1.3 Schism II: The Ja’farites
The representatives of this schism claimed that the Imam after al`Askari
was his youngest brother, Ja’far, but they differed as
to how the Imamate had passed on to him, and therefore
split into four factions.
i) The first faction believed that al- `Askari had died and that he had
held the Imamate by the testament of his father. Since
the Imamate can only pass to the eldest living son of
the former Imam, the Imamate passed from `Ali al-Hadi
not to his eldest son Muhammad, who had died before him,
but to al-`Askari, who was the elder of the two sons who
had outlived their father(1).
This faction believed that al-`Askari had not left a publicly
acknowledged son to take over the Imamate and,
therefore, his sole remaining brother, Ja’far, was the
Imam. In order to support their dogma they were obliged
to repeat the Fathiyya's(2)
arguments about the Imamate. The latter claimed that
Musa al-Kazim received the Imamate, not from his father
Ja’far al-Sadiq, but from his eldest brother `Abd Allah,
according to the tradition which says that the Imamate
passes on to the eldest son of the Imam when he dies.
Like the Fathiyya, this faction of the Ja`farites accepted the
authenticity of the tradition which says that the
Imamate will not fall to two brothers after al-Hasan and
al-Husayn. But they maintained that this could only be
applied if al-`Askari had left a son. Since al-`Askari
had passed away without leaving a publicly acknowledged
successor, his brother Ja’far was the designated Imam(3)
and the Imamate would pass on in his offspring. They
also recognised `Abd Allah b. Ja’far al-Sadiq as the
seventh Imam. Consequently Ja’far was thirteenth in the
chain of Imams.
ii) The second faction of the Ja’farites contended that the eleventh Imam
had himself designated Ja’far as his successor according
to the principle of al-Bada'(4).
The same thing had happened in the case of Ism'a'il, the
eldest son of Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq. God had clarified
His ultimate decision concerning him by taking away his
soul and placing his brothers `Abd Allah and Musa
consecutively in the Imamate instead. Similarly, in the
case of Ja’far b. `Ali, God had entrusted al-`Askari
with the Imamate, but thereafter He had made it clear
that the Imamate should not pass on in the progeny of
al-`Askari. Therefore He transferred it to his brother
Ja’far, who was the Imam after al-`Askari's death. Like
the previous factions, this faction used the argument
and dogma of the Fathiyya to support their viewpoint.
This sect was probably more popular than the first among the theologians,
especially in Kufa. Its leader was a Kufi theologian
called `Ali b. Tahl or al-Talhi al-Khazzaz, who had been
famous amongst the surviving members of the Fathiyya for
his skill in theological discussions. He upheld Ja’far's
Imamate and encouraged people to take his side. He was
supported in his propaganda by the sister of Faris. b.
Hatim b. Mahawiyya al-Qazwini, although she rejected the
Imamate of al- `Askari and claimed that the Imamate had
been transferred to Ja’far from his father, `Ali al-Hadi(5).
She may have had this claim because her brother, Faris
b. Hatim, was killed on the order of al- `Askari(6).
It is also possible that the Kufan scholastic family
Banu Faddal, who were active supporters of the Fathiyya,
adopted the doctrine of this faction, especially Ahmad
b. al-Hasan b. `Ali b. Muhammad b. Faddal, who died in
260/874, and his brother `Ali.
iii) The members of this faction claimed that the Imamate had passed on
to Ja`far through the designation of his father. They
based their doctrine on a tradition attributed to Ja’far
al-Sadiq, which states that the Imamate cannot be held
by two brothers after al-Hasan and al-Husayn(7).
Since Muhammad, the eldest son of `Ali al-Hadi, died
during the lifetime of his father, and since the Imamate
should belong to those who survive the death of their
father, it had not been transferred to Muhammad. They
may have accepted the Imamate of al-`Askari because he
was the eldest son after the death of his father, but
they rejected his Imamate after his death, because he
had passed away without leaving a publicly acknowledged
son as his successor. It was a matter of course to them,
they said, that the Imam could not die without leaving a
publicly acknowledged and well known successor,
designated by him and entrusted with the Imamate.
Therefore the claim of al-`Askari to the Imamate must be
invalid. So it was inevitable that the Imam was Ja’far,
by the designation of his father(8).
