8 Contributions of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq in Science, a thousand years before European Scientists found its ?

Ja’far al-Sadiq was born in Medina on 24 April 702 AD (17 Rabi’ al-Awwal, 83 AH), to Muhammad al-Baqir (son of Zayn al-‘Ābdīn, son ofHusayn son of Ali ra.) and Umm Farwah (daughter of Al-Qasim son of Muhammad son of Abu Bakr ra.)

As a child, Ja’far Al-Sadiq studied under his grandfather, Zayn al-Abidin. After his grandfather’s death, he studied under and accompanied his father, Muhammad al-Baqir, until Muhammad al-Baqir died in 733.

Ja’far Al-Sadiq became well versed in Islamic sciences, including Qur’an and Hadith. In addition to his knowledge of Islamic sciences, Ja’far Al-Sadiq was also an adept in natural sciences, mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, anatomy, alchemy and other subjects.

Scholars believed to have learned extensively from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq:

    1. Jābir ibn Hayyān – known in Europe as Geber, a great alchemist.
    2. Musa al-Kadhim – his son
    3. Ali al-Uraidhi ibn Ja’far al-Sadiq- his son.
    4. Abū Ḥanīfa – founder of Sunnî Ḥanafî school of thought.
    5. Malik ibn Anas – founder of the Sunnî Maliki school of thought.
      (source : wikipedia)


Contribution of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq in Science :

(1). Rotation of the Earth round the Sun

At the age of 11, the Imam refuted the theory that the sun, moon and the planets rotated around the earth. He said that the sun, during its course round the earth, passes through the 12 constellations in one year and remains in each constellation for 30 days, so why does it then disappear from sight during the night. It should remain visible in each constellation for 30 days. Ptolemy theory said that the sun has two movements. One of its movements is that it crosses the sign of the zodiac and goes round the earth in one year and the other movement is that it goes round the earth in one night and one day, as a result of which we see it rise in the east and set in the west.

Aristotle was a great thinker and philosopher. His books, Arganan and Physics, are the most precious literary treasures of mankind, but his theory that the earth is stationary and the sun and stars rotate around it, delayed the progress of the science of Astronomy and kept mankind in the darkness of ignorance for 1800 years.

The Imam remarked that those two movements were not compatible. When the sun had to pass through the sign of the zodiac in one year and stay in each constellation for 30 days how could it change its course and go round the earth in 24 hours?

He also announced that the earth rotated around its own axis. The great scholar Poincare who lived in the 20th century made fun of this theory. When such a scholar could refuse to believe this, how could people in the 1st and 2nd century of the Hijra believe in the theory of the Imam. The rotation of the earth on its own axis could be proved by observation only. When astronauts landed on the surface of the moon, and directed their telescope towards the earth they observed that it was rotating slowly on its axis.

Some people might say that it was only by guesswork that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq said that the earth rotates on its own axis. Sometimes it happens that guesswork proves to be correct. But the question arises as to why no one else had guessed that for such a long time. This proves that he knew the laws of astro-physics which enabled him to make that discovery. If he had not known those laws, it would have been impossible for him to discover the rotation of the earth on its axis. This discovery could not have been accidental. One must know the cause to know its effect.

Tragically, for reasons stated above, the real credit of discovery of the movement of the earth round the sun was given to Copernicus who was an astronomer and mathematician, in the 15th Century. The theory of the earth rotation around its own axis went to Galileo who discovered the telescope.

(2). Theory of the Four Elements

At the age of 12 he rejected the theory of Four Elements of Aristotle and proved that it is wrong. He remarked: “I wonder how a man like Aristotle could say that in the world there are only four elements – Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. The Earth is not an element. It contains many elements. Each metal, which is in the earth, is an element.

For 1,000 years this theory was never refuted, and remained the corner stone of physics. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq proved that Water, Air, and Fire were also not elements, but a mixture of elements. This he said 1,100 years before the European scientists discovered that air was not an element and had separated its constituents. To derive the fact that Air is not an element, but a mixture of elements, was impossible to conclude in the Imam’s age and time. He said that there are many elements in the air and that all of them are essential for breathing.

It was only in the 18th century, which was considered the golden age of science, after Lavoisier separated oxygen from the air and demonstrated the important role it plays in breathing and combustion that they accepted that it is not an element. However, even then they were of the opinion that other elements do not play a part in breathing. In the middle of the 19th century scientists changed their views about the part played by other elements in breathing.

