5. The `Abbasids' Attitude toward the activities of alュ-Hadi

According to the Imamite sources; the bulk of the followers of alュJaw5d accepted the Imamate of his successor `Ali al-Hadi, who was then seven years old. His age presented no obstacle to their accepting his Imamate, since they had faced the same problem with his father, who had also been seven years old when he took over the office. A few of al-Jawad's followers, however, supported the Imamate of his son Musa, but after a short time they rejoined the rest of the Imamites, accepting the Imamate of `Ali al-Hadi(1).

At this stage the Imamites concentrated their efforts in reュorganising the activities of their followers. This was especially necessary considering the fact that the flourishing state of the 'Abbasid economy had decreased the `Alids' opportunities to obtain supporters for further military action(2).

Perhaps for this reason the caliph, al-Mu'tasim and his successor al-Wathiq (227-232/841-846), were more tolerant towards the `Alids than al-Ma知un before them or al-Mutawakkil after them. According to Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani, the descendants of `Ali b. Abi Talib and their close kindred (al-ュTalibiyun) assembled in Samarra where they were paid salaries by the caliph al-Wathiq(3). The latter also distributed a large amount of money among the `Alids in the Hijaz and other provinces(4).

After the death of al-Wathiq certain events had serious consequences for the `Abbasid attitude towards the activities.of the adherents of the tenth Imam, al-Hadi. Al-Mutawakkil was chosen to the caliphate in 232/837,(5) and his installation was seen by the narrators (al-Muhaddithun al-amma) as a major setback for those who favoured the `Alids. The majority of the latter were from the ranks of the Mu'tazila and the Shi段tes, who formed the progressive and indeed radical element in society. Recognising this, alュMutawakkil carried out certain measures with the aim of destroying the economic and political foundations of both the Mu'tazila and the Shi段tes.

Firstly, he abandoned the"inquisition" (al-Mihna) against the narrators of the amma, which had been implemented by al-Ma mun with the support of the Mu`tazilites, and he encouraged these narrators and their adherents to openly adopt anti-Shi段te slogans(6).

Secondly, al-Mutawakkil discharged the vizier, al-Zayyat, and his staff from their offices and appointed instead al-Jarjara`i and Ibn Khaqan, who were more inclined to go along to with his anti-Shi段te policy(7).

Thirdly, he decided to rebuild the whole structure of the army in two stages. First he began to gradually weaken the power of the Tahirids, who were in charge of ruling Khurasan and of policing Baghdad and the Sawad. He did this by nominating his three sons, alュMuntasir, al-Mu`tazz and al-Mu'ayyad, as his successive heirs apparent, and then appointing al-Muntasir as governor in Ifriqiyya and al-Maghrib, al-Mu'ayyad as governor in Syria, and al-Mu'tazz as ruler of the eastern provinces, in particular Khurasan.

Simultaneously the caliph divided the army in the capital among his sons and sent them to the provinces to which he had appointed them, so as to prevent any direct conspiracy on the part of the leaders of the army. His second move was to begin to build a new army called alュShakiriyya, recruiting people from areas which were well-known for their anti-`Alid attitudes, particularly from Syria, al-Jazira, al-Jabal, Hijaz, and even from the `Abna , who had rebelled against the "inquisition"(8).

While carrying out these measures, al-Mutawakkil turned towards the opposition to deal with the organised underground activities of the `Alids in general and the Imamites in particular. The intellectual activities of the Imamites in Egypt, which had been encouraged by Isma`il b. Musa al-Kazim, had borne fruit and expanded into the sphere of underground political activities, even penetrating into remote parts of North Africa(9).

The system of communication of their organization (al-Wikala) was highly developed, particulary in the capital Samarra, Baghdad, Mada`in, and the districts of the Sawad(10).

Furthermore al-Yaqubi's report seems to indicate that the Imamites had hidden the name of their Imam to the extent that the caliph was not sure exactly who he was(11) or if he had direct links with Shi段te underground activities.

Al-Mutawakkil instigated a campaign of arrests against the Imamites in 232/846, accompanied by such harsh treatment that some of the agents of the Imam in Baghdad, Mada`in, Kufa and the Sawad died under torture, while others were thrown into jail(12).

