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Musha'sha'iyya's territory
Musha'sha'iyya's territory
Era9th/15th and 10th/16th
LineageSayyid Muhammad b. Fallah
OriginWasit Iraq
ResidenceMainly in Baghdad, Basra, and Khuzestan
RulersSayyid Muhammad b. Fallah, Mawla 'Ali b. Sayyid Muhammad, Muhsin b. Muhammad, ...
Well-known Figures
ScholarsSayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri, Nur Allah al-Shushtari
Literates'Ali khan Musha'sha'i Hoveyzavi

Musha'sha'īyya (Arabic: مُشَعْشَعیّة) or Āl Musha'sha’ (Arabic: آل مُشَعْشَع) (reign: 845/1436-914/1508) were a dynasty of Shiite Sufi rulers reigning in Khuzestan from 845/1436 until 914/1508. The dynasty began under the leadership of Sayyid Muhammad b. Fallah (d. 870/1465) and his claim to Mahdawiyya, establishing an independent Shiite government centered in Huveyzeh.

After the emergence of the Safavids, the Musha'sha'a ruled in Khuzestan until 1150/1737 as representatives of the Safavid government.

The Founder

The lineage of Sayyid Muhammad b. Fallah b. Haybat Allah goes back to the Imam al-Kazim (a). He was born in Wasit and was educated in Hillah in the school of Ibn Fahd al-Hilli (757/1356-841/1437). According to sources, Sayyid Muhammad achieved high degrees of scholarship in a short time; he soon received a teaching permission from his master. When Sayyid Muhammad's father died, Ibn Fahd al-Hilli married his mother, and Sayyid Muhammad married Ibn Fahd's daughter.

Muhammad b. Fallah was engaged in asceticism and had Sufi attitudes. Once he stayed for i'tikaf in the Jami' Mosque of Kufa for one year, when his food was a little barley flour and he cried a lot (for the fear of God).

In 840/1436 (one or two years before Ibn Fahd's death), Muhammad b. Fallah claimed that he was the representative of Imam al-Mahdi (a), and thus, his teacher announced that he was a murtad (apostate), ruling that he should be executed. In his book, Kalam al-Mahdi (written in 865/1460), Sayyid Muhammad introduces himself as the representative and deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a) under the description, "this sayyid who is the deputy of the Occluded [Imam]". In addition to introducing himself as the deputy of al-Mahdi (a), he considered himself as the "Imam of the Umma" as well.

The Beginning of the Movement

According to historical sources, Sayyid Muhammad's activities and claims began after his obtainment of his teacher's book concerning occult sciences. He used tricks in the book and displayed extraordinary actions to attract Arabs of Khuzestan to himself, giving himself the title, "al-Mahdi".

Following these events, Shaykh Fahd issued a fatwa to the effect that Muhammad b. Fallah should be executed. He wrote two letters to Amir Mansur b. Qubad Idris al-'Ibadi, encouraging him to kill Sayyid Muhammad by permitting his murder. Upon the reception of the letter, Amir Mansur arrested Sayyid Muhammad. In his defense, Muhammad b. Fallah claimed that he was a Sunni and a Sufi, and that this was why his murder was permitted by the Shi'as. He supported his claim by taking an oath on the Qur'an. With this and other remarks, he finally persuaded Amir Mansur to release him.

Establishment of the Government

The realm of Muhammad b. Fallah's government was, at first, the areas surrounding Wasit, Baghdad and its eastern islands, but his government was later centered in Shushtar and the main realm of his power was an area from Shushtar and Dezful to Huveyzeh and Basra. The Musha'sha'iyya took over southern regions of Iraq to Baghdad for a while, but after the Ottoman reign, they lost control of these areas.

The Shiite nomads of southern Iran and Iraq were the main supporters of the Musha'sha'i government. The first groups joining Muhammad b. Fallah were tribes such as Banu Salama, Banu Ka'b, Banu Turf, and Banu Tayy.

After battles and military actions of the Musha'sha'i government, Mawla 'Ali, Sayyid Muhammad's son, began to take over the power. He began to seriously engage in the government in 840/1436 in Nomad areas. Mawla 'Ali and his supporters invaded different areas and obtained military equipment. In 844/1440, they seized villages between Basra and Wasit, known as "Jaza'ir" (islands). After seizing Hoveyzeh in 845/1441, they turned into a powerful government.

