The year 305 A.H. witnessed yet another radiant star illuminating the spheres of jurisprudence (Fiqh) and Ilm-ul-Hadees (Knowledge of traditions) in the persona of Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Babvayh Qummi – famous as Shaikh Saduq (a.r.). His birth coincided with the initial period of the office of Husain Ibn Rauh Naubakhti (a.r.) – the third special deputy of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.).
His father, Ali Ibn Husain Ibn Babvayh Qummi (a.r.), who was blessed with witnessing the time of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.), was enumerated among the greatest jurists of Islam. He enjoyed a special position before both the Imams (Imam Hasan Askari a.s. and Imam Mahdi a.t.f.s.). He was addressed by the titles ‘Reliable Shaikh’ and ‘My Mujtahid’ by Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) in his epistle. Shaikh Saduq’s (a.r.) father was born in Qum and spent his entire blessed life there before departing for his heavenly abode. His life is referred to as a ‘blessed life’ because he wrote close to 200 books in his lifetime.
The Prayer of Imam-e-Asr (a.t.f.s.)
Until he reached fifty years of his life, Shaikh Saduq’s father was yet to be blessed with a child. He longed for a righteous son. One day, he wrote a letter to Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) through his (a.t.f.s.) special deputy Husain Ibn Rauh therein requesting him to pray to Allah to grant him a righteous son. Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) implored Allah and wrote to Ibn Babvayh: I have prayed to Allah to grant you two virtuous sons. Soon after, he was blessed with a son whom he named Muhammad who went on to become a distinguished scholar and a revered jurist. This child was none but Shaikh Saduq (a.r.).
Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) started his childhood and youth under the shelter of his father’s piety, abstinence and virtues. Apart from acquiring knowledge and recognition, he also received ethical and practical training from his father. His father, who lived a contended life, was famous for achieving great milestones in jurisprudence and knowledge. He possessed a small shop in the bazaar of Qum that provided livelihood to him and his children. Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) grew under his father’s love and affection for a little over twenty years before his father departed from this transient world.
Hailing from a revered and a knowledgeable family, combined with his personal capacity, infallible memory and sharp mind, Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) achieved great status early on in his life and in less than twenty years of his life, he memorized thousands of traditions with their chains of narrators. Concerning Shaikh Saduq’s (a.r.) extreme love for knowledge and his sharp memory his teacher Muhammad Ibn Ali al Aswad said: Shaikh Saduq’s (a.r.) intense love for knowledge is no wonder as he was born through the prayers of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.).
Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) himself used to exclaim: I was born through the prayers of Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.).
One of the factors that led to Shaikh Saduq’s (a.r.) success could be the opportunity to meet and benefit from various scholars. Initially, he acquired knowledge from his father and then attended the lectures of various esteemed scholars. One scholar states: Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) studied under more than two hundred scholars including Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Yaqoob Kulayni (a.r.) who wrote the famous book Al-Kaafi.
Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) and Shaikh Kulayni (a.r.)
After Shaikh Kulayni (a.r.), Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) was considered as the greatest traditionist of his time. He was proficient in various branches of knowledge and narration of traditions. He wrote several books. He studied under Shaikh Kulayni (a.r.) for several years and occupied himself in the collection and compilation of traditions. Not only did he learn the science of traditions from Shaikh Kulayni (a.r.) but scholastic theology and jurisprudence also were a part of his academic pursuits.
Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) realised well in advance that the best way to protect the sayings and narrations of Ahle Bayt (a.s.) was to entrust them to their followers and devotees. These traditions were not safe from destruction and fabrication by the people. He took this huge responsibility upon himself and started teaching and training the students. He had many esteemed students like Muhammad Ibn N’uman known as Shaikh Mufeed (a.r.), whose services to Islam need no introduction. The vastness of his knowledge, deep study and knowledge can well be gauged from his services to Islam.
He wrote various valuable and useful books. Concerning his writings, Shaikh Tusi (a.r.) writes: He compiled 320 books. His books which are reliable, extremely useful and cover different branches of knowledge indicate the depth of his knowledge.
Some of his books include:
- Man La Yahzuruhu al-Faqih (Second book on the fundamentals of Shiite jurisprudence )
- Elal al-Sharaa’e (A book on philosophy and reasons of Islamic Laws)
- Kamaal al-Deen wa Tamaam al-Nemah (A book proving the existence and longevity of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) through narrative and logical proofs)
- Uyoon-o-Akhbaar al-Reza (a.s.) and many more.
Scholastic Inventiveness and Originality
Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) is usually referred to by the title ‘Raees al-Muhadditheen’ (the Chief of the traditionists) because he took great pains in the identification, categorization and protection of traditions. He classified the traditions under various topics and thereby formed complete chapters on them. One can observe such a scientific approach in his books.
The Four Reliable Books of Shias
In wake of the fact that some people with ulterior motives always attempt to mix forged traditions with the genuine ones and to understand the realities of Islam and Quran, it is essential to study the traditions carefully and separate the authentic traditions from the Ahle Bayt (a.s.) from the fabricated ones. However, this task is as difficult for commoners as it is important. To overcome this issue, three revered Shia traditionalists and jurists bore the trouble of compiling the traditions in four most important books. These books are termed as ‘Kutub-e-Arba’ah’ and their authors are called as ‘Muhammudun Thalatha’ (the three Muhammads) since all three shared the same name i.e. Muhammad.
