IMAM JA’FAR AL-SADIQ  IBN IMAM  MUHAMMAD AL-BAQIR  (A.S.) – PART #7 (VOL. 1)

Note: The Life History is divided in two volumes.
Source: “Shia Islam AT A Glance” BY: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee; and Shia Youth Inc. Website: www.Shia-youth.org.

IMAM AL-SADIQ AND HIS LINEAGE: 
Imam Ja’far ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq (a.s.) also known as Imam as-Sadiq(a.s.) (the Truthful), is the sixth Shia Imam. He was a descendant of Imam Ali (a.s.) from his father Imam

Muhammad al-Baqir‘s (a.s.) side. He is the last individual to be recognized by all Shia sects as an Imam (except the Zaydiyyah), and is revered by Sunni scholars as a transmitter of

Hadith and a prominent jurist.

The sixth Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was a significant figure in the formulation of Shia doctrine. The traditions recorded from Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) are said to be more numerous than all hadiths recorded from all other Shiite imams combined.  As the founder of “Ja’fari jurisprudence“, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) also elaborated the doctrine of Nass (divinely inspired designation of each imam by the previous imam), and Ismah(the infallibility of  each Imam), as well as that of Taqiyyah.

The question of succession after Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) death was the cause of division among Shiites some of whom considered his eldest son, Isma’il (who had died before his father) to be the next imam, and those who believed his third son Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was the imam. The first group became known as the Ismailis and the second, larger, group was named Ja’fari or the Twelvers.

EARLY LIFE:

Ja’far al-Sadiq was born in Medina on 17th Rabiulawwal 83 AH. On his father’s side, he was a great-great grandson of Imam Ali (a.s.), the first Shiite imam. His mother, Farwah bint al-Qasim was a granddaughter of Mohammed Ibn Abu Bakr. During the first fourteen years of his life, he lived alongside his grandfather, Imam Zayn al-Abedin (a.s.), and witnessed the latter’s withdrawal from politics. He also noted the respect that the famous jurists of Medina held toward Imam Zayn al-Abedin (a.s.), in spite of his only a few followers.

In his mother’s house, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) also interacted with his grandfather, Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, who was respected by the people of Medina as a famous traditionalist. During this period, Umayyad power was at its climax, and the childhood of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) coincided with the growing interest of the people of Medina in prophetic science and interpretations of the Quran.

IMAM ASSUMED IMAMATE:

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) inherited the position of imam from his father in his mid-thirties. He was thirty one years of age when he inherited the position of Imamah or imamate from his father, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.). He held the imamate for 34 years, longer than any other Shiite imam. His Imamate was a crucial period in Islamic history for both political and religious reasons. Prior to Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), the majority of Shiites had preferred the revolutionary politics of Zaid (al-Sadiq’s uncle) to the mystical quietism of Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) father and grandfather. Zaid had claimed that the position of an imam was conditional on his appearing publicly to claim his rights and fighting for these rights. As an imam, al-Sadiq (a.s.) stayed out of the political conflicts that embroiled the region, evading the many requests for support that he received from rebels. For a long period of time, he was the victim of mistreatment and harassment by the Abbasid caliphs. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), preferred to spend his time in elaboration of the doctrine of Imamate, which says “Imamate is not a matter of human choice or self-assertion,” but that each imam possesses a unique Ilm (knowledge) which qualifies him for the position. This knowledge was passed down from the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through the line of Imam Ali‘s(a.s.) immediate descendants. The doctrine of Nass or “divinely inspired designation of each imam by the previous imam”, therefore, was completed by Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.).  In spite of being designated as the imam, Imam al-Sadiq(a.s.) would hold, he would not lay claim to the Caliphate.

END OF UMAYYAD CALIPHATE:

Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) Imamate extended over the later half of the Umayyad Caliphate, which was marked by many revolts (mostly by Shiite movements), and eventually the violent overthrow of the Umayyad Caliphate by the Abbasids, who were descendants of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) uncle, Abbas. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) maintained his predecessors’ policy of quietism, and played no part in the numerous rebellions. He stayed out of the uprising of Zaydits who gathered around Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) uncle, Zayd, who had the support of Mu’tazilites and the traditionalists of Medina and Kufa. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) played no part in the Abbassid rebellion against the Umayyads.  His response to a message requesting his help from Abu Muslim, the Khorasani leader of the uprising against Umayyads, became famous. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) asked for a lamp and burned Abu Muslim’s letter, saying to the envoy who brought it, “Tell your master what you have seen. In burning Abû Muslim’s letter he had also said, “This man is not one of my men.” Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) also evaded other requests for assistance to other claims to the throne, without advancing his own claims. He had said that even though he, as the designated imam, was the true leader of the Ummah, he would not press his claim to the caliphate.

