Imam Jafar al Sadiq and Imamah

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Imam Jafar al Sadiq and Imamah

The Shia from their very inception were a splinter movement, the overwhelming majority belonging to the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah. It was only after the Battle of Siffin that the term Shia began to be used and then too it carried only a political connotation, not religious. It was only after the massacre of Karbala’, with the formation of the Kaysaniyyah and emergence of new dogmas, that it began to carry a patented religious connotation. The Shia minority then became a distinct sect, with an opposing belief structure to the main stream Ahlus Sunnah.

This Shia minority was plagued with incessant division due to their divergent and irreconcilable theories on Imamah. The bulk of them affiliated themselves to those who were proactively working against the leading powers of that time, leaving only a scant few believing in the Imamah of ‘Ali Zayn al ’Abidin. Even fewer upheld the Imamah of Muhammad al Baqir, as the meagre followers of this line were divided between the two brothers: the passive al Baqir and proactive Zaid. Thus the number of supporters left for Jafar al Sadiq were even fewer than for his father.

We remind the listeners of the objective behind this investigation: To prove that the doctrine of Imamah held by the Twelver Shia is nothing more than a fictitious notion unsupported by the Qur’an, Sunnah, Ahlul Bayt, and the early generation of the Shia. Its false nature becomes plainly visible when the attitudes of the Ahlul Bayt and Shia themselves are disclosed.

When the era of Imam Jafar arrived the Shia were already divided, the lion’s share rallying behind either ‘Abdullah ibn Muawiyah ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Jafar, Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, or Zaid ibn ‘Ali and his son Yahya after him.

Imam Jafar’s pacifist policy did not encourage much support from the Shia either. The Shia were looking for military leadership to overthrow the Umayyads and not simply spiritual guidance. As a result many of the supporters of al Baqir, who had initially supported the Imamah of Jafar, allied themselves to the grandson of Hassan ibn ‘Ali, ‘Abdullah al Mahd, and his son Muhammad Dhu Nafs al Zakiyyah, with many of them considering the latter to be the promised Mahdi.[1]

Abu al Jarud Ziyad ibn Ziyad al Hamdani al Kufi, one of the founding members of the Zaidi sect, initially supported al Baqir but then shifted to the party of his brother, Zaid ibn ‘Ali, together with a large number of his companions. The Jarudites based their theory of Imamah on the basis of challenge and revolt and not on the basis of text or divine appointment.[2]

They went to extremes against the Imams of the line of Hussain, and alleged that anyone of them who claims Imamah while sitting in his home is an unbeliever and a Mushrik. The same goes for anyone who follows such a person or accepts his Imamah.[3] Thus we see elements of Nasb entering into Shi’ism, sentiments which were reciprocated in kind by the advocates of each of these contenders.

The supporters of Jafar who remained true to their cause used the argument of possessing the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sword as proof for the validity of Jafar’s Imamah. The problem however was that possession of the sword was a card that had already been played during the era of al Baqir and the supporters of ‘Abdullah al Mahd were now also making similar claims.[4] This resulted in words of condemnation being falsely attributed to Imam Jafar. It is alleged that he said in condemnation of his cousin:

By Allah, definitely he is lying. By Allah, he does not have it with him, he has never seen it, with one of his two eyes. He did not see it with his father, except if he saw it with ‘Ali ibn Hussain.[5]

He is also alleged to have said:


I have the white and red sword covers in which the weapon is kept, and it will be opened for blood. The rightful owner of the sword will bring it out for war. The progeny of Hassan do know this as they know that night is night and day is day. It is only envy and seeking the life of this world that make them to deny it. If they seek their right with truth, that would be better for them.[6]


Such degrading condemnation of the Ahlul Bayt for each other is unfathomable. When both share the sacred blood of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and honouring them synonymous with iman, how is it possible that they would have insulted each other in this manner? How is the blood of one considered more sacred than the other?

This all proves that no textual evidence existed for the line of the Twelve Imams and that these were just theories invented by unscrupulous supporters in each of the camps. These theories gained traction in some circles of the Shia and it is these theories that form the backbone of Twelver Shi’ism.

If the line of twelve Imams had been established by the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself then Shi’ism would not have been plagued by such division.       

The Ahlus Sunnah consider all of this to be the work of deviants, who were not afraid to tarnish the image of the Ahlul Bayt in achieving their selfish ends. While a number of false statements have been put into the mouths of the Imams, their actions and other statements contradict it.

Abdullah al Mahd, who is the grandson of Sayyidina Hassan, emphatically denied the concept of divine Imamah, he said:


We do not have in this affair what others do not have, and none of the household of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is an Imam whose obedience is made compulsory by Allah.


He used to dispute the statement that the Imamah of Amir al Mu’minin was from Allah.[7]

Zaid ibn Ali, who is the grandson of Sayyidina Hussain, also emphatically denied this concept. Al Kashshi has recorded the conversation between Zaid and Muhammad al Ahwal:


Zaid ibn ‘Ali asked him, “I have heard that you are claiming that among the family of Muhammad, there is an Imam to whom obedience is obligatory.”

Muhammad al Ahwal replied, “Yes, your father, ‘Ali ibn Hussain, was one of them.”

Zaid said, “How can that be, when he would take a mouthful of food, and if it was hot, he would cool it with his hand and then put it in my mouth? Do you think that he would protect me from the heat of this mouthful and not protect me from the fire of hell (by not informing me of this)?”

