Imam Jaffer (A.S.), a brief look into his Life
Imam Jaffer (as), a brief look into his Life
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.
Al-Sadiq Ja'far b. Muhammad b. Ali b. al-Husayn, peace be on them, was out of all his
brothers (the one who was) the successor (khailfa) of his father, Muhammad b. Ali, peace
be on them, his testamentary trustee (was'i), who was in charge of the Imamate (al- qa'im
bi-al-imama) after him. He stood out among their group for his great merit (fadl); he was
the most celebrated, the greatest in rank and the most illustrious of them in (the eyes)
of both the non-Shia (al-amma) and the Shi'a (al-khassa). The people transmitted on his
authority the religious sciences which travellers carried with them (around many
countries) and thus his fame was spread throughout the lands. The learned scholars have
transmitted on the authority of no other member of the House (ahl al-bayt) as much as they
have transmitted on his authority. None of them met as many of the reporters of traditions
(ahl al-athar wa-naqalat al-akhbar) as he did, nor did the latter transmit on their
authority to the same extent as they transmitted on the authority of Ab-u Abd Allah
(Ja'far b. Muhammad), peace be on him. The specialists in tradition (ashab al- hadith)
have gathered together the names of those who narrated on his authority, who were reliable
despite differences in views and doctrines and they were four thousand men. The clear
evidence for his Imamate, peace be on him, was such that it overcame (men's) hearts and
silenced (the attempts of) an opponent to denigrate it with doubts.
He was born in Medina in the year 83 A.H. (702) and he, peace be on him, died in (the
month of) Shawwal in the year 148 A.H. (765) at the age of sixty-five. He was buried in
(the cemetery of) al-Baqi' alongside his father, his grandfather and his (great-great)
uncle, al- Hasan, peace be on them. His mother was Umm Farwa, the daughter of al-Qasim b.
Muhammad b. Abi Bakr. His Imamate, peace be on him, lasted for thirty-four years. His
father, Abu Jafar (Muhammad b. Ali), peace be on him, clearly gave him the trusteeship (of
the Imamate) and gave him an explicit designation (nass jali) for the Imamate.
[Muhammad b. Abi Umayr reported on the authority of Hisham b. Salim on the authority of
Abu Abd Allah, Jafar' b. Muhammad, peace be on them, who said:]'
When my father was near to death he said: "Jafar I give testamentary enjoinment
to you (to treat) my followers well."
"May I be your ransom," I replied, "by God, I will make them (know
their religion so well) that any man among them in the country will not (have to) ask
anyone (for advice)."
[Aban b. 'Uthman reported on the authority of Abu-al-Sabbah al- Kinam, who said:]
Abu Jafar Muhammad, peace be on him, looked towards his son, Abu Abd Allah Ja'far,
peace be on him, and said (to us): "Do you see that man? He is one of those of whom
God, the Mighty and High, said: We wish to grant a favour to those who have been
humiliated in the land and we will make them Imams and inheritors [XXVIII 5].
[Hisham b. Salim reported on the authority of Jabir b. Yazid al Jufi:]
Abu Jafar Muhammad, peace be on him, was asked about the one who would take charge
(al-qa'im) (of the Imamate) after him. He tapped Abu Abd Allah Jafar, peace be on him,
with his hand and said: "By God, this is the man among the family of Muhammad, peace
be on them, who will take charge (al-qa'im) (of the Imamate)."
[Ali b. al-Hakam reported on the authority of Tahir, a follower of Abu Jafar Muhammad,
peace be on him, who said:]
I was with (Abu Jafar Muhammad), peace be on him, when Jafars peace be on him
approached, Abu Ja'far, peace be on him, said, " Here is the best of creatures."
[Yunus b. Abd al-Rahman reported on the authority of Abd al-Ala, a retainer of the
family of Sam, on the authority of Abu Abd Allah Jafar, peace be on him, who said:]
My father, peace be on him, entrusted to me (everything) which was there. When he
was near to death, he said: "Call witnesses for me." I summoned four men from
Quraysh, among them Nafi', retainer of Abd Allah b. Umar. (My father said:) "Write
this testimony which I bequeath (like) Jacob did to his sons: My sons, God has chosen the
religion foryou. So do not die except as Muslims. [II 132] Muhammad b. Ali; makes this
last testimony to Ja'far b. Muhammad. He orders him to shroud him in the cloak in which he
used to perform the Friday prayer, to put on him his turban, to make his grave a square,
to raise it the height of four fingers above the ground and to take his shabby clothes
away from him at his burial.
Then he said to the witnesses: "Depart, may God have mercy on you.
"Father" I said to him (after they had gone), "what was in this that
there had to be witnesses for it?"
