Translator: The Islamic Ahl Al-Bayt ('a) Foundation
Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center
Category: Imam al-Jawad
ISBN: 978-964- 529- 789-1


Author: Editorial Board
Translator: The Islamic Ahl Al-Bayt ('a) Foundation
Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center

ISBN: 978-964- 529- 789-1
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Download: 63


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Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center
ISBN: 978-964- 529- 789-1


It Consists Of Three Chapters:

Chapter One: The Age of Imam Jawad (as)

Chapter Two: Imam Jawad (as) and His Contemporary Rulers

Chapter Three: The Necessities of Imam Jawad's (as) Era


The age of Imam Abu Ja’far al-Jawad (as) was one of the brightest and most wonderful Islamic eras. It was distinguished by its scientific and intellectual development. Muslims and non-Muslims thrived for generations and centuries upon the intellectual and scientific treasures established during that time.

We must briefly discuss the aspects of life in the age of Imam al-Jawad (as). The study of that time is essential for researchers because it uncovers the dimensions of personality and provides insight into intellectual and other facets.

1. Cultural Life

Cultural life in that era was considered one of the most significant of all the Islamic ages. Cultural movements flourished, science became widespread, institutes were established, public libraries opened everywhere and people developed a quest for knowledge.

Nicholson says: The vast area of the Abbasid State, its abundant wealth and the prosperity of trade had a great influence on the cultural renaissance that the East had never witnessed before, until it seemed that all people from the caliph to the meanest person in society had suddenly become students seeking knowledge or at least assistants to literature. During the reign of the Abbasid State, people travelled through three continents looking for sources of knowledge to come back to their countries like bees carrying honey to the eager students. Then they classified, by virtue of their great efforts, this information in books which were like the encyclopaedias of today and which were excellent for conveying these modern sciences to the people in a way never before experienced.[167]

We will here briefly mention the real and basic characteristics of the scientific age of Imam Jawad (as).

Cultural Centres

The cultural centres at the time of Imam al-Jawad (as) were:

1. Madinah

Madinah was one of the most important scientific centres of that age. The school of the Household (as) had been established there and included the best jurisprudents and narrators who made every effort to record the traditions of the infallible imams of the Household (as) for these traditions were the spirit and essence of Islam. In Madinah, the school of Successors had also been established. It was a jurisprudential school that took jurisprudence from the traditions narrated by the Prophet's companions or from opinion and analogy.

2. Kufa

Kufa came after Madinah in its importance. The great mosque in Kufa was one of the most important Islamic institutes and schools. Many seminars were held in this mosque. The general focus of study was on the Islamic sciences such as jurisprudence, tafsir (interpretation of the Qur'an), hadith and other branches.

Kufa had adopted the Alawite doctrine and its school was interested in the knowledge of the Household (as). Al-Hasan bin Ali al-Washsha' said: I have seen in this mosque (the mosque of Kufa) nine hundred sheiks each saying: Ja’far bin Muhammad (al-Sadiq) has told me so-and-so.[168]

“Aal Hayan Taghlabi, Aal Ayn, Banu Atiyah and Banu Darraj were among the most important knowledgeable and knowledge-loving families who gained their knowledge in the scientific meetings of this mosque.[169]

It was not only jurisprudence that was taught in the school of Kufa; grammar was also studied and taught. In Kufa, a school of grammarians had been established. One of the famous scholars of this school was al-Kisayi, whom al-Rashid (the Abbasid caliph) had entrusted to teach his two sons al-Amin and al-Mamun.[170] It is worth mentioning that grammar had been established by Imam Ali (as). It was he who had classified the bases and rules of Arabic grammar.

3. Basra

Basra was a very important centre of grammar. The first to establish the school of Basra was Abul Aswad al-Du'ali, the disciple of Imam Ali (as).[171] This school competed with the school of Kufa. The grammarians of Basra were called (people of logic) to distinguish them from the grammarians of Kufa. One of the most prominent scholars of this school of grammar was Sibawayh the Persian who had written a book called“the book of Sibawayh” that is the most mature book in Arabic.

