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Martyrdom Anniversary of Imam Jawad (AS)

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Heartfelt condolences to you all on the poignant martyrdom anniversary of the 9th Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), who was forced to leave the world in the prime of his youth on the last day the month of Zil-Qa'dah in 220 AH through a fatal dose of poison.


Born in 195 AH in Medina, and named Mohammad in honour of his ancestor the Prophet, he was six years old, when his father Imam Reza (AS) was forced to leave his hometown for distant Khorasan in 201 for the city of Marv, the capital of the self-styled Abbasid caliph, Mamoun. It was a painful farewell between father and son, and brought tears to the eyes of the onlookers. It was sure for both that the 8th Imam was destined not to return home to Medina from the long journey, and hence the 9th Imam was already visualizing himself as an orphan at this tender age. Imam Reza (AS) gave due instruction to his close companions regarding his son, making it clear that by God's Will, he was his successor despite his childhood. In this regard, he cited the holy Qur'an where God Almighty refers to the entrusting of wisdom and the book to Prophet Yayha at a young age, and the miraculous testimony given by the infant Jesus from the cradle on his mission as a prophet. Both these ayahs are in Surah Marium, and an irrefutable proof of God's giving of the Divine Trust to whomsoever He wishes, whether a child or even an infant. Two years later in 203 AH, Imam Reza (AS) was martyred through poisoning in Khorasan, and the mantle of Succession to Prophet (SAWA) came to rest on his young 8-year old son.

The 9th Imam, in view of his wisdom beyond years, came to acquire the epithets "at-Taqi" or the Pious, and "al-Jawad" or the Generous – both in material matters and in the spread of knowledge and wisdom. The crafty Mamoun, a year after he shifted his capital from Marv to Baghdad, called for Imam Jawad (AS) to be brought from Medina to Iraq. Baghdad brings to mind the memories of the 9th Imam's first encounter as a 9-year old orphan with the self-styled caliph. He stood boldly as the caparisoned horses and the caliph's entourage approached, and seeing him hold his ground while the other children fled, had to halt before him. Mamoun was surprised at the young boy who like others of his age was not awed by the approach of his entourage. Not knowing the identity of the boy, he asked him why he did not flee like the other boys, and who he was. The boy-Imam replied that he had not done anything to be afraid of the ruler, and as for his name it was Mohammad son of Ali. Mamoun at once understood that the boy was the son of his victim, Imam Reza (AS). He now tried to test the knowledge of the Prophet's young successor by dispatching his trained falcon and then concealing in his palm the thing that the bird of prey had brought. He asked the young Imam what his clenched fist contained. To his amazement, the boy-Imam said it was a small fish that the falcon had brought.

The caliph took the Imam to the palace and later, as part of a plot to try to humiliate the Prophet's successor, he pitted him in a debate with the Mu'tazalite ideologue, Yahya bin Aktham. The whole court watched the debate between a beardless boy and the grey-bearded scholar on jurisprudential issues. To the astonishment of all the Prophet's young successor coolly provided elaborate answers to the complicated questions posed by Yahya but when it was the latter's turn to reply to the Imam's queries, he was short of words and stuttering for answers that appeared beyond his comprehension until the boy-Imam himself explains. Mamoun was further stupefied when the boy-Imam made his opponent spellbound in the debate and to the amazement of the courtiers, gave a wonderful display of his God-given knowledge. Since we are on the threshold of the grand annual Hajj, let us present to you a glimpse of an issue related to the pilgrimage and the inviolability of holy Mecca. "What is the atonement for a person who hunts a game while he is dressed in the pilgrimage garb (Ehram)," asked Yahya. The question appears quite simple, especially during the Hajj season when every potential pilgrim tries to acquaint himself with the rules before setting off to Mecca circumambulate the Holy Ka'ba, the symbolic House of the Unseen but Omnipresent Lord. But the questioner had ulterior motives. With such a seemingly simple question he and the Head of State, who had planned the apparently uneven debate, intended to ensnare the boy in the intricacies of legal issues.

To their surprise, however, the lad, with composure and wisdom beyond his tender years said: "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?"

The scholars, the audience and the ruler were all astonished at the boy-Imam's cross-questioning of the ideologue of the state. Yahya Ibn Aktham had no clues and no words, and humbly requested Imam Jawad (AS) to provide the answers, which were given in satisfactory and rational manner. The details of this famous debate are present in books of history and hadith, and our listeners can refer to them, especially the Tuhaf al-Uqoul of al-Harrani, and the Kitab al-Irshad of Sheikh Mufeed, both compiled over a millennium ago.

Throughout the 17 years of his imamate, Imam Jawad (AS) spread the pure and pristine teachings of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) far and wide, and trained a generation of scholars in different branches of sciences. Some of these are Husain bin Sa'eed, the author of 30 books, Khaled al-Burqi who wrote over a hundred books and treatises, and Ahmad bin Mohammad Bizanti – of Greek Byzantine origin as his surname suggests – who compiled the encyclopedic work Jame' Bizanti. In 218 AH, Mamoun, who had forced Imam Jawad (AS) to marry his daughter in order to spy on the Prophet's rightful successor, died a humiliating death in the Taurus Mountains in present day Turkey during one of his military expeditions and was succeeded by his brother Mu'tasim. There was no letup in the pressures on the 9th Imam, who was forced to leave Medina and take up residence in Baghdad. In the year 220 AH, Mu'tasim finally succeeded in taking the life of the 25-year descendant of the Prophet following the Imam's verdict when the case of a habitual thief came before the caliph and the court mullahs were found wanting and incapable of consensus on the Islamic punishment in such a case. They suggested irrational modes of punishment, such as severing of the palm from the wrist, cutting off the elbow and chopping off the entire arm from the shoulders. Imam Jawad (AS) calmly replied that since the culprit is after all a Muslim and a creature of God in need of divine mercy and forgiveness, his four fingers ought to be severed after due warnings, leaving the palm and thumb intact since it is obligatory for seven organs of the body to touch the ground while performing the daily prayer. The caliph, afraid of the popularity of the Imam and fearful of his own flimsy claims to rule the Muslims plotted with his niece – the Imam's treacherous wife – to martyr Imam Jawad (AS) by poisoning his food. The 9th Imam was laid in the suburb of Baghdad beside his grandfather, Imam Musa al-Kazem (AS). We once again offer condolences, and are some bezels of wisdom from the 9th Imam.

*The trust in Allah is the price of everything that is precious and the ladder to every goal which is high and sublime.

*One who follows his desires concedes to the wishes of his enemy.

*Do not be an apparent friend of Allah in open and a secret enemy of His in private.

*Man's perfection is in intelligence.

*Whosoever depends on God, God saves him from every evil.

*No charity is superior to giving a helping hand to the weak.

*Be firm so as to reach the goal or get near it.

*The Will of God has preference over the will of people.

*The dignity of a faithful lies in his needlessness.

*God's increasing gifts will be stopped when the servants stop showing Him gratitude.

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