"My son," he answered, "I was unwilling for you to be overcome and
for it to be said that no testimony had been made for him. I wanted you to have
Reports with the same meaning as this account are numerous. The narration of the report
of the tablet (lawh) with the designation of him, peace be upon him, for the Imamate has
already been mentioned. The rational proofs which have been mentioned earlier that the
Imam can only be the most outstanding person in merit (al- afdal) also indicate his
Imamate, peace be on him, because of the clear demonstration of his outstanding merit in
religious knowledge (ilm), in asceticism, and in practice above all his brothers, the
members of his uncle's family and the rest of the people of his time. The evidence for the
invalidity of the Imamate of those who were not protected (from error) like the prophets
(were protected) and the clear demonstration of the lack of protection of those others who
claimed the Imamate during his lifetime, together with their deficiency in (attaining)
complete knowledge of religion, clearly indicates his Imamate. For there must be an Imam
who is protected (from error) at all times as we have mentioned before. The people tell of
the clear signs from God which were performed by him, peace be on him, which indicate his
Imamate, his true right and the invalidity of the statements of those who claimed the
Imamate on behalf of others.
Among those is the report about him which the reporters of history (naqalat al-athar)
recount about him with al-Mansur. Al-Mansur ordered Rabi to bring Abu Abd Allah Ja'far,
peace be on him, to him. He brought him. When al-Mansar saw him, he said: "May God
kill me, if I don't kill you. You are attempting to harm my authority and you are seeking
treachery against me."
"By God, I am not," retorted Abu Abd Allah (Jafar), peace be on him, "Nor
do I want to. If you have been told so, then it is by a liar. However, even if I had done
so, then Joseph was treated badly and he forgave, Job suffered tribulation and he was
patient, and Solomon received gifts and he gave thanks. These men were prophets and your
lineage goes back to them."
"Indeed," replied al-Mansur, "Come up here." He went
up and then (al-Mansar) continued: "So-and-so has informed me about what you have
"Bring him, Commander of the faithful," he replied,."so that
he may confront me with that."
He had the man whom he had mentioned brought and asked him:
"Did you (really) hear what you reported about Jaefar, peace be on him?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Make him swear to that," said Abu Abd Allah (Jafar), peace be on him.
"Do you swear to that?" demanded al-Mansur.
"I do," he replied.
"Say: May I be outside God's power and strength and may I seek refuge in my own
power and strength (if I lie that) Jafars peace be on him, did such and such and said such
and such," said Abu Abd Allah (Jafar), peace be on him.
(The man) paused for a moment and then made the oath. It was only a moment later that
his leg was struck.
"Drag him by his leg and take him out, may God curse him," ordered Abu
Al-Rabi reported: When Jafar b. Muhammad, peace be on them, went in to see al-Mansur, I
saw his lips moving. As he moved them, al- Mansur's anger (gradually) became quietened, so
that when he approached him, he was pleased with him. When Abu Abd Allah (Jafar) peace be
on him, came out from Abu Jafar (al-Mansur) I followed him and said to him: "This
man was the angriest of men towards you. When you went in, you were moving your lips as
you went in and when you moved them his anger quietened. With what (words) were you moving
"The prayer of my (great) grandfather, al-Husayn b. Ali peace be on them,"
"May I be your ransom," I said, "what is this prayer?"
He told him: "O my Provision in time of hardship, O my Help in the face of
disaster, guard me with Your Eye Which never sleeps, surround me with Your impenetrable
He told him: "O my Provision in time of hardship, O my Help in the face of
disaster, guard me with Your Eye Which never sleeps, surround me with Your impenetrable
(At that time) I said to Jafar b. Muhammad, peace be on them:
"Why did you stop the slanderer from (merely) swearing by God?"
"I was reluctant that God should see him praising His unity and glorifying
Him," he answered, "for then He would show forebearance towards Him and delay
his punishment. Therefore I made him swear in the way you heard and God struck him
It is reported that Dawud b. Ali b. Abd Allah b. Abbas killed al- Mualla b. Khunays, a
retainer of Jafar b. Muhammad, peace be on them, and took his property. Ja'far, peace be
on him, went to him while he was pulling at his cloak.
"You have killed my retainer and taken his property," (Jafar) said to
him. "Do you know that a man may sleep when he has suffered the loss of a child
but he may not sleep when he is at war? I will pray to God against you."
"Do you threaten us with your prayer?" he retorted as if he was
ridiculing his words.
Abu Abd Allah (Jafar), peace be on him, went back to his house and spent the whole
night standing and sitting. Then, at dawn he was heard saying in his private prayer: "O
Possessor of mighty strength, O Possessor of fierce enmity, O Possessor of power before
which all Your creatures are humble, give me satisfaction against this tyrant and take
vengeance on him for me." It was not an hour before voices were raised in
screeching (lamentation) and it was announced that Dawud b. Ali had just died. '
Abu Basir reported: I visited Medina and I had a young slave-girl with me. I had
intercourse with her and then I went to the baths. But I met some of our colleagues of the
Shia who were heading towards Jaefar b. Sadiq, peace be on them. I was afraid that they
would get there before me and I would miss visiting him so I went with them to the house.
When I stood before Abu Abd Allah (Jafar), peace be on him, he looked at me and said: "Abu
Basir, don't you know that the houses of prophets and the children of prophets are not
suitable places to enter for those who are ritually impure?"
