Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya

  (Redirected from Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah)

Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya (Arabic: محمد بن الحنفية, romanizedMuḥammad ibn al-Ḥanafīyya; c. 637–February 700), was an Alid political and religious leader. He was a son of the fourth Rashidun caliph and first Shi'ite Imam, Ali (r. 656–661). Following his half-brother Husayn's death in 680, Ibn al-Hanafiyya was recognized as the head of the nascent Alid community.

Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya
محمد بن الحنفية.png
Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya's name in Arabic calligraphy
Al Ameer Al Hashimi
In office
Preceded byHusayn ibn Ali
Succeeded byAbu Hashim
TitleNajib al-Murtaza
Bornc. 637 (15 AH)
Diedc. February 700 (aged 62–63)
Resting placeMedina, Saudi Arabia

Origins and early lifeEdit

Muhammad was born in Medina in c. 637 during the caliphate of Umar (r. 634–644). He was named Ibn al-Hanafiyya after his mother Khawla, who belonged to the Banu Hanifa tribe, her nisba ('onomastic') being al-Hanafiyya. She only bore one child, that being Ibn al-Hanafiyya.

During the caliphate of his father Ali (r. 656–661), Ibn al-Hanafiyya was one of his closest advisors along with his brothers Hasan and Husayn.[1] During his father's lifetime, Ibn al-Hanafiyya distinguished himself for piety, rectitude, and courage and effectiveness in war. During Ali's caliphate at Kufa, Ibn al-Hanafiyya was one of the caliph's four chief lieutenants. He particularly distinguished himself at the battles of Jamal and Siffin.[2] During the Battle of Siffin, Ibn al-Hanafiyya carried the banner of Ali's army against the forces of Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680).[3] Ali described ibn al-Hanafiyyah as his hand due to his bravery and strength while fighting.[4]

Second FitnaEdit

After the death of Mu'awiya, Ibn al-Hanafiyya's half-brother Imam Husayn protested against Yazid I's succession (r. 680–683). When Husayn was invited to go to Kufa to lead a rebellion against Yazid, Ibn al-Hanafiyya advised him not to go,[5] pointing out that the Kufans had betrayed and turned against their father Ali and their brother Hasan ibn Ali,[6][7] and he feared that they would do the same to Husayn.[8] Husayn said he feared that if he stayed in Mecca, he would be killed by the Umayyads and it would violate the sanctity of the holy city. Ibn al-Hanafiyya then urged that Husayn go to Yemen, where he could indefinitely elude an army. The next day Husayn replied that his grandfather Muhammad had appeared to him in a dream and required him to undertake this sacrificial expedition.[9]

After Husayn and his partisans were killed in the Battle of Karbala, his young son Ali al-Sajjad adopted a life of retirement and prayer, leaving Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya as the visible head of the Alids. Iraqi supporters reportedly bestowed the title Najib al-Murtaza on the latter.[10] In 685 (66 AH), the pro-Alid revolutionary Mukhtar ibn Abi Ubayd al-Thaqafi (c. 622–687) declared Ibn al-Hanafiyya to the Mahdi and revolted against the Umayyads in behalf of the former. This was likely the first reference to the Mahdi in the messianic sense of an eschatological savior.[11] In 685, the Mecca-based caliph Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr imprisoned Ibn al-Hanafiyya along with his clan at the Arim prison near the Zamzam.[12] According to al-Tabari (d. 923), Ibn al-Zubayr feared the popularity of Ibn al-Hanafiyya and pressured the latter to pledge allegiance to him.[13] After Ibn al-Zubayr threatened to burn Ibn al-Hanafiyya, the latter contacted al-Mukhtar through a letter. Mukhtar dispatched an army led by Amir ibn Wathila al-Kinani to liberate Ibn al-Hanafiyya from his imprisonment.[14]

Mukhtar sought permission from Ibn al-Hanafiyya to avenge Husayn's death and secure power for the latter, to which Ibn al-Hanafiyya responded that he neither approved nor disapproved of such an action, but bloodshed should be avoided.[15] Doubting the authenticity of Mukhtar's claims, a group of Alid partisans from Kufa went to Mecca seeking verification from Ibn al-Hanafiyya. He replied in an ambiguous manner that he was satisfied with anyone whom God uses to take revenge on enemies of the family of the prophet. They interpreted this as confirmation of Mukhtar's claims and returned to join him.[16] According to the modern historian Wilferd Madelung, Mukhtar sent the heads of Shimr and Umar ibn Sa'd (Umayyad commanders at Karbala) to Ibn al-Hanafiyya, rather than to Ali al-Sajjad.[17]

