Was Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq Sunni or Shi’i?

Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I am a bit confused about Imam Jafar as-Sadiq(ra). The Shias consider him one of the Imams amongst the 12 Imams of which they believe. I also read  that he was also the founder of the Jafari madhab for Shias. In addition, I discovered that he is revered by the founders of the Naqshabandi tariqah and that he was Imam Abu Hanifa’s (ra) teacher for some time. Was Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (ra) Sunni or Shia? I am confused.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,

Wa alaikum as salam,

Thank you for your question.  Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (80-148 AH) was a pious Sunni scholar and the great-great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him].

He was from the generation of the Followers (Tabi’een) and would narrate hadiths, most of which he had heard from his father, to a large number of prominent scholars such as Imams Malik, Abu Hanifa and Sufyan al-Thawri, may Allah be pleased with them. [Sawa’iq al-Muhriqa, Ibn Hajr al-Haytami].

Even though they were contemporaries, Imam Abu Hanifa did hear some hadiths from him and reviewed some questions of sacred law with him, as Imam Ja’far was a mujtahid in his own right, who had his own legal school.

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq was far from any bad opinion or hatred regarding any of the Sahaba.  Being a great-grandson of Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) from his mother’s side and having great respect and love for him, he was vehement in rejecting any belief that involved looking down upon him or rejecting the validity of his caliphate.  [al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubalaa’]

A Paragon of Virtue and Chivalry

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq was once asked by the famous mystic Shaqiq al-Balkhi to describe what chivalry was [Ar. futuwwa].  So Imam Ja’far asked him back, “Well, what do you think it is?”  Shaqiq replied, “If we are given [favors or gifts from someone] we thank them, and if we are not given [anything], we remain patient.”

“Even the dogs here in Madina do that!” Imam Ja’far exclaimed.  Then Shaqiq asked, “O son of the Messenger of Allah [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him], then what is chivalry to you all [of the Prophetic household]?”

Imam Ja’far replied: “If we are given, we show appreciation… but if we are not given anything, we still thank them.”  [Imam al-Qushayri, al-Risala]

It was said that when the name of the Prophet [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] used to be mentioned in front of Imam Ja’far, he would become pale out of his love, respect and awe.  This was coupled with his steadfast following of the Sunnah [life example] and emulation of his great-grandfather, the Prophet [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him]   [Ibn Abi Jamra, Adab al-Sami’ wa al-Mutakallim]

The Way of Moderation and Avoiding Unnecessary Dispute

The way of Ahl al-Sunnah is to have love and respect for the descendents the Prophetic Household and to hold its true scions, may Allah be pleased with all of them, in high esteem, especially when they are adorned by sacred knowledge, piety and righteousness.

It is best to avoid argumentation on polemical matters with those who see differently, as this is neither constructive to seeking the truth, nor to become closer to Allah Most High, nor to living alongside one another in mutual respect, despite our differences.   And Allah knows best.


Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani