On the martyrdom anniversary of Imam al-Jawād (ʿa), we find the necessity of revisiting his various teachings in regards to ethics, religion, society, and politics to be greater than ever. Through utilizing the valuable explanations of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, we can gain a better understanding of the true Shia teachings. In spite of the importance of the teachings of Imam al-Jawād (ʿa), these teachings have been awfully neglected in the past and have not been given the attention which they deserve. In light of this negligence, it is more important than ever for the scholars and the historians to delve into this topic. It is very important that we take the teachings of Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) as a model for us to learn and implement. What follows is a review of some aspects of these teachings from the viewpoint of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī:
Close Adherence to the Quran: A Key Factor in Maintaining the Power and Potency of the Muslim Community
Without any doubt, the precise implementation of the divine teachings of the Quran within the Islamic society and refusing to suffice with only the outer aspects of Islam can be great source of potency and power within the greater Muslim community. From this perspective, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has explained an interesting tradition narrated from Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) so that we can better understand what effects a lack of attention and adherence to the Quran can have on the Muslim nation and how it will allow the enemies to dominate over them. Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) has been quoted as saying:
‘Allah deprives a nation from the knowledge of the Quran only when they themselves desert the Quran. Similarly, any nation which was dominated by its enemies was dominated when they themselves accepted the authority of their enemies. What is meant by ‘deserting the Quran’ is that such people would memorize its letters, words, and phrases but they would distort its limits and precepts. They would narrate the Quran but they would not abide by it. The ignorant would prefer the memorization of the Quran in order to narrate it and the scholars would become sorrowful because the Quran was not being abided by.’
The Distortion of the Imamate with the Pretext of the Outer Aspects of Islam
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated: ‘In light of this tradition, the reasons behind the backwardness of the Muslim community and it being subjugated is clearly evident. This tradition applies to the conditions and circumstances of our time very closely. We see today that in countries such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia, there is a lot of focus on the memorization of the words of the Quran; memorization is so highly prized that even small children are encouraged towards its memorization. This is while the precepts of this holy Book are not abided by. This state of affairs greatly saddens the true scholars and they are in a state of deep sorrow.
Things have gone to the point where they are not able to do much. This is something which took place after the concept of the Imamate was distorted after the demise of the Prophet (ṣ) and it has continued to the present time. When we examine the history after the demise of the Prophet (ṣ), we see clearly how the recitation of the Quran was encouraged, while its understanding and commentary was discouraged by those in power. We hope for a day when the Muslims will awaken to this issue and take steps to resolve it. We hope for a day when the people will take hold of the Quran and live by its principles in the way it was meant to be lived by. There is no doubt that the Quran constitutes a strong connection to Allah which, if practically abided by, can save us all.’[2,3,4]
The Blessing of Marriage: A Key Strategy in Combatting Various Kinds of Social Deviance
The prevalence of various kinds of social deviance has placed the ideal which we strive towards in our social lives at great risk. There are many problems which we are faced with in this regard. Through studying the various aspects of the life of Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) in regards to this field, we can be better able to create policies which will help resolve these issues, particularly those related to marriage and the establishment of a family. In light of this issue, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has endeavored to further explain the various practical ways in confronting these socially based dangers. From a practical perspective, there are numerous ways of treating an excessive focus on one’s lusts. These ways are as follows:
1. One of the best ways to save oneself from the whirlpool of lusts is to channel one’s sexual needs towards the proper way which is prescribed by the religion. If the sexual needs of an individual are satisfied in the proper way, then they will not pose the same level of danger which they did previously. In other words, these are needs which should not be suppressed; they should rather be channeled in the proper constructive direction. If this is not done, then it is possible that they will be transformed into a dangerous current which destroys everything in its path, including the person themselves.
It is for this same reason that Islam has permitted and indeed encouraged the utilization of healthy pastimes. The religion has also encouraged one to go after the inner desires in a moderate, healthy, and lawful manner. A well-known sermon from Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) in regards to his wedding is very clear proof in relation to this matter. The Imam (ʿa) is narrated to have said the following in this sermon : ‘One of the blessings of Allah upon his servants is that he has made them needless of the unlawful through means of what is lawful.’[5,6] When one reflects upon these important teachings from Imam al-Jawād (ʿa), one can realize other important points in regards to the social dangers which we face in our societies. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has mentioned that when one reflects upon this important teaching of Imam al-Jawād (ʿa), they will be able to better understand these other related issues and develop more effective strategies to decrease the threats posed by various kinds of social deviancy.