De Beaur says: If we look at the book of Sibawayh, we find it a mature work and a great one. Later scholars have said it must be the fruit of cooperative efforts of scientists like the Canon of Avicenna.[172]

As Basra was a field for grammar it was a school of tafsir, one of whose prominent ulama was Abu Amr bin al-Ala'. It was also a school of prosody whose bases had been established by al-Khalil bin Ahmad the author of“al-Ayn” which was the first dictionary in the Arabic language.

4. Baghdad

Baghdad had flourished with many scientific and cultural movements. Institutes and schools had spread everywhere and knowledge had become available to all. Baghdad had not specialized in a specific branch of knowledge like the other Islamic centres, but it had a range of sciences and arts. Baghdad was the greatest scientific centre in that age. Students from all over of the world came to it seeking knowledge. (Augustan Le Bon) says, 'Scientists, artists and men of literature from all nations and countries; Greeks, Persians, Copts and others came to Baghdad and made it the centre of culture in the world.' Abul Faraj al-Isfahani said that al-Mamun was often alone with philosophers. He liked their company and felt pleased with their discussions though he knew that people of knowledge were the choice of Allah from among His creatures and the elite of His people.[173]

Until now we have mentioned some of the scientific centres of that time. Here we will mention the common sciences of that era:

Sciences of the Qur'an

From among the sciences of the Qur'an, there are:

1. Recitation

This branch of knowledge studies the recitation of the Qur'an. It has been found in seven ways and each way is ascribed to a reciter. Among the famous reciters in the Abbasid age were Yahya bin al-Harith al-Thimari (d.154 AH), Hamza bin Habib al-Zaiat (d.156 AH), Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Muqri (d. 213 AH) and Khalaf bin Hisham al-Bazzaz (d. 229 AH).[174]

2. Tafsir (The Exegesis of the Holy Qur'an)

This is the interpretation of the Holy Qur'an and the understanding of its meaning. The commentators of the Holy Qur'an had two ways in which to interpret.

The first is the interpretation via the transmitted sayings of the Prophet (sawas) and the infallible imams. This is the way followed by most of the Shia commentators like in Tafsir al-Qummi, Tafsir al-Askari and Tafsir al-Burhan. Their evidence on that is that the infallible imams were singled out with the knowledge of the Qur'an as it was in its reality and fact.

Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (as) says, 'No one can claim that he has (the knowledge of) all the Qur'an, its esoteric and apparent knowledge except the guardians.'[175] There is much evidence to indicate that we must refer to the infallible imams when interpreting the Qur'an.

Shaykh al-Tusi says: 'Interpreting the Qur'an is not possible except by relying on the true traditions of the Prophet (sawas) and the infallible imams whose sayings are evidence like the Prophet's.'[176]

The second is the interpretation due to the opinion that one should rely on the reasonable accounts related to approval. The interpreters from the Mu'tazilites and other sects have followed this kind of interpretation and ignored the sayings of the infallible Imams concerning the interpretation of the Qur'an. For their interpretations they depended on that which they approved reasonably.[177]

The first school of tafsir seems to have existed at the time of Imam Ali (as) who was the first interpreter of the Qur'an and from whom Abdullah bin Abbas and other great companions took their interpretation.[178] The infallible Imams (as) paid much attention to the tafsir of the Qur'an through their lectures on interpretation, the reasons behind the revelation of the Qur'anic verses and the merit of reciting the Qur'an.

3. Hadith

The Hadith is one of the most important sources of Islamic legislation. The Hadith is the tradition transmitted from the Prophet (sawas) or the infallible Imams whether these be their sayings, actions or their approval of others' sayings or doings. It is called the Sunna.

The Shia were the first to write down the traditions and the infallible Imams (as) encouraged their companions to do so. Abu Basir said, “Once, I went to Abu Abdullah (al-Sadiq) and he said, 'What prevents you from writing down traditions? You will not memorize them unless you write them down. Some people from Basra have just left. They asked about some things and wrote down the answers.'[179]

The companions of Imam al-Rida (as) wrote down all the true traditions in large volumes which were the first collections of the Shia that were the basis for the four collections of the three Shaykhs.[180]

4. Jurisprudence

Of the most distinct sciences prevailing at that time and all through the Islamic ages, jurisprudence was the one which explained to people their obligations and their responsibility before Allah in following these obligations during their lives. More care went into the study of jurisprudence than other sciences. The infallible Imams of Household (as) had a significant role in establishing their jurisprudential school from which great jurisprudents and ulama graduated such as Zurara, Muhammad bin Muslim, Jabir bin Yazid al-Ju'fi and other great ulama. These jurisprudents recorded all that they had heard from the infallible Imams (as) in their books, which numbered some four hundred, and then they were edited and collected in the four famous books to which the Shia jurisprudents refer in deriving the legal verdicts.

