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The Sixth Imam: Imam Ja'far
by Dr. Syed Haider Hussain Shamsi
THE LIFE AND THE TIMES OF THE IMAM (a)
Imam Ja'far As-Saadlq was bom in 83 AH during the reign of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik bin Marwan. He was only three years of age when Walid bin Abd al-Malik succeeded to the caliphate after his father. The Imam had the good fortune of spending the first twelve years of his life with his grandfather, Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen. He then spent the next eighteen years of his life with his father, Imam Muhammad Baqir. He was thirty-one years of age when his father was also martyred with poison by Hisham bin Abd al-Malik in II 4 AH. Thus, the hnwn had seen the reign of five Umayyad caliphs before he was appointed Imam by his father before his death. The relatively long rule of Hisham lasted for about twenty years. He was a contemporary of the Imam for twelve of these years.
Hisham had kept up the pressure on the Alkyds and their followers just like his father had done during his reign. Hisham had appointed the ruthless Khalid bin Abd Allah Qisri as the governor of Iraq and other southern provinces. Together, the caliph and his governor eclipsed the tyrarmy of Hujaj bin Yusuf and his master, the caliph Abd al-Malik bin Marwan.
During the hey days of the Umayyad dynasty, the caliphs found the members of the Aliyyld clans as easy targets for diverting the public attention from their failure and decadence. The Aliyyids were taunted and insulted, and provoked to such an extent that they would come out to defend their honor and integrity. This provided the tyrants sufficient excuse to put them to sword.
Zaid bin Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen was one such martyr who was subjected to such a fate. He could not withstand the instdts thrown at him by the governor of Hisham. In 121 AH, he came out with a small force of loyalists for the cause of the Truth, and fought bravely to Ws death in 122 AH. His head was hoisted on the spear and his body was hung on the cross for full four years. It was then taken down, only to be put to the flames.
In 125 AH, Imam Jafar as-Saadiq witnessed an exact repeat of Zaid bin All's fate meet his son Yahya bin Zaid at the hands of the Umayyad ruler Walid II bin Yazid II bin Abd-al Malik. His decapitated body was also hung on the cross until taken down by Abu Muslim of Khorasan (after he helped the Abbasids to end the yoke of the Umayyad rule). The supporters of Yahya were hunted down and ruthlessly massacred in their homes or other hideouts. The survivors and their sympathizers were relentlessly pursued out of Hijaz.
The rule of Walid 11 lasted only a year followed by Yazid III bin Walid I bin Abd al-Malik. This rule lasted for even lesser period of only six months. His brother Ibrahim succeeded him to the caliphate, only to be toppled from his seat in just two months. In 127 AH, Marwan II followed as the last caliph in the Marwanid dynasty, and ruled a shrinking empire for about five and a half years.
Not with standing the continued oppression of the Hashimites under the Umayyads, Abd Allah bin Muawiyah (a grandson of Jifar bin Abu Talib) rose to claim the cause of his clan in 127 AH. He met the same fate as that of his other clan members just a few years earlier.
By this time, the end of the tyrannical rule of the Umayyads was in sight. A secret Hashimite movement was under way in Palestine under Ibrahim Imam, brother of Abd Allah (Saffah) bin Muhammad bin Ali bin Abd Allah bin Abbas (an uncle of the Prophet). Their manifesto was to avenge the blood of Imam Husain and to liquidate the Umayyads. However, their bidden and real aim was to take over the caliphate for themselves with the help of the Aliyyids. With this ploy and the popular slogan, Ibrahim Imam was able to muster support from the oppressed Shiites. Abu Muslim who had just established an independent principality in Khorasan under the Aliyyid flag, marched on to Iraq with a massive force of seventy thousand strong, and ended the yoke of the Umayyads rule in Iraq in 129 AH. In a pre-arranged banquet in Damascus, the Umayyad princes and their heirs were arrested, and suffocated to death by encasing them in leather sacs.
Somehow one prince, named Abd ar-Rehman escaped the doorn of the family and made his way to the distant dominion of Spain, in the Far West. Here he gathered support from the long settled Syrian veteran soldiers and founded a new Umayyad dynasty.
Imam Jafar as-Saadiq thus saw the rule of the last five caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty, and the sufferings of his kinsmen perpetrated by them. He saw the reign of the first two caliphs of the new Abbasid dynasty, and the start of a new era of persecution of the Aliyyids and their followers. The atrocities unleashed by the Abbasids to their very supporters (the Aliyyids), turned out to be worst than those caused by their predecessors, the Umayyads.
The new dynasty of the Abbasids began to strengthen its establishment. The oppressed had assisted 'in getting rid of the yoke of one tyrant system only to exchange for a new one. Abu Muslim was useful to the new regime in the mopping up operation against the remaining resistance from the Umayyad loyalists. Fearing from his success and increasing popularity, the new caliph sent him on one such mission and had him assassinated in the field. In 132 AH, Muhammad (Saffah), brother of Ibrahim Imam became die Caliph of the consolidated Abbasid empire that stretched from Morocco in the West to Afghanistan in the East.
