Jafar ibn Abi Talib
Reading and writing about the Ahlul Bayt holds a special place in the heart of every Muslim, as they are the blood relations of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and boast of noble virtues unmatched. Today we converse of a unique individual and an august Sahabi who had imbued in himself true faith and high aspirations. He migrated for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala just as he sacrificed for his Lord. The following couplets seek to translate the emotions of iman pumping in his heart.
طيبة وبارد شربها علي
|يا حبذا الجنة واقترابها|
|ان لاقيتها ضرابها||
والروم روم قد دنا عذابها
How wonderful is paradise and its proximity; Pure and cool its drinks are
As for the Romans their fall is at hand; when I meet them with my blows
He is Jafar ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu. His teknonym Abu ‘Abdullah. He is known by many by his salient qualities, a confident orator, a humanitarian, mouth piece of the Muhajirin, star of the mujahidin, migrator of the two migrations, and one who prayed to both qiblahs. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was extremely happy when he arrived in Madinah and grieved greatly upon his demise. He was the envoy of the Muslims in the lands of Abyssinia and enjoyed the great blessing of being part of a family wherein nobility flows continuously. The narration of Bara ibn ‘Azib radiya Llahu ‘anhu pays tribute to this stalwart of the Islamic cause. He relates, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to Jafar ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
اشبهت خَلقي وخُلقي
You resemble me in my appearance and my mannerisms
He was raised by his uncle ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu and was the elder of his siblings ‘Ali and ‘Aqil. When Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala sent his Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with guidance for mankind, Jafar and his wife, Asma bint ‘Umays radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, accepted Islam at the hands of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu together with his wife joined the blessed movement in its early days when the Muslims were far and few. As the Muslims grew in number and strength, the Quraysh of Makkah felt threatened and increased in their already painful torture of the Muslims. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then gave permission to the Sahabah to migrate to Abyssinia wherein ruled a just king who would not oppress anyone, regardless of their social or religious background.
The first group to migrate consisted of eleven men and four women, however no sooner had they reached Abyssinia that news of the Quraysh suspending their torture reached them. Pining for their birth place they returned only to find the news to be false. The polytheists had amplified their sadistic torments of the innocent Muslims.
They decided to migrate for the second time with their leader Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Just as he was their leader he was their spokesperson and by extension the mouthpiece of Islam. This group settled near the King Najashi, enjoying serenity and worshiping in peace without the sense of hate and impending doom looming over their heads. When the opportunity presented itself for Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu to enter the counsel of the King, he greeted him without bowing as was customary in the land. When the courtiers inquired as to why he did not bow he replied, “We do not bow before anyone except Allah!” When asked to expound further he explained in simple terms, “Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala sent a Prophet to us who has forbidden us from bowing before anyone besides Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and has commanded us to pray salah and pay Zakat.”
Subhan Allah! He stood before the King and his courtiers not watering down his faith nor fearing the ill effects of the truth. He held a firm stance, protecting his creed. This is true greatness that lies in the heart of a sincere believer. This group of weak Muslims left their homes and families protecting their faith and settled in a far-off land held by a just King where they then lived in relative ease. They, however, were not content with living a life where those around them lived against the decree of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, and so they began their efforts of calling towards the oneness of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.
If nothing else, this remains an honour of this group that the call to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala reached the royal court which resulted in the Qur’an being recited, Islam being revered, and King Najashi himself accepting the creed of Islam. The efforts of Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu bore fruits ripe, which would in years to come nourish the souls of the African continent.
When the incident of Hudaybiyyah came to pass Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wrote to King Najashi, seeking Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his companions. The King boarded them on a ship and allowed to them to leave gracefully. They reached Madinah in the 7th year of the Hijrah as the conquest of Khaybar was being celebrated. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam could not hide his happiness when Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu arrived and said a few words which would echo throughout the ages as a testament of his love for Jafar. When his eyes fell on him he held him, kissed his forehead and said:
ما ادري انا بقدوم جعفر اسر ام يفتح خيبر
I am not sure if conquering Khaybar pleases me more or the arrival of Jafar.