The Period of Mawla 'Ali

When the Musha'sha'iyya took over Hoveyzeh, they were practically under the leadership of Mawla 'Ali, Sayyid Muhammad's son, particularly from 858/1454 to 861/1456. He dominated Najaf, Karbala, and Hillah as well.

When Mawla 'Ali took over the power, he no longer allowed his father to intervene in the government. By appealing to Muhammad b. Fallah's beliefs such as the belief in the divinity of Imam 'Ali (a), he claimed that the Imam's (a) soul, which is identical to God, had incarnated in his body, and thus, he claimed divinity. According to historical sources, Mawla 'Ali invaded Najaf and destroyed large parts of the city, including the Shrine of Imam 'Ali (a).

Mawla 'Ali was born in 841/1437. Thanks to his father, he gained a remarkable power. In 861/1456, he was killed at the command of Pir Budaq and his head was sent to Jahanshah. After Mawla 'Ali's murder, his father Sayyid Muhammad undertook the leadership of the Musha'sha'iyya again until his death in 870/1465.

The Peak of Power

After Sayyid Muhammad's death, his other son, Muhsin (reign: 870/1465-905/1499), undertook the leadership of the Musha'sha'iyya. This was a period of peaceful establishment of the Musha'sha'i government. It was in this period when the realm of the government was at its widest—from Jaza'ir, Basra and the surroundings of Baghdad to Kuhgiluyeh, Behbahan, and Shushtar, and from the coasts of the Persian Gulf and Bandar Abbas to Kermanshah.

The establishment of the Musha'sha'iyya in this historical period was a result of Sayyid Muhsin's policy of accommodation and defense. The main feature of the policy was the construction and reconstruction of forts of the cities. Sayyid Muhsin was considered as the first person who reconstructed buildings in Hoveyzeh with bricks and clays, instead of straws of which they used to be made. The Fort of Hoveyzeh, known as "al-Muzayyana" or "al-Muhsiniyya", was among his first attempts to do so.

Sayyid Muhsin and the Imami Shiite Thought

According to scholars, Sayyid Muhsin al-Musha'sha'i was characterized by the proximity of his thoughts and behaviors to those of the ordinary Imami Shi'as. This is evidenced by the return of Sayyid Nur Allah al-Mar'ashi al-Shushtari to Shushtar after a long exile in Shiraz following the emergence of Muhammad b. Fallah, Nur Allah's serious activities in the propagation of Imam Shiism in the region, as well as his role as an advisor to the government with three of his relatives serving in the Musha'sha'i palace.

The Decline of the Power and the Representation of the Safavids

After Sultan Muhsin, his sons, Sayyid 'Ali and Ayyub, took over the power. According to some historians, since it was not feasible for two people to share one and the same government, Ayyub was, in fact, his brother's vizier or senior agent. Sayyid 'Ali's government was simultaneous with that of Shah Isma'il Safawi. Shah Isma'il killed the two brothers and destroyed the independence of the Musha'sha'iyya.

Some people believe that Shah Isma'il killed them because of slanders against them to the effect that 'Ali and Ayyub followed the lead of their uncle, Mawla 'Ali, exaggerating in religious matters.

Some people maintain that the last ruler during the independence of the Musha'sha'iyya was Sultan Fayyad 'Ali Allahi, who claimed divinity. It is said that during the conquest of Baghdad when Shah Isma'il went to Hoveyzeh, a bloody battle took place between the Safavids and the Musha'sha' dynasty. Fayyad and his followers were killed in this battle.

When Shah Isma'il Safawi killed the last independent Musha'sha'i ruler, he assigned one of his Safavid commanders with the rule of the Hoveyzeh province. When the Safavid king returned to his capital, Sayyid Fallah b. Muhsin invaded Hoveyzeh from Shushtar, seized the city, sent gifts to Shah Isma'il, and thus, attracted the Shah's agreement with his own rule, and was then assigned with the rule of Hoveyzeh as authorized by, and under the administration of, Shah Isma'il.

A remarkable point in this period of time is that according to historical accounts, during Shah Isma'il or his son, Shah Tahmasp I, the western part of Khuzestan which was under the control of the Musha'sha'iyya was called "Arabia", in order to be demarcated from the eastern part which included Shushtar and Ramhormoz.

