Jul 3 2022
Companion of: Imam al-‘Askari (a.s), Imam al-Mahdi (a.s)
Teknonym: Abu l-Qasim
Burial Place: Baghdad
Professors: Muhammad b. ‘Uthman
Activities: The third special deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s)
Abu l-Qāsim Ḥusayn b. Rūḥ al-Nawbakhtī (ابوالقاسم الحسين بن روح النوبختي) was the third special deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s). He was the trusted and a close friend of Muhammad b. ‘Uthman (the second deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s)). Muhammad b. ‘Uthman, at the command of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s), introduced him as his successor in the last days of his life.
At the beginning of his deputyship, he had a good and respectable status in the Abbasid court. However, he faced some troubles later and was forced to live in hiding and was imprisoned for five years. One of the most important incidents during the life of al-Husayn b. Ruh is the case of al-Shalmaghani who was a trusted agent of him, however, al-Shalmaghani held deviant ideas later which led to a handwriting issued by Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) cursing him.
Al-Husayn b. Ruh’s scholarly position has been considered to be outstanding due to his jurisprudential books and his complete expertise in scientific debates. He was the special deputy of Imam (a.s) for twenty-one years (305/918 – 326/938).
It is not known when he was born. His teknonym is Abu l-Qasim, and his epithet has been mentioned in sources as al-Nawbakhti, al-Ruhi, and al-Qummi. Speaking with Farsi dialect the of city of Abih (next to Saveh) and his close relation with the people of this city have been mentioned as the reasons why some believe he was from Qom. However, he is famous as al-Nawbakhti in most sources. It is said that he was affiliated to al-Nawbakhti Family from his mother’s side. Some have said he was from al-Nawbakhti branch in Qom who migrated to Baghdad in the time of the first deputy (‘Uthman b. Sa’id).
Relationship with Imam al-‘Askari (a.s)
There are disagreements among reports if al-Husayn b. Ruh was among the companions of Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s). In al-Manaqib, Ibn Shahrashub mentioned him among the companions and the special assistant of Imam al-‘Askari (a.s); but other scholars of rijal did not mention anything in this regard. Also, some believe that it is difficult to accept this report because Imam al-‘Askari (a.s) was martyred in 260/874, while al-Nawbakhti passed away in 326/936.
Al-Husayn b. Ruh was among the wisest people of his time and knew all about the circumstances of his time. In interactions with opposers of Shi’a, he practiced taqiyya (precautionary dissimulation) so much that he dismissed one of his servants because of cursing Mu’awiya.
What promoted al-Husayn b. Ruh to this position was his merits and competences which made him worthy of the position of deputyship. According to Umm Kulthum, daughter of Muhammad b. ‘Uthman, al-Husayn b. Ruh was among the close ones to Muhammad b. ‘Uthman and he told al-Husayn b. Ruh about secret issues. About the secret-keeping of al-Husayn b. Ruh, Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti said that if he hid Imam (a.s) under his clothes and they cut him to pieces to show Imam (a.s), he would not do that.
After the demise of the second deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) in 305/917, al-Husayn b. Ruh was appointed as the deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s). Before that, he was the trusted financial agent of Muhammad b. ‘Uthman and he had appointed al-Husayn b. Ruh as his liaison with other agents in Baghdad.
Although the agents of the second deputy of Imam (a.s) were about ten people, but when Muhammad b. ‘Uthman was ill, appointed al-Husayn b. Ruh as his deputy and the representative of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) and asked Shi’a personalities to refer to him after his demise. According to al-‘Allama al-Majlisi, when the second deputy passed away, al-Husayn b. Ruh sat in his house and the servant of Muhammad b. ‘Uthman handed the box containing the trusts of Imamate to al-Husayn b. Ruh. On Shawwal 5, 305/March 26, 918, a letter was issued by Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) for approval of al-Husayn b. Ruh.
From some reports, it can be learned that the position of al-Husayn b. Ruh, was known among Shi’a, despite the first and second deputies, so that some Shi’a decided to disregard their regional agents and directly contact the third deputy.
