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Why Imām al-Sādiq Was Called the Head of the Shia Denomination?

This title-the head of Shia denomination- is known to be applied to the sixth Imām of Shia because the shi`aa teachings find the opportunity to be spread during his era and through his instructions.

Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) was born at 17th of Rabyeal’awal, 83 A.H in Medina. His honorable father was Imām Muhammad al-Bāqir (pbuh) and his noble mother was Umm Frūh, the daughter of Ghāsim ibn Muhammad ibn abi Bakr.His name was Ja’afar, his famous title was Sādiq and his cognomen was Abū ‘Abdullah.

The martyrdom of Imām al-Sādiq was occurred at 20th of Shawal, 148 A.H, at the age of 65 in Medina by the means of the poison that was given to him through the command of Mansūr Davānīghi, the cruel Abbasi caliph. The tomb of Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) is placed in Baqi cemetery.

Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) put efforts into scientific endeavor and set up his productive seminary amongst the community where the most significant jurists and intellectuals had been educated and he left a great scientific treasury for the community by training scholarly individuals.

Some of the prominent students of Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) are Hishām ibn Hakam, Mu’men Tāq, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Zurarah ibn A’yon and etc. All of them are illustrious persons nurtured in Imām al-Sādiq’s school of thought. His scientific movement was developed and expanded in a way that it spread over the entire Islamic regions and people used to talk about his knowledge. His fame spread in all cities and lands.

What were the most important activities of Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) that caused we call the Shia denomination”Ja’afari”?

What Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) did was so novel and thoughtful. Employing the proper preparations done by Imām al-Baqir (pbuh) and the primary bases of knowledge and teachings that he established, Imam al-Sādiq started cultural activities.

Organizing the Shia denomination in the intellectual dimension

He held the classes and taught the students what we say; what is our opinion about the religion and its denominations; and what we understand from the verses of the Quran. He established the greatest jurisprudential school of thoughts during his fruitful lifetime. His main emphasis was on expressing the point of view of Islam.He introduced an important part of traditions and Quranic sciences based on scientific method and he delineated the borders of different sects and denominations and he showed which sect is right and talks firmly up to where and in where it passes the path of falsehood.

Because it was dependent on Imām al-Sādeq (pbuh) and the result of his plans and efforts. In other words, he completed what other Imāms had done before. Ja’fari denomination is the school of thought of Imām Ali (pbuh) and the school of thought of Imām Ali (pbuh) is the very true Islam. Who knows the Islam better and more than Ali (pbuh)? He was the companion of the Prophet (pbuh) and his brother and successor. His life was spent with the Messenger of God.

He [Imām al-Sādeq] introduced the Shia denomination, which is the real Islam. He set the guidelines on Shia denomination and encouraged the students to compile [them]. Based on his encouragement the main four principles were formulated and according to them, Tashayyo’ a manifested its form and organization. He showed that Tashayyo’ a consisted of the religion and the government at the same time and there is no separation between these two. The method of Shia is the method of the infallible Imams.

The constitution and unity of the individuals

Another action of him was nurturing the students that each one of them was a master at different fields of science. He tried to establish the ethics and morality in social life at least amongst his students. His pupils who later had started their activities throughout the Islamic land, perceived their situation and the method of Islamic life and propagated it in the society. Imam Sadiq would invite people to morality and unity, even in some cases, in practice and he used to resolve the disputes amongst them.

Opening the Ijtihad door

Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) made a special motion in the science and jurisprudence world and made his students to use the [scientific] method of research, investigation and deduction and to avoid drawing only analogic conclusion. Founding the jurisprudence and perception, he opened up a great deal of scientific discussion and reasoning. Through the way that he was teaching, he extracted the rules and law from the verses of the Qur’an. He remained the Ijtihad door open and promoted free and unrestricted thinking. He said, “If the mujtahid reaches the truth in his deduction and Ijtihad, there are two rewards for him and if the way of his deduction would be correct and what he has achieved would not be in accordance with the law of Allah, there is still a reward for his deduction.”

Drawing attention to AhlulBayt (puth)

The rights of AhlulBayt (puth) were ignored in the early days of demise of the Prophet [of Islam] and gradually, from the time of the rulership of the rulers, their rights were forgotten and their value was diminished in the shadow of conspiracy and hostilities. In the age of the Umayyad, they tried to consign AhlulBayt to oblivion and they were successful in doing that. The intention of Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) was the revival of the AhlulBayt (puth) and to draw the public attention toward them. People began to understand that there should be a revising for this matter and it happened because of Imam’s efforts,since he could prove the superiority of AhlulBayt among the scientific and jurisprudential society of that day. He himself as a significant member of AhlulBayt (puth) had brilliant performances in the era of his Imamat and eventually by great efforts, the Islamic thoughtfulness and its explicit and authentic line emerged again.

What is the reason that Shia faith is called Ja’fari faith?

First, we must consider this fact that all Shia imams served Islam and the world. They endured great difficulties in this way. The difficulties have appeared in various formats such as uprising, peace, silence, and political and cultural activities.

The reason that our faith is called “Ja’fari faith” is not that the other imams have not served Islam, but the reason is that the life of Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) coincided with the late Umayyad rule and early Abbasid caliphate.Due to the conflicts and frictions that arose between the two dynasties, there was a good opportunity for cultural activities that Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) used in order to develop Shia. Imam published and propagated Islam through the formation of classes and explaining the teachings and principles of Shia. He quoted many narrations. Therefore, Shia movement was imbued with a new life; Shia teachings and law were raised more than ever and a special and precious arrangement was given to Shia. Accordingly, this faith is attributed to Imam Ja’far Sadiq, because in addition to consolidating its principles, the main hadiths of this faith – comparing to other infallible Imams – have been quoted by this great Imam.

