Muhammad al-Jawad

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Muhammad al-Jawad
محمد الجواد

Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (A.S.).png
Arabic text with the name of Muhammad ibn Ali and one of his titles, "Al-Jawad"
Bornc. 12 April 811 CE[1]
(10 Rajab 195 AH)
Diedc. 29 November 835(835-11-29) (aged 24)
(29 Dhul Qa`dah 220 AH)[2][3]
Cause of deathPoisoning, by Al-Mu'tasim according to most Shi'a Muslims.
Resting placeAl-Kadhimiya Mosque, Baghdad, Iraq
33°22′48″N 44°20′16.64″E / 33.38000°N 44.3379556°E / 33.38000; 44.3379556
Other namesMuhammad al-Taqi
Term819 – 835 CE
PredecessorAli al-Ridha
SuccessorAli al-Hadi
Umm al-Fadl bint Al-Ma'mun
ChildrenAli al-Hadi
Musa al-Mubarraqa
Hakimah Khātūn
Umm Kulthum
Parent(s)Ali al-Ridha

Muhammad ibn Ali al-Jawad (Arabic: محمد بن علي الجواد‎, romanizedMuḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Jawād, c. 12 April 811 – 29 November 835) was the ninth of the Twelve Imams after his father Ali al-Ridha and before his son Ali al-Hadi. He was known as al-Jawād ("the generous") and al-Taqī ("the pious"), but also called Abu Jaʿfar al-Ṯāni ("the second Ab-Ja'far"), and Ibn al-Ridha ("the son of al-Ridha"). His mother, Sabika (or Ḵayzarān), was a slave girl from Nubia from the family of Maria al-Qibtiyya, who was the slave mother of Muhammad's young son Ibrahim.

Al-Jawad was about four when his father, Ali al-Ridha, was summoned to Khorasan by the Caliph al-Ma'mun who wanted him to become his successor. Shia would keep asking al-Ridha, would a child like al-Jawad be able to take the position of Imamate, if some thing happen to him (al-Ridha)? Al-Ridha would remind them of Jesus who, according to the Koran, was also at a very young age when became a prophet.

After al-Ridha's death (that Shias believe took place by al-Ma'mun) the Caliph came back to Baghdad and this time summoned al-Jawad to Baghdad. Then he gave his daughter, Ummu Fadhl, to him in marriage, saying he wanted to be a grandfather in the line of the Apostle of God and of Ali ibn Abu Talib. The next Imam, however, was born from an slave girl, named Samanah. Al-Jawad had no child from Umma Fadhl, who kept complaining to his father that al-Jawad was engaged with slave girls. Al-Ma'mun wouldn't harass al-Jawad, even let him to go back to Medina with his family, however the next Caliph, Al-Mu'tasim summoned him to Baghdad again. Al-Jawad left his son, Ali al-Hadi, in Medina and came to Baghdad, where he did not live longer than a year. Al-Jawad died at the age of 25, which was the shortest life among Shia Imams. According to some sources, he, like his father, was poisoned at the urging of al-Mu'tasim, by his wife, Umma al-Fadhl. He was buried beside his grandfather, Musa al-Kadhim, in the Maghabir Ghoraysh, which later became known as Kadhimiya.

Accepting al-Jawad became an issue of controversy, by both Shia who had not experienced a minor Imam; and by Abbasids who objected his marriage to al-Ma'mun's daughter. Abbasids' opposition was mostly steamed from the fact that they were worried from Ma'mun's pro-Alid policies. Thus they convinced Yahya ibn Aktham, the chief judge of Abbassids, to humiliate al-Jawad by asking questions he might not be able to answer. To their surprise, however, al-Jawad was able to answer all questions. The same thing happened with prominent Shia who came together from all over the Islamic world, to see the young Imam, and, according to Shia, they were so impressed by him that their doubts were dispelled.

