Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib, also known as Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah (15 AH – 81 AH; c. AD 636 – 700) and surnamed Abu’l-Qasim was an early Muslim leader. He was a son of Maula Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Imam and the fourth Caliph.
Hazrat Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah (Muhammad Akbar) was born in Medina about AD 633 (though also said to be during Umar’s era), the third of Maula Ali’s sons. He was called Ibn al-Hanafiyyah after his mother, Khawlah bint Ja’far; she was known as Hanafiyyah, “the Hanafi woman”, after her tribe Banu Hanifah. After the wisal of Rasool s.a.w , the people of Yamamah were declared apostates by the Muslims for refusing to pay the zakat(religious tax); the men were killed (see Ridda wars), and the women were taken to Medina as slaves, Khawlah bint Ja’far among them. When her tribesmen found out, they approached Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib a.s and asked him to save her from slavery and to protect her family’s honor and prestige. Consequently, Muala Ali ibn Abi Talib a.s purchased her, set her free, and, after the wisal of Hazrat Fatimah a.s , married her. Hazrat Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah was the only child of Khawlah bint Ja’far. During his father’s lifetime he distinguished himself for piety, rectitude, and courage and effectiveness in war. During Maula Ali’s caliphate at Kufa he was one of the caliph’s four chief lieutenants. He particularly distinguished himself at the battles of Jamal and Siffin.During the Battle of Siffin, Ali described al-Hanafiyyah as his hand due to his bravery and strength while fighting.
Ash-Shaykh al-Baha’i has written in al-Kashkul, that Ali ibn Abu Talib kept him abreast in the battles and did not allow the second Shi’a Imam (Hassan ibn Ali) and the third Shi’a Imam (Hussain ibn Ali) to go ahead, and used to say, “He is my son while these two are sons of the Prophet of Allah.”
When a Kharijite said to Ibn al-Hanafiyyah that `Ali thrust him into the flames of war but saved away Imam Hassan ibn Ali and Imam Hussain ibn Ali he replied that he himself was like the right hand and Imam Hassan ibn Ali and Imam Hussain ibn Ali like `Ali’s two eyes and that `Ali protected his eyes with his right hand. But al-`Allamah al-Mamaqani has written in Tanqih al-Maqal that this was not the reply of Ibn al-Hanafiyyah but of Hazrat Ali ibn Abu Talib a.s himself. When during the battle of Siffin Muhammad mentioned this matter to Hazrat Ali ibn Abu Talib a.s in complaining tone he replied, “You are my right hand whereas they are my eyes, and the hand should protect the eyes.”
It is said that the Roman Emperor sent two herculean athletes to Muawiya to measure their strength with the Muslim athletes. One of them was tall and corpulent and the other was powerful with a strong grip. Muawiya said to Amr bin As: “We have got a match for the tall man in the person of Qays bin sad bin Ubada, but as regards the other man you should think over it as to who can measure his strength with him and defeat him”.Amr said: “I have two persons in view but you are inimical towards both of them. One of them is Muhammad bin Hanafiya and the other is Abdullah bin Zubayr”. Muawiya said: “You should summon him who is nearer to us at present. Amr asked Muhammad bin Hanafiya to meet the challenge. Muawiya took his place in the general assembly and the dignitaries of the State also attended. The powerful person was the first to enter the field and came face to face with Muhammad. Muhammad said to him: “Either you should sit down and let me hold your hand so that I may pull you off from your seat, or I may sit down and you may lift me from my place. Now let me know whether you are going to sit down or I should do so?”
The Roman said: “You may sit down. Muhammad sat down and let the Roman hold his hand. In spite of his best efforts, however, the Roman could not move Muhammad from his place, and acknowledged his weakness. Then Muhammad stood up and the Roman sat down and let Muhammad hold his hand. Muhammad immediately lifted him from his place with one jerk, held him in the air, and then threw him on the ground.
When Imam Husayn a.s, then in Mecca, was considering the expedition to Kufa that ended at Karbala, Hazrat Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah advised him not to go,pointing out that the men of Kufa had betrayed and turned against their father Maula Ali a.s and their brother Imam Hasan ibn Ali a.s and saying that he feared that they would betray Imam Husayn a.s as well. Imam Husayn a.s replied that he feared that if he stayed in Mecca, Yazid ibn Muawiya would have him killed there, and violate the sanctity of the Holy City. Muhammad ibn al-Hanifiyyah then urged him to go instead to Yemen, where he could indefinitely elude an army. The next day Imam Husayn a.s replied that Rasool s.a.w had appeared to him in a dream and required him to undertake this sacrificial expedition.
