Imam Muhammad al Jawwaad and Ali al Hadi and Imamah
The doctrine of Imamah in the first two centuries was still subject to much criticism and debate in the Shi’i world, accepted only by a small minority of the Ummah, they could not come to an agreement even on the fundamental aspects — such as the candidates — or even the nature of their appointment and office. This disagreement further polarized, to such an extent that this already splintered group further fragmented, drastically, with confirmation bias overpowering the faculties of each sect or faction, deterring them from any form of lucid deliberation, and instead inciting them to obstinate adherence. A known symptom of confirmation bias is illusory correlation — whereby the afflicted has the tendency to see non-existent correlations in sets of data, a distinctive feature of the Shia. So infatuated are they by their preconceived notions that even what could undoubtedly be seen as divine intervention could not dissuade them from their deviant beliefs.
The doctrines of Bada — which suggests that Allah only learns of matters after they occur forcing Him to change His will— as well as Taqiyyah — used to discredit the open refutations of the Imams — are all products of their confirmation bias. While these concepts have provided the Shia with enough impetus to adhere to their beliefs, the year 203 A.H saw a situation arise which no one had envisaged or prepared for. Imam Ali al Rida —whose Imamah had barely been acknowledged — passed away leaving behind only one son.
Muhammad al Jawwaad— who was only a young child aged 7.
The doctrine of Imamah was already delicate and hanging by a thread, when this new state of affairs confounded the Shia world. The few devotees of al Rida were perplexed, and many returned to Waqf; deferring any judgement on the Imam after Imam al Kazim, and refused to recognize even al Rida.
Another group became known as the Qathi’iyyah. They recognized al Rida as the Imam but ended the line with him and refused to acknowledge anyone after him.
The diehards who were insistent on continuing the line of Imamah — despite its falsity being more evident now than ever before — differed with each other in stipulating the next Imam.
- Some turned to Ahmad ibn Moosa al Kazim, around whom the Zaidis also rallied. They carried on as if Muhammad al Jawwaad didn’t even exist.
- Others later rallied around Muhammad ibn Qasim ibn Umar ibn Zaynul Abidin when he revolted against the abbasid ruler Mu’tasim in 218 A.H.
The primary argument put forward by these two groups was that Allah states in the Noble Qur’an:
وَابْتَلُوا الْيَتَامَىٰ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ فَإِنْ آنَسْتُم مِّنْهُمْ رُشْدًا فَادْفَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَالَهُمْ
And test the orphans [in their abilities] until they reach marriageable age. Then if you perceive in them sound judgement, release their property to them. (Sūrah al-Nisā’: 6.)
When Allah has made it incumbent not to give a child his wealth, as is the case with all orphans, then it invalidates him being the Imam because the Imam is the leader in all religious and mundane issues. When he is considered unfit to have control of his own wealth how then can he be placed in charge over everyone else’s charities and Khums. When his verdicts and decisions are not given any consideration regarding his own health and wealth then how can he be considered the leader over all jurists, judges, rulers, and entire Ummah — whose edicts are considered binding upon them all?
- While the young age of al Jawwaad —his father leaving him at 4 to go to Ma’mun and then orphaned at 7 — resulted in many considering him unfit for the post of Imamah there were still those who maintained that he was the Imam. However it became very difficult and uncomfortable for them to deal with the problem of his age and knowledge.
And illusory correlation was displayed at its finest, with a number of theories emerging to justify the lie.
- the first was that the Imam gained knowledge from the books his father had left for him. Books not seen or read by anyone else.
- But since it was still difficult to accept that a 4 year old could master the intricate and delicate issues of Deen, others felt it better to give this knowledge a divine flavor. Thus they alledged that the Imam gained knowledge through inspiration, divine whisperings into his ears, true dreams, and even angels talking to him.
- Others dismissed any objections against his Imamah by comparing him to the Prophets Yahya and Isa ‘alayh al Salam, citing the Qura’nic verses concerning their prophethood as proof, as if these verses applied specifically to the Imams.
- Since these views contained gaping holes in its centre that would lead anyone with a sound disposition to disbelieve in Imamah altogether, a few sought to adopt a more cautious path. They said that he is the Imam and the affairs are in his hands only, but we have to wait for him to reach maturity and then he will attain knowledge. Not by some supernatural means but through his own efforts and study.