Names and epithets[edit]

He usually called al-Jawad(the Generous) and some times al-Taqi(the Pious),[5] however the name Shia scholars used to narrate from him was Abu Jaʿfar al-Ṯāni (the second Ab-Ja'far). According to Kulayni, he was also called ibn al-Ridha, meaning the son of Ali al-Ridha, as he was the only child of his father.[6] According to Al-Dhahabi al-Jawad was described as generous, that is why he was called al-Jawad. Dhahabi also names other surnames such as al-Qani (the satisfied) and al-Murtadha(been satisfied with) for al-Jawad.[a][7]


He was born to his father, Ali al-Ridha and a mother whose name and background is not entirely known. According to Madelung, she was an slave girl from Nubia, called Sabika(or Ḵayzarān) and was from the family of Maria al-Qibtiyya, who was the slave mother of Muhammad's young son Ibrahim.[8][6] Her original name, is said to be Durra, who was called al-Khayzuran, by Ali al-Ridha.[8]

According to Kulaini, his mother was a bondmaid from Nubia named Habibi. However, some say that she was Khaizaran, a girl from the Byzantine Empire.[9][5]


Birth and early life[edit]

According to Madelung, al-Jawad was born in Ramadan 195/June 811 in a village near Medina, called Surayya, which was founded by his grandfather, Musa al-Kadhim.[8] According to Louis Medoff, most of Imami sources record mid-Ramazan as Jawad's birthday, however Ebn ʿAyyāš, believed he was born in the tenth of Rajab (April 8) and brings forward Ziyarat al-Nahiya al-Muqaddasa, attributed to Mahdi, to this effect; according which nowadays this day is celebrated among Shi'as al-Jawad's birthday.[6] When al-Jawad was four, his father received a summons from the Abbasid Caliph, al-Ma'mun, asking him to be al-Ma'mun's successor. Al-Ridha left the four-year-old al-Jawad behind in Medina to respond to the summons. The Shi'as questioned whether a child of that age could take on his father's responsibility as an Imamate if something happened to his father. In response, al-Ridha used to tell the story of Jesus, who had become a prophet at a younger age.[10]

After his father[edit]

After Ali al-Ridha's death, when Ma'mun left Khorasan and settled in Baghdad, he changed his Alavid green color to Abbasid black color. This pave the way to the thought that, as Shia believes, Ma'mun have had a hand in Ali al-Ridha's death.[11] According to Donaldson, in spite of replacing green color with the black, which was a political act, Ma'mun's favor toward Shia continued.[12]

According to another account, from Tabari, in his way from Korasan, al-Ma'mun decreased the Tax (Kharaj) for the people of Ray, while he declined the same request from the people in Qom, which resulted in a rebellion in the city. Ma'mun sent forces to suppress the riot, and increased the Tax again. There is no proof of al-Jawad attitude toward the rebellion, however his representative, Yahya ibn Umaran, was one of the major participant of this riot. Then Ma'mun ordered al-Jawad to come to Baghdad and gave his daughter to him in marriage.[6]

According to another account, after al-Ridha's death, al-Ma'mun summoned al-Jawad to Baghdad in order for him to marry his daughter, Ummu Fadhl. This apparently provoked strenuous objections by the Abbasids. According to Ya'qubi, al-Ma'mun gave al-Jawad one hundred thousand Dirham and said, "Surely I would like to be a grandfather in the line of the Apostle of God and of Ali ibn Abu Talib."[5] Then after, al-Jawad used to come to al-Ma'mun's palace occasionally to have discussion with the learned men he would meet there.[13]

Marriage and family life[edit]

According to Muhammad al-Tabari, al-Jawad's marriage with Umm al-Fadl, the daughter of Ma'mun, contracted in Jawad's absence the year 202/817, when he was still a child. According to this report, at the same time Ma'mun, gave his other daughter, Umm Habib in marriage to al-Ridha. Yaqubi, on the other hand, believes that al-Jawad's marriage took place in 204/819, after al-Ridha's death, when Ma'mun returned to Baghdad. Actual marriage however, was in 215/830, when Ma'mun summoned Jawad from Medina to Baghdad in April 830. Al-Ma'mun then, ordered him to settle down and live together with his daughter in the city.[8] This marriage, however, was against Abbassid's interest, who, according to Harrani, Mofid and Amin, tried to dissuade Ma'mun from his decision. Thus they convinced Yahya ibn Aktham, the chief judge of Abbassids, to humiliate Jawad by asking questions, he might not be able to answer. This questions was concerning religious law. According to this report, Jawad answered all the questions triumphantly. Shias cite this as another sign of al-Jawad extraordinary knowledge.[6]

One year after his marriage, Jawad left for Hajj along with his family, then went to Madina and settled there. By this time his son, Ali, the next Shia Imam, was born from a concubine named Samaneh, from the Maghreb. Samaneh was a maidservant who was bought for 70 dinars by the order of Muhammad al-Jawad. She fasted and prayed a lot.

