The Family History of Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī: the Ninth-Century ʿAbbasid Political Elite and the Ṭālibids in Samarra

The Family History of Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī: the Ninth-Century ʿAbbasid Political Elite... Abstract This paper investigates the family history of Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī and the sectarian implications, in the second half of the ninth century, of their affiliation with the Ṭālibids alongside their connections with the ʿAbbasid court. By studying the Iṣfahānī family’s social networks (specifically, the three generations before al-Iṣfahānī) and the wider socio-political milieu, the paper suggests that the Ṭālibids, who had strong presence in Samarra, attracted the political elite under ʿAbbasid rule, including the Iṣfahānīs, because their prestige as the Prophet’s close kin served as a source of political legitimacy, which may have been used to secure the transfer of power in a turbulent time. The division of the Ṭālibids themselves into the politically active and the politically quietist also facilitated the alliance between the Samarrai elite and the latter kind of the Ṭālibids. This pattern is reflected in the dynamics of the Iṣfahānī family’s relationship with the Ṭālibids. An examination of the attitude of the Ṭālibids to the ʿAbbasid authority and al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi belief seems to suggest that the Iṣfahānīs’ religious conviction may be understood as a kind of Shiʿism which embraces special reverence for ʿAlī and his virtuous descendants without enthusiasm for their political claims. In an often attested biographical entry on Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī (b. 284/897-8, d. 356/967),1 one finds the following passage: ‘It is astonishing that he is an Umayyad Shiʿi (al-ʿajab annahu umawī shīʿī).’2 While the biographers find this combination bizarre, al-Iṣfahānī himself appears to suggest the possibility of reconciliation between Shiʿis and their notional enemies, the Umayyads, in a story in which he relates that the Zaydi ruler in Ṭabaristān, Muḥammad b. Zayd (d. 287/900 or 289/902),3 pardoned and rewarded an Umayyad descendant of Yazīd b. Muʿāwiya (r. 60–64/680–683).4 What al-Iṣfahānī does not clarify is how his family, deriving from the last Umayyad caliph, Marwān b. Muḥammad (r. 127–132/744–750), ended up as ʿAlid or Shiʿi sympathizers.5 Two propositions, originally put forward by Khalafallāh, are frequently cited to explain this unusual combination. The first proposition suggests that the ʿAlids and the Umayyads, being both the targets of ʿAbbasid persecution, were pulled together and thus the conventional hostility defrosted.6 This may be further supported by a geopolitical factor. Isfahan, which was the refuge of various ʿAlids and their supporters in the late Umayyad period, was the destination of al-Iṣfahānī’s ancestral Umayyad branch after the ʿAbbasid revolution.7 It is in this geographical proximity that the connection between the ʿAlids and the Umayyads took root. According to the second proposition, the fact that al-Iṣfahānī was related to the Āl Thawāba from the maternal side was taken by Khalafallāh, and then Kilpatrick and Azarnoosh, as explaining al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi conviction on the basis of the Āl Thawāba’s Shiʿi affiliation.8 However, this second view is in fact based on the assumption that the Āl Thawāba are Zaydi Shiʿis. Furthermore, it only accounts for al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi sympathy, and does not explain why the Shiʿi-inclined (if this is an accurate description at all) Āl Thawāba decided to give their daughter’s hand to an Umayyad family.9 Moreover, al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad, cultivated close relationships with some Ṭālibid notables.10 Thus, it seems that al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi connection may be traced further back to his paternal ancestors. As for the first proposition, although reasonable, it lacks precision as to when, how, and why this branch of the Umayyads became Shiʿi. Instead of joining the Sunni majority or other discontented groups under ʿAbbasid rule,11 what prompted al-Iṣfahānī’s forefathers to revere ʿAlī’s offspring, and thus accept their superior virtues and, implicitly, hold (at least, notionally) their close kin, such as Muʿāwiya b. Abī Sufyān (against ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib) and Hishām b. ʿAbd al-Malik (against Zayd b. ʿAlī), as wrongdoers for warring against ʿAlī or his descendants? To ask why al-Iṣfahānī’s family became close to the ahl al-bayt is also to ask why many elite families working under ʿAbbasid authority decided to align with the Ṭālibids, especially, the ʿAlids—some of these families, such as the Banū Nawbakht, were deeply involved in the affairs of the Imami Shiʿi community—in the second half of the ninth century and the beginning of the tenth.12 In the wider context of the socio-political milieu that facilitated association between the political elite and the Ṭālibids, this study addresses al-Iṣfahānī’s family history (specifically, the three generations before him) with regard to their affiliation to the Ṭālibids. The explanation proposed in the present study is that the Ṭālibids, with their strong presence in Samarra in the second half of the ninth century, attracted the political elite under ʿAbbasid rule, because, besides their spiritual guidance, their prestige as the Prophet’s close kin and as a source of political legitimacy may have been used to secure the transfer of power in a turbulent time, in which deposing and killing caliphs, kuttāb, and military leaders became a quotidian scene on the political stage. Another question branching out of this one is the question of how Shiʿi this political elite was (what kind of Shiʿism and to what extent they regarded themselves as shīʿat ʿAlī and his descendants). In what follows, we will begin by introducing al-Iṣfahānī’s family members (as shown in the Figure 1), with regards to the people with whom they were associated. The main information, derived from the Aghānī and the Maqātil, has been analysed by Khalafallāh. I summarize Khalafallāh’s key points, with additional material. Where Khalafallāh cites from the Aghānī and other primary sources, the reference(s) to the cited passage(s) are given, from the editions I am using, in parenthesis. After this section, the wider historical context, especially the Ṭālibid interaction with the political elite, is examined. Then, the family’s networks are analysed and re-situated in the context of the ʿAbbasid court in the ninth and tenth centuries. Finally, how the family’s alignment with the Ṭālibids in the given context can be interpreted in terms of Shiʿism is treated in the last section. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide The family ancestors of al-Iṣfahānī15 Figure 1 View largeDownload slide The family ancestors of al-Iṣfahānī15 1. AN OVERVIEW OF THE IṢFAHĀNĪS When treating the connection between the city, Isfahan, and al-Iṣfahānī himself, Khalafallāh argues convincingly that there is no evidence showing that al-Iṣfahānī was born in Isfahan—he may not even have been to that city.13 The epithet, Khalafallāh suggests, is derived from the offshoot of Marwān b. Muḥammad’s descendants that settled in Isfahan after the ʿAbbasid revolution—they became al-Iṣfahānī’s family; this is further supported by the fact that many of al-Iṣfahānī’s relatives bear the same name tracing them to Isfahan.14 Just as Isfahan seems to be nothing more than al-Iṣfahānī’s nisba, the city leaves no trace in the family’s history, as the earliest member of it of whom we have record appears to have settled in Samarra, that is, al-Iṣfahānī’s great grandfather, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham. 1.1. Aḥmad b. al-Haytham16 According to a report in the Aghānī, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham, to whom al-Iṣfahānī refers as jadd abī (my father’s grandfather), lived somewhere between the residence of the well-known musician, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm al-Mawṣilī (155–235/772–850), and the caliphal palace (dār al-khalīfa) in Samarra; for this reason, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm, often passing by, once stopped by his great-grandfather’s house and joined the party inside.17 Khalafallāh says this report does not inform much, but it actually gives three important clues. First, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham and his brothers (ikhwān; it cannot be said whether the word is being used literally or metaphorically in the given context), at the end of the given report, rewarded Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm’s servant (ghulām) with 20,000 dirhams. That means Aḥmad b. al-Haytham was sufficiently well-off to patronize others, to own slaves (as mentioned in the report), and to have ready cash to give away at home, given that Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm’s visit is reported as unplanned. Second, as Isḥāq b Ibrāhīm became blind and retired to Baghdad before the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil (r. 232–247/847–861), the background of this report should be set at some point between the year 221/835–6, when al-Muʿtaṣim (r. 218–227/833–842) constructed Samarra,18 and 232/847, the beginning of al-Mutawwakil’s caliphate.19 Third, al-Iṣfahānī does not narrate directly from his great-grandfather, but via ʿAlī b. Ṣāliḥ b. al-Haytham al-Anbārī, who bears the professional attribute, al-kātib, the scribe.20 That is, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham appears to have been associated with at least one (and, perhaps, more) scribe. Taken together, it may be suggested that al-Iṣfahānī’s great-grandfather came to settle in Samarra sometime before al-Mutawakkil’s reign; he may have been a kātib like al-Anbārī, or at least engaged in a profitable profession that allowed for spare money for occasional rewards and keeping servants. Being the master of his own house, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham would have been at least in his thirties when hosting Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm, for his son worked as a kātib for al-Mutawakkil.21 This means that, if Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm’s visit took place in 221/835-6, he may have been born before 191/806-7, but it is very unlikely that he survived until after 294/906-7, when al-Iṣfahānī, born in 284/897-8, reached the age of ten, presumably old enough to take down his great-grandfather’s narrations, as direct transmission was not available to the latter.22 Although the record we have is lacking precision, we can say of Aḥmad b. al-Haytham that, probably, he was mainly active in the first half of the ninth century and led a privileged life, which would fit with the prominence his sons enjoyed. 1.2. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad As Khalafallāh notes, it appears that the only biographical information about ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz comes from Ibn Ḥazm’s Jamhara, where ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz is identified as ‘one of the high ranking scribes in the days of al-Mutawakkil’ (min kibār al-kuttāb fī ayyām al-Mutawakkil).23 Like his father, he also lived in Samarra, and his personal encounters with Abū al-ʿIbar (d. ca. 250/864) support this. As ‘one of the high ranking scribes’, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad would have been born at least twenty years before this caliph’s rule, that is, around 212/827-8. Al-Iṣfahānī transmits reports directly from his grand-uncle.24 Thus, it can be suggested that ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz remained active after 294/906-7, when al-Iṣfahānī was ten years old. 1.3. Muḥammad b. Aḥmad Compared with the narrations from ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, al-Iṣfahānī narrates fewer reports from his own grandfather, Muḥammad, but the information related to Muḥammad is useful. Although there is no hint as to Muḥammad’s profession, he was well-connected among the elite in the court, such as the vizier, Ibn al-Zayyāt (d. 233/847),25 Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī (176–243/792–857), and the vizier-to-be, ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān (d. 288/901), in addition to the Ṭālibid notables.26 His contact with the first two is found in a report, in which he heard Ibn al-Zayyāt’s comment that Abū Tammām (188–231-2/804–845-6) was the best poet, of which he was not sure: Thus, I wanted to confirm [the comment] with Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās, who in my view is more knowledgeable and more proficient in the art of letters (ādab). I sat next to him, as I was like a son to him (wa-kuntu ajrī ʿindahu majrā al-walad), and said to him: ‘Who is the best poet of our time?’ […]27 Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās’ answer agreed with that of Ibn al-Zayyāt Apart from Muḥammad’s high regard for Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās, this account illustrates his easy access to the two prominent figures in the court and, moreover, his intimate relationship with Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās, who worked as the kātib of al-Muʿtaṣim, al-Wāthiq, and al-Mutawakkil, in charge of different dīwāns, including al-ḍiyāʿ and al-nafaqāt (the offices of estates and expenditure).28 The second report is also narrated in Muḥammad’s voice: ‘ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān told me, and he was very close to me, because of the long-term friendship and childhood friendship (kāna yaʾnasu bī unsan shadīdan li-qadīm al-ṣuḥba wa-iʾtilāf al-manshaʾ): ‘al-Muʿtaḍid summoned me one day […].’’29 The fact that Muḥammad and ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān, who later became the vizier,30 were friends growing up together highlights Aḥmad b. al-Haytham’s privileged status, given that Sulaymān b. Wahb, being the kātib of Ītākh and Mūsā b. Bughā, and the vizier later, was an influential figure.31 Furthermore, this may support the possibility that Aḥmad b. al-Haytham was a kātib too, as it was a common practice for the scribes to bring their children to work.32 His relationship with the Ṭālibids seems rather strong, as illustrated in an account in the Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn: Ḥakīm b. Yaḥyā informed me, saying: ‘al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn b. Zayd was the leader of the Banū Hāshim, one possessing the closest lineage [to the Prophet] among them (shaykh Banī Hāshim wa-dhā quʿdudi-him), to whom money from the different corners of the world was brought.’ Then, he [the narrator, Ḥakīm b. Yaḥyā] said [to al-Iṣfahānī]: ‘One day, we gathered at your grandfather’s, Abū al-Ḥasan Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Iṣfahānī’s, house, with a group of the Ṭālibids including al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn b. Zayd b. ʿAlī, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza al-ʿAlawī al-ʿAbbāsī, and Abū Hāshim Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī. Then, said your grandfather to al-Ḥusayn: ‘O Abū ʿAbdallāh [the agnomen of al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn], you possess the closest lineage among all of the descendants of the Prophet (anta aqʿad wuld Rasūl Allāh kulli-him), while Jaʿfar possesses the closest lineage among the descendants of Jaʿfar; you both are the leaders of the family of the Messenger of God (shaykhā Āl Rasūl Allāh).’ Then, he started to pray for them, for their long lives. Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza became jealous of them and said: ‘[O Abū] [sic] al-Ḥasan, possessing close lineage in this age does not do any good to them; if they ask from the people of this era for a bunch of grass (bāqat baql), they shall not be given.’ Al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn was angry at this and then said: ‘You say this to me? By God, I would not want that my genealogy be one generation farther away from the Messenger of God than it is, even if the whole world belonged to me (mā uḥibbu anna nasabī abʿadu mimmā huwa bi-ab wāḥid yubʿidunī min Rasūl Allāh wa-annā al-dunyā bi-ḥadhāfīri-hā lī).’33 The report highlights four points. First, al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather was associated with the Ṭālibids, including ʿAlids and Jaʿfarids, and, through those leading members, he may have reached out to more Ṭālibids than those mentioned in the report. Second, Muḥammad showed great respect to al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn and Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī, either out of his pro-Ṭālibid inclination or in order to consolidate his ties with this group. Thirdly, the Ṭālibids, as a group with its inner hierarchy within, seem to have enjoyed some influence and privileges, which brought them tributes, as ‘money from the different corners of the world was brought’ to al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn. Fourth, if the event was set in Samarra, it would have taken place some point between 252/866, when Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim was brought to Samarra, and 261/875, when he died.34 This report also offers insights into the socio-political milieu in Samarra, where the political elite lived close alongside the Ṭālibids—a point on which I will elaborate further in Section 2. Khalafallāh suggests, based on these inter-personal connections, that Muḥammad was probably born around or before the 220s/835-44, when he was old enough to understand and remember Ibn al-Zayyāt’s words before the latter’s execution in 233/847, and lived through 279/892, when al-Muʿtaḍid (r. 279–289/892–902) became the caliph;35 but he may have died before 294/906-7, as al-Iṣfahānī narrates from him only via his uncle. 1.4. al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad Al-Ḥasan is the only person among the Iṣfahānīs given an entry in al-Khaṭīb’s Tārīkh, while he is also mentioned in Ibn Ḥazm’s Jamhara alongside his uncle, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz.36 While al-Khaṭīb only notes al-Ḥasan’s narrations from ʿUmar b. Shabba and Ibn Abī Saʿd, Ibn Ḥazm informs us that he was a kātib in Samarra, reaching maturity by the time of the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil.37 Given al-Ḥasan’s personal encounter with Abū al-ʿIbar (d. ca. 250/864) in Samarra and his direct narration to al-Iṣfahānī, Khalafallāh concludes that he was born around the 240s/854-64 and lived after the 300s/912–22, active mainly in Samarra but likely to have visited Baghdad.38 It may be argued that al-Ḥasan eventually retired to Baghdad, where al-Iṣfahānī settled after 300/912–3, learnt from and studied with him.39 Khalafallāh also notes al-Ḥasan’s literary savvy (as well as his being a fan of the poet Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī), and many of his shuyūkh (teachers), of whom we know little.40 Although Khalafallāh rightly points out the scarcity of the information about al-Ḥasan’s informants, the inter-personal networks are nonetheless useful for insights into how and to what extent the family was entrenched in the court.41 Apart from ʿUmar b. Naṣr, ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUthmān al-Kātib, and Muḥammad b. al-Dihqāna al-Nadīm, of whom we know little except for their connection with the court, as indicated in their nisbas,42 al-Ḥasan narrates from two nadīms of al-Mutawakkil, Yazīd b. Muḥammad al-Muhallabī, who was a Shiʿi,43 and Abū al-ʿAynāʾ Muḥammad b. al-Qāsim b. Khallād (191–282 or 3/807–895 or 6). He also transmits from a nadīm of al-Muʿtaḍid—Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Sarakhsī (d. 286/899).44 A prominent figure that al-Ḥasan was in contact with is Muḥammad b. Dāwūd b. al-Jarrāḥ (243–296/857–908), from the Banū al-Jarrāḥ, who dominated the political scene during the caliphate of al-Muqtadir (r. 295–320/908–932).45 Muḥammad b. Dāwūd, besides being a kātib, with knowledge concerning reports about the caliphs, the viziers, and the past, and the author of a few works including those about poetry and poets,46 was executed after the unsuccessful coup d’état supporting the two-day caliph, by Ibn al-Muʿtazz (d. 296/908).47 Al-Ḥasan also transmits from the three sons of Ibn al-Zayyāt, ʿUmar, Hārūn, and ʿUbaydallāh, to some extent continuing his father, Muḥammad’s, tie with the Banū al-Zayyāt, although none of Ibn al-Zayyāt’s sons ever achieved their father’s fame.48 In a similar vein, al-Ḥasan maintains his bond with ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān: ‘My uncle [i.e., al-Ḥasan, the narrator being al-Iṣfahānī] told me: “I gathered with Hārūn b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Malik and Ibn Burd al-Khiyār in the majlis (literary salon) of ʿUbdaydallāh b. Sulaymān before he became vizier […].”’ Then, al-Ḥasan recounts how Ibn Burd al-Khiyār bragged about Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī’s poetry and silenced Hārūn b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Malik’s attempt to boast of his father’s works.49 Being a member of the vizier-to-be’s entourage implies an intimate relationship between the Banū Wahb and al-Iṣfahānī’s family that lasted for two generations at least. Although we do not find any hint that al-Ḥasan hosted any Ṭālibid at his house as his father did, he did narrate from the aforementioned jealous Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza (d. 286-7/899-900).50 Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza, being among the companions of the tenth and eleventh imams of Twelver Shiʿism, transmits from al-Ḥasan b. Dāwūd al-Jaʿfarī; al-Riyāshī; his father, ʿAlī b. Ḥamza al-ʿAlawī; ʿAbd al-Ṣamad b. Mūsā al-Hāshimī; and ʿUmar b. Shabb.51 That is, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza seems to be a knot through which further connections to other Ṭālibids can be reached. There are two other persons operating in functions similar to that of Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza: Muḥammad b. Mūsā b. al-Ḥasan b. al-Furāt (fl. in the ninth century) and ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās al-Nawbakhtī (d. 327/939).52 Muḥammad b. Mūsā, derived from the Shiʿi Banū al-Furāt,53 supported the Shiʿi pretender, Muḥammad b. Manṣūr b. Nuṣayr—who caused a schism among the followers of the tenth imam of Twelver Shiʿism, claiming the imam, ʿAlī b. Muḥammad (212–254/828–868), to be a divine being and himself the imam’s prophet—while his son, Aḥmad b. Muḥammad, became the leader of some of Muḥammad b. Manṣūr b. Nuṣayr’s partisans, after the latter’s death.54Although ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās al-Nawbakhtī’s biographical information emphasizes his quality as a poet and litterateur, being a member of the Banū Nawbakht—a family nurturing a number of Imāmī Shiʿi theologians and polemicists—itself means that ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās had the potential to bring in more contact with ʿAlids and their partisans.55 As both of the families were intricately entwined with Imāmī Shiʿi politics and communities, being associated with one or more member of each would suggest al-Ḥasan’s plausible outreach to the Ṭālibids—which may have been no less than his father’s. 1.5. al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad Al-Iṣfahānī’s father is a rather opaque person, not only because of the absence of biographical information about him, but also because al-Iṣfahānī’s narration from him is scanty. Kalafallāh finds only one report from al-Ḥusayn, about the poet al-ʿAttābī.56 In fact, al-Iṣfahānī also notes that his father had taught him a work of Ḥammād b. Isḥāq (nasakhtu min kitāb li-Ḥammād b. Isḥāq ḥaddathanī bi-hi abī)—likely to be Ḥammād b. Isḥāq’s Akhbār al-Ḥuṭayʾa.57 In addition, al-Ḥusayn and his son, al-Iṣfahānī, were both authorized to relate reports about the poet Abū Shurāʿa by the poet’s son, Abū al-Fayyāḍ Sawwār b. Abī Shurāʿa.58 Whatever accounts for al-Ḥusayn’s sparse narrations, it seems that he did not leave notable remarks on al-Iṣfahānī’s intellectual output. However, when it comes to the family’s social networks, it is al-Ḥusayn who serves as the link to the Āl Thawāba. In a number of places, al-Iṣfahānī identifies Yaḥyā b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba as his grandfather on his mother’s side (jaddī li-ummī); his book was used by al-Iṣfahānī as source material for the Aghānī and his occupation may have been a kātib—a post several members of the Āl Thawāba held, as in the case of al-Iṣfahānī’s family.59 As Yaḥyā b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba’s relationship with other members of the Āl Thawāba is not specified elsewhere—the Aghānī is the only book mentioning the name Yaḥyā—Khalafallāh argues, with caution, for the plausibility of Yaḥyā being the brother of Aḥmad and Jaʿfar, the sons of Muḥammad b. Thawāba, on the basis of the common patronymics, al-Iṣfahānī’s (seemingly amicable) connection with Abū al-Faḍl ʿAbbās b. Aḥmad b. Thawāba, and the favourable presentation of this family.60 Another factor that escapes Khalafallāh’s attention, but supports his argument, is the Āl Thawāba’s connection with the Banū Wahb. We have noted above al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather’s and uncle’s close relationship with ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān. Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba (d. 277/890) was highly regarded as a scribe by Sulaymān b. Wahb, when he was the vizier of al-Muhtadī (r. 255–256/869–870). 61 His brother, Jaʿfar b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba (d. 284/897), took charge of the dīwān al-rasāʾil and dīwān al-maʿāwin for Sulaymān’s son, ʿUbaydallāh, who too became the vizier during al-Muʿtaḍid’s reign.62 That is, with Sulaymān b. Wahb and his son, ʿUbaydallāh, being the common link between the two families, it is possible that the Āl Thawāba may have considered al-Iṣfahānī’s family a potential ally in the court, to whom they gave their daughter’s hand. That Yaḥyā was a member of the Āl Thawāba seems like a valid argument, but the Shiʿi affiliation of this family, on the basis of which Khalafallāh (followed by Kilpatrick and Azarnoosh) accounts for al-Iṣfahānī’s sectarian inclination, does not. According to Khalafallāh, the Āl Thawāba, originally Christian, when converting to Islam became Ghulāt Shīʿī (believers in an extreme form of Shiʿism), but the evidence he relies on for such a statement comes from a passage in Muʿjam al-udabāʾ.63 According to Yāqūt, Muḥammad, the son of Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba, the kātib of the Turkish general, Bāykbāk,64 was accused by al-Muhtadī of being a Rāfiḍī (the Shiʿis who do not acknowledge the first two caliphs and are usually identified with Imāmīs65); only after the intercession of Bāykbāk and Mūsā b. Bughā was Muḥammad b. Aḥmad pardoned.66 This is the only reference to the family’s Ghulāt Shiʿi conviction.67 The problem with Yāqūt’s report is that no such accusation is found in the early sources. The enmity between al-Muhtadī and Bāykbāk is well-documented, despite inconsistencies and incongruences in some details. Amidst their conflicts, Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba was accused of treason—being in cooperation with the mawālī attempting to depose the caliph—and, as a result, his blood was deemed lawful.68 While it is possible that the accusation of being a ‘Rāfidī’ was a pretext for the caliph to take measures against Bāykbāk, it should be borne in mind that al-Muhtadī seems to have had a reputation for disliking Shiʿis.69 In short, the evidence to support ascribing extreme Shiʿism to every member of this family is thin. Even if we take Yāqūt’s account at face value and say that some of the Āl Thawāba were Shiʿis, how far they were so, what their being so signifies, remains a question, somewhat applicable also to other elite groups or individuals, such as al-Iṣfahānī’s family, to whom the Shiʿi designation was attached. Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the Āl Thawāba’s sectarian affiliation and its extent, the family’s ties with Ismāʿīl b. Bulbul (d. 278/892) do point to their having the potential to build up wider networks with Shiʿis.70 With these links on the part of al-Iṣfahānī’s family borne in mind, we now move to the questions of what led them to affiliate with the Ṭālibids and whether their connections with the Ṭālibids ought to be construed in terms of Shiʿism or ʿAlidism.71 2. THE ṬĀLIBIDS IN SAMARRA What are the factors that led these Iṣfahānīs to align with the Ṭālibids and perhaps, even, to profess Shiʿism or ʿAlidism? To address this question, it is imperative to take into account the socio-political context of late ninth-century Samarra, where the three generations before al-Iṣfahānī were active. The generation of Aḥmad b. al-Haytham, al-Iṣfahānī’s great-grandfather, settled in Samarra before the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil. Samarra is not an ideal location for taking up arms with a Ṭālibid rebel, for it is where the Ṭālibid suspects were confined and put under the caliphs’ surveillance.72 However, it is the location that allows for military leaders and scribes to cultivate a relationship with the Ṭālibids and their followers, thanks to the Ṭālibid presence there. When al-Maʾmūn appointed ʿAlī al-Riḍā as his successor, a group of the Ṭālibids was brought with the latter to the east.73 What happened to this group afterwards is unclear, but al-Muʿtaṣim did continue the trend of bringing the Ṭālibids to the east, among them the ninth Twelver imam, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī (d. Baghdad, 220/835).74 Al-Muʿtaṣim’s successor, al-Wāthiq, had a reputation for leniency towards the Ṭālibids, who were brought together in Samarra and entitled to a pension, as noted in al-Iṣfahānī’s Maqātil.75 Al-Wāthiq’s pro-Ṭālibid policy was reversed by al-Mutawakkil’s adoption of Sunni ‘orthodoxy’, which abolished the miḥna and took measures against the Shiʿis, including razing the shrine of al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī to the ground, forbidding any donation to the ʿAlids, negating their entitlement to the inheritance of Fadak, and harsher punishment against those who anathematized the salaf (the Companions, including the first two caliphs).76 As a result, the tenth imam of Twelver Shiʿism, ʿAlī b. Muḥammad (d. 254/868), and his family were brought to Samarra from Madina in 233/847.77 The next caliph, al-Muntaṣir, despite his short reign, overturned his father’s policy and behaved kindly and generously towards the Ṭālibids.78 From then on, we know less in this regard about the stances of the subsequent caliphs, for the historians are devoted to the accounts of the civil war and anarchy during the time from al-Mustaʿīn to al-Muhtadī.79 Nevertheless, al-Muʿtaḍid was known for his pro-ʿAlid inclination, the result of which was his tolerance of the fund sent from the ʿAlid ruler, Muḥammad b. Zayd, in Ṭabaristān, being distributed to the Ṭālibids in Baghdad and a formal decree that Muʿāwiya was to be cursed from the pulpits.80 Given that Samarra remained the caliphal centre despite a short interval during the civil war, it may be assumed that a number of the Ṭālibids remained there, alongside their families and Hashimi relatives, until the reign of al-Muʿtaḍid (r. 279–289/892–902), when the capital moved back to Baghdad.81 The presence and prestige of the Ṭālibids attracted associates and allies among high-ranking officials, who either were convinced of their superiority, even of their thaumaturgic power, or saw the advantage in forging alliances with this group. The military leader, Abū Dulaf—one of al-Muʿtaṣim’s generals derived from the abnāʾ—is said to have been an ardent Shiʿi partisan to the extent that he repudiated his son, who had expressed his animosity towards ʿAlī.82 When the tenth imam of Twelver Shiʿism was brought to Samarra on al-Mutawakkil’s order, the official in charge, Yaḥyā b. Harthama, was first warned by the Ṭāhirid governor of Baghdad, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm, against instigating al-Mutawakkil against ʿAlī b. Muḥammad, for ‘the Prophet will be your plaintiff [khaṣm, before God at the Final Judgment],’ and, then, on arrival in Samarra, he first visited Waṣīf, who solemnly threatened him: ‘By God, if one single hair falls out of this man’s head, I shall be the one asking for it.’83 Bughā al-Kabīr (d. 248/862)—one of the Turks who had been rising to power since the caliphate of al-Muʿtaṣim—was reputed for his kindness and generosity towards the Ṭālibids.84 Muḥammad b. al-Faraj—the brother of one of al-Mutawakkil’s king-makers, ʿUmar b. al-Faraj—was ʿAlī b. Muḥammad’s follower; he sought the imam’s advice in face of the calamity befalling him and his brother.85 The same imam is said to have associated with Aḥmad b. al-Khaṣīb, who was appointed kātib of al-Mutawakkil’s heir apparent, al-Muntaṣir, and became the vizier in the latter’s court, where he continued to play a role until his exile in 248/862.86 The eleventh imam, al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī (d. 260/874), commanded the respect of the anti-Shiʿi vizier, ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān, besides other generals and kuttāb in Samarra.87 Although the sources derived from the akhbār/siyar al-aʾimma by Shiʿi compilers may be tendentious—their purpose being to highlight the imams’ merits, even their thaumaturgic power—and, inevitably, imam-centred, they nonetheless reveal the plausibility of alliances between the Ṭālibids and the functionaries of the ʿAbbasid caliphs, be they in the bureaucratic or military division. The imams and their kin lived closely with the political elite, with whom interaction was inevitable. In addition, the reports about the imams provide us with the chains of transmission, which specify the direct transmitters from the imams. Amongst the transmitters are distant Qurashī relatives, such as ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Nawfalī, as well as closer ones, including Jaʿfarids, such as Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī, and ʿAlids, such as Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl al-ʿAlawī.88 Despite the absence of concrete details, it can be said that the Ṭālibids and other Qurashī nobles, including the Banū ʿAbbās, lived closely in the same city, alongside other functionaries. With the Ṭālibid presence in Samarra, the already-divided political elite was further divided into those sympathetic to them and those against them, in addition to those standing in a neutral or unknown position. The Ṭālibid sympathizers may have evolved into or come to be involved in the affairs of the Shiʿi communities—as we have noted above in the case of the Banū al-Furāt.89 The other end of the spectrum is best exemplified by the entourage of al-Mutawakkil, such as ʿAlī b. al-Jahm and Marwān b. Abī al-Janūb, both of whom were notorious for their lampoons against the Āl Abī Ṭālib in support of the ʿAbbasid caliphate.90 However, not every official’s attitude towards the Ṭālibids, or, more so, the ʿAlids, is always so categorical as to allow us to characterize him as anti- or pro-Shiʿi. For example, ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān who, despite his enmity towards the Āl Abī Ṭālib, showed great respect for the eleventh imam, al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī, as mentioned above.91 ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān’s ambivalent manner towards the Ṭālibids, though seemingly irreconcilable at the first glance, illustrates well the dilemma many of the political elite encountered in the ninth century. That is, in their vicinity, there was a distinct group—the Ṭālibids, or a specific lineage of them, such as the ʿAlids—who could rally support or claim special treatment (sometimes monetary) from the populace on the basis of their ancestral relationship with the Prophet.92 Nonetheless, the official attitude towards this group at the top oscillates greatly between tolerance and persecution. Thus, the elite figures like ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān had to go with the trend at times, but it does not mean that they would disregard the potential benefits of allying with this group, especially when the power of the caliphs faded after al-Mutawakkil’s reign. Another case may be found in al-Mustaʿīn’s kātib in charge of dīwān al-rasāʾil, Saʿīd b. Ḥumayd, who is also noted for his dislike for ʿAlī and his descendants.93 However, he was a friend of the Ṭālibid (from the Ḥasanid lineage), Muḥammad b. Ṣāliḥ, who was brought to Samarra under governmental surveillance.94 In other words, one could notionally deprecate, or even depreciate, what the Ṭālibids represented—martyrdom under tyrant rule, superior Muslim traits, or the only source of legitimacy—but that did not entail complete social segregation from them.95 Why was it expedient for the political elite to associate with the Ṭālibids? It was mentioned above that the Ṭālibids constituted a source of legitimacy, which could be used to mobilize popular support. With the political system breaking down after the assassination of al-Mutawakkil and the sudden death of al-Muntaṣir, the military leaders and their retinues vied for power with the caliphs and kuttāb, as well as with one another. The struggle resulted in murder, confiscation, torture, and new struggle. As chaos reigned, this led to the illegitimate deaths of the prominent figures, including the caliphs. To contain potential opposition, the person or group responsible for the illegitimate death had to legitimize their deeds—attributing the death in question to natural causes, for instance. To be effected, this process required the testimony of the notables, at least as a starting point. It is at this point that the association with the Ṭālibids came to be useful. When al-Muntaṣir removed his brothers, al-Muʿtazz and al-Muʾayyad, from the line of succession, the ceremony in 248/862, at which the pair revoked their statuses as heirs apparent, was witnessed by the leading figures at the court, including the Banū Hāshim, comprised of the ʿAbbasids and Ṭālibids.96 After the sudden death of al-Muntaṣir, the appointment of al-Mustaʿīn, as determined by the Turkish generals, Bughā al-Kabīr, Bughā al-Ṣaghīr and Utāmish, was legitimized by the ascension ceremony, attended by the elite, including the Ṭālibids.97 When the Ṭālibid rebel, Yaḥyā b. ʿUmar (d. 250/864-5) was killed, a group of the Hashimis and Ṭālibids came to congratulate the Ṭāhirid governor, Muḥammad b. ʿAbdallāh. Although Abū Hāshim Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī—one of the attending Ṭālibids and one of al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather’s associates, who implicitly condemned the execution of the Prophet’s relative—did not deliver the most appropriate felicitations, the purpose of such a gesture is clearly meant to enhance ʿAbbasid authority and that of the governors deputized by the caliphs.98 The body of al-Muʿtazz, who was tortured to death, was brought to Hashimi witnesses to show that the caliph died of natural causes.99 When the conflict between al-Muhtadī and the men of Bāykbāk was on the verge of breaking out, the tension was eased by the caliph’s solemn oath in the presence of the Hashimis.100 Counted as part of the Banū Hāshim, the Ṭālibids may have been included among those called to give testimony. Maintaining an amicable relationship with the Ṭālibids may have facilitated the process of power transfer and, ideally, downplayed opponents’ accusations (although this certainly did not guarantee the stability and longevity of groups in power).101 Thus, when al-Mustaʿīn and his Turkish regiment moved to Baghdad, a group of the Banū Hāshim, who could potentially boost their legitimacy, came along with them.102 Furthermore, when living in time of uncertainties, wide outreach may have improved one’s chance of survival. When Ṣāliḥ b. Waṣīf was being pursued, a group of his associates, suspected of offering him refuge, were assaulted, including a Ṭālibid.103 Although Ṣāliḥ b. Waṣīf did not get away, the point here is that broadening one’s network of alliances matters, as the association with the Ṭālibids could furnish not only legitimacy but also sanctuary at the moment of crisis. We have addressed the broad context in which the political elite came to adopt Ṭālibid or ʿAlid affiliation and the incentives that pulled them together. Now, let us turn to al-Iṣfahānī’s family and their embrace of this Ṭālibid affiliation. Whether the generation of Aḥmad b. al-Haytham, settled in Samarra, the headquarters of the caliphate with a noticeable Ṭālibid presence, had begun the familial outreach to the Ṭālibids cannot be answered, given the scanty information about him. Yet, the familial outreach to the Ṭālibids certainly took place in the next generation, the generation of al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad. Muḥammad’s brother, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, was a senior member of the kuttāb. Although his networks, as we can reconstruct them, only reveal his connection with the scholars mentioned in Section 1, it is very likely that he was in touch with some of the Ṭālibids, as well as other court elite, as his brother, Muḥammad, also was. In contrast, we do not know whether Muḥammad was a scribe or held any other official appointment, but we do know the identities of his associates: Ibn al-Zayyāt, ʿUbaydāllah b. Sulaymān b. Wahb, and Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī, as well as Ṭālibids, such as al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn b. Zayd b. ʿAlī, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza al-ʿAlawī al-ʿAbbāsī, and Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī.104 Here, we can see a pattern more or less conforming to the description above: a kātib himself or his close kin building a connection with the Ṭālibids—as in the cases of Muḥammad b. al-Faraj and ʿUbdaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān. Via these Ṭālibids, among whom was the prominent al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn and those unnamed, Muḥammad (and presumably his brother, too) may have further reached other Ṭālibids, including the imams, whose transmitters include Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī and Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza.105 The networks with the Ṭālibids as well as other notables were inherited by the next generation, that of al-Iṣfahānī’s father and uncle, al-Ḥusayn and al-Ḥasan. Again, we do not know much about al-Iṣfahānī’s father’s associates, apart from his marriage link with the Āl Thawāba, who may have brought the Iṣfahānī family into contact with Ismāʿīl b. Bulbul, but his uncle appears to have maintained Muḥammad b. Aḥmad’s connections with the Banū Ibn al-Zayyāt, ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān, and the Ṭālibids, as shown in his narrations from the sons of Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Malik b. al-Zayyāt and the aforementioned Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza. In the context of these interpersonal connections, it is less surprising that a family derived from the Umayyads turned to support the Ṭālibids, as many of those surrounding them, whether with or without direct contacts, sought to forge alliance with this group in one way or another. However, the question which remains pending in our discussion of the Āl Thawāba comes back: how Shiʿi was al-Iṣfahānī’s family in the generations of his grandfather (Muḥammad b. Aḥmad and ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad) and father (al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad and al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad)? Or, to rephrase the question, does being connected with the Ṭālibids make one Shiʿi? If so, in what sense? 3. SHIʿISM OR ʿALIDISM? The question of the Shiʿism of al-Iṣfahānī’s family (if we can call it Shiʿism at all) is indeed a tricky one, for, while we know about their interpersonal networks, their beliefs are not revealed. Thus, the following suggestions are built upon two hypotheses: first, the perspectives of the Iṣfahānī family’s Ṭālibid associates may manifest the Iṣfahānīs’ attitudes toward the Ṭālibids as well as the ʿAbbasid authority; second, al-Iṣfahānī’s works, the Maqātil and the Aghānī, may to some extent reflect his family’s religious conviction. The three Ṭālibids, Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī, Muḥammad b.ʿAlī b. Ḥamza, and al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn, might have had one thing in common: they all adopted a conciliatory position towards the ʿAbbasid authority. When al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn’s spoiled son, Zayd, who intermingled with the sons of al-Mutawakkil and envied their luxurious lifestyles, asked his father for money so that he could treat the caliph’s sons with the equivalent grandeur, he got what he wanted by threatening to rebel against the caliphate if his father did not obey him.106 In the given account, al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn, in tears, implored his son not to go against the regime (sulṭān) and could only satisfy his demanding son by forcing his concubine (Zayd’s mother) to sell her jewellery. Al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn’s submissive manner towards the obstreperous Zayd surely illustrates the fatherly concern for the child, but it may also indicate that some of the Ṭālibids would rather cooperate with the ʿAbbasid caliphate than rebel against it. A similar stance can be seen in the case of Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī, who was sent by Muzāḥim b. Khāqān to dissuade al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad from revolt in 250/864-5.107 When al-Muʿtazz ordered a few Ṭālibids under suspicion to be brought to Samarra, aware that the Ṭāhirid governor, Muḥammad b. ʿAbdallāh, might not comply, the caliph claimed in his letter that he planned to dispatch Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim to Ṭabaristān to restore order there (li-iṣlāḥ amri-hā).108 Although employing a Ṭālibid to deal with other Ṭālibids is a ruse, al-Muʿtazz’s statement illustrates Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim’s role as a broker between the ʿAbbasids and their potential Ṭālibid rivals. In a sense, it is a kind of alliance between the cooperative Ṭālibids and the ʿAbbasids vis-à-vis less cooperative Ṭālibids. As mentioned above, a list by Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza—al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather’s guest and his uncle’s source—about the death of Ṭālibids is quoted in al-Iṣfahānī’s Maqātil.109 If al-Iṣfahānī adduces the list faithfully, as he claims,110 it may reveal Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s views. Unlike al-Iṣfahānī’s Maqātil, which includes details of the battles and biographical information about its subjects,111 Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s list is a brief thirteen-page (as quoted in the Maqātil) register of the Ṭālibids’ names with notes on the causes of their deaths. Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza explicitly points out the fratricides between ʿAlids and Jaʿfarids, in which there were numerous Ṭālibids killed, as well as the victims under the rule of al-Ḥasan b. Zayd (d. 270/884).112 An abrupt exception to the laconic narrative of Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s list is the passage about the deaths of al-Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad al-Kawkabī and ʿUbaydallāh b. al-Ḥasan. About to rebel against al-Ḥasan b. Zayd, they were tortured (their bellies stamped upon) by al-Ḥasan b. Zayd, thrown into a pool (birka), drowned, and their corpses left in a cellar, from where they were taken out and buried later by the Saffarids.113 Not only the gruesome details appear at odds with the overall tone of the list, so too does al-Iṣfahānī’s interpolation of the verses that condemn al-Ḥasan b. Zayd’s deed.114 Although it is hard to reconstruct Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s own take on the basis of al-Iṣfahānī’s quotation, we are left— by virtue of the vivid details of al-Ḥasan b. Zayd’s brutal disposal of the two—with some impression of Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s lukewarm, perhaps even critical, manner towards his bellicose relatives. In a sense, his perspective tallies, to some degree, with that of Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim and al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn. The Ṭālibids’ reconciliatory relationships with the ʿAbbasid officials and the distance from the Ṭālibid activists—also reflected in the lives of the tenth and eleventh imams—can be discerned in al-Iṣfahānī’s Maqātil, which is reticent concerning the Ṭālibid movements in Ṭabaristan and Yemen. The Ṭālibid compromise with the caliphate facilitated their connection with the political elite, whose privileged status depended on the ʿAbbasid caliphal authority and legitimacy.115 Those elite figures who are known to have persecuted or disliked the Ṭālibids but somehow associated with some of them, such as Saʿīd b. Ḥumayd and ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān, likely recognized that the Ṭālibids or ʿAlids consisted of variegated elements, some of which in potentia jeopardized their careers and prestige at the caliphal court, and some of which, at the opposite end, served as useful networks, allies, or even refuges in times of trouble.116 However, what does it mean to be allied with the politically quietist Ṭālibids? Does that make one a Shiʿi? If al-Iṣfahānī’s views, as present in his works, can be extended to his family, then, to some degree, the answer is positive: the Iṣfahānī family were Shiʿis of some sort. Al-Iṣfahānī, in the entry on ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib in the Maqātil, unequivocally states that ʿAlī’s merits are uncountable (aktharu min an tuḥṣā) and, as his partisans and foes both agree, are too manifest to be belittled or veiled (mā lā yumkinu ʿghamṭu-hu wa-lā yansāghu satru-hu min faḍāʾili-hi al-mashhūra).117 I have addressed al-Iṣfahānī’s sectarian perspectives in his Aghānī in detail. Analysis of his selection and juxtaposition of reports in the Aghānī, shows that he scatters references to ʿAlī’s merits therein, so that their role in the Aghānī is far more conspicuous than those of the three caliphs before him.118 Al-Iṣfahānī accentuates ʿAlī’s legitimacy and rightfulness in a way that marks anyone challenging his authority as deviant from guidance, while justifying the partisanship of his Shiʿis, even if in excessive form.119 Al-Iṣfahānī also emphasizes the importance of love for the virtuous members of the ahl al-bayt, but does not scruple to condemn less virtuous ʿAlids such as Ismāʿīl b. Yūsuf.120 In my research, I have also argued against the view that al-Iṣfahānī is a Zaydi, which originates from al-Ṭūsī’s al-Fihrist;121 this view can arguably be refuted on the basis of al-Iṣfahānī’s ignorance of the Zaydi imams’ recent activities in Yemen and Ṭabaristān, that is, Yaḥyā b. al-Ḥusayn al-Hādī ilā al-Ḥaqq (245–298/859–911) and al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī al-Uṭrūsh (d. 304/917), and his disinterest in identifying the imams in the past, including Zayd b. ʿAlī. Imamatology’s absence from his Aghānī and Maqātil marks a contrast between al-Iṣfahānī and his Imāmī and Zaydī contemporaries, who hold the imams to be bearers of knowledge and consider obedience to them to be obligatory.122 Furthermore, it should be pointed out that al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿism cannot be equated with the beliefs of the so-called Ṭālibiyya—a group active in Kufa until the tenth century, according to Madelung—for the following reasons.123 First, the papyrus remarking on this Ṭālibiyya, first and foremost, is far from clear as to the group’s doctrine, due to the lacunae in it.124 Second, if Abbott’s reading of the text is to be accepted, then ‘the author of the text belonged to the Zaidite sect, which advocated equality among the descendants of Abū Ṭālib as against any claim to superiority by ʿAlī or any of his descendants.’125 Al-Iṣfahānī does not seem to comply with this view, for he categorically shows his disapproval for ʿAbdallāh b. Muʿāwiya, who, counted among the descendants of Abū Ṭālib, is praised in the papyrus.126 Taken together, al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi tendencies can be characterized as unequivocal reverence for ʿAlī and his virtuous descendants, without subscribing to the indispensability of the imams and of repudiating most of the Companions, including the first three caliphs. Nevertheless, this kind of Shiʿism cannot be identified with Zaydism or Ṭālibism, as Madelung proposed. Being disinterested in the recent campaigns led by the ʿAlids in Ṭabaristan and Yemen, it seems that al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi belief dwells on the remote memories of ʿAlī and his mistreated descendants, and does not necessarily engage sympathy for the Ṭālibid contenders in the present.127 If a Shiʿism of this temper underlies the Iṣfahānīs’ conceptualization of their relationship with the Ṭālibids, it appears to match the political orientation of the Ṭālibids with whom they associated and fit the socio-political context in which they and many other elite families lived. However, it has to be emphasized that it remains an open question whether or not al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi thought was inherited from his family. The dialogue taking place in the majlis of al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad, seems to imply some kind of hierarchy, based on pedigree, among the Ṭālibids themselves and their associates,128 and thus contradicts Ṭālibid egalitarianism, to which the so-called Ṭālibiyya, mentioned above, subscribed. In this sense, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad’s reverence for the ahl al-bayt dovetails with al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿism. Nevertheless, the evidence that reveals the Iṣfahānīs’ religious take is not sufficient to suggest that they embraced a conviction beyond ʿAlidism. CONCLUSION This essay has addressed al-Iṣfahānī’s family history with regard to why they chose to associate with the Ṭālbids and the implications of such an association in the context of their being functionaries at the ʿAbbasid court in the second half of the ninth century. Previous studies account for al-Iṣfahānī and his family’s Shiʿism on the basis of, first, the geo-political atmosphere in Isfahan that brought the Ṭālibids and al-Iṣfahānī’s ancestors together, and, second, on their marriage links with the Shiʿi Āl Thawāba. However, these views do not take into consideration, first, the fact that the family’s service at the caliphal court exposed them to the Ṭālibids, including ʿAlids, in Samarra, and, second, the lack of sound evidence to argue for the Shiʿi conviction of the Āl Thawāba as well as the Iṣfahānīs themselves. In Samarra, some of the political elite aligned with the Ṭālibids, who, by virtue of their special bond with the Prophet, enjoyed high status with prestige: they were regarded as a source of divine guidance, of Prophetic intercession or blessing, and political legitimacy. Military leaders and scribes were attracted to the Ṭālibids, either by religious affection or by political interests. It is likely that it was this spatial proximity to the descendants of the Prophet in Samarra, where three generations of his family before al-Iṣfahānī had settled and worked as kuttāb (at least, two of the Iṣfahānīs) that drew the Umayyad Iṣfahānīs toward the Ṭālibids and their allies. While this analysis does not negate Khalafallāh’s first proposition, which argues for an earlier connection between al-Iṣfahānī’s ancestors and the ʿAlids in Isfahan around the time of the ʿAbbasid revolution, the networks that the Iṣfahānīs built up highlight their substantial contact with the leading members of the Ṭālibids and other Shiʿi functionaries, such as the Banū al-Furāt and the Banū Nawbakht. In light of their interpersonal connections, it can be argued that the family’s relationship with the Ṭālibids was further consolidated, if there was such a relationship, before the generation of al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather, Muḥammad. Whether close association or alliance with the Ṭālibids meant conversion to Shiʿism it is hard to know. The bifurcation of the Ṭālibids into those who rebelled against the ʿAbbasids and those who chose to cooperate facilitated the connections of the officials, who sustained and depended upon the caliphate, with the politically quietist Ṭālibids, who were honoured (as well as kept under surveillance) by the caliphs. That is, those who denied the Ṭālibid entitlement to political leadership did not necessarily cut off their ties to the cooperative Ṭālibids, who lived around them and played their parts in the operation and continuation of the ʿAbbasid caliphate. The Ṭālibids with whom the Iṣfahānīs associated seem to fit into this quietist category. However, whether or not the Iṣfahānīs’ ties to the Ṭālibids can be considered a kind of Shiʿism can be only answered on the hypothesis that al-Iṣfahānī’s own Shiʿi belief reflects that of his family. Al-Iṣfahānī’s works reveal his attempts to present ʿAlī as the most virtuous and rightly-guided person, any opponent of him being portrayed negatively. If this tendency can be qualified as Shiʿi in the sense that a Shiʿi is a partisan of ʿAlī, then, al-Iṣfahānī and, perhaps, the Iṣfahānīs, can be seen as Shiʿis of some sort. Footnotes 1 These dates are given by al-Iṣfahānī’s student, Ibn Abī al-Fawāris, and are recorded in: al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Madīnat al-Salām (ed. Bashshār ʿA. Maʿrūf; Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2001), xiii. 340. However, these dates are problematic. Yāqūt (574–626/1178–1225) notices that the reports in Adab al-ghurabāʾ by al-Iṣfahānī attest to his being active after 356/967, and, in one of these reports, the author describes himself as a young man (fī ayyām al-shabība wa-l-ṣibā) at the time of Muʿizz al-Dawla’s death in 356/967, when al-Iṣfahānī is supposed to have died. See: Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ (ed. Aḥmad F. Rifāʿī; Cairo: Maṭbūʿāt al-Maʾmūn, 1922), xiii. 95–97. This also gives rise to the controversy over the authorship of Adab al-ghurabāʾ. The scholars who affirm al-Iṣfahānī as the author of Adab al-ghurabāʾ include: A. Azarnoosh, art. ‘Abū al-Faraj ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn’ in Encyclopaedia Islamica, 733; S. Günther, art., ‘Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’ in EI3; Salāḥ al-Dīn al-Munajjid, Muqaddima of Kitāb Adab al-ghurabāʾ, by Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-Jadīd, 1972), 10–16; Hilary Kilpatrick, ‘On the difficulty of knowing mediaeval Arabic authors: The case of Abū l-Faraj and pseudo-Iṣfahānī’ in Robert G. Hoyland and Philip F. Kennedy (eds.), Islamic Reflections, Arabic Musings. Studies in Honour of Professor Alan Jones (Oxford: Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004), 230–42; id., ‘The Kitāb Adab al-Ġurabāʾ of Abu l-Farağ al-Iṣfahānī’ in La signification du bas Moyen Age dans l’histoire et la culture du monde musulman. Actes du 8ème Congrès de l’Union Européenne des Arabisants et Islamisants Aix-en-Provence 1976 (Aix-en-Provence: Édisud, 1978), 127–35. On the opposite side are: Robert G. Hoyland, ‘History, Fiction and Authorship in the First Centuries of Islam’ in Julia Bray (ed.) Writing and Representation in Medieval Islam: Muslim Horizons (London: Routledge, 2006): 16–46, at 36–9; Patricia Crone and Shmuel Moreh, ‘The Authorship of the Ghurabāʾ’ in al-Iṣfahānī, The Book of Strangers: Mediaeval Arabic Graffiti on the Theme of Nostalgia (transl. Patricia Crone and Shmuel Moreh; Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000), 128–43. Regardless of the controversy, it is possible to calculate the timespan within which al-Iṣfahānī was active on the basis of the dates of his teachers and students—the first six decades of the tenth century, from about 290/902 to 348/960; see: I-Wen Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past in Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’s Kitāb al-Aghānī: a literary and historical analysis’ (PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 2016), 61–2. 2 The cited statement expressing astonishment (al-ʿajab) comes from: al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalāʾ (ed. Ḥassān ʿAbd al-Mannān; Beirut: Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyya, 2004), 2774; Ibn al-Athīr, alKāmil fī al-tārīkh (ed. Muḥammad Y. al-Daqqāq; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1987), vii. 302. The earliest mention of the Umayyad–Shiʿi combination in the biographical sources is: al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh, xiii. 340; this is then cited by: al-Qifṭī, Inbāh al-ruwāt ʿalā anbāh al-nuḥāt (ed. Muḥammad A. Ibrāhīm; Cairo: Dār al-Fikr al-ʿArabī, 1986), ii. 253. A similar tenor, in a slightly different formulation, in ‘ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī al-Umawī, the author of the Kitāb al-Aghānī, the Shīʿī, and this is rare for an Umawī (wa-hādhā nādir fī umawī)’, see: al-Dhahabī, Mīzān al-iʿtidāl fī naqd al-rijāl (eds. ʿAlī M. Muʿawwaḍ and ʿĀdil A. ʿAbd al-Mawjūd; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1995), v. 151; Ibn Ḥajar, Lisān al-mīzān (eds. ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghadda and Salmān ʿA. Abū Ghadda; Beirut: Maktabat al-Maṭbūʿāt al-Islāmiyya, 2002), v. 526. Another formulation ‘min al-ʿajāʾib annahu marwānī yatashayyaʿu’,see: Ibn al-ʿImād, Shadharāt al-dhahab fī akhbār man dhahaba (eds. ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Arnāʾūṭ and Maḥmūd al-Arnāʾūṭ; Beirut: Dār Ibn Kathīr, 1986), iv. 292. 3 Eds. (P. Bearmann et al.), ‘Muḥammad b. Zayd’ in EI2. 4 al-Tanūkhī, Kitāb al-Faraj baʿda al-shidda (ed. ʿAbbūd al-Shālijī; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1978), ii. 334–7. The same report is found in al-Tanūkhī’s al-Mustajād, according to Muḥammad A. Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib al-Aghānī: Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī al-Rāwiya (Cairo: Maktabat al-Anjlū al-Miṣriyya, 2nd edn., 1962), 39, n. 2. 5 Although Ibn al-Nadīm, being the earliest biographer of al-Iṣfahānī, says that he was a descendant of Hishām b. ʿAbd al-Malik (r. 105–125/724–743), the majority of the sources support tracing his ancestry to Marwān b. Muḥammad; see: Ibn al-Nadīm, Kitāb al-Fihrist (ed. Riḍā Tajaddud; Beirut: Dār al-Masīra, 3rd edn., 1988), 127–8; Ibn Ḥazm, Jamharat ansāb al-ʿarab (ed. ʿAbd al-Salām M. ʿA. Hārūn; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 5th edn., 1982), 107. For the majority view, see n. 2 above. 6 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 34–40. 7 Andrew J. Newman, Twelver Shiism: Unity and Diversity in the Life of Islam, 632 to 1722 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 37. 8 The idea that the Āl Thawāba sowed the Shiʿi affection in the young al-Iṣfahānī’s heart is first suggested by Khalafallāh: Ṣāḥib, 52–9 (esp. 58); both Kilpatrick and Azarnoosh cite Khalafallāh’s work in their discussion of al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi conviction. Kilpatrick accepts this suggestion: ‘The Banū Thawāba were Shī‘īs, and if Abū l-Faraj’s mother was indeed a member of this family, his own Shī‘ī convictions are easy to explain’ (Hilary Kilpatrick, Making the Great Book of Songs: Compilation and the Author’s Craft in Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣbahānī’s Kitāb al-Aghānī [London: Routledge Curzon, 2003], 15 [reference to Khalafallāh at n. 13]). A similar view is found in ‘It is possible that Abū al-Faraj inherited his Zaydi faith from his mother’s family, the Āl Thawāba, who were in all probability Zaydīs’. See A. Azarnoosh, ‘Abū al-Faraj’, 728. 9 As will be shown in this article, this view also assumes that the Āl Thawāba are Zaydis—an assumption that is problematic in light of the socio-historical circumstances considered here, wherein many of the elite families like the Āl Thawāba themselves may have simply aligned with the ʿAlids or Ṭālibids, without committing themselves to any substantial Shiʿi (including Imāmī) doctrine. Furthermore, the Shiʿi conviction of the Āl Thawāba is based on attenuate evidence. See below pp. 15–16 and Section 2. 10 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn (ed. Aḥmad Ṣaqr; Qom: Manshūrāt al-Sharīf al-Raḍī, 2nd edn., 1416 [1995]), 547. 11 This view also fails to take into account the fact that Isfahan was a Sunni-dominant city; see Andrew J. Newman, The Formative Period of Twelver Shīʿism: Ḥadīth as Discourse Between Qum and Baghdad (London: Routledge, 2000), 13; al-Najāshī, Fihrist asmāʾ muṣannifī al-shīʿa al-mushtahar bi-rijāl al-Najāshī (Beirut: Shirkat al-Aʿlamī, 2010), 19–20. 12 Newman, Twelver Shiism, 42–3. On the role of the Banū Nawbakht in the Shiʿi communities during the Minor Occultation (260–329/874–941), see Heinz Halm, Shiism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), 35–9; Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shi‘i Islam (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985), 76–7, 162–5. 13 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 22–8; in Khalafallāh’s view, al-Iṣfahānī is included by Abū Nuʿaym al-Iṣfahānī in Akhbār Aṣbahān simply because of his nisba, al-Iṣfahānī, an indication of his familial origin from Isfahan (on p. 25). Abū Nuʿaym mentions nothing of al-Iṣfahānī’s being born in Isfahan: Abū Nuʿaym al-Iṣfahānī, Kitāb Dhikr akhbār Iṣbahāni: [wa-bi-dhaylihī] Itḥāf al-ikhwān bi-fihris aḥādith wa-āthār tārīkh Iṣbahān Aṣbahān (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-Islāmī, n.d.), ii. 22. According to Azarnoosh, the idea was first disseminated by Ṭāshkubrīzāda (d. 968/1561): ‘Abū al-Faraj’, 719. 14 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 22–5. 15 There is some information about al-Iṣfahānī’s cousin, Aḥmad, the son of al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad. However, as the purpose of this article is to investigate what motivated the generations before al-Iṣfahānī to side with the Ṭālibids, Aḥmad b. al-Ḥasan will not be included in our discussion; for his narrations and life, see Manfred Fleischhammer, Die Quellen des Kitāb al-Aġānī (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2004), 35; Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 46, where he cites two reports from Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Kitāb al-Aghānī (eds. Yūsuf al-Baqāʿī and Gharīd al-Shaykh; Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Aʿlamī li-l-Maṭbuʿāt [Al Alami Library], 2000), xvi. 312; xviii. 92. The two reports cited by Khalafallāh here show that Aḥmad narrates from Muḥammad b. Mūsā and from Abū Jaʿfar b. Rustam al-Ṭabarī, who was a grammarian of Imāmī tendencies; see Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī, al-Fihrist (ed. Muḥammad Ṣādiq; Qom: al-Sharīf al-Raḍī, 198?), 158–9; al-Dhahabī, Mīzān, vi. 90; Ibn Ḥajar, Lisān, vi. 29–30. This, nonetheless, does not mean that Aḥmad was an Imāmī. 16 This Aḥmad b. al-Haytham should be distinguished from another Aḥmad b. al-Haytham b. Firās, or al-Firāsī, who is often cited as Aḥmad b. al-Haytham; concerning the latter, see Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 75–6. 17 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 41 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xx. 248–9). 18 al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī (ed. ʿAbd al-Amīr Muhannā; Beirut: Sharikat al-Aʿlamī li-l-Maṭbūʿāt, 2010), ii. 433. 19 One report notes that al-Mutawakkil summoned blind Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm to Samarra, to entertain himself; see al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, v. 299–300. 20 Other instances in which al-Iṣfahānī narrates from Aḥmad b. al-Haytham through al-Anbārī: al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, iv. 135, vii. 78. For the biographical information about al-Anbārī and his kātib attribute, see al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, xiii. 396–7; see also: Fleischhamer, Die Quellen, 41. 21 See ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad, below p. 8. 22 The calculations here and in what follows are all based on the hijrī dates, which are then converted into common era dating. 23 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 41 (Ibn Ḥazm, Jamhara, 107). 24 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 46–7. For the eyewitness reports about Abū al-ʿIbar as narrated by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, see al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 161, 163–4. In the Aghānī, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz’s narrations come from, respectively, Thaʿlab (200–291/816–904): iv. 111–12; al-Zubayr b. Bakkār (171–256/788–870): iv. 120, ix. 120, xix. 121; al-Riyāshī (177–257/793–871): viii. 9, xxi. 208; and al-Kharrāz (d. 258/872): ix. 217. 25 For a summary of his appointments to the vizierate from the caliphate of al-Muʿtaṣim in 221/833 to his dismissal from the post and demise during al-Mutawakkil’s rule in 233/847, see D. Sourdel art., ‘Ibn al-Zayyāt’, EI2. 26 Khalafallāh, Ṣāhib, 39, 42–43. 27 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xvi. 302. My translation. 28 For a summary of Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī’s career, see Khayr al-Dīn al-Ziriklī, al-Aʿlām: qāmūs tarājim li-ashhar al-rijāl wa-l-nisāʾ min al-ʿarab wa-l-mustaʿribīn wa-l-mustashriqīn (Beirut: Dār al-ʿIlm li-l-Malāyīn, 15th edn., 2002), i. 45. 29 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, x. 57. 30 See below, pp. 12–14. 31 For the history of the Banū Wahb, see C. E. Bosworth art., ‘Wahb’, EI2. 32 al-Tanūkhī, Nishwār al-muḥāḍara wa-akhbār al-mudhākara (ed. ʿAbbūd al-Shālijī ; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 2nd edn., 1995), vii. 200–2. 33 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 547. 34 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī. Tārīkh al-rusul wa-l-mulūk (ed. Muḥammad A. Ibrāhīm; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 2nd edn., 1968–1975), ix. 370–1, 512. 35 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 43–4. 36 Ibid, 41 (Ibn Ḥazm, Jamhara, 107; al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh, viii. 440). 37 Ibn Ḥazm, Jamhara, 107; al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh, viii. 440. 38 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 47–8 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 164). 39 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 21. According to Khalafallāh, al-Iṣfahānī shares a number of sources with his uncle, such as Ibn Durayd, Abū Khalīfa al-Jumaḥī, and ʿAlī b. Sulaymān al-Akhfash; this may imply the mutual experience of attending similar learning circles (ḥalaqāt); see Ṣāḥib, 48. 40 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 49–51. 41 For al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad’s sources, see Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 48–9. Here I only address those involved in the court. 42 al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad’s sources such as ʿUmar b. Naṣr and ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUthmān al-Kātib do not feature substantially in the Aghānī; the former is ‘one of the senior figures among the kuttāb in Samarra (kāna min mashāyikh al-kuttāb bi-Surra Man Raʾā)’, while the latter’s involvement in the kātib post is not specified: al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xx. 144 (ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUthmān); xxiii. 52, 81, 91 (ʿUmar b. Naṣr). As for Muḥammad b. al-Dihqāna al-Nadīm, living under al-Wāthiq’s rule, he was associated with al-Wāthiq, Ibn al-Muʿtazz, al-ʿAbbās b. al-Faḍl al-Khurāsānī—one of Ṭāhir b. Ḥusayn’s and his son’s leading generals—and Ibrāhīm b. al-Mudabbir: al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, v. 259; vii. 235; xii. 79; xvi. 286. 43 al-Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab wa-maʿādin al-jawhar (ed. Yūsuf al-Biqāʿī; Beirut: al-Maktaba al-ʿAṣriyya, 2nd edn., 2011), iv. 110. 44 Their narrations to al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad and their biographies are examined by Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 78, 96, 106–7. 45 al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad’s narrations from Muḥammad b. Dāwūd: al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, ii. 144; vi. 198; vii. 192, 194, 197; x. 55; 22: 116, 118, 123, 128, 134. The most famous member of the family is his nephew, ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā. For an introduction to him and his family, see M. L. M. van Berkel art., ‘ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā b. Dāʾūd b. al-Jarrāḥ’, EI3. 46 Ibn al-Nadīm, al-Fihrist, 142; al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, iii. 156. Al-Iṣfahānī cites a book of his, see Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 94, 126. 47 Miskawayh, Tajārib al-umam wa-taʿāqub al-himam (ed. Sayyid K. Ḥasan; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2003), v. 4–8. 