Musta alins

“Badr al-Jamali, the Fatimid vizir expected the succession of Musta’li but he died in 487/1095, a month before the death of Imam al-Mustansir. The Imam appointed Lawun Amin ad-Dawla as a new vizir, but after few days, al-Afdal, the son of Badr al-Jamali managed to obtain office of vizirate when the Imam was on death-bed. After the death of Imam al-Mustansir, the year 487/1095 marks the triumph of vizirial prerogative over caliphal authority in the structure of the Fatimid empire. Al-Afdal however, was fearing of being deposed by Imam al-Nizar, so he conspired to remove him.

Aiming to retain the power of the state in his own hands, al-Afdal favoured the candidacy of al-Mustansir’s youngest son, Abul Kassim Ahmad, surnamed Musta’li, who would entirely depend upon him. Al-Musta’li was about 20 years old, and already married to al-Afdal’s daughter. Al-Afdal moved swiftly, and on the day following Imam al-Mustansir’s death, he placed the young prince on the throne with the title of al-Musta’li-billah. He quickly obtained for al-Musta’li the allegiance of the notables of the court. He also took favour of Imam al-Mustansir’s sister, who was prepared to declare a fabricated story that Imam al-Mustansir had changed the nass in favour of Musta’li at very last hour in presence of the qadi of Egypt, but the cause of change of nass was not given at all.

Al-Afdal feared the growing power of Imam al-Nizar in Alexandria, where he spurred his horses in 488/1095, but suffered a sharp repulse in the first engagement, and retreated to Cairo. Al-Afdal once again took field with huge army and besieged Alexandria. He tempted the companions of Imam al-Nizar, and fetched them to his side. Ibn Massal was the first to have deserted the field from the thick of fight, and fled with his materials by sea towards Maghrib.

Ibn Massal collected his wealth and fled to Lokk, a village near Barqa in Maghrib. This defection marked the turning point of Imam al-Nizar’s power. In addition, the long siege resulted great fortune to al-Afdal, wherein many skirmishes took place. Imam al-Nizar and his faithful fought valiantly, but due to the treachery of his men, he was arrested and taken prisoner with Abdullah and Iftagin to Cairo. According to Ibn Khallikan, Imam al-Nizar was immured by his brother al-Musta’li’s orders and al-Afdal had him shut up between two walls till he died in 490/1097.

Al-Musta’li remained a puppet in the hands of al-Afdal throughout his short reign (1094-1101), during which the Crusaders first appeared in 490/1097 in the Levant to liberate the holy land of Christendom. The Crusaders easily defeated the local Fatimid garrison, and occupied Jerusalem in 492/1099. By 493/1100, the Crusaders had gained their footholds in Palestine, and founded several principalities based on Jerusalem and other localities in Palestine and Syria. In the midst of the Fatimids’ continued attempts to repel the Crusaders, al-Musta’li died in 495/1102, who made no personal contribution to the Fatimid rule. He was virtually without authority in the state, and came out only as required by al-Afdal at the public functions.

Ibn Khallikan (1:613-4) writes that, “It was al-Afdal who, on the death of al-Musta’li, placed al-Amir, that sovereign’s son on the throne: he then took the direction of public affairs into his own hands, and having confined the prince in his palace, he prevented him from indulging his passion for pleasure and amusements. This treatment induced al-Amir to plot against his vizir’s life, and on the evening of Sunday, the 30th Ramzan, 515, as al-Afdal rode forth from his habitation in the imperial palace, he was attacked by the conspirators and slain while proceeding towards the river.”

The next two puppet rulers, Musta’li and Amir, had some claims to the title of the Imam. But when al-Amir was assassinated in 524/1130, leaving no male issue, al-Hafiz ascended the throne with the title of the mustawda Imam, i.e., acting as a regent on behalf of the supposed infant heir. A story was put into circulation that the baby was sent to Yamen. The faithful Musta’lians take this legend quite seriously. De Lacy O’Leary on the other hand writes in A Short History of the Fatimid Khalifate London, 1923, p. 222) that, “The Khalif al-Amir left no son, but at the time of his death, one of his wives was pregnant, and it was possible that she might give birth to an heir.” Makrizi writes in Itti’az (3:137) that, “It was stated that Hafiz was acting as guardian for al-Amir’s son to be born by one of al-Amir’s pregnant women.” Thus, Hafiz, the uncle of al-Amir took the power as a ruler.

