However, it seems that the Saf段r's network was so strong and worked so efficiently that his agents from near and far knew at once that the caliph and his vizier planned to act against them. Before the plan to arrest the agents of the Imam could be executed an order to stop the collection of taxes had gone out to almost every agent. When a spy infiltrated as far as the main agent in Baghdad, Muhammad alュQattan, and informed him that he had money and wanted to send it to the Imam, al‑Qattan pretended that he knew nothing about this matter. The other agents acted similarly(1).

It appears that the caliph failed to obtain any information from his spies. Therefore he decided to try to gather information by arresting the Imamites who came to visit the tomb of al‑Hir, where al‑Husayn was buried, and the tombs of Quraysh, where the seventh and the ninth Imams were buried. However, according to the Imamite sources, this plan was revealed to the Imamites, and an order was sent out to both the families of Banu Furat and al‑Barsiyyin, warning them not to visit the tombs of Quraysh in Baghdad."(2)

According to al‑Rawandi, a report came to the caliph revealing that the Twelfth Imam was staying in the house of his father in Sdmarra. The caliph did not want knowledge of his information to reach the hands of the Imamites, so he himself dispatched three of his personal soldiers to Samarra. He described the house of al‑ `Askari to them and commanded them to enter it and kill whomever they found inside, but he did not reveal to them the name of the person whom they were going to murder. However, the Twelfth Imam managed to evade the soldiers, and they returned to the capital(3).

The hostile 'Abbasid attitude towards the agents of the second Saf段r continued after `Ubayd Allah b. Sulayman's death in 288/900. His office was given to his son al‑Qasim. The latter was well‑known in his hatred toward the Imamites and the Shiites in general. Throughout his service in office he followed the same policies of his father towards the Imamites and showed more malevolence. Al‑Tusi gives a report supporting this point: Muhammad b. `Abd Allah of Qumm, who had seen the Imam and had obvious Imamite inclinations, attracted the attention of the vizier al‑Qasim b. `Ubayd Allah. On several occasions he tried to murder him, so he finally fled to Egypt(4).

According to Ibn al‑Jawzi, al‑Qasim arrested many innocent `Alids on the pretext that they had Qarmatian inclinations, and they remained in jail until 291/903.(5)

The continual campaigns of arrest carried out by the `Abbasids and the ill‑effects of the Qaramita uprisings made the Imam and his agents even more careful. According to Abu Sahl al‑Nawbakhti the correspondence between the Imam and the Saf段rstopped about this time(6), probably in order to erase any traces which might lead the authorities to them. As another precautionary measure from the reign of al‑Mu'tadid onwards the Imam changed his place of residence several times. Reports mentioned by al‑Tusi indicate that, in an unspecified year, a certain agent told Abu Sawra that he was going to the Maghrib to meet the Imam. Someone else saw him in Syria and another met him in Egypt(7).

 Yet another report states that the 'Imam was resident in the mountains near Mecca about the year 293/905.(8) According to the second Saf段r, the Imam used to perform the pilgrimage every year(9). All these narrations would seem to indicate that the Imam did not stay in one place for more than a short time, perhaps fearing that the authorities would discover his identity and plot against his life.

3.3) The Qaramita's use of the Prophetic traditions predicting the rise of al-Qa段m al‑Mahdi in their struggle to gain immediate political success may have made the Imamites give greater emphasis to the physical signs which would precede the rise of al-Qa段m as mentioned in the Prophetic traditions and the statements of the Imams. Al-Kulayni, who was a contemporary to the second Saf段r, and his student al‑Nu'mani narrate, as has been mentioned before, five signs which must precede the rise of the real al-Qa段m al‑Mahdi:

(1) al‑Sufyani will rise in Syria and dominate it for only nine months.

(2) At the same time a rebel called al‑Yamani (al‑Qahtani)(10) will start a rebellion and advance towards Mecca.

(3) Afterwards the pure soul, a descendant of al‑Hasan, will revolt in Medina. Its inhabitants will kill him and send his head to al‑Sufyani.

(4) He will dispatch an army against Medina, but God will cause it to sink into the ground in the vicinity of the city.

