THE LIFE AND THE TIMES OF IMAM JA'FAR AS-SAADIQ (as)
Imam Ja'far As-Saadlq was bom in 83 AH during the reign of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik bin Marwan. He was only three years of age when Walid bin Abd al-Malik succeeded to the caliphate after his father. The Imam had the good fortune of spending the first twelve years of his life with his grandfather, Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen. He then spent the next eighteen years of his life with his father, Imam Muhammad Baqir. He was thirty-one years of age when his father was also martyred with poison by Hisham bin Abd al-Malik in II 4 AH. Thus, the hnwn had seen the reign of five Umayyad caliphs before he was appointed Imam by his father before his death. The relatively long rule of Hisham lasted for about twenty years. He was a contemporary of the Imam for twelve of these years.
Hisham had kept up the pressure on the Alkyds and their followers just like his father had done during his reign. Hisham had appointed the ruthless Khalid bin Abd Allah Qisri as the governor of
and other southern provinces. Together, the caliph and his governor eclipsed the tyrarmy of Hujaj bin Yusuf and his master, the caliph Abd al-Malik bin Marwan. Iraq
During the hey days of the Umayyad dynasty, the caliphs found the members of the Aliyyld clans as easy targets for diverting the public attention from their failure and decadence. The Aliyyids were taunted and insulted, and provoked to such an extent that they would come out to defend their honor and integrity. This provided the tyrants sufficient excuse to put them to sword.
Zaid bin Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen was one such martyr who was subjected to such a fate. He could not withstand the instdts thrown at him by the governor of Hisham. In 121 AH, he came out with a small force of loyalists for the cause of the Truth, and fought bravely to Ws death in 122 AH. His head was hoisted on the spear and his body was hung on the cross for full four years. It was then taken down, only to be put to the flames.
In 125 AH, Imam Jafar as-Saadiq witnessed an exact repeat of Zaid bin All's fate meet his son Yahya bin Zaid at the hands of the Umayyad ruler Walid II bin Yazid II bin Abd-al Malik. His decapitated body was also hung on the cross until taken down by Abu Muslim of Khorasan (after he helped the Abbasids to end the yoke of the Umayyad rule). The supporters of Yahya were hunted down and ruthlessly massacred in their homes or other hideouts. The survivors and their sympathizers were relentlessly pursued out of Hijaz.
The rule of Walid 11 lasted only a year followed by Yazid III bin Walid I bin Abd al-Malik. This rule lasted for even lesser period of only six months. His brother Ibrahim succeeded him to the caliphate, only to be toppled from his seat in just two months. In 127 AH, Marwan II followed as the last caliph in the Marwanid dynasty, and ruled a shrinking empire for about five and a half years.
Not with standing the continued oppression of the Hashimites under the Umayyads, Abd Allah bin Muawiyah (a grandson of Jifar bin Abu Talib) rose to claim the cause of his clan in 127 AH. He met the same fate as that of his other clan members just a few years earlier.
By this time, the end of the tyrannical rule of the Umayyads was in sight. A secret Hashimite movement was under way in Palestine under Ibrahim Imam, brother of Abd Allah (Saffah) bin Muhammad bin Ali bin Abd Allah bin Abbas (an uncle of the Prophet). Their manifesto was to avenge the blood of Imam Husain and to liquidate the Umayyads. However, their bidden and real aim was to take over the caliphate for themselves with the help of the Aliyyids. With this ploy and the popular slogan, Ibrahim Imam was able to muster support from the oppressed Shiites. Abu Muslim who had just established an independent principality in Khorasan under the Aliyyid flag, marched on to
Iraq with a massive force of seventy thousand strong, and ended the yoke of the Umayyads rule in in 129 AH. In a pre-arranged banquet in Iraq , the Umayyad princes and their heirs were arrested, and suffocated to death by encasing them in leather sacs. Damascus
Somehow one prince, named Abd ar-Rehman escaped the doorn of the family and made his way to the distant dominion of
Spain, in the Far West. Here he gathered support from the long settled Syrian veteran soldiers and founded a new Umayyad dynasty.
Imam Jafar as-Saadiq thus saw the rule of the last five caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty, and the sufferings of his kinsmen perpetrated by them. He saw the reign of the first two caliphs of the new Abbasid dynasty, and the start of a new era of persecution of the Aliyyids and their followers. The atrocities unleashed by the Abbasids to their very supporters (the Aliyyids), turned out to be worst than those caused by their predecessors, the Umayyads.
The new dynasty of the Abbasids began to strengthen its establishment. The oppressed had assisted 'in getting rid of the yoke of one tyrant system only to exchange for a new one. Abu Muslim was useful to the new regime in the mopping up operation against the remaining resistance from the Umayyad loyalists. Fearing from his success and increasing popularity, the new caliph sent him on one such mission and had him assassinated in the field. In 132 AH, Muhammad (Saffah), brother of Ibrahim Imam became die Caliph of the consolidated Abbasid empire that stretched from
Morocco in the West to in the East. Afghanistan
Muhammad Saffah died in 136 AH at the age of 32 years, and was succeeded by his brother Abd Allah al-Mansoor (Dwaneeqi). His rule lasted for about 21 years. Historians have written a great deal about his astute management of the empire. However, he was a ruthless ruler who would order kflling of another human being without remorse. He was nicknamed Dwaneeqi because of his extreme miserly nature. He had swom to eradicate all Aliyyids from his dominions. He targeted the Aliyyids with insults, provocation and deprivation. And, whenever they arose in arms to defend their honor or their families, they were ruthlessly slaughtered and beheaded: The survivors were thrown into dingyjails, to rot and to die there. Thus, the fate of the respected elder, Abd Allah Mahadh, and his son Muhammad (Nafse Zakk-iyah), along with many others from the progeny of Imam Hasan, was not much different from that of Zaid bin Ali and his son Yahya from the progeny of Imam Husa'm.
The jealous caliph could not tolerate the respect and popularity enjoyed by the Imam in Madinah. He very much wanted to subject the Imam to the same treatment as suffered by other members of his clansmen. The Imam refused to take to an-ned retaliation. The caliph resorted to have him summoned to his court in the presence of dignitaries and scholars from other lands without prior warning in order to slight him in public. But he failed in his schemes due to the wit of the Imam Ws knowledge, his popularity, and his purity.
Finally, the Caliph managed to have his way, and had the Imam poisoned. He succumbed to the fatal dose of poison and died in 148 AH. Before he breathed his last breath, he appointed his son Musa to lead the Ummah after him.
It is important to point out at this stage that Ismail, the older son of the Imam had died during the life of the Imam and was buried in the graveyard of Jannat ul-Baqi. Muhammad bin Ismail had hoped that people would accept his father as the successor to Imam Jafar as-Saadiq, and thus he would inherit the honor of being the next Imam. But the position of Imamate is not a matter of inheritance but that of a divine appointment, as the custodians of the Message of Islam. There was a small faction of the followers who did regard Ismail to be their hnam. And thus Muhammad bin Ismail did obtain the honor he had aspired for among his separatist faction. However, he had only a short life, and his lineage continued until Ubayd Allah bin Muhammad bin Abd Allah bin Muhammad bin Ismail proclaimed himself as the awaited Mahdi.
Ubayd Allah made his way to