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The Abbasid Vizier ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn (124-182/741-798); The Man and His Role in Early Šī‘ite History

The Abbasid Vizier ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn (124-182/741-798); The Man and His Role in Early Šī‘ite History

Author:
Publisher: AION
English

Note:

We published this work only for its deep information nothing else.

www.alhassanain.org/english

AION, 71/1-4 (2011), XX-XX

The Abbasid Vizier ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn (124-182/741-798); The Man and His Role in Early Šī‘ite History

Author (S): Khalid Sindawi

www.alhassanain.org/english

Notice:

This version is published on behalf of www.alhassanain.org/english

The composing errors are not corrected.

Table of Contents

Summary 5

Political and Historical Background 6

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Life4 8

His Master 9

His Companions 10

His External Appearance 11

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Writings 12

The Imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim Performs a Miracle for Hārūn in the Presence of ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn 13

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn and the Poet Abū al-‘Atāhiya 14

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Pro-Šī‘ite Leanings 15

How ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn Maintained Contact with the Imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim 17

The Imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim Manifests His Love for ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn 18

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn Supports the Šī‘ite Poor 19

Secrecy and Concealment in ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Religious Behaviour 20

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn as Vizier 21

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Complaints About His Job as Vizier of Hārūn al-Rašīd 22

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn as a Transmitter of Traditions 23

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Ḥadīṯs About His Spiritual Masters (šayḫ) 24

His Disciples and Transmitters 25

Conclusion 26

References 27

Notes 30

Summary

The present study discusses ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn, an important Šī‘ite figure of the 2nd 8th century, a student of the sixth imam Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq and the seventh imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim, and analyzes his role in the shaping of Šī‘ism and Šī‘ite religious jurisprudence. Ibn Yaqṭīn held the post of vizier under two Abbasid caliphs, al-Hādī and Hārūn al-Rašīd. He used his position within the Abbasid regime in two ways: he obtained information relevant to the confrontation between the Šī‘ites and their enemies and gave it to the imams, and he gave very generous financial support to needy Šī‘ites. The study also describes ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s personal characteristics, his piety, and the 186 traditions which he reported in the names of the two imams Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq and Mūsā al-Kāẓim, by which he enriched Šī‘ite religious law.

Keywords: Abbasid vizier, ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn, Early Šī‘ite history, Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq, Mūsā al-Kāẓim, Šī‘ite religious jurisprudence, Abbasid caliphs, al-Hādī, Hārūn al-Rašīd.

Political and Historical Background

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn lived in the 2nd/8th century and personally experienced the events of his age in Baghdad and al-Madīna. He was born in the reign of the tenth Umayyad caliph Hišām b. ‘Abd al-Malik, whose rule began in the year 105/723. ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn lived for about three years under Umayyad rule; however, this period was a time of great popular opposition to and revenge against this dynasty. The Abbasids then seized power. The first Abbasid ruler was Abū al-‘Abbās ‘Abdallāh al-Saffāḥ (ruled 750-754). He entered al-Kūfa as a governor in the year 132/749 and spent most of his time in power purging his state of the Umayyads and strengthening the foundations of the new regime. He did not persecute the adherents of ‘Alī, both because his regime was not yet strong enough, and because the Abbasids seized power supposedly in their name. Al-Saffāḥ died in 136/754. He was followed by his brother Abū Ǧa‘far al-Manṣūr (ruled 754-775), who did persecute ‘Alī’s followers. As a result ‘Alid rebellions against the Abbasids broke out. The first such rebellion was led by Muḥammad b. ‘Abdallāh b. al-Ḥasan (d. 762), known as He of the Pure Soul (ḏū’l-nafs al-zakiyya), who himself had aspirations on the caliphate after the Umayyad downfall, since the Hāšemites promised him their allegiance. He refused to recognize the Abbasid regime and did not swear allegianceeither to al-Saffāḥ nor to his successor al-Manṣūr. When Abbasid persecution of the ‘Alids intensified he revolted against them and seized al-Madīna in the year 145/762. Al-Manṣūr sent a large army against him, consisting of two divisions, one commanded by ‘Īsā b. Mūsā and another commanded by Ḥumayd b. Qaḥṭaba al-Ṭā’ī. The Abbasid army besieged al-Madīna, quelled the rebellion and killed its leaders. The residents of the city suffered greatly under the oppression of the Abbasid forces (al-Layṯī 1976: 138 ff.). This rebellion was followed by another in the same year (762) which broke out in al-Baṣra. This second rebellion, led by Ibrāhīm b. ‘Abdallāh al-‘Alawī, met the same fate as the first (ibid.: 147).

