Shafqna: Shīʿa Islam: History and Doctrines / Ayatullāh Jaʿfar Subḥānī
Imam Muḥammad Taqī, better known as al-Al-Jawād (‘The Generous’), was born in Medina in 811 AD. He was killed by the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad in 835 AD. He was the Imam for 17 years. (Irshād) He was born at a time Maʾmūn and his half-brother, Amīn, were locked in a bitter war of succession. Maʾmūn finally won in 298 AH and brought all the Abbasid territories under control. (Tārīkh al-Kulafāʾ)
The Imam’s life coincided with the caliphates of Maʾmūn and Muʿtaṣim of the Abbasid dynasty. Both summoned him from Medina to Baghdad. Imam Muḥammad Taqī was a great figure from the time of his childhood.
When Maʾmūn invited Imam al-Riḍā to Khorasan, he performed the Ḥajj pilgrimage first and took his son, Jawād, who was six at that time, with him. In Mecca, Al-Jawād saw that his father was bidding farewell to God’s house in a way that he was sure he would never return. Al-Jawād went and sat down somewhere. His father performed his pilgrimage and called on Al-Jawād to prepare for the departure but Al-Jawād refused. Imam al-Riḍā asked his son why he was sitting there. Jawād, tears in eyes, said: ‘How do you want me to stand up while you were bidding farewell as if you would never return?’ Then, he stood up. (Kashf al-Ghamma)
Following the martyrdom of Imam al-Riḍā in 204 AH, Maʾmūn left Marv for Baghdad and repeated his duplicitous policy vis-à-vis the Imam’s son. He wanted to have him under control and so the Ninth Imam was compelled to leave Medina for Baghdad. The Imam’s arrival in Baghdad coincided with the convoy of Maʾmūn travelling in a Baghdad street. All the children who were playing in the street fled as Maʾmūn’s convoy approached, but someone was still there. Maʾmūn was surprised. He got off his howdah and went to the child.
Maʾmūn asked the child: Why didn’t you run away like others?
The child replied: Your way was not narrow and I have done no wrongdoing.
Maʾmūn: What’s your name?
The child: I am the son of ʿAlī b. Mūsā al-Riḍā
Maʾmūn: You are worthy of being his son. (Biḥār al-Anwār)
After the martyrdom of the eighth the Imam in 203 AH, the Imam Muḥammad Taqī was named his successor. He was nine at the time, so his Imamate was reminiscent of the stories of John the Baptist and Jesus, both of whom were given wisdom at a young age. (Q19:12)
The appointees of God had all been educated for special purposes and therefore they were infallible from the time of their childhood. Everyone could see the connection between Imam Al-Jawād and God when he was discussing with scholars in Baghdad in the presence of Maʾmūn.
Among Abbasid caliphs, Maʾmūn was famous for his intelligence and foresight. He was fond of learning and culture but he was also aware that the Abbasids lacked popular support and that the Muslims loved the family of the Prophet. Maʾmūn knew very well that revolutionaries throughout the Muslim world all sought the leadership of God’s genuine representatives. But, instead of using force and intimidation, Maʾmūn decided to align himself with revolutions and movements in a bid to bring them under control. To that effect, he invited the eighth the Imam to Khorasan, but he finally decided to kill him for fear of his growing popularity.
The martyrdom of the eighth the Imam did not spare Maʾmūn the threat of overthrow because Imam al-Riḍā’s son could still lead an uprising against him. So Maʾmūn invited Imam Al-Jawād to Baghdad and married him to his daughter Umm al-Faḍl in an attempt to win over the hearts and minds of his followers.
The Abbasids were not happy with this marriage but Maʾmūn knew it was necessary to keep the Shīʿa placated. In order to allay the Abbasids’ concerns, Maʾmūn organized an event so that the Abbasids would see Imam Jawād’s level of knowledge and stop criticizing the marriage. In the meeting, the then chief-justice, Yaḥyā b. Aktham (see Tārīkh Baghdād for more information) posed questions to the ninth the Imam. His first question was as follows: ‘What’s your judgment of someone who has hunted an animal while having been in a state of sanctification for the pilgrimage to Mecca?’
In response to this question, Imam al-Jawād asked the following ten questions:
Where has the animal been killed?
Has it been killed inside the sanctuary or outside of it?
Was the hunter aware of the ruling for this act?
Has it been done on purpose or by accident?
Was it the first time he did so?
Was the prey a bird or not?
Was the prey small or big?
Did he regret his act?
Was hunting done in the day or in the night?
Was the hunting done during the major or minor pilgrimage?
Was the hunter a slave or not?
The Imam said these questions must be answered before he gave any ruling. Yaḥyā was astonished and did not know how to respond, so he ended the discussion. (Kashf al-Ghamma)
Maʾmūn had decided to blame the Imam for the government’s ineptitude in a bid to humiliate him in the eyes of Muslims. Imam Al-Jawād was aware of this trap so he sought a pretext to distance himself from the Abbasid Caliph. He convinced Maʾmūn to let him go to the Ḥajj pilgrimage with his wife. After the end of pilgrimage, the Imam settled in Media and never returned to Baghdad.
There is no precise date given for the Imam’s marriage and his departure for Mecca. However, Ṭabarī says the Imam left Baghdad in the same year he got married. (Tārīkh Ṭabarī) What is clear is that the Imam settled in Medina and trained companions. Maʾmūn died in 218 AH and was succeeded by Muʿtaṣim who followed in his footsteps. Muʿtaṣim once again forced Imam al-Jawād to come to Baghdad; the Imam arrived in 220 AH and was poisoned in the same year. He was buried next to his father. (Kashf al-Ghamma)
Some of the companions of Imam Al-Jawād are as follows: 1. Faḍl b. Shādhān 2. ʿAbd al-Azim Ḥasanī 3. Abū al-Tammām 4. ʿAlī b. Mahziyār 5. Muḥammad b. Abī ʿUmayr 6. Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Abī Naṣr.