Imam Muhammad b. Ali al-Jawad (the ninth imam) is the son of Imam al-Rida (the eighth one). His name was Muhammad and he was given the nickname ‘Abu Jafar’. Jawad, his other nickname, means very generous. In ethics, just one who expects nothing from others for all the generosity he has had towards them is called ‘Jawad’. Imam al-Jawad, like Prophet Muhammad and his household, was so benevolent and merciful, especially towards the poor and abandoned people. That is why he is considered as one of the most generous people of his age. There was nothing getting him to do all that voluntarily benevolence except reaching Allah’s satisfaction.
His mother’s name was Khayzuran who was of the most outstanding ladies of her age. When she gave birth to Imam al-Jawad, Imam al-Rida said that, “Allah has granted me a son who resembles Moses who parted the sea and he also resembles Jesus Christ whose mother was given a divine holiness”.
On the night he was born, Imam al-Rida whispered the divine secrets to him all the night while he was a newborn in the cradle. Imam al-Jawad was only seven years old when the enemies forced his father to leave Medina and go alone to Marw (khurasan/Iran) and he was eventually martyred there when he had become a nine-year-old boy. Some Shia Muslims doubted at Imam al-Jawad just because they thought he was too young to succeed his father as an Imam. However, seeing his great miracles and his high knowledge got them to admit that he was a true Imam.
Here is a report indicating his high level of knowledge: In caliph’s court, there was a man who had admitted being a thief. Al-Mu’tasim, the Abbasid caliph, gathered some of well-educated and learned people to ask them what he should do to the thief. As you might know, Holy Quran says, ‘the hands of the thief should be cut off.’
However, he did not exactly know from which part of hand Allah had meant. One of the people present in the court said, ‘Cut his hand from elbow.’ The other mentioned, ‘From wrist.’
Finally he asked Imam al-Jawad who was also present, and insisted. Imam said, ‘thieves should be punished by cutting their fingers off and the palms should be left. That is because of what Prophet Muhammad has said that when you genuflect to Allah, it is obligatory for you to put seven parts of your body, including palms, on the ground. And if you cut off his arm from his elbow or his wrist, he will not be able to genuflect properly. So hands belong to Allah and no one has the right to cut them off. It is stated in the Holy Quran that those seven parts of your body belongs to Allah, so do not worship anyone but Him.’ Listening carefully to his great reasons, they had to remain silent!’ It should be noted that Imam al-Jawad was an Imam for about 17 years. During those years, the Imam was under surveillance by the Abbasid caliphs and the only way to stay related to his followers was through letters and deputies. He received their questions and wrote the answers to them. Meanwhile, he also attended the meetings in which he answered the most difficult questions of other religions’ scholars on different subjects by the divine knowledge he had.
Finally, on Dhu l-Qa’da 30, 220/November 25, 835 Imam al-Jawad was poisoned and martyred when he was only 25 years old. He was martyred in the youngest age in comparison to our other 11 Imams. His holy shrine is located in Iraq (al- Kaẓimayn) next to his grandfather Musa b. Jafar’s holy shrine.
Every year, millions of pilgrims from Iran, Iraq and other countries of the world head for al-Kaẓimayn to pay a visit to these two hallowed shrines.