In fact, there are also many points to encourage us to disagree with
First, the installation of all the twelve Imams in the office of the
Imamate from Imam `Ali b. Abi Talib until the time of
the Twelfth Imam, had been carried out neither by the
interference of their followers nor by election. As has
been demonstrated repeatedly throughout this work the
fact is that the promotion of each new Imam occurred
according to the personal stipulation (alｭ Ta yin
bi‑l‑Nass) of the preceding Imam in his last will.
Moreover the installation of the first and second
Saf段rs had followed the same method. They were promoted
to the office of the Wikala by the order of the Imam and
there is no evidence to prove that Ibn Ruh was not
Second, none of the ten eminent agents, who were present at that meeting,
expected to participate by election, nomination or other
means in the appointment of Abu Ja`far's successor. On
the contrary, they attended the meeting so as to know
who would be stipulated as the third Saf段r by the order
of the Imam himself.
Third, the second Saf段r had ordered his personal servant, Dhaka, that in
the case of his death, he should hand his staff and the
treasure chest over to Ibn Ruh(1).
Fourth, if we take into consideration the fact that the rest of the ten
agents recognised the promotion of Ibn Ruh, especially
Ibn Matil, who was expected to be the third Saf段r(2),
and the fact that al‑Shalmaghani, even after his own
aspiration to the office of the Sifara recognised Ibn
Ruh as the Saf段r(3),
it is clear that Ibn Ruhmust in fact have been appointed
by the Imam himself and neither Abu Sahl al‑Nawbakhti
nor his family did influence the Imam's decision.
3. The Activities of Ibn Ruh al‑Nawbakhti
According to al‑Dhahabi, after the death of the second Saf段r in 305/917,
his successor Ibn Ruh went to the headquarters (Dar
alｭ-Niyaba) of the organization, where he met the
eminent Imamites such as the servant of the second
Saf段r, Dhaka. The latter prepared the things which his
master had entrusted to him, that is, the staff and the
treasure chest containing the seals of the Imams, and
handed them over to Ibn Ruh as he had been instructed.
Thereafter Ibn Ruh together with the other agents went
to the house of Muhammad b. `Ali al‑Shalmaghani(4),
his close associate who later became his rival.
From the very beginning, Ibn Ruh proved his ability to lead the
organization successfully. His shrewdness enabled him to
avoid the consequences of participation in the sectarian
discussions which took place at the palace of Ibn Yasar,
one of the high officials of alｭMuqtadir, the caliph. He
used to attend those discussions only as a listener.
According to al‑Tusi, Ibn Ruh was so cautious that he
even discharged his servant because he had cursed
Perhaps he took this step to avoid the danger posed by
the vizier, Hamid b. alｭ`Abbas (306‑311/918‑923), who
was well‑known for his hatred of Shiites generally(6).
There is evidence that the ten agents of the second Saf段r continued
their activities under al‑Nawbakhti. Among these agents
were Ja断ar b. Ahmad b. Matil, Abu Abd Allah al‑Katib,
al‑Hasan al‑Wajna`, Muhammad b. Humam,`Isma段l b. Ishaq
al‑Nawbakhti, Ahmad b. Matil, Muhammad al‑Aswad, and
al‑Madd'im. Two other names also appear in the lists of
the agents in Baghdad: al‑Shalmaghani and Ahmad b.
Ibrahim al‑Nawbakhti. The latter was a narrator of
traditions and the husband of Umm Kulthum, the daughter
of the second Saf段r, and Ibn Ruh employed him as his
personal secretary. The former was appointed as an agent
by Ibn Ruh after he had become the Saf段r(7).
Through his ten agents in Baghdad Ibn Ruh directed the activities of the
Imamite agents and their underground political cells in
the other provinces. He sent his first letter of
instructions to the agent of al‑Ahwaz, Muhammad b.
Nafis, on 5th Shawwal 305/23rd November 917, in which he
confirmed him in his office(8).