Henceforward, the Fatimid rule embarked on its rapid decline. The supposed infant son of al-Amir is named, Tayyib, about two and half years old, but De Lacy O’Leary holds however that when al-Amir’s wife was delivered, her child was a daughter (op. cit., p. 223). Anyhow, the chief guardian of Tayyib was Ibn Madyan, who is said to have hidden the minor Tayyib in a mosque called Masjid ar-Rahma. Makrizi tells that the infant son of al-Amir was carried in a basket after wrapping it up and covering it over with vegetables. Here in the mosque, a wet nurse cared for him. And all of this was done without Hafiz knowing anything about it. Makrizi also writes that Tayyib was arrested and killed. The followers of Tayyib in Yamen however believed that he was hidden in 524/1130 and his line exists even today in concealment.

At the time of al-Amir’s assassination in 524/1130, Hurra Malika, a pious and capable lady held the office of hujjat in Yamen, the last survival citadel of the Fatimids. She was assisted by al-Khattab bin Hasan al-Hamdani, Lamak bin Malik and Yahya bin Malik. After the hiding of Tayyib, she worked for six years with an expectation that the hidden Tayyib would arrive in Yamen. She died in 532/1133 at the age of 92 years. She had appointed Zueb bin Musa as the first da’i al-mutlaq before her death to supervise the mission. Thus, Zueb became the final authority in all religious matters. Thus, the following earliest da’i al-mutalq of the Mustalian sect followed:-

1. Zueb bin Musa (d. 546/1151)

2. Ibrahim bin Hussain al-Hamidi (d. 557/1162)

3. Hatim bin Ibrahim al-Hamidi (d. 596/1199)

4. Ali bin Hatim (d. 605/1209).

Ibrahim bin al-Hamidi was the founder of the Tayyibi doctrine. While their communities soon disappeared in Egypt and Syria, they have survived upto the present day in Yamen and Indo-Pakistan. In Yamen the office of da’il al-mutalq was kept in the Hamidi family until 605/1209, and was then transferred to a tribe of Umayyad descent, the Banu Walid al-Anf al-Qurashi, who held it until 946/1539. The next da’il al-mutalq from among this clan were as under:-

5. Ali bin Muhammad b. al-Walid (d. 612/1215)

6. Ali bin Hanzala al-Wadi (d. 626/1229)

7. Ahmad bin al-Mubarak (d. 627/1230)

8. Hussain bin Ali (d. 667/1268)

9. Ali bin Hussain bin Ali b. Muhammad (d. 682/1284)

10. Ali bin Hussain b. Ali b. Hanzala (d. 686/1287)

11. Ibrahim bin Hussain (d. 728/1328)

12. Mohammad bin Hatim (d. 729/1329)

13. Ali bin Ibrahim (d. 746/1345)

14. Abdul Mutalib bin Mohammad (d. 755/1354)

15. Abbas bin Mohammad (d. 779/1378)

16. Abdullah bin Ali (d. 809/1407)

17. Hasan bin Abdullah (d. 821/1418)

18. Ali bin Abdullah (d. 821/1428)

19. Idris Imad ad-Din bin Hasan (d. 872/1468)

The succession to the head priests position was not free from internal intrigues and conspiracies and there arose several schisms among them, even in India in the time of 18th, 26th, 28th, 40th and 49th da’il al-mutlaq. In the period of Ali bin Abdullah, the 18th da’i, Jafar had gone to Yamen to study for priesthood. On his return he without obtaining permission from the local priest of Ahmedabad, began to lead prayers as a priest. He was reprimanded and asked to apologize. This he refused and in revenge he became a Sunni, and went to Patan and preached Sunnism under the patronage of the local Sunni rulers and converted a large number of the Mustalians. His followers became known as the Jafarias.

When the Zaidi rulers extended their power southward at Yamen in 15th century from Sa’da and San’a, the Tayyibid communities were severely persecuted in 829/1426. It forced the 18th da’il al-mutlaq, Ali bin Abdullah to leave Dhu Marmar castle and seek refuge in the mountains. His nephew and successor Idris Imad ad-Din was the last significant head of the Yameni Tayyibids, a man who distinguished himself equally as a politician, warrior and writer. He successfully defended the Haraz against the Zaidis, but at the same time he prepared to transfer the office of da’i al-mutlaq to India. He was followed by the following da’is:-

