Ja?far Al-Sadiq (C. 701–765)

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JA˓FAR AL-SADIQ (C. 701–765)

Born sometime between 700 and 702, Ja˓far al-Sadiq died in 765 C.E. An erudite jurist of Medina, al-Sadiq was associated with a wide range of scholars. Abu Hanifa, and Malik b. Anas, among other prominent figures, are alleged to have heard hadith from him. Regarded as a reliable traditionalist in Sunni circles, he is cited in several isnads (chains of transmissions). Al-Sadiq is credited with the construction of a legal system called Ja˓fari school of law, which Shi˓ites follow. He is also seen as an eminent ascetic and is revered in Sufi circles. Many mystical ideas are narrated from him. According to the alchemist Jabir al-Hayyan, al-Sadiq was also a teacher in alchemy.

Sunni sources maintain that Shi˓ites, such as Hisham b. al-Hakam, formulated distinctive doctrines like that of the imamate and ascribed it to al-Sadiq. In Shi˓ite sources, al-Sadiq is considered as the sixth Imam and the author of thousands of traditions that were recorded by his disciples and documented in the writings of al-Kulini and Ibn Babuya, among other, later, scholars. These sources also indicate that al-Sadiq was responsible for the formulation and crystallization of the Shi˓ite doctrine of the imamate. This stipulated that the imam be designated by God through the Prophet or another imam. The imam was also believed to be infallible, hence he was empowered to provide authoritative interpretations of Islamic revelation. Designation and infallibility were complemented by the imam's possession of special knowledge that was either transmitted from the Prophet or derived from inherited scrolls. The imams reportedly had access to esoteric knowledge and were able to foretell future events.

Al-Sadiq's political stance became the cornerstone of Shi˓ite political theory, which taught coexistence with rather than opposition to tyrannical rulers. The removal of the imamate from a political role was compounded by al-Sadiq's teaching of dissimulation, which meant the imam did not have to publicly proclaim his leadership.

Al-Sadiq attracted an intellectual and cohesive following. He is reported to have trained thousands of disciples in diverse fields such as theology, jurisprudence, and Arabic grammar. Speculative Shi ite theologians and jurists like Hisham b. al-Hakam, Zurara b. A˓yan, and Muhammad b. Muslim were associated with him. Some of his prominent disciples are reported to have differed with him on major points of law and theology, for which they were condemned or excommunicated. Al-Sadiq claimed that they had misrepresented his teachings.

Al-Sadiq was at the center of much extremist speculation. Abu 'l-Khattab (d. 755–756) claimed that al-Sadiq had designated him to be his deputy and had entrusted him with esoteric knowledge and the greatest name of God, thus empowering him to comprehend occult sciences. He also attributed divinity to al-Sadiq. Along with other extremist groups, Abu ˒l-Khattab was repudiated by al-Sadiq.

After his death, al-Sadiq's followers differed on his successor. The Isma˓ilis claimed al-Sadiq had designated his eldest son, Isma˓il, to succeed him. Most of al-Sadiq's followers initially accepted ˓Abdallah, the eldest surviving son. When ˓Abdallah died without a son, the majority accepted al-Sadiq's next son, Musa. They formed the basis of the Twelver Shi˓ites. The Nawusiyya asserted that al-Sadiq was in occultation (hiding), and would reappear as the eschatological Messiah (mahdi).

See alsoImamate ; Law ; Succession .


Hodgson, Marshall G. "How did the Early Shi˓a Become Sectarian?" Journal of the American Oriental Society 75 (1955): 1–13.

Jafri, Syed H. The Origins and Development of Shi˓a Islam. London: Longman, 1979.

Sachedina, Abdulaziz A. The Just Ruler in Shi˓ite Islam: The Comprehensive Authority of the Jurist in Imamite Jurisprudence. New York: Oxford, 1988.

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