AND THE TIMES OF
by Late Dr. Syed
Haider Hussain Shamsi
As-Saadlq was born 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 known 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
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
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 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 21years. Historians have
written a great deal about his astute management of the
empire. However, he was a ruthless ruler who would
order killing 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
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 Inam. 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 is
lineage continued until Ubayd Allah bin Muhammad bin Abd
Allah bin Muhammad bin Ismail proclaimed himself as the
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
(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
(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
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
(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
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 leaning.
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
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
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 renamed 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 medium 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
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 come to offer explanations when no
examples were found in the classic Sunnah. The
political caliphate had diverted the Muslims away from
the Alul 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
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 find the ways and means of going
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
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 expound 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.
It is inscribed as a separate chapter in the mammoth
works of Allama Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi.
(An excerpt from the Author's book, " And the message
continues--the lives of twelve Imams of the Ahlul Bayt.
The book can be read online in the Book Section of this
recite a Sura Fateha for Dr. Haider Shamsi).