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The Demographic Concentration of the Shīah

Ghulam-Husayn Muharrami

As stated earlier, during the first three centuries AH, the Shīah were scattered across and living in many parts of the Muslim lands. Yet, the demographic concentration and center of the Shīah were in certain regions, which during the first century AH were places such as Medina, Yemen, Kūfah, Baṣrah, Madāin, and Jabal Āmil. During the second century AH, in addition to these regions, places such as Qum, Khurāsān, Ṭabaristān, Baghdad, Jabal, and Africa became among the regions where the Shīah were demographically concentrated. Now we shall explain these regions one by one.
1. The Shīah-Populated Places during the First Century Hijrī
During the first century AH, Shīah-populated places were confined to Ḥijāz, Yemen and Iraq. The residents of these regions were Arabs and considered to be the pioneering Muslims. Shīism in Ḥijāz and Yemen was traceable back to the period of the Holy Prophet

#7779;). Iraq which was conquered after the demise of the Holy Prophet (S)also became the residence place of Yemenī tribes and the government of Ḥaḍrat Alī (a) accelerated the spread of Shīism in that place.

a. Medina
The name of Medina [Madīnah] was Yathrīb before the hijrah and the people there consisted of two Yemenī tribes, the Aws and Khazraj, re-named Anṣār after the advent of Islam (after the hijrah to be exact), and three Jewish tribes, namely the Banū Qaynuqā, Banū Naḍīr and Banū Qurayḍah. When the Noble Messenger

#7779;) migrated there, its name was changed into Madīnah an-Nabī [the City of the Prophet] and on account of the constant mention of the word Madīnah [Medina] it was called as such.
Medina was the political capital of the first three caliphs (Abū Bakr, Umar and Uthmān), and Quraysh who were the staunchest adversaries of the Prophets Household [ahl al-bayt] lived there. Despite this, the Anṣār still constituted the majority of the inhabitants of Medina who were always sympathetic to the descendants of the Holy Prophet (S)and during the political squabbles, they took Ahl al-Bayts (a) the side. The distinguished Shīah ṣaḥābah living in the mentioned city were constantly telling the truth to the people. Jābir ibn Abd Allāh al-Anṣārī, a great companion of the Prophet

#7779;), while leaning on his staff, used to roam around the alleys of Medina and say, Alī is the best of people. Whoever would not accept him will become an infidel [kāfir]. O the assembly of Anṣār! Train your children to love Alī. Anyone of them who does not accept this love, then you have to ask his mother concerning the fetus.
The same Jābir used to sit in Masjid an-Nabī and say, O Bāqir al-Ulūm [He who cleaves asunder all knowledge]! Where are you? The people were saying, Jābir, you are talking nonsense. Jābir would reply, No, I am not talking nonsense. In fact, the Messenger of Allah

#7779;) said to me: After me, you shall meet a person from among my descendants whose name will be the same as mine and whose facial appearance will be the same as mine. He shall open to the people tens of knowledge.
When he met Imām al-Bāqir (a) for the first time, he visited the Imām twice everyday. Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī used to stand by the door of Masjid an-Nabī and say, Anyone who recognizes me has recognized me, and he who does not recognize should know that I am Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī, Jundab ibn Junādah Muḥammad is the heir of the knowledge of Ādam (Adam) and all the virtues of the prophets, and Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib is the executor of will [waṣī] of Muḥammad and heir of his knowledge.
Meanwhile, most members of Banū Hāshim lived in that city and were held in high esteem. The infallible Imāms (a) lived in the same city and people benefited from their teachings. In particular, the study circles of Imām al-Bāqir and Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (a) extended to as far as Masjid an-Nabī. Narrates Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī: I was sitting in the Masjid an-Nabī when a man approached and greeted me, and asked about Abū Jafar (Imām al-Bāqir (a)). I asked, What is your business (with him)? He replied, I listed down forty questions I wanted to ask Abū Jafar. He hardly finished his statement when Imām al-Bāqir (a) entered the mosque. A number of people from Khurāsān gathered around him and asked the Imām about the rituals of Ḥajj.
Some of the students of these two personages such as Ābān ibn Tughlab also gave lessons in Masjid an-Nabī. Whenever Ābān would enter the Masjid an-Nabī, he would sit at the place of the Prophet