The Abbasids relentlessly pursued all ‘Alids and their adherents, even those who did not participate in the rebellion directly. The Abbasid authorities applied ever growing pressure on the sixth imam Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq, who was perceived as the moving spirit behind the people’s rebelliousness. Šī‘ite sources accuse the caliph al-Manṣūr of having ordered his governor in al-Madīna to end al-Ṣādiq’s life unobtrusively; they claim that the governor poisoned some grapes which the imam then ate and died (148/765); however, this accusation remains unsubstantiated.1 The imam al-Ṣādiq was followed by the twenty-year-old Mūsā al-Kāẓim (d. 799). He led his congregation with care and wisdom until the death of the Abbasid caliph al-Manṣūr in 158/774, after a reign which lasted for twenty-two years. He was succeeded by his son al-Mahdī (ruled 775-785), who began his reign with a general amnesty for all political prisoners. He also returned all the money which his father had confiscated to the rightful owners, including that which al-Manṣūr had seized from the imam al-Ṣādiq, which he gave to the latter’s son Mūsā al-Kāẓim.

The caliph al-Mahdī was a wanton profligate who ruled for eleven years (774-785). He once had the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim arrested because he perceived the latter’s great popularity as a threat. He had him taken from al-Madīna to his own capital Baghdad and put in prison. However, he released him after he had a vision in a dream,2 treated him with respect and returned him to al-Madīna. Al-Mahdī was followed by his son Mūsā al-Hādī (ruled 785-786), a young man of twenty-five who was quite hostile to the Šī‘ites (al-Layṯī 1976: 258 ff.). At the beginning of his reign he adopted a policy of repression against them, which provoked an ‘Alid uprising, led by al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī, the grandson of the imam al-Ḥasan, in the year 169/789, who was killed together with his companions in the Battle of Faḫḫ (786) near Mecca. Although the Abbasid authorities were aware of Mūsā al-Kāẓim’s pro-revolutionary sympathies, they could find no hard evidence against him. For this reason the caliph al-Mahdī immediately accused the imam the moment he heard about the uprising and threatened to have him killed. Mūsā al-Hādī died not long thereafter, in 170/786, about one year and two months after he came to power. He was followed by his brother Hārūn al-Rašīd (ruled 786-809), who pursued two different policies towards the ‘Alids and their followers, at first quite tolerant and then very repressive. He killed a number of ‘Alid leaders and members of the Prophet’s family, among them ‘Abdallāh b. al-Ḥasan Abū ‘Alī, the son of the imam Zayn al-‘Ābidīn, al-‘Abbās b. Muḥammad b. ‘Abdallāh, Idrīs b. al-Ḥasan, Yaḥyā b. ‘Abdallāh, Muḥammad b. Yaḥyā b. ‘Abdallāh, al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Abdallāh b. Ismā‘īl b. ‘Abdallāh b. Ǧa‘far b. Abī Ṭālib, and Isḥāq b. al-Ḥasan b. Zayd.

The imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim faced great tribulations in that period. He spent much of his life in prison, was threatened with death many times, and was tortured as well. He was killed in the prison of al-Sindī b. Šāhak in the year 183/799. Al-Kāẓim’s death in al-Sindī’s prison was described by Abū al-Faraǧ al-Iṣfahānī (al-Iṣfahānī 1995: 503-4), who related that al-Sindī rolled him into a carpet and ordered a servant of his to sit on his face until he died (al-Qurašī 1993: II, 86); Hārūn al-Rašīd ordered him killed in this way so that people would not accuse him of the murder (al-Iṣfahānī 1995: 417).

After the imam’s death the ‘Alids remained quiescent for the ten years which remained of Hārūn al-Rašīd’s reign (he died in 193/808). During that period they abandoned their overt activities and began to operate clandestinely, adopting a policy of what they called taqiyya3 «dissimulation» and kitmān «concealment». These were the circumstances under which ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn lived.

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Life4

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Life4

Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī b. Mūsā b. Yaqṭīn, a client of the Banū Hāšim tribe, or according to some of the Banū Asad tribe, was born in al-Kūfa in the year 124/741, towards the end of the Umayyad period. His father Yaqṭīn was a supporter of the Abbasids and a prominent Šī‘ite propagandist. The Umayyad caliph Marwān b. Muḥammad (127-132/744-750) sought to capture him and he therefore went into hiding and his wife and his two sons, ‘Alī and ‘Ubayd, fled to al-Madīna. When the Umayyads fell from power and the Abbasid state was established, Yaqṭīn came out of hiding and his wife returned with their children to al-Kūfa. Yaqṭīn joined the Abbasid caliph Abū al-‘Abbās al-Saffāḥ (750-754), and he remained also with his brother Abū Ǧa‘far al-Manṣūr (754-775). He was a Šī‘ite and a supporter of the imamate, as his son ‘Alī, who was already active in the days of the sixth imam Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq (d. 765) and transmitted traditions about and in the name of the imam ‘Alī b. Mūsā al-Riḍā (d. 818). ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn died in Baghdad during the imamate of al-Kāẓim in the year 182/798 at the age of nearly fifty-seven, and was buried in Baghdad. He had two children. One, al-Ḥasan (al-Ṭūsī s.d.a: 354, no. 5246-7; al-Ḥillī 1990: 39, no. 4), was a transmitter, jurist and theologian, who transmitted traditions in the name of the father of the two imams Mūsā al-Kāẓim and ‘Alī al-Riḍā (al-Ṭūsī s.d.a: 355, no. 5259-20; Ibn Dāwūd al-Ḥillī 1963: 115, nos. 440-41; al-Barqī 1963: 51; al-Ḥillī 1990: 49, no. 3). The other, al-Ḥusayn, was a companion of Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī al-Riḍā. He wrote a book entitled Masā’il Abī al-Ḥasan Mūsā ‘alayhi al-salām («Issues of Abū al-Ḥasan Mūsā peace be upon him»; al-Naǧāšī s.d.: 45, no. 91; al-Ṭūsī s.d.b: 48, no. 155). ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn had two grandsons, one from each son. Al-Ḥasan’s son, al-Qāsim b. al-Ḥasan (Ibn Dāwūd al-Ḥillī 1963: 493, no. 385; al-Ḥillī 1990: 248, no. 7), cognomen Abū Muḥammad, lived in Qumm. Al-Ḥusayn’s son was called al-Qāsim b. al-Ḥusayn (Ibn Dāwūd al-Ḥillī 1963: 540). He also had three brothers: Ya‘qūb (al-Kulaynī s.d.: III, 340, no. 14; 379, no. 4), al-Ḥusayn (ibid.: III, 518, no. 5; IV, 451, no. 1) and Ayyūb (ibid.: IV, 160, no. 2). Šī‘ite ḥadīṯ collections quote a number of traditions in their name.

