Ja'far ibn Abi Talib
Ja'far ibn Abi Talib
جَعْفَرُ بْنُ أَبِي طَالِبٍ
|Born||c. 590 CE|
|Died||629 (aged 38–39)|
|Cause of death||Martyrdom in the Battle of Mu'tah|
|Resting place||Al-Mazar, Mu'tah, Ash-Sham|
|Known for||Being a relative and Companion of Muhammad|
|Spouse(s)||Asma bint Umais|
Fatimah bint Asad
|Relatives||Muhammad (paternal cousin)|
Ja'far ibn Abi Talib (Arabic: جَعْفَرُ بْنُ أَبِي طَالِبٍ, Jaʿfar ibn Abī Ṭālib c. 590–629 CE), also known as Jaʿfar aṭ-Ṭayyār (Arabic: جَعْفَرُ ٱلطَّيَّارُ, lit. 'Ja'far the Flyer [of Heaven]'), was a companion of the Islamic Nabi (Prophet) Muhammad, and an older brother of Ali.
Ja'far was the third son of Abu Talib ibn Abdul Muttalib and Fatima bint Asad, hence a cousin of Muhammad. His older brothers were Talib and Aqil, his younger brothers were Ali ibn Abi Talib and Tulayq, and his sisters were Fakhita, Jumana and Raytah.
Migration to Abyssinia
When the Muslims were harassed in Mecca, several of them migrated to Abyssinia. Ja'far joined the second flight in 616. There they obtained the protection of the Negus, Ashama ibn Abjar, and could worship God unhindered.
The Quraysh Delegation
The Quraysh, suspicious of their motives for leaving Arabia, sent Abdullah ibn Abi Rabiah and 'Amr ibn al-'As to negotiate with the Negus to bring the emigrants back to Mecca. They gave presents of leather-goods to the Negus and his officials and gave him a bad report of the Muslims. The Negus replied that he had promised protection to the Muslims and therefore could not hand them over without hearing their side of the story. When the Muslims were called to answer to the Negus, Ja’far was their spokesman.
The Negus asked them what was the religion for which they had forsaken their people, without entering into his religion or any other. Ja'far replied: "We were an uncivilised people. God sent us an apostle who commanded us to speak the truth, be faithful to our engagements, mindful of the ties of kinship and kindly hospitality, and to refrain from crimes and bloodshed. He forbade us to commit abominations and to speak lies, and to devour the property of orphans, to vilify chaste women. He commanded us to worship God alone and not to associate anything with Him, and he gave us orders about prayer, alms and fasting [enumerating the commands of Islam]. So we believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah, and we follow what he asked us to do and we avoid what he forbade us to do."
The Negus asked if Ja'far had with him anything that Muhammad had received from God. Ja'far recited for him the first portion of Surah Maryam in the Quran, which narrates the story of Isa (Jesus) and his mother Maryam (Mary). On hearing these words, "the Negus wept until his beard was wet and the bishops wept until their scrolls were wet." The Negus said that he would never harm the Muslims.
The two Quraysh delegates alleged that the Muslims called Jesus a created being, so the Negus asked Ja'far what he thought of Jesus. Ja'far answered: "Our prophet says he is God's slave, apostle, spirit and word, which he cast into Mary the blessed virgin."
At this the Negus returned the gifts of the Quraysh, calling them "bribes," and "they left his presence crestfallen." The Muslims continued to live with the Negus “comfortably in the best security.”
It is said that Ja'far left Abyssinia to preach in other countries. He accompanied Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas and others in their mission to the Chittagong-Manipur-Tibet-Khotan-China region. The Muslims of the oasis-city of Khotan (in the Xinjiang Province, 6 miles (9.7 kilometres) south of the Taklamakan Desert, west of Tibet) trace their origin to Ja'far. Thereafter Ja'far returned to Abyssinia. Arnold however claims "there is not the slightest historical base for this legend."
Return to Arabia
On arriving at Medina, Ja'far heard that Muhammad was in Khaybar. Ja'far immediately set out to join the army, and arrived just as Muhammad had won the battle. Muhammad greeted him with the words: "I do not know which event makes me happier – the arrival of Ja'far or the conquest of Khaybar!"
Ja'far was famous for his acts of charity in Medina. Abu Hurairah recalled: "The most generous of all the people to the poor was Ja'far ibn Abi Talib. He used to take us to his home and offer us what was available therein. He would even offer us an empty folded leather container (of butter) which we would split and lick whatever was in it."
The Battle of Mu'tah
In September 629, Muhammad mobilized an army to confront Byzantine forces in Syria, because a Byzantine governor had killed one of his emissaries. He appointed Zayd ibn Harithah as commander of the army and instructed: "If Zayd is wounded or killed, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib will take over the command. If Ja'far is killed or wounded, Abdullah ibn Rawahah will take his place. If Abdullah is killed, then let the Muslims appoint themselves a commander."
The Muslims met the Byzantines at Mu'tah, where they were heavily outnumbered. Zayd was among the first Muslims to be killed in the battle, and Ja'far then took over his standard and assumed command. Mounted on his horse, he penetrated deep into the Byzantine ranks. As he spurred his horse on, he called out: "How wonderful is Paradise as it draws near! How pleasant and cool is its drink! Punishment for the Byzantines is not far away!" Ja'far fought until both his arms were cut off, but he was eventually killed. "A Roman struck him and cut him in two halves. One half fell on the grape vine, and roughly thirty wounds were found on it. The body of Ja'far held seventy-two scars between his shoulders, where he had been either struck by a sword or pierced by a spear."
When the news reached Muhammad, he wept and prayed for Ja'far's soul. He later reported that the angel Jibril (Gabriel) came down to console him, saying: "Jafar was a brave and loyal soldier. God has given him everlasting life, and in place of his arms which were cut off in the battle, the Lord has given him a pair of wings." Thereafter Ja'far had the byname Dhul-Janāḥīn (Arabic: ذُو ٱلْجَنَاحِيْن, "The Winged").
Ja'far's widow Asma recalled: "God's Messenger came to me and asked, 'Where are Jafar's children?' I brought them to him and he embraced them and smelled them, then his eyes welled up and he cried. 'O God's Messenger,' I asked, 'Have you heard something about Jafar?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'He was killed today.' I stood up and screamed, and the women came to me. The Prophet began to say, 'O Asma, do not speak obscene words or beat your chest!'" Her son Abdullah remembered: "He said, 'O Asma, will you not rejoice? Indeed, God most high has made two wings for Ja'far, that he may fly with them in Paradise!'" Then Muhammad told his daughter Fatimah, "Prepare food for the family of Ja'far, for they are preoccupied today."
Ja'far's tomb is located in Al-Mazar, near Kerak, Jordan. It is enclosed in an ornate shrine of gold and silver made by the Dawoodi Bohra's 52nd Da'i, Mohammed Burhanuddin(name plate details in photo placed below).
- Abdullah married Zaynab bint Ali; their sons were killed in the Battle of Karbala
- Yahya ibn Umar – a descendant who led a rebellion
- Abdallah ibn Mu'awiya – a descendant whom the Shia in Kufa set up as Imam and led a rebellion
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