The Uprising of Abu al-Khattab in Nusayri Sources

This is an abridged and amalgamated translation of two of four entries written by Ustad Baqir Malekian on the Nuṣāyrīs.1


Our study and analysis of history are defective. From the one who believes Saqīfa was merely a historical incident that has no relevance for us today, to the one who thinks the Akhbārī and Uṣūlī conflict no longer exist and is merely an episode of our past with no epistemic value. All such analyses have one major problem in that they have a very defective approach to history and maintain a caricatural image of the past.

Besides the fact that the teachings of our religion and jurisprudence were born within certain historical contexts and understanding them requires an accurate historical analysis, likewise, many schools of thought and ideologies are still alive and active today, albeit disguised with a different name and garb. Rather, even if we stamp some of these groups with the seal of invalidation and say that they are past their expiry date, we cannot ignore the residual effects and impacts of these groups and ideas.

Many narrations of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) were transmitted by Kufan Shī‘ī narrators and jurists. The historical and Rijāl works of the Ahl al-Sunnah show that the general atmosphere of Kufa was Shī‘ī – something some Ahl al-Sunnah scholars of Rijāl have explicitly acknowledged2 – although with various affinities, such as those with Zaydi inclinations, those with inclinations towards Ghuluw, those who were inclined towards jurisprudence and so on. Therefore, what really aids us in understanding many narrations transmitted by Kufan narrators is understanding the different trends that existed in Kufa during those days.

One of these well-known trends in Kufa during the time of Imam Ṣādiq (a) was the movement of Abū al-Khaṭṭāb and his loyalists. This movement ends with an armed uprising and when all the companions of Abū al-Khaṭṭāb are killed, except Abū Khadīja Sālim b. Mukrim.3 However, this is just what is apparently observed, while in reality, the trend initiated by Abū al-Khaṭṭāb never ceased, rather admirers and those with inclinations towards this movement exhibited themselves in a different grab while emphasizing notions of concealment (kitmān), the same notion which continued and is later seen amongst the Ismailis.

The Nuṣāyrīs are also merely a continuation of the movement of Abū al-Khaṭṭāb and his followers, and today we have access to many of their works, either published or in manuscript format. Studying these works ultimately helps us understand what transpired during the time of Imams (a). For example, one way these works can help us is by allowing us to understand what scholars like Najāshī and Ibn Ghaḍā’irī had in mind when they accused certain individuals of ghulūw. Consider the works Kitāb al-Haft wa al-Aẓillah attributed to Mufaḍḍal b. ‘Umar or Risālah Miyāḥ (which appears in scattered places in Nuṣayrī works) that were available to Najāshī and Ibn Ghaḍā’irī and were used by them to ascertain what constitutes exaggerated beliefs. Another benefit of studying these works is that they allow us to determine the origin of many of the beliefs held by movements like the Ḥurūfiyyah, Nuqṭawīyyah, Ibn ‘Arabī and others.

The Uprising 

Regarding the Khaṭṭābiya movement and the uprising of Abū al-Khaṭṭāb alongside his companions – despite narrations condemning Abū al-Khaṭṭāb and Khaṭṭābī ideas4 – we do not find anything else in reliable Shī‘ī works. What is contained in reliable sources are just a few particular details.5

In Shī‘ī books, the work Firaq al-Shī‘a attributed to Nawbakhti (and likewise its other version al-Maqālāt wa al-Firaq attributed to Sa‘d b. ‘Abdillah Ash‘arī Qumī) gives us some information. But when one refers to some Nuṣāyrī works, they will find much more comprehensive information regarding the Khaṭṭābīyyah, the details of their uprising and their eventual fate.6

This article is an initial presentation of some of these pieces of information, which I gathered when jotting points down regarding the Khaṭṭābīyyah and Nusayrīs, with the help of Allah al-Malik al-Wahhāb.

1. The Companions of Abū al-Khaṭṭāb 

1. With a chain from al-Mufaḍḍal b. ‘Umar al-Ju‘fī who said: Abū al-Khaṭṭāb entered with seventy of his most loyal companions, alongside ‘Alī b. Bashār al-Shu‘ayrī, visiting him, while I was with them…7

2. Abū ‘Abdillah al-Kūfī from al-Sūzānī who said: Muḥammad b. Sinān narrated to me from Abī Hārūn al-Makfūf who said: ‘Alī b. Abī al-Ṭayyibāt Muḥammad b. Abī Zaynab – may submission be to him – entered with 90 of the best companions from various cities. From them was Mūsa b. Ashīm al-Shahīd, whose name was Muḥammad b. Abī Bakr during his time, and Abū Ismā‘īl al-Washī, whose name was ‘Abdullah b. Saba during his time, and Abū Samīna al-Shaḥḥām – and it is said it was Abū Shammāmah al-Shaḥḥām – whose name was Abū al-Ṭufayl ‘Amr b. Wāthila during his time. They conversed at length and said: O people…8

