Ismaili 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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They were developing a systematic daʿwa system, and highly trained dāʿīs were spreading the daʿwa network across the Muslim world. The dāʿīs were targeting both the laypeople as well as the military, political and intellectual elites. Yaʿqūb, due to his military skills and bravery, must have been a highly valued candidate for the Ismaili dāʿīs in Khurasan. Yaʿqūb was a native of the city of Bust, which is the Lashkargāh, the provincial capital, of modern-day Helmand province of Afghanistan. Bust and Lashkargāh both were two parts of one city in Zāwūlistān/Zābulistān, bordering with Sīstān. The anonymous author of Tāʾrīkh-e Sīstān (ca. 445-725/1054-1325) narrates that Yaʿqūb first emerged to power in his native town of Bust in 247/862. After consolidating his power and defeating the Arab Khārijite leader, ʿAmmār Khārijī, in Bust (251/865), Ṣāliḥ b. Ḥajr in Sīstān (253/867), and the Ṭāhirid governor of Hirāt, Ḥusaīn b. ʿAbd Allāh b. Ṭāhir (2002: 207, 212-217), in 256/870, Yaʿqūb expanded his empire all over present-day Afghanistan and most parts of modern-day Pakistan and Iran. Unlike the Ṭāhirids, who were accepting the ʿAbbāsids as the legitimate caliphate (Khunjī, n.d.: 28-30), Yaʿqūb developed a strong anti-ʿAbbāsid sentiment and became determined to end their religious authority over the Muslim world. The anonymous author of the earlier mentioned Tārīkh-e Sīstān further adds that Yaʿqūb’s the ʿAbbāsid caliph al-Muʿtamid’s (r. 256-78/870-92) armies fought each other outside Iraq in 265/879 (2002:

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