Name: Muhammad bin â€˜Ali.
Agnomen: Abu Jaâ€˜far; Ibnu â€™r-Rida.
Title: At-Taqi; al-JawÃ¢d.
Father: â€˜Ali ar-Ridha.
Mother: Sabika, also known as KhayzarÃ¢n.
Birth: 10th Rajab, 195 AH in Medina.
Death: 29th Dhu â€™l-Qaâ€˜dah, 220 AH in Kazimayn.
1. Birth & Imamate in Childhood
Imam Muhammad at-Taqi was born in 195/809 in Medina. The news of his birth caused extraordinary joy among the Shiâ€˜as of that time. Imam ar-Ridha was childless till the age of forty, and some Shiâ€˜as were concerned about the continuation of imamate: who would succeed Imam ar-Ridha? So the birth of the ninth Imam brought about a mood of festivity among the Shiâ€˜as of Ahlul Bayt.
Imam â€˜Ali ar-Ridha died in 203 A.H.; and Muhammad at-Taqi became the Imam at the age of eight. The age of the Imam caused a concern in the minds of some elder members of the Shiâ€˜a community because no Imam had reached the position of imamate at this young age. Muâ€˜alla bin Muhammad narrates that after the death of Imam ar-Ridha, he saw Imam at-Taqi and closely observed his physical size and age in order to report it to others. At that moment, Imam at-Taqi said, â€œO Muâ€˜alla, AllÃ¢h has argued about imamat just as he argued about nubuwwat when He said, â€˜And We gave prophethood to him [i.e., Yahya] when he was still a child.â€™â€
After the death of Imam ar-Ridha, a group of eighty scholars from Baghdad and other places came to Mecca for hajj. On the way, they stopped at Medina and met Imam at-Taqi. They were particularly interested in meeting the young Imam and wanted to satisfy themselves about his capabilities. The meeting went on for a long time with the visitors asking him questions and the Imam replying in a convincing and satisfying manner. All left fully convinced that he truly was the Imam appointed by AllÃ¢h, subhanahu wa taâ€˜ala, and endowed with knowledge.
Ishaq was one of the eighty persons in that meeting. He narrates his impression as follows: I had written ten questions in a letter for the Imam and had decided that if he answers my questions, then I will ask him to pray for me that the child that my wife is carrying be a male child. The meeting, however, went on for a long time so I decided to present my letter to him the next day. But as I was about to leave, the Imam called me and said, â€œO Ishaq! AllÃ¢h has accepted my prayer; therefore, name your son â€˜Ahmadâ€™.â€ The answer to his prayer without even stating it to the Imam fully convinced Ishaq that Muhammad at-Taqi, inspite of his young age, was the Imam!
2. Maâ€™mÃ»n & Imam at-Taqi (a.s.)
Caliph Maâ€™mun ar-Rashid, in pursuing the same policies as mentioned in the previous lesson, asked that Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.) be brought from Medina to Baghdad. This journey took place in 204 A.H., a year after the death of the eighth Imam.
When Maâ€™mun met the young Imam, he was impressed with the latterâ€™s knowledge; and he proposed to marry his daughter Ummul Fazl to the Imam. When the elders of the â€˜Abbasid clan learned of this decision, they tried to change Maâ€™munâ€™s views: they reminded him of dangers in promoting the decendants of â€˜Ali, and the possible loss of power. Realizing that their words had no effect on Maâ€™mun, they finally said, â€œAlthough you are impressed by this child; but he is still a child. Wait till he grows up and gets educated, then you may marry your daughter to him.â€
Maâ€™mun: â€œWoe unto you! I know this child better than you; he comes from a family which is bestowed with knowledge by God. His ancestors were never in need of knowledge and character from others. If you wish, you may examine him.â€
The elders of the â€˜Abbasid agreed to examine him. They approached Yahya bin Aktham, the chief judge (qazi) of the â€˜Abbasid court, and asked him to prepare some difficult questions which the Imam would not be able to answer.
At an appointed time, the meeting between Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.) and Yahya bin Aktham took place in the presence of Maâ€™mun and the elders of the â€˜Abbasid clan.
After the formalities, Yahya asked: â€œWhat is your view about a person who hunts while he is in the ihram?â€ (Ihram means pilgrimâ€™s garment; a person in ihram is not allowed to hunt.)