2. The Revolt of Abī al-Khaṭṭāb

1. From Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥman al-Qurayẓī – and Dāwūd al-Riqqī and Yūnūs b. Ẓibyān used to be with him – said: When Abū al-Khaṭṭāb called out in the minaret of the mosque in Kufa, and cursed the oppressors, from the first to the last and named them with their names, and cursed al-Manṣūr and ‘Īsa b. Mūsa and all of their partisans and followers, people began to shout in the mosque, the streets, and in the homes, and exited with their weapons saying: “Capture the enemies of Allah.” He came down from the minaret while he had a sword and shield in his hand and began to fight people in the mosque and streets until they reached the end of Kufa. The police and army came out and he began to fight them until they were victorious, while ‘Īsa b. Mūsa was in the army and killed some rebels. They grabbed his (Abū al-Khaṭṭāb’s) head and carried it to him.

Before killing him, they were able to separate his sword and shield from his hand, so he said to them: “By Allah, if the Book had not conveyed the time (of one’s death) in the words of Allah – the Majestic – [7:34] For each community there is an appointed term. When their time arrives, they can neither delay it for a moment, nor could they advance it, then you would not have reached me and you would not have seen me killed. Allah is sufficient for me as a witness, between me and between you in your murder of me, out of oppression, falsehood and slander. You alledge that I was calling towards my Imam Ja‘far b. Muḥammad as a deity and that I said: Labbayk Allah Ja‘far. How can one be described with divinity if they are unknown? And Allah Ta‘āla does not have an offspring, nor was He born.”

This was the last thing that was heard from him.9

2. Abū ‘Abdillah al-Ḥusayn b. Ḥamdan al-Khaṣībī – may Allah sanctify his soul – reported to us from his chain that he raised to Abī Khadīja Sālim b. Mukrim al-‘Abasī10 who said: I saw Abā al-Khaṭṭāb on the day of his calling and he had climbed on top of the highest mosque in the city of Kufa. He was saying: “Indeed Allah is the one worshipped with divinity, known with pre-eternalness, so anyone who ascribes something to me which I did not say, then he is distanced from the Tawḥīd of Ja‘far the high, the supreme.11

3. The vision of Abī al-Khaṭṭāb Muḥammad b. Abī Zaynab which the transmitters report from him:

When it was the adhan of Fajr, al-Sayyid Muḥammad b. Abī Zaynab climbed the minaret … when he reached the top of the minaret of the Jāmi‘ mosque of Kufa, he called out with a loud voice … : “O gathering of creation, from the closest angels and the Prophets and Messengers, and humans and Jinns … I am Muḥammad b. ‘Abdillah the messenger of Allah to you, the first and the last, the apparent and the hidden. I convey to you the message of your Lord and advise you that your Lord and Creator is apparent amongst you like the most apparent of you, walking in your markets…he is Ja‘far b. Muḥammad, who is your pre-eternal Lord and the predecessor before the first pre-eternity, the vessel of every seeker, the hope of every hopeful one. Alas, he is ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib and the hope of every hopeful one. He is ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib.”

When Muḥammad b. Abī Zaynab called out with this slogan, Ismā‘īl b. Abī al-Ṭayyib and Abū Muḥammad al-‘Abdī began to place their hands in the hands of others and began saying: ‘The Messenger of Allah has spoken the truth,’ until there was no tribe in Kufa left except that they called them out likewise … so the sounds in Kufa began to tremble the city, and the people left rushing towards the minaret of the Jām‘i seeking the caller…12

3. The Day of Abū al-Khaṭṭāb’s Uprising

With a chain from Muḥammad b. Sinān who said: I approached my master of the universe – from him is peace – and there was a group of cognizant men who had reached a great degree of monotheism, apparently, esoterically, secretly and in public. So I sent my greetings to them and they responded back with a greeting, and my master said to me: “What is your need?” So I said: “O my master, the knowledge of the Arab and Non-Arab days of festivities and days which Allah – whose Name has been majestic in His book – has mentioned. So do a favour upon me by imparting their knowledge.” So he responded, “O Muḥammad, you have asked about a great matter…”13

In another report Muḥammad b. Sinān said: “I asked about the day on which Abū al-Khaṭṭāb expressed his invitation in Dār al-Rizq and was killed?” So he replied: “That is a great day near Allah, and it is obligatory on the believer to engage and retribute their brothers in the remembrance of Allah – Glorified and Sublime – and to express His monotheism, and that day was Monday the tenth of Muharram. It is obligatory on the believers to end their day with the Monotheism of Allah – Glorified and Sublime – and to send salutations upon Abī al-Khaṭṭāb and his companions – upon them be peace and mercy.”