#7779;), give lessons to the people, and narrate ḥadīths to them. Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (a) used to tell him, Sit at the Mosque of Medina and give edicts [fatāwā] to the people because I want persons like you to be seen among my Shīah.

b. Yemen
Prior to the conquest of Iraq and the founding of Kūfah, Shīah were living in Yemen. Next to Medina, Yemen was the second place where the Shīah of Alī (a) were located after the demise of the Holy Prophet (S)because the people there embraced Islam through Alī (a). Writes Ibn Shahr Āshūb, thus: The Noble Messenger

#7779;) dispatched Khālid ibn Walīd to Yemen to invite the people there to Islam and it so happened that Barā ibn Āzib was also included in the forces of Khālid. Khālid stayed there for six months but he was not able to convince a single person to become Muslim. The Messenger of Allah

#7779;) was not happy about this state of affairs and recalled Khālid, and instead the Holy Prophet (S)sent the Commander of the Faithful Alī (a). When the Imām arrived there, he performed the dawn [ṣubḥ] prayer and read to the people of Yemen the letter of the Prophet

#7779;). All members of the tribe of Ḥamdān became Muslim in one day and after Ḥamdān the rest of the tribes in Yemen embraced Islam. When this news was relayed to the Holy Prophet

#7779;), he performed prostration of gratitude [sujūd shukr].
The first house where Alī (a) stayed while in Yemen was the house of a woman called Umm Saad Barzakhiyyah where the Imām gave Quran lessons. The said house was converted into a mosque later and it was named as Masjid Alī.
Particularly at the last moments of the Prophet

#7779;), people from the different tribes of Yemen went to Medina to meet the Prophet

#7779;), and in their conversation the Holy Prophet (S)introduced to them Alī (a) as his successor and thus, this fact remained in their memory. And after the demise of the Prophet

#7779;), they did not officially recognize the government in Medina and refrain from remitting their zakāt to Abū Bakr, the caliph of the time. As stated in one of their poems,

When the Messenger of Allah was in our midst, we obeyed him.
O people! Where are we and where is Abū Bakr?
If Abū Bakr had a son named Bakr, shall he inherit the caliphate after him?!
I swear to my soul! This is backbreaking.
During the caliphate of Alī (a), in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Yemenīs who were residing in Iraq and thousands of whom were considered part of the Imāms army, most of the people of Yemen were also Shīah. The Uthmānīs and sympathizers of the Umayyads living there were very small in number and the evidence of it is the treatment of Busr ibn Arṭāt, as per instruction of Muāwiyah, toward them. While Busr was with the people of the regions sympathetic to the Quraysh and the Umayyads, he did nothing. For example, he passed by Mecca and Ṭāif, he did nothing against these two cities. But when he arrived in the cities of Yemen such as Arḥab, Ṣanā and Ḥaḍramawt, he engaged in mass murder. In Ṣanā he beheaded a hundred Iranian nobles. He had no mercy toward the representatives of Marab who had come to conquer Oman as he killed them all. When he arrived in Ḥaḍramawt, he said: I want to slaughter one fourth of the people of this city.
In Jayshān in particular, which according to Yaqūbī, all its inhabitants were Shīah, Busr committed widespread massacre. Ibn Abīl-Ḥadīd had estimated the number of those killed by Busr to have exceeded thirty thousand people most of whom were Yemenīs. This shows that the population of the Shīah at the time had been considerable. At any rate, following the devastation made by Busr in Yemen, Ḥaḍrat Amīr (a) sent Jāriyah ibn Qudāmah (as-Sadī) and Busr fled from Yemen. The people of Yemen and the Shīah there then killed Uthmānīs and sympathizers of the Umayyads wherever they found them.
After the martyrdom of Alī (a), Yemen still remained a place where the Shīah were demographically concentrated, and when Imām al-Ḥusayn (a) was setting off from Mecca to Kūfah, Ibn Abbās suggested to the Imām not to go to Iraq, but to proceed instead to Yemen where there are Shīah of your father.
It must be noted that with the beginning of victories and expansion of the Muslim domain, Yemen (and the Arabian Peninsula in general) had reached its geographical limit and played a secondary role in the political and military matters. Although the two cities of Mecca and Medina had some social impact on account of their religious standing, Yemen, which during the time of the Holy Prophet (S)was considered one of the most important parts of the Islamic domain, was located approximately in one corner of the Muslim territories and their southern tip after the victories of the Muslims in the neighboring countries. In view of this, the spirit of Shīism was dominant there. During the uprising of Abūs-Sarāyā at the end of the second century, Ibrāhīm ibn Mūsā entered there without encountering any local resistance and occupied it. And in the end, the Zaydī sect prevailed in Yemen. Even now, many of its residents are Zaydīs.

