DĀʿĪ ELAʾL-ḤAQQ, ABŪ ʿABD-ALLĀH MOḤAMMAD b. Zayd b. Moḥammad b. Esmāʿīl b. Ḥasan b. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb (d. 287/900), brother and successor of Ḥasan b. Zayd, founder of Zaydī rule in Rūyān and Ṭabarestān. Nothing is known about the date of his birth and his youth. It seems likely, however, that the family lived in Iraq before coming to Ṭabarestān (Ṣafadī, XII, p. 21). Moḥammad appears to have arrived in Šalanba near Donbāvand (Damāvand) on his way to Ṭabarestān in 253/867, three years after his brother had established himself there. Ebn Esfandīār’s reference (I, p. 233) to a Ḥosayn b. Zayd is most likely a mistake, for nowhere else is there any mention of such a brother of Ḥasan and Moḥammad. The earliest definite mention of Moḥammad was in connection with Yaʿqūb b. Layṯ’s invasion of Ṭabarestān in 260/874; he was described as a prisoner of the latter (Ebn Esfandīār, I, p. 246; Ṣafadī, XII, p. 21). He may well have been captured by Yaʿqūb in Gorgān, which he later also governed for his brother. Yaʿqūb released him, together with other ʿAlids, after his retreat from Ṭabarestān. Moḥammad returned to his brother, then in Gorgān, in 263/876; went to Ṭabarestān to see his mother; and was again dispatched to Gorgān to aid Ḥasan’s brother-in-law Moḥammad b. Ebrāhīm. In March-April 877 he was expelled from Gorgān by Esḥāq Šārī, the Taherid deputy in Khorasan (Ebn Esfandīār, I, pp. 246-47). Ḥasan soon retook Gorgān and, in 266/880, sent Moḥammad from there against the rebellious Bavandid espahbad Rostam b. Qāren, ruler of the eastern mountain range of Ṭabarestān. After subduing the espahbad, the victorious Moḥammad returned to Ḥasan in Ṭabarestān. The brothers then retook Gorgān, which for a brief period had been occupied by the rebel ʿAlid Ḥasan b. Moḥammad ʿAqīqī. The latter was pursued by Moḥammad, captured in the desert, and executed by Ḥasan. As attested by numismatic evidence (Stern, p. 211 n. 1), Gorgān remained firmly in the hands of Ḥasan in the years 267-70/880-83 and was presumably governed by Moḥammad while Ḥasan resided in Āmol (Ebn Esfandīār, I, pp. 247-49).

After Ḥasan’s death, on 3 Rajab 270/6 January 884, his brother-in-law, the ʿAlid Abu’l-Ḥosayn Aḥmad b. Moḥammad, usurped the throne in Āmol while Moḥammad, the appointed successor, was still in Gorgān. Moḥammad set out to conquer Āmol but was deserted by some of his Deylamite supporters, who withdrew to Gorgān and then prevented him from reentering the town. Rāfeʿ b. Harṯama, a former Taherid commander then ruling in Khorasan, invited him to join him and then helped him to regain control of Gorgān. As the rule of Abu’l-Ḥosayn crumbled in Āmol, Moḥammad again set out for Ṭabarestān and this time seized his brother’s former capital, in Octo­ber 884 (Ebn Esfandīār, I, pp. 249-51). He then made war on the Bavandid Rostam, who had sided with Abu’l-Ḥosayn, and expelled him from his domain in the mountains. Rostam fled to the Saffarid ʿAmr b. Layṯ in Nīšāpūr. Upon the latter’s intercession, the ʿAlid Moḥammad b. Zayd allowed Rostam to return (Ebn Esfandīār, I, pp. 252). In August-September 885 Mohammad, who continued to reside in Gorgān, set out to seize Ray, which was governed by a Turk called Asātegīn, but was defeated. As he fell back to Āmol, Rāfeʿ briefly occupied Gorgān. As soon as Rāfeʿ left for Nīšāpūr, Moḥammad returned to Gorgān. In 275 or 276/888 or 889 Moḥammad once more expelled the Bavandid Rostam and stayed in his domain for seven months. Rostam found refuge with Rāfeʿ, who then took the offensive against Moḥammad . He seized Gorgān, besieged Moḥammad in the fortress of Jūhīna for six months, and pursued him to Kojū in Rūyān, where he stayed until March 891. Moḥammad gained the support of the Jastanid Jastān b. Wahsūdān, king of the Dylamites. After prolonged fighting Rāfeʿ and Jastān agreed that the former would leave and Jastān would withdraw his aid from Moḥammad (Ebn Esfandīār, I, pp. 251-53). The latter thus was still unable to recover Ṭabarestān. Only when the caliph al-Moʿtażed (279-89/892-902) appointed the Saffarid ʿAmr governor of Khorasan in place of Rāfeʿ in 279/892 did the latter send an envoy to the ʿAlid, pledge allegiance to him, and restore Ṭabarestān to him, on the condition that Rāfeʿ be allowed to keep Gorgān. On 5 Rabīʿ II 280/24 June 893 Moḥammad finally reentered Āmol (Ebn Esfandīār, I, p. 254; Tārīḵ-eSīstān, p. 252). Some time later, when he failed to provide Rāfeʿ with the military aid that the latter demanded in order to fight his rival ʿAmr and sought to wrest Sārī from him, Rāfeʿ hastened to save Sārī. After some inconclusive fighting between Moḥammad and Rāfeʿ a truce was concluded. In 283/896 Moḥammad b. Zayd sent some aid to Rāfeʿ, who renewed his pledge of allegiance, briefly seized Nīšāpūr, and introduced Moḥammad’s name in the Friday sermon (ḵotba) there. But later the decisive defeat of Rāfeʿ by ʿʿAmr enabled Moḥammad to recover Gorgān. In 283/897 Bakr b. ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz b. Abī Dolaf ʿEjlī, a scion of the house of the Dolafid amirs of Isfahan, came to Āmol as a refugee. Moḥammad received him with lavish hospitality, later gave him Čālūs and Rūyān to rule, but then had him poisoned in Nātel in 285/898 (Ebn Esfandīār, I, pp. 95, 254-55; for the date, see Ebn Ẓafar, fol. 107a). In 287/900 the Saffarid ʿAmr was defeated and killed by the Samanid Esmāʿīl b. Aḥmad, who then demanded that Moḥammad cede Gorgān to him and withdraw to Ṭabarestān. When Moḥammad refused, Esmāʿīl sent Moḥammad b. Hārūn Saraḵsī, a former associate of Rāfeʿ, with a large army against him. In the battle at the gate of Gorgān Moḥammad was mortally wounded. He died a day later on 5 Šawwāl 287/3 October 900. His head was sent to Bukhara, and his body was buried at the gate of Gorgān. His son Zayd, whom he had appointed to the succession in 273/888-89, was carried off in captivity to Bukhara, where he spent the rest of his life. The leaders of the defeated army agreed in Ṭabarestān to set up Moḥammad’s minor grandson al-Mahdī b. Zayd as the successor. One of them, however, proclaimed allegiance to the ʿAbbasid caliph al-Moʿtażed (279-89/892-902) and carried out a massacre among the supporters of the ʿAlid dynasty (Ebn al-Faqīh, p. 313). As a result, Ṭabarestān fell under Samanid rule.

