EBN ḤAWŠAB, ABU’L-QĀSEM ḤASAN b. Faraj (or Faraḥ) b. Ḥawšab b. Zāḏān Najjār Kūfī, known also as Manṣūr al-Yaman (d. 302/914), Ismaʿili dāʿī and founder of the Ismaʿili community in northern Yemen. He came from the neighborhood of the Narses canal (Nahr Nars) in the countryside (sawād) of Kūfa south of present-day Ḥella in Iraq, where he was occupied as a linen weaver and manufacturer of narsī cloth. According to other sources, he was a carpenter or a joiner. His father was a Twelver Shiʿite. According to his own account, in his Sīra, Ebn Ḥawšab doubted that the Hidden Imam would return and was thus easily converted to Ismaʿilism. The hidden Imam himself was supposed to have appeared to him while he was meditating on the banks of the Euphrates and summoned him. According to Jaʿfar Ḥājeb (Yamānī, p. 115), it was the dāʾī Fīrūz who completed his initiation, which must have taken place between 260/874 (the date of the ḡayba, or occultation, of the Hidden Imam) and 267/880.

After his education in Ismaʿili teachings, Ebn Ḥawšab departed for Mecca with the pilgrim caravan from Qādesīya; he was accompanied by a young Yemenite named ʿAlī b. Fażl, who had been won over to the daʿwa in Karbalāʾ. From Mecca the two continued to Yemen, where Ebn Ḥawšab, disguised as a cotton merchant, first settled in Aden, while his companion went to the mountains as a hermit and dāʿī. Not until 270/883-84 “did the daʿwa move forward,” when Ebn Ḥawšab established himself in the territory of the clan of the Banū Mūsā in Wādī Lāʿa west of the Jabal Maswar massif; he captured several cities in the Jabal Maswar, including Bayt Fāyes, which became the dār al-hejra, or main center, of the cell of the daʿwa, which was expanding militarily. The Yaʿfurid amirs of Ṣanʿāʾ were not in a position to stem the growing power of the dāʿī. In Ebn Ḥawšab’s lifetime the Ismaʿilis several times took Šebām and the mountain of Kawkabān; Ṣanʿāʾ itself was captured no fewer than five times.

In 279/893 Ebn Ḥawšab sent the Kufan Abū ʿAbd-Allāh “Šīʿī,” who had been staying with him in Yemen for a year, as dāʿī to Mecca. There he met pilgrims from the Berber Kotāma, whom he attached to himself. That was the beginning of the Ismaʿili daʿwa in North Africa, which led in 297/909 to the foundation of the Fatimid caliphate. Ebn Ḥawšab dispatched dāʿīs also to other lands; he sent Hayṯam, a relative, to Sind, from where the daʿwa was extended to other regions of the Indian subcontinent. He also sent a certain Abū Zakaṟīyā Ṭamāmī (or Ẓamāmī) to Bahrain, where there was an important Persian community. At the time, the Ismaʿilis of Bahrain developed close relations with the Ismaʿili communities in southern Iraq, Ḵūzestān, and Fārs.

At the time of the schism in the Ismaʿili community in 286/899 Ebn Ḥawšab had acknowledged as imam ʿAbd-Allāh (ʿObayd-Allāh) Fāṭemī, the future Fatimid caliph al-Mahdī, to whom he remained faithful to the end of his life. That choice ultimately brought him into conflict with his former companion Ebn Fażl, who had been living as dāʿī and commander in the southern Yemeni city of Moḏayḵera since 292/904; he had, however, renounced the Fatimids. Ebn Fażl led a force against Ebn Ḥawšab and besieged him for eight months in his dār al-hejra in the Jabal Maswar, but withdrew again after receiving some hostages. In the last year of his life Ebn Ḥawšab was occupied with his campaigns in northern Yemen. He died on 11 Jomādā I 302/2 December 914 (ʿAbbāsī, p. 402). His three sons were forced out of the leadership of the daʿwa by the daʿī Šāwerī. One of them, Jaʿfar b. Manṣūr Yaman, later lived at the Fatimid court in Manṣūrīya near Qayrawān in Efrīqīya. He seems to have brought his father’s writings with him to the court. Ebn Ḥawšab is significant as the author of several treatises on secret Ismaʿili teachings (e.g., Ketāb al-rošd wa’l-hedāya, Ketāb al-ʿālem wa’l-ḡolām). The main source on his life is his own Sīra, which was written either by himself or by his son; numerous fragments from it were cited by later authors (Noʿmān, Edrīs, Ebn Mālek Yamānī).



ʿAlī b. Moḥammad ʿAlawī, Sīrat al-hādī ela’l-Ḥaqq, ed. S. Zakkār, Beirut, 1981.

C. van Arendonk, Les débuts de l’imamat zaidite au Yémen, tr. J. Ryckmans, Leiden, 1960, pp. 119-26. 237-49.

F. Daftari, The Ismāʿīlīs. Their History and Doctrine, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 92, 118-19, 131, 134, 179, 208.

ʿEmād-al-Dīn Edrīs, ʿOyūn al-aḵbār wa fonūn al-āṯār, ed. M. Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1975, IV, pp. 396-403; V, pp. 31-44.

H. Halm, “Die Sīrat Ibn Ḥaušab. Die ismailitische daʿwa im Jemen und die Fatimiden,” Die Welt des Orients 12, 1981, pp. 107-35.

Idem, Das Reich des Mahdi. Der Aufstieg der Fatimiden (875-973), Munich, 1991.

Ḥ. Hamadānī, al-Ṣolayḥeyyūn, Cairo, 1955, pp. 27-48.

M. Jalālī Moqaddam, “Ebn-e Ḥawšab” in DMBE III, pp. 377-80.

Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Yūsof Janadī, Aḵbār al-Qarāmeṭa be’l Yaman..., in H. C. Kay ed. and tr., Yaman, Its Early Medieval History..., London, 1892; text, pp. 139-52; tr. pp. 191-212.

W. Madelung, “Manṣūr al-Yaman” in EI ², pp. 438-39.

I. K. Poonwala, Bibliography of Ismāʿīlī Literature, Malibu, 1977, pp. 34, 74.

M. S. Moḥammad Yamanī, “Sīra Jaʿfar Ḥājeb,” Bulletin of the Faculty of Arts, Egypt University 4, pt. 2, 1936, pp. 107-33; tr. in W. Ivanow, Ismaili Tradition Concerning the Rise of the Fatimids, London, 1942, pp. 184-223.

Moḥammad b. Mālek Ḥammādī Yamānī, Kašf asrār al-Bāṭenīya wa aḵbār al-Qarāmeṭa, ed. M.-Z. Kawṯarī, Cairo, 1955.

Qāżī Noʿmān, Resālat eftetāḥ al-daʿwa, ed. W. Qāżī, Beirut, 1970, pp. 32-62; ed. F. Dašrāwī, Tunis, 1975, pp. 2-34.

(Heinz Halm)

Originally Published: December 15, 1997

Last Updated: December 6, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 1, pp. 28-29