Al Ahwal answered, “He did not want to tell you lest you reject it and thus become a disbeliever, then he would not be able to intercede for you.”[8]


The integrity of the household of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam needs to be applauded, and this is the integrity that one would expect from those who carry the name of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. They negated this concept even though embracing it would have served their interests and increased their numbers at a much needed time when facing off against the Umayyad and Abbasid rulers.

Imam Jafar al Sadiq too denied this when some people of Kufah came to visit him:


They said to him, “O Abu Abdullah, some people came to us, claiming that among you the Ahlul Bayt of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is an Imam whose obedience has been imposed as a duty by Allah.”

Imam Jafar replied, “No, I do not know of that in our household.”

They then said, “O Abu Abdullah, they are ardent worshippers, people of seclusion, and who fear Allah; they are claiming that you are the one.”

Imam Jafar replied, “They know what they say better (than me). I did not command them to say so.”[9]


As for the rivalry and hostility depicted amongst the Ahlul Bayt, this too is proven to be a lie. Imam Baqir when asked about his brother Zaid said:


You have asked me about a man who is filled with Iman from head to toe. He is the leader of the Ahlul Bayt.[10]


Imam Jafar said about his uncle Zaid, which only lends credibility to his claim and movement:


Woe be to those who hear his call but do not help him.[11]


As for the relationship between al Sadiq and Muhammad Nafs Zakiyyah, Imam Jafar sent his two sons, Abdullah and Moosa to join his army, as an expression of support for the movement of Nafs Zakiyyah.[12] This is the same Moosa whom the Twelvers consider to be the seventh Imam.

Thus we are left with two diametrically opposite depictions of the Imams’ attitudes.

If the narrations of Imam Jafar al Sadiq condemning his rival claimants to the Imamah are considered to be the true depiction then one would have to simultaneously acknowledge that the greatest rivals to the Twelve Imams were the other members of the Ahlul Bayt, and they spent their lives condemning, disparaging, and rivaling each other for control of the empire. Allah save us from such a horrendous belief.

On the other hand if one were to accept that the Ahlul Bayt loved, supported, and venerated each other then one would have to simultaneously acknowledge that the narrations of disparagement are fabrications and Jafar made no claims of Imamah and instead supported the views and movements of his family members.

When the narrators of this vilification and denunciation were accosted with the contradictory actions of the Imams, the actions of the Imams were casually shrugged off as Taqiyyah.

The excuse of Taqiyyah effectively stole the authority of the Imams, as now no statement or action of the Imam could be taken on face value. Its true implication could only be sought from those who claiming fellowship with them.

It was this very excuse of Taqiyyah or contradictory speech that resulted in many of al Baqir’s supported leaving him[13], and the same goes for Jafar as well.[14] Those who remained were nothing more than puppets made to dance according to the tunes drummed out by the puppeteers.

The few who upheld the Imamah of Jafar al Sadiq were later split on the death of Isma’il, during the lifetime of Jafar.[15] The Shia had already circulated—in the name of Jafar—that his eldest son, Isma’il, would succeed him. But fate would have it that Isma’il passed away during the lifetime of his father. This resulted in another group breaking away from Imam Jafar and instead declaring for other Shi’i movements.

The number of those who actually believed in the Imamah of Jafar al Sadiq can be gauged from the conversation of Humran ibn A’yan with Imam Jafar, when he complaining about their numbers (compared to the other Shia groups), he said:


“May I be sacrificed for you! How few are we in number! Were we to gather for one sheep we would not be able to finish it.”[16]


As well as the statement of al Sadiq himself when asked why he does not lead a rebellion (like the other members of his Ahlul Bayt):


Imam Jafar replied, “I take an oath by Allah, if I had Shia (supporters) equal to this flock of sheep, I would rebel.”


After the prayer, the narrator says he went to count those sheep and found them to be only 17.[17]

Thus the impression cast by latter day Shi’i writers of Jafar al Sadiq’s Imamah having unanimous support and popularity amongst the Shi’i masses has been proven to be a farce.

If the Ahlul Bayt themselves and the Shia in general did not believe in this Divine Imamah then why are charges laid against the Ahlus Sunnah for not believing in it?




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[1] Firaqush Shia p. 54

[2] Mufid: Al Masa’il al Jarudiyyah fi Ta’yin al Khilafah wa al Imamah fi Walad al  Hussain ibn ‘Ali, P.2, Mufid: Al Thaqalan, P.10

[3] Nawbakhti, op, cit. pp, 48 –49, Ash’ari al Qummi: Al Maqalat wa al Firaq, p. 19

[4] Saffar: Basair al Darajat, P. 17

[5] As above

[6] Kulayni: Al Kafi, Vol.1 P.240

[7] Al  Saffar: Basair al Darajat, p. 153 and 156.

[8] Rijal al Kashshi pg. 186

[9] Al  Saffar: Basair al Darajat, p. 326

[10] Musnad Imam Zaid p. 8

[11] Uyun Akhbar al Rida 2/225

[12] Tabari: Vol 6. P.188 –190, Ibn al Athir, op-cit. vol. 5 P.255, Al  Isfahani, op. cit. P. 223

[13] Firaqush Shia p. 52

[14] Firaqush Shia p. 55

[15] ibid

[16] Al Rawdah min al Kafi p. 246

[17] Ibid

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