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Why did Imam Sadiq (A.S) turn down the Opportunity to accept the Caliphate ?

Adopted from the Book : A Short Biography of Imam Jaffer As-Sadiq (A.S)

Whereas others saw only the political opportunity in the form of a ripe fruit ready to be picked from the tree, Imam Sadiq A.S) saw yet another opportunity:

the educational one which was better than the political one in more than one way. He decided to go for the educational opportunity. To fully understand Imam’s choice, we have to consider the consequences of those who went for the political opportunity.


• Zaid Bin Ali Bin Husain.

He was betrayed by the people of Iraq. Whereas over 15,000 people pledged to support him, when the actual time for support came only a few came to help him. He was brutally killed and his body was exposed to untold humiliation.

His son Yahya, was hunted down like a fugitive until when he, too, was callously killed. The fate of Zaid and his son Yahya made Imam Sadiq (A.S.) weep for several days. If only Zaid had heeded Imam Sadiq’s advice of not seeking the end of the Ummayade oppression through uprising.

• Muhammad Bin Abdullah Bin Hasan Mussanah Bin Hasan (A.S.):

Imam Sadiq’s refusal to raise a claim on the Caliphate, paved way for Muhammad Bin Hasan to do that instead. In the earlier stage of the revolution against the Ummayades, Saffah and Mansoor were amongst those who recognized his claim and paid their allegiance to him.

However, they did so only out of convenience. They were interested in acquiring the Caliphate for themselves but were waiting for the right opportunity to do so. This opportunity came in 132 AH when Saffah, with the help of Abu Muslim, declared himself the Caliph in Kufa. Mohammed Bin Abdullah was left out in the cold!

When Mansoor succeeded his brother as Caliph in 136 AH, he took one more step against the progeny of the Prophet (S.A.W.W.). Remembering the earlier days of the revolution and the commitment that he had made to Muhammad Bin Abdullah, he thought it unsafe to let Muhammed live.

Before Mansoor could do anything to Mm, Muhammad and his younger brother Ibrahim escaped to Medina and Basra respectively. Mansoor sent his army first to Medina.

Muhammad fought courageously but he was killed. Mansoor then sent his soldiers to fight Ibrahim, There, too, Monsoor ended up the uprising by getting Ibrahim killed. He then sent Ibrahim's head to his father who had been imprisoned in Kufa by Mansoor. This was in the year 145 AH.

Muhammad's son, Abdullah, had earlier gone to the governor of Sindh, Omar Bin Hafs Al-Sufri, to seek his support for his father.

When the news of the martyrdom of Muhammad reached the governor of Sindh, he sent Abdullah to a nearby king who had agreed to take the young man under his protection. However, Mansoor sent his forces that finally killed Abdullah. This was in the year 152AH.

Mansoor was not yet satisfied. In the words of Amir Ali: "Mansoor now vented his rage on Medina and Basra. Many notables in Basra who had joined Ibrahim were caught and executed.

Their houses were rased to the ground; their dategroves cut down. In Medina, the properties of Bani Hasan and Bani Husain were confiscated... He even threatened with death the venerable Imam Jafifer as Sadiq for asking for the release of his properties. He threw into prison Imam Abu Hanifa and had Imam Malik cruelly flogged..."

• Sons of Muhammad Bin AH Bin Abdullah Bin Abbas:

Muhammad himself died before the revolution. His eldest son, Ibrahim, was living in Palestine. Marwan Al- Hammar, the last Caliph from the Ummayades, had him killed oti the grounds that the latter was in contact with Abu Muslim, the rebel of Khorasan.

Abu Abbas, who became the first Caliph from th^House of Abbas, and his brother Mansoor, had to adopt some very cruel measures to retrain their rulership. Abu Abbas shed so much blood that he became known as SAFFAH, meaning "the Shedder of Blood". Abu Jaffer exceeded even Saffah in his cruelties.

Despite the fact that Imam Sadiq (A.S) had kept himself totally away from the movement to over throw the Ummayades and therefore had no interest in the caliphate, nonetheless, Saffah had suspicions that the Imam (A.S) could be a political rival. He therefore summoned the Imam (A.S.) to Kufa, but having no evidence at all to prove Imam's involvement in matters of statecraft, he let the Imam (A.S) go free, • Abu Jaffer:

The younger brother of Saffah, and who later assumed the mane "Mansoor" (the victorious one), succeeded his brother in 136 AH. So as to keep the Caliphate safe from his rivals, he went after them all.

As we have seen before, he had Muhammad Nafs-U-Zakiyya killed and his entire family destroyed. Feanng that other members from the progeny of Imam Hasan (A,S) would raise their heads against his administration to avenge the murder of Nafs-UZakiyya, Mansoor declared a war on each member of Imam Hasan's progeny. Thousand of innocent members from the progeny of the Prophet were thus killed mercilessly.

Tabari; the famous Sunni historian, describes one such incident that gives us an impression of the extent of cruelty Mansoor had to practice to remain the Caliph.

Tabari reports that when Mansoor was about to leave for Mecca where he had expected to retire, he called his niece and sister-in-law (Mehdi's wife) Rytha (who also was Saffah daughter), and gave her a key to the treasury. Then he sought a promise from her that she would open theireasury only in presence of her husband the new Caliph, after Mansoor's death.

Accordingly, after Mansoor's death, Rytha, accompanied by her husband, Mehdi, the new Caliph, went into this room of secrecy. To their shock, the Caliph and the Queen witnessed "a chamber of horrors."

