But this occurred at a later stage after the death of the second Saf段rin
305/917, so it is beyond the topic of this section.
However, it is worth mentioning that, from the time of
second Saf段ronwards, the followers of Ibn Nusayr
separated themselves totally from the direct control of
the second Saf段r, Abu Ja`far, who in the Imamite view
was the only representative of the hidden Imam. Moreover
the Nusayriyya gave more importance to the role of the
Bab than to the Imam himself, which was proof enough to
place them outside the circle of the Twelver Imamites.
2. The Activities of Abu Jafar, the Second Saf段r
2.1 The Career of Abu Ja断ar
Despite the difficulties faced by Abu Ja`far because of the false agents
Ibn Hilal, al‑Bilali and Ibn Nusayr, he continued to
direct the underground activities of the organization,
extending its role amongst the Imamites. At the same
time he followed in the first Saf段r's footsteps by
trying to prove the existence of the concealed Imam to
the reliable Imamites. He sought to circulate amongst
them the idea that the Imam's occultation had taken
place because of divine intervention, that it was a
vindication of the traditions related by the previous
Imams, and that he, Abu Ja断ar, was the rightful
Saf段rof the hidden Imam(1).
Furthermore, he sought to make it posssible to continue his duties
without being harassed by his encouraging the belief of
the authorities, originally fostered by the first
Saf段r, that alｭ `Askari had died without leaving a
successor." He hoped that the government would therefore
relax, content in the belief that an uprising was
unlikely, because the Imamites no longer had an Imam to
rally and lead them.
The dual plan of Abu Ja断ar as regards the existence of the hidden Imam
can be seen in several narrations. At one time, a
certain Hamdan al‑Qalansi asked Abu Ja断ar about
al-`Askari's successor. Abu Ja断ar replied, "Al‑`Askari
has died, but he has left amongst you a successor whose
neck is like this"(2),
and he indicated the size of his neck as a sign that
al‑`Askaris son had attained maturity. According to
al‑Saduq, Abu Ja断ar made the same statement to the
well‑known scholar `Abd Allah b. Ja`far al‑Himyari, when
the latter asked him about al‑`Askari's sons(3).
Furthermore on another occasion Abu Ja`far informed him
"The Sahib al‑Amr (the Imam) attends the pilgrimage every year and sees
the people and knows them, while they see him but do not
recognise him." He added that he had seen the Imam at
al‑Ka'ba holding its drapes and praying, "O Allah,
avenge me against my enemies."(4)
However, despite the fact that Abu Ja断ar revealed the existence of the
Twelfth Imam to al‑Himyari, he warned him against trying
to discover his name. The authorities were content that
al‑`Askari had died without leaving a successor(5),
but if they were to come to know the name of the Imam
and his whereabouts, they would search for him and
endanger both his life and the life of his agents(6).
Other reports indicate that the second Saf段r instructed
other agents similarly.
A careful study of the activities of the agents reveals that the second
Saf段r managed in fact to keep the existence of the
hidden Imam secret from the `Abbasids until the early
years of the reign of al‑Mu`tadid (278‑89/891‑901).
Perhaps this was due to the wise instructions issued to
his agents by Abu Ja断ar who, as a part of his prudent
fear (Taqiyya), carried out his activities unnoticed and
in secret. Like his father before him he disguised
himself as a butter‑seller and acquired the nickname
He used pseudonyms in his underground meetings with some of his agents.
According to al‑Kashshi, Abu Ja断ar's name was Muhammad
b. Hafs al‑`Umari(8),
whereas his real name was Muhammad b. `Uthman b. Sa'id,
and it might be that the first name was a pseudonym.
Furthermore a careful study of the chain of transmitters
(asanid) of the Prophetic traditions and the sayings of
the Imams shows that there is no reference to his name
as a narrator, whereas most of the Tawqi`at (written and
signed answers or pronouncements) attributed to the
eleventh and Twelfth Imams concerning legal matters came
on the authority of Abu Ja断ar(9).
This fact reveals that he did not wish to implicate himself in any open
discussions of religious matters, so that he could hide.
his real position amongst the Imamites from the
government and convey communications between the hidden
Imam and his followers, free from the interference of
2.2 The Agents of the Second Saf段r in Baghdad
It has been noted that the first Saf段r had three agents in Baghdad,
Ahmad b. Ishaq, Muhammad b. Ahmad al‑Qattan, and Hajiz
alｭ Washsha'. It appears that the responsibilities of
the second Saf段r, Abu Ja`far, were greater than that of
the first, since according to al‑Tusi he had ten people
beneath him in Baghdad. to run the affairs of the
organization. Amongst them was al‑Husayn b. Ruh
al‑Nawbakhti, who later became the third Saf段r.(10)
Al‑Tusi does not name the other agents, but it is most
likely that the three agents of the first Saf段r were
amongst them, since these three served the organization
in Baghdad during the time of the second Saf段r, who had
direct contact with them(11).