This activity of eagerly seeking and learning jurisprudence was not limited to the Shia, but occurred in all the Islamic sects.

5. Usul

The branch of Usul had been established by Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (as). Ijtihad and the deriving of legal verdicts depend on this science which was studied widely in that age.[181]

6. Grammar

Grammar played an important role in the Abbasid age. Its studies were a point of argumentation. In the palaces of the caliphs, meetings were held on this matter and sharp disputes took place between grammarians. Many famous scholars had specialized in this science at the head of whom were al-Kisayi, al-Farra and Sibawayh. This branch of knowledge had been established by Imam Ali (as)[182] , the pioneer of knowledge and wisdom on earth.

7. Theology

Among the studies prevailing in that age was theology. Theology means the study of religious belief. This art had been established by the infallible imams of Household (as) and then some of their disciples specialized in it. At the head was the great scholar Hisham bin al-Hakam and among the famous Sunni theologians were Wasil bin Ata', Abul Huthayl al-'Allaf, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari and al-Ghazali.[183]

8. Medicine

Medicine developed enormously in the Abbasid age and the Abbasid kings encouraged people to study it. They gave prizes and great monies to those specialized in medicine such as the physician Gibril bin Bakhtsho' al-Nasrani.[184]

9. Chemistry

Among the sciences that gained great attention in that age was chemistry. Jabir bin Haian, the pride of the Arabic east, had specialized in this branch and received his information from Imam al-Sadiq (as)[185] , the thinking mind of humanity. It was he who had established this science. This was in addition to civil engineering, architecture and astronomy.

Architicture and Civil Engineering Sciences

Astronomy Translation

Among the aspects of the development of the cultural life at that time was an interest in translating books from foreign languages into Arabic. Translated books were on medicine, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and politics. The head of the divan of translation was Hunayn bin Ishaq. Ibn al-Nadim had mentioned many of these translated books in his book al-Fihrist. Ibn al-Nadim said, 'Between al-Mamun and the king of Rome there were correspondences. Once, al-Mamun wrote to the king of Rome asking his permission to send him what he would choose from the ancient sciences kept in the country of the Romans. The king responded to him after he had initially refused. Then, al-Mamun sent some men, among whom were al-Hajjaj bin Matar, Ibnul Batriq, Salim the chief of Bayt al-Hikmah (the house of wisdom) and others, to Rome. When they came back carrying with them scientific books, he ordered them to translate the books into Arabic and the books were translated.'[186]

Institutes and Libraries

The Abbasid government had established schools and institutes in Baghdad to teach the Islamic branches of knowledge and other sciences. About thirty schools had been established in Baghdad and each of them was more wonderful than a wonderful palace.[187]

Many libraries had also been established in Baghdad such as the library of Bayt al-Hikmah, to which al-Rashid had conveyed his private library and added to it the books his father al-Mahdi and those collected by his grandfather al-Mansur. During his reign, al-Mamun asked the emir of Sicilia for some scientific and philosophical books. When the books arrived, he took them to the library of Bayt al-Hikmah. He also brought many books to this library from Khurasan. Whenever he heard of a book, he added it to this library. This library was the richest one in the world which researchers and students always referred to. This remained so until the Mongols attacked and occupied Baghdad. They destroyed the library with all its books and thus the Islamic world lost its greatest heritage.[188]

Maps and Observations

Among the indications of cultural and civilizational development in that age was that al-Mamun had ordered a map of the world to be drawn which was called (al-Surah al-Ma'monia-the Mamuni picture). It was the first map of the world to be drawn in the Abbasid age. Al-Mamun also ordered an observatory to be built. It was built in al-Shamasia, a quarter in Baghdad.[189]

In this prosperous, scientific atmosphere, Imam al-Jawad (as) was the pioneer of the cultural movement. Scholars and scientists gathered around him feasting on the springs of his knowledge and asking him the most intricate questions on philosophy and theology and they received satisfactory answers from him.[190]

2. Political Life

The political life at the time of Imam Abu Ja’far al-Jawad (as) was ugly and absolutely critical not only regarding Imam al-Jawad (as), but also to all Muslims. The umma had been afflicted with violent waves of sedition and troubles. Before discussing those events, it is necessary to talk about the system of rule in the Abbasid age and some other matters that relate to the subject.