I was ashamed and said: "Son of the Apostle of God, I met out companions and I
was afraid that I would miss visiting you with them. I will never do the same thing
again," and I left.
There are innumerable reports about him concerning signs and revealing the unknown
similar to those which we have mentioned, which would take too long to recount.
He, peace be on him, used to say: "Our knowledge is of what will be (ghabir),
of what is past (mazbur), of what is marked in hearts (nakt fi al-qulub), and of what is
tapped into ears (naqr fi al-asma). We have the red case (jafr), the white case, and the
scroll of Fatima, peace be on her, and we have (the document called) al-jami'a in which is
everything the people need."
He was asked to explain these words and he said: "Ghabir is knowledge of what
will be; mazbur is knowledge of what was; what is marked in the hearts (nakt fi al-qulub)
is inspiration; and what is tapped into the ears (naqr fi al-asma) are words of angels; we
hear their speech but we do not see their forms. The red case (jafr) is a vessel in which
are the weapons of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family. It will never
leave us until the one (destined) among us members of the House, to arise (qa'im), arises.
The white case (jafr) is a vessel in which are the Torah of Moses, the Gospels of Jesus,
the Psalms of David and the (other) Books of God. The scroll of Fatima, peace be on her,
has in it every event which will take place and the names of all the rulers until the
(last) hour comes. (The document called) al-jami'a is a scroll seventy yards long which
the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, dictated from his own mouth and Ali
b. Abi Talib, peace be on him, wrote in his own handwriting. By God, in it is everything
which people need until the end of time, including even the blood-wit for wounding, and
whether a (full) flogging or half a flogging (is due).
He, peace be on him, used to say: "My traditions are my father's traditions; my
father's traditions are my grandfather's traditions; my grandfather's traditions are the
traditions of Ali b. Abi Talib, the Commander of the faithful; the traditions of Ali the
Commander of the faithful are the traditions of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and
his family; and the traditions of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family,
are the word of God, the Mighty and High."
[Abu Hamza al-Thumal; has reported on the authority of Abu 'Abd Allah (Jafar), peace be
I heard Abu Abd Allah Jafar say: "We have the tablets of Moses, peace be on
him, and we have the rod of Moses, peace be on him. We are the heirs of prophets."
[Mu'awiya b. Wahb. reported on the authority of Said al- Simman:]
I was with Abu 'Abd Allah Ja'far b. Muhammad, peace be on them, when two of the Zaydis
visited him. They asked him: "Is there among you an Imam whom it is a duty to
"No," he replied.
"Reliable men have told us on your authority that you claim to be him,"
they retorted. They named some people and said: "These are men of piety and
distinction. They are among those who do not lie."
Abu 'Abd Allah, peace be on him. became angry and said: "I have not told them
When the two men saw the anger on his face, they left.
"Do you know those two?" he asked me.
"Yes," I replied, "they are from the people of our market.
They are Zaydis and they claim that Abd Allah b. al-Hasan has the sword of Apostle of God,
may God bless him and his family."
"They are liars, may God curse them," he said. "By God, Abd
Allah b. al-Hasan has never seen it either with both his eyes or even with one of them. O
God, not even his father has seen it unless he saw it with Ali b. al-Husayn, peace be on
him. If they are truthful, (ask them) what is the sign in the hilt and what is the mark on
its blade. I have the sword of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family. I
have the standard of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, and his
breast-plate, his armour and his helmet. If they are truthful (ask them) what is the mark
on the breast-plate of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and grant him peace. Indeed
the victorious standard of the Apostle of God is with me, as are the tablets and rod of
Moses. I have the ring of Solomon, the son of David, and the tray on which Moses used to
offer sacrifice and I have (knowledge) of the (greatest) name (of God) which when the
Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, used to put it between the Muslims and
the polytheists no arrow from the polytheists could reach the Muslims. I have the same as
what the angels brought. We have the weapons in the same way that the Banu Isra'll had the
ark of the covenant. Prophecy was brought to any house in which the ark of the covenant
was present; the Imamate will be brought to which ever of us receives the weapons. My
father dressed in the armour of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and grant him peace,
and it made marks on the ground. I put it on and it was (like) it was (for my father). The
one (destined to) rise up (qa'im) from among us, will fill it (so that it fits him
exactly) when he puts it on, if God wishes."
['Abd Al-Ala b. Ayan reported:]
I heard Abu Abd Allah (Jafar) peace be on him, say: "I have the weapons of the
Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, but I will never fight with them."
Then he said: "These weapons are protected, for if they were entrusted to the
wickedest of God's creatures, he would become the best of them." Then he said, "This
matter (i.e. the carrying of the Prophet's arms in war) belongs to the man, for whom
(horses') reins will be twisted (as men ride in support of him). When God wills it, he
will be brought out (into the open). Then people will say: 'Who is this who has appeared?'
God will give him support (to have power) over his subjects."