Al‑Qattan was the most active amongst the agents in Baghdad. According to
al‑Saduq, he had seen the Imam(12).
Al-Kashshi describes his reliability when he relates
that, "After Abu Ja`far, there was no one on earth
closer to the origin (the Imam) than he"(13),
because he used to be the direct mediator between the
Imam and the Imamites via the second Saf段r, although
the Imamites had no knowledge whatsoever of his
relationship with Abu Ja`far. Perhaps for this reason a
certain agent called al‑Hasan b. al‑Fadl, who used to
deal with al‑Qattan concerning legal affairs, thought
that he was the Saf段r.(14)
The available sources make it rather difficult to detect the names of the
rest of the agents in Baghdad, particularly if one bears
in mind the fact that Abu Ja`far continued in his office
for about fifty years. It is therefore probable that
some of the agents, like Ahmad b. Ishaq, al-ｭQattan and
Hajiz, had died and been replaced by other agents. Ibn
Rustam al‑Tabari reports that Ahmad b. Ishaq died in
Hilwan on his way to Qumm, but he does not fix the date
of his death(15).
According to al‑Saduq, when Hajiz died his office was filled by Muhammad
b. Ja`far al‑Asadi al‑Razi(16).
Al‑Qattan seems to have continued his activities after
the years 279‑282/891‑894, when the government tried to
arrest him after discovering the existence of the
He also carried out his activities during al‑Mu'tadid's
but there is no reference to him after that period,
which may indicate that he died around that date.
Al‑Tusi gives several accounts of the last will of the second Saf段r in
305/917 which includes the names of the eminent agents
at that time. He reports:
"During Abu Ja断ar's last illness, the heads of the Shi'a congregated
around him. Among them were Abu `Ali b. Humam, Abu `Abd
Allah b. Muhammad al‑Kdtib, Abu `Abd Allah al‑Baqtani,
Abu Sahl Isma段l b. `Ali al‑Nawbakhti, Abu `Abd Allah
al‑Wajna, and other leaders. They asked him, "If
something happens to you, who will succeed you?" He said
to them, "This is Abu al‑Qasim al‑Husayn b. Ruh b. Abi
Bahr alｭNawbakhti. He will be in charge of my office and
will be the safar between you and the Sahib al‑Amr (the
Imam), because he is his agent and is honest and
trustworthy. So consult him in your matters, and depend
on him in your needs, because I was ordered to announce
According to another narration Ibn Ruh and Ahmad b. Ja断ar b. Matil were
amongst those who attended this meeting. The agents
thought that, in the case of the death of the second
Saf段r, either Ja断ar b. Ahmad b. Matil or his father
would succeed him, because of their close relations with
These two reports disclose the names of the chief agents of Baghdad
around the year 304‑5/916‑7 and the fact that the agents
Ahmad b. Ishaq, Hajiz and al‑Qattan, who had been in
office in Baghdad from the time of the first Saf段r, had
died, as has already been mentioned. Likewise they show
that some of the other agents from the time of the first
Saf段r were still living and had been promoted to high
ranks, like al‑Baqtani and al‑Wajna(21).
2.3 The Relationship of the Second Saf段r to the Agents in the other
Apart from his agents in Baghdad, Abu Ja断ar had other agents in various
provinces, who were mediators between the provincial
Imamites and the Twelfth Imam in legal inquiries and the
collecting of the khums.
He had three principal agents in Iraq. His agent in Kufa was Ahmad b.
Muhammad al‑Zajawzji, whose family had controlled this
office since the time of the first Saf段r and who was to
hold this office during the time of the third Saf段r.(22)
According to al‑Tusi and alｭ-Najashi, the Twelfth Imam also had contacts
in Kufa with two people from the family of Zurara:
Muhammad b. Sulayman (237‑300/851ｭ 912),(23)
and his uncle `Ali b. Sulayman, who died around the year
It seems that they were in fact cooperating with al-Zajawzji and were
working under his instruction in their areas. The family
of Zurara had been well‑known for their allegiance to
the Imams from the time of their great‑grandfather
Zurara b. A'yun (d. 150/767), the companion of the Imams
al‑Baqir and al‑Sadiq(25).
His grandson Sulayman had been the agent of the tenth Imam, al‑Hadi, both
in Kufa and Baghdad. Furthermore, Ahmad, the son of
Muhammad b. Sulayman, worked during the time of the
third Saf段r under Ahmad al‑Zajawzji(26),
which indicates the close relationship between the
latter and the family of Zurara.
In al‑Ahwaz the deputyship of the Imam was still in the hands of Muhammad
b. Ibrahim al‑Mahzayar. It is said that he received an
order from the Imam to follow the instructions of the
According to al‑Saduq one member of this family, Muhammad b. `Ali b.