(5) Thereupon in the morning an outcry in the sky will announce the full name of al-Qa段m al‑Mahdi, who accordingly will rise in Mecca. These events will take place consecutively within one year.(11)

It is clear from the Imamite presentation of these signs that they considered them a refutation of the claims of the Isma'ili leader who called himself al‑Mahdi after his rising in 296/908.(12)

The emphasis which was given to these signs served to prevent the ordinary Imamites from involving themselves in Shiite activities with which the Imamite organization (al‑Wikala) was not involved. This view is confirmed by the fact that around this period many traditions were being related and attributed to the previous Imams warning the Imamites not to participate in any revolution before the rise of al-Qa段m(13).

The circulation of these traditions led people to feel that they should live peaceably and not involve themselves in any activities which might lead to revolution. This conclusion along with the five signs of the rise of al-Qa段m, encouraged some Imamites to put forward the idea that the establishment of the state of the People of the House (Ahl al‑Bayt) is the responsibility of al-Qa段m himself and that any militant decision must be delayed until the rise of al-Qa段m.

In fact these traditions were intended as warnings against taking part in militant activities led by false claimants. But because of the way people interpreted them, very little attention was given to the traditions which encouraged the people to prepare for the rise of the Twelfth Imam after his occultation. It is reported that the tenth Imam said, 

"If your Imam goes into occultation, expect freedom from grief (to come from) beneath your feet."(14)

It is clear that the above statement of al‑Hadi meant that it is the responsibility of every follower of the hidden Imam to prepare for the rise of their Imam by their own efforts.

It is most likely that this quiescent approach was encouraged by the Imamite scholars, whose role increased during the time of the second Saf段r(15). These people trained the ordinary Imamites to follow the instructions of the narrators during the occultation of the Imam. They were aided in achieving this aim by a statement attributed to the Twelfth Imam:

"Concerning the occurrences which will happen, consult the narrators of our traditions, because they are my proof towards you, and I am the Proof of Allah.(16)

It appears that by such methods the Imamite narrators were able to prevent the Imamite masses from taking part in the militant activities of the Qaramita. However, this quiescent attitude, which was only a precautionary measure taken against the Isma'ilis, developed later into the fundamental approach towards the question of the rise of al-Qa段m. 

4. The Death of Abu Ja断ar

It is reported that the second Saf段r prophesied the time of his death and prepared his own gravestone upon which Qur'anic verses and the names of the Imams were inscribed. He died in 305/917(17)  and was buried in his house on the road leading to Kufa, on the western side of Baghdad(18).

Chapter 6: The Career of the Third Saf段r, al-Nawabakhti

1. Al‑Nawbakhti痴 Activities During the Time of the Second Saf段r

The third Saf段rwas Abu al‑Qasim al‑Husayn b. Ruh b. Abi Bahr al-Nawbakhti. He remained in the office in the years 305‑326/917‑937, although the date of his birth is not known. According to Ibn Shahr Ashub, al‑Nawbakhti was a close associate of the eleventh Imam, alュ`Askari, and was his Gate (Bab)(19), but it is difficult to accept such a report because al‑`Askari died in 260/874 and al‑Nawbakhti died in 326/937.

There are several reports indicating that al‑Nawbakhti was a native of the traditional Shiite city of Qumm. Al‑Kashshi and Yahya b. Abi Tayy (d. 630/1232) called him al‑Qummi(20).

 Moreover al‑Nawbakhti was fluent in the Persian dialect of the people of Abah, one of the suburbs of Qumm(21), and this suggests that he belonged to the branch of Banu Nawbakht resident in Qumm. However, he had emigrated to Baghdad during the time of the first Saf段r. According to al‑Tusi, he was brought up in Baghdad under the guardianship of Muhammad b. `Ali Bilal,(22) who later denied that Abu Ja`far al‑`Umari was. the second Saf段rof the Twelfth Imam. Al‑Nawbakhti joined the service of the second Saf段rand became his agent (wakil). Despite his youth al-Nawbakhti was distinguished by his shrewdness, particularly in his relations with opponents(23).

