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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Abu Abdullah al-Shi'i was hailed from Kufa. He espoused Ismailism by the hand of da'i Firuz. Imam Radi Abdullah sent him to Ibn Hawshab in Yamen for further training in esoteric doctrines as well as affairs of the state, where he stayed for a year. Ibn Hawshab then sent him towards Maghrib.

Abu Abdullah set out from Yamen in 279/892. He arrived in Mecca during pilgrimage, where he contacted the Katama pilgrims of Maghrib and exhorted them the merits of Ahl al-Bayt. The pilgrims were pleased to know that Abu Abdullah was heading towards Egypt, which was on their route to the Maghrib. After a short stay in Egypt, he reached Maghrib in the Katama homeland on 14th Rabi I, 280/June 3, 893. He established his base in Ikjan near Satif, a mountain stronghold, where he spent seven years in propagating the cause of Ahl al-Bayt among the Berber tribes. Very soon the tribesmen in the vicinity began to trek to Ikjan.

The news of his popularity began to filter through to the Aghlabid ruler, Ibrahim bin Ahmad, who wrote to his governor of Meila to subdue him, but of no avail. Feeling full confident of his strength, Abu Abdullah began to wave of conquests. In 289/901, Ibrahim bin Ahmad dispatched a large army under his grandson, who made success to some extent. A number of Katama leaders, wary of Aghlabid inroads into their country, sought to banish Abu Abdullah and in the ensuing battle, he gained upper hand. Ibrahim bin Ahmad died in 291/903 and was succeeded by his son, Ziadatullah. Abu Abdullah captured Tahirt and his followers built living quarters around it.

After consolidating his position in the Katama country, Abu Abdullah advanced to Meila, which surrendered after a brief resistance. He then marched on Satif. With the conquest of this city, Abu Abdullah openly declared the purpose of his mission that: - "I am propagating for God, the Almighty, the Exalted, for His Book and for Imam al-Mahdi from the progeny of the Apostle of God." Ziadatullah sent a large force to curb Abu Abdullah's power. The two armies met at Billizma. This new encounter resulted in two more cities, Billizma and Tubna, falling into the hands of Abu Abdullah.

Abu Abdullah was confident that the framework of the state was clearly emerging with good result. He, therefore, deputed some prominent leaders of Katama tribe led by his brother, Abul Abbas in Salamia, and sent an invitation to Imam al-Mahdi for Maghrib to take over the reign of government.

Abu Abdullah conquered whole Maghrib within 16 years in 296/909 and routed the Aghlabid rule of 112 years. Six days later he entered the Aghlabid capital, Raqada which was about six miles south of Kairwan on 1st Rajab, 296/March 26, 909 and relieved Abul Abbas in Tripoli. He started the Fatimid khutba and the Shi'ite formula was used in the call to prayer. After setting a new fabric of administration, Abu Abdullah made preparations to march to Sijilmasa, where he reached after an arduous journey. The situation was rather tricky, since Imam al-Mahdi was imprisoned and his wrong move might have endangered the life of the Imam. Thus, he sent a peace mission to the governor, asking to release Imam al-Mahdi. The governor killed the messenger; therefore, Abu Abdullah had no choice but to engage in warfare. In a brief encounter, the governor fled and his army dispersed. Abu Abdullah then triumphantly entered Sijilmasa and liberated Imam and his son.

Abu Abdullah saw his Imam for the first time. There was immense rejoicing amongst the troops while beholding the Imam. The followers crowded around the horses of Imam and his son, al-Qaim and Abu Abdullah walked in front. Abu Abdullah dismounted, and said to the people: "This is the Lord, mine and thine, and your Wali al-Amr, your Imam-i Zaman and your Mahdi, on whose behalf I preached you. God has fulfilled His promise about him, and assisted his supporters and troops. He is your Ulul Amr."

Imam al-Mahdi embarked for Raqada via Ikjan along with Abu Abdullah. Imam al-Mahdi arrived in Raqada on 20th Rabi II, 297/January 6, 910 and laid the foundation of the Fatimid Caliphate. All the notables, both Arabs and non-Arabs without exception and many other people came out to receive him. He took oath of allegiance from them. He assumed power and ordered his name mentioned in the khutba and inscribed on coins. He began to develop the barren land of Maghrib.

During the first few months of his rule, Imam al-Mahdi began to consolidate all powers and made drastic changes. Abul Abbas, the brother of Abu Abdullah did not like the whole power in the hands of the Imam. He also began to instigate his brother, Abu Abdullah and eventually convinced him to some extent to confront Imam al-Mahdi.

Once Abu Abdullah dared to suggest the Imam to sit aside with all honours, while he would run the affairs of his state for him in a way that was suitable to the people, for he had known the people for a long time. This gesture warned the Imam of the change that had taken place in Abu Abdullah's character. When Abu Abdullah wavered in his absolute loyalty, the Imam did not waste much time in eliminating him. The Imam had his spies planted where both brothers met, and ultimately, both of them were killed on 15th Jamada II, 298/February 18, 911. Imam al-Mahdi offered the funeral service of Abu Abdullah to glorify his glowing services and said: "Abu Abdullah was caught in delusion. The real traitor was Abul Abbas."

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