[Umar b. Aban reported:]
I asked Abu Abd Allah (Jafar) peace be on him, about what the people were saying that
Umm Salama, the mercy of God be on her, had been handed a sealed scroll. He said: "When
the Apostle of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, died, tAh, peace be on him,
inherited his knowledge, his weapons and what there was. Then that went to al-Hasan, peace
be on him, then to al-Husayn, peace be on him."
"Did it go to Ali b. al-Husayn, peace be on them, after that, then to his son
and now has it come to you?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied.
The reports with the same meaning are numerous. However, those of them which we have
given will be sufficient to indicate what we are trying to show, God willing.
An Extract from the Accounts of Abu Abd Allah Ja'far b. Muhammad al-Sadiq, Peace be on
them, and from his Words.
I found (this written) in the handwriting of Abu al-Faraj 'Ali b. al- Husayn b.
Muhammad al-Isfahani, in the text of his book known as Maqatil al-Talibiyin (the
Martyrdoms of (the family of Abu) Talib):
Umar b. Abd Allah al-Atki informed me
Umar b. Shabba told us: Al-Fadl b. 'Abd al-Rahman al-Hashim and Ibn Daja told us:
Abu Zayd (Umar b. Shabba) (also) told me: Abd al-Rahman b. b. Amr b. Jabala told me:
Al-Hasan b. Ayyub, retainer (mawla) of the Banu Numayr told me, on the authority of Abd
al-Ala b. Ayan:
Ibrahlm b. Muhammad b. Abl al-Kiram al-Jafari told me, on the authority of his father:
Muhammad b. Yahya told me on the authority of Abd Allah b. Yahya:
Isa b. Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. Umar b. Ali told me on the authority of his father:
The account of some of them has been introduced into the account of the rest (as
A group of the Banu Hashim met at al-Abwa'. Among them were Ibrahim b. Muhammad b. Ali
b. Abd Allah b. Abbas and Abu Jafar al-Mansur, Salih. b. Ali, Abd Allah b. al-Hasan, with
his two sons Muhammad and Ibrahim, and Muhammad b. Abd Allah b. 'Amr b. 'Uthman.
Salih. b. Ali addressed (them): "You know that you are the ones towards whom
the people turn their eyes and that God has brought you together in this place. Therefore
give a pledge of allegiance to one from among you, which you should give to him with
(genuine dedication) of yourselves. Bind yourselves so that God may bring victory, for He
is the best bringer of victory."
'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan praised and glorified God. Then he said: "You know that
this son of mine is the Mahdi Therefore come, let us pledge allegiance to him."
"Why are you deceiving yourselves?" demanded Abu- Ja'far. "By
God you know that there is no one else to whom the people would take greater strides nor
greater speed to answer than they would to this man," meaning Muhammad b. Abd
"True," they said, "this is he whom we acknowledge." So
they all pledged allegiance to Muhammad and took him by the hand.
Abd Allah b. al-Hasan's messenger came to my father, saying:
"Come to us. We are gathered for an (important) affair." He sent
(information) about that to Jafar b. Muhammad, peace be on them.
[Others, not including Isa, reported:]
Abd Allah b. al-Hasan said to those present: "You don't want Jafar (here), for
we fear that he would cause dissension among you in your affair."
[Isa b. Abd Allah b. Muhammad reported:]
My father sent me to see what they had gathered for. So I went to them. (Ja'far b.
Muhammad, peace be on them, sent Muhammad b. Abd Allah al-Arqat b. Ali b. al-Husayn. We
went to them). Muhammad b. Abd Allah (b. al-Hasan) was praying on a folded carpet from a
"My father has sent me to you," I told them, "to ask you why
you have gathered together."
"We have gathered (here), " Abd Allah b. al-Hasan said,"to
pledge allegiance to the Mahdi, Muhammad b. Abd Allah."
[They (i.e. the other authorities) reported:]
Jafar b. Muhammad, peace be on them, arrived and 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan made room for
him beside him. He repeated what he had said before. However, Ja'far said: "Don't
do it. The time (for the Mahdi) has not yet arrived. If you - meaning Abd Allah - consider
that this son of yours is the Mahdi, he is not, nor is this the time for him (i.e. the
Mahdi). Because you are one of our most revered elders we will not forsake you in favour
of pledging allegiance to your son, even if you only intend him to rise in anger in God's
cause, to command the good and prohibit the evil."
Abd Allah became angry and said: "I know that (the facts are) the opposite of
what you are saying. By God, God has not acquainted you with (knowledge of) His unseen
world. Rather it is envy for my son which prompts you to this (attitude)."
"By God, it is not that which prompts me," replied (Jafar) "but
this man, his brothers and his sons." Then he tapped with his hand on the back of
Abu al-Abbas and he tapped with his hand on the shoulder of Abd Allah b. al-Hasan.
"By God, it (i.e. the caliphate) is not for you nor for your two sons,"
(Jafar) told him, "but it is for them (i.e. the Abbasids). Your two sons will be
killed." He got up and leaning on the arm of Abd al-Aziz b. Imran al-Zuhri, he
continued, "Do you see the owner of the yellow cloak?" - meaning Abu
"Yes," he replied.
