son of 'Ali was the only
logical choice, though not all of his supporters were motivated
by the same feelings or attachment to the same cause. To a
great number of them Hasan's succession meant the continuation
of 'Ali's policy against the rule of Mu'awiya and
against the domination of Syria over Iraq. To some others,
Hasan was now the only person worthy of leading the
community on religious grounds. Whether motivated by
merely political or by religious considerations, however, it
cannot be denied that the Iraqis acclaimed Hasan as caliph
on the grounds that he was the grandson of the Prophet
through 'Ali and Fatima. Hasan's spontaneous selection after
the death of 'Ali also indicated Iraqi inclinations, though in
vague terms, towards the legitimate succession to the
leadership of the community in the line of 'Ali. It seems that
the people of Iraq, even at that early period, were quite clear
in distinguishing the line of the Prophet through Fatima
from other members of the Hashimite clan, otherwise they
would have chosen, for example, 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas,
who was a cousin of the Prophet, was senior in age to Hasan
and was experienced in affairs of state, having been 'Ali's
governor in Basra. (8) Hasan's close relationship to the Prophet
is frequently referred to as the reason for the special
consideration of the people for him.

Following the custom established by Abu Bakr, Hasan
made a speech on the occasion of his accession to the caliphate.
In this speech, reported in many sources with varying lengths
and wordings, Hasan praised the merits of his family and the
special rights and unmatched qualities of his father. He


emphasized his own intimate relations with the Prophet,
described his own merits and claims, and quoted the verses of
the Qur'an which exalt the special position of the Ahl al-
Bayt. (9) Qays b. Sa'd b. 'Ubada al-Ansari, an ardent supporter
of 'Ali and a trusted commander of his army, was the first to
pay homage to him. The forty thousand troops of Iraq who
had sworn allegiance to 'Ali on the condition to die for him
('ala'l-mawt) readily hailed Hasan as their new caliph. (10)
Apparently expressing his own sentiments as well as those of
the Iraqi army, Qays tried to impose the condition that the
bay'a should be based, not only on the Qur'an and the Sunna
of the Prophet, but also on the condition of the war (qital)
against those who declared licit (halal) that which is illicit
(haram). Hasan, however, succeeded in avoiding this commitment
by saying that the last condition was implicitly
included in the first two. The more militant among the Iraqis,
eager to fight against Mu'awiya, were not in favour of
exclusion of the third condition from the terms of the bay'a,
but they nevertheless paid their allegiance to him. (11) Later
events would demonstrate that Hasan was perhaps from the
very beginning quite apprehensive of the fickle-mindedness
of the Iraqis and their lack of resolution in time of trials; and
thus he wanted to avoid commitment to an extreme stand
which might lead to complete disaster. He was moreover a
peace-loving man of mild temper who hated to see the
shedding of Muslim blood.(12) However, according to the
majority of the sources, the oath of allegiance taken by those
present stipulated that: "They should make war on those who
were at war with Hasan, and should live in peace with those
who were at peace with Hasan." (13)

Hasan's acclamation as caliph by the Iraqis, and a tacit
approval, at least an absence of protest or opposition, from the
Hijaz, Yemen, and Persia, were a great cause of alarm to
Mu'awiya, who had been working for the office since the
death of 'Uthman and who, after five years of ceaseless
struggle, at last saw a clear path to undisputed authority since
'Ali was no longer alive. He lost no time in taking action.
First of all, as soon as the news of Hasan's selection reached
Mu'awiya, he denounced the appointment, and both in
speeches and in letters announced his firm decision not to
recognize Hasan a caliph. (14) secondly, he dispatched many


of his agents and spies to arouse the people against Hasan.
Such agents had already been quite active in the provinces of
Yemen, Persia, and the Hijaz, which were still within 'Air's
domain though not fully under his control at the time he was
killed. These agents were active even in the heart of Iraq and
Kufa, 'Ali's only solid possession. Of this activity there is no
doubt at all. This already organized espionage network was
now intensified by Mu'awiya and expanded to a much larger
scale. There are numerous exchanges of letters on the subject
of these spies between Hasan and Mu'awiya and between
'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas and Mu'awiya. (15) Mu'awiya did not
even deny these subversive activities. Finally, he began
preparations for war and summoned all the commanders of
his forces in Syria, Palestine, and Transjordan to join him.
Not long after, the Syrian leader marched against Hasan
with an army of sixty thousand men, (16) taking the usual
military route through Mesopotamia to Maskin, on the Tigris
boundary of Mosul towards the Sawad. When Mu'awiya
warlike intentions became clear, Hasan had to prepare for
war and was compelled to take the field before he had time
either to strengthen himself in his position or to reorganize
the administration that had been thrown into chaos by the
death of his father.

The purpose of this prompt action by Mu'awiya was
twofold: first, by his demonstration of arms and strength, he
hoped to force Hasan to come to terms; and secondly, if that
course of action failed, he would attack the Iraqi forces before
they had time to consolidate their position. It was for the first
reason that Mu'awiya intentionally moved towards Iraq at a
very slow pace, while sending letter after letter to Hasan
asking him not to try to fight and urging him to come to
terms. If Hasan was defeated on the battlefield, this would
give Mu'awiya only power and authority; but if Hasan
abdicated, this would provide Mu'awiya with a legal base and
legitimize his authority as well. This was what was
trying to achieve. Moreover, Hasan defeated, or even killed,
still represented a serious threat unless he resigned his rights;
another member of the Hashimite house could simply claim
to be his successor. Should he resign in favour of Mu'awiya,
such claims would have no validity and the Umayyad position
would be secured. This strategy proved correct, as will be


seen below. Even after the death of Hasan, ten years later,
when the people of Iraq approached his younger brother
Husayn concerning an uprising, the latter advised them to
wait as long as Mu'awiya was alive because of Hasan's treaty
with him.

The correspondence between Hasan and Mu'awiya, which
continued throughout this period, makes interesting reading
and provides some useful information. Both referred to the
old question of the caliphate with polemical arguments. In
one of his long letters to Mu'awiya, Hasan argued his rights
to the caliphate on the grounds that the authority of the
caliphate stems from the Prophet of God, who was the most
excellent and the best of men on earth and through whose
guidance the Arabs found light while they were deep in
darkness and attained honour and glory while they were
disgraced, and that Hasan was the nearest to the Prophet in
blood and relationship. Hasan then used his father's argument,
which the latter had advanced against Abu Bakr after the
death of Muhammad, that if Quraysh could claim the
leadership over the Ansar on the grounds that the Prophet
belonged to Quraysh, then the members of his family, who
were the nearest to him in every respect, were better qualified
for the leadership of the community. In the last part of his
letter Hasan wrote:

"We were shocked to see that some people snatched away our
right from us even though they were men of excellence, virtues,
and merits, and were the forerunners in Islam [reference to the
first three caliphs]. But now what a great astonishment and shock
it is to see that you, O Mu'awiya, are attempting to accede to a
thing which you do not deserve. You do not possess any known
merit in religion (din), nor have you any trace (athar) in Islam
which has ever been praised. On the contrary, you are the son of
the leader of the opposition party from among the parties (hizb
min al-ahzab) [a reference to the "confederacy" which under
Mu'awiya's father, Abu Sufyan, made the last united effort to
crush Medina]; and you are the son of the greatest enemy of the
Prophet from among Quraysh... so give up your persistence in
falsehood (batil) and enter into my homage as other people have
done, for you are certainly aware of the fact that I am far more
entitled to the caliphate than you in the eyes of God and all
worthy people. Fear God, restrain yourself from rebellion and
from shedding the blood of the Muslims; for, by God, there


would be no good for you to meet your Lord with the
responsibility of the blood of the Muslims." (17)

Mu'awiya's detailed reply to Hasan is even more interesting,
especially since he used the argument used by 'Umar b. al-
Khattab against 'Ali. Writing to Hasan, Mu'awiya argued:

"Whatever you said about the excellence and merits of the
Prophet, he was indeed the most excellent among all men before
and after him, past or present, young or old. Indeed God had
chosen Muhammad for His message, and through him we
received guidance, were saved from destruction, and came out
from darkness and error.

"You have mentioned the death of the Prophet and the dispute
which took place among the Muslims at that time. In this you are
clearly making accusations against Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and Abu
'Ubayda, and against those virtuous men among the Muhajirun
and Ansar. I hate this accusation against the people whose
actions, according to us and other people, were beyond doubt and

"When this community had some disagreements after the
Prophet concerning the leadership, it was not ignorant of your
family's merits, your priority, and your close relationship to the
Prophet; and the community was also not unaware of your
exalted place in Islam and your qualifications in it. But the
community saw that this thing [the caliphate] would be better
placed among Quraysh in general and they therefore selected
Abu Bakr. This is what the people thought best in the interest of
the community. You are asking me to settle the matter peacefully
and surrender, but the situation concerning you and me today is
like the one between you [your family] and Abu Bakr after the
death of the Prophet. Had I believed that you had a better grasp
over the subject people than I do, that you could protect the
community better than I, and you were stronger in safeguarding
the properties of the Muslims and in outwitting the enemy than
I, then I would have done what you have asked me. But I have a
longer period of reign [probably referring to his governorship],
and am more experienced, better in policies, and older in age
than you. It would therefore be better for you not to insist on
what you have asked me; if you enter into obedience to me now,
you will accede to the caliphate after me." (18)

Mu'awiya's letter is significant in that it gives a clear idea
of the direction Muslim polity was henceforth opting to adopt
openly. Mu'awiya's arguments for his claims to the caliphate


manifest those guidelines and the principles by which the
question of the caliphate had been previously decided in the
case of the first three caliphs, and he claimed that the same
considerations must remain the deciding factors now and in
the future. To him it was the interest of the state and the
profane aspects of the community which must decide the
question of the leadership. Mu'awiya did not deny Hasan's
exalted position in relation to the Prophet and his superior
place in Islam, but claimed that this was not the criterion for
the leadership of the community. The qualifications for the
office, according to Mu'awiya's arguments, were personal
power and strength, ability in political affairs and administration,
expansion of the empire, and ability to defend the
Muslims and rule the subject effectively. In this way,
Mu'awiya made explicit what had been so far implicit: the
separation between political and religious principles, which
was henceforth permanently established. Thus, in due course,
the majority of the Muslims placed the religious leadership in
the totality of the community (Jama'a), represented by the
'ulama', as the custodian of religion and the exponent of the
Qur'an and the Sunna of the Prophet, while accepting state
authority as binding. They came to be known as the Sunnis.
A minority of the Muslims, on the other hand, could not find
satisfaction for their religious aspirations except in the
charismatic leadership from among the people of the house of
the Prophet, the Ahl al-Bayt, as the sole exponents of the
Qur'an and the Prophetic Sunna, although this minority too
had to accept the state's authority. This group was called the

Before proceeding further in an attempt to reconstruct the
events which ultimately led to the abdication of Hasan, a
word seems necessary regarding the sources of our information
on the subject. The struggle between Hasan and
Mu'awiya has not yet been thoroughly and critically studied
and remains one of the most obscure chapters of early Islamic
history. Wellhausen, giving only a short and sketchy account
of Hasan's abdication, (19) complains that the events are
recorded with confusion and fragmentation and that it is,
therefore, difficult to place certain critical details of the
episode in precise chronological order. Indeed, chronology is
always a serious problem in early Muslim histories. But in his


brief description of the subject it seems that Wellhausen
depended solely on Ya'qubi, (20) Dinawari, (21) 'and Tabari. (22)
Both Yaqubi and Dinawari usually gloss over details in their
short and compact histories, and it would therefore be futile
to expect from them a comprehensive account of the
abdication of Hasan. Tabari provides more information than
the first two but does not cover the subject with his usual
thoroughness and he leaves the reader unsatisfied on many
important questions. Moreover, all three of these sources
suffer from a common weakness in that their renderings lack
the exact sequence of events, a problem which makes it
difficult to determine whether Hasan abdicated of his own
free will or was forced by the circumstances to do so.

There are, however, three other early and important
sources which were not' used by or were unavailable to
Wellhausen. These works, already referred to above, were
authored by Ibn A'tham al-Kufi (23) (died ca. 314/926), Abu'l-
Faraj al-Isfahani (24) (died 356/967), and Ibn Abi'l-Hadid (25)
(died 655/1257). Abi'l-Faraj records the whole event from
Abu Mikhnaf with verifications and additions from five other
chains of transmitters, commenting that "these narratives are
mixed one with the other, but are near in meaning to each
other." Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, though a late author, is one of the
best informed. He takes his material primarily from the
famous early historian Mada'ini and completes the account
from Abu Mikhnaf. The second part of Ibn Abi'l-Hadid's
account thus is similar to the corresponding portion of Abu'l-
Faraj; the fact that both Abo Mikhnaf and Mada'ini wrote
on the subject is confirmed by the lists of their works recorded
by Ibn Nadim. (26)

Abu Muhammad Ahmad b. A'tham al-Kufi al-Kindi must
be given a place of special importance, for his Kitab al-Futuh
is perhaps one of the earliest comprehensive and systematic
works on the early conquests of Islam and the civil strife in
the community. According to Doctor Sha'ban, (27) a modern
scholar, this work was composed in 204/819; this mean: his
date of death must be placed some time in the middle of the
3rd/9th century and not in 314/926 as has so far been assumed.
In any case, his history has proved to be a major source for the
early history of the Arabs, particularly for events in Iraq. Ibn
A'tham was fortunate enough to have access to the works of


Zuhri, Abu Mikhnaf, Ibn al-Kalbi, and some other lesser
traditionists in their original and unadulterated forms.
According to his methodology, as is evident in the Futuh, he
combines the traditions of these early writers into a connected
and coherent historical narrative without interruptions and
without citing his sources for each individual tradition.
Nevertheless, whenever he records some significant tradition,
he does mention the name of his source; in this respect
Mada'ini is the most frequently cited authority. According to
Sha'ban, Ibn A'tham, being a contemporary of Mada'ini, had
the pronounced advantage of quoting this great master in his
lifetime.(28) Comparison of the narratives of Ibn A'tham with
the tradition of Mada'ini recorded by Tabari show that Ibn
A'tham not only provides a useful check for the material
recorded by Tabari, but also adds important details which
Tabari has ignored and which are preserved in the Kitab al-
Futuh. In the episode of Hasan it is through Ibn A'tham that
the complete narrative of Mada'ini has come down to us.
This is confirmed by a comparison of Ibn A'tham's account
with that of Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, who cites Mada'ini as well; the
latter gives only an abridged version of Hasan's abdication,
but Ibn A'tham has recorded a complete description of the
course of events from Mada'ini.

From these three sources we receive the complete texts of
the lengthy correspondence between Hasan and Mu'awiya,
of which only two letters have been quoted above. There
seems to be no reason for doubting the authenticity of these
texts. There is a rich literature of correspondence exchanged
between important personalities during the classical period
of Islam, and this material is frequently quoted in the Arabic
sources. (29) The correspondence between Hasan and Mu'awiya
must be considered in this light and must be given its due
importance. Together with the other sources mentioned
above, such literature enables us to form a clearer picture of
the episode than has so far been available.

Tabari narrates the events in two independent versions
from Zuhri and 'Awana. Zuhri's account seems somewhat to
favour the case of Mu'awiya at the expense of Hasan, (30) or at
least glosses over those details which might weaken the
position of the founder of the Umayyad caliphate. This is
understandable, for Zuhri was closely attached to the


Umayyad court and was writing under the successors of
Mu'awiya. His account is an unclear isolated report not
recorded by other authorities; and in contrast to this, 'Awana's
account (31) appears to have been more balanced in describing
the circumstances under which Hasan abdicated. Unlike
Zuhri's version, 'Awana's bears considerable historical merit
in that it very largely conforms with the accounts reported by
other authorities such as Ya'qubi and Dinawari.
According to Zuhri, Hasan was from the very beginning
inclined to hand over the caliphate to Mu'awiya in return for
the most favourable terms he could secure for himself from
his rival. Before his death 'Ali had entrusted the leadership of
his forty-thousand-man Iraqi army to Qays b. Sa'd, one of his
trusted and zealous supporters, for the campaign against
Mu'awiya. Qays was a great enemy of Mu'awiya and the
Syrians, and had sworn allegiance to 'Ali to the death. Hasan
knew that Qays would never agree to his plans for abdicating
in favour of Mu'awiya, and therefore he deposed Qays from
the command of the army and appointed 'Abd Allah b. al-
'Abbas in his place. The Kufans were already suspicious of
Hasan's intentions because he had not clearly committed
himself to fight against Mu'awiya at the time when homage
was paid to the former. Soon they came to the conclusion that
Hasan was not the person to lead them against their Syrian
enemies, and they became increasingly restless. Not long after
Hasan came to be aware of their ill-feelings towards him, he
was attacked by a Kufan and sustained a lance wound in his
thigh. Unlike all the other accounts, Zuhri specifies neither
the place nor the timing of this attack on Hasan, which
renders the whole account still more ambiguous and unclear.
After having been attacked, Hasan hastily wrote to
Mu'awiya that he was renouncing the caliphate on the
condition of receiving from him a certain sum of money. As
Hasan sent his envoy to Mu'awiya with his letter, the latter
simultaneously dispatched his own envoy to Hasan with a
blank sheet of paper, signed and sealed by Mu'awiya, on
which Hasan was to inscribe whatever terms for abdication
he wanted. The letters crossed. When Mu'awiya received
Hasan's letter he was overjoyed to see that the latter had
decided to abdicate without much difficulty; he kept Hasan's
letter as evidence of this and informed him that he had


accepted Hasan's terms. When Hasan received Mu'awiya's
carte blanche letter, he added further financial demands on it.
Upon meeting Mu'awiya, perhaps on the occasion of the
official transfer of power, he asked the Syrian leader to discard
his previous letter and replace it with the carte blanche on
which Hasan had written new terms regarding financial
arrangements. Mu'awiya now refused to grant anything
further, saying: "Everything you first requested I agreed to
and granted to you; my open offer to you cannot any more be
binding on me since you have already committed yourself."
Hasan therefore could get nothing more from Mu'awiya and
was sorry for his hasty action in writing his terms of
abdication. (32)

Zuhri also tells us that as soon as 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas
noticed that Hasan was negotiating terms of abdication with
Mu'awiya, he himself secretly began treating with Mu'awiya
for safe conduct and a grant of money for himself. Mu'awiya
readily agreed to Ibn 'Abbas' terms, whereupon the latter
abandoned the army and moved to Mu'awiya's camp in the
darkness of night. (33) Hasan's army, finding itself without a
leader, again chose Qays as commander on the condition that
he carry on the war until the adherents of 'Ali were granted
amnesty and security for their lives and property. Qays easily
gained these concessions from Mu'awiya, who himself was
quite willing to grant such concessions if it would enable him
to reach a peaceful settlement and avoid a confrontation with
Qays' strong army. He made direct offers to Qays himself, but
the latter refused the money that was offered to him by
Mu'awiya and, without making any deal for himself, he gave
up resistance on condition of amnesty and security for the
Iraqi army. (34)

Zuhri's pragmatism in reporting the events of the abdication
of Hasan raises more questions than it answers. This account,
which clearly shows minimal resistance on the part of Hasan,
must have been circulated by the Umayyads themselves, who,
in the absence of the three principles of ijma', nass, and shura
by which the previous four caliphs had been nominated, were
anxious to find a legal basis for their rule. Hasan's voluntary
abdication in favour of Mu'awiya, as Zuhri would have us
believe, provides such a legal ground. It was natural that
Zuhri in the environment of Umayyad Damascus, should


adopt the tradition which must have been most popular and
in widest circulation in that city. The events that led to
Hasan's abdication do not seem, however, to have been as
simple as Zuhri describes.

'Awana's account in Tabari (35) and in the other sources
named above gives a somewhat different impression of the
events and stands in sharp contrast to that of Zuhri. According
to 'Awana, Qays did not have command of the whole army
during the lifetime of 'Ali, but rather only of the vanguard of
12,000 men, over which he continued to retain command
when Hasan succeeded his father. At the news of Mu'awiya's
advance towards Iraq, Hasan sent Qays with his 12,000 troops
as an advance guard to check the enemy until Hasan himself
could follow with the main force. (36) According to Ya'qubi,
Abu'l-Faraj, and Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, the vanguard of 12,000
men was sent by Hasan under the command of 'Ubayd Allah
b. al-'Abbas, and along with him were sent Qays b. Sa'd and
Sa'id b. Qays as advisors by whose counsel 'Ubayd Allah was
to be guided. (37) The reason for Hasan's delay in departure
seems to have been some lack of enthusiasm on the part of his
supporters. This is evident from a report that when he
appealed to the Kufans to march with him against Mu'awiya,
there was a poor response. It was only when 'Adi b. Hatim, an
old and devoted follower of 'Ali and the chief of the tribe of
Tayyi, addressed the Iraqis, urging them to respond to the
call of "their Imam, the son of the daughter of their Prophet", (38) that they came out to participate in the war.

Soon after, Hasan left Kufa with his main army and
reached Al-Mada'in, where he encamped in the outskirts of
the city. Qays and his vanguard had already reached Maskin,
facing Muawiya's army. The Syrian governor tried to bribe
Qays by offering him a million dirhams if he would defect
from the ranks of Hasan and join him. Qays rejected the offer
with contempt, saying: "You want to deceive me in my
religion." (39) Mu'awiya then made a similar offer to 'Ubayd
Allah b. al-'Abbas (or his elder brother 'Abd Allah, as Zuhri
reports), who accepted it and went over to him with 8,000
men. Qays was thus left with 4,000 soldiers, waiting for the
arrival of Hasan. (40)'O We may note here in passing that though
'Ubayd Allah did go over to Mu'awiya before Hasan
announced his abdication, the timing of 'Ubayd Allah's


defection as given by Ya'qubi does not seem correct. 'Ubayd
Allah's defecti6n must have occurred only shortly before
Hasan's abdication, as will be discussed below.

However, while Hasan's vanguard was waiting for his
arrival at Maskin, Hasan himself was facing a serious situation
at Al-Mada'in. Some of his troops rebelled against him,
plundered his tent, and fell upon him. Five different versions
of this rebellion are given in the sources. According to
'Awana, (41) someone suddenly spread the news in the army of
Hasan that Qays had been defeated and slain and that the
troops should flee. Hasan's tent was then plundered, and he
himself was attacked. If this version is correct, the spreading
of the rumour must have been a well-calculated ruse and an
act of espionage by the spies of Mu'awiya, who had, with6ut
any doubt, infiltrated the rank and file of Hasan's army. A
second version is given by Ya'qubi, (42) who reports that as
soon as Hasan reached Al-Mada'in, Mu'awiya sent Al-
Mughira b. Shu'ba, 'Abd Allah b. 'Amir, and 'Abd ar-
Rahman b. Umm al-Hakam to Hasan as his mediators. After
they talked to Hasan confidentially, and while leaving his
camp, they spread the news that Hasan had agreed to abdicate
in favour of Muawiya, whereupon Hasan's soldiers fell upon
him and plundered his tent. Ya'qubi also records that
Mu'awiya sent his men to Hasan's camp to spread the news
that Qays had made peace with Mu'awiya and had come over
to his side, while simultaneously he spread the word in the
army of Qays that Hasan had made peace with Mu'awiya.' (43)
In this case, again, Mu'awiya's machinations are responsible
for the mutiny in Hasan's army.

The third version is given by Dinawari. According to his
report, i;1asan left Kufa for Al-Mada'in, and by the time he
reached Sabat, in the outskirts of Al-Mada'in, he had
discerned that some of his troops were showing fickleness,
lack of purpose, and an indifferent or withdrawn attitude to
the war. (44) Hasan therefore halted at Sabat, encamped his
army there, and made a speech, saying:

"O people, I do not entertain any feeling of rancour against a
Muslim. I am as much an overseer over yourselves [of your
interests] as I am over my own self. Now, I am considering a
plan; do not oppose me in it. Reconciliation, disliked by some of
you, is better [under the circumstances] than the split that some


of you prefer, especially when I see that most of you are shrinking
from the war and are hesitant to fight. I do not, therefore,
consider it wise to impose upon you something which you do not like." (45)

When his people heard this, they looked at each other,
reflecting their suspicions. Those among them who were of
Kharijite persuasion said: "Hasan has become an infidel
(Kafir) as had become his father before him." They suddenly
rushed upon him, pulled the carpet from under his feet, and
tore his clothes from his shoulder. He called for help from
among his faithful followers from the tribes of Rabi'a and
Hamdan, who rushed to his assistance and pushed the
assailants away from him. (46)

The fourth version is given by Mada'ini in Ibn Abi'l-
Hadid, (47) who says that while Hasan was on his way to Al-
Mada'in he was wounded by a lance at Sabat and his
belongings were looted. When word of this reached Mu'awiya,
he spread the news far and wide, whereupon the nobles and
leaders from among the 12,000-man vanguard of Hasan
began defecting to Mu'awiya. 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas
informed Hasan of the grave situation, and it was at this point
that Hasan called the Iraqi leaders of his main army and,
with great disappointment, told them of his intention to
terminate the struggle and abdicate. Before proceeding to the
fifth version, it would be appropriate to point out here in
passing that according to all four of these versions, Hasan's
decision to abdicate was forced upon him by the circumstances br> and was not of his own free desire.

The fifth version is given by Ibn A'tham and Abu-'l-Faraj,(48)
whose sources are not clear. Ibn A'tham, as noted above, does
not often cite his source. At the beginning of his narrative
Abu'l-Faraj quotes Abu Mikhnaf along with five other
informants; thus it is not clear whether this particular account
is taken from Abu Mikhnaf himself or from any one of the
other five narrators. According to this version, when Hasan
arrived at Al-Mada'in he suddenly halted his army there and
made a speech in which he declared his intention to abdicate.
Wordings of the speech, with few variations, are almost the
same as that quoted above from Dinawari. After hearing
Hasan's speech some of his troops fell upon him, plundered
his tent, and tore his clothes. This version, unlike the other
four described above, gives no reason for Hasan's decision to


deliver his speech at that particular moment at Al-Mada'in
and thus renders it rather ambiguous. It also presents serious
contradictions and raises many unsolved questions. One
would ask, for example, why did Hasan encourage the people
and make speeches asking them to join his army for the war
against Mu'awiya, as has been quoted earlier from Abu'l-
Faraj himself. Why would he go all the way from Kufa to Al-
Mada'in with all the necessary preparations for battle, and
yet suddenly change his mind and make a declaration of
peace at Al-Mada'in? We should therefore accept one of the
four previous explanations, of which the most probable is
Dinawari's that Hasan's speech and his announcement of his
resignation from the office were prompted by the Iraqis'
treacherous attitude and finalized by Mu'awiya's successful
use of espionage and diplomacy.

After such treatment at the hands of his own troops, the
disheartened and shaken Hasan found it impossible to stay in
the army camp; he took to his horse and, escorted by his close
associates and faithful followers, rode to the safety of the
White Castle of Al-Mada'in, the residence of his governor. It
was on this road, just before reaching the castle, that a die-
hard Kharijite, Al-Jarrah b. Sinan al-Asadi, managed to
ambush Hasan and wounded him in the thigh with a dagger,
shouting: "You have become an infidel (Kafir) like your father
before you." (49) Al-Jarrah was overpowered and killed; Hasan,
bleeding profusely, was carried to the castle, where he was
cared for by his governor, Sa'd b. Mas'ud ath-Thaqafi. The
news of the attack on Hasan, having been spread by
was soon in wide circulation. This further
demoralized the already disheartened troops of Hasan and
led to large-scale desertion from his army. (50)

After describing this, Ya'qubi, Dinawari, and Tabari fail to
give a detailed account of further events and hurriedly
describe Hasan's abdication, although the first two sources do
contain a few fragmentary sentences in passing which are of
limited value. Keeping in view their method and style, this
brevity is understandable. Ibn A'tham and Abu'l-Faraj,
however, record for us in detail the events which took place
between the incident of the attack on Hasan and his
abdication. The accounts of these two, however, vary in
certain points and must be treated separately.


According to Ibn A'tham, at the time when Hasan was
having these difficulties at Al-Mada'in, Qays b. Sa'd with his
12,000-man vanguard was already at Maskin, facing
Mu'awiya's army and awaiting Hasan's arrival. When he
heard of the attack on Hasan, Qays thought it wise to engage
his army in battle with the Syrians so that they should not
have a chance to brood over the situation and become further
demoralized. An encounter between the two armies took
place, resulting in some losses on both sides. Mu'awiya's
envoys then came forward and addressed Qays, saying: "For
what [cause) are you now fighting with us and killing
yourself? We have received unquestionable word that your
leader has been deserted by his people and has been stabbed
with a dagger and is on the verge of death. You should
therefore refrain from fighting until you get the exact
information about the situation." Qays was thus forced to stop
fighting and had to wait for the official news about the
incident from Hasan himself. But by this time troops had
begun defecting to Mu'awiya in large numbers. When Qays
noticed this large-scale desertion, he wrote to Hasan about the
gravity of the situation. (51)

After receiving Qays' letter, Hasan lost heart and immediately
called in the Iraqi leaders and nobles and addressed
them in dejection and disgust:

"O people of Iraq, what should I do with your people who are
with me? Here is the letter of Qays b. Sa'd informing me that
even the nobles (ashraf) from among you have gone over to
Mu'awiya. By God, what shocking and abominable behaviour on
your part! You were the people who forced my father to accept
arbitration at Siffin ; and when the arbitration to which he yielded
[because of your demand) took place, you turned against him.
And when he called upon you to fight Mu'awiya once again, then
you showed your slackness and lassitude. After the death of my
father, you yourself came to me and paid me homage out of your
own desire and wish. I accepted your homage and came out
against Mu'awiya; only God knows how much I meant to do [i.e.
how full of zeal and spirit I was in facing Mu'awiya's challenge).
Now you are behaving in the same manner as before [with my
father). O People of Iraq, it would be enough for me from you if
you would not defame me in my religion, because now I am
going to hand over this affair [the caliphate] to Mu'awiya." (52)


Ya'qubi gives the same reason for Hasan's decision, though,
as mentioned above, he covers the matter very briefly.

If this statement is accepted, it sufficiently explains the
whole situation and the circumstances which made Hasan
decide in favour of abdication. The statement clearly reflects
that Hasan, from the very beginning, even from the time of
was suspicious of the unreliable character of the Iraqis.
In his judgement they were impulsive people who talked
with emotion, but when the time came for action and trial
they never stood firm. This fact is not directly mentioned by
the sources for the event of Hasan's abdication, but it appears
at the time when his brother Husayn was going to Iraq in
response to the Kufan appeal to lead them in rebellion. All
those who advised Husayn against responding positively to
the Ku fan appeal clearly reminded him how the Iraqis had
deserted (khadhalu) his father and brother at the critical
moment. (53) Hasan's feelings are an echo of 'Ali's attitude
towards the majority of his Iraqi supporters, a sentiment
which he expressed time and again in his speeches preserved
in the Nahj al-Balagha and in many other early sources.

After his speech before the leaders of the Iraqis, Hasan
immediately sent word to Mu'awiya informing him of his
readiness to abdicate. When the news of Hasan's decision
reached Qays, he told his associates: "Now you must choose
between the two, either to fight without a leader (Imam) or to
pay homage to the misled (dalal) [Mu'awiya]." They replied:
"Paying homage is easier for us than bloodshed." Thus Qays,
along with those who were still with him, left the battlefield
at Maskin for Kufa. Surprisingly enough, the name of
'Ubayd Allah b. al-'Abbas does not appear at all in this

Turning to Abu'l-Faraj, we are told, as has already been
quoted above from Ya'qubi, that the leader of the 12,000 man
vanguard was 'Ubayd Allah b. al-'Abbas and not Qays b.
Sa'd. Both Mu'awiya and 'Ubayd Allah reached Maskin with
their armies on the evening of the same day that Hasan
reached Al-Mada'in. On the second day, after the morning
prayer, while Hasan was confronted with the mutiny of his
troops and was wounded, there was at Maskin a brief
encounter between Mu'awiya and 'Ubayd Allah. When night
fell, Mu'awiya sent a message to 'Ubayd Allah, saying:


"Hasan has informed me of his decision to make peace and
hand over the caliphate to me. If you come under my authority at
once, you will be treated as a leader (matbu'); otherwise I will
penetrate [into your forces] and then you will be made only a
subject (tabi). If you join me now I will pay you one million
dirhams, half of which will be paid immediately, and the second
half when I enter Ku fa." (54)

During the night, 'Ubayd Allah secretly slipped through to
Mu'awiya's side. In the morning the people assembled,
waiting for him to come and lead them in the morning prayer.
When, after a search, he was not found, Qays came forward,
led the prayer, and then made a fiery speech attacking 'Ubayd
Allah, his father 'Abbas, and his brother 'Abd Allah for their
wavering character and time-serving policies. Hearing Qays'
words, people shouted: "Thanks be to God that he ['Ubayd
Allah] has left our ranks; now we will rise and pounce on our
enemy," and set off to make an attack. Busr b. Abi Artat, a
confidant of Mu'awiya, came forward with 20,000 troops and
shouted: "Here is your leader ['Ubayd Allah], who has already
paid homage [to Mu'awiya], and Hasan has also agreed to
make peace. For what, then, are you killing yourselves?" Qays
then addressed his people again and asked: "Choose one of
the two, either fighting without an Imam or pay a strayed and
misled homage [to Mu'awiya]." The people said that they
would continue to fight even without an Imam, made a brief
attack on the Syrians, and then returned to their bases. When,
however, it became clear that Hasan had agreed to abdicate,
they returned to Kufa. (55)

Abu'l-Faraj's rendering of the events between the attack on
Hasan and his abdication is important in that it gives a more
logical and understandable timing of the defection of 'Ubayd
Allah, which was confusingly recorded by other sources.
From his account it also becomes clear that of the two
brothers, the one who defected was 'Ubayd Allah and not his
elder brother 'Abd Allah, whose name appears only in Zuhri's
account. However, Abu'l-Faraj's report that the Iraqis replied
to Qays that they would continue to fight even without an
Imam must be rejected on the simple grounds that it is
contrary to all other sources, who unanimously report that
the troops replied in favour of accepting Mu'awiya.

The terms and conditions on which Hasan abdicated are


reported by the sources not of only with major variations, but
also with confusion and ambiguity. Ya'qubi and Mas'udi do
not mention the terms of peace at all. Tabari mentions three
conditions directly, and the fourth indirectly in a different
context. The first three conditions were:

1: that Hasan would retain the five million dirhams then in
the treasury of Kufa;

2: that Hasan would be allowed the annual revenue from the
Persian district of Darabjird;

3: that 'Ali would not be reviled and cursed, as had been the
practice of Mu'awiya since the beginning of 'Ali's caliphate-
at least not in Hasan's presence. (56)

The first condition, that Hasan would retain five million
dirhams from the treasury of Kufa, makes no sense for two
obvious reasons. Firstly, Hasan, until his abdication, was the
sole caliph in Kufa, and thus the treasury was already in his
possession. Secondly, our sources agree that it was 'Ali's strict
practice to empty the treasury at the end of every week. It is
thus difficult to believe that within a few months of Hasan's
accession, (57) especially considering the heavy expenditure for
war and the unorganized state of the administration (and
therefore of tax collection as well) due to 'Ali's sudden death,
the treasury of Kufa had become gorged with five million
dirhams. It is interesting to note that after a long gap in which
Tabari describes the brutalities of Busr b. Abi Artat in
administering Basra, he mentions a fourth condition of
abdication. This tells us that "Hasan made peace with
Mu'awiya on the condition that all the friends and followers
of 'Ali, wherever they might be, would be given amnesty and
safe conduct." (58) As will be seen below, this condition is
recorded by other sources in its appropriate place.

In his account of the abdication, Dinawari records for us
the following conditions:

1 : that no one from among the people of Iraq will be treated
with contempt, and that every one of them will be guaranteed
peace and safety no matter what charge or offences might be
pending against them;

2: that Hasan will be entitled to the annual revenue of the
district of Ahwaz (instead of Tabari's Darabjird);


3: that preference should be given to the Hashimites (the
'Alids and the 'Abbasids) over the Banu 'Abd Shams
(Umayyads) in the granting of pensions ('ata) and awards. (59)

Ibn 'Abd al-Barr and Ibn al-Athir, two judicious writers on
the lives of the Companions of the Prophet, and some other
sources, record yet another two conditions:

1: that no one from among the people of Medina, the Hijaz,
and Iraq will be deprived or dispossessed of anything which
they possessed during the caliphate of 'Ali;

2: that the caliphate would be restored to Hasan after the
death of Mu'awiya. (60)

Abu'l-Faraj, like others, does not seem to be interested in
recording the conditions in detail. According to him,
Mu'awiya sent 'Abd Allah b. 'Amir and 'Abd ar-Rahman b.
Samra as his envoys to Hasan to discuss the terms of peace.
On behalf of Mu'awiya "they granted the terms of peace to
Hasan to which Mu'awiya had agreed: that no one from
among the Shi'at 'Ali would be molested, that the name of
'Ali would not be mentioned except in good terms, and some
other things which Hasan wanted.' (61)

The most comprehensive account, however, is given by
Ibn A'tham, (62) which must have been taken from Mada'ini,
since Ibn Abi'l-Hadid (63) describes almost the same conditions,
quoting Mada'ini as his authority. According to Ibn A'tham,
after the incidents at Al-Mada'in and after the statement
which Hasan made before the nobles of Iraq, as quoted above,
he sent 'Abd Allah b. Nawfal b. al-Harith to Mu'awiya to
inform him of Hasan's willingness to abdicate and to discuss
the terms of abdication with the Syrian leader on his behalf.
The only condition which Hasan stipulated to 'Abd Allah
was a general amnesty for the people. 'Abd Allah reached
Maskin and told Mu'awiya that Hasan had authorised him
to negotiate the conditions of peace on his behalf, laying down
the following terms:

1 : that the caliphate will be restored to Hasan after the death
of Mu'awiya;

2: that Hasan will receive five million dirhams annually from
the state treasury;

3: that Hasan will receive the annual revenue of Darabjird;

4: that the people will be guaranteed peace with one another. (64)

Hearing this, Mu'awiya took a blank sheet of paper, affixed
his signature and seal, and said to 'Abd Allah: "Take this
carte blanche to Hasan and ask him to write on it whatever he
wants." Mu'awiya asked his associates around him to stand
witness to his signature and promise. 'Abd Allah, with the
carte blanche and accompanied by some of the nobles of
Quraysh, among them 'Abd Allah b. 'Amir, 'Abd ar-Rahman
b. Samra, along with some other nobles from among the
Syrians, returned to Hasan and told him: "Mu'awiya has
agreed to all the conditions I have asked of him for you and
which you yourself can write on this blank paper." Hasan
replied: "As far as the caliphate is concerned, I am no more
interested in it; had I wanted it I would not hand it over to
Mu'awiya. As for the money, Mu'awiya cannot make it a
condition for me when the [real] issue in question is a matter
of concern for the Muslim [community]." Hasan then called
his secretary and asked him to write: "These are the terms on
which Hasan b. 'Ali b. 'Abi Talib is making peace with
Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan and handing over to him the state or
government of Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali:

1: that Mu'awiya should rule according to the Book of God,
the Sunna of the Prophet, and the conduct of the righteous

2: that Mu'awiya will not appoint or nominate anyone to the
caliphate after him, but the choice will be left to the shura of
the Muslims;


3: that the people will be left in peace wherever they are in the
land of God;

4: that the companions and the followers of 'Ali, their lives,
properties, their women, and their children, will be guaranteed
safe conduct and peace. This is a solemn agreement and
covenant in the name of God, binding Mu'awiya b. Abi
Sufyan to keep it and fulfil it;

5: that no harm or dangerous act, secretly or openly, will be
done to Hasan b. 'Ali, his brother Husayn, or to anyone from
the family of the Prophet (Ahl Bay: an-Nabi; this agreement
is witnessed by 'Abd Allah b. Nawfal, 'Umar b. Abi Salama,
and so and so." (65)


Ibn A'tham's rendering of the terms of peace as dictated by
Hasan solves many problems and explains the different
ambiguous accounts of other sources. The timing of the carte
blanche sent by Mu'awiya to Hasan was confusing in Tabari,
whereas Ibn A'tham's timing of it makes it understandable.
Tabari, Abu'l-Faraj, and some other sources cite the names of
'Abd Allah b. 'Amir and 'Abd ar-Rahman b. Samra as being
sent by Mu'awiya as his envoys to Hasan to discuss the terms
of peace; Ibn A'tham, while confirming this report, gives the
proper and logical occasion of their commission. Ibn A'tham
records the conditions in two parts: one laid down by Hasan's
envoy 'Abd Allah b. Nawfal, and the other dictated by Hasan
himself, as enumerated above. If both sets of conditions are
combined together, these, with the exception of the first two
conditions mentioned immediately above, are the same as
those found scattered in an unorganized way in other sources.
The first of these conditions, that Mu'awiya should rule
according to the Qur'an, prophetic Sunna, and the conduct of
the righteous caliphs, strongly reflects the tendency and spirit
of the epoch which was still predominant in the function and
character of the office of the caliphate. In all probability, the
immediate successor of 'Ali and the Rashidun caliphs would
not have handed over the office without expressing this
traditional condition, at least outwardly, if we must be so
sceptical in accepting such reports. It should be noted,
however, that from the time of the Shura, 'Ali, his house, and
his supporters always emphasized following only the Sunna
of the Prophet and refusing to acknowledge the validity of the
Sunna of the first three caliphs. It therefore seems likely that
reference to the conduct of the righteous caliphs was added
later on in an attempt at reconciliation of the Jama'a as has
been seen above. Naturally Hasan could not contradict his
own father's stand at the Shura, where the latter refused to
accept the Sunna of Abu Bakr and 'Umar.

The second condition--that Mu'awiya would not nominate
anyone to the caliphate and would leave the choice to the
Shura of the Muslims--should not be difficult for us to accept.
The precedent of nominating the successor, only to be
endorsed by a few leading personalities, had already been set
by Abu Bakr when he appointed 'Umar as his successor. The
decision of Abu Bakr was, however, dominated by his sincere


concern for the interests of the Muslim community in general,
and he did not appoint his son or even a relative to public
office. It was not to be so with Mu'awiya and the Umayyads.
Thus the imposition of this condition on Mu'awiya by Hasan
was a natural corollary of the situation. The condition that
the caliphate be restored to Hasan after Mu'awiya's death,
reported by many sources, must have been at least discussed.
From the letter of Mu'awiya quoted above, we may safely
deduce that Mu'awiya referred to Hasan's succession after
himself as a strong possibility, but without giving any clear
undertaking on his own part. Some time later, the Shi'a,
gathering together, showed their disapproval of the fact that
Hasan had not asked for sufficient guarantees and had not
secured an undertaking in writing from Mu'awiya that the
latter would leave him the caliphate after his death.

Finally, the most interesting point seems to be Mu'awiya's
acceptance of the complete amnesty to all the followers and
companions of 'Ali. The acceptance of this particular term
proves the falseness of Mu'awiya's stated reason for fighting,
which was to avenge the blood of 'Uthman and punish those
responsible for his murder. Among the Shi'at 'Ali who were
given complete amnesty by Mu'awiya in the terms with
Hasan there were men such as 'Amr b. al-Hamiq al-Khuza'i
who was said to have been involved in the murder, and Malik
b. al-Ashtar, who was the leader of the rebel contingent of
Ku fa. It becomes therefore clear that the reason for the
revenge of the blood of 'Uthman was, as has been pointed out
elsewhere, a pretext which Mu'awiya used to realize his
ambition to seize the caliphate for himself.

The agreement having been concluded, Hasan returned to
Kufa, where Qays joined him. Soon afterwards, Mu'awiya
entered the city with the full force of his army. A general
assembly was held, and different groups of people, one after
the other, paid him homage. Our sources give a detailed
description of the mixed feelings of the people in accepting
as their new ruler. Many of them adopted a time-
serving attitude to safeguard their interests; others could not
hide their dislike, and even hatred, for the Umayyad ruler,
but nevertheless had to reconcile themselves with the
situation. (67) The heated remarks, bitter speeches, and resentful
dialogues exchanged among the antagonists from both sides


make interesting and informative reading which cannot be
dealt with in detail here. The speech of Hasan delivered at
the insistence of 'Amr b. al-'As and Mu'awiya is worth noting,
however. Though quoted by all the sources, the speech is
recorded with different wordings and content. The shortest
version is given by Tabari from Zuhri and reads: "O people,
God has guided you through our elders [Muhammad and
'Ali] and spared you from the bloodshed through those who
followed [referring to himself). Indeed this [the caliphate] is
nothing but an ephemeral thing; these worldly possessions
keep shifting and changing hands. God said to His Prophet:
'And I do not know if this may be a trial for you and a grant
of [worldly] livelihood to you for a [limited) time."' (Qur'an,
xxI, 111).

