The durbar of the majestic Abbaside Caliph, Al-Mansur, was packed to its capacity. The venerable Fatimid Imam Jafar Sadiq had been summoned by the Caliph who was afraid of his growing popularity and sought some pretext to denigrate and punish him.
At last, a haggard and slim person entered the durbar and without making the customary obeisance advanced towards the Caliph. To the great astonishment of the entire audience, which expected some harsh words from the Caliph, the latter stood up to pay respects to the learned Imam and seated him by his side.
Incidentally, the Caliph was pestered by a fly which kept teasing him. He enquired from the Imam :
“What is the purpose of creating flies?”
“Simply to humble the pride of despots,” was the prompt reply.
The hot-tempered Caliph was all courtesy to the reverend Imam and when he was leaving, Al Mansur asked him if he could be of any service to him. Imam Jafar Sadiq replied: “The only service I seek from you is that I should not be given the trouble to attend your durbar again.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq, son of Imam Muhammad Baqir, was the great-grandson of Hazrat Ali. His mother was the great-granddaughter of Hazrat Abu Bakr. He is recognized as the sixth Fatimid Imam (Spiritual Leader).
He was born in Medina on 7 Rabiul-Awwal, 53 A.H. (699/700 A.C.) at a time when the world of Islam was passing through a critical time. Spiritual as well as moral values of this great religion had reached their lowest ebb. The great intellectual and spiritual luminaries who had lit the world of Islam had disappeared, a number of them were eliminated by the degenerated and tyrannical Umayyad rulers.
Imam Jafar was brought up by his pious and learned grandfather, Imam Zainul Abdeen, and his talented father, Imam Muhammad Baqir who gave him the best possible spiritual as well as intellectual training.
He was born in the reign of the Umayyad Caliph, Abdul Malik, son of Marwan and witnessed the reign of 10 Umayyad and two Abbaside Caliphs.
Imam Jafar Sadiq rose to be one of the greatest intellects of Islam who dedicated his life to the spiritual and intellectual development of the community. He played no part in politics and was celebrated for his piety and knowledge of tradition, alchemy, astronomy and other sciences. His Madrassa (School) at Medina attracted people from all over the Islamic world. Amongst his pupils were some of the greatest intellectuals-jurists and scientists-including outstanding legists like Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik; traditionists like Sufian Suri and Saidul Ansari and also Jabir bin Hayyan, the greatest chemical scientist of Islam.
The Madrassa of the Imam which played a historical role in educating some of the greatest intellectual giants of Islam occupied a high place among the great educational institutions of early Islam. In Medina, the Imam’s house and the Prophet’s mosque were great educational and research centres. These housed a very simple-looking university, where students ensconced on mattresses, received all sorts of spiritual, moral and material education. They were taught theology, metaphysics and astronomy and all other sciences known to the world. Names of more than 4,000 students who attended the Imam’s Madrassa are mentioned in records. According to historians, students from all parts of the world of Islam were attracted towards this great seat of learning in Medina. After receiving education from the great Imam, they went back to their places and diffused the light of learning throughout the known world.
“These are four: Firstly, none should be allowed to do my work, which I can do myself. Secondly, I know that God sees everything I do. This keeps me modest and always terror-stricken from doing anything repugnant to the tenets of Islam. Thirdly, it is a part of my faith that no one can deprive me of my subsistence which God has granted me. Therefore, I am fully satisfied and do not worry for my livelihood. Fourthly, I know that I have to die one day, I am, therefore, always prepared for it.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq is distinguished for reporting cent per cent authentic reporting traditions of the Prophet. It is on account of its truthfulness and sincerity in reporting traditions that he has been given the surname of Sadiq (Trustworthy) by the Muslims.
Being highly self-respecting and principled he never curried favour with the Umayyad and Abbaside Caliphs who always tried to seek his favour and goodwill.
He was endowed with tremendous patience and forbearance. He always returned good for evil and in this way followed the example of the Prophet of Islam. In piety and generosity, he was the true son of his great family and kept up its high traditions. No amount of trial or temptation could deflect him from the right path.
The great Imam breathed his last in Medina in 756 A.C. and was buried in Jannat-ul-Baqih. He was succeeded by his son Musa 31-Kazım who is recognized as the 7th Fatimid Imam.
His death cast a gloom over the world of Islam. Answering a question, the Abbaside Caliph Mansur said: “The real leader of Muslims, the most leamed man and theologian has left this world.” According to Imam Abu Hanifa, “Ile was the greatest scholar of Islamic theology and jurisprudence.” Imam Malik says: “My eyes have not seen a more learned, pious, God-fearing man than Imam Jafar Sadiq”. Sheikh Kamaluddin Muhammad bin Talha Shifai admits that “he was an ocean of learning and was the stream of Quranic teachings”. Allama Momin observes that “Imam Jafar’s attributes are innumerable which cannot be described in words.” According to Jabir bin Hayyan: “There can hardly be a better teacher than him in the world”
Some of his recorded adages are :
“The greatest quality of a virtue is that one should make haste to perform it, should try to surpass it, and should not disclose it.”
“One should try to do good to others in order to save himself from domination by Satan.”
“People are recognized by their families in the world, but in the next world one’s good deeds will only be recognized.”
“One who is contented with his lot and what God has given him will always feel satisfied, while one who is greedy of others’ wealth will always remain a beggar.”