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 as follows:

"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 al‑Samman(7).

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 the authorities.

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 Twelfth Imam(17). He also carried out his activities during al‑Mu'tadid's regime (279ュ289/891‑901),(18) 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 this proclamation."(19)

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 him(20).

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 Provinces 

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 313/925.(24)

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 second Saf段r.(27)

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 the Imam(30). 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 312/924.(33) 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).

The 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 only commercially(35).






(1)T. al-Ghayba,233-4.

(2)al-Kafi,I,329, 331.





(7)Abu al-Fida, op, cit.,II,69; al-Kamil,VIII,80; T. al-Ghayba,192.


(9)al-Tabarsi, al-Ihtijaj,II,297-301.

(10)T. al-Ghayba,240.

(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.



(18)T. al-Ghayba,191-2.

(19)T. al-Ghayba,242.

(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.

(22)T. al-Ghayba,198.

(23)T. al-Ghayba,193, 195.     

(24)al-Najashi,198; Buzurg, Nawabigh al-Ruwat, 186.

(25)N. al-Ghayba,179; Mizan,II, 69-70, 399; Buzurg, Nawabigh al-Ruwat, 53-55, 161-3; al-Najashi,132-3.

(26)al-Khirsan, Sharh Mashyakhat TahdhTb al-Ahkam (Najaf,1963), 13-16.

(27)T. al-Ghayba,235.

(28)Kama値, 485.

(29)Kama値, 504.

(30)T. al-Ghayba,205-6.

(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.

(32)Kama値, 493, 495.

(33)Kama値, 488, 486; Bihar, LI,294, 325.

(34)T. al-Ghayba,202.

(35)T. al-Ghayba, 192- 193.