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Ja'far al-Sadiq

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Jaʿfar ibn Muhammad al-Sādiq (Arabic: جعفر بن محمد الصادق‎) (702-765 C.E. or 17th Rabī‘ al-Awwal 83 AH - 25th Shawwāl 148 AH) is believed by the Twelver and Ismaili Shi'a Muslims to be the sixth infallible Imam (to Nizari, fifth), or spiritual leader and successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.[1] He is the Imam recognized by both Ismaili and Twelver Shi'a sects and the dispute over who was to succeed him led to a division within Shi'a Islam.[1]

Al-Sadiq is said to be highly respected by both Shia and Sunni Muslims for his great Islamic scholarship, pious character, and academic contributions. Although he is perhaps most famous as the founder of Shia fiqh, known as Ja'fari jurisprudence, he had many other accomplishments. As well as being an Imam on the Shia chain, his presence also graces the Naqshbandi Sufi chain.[2]He was a polymath: an astronomer, alchemist, Imam, Islamic scholar, Islamic theologian, writer, philosopher, physician, physicist and scientist. He was also the teacher of the famous chemist, Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber),[3][4] and of Abū Ḥanīfa,[5] founder of a Sunni Madh'hab.

Birth and family life

Ja'far al-Sadiq was born in Medina to Umm Farwah bint Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr on 20 April 702 AD (17 Rabi' al-Awwal, 83 Anno Hegirae). He has the same birthday as that of Muhammad.

Ja'far Al-Sadiq has three titles; they are As-Sadiq, Al-Fadil, and At-Tahir. His father, Muhammad al-Baqir (the fifth Shi’ah Imam), was much happy and pleased by the birth of his son. His mother, Umm Farwa, was the grand daughter of Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, who was the son of Caliph Abu Bakr Siddiq.

Ja'far al-Sadiq was 34 years old when his father, Muhammad al-Baqir was poisoned and he inherited the Imamate.

Marriage and offspring

Jaf'ar married Fatima Al-Hassan, a descendant of Imam Hasan ibn Ali, who bore him two sons Isma'il ibn Jafar (the Ismaili Imām-designate) and Abd-Allah.

Following his wife's death Al-Sadiq purchased a black slave of African origin, Hamidah Khātūn (Arabic: همده خاتون‎), freed her, trained her as an Islamic scholar, and married her. She bore Mūsá al-Kāżim (the Twelver Imām-designate) and was revered by the Shī‘ah, especially by women, for her wisdom.

Scholarly attainments

As a child, Ja'far Al-Sadiq studied under his grandfather, Zayn al-Abidin. After his grandfather's death, he studied under and accompanied his father, Muhammad al-Baqir, until Muhammad al-Baqir died in 733.

Ja'far Al-Sadiq became well versed in Islamic sciences, including Hadith, Sunnah, and the Qur'an. In addition to his knowledge of Islamic sciences, Ja'far Al-Sadiq was also an adept in natural sciences, mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, anatomy, alchemy and other subjects.

The foremost Islamic alchemist, Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan, known in Europe as Geber, was Ja'far Al-Sadiq's most prominent student. Ja'far Al-Sadiq was known for his liberal views on learning, and was keen to have discourse with Scholars of other views.

Abū Ḥanīfa was an Islamic scholar and Jurist. He was a student of Ja'far Al-Sadiq, as was Imam Malik ibn Anas, who quotes 12 hadiths from Imam Jafar Sadiq in his famous Al-Muwatta.[5]

  • Scholars believed to have leaned extensively from Ja'far Al-Sadiq:
  1. Jabir Ibn Hayyan - known in Europe as Geber, a great alchemist.
  2. Musa al-Kadhim - his son, the seventh Shi’ah Imam according to the Twelvers
  3. Isma'il ibn Jafar - his son, the seventh Shi'ah Imam according to the Ismaili
  • Sunni scholars who either attended Ja'far Al-Sadiq's lectures or learnt from him:
  1. Abū Ḥanīfa - founder of the Hanafi school of thought.
  2. Malik ibn Anas - founder of the Maliki school of thought.
  • Others that attended lectures by Ja'far Al-Sadiq:
  1. Wasil ibn Ata - founder of the Mu'tazili school of thought.


Ja'far al-Sadiq developed Ja'fari jurisprudence at about the same time its Sunni legal fiqh counterparts were being codified. It was distinguished from Sunni law "on matters regarding inheritance, religious taxes, commerce, and personal status."

Under the Umayyad rulers

Ja'far Al-Sadiq lived in violent times. Ja'far Al-Sadiq was considered by many followers of Ali ibn Abi Talib to be the sixth Shi'a imam, however, the Shi'ahs were considered heretics and rebels by the Umayyad caliphs. Many of Ja'far Al-Sadiq's relatives had died at the hands of the Umayyad. Shortly after his father's death, Ja'far Al-Sadiq's uncle, Zayd ibn Ali led a rebellion against the Umayyads. Ja'far Al-Sadiq did not participate, but many of his kinsmen, including his uncle, were killed, and others were punished by the Umayyad caliph. There were other rebellions during these last years of the Umayyad, before the Abbasids succeeded in grasping the caliphate and establishing the Abbasid dynasty in 750 CE, when Ja'far Al-Sadiq was forty-eight years old.

Many rebel factions tried to convince Ja'far al-Sadiq to support their claims. Ja'far Al-Sadiq evaded their requests without explicitly advancing his own claims. He is said to burned their letters (letters promising him the caliphate) commenting, "This man is not from me and cannot give me what is in the province of Allah". Ja'far Al-Sadiq's prudent silence on his true views is said to have established Taqiyya as a Shi'a doctrine. Taqiyya says that it is acceptable to hide one's true opinions if by revealing them, one put oneself or others in danger.