This view, however, leaves one with the nagging question:
What is the WHOLE WORLD supposed to do while we wait for the Imam to reach puberty?
The diverse theories on who is the Imam and how he attains knowledge indicates that there was no clear direction from the Imams themselves. All they had were a few notions posited by a few deviants in different areas of society — notions they eventually attributed to the illustrious Imams.
The Imami Shias were compelled to believe in the Imamah of al Jawwaad merely to save this doctrine from collapse. They were forced to build this doctrine on scattered narrations of miracles — reported by one or two individuals — the credibility of which remains a question to this present day.
These secret miracles, performed in isolation, with no credible witnesses, are like:
A legendary superhero…
With the amazing ability to turn invisible.
But only when no one is looking.
The deen of Islam — the last and final religion for mankind — cannot be based upon such flimsy superstitions.
As if this was not enough, divine intervention split the confused Shia yet again. As Imam al Jawwaad passed away at the age of 25 while his two sons, Ali and Moosa, were still little kids; the eldest not being even 7 years old!
Thus the same problem of tender age repeated itself in the period of Ali al Hadi. Muhammad al Jawwaad had left his wealth and belongings in the hands of Muhammad ibn Musawir, with the instruction to hand it over to him only when he attains maturity.
This led many of the Shia to ask:
If al Hadi was not able to manage his wealth, gardens, and expenditures due to his tender age, according to the view of his father, then who was the Imam at that time?
How can a small child be the Imam?
Yet more confusion arose as to which of the two — Ali or Moosa — was the Imam, if they were going to accept their Imamah.
Kulaini and Mufid narrate the perplexity of the Shia on this issue, and that the Shia met in the house of Muhammad al Faraj to discuss the issue.
This exposes the reality of Imamah and the true nature of their appointment. The Imams were appointed by the Shia and not by a divine decree from Allah.
Nevertheless after much debate, a man later came to them to inform them that al Jawwaad had told him SECRETLY that the Imam would be his son Ali al Hadi.
So it is this — this solitary questionable narration — upon which his Imamah rests, and upon which the Shia expect us to believe is our salvation.
However there were still those who believed that Moosa ibn Muhammad al Jawwaad was the Imam and held onto this believe until later — when he attained maturity — he belied them, dissociated from them and any person who claims to be the Imam.
Amidst the confusion, along comes Muhammad ibn Nusayr al Namiri and hijacks a portion of these followers. The founder of the Nusayriyyah — Muhammad ibn Nusayr — claimed to be a Prophet and that Ali al Hadi was Allah incarnate, along with a number of other claims —such as legitimizing incestuous relations and homosexuality, with which he attempted to distort the pristine teachings of Islam.
This was a tumultuous period in Shi’i history, lasting almost 50 years — 203 to 254 A,H —wherein the very foundations of their belief was shattered, leading them to even follow an imposter like Ibn Nusayr.
Imam al Jawwad remained Imam for 17 years, almost half of that period spent in juvenescence unable to guide the community, only to be succeeded by another immature Imam also unable to guide the community, which led to a steady decline in those who subscribed to this particular line.
The narrations reported by al Kulayni in al Kafi from these personalities; only 24 from al Jawwaad and 33 from al Hadi —who passed away only when Kulayni was four years old, gives us a fair assessment of the support these “child Imams” enjoyed as well as the legacy they left behind; especially when we consider that the same book reports 2448 narrations from al Sadiq, who had passed away more than a century before al Kulayni was born.
The Shia doctrine of Imamah thus comprises all the elements of wonder and mystery surpassing the imaginations of even the best fictional writers. But the story is yet to conclude as the greatest yarn ever, which would make even the devil himself blush, was about to be spun. The Man of the hour, the last hero, the final conqueror, the seal, the twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, was about to be born… but in the minds of the Shia only. An epic tale we could say is called The Never Ending Story.
 Firaqush Shia p. 72
 Ashari: ibid p-96 Mufid: al Fusul al Mukhtarah pp.112-113
 Nubakhti: Firaqush Shia, P-86-90 Ashari op.cit. p. 99
 Kulayni: Al Kafi, vol 1 p. 325
 ibid vol. 1 p, 324, Mufid: Al Irshad, p. 328
 Qummi: Maqalat wal firaq p. 99
 Firaqush Shia pg. 78Back to top