Biography/ Occasion

The Character and Virtues of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.S.)


His name is Ja’far.

He is also known as as-Sadiq and Abu Abdullah. He is son of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.) son of Imam Zain al-ʼAbidin (A.S.) son of Imam Hussein (A.S.). His mother was Ummu Farwah daughter of al-Qasim son of Muhammad son of Abu Bakr who was one of the seven most prominent jurists of Medina. Thus, the sixth Imam has an impressive historical background of lineage.

He came to this world on Rabi ‘al-Awwal 17, 83 A.H. (April 20, 702), the same lunar date when his great grandfather, the Holy Prophet, was born. At his birth, his father, Imam al-Baqir (A.S.) was 26, and his grandfather Imam Zain al-Abidin (A.S.) was still alive. The Prophet’s family joyfully welcomed this auspicious addition.

Up to the age of twelve, Ja’far was brought up under the guidance of his grandfather Imam Zain al-’Abidin (A.S.) whose main concern was to worship his Maker and reflect on the tragic events of Karbala. So, as soon as Ja’far gained understanding, he was profoundly impressed by the continuous grief of his grandfather, so much so that he felt as if he himself was present during that tragedy. He also contemplated on the presence of his father, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.), although only three years old, at that gruesome scene. Ja’far as-Sadiq considered it as his duty to convene the recitation gatherings (Majalis) about that sorrowful event.

He was twelve years old when his grandfather Imam Zain al-ʼAbidin (A.S.) expired. Hence up to the age of 31 he passed his time under the supervision of his father Imam al-Baqir (A.S.). It was the time when the Umayyad politics were tottering and Muslims were approaching Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.) in thousands. Ja’far as-Sadiq was one of them, but he was a student devoted to worship and learning. Whether at Medina or in travels, he was always with his father.

In 114 A H. (732 AD), Imam Muhammad al Baqir (A.S.) died, and the responsibilities of Imamate devolved on the shoulders of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (A.S.). Hisham ibn ‘Abd al-Malik was ruling in Damascus and political disturbances were afoot. The passion of taking revenge on Bani Umayya was strong and several descendants of Imam Ali (A.S.) were preparing themselves to overthrow the regime. Most prominent among them was Zaid, the respected son of Imam Zain al-’Abidin (A.S.). His religious zeal and piety were known throughout Arabia. He was a well-versed hafiz of the Holy Qur’an and he had taken the field against the tyranny of the Umayyads.

This was a precarious juncture for lmam Ja’far as-Sadiq. As regarding hatred of the Umayyads, he agreed with his uncle Zaid for whom he had a great deal of respect. Since his farsighted judgment could clearly see that rising against the well-organized royal forces of no avail; therefore, he did not join him for all practical reasons. But he was compassionate towards him and sympathetic to his cause, and he asked him to be judicious. As a great host of Iraqis had sworn their allegiance to him, Zaid became quite optimistic. He gave gallant battle to the royal forces but was killed in the end. One year after Zaid’s martyrdom, his son Yahya gained the same ancestral honor. Imam Ja’far was surely moved by these pathetic events, but he was destined to carry out the duties of spreading the religious sciences of Ahlal-Bayt (A.S.)


The last days of the Umayyads were ruffled by political disturbances and during the last phase of tottering Umayyad rule, the Hashemites were actively engaged in their anti-Umayyad activities. The ‘Abbasids took advantage of their efforts and secretly formed an association. But the Imams, the descendants of Imam Ali (A.S.), never tried to acquire power through political trickery, while the Abbasids, who too were Hashemites, no doubt took the opportunity by the forelock. And when they established themselves on the throne, they became enemies of Imam Ali’s austerity in the same degree or more than that which had been adopted by the heartless Umayyads.

Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (A.S.) was sadly touched by those events. When once the descendants of Imam Hasan Ibn Ali (A.S.) were all fettered, shackled and banished from Madina, he watched their agony with a saddened heart from the roof top of his house. With flooded eyes he was heard saying: “OH! Medina is no more a sanctuary or a place of peace…” Then he expressed his sorrow for the inactive descendants of the Ansar thus:
“The early Madenites (Ansar) had invited the Holy Prophet to Madina under the oath that they would protect him and his descendants just as they would protect their own kith and kin. But today the descendants of those very Ansar act as silent onlookers and none stands up to protect the Prophet’s offspring”.

Having said those words, he returned to his house and fell ill, unable to move from bed for twenty days.

Among the aforesaid prisoners was the aged ‘AbdAllah al-Mahdi, son of Imam Hasan Ibn Ali (A.S.) who had to suffer the hardships of a prolonged imprisonment. His son Muhammad (Thu an-Nafs az-Zakiyya) rose against the oppressive government and fell fighting near Median in 145 A.H. The head of the young warrior was sent to his aged father in prison, a shocking sight which the worn out old man could not bear, and he died shortly thereafter. Another son of ’AbdAllah al-Mahdi, named Ibrahim, also fought against Mansur’s army and fell fighting near Kufa. In the same way, ’AbdAllah son of Thu an-Nafs az-Zakiyya, Musa and Yahya, brothers of Thu an-Nafs az-Zakiyya, were all killed mercilessly. Many Sayyids were used alive as part of the building materials of walls.