In 688, four men led their respective followers in the rites of pilgrimage (ḥajj), claiming the leadership of Islam. Ibn al-Hanafiyya represented the Alids, Ibn al-Zubayr led the Zubayrids, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan led on the behalf of the Umayyads, and Najda ibn Amir led the Kharijites.[18] In 692, Ibn al-Hanafiyya traveled to Damascus and swore allegiance to Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705).[19]

Death and successionEdit

In 700, Ibn al-Hanafiyya probably died in Medina. However, the reports of his death were rejected by the Kaysanites, who asserted that he rather went into occultation, living in seclusion on Radwa Mount near Medina, protected and fed by wild animals, and that he would, in God's good time, return to establish justice and true religion in the world.[20] Thus arose the legend of the Mahdi as savior.[21] Following his death, the Kaysanites chose his son Abu Hashim as the Imam. The latter, before dying, allegedly transferred the Imamate to his cousin Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abd Allah, an ancestor of the Abbasid dynasty.[22]

Assessments and legacyEdit

The Shia Muslims who believed in Ibn al-Hanafiyya as the Imam galvanized the development of the earliest known Shia sect known as the Kaysanites. This was the first split within the Shia community, which diverted considerable support towards Ibn al-Hanafiyya, and away from Ali al-Sajjad.[23][24] The Kaysanites were probably the earliest Shia group to introduce the doctrines of the Occultation (ghayba) and the Return (raj'a) of the Mahdi.[25]

After Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya died, his son Abu Hashim claimed the imamate. After his death the Abbasids claimed that on his deathbed Abu Hashim nominated his distant cousin Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abdullah ibn Abbas ibn Abdu'l-Muttalib ibn Hashim as the Imam. This man's son Abu'l-Abbas Abdullah Saffah became the first Abbasid caliph, repudiating Shi'ism, after which Kaysanite Shi'ism soon died out.[26] Ibn al-Hanafiyya regarded the first caliph Abu Bakr (r. 632–634) as the 'best of us'.[27]


  1. ^ Madelung 2003.
  2. ^ "IMAM ABUL QASIM MUHAMMAD IBN 'ALI". Archived from the original on 5 August 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
  3. ^ Bewley 1997, p. 60.
  4. ^ Shahin, Badr (2001). Al Abbas. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Publications. ISBN 978-1519308115.
  5. ^ "Chapter 36 "The Journey to Iraq" in Martyrdom Epic of Imam al-Husain". Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
  6. ^ Hazleton, Lesley (2009). After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam. New York: Doubleday. pp. 160–163.
  7. ^ Hazleton, Lesley (2009). After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam. New York: Doubleday. pp. 138–143.
  8. ^ Ayoub 2011, p. 98.
  9. ^ "Chapter 36 "The Journey to Iraq" in Martyrdom Epic of Imam al-Husain". Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
  10. ^ Bashir 2004, p. 242.
  11. ^ Madelung 1986, p. 1231.
  12. ^ Pomerantz & Shahin 2015, p. 15.
  13. ^ Fishbein 1990, p. 59.
  14. ^ Pomerantz & Shahin 2015, p. 16.
  15. ^ Dixon 1971, pp. 32–33.
  16. ^ Wellhausen 1975, pp. 128–130.
  17. ^ Madelung 1985.
  18. ^ Balyuzi 2002, p. 200.
  19. ^ Sharon 1983, p. 116.
  20. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 10.
  21. ^ Küng, Hans (2007). Islam Past, Present and Future. Oxford, U.K.: Oneworld. pp. 199–200.
  22. ^ Hawting 2000, p. 52.
  23. ^ Momen 1985, p. 36.
  24. ^ Donaldson 1933, p. 106.
  25. ^ Egger 2016, p. 70.
  26. ^ Momen 1985, p. 47-48.
  27. ^ Lucas 2004, p. 262.


Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Clan of the Quraysh
Born: 637 Died: 700
Shia Islam titles
Preceded by 4th Imam of Kaysanites Shia
Succeeded by