The System of the Rule

The system of Abbasid rule was the same as the Umayyad rule. It did not change. Nicholson described it as despotic and said that the Abbasids had absolute rule over the nation like that of the Sassanian kings before them.[191]

The rule was according to the desires and fancies of the Abbasid kings and their emirs, paying no attention to Islamic law. Their administrative, economical, and political conduct had deviated from what Islam had legislated.

The Abbasid kings were arbitrary with the affairs of Muslims. They imposed on them a terroristic rule devoid of mercy or kindness that was too far from the Islamic caliphate which had been legislated to spread justice, equality and truth between people.

The Caliphate and Heredity

The Islamic caliphate with its original principle did not submit to any rule of heredity, nepotism or tendencies and fancies. Islam had fought all these things and considered them facets of corruption and intellectual backwardness. Islam had established the caliphate on noble values, high ideals and the power to run the affairs of Muslims justly. Whoever had these qualities would be qualified to undertake this serious position on which the safety and happiness of the nation depended.

As for the Shia, they saw that the caliphate was the right of the infallible imams of the Household (as) not because they were the close relatives of the Prophet (sawas), but because of their excellence, virtues and talents that no one other than them had ever had. Certainly there are numerous traditions about the government and rule being the right of the Household (as); and after studying them no one can claim the Abbasid rulers to be the rightful people for this post.

Like Ummayads, Abbasid caliphs also changed caliphate into a heredity object and considered themselves to be fit for this post forever as they thought of themselves as the cousins of the Prophet (sawas). They spent much money on media to make people believe in what they wanted.

On the other hand, the king's pensioners also degraded the Alawis and supported the Abbasid family as they were commanded to do so; They tried to strengthen their relation with the Abbasid family to gain greater financial support and thus magnified the cruel Abbasid kings as the members of the family of the holy Prophet (as).[192]

Unusual Conduct

When the Abbasids kept to the hereditary system of rule, they did many unusual and strange things which were not to the advantage of the nation.

They entrusted their children with the caliphate while they were not yet adult. Al-Rashid entrusted his son al-Amin with the caliphate while he was five years old and another son, al-Mamun, when he was thirteen[193] . These two future caliphs did not have any knowledge, political ability and power to control the country and were guided by other members of their court in their governmental affairs.

It seems necessary to mention here that the post of Imamah and succession of the Prophet (sawas) is a divine gift; and only those are capable of such posts who are free from selfishness, error and deviation in all fields of their lives. Only they are able to guide the Islamic Ummah on the right path. On the other hand, Abbasid caliphs chose another method for their caliphate. They neglected all the qualities and requirements necessary according to Islam for the post of caliphate such as intelligence, wisdom, self-possession and complete awareness of the needs of the society. They therefore deviated from the real path of caliphate and took charge of it only for the fulfilment of their own inclinations.

They appointed more than one person in the position of heir apparent at the same time, which would separate the nation and destroy its unity. Al-Rashid had entrusted the caliphate to both of his sons, al-Amin and al-Mamun[194] , and after his death this resulted in their fighting each other and involving the nation in serious crises and dangerous sedition that we shall discuss in the next chapters.


Among the most important bodies in the Abbasid state was the vizierate. It was, in most cases, a vizierate of authorization; the caliph authorized his vizier to run all the affairs of state while he occupied himself with amusement, play and insolence. Al-Mahdi, the Abbasid caliph, had appointed Yaqub bin Dawud as his vizier and entrusted him with all the affairs of his subjects and he turned to pleasures[195] . Al-Rashid had made Yahya bin Khalid al-Barmaki his vizier and given him absolute authority and he turned to his pleasures and lusts, and his red nights in Baghdad bore witness to that.

