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The Sixth Imam, ‘Ja’far (a.s.) Ibn Muhammad (a.s.)

 

Name
Imam Ja’far Ibn Muhammad (a.s.)
Father’s name
Imam Baqir (a.s.)
Mother’s name
Janabe Fatimah (Umme Farwah) (S.A.)
Date of Birth
17th Rabiul Awwal, 83 A. H.
Place of Birth
Madinah Munawwarah
Kuniyyat
Abu Abdillah
Titles
Sadiq, Saabir, Faazil, Taahir, etc.
Age
65 years
Martyrdom
15th Rajab, 148 A.H
Buried
Jannatul Baqi, Madinah Munawwarah

 

“It is My true saying (promise) that I will make honorable the position of Ja’far and will make him glad about regard to his followers, companions, and friends.”

Birth

On Friday, the 17th of Rabiul Awwal, 83 A.H., in the house of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.), from his wife Fatimah (Umme Farwah), a son was born who was named Ja’far. Much before his birth, when the Almighty Allah had informed his Prophet about his 12 successors, this child (who was later called Imam Ja’far Sadiq, known by agnomen as Abu Abdillah and who took charge of the guardianship of the society after his father) was remembered thus: Those who carry doubt about Ja’far would be destroyed. He who does not accept him, it is as if he has not accepted Me. It is My true saying (promise) that I will make honorable the position of Ja’far and will make him glad about regard to his followers, companions, and friends.

Caliphs of his Time

Imam (a.s.) passed his childhood during the period of his father and magnanimous grandfather. With the martyrdom of Imam Baqir (a.s.) in 114 A.H., he ascended to the Imamat and divine caliphate at the age of 31 years. The period of this Imam closely resembled that of his father Baqir (a.s.) because the revolutionary activities against the Umayyad rule had intensified and the final of the dynastic links was breathing its last years of rule. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) was contemporary to five Umayyid caliphs and two caliphs of Bani Abbas. They are Hisham Ibn Abdul Malik, Walid Ibn Yazid Ibn Abdul Malik, Yazid Ibn Walid Ibn Abdul Malik, Ibrahim Ibn Walid and Marwan Ibn Muhammad (these 5 were Umayyid caliphs. The last was notorious in history as Marwane Himaar. (Himaar means donkey) With his assassination, the Umayyid dynasty came to an end). Saffaah and Mansoor Dawaneqi were the other two caliphs who belonged to Bani Abbas.

Propagation of Islam

The resemblance of the periods of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) and Imam Baqir (a.s.) was the reason for Imam Sadiq (a.s.) in adopting and continuing the precedent set by his father in the spread of Islamic teachings and culture. According to most historians, this progressed to an extent where 4000 pupils participated in his classes in Madinah for learning diversified sciences.

Students of Imam (a.s.)

Among his students were world famous personalities like Zurarah, Muhammad Ibn Muslim, Hisham Ibn Hakam, Abaan Ibn Taghlib and Jabir Ibn Hayyaan. Even some of the top Sunni leaders were among those had gained knowledge in this school.

In this regard, mention may be made of Sufyaan Soori, Abu Hanifa (the spiritual head of the Hanafi sect when is the main branch of Sunnis), Qazi Sukooni and Qazi Abul Bakhtari. These are the famous words of Abu Hanifa: If those two years (referring to the time when he obtained training from Imam Sadiq (a.s.)) had not been there, No’man would have been destroyed.

In Shia history, the manners and methods of the two Imams (a.s.) resemble each other so much that this era is called the Baqirain period or the Sadiqain period. The compilation of narrations recorded in our books from these two Imams exceeds the sum total of all the traditions from the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the other Imams (a.s.).

