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Jafar al-Sadiq

Source:
The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Jafar al-Sadiq

    died ca. 765 Founder of Jafari school of law

    Jafar al-Sadiq, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, was the sixth imam of Shi'i Islam and the founder of the Jafari school of law, one of the five recognized schools of Islamic law and the major Shi'i school. During his lifetime, Jafar instructed hundreds of scholars in Islamic religion and other sciences.

    Shi'i Muslims developed a concept of law that was different from that held by the Sunnis, the majority of the Muslim community. Sunni Muslims believe in four true sources for Islamic law: the Qur'an, the hadith, consensus or general agreement among Islamic jurists, and analogy. Shi'i Muslims accept the authority of only the Qur'an and the hadith. They reject the opinions of the Sunni jurists in favor of the teachings of the caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib and his descendants, known as the imams. Shi'is also believe that jurists may use independent reasoning (ijtihad) to determine the law in situations where the other sources do not provide clear guidance. Sunni Muslims, by contrast, feel that ijtihad has a much more limited role in Islamic law.

    According to Jafari teachings, the descendants of Ali inherited the knowledge and authority to interpret the Qur'an and the hadith. This gave them a unique ability to determine appropriate Islamic law. Shi'i Muslims came to see the imams as without sin and infallible in matters of religion and considered them to be divine beings on earth. The Zaydi and Mustali Fatamid Ismaili schools of law arose from the same origins as the Jafari, but they are closer to Sunni religious practice.

    For many years, Islamic jurists did not recognize the authority of Jafar's teachings or that of any other Shi'i jurists. In 1959 , however, al-Azhar University in Cairo accepted the Jafari school as the fifth school of law along with the four traditional Sunni schools. See also Ali ibn Abi Talib ; Ijtihad; Law; Shi'i Islam.

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