Yahya ran the affairs of the vast state according to his wishes. He spent vast sums on the poets who praised him. He possessed buildings and gardens that yielded millions of dinars and that was the reason for Harun ar-Rashid's incarcerating him, killing his son, Ja’far, and confiscating all their property.

Al-Mamun let his vizier al-Fadhl bin Sahl[196] do whatever he liked in the state. He became extremely wealthy through plundering and taking bribes. The nation suffered misfortune and hardship under these viziers. They were the striking force over the public. The caliphs used them as a means to subject the people, plunder their wealth and force them to do what they did not wish.

The viziers were liable to rant and rage because of the injustice and oppression they created. Di'bil al-Khiza'iy had advised al-Fadhl bin Marwan, a vizier of the Abbasids, and recommended him to do good and to be kind to people. He had mentioned to him as examples three of the viziers who had had the same name as him and preceded him in this position: al-Fadhl bin Yahya, al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi' and al-Fadhl bin Sahl. When they were unjust and oppressive, they met wrath and revenge.

Among the strange events of treason that those viziers committed was that one day al-Khaqani, the vizier of Mu'tazid Abbasi, appointed nineteen supervisors in Kufa and took bribes from each one of them.[197] Many such scandals and bad deeds were committed by the viziers of the Abbasids.

Persecuting the Alawites

Most of the Abbasid governments persecuted the Alawis officially and openly treated them with absolute severity and violence. The Alawis faced torture that they had never faced under the Umaiad rule. The first one to open the door of evil and severe punishment against the Alawis was the Pharaoh of this Ummah; al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi[198] who said:“I have killed from the progeny of Fatima[199] one thousand or more and left their master and guardian, Ja’far bin Muhammad (al-Sadiq).” [200]

He was the keeper of the wardrobe of the heads of the Alawis which he had left to his son al-Mahdi to fix his rule. That wardrobe included heads of children, young and old men from the Alawis.[201]

It was he who had put the masters of the Alawis in his horrible prisons until evil smells killed them,[202] and he tore down prisons on some of them until they died. This tyrant shedder of blood had committed all kinds of massacres against the Alawis. During his rule they suffered such terrible kinds of torment and punishment that were beyond description.

As for Musa al-Hadi, the other Abbasid caliph, he did worse than al-Mansur. He was the man of the event of Jurisprudence which was not less than the event of Karbala in its terrible scenes. This shedder of blood had committed incomparable crimes. He had ordered the children and the captives to be killed. He kept on chasing the Alawis and killed whoever he caught. The days of this tyrant lasted until Allah killed him.[203]

As for Harun al-Rashid, he was no less than his predecessors in his enmity towards the Household (as) and in persecuting them. He said, 'Until when shall I be patient with the progeny of Abu Talib? By Allah, I will kill them and kill their followers and I will continue to do so!'[204] It was he who had imprisoned Imam Musa bin Ja’far for many years and then poisoned him until he died in prison.[205] Al-Rashid did his best to oppress the Alawis. During his reign, the Alawis suffered no less than what they had suffered during the days of al-Mansoor.

When al-Mamun was caliph, he stopped following the Alawis, assigned dues to them and took care of them. However, this did not last long because after he had assassinated Imam al-Rida (as), he resumed the practice of chasing and oppressing them as his predecessors had done.[206]

However, the greatest political problem which Muslims had to face was the oppression against the Household (as). They suffered hunger and starvation out of poverty and neediness.[207] Many misfortunes afflicted the Household (as) at that period and, of course, they caused great sorrow and distress to Imam al-Jawad (as).[208]

The Createdness of the Qur'an

Perhaps one of the most complicated political problems that Muslims faced at that time was the problem of ‘the creation of the Qur'an’ which caused sedition and misfortune to the nation.

Al-Mamun put forth this question in 212 A.H. and tried the ulama with it terribly. Whoever did not believe in al-Mamun would be imprisoned, exiled or killed.[209] He forced people to believe in his thought through subjection and punishment.