Thousands of people attended in his presence for his lessons. Some of them such as Abu Hanafiyah, Malik Ben Anas, Jabir ibn Haiyan and Zarara bin A’yin were reckoned as Sunni and Shia elders. The Late Jaf’arShahidi stated, “The one who studies in Shia jurisprudence will find that the narrations from Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) on various jurisprudential and Kalami[1] issues are widespread and diverse. That is why the Shia faith is considered Ja’fari faith. The opportunity that had appeared in the third decade of the second century (A.H.) made people refer to Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) easier. People ask him for explaining the jurisprudential and non-jurisprudential issues… Scholars have not quoted narrations from any of the Prophet’s householders as much as they narrated from Abu Abdullah. None of them had disciples and students as much as him. The number of the traditions narrated from them is not equal to his. The scholars of the Hadith have written four thousand names of his narrators. The obvious sign of his Imamat astonishes wisdom and makes the language of the opponents dull.”

The Era of Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh)

The era of Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) was among the most turbulent eras in the History of Islam. From one side, it was during the overthrows and the successive revolutions of various groups of people, especially those who wanted to revenge for Imam Hussain’s (pbuh) martyrdom. The most important revolutions were the revolution of ‘Abo-Salameh’ in Kufa and the revolution of ‘Abo-Muslim’ in Khorasan and Iran. This revolution eventually overthrew Umayyad government and released people from their oppressions and cruelties. But, Abbasid Dynasty took advantage of the revolution unjustly by using tricks and conspiracies, then they made themselves the owner of the caliphate and the government. The period of transforming the government of Umayyad Dynasty, which had lasted one thousand months, to Abbasid Dynasty was among the most terrible and chaotic periods of Imām al-Sādiq’s (pbuh) life. In addition, the era of Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) was the era of conflicts of different schools of thought and ideologies, and the era of clash of different philosophical and theological ideas which were the results of the Islamic Nations meeting with the people of the conquered countries and the relations of Islamic centers with the outside world that awakened a passion for understanding and researching in Muslims.

An era in which the slightest inactivity or ignorant of the true Imam (pbuh)-Islamic Guard- would lead to destruction of the religion and the decay of the vital teachings of Islam, both from inside and outside.

That was the time when Imam (pbuh) was facing a great difficulty and had an enormous responsibility on his shoulders. The sixth leader in such a crisis should have been aware of saving the thoughts of the Muslim communities from infidelity and atheism, preventing the deviation of the principles and teachings of Islam from the true path, and preventing the false and inverted justifications of religious orders by the caliphs of the time.

Furthermore, he saved Shia from destruction with a definite and clever plan. The Shia that was breathing its last breaths in the atmosphere of pressure and tortures caused by the previous government while sacrificing its last members. The honorable men and women of Shia would hide themselves or drowned in the glamor of the usurper and tyrannical government and nobody dared to talk about anything. Also, the new government was the same as the previous one in killing and injustice, and the situation was so miserable, awful, and dangerous that all the Imam’s companions were at the risk of death, as their best ones were among the black list of death.

“Jabir Ju’fi” was one of the special companions of Imam (pbuh) who was given order to do a mission in Kufa. On the way of Kufa, the messenger of Imam reached him. The messenger told him, “Imam said, ‘Pretend you are an insane.’” This order saved his life and the Kufa Ruler who had been secretly ordered from the Caliph to assassinate him, gave up killing him because he thought he is mentally ill.

Jabir Ju’fi also was one of the Imam Baqir’s (pbuh) secret keeper companions. He said, “Imam Baqir (pbuh) taught me seventy thousand traditions (Hadiths) that I didn’t and I won’t tell anyone about any of them…”One day he said to Imam Baqir (pbuh), “You have told me some secrets that I can’t bear them and I have no confidant to tell them these secrets. I’m going to be insane!”Imam (pbuh) said, “Go to a mountain or a desert and dig a well, put your head inside it and in the silence of the well say, ‘Muhammad bin Ali told me this and that…’

Yes. Shia was going to be demolish, which means that the true Islam was going to transform into Caliphs customs and it was going to disguise as the Islam of Umayyad Dynasty or Abbasid Dynasty.

In such a difficult situation, Imam hardly tried to revive and restore the Islamic studies and he created a great science school that educated four thousand experts (like: Hesham, Muhammad bin Muslim, and…) in different scientific branches. These experts went to different areas throughout the vast Islamic country of that day.Each one of them in one hand were the manifestation of the Imam’s logic, which is exactly the logic of Islam. In the other hand, they became the guard of the true Shia. They were defenders of Islam against the influence of anti-Islamic and destructive thoughts.

Establishing this school of thought and the modernization and revival of Islamic studies in such a way was the reason that Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) was well-known as the head of the Ja’fari (Shi’ism) denomination. But it didn’t last so much. After Abbasi Dynasty established their government and had influence on people, they followed Umayyad Dynasty into oppression and pressure and even became crueler than them.

Imām al-Sādiq (pbuh) was always a revolutionary tireless fighter in thebattlefield of thinking and acting, similar to the thing that Imam Hussain (pbuh) did in the form of a bloody uprising. He did his own uprising in the form of teaching and establishing a school and he taught people and he did a true Jihad.



[1]Ilm al-Kalam (علم الکلام) is the science that talks about Islamic beliefs.

About Ali Teymoori

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