Though the Imams of the Twelver sect are respected figures in the Sunni school, their image is not as exaggerated as they are perceived in the Twelver sect. Shi’ite scholarship, in fact, has continuously inflated the status of the Imams in an attempt to draw Muslims closer to Twelver Shi’ism.
These endeavors manifest in a variety of phenomena, such as Shi’ite scholars’ arbitrary description of random transmitters as companions of the imams. This continuous attempt to inflate the Imams’ student count eventually resulted in the exaggerated and unrealistic perceptions of the Imams we face today.
In the Twelver tradition, Ja’far Al-Sadiq, for example, is claimed to have had 4,000 companions. In Amal Al-Amil, Twelver theologian, Al-Hurr Al-‘Ameli (d. 1104), said:
Al-Mufeed in Al-Irshad, Ibn Shahr Ashoub in Ma’alim Al-‘Ulama’, and Al-Tabrasi in I’lam Al-Wara, upheld the reliability of four thousand of the companions of Al-Sadiq (as). However, we find in the books of rijal and hadith that they do not reach three thousand, and the Allamah and others said that Ibn Uqdah collected the names of four thousand [transmitters] that are mentioned in books of rijal, and some stated that Abu Al-Rabi’ is one of them.” (Al-Ameli 1/83)
Though most Twelver authorities today would not venture to claim that all of Ja’far Al-Sadiq’s companions were reliable, this statement of Al-‘Ameli is very insightful regarding Twelver perception of the Imams’ companions.
Shi’ite polemicists often accuse Sunni hadith critics of arbitrarily criticizing the Imams’ companions due to an alleged theological bias they all possessed. Thus, they argue that the Twelver hadith tradition is representative of the “true” teachings of the Imams transmitted through their companions, which were abandoned by Sunni scholarship.
This claim, however, immediately collapses once one recognizes that various companions of the Imams were declared reliable in the Sunni tradition. Sunni scholarship, in reality, had no issue with the Imams or their reliable companions. The actual point of contention between Ahlussunnah and the Shia is Shi’ite scholarship’s arbitrary endorsement of liars/forgers who claimed to be students of the imams.
In this article, I have compiled a list of Ja’far Al-Sadiq’s reliable companions according to Sunni hadith standards. I’ve listed the name of every reliable transmitter who has authentically transmitted reports from Ja’far Al-Sadiq in Sunni sources. If the transmitter is also deemed reliable in Twelver sources, I placed an asterisk (*) near his name.
Reliable Companions of Ja’far Al-Sadiq
- ‘Abdulaziz Al-Darawardi Al-Madani
- ‘Abdullah b. Idris Al-Awdi
- ‘Abdulmalik b. ‘Abdulaziz Ibn Jurayj Al-Makki
- ‘Abdulwahhab b. ‘Abdulmajid Al-Thaqafi
- ‘Abdulaziz b. Abi Salamah Al-Madani
- ‘Abdulaziz b. Salamah b. Dinar Al-Madani
- Al-Dahhak b. Mikhlid Al-Shaybani
- Al-Hassan b. ‘Ayyash Al-Asadi
- Al-Hassan b. Saleh b. Hayy Al-Asadi
- Al-Hussain b. ‘Ali b. Al-Walid Al-Ju’fi
- Hafs b. Ghiyath *
- Hatem b. Isma’il Al-Madani
- Hisham b. ‘Urwah Al-Asadi Al-Madani
- Ishaq b. Ja’far Al-Sadiq Al-Madani *
- Isma’il b. Ja’far b. Abi Kathir Al-Madani
- Juwayriyah b. Asma’ Al-Madani
- Malik b. Anas Al-Madani
- Ma’mar b. Rashed Al-Azdi
- Muhammad b. Abi Dhi’b Al-‘Amiri Al-Madani
- Muhammad b. Abi Fudayk Al-Madani
- Muhammad b. Ishaq b. Yasar Al-Madani
- Muhammad b. Mansur Al-Za’farani
- Musa b. Ja’far Al-Sadiq Al-Madani *
- Rawh b. Al-Qassem Al-Tamimi
- Sufyan Al-Thawri
- Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah Al-Makki
- Sulayman b. Bilal
- Wahib b. Khaled Al-Bahili *
- Yahya b. Sa’id Al-Qattan *
- Yahya b. Sa’id Al-Ansari Al-Madani
- Yazid b. Al-Had Al-Laythi Al-Madani
This list is very interesting for several reasons: it simply is a much more realistic and plausible list than that of Twelver scholarship.
First, 15 out of 31 of Ja’far’s reliable companions in Sunni sources actually were from Medina, Ja’far’s residence. This is contrary to the Shi’ite tradition, where most of Ja’far’s alleged companions were from ‘Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Persia/Khorassan. This is a much more plausible observation which we would expect to observe among the companions of the historical Ja’far Al-Sadiq.
Similarly, the number of Ja’far’s reliable companions is more realistic and plausible than that of the Twelver tradition. It is similar to that of other eminent scholars and jurists from the same era, and not as exaggerated and blown out of proportion, as in the Twelver tradition.
What is also noteworthy is that only 5 out of 31 of these reliable transmitters were endorsed in the Twelver tradition, which demonstrates how Twelver scholarship has actually abandoned Ja’far’s true reliable companions.
This list is representative of the “historical Ja’far Al-Sadiq”, contrary to the “theological Ja’far Al-Sadiq” of the Shia, who has been exaggerated misrepresented in the Twelver tradition.
Contrary to Shi’ite claims, Sunni scholarship has endorsed various companions of Ja’far Al-Sadiq. The list of reliable companions of Ja’far in the Sunni tradition, however, is much more realistic and plausible than that of the Twelver tradition.
This reality manifests in the fact that a much more significant portion of his reliable companions in the Sunni tradition actually came from his hometown, Medina. It also manifests in the sheer number of reliable companions in the Sunni tradition, which is more realistic and characteristic of that of eminent scholars from the second century.
Ultimately, these differences come down to the disparities between the “historical Ja’far” of the Sunnis and the exaggerated “theological Ja’far” of the Twelvers, who is merely a byproduct of wishful thinking… and thousands upon thousands of Twelver fabrications/forgeries.
And Allah is the witness of Abu Al-‘Abbas.
Al-‘Ameli, Al-Hurr. Amal Al-Aamel. Maktabat Al-Andalus.