Al-Ma知un followed this same policy with the ninth Imam, al-Jawad,
marrying him to his daughter Umm al-Fadl, and keeping
him under house-arrest(1).
Thereafter houseｭarrest became the cornerstone of the
policy of the caliphs towards the Imams. It obliged the
Imams to stress the idea of the occultation as the means
the Imam would employ to avoid the `Abbasid restriction,
which increased from the time of al-Mutawakkil onwards.
Because his agents discovered connections between the underground
activities of the Imamite agents in Baghdad, Mada'in and
Kufa and the Imam al-Hadi, al-Mutawakkil followed the
policy of al-Ma知un. He wrote to al-Hadi a letter full
of kindness and courtesy asking him to come to Samarra
where they could meet. Afterwards al-Hadi was summoned
to the capital in 233/848,(2)
where he spent the rest of his life under surveillance.
As a result he was prevented from meeting most of his
adherents. He was only able to meet a few of his
associate agents (wukala) in secret(3).
In fact al-Mutawakkil's policy managed to prevent the `Alids from rising
in arms against his regime. However it failed to destroy
the system of the Wikala or to end the underground
activities of the Zaydites and the Imamites. These
spread throughout the empire to the extent that they
were capable of causing a revolt.
Between the years 245-260/859-874 the Imamite and Zaydite traditionists
were relating traditions stating that al-Qa段m would be
the Twelfth Imam and urging people to join his side when
he rose. The Zaydite al-`Asfari (d. 250/864)(4)
and the Imamite Ahmad b. Khalid al-Barqi
(d.274-80/887-93) both related such traditions. For
example, in 250/864 al-Barqi passed on a narration
attributed to `Ali b. Abi Talib and the Prophet
al-Khidr, which states explicitly that al-Qa段m al-Mahdi
would be the Twelfth Imam(5).
The spread of such narrations encouraged the Imamites to expect the rise
of al-Qa段m in the near future and to link his rising
with `Abbasid rule. Some of them applied these
traditions along with others concerning the signs of the
rise of al-Qa段m to the circumstances surrounding the
`Alid revolt which broke out in 250/864. Ibn `Uqda
relates that the leader of the rebellion, Yahya b.
`Umar, was expected to be al-Qa段m al-Mahdi, since all
the signs concerning the rise of al-Qa段m al-Mahdi
related by al-Sadiq occurred during the revolt(6).
Although Yahya b. `Umar died in 250/864, the `Abbasids' fear increased
because of the continuation of this revolt and al-Hasan
b. Zayd's .(250-270/864-884) success in establishing a
Shi段te state in Tabaristan. This fear is not surprising
if one bears in mind the fact that there was a
well-known Prophetic tradition which stated, "A people
will appear in the East who will pave the way for the
Mahdi's rise to power."(7)
This tradition, at that time, might seem to refer to the establishment of
the `Alid state in Tabaristan, which would prepare the
way for the rise of al-Qa段m al-Mahdi. Other factors
supported the `Abbasid fears. According to al-Tabari,
`Abbasid spies discovered secret correspondence between
the founder of the `Alid state in Tabaristan, al-Hasan
b. Zayd, and the nephew of Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Khalaf
a follower of the tenth Imam al-Hadi. Moreover many pure
Imamites took part in the `Alid revolt of 250/864, such
as Muhammad b. Ma`ruf, who held the banner of the rebels
and `Ali b. Musa b. Isma`il b. Musa al-Kazim, who joined
the rebels in al-Rayy and was arrested by the caliph
It seems that the `Abbasid authorities linked these factors with the
activities of al-Hadi. Therefore they imposed tight
restrictions upon al-Hadi and his followers, and
arrested prominent figures in Baghdad, such as Abu
Hashim al-Ja`fari, and Muhammad b. `Ali al-`Attar, and
sent them to Samarra(11).
This campaign of arrest also included al-`Askari and Ja断ar, al-Hadi's
Another reason the `Abbasids' feared the position of al-Hadi and his
successor, al- `Askari, is the traditions of both the
Prophet and the Imams concerning the series of the
twelve Imams, the last of whom would be al-Qa段m
al-Mahdi. This series could only be interpreted as
applying to the Imamites' tenth Imam, al-Hadi, and his
successor alｭ`Askari. So it was plausible that the
successor of the latter would be the Twelfth Imam, about
whom so many traditions were being related. Moreover
further traditions, attributed to al-Hadi and
alｭ`Askari, themselves appeared around this period
emphasizing the important political and religious role
of al-`Askari's son(13).
