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After his last Pilgrimage, at Ghadir Khum, the Prophet (pbh), was instructed by God to make an announcement of his succession. He was to elected Ali, his cousin and son-in-law as the Mawla or Master and Imam or Leader of the Muslims.(See Chapter 5). Those who recognize this election were called Shi’a while those who did not or were ignorant of this became the Sunni, who instead believe that the Prophet had left the Muslims to choose their own leaders.

In 114 AH, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir died of poison and his thirty-four year old eldest son, Abu ‘Abd Allah Ja’far succeeded his father to become the sixth Imam. As the leader of the Muslims and inheritor of the Prophet’s knowledge, he was the first among the Ahl al-Bayt who combined in his person descent from Caliph Abu Bakr as well as from the Prophet because his mother was Umm Farwa, the daughter of al-Qasim b. Muhammad b. Abi Bakr.

For the first fourteen years of his life, Imam Ja’far had been brought up under the guardianship of his grandfather, the fourth Imam. Zayn al-‘Abidin. This childhood had coincided with the rapid growth in Medina in acquiring the knowledge of Prophetic traditions and of seeking explanations of the Qur’anic verses.

As the Imam of the time, Ja’far as-Sadiq inherited the ‘Ilm or special knowledge of religion and became the exclusively

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authoritative source of knowledge in religious matters which includes zahir or external and batin or esoteric meanings of Qur’an contains not only the Ayat al-Muhkamat, clear or firm verses in which there is no room for any interpretation, but also Ayat al-Mustashabihat, unclear verses which require interpretation or ta’wil. (Q 3:7)

While to his followers, Imam Ja’far was the ultimate authority in religious matters by virtue of his position, his profound knowledge was also acknowledged by Sunni scholars of his time, notably Malik b. Anas, the jurist of Medina and Abu Hanifa, the jurist from Kufa and reportedly student of Ja’far himself. Each of them were to become founders of two of the four main Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence.

By 126 AH / 744 CE, the Umayyad dynasty was apparently disintegrating. A revolt in Khurasan supported by the Kaysanites achieved substantial success. The ‘Abbasid family, tracing it's ancestry back to the Prophet’s (pbh) uncle Abbas, had already deluded a Kaysanite 'Imam' to bequeath the Imamate to one of their family members and moved to Khurasan. Believing that the ‘Abbasid were closer to the Prophet’s family then they actually were, the people of Khurasan gave them support. The Umayyad Caliph, Marwan b. Muhammad, managed to arrest and imprison Ibrahim al-Imam, the head of the 'Abbasid family while the rest fled to Kufa.

When news of the death of Ibrahim al-Imam reached Kufa, the local ‘Abbasid representative, Abu Muslim Marzawi, thought of

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breaking his allegiance to the ‘Abbasid and lodge the family in a Qur’anic verses which is a logical corollary to the fact that the secret place. He invited Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq instead to come and declare openly his Imamate but was refused. The Khurasanian chiefs managed however, to find the ‘Abbasid family who were hidden by their representative and paid their allegiance to the new head of the family, Abu’l-‘Abbas.

Naming himself as-Saffah meaning The Bloodsheder, Abu’l-‘Abbas declared the ‘Abbasid the ‘Ahl al-Bayt from whom uncleanness was removed’, usurping the Qur’anic reference of Ayat 33 Surah 33 which actually refers to the descendants of the Prophet through his daughter Fatima, the family of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq. Thus the ‘Abbasid took over control of the Muslim lands.


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