Arabic text with the name of Jafar ibn Muhammad and one of his titles, “Al-Sadiq”
|Other names||Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAli|
|Born||23 April 702 CE
17 Rabiul Awwal 83 AH
|Died||Shawwal 25, 148/December 14, 765
Medina, Abbasid Empire
|Resting place||Jannat al-Baqi‘, Medina, present-day Saudi Arabia
|Spouse||Fatimah bint Al-Hussain’l-Athram
Farwah bint al-Qasim
|Other names||Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAli|
|Period in office||732–765 CE|
Twelvers – Musa al-Kadhim
Isma‘ilis – Isma’il ibn Ja’far
Aftahis – Abdullah al-AftahShumattiyyah – Muhammad ibn Ja’far al-Sadiq
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Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad aṣ-Ṣādiq (Arabic: جَعْفَرُ ٱبْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ ٱلصَّادِقُ; 700 or 702–765 CE), commonly known as Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq or simply as-Sadiq (The Truthful), was an 8th-century Muslim scholar. He was the 6th Imam and founder of the Ja’fari school of jurisprudence according to Twelver and Isma’ili Shi’ites. To Sunnis, he is a major figure in the Hanafi and Maliki schools of Sunni jurisprudence and was a teacher of the Sunni scholars Abu Hanifah and Malik ibn Anas, a transmitter of hadiths, therefore a prominent jurist for Sunnis, and a mystic to Sufis. Despite his wide-ranging attributions in a number religious disciplines, no works penned by Ja’far himself remain extant.
Al-Sadiq was born in either 700 or 702 CE. He inherited the position of imam from his father in his mid-thirties. As a Shi’a Imam, al-Sadiq stayed out of the political conflicts that embroiled the region, evading the many requests for support that he received from rebels. He was the victim of some harassment by the Abbasid caliphs, and was eventually, according to Shi’a Muslims, poisoned at the orders of the Caliph Al-Mansur. In addition to his connection with Sunni schools of Sunni jurisprudence, he was a significant figure in the formulation of Shia doctrine. The traditions recorded from al-Sadiq are said to be more numerous than all hadiths recorded from all other Shia imams combined. As the founder of Ja’fari jurisprudence, al-Sadiq also elaborated the doctrine of Nass (divinely inspired designation of each Imam by the previous Imam) and Ismah (the infallibility of the imams), as well as that of Taqiyyah.
The question of succession after al-Sadiq’s death was the cause of division among Shi’a who considered his eldest son, Isma’il (who had reportedly died before his father) to be the next Imam, and those who believed his third son Musa al-Kadhim was the imam. The first group became known as the Ismailis and the second, larger, group was named Ja’fari or the Twelvers.
Birth and early life
Ja’far al-Sadiq was born in Medina either in 17th of Rabi-al-Awwal 83 AH (702 AD) or 80/699–700. He was a descendant of Ali ibn Abu Talib and Fatimah bint Muhammad through Hussain ibn Ali on the side of his father, Muhammad al-Baqir, and of Abu Bakr through Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr on the side of his mother, Umm Farwah bint al-Qasim.[a] Al-Sadiq was the first of the Shi’ite Imams to be descended from both Abu Bakr, the first ruler of the Rashidun Caliphate, and Ali, the first Imam. During the first fourteen years of his life, he lived alongside his grandfather Zayn al-Abedin, and witnessed the latter’s withdrawal from politics. He also noted the respect that the famous jurists of Medina held toward Zayn al-Abedin in spite of his few followers.
In his mother’s house, al-Sadiq 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 al-Sadiq was coincided with the growing interest of the people of Medina in prophetic science and interpretations of the Quran.
Al-Sadiq was thirty-four or thirty-seven when he inherited the position of Imamah or Imamate upon the death of his father Muhammad al-Baqir. He held the Imamate for 28 years, longer than any other Shi’ite Imam. His Imamate was a crucial period in Islamic history for both political and doctrinal areas. Prior to al-Sadiq, the majority of Shi’ites had preferred the revolutionary politics of Zaid (his uncle) to the mystical quietism of his father and grandfather. Zaid had claimed that the position of an Imam was conditional on his appearing publicly to claim his rights. Al-Sadiq, on the other hand, elaborated the doctrine of Imamate, which says “Imamate is not a matter of human choice or self-assertion,” but that each Imam possesses a unique ʿIlm (Arabic: عِلْم, lit. ‘Knowledge’) which qualifies him for the position. This knowledge was argued to have been passed down from the Islamic prophet Muhammad through the line of Ali ibn Abi Talib’s immediate descendants. The doctrine of Nass or “divinely inspired designation of each imam by the previous imam”, therefore, was completed by al-Sadiq.[b] In spite of being designated as the Imam, al-Sadiq would not lay claim to the Caliphate during his lifetime.
