Ja'far ibn Abi Talib

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Ja'far ibn Abi Talib
جَعْفَرُ ٱبْنُ أَبِي طَالِبٍ
Jafar Bin Abu Taleb Name.gif
Calligraphic representation
Bornc. 590 CE[1]
Died629(629-00-00) (aged 38–39)
Cause of deathMartyrdom in the Battle of Mu'tah
Resting placeAl-Mazar, Mu'tah, Ash-Sham
Known forBeing a relative and Companion of Muhammad
TitleAṭ-Ṭayyār (اَلطَّيَّارُ)
Spouse(s)Asma bint Umais
Parent(s)Abu Talib
Fatimah bint Asad
RelativesMuhammad (paternal cousin)
Aqil (brother)
Ali (brother)
Talib (brother)
Fakhitah (sister)
Jumanah (sister)
Raytah (sister)

Ja'far ibn Abi Talib (Arabic: جَعْفَرُ ٱبْنُ 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 and cousin of the Islamic Nabi (Prophet) Muhammad, and an older brother of Ali.[1]

Early life[edit]

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,[2] and his sisters were Fakhita, Jumana and Raytah.[3]

When there was a drought in his birthplace of Mecca, Abu Talib could not afford to support his family. His brother Abbas therefore took charge of the young Ja'far.[4]

Ja'far was an early convert to Islam.[5] He married Asma bint Umays, who converted to Islam in 614–615.[6]

Migration to Abyssinia[edit]

When the Muslims were harassed in Mecca, several of them migrated to Abyssinia. Ja'far joined the second flight in 616.[7] There they obtained the protection of the Negus, Ashama ibn Abjar, and could worship God unhindered.[8]

Ja'far and Asma lived in Abyssinia for about twelve years. Three sons were born to them there: Abdullah, Muhammad and Awn.[6]

The Quraysh Delegation[edit]

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.[9] 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.[10]

The Negus asked them what was the religion for which they had forsaken their people, without entering into his religion or any other.[10] 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."[11]

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.[12]

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."[12]

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".[13]

Overseas Preaching[edit]

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,[14] west of Tibet) trace their origin to Ja'far.[15] Thereafter Ja'far returned to Abyssinia. Arnold however claims "there is not the slightest historical base for this legend."[16]

Return to Arabia[edit]

In summer 628, the last of the Muslim immigrants departed from Abyssinia to join the Muslim community in Medina. Ja'far and his family were among them.[17]

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!"[18]

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."[19]

The Battle of Mu'tah[edit]

Mausoleum of Ja'far, Zayd ibn Harithah and 'Abd Allah ibn Rawahah in Mu'tah, Al-Mazar, Jordan
A ḍarīḥ covering Ja'far's qabr (grave)

In September 629, Muhammad mobilized an army to confront Byzantine forces in Syria,[20] because a Byzantine governor had killed one of his emissaries.[21] 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."[21]

The Muslims met the Byzantines at Mu'tah,[22] 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,[citation needed] but he was eventually killed.[22] "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."[23]


When the news reached Muhammad, he wept and prayed for Ja'far's soul.[citation needed] 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."[citation needed] Thereafter Ja'far had the byname Dhul-Janāḥīn (Arabic: ذُو ٱلْجَنَاحِيْن‎, "The Winged").[24]

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."[25]


Ja'far's tomb is located in Al-Mazar, near Kerak, Jordan.[26] It is enclosed in an ornate zarih of gold and silver made by the 52nd Da'i al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra, Mohammed Burhanuddin.[27]:137

During the civilian unrest in the Levant, in 2013, several Shi'ite shrines were desecrated,[28] including that of Ja'far's.[26][28][29]


Photo gallery[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jafar al-Tayyar, Al-Islam.org
  2. ^ Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir vol. 1. Translated by Haq, S. M. (1967). Ibn Sa'd's Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, Volume I, Parts I & II, pp. 135-136. Delhi: Kitab Bhavan.
  3. ^ Muhammad ibn Saad, Kitab al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir vol. 8. Translated by Bewley, A. (1995). The Women of Madina, p. 156. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  4. ^ Muhammad ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad, p. 114. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume, p. 116.
  6. ^ a b Ibn Saad/Bewley vol. 8 p. 196. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  7. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 146.
  8. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 148, 150.
  9. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 150-151.
  10. ^ a b Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 151.
  11. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 151-152.
  12. ^ a b Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 152.
  13. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 152-153.
  14. ^ "Khotan". Archnet.org. 3 December 2004. Archived from the original on 13 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  15. ^ Arnold, T. W. (1913), The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith (2 ed.), London: Constable & Company Ltd., p. 296, f 3
  16. ^ Arnold, p. 296.
  17. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 526.
  18. ^ Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi. Translated by Faizer, R., Ismail, A., & Tayob, A. (2011). The Life of Muhammad p. 336. Oxford: Routledge.
  19. ^ Bukhari 5:57:57.
  20. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 532.
  21. ^ a b Waqidi/Faizer p. 372.
  22. ^ a b Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 534.
  23. ^ Waqidi/Faizer p. 374.
  24. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 234.
  25. ^ Waqidi/Faizer p. 377.
  26. ^ a b "Police launch investigation into burning of Bohra Shia building in Karak". Amman, Jordan: Ammon News. 5 May 2013. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  27. ^ Abdulhussein, Mustafa (1 February 2001). Al-Dai Al-Fatimi Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin: An Illustrated Biography. Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Trust. ISBN 978-0953625604 – via books.google.com.
  28. ^ a b Erdbrink, Thomas; Mourtada, Hania (6 May 2013). "Iran Warns Syrian Rebels After Report of Shrine Desecration". Tehran, Iran: NY Times. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  29. ^ Malkawi, Banan (1 June 2013). "Ministry Denies Banning Bohra Shiites from visiting Kingdom, stresses open tourism". Amman, Jordan: Ammon News. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2021.

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