He appointed his agent al‑Shalmaghani to supervise the underground
Imamite cells among the people of Band Bistam in Baghdad(9)
and made him the mediator between himself and the agents
of Kufa, Abu Ja`far al‑Zajawzji and Ahmad b. Muhammad b.
Al‑Shalmaghani continued his supervision of the agents
of Kufa and Baghdad until the year 312/923, when Ibn Ruh
discharged him from his office and excommunicated him
after he had taught the incarnation of God inhuman form(11).
According to al‑Tusi, Abu `Abd Allah al‑Hasan al‑Wajna`, one of the ten
agents in Baghdad, practised his activities in Nisibin
and Mosul. In 307/919 he met a certain individual called
Muhammad b. al‑Fadl al‑Mawsili who denied that Ibn Ruh
was the Saf段r of the Twelfth Imam. He tried to convince
him that Ibn Ruh was truly appointed as Saf段r by the
Imam, but al‑Mawsili argued that, if Ibn Ruh was so, he
must show miracles as the first and the second Saf段rs
did before. In order to content him, al‑Hasan al‑Wajna`
brought him to Baghdad, where he saw with his own eyes
Ibn Ruh's miracles which prompted him to recognize him
as the rightful Saf段r.(12)
This report reveals that al‑Hasan al‑Wajna` was appointed by the third
Saf段r to direct the Imamites' activities in the
province of Jazira. In Wasit, al‑Hasan b. Muhammad b.
Qatat al‑Saydalani, the Wakd al‑Waqf during the time of
the second Saf段r, and Ibn Matil, who had worked as the
connecting link between al‑Saydalani and the second
continued their activities during the time of Ibn Ruh(14).
As has already been noted, some reports reveal that because of the
persecution of the Imamites which had been carried out
by the caliphs al‑Mu'tadid (279‑89/892‑902) and
al‑Muktafi (289‑95/902‑8) and their attempts to arrest
the Imam, he changed his place of residence from Samarra
to the Hijaz. This situation naturally led to
difficulties as regards the methods of communication
between him and his agents. Furthermore information
concerning the relations between the third Saf段r and
his agents in the other provinces is rare and obscure.
However, there is evidence that the Imam continued to
practise his activities from Mecca. Al‑Tusi relates that
a certain Ya qub b. Yusuf al‑Ghassani saw a group of men
from different provinces come to the house where the
Imam lived and correspond with them through an old
serving woman. Some of those men were from Baghdad(15).
Al‑Saduq reports that the agent al‑Hasan al‑Wajna` met the Imam at the
same house in 314/926,(16)
which indicates that the residence of the Imam was in
the Hijaz during the time of the third Saf段r. But there
is no available reference to the names of the agents in
Mecca and Medina.
The Imam also had agents in Egypt who recognized the sifara of Ibn Ruh(17).
According to al‑Tusi, al‑Qasim b. al‑ `Ala was still the
agent in Azerbayjan. He directed the Imamite activities
through two assistants, that is Abu Hamid `Umran b.
al‑Mufallis and Abu `Ali b. Jahdar, and also used to
look after the personal domain which the eleventh Imam,
al‑`Askari, had endowed to the Twelfth Imam.
Correspondence between al‑Qasim b. al‑`Ala and Ibn Ruh
took place through a messenger who used to come to
Azerbayjan. After the death of al‑Qasim his son al‑Hasan
was promoted to the office by the order of the Imam(18).
In Iran, Muhammad b. Ja断ar al‑Asadi al‑Razi, the agent of Rayy, had been
instructed by the second Saf段r to supervise the
activities of the agents of the other Iranian provinces.
