ESMĀʿĪL b. JAʿFAR AL-ṢĀDEQ, Abū Moḥammad, the sixth Imam and the eponym of the Ismaʿilis. He also carried the epithet of Mobārak, “the blessed” (Sejestānī, p. 190; Edrīs, Zahr, p. 199; Ivanow, 1946, pp. 108-12), on the basis of which one of the earliest Ismaʿili groups became designated as the Mobārakīya. Esmāʿīl was the eldest son of Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq by his first wife Fāṭema, a granddaughter of Imam Ḥasan b. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb (Feraq al-šīʿa, p. 58; Qomī, p. 80; Ebn ʿEnaba, p. 233; Qāżī Noʿmān, Šarḥ III, p. 309). Esmāʿīl was the full-brother of ʿAbd-Allāh al-Afṭaḥ, the Imam of the Faṭḥīya (or Afṭaḥīya). Esmāʿīl was some twenty-five years older than his half-brother Mūsā al-Kāẓem, the seventh Imam of the Twelver Shiʿites (Eṯnāʿašarīya), who was born in 128/745-46 (Jaʿfar b. Manṣūr, p. 258). Esmāʿīl had established close relations with the radical followers of his father, who were dissatisfied by the quiescent policies pursued by him and other Imams of the Emāmīya. Esmāʿīl may have actually cooperated with Abu’l-Ḵaṭṭāb (d. 138/755-56), the most prominent extremist (ḡālī) on the fringe of the Emāmīya and the eponym of the Ḵaṭṭābīya (Jaʿfar b. Manṣūr, pp. 256-57). Louis Massignon (pp. 16-19) has suggested that Abu’l-Ḵaṭṭāb was the spiritual or adoptive father of Esmāʿīl, hence his konīa of Abū Esmāʿīl. Possible collaboration between Esmāʿīl and Abu’l-Ḵaṭṭāb remains shrouded in obscurity, despite the fact that the Imami sources, generally hostile to the Ismaʿilis, identify the nascent Ismaʿili with the early Ḵaṭṭābīya (Feraq al-šīʿa, pp. 58-59; Qomī, p. 81). The later Ismaʿilis regarded Abu’l-Ḵaṭṭāb as a heretic and repudiated the Ḵaṭṭābīya (Qāżī Noʿmān, Daʿāʾem I, pp. 49-50, tr. pp. 58-59; idem, Majāles, pp. 84-85).
According to several traditions reported by Kaššī (pp. 217-18, 321, 325-26, 354-56, 390; tr. Ivanow, 1923, pp. 305-10), Esmāʿīl had also established contacts with other radical Shiʿites, notably the prominent extremist Mofażżal b. ʿOmar Joʿfī. Esmāʿīl reportedly protested in Medina in 133/750 against the execution of Moʿallā b. Ḵonays, another extremist follower of Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq (Kaššī, pp. 376-82; Najāšī, p. 296; Edrīs, ʿOyūn, pp. 326-27). According to another report (Kaššī, pp. 244-45; Najāšī, pp. 81-82), Esmāʿīl was involved in a militant anti-ʿAbbasid plot in collaboration with several others, which included Bassām b. ʿAbd-Allāh Ṣayrafī, a radical Shiʿite engaged in money lending in Kūfa. This association is one of several reported by the Imami sources which caused Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq to express his dissatisfaction with those radical Shiʿites who were leading his son astray. Few other indisputable facts about Esmāʿīl are available. Ismaʿili sources (e.g., Edrīs, ʿOyūn, pp. 332-50) contain little historical information of any value concerning Esmāʿīl and the initial phase of Ismaʿili history. Eṯnāʿašarī sources, which are better informed than the Sunni authors on the Shiʿite groupings, are hostile towards Esmāʿīl. Because the former sources uphold the rights of Mūsā al-Kāẓem to the imamate, they regard Esmāʿīl as a reprobate and accuse him of dipsomania (Feraq al-šīʿa, p. 90; Qomī, p. 103; Kaššī, pp. 473-74). It is known, however, that Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq had designated Esmāʿīl as his successor to the imamate by the rule of the naṣṣ. This designation, in fact, forms the basis of Ismaʿili claims (Madelung, pp. 43 ff.; Daftary, 1991, pp. 219 ff.).
The exact date and the circumstances of Esmāʿīl’s death remain unknown. According to the Ismaʿili tradition and some Ismaʿili sources, Esmāʿīl survived his father. However, the majority of sources report that he died before Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq (d. 148/765) in Medina, and was buried in the Baqīʿ cemetery there. Many Ismaʿili and non-Ismaʿili sources state that during Esmāʿīl’s funeral procession Imam al-Ṣādeq attempted to show the face of his dead son to witnesses. Some of the same sources also indicate that Esmāʿīl was seen soon afterward in Baṣra (Qāżī Noʿman, Šarḥ III, p. 309; Jaʿfar b. Manṣūr, pp. 262-63; Edrīs, Zahr, pp. 200-201; Shaikh Mofīd, p. 431; Rašīd-al-Dīn, p. 10). In such accounts of Esmāʿīl’s death and burial, al-Manṣūr (136-58/754-75) is named as the ruling caliph. Other sources cite later years for Esmāʿīl’s death, the latest date being 145/762-63 (Maqrīzī, I, p. 15; Jovaynī, ed. Qazvīnī, III, p. 126; Rašīd-al-Dīn, p. 10; Dastūr al-monajjemīn, cited by de Goeje, p. 203). Ḥasan b. Nūḥ Bharūčī (pp. 234-35; Ivanow, 1942, p. 30), an Indian Ismaʿili author, writes of visiting Esmāʿīl’s grave in the Baqīʿ cemetery in 904/1498. His grave was still there in 1302/1885 (Farāhānī, p. 288), but it was later destroyed, along with other graves in the Baqīʿ, by the Wahhābīs.