Mahzayar, doubted the existence of the Twelfth Imam. His
case was raised with the Imam, who issued a letter in
which he confirmed that Allah would remove his doubt and
lead him to recover his faith(28).
The second Saf段r extended his activities to new areas. According to
al‑Saduq his main agents in Wasit were Muhammad b. `Abd
Allah alｭ Ha'iri and al‑Hasan b. Muhammad b. Qatat
al‑Saydalani. The latter was the Imam's agent for
endowments (wakil al‑waqf) in Wasit, and was contacted
by the Saf段r through Ja断ar b. Muhammad b. Matil(29).
Al‑Mawsil was another area in which the second Saf段r gained partisans,
and al‑Tusi mentions a certain Muhammad b. al‑Fadl alｭ
Mawsili, who had accepted Abu Ja断ar as the Saf段r of
Abu Ja断ar himself succeeded in attracting some
influential people to his side in that area. Al‑Irbili
reports that al‑Husayn b. Hamdan (from the famous ruling
family, the Hamdanids) became the governor of Qumm in
296/908. After he had been dismissed from his office, he
contacted the second Saf段r in Baghdad. He paid him the
khums on all the money he had earned while in office as
a sign of his obedience to the Twelfth Imam. As a result
of his belief, the rest of his family also converted to
the Imamite doctrine(31).
In Samarra the agent was Abu al‑Qasim al‑Hasan b. Ahmad. According to
al‑Saduq, he had direct contact with both the second
Saf段r and the Imam(32).
Meanwhile all the affairs of the Imamites' institutions in Iran were
controlled by the agent of Rayy, Muhammad b. Ja断ar b.
Muhammad al‑Asadi al‑Razi. He had direct contact with
the second Saf段r and previously he had been answerable
only to the first Saf段r. The other agents of the
Iranian provinces were instructed to pay the legal taxes
to him. He continued in this office until his death in
According to al‑Tusi, at this time al‑Qasim b. alｭ `Ala
was the agent of the second Saf段r in Azerbayjan. He
continued in his office until the time of the third
Saf段r, Ibn Ruh(34).
second Saf段r carried out extensive secret activities
with his agents, whom he used to meet in various
districts of Baghdad. During the period of the caliph
al‑Mu`tadid (279‑289/892‑901) the agents from the remote
provinces like Qumm used to contact the second Saf段r
and convey money and goods to him through traders who
had no knowledge of the relationship between those who
sent the goods and Abu Ja断ar as the second Saf段r. On
the contrary they brought these goods from Qumm to Abu
Ja`far thinking that he was involved with the traders
(7)Abu al-Fida, op,
cit.,II,69; al-Kamil,VIII,80; T. al-Ghayba,192.
(11)Concerning the activities
of al-Qattan, see al-Kafi,520; T.
al-Ghayba,190-1; Bihar,LI, 302, 217;
Kama値,409-1; al-Irshad,398-9. For Hajiz's
relations with the Saf段r,see Bihar,LI, 294, and
for Ahmad b. Ishaq's contacts with the Saf段rand
other agents, see Dala'il,272; Ikhtiyar,556-7.
(15)Dala'il,272 According to
al-Sadnq, Ahmad b. Ish'aq died in Hilwan before
260/874, but this cannot be accepted because
there are several indications that he outlived
al-`Askari (d. 260/874). Moreover al-Saduq
relates his report on the authority of Muhammad
b. Bahr, who was well-known for fabricating
narrations; Kama値,454, 466-7; al-Najashi,298.
(20)T. al-Ghayba,240- 241.
(21)According to Ibn Rustam,
after the death of al-`Askari in 260/874, al-Baqtani
claimed that he was the agent of the twelfth
Imam (Bihar, LI,300). But later he appears to
have abandoned his claim and served both the
second and third Saf段rs (T. al-Ghayba,242). Al-Wajna'
was amongst those who had seen the Imam
(Kama値,443). He was resident in Baghdad during
the time of the second Saf段r(al-Kaf, I, 521).
However it appears that he had some relations
with the political bases of the Imamites in
Mosul in 307/919; T. al-Ghayba,205.
Nawabigh al-Ruwat, 186.
(25)N. al-Ghayba,179; Mizan,II,
69-70, 399; Buzurg, Nawabigh al-Ruwat, 53-55,
Mashyakhat TahdhTb al-Ahkam (Najaf,1963), 13-16.
(31)al-Irbili, Kashf al-Ghumma,
IV, 409; Bihar, LI,56-7; al-Irbili does not
mention the year in which Ibn Hamdan controlled
Qumm; however, Ibn al-Athir reports that he was
installed in this post in 296/908. Consequently
the contact between the second Saf段r and Ibn
Hamdan must have occurred after that date; al-Kamil,
VIII, 14, 32.
(33)Kama値, 488, 486; Bihar,
(35)T. al-Ghayba, 192- 193.