The ninth Shiite Imam Mohammad Taqi al-Jawad (as) was born on the 9th in the blessed month of Rajab. He is adorned with the title of ‘Jawad’ meaning someone who is exceedingly and extremely generous and benevolent. He would insist his children not to leave the house without some dinars and dirhams in their pockets (so that if they would come across any beggars and deprived, they would always be in a position to aid those needy individuals) thereby inculcating within them the quality of being charitable and philanthropic every time they stepped outside their homes.
Amongst the household of Imam Reza (as) and Shiite gatherings Imam Jawad (as)is renowned as an extraordinarily blessed child. This is due to the following utterance of Imam Reza (as) هذا المولود الذی لم یولد فینا مولود اعظم برکه علی شیعتنا ” Till date no other newborn was born for our Shias more blessed than this child”. On numerous occasions, Imam Reza (as) would reinforce this narration and it became common knowledge amongst his followers. When people would come to him with their problems, he would refer them to the ninth Imam even though he was only 3 years of age.
Mohammad ibn Maimoon was suffering with pain in his eye so he came to Imam Reza (as) who directed him to go to his son Jawad, he was surprised as to how a 3-years-old may provide a solution and then he saw Imam Jawad (as) raise his small hands in supplication to Allah asking Him for Maimoon’s cure and moments later his eye became pain free.
As word of mouth spread of his blessedness, people from far and wide would keenly come to visit Imam Reza (as) in order to do the ziarat of his divinely favored son. Among the notable figures who visited him were Abu Yahya San’ani, Ubaad Ibn Ismail and Ibn Asbaat as they directly confirmed with Imam Reza (as) whether his son was the famed blessed baby, and he would reply in the affirmative. This suggests that the above narration is not just a solitary narration rather it was well in circulation and Imam Reza (as) repeatedly confirmed the sublime status and stature of his son.
Now a probing question that springs to mind is the ramifications of this narration. If we accept that Imam Jawad (as) was the most blessed baby in Islam, does that mean he is more favored than the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) and all the other infallible Imams(as)? Undoubtedly that is not the implied meaning of the hadith rather meticulous examination of the context and consideration of evidence shows that the birth of Imam Jawad (as) was in unique circumstances which brought special grace and endowment for the Shiite faithful. Imam Jawad (as) from childhood had to contend with four types of adversaries.
First and foremost, Imam Reza (as) did not have a child till the age of 47, the absence of a child for such a long period began to create doubts and uncertainty about his Imamate in the minds of simple-minded and naive Shias. They were well acquainted and familiar with the Prophet’s narration about his 12 successors who would succeed him and would be from the progeny of the Imam Hussain(as). Hence the lack of a child brought the successorship of Imamate under question. This became the pretext for Waqifiyya sect to flourish as they believed that Imamate ended with the demise of Imam Kazim (as). They asserted that they never had an Imam who had not crossed the age of puberty, thus this proved that Imam Reza (as) was not a divinely elected Imam as upon his martyrdom his son was only 6 years of age and not fit for the position of Imamate.
Thirdly some of Imam’s relatives who were envious of 8th Imam such as Abdullah ibn Musa who had aspiration of imamate himself began to further sow the seeds of doubts accusing the Imam that he was lying about Imam Jawad(as) being his son for he didn’t resemble him and it was out of desperation that he had presented someone else’s child as his own. Imam Jawad’s(as) mother was from black descent; therefore, his complexion was wheatish and so further doubts were raised about the Imamate of 8th Imam and Imam Jawad (as) being his son. Such claims from the relatives spread confusion and hesitancy among the weak followers of 8th Imam. They were easily getting brainwashed and stood in opposition to Imam Jawad’s Imamate.
In addition to that, Imam also had to deal with cunning and devious Abbasid rulership that started with Mamun, the killer of his father.
So how did the Imam tackle and confront all these hurdles to prove his Imamate? To do so, he had to partake in many debates, discussions and discourses with elite scholars of the time, he had to defeat his challengers convincingly to give credibility to the concept of imamate being a divine selection wherein age was not a barrier, a factor or a determinant, and he did so at the tender age of 6 years. He defended the position of Imamate in a manner that thereafter, age never became a basis for its rejection. The last of schools within Shiite Islam was the Waqifi School which have now become extinct. It can be argued that the reason behind Imam Reza’s claims that his son was the most blessed baby in Islam was because in his short life as a Imam (killed at age of 24), he was given the opportunity to showcase how the greatest gift of Allah which is the intellect is used to correctly deduce and infer the truth and rebut all accusations. The dialogues and debates that he had with numerous scholars are beyond the scope of this brief article and interested readers should refer to books exclusively written on the biography of Imam Jawad (as). Nonetheless, his meeting with Caliph Mamun is worth mentioning.
The first encounter that Mamun had with Imam Jawad (as) was in Baghdad when Mamun was going hunting as part of his many amusements. On the way he passed by some children among whom was the Imam. When the children saw Mamun’s men and horses marching and galloping forward towards them, they scattered away out of fear except for Imam Jawad (as). Mamun stopped to inquire why the Imam didn’t run away like the rest. Imam replied: “The path is wide enough for you to advance without me needing to move and I don’t have any guilt that I should fear you and thus run away. I believe you don’t punish the one who is not guilty”. Mamun was astounded and astonished by such a response. Imam’s intelligent reply increased Mamun’s curiosity to further know who the Imama was to which the Imam replied “Mohammad ibn Ali Reza”. Miracles are only manifested by the Imams to prove their God-given status. Mamun immediately realized that only an authority appointed by God can be so fearless and thus decided to test him, during his hunting trip further when his pet falcon had caught a fish that was still alive. Mamun asked the Imam about what he was holding in his hand.
Imam answered: Allah by his might has created small fish which swim in the rivers and are hunted by the falcons of the kings and now the caliph is trying to test the progeny of Mustafa (pbuh) with that. What is noteworthy is that Imam systematically mentions the happenings as opposed to simply replying “a small fish” thereby teaching us the correct way of communication and giving a thorough response leaving no scope for any ambiguity.
Article written by HIWM Maulana Kazim Maroofi