Imam at-Taqi: â€œThis question has many facets:
â€œWas the person outside the boundary of the holy territory or inside?
â€œDid he know that it was forbidden to hunt while in ihrÃ¢m or he did not?
â€œDid he do it intentionally or was it an accident?
â€œWas he a free man or a slave?
â€œWas he minor or an adult?
â€œWas this his first hunting in the state of ihrÃ¢m or a second time?
â€œWas the hunted creature a bird or something else?
â€œWas it big or small?
â€œWas the person sorry that he committed the offence or was he careless about such issues?
â€œWas it in the night or during the day?
â€œWas he in the state of ihrÃ¢m for the minor pilgrimage or for the major pilgrimage?â€
Yahya bin Aktham was dumbfounded by this thorough analysis of the question by the ten year old Imam Muhammad at-Taqi! He could not even utter a word, and the audience clearly saw the signs of defeat on his face!
Maâ€™mun broke the silence by saying, â€œPraise be to AllÃ¢h who proved me right in my estimation of this young man.â€ Then he faced the elders of the â€˜AbbÃ¢sids and rebuked them: â€œNow do you realize what I was saying?â€ Then he proposed the marriage of his daughter to the Imam, and the Imam accepted it. The young Imam also recited the khutba (sermon) before the actual marriage which has become a common khutba in the Shiâ€˜a marriage ceremonies. The khutba is as follows: â€œAll praise is due to AllÃ¢h, in recognition of His blessings. [I declare that] there is no god but AllÃ¢h, in sincere belief in His oneness. And may AllÃ¢h send His blessings upon Muhammad, the leader of His creatures, and upon the chosen one of his family.
â€œIt is AllÃ¢hâ€™s grace upon the people that He has made them free from the forbidden [means of fulfilling sexual urge] by the permissible [institution of marriage]. He, the Exalted, said: â€˜And marry the single among you (those who are good ones from among your slaves and maids)â€”if they are poor, AllÃ¢h will make them free from need from His grace; AllÃ¢h, indeed, is Generous, All-Knowing.â€™â€
After the marriage ceremony, when only a few people had remained in the gathering, Maâ€™mun requested the Imam to provide the answer for the various situations that he had derived from Yahyaâ€™s single question. The holy Imam gave a detailed answer to all those situations.
Then Maâ€™mun proposed that now the Imam should ask a question to Yahya bin Aktham. The latter replied, â€œIf I know the answer, I will reply; otherwise, I will learn from you.â€
Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.) asked: â€œCan you describe the situation in which a man looked at a woman at dawn while it was forbidden (harÃ¢m) for him to do so; but then at sunrise, it was permissible (halÃ¢l) for him to look at her? Then at noon hour, it became harÃ¢m for him to look at that woman; but in the afternoon, it became permissible for him to look at her? Then at sunset, it became harÃ¢m for him to look at that woman; but at night, it became halÃ¢l for him to look at her? Then at midnight, it became harÃ¢m for him to look at her; but at dawn, it became halÃ¢l for him to do so?â€
Yahya bin Aktham said, â€œBy AllÃ¢h! I do not know the answer to this question. We would, however, benefit from your answer.â€
The Imam explained the answer as follows: â€œAt dawn, the woman was the slave of someone else; however, by sunrise, the man had already bought her for himself and so it became halÃ¢l for him to look at her.
â€œAt noon, he made her free, and so she became harÃ¢m for him; but by afternoon, he had married her, so she became halÃ¢l for him.
â€œAt sunset, he did zihÃ¢r by which oneâ€™s wife becomes harÃ¢m for a person; but by night time he paid the penalty for zihar, and so she became halÃ¢l for him again.
â€œAt midnight, he divorced her; but by next morning, he revoked his divorce, and so she became halÃ¢l for him.â€
Thus the ten year old Imam, from the descendants of â€˜Ali and FÃ¢timah, proved to the caliph and his entourage that God had endowed them with the knowledge to guide the Muslim ummah as the Prophet had truly said, â€œDo not try to teach them, because they are not in need of your teaching.â€
* * *
One must remember that Maâ€™mun was a very shrewd politician. This marriage between his daughter and Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.) should not be taken as proof that he was a Shiâ€˜a. As mentioned in the previous lesson, these actions were all politically motivated by Maâ€™mun to calm the opposition of the Shiâ€˜a masses. Other motives for the marriage can be described as follows: By having his daughter as Imamâ€™s wife, Maâ€™mun was guaranteed a continuous flow of information about the Imamâ€™s activities.