The incidents and difficulties, which come into human life can, measure and find out the extent of his energy and faith. The difficulties, which cropped up in the life of Ja'far Al-Sadiq and the patience and forbearance, which, he showed towards them, illuminated his personality and worth. Howsoever they (enemies) abused and teased him he showed patience and forbearance and admonished them. He never cursed or used foul language about them.

Under the Abbasid rulers

The new Abbasid rulers, who had risen to power on the basis of their claim to descent from Prophet Muhammad (S)'s uncle ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, were extremely suspicious of Ja'far, whom many considered to have a better claim to the caliphate. Ja'far was watched closely and, occasionally, imprisoned to cut his ties with his followers. Ja'far endured the persecution patiently and continued his study and writing wherever he found himself.

He died on 14 December, 765. He was poisoned by Al-Mansur. He is buried in Medina, in the famous Jannatul Baqee' cemetery.


After Ja'far al-Sadiq's death during the reign of the ‘Abbāsids, various Shī‘ī groups organised in secret opposition to their rule. Among them were the supporters of the proto-Ismā‘īlī community, of whom the most prominent group were called the "Mubārakiyyah".

There are hadīth which state that Ismā‘īl ibn Ja‘far "al-Mubārak" would be heir to the Imamate, as well as those that state Musa al-Kadhim[6][7] was to be the heir. However, Ismā‘īl predeceased his father.

Some of the Shī‘ah claimed Ismā‘īl had not died, but rather gone into hiding, but the proto-Ismā‘īlī group accepted his death and therefore that his eldest son, Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl, was now Imām. Muḥammad remained in contact with this "Mubārakiyyah" group, most of whom resided in Kūfah.

In contrast, Twelvers don't believe that Isma'il ibn Jafar was ever given the nass ("designation of the Imamate")[8][9], but they acknowledge that this was the popular belief among the people at the time[10]. Both Shaykh Tusi[8] and Shaykh al-Sadūq[9] did not believe that the divine designation was changed (called Bada'), arguing that if matters as important as Imāmate were subject to change, then the basic fundamentals of belief should also be subject to change. Thus Twelvers accept that Mūsá al-Kāżim was the only son who was ever designated for Imāmate.

This is the initial point of divergence between the proto-Twelvers and the proto-Ismā‘īlī. This disagreement over the proper heir to Ja‘far has been a point of contention between the two groups ever since. The split among the Mubārakiyyah came with Muḥammad's death. The majority of the group denied his death; they recognised him as the Mahdi. The minority believed in his death and would eventually emerge in later times as the Fāṭimid Ismā‘īlī, ancestors to all modern groups.


  • Whoever attacks a matter without knowledge cuts off his own nose.
  • Intellect is the guide of the believer.
  • The perfection of intellect is in three (things): humbleness for God, good certainty, and silence except for good.
  • Ignorance is in three (things): Arrogance, the intensity of dispute, and the ignorance about God.
  • Certainly, knowledge is a lock and its key is the question.
  • When the believer becomes angry, his anger should not take him out of the truth; and when he becomes satisfied, his satisfaction should not bring him into falsehood.
  • Some manners of the ignorant are: the answer before he hears, the opposition before he understands, and the judgment with what he does not know.


Someone once asked Ja'far Al-Sadiq to show him God. The Imam replied, "Look at the sun." The man replied that he could not look at the sun because it was too bright.

Ja'far Al-Sadiq replied: "If you cannot see the created, how can you expect to see the creator?"


Shī‘a Islam titles
Preceded by
Muhammad al-Baqir
6th Imam of Shia Islam
743 – 765
Succeeded by
Musa al-Kadhim
Twelver successor
Succeeded by
Isma'il ibn Jafar
Ismaili successor

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Ja'far ibn Muhammad." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  2. Golden Chain
  3. Glick, Thomas; Eds (2005), Medieval science, technology, and medicine : an encyclopedia, New York: Routledge, pp. 279, ISBN 0415969301, 
  4. Haq, Syed N. (1994). Names, Natures and Things. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume 158/ Kluwar Academic Publishers. pp. 14–20. ISBN 0-7923-3254-7. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jafar as-Sadiq
  6. Shaykh al-Mufid. "The Infallibles - Taken from Kitab al Irshad". Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  7. an-Nu'mani, Ibn Abu Zaynab (2003). "24 - entire chapter". al-Ghayba Occultation. Ansariyan Publications. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 al-Tusi, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (2003). Kitab al-ghaybah. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah. pp. 264. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 al-Qummi, Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Babawayh. al-Imamah wa al-Tabsirah min al-Hayrah. pp. 149–150. 
  10. al-Tusi, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (2003). Kitab al-ghaybah. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah. pp. 56,121. 


  • Muhammed Al-Husain Al-Mudaffar, Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq.
  • Sayyid Mahdi as-Sadr, THE AHLUL-BAYT Ethical Role-Models.
  • Mohammad Hussein il Adeeb, The Brief History of the Fourteen Infallibales.

External links

Template:Islamic philosophyar:جعفر بن محمد الصادق az:İmam Sadiq bs:Džafer es-Sadik ca:Jàfar as-Sàdiq cs:Dža'far as-Sádikfa:جعفر بن محمدid:Ja'far ash-Shadiqja:ジャアファル・サーディク ru:Джафар ас-Садык sv:Jafar as-Sadiq th:อัศศอดิก tr:Cafer-i Sadık ur:جعفر الصادق

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