"By God," he said, "we have a foreboding that he (Abu Jafar)
will kill him (Muhammad b. Abd Allah)."
"Will he kill Muhammad?" Abd al-Aziz asked him.
"Yes," he replied.
[Abd al-Aziz reported:]
I said to myself, "By the Lord of the Kaba, he is envious of him." But
then, by God, I had not left this world before I saw him (Abu Jafar) kill both of them.
When Jafar said that, the people arose and separated. Abd al- Samad and Abu Jafar
followed him and asked him, "Abu- Abd Allah, do you really say this?"
"Yes," he replied, "by God I say it and I know it."
[Abu al-Faraj reported: Ali b. al-Abbas al-Maqani told me: Bakkar b. Ahmad informed us:
al-Hasan b. al-Husayn, on the authority of Anbasa b. Bijad' al-Abid told us:]
Whenever Jafar b. Muhammad, peace be on them, saw Muhammad b. Abd Allah b. al-Hasan,
his eyes would flow with tears and then he would say: "(I would sacrifice) my life
for him. The people say that (he is the Mahdl while) he is to be killed. He is not in the
Book of Ali, peace be on him, as one of the caliphs of this community."
This (second report) is a famous report just like the one before it. The historians do
not differ on the accuracy of both of them. They both (clearly) give evidence for the
Imamate of Abu 'Abd Allah al- Sadiq, peace be on him. Indeed miracles were performed by
him in order that he might make known things which were unknown and show the existence of
things before they came to be, just as prophets, peace be on them, used to make (such
things) known. That was one of their signs and indications of their prophethood, and their
truthfulness (in speaking) about their Lord, the Mighty and Exalted.
[Abu al-Qasim Ja'far b. Muhammad b. Qulawayh told me on the authority of Muhammad b.
Ya'qub al-Kulayni, on the authority of 'Ali b. Ibrahim b. Hashim, on the authority of his
father, on the authority of a group of his men (i.e. teachers), on the authority of Yunus
b. Yaqub, who said:]
I was with Abu Abd Allah (Ja'far), peace be on him, when a Syrian came to him. He said:
"I am a scholar (sahib) of theology, jurisprudence, and the laws of inheritance. I
have come to dispute with your followers."
"Is your theology from the Apostle of God, may god bless him and his family, or
from yourself?" Abu 'Abd Allah (Ja'far), peace be on him, asked.
"Partly from the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, and partly
from myself," replied (the other man).
"Then are you a partner of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his
family?" enquired Abu 'Abd Allah (Ja'far).
"No," he answered.
"Have you heard inspiration (wahy) (direct) from God?"
"No," he replied.
"Is obedience to you required as is obedience to the Apostle of God, may God
bless him and his family?"
"No," was the answer.
Abu 'Abd Allah, peace be on him, turned to me and said: "Yunus b. Ya'qub, this
man has contradicted himself before he has begun (the real business) of discussing."
Then he said: "Yunus. if you were good at theology, you should speak to him."
How sad it was, for I said to him: "May I be your ransom, I have heard you
forbid (taking part in) theology and say: Woe to the theologians who say that this follows
and that this does not follow; that this is entailed and that this is not entailed; that
this we accept as rational and this we do not accept as rational."
"I only said," Abu 'Abd Allah, peace be on him remarked, "woe
to them, if they abandon what I say and adopt their own wishes." Then he told me:
"Go out to the door and look for any of the theologians you can see, and bring
I went out and found Humran b. A'yan who was good at theology, and Muhammad b. al-Numan
al-Ahwal, who was a theologian, and Hisham b. Salim and Qays b. al-Masir, both
theologians. I brought them (all) in to him. After he had settled us in the assembly - we
were in the tent of Abu Abd Allah at the top of a mountain on the edge of the sanctuary
(of Mecca) (haram) and that was (a few) days before the days of the pilgrimage, Abu Abd
Allah, peace be on him, put his head out of the tent. There appeared at that moment a
camel dashing along. He cried out: "Hisham, by the Lord of the Kaba!"
We thought that it was Hisham, one of the sons of Aqil, who loved him greatly. But
behold, it was Hisham b. al-Hakam who came. He still only had the first traces of his
beard on his face. All of us there were older than him. Abu Abd Allah, peace be on him,
made room for him and said: "(Here is) one who helps us with his heart, his tongue
and his hand."
He told Humran: "Debate with the man" - meaning the Syrian. Humran
debated with him and overcame him. Then (Abu Abd Allah) said: "O my Taq, debate
with him." So Muhammad b. al-Numan debated with him and overcame him. Next he
said: "Hisham b. Salim, debate with him." So they both argued together.
He then told Qays b. Masir to debate with him and he did so. Abu Abd Allah, peace be on
him, began to smile at their discussion as the Syrian sought to escape in front of him. He
told the Syrian:
"Debate with this lad" - meaning Hisham b. al-Hakam.
"Yes," replied the Syrian and said, "lad, ask me about the
Imamate of this man" - meaning Abu Abd Allah, peace be on him.