His Master

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s master in faith was Abū Muḥammad Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, a very prominent Šī‘ite born in the reign of the caliph Hišām b. ‘Abd al-Malik (724-743). He met the sixth imam Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq between al-Ṣafā and al-Marwa; no traditions have been transmitted in his name. The imam ‘Alī al-Riḍā publicly praised his knowledge and legal opinions. The imam gave him a great sum of money as a religious endowment and never reproached him. He was said to have one of four men who were the last with knowledge of prophecy, namely Salmān al-Fārisī, Ǧābir b. ‘Abd Allāh, Sayyid and Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān.5 When people came to the imam al-Riḍā and asked him who would instruct them in the features of their faith he would refer them to Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān. Šī‘ite tradition also relates that when he presented his book ‘Amal al-yawm wa’l-layla («Work of Day and Night») to the imam Abū al-Ḥasan al-‘Askarī (d. 873) the latter said that God would give the author a light for each letter on the Day of Resurrection. Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān composed more than thirty books, includingǦāmi‘ al -Āṯār, Kitāb al-šarā’i‘, Kitāb al-‘ilal, Iḫtilāf al-ḥadīṯ, Masā’il ‘an Abī al-Ḥasan Mūsā b. Ǧa‘far ‘alayhi al-salām and others. The traditions which he quotes in his books are considered reliable and authoritative (al-Ṭūsī s.d.b: 181, no. 789).

His Companions

Šī‘ite sources mention that ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn had a number of companions, the most prominent among whom was Naǧiyya b. al-Ḥāriṯ (al-Ḥillī 1990: 176, no. 2; al-Kaššī 1929: 452, no. 852). He also had a muezzin, whose cognomen was Abū Muḥammad (al-Kaššī 1929: 145-46, no. 231; 215, no. 384). It seems that before he became a vizier for Hārūn al-Rašīd he was a modest spice merchant (al-Ḥillī 1990: 91, no. 3; al-Kaššī 1929: 430, no. 805).

His External Appearance

We know very few details about his appearance, except that he had two locks of hair (al-Kaššī 1929: 433, no. 812). The imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim compared him to the Prophet’s companions. On one occasion the imam said to some of his companions when ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn approached «Whoever would gladly see one of the Prophet’s companions, let him look at this approaching man». One of those who were present said: «He must then be one who will go to Paradise», to which the imam replied: «Indeed I can testify that he will go to Paradise» (ibid.: 431, no. 810).

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Writings

In addition to the many traditions which he transmitted, he also left three books, which are no longer extant. Only their names are still known today (al-Ṭūsī s.d.b: 91, no. 378; al-Naǧāšī s.d.: 273, no. 715; al-Māmaqānī 1930: II, 315):

A. Masā’il ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn ‘an al-imām al-Ṣādiq min al-malāḥim. The book’s title «On Battles Reported by ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn in the Name of the Imam al-Ṣādiq» would seem to indicate that it dealt with prophecies made by al-Ṣādiq concerning future strife, in answer to questions posed to him.

B. Munāẓara li’l-šākk bi-ḥaḍrat al-imām al-Ṣādiq «Disputation of a Doubter in the Presence of the Imam al-Ṣādiq», as its name shows, apparently contained a debate between the imam and an unknown doubter.

C. Masā’il ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn ‘an Abī al-Ḥasan Mūsā b. Ǧa‘far. The title of this book «Topics which ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn took from Abū al-Ḥasan Mūsā b. Ǧa‘far» indicates that it dealt with subjects that ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn had learned from the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim. The number of compositions which ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn is known to have written is quite modest in comparison with other students of the imam al-Riḍā. The reason for this may perhaps be found in his political preoccupations, which took up most of his time. Šī‘ite sources indicate that al-Šayḫ al-Mufīd (Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al-Nu‘mān al-‘Ukburī, d. 413/1022) mentioned ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s books. It is also related that the latter’s son al-Ḥusayn passed on his books to his brother al-Ḥasan, who then transmitted them to Aḥmad b. Muḥammad, who transmitted them to Aḥmad b. Idrīs, who transmitted them to Muḥammad b. Yaḥyā, to al-Ḥimyarī, to Sa‘d b. ‘Abdallāh, and to Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan (al-Ṭūsī s.d.b: 91, no. 378).

The Imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim Performs a Miracle for Hārūn in the Presence of ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn

According to Twelver Šī‘ism the imam is a miracle worker,6 in contrast to the Sunnī creed, which believes that only prophets are capable of performing miracles. In fact, performing miracles is only one of the special powers possessed by imams according to Šī‘ite belief. Such traits are used by Šī‘ites to argue for the legitimacy of their imams and to strengthen their claims that imams are on a par with prophets. The imam Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq is said to have performed more miracles than any other. Al-Maǧlisī (d. 1698) in his Biḥār al-anwār quotes 227 accounts of miracles ascribed to him, a number which is exceeded only by the miracles of ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib. The imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim, for example, is mentioned as a worker of miracles in only 106 traditions.7 It is therefore not to be wondered that an imam was reported to have performed a miracle for Hārūn al-Rašīd and his companions in the presence of ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn. Šī‘ite sources relate a miracle performed by the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim that was witnessed by ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn, who also reported it, as follows: the caliph Hārūn al-Rašīd summoned his chamberlain Ḥumayd b. Mihrān, a sorcerer, in order to make light of the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim. When the table was set Ḥumayd b. Mihrān cast a spell over the bread, and when the imam al-Kāẓim’s servant tried to take a piece of bread it flew out of his hands. This occasioned much amusement and Hārūn al-Rašīd broke out in laughter. The imam al-Kāẓim then raised his head in the direction of a picture of a lion that was painted on one of the curtains and spoke to it: «O lion of God, take the enemy of God», whereupon the picture was transformed into a real lion, which leaped out of the picture and devoured the sorcerer Ḥumayd b. Mihrān. Hārūn al-Rašīd and his companions fell to the ground in a faint, in terror of what they had seen. When they recovered Hārūn al-Rašīd asked Mūsā al-Kāẓim to bring back the man whom the lion had devoured, and the imam pleaded for his return (Ibn Šahrāšūb 1959: IV, 299; Sindawi 2007). The account of this miracle shows that Šī‘ites believe that their imam has the power to turn an inanimate picture into a living animal in the presence of others, in order to prove to them that as a legitimate imam he possessed super-human powers, not only to create a living lion out of a picture, but also to command the lion to devour anyone who dared ridicule him.8 The act by which the imam turned the picture of the lion into a real animal consisted of raising his head towards the picture and addressing it as follows: «O lion of God, take the enemy of God», whereupon the lion immediately leaped out of the picture and did as he was ordered. The imam’s call was thus answered immediately and the lion did his bidding forthwith. The act of devouring is depicted as violent and fear-inspiring, perhaps as a Šī‘ite warning to its enemies not to mock its imams. It would thus seem that this type of miracle serves as a kind of compensation whereby the imams were able to take vengeance on their enemies who had deprived them of their rights and prevented them from becoming the leaders of the Muslim state. God, according to this view, compensated them by giving them spiritual powers which they were able to utilize in times of trouble.

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn and the Poet Abū al-‘Atāhiya

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn is reported to have had a close relationship with poets and poetry, perhaps as a stratagem for hiding his true interest, namely to further the Šī‘ite cause using his position as vizier. In the biography of the Abbasid poet Abū al-‘Atāhiya (Ismā‘īl b. al-Qāsim, d. 826) ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn is mentioned as a friend of the poet. Abū al-‘Atāhiya was known for his impudence and for his adherence to the Abbasid state. ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn always showed kindness to him and regard for his circumstances and every year gave him a generous gift, but one year he was late with the gift. Still, whenever Abū al-‘Atāhiya met him or came to him he showed his joy and praised him. It is related that once ‘Alī met Abū al-‘Atāhiya as the latter was about to go to the caliph’s house. He stopped him and Abū al-‘Atāhiya recited the following poem for him:

Until when, o Ibn Yaqṭīn, will I wait for something which you have not brought?

Greetings and a friendly smile in a man of your standing do not satisfy meThis is the time in which men demand from me the haughtiness of kings and the morals of the poor

Do you not know that God will compensate you and increase your grace, o Ibn Yaqṭīn?

Save me with your gift in this world, not on the Day of Judgment.

The moment Abū al-‘Atāhiya finished reciting these verses ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn said to him: «I refuse to allow either of us to leave this place until you are satisfied», and ordered that he be given what he used to send him every year. This was brought immediately, and Ibn Yaqṭīn remained standing there until he received it (al-Amīn 1960: VIII, 41, 371; Abū al-‘Atāhiyya 2003: 418, no. 528). In my opinion ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn was fully familiar with Abū al-‘Atāhiya’s reputation as an impudent poet, and yet maintained an overt friendship with him and brought him an annual gift in order to draw attention away from his political activities and hide his Šī‘ite connections.