At this point, Mu'awiya became alarmed and asked Hasan
to sit down, reproachfully asking 'Amr b. al-'As: "Is this what
you advised me?"(68)

Mada'in!, quoted by Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, gives a much longer
version of the speech, in which Hasan explains the reasons
for his abdication as, besides Mu'awiya's ambitions and
rebellion, the unreliable and treacherous attitude of his
supporters. Hasan even referred to the time of 'Ali and how
the people failed him then. (69) Another source, Abu'l-Faraj,
quotes only one sentence from Hasan's speech, which reads:
"The khalifa [successor of the Prophet) is one who dedicates
himself to the way of God and the Sunna of His Prophet, and
not the one who is an oppressor and aggressor; the latter is
only a king (malik) who rules a kingdom (mulk), whose
enjoyment is little, and whose pleasure is short-lived, leaving
behind only a trace of it. I do not know if this is a trial for you
and a grant of [worldly] livelihood to you for a [limited]
period." (70) It is interesting to note that if this quotation is
historically correct, it might be the origin of the use of the
word mulk (king) instead of khilafa (caliph) for Mu'awiya and
his successors, used by Muslim historians from the earliest
times. However, there are numerous instances where
Mu'awiya is recorded as saying, in reference to himself, "I am
the first king in Islam." (71)

The historical accounts of the circumstances facing Hasan
from the beginning of his caliphate indicate that his abdication
was not motivated by the lure of a life of ease and luxury, as


some modern writers would have us believe. The source.
specify the causes of Hasan's abdication as love of peace,
distaste for politics and its dissensions, and the desire to avoid
widespread bloodshed among the Muslims. Moreover, he
realistically assessed the situation and was fully aware of the
disastrous consequences for himself, his family, and his
handful of trustworthy followers should he insist on settling
the issue by force of arms. (72) He thus accepted the political
realities then prevailing while gaining time for the Shi'i trend
of thinking to consolidate its own following on ideological
grounds. This is evident from any one of the versions of his
speech quoted above on the occasion of the transfer of the
caliphate to Mu'awiya.

In spite of his abdication of the caliphate, Hasan continued
to be regarded as the leader, or Imam, of the Shi'a after the
death of 'Ali. Even those of the Shi'a who criticized his action
of abdication never ceased to affirm that he had been
designated by his father to succeed him as the Commander of
the Faithful. The details of the theory of the imamate were no
doubt worked out later on, but the fact remains that as long
as Hasan was alive he was considered by both the Shi'a and
by all the family members as the head of the house of 'Ali and
of the Prophet, and that was enough for the Shi'a throughout
its history to consider him as the second Imam after 'Ali.
Hasan's abdication was extremely distasteful to those of the
Iraqis who had supported him and his father before him,
mainly because of their hatred of Syrian domination. It was
equally disturbing to those of the Kharijites who had gathered
around Hasan in order to fight against Mu'awiya; it was a
Kharijite who furiously attacked Hasan when he heard of his
intention to abdicate. There was yet another group,
represented by men like Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi, which was
perturbed by Hasan's decision, but for other reasons. It was
this last group that represented the true Shi'at 'Ali at this
stage. They were the people who believed that 'Ali and his
house were entitled to the caliphate on religious grounds, as
opposed to those who supported the cause of 'Ali and then of
Hasan for political or economic considerations. Thus the
Shi'at 'Ali, from the time of the Umayyad domination of the
provinces under 'Uthman, must be divided into two distinct
groups, political and religious. In the civil war between 'Ali


and Mu'awiya, these two groups temporarily found them-
selves united against a common enemy. But when Mu'awiya's
overwhelming political and military power put the outcome
of the conflict beyond doubt, the political group of Hasan's
supporters crumbled and scattered, defecting in swarms to
Mu'awiya's side, while the religious supporters remained
firm in their belief. They were disappointed by Hasan's action
of abdication, but they still remained persistent in their ideals
regarding the leadership of the community. They did not lose
their identity as an opposition group to the rivals of the house
of the Prophet, even after political support for the family of
Muhammad had collapsed; and they refused to accept (73) what
the majority had willingly or unwillingly accepted, as will be
seen below.

Later on, when the early events of Islam were committed
to systematic writing, both Sunni and Shi'i historians and
traditionists explained Hasan's action in terms of a meritorious
deed" by which he reconciled the opposing parties.
The year of his abdication became known as the 'Am al-
Jama'a, the year of the community, and a tradition attributed
to the Prophet was reported as saying: "This son of mine is a
lord (Sayyid), and he will unite two branches of the
Muslims." (74) This tradition reflects the efforts of the second
half of the first and early second centuries when a "central
body", or Jama'a, was emerging from a confused situation
and thus clearly reflects the tendency by which this "central
body" was being formed. The Shi'is thus defended Hasan's
action against those extremists who were blaming him for
abdication; on the other hand, the Sunnis accepted such an
explanation as it conformed to their needs for a reconciliation
between the two opposing groups: the party of 'Uthman, now
represented by Mu'awiya, and that of 'Ali, now led by his son
Hasan. This "central body" later on received the title of the
Jama'a (commonly rendered in English as the "orthodox"
branch) in Islam, leaving behind and branding as sectarian a
body of those who could not and did not agree to reconcile
themselves to this synthesis.

Though Hasan prevented a bloody military solution of the
conflict by abdicating in favour of Mu'awiya, he did not
thereby heal the split in the community. In fact, his abdication
had far-reaching consequences for the later development of


Shi'ism. Previously he had been, at least nominally, the head
of the central body of believers. But now events were
developing in the opposite direction, and the 'Uthmaniya
branch, with Mu'awiya at its head, became the central body,
while the Shi'at 'Ali was reduced to the role of a small
opposition party and thus was thrust into a sectarian position.
The spokesman for this opposition, however, was not Hasan
himself, but rather Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi and his party.
Supported by a number of diehard Shi'is of Kufa, he never
ceased to protest against Mu'awiya and the official cursing of
'Ali from the pulpits-a policy imposed by Mu'awiya as a
propaganda measure.

The nine-year period between Hasan's abdication in 41 /600
and his death in 49/669 is one in which Shi'i feelings and
tendencies were passing through a stage of, so to speak, fire
underground, with no conspicuous activities visible above
the surface. An historical survey of this period for the
development of Shi'i deals is very difficult, as our sources are
almost silent. Nevertheless, it is not totally free from the
occasional voices raised here and there in support of the house
of the Prophet and against the rule of Mu'awiya. Now and
then we hear of individuals or small groups, mainly from
Ku fa, visiting Hasan and Husayn and asking them to rise in
rebellion-a request to which they declined to respond. (75)
The silence of the Shi'is during this period might have been
due to two factors. Firstly, the tight grip which Mu'awiya
maintained over the empire through his trained and loyal
Syrian forces was too strong to allow any rising; and secondly,
the Shi'i movement was yet not organized enough to take
action against such a formidable power. But it was passing
through a natural process of evolution until it could register
a widespread support and then translate itself into action.
Mu'awiya was, however, fully aware of strong She sentiments
among certain parts of the population of Kufa, and he
took various measures to prevent insurrections. Soon after
taking control of Kufa, he transferred some of the tribes that
were devoted to the house of 'Ali from the city, replaced them
with others from Syria, Basra, and Al-Jazira who were loyal
to him. (76)

After his abdication, Hasan left Kufa and settled in
Medina, leading a quiet retired life without engaging in


politics. His attitude could be understood from the fact that
during the journey back to Medina, at Al-Qadisiya, he
received a letter from Mu'awiya asking him to take part in a
campaign against a Kharijite revolt which had just erupted.
Hasan replied that he had given up fighting against Mu'awiya
in order to bring peace to the people, and that he would not
take part in a campaign at his side. (77) This passive and
withdrawn attitude towards Mu'awiya he maintained while
pacifying those of the Shi'is who occasionally visited him and
expressed their bitter feelings against the Umayyad ruler.

Hasan did not live long, however. He died in 49/669, long
before his rival. Mu'awiya took the caliphate from Hasan at
the age of 58 and died in 60/680 at the age of 77, while Hasan
at the time of his abdication was only 38 and died at the age
of 45 or 46. This difference in age is very important to note,
especially when we read of Mu'awiya's ambitious plans to
perpetuate the caliphate in his own house and nominate his
son Yazid as his heir-apparent. This was not possible, because
of the terms on which Hasan had abdicated to
nor, considering the vast difference in age, could Mu'awiya
have hoped that Hasan would die before him. To carry out
his plan and fulfil his desire, Mu'awiya had to remove Hasan
from the scene. The majority of our sources, both Sunni and
Shi'i, historians and traditionists, report that the cause of
Hasan's death was poison administered by one of his wives,
Ju'da bint al-Ash'ath. (78) Mu'awiya is reported to have
suborned her with the promise of a large sum of money and
of marrying her to his son Yazid. After she had completed the
task, Mu'awiya paid her the promised sum of money but
refused to marry her to Yazid, saying that he valued the life
of his son. (79) The overwhelming historical testimony,
Mu'awiya's desire to nominate his son as his successor, which
he did immediately after Hasan's death, combined with many
other clues found in the sources, make it likely that Mu'awiya
must have been the instigator of the poisoning, though this
will probably never be clearly established. Nevertheless, the
fact that the cause of Hasan's death was poison, administered
by his wife Ju'da, is beyond any doubt an historical truth.
According to Hasan's own statement, this was the third time
he had been poisoned, and this time it proved fatal. Our
sources also tell us that upon receiving the news of Hasan's


death, Mu'awiya could not hide his feelings of relief and even
joy and passed taunting remarks to Ibn 'Abbas. (80) Another
fact which the sources unanimously record is that soon after
Hasan's death, Mu'awiya initiated the process of nominating
Yazid as his successor, (81) as will be seen below.
While Mu'awiya took the opportunity of Hasan's death to
go ahead with his plans to secure Yazid's nomination to the
caliphate, the Shi'is of Kufa, on the other hand, found the
occasion appropriate for making another bid to restore the
caliphate to the house of 'Ali. As soon as the Shi'is of Kufa
heard the news of Hasan's death, they held a meeting in the
house of Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza'i and wrote a long
letter to Husayn. In it, after expressing their grief and
condolences on the death of "the son of the Wasi, the son of
the daughter of the Prophet, and the banner of the guidance",
they invited Husayn to rise against Mu'awiya and assured
him that they would be ready to sacrifice their lives in his
cause. Husayn, however, honouring his brother's treaty with
Mu'awiya, refused to respond and advised them to refrain
from agitation and to stay calm in their houses as long as
Muawiya was alive. (82)

The most enthusiastic among the Shi'is, however, could no
longer remain idle. Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi and his associates,
who had never compromised their Shi'i ideals, now came out
in open revolt against Mu'awiya and his lieutenant Ziyad b.
Abi Sufyan, who governed both Kufa and Basra after the
death of the governor of Kufa, Al-Mughira b. Shu'ba, in
51/671. The revolt is reported in great detail by the early
sources and demonstrates the strong Shi'i feelings of the
movement as it re-emerged at this stage. Even though it was
of hardly any consequence or significance militarily, the fact
that many early works devote long chapters to Hujr (83)
indicates that the episode was of not insignificant proportions
in the revolutionary events of early Islam.

We are told that these die-hard Shi'is had been consistently
protesting not only against the cursing of 'Ali, but also against
the rule of Mu'awiya, whom they considered a usurper of the
rights of the house of 'Ali to the caliphate. Their slogan was
that "the caliphate is not valid and permissible except in the
family of Abu Turab." (84) While Ziyad himself was in Basra,
and Kufa was being administered by his deputy 'Amr


b. Hurayth, they repeatedly went to the mosque and publicly
denounced Mu'awiya and Ziyad. When 'Amr tried to warn
them, during one of the Friday sermons, of the consequences
of this open rebellion, they stoned him and forced him to take
refuge in the governor's palace.(85) The numerical strength of
those who thus demonstrated their support for the Shi'i cause
can be judged from the report that "they used to occupy half
of the mosque of Kufa." (86) It may be noted that the mosque
of Kufa had the capacity of accommodating as many as 40,000

Informed by his deputy of the alarming situation, Ziyad
rushed back to Kufa. The governor first sent some Yemeni
tribal leaders of Shi'i inclination, with whom he had managed
to establish a modus vivendi, to warn Hujr of the dangerous
path he was following. The sources bear enough testimony
that from the time Ziyad took over the governorship of Kufa
in 51/671 he tried his best to win over Hujr. Ziyad had already
offered him a seat in his administrative council and was
willing to enhance Hujr's position in the tribe of Kinda.
Nothing could change the latter's attitude, however. Indeed,
if the problem is regarded as one of a political nature, then it
must be pointed out that almost all political concessions and
material rewards had already been offered by the governor to
satisfy Hujr. Furthermore, his refusal to accept any of the
concessions which the governor was rather generously
offering him could not possibly have involved an aspiration
for further personal power on Hujr's part. He was simply too
old. Even if he had succeeded in bringing the Shi'a to power
by making Husayn caliph, his position would not have been
any better than it had been during 'Ali's time. Such personal
gains had already been offered to him by Ziyad, but he totally
refused them. In the final analysis, we are left with no choice
but to accept that Hujr's only motive was his religious
conviction and his unshakable faith in the leadership of the
Ahl al-Bayt. The tribal leaders, some of them old friends of
Hujr, who were sent to him to mediate and seek a compromise,
failed in their efforts, but nevertheless asked the governor to
treat him leniently. (87) This indicates the deep respect and
high regard in which Hujr was held by them. One could
hardly expect tribal leaders to defend a power-thirsty
politically motivated self-seeker and troublemaker who might


challenge or undermine their own leadership. They would,
on the other hand, defend a man whose deeper religious
convictions agreed with their own and who had greater moral
courage to stand by his principles.

Ziyad, however, refused to listen to their pleas for Hujr and
sent out his police to arrest him, but Hujr's active supporters
were numerous enough to repulse them. Realizing the
seriousness of the situation, Ziyad immediately summoned
the nobles and leaders, especially those of the Yemeni tribes,
and addressed them, saying that it was their people who 'were
helping Hujr, and if they did not withdraw their support
from him Ziyad would call in the Syrian forces for a complete
crackdown. A phrase of Ziyad's address quoted by the sources
is most illustrative of the character and attitude of these tribal
leaders of Ku fa. According to Tabari, Ziyad said: "Your
bodies are with me, but your affection and passions are with
Hujr." (88) Abu'l-Faraj quotes a rather elaborate statement
which reads: "Your bodies are with me, but your passions are
with this foolish man surrounded by flies [i.e., by people who,
like flies, gather around any object]; you are with me, but
your brothers, sons, and your clansmen are with Hujr." (89)

Afraid of losing their positions, the tribal leaders of Kufa once
again demonstrated their characteristic weakness and persuaded
their respective clansmen not to expose themselves to
Syrian arms. While the majority of those who had gathered
around Hujr finally deserted him, there was still a sizeable
group who refused to leave and resisted Hujr's arrest. Ziyad
had to call in the regular army, specifically choosing troops
from the Yemeni contingent in Kufa, to deal with the

The task was not so easy, however, not only because of the
personal prestige and the widespread support Hujr enjoyed
among the Ku fan masses, but also because of the fear of tribal
complications. A skilled politician with extraordinary abilities
in dealing with rebellions, Ziyad tactfully managed to involve
in the operations the Yemeni tribes to whom Hujr himself
belonged. In this way Ziyad avoided the greater danger of a
serious conflict between the Nizari and the Yemeni groups of
the tribes. Among the Yemeni tribes themselves, he played
one off against the other and terrorized the members and
nobles of Kinda, Hujr's own tribe, threatening them with


death and the destruction of their property if they did not
hand over Hujr to him. The lengthy account of the episode
given by Abu Mikhnaf and other early authorities, as
recorded by Tabari and Abu'l-Faraj, is interesting in many
ways. It reveals how the personal interests of the tribal leaders
were exploited to make them act against their own religious
aspirations, how tribal rivalries were played off against each
other, how the supporters of Hujr were coerced, and how
ultimately Ziyad succeeded in arresting one of the most
respected leaders of the Shi'is of Kufa and in suppressing a
deep-rooted movement.

Besides Hujr, thirteen other prominent Shi'is were rounded
up and arrested. (90) The tribal affiliations of the fourteen men
arrested break down as follows: Kinda, two; Hadramawt,
one; 'Abs, two; Khath'am, one; Bajila, two; Rabi'a, one;
Hamdan, one; Tamim, three; and Hawazin, one. It is
interesting to note that of these fourteen, eight were from
various Yemeni tribes Kinda, Hadramawt, Khath'am,
Bajila, and Hamdan-and six were from the Nizari tribes of
the North-'Abs, Rabi'a, Tamim, and Hawazin. This shows
the dimension of the movement and indicates that the Shi'i
feelings in Kufa were not strictly confined to the Yemenis.

Ziyad decided to dispatch his captives to Syria to he dealt
with by Mu'awiya. Along with them he had to send an
indictment duly attested to by the people. He therefore called
in the four heads of the four administrative divisions of the
Kufan population. (91) These leaders spelled out the charges
against Hujr as follows:

1: "Hujr gathers the crowds around himself and openly
reviles and curses the caliph;

2: He exhorts people to fight against the Amir al-Mu'minin;

3: He caused disturbances in the city and ousted the caliph's

4: He believes in and propagates the claim that the caliphate
is not valid except in the family of Abu Talib;
5: He preaches that Abu Turab ('Ali) was completely free of
all blame, he praises him, and he urges people to love and
respect him;

6: He calls for secession from and denunciation of the
enemies of 'Ali and all those who fought against him;


7: And those of the persons who are with him are the leaders
of his followers and are of a similar opinion." (92)

The charges spelled out in this document against Hujr by
the four chiefs of Kufa were no doubt accurate and
representative of the thinking, feelings, and activities of Hujr
and his associates. This document, which appears to have
been preserved without any attempts to falsify or suppress its
content, gives us perhaps the clearest picture of the Shi'i
religious position at the time of Hujr, their feelings and
aspirations, their love for the house of 'Ali, and their
resentment against Mu'awiya as a usurper.
Ziyad did not like the indictment, however. The reason, so
clearly recorded by the sources, is very important to note as it
sheds light on the real situation. As Ziyad said after examining
the document: "I do not think this indictment is conclusive
enough; I want the attestations of more witnesses than just
these four chieftains to be affixed to it." (93) The charges laid
down in the original document dealt almost exclusively with
Hujr's Shi'i cause and his love for the house of 'Ali. Ziyad
considered that not very many Yemenis, whom he particularly
wanted to bear witness to the charges, would be willing to
sign, on the grounds of Hujr's activities in the cause of Shi'i
ideals. Most of the Yemenis were of Shi'i inclination, with of
course varying degrees of practical commitment. Moreover,
it seems, Ziyad was hesitant to inform Mu'awiya officially
that Shi'i feelings and activities were so strong and were
being so openly demonstrated in Kufa while Ziyad was the
governor of the province. It was indeed a unique privilege for
him to hold the governorships of both Kufa and Basra
simultaneously, an honour no official had ever before enjoyed.
Consequently, another indictment was prepared, laying
down the following charges:

1: "Hujr b. 'Adi has cast off his allegiance to the Caliph;

2: He has caused a schism in the community;

3: He curses the Caliph;

4: He calls for war and has created discord;

5: He gathers the people around him and exhorts them to

break off allegiance to the Amir al-Mu'minin and remove him
from office;

6: He disbelieves in God."(94)


The marked difference between the two documents is clear
enough. While the charges laid down in the first indictment
centred on Hujr's activities and open rebellion for the Shi'i
cause, the second stressed his rebellion against the state and
the authority of Mu'awiya, with no reference to the Shi'i
movement. The first document places much emphasis on
Hujr's unshakable love for 'Ali and devotion to his family on
religious grounds; the second replaces this charge with an
accusation that Hujr disbelieved in God, which according to
the precedent set by Abu Bakr provided firm grounds for
execution. All the evidence at our disposal leaves us in no
doubt that the charges listed in the first document are
authentic, whereas the second indictment is a revision
fabricated for the reasons elaborated above. This explains the
reports that Mu'awiya was hesitant to accept the indictment
and reluctant to take drastic action against Hujr. Moreover,
as will be seen below, the only condition given by Mu'awiya
for the Shi'i leaders to save their lives was that they must
curse and denounce 'Ali. This also indicates that their main
offence was their pro-Shi'i activity and not crimes against the
state and Caliph as presented in the second indictment.

It hardly need be said that Hujr was unmistakably held by
the Kufans as a die-hard and uncompromising Shi'i leader.
Re was also considered an extremely pious Muslim. To this
fact even those who did not share his Shi'i views bore
testimony. The Qadi Shurayh b. Harith wrote to Mu'awiya,
saying: "I bear witness that Hujr is a pious Muslim, steadfast
in prayer; he gives alms, observes the fast in the month of
Ramadan, and always performs the hajj and 'Umra... and he
indeed commands a high place in Islam." (95)

Nevertheless, Ziyad called the people to attest to the
authenticity of the indictment. Seventy people, of whose
names forty-five are specifically recorded, are reported to have
signed the document. (96) Some of these signatures were
certainly forged, as is commonly indicated by the sources
listing these names. Qadi Shurayh protested in his letter to
Mu'awiya that he never signed the document and that his
name had been added without his knowledge. Some others
apologized later for signing, indicating that Ziyad had put
pressure on them to attest to the charges. (97)

When the prisoners reached Mu'awiya, there was strong


pressure on him from the various tribes to release their
respective clansmen. Seven of the fourteen prisoners were
freed through the efforts and influence of their relatives. Hujr
and the other six were given a chance to save their lives if they
would publicly curse and denounce 'Ali. Mu'awiya's executioners
told them: "We are commanded to give you a chance
to save yourselves by denouncing 'Ali and cursing him; if you
refuse to do this we will kill you." Hujr and the other six with
him steadfastly replied : "By God, we will never do this." They
were thereupon beheaded. (98)

That these men would sacrifice their lives rather than
denounce 'Ali is a matter that cannot be taken lightly: there
must have been a meaning to it much deeper than the level of
political interests. The history of religion is full of men who
have died rather than compromise their faith, and the history
of man cannot be explained only in political and economic
terms. To read history only in material terms is indeed a
regrettable phenomenon of modern historiography. On the
other hand, to accept religious consciousness in one case and
deny it in another, though the circumstances are similar, is an
equally regrettable example of prejudice. No doubt, in most
cases popular movements in human society are dominated by
political or economic factors, yet there is no dearth of instances
where individual conscience has gone far beyond these
considerations. Hujr was certainly one of these examples. Not
only was he given the opportunity to save his life, but he was
also offered by Ziyad both political power and economic
advantages. He refused. To him, achieving these through
denouncing and cursing 'Ali meant the denunciation of the
faith itself. There are political implications to this episode
only insofar as political considerations were ancillary to
religious objectives. Thus Hujr's concern with who should be
the caliph was not a political or economic question: he
believed in and was prepared to die for, as he did, the idea of
special qualities being granted by God to the family of the
Prophet, making them specially suited to rule.

Hujr and his companions must therefore be considered as
representative of those first Shi'is who voiced their religious
opinion in support of 'Ali immediately after the death of the
Prophet, and they were the forerunners of a progressively
developing movement soon to be crystallized as a full-fledged


section of the Muslim community. He was a distinguished companion
of the Prophet, widely respected for his piety and devotion
to religious practices, even though a great partisan of 'Ali.
His tragic fate sent a wave of grief and shock through the
holy cities. Even the Prophet's widow 'A'isha and 'Abd Allah b.
'Umar vehemently protested against his execution. 99 It is interesting to
note that the tragedy of Hujr initiated the martyrology of the Shi'a,
and his death was lamented in numerous elegies that developed
into a rich literature in Shi'i Islam. Naturally, the tragedy affected the
Kufans most Their sentiments were stirred up with a deep sense of
calamity and produced serious reactions. They sent a delegation to
Husayn at Medina and urged him to lead an armed revolt
against Mu'awiya. Husayn turned down the request with the same
advice as before. (100) Mu'awiya was not unaware of these overtures
to Husayn and was alarmed by such activities, especially when he
received a letter from his governor in Medina, Marwan b. al-Hakam,
warning that the delegation sent from Kufa was staying in Medina and
having frequent meetings with Husayn. The Caliph wrote a threatening
letter to Husayn as a warning, but the latter maintained in his reply the
same indifferent attitude towards the existing order and assured
Mu'awiya that he would continue to honour the treaty of his brother.(101)

Except for the revolt of Hujr, suppressed by rather severe measures, the period between the deaths of Hasan and of
Mu'awiya is again a quiet and subdued one in the history of
the Shi'i movement. The general impression which we get from
the sources is of an atmosphere of fear and caution on both
sides. Mu'awiya's apprehensive attitude towards the potential
of a Shi'i uprising is demonstrated by his extreme measures
against Hujr and his limited, but quite serious, revolt. The
fact that Mu'awiya, well known for his shrewd diplomacy in achieving
his goals, should act in such a violent manner against Hujr indicates
his uncompromising attitude towards Shi'i sympathies, an attitude
perhaps resulting from fear of the deep-rooted Shi'i movement,
especially in Kufa where the group was strongest. On the other hand, Husayn's repeated refusal to lead the Kufan enthusiasts in open revolt reveals his own cautious attitude and desire to avoid giving
Mu'awiya any excuse to completely annihilate the supporters


of the house of 'Ali. Throughout this period, Mu'awiya
seems to have been trying to destroy, at the slightest pretext, those
of 'Ali's followers who could not be bought or intimidated
into submission; until this could be accomplished, the
Umayyad hold on the caliphate would remain insecure.

It is not unlikely that one of the reasons for the imposition
of cursing 'Ali from the pulpits was to provoke the Shi'i
sympathizers into open revolt and thus subject them to attack
and destruction at the hands of the Umayyad forces. When
Al-Mughira b. Shu'ba was appointed governor of Kufa in
41/661, one of the duties specified to him by Mu'awiya was
that he should vigorously carry out the cursing of 'All,
propagandize against him and his followers, increase the
intensity of the campaign to disgrace, dishonour, and impugn
the character of 'Ali and his followers, and finally popularize
and propagate the virtues of 'Uthman and his supporters.
The same instructions were given to Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan
when he was entrusted with the governorship of Kufa after
the death of Mughira in 50/670. (102) Both of these governors
carried out these duties to the satisfaction of Mu'awiya. Hujr
and a few others could not tolerate this continuous provocation
and fell into the trap, while others remained cautious and
careful. Husayn, on his part, fully understanding the situation,
wisely avoided any provocation against Mu'awiya and waited
for an appropriate opportunity to move into action. In this
way, he saved himself and his party from severe repression on
the one hand, and honoured his brother's treaty, which
indirectly involved Husayn as well, on the other.

Perhaps the most important event in the history of the
development of the Shi'i "Passion" was Mu'awiya's nomination
of his son Yazid to succeed him. The Caliph could not act
in this direction as long as Hasan lived, and it is significant
that immediately after the news of Hasan's death, Mu'awiya
began actively working on the project that would fulfil his
desire of perpetuating the rule of his family. This was no easy
task, and the Caliph had to move with great caution and use
all those devices characteristic of his rule: diplomacy, generous
gifts, bribes, and finally threats and oppression. It is not our
intention here to go into the details of how Mu'awiya
succeeded in buying off the leaders of the tribes and silencing
the more resolute with severe repression. These details are


preserved in the sources with hardly any serious differences.
It will suffice for our purpose here to note that after careful
arrangements through his governors, Mu'awiya managed to
bring together from most of the provinces deputations which,
as planned, declared their allegiance to Yazid as heir-apparent. (103)

It was different with the Hijaz, where there lived
the elite of Islamic nobility and the sons of the most prominent
Companions of the Prophet, most important among them
being Husayn b. 'Ali, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, 'Abd Allah b. az-Zubayr,
and 'Abd ar-Rahman b. Abi Bakr. Any delegation
from Medina without them would have been meaningless,
thus their refusal to co-operate was of the utmost gravity.
Mu'awiya therefore went to Medina in person with 1,000
selected horsemen to deal with the recalcitrants.

According to one version, Mu'awiya, reaching Medina and
calling these four to meet him in the outskirts, treated them
in such a harsh manner that they fled to Mecca. This worked
as planned, and in their absence Mu'awiya declared the
nomination of Yazid; this was approved by his supporters,
while others had not the courage to resist. The problem of
Medina solved, Mu'awiya proceeded to Mecca. There he
changed his attitude and first tried to win over these four by
treating them with exceptional friendliness. After spending
quite some time with them and showing his great affection
and regard for them, just before he was about to set out on his
return home, he expressed his desire for their support for
Yazid. Re explained that he was not demanding much from
them, that Yazid would be ruler only in name, and that,
under Yazid's name, it would in fact be they who would have
real control of the government. After a spell of silence, Ibn az-Zubayr
spoke and, in the name of all, he rejected the Caliph's
suggestion. The enraged Mu'awiya said : "On other occasions,
when I speak in the pulpit, I allow anyone to object to my
speech if he so wishes; but he who contradicts me today, a
sword will silence him." Then he entered the mosque of
Mecca, taking his four opponents with him, and declared:
"These four men, without whom no decision concerning the
succession can be made, have agreed to Yazid's nomination;
so now none of you people should have any difficulty in doing
the same." Thereupon people did homage to Yazid, while the
four remained silent out of fear. (104) Even if this version is


cautiously regarded as a later elaboration, Mu'awiya's going
to the Hijaz for the purpose of trying to compel these persons
not to oppose Yazid cannot be denied. (105)

# Chapter 7
The Martyrdom of Husayn

On Mu'awiya death, his son Yazid assumed the caliphate in
accordance with the former's unprecedented testament in
Rajab 60/March 680. A true representative of the way of life
common among the pre-Islamic youth of the Umayyad
aristocracy, Yazid commanded no respect in the community.

His anti-Islamic behaviour and openly irreligious practices
were well known throughout the Muslim world and earned
for him contempt and disfavour, especially among those who
cared for religion. Even those few writers who attempt to
hush up some of the information unfavourable to the
Umayyad house could not refrain from reporting that Yazid
was the first among the caliphs to drink wine in public and
that he sought out the Worst company, spending much of his
time in the pleasures of music and singing and amusing
himself with apes and hunting-hounds. He himself had no
use for religion, nor had he any regard for the religious
sentiments of others. Addicted to wine-bibbing, attracted to
singing-girls, and exposed to all sorts of vices, Yazid has never
been presented in good terms by any Muslim writer of any
period or by any school of thought.(1) His open and persistent
violations of Islamic norms were still more shocking to the
community because of his close proximity to the Prophet and
the Rashidun caliphs, of whom he claimed to be the successor
and from whose authority he derived his title. Nevertheless,
Mu'awiya's meticulous arrangements, coupled with his
formidable military grip on the Muslim world, ensured the
smooth succession of his son. Yazid was thus hailed as the
"Commander of the Faithful" by all the tribes and the
provinces; yet his title was not secure until he could receive


homage from the four most notable personalities of Islam,
whom Mu'awiya, in spite of his utmost efforts, could neither
buy nor coerce as he had done with all other men of
prominence and the chiefs of the tribes.

With the death of Mu'awiya the last of the first generation
who could claim for himself at least some political importance,
the caliphate had to pass on to the second generation (tabi'un)
after the Prophet. The grandees of this generation, as has
been described in the preceding chapter, were Husayn b. 'Ali,
'Abd Allah b. az-Zubayr, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, and 'Abd ar-
Rahman b. Abi Bakr, the sons of the most prominent
Companions of the Prophet who were held in great respect
by the community; Husayn, also being the only surviving
grandson of the Prophet, enjoyed greater regard than the
other three. It was therefore obvious that without their
recognition Yazid's authority could not be firmly consolidated.

was fully aware of the importance of these four,
and having failed to secure their agreement to Yazid's
succession, he warned his son of the danger before he breathed
his last. On his deathbed Mu'awiya advised Yazid:

"O my son, I have arranged everything for you, and I have
made all the Arabs agree to obey you. No one will now oppose
you in your title to the caliphate, but I am very much afraid of
Husayn b. 'Ali, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, 'Abd ar-Rahman b. Abi
Bakr, and 'Abd Allah b. az-Zubayr. Among them Husayn b. 'Ali
commands great love and respect because of his superior rights
and close relationship to the Prophet. I do not think that the
people of Iraq will abandon him until they have risen in rebellion
for him against you. As far as is possible, try to deal with him
gently. But the man who will attack you with full force, like a lion
attacks his prey, and who will pounce upon you, like a fox when
it finds an opportunity to pounce, is 'Abd Allah b. az-Zubayr.

Whenever you get a chance, cut him into pieces." (2)

Mu'awiya's advice, commonly reported by many sources,
confirms the reports that Mu'awiya's efforts to secure the
approval of these grandees of Islam for Yazid's succession
had not been successful.

In order to secure undisputed possession of the caliphate,
the first task Yazid undertook was to order the governor of
Medina, Al-Walid b. 'Utba, to exact homage from the
refractory, especially from Husayn and Ibn az-Zubayr. In his


letter to the governor, he gave strict orders that they should
not be allowed to delay, and if they refused, that Walid should
behead them at once. Some sources include the name of Ibn
'Umar as also having been specifically mentioned in this
letter. (3) Walid b. 'Utba accordingly sent for Husayn and Ibn
az-Zubayr at an unusual hour of the night to oblige them to
pay homage to the new caliph. Both of them realized that
Mu'awiya was dead, and both had decided to stand by their
refusal to pay homage to Yazid. Ibn az-Zubayr did not go to
the palace and fled to Mecca the following night. Husayn
went to see the governor, but was accompanied by a strong
band of his supporters in case of a serious confrontation.
Leaving his supporters at the gate, Husayn went into the
palace alone. Walid read to him Yazid's letter and asked for
immediate recognition of the new caliph. Husayn replied
uncommittedly that the bay'a, in order to be valid, must be
made in public and that the governor should arrange a public
gathering in the mosque where he would also be present.

With this reply, when Husayn rose to leave the palace,
Marwan b. al-Hakam, who was present there as well, rebuked
the governor, saying: "By God, if you allow Husayn to leave
without paying the homage now, you will never be able to get
it from him; so arrest him and do not free him until he pays
the homage, or behead him." In fact, Marwan had already
advised Walid to call these two for the bay'a, and if they
refused, Mu'awiya kill them at once before the news of Mu'awiya's
death became known to the people. Walid, however, did not
accept this advice: as Husayn left the palace, the former
retorted to Marwan's harsh attitude, saying:

"Do not reproach me for this, O Marwan. You have advised me
to do something in which there lies complete destruction and the
ruin of my religion. By God, if the entire wealth and treasures of
the whole world were given to me I would not kill Husayn.

Should I kill him only because he refuses to pay homage,I would
suffer total destruction on the Day of Judgement, for in the sight
of God there cannot be anything more accountable than the
blood of Husayn."(4)

The reply of Walid to Marwan, so commonly recorded by
the sources, reflects that particular regard and respect with
which the grandson of the Prophet was held not only by his
followers, but by a great number of Muslims in general.


Husayn, however, succeeded in avoiding the demand for the
Bay'a for two days and finally escaped at night with his family
and most of the Hashimites to Mecca. Walid b. 'Utba paid for
his lenient attitude towards the grandson of the Prophet: he
was shortly thereafter dismissed from his post as governor of

Ibn az-Zubayr, who reached Mecca before Husayn, had
gathered people around him against Yazid, and he is reported
to have been harbouring secret ambitions for the caliphate
himself. But as soon as Husayn arrived in the city, the people
abandoned Ibn az-Zubayr and gathered around Husayn.

This was only natural, for our sources clearly state that
"Husayn was much dearer and far more respected by the
people of the Hijaz than Ibn az-Zubayr, who knew that the
people there would never follow him as long as Husayn was
in Mecca." (5) So great were the inclinations of the people to
Husayn that after his arrival there people prayed with him,
performed the tawaf of the Ka'ba with him, and preferred to
stay around him most of the time.

Husayn, like his brother Hasan, combined in his person
the right of descent both from the Prophet and from 'Ali; and
now after the death of Hasan he was the only candidate from
the Prophet's family. But in the preceding years he had done
very little to support his rights, restricting himself to a
negative attitude towards Yazid's nomination. Nor, due to
Hasan's treaty with Mu'awiya, was it possible for him to act
as long as Mu'awiya was alive. This he explained to the Shi'is
of Kufa whenever they approached him concerning an
uprising. The death of Mu'awiya changed the situation. On
the one hand, Husayn was now free from the treaty obligations
of his brother and, on the other, the demand for active
guidance and leadership from the Shi'is of Kufa became
increasingly pressing. As soon as this group received word of
Mu'awiya death, they held a series of meetings expressing
their renewed and enthusiastic support for Husayn. They
sent out numerous letters and a succession of messengers
urging Husayn to come to Kufa to take their leadership, as
they had no Imam other than him. The first letter Husayn
received on 10 Ramadan 60/15 June 680; it was signed by
Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza'i, Al-Musayyab b. Najaba,
Rifa'a b. Shaddad, Habib b. al-Muzahir, and Muslim


b. Awsaja in the name of the Shi'is and Muslims of Kufa, and

"We thank God for casting down the tyrannical rule of your
enemy, who had usurped the power to rule this community
with out any right, allowed the possession of God to pass into the
hands of the powerful and the rich, and killed the best men [an
allusion to Hujr b. 'Adi and his supporters] while allowing the
worst of the people to remain alive. We invite you to come to
Kufa, as we have no Imam to guide us; and we hope that through
you God will unite us on the path truth. We do not go to Friday
congregational prayers to pray with Nu'man b. Bashir, the
governor of Kufa, nor do we assemble with him at the occasion of
the 'Id. If we hear that you are coming to us, we will oust the
governor from our city. Peace and mercy of God be upon you." (6)

This letter, signed by the men named above, must have
served as a major incentive to Husayn, for the signatories had
been trusted followers of his house from the very beginning
and had proven their loyalty at the battles of Al-Jamal and
Siffin with 'Ali. Though they had been extremely perturbed
and disappointed by Hasan's abdication in favour of
Mu'awiya, they nevertheless remained loyal to the former
and hostile to the latter. Apart from these early Shi'is, a great
number of other Kufans also wrote letters to Husayn, each
signed by numerous individuals for the same purpose.(7)

Similar letters urging Husayn to assume active leadership
were also sent by the Shi'is of Basra. Not all of them, however,
had the same degree of religious motivation: some had
political aspirations, hoping to throw off the yoke of Syrian

The actions of Husayn, however, show that from beginning
to end his strategy was aimed at a much higher goal than
simply accession to the caliphate. There is no evidence that
he tried, while at Mecca, to enlist active supporters from
among the people who gathered around him or to propagate
his cause among the great numbers of people who were
coming to Mecca for the Hajj; there is also no evidence that
he attempted to send his emissaries to stir up any rebellion in
provinces such as Yemen and Persia, which were sympathetic
to his house, even though advised by some of his family
members to do so. And above all, had he acted promptly on
the invitation of the Kufans, while the governorship of the


city was in the hands of the weak Nu'man b. Bashir, he might
have had a fair chance of success. His speedy arrival would
not only have forestalled any effective action on the part of
the Umayyad government, but would also have stirred real
enthusiasm among the Ku fans. This was emphasized by the
leaders of the movement when they wrote:

"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate; to al-
Husayn b. 'Ali, from his Shi'a, the faithful Muslims: Further
make haste, for the people are awaiting you, as they have no
Imam other than you! So haste, and again haste! Peace." (8)

This last letter was signed by a number of people and was
sent with a delegation consisting of Hani b. Hani as-Sabi'i
and Sa'id b. 'Abd Allah al-Hanafi, the two most trusted Shi'is
of Kufa. In response to all these approaches, however, Husayn
sent only one letter in reply through this last delegation. The
content of this letter is worthy of note; it reads:

"From Husayn b. 'Ali to the believers and the Muslims [note
that the word Shi'a is not used]. Hani and Sa'id came to me with
your letters, they being the last among your messengers and
delegations to come to me. I have understood what you said and
that you have invited me to come to you because you have no
Imam to guide you, and that you hope my arrival there will unite
you in the right path and in the truth. I am sending my cousin
and the trusted one from my family [Muslim b. 'Aqil] to report
to me about your affairs. If his report conforms with what you
have written, I will soon come. But you must be clear about the
fact that the Imam is only one who follows the Book of God,
makes justice and honesty his conduct and behaviour, judges
with truth, and devotes himself to the service of God. Peace." (9)

The last sentence of the letter, explaining the duties of an
Imam and the nature of the Imamate, helps us to understand
Husayn's approach and attitude towards the whole problem.

Abu Mikhnaf has also preserved for us Husayn's letter to
the Shi'is of Basra, which is equally worthy of quotation here.
It reads:

"God has chosen Muhammad from among his people, graced
him with His Prophethood and selected him for His message.
After he admonished the people and conveyed His message to
them God took him back unto Himself. We, being his family
(ahl), his close associates endowed with the quality of guardianship
(awliya'), his trustees and vice regent (awliya'), and his heir and


legatee (warith), are the most deserving among all the people to
take his place. But the people preferred themselves over us for
this [privilege]. We became contented, disliking dissension and
anxious to preserve the peace and well-being [of the community],
though we were fully aware that we were more entitled to this
[leadership] than those who had taken it for themselves... I have
sent my messenger to you and I call you to the Book of God, and
the Sunna of his Prophet, the Sunna which has become obliterated
and innovations have become active and energetic. If you listen
to me and obey my orders I will guide you to the right path. May
the Peace and the Mercy of God be upon you." (10)

The content of this letter is a complete statement of the
Shi'i doctrine of the Imamate even at this early stage. That
the historical sources have recorded little of what we may call
Shi'i religio-political theory is due to the fact that their main
interest has been in events, not in the underlying principles
behind those events. Yet in narrating the events the sources
have preserved certain documents such as letters or speeches
which give us a glimpse of those ideals which underly the
events. We have quoted one of Hasan's letters in the previous
chapter and pointed out the thinking of the Ahl al-Bayt. Now
in the time of Husayn, twenty years after, Husayn's letters
give exactly the same vein of thinking. In these letters Husayn
adequately explains the concept of walaya, which means that
God has bestowed upon the family of the Prophet special
honour and qualities, thereby making them the ideal rulers,
and that through their presence on earth His grace is
disseminated. The other two terms of doctrinal importance
are walaya, trusteeship or custodianship, and warith, heir and
legatee, which are used by Husayn. We have seen in Chapter
4 that at the time of 'Ali election for the caliphate, he was
hailed in these terms by his closest associates. Now after
thirty-five years the same terms are being used by Husayn.

Both these terms carry the idea of God's recommendation of
the family of the Prophet to the people, that Muhammad
recommended 'Ali, and that at his death 'Ali recommended
Hasan, who left the legacy of the House for Husayn. It may,
however, be too early for these concepts to have assumed the
full flowering of their doctrinal content, yet one can see their
presence in their embryonic form.

The other important part of Husayn's letter is his


declaration that the right of ruling the community is the
exclusive right of the family of the Prophet and they alone
can guide the people in the right path; or in other words, they
alone, by virtue of their special qualities, can combine
temporal power and religious guidance together. Moreover,
by this statement Husayn made a judgement on the caliphates
of Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman. Then, in the last part of
his letter, by calling people to the Sunna of the Prophet
Husayn implicitly rejected the interpretations of the first
three caliphs who were not among the Ahl al-Bayt. The
followers of the House of the Prophet would, therefore, go
back directly to the Sunna of the Prophet and their Imams,
who are divinely inspired (walaya).

However, Husayn decided to respond to the call. Two
obvious factors inspired him to act. Firstly, being the grandson
of the founder of Islam, he must have felt it his duty to
respond to the repeated appeals of these Muslims; and
secondly, Yazid's pressing demand for homage was such that
Husayn's filial piety and pride could not allow him to accept.
It was a difficult situation. Acceptance of the authority of
Mu'awiya as the head of the Muslim state was an entirely
different matter from the acceptance of Yazid. Mu'awiya, in
spite of his worldliness and indifferent attitude towards
religion, did not totally violate the norms of Islam, at least not
outwardly. Yazid not only violated Qur'anic norms and
Prophetic Sunna, but also openly subjected them to contempt
and ridicule, as has been the consensus of Muslim writers of
all times. Even Mu'awiya's own agents, in implementing the
plan for Yazid's nomination, were concerned about the latter's
character. Thus when Mu'awiya asked Ziyad to prepare the
people of Basra and Kufa to accept Yazid's nomination, the
governor advised Mu'awiya to try to mend the ways of his
son before asking people to swear allegiance to him. (11)

It would indeed be a great mistake to assess the case of
Yazid without taking into consideration the living impact of
the Prophet and the first generation of Islam. The tense
contradiction between this and the character of Yazid
ultimately provoked the tragedy of Karbala, to which we
must now turn. In order to maintain the continuity of our
narrative, the sources of our information and their authenticity
will be discussed at the end of the chapter.