Under the Umayyad rulers
Al-Sadiq’s Imamate extended over the latter half of the Umayyad Caliphate, which was marked by many revolts (mostly by Shi’ite movements), and eventually the violent overthrow of the Umayyad Caliphate by the Abbasids, descendants of Muhammad’s uncle Al-‘Abbas. Al-Sadiq maintained his father’s policy of quietism, and played no part in the numerous rebellions. He stayed out of the uprising of Zaydits who gathered around his uncle Zayd, who had the support Mu’tazilites and the traditionalists of Medina and Kufa. Al-Sadiq also did not support the rebellion led by his cousin, Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyyah, who was inspired by Kaysanites. Al-Sadiq also played no part in the Abbasid rebellion against the Umayyads. His response to a message requesting help from Abu Muslim, the Khorasani leader of an uprising against the Umayyads, became famous. Al-Sadiq 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, this time is not mine.” Al-Sadiq also evaded 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. This conscious position of neutrality was likely why Ja’far was tolerated by the Umayyad court for so long. This position also gave rise to the legal precedent of Taqiyyah.
Under the Abbasid rulers
The end of the Umayyad dynasty and beginning of the Abbasid was a period during which central authority was weak, allowing al-Sadiq to teach freely in a school which trained about four thousand students. A school of this size was unusual for religious teachers at this time. Among these were Abū Ḥanīfah and Malik ibn Anas, founders 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 Shi’ite 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 Al-‘Abbas, were suspicious of al-Sadiq, because Shi’ites 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. In addition, al-Sadiq had a large following, both among scholars and among those who believed him to be the imam. During rule of Al-Mansur, al-Sadiq was summoned to Baghdad, along with some other prominent men from Medina, in order for the Caliph to keep a close watch on them. Al-Sadiq, 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-Zakiyyah in 762, however, al-Sadiq 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.
Toward the end of his life, he was subject to some harassment by the Abbasid caliphs. The governor of Medina was instructed by the Caliph to burn down his house, an event which reportedly did al-Sadiq no harm.[c] To cut his ties with his followers, Al-Sadiq was also watched closely and occasionally imprisoned. Through these trials, Al-Sadiq appears to have continued his scholarship and remained an influential teacher in his native Medina and beyond.
Al-Sadiq married Fatimah Al-Hasan, a descendant of his ancestor Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali, with whom he had two sons, Isma’il ibn Jafar (the sixth Isma’ili Imam) and Abdullah al-Aftah. Following his wife’s death, al-Sadiq purchased a Berbery or Andalusian slave named Ḥamīdah Khātūn (Arabic: حَمْيْدَة خَاتُوْن), freed her, trained her as an Islamic scholar, and then married her. She bore him two more sons: Musa al-Kadhim (the seventh Twelver Imam), and Muhammad al-Dibaj. She was revered by the Shi’ites, especially by women, for her wisdom. She was known as Hamidah the Pure. Ja’far al-Sadiq used to send women to learn the tenets of Islam from her, said that “Hamidah is pure from every impurity like the ingot of pure gold.”
Al-Sadiq was arrested several times by Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs Hisham, As-Saffah, and Al-Mansur. He was particularly seen as a threat by the newly minted Abbasids who felt challenge by his strong claim to the title of caliph. When he died in 25th of Shawwal or 15th Rajab  148/765 at the age of 64 or 65, many Shi’i sources suspected that he was poisoned at the behest of Mansur. Al-Sadiq’s death led to uncertainty about the succession of the Imamate. He was buried in Medina, in the famous Jannatul Baqee‘ cemetery, and his tomb was a place of pilgrimage until 1926. It was then that the Wahhabis under the leadership of Ibn Saud, the founding King of Saudi Arabia, conquered Medina for the second time, and razed the tomb because of the prohibition of tombs by Muhammad, along with all other prominent Islamic shrines, with the exception of that of the Islamic prophet himself.