Muhammad Saffah died in 136 AH at the age of 32 years, and was succeeded by his brother Abd Allah al-Mansoor (Dwaneeqi). His rule lasted for about 21 years. Historians have written a great deal about his astute management of the empire. However, he was a ruthless ruler who would order kflling of another human being without remorse. He was nicknamed Dwaneeqi because of his extreme miserly nature. He had swom to eradicate all Aliyyids from his dominions. He targeted the Aliyyids with insults, provocation and deprivation. And, whenever they arose in arms to defend their honor or their families, they were ruthlessly slaughtered and beheaded: The survivors were thrown into dingyjails, to rot and to die there. Thus, the fate of the respected elder, Abd Allah Mahadh, and his son Muhammad (Nafse Zakk-iyah), along with many others from the progeny of Imam Hasan, was not much different from that of Zaid bin Ali and his son Yahya from the progeny of Imam Husa'm.
The jealous caliph could not tolerate the respect and popularity enjoyed by the Imam in Madinah. He very much wanted to subject the Imam to the same treatment as suffered by other members of his clansmen. The Imam refused to take to an-ned retaliation. The caliph resorted to have him summoned to his court in the presence of dignitaries and scholars from other lands without prior warning in order to slight him in public. But he failed in his schemes due to the wit of the Imam Ws knowledge, his popularity, and his purity.
Finally, the Caliph managed to have his way, and had the Imam poisoned. He succumbed to the fatal dose of poison and died in 148 AH. Before he breathed his last breath, he appointed his son Musa to lead the Ummah after him.
It is important to point out at this stage that Ismail, the older son of the Imam had died during the life of the Imam and was buried in the graveyard of Jannat ul-Baqi. Muhammad bin Ismail had hoped that people would accept his father as the successor to Imam Jafar as-Saadiq, and thus he would inherit the honor of being the next Imam. But the position of Imamate is not a matter of inheritance but that of a divine appointment, as the custodians of the Message of Islam. There was a small faction of the followers who did regard Ismail to be their hnam. And thus Muhammad bin Ismail did obtain the honor he had aspired for among his separatist faction. However, he had only a short life, and his lineage continued until Ubayd Allah bin Muhammad bin Abd Allah bin Muhammad bin Ismail proclaimed himself as the awaited Mahdi.
Ubayd Allah made his way to Morocco and laid the foundation of the Fatimid dynasty in a newly built city named Mahdiya. Later, they moved to Egypt and ruled there for many years. The present-day Ismailia sect thus follows a descendant from an offshoot of the Fatimids of Egypt.
1. If someone comes to a fellow Muslim seeking his help, and he gives it to him, then Ns Muslim is like someone who is doing jihad in the name of Allah.
2. Allah says that people are like His family. He who treats them well, has earned His nearness.
3. 1 found wisdom in four things:
(i) get to know your Creator;
(ii) get to know what the Creator has provided you with;
(iii) get to know what the Creator expects of you and holds you responsible for;
(iv) get to know what things would throw you out of the circle of the believers.
4. There are four things in the conduct of the prophets of Allah:
(i) good deeds;
(ii) giving away in charity;
(iii) forbearance in times of trouble;
(iv) deliver the rights of the believers to them.
5. A believer is afraid of two things:
(i) the previous sins, not knowing how Allah would account these;
(ii) the remaining life, not knowing what sins he might commit before his time is up.
He would not end the night without fearing what the mom has in stock for him, and does not end his day without fearing if he was able to accrue deeds that would please Allah.
Nothing will avail him to things done straight except his fear for Allah.
6. No momin can reach the heights of fulfillment, of his faith unless he has mastered three of the following:
(i) understanding and vision in faith;
(ii) a middle-of-the-road type of conduct;
(iii) forbearance during times of trouble.
7. People cannot get away from three things:
(i) a jurist who is pious and learned;
(ii) a ruler who is caring, and who could be obeyed;
(iii) a physician who is able to heal and is reliable.
8. We are ourselves the roots of all good. All good deeds sprout from these branches. They are:
Belief in the Oneness of Allah, fasting, dispelling anger, to forgive and to forget, benevolence towards the poor, giving the right to the neighbors, to recognize and to respect others for their achievements, all count as good deeds.
Our enemies are the root cause of all sins. All evil deeds and trouble sprout from these branches. They are:
Lies, miserly behavior, back-biting, meanness, usury, usurpation of the rights of the orphans, exceeding the limits imposed by Allah, committing any sinful act hidden or openly, rape or adultery, all of these count as sinful deeds.
9. Three types of men can be recognized under these conditions:
(i) anger of the kind and tolerant person;
(ii) battle for a brave and fearless person;
(iii) the time of need for a friend or a brother.
10. When this world becomes generous towards someone, it adds the good deed of others into his account; but when it turns against him, then his good deeds are added onto someone else's account.
II. It is best to sleep less at night, and talk less during the day.
12. When troubles mount on top of troubles, then the days of the troubles are numbered.
REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE OF IMAM JA'FAR AS-SAADIQ (a)
Imam Baqir appointed his son as-Saadiq Imam after him. He lived through most of the Marwanid Umayyad rule and witnessed their downfall. He also endured the rule of the first two caliphs of the new Abbasid dynasty. The decaying dynasty of the Umayyads and the political turmoil generated by the Hashimite movement of the Abbasids had created a vacuum of theological leaming. However, the Imam continued to teach large numbers of students in Madinah, and his followers continued to benefit from him in their search for the knowledge of the school of Ahle Bait during those difficult times.