For example, Abu Hashim al-Ja断ari (d. 261/875), the associate and
follower of al-Hadi, reports the latter as having said,
"The successor after me is my son al-Hasan but what will you do with the
successor of my successor?" Al-Ja`fari said, "May Allah
make me your sacrifice! Why?" The Imam said, "Because
you will not see his physical body and it is not
permissible for you to reveal his name." Al-Ja断ari
said, "How shall we mention him?" Al-Hadi said, "Say
`The proof (al-Hujja) is from the family of Muhammad.'(14)
It seems from al-Kulayni's report that the Imamites considered al-ｭHadi's
statement as applying to al-Qa段m. Moreover, they felt
it explained a statement by the eighth Imam, al-Riďa,
who had said that the body of al-Qa段m would not be seen
and his name would not be revealed.(15)
" Perhaps al-Baqir and al-Jawad's interpretation of a
Qur'anic verse, referred to on page 15, may be linked
with the above two statements. For as we have seen, he
stated that an Imam would go into concealment in
260/874, and would later rise like a bright, shooting
star in the dark night(16).
On account of the spread of these Imamite traditions and the `Alid
underground activities, the eleventh Imam, al-Hasan al-
`Askari, was forced to stay in the capital under
house-arrest and had to report to the `Abbasid court
twice a week(17).
The authorities hoped that through these measures they would be able to
prevent the appearance of any danger from the Twelfth
The Role of the Imams in the Shiite Underground Activities and their
Influence upon the Evolution of the Ghayba
1. Al-Sadiq's Attitude towards the new Regime
It appears that the members of the `Abbasid family who became part of the
revolutionary movement against the Umayyads adhered to
the belief, in common with the various groups of the
Shi'a, that the first lawful caliph after the Prophet
and that the caliphate must belong to the People of the
House (Ahl al-Bayt).
The `Abbdsids preached against the Umayyads by calling for reform and
justice. They invited the people to rally around the
most suitable person from the progeny of Muhammad
(al-Da'wa li-l-Riďa min Al Muhammad). Many Shi段te
thought that this slogan referred only to the
descendants of Imam `Ali. Thus they joined the `Abbasid
Some of the Shi'a, such as Abu Salama al-Khallal, reached high rank in
the `Abbasid movement without cognizing the fact that
the `Abbasids were the founders of the movement, and
they aimed to monopolize the caliphate for themselves.
When the propagandists overthrew the Umayyads in
132/749, Abu Salama al-Khallal, having discovered the
reality of the `Abbasid's goal, endeavoured to transfer
the caliphate to the `Alids by corresponding with Imam
Ja断ar al-Sadiq, `Umar al-Ashraf and `Abd Allah al-Mahd,
offering it to each of them, Imam Ja断ar al-Sddiq
rejected the offer bluntly by burning Abu Salama's
letter, and he warned `Umar al-Ashraf and `Abd Allah
alｭ-Mahd against accepting it(20).
Al-Sadiq had already held a secret meeting with the leading personalities
of the `Abbasid family, such as al-Saffah and al-Mansur
at al-Abwa', near Medina, around the year 120/737, to
discuss the situation of the People of the House (Ahl
al-Bayt). At this meeting the attendants wanted to form
an underground collusion to bring about the downfall of
A proposal also was made to support the Hasanid claims put forward by
`Abd Allah al-Mahd on behalf of his son Muhammad al-Nafs
but al-Sadiq refused to have anything to do with it.
Although the `Abbasids present at this meeting made a
nominal pledge to Muhamｭmad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, al-Sadiq
seems to have been aware of the possibility that their
involvement with the revolutionaries, partｭicularly the
Kaysaniyya or its Hashimiyya branch; would be successful
and that they would replace the Umayyads. Also al-Sadiq
knew he was the true divinely appointed Imam of the
Muslims and he achieved the Imamate by the testament of
his father, Imam al-Baqir. Thus people should rally
around him to recover his right in the caliphate.
Al-Sadiq's view did not please the `Abbasids, so, they
carried out their underground activities against the
Umayyads without his participation.
When the `Abbasids succeeded in seizing the reins of power in 132/749
they were naturally aware of the danger from their
kinsmen, the `Alids, whose claims to succession would be
greater than their own if `Ali's right to the caliphate
were to be accepted by the general populace. As a result
the `Alids now faced `Abbasid oppression more severe
than that of the Umayyads(22).
