Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (peace be upon him)
Title: al-Taqi [the Pious]; al-Jawad [the Generous], al-Qani’ [the Content]
Kunya: Abu Ja’far, al-Thani (the Second); Ibn al-Ridha
Father: Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (Peace be upon him)
Born: 10th Rajab, 195 AH/811 CE in Madinah, Hejaz region of the Arabian Peninsula
Died: End of Dhu al-Qidah (which may fall on the 29th or the 30th, depending on moon-sighting), 220 AH/835 CE, after being poisoned by al-Mu’tasim
Age at Martyrdom: 25
Period of Imamate: 17 years
Buried: Kadhimayn, Baghdad, Iraq
Words of Wisdom from Imam al-Jawad (p)
“The best worship is sincerity.”1
“A bounty that is not thanked is like a sin that is not forgiven.”2
”There are three qualities which allow the servant to attain God’s grace: oft-repentance, humbleness in front of others, and abundant offering of charity.”3
Salient Features of Imam al-Jawad’s Life
One of the biggest challenges that faced the early Shia community was identifying the next Imam, particularly for those who are not close confidantes with the preceding Imam. This was evident during the time immediately after the martyrdom of Imam al-Rida (p). When his father passed away, Imam al-Jawad (p) was quite young, and the dilemma was the first of its kind for the Shia, as they had to confirm through his knowledge and piety whether he was truly the representative of God on earth. Though we have reports from Imam al-Rida, for instance, which state, “Abu Jafar (Muhmmad al-Jawad) is the successor after me,”4 these statements were not accessible far and wide to the broader community.
1. Evidence of the Imam’s Knowledge as a Child
After Imam al-Rida’s martyrdom, the Abbasid ruler Ma’mun relocated his headquarters to Baghdad. One day, Ma’mun went hunting on the outskirts of town. After he passed the city limits, he saw a group of young boys playing, while another boy was standing near them.
As Ma’mun approached, all the boys ran away except for the nine-year-old boy who had been standing there. Ma’mun then came closer and asked the boy, “Young man! What stopped you from running away as your friends did?!”
The boy replied promptly, “My friends ran away out of fear; while the thoughts of you should be positive (in the sense) that the one who is not at fault should not run away from you; and the road was not (too) narrow such that I should move to the side.”
Ma’mun was impressed by the young man’s words and radiant features. “What is your name, young man?” asked Ma’mun. The boy responded, with the memory of his poisoned father still fresh in his mind, “Muhammad, son of ‘Ali al-Rida.”5
The ninth Imam, Muhammad, son of ‘Ali, was the first among the twelve immaculate Imams to actively begin his role as divine representative while still a child. How was this possible? Even when Imam al-Jawad was only three, Imam al-Rida (p) defended the future Imam, saying, “What is wrong with that? Indeed, Jesus fulfilled the proof (as a witness upon creation) when he was less than three years old.”6
2. Under the Abbasid Authorities
After Ma’mun secretly poisoned Imam al-Rida (p), he tried to cover up his crime by showing signs of mourning and sadness in public. However, these acts did not fool the close companions of Imam al-Rida (p) and it quickly became clear to the Shia that Imam al-Rida (p) was murdered by none other than Ma’mun.
Ma’mun, fearing Shia reprisal, thought up another one of his devious plots. He had Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (p) forcibly taken from Madinah to Baghdad and kept under close surveillance. For purposes of gaining legitimacy and appearing to be on Imam al-Jawad’s side and keeping tabs on the Imam, Ma’mun made arrangements for his daughter to marry the Imam.7,8
Many Abbasids objected to the marriage arrangement. They complained that the young man could not possibly have sufficient knowledge and understanding to be an appropriate suitor. But Imam Muhammad al-Jawad was bound to refute this assumption soon enough.
3. Hunting in the State of Ihram
Mamun agreed to allow the Abbasids to test Imam al-Jawad’s knowledge. Hence, the Abbasids chose one of the most notable scholars of their day to ask Imam al-Jawad an intricate question in Islamic law. The area of law which was chosen was hajj (pilgrimage), which is distinctly complex when compared to other areas of fiqh. The question dealt with a muhrim (someone in the ritual state of ihram), who is prohibited from several actions which are normally allowed. The Abbasid scholar asked, “What do you say…about a muhrim who hunted (some type of) prey?”
The young Imam al-Jawad responded eloquently with a detailed breakdown of the different branches which the question could apply to. “Did (the muhrim) hunt beyond or within the sanctuary? Was the muhrim knowledgeable or ignorant? Did (the muhrim) hunt intentionally or mistakenly? Was the muhrim free or a servant? Was (the muhrim) young or elderly?”
After Imam al-Jawad divided the question into eleven distinct subsections, the Abbasid scholar was baffled and began stumbling over his words. At that point, the audience realized the gravity of their false assumption about the young Imam.
When Imam al-Jawad explained the answer to each branch of the original question, it was his turn to ask the Abbasid scholar a question…After hearing the question, the Abbasid scholar was dumbfounded once again. He asked Imam al-Jawad to explain the answer to him and the Imam did so. Repeated exchanges, such as this one, eliminated the doubts some may have had regarding the superior intellectual merit of Imam al-Jawad. 10
4. The Unexcused Thief
An Abbasid named Mu’tasim came to power after Ma’mun’s death. He made sure to have Imam al-Jawad brought to Baghdad once again since the Holy Imam had since returned to Madinah. Mu’tasim had become aware of Imam al-Jawad’s growing influence throughout the Muslim world. Fearing that Imam al-Jawad’s noble qualities and spiritual eminence may threaten his rule, Mu’tasim monitored the Imam’s activities very carefully. While this limited Imam al-Jawad’s mobility, it also gave the ninth Imam opportunities to propagate knowledge in Mu’tasim’s court.11
One such opportunity took place when Mu’tasim sought Imam al-Jawad’s view on the penalty of an unexcused thief. Based on God’s directives to humanity, Mu’tasim and the scholars of his court knew that the thief’s ‘hand’ was to be severed. But the definition and limits of the word ‘hand’ were the topic of discussion.
