Imam Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Musa (a.s) – also called al-Jawad (the generous) and al-Taqi (the pious) – was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a), the ninth of the Twelve Imams. According to historical accounts, he was the shortest-lived of the Twelve Imams. This article offers a brief glimpse of the Imam’s life – his Imamate, marriage, children, and his wisdom implemented in his spiritual and social life.
The ninth Imam was born in 195 A.H., though his birth date is not agreed upon. According to ibn ‘Ayyash, it is Rajab 10th. In order to confirm his words, one can refer to the supplication received from Imam Mahdi (a.j.f), an excerpt of which reads as follows, “O Allah! I ask You by two newborns in Rajab, the Second Muhammad ibn Ali, and his son, Ali ibn Muhammad, the Chosen one.”
His name was Muhammad, his epithet Abu Ja‘far, and his most famous titles Jawad (generous)and Taqi (pious). He was known as Taqi because he feared Allah and turned and resorted to Him. He never responded to any incitement of desire or fancy. Al-Ma’moon, the Abbasid caliph, had tried him with different types of provocations, but he was never deceived. He turned to Allah and preferred His obedience to anything else.
He was also called al-Jawad and he was thus called because of his abundant acts of good, beneficence and charity towards the people. In a detailed narration, he quoted his father’s advice to him, “…Whenever you ride a horse, have dinar and dirham with you so that if somebody asks you for money, you can give it to him…”
His father was the 8th Shiite Imam, Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s) and his mother was Umm Walad, who was also called Sabika and Kheizaran. She was from the tribe of the Prophet’s wife, Mariyah Qibtiyyah (Mary the Copt) and was one of the purest and most abstinent and virtuous of Muslim women. It did not degrade her position nor harm her dignity that she was a bondmaid. Islam has declared a war against this phenomenon and considers it as an aspect of the pre-Islamic life, which Islam has done away with. In the Islamic point of view, piety and obedience to Allah are the bases of preference amongst people and nothing else.
Islam proudly annulled all kinds of racial segregation and considered them as factors of backwardness and declination in society because they divided the nation into fighting sects and parties. Therefore, the imams of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s) married bondmaids in order to do away with malicious feuds and remove the causes of separation amongst Muslims.
Imam Ali bin al-Husayn Zaynul Abideen (a.s) married a bondmaid who gave birth to the great revolutionary martyr, Zayd. Imam al-Ridha (a.s) married a bondmaid who gave birth to Imam al-Jawad (a.s). The situation of the infallible imams in their marriages with bondmaids was a decisive refutation towards the enemies of Islam who tried their best to keep Muslims divided.
Another noble personality in the life of Imam al-Jawad (a.s) was his paternal aunt, the full sister of Imam al-Ridha (a.s), the Holy Lady Fatima al-Ma’suma. This great personality died and was buried in the Holy city of Qum in the year 201 A.H and her shrine has always been a focus of knowledge, spirituality and enlightenment for Shiite scholars. Imam al-Jawād (a) has said: Whoever visits my aunt [Lady Fatima Masuma (a)] in Qum, will enter Heaven.”
Imam al-Ridha (a.s) did not have a child until the age of 47. His son’s delayed birth caused doubt in his Imamate. According to Husain ibn Bashshar, he wrote in a letter to Imam al-Ridha (a.s), “How can you be an Imam while not having any child?” The Imam patiently replied, “How do you know I will not have a child? By God, very soon He will grant me a son who will distinguish between the truth and the falsehood”
Delight and joy overcame Imam al-Ridha (a.s) after the birth of his blessed newborn son. He began saying:
“The like of Moses son of Imran, the splitter of the seas, and the like of Jesus son of Mary, blessed be the mother that bore him… has been born to me.”
Imam al-Ridha (a.s) turned to his companions and told them the good news of his newborn son. He said, ‘Allah has granted me one who will inherit me and inherit the children of Dawood (David)….’
In al-Kafi by Kulayni, San‘ani said, “I was in the presence of Imam al-Ridha (a.s) when his little son, Abu Ja‘far (a.s), was brought in. Imam al-Ridha (a.s) said, ‘A no more blessed baby than this son has been born for the Shi‘as.’”
Imamate at a young age: The Shia became terribly confused about the imamate after the death of Imam al-Ridha (a.s), because Imam al-Jawad (a.s) was just seven years and some months of age at that time. However, Imamate at a young age is not considered a wonder. If God wills, He can perfect a person’s wisdom before maturity and even in the cradle, as preparation for heavy responsibilities to come. At least for Muslims, who consider the Quran a divine book, this is not a new issue. In addition to this, there are historical instances of early intellectual maturity. The Qur’an offers two, namely Prophet Yahya (John the Baptist) and Prophet Jesus. As mentioned in the Qur’an, God commanded Yahya, “Take hold of the Book with might.” God also said, “…and We gave him Wisdom when a child.” Likewise, in this very chapter, God stipulated that Prophet Jesus talked to people in the cradle, and God made him a prophet then. The prophethood of Yahya and Jesus in their childhood is by far more surprising than the Imamate of Imam Jawad (a.s).