The motives for this oppression seem to have been first of all
doctrinal. The early members of the `Abbasid family,
such as `Abd Allah b. `Abbas(23),
had confirmed `Ali's right to the Imamate (the political
and religious authority) by relating many traditions
attributed to the Prophet supporting it. They had also
supported `Ali against the first three Caliphs and
participated in the Caliphate of `Ali, and they gave
some support to his son al-Hasan.(24)
In the eyes of the `Alids by taking over the Caliphate the `Abbasids
became usurpers of the political authority of the
Imamate. Hence the `Abbasids became suspicious of the
`Alid attitude toward their authority. Secondly there
were economic motives for the `Abbasid oppression since
Imam al-Sadiq continued to collect the khums secretly
from his followers(25),
an act which the `Abbasids considered as a preparatory
step towards some conspiracy to overthrow them. These
two factors obliged the `Abbasids to keep alｭ-Sadiq in
Medina and to hold his followers, especially in Iraq and
later in Egypt, under close scrutiny as measures to
ensure the security of the state.
Thus al-Sadiq maintained an externally quiescent policy towards the
`Abbasids. Yet at the same time he spread traditions
amongst the Shi段te narrators of traditions stating that
the Imamate was a prerogative bestowed by God upon one
of the descendants of alｭ-Husayn, who, before his death
and at the Prophet's order, had transferred it to his
successor by a clear stipulation (al-Nass al-Jali)(26).
Al-Sadiq held that it was not necessary for the divinely appointed Imam
to rise in revolt immediately in order to recover his
rights to political authority. He should be satisfied
with the spiritual leadership and perform its duties
until the time when the community is sufficiently aware
of his right to political power. Then God will assist
him in his quest(27).
In accordance with his quiescent policy alｭ-Sadiq announced openly that
al-Qa段m al-Mahdi and not himself would achieve
Al-Sadiq's quiescent policy did not satisfy a considerable body of his
adherents. Their political ambitions caused schism
amongst the Imamites. The instigator of this political
movement was called Abu al-Khattab. At first he was
trusted by al-Sadiq and nominated as agent (wakil) of
the Shi段te group in Kufa. But al-Sadiq then repudiated
and denounced him because of his extremist theological
which he had endeavoured to enforce by militant means.
It seems likely that Abu al-Khattab wanted to circumvent
the influence and the interference of al-Sadiq by
propounding his political and revolutionary ideas to
al-Sadiq's son Isma'il, who was more inclined to such
thoughts than his younger brother Musa. Thus Abu
al-Khattab hoped to give his revolutionary ideas
religious legitimacy under Isma`il's name.
Although the rebellion of Abu al-Khattab
was easily subdued at Kufa, his failure and al-Sadiq's
continued insistence on a quiescent policy forced Abu
al-Khattab's followers to resort to underground
activities under the leadership of Muhammad b. Isma`il.
This event led the adherents of al-Sadiq to split into
the Isma'ilis and the Musawiyya. After his death, they
split into Musawiyya, who held the Imamate of Musa
al-Kazim, al-Fatthiyya, who held the Imamate of the
eldest son of al-Sadiq, Abd Allah al-Aftah;
al-ｭMuhammadiyya, who held the Imamate of Muhammad b.
Ja`far al-Sadiq, the Waqifa, who thought that al-Sadiq
had not died but was al-Qa段m al-Mahdi; and the two
Isma`ili sects who held the Imamate of Isma'il and his
son Muhammad respectively(30).
Ikhtiyar. 603, 607; al-Kafi, I, 501-2; T.
(4) Kama値, 46. For examples, see
al-`Asfari, Asl Abu Said al-`Asfari f. 1-2;
Mizan, II, 379-80; Bihar, L, 185; al-Kindi op.
al-Kafi, I, 526-7, 338.
(6) Ibn `Uqda, Kitab al-Malahim, f.
72. According to al-Mufid only the Zaydites
denied the death of Yahya b. `Umar and held that
he was al-Mahdi (al-FUsul al-`Ashara, 30). But
incidents seem to indicate that there was a
common belief among the Imamiyya and the
Jarudiyya from the years 245-60 onwards that the
Twelfth Imam would be al-Qa段m al-Mahdi, but
they were not sure about his identity, and
whether or not he would be the son of
(7) Ibn Maja,al-Sunan, II, 1368.
(9) Ibn `Uqda, Kitab al-Malahim, f.