48 Except for Hārūn, who, it can be securely established, was a kātib, the occupations of the other two are not clear. The narrations from Hārūn are numerous; see Fleischhamer, Die Quellen, 85. There is also a note of Hārūn’s association with ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān, which will be quoted below. His kātib identity is specified in al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, xvi. 38; Ibn al-Nadīm, al-Fihrist, 137 (where Hārūn is placed under the category of kuttāb authors). For the narrations from ʿUmar and ʿUbaydallāh, see respectively al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xx. 74 and xix. 176. 49 Ibid, x. 54–5. 50 Ibid, xiii. 123; xviii. 263. Al-Iṣfahānī, in addition to his uncle, relies on other transmitters for Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s reports, such as Wakīʿ (d. 306/918); see Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 59–60; al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, vii. 163; xv. 240–1; xvi. 133, 240; xix. 82; xx. 156. In addition, ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s nephew, who let al-Iṣfahānī copy his uncle’s work, presumably, another Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn (Maqātil, 32; perhaps, for this reason, al-Iṣfahānī can quote the list of the dead Ṭālibids given by Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza in his own Maqātil, 552–64). Regarding Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s works, see al-Najāshī, Rijāl, 332. 51 al-Najāshī, Rijāl, 332; al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, 4: 105–6; al-Mizzī, Tahdhīb al-kamāl fī asmāʾ al-rijāl (ed. Bashshār ʿA. Maʿrūf; Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 2nd edn., 1983), xxvi. 144–5. 52 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xviii. 120 (Muḥammad b. Mūsā); xxi. 34 (ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās). 53 Newman, The Formative, 15–19; D. Sourdel art., ‘Ibn al-Furāt’, EI2. 54 al-Ḥasan b. Mūsā al-Nawbakhtī and Saʿd b. ʿAbdallāh al-Qummī, Firaq al-shīʿa (ed. ʿAbd al-Munʿim al-Ḥafnī; Cairo: Dār al-Rashād, 1992), 94–6. 55 al-Ṣafadī, Kitāb al-Wāfī bi-l-wafayāt (ed. Aḥmad al-Arnāʾūṭ and Turkī Muṣṭafā; Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 2000), xxi. 113; al-Marzubānī, Muʿjam al-shuʿarāʾ (ed. Fārūq Aslīm; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 2005), 193; Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, xiii. 267–8; al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalāʾ (ed. Ḥassān ʿAbd al-Mannān; Beirut: Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyya, 2004), 2791. 56 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 45 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xiii. 90). 57 This point is made in Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 50, 118 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, ii. 124–5). 58 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 21. 59 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 52–4 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xii. 29; xiv. 113, 157; xvi. 317–18; xix. 35, 49; xx. 116); see also Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 133. Given that there is no direct transmission from him, it is likely that Yaḥyā b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba deceased before al-Iṣfahānī was ready to receive education. 60 al-ʿAbbās b. Aḥmad b. Thawāba gave al-Iṣfahānī a work of Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm al-Mawṣilī in Isḥāq’s own hand, see Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 54–8 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī: x. 119; xxi. 37–8). For a brief introduction to the Āl Thawāba, see S. Boustany art., ‘Ibn Thawāba’, EI2. 61 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 121–3. 62 Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, vii. 187–90. 63 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 58, n. 4. 64 In Rifāʿī’s edition of Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, which I use, it is spelled ‘Bākbāk’; in the Murūj al-dhahab, it is ‘Bāykiyāl’. Here I follow: al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 453, et passim; Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, iv. 148; al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 150. 65 Etan Kohlberg, ‘The Term ‘Rāfida’ in Imāmī Shīʿī Usage’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 99/4 (1979): 677–9. 66 Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, iv. 147–9. 67 Although the author of Aʿyān al-shīʿa, Muḥsin al-Amīn al-Āmilī, attributes Muḥammad b. Aḥmad’s Shīʿism to all the Āl Thawāba, his only evidence is from Yāqūt. See Muḥsin al-Amīn al-Āmilī, Aʿyān al-shīʿa (ed. Ḥasan al-Amīn; Beirut: Dār al-Taʿāruf li-l-Maṭbūʿāt, 1983), iii. 89. 68 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 443–4, 468 (for details about the coup against al-Muhtadī, see 456–69). 69 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 119. 70 Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, iv. 150–2, 157–8. Ismāʿīl b. Bulbul promoted Shiʿi retinues, including the Banū Nawbakht, during his vizierate. See Louis Massignon, ‘Recherches sur les Shiʿites extrémistes à Bagdad à la fin du troisième siècle de l’Hégire’, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 92/3 (1938): 378–82. Given that the Shiʿi confession of the Āl Thawāba is not firmly established, I am not fully convinced by the view that Ismāʿīl b. Bulbul’s ‘conciliatory attitude towards’ Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba is related to their mutual Shiʿi identities, as suggested in S. Boustany art., ‘Ibn Thawāba’, EI2. 71 Bernheimer defines it as follows: ‘ “ʿAlidism,” characterized by a non-sectarian reverence and support for the family, as distinct from ‘Shīʿism,’ the political and religious claims of some of its members or others on their behalf.’ See Teresa Bernheimer, ‘Genealogy, Marriage, and the Drawing of Boundaries among the ʿAlids (eighth-twelfth centuries)’ in Morimoto Kazuo (ed.), Sayyids and Sharifs in Muslim Societies: the Living Links to the Prophet (London: Routledge, 2012): 75–91, at 76. Although I agree that one could be an ʿAlid supporter without being a Shiʿi and an ʿAlid could be a Sunnī, as Bernheimer points out (esp. 81), I am less certain about the boundary between Shiʿism and ʿAlidism, which, in my view, is fluid and contingent upon time and place. In the context in which sectarian conflicts intensified, for instance, Baghdad under Buyid rule, pronouncing one’s reverence and support for the ʿAlids may have been interpreted as Shiʿi conviction, regardless of how one actually conceptualized such reverence and support. That is, it is doubtful whether, in practice, one’s affection for the ahl al-bayt can be categorically defined as either ʿAlidism or Shiʿism. 72 An example during al-Muʿtaṣim’s reign is a Jaʿfarid who refused to wear the black robe and was thus jailed in Samarra; a number of ʿAlids suspected of treason were brought to the same city during the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil; see al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 464–73, 480–1, 491–2. 73 Ibid, 454. 74 al-Kulaynī, Uṣūl min al-kāfī (Beirut: Manshūrāt al-Fajr, 2007), i. 314 (hereafter cited as al-kāfī); al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 43. 75 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 476; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya (ed. ʿAbdallāh ʿA al-Turkī; Jīza: Dār Hajar, 1998), xiv. 330. 76 al-Mutawakkil’s ill treatment of the Ṭālibids is recorded in detail by al-Iṣfahānī: Maqātil, 478–80. The property of Fadak was returned to the ʿAlids by al-Maʾmūn, and then al-Mutawakkil revoked this policy; for the history of the disposal of Fadak until the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil, see al-Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān (eds. ʿAbdallāh A. al-Ṭabbāʿ and ʿUmar A. al-Ṭabbāʿ; Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Maʿārif, n.d.), 45–7; al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh, ii. 447; al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 200–201; Miskawayh, Tajārib, iv 120–1. 77 According to al-Kulaynī, al-Mutawakkil politely invited ʿAlī b. Muḥammad to visit him and bring with him his family; ʿAlī b. Muḥammad’s debauchee brother, Mūsā, seems to have been one of them: al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 318, 320–1; see also: al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 77–8; al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 163; al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh, ii. 447. 78 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 279–80, 503; al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 110; al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 254. 79 According to al-Kulaynī’s Kāfī, al-Mustaʿīn placed the imam al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī in a predicament in the hope of having him killed, but, of course, on account of the Imam’s thaumaturgic power, that did not work out: i. 325–6. Also from al-Kāfī, it is claimed that al-Muhtadī was hostile to the Imam, but the report in question also seeks to highlight the Imam’s power to predict future events: i. 327. 80 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, x. 41–2, 44, 54–63. 81 Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: the Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century (London: Routledge, 3rd edn., 2016), 156–7. 82 al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 51–2; E. Marin, art. ‘Dulafids’, EI2. 83 al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 137–8. 84 Ibid, 130–1. 85 al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 320. ʿUmar b. al-Faraj was one of the members of the council which decided the successor of al-Wāthiq. Later, when al-Mutawakkil struggled against the growing influence of the Turkish regiment, headed by Waṣīf and Ītākh, ʿUmar b. al-Faraj, like Ibn Abī Duʾād and Ibn al-Zayyāt, fell victim to the caliph’s ambition in 233/848. For the conflict between al-Mutawakkil and ʿUmar b. Faraj, see al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 156–61; al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, viii. 46; al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh, ii. 448; al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 29–30. For further analyses of al-Mutawakkil’s manoeuvres, see Matthew S. Gordon, The Breaking of a Thousand Swords: a History of the Turkish Military of Samarra (A.H. 200–275/815–889 C.E.) (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001), 80–3; John P. Turner, ‘The End of the Miḥna’, Oriens, 38 (2010): 89–106. On Muḥammad b. al-Faraj, see also al-Najāshī, Rijāl, 356. 86 al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 320; al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 240–4, 246, 253, 256–9; al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh, ii. 450–1, 458–60; al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 107–8, 118. Aḥmad b. al-Khaṣīb is listed among ʿAlī b. Muḥammad’s companions: al-Barqī, Kitāb al-Rijāl (Tehran: Chāpkhāna-yi Danishgāh-i Tihrān, 1382 sh), 60. 87 Apart from ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān and his son, Aḥmad, who was in charge of the ḍiyāʿ and kharāj in Qom, ʿAlī b. Utāmish (in al-Irshād) may have been one of al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī’s partisans, but the orthographic variance (spelled ‘ʿAlī b. Nārmash’ in al-Kāfī) leaves this less certain: al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 322–5; al-Mufīd, al-Irshād fī maʿrifat ḥujaj Allāh ʿalā al-ʿibād (ed. Muʾassasat Āl al-Bayt li-Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth; Beirut: Muʾassasat Āl al-Bayt li-Iḥyāʾal-Turāth, 1995), ii. 329–30. 88 al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 314, 316–17, 322, 325–8; on other narrators and companions of the Imams, see al-Barqī, Rijāl, 57–61. On al-Nawfalī, see Sebastian Günther, ‘Al-Nawfalī’s Lost History: the Issue of a Ninth-Century Shi‘ite Source used by al-Ṭabarī and Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 36/2 (2008): 241–66. 89 Another example that may be added here is Ibrāhīm b. al-Mudabbir, who brokered Muḥammad b. Ṣāliḥ al-ʿAlawī’s marriage to the daughter of ʿĪsā b. Mūsā, despite Muḥammad b. Ṣāliḥ having just been released from prison; another hint as to his pro-Ṭālibid stance is shown in his hostility towards ʿAlī b. al-Jahm; see al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, x. 175–8, 182–5, 187–8, 189–90, 192–3; xvi. 286–8. 90 al-Iṣfahānī portrays ʿAlī b. al-Jahm in a negative light: al-Aghānī, x. 175–97; Ibn Khallikān remarked ʿAlī b. al-Jahm’s dislike for ʿAlī: Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-anbāʾ abnāʾ al-zamān (ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1972), iii. 355. On Marwān b. Abī al-Janūb, see al-Marzubānī, Muʿjam, 374; Ibn al-Muʿtazz, Ṭabaqāt al-shuʿarāʾ (ed. ʿAbd al-Sattār A. Farrāj; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 3rd edn., 1976), 393; al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xii. 62; xxiii. 168. Apart from these two poets, Miskawayh lists a number of boon companions who either mocked ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib or suggested that the caliph alienate the ʿAlids: Tajārib, iv. 120–1. Another figure in al-Mutawakkil’s retinue known for being hostile to ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib is the buffoon poet, Abū al-ʿIbar, with whom al-Iṣfahānī’s grand-uncle and uncle, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz and al-Ḥasan, had direct contact; see al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 167. Although differing in detail, Ibn al-Nadīm agrees with al-Iṣfahānī that Abū al-ʿIbar was killed by a Kūfan Shiʿi; see Ibn al-Nadīm, al-Fihrist, 169–70; Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, xvii. 126. 91 See n. 87; al-Iṣfahānī himself specified ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān as the implementer of al-Mutawakkil’s anti-ʿAlid policy. Another example would be Muḥammad b. al-Faraj, who is regarded as ʿAlī b. Muḥammad’s companion (see above, p. 00), while his brother ʿUmar b. al-Faraj, imposed harsh regulations upon the Ṭālibids, who were impoverished as a result, according to: al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 478–9. 92 In addition to the case of al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn, mentioned above (p. 10), the Ṭālibids also received funds from the Zaydi rulers in Ṭabaristān and some of them or their deputies could claim the khums from their followers. The accounts that explain why Bughā al-Kabīr and al-Muʿtaḍid treated Āl Abī Ṭālib with benevolence mention the encounters of both with ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib in dreams, wherein they are promised good rewards (a long healthy life and the caliphate, respectively) on condition that they show respect and kindness to ʿAlī’s kinsfolk. Although the authenticity of these accounts may be dismissed as literary topoi, this kind of story does highlight the importance (or benefits) of being munificent to the Ṭālibids in the eyes of the historians of the late ninth and the tenth centuries. This also dovetails with al-Iṣfahānī’s description of al-Mutawakkil’s anti-Ṭālibid policies, which forbade the Ṭālibids from asking favours from people and people’s birr for them. That is, the Ṭālibids could and did claim special status in the community. See al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, 10: 41–42 (the fund from Ṭabaristān and al-Muʿtaḍid’s encounter with ʿAlī); al-Musʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 130–1, 214–15 (Bughā al-Kabīr and al-Muʿtaḍid); al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 479. Morimoto Kazuo, ‘How to Behave toward Sayyids and Sharīfs: a Trans-sectarian Tradition of Dream Accounts’ in Morimoto Kazuo (ed.), Sayyids and Sharifs, 15–36; although the examples that Kazuo adduces are derived from later compilations (the earliest being the work of Ibn al-Jawzī, who died in 597/1200), it is likely that some of these accounts go back to the tenth century, see, par excellence, pp. 21, 26–9. This perhaps implies that the act of being benevolent to an ʿAlid was something viewed as commendable. For the different Shiʿi sects’ expositions of khums, see A. Zysow and R. Gleave, art. ‘Khums’, EI2. 93 al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 119. 94 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 480, 488–9. 95 This tallies with the point reiterated by Bernheimer (‘Genealogy’, 81): ‘[…] this clearly shows that the disengagement of ʿAlidism and Shīʿism goes both ways: not only could one be a supporter of the ʿAlids without being a Shīʿite, one could also be a Shīʿite without proposing any special treatment for the ʿAlids.’ 96 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 246. 97 Ibid, 256. 98 Ibid, 266–70. 99 Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil, vi. 199–200. The same process took place with the death of al-Muʾayyad, who had been either beaten or smothered to death in 252/866, but instead of the Banū Hāshim, the witnesses here are identified with the quḍāt, fuqahāʾ, shuhūd, and wujūh, who may have included some of the Ṭālibids. See al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 362. 100 Ibid, 442–3. 101 For more details on the bayʿa and the political rituals and ceremonies of this period, see Andrew Marsham, Rituals of Islamic Monarchy: Accession and Succession of the First Muslim Empire (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 283–308. 102 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 283. 103 Ibid, 453. 104 See above, pp. 8–10. 105 See above, nn. 51 and 88. 106 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 547–8. 107 According to al-Ṭabarī (Tārīkh, ix. 328–9), Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī delayed and was not able to carry out his mission before Muzāḥim defeated the rebels and put them to flight. It is noteworthy that al-Iṣfahānī presents a very different story, in which the ʿAlid rebel came to Samarra, offering allegiance to the rival caliph, al-Muʿtazz, and was then let be by Muzāḥim. As al-Iṣfahānī does not cite any source, it may be that he presents a Kūfan perspective on an event which caused high casualties in that city and perhaps, as a result, resentment against al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad. See also al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 521–2. For a more concise account, see al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 125. Another instance of Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim’s intercession for a rebellious ʿAlid is recorded for the year 252/866-7, see the note following (108). 108 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 370–1. 109 See above, n. 50. 110 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 552: ‘And Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza mentioned the death of a group of the Ṭālibids, whose death is not executed by the government, and he did not specify the historical dates of their death; thus, I mention that [the death of the given Ṭālibids] following his account, exempt from (or not responsible for) mistake, if any, slip or negligence [‘dhakara Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza maqātil jamāʿa min al-Ṭālibiyyīn lam yatawalla qatla-hum al-sulṭān wa-lam yaḥṣur awqāt maqātili-him bi-tārīkh fa-dhakartu dhālika bi-ḥikāyati-hi mutabarriʾan min khaṭaʾ in kāna fī-hi aw zalal aw sahw]’). 111 The personal traits, such as bravery, generosity, and handsome appearance, are sometimes mentioned under each biographical entry. See, for a summary of the Ṭālibids in the Maqātil, Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 327–32 (Appendix One). 112 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 558–63. 113 Ibid, 558. 114 It is an interpolation on al-Iṣfahānī’s part, as the source mentioned here, Aḥmad b. Saʿīd, is one of al-Iṣfahānī’s major sources in the Maqātil. See Sebastian Günther, Quellenuntersuchungen zu den ‘Maqātil al-Ṭālibīyyīn’ des Abū-l-Farağ al-Iṣfahānī (gest. 356/967): Ein Beitrag zur Problematik der mündlichen und schriftlichen Überlieferung in der mittelalterlichen arabischen Literatur (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1991), 127–31. 115 The political alignments of the ʿAlids are reflected in their marital patterns; see Asad Q. Ahmed, The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic Ḥijāz: Five Prosopographical Case Studies (Oxford: Prosopographica et Genealogica, 2011), 19–20; Teresa Bernheimer, The ʿAlids: The First Family of Islam, 750–1200 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 32–50. 116 While al-Iṣfahānī does mention the death of Muḥammad b. Zayd and notice al-Ḥasan b. Zayd and others’ campaigns in Ṭabaristān and Rayy, which he reserves for another work, he claims that he did not have access to the latest information about the Ṭālibids in Yemen and Ṭabaristān by the time he finished the Maqātil in 313/925; see Maqātil, 490–1, 542, 565. 117 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 42. 118 For a thorough analysis of al-Iṣfahānī’s editorial hand and his treatment of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib, see Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 253–7. 119 Ibid, 223–41. 120 Ibid, 183–203, 218–23, 242–7, 257–60. On the atrocities committed by Ismāʿīl b. Yūsuf in Makka in 251/865, see al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 346–7. 121 This view is accepted by many: Najam Haider, The Origins of the Shīʿa: Identity, Ritual, and Sacred Space in Eighth-Century Kūfa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 197; id., ‘The Community Divided: A Textual Analysis of the Murders of Idrīs b. ʿAbd Allāh (d.175/791)’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 128/3 (2008): 459–75; Kilpatrick, Making, 14–16; S. Günther art.,‘Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’, EI3; Patricia Crone, Medieval Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 100. 122 See above, n. 116 and Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 253. 123 Wilferd Madelung, Der Imam al-Qāsim ibn Ibrāhīm und die Glaubenslehre der Zaiditen (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1965), 47. Crone (Medieval, 100, n. 4) suggests that al-Iṣfahānī was a member of this group without giving any evidence beyond citing Madelung’s view. Furthermore, in the light of our review of the family’s connections with the politically quietist Ṭālibids, it makes little sense to pre-conceive a (Zaydī or any other) label to define al-Iṣfahānī’s sectarian affiliation. Given the fluidity of the sectarian boundaries in the second half of the ninth century, al-Iṣfahānī and the Iṣfahānīs’ sectarian conviction ought to be defined on its own terms. 124 This papyrus, which is the sole source of Madelung’s understanding of the Ṭālibiyya (Der Imam, 47, n. 22), is transcribed and analysed by Nabia Abbott, Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri I. Historical Texts (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 100–8. 125 Ibid, 105. 126 Ibid, 101–2. In the Maqātil, al-Iṣfahānī explicitly states that he only includes ʿAbdallāh b. Muʿāwiya for the sake of making his book comprehensive. Thus, ʿAbdallāh b. Muʿāwiya is portrayed negatively in both of his works: Maqātil, 152–9; al-Aghānī, xii. 171–90. For an analysis of ʿAbdallāh b. Muʿāwiya’s image, see Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 275–6. 127 Also, note that al-Iṣfahānī’s conviction, based on my research, should be construed as a form of Shiʿism. Given that al-Iṣfahānī emphatically highlights ʿAlī’s political legitimacy, which is contested in the ninth century, and his precedence over the first three caliphs, which does not conform to the hierarchical trajectory of the four rightly-guided caliphs embraced by the ahl al-ḥadīth, the core group constituting Sunni Islam, his sectarian profession is thus more than ʿAlidism. See Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 253–7; Crone, Medieval, 135; al-Nāshiʾ al-Akbar, Masāʾil al-imāma wa-muqtaṭafāt min al-Kitāb al-Awsaṭ fī al-maqālāt (Frühe muʿtazilitische Häresiographie: zwei Werke des Nāšiʾ al-Akbar (gest. 293 H) ed. Josef van Ess; Beirut/Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1971), 10–21; al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (ed. Abū Ṣuhayb al-Karamī; Riyadh: Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyya, 1998), 698–709; Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (ed. Naẓar M. al-Fāriyābī; Riyadh: Dār Ṭayba, 2005), 1119–31; Abū Dāwūd, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, ed. Shuʿayb al-Arnāʾūṭ and Muḥammad K. Qarah Balilī (Damascus: Dār al-Risāla al-ʿĀlamiyya, 2009), vii. 33–52. 128 See above, pp. 8–10. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Islamic Studies Oxford University Press