After Imam Husayn a.s and so many of his kinsmen got shaheed at Karbala and the young Imam Ali ibn Husayn a.s adopted a life of retirement and prayer.It was in his name that Al-Mukhtar rebelled in Kufa in 686. Mukhtar Thaqafi rose in Kufa against the Umayyad to take revenge of Imam Hussainâ€™s blood. He turned to Imam Zayn al-Abidin to seek his support. Baladhuri (d. 279/892) writes in â€œAnsab al-Ashrafâ€ (5th vol., p. 272) that, â€œMukhtar wrote to Zayn al-Abidin to show his loyalty to him, asking if he could rally the Kuffans for him. He sent with the letter a large sum of money. Zayn al-Abidin refused this offer and declared Mukhtar publicly to be a liar who was trying to exploit the cause of Ahl al-Bayt for his own interests.â€ Ibn Saâ€™d (d. 230/845) also writes in â€œKitab al-Tabaqatâ€ (5th vol., p. 213) that, â€œImam Zayn al-Abidin had publicly denounced Mukhtarâ€™s mission.â€ Mukhtar lost all hopes of winning Imam Zayn al-Abidin; he then turned to Ibn al-Hanafia in Mecca, the third son of Hazrat Ali from a Hanafite woman. On his part, Ibn al-Hanafia did not repudiate Mukhtarâ€™s propaganda for his Imamate and Messianic role; he nevertheless, maintained a non-committal attitude and never openly raised his claims to the heritage of Imam Hussain. Baladhuri (5th vol., p. 218) writes that, Ibn al-Hanafia gave Mukhtar only a non-committal reply. He neither approved nor disapproved of Mukhtarâ€™s intention to avenge Imam Hussain, and only warned him against bloodshed.â€ In the event, however, the hesitation and political inactivity of Ibn al-Hanafia induced Mukhtar more and more to exploit his name for his own interest. In Kufa, Mukhtar propagated that Ibn al-Hanafia was an awaited Mahdi, and he was his minister (vizir) and commander (amir).
In the meantime, the circumstances changed when Abdullah bin Zubayr proclaimed himself caliph in 64/683 in Mecca. Ibn al-Hanafia refused to pay homage to Abdullah bin Zubayr in Mecca. In 66/685, Abdullah bin Zubayr detained Ibn al-Hanafia and his family and threatened them with death if they did not pay homage within a specific time. Ibn al-Hanafia wrote letter to Mukhtar, apprising him of his perilous condition. Mukhtar marshaled out four thousand soldiers and managed to liberate Ibn al-Hanafia, who left Mecca for Taif. Mukhtar was killed in 67/687 in an another encounter with Musab bin Zubayr in Kufa, while Ibn al-Hanafia died in 81/700 at the age of about 70 years, and was buried in Mecca.
Succession and legacy
After Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya died, his son Abu Hashim claimed the imamate. After his death the Abbasids claimed that on his deathbed Abu Hashim nominated his distant cousin Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abdullah ibn Abbas ibn Abdu’l-Muttalib ibn Hashim as the imam. This man’s son Abu’l-Abbas Abdullah as-Saffah became the first Abbasid caliph, repudiating Shi’ism, which effectively extinguished the sect that had recognized Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah as an imam.
Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah (d. 161 AH; c. 776 CE), also known as Abu Hashim was a member of the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraish tribe in Mecca. He was one of the Salaf and a Narrator of hadith. After Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya died, his son Abu Hashim claimed the imamate. According to medieval mystic Jami, Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah (died c. 716) was the first person to be called a “Sufi”.
After Abu Hashim’s death, the Abbasids claimed that on his deathbed Abu Hashim had nominated his distant cousin Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abdullah ibn Abbas ibn Abdu’l-Muttalib ibn Hashim as the imam. His son Abu’l-Abbas Abdullah as-Saffah became the first Abbasid caliph, repudiating Shi’ism, which effectively extinguished the sect that had recognized Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah as an imam.
Abu Hashim’s father was Muhammad ibn al Hanafiyyah ibn Ali, a son of Ali. Abu Hashim had a brother named Hasan.
After his father’s death in 700 CE, the Hashimiyya sub-sect of the Kaysanites Shia looked to Abu Hashim as the heir of his grandfather Ali. After his own death, the early Abbasids claimed that Abu Hashim had designated Muhammad, father of the first two Abbasid caliphs, As-Saffah and Al-Mansur, as his heir and head of the clan of the Banu Hashim.
According to the Sunnis, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani graded the two sons of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah to be weak in Hadith, arguing that one was a murji’i, and the other to be a Shi’ite.