After the Safavids until Pahlavis

After Sayyid Fallah's decision to attract the agreement of Shah Isma'il Safawi, Musha'sha'i rulers were appointed by the Safavid government. The Afghan invasion brought the Safavid government to an end. There is not much information about the Musha'sha'iyya in the Afghan period until the emergence of Nader Shah. However, according to some sources, there was a compromise treaty between Afghans and the Ottoman government in which Hoveyzeh and a number of other western cities of Iran were surrendered to the Ottomans. Thus, it seems that the Musha'sha'iyya ruled the areas in this period as well. In his first domination of Khuzestan, Nader Shah let Sayyid 'Ali Khan al-Musha'sha'i retain his rule of Hoveyzeh. This is evidence that the Musha'sha'iyya had already retained their rule of these areas during the Afghan government.

The Afsharid Period

Before announcing his independent government and being crowned as the Shah of Iran, Nader Shah recognized the Musha'sha'i rulers, but around 1150/1737, he announced Hoveyzeh as the ruler-based city of the whole Khuzestan and appointed an agent on his own behalf as the Beylerbey (or Biglarbaygi, that is, the commander of commanders) of Hoveyzeh. Thus, the Musha'sha'iyya lost their rule in these areas.

Since then until 1160/1747, the Musha'sha'i rule was restricted to Dawraq under the administration of the Afsharid ruler of Khuzestan. During the reign of 'Adil Shah ('Alishah), the son of Nader's brother, Mawla Muttalib Khan al-Musha'sha'i, the grandson of Sayyid Faraj Allah Khan the ruler of Dawraq, expanded his rule from Dawraq to Hoveyzeh and Shushtar. He ruled for 16 years until 1167/1753.

Zandi and Qajar Periods

In Zandi and Qajar periods, the Musha'sha'iyya ruled in Hoveyzeh and other areas of Khuzestan for a while. Their rule was no longer powerful and authoritarian. Moreover, the emergence of other Arabic tribes, such as Banu Ka'b and Al Kathir, increasingly diminished the influence of the Musha'sha'iyya.

The Pahlavi Period

In the Pahlavi period, the Musha'sha'iyya were divided into two clans: Mawla Nasr Allah and Mawla Muttalib, and the rule was given only to one of them. The division led to their internal conflicts. After a while, the government arrested the heads of both clans. After this, a person from the Musha'sha'iyya called Mawla Nasr Allah Khan undertook the headship of nomads in Hoveyzeh, and became the sheriff in the area for a while.

Rulers of the Musha'sha'i Government

Since the Musha'sha'iyya went under two periods of independence and dependence on other governments, its rulers can be classified into two groups:

The period of independence:

  • Sayyid Muhammad b. Fallah (845/1442-858/1454)
  • Mawla 'Ali b. Sayyid Muhammad (858/1454- 861/1457)
  • Sayyid Muhammad b. Sayyid Fallah (861/1457- 870/1465)
  • Sayyid Muhsin b. Sayyid Muhammad (870/1465- 905/1499)
  • Sayyid 'Ali b. Sayyid Muhsin (905/1499- 914/1508)

The period of dependence:

  • Sayyid Fallah b. Muhsin (914/1508- 920/1514)
  • Badran b. Fallah (920/1514- 948/1541)
  • Sayyid Sajjad b. Badran (948/1541- 992/1584)
  • Sayyid Faraj Allah b. Badran (992/1584- 998/1590) and eighteen others till the last one Mawla Muttalib b. Muhammad khan b. Faraj Allah (1160/1747- 1176/1762)

Work and Scholars

The Musha'sha'iyya have left coins with mint marks of the names of Shiite Imams.

From the 10th/16th to 12th/18th centuries, a great number of scholars from Hoveyzeh, Jaza'ir, Shushtar, and Dawraq were engaged in studying religious sciences in Isfahan or al-'Atabat. They have written many scholarly works. The best-known among such scholars include: Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri (d. 1112/1700), a student of al-'Allama al-Majlisi (d. 1110/1698) and one of his collaborators in the compilation of Bihar al-anwar. He wrote a number of works in Islamic sciences.

Here are some other Musha'sha'i scholars:

A large population of Musha'sha'i sadat still live in different parts of Khuzestan under different family names. They are one among a number of sadat families in the area.


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from مشعشعیان in Farsi WikiShia.