In spite of repeated appeals' and hundreds of letters sent by
the Ku fans, Husayn did not take a hasty decision, and as a
precaution sent his cousin, Muslim b. 'Aqil, to Kufa as his
emissary with instructions to ascertain the truth of these
representations and report back on his findings. As soon as
Muslim arrived at Kufa there was held in the house of
Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuzai'i a meeting which, for the sake
of secrecy at this stage, was attended only by the leaders of the
movement. In response to Husayn's letter, read before those
present and quoted above, Shi'i leaders such as 'Abis b. Abi
Habib ash-Shakiri, Habib b. Muzahir, and Sa'd b. 'Abd
Allah al-Hanafi made passionate speeches and declared their
wholehearted support for Husayn until the last breath. (12) We
shall see shortly that their pledges were not empty words:
they remained loyal to the cause, fulfilled their promises, and
ultimately gave their lives with Husayn at Karbala. Apart
from these religiously devoted people supporting the cause of
the Ahl al-Bayt, the political supporters of 'Ali from among
the people of Kufa did not think it wise to lag behind in
supporting a movement which they thought might be
successful in throwing off Umayyad domination and raising
new opportunities for them. Muslim b. 'Aqil thus quickly
gathered thousands of pledges of support. The number of
people who registered their names and swore allegiance to
Muslim in the name of Husayn is variously given as 12,000
and 18,000, the majority of the sources recording the second
figure. (13) Soon the movement became so widespread that
Muslim b. 'Aqil was able to preside over the public meetings
from the pulpit in the mosque of Kufa.

Confident of Kufan support, Muslim consequently wrote
to Husayn to come to Kufa and assume leadership of the
people. The letter of Muslim was sent to Husayn not by an
ordinary messenger, but by 'Abis b. Habib ash-Shakiri, a
trusted leader of the Shi'is of Kufa. (14) Having been assured of
the extent of Kufan enthusiasm, Husayn decided to go to
Iraq. Already Ibn al-Hanafiya at Medina, and then 'Abd
Allah b. 'Umar and 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas, when they met
Husayn on the road between Medina and Mecca, had warned
Husayn against the dangers. Again at Mecca Ibn 'Abbas,
along with many other friends, reiterated their advice with -
greater insistence and tried to persuade him not to rely on


Kufan promises, reminding him of their instability, their
treacherous nature, and how they had betrayed, at the hour of
trial, his father and brother. (15) On the other hand, 'Abd Allah
b. az-Zubayr first hypocritically voiced his concern for the
safety of Husayn in the enterprise (16) but nevertheless urged
him to go on with the plan, for he wanted to make a bid for
power himself. While Husayn was in the Hijaz this was
impossible, as the people would never give Ibn az-Zubayr
precedence over the grandson of the Prophet (17) The former
was thus pleased to see that Husayn should leave the field free
for him in Mecca. In spite of all the advice, however, Husayn
did not abandon his project, for he had in mind a definite
plan and strategy, as will be discussed later.

Receiving word of Muslim's arrival in Kufa and the
support given to him by the people there, Yazid, no longer
trusting the mild-tempered and weak governor of the town,
Nu'man b. Bashir, appointed his strong man 'Ubayd Allah b.
Ziyad, the governor of Basra, to take charge of Kufa as well
and to go there at once. The immediate task to be carried out
was to crush the Shi'i movement by taking whatever measures
were required for this purpose. The text of Yazid's letter is
preserved by various sources and gives a clear idea of his
violent attitude towards the movement in support of
Husayn. (18) Fully aware of the insurrection in Kufa in favour
of Husayn, Ibn Ziyad rode into the city in disguise, wearing
a black turban, covering his face, and surrounding himself
with a small squadron of horsemen. The Kufans, who were
expecting Husayn, mistook Ibn Ziyad for the former, gathered
all around his horse, greeted him enthusiastically, and
shouted: "Hail to you, O son of the Prophet; we have been
awaiting you." (19) Ibn Ziyad, quietly observing the people's
enthusiasm for Husayn, entered the mosque along with the
crowds, mounted the pulpit, and then suddenly tore the veil
from his face. He delivered a terrifying speech, declaring
death and unprecedented punishment for the sympathizers
of Husayn, while making tempting promises for those who
would prove their loyalty to the Caliph. (20) The Kufans,
known for their lack of resolution, were stricken by awe and
fear, completely lost heart, and ultimately abandoned Muslim,
who after attempting in vain to organize an immediate revolt,
was captured and beheaded together with Hani b. 'Urwa in


whose house he had stayed. (21) This unreliable attitude of the
political supporters of Husayn, the so-called Shi'is of Kufa in
general, once again demonstrates the weakness of their
character, as had been pointed out to Husayn by those of the
travellers coming from Kufa who happened to meet him on
his way. For example, at a place called Sifah he met the poet
Farazdaq and inquired about conditions in Kufa. Farazdaq
replied: "Their hearts are with you, but their swords are with
your enemies." (22)

Husayn left Mecca on 8 Dhu'l-Hijja/10 September 68o, the
same day Muslim b. 'Aqil was beheaded in Kufa. He had
only about 50 men from among both his relatives and friends
able to bear arms, besides women and children, accompanying
him from Mecca on the fateful journey. Husayn's sudden
departure from Mecca, where he had been staying for the
past five months and where a great number of people were
arriving for the Hajj, only two days away, cannot have been
without some serious cause. Tabari and other sources, quoting
Husayn himself, report that the Umayyad government sent
some soldiers disguised as pilgrims to arrest him or even
assassinate him. (23)

Though it is difficult to ascertain the
authenticity of this sort of report, still we cannot rule. out a
possibility of this kind in view of what happened to the holy
cities later at the hands of the army sent by Yazid in
connection with the rebellion of Ibn az-Zubayr.

While Husayn was heading towards Iraq, Ibn Ziyad, after
killing Muslim and Hani, made Kufa a scene of terror and
horror. First, he applied severe economic pressure on the
population through the 'arifs, whose function and importance
as being responsible for distribution of stipends and the
maintenance of law and order in their respective 'irafas has
already been discussed in Chapter 5. He exploited these state
functionaries and ordered them to write down the names of
any strangers or rebellious or suspicious people in their
irafas. He held the 'arifs responsible for any trouble that
might occur in their 'irafa and threatened that the 'arif would
be crucified and the entire 'irafa would be deprived of its
stipend if anything was concealed from Ibn Ziyad. Secondly,
he made a declaration that anyone suspected of supporting
Husayn would be hanged without trial, his house would be
set on fire, and his property would be confiscated. (24) Kufa was


thus soon brought under full control. At the same time, Ibn
Ziyad blockaded all the roads leading from the Hijaz to Kufa
and gave strict orders forbidding anyone from entering or
leaving the territory of Kufa. At Al-Qadisiya, which by the
normal route links Kufa with the Hijaz, he set up a strong
military post with an army of 4,000 troops under the command
of Husayn b. an-Numayr at-Tamimi. Similarly, other border
areas like Qutqutana, La'la', and Kaffan, which link Kufa
with Basra and other parts of Iraq, were being heavily
patrolled by the Umayyad army; (25) and consequently it was
almost impossible for anyone to enter or leave Kufa. Husayn
learned of all these strict measures from the Bedouins, but
continued his journey undeterred. When he reached Ath-
Tha'libiya he received word from some travellers of the
execution of Muslim b. 'Aqil and Hani b. 'Urwa at Kufa;
then at Zubala he learned that his messenger Qays b. Mushir
as-Saydawi; whom he had dispatched from Hijir, the fourth
stage from Mecca, with a letter for the Kufans informing
them of his imminent arrival, had been captured at the
checkpoint at Al-Qadisiya and that he had been brutally
killed by Ibn Ziyad in Kufa: he was thrown from the top of
the governor's palace when he refused to curse Husayn to
save his own life. (26) Husayn could not control his tears at the
tragic fate of his trusted follower and, quoting a verse of the
Qur'an, said:

"'Among the believers are men who have been true to their
covenant with God. Some of them have completed their vow [i.e.
have sacrificed their lives in fulfilling their vow], and some others
are still waiting [to die]; but they have never changed [their
determination] in the least.' (Qur'an, XXXIII,. 23). O God, make
Paradise an abode for us [the surviving ones] and for them [the
ones who have been killed], and unite both of us in a resting place
under your mercy and make your reward our only object of
desire and our treasure." (27)

This statement by Husayn is clear enough to demonstrate
that he was fully aware of what was going to happen to him
and that he was fully prepared for it. Another expression of
Husayn's thinking is reflected by his proclamation to his
companions which he made after receiving this news at
Zubala. He stood among those accompanying him and after


informing them of the doleful news and of the obvious danger
of death and complete destruction for which he was heading,
he asked them to leave him and withdraw to safety. Those
who had joined him during the journey with certain hopes of
material gains did depart, and there remained with him only
those who had followed him from the Hijaz.(28) These
statements by Husayn must be taken into consideration, for
they are important for an understanding of his thinking,
which will be discussed below.

Leaving Zubala, Husayn reached Batn 'Aqiq, a place a few
stages from Kufa; and upon learning in detail of the strong
military force stationed at Al-Qadisiya, he changed his route
to enter Kufa from another direction. Husayn b. Numayr, the
commander at Al-Qadisiya, was informed of Husayn's change
of route and sent a detachment of 1,000 troops under the
command of Hurr b. Yazid at-Tamimi al-Yarbu'i to intercept
him. When they appeared on the horizon, Husayn ordered
his people to pitch their tents at a nearby place called Dh(1
Husm (or Husam). The army of Hurr soon reached Husayn.
The day was hot and Hurr's army had run out of water; the
grandson of the Prophet could not tolerate that even his
enemies should suffer from thirst, and he ordered his men to
give water to the Umayyad troops and to their horses. Husayn
himself took part in serving water to those badly affected by
thirst and the heat. (29) Hurr had a certain regard for Husayn,
and at both prayers of the day he, along with his troops,
prayed behind him. Even when four of the leading Shi'is of
Kufa who had managed to escape from the city joined
Husayn at this point, Hurr, though he protested, did not dare
to use force.(30) After each of the two prayers, Husayn explained
to his adversaries the reasons which had caused him to set

"O people of Kufa! You sent to me your delegations and wrote
me letters saying that you had no Imam and that I should come
to unite you and lead you in the way of God ... You wrote that
we, the Ahl al-Bayt, are more qualified to govern your affairs than
those who claim things to which they have no right and who act
unjustly and wrongfully.... But if you have changed your minds,
have become ignorant of our rights, and have forgotten your
delegations and repeated appeals to me to come for the sake of
your religion... I shall turn back."(31)


Then Husayn showed Hurr two sacks full of the letters
sent by the Kufans to him, but Hurr said he knew nothing of
these and that he had come with the orders of Ibn Ziyad to
arrest him and his party as prisoners to be handed over to Ibn
Ziyad. Husayn refused to submit, but still Hurr did not use
force against him. After some argument it was agreed that
Husayn should keep on travelling along the Euphrates in the
opposite direction from Kufa until fresh orders arrived from
the governor, and that Hurr would follow Husayn closely.
When they reached the district of Ninawa (or Naynawa) a
horseman arrived from Kufa. Without greeting Husayn, he
gave Hurr a letter from Ibn Ziyad ordering him not to allow
the "rebels" to make a halt except in a desert place without
fortifications or water. (32) Zuhayr b. al-Qayn, a companion of
Husayn, then suggested that he should attack Hurr's small
detachment and occupy a fortified village called Al-'Aqr, but
i;1usayn refused to be the one to initiate hostilities. Husayn,
however, managed to proceed only a little farther until they
reached the plain of Karbala and there pitched their tents. It
was 2 Muharram 61/2 October 680.

On the third of Muharram the situation deteriorated as
'Umar b. Sa'd arrived with the Umayyad army of 4,000 men
and assumed overall command on the field. Upon reaching
Karbala Ibn Sa'd learned that Husayn now intended to
return to Medina; but Ibn Ziyad, on receiving word of this
development, ordered that all the "rebels" should render
homage to Yazid. Meanwhile, they were to be prevented from
reaching the river. 'Umar b. Sa'd accordingly stationed a
force of 500 cavalry on the road to the river, and for three days
before the massacre on the tenth of Muharram Husayn and
party suffered terribly from thirst. A daring sortie led by
'Abbas, Husayn's brother, managed to reach the river but
succeeded in filling only a few waterskins. Ibn Sa'd was still
trying to persuade the governor to find some peaceful means
to avoid shedding the blood of the grandson of the Prophet,
but all in vain. Ibn Ziyad sent his final orders through Shamir
b. Dhu'l-Jawshan (commonly written as Shimr) either to
attack Husayn immediately or to hand over the command of
the army to Shamir, the bearer of the letter.(33) The orders also
specified that when Husayn fell in the fighting his body was
to be trampled, because he was "a rebel, a Seditious person, a


brigand, an oppressor". (34) Ibn Sa'd had to act, as he was
anxious to retain his appointment as the deputy of the
governor of the province of Ray' and was well aware of the
fact that Husayn would never submit, for the latter "had a
proud soul in him".

Soon after receiving these new orders on the evening of 9
Muharram, Ibn Sa'd advanced with his army towards the
camp of Husayn. Noticing this, Husayn sent his brother
'Abbas, along with some followers, to ascertain the reason for
their approach. 'Abbas was told of the orders of Ibn Ziyad,
and when informed of this Husayn sent 'Abbas back to
request a respite of one night. This was granted. At this point
Husayn assembled his relatives and supporters and delivered
a speech. This speech is unanimously reported in the events
of the night of 'Ashura by the sources through different
authorities, and it is useful in understanding Husayn's
thinking. He said:

"I -give praise to God who has honoured us with the
Prophethood, has taught us the Qur'an, and favoured us with His
religion ... I know of no worthier companions than mine; may
God reward you with all the best of His reward. I think tomorrow
our end will come ... I ask you all to leave me alone and to go
away to safety. I free you from your responsibilities for me, and
I do not hold you back. Night will provide you a cover; use it as
a steed ... You may take my children with you to save their

With only a few exceptions, his supporters, from among
both friends and relatives, refused to leave or survive after
him; through their speeches, to be discussed later, they
showed an unshakable devotion to his cause. After some
measures were taken for the safety of women and children
and for Defence by bringing the tents closer together, tying
them to one another, digging ditches in the rear and on the
flanks and filling them with wood, the rest of the night was
spent in prayer, recitation of the Qur'an, and worship and
remembrance of God. (36)

The borrowed night ended, and the fateful morning of 10
Muharram brought with it the summons of death and the
tragic end of the family of the Prophet and its handful of
supporters. Husayn drew up in front of the tents his small


army of 72 men: 32 horsemen and 40 foot soldiers of varying
ages ranging from the seventy-year-old Muslim b. 'Awsaja to
the fourteen-year-old Qasim b. Hasan b. 'Ali The rear of the
tents was protected by setting on fire the heaps of wood and
reeds. Zuhayr b. al-Qayn was given command of the right
wing, Habib b. Muzahir al-Asadi of the left, and 'Abbas b.
'Ali was entrusted with the standard of the Hashimite house.

Husayn, preparing himself for the fateful encounter,
dressed himself in the cloak of the Prophet, perfumed himself
with musk, and rode on horseback with the Qur'an raised in
his hand. Addressing his enemies and invoking God in a long
and beautiful sermon, he said:

"O God, you are my only Trust in every calamity; you are my
only hope in every hardship; you are the only promise in the
anxiety and distress in which hearts become weak and [human]
action becomes slight, in which one is deserted and forsaken by
his own friends, and in which the enemies take malicious pleasure
and rejoice at his misfortunes. O God, I submit myself to You;
my complaint is to You alone against my enemies, and to You
alone is my desire and request. Who else other than you can
relieve me from grief. You alone are the custodian of every
blessing and the Master of every excellence and the last resort for
every desire." (37)

The enemy replied to Husayn's discourse with the most
insulting and heinous remarks; among them, Shamir, seeing
the fire burning by Husayn's tents, said: "Husayn, you are
hastening for the fire in this world even before the Fire of the
Day of judgement." Husayn's companion, Muslim b. 'Awsaja,
could not control himself at this heinous insult and asked his
permission to reply with an arrow, but Husayn stopped him,
saying: "We will never start the fighting from our side."(38) As
the situation grew hotter and an attack from the Umayyad
army imminent, Husayn once again came forward; after
praising God and praying for His blessing on Muhammad,
he addressed his enemies:

"O people! you are accusing me, but think who I am! Then
search your hearts for what you are doing to me. Consider well if
it be lawful for you to kill me and violate my sacrosanctity. Am I
not the son of the daughter of your Prophet, the son of the
Prophet's wasi and cousin...? Did not the Prophet say of me and
my brother that 'they are the lords of the youth of Paradise'? You


cannot deny the truth of what I have said concerning the merits
of the family of Muhammad. Are all these not sufficient to
prevent you from shedding my blood?"

And again:

"If you search in the whole East and the West you will not find
a grandson of the Prophet other than me." (39)

Husayn's numerous speeches and repeated appeals in the
name of the Prophet to his enemies' religious sentiments,
which he made throughout the day and after each loss of life
among his supporters, were all in vain. The only reply he
received was that he must submit himself to Yazid or be
killed. To this demand Husayn's reply was that he could
never humiliate himself like a slave.

The day-long battle-sometimes in single combat, some-
times collectively-began in the morning and ended shortly
before sunset. The phases of the battle can be followed fairly
clearly. After Husayn's first speech, the Umayyad army began
firing arrows and duels took place. For most of the day there
were series of single combats, with dialogues between the
adversaries which are vividly recorded in the sources and
which will be discussed in some detail later. It seems that two
major assaults were made by the Umayyads before noon and
were met with stiff resistance, but the Umayyad cavalry and
500 archers maintained steady pressure on Husayn's small
force. As the latter could be approached only from the front,
Ibn Sa'd sent some men from the right and left towards the
Talibi's tents to destroy them, but the supporters of Husayn,
slipping among the tents, defended them energetically.
Shamir, with a strong force under his command, approached
the tent of Husayn and his wives and would have set it on fire,
but even his comrades reproached him for this and he went
away ashamed. (40)

At noon Husayn and his followers performed the prayer of
the Zuhr according to the rite of the Salat al-khawf(the prayer
prescribed for when one faces a disastrous situation and
calamity). It was in the afternoon that the battle became
fiercer, and Husayn's supporters one after the other fell
fighting in front of him. Until the last of them had perished
not a single member of Husayn's family came to harm,(41) but


finally it was the turn of his relatives. The first to killed was
'Ali al-Akbar, the son of Husayn, followed in quick succession
by the son of Muslim b. 'Aqil, the sons of 'Aqil, three brothers
of 'Abbas b. 'Ali from 'Ali's wife Umm al-Banin, then Qasim,
the son of Hasan, a young and beautiful boy whose body was
trampled and mutilated and whose death is described in
touching terms. Husayn watched the fall of each of them and
ran to the field to bring back their bodies and lay them in a
row before his tent. (42) One by one all the Talibi's gave their
lives fighting the enemy, and eventually there remained only
two: Husayn and his half-brother 'Abbas b. 'Ali; the standard
bearer of the vanquished army. Famous for his physical
strength and bravery and known as "the moon of the Banu
Hashim" because of his extraordinary beauty, the latter was
a great support to Husayn throughout the period of torture
and calamity. Now it was time for him to throw himself on to
the swords of the bloodthirsty Umayyad army. With broken
hearts, distressed and spattered with the blood of their dearest
ones, both brothers went together and fell upon the enemy.
The enraged 'Abbas penetrated deep into the ranks of his
foes, became separated from Husayn, and was killed some
distance away. (43) Alone and weary, Husayn returned to the
tents to console the terrified and grief-stricken women and
children for what would befall them after his demise and to
bid them farewell for the last time. Trying to calm his thirsty
and crying infant child, Husayn took him in his arms just as
an arrow struck the baby. Husayn lifted his hands with the
dead child toward heaven and prayed to God for justice and
rewards for his sufferings.(44)

Exhausted and weary, lonely and dejected, wounded and
bleeding, Husayn seated himself at the door of his tent. The
Umayyad forces wavered for a moment, hesitant to kill the
grandson of the Prophet. Finally it was Shamir who advanced
with a small group of soldiers, but even he did not dare to
deliver the final blow on Husayn; there merely ensued an
altercation between the two. At last the son of 'Ali rose and
threw himself on the Umayyads. Attacked from every side,
he finally fell face-down on the ground just in front of his
tent, while the women and children watched the dreadful
-scene. A boy of tender age, 'Abd Allah, the youngest son of
Hasan b. 'Ali, in a fit of horror and terror, could not be


controlled by the women, rushed from the tent, and stretched
his hands around his uncle to protect him. A sword fell upon
him and cut off the hands of the young boy.(45) Finally, as
Sinan b. Anas b. 'Amr raised his sword again to make the
final blow on Husayn, the latter's sister Zaynab came out of
the tent and cried, addressing Ibn Sa'd:

"O 'Umar b. Sa'd, will Abu 'Abd Allah [Husayn's kunya] be
killed while you are standing by and watching ?"(46)

Nothing could help. Sinan cut off the head of the grandson
of the Prophet in front of the tent where the women and
children were watching and crying. Khawali b. Yazid al
Asbahi took the head into his custody to be taken to Kufa.(47)

The combat having thus ended, the soldiers turned to
pillage and looting. They seized Husayn's clothes, his sword,
and whatever was on his body. They looted the tents and
seized from the women their ornaments, their baggage, and
even the mantles from their heads. The only surviving male
of the line of Husayn, his son 'Ali, who because of serious
illness did not take part in the fighting, was lying on a skin in
one of the tents. The skin was pulled from under him and
Shamir would have killed him, but he was saved when
Zaynab covered him under her arms and Ibn Sa'd restrained
Shamir from striking the boy. (48) The tragic day is known as
Al-'Ashura, the tenth day of the month of Muharram.

The atrocities were not yet over. Husayn's body, already
torn by numerous wounds, was trampled by the horses often
mounted soldiers who volunteered to inflict this final
indignity on the grandson of the Apostle of God.(49) On the
morning of 11 Muharram, bodies of the Umayyad troops
who had fallen in the battle were collected together; and after
the prescribed prayer for the dead led by Ibn Sa'd, they were
buried. But the headless bodies of Husayn and of those killed
with him were even left uncovered. On 12 Muharram,
however, when the Umayyad forces left Karbala, the people
of the tribe of Bani Asad from the nearby village of Ghadiriya
came down and buried the bodies of Husayn and his
companions on the spot where the massacre had taken
place. (50) It is of interest to note that those whose bodies were
left in such a pitiful and contemptible manner not long before
were so honoured and immortalized that their graves have


become one of the most venerated sanctuaries, have been
embellished with gold, and have been ornamented with
splendid decoration; they soon became the centre of pilgrim-
age for a countless number of devotees. There is hardly any
trace of the graves or of the memory of those who were the
victors at Karbala, whereas the tombs of Husayn and his
vanquished supporters with their lofty minarets have become
landmarks and symbols of grace and hope for the destitute.

The morning of 12 Muharram saw a peculiar procession
leaving Karbala for Kufa. Seventy4wo heads were raised on
the points of the lances, each of them held by one soldier,
followed by the women of the Prophet's family on camels and
the huge army of the Umayyads. (51) Abu Mikhnaf describes
the scene of the departure of Zaynab and other women of the
Prophet's family as captives from Karbala. Their lamentations
at the sight of the massacred bodies of their sons, brothers,
and husbands which were lying uncovered in front of them,
caused even their enemies to shed tears. Qurra' b. Qays at-
Tamimi, a member of the Umayyad army, is reported by
Abu Mikhnaf as saying that he could never forget the scene
when Husayn's sister Zaynab passed by the mutilated body
of her brother; she cried in hysterical fits, saying:

"O Muhammad! O Muhammad! The angels of Heaven send
blessings upon you, but this is your Husayn, so humiliated and
disgraced, covered with blood and cut into pieces; and, O,
Muhammad, your daughters are made captives, and your
butchered family is left for the East Wind to cover with dust?"(52)

After reaching Kufa the captives and the heads of the
victims were presented to Ibn Ziyad, and the head of Husayn
was placed in a tray in front of him in a court ceremony
crowded with nobles and spectators. Ibn Ziyad, having a cane
in his hand, struck the lips of Husayn again and again. Zayd
b. Arqam, an old Companion of the Prophet present in the
court, not aware of what had happened, recognized Husayn's
face, was stricken by shock and grief, and shouted to Ibn

"Remove your cane from these lips! By God, on these lips have
I seen the lips of the Prophet of God, kissing and sucking them."(53)

He left the court weeping; outside, people heard him saying:


"O people of the Arabs, after this day you have made yourselves
home-born slaves and cattle. You have killed the son of Fatima
and made your ruler Ibn Marjana [kunya of Ibn Ziyad], who will
now keep on killing your best men and force you to do the most
hateful things. You must now be ready for the utmost disgrace."(54)

The head of Husayn was erected for public display in Kufa
before it was sent to Yazid in Damascus. How long the
captives were detained in Kufa in a dungeon is not quite
clear, but it seems that before long the captives and the heads
were dispatched to Damascus to be presented to the Caliph.
When the head of Husayn and the captive women and
children were presented before Yazid, in a court ceremony
equally as lavish as that of Ibn Ziyad, Zahr b. Qays, who led
the caravan as the representative of Ibn Ziyad, made a long
speech of presentation describing how Husayn and his
companions had been massacred and how their bodies had
been trampled and left for the eagles to eat.(55) The reaction of
Yazid is reported to have been different from that of Ibn
Ziyad, and he regretted the haste with which his governor
had acted. This seems to be contrary to all those reports
which describe Yazid's orders to his governor in Medina, and
then to Ibn Ziyad in which he clearly ordered them to either
exact homage from Husayn and his followers or behead them
without delay. The conversation which took place between
Yazid and both Zaynab and 'Ali b. al-Husayn, in which the
Caliph rebuked them and treated them harshly, also cast
doubt on his alleged feelings of remorse. Moreover, as is
pointed out by Ibn Kathir, a Syrian pupil of Ibn Tamiya
usually hostile to the Shi'i cause, if Yazid had really felt that
his governor had committed a serious mistake in dealing with
Husayn he would have taken some action against him. But,
says Ibn Kathir, Yazid did not dismiss Ibn Ziyad from his
post, did not punish him in any way, or even write a letter of
censure for exceeding his orders. (56) If Yazid at all expressed
his remorse it must have been due to the fear of reaction or
revolt by some section of the Muslim community.

After some time, however, Yazid released the captives and
sent them back to Medina. Thus ended the most pathetic
tragedy in the history of Islam. Edward Gibbon, with his
limited sources of Islamic history and mainly depending on
Ockley's narrative of Karbala, could not help but comment:


"In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of
Husayn will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader."(57)

We have seen in the previous chapter how ardently and
passionately the Prophet loved his grandsons Hasan and
Husayn, but only fifty years after the Prophet's death, as
Dinawari points out, (58) while many of the Prophet's Companions
who were well aware of this affection were still alive, one
of these beloved grandsons was brutally murdered at the
hands of those who claimed to be members of the Umma of

With this brief summary of the lengthy accounts of the
tragic end of Husayn, it is intended firstly to analyse how it
became so easy for the Umayyads to destroy him and crush
the Shi'i movement behind him; and secondly, to determine
the elements of purely religious sentiment among those who
readily sacrificed their lives with Husayn and thus made
another step forward towards the consolidation of Shi'!
thought in Islam.

It has already been pointed out that of those who invited
Husayn to Ku fa, and then those 18,000 who paid homage to
his envoy, Muslim b. 'Aqil, not all were Shi 'is in the religious
sense of the term, but were rather supporters of the house of
'Ali for political reasons-a distinction which must be kept
clearly in mind in order to understand the early history of
Shi'i Islam. They wrote to Husayn hundreds of letters, each
signed by groups, and when Muslim b. 'Aqil reached Kufa
they gathered around him; but this was for most of them an
expression of their desire to throw off Syrian domination, a
goal which at that time they thought was possible through
Husayn. But as soon as Ibn Ziyad, well known in Islamic
history for his high-handed policy, took over the governorship
of Kufa and after all those extreme and severe measures
carried out by him to crush the movement, the Kufans saw
their hopes gone, and their characteristic lack of resolution in
times of trial overcame their political aspirations. They thus
submitted to the reality of circumstances rather than endanger
themselves for the cause.

There was, however, a small group of the Ku fans who had
invited the grandson of the Prophet and led the movement
motivated purely by their religious feelings. Where were they
when Husayn was so helplessly killed at Karbala? We have


seen that after the execution of Muslim b. 'Aqil and Hani b.
'Urwa, Kufa was kept under firm control. Anyone suspected
of sympathy for Husayn was to be executed. Naturally all the
sincere leaders of the movement adopted the stratagem of
hiding to escape arrest and execution, not because they
betrayed Husayn and wanted to save their lives, but, as we
shall see presently, because they wanted to make themselves
directly available to Husayn, then on his way to Kufa. This
may be seen by comparing the lists of names of those who
gave their lives at Karbala with Husayn or later with the
Tawwabun, with those who wrote the first letters of invitation
to him and who had been leading the movement in Ku fa. We
have seen that four of these Shi'i leaders of Kufa managed to
join Husayn at Dhu Husm in spite of Hurr's objection. As
soon as they heard of Husayn's arrival at Karbala, those who
could, in spite of all the obstacles, somehow manage to reach
Karbala did so; they laid down their lives before Husayn or
any one from among his family members were hurt.' And of
those who were not with Husayn at Karbala, some had
already been arrested and some others, due to the heavy
blockade of the roads, could not make their way to Karbala
until it was too late.

When Husayn had left Mecca there were only 50 persons
with him, 18 Talibi's or close relatives, and 32 others. After the
battle, however, 72 heads were taken to be presented before
Ibn Ziyad, 18 of them Talibi's and 54 Shi'is, though the real
number of those who fell at Karbala with Husayn seems to
have been more than 72. Samawi and some other sources
enumerate the non-Talibi's and give the total number of
victims as 92. (59) If this was the case, then it seems that the
heads of those who had no tribal identity were not taken to
Ibn Ziyad, thus resulting in the lower figure of 72 deaths.
Tabari and Dinawari list the names of the tribes and the
numbers of heads carried by them to Kufa as follows: Kinda,
thirteen; Hawazin, twenty; Tamim, seventeen; Asad, six;
Madhhij, seven; Thaqif, twelve; Azd, five; and another seven
of unknown tribal affiliation. (60) There is a slight variation
between the lists of Tabari and Dinawari. While Tabari
mentions the Madhhij as carrying seven heads and does not
record Thaqif's twelve, Dinawari omits Madhhij's seven and
mentions the Thaqif as having carried twelve heads, in


addition to mentioning five heads held by the Azd. Scrutiny
of other sources confirms both: seven heads carried by
Madhhij and twelve by Thaqif. This gives a total of 87 victims
of the massacre whose heads were presented at the court of
Ibn Ziyad.

Tabari and other sources also tell us in detail how Husayn's
true followers managed to escape secretly from Kufa and
reach Karbala. (61) In addition, we find a few names of those
who came to Karbala with the Umayyad army and, when
they saw the sacrilegious treatment by the Umayyads of the
grandson of the Prophet, could no longer resist their feelings
for the house of the Prophet, defected from the Umayyad
ranks, and cast their lot with Husayn. Besides Hurr, whose
defection is reported in great detail, it is also commonly
recorded that on the morning of 'Ashura, just before the
battle began, thirty nobles of Kufa who were with the army
of Ibn Sa'd defected from him over to Husayn's side and
fought for him. (62)

Furthermore, it should be noted again that the blockade of
all the roads coming into Kufa and its vicinity made it almost
impossible for the majority of those Shi'is of Kufa who were
in hiding, and also for those residing in other cities like Basra,
to come to the aid of Husayn. Nevertheless, a few persons
from Basra did reach Karbala and shared the fate of
Husayn. (63) We have, therefore, good grounds for supposing
that had there not been so many obstacles and had there been
sufficient time and opportunity to mobilize their strength,
quite a few of the Tawwabun (penitents), to be discussed in
the following chapter, who later on sacrificed their lives in the
name of Husayn, would have been with him at Karbala.

Circumstantial evidence allows us to suggest that those who
gave their lives for the sake of the slain Husayn would have
gone at least as far for the living Husayn. On the other hand,
the aim of elaborating this fact is not to suggest that had there
not been those unavoidable circumstances Husayn's fate
would have been any different. It would certainly have been
the same in any case because of the well-organized and
formidable military strength of the Umayyads and the
characteristic fickleness of the majority of the Kufans, coupled
with the as yet weak and disorganized movement of the
religiously motivated Shi'is. Our purpose is to suggest that


under slightly better circumstances the defeat at Karbala
would not have occurred so helplessly and without there
being any conspicuous resistance, and thus we would have a
clearer picture of the physical strength of the Shi'i movement
at this stage. To support this hypothesis we can cite the
successes achieved not long after Karbala, but under better
circumstances and with better opportunities, by Al-Mukhtar
and Ibn az-Zubayr, both far less important than the grandson
of the Prophet.

We will only point out here in passing that Al-Mukhtar b.
Abi 'Ubayda ath-Thaqafi seized possession of Kufa in 66/686-
687 and captured Mesopotamia and some parts of the eastern
provinces from the Umayyads mainly in the name of the
blood of Husayn. Re, however, lost control of the situation
and was killed in 67/687 or 68/688. 'Abd Allah b. az-Zubayr
proclaimed his caliphate in 61/680-81 and by 64/684 had
established his power in Iraq, in southern Arabia, and in the
greater part of Syria. Re was killed in battle against Hajjaj in
73/692 after ruling for almost nine years.

An analysis of the sources describing the movement of and
the support given to both Al-Mukhtar and Ibn az-Zubayr
leaves us in hardly any doubt that some of the component
parts of Husayn's movement, later on frustrated and per-
verted, gave vent to their indignation against the Umayyads
under the banners of these two adventurers. This comparison
leads us to another important point. Al-Mukhtar and Ibn az-Zubayr
achieved considerable political success in their
enterprises, and both were able to rule certain parts of the
Muslim world for quite a few years; but neither could leave
any religious following behind him after he had fallen, though
both were, in a sense, as much martyrs as Husayn himself.

There is no evidence at all that Ibn az-Zubayr left any
sectarian following behind him; the name of Al-Mukhtar
was kept alive for a very short time and was followed by a
small group, but it soon afterwards lost its identity and was
merged in a wider group. (64) The reason is both obvious and
vital. Neither Al-Mukhtar, nor Ibn az-Zubayr, nor their
supporters had any specific ideal or any particular view which
could keep their memory alive in the annals of religious
thought in Islam. Husayn and his cause, on the other hand,
though militarily a complete failure, were so conspicuously


upheld by a sizable part of the Muslim community that his
name became an emblem of the identity or entity of the
second largest group in Islam. This was due to the fact that
his movement was based on a particular view of the leadership
of the community, which has been elaborated in the first two
chapters above and which has also been pointed out in the
letters written by I;1asan to Mu'awiya and by Husayn to the
Shi'is of Kufa. The memory of Al-Mukhtar and Ibn az-Zubayr
died with the lapse of time and could only find place
in the annals of history. The memory of Husayn remained
alive in the hearts and minds of the Muslims and has become
a recurrent theme for certain values. The section of the
Muslim community which upheld the cause and memory of
Husayn at the expense of and in disregard for political
realities, but still remaining an integral part of the religious
entity of Islam, was thrust into a sectarian role by that
majority which, though unwillingly, compromised with the
political realities at the religious level.

Some Muslim historians writing directly under the
influence of the ruling authorities of the time, and those
theologians who by necessity tried to find a compromise
position between the ruling authorities on the one hand and
the Islamic community on the other, described Husayn's
action as an ambitious attempt to wrest political power and as
a mistake of judgement. Western scholars of Islam, in their
rather superficial attempts to study Husayn's action, have
subjected themselves to a certain mechanical methodology
which they term a "scientific historical approach". The
German school of orientalists, the first to enter the field of
modern orientalism, though it indeed made valuable and
solid contributions in certain branches of Arab-Islamic
studies with admirable thoroughness and depth, was so
committed to a particular historical methodology that it could
never grasp the "feelings" and "necessary aptitude" so vitally
important in understanding religious history and its development.
The impact of the German school has been so strong
that this trend has persisted, and the subsequent schools of
the French and British scholars, with very few exceptions,
have followed the same trend. It is thus rather regrettable that
the tragedy of Karbala has been regarded by these scholars
with the same mechanical historicism: none of them has ever


tried to study Husayn's action in its meaning and purpose. It
was therefore natural for these scholars to describe Husayn as
an ill-fated adventurer attempting to seize political power, his
movement as a rebellion against the established order, and
his action as a fatal miscalculation of Kufan promises.(65)

We have already hinted in passing that Husayn had been
fully aware of the situation and the consequences. On the
road from Medina to Mecca, then at the time when he was
leaving the "House of God" for Ku fa, and finally throughout
the journey from Mecca to Ku fa, he was warned by dozens of
people about the danger and that "the hearts of the Iraqis
were for him but that their swords were for the Umayyads."
But I;1usayn's replies to all of those who attempted to deflect
him from his purpose were always more or less in the same

"God does as He wishes..., I leave it to God to choose what is
best..., God is not hostile to him who proposes the just
cause." (66)

From these replies it is clear that Husayn was fully aware
of the dangers he would encounter and that he had a certain
strategy and plan in mind to bring about a revolution in the
consciousness of the Muslim community. Furthermore, it is
also very clear from the sources, as has been stated before, that
Husayn did not try to organize or mobilize military support,
which he easily could have done in the Hijaz, nor did he even
try to exploit whatever physical strength was available to
him. Among many instances in this respect we will restrict
ourselves to citing only one. At a place called 'Uzayb al- Hujaynat,
after having already learned about the Kufan
abandonment of his envoy Muslim b. 'Aqil and his subsequent
death, it was clear to Husayn that he had no hope of support
or even survival in Kufa. Nevertheless, he totally refused an
offer of safety, if not success, extended to him. Abu Mikhnaf
and other sources relate that at this place four of the leading
Shi'is of Kufa managed to reach Husayn with the help of
Tirimmah. b. 'Adi at-Ta'i, who acted as a guide (dalil).
Tirimmah made a strong appeal to Husayn, saying:

"By God I have left Kufa in such a condition that when you
reach there you will not find a single person who could help you
against your enemies. By God, if you go there, you and those who
are travelling with you will be instantly butchered. For God's


sake, abandon your plan and come with me to the safety of our
mountains here. By God, these mountains have been beyond the
reach of the kings of Ghassan and Himyar, from Nu'man b. al-
Mundhir, and from any black and red [i.e., from any formidable
power]. By God, if you decide to come with me no one can
humiliate you or stop you from doing so [reference to Hurr].
Once you reach my villages on the mountains, we will send for
men of [the tribes of] Ba'ja and Salma of the Tayy'. Then, even
ten days will not pass before the horsemen and the foot soldiers
of Tayy' arrive to help you. You can stay with us as long as you
wish, and if then you want to make an uprising from there, or if
you are disturbed, I would lead a force -of twenty thousand men
of the Tayy' with you, who would strike [at your enemies] with
their swords in front of you. By God, no one will ever be able to
reach you, and the eyes of the people of Tayy' would remain
guarding you.' (67)

Husayn's only reply to this extremely valuable and timely
offer, when all hopes of support in Kufa had already vanished,

"God bless you and your people, but I am committed to some
people, and I cannot go back from my word, though I did not
know what would happen between us and them. However, things
are destined." (68)

One cannot help asking how it would be possible for a man
making a bid for power to refuse to accept such a promising
offer of support. Can anyone think that after knowing all of
the latest developments in Kufa Husayn was still hoping to
find any support or even the slightest chance of survival in
Kufa? Moreover, we have detailed descriptions of the fact
that when at Zubala I;1usayn learned of the brutal execution
of his envoy Qays b. Mushir, he gathered those accompanying
him and asked them to leave him alone and go to safety. After
Zubala, Husayn made this proclamation to his companions
time and again, the last of these being on the night of 'Ashura.
Is it conceivable that anyone striving for power would ask his
supporters to abandon him, no matter how insignificant their
number might have been? No one can answer these questions
in the affirmative. What then did Husayn have in mind?
Why was he still heading for Kufa?

It is rather disappointing to note that Western scholarship
on Islam, given too much to historicism, has placed all its


attention on the discrete external aspects of the event of
Karbala and has never tried to analyse the inner history and
agonizing conflict in Husayn's mind. Anatomy of the human
body can give knowledge of the various parts and their
composition, but cannot give us an understanding of man
himself. In the case of Husayn, a careful study and analysis of
the events of Karbala as a whole reveals the fact that from the
very beginning Husayn was planning for a complete
revolution in the religious consciousness of the Muslims. All
of his actions show that he was aware of the fact that a victory
achieved through military strength and might is always
temporal, because another stronger power can in course of
time bring it down in ruins. But a victory achieved through
suffering and sacrifice is everlasting and leaves permanent
imprints on man S consciousness. Husayn was brought up in
the lap of the Founder of Islam and had inherited the love
and devotion to the Islamic way of life from his father. As
time went on, he noticed the great changes which were
rapidly taking place in the community in regard to religious
feelings and morality. The natural process of conflict and
struggle between action and reaction was now at work. That
is, Muhammad's progressive Islamic action had succeeded in
suppressing Arab conservatism, embodied in heathen pre-
Islamic practices and ways of thinking. But in less than thirty
years' time this Arab conservatism revitalized itself as a
forceful reaction to challenge Muhammad's action once again.
The forces of this reaction had already moved into motion
with the rise of Mu'awiya, but the succession of Yazid was a
clear sign that the reactionary forces had mobilized themselves
and had now re-emerged with full vigour. The strength of
this reaction, embodied in Yazid's character, was powerful
enough to suppress or at least deface Muhammad's action.
Islam was now, in the thinking of Husayn, in dire need of
reactivation of Muhammad's action against the old Arabian
reaction and thus required a complete shake-up. Such a shake-
up would not have been so effective at the time of Hasan, for
his rival Mu'awiya, though he had little regard for religion, at-
least outwardly tried to veil his reactionary attitude of the old
Arabism. Yazid did not care even for this; he exposed these
pretensions and his conduct amounted to open ridicule of
Muhammad's Sunna and Qur'anic norms. Now, through


Yazid, reaction of the old Arabism was in direct confrontation
against the Islamic action of Muhammad. This could be seen
by such instances as when Yazid, during his father's reign,
once came to Medina in the season of the Hajj and became
badly intoxicated from wine-drinking. Ibn 'Abbas and
Husayn happened to pass by him, whereupon Yazid called
his servant and ordered him to serve wine to Husayn,
insisting that the latter take it. When Husayn angrily refused
and rose to leave, Yazid, in his drunken stupor, sang:

"O my friend, how strange it is that I have invited you,
but you do not accept, To women singers, pleasures, wine, and music,
And to a brimming full jar of wine on the lip of which sits
the master of the Arabs.

And among them [the singing girls] there is one who has
captured your heart, and she did not repent by doing this."

Husayn stood up and said:

"But your heart, O son of Mu'awiya."(69)

Now this same Yazid was the Caliph of Islam and was
asking Husayn to accept his authority. Husayn's acceptance
of Yazid, with the latter's openly reactionary attitude against
Islamic norms, would not have meant merely a political
arrangement, as had been the case with Hasan and Mu'awiya,
but an endorsement of Yazid's character and way of life as
well. This was unthinkable to the grandson of the Prophet,
now the head of Muhammad's family and the embodiment of
his Sunna.

In order to counteract this reaction against Islamic action,
Husayn prepared his strategy. In his opinion he had the
right, by virtue of his family and his own position therein, to
guide the people and receive their respect. However, if this
right were challenged, he was willing to sacrifice and die for
his cause. He realized that mere force of arms would not have
saved Islamic action and consciousness. To him it needed a
shaking and jolting of hearts and feelings. This, he decided,
could only be achieved through sacrifice and sufferings. This
should not be difficult to understand, especially for those who
fully appreciate the heroic deeds and sacrifices of, for example,
Socrates and Joan of Arc, both of whom embraced death for


their ideals, and above all of the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ
for the redemption of mankind.