By becoming the son-in-law of Maâ€™mun at this young age, the caliph hoped that the personality of the Imam would be tarnished with worldly luxuries and entertainment of the establishment, and thus lose the respect in the eyes of his Shiâ€˜as.
By this marriage, prove to the Shiâ€˜a masses that he respects the Ahlul Bayt, and thus neutralize their opposition to his rule.
Maâ€™mun was hoping that if Imam at-Taqi gets a child through his daughter, he can claim to be the grandfather of a child from the descendants of Imam â€˜Ali and Fatimah (a.s.). But AllÃ¢h, subhÃ¢nahu wa taâ€˜Ã¢la, did not fulfill this hope because none of the children of the Imam were born from Maâ€™munâ€™s daughter!
Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.) did not stay for long in Baghdad. He insisted on returning to Medina with his wife, the daughter of Maâ€™mun. His return to Medina where he stayed till the year 220 A.H. foiled the plans of Maâ€™mun ar-Rashid.
3. Muâ€˜tasimâ€™s Rule
Maâ€™mun ar-Rashid died in the year 218 A.H. He was succeeded by his brother, Muâ€˜tasim billah. In the year 220, Muâ€˜tasim ordered that Imam Muhammad at-Taqi be brought from Medina to Baghdad.
One day a person came to the court of Muâ€˜tasim and confessed that he had committed theft and would like to be punished so that he could be free from the guilt and punishment in the hereafter. The Qurâ€™an says that the punishment for theft (with some conditions) is cutting off the thiefâ€™s yad. Yad means: hand, forearm and elbow. So the caliph called all the prominent religious scholars, including Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.), and asked: â€œFrom where should the yad of the thief be cut?â€ (The Qurâ€™an is asking for the definition of â€œyadâ€.)
Ibn Abi Daâ€™ud, the chief judge, said, â€œFrom the wrist.â€
Muâ€˜tasim: â€œWhat is your proof for that?â€
Ibn Abi Daâ€™ud: â€œThe word â€˜yadâ€™ has been used in the verse of tayammum â€”so wipe your faces and your hands(5:5)â€” for the hand.â€
Some scholars agreed with Ibn Abi Daâ€™ud but others disagreed and said: â€œCut the thiefâ€™s yad from the elbow.â€
Muâ€˜tasim: â€œWhat is your proof?â€
The scholars: â€œThe word â€˜yadâ€™ has been used in the verse of wudhu â€”wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows (5:5)â€” for the fore-arm.â€
Then Muâ€˜tasim turned towards Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.) and asked his opinion. The Imam first declined to give his view because he was aware of the courtâ€™s politics. But when Muâ€˜tasim insisted, the Imam finally said, â€œAll these gentlemen are mistaken because only the [four] fingers have to be cut.â€
Muâ€˜tasim: â€œWhat is your proof?â€
The Imam (a.s.): â€œThe Prophet (s.a.w.) has said that sajdah is done on seven parts of the body: forehead, palms, knees and two big toes [of the feet]. If a thiefâ€™s hand or forearm is cut, then it would not be possible for him to do the sajdah whereas AllÃ¢h has said, â€˜And verily the masÃ¢jid [the body parts on which sajdah is done] belong to AllÃ¢h…;â€™ and what belongs to AllÃ¢h should not be cut.â€
The caliph liked the answer of the Imam and ordered that the four fingers of the thief be cut.
This extraordinary event, in the publicâ€™s view at Muâ€˜tasimâ€™s court, proved the superiority of the Imams of Ahlu â€™l-Bayt. It, however, also created an extreme feeling of jealousy and hatred in the heart of Ibn Abi Daâ€™ud.
On finding an appropriate moment, Ibn Abi Daâ€™ud cautioned the caliph against inadvertantly promoting Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.) by publicly following his view and rejecting those of the other scholars. He filled the caliphâ€™s ears to the extent that the caliph started looking at the Imam as a threat to his own caliphate.
During the last days of Dhul Qaâ€˜dah 220 A.H., the Imam was poisoned by his wife, the niece of Muâ€˜tasim, and he died as a martyr. His body was buried next to his grandfatherâ€™s grave in the Qurayshi cemetary in Baghdad which is now known as KÃ¢dhimayn.
Name: Muhammad bin â€˜Ali.