c. Kūfah
Kūfah is a city that had been founded after the advent of Islam by the Muslims there. The ancient city of Ḥīrah near Kūfah was always ruled by the Lakhmiyān.
In 17 AH Saad ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, the commander of the Iranian front, founded this city at the order of the second caliph (Umar) and thereafter, eighty of the ṣaḥābah resided there. At the beginning, the city of Kūfah was more of a military camp and accommodation for the forces of the eastern front. Most of its inhabitants were Muslim mujāhidūn who were mostly from the Qaḥṭānī and Yemenī tribes. For this reason, Kūfah always had the Qaḥṭānī and Yemenī atmosphere. Among the companions of the Prophet

#7779;), Anṣār with Yemenī root were residing there mostly. The Khazraj, one of the two tribes of Anṣār, had a particular district there. Yāqūt Ḥamawī says, During the time of Ziyād (ibn Ubayd Allāh), most of the houses made of bricks were houses of (the tribes of) Khazraj and Murād.
Of course, a number of non-Arabs and Iranians were also living in Kūfah who, during the caliphate of the Commander of the Faithful (a), were busy trading in the Kūfah market. It was the same non-Arabs who constituted most of the force during Mukhtārs uprising.
Concerning the merit of Kūfah, there are many pertinent ḥadīths transmitted, one of which is from Alī (a) when he said: What a good city Kūfah is! The soil there loves us and we love it also. On the Day of Resurrection, seventy thousand people whose faces are like the moon in radiance shall be raised at the outside of Kūfah (the cemetery of Kūfah which was located outside the city). Kūfah is our city and the place and residence of our Shīah.
Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (a) says, O God! Be inimical to him who shall be inimical to Kūfah.
The record of Shīism in Kūfah is traceable to the time even prior to the transfer of Alī (a) there. The two factors that can be identified for this is first, the residence of the Yemenī tribes there, most of whom, as we have said earlier, were sympathetic to the descendants of the Prophet

