Abdullah al-Aftah

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Abdullah al-Aftah ibn Ja'far al-Sadiq (d.766 CE / 149 A.H.)[1] was the eldest surviving son of Ja'far al-Sadiq (after al-Sadiq’s death) and the full-brother of Isma'il ibn Jafar.[2] Abdullah’s title "al-Aftah" derives from the Arabic words "aftah al-ra’s" (broad-headed) or "aftah al-rijlayn" (broad-footed) used to describe his appearance.[3]

During the lifetime of his father, Abdullah al-Aftah had supported the revolt of his relative Muhammad ibn Abdallah An-Nafs Az-Zakiyya.[4]

Following Ja'far al-Sadiq’s death, the majority of Ja'far’s followers accepted Abdullah al-Aftah as their new Imam. These followers were known as the Fathites and, according to the Mu'tazili heresiographer Abul-Qasim al-Balkhi al-Ka‘bi (d.319 A.H. / 931 CE), they were the biggest and most important section of the followers of Ja'far al-Sadiq.[5] To support his claims, Abdullah al-Aftah seems to have claimed a 2nd Nass from his father (following Ismā'īl's demise) and his adherents cited a supposed Hadith from Ja'far al-Sadiq to the effect that the Imamate must be transmitted through the eldest son of the Imam. However, when Abdullah al-Aftah died childless[6][7] about 70 days after the death of his father, the bulk of his supporters went over to his brother Musa al-Kadhim.[8] Other Fathites considered Abdullah al-Aftah the 7th Imam and Musa al-Kadhim the 8th Imam,[7] while others believed the Imamate came to an end when Abdullah al-Aftah died.[5] Another group invented a son for Abdullah al-Aftah, called Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Aftah, because they unconditionally believed the Imamate could only be inherited from father to son, rather than from brother to brother. This group also claimed that Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Aftah was the promised Mahdi.

Some believers continued from Abdullah al-Aftah. As the family continued to grow, an original family tree (Arabic - زاد كان سيدنا شجره) of Muhammad from Imam Jaf’ar as Sadiq and his elder son Abdullah was given the title Sayed. This extensive family tree now extend to the 31st generation, and more than 100 surviving families throughout most continents.[citation needed]


Abdullah al-Aftah
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Shia Islam titles
Preceded by
Ja'far al-Sadiq
7th Imam of Fathite Shia Islam
765–766 CE
Succeeded by
died without issue
Succeeded by
Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Aftah
(existence disputed)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shi'ism, By Heinz Halm, pg.30
  2. ^ The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines, By Farhad Daftary, pg.94
  3. ^ Islamic messianism: the idea of Mahdī in twelver Shīʻism, By Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina, pg.40
  4. ^ Medieval Islamic political thought, By Patricia Crone, pg.114
  5. ^ a b Medieval Islamic political thought, By Patricia Crone, pg.116
  6. ^ Medieval Islamic political thought, By Patricia Crone, pg.203
  7. ^ a b Shi'ism, By Heinz Halm, pg.29
  8. ^ The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines, By Farhad Daftary, pg.94