How did the Shi’ahs accept the Imamate of Imam al-Jawad at a young age?
In spite of all that was mentioned in regards to fulfillment of the imamate in one’s youth, still the issue of Imam al-Jawad’s age was not yet fully resolved. Not only was it not yet resolved for many of the ordinary Shi’ahs, but it was also debated and discussed by some of the Madinah and notables as well.
In spite of all that was mentioned in regards to fulfillment of the imamate in one’s youth, still the issue of Imam al-Jawad’s age was not yet fully resolved. Not only was it not yet resolved for many of the ordinary Shi’ahs, but it was also debated and discussed by some of the Madinah and notables as well. Therefore, after the martyrdom of Imam al-Ridha, and the initiation of Imam al-Jawad’s Imamate, the issue of his age manifested itself as a big and unprecedented problem amongst the Shi’ahs (in particular amongst the masses).
Ibn Rustam Tabari, one of the Madinah from the fourth century Hijri, has written: When his age (referring to Imam al-Jawad) reached 6 years and some months, Ma’mun murdered his father and the Shi’ahs went in to a state of confusion and differences of opinion appeared amongst them. The people considered Abu Ja’far’s age as being too little and the Shi’ahs in other cities were also in a confused state.
In order to alleviate this situation, the Shi’ahs organized meetings and gatherings with Imam al-Jawad in order to test him and thereby obtain certainty that he possessed the knowledge of the Imams. In these assemblies, they went ahead and asked the Imam various questions and when they heard definitive and clear answers, they became assured of his Imamate and gained certainty in the matter.
Historians have written the following on this matter: Since Imam al-Ridha passed away in the year 202 (Hijri), the age of Abu Ja’far was close to seven years of age; subsequently in Baghdad and the rest of the cities, differences of opinion came about amongst the people. Rayyan ibn Salt, Safwan ibn YaHya, Muhammad ibn Hakim, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hajjaj, and Yunus ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman, along with a group of the notables and trustworthy individuals of the Shi’ah, gathered in the house of ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hajjaj, which was in one of the neighborhoods of Baghdad by the name of Barakah Zalzal. When they had gathered there, they began to cry and weep out of sorrow for the Imam… Yunus said to them: Leave this crying and weeping, we must see who is capable of the responsibility of the Imamate. And until this child (Abu Ja’far) is grown, who must we ask about our affairs?
At this point, Rayyan ibn Salt stood up, squeezed Yunus’ throat, and began to hit him on the face, while angrily saying: In front of us, your manifest pretensions of faith, while you have hidden your doubt and hypocrisy? If his imamate is from God, then even if he is a one-day old child, he will be like an old man of a hundred years. And if he is not from God, then even if he is one hundred years old, he will like be an ordinary individual. It is worthy that this matter be deliberated upon. At this point, the other participants in the gathering began to reprimand Yunus (for what he had said).
At that time, the season of the Hajj pilgrimage was nearing and seventy individuals from the jurisprudents and Madinah of Baghdad and other cities departed for the Hajj. They headed towards the city of Madinah with the intention of seeing Abu Ja’far. When they arrived in Madinah, they went to the house of Imam al-Sadiq (which was empty) and sat on a large carpet there. At this time, ‘Abdullah ibn Musa, the uncle of Imam al-Jawad entered the house and sat at the foremost section of the gathering. One man stood up and said: “This is the son of the Messenger of God, whoever has any questions should ask him.” A few of the individuals present posed various questions and ‘Abdullah ibn Musa gave them incorrect responses. The Shi’ahs became perplexed and saddened, while the jurisprudents became upset and stood up, intending to leave. They said: “If Abu Ja’far was able to answer our questions, then ‘Abdullah would not have come here and he would not have given these incorrect answers!”
At this point, a door in front of the gathering opened and a servant by the name of Muwaffaq entered, and said: Abu Ja’far is coming. Everyone stood up and welcomed him. The Imam entered the room, sat down, and all the people became silent. Then the people began to ask their questions from the Imam. They all heard definitive and clear answers to their questions and so they became immensely relieved and joyful. They prayed for the Imam and said: “Your uncle, ‘Abdullah, gave such and such religious rulings.” The Imam said: “Uncle, it is heavy in the eyes of God that tomorrow you will stand in front of him and it will be said to you: Even though there existed in the Ummah (religious community) one more knowledgeable (than you), why did you give them religious rulings without knowledge.”
Ishaq ibn Isma’il, who was with this group during that year, has said: “I had written down ten questions in a letter, in order to ask the Imam. At that time, my wife was pregnant. I said to myself: ‘If he answers my questions, I will request that he prays for me, so that God will give me a son.’ When the people began to ask their questions, I also took my letter and stood up, in order that I could ask my questions. As soon as he saw me, the Imam said: ‘Oh Ishaq, give him the name of Ahmad! After this incident, my wife gave birth to a boy and I named him Ahmad.’”
These meetings, discussions, and debates caused the Shi’ahs to gain full certainty in the Imamate of Imam al-Jawad All the doubts and questions which had previously existed were dispelled and the people were put at complete ease.