Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq: Founder of the Ja‘fari School of Thought

Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq: Founder of the Ja‘fari School of Thought

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The sixth Twelver Shiite Imam is Ja‘far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (a). He is the fourth descendant of Prophet Muhammad (s) through his daughter Fatima (a). His father is Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a), the fifth Shiite Imam. In this article on Islam4u, we will go over the life and character of this eminent Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a).

The Birth of Imam al-Sadiq (a)

Imam al-Sadiq (a) was born on Rabi‘ al-Awwal 17, 83 AH in Medina. His date of birth was on the same day and month as the Noble Prophet (s), according to the reliable Shia scholar and traditionist Sheikh al-Mufid.[1]

Imam al-Sadiq’s (a) Parents

His father was the fifth honorable Imam, Muhammad ibn Ali al-Baqir, while his mother was a noble and dignified woman named Umm Farwa.

Imam Sadiq’s (a) Children

Sheikh Mufid reports that Imam Sadiq (a) had ten children. From his wife Hamidah, he had three sons named Musa (his successor and the seventh Imam), Ishaq, and Muhammad. From his wife Fatima, he had two sons named Ismail and Abdullah and one daughter named Umm Farwa (he gave her the same name as his mother). He also had another wife who gave birth to two sons, Abbas and Ali, and two daughters, Asma and Fatima.[2]

Duration of Imamate

Among all Twelver Shiite Imams except Imam al-Mahdi (a), who still lives and his imamate continues, Imam al-Sadiq (a) lived the longest, and the duration of his imamate was the longest. He became the Imam of the Shia aged 31 after the martyrdom of his father, Imam al-Baqir (a). The duration of his imamate was 34 years. Because he lived the longest and had the longest imamate (excluding Imam al-Mahdi [a]), he is known as Sheikh al-A’immah (شَيخُ الأَئِمَّة), meaning the Elder of the Imams.

The Political Environment During Imam al-Sadiq’s (a) Lifetime

Imam al-Sadiq (a) was born when there was much tension between the two powers battling for the caliphate, namely the Umayyads and Abbasids. Ten Umayyad rulers ruled during the life of Imam al-Sadiq (a). Ultimately, the first Abbasid caliph, al-Saffah, overthrew Marwan ibn Muhammad, making him the last Umayyad caliph. Imam al-Sadiq took advantage of this situation where the Umayyads and Abbasids were constantly fighting to train and educate students and scholars of religion. Meanwhile, he practiced taqiyya so that the Shia faith would remain secure. He was able to train students and impart his knowledge freely.

Of course, he never accepted and verified the rulership of the wrongful caliphs of his time. In fact, he had expressed his dissatisfaction with the Abbasid caliph of his time on different occasions. Nevertheless, part of his taqiyya was not staging any uprising against the rulers of his time because he knew they would fail and lead to the destruction of the Shia.

The Ja‘fari School of Thought

According to some reports, Imam al-Sadiq (a) trained more than four thousand students and narrators of hadith. This was more than any other infallible Imam. Imam al-Sadiq (a) taught them many things related to Islamic knowledge and science, including theology and jurisprudence (fiqh). Because Imam al-Sadiq (a) was the Imam that explained almost all of the Shia teachings through his hadith, he is known as the founder of the Ja‘fari school of thought. Of course, this does not mean he introduced a new denomination different from the other Imams. It means that he was the first and perhaps only Imam up until now who has explained the beliefs of the Shia in meticulous detail. Therefore, Twelver Shiites are said to follow the Ja‘fari school of thought.

Imam al-Sadiq’s (a) Character

Like all the other Imams, not only was Imam al-Sadiq (a) the most knowledgeable individual of his time, but he was at the pinnacle of piety, devotion, morality, generosity, and asceticism. One of his students, Malk ibn Anas, said that every time he visited Imam al-Sadiq, he was either praying, fasting, or saying dhikr.[3] Imam al-Sadiq (a) was also very generous. Once, he gave four hundred dirhams to a poor person. After the poor man thanked him, the Imam gave him his ring worth 10,000 dirhams. He would also anonymously take food, money, and provisions to poor people’s houses. His merits were so great in number that after the martyrdom of Imam al-Baqir (a), the Shia easily identified Imam al-Sadiq (a) as the next Imam.

