ABŪ HĀŠEM ʿABDALLĀH B. MOḤAMMAD B. ḤANAFĪYA, ʿAlid figure in Shiʿite tradition. About two decades after the Prophet died, leaving the Muslim community without any temporal and spiritual guidance authorized by God, the Shiʿite movement began to take shape. Its supporters held that ʿAlī, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, and ʿAlī’s descendants guaranteed the continuance of the seemingly lost prophetic guidance. ʿAlī and his sons came to be looked upon as charismatic leaders of the faithful, who ought to rally round them. ʿAlī, Ḥasan, and Ḥosayn failed, however, in their political activities; Moḥammad b. Ḥanafīya (q.v.), another son and a half-brother of Ḥasan and Ḥosayn, did not take any active interest in the wars which Moḵtār (q.v.) feigned to wage for his sake. Careful scrutiny of the source material proves that toward the end of the first century the Shiʿite movement was no longer guided by the ʿAlids; on the contrary, it was the Shiʿites who used the honorable names of the ʿAlids for their own religious and political purposes. Rival currents of the Shiʿite thought had come into being, and it was only in the second century that some of the descendants of ʿAlī (the Hasanids, the Husainid imams) or other Hashimites (e.g., the ʿAbbasids) tried to make use of the different alignments of the Shiʿite movement.

It is in this political and ideological strife that the figure of Abū Hāšem ʿAbdallāh b. Moḥammad b. Ḥanafīya plays an important part, though he personally never seems to have been involved in this struggle. Almost everything which is related about his life has thus become tinged with ideological implications. The historical sources indicate that Abū Hāšem spent part of his life in Syria; several Shiʿite groups are said to have considered him as their leader, but there are no details as to the nature of his leadership (Ebn Saʿd [Beirut], V, pp. 240f.; Ebn Qotayba, Maʿāref, Cairo, 1960, p. 111). It is related that Abū Hāšem died shortly after a visit he had paid the Omayyad court. Masʿūdī places his death in the reign of ʿAbd-al-Malek (65-86/685-705, Morūǰ VII, p. 404). This date, rather than 98/716-17 given elsewhere, is corroborated by the fact that a certain ʿAbdallāh b. Ḥāreṯ b. Nawfal (d. 84/703) is said to have taken part in the funeral ceremonies on Abū Hāšem’s death, and by Koṯayyer ʿAzza, who presupposes in one of his poems that Moḥammad b. Ḥanafīya’s son and successor in the leadership of the faithful (i.e., Abū Hāšem, since the other children of Ebn Ḥanafīya are nowhere said to have been considered as leaders by the Shiʿites) did not live to the end of ʿAbd-al-Malek’s reign (Nagel, Untersuchungen, p. 56).

After 100 A.H. the Shiʿite movement again began to flourish, and it was only in this period that Abū Hāšem became important for several Shiʿite groups who considered him as the last rightful holder of the Shiʿite heritage. The leaders of these groups, among them the ʿAbbasid Moḥammad b. ʿAlī and the ʿAlid ʿAbdallāh b. Moʿāwīya, founder of a short-lived Hashimite state in Fārs (128/744), claimed to possess Abū Hāšem’s testament (waṣīya), which could give a legal foundation to their aspiration for power. From the text of the testament used by the ʿAbbasid propaganda (Ebn ʿAbd Rabbeh, ʿEqd, Cairo, 1940-53, IV, pp. 475ff.), we learn that the year 100 was considered as a decisive turning point, after which the eschatological explanations of these Shiʿite groups were to be fulfilled. Owing to this conception, the date of Abū Hāšem’s death and of the composition of his alleged testament was postponed to the time immediately before the end of the first Islamic century. When the ʿAbbasids had become unrivalled rulers, they soon gave up the idea of being made legitimate by an ʿAlid’s testament. Only a few unimportant groups continued for some time to claim to be the heirs of Abū Hāšem (Saʿd b. ʿAbdallāh Ašʿarī, Ketāb al-maqālāt wa’l-feraq, ed. M. J. Maškūr, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963, pp. 38ff.)

See also: Hāšemīya, Kaysānīya.


See also: S. Moscati, “Il testamento di Abū Hāšim,” RSO 1952, pp. 28-46.

T. Nagel, Untersuchungen zur Entstehung des abbasidischen Kalifaten, Bonn, 1972.

W. al-Qāżī, al-Kaysānīya fi’l-taʾrīḵ wa’l-adab, Beirut, 1974, pp. 196ff.

T. Nagel, Rechtleitung und Kalifat, Bonn, 1975, pp. 157ff.

(T. Nagel)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 19, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 314-315

Cite this entry:

T. Nagel, “ABŪ HĀŠEM ʿABDALLĀH,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 314-315; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-hasem-abdallah-b (accessed on 30 January 2014).