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Al-Hasan b. Zayd b. Muhammad

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Al-Hasan b. Zayd b. Muhammad
Full Name Hasan b. Zayd b. Muhammad b. Isma'il b. Zayd b. Hasan (a) b. 'Ali (a)
Epithet al-Da'i al-Kabir (Arabic: الداعي الکبیر, the great preacher), al-Da'i al-Awwal (Arabic: الداعي الأول; the first preacher)
Well-known As A Zaydi Shi'a and the founder of the 'Alawid Dynasty in Tabaristan
Religious Affiliation Zaydiyya
Lineage Hasani Sayyids
Place of Birth Medina
Places of Residence Tabaristan and Rey
Death/Martyrdom Rajab 3, 270/January 10, 884
Burial Place Tabaristan
Era Abbasid
Notable roles the founder of the 'Alawid Dynasty in Tabaristan in the 3rd/9th century
Activities Established his government in Tabaristan and Rey

Ḥasan b. Zayd b. Muḥammad (Arabic: حسن بن زید بن محمد), (b. ? d Rajab 3, 270/January 10, 884) known as al-Dāʿī al-Kabīr (Arabic: الداعي الکبیر, the great preacher), al-Dāʿī al-Awwal (Arabic: الداعي الأول; the first preacher), and al-Dāʿī ila l-Ḥaqq (Arabic: الداعي إلی الحق; the preacher to the truth), was a Zaydi Shi'a, the founder of the 'Alawid Dynasty in Tabaristan in the 3rd/9th century, and one of the Hasani Sayyids. Hasan b. Zayd moved to Tabaristan at the request of people there, started the 'Alawid Dynasty there, and propagated Zaydiyya in this area. He established his government by defeating the Tahirid Dynasty in Tabaristan and Rey, but he was defeated in his battle with the Abbasid army. He regained his government after the death of al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi. He is said to be a pious and generous jurisprudent, although he was harsh against his opponents.

Biography and Lineage

His father was Zayd b. Muhammad b. Isma'il b. Zayd b. Hasan b. 'Ali, one of Hasani Sayyids in Medina, and his mother was the daughter of 'Abd Allah b. 'Ubayd Allah al-A'raj. Hasan b. Zayd lived in Medina when he was young. He probably took part in Yahya b. 'Umar's uprising. When the uprising was quenched and al-Mutawakkil, the Abbasid caliph, adopted stricter policies against the Alawids, Sayyids in Hijaz and Iraq migrated to central parts of Iran. It was in this period when Hasan b. Zayd moved to Rey and lived there.


According to Ibn Athir, Hasan b. Zayd was a scholar of fiqh (jurisprudence) and he was generous. Every year he sent 1000 dinars to a pious man in Baghdad so that he could distribute them among 'Alawis in the city. Hasan b. Zayd also tried to keep Shiite rituals alive. For example, he ordered the recitation of the phrase, "Hayy 'ala khayr al-'amal" (حی علی خیر العمل) in Adhan, prohibited wiping one's shoes in the wudu', and strongly opposed proponents of jabr (predestination), tashbih (anthropomorphism about God), and the eternity of the Qur'an. He had sent a circular against such views to different areas. He was harsh against his opponents, and he was criticized because of this.

Hasan b. Zayd was physically strong. Al-Safadi said, probably on the basis of the book, Akhbar al-khulafa' by al-Sawli, that Hasan b. Zayd was a poet and a critic of poems. He cited some poems attributed to Hasan b. Zayd.

Establishment and Leadership of the Alawid Dynasty in Tabaristan

Request by People of Tabaristan

When a riot happened in Tabaristan in 250/864, some people were told by an Alawi resident of Tabaristan to go to Rey and ask Hasan b. Zayd to undertake their leadership. He accepted the request and moved to Tabaristan. Most of the people in Tabaristan and local rulers of Daylaman, such as Justanids, pledged their allegiance to him in Ramadan, 250 /October, 864).

Conquest of Tabaristan

In order to remove Tahirids from Tabaristan, Hasan b. Zayd launched an attack on Amol at first. After the conquest of Amol, he went towards Sari. After the conquest of Sari, the whole Tabaristan was conquered by Hasan b. Zayd.

Conquest of Rey: soon after that, Hasan b. Zayd sent an army to conquer Rey under the commandership of one of his relatives who was his namesake. The commander entered the city, ousted its Tahirid ruler, and appointed Muhammad b. Ja'far al-'Alawi as the ruler of Rey and then returned to Tabaristan. Muhammad b. Ja'far's government did not last long. People's dissatisfaction prepared the path for the return of the Tahirids, but Hasan b. Zayd's commanders retook Rey. Thus, the whole Tabaristan and a vast part of Daylam and Rey were conquered by Hasan b. Zayd. He then propagated his sect, Zaydiyya, by sending his missionaries to Damavand, Firuzkuh, and the suburbs of Rey.

Battle with the Abbasid Caliph: the expanding conquests of Hasan b. Zayd and his popularity among people of Kufa and Samarra terrified the Abbasid Caliph, al-Mu'tazz. In 253/867, the caliph sent an army to Tabaristan under the commandership of Musa b. Bugha in order to oust Hasan b. Zayd from power. However, with the death of the caliph, the battle was left unfinished. Hasan b. Zayd retook Rey one year later. He also annexed Gorgan and Qumis to his territories, respectively, in 257/871 and 259/873.

War with Ya'qub b. al-Layth: in 260/874, Ya'qub b. al-Layth invaded Tabaristan under the pretext of arresting 'Abd Allah b. Muhammad al-Sajzi who had rioted against him and Hasan b. Zayd had refrained from extraditing him. At the beginning of the battle, Hasan b. Zayd fled to Daylam mountains. However, continuous showers of rains which lasted for 40 days led to Ya'qub's retreat. In 261/875 when Ya'qub went back to Sistan, Hasan b. Zayd returned to Tabaristan. At his command, the city of Chalus was set on fire because its people had supported Ya'qub.

War with Ahmad b. 'Abd Allah al-Khujistani: in 266/879 when Tabaristan was peaceful, Ahmad b. 'Abd Allah al-Khujistani, a Saffarid ruler, invaded Gorgan. With this surprise attack, Hasan b. Zayd was defeated and moved to Amol. In the meanwhile, Hasan al-'Aqiqi, who was Hasan b. Zayd's representative in Sari, claimed that Hasan was murdered and thus, he called people to pledge their allegiance to him. Hasan b. Zayd went to Sari and killed Hasan al-'Aqiqi.

Significance among the Zaydiyya

In the official tradition of Zaydiyya, Hasan b. Zayd is not considered as an Imam. Because of his behaviors, some Zaydis in Tabaristan wrote a letter to Abu Ja'far al-Zubara, the ancestor of Banu Zubara Family of Niyshapur, who was in Medina. They complained about Hasan b. Zayd's behaviors, and asked him to go to Tabaristan and be their Imam. Abu Ja'far al-Zubara went to Tabaristan, but some people broke their pledges with him. He was defeated in battles with Hasan b. Zayd and had to escape to Aveh and live there.


Before his death, Hasan b. Zayd selected his brother, Muhammad, as his successor. He died of an illness in Rajab or Sha'ban, 270/January or February, 884. His only child was a girl who died before the age of marriage.