Chapter 4: Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘A) School Of Thought

The Ummayyad dynasty was causing intellectual rigidity and scientific stagnation to the Islamic World. To remove this situation, a striving intellectual force was needed in which to widen the mental region of the Muslims and help them carry the light of the Holy Book and Sunnah on their shoulders, using the spirit of struggle provided.

This was what Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) worked for. His teaching sessions in the Holy Prophet’s (S) mosque and the weekly lecture sessions on Fridays in Madinah, triggered the birth of the establishment of a University, along with the intellectual movement.

Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) taught all branches of Islamic knowledge including interpretation, Hadith, Jurisprudence, Ideologies and Ethics. He helped his students with the knowledge he inherited from his ancestors (‘a) and trained the superior with religious laws in acquiring the knowledge of the religion.

There are a great number of Muslim jurisprudents who graduated from this university. And thus, these teachings caused the new jurisprudential school of thought and intellectuals, which came into being in the later periods.

From the Hadiths of Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), particularly the ones about wisdom and learning, which have been seen, it seems that the Imam (‘a) provided good planning for the mentioned intellectual movement. Also, in spite of all the pains and sorrows he had to bear because of the event of Karbala, he prepared himself well for teaching his students. This is where we see how he invited everyone towards learning and emphasized on the best ones to play on both theoretical and practical levels.

He also respected them. The Imam (‘a) taught his students the manners of studentship and let them learn the rights of their teachers. In this way, by way of his statements about the rewards for learning, he encouraged his students to bear all kinds of hardships, which might come to them. This was the only reason that the Imam (‘a) successfully gathered around himself a great number of seekers of knowledge who were known as ‘Qurra’ (readers of the holy Qur’an).

It is necessary to mention that those people were named "The readers of the holy Qur’an" because the only source for all their discussions was the holy Book of Allah Almighty; and they tried to memorize and interpret the great Book; as after the demise of the Holy Prophet (S), there were no other books about Hadiths, the Holy Prophet’s (S) conduct, jurisprudence and other writings; which was due to the cruelty of the ruling government of that time.

Under these circumstances, we can see that a large number of intellectuals, jurisprudents and Qur’aas came together around Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) and were never seen in such a large number before. They did not leave Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) alone at home or when he went on journeys. Sa’id Ibn Musayyib says: Nobody left Makkah until Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) did. When we left Makkah with Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), we were one thousand in number.1

One of the traditions in which the virtue of Imam Zayn Al ‘ Abidin’s (‘a) wisdom, the standard for spiritual reward has been mentioned is revealed in the following:

"If the people were aware of the spiritual reward for learning, they would tear the waves of the seas (to reach their goals) and they would not even be afraid of sacrificing their lives for this. Allah Al-Mighty revealed on Hadhrat Danial (‘a) that I do not like such an ignorant person who does not provide an intellectual with his rights, thinking of them as useless things. On the other hand, the dearest person to Me is a pious person who always tries to gain rewards and always accompanies the intellectuals and follows the patient ones and who gains knowledge from wise men."2

"When a student comes out of his home, he doesn’t put his feet on dry or wet land but that the seven Earths doxologize him."3

Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) had a great respect for his students’ knowledge and wisdom. He welcomed them saying:

"O, people who have fulfilled the orders of the Holy Prophet (S), welcome!"

Whenever the Imam (‘a) saw young men going to gain knowledge, he called them near to himself and said to them:

"Praise be to you that you are the treasures of wisdom, and you, who are now the youngest of your nations, will be the eldest (and the most respected ones) for other nations."4

In the last chapters, the greatness of intellectuals were also slightly discussed in the record of rights; and we came to know about their due rights from their students that they should respect their classes; they should listen to their teachers wholeheartedly; they should not sit while their backs are to their teacher; their voices should not be louder than their teachers’; they should defend their teachers; if their teachers have any fault, they should conceal it from others; they should spread the good habits of their teachers; they should not sit with the enemies of their teachers; and they should not oppose the teachers’ friends.

We also saw the rights of students which are obligatory on their teachers. It was discussed that they (the teachers) should not conceal their knowledge from their students; they should not behave rudely with their students; they should use the best teaching methods to teach their students in the best possible way, and they should not expect a material reward or salary.