In a hadith, Ali al-Hadi mentioned his mother as a true knower of his rights and a dweller in paradise. Samanaeh has been mentioned among women who transmitted hadith. All the children of Muhammad al-Jawad were born from Samaneh. Her sons were Ali al-Hadi (a), Abu Ahmad Musa Mubarqa', Abu Ahmad Husayn, and Abu Musa 'Imran; and her daughters were Fatima, Khadija, Umm Kulthum, and Hakima. Umm Fadle had no child, so wrote to her father that al-Jawad preferred his slave girl to her. Ma'mun however, rejected this complaint.[8][14][15][16]


After al-Ma'mun's death in 833, his successor, Al-Mu'tasim, became the new Caliph. Al-Mu'tasim called him to Baghdad in 835. Al-Jawad left his son Ali-al-Hadi with his mother Sumaneh in Medina while his wife, Umm Fadl accompanied him to Baghdad. They lived there for a year before al-Jawad's wife, according to some sources, poisoned him, at the urging of the new Caliph Al-Mu'tasim.[9][17] although it is rejected by Shaykh al-Mufid. According to Madelung Jawad reached Baghdad in Muharram 220/January 835, but died in 6 Dhu 'l-Hidjdja/30 November 835.[18] He died at the age of 25, which was the shortest life among Shia Imams.[6] Al-Jawad was buried beside his grandfather, Musa al-Kadhim, in the Maghabir Ghoraysh, which later became known as al-Kazimayn Shrine.[19]


Al-Jawad was seven years old when his father died, so he was the first underage Imam, whose Imamate was doubted by lots of Shias who did not know whether adulthood is a necessary condition for Imamate or not.[6] After ALi al-Ridah's death, eighty of his followers assembled in Baghdad at the house of ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. al-Ḥajjāj, a leading companion of previous Imams. There they argued that al-Jawad was the true Imam, since the knowledge of Imam has nothing to do with the age. As an example they named Jesus who spoke in cradle, and received revelation, while still a child, as it mentioned in Quran;[b] by the same notion, they said, there should be no objection to a child Imam. Still there was disagreement among Shias, as to whether a child Imam is equal to an adult Imam, in every aspect? The prevailing decision was that yes, they are the same, as both receive their knowledge from supernatural sources.[6]

It is also said that during Hajj assembly, prominent Shias from all over the Islamic world, came to see the young Imam, and they were so impressed by him that their doubts were dispelled. There was also another assembly, as Kulayni recounts, during which the superintendent of the Shrine gave al-Jawad a test that "lasted for several days, in which he answered thirty thousand questions to their great amazement!"[5]


After Ali al-Ridha's death, the age of his son, Muhammad al-Jawad, as a new Imam, was an issue of controversy. Some Shias accepted Ali al-Ridha's brother, Ahmad ibn Musa, as the new Imam. Some others joint Waghifias, who believed, Musa al-Kadhim, was the last Imam and that he lives in absent and would return in due time. Others who had backed ALi al-Ridha, as Ma'mun's successor, for opportunistic reasons, returned to their primitive Sunni/Zaydi groups after Ridha's death.[8][6] Among those who recognized Jawad as Imam, some believed that he gained his knowledge through divine inspiration even as a child, while others believed he learned it via his father's book when he reached maturity.[8]

Wakils and companions[edit]

By the time al-Jawad became Imam, Shia population had been expanded far to the east, so that it was difficult for Jawad to communicate to his follower directly. Also because of his young age, his communication with his followers was through Wakils who represented him in different areas of Islamic world. The Wakils would manage daily affairs of Shia. Jawad himself would contact his followers via letters, which was answers to his followers' questions concerning Islamic law (Feqh), which was mostly about marriage, divorce and inheritance.[6]

Uthman ibn Sa'id al-Asadi, Al-Fadl ibn Shadhan, Zakariya ibn Adam, Abd al-Azim al-Hasani, Ahamad ibn Muhammad al-Barqi,[c] Safwan ibn Yahya, Ali ibn Mahziar Ahvazi were among his companions.