Mu’tasim first asked the scholars of his court for their opinions, along with supporting evidence. Some scholars said that the hand, up until the wrist, was to be severed. Others said that the hand, up until the elbow, was to be severed. Each jurist presented his supporting evidence, but Mu’tasim was not satisfied.
After Mu’tasim insisted that Imam al-Jawad present his opinion, the ninth holy Imam said that all Mu’tasim’s scholars were mistaken. Not even the palm of a thief’s hand was to be severed. As the Imam explained, his proof was based on “the words of the Messenger of God, ‘Prostration is (performed) on seven (body) parts: the face, the (two) hands (meaning: palms), the (two) knees, and the (two) feet.’ If the (person’s) hand is severed from the wrist, or the elbow, (the person) would no longer have a hand (meaning a palm) to prostrate upon; and God – the Blessed, the Exalted – has said, ‘The places of worship (prostration) belong to God,’ meaning these seven (body) parts that one prostrates on, ‘so do not invoke anyone along with God.’12 That which belongs to God is not severed.”
Mu’tasim was pleased by Imam al-Jawad’s discussion and the sentence was carried out in accordance with it.13
5. The Imam’s Martyrdom
The scholars of Mu’tasim’s court felt humiliated by the episode of the unexcused thief. Some of these scholars approached Mu’tasim and attempted to convince him that the way he had sided with Imam al-Jawad may compromise his grip on power. Mu’tasim, realizing the danger to his rule, and following in the footsteps of Abbasid rulers before him, decided to murder the Imam.14
The corrupt Mu’tasim eventually executed his evil will and had Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (p) poisoned. The Imam was just over twenty-five years old. Imam al-Jawad was buried near his grandfather, Imam Musa al-Kadhim (p), in present-day Kadhimiyya.15
- Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 67, p. 245.
- A’lam al-Din, al-Daylami, 309.
- Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 75, p. 81.
- Shaykh Saduq, Uyun Akhbar al-Rida, vol. 2, p. 266.
- Sh. Ja’far Subhani, al-A’immah al-Ithnay ‘Ashar, p. 103.
- Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 50, p. 21.
- Sh. Mahdi Beshwai, Siret al-A’immah, 474.
- Sh. Mahdi Beshwai, Sirat al-A’immah, 496-498.
- Sh. Mahdi Beshwai, Sirat al-A’immah, 486.
- Sh. Mahdi Beshwai, Sirat al-A’immah, 487-489.
- Sh. Mahdi Beshwai, Sirat al-A’immah, 502.
- The Holy Quran, 72:18.
- Sh. Mahdi Beshwai, Sirat al-A’immah, 490-491.
- Sh. Mahdi Beshwai, Sirat al-A’immah, 502.
- Sh. Ja’far Subhani, al-A’immah al-Ithnay ‘Ashar, 106.
“١. روي عن الإمام محمد الجواد (ع): “أفضل العبادة الإخلاص
“٢. روي عن الإمام محمد الجواد (ع): “نعمة لا تشكر كسيئة لا تغفر
“٣. روي عن الإمام محمد الجواد (ع): “ثلاث يبلغن بالعبد رضوان الله تعالى: كثرة الاستغفار , وخفض الجانب , وكثرة الصدقة
“٤. روي عن الإمام علي الرضا (ع): “أبو جعفر وصيي وخليفتي في أهلي من بعدي
٥.روي أنه لمّا توفّي الاِمام الرضا _ عليه السلام _ وقدم المأمون بغداد، اتّفق أنّ المأمون خرج يوماً يتصيّد، فاجتاز بطرف البلدة وصبيان يلعبون ومحمّد الجواد واقف عندهم، فلمّـا أقبل المأمون فرّ الصبيان ووقف محمّد الجواد، وعمره آنذاك تسع سنين، فلمّـا قرب منه الخليفة قال له: يا غلام ما منعك أن لا تفرّ كما فرّ أصحابك؟! فقال له محمّد الجواد مسرعاً: «يا أمير المؤمنين فرّ أصحابي فرقاً والظنّ بك حسن أنّه لا يفرّ منك من لا ذنب له، ولم يكن بالطريق ضيق فانتحي عن أميرالمؤمنين» فأعجب المأمون كلامه وحسن صورته فقال له: ما اسمك يا غلام؟ قال: «محمّد بن عليّ الرضا _ عليه السلام
٦.روي عن الإمام الرضا (ع) أنه قال في حق ولده الإمام محمد الجواد (ع) لما سئل عن توليه الإمامة في سن صغيرة “وما يضره من ذلك؟ قد قام عيسى بالحجة، وهو ابن أقل من ثلاث سنين”
٧-١١. من كتاب سيرة الائمة عليهم السلام لمهدي البيشوائي (بتصرّف)
١٢. قال الله تعالى: ((وَأَنَّ الْمَسَاجِدَ لِلَّهِ فَلَا تَدْعُوا مَعَ اللَّهِ أَحَدًا))
١٣-١٤. من كتاب سيرة الائمة عليهم السلام لمهدي البيشوائي (بتصرّف)
١٥. من كتاب الأئمة الاثنا عشر عليهم السلام لجعفر السبحاني (بتصرّف)