It is in this light that we should read Husayn's replies to
those well-wishers who advised him not to go to Iraq. It also
explains why Husayn took with him his women and children,
though advised by Ibn 'Abbas that should he insist on his
project, at least he should not take his family with him. Aware
of the extent of the brutal nature of the reactionary forces,
Husayn knew that after killing him the Umayyads would
make his women and children captives and take them all the
way from Kufa to Damascus. This caravan of captives of
Muhammad's immediate family would publicize Husayn's
message and would force the Muslims' hearts to ponder on
the tragedy. It would make the Muslims think of the whole
affair and would awaken their consciousness. This is exactly
what happened. Husayn succeeded in his purpose. It is
difficult today to evaluate exactly the impact of Husayn's
action on Islamic morality and way of thinking, because it
prevailed. Had Husayn not shaken and awakened Muslim
consciousness by this method, who knows whether Yazid's
way of life would have become standard behaviour in the
Muslim community, endorsed and accepted by the grandson
of the Prophet No doubt, even after Yazid kingship did
prevail in Islam, and the character and behaviour in the
personal lives of these kings was not very different from that
of Yazid, but the change in thinking which prevailed after the
sacrifice of Husayn always served as a line of distinction
between Islamic norms and the personal character of the

Except for a few mediaeval writers committed to certain
interests, Muslim historians and authors have always paid
their utmost tribute in praising Husayn's heroic action. It is
indeed encouraging that in modern times more and more
Muslim scholars of all schools of thought have been
contributing independent works to explain Husayn's philosophy
of sacrifice and martyrdom. Among the numerous
books published in the past few decades, coinciding with the
reawakening of the Muslim world, we would refer our readers
to only two. One is by the famous Egyptian author 'Abbas
Mahmud al-'Aqqad and entitled Abu ash-shuhada', al-Husayn
b. Ali (70) (Father of Martyrs, Husayn b. 'Ali). The other is by


a great Lebanese scholar and shaykh, 'Abd Allah al-'Ala'ili,
and is entitled Al-Imam al-Husayn, sumu'l-ma'na fi sumu'dh-
dhat (71) (The Imam Husayn, Loftiness of Purpose in a Lofty
-Personality), a comprehensive study of Husayn's life, times,
and martyrdom. Both writers, the former a secular scholar of
history and philosophy, the latter a religious scholar of very
high standing and scholarship, have discussed thoroughly
the meaning, purpose, philosophy and the highest ideal of
Husayn's deed.

Now we must turn to examine the second inference to be
drawn from the outline of the episode of Karbala given above:
to determine the religious feelings of those who willingly
gave their lives with Husayn. In describing the tragedy our
sources do not fail to provide ample material on those
doctrinal feelings which compelled the supporters of Husayn
to choose to die with him rather than to live in peace and
comfort, a choice which remained open to them even up to
the last moment. This can be elucidated by examining those
speeches and pledges of loyalty made by these persons on
several occasions. It is also illustrated by that war poetry in
rajaz (verbal duels) which was exchanged between the
combatants of both sides. In Arabian warfare it was customary
that when two combatants came to fight each other, each
would declare his tribe, its deeds and status, and the stand for
which he was going to fight. Only a few examples, however,
from each of these three categories will be cited here to show
that there was a particular doctrinal stand for which the
followers of Husayn stood and died.

We have seen that Husayn's messenger Qays b. Mushir,
whom he had sent from Hajir to inform the Kufans of his
arrival, was arrested at al-Qadisiya and sent to Ibn Ziyad for
trial. The governor ordered him to go to the top of the palace
and curse Husayn if he wanted to save his life. Qays used this
opportunity to propagate his cause; he addressed the people,

"O people of Kufi. I am Husayn's messenger, and I declare
before you that Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, is the best
man of his time among the men of God on earth and has better
claims upon you than anyone else. It is therefore your duty to
respond to him."


Qays then called for the curse of God upon Ibn Ziyad and
God's blessing for 'Ali (72) He was thereupon thrown to his
death. If we compare Qays' attitude with that of Hujr b. 'Adi
al-Kindi about twelve years earlier, mentioned in the
preceding chapter, we find a consistent way of thinking which
links them in an unbroken chain of Shi'i thought. Qays'
introduction of Husayn with special reference to his relation-
ship with the Prophet and stating that he was the best man of
God of his time on earth goes back to the ideas promulgated
from the very beginning by the supporters of 'Ali.

As mentioned above, on the eve of 'Ashura (9 Muharram)
Ibn Sa'd ordered his forces to advance towards Husayn's
camp after receiving Ibn Ziyad's orders for an immediate
attack. Husayn sent his brother 'Abbas along with some
leading followers to ask for a night's respite. After some
argument this was granted, and 'Abbas returned to inform
Husayn; but Habib b. Muzahir and Zuhayr b. al-Qayn, who
had come along with 'Abbas, remained behind to try to
convince the Umayyad army of their wrongdoings. There
are some useful dialogues recorded between these two men
and their opponents. Habib b. Muzahir spoke first to the

"By God, how evil and wretched those people will be when
they appear before God after killing the family and the Ahl al-
Bayt of their own Prophet. The people of this sacred family are
those who are the best worshippers of God and who spend their
mornings striving in the devotion to God, devoting themselves to
the best of His remembrance."

Azra b. Qays from the Umayyad side tauntingly replied:
"You go ahead with the purification of your soul as much as
you like" (implying: "but do not try to convince us"). To this
Zuhayr b. al-Qayn responded:


"O Azra! God has indeed purified our souls and has guided us.
So fear God, O Azra, because I am one of your sincerest advisors.
May God make you think, O Azra. Would you like to be one of.
those who have fixed for themselves the path of error by killing
these sacred and purified souls [Husayn and other members of
the Ahl al-Bayt]?"

Azra b. Qays again retorted:
"O Zuhayr, you were not among the Shi'is of 'Ali, but were
known to be an 'Uthmani."

Zuhayr replied:

"But now being with Husayn you must recognize that I am a
Shi'i of 'Ali." (73)

After this respite of only one night, and with all hopes gone,
it was certain that the following morning would bring the
summons of death for Husayn and his supporters. He
gathered his companions and asked them to leave him alone
as the enemy wanted nothing but his head. All the prominent
companions and relatives of Husayn, in reply to his address,
refused to leave him until all of them were killed. Perhaps we
should avoid considering the pledges made on this occasion
by the relatives of Husayn, like 'Abbas, his half-brother and
others, (74) which may be interpreted as the clannish loyalty to
the head of the clan. We would, therefore, record here the
pledges of those who had no blood, clan, or even tribal
relationship with Husayn, but only ties of religious or
doctrinal loyalty.

From among the followers of Husayn the aged Muslim b.
'Awsaja stood up and exclaimed:

"How can we leave you? What excuse then will we have before
God in discharging our duty towards you? No, by God, we will
not depart from you. I will fight with you until my last breath and
until I die with you." (75)

Then Sa'd b. 'Abd Allah al-Hanafi addressed Husayn,

"By God, we will not depart from you until by sacrificing our
lives we have proven to God that we have faithfully fulfilled the
duty we owe to the Prophet concerning you. By God, if I knew
that I would be killed and then again be given a new life, and that
then my body would be burned alive, all this being repeated
seventy times, I would still not leave you until I died in front of
you. And why should I not do that when I know that I can only
be killed once, leading to an everlasting honour and privilege.
[The last sentence in Bidaya reads:] By God, if I knew that I
would be killed before you a thousand times, and by this your life
and the lives of the other Ahl al-Bayt would be saved, I would
love to be killed a thousand times; but this is only to be killed
once, leading to an everlasting honour."(76)


After quoting a similar speech by Zuhayr b. al-Qayn, our
sources say that all the companions of Husayn pronounced
more or less in the same vein and declared their complete
loyalties to Husayn, saying:

"By God, we will never leave you alone until all of us are killed
and our bodies are torn to pieces. By this we will have fulfilled our
duties to you."(77)

The contents of all these statements and pledges provide
very useful points with which to emphasize that religious
urge which made the companions of Husayn so firm and
enthusiastic, even at that moment of calamity. The points
prevailing in these pledges are: 1: emphasis on Husayn's close
and direct relationship with the Prophet, and not specifically
with 'Ali; 2: that to betray Husayn is to betray the Prophet, or
similarly, that loyalty to Husayn is loyalty to Muhammad,
the Prophet of God; 3: that to give up Husayn is to denounce
Islam, which was revealed by his grandfather, the Prophet;
4: that betrayal of Husayn this day would cause them to
perish on the Day of Judgement and would deprive them of
the intercession of the Prophet. The essence of all three
aspects, however, is that in their thinking there was an Imam
or central authority who was the focal point for the love
normally directed to the person of the Prophet himself.(78)

On the day of 'Ashura, shortly before the fateful battle began,
Hurr b. Yazid, a respected commander of the Umayyad army,
the first who confronted Husayn and forced him to halt at
Karbala as mentioned above, was himself now confronted by
his own conscience and feelings. A great conflict arose in his
mind: he was forced to choose between either wetting his
hands in the sacred blood of the grandson of the Prophet or
giving up his rank, power, and a bright career lying before
him. His feelings ultimately won him over and he chose the
latter. He suddenly spurred his horse towards Husayn's
camp, threw himself at Husayn's feet, and exclaimed:

"O son of the Prophet! Here is the man who did you great
injustice in detaining you at this place and causing you so much
trouble. Is it possible for you to forgive a sinner like me? By God,
I never imagined that these people would go so far as to shed the
blood of the grandson of their Prophet. I only thought that they
would accept one of these three options you offered; and thus


some sort of reconciliation would ultimately prevail, and in this
way I would be able to retain my rank and position. But now,
when all hopes for peace are gone, I cannot buy Hell for this
worldly gain. Forgive my mistake and allow me to sacrifice
myself for you. Only by doing this can I redeem myself in the
eyes of God for my sin against you."(79)

Husayn embraced Hurr and said: "You are as free-born
and noble (Hurr) as your mother named you." Hurr then at
once went before the Umayyad army and addressed his fellow
men in a long speech in favour of Husayn. Condemning their
sacrilegious actions against the grandson of the Prophet, he
put them to shame and reminded them of the Day of
Judgement. (80) Consequently, Hurr was among the first to
give his life for Husayn. The defection of Hurr to Husayn
shortly before the battle began and his being killed by the
Umayyad army is as historical as the event of Karbala itself;
to his defection all the sources bear unanimous testimony.

The physical defection of Hurr from the established order
was, however, not of much importance. It was the principle
on which Hurr defected from the Umayyad army which
should be considered seriously. This was, perhaps, the greatest
visible victory for the Shi'i point of view, for which the
companions of Husayn were fighting to the death. The
working of Hurr's mind at this last moment, as expressed in
his statements mentioned above, was exactly the same as that
of the companions of Husayn. This again supports the view
that there was a particular way of thinking directed to the
Shi'i doctrine.

5 Not of least importance in this connection are those rajaz
verses exchanged between Husayn's companions and their
opponents. Among the most illuminating are the following:

1: The same Hurr, when engaged in battle, proclaimed:

"I will strike my sword on your heads in the cause of that Imam
who is the best among all the inhabitants of Mecca."(81)

2: Nafi' b. Hilal al-Jamali, of Husayn's camp, came forward
and asked for his combatant, proclaiming:

"I am from the tribe of Banu Jamal, and I am of the religion of
'Ali (din 'Ali)."


From the opposite side one Muzahim b. Hurayth came
forward, saying:

"I will fight with you; I am of the religion of 'Uthman (din

Nafi' retorted:

"No, you are of the religion of Satan."(82

3: When Zuhayr b. al-Qayn came to fight he said:

"I am Zuhayr, and I am the son of Qayn; I will defend and
protect Husayn with my sword."

Turning to Husayn he said:

"I will proceed leading to a rightly guided path the day when
I meet your grandfather, the Prophet, [and the day] when I will
meet Hasan and 'Ali al-Murtada and the one of the two wings
[reference to Ja'far at-Tayyar]." (83)

The war poetry in rajaz pronounced by the combatants of
both sides, which has come down to us from reliable sources
to be examined later, makes useful reading and provides
important points. We have quoted only three of them for the
sake of brevity. These pronouncements, however, sufficiently
indicate that the Shi'i trend of thinking was fully active
among those who chose to die with Husayn. The statement of
Hurr that Husayn was an Imam, the best of all the residents
of Mecca, and Nafi' and Zuhayr's declarations that they were
of the religion of 'Ali and on the rightly guided path, are
complete explanations in themselves and require no further
comment. Yet the pronouncement of Husayn's followers that
they were of the religion of 'Ali does not fail to suggest that
they meant this term in a strictly religious sense, in contrast
to those who had also called themselves by the same name at
Al-Jamal, at Siffin, and on other occasions with 'Ali, but on
political grounds, and who with the changing circumstances
assimilated with the ruling majority who were now going to
kill the son of 'Ali. On the other hand, by looking at all these
quotations referred to above we find that throughout the
incident of Karbala there had been a persistent and continuous
doctrinal tendency among the followers of Husayn, based on
their declaration of being of the religion of 'Ali. This very
tendency in course of time, as we shall see later, was translated


into a more elaborate form of Shi'i tenets and developed its
own theological doctrine (kalam) and legal system (fiqh) in
opposition to the rest of the Jama'a.

Commenting on the tragedy of Karbala, even a scholar like
Philip Hitti lets himself write that "Shi'ism was born on the
tenth of Muharram." (84) All the information derived from our
sources and all the evidence given above totally reject this
view. Instead, a careful study of the material handed down to
us from the sources of different schools of thought confirm
the fact that the Shi'i doctrinal stand had been in evidence
right from the time of the death of the Prophet, and the death
of Husayn only "set the seal of an official ShT'ism."(85) For that
purpose we have gone into the detail of citing from those
speeches, pledges, and war poetry pronounced before the
death of Husayn, all of which clearly demonstrates the nature
of the existing tendencies prevailing before the tragedy
occurred. What is really true to say, however, is that the
tragedy did play an immensely important role, not in the
creation of Shi'ism, but in the consolidation of the Shi'i
identity. The fate of Husayn was destined to become the most
effective agent in the propagation and comparatively rapid
spread of Shi'ism. It is also undoubtedly true that the tragedy
added to Shi'i Islam an element of "passion", which renders
human psychology more receptive to doctrine than anything
else. Henceforth we find that this element of "passion"
becomes a characteristic feature of the Shi'is. The tragedy of
Karbala in its immediate and far-reaching consequences
created three thousand Tawwabun (penitents) who let them-
selves die as a way of repenting for their inability to fulfil their
commitments to the grandson of the Prophet. It provided a
ground from which Mukhtar was able to launch his
movement. It provided an effective slogan to the 'Abbasids
for overthrowing the Umayyad regime. And ultimately, the
name and memory of Husayn became an inseparable part of
Shi'i moral and religious fervour. (86)

A brief comment on the authenticity of the sources of our
information for the whole account of Karbala, including the
speeches, pledges, and rajaz material pronounced by the
supporters of Husayn, is in order. The main source of our
knowledge of the tragedy is Abu Mikhnaf Lut b. Yahya (died
I 57/774) the first to produce a comprehensive account of


Karbala. This work was entitled Maqtal al-Husayn, and in
the list of Abu Mikhnaf's numerous works this one is
unanimously mentioned by all bibliographers.(87)

Abu Mikhnaf, one of the earliest and best Arab historians,
has been thoroughly and critically studied by scholars such as
Welihausen (88) and others, and recently by Ursula Sezgin in
an admirable work entitled Abu Mikhnaf (89) All have found
him generally the most reliable and authentic writer on the
annals of Kufa and Iraq under the Umayyads. It is now
established that, as a rule, he does not take his material from
predecessors or far-distant sources, but rather collects it
himself by enquiring in the most diverse directions from all
possible people who could have first-hand information or
who had been present to see and hear for themselves. The
chain of transmitters with him is a reality and not merely a
literary form, and it is always very short. Writing shortly after
the events he describes, Abu Mikhnaf often relates from an
eyewitness account with only one intermediary between
himself and his source. (90) Gibb suggests that Abu Mikhnaf
presents an Iraqi or Ku fan, rather than purely Shi'i!, point of
view in his narratives. (91) In this his sympathies are no doubt
on the side of Iraq against Syria; for 'Ali, against the
Umayyads. Yet in the opinion of Welihausen there is not
much of a bias noticeable, at least not so much as to positively
falsify fact. (92)

The Maqtal of Abu Mikhnaf has come to us through
numerous sources. It is, however, Tabari who used this work
in full for the first time and thus becomes our main source of
the text. In most cases Tabari quotes Abu Mikhnaf directly,
but quite a few traditions he quotes from Hisham b.

Muhammad al-Kalbi, most of these, no doubt, going back to
Abu Mikhnaf himself. Tabari sometimes begins his narrative
by saying: "Abu Mikhnaf said from so-and-so..."; and other
times by saying: "Hisham (b. al-Kalbi) said from Abu
Mikhnaf from so-and-so...,, This indicates that in the former
case Tabari is quoting directly from Abu Mikhnaf's work,
while in the latter he quotes Abu Mikhnaf in the recension of
Ibn al-Kalbi. Besides Abu Mikhnaf and Ibn al-Kalbi, Tabari
also quotes quite a few traditions transmitted from other
traditionists, which add a few variants to the preceding ones
and in most cases confirm Abu Mikhnaf.


Another source for Abu Mikhnaf is Baladhuri (died
279/892-893), whose Ansab al-ashraf pertaining to Husayn
has not yet been published, but has been used by Veccia
Vaglieri in her long and thorough article on Husayn in the
new edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vaglieri finds that
"Al-Baladhuri almost always used the same sources as At-
Tabari, but often made resumes of them, introducing them
by qalu (they said), and he provides some additional verses."
Our own examination of the manuscript leads us to agree
with her findings, thus detailed references to the Ansab
manuscript seem unnecessary. (93)

Besides these two, who have used Abu Mikhnaf in full, we
have also referred to Ibn Kathir (died 774/1372-1373), a pupil
of Ibn Taymiyya and a committed Sunni of the Syrian school,
often very critical of the Shi'i, whom he often refers to as the
Rawafid. Ibn Kathir, often selective, naturally ignores those
parts of Abu Mikhnaf which are directly against his interests,
such as the references to 'Uthman, etc.; otherwise he accepts
most of the material of Abu Mikhnaf. On the other hand,
early Shi'i writers, like Shaykh al-Mufid (born 336/947, died
413/1022) in his Irshad, and others, relate the tragedy of
Karbala, apart from Abu Mikhnaf from their own sources,
often going back to 'Ali b. al-Husayn. This son of Husayn,
twenty-three years old when he was present at Karbala, could
not take part in the battle due to his illness and was thus saved
from the general massacre. This makes him a major narrator
of the tragedy. It is indeed very interesting and useful to note
that in general outline and in all the major events, the
renderings of Shaykh al-Mufid, a very committed die-hard
Shi'i, are closely paralleled by those of the Syrian Ibn Kathir.
In examining Abu Mikhnaf's Maqtal al-Husayn one must
particularly take into consideration the time factor to the
author's advantage. We do not know precisely the date of his
birth, but at the rising of Ibn Ash'ath against Hajjaj in 80-
82/699-701, (94) Abu Mikhnaf had already reached manhood. (95)
The tragedy of Karbala took place in 61/680. This means that
Abu Mikhnaf must have been born about the year of the
tragedy, and at the time of Ibn al-Ash'ath's revolt he must
have been somewhere between the ages of eighteen and
twenty-two. It is certain that many of those who took active
part in the battle of Karbala on the Umayyad side were still


living, and thus the author had the opportunity of meeting
and interviewing personally those who had witnessed the
event themselves. For this reason, in the Maqtal Abu
Mikhnaf cites his authority with the clear observation wa
kana qad shahida qatl al-Husayn (and he witnessed the
murder of Husayn). Without exception, throughout his
narrative he uses the verb haddathani (he told me); and if his
report is not directly from an eyewitness, he cites only one or
two intermediaries who had received the account from the
eyewitness himself. Thus in our quotations above concerning
the statements of loyalty, pledges, and rajaz, the isnad runs:

1: Abu Mikhnaf-Muhammad b. Qays (eyewitness).

2: Abu Mikhnaf-Harith b.Hasira and 'Abd Allah b. Sharik
al-'Amiri (eyewitnesses).

3: Abu Mikhnaf-'Abd Allah b. 'Asim and Dahhak b. 'Abd
Allah (eyewitnesses).

4: Abu Mikhnaf-Abu Jana-b al-Kalbi and 'Adi b. Hurmula

5: Abu Mikhnaf-Muhammad b. Qays (eyewitness).(96)

Often he further strengthens his isnad by citing more than
one eyewitness, for instance in 2, 3, and 4 above. Reporting
the pledges of the supporters of Husayn on the night of
'Ashura, he says that 'Ali b. al-Husayn said: "I was lying sick
in my bed and heard my father's speech and the replies of his
supporters thereto."

The Maqtal al-Husayn of Abu Mikhnaf must have soon
received widespread popularity, and numerous copies must
have been made and circulated. This is evident from an
examination of the isnads and reference to sources in which
the work is used by other authors. Tabari source was no
doubt mainly Hisham b. al-Kalbi directly. But Mufid, Abi'l-
Faraj (Maqatil al- Talibiyin), Ibn Kathir, and many others
give different sources and names through whom the work
reached them. For example, Mufid often begins his narrative
with the prefatory comment: "What is reported by Al-Kalbi,
Al-Mada'ini, and others than these two from among the
biographers (ashab a-b as-Siyar)." (97) Similarly, Abu'l-Faraj quotes
Abu Mikhnaf from Ibn al-Kalbi and Mada'ini, and addition-
ally from sources such as Husayn b. Nasr, the son of the
famous Nasr b. Muzahim al-Minqari, the author of Waq'at


and 'Awana, the famous historian. Abu'l-Faraj alone
uses about five different isnads going back to Abu Mikhnaf,
and quite a few other independent isnads going back to 'Ali
b. al-Husayn, and then as usual summarises the accounts of
all of them together. Basically, however, Abu'l-Faraj's source
for Abu Mikhnaf is Mada'ini. (98) Likewise still other authorities
and different sources are given by Ibn Kathir, through
whom he was able to use Abu Mikhnaf. (99)

Mention must finally be made of the four manuscripts of
the Maqtal, located at Gotha (No.1836), Berlin (Sprenger,
Nos. 159-160), Leiden (No.792), and St. Petersburg (Am No.
78). It was from the first two that Ferdinand Wustenfeld
made a German translation of the work entitled Der Tod des
Husein Ben 'Ali und die Rache (Gottingen, 1883). Wustenfeld,
while convinced of the early origin of these manuscripts,
doubts that the author was Abu Mikhnaf. (100) The foremost
argument he puts forward is that it contains some miraculous
and supernatural types of stories, such as terrible manifestations
of grief in natural phenomena: reddening skies, bleeding
sands, and so forth. Ursula Sezgin questions Wustenfeld's
criticism at several points and suggests that while the existing
manuscripts may be the recensions or rewritings made by
some later unknown writers, the fact remains that Tabari's
main source of Abu Mikhnaf was Ibn al-Kalbi.(101)

However, some of these miraculous stories or fantasies have
found a place even in Tabari, which suggests that these might
have been originally written by Abu Mikhnaf himself or may
have been incorporated by Ibn al-Kalbi when he rewrote his
master's work. But to cast doubts on Abu Mikhnaf's
authorship of the Maqtal only on the grounds that some
supernatural and miraculous events are recorded, as Wustenfeld
is inclined to suggest, would mean to ignore certain
tendencies of the age. It would perhaps be a grave error to
expect that a book written in the early eighth century about
a great religious personality would not accept supernatural
occurrences as a matter of course, especially when the main
event itself is so charged with emotion and suffering. The
Near East has produced an enormous number of books on
the miracles of saints and holy men, and it would be strange
indeed if Islam had not followed in the footsteps of its
predecessors in glorifying the deeds of its Prophet and his


family, even at the expense of their human greatness.

Moreover, as explained in the first chapter, the Arabs always
believed in certain supernatural powers endowed on some
sacerdotal families. Similarly, certain reactions of natural
elements in certain conditions were also a commonplace
factor in the system of Arab beliefs. After the Arabs'
conversion to Islam, the miraculous stories were growing in
narration right from the time of the Prophet, to which the
Sira of Ibn Hisham bears testimony.

The most extraordinary circumstances of Husayn's death,
immediately followed by the Tawwabun Movement highly
charged with passion and remorse, and the propaganda
carried out by the Tawwabun and by Al-Mukhtar naturally
produced some supernatural stories alongside the accounts of
the tragedy. We can, therefore, conclude that even if a few
popular legends and supernatural events related to the
tragedy are described in the Maqtal, this does not mean that
the work is not of Abu Mikhnaf's authorship, nor that the
whole account is unreliable. The inclusion of such stories
does not eclipse the fact that the Maqtal also contains and
comprises the efforts of a prominent Arab historian to collect
and preserve the most reliable and the most contemporary
historical accounts of Husayn's martyrdom available to
scholarship at a time when many participants in the events
were still alive and able to contribute their knowledge to Abu
Mikhnaf's research.

# Chapter 8
The Reaction after Karbala

The martyrdom of Husayn was of great religious significance
and had a deep heart-searching after-effect upon the Shi'is,
giving a new turn to the mode and nature of the Shi'i
movement. The tragic fate of the grandson of the Prophet
stirred religious and moral sentiments, particularly among
those of the Kufan followers of the House of the Prophet who
had so zealously asked Husayn to come to Iraq to guide them
on what they considered to be the path of God. But when
Husayn came to Iraq they did not or could not stand with
him in the hour of trial. Soon afterwards, however, they
realized that their inability, or rather weakness, had been the
cause of the tragedy. A deep sense of repentance set in,
provoking their religious conscience; and in order to expiate
their negligence and obtain God's forgiveness, they thought
they must make similar sacrifices. They believed that they
could only prove their real repentance by exposing themselves
to death while seeking vengeance for the blood of Husayn.
Hence they named themselves the Tawwabun (penitents) and
are known in Islamic history by this self-imposed title. (1) This
movement, as will be seen below, proved to be an important
step forward in the consolidation of Shi'i Islam.

The movement began under the leadership of five of the
oldest and most trusted associates of 'Ali, with a following of
a hundred diehard and devoted Shi'is of Kufa, none of whom
was below sixty years of age. (2) This age factor should
particularly be noted, as it indicates the maturity of their
religious thinking and behaviour. The five leaders of the
movement, Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza'i, Al-Musayyab b.
Najaba al-Fazari; 'Abd Allah b. Sa'd b. Nufayl al-Azdi, Abd


Allah b. Walin at-Tami, and Rifa'a b. Shaddad al-Bajali;
had always been in the forefront of all Shi'i activities in Kufa,
and were highly respected by the Shi'a for their sincerity of
purpose and unshaken devotion to the cause of the Ahl al-
Bayt. Similarly, the other hundred who joined these leaders
of the movement are described as "the most select from among
the followers of 'Ali". (3) Towards the end of 61/680 they held
their first meeting in the house of Sulayman b. Surad. (4) This
was the first opportunity for them to come out from their
hiding places and meet together, since the state of martial 18W
imposed on Kufa before the massacre at Karbala had now
been relaxed.

Detailed accounts of this first meeting and the passionate
speeches made by these five leaders are preserved for us by
the sources. The first to speak was Al-Musayyab b. Najaba al-
Fazari He said:

"We invited the son of the daughter of our Prophet to come to
Kufa to guide us on the right path, but when he responded to our
call we became greedy for our own lives until he was killed in our
midst. What excuse would we have before our Lord, and before
our Prophet when we meet him on the Day of Resurrection,
while his most beloved son, family, and progeny were massacred
in our midst. By God, there is no other way for us to expiate
ourselves for the sin except to kill all his murderers and their
associates or be killed. Perhaps by doing so our Lord may forgive
our sin. You must, therefore, now select someone from among
you as your leader, who can organize and mobilize you under his
command and proceed with the plan of seeking God's forgiveness
by taking the action which has been proposed." (5)

Rifa'a b. Shaddad al-Bajali, another senior member of the
five leaders, then spoke, appealing passionately to the religious
sentiments of those present. After emphasizing further what
Al-Musayyab had said, he proposed:

"Let us give command of our affairs to Shaykh ash-Shi'a, the
companion of the Prophet, possessor of priority in Islam,
Sulayman b. Surad, the one praised for his intrepidity and for his
religion and the one who has been dependable and reliable in his
judiciousness and prudence (Hazm)." (6)

The other three leaders named above spoke in the same
vein and seconded the proposal to chooose Sulayman as their


leader on the same grounds as mentioned by Rifa'a. It is
important to note that the qualifications for the leadership of
the movement, which was indeed dedicated to the Shi'i cause,
were companionship with the Prophet and priority or
precedence in Islam (sabiqa). This, like many other instances,
means that the main emphasis of the Shi'is was to enforce the
Islamic ideal, which they thought could only be achieved
through the Ahl al-Bayt, the people nearest to the Prophet.
Sulayman b. Surad, accepting the responsibility of leading
the movement, made a forceful speech in which he laid down
the severest standards required of those who wanted to
participate and emphasized that they should be ready to
sacrifice their lives for the noblest task ahead of them. (7) The
response from all those present was equally enthusiastic.
They pledged to seek God's pardon by fighting to the death
the killers of the grandson of the Prophet. In order to prove
the purity of their intentions many of them willed all of their
properties and possessions, except for arms, as Sadaqat for the
Muslims. Sulayman appointed 'Abd Allah b. Walin at-Taymi
as the treasurer to collect the contributions made by the Shi'a
and to use the money for the preparation of the mission. (8)

With no loss of time Sulayman undertook the organization of
the movement. He entered into correspondence with Shi'i
leaders in other cities, namely with Sa'd b. Hudhayfa al-
Yaman in Al-Mada'in and Al-Muthanna b. Mukharriba al-
'Abdi in Basra. The movement, however, went on secretly for
about three years, increasing in numbers and strength and
waiting for an appropriate time and opportunity.

Circumstances took a sudden turn in favour of the
movement with the unexpected death of Yazid in 64/683,
encouraging the Tawwabun to come out in the open. Some of
the leading members urged Sulayman to rise publicly, Oust
'Amr b. Hurayth, deputy of 'Abd Allah b. Ziyad, from the
city, pursue those responsible for the blood of Husayn, and
call the people to support the Ahl al-Bayt Sulayman, however,
opted for a more restrained policy, pointing out that the
murderers of Husayn were in fact the ashraf al-qaba'il of
Kufa, who would have to pay for his blood. If the action were
immediately directed against them, they would become very
oppressive; and a revolt against them at this stage would
achieve nothing but disaster or even the complete destruction


of the Shi'is themselves. The purpose of avenging the blood
of Husayn would be lost. It would therefore be advisable, at
this stage, to intensify their propaganda campaign only
among their own Shi'is and among others throughout Kufa,
enlisting as much support as possible. He added that since
Yazid was now dead the people would join them more readily
and quickly.(9) Sulayman's suggestion prevailed and the
movement, so far a secret organization, came into the open
with an intensified campaign on a large scale. A number of
emissaries began ceaselessly working to invite people to join
the movement.

Abu Mikhnaf has preserved for us a speech of one of these
emissaries, 'Ubayd Allah al-Murri. It is reported from a man
of Muzayna, who said he heard it so many times that he
learned it by heart. The narrator further comments that he
had never seen anyone in his time more eloquent than Al-
Murri, and that the latter would never miss an opportunity to
preach if he happened to see a group of people. He would
begin by praising God and praying for His messenger. Then
he would say:

"God chose Muhammad from among all His creatures for His
Prophethood; He singled him out for all of His bounties. God
strengthened you by making you his followers and honoured you
with having faith in him; through Muhammad, God saved you
from the shedding of blood, and through him He made your
dangerous paths safe and peaceful. 'You were on the brink of the
pit of Fire and God saved you from it. Thus God makes His signs
clear to you. Perhaps you may be guided.' (Qur'an, III, 103). Has
God created anyone from the first to the last with greater right
over this Umma than its Prophet? Has the offspring of anyone
from among the Prophets or the Messengers or anyone else
greater right over this Umma than the offspring of its own
Prophet? No, by God, this has never been the case, nor will it ever
be. [O you people], you belong to God. Don't you see, don't you
understand what a crime you have committed against the son of
the daughter of your Prophet? Don't you see the people's violation
of his sanctity, their slackness towards him while he was lonely
and helpless, and their staining him with blood? They were
pulling him violently on the ground, not thinking of God in
regard of him nor his relationship to the Prophet. Eyes have
never before seen the like of this. By God, Husayn b. 'Ali, what a
betrayal of truth, forbearance, trust, nobility, and resolution: the


son of the first Muslim in Islam and the son of the daughter of the
Messenger of the Lord of the Worlds. Around him his defenders
were few, and his attackers were in multitudes. His enemies
killed him while his friends deserted him. Woe to the killers and
reproaches to the deserters! God will accept no excuse from those
who killed him, nor any argument from those who deserted him
except that the latter should sincerely repent before God and
fight against the killers and repudiate and eliminate the unjust
and the corrupt. Only then, perhaps, God may accept our
repentance and remove our guilt. We invite you to the Book of
God and the Sunna of his Prophet, to vengeance for the blood of
his [Prophet's] family and to war on the heretics and deviators
from the true religion. If we are killed, there is nothing better for
the pious than to be with their God; if we are successful, we will
restore power to the Ahl al-Bayt of our Prophet." (10)

In all the preceding chapters dealing with the developments
from the time of the death of the Prophet till the death of
Husayn, the Shi'i doctrinal stand and their religio-political
aspirations have repeatedly been pointed out. If we recall the
arguments put forward by the supporters of 'All on the
occasions of the Saqifa and the Shura, the contents of the
letters written by Hasan to Mu'awiya and that of Husayn to
the Shi'is of Kufa and Basra, the pledges and statements
made by the supporters of Husayn at Karbala, and the
speeches delivered by the leaders of the Tawwabun in their
first meeting, Al-Murri's exhortations can be seen as nothing
other than an echoing of the same ideals. It would suffice to
say that throughout Al-Murri's speech the main emphasis is
laid on Husayn's relationship with the Prophet through
Fatima. The name of 'Ali appears only twice: the first time in
Husayn's name as "Husayn b. 'Ali", which was a usual way of
describing anyone, and the second when Husayn is mentioned
as "the son of the first Muslim", but even in this his position
as "the son of the daughter of our Prophet" is immediately
referred to. (Even at the time of the Saqifa and the Shura the
main emphasis was on 'Ali's nearness and close association
and relationship with the Prophet.) Thus the Tawwabun put
far more emphasis on the idea of succession to the Prophet by
blood than to 'Ali by blood. The main part of the speech, that
to kill the murderers of Husayn in order to avenge his blood
or be killed in order to expiate their failure in supporting


Husayn, and thus to seek God's forgiveness, was a new
dimension necessitated by the tragedy of Karbala. Finally, a
call to the Book of God and the Sunna of the Prophet, as has
been pointed out earlier, was an implicit rejection of the
precedent of the first three caliphs and thereby gave 'Ali and
other Imams of the family of the Prophet exclusive authority
to interpret or reinterpret the Prophetic Sunna.

The campaign of the Tawwabun, however, succeeded in
gaining the support of i6,ooo Kufans, (11) since the situation in
Kufa was much more conducive to success now than ever
before. The sudden death of Yazid greatly weakened
Umayyad control of the province. The sickly son of Yazid,
Mu'awiya II, succeeded his father only six months before his
own death, and the old Marwan b. al-Hakam managed to
become the new Umayyad caliph. In Syria this led to a bloody
conflict between the two rival tribal groups of Kalb and Qays,
leaving the Umayyad capital in chaos and unable to maintain
its firm control over neighbouring Iraq. In the Hijaz, 'Abd
Allah b. az-Zubayr, who had already put forward his own
claims to the caliphate and was taking advantage of Yazid's
death and of Syrian confusion and weakness, organized and
consolidated his power afresh and assumed the title of Amir
al-Mu'minin. The Umayyad governor and the strong man,
'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, who resided in Basra as the governor
of both Kufa and Basra, was expelled by a rebellion of the
inhabitants of the latter city and fled to Marwan in Syria.
The Kufans, on their part, ousted 'Amr b. al-Hurayth, the
deputy of Ibn Ziyad in Kufa. (12) In the power vacuum, the
ashraf of Kufa promptly wrote to 'Abd Allah b. az-Zubayr to
take advantage of the situation and appoint his governor.
With the Shi'i groups emerging and the Syrian domination
weakening, the tribal and clan leaders of Kufa found it in
their interest to align themselves with Ibn az-Zubayr, who
represented the old Meccan-Qurayshite hegemony. Ibn az-Zubayr
immediately sent to Kufa 'Abd Allah b. Yazid al-
Ansari as his governor in charge of military affairs, and
Ibrahim b. Muhammad b. Talha in charge of the kharaj. (13)

Now with the obstacles removed, Sulayman b. Surad
started final preparations for action. He wrote to the Shi'i
leaders in Al-Mada'in and Basra, calling them to be ready to
rise to avenge the blood of Husayn and to put right the affairs


which had gone wrong and had become unjust. He asked
them to meet at Nukhayla, outside Ku fa, on the first of Rabi'
II of the next year, 65/684. The Shi'i leader in Al-Mada'in,
Sa'd b. Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman, called in the Shi'a of that
region and read the letter to them and received an enthusiastic
response. The Shi'i leader in Basra, Al-Muthanna b. Mukharriba
al-'Abdi, also accepted the call and mobilized the
Shi'is of that city. The long texts of these letters, (14) which Abu
Mikhnaf has meticulously preserved for us, make extremely
useful and revealing reading for an understanding of the
religious sentiments and feelings and the doctrinal stand of
the Shi'a of this period. In essence these are much the same as
the speeches of the Tawwabun and that of Al-Murri.

At this stage, Al-Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayda ath-Thaqafi, also
a devoted follower of the Ahl al-Bayt, appeared in Ku fa. His
mission was the same as that of the Tawwabun insofar as the
revenge for the blood of Husayn and establishing the rights
of the Ahl al-Bayt were concerned, but differed in that he
wanted td achieve political authority through a more
organized military power. Mukhtar, therefore, tried to
persuade the Tawwabun not to take any hasty action and to
join him for a better chance of success. The Tawwabun
refused to join Mukhtar, as they had no wish to participate in
any doubtful adventure or to deviate from their main purpose
of atonement through sacrifice. They said that they would
follow only Shaykh ash-Shia Sulayman b. Surad. (15) Two
points in. Mukhtar's arguments with the Tawwabun are worth
noting here, since they reveal fundamental differences
between them. Mukhtar said that firstly Sulayman did not
know how to organize the military for warfare, nor did he
have any knowledge of diplomacy or politics; secondly,
Mukhtar had been appointed by the Mahdi, Muhammad b.
al-Hanafiya, as his deputy, confidant, and minister to avenge
the blood of Husayn. (16) (Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya was 'Ali's
third son from a Hanafite woman, and was not a descendant
of the Prophet.) The refusal of the Tawwabun to support
Mukhtar on these grounds indicates that they were interested
neither in purely military ventures nor in political affairs; nor
were they ready to accept even the eldest surviving son of 'Ali
as their Imam, as he was not the direct descendant of the
Prophet through Fatima. Thus the disagreement over


strategy or tactics was secondary to the disagreement over the

Though the Tawwabun did not openly proclaim any
particular member of the Ahl al-Bayt as their Imam, there are
strong indications that they believed that the rightful Imam
was now Husayn's surviving son 'Ali, later known as Zayn al-
'Abidin. There are many factors that support this view.
Firstly, the very idea of the leadership based in the hereditary
sanctity, which attracted the Arabs of Shi'i tendency, was still
confined to the progeny of Muhammad through Fatima; it
had been transferred from Hasan to Husayn and not to any
other member of the Hashimite clan. It has repeatedly been
pointed out in what we have discussed so far that only rarely
are Hasan and Husayn described as the sons of 'Ali; they
were much more frequently referred to as "the son of the
daughter of our Prophet". Secondly, the name of Muhammad
b. al-i;1anaflya had not been cited at the time when the
Tawwabun first held their meeting soon after Karbala in
61/680; Mukhtar arrived in Kufa after the death of Yazid in
64/684 and began his campaign in the name of Ibn al-
Hanafiya. Thus the name of Ibn al-Hanafiya appeared for
the first time four years later, when the Tawwabun were
almost ready for action. Thirdly, even Mukhtar, who was the
main progenitor of Ibn al-Hanafiya's leadership, first approached
'Ali b. al-Husayn, as will be seen later, and only
when the latter refused to involve himself in any public
movement did Mukhtar turn to Ibn al-Hanafiya and
ingratiate himself with his name.

Since 'Ali b. al-Husayn himself refused to make any public
claims or to allow any claims to be made on his behalf, the
Tawwabun refrained from mentioning his name. Nevertheless,
since certain vague references made by the Tawwabun
during their campaign, such as the verses composed by their
poet, 'Abd Allah b. al-Ahmar, in which he speaks of "a caller
who invited them to salvation", (17) obviously refer to an Imam,
and since the name of Ibn al-Hanafiya would not be associated
with the imamate for another three years, the reference must
have been to 'Ali b. al-Husayn. This is based on the fact that
the Shi'a of Kufa had already established a precedent when
they proclaimed Hasan b. 'Ali, and not any other member of
the Hashimite house, as the successor of his father. It seems


also that the Tawwabun, after their sad experience vis-à-vis
Husayn, decided not to put forward 'Ali b. al-Husayn's name
for the leadership until they had been successful in throwing
off Umayyad rule in Kufa or else sacrificing themselves in
active repentance for their failure in carrying out their duties
with regard to Husayn.

The main body of the Tawwabun, however, refused to join
Mukhtar, though at least 2,000 of these who had registered
their names with Sulayman did switch over to him, obviously
in the hope of better political prospects.

As the time for action was approaching, Sulayman b. Surad
and other leaders of the movement were putting more and
more emphasis on disavowing any intention of political
conquest and discouraged those who might have joined them
for material benefits or worldly gains. According to their
plan, in the beginning of Rabi' II, 65/November, 684, they
raised their call for "revenge for the blood of Husayn (ya
latha'rat al-Husayn)" and set out on their mission. They
gathered at Nukhayla, a suburb of Kufa, from where they
had to march against the forces of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, the
Umayyad governor who had been responsible for the
massacre at Karbala. The rigorous standards set by Sulayman
b. Surad, however, proved to be too much for the majority of
the volunteers: of the 16,000 who had registered themselves,
only 4,000 came to the rendezvous at Nukhayla. The governor
of Ibn al-Zubayr, 'Abd Allah b. Yazid, tried to dissuade them
from carrying out their plans and suggested to Sulayman that
he wait until the former could prepare an army to join them.
They refused to change their plan or to accept his help, (18) as
it would have compromised their whole position. Their
intention was to avenge the blood of Husayn, to establish the
Shi'i imamate or to die. They were prepared to die rather
than to have 'Abd Allah b. Yazid's non-Shi'i support. If they
had accepted it they would have merely been joining one
political faction, the supporters of Ibn az-Zubayr, against
another, the Umayyads. Now, with the Tawwabun volunteers
reduced from 16,000 to 4,000, they could hardly hope for any
success except in fighting to the death and seeking atonement
and repentance. They were determined to carry out their
pledges to themselves.

They spent three days in prayer and remembrance of God
at Nukhayla. The Shi'a from Al-Mada'in and Basra had not
yet arrived, and some of those at Nukhayla wanted to await
their arrival, but Sulayman insisted that they should proceed
without further delay. He told them:

"There are two kinds of people. There are those who want the


benefits of the hereafter, who hurry towards it and do not seek
any worldly reward; and there are those whose acts are motivated
by worldly gains. You are going for the benefits of the life
hereafter: remember God in abundance in any situation and you
will soon attain nearness to God and receive His best reward by
fighting in His way and being patient in all calamities. Let us
then proceed to our goal." (19)

According to Baladhuri the people responded from all
sides, "We are not seeking the world and we have not come
out for it." (20) But in the morning another 1,000 were missing
from his army. Sulayman was not discouraged and merely
said that it was better that such people should go.

