By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
“O’ you who have faith, obey Allah and obey the Prophet, and those vested with authority among you.” (Holy Qur’an 3:59)
Yesterday was a day of double joy and we are still basking in its festive mood. We celebrated the birthday of the Seal of all Divine Messengers to whom the Creator bestowed the final and most comprehensive Heavenly Scripture, the Holy Qur’an, as the universal constitution for all mankind.
We also marked the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAWA) 6th Infallible Heir, Imam Ja’far as Sadeq (AS), who was born on the same day (17th Rabi al-Awwal) 136 years later in 83 AH (702 AD).
He lived most of his life in his hometown Medina and for the guidance of the Ummah revived the pure and pristine teachings of his Illustrious Ancestor, which means Divine Guidance did not stop after the passing away of the Prophet; as is clear by the instructions of the Holy Qur’an to us to obey “those vested with authority among you.”
The commandment of God does not mean that we as Muslims should not obey the likes of the Nimrods, the Pharaohs, the Caesars, or any of the emperors, kings, and dictators, who impose themselves on the people.
Neither does it mean obedience to the ungodly rule of the elected, selected, or nominated prime ministers and presidents.
Nor are Muslims obliged to obey the un-Islamic dictates of the sultans feigning religiosity, or masquerading as caliphs with the satanic audacity to call themselves ‘Amir al-Momineen’ (Commander of True Believers), when the fact is that no true believer has any faith in them, since they are not true believers in Islam.
Moreover, this lofty epithet was used by the Prophet to address only one person and that was his Divinely-designated Vicegerent.
Then who are we required to obey after the passing away of the Seal of Divine Messengers?
For those with clarity of vision and firm faith in Islam the above-cited Ayah is self-explanatory. It refers to what the Prophet had explicitly said and done on the express commandment of the Almighty Creator.
To be more precise, one of the most vivid instances when God vested with authority from among the Muslims the person whom the Prophet called “Amir al-Momineen” was the 18th of Zilhijja, 10 AH at the place called Ghadeer-Khom.
No one, not even those who hijacked the caliphate, can deny that Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) was not proclaimed as Vicegerent before a massive gathering of 120,000 Muslims returning from the Prophet’s Farewell Hajj Pilgrimage.
The books of hadith and history, including those of our Sunni brethren, are replete with narrations that on numerous occasions, ever since the first public announcement of his mission as the Messenger of God, till his last days when paper and ink were denied to him, the Prophet had made clear to the Ummah the prime position of Imam Ali (AS).
But whose authority are Muslims required to obey after Imam Ali (AS)?
The answer is obvious. The Prophet not only referred to his two grandsons, Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS) as “Leaders of the Youth of Paradise” and “Leaders who should be followed whether they remain silent or rise”, but he also specified without mincing words that his Divinely-Decreed heirs number exactly TWELVE.
It was thus no coincidence, but Divine Providence, that the Prophet’s 6th Infallible Heir and the Reviver of his pristine “Sunnah” and “Seerah” (behaviour and practice) was born on the anniversary of his birthday – Rabi al-Awwal 17.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS) needs no introduction. Born in Medina to Imam Muhammad al-Baqer (AS) – the Grandson on both sides (paternal and maternal) of the Prophet’s Two Grandsons – he left the world, a martyr, in 148 AH at the age of 65, after serving as God’s Authority amongst the Ummah for 34 years.
In other words, having spent the first 12 years of his life with his grandfather, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) – Survivor of the history’s most heartrending tragedy at Karbala – and the next 19 years under his father, he was vested with the Divine Trust of Imamate in 114 AH at the age of 31 at a crucial juncture of history.
His period of Imamate could roughly be divided into equal parts overlapping the ungodly reigns of the Omayyad and Abbasid tyrants who claimed to be caliphs, although neither God nor the Prophet had vested any authority in them.
The first 18 years of his Imamate saw the tyrannical rule of 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 teachings of the Prophet.
During these years, the 6th Imam, despite facing persecution, especially by Hisham, took to new heights the academy of Medina that was founded by his grandfather and consolidated by his father.
At its peak, this institution saw 4,000 scholars learning different branches of sciences at the feet of Imam Sadeq (AS), including the Father of Chemistry, Jaber ibn Hayyan (Geber to medieval Europe).
In the next 16 years, the Imam Sadeq (AS) shouldered a graver responsibility. First, after the overthrow of the Omayyads, there was the offer of caliphate by Abu Salama al-Khallal, one of the victorious generals of the uprising, and the Imam whose authority was God-given, burned the sealed envelope in the flame of a lamp, in order to show to the people and to posterity that the caliphate or successors-ship to the Prophet, is not a position bestowed by fallible persons, but is a Divine Trust, which he already possessed as the Imam.
Next was the devilish plot of Mansour Dawaniqi, the 2nd self-styled caliph of the usurper Abbasid regime. Originally a follower of the Ahl al-Bayt, he had memorized thousands of hadith on the merits of Imam Ali (AS), but became a turncoat on seizing political rule. He not only tormented Imam Sadeq (AS), whose God-given authority he had acknowledged in his days as a persecuted fugitive during Omayyad rule, but labeled the Shi’a or devoted followers of the Ahl al-Bayt as “Rafidhoon”, which means rejecters of the caliphate.
In between was the controversy raised by his one-time student, Abu Hanifa Noman bin Thabet (an offspring of an Iranian Zoroastrian convert to Islam from Kabul), who resorted to ‘qiyas’ (analogy or guesswork) in religious matters, in spite of the fact Iblis (Satan) was the first one to indulge in such flimsy claims.
There were also the deviations of the Sufis and the Ghullats (extremists) whom he exposed as imposters.
Thus, in the face of such plots, Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS), as the Heir of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) bequeathed to the seekers of truth the jurisprudence known as “Fiqh al-Ja’fari” which is “Shari’at-al Muhammadi” in its genuine form – while passing the mantle of Imamate to his son Imam Musa al-Kazem (AS).