BRIEF LIFE HISTORY OF IMAM MUHAMMAD TAQI AL-JAWAD (A.S.) – PART 11
Source: “Shia Islam AT A Glance” BY: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee; and Shia Youth Inc. Website: www.Shia-youth.org.

Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s.) ibn ‘Alī ibn Mūsā like all other prior Imams (except the first Imam), was also a descendant of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He was also called Abu Ja’far, Ibn al-Ridha (“the son of al-Ridha); al-Jawād (“the generous”), and al-Taqī (“the pious”). In the largest branch of Shia Islam, the Twelver or Athnā‘ashariyyah branch, Imam Al-Jawād (a.s.) holds a sacred place as the ninth of the Twelve Imams. Imam Al-Jawad showed his divine knowledge right from the childhood. Caliph Al-Ma’moon was so much impressed of the Imam’s extensive and extra ordinary knowledge and vision that he offered Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) to marry his daughter. Unfortunately, he was also poisoned to death by Abbasid Caliph al-Mutasim at a very young age of 25.

EARLY LIFE:

Al-Jawad was born on 7th Rajab, 195 A.H., in Medina (which was then part of the Abbasid Empire). He was the oldest son of Imam Ali al-Ridha (a.s.). His mother whose name was Habibi was, according to some scholars, a bondmaid from Nubia (Sudan).

Imam Al-Jawad’s (a.s.) father, Imam Ali al-Ridha (a.s.), expected his son to take the position of Imamate after him. When al-Jawad was four, his father received summons from the Abbasid Caliph, al-Ma’mun, asking him to be al-Ma’mun’s successor. Imam Al-Ridha (a.s.) left the four-year-old al-Jawad behind in Medina to respond to the Caliph’s summons. The Shiites questioned whether a child of that age could take on his father’s responsibility as an Imamate if something happened to Imam Ali al-Ridha (a.s.). In response, Imam al-Ridha (a.s.) used to tell the story of Prophet Jesus (pbuh), who had become a prophet at a much younger age.

As a young child, Muhammad al-Jawad earned the name al-Jawad (“the generous”). In his early life, when his father was away in Khorasan, (Iran), people used to gather by his door in hopes of being helped. Al-Jawad’s caregivers would make him leave his house through a gate to avoid being bothered by these people. Upon hearing this, his father wrote a letter advising his son not to listen to those who told him not to use the house’s main gate. He wrote that their advice came from stinginess and a fear that someone else might receive goodness (alms) from al-Jawad. Imam Al-Ridha (a.s.) wrote: “Whenever you want to go out, keep some gold and silver with you. No one should ask you for anything without your giving it to him. If one of your uncles asks you to be pious to him, do not give him less than fifty dinars, and you may give him more if you want. If one of your aunts asks you, do not give her less than twenty-five dinars, and you may give her more if you want….”

IMAM AL-JAWAD ASSUMES IMAMAT AT YOUNG AGE:

Imam Al-Jawad’s (a.s.) age at the time of his father’s death in Korasan, Iran, is unknown; some say he was eight, others say he was seven. With his father’s death, Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) became a young Imam. According to Shia beliefs, Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) did not act like a child, and he possessed extraordinary knowledge at a young age. Shia beliefs liken this to Prophet Jesus (pbuh), who was called to leadership and his prophetic mission while still a child.

Accounts appear to differ as to Imam al-Ridha’s (a.s.) death and subsequent events. One account states that al-Ma’mun poisoned Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), and then summoned al-Jawad from Medina to Baghdad in order to marry his daughter, Ummul Fadhl. This apparently provoked strenuous attempts by the Abbasids to forestall this course of action. According to scholars, caliph al-Ma’mun gave Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) one hundred thousand Dirham, and said, “Surely I would like to be a grandfather in the line of the Apostle of God (pbuh) and of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s.).”

Another account states that al-Ma’mun’s first meeting with al-Jawad was coincidental. According to this account, al-Ma’mun was out hunting when he passed through a road upon which boys, among them Imam al-Jawad (a.s.), were playing. When al-Ma’mun’s horsemen approached, all of the boys ran away, except Imam al-Jawad (a.s.). This prompted al-Ma’mun to stop his carriage and ask, “Boy, what kept you from running away with the others?” Imam Al-Jawad (a.s.) replied, “The road was not so narrow that I should fear there would not be room for you to pass, and I have not been guilty of any offence that I should be afraid, and I considered that you were the sort of man who would not injure one who had done no wrong.” Shiite traditions say that the Caliph was delighted, and after he had traveled a short distance, one of his hunting birds brought him a small fish. Al-Ma’mun hid the fish in his fist, returned, and asked al-Jawad: “What have I in my hand?” Al-Jawad responded: “The creator of living things has created in the sea a small fish that is fished by the falcons of the kings and caliphs to try with it the progeny of al-Mustafa (pbuh). Shiite tradition says that Al-Ma’mun was pleased with this answer and asked the child about his lineage. Soon thereafter, the Caliph called together a large gathering during which Imam al-Jawad (a.s.)was asked many questions, and astonished everyone with his judgment and learning. After this, al-Ma’mun formally gave al-Jawad his daughter in marriage.