A Few Hadith From Imam al-Sadiq (a)

Imam al-Sadiq (a) transmitted many hadiths covering various topics and subjects to his companions and students. Let us go over some of them.

Fairness Toward Oneself

Imam al-Sadiq (a) said:

مَنْ أَنْصَفَ النَّاسَ مِنْ نَفْسِهِ رُضِيَ بِهِ حَكَماً لِغَيْرِهِ.

Whoever acts fairly toward themself, others will accept them as a judge.[4]

Testing the Spiritual Well-being of Your Brother-in-faith

His eminence said:

إِذَا أَرَدْتَ أَنْ تَعْلَمَ صِحَّةَ مَا عِنْدَ أَخِيكَ فَأَغْضِبْهُ فَإِنْ ثَبَتَ لَكَ عَلَى الْمَوَدَّةِ فَهُوَ أَخُوكَ وَ إِلَّا فَلَا.

If you want to test the spiritual well-being of your brother-in-faith, make him angry. If he keeps his friendship with you, he is your brother. Otherwise, he is not.[5]

The Value of Asceticism

الرَّغْبَةُ فِي الدُّنْيَا تُورِثُ الْغَمَّ وَ الْحَزَنَ وَ الزُّهْدُ فِي الدُّنْيَا رَاحَةُ الْقَلْبِ وَ الْبَدَنِ.

Being inclined to the world is the source of sorrow. However, asceticism and not being inclined to the world is the source of comfort for the heart and body. (Tuhaf al-‘Uqul, p. 358)

This hadith does not mean that we should forget about our lives in this world and stay aloof from it. Rather, it means we should not be too attached to it. Its ups and downs should not cause our concern and sorrow. If we consider this world a bridge we must pass, we will always be happy and eager to reach our ultimate destination (meeting Allah and entering paradise).

Truthfulness

سَأَلَهُ علیه‌السلام رَجُلٌ أَنْ يُعَلِّمَهُ مَا يَنَالُ بِهِ خَيْرَ الدُّنْيَا وَ الْآخِرَةِ وَ لَا يُطَوِّلَ عَلَيْهِ، فَقَالَ علیه‌السلام: لَا تَكْذِبْ.

A man asked Imam al-Sadiq (a) to give him a short piece of advice that would bring one’s good in this world and the next. His eminence said, “Do not lie.”[6]

The Lightweight Blessing

Imam al-Sadiq (a) said:

الْعَافِيَةُ نِعْمَةٌ خَفِيفَةٌ إِذَا وُجِدَتْ نُسِيَتْ وَ إِذَا عُدِمَتِ ذُكِرَتْ.

Well-being is a lightweight blessing. When it exists, one forgets it, and when it does not, one remembers it.[7]

Conclusion

Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq (a) is the sixth Twelver Shiite Imam. His imamate was at a time when tension existed between the Umayyads and Abbasids. Imam al-Sadiq (a) took advantage of this situation to impart his knowledge by training and educating students and scholars. Imam al-Sadiq (a) is known as the founder of the Ja‘fari school of thought due to his many narrations and hadith related to his companions. Many of these narrations and hadith explain the Shia jurisprudential rulings.

For this reason, he is known as the founder of the Ja‘fari school of thought. However, it does not mean that the previous Imams followed a different faith. It means that he was the one who explained the laws of Shia Islam.  His holiness was poisoned and martyred on Shawwal 25, 148 AH, in Medina. He was buried in the Baqi‘ cemetery next to his father, Imam al-Baqir (a), his grandfather Imam al-Sajjad (a), and his great-granduncle Imam al-Hassan (a).


[1] Mufid, al-Irshad, vol. 2, p. 180.

[2] Ibid, p. 209.

[3] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 47, p. 16.

[4] Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146.

[5] Tuhaf al-‘Uqul, p. 357.

[6] Ibid, p. 359.

[7] Ibid, p. 361.

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Abu Mahdi
Abu Mahdi
I'm Abu Mahdi, one of the writers of this blog. I have a BA in English literature and an MA in English language teaching. I am also a teacher and reciter of the Quran in the field of reading the Quran, tajweed, and maqamat. Currently, we are working on a course for learning tajweed of the Quran here on Islam4u.

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