The Family History of Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī: the Ninth-Century ʿAbbasid Political Elite and the Ṭālibids in Samarra

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
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Abstract

Abstract This paper investigates the family history of Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī and the sectarian implications, in the second half of the ninth century, of their affiliation with the Ṭālibids alongside their connections with the ʿAbbasid court. By studying the Iṣfahānī family’s social networks (specifically, the three generations before al-Iṣfahānī) and the wider socio-political milieu, the paper suggests that the Ṭālibids, who had strong presence in Samarra, attracted the political elite under ʿAbbasid rule, including the Iṣfahānīs, because their prestige as the Prophet’s close kin served as a source of political legitimacy, which may have been used to secure the transfer of power in a turbulent time. The division of the Ṭālibids themselves into the politically active and the politically quietist also facilitated the alliance between the Samarrai elite and the latter kind of the Ṭālibids. This pattern is reflected in the dynamics of the Iṣfahānī family’s relationship with the Ṭālibids. An examination of the attitude of the Ṭālibids to the ʿAbbasid authority and al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi belief seems to suggest that the Iṣfahānīs’ religious conviction may be understood as a kind of Shiʿism which embraces special reverence for ʿAlī and his virtuous descendants without enthusiasm for their political claims. In an often attested biographical entry on Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī (b. 284/897-8, d. 356/967),1 one finds the following passage: ‘It is astonishing that he is an Umayyad Shiʿi (al-ʿajab annahu umawī shīʿī).’2 While the biographers find this combination bizarre, al-Iṣfahānī himself appears to suggest the possibility of reconciliation between Shiʿis and their notional enemies, the Umayyads, in a story in which he relates that the Zaydi ruler in Ṭabaristān, Muḥammad b. Zayd (d. 287/900 or 289/902),3 pardoned and rewarded an Umayyad descendant of Yazīd b. Muʿāwiya (r. 60–64/680–683).4 What al-Iṣfahānī does not clarify is how his family, deriving from the last Umayyad caliph, Marwān b. Muḥammad (r. 127–132/744–750), ended up as ʿAlid or Shiʿi sympathizers.5 Two propositions, originally put forward by Khalafallāh, are frequently cited to explain this unusual combination. The first proposition suggests that the ʿAlids and the Umayyads, being both the targets of ʿAbbasid persecution, were pulled together and thus the conventional hostility defrosted.6 This may be further supported by a geopolitical factor. Isfahan, which was the refuge of various ʿAlids and their supporters in the late Umayyad period, was the destination of al-Iṣfahānī’s ancestral Umayyad branch after the ʿAbbasid revolution.7 It is in this geographical proximity that the connection between the ʿAlids and the Umayyads took root. According to the second proposition, the fact that al-Iṣfahānī was related to the Āl Thawāba from the maternal side was taken by Khalafallāh, and then Kilpatrick and Azarnoosh, as explaining al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi conviction on the basis of the Āl Thawāba’s Shiʿi affiliation.8 However, this second view is in fact based on the assumption that the Āl Thawāba are Zaydi Shiʿis. Furthermore, it only accounts for al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi sympathy, and does not explain why the Shiʿi-inclined (if this is an accurate description at all) Āl Thawāba decided to give their daughter’s hand to an Umayyad family.9 Moreover, al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad, cultivated close relationships with some Ṭālibid notables.10 Thus, it seems that al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi connection may be traced further back to his paternal ancestors. As for the first proposition, although reasonable, it lacks precision as to when, how, and why this branch of the Umayyads became Shiʿi. Instead of joining the Sunni majority or other discontented groups under ʿAbbasid rule,11 what prompted al-Iṣfahānī’s forefathers to revere ʿAlī’s offspring, and thus accept their superior virtues and, implicitly, hold (at least, notionally) their close kin, such as Muʿāwiya b. Abī Sufyān (against ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib) and Hishām b. ʿAbd al-Malik (against Zayd b. ʿAlī), as wrongdoers for warring against ʿAlī or his descendants? To ask why al-Iṣfahānī’s family became close to the ahl al-bayt is also to ask why many elite families working under ʿAbbasid authority decided to align with the Ṭālibids, especially, the ʿAlids—some of these families, such as the Banū Nawbakht, were deeply involved in the affairs of the Imami Shiʿi community—in the second half of the ninth century and the beginning of the tenth.12 In the wider context of the socio-political milieu that facilitated association between the political elite and the Ṭālibids, this study addresses al-Iṣfahānī’s family history (specifically, the three generations before him) with regard to their affiliation to the Ṭālibids. The explanation proposed in the present study is that the Ṭālibids, with their strong presence in Samarra in the second half of the ninth century, attracted the political elite under ʿAbbasid rule, because, besides their spiritual guidance, their prestige as the Prophet’s close kin and as a source of political legitimacy may have been used to secure the transfer of power in a turbulent time, in which deposing and killing caliphs, kuttāb, and military leaders became a quotidian scene on the political stage. Another question branching out of this one is the question of how Shiʿi this political elite was (what kind of Shiʿism and to what extent they regarded themselves as shīʿat ʿAlī and his descendants). In what follows, we will begin by introducing al-Iṣfahānī’s family members (as shown in the Figure 1), with regards to the people with whom they were associated. The main information, derived from the Aghānī and the Maqātil, has been analysed by Khalafallāh. I summarize Khalafallāh’s key points, with additional material. Where Khalafallāh cites from the Aghānī and other primary sources, the reference(s) to the cited passage(s) are given, from the editions I am using, in parenthesis. After this section, the wider historical context, especially the Ṭālibid interaction with the political elite, is examined. Then, the family’s networks are analysed and re-situated in the context of the ʿAbbasid court in the ninth and tenth centuries. Finally, how the family’s alignment with the Ṭālibids in the given context can be interpreted in terms of Shiʿism is treated in the last section. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide The family ancestors of al-Iṣfahānī15 Figure 1 View largeDownload slide The family ancestors of al-Iṣfahānī15 1. AN OVERVIEW OF THE IṢFAHĀNĪS When treating the connection between the city, Isfahan, and al-Iṣfahānī himself, Khalafallāh argues convincingly that there is no evidence showing that al-Iṣfahānī was born in Isfahan—he may not even have been to that city.13 The epithet, Khalafallāh suggests, is derived from the offshoot of Marwān b. Muḥammad’s descendants that settled in Isfahan after the ʿAbbasid revolution—they became al-Iṣfahānī’s family; this is further supported by the fact that many of al-Iṣfahānī’s relatives bear the same name tracing them to Isfahan.14 Just as Isfahan seems to be nothing more than al-Iṣfahānī’s nisba, the city leaves no trace in the family’s history, as the earliest member of it of whom we have record appears to have settled in Samarra, that is, al-Iṣfahānī’s great grandfather, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham. 1.1. Aḥmad b. al-Haytham16 According to a report in the Aghānī, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham, to whom al-Iṣfahānī refers as jadd abī (my father’s grandfather), lived somewhere between the residence of the well-known musician, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm al-Mawṣilī (155–235/772–850), and the caliphal palace (dār al-khalīfa) in Samarra; for this reason, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm, often passing by, once stopped by his great-grandfather’s house and joined the party inside.17 Khalafallāh says this report does not inform much, but it actually gives three important clues. First, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham and his brothers (ikhwān; it cannot be said whether the word is being used literally or metaphorically in the given context), at the end of the given report, rewarded Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm’s servant (ghulām) with 20,000 dirhams. That means Aḥmad b. al-Haytham was sufficiently well-off to patronize others, to own slaves (as mentioned in the report), and to have ready cash to give away at home, given that Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm’s visit is reported as unplanned. Second, as Isḥāq b Ibrāhīm became blind and retired to Baghdad before the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil (r. 232–247/847–861), the background of this report should be set at some point between the year 221/835–6, when al-Muʿtaṣim (r. 218–227/833–842) constructed Samarra,18 and 232/847, the beginning of al-Mutawwakil’s caliphate.19 Third, al-Iṣfahānī does not narrate directly from his great-grandfather, but via ʿAlī b. Ṣāliḥ b. al-Haytham al-Anbārī, who bears the professional attribute, al-kātib, the scribe.20 That is, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham appears to have been associated with at least one (and, perhaps, more) scribe. Taken together, it may be suggested that al-Iṣfahānī’s great-grandfather came to settle in Samarra sometime before al-Mutawakkil’s reign; he may have been a kātib like al-Anbārī, or at least engaged in a profitable profession that allowed for spare money for occasional rewards and keeping servants. Being the master of his own house, Aḥmad b. al-Haytham would have been at least in his thirties when hosting Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm, for his son worked as a kātib for al-Mutawakkil.21 This means that, if Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm’s visit took place in 221/835-6, he may have been born before 191/806-7, but it is very unlikely that he survived until after 294/906-7, when al-Iṣfahānī, born in 284/897-8, reached the age of ten, presumably old enough to take down his great-grandfather’s narrations, as direct transmission was not available to the latter.22 Although the record we have is lacking precision, we can say of Aḥmad b. al-Haytham that, probably, he was mainly active in the first half of the ninth century and led a privileged life, which would fit with the prominence his sons enjoyed. 1.2. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad As Khalafallāh notes, it appears that the only biographical information about ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz comes from Ibn Ḥazm’s Jamhara, where ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz is identified as ‘one of the high ranking scribes in the days of al-Mutawakkil’ (min kibār al-kuttāb fī ayyām al-Mutawakkil).23 Like his father, he also lived in Samarra, and his personal encounters with Abū al-ʿIbar (d. ca. 250/864) support this. As ‘one of the high ranking scribes’, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad would have been born at least twenty years before this caliph’s rule, that is, around 212/827-8. Al-Iṣfahānī transmits reports directly from his grand-uncle.24 Thus, it can be suggested that ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz remained active after 294/906-7, when al-Iṣfahānī was ten years old. 1.3. Muḥammad b. Aḥmad Compared with the narrations from ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, al-Iṣfahānī narrates fewer reports from his own grandfather, Muḥammad, but the information related to Muḥammad is useful. Although there is no hint as to Muḥammad’s profession, he was well-connected among the elite in the court, such as the vizier, Ibn al-Zayyāt (d. 233/847),25 Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī (176–243/792–857), and the vizier-to-be, ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān (d. 288/901), in addition to the Ṭālibid notables.26 His contact with the first two is found in a report, in which he heard Ibn al-Zayyāt’s comment that Abū Tammām (188–231-2/804–845-6) was the best poet, of which he was not sure: Thus, I wanted to confirm [the comment] with Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās, who in my view is more knowledgeable and more proficient in the art of letters (ādab). I sat next to him, as I was like a son to him (wa-kuntu ajrī ʿindahu majrā al-walad), and said to him: ‘Who is the best poet of our time?’ […]27 Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās’ answer agreed with that of Ibn al-Zayyāt Apart from Muḥammad’s high regard for Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās, this account illustrates his easy access to the two prominent figures in the court and, moreover, his intimate relationship with Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās, who worked as the kātib of al-Muʿtaṣim, al-Wāthiq, and al-Mutawakkil, in charge of different dīwāns, including al-ḍiyāʿ and al-nafaqāt (the offices of estates and expenditure).28 The second report is also narrated in Muḥammad’s voice: ‘ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān told me, and he was very close to me, because of the long-term friendship and childhood friendship (kāna yaʾnasu bī unsan shadīdan li-qadīm al-ṣuḥba wa-iʾtilāf al-manshaʾ): ‘al-Muʿtaḍid summoned me one day […].’’29 The fact that Muḥammad and ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān, who later became the vizier,30 were friends growing up together highlights Aḥmad b. al-Haytham’s privileged status, given that Sulaymān b. Wahb, being the kātib of Ītākh and Mūsā b. Bughā, and the vizier later, was an influential figure.31 Furthermore, this may support the possibility that Aḥmad b. al-Haytham was a kātib too, as it was a common practice for the scribes to bring their children to work.32 His relationship with the Ṭālibids seems rather strong, as illustrated in an account in the Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn: Ḥakīm b. Yaḥyā informed me, saying: ‘al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn b. Zayd was the leader of the Banū Hāshim, one possessing the closest lineage [to the Prophet] among them (shaykh Banī Hāshim wa-dhā quʿdudi-him), to whom money from the different corners of the world was brought.’ Then, he [the narrator, Ḥakīm b. Yaḥyā] said [to al-Iṣfahānī]: ‘One day, we gathered at your grandfather’s, Abū al-Ḥasan Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Iṣfahānī’s, house, with a group of the Ṭālibids including al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn b. Zayd b. ʿAlī, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza al-ʿAlawī al-ʿAbbāsī, and Abū Hāshim Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī. Then, said your grandfather to al-Ḥusayn: ‘O Abū ʿAbdallāh [the agnomen of al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn], you possess the closest lineage among all of the descendants of the Prophet (anta aqʿad wuld Rasūl Allāh kulli-him), while Jaʿfar possesses the closest lineage among the descendants of Jaʿfar; you both are the leaders of the family of the Messenger of God (shaykhā Āl Rasūl Allāh).’ Then, he started to pray for them, for their long lives. Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza became jealous of them and said: ‘[O Abū] [sic] al-Ḥasan, possessing close lineage in this age does not do any good to them; if they ask from the people of this era for a bunch of grass (bāqat baql), they shall not be given.’ Al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn was angry at this and then said: ‘You say this to me? By God, I would not want that my genealogy be one generation farther away from the Messenger of God than it is, even if the whole world belonged to me (mā uḥibbu anna nasabī abʿadu mimmā huwa bi-ab wāḥid yubʿidunī min Rasūl Allāh wa-annā al-dunyā bi-ḥadhāfīri-hā lī).’33 The report highlights four points. First, al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather was associated with the Ṭālibids, including ʿAlids and Jaʿfarids, and, through those leading members, he may have reached out to more Ṭālibids than those mentioned in the report. Second, Muḥammad showed great respect to al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn and Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī, either out of his pro-Ṭālibid inclination or in order to consolidate his ties with this group. Thirdly, the Ṭālibids, as a group with its inner hierarchy within, seem to have enjoyed some influence and privileges, which brought them tributes, as ‘money from the different corners of the world was brought’ to al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn. Fourth, if the event was set in Samarra, it would have taken place some point between 252/866, when Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim was brought to Samarra, and 261/875, when he died.34 This report also offers insights into the socio-political milieu in Samarra, where the political elite lived close alongside the Ṭālibids—a point on which I will elaborate further in Section 2. Khalafallāh suggests, based on these inter-personal connections, that Muḥammad was probably born around or before the 220s/835-44, when he was old enough to understand and remember Ibn al-Zayyāt’s words before the latter’s execution in 233/847, and lived through 279/892, when al-Muʿtaḍid (r. 279–289/892–902) became the caliph;35 but he may have died before 294/906-7, as al-Iṣfahānī narrates from him only via his uncle. 1.4. al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad Al-Ḥasan is the only person among the Iṣfahānīs given an entry in al-Khaṭīb’s Tārīkh, while he is also mentioned in Ibn Ḥazm’s Jamhara alongside his uncle, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz.36 While al-Khaṭīb only notes al-Ḥasan’s narrations from ʿUmar b. Shabba and Ibn Abī Saʿd, Ibn Ḥazm informs us that he was a kātib in Samarra, reaching maturity by the time of the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil.37 Given al-Ḥasan’s personal encounter with Abū al-ʿIbar (d. ca. 250/864) in Samarra and his direct narration to al-Iṣfahānī, Khalafallāh concludes that he was born around the 240s/854-64 and lived after the 300s/912–22, active mainly in Samarra but likely to have visited Baghdad.38 It may be argued that al-Ḥasan eventually retired to Baghdad, where al-Iṣfahānī settled after 300/912–3, learnt from and studied with him.39 Khalafallāh also notes al-Ḥasan’s literary savvy (as well as his being a fan of the poet Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī), and many of his shuyūkh (teachers), of whom we know little.40 Although Khalafallāh rightly points out the scarcity of the information about al-Ḥasan’s informants, the inter-personal networks are nonetheless useful for insights into how and to what extent the family was entrenched in the court.41 Apart from ʿUmar b. Naṣr, ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUthmān al-Kātib, and Muḥammad b. al-Dihqāna al-Nadīm, of whom we know little except for their connection with the court, as indicated in their nisbas,42 al-Ḥasan narrates from two nadīms of al-Mutawakkil, Yazīd b. Muḥammad al-Muhallabī, who was a Shiʿi,43 and Abū al-ʿAynāʾ Muḥammad b. al-Qāsim b. Khallād (191–282 or 3/807–895 or 6). He also transmits from a nadīm of al-Muʿtaḍid—Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Sarakhsī (d. 286/899).44 A prominent figure that al-Ḥasan was in contact with is Muḥammad b. Dāwūd b. al-Jarrāḥ (243–296/857–908), from the Banū al-Jarrāḥ, who dominated the political scene during the caliphate of al-Muqtadir (r. 295–320/908–932).45 Muḥammad b. Dāwūd, besides being a kātib, with knowledge concerning reports about the caliphs, the viziers, and the past, and the author of a few works including those about poetry and poets,46 was executed after the unsuccessful coup d’état supporting the two-day caliph, by Ibn al-Muʿtazz (d. 296/908).47 Al-Ḥasan also transmits from the three sons of Ibn al-Zayyāt, ʿUmar, Hārūn, and ʿUbaydallāh, to some extent continuing his father, Muḥammad’s, tie with the Banū al-Zayyāt, although none of Ibn al-Zayyāt’s sons ever achieved their father’s fame.48 In a similar vein, al-Ḥasan maintains his bond with ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān: ‘My uncle [i.e., al-Ḥasan, the narrator being al-Iṣfahānī] told me: “I gathered with Hārūn b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Malik and Ibn Burd al-Khiyār in the majlis (literary salon) of ʿUbdaydallāh b. Sulaymān before he became vizier […].”’ Then, al-Ḥasan recounts how Ibn Burd al-Khiyār bragged about Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī’s poetry and silenced Hārūn b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Malik’s attempt to boast of his father’s works.49 Being a member of the vizier-to-be’s entourage implies an intimate relationship between the Banū Wahb and al-Iṣfahānī’s family that lasted for two generations at least. Although we do not find any hint that al-Ḥasan hosted any Ṭālibid at his house as his father did, he did narrate from the aforementioned jealous Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza (d. 286-7/899-900).50 Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza, being among the companions of the tenth and eleventh imams of Twelver Shiʿism, transmits from al-Ḥasan b. Dāwūd al-Jaʿfarī; al-Riyāshī; his father, ʿAlī b. Ḥamza al-ʿAlawī; ʿAbd al-Ṣamad b. Mūsā al-Hāshimī; and ʿUmar b. Shabb.51 That is, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza seems to be a knot through which further connections to other Ṭālibids can be reached. There are two other persons operating in functions similar to that of Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza: Muḥammad b. Mūsā b. al-Ḥasan b. al-Furāt (fl. in the ninth century) and ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās al-Nawbakhtī (d. 327/939).52 Muḥammad b. Mūsā, derived from the Shiʿi Banū al-Furāt,53 supported the Shiʿi pretender, Muḥammad b. Manṣūr b. Nuṣayr—who caused a schism among the followers of the tenth imam of Twelver Shiʿism, claiming the imam, ʿAlī b. Muḥammad (212–254/828–868), to be a divine being and himself the imam’s prophet—while his son, Aḥmad b. Muḥammad, became the leader of some of Muḥammad b. Manṣūr b. Nuṣayr’s partisans, after the latter’s death.54Although ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās al-Nawbakhtī’s biographical information emphasizes his quality as a poet and litterateur, being a member of the Banū Nawbakht—a family nurturing a number of Imāmī Shiʿi theologians and polemicists—itself means that ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās had the potential to bring in more contact with ʿAlids and their partisans.55 As both of the families were intricately entwined with Imāmī Shiʿi politics and communities, being associated with one or more member of each would suggest al-Ḥasan’s plausible outreach to the Ṭālibids—which may have been no less than his father’s. 1.5. al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad Al-Iṣfahānī’s father is a rather opaque person, not only because of the absence of biographical information about him, but also because al-Iṣfahānī’s narration from him is scanty. Kalafallāh finds only one report from al-Ḥusayn, about the poet al-ʿAttābī.56 In fact, al-Iṣfahānī also notes that his father had taught him a work of Ḥammād b. Isḥāq (nasakhtu min kitāb li-Ḥammād b. Isḥāq ḥaddathanī bi-hi abī)—likely to be Ḥammād b. Isḥāq’s Akhbār al-Ḥuṭayʾa.57 In addition, al-Ḥusayn and his son, al-Iṣfahānī, were both authorized to relate reports about the poet Abū Shurāʿa by the poet’s son, Abū al-Fayyāḍ Sawwār b. Abī Shurāʿa.58 Whatever accounts for al-Ḥusayn’s sparse narrations, it seems that he did not leave notable remarks on al-Iṣfahānī’s intellectual output. However, when it comes to the family’s social networks, it is al-Ḥusayn who serves as the link to the Āl Thawāba. In a number of places, al-Iṣfahānī identifies Yaḥyā b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba as his grandfather on his mother’s side (jaddī li-ummī); his book was used by al-Iṣfahānī as source material for the Aghānī and his occupation may have been a kātib—a post several members of the Āl Thawāba held, as in the case of al-Iṣfahānī’s family.59 As Yaḥyā b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba’s relationship with other members of the Āl Thawāba is not specified elsewhere—the Aghānī is the only book mentioning the name Yaḥyā—Khalafallāh argues, with caution, for the plausibility of Yaḥyā being the brother of Aḥmad and Jaʿfar, the sons of Muḥammad b. Thawāba, on the basis of the common patronymics, al-Iṣfahānī’s (seemingly amicable) connection with Abū al-Faḍl ʿAbbās b. Aḥmad b. Thawāba, and the favourable presentation of this family.60 Another factor that escapes Khalafallāh’s attention, but supports his argument, is the Āl Thawāba’s connection with the Banū Wahb. We have noted above al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather’s and uncle’s close relationship with ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān. Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba (d. 277/890) was highly regarded as a scribe by Sulaymān b. Wahb, when he was the vizier of al-Muhtadī (r. 255–256/869–870). 61 His brother, Jaʿfar b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba (d. 284/897), took charge of the dīwān al-rasāʾil and dīwān al-maʿāwin for Sulaymān’s son, ʿUbaydallāh, who too became the vizier during al-Muʿtaḍid’s reign.62 That is, with Sulaymān b. Wahb and his son, ʿUbaydallāh, being the common link between the two families, it is possible that the Āl Thawāba may have considered al-Iṣfahānī’s family a potential ally in the court, to whom they gave their daughter’s hand. That Yaḥyā was a member of the Āl Thawāba seems like a valid argument, but the Shiʿi affiliation of this family, on the basis of which Khalafallāh (followed by Kilpatrick and Azarnoosh) accounts for al-Iṣfahānī’s sectarian inclination, does not. According to Khalafallāh, the Āl Thawāba, originally Christian, when converting to Islam became Ghulāt Shīʿī (believers in an extreme form of Shiʿism), but the evidence he relies on for such a statement comes from a passage in Muʿjam al-udabāʾ.63 According to Yāqūt, Muḥammad, the son of Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba, the kātib of the Turkish general, Bāykbāk,64 was accused by al-Muhtadī of being a Rāfiḍī (the Shiʿis who do not acknowledge the first two caliphs and are usually identified with Imāmīs65); only after the intercession of Bāykbāk and Mūsā b. Bughā was Muḥammad b. Aḥmad pardoned.66 This is the only reference to the family’s Ghulāt Shiʿi conviction.67 The problem with Yāqūt’s report is that no such accusation is found in the early sources. The enmity between al-Muhtadī and Bāykbāk is well-documented, despite inconsistencies and incongruences in some details. Amidst their conflicts, Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba was accused of treason—being in cooperation with the mawālī attempting to depose the caliph—and, as a result, his blood was deemed lawful.68 While it is possible that the accusation of being a ‘Rāfidī’ was a pretext for the caliph to take measures against Bāykbāk, it should be borne in mind that al-Muhtadī seems to have had a reputation for disliking Shiʿis.69 In short, the evidence to support ascribing extreme Shiʿism to every member of this family is thin. Even if we take Yāqūt’s account at face value and say that some of the Āl Thawāba were Shiʿis, how far they were so, what their being so signifies, remains a question, somewhat applicable also to other elite groups or individuals, such as al-Iṣfahānī’s family, to whom the Shiʿi designation was attached. Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the Āl Thawāba’s sectarian affiliation and its extent, the family’s ties with Ismāʿīl b. Bulbul (d. 278/892) do point to their having the potential to build up wider networks with Shiʿis.70 With these links on the part of al-Iṣfahānī’s family borne in mind, we now move to the questions of what led them to affiliate with the Ṭālibids and whether their connections with the Ṭālibids ought to be construed in terms of Shiʿism or ʿAlidism.71 2. THE ṬĀLIBIDS IN SAMARRA What are the factors that led these Iṣfahānīs to align with the Ṭālibids and perhaps, even, to profess Shiʿism or ʿAlidism? To address this question, it is imperative to take into account the socio-political context of late ninth-century Samarra, where the three generations before al-Iṣfahānī were active. The generation of Aḥmad b. al-Haytham, al-Iṣfahānī’s great-grandfather, settled in Samarra before the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil. Samarra is not an ideal location for taking up arms with a Ṭālibid rebel, for it is where the Ṭālibid suspects were confined and put under the caliphs’ surveillance.72 However, it is the location that allows for military leaders and scribes to cultivate a relationship with the Ṭālibids and their followers, thanks to the Ṭālibid presence there. When al-Maʾmūn appointed ʿAlī al-Riḍā as his successor, a group of the Ṭālibids was brought with the latter to the east.73 What happened to this group afterwards is unclear, but al-Muʿtaṣim did continue the trend of bringing the Ṭālibids to the east, among them the ninth Twelver imam, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī (d. Baghdad, 220/835).74 Al-Muʿtaṣim’s successor, al-Wāthiq, had a reputation for leniency towards the Ṭālibids, who were brought together in Samarra and entitled to a pension, as noted in al-Iṣfahānī’s Maqātil.75 Al-Wāthiq’s pro-Ṭālibid policy was reversed by al-Mutawakkil’s adoption of Sunni ‘orthodoxy’, which abolished the miḥna and took measures against the Shiʿis, including razing the shrine of al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī to the ground, forbidding any donation to the ʿAlids, negating their entitlement to the inheritance of Fadak, and harsher punishment against those who anathematized the salaf (the Companions, including the first two caliphs).76 As a result, the tenth imam of Twelver Shiʿism, ʿAlī b. Muḥammad (d. 254/868), and his family were brought to Samarra from Madina in 233/847.77 The next caliph, al-Muntaṣir, despite his short reign, overturned his father’s policy and behaved kindly and generously towards the Ṭālibids.78 From then on, we know less in this regard about the stances of the subsequent caliphs, for the historians are devoted to the accounts of the civil war and anarchy during the time from al-Mustaʿīn to al-Muhtadī.79 Nevertheless, al-Muʿtaḍid was known for his pro-ʿAlid inclination, the result of which was his tolerance of the fund sent from the ʿAlid ruler, Muḥammad b. Zayd, in Ṭabaristān, being distributed to the Ṭālibids in Baghdad and a formal decree that Muʿāwiya was to be cursed from the pulpits.80 Given that Samarra remained the caliphal centre despite a short interval during the civil war, it may be assumed that a number of the Ṭālibids remained there, alongside their families and Hashimi relatives, until the reign of al-Muʿtaḍid (r. 279–289/892–902), when the capital moved back to Baghdad.81 The presence and prestige of the Ṭālibids attracted associates and allies among high-ranking officials, who either were convinced of their superiority, even of their thaumaturgic power, or saw the advantage in forging alliances with this group. The military leader, Abū Dulaf—one of al-Muʿtaṣim’s generals derived from the abnāʾ—is said to have been an ardent Shiʿi partisan to the extent that he repudiated his son, who had expressed his animosity towards ʿAlī.82 When the tenth imam of Twelver Shiʿism was brought to Samarra on al-Mutawakkil’s order, the official in charge, Yaḥyā b. Harthama, was first warned by the Ṭāhirid governor of Baghdad, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm, against instigating al-Mutawakkil against ʿAlī b. Muḥammad, for ‘the Prophet will be your plaintiff [khaṣm, before God at the Final Judgment],’ and, then, on arrival in Samarra, he first visited Waṣīf, who solemnly threatened him: ‘By God, if one single hair falls out of this man’s head, I shall be the one asking for it.’83 Bughā al-Kabīr (d. 248/862)—one of the Turks who had been rising to power since the caliphate of al-Muʿtaṣim—was reputed for his kindness and generosity towards the Ṭālibids.84 Muḥammad b. al-Faraj—the brother of one of al-Mutawakkil’s king-makers, ʿUmar b. al-Faraj—was ʿAlī b. Muḥammad’s follower; he sought the imam’s advice in face of the calamity befalling him and his brother.85 The same imam is said to have associated with Aḥmad b. al-Khaṣīb, who was appointed kātib of al-Mutawakkil’s heir apparent, al-Muntaṣir, and became the vizier in the latter’s court, where he continued to play a role until his exile in 248/862.86 The eleventh imam, al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī (d. 260/874), commanded the respect of the anti-Shiʿi vizier, ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān, besides other generals and kuttāb in Samarra.87 Although the sources derived from the akhbār/siyar al-aʾimma by Shiʿi compilers may be tendentious—their purpose being to highlight the imams’ merits, even their thaumaturgic power—and, inevitably, imam-centred, they nonetheless reveal the plausibility of alliances between the Ṭālibids and the functionaries of the ʿAbbasid caliphs, be they in the bureaucratic or military division. The imams and their kin lived closely with the political elite, with whom interaction was inevitable. In addition, the reports about the imams provide us with the chains of transmission, which specify the direct transmitters from the imams. Amongst the transmitters are distant Qurashī relatives, such as ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Nawfalī, as well as closer ones, including Jaʿfarids, such as Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī, and ʿAlids, such as Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl al-ʿAlawī.88 Despite the absence of concrete details, it can be said that the Ṭālibids and other Qurashī nobles, including the Banū ʿAbbās, lived closely in the same city, alongside other functionaries. With the Ṭālibid presence in Samarra, the already-divided political elite was further divided into those sympathetic to them and those against them, in addition to those standing in a neutral or unknown position. The Ṭālibid sympathizers may have evolved into or come to be involved in the affairs of the Shiʿi communities—as we have noted above in the case of the Banū al-Furāt.89 The other end of the spectrum is best exemplified by the entourage of al-Mutawakkil, such as ʿAlī b. al-Jahm and Marwān b. Abī al-Janūb, both of whom were notorious for their lampoons against the Āl Abī Ṭālib in support of the ʿAbbasid caliphate.90 However, not every official’s attitude towards the Ṭālibids, or, more so, the ʿAlids, is always so categorical as to allow us to characterize him as anti- or pro-Shiʿi. For example, ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān who, despite his enmity towards the Āl Abī Ṭālib, showed great respect for the eleventh imam, al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī, as mentioned above.91 ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān’s ambivalent manner towards the Ṭālibids, though seemingly irreconcilable at the first glance, illustrates well the dilemma many of the political elite encountered in the ninth century. That is, in their vicinity, there was a distinct group—the Ṭālibids, or a specific lineage of them, such as the ʿAlids—who could rally support or claim special treatment (sometimes monetary) from the populace on the basis of their ancestral relationship with the Prophet.92 Nonetheless, the official attitude towards this group at the top oscillates greatly between tolerance and persecution. Thus, the elite figures like ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān had to go with the trend at times, but it does not mean that they would disregard the potential benefits of allying with this group, especially when the power of the caliphs faded after al-Mutawakkil’s reign. Another case may be found in al-Mustaʿīn’s kātib in charge of dīwān al-rasāʾil, Saʿīd b. Ḥumayd, who is also noted for his dislike for ʿAlī and his descendants.93 However, he was a friend of the Ṭālibid (from the Ḥasanid lineage), Muḥammad b. Ṣāliḥ, who was brought to Samarra under governmental surveillance.94 In other words, one could notionally deprecate, or even depreciate, what the Ṭālibids represented—martyrdom under tyrant rule, superior Muslim traits, or the only source of legitimacy—but that did not entail complete social segregation from them.95 Why was it expedient for the political elite to associate with the Ṭālibids? It was mentioned above that the Ṭālibids constituted a source of legitimacy, which could be used to mobilize popular support. With the political system breaking down after the assassination of al-Mutawakkil and the sudden death of al-Muntaṣir, the military leaders and their retinues vied for power with the caliphs and kuttāb, as well as with one another. The struggle resulted in murder, confiscation, torture, and new struggle. As chaos reigned, this led to the illegitimate deaths of the prominent figures, including the caliphs. To contain potential opposition, the person or group responsible for the illegitimate death had to legitimize their deeds—attributing the death in question to natural causes, for instance. To be effected, this process required the testimony of the notables, at least as a starting point. It is at this point that the association with the Ṭālibids came to be useful. When al-Muntaṣir removed his brothers, al-Muʿtazz and al-Muʾayyad, from the line of succession, the ceremony in 248/862, at which the pair revoked their statuses as heirs apparent, was witnessed by the leading figures at the court, including the Banū Hāshim, comprised of the ʿAbbasids and Ṭālibids.96 After the sudden death of al-Muntaṣir, the appointment of al-Mustaʿīn, as determined by the Turkish generals, Bughā al-Kabīr, Bughā al-Ṣaghīr and Utāmish, was legitimized by the ascension ceremony, attended by the elite, including the Ṭālibids.97 When the Ṭālibid rebel, Yaḥyā b. ʿUmar (d. 250/864-5) was killed, a group of the Hashimis and Ṭālibids came to congratulate the Ṭāhirid governor, Muḥammad b. ʿAbdallāh. Although Abū Hāshim Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī—one of the attending Ṭālibids and one of al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather’s associates, who implicitly condemned the execution of the Prophet’s relative—did not deliver the most appropriate felicitations, the purpose of such a gesture is clearly meant to enhance ʿAbbasid authority and that of the governors deputized by the caliphs.98 The body of al-Muʿtazz, who was tortured to death, was brought to Hashimi witnesses to show that the caliph died of natural causes.99 When the conflict between al-Muhtadī and the men of Bāykbāk was on the verge of breaking out, the tension was eased by the caliph’s solemn oath in the presence of the Hashimis.100 Counted as part of the Banū Hāshim, the Ṭālibids may have been included among those called to give testimony. Maintaining an amicable relationship with the Ṭālibids may have facilitated the process of power transfer and, ideally, downplayed opponents’ accusations (although this certainly did not guarantee the stability and longevity of groups in power).101 Thus, when al-Mustaʿīn and his Turkish regiment moved to Baghdad, a group of the Banū Hāshim, who could potentially boost their legitimacy, came along with them.102 Furthermore, when living in time of uncertainties, wide outreach may have improved one’s chance of survival. When Ṣāliḥ b. Waṣīf was being pursued, a group of his associates, suspected of offering him refuge, were assaulted, including a Ṭālibid.103 Although Ṣāliḥ b. Waṣīf did not get away, the point here is that broadening one’s network of alliances matters, as the association with the Ṭālibids could furnish not only legitimacy but also sanctuary at the moment of crisis. We have addressed the broad context in which the political elite came to adopt Ṭālibid or ʿAlid affiliation and the incentives that pulled them together. Now, let us turn to al-Iṣfahānī’s family and their embrace of this Ṭālibid affiliation. Whether the generation of Aḥmad b. al-Haytham, settled in Samarra, the headquarters of the caliphate with a noticeable Ṭālibid presence, had begun the familial outreach to the Ṭālibids cannot be answered, given the scanty information about him. Yet, the familial outreach to the Ṭālibids certainly took place in the next generation, the generation of al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad. Muḥammad’s brother, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, was a senior member of the kuttāb. Although his networks, as we can reconstruct them, only reveal his connection with the scholars mentioned in Section 1, it is very likely that he was in touch with some of the Ṭālibids, as well as other court elite, as his brother, Muḥammad, also was. In contrast, we do not know whether Muḥammad was a scribe or held any other official appointment, but we do know the identities of his associates: Ibn al-Zayyāt, ʿUbaydāllah b. Sulaymān b. Wahb, and Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī, as well as Ṭālibids, such as al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn b. Zayd b. ʿAlī, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza al-ʿAlawī al-ʿAbbāsī, and Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī.104 Here, we can see a pattern more or less conforming to the description above: a kātib himself or his close kin building a connection with the Ṭālibids—as in the cases of Muḥammad b. al-Faraj and ʿUbdaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān. Via these Ṭālibids, among whom was the prominent al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn and those unnamed, Muḥammad (and presumably his brother, too) may have further reached other Ṭālibids, including the imams, whose transmitters include Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī and Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza.105 The networks with the Ṭālibids as well as other notables were inherited by the next generation, that of al-Iṣfahānī’s father and uncle, al-Ḥusayn and al-Ḥasan. Again, we do not know much about al-Iṣfahānī’s father’s associates, apart from his marriage link with the Āl Thawāba, who may have brought the Iṣfahānī family into contact with Ismāʿīl b. Bulbul, but his uncle appears to have maintained Muḥammad b. Aḥmad’s connections with the Banū Ibn al-Zayyāt, ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān, and the Ṭālibids, as shown in his narrations from the sons of Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Malik b. al-Zayyāt and the aforementioned Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza. In the context of these interpersonal connections, it is less surprising that a family derived from the Umayyads turned to support the Ṭālibids, as many of those surrounding them, whether with or without direct contacts, sought to forge alliance with this group in one way or another. However, the question which remains pending in our discussion of the Āl Thawāba comes back: how Shiʿi was al-Iṣfahānī’s family in the generations of his grandfather (Muḥammad b. Aḥmad and ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad) and father (al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad and al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad)? Or, to rephrase the question, does being connected with the Ṭālibids make one Shiʿi? If so, in what sense? 3. SHIʿISM OR ʿALIDISM? The question of the Shiʿism of al-Iṣfahānī’s family (if we can call it Shiʿism at all) is indeed a tricky one, for, while we know about their interpersonal networks, their beliefs are not revealed. Thus, the following suggestions are built upon two hypotheses: first, the perspectives of the Iṣfahānī family’s Ṭālibid associates may manifest the Iṣfahānīs’ attitudes toward the Ṭālibids as well as the ʿAbbasid authority; second, al-Iṣfahānī’s works, the Maqātil and the Aghānī, may to some extent reflect his family’s religious conviction. The three Ṭālibids, Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī, Muḥammad b.ʿAlī b. Ḥamza, and al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn, might have had one thing in common: they all adopted a conciliatory position towards the ʿAbbasid authority. When al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn’s spoiled son, Zayd, who intermingled with the sons of al-Mutawakkil and envied their luxurious lifestyles, asked his father for money so that he could treat the caliph’s sons with the equivalent grandeur, he got what he wanted by threatening to rebel against the caliphate if his father did not obey him.106 In the given account, al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn, in tears, implored his son not to go against the regime (sulṭān) and could only satisfy his demanding son by forcing his concubine (Zayd’s mother) to sell her jewellery. Al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn’s submissive manner towards the obstreperous Zayd surely illustrates the fatherly concern for the child, but it may also indicate that some of the Ṭālibids would rather cooperate with the ʿAbbasid caliphate than rebel against it. A similar stance can be seen in the case of Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī, who was sent by Muzāḥim b. Khāqān to dissuade al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad from revolt in 250/864-5.107 When al-Muʿtazz ordered a few Ṭālibids under suspicion to be brought to Samarra, aware that the Ṭāhirid governor, Muḥammad b. ʿAbdallāh, might not comply, the caliph claimed in his letter that he planned to dispatch Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim to Ṭabaristān to restore order there (li-iṣlāḥ amri-hā).108 Although employing a Ṭālibid to deal with other Ṭālibids is a ruse, al-Muʿtazz’s statement illustrates Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim’s role as a broker between the ʿAbbasids and their potential Ṭālibid rivals. In a sense, it is a kind of alliance between the cooperative Ṭālibids and the ʿAbbasids vis-à-vis less cooperative Ṭālibids. As mentioned above, a list by Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza—al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather’s guest and his uncle’s source—about the death of Ṭālibids is quoted in al-Iṣfahānī’s Maqātil.109 If al-Iṣfahānī adduces the list faithfully, as he claims,110 it may reveal Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s views. Unlike al-Iṣfahānī’s Maqātil, which includes details of the battles and biographical information about its subjects,111 Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s list is a brief thirteen-page (as quoted in the Maqātil) register of the Ṭālibids’ names with notes on the causes of their deaths. Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza explicitly points out the fratricides between ʿAlids and Jaʿfarids, in which there were numerous Ṭālibids killed, as well as the victims under the rule of al-Ḥasan b. Zayd (d. 270/884).112 An abrupt exception to the laconic narrative of Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s list is the passage about the deaths of al-Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad al-Kawkabī and ʿUbaydallāh b. al-Ḥasan. About to rebel against al-Ḥasan b. Zayd, they were tortured (their bellies stamped upon) by al-Ḥasan b. Zayd, thrown into a pool (birka), drowned, and their corpses left in a cellar, from where they were taken out and buried later by the Saffarids.113 Not only the gruesome details appear at odds with the overall tone of the list, so too does al-Iṣfahānī’s interpolation of the verses that condemn al-Ḥasan b. Zayd’s deed.114 Although it is hard to reconstruct Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s own take on the basis of al-Iṣfahānī’s quotation, we are left— by virtue of the vivid details of al-Ḥasan b. Zayd’s brutal disposal of the two—with some impression of Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s lukewarm, perhaps even critical, manner towards his bellicose relatives. In a sense, his perspective tallies, to some degree, with that of Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim and al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn. The Ṭālibids’ reconciliatory relationships with the ʿAbbasid officials and the distance from the Ṭālibid activists—also reflected in the lives of the tenth and eleventh imams—can be discerned in al-Iṣfahānī’s Maqātil, which is reticent concerning the Ṭālibid movements in Ṭabaristan and Yemen. The Ṭālibid compromise with the caliphate facilitated their connection with the political elite, whose privileged status depended on the ʿAbbasid caliphal authority and legitimacy.115 Those elite figures who are known to have persecuted or disliked the Ṭālibids but somehow associated with some of them, such as Saʿīd b. Ḥumayd and ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān, likely recognized that the Ṭālibids or ʿAlids consisted of variegated elements, some of which in potentia jeopardized their careers and prestige at the caliphal court, and some of which, at the opposite end, served as useful networks, allies, or even refuges in times of trouble.116 However, what does it mean to be allied with the politically quietist Ṭālibids? Does that make one a Shiʿi? If al-Iṣfahānī’s views, as present in his works, can be extended to his family, then, to some degree, the answer is positive: the Iṣfahānī family were Shiʿis of some sort. Al-Iṣfahānī, in the entry on ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib in the Maqātil, unequivocally states that ʿAlī’s merits are uncountable (aktharu min an tuḥṣā) and, as his partisans and foes both agree, are too manifest to be belittled or veiled (mā lā yumkinu ʿghamṭu-hu wa-lā yansāghu satru-hu min faḍāʾili-hi al-mashhūra).117 I have addressed al-Iṣfahānī’s sectarian perspectives in his Aghānī in detail. Analysis of his selection and juxtaposition of reports in the Aghānī, shows that he scatters references to ʿAlī’s merits therein, so that their role in the Aghānī is far more conspicuous than those of the three caliphs before him.118 Al-Iṣfahānī accentuates ʿAlī’s legitimacy and rightfulness in a way that marks anyone challenging his authority as deviant from guidance, while justifying the partisanship of his Shiʿis, even if in excessive form.119 Al-Iṣfahānī also emphasizes the importance of love for the virtuous members of the ahl al-bayt, but does not scruple to condemn less virtuous ʿAlids such as Ismāʿīl b. Yūsuf.120 In my research, I have also argued against the view that al-Iṣfahānī is a Zaydi, which originates from al-Ṭūsī’s al-Fihrist;121 this view can arguably be refuted on the basis of al-Iṣfahānī’s ignorance of the Zaydi imams’ recent activities in Yemen and Ṭabaristān, that is, Yaḥyā b. al-Ḥusayn al-Hādī ilā al-Ḥaqq (245–298/859–911) and al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī al-Uṭrūsh (d. 304/917), and his disinterest in identifying the imams in the past, including Zayd b. ʿAlī. Imamatology’s absence from his Aghānī and Maqātil marks a contrast between al-Iṣfahānī and his Imāmī and Zaydī contemporaries, who hold the imams to be bearers of knowledge and consider obedience to them to be obligatory.122 Furthermore, it should be pointed out that al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿism cannot be equated with the beliefs of the so-called Ṭālibiyya—a group active in Kufa until the tenth century, according to Madelung—for the following reasons.123 First, the papyrus remarking on this Ṭālibiyya, first and foremost, is far from clear as to the group’s doctrine, due to the lacunae in it.124 Second, if Abbott’s reading of the text is to be accepted, then ‘the author of the text belonged to the Zaidite sect, which advocated equality among the descendants of Abū Ṭālib as against any claim to superiority by ʿAlī or any of his descendants.’125 Al-Iṣfahānī does not seem to comply with this view, for he categorically shows his disapproval for ʿAbdallāh b. Muʿāwiya, who, counted among the descendants of Abū Ṭālib, is praised in the papyrus.126 Taken together, al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi tendencies can be characterized as unequivocal reverence for ʿAlī and his virtuous descendants, without subscribing to the indispensability of the imams and of repudiating most of the Companions, including the first three caliphs. Nevertheless, this kind of Shiʿism cannot be identified with Zaydism or Ṭālibism, as Madelung proposed. Being disinterested in the recent campaigns led by the ʿAlids in Ṭabaristan and Yemen, it seems that al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi belief dwells on the remote memories of ʿAlī and his mistreated descendants, and does not necessarily engage sympathy for the Ṭālibid contenders in the present.127 If a Shiʿism of this temper underlies the Iṣfahānīs’ conceptualization of their relationship with the Ṭālibids, it appears to match the political orientation of the Ṭālibids with whom they associated and fit the socio-political context in which they and many other elite families lived. However, it has to be emphasized that it remains an open question whether or not al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi thought was inherited from his family. The dialogue taking place in the majlis of al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad, seems to imply some kind of hierarchy, based on pedigree, among the Ṭālibids themselves and their associates,128 and thus contradicts Ṭālibid egalitarianism, to which the so-called Ṭālibiyya, mentioned above, subscribed. In this sense, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad’s reverence for the ahl al-bayt dovetails with al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿism. Nevertheless, the evidence that reveals the Iṣfahānīs’ religious take is not sufficient to suggest that they embraced a conviction beyond ʿAlidism. CONCLUSION This essay has addressed al-Iṣfahānī’s family history with regard to why they chose to associate with the Ṭālbids and the implications of such an association in the context of their being functionaries at the ʿAbbasid court in the second half of the ninth century. Previous studies account for al-Iṣfahānī and his family’s Shiʿism on the basis of, first, the geo-political atmosphere in Isfahan that brought the Ṭālibids and al-Iṣfahānī’s ancestors together, and, second, on their marriage links with the Shiʿi Āl Thawāba. However, these views do not take into consideration, first, the fact that the family’s service at the caliphal court exposed them to the Ṭālibids, including ʿAlids, in Samarra, and, second, the lack of sound evidence to argue for the Shiʿi conviction of the Āl Thawāba as well as the Iṣfahānīs themselves. In Samarra, some of the political elite aligned with the Ṭālibids, who, by virtue of their special bond with the Prophet, enjoyed high status with prestige: they were regarded as a source of divine guidance, of Prophetic intercession or blessing, and political legitimacy. Military leaders and scribes were attracted to the Ṭālibids, either by religious affection or by political interests. It is likely that it was this spatial proximity to the descendants of the Prophet in Samarra, where three generations of his family before al-Iṣfahānī had settled and worked as kuttāb (at least, two of the Iṣfahānīs) that drew the Umayyad Iṣfahānīs toward the Ṭālibids and their allies. While this analysis does not negate Khalafallāh’s first proposition, which argues for an earlier connection between al-Iṣfahānī’s ancestors and the ʿAlids in Isfahan around the time of the ʿAbbasid revolution, the networks that the Iṣfahānīs built up highlight their substantial contact with the leading members of the Ṭālibids and other Shiʿi functionaries, such as the Banū al-Furāt and the Banū Nawbakht. In light of their interpersonal connections, it can be argued that the family’s relationship with the Ṭālibids was further consolidated, if there was such a relationship, before the generation of al-Iṣfahānī’s grandfather, Muḥammad. Whether close association or alliance with the Ṭālibids meant conversion to Shiʿism it is hard to know. The bifurcation of the Ṭālibids into those who rebelled against the ʿAbbasids and those who chose to cooperate facilitated the connections of the officials, who sustained and depended upon the caliphate, with the politically quietist Ṭālibids, who were honoured (as well as kept under surveillance) by the caliphs. That is, those who denied the Ṭālibid entitlement to political leadership did not necessarily cut off their ties to the cooperative Ṭālibids, who lived around them and played their parts in the operation and continuation of the ʿAbbasid caliphate. The Ṭālibids with whom the Iṣfahānīs associated seem to fit into this quietist category. However, whether or not the Iṣfahānīs’ ties to the Ṭālibids can be considered a kind of Shiʿism can be only answered on the hypothesis that al-Iṣfahānī’s own Shiʿi belief reflects that of his family. Al-Iṣfahānī’s works reveal his attempts to present ʿAlī as the most virtuous and rightly-guided person, any opponent of him being portrayed negatively. If this tendency can be qualified as Shiʿi in the sense that a Shiʿi is a partisan of ʿAlī, then, al-Iṣfahānī and, perhaps, the Iṣfahānīs, can be seen as Shiʿis of some sort. Footnotes 1 These dates are given by al-Iṣfahānī’s student, Ibn Abī al-Fawāris, and are recorded in: al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Madīnat al-Salām (ed. Bashshār ʿA. Maʿrūf; Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2001), xiii. 340. However, these dates are problematic. Yāqūt (574–626/1178–1225) notices that the reports in Adab al-ghurabāʾ by al-Iṣfahānī attest to his being active after 356/967, and, in one of these reports, the author describes himself as a young man (fī ayyām al-shabība wa-l-ṣibā) at the time of Muʿizz al-Dawla’s death in 356/967, when al-Iṣfahānī is supposed to have died. See: Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ (ed. Aḥmad F. Rifāʿī; Cairo: Maṭbūʿāt al-Maʾmūn, 1922), xiii. 95–97. This also gives rise to the controversy over the authorship of Adab al-ghurabāʾ. The scholars who affirm al-Iṣfahānī as the author of Adab al-ghurabāʾ include: A. Azarnoosh, art. ‘Abū al-Faraj ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn’ in Encyclopaedia Islamica, 733; S. Günther, art., ‘Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’ in EI3; Salāḥ al-Dīn al-Munajjid, Muqaddima of Kitāb Adab al-ghurabāʾ, by Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-Jadīd, 1972), 10–16; Hilary Kilpatrick, ‘On the difficulty of knowing mediaeval Arabic authors: The case of Abū l-Faraj and pseudo-Iṣfahānī’ in Robert G. Hoyland and Philip F. Kennedy (eds.), Islamic Reflections, Arabic Musings. Studies in Honour of Professor Alan Jones (Oxford: Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004), 230–42; id., ‘The Kitāb Adab al-Ġurabāʾ of Abu l-Farağ al-Iṣfahānī’ in La signification du bas Moyen Age dans l’histoire et la culture du monde musulman. Actes du 8ème Congrès de l’Union Européenne des Arabisants et Islamisants Aix-en-Provence 1976 (Aix-en-Provence: Édisud, 1978), 127–35. On the opposite side are: Robert G. Hoyland, ‘History, Fiction and Authorship in the First Centuries of Islam’ in Julia Bray (ed.) Writing and Representation in Medieval Islam: Muslim Horizons (London: Routledge, 2006): 16–46, at 36–9; Patricia Crone and Shmuel Moreh, ‘The Authorship of the Ghurabāʾ’ in al-Iṣfahānī, The Book of Strangers: Mediaeval Arabic Graffiti on the Theme of Nostalgia (transl. Patricia Crone and Shmuel Moreh; Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000), 128–43. Regardless of the controversy, it is possible to calculate the timespan within which al-Iṣfahānī was active on the basis of the dates of his teachers and students—the first six decades of the tenth century, from about 290/902 to 348/960; see: I-Wen Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past in Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’s Kitāb al-Aghānī: a literary and historical analysis’ (PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 2016), 61–2. 2 The cited statement expressing astonishment (al-ʿajab) comes from: al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalāʾ (ed. Ḥassān ʿAbd al-Mannān; Beirut: Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyya, 2004), 2774; Ibn al-Athīr, alKāmil fī al-tārīkh (ed. Muḥammad Y. al-Daqqāq; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1987), vii. 302. The earliest mention of the Umayyad–Shiʿi combination in the biographical sources is: al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh, xiii. 340; this is then cited by: al-Qifṭī, Inbāh al-ruwāt ʿalā anbāh al-nuḥāt (ed. Muḥammad A. Ibrāhīm; Cairo: Dār al-Fikr al-ʿArabī, 1986), ii. 253. A similar tenor, in a slightly different formulation, in ‘ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī al-Umawī, the author of the Kitāb al-Aghānī, the Shīʿī, and this is rare for an Umawī (wa-hādhā nādir fī umawī)’, see: al-Dhahabī, Mīzān al-iʿtidāl fī naqd al-rijāl (eds. ʿAlī M. Muʿawwaḍ and ʿĀdil A. ʿAbd al-Mawjūd; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1995), v. 151; Ibn Ḥajar, Lisān al-mīzān (eds. ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghadda and Salmān ʿA. Abū Ghadda; Beirut: Maktabat al-Maṭbūʿāt al-Islāmiyya, 2002), v. 526. Another formulation ‘min al-ʿajāʾib annahu marwānī yatashayyaʿu’,see: Ibn al-ʿImād, Shadharāt al-dhahab fī akhbār man dhahaba (eds. ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Arnāʾūṭ and Maḥmūd al-Arnāʾūṭ; Beirut: Dār Ibn Kathīr, 1986), iv. 292. 3 Eds. (P. Bearmann et al.), ‘Muḥammad b. Zayd’ in EI2. 4 al-Tanūkhī, Kitāb al-Faraj baʿda al-shidda (ed. ʿAbbūd al-Shālijī; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1978), ii. 334–7. The same report is found in al-Tanūkhī’s al-Mustajād, according to Muḥammad A. Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib al-Aghānī: Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī al-Rāwiya (Cairo: Maktabat al-Anjlū al-Miṣriyya, 2nd edn., 1962), 39, n. 2. 5 Although Ibn al-Nadīm, being the earliest biographer of al-Iṣfahānī, says that he was a descendant of Hishām b. ʿAbd al-Malik (r. 105–125/724–743), the majority of the sources support tracing his ancestry to Marwān b. Muḥammad; see: Ibn al-Nadīm, Kitāb al-Fihrist (ed. Riḍā Tajaddud; Beirut: Dār al-Masīra, 3rd edn., 1988), 127–8; Ibn Ḥazm, Jamharat ansāb al-ʿarab (ed. ʿAbd al-Salām M. ʿA. Hārūn; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 5th edn., 1982), 107. For the majority view, see n. 2 above. 6 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 34–40. 7 Andrew J. Newman, Twelver Shiism: Unity and Diversity in the Life of Islam, 632 to 1722 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 37. 8 The idea that the Āl Thawāba sowed the Shiʿi affection in the young al-Iṣfahānī’s heart is first suggested by Khalafallāh: Ṣāḥib, 52–9 (esp. 58); both Kilpatrick and Azarnoosh cite Khalafallāh’s work in their discussion of al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi conviction. Kilpatrick accepts this suggestion: ‘The Banū Thawāba were Shī‘īs, and if Abū l-Faraj’s mother was indeed a member of this family, his own Shī‘ī convictions are easy to explain’ (Hilary Kilpatrick, Making the Great Book of Songs: Compilation and the Author’s Craft in Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣbahānī’s Kitāb al-Aghānī [London: Routledge Curzon, 2003], 15 [reference to Khalafallāh at n. 13]). A similar view is found in ‘It is possible that Abū al-Faraj inherited his Zaydi faith from his mother’s family, the Āl Thawāba, who were in all probability Zaydīs’. See A. Azarnoosh, ‘Abū al-Faraj’, 728. 9 As will be shown in this article, this view also assumes that the Āl Thawāba are Zaydis—an assumption that is problematic in light of the socio-historical circumstances considered here, wherein many of the elite families like the Āl Thawāba themselves may have simply aligned with the ʿAlids or Ṭālibids, without committing themselves to any substantial Shiʿi (including Imāmī) doctrine. Furthermore, the Shiʿi conviction of the Āl Thawāba is based on attenuate evidence. See below pp. 15–16 and Section 2. 10 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn (ed. Aḥmad Ṣaqr; Qom: Manshūrāt al-Sharīf al-Raḍī, 2nd edn., 1416 [1995]), 547. 11 This view also fails to take into account the fact that Isfahan was a Sunni-dominant city; see Andrew J. Newman, The Formative Period of Twelver Shīʿism: Ḥadīth as Discourse Between Qum and Baghdad (London: Routledge, 2000), 13; al-Najāshī, Fihrist asmāʾ muṣannifī al-shīʿa al-mushtahar bi-rijāl al-Najāshī (Beirut: Shirkat al-Aʿlamī, 2010), 19–20. 12 Newman, Twelver Shiism, 42–3. On the role of the Banū Nawbakht in the Shiʿi communities during the Minor Occultation (260–329/874–941), see Heinz Halm, Shiism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), 35–9; Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shi‘i Islam (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985), 76–7, 162–5. 13 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 22–8; in Khalafallāh’s view, al-Iṣfahānī is included by Abū Nuʿaym al-Iṣfahānī in Akhbār Aṣbahān simply because of his nisba, al-Iṣfahānī, an indication of his familial origin from Isfahan (on p. 25). Abū Nuʿaym mentions nothing of al-Iṣfahānī’s being born in Isfahan: Abū Nuʿaym al-Iṣfahānī, Kitāb Dhikr akhbār Iṣbahāni: [wa-bi-dhaylihī] Itḥāf al-ikhwān bi-fihris aḥādith wa-āthār tārīkh Iṣbahān Aṣbahān (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-Islāmī, n.d.), ii. 22. According to Azarnoosh, the idea was first disseminated by Ṭāshkubrīzāda (d. 968/1561): ‘Abū al-Faraj’, 719. 14 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 22–5. 15 There is some information about al-Iṣfahānī’s cousin, Aḥmad, the son of al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad. However, as the purpose of this article is to investigate what motivated the generations before al-Iṣfahānī to side with the Ṭālibids, Aḥmad b. al-Ḥasan will not be included in our discussion; for his narrations and life, see Manfred Fleischhammer, Die Quellen des Kitāb al-Aġānī (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2004), 35; Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 46, where he cites two reports from Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Kitāb al-Aghānī (eds. Yūsuf al-Baqāʿī and Gharīd al-Shaykh; Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Aʿlamī li-l-Maṭbuʿāt [Al Alami Library], 2000), xvi. 312; xviii. 92. The two reports cited by Khalafallāh here show that Aḥmad narrates from Muḥammad b. Mūsā and from Abū Jaʿfar b. Rustam al-Ṭabarī, who was a grammarian of Imāmī tendencies; see Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī, al-Fihrist (ed. Muḥammad Ṣādiq; Qom: al-Sharīf al-Raḍī, 198?), 158–9; al-Dhahabī, Mīzān, vi. 90; Ibn Ḥajar, Lisān, vi. 29–30. This, nonetheless, does not mean that Aḥmad was an Imāmī. 16 This Aḥmad b. al-Haytham should be distinguished from another Aḥmad b. al-Haytham b. Firās, or al-Firāsī, who is often cited as Aḥmad b. al-Haytham; concerning the latter, see Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 75–6. 17 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 41 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xx. 248–9). 18 al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī (ed. ʿAbd al-Amīr Muhannā; Beirut: Sharikat al-Aʿlamī li-l-Maṭbūʿāt, 2010), ii. 433. 19 One report notes that al-Mutawakkil summoned blind Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm to Samarra, to entertain himself; see al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, v. 299–300. 20 Other instances in which al-Iṣfahānī narrates from Aḥmad b. al-Haytham through al-Anbārī: al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, iv. 135, vii. 78. For the biographical information about al-Anbārī and his kātib attribute, see al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, xiii. 396–7; see also: Fleischhamer, Die Quellen, 41. 21 See ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad, below p. 8. 22 The calculations here and in what follows are all based on the hijrī dates, which are then converted into common era dating. 23 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 41 (Ibn Ḥazm, Jamhara, 107). 24 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 46–7. For the eyewitness reports about Abū al-ʿIbar as narrated by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, see al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 161, 163–4. In the Aghānī, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz’s narrations come from, respectively, Thaʿlab (200–291/816–904): iv. 111–12; al-Zubayr b. Bakkār (171–256/788–870): iv. 120, ix. 120, xix. 121; al-Riyāshī (177–257/793–871): viii. 9, xxi. 208; and al-Kharrāz (d. 258/872): ix. 217. 25 For a summary of his appointments to the vizierate from the caliphate of al-Muʿtaṣim in 221/833 to his dismissal from the post and demise during al-Mutawakkil’s rule in 233/847, see D. Sourdel art., ‘Ibn al-Zayyāt’, EI2. 26 Khalafallāh, Ṣāhib, 39, 42–43. 27 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xvi. 302. My translation. 28 For a summary of Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿAbbās al-Ṣūlī’s career, see Khayr al-Dīn al-Ziriklī, al-Aʿlām: qāmūs tarājim li-ashhar al-rijāl wa-l-nisāʾ min al-ʿarab wa-l-mustaʿribīn wa-l-mustashriqīn (Beirut: Dār al-ʿIlm li-l-Malāyīn, 15th edn., 2002), i. 45. 29 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, x. 57. 30 See below, pp. 12–14. 31 For the history of the Banū Wahb, see C. E. Bosworth art., ‘Wahb’, EI2. 32 al-Tanūkhī, Nishwār al-muḥāḍara wa-akhbār al-mudhākara (ed. ʿAbbūd al-Shālijī ; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 2nd edn., 1995), vii. 200–2. 33 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 547. 34 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī. Tārīkh al-rusul wa-l-mulūk (ed. Muḥammad A. Ibrāhīm; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 2nd edn., 1968–1975), ix. 370–1, 512. 35 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 43–4. 36 Ibid, 41 (Ibn Ḥazm, Jamhara, 107; al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh, viii. 440). 37 Ibn Ḥazm, Jamhara, 107; al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh, viii. 440. 38 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 47–8 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 164). 39 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 21. According to Khalafallāh, al-Iṣfahānī shares a number of sources with his uncle, such as Ibn Durayd, Abū Khalīfa al-Jumaḥī, and ʿAlī b. Sulaymān al-Akhfash; this may imply the mutual experience of attending similar learning circles (ḥalaqāt); see Ṣāḥib, 48. 40 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 49–51. 41 For al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad’s sources, see Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 48–9. Here I only address those involved in the court. 42 al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad’s sources such as ʿUmar b. Naṣr and ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUthmān al-Kātib do not feature substantially in the Aghānī; the former is ‘one of the senior figures among the kuttāb in Samarra (kāna min mashāyikh al-kuttāb bi-Surra Man Raʾā)’, while the latter’s involvement in the kātib post is not specified: al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xx. 144 (ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUthmān); xxiii. 52, 81, 91 (ʿUmar b. Naṣr). As for Muḥammad b. al-Dihqāna al-Nadīm, living under al-Wāthiq’s rule, he was associated with al-Wāthiq, Ibn al-Muʿtazz, al-ʿAbbās b. al-Faḍl al-Khurāsānī—one of Ṭāhir b. Ḥusayn’s and his son’s leading generals—and Ibrāhīm b. al-Mudabbir: al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, v. 259; vii. 235; xii. 79; xvi. 286. 43 al-Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab wa-maʿādin al-jawhar (ed. Yūsuf al-Biqāʿī; Beirut: al-Maktaba al-ʿAṣriyya, 2nd edn., 2011), iv. 110. 44 Their narrations to al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad and their biographies are examined by Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 78, 96, 106–7. 45 al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad’s narrations from Muḥammad b. Dāwūd: al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, ii. 144; vi. 198; vii. 192, 194, 197; x. 55; 22: 116, 118, 123, 128, 134. The most famous member of the family is his nephew, ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā. For an introduction to him and his family, see M. L. M. van Berkel art., ‘ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā b. Dāʾūd b. al-Jarrāḥ’, EI3. 46 Ibn al-Nadīm, al-Fihrist, 142; al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, iii. 156. Al-Iṣfahānī cites a book of his, see Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 94, 126. 47 Miskawayh, Tajārib al-umam wa-taʿāqub al-himam (ed. Sayyid K. Ḥasan; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2003), v. 4–8. 