Hisham was so angry that he trembled but then he said: "Fellow, does your Lord
look after His creatures or do they look after themselves?"
"Indeed," replied the Syrian, "my Lord looks atter His
"What does He do to look after their religion for them?"
"He gives them duties and provides them with proof (hujja) and evidence for the
things which He has required of them. He removes any weaknesses they might have about
"What is the evidence which He has established for them?" Hisham asked
"It is the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family," the
"What after the Apostle of God?" enquired Hisham.
"The Book and the sunna."
"Do the Book and the sunna benefit us today in our differences so that the
differences are removed from us and we are able to agree?" asked Hisham.
"Yes," replied the Syrian.
"Then do we differ from you," retorted Hisham, "so that you
have come to us from Syria to dispute with us? You claim that personal judgement (ra'y) is
the method (of establishing the practices) of religion while you acknowledge that personal
judgement does not bring people who differ together in one doctrine."
The Syrian was silent as if he was thinking. So Abu Abd Allah, peace be on him, asked
him: "Why aren't you debating?"
"If I say: We do not differ," he answered, "I would be
(merely) being obstinate. If I say: the Book and the sunna remove our differences, I would
be wrong because the two bear (different) interpretations. However, I could use the same
argument against him."
"Ask him, then," Abu Abd Allah, peace be on him, told him.
"You will find him competent."
So the Syrian asked Hisham: "Who looks after His creatures, their Lord or
"Indeed their Lord looks after them," replied Hisham.
"Does He establish for them someone who will harmonise their doctrine, remove
their differences and explain the true from the false to them?" demanded the
"Yes," replied Hisham.
"Who is that?" asked the Syrian.
"At the beginning of the sharia, it was the Apostle of God but after the
Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, it was someone else."
"Who is it other than the Prophet, may God bless him and his family, who takes
his place (al-qa'im maqamahu) in being His (i.e. God's) proof?" the Syrian asked.
"Now or before?" Hisham responded.
"At the present time," answered the Syrian.
"This man who is sitting here," said Hisham - meaning Abu 'Abd Allah. "He
is the one to whom you travelled; he is the one who tells us about heaven and is the
inheritor from father and grandfather."
"How would I have knowledge of (the truth of) that?" asked the Syrian.
"Ask him about anything which occurs to you," Hisham told him.
"You have stopped (any) excuse of mine but I do have a question," the
"I will dispense with your questioning," Abu Abd Allah, peace be on
him, told him. "I will tell you about your travel and your journey. You left on
such and such a day. Your road was such and such. You passed so and so and such and such
(a man) passed you."
Every time he told him anything about his affair, the Syrian would say: "True,
by God." Then the Syrian said to him: "At this moment I have submitted
(aslamtu) to God."
"Rather at this moment you have faith famanta) in God," said Abu Abd
Allah, peace be on him. "Islam (submission to God) is before lman (faith in God).
On the basis of the former (Islam) they arrange inheritance and marriage: on the basis of
faith (iman) men are rewarded."
"True," replied the Syrian, "at this moment I testify that
there is no god but God, that Muhammad is the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his
family, and that you are the (present) trustee (wasz) (of God) among the trustees
(appointed by God)."
Abu Abd Allah approached Humran and said: "Humran, conduct theology on the
basis of traditional knowledge (athar) and you will be correct." He turned to
Hisham b. Salim and said: "You want to use traditional knowledge but you don't
know it" Then he turned to al-Ahwal and said: "You are a man who uses
qiyas and is evasive, a man who refutes falsehood with falsehood, even though your false
argument is stronger." Then he turned to Qays b. Masir and said: "When
you debate, the nearer you are to truth and traditions (khabar) on the authority of the
Prophet, the further you are from it: you mix up the truth with what is false. A little
truth suffices for much which is false. You and al-Ahwal are skilful (verbal)
[Yunus b. Ya'qub remarked:] By God, I thought he would say to Hisham something close
to what he had said to them.
Then he said: "Hisham, you are hardly likely to fall, for you tuck in your legs
(like a bird): when you are about to fall to the earth, you fly. Therefore a person like
you should debate with the people. Guard against slipping and intercession will be behind
[Abu al-Qasim Jafar b. Muhammad al-Qummi informed me on the authority of Muhammad b.
Yaqub al-Kulayni, on the authority of Ali b. Ibrahim b. Hashim, on the authority of his
father on the authority of 'Abbas Amr al-Faqimi:]
Ibn Abi al-Awja', Ibn Talut, Ibn al-Ama and Ibn al-Muqaffa with a group of Zindiqs were
gathered in the Sacred Mosque during the season of the pilgrimage. Abu Abd Allah Jacfar b.
Muhammad, peace be on them, was there giving legal decisions to the people, explaining the
Qur'an to them and answering their questions with arguments and proofs. The group said to
Ibn Ab, al-Awja': "Can you induce this man sitting here to make a mistake and
question him about what would disgrace him in front of those who are gathered around him?
For you can see the fascination of the people for him; he is (supposed to be) the great
scholar of his time."
