A significant number of scholars and jurisprudents, who had been selected by the Shiite milieus in Baghdad and other countries, came to Yathrib following the death of Imam ar-Redha (a.s) in order to ascertain the new imam. They were about eighty men, as historians have mentioned in their books. When they arrived in Yathrib, they went to the house of Imam Abu Abdullah as-Sadiq (a.s). A red rug was spread out for them. Abdullah the son of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s) came to them and sat at the head of their meeting, claiming himself to be the imam after Imam ar-Redha (a.s) and the religious authority of the Umma. A man stood up and called out to the ulama, “This is the son of the messenger of Allah. Whoever has a question let him ask it.” One of the ulama stood up and asked him, “What do you think about the man who says to his wife: I divorce you as many times as there are stars in the sky?”
Abdullah the son of Imam Musa al-Kadhim answered against the jurisprudence of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s) saying, “She is divorced thrice before the Gemini.”
The ulama and the jurisprudents were astonished at this answer, which was different from that which the infallible imams had determined that divorce could only be achieved once. We do not know why Abdullah singled out the Gemini from all the stars and planets!
Another one of the jurisprudents asked him, “What is your opinion regarding a man who has sexual intercourse with an animal?”
Again he answered contrary to the law of Allah. He said, “His hand should be cut off and he should be whipped a hundred times.”
The attendees were astonished. Some of them began to cry because of these fatwas that contradicted the verdicts of Allah. They became very confused. While they were in this state, a door near the front of the meeting was opened out of which emerged Muwaffaq the servant, and then Imam Abu Ja'far Muhammad al-Jawad (a.s) appeared with such a loftiness that made all heads bow to him submissively. The ulama and the jurisprudents stood up out of respect and began glorifying him. A man introduced him to the attendees as the imam after his father and as the great authority for Muslims.
The man who had asked the first question came to the Imam and asked him, ‘‘What do you think about the man who says to his wife: I divorce you as many times as there are stars in the sky?”
Imam al-Jawad (a.s) said, “O man, read in the Book of Allah: (Divorce may be (pronounced) twice, then keep (them) in good fellowship or let (them) go with kindness) and then it is at the third (that divorce becomes irrevocable)….”
The attendants wondered at the intelligence of the imam and were certain that they had reached the aim which they had sought. The asker told Imam al-Jawad (a.s) of the fatwa of his uncle Abdullah the son of Imam al-Kadhim concerning the same matter. Imam al-Jawad (a.s) turned to his uncle and said, “O uncle, fear Allah and do not give any fatwa when there exists in the umma one who is more aware than you.”
Abdullah bowed his head to the earth and did not know what to say. The man with the second question came to Imam al-Jawad (a.s) and asked him, “What is your opinion regarding a man who has sexual intercourse with an animal?”
Imam al-Jawad (a.s) said, “He should be subjected to a discretionary punishment, and the animal should be marked with a lasting mark on its back and taken out of the country so that the shame of it does not remain with the man.”
The asker informed Imam al-Jawad (a.s) of the fatwa of his uncle. Imam al-Jawad (a.s) strongly rejected that fatwa and, turning to his uncle, angrily said, “There is no god but Allah (O my God!)! O Abdullah, it is so great a matter to Allah that when tomorrow you will stop before Him, He will ask you: why did you give a fatwa to my people about that which you did not know, whereas there was someone in the umma who was more aware than you?”
Abdullah began making excuses and justifying his answer by saying, “I have seen my brother ar-Redha answer this question with this same answer.”
Imam al-Jawad (a.s) denied this and shouted at him, “Ar-Redha was asked about a gravedigger who had dug out a dead woman, made love to her and taken her clothes. He (ar-Redha) ordered to cut his hand off for stealing, to whip him for committing adultery and to exile him for maiming the dead.”
The ulama and the scholars then asked Imam al-Jawad (a.s) many questions regarding different matters of jurisprudence. Historians say that there were about thirty thousand questions asked. Some historians have mentioned that the imam was asked all these thirty thousand questions in one meeting and he answered them all then and there.We do not think that it could have been possible to answer all these questions in one meeting because time would not allow for that, but it is more reasonable to say that Imam al-Jawad (a.s) was asked thirty thousand questions in different meetings and on many different occasions.
Anyhow, the ulama became satisfied of his imamate and returned to their countries spreading the news that the next imam was Muhammad al-Jawad. They related to the Muslims what they had witnessed of his abundant knowledge and said that he was the great miracle of Islam for though he was so young in age, he possessed such a high level of knowledge of sciences that could neither be defined nor described.