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Pro-Šī‘ite Leanings

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn was pro-Šī‘ite. As a vizier to two caliphs, al-Hādī (ruled 785-786) and Hārūn al-Rašīd (ruled 786-809) he helped the Šī‘ites financially and spiritually. It is related that Hārūn al-Rašīd himself gave an order that ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn should personally see to the collection of taxes from the Šī‘ites and the supporters of the Prophet’s family. ‘Alī secretly asked the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim (d. 799) for advice on this matter. The imam proposed to him that he return the money to its Šī‘ite owners. And indeed, he would collect taxes from the Šī‘ites quite openly, and then return it to them clandestinely, without Hārūn al-Rašīd’s knowledge. In addition, ‘Alī provided the Šī‘ites, and especially the imam al-Kāẓim, with vital information about the regime, its strength, its ability to face up to challenges, and about its plans to purge its Šī‘ite opponents.

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn was thus of considerable importance to the Šī‘ites at the time. One example for his valuable assistance concerns the events of the Battle of Faḫḫ (786),9 an uprising in which the ‘Alid forces lost. After this defeat the Abbasid caliph Mūsā al-Hādī threatened the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim. He even planned to travel to al-Madīna and unearth the graves of four imams, al-Ḥasan. ‘Alī (d. 661), ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn (d. 713), Muḥammad al-Bāqir (d. 733) and Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq (d. 765), in the cemetery ofBaqī‘ al -Ġarqad in al-Madīna, and to exhume their mortal remains. He threatened to kill Mūsā al-Kāẓim and accused him of having been behind the uprising. ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn immediately sent this information to the imam, who took the needed precautions. He went on pilgrimage to his grandfather’s grave and there recited the call of «Ǧawšan al-Ṣaġīr»10 repeatedly, performed the supererogatory rites, and a few days later the unexpected happened, when the caliph al-Hādī was killed at the hand of his own mother (al-Maǧlisī 1984: XLVIII, 151, no. 25). ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn was concerned lest his close association with the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim would be discovered by Hārūn al-Rašīd, especially in light of the fact that the latter had sent out spies to ferret out Šī‘ite sympathizers in his government. Indeed, were it not for the imam’s advice to ‘Alī to keep his activities hidden from Hārūn al-Rašīd he would certainly have been killed.

Šī‘ite writers report two instances in which the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim advised ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn to keep his activities secret. The first incident, known as theDurrā‘a Affair (durrā‘a: a long garment open at the front): ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn was in the presence of Hārūn al-Rašīd when the latter received a present from the Byzantine emperor. Among the presents was a black durrā‘a of silk brocade with gold threads. ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn looked at the presents and the caliph gave them to him as a present. ‘Alī then sent all the garments to the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim, including the durrā‘a, and also added some money which he had prepared out of the «fifth»11 of his assets. All this came to the imam, who kept the money and the clothes, but nine months later he sent the durrā‘a back to Ibn Yaqṭīn with instructions not to let it out of his possession since he would eventually need it. When ‘Alī received the imam’s letter he was frightened, but kept the durrā‘a. A few days later ‘Ali b. Yaqṭīn dismissed one of his servants, who knew of this employer’s close relations with Mūsā al-Kāẓim and the things which Ibn Yaqṭīn sent him. He informed Hārūn al-Rašīd that Ibn Yaqṭīn recognized Mūsā al-Kāẓim as imam and sent him a fifth of his income every year, and also gave him the durrā‘a. The caliph was incensed and said that he would investigate the matter, and if he found that it was true then he would kill ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn. He immediately sent his men to bring Ibn Yaqṭīn. When the latter was brought into his presence he asked him: «What did you do with the durrā‘a with which I covered you Ibn Yaqṭīn answered: «O Commander of the Faithful, I keep it in a sealed and perfumed basket. I have guarded it well. I open it, look at it and kiss it, then put it back in its place, every morning and every evening». According to another version, ‘Alī said that he wore it during prayer.

Hārūn al-Rašīd asked Ibn Yaqṭīn to bring it to him immediately. The caliph called a servant and sent him to Ibn Yaqṭīn’s house. The servant brought the durrā‘a to Hārūn, who saw that it was indeed folded in a perfumed container. Hārūn’s anger subsided and he asked ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn to put the garment back in its place. He said to him: «From this day on I shall not believe any slander». He gave Ibn Yaqṭīn a prize and ordered the servant to be given a thousand lashes, but after about five-hundred he died.12 The second incident, known as the Ablution Affair: ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn had the habit of performing the ablution before prayer in the Sunnī manner,13 in accordance with the principle of taqiyya (dissimulation). He sent a request to the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim to instruct him in the Šī‘ite manner, but the imam commanded him to continue to perform the ritual as the Sunnīs do, until the proper time came, when he would teach him the Šī‘ite manner of ablution. And indeed, after a time someone slandered ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn and told Hārūn al-Rašīd that he was a Šī‘ite, an adherent of the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim who performed the ablution in the manner of the latter. Hārūn al-Rašīd then summoned ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn and asked him to perform a number of duties in his home. When the time for prayer came al-Rašīd hid behind a wall in order to observe ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn unseen. ‘Alī performed the ablution as the imam had toldhim, that is in the Sunnī manner, whereupon Hārūn al-Rašīd rose and said to ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn: «Whoever claimed that you were Rāfiḍī14 “defector” or “deserters” is a liar». After this the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim send a letter to ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn in which he told him that from then on he may perform the ablution in the Šī‘ite manner, and explained to him the way it was to be done.15

How ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn Maintained Contact with the Imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim

The two maintained contact in a number of ways, which were kept secret in order to prevent the Abbasid caliph from discovering their relationship.