The True Religion

Since the Shias have come to be known as Ja’fari and the sect is introduced as headed by Imam Sadiq (a.s.), it is necessary to give clarification in this respect. At times, due to misinterpretation of history, some people think the Shias are in the same rank as the four Sunni sects and Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) is a personality like Abu Hanifa, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Malik Ibn Anas and Shafeii. Some simpletons who wish to turn towards unification of Islam and return to the pristine religion express that we should return to the same religion that prevailed during the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), when there was no origin of these five persons. This is a totally wrong and absurd idea. The Shias do not believe that a new sect (other than Islam) has been invented in the second century Hijri, entrusting the leadership to Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.). This may be more applicable to the Sunnis whose leaders did not see the initial period of Islam and their jurisprudence was formulated with a gap of more than a century. The term ‘shia’ has its roots from the era of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as is evident in history while the other sects are devoid of this excellence (which proves their wrong path of understanding religion). In order to present evidence for this claim, we produce just one of numerous examples, in this lesson. Jalaaluddin Suyuti, a reputed Sunni scholar has authored a famous commentary by the name of Al- Durrul Manthoor wherein he discusses this verse of the Noble Qur’an: Surely those who believe and do good, they are the best of men.

He quotes Ibn Abbas, the noted commentator of Islamic world narrating that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) addressed Imam Ali (a.s.) after the revelation of this verse and remarked: You and your Shias will be happy and satisfied on the day of Judgement.

In this way, we see that Islam and Shiaism are born simultaneously and Shiaism is not an offshoot of Islam but Islam itself.

But the reason for our sect to be called Ja’fari has already been explained in the previous chapter of Imam Baqir (a.s.). In the early part of history, from the time of Imam Ali (a.s.) to Imam Sajjad (a.s.), the power of the Umayyid dynasty and the repeated confrontations that took place, left no time for collecting and compiling the foundation of the rich culture of Shias. But during the era of these two Imams (a.s.), political conditions allowed easy propagation of the fundamentals of Islamic culture, hence the name Ja’fari. This is entirely different from saying that Shias came into being during the Imamat of Imam Sadiq (a.s.).

Shias and Islam

The fact is that Shiaism is the true method and path of Islam. Our leaders after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) are the personalities who sourced knowledge from that divine spring only and have been performing the duties of leadership after the Prophet(s.a.w.a.)’s demise till date. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) has been the source of the greatest services to Islam during his 34 years of Imamat. It is crystal clear that if his tremendous and exhaustive collection of sayings and guidelines in diverse fields of religion and society did not exist, Islam would not enjoy the universality and comprehensiveness which it does today. The treasure house of sciences and facts would have remained undisclosed. Today, in the world of jurisprudence, Fiqhe Ja’fari is viewed as the most accurate basis of law.

His Worship

Imam (a.s.) Sadiq (a.s.), like his forefathers, was a mine of excellence. He had such depth in worship that Maalik Ibn Anas, Imam of the Malikis (one of the four Sunni sects) says: I would generally observe him in one of these three conditions: Either offering prayers (namaz), observing fast or reciting the Holy Qur’an.

The Importance of Namaz

He was so firm in the worship of Allah that even on his deathbed, while breathing his last, he called in his near ones and addressed them thus: Surely, he will not reach our intercession, the one who takes namaz lightly.

The Patience of Imam (a.s.)

He was the possessor of untold reservoirs of patience and trust in Allah. When his beloved son Ismail, who excelled in worship and virtue, passed away due to illness, his followers observed that Imam (a.s.) did not suffer from excessive sadness or pain on account of his demise. When the reason for this was asked from him, he replied: “How could I feel restless on his death when the truthful messenger (s.a.w.a.) has said: Surely I will die and so will you all.”

Maintaining Relations

Like his predecessors, he always aided the needy. In disguise, he would carry a heavy load of bread, meat, and money on his back and deliver it to the poor of Madinah.

It is enough exposition of his boundless knowledge that hundreds of treatises and scripts exist even today in many areas of scientific research from some of his students like Jabir Ibn Hayyaan. This clearly elucidates that they were the outcomes of the fruits of learning in the school of Imam Sadiq (a.s.). Farid-e-Wajdi in the encyclopedia of the fourteenth century, vol 3, page 110, Sayyed Hebatuddin Shehristani on page 53 of Al-Dalaael wal Masaael and Ibn Nadim in his Fehrist, page 514, have made references to a part of the scientific works of the students of Imam (a.s.), particularly Jabir Ibn Hayyaan in the field of chemistry. They have pointed out that Jabir, in most of his books and treatises, has begun his chapters with the words such as: Ja’far (a.s.) told me – narrated for me my master Ja’far (a.s.) – I took this knowledge from my master, Ja’far Ibn Muhammad (a.s.), the master of people of his time.