By that time it was also proved that although oxygen purifies blood, it also burns combustible materials, which come in contact with it. If living beings breath pure oxygen for a long time, their breathing organs would be oxidised. Oxygen does not damage them because it is mixed with other gases. Therefore, they concluded that the presence of other gases which are in very minute quantities in the air is also essential for breathing.

Moreover, oxygen being the heaviest of all other gases in the air would have settled at the bottom and covered the surface of the earth up to a certain depth. As a result, breathing organs of all animals would have been burnt and animal life would have become extinct. Moreover it would have cut off the supply of carbon dioxide, which plants need so badly, and made it impossible for them to grow on the surface of the earth. Presence of other gases in the air does not let oxygen settle down to the bottom and destroy animal and plant life.

At last, after more than 1000 years, the theory of Ja’far as-Sadiq that presence of all gases in the air is essential for breathing was proved to be correct. He was the first person to discover that oxygen produces acidity. Time did not allow him to make known to the world further such revelations, but he was indeed proved the pioneer and leader in the scientific study of oxygen.


(3). Origin of the Universe

The Imam’s another wonderful theory is about the ‘Origin of the Universe’. When modern scientists read this theory they confirm that it totally agrees with the modern theory, which has not yet become a law of physics. However, it has the unique distinction that it was enunciated 12 centuries ago. The theory read as follows :

“ The universe was born out of a tiny particle, which had two opposite poles. That particle produced an atom. In this way matter came into being. Then the matter diversified. This diversification was caused by the density or rarity of the atoms.”

The most significant point in this theory is the description of two opposite poles. The importance of this point was realised when the presence of two opposite poles was proved by modern science. Today it is an undisputed fact in atomic science and electronics.

Another of his interesting theory was that the universe is not always in one and the same condition. In one periods it expands and in another it contracts.

This phenomenon was considered for centuries as inconceivable and the theory remained quite incomprehensible to the leading astronomers. After the 18th century more and more powerful telescopes were built and astronomers could see beyond our solar system. It was in 1960 that it was observed and confirmed by astronomers that distances between our galaxy and the neighbouring galaxies are increasing. These observations have provided sufficient proof that the universe is in a state of expansion. We do not know when this expansion started. The discovery of black holes has proved his other statement that the universe sometimes contracts was also proved true. Hence the Imam’s theory was proved to be correct.

The Imam also stated that everything in the universe including inanimate objects, is always in motion although we may not see it. There is nothing without motion.

This theory, which was unacceptable in his time, is a scientific fact today. It is impossible to imagine, explain and describe an object in the universe, which is without motion. Motion is the essence of being. If there is no motion these is no existence. It is perpetual motion which creators life. In other words perpetual motion itself is life. If the motion stops, life would cease to exist. It is by the Will of Allah that eternal motion never stops and the life cycle continues. This eternal movement will continue till the Dooms-Day.

Jaber, his pupil once asked the Imam “How does the movement of the stars keep them from falling?”

The Imam replied : “Put a stone in a sling and swing it round your head. The stone will stay in the sling so long as you are rotating it. But as soon as you stop the rotation, the stone will fall down on the ground. In the same way the perpetual motion of stars keeps them from falling down.

(4). Theory of Light

Another great contribution to science of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq was his Theory of Light. He said that light reflected by different objects comes to us, but only a part of the rays enter our eyes. That is the reason why we do not see distant objects clearly.

If all the rays of light which come from them entered our eyes, objects would appear near to us. If we make a device through which all the rays of light coming from the camels grazing at a distance of 3000 zirah (one zirah is 40 inches) entered our eyes we would see them grazing at a distance of only 60 zirah ie. All these objects would look 50 times nearer to us.

This theory spread far and wide through his students and reached Europe too.

It was this theory, which helped Lippershey of Flanders to make his first binoculars in 1608. Galileo made use of this binoculars and invented his telescope in 1610. If the Imam had not formulated this theory of light, binoculars and telescopes would not have been invented and made and Galileo could not have confirmed through visual observations the theories of Copernicus and Kelper that all planets including the earth rotate round the sun.

