How to Make a Zaydi Iman Zaydi Reports on the Revold of Ṣāḥib Fakhkh Ḥusayn b. 'Alī (d. 169/786

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Najam Haider



This article examines the Zaydi doctrine of the imamate through an analysis of historical depictions of the 169/786 revolt of Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī at Fakhkh by three different authors: Aḥmad b. Sahl al-Rāzī (d. late third/ninth century), al-Nāṭiq Yaḥyā b. al-Ḥusayn (d. 424/1033), and ʿAlī b. Bilāl al-Āmulī (d. fifth/eleventh century). The classical model of the Zaydi imamate holds that a descendant of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib (through either Ḥasan or Ḥusayn) with the proper qualities becomes Imam by summoning supporters (daʿwa), administering the oath of allegiance (bayʿa), and rising up in rebellion (khurūj) against a tyrant. This article investigates the relative importance of these components in historical accounts composed after the establishment of Zaydi political power in Yemen and the Caspian region. It argues that the emergence of dynastic rule may have lessened the importance of rebellion while elevating a candidate’s exemplary personal qualities and political skill. This change is potentially embedded in narrative differences between the three sources.

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