On the other hand, Ibn Sa’d stated that “Abu Hashim has knowledge and transmission. He was reliable in Hadith, and had narrated a few accepted hadiths.
Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah (Arabic: الحسن بن محمد بن علي بن أبي طالب) (died 100 AH) was one of the Salaf and a narrator of hadith.
He was the son of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah and the brother of Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah.
Among the Isnad he is included in is the Hadith of prohibition of Mut’ah at Khaybar.
In the Battle of Jamal
The Battle of Jamal took place in the year 36/656. Muhammad stopped fighting in the middle of the action, so ‘Ali (a) took hold of the standard and having disordered enemy forces, took it back to Muhammad and said; ‘strike them anew as compensation for what you did earlier’.
Muhammad then, accompanied by Khuzayma b. Thabit (Dhu l-Shahadatayn) and a group of Ansar, many of them whom were the fighters of the Battle of Badr, made successive attacks, and forced Jamal army to retreat.
According to some reports, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya was not certain about taking hold of the standard of Imam ‘Ali’s (a) army, and even reproached his father, but eventually bore the standard, and thus made a reputation. Although in some sources such as; al-Tabari, Ibn Kathir, and Ibn al-Jawzi, the standard-bearing of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya is reported without a hint to such a doubt, the narration of Ibn Khallikan posits his standard-bearing in the Battle of Siffin and his doubts about it
Battle of Siffin
Muhammad participated in the battle of Siffin, and was one of the commanders of that battle.
Al-Allama al-Majlisi mentions a story about Muhammad’s presence in that battle. According to the story, during the battle, Imam Ali (a) commanded Muhammad to raid the right side of Mu’awiya’s army with his troops. Muhammad fulfilled his father’s command successfully but got injured.
Afterwards, the Imam (a) commanded him to attack the left side of the enemy’s army. Muhammad obeyed his father, and again got injured.
The Imam (a) commanded Muhammad for a third time to raid the middle side of the enemy’s army. Muhammad successfully conducted the raid, but returned crying and with great injuries.
When the Imam (a) saw him, he kissed Muhammad’s forehead and ask him why he was crying. Muhammad replied, “Why shouldn’t I be crying when you sent me three times to death … and each time when I returned, you didn’t give me a break, whereas you never commanded my brothers al-Hasan and al-Husayn [to fight].” The Imam (a) responded, “O my dear son! You are my son, but they are the sons of the Prophet (s). Shouldn’t I preserve them?” Muhammad replied, “Yes, my dear father! May God make me your ransom and their ransom.”
The Battle of Nahrawan
Muhammad participated in the battle of Nahrawan, and was the standard-bearer in some parts.
Absence in the Event of Karbala
Muhammad was not present in the battle of Karbala. Shi’a scholars have mentioned several reasons for his absence; they believe that his absence was not out of disobedience or disagreement with Imam al-Husayn (a). These reasons include:
- Muhammad’s sickness when Imam al-Husayn (a) left Medina for Mecca, which is mentioned by al-Allama al-Hilli in response to Muhanna b. Sinan. According to some scholars, the sickness was related to his eyes.
- The Imam (a) had told Muhammad to stay in Medina. Ibn A’tham al-Kufi mentions that when Muhamad b. al-Hanafiyya could not convince Imam al-Husayn (a) to stay in Medina, the Imam (a) told him, “It is alright for you to stay in Medina so that you be my informant among them.”
- Muhammad was not obliged by the Imam (a) to join him and participate in the uprising. The author of Tanqih al-maqal maintains that because Imam al-Husayn (a) did not oblige anyone in Medina or Mecca to join him, Muhammad did not commit a sin that would tarnish his integrity. He writes, “When Imam al-Husayn (a) moved from Hijaz to Iraq, he knew that he was going to be martyred. However, he did not disclose this, so that it does not become incumbent on all believers to join him. It seemed to people that the Imam (a) was moving to Kufa to take the leadership of the people who had invited him to do so. In this case, it was not obligatory for others to join him, and those who did not accompany him were not sinners … Thus, there were a number of righteous people for whom martyrdom was not written, and they stayed in Hijaz, but no one doubts their righteousness. Therefore, the remaining of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya and ‘Abd Allah b. Ja’far in Hijaz is not a reason for their disobedience or deviation.”
