Imam Mohammad Taqi (A.S.), the ninth Imam and son of Imam Rida (A.S.), was
appointed to Imamate at age of seven. As Imam Mohammad Taqi (A.S.), also
referred to as Imam Jawad and Abu Ja'far, was the first Imam to be appointed to
Imamate at such a young age, many may question its possibility and reliability.
This selection will seek to answer the following questions:
Is it really possible a young boy could have reached perfection and thus become
successor of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh &hh)?
Have similar cases occurred to previous communities? Was this incident sudden
and unordinary for the society of the time?
1. In general, based on human nature, to blossom in intellect and body, and to
express abilities in thought and spirit; passage of time is essential. Allah (SWT)
as one who created rules and regulations of nature is more powerful than to be
limited to the regulations themselves. In other words, Allah (SWT) can easily
change the normal regulations in life cycles of His selected servants. This case
holds true in regards to prophets and Imams who as the Holy Quran recalls have
been chosen by Allah (SWT).
﴾Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family
of 'Imran above all people.﴿
(The Holy Quran, 3:33)
The Quranic references are proof of the prophets' God given gifted
characteristics, which are apart from materialistic tools and reasons. The
characteristics prove that prophets had the necessary liabilities and
qualifications for this position.
2. The Holy Quran informs us about previous generations who experienced young
prophets, like in the example of Prophet Yahya (John) (A.S.),
﴾O Yahya! take hold of the Book with strength, and We granted him
wisdom while yet a child.(19:12)﴿
The Holy Quran also brings examples from the birth of Prophet Isa (Jesus) (A.S.)
who defended his mother from the accusations and blasphemy of his community. For
a normal human being it would take at least twelve months past his birth to
begin saying his first words. What Prophet Isa (A.S.) said (refer to 19:30-32)
at birth sounded like intellectual words a wise elderly man might have said.
Imam Rida (A.S.), father of Imam Jawad (A.S.), was aware of this fact and thus
prepared the grounds by informing Muslims, especially Shiites and devotees about
the concept of Imamate at a young age. A follower of Imam Rida (A.S.) narrates:
In the city of Khurasan we were present in a gathering with Imam Rida (A.S.).
One of us asked, "O Master, if something occurred to you who should we refer
"To my son Abu Ja'far," replied the Imam.
The reply of the Imam was not satisfactory for the man as he felt Imam Jawad (A.S.)
was too young. Imam Rida (A.S.) thus said,
"Allah (SWT) appointed Isa ibn Maryam to Prophethood and gave him new
teachings at an even younger age than Abu Ja'far."
Although the preaching of Imam Rida (A.S.) explained the possibilities of a
divine position at a young age and prepared the grounds for the next Imam, yet
because people were unaware of the teachings of previous Imams (A.S.), they
questioned the authenticity. To find the truth, learned men and scholars held
gatherings and meetings with Imam Jawad (A.S.). Imam Jawad (A.S.) firmly
answered their questions and convinced them with his answers. It should be noted
that the detailed answers Imams (A.S.) would give to questions of the community
about the belief and thought was a routine task in their life. Likewise the
question/answer sessions of the Shiite society and the movement of Imam Jawad (A.S.)
in clarifying doubts do not seem out of the ordinary.
* Selection taken from "The Face of the Leaders", by Mahdi
1- al-Anwar, 2nd
Edition, Tehran: Maktaba al-Islamiyyah, 1395 AH vol. 50, p. 98-100; Mohammad ibn
Jarir Tabari, Ibn Rustam, Reasons of Imamate, 3rd Edition, Qum, Manshoorat al-Razi,
1363 AH, pp. 204-206.