#7779;), and the other one is the existence of distinguished Shīah ṣaḥābah such as Abd Allāh ibn Masūd and Ammār Yāsir. Ammār was sent by Umar there as governor and Ibn Masūd as Quran teacher. For many years, Ibn Masūd was busy teaching jurisprudence [fiqh] and the Quran to the people there.
We can observe the impact of the teachings of these distinguished men at the beginning of the caliphate of Alī (a). The sermon of Mālik al-Ashtar when the people pledged their allegiance to the Imām shows the spirit of Shīism among the people, when Mālik says: O people! This successor of the successors and heir to the knowledge of the prophets is a person to whose faith the Book of Allah gives testimony and the Prophet to his being a dweller of paradise. He is the one the virtues about whom are perfected; with regard to his precedence in knowledge and merit, the latter ones and the pioneering ones have not cast doubt.
When Alī (a) dispatched his son Ḥasan (a) and Ammar to ask the assistance of the people of Kūfah in the battle against the Nākithūn [those who broke their allegiance] (in the Battle of Jamāl [Camel]), nine thousand men joined the ranks of the Imām even despite a person like Abū Mūsā al-Asharī, the ruler there, who prevented people from assisting the Commander of the Faithful (a).
With Alīs (a) migration to Kūfah, this city had become the most important Shīah-populated city up to the end of the third century AH. Dr. Sayyid Ḥusayn Jafarī thus says in this regard: Since the time when Alī (a) transferred to Kūfah in 36 AH and even earlier than that, this city had become the main center of the movements, inspirations, hopes, and at times, coordinated struggles of the Shīah. Inside and around Kūfah, tumultuous events that construct the early history of Shīism took place. The events such as the preparation of the forces of Alī (a) for the battles of Jamal and Ṣiffīn; the appointment and stepping down from caliphate of Ḥasan ibn Alī (a); the uprising of Ḥujr ibn Uday al-Kindī; the killing of Ḥusayn (a) and his votaries; and the Tawwābūn movement and the uprising of Mukhtār are among these events. Given this, Kūfah is the place of hopelessness, deprivations, and even treachery and failure in the attainment of goals of the Shīah on the part of those who do not want to seen the descendants of Alī in the stewardship of the Muslim society.
Although the killers of Imām al-Ḥusayn were Kūfans, the distinguished Shīah at the time were languishing in the prison of Ibn Ziyād. Besides, with the martyrdom of Muslim and Hānī, the Shīah were left without commander against a tough enemy such as Ibn Ziyād and had no match for his power. After the martyrdom of Imām al-Ḥusayn (a), however, the Shīah came to their senses and launched the Tawwābūn movement and the uprising of Mukhtār.
Kūfah had been known for friendship and love of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and enmity toward the Umayyads. Even Muṣab ibn az-Zubayr feigned love for the descendants of the Holy Prophet (S)in order to win the hearts of the Kūfans. As such, he married a daughter of Imām al-Ḥusayn (a). By the end of the first century AH, although there were then new Shīah-populated centers, Kūfah was still considered the most important Shīah-populated city. While advising his supporters during the initial stage of the uprising against the Umayyads, for example, Muḥammad ibn Alī ibn Abd Allāh ibn al-Abbās, the leader of the Abbāsid uprising, said: But (the people of) Kūfah and its districts are Shīah of Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib.
During the second and third centuries AH, the uprisings of some Ṭālibīs also took place in Kūfah. Notwithstanding the existence of an important city such as Baghdad during the Abbāsid period, Kūfah did not lose its political importance and the most noted uprising of the Alawīs during the second half of the second century AH, i.e. the uprising of Ibn Ṭabāṭabā under the military commandership of Abūs-Sarāyā was staged in the same city. As such, the Umayyads monitored Kūfah closely and bloodthirsty individuals such as Ziyād, Ibn Ziyād and Ḥajjāj would be designated to rule there. The rulers there were always supposed to be inimical to the Alawīs, and in the event that a ruler like Khālid ibn Abd Allāh al-Qasrī had little compassion for the Shīah, he would immediately be dismissed and even be imprisoned.
Apart from its political aspect, Kūfah was also regarded as the most important Shīah-populated city in terms of knowledge and the Shīah culture was dominant there. The majority of students of the pure Imāms (a) were Shīah of this city. Great Shīah clans were living in Kūfah. They offered remarkable services to the Shīah culture. For example, from the time of Imām as-Sajjād (a) up to the minor occultation [ghaybah aṣ-ṣughrā] men of the House of Ayan were among the companions of the pure Imāms (a). Sixty prominent scholars of ḥadīth [muḥaddithūn] emerged from this clan. It had stalwarts such as Zurārah ibn Ayan, Ḥamrān ibn Ayan, Bakīr ibn Ayan, Ḥamzah ibn Ḥamrān, Muḥammad ibn Ḥamrān, and Ubayd ibn Zurārahthe same Ubayd who went to Medina as the representative of the people of Kūfah after the demise of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (a) to dispel any skepticism regarding the matter of Imamate, before going back to Kūfah.
The House of Abī Shubah was another great Shīah clan in Kūfah whose forefather, Abū Shubah, had narrated ḥadīth from Imām al-Ḥasan and Imām al-Ḥusayn (a). Najāshī claims that all of those narrations are reliable.
Similarly, the House of Nahīk is also one of the great Shīah clans in Kūfah from which Abd Allāh ibn Muḥammad and Abd ar-Raḥmān Samarī belong.
In the mosques of Kūfah, particularly in its central mosque, ḥadīths of the pure Imāms (a) used to be taught there. Ḥasan ibn Alī Washshā, a companion of Imām ar-Riḍā (a), says: I saw in Masjid Kūfah nine hundred people who were transmitting ḥadīths from Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (a).

