Imam Sadiq’s (pbuh) plan was to openly initiate an uprising and overthrow the government of the Bani Umayyah. The plan was to recruit forces and bring them into Medina from Khorasan, Rey, Isfahan, Iraq, Hijaz, Egypt, Morocco and all other regions that were populated by the Muslims and were a part of Imam Sadiq’s (pbuh) political Shi’a network. He wanted to lead his army to the Levant and overthrow its government. His plan was to raise the flag of the caliphate himself and return to Medina to establish the government of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). This was Imam Sadiq’s (pbuh) plan. [Part of a speech delivered by Imam Khamenei on June 11, 1979]
Delineating and promoting the issue of Imamate
Imam Sadiq (pbuh), similar to other Shi’a Imams, made the issue of Imamate the prominent axis of his efforts to promote Islam. At the time when he was promoting this issue, he saw himself in a position of struggle that required direct and explicit rejection of the rulers of his time and the public assertion of his rightful entitlement to Guardianship (Vilayat) and Imamate. Logically, this would have been possible only after successful implementation of all the previous phases of the struggle, only after having spread political and social awareness on a large scale, only after potential preparedness had been realized everywhere, only after an ideological background had been created among a significant number of people, only after the necessity of establishing a rule of truth and justice had been proven to a large number of people, and only after the leader had decided to launch the final battle. In the absence of these requirements, it would have been a hasty and futile effort to introduce a certain person as the Imam and the rightful leader of the society.
Another point that must be taken into consideration is that in some cases, Imam Sadiq (pbuh) did not restrict his efforts to proving his right to the Imamate. Rather, he also highlighted the names of the previous rightful Imams. In fact, he introduced the rule of the members of the Holy Prophet’s Household (pbut) as inseparable links in a chain. Considering the fact that Shi’a ideology has invariably rejected all the unlawful leaders of the past as “taghut,” this may point to the continuity between the struggle of Shi’a Muslims at his time and those living in previous times. In fact, in this way, Imam Sadiq (pbuh) considered his Imamate to be a natural result of the Imamate of his predecessors. He changed the appearance of Imamate at that time from being something unprecedented, without roots and baseless. He connected his rule to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) in an indisputable way.
Today is the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, the Day of Arafah. A large number of people have gathered in Arafat to perform the special ceremonies of this day. People representing various Muslim territories, from remote parts of Khorasan to the Mediterranean coast, have come together in this place. One appropriate word in such a gathering can accomplish as much as the widest communication network that was available at that time. Imam Sadiq (pbuh) made his way to this gathering and had a message to deliver.
The narrator says, “I saw the Imam standing among the people. He repeated his message loudly three times in a voice that needed to resonate everywhere and in all ears and be spread throughout the world of Islam. He turned his head in another direction and announced the same message three more times. He turned his head in yet another direction and repeated the same message with the same resonating voice. Thus, the Imam repeated his message twelve times. The message was delivered in these phrases, ‘Oh people, surely the Prophet (pbuh) was the leader, then Ali ibn Abi Talib (pbuh), then Hassan (pbuh), then Hussein (pbuh), then Ali ibn Hussein (pbuh), then Muhammad ibn Ali (pbuh), then…”
In this respect, the system of caliphate in Islam is different from all other systems of government. The caliphate is not simply a political organization. Rather, it is a politico-religious leadership. The title “Caliph” used for an Islamic ruler indicates the fact that the ruler is more than a political leader. He is a successor to the Holy Prophet (pbuh), and the Prophet (pbuh) brought a religion, was a teacher of ethics, and at the same time he was a ruler and political leader. Therefore, in Islam a caliph is responsible for the religious affairs of the people and leads them in religious matters in addition to handling politics. [Part of a speech delivered by Imam Khamenei on June 11, 1979]
The organizational struggle of Imam Sadiq (pbuh)
Imam Sadiq (pbuh) was a man of struggle, a man of knowledge and a man who worked with an organization. Everyone has heard about the fact that he was a man of knowledge. His classes and the educational environment that he created were unparalleled during the lives of the Shi’a Imams, both before and after him. Imam Sadiq (pbuh) corrected all the Islamic traditions and Quranic concepts that had been distorted for more than a century by malicious, corrupt or ignorant individuals.
However, few have heard about the fact that Imam Sadiq (pbuh) was a man of struggle. He was engaged in a widespread and determined struggle, a struggle to assume power and take the reins of government, a struggle to create an Islamic, Shi’a government. That is to say, Imam Sadiq (pbuh) was preparing the ground to eliminate the Bani Umayyah and replace them with a Shi’a government, which is the genuine form of Islamic rule.
However, the third dimension, which you have never heard of, is that Imam Sadiq (pbuh) was a man of organizational work. He formed a massive network of people who believed in him and supported Shi’a rule from all over the Islamic world, from the remote parts of Khorasan and Transoxiana to North Africa. What did “network” mean? It meant that whenever Imam Sadiq (pbuh) decided to deliver a message to the people, his representatives would spread his message throughout the world of Islam. It meant that his representatives would collect money and funding to organize the great political struggle of Imam Ali’s Household. It meant that his representatives and agents were present in all cities so that Imam Sadiq’s (pbuh) followers could refer to them and ask about their religious duties and political obligations from those representatives. [Part of a speech delivered by Imam Khamenei on Sept. 5, 1980]
Toward the end of the Bani Umayyah rule, Imam Sadiq (pbuh) was leading a vast network, which was responsible for promoting the rule of the members of Imam Ali’s Household (pbut) and correctly explaining the issue of Imamate. It was a network that was engaged in significant and fruitful activities with regards to the issue of Imamate in remote Muslim territories, particularly in certain parts of Iraq and Khorasan. However, this is just one aspect of the issue, and it is a trivial part of it. The matter of covert organizational work in the political life of Imam Sadiq (pbuh) and other Imams is among the most important and most exciting chapters of their lives, and at the same time it is among the least known.
Normally, if covert organizational work is accompanied by appropriate clandestine activities, it must always remain covert. It is concealed during its own time and remains hidden afterwards. The secrecy and silence of those engaged does not allow any outsiders to enter. Whenever their work is successful and those involved manage to assume power, they themselves divulge the details of their work. [Part of a speech delivered by Imam Khamenei on June 11, 1979]
Political obligations, just like religious obligations, are binding. Imam Sadiq (pbuh) had created a massive network and was fighting against the Bani Umayyah establishment using this network and the people who served in it. When his victory over the Bani Umayyah appeared certain, Bani Abbas swept in as a troublesome, opportunistic movement and assumed control. After this, Imam Sadiq (pbuh) fought against both the Bani Umayyah and the Bani Abbas. [Part of a speech delivered by Imam Khamenei on Sept. 5, 1980]