2. Another way to prevent oneself from becoming engulfed in the carnal desires is through proper and detailed planning for one’s life. Whenever an individual has proper planning for every hour of the day and every day of the week (even if these plans are only in regards to engaging in various sports or other leisurely pastimes), they won’t have the tendency to become pulled into various corrupt behaviors and activities.
3. Removing the various precursor elements of corruption is a powerful means of preventing corruption from ever taking place. There is a well-known saying that says: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and this applies fully in this case. For example, if one goes to a corrupt environment, the chances of them getting involved in that corruption is very high. The reason for this is obvious: when corruption is easily available, the temptation is also that much greater. Indeed, when we look at various countries which believe in unlimited freedom in regards to things which are obviously corrupt, we see that remaining untouched in such environments proves to be very difficult, even for those who wish to remain pure. This is particularly true for the youth, who are even more susceptible to such temptations.
4. Reviving the spiritual and human elements in the people of a society is another important method in preventing people from being attrackted towards corruption. The reason behind this is that when human beings develop self-value within themselves, they will realize how valuable they are and what their rank is in the eyes of Allah. In light of this issue, they will not sell themselves for so cheap in pursuit of various carnal lusts and desires.
The last point which must be mentioned is that when we are fighting against the various forms of moral corruption, we must look at this issue from a practical perspective. This means that the more an individual fights against their negative traits, the weaker these traits will become. These character traits may have been formed over a long period of time, but through this continuous form of combat against them, they will eventually weaken and fade away completely.
One method which can work in this regard is to do the opposite of what one’s lower desires demand. For example, if someone is miserly, they should practice giving a lot and they should repeat this often. This way, the flame of greed and miserliness will slowly diminish in them and eventually be extinguished completely. If those who worship their lusts combat these desires in such a way and stand against them, they will find that their lower desires will weaken in time and eventually, the spirit of chastity and modesty will take their place.
Practically Awaiting the Return of Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa): a Key Principle in Islamic Eschatology
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has delved into the words of Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) in regards to the issue of awaiting the return of Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa) in practical ways, and he has men-tioned the precedence which practical actions take over awaiting the Imam (ʿa) in the heart or showing one’s eagerness in words: ‘Practically awaiting the Imam (ʿa) is a very important issue. It is easy to await him in one’s heart or to show how eager one is to visit the Imam (ʿa) in words, which is something everyone typically does. However, an individual who is truely awaiting the Imam (a) must both prepare himself, as well as others around him. Such an individual must prepare themselves in relation to their psychological state, their faith, their actions, and their ideology. They must also prepare others in regards to these issues as well.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has gone on to explain the theory of awaiting the return of Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa) and the issue of eschatology as reflected in the teachings of Imam al-Jawād (ʿa). Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated in this regard: ‘There is a tradition narrated from Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) in relation to Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa) through ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Ḥasanī which states - ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Ḥasanī has mentioned that once he went to visit Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) and he intended to ask the Imam (ʿa) whether Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa) would be the one who would lead the last uprising [against the forces of darkness] in the end time or it would be another individual. Yet, before he began asking his question, the Imam (ʿa) answered him and said that it is Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa) who will rise up. The Imam (ʿa) then continued and stated: “It is obligatory to await him during his occultation and to obey him when he is present. He is my great-grandson”
Awaiting the Return of Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa) is one of the Most Virtuous Deeds Based on the Teachings of Shia School
Explaining the most important part of this significant tradition, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī stated the following with regard to the issue of awaiting the return of Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa): ‘Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) then continued (in the tradition above) and said: “I swear by Allah who commissioned the Prophet (ṣ) with prophethood and us with the Imamate- If there is only one day left in the existence of this world, then Allah will stretch out that day so that the Mahdī (ʿa) can come out of his occultation and fill the world with justice and equity just as it had been filled with tyranny and oppression before that. Allah will not allow this world to end without justice being realized”.
Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) then continued and said: “Allah will prepare the conditions for the return in one night. When Allah wills something, it is not necessary for him to create its prerequisites. This is just like how He paved the way for the arrival of Moses (ʿa) in one night. On that night, Moses (ʿa) went to bring back some fire and he was delegated as Prophet during that same hour and night.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has mentioned that in light of this tradition from Imam al-Jawād (ʿa), it is clear that awaiting the return of the Imam (ʿa) is one of the best deeds which we can busy ourselves in. In reality, this is a duty which the Shias have and its importance cannot be overstated.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has mentioned in regards to this issue that: “The last line which Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) said to ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Ḥasanī was that ‘the best action of our Shias is awaiting the coming (of Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa)).’ This awaiting consists of three components; it includes awaiting through one’s heart, words, and actions. The first stage of this is that one should be awaiting the return of Imam al-Mahdī (ʿa) in one’s heart and they should be restless due to his absence.” Some people may wonder what awaiting the return of the Imam (ʿa) in words may mean. Awaiting the Imam (ʿa) in words refers to praying for the return and supplicating Allah in this regard. Awaiting in terms of actions refers to having a physical and material level of preparation for the coming of the Imam (ʿa).
This action-based preparedness is very important since awaiting the Imam (ʿa) in one’s heart and through one’s words is something very easy and most of the people do it. What is difficult is to manifest this inner truth into an external reality. A person who is in a state of ‘awaiting’ must prepare themselves fully and they must also prepare others as well. This includes being ready from a standpoint of one’s psychology, faith, actions, and ideology. Such an individual must also transfer these beliefs and this energy to others as well. This is why the most virtuous deeds of the Shias is a practical level of awaiting the return of the Imam (ʿa) through one’s actions.
The Effects and Blessings of Fighting against One’s Carnal Desires
Developing piety and fighting against one’s carnal desires is one of the lessons which Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) taught and greatly emphasized. In light of this, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has gone on to further explain this key issue and he has stated: The Late ʿAllāmah Majlisī has narrated that - A man asked Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) to advise him. The Imam (ʿa) said: (If I do), will you accept it? The man said: Yes. So Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) said to him: Rely upon patience, be close to the poor, leave the lusts, and resist your carnal desires and know that you are not hidden from Allah’s view, so pay attention to how you must be.
Patience in regards to Obedience and Sin: A Key Principle in Combatting One’s Carnal Desires
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has explained the effects and blessings of fighting against one’s carnal desires by stating: Indeed, the felicity of this world and the next can be found by following these few lines as narrated from Imam al-Jawād (ʿa). Being patient in regards to obedience means to be patient in regards to the difficulties which come about from being obedient to Allah. Further, being patient in regards to sin means being patient in regards to the problems which one may face from refraining from various sins, as well as not giving in when faced with the various difficulties of life. Life is always interspersed with various problems and it is not possible for one to live a life which is completely free from these various issues and problems.
Developing Piety: A Key Factor in Attaining Felicity in this World and the Next
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then further explained: In another section of this tradition, Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) talks about poverty; by poverty, the Imam (ʿa) intends to refer to a simple life which is far from ostentation and luxury seeking. A simple life refers to all aspects of one’s life, from the vacations one takes to the manner in which one weds, all the way to one’s home and lifestyle. These should all be far away from ostentation and luxury seeking.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has explained the role of developing piety in attaining felicity both in this world, as well as the next. He has stated that: Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) then went on to explain the issue of lusts and carnal desires, and how the human being must leave these things aside. The reason is that if one follows their lusts and carnal desires, they will become a tool of Satan and their life will turn into a dark and ruined one. By contrast, opposing one’s carnal desires will deliver one from the fold of Satan’s army and it will allow them to attain felicity in this world, as well as the next. When we examine the Quran, we see that Surah al-Nāzīʿāt has explained that a felicitous life in paradise is attained by leaving aside one’s carnal desires and resisting them. The verse states: ‘But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, Then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.’
A Final Word
Although Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) was martyred at the young age of twenty five, he was still able to have a profound effect on his society and answer many of the questions which the people had. He would answer these questions in a way where even the Sunni scholars have acknowledged his profound knowledge and matchless piety in their own sourcebooks. Imam al-Jawād (ʿa) was able to use the few years of his life in a way where even the rulers had no choice but to permit him to publicly teach the school of thought of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa). He would sometimes answer the various issues which the other scholars were stuck upon. In other cases, he would engage in debates, expounding on and resolving various jurisprudential problems.
The great Sunni scholars have spoken about the intellectual and spiritual greatness of this Imam (ʿa). One such scholar is Ibn Ḥajar al-Haythamī, who has written: Maʿmūn selected him to wed his daughter. Even though he was young, he was superior to all of the scholars in knowledge, awareness, and forbearance. Sibṭ ibn Jawzī has stated: He was like his father in regards to knowledge, piety, asceticism, and generosity. We Shias must in turn do more to spread the teachings of this Imam (ʿa) and study the way in which he lived.