Occasionally ‘Alī sent letters to the imam via messengers. According to one tradition ‘Alī once sent ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. al-Ḥaǧǧāǧ to the imam with a request that the imam pray for him. The imam asked ‘Alī’s messenger if ‘Alī wanted him to supplicate God for this world or the next. The messenger replied that Ibn Yaqṭīn wanted his supplication for the world to come, whereupon the imam al-Kāẓim placed his hand on the messenger’s chest and said to him: «You may ensure ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn that the fire [of hell] will never touch him» (al-Kaššī 1929: 431, nos. 807-10).

The Imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim Manifests His Love for ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn

The imam loved ‘Alī dearly. He not only promised him that he would go to heaven and that he would be saved from the fires of hell (Būḫamsīn 1990:

64-67), but also expressed his love on several occasions, as in the following instances:

A. One day ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn visited the imam al-Kāẓim, who was sitting with his companions at home. When ‘Alī appeared the imam looked at him and said to his companions: «Whoever would be happy to gaze at a companion of the Prophet of God, let him gaze at this man who has just come», and pointed at ‘Alī. One of those present asked excitedly:

«Is he one who will go to Paradise . The imam replied: «I testify that he will».

B. Another time ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn sent a messenger to the imam al-Kāẓim, in which he asked him to pray for him. When the messenger arrived he said to the imam: «O son of God’s Messenger, Ibn Yaqṭīn sent me to you so would supplicate God for him». The imam asked him: «For the world to come and the messenger answered: «Yes», whereupon the imam said to him: «You may ensure ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn that the fire [of hell] will never touch him».

C. On yet another occasion Dāwūd al-Raqqī16 gave the following report: «I came into the presence of my father al-Ḥasan (the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim) on the Day of Immolation» (the 10th day of the month of Ḏū’l-Ḥiǧǧa, the first day of the Feast of Sacrifice) and he said to me: «No one took notice of my when I was at al-Mawqif (a place of pilgrimage during the ḥaǧǧ near Minā) except for ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn, who stayed with me and did not leave me».

D. In a fourth report the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim said of ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn: «It is ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s good fortune that I mentioned him at al-Mawqif» (Būḫamsīn 1990: 66).

‘Alī b. YaqṭīnSupports the Šī‘ite Poor

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn helped the Šī‘ite poor. On the imam al-Kāẓim’s directions he gave great sums and sent a fifth of his earnings to the imam. The fifth which he sent annually was a considerable amount of money, occasionally reaching hundreds of thousands of dirhams. ‘Alī also supported the imam in times of trouble and need. Whenever the imam al-Kāẓim was needy, or wanted to help someone for whom he cared, he would write to ‘Alī and ask him to buy or arrange what was needed (al-Kaššī 1929: 269, no. 484). Two of ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s companions relate that he sent them the following message: «Buy two female camels and stay off the road». He gave them money and letters and told them to bring them to the imam al-Kāẓim and to take care that no onediscover what they were doing. They reported what happened: «We came to al-Kūfa and bought two female camels, took supplies and left. We travelled off the road until we came to Baṭn al-Rimma, where we tied the camels, put feed before them and sat down to eat. As we were eating a rider came with a mule, and as he approached we saw that it was the imam al-Kāẓim. We rose and greeted him, and gave him the letters and the other things we had with us». He took some letters out of his sleeve and gave them to us. He said: «These are the replies to the letters you brought». We said: «Our supplies are low. With your permission, we would like to enter al-Madīna, visit God’s Messenger and buy some supplies». He said: «Show me your supplies». We took out our provisions and he turned them over in his hand and said: «This will be enough for you until you reach al-Kūfa, and as for God’s Messenger, you have seen him» (ibid.: 436-37, no. 821).

Among those whom ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn supported was one ‘Abdallāh b. Yaḥyā al-Kāhilī, Abū Muḥammad and his family. This he did at the request of the imam al-Kāẓim, who promised him in return that he would go to Paradise. ‘Alī fulfilled his obligation towards al-Kāhilī and his family until the latter’s death. According to the reports what he sent was enough to support al-Kāhilī’s family and his relatives as well (al-Ḥillī 1990: 108-9, no. 31; al-Kaššī 1929: 448, no. 841; al-Naǧāšī s.d.: 222, no. 580).