By these measures the caliph caused serious damage to the communication network within the Wikala. In order to fill the vacuum left by the arrested agents, the Imam had to appoint new agents instead, such as Abu `Ali b. Rashid, who was nominated to lead the activites of the Imamites in Baghdad, Mada`in and the Sawad, and Ayyub b. Nuh, who was appointed as the agent of Kufa. Al-Hadi also provided them with new instructions concerning their duties during this critical situation(13).

Despite all the Imamite efforts to save their organization, the investigation of the governor of Medina, `Abd Allah b. Muhammad, led to the discovery that al-Hadi was in fact behind these activities. He informed al-Mutawakkil, warning him of the danger of al-Hades presence in Medina. So the caliph summoned al-Hadi to Samarra in 233/848, where he kept him under house-arrest(14). Two years later the caliph discovered that Egypt and the areas near the tomb of alュHusayn in the Sawad were the strongest centres of the underground communications of the `Alids. Therefore he ordered that the tomb of al-Husayn and the houses nearby be levelled to the ground. Then he ordered that the ground of the tomb be ploughed and cultivated, so that any trace of the tomb would be forgotten. Furthermore he issued an order prohibiting people from visiting the tombs of any of the Imams and warning them that anyone found in their vicinity would be arrested(15).

Al-Mutawakkil also waged another campaign of arrests. Among those taken prisoner was Yahya b. `Umar al-`Alawi, who was accused of conspiracy and held in the jail of al-Mutbaq in Baghdad(16). At the same time al-Mutawakkil ordered the governor of Egypt to deport the Talibiyyin to Iraq, and he did so. Afterwards in 236/850,(17) alュMutawakkil banished them to Medina which had been used as a place of exile for the `Alids.

Several remarks suggest that al-Mutawakkil went even further in his policy, aiming in the long term to destroy the economic and social status of the `Alids, and issued many orders so as to achieve this end. He confiscated the properties of the Husaynids, that is the estate of Fadak, whose revenue at that time, according to Ibn Tawus, was 24,000 dinars, and granted it to his partisan `Abd Allah b. `Umar alュ-Bazyar(18).

He also warned the inhabitants of the Hijaz not to have any communication with the `Alids or to support them financially. Many people were severely punished because they did so. According to al-Isfahani, as a result of al-Mutawakkil's measures the `Alids faced harsh treatment in Medina, where they were totally isolated from other people and deprived of their necessary livelihood(19).

The caliph also wanted to remove the Shi段tes from the `Abbasid administration and to destroy their good standing in public opinion. Al-Mas'udi gives an example of this policy: he mentions that Ishaq b. lbrahim, the governor of Saymara and Sirawan in the province of alュ-Jabal, was discharged from his office because of his Imamite allegiance, and that other people lost their positions for the same reason(20).

According to al-Kindi, al-Mutawakkil ordered his governor in Egypt to deal with the `Alids according to the following rules:

1) No `Alid could be given an estate or be allowed to ride a horse or to move from al-Fustat to the other towns of the province.

2) No `Alid was permitted to possess more than one slave.

3) If there was any conflict between an `Alid and a nonュ`Alid, the judge must first hear the claim of the non-Alid, and then accept it without negotiation with the `Alid.(21)

By these measures, al-Mutawakkil managed to prevent the Shi段tes from plotting against his regime, but he failed to end their underground activities. Reports indicate that al-Hadi continued his communications with his adherents secretly, receiving the khums and other taxes from his agents in Qumm and its districts(22). According to al-Mas'udi, al-Mutawakkil was informed about this, and he also heard that in al-Hadi's house there were arms and letters from his supporters indicating a conspiracy against him. Therefore the house was searched by the caliph's soldiers, but they did not find any proof, and so al-Hadi was set free(23).