According to Tabatabai upon hearing the news of al-Sadiq’s death, 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 al-Sadiq had chosen four people rather than one: Mansur himself, the governor, the Imam’s oldest son Abdullah al-Aftah, and Musa al-Kazim, his younger son.
The Shi’ite group had begun to split during the lifetime of al-Sadiq, when his eldest son Isma’il ibn Jafar reportedly predeceased him, in the presence of many witnesses. After the death of Ja’far al-Sadiq, his following fractured further, with the larger group, who came to be known as the Twelvers, following his younger son Musa al-Kadhim. Another group believed instead 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 Shi’ite doctrine. Still other groups accepted either Abdullah al-Aftah or Muhammad ibn Ja’far al-Sadiq (Al-Dibaj), both sons of the Ja’far al-Sadiq, as the imam. A final group believed that al-Sadiq had been the last imam, and that the lineage had not continued. After the death of Musa al-Kazim, the majority of his followers recognized his son Ali al-Ridha as the eighth imam, while others believed that al-Kazim had been the last imam. This latter group became known as the Waqifiyah. No major divisions occurred in Shiaism from the eighth to the twelfth imam, whom the majority of the Shia (Twelvers) considered to be Muhammad al-Mahdi. Among the sects which separated from the majority, only Zaidiyyah and Ismaili continue to exist today.
Al-Sadiq religious views are recorded as authority in the writing of number of contradictory positions. The use of his name as an authority within the Sufi, scientific, Sunni legal, Ismaili and extremist writings shows his importance as a figure within the development of early Muslim thought. According to Ya’qubi it was customary for anyone who wanted to relate a tradition from him to say “the Learned One informed us”. Malik ibn Anas, when quoting anything from al-Sadiq, would say “The Thiqa (truthful) Ja’far b. Muhammad himself told me that…” the same is reported from Abu Hanifa. The works attributed to him may be of dubious authenticity, but they do establish his name at least as indicating a mastery of learning generally, and the Islamic sciences in particular. Though most groups wished to recruit al-Sadiq’s legacy for their own cause, the most extensive source for his teachings is to be found within the imami Shia tradition. For Twelver Shias Ja’far al-Ṣadiq is the sixth imam who established the Shiism as serious intellectual force in the late Umayyad and early Abbasid periods. According to Tabatabai the number of traditions left behind by al-Sadiq and his father were more than all the hadiths recorded from Muhammad and all the other Shia imams combined. Shia thought starting with Sayyid Haydar Amuli, and leading to Safavid philosophers like Mir Damad, Mulla Sadra and Qazi Sa’id Qumi continuing to the present day is based on Shia imam’s tradition specially al-Sadiq. According to Sa’id Akhtar Rizvi, Al-Sadiq preached against slavery.
Ja’fari school of law
Shia jurisprudence became known as Ja’fari jurisprudence after Ja’far al-Sadiq, whose legal dicta were the most important source of Shia law. Like Sunni law, Ja’fari jurisprudence is based on the Quran and the Hadith, and also based on the consensus (Ijma). Unlike the Sunnis, Shias give more weight to reasoning (‘Aql), while Sunnis only allow for a kind of analogical reasoning (Qiyas). Al-Sadiq 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 al-Sadiq) 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. Ja’far al-Sadiq replies in the negative saying that those who take their disputes to the rulers and their judges get only soḥt (unlawful decision). Instead al-Sadiq 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“. The reason for this is that the imams have “made such a one a judge (ḥākem) over you.”
Importance outside Shi’ism
Ja’far was reportedly a companion or even teacher of Sunni Imams Abu Hanifah and Malik ibn Anas, who in turn was a teacher of Sunni Imam Ash-Shafi‘i,:121 who in turn was a teacher of Sunni Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Also, his daughter-in-law, Sayyidah Nafisah, was a teacher of Ash-Shafi’i. Thus all of the four great Imams of Sunni Fiqh are connected to Ja’far, whether directly or indirectly.
In one hadith, Abu Hanifah once said about Imam Ja’far: “I have not seen anyone with more knowledge than Ja’far ibn Muhammad.” However, in another hadith, Abu Hanifah said: “I met with Zayd (Ja’far’s uncle) and I never saw in his generation a person more knowledgeable, as quick a thinker, or more eloquent than he was.”