It is worth mentioning that this faction existed within the lifetime of
al- `Askari. When the tenth Imam died in 254/868 the
majority of his followers accepted the Imamate of his
eldest surviving son, al`Askari, as confirmed by the
testament of his father, but a minority took Ja’far's
He became more powerful after al- `Askari's death, since
some of al- `Askari's adherents abandoned his Imamate
and accepted that of Ja`far. A leading scholar of this
faction was `Ali b. Ahmad b. Bashshar, who wrote a book
on the Ghayba and disputed fiercely with his opponents(10).
There is some evidence that this faction achieved a certain degree of
success by persuading a few of the people who had
accepted al- `Askari's Imamate to join their side. Al-Saduq
and al-Majlisi report a letter attributed to the Twelfth
Imam, and sent to his agent, `Uthman b. Sa’id al-`Umari.
This letter reveals that an' adherent of this faction
argued with a Twelver called al-Mukhtar, and succeeded
in making him accept the Imamate of Ja`far(11).
The sister of Faris b. Hatim, who was mentioned above,
was one of the partisans of this group.
iv) The followers of this faction were called al-Nafisiyya. They believed
that the tenth Imam had designated his eldest son
Muhammad as his legatee. Then, according to the
principle of Bada', Allah took away his life while his
father was still alive. But when Muhammad b. `Ali passed
away, by the order of his father, he designated his
brother Ja`far as his successor. He entrusted his
testament, the books, the secret knowledge and the
weapons needed by the community to his trustworthy young
slave called Nafis. And he ordered him to hand them
'over to his brother Ja’far when his father died.
However, when Muhammad died, the adherents of al-`Askari discovered the
secret arrangement and the role of Nafis. Since Nafis
was afraid of them and feared that the Imamate might be
cut short, he called Ja’far and handed over the trust of
Muhammad b. `Ali al Hadi. Ja`far himself claimed that
the Imamate had been passed to him from his brother,
The members of this faction denied the testament of al-Hasan al-`Askari,
because his father, they claimed, had neither designated
him nor changed his testament from Muhammad. Nafis was
killed by being drowned in a well(13).
1.4 Schism III: The Muhammadiyya
This sect denied the Imamate of Ja`far and al-`Askari and considered
Muhammad, who had died in the lifetime of his father, as
their Imam. They argued that `Ali al-Hadi, the tenth
Imam, had neither designated nor indicated either al-`Askari
or Ja’far as his legatee. Therefore neither of them had
any right to make claims upon the Imamate. Since the
Imam could not die without leaving a successor, and
since al-`Askari had passed away and not left a publicly
acknowledged or well-known son, his Imamate was
invalidated. Ja`far, they added, was not worthy of
putting forward a claim because his immorality and
sinfulness were infamous. His wicked character could not
be prudent fear (Taqiyya) in the face of his enemies,
for Taqiyya cannot be practiced by committing sins.
They concluded that since it was forbidden for the Imamate to be
nullified, they were obliged to return to the Imamate of
Muhammad b. 'Ali, since he had left offspring and his
acts were distinguished by probity and virtue(14).
Others of them even considered him as al-Qaim al-Mahdi(15)
and some of them went as far as to deny his death(16).
1.5 Schism IV: The Qat’iyya
This faction constituted the greater portion of the Imamites. They
believed that al-`Askari had died and left a son to
succeed him, but they differed about the day of his
birth, his name, and whether or not he was al-Qa’im al-Mahdi.
For this reason they split into six groups:
i) The first group maintained that al- `Askari had died and left a son
called Muhammad. According to Sa'd al-Qummi, they held
that his son had come of age, while, according to al-Nawbakhti
and al-Shahristani, they believed that he had been born
two years before his father's death. He was the Imam
because his father had designated him so, and because it
was well-known that al- Askari had left no other son. So
inevitably he was the Imam and al-Qa’im. But due to fear
of his uncle, Ja`far, he went into concealment and this
became one of his occultations.
This group built their doctrine on a tradtion attributed to Ja’far al-Sadiq,
which says that al-Qa’im's date of birth is hidden from
the people, information concerning him is obscure, and
the people cannot know him(17).
Unfortunately little is known about this faction, but
al-Saduq, while trying to prove the birth of the Twelfth
Imam, mentions traditions which are presumably
attributed to this faction's adherents. One of these was
called Ya'qub b. Manfush, who claimed that he had
visited al-`Askari and asked him about his successor.