IMAM TRAINED ABOUT 4000 STUDENTS:

The end of the Umayyad dynasty and beginning of the Abbasid dynasty was a period during which central authority was weak, allowing Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) to teach freely in a school which trained about four thousand students. Among these were Abū Ḥanīfa and Malik ibn Anas, founder of two major Sunni schools of law, the Hanafiyah and the Malikiyah.  Wasil ibn Ata, founder of Mu`tazila school, was also among his pupils. After the Abbasid revolution had overthrown the Umayyad caliphate, it turned against Shiite groups who had previously been its allies against the Umayyads. The new Abbasid rulers, who had risen to power on the basis of their descent from Muhammad‘s uncle Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, were suspicious of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), because Shiites had always believed that leadership of the Ummah was a position issued by divine order, and which was given to each imam by the previous imam. Moreover, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) had a large following, both among scholars and among those who believed him to be the imam. 

CALIPH AL-MANDUR SUMMONS IMAM TO BAGHDAD:

 During the rule of Al-Mansur, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was summoned to Baghdad along with some other prominent men from Medina, in order for the Caliph to keep a close watch on them. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), however, asked the Caliph to excuse him from going there by reciting a hadith which said that “the man who goes away to make a living will achieve his purpose, but he who sticks to his family will prolong his life.”  Al-Mansur reportedly accepted his request. After the defeat and death of his cousin Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya in 762, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) thought it advisable to obey al-Mansur’s summons. After a short stay in Baghdad, however, he convinced the Caliph that he was not a threat, and was allowed to return to Medina.

IMAM SUBJECTED TO HARRASMENTS BY ABBASID CALIPHS:

Toward the end of his life, he was subjected to  harassment by the Abbasid caliphs. The governor of Medina was instructed by the Caliph to burn down his house, an event which reportedly did Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) no physical harm.  To cut his ties with his students and followers, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was also watched closely and was occasionally imprisoned. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was arrested several times by Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs Hisham, Saffah, and Mansur.

IMAM POISONED BY ORDER OF CALIPH AL-MANSUR:

 According to some sources he was poisoned at the behest of Mansur  on 15th Rajab, 148AH, at the age of 65, leading to uncertainty about the future of the Imamate. He was buried in Medina, in the famous Jannat al Baqee cemetery, and his tomb was a place of pilgrimage until 1926. The Wahhabis conquered Medina for the second time in 1925, and razed many tombs to the ground, with the exception of the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) tomb. According to scholar Tabatabai, upon hearing the news of Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) death, Caliph Mansur wanted to put an end to the Imamate. Mansur reportedly wrote to the governor of Medina, commanding him to read the imam’s testament, and to behead the person named in it as the future imam. However, the governor found that Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) had chosen four people rather than one: caliph Mansur himself, the governor, the imam’s oldest son Abdullah al-Aftah, and Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.), his younger son.

ORIGIN OF ISMA’ILI SECT:

The Shiite group had begun to split during the lifetime of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), when his eldest son Isma’il ibn Jafar predeceased him. His death occurred in the presence of many witnesses. After the death of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.), his following fractured further, with the larger group, who came to be known as the Twelvers, following his younger son Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.). Another group, believed that Isma’il had been designated as the next imam, and that since he had predeceased his father, the imamate had passed to Isma’il’s son Muhammad ibn Ismail and his descendants. This latter group became known as the Isma’ilis. Some Isma’ilis believe that Isma’il had not actually died, but would reappear as Mahdi, the rejuvenator of Islam in the Shiite doctrine.

IMAM AL-SADIQ’S (a.s.) LEGACY:

Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) religious views are recorded as authority in the writing of a number of contradictory positions. Though most groups wished to recruit Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) legacy for their own cause, the most extensive source for his teachings is to be found within the imami Shiite tradition. For Twelver Shiites Imam Ja’far al-Ṣadiq (a.s.) is the sixth imam who established the Shiism as serious intellectual force in the late Umayyad and early Abbasid periods. According to  Shia scholar Tabatabai the number of traditions left behind by Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) and his father were more than all the hadiths recorded from Holy Prophet Muhammad and all the other Shiite imams combined.