From Nukhayla the Tawwabun first went to Karbala to the
grave of Husayn, where they gave themselves up to wild and
unprecedented expressions of grief, weeping and wailing for
the suffering and tragic death of the grandson of the
Prophet. (21) Welihausen points out that this was the first
incidence of the glorification of the grave of Husayn and was
purely Arabian in its character and nature since the Arabs
were used to glorifying the Black Stone fixed in the Kaeba. (22)
After spending a day and night in mourning they left the
grave of Husayn.

When they reached the village of Qarqisiya, the fifth stage
from Karbala on the road to the Syrian border, they were
generously entertained by the chief of the village, Zufar b. al-
Harith, who informed them that 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, with
a 30,000-man Syrian army, had reached 'Ayn al-Warda. The
chieftain provided Sulayman with plenty of provisions and
advised him further about 'Ubayd Allah's army and gave
him the names of other leaders who were with him. Zufar also
told Sulayman that he, along with his people, would fight the
-Syrians if the Tawwabun would stay with him and use
Qarqisiya as a base. But Sulayman did not agree.

The Tawwabun ultimately reached 'Ayn al-Warda and
engaged the Syrians fiercely, shouting, "Paradise! Paradise


for the Turabites!" (23) The battle lasted for three days, and the
Tawwabun fought with unprecedented resolution, determination,
and zeal. Even though greatly outnumbered, on the
first day they inflicted heavy losses on the Syrians. On the
second day, however, their own losses began to tell and their
leaders fell one after the other. The first to be killed was
Sulayman b. Surad himself, followed by Al-Musayyab b.
Najaba, 'Abd Allah b. Sa'd b. Nufayl, and then 'Abd Allah b:
Walin at-Taymi, each taking the leadership and the Tawwabun
standard in succession one after the other. By the end of
the third day the majority of the Tawwabun had fulfilled their
pledge to sacrifice their lives in the name of Husayn. The
only surviving leader, Rifa'a b. Shaddad, advised the handful
of survivors to return, and while on their way back they were
met by the Shi'is of Al-Mada'in and Basra, who had been
coming to join them, but now turned back to Qarqisiya. (24)

In an attempt to analyse the Tawwabun movement, a few
points are conspicuous. Firstly, all the 3,000 Tawwabun who
fought in the battle were Arabs there were no mawali among
them. (25) It was Mukhtar who first mobilized the Persian
mawali in active participation, thus giving the Shi'i movement
a wider appeal. Secondly, among these 3,000 Tawwabun,
though the majority were from South Arabian or Yemeni
tribes, the northern and central Arabian tribes of Mudar and
Rabi'a were by no means under-represented. In fact, the
second in command, Al-Musayyab b. Najaba, was from
Mudar. Looking at the names of some of the Tawwabun as
given by the sources, (26) one finds that many of the chief tribes
of the Arabs of both Yemenis and Nizaris were well
represented. Thus Shi'i feelings were not confined to any
single group of the Arabs. Thirdly, the penitent army
included a very large number of the original qurra' of Kufa, (27)
all the five leaders being among them.

All of these facts, however, indicate two fundamental
points. Firstly, the Shi'i movement till the time of the
Tawwabun (65/684) was still purely Arabian in character and
totally untouched by non-Arab elements, doctrinal or other-
wise. And secondly, the movement of the Tawwabun was
totally a religious affair. Husayn himself, when he met Yazid's
army, was fully aware of his dignity as the grandson of the
Prophet, as well as the son of 'Ali, and the Tawwabun by their


action were certainly combining loyalty to 'Ali with loyalty to
Muhammad himself, and thus were taking the matter strictly
as a religious issue. Finally, if we compare the feeling and the
expressions of those of the Shi'a who gave up their lives with
Husayn at Karbala, as explained in the previous chapter,
with the speeches and expressions made by the Tawwabun,
recorded earlier in this chapter, we find that the arguments
and sentiments of both groups were based on the same
religious principles.

But there is a great difference between the two, however.
At Karbala the presence of Husayn himself was a great
personal obligation on the Shi'a who fought and were killed
with him. In the case of the Tawwabun there was no personal
binding force which could keep them zealous enough to make
them die except a strong feeling of duty and a deep sense of
religious obligation. Thus the Tawwabun pushed Shi'ism
another step forward towards an independent and self-
sustaining existence.

# Chapter 9
The Struggle for Legitimacy

What has so far been said completes the first and fundamental
phase in the history of the development of Shi'i Islam. In this
phase a rather specific direction, a well-defined trend of
thought, an ideal of polity, and an underlying principle of
religious adherence were established which can easily be
distinguished as the Shi'i interpretation of Islam. Perhaps
even at this early stage one can discern the basic difference
between the Shi'a and the rest of the community, for while
the former preferred to accept the leadership of only those
who derived their authority directly from the person of the
Prophet and in this way enjoyed divine sanction, the latter
vested the authority for the leadership in the community as
a whole, which was thus entitled to choose the leader.

With the death of Husayn, however, Shi'ism entered the
second phase of its history. While the basic principle remained
the same, disagreements arose over the specific criteria for
deciding who the divinely inspired leader was, and this led to
the internal division of Shi'i Islam. A study of the history of
religions would show that a common phenomenon of world
religions and their factions has been that they always split
over certain details when they enter the second phase of their
development. Islam too, and within it both the major groups
of Shi'is and Sunnis, could not escape this fate.

We have seen in the previous chapter that shortly before
the Tawwabun marched against the Syrians, Mukhtar arrived
in Kufa and tried to gain the support of Sulayman b. Surad
and his followers for his own plan to rise against the
Umayyads. The Tawwabun, however, refused to join him.
The personality and character of Mukhtar have been


subjected to a great controversy in early Shi'i history. Some
sources present him as an ambitious adventurer seeking
political authority for himself in the name of the Ahl al-Bayt.
Others give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that his
actions were in reality motivated by his love for the family of
the Prophet, though his approach and tactics were different
from those of the Tawwabun.

An exhaustive scrutiny of the sources may well prove that
he was a devoted follower of the House of 'Ali and a sincere
supporter of their cause, but whatever the case may be, the
fact remains that he has generally been treated rather
unsympathetically by the sources of different schools for
different reasons. The Twelver Shi'i sources present him in
an unfavourable light since it was he who for the first time
began propaganda for the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-
Hanafiya, thus deviating from the line of Fatima. The non-
Shi'i sources, on the other hand, seem to have been influenced
by the anti-Mukhtar propaganda launched by both the
sympathizers of Ibn az-Zubayr and those of the Umayyads.
No serious study has so far been done on Mukhtar, and the
sketchy accounts given by some of the modern scholars (1) are
generally influenced, without a critical assessment, by the
sources usually hostile to him. Recently, however, Hodgson
has hinted that the blackening of Mukhtar's reputation and
the attempt to discredit him began from the time of his death. (2)

The fact, however, remains that Mukhtar, in all probability
due to the quiescent policy of Zayn al-'Abidin,-to be discussed
below, was responsible for shifting the Imamate from the
descendants of the Prophet through Fatima to another son of
'Ali! Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya, thus creating the first
deviation from the legitimist body of the Shi'a. The word
legitimist may not be a good expression, but it is perhaps the
nearest English approximation to the idea of a central body of
the Shi'a, where the Imamate remained strictly restricted in
the line of 'Ali and Fatima, coming from Hasan to Husayn
and then through explicit nomination from father to son,
usually to the eldest surviving son, until it ended with the
twelfth Imam. Our intention in the following chapters is,
therefore, to restrict our attention to the survey of this
legitimist or central body of the Shi'a, which was reduced to an
almost insignificant number after the death of Husayn by the


newly emerging revolutionary or Messianic branches of the
Shi'a. The use of the term legitimist and central body may
seem at this stage arbitrary and a premature description of a
later development; nevertheless, the fact remains that it was
this legitimist faction which ultimately re-emerged as the
largest and thus the central body of the Shi'a, and was
eventually to be known as the Imamiya or Ithna-'ashariya
(Twelver) Shi'a. The movement of Mukhtar and the idea of
the Mahdi attached to the person of Muhammad b. al-
Hanafiya, with its extremist and esoteric doctrines, or other
ramifications of the Shi'a, are therefore beyond the scope of
this study.

It may, however, be pointed out here for future reference
that from this time of the confusion in the leadership which
followed the death of Husayn, this study has to address itself
to two different questions: first, how legitimist Shi'ism
maintained its separate identity without being absorbed into
the emerging Sunni synthesis; and second, how it maintained
its own character distinct from the revolutionary and
extremist branches within Shi'ism itself. To resist the latter
form of absorption was indeed more difficult, since extremist
and revolutionary ideas are often more appealing than
moderate ones.

As long as Husayn was alive the Shi'is remained united,
considering him the only head and Imam of the House of the
Prophet. But his sudden death and the quiescent attitude of
his only surviving son 'Ali, more commonly known as Zayn
al-'Abidin, left the Shi'a in confusion and created a vacuum
in the active leadership of the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt.
Thus the period following Husayn's death marks the first
conflict over the leadership of the followers of 'Ali, resulting
in the division of the Shi'a into various groups.

'Ali Zayn al-'Abidin was the only one of the sons of Husayn
whose life was spared during the massacre at Karbala, since
he did not take part in the fighting due to illness. He was at
that time twenty-three years old. (3) After his return from
Karbala, Zayn al-'Abidin lived in Medina for most of his life,
avoiding any political involvement as much as he could. The
tragedy of Karbala left a deep mark on him and it was only
too natural that he bore a deep grudge against the Umayyads,
holding them responsible for the massacre of his father and


all other family members. In spite of this feeling, however, he
refrained from expressing any hostile attitude towards them.
As a result, the Umayyads also tried to maintain good
relations with him; in particular, Marwan b. al-Hakam and
his son 'Abd al-Malik even showed a certain respect and
affection for him. (4)

When the Medinese rose against Yazid b. Mu'awiya in the
year 62/681, Zayn al-'Abidin, in order to emphasize his
neutrality in the political struggle in the community, left
Medina and went to stay on his estate outside the city. (5) When
Marwan, the governor of Medina, was compelled by the
Medinese to leave the city, he took his wife to Zayn al-'Abidin
and asked him to protect her. Zayn al-'Abidin demonstrated
his magnanimity by accepting this responsibility; he sent her
to Ta'if escorted by his son 'Abd Allah. (6) When Yazid's army,
led by Muslim b. 'Uqba however, defeated the Medinese in
the battle of Harra, and sacked and looted the city, Zayn al-
'Abidin and his family were left unmolested. Moreover, while
all the Medinese were obliged to take a humiliating oath of
allegiance, declaring themselves slaves of the Caliph Yazid,
Zayn al-'Abidin was exempted. (7) If this information, so widely
reported by the sources, on the one hand illustrates the
neutral policy of Zayn al-'Abidin, on the other hand it also
indicated that the Umayyads, after killing Husayn, began to
realize the respect and regard which the progeny of the
Prophet commanded among the majority of the Muslims.

In the conflict between the Umayyads and 'Abd Allah b.
az-Zubayr, Zayn al-'Abidin remained neutral. Ibn az-Zubayr
did him no harm, but held him in Mecca under his
supervision. Still another important factor in Zayn al-
'Abidin's policy was his reserved attitude towards Mukhtar,
who tried his best to gain his explicit support. Besides many
approaches to Zayn al-'Abidin, which Mukhtar made while
he was in the Hijaz, he even wrote a letter to Zayn al-'Abidin
from Kufa, offering his allegiance. (8) In avenging the blood of
Husayn, Mukhtar beheaded most of those responsible for the
tragedy. The head of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, the chief
architect of the massacre at Karbala, was sent by Mukhtar to
Zayn al-'Abidin, not to Ibn al-Hanafiya, and was delivered in
a most dramatic manner. (9) The son of Husayn is reported to
have been seen so happy at that occasion that people said that


they had never noticed him so elated since that tragedy at
Karbala. Nevertheless, he continued his reserved and with-
drawn attitude towards Mukhtar. The sources even report
Zayn al-'Abidin as publicly denouncing Mukhtar in violent
terms which seem to warrant serious examination. (10) If these
reports are correct, however, the reason for Zayn al-'Abidin's
resentful attitude towards Mukhtar seems to have been the
latter's proclamation of Ibn al-Hanafiya's imamate, which
Zayn al-'Abidin considered as the usurpation of his own

Shi'i sources record a number of traditions stating that
Husayn expressly appointed Zayn al-'Abidin as his successor.
The most commonly reported tradition in this connection is.
that Husayn, before leaving for Iraq, entrusted Umm Salima,
the widow of the Prophet, with his will and letters, enjoining
her to hand them over td the eldest of his male offspring in
case he himself did not return. Zayn al-'Abidin was the only
son who came back and so he was given his father's will and
became his nominee. (11) Another tradition states that Husayn
nominated Zayn al-'Abidin as his successor and the next
Imam of the House of the Prophet just before he went out to
meet the Umayyad forces for the last encounter at Karbala. (12)

There is no criterion for an historian either to accept or to
reject this sort of tradition. Perhaps the only guiding principle
which may be used is the general tendency of the epoch and
the common practice of the people of that period. Judging
from this angle, we may recall our earlier comment in Chapter
7 that Husayn, by virtue of his family and his own position
therein as the grandson of the Prophet, thought that it was his
right to be the Imam of the community. It would therefore be
natural to think that he bequeathed his heritage to his son to
maintain his family's tradition of leadership coming down
from the Prophet. Nevertheless, the fact remains unchallenged
that after Husayn's death the majority of the Shi'is
followed Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya and not Zayn al-'Abidin,
though the Tawwabun, as we have seen, thought of the latter
as their prospective Imam. Even the remnants of the
Tawwabun who survived the battle of 'Ayn al-Warda were
attracted by Mukhtar to the side of Ibn al-Hanafrya. (13) The
reason was obvious. The Shi'is in Kufa, especially the mawali
among them, wanted an active movement which could relieve


them from the oppressive rule of the Syrians. They found an
outlet only under the banner of Mukhtar, and saw a ray of
hope in the Messianic role propagated by him for Ibn al-

On his part, Ibn al-Hanafiya did not repudiate Mukhtar's
propaganda for his Imamate and Messianic role; he never-
theless maintained a carefully non-committal attitude and
never openly raised his claims to the heritage of Husayn. (14) It
is indeed difficult to say whether Ibn al-Hanafiya's policy of
not publicly laying claims to the leadership of the Shi'is was
because of the serious risk such a claim would have entailed
or because he was aware of the fact that he. was not the
descendant of the Prophet. We have repeatedly pointed out
throughout this work, from the event of Saqifa till the
movement of the Tawwabun, that the main emphasis of the
Shi'is regarding the leadership of the community has been
focused upon the direct relationship to the Prophet. With
reference to Hasan and Husayn, we always find far more
emphasis on the idea of succession to the Prophet by blood
than to 'Ali by blood. If all these overwhelming reports have
any historic merit, then it seems very strange indeed that
immediately after Husayn's death the emphasis has so
suddenly changed from the lineage of the Prophet to that of
'Ali. It is, therefore, most probable that, besides political
danger, Ibn al-Hanafiya, not being the descendant of the
Prophet, was hesitant to claim the Imamate for himself. This
also explains why Mukhtar was first so anxious to gain the
support of Zayn al-'Abidin; and when he lost all hopes of
winning the son of Husayn, only then did he turn to Ibn al-
Hanafiya. As for the other part of the problem, that is, how
the Shi'is of Kufa so readily changed their attitude and
accepted as their Imam a son of 'Ali who was not the
descendant of the Prophet, whereas Zayn al-'Abidin was,
some explanation must be sought. Perhaps the only answer to
the riddle may be found in the fact that most of the original
and main body of the Shi'a, with a clear doctrinal stand
regarding the idea of the leadership, had been much reduced
in number, first in the Karbala massacre with Husayn, and
then in the battle of 'Ayn al-Warda under the command of
Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza'i. They were not only the hard
core and well grounded in their Shi'i! ideals, but also provided


intellectual and religious leadership and guidance to the
masses of the Shi'a of Ku fa. After Karbala and 'Ayn al-
Warda, what remained in Kufa in the name of the Shi'a were
mostly the wavering commoners of the Arabs and the mawali
who in that desperate situation could not make the delicate
doctrinal distinction between merely a son of 'Ali and a son
of 'Ali from Fatima. To them, 'Ali was, after all, the cousin of
the Prophet and also a member of the priestly clan of Hashim.
That the sanctity of the Banu Hashim was confined to
Muhammad after the Prophethood had been bestowed on
him, to the exclusion of other members of the family of
Hashim, as understood by the original body of the Shi'a, was
lost among these commoners. They were thus easily carried
away by the talented eloquence of Mukhtar and his successful
propaganda for Ibn al-Hanafiya as the deliverer (Mahdi)
from the tyranny and injustice inflicted upon them by the
Umayyads. It was, therefore, not so much the rights and
personality of Ibn al-Hanafiya which made the masses of the
Shi'is of Kufa accept him as Mahdi-Imam as it was their
desperate yearning for a deliverer from Umayyad domination
and oppressive rule. A careful examination of Mukhtar's
propaganda for Ibn al-Hanafiya would show that the
overriding emphasis in introducing him was on his role as
Mahdi and not so much on his being the Imam. This may
prove to have been the main factor which attracted people to

Once, however, the idea was implanted it found its way and
swept away most of the unstable Shi'i masses. Once it became
a popular movement with certain hopes pinned to it, even
some of the remnants of the original Shi'a were also carried
away. It is indeed difficult to resist what we may call a popular
appeal and, especially in the situation prevalent in Iraq at that
time, even some of the firm believers in the leadership of the
descendant of the Prophet could not remain unaffected. Thus
the Mahdism of Ibn al-Hanafiya soon became the order of
the day among the Shi'is of Kufa. And, in course of time, the
idea was popularly spread and accepted by the people and
developed its own doctrines and dogma, legends and beliefs.
It produced its own poets, such as Kuthayyir and Sayyid al-
Himyari and others. The majority of the Shi'a thus in that
particular period became the followers of the Mahdi-Imam


(and not of the Imam only) attached to the person of Ibn al-
Hanafiya, and eclipsed, though only for a short period of
time, the Imams from the line of Husayn.

Being the son of Husayn and the eldest surviving
descendant of the Prophet, Zayn al-'Abidin could not tolerate
this situation for long. Though he maintained his quiescent
policy of not getting involved in any politico-religious
movement, he nevertheless resisted the acceptance of
Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya as the Imam, and the latter's
own silence, which to Zayn al-'Abidin seemed to imply Ibn
al-Hanafiya's tacit approval of Mukhtar's propaganda. The
traditions recorded in this connection by Shi'i traditionists (15)
may or may not be authentic in their details, but it does seem
that he did make known to the people his own claims to the
heritage of the House of the Prophet against those made on
behalf of his uncle. This is deduced from the fact that some of
those of the prominent Shi'is who had become followers of
Ibn al-Hanafiya, such as Abu Khalid al-Kabuli (16) Qasim b.
'Awf, (17) and a few others, abandoned Ibn al-Hanafiya and
went over to Zayn al-'Abidin's side. The nucleus of his
following, though, was not formed before 73/692, the year
which marks the death of Ibn az-Zubayr and a complete
collapse of the political aspirations of the peoples of the Hijaz
and Iraq. The majority of the Shi'is, however, continued to
recognize the Imamate of Ibn al-Hanafiya and later on his
son Abu-Hashim 'Abd Allah.

Towards the end of his life Zayn al-'Abidin seems to have
succeeded in gathering round himself a small group of his
adherents, some of them quite prominent figures of the
erstwhile followers of the Ahl al-Bayt. Among them, apart
from Yahya b. Umm at-Tiwal (18) and Muhammad b. Jubayr
b. Mut'im (19) was also Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari, (20) a
respected Companion of the Prophet and a devoted supporter
of 'Ali b. Abi Talib. On account of his prestige as one of the
most devoted Companions of the Prophet who took part in
the pledge of Al-'Aqaba and in the Bay'at ar-Ridwan, Jabir's
recognition of Zayn al-'Abidin was of great significance for
the latter. Another important figure was the Kufan Sa'id b.
al-Jubayr, (21) a mawla of Banu Asad and a warm-hearted and
brave man who even refused to hide his partisanship and
support for the House of the Prophet. A well-known


traditionist, Sa'd was Zayn al-'Abidin's main spokesman and
gained for the son of Husayn many sympathizers among the
ranks of his fellow traditionists, especially from the old
companions of 'Ali b. Abi Talib. The group of Zayn al-
'Abidin's active supporters also included two young but
energetic Kufans: Abu Hamza Thabit b. Dinar, (22) an Arab
from the tribe of Azd, and Furat b. Ahnaf al-'Abdi. (23) Their
attachment to the family of Husayn remained strong, and
both were later close companions of Zayn al-'Abidin 5 son
and successor Muhammad al-Baqir. That these people
became the followers of Husaynid Imams and were in the
close circles of Zayn al-'Abidin and then of Muhammad al-
Baqir is further indicated by the fact that a great number of
Shi'i traditions from the above-mentioned Imams are
frequently transmitted on their authority. (24) Obviously the
Twelver Shi'i traditionists would not have accepted them in
their isnads had they not been the followers of these Imams.
Thus there seems to be no serious reason to doubt the reports
that these people formed a nucleus of the followers of Zayn al-

Perhaps the most important role in enhancing Zayn al-
'Abidin's prestige was played by Farazdaq, a renowned poet
of the time. He composed numerous verses to propagate the
cause of Zayn al-'Abidin, the most famous of which was his
qasida (ode) in praise of the Imam, which celebrates the
occasion when the Caliph Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik was
overshadowed by the respect the people demonstrated for the
great-grandson of the Prophet. It was at the time of the Hajj
when both of them were trying to reach the Black Stone in
the crowded Ka'ba. The people gave way to Zayn al-'Abidin
while the Caliph was struggling to reach the relic. This deeply
offended Hisham, and in a sarcastic manner he inquired who
was the person to whom the people gave preference. Farazdaq,
present at the scene, upon hearing this remark, spontaneously
composed the qasida and recited it, addressing Hisham. A
few lines from this famous qasida, which is also considered as
one of the masterpieces of Farazdaq and of Arabic literature,
are worth quoting:

It is one whose footsteps are well known to every spot

and it is he who is known to the Bayt [Ka'ba], in Mecca,

the most frequented sanctuary.


It is he who is the son of the best of all

men of God [reference to the Prophet],

and it is he who is the most pious and devout,

pure and unstained, chaste and righteous

and a symbol [of Islam].

This is 'Ali [b. al-Husayn], whose father is the Prophet,

and it was through the light of his [the Prophet's] guidance

that the darkened road changed into the straight path.

This is the son of Fatima, if you are ignorant of him;

and with his great-grandfather the Prophethood

came to an end

and Muhammad became the seal of the Prophets.

Whosoever recognizes his God knows also

the primacy and superiority of this man ['Ali b. al-Husayn],

because religion reached the nations

through his house. (25)

The authenticity of this famous qasida of Farazdaq, and
also the occasion at which it was composed and recited, has
never been questioned by anyone. It must therefore be taken
as a most reliable and useful contemporary document
describing Zayn al-'Abidin, with particular emphasis on his
noble birth as a descendant of the Prophet as distinct from
Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya. One may note with interest that
the poet, in praising Zayn al-'Abidin, describes him with
emphasis on his being the grandson of Fatima and the great-
grandson of Muhammad, while he does not refer to his being
the grandson of 'Ali b. Abi Talib.

Farazdaq, however, had to pay for his praise of the Imam,
and was imprisoned by the order of Hisham. When Zayn al
'Abidin heard about the misfortune of the poet, he sent him
a gift of 12,000 dirhams, but Farazdaq refused to accept it,
saying that he had composed the poem purely from his
religious zeal. Farazdaq remained in prison and then began
to satirize Hisham. Fearing the poet's biting tongue, the
prince released him. (26)

All these reports of Zayn al-'Abidin's adherents suggest
that the Husaynid line had never ceased to be a focus of
devotion and special regard, though in this period by a small
minority of the Shi'is, and that Zayn al-'Abidin gathered
around himself a committed following who looked upon him
as the legitimist Imam of the House of the Prophet. Yet it
cannot be denied that in the period between the death of


Husayn in 61/680 and thedeath of Ibn az-Zubayr in 73/692, Zayn al-'Abidin was left without any active following. Indeed, the Tawwabun did consider, it seems, that Zayn al-'Abidin was their Imam, but they never declared it publicly; and thesmall number of them who survived the battle of 'Ayn al- Warda went over to Mukhtar and thus accepted Ibn al- Hanafiya as their Imam. This is confirmed even by
Muhammad al-Baqir in one of his traditions quoted by
Kashshi, which must be accepted as genuine. Muhammad alBaqir
said: "After the death of Husayn all the people
apostatised except three-Abu Khalid al-Kabuli, Yahya b.
Umm at-Tiwal, and Jubayr b. Mut'im-and only later did
others join them and their numbers increased." (27) Moreover,
that Zayn al-'Abidin was not of much significance as an
Imam or leader of any visible group until the year 73/692 is
further evident from the fact that among the 'Alids, including
Ibn al-Hanafiya, whom Ibn az-Zubayr held in the prison of
'Arim, the name of Zayn al-'Abidin is nowhere mentioned.
This means that he was of no potential danger to Ibn az-Zubayr
and that until that time he remained quiet and did
not make his claims to the Imamate publicly. Silence does
not, however imply the complete absence of an idea, the
expression of which often depends on the prevailing circum-
stances and opportunities.

Apart from the small number of followers, mentioned
above, who looked upon Zayn al-'Abidin with special regard
as their Imam and the only religious authority of the time, he
was also held in great respect and high esteem by the learned
circles in Medina in general. This was the period when there
was a growing sympathy and regard for the descendants of
the Prophet among the people, though it was indeed altogether
different from that of the Shi'is. This was also the period of
growing interest in Medina in Prophetic traditions, especially
those dealing with legal matters. This was the "epoch of the
seven lawyers of Medina" whom we have mentioned in the
second chapter of this book. In this setting of Medina we find
that Zayn al-'Abidin was considered an eminent traditionist
in the Medinese circle of scholars. The greatest Medinese
lawyer of this time, Sa'id b. al-Musayyab, regarded the Imam
with the highest esteem. (28) The Shi'i sources assert that Sa'd
was a follower of the Imam, which cannot be true. In fact,


though Sa'd respected Zayn al-'Abidin and was also a close
friend of his, he did not have common views in legal matters
with him. However, at that time the schools of legal thought
were still in their embryonic state, and therefore there might
not have been many serious differences of opinion between
Zayn al-'Abidin and Sa'id. Yet it is possible that the former,
as well as his uncle, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya, adhered only
to the traditions related on the authority of 'Ali b. Abi Talib.
Another great jurist and traditionist of the period, Az-Zuhri,
was also a great friend and admirer of the Imam. The
honorific name Zayn a1-'Abidin (the ornament of the pious),
due to his excessive prayers, was given to him by Az-Zuhri; (29)
from the overwhelming reports recorded by both the Shi'i
and the Sunni authorities, (30) it seems, however, that Zayn al-
'Abidin was widely respected by the community in general
for his extraordinary qualities, such as the long duration of
his prayers, his piety, and his generosity. His piety must have
been of a high degree, for he was not inclined to making a
show of his virtues. When travelling with people who did not
know him, he remained incognito so as not to take advantage
of the fact that the Prophet was his ancestor. (31)

Zayn al-Abidin died in the year 94/712-713, and was buried
in the cemetery of Al-Baqir. He lived thirty-four years after
the death of Husayn, a period long enough to establish
himself as the trustee of the heritage of his father, and to leave
an imprint of his personality on his followers and associates.
According to the unanimous Shi'i traditions, before his
death Zayn al-'Abidin nominated Muhammad al-Baqir, his
eldest son, as his wasi and successor to his heritage.(32) One
may doubt the existence of any explicit will of Husayn for the
nomination of Zayn al-'Abidin as his successor, but we should
accept the tradition that Zayn al-'Abidin, before his death,
must have explicitly nominated his son Al-Baqir, at least in
the circle of his adherents. The obvious factor in support of
the credibility of this tradition is that during Zayn al-'Abidin's
time the majority of the Shi'is abandoned the Husaynid line
and went over to Ibn al-Hanafiya, and then accepted the
Imamate of the latter's son, Abu Hashim; Zayn al-'Abidin
thought this a usurpation of his rights and, not without much
difficulty, succeeded in winning over a group of followers on
the principle of legitimate succession through Fatima in the


line of Husayn. It is then only natural that he would have
entrusted his eldest son to continue the task on the same
ground he had established.

Zayn al-'Abidin, by raising claims to the heritage of Husayn
and by collecting around himself a number of followers, had
only laid the foundation of the legitimist group of the Shi'a;
it was the task of Muhammad al-Baqir to evolve the principles
of legitimacy in the concept of succession. Some scholars (33)
have cast doubts on whether Muhammad al-Baqir really
achieved any degree of success in his lifetime, or even whether
he claimed the Imamate for himself. There is indeed a
possibility that many traditions attributed to Al-Baqir in this
connection might have been produced by some of his
followers who survived him. Yet, there being no decisive
criterion for either admission or rejection of these traditions,
we must, as far as circumstantial evidence allows, accept them
in the form in which they are found in the earliest Shi'i
collection of Hadith, Al-Usul al-Kafi Moreover, the testimony
of the following Imams of the same line, and their own
rejection of many a tradition forged by some of the fanatical
followers of the House, makes stronger the case in favour of
the surviving traditions.

Though Muhammad al-Baqir inherited his father's follow-
ing, he had to face many more serious problems than did his
father. Zayn al-'Abidin had only to counteract the propaganda
of Mukhtar for the Imamate of Ibn al-Hanafiya, which he
could easily do on the grounds that he was the descendant of
the Prophet as well as of 'Ali. After the death of Zayn al-
'Abidin many descendants of Fatima too, either motivated by
ambitions or discontented with the idea of the Imam being
merely a spiritual guide, as adopted by Zayn al-'Abidin, raised
their own claims to the heritage of the Prophet. Thus the
immediate problem facing Al-Baqir was not from outside,
but from within the family circle. The movements of his two
most potential rivals, 'Abd Allah al-Mahdi, who worked for
his son Muhammad an-Nafs az-Zakiya, and Al-Baqir's half-
brother Zayd b. 'Ali Zayn al-'Abidin, will be discussed in
detail in the following chapter. Here it would suffice to point
out in passing that Zayd b. Zayn al-'Abidin's energies
appealed to many Shi'is and were a serious challenge to the
Imamate of Al-Baqir. In these rivalries, however, Al-Baqir


and his followers were markedly overshadowed by Zayd and
led the former to put increasing emphasis on legitimism
within the Shi'i movement. Thus, against the claims of his
half-brother, Al-Baqir resorted to the principle of nomination
by an explicit "text" (Nass)--a fundamental legitimist principle
which will be discussed in detail in Chapter II. He
claimed that Zayn al-'Abidin had appointed him to the
succession in the presence of his brothers and had entrusted
him with a casket containing secret religious scrolls and the
weapons of the Prophet. (34) A number of traditions are
recorded by the Shi'i traditionists (35) in which Al-Baqir
explains the nature and function of an Imam, who possesses
certain special qualities which come down to him through the
nass of the preceding Imam. In this way Al-Baqir introduced
certain ideas which were to be fully elaborated by his son
Ja'far as-Sadiq. The traditions of Al- Baqir, however, make it
abundantly clear that he tried to establish his position as an
Imam, declaring himself the representative of God on earth
and the divinely inspired interpreter of His Word.

Now the most vital question with which we are concerned
here is how far Al-Baqir succeeded in establishing the
principle of legitimacy in the concept of the Imamate, and
thereby whether he could really achieve any success of
religious consequence in his lifetime. A close scrutiny of the
biographical literature from both Sunni and Shi'i sources
will help us to find an answer to this question. In this attempt,
it is immensely useful to note that the names of the followers
of Al-Baqir, which have been recorded with full biographical
details by the Imamate writers, were never disputed by the
Sunny compilers of biographical dictionaries (Kutub ar-Rijal).
Instead, whenever Sunni writers mention the names of the
adherents of the legitimist Imams, they immediately remark
that he was a rafidi, or a ghali; or a Shi'i. Besides biographical
dictionaries, the heresiographical works such as Al-Bagh-dadi's
Al-Farq bayn al-Firaq, Ibn Hazm's Al-Fasl and Ash-
Shahrastani's Al-Milal wa'l-Nihal also describe these names
with often derogatory remarks. Finally, it should be noted
that the Imamate writers themselves specifically remark that
such-and-such a person changed his affiliation at such-and-
such a time to Zayd or An-Nafs az-Zakiya, whatever the case
may have been. Furthermore, the writers of the Zaydiya and


Isma'iliya sects, which produced a considerable religious
literature of their own, do not claim adherents of Al-Baqir as
among their numbers. There was, indeed, a considerable shift
from one 'Alid claimant to another by some, such as Bayan b.
Sim'an and Al-Mughira b. Sa'id al-'Ijli, but they are vocally
repudiated by the Imamate writers. All these facts, however,
support the view that the list of Al-Baqir's followers, which
we are going to enumerate here as the legitimist faction, is not
a mere fiction. No matter how much "the biographies of these
men have been touched up by Shi'ite [Imamate] writers in the
attempt to show that all along they [the Husaynid Imams]
claimed to be Imams and acted as such," (36) these reports must
have been based on certain facts. Indeed, Zayn al-'Abidin, Al-
Baqir, and Ja'far were unimportant politically and as a matter
of policy they avoided involvement in any political adventures,
but this does not mean that they did not claim a strictly
religious "function" as Imams for themselves. In fact the very
policy of quiescence caused them to be overshadowed by
other activist members of the family; at the same time,
through this very policy, they in the long run survived as the
Imams and emerged as the recognized leaders of the future
majority group of the Shi'a.

It is no doubt true, however, that immediately after the
death of Zayn al-'Abidin a struggle for the leadership began
between Al-Baqir and his half-brother Zayd, and that a great
number from among the Shi'is preferred the latter because of
his activist policy and his bold attitude. Yet, in the course of
time Al-Bsqir succeeded in winning back some of those who
had gone over to Zayd, as well as in attracting some new
followers. The most important of them were Zuhra b. 'Ayan,
his brother Humran, and Hamza b. Muhammad b. 'Abd
Allah at-Tayyar. Zuhra in particular was a very important
acquisition, for he became the most eminent theologian and
traditionist of his time, with a wide circle of disciples in
Kufa. (37) His brother Humran was formerly a close associate
of Zayn al-'Abidin and later made himself known as an
extremely devoted supporter of Al-Baqir, who promised him
Paradise and declared that "Humran would be from our Shi'a
in this world and the next." (38) Hamza b. at-Tayyar, although
for a time opposed to Al-Baqir, after hesitating between
various claimants, finally chose to follow him. (39)


Apart from Zurara, other important adherents of Al-Baqir,
who became the main authorities on Twelver fiqh when their
Shi'i legal school was formulated later on, were Ma'ruf b.
Kharrabfldh, (40) Abu Basir al-Asadi, (41) Burayd b. Mu'awiya, (42)

Muhammad b. Muslim b. Riyah at-Ta'ifi, (43) and Al-Fudayl
b. Yasar.(44) The prominent figure among them was Muhammad
b. Muslim b. Riyah, a Kufan mawla of the Thaqif, a
miller by trade, known also as Al-A'war (the one-eyed).
Described as the "most trustworthy of all men", he was well
known as a great jurist in Kufan circles and a contemporary
fellow-lawyer of Ibn Abi Layla, Aba Hanifa, and Sharik al-
Qadi. He seems to have been a counterpart of Zurara, for
while the latter was a traditionist as well as a speculative
theologian, and the originator of the Sh1'i school of kalam,
Muhammad b. Muslim combined knowledge of the science
of Tradition with the work of a practical lawyer, and was
renowned for quick and drastic solutions. He was also a well-
known ascetic.

Among these followers of Al-Baqir, Aba Basir Layth al-
Bakhtari al-Muradi also attained fame and reputation as a
great Shi'i faqih and traditionist. Aba Basir, a mawla of Banu
Asad, became the favourite companion of Al-Baqir and later
of Ja'far al-Sadiq. Ja'far is reported to have said that Aba
Basir, Burayd, Zurara, and Muhammad b. Muslim were the
"tent pegs of the world", and that without them the Prophetic
traditions would have been lost.(45) They were the fastest
runners and the closest associates of the Imams. Another
striking figure was Aba Hamza ath-Thumali, who occupied
a high place among Al-Baqir's associates, and to him may be
traced many traditions of an extremist tendency, especially
those relating to miracles.(46)

Al-Kumayt b. Zayd al-Asadi,(47) a renowned poet of his
time, was another great and very important supporter of Al-
Baqir. He served the cause of the Imam more than any other
follower through his poetic genius. His devotion, which found
expression in his talented poetry, took the name and fame of
Al-Baqir far and wide. But his collection of poetry, devoted to
the praise of the Ahl al-Bayt, the "al-Hashimiyat", caused him
some serious trouble. The anti-'Alid viceroy of Iraq, Yusuf b.
'Umar, brought this work to the attention of the Caliph 'Abd
al-Malik.(48) Kumayt, however, managed to extricate himself


from danger, and in order to please the Caliph he even wrote
some poems in praise of the Umayyads.(49) Nevertheless, the
poet remained a great favourite of the legitimist line of the
Husaynid Imams, and Ja'far as-Sadiq said of him: "Kumayt
has not ceased to be aided by the Holy Spirit." (50)

Though the city of Basra was generally anti-Shi'i, Al-Baqir
succeeded in gaining several followers there too, such as
Muhammad b. Marwan al-Basri (51) and Malik b.A'yan. (52) In
Mecca also, Al-Baqir earned quite a few staunch followers.

However, the popularity of the movement of Zayd b. Zayn
Al-Abidin overshadowed Al-Baqir's efforts to establish the
legitimist Imamate, yet Al-Baqir restricted himself to attack-
ing only the friends and followers of Zayd. Nevertheless,
when an opportunity presented itself, he did not hesitate to
contest Zayd's rights quite sharply. Thus when Sa'id b. al-
Mansur, one of the leaders of the Zaydiya circle, asked him:
"What is your opinion about nabidh, for I have seen Zayd
drinking it?" Al-Baqir replied: "I do not believe that Zayd
would drink it, but even if he did, he is neither a Prophet nor
a Trustee of a Prophet, only an ordinary person from the
Family of Muhammad, and he is sometimes right and
sometimes may commit an error." (53) This was both an open
denial of Zayd's rights to the Imamate, and an indirect
assertion of his own position as the Prophetic Wasi Muham-
mad al-Baqir was the son of Fatima, the daughter of Al-
Hasan, (54) and so, being the descendant of the Prophet and of
'Ali on both sides, he had a great advantage over Zayd, whose
mother was a slave-woman from Sind, (55) but the former never
showed any inclination to organize an active movement and
maintained the pacific policy of his father. On the other hand,
Zayd, a close associate of Wasil b. 'Ata', the Mu'tazilite, was
strongly impressed by the latter's ideas and laid emphasis on
the principle of "ordering good and prohibiting evil", if
necessary, by force. Accordingly, he believed that if an Imam
wanted to be recognized, he had to claim his right, sword in
hand. (56) Al-Baqir and Zayd quarrelled over this point, for
when the latter asserted that an Imam must rise against the
oppressors, the former remarked: "So you deny that your own
father was an Imam, for he never contested the issue."(57)

When Abu Bakr b. Muhammad al-Hadrami and his brother
'Alqama, two Kufan Shi'is, asked Zayd whether 'Ali was an


Imam before he resorted to the sword, he refused to answer
the question, which made them break their allegiance with
Zayd and go over to Al-Baqir. (58)

A crucial question was that of the rights of Abu-Bakr and
'Umar. Zayd, agreeing with the Mu'tazilites, held that the
first two caliphs had been legally elected Imams, though 'Ali
was the preferable candidate, and this greatly impressed the
traditionist circles. At the same time he rejected the Mu'tazilite
doctrine of the "intermediate state", but did not object to the
opinion of Wasil, that in the conflict between "'Ali and his
adversaries" one of the opposing sides was certainly wrong
though Wasil was not sure which, (59) whereas Zayd regarded
the virtues of 'Ali as of such a high order that the idea of his
not being in the right was inadmissible.

However, Zayd's special emphasis on accepting the
caliphates of Abu Bakr and 'Umar and his popularity on this
ground among moderate circles show, on the one hand, that
the question of the caliphates of the first two caliphs had
already been under serious discussion in some Shi'i circles at
that time, and on the other hand, that Zayd's success by
adopting this stand created an embarrassing and complicated
situation for Al-Baqir. Zayn al-'Abidin himself never spoke
against the first two caliphs, but during Al-Baqir's lifetime
some of the extremists who sided themselves with him started
asking this question among the legitimist section of the Shi'a.
Al-Baqir was thus asked time and again what he thought of
Abu Bakr and 'Umar, but he did not publicly discredit them
and rather confirmed that they were caliphs. (60) Yet certain
Shi'is of Kufa asserted that he disavowed the first two caliphs
and only concealed his real opinion by resorting to the
principle of dissimulation.(61) This propaganda on the part of
some of the Kufan followers of Al-Baqir no doubt earned him
the sympathy of many extremist and semi-extremist circles,
but on the other hand it discouraged those who wanted an
active and more practical movement to bring the Ahl al-Bayt
to power, and were already disappointed with Al-Baqir's
quiescent policy. These moderates therefore preferred to
range themselves on the side of Zayd, (62) who in order to
secure certain advantages became more emphatic in his
acceptance of the first two caliphs, at the same time rejecting
the principle of Taqiya. Al-Baqir was infuriated by the


attitude of these Ku fan Shi'is and said, "Even if the Butrites
formed one battle-line from east to west, God would not grant
glory to the world through them." (63)

Among these Kufan Shi'is was Al-Hakam b. 'Utayba al-
Kindi, one of the most eminent lawyers of his city. (64) He put
'Ali b. Abi Talib above Abu Bakr, but nevertheless remained
mild in his Shi'i partisanship, which made him highly
popular among the followers of Zayd. As the judge of Kufa,
he exercised a strong influence among his fellow-citizens,
thus greatly helping the cause of Zayd. (65) Naturally Al-Baqir,
who considered that he possessed better rights to the Imamate
than his younger half-brother, and also objected to the
generally compromising attitude of Zayd and his partisans,
spoke of them in a bitter way, giving expression to his
displeasure thus: "Hakam b. 'Utayba and other associates of
Zayd led astray many people. They say, 'We believe in God
and the Last Day,' but they are not believers." (66) The successor
of Al-Baqir, Ja'far as-Sadiq, upheld the same view and
accused Hakam of blaspheming against Al-Baqir,(67) and even
called the Zaydites an-Nussab (dissenters) who hated 'Ali. (68)

The question of the first two caliphs at this stage draws our
attention to another problem: that of religious practices. Al-
Baqir adhered to the traditions derived from 'Ali and his
supporters. There were, however, certain disagreements even
among the Ahl al-Bayt, for Zayd was inclined to accept the
practice of the Ashab al-Hadith of Kufa, mainly based on the
rulings of 'Umar. Thus it was Al-Baqir who established the
beginnings of the madhhab (legal school) of the Ahl al-Bayt
Kashshi records for us a very important tradition which says:

"Before the Imamate of Muhammad al-Baqir the Shi'is did not
know what was lawful and what was unlawful, except what they
learned from the [other] people; until Abu Ja'far [Al-Baqir]
became the Imam, and he taught them and explained to them the
knowledge [of law], and they began to teach other people from
whom they were previously learning." (69)

This tradition clearly indicates that until the time of Al-
Baqir there were hardly any differences in legal practices
among the Shi'is and Ashab al-Hadith of Medina, Kufa, and
elsewhere. Even later the differences in the sphere of legal
matters (furu') were in reality few, (70) such as while Al-Baqir


absolutely forbade all intoxicants, including nabidh
(fermented drinks) (71) the Kufan jurists allowed nabidh. Another
problem was that of mut'a (temporary marriage), over which
the Shi'i and Kufan jurists differed, the former allowing it on
the authority of 'Ali, the latter forbidding it, referring to the
decision of 'Umar. (72) The argument was that if 'Umar could
revoke a permission granted by the Prophet, then 'Ali could
revoke a ruling of 'Umar.

However, the above-mentioned accounts seem to make it
highly probable that Muhammad al-Baqir did claim the
Imamate as the inheritance of his father, and that the small
nucleus established by Zayn al-'Abidin began to develop
under him into a legitimist faction within the Shi'i movement.
If we reject this then we will have to reject many established
historical facts, foremost among them being the rivalry and
even the quarrel, overwhelmingly reported by the sources,
between him and Zayd. Nevertheless, the dates of the deaths
of the chief associates of Al-Baqir indicate that these
developments in his favour took place towards the end of his
life, for most of the renowned traditionists and jurists of his
circle survived him by at least a decade.