"Yes," replied Ibn Abi al-Awja'. He went forward and the people moved
aside. He said: "Abu Abd Allah, gatherings for discussion are things to be taken
care of. Everyone who has a cough must cough, so will you permit me to ask a
"Ask, if you want to," Abu Abd Allah, peace be on him, answered him.
The Ibn Abi al-Awja' asked him: "For how long will you tread on this
threshing-floor and go round this stone? For how long will you worship this house made of
bricks and mud and amble around it like a camel when it is scared? Whoever thinks about
this and considers it, realises that it is the action of an unintelligent and unthinking
man, so explain (it) as you are the principal exponent (lit. head and hump) of this
affair, and your father was its founder and suppport."
"Those whom God leads astray and whose hearts He blinds find the truth
unwholesome and will never taste its sweetness," retorted al-Sadiq, peace be on
him. "The devil is the friend and lord of such a man. He will lead him to the
watering places of destruction and never let him come from them. This is a house where
God's creatures seek to worship Him in order that their obedience in coming to it may be
well known. Therefore He has urged them to magnify it and to visit it and He has made it
the place of His prophets and the direcw prayer for those who pray to Him. It is a part of
Paradise and a path which leads to His forgiveness. It is set up at the seat of perfection
and at the meeting point of majesty and glory. God created it over two thousand years
before the earth was laid out. The most worthy to be obeyed in what He orders and to have
His prohibitions refrained from is God the Creator of souls and forms."
"You have only spoken and referred (me) to someone who is not present, Abu Abd
Allah," retorted Ibn Abi al-Awja.
"Shame on you," retorted al-Sadiq, peace be on him. "How could
One Who is present with His creatures and closer to them than a vein in the neck, Who
hears their words and knows their secrets, be someone who is not present."
"Is He in every place or isn't He?" asked Ibn Abl al-CAwja'. "If
He is in Heaven, how can He be on earth? And if He is on earth, how can He be in
"You described something which is created," retorted Abu Abd Allah,
peace be on him, "which when it moves from one place, and when another place is
occupied by it, and when (the former) place is without it, then, in the place which it has
come to, it does not know what happens in the place in which it was. As for God, the
Mighty, the Dignified, the Ruler, the Judge,) there is no place without Him and no place
occupied by Him. He is not nearer to one place than He is to another. In that way the
traces of Himself (which He gives) bear witness to Him and His actions give evidence for
Him. He whom He has sent with precise signs and clear proofs, Muhammad, may God bless him
and his family, has brought us this (form of) worship. If you have any doubts about any of
His commandments, ask about it and I will explain it to you."
Ibn Abi al-Awja' became stupified and did not know what to say. He left his presence
and said to his companions: "I asked you to find me some wine (to enjoy myself
with) and you threw me on to a burning coal."
"Shut up," they told him. "You have disgraced us by your
bewilderment. We saw no one today more humiliated than you in his discussion."
"Are you saying this to me?" he replied. "He is (only) the son
of a man who shaved the heads of those whom you see." He indicated with his hand
towards the people gathered for the pilgrimage.
[It is reported:]
One day Abu Shakir al-Daysam stood in a discussion group of Abu Abd Allah, peace be on
him, and said: "You are one of the shining stars, your fathers were wonderful full
moons and your mothers were graceful discreet women. Your lineage is the most noble of
lineages. When learned men are mentioned, it is for you that the little finger is bent
(i.e. he is the first to be counted). So tell me, O bountiful sea, what is the evidence
for the creation of the world?"
"The easiest evidence for that is what I will show you (now),"
answered Abu- Abd Allah, peace be on him. Then he called for an egg and put it in the palm
of his hand. "This is a compact protective container; inside it is the thin
(substance of an) egg which is surrounded by what could be compared with fluid silver and
melted gold. Do you doubt that?"
"There can be no doubt about that," replied Abu Shakir.
"Then it splits open showing a form like (for example) a peacock,"
continued Abu 'Abd Allah, peace be on him. "Has anything entered into it other
than what you knew (to be there already)?"
"No," he replied.
"This is the evidence for the creation of the world."
"You have explained, Abu Abd Allah," he said, "and you have
made it clear. You have spoken and brought improvement. You have described it and spoken
concisely. You knew that we would not accept anything which we could not realise with our
eyes, or hear with our ears, or taste with our mouths, or smell with our noses, or touch
with our skin."
"You have mentioned the five senses," said Abu Abd Allah, peace be on
him, "but they will not bring any benefit in rational deduction except as
evidence, just as darkness cannot be removed without light."
He, peace be on him, means by that that the senses without reason will never lead to
the understanding of things which are not present, and that what he had shown with regard
to the creation of the form was a concept whose recognition (ilm) was based on sense-
(The following is an example) of what has been recorded on his authority, peace be on
him, concerning the necessity of knowing God the Most High and His religion.
He said: "I have found the knowledge of all the people (encompassed) by four
You should know your Lord;
You should know what He has done for you;
You should know what He wants from you;
You should know what would make you abandon your religion.