The suppression of the Imamites decreased after the assassination of al-Mutawakkil, who was succeeded by his son al-Muntasir in 247/861. He was more tolerant toward them than his father. He issued an order to stop the campaign of arrests and the oppression of the `Alids and their adherents, and permitted them to visit the tombs of al-Husayn and the other Imams. He also gave the properties of Fadak back to them. But this new attitude on the part of the caliph ceased with the succession of al-Mustain in 248/862.(24)

According to al-Kindi, the Imamites in Egypt were persecuted by its governor, Yazid b. `Abd Allah al-Turki, who arrested an `Alid leader called Ibn Abi Hudra along with his followers. They were accused of carrying out underground activities and deported to Iraq in 248/862.(25) Alュ-Kulayni also states that the campaign of arrests and pursuits affected the followers of al-Hadi in Egypt. For example, Muhammad b. Hajar was slain and the estate of Sayf b. al-Layth was seized by the ruler(26).

Meanwhile in Iraq some of the followers of al-Hadi in Samarra were arrested(27), and his main agent in Kufa, Ayyub b. Nuh, was pursued by the qadi of the city(28).

It appears, however, that the `Abbasid oppression did not deter the Shi段te ambition to reach power. Many historians like al-Isfahani report that `Alid revolts broke out in 250-1/864-5 in the areas of Kufa, Tabaristan, Rayy, Qazwin, Egypt and Hijaz.

These might have been directed by one group, or to be more accurate, by one leader. It is beyond the scope of this work to deal with the details of these revolts, but it is worth mentioning that the rebels employed the Prophetic traditions concerning al-Qa段m al-Mahdi and the signs of his rising to achieve immediate political success. According to Ibn `Uqda, the leader of this uprising, Yahya b. `Umar al-`Alawi, was expected to be al-Qa段m al-Mahdi, because all the signs and events predicted by the sixth Imam, al-Sadiq, regarding the rise of al-Qa段m al-Mahdi occured during the course of that revolution(29):

This document indicates that the Imamites were expecting the establishment of their state by al-Qa段m al-Mahdi in the near future. Despite the uprising's Zaydite facade, many pure Imamites participated. According to Ibn `Uqda, the holder of the rebel standard in Mecca was Muhammad b. Ma`ruf al-Hilali (d. 250/864), who was among the eminent Imamites of the Hijaz(30).

Furthermore, the leader' of the rebels in Kufa, Yahya b. `Umar, who was assassinated in 250/864, attracted the sympathy and praise of alュ-Hadi's agent, Abu Hashim al-Ja断ari(31).

In addition al-Mas`udi reports that a certain `Ali b. Musa b. Isma'il b. Musa al-Kazim took part in the revolt in Rayy and was arrested by the caliph al-Mu`tazz. Since this man was the grandson of the Isma'il b. Musa al-Kazim who had preached the Imamite doctrine in Egypt, it seems extremely probable that the revolt was essentially Imamite(32).

Moreover, al-Tabari gives information concerning the underground activities of the Imamites and their role in this rebellion, which the authorities considered purely Zaydite rather than Imamite. He also reports that the `Abbdsid spies discovered correspondence between the leader of the rebels in Tabaristan, al-Hasan b. Zayd, and the nephew of Muhammad b. `Ali b. Khalf al-`Attar. Both of these men were adherents of the tenth Imam, al-Hadi(33).

This led the authorities to the conclusion that the Imamites had direct links with the rebels. So they arrested the leading Imamite personalities in Baghdad and deported them to Samarra. Among them were Muhammad b. `Ali al-Attar, Abu Hashim al-Ja断ari(34), and the two sons of al-Hadi, Ja`far and al-Hasan al-`Askari, later to be the eleventh Imam(35).

One can link these `Abbasid precautions to the sudden death of al-Hadi in Samarra in 254/868, because the authorities believed him to be behind all these disturbances, and felt that his death would bring them to an end(36).






(1)Maqalat, 99.

(2)The flourishing state of the 'Abbasid economy can be noted in al-Mu`tasim's ability to recruit a new garrison, mainly from the Turks of Caucasus, and to establish a new capital, Samarra. His successor al-Mutawakkil followed in his footsteps, establishing another garrison, which he called al-Shakiriyya, by recruiting people from the western provinces of the empire. Later al-Shakiriyya garrison was enlarged by al-Mutawakkil until it became his official army. Furthermore he established a new capital called al-Ja断ariyya. According to alュMas'udi, after his death he left four million dinars and seven million dirhams in the treasury. Muruj, VII, 276-7; Shaban, op. cit., 76.

