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°Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir ('a)

°Imam Jafar ibn Muhammad as- Sadiq ('a)

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Published on 20th May, 2003

The Islamic Message Extends for all Times
Opening up on Islam

By Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadhlullah

°Shiism is Islam Authentic

°Al-Sadiq’s ('a) Treatment of Community Problems

Ayatullah Fadlullah (painting)

°The Imam of Freedom

°Looking into the Future

According to the most widespread traditions on the 17th of the month of Rabi’ Al-Awwal, Prophet Muhammad ('s) was born. The same date is also the date of the birth of Imam Jafar bin Muhammad al–Sadiq ('a).

On these two occasions, we open up on the message of Islam, which was conveyed by Muhammad, the Messenger ('s) who was sent as a Witness, a Warner and a bringer of glad tidings, a light that leads the people away from darkness, through the Glorious Quran. Then he was followed by the Imams ('a) who made sure that people understood properly the concepts of their religion and deduced the rulings of Islamic law from the principles of Islamic law that were asserted in the Quran and practiced by the Messenger ('s). Thus the Imamate represents the extension of the Message in which the Imams ('a) base their actions on the same foundations that were instituted by the Prophet without adding or changing anything.

Imam al Sadiq ('a) says: 

"What I say is what my father used to say and my father’s saying is that of my grandfather and the saying of my grandfather is the saying of Al-Hussein bin Ali who quotes the Messenger ('s) who reveals what Allah has sent."

Just as Muhammad ('s) did not add or remove one letter from what Allah has revealed, the Imams, from Imam Ali to Imam Al-Mahdi ('a), did not add or remove one letter from what Muhammad ('s) came with. They only explained what he said and applied it to the new events and problems the Muslims faced in their times.

Shiism is Authentic Islam

Thus, our doctrine, Shiism, is not an addition to Islam. It represents the way the Members of the House of Muhammad ('s) understood Islam and authenticated it. But our Imams ('a) are not Muslim scholars who study Islamic issues and produce their own judgment which could be right or wrong like the scholars, who came after them, for they were infallible.

Imam Al-Sadiq ('a) is the son of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir ('a), his mother is Um Farwah bint al-Qasim bin Muhammad bin Abi Bakr. He was such an encyclopaedic scholar that he was not matched by any other Imam accept Imam Ali ('a). But his teachings were more detailed, because he had ample time, for his Imamate lasted for thirty years, and he was free to spread the knowledge of the Members of the House of Muhammad ('a) since the Umayyad rulers who used to prosecute the Imam ('a) were busy defending their rule, while the Abbasids when they assumed power were busy in laying its foundations.

Thus the Imam ('a) was able to enrich the Islamic culture enormously: We know that his school was attended by the major jurists of that time including Abu Hanifa the founder of the Hanafi School. Abu Hanifa was asked who was the most knowledgeable person and answered that it was Jafar bin Muhammad ('a). And he explained why, by saying: 

"I was asked by Mansour to prepare some of the most complicated juristic problems and ask the Imam about them, so that he might get confused and lose the reputation and the respect he enjoys. I prepared 40 questions and asked him about them. He took them one by one, and said regarding this issue you say so and so, the people of Medina say so and so while we say so and so. Then he asked me:  Don’t you agree that the most wise is the one who knows best the views of others?"

 Thus, we deduce that the Imam ('a) learned about all the views of the various sects, which proves what kind of an encyclopaedic scholar he was.

The Imam used to enjoy a great scientific and juristic reputation among those who believed in his Imamate as well as among those who did not. His school was open up on all Islamic trends, and he used to receive those who agree with him and those who don’t. He even received unbelievers and held debates with them to lead them to the straight path of Allah. He was a man of dialogue who believed that there is nothing sacred that could not be discussed. He had dialogues with those who deny the existence of God and those who had reservations on certain rites of worship and used to believe that it is the Imam’s duty, as well as the duty of every scholar, to sit with those people in a very tolerant manner, to discuss with them in the best possible way to guide them to the right path.

Al-Sadiq’s ('a) Treatment of the Community’s Problems

Imam Al-Sadiq ('a) used to have a say in all the events that happened in the Muslim community whether political, social or cultural, with a view of finding the appropriate solutions or ways to deal with them. He used to talk with everybody, regardless of age or social status… He used to talk about the Islamic doctrine in a philosophical way; about morals in an ethical terminology ..etc. He used to answer everyone that asked him any question.

Sheikh Al-Mufeed quotes in his book Al-Irshad that when Imam Al-Baqir ('a), was dying he asked his son, Imam Al-Sadiq ('a): 

Take care of my followers, what are you going to do to them. Then the Imam answered: I will make them free of need to ask any question. I will educate them so that they will not need to ask anybody about anything.

This is what the religious scholars ought to do, to stay with the people and not to be aloof. They should not be embarrassed or complicated by any question, especially since there are many issues that people, especially the youth, have a lot to ask about.

The Imam of Freedom

In this meeting, we are going to read some of the Imam’s texts that deal with general issues, in order to be enlightened by his knowledge. One of the major attributes of the Imam’s thought is the association he made between freedom and patience. The Imam ('a) believes that being free does not mean that someone else will give you your freedom. It should emanate from the freedom of your mind and the strength of your will; so that no one could make you adopt a position you do not believe is right. If you are free, you should be ready to pay the price for your stands and remain steadfast.

He says: 

"A free man is free in all his circumstances, even if he were in a prison cell. If he is hit by calamity he would be patient, even if he were imprisoned or tortured."

To give an example, the Imam cites Prophet Yusuf ('a) whose will was not conquered neither by the depth of the well nor by the darkness and torture of the prison. He was then sent as a Prophet to guide his people and to bestow Allah’s Mercy on them. Thus, patience as a sign of freedom is a virtue that, as we are reminded by the Imam, would be ultimately rewarded.

From these teachings, we conclude that the Imam ('a) was the Imam of freedom who held that freedom does not come from outside but from the inside. And this is what the contemporary philosophers have come to adopt hundreds of years later.

Looking into the Future

The Imam ('a) used to quote the Messenger ('s) in what will happen in the future, and I believe that he was describing our age. The Messenger ('s) said: There will come a time when power will only we attained by killing and tyranny, richness by misery and usurpation and love by leaving religion and following desires.

Those who live in that age, and would tolerate poverty although they have the means to be rich- If being rich means they would have to renounce their religion- they would tolerate hatred although they have the means to be loved Allah (swt) will reward him with the reward of 50 pious men.

The Imam ('a) also concentrated on the fact that the Messenger ('s) ordered us not to expose the defects of others.

The Imam ('a) considers those who commit such an act as being the furthest away from Allah (swt), and the nearest to unbelief, as Imam Al-Baqir ('a) taught.

These are some of the teachings of Imam Al-Sadiq ('a) that we ought to follow if we seek to be his Shiites and followers. It is not enough, as Imam Al-Baqir ('a) put it, to love Ali (as), for the Messenger ('s) is better. It is not enough to love the Messenger ('s) without obeying his teachings for they are the teachings of Allah.

Thus, Imam Al-Baqir ('a) says: 

"Those who follow Allah are our followers and those who are enemies of Allah are our enemies. The only way to become among our followers is by piety."

This is the line of the Members of the House of Muhammad ('s), a line of thought, action and piety that includes both the individual and the community and this is what we should do to be among their faithful followers before Allah (swt).

Walhamdo Lillahi Rabbil Aalameen  

Reference

1. Kitab al-Irshad

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