Imam Ja'far as-Saadiq is known for the reporting of authentic ahadith of the Prophet as passed on to him through his father and forefathers. His truthfulness and sincerity earned him the title of as-Saadiq.
Upon his death, his contemporary fuqaha (plural of the wordfaqih: leadingjurists of Islam) expressed their feelings thus:
Imam Abu Hanifa said, "Ja'far as-Saadlq was the greatest scholar of Islamic theology and jurisprudence. "
Imam Malik said, "My eyes have not seen a more learned, pious, and Godfearing man than Imam Ja'far as-Saadiq."
The Imam is renoned by the vast number of his students and disciples, some of whom had become revered as Imams among many of the Sunni sects. His students collected volumes of quotes from him including invaluable interpretations of the Quran and the Sunnah. These works are available today for reference and guidance. One of his greatest disciple was Jabir ibne Hayyan whose name is well known in history for his prolific writings and works on the physical sciences and on al-chemy.
The Ja'fariyya School of Islamic Jurisprudence
The laws by which Allah wanted human society to be governed, were sent down by Him through revelations in the Book, al-Qur'an. The meditun of its conveyance was through His Messenger, the Prophet of Islam. The Prophet lived a simple life amongst a simple people and demonstrated to them how to deal with other people and how to live a life of piety and harmony with fellow men and nature.
Before his death, the Prophet of Islam had told the Muslims that he was leaving among them two most valued things to which they must remain attached, if they wished not to go astray. One of them is the holy Quran, and the other is his Ahle Bait. Clearly those who profess that the Quran suffices them, have failed to recognize the advice of the Prophet.
When Islam had spread to far off places as also the Muslims across other regions and cultures, the need for expanded meanings of al-Quran and the interpretation of Sunnah became imperative. Often false quotes ascribed to the Prophet were comed to offer explanations when no examples were found in the classic Sunnah. The political caliphate had diverted the Muslims away from the Ahig Bait, and were themselves incapable of providing the necessary solutions to complicated questions on the faith and the practice of Islam. The period of decay of the Umayyad dynasty, and the coming of the Abbasids was particularly a difficult time in this regard. This was also the time when several jurists became active among the Sunni Musl'uns to fill the gap. Some of them wrote books of reference on Islamic Law.
Two major schools emerged simultaneously, one in Iraq under Abu Hanifa, popularly known as Ahle Raai and the other in Hijaz under Malik bin Anas, known as the Classical School, or the Ahle Hadith. However, the proponents and the supporters of these two schools used Raai (individual and personal logic) and Qiyas (speculative derivation) whenever relevant Hadith was either unavailable or was weak, based on island or twatur (authenticity
or continuity of reporting all the way to the Prophet). This methodology called for the use of speculative logic and personal opinion to arrive at a fatwa (verdict on questions of Islamic Law) on a particular question. This meant that people could interpret the laws of Allah according to their logic or opinion. However, the laws of Allah are beyond the scope of the human interpolation. Man must use his intelligence to fmd ways and means to obey the ordinances of Allah and not to fmd the ways and means of going around them!
Imam Ja'far as-Saadiq offered such an enormous variety of answers to all Idnds of complicated questions in Islamic Law based on Ahadith and the Sunnah of the Prophet that he categorically rejected the methodology of Raai and Qiyas in Fiqh.
It is important that Fiqh Ja’fariyya should not be confused to authorship of Imam Ja'far as-Saadiq. It is essentially based on the Ahadith and Sunnah of the Prophet and the jurisprudence that had been passed down to the believers through oral tradition by the Imams of Ahle Bait. The eponym Fiqh Ja’fariyya (or the alternative name 'Fiqh Itrat) is applied simply to identify it from other methods of jurisprudence evolved by other fuqaha (jurists of Islamic Law).
Thousands of students attended and leamt Fiqh from the Imam. Much of his teaching was committed to writing and was gathered by his students. Four of the major compilations of the Imam's teachings have been extracted from the older literature:
1. Kafi: by Muhanunad Ya'qub Kulni.
2. Man la Yahdhr al-Faqih: by Muhammad Ali Baabwaih.
3. Tahzib, and Istibsar: by Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Tusi.
4. Kitab al-Irshad: by Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Nieman al-Baghdadi.
RISALA E TAWHEED MUFADHAL
The Epistle on the Unity of Allah
The cornerstone of Islam is Tawheed, the belief of the Oneness of Allah. Once a companion of the Imam, called Mufadhal, requested him to expounded on the subject of Tawheed as he was faced with a contest with a group of atheists. The Imam delivered the answer to his question in four sittings. As he spoke, Mufadhal went on writing it down, resulting in the Risala. This is popularly known as the Risalah-e Tawheed Mufadhal.
(Excerpt from the late Author's book , " And The Message Continues', available for online reading on this web site).
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