- Usul-e-Kaafi by Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Yaqoob Kulayni containing 16,199 traditions.
- Man La Yahzuruhul Faqih by Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Babvayh Qummi – famous as Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) comprising of 5,963 traditions.
- Tahzeeb al-Ahkam by Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Hasan, also known as Shaikh Tusi (r.a.) containing 13,590 traditions.
- Al-Istibsaar also by Shaikh Tusi (a.r.) which has 5,511 traditions.
The Era of Traditions
Since it began with the relentless efforts of Shaikh Kulayni (a.r.) and resumed with the endeavors of Shaikh Saduq (a.r.), the era of Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) can rightly be termed as an ‘Era of Traditions’. Shaikh Kulayni (a.r.) laid the ground for spreading the traditions from the school of Ahle Bayt (a.s.) and after him Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) built a strong edifice on it. Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) undertook several journeys to resume the journey initiated by Shaikh Kulayni (a.r.).
His Truthfulness in Narration and Speech
The identification of the narrators is an important part of the science of narrators (Ilm-e-Rejal) and forms the basis of accepting the traditions. The scholars testify to the truthfulness of a narrator through the definitiveness of the knowledge of narrators. Religious scholars rely on Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) to such an extent that to use the term ‘reliable’ would be an understatement. While narrating traditions from the infallible guides (a.s.), especially from the fifth Imam, Hazrat Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) and the sixth Imam, Hazrat Jafar Sadiq (a.s.), Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) never swerved from truthfulness nor did he err in comprehending them. For this very fact he became popular as ‘Saduq’. His truthfulness can be gauged from the fact that both he and his father Ali Ibn Babvayh together are called as ‘Saduqain’ (the two very truthful ones) but whenever the term Shaikh Saduq is used it refers to the son i.e. Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Babvayh (a.r.).
Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) and the Minor Occultation
The most important social and political event that unfolded in Shaikh Saduq’s (a.r.) era and pushed mankind in dire straits was the severance of the apparent link between the Imam of the time and the Muslim nation. After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) i.e. in 260 A.H., the minor occultation commenced and continued for 69 years till 329 A.H. In this era, the representatives selected by Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) called as ‘Special Representatives’ served as a bond between the Imam and his Shias. As mentioned earlier, Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) was born in the initial period of the office of the third special deputy Janab Husain Ibn Rauh Naubakhti. Therefore, Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) spent twenty three years of his blessed life in the minor occultation (Ghaibat Sughra) i.e. he found the representative period of the last two special deputies of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). This can rightly be termed as one of the most important factors of Shaikh Saduq’s (a.r.) scholarly and spiritual development through which he reached a sublime position.
Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) continues to remain a resplendent star on the horizon of the Islamic nation. All the revered scholars testify to his sincerity, piety, integrity and scholastic capabilities. Shaikh Tusi (a.r.) writes in book ‘Al-Fehrist’: Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) was a distinguished scholar and a memoriser of traditions. In memory and depth of knowledge, he had no parallel among the scholars of Qum.
Sayyed Ibn Taaos (a.r.) states: Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) is such a personality that all scholars are unanimous about his vast knowledge and integrity.
Allamah Majlisi (a.r.) writes: Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) is enumerated among the most distinguished scholars.
Migration to Rayy
Although Shaikh Saduq’s (a.r.) undertook numerous journeys to gather the traditions of the infallible guides (a.s.), he continued to benefit from the lectures of the great scholars. He did not forsake teaching, training and engaging in discussions and debates. In fact, he wrote some of his books during his journeys. Some of the places that he traveled to were Bukhara, Neshapur, Toos, Isfahan and Baghdad among others.
The revered and distinguished scholar of Islam, who bequeathed his life to serve the religion of Ahle Bayt (a.s.), answered the divine call at the age of seventy-six years in 381 A.H. Among a vast multitude of people, he was buried near the sacred grave of Shah Abdul Azim in Rayy. Till day his sacred grave in Rayy is famous as ‘Ibn Babvayh’ – a place where prayers are granted and frequently visited by the pilgrims.
900 Years hence, The Miracle at his Grave
In 1238 A.H., during the reign of Emperor Fath Ali Shah Qaachaar, the grave of Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) was severely damaged due to water inundation. The government decided to rebuild the grave. In the process, when a person reached the cellular of his grave, he found the blessed body of Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) as fresh as if it was just buried. The color of the dye (henna) could still be seen on his fingers. Twenty elderly people witnessed this miracle including Mirza Abul Hasan Jalwa, Hazrat Ayatullah Mulla Muhammad Rustamabadi and Haaj Sayyed Mahmood Mar’ashi, the late father of Hazrat Ayatullah Sayed Shahaabuddin Mar’ashi Najafi (r.a.). Certainly, the sincere devotees and lovers of Ahle Bayt (a.s) rightly deserve such reward.
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