Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq, the sixth holy Imam, was born in 83 AH. Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq was brought up by his grandfather, Imam Zaynul-Abideen in Medina for twelve years and then remained under the sacred patronage of his father Imam Muhammad al-Baqir for a period of nineteen years. The Imamate of Ja’far as-Sadiq saw the most crucial period of Islamic history, both in political and in doctrinal spheres. It coincided with many epoch-making events, violent movements, the natural results of various undercurrent activities and revolutionary attempts. The very existence of this many-sided and complex situation facilitated the rise of Ja’far’s Imamate to a prominence not previously attained by the Imamates of his father and grandfather. On 25th Shawwal 148 AH, the governor of Medina by the order of al-Mansur, poisoned the Imam. The funeral prayer was conducted by his son Imam Musa al-Kadhim, the Seventh Imam, and his body was laid to rest in the cemetery of Jannatul-Baqee.
Agnomen: Abu ‘Abdillâh.
Father: Muhammad bin ‘Ali.
Mother: Umm Farwah.
Birth: 17th Rabi I, 83 AH in Medina.
Death: 25th Shawwâl 148 AH in Medina.
1. Birth & Early Days
Imam Ja‘far as-Sâdiq, son of the fifth Imam, was born in 83 A.H./702 C.E. After
the death of his father in 114 A.H., he became Imam by Divine Command and decree
of the Imam who came before him.
2. His Imamate: Continuation of Scholarly Jihâd
During the 34 years of imamate of as-Sâdiq (a.s.) greater possibilities and a
more favorable climate existed for him to propagate religious teachings. This
came about as a result of revolts in Islamic lands, especially the uprising of
the Muswaddah to overthrow the Umayyad caliphate, and the bloody wars which
finally led to the fall and extinction of the Umayyads. The greater
opportunities for Shi’ite teachings were also a result of the favourable ground
the fifth Imam had prepared during the twenty years of his imamate through the
propagation of the true teachings of Islam and the sciences of the Ahlu ‘l-Bayt
of the Prophet.
Imam as-Sâdiq took advantage of the occasion to propagate the religious sciences
until the very end of his imamate, which coincided with the end of the Umayyad
and beginning of the Abbasid caliphates. He instructed many scholars in
different fields of the intellectual and transmitted sciences, such as Zurârah,
Muhammad ibn Muslim, Mu’min at-Tâq, Hishâm ibn Hakam, Abân ibn Taghlib, Hishâm
ibn Sâlim, Hurayz, Hishâm Kalbi Nassâbah, and Jâbir ibn Hayyân, the alchemist.
Even some important Sunni scholars such as Sufyân Thawri, Abu Hanifa (the
founder of the Hanafi school of law), Qadi Sukuni, Qadi Abu ’l-Bakhtari and
others, had the honor of being his students. It is said that his classes and
sessions of instruction produced four thousand scholars of hadith and other
sciences. Refering to the two years that he spent as a student of Imam as-Sâdiq
(a.s.), Abu Hanifa used to say: “If it had not been for those two years, Nu‘mân
would have perished.”
The number of traditions preserved from the fifth and sixth Imams is more than
all the hadith that have been recorded from the Prophet and the other ten Imams
combined. That is why the Shi‘a school of laws in Islam is known as “Ja‘fari”.
3. Students & Companions
Hamrân bin A‘yan: Some of the students of Imam Ja‘far as-Sâdiq (a.s.) had
reached such heights of excellence that they earned the complete trust of their
teacher. Once a Syrian (who those days were usually against the Ahlu ’l-Bayt
because of the Umayyad propaganda) entered the gathering of the Imam.
Upon inquiring the purpose of his visit, he said, “I have been told whatever the
people ask you, you have an answer for that. So I have come to debate with you.”
Imam (a.s.): “On what issue would you like to debate with me?”
Syrian: “About the Qur’ân.”
Imam pointed towards Hamrân bin A‘yan and said, “Go and debate with him.”
Syrian: “I have come to challenge you and debate with you, not with him.”
Imam (a.s.): “Defeating Hamrâm would be like defeating me!”
So the Syrian went to Hamrân and had a debate with him about the Qur’ân. Hamrân
answered all questions satisfactorily until the Syrian ran out of them. He
finally conceded his own defeat.
Mufazzal bin ‘Umar: He is well known for a treatise which the Imam dictated for
him on the subject of tawhîd. Here we will just mention one incident which shows
that Imam Ja‘far as-Sâdiq was also actively working for peace and social harmony
among his followers.