At the time of Al-Baqir's death, the legitimist faction,
though still limited in number, was to be found in all the
main centres of the Hijaz and Iraq. It possessed the elements
necessary for its future growth into a strong and popular
discipline. It possessed a theoretical foundation, still only
partly formulated and uncertain, and although it was not
completely separated from the current ideas permeating the
Madhhab Ashab al-Hadith, it was nevertheless sufficiently
individualized to be regarded as a doctrine in its own right. It
had in Zurara and his disciples its own school of speculative
theology and an embryo for a school of jurisprudence. Finally,
in Kumayt it was able to produce its own literature and gain
widespread public exposure.

Much has been recorded about Muhammad al-Baqir's
person and extraordinary qualities, many of which he
inherited from his father. He was extremely generous.
devoted to acts of piety, and peaceful by nature, never
thinking to organize a revolt to assert his rights. (73) Instead he
strove to impress people by his extensive knowledge in
matters of religion, and in fact he came to be considered as


one of the most erudite men of his time. Because of this
-learning, according to Ya'qubi, he was nicknamed Al-Baqir,
"the one who splits knowledge open": that is, he scrutinized it
and examined the depths of it. (74) But according to Ibn
Khallikan, he received the appellation Al-Baqir, "the ample",
because he collected an ample fund (tabaqqar) ofknowledge. (75)

Many jurists, attracted by the fame of his learning, used to
visit him to discuss legal problems. Among them were
Muhammad b. Minkadir, Abu Hanifa an-Nu'man, Qatida
b. Di'ama, 'Abd Allah b. Mu'ammar al-Laythi, and the
Kharijite Nafi' b. Azraq.(76)

It is not certain when Al-Baqir died. The earliest date is
given as 113/731-732,(77) the latest as 126/743-744. (78) The most
acceptable however, seems to be 117/735, as given by
Ya'qubi.(79) There can be no doubt that he was no longer alive
when Zayd revolted in Kufa, but he could not have been dead
for many years then, as Ja'far as-Sadiq's position was still not
well established.

Shahrastani tells us that some of Al-Baqir's followers
refused to believe that he had died and expected his raja
(return). (80) These people must have been former Kaysanites
who abandoned Abu Hashim and attached themselves to Al-
Baqir's following. If, however, this report has any truth in it,
it is a further proof that Al-Baqir in his lifetime was recognized
by a group of people as their Imam. Nawbakhti classifies his
followers as Al-Baqiriya, (81) which was replaced after his death
by Al-Ja'fariya, derived from his son and successor. (82) These
titles given by heresiographers, however, should not be taken
literally, as they are used to mention the followers of certain
persons, and not a sect.

Muhammad al-Baqir, by the time he died, had lived as an
Imam for about nineteen years. He left his heritage to his son
and successor Ja'far as-Sadiq, to whom we now turn our

# 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
sides. (2)

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. (6)


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. (7)

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
Hanifa, (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." (11)

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. (16)

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." (17)

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. (19)

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
him. (21) The former group was represented by three notable
poets, Abu'l-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. (23)
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. (25)

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
themselves." (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. (28)

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
advantages. (29)

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. (30)

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." (32)

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
leader. (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
exempted. (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
cause. (38)

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." (40)

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
Fitima.'" (42)

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
traditions.' (44)

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. (47)

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-
Faraj, (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
historians. (51) This latter report seems acceptable as Al-Mansur
in his youth was a Mu'tazihte (52) and a companion of 'Amr b.
'Ubayd, (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.(62)

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." (64)

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. (65)

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-
'Abbas. (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.(72)

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." (75)

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." (77)

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.(80)

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. (81)
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). (82)

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


assassination. (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
hopes", (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. (87)
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. (92)

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
body. (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, (97)
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 ?" (99)

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


side, (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
Islam." (103)

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
duress. (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. (105)

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

# Chapter 11
The Doctrine of the Imamate

It has been explained in detail in the preceding chapter how
the activist claimants of the House of 'Ali were crushed, their
apparently popular movements collapsed one after the other,
and the 'Abbasids finally managed to firmly establish
themselves as the sole authority of both the state and religion.
A process of assimilation was set into motion and most of the
cross-currents represented by a number of politic-religious
or religio-political groups were gradually being absorbed,
under the patronage of the state authority, into a synthesis to
be known as the Jama'a, which was supposed to support and
in turn was supported by the 'Abbasid caliphate.

In this setting the strategic task of the Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq
was to save the basic ideal of Shi'ism from absorption by the
emerging synthesis on the one hand, and to purify it from
extremist and activist tendencies within itself on the other.
Thus the circumstances in which the Imamate of Ja'far
happened to fall afforded him a unique opportunity, denied
to his father and grandfather, to firmly establish and explain
the principles of legitimacy. The rudiments of the concept
and function of the Imam had already been introduced by
'Ali in his speeches, by Hasan in his letters to Mu'awiya and
by Husayn in his correspondence with the Shi'ism of Kufa and
Basra, which we have discussed in the preceding chapters.
After the death of Husayn, the concept of legitimacy within
the family of Muhammad and of the function of the Imam
restricted to religious and spiritual guidance of the community
were laid down by Zayn al-'Abidin and Muhammad al-Baqir.
Now, after the removal of other contenders from the scene,
Ja'far enjoyed a strategically advantageous position, and it


was his task to elucidate the doctrine of the Imamate and
elaborate it in a definitive form.

In this attempt Ja'far put the utmost emphasis on two
fundamental principles. The first was that of the Nass that is,
the Imamate is a prerogative bestowed by God upon a chosen
person, from the family of the Prophet, who before his death
and with the guidance of God, transfers the Imamate to
another by an explicit designation (Nass). On the authority of
Nass, therefore, the Imamate is restricted, through all political
circumstances, to a definite individual among all the descendants
of 'Ali and Fatima, whether he claims the temporal rule
for himself or not. Naturally, the transfer of the Imamate
through Nass would be both incomplete and meaningless
unless it could be traced back to the person of 'Ali, who
should have been entrusted with the office of the Imamate by
the Prophet himself. The Nass thus initiated by the Prophet
came down from 'Ali to Hasan, from Hasan to Husayn, and
then remained strictly in the line of Husayn until through
successive Nass it reached Ja'far. This theory, as we shall see
presently, distinguished Ja'far's Imamate from all other
claimants, who did not claim a Nass from any preceding
Imam. Zayd clearly denied that there was an explicit Nass or
designation of 'Ali by Muhammad, (1) or that there was any
designation of the next Imam by the preceding one. Nor did
Muhammad an-Nafs az-Zakiya or his brother Ibrahim ever
resort to the principle of Nass from any preceding authority.
On the contrary, as Ash'ari points out,(2) the idea of Nass was
the key trait of the Rawafid (3) as opposed to the supporters of
Zayd and later on An-Nafs az-Zakiya. Ash'ari's statement is
in accordance with the unanimous reports given by the
Twelver writers themselves, such as Nawbakhti; Sa'd al-
Ash'ari, and Kashshi, of Muhammad al-Baqir's followers,
who upheld him against Zayd as the only legitimist 'Alid
authority on the principle of Nass though the doctrine of
Nass was not yet fully elaborated in his time. A comparison
between the traditions related from Al-Baqir and those from
Ja'far would demonstrate that Ja'far became increasingly
clear and emphatic in his expositions on the doctrine of the
Nass Imamate. As a result, a further comparison between the
attitudes of the followers of these two respective Imams
discloses a trend towards a clear acceptance of Ja'far as the


Imam largely on the principle of Nass This is evident from
the action of a group of the Kufan Shi'is who, after the death
of Al-Baqir, adhered for some time to Zayd, but soon
abandoned him and went over to Ja'far, whom they regarded
as the representative of Al-Baqir's claims.(4) Hodgson quotes
Strothmann's suggestion, "that the story of the Kufan Shi'is
abandoning Zayd for Ja'far shows that they already accepted
the idea of a line of Imams by inheritance."(5) The idea of the
Nass Imamate, however, became such a common instrument
that not only Ja'far, but a number of ghulat (extremist Shi'is
of Kufa, who will be discussed later), such as Bayan, Abu
Mansur, and Mughira, (6) claimed inheritance from Al-Baqir
and achieved some short-lived success. There are numerous
references in our sources to the effect that Ja'far repeatedly
condemned those fanatics and warned his followers not to
accept their traditions.

The second fundamental principle embodied in the
doctrine of the Imamate as elaborated and emphasized by
Ja'far was that of 'Ilm. This means that an Imam is a divinely
inspired possessor of a special sum of knowledge of religion,
which can only be passed on before his death to the following
Imam. In this way the Imam of the time becomes the
exclusively authoritative source of knowledge in religious
matters, and thus without his guidance no one can keep to the
right path.(7) This special knowledge includes both the external
(zahir) and the esoteric (batin) meanings of the Qur'an.(8) A
close scrutiny of the traditions related from Al-Baqir and
then mostly from Ja'far on the subject of the Imamate will
show that they rotate around these two principles of Nass and
'Ilm, which are not merely conjoined or added to one another,
but are so thoroughly fused into a unitary vision of religious
leadership that it is impossible to separate the one from the
other. Hence Nass in fact means transmission of that special
knowledge of religion which had been exclusively and
legitimately restricted to the divinely favoured Imams of the
House of the Prophet through 'Ali, and which can only be
transferred from one Imam to his successor as the legacy of
the chosen family. Thus, for the adherents of Ja'far, his claim
was not just that he was an Imam who ought to be a member
of the 'Alid family, but that he was the particular individual,
from the descent of the Prophet, designated by his father and


therefore inherently possessed of all the authority to guide
believers in all religious matters.

As we shall see presently in the traditions of Al-Baqir and
Ja'far as-Sadiq, this emphasis on the aspect of "special
knowledge" having been possessed by the Imams of the
House of the Prophet was a natural corollary of and a
necessary response to the situation and tendencies of the
epoch. This was the time when there was a wide search for
Hadith and a vigorous attempt was being made to construct
total systems of the pious life in Islam. These efforts eventually
issued in the formulation of a complete system of Shari'a law.
It was the time of Malik b. Anas and Abu Hanifa, the Imams
of Fiqh who were busy working out their legal systems in
their respective centres of Medina and Kufa. Ja'far as-Sadiq,
being the descendant of the Prophet and known for his and
his family's learning in religious matters, was evidently looked
upon by the community in general at least as an Imam of
Fiqh, like that of Malik and Abu Hanifa, concerned with
working out the proper details of how the pious should solve
the various cases of conscience that might arise. So he appears
in Sunni traditions to a degree, and even, as has been pointed
out earlier, Abu Hanifa is reported to have been his pupil.
But, unlike Malik and Abu Hanifa to the Sunni Muslims, to
the followers of the House of the Prophet Ja'far had a unique
authority in these matters by virtue of his position as Imam
by Nass; that is, to the Shi'a his was the final decision on earth
in these matters, whereas the others, as was indeed admitted,
had no more legal authority in principle than any of their
followers. (9)

"This claim was perhaps initially less a matter of the knowledge
he had (from his father) than of the authoritative use he could
make of it, or in other words, his hereditary authority to decide
cases. Any sovereign must be empowered to make the final
decisions in any legal matter; hence the Imam's very claim that
sovereignty was justly his could readily entail a claim to final
authority in legal, and in this case all religious, matters. Such a
claim would be readily transmuted to one of supernatural
knowledge in many minds. But in an Imam where the authority
was not in actual fact the sovereign, and his 'Ilm remained on a
theoretical level, that discernment, that 'Ilm which should guide
his decisions, took on a special sacredness and became a unique


gift inherited from Imam to Imam. Accordingly, as the exclusively
authorized source of the knowledge of how to lead a pious life, the
Imam had an all-important function whether he was a ruler or
not." (10)

With the Imamate thus based on Nass and 'Ilm, as
explained by Ja'far, it should no longer be difficult for us to
understand why Ja'far himself remained absolutely indifferent
in all those struggles for power which took place in his
lifetime. In his doctrine of the Imamate it was not at all
necessary for a divinely appointed Imam to rise in rebellion
and try to become a ruler. To him his place was above that of
a ruler, who should only carry out what an Imam decides as
a supreme authority of religion. It was on this basis that when
Zayd came out with his claims, Ja'far raised no protest and
even exalted Zayd's virtues before a delegation of Kufan
Shi'is. But at the same time he said to Fudayl b. Rassan that
had Zayd become a king, he would not have known how to
act and fulfil his duties. (11) In this way he implied that Zayd
had the right to political authority only. He made similar
remarks when Muhammad an-Nafs az-Zakiya rose to claim
the Imamate. Ja'far emphatically denied any share in the
religious leadership of the community for the descendants of
Hasan, (12) from whom Husayn inherited the Imamate, which
then remained in the latter's progeny.

According to the traditions related in this connection, Al-
Baqir designated Ja'far as his successor in many ways. He
called him "the best of all mankind in his time", and "the one
in charge of the family of Muhammad" (Qa'im Al Muham-
mad), and also trusted him with the books and scrolls and the
weapons of the Prophet, which were in his possession. (13)
These scriptures containing special knowledge of religion
and the weapons of the Prophet must only come into the
possession of the true Imam, who is designated by Nass by
the previous Imam. Thus by declaring that they were in his
trust, Ja'far denied the rights of An-Nafs az-Zakiya, who
asserted that he had the sword of the Prophet.(14) Whether
these family treasures were in the custody of Ja'far or were in
the possession of the Hasanid claimants, the fact remains that
Ja'far himself claimed the spiritual leadership of the community
which he based on the same principles as Al-Baqir,
namely on Nass.


Ja'far explained that the Imamate is bequeathed from
father to son, but not necessarily to the eldest son, for "as
Daniel selected Solomon from among his progeny," so an
Imam designates as his successor the son he considers really
worthy of the office. Thus Ja'far could annul the appointment
of his eldest son Isma'il, who died before him, pass over the
candidature of his next son, Abd Allah, and nominate the
third, Musa al-Kazim. (15)

In explaining the position of the Imam, Ja'far made
repeated declarations in unequivocal terms and proclaimed
that the Imamate is a covenant between God and mankind,
and recognition of the Imam is the absolute duty of every
believer. (16) "Whoever dies without having known and acknowledged
the Imam of his time dies as an infideL" (17) The
Imams are the proofs (Hujja) of God on earth, their words are
the words of God, and their commands are the commands of
God. Obedience to them is obedience to God, and disobedience
to them is disobedience to God. In all their decisions they are
inspired by God, and they are in absolute authority. It is to
them, therefore, that "God has ordained obedience" (18) (Qur'an
Iv, 59).

Ja'far goes on to declare that the Imam of the time is the
witness for the people and he is the gate to God (Bab Allah)
and the road (Sabil) to Him, and the guide thereto (Dalil),
and the repository of His knowledge, and the interpreter of
His revelations. The Imam of his time is a pillar of God's
unity (tawhid). The Imam is immune from sin (khata) and
error (dalal). The Imams are those from whom "God has
removed all impurity and made them absolutely pure"
(Qur'an, XXXIII, 33); they are possessed of the power of
miracles and of irrefutable arguments (dalil); and they are
for the protection of the people of this earth just as the stars
are for the inhabitants of the heavens. They may be likened,
in this community, to the Ark of Noah: he who boards it
obtains salvation and reaches the gate of repentance.(19) In
another tradition, "God delegated to the Imams spiritual
rulership over the whole world, which must always have such
a leader and guide. Even if only two men were left upon the
face of the earth, one of them would be an Imam, so much
would his guidance be needed." (20)


In fact, according to the Imam Ja'far's explanation, there
are always two Imams, the actual or "speaking" Imam (Natiq)
and his son-successor, who during the lifetime of his father is
"silent" (samit). (21) The silent Imam does not know of his
exalted position until his father's death, for only then is he
entrusted with the scriptures and the secrets of religion.
When the father expires, his son immediately steps into his
place and becomes the "proof" (al-Hujja) for mankind.(22)

As has been pointed out earlier, in order to prove his rights
to the Imamate on the principle of Nass it was only logical
that the utmost emphasis should be put first of all on 'Ali
rights to the spiritual leadership of the community as the
divinely favoured legatee of the Prophet. It was not a new
thing, however. 'Ali himself had put forward his claim time
and again after the death of the Prophet until his own
assassination ;and thereafter Hasan, Husayn, Zayn al-'Abidin,
and Muhammad al-Baqir never missed an opportunity to
pronounce 'Ali's rights and superiority to the heritage of the
Prophet. Ja'far, enjoying better circumstances than his
predecessors, only elucidated and systematized concepts and
ideals they had already introduced in rudimentary form.
Thus he, as indeed did his father before him, quoted many
verses of the Qur'an which in his interpretation proved the
appointment of 'Ali to the Imamate. The numerous verses
quoted in this connection by the Shi'i sources (23) are among
those which are accepted by all Muslims as the 'Ayn al
Mutashabihat: unclear verses which require interpretation
(ta'wil), as opposed to the Ayat al-Muhkamat: clear or firm
verses in which there is no room for any interpretation. In the
Qur'an we read:

"God, it is He Who has sent down to you the Book. Some of its
verses are perspicuous (muhkamat), these are the basis of the
Book: others are unclear (Mutashabihat)... No one knows their
interpretation except God, and those who are firm in their
knowledge say, 'We believe therein, it is all from our Lord."'(24)

It was at the time of Ja'far that such verses were being
interpreted by the religious leaders of the community. Ja'far,
by virtue of his birth and family background, perhaps had
better claims to explain the Qur'an than the other Muslims;
and it was, therefore, quite natural for a section of the
community adhering to the family of the Prophet to give


more weight to Ja'far's interpretations than to those who only
acquired knowledge through scholarship.

Like Nass, the "special knowledge" of religion ('Ilm) which
Ja'far declared for himself should also be traced back to 'Ali,
from whom it passed from Imam to Imam until it came into
Ja'far's possession. Thus Ja'far said that the Prophet entrusted
'Ali with the greatest name of God and the traditions
pertaining to the knowledge of prophethood (Athar an-
Nubuwwa). (25) This is only one of numerous traditions
recorded by the Shi'i sources regarding the extraordinary
knowledge with which 'Ali distinguished himself among all
those around the Prophet. There must, however, have been
some substance to the fame and widespread reputation of the
unparalleled knowledge of 'Ali; not only the Shi'i sources
and Ja'far's traditions, but most of the Sunni sources and
their standard collections of Hadith, have recorded a number
of traditions in regard to 'Ali's superior knowledge.(26) As has
been pointed out earlier, the Caliph 'Umar is frequently
quoted as saying that "'Ali is the best of all the judges of the
people of Medina and the chief of the readers of the Qur'an."(27)
Perhaps the most representative tradition of 'Ali's erudite
knowledge, recorded even by most of the Sunni sources, is
one which has the Prophet saying: "I am the city of knowledge
('Ilm), and 'Ali is its door." (28) With the overwhelming
testimony coming down to us from both Sunni and Shi'i
sources, there seems to be little doubt that 'Ali was
acknowledged as having extraordinary knowledge in religious
matters. Inheritance of this knowledge thus became a source
of the claim of special rights for the legitimist Imams of the

Another very relevant and rather difficult problem connected
with Ja'far's claims to the Nass and inheritance of
"special knowledge" was the question of the scope and
applicability of the term Ahl al-Bayt. On the one hand, all the
descendants of 'Ali, whether through Fatima or not, were
claiming membership of the "Sacred House". On the other
hand, the 'Abbasids, being the descendants of Hashim, also
claimed the prerogative of the Ahl al-Bayt and were revered
by their followers as God's inspired Imams and as the Mahdi.
Ja'far thus put his utmost emphasis on a tradition from the
Prophet which would limit the inclusive meaning of the


Qur'anic verse referring to the people of the House "from
whom [all kinds of] uncleanliness were removed" to 'Ali,
Fatima, and their progeny. This tradition is known as the
Hadith al-Kisa or as the Hadith Ashab al-Kisa. The Hadith
runs: "Muhammad made 'Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn
enter under his mantle (kisa) in the house of Umm Salima
and then said: 'Every Prophet has his family (ahl) and his
charge (thaql); these, O God, are my family and my charge.'
Hearing this, Umm Salima asked: 'Am I not from the people
of your House?' The Prophet replied: 'No, may you be well;
only these under the mantle are the people of my House and
my charge."' (29)

The tradition is a long one. But perhaps the most important
part of it is when the archangel Gabriel came down to
announce the "Verse of the Purification"(30) for the "Five of the
Mantle", (31) and Muhammad introduced them to the angel
saying: "There are, under the mantle, Fatima, her husband
'Ali, and her two children Hasan and Husayn." One can see
clearly that the point of gravity is laid here not on 'Ali, but on
Fatima, with reference to whom 'Ali, Hasan, and Husayn are
introduced. Pre-Islamic literature is not devoid of examples
where people are introduced through their mothers or wives.
In the case of Fatima, we have seen in the previous chapter
that An-Nafs az-Zakiya in his letter to Mansur made special
reference to his relationship to Fatima. The reference to her
was also made essential even by the Zaydis, who restricted the
Imamate to only those 'Alids who were Fatimids. But it was
Ja'far who in his elaborations put extreme emphasis on this
point. It had indeed an immense potential appeal for the
claims of the legitimist Imams. Eventually Fatima came to be
regarded, especially among the Twelver Shi'is, as one of the
most respected figures.

Through such traditions, Ja'far in his own lifetime
established for his line of Imams the sanctity of the Ahl al-
Bayt as an inherited quality confined only to those of the
children of Fatima who were ordained to be the Imams, and
in this way rejected the claims of all other Hashimites,
whether 'Alids or 'Abbasids.

Such an hereditary claim to the Imamate based on Nass
and "special knowledge", as elaborated by Ja'far and his father
Al-Baqir, however, greatly exposed the claimants to the


danger of persecution by the 'Abbasids, who also claimed
spiritual leadership of the community. Thus arose the famous
doctrine of Taqiya (dissimulation) on which Ja'far put the
utmost emphasis, raising it almost to the status of a condition
for Faith. It is interesting to note that there is not a single
tradition on Taqiya from any Imam prior to Al-Baqir, which
is a sufficient proof that the doctrine of Taqiya was first
introduced by him and was further elaborated by Ja'far, and
that it was, in fact, a need of the time and the circumstances
in which they were living and working out the tenets for their
followers. One may see that the theory of Taqiya suits very
well the theory of extraordinary knowledge embodied in the
Imams, which should be limited to a few selected persons
who inherited that knowledge through Nass. Thus Ja'far

"This affair (amr) [the Imamate and the esoteric meaning of
religion] is occult (mastur) and veiled (muqanna) by a covenant
(mithaq), and whoever unveils it will be disgraced by God."(32)

In a conversation with Mu'alla b. Khunays, one of the
extremists of Kufa whom Ja'far discredited, the Imam said:

"Keep our affair secret, and do not divulge it publicly, for
whoever keeps it secret and does not reveal it, God will exalt him
in this world and put light between his eyes in the next, leading
him to Paradise. O Mu'alla, whoever divulges our affair publicly,
and does not keep it secret, God will disgrace him in this world
and will take away light from between his eyes in the next, and
will decree for him darkness that will lead him to the Fire. O
Mu'alla, verily the Taqiya is of my religion and of the religion of
my father, and one who does not keep the Taqiya has no religion.
O Mu'alla, it is necessary to worship in secret as it is necessary to
worship openly. O Mu'alla, the one who reveals our affairs is the
one who denies them." (33)

The esoteric mysteries of religion were Wilayat Allah,
which God entrusted to Gabriel, who brought them to
Muhammad. The Prophet, in turn, handed them over to 'Ali,
and they became the inheritance of the Imams, who are
bound to keep them secret. (34) The duty, therefore, incumbent
on the Faithful is that they should not impart their faith to
those who do not share the same beliefs. Ja'far thus accused
the Kaysanites of betraying religion when they spread its


secrets among the common people: "Our secret continued to
be preserved until it came into the hands of the sons of Kaysan
(wuld Kaysan) [his followers] and they spoke of it on the roads
and in the villages of the Sawad." (35)

A careful examination of the development of the concept
and doctrine of the Taqiya would clearly reveal the fact that
it was a natural corollary of the prevalent circumstances of
the time and an inevitable necessity imposed by the danger of
following certain religious or political views. To announce
publicly that certain persons were divinely inspired Imams
and therefore the sole object of obedience was a direct
challenge to the authority of the 'Abbasid caliphs, who
claimed to have combined in themselves both the temporal
and religious sovereignty. Shi'ism thus had to find its own
means to preserve itself in that difficult situation. This was
accomplished through the introduction of the doctrine of
dissimulation, but this, according to the pattern of the epoch,
where the entire pattern of life was considered from a religious
standpoint, must be supported by certain passages from the
Qur'an or a Hadith indicating a precedent. According to
Ja'far, both Joseph and Abraham practised Taqiya when they
resorted to concealment of the truth: the first when he accused
his brother of theft, and the second when he asserted that he
was ill. (36) Muhammad himself, accordingly, is reported to
have practised Taqiya until the verse in which he was ordered
to preach publicly was revealed. It reads: "O you Apostle,
reveal the whole that has been revealed to you from your
Lord; if you do it not, you have not preached His message
and God will not defend you from wicked men."(37) Another
verse which was used to support the doctrine of Taqiya reads:
"And who disbelieves in God after believing in Him, except
under compulsion, and whose heart is confident in faith " (38)

In Al-Baqir's period the doctrine of Taqiya was established
in Shi'ism, and we may attribute the rudiments of its theory
to him. But it was left to Ja'far to give it final form and make
it an absolute condition of true faith: "Fear for your religion
and protect it [lit. veil it] with the Taqiya, for there is no faith
(Iman) in whom there is no Taqiya." (39) Goldhizer traces the
history of the doctrine of Taqiya and finds it practised without
being announced as a principle even by Muhammad b. al-
Hanafiya, though in his findings, too, it was Ja'far who so


elaborated Taqiya as one of the doctrines of Shi'i faith out of
the political needs of his time. (40)

It is, however, hardly disputable that the doctrine of Taqiya,
thus made a necessary part of faith by Ja'far, ultimately served
the Shi'is as a very useful instrument in the preservation of
their doctrinal discipline during all unfavourable and rather
hostile political circumstances. This is also evident from
another tradition from Ja'far quoted by Saduq in his Creed,
where the Imam says: "Mix with the people [i.e., enemies]
outwardly, but oppose them inwardly so long as the Amirate
is a matter of opinion." (41) On another occasion, when Zakariya
b. Sabiq enumerated the Imams in the presence of Ja'far and
reached Muhammad al-Baqir, he was interrupted by Ja'far's
exclamation: "That is enough for you. God has affirmed your
tongue and has guided your heart." (42) We may conclude from
all these traditions that the real meaning of Taqiya is not
telling a lie or falsehood, as it is often understood, but the
protection of the true religion and its followers from enemies
through concealment in circumstances where there is fear of
being killed or captured or insulted.

There is another important point which must be discussed
here briefly. A considerable number of traditions are to be
found, especially in the earliest Shi'i collection of hadith, Al-
Kafi, which describe the Imams as supernatural human
beings. What was the origin of these traditions, and to what
extent are the Imams themselves responsible for them? These
traditions are reported, as indeed are all Shi'i traditions, on
the authority of one of the Imams, in this case mainly from
Al-Baqir and Ja'far. But were these Imams really the authors
of such traditions, which describe their supernatural character?
The first thing which must be noted in this connection is
that while Al-Baqir and Ja'far themselves lived in Medina,
most of their followers lived in Kufa. This fact brings us to a
crucial problem. Kufa had long been a centre of ghulat
speculations and activities. Whether 'Abd Allah b. Saba', (43) to
whom the history of the ghulat is traced, was a real personality
or not, the name As-Saba'iya (44) is often used to describe the
ghulat in Kufa who believed in the supernatural character of
'Ali. According to the heresiographers, Ibn Saba was the first
to preach the doctrine of waqf (refusal to recognize the death
of 'Ali) and the first to condemn the first two caliphs in


addition to 'Uthmin. (45) Baghdadi says that As-Saba'iya
mostly consisted of the old Saba'iyans of South Arabia, who
survived all vicissitudes until the time of Mukhtar and
formed the nucleus of his "chair-worshippers".(46)

This early group of ghulat seems to have been absorbed by
the Kaysaniya, who believed in Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya's
Mahdism and followed his son Abu Hashim 'Abd Allah.
The death of Abu Hashim was the turning point in the
history of the ghulat, for it caused the split in consequence of
which they separated into two distinct groups. One upheld
the various successors of Abu Hashim and believed in his
concealment and return and eventually transplanted them-
selves into Iran, where they grew into the Kharramite
revolutionary movement towards the end of the Umayyad
period. The other group overlapped the Kaysanite stage,
remained in Kufa, and somehow connected itself with the
Husaynid Imams. The most conspicuous names in this
second group, who became the followers of Al-Baqir and then
of Ja'far as-Sadiq, are Hamza b. 'Umara al-Buraydi, Bayan b.
Sim'an, Sa'd an-Nahdi, Mughira b. Sa'id al-'Ijli, his Co-
tribesman Abu Mansur al-'Ijli, and Muhammad b. Abi
Zaynab Miqlas b. Abi'l-Khattab. It would be too lengthy to
even briefly describe their extremist teachings here; suffice it
to say that they preached that the Imams were the incarnations
of God, that the divine particle incarnate in 'All b. Abi Talib
enabled him to know the unseen, foretell the future, and to
fight against the infidels, that the power of the invisible
angelic world was in 'Ali like a lamp within a niche in a wall,
and that God's light was in 'Ali as the flame in a lamp.(47) In
connection with these ghulat and their teachings, here we will
only point out that from Al-Baqir onwards, all the subsequent
Imams always cursed them and repeatedly warned their
followers not to accept traditions from them.(48) Kashshi quotes
Ja'far, who complains of Mughira, for example, as misrepresenting
Al-Baqir, and adds that all the ghuluw ascribed to Al-
Baqir was from Mughira. (49) In fact Ja'far and all the Imams
who followed him were always unequivocal in violently
cursing the ghulat and condemning their teachings.

There was, however, another very active group in Kufa,
busy in advancing the cause of Al-Baqir and Ja'far. The most
important among them were people such as Jabir b. Yazid


al-Ju'fi, (50) Abu Hamza ath-Thumali; (51) and Mu'adh b. Farra
an-Nahwi. (52) Paying only occasional visits to the Imams in
Medina and enjoying their confidence, they severed their
relations with the ghulat of Kufa. On behalf of the Imams
they had doctrinal quarrels with the ghulat and preached
against the latter's excessive claims regarding the nature and
function of the Imams. They did remain faithful to a certain
doctrinal discipline, imposed by the Imams, while this was
aggressively violated by the ghulat. Yet, when we see the
traditions related by Jabir and his associates in this group, it
seems that they must have been influenced by some of the
ideas propagated by the ghulat, especially those of Bayan b.
Sim'an and Mughira b. Sa'id.

Perhaps no follower of Al-Baqir and Ja'far dared to go so
far in his assertions as Jabir. It will suffice to quote here only
one from a great number of traditions related by Jabir, which
indicates his semi-ghulat tendencies. Jabir related that Al-
Baqir said:

"'O Jabir, the first beings that God created were Muhammad
and his family, the rightly guided ones and the guides; they were
the phantoms of light before God.' I asked, 'And what were the
phantoms?' Al-Baqir said, 'Shadows of light, luminous bodies
without spirits; they were strengthened by the Holy Spirit (Ruh
al-Quds), through which Muhammad and his family worshipped
God. For that reason He created them forbearing, learned,
endowed with filial piety, and pure; they worship God through
prayer, fasting, prostrating themselves, enumerating His names,
and ejaculating: God is great."' (53)

If we compare the ideas of the ghulat concerning God's
light in 'Ali, pointed out above, with Jabir's description of the
Imams as the "shadows of light" and "luminous bodies", there
seems to be a common trend of thinking between the two.

It is perhaps for this reason that later ghulat groups accepted
Jabir as their forerunner. This is indicated by the assertions
of Abu'l-Khattab and his successors, who claimed Jabir as
their predecessor. Thus Umm at-Kitab is said to contain the
teachings of Al-Baqir, Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari, and Jabir
al-Ju'fl. (54) Another religious writing, Risalat al-Ju'fi, contain-
ing Isma'ili doctrines, is based mainly on the expositions of
Jabir on the authority of Al- Baqir. (55) Apparently neither the
doctrine of Umm al-Kitab nor that of Risalat al-Ju'fi represent


the views of Al-Baqir, and probably only little of what Jabir
himself taught. It is nevertheless an important point that he
was regarded as the spiritual forefather of the post-Khattabite

However, in spite of the fact that ghuluw was repeatedly
condemned by Al-Baqir, Jafar, and the successive Imams of
the Husaynid line, a number of traditions containing some
ghulat ideas found their way into Shi'i collections of hadith.
Most of these traditions are related from Jabir al-Ju'fi But it
is now by no means possible to ascertain whether Jabir
himself was the author of these traditions or whether these
were attached to his name by the later ghulat and were
circulated in the Imamate circles. In both the Sunni and the
Shi'i science of hadith, little attention was paid to the
substance of a tradition: usually a hadith was either accepted
or rejected according to the credibility and trustworthiness of
its transmitters. In the Shi'i science of hadith, the main
criterion was that if a person was proven to have been a
devoted and sincere adherent of the Imam of his time, his
traditions were acceptable. Jabir, in spite of his semi-ghulat
tendencies and exaggerations, whether authentic or forged,
nevertheless remained, throughout his life, faithful to Al-
Baqir and Ja'far. When Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni
(died 328/939) compiled the first collection of the Shi'i
traditions, Al-Kafi fi'l-'Ilm ad-Din, his purpose was to collect
whatever came to him on the authority of those who were
known as the adherents of any one of the Imams. In this way
a great many traditions ascribing supernatural and super-
human characteristics to the Imams, propounded by the
semi-ghulat circles in Ku fa, crept into the Shi'i literature.

There are, however, numerous traditions in Kafi in which
both Al-Baqir and Ja'far clearly denied that they possessed
supernatural powers and discounted the miracles attributed
to them. (56) It is thus most unlikely that Ja'far was personally
responsible for all those fantastic descriptions of the super-
natural character of the Imams which were circulated in his
name by his semi-ghulat followers in Kufa. Indeed, Ja'far did
not excommunicate them as he did, for example, in the case
of Abu'l-Khattab, and as Al-Baqir did in the cases of Bayan,
Abu Mansur, and Mughira. In Kafi itself, there are many
traditions from both Al-Baqir and Ja'far as-Sadiq in which


they declared that they were simply God-fearing men,
distinguished from others only because they were the
Prophet's nearest relatives and thus became the custodians
and trustees of his message. And by virtue of their devotion
to God and because of the fact that perfect knowledge of God
had come to them through Nass and 'Ilm, they were able to
live their lives in complete obedience to the will of God. (57)
Regarding the traditions pertaining to the supernatural
character of the Imams, perhaps the most decisive and
revealing is the statement of Ja'far himself in which he said:
"Whatever is in agreement with the Book of God, accept it;
and whatever is contrary to it, reject it." (58) When we recall
that Ja'far as-Sadiq was at least a century before the time of
Bukhari and Muslim, it is significant to find that it is the
Imam Ja'far who is credited with establishing this criterion
for testing hadith, one which came to be regarded as the most
important principle to observe in judging traditions.(59)

Moreover, the fact that the ghulat or semi-ghulat were
attributing their own thoughts to the Imams and that the
Imams were not responsible for these statements is further
illustrated by a report given by Kashshi. A follower of the
Imam 'Ali ar-Rida once read before him certain Hadith
which he had copied from the notebooks of those in Iraq who
had taken down sayings of Al-Baqir and Ja'far. The Imam
strongly rejected the authenticity of those traditions and
declared that Abu'l-Khattab and his followers had contrived
to have their lies accepted in those notebooks. (60) Similar
traditions have been noted earlier wherein Ja'far complained
of Mughira misrepresenting Al-Baqir.

We have so far been discussing the extremists and semi-
extremists of Ja'far's circle and their excessive claims for the
persons of the Imams. Not all of Ja'far's followers were
fanatics, however. A considerable number of them were
simply Shi'ism distinguished from the other Muslims only by
the higher degree of their devotion to the memory of 'Ali and
by their conviction that he was the best person after the
Prophet for the combined office of the spiritual and temporal
leadership of the community. Thus they considered the
Imamate as the right of 'Ali and his descendants, ordained to
them by God. The beat example of these forerunners of the
Shi'is, later to become the Twelvers, is 'Abd Allah b. Abi


Ya'fur, a resident of Kufa. He opposed his fellow Kufans,
such as Mu'alla b. Khunays, who asserted that the Imams
were prophets. Ibn Abi Ya'fur objected to this and said that
they were only pure, God-fearing, learned theologians
entrusted with guiding the community on the path of God. (61)
Very strict in his religious practices, he was highly favoured
and respected by Ja'far. (62) He enjoyed the respect of the
moderate traditionists' circles, and when he died during the
lifetime of Ja'far, many of the Ahl al-Hadith and pro-Shi'i
Murijtes accompanied his bier. (63)

There was still another group among the followers of Ja'far,
busy in the intellectual or dialectical questions of the day,
along the lines of the Mu'tazila. It is indicative of Ja'far's
leadership that he gathered around himself the men who
could stand with remarkable vigour among those of the
Muslim scholars who were speculating on the philosophical
problems of the time. This group of the first Shi'i speculative
theologians, to be discussed presently, who provided the
intellectual element in the Imamate of Ja'far, stand out from
the Shi'i extremists even in the hostile presentations of some
of the heresiographers. Ash'ari takes much interest in them
and clearly distinguishes them from the extremists or semi-
extremists among the Shi'is of Ja'far's following. It may also
be noted here in passing that a close study of the heresiographical
works, such as those of Ash'ari and Baghdadi, enable us to
discern the cross-currents and intermingling of ideas between
the Shi'i and Sunni schools of thought at their evolutionary
stages. However, the attachment of this group to the Imam
marked a great advance in the development of Shi'ism in its
own right. These speculative theologians of Ja'far's circle
were later regarded as the elite of the Shi'i mutakallimun,
though before the science of kalam became a definite branch
of learning the early Shi'i mutakallimun, who formed the
backbone of the future Twelver Shi'a, were speculative
theologians, traditionists, and jurists all at the same time.

In this group, mention should first be made of Abu'l-Hasan
b. A'yan b. Susan, better known by his kunya, Az-Zurara. He
was a mawla of the Banu Shayban of Kufa, and the grandson
of an enslaved Greek monk who adopted Islam. (64) Zurara
originally belonged to the supporters of Zayd b. 'Ali, for
together with his brother Humran b. A'yan and At-Tayyar,


great Mu'tazilite leader. This itself suggests that under
Mu'tazilite influence Zurara developed his interest in speculative
theology. Zurara and his two brothers later changed
their allegiance and attached themselves to Al-Baqir, Humran
being the first to take this step. (65)

After the death of Al-Baqir, Zurara belonged to the circle
of the closest adherents of Ja'far as-Sadiq, who spoke Of him
with great appreciation: "Four men are the best beloved by
me, whether alive or dead: Burayd b. Mu'awiya al-'Ijli,
Zurara, Muhammad b. Muslim, and Al-Ahwal". (66) Ibn Abi
'Umayr (67) said that he and his contemporaries were beside
Zurara "like children around their teacher". (68) It seems that
because of his vehement activities in the cause of Ja'far,
Zurara met with some difficulties and even dangers. Thus, to
spare him hardships, Ja'far, resorting to the principle of
Taqiya, apparently disavowed him and even cursed him.
Justifying this, he said that in order to save Zurara, he had
acted in the same way as the Prophet Khidr, when he sank a
ship to save it from being taken from its owners by a tyrannous
king. (69)

Zurara, who only occasionally paid visits to Ja'far in
Medina or met him in Mecca, lived in Kufa and there had a
large circle of disciples. Though Zurara was also regarded as
a traditionist, a lawyer, and a theologian, he attained his great
renown in the fields of the science of tradition and in kalam.
In fact, he was the founder of the Shi'i school of speculative
theology in the proper sense, and the first teacher of kalam (70)
from within the circle of Ja'far.

Among Zurara's pupils, who were all devoted followers of
Ja'far, were his own sons Hasan, (71) Husayn, (72) and 'Ubayd
Allah ; (73) his brother Hurman, the grammarian and one of the
foremost companions of Al-Baqir ; (74) Hamza, the son of
Hurman; (75) Bukayr b. A'yun (76) and his son 'Abd Allah; (77)
Muhammad b. al-Hakam ; (78) Humayd b. Rabbah; (79) Muhammad
b. an-Nu'man al-Ahwal, and Hisham b. Salim al-
Jawaliqi. (80) The circle of Zurara was usually known as Az-Zurariya
or At- Tamimiya, (81) and its intellectual activities in
the field of scholastic theology greatly strengthened the cause
of Ja'far and later that of Musa al-Kazim.(82)

Together with other theological and scholastic problems,


Zurara and his disciples evolved the theory that the knowledge
of God is an obligation on every believer and cannot be
attained without an Imam designated by God, and thus
complete obedience to the Imam is a religious duty. The
Imams by necessity are endowed with special knowledge.
Therefore, what other men can attain by discursive reason
(nazar), an Imam always knows owing to his special
knowledge and his superior and unequalled power of
reasoning. Zurara and his circle promulgated their views on
almost every question of what we now call scholastic
philosophy, such as the attributes of God, His Essence and
His Actions, His Intention or Will, and the human capacity. (83)
The impression we get of Zurara from the sources, especially
from Kashshi, is that he played a very important role in the
development of legitimist Shi'i thought and contributed a
great deal to the formation of the Imamate creed. He is one of
the most frequently quoted authorities in all the major books
of the Shi'is.

Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Nu'man al-Ahwal was another
striking personality among the speculative theologians of
Kufa who linked the question of the Imamate with other
fundamental scholastic problems. His circle is described by
the heresiographers as An-Nu'maniya, and he distinguished
himself among all the adherents of Ja'far for his excellence in
dialectics and learning in theology, as well as for the piquancy
of his answers in disputes with his adversaries. An extremely
committed Shi'i, Al-Ahwal was at first one of the most
devoted adherents of Al-Baqir, whose claims he defended
against Zayd. He later became an equally ardent supporter of
Ja'far as-Sadiq and finally of Musa al-Kazim.

