Story No. 408 – Knowledge of Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) (According to Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik ibn Anas)

As far as the knowledge of the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) is concerned, it is sufficient to say that Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) was the teacher of the two Sunni Imams, i.e., Imam Abu Hanifa (Numan ibn Thabit) and Imam Malik ibn Anas.

Imam Abu Hanifa sat in the company of Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) for two years in Madina and learned a great deal from him, despite their disagreement after that time Abu Hanifa used to say: ‘Without those two years, Numan would have perished.’ Although Imam Abu Hanifa was 3 years older than Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as), he learned the various religious sciences in these two years. Malik ibn Anas also confessed straightforwardly that he had not met anyone learned in Islamic Jurisprudence better than Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as).

“Abu Hanifa al-Numan! People have become so infatuated with Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) and placed him far too highly in their esteem. Therefore, I want you to prepare some very difficult questions which you will put to him in my presence and in front of other scholars.” These were the instructions given to Abu Hanifa al-Numan by Mansur Ad-Dawaniqi the second Abbasid Caliph.

Much as he loved Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) and respected his scholarly achievement, Abu Hanifa al-Numan had no choice but to comply with Abbasid Caliph’s request. Therefore, he prepared 40 such questions and waited for a call from the Caliph, which soon arrived.

Imam Abu Hanifa went to Mansur Ad-Dawaniqi to find Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) sitting with him as well as many other people. As he looked at Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as), he was in awe of him much more than of Abbasid Caliph.

Mansur Ad-Dawaniqi asked Abu Hanifa al-Numan to put his questions to Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) and he did, one by one. Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) answered all questions in detail. Needless to say, these were questions on issues subject to much controversy among scholars. Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) said in his answer to each question, as reported by Abu Hanifa al-Numan: “You, i.e. the scholars of Iraq, say so and so, but the scholars of Madina say such and such, while our own view is the following. He may agree with us or with the scholars of Madina or may disagree with us all, elucidating his own opinion. None of the 40 questions represented any difficulty for him.”

Such was the standing of Imam Jafar as Sadiq (as) whom Abu Hanifa al-Numan describes as the ‘most learned scholar I have ever seen.’ This is in line with Abu Hanifa al-Numan’s criterion which states: “The most learned scholar is the one who knows best the differences among scholars.”