This question is considered to be one of the most dangerous events of that age. Philosophers and theologians have explained and clarified its ambiguities.[210]

3. Economic Life

Islam has always attempted with its rulings to develop the economical life of people and allow it to flourish. Islam considered poverty a destructive disaster to be removed. Islam has bound rulers and leaders to try their best to improve the general economy of the nation, to increase the income of individuals and to spread ease and luxury among people, so that Muslims would be far from corruption and deviation which would result in poverty and deprivation. Islam had made it impermissible for rulers and leaders to spend the wealth of the nation on anything other than that which is to the advantage of Muslims and prohibited them from having a hold on this wealth for themselves, their relatives and companions. Nevertheless, the Abbasid rulers contradicted the orders of Islam and took people as their slaves and the wealth of the Muslims as theirs. They spent the wealth of the nation on their pleasures and amusements caring neither for Allah nor for His people. This destructive policy caused many crises to the general economy. The society had divided into two classes; one class of the excessively wealthy who had nothing to do save enjoy pleasures and amusements, and the other class of labouring people who worked in agriculture and other industries and suffered hardship for the sake of their wealthy masters in order to get morsels from the tables of those masters. The result of this imbalance in economic life was loss of stability in both political and social fields.[211] At this point we shall discuss some aspects of economic life in that age.

The Income of the State

The income of the Islamic state during the Abbasid age in which Imam al-Jawad (as) lived was enormous. Ibn Khaldun stated that the land tax at the reign of al-Mamun was about 400 million dirhams.[212] The wealth was so abundant that money was not counted but weighed. The wali of al-Mu'tasim (the Abbasid caliph) regarding Rome had counted the land tax of that country and found it less than three million. Al-Mu'tasim wrote to him saying, 'The land tax of the worst village which contains the worst of my slaves is more than that of your land.'[213]

Unfortunately, this great wealth was not spent on the development of Muslims but the greatest part of it was spent on pleasures and lust. This great wealth reflecting the life of luxurious Baghdad witnessed at that time can be seen in the stories of The Arabian Nights.

Striving to collect Wealth

At that time, people strove to collect wealth by any means whether lawful or otherwise. Wealth had become the criterion of men's values. People were desperate to amass wealth by any means without refraining from unlawfulness or vices. Cheating and deception were the best means of collecting monies.[214]

Accumulation of Wealth

Plentiful wealth had been accumulated by some people especially in Baghdad which was the capital of the Islamic nation. A class of capitalists, who owned great wealth, was to be found there. Basra also had a large class of wealthy people who had abundant wealth, for Basra was the port of Iraq and the important commercial centre that connected the East with the West. It received the trade of India and the islands of the eastern seas. Therefore, Basra was called“the land of India” and“the mother of Iraq” .[215]

The Expenditure for al-Mamun's Marriage

Among the lavish expenditure and waste was that associated with al-Mamun's marriage to Lady Puran. He had given her one million dinars as dowry. Her father, al-Hasan bin Sahl, had stipulated that al-Mamun should perform the wedding in his (the bride's father's) village lying in Fam al-Sulh and al-Mamun had agreed. When al-Mamun went to marry, he travelled to Fam al-Sulh. He wasted one million dinars on the army travelling with him. There were thirty thousand young and old male servants and seven thousand maids with him. The army included three hundred foot soldiers and one hundred knights.

Al-Hasan bin Sahl, the bride's father, slaughtered some thirty thousand sheep, sixty thousand chickens, four hundred cows and four hundred camels for his guests. People called that invitation“the invitation of Islam.” However the fact is that Islam is free from such irresponsible behaviour. Islam has prohibited spending funds from the Muslim treasury on anything that has no advantage for Muslims.

When al-Mamun married Puran, small balls of ambergris were scattered from above the roof of al-Hasan bin Sahl's house. People disregarded these balls at first. Then, a man from above the roof called out, 'Whoever has a ball let him open it and he will find a piece of paper inside it. Whatever is written in the paper will be his.' People opened the balls and found small papers in them. Some of them had prizes of one thousand dinars, some of five hundred dinars and so on down to one hundred dinars. Some of them had a prize of a horse, some had ten silk garments, five garments, a male servant, or a maid. Whoever got that piece of paper went to the divan and received that which had been written on it.[216] He had spent on the leaders of his army some fifty million dirhams.[217]

When the moment of wedding came, Puran was seated on a mat of gold. Then, al-Mamun with his aunts and some Abbasid women came in to her. Al-Hasan bin Sahl scattered above the heads of al-Mamun and his wife three hundred pearls each of them weighing one unit. No one stretched his hand to take any. Then al-Mamun asked his aunts to take them and he himself took one, but one of the Abbasid women took it from him.