Secrecy and Concealment in ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Religious Behaviour

It is reported of ‘Alī that he kept his religious tendencies secret and did not perform Šī‘ite rites, out of fear that his Šī‘ite leanings would be found out. ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn prayed often, but in secret (Būḫamsīn 1990: 128; al-Qurašī 1993: II, 285). He also concealed his pilgrimage to Mecca in a variety of ways. In fact, every year he asked people to perform this duty for him. His secretary, Sulaymān b. al-Ḥusayn, states: «One year I counted one-hundred-and-fifty people who went on pilgrimage for ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn, to each of which he gave at least ten-thousand dirhams» (al-Kaššī 1929: 437, no. 824). If there is any truth in this tradition, it means that Ibn Yaqṭīn’s income must have been very large indeed. It would seem that he used the pilgrimage as a means for giving support to Šī‘ites in a way which would not arouse his enemies’ suspicions. This conjecture is supported by thefact that among the people he helped were important personages such as ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. al-Ḥaǧǧāǧ and ‘Abdallāh b. Yaḥyā al-Kāhilī, who were companions of the imam and disliked by the authorities (al-Ṭūsī 1970: 435). One final point in this respect is the fact that ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn included not only Šī‘ite elders in his plan but others as well, for the purpose of making the Šī‘ite creed known and to dispute with the other religious sects. ‘Alī was thus able to conceal his connection with Šī‘ism and the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim. In fact, he did this so well that a senior Šī‘ite complained to the imam that he suspected ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn of being a dissimulator who only pretended to be a Šī‘ite and an adherent of the imam. The imam asked him if he had evidence for his accusation. He replied that one day he was at a gathering in the home of a prominent man in Baghdad, and ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn was also present. The host asked ‘Alī if he thought that Mūsā b. Ǧa‘far was the imam rather than the reigning caliph. ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn replied: «I do not say this. Rather, I say that Mūsā is not imam, whoever is not imam then Mūsā is not him, and I agree that this is my imamate and I reject the imamate of anyone else». The host then said: «May God give you recompense andmay He curse those who slander you». The imam then said to the man who brought him this report: «It is not as you thought. ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn is better versed in jurisprudence than you are». When he said «Mūsā is not imam» he meant that whoever is not imam, Mūsā is not like him, that is, he is imam, and he reiterated this by saying «this is my imamate» and rejected «the imamate of anyone but me». The imam then added: «O ‘Abdallāh, when will you cease from such suspicions about your brother. Do penance before God». When the man realized what the imam meant he was greatly distressed and said to him: «I do not possess money, but I havegive half of my devotions and prayers to you, family of the Prophet, and my curses to your enemies». Thereupon the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim said to him: «Now you have escaped hellfire» (al-Maǧlisī 1984: LXXII, 195, no. 7; al-Ṭabrisī 1982: 394-95; al-‘Askarī 1988: 359-60).

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn as Vizier

Our written sources do not tell us the circumstances under which ‘Alī b.

Yaqṭīn was appointed to the post of vizier by Hārūn al-Rašīd and the specific function he had. Šī‘ite sources relate that ‘Alī had a close relationship with the Abbasids, by whom he was appointed to senior posts, and that Hārūn al-Rašīd chose him to be his vizier. ‘Alī agreed to take the position after he had secretly sought the advice of the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim, al-Kāẓim who urged him to agree to the appointment. Later ‘Alī asked the imam a number of times for permission to resign, but the imam refused to accede to his request (al-Maǧlisī 1984: XLVIII, 158, no. 32), and explained that his position was important for the preservation of Šī‘ite lives, property and rights. The imam said to ‘Alī: «Safeguard me one tuft and I will safeguard you three». ‘Alī asked him: «What are they , and the imam replied: «The three which I will safeguard you are: that the heat of iron will never strike and kill you, that you will never know poverty, and that you will never be put in prison; and the one thing you will guarantee is that you will respect every religious leader who comes to you». ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn accepted this request, and the imam guaranteed him the three (ibid.: 136, no. 10).

The imam al-Kāẓim said to ‘Alī: «We (the Šī‘ites) have a friend in you and your brothers have strength in you. May God through you mend a fracture, and through you may He break the enmity of those who oppose His supporters» (ibidem).

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn remained true to his commitment and continued to give succour to the Šī‘ites during his entire term of office and helped them in those dire times to maintain their lives and their independence.17

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s ComplaintsAbout His Job as Vizier of Hārūn al-Rašīd

The imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim once came to Iraq and met secretly with ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn. When the latter complained about his work as vizier the imam said to him: «O ‘Alī, God has supporters with the supporters of darkness, with whom He defends his own supporters, and you are one of them» (al-Maǧlisī 1984: LXXII, 349-50, no. 56; al-Kaššī 1929: 43, no. 817). As mentioned above, ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn asked the imam a number of times for permission to resign, but the imam refused, out of concern for the lives of the Šī‘ites.

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn as a Transmitter of Traditions

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn played an important role in the life of the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim and his reports are often quoted in Šī‘ite ḥadīṯ and history collections.

