It was this campaign of persecution that forced the Imamite missionary Hisham b. al-Hakam to hide in Mada`in, from whence he escaped to Kufa, where he died two months later(1).

However al-Rashid's arrests did not deter the Imamite underground activities, especially in Basra. Therefore, according to the Imamite narrations, al-Kazim was poisoned for al-ュRashid in 183/799 at the instigation of Yahya al-Barinaki(2).

Al-ュRashid also put to death sixty `Alids who were in his prisons(3).

The death of al-Kazim led to another schism amongst the Imamites. The first group, which represented quite a large body, was called the Waqifa. They held that he was al-Qa段m al-Mahdi, but they differed amongst themselves concerning his death and split into four sub-groups, three of whom maintained that he had died while the fourth denied it(4).

A few anecdotes mentioned by the Ithna' `Ashariyya suggest that the cause of the denial of al-Kazim's death was that some of his agents, like `Uthman b. `Isa al-Rawasi in Egypt, and Ziyad, al-Qindi, `Ali b. Abi Hamza, Hayyan and al-Sarraj in Kufa, possessed a large amount of money (more than a hundred thousand dinars) which belonged to al-Kazim. Since they had used this money for their own benefit, they denied his death and rejected the Imamate of al-Riďa in order that they would have an excuse for not returning the money(5).

However, it is hard to agree with alュKashshi's view concerning the reason behind the emergence of the Waqifa sect. Most of the traditions concernng the occultation and the rise of al-Qa段m are attributed to al-Sadiq, who did not indicate explicitly which of his descendants would be al-Qa段m(6).

Therefore it is very likely that a considerable number of the muhaddithun thought that the Imam had indicated his son Musa and hence stopped at him, contending that he was al-Qa段m al-Mahdi and was in a state of occultation.

The second group resulting from the schism after al-Kazim's death held that he had passed away and the Imam was his son `Ali al-Riďa, who, according to al-Kulayni, assumed the Imamate by the designation of his father(7). Al-Riďa faced many difficulties in proving his right to the Imamate, not only to his father's prominent followers, but also to his brother Ahmad.(8) However, between the years 183-199/799-814, he managed to maintain a considerable number of followers, and administer an underground system of communication to carry on the religious functions of his Imamate(9).

Moreover his preference for the religious dimensions of Islam, rather than its political dimensions, made him a magnet for many individuals, including the precursors of the sufi movements, especially in Khurasan(10). But many Imamites who had accepted his Imamate were not satisfied with his quietist attitude and involved themselves in the underground activities of the revolutionary Zaydites, probably without his permission(11)

3. The Attitude of al-Riďa towards the `Alid Revolt against al-Ma知un

When al-Amin became caliph, Iraq was the centre of his power. It was here that he maintained the support of the Arabs, and especially that of the Murji'ite scholars (al-amma, later called the Sunnites), while his brother al-Ma知un was governor of Khurasan and gained the support of its military leaders and senior administrators, especially the Persian vizier al-Fadl b. Sahl and his partisans, who eventually helped him to overthrow al-Amin(12).

Al-Ma知un's success in gaining the caliphate was contrary to the political and economic interest of al-Amm's supporters. Therefore many regional revolts took place in Syria, al-Jazira, Yemen and Iraq, headed by the local `Abbasid governors(13).

At the same time the `Alids used their underground propaganda which was influential in the Yemen, Hijaz and Iraq, to exploit al-Ma知un's difficulties in Iraq and to cause a revolt in Kufa in 199/815. Thus these regions fell out of al-Ma知un's control.

Although reports about the ideological identity of the `Alid uprising and the events surrounding it are confused, apparently it was a Zaydite revolt(14) maintained with the support of some Imamite sects. These included the followers of Ahmad b. Musa al-Kazim and the sabtiyya, the followers of Muhammad b. Ja断ar al-Sadiq(15), along with some of the Imamites, but without the direct order of the eighth Imam, al-Riďa(16).

The spiritual leader of this revolt was Muhammad b. Ibrahim b. Tabataba, while its military leader was Abu al-Saraya. It broke out under the slogan "We invite people to rally around the most suitable leader from the progeny of Muhammad and to practice the teachings of the Qur'an and the sunna'(17) in Kufa on the 10th Jumada 199/26th January 815, where the rebels had the support of the people of the environs of Kufa and of the bedouins. Abu al-Saraya minted coins in his own name in Kufa, managed to defeat three `Abbasid armies and occupied Mada'in(18).

