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Scholarly Life of Imam Al-Sadiq (AS) (Part 4)

Shafaqna English- Among the various aspects of the life of Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq (AS), his scholarly approach holds great importance and requires special attention from his followers. The text below is a summary of the book The Life of Imam Sadiq (AS) written by Saeed Babai, which Shafaqna has selected and translated.

The Imam’s (AS) Supervision Over the Debates of His Companions

Imam Sadiq (AS) would review the debates of his companions with others, approving or correcting them, as debates were a scholarly approach of his time, and it was necessary for Shia Muslims to be proficient in debates against others.

  1. a) Mansur bin Hazim narrates a detailed account of how he presented his own debate text to Imam (AS) and the Imam (AS) approved it at the end. [36]
  2. b) Ismail bin Abd al-Khaliq says: One night, I was with Imam Sadiq (AS) when Ahwal entered and expressed his worries. The Imam (AS) conversed with him and reassured him. Then, he asked Ahwal how he conducted his debates with the people. After Ahwal replied, the Imam (AS) himself taught him the art of debate and how to present his points. [37]
  3. c) Hamza and Muhammad, the sons of Hamran, narrate that they were present with a group of Imam’s (AS) companions and engaged in a debate in his presence. Hamran said: I had decided not to speak in a gathering where you are present, but the Imam gave me permission to speak. Hamran then began to speak and explained his beliefs. [38]

When Imam Al-Sadiq (AS) found a debate between one of his companions and a Sunni scholar to be suitable and well-reasoned, he would try to make the other companions familiar with it, so they could apply it in similar situations. An example of this approach is the case of Hisham bin Hakam. Hisham, one of the strongest debaters among Imam’s (AS) companions, had a precise and logical debate with Amr bin Ubayd, a prominent Mu’tazilite scholar in Basra. Imam (AS) liked the debate and asked Hisham to share the details with the other companions.

Yunus bin Ya’qub says: I was sitting with Hamran bin A’yun, Muhammad bin Nu’man, Hisham bin Salim, and other companions of Imam Al-Sadiq (AS), including Hisham bin Hakam. Imam (AS) turned to Hisham, who was young, and said: “Hisham, don’t you think you should tell me how you debated with Amr bin Ubayd?” Hisham replied: “I’m ashamed to share it in your presence.” Imam (AS) said: “Whenever I command you to do something, you must do it.” Hisham said: “I learned that Amr bin Ubayd would sit in the Mosque of Basra and hold gatherings with the people.

One day, I went to the Mosque and saw Amr bin Ubayd surrounded by a large crowd, discussing his views with them. I pushed the people aside and approached Amr bin Ubayd. Then, I said: ‘’O’ wise man, I’m a stranger. Do you allow me to ask you a question?’ Amr bin Ubayd replied: ‘Yes, ask me anything.’ I asked, ‘Do you see?’ Amr bin Ubayd was surprised by this question and said: ‘You can see that I have eyes, what kind of question is this?’’ I said: ‘It’s a question that I have.’ Amr bin Ubayd said: ‘Now that you’ve asked, ask whatever you want, no matter how foolish it may be.’

I continued to ask Amr bin Ubayd questions and then asked about the heart. Amr bin Ubayd replied that the heart harmonizes the members. I then said to Amr bin Ubayd, ‘O Abu Marwan (an epithet for Amr bin Ubayd), God did not create your limbs and organs without a guide that harmonizes them. How can He leave people in confusion, doubt, and disagreement, and not provide an Imam and leader to guide them and resolve their differences?’

Amr bin Ubayd was speechless and said: ‘You are Hisham bin Hakam.’ Then, he sat me down aside himself and did not speak to me until I left.” Imam Sadiq (AS) was pleased with these words and said: “Hisham, from whom did you learn these words?” I replied: “From you.” Imam (AS) said: “I swear by God that these words are mentioned in the scriptures of Abraham (AS) and Moses (AS).” [39]

The Emphasis of Imam Sadiq (AS) on the Specialization of His Companions

Another principle emphasized by Imam Sadiq (AS) was the specialization of his companions in various branches of knowledge. From the biographies of his companions, it becomes clear that each one had a stronger expertise in a particular field, and Imam (AS) would delegate debates and questions related to each field to the specialist in that field.

Hisham bin Salim says: We were with Imam Sadiq (AS) when a Syrian man asked permission to enter and was ordered to sit down. Imam (AS) asked him: “What brings you here?” The man replied: “I’ve heard that you are a scholar who answers all questions. That’s why I’ve come to debate with you.” Then, Imam (AS) asked him about the topic of the debate and delegated each topic to one of his students. In the field of Quranic inquiries and recitation, he referred him to Hamran. In [Arabic] literature (or grammar), he instructed Aban bin Taghlib to debate with him.

In jurisprudence, he ordered Zurarah to debate with him. In theology, he asked Mu’min Taq to respond to him. He also instructed him to seek the opinion of Tayyar in matters of free will, debate with Hisham bin Salim in monotheism, and debate with Hisham bin Hakam on the topic of Imamate. Until Imam (AS) laughed so hard that his teeth were visible. The Syrian man said: “It seems you want to show me that such people exist among your Shias.”

Imam Al-Sadiq (AS) replied: “Yes, they do.” Then, Imam (AS) praised each of his companions and said: “O’ Syrian man! Indeed, God has mixed truth and falsehood together, and He sent the prophets to separate them. If it were not as such, there would be no need for them.” The Syrian man said: “By God, whoever sits with you will be saved.” ”Imam (AS) nodded in agreement, pointing to the gathering of Jabra’il (AS), Mika’il (AS), and ‘Israfil (AS) with the Prophet (PBUH), who would receive news from heaven. Then, the Syrian man asked Imam (AS) to accept him as one of his Shias and to teach him. Imam Al-Sadiq (AS) accepted and instructed Hisham to teach him. [40]


[36] Al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 237-267.

[37] Sheikh Tusi, Ikhtiyar Ma’rifat-al-Rijal, Qom, Al-Bayt Institute, 1404 AH, vol. 2, p. 422.

[38] Muhammad bin Ali, Saduq, Ma’ani-al-Akhbar, p. 212; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 66, p. 3.

[39] Usul Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 238.

Part of article series: Scholarly life of Imam Al-Sadiq (AS)

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