Ja far Ibn Sadiq – The Imam Who Promoted Science


   Ja’far Ibn Sadiq was the 6th imam of Shia sect of Islam. He was born in Medina in 702 (common era). His father was Muhammad al-Baqir who was also the 5th imam. Ibn Sadiq spent most of his childhood in Medina learning Quran from his father. Whenever Muhammad al-Baqir traveled outside medina to solve a dispute or any other matter, he used to take Ibn Sadiq with him. In this way, ibn Sadiq learned the art of compromising disputes in an early age which helped him a lot in later life. A little is known about his childhood, but most scholars from the time of Muhammad al-Baqir have written that Ibn Sadiq during his childhood was a boy who loved asking questions about everything he was being taught at that time. This might be the reason why he had such interest in philosophy and science.

After becoming the 6th imam of Shia sect, ibn Sadiq founded Ja’fari school of law, where he taught math, chemistry and other subjects known at that time to people who were willing to learn new things. As about chemistry, most of that knowledge was written by Khalid ibn Yazid who was the son of Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya, and due to the sects created between Muslims, for most of them at that time it was like committing a major sin or an act of unfaithfulness against Islam. To get Muslims involved in chemistry and other aspects of science ibn Sadiq started doing his own experiments along with students of Jafri school. But due to lack of time he couldn’t manage to give so his students kept working day and night to discover new stuff about chemistry. One of those students that ibn Sadiq had was Jabir bin Hayyin, almost every one of us is similar with his contribution in chemistry. Ibn-kaldum in his book kitab al-fihrist mentions that Jabir bin hayyin once said that, “My knowledge extends to only two years, the two I spent with Imam Jafar ibn Sadiq.” Jabir ibn Hayyin was not the only Muslim scholar who studied in Jafari school there were couple of other Muslim scientists like Abbas ibn Firnas and Ziryab etc.

People like Jabir ibn Hayyin were the product of Jafri school and their contributions are admired all around the world. Western scientists had such trust in Muslim scientist’s theories, that they even thought that the alchemy is real and they can convert ordinary metal into precious metals like gold. This theory of alchemy was given by Jabir ibn Hayyin which is still blamed to be false as it ruined the life of many Western scientist’s.

Shortly after becoming the sixth imam, Ja’far ibn Sadiq had to face many hardships. These hardships were mostly disputes between different fractions of Muslim. Ja’far ibn Sadiq always tried to find a peaceful way of settling these disputes. The biggest hardship he faced was the rebellion led by his cousin Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya against al-Rahman ibn Muslim Khorasani. Ibn Sadiq refused to take side with any of the fraction fighting, instead he gave a mutual solution of peace to solve the problem without any bloodshed. This act of kindness disappointed many of his Shia followers, they started to think that he is a weak leader. And this act of serenity also resulted in his death.

Historians agree that he was poisoned because he always heisted in using force, which many Muslim leaders did not like. No one really knows who poisoned him but some sources point it toward al-Mansur’s the caliph of Bagdad at that time. Ibn Sadiq and al-Mansur had many quarrels with each other on topics like using military for controlling people, monetarily aid given to Jafri school and getting involved in conflicts. Al-Mansur once swore to kill Ibn sadiq after the death of his wife Abi Talha by the hands of al-Rehman ibn Muslim Khorsani. He blamed Ibn Sadiq for his wife’s death, but till date it’s a debate among scholars that whether al-Mansur was behind the poisoning of Ibn Sadiq or not.

But now If we look at the contributions of imams after Ibn Sadiq, then we see that none of those imams after ibn Sadiq did anything new to promote science in Muslim countries and the result of which was that we lost the war in the field of science to the western countries. Our imams today proudly tell us about Hazrat Ali’s quote, “seek knowledge even if you to have go as far as china, for seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim”. But almost all those imams who preach this quote are against teaching of subjects like chemistry and physics in their schools or madrasa’s. They think science is something that takes a man away from Allah and teaching of Prophet Muhammad but if we look at life of Muslim scientists like Dr. Abdul Qadeer khan, Abdu’s Salam and Abdul Kalam then we find that these claims by our Maulana’s are utterly untruthful.

As Dr. Abdus Salam once said about Quran that, “the deeper we seek, the more is our wonder excited, the more is the dazzlement for our gaze”. This quote clearly tells us that a man having respect for Islam and science can achieve such wonders that no one could have ever thought of.

Islam, is not a subject or a passage of just faith. Denial towards knowledge is nothing but just ignorance towards knowing your faith.



Most of these sources are taken from Ibn Nadim’s book “Kitab al-Fihrist” and “Kitab al-Kafi” by Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni. Both these authors are well known among Muslim scholars but due to lack of evidence Muslim scholars can’t figure out the exact dates and locations of these events that both authors mentioned in their books and a lot of historical events mentioned in their books are intense topic of debate among Muslim scholars today. So, there are slightly chances that in near future few of these historical events dates and places that are mentioned in the books might be claimed wrong.  As for jabir ibn hayyin alchemy sources, they are taken from the book “Mirror of Alchimy” by Roger bacon. Roger Bacon is not the only western author who blamed Jabir Ibn hayyin for false alchemy theories, there are couple of other western authors like Mircea Eliade and Micheal Maier who made the same claim against Jabir ibn hayyin in their books. All these claims against Jabir ibn Hayyin were mentioned in this article to show the conviction of Non-Muslims in Muslims scientists theories given in 9th to 15th century.

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