He continued this supervision during the time of the
But after the death of alｭ-Razi in 312/924,33 the method
of communication between the agents in Iran and Ibn Ruh
changed from indirect correspondence via alｭ Razi to
direct contact between Ibn Ruh and the agents. Al‑Saduq
reports several narratives in support of this point. For
example, `Ali b. al‑Husayn b. Babawayh, the leader of
the Imamites in Qumm, made direct contact with the third
Saf段r via the agent in Baghdad, alｭ-Aswad(20).
An agent from Balkh, Muhammad b. al‑Hasan al‑Sayrafi, did likewise. He
collected the tax dues (gold and silver) from the
Imamites of Balkh and handed them over to Ibn Ruh in
Baghdad, and he continued his direct contact even during
the time of the fourth Saf段r, al‑Sammari(21).
In the same way al‑Husayn b. 'Ali al‑Qummi received ten gold ingots from
Ibn Jawshir, who asked him to hand them over to Ibn Ruh,
so he did so(22).
These reports indicate that the position of Ibn Ruh as
the Saf段r of the Twelfth Imam became wellｭ known
amongst the Imamites, in contrast to that of the first
and the second Saf段rs, whose office had been kept
secret. For this reason some ordinary Imamites were
encouraged to ignore the agents of their areas and
contact the third Saf段r directly.
Ibn Ruh was highly esteemed by the `Abbasid court during the time of the
caliph of al‑Muqtadir (295‑320/907‑932). This can be
attributed to the influence of Ibn Ruh's family, Banu
Nawbakht, in the `Abbasid administration, an influence
which had begun during the time of the caliph al‑Mansur
(d.158/774) and lasted until the time of al‑Muqtadir.
Ibn Ruh himself participated in the Abbasid
administration. According to al‑Jahshayari, he was at
one point in charge of the personal domain of the caliph
(Diwan al‑Diya al-ｭKhasya)(23).
Therefore we find some agents, such as Abu Ghalib alｭ-Zurari, paying
respect to Ibn Ruh because of the economic and political
influence of his family(24).
Abbas Iqbal illustrates Ibn Ruh's influence by reporting
that, during the time of the vizier Hamid b. alｭ`Abbas
(306‑311/918‑923), Ibn Ruh's house became the place for
the meetings of administrators, nobles, and deposed
viziers, especially Banu Furat(25).
Most likely Ibn Ruh exercised his influence upon the Shi段tes, who were
working in the administration, encouraging them to
employ their brothers in faith in the 'Abbasid
administration and offer financial help to the needy
among the Shiites in general. Certain references
indicate that these instructions were put into action by
`Ali b. Muhammad b. Furat. According to Ibn Khallikan,
he used to support 5,000 people financially(26).
When he was a vizier he appointed the agent Abu Sahl al‑Nawbakhti as
governor of the Mubarik district of Wasit and Muhammad
b. `Ali al‑Bazawfari as governor of the district of
al‑Sulh and al‑Muzara誕t in Wasit(27).
Simultaneously Muhsin b. al‑Furat apppointed the Baghdad
agent al‑Shalmaghani as deputy to certain governors in
Participation in the administration enabled the agents to study the
economic and political situation of the government and
facilitated communications through their administrative
Despite Ibn Ruh's great influence he seems to have been put in a critical
situation by the militant activities of the other
Shiites, particularly the Qaramita. These were used by
his rivals as a pretext to cause his arrest. In 311/923
a caravan of Baghdadi pilgrims, including some relatives
of the caliph al‑Muqtadir, were attacked and captured by
the Qaramita, an act which caused the people of Baghdad
to be very upset.
Since the Qaramita were Shiites,this gave the enemies of the Shiites,
like Nasr al‑Hajib the chamberlain, an excellent weapon
against the vizier Ibn al‑Furat. Nasr claimed that
because Ibn al‑Furat was Shiite, he had encouraged the
Qaramita to attack the pilgrims. Moreover, the masses
were provoked to shout in public that Ibn al‑Furat and
his son Muhsin were the "greater Qarmati and the lesser
Qarmati". In 312/924, as a result of these events Ibn
al‑Furat and his son were discharged and then murdered(29).
Al‑Tusi reports that Ibn Ruh was arrested in 312/924, but does not give
any reason for his imprisonment. Al‑Dhahabi claims that
his arrest was caused by the inflammatory propaganda
against the Qaramita. He was accused of corresponding
with the Qaramita in an effort to have them besiege
According to Ibn `Arib, Ibn Ruh was arrested because he failed to hand
over to the government the money which he owed it(31).
This reveals that some officials may have falsely accused Ibn Ruh of
corresponding with the Qaramita in order to facilitate
his arrest.. In any case, Ibn Ruh spent five years in
jail until the caliph, al‑Muqtadir, released him in
Ibn Ruh recovered his previous respect and reputation, renewed his direct
supervision over the Imamite activities, and once again
received money from the Imamites. Many of his relatives,
such as Ishaq b. Isma段li (d. 322/933), Ali b. al‑ Abbas
(d. 324/935) and al-ｭHusayn b. Ali b. al‑ Abbas, had
managed to maintain high offices in the Abbasid
administration, so his influence increased. Many
influential officials and deposed viziers like 'Ali b.
Muqla sought his acquaintance in order to pave the way
for their advancement in the `Abbasid administration(33).
For example, the vizier Ibn Muqla spent 20,000 dinars on estates and
endowed them as awqaf for the Talibiyyin in 319/931.(34)
But later he lost his office and therefore asked Ibn Ruh
to help him. Ibn Ruh contacted his relative al‑Husayn b.
'Ali b. al-`Abbas al‑Nawbakhti, who was the secretary
(katib) of Amir al‑ Umara , Ibn Ra'iq, and asked him to
support Ibn Muqla in his efforts to recover his office,
which were successful in 325/936.(35)
At the same time that the third
Saf段rwas wielding his powerful influence in official
circles, he was faced with the serious deviation of his
main deputy, al‑Shalmaghani, who began to make claims
outside Islamic beliefs.
al‑Islam, f. 132.
(2)T. al-Ghayba, 240.
According to some reports, the decision that Ibn
Ruh would be the successor of Abu Ja`far had
already been revealed by Abu Ja`far himself to a
few agents three years before his death in
305/917. Ja`far al‑Mada'ini and Muhammad b. `Ali
al‑Aswad were amongst the agents who received
these instructions. Kama値, 501‑2.
al‑Islam, f. 132 b.
(6)For a full account of the
career of Hamid b. al‑`Abbas, see al‑Kubaysi,
op. cit., 190‑9.
(7)Bihar, LI, 320‑1; T.
al-Ghayba, 212, 242‑3.
(9)Bihar, LI, 371; T.
(10)T. al-Ghayba, 197‑8, 212.
(11)al‑Najashi, 293‑4; Buzurg,
Nawabigh al‑Ruwat, 289.
(12)T. al-Ghayba, 205‑6;
Buzurg, Nawabigh al‑Ruwat, 96.
(15)T. al-Ghayba, 176, 179‑80.
(18)T. al-Ghayba, 202‑5.
According to Buzurg, al‑Qasim died in 304/916.
But alｭ-Tusi refers to his activities during the
time of the third Saf段r(305‑26/917‑37), so his
death must have occurred after 304/916; T. al-Ghayba,
(25)Iqbal, op. cit., 217.
(26)Ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al‑A`yan
(Cairo, 1948), III, 99.
(27)al‑Sabi, op. cit., 40‑1.
(28)Ibn Miskawayh, op. cit.,
(29)Ibn Miskawayh, op. cit.,
(30)T. al-Ghayba, 200; al‑Dhahabi,
Tarikh al‑Islam, f. 132a.
(31)`Arib, op. cit., 141.
(32)`Arib, op. cit., 141; T.
(34)Ibn Miskawayh, op. cit.,
(35)al‑Suli, al‑Awraq, 87.