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  Updated: November 6, 2007

Imam As-Sadiq (A) … forerunner of chemistry

By: Namar Haidar

Imam Jafar Sadiq was the eldest son, testamentary trustee (wasi) and successor to the Imamate, of Imam Muhammad Baqer. He was born in Medina on Monday, 17 Rabi ul-Awwal 83AH/702AD. His name, Jafar, means “stream”, and some traditions have stated that it actually means “stream in Paradise”. His agnomen is Abu Abdallah and he is the holder of a number of titles which came to be associated with his revered personality. These include Fadhil (The Excellent) and Tahir (The Pure). The most famous title, however, is Sadiq ( The Truthful).

Imam Jafar Sadiq stood out among his peers for his great merits. He was the most celebrated personality of his time, the greatest in rank and the most illustrious in the eyes of both the non-Shia and the Shia Muslims. Upon his authority the religious sciences were transmitted and great travelers carried these with them to many nations, and his wisdom and piety were known and respected in other lands. The learned scholars have transmitted more traditions on the authority of Imam Jafar Sadiq than any other member of the Ahl-ul-Bayt.

During the period of his Imamate, a more favourable climate existed for the propagation of this religious teaching. This was a result of revolts within the Islamic realm, in particular the uprising which was aimed at overthrowing the Ummayyad Caliphs, and the bloody wars which finally led to the fall and extinction of the Ummayad dynasty. The greater opportunities for the teaching of the Shia Muslim faith were also a result of the favourable groundwork that the fifth Imam, Muhammad al-Baqer, had prepared during the twenty years of his Imamate, through the propagation of the true teachings of Islam and the Ahl-ul-Bayt.

The end of the Imamate of Imam Jafar Sadiq was coupled with the end of the Ummayyad dynasty and the beginning of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Imam instructed many scholars in different fields of intellectual and transmitted sciences (Maqul and Manqul), such as Zurarah and Jabir bin Hayyan the alchemist. Indeed, the first personage to give attention to chemistry was Imam Jafar Sadiq and it can be stated, without fear of contradiction, that he is the forerunner of chemistry. The greek texts on this area of science had not yet been translated into Arabic and the Muslims possessed no knowledge of this subject. It is the result of Imam Jafar Sadiq’s deep thinking that he developed the science of chemistry. The aforementioned Jabir would visit the Imam daily, only missing to see him on one occasion when Jabir was ill. The latter beseeched the Imam to pray for him via a written communication, and Jabir was subsequently cured. Jabir, in his own works which included the books, “Ktitabul Ri’an” and “Kitabul Hijr”, cites
Imam Jafar Sadiq as “my master”.

Even important Sunni scholars, such as Sufyan al-Thawri, the famous legal theologian, were among his students. Abu Hanafi, the founder of the Hanafi school of thought, was an avid pupil of the Imam for two years, and exclaimed that he had not seen anyone possessed of more knowledge than Imam Jafar Sadiq. Similarly, Malik bin Anas, the founder of the Maliki creed of Sunni jurisprudence, was also a student of Imam Jafar Sadiq and is reported to have said, when quoting the Imam’s traditions, The Thiqa’ (Truthful), Jafar bin Muhammed, himself told me that …”. It is generally said that Imam Jafar Sadiq’s classes and sessions of instruction produced four thousand scholars of hadith and other sciences.

The Imam spent his whole life in propagating the teaching of the Holy Prophet and never strove for power. His acclaim attracted the envy of the Abbasid ruler, Mansur Ad-Dawaniqi who, fearing the popularity of the Imam, decided to do away with him. Mansur ordered the torture and arrest of the descendents of the Holy Prophet, many of whom were brutally murdered.

Hisham, the Ummayyad Caliph, had ordered the arrest of Imam Jafar Sadiq and had him brought to Damascus. The Abbasid Caliph, Abdul-Abbas al-Saffah, had him brought to Iraq, as did the later caliph, Mansur who kept him under close supervision and reluctantly allowed him to go back to Medina where the Imam spent the rest of his life in hiding.

Still not satisfied, Mansur ordered the governor of Medina, Muhammad bin Suleima, to poison him. Thus, on the 15th according to one tradition, or 25th of Shawwal according to another tradition 148AH/765AD, at the age of sixty-five, he was martyred of poisoning.

With his relative around him, he uttered these last words: “he who is not diligent and is unmindful in his daily prayers shall not obtain our support on the day of Judgment.”

He was buried in the famous cemetery of al-Baqi, alongside his father and other noble ancestors, Imam Hasan and Imam Zayn-ul-Abidin.

Imam Jafar Sadiq had ten children, including Ismail, Abdullah and Umm Farwah from his wife, Fatima, and the seventh Imam Musa Kazim, Ishaq and Muhammed from Hamidah. The other children were Abbas, Ali and Fatima.           

  "Knowledge is better than wealth because it protects you while you have to guard wealth. it decreases if you keep on spending it but the more you make use of knowledge ,the more it increases . what you get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you."MORE ..  


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