JAʿFAR B. MANṢUR-AL-YAMAN, a high-ranking Ismaʿili author who flourished during the reigns of the first four Fatimid caliphs. His father, Ebn Ḥawšab (d. 302/914), originated from a learned Shiʿite family of Kufa, and pioneered the Ismaʿili daʿwa (see FATIMIDS) in the Yemen, where his conquests earned him the honorific title of Manṣur-al-Yaman (Conqueror of Yemen). Jaʿfar’s detailed account of his father’s life (Sirat abihi) has been largely preserved through quotations. After Ebn Ḥawšab’s death, Jaʿfar was his only son to remain faithful to the mission (daʿwa). Antagonism between him and his disgruntled brother, Abu’l-Ḥasan, eventually forced him to emigrate to the Maḡreb, where he arrived during the reign of the second Fatimid caliph al-Qāʾem (r. 322-34/933-46; see Ḥammādi, pp. 39-41.). Jaʿfar witnessed the serious anti-Fatimid rebellion led by the Kharijite Abu Yazid (d. 336/947), which rattled the Fatimid state during the last two years of al-Qāʾem’s reign and the beginning of the reign of his successor al-Manṣur (r. 334-41/946-53). Jaʿfar’s fervent support for the Fatimids is expressed in his poems, composed during the years 333-36/945-48 and celebrating Fatimid victories (Stern, pp. 146-52). After defeating Abu Yazid, al-Manṣur founded, near Qayrawān, his new residential town Manṣuriya, where Jaʿfar had a fine house. His financial situation led him to mortgage his house, and he was in danger of losing it when the caliph al-Moʿezz (r. 341-65/953-75) saved him from his predicament by paying off his debt in recognition of his and his father’s services (ʿAzizi Jawḏari, pp. 126-27; tr. pp. 193-94). Jaʿfar died at an unknown date in the early period of al-Moʿezz’s reign.

Jaʿfar’s works were often copied and incorporated in later anthologies of Ismaʿili literature (Poonawala, pp. 71-75, 144, 150, 317, 323). They are largely devoted to allegorical interpretation (taʾwil) in which he relates words and expressions from the Qurʾān, Islamic rituals, and letters of the Arabic alphabet, to the grades of the hierarchy of the Fatimid daʿwa (ḥodud al-din); the numbers seven and twelve feature prominently in his scheme. Among Jaʿfar’s early works are Ketāb al-ʿālem wa’l-ḡolām, a dialogue of spiritual initiation, and Ketāb al-kašf containing six short pre-Fatimid taʾwil treatises dealing mainly with the subject of the imamate. Jaʿfar viewed the imamate as a continuation of prophecy. His works on stories of the prophets were written particularly with this view. These include al-Šawāhed wa’l-bayān supporting ʿAli’s succession to the imamate, Sarāʾer al-noṭaqāʾ and its sequel Asrār al-noṭaqāʾ, as well as the interpretation of the sura Yusof contained in his Ketāb al-farāʾeż wa ḥodud al-din. One epistle of Jaʿfar, Šarḥ dalālāt ḥoruf al-moʿjam (or Resālat taʾwil ḥoruf al-moʿjam), is devoted to the interpretation of the letters of the Arabic alphabet.



Works. Ketāb al-farāʾeż wa ḥodud al-din, The Institute of Ismaili Studies Library (IISL), London, MS no. 928; al-Reżāʾ fi’l-bāṭen, London, IISL, MS no. 1143; Šarḥ dalālāt ḥoruf al-moʿjam, London, IISL, MS no. 141; al-Šawāhed wa’l-bayān, London, IISL, MS no. 142; Taʾwil surat al-nesāʾ, London, IISL, MS no. 1103; Ketāb al-ʿālem wa’l-ḡolām, ed. and tr. James W. Morris as The Master and the Disciple: An Early Islamic Spiritual Dialogue, London, 2001; Ketāb al-kašf, ed. Rudolf Strothmann, London, 1952; Sarāʾer al-noṭaqāʾ and Asrār al-noṭaqāʾ, ed. Moṣṭafā Ḡāleb as Sarāʾer wa asrār al-noṭaqāʾ, Beirut, 1984.

Studies: Abu ʿAli Manṣur ʿAzizi Jawḏari, Sirat al-ostāḏ Jawḏar: wa behi tawqiʿāt al-aʾemma al-fāṭemiyin, ed. Moḥammad Kāmel Ḥosayn and Moḥammad ʿAbd-al-Hādi Šaʿira, Cairo, 1954; tr. Marius Canard, as Vie de l’Ustadh Jaudhar (contenant sermons, lettres et rescrits des premiers califes fatimides, Algiers, 1958.

Farhad Daftary, Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, Cambridge, 1990.

Heinz Halm, “Djaʿfar b. Manṣūr al-Yaman,” in EI2, suppl, pp. 236-37.

Ḥosayn b. Fayż-Allāh Hamdāni, al-Ṣolayḥiyun wa’l-ḥaraka al-fāṭemiya fi’l-Yaman, Cairo, 1955.

Moḥammad b. Mālek Ḥammādi, Kašf asrār al-bāṭeniya wa aḵbār al-Qarāmeṭa, ed. Moḥammad Zāhed b. Ḥasan Kawṯari, Cairo, 1939.

Ismail K. Poonawala, Biobibliography of Ismāʿīlī Literature, Malibu, 1977.

Edris ʿEmād-al-Din Qoraši, ʿOyun al-aḵbār wa fonun al-āṯār fi fażāʾel al-aʾemma al-aṭhār, vols. 4-6, ed. Moṣṭafā Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1973-84; vol. 5 and part of vol. 6 ed. Moḥammad Yaʿlāwi, Beirut, 1985.

Fuat Zezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, 8 vols., Leiden, 1967-82, I, pp. 578-79.

Samuel Stern, Studies in Early Ismāʿīlism, Max Schloessinger Memorial Series, Monograph 1, Jerusalem, 1983.


(Hamid Haji)

Originally Published: December 15, 2008

Last Updated: April 5, 2012

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