In this way, he has shown that Imam Sadiq (a.s.) has been the source of all these sciences.

The Greater Sins

The contemporaries of Imam (a.s.) derived maximum benefit from him in all points of views and in all areas of sciences. For example, one of the jurisprudents, a religious authority of the time in Basra, by the name of Amr Ibn Ubaid had the honour of meeting Imam (a.s.) and requested him to comment on a verse of the Qur’an, i.e. Sura Nisa (4): verse 31: “If you keep away from the major sins which you have been prohibited.”

He asked Imam (a.s.) to recount the major sins from Qur’an to him. Imam (a.s.) started speaking with such mastery and knowledge as if he knew the question beforehand and had prepared the answer. He enumerated 24 major sins based on Quranic verses and famous traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The scholar was totally bewildered. While taking leave of the Imam’s (a.s.) house, he was heard commenting: May he be destroyed who has deprived you of your heritage (the one who has usurped the right of leadership) and disputed with you in knowledge and excellence.

It is appropriate to know that fleeing from war, losing hope in the mercy of Allah, being cursed by father and mother, false witness, leaving namaz, breaking promises and cutting off relations with one’s relatives, all these have been reckoned by Imam (a.s.) as being among the major sins. The last of the major sins which were mentioned by Imam (a.s.) was heresy and quoting the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he said: Anyone who smiles at a person who introduces something new or heretical in religion has indeed helped him in the destruction of his religion

Training of Preachers

Among the important works of Imam (a.s.) was the training of a number of his experienced students for discussion and debate with the leaders of different sects and religions. At the top of the list was Imam’s (a.s.) famous young companion by the name of Hisham Ibn Hakam. In this way, the light of Islam became evident on one hand and on the other, the deviation that others intended to spread and propagate was dealt with. These students would first learn the method of debate and argument from Imam (a.s.). After every debate, they would normally report to Imam (a.s.) so that probable defects could be rectified. Their presence in the company of Imam (a.s.) and observation of his specific debates with the scholars and believers of other religions too was a significant factor in their learning of this important task. The Imam (a.s.) never faced a particular group only in such discussions. Rather, he would discuss and debate with different groups such as unbelievers, polytheists, atheists, fatalists and the Tafwizi (who believe God has no control left). But since the students did not possess the comprehensiveness of knowledge of Imam (a.s.), hence depending upon their interest and talent, they would each specialize in a particular field.

Martyrdom

The Abbasid Caliphs took the reins from the Umayyid. After gaining control over the people, they adopted a similar method and policy as the Umayyid but with greater harshness towards the household of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and their Shia followers. Particularly, during the rule of Mansoor, a strict watch was maintained on Imam (a.s.) who was forcibly called from Madinah to the administrative headquarters several times. On numerous occasions, Mansoor also ordered the assassination of Imam (a.s.). But his majestic presence and his personality created such awe in Mansoor that he gave up the idea. But, his jealousy of the Imam (a.s.) increased exponentially due to Imam’s (a.s.) knowledge, social and Islamic stature. He finally ordered that Imam (a.s.) be poisoned.

Imam (a.s.) was martyred by the poison given by Muhammad Ibn Sulaiman, Mansoor’s governor in Madinah on 15th Rajab in the year 148 Hijri at the age of 65 years. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of Baqi besides the other three Imams (a.s.).

Lessons from His Life

Imam (a.s.) Sadiq’s (a.s.) Imamat lasted a period of 34 years during which he trained his Shias to overcome adversities in reaching one’s goal. He also showed that no movement or campaign could survive unless it bears cultural roots and depth. Hence, every opportunity must be utilized in making the movement deep-rooted. Imam (a.s.), in his Imamat, made the Shia Islam so rich with the basics and established such scientific and cultural roots that 14 centuries of attacks against this religion with the Shias in minority and all the restrictions upon its leaders have not been able to eradicate it. Rather, day by day, these circumstances themselves have been effective in the exaltation of Islam and Shiaism.