Because his arrest did not return the areas of revolt into the hands of
the authorities, al-Juludi returned with him and al-Riďa
to Merv. According to al-Kulayni, al-Ma知un welcomed
al-Riďa and offered him the caliphate, but he refused.
However, after a few. months of negotiation with al-Ma
mun, al-Riďa agreed to be his successor(1).
The caliph announced his acceptance. on 5th Ramadan
201/28th March 817 and called him "al-Riďa mini Al
Muhammad'. At the same time he ordered his soldiers to
wear green clothes instead of the black which was the
emblem of the `Abbasids. Then he strengthened his
relations with al-Riďa by marrying his sister Umm Habiba
The installation of al-Riďa was in reality a political step arranged by
the Persian vizier al-Fadl b. Sahl and associated with
other policies aimed at consolidating his Persian
support and harming the interests of his Arab opposition
in Baghdad. This can be concluded from the points
Firstly, the fact that al-Ma知un continued to reside in Merv caused
complaints amongst the military and administrative
groups in Iraq, who had been the courtiers of Al-Amin
(193-198/808-814) and who then had to struggle for their
economic and regional interests against the Persian
vizier of al-Ma知un, al-Fadl b. Sahl, and his brother
alｭ-Hasan b. Sahl(3).
Because he was busy with this conflict, al-Ma知un failed to subdue
completely the `Alid rebellion in the Hijaz and Yemen.
Therefore, with the encouragement of his vizier,
al-Ma知un installed al-Riďa as his successor to the
caliphate in order to divide the rebels by gaining the
support of al-Riďa's adherents and those who were hoping
for the appearance of an inspired `Alid leader(4).
Secondly, al-Ma知un changed the colour of the `Abbasid emblem from black
to green. The latter colour was associated with the
Sasanids, whereas the `Alid emblem was white(5).
Such a step suggests the influence of the Persian vizier al-Fadl b.
Thirdly, by installing al-Riďa as his successor, al-Ma知un succeeded in
splitting the rebels by gaining the support of al-Riďa's
brothers, who accepted the conciliation of al-Ma知un and
mentioned his name in the khutba along with the name of
al-Riďa. According to al-Tabari, al-`Abbas b. Musa
al-Kazim accepted the governorship of Kufa on behalf of
al-Ma知un, a fact which encouraged some of the rebels to
mentions the names of al-Ma知un and al-Riďa in the
khutba. But the majority of the Kufans insisted on
mentioning only al-Riďa's name or that of any prominent
person from the descendants of 'Ali(6).
Such attitudes indicate the Zaydite inclination of the Kufans. However,
the leader of the rebels in Mecca, Ibrahim b. Musd
al-Kazim agreed to mention both his brother alｭRida and
al-Ma知un in the khutba. For this reason, al-Ma知un
confirmed his office and authorised him to lead the
pilgrimage in Mecca(7).
But a year later, in 202/817, the caliph gave the governorship of Mecca
to an `Abbasid leader, `Isa al-Juludi, and dispatched
Ibrahim to Yemen to subdue the rebellion there. He also
granted him Yemen's governorship. After he had fulfilled
this task, Ibrahim set out for Mecca, but during his
return he was arrested, as was his brother Zayd, and
sent to al-Ma知un(8).
Moreover, al-ｭNawbakhti mentions that a considerable body of the
muhaddithun and Zaydites (the non-revolutionary branch)
became Imamites after the installation of al-Riďa. But
the accounts of al-Kashshi and al-Saduq suggest that
these same people, for example Hisham b. Ibrahim
al-Rashidi, had been used by al-Ma知un to watch the
partisans of al-Riďa, and this might explain why they
returned to their previous faith directly after the
death of al-Riďa in 203/817.(9)
Fourthly, after he had quashed the 'Alid rebellion, al-Ma知un decided to
go to Baghdad, taking with him al-Riďa and Muhammad b.
Ja`far al-Sadiq. During his advance, his vizier. al-Fadl
b. Sahl was assassinated, then al-Riďa died in Tus,
probably of poison(10),
and Muhammad b. Ja`far al-Sadiq passed away and was
buried in Jurjan(11).
Their mysterious deaths seem to indicate that al-Ma知un,
having used them to fragment the `Alid opposition, was
now moving on to a more rigorous anti- 'Alid programme.
Fifthly, the numerous measures initiated by al-Ma知un after his arrival
at Bahgdad on Rabi` I 204/819 revealed the political aim
of his previous policy. He cast aside the green banner
and ordered his subjects to wear the black colour of the
He granted alｭ Riďa's successor, al-Jawad, two million
and gave back the `district of Fadak to prominent
`Alids, Muhammad b. Yahya b. al-ｭHusayn and Muhammad b.
