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Full NameMuhammad b. Ali b. Abi l-'Azaqir
Well-known AsAl-Shalmaghani
Religious AffiliationGhali
Place of BirthWasit
Places of ResidenceWasit, Baghdad, Syria
Cause of Deathexecution
Burial PlaceHis body was burned
EraAbbasid dynasty, Muqtadir and Qahir
Notable rolesSecretary of Abbasied dynasty.
WorksAl-Taklif, Al-Ta'dib, ...

Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. ʾAbī l-ʿAzāqir (Arabic: محمد بن علي بن ابي العزاقر), best known as al-Shalmaghānī (Arabic: الشَّلمَغانی), was one of the companions of Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a) and one of Shi'a narrators during the minor Occultation period in Baghdad. He was in charge for dealing with some Shi'a's issues for a short time during the absence of Husayn b. Ruh -the third deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a). It is said that his envy of Husayn b. Ruh's status made him reject and abandon Shi'a beliefs. He ignored Imam al-Mahdi's orders and joined other sects and groups. He lied about his deputy-ship of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and claimed that the spirit of God has incarnated in his body and called himself "the holy spirit". Finally, Imam al-Mahdi (a) cursed him and after a while he was hanged by the order of the Abbasid caliph of that time.


He was born in Shalmaghan, a village near Wasit, Iraq. He was a Qur'an reciter there. After a while he moved to Baghdad, joined Abbasid government and worked as secretary (writer) in Abbasid court. He was one of Shi'a jurists and authored several books in Shi'a jurisprudence and also in theology. His works were honored and very well received by Shi'a before his rejection of Shi'a beliefs.

During Deputyship of Husayn b. Ruh

According to some historical accounts, when Husayn b. Ruh became the deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a), he appointed al-Shalmaghani to be in charge of Shi'a affairs in Baghdad and especially in Banu Bastam and to supervise two representative of the Imam in Kufa, Zajuzi and Razi. In contrary to these reports, al-Shaykh al-Tusi has narrated a hadith from Abu Ali Muhammad b. Hammam that Muhammad b. Ali al-Shalmaghani was never put in charge by Ibn Ruh for these affairs and whoever claims this has gone the wrong way.

Whether the reports about his appointment by Husayn b. Ruh is true or not, it is certain that al-Shalmaghani had a high status in Baghdad and supervised Shi'a activities in Baghdad and Kufa for years. However, after a while he broke his allegiance with Husayn b. Ruh and propagated his beliefs and joined Ghulat (exaggerators).

Giving reason for his action, It is said that he was famous for his impatient hunger for political power and after that Husayn b. Ruh was chosen as the deputy of the Imam, he lost his hope in reaching the power in near future, so he rejected Imam's words and orders, and started to follow other sects and groups to gain the power he was seeking.

Husayn b. Ruh and al-Shalmaghani's Deviation

Al-Shalmaghani did not leave the Imam and Shi'a beliefs right after his deviation. Several accounts narrate that he misused his status as the deputy of Ibn Ruh to spread his atheistic and Ghali (exaggerative) beliefs among Shi'a. When he revealed his belief about incarnation to some of his representatives, he ask them not to tell anybody about that as it was a true belief.

It seems that Umm Kulthum, a female Shi'a propagator in Banu Bastam, informed Ibn Ruh about al-Shalmaghani's deviation. Ibn Ruh ordered her to stop her relations and meetings with them. The exact date of this event is unknown, however, according to Ibn Athir, his deviation started during the vizierate of Hamid b. 'Abbas between 306/918-9 to 311/923-4. This account is consistent with al-Shaykh al-Tusi's report which says that al-Shalmaghani strayed before 312/924-5.