In Šī‘ite traditional sources ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn is often quoted as a reliable source of information about pronouncements which he heard from Mūsā al-Kāẓim, Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq and others. Most of these ḥadīṯs contain answers to questions which were posed to the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim. Among other topics with which ‘Alī’s ḥadīṯs deal are issues in Šī‘ite jurisprudence, for example on funeral procedures (al-Kulaynī s.d.: III, 168, no. 1), charity (ibid.: III, 518, no. 5), the rules of the pilgrimage to Mecca (ibid.: IV, 380, no. 8), ritual ablution before prayer (ibid.: III, 18, no. 15), major ritual impurity (ibid.: III, 46, no. 3), why God spoke to Mūsā (ibid.: III, 123), pregnant woman who dies (ibid.: III, 155, no. 1), the traveler’s prayer (ibid.: III, 435, no. 8), and others. It is, however, very difficult to determine whether ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn did in fact report all the ḥadīṯs attributed to him or whether some or most of them are later fabrications.

‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn’s Ḥadīṯs About His Spiritual Masters (šayḫ)

Many of ‘Alī’s ḥadīṯs report the words of the imams, especially al-Kāẓim. In all, some 187 ḥadīṯs about the imams are ascribed to him. From the ḥadīṯs found in various Šī‘ite sources and ascribed to ‘Alī, it appears that he had nineteen spiritual masters: the imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim, who held a very important place in his life (al-Kulaynī s.d.: I, 313, no. 10; II, 13, no. 2; III, 168, no. 1; III, 435, no. 8; VI, 434, no. 24; al-Ḥillī 1990: 91, no. 3); the imam Ǧa‘far al-Ṣādiq, in whose name he related a single ḥadīṯ (al-Ḥillī 1990: 91, no. 5; al-Ṭūsī s.d.c: I, 166, no. 48); Muḥammad b. Sinān (al-Kulaynī s.d.: IV, 25, no. 3); al-Faḍl b. Kaṯīr al-Madā’inī (ibid.: II, 106, no. 5; V, 317, no. 52); ‘Īsā b. Sulaymān (al-Kaššī 1929: 396, no. 597); Yūnus, ‘Alī’s teacher (al-Kulaynī s.d.: IV, 505, no. 3); Ḥafṣ b. ‘Amr b. Muḥammad Abū Muḥammad (ibid.: IV, 541, no. 5); his muezzin, whose name was al-Ḥusayn b. Ḫālid (ibid.: V, 104, no. 5; al-Ṭūsī s.d.c: VI, 209, no. 2); ‘Amr b. Ibrāhīm (al-Kulaynī s.d.: V, 236, no. 17); ‘Āṣim b. Ḥumayd (ibid.: V, 391, no. 7); Yūnus b. Ya‘qūb (ibid.: V, 236, no. 17)18 b. Qays Abū ‘Alī al-Ǧalāb al-Baǧalī al-Dahnī; Muḥammd b. Hāšim (ibid.: VI, 31, no. 5); Ruhm al-Anṣārī;19 al-Madāyinī (al-Kaššī 1929: 398, no. 743); Hāšim b. Ḫālid (al-Kulaynī s.d.: VI, 405, no. 3); Bakr b. Muḥammad (ibid.: VI, 428, no. 1); ‘Amr b. Ibrāhīm (al-Ṭūsī s.d.c: III, 31, no. 21; III, 282, no. 157); and al-Ḥasan b. Ṣabbāḥ (ibid.: VII, 10, no. 38).

His Disciples and Transmitters

In this section we deal with those people who learned the imams’ words from ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn and transmitted them. To judge by the available sources he appears to have had eighteen disciples: his son al-Ḥasan (al-Kulaynī s.d.: I, 11, no. 7; II, 106, no. 5), al-Ḥusayn b. Mayyāḥ (ibid.: I, 58, no. 18; V, 158, no. 7; V, 305, no. 8), Ibn Abī ‘Umayr (ibid.: II, 123, no. 7; III, 192, no. 2; III, 435, no. 8; III, 155, no. 1; III, 547, no. 5; IV, 380, no. 8; al-Ṭūsī s.d.c: VII, 224, no. 73), Muḥammad b. Abī Ḥamza (al-Kulaynī s.d.: VI, 186, no. 5), Ḥarīz (ibid.: III, 518, no. 8), Ibrāhīm b. Abī Maḥmūd (ibid.: V, 110, no. 3; al-Ṭūsī s.d.c: VI, 335, no. 48), Ḥamād b. ‘Uṯmān (ibid.: II, 212, no. 24), ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. al-Ḥaǧǧāǧ (ibid.: VII, 22, no. 92), his muezzin Ḥafṣ b. ‘Amr b. Muḥammad Abū Muḥammad (al-Kaššī 1929: 432, no. 814), Ya‘qūb b. Yazīd (al-Kulaynī s.d.: VI, 387, no. 1), Sulaym (his slave) ‘Alī b. Yaqṭīn (ibid.: VIII, 383, no. 583), Ṣafwān b. Yaḥyā (al-Ṣadūq 1993: I, 415, no. 1226), Ǧa‘far b. ‘Īsā b. ‘Ubayd (ibid.: IV, 209), Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. ‘Īsā (al-Ṭūsī s.d.c: I, 111, no. 26), Abū Ḫālid (his slave; ibid.: V, 491, no. 410), his brother Ya‘qūb (ibid.: III, 11, no. 36; III, 12, no. 19.), his brother Ayyūb (ibid.: III, 101, no. 35.), and his scribe Sulaymān b. al-Ḥusayn (al-Kaššī 1929: 437, no. 824).