Ja’far Ibn Abi Talib

The Holy Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib had four sons each of whom was ten years younger than his elder brother. Their names in order of seniority were Talib, Aqil, Ja’far and Ali.

Ja’far was among the first of the Meccans to embrace Islam. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) used to become very happy on seeing Ja’far and said, “O Ja’far! You are very much similar to me in the matter of appearance, mannerism and character.”

When the caravan of Muslim migrants reached Abyssinia this news angered and worried the Quraishite polytheists. They sent a delegation led by Amr Aas to King Negus with a lot of precious gifts so that he may deport the neo-Muslim migrants to Mecca for being punished for their offense of giving up their ancient religion of idol-worship.

Amr Aas first forwarded the presents to the king and thereafter sought permission to enter his royal court. The king was quite old and experienced. The Meccan delegates, as an extreme gesture of flattery, lay down on the ground and when they were asked to get up they said:

“Your Highness! A group of our community’s young and unwise people have left their houses, relatives and country

and entered your territory. Their new belief is not at all in conformity with your religion. Their new faith is also totally against the religion of our forefathers. Their elders and parents have sent us to you so that you may hand them over to us and we may take them back to our country and give them in the custody of their elders. Your honor can realize how disgraceful it is on the part of these youths to run away, discarding their ancient religious beliefs.”

Kind Negus was very wise and intelligent gentleman. He felt disturbed with these accusations and he replied, “These people have given preference to me over other rulers and they have come under our shelter for their personal safety. I cannot send them back with you. Of course, I would like to call them here to know how much truth is there in what you say. If what you say is found correct, I will hand them over to you. Otherwise, instead of giving them to you, we will take more care of them.”

Then Negus called the migrants to his court. When they arrived in an upright and proper manner the king asked them, “What is the matter? What kind of a new religion have you adopted which compelled you to leave your families and relatives?”

Now Ja’far who was a handsome and gentle young man got up and said, “Your Highness! We were unwise and unintelligent folk. We used to worship man-made idols. We ate carrion and indulged in immoral deeds. We did not know how to honor our elders. We did not behave nicely with our neighbors. The powerful among us starved the poor ones until Almighty God had mercy on us and sent to us His Messenger whom we knew very well as a noble, truthful,

honest and most responsible man as he was born in one of our noblest families. This Prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) taught us to worship only One God and called upon us to end idol-worship forever which was in vogue since our forefathers’ time. This Prophet taught us to always tell the truth and also to hand over every trust to whom it belongs and to pay honor and respect to our relatives and to love our neighbors and to have friendly and brotherly relations with them and to refrain from everything which is against self-respect.

This Prophet taught us to worship none but only One God and never to consider anyone His partner. He ordered us to establish prayer, to observe fasts and to pay the poor tax… We have testified to his prophethood and have put faith in him and we accept and obey whatever comes to him through revelation from Almighty Allah, the only One God. We never consider anyone as equal to God Almighty. Whatever he has banned for us, we regard it as a permanently prohibited thing and whatever he has allowed is permissible forever.

But our community rose up to oppose us tooth and nail. They harassed and oppressed us in every painful and degrading way only to make us return to our superstitious faith of idol-worship and to make us indulge in all bad and dirty affairs in which we were engaged earlier. When their high-handedness, oppression and harassment crossed all limits and it became quite unbearable for us and when they swept upon us wildly from all directions to force us to return to the earlier deviated way of life we decided to take shelter in your honor’s kingdom and we gave preference to your honor over all other rulers so that we may be able to

live a peaceful life in your territory. We hope that we will no more suffer in the limits of your peaceful kingdom.”

King Negus asked, “Have you the knowledge of any sign, which your Prophet has brought to you from his God? If so, please describe it.”

“Yes,” replied Ja'far.

Ja'far knew that King Negus and his courtiers were staunch Christians and greatly devoted to Prophet Isa (a.s) and his respected mother, Maryam. So, he began to recite Surah Maryam in a most melodious and respectful way.

And mention Maryam in the Book when she drew aside from her family to an eastern place; so she took a veil (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our spirit, and there appeared to her a well-made man. She said: Surely I fly for refuge from you to the Beneficent God, if you are one guarding (against evil). He said: I am only a messenger of your Lord: That I will give you a pure boy. She said: When shall I have a boy and no mortal has yet touched me, nor have I been unchaste? He said: Even so; your Lord says: It is easy to Me: and that We may make him a sign to men and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter which has been decreed. So she conceived him; then withdrew herself with him to a remote place. And the throes (of childbirth) compelled her to betake herself to the trunk of a palm tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this, and had been a thing quite forgotten! Then (the child) called out to her from beneath her: Grieve not, surely your Lord has made a stream to flow beneath you; And shake towards you the trunk of the palm tree, it will drop on you fresh ripe dates: So eat and drink and refresh the eye. Then if you see any mortal, say: Surely I have vowed a fast to

the Beneficent God, so I shall not speak to any man today. And she came to her people with him, carrying him (with her). They said: O Maryam! Surely you have done a strange thing. O sister of Harun! Your father was not a bad man, nor, was your mother an unchaste woman. But she pointed to him. They said: How should we speak to one who was a child in the cradle? He said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet; And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and poor-rate so long as I live; And dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed; And peace on me on the day I was born, and on the day I die, and on the day I am raised to life.[1]

After he finished the recitation, King Negus wept with such fervor that his cheeks became wet with tears.