When Galileo was asked why his telescope made heavenly bodies look so near that they could see the mountains of the moon, he repeated the words of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq and said : “This telescope collects all the rays of light coming from the heavenly bodies. When all the rays of light coming from the heavenly bodies are concentrated, the objects which are at a distance of 3,000 feet away appear to us as if they were at a distance of only 60 feet.”

Before the time of the Imam, it was believed that light from our eyes falls upon different objects so that they could be seen. He was the first to have said that “ the rays of the light from different objects come to our eyes and enable us to see them. The rays of light from our eyes do not go out and fall on other objects, otherwise we would be able to see them in the darkness also.”

The Imam also put forward a very interesting theory about the speed of light. He has said that light is a kind of motion which is very fast. This is in harmony to the modern theory of light.

The Imam had once said during the course of his lectures that a powerful beam of light could move heavy objects. The light which Moses saw at Mount Sinai was of that kind. It could have moved the mountain if God had so desired. It can be said that by making this statement, he laid the foundation of the theory of the laser.

(5). Composition of the Human Body :

The Imam said that while all human beings were made from the earth, which was a known fact, he also said that whatever is in the earth is also in the human body, but all elements are not in the same proportion. Four elements are in very large quantity, eight elements in small quantities and eight elements in minute quantities. This theory was proved to be correct as late as the 18th century with the dissection of the human body.

Results of these analysis show that the ratio of the major elements in human bodies is the same throughout the world as Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq had said. The four elements which are in large quantities in the human body are: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen and Nitrogen. The eight elements which are in small quantities are : Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Sulphur, Iron, and Chlorine. The other eight elements which are in very minute quantities are : Molybdenum, Cobalt, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Fluorine, Silicon and Iodine.

(6). Theory of transfer of Disease by Rays

Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq has said that patients suffering from certain diseases emit special types of rays. If these rays fall upon a healthy person, they are apt to make him sick.

This theory was not acceptable to physicians and biologists. They were of the opinion that microbes and viruses were the main cause of many diseases, which were spread by insects, air, water, food and direct and indirect contact with patients.

No one before the Imam, had ever said that diseases were also transferred from one person to the other by means of rays, emitted from patients suffering from certain diseases. This idea was rather ridiculed by the learned people till it was proved to be correct by scientific studies.

(7). Theory of Matter and Anti-Matter

One of the unique theories of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq is that everything except Allah has its opposites, but this does not result in a conflict, otherwise the whole universe would be destroyed. This is the theory of matter and anti-matter. The difference between matter and anti-matter is that in matter the electrons are negatively charged and protons are positively charged. But in anti-matter, the electrons are positively charged and protons are negatively charged. Scientists have concluded that if one kilogram of matter collides with one kilogram of anti-matter, so much energy will be released that the whole world will be destroyed.

Professor Alfven is of the opinion that there is no other source in the universe, which can generate so much energy as quasars, except explosion of matter with anti-matter.

Just as uranium was used for exploding an atomic bomb, helium would be used for exploding matter with anti-matter. Russian scientists have already obtained anti-matter of helium.

(8). Theory of the Light of the Stars

Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq has said that among the clusters of stars which we see at night, some are so bright that our sun, in comparison, is quite insignificant.

Because of man’s limited knowledge, many people during the Imam’s time and centuries after him, considered this theory to be illogical, irrational and unacceptable. They could not believe that these small specks of light which are called stars, can have more light than the light of our big bright sun.

About twelve and a half centuries later, it was proved that what he said was quite correct. It has been discovered that there are stars in the universe, which are billions of times brighter than the sun. They are called quasars. The light of quasars is about quadrillion times (ten thousand billion times) the light of our sun. Some of them are at a distance of about 9000 million light years from the earth. The first such quasar was discovered in 1927.

Another important theory was that there are many worlds other than our own, that we cannot even count them. Their number is only in the knowledge of Allah (swt). Just as we have living beings on this planet, there are living beings on many other planets in the universe where conditions are suitable.

Our telescopes are even today not powerful enough to enable us to see what is beyond the quasars. Therefore we do not know how vast the universe is. It can only be surmised that in the universe there would be millions and millions of worlds, which have existed for billions of years and shall continue to do so for billions of years to come.

We must therefore accept as Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq has said, that, no one except Allah (swt) knows the number of large and small worlds (source : Imam Jafar al-Sadiq’s [a] contribution to the sciences)

WaLlahu a’lamu bishshawab


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