The Nizaris, Musta’lis, Druzes and Muqanna’ah

SHAFAQNA-

The Nizaris. Ubaydullah al-Mahdi, who rose in North Africa in 292/904 and as an Ismaili declared his Imamate and established Fatimid rule, is the founder of the dynasty whose descendants made Cairo the center of their caliphate. For seven generations, this sultanate and Isma’ili Imamate continued without any divisions. At the death of the seventh Imam, al-Mustansir bi’llah Mu idd ibn ‘Ali, his sons, Nizar and al-Musta’li, began to dispute over the caliphate and Imamate. After long disputes and bloody battles, al-Musta’li was victorious. He captured his brother Nizar and placed him in prison, where he died.

Following this dispute, those who accepted the Fatimids divided into two groups: the Nizaris and the Musta’lis. The Nizaris are the followers of Hasan al-Sabbah who was one of the close associates of al-Mustansir. After Nizar’s death, because of his support of Nizar Hasan al-Sabbah was expelled from Egypt by al-Musta ’11. He came to Persia and after a short while appeared in the Fort of Alamut near Qazwin, He conquered Alamut and several surrounding forts. Then he established his role and also began to invite people to the Ismaili cause.

After the death of Hasan in 518/1124, Buzurg Umid Rudbari and after him his son, Kiya Muhammad, continued to rule following the methods and ways of Hasan al-Sabbah. After Kiya Muhammad, his son Hasan ‘Ala’ Dhikrihi’l-Islam the fourth ruler of Alamut, changed the ways of Hasan al-Sabbah, who had been Nizari, and became Batini. Henceforth, the Isma’ili forts continued as Batini. Four other rulers, Muhammad ibn ‘Ala’ Dhikrihi ‘l-Islam, Jalal al-Din Hasan, ‘Ala’ al-Din, and Rukn al-Din Khurshah, became Sultan and Imam one after another until Hulagu, the Mongol conqueror, invaded Persia. He captured the Ismaili forts and put all the Isma’ilis to death, leveling their forts to the ground.

Centuries later, in 1255/1839, the Aqa Khan of Mahalat in Persia, who belonged to the Nizaris, rebelled against Muhammad Shah Qajar in Kerman, but he was defeated and fled to Bombay. There, he propagated his Batini-Nizari cause which continues to this day. The Nizaris are today called the Aqa Khanids.

The Musta’lis. The Musta lis were the followers of al-Musta Their Imamate continued during Fatimid rule in Egypt until it was brought to an end in the year 567/1171. Shortly thereafter, the Bohra sect, following the same school, appeared in India and survives to this day.

The Druzes. The Druzes, who live in the Druze mountains in Syria (and also in Lebanon), were originally followers of the Fatimid caliphs. But as a result of the missionary activity of Nashtakin, the Druzes joined the Batini sect. The Druzes stop with the sixth Fatimid caliph al-Hakim bi’llah, whom others believe to have been killed, and claim that he is in occultation. He has ascended to heaven and will appear once again to the world.

The Muqanna’ah. The Muqanna’ah were at first disciples of ‘Ata’ al-Marwi known as Muqanna’, who according to historical sources was a follower of Abu-Muslim of Khurasan. After the death of Abu-Muslim, Muqanna claimed that Abu Muslim’s soul had become incarnated in him. Soon, he claimed to be a prophet and later a divinity. Finally, in the year 162/777, he was surrounded in the fort of Kabash in Transoxiana. When he became certain that he would be captured and killed, he threw himself into a fire along with some of his disciples and burned to death. His followers soon adopted Isma’ilism and the ways of the Batinis.

Adapted from: “Shi’ah” by: “Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i”

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