(11) Tabari, III, 1683-4,al-Kafi, I,
(12) T. al-Ghayba, 141, 226; al-Kafi,
(14) Kama値, 381; al-Kafi, I, 328,
(16) Kama値, 325,330; al-Kafi, I,
(17) T. al-Ghayba, 139- 140.
(18) Ahmad b. Abi Ya`qub b. Widih al-Ya'qubi,
Tarikh al-Ya`qubi (Najaf, 1964), III, 90; Ibn
Khaldun, al-`Ibar wa-diwan al-Mubtada
wa-l-Khabar (Cairo, 1867ｭ 70), III, 173,
Tabari,III,33-4,37; al-Hilali, op.cit., 186.
(19) Ahmad Ibrahim al-Sharif,
al-`Alan al-Islamif al-`Asral-`Abbasi (Cairo,
1967) 19-25; Watt, The Majesty that was Islam,
28-30, 95-8. According to al-Najashi, amongst
the Imamites who participated in the 'Abbasid
propaganda was Yaqlin b. Musa, who was their
propagandist in Kufa; al-Najashi, 209.
(20) al-Jahshayari, Kitab al-Wuzara'
wa-l-Kuttab (Cairo, 1938), 86; al-Ya`qubi, III,
89-90, 92; Tabari, III, 27, 34; Ibn al-Taqtaqa,
al-Fakhri fi al-Adab al-Sultaniyya (Cairo,
1927), III, 2; Watt, The Formative Period of
Islamic Thought (Edinburgh, 1973), 153-4.
(21) al-Masudi, Ithbat al-Wasiyya (Najaf,
1955), 181-2; Maqatil, 209; Omar, F., "Some
Aspects of the `Abbasid-Husaynid relations
during the early `Abbasid period
(132-193/750-809)," Arabica, XXII, 171.
(22) Kashif al-Ghita', Asl al-Shi誕
wa-isulaha (Qumm, 1391), 51; Ahmad Amin, Dhuha
al-Islam (Cairo, 1956), III, 281-2; al-Isfahani,
Kitab al-Aghani XI,300.
(23) `Abd Allah b. `Abbas b. `Abd al-Muttalib
was one of the companions of the Prophet. He was
born three years before the Prophet's emigration
to Medina and in-the year 68/687 in Ta'if. He
was famous in his deep knowledge about the
interpretation of the Qur'an and the Prophetic
tradition. Thus he acquired the title
Hibru-l-Umma, the learned man of the nation. Ibn
Hajar al-`Asqalam, alｭ Isaba, II, 330-4.
Muhammad Riďa al-Muzaffar, al-Saqifa (Najaf,
1965), 69-70. An example of the cooperation
between the `Abbasids and `Ali during his
regime: he appointed Quthum b. al-`Abbas as
governor of Mecca and al-Ta'if, `Ubayd Allah b.
`Abbas in Yemen and Bahrain and `Abd Allah b. 'Abbas
in Basra. When `Ali died `Abd Allah b. `Abbas
associated with al-Hasan as a leader in his
army. Tabari, V, 64-5, 137, 141-3, 155, 158-9;
al-Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa'(Cairo, 1964), 205;
al-QarashT, al-Imam al-Hasan (Najaf, 1973),
(25) al-Kafi I, 203-4, 545-6, 516.
Several sources report that the other Imams
received the khums and voluntary gifts from
their followers, some of whom were working in
the `Abbasid offices, such as Hasan b. `Alya
al-Asadi, who was the governor of Bahrain.
According to another report, the ninth Imam,
alｭ- Jawad, ordered his followers to send him
his share of the booty which they had seized
from the Khurramiyya. al-Tusi, al-Istibsar
(Tehran, 1970), II, 58, 60-2; Maqatil, 333.
(27) Omar, op. cit., Arabica, XXII
(28) For a full account of al-Sadiq's
statements concerning the future Mahdi see
(29) Ikhtiyar, 290-3,321,323,326. For
detail about Abu al-Khattab's activities see alｭ
Shibi, K. M., al-Sila bayn al-Tasawwuf
wa-l-Tashayyu`, Baghdad, 1966, 141-6; Ivanow,
The Alleged founder of lsma`ilism (Bombay,
1946), 113-51; B. Lewis, The origins of
Isma段lism (Cambridge, 1940). 32, 39, 66. B.
Lewis, "Abu alｭ Khattab', E. 12
(30) N. Firaq, 56-66, al-Shibi, op.
cit, 206-31; C. Huart, "Isma段liyya' E 12