Al-Hasan bin Sahl and al-Mamun had spent these enormous amounts on the marriage, all taken from the treasury of the Muslims which Allah had ordered to be spent on improving the people's lives and ridding them of poverty and wretchedness.

Gifts and Donations

The Abbasid kings gifted the monies of the Muslims to singers, songstresses, their servants and agents. Once, Ibrahim bin al-Mahdi the Abbasid sang a song to the caliph Muhammad al-Amin and he gave him three hundred million dirhams. Ibrahim found that too much and said, 'O my master, would that you have ordered twenty million dirhams!' The caliph said, 'Is it but the land tax of just one village?' One day, Ibn Muhriz sang a song before al-Rashid who was affected by the song and gave one hundred thousand dirhams to the singer. He gave the same to the singer, Dahman al-Ashqar.[218] When al-Mahdi became caliph, he distributed all that which was in one of the wardrobes of the treasury among his servants[219] besides many gifts and donations that were given from the treasury which had been ordered to be spent on vital projects to develop the nation.

Possession of Maids

Instead of the Abbasids building and developing the nation and improving the economy, they turned greedily to possessing maids and buying them to excess. Beautiful maids were brought to Baghdad from all corners of the world; from Abyssinia, Rome, Georgia, and half-blood Arab women from Madinah, Ta'if, Yamama and Egypt who were eloquent and quick-witted.[220] Al-Rashid had about two thousand maids and al-Mutawakkil had about four thousand.[221]

One day, al-Rashid visited the Barmakids and, when he wanted to leave, their maids went out and stood in two rows like an army. They were singing and playing lutes and tambourines up to the last gate of the palace.[222]

The mother of Ja’far al-Barmaki had one hundred female slaves who each wore different dresses and jewels.[223] Possessing maids in such great numbers was the result of abundant wealth accumulated by the people of this capitalist class which did not know how to rightly spend.

Diversity in Building

The Abbasid kings diversified when building their palaces. They built huge palaces that no one had ever seen the like of before. In Baghdad they built the palace of al-Khuld to resemble the Garden of al-Khuld that Allah had promised the pious. Among the great buildings was the palace that al-Amin had built. Historians said it was white, and decorated with pure gold and azurite. It had great gates with shining gold nails on which there were precious jewels. It was furnished with rugs as red as blood. It had pictures and statues of gold with ambergris and camphor.[224]

Ja’far al-Barmaki spent about twenty million dirhams on the building of his house. People built palaces of such lavishness and luxury at that time that many of the doors of houses in Baghdad were made of gold, while the majority of the nation suffered hunger and deprivation.

Furniture in Houses

The palaces of the Abbasids were furnished with the most precious and splendid furniture in the world. Historians said that Lady Zubayda had chosen a carpet which had pictures of animals and birds of all kinds made of gold and the eyes of those animals and birds were from corundum and other precious stones. It was said that she spent about one million dinars on this carpet.[225] Her other furniture was made of gold inlaid with jewels and precious stones, ebony and sandalwood with gold and all kinds of silk. She used candles of ambergris and wore shoes inlaid with jewels and gems.[226]

As for the meetings of the Barmakids, they were amazing. When al-Rashid attended the meetings of the Barmakids, and while he was among gold vessels and silk sofas and maids strutting in silk and jewels, receiving him with aromatic perfumes the like of which he did not know, he imagined that he was in Paradise.[227]


As a result of the lavishness and luxury of the Abbasids, they had established in their palaces small factories to manufacture cloth called Dar al-Tiraz. The officer in charge managed the affairs of workers, tools and salaries.[228]


Due to the development of civilization, foods and meals diversified. Tayfur mentioned that once Ja’far bin Muhammad al-Antaki lunched with al-Mamun and three hundred kinds of food were put on the table.[229] Because of the various kinds of food, their teeth decayed and so they filled them with gold.[230]

The Wealth Left by the Abbasids

The Abbasid kings and their viziers left immeasurable wealth after them:

1. The stingy tyrant al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi left some 600 million dirhams and 14 million dinars that he had stolen from the Muslims.[231] He had accumulated these great monies in his treasuries and left poverty and wretchedness to prevail over all the Islamic countries.