 Perhaps it was this quality which enabled him to climb quickly in the ranks of the organization.

Al‑Nawbakhti spent several years working as an agent for the second Saf段r, who used to pay him a salary of 30 dinars a month. He also received financial support from high Shiite officials and viziers like Banu Furat. The second Saf段remployed him to look after his properties and made him the connecting link between himself and the other leaders of the Imamites(24).

According to al‑Tusi, al‑Nawbakhti was the intermediary between the second Saf段r and the two agents of Kufa, al‑Zajawzji and Abu Ghalib al‑Zurari(25).  His service in the Wikala helped him in contacting high Shi段te officials of the `Abbasid administration, particularly his relatives Banu Nawbakht and also Banu Furat(26).

 By the year 298/910 he had become highly respected by the people. At that time an interesting occurrence took place which reveals his importance. Al‑Saduq narrates that an `Alid called alュ-`Aqiqi went to visit the vizier 'Ali b. `Isa al‑Jarrah asking him to solve his financial problems, but the vizier would not listen to him. Therefore al‑Nawbakhti sent a message to al‑`Aqiqi and solved his difficulties(27).

 This narration gives some indication of the social position of al‑Nawbakhti while he was still an agent of the second Saf段r.

2. The Installation of the Third Saf段r

As we have already seen, (106‑7) the ten eminent agents in Baghdad expected that Ja断ar. b. Ahmad b. Matil would take over the office of the second Saf段r when he died. But on his death bed, when the agents were all gathered together, he appointed Ibn Ruh al‑Nawbakhti, saying that the Twelfth Imam had ordered him to do so(28).

At that time the Imamites put forward different reasons for the designation of Ibn Ruh al‑Nawbakhti. Umm Kulthum, the daughter of the second Saf段r , thought that Ibn Ruh was promoted to the office of the deputyship (sifara) because of his close relationship with her father. She reports that her father even used to reveal to him what had occurred between himself and his slave‑girls(29).

However, according to the agent Ibn Qurd, the other nine agents in Baghdad, especially Ibn Matil, were closer to the second Saf段r than Ibn Ruh(30).

It seems most likely that Ibn Ruh had personal qualifications which made him a suitable Saf段r. Indeed we have a report attributed to Abu Sahl alュ Nawbakhti to support this point. The latter was asked by some Imamites as to why he had not been promoted to the sifara instead of Ibn Ruh. He answered,

"They (the Imams) know best about whom they have selected for this office. I am a person who meets opponents and argues with them. If I had known what Abu al‑Qasim (Ibn Ruh) knows about the Imam, perhaps in the course of my arguments, having found myself under the attack of enemies to give them wellュfounded reasons for the existence of the concealed Imam, I would have pointed out his whereabouts. But if Abu al‑Qasim had the Imam underneath his garments, and if his flesh was being cut into pieces to make him reveal his whereabouts, he would not yield or reveal his presence to his foes." (31)

This document indicates that Ibn Ruh was promoted to the sifara mainly because of his loyalty and the shrewdness which he had shown on several occasions. Therefore we cannot accept the opinion of Sachedina, who thinks that the appointment of Ibn Ruh as Saf段r to the Twelfth Imam, "must have been influenced by another eminent member of the Nawbakht family, namely Abu Sahl Isma`il b. `Ali. He was one of those leading Imamites, who were present in the last days of the second agent to bear witness to the designation of Abu alュQasim as the agent."(32)







(2)al-Kafi,I,525; al-Irshad,402; T. al-Ghayba,183-4. This order is believed to have come from the Imam himself.

(3)al-Rawandi, al-Khara'ij wa-l-Jara'ih (Bombay, 1301), 67. Al-Tusi mentions the names of two of the three soldiers: Ahmad b. `Abd Allah and Rashiq, the servant of al-Mu`tadid. It appears that al-Tusi's report is sound, because alュ-Tabari confirms that Rashiq was the personal soldier (ghulam, khadim) of alュ-Mu`tadid and took part in the fighting against the Zanj revolution; Tabari III,1953, 2003, 2007, 2017-9, 2082-3; T. al-Ghayba,160-1.