Al-`Askari showed him his son, who was between eight and
ten years old, indicating that his son would succeed
him. Another was called Daw' b. Ali al-`Ijli, who
maintained that he had met al-`Askari in his house where
he saw his son, who was then two years old(18).
ii) The members of this group held the same dogma as the previous
faction. They agreed with them on the death of al- `Askari,
but they thought that he had left a successor whose name
was not Muhammad but 'Ali. They said that al-`Askari had
no son except 'Ali, who had been seen by his father's
trustworthy followers. According to Sa`d al-Qummi this
sect had few adherents and they were concentrated within
the suburbs of the Sawad of Kufa(19).
iii) This sect held that the Imam after al-`Askari was his son, who had
been born eight months after his father's death and had
then gone into concealment. They argued that those who
claimed that a son was born to him during his lifetime
were making false statements, because al- `Askari had
died without leaving a publicly acknowledged son.
But the pregnancy had been known to the caliph as well as other people,
and for this reason the caliph delayed dividing his
share in the state until the pregnancy was proved
invalid. In fact, they said, the son was born eight
months after the death of his father and was ridden, and
his father had ordered that he be called Muhammad. They
based their doctrine on a tradition attributed to the
eighth main, `Ali b. Musa al-Riďa, which says, "You
would test the foetus which is within the womb of his
mother, and the suckling child."(20)
iv) The partisans of this faction held that al-`Askari had no sons at
all. The arguments about a hidden son, who was born
during the lifetime of al- `Askari, were rejected by
them, because they had searched for him during the life
of the eleventh Imam using various means, but had failed
to find him. But since the Imam cannot die without
leaving an heir, they claimed that a slave girl had
conceived a child belonging to al- `Askari, and that
when she gave birth to him he would be the Imam, even
if, as they are reported to have said by al-Mufid, the
pregnancy should last a hundred years. They established
their doctrine on a tradition of al-Sadiq, which states
that al-Qa’im is he whose conception and date of birth
are hidden from the people(21).
v) This faction held that the Imam after al- `Askari was his son
Muhammad, who was the Awaited One (al-Muntazar). They
claimed that he had died but would rise to life with the
sword to fill the earth with peace and justice after it
had been filled with tyranny and injustice(22).
This group is mentioned neither by Sa`d al-Qummi nor by al-Nawbakhti.
Presumably the latter dealt with it but this discussion
was later dropped from his work, since al-Mufid who
based his information on al-Nawbakhti's work, mentions
this group in al`Uyun wa-l-Mahasin(23).
vi) This group, entitled the Imamiyya by Sa’d al-Qummi and al-Nawbakhti,
held that al- `Askari had died and that inevitably
Allah's Hujja on earth was his son. He was his sole
successor and legatee, charged with the affairs of the
Imamate after him in accordance with the method laid
down by previous tradition. Thus the Imamate should pass
on to his offspring until the Day of Resurrection, but
he was absent and hidden by an order. It was prohibited
to seek him out before he chose to manifest himself,
because his adherents would endanger his life and thier
own if they looked for him. In spite of his occultation
a few reliable followers could contact him(24).
He was born on 15th Sha'ban 256/29th July 868.(25)
Basically this group directed their arguments against those factions
which supported the Imamate of Muhammad and Ja`far. With
the partisans of Muhammad they argued that the Imamate
could be held neither by the descendants of Muhammad,
who had died during his father's lifetime, nor by his
legatee, such as his brother or someone else, because
there was no evidence or proof for accepting the Imamate
of a son who had died before his father. Perhaps this
argument was also directed against the Nafisiyya.
Presumably with the Jac farites they argued that the Imamate could not
pass from brother to brother after al-Hasan and
al-Husayn, and that the Imamate should fall to the
eldest son of the preceding Imam. The eleventh Imam al-
`Askari, was designated by the testament of his father,
so the Imamate had to pass to his offspring(26).
They also said tht it was improper for the faithful to
select an Imam for themselves. Allah had to choose him
and to manifest him at the proper time(27).
(1)Q. Maqalat, 111; al-FUsul
(2)Al-Fathiyya: A Shi’ite sect
which arose after the death of Ja`far al-Sadiq,
the sixth Imam, who contended that the Imamate
had passed on from al-Sadiq not to Musa but to
his eldest son, `Abd Allah, accordingto
thetradition which says that the Imamate can
only be vested in the eldest son, with the
condition that he should be free from any bodily
defects (al-Kafi, I, 285; Ikhtiyar, 282-3). They
were also called al-Fathiyya as an allusion
either to `Abd Allah b. Jaf'ar because he had
broad feet or was broad-headed, or it referred
to their leader, who was called ‘Abd Allah
al-Aftah: N. Firaq 65; al-FUsul al-Mukhtara,
248-51; Ikhtiyar, 254.