These four divisions include (all) the requirement of things which should be known
because the first thing that a man should do is to know his Lord, may His Majesty be
exalted. When he knows that he has a Lord, it is necessary that he must know what He has
done for him. When he knows what He has done for him, he knows of His blessings. When he
knows of His blessings,it is necessary that he should thank Him. When he wants to carry
out his thanks, he must know what He wants so that he may obey Him in his actions. Since
obedience to Him is necessary, it will be necessary for him to know what would cause him
to abandon his religion so that he might avoid it, and in that way keep pure his obedience
to his Lord and his thanks for His blessings.
(This is an example) of what was recorded on his authority peace be on him, concerning
the unity of God and the denial of anthropomorphism.
He said to Hisham b. al-Hakam: "God, the Exalted, should not be compared to
anything, nor should anything be compared to Him. Whatever comes to the imagination is
other than God."
(The following is an example) of what was recorded on his authority, peace be on him,
concerning his words on justice: He said to Zurara b. Ayan: "Zurara, shall I give
you a summary of (the doctrine of) decree (qada) and destiny (qadar)?"
"Yes, may I be your ransom," replied Zurara.
"When it is the Day of Resurrection and God has gathered His creatures
together, He will ask them about what He enjoined upon them but He will not ask them about
what He had decreed for them."
(This is an example) of what was recorded on his authority concerning wisdom and
He said: "Not everyone who intends something is able to do it. Not everyone who
is able to do something will be granted success in it. Not everyone who is granted success
in something will do it in the right place. When intention, ability, success and
correctness come together, there happiness is perfected."
(This is an example) of what has been recorded of him, peace be upon him, urging
consideration of God's religion and the acquisition of knowledge about the friends
(awliya) of God.
He said: "Give close consideration to things which you cannot afford to ignore,
be true to yourselves and fight against your (inclinations) so that you may find out those
things which it is inexcusable not to know. These are the basic elements of God's
religion. If a man ignores them, he will gain no benefit (no matter) how intense is his
striving in pursuit of the outward form of worship. On the other hand, no harm will come
to a man who knows them and abides by them with moderation (in his behaviour). There is no
way for anyone except through the help of God, the Mighty and High."
(The following is an example) of what has been recorded on his authority, peace be on
him, urging repentance:
He said: "To delay repentance is to be heedless; to lengthen the time of
putting off (religious duties) is (to create) confusion (in one's mind); to attempt to
justify oneself before God is (to bring about one's own) destruction; persisting in sin
makes (a person) feel secure from God's devising. Only people who are lost feel secure
from God's devising. [VII 99]"
The reports about what has been recorded on his authority, peace be on him, concerning
knowledge, wisdom, asceticism, exhortation and all the branches of learning are too
numerous to be enumerated in one speech or to be included in one book. What we have set
out is enough for the purpose of what we intended. God is the bringer of success for what
(The poet) al-Sayyid Ismail b. Muhammad al-Himyari, may God have mercy on him, withdrew
from the doctrine of the Kaysaniyya which he had professed, when he was informed of Abu
CAbd Allah's peace be on him, denial of this doctrine and of his prayers for him and he
(returned) to the system of the Imamate. He said of him, peace be on him:
O (you) who ride a tall, strong camel to Medina, on which (you) cross every broad
If God guides you, you will look to Jaffer. So speak to the friend (wali) of God, the
son of the man who was well-educated (in the learning of God):
Friend of God and son of the friend of God, I repent before the Merciful and then I
To you from the wrong which I used to hold while I was constantly striving against
all who obviously expressed (the truth).
Yet my words concerning the son of Khawla were not meant to be rebellious against the
offspring of the celebrated one.
Rather they were spoken on the authority of the trustee (wasi) of Muhammad - and he
was not a liar when we said
That the master of the affair (wali al-amr) would disappear without being seen for
years like a man afraid.
The possessions of the missing man will be distributed as if his concealment were in
the high heaven.
Say, "No," and the truth is what you say, and what you say is final without
me adding any fanaticism.
I testify to my Lord that your words are a proof (hujja) to all creatures, whether
obedient or sinful,
That the master of the affair (wali al-amr) and the one who will arise (al-qa'im)
whom my soul (now) looks towards and who excites it to joy,
That He will have concealment (Ghayba) where it is inevitable that he will conceal
himself. May God bless him as one who will be concealed.
He will delay for a time then his authority will come to dominate and he will fill
all (the lands) from East to West with Justice.
In this poetry there is clear evidence for the withdrawal of al-Sayyid, may God have
mercy on him, from the beliefs of the Kaysaniyya, and for his holding the doctrine of the
Imamate of al-Sadiq, peace be on him. (There is also evidence) for the existence of a
clear call on the part of the Shia during the time of Abu 'Abd Allah to (accept) his
Imamate and to hold the doctrine of the concealment of the leader (for the rest) of time
(saihib al-zaman), the blessings and peace of God be on him. This (poem) is a clear
indication of (al-Sayyid's belief) and it is a clear statement of (the doctrine of) the
Twelver-Imamites (Imamiyya Ithna Ashariyya).