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 al- `Attar,(8)  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 in Mecca,(9) and `Ali b. Musa b. Isma`il b. Musa al-Kazim, who joined the rebels in al-Rayy and was arrested by the caliph al-Mu`tazz(10).

 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 two sons(12).

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 Imam.

Chapter 2: 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 was `Ali(18),  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 movement(19).

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 the Umayyads.

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 al-Zakiyya(21), 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 political power(28).

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 view(29), 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).





(1) Ithbat, 205.

(2) Ikhtiyar. 603, 607; al-Kafi, I, 501-2; T. al-Ghayba, 226-7.

(3) Ithbat, 262.

(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. cit., 229

(5) 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 al-`Askari.

(7) Ibn Maja,al-Sunan, II, 1368.

(8) Tabari, III, 1683.

(9) Ibn `Uqda, Kitab al-Malahim, f. 73.

(10) Muruj, VII, 404.

(11) Tabari, III, 1683-4,al-Kafi, I, 500.

(12) T. al-Ghayba, 141, 226; al-Kafi, I, 508.

(13) T. al-Ghayba, 98.

(14) Kama値, 381; al-Kafi, I, 328, 332-3.

(15) al-Kafi, I, 333.

(16) Kama値, 325,330; al-Kafi, I, 341.

(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.

(24) 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), 49-54.

(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.

(26) al-Kafi,I,279-81.

(27) Omar, op. cit., Arabica, XXII (1975),175-6.

(28) For a full account of al-Sadiq's statements concerning the future Mahdi see Kama値, 333-59.

(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