20. Hasan bin Idris (d. 918/1512)

21. Hussain bin Idris (d. 933/1527)

22. Ali bin Hussain (d. 933/1527)

23. Muhammad bin Hasan (d. 946/1539)

24. Yusuf Najmuddin (d. 974/1567), the first Indian da’i, and thus the headquarters remained in India.

25. Jalal bin Hasan (d. 975/1567)

26. Daud bin Ajab Shah (d. 997/1589)

27. Daud bin Qutub Shah (d. 1021/1612)

After the death of Daud bin Ajab Shah in Ahmadabad, Daud bin Qutub Shah became his successor, and his nephew Suleman bin Hasan was made his deputy in Yamen. Shaikh Suleman continued to acknowledge Daud bin Qutub Shah as the legitimate da’i and it was only after four years that he claimed the office of da’i al-mutlaq for himself. It is said that a scribe of Daud bin Ajab Shah, his two slave-girls and their sons committed theft from the treasury of the mission and took away also the seal of the mission. It is further related that Daud bin Qutub Shah reprimanded the culprits. The culprits being supported by Khanji bin Amin Shah, the son-in-law of Daud bin Qutub Shah, decided to hatch a conspiracy to install Shaikh Suleman as the legitimate successor of Daud bin Ajab Shah. They wrote letter to Shaikh Suleman in Yamen and induced him to accept the offer. Shaikh Suleman is said to have claimed the authority of Daud bin Qutub Shah for four years, and finally claimed the office for himself. It is said that he sent Jabir bin Hadi to India alongwith a letter purported to have been written by Daud bin Ajab Shah, declaring Shaikh Suleman as his successor. The stolen seal was affixed on the letter and was made public thereby, winning many adherents in favour of Shaikh Suleman in India.

However, the version of the opposite group is quite different. In this sectarian dispute, it is very difficult to ascertain the truth. Thus the split became inevitable and the Shi’ite Ismaili Mustalian was split in 1005/1597. The majority in India followed Daud bin Qutub Shah and were called the Daudi Bohras, whereas the followers of Shaikh Suleman (d. 1005/1599) remained in a small minority and were called the Sulemani Bohras. After the time of schism in 1005/1597, the vast majority of the Indian communities recognized the Indian Daud bin Qutub Shah as the 27th da’il al-mutlaq. He died in 1021/1612 at Ahmadabad.

The Indian Tayyibids henceforward became known as the Bohras. It is suggested that the word Bohra is derived from the Persian bahrah, meaning true path. Some also suggest its derivation from the Persian bahir, meaning a line of the camels or bahraj, meaning a talented merchant. According to one another view, it is the root word of bahra, meaning the people of ocean. It is related that the Bohras arrived in India by Arabian sea, resulting them to be known as Bahra, Bahora or Bohra. It must however be noted that the Mustalians earned the name, Bohra in India, not in Arab or Iran. The majority of the scholars consider that the word Bohra means the trader, which is derived from the Gujrati word, vohorva, meaning to trade.

In 1200/1785, Surat became the official residence of the da’i al-mutlaq, who now was addressed as Sayyidna or Mullaji Sahib.

28. Adam Saifuddin (d. 1030/1621)
29. Abdul Tayyib (d. 1041/1631)
30. Ali Shamsuddin bin Maulai Hasan (d. 1042/1632)
31. Kassim Zainuddin bin Pir Khan (d. 1054/1644)
32. Qutub Khan Qutubuddin bin Daud Burhanuddin (d. 1056/1646)
33. Pir Khan Shujauddin (d. 1065/1655)
34. Shaikh Ismail Badruddin bin Mulla Raj (d. 1085/1674)
35. Abdul Tayyib Zakiuddin (d. 1110/1699)
36. Musa Kalimuddin (d. 1122/1710)
37. Nur Muhammad Nuruddin (d. 1130/1718)
38. Ismail Badruddin bin Shaikh Adam Saifuddin (d. 1150/1737)
39. Ibrahim Wajehuddin (d. 1168/1754)
40. Hibtullah Muayid-fid-din (d. 1193/1779)
41. Abdul Tayyib Zakiuddin (d. 1200/1785)
42. Yusuf Najamuddin (d. 1213/1798)
43. Abd Ali Saifuddin (d. 1232/1817)
44. Muhammad Izzuddin (d. 1236/1821)
45. Tayyib Zainuddin (d. 1252/1837)
46. Muhammad Badruddin (d. 1256/1840)
47. Abdul Qadar Najmuddin (d. 1302/1885)
48. Abdul Hussain Husamuddin (d. 1308/1891)
49. Muhammad Burhanuddin (d. 1323/1906)
50. Abdullah Badruddin (d. 1333/1915)
51. Tahir Saifuddin (d. 1384/1965)
52. Muhammad Burhanuddin (since 1384 /1965)