`Ubayd Allah b. al-Hasan(14).
Furthermore, the land-tax (al-kharaj) of the sawad was adjusted in favour
of the tax-payer. The share of the treasury was to be
two-fifths instead of half of the produce(15).
Through these actions, al-Ma知un wanted to cut the support given by the
prominent `Alids and the peasants of the sawad to the
revolutionary 'Alid activities, which, according to Abu
al-Fida, he had brought to an end. He was also
endeavouring to work against his Arab opposition in
Baghdad. When he entered the city everything there
returned to normal as if the uprising had never
Finally, in 205/820 al-Ma mun started to hold symposiums between the
Imamites and the Zaydites, and encouraged them to
discuss the question of the Im ama in his presence. It
is worth mentioning that the non-revolutionary Zaydites
believed in the Imamate of the inferior (al-Mafdul) in
spite of the presence of the superior (al-Afdal). This
view was based on the belief that even though `Ali b.
Abi Talib was the most excellent of the community after
the Prophet, he fully recognized the caliphate of Abu
Bakr and `Umar. Because of this belief of the Zaydites,
in the discussions with the Imamites, al-Ma知un often
agreed with the viewpoints of Zaydite scholars such as
`Ali b. al-Him, as regards the Imamate(17).
Then al-Ma知un managed to capture the 'Alid rebel `Abd al-Rahman b. Ahmad
b. `Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. `Umar b. `Ali b. Abi Talib,
who rose in arms in Yemen. By subduing this rebellion,
alｭMa知un ended the last military opposition of the
`Alids during his rule. Finally, in 206/821 his real
attitude towards the `Alids was revealed when he ordered
them to wear black, and announced that all the
descendants of Imam `Ali b. Abi Talib and their close
kindred (alｭ-Talibiyun) should be prevented from
entering his palace(18).
4. The development of the Imamite organization (al-Wikala) during the
time of al-Jawad
Despite the well-developed status of the Imamite organization during the
last period of al-Riďa's Imamate, he died, leaving a
successor only seven years old, thus causing further
splits amongst his followers. Al-Mas'udi mentions that
because of the age of Muhammad al-Jawad, the ninth Imam,
al-Riďa's followers were confused as to whether or not
he possessed the requisite qualifications for the
Therefore eighty leading personalities from various provinces, among them
al-Rayyan b. alｭ Salt, Safwan b. Yahya, Yunis b. `Abd
al-Rahman, Muhammad b. Hakim, 'Ali b. al-Hasan
al-Wasiti, and Ishaq b. Isma` il b. Nawbakht, gathered
together at the house of `Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj in
Baghdad to discuss the validity of al-Jawad's Imamate.
They decided to test his knowledge during the
pilgrimage. Two groups concluded that al-Jawad's age
precluded his being qualified for the Imamate; the first
group supported the Imamate of his uncle, Ahmad b. Musa
al-Kazim, whereas the second group, including Ibrahim b.
Salih alｭAnmati, joined the Waqifa and held that the
seventh Imam .was al-Qa段m al-Mahdi(19).
But the rest were satisfied that al-Jawad's knowledge was exceptional and
held that he was well qualified in spite of his age(20).
Hence they continued with the affairs of the
organization, and sent propagandists from Kufa and
Medina to various provinces. According to al-Najashi,
many Kufan muhaddithun, such as Muhammad b. Muhammad b.
al-Ash'ath, Ahmad b. Sahl, al-Husayn. b. `Ali al-Misri,
and Isma` il b. Musa al-Kazim, moved to Egypt and
carried on their activities there. One of these
activities was to circulate the traditions of the
Prophet concerning al-Qa段m al-Mahdi and the fact that
he would be from the progeny of al-Husayn(21).
A narration mentioned by al-Kulayni suggests that they gained
considerable adherents there, namely, that `Ali b. Asbat
al-Kufi came from Egypt to Medina to see al-Jawad so as
to describe him to the Imamites in Egypt(22).
Throughout the land of the caliphate the Imamite system
of sending out agents (wukala') became more developed
and managed to save their organization from certain
disintegration. The Imam's agents spread in many
provinces, like al-Ahwaz(23),
and the traditional centres of the Imamites, Kufa and
They allowed their partisans to work in the `Abbasid administration.