Like his brother Ḥasan, Moḥammad politically backed Zaydī Shiʿite doctrine and Muʿtazilite theology. Two of his personal secretaries, Abu’l-Qāsem Balḵī and Abū Moslem Moḥammad b. Baḥr Eṣfahānī, were renowned Muʿtazilite scholars. Sunnite resistance to this religious policy was countered with repression.

Shiʿites praised Moḥammad in particular for providing for the restoration of the shrines of the imams ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb and his son Ḥosayn in Iraq, which had been destroyed by the caliph al-Motawakkel (232-47/847­-61), and for sending generous gifts to ʿAlids, Ṭālebids, and Shiʿites outside his territories (Ebn Esfandīār, I, p. 95). The later Zaydīs, however, did not recognize either of the two brothers as imams (for a discussion of this issue, see Madelung, 1965, pp. 155-58). Moḥammad had a fine critical appreciation for Arabic poetry. A few lines of his own poetry were recorded by Ṣūlī (Ṣafadī, III, p. 82).



Aḵbār aʾemmat al-Zaydīya, ed. W. Madelung, Beirut, 1987.

Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad Ebn Ẓāfer, al-Dowal al-monqaṭeʿa, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, ms. no. G6.

ʿAbd-al-Rafīʿ Ḥaqīqat, Jonboš-e Zaydīya dar Īrān, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 124-39.

Jamāl-al-Dīn Aḥmad b. ʿEnaba, ʿOmdat al-ṭāleb fī ansāb āl Abī Ṭāleb, ed. M.-Ḥ. Āl Ṭāleqānī, Najaf 1380/1961, pp. 92-93.

W. Madelung, Der Imam al-Qāsim ibn Ibrāhīm, Berlin, 1965, pp. 154-59.

Idem, “Abū Isḥāq al-Ṣābī on the ʿAlids of Ṭabaristān and Gīlān,” JNES 26, 1967, pp. 28-29.

Idem, “The Minor Dynasties of Northern Iran,” Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 206-08.

Masʿūd, Morūj, ed. Pellat, V, pp. 66, 150, 167, 172, 213, 234-­35.

D. Pingree and W. Madelung, “Political Horo­scopes Relating to Late Ninth Century ʿAlids,” JNES 36, 1977, esp. pp. 259-65.

Ṣalāḥ-al-Dīn Ḵalīl Ṣafadī, al-Wāfī be’l-wafayāt, Wiesbaden, 1949-.

S. M. Stern, “The Coins of Āmul,” NC, 7th ser., 7, 1967, pp. 205-78, esp. 212-13.

Ṭabarī, index, s.v. Moḥammad b. Zayd.

(Wilfred Madelung)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 11, 2011

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Vol. VI, Fasc. 6, pp. 595-597