Muhammad Al-Nafs Al-Zakiyya (D. 762 C.E.)

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Muhammad b. ˓Abdallah b. al-Hasan al-Muthanna died in 762 c.e. Due to his gentle disposition, he was known as al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, which means "the pure soul." At a gathering of the Hashimites held at al-Abwa˒ during the Umayyad dynasty, Muhammad's father, ˓Abdallah, urged those present to accept his son as a claimant to the caliphate and the Mahdi (messiah). With the exception of Ja˓far al-Sadiq, the sixth Shi'ite Imam, most of those present agreed. When the Abbasids came to power they installed Abu ˒l-˓Abbas (known as al-Saffah) as the new ruler, but Muhammad refused to acknowledge his authority.

With his brother Ibrahim, Muhammad instigated a revolt by seeking popular support against the new regime. The two brothers traveled extensively in Islamic lands, enlisting followers. In a desperate attempt at capturing these two renegades, al-Saffah's successor, al-Mansur, imprisoned their aged father and other family members. Since Muhammad was a descendant of the Prophet (through the Prophet's grandson, al-Hasan), many, including the famous jurist Malik b. Anas and the ˓Alids, supported his cause. Muhammad began his revolt against the caliph al-Mansur (d. 775) in Medina, where he had considerable support, while his brother Ibrahim began his revolt in Basra later on. Due to his political activism, many Zaydi Shi˓ites supported Muhammad's movement. At one point Muhammad took over Mecca, anchoring his claims on descent from Fatima, daughter of the Prophet. With only three hundred men, Muhammad was killed in Medina by al-Mansur's greater forces, who were led by ˓Isa b. Musa in 762. Extremist groups such as the Mughiriyya refused to accept his death, believing him to be the eschatological messiah.

See alsoAhl al-Bayt ; Imamate ; Mahdi ; Succession .


Buhl, F. "Muhammad b. ˓Abd Allah al-Nafs al-Zakiyya." In Encyclopedia of Islam, 2d ed. Edited by H. A. R. Gibb, et al. Leiden: Brill, 1960–.

Kennedy, Hugh. The Early Abbasid Caliphate. London: Croom Helm, 1981.

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