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Who was Imam Jafar Sadiq? | Founder of Jafari (Twelver) Shia Islam


Previously we have discussed the major branches of Islam, and How Islam got divided into the sects of Shia and Sunni. Now we will get deep into the founder of the most common Shia sect ‘Twelver’ or “Jafari Shia”. Imam Jafar was the founder of the Jafari school of thought. In Chronological order, Imam Jafar was the first compared to the other Sunni Imams. he was the teacher of the Sunni Imams, Imam Abu Hanifa, and Imam Malik. 

Personal Life

Imam Jafar was born in 700 CE, 68 years later after the death of Prophet Muhammad. he was in Madinah under the Umayyad Caliphate. He was the son of Imam Baqir who was the Fifth Imam of Twelver Shia. Jafar was the great Grandson of the companion of Prophet Ali Ibn Talib. In his thirties, he inherited the position of Imam from his father and turned out to be the 6th Imam of Twelver Shia. His mother was the descendant of Abubakar. He was the first of the Shi’ite Imams to be descended from both Abu Bakr, the first ruler of the Rashidun Caliphate, and Ali, the first Imam and the fourth ruler of the Rashidun Caliphate.

Political Views

Jafar throughout his life stayed away from politics like his father. He was an influential person and was respected by the nobles of that time. During his life, he received many requests for support from the rebels, he turned down all the requests. He was 50 years old when the Umayyad caliphate was overthrown by the Abbasi caliphate. He never played a part in the Abbasid rebellion against the Ummayad. He stayed out of the uprising of Zaydits who gathered around his uncle Zayd, who had supported Mu’tazilites and the traditionalists of Medina and Kufa. he also evaded the request of the throne with the assistance from others.


He had said that even though he, as the designated Imam, was the true leader of the Ummah, he would not press his claim to the caliphate. Due to this neutrality, he was able to survive both caliphates. During Abbasid Era, he was called on by the Caliph Mansoor many times, but he was able to prove his innocence that he was not involved in any kind of rebellious activities. Toward the end of his life, he was subject to some harassment by the Abbasid caliphs. The governor of Medina was instructed by the Caliph to burn down his house, an event that reportedly did Jafar no harm. To cut his ties with his followers, he was also watched closely and occasionally imprisoned. Through these trials, Imam Jafar appears to have continued his scholarship and remained an influential teacher in his native Medina and beyond.

Role as a teacher:

Imam Jafar started to teach freely in schools at the time when Abbasid Caliphate was at its initial stages. At that time the central authority was weak so he was able to teach the students freely. He taught more than 4000 students. M anaging a school of this size was a difficult task. Among his students were Imam Abu Hanifa the founder of the Hanafi school of thought and Imam malik the founder of the Maliki school of thought. He faced various accusations that his school was used by the rebel groups to conspire against the government, but that were false accusations against him.


Religious thoughts

Imam Jafar Sadiq was a great scholar of his time. He was widely respected by the Sufis, Sunnis, and other Shia sects. He was so admired by the Sunni scholars, that His pupil Imam Malik quote him as “The truthful Jafar told me that”. Jafar Legacy was esteemed by all the sects, but Twelvers are the ones who accepted and promoted his school of thought. Twelvers are also called Jafari Shia because they follow the school of thought of Imam Jafar Sadiq. 

Jafar School of thought focused on Reasoning The Aql compared to the use of Analogy The Qiyas by the Sunni Imam. Qiyas is to measure one thing in terms of others, while Aql means to use logical reasoning in dealings the 

matters. Imam Jafar denounced Personal opinion and Qiyas.

It is narrated in hadith that Ja’far al-Sadiq has said “We are the people well-grounded in knowledge and we are the ones who know how to interpret it.” 

In his book, Maqbula Omar ibn Ḥanẓala (who was a disciple of al-Sadiq) asks the imam how legal disputes within the community should be solved, and whether one should take such cases to the ruler and his judges. Ja’far al-Sadiq replies in the negative saying that those who take their disputes to the rulers and their judges get only unlawful decisions. Instead, al-Sadiq recommends an unofficial system of justice for the community, and that the disputants should turn to “those who relate our  Hadiths“. By this Imam Jafar meant that Disputes should be dealt with by the Imam of that time. 

Al-Sadiq adopted Taqiyyah as a defensive tool against the violence and threats that were directed against him and the Shias. Taqiyya says that it is acceptable to hide one’s true opinions if by revealing them, one puts oneself or others in danger.

after the death of Imam Jafar, his follower got divided while choosing the next Imam. Some chose Imam Ismail, the elder son of Imam Jafar as their Imam. Those people were called Ismailis and they created their own sect inside Shia Islam. The rest of the followers of Imam Jafar chose Imam Musa as their 7th Imam. No major divisions occurred in Shiaism from the eighth to the twelfth imam, whom the majority of the Shia the Twelvers considered to be Muhammad al-Mahdi. Among the sects which separated from the majority, only Zaidiyyah and Ismaili continue to exist today.

That’s all from this episode. Thank you for watching the video till the end. if you haven’t watched the previous episode and are willing to watch it, the link to the playlist is available in the description. 


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