Nevertheless, a hadith is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) in Ithbat al-hudat that: Hamza b. Humran said; ‘we mentioned Imam al-Husayn’s (a) setting off and that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya did not go with him’. Imam al-Sadiq (a) said; ‘O Hamza, I utter you a hadith that you may not ask about this again. Having gone away from Medina, al-Husayn (a) asked for a piece of paper and noted;
- “In the name of God, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful. From al-Husayn b. ‘Ali b. Abi Talib addressed to all Banu Hashim. Whoever joins me, shall be a martyr, and whoever does not, shall not attain triumph and safety. The end”.’
Regarding this hadith of Imam al-Husayn (a), al-‘Allama al-Majlisi has said; ‘his holiness gave them the choice whether or not to join him, and it was not a sin to neglect to join him, since it was not an obligation, but an option.’
Al-‘Allama al-Hilli holds that his absence in the Event of Karbala was due to sickness, and that maybe he did not know his brother’s affair would end up in martyrdom. Al-Mamaqani dated his sickness after the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a), but still did not find fault with his absence in Karbala.
Following to Imam al-Husayn’s (a) refusal to swear allegiance to Yazid, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya suggested his brother to set off for Mecca to protect his life, and to Yemen if he was also threatened in Mecca, and to take shelter in deserts or mountains in case he was even troubled in Yemen. Imam al-Husayn (a) appreciated his suggestion and said; ‘Dear brother, you are free to remain in Medina, so that you can keep your eyes on my enemy and report me of their affairs.’
Relation with Kaysanites and al-Mukhtar
Kaysanites perceived that, after Imam al-Husayn’s (a) martyrdom, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya has assigned al-Mukhtar as the governor of Kufa and Basra to seek revenge on his murderers. Kaysanites revolted a while after the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) and believed in the Imama of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya. They believed he had inherited the mysteries of religion, knowledge of interpretation, and esoteric knowledge from Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a). Some of them would interpret prayer and fasting as symbols for other things, and believed in reincarnation, and they were unanimous in the Imama of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, and the possibility of bada’ for God. This sect is also called “Mukhtariyya”.
There are various opinions considering his relationship with al-Mukhtar; some posit his disbelief in al-Mukhtar and their disconnection, some regard al-Mukhtar as his deputy, and some hold that he was gratified by al-Mukhtar and his acting, although there had been no deputation.
Rescue from ‘Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr
Having dominated Kufa, al-Mukhtar invited people to allegiance to Muhammab b. al-Hanafiyya. ‘Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr who reigned Mecca and Medina at the time, feared that people might grow a tendency towards Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, and therefore asked him and his companions to swear allegiance to him, but they refused. Al-Zubayr then imprisoned them in Zamzam and threatened them to death. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya sent al-Mukhtar a letter and asked for help. Having received the letter, al-Mukhtar sent Zabyan b. ‘Amara with four-hundred men and four-thousand dirhams to Mecca.
With their flags in hands, they entered al-Masjid al-Haram, and roaring their desire to retaliation for Husayn b. ‘Ali (a), arrived at Zamzam. Ibn al-Zubayr supplied a pile of wood to set them on fire, but having broken the door of al-Masjid al-Haram, they made way to Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, and told him that he was to choose either them or ‘Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya said; ‘I do not favor there to be conflict and bloodshed in the house of God.’ Meanwhile Ibn al-Zubayr arrived at them and cried; ‘woe upon these stick-handed ones! (they were carrying sticks instead of swords, for they could not carry weapons in al-Masjid al-Haram), do you suppose I would let Muhammad go before he swears allegiance to me?’ So the rest of al-Mukhtar forces entered al-Masjid al-Haram, shouting out loud that they sought revenge for al-Husayn (a). Ibn al-Zubayr feared them and did not resist anymore. Muhammad then, accompanied by four-thousand men, went to Shi’b Abi Talib and lived in there until al-Mukhtar was killed.
Some researchers in Islamic heresiography believe that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya was the first figures believed by some Muslims to be Promised al-Mahdi (a). They believe he is living in Mount Radawa, being fed by a stream of milk and one of honey, until the day God will raise him.
Al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khoei dissociates Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya from Kaysanites, and believes they did not exist in his time.
Claim for Imamate
Contention with Imam al-Sajjad (a)
Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya knew his brothers, Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a), superior to himself, but after the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) wrote a letter to Imam al-Sajjad (a) asking him to accept his Imama. He argued that, contrary to previous Imams, Imam al-Husayn (a) had not assigned anyone as the Imam after himself. Besides, he was the son of ‘Ali (a), and more qualified owing to his age and great number of hadiths narrated by him.
Imam al-Sajjad (a) invited his uncle to piety and avoiding ignorance in return and noted that:
- “My father had recommended me before he set off for Iraq, and had me vow a while before his martyrdom.”