Proxies and Agents
With the cooperation of ten proxies in Baghdad and other agents in other Islamic regions, al-Husayn b. Ruh began his activities as the deputy of Imam (a.s). The names of some of his agents and proxies are as follows:
- Muhammad b. Nafis in Ahvaz, who received and distributed the statement of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) about al-Husayn b. Ruh
- Ja’far b. Ahmad b. Matil
- Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Katib
- Ahmad b. Matil
- Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Nawbakhti
- Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti
- Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Sayrafi in Balkh
- Muhammad b. Ja’far al-Asadi al-Razi in Rey
- Al-Hasan b. Ali al-Wijna’ al-Nasibi in Nusaybin
- Muhammad b. Hammam al-Iskafi
- Al-Qasim b. ‘Ala’ in Azerbaijan
- Muhammad b. Ali al-Shalmaghani who later went astray and was dismissed of agency.
Position in the Abbasid Court
During the life of Muhammad b. ‘Uthman, al-Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti had a great influence on Abbasid court and received financial aids from officials. After receiving the position of deputyship at the time of al-Muqtadir, he had a good influence on Abbasid government and was respected by them. It was because of the influence of al-Nawbakhti family and also the ministry of Abu l-Hasan ‘Ali b. Muhammad of Al Furat family who were supporters of Shi’a. According to Umm Kulthum, daughter of Muhammad b. ‘Uthman, during the mentioned period, al-Husayn b. Ruh received some properties from Al Furat family. Another reason for the position of al-Husayn b. Ruh in the court was his cautious stances; as he tried to keep himself away from the troubles of that period such as that of Qaramata’s.
However, after Hamid b. al-‘Abbas became the minister who supported opposers of Shi’a, al-Husayn b. Ruh faced some troubles.
Some sources have reported that after al-Husayn b. Ruh was appointed as a deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s), he had to go into hiding. The exact time and period are not known; however, it was possibly from 306/918-19 to 311/923-24 when Hamid b. al-‘Abbas was vizier. During this time, according to al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Shalmaghani was put in contact with the people. There is not much information about this period.
Al-Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti was in prison of al-Muqtadir from 312/924-25 to 317/929. In Shi’a sources, no reason is mentioned for the imprisonment of al-Husayn b. Ruh, but Sunni sources mentioned two reasons:
- His avoidance of paying properties to the government
- Associating with Qaramata who ruled over Bahrain at that time.
Some contemporary researchers mentioned that the reason for his imprisonment was his fame in deputyship, association with Shi’a, his fame in organizing their affairs and collecting their letters and delivering them to Imam al-Mahdi (a.s). After he was released from the prison, they could not make trouble for him due to the presence of famous people from al-Nawbakhti family in important positions of the government.
Story of al-Shalmaghani
Al-Shalmaghani was among Shi’a scholars and close people to al-Husayn b. Ruh. After al-Husayn b. Ruh was appointed as the deputy of Imam (a.s), he appointed al-Shalmaghani as his agent and assigned him to the management of Shi’a affairs, so that during the secret life of al-Husayn b. Ruh, letters of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) were received by al-Husayn b. Ruh and distributed by al-Shalmaghani. But, during the imprisonment of al-Husayn b. Ruh, he abused his position and first claimed al-Husayn b. Ruh’s position and later became an apostate and went astray in his beliefs. After it was revealed that he had deviations, al-Husayn b. Ruh informed Shi’a about that from inside the prison and prohibited them from associating with him, so that in 312/924-25, a tawqi’ was issued by Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) in which Imam (a.s) cursed al-Shalmaghani.
Al-Husayn b. Ruh wrote a book in jurisprudence titled as al-Ta’dib and sent it to hadith experts in Qom for evaluation and asked the scholars to mention if there were any points against their views. After evaluation of the book’s content, scholars of Qom approved all of it except one point and sent it back to him.
During his deputyship, he also had debates which are mentioned in details in hadith sources. The answers al-Husayn b. Ruh gave to question in these debates show his competence in religious issues and his scientific position.
He also transmitted some hadiths. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi transmitted al-Ziyarah al-Rajabiyya from al-Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti.
Acts of Wonder
In some sources, some wonders are attributed to al-Husayn b. Ruh. Sometimes, he revealed some signs to prove himself and remove the doubts of the opposers. The letter of ‘Ali b. Babawayh (father of al-Shaykh al-Saduq) to him for having children and asking for the supplication of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s), another letter from Ibn Babawayh for deciding about going to hajj, giving the news about the demise of Ahmad b. Ishaq al-Qummi and giving the news to Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Sayrafi about the missed gold bar are some examples of his wonders.
Abu l-Qasim al-Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti passed away on Sha’ban 18, 326/June 25, 938. The tomb of this great figure is in the region of Nawbakhtiyya in the ‘Attaran market (region of Shurja in Baghdad) which is now being visited by the Shiite.