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 side(9). 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, Muhammad(12).

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 al-Mukhtara, 259.

(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, 111-2.

(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, 524.

(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, 259.

(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.

(10)Kama’l, 51-3.

(11)Kama’l,  511; Bihar, LIII, 190-1.

(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.

(13)Q. Maqalat, 103.

(14)Q. Maqalat, 109.

(15)N. Firaq, 84.

(16)T. al-Ghayba, 128-9; al-FUsul al-Mukhtara, 259.

(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.

(21)Al-Nawbakhti's information 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.

(22)T. al-Ghayba, 60.

(23)al-Fusulal-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, 55-6.

(27)N. Firaq, 90-91.