Imam of the Truthful
By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
Shawwal 25 is a sad day. It is the day on which Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS), the 6th infallible successor of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), was martyred by the Abbasid caliph Mansour ad-Dawaniqi. In commemoration of this poignant occasion I begin my article with the following statement of one of the companions of the 6th Imam:
“...My religion is that I testify there is no God but the Almighty Allah, and Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger. I testify that the coming of the Day of Judgement is not subject to doubt, and that Allah will resurrect those who are in their graves. I testify to the obligations of prayer (salat), and paying the zakat, fasting in the month of Ramadhan and the duty of pilgrimage to the House (Ka’ba) for those who have the means for it. I testify to the wilaya of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Commander of the Faithful (Amir ul-Mo’meneen) after the Prophet of Allah, may the blessings of Allah be upon them both, and the wilaya of Hassan and Hussayn, the wilaya of Ali ibn al-Hussayn and that of Muhammad al-Baqir, and after his, yours. I testify that you are the Imams. In this religion I live and in this religion I shall die, and this is the religion by which I worship Allah.”
Imam Sadiq (AS) having heard this pronunciation from Amr ibn Hurayth confirmed him in his creed. As the divinely appointed successor of the Prophet, he was the Imam of the age, whose wilayat al-mutlaqa or absolute authority was binding on God’s creatures.
The 6th Imam lived at a crucial juncture of history. His 34-year period of Imamate saw the Umayyads and the Abbasids struggle for power of the Islamic realm which actually belonged to neither of them. At the same time havoc was being played with people’s beliefs by the pseudo jurisprudents who knew little about Islam and nothing about the sunnah and sirah of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Selfish political motives had made power-mongers oblivious of the Prophet’s sayings, especially of the hadith al-wilaya and the hadith of the two precious things (thaqalayn) which state that the umma will not go astray if it holds fast to the Holy Qur’an and the Ahl ul-Bayt.
To illustrate an incident, Abu Salama Hafs, a victorious commander of the armies which defeated the Umayyad tyrants, obviously lacked firm faith. In violation of the principle of wilaya he thought the leader of the Islamic realm could be chosen, elected or selected. He therefore, sent the offer of caliphate to Imam Sadiq (AS) in a sealed letter.
But when the messenger brought Abu Salama’s offer, the 6th Imam called for a lamp and without bothering to see the contents of the sealed envelope, coolly burnt it.
In this way, Imam Sadiq (AS) proved that wilaya belonged to him by the divine right of leadership, a right which was above the struggle and lobbying for power. In Islam the duty of the Imam is to lead and not to be led. He was already the divinely-designated Imam and he did not need any confirmation of his authority by unprincipled politicians or their flimsy followers.
If a leader is chosen by erring people, the result would be catastrophic, as was the case with nations of the past who scorned and disobeyed divine Prophets, only to find divine wrath swiftly striking their behavior and driving them to their doom. Abu Salama who tried to play the politician by ignoring the principle of wilaya, suffered a similar fate and consequently paid with his life for turning to the Abbasids who had hijacked the popular sentiments of the people of Khorassan for the Ahl ul-Bayt.
The new breed of usurpers, or caliphs as the Abbasids also styled themselves, were always apprehensive of the position of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS). But despite their plots the Imam continued his mission of uplifting peoples’ minds and purifying their souls. His school of Medina had 4,000 scholars at its height including Jabar ibn Hayyan al Kufi (Geber to medieval Europe), the Father of Chemistry. The Imam groomed a thriving generation, who in turn enlightened others with genuine Muhammadan teachings, which ultimately came to be known as the Ja’fari school.
To end the article, I quote one of the prophetic words of the 6th Imam:
“The time will come when the city of Qom and its people will be an argument for the entire mankind.”
“Kufa (near holy Najaf in Iraq) will soon be empty of the faithful, and knowledge will coil up like a snake in its pit. Knowledge will then appear in the city called Qom which will become a mine of learning and merits. And on the face of the earth no oppressed will be found weak in faith including the ladies behind veils. And this will happen prior to the appearance of our Qaem (Imam Mahdi),”.
The above words are self-explanatory. Although Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) attained immortal martyrdom, his legacy lives on. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran should feel doubly proud since Qom stands out as the center for diffusion of knowledge.