The Miraculous Imamate
“As for the one who acts without knowledge, (s)he would do more harm than good.” In these words, he directs our attention to the importance of understanding prior to taking actions. He reminds us that before we take the initiative to go out and call people to what we believe to be true, we ourselves must be equipped with reasoning to back up our basic articles of faith. Or else, our actions may be to the detriment of ourselves and others.
“The one who sees something wrong as fine is a partner in that wrong.” With these words, he pushes us to take note of those who see the acts of the oppressors as mere events of history that we should overlook. He makes it clear that if we see an act of injustice as “acceptable”, then we become associates of the evil-doers.
“If only the ignorant one remained silent, then there would be no disaccord among the people.” He then teaches us that when justice is served and things go in their rightful place, harmony prevails. If the ignorant stepped down and allowed those of knowledge to expose falsehood, people would not disagree about the Truth – for all would see that the light is far too bright.
The quoted words of wisdom aforementioned are ascribed to the ninth Imam of purity, Imam Muhammad Taqi al-Jawad (peace be upon him). Imam al-Jawad was born to Imam Ali ar-Ridha (peace be upon him) on the 10th of Rajab, 195 AH (809 CE), in holy city of Medina. When Imam Ridha was martyred in 203 AH, Imam Jawad became the Imam at the young age of eight.
In response to questions about his young age, Imam at-Taqi said, “Allah has argued about Imamate just as he argued about Prophethood when He said, ‘And We gave wisdom to him [i.e. Yahya] when he was still a child.'” (19:12)
Ma’moon, the Abbasid caliph who poisoned Imam Ridha, continued to pursue his policies of isolating the Imams from their followers. As such, he asked that Imam Jawad be brought from Medina to Baghdad, in present-day Iraq. This journey took place a year after the death of Imam Ridha.
Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi states in Islam: Faith, Practice & History:
“When Ma’moon met the young Imam, he was impressed with the latter’s knowledge; and he proposed to marry his daughter Ummul Fazl to the Imam. When the elders of the Abbasid clan learned of this decision, they tried to change Ma’moon’s views: they reminded him of dangers in promoting the descendants of Ali and the possible loss of power. Realizing that their words had no effect on Ma’moon, they finally said, ‘Although you are impressed by this child; but he is still a child. Wait till he grows up and gets educated, then you may marry your daughter to him.’
“Ma’moon: ‘Woe unto you! I know this child better than you; he comes from a family which is bestowed with knowledge by God. His ancestors were never in need of knowledge and character from others. If you wish, you may examine him.’
“The elders of the Abbasid agreed to examine him. They approached Yahya bin Aktham, the chief judge (qazi) of the Abbasid court, and asked him to prepare some difficult questions which the Imam would not be able to answer.
“At an appointed time, the meeting between Imam Muhammad at-Taqi and Yahya bin Aktham took place in the presence of Ma’moon and the elders of the Abbasid clan.
“After the formalities, Yahya asked: ‘What is your view about a person who hunts while he is in the ihram?’ (Ihram means a pilgrim’s garment; a person in ihram is not allowed to hunt.)
“Imam at-Taqi: ‘This question has many facets:
‘Was the person outside the boundary of the holy territory or inside?
‘Did he know that it was forbidden to hunt while in ihram, or he did not?
‘Did he do it intentionally, or was it an accident?
‘Was he a free man or a slave?
‘Was he a minor or an adult?
‘Was this his first hunting in the state of ihram or a second time?
‘Was the hunted creature a bird or something else?
‘Was it big or small?
‘Was the person sorry that he committed the offence, or was he careless about such issues?
‘Was it in the night or during the day?
‘Was he in the state of ihram for the minor pilgrimage or for the major pilgrimage?’
“Yahya bin Aktham was dumbfounded by this thorough analysis of the question by the ten-year-old Imam Muhammad at-Taqi! He could not even utter a word, and the audience clearly saw the signs of defeat on his face!”
Knowing Ma’moon’s mischievous nature, the marriage can be clearly seen as politically motivated. Marrying his own daughter to the Imam would, in Ma’moon’s mind, make the followers of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) more sympathetic toward Ma’moon.
Ma’moon would also be able to keep tabs on the Imam’s activities with his daughter living with the Imam. There are also other conceivable motives, such as hope that Ma’moon would have a grandson through Imam Jawad who would become known as a descendant of Imam Ali and Lady Fatima (peace be upon them), thereby increasing Ma’moon’s prestige.
However, Imam Jawad did not stay in Baghdad for long and insisted on moving back to Medina with his wife. After Ma’moon died in 218 AH, his brother Mu’tasim became the next Abbasid caliph. In the year 220 AH, Mu’tasim ordered that Imam Jawad be brought back from Medina to Baghdad.
In another demonstration of Imam Jawad’s knowledge, Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi states in Islam: Faith, Practice & History:
“One day a person came to the court of Mu’tasim and confessed that he had committed theft and would like to be punished so that he could be free from the guilt and punishment in the hereafter. The Qur’an says that the punishment for theft (with some conditions) is cutting off the thief’s yad. Yad means: hand, forearm, and elbow. So the caliph called all the prominent religious scholars, including Imam Muhammad at-Taqi, and asked: ‘From where should the yad of the thief be cut?’ (The Qur’an doesn’t give a definition of ‘yad‘.)
“Ibn Abi Da’ud, the chief judge, said, ‘From the wrist.’
“Mu’tasim: ‘What is your proof for that?’
“Ibn Abi Da’ud: ‘The word ‘yad‘ has been used in the verse of Tayammum – “so wipe your faces and your hands” (5:5) – for the hand.’
“Some scholars agreed with Ibn Abi Da’ud, but others disagreed and said: ‘Cut the thief’s yad from the elbow.’
“Mu‘tasim: ‘What is your proof?’
“The scholars: ‘The word yad has been used in the verse of Wudhu – “wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows” (5:5) – for the fore-arm.’
“Then Mu’tasim turned towards Imam Muhammad at-Taqi and asked his opinion. The Imam first declined to give his view, because he was aware of the court’s politics. But when Mu’tasim insisted, the Imam finally said, ‘All these gentlemen are mistaken because only the [four] fingers have to be cut.’
“Mu’tasim: ‘What is your proof?’
“The Imam: ‘The Prophet has said that prostration is done with seven parts of the body: forehead, palms, knees, and two big toes [of the feet]. If a thief’s hand or forearm is cut, then it would not be possible for him to do the prostration, whereas Allah has said, “And verily the masajid (the body parts on which prostration is done) belong to Allah,” and what belongs to Allah should not be cut.’
“The caliph liked the answer of the Imam and ordered that the four fingers of the thief be cut.”
The same chief judge, Ibn Abi Da’ud, became the voice which warned Mu’tasim against promoting Imam Jawad by following his views in public. After having his ears filled, the caliph started to see the Imam as a threat to his government. As his evil predecessors did before him, Mu’tasim sought to rid himself of this threat. In the final days of Dhul Qa’dah 220 AH, the Imam was poisoned by his wife, the niece of Mu’tasim.
Imam Jawad is buried next to the 7th Imam’s grave in the Qurayshi cemetery in Baghdad, which is now known as Kadhimayn.
The unmet atrocities dealt unto the Ahlul Bayt cause the hearts of lovers to bleed –remembering the losses which the evil-doers have brought upon the rest of the world. But there is no despair, for as Imam al-Taqi said, “How can the one whose Allah is taking care of get lost?! And how can the one who Allah is seeking (to punish) run away?!”