By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
We continue to bask in the blessings of the birth anniversaries that we celebrate on Rabi al-Awwal 17 that marks culmination of the Islamic Unity Week, which spans the two days of this month regarded as the birthday of the Best of creation, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
According to Sunni Muslims, on the basis of the narrations of the Sahaba, who had no acquaintance with the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger until he declared his universal mission of Islam at the age of 40, he was born on the 12th.
Shi’a Muslims, however, consider family accounts more reliable and cite the statements of the Prophet’s Infallible Ahl al-Bayt, saying he was born on the 17th.
This is not a matter of dispute, as the enemies of the Prophet and Islam, surmise; rather it is a dynamic factor for Islamic Unity, especially since the Prophet’s birthday happened to be the birthday 137 years later of his 6th Infallible Heir, Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS), to whom all the four schools of jurisprudence of our Sunni brethren are indebted.
Abu Hanifa, an Iranian from Kabul of Zoroastrian origin admits he "would have perished if not for those two years of study under Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS)”, while Malik bin Anas – a great-grandson of the Prophet’s servant Anas bin Malik – used to say while reporting any hadith from the 6th Infallible Imam "The Thiqa (Truthful) Ja’far ibn Muhammad himself told me that…”
Since Mohammad bin Idris Shafe’i was a student of Malik bin Anas and in turn the teacher of Ahmad bin Hanbal, these two other founders of Sunni schools of jurisprudence could well be called the indirect students of Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS), who was a teacher as well of Wasil ibn Ata’ the founder of the Mu’tazalite school.
These undeniable facts, however, do not mean the above persons have fully transmitted whatever Imam Sadeq (AS) taught at his famous Academy of Medina which at its peak had 4,000 students learning different branches of Islamic studies and other sciences, including Jaber ibn Hayyan the Father of Chemistry.
If this was the case, then they would not have dropped out of his classes – before completing the full courses – to set up schools of their own that sharply contradict each other’s personal opinions based on qiyas, analogy, or guesswork regarding jurisprudential matters.
Anyway, since we are basking in the blessed anniversaries of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS), let us contemplate on a gem of an advice given by the 6th Imam to one of trusted disciples, named Abdullah bin Jundab:
"O son of Jundab, regard him who ruptured relations with you, give him who deprived you (of his bestowals), treat kindly him who mistreated you, greet him who reviled you, be just to him who disputed with you, and pardon him who wronged you in the same way you like others to pardon you. So, take lessons from God’s pardoning you; do you not see that His sun is covering the pious and the licentious and His rain is falling on the virtuous and the wrongdoers?”
This statement speaks volumes of the dynamic spirit of Islam. It is the formula for building bridges in society so as to ensure a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere for attracting others to the universal message of Islam.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS), the Reviver of the Prophet’s "Sunnah wa Seerah” (practice and behaviour), needs no introduction. Born in 83 AH, 22 years after the heartrending tragedy of Karbala where his great-grandfather, Imam Husain (AS) – the grandson of the Prophet – was martyred, he spent the first dozen years of his life with his grandfather, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), and another 19 years with his own father, Imam Muhammad al-Baqer (AS), whom he succeeded to the imamate at the age of 31 in 114 AH.
He lived in a crucial period of history when the Godless Omayyad tyrants were on their way towards the dustbin of history, while the equally ungodly Abbasids were emerging as the new breed of usurpers of the right of political leadership of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt.
The first 18 years of his imamate saw the tyrannical rule of the Omayyads Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik, Walid II ibn Yazid II, Yazid III ibn al-Walid II, Ibrahim ibn al-Walid II, and Marwan II al-Hemar (literally the Donkey) – all of whom had no pretension to religiosity and were notorious for their open violation of the laws of God and the teaching of the Prophet.
In the next 16 years of his imamate, the Prophet’s Successor shouldered a graver responsibility. First, after the overthrow of the Omayyads, there was the offer of caliphate by one of the victorious generals of the uprising, and the Imam whose authority was God-given, burned the sealed envelope of the offer in the flame of a lamp.
Imam Sadeq (AS), whose own God-given authority as Heir of the Prophet’s historical proclamation of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) as the Divinely-designated Vicegerent, was beyond the grasp of any usurper, desisted from any rash decision when one of the victorious commanders of the anti-Omayyad uprising sent him a letter offering the caliphate.
The Imam coolly burned the sealed letter in the light of a lamp because he knew that a caliphate which is offered by someone else than God is not legitimate authority, as was the case with the scandalous gathering of Saqifa Bani Sa’dah in Medina when a deviant group selected a caliph from themselves after a fist fight amongst themselves, while the Prophet’s rightful heir, Imam Ali (AS), was busy in the funerary seminary of the Seal of Messengers.
Once an Iranian chieftain from Khorasan, named Sahl bin Hassan came to Medina and asked Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS), as to why he wasn’t actively fighting for his denied political right of leadership, in spite of the truth being on his side, when there were thousands of supporters ready to fight with him.
The Imam asked him to sit down and wait. In the meantime, a servant came and was asked by the Imam whether the fire had been kindled. On receiving the reply in the affirmative, the Imam took Sahl bin Hassan with him and went to the oven. The fire was blazing red. The Imam turned to Sahl and told him to jump into it. Sahl trembled and begged forgiveness. At this moment, Haroun al-Makki, a devoted follower of the Ahl al-Bayt came, and was told by the Imam to jump into the oven. Haroun leapt into blaze without a second thought.
The Imam then turned to Sahl bin Hassan, and as if nothing unusual had happened, started to brief him about the circumstances prevailing in Khorasan, while the eyes and the mind of the Iranian chieftain were occupied with the fate of the person who had jumped into the oven . After a while, the Imam took Sahl toward the oven to show him what had transpired for Haroun al-Makki. To his surprise, Sahl saw Haroun al-Makki sitting cross legged safe and sound in the blazing oven without being scorched or scalded by the fire.
Imam Sadeq (AS) asked the Iranian chieftain as to how many of his followers in Khorasan were like Haroun al-Makki. Sahl replied: "No one O Master”.
In the social and jurisprudential fields, it was thus prudence on the part of Imam Sadeq (AS) that saved Islam and the Sharia’h of the Prophet of Islam from suffering the fate of Prophet Jesus’ mission that was completely distorted by Paul the Jew to become Christianity as it is known today.
In the intellectual fields, the Imam revolutionized sciences and academic learning to students from the various parts of the Islamic World – Asia, Africa and Europe – learning various disciplines, including jurisprudence, hadith, ethics, theology, rhetoric, and exegesis of the holy Qur’an, as well as natural sciences such as physics, chemistry, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, botany, etc.
Thus, Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS), during his 34-year mission as the Righteous Heir of the Prophet of Islam, bequeathed to the seekers of truth the jurisprudence known as "Fiqh al-Ja’fari”, which is actually the pure and pristine Shari’a of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).