Thus Muhammad b. Isma'il b. Bazi and Ahmad b. Hamza
al-Qummi occupied high ranks in the vizierate(30),
and Nuh b. Darraj was the qadi of Baghdad and then of
Kufa. Because his relatives were the agents of al-Jawad,
he hid his faith during his occupation of this post(31).
Other Imamites became governors of some `Abbasid provinces, such as
al-Husayn b. `Abd Allah al-Nisaburi, the governor of
Bist and Sistan, and al-Hakam b. `Alya al-Asadi, the
governor of Bahrain. Both of these men paid the khums to
al-Jawad while hiding their allegiance to him(32).
At this stage the underground activities of the agents only aimed at
controlling and carrying on the religious and financial
affairs of the Imamites, not at endangering al-Ma知un's
rule. However in the year 210/825 the people of Qumm,
most of whom were Imamites, appealed to the caliph to
reduce their land-tax (al-kharaj), just as he had
reduced the kharaj of the inhabitants of Rayy, but he
ignored their appeal. Therefore they refused to pay the
kharaj and took control of the affairs of Qumm(33).
As a result al-Ma知un dispatched three regiments of his army from Baghdad
and Khurasan to quash their revolt. The leader of the
Abbasid army, `Ali b. Hisham accomplished his task. He
demolished the wall of Qumm and killed many people,
amongst them Yahya b. `Umran, who, according to Ibn
Shahr Ashub, was the agent of al-Jawad(34).
Moreover al-Ma知un collected seven million dirhams from Qumm's
inhabitants as a kharaj instead of the normal amount,
which had been two million dirhams before the uprising.
The reports of al-Tabari and Ibn al-Athir indicate that
some of the leaders of this revolt were exiled to Egypt,
among them Ja断ar b. Dawud al-Qummi(35).
But these measures did not end the military activities in Qumm. According
to al-Tabari, Ja断ar b. Dawud escaped from Egypt and
rebelled in Qumm in 214/829, but his revolt was subdued
and he was arrested and banished again to Egypt(36).
Unfortunately the Imamite sources are silent about these military actions
in Qumm and their relationship with the Imamites'
organization. But al-Ma知un linked these activities with
al-Jawad. Thus he endeavoured to end them through the
Imam. According to al-Azdi and al-Tabari, during his
march to invade al-Rum, al-Mam'un summoned al-Jawad and
welcomed him in Tikrit in Safar 215/830, where he
married his daughter Umm alｭ-Fadl to him. He asked him
to celebrate his marriage in Baghdad, then to go back
with his wife to Medina(37).
But this marriage neither gave al-Ma知un the support of the Imamites nor
stopped the revolts in Qumm. Ja`far b. Dawud managed to
escape again from Egypt and rebelled in Qumm in 216/831,
where he defeated the army sent by alｭMa知un and killed
its leader `Ali b. `Isa. He continued his resistance
until the end of the year 217/832, when the `Abbasid
troops ended his uprising and executed him(38).
But afterwards the underground activities of the `Alids increased on a
wide scale. Therefore al-ｭMu`tasim, who succeeded
al-Ma知un to the caliphate in 218/833, was obliged to
summon al-Jawad and Muhammad b. al-Qasim al-ｭTalqan, so
as to investigate their role in the underground
activities. The latter, on hearing of al-Mu'tasim's
decision, escaped from Kufa to Khurasan(39),
whereas al-Jawad was arrested in Medina and taken along
with his wife, Umm al-Fadl, to the caliph in Baghdad,
where he was put under house-arrest. He died a few
months later in Dhu alｭ-Hijja 220/835. Some Imamite
writers claim that his wife Umm alｭ-Fadl poisoned him at
the instigation of al-Mu'tasim, but al-Mufid thinks that
he died naturally(40).
last few years of al-Jawad's Imamate the system and the
tactics of the Imamite agents were highly developed. The
Imam's followers in Khurasan allowed themselves to be
recruited into the `Abbasid army and participated in
subduing the rebellion of the Khurramiyya. According to
al-Tusi, in 220/834 they seized a large amount of booty
from the rebels, so al-Jawad ordered them to pay the
khums either to him directly or to his agent(41).
Al-Jawad himself, on hearing of al-Mu'tasim's command to
present himself in Baghdad, asked his representative
Muhammad b. Al-Faraj to hand the khums to his son 'Ali
al-Hddi as a .sign that he was to be his successor(42).
(1)al-Kafi, I, 489, VIII, 151;
`Uyun, 138-40; Tabari, III, 1012-3.
