The Ninth Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al taqi al Jawad (AS)
- :S.M.R. Shabbar
Adopted from the book : "Story of the Holy Ka’aba And its People" by : "S.M.R. Shabbar"
Born in Madina, 10th Rajab 195 Hijri (12.4.811 AD). Died in Baghdad Iraq 29th Zeeqad 220 Hijiri (27.11.835, aged 25 years, Period of Imamat 17 years.
At the time of the death of Imam Ali Al-Reza (AS) our 9th Imam was only 9 years old. Some people from among the followers of Ahlulbayt and others, doubted Imam’s eligibility to become Imam at this young age. Kulaini in his Kafi relates that the Mutawalli of the Holy Ka’aba questioned Imam for several days before he was satisfied and accepted him as the Imam of the Time.
It is an undeniable fact that the whole episode of the call for Imam Ali Al-Reza (AS) to Tus, and his appointment as heir apparent to Mamoun was a game played for political convenience to get the sympathies and support of the Persians to get his empire back from his step brother Amin. Once this was achieved Mamoun had the Imam poisoned to get him out of his way. But the fact is that Mamoun being the most learned among all the Abbasid rulers, was aware that the family of the Prophet had a special type of knowledge which should be appreciated and be known to other people as long as power remained in Mamoun’s hands and his authority remained supreme. This became apparant when he arrived in Baghdad victorious. He began a policy of reconciliation with the Abbasid elders and also with those who had inclinations towards the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet. He reappointed Hasan ibn Sahl as Governor of Iraq who had openly supported the cause of Ahlulbayt. Ibn Sahl being a scholarly person, co-operated handsomely in the literary and cultural interest in the Emperor’s Court. For in spite of the fact that there was warfare and political turmoil in all directions during the reign of Mamoun, the period marks perhaps the apex of the oriental renaissance. There was freedom of speech and expression which resulted in open discussions on many issues which were taboos previously.
Most significant for the life of Imam Muhammad Taqi(AS) was the fact that Mamoun’s favours towards the Ahlulbayt did not cease because of their scholarly and intellectual approach to Islam. Although after arriving in Baghdad Mamoun replaced the Hashemite Green colour to the black colour of the Abbasids on flags and court dresses, he still encouraged the intellectuals to engage in open discussions about the concept of power and authority. Indeed he took that action as political necessity for he did not want to alienate his Persian friends and supporters. For not only prominent friends of Ahlulbayt were appointed to responsible positions, but particular public favour was shown to the family of the deceased Imam Ali Al-Reza (AS). One of the Imam’s brothers was chosen to preside at the annual pilgrimage in Makka, and it was but a short time until Mamoun married his own daughter Umme Fadhl to Imam Muhammad Taqi(AS) According to Yakubi, Mamoun bestowed upon the bride groom one hundred thousand Dirhams, and said, “ Surely I would like to be a grandfather in the line of the Apostle of God and of Ali Ibn Abi Talib (AS). It is a well known fact that the Imam gave all this money to the poor rather spend it upon himself, which his wife Umme Fadhl, who was the daughter of Mamoun did not like at all and complained to her father about this. But Mamoun knew the ways of Ahlulbayt, rejected her complaints and told her to live like the wife of an Imam of the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet.
The story of Mamoun’s first meeting with the young son of Imam Ali Al-Reza (AS) is interesting. One day, when the young Imam was only nine years old, the caliph Mamoun went out hunting. The Imam was standing silently by the road side where some children were playing. The caliphs entourage came that way. Seeing the soldiers of the caliph all the children ran away, but the young Imam remained standing at his place.
Noting this, Mamoun stopped his carriage and asked, “Young man, why did you not run away like the other children?”
The Imam replied calmly, “ Neither had I committed a crime, nor was I blocking the way. Why should I have run away or be afraid? And I also know that you will not cause any unnecessary trouble when your way is not blocked."
Mamoun was surprised with this mature reply and asked, “ What is your name?”
“Muhammad,” came the reply. Whose son are you? asked Mamoun. "Son of Ali ibn Musa (AS)."
Mamoun rode on. During his hunt the hawk returned to him with a fish in its beak. Mamoun was surprised. He returned back toward the city. Once again, he found children playing on the samespot, who ran away seeing the caliph’s soldiers, except this young man who said he was Muhammad son of Ali ibn Musa (AS) who remained where he was. Mamoun hid the fish in his palm, stopped his carriage near the Imam and said, “Tell me, what is there in my fist?” The Imam replied, “God created clouds between earth and sky. The hawks of kings sometimes catch fish from there and bring it to the Kings. They hide it in their fist and ask a member of the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet, “Tell me what is there in my fist.”
Mamoun said, “ Truly, you are the worthy son of Imam Ali Al-Reza (AS) (Bihar-al Anwar ,Majlisi). Mamoun took the young Imam with him, and let him live in a nearby house next to the Royal Palace.
It was during this stay of the 9th Imam nearby that Mamoun had the chance of seeing him closely and gaining an insight into the intellectual abilities of this pious household.
Mamoun convened many conferences during this period in which many intellectuals and scholars assembled in order to listen and learn from the Young Imam. Mamoun told the Abbasid hierarchy that Imam Ali Al-Reza’s son was no doubt a boy of tender age, but he had inherited his father’s virtues and qualities in full. The learned scholars of the Islamic world could not compete with him. If they doubted, they could put the young Imam to the test. This reply, though totally said in jest, amounted to a challenge. Impulsed by Ma’s taunts they consented to judge the boy’s knowledge in a contest with the most learned authority then, namely Yahya ibn Aaktham.
Mamoun convened a magnificent gathering for this open contest. There was anxiety to see this unequal match where a boy of Twelve was to contest with the seasoned and renowned Chief Justice of the Abbasid Empire. People crowded from every quarter. Historians have recorded that apart from dignitaries and nobles, 900 seats were reserved for scholars only. Mamouns’ reign was described as the golden age of learning. Experts of every trade and profession assembled in that great capital from every corner of the Empire. Mamoun had a carpet laid by the side of his throne to seat Imam Muhammad Taqi(AS). In front of him was accommodated the Chief Justice Yahya ibn Aktham. There was a pin drop silence among the audience who waited to hear the arguments. Silence was broken by Yahya who said, “ Will His Majesty allow me to put some questions to Imam Muhammad Taqi(AS) Mamoun replied, “ You may seek permission from the Imam himself.”
Yahya said to the Imam, “ Do you allow me to put some questions to you?” “Yes, you may” replied the Imam. Yahya began by asking a question, “What is atonement for a person who hunts a game while he is dressed in the pilgrimage garb (‘Ahram).” The question itself indicated that Yahya underestimated the scholarly attainments of his opponent. Drunk with the pride of position and knowledge, he thought that the young man might well be aware of simple daily routine problems of prayer or fasting, but the possibility that he might be totally ignorant of the statutes of pilgrimage or of the atonement of sins or mistakes committed by a pilgrim never entertained his mind.
The sagacious young Imam was clever enough for the seasoned enquirer. Instead of giving a general or a vague reply, he analysed the different aspects of the problem so dexterously that the audience immediately had a true estimate of the Imam’s knowledge and of Yahya’s shallow mindedness. Yahya too was puzzled and felt humiliated when the Imam addressed him in the following manner:
“Your question is utterly vague and lacks definition. You should first clarify whether the game killed was outside the sanctified area or inside it; whether the hunter was aware of his sin or did so in ignorance; did he kill the game purposely or by mistake, was the hunter a slave or a free man, was he adult or minor, did he commit the sin for the first time or had he done so before, was the hunted game a bird or something else, was it a small animal or a big one, is the sinner sorry for the misdeed or does he insist on it, did he kill it secretly at night or openly during daylight, was he putting on the pilgrimage garb for Hajj or for the Umra? Unless you clarify and define these aspects, how can you have a definite answer?”
Whatever Yahya’s knowledge might have been, he was undoubtedly a well read man in Jurisprudence. While the Imam was unfolding all such details of the problem, he had judged that he was no match for his ingenious opponent. His face lost colour and the audience realised the situation well. His lips were sealed and he made no reply. Mamoun fully assessed his condition and thought it was useless to put any further pressure on him. He then requested the Imam to solve all the aspects of the question. Yahya silent and puzzled, gazed at the Imam. But Mamoun was bent on carrying the matter to the end. He therefore requested the Imam to put some questions to Yahya if he liked. The Imam then said to Yahya, “ May I ask you a question? Disillusioned, Yahya who now had the true estimate of the Imam’s capacity and had no misunderstanding about his own worth, said in a humble tone,” Your grace can ask, I shall reply if I can or I shall get it solved by your own self.” Then the Imam put a question in reply to which Yahya admitted his ignorance. The Imam explained it too. Mamoun's joy knew no bounds. What he had asserted came true. Addressing the audience he said, “Did I not tell you that the people of the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet have been gifted by God with limitless knowledge? None can cope with even the children of this elevated House.”
The excitement of the gathering was great. All unanimously exclaimed that Mamoun’s guess was correct and that the Imam Muhammad Taqi al Jawad (AS) was a matchless person. The Emperor then thought it advisable to marry his daughter to Imam there and then. The Imam himself recited the marriage Khutba. This address (Khutba) became so famous that as a remembrance, it has been recited at weddings everywhere throughout the muslim world ever since. Over joyed at this auspicious occasion Mamoun displayed his full generosity, giving away millions in charity to the poor.
When the people departed and a few of the courtiers remained including the Chief Justice Yahya ibn Akhtham, Mamoun asked the Imam to tell them the law concerning the aspects into which the killing of the animal was done by a Muhrim. (Meaning a pilgrim in Aahram)
“Yes,” replied the Imam. “ If he had killed the animal outside the sacred ground and it was winged and large ,an atonement of sheep would have been necessary for him. If he had struck it down in the sanctuary, the penalty required of him would be doubled. If he killed a young bird outside the sacred ground, then the atonement of a lamb which had been weaned off milk would have been required of him. If he had killed it in the sanctuary, then he would have been required to sacrifice a lamb and the value of the young bird. As for wild animals, if it was a wild ass, he would have been required to sacrifice a cow. If it was an ostrich, the sacrifice of a camel would be necessary. If it had been a deer, then a sheep would have been necessary. If he had killed any of those in the sanctuary, the penalty would have been doubled. Imam continued to describe all avenues of penalties for the Muhrim to the astonishment of the audience.” ( Al Irshad by Mufid) “You have done well Abu Jaafar and God has adorned you,” said Mamoun to him.
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