Academic aspects of the Imam (a.s): Like his holy fathers, Imam al-Jawad (a.s) occasionally took part in academic meetings and debates and answered the audience’s questions, while also bringing his opponents to a standstill. It astonished some that Imam al-Jawad (a.s) became an Imam at a young age. Some asked him outlandish questions to evaluate him and assess his qualifications. Even the Caliph participated in this maneuver and made the Imam face scholars who aimed either to evaluate or defeat him; notwithstanding, the Imam responded to all appropriately.
When Ma’mun wanted to arrange his daughter’s marriage to Imam al-Jawad (a.s), his men objected to this decision, but Ma’mun insisted and finally made the Imam (a.s) face Yahya ibn Aktham in a gathering. Yahya asked the Imam (a.s), “What is the legal ruling on a man who hunted an animal when he was muhrim (i.e., dressed in a pilgrim state)?” The Imam (a.s) asked, “Outside the Haram (i.e., in Mecca) or in it? Did he know the legal ruling or not? Did he kill it on purpose or by mistake? Was he a slave or a free man? Was he a juvenile or an adult? Was it his first time doing so or not? Was the animal a bird or not? A chick or a hen? Has the hunter justified his act or has he repented? Did he do so at night in its nest or evidently during the day? Was he muhrim in the Greater Hajj or the Lesser Hajj (i.e., ‘Umrah)?” Yahya and the audience were stunned, and Ma’mun recited the marriage contract between the Imam (a.s) and his daughter. Then he asked the Imam (a.s) to issue a legal ruling on each question he had posed, and the Imam (a.s) did so.
Both parties’ reasons for acceptances of this marriage are as follows: Ma’mun’s reasons:
1. Watching the Imam (a.s) through his daughter, thus allowing for close surveillance.
2. Marring the Imam (a.s)’s reputation by having him attend frivolous gatherings in the court.
3. Preventing the Alawids’ uprisings against the court.
4. Building a familial relationship with the Imam (a.s) through his daughter (although this never occurred).
The Imam (a.s)’s reasons:
1. Prevention of his own martyrdom as Ma’mun’s coercion left him no choice
2. Preventing the Alawids and Shi‘as’ oppression (by Ma’mun) thus protecting Shi’ism.
This marriage changed some of the Shi‘as’ opinion about the Imam (a.s). While the following story somehow indicates the Imam (a.s)’s generative wilayah, it reveals some of his companions’ false ideas about him. Qutb Rawandi quoted Husayn Makkari as saying, “While Imam al-Jawad (a.s) was living in Baghdad wealthily, I went there, thinking now that he lived prosperously and dignified by Ma’mun, he would not return to Medina. The Imam (a.s) read my mind, lowered and then raised his head while he turned yellow, and said, “O Husayn! I prefer barley bread with half-ground salt in the city of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and salutations on him and his family) to this situation.”That is why Imam al-Jawad (a.s) did not remain in Baghdad and returned to Medina with his wife, Umm al-fadl, and lived in Medina until 220 A.H.
Children: Imam al-Jawad (a.s) did not have any children from Ma’mun’s daughter, Umm-ul-Fadl; his descendants can be traced back to Imam al-Hadi (a.s) and Musa Mubarqa’. In addition he had three daughters named Zainab, Umm-e Ahmad, and Maymunah.
Imam Jawad (a.s)’s martyrdom: There is disagreement among historians on how the Imam (a.s) was martyred. Mu‘tasim, who came to power after Ma’mun in 218 A.H., intended to kill him. He ordered a scribe of viziers to invite the Imam (a.s) to his house. Despite the Imam (a.s)’s initial refusal, he finally accepted the invitation. There he ate the poisonous meal and was martyred. Another group of historians considered Umm-ul-Fadl as the co- conspirator in the Imam (a.s)’s martyrdom, carrying out her uncle Mu‘tasim’s orders. She made the Imam (a.s) eat poisonous grapes.
Imam al-Jawad (a.s) was martyred at the age of 25. He left this world on the last day of Dhi al-Qa‘dah 220 A.H., leaving the Shi‘a world grieved at his loss.a grave was dug beside the grave of his granfather Imam Musa bin ja’far al-kadhim(a.s) (in Baghdad) and he was buried in it and human values and high ideals were buried with him.
Complied by S.husseini