Moreover he dispatched many successful campaigns under the leadership of al-Riďa's brothers and relatives to extend his authority in Iraq, al-Ahwaz, Fars, the Hijaz, and Yemen. They fulfilled their tasks and became the governors of these regions. For example, Zayd b. Musa al-Kazim became the governor of alュAhwaz and Basra, Fars came under the control of Isma'il b. Musa al-Kazim, and Yemen came under the control of his brother Ibrahim, Wasit was ruled by Husayn b. Ibrahim b. al-Hasan b `Ali. Abu alュ-Saraya appointed Sulayman b. Dawud in Medina, and nominated al-ュHusayn al-Aftas as governor in Mecca, authorising him to be the leader of the pilgrims and to provide the Ka'ba with a white kiswa(19).

The authority of Abu al-Saraya increased after the mysterious death of the spiritual leader of the revolt, Ibn Tabataba on the 1st Rajab 199/15th February 815, and the refusal of the eminent `Alid, `Ali b. 'Ubayd Allah, to accept the position of Ibn Tabataba. Abu alュ-Saraya, in order to evade the interference of any strong spiritual leader, nominated for this post a young `Alid called Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Zayd b. `Ali(20), and monopolised all affairs of the leadership of the revolt.

Abu al-Saraya's full control in Iraq did not continue, because the `Abbasid army defeated him at Qasr b. Hubayra near Kufa and forced him to withdraw towards Basra along with 800 horsemen. But news came to him that his governor in Basra, Zayd b. Musa al-Kazim, had also been defeated after hard combat and had been captured by the `Abbasid troops. Thus he went towards al-Ahwaz, but was defeated by the `Abbasid governor of that city and his followers dispersed. A few months later the troops of al-Hasan b. Sahl captured him at Jalawla' and on 10th Rabic I 200/18th October 815 they beheaded him, after which his body was impaled in Baghdad(21).

It is worth mentioning that the failure of this revolt caused some Imamites to hold that Musa al-Kazim, the seventh Imam, was al-Qa段m al-Mahdi They had considered his son Ahmad' as the lawful successor of his father. But since he had participated with Abu alュ-Saraya, they rejected his Imamate and denied the death of al-Kazim(22).

This fact reveals the general attitude of the Imamites towards any militant action and indicates that they had Hadiths concerning the rise of an Imam with the sword, whose uprising would never be defeated, for he could not die without establishing the government of the People of the House(23).

This may be the reason behind the quiescent attitude of those followers of al-Riďa who did not take any open or active part in the revolt of Abu al-Saraya.

On hearing of the military defeat of their comrades on the Iraqi front after the death of Abu al-Saraya, the rebels in Mecca, who had full control of the Hijaz and the Yemen, made overtures to Muhammad b. Ja`far al-Sadiq, asking him to be their leader and finally persuading him to accept their offer. They swore the oath of allegiance to him as their caliph and called him Amir al-Mu'minin on 6th Rabi` II 200/13th November 815(24).

He himself claimed that he was al-Qa段m al-Mahdi, and based his claim on prophetic traditions(25). But the eighth Imam al-Riďa denied his claim, although he endeavoured to save him from a military defeat by advising trim to postpone his revolt against the `Abbasids(26).

The installation by the rebels of an `Alid caliph in Mecca with the epithet al-Mahdi threatened the authority of al-Ma知un. Having failed to subdue the revolt by force, al-Ma知un decided to resort to political methods, by conciliating the eight Imam al-Riďa. He dispatched an army under the leadership of 'Isa b. al-Juludi to Medina for this purpose(27).

But this army was badly defeated at the hands of Muhammad b. Ja断ar al-Sadiq. Therefore al-Juludi asked al-Riďa to contact Muhammad and ask him to end his resistance, but he rejected al-Riďa's mediation and insisted on continuing his rebellion. This led to skirmishes between the `Abbasid troops and the rebels until the end of the year 200/815, when the `Abbasid army captured Muhammad b. Ja断ar al-Sadiq and forced him to renounce his claim publicly(28).






(1) According to al-Najashi and al-Tusi, Hisham's death occurred in 199/814. But it seems that he died before that. Al-Kashshi associates his death with the arrest of al-Kazim in 179/795. In that year Hisham attended a theological symposium in the presence of al-Rashid and Yahya al-Barinak'. Later al-Rasfd issued an order to arrest al-Kazim and his partisans. Hence Hisham escaped to Madain, then to Kufa where he died two months later; al-Najashi, 338; T. al-Fihrist, 355; Ikhtiyar, 255-6,258-62.

(2) N. Firaq, 67; Ikhtiyar, 258; al-Kafi, I, 258-9; al-Ya`qubi relates that the `Alid underground activities were probably quite strong in Basra. The increase in the activities of the missionary of this group, Ahmad b. 選sa al-`Alawi, who spent sixty years hidden there, finally caused al-Rashid to pursue them. Ahmad b. `Isa was imprisoned, but he managed to escape to Basra in 188/803. Then `Abbasid spies detected the missionary and the agent of his group, Hadir, who refused to reveal the place of his leader; so they killed him and impaled his body in Baghdad; al-Ya`qubi,III,160.

