Monday, July 9th, 2018 marks the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p), 25th Shawwal,…
Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) is the sixth of the divine successors of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp), and a personality of incredible knowledge and spiritual insight. Born on the seventeenth of the month of Rabi al-Awwal, 83 AH and martyred on the twenty-fifth of Shawwal 148 AH, his sixty-three years of life were full of virtue and important lessons that we should do our best to live by. The ethics, spirituality, and leadership of the Imam caused many people to come toward him, but amongst his most outstanding qualities were his knowledge and the dissemination of it to his community.
The imams from the progeny of the Prophet (pbut) all had incredible knowledge, and it is important to note that the knowledge they acquired was from God to His prophet (pbuh&hp), and thus passed down to each of the imams. God mentions in the Quran that there are levels of knowledge, and according to the Ahl al-Bayt school of thought we recognize that perfect knowledge is that which is with the Prophet and the imams (pbut). God states, “Over every knowledgeable person is one more knowing.”1 The sciences that the imams attained were not only scriptural, but included the fields of natural and social sciences, which Imam al-Sadiq (p) was also an expert in, and many people sought to benefit from his knowledge.
Imam al-Sadiq (p) spent the first twelve years of his life under the guardianship of his grandfather, Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p). Through his grandfather’s worship and supplications, Imam al-Sadiq (p) was able to grasp divine knowledge and wisdom. Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) spent a great amount of time reflecting on the tragedy of Karbala. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) heard what had happened to Imam Hussain (p), his family, his companions, and the women after the battle of Karbala from the person who witnessed it with his own eyes. Thus, Imam al-Sadiq (p) took it upon himself to make sure that he organized regular gatherings for the remembrance of his great-grandfather and his family.
After the death of his grandfather, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) spent the next nineteen years under the guidance of his father, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p), where he inherited divine wisdom and knowledge.
The Intellectual Legacy of Imam al-Sadiq (p)
After the death of his father, Imam al-Sadiq (p) resided in the city of Medina. Due to the conflict in the political situation at the time of the ruling Umayyads and the Abbasids, the Imam took the opportunity to educate thousands of people in his community and impart prophetic teachings. He quickly gained a significant reputation for his knowledge. Even those who rejected him as an infallible imam took pride in being among his students.
Imam al-Sadiq (p) was a master of Quranic sciences, hadith studies, jurisprudence, and ethics. He laid the foundation of the methodology of jurisprudence that we apply to this very day.
Furthermore, it is important to note that Imam al-Sadiq (p) did not focus his attention only on religious studies. In a beautiful tradition Imam al-Sadiq (p) states, “Knowledge is a treasure, and the key is to ask questions.”2 The Imam was a scholar of chemistry, biology, and mathematics, and had the opportunity to train incredible scholars including Jabir ibn Hayyan3 who was among the foremost scholars of physics, chemistry, and mathematics at the time. The Imam illustrated the importance of being well-rounded in the quest for knowledge.
Bits of Advice
Imam al-Sadiq (p) left behind an incredible legacy for us to learn and reflect upon. Thus, it is important that we spend some time continuing to seek knowledge from the sources that he spent such a significant amount of time teaching. To do this, we can do the following:
1. Seek knowledge with the right intention. Our goal when acquiring knowledge should not be to accumulate wealth or status, but to bring us closer to God. We should keep our intention pure and genuine. Imam Ali (p) said, “Do not seek knowledge for four aims: for self-glorification in front of people of knowledge, for quarreling with the ignorant, for showing off in gatherings of people, or for attracting attention of people in order to secure an office of authority.”4
2. Take time to learn jurisprudential laws. We should designate a few minutes a day or even a few minutes a week to learn one or two jurisprudential laws. Imam al-Sadiq states, “Acquire good understanding [knowledge] of [your] religion because those of you who do not have knowledge of religion are like the [ignorant].”5 Taking the time to learn the laws of our religion will help us become familiar with the rules governing our daily actions, such as prayers and business transactions.
3. Memorize one tradition from Imam al-Sadiq (p) every month: Within our books of hadith, such as Al-kafi, we have so much knowledge to gain from the legacy of the Imam. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “Whoever memorizes forty narrations…God will resurrect him as a scholar on the Day of Judgement.”6 If we memorize one tradition from the Imam every month, that would amount to more than a hundred in ten years. In addition to memorization and constant repetition, we should work to apply the hadiths of the Imam in our daily lives and teach them to our families and friends.
1. Quran 12:76.
2. Shaykh Jafar Subhani, Sirat al-aimmah, p. 313.
3. Bihar al-anwar, vol.1, p. 196.
4. Bihar al-anwar, vol.2, p. 31.
5. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 1, p. 31.
6. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 2, p. 154.