Not only this, the Christian scholars seated in the balconies and around the King also wept so much that their Bibles became wet with their tears.

Negus then said, “This speech and whatever Jesus Christ has said are having the same source and center. Then he addressed the agents of Quraish, “You may go back. We can never give these people into your custody.”[2]

Ja'far and other Muslims accompanying him settled down in Abyssinia . Some of them thought that the situation in Mecca might have improved. So they returned to Mecca with their families but when they reached Mecca they saw that the conditions were the same, and they at once retraced their steps to Abyssinia . A few were also such that they remained

[1] Surah Maryam 16:33 [2] Sirat, Ibn Hisham Vol. 1, Pg. 323

in Mecca while some others went to Medina . King Negus and some other influential people of Abyssinia were influenced by the words of Ja'far and they accepted Islam. Thus it was Ja'far who sowed the seeds of Islam for the first time in the African continent. Ja'far at-Tayyar began to be included among the rows of those valiant ones called the foremost (Sabiqoon).

After a period of twelve years Ja’far at-Tayyar came to Medina in the seventh year of the Hijrah along with his companions. At this time the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.) was returning to Medina after the conquest of Khyber. When he was informed that Ja'far has returned from Abyssinia and that he was coming to him, he was very pleased and he waited for him restlessly. When Ja'far arrived, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) arose and walked twelve steps to welcome him. He embraced Ja'far, kissed his forehead and began to weep. He said, “Which joy should we give preference to? The arrival of Ja'far or the conquest of Khyber? According to the text of Khisal of Sadooq, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) said to Ali, “I don’t know which victory should I celebrate. Your arrival or the conquest of Khyber at the hands of your brother?” Then he began to weep in joy.[1]

During the pre-Islamic age of ignorance (Jahiliyya), Ja'far Ibn Abi Talib was having a special and prominent personality. When the sun of Islam arose he began to be included among the known Muslims due to his pure conscience, abilities and merits.

[1] Al-Istiab, Ibn Abde Barr Andulusi on themargins of Al-Isabah Vol. 1, Pg. 212, Khisal, Shaykh Sadooq, IranEdition, Pg. 107

Shaykh Sadooq writes in the Iranian edition of his book, Khisal that it is narrated from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) that he said: One day the Almighty revealed to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.): “There are four qualities in Ja'far that I like.” The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) immediately called Ja'far and asked him what four qualities he had that Allah liked? Ja'far said, “O Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.)! If the Almighty Allah had not mentioned them, I would not have said anything. The four qualities are:

(1) I have never consumed wine. Because I know that wine makes one lose the intellect.

(2) I never lied. Because I know that lying destroys courage and manliness of a person.

(3) I never fornicated. Because I know that if I fornicate with a woman of some other person, someone would fornicate with my woman.

(4) I never worshipped the idol. Because I know that it can neither protect nor cause any harm.”

In the eighth year of Hijrah, Ja'far Ibn Abi Talib was sent as the commander of 300-strong army towards Jordan where a huge Roman army was preparing to attack the Muslims. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “If Ja'far is martyred the leadership of the army should be given to Zaid Ibn Harith and if he too is killed, the command would go to Abdullah Ibn Rawaja and if he too falls, the Muslims may select a commander through consensus.”

When Ja'far at-Tayyar was departing with the army, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) bid him farewell and said, “I advise you, O Ja'far and the Muslims in your army that you must all observe piety. Continue to fear the Almighty. Fight

Jihad for the sake of Allah and confront the enemies of Allah on the land of Sham firmly. There you would find some people engrossed in worship in their cloisters. Do not disturb their devotions. Do not attack women, children and aged persons. Do not cut down any tree and neither must you plunder or destroy any dwelling houses.”

At a place called Muta, in Jordan the Muslim army consisting of 3000 soldiers came face to face with the Roman army comprised of 10000 or more fighters. This army was all the better equipped than their Muslim rivals. Ja'far’s army was surrounded from all sides. When Ja'far saw that they were about to be routed, he took up the standard in one hand and the sword in the other and fell upon the Roman army with ferocity. Around a hundred Roman soldiers surrounded Ja'far and began to attack him. When one of his hands was severed he took the standard in the other hand and continued to fight till his other hand was also cut off. At last he fell down and was martyred. Immediately the standard was taken up by Zaid Ibn Haritha and he was also martyred in due course. Then the standard was held by Abdullah Ibn Rawaja. When he was also martyred, Khalid Ibn Walid took out the Muslims from the Romans encircling them and fled the battlefield to return to Medina .

When the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.) received the news of Ja'far’s martyrdom, he wept profusely and said, “Ja'far is that personality whose martyrdom should be mourned.” After that he said, “O Allah! In exchange of the hands of Ja'far, bestow a pair of wings to him, so that he may fly in Paradise with the angels.” Thus Ja'far came to be known as Ja'far at-Tayyar.[1]

[1] Al-Isabah Vol. 1, Pg. 239, 240, Sirah al-Halabiyyah Vol. 2, Pg. 786.