2. Al-Rashid left about 900 million dirhams.[232]

3. Al-Khayzuran was al-Rashid's mother. On her death she left some one million and sixty thousand dirhams.[233]

4. Amr bin Su'da was one of the viziers of al-Mamun. He left about eight million dirhams. Al-Mamun was informed of this on a piece of paper and he wrote on the paper, 'This is little for one who worked for us and his service to us was long. May Allah bless them for his children.'[234]

The Life of Amusement and Diversion

Most of the Abbasid caliphs lived a life of amusement, diversion and debauchery without thinking of Allah or the afterlife. They surrounded themselves with pleasures, lusts and trivial leisure and singing.

Ahmed bin Sadaqa said, 'I went to al-Mamun on the day of al-Sa'anin.[235] There were twenty Roman maids before him. They were in silk and had gold crosses around their necks and leaves of palm and olive in their hands. Al-Mamun said, 'O Ahmad, you have composed some verses about these maids. Come on! Sing them!' Ahmad began singing and al-Mamun kept on drinking while the maids danced before him.'[236]

Books of history and literature are replete with the stories of their amusement, play, debauchery, libertinism and their disregard for the affairs of the general Muslims.

They played backgammon and chess. They bred doves and exaggerated their prices.[237] They staged cockfights and dogfights as a form of entertainment.[238] They practised gambling which spread even to the saloons of the poor.[239]

Unfortunately, singing, play and debauchery even extended to some orators who were required to be pious and devout. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi said of the orator Muhammad bin al-Dhaw' that he was not reliable as a source of knowledge because he drank wine and practiced adultery openly. Abu Nu'as, the poet, visited him in Kufa in the house of a vintner called Jabir.[240]


Besides the life of diversion and debauchery that people lived in the time of Imam al-Jawad (as), there was another group of people who turned to asceticism and set the pleasures of life aside. Among these people was Ibrahim bin al-Adham who had left a life of luxury and turned to the obedience of Allah. He often recited,

'Take Allah as your friend,

And leave people aside.'

During the winters, he wore a sheepskin[241] and did not wear anything under it so that he could show his disinclination towards the world.

Ma'aruf al-Karkhi and Bishr bin al-Harith were also among the famous ascetic people at that time. They would weep in the mornings and recited these verses:

“What do the sins want from me? Why have they fallen in love with me and why do they leave me not?

What will happen to them if they desert me because I have grown old?” [242]

Bashr bin Harith known as Bashr Hafi was another famous poet of his time. Some of his verses are:

“To pass the days and the nights in rags, while the people are worried and in trouble;

It is better for me than I will be told tomorrow [on the Day of Judgment]: I have asked neediness from my creature.

They will say: have you thought it enough to live [such a pious life]? And then I will say: contentment is in satiety, not in abundance of property and dinars.

I am content with all difficulties and welfare given by Allah; and I will not walk but on the brightest ways.” [243]

Of course, the call to asceticism had come from the excessive diversion, debauchery and libertinism of the Abbasid kings and the capitalist class and their not refraining from what Allah had prohibited.

With these words we conclude our description of the era of Imam Jawad (as).[244]

Until now, we have discussed the cultural, political, economical and social conditions and specialties of Imam Jawad's (as) time. In the next chapter, we will discuss the nature of Imam's (as) relation with his contemporary rulers. In the following chapter, we will study the needs and requirements of that age and consider what is specific to that particular era; also, we will study Imam Jawad's (as) mission under those conditions while bearing his targets in mind. We will study all these with relation to Imam Jawad (as) as a person belonging to the Household of the Prophet (as). It must also be borne in mind that the members of this purified family were given the responsibility of bringing peace to the Prophet's (sawas) mission and the Islamic nation; the peace whose good news had been given by Islam which not only wanted the faithful believers and the Muslims but also the humanity to enjoy this blessing.