See Also: Encyclopedia Iranica: JAʿFAR AL-ṢĀDEQ iii. And Sufism
Ja’far Al-Sadiq holds a special prominence among Sufi orders due to his claimed connections to some of Sufism’s earliest theologians. He is elevated as an individual of great spiritual knowledge (‘ilm) in many early works of Sufi literature, such as those by Abu Bakr Kalābāḏi (d. 380/990) or later in the writings of Sufi poet Abū Ḥamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm Aṭṭār (d. 618/1221). ‘Attar claims that Ja’far, more than the other Imams, was a spiritual forebear to Sufism when he says he, “spoke more than the other imams concerning the Path (ṭariqat).” ‘Attar’s attributed sayings of Al-Sadiq are full of Sufi specific terminology such as “He had passed away (fa’na: figuratively refers to the death of the ego)” and “window into the heart.” It is suspicious that these terms are absent from older collections of sayings attributed to Ja’far. It is also worth noting that some historical jurists and authors, such as Moqaddas Ardabili (d. 993/1585), saw Sufi claims of relation to al-Sadiq as a fabricated tie created to lend historical justification to the Sufis.
While is as apparent in these writings that Ja’far al-sadiq was regarded as a founding figure in Sufism, the historical situation is more difficult to ascertain. Given his large following and established school (madrasa), he almost certainly was a teacher to “proto-sufis.” Perhaps, as claimed by ‘Attar, this included Abu Noʿaym, Sofyān Ṯawri (d 161/776), a well known jurist and ascetic in his time. It is through Sofyan that one of the most repeated attributions to Ja’far’s character reportedly comes. ‘Attar relates:
“Sadiq was seen wearing a precious robe of silk. They said,’Son of the Prophet of God, this is not in accord with the life of your holy family.’ He took that man by the hand and drew it into his sleeve which was clad in coarse lint so that his hand was pricked. Sadiq said ‘This is for God and this is for men’“
This verse shows us that Ja’far was viewed by Sufi sources as processing a humbleness and inner piety that was a cornerstone of malamatiyya thought. The malamatiyya were closely associated with the Sufis, and these two mystical traditions had, in many ways, been blended by the time of ‘Attar. Whether these stories are any most than myth crafted by later generations is not something that can be conclusively determined. What can be said is that Sufi teachers often traced the source of their knowledge back to the teaching of Al-Sadiq and that perceived content of these teaching remain relevant to Sufi practice today
Ja’far al-Sadiq’s view on theology is transmitted through Mufazzel who recorded his own questions and al-Sadiq’s answers in a book known as Ketab al-Tawhid in which al-Sadiq gives proofs as the unity of God. This book is considered identical to the Ketāb al-ehlilaja which is a reply to Mufazzel’s request from al-Sadiq for a refutation of those who deny God. Hesham ibn Ḥakam (d. 179/796) is another famous student of the imam who proposed a number of doctrines that later became orthodox Shia theology, including the rational necessity of the divinely guided imam in every age to teach and lead God’s community.
Al-Sadiq 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 to him, has lied about God”. This view which is accordance with that of Mu’tazilite doctrine seems to absolve God from the responsibility for evil in the world. Al-Sadiq 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”. Al-Sadiq 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.” Al-Ṣadiq’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. Al-Sadiq’s answers negatively to both questions. When asked “What then?” he replies, “The blessings of your Lord are between these two”.
It is narrated in hadith that Ja’far al-Sadiq has said “We are the people well-grounded in knowledge and we are the ones who know how to interpret it.”.
The works attributed to Jafar al-Sadiq in Tafsir (Quranic exegesis) are mostly described as the Sufi-mystical works such as “Tafsir al-Qorʾān”, “Manāfeʿ ṣowar al-Qorʾān” and “ḴawāsÂsÂ al-Qorʾān al-aʿẓam”. The attribution of these works to al-Sadiq, however, is suspected. In his books Ḥaqāʾeq al-tafsir and Ziādāt Ḥaqāʾeq al-tafsir, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Solami cites al-Ṣadiq as one of his major (if not the major) source of knowledge concerning the meaning of Quranic verses.
