Ismail ibn Ja’far, part 6: Rebels and the accusations of heresy


Some websites have edited their old articles to add information from this article onto it. However, the research presented in my article is fully original

As we can see in part 4, al-Mufaddal ibn Umar was fiercely attacked by the Shi’a of Kufa, with accusations al-Mufaddal described as “false”, due to his association with radical anti-Abbasid rebels. 

We will further elaborate on this phenomenon and its relation to Ismail ibn Ja’far in this post, inshallah.


  • A) Attacks against al-Mufaddal (and Ismail)

Al-Mufaddal’s association with the radicals led to further attacks within the Shi’a, necessitating Imam al-Sadiq’s involvement to help curb the accusations and attacks against al-Mufaddal but to no avail.

As seen below:

(Al-Kafi, vol 8, page 383)

I said to Abi Abdillah [al-Sadiq]:

Do you not forbid these two men from this man? He said: Who is this man and who are these two men? 

I said: Don't you forbid Hijr ibn Za’ida and Amir ibn Judha’a from Mufaddal bin Omar? 

He said: O Yunus, I asked them to stop him, but they did not. So I called them and asked them (to stop) and wrote to them and made him my need for them, but they did not stop him, so may God never forgive them

قلت لأبي عبد الله (عليه السلام): ألا تنهى هذين الرجلين عن هذا الرجل؟ فقال:

من هذا الرجل ومن هذين الرجلين؟ قلتألا تنهى حجر بن زائدة وعامر بن جذاعة عن المفضل بن عمر (1) فقاليا يونس قد سألتهما أن يكفاعنه فلم يفعلا فدعوتهما وسألتهما كتبت اليهما وجعلته حاجتي إليهما فلم يكفا عنه فلا غفر الله 

  • Note: 

It may that “two men” refers to al-Mufaddal ibn Umar and Ismail ibn Ja’far, but that the latter was not mentioned as people only insulted him because of his association with his teacher al-Mufaddal.

  • B) On what basis was he attacked?

Hijr ibn Za’ida, one mentioned above insulting al-Mufaddal - along with a group of scholars of Kufa wrote to Imam al-Sadiq accusing al-Mufaddal of the following.

It seems the radicals al-Mufaddal associated with were accused of being wicked, drinking alcohol and raising birds.

(For context: Raising birds may have been looked down upon, as Sunni scholars for example do not accept the testimony of a man raising birds. There was stigma on the field)

(Rijal al-Kashi, vol 2, page 619)

The Mufaddal sits with the wicked, those raising birds, and with a people who drink (alcohol), so you should write to him and order him not to sit with them.

So they brought the letter to al-Mufaddal, including Zurara, Abdullah ibn Bakir, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Abu Baseer, and Hijr ibn Zaida, and they gave the book to al-Mufaddal, so he unpacked it and read it, so in it was:

‘In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Buy so and so.’

It did not mention anything - neither little nor much - of what they (the Kufa scholars) mentioned [about al-Mufaddal]

إن المفضل يجالس الشطار وأصحاب الحمام وقوما يشربون الشراب، فينبغي أن تكتب إليه وتأمره الا يجالسهم، فكتب إلى المفضل كتاباوختم ودفع إليهم، وأمرهم أن يدفعوا الكتاب من أيديهم إلى يد المفضل.

فجاؤوا بالكتاب إلى المفضل، منهم زرارة، وعبد الله بن بكير، ومحمد بن مسلم . وأبو بصير، وحجر بن زائدة، ودفعوا الكتاب، إلى المفضلففكه وقرأه، فإذا فيه بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم اشتر كذا وكذا واشتر كذا، ولم يذكر قليلا ولا كثيرا مما قالوا فيه


  • A) How did this reflect on Ismail?

Ismail received a reputation of having drunk alcohol - in both Sunni & Shi’i sources. Something our Imams seem to have corroborated out of taqiyya in one report.

James Waterson, author of the book ‘Ismaili Assassins’, claims that Ismail was inherited by his father either due to his association with the radicals or because he was an inebriate (drunkard).

Ismail was another son of Jafar, who had been disinherited by his father, either because he is a radical and thus a threat to the tactic of survival by submission to the Abbasids, or because he was an inebriate

While Ismail’s association with the radicals is established, wine drinking is completely out of character for Ismail whom when sick in Iraq (in his trip with Imam al-Sadiq) - the doctor offered to treat him with wine.

Ismail responded - as recorded in Al-Kafi, vol 6, page 414:

Wine is haram, and we are Ahlulbayt who do not seek to get healed by haram” 

دخلت على أبي عبد الله عليه السلام أيام قدم العراق فقال ليادخل على إسماعيل بن جعفر فإنه شاك فانظر ما وجعه وصف لي شيئا منوجعه الذي يجد، قالفقمت من عنده فدخلت على إسماعيل فسألته عن وجعه الذي يجد فأخبرني به فوصفت له دواء فيه نبيذ فقال إسماعيلالنبيذ حرام وإنا أهل بيت لا نستشفي بالحرام.

  • B) Why was Ismail affected by the misinformation against al-Mufaddal

Al-Mufaddal ibn Umar had been ordering the Shi’a to proclaim that Ismail ibn Ja’far is the next Imam. Perhaps out of taqiyya to protect the true next Imam (al-Kadhim) at an uneasy time - this diverting Abbasid persecution to Ismail instead of the true Imam.

Or perhaps out of enamorment with Ismail, reflecting a personal wish for Ismail to be the Imam considering his love and mentorship of Ismail.

In any case, Ismail became associated with al-Mufaddal and the radicals, inheriting the bad reputation of al-Mufaddal among the Shi’a - leading to rumors about his inebriation.

(Rijal al-Kashi, vol 2, page 618)

I entered upon Abi Abdillah, peace be upon him, and listed the the names of Imams to him until I mentioned his name (al-Sadiq), and then I said: 

Ismail after you (as Imam). 

He (al-Sadiq) said: As for that - no (he is not the Imam after me)

So Hammad said: I said to Ismail ibn ‘Amir (the narrator)

What called you to say, ‘And Ismail (ibn Ja’far) after you?

He said: Al-Mufaddal ibn Umar ordered me.”

حدثني حمدويه، قالحدثني محمد بن عيسى، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن حماد بن عثمان، عن إسماعيل بن عامر، قالدخلت على أبي عبد اللهعليه السلام، فوصفت إليه الأئمة حتى انتهيت إليه، فقلتإسماعيل من بعدك، فقال:

أما ذا فلا، فقال حمادفقلت لإسماعيل وما دعاك إلى أن تقول وإسماعيل من بعدك؟ قالأمرني المفضل بن عمر.

Wa Allahu A’lam