48 Except for Hārūn, who, it can be securely established, was a kātib, the occupations of the other two are not clear. The narrations from Hārūn are numerous; see Fleischhamer, Die Quellen, 85. There is also a note of Hārūn’s association with ʿUbaydallāh b. Sulaymān, which will be quoted below. His kātib identity is specified in al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, xvi. 38; Ibn al-Nadīm, al-Fihrist, 137 (where Hārūn is placed under the category of kuttāb authors). For the narrations from ʿUmar and ʿUbaydallāh, see respectively al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xx. 74 and xix. 176. 49 Ibid, x. 54–5. 50 Ibid, xiii. 123; xviii. 263. Al-Iṣfahānī, in addition to his uncle, relies on other transmitters for Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s reports, such as Wakīʿ (d. 306/918); see Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 59–60; al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, vii. 163; xv. 240–1; xvi. 133, 240; xix. 82; xx. 156. In addition, ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s nephew, who let al-Iṣfahānī copy his uncle’s work, presumably, another Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn (Maqātil, 32; perhaps, for this reason, al-Iṣfahānī can quote the list of the dead Ṭālibids given by Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza in his own Maqātil, 552–64). Regarding Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza’s works, see al-Najāshī, Rijāl, 332. 51 al-Najāshī, Rijāl, 332; al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, 4: 105–6; al-Mizzī, Tahdhīb al-kamāl fī asmāʾ al-rijāl (ed. Bashshār ʿA. Maʿrūf; Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 2nd edn., 1983), xxvi. 144–5. 52 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xviii. 120 (Muḥammad b. Mūsā); xxi. 34 (ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās). 53 Newman, The Formative, 15–19; D. Sourdel art., ‘Ibn al-Furāt’, EI2. 54 al-Ḥasan b. Mūsā al-Nawbakhtī and Saʿd b. ʿAbdallāh al-Qummī, Firaq al-shīʿa (ed. ʿAbd al-Munʿim al-Ḥafnī; Cairo: Dār al-Rashād, 1992), 94–6. 55 al-Ṣafadī, Kitāb al-Wāfī bi-l-wafayāt (ed. Aḥmad al-Arnāʾūṭ and Turkī Muṣṭafā; Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 2000), xxi. 113; al-Marzubānī, Muʿjam al-shuʿarāʾ (ed. Fārūq Aslīm; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 2005), 193; Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, xiii. 267–8; al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalāʾ (ed. Ḥassān ʿAbd al-Mannān; Beirut: Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyya, 2004), 2791. 56 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 45 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xiii. 90). 57 This point is made in Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 50, 118 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, ii. 124–5). 58 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 21. 59 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 52–4 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xii. 29; xiv. 113, 157; xvi. 317–18; xix. 35, 49; xx. 116); see also Fleischhammer, Die Quellen, 133. Given that there is no direct transmission from him, it is likely that Yaḥyā b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba deceased before al-Iṣfahānī was ready to receive education. 60 al-ʿAbbās b. Aḥmad b. Thawāba gave al-Iṣfahānī a work of Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm al-Mawṣilī in Isḥāq’s own hand, see Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 54–8 (al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī: x. 119; xxi. 37–8). For a brief introduction to the Āl Thawāba, see S. Boustany art., ‘Ibn Thawāba’, EI2. 61 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 121–3. 62 Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, vii. 187–90. 63 Khalafallāh, Ṣāḥib, 58, n. 4. 64 In Rifāʿī’s edition of Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, which I use, it is spelled ‘Bākbāk’; in the Murūj al-dhahab, it is ‘Bāykiyāl’. Here I follow: al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 453, et passim; Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, iv. 148; al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 150. 65 Etan Kohlberg, ‘The Term ‘Rāfida’ in Imāmī Shīʿī Usage’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 99/4 (1979): 677–9. 66 Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, iv. 147–9. 67 Although the author of Aʿyān al-shīʿa, Muḥsin al-Amīn al-Āmilī, attributes Muḥammad b. Aḥmad’s Shīʿism to all the Āl Thawāba, his only evidence is from Yāqūt. See Muḥsin al-Amīn al-Āmilī, Aʿyān al-shīʿa (ed. Ḥasan al-Amīn; Beirut: Dār al-Taʿāruf li-l-Maṭbūʿāt, 1983), iii. 89. 68 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 443–4, 468 (for details about the coup against al-Muhtadī, see 456–69). 69 al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 119. 70 Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, iv. 150–2, 157–8. Ismāʿīl b. Bulbul promoted Shiʿi retinues, including the Banū Nawbakht, during his vizierate. See Louis Massignon, ‘Recherches sur les Shiʿites extrémistes à Bagdad à la fin du troisième siècle de l’Hégire’, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 92/3 (1938): 378–82. Given that the Shiʿi confession of the Āl Thawāba is not firmly established, I am not fully convinced by the view that Ismāʿīl b. Bulbul’s ‘conciliatory attitude towards’ Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Thawāba is related to their mutual Shiʿi identities, as suggested in S. Boustany art., ‘Ibn Thawāba’, EI2. 71 Bernheimer defines it as follows: ‘ “ʿAlidism,” characterized by a non-sectarian reverence and support for the family, as distinct from ‘Shīʿism,’ the political and religious claims of some of its members or others on their behalf.’ See Teresa Bernheimer, ‘Genealogy, Marriage, and the Drawing of Boundaries among the ʿAlids (eighth-twelfth centuries)’ in Morimoto Kazuo (ed.), Sayyids and Sharifs in Muslim Societies: the Living Links to the Prophet (London: Routledge, 2012): 75–91, at 76. Although I agree that one could be an ʿAlid supporter without being a Shiʿi and an ʿAlid could be a Sunnī, as Bernheimer points out (esp. 81), I am less certain about the boundary between Shiʿism and ʿAlidism, which, in my view, is fluid and contingent upon time and place. In the context in which sectarian conflicts intensified, for instance, Baghdad under Buyid rule, pronouncing one’s reverence and support for the ʿAlids may have been interpreted as Shiʿi conviction, regardless of how one actually conceptualized such reverence and support. That is, it is doubtful whether, in practice, one’s affection for the ahl al-bayt can be categorically defined as either ʿAlidism or Shiʿism. 72 An example during al-Muʿtaṣim’s reign is a Jaʿfarid who refused to wear the black robe and was thus jailed in Samarra; a number of ʿAlids suspected of treason were brought to the same city during the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil; see al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 464–73, 480–1, 491–2. 73 Ibid, 454. 74 al-Kulaynī, Uṣūl min al-kāfī (Beirut: Manshūrāt al-Fajr, 2007), i. 314 (hereafter cited as al-kāfī); al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 43. 75 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 476; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya (ed. ʿAbdallāh ʿA al-Turkī; Jīza: Dār Hajar, 1998), xiv. 330. 76 al-Mutawakkil’s ill treatment of the Ṭālibids is recorded in detail by al-Iṣfahānī: Maqātil, 478–80. The property of Fadak was returned to the ʿAlids by al-Maʾmūn, and then al-Mutawakkil revoked this policy; for the history of the disposal of Fadak until the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil, see al-Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān (eds. ʿAbdallāh A. al-Ṭabbāʿ and ʿUmar A. al-Ṭabbāʿ; Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Maʿārif, n.d.), 45–7; al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh, ii. 447; al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 200–201; Miskawayh, Tajārib, iv 120–1. 77 According to al-Kulaynī, al-Mutawakkil politely invited ʿAlī b. Muḥammad to visit him and bring with him his family; ʿAlī b. Muḥammad’s debauchee brother, Mūsā, seems to have been one of them: al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 318, 320–1; see also: al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 77–8; al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 163; al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh, ii. 447. 78 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 279–80, 503; al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 110; al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 254. 79 According to al-Kulaynī’s Kāfī, al-Mustaʿīn placed the imam al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī in a predicament in the hope of having him killed, but, of course, on account of the Imam’s thaumaturgic power, that did not work out: i. 325–6. Also from al-Kāfī, it is claimed that al-Muhtadī was hostile to the Imam, but the report in question also seeks to highlight the Imam’s power to predict future events: i. 327. 80 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, x. 41–2, 44, 54–63. 81 Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: the Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century (London: Routledge, 3rd edn., 2016), 156–7. 82 al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 51–2; E. Marin, art. ‘Dulafids’, EI2. 83 al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 137–8. 84 Ibid, 130–1. 85 al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 320. ʿUmar b. al-Faraj was one of the members of the council which decided the successor of al-Wāthiq. Later, when al-Mutawakkil struggled against the growing influence of the Turkish regiment, headed by Waṣīf and Ītākh, ʿUmar b. al-Faraj, like Ibn Abī Duʾād and Ibn al-Zayyāt, fell victim to the caliph’s ambition in 233/848. For the conflict between al-Mutawakkil and ʿUmar b. Faraj, see al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 156–61; al-Khaṭīb, Tārīkh, viii. 46; al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh, ii. 448; al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 29–30. For further analyses of al-Mutawakkil’s manoeuvres, see Matthew S. Gordon, The Breaking of a Thousand Swords: a History of the Turkish Military of Samarra (A.H. 200–275/815–889 C.E.) (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001), 80–3; John P. Turner, ‘The End of the Miḥna’, Oriens, 38 (2010): 89–106. On Muḥammad b. al-Faraj, see also al-Najāshī, Rijāl, 356. 86 al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 320; al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 240–4, 246, 253, 256–9; al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh, ii. 450–1, 458–60; al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 107–8, 118. Aḥmad b. al-Khaṣīb is listed among ʿAlī b. Muḥammad’s companions: al-Barqī, Kitāb al-Rijāl (Tehran: Chāpkhāna-yi Danishgāh-i Tihrān, 1382 sh), 60. 87 Apart from ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān and his son, Aḥmad, who was in charge of the ḍiyāʿ and kharāj in Qom, ʿAlī b. Utāmish (in al-Irshād) may have been one of al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī’s partisans, but the orthographic variance (spelled ‘ʿAlī b. Nārmash’ in al-Kāfī) leaves this less certain: al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 322–5; al-Mufīd, al-Irshād fī maʿrifat ḥujaj Allāh ʿalā al-ʿibād (ed. Muʾassasat Āl al-Bayt li-Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth; Beirut: Muʾassasat Āl al-Bayt li-Iḥyāʾal-Turāth, 1995), ii. 329–30. 88 al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, i. 314, 316–17, 322, 325–8; on other narrators and companions of the Imams, see al-Barqī, Rijāl, 57–61. On al-Nawfalī, see Sebastian Günther, ‘Al-Nawfalī’s Lost History: the Issue of a Ninth-Century Shi‘ite Source used by al-Ṭabarī and Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 36/2 (2008): 241–66. 89 Another example that may be added here is Ibrāhīm b. al-Mudabbir, who brokered Muḥammad b. Ṣāliḥ al-ʿAlawī’s marriage to the daughter of ʿĪsā b. Mūsā, despite Muḥammad b. Ṣāliḥ having just been released from prison; another hint as to his pro-Ṭālibid stance is shown in his hostility towards ʿAlī b. al-Jahm; see al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, x. 175–8, 182–5, 187–8, 189–90, 192–3; xvi. 286–8. 90 al-Iṣfahānī portrays ʿAlī b. al-Jahm in a negative light: al-Aghānī, x. 175–97; Ibn Khallikān remarked ʿAlī b. al-Jahm’s dislike for ʿAlī: Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-anbāʾ abnāʾ al-zamān (ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1972), iii. 355. On Marwān b. Abī al-Janūb, see al-Marzubānī, Muʿjam, 374; Ibn al-Muʿtazz, Ṭabaqāt al-shuʿarāʾ (ed. ʿAbd al-Sattār A. Farrāj; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 3rd edn., 1976), 393; al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xii. 62; xxiii. 168. Apart from these two poets, Miskawayh lists a number of boon companions who either mocked ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib or suggested that the caliph alienate the ʿAlids: Tajārib, iv. 120–1. Another figure in al-Mutawakkil’s retinue known for being hostile to ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib is the buffoon poet, Abū al-ʿIbar, with whom al-Iṣfahānī’s grand-uncle and uncle, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz and al-Ḥasan, had direct contact; see al-Iṣfahānī, al-Aghānī, xxiii. 167. Although differing in detail, Ibn al-Nadīm agrees with al-Iṣfahānī that Abū al-ʿIbar was killed by a Kūfan Shiʿi; see Ibn al-Nadīm, al-Fihrist, 169–70; Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-udabāʾ, xvii. 126. 91 See n. 87; al-Iṣfahānī himself specified ʿUbaydallāh b. Yaḥyā b. Khāqān as the implementer of al-Mutawakkil’s anti-ʿAlid policy. Another example would be Muḥammad b. al-Faraj, who is regarded as ʿAlī b. Muḥammad’s companion (see above, p. 00), while his brother ʿUmar b. al-Faraj, imposed harsh regulations upon the Ṭālibids, who were impoverished as a result, according to: al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 478–9. 92 In addition to the case of al-Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥusayn, mentioned above (p. 10), the Ṭālibids also received funds from the Zaydi rulers in Ṭabaristān and some of them or their deputies could claim the khums from their followers. The accounts that explain why Bughā al-Kabīr and al-Muʿtaḍid treated Āl Abī Ṭālib with benevolence mention the encounters of both with ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib in dreams, wherein they are promised good rewards (a long healthy life and the caliphate, respectively) on condition that they show respect and kindness to ʿAlī’s kinsfolk. Although the authenticity of these accounts may be dismissed as literary topoi, this kind of story does highlight the importance (or benefits) of being munificent to the Ṭālibids in the eyes of the historians of the late ninth and the tenth centuries. This also dovetails with al-Iṣfahānī’s description of al-Mutawakkil’s anti-Ṭālibid policies, which forbade the Ṭālibids from asking favours from people and people’s birr for them. That is, the Ṭālibids could and did claim special status in the community. See al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, 10: 41–42 (the fund from Ṭabaristān and al-Muʿtaḍid’s encounter with ʿAlī); al-Musʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 130–1, 214–15 (Bughā al-Kabīr and al-Muʿtaḍid); al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 479. Morimoto Kazuo, ‘How to Behave toward Sayyids and Sharīfs: a Trans-sectarian Tradition of Dream Accounts’ in Morimoto Kazuo (ed.), Sayyids and Sharifs, 15–36; although the examples that Kazuo adduces are derived from later compilations (the earliest being the work of Ibn al-Jawzī, who died in 597/1200), it is likely that some of these accounts go back to the tenth century, see, par excellence, pp. 21, 26–9. This perhaps implies that the act of being benevolent to an ʿAlid was something viewed as commendable. For the different Shiʿi sects’ expositions of khums, see A. Zysow and R. Gleave, art. ‘Khums’, EI2. 93 al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 119. 94 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 480, 488–9. 95 This tallies with the point reiterated by Bernheimer (‘Genealogy’, 81): ‘[…] this clearly shows that the disengagement of ʿAlidism and Shīʿism goes both ways: not only could one be a supporter of the ʿAlids without being a Shīʿite, one could also be a Shīʿite without proposing any special treatment for the ʿAlids.’ 96 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 246. 97 Ibid, 256. 98 Ibid, 266–70. 99 Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil, vi. 199–200. The same process took place with the death of al-Muʾayyad, who had been either beaten or smothered to death in 252/866, but instead of the Banū Hāshim, the witnesses here are identified with the quḍāt, fuqahāʾ, shuhūd, and wujūh, who may have included some of the Ṭālibids. See al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 362. 100 Ibid, 442–3. 101 For more details on the bayʿa and the political rituals and ceremonies of this period, see Andrew Marsham, Rituals of Islamic Monarchy: Accession and Succession of the First Muslim Empire (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 283–308. 102 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 283. 103 Ibid, 453. 104 See above, pp. 8–10. 105 See above, nn. 51 and 88. 106 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 547–8. 107 According to al-Ṭabarī (Tārīkh, ix. 328–9), Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim al-Jaʿfarī delayed and was not able to carry out his mission before Muzāḥim defeated the rebels and put them to flight. It is noteworthy that al-Iṣfahānī presents a very different story, in which the ʿAlid rebel came to Samarra, offering allegiance to the rival caliph, al-Muʿtazz, and was then let be by Muzāḥim. As al-Iṣfahānī does not cite any source, it may be that he presents a Kūfan perspective on an event which caused high casualties in that city and perhaps, as a result, resentment against al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad. See also al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 521–2. For a more concise account, see al-Masʿūdī, Murūj, iv. 125. Another instance of Dāwūd b. al-Qāsim’s intercession for a rebellious ʿAlid is recorded for the year 252/866-7, see the note following (108). 108 al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 370–1. 109 See above, n. 50. 110 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 552: ‘And Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza mentioned the death of a group of the Ṭālibids, whose death is not executed by the government, and he did not specify the historical dates of their death; thus, I mention that [the death of the given Ṭālibids] following his account, exempt from (or not responsible for) mistake, if any, slip or negligence [‘dhakara Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ḥamza maqātil jamāʿa min al-Ṭālibiyyīn lam yatawalla qatla-hum al-sulṭān wa-lam yaḥṣur awqāt maqātili-him bi-tārīkh fa-dhakartu dhālika bi-ḥikāyati-hi mutabarriʾan min khaṭaʾ in kāna fī-hi aw zalal aw sahw]’). 111 The personal traits, such as bravery, generosity, and handsome appearance, are sometimes mentioned under each biographical entry. See, for a summary of the Ṭālibids in the Maqātil, Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 327–32 (Appendix One). 112 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 558–63. 113 Ibid, 558. 114 It is an interpolation on al-Iṣfahānī’s part, as the source mentioned here, Aḥmad b. Saʿīd, is one of al-Iṣfahānī’s major sources in the Maqātil. See Sebastian Günther, Quellenuntersuchungen zu den ‘Maqātil al-Ṭālibīyyīn’ des Abū-l-Farağ al-Iṣfahānī (gest. 356/967): Ein Beitrag zur Problematik der mündlichen und schriftlichen Überlieferung in der mittelalterlichen arabischen Literatur (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1991), 127–31. 115 The political alignments of the ʿAlids are reflected in their marital patterns; see Asad Q. Ahmed, The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic Ḥijāz: Five Prosopographical Case Studies (Oxford: Prosopographica et Genealogica, 2011), 19–20; Teresa Bernheimer, The ʿAlids: The First Family of Islam, 750–1200 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 32–50. 116 While al-Iṣfahānī does mention the death of Muḥammad b. Zayd and notice al-Ḥasan b. Zayd and others’ campaigns in Ṭabaristān and Rayy, which he reserves for another work, he claims that he did not have access to the latest information about the Ṭālibids in Yemen and Ṭabaristān by the time he finished the Maqātil in 313/925; see Maqātil, 490–1, 542, 565. 117 al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil, 42. 118 For a thorough analysis of al-Iṣfahānī’s editorial hand and his treatment of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib, see Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 253–7. 119 Ibid, 223–41. 120 Ibid, 183–203, 218–23, 242–7, 257–60. On the atrocities committed by Ismāʿīl b. Yūsuf in Makka in 251/865, see al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, ix. 346–7. 121 This view is accepted by many: Najam Haider, The Origins of the Shīʿa: Identity, Ritual, and Sacred Space in Eighth-Century Kūfa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 197; id., ‘The Community Divided: A Textual Analysis of the Murders of Idrīs b. ʿAbd Allāh (d.175/791)’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 128/3 (2008): 459–75; Kilpatrick, Making, 14–16; S. Günther art.,‘Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’, EI3; Patricia Crone, Medieval Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 100. 122 See above, n. 116 and Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 253. 123 Wilferd Madelung, Der Imam al-Qāsim ibn Ibrāhīm und die Glaubenslehre der Zaiditen (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1965), 47. Crone (Medieval, 100, n. 4) suggests that al-Iṣfahānī was a member of this group without giving any evidence beyond citing Madelung’s view. Furthermore, in the light of our review of the family’s connections with the politically quietist Ṭālibids, it makes little sense to pre-conceive a (Zaydī or any other) label to define al-Iṣfahānī’s sectarian affiliation. Given the fluidity of the sectarian boundaries in the second half of the ninth century, al-Iṣfahānī and the Iṣfahānīs’ sectarian conviction ought to be defined on its own terms. 124 This papyrus, which is the sole source of Madelung’s understanding of the Ṭālibiyya (Der Imam, 47, n. 22), is transcribed and analysed by Nabia Abbott, Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri I. Historical Texts (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 100–8. 125 Ibid, 105. 126 Ibid, 101–2. In the Maqātil, al-Iṣfahānī explicitly states that he only includes ʿAbdallāh b. Muʿāwiya for the sake of making his book comprehensive. Thus, ʿAbdallāh b. Muʿāwiya is portrayed negatively in both of his works: Maqātil, 152–9; al-Aghānī, xii. 171–90. For an analysis of ʿAbdallāh b. Muʿāwiya’s image, see Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 275–6. 127 Also, note that al-Iṣfahānī’s conviction, based on my research, should be construed as a form of Shiʿism. Given that al-Iṣfahānī emphatically highlights ʿAlī’s political legitimacy, which is contested in the ninth century, and his precedence over the first three caliphs, which does not conform to the hierarchical trajectory of the four rightly-guided caliphs embraced by the ahl al-ḥadīth, the core group constituting Sunni Islam, his sectarian profession is thus more than ʿAlidism. See Su, ‘The Shīʿī Past’, 253–7; Crone, Medieval, 135; al-Nāshiʾ al-Akbar, Masāʾil al-imāma wa-muqtaṭafāt min al-Kitāb al-Awsaṭ fī al-maqālāt (Frühe muʿtazilitische Häresiographie: zwei Werke des Nāšiʾ al-Akbar (gest. 293 H) ed. Josef van Ess; Beirut/Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1971), 10–21; al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (ed. Abū Ṣuhayb al-Karamī; Riyadh: Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyya, 1998), 698–709; Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (ed. Naẓar M. al-Fāriyābī; Riyadh: Dār Ṭayba, 2005), 1119–31; Abū Dāwūd, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, ed. Shuʿayb al-Arnāʾūṭ and Muḥammad K. Qarah Balilī (Damascus: Dār al-Risāla al-ʿĀlamiyya, 2009), vii. 33–52. 128 See above, pp. 8–10. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Published: Sep 1, 2018

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