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Wisdom from Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (d. 835)

Muhammad b. ‘Alī al-Jawād al-Husaynī (d. 835), considered the ninth Imām by the Twelver Shi’i tradition, was a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and was one of the most important Alid figures during his time. His mother, al-Khayzaran (also known as Sabika), was of Nubian or East African origin and was an important figure in her own right, with many Muslims considering her among the most virtuous and knowledgeable women of her era. Muhammad al-Jawād undertook the responsibility of the Imamate while only 8 years old and died at the young age of 25. Although he lived in turbulent times and despite his youth, he played an important role—religiously and intellectually—as the leader of the Husaynid Shi‘i community. In addition to being revered as the Imām of the Age by Twelver Shi’is, he is also highly respected and revered by Sunnis as a religious scholar and one of the most prominent leaders of the Ahl al-Bayt in his time. He died in 835—possibly poisoned on the orders of the Abbasid caliph—and was buried in Baghdad next to his grandfather Mūsa al-Kāẓim (d. 799), where his shrine remains an important place of visitation for the faithful. Among the many pieces of wisdom that have been ascribed to him is the following:

“Modesty is the ornament of poverty, thanksgiving is the ornament of affluence and wealth. Patience and endurance are the ornaments of calamities and distress. Humility is the ornament of lineage, and eloquence is the ornament of speech. Committing to memory is the ornament of [hadith] narration, and bowing the shoulders is the ornament of knowledge. Decency and good morale is the ornament of the intellect, and a smiling face is the ornament of munificence and generosity. Not boasting of doing favors is the ornament of good deeds, and humility is the ornament of service. Spending less is the ornament of contentment, and abandoning the meaningless and unnecessary things is the ornament of abstention and fear of God.”

العفاف زينة الفقر، والشكر زينة الغنى، والصّبر زينة البلاء والتواضع زينة الحسب، والفصاحة زينة الكلام، والحفظ زينة الرواية، وخفض الجناح زينة العلم، وحسن الأدب زينة العقل، وبسط الوجه زينة الكرم، وترك المنّ زينة المعروف، والخشوع زينة الصلاة، وترك ما لا يعني زينة الورع

[Narrated in Kashf al-Ghummah fī Ma‘rifat al-A’immah (Volume 3, p. 139 in the Beirut 1985 edition) by Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī b. ‘Isa al-Irbilī (d. 692/1293) and al-Fuṣūl al-Muhimmah fī Ma‘rifat al-A’immah (p. 261 in the 1988 Beirut edition) by Nūr al-Dīn ‘Alī b. Muḥammad (d. 885/1451), known as Ibn al-Sabbāgh]

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ImageFor further reading on this fascinating figure:

Shaykh al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad: The Book of Guidance into the Lives of the Twelve Imams (2007)

Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi, The Life of Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (2001), which can be read here: http://maaref-foundation.com/english/library/pro_ahl/imam09_jawad/the_life_of_imam_jawad/index.htm


2 Comments

  1. uthmanibnsabeel says:

    My Arabic is not perfect, but shouldn’t the line on lineage read والتواضع زينة النسب?

    • ballandalus says:

      I initially thought so as well, but the way that it is used in this context suggests that ” الحسب” should be understood to mean “nobility in lineage” or “noble ancestry”. During the Abbasid era, the concepts of “الحسب و النسب” were usually grouped together with “nasab” referring to the more mundane and biological dimensions of lineage and “hasab” having the connotations of the righteous conduct and nobility connected with that lineage.

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