Shiite jurisprudence became known as Ja’fari jurisprudence after Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.), whose legal dicta were the most important source of Shiite law. LikeSunni law, Ja’fari jurisprudence is based on the Quran and the Hadith, and also based on the consensus (Ijma). Unlike the Sunnis, Shiites give more weight to reasoning (‘Aql), while Sunnis allow for a kind of analogical reasoning (Qiyas). Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) is presented as one who denounces personal opinion (Raʾy) and analogical reasoning (qiās) of his contemporaries, arguing that God’s law is occasional and unpredictable, and that the servants’ duty is not to embark on reasoning in order to discover the law, but to submit to the inscrutable will of God as revealed by the imam. In his book Maqbula, Omar ibn Ḥanẓala (who was a disciple of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.)) asks the imam how legal disputes within the community should be solved, and whether one should take such cases to the ruler (Sultan) and his judges. Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq(a.s.) replies in the negative saying that those who take their disputes to the rulers and their judges get only soḥt (unlawful decision). Instead Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) recommends an unofficial system of justice for the community, and that the disputants should turn to “those who relate our [i.e., the imams’]Hadiths“. 

IMAM’S VIEWS ON THEOLOGY:

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) views on theology are transmitted through one of his students, Mufazzel, who recorded his own questions and Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) answers in a book known as Ketab al-Tawhid in which Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) gives proof of unity of God. This  is considered identical to the Ketāb al-ehlilaja which is a reply to Mufazzel’s request from Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) for a refutation of those who deny God. Hesham ibn Ḥakam (d. 179 AH) is another famous student of the imam who proposed a number of doctrines that later became orthodox shiite theology, including the rational necessity of the divinely guided imam in every age to teach and lead God’s community.  Imm al-Sadiq (a.s.) is attributed with the statement: “Whoever claims that God has ordered evil, has lied about God. Whoever claims that both good and evil are attributed has lied about God”. This view which is in accordance with that of Mu’tazilite doctrine seems to absolve God from the responsibility for evil in the world. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) says that God does not “order created beings to do something without providing for them a means of not doing it, though they do not do it, or not do it without God’s permission”. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) expressed a moderate view between compulsion (Jabr), and giving the choice to man (Tafviz), stating that God decreed some things absolutely, but left some others to human agency. This assertion was widely adopted afterwards and was called “al-amr bayn al-amrayn” which meant” neither predestination nor delegation but a position between the two”.  Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) view, therefore, is recorded as supporting either position as it is reported in an exchange between him and an unknown interlocutor. The interlocutor asks if God forces his servants to do evil or whether he has delegated power to them. Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) answers negatively to both questions. When asked “What then?” he replies, “The blessings of your Lord are between these two”.

The works attributed to Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (a.s.) in Tafsir (Quranic exegesis) are mostly described as the Sufi-mystical works such as “Tafsir al-Qorʾān”, “Manāfeʿ ṣowar al-Qorʾān” and “ḴawāsÂs al-Qorʾān al-aʿẓam”. The attribution of these works to Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), however, is suspected. In his books Ḥaqāʾeq al-tafsir and Ziādāt Ḥaqāʾeq al-tafsir, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Solami cites Imam al-Ṣadiq (a.s.) as one of his major (if not the major) source of knowledge concerning the meaning of Qur’anic verses. “Ketāb al-jafr”, an early mystical commentary on the Qur’an (Tafsir), is also attributed to Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.).  According to Ibn Khaldun, it was originally written on the skin of a young bull, allowing the imam to reveal the hidden meaning of the Qur’an.  Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) is said to have proposed a fourfold model of Qur’an interpretation. He said that “The Book of God comprises four things: the statement set down; the implied purport; the hidden meanings, relating to the supra-sensible world; and the exalted spiritual doctrines.” He said that the plain meanings were for the common people; the hidden meanings for the elite; the implied meanings for the “friends of God;” and the “exalted spiritual doctrines” were the “province of the prophets.”  He stated that Hadith, or traditional sayings of the Prophet, should be rejected if they contradicted contents of the Qur’an.

TAQIYYAH, SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES BY IMAM AS-SADIQ (a.s.), HIS FAMILY LIFE …..Continued in Vol 2, Part #8.

Next Week, inshaAllah.
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