It is also transmitted elsewhere that the calling of Abī al-Khaṭṭāb Muḥammad b. Abī Zaynab al-Kāhilī – peace of Allah be upon him – was on the eleventh of the sacred month of Dhī al-Ḥijjah – may Allah benefit us with what the day holds…14

4. The Will of Abī al-Khaṭṭāb

From the wills of Abī al-Khaṭṭāb Muḥammad b. Abī Zaynab al-Kāhili – from him is peace:

O you who believe, your brothers in religion are closer to you than blood relatives who are rejecters. Allah will not be satisfied with a servant who embitters his brother unjustly until that brother is satisfied with him. One who belittles the right of his believing brother, Allah avoids him and belittles his right. One who disdains his brother, Allah disdains him for He loves nobility and detests degradation. What his believing brother requires from him and it is within his capacity to fulfill it, yet he prevents him from it and makes him dependent on others, Allah will make him dependent on the most hated of people, then He will distance his heart from Him and prevent him from what he desires from Him. One who makes his brother hear what disturbs him, Allah makes him hear what he detests from that which he hopes for and loves.

The links of the believers are connected through Allah, their Master, so one who joins them, Allah joins him, and one who disconnects them, Allah disconnects him. It is a right upon Allah to increase one who joins his brother, and to decrease one who does not make him happy (does not see him), and to decrease the reward of one who abandons his brother and cuts off his love. Do not abandon your brothers, and do not make them hear what they detest, for one who does that, Allah will make his enemy gloat over him.

One who humiliates his believer brother, Allah – Glorified and Sublime – humiliates him. Be affectionate with them, grant them their share, respect them, have mercy upon them, treat them equally to the extent possible. Do not burden them with what they are incapable of, venerate them and assist them. Do not call out to them when they are scattered between the oppressive enemies of Allah.

One who feeds his believing brother, Allah will feed him, increase his sustenance and grant him his reward. One who clothes his brother, Allah will clothe him with clothes with which will cover his private organs on the day when the private organs will be exposed. One who gives water to his brother and quenches his thirst, Allah will give him water on the great day of third, with fresh cold water.15


  1. See: Ḍarūrat Tawajjuh beh Maṣādir-i Nuṣayrīyeh dar Muṭāli‘āt-i Shī‘ī, and Shūresh Abū al-Khaṭṭāb beh Riwāyāt-i Maṣādir-i Nuṣayrī.
  2. Al-Kifāyah fi ‘Ilm a-Riwāyah, pg. 129; for more details on the school of Kufa see Madrassah al-Ḥadīth fī al-Kūfa, the PhD dissertation of Sharaf Maḥmūd Muḥammad Salmān from Al-Azhar University.
  3. See al-Kashshī, entry #661.
  4. See Qurb al-Isnād, pg. 335; al-Kāfī, vol. 2, pg. 418, vol. 8, pg. 226; Ma‘ānī al-Akhbār, pg. 388, Rijāl al-Kashshī, pgs. 290-308.
  5. See for example, Rijāl Ibn Ghaḍā’irī, pg. 46; or Rijāl al-Kashshī, pg. 352
  6. Najāshī mentions a book named Maqtal Abī al-Khaṭṭāb written by Muḥammad b. ‘Abdillah b. Mihrān Karakhī, pg. 942. The book is no longer extant, but it appears the Nuṣāyrīs had access to this book. See Silsilah Turāth al-‘Alawī (Kitāb al-Jawāhir), vol. 11, pg. 232.
  7. Hidāyah al-Kubra, pg. 571; Abwāb al-A’immah al-Ma‘ṣūmīn, pg. 398
  8. Sisilah al-Turāth al-‘Alawī (al-Radūd ‘ala Ahl al-Ḥulūl), vol. 12, 128; also see Sisilah al-Turāth al-‘Alawī (Majma‘ al-Akhbār), vol. 8, pg. 8.
  9. Hidāyah al-Kubra, pgs. 571-572; Abwāb al-A’immah al-Ma‘ṣūmīn, pg. 399
  10. Al-Kināsī is correct, see Rijāl al-Najāshī, #501.
  11. Sisilah al-Turāth al-‘Alawī (al-Risālah al-Murshida), vol. 3, pg. 168.
  12. Sisilah al-Turāth al-‘Alawī (Kitāb al-Akwār), vol. 1, pg. 125-128.
  13. Sisilah al-Turāth al-‘Alawī (Majmū‘ al-A‘yād), vol. 3, pg. 229.
  14. Sisilah al-Turāth al-‘Alawī (Majmū‘ al-A‘yād), vol. 3, pg. 234.
  15. Sisilah al-Turāth al-‘Alawī (Majma‘ al-Akhbār), vol. 8, pg. 106.