This is an account of the Imam who was in charge (al-qai'im) after Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Ali, peace be on them, (including) who his mother was, the date of his birth, evidence for his Imamate, his age, the period of his succession (to the Imamate), the time of his death, the place of his grave, the number of his children, and a brief outline of the reports about him.
Imam Jafar Sadiq was the eldest son, testamentary trustee (wasi) and successor to the Imamate, of Imam Muhammad Baqer. He was born in Medina on Monday, 17 Rabi ul-Awwal 83AH/702AD. His name, Jafar, means “stream”, and some traditions have stated that it actually means “stream in Paradise”. His agnomen is Abu Abdallah and he is the holder of a number of titles which came to be associated with his revered personality. These include Fadhil (The Excellent) and Tahir (The Pure). The most famous title, however, is Sadiq ( The Truthful).
His mother was called Fatimah, whose title was Umm Farwah. She was the daughter of Qasim and the grand-daughter of Muhammad, the great Mujahid (warrior), who was the son of the Calipha Abu Bakr and a devoted follower of the Ahl-ul-Bayt. After the death of Abu Bakr, Asma, the wife of the first caliph and mother of Muhammad bin Abu Bakr, became the wife of Imam Ali and, thus, Muhammad bin Abu Bakr was brought up under the direct care of Amir ul-Momineen Ali and embodied the true tenets and spirit of the original and unadulterated Islamic faith.
Imam Jafar Sadiq stood out among his peers for his great merits. He was the most celebrated personality of his time, the greatest in rank and the most illustrious in the eyes of both the non-Shia and the Shia Muslims. Upon his authority the religious sciences were transmitted and great travellers carried these with them to many nations, and his wisdom and piety were known and respected in other lands. The learned scholars have transmitted more traditions on the authority of Imam Jafar Sadiq than any other member of the Ahl-ul-Bayt.
During the period of his Imamate, a more favourable climate existed for the propagation of this religious teaching. This was a result of revolts within the Islamic realm, in particular the uprising which was aimed at overthrowing the Ummayyad Caliphs, and the bloody wars which finally led to the fall and extinction of the Ummayad dynasty. The greater opportunities for the teaching of the Shia Muslim faith were also a result of the favourable groundwork that the fifth Imam, Muhammad al-Baqer, had prepared during the twenty years of his Imamate, through the propagation of the true teachings of Islam and the Ahl-ul-Bayt.
The end of the Imamate of Imam Jafar Sadiq was coupled with the end of the Ummayyad dynasty and the beginning of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Imam instructed many scholars in different fields of intellectual and transmitted sciences (Maqul and Manqul), such as Zurarah and Jabir bin Hayyam the alchemist. Indeed, the first personage to give attention to chemistry was Imam Jafar Sadiq and it can be stated, without fear of contradiction, that he is the forerunner of chemistry. The greek texts on this area of science had not yet been translated into Arabic and the Muslims possessed no knowledge of this subject. It is the result of Imam Jafar Sadiq’s deep thinking that the developed the science of chemistry. The aforementioned Jabir would visit the Imam daily, only missing to see him on one occasion when Jabir was ill. The latter beseeched the Imam to pray for him via a written communication, and Jabir was subsequently cured. Jabir, in his own works which included the books, “Ktitabul Ri’an” and “Kitabul Hijr”, cites Imam Jafar Sadiq as “my master”.
Even important Sunni scholars, such as Sufyan al-Thawri, the famous legal theologian, were among his students. Abu Hanafi, the founder of the Hanafi school of thought, was an avid pupil of the Imam for two years, and exclaimed that he had not seen anyone possessed of more knowledge than Imam Jafar Sadiq. Similarly, Malik bin Anas, the founder of the Maliki creed of Sunni jurisprudence, was also a student of Imam Jafar Sadiq and is reported to have said, when quoting the Imam’s traditions, The Thiqa’ (Truthful), Jafar bin Muhammed, himself told me that …”. It is generally said that Imam Jafar Sadiq’s classes and sessions of instruction produced four thousand scholars of hadith and other sciences.
The Imam spent his whole life in propagating the teaching of the Holy Prophet and never strove for power. His acclaim attracted the envy of the Abbasid ruler, Mansur Ad-Dawaniqi who, fearing the popularity of the Imam, decided to do away with him. Mansur ordered the torture and arrest of the descendents of the Holy Prophet, many of whom were brutally murdered.
Hisham, the Ummayyad Caliph, had orderd the arrest of Imam Jafar Sadiq and had him brought to Damascus. The Abbasid Caliph, Abdul-Abbas al-Saffah, had him brought to Iraq, as did the later caliph, Mansur who kept him under close supervision and reluctantly allowed him to go back to Medina where the Imam spent the rest of his life in hiding.
Still not satisfied, Mansur ordered the governor of Medina, Muhammad bin Suleima, to poison him. Thus, on the 15th, or 25th of Shawwal, or perhaps on the 15th of Rajab, 148AH/765AD, at the age of sixty-five, he died of poisoning. With his relative around him, he uttered these last words: “he who is not diligent and is unmindful in his daily prayers shall not obtain our support on the day of Judgement.” He was buried in the famous cemetery of al-Baqi, alongside his father and other nobe ancestors, Imam Hasan and Imam Zayn-ul-Abidin.
Following his death, Mansur ordered the governor of Medina to find out who was designated to be the succeeding Imam and to assassinate him at once. The will of Imam Jafar Sadiq had purposely cited several possible successor, including the despicable Mansur himself as well as the actual successor, Imam Musa Kazim, had already been designated. As was intended, Mansur’s plot failed and Imam Musa Kazim was shielded from harm. Imam Jafar Sadiq had ten children, including Ismail, Abdullah and Umm Farwah from his wife, Fatima, and the seventh Imam Musa Kazim, Ishaq and Muhammed from Hamidah. The other children were Abbas, Ali and Fatima.
“ The practice of qiyas (syllogism) in deriving laws would lead to the obliteration of the Deen (religion)”.
Ali ibn Ibrahim, with his chain of narrators, reports from Imam Jafar Sadiq that the Imam stated, “For every good deed that s slave of God performs, the reward for it is specified in the Quran, except for the midnight prayer which commands an unusually high reward on account of its great worth. (Allah says in the Quran), “Their sides shun their beds as they call on their lord in fear and hope; and they expend of what We have provided them. No soul knows what delight is laid up for them secretly, as a recompense for that they were doing(32:16,17).