All these sayings are clear signs of the Imam’s (‘a) planning for a great cultural revolution against the deviating cultures of the Ummayyads, who did not let the Muslims’ children wake up from the dreams of ignorance and make a stand against the Ummayyads.
The Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin (‘a) University produced a group of intellectuals, jurisprudents and interpreters who later became very famous scholars of their time. They were the people who were the cause for the revival of science and other branches of knowledge in later centuries.

We have only mentioned the names of some of them:

1-3. The leading member of this group was Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (‘a)5 and after him came the names of his two brothers: Zaid and Husayn – Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) other sons.

4. Aban Ibn Taghlab Ibn Rabah, Abu Sa’id Bakri Jareeri was born in Kufah. He was nourished in the same city and was one of those superior students, from the point of view of knowledge. He was very good in every branch of knowledge like Qur’an, Hadith, literature, linguistics and syntax. He was the student of three Imams: Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam Sadiq (‘a) respectively. According to a specific tradition, Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (‘a) once said to him: "Sit in the mosque and pronounce religious decrees as I like to have more people like you among my Shi’ahs." Aban has some compilations with regard to ‘Gharib ul-Qur’an’ and the Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) greatness and virtues and he has narrated nearly thirty thousand narratives from the Imams (‘a).6

5. Ismail Ibn Abdul Khaliq: He was one of the very famous companions of the Imams (‘a). He was also alive at the time of Imam Sadiq (‘a). He also narrated from the three abovementioned Imams (‘a).

6. Sabit Ibn Abi Safiah: His nickname was Abu Hamzah Ath-Thumali, was a great scholar and pious person. He developed under the Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) instruction. He was the narrator of their branches of knowledge and written books. All interpreters accept him for his truthfulness. He was known as the Salman Farsi of his time for his piety. He was the source of knowledge for the Shi’ahs of Kufah for his vast knowledge about Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a).

7. Rushaid Hajari: He was one of the Muslim champions and a famous person for his jihads, hung because of his faith in the Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) vicegerency.

8. Zaid Ibn Hasan Ibn Ali Abi-Talib: He was the custodian of endowed property of the Holy Prophet (S) and an honourable person; also, he was a very generous and beneficent man.

9. Sa’id Ibn Jubayr: His nickname was Abu Muhammad - the ruler of Bani Waliba. He was from Kufah but lived in Makkah. He was also one of the champions of Islamic jihads. Also, he was one of the very famous intellectuals of his time regarding interpretation, jurisprudence and other branches of wisdom. He was martyred in the month of Sha’ban 95 under the order of Hajjaj.

10. Sa’id Ibn Musayyib Makhzumi: He was one of the pious persons about whom Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) said: "He is the most learned man compared to those before him as well as the most eloquent person of his time." He had great respect for Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a).

These were only some of the Imam’s (‘a) students and only some aspects of their lives have been outlined. The Imam (‘a) also trained many slaves as his students. We can probably safely say: to some extent, every slave who was emancipated by the Imam (‘a) gained knowledge through him and we can call every such person one of the Imam’s (‘a) students.

Thus, we can say that the complete writings of the Imam (‘a) and his narrations, by no means comprise the entirety of his work. Rather, we should add to the Imam’s (‘a) work every kind of training given to a common person, or slave which, to some extent, brought about change in their behaviour, thought or position to, subsequently, bring about a greater change in Islamic society.

  • 1. Taken from Shahid Al-Sadr's preface written on Al-Sahiffh Al-Sajjadiyya.
  • 2. Kulayni, Uusul Al-Kafi 1/35.
  • 3. The life of Imam Zayn al'Abidin (‘a) p. 23.
  • 4. Al-Durar Al-Nadim p. 173.
  • 5. We should not make a mistake here by concluding that, as Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir's (‘a) name is also mentioned in the list of Imam Al-Sajjad's (‘a) students, he also gained his wisdom through the same paradigm (editor).
  • 6. Aban's life has been discussed in detail in the book Imam Zayn Al-'Abidin's (‘a) Life pp. 522-537.