Among the theological (1) topics related to divine leadership (Imamate) is the question, how is it possible for a person to become an Imam during his childhood. The question became widely debated and discussed in scientific gatherings after Imam Jawad (PBUH) was appointed an Imam at the age of eight in the year 203 A.H, and Imam Hadi (PBUH) at the age of eight and years later Imam Mahdi (PBUH) at the age of five.
Among the narrations about Imam Jawad (PBUH), it has been recorded that when Imam Reza (PBUH) chose his son as his successor from divine inspiration, he insisted to do so long before the appointed date. And in response to questions posed by his companions about the young age of Imam Jawad (PBUH) , Imam Reza (PBUH) would bring the example of Prophet Isa’s/Jesus’ (PBUH) appointment to Prophet hood during his infanthood, and note how the age was even younger than that of his son.(2)
The concept of the reasoning of Imam Reza (PBUH) refers to the holy verse of the Quran about the appointment of Prophet Isa/Jesus (PBUH): “But she pointed to the babe. They said: ‘How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?’ He (Jesus) said: ‘Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet.”(3)
Historic accounts show that despite his young age, Imam Jawad (PBUH) was fully capable of carrying out his responsibilities as an Imam as he was fully able to respond to scientific and jurisprudence problems of the people due to the divine appointment to the position of Imamate. But it wasn’t only the Shiites who came to understand this matter, but even the Imam’s foes came to learn this matter through interactions and debates they had with the Imam. One of such debates has been noted as follows:
Once, during a disagreement between Ma’mun the Abbasid Caliph (4) and his companions about the knowledge of Imam Jawad (PBUH), Ma’mun addressed his companions saying, “I know this young boy more than you. He comes from a family whose knowledge is divine (5), and comes from divine inspiration. Their fathers have been needless from the norm in obtaining knowledge and ethics. To better understand, feel free to test him when you want.”
Thus one of the companions of Ma’mun, Yahya ibn Aktham who was the most famous scholar in jurisprudence was chosen to debate with the Imam. In the debate session, and with the presence of Ma’mun, Yahya asked the Imam a question. The Imam posed ten assumptions which the answer of Yahya was dependent upon them. Yahya was awestricken and with a pale face his companions understood his failure. Then Imam answered the question of Yahya in each of the assumptions. (6)
After that Imam Jawad (PBUH) asked Yahya a question. Yahya who had failed to answer the Imam’s question asked the Imam to clarify the matter himself. In the end of the session, Ma’mun said, “Woe unto you! The Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) have been assigned virtue and greatness among all people and the age does not prevent them from greatness…”(7)
From what has been said, we can understand that the position of Imamate of the infallible Imams (PBUT) is a blessing from Allah (SWT), and cannot be obtained. Thus the age of the Imam does not have any conflict with this position. A clear example can be seen in the case of Imam Jawad (PBUH).
(The above is a selection from the book, “The Political and Intellectual Life of Shiite Imams (Peace be Upon Them)” by Rasul Ja’farian, with minor changes)
Roshd Website congratulates all Muslims, especially you dear friend on the 10th of Rajab, the birth anniversary of the light and deputy of Allah (SWT) in the darkness of earth, the ninth Imam of Shiites, Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al-Jawad (PBUH)
1-Theology (aka KALAM) is a subject of study which covers the religious beliefs and principals; through the use of different approaches for reasoning, theology addresses conflicts and questions.
2-Safvan Bin Yahya narrated: “I asked Imam Reza (PBUH): Before Allah (SWT) granted you Jawad, when we inquired about your succession, you always said: Allah (SWT) will grant me a son. Now that He has granted you a son and we are honored to have visited him, should anything happen to you, who should we follow? Imam Reza (PBUH) pointed to his son, Jawad, who was standing in front of him. I asked him the Imam: My master, this is only a three year old child. Imam Reza (PUBH) replied: Why would it be a problem? Jesus (PBUH) was much younger than three when he was chosen by Allah (SWT) to rise for the truth.” (Usool Kafi, vol. 1, pg. 321)
3-The Holy Quran (19:20-30)
4-Ma’moon was an oppressive Abbasid Caliph who ordered the martyrdom of both Imam Reza (PBUH) and Imam Jawad (PBUH) during his reign
5-Divine knowledge is the God given knowledge that is granted only to Prophets and Infallibles to proof their prophet hood and imamate.
6-Yahya asked: “What do you think about one hunts an animal while in IHRAM (obligated in Hajj rituals)?” Imam (PBUH) asked: “Where did he perform the hunt, inside or outside of the Haram area? Was he aware of what he did or not? Did he do it on purpose? Was he a free man or a slave? Mature or young? Was it his first hunt or more? Was the pray a bird or not? If so was it a large bird or small? Is the hunter regretting it now or not? Was he obligated for the Hajj or Umrah?”
7-al-Ihtejaj, vol. 2, pg. 443; al-Irshad, vol. 2, pg. 281; Tohful al-Oghool, pg. 451