(3)N. Firaq, 93; Q. Maqalat,
(4)Al-bada' means the
appearance of something or some knowledge after
it has been concealed. In theological terms, it
is a dogma which deals with the question of
whether or not it is possible for God to change
His decision about something. The theologians
maintain that this is impossible, even if it
often appears to happen, as for example when
Ja`far al-Sadiq designated Isma’il as his
successor according to God's command. For when
Isma’il died, God then ordered Ja`far to
designate Musa al-Kazim as his successor. So it
seems that God changed his decision about who
was to succeed Ja’far. But in fact, God's
eternal knowledge never changes. What changes is
the degree to which men are cognizant of that
knowledge. Hence the doctrine of al-bada' states
that God's ultimate judgement about something
often appears to men only after first having
been concealed. It declares that God cannot have
changed His decision, for that would imply that
His knowledge changes, or that He was ignorant
and then gained knowledge. Finally, the Imamites
hold that Goes does allow certain people to have
knowledge of His ultimate judgement. Bandar, A.,
`Aqidat al-Bada' (Baghdad, 1976); also a letter
from the author dated 15th January 1978.
(5)N. Firaq, 99;
al-Shahristani's information concerning this
sect is confused. He claims that Faris b. Hatim,
not his sister, was a follower of Ja`far, but
Faris had been assassinated by the order of
al-Askari himself; see Milal, 129; Ikhtiyar,
(6)For the dogma of Faris b.
Hatim, his political activities in Qazwm and
Samarra, and his assassination, see Ikhtiyar,
522-8; al-Najashi, 238; T. al-Ghayba, 238.
(7)Al-Nawbakhti and al-Qummi
mention that a group maintained that Ja`far was
the Imam after al-`Askari not by the testament
of his brother but by that of his father. Thus
they held that the adoption of the Imamate of
al-`Askari was incorrect and that people should
go back to the Imamate of Ja’far; N. Firaq,
82-3; Q. Maqalat, 110-1; al-FUsul al-Mukhtara,
(8)For this tradition see al-Kafi,
I, 285-6; T. al-Ghayba, 146.
(9)N. Firaq, 79; Muhammad b. `Abd
al-Rahman b. Qubba, al-Insaf fi al-Imams, quoted
in Kama’l, 55.
(11)Kama’l, 511; Bihar, LIII,
(12)Q. Maqalat, 112-3; N.
Firaq, 88-9, Ibn Qubba, op. cit., quoted in
Kama’l, 59. About Ibn Qubba and his work see al-Najashi,
290-1, T. al-Fihrist, 297-8.
(16)T. al-Ghayba, 128-9; al-FUsul
(17)Q. Maqalat, 114; N. Firaq,
84-5; Milal, 130.
(18)Kama’l, II, 78, 109-10;
see al-Galbaygani, op. cir, 356.
(19)Q. Maqlat, 114; T. al-Ghayba,
147; al-Mufid also mentions this faction but
thought that they held the same dogma as al-Qat’iyya
(The Twelvers); al-FUsul al-Mukhtara, 259-60.
(20)Q. Maqalat, 114; N. Firaq,
85; al-Fusul al-Mukhtara, 261; Milal, 130.
about this sect is confused, whereas al-Qummi
and al-Mufid are much clearer in their
presentation; N. Firaq, 85-6; Q. Maqalat, 114-5;
al-Fusul al-Mukhtara, 260.
(24)Q. Maqalat, 102-4; Abu
Sahl al-Nawbakhti, Kitab al-Tanbih, quoted in
Kama’l,88; al-Insaf quoted in Kama’l, 61.
(25)This group dated his birth
as mentioned but the later Imamites differ about
it. Ibn Rustam al-Tabari dates it as 15th
Sha'ban 257, while al-Kulayni mentions several
traditions giving the dates 252,255 and 256
respectively. Al-Saduq and al Mufid follow al-Kulayni
on this point. Some of the factions opposed to
the Imamites may have abandoned their claims and
joined the Imamites, who then accepted their
differing transmissions concerning the birth of
the Twelfth Imam; al-Kafi, I, 514-16; Dala'il,
271; al-Fusul al-Mukhtara, 258; Kama’l, 430.
(26)al-Insaj; quoted in Kama’l,