Ibn Ruh's Reaction

After that Husayn b. Ruh realized that al-Shalmaghani adheres to Ghulat (exaggerators') beliefs, he deposed him from his position. Ibn Ruh announced - first in banu Nawbakht and then among all Shi'a - that he has atheist beliefs. The representatives of Banu Bastam in Baghdad ignored Ibn Ruh's orders and listened to al-Shalmaghani. Thus, Ibn Ruh revealed al-Shalmaghani's secret beliefs to all Shi'a and rejected him and his followers.

This revelation by Ibn Ruh indicates that many representatives in Baghdad and other Shi'a were influenced by al-Shalmaghani.

Having been rejected, al-Shalmaghani propagated that he was the true deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a), not Ibn Ruh. He tried to gain political and financial positions by spreading this belief and also the idea of the incarnation of God (hulul) in the bodies of the prophets and Imams.

His Beliefs

His Ghali (exaggerative) tendencies, such as incarnation of God, are clear in attributed words to him. He believed that God has appeared in human shape. In other words, God incarnated in Adam (a) and then the following prophets and after the Prophet Muhammad (s) in the bodies of Imams (a) and after the last Imam - Imam al-Mahdi (a) - in his own (al-Shalmaghani) body, and on the other hand Satan incarnates in the body of wicked people. According to his opinion, God wanted to prove his existence and exaltedness by incarnation.

Muhammad b. Hammam narrated that he heard al-Shalmaghani saying, "Reality (God) is one, but has various forms, one day it is white, the other red or blue."

Ibn Hammam said, "It was the sentence that made me reject al-Shalmaghani; because he believed in Hululiyyah (incarnation)."

According to another narration, al-Shalmaghani tried to convince some Shi'a clans, especially Banu Bastam, and their representatives to accept incarnation and reincarnation (transmigration of souls).

After a while, he said that the soul of the Prophet (s) has reincarnated in the body of Muhammad b. 'Uthman, the second deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a), and the soul of Imam Ali (a) in the body of Ibn Ruh and the soul of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) in the body of Umm Kulthum, Muhammad b. 'Uthman's daughter. He asked his representatives not to reveal this secret as it was "a true belief."

His Motivation

By spreading his beliefs, he tried to get people to support him and also prepare them for reaching the promised time. He spread his propaganda among the high ranked Abbasid officials and colonels, and gathered considerable number of adherents from them among which were: Ahmad b. Muhammad b. 'Ubdus, Ibrahim b. Abi 'Uwn - the author of al-Tashbihat - Ibn Shabib al-Zayyat, Abu Ja'far b. Bastam and Abu Ali b. Bastam who were all secretaries (writers) in the government at that time.

In 312/924-5, Husayn b. Furat - the son of the vizier - joined him and let his adherent to infiltrate to Abbasid gatherings and circles. In addition to this Husayn b. Ghasim b. 'Ubayd Allah b. Wahb - who was vizier during 319-320/931-2 -932-3 - was one his adherents.

Imam al-Mahdi's Letter

In 312/924, when the third deputy - Husayn b. Ruh - was imprisoned, al-Shalmaghani seized the opportunity and extended his propagational activities among Shi'a, who have not yet received an answer from their Imam about him. Thus, Imam sent Husayn b. Ruh this letter:

"… Muhammad b. Ali, known as al-Shalmaghani, is one those who Allah hastens their punishments and gives them no time. He has gone astray from Islam and disconnected from it. He has apostatized from the God's religion and has atheistic claims. He lies and falsifies, speaks of wrong and is a great wrongdoer. Whoever attribute wrong to God is in an absolute mistake and a manifest loss. Indeed, we state our repudiation [of al-Shalmaghani] and turn to God almighty, the Prophet and his household - peace and blessing of God be upon them. We curse him - God's curses be upon him secretly and openly, every time and in every state; and be upon his followers, adherents and whoever reaches him this message, though they continue their adherence to him."

Let them (people or Shi'a elite) know that we avoid and keep away from him, like what we did to his proceeding peers: al-Shari'i, al-Numayri, al-Hilali, al-Bilali and the others.