Umm Fadl, the daughter of Al-Ma'mun, was the first wife of al-Jawad, from whom al-Jawad had no child. Samaneh, originally from Maghreb, was a slave girl who was the mother of al-Jawad's children.[21] She fasted and prayed a lot. In a hadith, Ali al-Hadi mentioned his mother as a true knower of his rights and a dweller in paradise. Samaneh has been mentioned among women who transmitted hadith. All the children of Muhammad al-Jawad were born from Samaneh. He had two sons from Samaneh, Ali al-Hadi and Musa, known as Mobarrgha. Also two daughter, according to some sources, and four daughters, according to some others.[6]

The daughters of al-Jawad have been named differently by different historians. According to Ibn Sabbaq, the Sunni scholar, they were Fatemeh and Imamah. As recorded in Dalael al-Imamah, they were Khadija, Hakimah and Umm Kulthum. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi adds two other names, Bahjat and Bariha, saying that they left no progeny.[21]

Appearance and morality[edit]

Some sources[d] describe Muhammad al-Jawad as white faced with a moderate stature. Some others[e] say he was dark-skinned.[22] According to Madelung, Jawad's black-skinned appearance, was among the reasons why Abbasids objected his marriage to al-Ma'mun's daughter, Umm al-Fadl.[8] The figure on his ring, which also been used as his seal was "Glory is to Allah".[23]

As a young child, Muhammad al-Jawad earned the name al-Jawad ("the generous"). When his father was away, people gathered by al-Jawad's door in hopes of gaining help. Al-Jawad's caregivers had him leave his house only through another exit to avoid them. Upon hearing this, his father wrote a letter to advising his son not to listen to those who told him not to use the house's main gate. He wrote that the other advice came from stinginess and a fear that someone else might receive goodness (alms) from al-Jawad. Al-Ridha wrote: "Whenever you want to go out, keep some gold and silver with you. No one should ask you for anything without your giving it to him. If one of your uncles asks you to be pious to him, do not give him less than fifty dinars and you may give him more if you want. If one of your aunts asks you, do not give her less than twenty-five dinars and you may give her more if you want...."[24]

Knowledge and narrations[edit]

During his eight years in Baghdad, al-Jawad engaged himself in teaching, some of his sayings was recorded by Ibn Khallikan.[25]


According to beliefs, Yahya ibn Aktham, the Chief Justice of the Abbasid Empire, was present at al-Ma'mun's assembly and wanted to try al-Jawad in al-Ma'mun's presence. He did so by asking a question concerning atonement for a person who hunts game while dressed in pilgrimage garb (Ihram). In response, al-Jawad asked first "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 on purpose or by mistake, was the hunter a slave or a free man, was he an adult or a 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 Umrah?..." This apparently astonished the Abbasid who were critical of al-Ma'mun's decision.[26]


Majlesi and Ḥarrāni recorded him as an author of mawāʿeẓ wa ḥekam, a kind of pithy religio-ethical sayings.[6]

Al-Jawad's correspondence with his followers also been gathered in different Shia books. These letters were sent to different people, among them 63 are known. Al-Jawad also narrated plenty of Hadiths in different subjects of Fiqh, most of which were reported from Muhammad and previous Imams.[21]

Some of al-Jawad's aphorism also been gathered in different sources such as Tuhaf al-Uqul and al-Fususo al-Mohemmah.[27]


Sunni view[edit]

According to Al-Dhahabi, al-Jawad was one of the chiefs of the family of prophet.[f][7] Ibn Taymiyyah and Al-Safadi describes him as one of the notable of Hashemites who was famous for his generosity.[g][7] According to Madelung, Abbasids' opposition to Jawad's Marriage was mostly steamed from the fact that they were worried from Ma'mun's pro-Alid policies.[8] Sibt ibn al-Jawzi says al-Jawad "followed the footsteps of his father in knowledge, piety and generosity."[h][7]

Shia view[edit]

As it recorded in Bihar al-Anwar, ali al-Ridah would address his son as abu Ja'far, out of respect. Al-Jawad been also praised for his fluent letters.[28] It is also narrated that in one occasion, ali ibn Ja'far, the prominent jurisprudent, was sitting with his companions when al-Jawad, who was very young at the time, came to Mosque. Ali ibn Ja'far jumped in his feet and kissed his hand. Al-jawad asked him to site but he wouldn't while al-Jawad was standing. Afterwards he was scolded by his companions who did not expect him to glorify a child. They said "you are the uncle of his father, so why did you act in that way with him?" He answered "keep silent! It is Allah Who has not qualified this beard (he caught his beard with his hand) for the Imamate and has qualified this young man and placed him in that position according to His will. We seek the protection of Allah from what you say."[i][29]


