Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) was born on 10th day of the month of Rajab, in the year 195 A.H. in Madina – under the care of his father, Imam Ali bin Musa al-Reda (A.S.) who was qualified with the leadership (Imamate) and its qualifications, a lofty status, the position of leadership in the Ummah and in the sciences of Islamic Shari’a and its laws.
The Imam (A.S.) was born in a period full of events and political situations, conflicts, and the tension of events of the Abbasid caliphate between Amin and Ma’moon, the two sons of Harun Rashid.
Those political events and the situations of the conflicT never ended without reflecting their effects on the life of Imam al-Reda (A.S.) who was forced to leave Madina and move towards the city of ‘Merv’ (in Khurasan – Iran) to accept Ma’mun’s invitation after many refusals and abstentions. Before moving to merv, he took with him, his son, Imam al-Jawad (A.S.), then, he started out from Madina towards Mecca in order to perform the hajj (pilgrimage) with his son, who was only four years at that time.
Indeed, the young Imam expressed his adherence and love for his father by his insistence to stay under the care of the holy embrace. It was difficult for him to return home (Madina), alone, and depart from his father, who wrote, in his farewell letter to the Sacred House, that he would not return.
The moments of farewell ended and the hour of departure approached; the young Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) returned to Madina, bearing the yearnings of love, the adherence of a son for his father; his father moved towards the city of Merv while his heart departed to Madina, following the procession of the beloved al-Jawad.
The Divine Leadership of Imam al-Jawad (A.S.)
The period of transferring the leadership to Imam Al-Jawad (A.S.) faced a dangerous problem which caused debates and arguments concerning his personality because of his youth. He (A.S.) was young, at the age of seven, when his father passed away.
Indeed, Imam al-Reda (A.S.) always confirmed that the Imam after him would be his son, al-Jawad (A.S.), and the one who was most qualified.
Ibn Qulawaih, on the authority of Kulaini, on the authority of Hussein bin Muhammad, on the authority of Khariani, on the authority of his father, said:”I (i.e. Khayrani’s father) was standing in front of Imam al-Reda (A.S.), in Khurasan.
Someone asked him: ‘My master, if something happens, to whom authority will belong?”
“To Abu Jaafar (al-Jawad), my son,” he replied. The speaker indicated his age was too young. So, al-Reda (A.S.), replied: “Allah, may He be praised, sent Jesus, son of Mary, to be an apostle, a prophet, the bringer of a revealed law (Shari’a), to begin (his mission) when his age was younger than al-Jawad(A.S.).
Allamah Majlisi narrated, in his book ‘Uyoon Mu’jizat’, a description of certain events of that critical period from the age of leadership, and which included the following text:
“… it was pilgrimage season. Some jurisprudents (Fuqaha’) of Baghdad and other nations and their religious scholars, numbering 80, went to Medina to perform Hajj ceremonies and, then, they intended to see Imam Jawad (A.S.). When they reached the house of Jaafar al-Sadiq (A.S.), because of its emptiness, entered it and sat on a big carpet.
“Then, Abdulla bin Musa (Imam al-Reda’s brother) came and sat at the head of the meeting. A caller stood and said: “This is the son of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.WA.), therefore, whoever has any question, and he may ask him.” He (Abdulla bin Musa i.e. Imam al-Jawad’s nephew) was questioned about things, to which he inappropriately answered. His answers caused the Shi’a to be bewildered and grieved, therefore, the jurisprudents were confused among themselves and started leaving the place.
“Then, a door was opened at the front of the meeting and Muwafaq, the Imam’s servant, entered and said: “This is Imam Jawad (A.S.).” All those who were present stood up, welcomed and greeted him, then the Imam (A.S.) entered.
He (A.S.) sat while all people kept silent. Then, the questioner stood up and asked the Imam (A.S.) different questions, to which he (A.S.) answered perfectly and correctly.
They told him: “Indeed, your uncle, Abdulla, gave verdicts so and so”. He (A.S.) said:”There is no god but Allah, O’ my uncle! It is great to stand tomorrow (on the resurrection day) before His hands and He will say to you: ‘Why did you give verdicts (issue religious decrees) to my servants about things you did not know, while there was someone among people who had more knowledge than you.'”
Ma’mun thought that as all the rulers before him had oppressed the Holy Imams and their schemes had backfired that he would try to bribe the Holy Imams. He tried to make the 8th Imam his heir apparent and give him power and wealth but that also backfired.
His main purpose was also to make sure that the 12th Imam (whom he knew would bring justice to the world) would be from his progeny and therefore intended to give his daughter Ummul Fadl to the Imam for a wife. So he called the young Imam (A.S.) to Baghdad and offered his daughter.
Indeed, Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) played his role and shared in enriching the scholarly school during the period of his leadership, which lasted nearly 17 years. That period (was distinguished by two things: Dependence on text and narration of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.A.) and, also, on an accurate understanding and deduction of both the Book (the Qur’an) and Prophet’s traditions (Sunnah). Imam al-Jawad (A.S.), like his forefathers (A.S.), used different means to carry out his scientific procedures, among them are:
- The means of teaching and instructing those students and scholars and urging them to write and record and, also, sustain what comes from the Holy Imams of Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.) or by bidding them to the art of writing, publishing, and classifying.
Sheikh Tusi in his book ‘Rijal’, mentioned the number of the close companions of Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) and his narrators about one hundred, including two women.
Indeed, all these religious scholars quoted Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) and wrote many books that enriched Islamic schools with true, original researches and thoughts. This fact is proved in the books of ‘Rijal’ which mentioned the close companions of Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) and, in which, they explained their conditions, their publications and writings.
- The means of appointing deputies and commanding them to spread out in different parts of the Muslim lands in order to be true callers to Islam.
Books of history have recorded the correspondences of Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) with his deputies in order to convey Islamic faith and what they learned from the jurisprudence.
- The means of scholarly debates and discussions. The books of traditions and narrations, have recorded for us, richly, discussions and debates defending Islam and fixing its pillars in the fields of monotheism, jurisprudence, interpretation, and narrations and so on.
The Political course in the Holy Imam’s Life
The Holy Imams of Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.), their followers, and those who supported them during the history of Islam, represented political oppositions against the Umayyad and Abbasid rulers.
All the political slogans and plans, declared by Ma’mun, aimed to draw the attention of public opinion and those who were loyal to Holy Prophet’s Household [Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.)] towards him, and calm down the Shi’ite uprisings. But, in spite of that, the caliph Ma’mun, faced different Shi’ite revolutions because of anti-Islamic deeds. So, this policy did not last for a long time and, soon, the Abbasid rulers turned to hurting and harming the Holy Imams of Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.) and hampering them.
The Imam Jawad’s Political Role
Studying the historical documents stated by Imam al-Jawad (A.S.), on one hand, and the attitudes held by the Abbasid authorities towards the Holy Imam, on the other, one can understand that Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) was at the top of secret political and ideological essence and who practiced his activities in secret and had a leading status with a deep impact on awakening the feelings of the people.
Books of traditions recorded for us some of these letters dispatched by Imam al-Jawad (A.S.), to his companions, followers and representatives which portray vividly the secret political activity of the Holy Imam (A.S).
These letters reveal not only the existence of the deep relationship between the Holy Imam (A.S.) and his companions and how the financial assistance was presented to him, to cover his needs in performing his activities, but, also, the existence of the Holy Imam’s followers, and his secret cultural and political activity at that time.
Indeed, the Abbasid authorities were watching the Holy Imam’s activities and used different ways to hinder it and forbid it against spreading and affecting others. Hence, these letters reveal to us the continuation of this activity and the call in support of the holy family of the Prophet (A.S.), the deepness of their effect, the influence of their ideological and political tendencies, in the life of people.
The Attitude of Abbasid Caliphs towards Imam al-Jawad (A.S.)
Certainly, to study and analyze the attitude of the two Abbasid caliphs, Ma’mun and Mu’tasim, toward Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) indicates, clearly, the importance of the leading personality of the Holy Imam (A.S.) and his esteemed status in the hearts of the people. They considered him (the Holy Imam) as a true representative of Ahlul-Bayt, in that period, and as a successor of his guiding grandfathers (PBUH).
Therefore, we find that Ma’mun summoned the Holy Imam (A.S.) from Madina in the year 211 A.H., and then married him, to his daughter, Ummul Fadl. Because of this marriage, Ma’mun involved himself in a conflict with his cousins, the Abbasid family. Ma’mun wanted to assimilate the situation of Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) towards his collaterals and to contain his public movements in both the ideological and political fields.
But, as we have seen, the Holy Imam (A.S.) was opposite of this. He (A.S.) practiced his activity accurately and skillfully. He (A.S.) refused to stay in Baghdad in order to be far from the siege of the authorities and their control and, then, returned to Madina, to achieve the related aims as being an Imam of the Ummah and a pioneer of the Shari’a.
Holy Imam’s Martyrdom
When Ma’mun died, Mu’tasim ascended the throne. He, like his ancestors, was worried about the leadership of Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.) and their political and scholarly status.
Therefore, he exiled Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) from Madina to Baghdad in the year 219 A.H., for fear of his popularity in order to isolate him from practicing his popular, political and scholarly role.
Indeed, Imam al-Jawad (A.S.) was exiled to Baghdad from Madina and stayed in Baghdad until in the year 220 A.H. when he was martyred by poisoning by his wife Ummul Fadl at the instigation of the ruling Abbasid caliph Mu’tasim.
His short life lasted twenty five years and some months, and was full of historical, ideological and scholarly struggle and achievements. The Holy Imam (A.S.) was martyred in Baghdad in the year 220 A.H., on the 29th of Dhul- Qida and was buried in the graveyard of Quraish behind his grandfather, Imam Musa bin Jaafar (A.S.) the seventh holy Imam which was since then became famous as Kazimain.