We are content to the God's traditions. God is enough for us in all our issues and is the best protector."

According to al-Shaykh al-Tusi's narration, Muhammad b. Hammam took this message from Ibn Ruh in prison and spread it among all the representatives of Baghdad and other cities so that it became well-known among Shi'a.

Al-Shalmaghani's Escape

According to Ibn Athir, as Ibn Ruh revealed al-Shalmaghani's secret beliefs, Abbasid government tried to arrest him. In 313/925-6, Khaqani, the Abbasid vizier, arrested and imprisoned many of his adherents and followers.

Al-Shalmaghani fled to Mosul and sought asylum from its governor, Nadr al-Dawlah Hasan b. 'Abd Allah b. Hamdan. He lived in a village near Mosul called Mu'lathaya. During his stay in that village, he narrated all his books to Abu 'Abd Allah al-Shaybani, who was a Shi'a narrator (Muhaddith) living in Nawbakhtiyya village near Baghdad, but he later strayed from Shi'a.

Infiltration into Abbasid

In 316/928, al-Shalmaghani returned to Baghdad secretly so that he could contact his followers directly. His activities was extended among Abbasid and this advancement was probably a sign of his power seeking desire.

In 319/931 Husayn b. Ghasim b. 'Ubayd Allah b. Wahb, one of al-Shalmaghani's adherents, was promoted to vizierate and his name was mint on the coins next to the name of Muqtadir the Caliph. Using his position, Ibn Wahb gave al-Shalmaghani's adherents promotions, but after a year he was dismissed as Qahir became Caliph (r. 320/932-3 - 322/933-4). The new Caliph exiled Ibn Wahb to al-Raqqa, Syria for his relations with al-Shalmaghani.


Al-Shalmaghani had authored several books, some of which were written before his deviation and were reliable books among Shi'a.

  1. Al-Taklif: al-Shalmaghani wrote this book when he was a righteous Shi'a. A group of Shi'a from Baghdad took this book to Husayn b. Ruh. He read it and said, "Except for two or three points, he (al-Shalmaghani) has narrated the rest of the book from Imams (a) and there is nothing in it that oppose Shar' (Islam)." After that al-Shalmaghani deviated, a group of Shi'a came to Husayn b. Ruh and asked, "What should we do with al-Shalmaghani's books?" Ibn Ruh replied, "I give you the same answer that Abu Muhammad Hasan b. Ali al-'Askari (a) gave Shi'a about the books of Bani Faddal; he said, "Accept what they have narrated, and leave what they have believed."
  2. Al-Ta'dib: Husayn b. Ruh sent this book to narrators and scholars of Qom. They confirmed all the book except for a ruling about giving a Sa' (measurement unit almost equal to three kilograms) of food for Zakat al-Fitra.
  3. Al-Awsiya': al-Shaykh al-Tusi has mentioned it in his book [[al-Ghayba].
  4. Al-Ghayba: al-Shaykh al-Tusi has mentioned it in his book al-Ghayba.
  5. Al-Hassat al-sadisa (the sixth sense): this book contained religious rulings for his followers and apparently it was about refuting the previous religions.
  6. Risalat ila Ibn Hammam
  7. Mahiyyat al-'Isma
  8. Al-Zahir bi l-hujaj al-'aqliyya
  9. Al-Mubahala
  10. Al-Ma'arif
  11. Al-Idah
  12. Fadl al-nutq 'ala al-samt and 8 other books.

In addition to these works, al-Shalmaghani authored books in industry and alchemy.

However, non of these books are available presently.


The Caliph, Qahir, arrested his like-minded Ghalis especially from Banu Bastam and confiscated their properties. Finally in 323/934-5, al-Shalmaghani was arrested. He and some other leaders of the movement such as: Ibn Abi 'Awn, were tortured and executed. Their bodies were burned in Dar al-Shurtah (police headquarters) the west of Baghdad.


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from شلمغانی in Farsi Wikishia.