d. Basrah
Baṣrah is a city founded by the Muslims in 17 AH simultaneous with the founding of Kūfah. Although the people of Baṣrah were known for inclination toward Uthmān for supporting Āishah, Ṭalḥah and Zubayr, at the same time that the Jamal [Camel] Army was in Baṣrah, the Shīah there fought against it and a large number of them attained martyrdom. As narrated by Shaykh al-Mufīd, from (the tribe of) Abd al-Qays alone, five hundred of the Shīah of Alī (a) were martyred. According to Balādhurī, three thousand men from among the Shīah of the tribe of Rabīah joined the ranks of the Imām at Dhīqār. After the Battle of Jamal, notwithstanding the atmosphere of inclination to Uthmān in Baṣrah, many Shīah were still living there. As such, when Muāwiyah dispatched Ibn Ḥaḍramī to create unrest there, he informed him that some people in Baṣrah are Shīah and advised him to avoid some tribes such as that of Rabīah notwithstanding the great number of the Uthmānīs, and if Alī (a) would not send off any force from Kūfah, by means of unrests he would take control of Baṣrah through the Uthmānīs.
During the event of Karbalā, Imām al-Ḥusayn (a) also wrote a letter to some distinguished men of Baṣrah. Among them, Yazīd ibn Masūd Nahshalī accepted the invitation of the Imām, responded positively to him, gathered the tribes of Banū Tamīm, Banū Saad and Banū Ḥanzalah, and called on them to assist Imām al-Ḥusayn (a). He then wrote a letter to the Imām, informing him of these tribes readiness. But when they were already to join the ranks of the Imām, they heard the news of his martyrdom.
During the uprising of the Tawwābūn, as narrated by Masūdī, a number of the Shīah of Baṣrah together with the Shīah of Madāin had also joined the army of the Tawwābūn. Of course, when they arrived at the scene, the battle was over.
During the Umayyad period, the Shīah of Baṣrah experienced sufferings at the hands of cruel and bloodthirsty rulers such as Ziyād and Samarah ibn Jundab. Ziyād came to Baṣrah in 45 AH and delivered the Baṭrā Sermon saying: I swear to God that I shall call to account the guardian for the fault of the guarded one; the resident for the crime of the traveler; and the healthy one for the sin of the sick one to such as extent that when one of you would see another, he will say that his own Saad is the proof that Saīd is guilty. From then on, beware lest somebody went out at night as I will shed his blood Keep your tongues and hands away from me so as for you to remain safe from my tongue and hands.
Later on, Kūfah also became under the governorship and administration of Ziyād, and he would stay for six months in Kūfah and the next six months in Baṣrah. Every time he was in Kūfah, he would designate Samarah ibn Jundab to administer Baṣrah on his behalf. Samarah was an atrocious man and never desisted from shedding blood. During the absence of Ziyād, he butchered eight thousand people.
With the passage of time, the spirit of Shīism in Baṣrah became stronger so much so that during the beginning of the Abbāsid rule, the second Alawī uprisingthe uprising of Ibrāhīm, brother of Muḥammad Nafs az-Zakiyyahtook place there.