(4)T. al-Ghayba,163-5.

(5)Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Muntazam, VI,46.

(6)Kama値,92-3, quoted from Kitab al-Tanbih by Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti.

(7)T. al-Ghayba,166, 195-6.

(8)T. al-Ghayba,166, 165.

(9)Kama値, 440.

(10)The Prophet's companion `Abd Allah b. `Amr b. al-As used to narrate a Prophetic tradition predicting the rise of al-Qahtani, whose rising is only a sign for the rise of al-Qa段m al-Mahdi. However, Mu'awiya prohibited this companion from narrating the tradition, because he thought that the spread of such traditions would encourage the people to overthrow him; B. Sahih,384.

(11)al-Kafi,VIII,209, 264, 265, 274, 310, 331; from 273/886 onward 'Ali b. al-Husayn al-Taymali used to narrate other signs of al-Qa段m's uprising (N. alュ-Ghayba,131, 164; Kama値,649-656; al-Hadrami, Asl Ja`far b. Shurayh alュ Hadrami, f. 37a, 39a, 48a.


(13)Al-Nu'mani devotes a section of his work al-Ghayba to the refutation of the claims of the Isma`ilis (N. al-Ghayba,53-7, 176-80); al-Kulayni reports a narration on the authority of al-Sadiq, forbidding his follower `Umar b. Hanzala from taking part in any `Alid revolution before the outcry in the sky; al-Kafi,VIII,310. See also Ikhtiyar,262-3.

(14)Bihar, LI,161.

(15)For a full account of the increase of the role of the Imamite fuqaha', see Chapter VII.

(16)Kama値, 484.

(17)Al-Tusi gives two dates for the death of Abu Ja`far, the first of which, 304/916, is on the authority of the grandson of Abu Ja`far, Hibat Allah. The second report attributed to Abu Ghalib al-Zurari, the agent of Ibn Ruh in Kufa puts the date at 305/917. Because the latter had close relations with Abu Ja`far and was his contemporary, it seems that his report is more likely to be accurate; T. al-Ghayba, 238-9; al-Kamil, VIII, 80; Abu al-Fida, al-Mukhtasar,II,69.

(18)T. al-Ghayba,238-9. On the eastern side of Baghdad there is a tomb situated in a mosque called al-Khullani. The people believe that it is the grave of Abu Ja断ar. Since al-Tusi mentions that his grave is on the western side it is possible that his corpse was transported to the new grave, but there is no available source to support such a claim.

(19)Ibn Sahr Ashub, Manaqib, I, 458.

(20)Ikhtiyar, 557. The work of Ibn Abi Tayy is not extant, but al‑Dhahabi used it in writing al‑Nawbakhti's biography; al‑Dhahabi, Tarikh al‑Islam, f. 132.

(21)T. al-Ghayba, 209‑10; Iqbal, Khandan Nawbakhti, 214.

(22)T. al-Ghayba, 252‑253.

(23)T. al-Ghayba, 250- 252.

(24)T. al-Ghayba, 242‑3; Bihar, LI, 355.

(25)The narrator of this report is Abu Ghalib al‑Zurari. He reports that he used to contact the second Safi池 via al‑Nawbakhti, who when he became the third Safi池, contacted the agents of Kufa through al‑Shalmaghani; T. al-Ghayba, 202.

(26)T. al-Ghayba, 242.

(27)Kama値, 505‑6.

(28)The testament of the second safi池 to Ibn Ruh al‑Nawbakhti was reported on the authority of the agents, Muhammad b. Humam and Ja`far b. Ahmad b. Matil, who were present at that meeting and bore witness to the designation. Moreover Ibn Barina, the grandson of the second Safi池, also reports the testament and agrees with the other agents in regard to its authenticity. Kama値, 503.

(29)T. al-Ghayba, 242‑3.

(30)T. al-Ghayba, 240.

(31)T. al-Ghayba, 255.

(32)Sachedina, The Doctrine of Mahdism in Imami Shi'ism (Ph.D.) Thesis, Toronto University (Canada, 1976), 137.