Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq: Imam of the Muslims

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The 25th of Shawwal marks the death of Imām Ja’far ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq (d. 765), the great-great grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. He was recognized as one of the greatest authorities of his time and left a lasting legacy as one of the most important intellectual and religious figures in Islamic history. For Twelver and Isma’iil Shi’is, he was the infallible Imam of the Age, the Proof of God sent as a source of guidance for mankind. His Imamate lasted for 34 years, one of the longest in history. He has been designated “Shaykh al-‘Ulamā’” and “Imām al-Fuqahā’” for his noble rank as one of the most knowledgeable men that the Islamic world  has ever seen. He was the teacher of Imām Mālik (d. 795), Imām Abū Ḥanifa (d. 767) and Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 778), among others. He played a key role in the development of the science of jurisprudence (fiqh) as well as the inner mystical sciences of Islam.


He was descended of Imam Ali b. Abi Talib through his father and Abu Bakr from his mother’s side. The overwhelming majority of Sufi chains of lineage go through him. ‘Alī Hojvīrī (d. 1071), one of the major Persian scholars of Sufism, described Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq as “sayf-e sonnat wa jamal-e tariqat wa mo’abber-e ma’refat wa mozayyen-e safwat” (the sword of the Sunnah, the beauty of the Path, the Interpreter of Mystical Knowledge, and the adornment of Pure Devotion). Another major Persian Sufi, Shaykh Fārid al-Dīn ‘Attar (d. 1221) identified Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq as one of the most important Imams of Ahl al-Bayt who “excelled in writing on innermost mysteries and truths and who was matchless in expounding the subtleties and secrets of revelation” (latayef-e asrar-e tanzil wa tafsir).

Among his pieces of advice to his student, Sufyān al-Thawrī, was the following:

“If God bestows on you a favor, and you wish to keep that favor, then you must praise and thank Him excessively, because He said, “If you are thankful God will increase for you” [14:7]. He also said, “If the door of provision is closed for you, then make a great deal of istighfar(begging forgiveness), because God said, “Seek forgiveness of your Lord, certainly Your Lord is oft-Forgiving” [11:52]. And he said to Sufyān, “If you are upset by the tyranny of a Sultan or other oppression that you witness, say “There is no change and no power except with God,” (la hawla wa la quwwata illa-billah) because it is the key to relief and one of the Treasures of Paradise.”

He is also revered by the scholars of hadith and he narrates at least 2000 traditions which are found in the nine major books of Sunni hadith, with 110 of these found within the six canonical collections (Sihah al-Sitta). He was the teacher of four founders of Islamic schools of thought: Mālik ibn Anas (d. 795), Abū Ḥanīfa al-Nu‘mān (d. 767), Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 778), and ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Awzā‘ī (d. 774). In addition, the ḥadīth scholars and jurists Ibn Jurayj (d. 767), Sufyān ibn ‘Uyayna (d. 815) and Shu’ba ibn al-Ḥajjāj (d. 776) also studied under him.



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