e. Madāin
In contrast to Kūfah and Baṣrah, Madāin is a city which has been existing even prior to the advent of Islam and conquered by Sad ibn Abī Waqqāṣ in 16 AH during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb. It is said that Anūshīrawān founded this city and its Persian name was Tīsfūn which was considered one of the capitals of the Sassanid Empire. Ṭāq-e Kisrā was also located there. For the reason that it was composed of seven large places each of which was as large as a city, the Arabs called it Madāin which is the plural form of madīnah [city] (its other plural form being mudun). Of course, by founding new cities such as Kūfah, Baṣrah, Wāsiṭ, Baghdad, and Sāmarrā, this city was gradually abandoned. Madāin had been one of the Shīah-populated cities during the first, second and third centuries AH, and the reason behind it was the rule of distinguished Shīah ṣaḥābah such as Salmān al-Fārsi and Ḥudhayfah ibn Yamān there. And as such, the people of Madāin, from the beginning, had accepted Islam through the hands of Shīah ṣaḥābah. In the uprising of the Tawwābūn, names of Shīah from Madāin can be noticed. Masūdī says: After the martyrdom of Sulaymān ibn Ṣard Khazāī and Musayyab ibn Najbah Fazārī Abd Allāh ibn Sad ibn Nufayl assumed the commandership of the Tawwābūn. Given this, the Shīah of Baṣrah and Madāin, who were approximately five hundred people and whose commanders were Muthannā ibn Mukharramah and Sad ibn Ḥudhayfah, quickly came to the front and personally tried to join the Tawwābūn but they failed.
Shīism had always been dominant in this city. In this regard,Yāqūt Ḥamawī says, Most of the people of Madāin are Shīah Imāmiyyah.

f. Jabal Āmil
Jabal Āmil was another Shīah-populated region during the first century AH. Shīism of the people of this place started when Abū Dharr was exiled by Uthmān ibn al-Affān to Shām. The late Sayyid Muḥsin Amīn says, Muāwiyah also banished Abū Dharr to the villages of Jabal Āmil. Abū Dharr engaged in guiding the people. Thus, the people there became Shīah. In the villages of Ṣarfand and Mays of Jabal Āmil, there are two mosques named Abū Dharr Masjid. Even during the time of the Commander of the Faithful (a), [the inhabitants of] a certain village called Asār were Shīah.
With regard to Shīism there, the late Muẓaffar had also said: The origin of Shīism in Jabal Āmil is traceable to the call of the mujāhid [struggler] in the path of Allah, Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī. Kird-Alī also says that the record of Shīism in Damascus, Jabal Āmil and north of Lebanon can be traced back to the first century AH.

The root of Shīism in Kūfah is traceable even prior to the transfer of Alī (a) because most of the residents there belonged to Yemenī tribes most of whom were Shīah. Besides, distinguished Shīah ṣaḥābah lived there.
With the transfer of Alī (a) to this city toward the end of the third century AH, Kūfah became the most important Shīah-dominated city. As such, during the second and third centuries AH, the uprisings of a number of Ṭālibīs were launched there, and the Shīah culture was always dominant there.
Notwithstanding the spirit of inclination toward Uthmān in the city of Baṣrah, there were also Shīah of the Commander of the Faithful (a) such as the tribe of Rabīah living there and they fought against the Companions of the Camel (forces of Ṭalhāh, Zubayr and Āishah). With the passage of time, the influence of Shīism in the city of Baṣrah became stronger.
On account of the rule there of great Shīah ṣaḥābah such as Salmān al-Fārsī and Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān, Madāin was considered one of the Shīah-populated cities.
With the banishment of Abū Dharr to Shām, the seed of Shīism was planted in the region of Jabal Āmil.

1. How did Kūfah become a Shīah-dominated city?
2. Were there Shīah living in Baṣrah?
3. The root of Shīism in Jabal Āmil can be traced back to which period?

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