(3)Maqalat, 394; al-Fakhri, 176.

(4)al-Yaqubi, III, 216.

(5)Tabari, III, 1368.

(6)Shaban, op. cit., 73; al-Tikriti, al-Mutawakkil boyn Khusumih wa-Ansarih, Bulletin of the College of Arts, Basrah University, 1976, 113.

(7)Tabari, III, 1373-5; see also al-Kafi, I, 498.

(8)Shaban, op. cit., 72-5; 76.

(9)Al Mas`udi and Ibn Hazm mention that Ja`far b. Isma`il b. Musa al-Kazim was killed by Ibn al-Aghlab in al-Maghrib during the caliphate of al Mu`tazz (Muruj, VII, 404; Ibn Hazm, op. cit., 64), which suggests that Ja`far may have been sent there by his father to preach to the people concerning the `Alids' rights to the caliphate.

(10)Ikhtiyar, 513-4.

(11)al-Yaqubi, lII, 217.

(12)Ikhtiyar, 603, 607; T. al-Ghayba, 226-7; Bihar, L, 183.

(13)Ikhtiyar, 513-4.

(14)Ithbat, 225-6; Bihar, L, 209.

(15)Tabari, III, 407; Muruj VII, 302. Many early sources represent the `Abbasid view, and contemporary scholars claim that the reason behind the demolition of al-Husayn's tomb was that the Shi a had made it an alternative centre for pilgrimage (Maqatil, 395; al-Tikriti The Religious Policity of al-Mutawakkil 'Ala Allah al-`Abbasi (232-47/847-68), M. A. Dissertation (McGill University, Canada, 1969), 58, 63). But all the narrations espousing this view are attributed to a single narrator called Ahmad b. al-Ji'd who was a loyal supporter of the `Abbasids. Perhaps he gave this interpretation to excuse the action of the caliph, whose aim was to stop the underground activities of the Shi誕, who used their visit to the tomb of al-Husayn as a means of communication. In addition the caliph wanted to eliminate any sign of the grave, which might revive the revolutionary trends amongst the Shi`a.

(16)Tabari, III, 1404.

(17)al-Kindi, Wilat Misr, (Beirut, 1972), 177-8.

(18)Ibn Tawus, Kash al-Mahajja (Najaf, 1950), 124; al-Sadr, Fadak fi al-Tarrikh (Najaf, 1955), 23.

(19)Maqatil, 396.

(20)Muruj VII, 238-9; al-Kafi, I, 500.

(21)al-Kindi, op. cit., 230.

(22)Bihar, L, 185.

(23)Muruj VII, 207.

(24)Ibid, VII, 302.

(25)al-Kindi, op. cit., 229.

(26)al-Kafi, I, 511, 513.

(27)Manaqib, IV, 416.

(28)al-Arbili, Kashf al-Ghumma, III, 247. The qadi of Kufa at that time was Ja`far b. `Abd al-Wahid. The caliph al-Musta`in removed him from this office and exiled him to Basra where he died in 257/780; Mizan, I, 413.

(29)Ibn `Uqda, op. cit., f. 74-5.

(30)Ibn `Uqda, op. cit., f. 75; al-Najashi, 280-1. Ibn `Uqda, Ahmad b. Muhammad (249-333/863-944) is a kufan Muhaddith. He belonged to the Zaydite sect, alュ-Jarudiyya. Al-Nu'mani relied on him in writing his work al-Ghayba. Buzurg, Nawabigh al-Ruwat, 46-7.

(31)Tabari, III, 1522.

(32)Muruj, VII, 404.

(33)Tabari, III, 1362, 1683; Ikhtiyar, 68.

(34)Tabari, III, 1683-4.

(35)T. al-Ghayba, 141, 226; Bihar, L, 206-7.

(36)The majority of the Imamite scholars believe that al-Hadi was poisoned at the instigation of the `Abbasids; Manaqib, IV, 401; Bihar, L, 206-7.