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Ja'far b. al-Imam al-Hadi (a)

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Ja'far b. al-Imam al-Hadi
Claiming imamate
Teknonym Abu 'Abd Allah
Well-known As Ja'far al-Kadhdhab
Lineage Banu Hashim
Well-known Relatives Imam al-Hadi (a) (father), Imam al-'Askari (a) (brother)
Birth 226/841
Place of Birth Medina
Places of Residence Medina, Samarra
Death/Martyrdom 271/884
Burial Place Samarra
Era Abbasid dynasty

Jaʿfar b. ʿAli b. Muḥammad (226/841-271/884) (Arabic: جعفر بن علی بن محمد) known as Ja'far al-Kadhdhab (Arabic: جعفر الکذّاب, Ja'far the Liar) was the son of Imam al-Hadi (a) and brother of Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a). After the martyrdom of his bother, Ja'far claimed Imamate and attracted a group of Shi'a for a while. His followers believed Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a) had left no son; therefore, his brother would succeed him after his martyrdom. According to some accounts, Ja'far actually regarded himself the successor of his father, Imam al-Hadi (a), and had claimed Imamate before the martyrdom of his brother, Imam al-'Askari (a). His followers are called "Ja'fariyya".

Kunya, Lineage and Nicknames

Ja'far, the son of Imam al-Hadi (a), was born in 226/841. His Kunya was Abu Abd Allah. Due to his false claim on Imamate after the martyrdom of his brother, and his denial of any son for Imam al-'Askari (a), Ja'far was nicknamed "al-Kadhdhab" (the Liar). His followers and children would refer to him with the title "Zaki" (the pure one). After some generations, the number of his descendants reached to 120, and so "Abu Karrayn" (the father of numerous children) became another nickname for him. Ja'far died in 271/884 and was buried in Samarra.

Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
'Abd Allah
Lady Fatima
Imam Ali
Umm al-Banin
Imam al-Husayn
Imam al-Hasan
Lady Zaynab
Umm Kulthum
Abd Allah
Umm Kulthum
'Abd Allah
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Sajjad
'Ali al-Akbar
'Ali al-Asghar
Imam al-Baqir
Imam al-Sadiq
'Abd Allah
'Ubayd Allah
Imam al-Kazim
Umm Farwa
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Rida
Imam al-Jawad
Imam al-Hadi
Imam al-'Askari
Imam al-Mahdi


  • Ja'far appeared as a criminal and evil doer who had worldly desires. According to a report from Imam al-Sajjad (a), the Prophet (s) had foretold about Ja'far and his actions. In addition, Imam al-Hadi (a) was not happy at his birth and said he would mislead many people.
  • It has been said that Imam al-'Askari (a) dissociated from Ja'far and avoided his company.
  • In the story of Faris b. Hatam, where Imam al-Hadi (a) had accursed and dissociated from Faris, Ja'far sided with Faris.
  • He was also accused of drinking, to the extent that he was nicknamed "Zuqq al-Khamr" (the water-skin of wine).

Some have suggested that this particular accusation might have been propagated by Ja'far's enemies, i.e. twelver Shi'a; like the way Ja'far's followers would attribute inappropriate nicknames and actions to Imam al-'Askari (a) and his companions.

  • In a narration from Imam al-Mahdi (a), where the Imam replies to a letter from a Shi'a about Ja'far b. Ali, he is introduced as a person who cannot distinguish Halal from Haram (lack of religious knowledge) and also the signs of his disobedience to divine laws are visible. According to the same account, Ja'far had left obligatory prayers for forty days, in order to acquire magic powers.
  • Also in a Tawqi' (a letter from Imam al-Mahdi (a)), Ja'far has been likened to the brothers of prophet Yusuf (a). Some have interpreted this analogy to infer that like the way Yusuf's brothers eventually repented, Ja'far also repented of his wrong actions, and thus he was nicknamed "Tawwab" (penitent). However, referring to the aforementioned letter, it only seems that the Imam intends to say such wrongdoings have historical precedence among some children of the divine prophets or their successors.

Campaign to Take over Imamate

It has been said that Ja'far struggled hard to take over Imamate. After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan al-'Askari (a) he claimed to be the only heir to his property, while Imam al-'Askari's mother was still alive. Ja'far also persuaded the rulers of the time to inspect the house of Imam al-'Askari in search of his son, and with his help, a maid was arrested and remained under strict surveillance for a while. In addition, Ja'far agreed to bribe an Abbasid official, twenty thousand dinar a year, to endorse his claim on Imamate.

After the martyrdom of Imam al-'Askari (a), Ja'far wanted to pray the funeral prayer (which would give the implication of him being the Imam's successor), however, Imam al-Mahdi (a) who was a young child at that time, pushed him aside and performed the prayer himself.

Shi'a apposition to Ja'far

Based on the reports that rejected Fatahiyya, Shi'a community would not believe in the Imamate of two brothers, except for the case of Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a). In addition, Shi'a community had a negative view on Ja'far because of his wrong actions in the past; therefor he was not seen as qualified for Imamate. Thereupon, when Imam al-'Askari (a) was martyred and Ja'far started his campaign for Imamate, members of Shi'a community tested him in various ways, and his incompetence was further confirmed.

Ja'fariyya Sect

Main article: Ja'fariyya

Historically, followers of Ja'far b. Ali are known as Ja'fariyya. They disagreed over the nature of his succession. Some regarded him as the immediate successor to Imam Ali al-Hadi (a) (Ja'far's father), some believed Ja'far succeeded Sayyid Muhammad, his brother who had passed away while his father was still alive; and some considered him as the heir of Imam Hasan al-'Askari (a), Ja'far's brother. The manner of the transition of Imamate to Ja'far was also a matter of disagreement among his followers, this disagreement led to further divisions. Also, Fatahiyya -who had no problem with the Imamate of two brothers- followed Ja'far and thus, Ibn Babiwayh called Ja'far 'the leader of the second wave of Fatahiyya.'


Due to their relation to Imam al-Rida (a) as their great grandfather, Ja'far's children are known as Banu al-Rida (descendants of Rida) or Radawiyyun. Among Twelver Shi'a, they were known as Tahiniyya, an adjective driven from "Ali al-Tahin" the head of Ja'far's followers in Kufa. When Ja'far died, some of his followers started following his son, Abu l-Hasan Ali, the chief Naqib al-Sadat in Baghdad. Some believed Imamate was equally shared by his son and his daughter, Fatima, and after them reached the rest of his descendants.

It is not known for how long Ja'far's followers remained as an independent sect within larger Shi'a community. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid and al-Shaykh al-Tusi have stated that as they were composing their books, they could not find any living descendants of Ja'far who had remained in his sect. Sa'd b. 'Abd Allah al-Ash'ari has authored a book to disprove the beliefs of this sect, under the title Kitab al-Diya fi al-radd 'ala al-Muhammadiyya wa al-Ja'fariyya (the Book of Light in objection to Muhammadiyya and Ja'fariyya).