“Ketāb al-jafr”, an early mystical commentary on the Quran (Tafsir), is also attributed to al-Sadiq. 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 Quran. al-Sadiq is said to have proposed a fourfold model of Quran 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 the Quran.
Doctrine of Taqiyyah
Al-Sadiq adopted Taqiyyah as a defensive tool against the violence and threats that were directed against him and the Shias. Taqiyya was a form of religious dissimulation, or a legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny their faith while they are in fear or at risk of significant persecution. In other words, Taqiyya says that it is acceptable to hide one’s true opinions if by revealing them, one puts oneself or others in danger. The doctrine was developed by al-Sadiq, and served to protect the Shias when Al-Mansur, the Abbasid caliph, conducted a brutal and oppressive campaign against Alids and their supporters. According to Moezzi, in the early sources Taqiyya means “the keeping or safeguarding of the secrets of the Imams’ teaching.” “Divergence of traditions” is, therefore, sometimes justified by Shia imams as a result of the need for using Taqiyya. “He who is certain that we [the imams] proclaim only the truth (Al-Haqq), may he be satisfied with our teaching,” asserts al-Sadiq; “and if he hears us say something contradictory to what he heard earlier, he should know that we are acting only in his own interest.” Practicing Taqiyya also had an esoteric significance for those who believed that their teachings should not be comprehensible to ordinary Ulama, and so hid their more profound teachings. Thus Ja’far either distanced himself or did not get involved with the rebellions of his uncle Zayd and cousin Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya against the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, respectively.
According to Haywood half a dozen religious works bear al-Sadiq’s name as author, though none of them can be firmly described as being written by al-Ṣadiq. It is probable that al-Sadiq was an author who left the writing to his students. The alchemist, Geber, for example, suggested that some of his works are “little more than records of Jaʿfar’s teaching or summaries of hundreds of monographs written by him.” Ja’far Al-Sadiq is also cited in a wide range of historical sources, including al-Tabari, al-Yaqubi and Al-Masudi. Al-Dhahabi recognizes his contribution to Sunni tradition and Isma’ili scholars such as Qadi al-Nu’man recorded his traditions in their work.
Ketāb al-jafr is a commentary on the Quran which, according to Ibn Khaldun, was first written on the skin of a young bull, which allowed al-Sadiq to reveal the hidden meaning of the Quran. Various versions of his will, and a number of collections of legal dicta, are attributed to him as well. There are many reports attributed to him in the early Shia Hadith collections such as Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni‘s Kitab al-Kafi, where they are featured as central sources of Imami doctrine. “Al-haft wa’l-aẓella” and “Ketāb al-ṣerāṭ” which are containing “secret revelations” to Mofażżal are also attributed to al-Sadiq, and had an important role in the elaboration of the esoteric doctrine of the Nosayris, for whom al-Ṣadiq is an influential figure.
- “The most perfect of men in intellect is the best of them in ethics.”
- “Charity is the Zakat (alms) of blessings, intercession is the Zakat of dignity, illnesses are the Zakat of bodies, forgiveness is the Zakat of victory, and the thing whose Zakat is paid is safe from taking (by Allah).”
- “He who answers all that he is asked, surely is mad.”
- “Whoever fears God, God makes all things fear him; and whoever does not fear God, God makes him fear all things.”
- “Allah Almighty has said: people are dear to me like family. Therefore, the best of them is the one who is nicer to others and does his best to resolve their needs.”
- “One of the deeds Allah Almighty appreciates the most is making his pious servants happy. This can be done through fulfilling their hunger, sweeping away their sorrows, or paying off their debts.”
His descendants according to Ismā’īlī Imāmah doctrine
|Jāʿfar al-Sādiq (Imamāh‘Shi’ā)||Fatima bint al-Hussain’l-Athram|
|Nizār al-Muṣṭafá (Nizārīyyah)||Muhammed||Al-Mustā‘lī (Mustā‘līyyah)|
|Alamut Castle (Hassasins)||Al-Hāfeez (Ḥāfīzīyyah)||Aṭ-Ṭāyyīb (Ṭāyyībīyyah)|
|Nizārī Imāmah||Al-Fā’īz||Taiyabi Dā’ĩs|
|Nizārī Ismāilism||Dawoodi Dā’ĩs|
|showAncestors of Ja’far al-Sadiq|