Imam al-Sajjad (a) invited him to go to al-Hajar al-Aswad (the Black Stone), so that the Imam would be one to whom al-Hajar al-Aswad testifies. Doing so, Muhammad prayed and asked the Stone to testify to his Imama, but nothing happened. Imam al-Sajjad then, after saying prayer, asked so from the Stone, and the Stone uttered a testimony to the Imama of ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a) after his father, al-Husayn b. ‘Ali (a), and thus, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya accepted his Imama. Some scholars believe that this debate was contrived so that weak Shi’as would not be inclined to the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.
Belief in the Imamate of Imam al-Sajjad (a)
It is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya believed in the Imama of Imam al-Sajjad (a). Also Qutb al-Din al-Rawandi has narrated that Abu Khalid al-Kabuli (Muhammad’s servant) asked him about his belief regarding Imama, and he answered:
- “‘Ali b. al-Husayn is the Imam of you and I and all Muslims.”
He has narrated hadith from his father ‘Ali (a), and others such as;
- ‘Umar b. al-Khattab
- Abu Hurayra
- ‘Ammar b. Yasir
Likewise, his children; ‘Abd Allah, al-Hasan, Ibrahim, and ‘Awn, and others such as;
- Salim b. Abi Ja’d
- Mundhir al-Thawri
- Imam al-Baqir (a)
- ‘Abd Allah b. Muhammad al-‘Aqil
- ‘Amr b. Dinar
- Muhammad b. Qays
- ‘Abd al-A’la b. ‘Amir
have narrated hadith from him.
He held a big course in Medina and this course generated different doctrines, in so far as his course in Medina is comparable to that of al-Hasan al-Basri in Basra, for the students of his school were the founders of Islamic theology, so much as the latter was the root of Mu’tazila doctrines and Sufism.
For example ‘Abd Allah, titled as Abu Hashim, and al-Hasan, titled as Abu Muhammad, were two sons of Muhammad al-Hanafiyya, the first which became a theorist of Mu’tazila doctrines, and the second was of the founders of Irja’ doctrine.
It is narrated from ‘Ali (a) in Ikhtiar ma’rifat al-rijal of al-Kashshi that four Muhammads resist God’s disobedience; Muhammad b. Ja’far al-Tayyar, Muhammad b. Abi Bakr, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, and Muhammad b. Abi Hudhayfa. Al-Mamaqani proves his reliability according to this narration.
Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya always had a peaceful political orientation through his life. Following such a policy, he stayed in Medina with his brother, Imam al-Hasan (a) , after the martyrdom of Imam ‘Ali (a), and also pledged allegiance to Yazid as the crown prince of Mu’awiya, and did not oppose him when he came to rule.
He also had a peaceful relationship with the following caliphs. For example he traveled to Damascus in 76/695-6 to make a visit to ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwan. Some believe it was as a result of ‘Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr’s abuse, for he had imprisoned Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, until the forces of al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi rescued him.
As al-Mukhtar got killed, Ibn al-Zubayr again asked for his allegiance, planning to assail him and his companions in case of his refusal. Meanwhile, he received a letter from ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwan, who had of late become the caliph, in which he was asked to go to Damascus. Muhammad and his companions then, got out of Shi’b Abi Talib, and set off for Damascus. But having arrived in Midian, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya found out about ‘Abd al-Malik’s disloyalty to ‘Amr b. Sa’id (a companion of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya). Therefore he landed in Ayla, a port on the border of Syria, and got back to Mecca, where he resided in Shi’b Abi Talib, and then traveled to Ta’if. He remained there until Ibn al-Zubayr was surrounded in Mecca by al-Hajjaj, and after that he went back to Shi’b Abi Talib. He rejected al-Hajjaj’s request for allegiance to ‘Abd al-Malik. Following to the death of Ibn al-Zubayr, asking for refuge, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya wrote a letter to ‘Abd al-Malik, which was accepted.
It is narrated from Imam al-Baqir (a) that:
- ‘I was with him in his sickness, and I closed his eyes (when he died), and made his funeral ablution, and shrouded him, and performed his funeral prayer, and buried him’.
However, it is reported in non-Shi’a references that Aban b. ‘Uthman (the son of the third caliph) performed his funeral prayer.
There is disagreement about the place of his grave. Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin has mentioned three places; Ayla, Ta’if, or al-Baqi’ cemetery in Medina. It is most likely that he has died in Medina.
Imamzadas in Iran Believed to be Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya
There is an imamzada in Khark near Bushehr (south of Iran) and another one near Rudbar (north of Iran) , who are believed to be Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya. However, considering Muhammad’s place of demise, these claims do not seem to be right.