Ismaili Daʿwa Essay

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The beginning of the Ismaili daʿwa in Khurasan

In the study of Ismaili history in Khurasan, the name of Yaʿqūb ibn Layth Ṣaffār (hereafter, Yaʿqūb, r. 247-66/861-79) is closely connected with the Ismaili daʿwa. Before analysing Yaʿqūb’s connection with the Ismaili daʿwa network, it is important to briefly describe the political milieu of Sīstān in which Yaʿqūb emerged to power, particularly at a time when the Khārijites were in rebellion against the local governors and the ʿAbbāsid caliphs. Yaʿqūb established his authority all over Sīstān in 251/865 and, after defeating the Ṭāhirids (206-259/821-873), established the second independent dynasty in Khurasan (Kennedy, 1986:77; Morgan, 1988:19-20). He defeated the Khārijites’ army and progressed
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If Yaʿqūb’s Ismaili connection is true, then his broader vision, particularly his determination to disobey the ʿAbbāsid caliph and to overthrow them from the position of the Muslim caliphate, would be the strongest indication and proof of his Ismaili affiliation. The question that has to be explored is whether Yaʿqūb entered the Ismaili network prior to, or during, establishing his empire in Khurasan. Historical sources suggest that Yaʿqūb was one of the ayyārs of Sīstān. The term ʿayyār derives its meaning from the Arabic word ʿayr, the one who possesses caravan of camels and lives outside the city. The term ʿayyār was applied to people of brave character, those who took the side of the poor and oppressed people and fought for justice against the established political authorities and their oppressive policies. Although it is difficult to translate this term into English, perhaps the closest equivalent of ʿayyār in the English literature would be a person of Robin Hood’s character. While ʿayyārs normally fought and raised their swords against their local authorities, Yaʿqūb’s vision of overthrowing the ʿAbbāsid caliphate was certainly beyond the vision of an ordinary local ʿayyār. He and people around him must have had an alternative authority in …show more content…
Niẓām al-Mulk states that the caliph sent his emissary with a letter offering Yaʿqūb forgiveness, along with the governorship of Iraq and Khurasan, and a rope of honour with a standard, in return for repentance and a truce (Niẓām al-Mulk, 1999:23-4; Bosworth, 1995:795-98). Yaʿqūb’s refusal of recognising the caliph’s authority shows that he had a much greater vision in mind and that political power was not his end goal. Rather, he viewed it as a tool for a much greater objective. As we read in Siyar al-Mulūk, Yaʿqūb refused the caliph’s offer and reminded the caliph, through his emissary, that he was a man born in a whitesmith (coppersmith) family, whose food used to be barley bread, fish, onions, and leeks. He also told the emissary that he had earned his kingdom and treasure through his agility and lion-hearted bravery. Instead of making a truce, he insisted on his position that either he would eliminate the caliph and his caliphate or that he would return to his food of barley bread, fish, and onions (Niẓām al-Mulk,

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