Maltreatment of Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (A.S.):

In spite of all these atrocities Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (A.S.) went on silently propagating the teachings of Ahl ul-Bayt (A.S.). As a result, even those who did not acknowledge him as the Imam nor knew his prestige and lineage bowed before his knowledge and prided in being counted among his students.

Al-Mansur tried to bring persons to compete with him but they all proved incapable of arguing even with his students. Failing in all his efforts he decided to harass, arrest or murder him. And anyone suspected of supporting the Imam was to be arrested.
The Imam himself was summoned from Madina to the royal palace five times, each time being in one way or another nothing but harassment. Al-Mansur, however, could never find sufficient grounds to order his imprisonment or assassination. On the other hand, the consequent stay of the Imam in Iraq only expanded the circle of those who wanted to learn the teachings of Ahl al-Bayt from him. Perceiving this al-Mansur ordered him to be sent back to Madina. Even there, he was not spared from persecution. Through saboteurs, his house was once set on fire but Providence soon put it out and nobody was harmed.

Character and Virtues:

Imam Ja’far as Sadiq (A.S.) was one of those infallible souls who were created by the Almighty to be models of moral excellence. But the particular virtues of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (A.S.) which were recorded by the historians included hospitality, charity, the helping of the needy in secrecy, the fair treatment of the relatives, forgiveness, patience and fortitude.
During the days of scarcity the Imam had no reason to worry since there was a large quantity of corn to sustain them over a long period of time. But he sold the corn out and directed: “Pure wheat flour shall not be used in my kitchen. Let it be mixed with an equal quantity of oat flour. We must share the misfortune with the needy as long as it takes”.
He used to respect the poor more than the rich and esteem their hard work. Trade was his occupation and he liked to do manual work in his gardens too. One day while wielding the spade and sweating profusely from top to toe, someone offered to do the work for him, but the labor-loving leader said: “It is no insult to bear the heat of the summer sun for the sake of my household”.

Disseminating Knowledge and Learning:

His profound knowledge of religious and other sciences was famed throughout the entire Islamic world. People came from distant regions to learn from him. The number of his students reached once four thousand. Among them were scholars of jurisprudence, Tafsir (exegesis), Hadith… etc. Even important Sunni Scholars such as Sufyan Thawri, Abu Hanifah, the founder of the Hanafi School of law, Qazi Sukuni, Qazi Abul Bakhtari and others had the honour of being his students. The numbers of traditions preserved from the fifth and sixth Imams is more than all the hadees that have been recorded from the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) and the other ten Imams combined. Heads of other religions also came there to expostulate with his students. When they went away vanquished and defeated, the Imam used to explain to his students their own weak points so that they might be careful in the future.
Sometimes he himself argued with the opponents especially the atheists. Apart from religious sciences, He used to teach some students mathematics, chemistry, medicine.. Etc. Jabir Ibn Hayyan of Tarus, the famous pioneer of physics, chemistry and mathematics, was his disciple who wrote about four hundred treatises based on his mentor’s instruction. The jurists who learned from him and authored several volumes of books on jurisprudence can be counted by the hundreds.
“I never saw a jurist of greater understanding than Ja’far Ibn Muhammad (A.S.), said Abu Hanifah.


Such a great religious man and scholar can never be ambitious for power. But the government considered his popularity to be a constant threat, even though the monarchs knew that this Progeny really deserved to rule the Islamic World. Exhausting all its efforts, the ruling class could not find any grounds to take action against the Imam. It finally resorted to the use of their soundless weapon, poison. The governor of Madina was directed to offer him poisoned grapes, the efficacy of which ended his life on the fifteenth of Shawwal of 148 A.H. (December 4, 765A.D.) at the age of 65.
Upon hearing the news of the Imam’s martyrdom, Mansur wrote to the governor of Madina instructing him to go to the house of the Imam on the pretext of expressing his condolences to the family, to ask for the Imam’s will and testament. Whoever was chosen by the Imam as his inheritor and successors should be beheaded on the spot. The aim of Mansur was to put an end to the whole question of the Imamate.
When the governor of Medina, following orders, read the last will and testament, he saw that the Imam had chosen four people rather than one to administer his last will and testament: the Caliph himself, the governor of Medina, Abdallah Aftah, the Imam’s older son and Musa al-Kathim (A.S.), his younger son. In this way the plot of Mansur failed.
His funeral was arranged by his son and successor Imam Musa al-Kazim (A.S.) who led the burial prayers. He was laid to rest in that compound of Jannat al-Baqi where Imam Hasan (A.S.), Imam Zain al-’Abidin (A.S.) and Imam al-Baqir (A.S.) lay buried.