One day Mufazzal saw that two Shi‘as were arguing and fighting with one another
on the division of the estate of their relative. Mufazzal took both of them home
and after discussion, resolved their conflict. In bringing about the resolution
he had to add four hundred dirhams from himself. As the two Shi’as were leaving,
Mufazzal said, “You should know that the money I have used to resolve your
conflict is not my own money; it belongs to Imam Ja‘far as-Sâdiq (a.s.) who had
given it to me with the instruction that whenever I see conflict among his
followers, I should try to maintain peace among them by using that money.”
4. Rulers & their Attitude
Imam as-Sâdiq’s imamate coincided with the rule of the last five Umayyad rulers
(Hishâm bin ‘Abdu ’l-Malik, Walîd bin Yazîd, Yazîd bin Walîd, Ibrâhîm bin Walîd,
and Marwân al-Himâr) and the first two ‘Abbâsid caliphs (Abu ’l-‘Abbâs Saffâh
and Mansûr Dawâniqi).
As mentioned in the previous lesson, the Muslim people were gradually turning
away from the Umayyads. The anti-Umayyad sentiment which had started with the
massacre of Karbala, finally led to the fall of the Umayyads in 132 A.H.
However, those who were leading the revolt in the name of Ahlu ’l-Bayt could not
resist the temptation of power, and seized the seat of caliphate for themselves.
These were the descendants of ‘Abbâs bin ‘Abdul Muttalib, the uncle of the
Prophet. Hence the next dynasty to rule the Muslim world was known as Banu
‘Abbâs or the ‘Abbâsids.
Hishâm, the Umayyad caliph, had ordered the sixth Imam to be arrested and
brought to Damascus. The later Umayyad rulers were not strong enough to harass
The Imam was then arrested by Saffâh, the first ‘Abbâsid caliph and brought to
Iraq. After some time, he was allowed to return to Medina. The reign of Mansûr,
the second ‘Abbâsid caliph, was even worse for the Shi’as. He ordered such
torture and merciless killing of many of the descendants of the Prophet who were
Shi’ite that his actions even surpassed the cruelty and heedlessness of the
Umayyads. At his order they were arrested in groups, some thrown into deep and
dark prisons, and tortured until they died, while others were beheaded or buried
alive or placed at the base of or between walls of buildings, and walls were
constructed over them.
Once Mansûr wrote to Imam as-Sâdiq (a.s.) asking him why he did not visit him
like other dignitaries. The Imam wrote in reply: “Neither do we possess any
worldly treasure for which we may fear you, nor do you possess any spiritual
virtue for which we may seek your favour. So why should we come to you?” Mansûr
replied, “Then come for admonishing us.” The Imam replied, “Those who seek this
world will never admonish you, and those who seek the hereafter will never come
5. Last Days & Martyrdom
Finally, Mansûr had Imam as-Sâdiq (a.s.) arrested and brought to Sâmarrah (Iraq)
where he had the Imam kept under supervision, was in every way harsh and
discourteous to him, and several times thought of killing him. Eventually the
Imam was allowed to return to Medina where he spent the rest of his life under
severe restrictions placed upon him by the Abbasid ruler, until he was poisoned
and martyred through the intrigue of Mansur.
Upon hearing the news of the Imam’s martyrdom, Mansur wrote to the governor of
Medina instructing him to go to the house of the Imam on the pretext of
expressing his condolences to the family, to ask for the Imam’s will and
testament and read it. Whoever was chosen by the Imam as his inheritor and
successor should be beheaded on the spot. Of course, the aim of Mansur was to
put an end to the whole question of the imamate and to Shi’ite aspirations. When
the governor of Medina, following orders, read the last will and testament, he
saw that the Imam had chosen five people rather than one to administer his last
will and testament: the caliph himself, the governor of Medina, ‘Abdullah Aftah,
the Imam’s older son, Musa, his younger son, and Hamidah, his wife. In this way
the plot of Mansur failed.
Abu Basîr, a close companion of Imam Ja‘far as-Sâdiq (a.s.), went to the Imam’s
house for expressing condolences on the death of the Imam. Umm Hamîdah, the wife
of the Imam, said, “O Abu Basîr, if you had been at the Imam’s side when he
died, you would have been surprised. In his last moments, the Imam opened his
eyes and asked that all family members come close to his bed. When everyone had
gathered around him, he said, ‘Verily, the person who considers the salât as a
trivial issue, he will not deserve our intercession.”