In the long chamber of treasury was a collection of the corpses of the great grandchildren of Hazrat Abu Talib, and in their ears were tags on which were written their genealogies. Mehdi ordered that the corpses be buried, and the treasury be pulled down.

• Abu Salma:

His position was "the Vizier of the Ahlul Bayt." He invited Imam Sadiq (A. S) to accept the Caliphate. He might have been genuine in this offer and might have truly wished to see Imam Sadiq (A.S) be the Caliph. However, he overestimated his strength and underestimate the treachery and evilness of Saffah and Mansoor.

Hardly did he guess that Saffah, Mansoor and Abu Muslim, who outwardly treated him with honor and respect, were behind his back, planning to kill him. Tabari records vividly the plot that was being hatched to kill Abu Salma.

Saffah wrote secretly to Abu Muslim of his fears pertaining to Abu Salma ind instructed him to get rid of Abu Salma. Saffah invited Abu Salma to his palace and kept him occupied till late at night and then let him go. On his way home, Abu Salma was attacked by Abu Mulsim's hit-man and killed. The depth of Abu Salma was then blamed on the Khwarjees.

Imagine what would have been the position of Imam sadiq (A.S) had he accepted Caliphate on the strength of the word to Abu Salma.

• Abu Muslim:

Both Saffah and Mansoor knew that without the military help of Abu Salma and Abu Muslim, they could not end the Uminayade ruler ship.

They also knew that so far as Abu Salma and Abu Muslim lived, there could not be complete freedom for the Abbaside Caliphs, to rule as they wished. The Abbaside brothers therefore had their own hidden agenda: First to use both Abu Salma's and Abu Muslim's services to remove the Ummayade dynasty, then through craft and treachery to remove from the scene both Abu Salma and Abu Muslim.

Abu Salma, as we have already seen, was the first one to go. Abu Muslim's life was spread up to the moment when he finally defeated Marwan al-Hammer at the Battle of the Zab in 132 AH.

With the final collapse of the Ummayade rulership and the murder of Marwan, Saffah and Mansoor turned their eyes on Abu iVtulsim. Before Saffah could act against Abu Muslim, he died in 136 AH. Mansoor took over the Caliphate arid his first action was to prepare to kill Abu Muslim.

In 132 AH, Abu Mulsirn had just put down the rebellion at Nasibin, Syria and was heading back to his station at Khorasan (Merv).

Mansoor requested him to pay him a visut at his court in Baghdad to advise him on important maters of state. Flattered by such royal gesture, Abu Muslim visited Mansoor. Mansoor got Abu Muslim arrested and killed in his very presence. His body was then dumped into the River Euphrates.

Thus ended the life of one who was key to the demise of the Ummayade dynasty and the rise of the Abbaside Kingship. • Abu Jaffer (Mansoor) therefore came out to be the real beneficiary of the revolution whose successful initiation and completion was the work of many adventurous people, most important of whom were Zaid, Muhammad Nafs-U-Zakiya, Abu Salma, Abu Muslim all of whom benefited but little form their efforts.

However, even for Mansoor, the success was but limited. To come to power and remain at the helm of power, he had to commit so many atrocious acts and to spill the blood of so many innocent people.

Admittedly, by his efforts the Abbaside dynasty was brought to power and continued to flourish through repression; it finally came to an end in 656 AH.

As a matter of fact, the end of the Abbasi dynasty, by the account of some historian, had ended earlier; in the words of Hamza Isfahani the Abbaside rulcrship ended in 921 A.D(636 A.H)in the 13th year of the reign of Mustansir. Robert Payne comments "for more than two hundred years the pages of history were to be littered with the twitching fragments of its course."

In light of the negative consequences for all those who went for the political opportunity vis-a-vis seizing the Caliphate, we can appreciate the wisdom behind Imam Sadiq's rejection of this option, and his determination to build his strategy for change on the shoulders of the education option that we have seen in chapter 2.


During the times of Imam Jaffer Sadiq (A.S), the political situation was such that the Muslim masses were no longer ready to accept the cruel rulership of the Ummayades. They had seen the virtuous lives of the Imams from the household of the Prophet (S.A.W.W) and were prepared to return them to power.

Unfortunately, there were some people who looked at this situation differently. Their intention was to overthrow the Ummayades and seize power for themselves. The mastermind behind tin s movement was Muhammad Bin AJi Abbasi and his three sons:

Ibrahim, Abu Abbas (Saffah) and Abu Jaffer (Mansoor).

Imam Sadiq (A.S) saw this plot clearly and therefore took a very different approach. Being the representative of Allah on this earth, he could not and did not want to engage himself in acts of treachery, cruelty and duplicity, which were the keys to obtain and ep the Caliphate.

If he truly wanted to stay in power he would be required to stoop as low as did Saffah and Mansoor. Even then the Imam (A.S.) knew that the benefits of such evil acts were short lived.

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) therefore chose another opportunity that was hidden behind the fall and decline of the Ummayades on the one hand and the rise of the Abbasides on the other hand.

During this period of political turmoil, Imam (A.S.) invested his time and energy in the establishment of an educational institution of a magnitude that none had seen before and through it to propagate the true massage of Islam that had hitherto remained in obscurity.

The best that the Abbasides got was a rulership of about 600 years; that was at its peak during the times of Mansoor, Haroon and Mamoon and ended pitifully in with the sacking of Baghdad by Hulagu in 1258 A.D.

On the other hand, Imam Sadiq’s approach strengthened the religion of Allah and opened up venues of knowledge and learning that continue to benefit humanity in general and Muslims in particular till this day.

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