Wednesday, December 6th, 2017, marks the Birth Anniversary of Imam Hassan al-Askari (p)
Throughout Islamic history, we see examples of Prophets and members of the Household of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) display incredible moral and intellectual qualities at a very young age. Although some of these feats were miraculous, such as Prophet Jesus (p) speaking from the cradle, other examples were not necessarily supernatural. In fact, these latter examples demonstrate that it is possible for anyone to achieve excellence in many facets of life at a young age, provided they have the right guidance. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p) is reported to have said to his companions, “[You] will not find correct knowledge except that which has come to light through the Household of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp).”1 When looking at Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (p), the 9th Imam, we see not only a personification of the narration of the 6th Imam (p), but we also see an example of how his excellence in knowledge and other qualities are manifested at a very young age.
The young Imam (p)
Imam Muhammad ibn Ali, al-Jawad (p) lived a very short life of twenty-five years. He was born on the 10th of Rajab, 195 AH and was martyred on the twenty-fifth of Dhu al-Qa’dah 220 AH, after being poisoned by Mu’tasim, the Abbasid Caliph.2 His father, Imam Ali al-Ridha (p) was martyred when he was only about 8 years old, thus making him the first one to assume the divinely appointed position of leadership while still a child. Regardless of this fact, his mannerisms and conduct served as an example for youth that with the proper guidance and discipline, younger generations have the capacity to demonstrate excellence in their daily lives.
Excelling where others fail
One day, Ma’mun, the Abbasid Caliph and father of Mu’tasim, went hunting. On his way, he passed by a group of boys who were playing. When the boys noticed who was passing by, they all ran away out of fear. Imam al-Jawad (p) was the only boy who stayed in his place and did not run away like the others. When Ma’mun noticed this, he approached the Imam (p) and said, “Young man! Why do you not run away like the rest of the children?” Imam al-Jawad (p) looked at Ma’mun and said, “The other children ran away because they were scared. As for me, I do not have anything to be afraid of. I have not committed any crime, nor am I blocking your way.” Ma’mun looked at the Imam with amazement. He (Ma’mun) then asked, “What is your name, young man?” Imam al-Jawad (p) replied, “I am Muhammad, son of Ali al-Rida.”3
From this example, we see the bravery and eloquence of the Imam (p) despite his young age. What is also remarkable is that he did not do or say anything that was miraculous. It was simply due to his having a proper understanding and upbringing that he was able to deal with a situation that made others his age run away. The actions of the 9th Imam (p) serve as lesson for youth that they too possess the capacity to prevail in similar situations.
Excelling in knowledge
Imam al-Jawad (p) inherited the knowledge of his father and grandfathers. On another occasion, Ma’mun felt threatened by the Imam’s (p) knowledge and spiritual popularity. In an effort to discredit the 9th Imam (p), he organized large, public debates where the Imam (p) was asked different questions about Islamic Law from those considered to be the most scholarly individuals at the time. At just the age of twelve, Imam al-Jawad (p) demonstrated an authoritative knowledge on all that he was asked, and the plots of Ma’mun failed. In fact, due to the fact that these debates were attended by hundreds of individuals, Imam al-Jawad (p) was able to use this time to teach others.4
How to excel in our youth?
There are many simple things we can do for us to make the most of our time. These actions will help us apply the advices of the Imam (p) in our everyday lives and include but are not limited to the following:
Use our time wisely – One of the biggest blessings that God Almighty has given us is life. This blessing passes by rather quickly, so we should try our best in keeping ourselves occupied in performing actions that please Him. Imam al-Jawad (p) is reported to have said, “Delay in performing [good] works always (cause) perplexity.”5 Procrastination does not do anyone any good. If we always tell ourselves that we will do ‘XYZ’ tomorrow, and then we tell ourselves the same thing the next day, we are only wasting our time and creating confusion in our affairs as the 9th Imam (p) describes.
Improve our ethics and character – Learn how to build our character and ethics from the lives of our teachers – examples like Imam al-Jawad (p). The Imam (p) is titled al-Jawad which means “the generous.” His generosity, not only in his wealth but his knowledge as well, had a positive effect on the people around him. Similarly, we should take this example and apply it to our daily lifestyle. If we see a person who is looking for help or appears to be lost on the subway, for instance, we should ask if they need any assistance. When witnessing a mother with a stroller struggling to enter into a store, we should, without hesitation, help her by opening the door for her and allowing her to enter easily. We can really make a positive difference in the lives of the people around us by doing these simple, yet practical things.
Choosing good company – Imam al-Jawad (p) said, “Refrain from association with the evil person, because he [has a] beautiful appearance but an ugly effect.”7 We must be careful of the type of people we associate ourselves with. If we are friends with dishonest people or those who may cheat others, there is a big possibility that we will adapt these qualities ourselves, knowingly or unknowingly. We should keep the company of those who will have a positive influence on us and help us become closer to our religion.
The life and lessons of Imam al-Jawad (p) and the family of the Prophet (pbuh&hp) consist of numerous practical lessons for us to take benefit from. Upon pondering their blessed lives, we are able to recognize that they are not solely historical figures relegated to a particular time frame, but individuals who we can learn from no matter our backgrounds or experiences. By taking these first steps, we will be able to help ourselves apply the advices of our Imams (pbut) in our lives, which will help us grow spiritually and intellectually.
1. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol.1, ch. 163. h. 3, p. 399.
2. “Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (p).” I.M.A.M. Accessed March 15, 2018. https://imam-us.org/islamic-awareness/islam-101/beliefs/ahl-al-bayt/imamjawad/
3. Subhani, Jafar A’immah Al-ithnay ‘Ashar. p. 103.
4. Berjandi, Ahmed Ahmedi, The Fourteen Luminaries of Islam. 2015.
5. Tuhaf Ul-uqoul, p. 456.
6. Al-Shaheed al-Awwal al-Amily, Aldurrah al-Bahirah, p 9.