(3) Uyun, I,89-90, II, 143.

(4) N. Firaq, 67-8, 70; Q. Maqalat, 89-91; al-Najashi, 61, 258, 230-31. It seems from the report of al-Kashshi that Muhammad b. Bashir and his followers applied the term al-Mahdi to al-Kazim, whose death they denied, giving him the epithet al-Qaim al-Mahdi (Ikhtiyar, 478). Such evidence indicates that the Imamites already knew about the rise of one of their Imams under the title of al-Qaim alュ Mahdi, but they were not sure who this would be.

(5) al-Saduq,`Ilal al-Shara'i' (Najaf, 1966), I, 235;`Uyun, 91-2; Ikhtiyar,459-60,467,468,493. The leaders of the Waqifa were Muhammad b. al-Hasan b. Shammun and 'Ali b. Abi Hamza; Ikhtiyar,444; al-Najashi,230-1.

(6)al-Kafi, I, 333-43.

(7)al-Kafi, I, 312; Q. Maqalat, 89

(8)Ikhtiyar, 464-5,472.

(9)Ikhtiyar, 591- 592.

(10)Most of the eastern Sufi movements trace their origins to Ma'ruf al-Karkhi (d. 200/815), who was a companion of al-Riďa. They regarded al-Riďa as of the Sufi movement, but at the same time they did not believe in his Imamate. For an account of this relation see al-Shibi, op. cit.

(11)Uyun, II, 234-5.

(12)Watt, Formative Period, 176; al-Fakhri, 159-61; al-Kamil VI, 227.

(13)Ibn A`tham al-Kufi, op. cit., VIII, 312-3. The most dangerous revolt was the rebellion of Nasr b. Shabth in al-Jazira. Another serious revolt was the protest of the populace (al-Amma) of Baghdad against the installation of al-Riďa as heir-apparent by al-Ma知un. Thus they installed Ibrahim b. al-Mahdi as a caliph there; Bidaya, X, 280-2; al-Kamil, VI, 230.

(14)It is clear from the reports of al-Tabari and al-Najashi that the rebels did not believe in the Imamate of a specific `Alid Imam, but they supported the Imamate of him who would rise in arms in order to establish his rights to this office (Tabari, III, 979, 1019; al-Najashi, 194). They wrote on the coins which they mined in Kufa a Qur'anic verse (al-Saff LI, 4) revealing their, revolutionary inclination. Al-Isfahani and al-Sahib b. `Abbad considered it a Zaydite uprising; Maqatil, 347, 350;`Uyun, II, 235; Ibn `Abbad, op. cit., 222.

(15)Muruj, VII, 56.

(16)A considerable body of the followers of al-Riďa participated in this revolt without his instruction. Perhaps they noticed that the brothers of their Imam were prominent leaders of the revolt, and thought that al-Riďa was behindtheir participation. Hence they joined it. There were men like Muhammad b. Muslima al-Kufi (Tabari, III, 989), who was regarded by al-Najashi as trustworthy (al-Najashi, 286;`Uyun, II, 234-5). It seems from al-Riďa's interpretation of a dream of one of his partisans concerning an expected uprising that he already knew of the activities of his kinsmen; al-Kafi, VIII, 257.

(17)al-Da`wa li-l-Riďa min Al Muhammad wa-`Amal bi-l-Kitab wa-l-sunna.

(18)Tabari, III, 976-79.

(19)al-Kamil, VI, 214-16; Maqatil, 355; Tabari, III, 981-3, 988. Al-Azraqi reports that Abu al-Saraya sent a kiswa of silk to the Ka`ba in two colours, white and yellow, the former of which was the colour of the`Alids' standard. Between the two parts was written: "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. May God bless Muhammad and his progeny, the noble descendants, the pure, and the best of the human race. Abu al-Saraya, he who invites people to rally behind Al Muhammad has ordered that this kiswa be made for the holy House of God." al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makka (Mecca, 1965), I, 263, 264.

(20)al-Najashi, 194; Maqatil, 354; Gibb, H. A. R., "Abu al-Saraya", E.I2

(21)Maqatil,363-6;Tabari, III,985-6.

(22)Al-Kulayni reports several traditions on the authority of `Ali b. al-Husayn and al-Sadiq regarding this point, al-Kafi, VIII, 264, 310.


(25)Maqatil, 359; Uyun, 155.

(26)al-Kafi, I, 491; Maqatil, 360.

(27)al-Kafi, I, 488-9; `Uyun, II, 146; Tabari, III, 1000.

(28)Maqatil, 360; al-Yafi`i, al-`Iqd al-Thamm, I, 444-5.