Dear reader, the return of Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu to Madinah was not to recuperate after a long separation, nor was it to enjoy comfort from the years of relentless calling to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, it was to thrive in another field. The field of fighting in the path of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. A year had barely passed since his return that he had been made one of the three leaders of the Muslim army heading to face the Romans in battle at a place called Mu’tah in the eighth year of the Hijrah. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam instructed:
عليكم بزيد فإن أصيب فجعفر فإن أصيب جعفر فعبد الله بن رواحة
Your leader is Zaid, if he falls then Jafar, and if he falls then ‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah.
The armies, not equal in number nor in equipment, was led by a Muslim army of three thousand which faced the odds of a Roman army boasting two hundred thousand. They fought at Mu’tah with the flag in the hand of Zaid ibn Harithah radiya Llahu ‘anhu who fought gallantly till his body was pierced with a spear and he lay soulless.
Jafar ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu then took the flag who fought without pause till he was fatigued from battle, not willing to give in he jumped off his horse disabled it and plunged into the thick of the battle fighting till his right arm was severed. He took the flag in his left hand till that arm was cut. He held high the flag with his bleeding stump to his chest until he too was killed.
‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah radiya Llahu ‘anhu took hold of the flag charging with his horse beleaguering himself with the following couplets:
طائعة أو لتكرهنه
|أقسمت يا نفس لتنزلنه|
|أراك تكرهين الجنة||
فطالما قد كنت مطمئنه
I swear you will go head first in to the battle; willingly or unwillingly
You have been at ease for much; is it that you do not wish for paradise.
He fought courageously till he too met his end. Khalid ibn Walid radiya Llahu ‘anhu lifted the flag, a military tactician and battlefield commander par excellence, and fought till they defeated the Roman army at Mu’tah.
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sitting in Madinah related the tragic events that transpired to the Sahabah before news of it reached Madinah:
أخذ الراية زيد فأصيب ثم أخذ جعفر فأصيب ثم أخذ ابن رواحة فأصيب وعيناه تذرفان حتى أخذ الراية سيف من سيوف الله حتى فتح الله عليهم
“Zaid took the flag and was martyred, then Jafar took it and was martyred, and then Ibn Rawahah took it and was martyred.” At the time, tears were streaming down the cheeks of the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He added, then the flag was taken by a sword amongst the swords of Allah, and Allah made them (the Muslims) victorious.
It was on that day that Khalid ibn Walid radiya Llahu ‘anhu was given the title ‘Sword of Allah’.
These are the exploits of Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The lands of Abyssinia came to know him as a patient man, a teacher, and an orator calling to the oneness of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Similarly, the lands of Mu’tah came to know of this man as a warrior, brave and steadfast fighting after being wounded repeatedly, waiting for either victory or martyrdom. A great martyr. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gave him a posthumous title, unique and befitting, Jafar al Tayyar (Jafar the One of Two Wings). The Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam explained that Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala replaced his arms with wings by which he flies wherever he wishes in Jannat. When Ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma would greet his son he would say, “Peace be upon you, son of the one with two wings.”
This is Jafar ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the winged emigrant, who resembled Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam most in form and character. May Allah be pleased with Jafar, a true mujahid, great martyr, and generous companion. This chapter is a mere glimpse into the life of this stalwart.
May Allah be pleased with him.
 Sahih al Bukhari, 2552/4005.
 Hafiz al Haythami writes in his book Majma’ al Zawaid, 15488, “Al Tabarani has included this narration in all three of his books however in the chain of narrators in al Mu’jam al Kabir there is Anas ibn Salm whom I do not know. The rest of the narrators are strong.” See the compilation of sources for this narration in Nasb al Rayah, vol. 3 pg. 323; Difa’ ‘an al Hadith al Nabawi of al Albani, vol. 1 pg. 85.
 Musnad Imam Ahmed, 22604/22619. Al Arna’ut says, “Sahih due to corroboratory factors.” It is recorded in Sahih Ibn Hibban, 7084; Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol.1 pg. 208.
 Hilyat al Awliya’, vol. 1 pg. 120.
 Sahih al Bukhari, 3547.
 Sahih al Bukhari, 3506.