Narration and compilation of traditions (contd..)
THE ERA OF IMAM MOHAMMED BAQIR (A.S.) AND IMAM JAFAR SADIQ (A.S.)
The revolution of Imam Husain (a.s.) and his subsequent martyrdom, followed with the endeavours of Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) had established a favourable foundation for religious propagation. It allowed Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.) to take advantage of the conflict of Caliphate between Bani Umayya and Bani Abbas. Imam (a.s.) capitalised on the rising tumult in Islamic society as a result of the conflict, and established religious classes. The conditions of the time necessitated that he educate the Muslims, the intellectuals and the researchers regarding the Islamic practical laws and ordinances. This was so that, Islamic edicts could be studied and compared with other schools of thought, and Islam’s superiority in this aspect would become crystal clear for all.
Bani Umayya was concerned with its political instability, and therefore it could not exercise control over administrative affairs of the government. Imam Baqir (a.s.) used this opportunity, and put in a lot of effort to propagate the true religious thought. Imam’s (a.s.) knowledge and insight in religious matters was widespread, so students from far and wide began assembling in Medina to acquire knowledge from him. This was but one of the many activities of the fifth Imam (a.s.).
The efforts of Imam Baqir (a.s.) (whose title was "the splitter of sciences") prepared a solid base for Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) to carry on from where his esteemed father had left off. This was the reason that a lot of knowledgeable and competent companions emerged in this era. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) lived longer than the other Imams (a.s.) (approximately 65 years). With every passing year, more and more students enrolled in the schools (makaatib) of Imam (a.s.) It is estimated that at times, almost 4,000 students benefited from his (a.s.) lectures. In turn, these students then conveyed these traditions amongst the Muslims in distant corners of the Islamic nation. The most crucial aspect of this educational system was that some of the outstanding students of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) compiled books, to the tune of about 400 in number. They recorded in these works, traditions from the two Imams (a.s.), the previous Imams (a.s.) as well as those of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Due to the immense difficulties faced by Imam (a.s.) in his efforts to educate the people with the true Islamic knowledge, the Shia Fiqh (Jurisprudence) is called "Fiqh-e-Jafari".
PERIOD OF IMAM MUSA KAZIM (A.S.) AND IMAM ALI RAZA (A.S.)
The spirirtual and scholarly influence of the Ahle Bayt (a.s.) was widespread. Moreover, the Caliphs always feared the attachment of the people towards them (a.s.). Thus, no sooner did the Bani Abbas government gain some stability, they imposed severe restrictions on the seventh Imam, Moosa Kazim (a.s.) and constrained his activities. Not only that, they even summoned him to Basra from Medina, and then to Baghdad. Their objective was that the people should not benefit from his knowledge and the ground prepared by the previous Imams (a.s.), which would prevent uprisings and revolutions against oppressive regimes. It was largely due to this reason, that Imam’s (a.s.) activities were curtailed in the early days of his Imamate. Notwithstanding these constraints, his students compiled many of his traditions covering different aspects of knowledge. Prominent amongst his companions was Ali ibn Yaqteen, a minister of the Caliph Haroon Rashid.
Imam (a.s.) passed most of his life in the prisons of Basra and Baghdad, and was eventually poisoned in one of the prisons.
When Mamoon Rashid became the Caliph, his advisors advised him to give the Islamic Caliphate to Imam Raza (a.s.) or at least appoint him as the crown prince. With this objective, he invited Imam (a.s.) to the capital.
For the Imam (a.s.), the Caliph’s intention was crystal clear. Yet, bearing in mind that the improving relations between the Muslim community and other civilisations, necessitated the correct explanation of Islamic teachings, Imam (a.s.) accepted his invitation. Moreover, Mamoon Rashid based on political pragmatism, left no stone unturned in showering respect on Imam (a.s.); and thus, the means of propagation were provided to him (a.s.) as well. There are several books that have recorded the traditions of Imam Raza (a.s.). Uyoon-e-Akhbar al-Reza (a.s.) is one such book compiled by Shaikh as-Saduq (r.a.), wherein only traditions from Imam Reza (a.s.) are recorded. Another of the Shaykh’s valuable writings is Elal al-Sharaa’e.
THE FOURTH ERA OF ISLAMIC TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE – THE NINTH IMAM (A.S.) AND THE PERIOD AFTER HIM
The children of Ali (a.s.) were symbols of morality, knowledge, piety and abstinence. These characteristics always gained a lot of prominence among the Muslims, and drew the people towards the Imams (a.s.). The disposition of the people towards the Imams (a.s.), made the Bani Abbas Caliphs re-frame their policies towards the Ahle Bayt (a.s.) and they began restraining the influence of these holy personalities (a.s.), in order to safeguard their tyrannical rule. Despite this, Imam Ali Naqi (a.s.) was always the focal point of attention among the Islamic scholars. Imam (a.s.) expounded the Islamic laws to the maximum. Consequently, he had to face resistance from the judges and the scholars who were mere puppets in the hands of the Bani Abbas government. This stiff opposition culminated in Imam’s (a.s.) martyrdom by poison at the age of only twenty-five years.
Even after his (a.s.) martyrdom, the government was wary of the tenth and the eleventh Imams (a.s.), and tried its utmost to curb their influence in the Islamic society. Only a few people were privileged to meet them. Despite these restrictions, they (a.s.) continued to explain the religious tenets to the best of their capabilities. Through their practical lives, they displayed the real concept of Tauheed, and made the people aware of the degradation that Islam was suffering at the hands of the Bani Abbas government.
As we have mentioned earlier, each infallible (a.s.) was made to undergo difficulties and tribulations, at the hands of tyrants who ruled the Muslims in the name of religion and ruled over the Islamic world despite being ineligible for it. Nevertheless, each Imam (a.s.) left no stone unturned to protect Islam. This is evident from the fact, that in the period extending up to 330 A.H., more than four thousand books of enlightenment have been compiled by Islamic scholars filled with traditions narrated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the Imams (a.s.).