The greater part of his intellectual activities in promoting
the Shi'i cause was perhaps spent during the Imamate of
Ja'far. He is counted among the most prominent companions
of Ja'far, and was one of those who accepted Musa al-Kazim
as their Imam immediately after the former's death, and
without considering the candidature of any other son of
Ja'far. (84) He is frequently reported to have held heated debates
with the great jurist Abu Hanifa, whom he despised for being
a Murjite. Abu Hanifa, on his part, treated him with scorn
and contempt. (85) Al-Ahwal is described as the most courageous
and vociferous in his convictions regarding the rights of the


legitimist Imams on rational grounds. (86) As a zealous
supporter of the legitimist line, he upheld the dogma of the
God-imposed duty of complete obedience to the Imams, and
of the supreme knowledge possessed by them, necessary for
the guidance of men. He is said to have been a prolific writer,
and a number of his works are mentioned by various
authorities. His writings include his Kitab al-Imama, his
Kitab ar-Radd 'ala'l-Mu'tazila fi Imamat al-Mafdul, and a
number of other treatises, probably of a polemical nature. (87)
The titles of the books ascribed to him suggest that the
question of the Imamate was one of the main issues between
the Mu'tazila and the Shi'i thinkers of that time. Kashshi
records a number of controversial debates held by him in
support of Ja'far's rights to the Imamate, and also quotes
Ja'far as saying: "Al-Ahwal is most beloved by me, whether
alive or dead." (88)

Another foremost supporter of Ja'far in this circle was
Hisham b. Salim al-Jawaliqi, who was brought up in his
childhood as a slave from Jurjan, and became a mawla of
Bishr b. Marwan. He also lived in Kufa, earning his living as
a seller of fodder ('allaf). Like his close friend Al-Ahwal, he
led a large circle of disciples and propounded his theories on
all questions of the nature and attributes of God. (89)

Perhaps the greatest of all the Shi'i thinkers of Ja'far's
following were Abu Muhammad Hisham b. al-H akam (90) and
'Ali b. Isma'il al-Maythami. (91) The former was originally a
disciple of Jahm b. Safwan, the Jubrite, but converted to the
Shi'i doctrine and became a most devoted follower of Ja'far
As-Sadiq. He must have been quite young at that time, for he
lived until the Imamate of 'Ali ar-Rida and was one of his
closest companions. (92)

The theories regarding God and other scholastic questions
propounded by these five most important thinkers of Ja'far's
period are too lengthy to be examined here. What mainly
concerns us at present is their contribution to the doctrine of
the Imamate, which they linked up with fundamental
principles of a scholastic nature. A remarkable fact is that
although these five thinkers often differ from each other on
many questions, their teachings and ideas concerning the
Imamate are almost the same. The essence of their doctrine
of the Imamate is that the Prophet appointed 'Ali to the


Imamate by an explicit designation (nass), and after him, his
sons Hasan and Husayn acceded to the Imamate in the same
way. This appointment was based on the principle that
mankind needs an Imam to lead it on the right path as much
as an individual needs intelligence to co-ordinate the activities
of his body and to guide him. To guide mankind and preserve
it from straying, an Imam must be infallible. This is because
the Imam, who is below the status of a Prophet, can receive no
revelation from God. Therefore, since he is the infallible
guide appointed through the Grace of God, obedience to him
is synonymous with obedience to God, while disobedience is
the same as infidelity. (93)

While so many speculative theologians from among the
followers of Ja'far were busy working out the scholastic
problems of the time, there were a good many in his circle
who concentrated their efforts mainly on legal questions. It
has been pointed out earlier that the distinction between
jurists and traditionists at this stage, especially among the
Shi'is, was not very clear. Nevertheless, there was a difference
in their respective interests. Some were more interested in the
traditions of a dogmatic and doctrinal nature, others in the
traditions concerning practical problems. Thus most of
the traditions dealing with legal matters are reported on the
authority of Jamil b. Darraj, 'Abd Allah b. Miskan, 'Abd
Allah b. Bukayr, Hammad b. 'Uthman, Hammad b. 'Isa, and
Aban b. 'Uthman. (94) All of them belonged to the close circle
of Ja'far and are unanimously accepted by all the Twelver
Shi'i writers as the most authoritative transmitters of legal
traditions and as the eminent jurists from among the disciples
of Ja'far. Kashshi describes them as "the six most reliable
authorities among all the followers of Ja'far on legal traditions;
on their trustworthiness and profound knowledge of law
there has been a complete consensus among the Shi'i
scholars." (95) Kashshi's statement is confirmed by examining
Kulayni's al-Kafi, Saduq's Man La Yahduruhu'l Faqih, and
Tusi's Istibsar and Tahdhib al-Ahkam. These "Four Standard
Books" (Al-Kutub al-Arba') have the same importance for the
Shi'ism as the six canonical collections of Sunni Hadith (Sihah
as-Sitta) have for the Sunnis.

To this list of the frequently quoted jurists of Ja'far's period
must be added the name of Aban b. Taghlib b. Riyah, (96) an


important and outstanding jurist-traditionist, and formerly
an associate of Zayn al-'Abidin and Al-Baqir. When he died
in 140/757, Ja'far is reported to have said, "I would love to
have my Shi'a like Aban b. Taghlib," and "his death grieved
my heart." (97) Aban's name appears in a good number of
traditions, mostly of a practical nature.

It is important to note that almost all these jurist-
traditionists of Ja'far's circle were in continuous attachment
to three or at least two generations of the legitimist Imams,
either Zayn al-'Abidin, Al-Baqir, and Ja'far, or Al-Baqir,
Ja'far, and Musa, while some others who joined Ja'far served
the line of the legitimist Imams till 'Ali ar-Rida.

From this brief summary of the activities of individuals
and groups working under the leadership of the Imam Ja'far
as-Sadiq in all the fundamental branches of religious learning,
we may deduce two conclusions. First, at that formative stage
of Islamic thought and institutions, the contributions made
by these people, based on the teachings of Ja'far and his
predecessors, provided a solid foundation for the elaboration
of the dogma and legal system of Imamate Shi'ism by the later
Twelver theologians and jurists. Second, the fact that so many
persons, working in various aspects of religious life, chose to
gather around Ja'far with the acceptance of his Imamate on
the Principle of Nass, set the Imamate stream of Shi'ism well
on the way to its own distinct character within Islam.

There are many Shi'i creeds preserved for us by the earliest
Shi'i sources, such as Kashshi, which explain the beliefs of
the Imamate Shi'is during the lifetime of Ja'far as-Sadiq. One
of these creeds, pronounced by 'Amr b. Hurayth before Ja'far,

"I would like to describe my religion (dini) and what I believe,
so that you may confirm me in my faith. My religion is that I
testify that there is no God but God, and Muhammad is His
Apostle and Servant. I testify that the coming of the Day of
Judgement is not subject to doubt, and that God will resurrect
those who are in their graves. I testify to the obligations of prayer,
the paying of the zakat, fasting in the month of Ramadan, and
the duty of pilgrimage to the House (Ka'ba) for those who have
the means for it. I testify to the wilaya of 'Ali b. Abi Talib, the
commander of the faithful (Amir al-Mu'minin) after the Prophet
of God, may the Blessings of God be upon them both, and the


wilaya of Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn, the wilaya of 'Ali b. al-
Husayn and that of Muhammad al-Baqir, and after his, yours. I
testify that you are the Imams. In this religion I live, and in this
religion I shall die, and this is the religion by which I worship

Having heard this, Ja'far declared:

"This, by God, is indeed my religion and the religion of my
fathers, who worshipped God openly and in secret; so fear God
and hold your tongue from saying anything except that which is
good." (98)

Similar statements are recorded by Kashshi from Dawud
b. Yunus and Khalid b. Bajali. (99) A detailed account of the
Twelver Shi'i beliefs dealing with all articles of faith, whether
fundamental (usul) or non-fundamental (furu'), are given by
Shaykh Ibn Babawayh al-Qummi, better known as Shaykh
as-Saduq (died 381/991-2), in his creed entitled Risalat al-
'Itiqadat. Shaykh Saduq is universally acknowledged by the
Twelver Shi'a as one of their greatest authorities, and his
Risala, one of the earliest extant Shi'i creeds, is accepted as
the most authoritative statement of their beliefs. Comparing
this Shi'i creed with the standard Sunni creeds, such as Fiqh
Akbar I, Fiqh Akbar II, and the Wasiyat Abi Hanafa, one
finds that except on the question of the Imamate the
differences between the Sunnis and the Shi'is are of the same
nature as, say, the differences between the Asha'ira and the
Mu'tazila. The Shi'i views are in most cases the same as those
of the Mu'tazila, who certainly remained part of Sunni Islam,
though their rationalistic views were ultimately rejected by
the Jama'a.

The question of the Qur'an may serve as the best illustration
of this fundamental unity. The Shi'i belief, as stated by
Shaykh as-Saduq, reads:

"Our belief concerning the Qur'an is that it is the Word of God,
His revelation sent down by Him, His speech and His Book ...
'Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it. It is a
revelation from the Wise, the Praiseworthy' (Qur'an, XLI, 42)...
And our belief is that God, the Blessed and Exalted, is its Creator
and Revealer and Master and Protector and Utterer. Our belief
is that the Qur'an, which God revealed to His Prophet
Muhammad, is [the same as] the one between the boards


(daffatayn). And it is that which is in the hands of the people, and
is not greater in extent than that. The number of Suras as
generally accepted is one hundred and fourteen."(100)

In this statement of Saduq on the Qur'an, two points are
worth noticing. First, the Shi'a, like the Mu'tazila, believe
that the Qur'an is the created word of God, and not uncreated
and eternal as taught by the Asha'ira and officially accepted
by Sunni Islam. The second and more important point is that
the text of the Qur'an as it is to be found in the textus receptus,
which is in the hands of everyone in the shape of a book, is
accepted wholly by the Shi'is, just as it is by the Sunnis. Thus
the assertion that the Shi'is believe that a part of the Qur'an
is not included in the textus receptus is erroneous.

We are not, however, concerned here with the details of the
Shi'i creed or the development of the Shi'i legal and
theological systems, which took place in progressive stages, as
indeed was also the case in Sunni Islam. Nor is this work
meant to discuss the contributions of the last six Imams after
Ja'far as-Sadiq, after which the Imamate Shi'a came to be
known as the Ithna 'Ashariya, or the Twelvers. Our purpose
has only been to trace the origins and early development of
those religious inclinations through which the Shi'is eventually
came to distinguish themselves from the rest of the
Muslim community.

Keeping in view what has been discussed throughout this
work, and looking at the activities of those who gathered
around. Ja'far as-Sadiq, we may conclude that the Imamate
Shi'is, by the time of Ja'far's death in 148/765, had acquired a
distinct character of their own. The actual disagreements
between the Shi'is and the Sunnis in certain details of
theology and legal practices were not as important as the
"Spirit" working behind these rather minor divergences. This
"Spirit", arising from the differences in the fundamental
approach and interpretation of Islam, as discussed in Chapter
I, issued forth in the Shi'i concept of leadership of the
community after the Prophet. It is this concept of divinely-
ordained leadership which distinguishes Shi'i from Sunni
within Islam; and thus it has been on the emergence of this
concept that our attention has been focused in these pages.

Notes to Chapter 1

(1) W. Montgomery Watt, Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh,
1968), p.26

(2) See Lane, Lexicon, IV, pp.1632 f.

(3) e.g. XIX, 69; XXVIII, 15; XXXVII, 83

(4) Ibn Qutayba, Rasa'il al-Bulagha', p. 360

(5) Aghani, I, p.45

(6) Aghani, I, p.72; Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Buldan, III, p.519

(7) Aghani, X, p.300

(8) Diwan an-Nabhiga adh-Dhubyani, ed. Shukri Faysal (Beirut,
1968), p.165

(9) Mufaddaliyat, XCIII, V.14

(10) Mufaddaliyat, XXXI, v.4: "By God, my cousin, thou art not
better in stock than I, (La afdalta fi hasabi)"

(11) Ibn Qutayba, op. cit., p.348; 'Iqd, III, p.332

(12) Aghani, I, p.31

(13) 'Amr b. Kulthum, Mu'allaqa, vv. 40, 52, 55; Mufaddaliyat,
XL, v.44; LXXXVII, v.2; Zuhayr b. Abi Salma, Mu'allaqa, v,
p.26; Aghani, X, p.300

(14) Labid, Mu'allaqa, v.83; 'Amr b. Kulthum, Mu'allaqa, v.52

(15) Aghani, XXII, p. iii

(16) Labid, op. cit., v. 8I

(17) Lane, Lexicon, V, pp.2020 ff

(18) Yaqut, op. cit., III, p.47I

(19) Qur'an, CVI, 3

(20) Ibn Hisham, I, p.126; 'Iqd, III, p.333

(21) On this see R. B. Serjeant's "Haram and Hawtah, The Sacred
Enclave in Arabia", in Melanges Taha Husain, ed. 'Abd al-Rahman
Badawi (Cairo, 1962), pp.42 f.; and "The Saiyids of Hadramawt",
BSOAS, XXI (London, 1957); also Ibn Durayd, Ishtiqaq, p.173

(22) Ibn Durayd, op. cit., p.238; Aghani; XIX, p.128; Iqd, III,
pp.331 if.

(23) Ibn Hisham, I, pp. 143, 145; 'Iqd, III, pp. 313, 333 if;
Ibn Durayd, loc. cit.; Serjeant, "Haram and Hawtah", p.43

(24) EI2 articles "Ahl al-Bayt" and "Buyutat al-'Arab"

(25) Serjeant, loc. cit.

(26) See W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Mecca (Oxford,
1953), p.31; Serjeant, "The Saiyids of Hadramawt", p.7

(27) Ibn Hisham, I, pp.131 ff.; Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, I, pp.64 ff.;
Ibn Sa'd, I, pp. 6q ff.; 'Iqd, III, pp. 312 f.

(28) Ibn Sa'd, I, p. 74. Azraqi, Akhbar, I, p.66, states that 'Abd
Manaf possessed not Only ar-rifada and al-siqaya, but also Al-qiyada,
leadership of Mecca.

(29) Ibn Hisham, I, pp. 143 f.; Ibn Sa'd, I, p.78. Azraqi, Akhbar, I,
p.67, says that after 'Abd Manaf, the offices of ar-rifada and as-
siqaya passed to Hashim, and that of al-qiyada was given to 'Abd

(30) Ibn Hisham, loc. cit.; Ibn Sa'd, loc. cit.

(31) Ibn Hisham, I, pp.145 f.; Ibn Sa'd, I, pp. 8I if.

(32) Cf. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, p.31

(33) Ibn Sa'd, I, p. 85; Ibn Hisham, I, p.150

(34) Cf. EI2 article "Abu Talib"

(35) A recurrent theme in the Qur'an, best illustrated in II, I26-7

(36) IX, 19

(37) See Muhammad Hamidullah, "The City State of Mecca", IC,
XII (1938), p. 266

(38) Ibn Hisham, I, p.145; Tabari, I, pp.2786 f.

(39) Qur'an, II, 135-7

(40) ibid., II, 125

(41) Ibn Khaldun, Proleg., I, p.289. Cf. Von Kremer, Staatsidee des
Islam; trans. Khuda Bukhsh, Politics in Islam (Lahore, 1920), p. IO

(42) Muhammedanische Studien, trans. S. M. Stern and C. R. Barber,
Muslim Studies (London, 1967), I, pp.79-100

(43) The Arab Kingdom and Its Fall, trans. M. Weir (Calcutta,
1927), passim

(44) A Literary History of the Arabs (Cambridge, 1969), pp. I ff

(45) Goldziher, Muslim Studies, I, pp.12-13

(46) ibid., p.14

(47) Tabari, I, p.2769 f.

(48) Most of the supporters of 'Ali in the early disagreement over
the caliphate were of South Arabian origin and were quite clear in
their Defence of 'Ali's claims on religious grounds.

(49) III, 33

(50) Ibn Hisham, I, pp.262 f.; II, pp.150 f.; Baladhuri, I, p.270; Ibn
Habib, Muhabbar, p.70

(51) According to Ibn Ishaq, 'Ali was ten years old at the time when
Muhammad received his first revelation and was the first who
prayed with the Prophet and Khadija (Ibn Hisham, I, p.262;
Baladhuri, I, p. 112). Those comparatively few early writers who
mention Abu Bakr as the first Muslim among men do so because of
'Ali's young age. See Isti' ab, III, Pp.1090 ff., which gives numerous
traditions with different isnads supporting the view that 'Ali was
the first male to accept Islam and to pray with Muhammad, whereas
Abu Bakr was the first to publicly announce his Islam.

(52) Sa'd al-Ash'ari, Firaq, p. 15; Nawbakhti, Firaq, p.23

(53) Mas'udi, Muruj, II, p.277. Also See commentaries of Tabari
Ibn Kathir, and Tha'labi under verse 214, Sura XXVI

(54) Ibn Hisham, II, p.264; III, p.349; Isti 'ab, III, p.1097; 'Iqd, IV,

(55) Ibn Hisham, IV, p.163

(56) Ibn Hisham, loc. cit.; Bukhari, Sahih, II, p.194; Nawbakhti,
Firaq, p.19; 'Iqd, IV, p.311; Isti 'ab, III, pp.1099 f.

(57) Ibn Hisham, IV, p.190 (repeated by the majority of historians
and traditionists)

(58) See Veccia Vaglieri, EI2 Art. "Ghadir Khum", where there are
mentioned exact references to all of the above works except 'Iqd, IV,

(59) Al-Bidaya wa 'l-Nihaya (Cairo, I348-51 AH), V, pp. 208-I4

(60) Ta'rikh ash-Shi'a (Karbala, n.d.), p.77. In modern times
numerous voluminous works on Ghadir Khum have appeared,
thus Amini's Al-Ghadir in 38 volumes, and AI-Musawi's 'Abaqat
al-Anwar, in 34 volumes; all dealing with the rijal of the

(61) EI1 article "Kumayt"

(62) Cf. EI2 article "Ghadir Khum", Bibliography

(63) Amini, Ghadir, II, p.32; also see 'Amili, A'yan ash-Shi'a, III/i, pp. 524-32

(64) E12 article "Ghadir Khum"

(65) Ibn Kathir, loc. cit.

(66) ibid.

(67) Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, I, p.65; Ibn Durayd, Ishtiqaq, p.97

(68) 'Iqd, III, p.315

Notes to Chapter 2

(1) Ibn Hisham, IV, pp. 306 f.

(2) 'Abd al-'Aziz ad-Duri, "Al-Zuhri, A Study on the Beginnings
of History Writing in Islam", BSOAS, XIX (1957), p.8

(3) Ibn Hisham, IV, pp 307-10

(4) Tahdhib, V, p.164

(5) Wafayat, IV, pp.177 f.; Tahdhib, IX, p.445

(6) Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri (Chicago, 1957-72), I,
pp. 5-31; II, pp. 5-64

(7) Tahdhib, I, p.97

(8) Wafayat, III, pp.255 ff.

(9) ibid., VI, pp. 35 f.

(10) Tahdhib, VII, p. 382; Aghani IX, pp. 135 ff.

(11) Ibn Sa'd, II, pp.379 ff.

(12) Ibn Sa'd, II, p. 382; Aghani; IX, p.137

(13) Ibn Sa'd, II, pp.365 ff.

(14) See W. Montgomery Watt, "'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas", El2

(15) Ibn Sa'd, III, pp. 169-213

(16) ibid., pp. 169-71

(17) ibid., pp.171-2

(18) See Ch. 1, footnote 51

(19) Ibn Sa'd, III, pp. 172-8

(20) ibid., pp.178-81

(21) ibid., p.179

(22) ibid., pp. 181-5

(23) Ibn Sa'd, V, p.187; Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib, VIII, p.333; Wafayat,
IV, pp.59 f.

(24) For the life and work of Baladhuri, see Goitein's introduction
to Volume V of the Ansab, pp. 9-32

(25) On these early writers, see, respectively, Ibn Nadim, Fihrist,
pp.100 if., 95, 277, 91, 93

(26) Ansab al-Ashraf ed. Muhammad Hamidullah (Cairo, 1960),
I, pp. 579-91

(27) Goitein, op. cit., p. 18

(28) See footnote 12

(29) Dhahabi, Mizan, II, p.299

(30) ibid., IV, p.154

(31) ibid., p. 436

(32) Ta'rikh (Beirut, 1960), II, pp. I23-6

(33) E. L. Petersen, 'Ali And Mu'awiya In Early Arabic Tradition
(Copenhagen 1964), pp.169 ff.

(34) Najashi, Rijal, p.245

(35) Ibn Nadim, Fihrist, p.101

(36) Sharh Nahj al-Balagha, ed. Muhammad Abu'l-Fadl Ibrahim,
2nd ed. (Beirut, 1965), II, pp. 21-6o

(37) ibid., pp. 44-6o. For Al-Jawhari see Adh-Dhari'a, XII, p.206

(38) Adh-Dhari'a ila Tasanif ash-Shi'a, 24 volumes, Najaf, passim

(39) Dhahabi; Mizan, II, p.367

(40) ibid., p.365

(41) Tabari, I, pp.1837-45

(42) Muruj adh-Dhahab, ed. Daghir (Beirut 1965), II, p.301, and at-
Tanbih wa'l-Ishraf (Beirut 1965), p. 284, in both of which he
mentions Saqifa only in passing, referring his reader to his exclusive
work on the subject, which unfortunately is lost.

(43) Al-Kamil fi't-Ta'rikh, II, pp.221 ff in which his account of
Saqifa is almost the same as that of Tabari

(44) A1-'Iqd al-Farid, IV, pp.257 ff.

(45) Ta'rikh al-Khulafa', ed. 'Abd al-Hamid, (Cairo, 1964), pp.61-72

(46) Al-Ihtijaj, ed. Muhammad Baqir al-Khursan (Najaf 1966), I, pp. 89-118

(47) Bihar al-Anwar

(48) A. Guillaume, translating the Sira, collected all the assertions
and comments of Ibn Hisham and arranged them separately at the
end of the book under the heading, "Ibn Hisham's Notes". There
are 922 notes of various length, some of them are as long as a page
or more. See A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad (Oxford, 1955),
pp. 690-798

(49) This is a common accusation levelled against Ibn Ishaq. See,
however, Nabia Abbott's comments on this subject in Studies in
Arabic Literary Papyri (Chicago, 1957-72), I, p. 97. The remarkable
lack of any partiality in a fragment of the Ta'rikh al-Khulafa' leads
Abbott to question the accuracy of such accusations.

(50) For the translation of Ibn Ishaq's account, I have largely drawn
on Guillaume's translation of the Sira.

(51) Dhahabi; Mizan, I, p.133

(52) ibid., p.33

(53) Ibn Hisham, IV, pp.306 f.

(54) Hadid, Sharh, II, p.25

(55) Later he explained to Ibn 'Abbas that he wrongly understood
the Qur'anic verse (11, 143) which says, "Thus we have made you a
middle people that you may be a witness against men, and that the
Apostle may be a witness against you." Ibn Hisham, IV, pp.311 f.

(56) e.g. Tabari, I, p.1683

(57) Isti'ab, III, p.1248

(58) ibid., IV, p.1441

(59) ibid., p.1449. His father's name must be 'Arfaja.

(60) ibid., I., p. 316

(61) On these rivalries, see Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at
Mecca, pp. 4-8, 16-20, 141-4; idem, Muhammad at Medina (Oxford,
1956), pp.151-91

(62) Isti'ab, II, p. 594

(63) ibid., I., pp.92 if. Ya'qubi's description of him (II, p.124) as a
Khazraji leader must be a scribal error.

(64) Isti'ab, I., pp.172 if. Our sources are not clear on who paid
homage first. Ya'qubi, loc. cit., says it was Bashir b. Sa'd, while
according to Baladhuri, I, p. 582, it was Usayd b. Hudayr.

(65) See Henri Lammens, "Le 'triumvirat' Abou Bakr, 'Omar, et
Abo 'Obaida", Melanges de la Faculte Orientale de l'Universite St
Joseph de Beyrouth, IV (1910), pp.113-44

(66) From here on, our sources are utterly confused about the
timing of the sequence of events, since each tradition is recorded
separately. We are not, therefore, sure whether the demand of
homage from 'Ali and his supporters was made immediately after
they came to the mosque from the Saqifa, or after the burial of the
Prophet on the following day when general homage was being paid
to Abu Bakr. A careful reading of the sources (e.g. Baladhuri, I,
p. 582) strongly suggests, however, that it was demanded as soon
as they came to the mosque from the Saqifa.

(67) Many versions of this tradition may be found in Baladhuri, I,
pp. 585 f.; Ya'qubi, II, p. iz6; Tabari, I, p. 1818; Abu Bakr al-
Jawhari in Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balagha, II, pp.47, 50, 56 f.; 'Iqd,
IV, pp.259 f. Al-Imama Wa's-Siyasa, I, pp.12-13, (though its
attribution to Ibn Qutayba is incorrect, it is certainly a very early
work extremely rich in sources) gives a very detailed account of the
episode of 'Umar and Abu Bakr's attack on the house of Fatima and
the force used to secure 'Ali's homage. Also L. V. Vaglieri, EP
article "Fatima", who, commenting on these events, says "Even if
they have been expanded by invented details, they are based on facts."

(68) Ya'qubi, II, p. 126; Baladhuri, I, p. 586; Tabari, I, p. 1825; 'Iqd,
IV, p.260; Hadid, II, p.22

(69) For the details and certain differences in names see Ya'qubi,
loc. cit.; Baladhuri, I, p. 588; 'Iqd, IV, p.259; Hadid, II, pp. 50 ff.

(70) Ibn Sa'd, VI, p.15; Isti'ab, I, p.334

(71) Ibn Sa'd, IV, pp. 378 ff.; Isti'ab, II, p.448

(72) Ibn Sa'd, III, pp 484 ff.; Isti'ab, II, p.424; IV, p. 1606

(73) Ibn Sa'd, III, pp.471 f.; Isti'ab, II, p.662

(73) Isti'ab, III, p.1033

(75) Ibn Sa'd, IV, p.364; Isti'ab, I, pp.155 f

(76) Ibn Sa'd, III, p. 498; Isti'ab, I, pp. 65 f.

(77) Ibn Sa'd, IV, p.219; Isti'ab, IV, pp.1652 f.

(78) Ibn Sa'd, III, p. 246; Isti'ab, III, pp.1135 ff

(79) Isti'ab, IV, pp.1480 ff

(80) Ibn Sa'd, IV, p.75; Isti'ab, II, p.634

(81) Isti'ab, II, p.510

(82) Ibn Sa'd, IV, p.97 Isti'ab, II, pp.420 ff For his support to 'A1i,
see Baladhuri, I, p.588; Ya'qubi, p. 126; Hadid, II, p.58

(83) e.g. see Tabarsi, Ihtijaj, I, pp.118-89

(84) e.g. see Ibn Sa'd, III, pp. 181-5

Notes to Chapter 3

(1) For 'Ali's active participation and unceasing services in
furthering the cause of Islam during Muhammad's lifetime, the
fullest and most reliable source is Ibn Hisham's Sira.

(2) This contrast is pointed out by Veccia Vaglieri, in El2 article

(3) Tabari, I, p.1827; Baladhuri, I, p.588

(4) e.g. Isti'ab, III, p.1104. For Shi'i sources see Majlisi, Bihar,
VIII, p.59; Ihtijaj, I, p.103

(5) L.V. Vaglieri, El2 article "'Ali"

(6) For the Ithna 'Asharites, see Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi and Furu'
al-Kafi; for the Isma'ilites, see Qadi Nu'man, Da'a'im al-Islam

(7) Some scholars have questioned the authenticity of the Nahj al-
Balagha and have suggested that it was written by Ash-Sharif ar-
Radi himself and attributed to 'Ali. This allegation, in light of my
own research on the subject, is absolutely without foundation. Ash-
Sharif ar-Radi, the compiler of the Nahj al-Balagha, died in
406/1115, but most of the material of the Nahj al-Balagha I have
found word-for-word in sources written long before the fifth century
of Islam. These sources include, for example, Nasr b. Muzahim al-
Minqari's Waq'at Siffin, Ya'qubi's Ta'rikh, Jahiz Al-Bayan wa'l-
Tabyin, Mubarrad's Kamil, Baladhuri's Ansab al-Ashraf and many
other standard works of the second, third, and fourth centuries. I
am currently preparing a critical translation of the Nahj al-Balagha
in which these sources will be fully analyzed and cited.

(8) Hayyan had a princely estate in Al-Yamaha where he used to
keep the poet A'sha, of the tribe of Banu Qays, under his protection
and in luxury and comfort. After the death of Hayyan the poet lost
all those privileges and was stricken by poverty, wandering about
from place to place. By quoting a'sha, 'Ali compares his prestigious
status and active life during the lifetime of the Prophet with the
negligent attitude of the people towards him after the death of the
Prophet. See Hadid, Sharh, I, pp. 166 f.

(9) Nahj al-Balagha, ed. Muhammad Abu'l-Fadl Ibrahim (Cairo,
1963), I, p.29. For other references before Ash-Sharif ar-Radi see
Ibn Abel's Hadid, Sharh, I, pp.205 f. and passim, where Abu Ja'far
Ahmad b. Muhammad (d. 274/887) Kitab al-Mahasin, Ibrahim h.
Muhammad ath-Thaqafi (d. 283/896) Kitab al-Gharat, Abu 'Ali
Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Jubba'i (d. 303/915), and Abu 'l-
Qasim al-Balkhi (d. 502/1108) Kitab al-Insaf, are quoted. Also see

Saduq (d. 381/991), 'Ilal ash-Shara'i', p. 68; Ma'ani, Al-Akhbar,
p.132; Mufid (d. 413/1022), Irshad, p. 166; Tusi (d. 460/1067),
Amali; p.237

(10) Ibn Sa'd, II, pp. 314 ff; Ibn Hisham, III, pp.352, 368; Ya'qubi,
II, p.127; Isti'ab, II, p.57'. Also cf. Vaglieri, El2 article "Fadak".
For the Shi'i position see Tabarsi, Ihtijaj, I, pp.131-149

(11) Various versions in Ibn Sa'd, II, pp. 314 ff; Bukhari, Sahih, II
p. 435. For the Shi'i position, see Ya'qubi, II, p.127, also Amini,
A'yan, II, pp.461 ff.

(12) Jahiz, Rasa'il, ed. Sandubi, "Min Kitabihi fi'l-'Abbasiyya",
p.300 (13) Tabari, I, p. 1825; Bukhari, Sahih V, p. 288; Ibn Sa'd, VIII,
p. 20; Mas'udi, Tanbih, p.288; Ibn Hajar, Sawa'iq, pp.12 f.

(14) See the whole account in Tabari, I, pp.2137 ff.; Ya'qubi, II,
p. 136 f.; Hadid, Sharh,, I, p.163 ff.

(15) Ya'qubi, ibid.; also see Tabari, I, p. 2138 ; 'Iqd, IV, p. 267, with
slight variations in wording

(16) Tabari, I, p.2137; Ya'qubi, loc. cit.; Hadid, Sharh, I, p. 164.
Also see Mubarrad, Kamil, I, p.7

(17) cf. Mas'udi, Muruj, II, pp.332 f.

(18) cf. Vaglieri, EI2 article "'Ali"

(19) Tabari, I, p.2769

(20) Reference to Qur'an, XLVII, 9

(21) Reference to Qur'an, XXXIII, 33

(22) Tabari, I, pp.2770 f.

(23) Abu 'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah,, in whom 'Umar had full confidence
and who was one of the triumvirate, had died in the plague of 639-

(24) Ibn Sa'd, III, pp. 6i f., pp.331 ff; Baladhuri, V, pp. i6 ff.;
Ya'qubi, II, pp. 160 ff.; Tabari, II, pp. 2778 ff.; Mas'udi, Tanbih,
pp.290 f.; Dhahabi, Ta'rikh, II, pp.74 ff.; Hadid, Sharh, I,
pp. 163 ff; pp. 185 ff.; 'Iqd, IV, p.275

(25) Isti'ab, IV, pp. 1697-9; Tahdhib, III, p.414

(26) Ibn Sa'd; III, pp.341 ff.; Baladhuri, V, p. 18; Ya'qubi, II.. p.
160; Tabari, I, pp.2770 ff.; Mas'udi. Tanbih, p.291 ; 'Iqd, IV, p.275;
Hadid, Sharh, I, p. 187

(27) e.g., see different isnads in Tabari, loc. cit., and Baladhuri,
loc. cit., where the reports of Muhammad b. Sa'd from Waqidi,
a die-hard pro-'Uthinanid, are exactly the same as that of Abu
Mikhnaf, a confirmed Shi'i. Even reports going back to 'Umar's son
'Abd Allah and that of Ibn 'Abbas are the same.

(28) Studies, I, pp. 80-99

(29) Ibn Sa'd, III, pp.344 ff.; Baladhuri, V, pp. 16, 18; Tabari, I,
p. 2778; 'Iqd, IV, p.275

(30) See 'Umar's conversation with the members of the Shura and
especially with 'Ali and 'Uthman in Tabari, I, p.2779; Baladhuri,
V, p. 16. The oldest source or. this subject, the fragment of the
Ta'rikh al-Khulafa records the same conversations of 'Umar with
the electors and indicates at least 'Umar's awareness (though not his
acceptance) of the strength of 'Ali's claims. See Abbott, Studies, I,
p. 81. Also see Ibn Sa'd, III, pp.62 and 339 ff, where a later
version incorporates some dramatic changes in the tradition at the
expense of 'Ali.

(31) Baladhuri, V, p. 19; Tabari, I, p.2780; 'Iqd, IV, p.276; Hadid,
Sharh, I, p.191

(32) Aghani; VI, pp.334 f.

(33) Baladhuri, V, p.19; Tabari, I, p.2780; 'Iqd, IV, pp.275 f.

(34) Baladhuri, V, pp. 21 f.; Tabari, I, pp.2779 f.

(35) i.e. "When my personal excellence was not questionable in
comparison to Abu Bakr, how can it be then compared to men like
Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, 'Abd ar-Rahman, and 'Uthman etc.?"

(36) See note 8 above

(37) Baladhuri, V, p.22; Ya'qubi, I, p. 162; Tabari, I, p.2793; 'Iqd,
IV, p.279; Hadid, Sharh, I, pp. 188, 194

(38) Baladhuri, V, p.24; Tabari, I, p.2796

(39) Baladhuri, V, p. 33 ; Mas'udi, Muruj III, p.225

(40) Tabari, I, pp. 3082 ff, 3085; Dinawari, Akhbar, p. 142; Mas'udi,
Muruj, II, pp.353 f.; Ya'qubi; II, p. 180

(41) See Vaglieri, EI2 article "'Ali,"

(42) Minqari, Waqi'at Siffin p.87

(43) ibid., p.89

(44) Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddima, pp.542 f; 'Iqd, IV, p.313; also see
Mas'udi, Muruj, II, pp.425 ff

(45) For the details of each one's wealth, see Ibn Khaldun, loc. cit.;
Mas'udi, Muruj, II, p.332

(46) Baladhuri, V, p. 49; Tabari, I, p.2871

(47) Tabari, I, p.2785; 'Iqd, IV, p.279

(48) ibid.

(49) Tabari, I, pp.2786 f.; 'Iqd, loc. cit.

Notes to Chapter 4

(1) Aghani VI, pp.334 f.; Mas'udi, Muruj, II, pp.342 f.

(2) Tabari, I, pp. 2948 f. For other versions, see Ibn Sa'd, III, 64;
Baladhuri, V, p.25; Ya'qubi, II, pp.164 ff.; Dinawari, Akhbar,
p.139; Mas'udi, Muruj; II, pp.334 ff.; 'Iqd, IV, pp. 280ff.

(3) See Tabari, I, pp.29323; Mas'udi, Muruj, II, p.337

(4) Tabari, I, p. 2871 ; Baladhuri, V, p.49

(5) Baladhuri, V, pp.31 ff.; Tabari, I, p.2845; Mas'udi, Muruj, II,
p.335; 'Iqd, IV, p.307

(6) Baladhuri, V, pp. 40 ff.; Mas'udi, Muruj, II, p.337; Tabari, I,
pp. 2916 f.

(7) Baladhuri, V. pp.27 f.; Tabari, I, pp.2953 f.; Ash'ari, Tamhid,

(8) Baladhuri, V, pp.36 f.; Ya'qubi, II, p.170

(9) Baladhuri, V, pp. 48 f.; 'Iqd, IV, p.307. Also see Mowdudi,
Abu'lA'la, Khilafai wa Mulukiyat, pp.105 ff., 321 if, which gives
an admirable exposition of 'Uthman's weakness for his kinsmen
and of their misdeeds.

(10) Baladhuri, V, pp. 52 ff.; Tabari, I, pp. 2858 ff.; Mas'udi, Muruj,
II, pp.339 ff.; Ya'qubi, II, p.171

(11) Ya'qubi, loc. cit.

(12) For these comments see S. M. Yusuf, "The Revolt Against
'Uthman", Islamic Culture, XXVI I (1953), pp.4-5

(13) Baladhuri, V, pp. 26, 57; Tabari, I, pp.2955, 2980; 'Iqd, IV,

(14) Baladhuri, V, pp. 53ff.; Mas'adi, Muruj, II, pp.34' f.; Ya'qubi,
II, pp.172 f.; Iladid, Sharh, VIII, pp.252 ff.

(15) Nahj al-Balagha, I, p.303

(16) Cf. sources in note 14 above

(17) Baladhuri; V, pp. 26, 60-6I; Tabari, I, pp. 2948 f., pp.2955 ff.;
Mas'udi, Muruj II, p.344; Ash'ari, Tamhid, p.54

(18) Baladhuri, V, p.40

(19) Kashshi, Rijal, p.72

(20) ibid., pp. 79-87

(21) ibid., pp. 75-78

(22) Tabari, I, p.2942; Ash'ari, Tamhid, pp.55 f.

(23) Wa' az as-Salat'n (Baghdad, 1954), pp.148 ff.

(24) Bernard Lewis, Origins of Isma'ilism (Cambridge, 1940), p.25;
Marshal G. S. Hodgson, "How Did the Early Shi'a Become
Sectarian ?" JAOS, LXXV (1955), p.2. For further sources, see EI2
article "Abd Allah b. Saba".

(25) Hodgson, "Early Shi'a", p.3

(26) Baladhuri, V, p.49. The son of Abu Bakr, Muhammad was a
devoted follower of 'Ali and a bitter critic of'Uthman. Cf. Hodgson,
"Early Shi'a", p.2

(27) Baladhuri, V, pp.34, 48-49; Tabari, I, p.3112; Ya'qubi, II,
p.175; Al-Imama wa's-Siyasa, I, p.30

(28) Baladhuri, V, pp.62 ff., 69; Tabari, I, pp. 2988 f.; Mas'udi,
Muruj, II, p.232; 'Iqd, IV, p.290

(29) Baladhuri, V, pp.70 f.; Tabari, I, pp.3066 ff.; 'Iqd, IV, pp.291,

(30) 'Iqd, IV, p.318

(31) Baladhuri, V, p.70; Tabari, I, p.3068; Ya'qubi, II, p. 178;
Ash'ari, Tamhid, p.107; Dinawari, Akhbar, p.140

(32) Tabari, I, p.3080

(33) Tabari, I, p.3127

(34) Tabari, I, pp. 309 I, 3112 if.; Ya'qubi, II, p. 180; Hadid, Sharh,
I, p.232

(35) Tabari, I, p.3255

(36) 'Iqd, IV, p.334. Also see Baladhuri, IVA, p. 108, where some
companions rejected Mu'awiya's right to call for the blood of
'Uthman while there were other nearer relatives of 'Uthman to
claim it.

(37) See Chapter 3, n. 8, above

(38) Ya'qu hi, II, p.179

(39) Hodgson, "How Did the Early Shi'a Become Sectarian?",
JAOS, p.2

(40) W. Montgomery Watt, "Shi'ism Under the Umayyads",
JRAS, 196o, p. 161. Cf. 3. Ryckmans, L'institution monarchique en
Arabia atant l'Islam (Louvain, 1951), pp.229 if.

(41) Mubarrad, Kamil, III, p. 205; Mas'udi; Muruj, II, p.416;
Aghani; XII, p.326. R. Strothmann agrees that there are
able religious honours accorded to 'Ali in the poetry of
ad-Du'ali (cf.
E11 article "Shl'a"). Also see similar verses composed by Kumayt
and Kuthayyir in Mubarrad, Kamil, III, pp.204 f.

(42) e.g. Qur'an, xIx, 6

(43) Hadid, Sharh, I, pp.144-9

(44) Ibn Nadim, Fihrist, p.93

(45) e.g. pp. 18,23 f., 43,49, 365, 382, 385. See also Askafi,
Naqdal- 'Uthmaniya, p.84

(46) Baladhuri, V, p. 34. Even the verses of Ibn Umm Kilb
attribute to 'A 'isha the responsibility for the murder of
'Uthman. Cf. Tabari, I, p 3112

(47) Mufid, Irshad, p.146; Nahj al-Balagha, I, p.63

(48) This incident is known as the Hadith al-Ifk, and Bukhari
records a detailed account of it (See Sahih, III, pp. 25 ff). Cf.
other hadith works under the heading "Hadith al-Ifk".

(49) 'Umar Abu Nasr, 'Ali wa 'A'isha (Baghdad, n.d.), pp.25 ff

(50) Mubarrad, Kamil, I, p.267

(51) These expressions are frequently used in the Arabic sources:
e.g. Tabari I, pp.3196, 3199; Ya'qubI, II, pp.183, 183 199; Aghanz;
XII, p.334; XIV, p.219

(52) Tabari, I, p.1272

(53) XLVIII, 10. See Iladid, Sharh, I, p.201

(54) LXXII, 15. See Iladid, loc. cit.

(55) Hadid, loc. cit.; Ya'qubi, II, p.193

(56) Minqari; Waq'at Siffin, p.504; Tabari, I, pp.3336 f.

(57) Fihrist, p.175; Tabari, II, p. 1; Kashshi, Rijal, pp.4 f.

(58) Tabari, I,pp.3350 f. Cf. W. Montgomery Watt, "Shi'ism
Under the Umayyads", JRAS (1960), pp. I60-161

Notes to Chapter 5

(1)) Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, trans. Philip K. Hitti, The Origins Have the Islamic State (Beirut, 1966), p.434; Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Buldan (Tehran, 1965), IV, p.323; Tabari; I, p.2485; Khalifa b. Khaybar, Ta'rikh, ed. Zakkar (Cairo, 1967), I, p.129

(2) See sources cited in note 1 above

(3) Muhammad Husayn al-Zubaydi, Al-Hayat al-ijtima'iya wa'l iqtisadiya fi'l Kufa (Cairo, 1970), p.25; Yusuf Khalif, Hayat al-Shi'r fi'l-Kufa (Cairo, 1968), p.23

(4) Tabari, I, p.2360; Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Buldan, IV, p.322

(5) Baladhuri, Origins, p.434

(6) M. Hind, "Kufan Political Alignments in the Mid-7th Century AD", International Journal of Middle East Studies, (October, 1971), p.351

(7) Baladhuri, Origins, pp.435 f.; Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Buldan, IV, p.323

(8) Tabari, I, p.2495

(9) ibid.

(10) For Kinana see 'Umar Rida Kahhala, Mu'jam Qaba'il al-'Arab (Damascus, 1949), p.996; 'Iqd, III, pp.339, 359; for Jadlia of Qays 'Aylan see Kahhala, p.173; 'Iqd, III, p.350

(11) For the details of these Yemeni tribes, see Kahalla, pp.957, 844 f., 63 ff, 131 f., 998 ff, 282, 15 ff respectively; 'Iqd, III, pp.371, 382, 388, 391 f., 403, 375, 385 respectively

(12) Kahhala, p.64; 'Iqd, III, p.388

(13) He led the delegation of Kinda to Medina in 9/630 to accept Islam. See Kahhala, p.999

(14) From Madhhij there were many important sub-tribes, such as Nakhkha' and Tayy. See Kahhala; p. 1062; 'Iqd, III, p.393

(15) Kahhala, pp.305 f.; 'Iqd, III, p.369

(16) Kahhala, p.1225; 'Iqd, III, pp.389 f.

(17) Kahhala, p.1225; 'Iqd, III, p.389

(18) Kahhala, pp. 126 ff., 315, 1231 respectively; 'Iqd, III, pp.344 ff, 343 f., 353 ff.

(19) Kahhala, pp.21 ff., 888, 1042, 1192, 664 120 ff. respectively; 'Iqd, III, pp.340 ff., 35', 319, 358, 356, 359

(20) Kahhala, pp.52 ff

(21) Of uncertain origin. Some said they belonged to the Qahtanis, others describe them as 'Adnanis from al-Dayth b. 'Adnan. .See Kahhala, pp.802 f.

(22) Kahhala, pp.726 f.; 'Iqd, III, p.357

(23) Kahha1a, p.726

(24) Baladhuri, Origins, pp.440 f.; El2 article "Daylam"

(25) Kahhala, p.726

(26) Kahhala, p.691

(27) Maqatil, p. 61; Sharh, XVI, p.38. See p. 142 below

(28) Kahhala, p.689

(29) Tabari, II, pp.304 ff. See p.200 ff below

(30) Massignon, Khitat p.11. Cf. Tabari, I, p.3174; Khalif, Hayat ash-Shi'r fi'l Kufa, p.29

(31) Massignon, Khitat, pp.15 f. Cf. Tabari, II, p.131; Khalif, op. Cit., pp.30 f.

(32) Tabari, II, p.131

(33) Tabari, I, pp.2221 f.

(34) Ma'jam al-Buldan, IV, p.324

(35) Baladhuri, Origins, pp.436,440; Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Buldan, IV, p.323

(36) Ibn Sa'd, VI, p.9

(37) ibid, VI, p.12-66

(38) Ibn Sa'd, VI, p.7; Ba1adhuri, Origins, p.448

(39) 39 Ibn Sa'd, VI, pp.13 f.; Tabari, I, p.2645

(40) Ibn Sa'd, VI, p.7

(41) Tabari, I, pp. 2414 f.

(42) Tabari, I, p.2496. For the institution of the 'arif see E12 article "'Arif"

(43) Tabari, I, p.2633

(44) Tabari, I, p.2805

(45) Tabari, I, p.2418

(46) Massignon, Khitat, p. 13; Tabari; I, p.2418

(47) Tabari, I, pp.2418 f.

(48) Ibn Sa'd, VI, p.11

(49) Tabari, I. p.2464

(50) S.A.A1-'Ali, Al- Tanzimat al-ijtima'iya wa'l-iqtisadiya fi'l Basra, 2nd ed. (Beirut, 1969), pp.88 ff.

(51) ibid, p.82

(52) Tabari, II, p.1072

(53) Tabari; I, p.2668

(54) Tabari, I, p.2927

(55) ibid.

(56) Tabari, I, p.2651

(57) Baladhuri, Ansab, V, p.46

(58) Tabari; I, pp.3075 ff; AI-Imama wa'l-siyasa, I, p.47

(59) Hind, op. cit., p.361

(60) Tabari, I, p.3174

(61) Nasr, Waq'at Siffin, p.105

(62) Ibn A'tham, II, p.350; Nasr, Waq'at Siffin, p.12

(63) Tabari, I, p.3279

(64) Tabari, I, p.3256

(65) Hind, op. cit., p. 363

(66) e.g., Khutabat nos. 21, 23, 24, 42, to cite but a few

(67) For 'Ali's fiscal policies and egalitarian attitude, see Tabari, I, p.3227

(68) Mas'udi, Muruj, II, p.404

(69) ibid., p.407

(70) Nahj al-Balagha, I, pp. 76-79; Mubarrad, Kamil, I, pp.20 f., with slightly different readings in some cases. I have followed the Nahj al- Balagha's text.

Notes to Chapter 6

(1) Tabari, II, p.5

(2)Tabari, II, pp. I if.; Mas'udi, Muruj, II, p.426; Tanbih, p.300;
'Iqd, IV, p.361; Ya'qubi, II, pp.214 f; Dinawari, pp. 216 f.; Isti'ab.
I, p. 385; Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.14

(3) Ya'qubi, II, p. 188. According to Ibn Sa'd, VI, pp.4, 370 early
Sahaba immediately moved into Kufa and settled there as soon as
'Umar b. al-Khattab founded the garrison city.

(4) Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.12; Tirmidhi, II, p. 306; Musnad, V, p.354;
Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.27

(5) Musnad, II, p.513

(6) The standard works of tradition usually devote a separate
chapter to the special merits of Hasan and Husayn (Bab Manaqib
al-Hasan wa'l-Husayn).

(7) Ibn Habib, Muhabbar, p. 46; Bukhari, Sahih, II, pp.175, 198;
Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.13

(8) According to Abu'l-Faraj al-Isfahani, Maqatil at-Talibiyin,
p.52, 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas himself was the first to advance
Hasan's nomination and invite the people to pay homage to him
as the caliph after the death of 'Ali. See also Hadid, Sharh, XVI,
pp.31 f.

(9) Dinawari, p. 216; Maqatil, p.52; Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.30

(10) Tabari, II, p. I; Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.14;

(11) Hadid, loc. cit.; Isti'ab,I, p. 383

(12) ibid.

(13) Ibn A'tham, IV, p.148; Tabari; II, p.5; Hadid, Sharh, XVI,

(14) Maqatil, pp.52 f.; Hadid, Sharh, XVI, pp.25 f.

(15) Aghani, XXI, p. 26; Maqatil, loc. cit.; Ya'qubi, II, p.214; Hadid,
Sharh, XVI, p.31

(16) Ibn A'tham, IV, p.153; Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.26

(17) Maqatil, p. 56 (from Abi Mikhnaf); Ibn A'tham, IV, p.151;
Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.24 (from Mada'ini), p.33 (from Abi Mikhnaf
with slight variations)

(18) Maqatil, p.57 (from Abu Mikhnaf); Ibn A'tham, IV, p.152;
Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.25 (from Mada'ini), p.35 (from Abu Mikhnaf
with slight variations)

(19) Arab Kingdom, pp.104-7

(20) Ta'rikh, II, pp. 214 f.

(21) Akhbar, pp.217 ff.

(22) Ta'rikh, II, pp. 1-8

(23) Kitab al-Futuh, IV, pp.148-67

(24) Maqatil, pp. 46-77

(25) Sharh, XVI, pp. 9-52

(26) Fihrist, PP.03, 101 f., respectively. The importance of these two
authors in early Muslim historiography has been discussed in
Chapter 2.

(27) M. A. Sha'ban, E12 article 'Ibn A'tham"

(28) Sha'ban, op. cit. Cf. Yaqut, Irshad al-Arib ila ma'rifat al-Adib,
ed. D.S. Margoliouth, (Leiden, 1007-31), I, p. 379; C.A. Storey,
Persian Literature: a Bio-bibliographical Survey (London, 1927), I,
ii, p.1260

(29) See Ali mad Zaki Safwat, Jamharat Rasa'il al-'Arab fi 'usur al-
'Arabiyat az-Zahira (Cairo, 1937), a four-volume work in which all
the letters from the time of the Prophet until the end of the 'Abbasid
period have been collected with documentation.

(30) Tabari, II, pp., f., 5-8. See Wellhausen, Arab Kingdom, p.107

(31) Tabari, II, pp.2-5

(32) Tabari, II, pp. I, 5 ff.

(33) Tabari, II, pp.2, 7

(34) Tabari, II, pp.7-8

(35) Tabari, II, Pp.2-4

(36) Tabari, II, p.2

(37) Ya'qubi, II, p.214; Maqatil, p.62; Sharh, XVI, p.40

(38) Maqatil, p. 61; Sharh, XVI, p.38

(39) Ya'qubi, II, p.214

(40) ibid.

(41) Tabari, II, p.2

(42) Ya'qubi, II, p. 115

(43) ibid.

(44) The Arabic phrase reads .fa lamma intaha ila Sabat raya min
ashabihi fashl wa tawakul 'an al-harb.

(45) Dinawari, p.216

(46) ibid.

(47) Sharh, XVI, p.22

(48) Futuh, IV, p.154; Maqatil, p.63

(49) Dinawari, p.217; Ibn A'tham, IV, p.155; Ya'qubi, II, p.215;
Maqatil, p.64

(50) Dinawari, loc. cit.; Ibn A'tham, loc. cit.; Ya'qubi, loc. cit.;
Maqatil, loc. cit.

(51) Ibn A'tham, IV, pp.156 f.

(52) ibid., p. 157

(53) Tabari, II, pp.220, 223, 274; Dinawari, pp.243, 299; ,Iqd, IV,

(54) Maqatil, pp.64 f.

(55) Maqatil, pp.65 ff.

(56) Tabari, II, pp.3-4

(57) The shortest period given for his caliphate is three months, the
longest is seven months.

(58) Tabari, II, p.13

(59) Dinawari, p. zi8

(60) Isti'ab, I, pp.355 f. Usd al-Ghaba, II, p. 14 adds: "and some
other conditions like this." See also Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Sawa'iq
al-muhriqa, p.134; Al-Imama wa's-siyasa, I, p.140

(61) Maqatil, pp. 66 f.; Sharh, XVI, pp.43 f.

(62) Ibn A'tham, IV, pp. 158 f.

(63) Sharh, XVI, pp.22 f.

(64) Ibn A'tham, IV, p. 158

(65) Ibn A'tham, IV, pp.159 f.; Sharh, XVI, pp.22 f.

(66) Ibn A'tham, IV, p. 165

(67) See Ibn A'tham, IV, pp. 161-7; Maqatil, PP. 68-73;Tabari, II,
pp. 6-9; Ya'qubi, II, pp. 216 f.

(68) Tabari, II, p.6; Ya'qubi, II, p.215

(69) Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.28

(70) Maqatil, pp.72 f.

(71) Isti'ab, III, p.1420; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya Wa'n-Nihaya, VII I,

(72) See, for example, his reply to Hujr that he abdicated to save the
lives of his handful of true followers, in Dinawari, p.220

(73) Ibn A'tham, IV, pp.164 if.; Maqatil, pp.67 ff.; Ya'qubi, II,
pp. 216 f.; Dinawari, pp.220 f.; Isti'ab, 1, pp. 387 f.

(74) Usd al-Ghaba, II, pp. 13 f.; Isti'ab, I, p.384; Bukhari, Sahih, II,
p.198; Tabari, II, p.199; Jahiz., Rasa'il, "Risala fi Bani Umayya,"
p 65; 'Amili, A'yan, IV, p.54

(75) Dinawari, pp.220 f.

(76) Tabari, I, p.1920

(77) Baladhuri, Ansab, IVA, p.138; Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.14. Also
see Vaglieri, EI2 article "Hasan"

(78) Mas'udi, Muruj, II, pp. 426 f.; Maqatil, pp.73 f.; Hadid, Sharh,
XVI, pp.10 f., 17; Isti'ab, I, pp. 389 f.; Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.14;
Ya'qubi, II, p.225; Ibn Khallikan, Wafayat, II, p.66

(79) Mas'udi, Muruj, II, p.427; Maqatil, p.73; Hadid, Sharh,
XVI, p.11

(80) Dinawari, Akhbar, p.222; Ya'qubi, II, p.225; 'lqd, IV, p. 361;
Mas'udi, loc. cit.

(81) Ibn A'tham, IV, pp. 206, 224 f.; Maqatil, p.73; Ya'qubi, II,
p. 228; Isti'ab, I, p.391

(82) Ya'qubi, II, p.228; Dinawari, p.221

(83) See Tabari, II, pp.223-5; Baladhuri, IVA, pp.211-36; Aghani;
XVI I, pp.78-96; Dinawari, pp. 223-5 ; Isti'ab, I, pp.329-33

(84) Tabari, 11, p. 131; Dinawari, Pp. 223 f.; Aghani; XVII,
PP.79 f

(85) Aghani; XVI I, p. 81; Baladhuri, IVA, p.214

(86) Aghani; XVII, p. 81; Baladhuri, IVA, p.214

(87) Ibn Sa'd, VI, p.219

(88) Tabari, II, p.117; Baladhuri; IVA, p.214

(89) Aghani; XVII, p.82

(90) See Tabari, II, pp. 117 ff; 136

(91) After assuming control of Kufa, Ziyad regrouped the entire
population into four administrative quarters and appointed a head
of his own choosing in charge of each quarter. This has been
discussed in chapter 5 in connection with the general assessment
of the situation in Kufa.

(92) Tabari, II, p.131; Aghani; XVII, p.89

(93) Tabari, loc. cit.; Aghani loc. cit.

(94) Tabari, II, p.132; Aghani; loc. cit.; Baladhuri, IVA, p.221

(95) Baladhuri, IVA, pp.222 f.; Tabari, II, p.137

(96) Tabari, II, pp.133 ff; also, with some variations, Baladhuri,
IVA, Pp.221 ff; Aghani; XVII, pp.89 ff

(97) See sources cited in note 95 above

(98) Tabari; II, p. 140; Aghani; XVII, pp.92 f.; Baladhuri, IVA,

(99) Tabari, II, p.145; Isti'ab, I, p.229 f.; Baladhuri; IVA, pp.22,
228, 229 ff

(100) Dinawari; p.224

(101) ibid.

(102) Tabari, II, pp. 111 f.; Baladhuri, IVA, pp. 211 f.

(103) For details, see Tabari under the years 56 to 6o; also Mas'udi,
Muruj; III, pp.27 f.

(104) For details see Ibn A'tham, IV, pp.235-49; Ibn Athir, Al-
Kamil fi'l-Ta'rikh, (Beirut, 1965)111, pp. 508-11

(105) See references quoted above in notes 103 and 104 and also
Tabari, II, pp. 175 f.

Notes to Chapter 7

(1) For the character and conduct of Yazid, see Jahiz, Rasa'il,
"Risala fi Bani Umayya", pp.294 ff.; Baladhuri, IVB, pp. 1-11;
Aghani; XV, p.232; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.67; Damiri, Hayat al-
Hayawan, pp. 261 ff.; Ya'qubi, II, p.228. It is indeed surprising to
note that Henri Lammens, in his Le califat de Yazid, contrary to the
unanimous reports of Muslim writers of all times, has taken great
pains to depict Yazid as an ideal character. Lammens' unusual
regard for the Umayyad house often led him to read the Arabic text
to suit his own purposes.

( 2) Baladhuri, IVB, pp.122 f.; 'Iqd, IV, p.226; Tabari, II, pp.196
f.; Dinawari, p.226

( 3) Baladhuri, IVB, p.12; Ya'qubi, II, p.241; Tabari, II, p. 216;
'Iqd IV, p.227; Bidaya, VIII, pp.146 f.

( 4) Tabari, II, p.219; Baladhuri, IVB, p. 15; Dinawari, p.228;
Bidaya, VIII, p.147

( 5) See Tabari, II, pp.233, 276; Baladhuri, IVB, p.13; Dinawari,
p.229; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p. 55 Bidaya, VIII, p. 151

( 6) Tabari, II, pp.233 f.; Maqatil, p.96

( 7) Tabari, II p.234; Dinawari, p.229; Bidaya, VIII, pp. 151 f.

( 8) Tabari, II, pp.234 f.; Ya'qubi, II, p.242

( 9) Tabari, II, p.235; Mufid, Irshad, II, pp.35 f.

(10) Tabari, II, p.240

(11) See details in Tabari, II, pp.174 f.

(12) Tabari, II, pp.237 f.; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.36; Bidaya, VIII,

(13) Tabari, II, p.264; Mas'udi, Muruj; III, p.54; Dinawari, p.235;
Baladhuri, II, p. 80; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.38; Bidaya, VIII, p.152.
Ibn 'Abd Rabbih gives the figure as more than 30,000 in 'Iqd, IV, p. 378

(14) This letter of Muslim was sent to Husayn on 12 Dhu'l-Qa'da
60/15 August 680, 27 days before the murder of Muslim; see Tabari,
II, pp.264, 271; Mufid, Irshad, II, pp.67, 72

(15) Tabari, II, pp.220 f.; 223,274 f.; Dinawari, Pp.229,243 f.; 'Iqd,
IV, p.376; Maqatil, p.109; Bidaya, VIII, pp. 109 f.; 160 ff

(16) Tabari, II, pp.274-76; Bidaya, VII I, p. 166

(17) Tabari, loc. cit.; Baladhuri, IVB, p. '4; Dinawari, p. 229;
Maqatil, p.109; Bidaya, VIII, pp. 160, 163

(18) See the text of Yazid's order in Tabari, II, pp.228, 240. A still
more detailed version is given by Jahshiyari, Al-Wuzara' wa'l-

Kuttab, ed. Saqqa, Ibyari, and Shibli (Cairo, 1938), p.3'; Dinawari,
pp.231, 242; Bidaya, VIII, p.152; Mufid Irshad, II, p.40

(19) Tabari, II, pp.229, 241; Dinawari, p.232; Mas'udi, Muruj, III,
p. 57; Maqatil, p. 96; Bidaya, VIII, p.153; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.41

(20) Tabari, II, p.242; Dinawari, p.232; Maqatil, p.97; Bidaya,
VIII, p.154; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.41

(21) See Tabari, II, p. 267; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, pp.59 f.; Dinawari,
p.240; Maqatil, pp. 100-8; Bidaya, VII I, pp.153-7; Mufid, Irshad,
II, pp. 42-67

(22) Tabari, II, pp.242, 277; Dinawari, p.245; Bidaya, VIII, p. 166

(23) Tabari, II, p. 278; Ya'qubi, II, p. 249;Bidaya, VIII, p. 167. Shi'i
sources state that Yazid sent some soldiers disguised as pilgrims to
assassinate Husayn amidst the crowds assembled for the Hajj; see
Mufid, Irshad, II, p.69

(24) Tabari, II, p.242

(25) Tabari, II, pp. 285, 288 f.; Dinawari, p.243; Mufid, Irshad, II,

(26) Tabari, II, pp. 289 ff.; 293, 303; Dinawari; pp.247 f.; Bidaya,
VIII, pp. z68, 274; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.72

(27) Tabari, II, p.303; Bidaya, loc. cit.

(28) Tabari, II, p.294; Dinawari, p.248; Bidaya, VIII, p. 169;
Mufid, Irshad, II, p.77

(29) Tabari, II, pp.296 f.; Dinawari, p.249; Bidaya, VIII, p.172;
Mufid, Irshad, II, pp. 78 ff

(30) Tabari, loc. cit.; Dinawari, loc. cit.; Bidaya, loc. cit.; Mufid,
loc. cit.

(31) Tabari, II, pp. 298 f. See also Dinawari, p.249; Bidaya, VIII,
p.172; Mufid, Irshad, II, p. 81

(32) Tabari, II, pp.299-307; Dinawari, pp.249-51; Bidaya, VIII,
pp. 172-S; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.84

(33) For details see Tabari, II, pp. 308-16; Dinawari, pp.253-5;
Bidaya, VIII, pp.175 f.; Mufid, Irshad, II, pp. 85-91

(34) Tabari, II, p.316; Dinawari, p.255; Bidaya, VIII, p.175

(35) Tabari, II, pp.319 if.; Bidaya, VIII, p. 176; Maqatil, p.112;
Mufid, Irshad, II, pp.93 f.

(36) Tabari, II, pp.324 f.; Bidaya, VIII, p.177; Dinawari, p. 256;
Mufid, Irshad, II, p.97

(37) Tabari, II, p. 227;Bidaya, VIII, pp. 169, 178; Mufid, Irshad, II,

(38) Tabari, II, p. 328; Mufid, loc. cit.

(39) Tabari, II, p.329; Bidaya, VIII, p.179; Mufid, Irshad, II,

(40) See Tabari, II, pp.335 ff., 337 ff., 344, 346; Bidaya, VIII,
pp. 181 ff

(41) Tabari, II, pp.347, 35' ff, 355 f.; Bidaya, VIII, pp.184 f.;
Mufid, Irshad, II, p.109; Dinawari, pp.256 f.

(42) Tabari, II, pp. 356-9; Dinawari, loc. cit.; Bidaya, VIII,
pp.185-9; Mufid Irshad, II, pp. 110-4;Maqatil, pp. 80-113

(43) Tabari, II, p.386; Dinawari, pp.257 f.; Maqatil, p.84; Mufid,
Irshad, II, p 113

(44) Tabari; II, p.360; Dinawari, p.258; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.112;
Ya'qubi; II, p.240; Maqatil, p.115

(45) Tabari, II, pp.361, 363; Bidaya, VIII, p. .187; Mufid, Irshad, II,

(46) Tabari, II, p.365; Bidaya, loc. cit.; Mufid, Irshad, II, p. 116

(47) Tabari, II, p.366; Bidaya, VIII, p.188; Dinawari; p.258;
Mufid, Irshad, II, p.117

(48) For the details of these cruel acts, see Tabari, II, p.367; Bidaya,
loc. cit.; Dinawari; p.258; Mufid, Irshad, II, pp.117 f.; Maqatil,
pp. 117 ff.

(49) Tabari; II, pp.368 f.; Maqatil, p.119; Mufid, loc. cit.

(50) Tabari, loc. cit.; Dinawari; p.260; Bidaya, VIII, p.189

(51) Tabari, II, p.369; Dinawari, p.259; Bidaya, VIII, p. 190;
Mufid, Irshad, II, pp. 118 f.

(52) Tabari, II, p.370; Bidaya, VIII, p.193

(53) Tabari; II, p.371; Dinawari, pp.259 f.; Bidaya, VIII, p.190

(54) See sources cited in note 53

(55) Tabari, II, p.375; Bidaya, VIII, p. 191; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.123

(56) Bidaya, VIII, p.203. For Yazid's reported remorse see Bidaya,
VIII, pp.191 ff; Tabari, II, pp.376 ff

(57) History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed.
J.B. Bury, 2nd ed. (London, '90'), V, p.391

(58) Akhbar, p.259

(59) Ibsar al-'ayn fi ahwal al-ansar al-Husayn (Najaf, 1341 AH),
pp.47 ff

(60) Tabari; II, p.386; Akhbar, p.259

(61) See Tabari, II, pp.303, 335

(62) Bidaya, VIII, p.170; 'Iqd, IV, p.380

(63) Tabari; II, p.236

(64) See B. Lewis, Origins of Isma'ilism (Cambridge, 1940), p.27;
also Nawbakhti, Firaq ash-Shi'a, p.45

(65) The best example of this, among many others, is Henri
Lammens' Le califat de Yazid and his El' article Husayn". Also see
Welihausen, Arab Kingdom, pp.145-7

(66) Tabari, II, pp. 216-95; also note 14 above

(67) Tabari; II, pp.304 f.

(68) ibid.

(69) Aghani XV, p.233

(70) 2nd ed. (Cairo, n.d.)

(71) 2nd ed. (Beirut, 1972)

(72) Tabari, II, pp. 288, 303; Bidaya, VIII, pp. 168, 174

(73) Tabari, II, pp. 318 f.; Bidaya, VIII, p. 176, gives only a
summary of the address of Habib b. Muzahir;

(74) For their pledges see Tabari, II, p.322; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.94;
Bidaya, VIII, p. 176;Maqatil,p. 112

(75) Tabari, loc. cit.; Bidaya, VIII, p.177. Mufid, Irshad, II, p.95,
gives a longer and more forceful version.

(76) Tabari, II, p 322; Bidaya, VIII, p.177; Mufid, Irshad, II, p.95

(77) ibid.

(78) A. A. A. Fyzee, "Shi'i Legal Theories," Law in the Middle East,
ed. Majid Khadduri and H. J. Lesbesny (Washington, '955), p.113

(79) Tabari, II, pp.333 f.; Mufid, Irshad, II, pp.103 f. Bidaya, VIII,
p. 180, only summarises the statement of Hurr.

(80) See Tabari, loc. cit.; Mufid, loc. cit. Bidaya, VIII, pp. 180 f.,
gives here the full text of Hurr's speech as in Tabari.

(81) Tabari, II, p.350; Bidaya, VIII, p.183

(82) Tabari, II, pp.342, 350; Mufid, Irshad, II, pp. 106 f. Bidaya
naturally does not mention this final retort of Nafi'.

(83) Tabari, II, p. 380; Bidaya, VIII, p.183

(84) History of the Arabs, p.191

(85) Fyzee, op. cit., p.113

(86) cf. Hodgson, "How Did the Early Shi'a become Sectarian?"

(87) Ibn Nadim, Fihrist, p.93; Tusi, Fihrist, Nos. 155, 282; Najashi,
Rijal, p.245; Ahlwardt, Nos. 9028-9 9031-8; Ursula Sezgin, Abu
Mikhnaf Ein Beitrag zur Historiographie der Umaiyadischen Zeit
(Leiden, 1971), pp. 116-23, a discussion of the Maqtal itself. On
Tusi and his Fihrist, see Sprenger's preface to his edition of this
work in the Bibliotheca Indica (Calcutta, 1853), and Brown's
discussion of biographical authorities in A Literary History of Persia
(Cambridge, 1902-4), IV, pp. 3555. On Najashi also see Brown,
loc. cit.

(88) See his preface to The Arab Kingdom and its Fall

(89) See above, note 87

(90) Wellhausen, loc. cit.

(91) El2 article "Abu Mikhnaf'

(92) Wellhausen, loc. cit.

(93) In the Istanbul Ms. of the Ansab, Husayn is discussed in ML
597, ff. 219a-251b

(94) For his revolt see Veccia Vaglieri, EI2 article "Ibn al-Ash'ath",
and sources cited therein.

(95) Welihausen, op. cit., p. vii

(96) See Tabari, index

(97) e.g. Mufid, Irshad, II, p.29

(98) See Maqatil, p.95

(99) See Bidaya, VIII, pp.60, 61

(100) See Der Tod des Husein, Wustenfeld's preface

(101) Sezgin, Abu Mikhnaf pp.190 ff

Notes to Chapter 8

(1)Baladhuri, V, pp.204 ff.; Tabari, II, p.497; Mas'udi, Muruj,
III, p.93; Welihausen, Die religios politischen Oppositionsparteien im
alten Islam trans. 'Abd ar-Rahman Badawi, Ahzab al-mu'arada as-
siyasiya al-diniya fi sadr al-Islam (Cairo, 1968), p. 189

(2)Tabari, II, p. 498; Welihausen, loc. cit.

(3)Tabari, II, p. 498; Baladhuri, V, pp.204 f.

(4)Tabari, II, p.497; Baladhuri, loc. cit.

(5)Tabari, II, p. 498; Baladhuri, V, p.205

(6)Tabari, II, p.499; Baladhuri, loc. cit.

(7 Tabari, II, pp.499 f.; Baladhuri, V, pp.205 f.

(8)Tabari, loc. cit.; Baladhuri, loc. cit.

(9)Tabari, II, pp. 506-7

(10)Tabari, II, pp. 507-8

(11)Baladhuri, V, p. 2o8

(12)Baladhuri, V. p. 207

(13)Baladhuri, V, p.207; Tabari, II, p.509

(14)Tabari, II, pp.502-s

(15)Baladhuri, V, p.207; Tabari, II, p.509

(16)Baladhuri, loc. cit.; Tabari, loc. cit.

(17)Mas'udi, Muruj ; III, p.93

(18)Tabari, II, pp.543 f.; Baladhuri, V, p.209

(19)Tabari, II, p.545

(20)Baladhuri, V, p.209

(21)Baladhuri, loc. cit.; Tabari, II, p. 546; Welihausen, Ahzab,

(22)Ahzab, p.194. Cf. Tabari, II, p. 546; Baladhuri, V, p.209

(23)Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.94. "Turabites": reference to Abu
Turab, 'Ali's kunya.

(24)See the detailed account of 'Ayn al-Warda in Baladhuri, V,
pp.210 f.; Tabari, II, pp. 558 ff; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.94

(25)Welihausen, Ahzab, p.194

(26)See Tabari, II, pp.497, 559, 566, 599, 601; Baladhuri, V,
pp.207 ff.; Welihausen, loc. cit.

(27)Welihausen, loc. cit.

Notes to Chapter 9

(1) Welihausen, Ahzab, pp. 198-234; K. A. Fariq, The Story of an
Arab Diplomat (New Dehli, 1967)

(2) Hodgson, "How Did the Early Shi'a Become Sectarian?",
JAOS ('955), p.3

(3) Ibn Sa'd,V,p.2I2

(4) Ibn Sa'd, V, pp.212, 220; Tabari, II, p.209

(5) Tabari, II, p.220
(6) ibid.

(7) Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.70; Mubarrad, Kamil, I, p.260;
Dinawari, p. 266

(8) Baladhuri; V, p.272; Masudi, Muruj, III, 74

(9) Ya'qubi, II, p.259

(10) Baladhuri, V, p.272; Ibn Sa'd, V, p.213

(11) Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni; Usul al-Kafi (Karachi,
1965), I, p.353; Majlisi, Bihar, XI, p.7; 'Amili, A'yan, IV, p.332.
Also see Mas'udi; Muruj, III, p.225

(12) Kulayni, loc. cit.

(13) Ibn Khaldun, 'Ibar (Cairo, 1867), III, p.172

(14) Baladhuri, V, p.218

(15) Kulayni, Kafi, pp.352 f.

(16) Kashshi, Ikhtiyar Ma'rifat ar-Rijal (Tehran, n.d.), p.121

(17) ibid., p.124

(18) ibid., p.123

(19) ibid., p.115

(20) ibid., p.4; Ibn 'Imad, Shadharat adh-Dhahab (Cairo, 1350
A.H.), I, p.84

(21) Kashshi, Rijal, p. 119

(22) ibid., pp.201-3

(23) ibid., p. 124

(24) e.g., Kulayni, Kafi; passim

(25) Farazdaq, Diwan, I, p.847 f.; Aghani; XXI, pp.400 ff.; Ibn
Khallikan, Wafayat, VI, pp. 95f.; Bayhaqi, Kitab al-Mahasin wa'l-
Masawi; ed. Schwally (Giessen, 1902), pp.131 f.; Abu Nu'aym,
Hilyat al-Awliya (Cairo, 1938), III, p.139; Kashshi, Rijal, p. 130 if.;
Subki, Abo Nasr, Tabaqat ash-Shafi'iya, ed. Ahmad b. 'Abd al-
Karim (Cairo, n.d.), I, pp.153 if.; Ibn Kathir, Bidaya, IX, pp. 108 f.

(26) See the detailed account in the references cited in note 25

(27) Kashshi, Rijal, p.123

(28) Ibn Sa'd, V, p. 216; Kashshi, Rijal 155 ff.

(29) Ibn Sa'd, V, p. 216

(30) For Sunni sources, see Ibn Sa'd, V, pp.216-22; Ibn Khallikan,
III, pp. 266 if.; Mubarrad, Kamil, I, p. 260; II, p. 138; III, pp.120 f.;
Ibn Kathir, Bidaya, IX, pp.103-15. For Shi'i sources, see Ya'qubi,
II, p.247; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p. 160; Kulayni, Kafi, I, Kitab al-
Hujja and passim; Mufid, Irshad, II, pp.138-45; 'Amili, 'A'yan, IV,
pp. 308-461

(31) Mubarrad, Kamil, II, p. 138

(32) Kulayni, Kafi, I, pp.354 f.; Majlisl, Bihar, XI, pp. 100 ff.; Qadi
Nu'man, Sharh, fol. 32a

(33) Montgomery Watt, "Shi'ism under the Umayyads", pp. 168 f.;
Hodgson, op. cit., p. I

(34) See references cited in note 32 above

(35) See specifically Kulayni, Kafi; "Kitab al-Hujj a"

(36) Montgomery Watt, op. cit., p. 166

(37) Kashshi, Rijal, pp.133 ff.

(38) ibid., pp. 161, 176 ff

(39) ibid., pp.276, 347 ff.

(40) ibid., pp.211, 238. See also Ha'iri Muntaha al-Maqal (Tehran,
1302 AH), pp.304-5

(41) Kashshi, Rijal, pp. 169, 238
(42) ibid., p.238

(43) Kashshi, Rijal, pp. i6i, 238; Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.243

(44) Kashshi, Rijal, pp.213 f.; Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.243; Najashi,
Rijal, p.210

(45) Kashshi, Rijal, p.170; Ha'iri; Muntaha, pp. 24-50

(46) Kashshl, Rijal, pp.201 ff; Ha'iri; Muntaha, p.73

(47) See Aghani; XVI, pp.330 ff; Jahiz, Bayan, I, p.46

(48) Aghani; XVI, p.333

(49) Kashshi, Rijal, pp. 206 f.; Aghani; loc. cit.

(50) Kashshi; Rijal, p. 206 f.

(51) Kashshi, Rijal, p.214; Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.293

(52) Kashshi, loc. cit.; Ha'iri, loc. cit.

(53) Kashshi, Rijal, p.232

(54) Ibn Sa'd, V, pp.211, 320, 325 f.

(55) Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, p.127; Ibn Sa'd, V, pp.211, 325 f.

(56) Shahrastani, Milal, I, pp. 154 f.

(57) ibid.

(58) Kashshi, Rijal, pp.416 f.

(59) Shahrastani, Milal, I, p.49

(60) Ibn Kathir, Bidaya, IX, p.311; Dhahabi, Ta'rikh, IV, p.300;
Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat as-Safwa, II, p. 61; Abu Nu'aym, Hilya, III, p. 185

(61 )Traditions referring to the poet Kumayt quote Al-Baqir as
very violently disavowing Abu Bakr and 'Umar; see Kashshl, Rijal,
pp.205 f. On the other hand Kumayt did not express himself
openly against the first two caliphs; see his verse in Hashimyat,
p. 155

(62) Nawbakhti, Firaq, pp.52 ff.; Kashshl, Rijal, p.229

(63) Kashshi, Rijal, p.232. The Butrlya were those who drew no
distinction between the claimants from the house of 'Ali and
supported any 'Alid claimant who revolted, sword in hand.

(64) Dhahabi; Ta'rikh, IV, p. 242; Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib, II,
pp. 434 ff

(65) Ibn 'Imad, Shadharat, I, p.151

(66) Kashshi, Rijal, p.209

(67) Kashshi, Rijal, p.209; Ha'iri, Muntaha p.263

(68) Kashshi, Rijal, pp.209, 229

(69) Kashshi, Rijal, p. 289

(70) Schacht, Origins, pp. 262 ff

(71) Kulayni, Furu' al-Kafi, II, p.193. Also see Dhahabl, Tadhkirat
al-Huffaz, I, p. 160; Qadi Nu'man, Sharh Al-Akhbar, fol. 36a

(72) Schacht, Origins, pp. 266 ff; Malik b. Anas, Muwatta, III,
p.23; Murtada b. Dai', Tadhkirat al-'Awamm, pp. 270-271

(73) Ibn Sa'd, V, p.321; Kulayni, Kafi, pp.299 ff; Qadi Nu'man,
Sharh al-Akhbar, fol. 32a ff.; 'Amill, A'yan, IV, pp. 262 ff; Ibn
Khallikan, IV, p. 176; Majlisl, Bihar, XI, pp. 100 ff

(74) Ya'qubi, II, p.320; Bayhacl, Kitab al-Mahasin wa'l Masawi,
III, pp. 298 ff; Qadi Nu'man, Sharh al-Akhbar, fol. 33a

(75) Ibn Khallikan, IV, p.176

(76) Qadi Nu'man, loc. cit.; 'Amili, A'yan, pp.490 ff; Majlisi,
Bihar, XI, pp.100 f.; Kulayni, Kafi, pp.299 ff; Bhahlanji, Nur al-
Ibsar, pp. 160 ff

(77) See Ibn Sa'd, V, p.324; Ibn Khallikan, IV, pp.174; Abu'l-
Mahasin, Nujum, I, pp.273 f. The last source here says he died in
AH 114.

(78) Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.219

(79) Ya'qubi, II, p.320.Also see Dhahabi, Ta'rikh, IV, p.300

(80) Shahrastani, Milal, I, p. 166

(81) Firaq, p.25

(82) Al-Ja'fariya should not be confused with the name Madhhab
al-Ja'fari, given very often to the present Twelver Shi'a.

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. 189 ff; Tabari, II, p. 1183; Ibn Imad,
Shadharat, I, p. 62

(7) See Kulayni, Kafi; p. 193. 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. 381
(9) Qadi Nu'man, Sharh al-Akhbar, MS. Fo1. 42a

(10) ibid., fo1. 39a

(11) Shahrastani, Milal, I, p. 166

(12) S. Moscati, "Per Una Storia De la'Antica Si'a," RSO, 1955,
p. 251

(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
historical problem. For various suggestions and possibilities see
Shahrastani, 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, 1960, 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 ff.; 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, 152; EI1 article "Muhammad b. 'Abd

(53) Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, p. 209

(54) Abu'l-Faraj, Maqatil, pp.207 f, 254 ff; EI1 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, EI2 article "Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib"

(59) Kashshi, Rijal, pp. 56 f.

(60) See Kashshi Rijal, pp. 57 ff; Veccia Vaglieri, EI2 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, EI2 article 'Hashimiya"
(64) Lewis, EI2 articles "Hashimiya" and " 'Abbasid"?

(65) See Nawbakhti, Firaq, pp. 28-29; Nashwan al-Himyari; Hurr
al-Ayn, pp. 159-60

(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 Abu Muslim", Muslim World,
January 1947

(68) See Wellhausen, Arab Kingdom, pp.492-566; Lewis, EI2
article "Abbasids"

(69) See Tabari III, pp.25 ff., 42 ff., Dinawari; p.357; Mas'udi,
Muruj, III, p. 244

(70) Tabari, III, p.27; Mas'udi, Muruj, III, p.253

(71) Jahshiyari, Al-Wuzara' wa'l-Kuttab, p.83; Mas'udi, Muruj,
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, EI2 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, EI2 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, EI2 article "'Abbisids"

(80) Tabari, III, pp.28 ff.; 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, EI2 article "'Abbasids"

(86) See Tabari, III, pp.75 f., 85; 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, Maqatil, 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) Khatib al-Baghdadi, Ta'rikh Baghdad, XIII, p.380; Abu'l-
Faraj, Maqatil, pp.366 ff., 365 ff.

(106) Khatib al-Baghdadi; Ta'rikh Baghdad, 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

Notes to Chapter 11

(1) See Ibn Hazm's discussion in Friedlander, "The Heterodoxies
of the Shi'ites in the Presentation of Ibn Hazm", JAOS, XXVI II
('907), p.74

(2) Ash'ari, Maqalat al-Islamiyin, ed. Helmut Ritter (Istanbul,
1929), pp.16-17

(3) A title with which the Sunni heresiographers describe the
Twelver Shi'a. For the meaning and use of the term, see Watt, "The
Rafidites: A Preliminary Study", Oriens, XVI (1963)

(4) Tabari, II, p. 1700

(5) Hodgson, "How Did the Early Shi'a Become Sectarian ?",
JAOS ('955), p.10

(6) For such claims made by these ghulat, see Nawbakhti, Firaq,
pp. 25, 30, 39, 52-55; Sa'd al-Ash'ari, Maqalat:, pp. 33, 35, 37;
Shahrastani, Milal, 1, pp.178, 176. Sa'd al-Ash'ari (Maqalat, p.37)
writes that Bayan claimed the Imamate as the legatee of Aba
Hashim, and not as that of Al-Baqir.

(7) Kulayni, Kafi, I, p. 208

(8) ibid., I, p.261

(9) Hodgson, op. cit., p.11

(10) ibid.

(11) Kashshi, Rijal, p.285

(12) Kulayni, Kafi, I, p.274

(13) Kulayni, Kafi, I, p.356

(14) ibid., pp.265 f.; Kashshi, Rijal p.427

(15) Kulayni, Kafi, I, p.318

(16) Kulayni, Kafi

(17) ibid., p.462

(18) ibid., Pp.214-220

(19) See Kulayni, Kafi, I, pp.207 ff.; Saduq, Risalat al-Itiqadat,
trans. A. A. A. Fyzee, A Shi'ite Creed (London 1942), p.96

(20) Kulayni, Kafi, I, pp.205, 207, 304 f.

(21) ibid,, p.205

(22) ibid.

(23) See Kulayni, Kafi; "Kitab al-Hujja", passim; Mufid, Irshad, I,

(24) Qur'an, 111, 6

(25) Kulayni, Kafi, I, p.262

(26) See Wensinck, Handbook of Early Muhammadan Tradition
(Leiden 1960), under the heading "'Ali"

(27) Ibn Sa'd, II, p. lox

(28) ibid.

(29) Kulayni, Kafi, I, pp.330 f.

(30) "And God only wishes to remove from you [all kinds of]
uncleanliness, O Ahl al-Bay: [of Muhammad], and thoroughly
purify you."

(31) See Tha'labi, Tafsir, p.402

(32) Kulayni; Kafi, II, p.488

(33) ibid.

(34) ibid., p.487

(35) ibid., p. 486

(36) Kulayni, Kafi, I, p.483

(37) Qur'an, V, 67

(38) Qur'an, XVI, 106

(39) Kulayni, Kafi; I, p. 483

(40) "Das Prinzip der Takija im Islam" , ZDMG, LX (1996),

(41) Saduq, Creed, p.110

(42) Kashshi; Rijal p.419

(43) See E12 article "'Abd Allah b. Saba"'

(44) Sa'd al-Ash'ari; Maqalat, p.20; Nawbakhti, Firaq, p.22

(45) Sa'd al-Ash'ari, loc. cit.; Nawbakhti; loc. cit.

(46) Farq, p.32
(47) Kashshi, Rijal, p. 296; Shahrastani, Milal, I, p. 152; Ash'ari,
Maqalat, pp. 6-9

(48) See Kashshi, Rijal 44 p. 148, passim; Nawbakhti, Firaq, p.34

(49) Kashshi; Rijal, p.223

(50) See Sam'ani, Ansab, p. 113b; Kashshi, Rijal, pp. 191 ff.;
Najashi, Rijal pp.93 f.

(51) See Chapter 9

(52) Ha'iri; Muntaha, pp.202 f.; Ibn Nadim, Fihrist, p.66

(53) Kafi, I, p.279

(54) See Ivanow, "Notes sur Umm al-Kitab", REI, 1932

(55) See E. E. Salisbury, "Translation of an Unpublished Arabic
Risala", YAOS, 1853, pp. 167-3

(56) e.g., Kafi, pp. 365 ff.; Kashshi, Rijal pp. 324 f.

(57) e.g., Kafi, I, p.308, passim

(58) Ya'qubi, II, p.381; Kashshi, Rijal, p.224

(59) See Donaldson, The Shi'ite Religion, p.135

(60) Kashshi, Rijal, p. 224 See Hodgson, op. cit., p.13

(61) Kashshi, Rijal, p.247

(62) ibid.

(63) ibid.

(64) Tusi; Fihrist, pp.141 ff.; Ha'iri, Muntaha, pp. 135; Hill';
Rijal p.76

(65) Ha'iri; Muntaha, p.120

(66) Kashshi, Rijal, p.135; Tusi, Fihrist, p.146; Ha'iri, Muntaha,

(67) Abu Ahmad Muhammad b. Abi 'Umayr Ziyad b. 'Isa, a
traditionist and companion of Musa al-Kazim and 'Ali ar-Rida,
who is said to have written four books. See Najashi, p.228; Ha'iri,
Muntaha, p.254

(68) Kashshi, Rija1, p.135

(69) Kashshi; Rijal, p.138. For the reference to Khidr, see Qur'an,

(70) Ibn Nadim, Fihrist, p. 220; Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.136

(71) Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.93; Ibn Nadim, Ioc. cit.

(72) Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.110; Ibn Nadim, loc. cit.

(73) Ha'iri, Muntah4, p.99; Ibn Nadim, loc. cit.; Tusi; Fihrist,
p.202, referring to him as 'Ubayd b. Zurara

(74) Ibn Nadim, loc. cit.; Kashshi, Rijal, p.176

(75) Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.131; Tusi, Fihrist, p. "7

(76) Kashshi, Rijal, p. 18 I; Ha'iri, Muntah4, p.68; Ibn Nadim,
loc. cit.

(77) Tusi, Fihrist, p. 188; Ha'iri, Muntaha, p. 182; Ibn Nadim,
loc. cit.

(78) A brother of Hisham b. al-Hakam; see Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.271

(79) Ash'ari, Maqalat, I, p. 43

(80) For the last two, see below, pp.307-8

(81) Ash'ari, Maqalat, I, p.28, referring to At-Tamimiya

(82) See a detailed account of the activities of Zurara and his circle
in Kashshi, Rijal pp. 133-61
(83) Detailed accounts can be found in Ash'ari, Maqalat, II,
pp.36 f.; Baghdadi, Farq, p.43; Shahrastani; Milal, I, p. 186
(84) Kashshi, Rijal, pp. 185 ff; Najashi, Rijal, p.228; Sa'd al-
Ash'ari, Maqalat, p.88; Tusi, Fihrist, p.223; Ibn Nadim, Fihrist,
p.176; Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.295; Huh, Rijal p.138

(85) Najashi, Rijal p.228; Kashshi, Rijal p.187
(86) See Kashshi, Rija1, pp. '35 ff; Ibn 'Abd Rabbih, 'Iqd, II, p.465

(87) See Ibn Nadim, Fihrist, p. 176; Najashi, Rijal p. 228;
Shahrastani, Milal, I, p.187

(88) Kashshi, Rijal p. 185

(89) Kashshi, Rijal pp.280 ff; Najashi, Rijal, p.305; Tusi, Fihrist,
p.354; Ha'iri; Muntaha, PP.323-4. For his ideas, also see Ash'ari,
Maqalat, I, p. 34; Baghdadi, Farq, p.139; Shahrastani, Milal
pp. 184. Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi, I'tiqadat, p.64; Nawbakhti; Firaq,
p.66; Ibn Nadim, Fihrist, p.177

(90) A mawla of Kinda, but often described as the client of the Banu
Shayban, because he attached himself to that tribe. See Kashshi,

Rijal pp. 475 ff.; Tusi, Fihrist, p.353; Najashi, Rijal, p.304; Ibn
Nadim, Fihrist, p.175; Ha'iri Muntaha, pp.322 ff.
(91) A mawla of the Banu Asad, he lived in Basra, where he
frequented the circles of the local Mu'tazilite mutakallimun. See
Najashi, p. 176; Ha'iri Muntaha, pp. 207; Tusi, Fihrist, p.212;
Kashshi, Rijal, p.213

(92) Kashshi, Rijal p.214

(93) See Ash'ari, Maqalat, I, p.48, and index; Shahrastani, Milal,
I, pp. 184 ff., and index

(94) Kashshi, Rijal, p.375. For the biographical data and detailed
information on them, see Kashshi, Rijal, index; Najashi, Rijal
index; Ha'iri, Muntaha, passim

(95) Kashshi, Rijal, p.375

(96) See Kashshi, Rijal p.330; Ha'iri, Muntaha, p.17; Najashi,
Rijal pp.7-10; Dhahabi, Mizan, I, pp.4-s

(97) See Kashshi, Rijal p.330

(98) Kashshi, Rijal, p. 418

(99) See Kashshi, Rijal, pp. 419 f.

(100) Saduq, Creed, pp.84 f.


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