(2)Khatib, X, 184. Concerning
Umm Habiba, al-Tabari thinks that she was
al-ｭMa知un's daughter (Tabari, III, 1029), but
Ibn Tulun reports that she was his sister. The
age of al-Ma知un at that time was 30; therefore
one is inclined to accept Ibn Tulun's report;
Ibn Tulun, op. cit., 97.
(3)al-Ya`qubi, III, 185;
al-Kamil VI, 227.
(4)Watt, Formative Period 176.
Al-Kulayni reports that al-Ma'mnn asked al-Riďa
to write to his followers in the areas of
revolt, askingthem to stop their support of the
rebels; al-Kafi, VIII, 151.
(5)Several anecdotes indicate
that the `Alids' standard was white. The
followers of Abu al-Saraya were called
"al-Mubayyida" in reference to the standard of
`Ali (al-Azraqi, op. cit., I, 263-4). Na un b.
Khazim, an Arab advisor of alｭ Ma知un, warned
the latter against adopting the advice of
al-Fadl b. Sahl in installing al-Riďa. He
pointed out to him that his vizier was not
sincere to the `Alids, because he suggested the
green colour, the sign of his ancestors, the
Sasanids, instead of the white, the standard of
`Ali and his sons (J. Wuzara', 313). When
al-Ma知un asked al-Riďa to perform the Friday
prayer, the latter wore a white turban and white
clothes (`Uyun, II, 149). Finally the Imamites
narrate that the banners of the followers of
al-Qaim al-Mahdi would be white (Najm al-Din
al-`Askari, al-Mahdi al-Maw'ud al-Muntazar (Beirut, 1977), I, 177).
(6)Tabari, III, 1019-20; also
al-Kamil, VI, 242.
(7)Tabari, III 1029; al-Kamil,
(8)al-Ya`qubi, III, 184, 190.
(9)N. Firaq, 72-3; Ikhtiyar,
501-2; `Uyun, II, 151-2.
(10)Ibn Hibban, Kitab
al-Majruhin (Halab, 1976), II, 209-10.
(11)al-Kafi, I, 486, 490;
Muruj, VIII, 57, 61; `Uyun, I, 186, 188; Shaban,
op. cit., 47.
(12)al-Kamil, VI, 253; Ahmad
b. Tahir b. Tayfur, Tarikh Baghdad (Cairo,
(14)al-Ya`qubi, III, 204;
according to the account of al-Kulayni both were
Imamites and the father of the first, Yahya b.
al-Husayn, supported the Imamate of alｭ-Riďa
(al-Kafi, I, 316). Al-Najashi reports that the
grandson of the second, Yahya b. Ahmad b.
Muhammad, was a prominent Imamite in Nishapur;
al-Najashi, 345; Abu al-Fida, al-Mukhtasar fi
Akhbar al-Bashari, II, 32.
(15)Tabari, III, 1039;
al-Kamil, VI, 253.
(16)Abu al-Fida, op, cit., II,
(18)Tabari, III, 1062-3;
al-Kama値, VI, 269.
(19)N. Firaq, 85-7; Q.
Maqalat, 93-5; al-Najashi, 19.
(21)al-Najashi, 21, 67-8, 141,
(24)Ikhtiyar, 611-2; al-Najashi,
(27)Ikhtiyar, 487; al-Najashi,
(29)al-Kafi, I, 548; T. al-Ghayba,
227; Bihar, L, 37-8.
(31)al-Najashi, 80, 98; Mizan,
(32)al-Kafi, V, III; al-Tusi,
al-Istibsar, II, 58.
(34)Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib
Ali Abi Talib, IV, 397; al-Azdi, 368.
(35)Tabari, III, 1092-3, 1102;
al-Kamil, VI, 264, 293.
(37)Tabari, III, 1103; al-Azdi,
(38)Tabari, III, 1106, 1111;
al-Kamil, VI, 286-7.
(39)Muhammad b. al-Qasim was
the Imam of the revolutionary Zaydites during
al-ｭJawad's period. When al-Mu`tasim endeavoured
to arrest him, he escaped from Kufa and revolted
in al-Talqan. But al-Mu`tasim captured him and
imprisoned him in Samarra. Then he disappeared
from jail mysteriously. Thus a considerable body
of the Zaydites in the districts of Kufa,
Tabaristan, Daylam and Khurasan held that he did
not die but was alive and would rise in arms to
fill the earth with justice after it had been
filled with tyranny; Muruj, VI, 116-7.
(40)Ithbat, 220; Bihar, L,
15-17; al-Irshad, 297, 307.
(41)al-Tusi, al-Istibsar, II,
(42)Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib,