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Advice of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq to Sufyan al-Thawri

Imām Ja’far ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq (d. 765), the great-great grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was recognized as one of the greatest authorities of his time and was one of the most important intellectual and religious figures in Islamic history. He has been designated “Shaykh al-‘Ulamā’” and “Imām al-Fuqahā’” for his noble rank as one of the most knowledgeable men that the Islamic world  has ever seen. He was the teacher of Imām Mālik (d. 795), Imām Abū Ḥanifa (d. 767) and Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 778), among others. He played a key role in the development of the science of jurisprudence (fiqh) as well as the inner mystical sciences of Islam.

I will be writing up a comprehensive biographical sketch of Imām Ja’far at a later date, but for now I wanted to share the advice which he gave to one of his students, Sufyān al-Thawrī:

“If God bestows on you a favor, and you wish to keep that favor, then you must praise and thank Him excessively, because He said, “If you are thankful God will increase for you” [14:7]. He also said, “If the door of provision is closed for you, then make a great deal of istighfar (begging forgiveness), because God said, “Seek forgiveness of your Lord, certainly Your Lord is oft-Forgiving” [11:52]. And he said to Sufyān, “If you are upset by the tyranny of a Sultan or other oppression that you witness, say “There is no change and no power except with God,” (la hawla wa la quwwata illa-billah) because it is the key to relief and one of the Treasures of Paradise.”

حدثنا عبد الله بن محمد بن جعفر ، ثنا محمد بن العباس ، حدثني محمد بن عبد الرحمن بن غزوان ، حدثني مالك بن أنس ، عن جعفر بن محمد بن علي بن الحسين ، قال : لما قال سفيان الثوري : لا أقوم حتى تحدثني ، قال له : أنا أحدثك وما كثرة الحديث لك بخير ، يا سفيان ، إذا أنعم الله عليك بنعمة فأحببت بقاءها ودوامها فأكثر من الحمد والشكر عليها ، فإن الله عز وجل قال في كتابه : ( لئن شكرتم لأزيدنكم ) . وإذا استبطأت الرزق فأكثر من الاستغفار فإن الله تعالى قال في كتابه : ( استغفروا ربكم إنه كان غفارا يرسل السماء عليكم مدرارا ويمددكم بأموال وبنين ويجعل لكم جنات ويجعل لكم أنهارا ) يا سفيان : إذا حزنك أمر من سلطان أو غيره فأكثر من : لا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله ، فإنها مفتاح الفرج وكنز من كنوز الجنة ، فعقد سفيان بيده ، وقال : ثلاث وأي ثلاث ، قال جعفر : عقلها والله أبو عبد الله ولينفعنه الله بها

[حلية الأولياء وطبقات الأصفياء]

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