This paper investigates the family history of Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī and the sectarian implications, in the second half of the ninth century, of their affiliation with the Ṭālibids alongside their connections with the ʿAbbasid court. By studying the Iṣfahānī family’s social networks (specifically, the three generations before al-Iṣfahānī) and the wider socio-political milieu, the paper suggests that the Ṭālibids, who had strong presence in Samarra, attracted the political elite under ʿAbbasid rule, including the Iṣfahānīs, because their prestige as the Prophet’s close kin served as a source of political legitimacy, which may have been used to secure the transfer of power in a turbulent time. The division of the Ṭālibids themselves into the politically active and the politically quietist also facilitated the alliance between the Samarrai elite and the latter kind of the Ṭālibids. This pattern is reflected in the dynamics of the Iṣfahānī family’s relationship with the Ṭālibids. An examination of the attitude of the Ṭālibids to the ʿAbbasid authority and al-Iṣfahānī’s Shiʿi belief seems to suggest that the Iṣfahānīs’ religious conviction may be understood as a kind of Shiʿism which embraces special reverence for ʿAlī and his virtuous descendants without enthusiasm for their political claims.