Al-Jawad miracle recorded the same nature as the other Imams, such as causing a tree to bear fruit,[j] predicting that a particular slave girl would bear a man a son, or make a cow alive for an old woman, or making his cane testify he is the true Imam, after Yahya ibn Aktham asked him for a proof.[16]

Al-Ma'mun's first meeting with al-Jawad was coincidental. According to this account, al-Ma'mun was hunting when he happened upon a group of boys including al-Jawad, who were playing. When al-Ma'mun's horsemen approached, the boys ran away, except al-Jawad. This prompted al-Ma'mun to stop his carriage and ask, "Boy, what kept you from running away with the others?" Al-Jawad replied, "The road was not so narrow that I should fear there would not be room for you to pass and I have not been guilty of any offence that I should be afraid and I considered that you were the sort of man who would not injure one who had done no wrong." Shia traditions say that the Caliph was delighted and after he traveling a short distance, one of his hunting birds brought him a small fish. Al-Ma'mun hid the fish in his fist, returned and asked al-Jawad: "What have I in my hand?" Al-Jawad responded: "The creator of living things has created in the sea a small fish that is fished by the falcons of the kings and caliphs to try with it the progeny of al-Mustafa.[13][14] Shia tradition says that Al-Ma'mun was pleased with this answer and asked the child about his lineage. Soon after, the Caliph called a large gathering, during which al-Jawad was asked many questions and astonished everyone with his judgment and learning. After this, al-Ma'mun formally gave al-Jawad his daughter in marriage.[13]


  1. ^ See Tareekh al-Islam, 8 p.158.
  2. ^ Quran, 5:110
  3. ^ Shiekh al-Toosi and al-Najashi have mentioned more than a hundred books for him. Also more than 800 traditions, narrated through him.[20]
  4. ^ Noor al-Absaar, p.146, al-Fusul al-Muhimmah by ibn al-Sabbagh, p.252.
  5. ^ See Al-Makassib, chap. Of al-Qiyafa.
  6. ^ See Tareekh al-Islam, 8 p.158.
  7. ^ See Minhaj as-Sunna, vol.2 p.127. See also Al-Wafi bil-Wafiyyat, vol.4 p.105.
  8. ^ See Tathkirat al-Khawass, p.321.
  9. ^ See Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 12 p.117, Usool al-Kafi, vol. 1 p.380.
  10. ^ See Al-Irshad, p.364, Akhbar ad-Duwal, p.116, Wassa’il ash-Shia, vol.4 p.1059.

See also[edit]



  • Tabatabaei, Sayyid Mohammad Hosayn (1975). Shi'ite Islam. Translated by Sayyid Hossein Nasr. State University of New York Press. p. 183. ISBN 0-87395-390-8.
  • Medoff, Louis (2016). MOḤAMMAD AL-JAWĀD, ABU JAʿFAR. Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Madelung, Wilferd (1993). BOSWORTH, C.E. (ed.). MUHAMMAD B. ALI AL-RIDA (PDF). LEIDEN — NEW YORK: Brill.
  • Sharif al-Qarashi, Bāqir (2005). The Life of Imam Muhammad Al-Jawad. Translated by Abdullah al-Shahin. Qum: Ansariyan Publications1. ISBN 978-964-438-653-4.
  • Donaldson, Dwight M. (1933). The Shi'ite Religion: A History of Islam in Persia and Iraḳ. AMS Press.
  • باغستانی, اسماعیل (1386). جواد، امام (in Persian). تهران: مرکز دایره المعارف بزرگ اسلامی. pp. 241–249.
  • جعفریان, رسول (1387). حیات فکری و سیاسی امامان شیعه (in Persian). قم: انصاریان.
  • Shabbar, S.M.R. (1997). Story of the Holy Ka’aba. Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  • Ahlulbayt Organization (2014). A Brief History of the Fourteen Infallibles. Ansariyan Publications.
Muhammad al-Jawad
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Clan of the Banu Quraish
Born: 10th Rajab 195 AH 12 April 811 CE Died: 30th Dhul Qi‘dah 220 AH 29 November 835 CE
Shia Islam titles
Preceded by
Ali al-Ridha
9th Imam of Twelver Shi'a Islam
Succeeded by
Ali al-Hadi