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Al-Nawbakhti Family

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Al-Nawbakhti Family
Era The middle of the 2nd/8th to the early 5th/11th centuries
Lineage Nawbakht
Origin Iran
Residence Baghdad
Well-known Figures
Figures Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti (one of the Four Deputies)
Scholars Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti, , and Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti, the author of Firaq al-Shi'a.

Nawbakhtī Family (Arabic: آل نوبخت) is a well-known Iranian, Shi'a family of prominent figures, such as astronomers, men of literature, theologians, scripters, and authors, from the middle of the 2nd/8th to the early 5th/11th centuries. Some of the best-known members of this family include Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti, Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti (one of the Four Deputies), and Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti, the author of Firaq al-Shi'a.

The Lineage of the Family

The ancestor of the family, Nawbakht, was an astronomer. His son, Abu Sahl, mentioned four of his grandfathers when he wanted to introduce himself to the caliph, al-Mansur al-'Abbasi. It seems that members of the family attributed themselves to Giw, the son of Gudarz, the mythical hero of Khudaynama and Shahnama after they were well-known by people; as the famous poet, Abu 'Ubada al-Buhturi, composed an Arabic poem in the praise of two Nawbakhti people and returned their lineage back to "Judharz" (i.e. Gudarz) and "Bib" (i.e. Giw). However, their attribution to Gudarz and Giw seems inaccurate.

In his Muruj al-dhahab, 'Ali b. Husayn al-Mas'udi said that al-Mansur, the second Abbasid caliph valued astronomers so much and practiced astronomical rulings. The astronomer, Nawbakht, who was a Majus, became close to him and converted to Islam, with his inspirations. He was the ancestor of Nawbakhtis (in the period of al-Qahir). Other sources also confirm that Nawbakht, al-Mansur's astronomer, was the ancestor of Nawbakhtis. For example, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi wrote: "al-Mansur founded Baghdad at a time and an hour determined by Nawbakht, the astronomer". And Abu Rayhan al-Biruni wrote: "Nawbakht was in charge of determining the appropriate time for the foundation of Baghdad".

In his list of what happened in 145/762, al-Tabari wrote about the uprising of Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan, known as Qatil Bakhamra, that Ibrahim's army defeated al-Mansur's forces at first, and al-Mansur was about to end the battle. However, Nawbakht predicted that his enemy would be killed and al-Mansur would win the battle. It was at this time that the news of the failure of the uprising was heard.

Abu Sahl b. Nawbakht

After the death of his father, Abu Sahl b. Nawbakht became al-Mansur al-'Abbasi's astronomer. According to al-Qifti in his Tarikh al-hukama' , his name was very long. Thus, the caliph chose the name, Abu Sahl, for him with which he came to be known since then.

According to Ibn Nadim, Abu Sahl b. Nawbakht's knowledge came from Persian sources. He translated them into Arabic. He also wrote books which are mentioned in Ibn Nadim's al-Fihrist, such as the book, al-Nahmatan or al-Yahbatan concerning the astronomy.

Abu Sahl was alive until the period of Harun al-Rashid. According to Ibn Nadim, he worked in Harun's "Khazanat al-Hikma" (Treasury of Wisdom).

Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti

Main article: Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti

Isma'il b. 'Ali b. Ishaq b. Abi Sahl b. Nawbakht (b. 237/851-852 – d. Shawwal, 311/January,924), known as Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti, was a well-known Imami theologian who lived in Baghdad. In the period of the Minor Occultation, he was a leader and high-ranking supporter of Imamiyya in Baghdad. He had a special place among Imami laypeople. He devoted most of his scholarly work to the issue of imamate, and in particular, the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam (a).

Abu Sahl met the Twelfth Imam (a) when the Imam was a child. He also closely worked with Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti when he was the Imam's (a) deputy.

Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti

Abu l-Qasim Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti (b. ? - d. 326/938) was the third special deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a). He was a confidant of Muhammad b. 'Uthman (the second deputy of the Imam (a)) and one of his close companions in Baghdad. He was also a companion of Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a). In the last days of his life, Muhammad b. 'Uthman appointed him as the Imam's (a) deputy at the command of the Imam (a) himself. After that, Shi'as went to him to give money to the Imam (a). He was a deputy for 21 years.

Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti

Abu Muhammad Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti was an Imami theologian and philosopher in the 3rd/9th and 4th/10th centuries. He was one of the first Muslim scholars who wrote about different religions and denominations. He studied with Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti.

In the period of Occultation, al-Nawbakhti made intellectual arguments for the beliefs of the Imamiyya, drawing upon his knowledge of philosophical approaches and the principles of different denominations. He debated some of the well-known Mu'tazili and Imami theologians, such as Abu 'Ali al-Juba'i, Abu l-Qasim al-Balkhi, Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah b. Mumallak al-Isfahani, and ibn Qiba al-Razi.

Al-Nawbakhti wrote many works some of which were available until the 7th/13th century. The only work of his which is available today is Firaq al-Shi'a.