IMAM ASTONISHED CHIEF JUSTICE BY HIS ANSWERS:

According to Shiite beliefs, Yahya ibn Aktham, the Chief Justice of the Abbasid Empire, was present at al-Ma’mun’s assembly, and wanted to try Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) in al-Ma’mun’s presence. He did so by asking a question concerning the atonement for a person who hunts game while dressed in pilgrimage garb (Ihram). In response, Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) asked first “whether the game killed was outside the sanctified area or inside it; whether the hunter was aware of his sin or did so in ignorance; did he kill the game on purpose or by mistake, was the hunter a slave or a free man, was he adult or minor, did he commit the sin for the first time or had he done so before, was the hunted game a bird or something else, was it a small animal or a big one, is the sinner sorry for the misdeed or does he insist on it, did he kill it secretly at night or openly during daylight, was he putting on the pilgrimage garb for Hajj or for the Umrah?…” This apparently astonished Abbasids who were critical of al-Ma’mun’s decision to marry his daughter to Imam al-Jawad (a.s.).

During the next annual pilgrimage (Hajj), a number of prominent men from around the Islamic world came to Medina to see Imam al-Jawad (a.s.), and another assembly was held. These men were skeptical of Imam al-Jawad’s (a.s.) youth and whether he truly was the Imam. Shiite belief holds that they were so impressed with the boy that their doubts were eliminated. Kulaini recounted that the superintendent of the Shrine gave Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) a test that “lasted for several days, in which he answered thirty thousand questions to their great amazement!”

IMAM’S LIFE AFTER MARRIAGE:

All historians had explained that Ma’mun had asked Imam al-Jawad (a.s.)to marry his daughter Ummul Fadhl because he had been the pioneer of his contemporary elites. One year after marriage with Caliph Al-Ma’muns daughter, Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) came back to Medina with his wife and devoted his life to teaching. Imam Al-Jawad (a.s.) also married a slave girl named Sumaneh, who was of the Berber tribe from the Maghreb (Northwest Africa). She bore him a son and a successor, Ali al-Hadi, who would be the tenth Shiite Imam).

IMAM AL-JAWAD (a.s.) POISONED BY CALIPH AL-MU’TASIM:

After al-Ma’mun’s death in CE 883, his successor, Al-Mu’tasim, became the new Caliph. Al-Mu’tasim did not like Imam al-Jawad (a.s.), and in 885 CE, he called Imam al-Jawad(a.s.) back to Baghdad. Imam Al-Jawad (a.s.) left his son Ali-al-Hadi with his mother Sumaneh in Medina while his (Al-Jawad’s) wife Ummul Fadhl accompanied him to Baghdad. They lived there for a year before Imam al-Jawad’s (a.s.) wife (Al-Ma’mun’s daughter), according to some sources, poisoned him, at the urging of the new Caliph Al-Mu’tasim.

FAMILY LIFE:

Imam Al-Jawad (a.s.) married twice, first with daughter of Caliph Al-Ma’mun, and second with Sumantha who was a slave girl and later converted into Islam. Imam Al-Jawad had three children, two sons and one daughter, namely: Ali Al-Hadi, Musa al-Mubaraqa, and Hakimah Khatun. Imam Al-Jawad (a.s.) lived about 25 years. He died on 10th Ziqaad, 220AH in Kazimain, and burried in the Al-Kadhimiya Mosque, in Baghdad Iraq.
Selected Sayings
“Turning to God with the deep of the heart is much better than tiring the organs.”
“Do not anticipate matters before their time that you may regret. Do not live just with wishes that your hearts may be hard. Be merciful to the weak and ask for mercy from God by being merciful yourselves!”.
“Knowledgeable persons are strangers because of the many ignorant people around them.”
“Do not make an enemy of anyone until you know what there is between him and God! If he is good, God will not leave him to you, and if he is bad, then your knowing of his badness will make you safe from him and so you do not need to make him your enemy.”
“If the ignorant keep silent, people will not disagree.”
“Showing something before it becomes complete spoils that thing.”
“The blessing that is not thanked becomes a sin that is not forgiven.”
“Trusting in God is a price to every dear thing and a ladder to every high thing.”
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