By Our Literary Section
After the acquisition of power by the Ismailis in Yaman, the work of propagating Ismaili faith was performed by Da'is, who collected a great number of followers. And in this field arose a brave and courageous man, Ja'far bin Mansur al-Yaman in 4th Hijri, who was given exclusively the charge of the central Da'wa organisation and was appointed chief da'i or Bab-ul-Abwab for which a separate department was constituted apart from the administrative one which was getting more complicated day by day.
Ja'far bin Mansur al-Yaman's rise and death is seen during Imam Mu'izz's period of Imamat. It was the greatest glorious period of Fatimids in North Africa or Maghrib and Egypt which subsequently changed the whole complexion of the Fatimid Empire.
Da'i Ja'far bin Mansur al-Yaman was held in great esteem by Imam for his learning and ability. It may be worthwhile to note here a few facts about the early life of Da'i Ja'far. After the death of his father or grand-father Ibn Hawshab, the famous Ismaili Da'i, warrior and founder of the first Ismaili state in Yaman, Da'i Ja'far was greatly distressed by the internal quarrels in which his brother played a conspiracy in killing the Da'i of Yaman Ash-Shaweri. Here one thing is noteworthy that Da'i Ja'far was deadly against his brother and remained firm in propagating faith. And for this purpose he went to Maghrib at the court of Imam Mahdi but on his way, he received the news of Imam Mahdi's expiration and that Imam Qa'im has sat on the seat of Caliphate and Imamate. He was well received by Imam Qa'im and his services were amply rewarded. He served whole heartedly Imam Qa'im, Imam Mansur and Imam Mu'izz, but his rising personality is more evident during Imam Mu'izz's time. Da'i Idris Imamud-din quotes in favour of Da'i al-Yaman that, "he was the first Da'i to be granted the highest title of Bab-ul-Abwab during Imam Mu'izz's time".
Ustad Jozar writes in the biography, that the residential palace of Imam Mu'izz and Jafar was nearby. It is no doubt that he always remained close to Imam in Maghrib as well as in Egypt and was held in great esteem both by Imam and the people. He rose to such a great extent that he was given superiority over Qadi an-Nu'man, who was the pillar of theology and Law in the Fatimid Caliphate.
Da'i Idris Imadu-Din relates another story regarding the respect of Ja'far bin Mansur al-Yaman in the eyes of Imam Mu'izz. He says that one day Qadi an-Nu'man fell ill and many visitors excluding Ja'far b. Mansur al-Yaman came to see him. When Qadi recovered he went to see Imam, who asked him as to who had come to visit him while he was sick. The Qadi complained that many visitors came except Da'i Ja'far. At this Imam got annoyed at the Qadi and after a while or so, Imam took out a book and gave it to the Qadi to read. The Qadi was astonished at the ability of its author. So the Imam asked him what was his guess regarding the name of its author. "There could be no one else", said Qadi "except the Imam himself who could write so well". And the Imam replied "You are mistaken, for the book is written by Da'i Jafar". Qadi acknowledged his mistake with an apology and went to the house of Da'i Ja'far to pay his respect.
His main work was to establish the mission throughout Egypt, control the Ismaili teachings at various institutions, supervise and co-ordinate the work of Ismaili Da'is throughout the world. Besides this, he took upon himself the writings of many works on Ismaili doctrines. The earlier Da'i author like Abu Hatim, Abu Yaqub and Nasafi to some extent had written on Haqaiq or philosophical aspect. The output was so great that at this period, it was thought proper for the temporary halt in the process of involving philosophical doctrine. Qadi Nu'man took upon himself to produce work of legal and historical character and therefore created the Zahiri (exoteric) school of Ismaili writings. Da'i Ja'far on the other hand devoted himself to the interpretation (ta'wil) of the existing doctrine and systematised it. He therefore, instituted the ta'wil-interpretation for the school of Ismaili writings. "Da'i Ja'far's works are apparently never cited in the literature of the Fatimid Caliphate, but are often quoted in the works of NeoYamanite period" quotes W. Ivanow in his book 'Ismaili Literature' and says that "they sharply differ in their tone and spirit from those of the "Classic" Fatimid Literature, by their leaning to mysticism".
His main works are twelve out of which some are preserved in the University Library of Leiden, viz;
1. Ta'wil az-Zakat - on the mystical meaning of the prescription for
paying the religious tax, apparently the best known work of the author.
2. Asrar an-Nutaqa - deals on Tawil in which he clarifies that 120 years have passed since the disappearance of the 12th lthna-'Ashari Imam in 260 A.H.
3. Kitab al-Kashf - which deals on the mythology of Quran Sharif and its esoteric interpretation. This book is edited by Prof. Strothmann in the Islamic Research Association's series, Bombay 1952.
4. Ash-Shawahid wa'l-Bayan - explaining the ayats containing implicit references to Mowlana Ali and his successors.
5. al Fatarat Wa'l-Qiranat, - also known under the title of Kitab al-Jafal-aswad, but this work is in reference to Boharism. and, therefore, there exists no certainty about its being contribution of Ja'far.
6. Kitab al-Fara'id - this is the parallel work of Asrar an-Nutaqa and is divided into five chapters.
7. ar-Rida fi'l-Batin - it is the prescription of shariat based on the relevant verses of Quran. The subjects are salat, sawm, tajdid-al bayat etc. This work deserves careful study because in his speculation the author continually touches on the matters of the organisation of the da'wat system, on which Ismaili authors are generally not talkative.
8. Sirat lbn Hawshab.
9. Ta'wil al-huruf al-mu'jama.
10. Tawil surat an-Nisa.
11. Kitab al-Alim wa'l Ghulam.
12. Kitab al-Adilla.
The last two are sometimes added to his writings. His biography of his father or grand-father Mansur al-Yaman seems to have been lost. The period of Imam Mu'izz would be barren without the intellectual, philosophical and mystical achievement of this great Da'i Ja'far. He being the chief propagandist, conferred Ismaili Diplomas to those who had been taught and trained for preaching Ismaili Da'wa. One of the orientalists writes: "Had the Ismaili doctrine been able to maintain itself in Egypt in its integrity, it would have involved the civilization of the Muslim world." This shows that the aim of Ja'ffer was to make Egypt a most prosperous and flourishing town of Ismaili Literature and madhhab. In short he had full confidence in himself to the course of propagating Da'wa. This shows he was firm in taking steps, his heart resolute and vision clear. He was a man undoubtedly dear to Imam and public.
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