With the death of Imam al-Ṣādeq in 148/765, two Kufan-based splinter groups separated from the Imamis and constituted the earliest Ismaʿili group (Daftary, 1990, pp. 93 ff.). One group, designated by the Imami heresiographers as al-Esmāʿīlīya al-ḵāleṣa (Feraq al-šīʿa, pp. 57-58; Qomī, p. 80), denied the death of Esmāʿīl during his father’s lifetime, maintained that he was the true Imam after al-Ṣādeq, and believed that he would eventually return as Mahdi. A second group affirming Esmāʿīl’s death during the lifetime of al-Ṣādeq traced the imamate to Esmāʿīl’s son Moḥammad b. Esmāʿīl. Imami heresiographers call this latter group the Mobārakīya (Feraq al-šīʿa, p. 58; Qomī, pp. 80-81). A faction of the Mobārakīya later developed into the Fatimid Ismaʿilis, upholding the continuity of the imamate in the progeny of Esmāʿīl, acknowledging Esmāʿīl himself as their sixth Imam. This enumeration was subsequently retained by the various branches of the Ismaʿili.
See also ISMAʿILISM.
Primary Sources. Ḥasan b. Nūḥ Bharūčī, Ketāb-al-azhār I, in ʿĀ. ʿAwwā, ed., Montaḵabāt Esmāʿīlīya, Damascus, 1958, pp. 181-250.
Ebn ʿEnaba, ʿOmdat-al-ṭāleb fī ansāb āl Abī Ṭāleb, ed. M.-Ḥ. Āl Ṭālaqānī, Najaf, 1961.
Edrīs ʿEmād-al-Dīn b. Ḥasan, ʿOyūn-al-aḵbār wa fonūn al āṯār IV, ed. M. Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1973.
Idem, Zahr-al-maʿānī, ed. M. Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1991.
Mīrzā Ḥosayn Farāhānī, Safar-nāma-ye Mīrzā Ḥosayn Farāhānī, ed. Ḥ. Farmān-Farmāʾīān, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963.
Jaʿfar b. Manṣūr Yaman, Sarāʾer wa asrār-al-noṭaqāʾ, ed. M. Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1984.
Abū ʿAmr Moḥammad b. ʿOmar Kaššī, Eḵtīār maʿrefat al-rejāl, ed. Ḥ. Mostawfī, Mašhad, 1348 Š./1969.
Aḥmad b. ʿAlī Maqrīzī, Etteʿāẓ al-ḥonafāʾ I, ed. J. Šayyāl, Cairo, 1967.
Shaikh Moḥammad Mofīd, Ketāb al-Eršād, tr. I. K. A. Howard as Kitāb al-Irshād. The Book of Guidanceinto the Lives of the Twelve Imams, London, 1981.
Aḥmad b. ʿAlī Najāšī, Ketāb-al-rejāl, Bombay, 1317/1899.
Qāżī Noʿmān b. Moḥammad, Daʿāʿem al-Eslām I, ed. A. A. A. Fyzee, Cairo, 1951, partial tr. A. A .A. Fyzee as The Book of Faith, Bombay, 1974.
Idem, Ketāb-al-majāles wa’l-mosāyarāt, ed. Ḥ. Faqī et al., Tunis, 1978.
Idem, Šarḥ-al-aḵbār, 3 vols., ed. M. Ḥosaynī Jalālī, Qom, 1409/1988.
Omm-al-ketāb, ed. W. Ivanow, Der Islam 23, 1936, pp. 1-132.
Saʿd b. ʿAbd-Allāh Qomī, Ketāb al-maqālāt wa’l-feraq, ed. M.-J. Maškūr, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963.
Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh, Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ. Qesmat-e Esmāʿīlīan, ed. M.-T. Dānešpažūh and M. Modarresī Zanjānī, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959.
Abū Yaʿqūb Esḥāq b. Aḥmad Sejestānī, Eṯbāt-al-nobūwāt, ed. ʿĀ. Tāmer, Beirut, 1966.
Studies. F. Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs. Their History and Doctrines, Cambridge, 1990.
Idem, “Nokāt-ī dar bāra-ye āḡāz-e nahżat-e Esmāʿīlīya,” Īrān-nāma/Irannameh 7, 1989, pp. 430-42.
Idem, “The Earliest Ismāʿīlīs,” Arabica 38, 1991, pp. 214-45.
M. J. de Goeje, Mémoire sur les Carmathes du Bahraïn et les Fatimides, 2nd ed., Leiden, 1886.
H. Halm, Die islamische Gnosis, Munich and Zurich, 1982.
Idem, Shiism, tr. J. Watson, Edinburgh, 1991.
W. Ivanow, “Imam Ismail,” JASB, N. S. 19, 1923, pp. 305-10.
Idem, Ismaili Tradition Concerning the Rise of the Fatimids, London, etc., 1942.
Idem, The Alleged Founder of Ismailism, Bombay, 1946.
B. Lewis, The Origins of Ismāʿīlism, Cambridge, 1940.
W. Madelung, “Das Imamat in der frühen ismailitischen Lehre,” Der Islam 37, 1961, pp. 43-135.
L. Massignon, Salmān Pāk et les prémices spirituelles de l’Islam Iranien, Tours, 1934.
Originally Published: December 15, 1998
Last Updated: January 19, 2012
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Vol. VIII, Fasc. 6, pp. 625-626