Name: Ali bin Musa.
Titles: Al-Rida, Zamin-e-Thamin, Gharibul Ghuraba, Alim e Ale Muhammad.
Kuniyya: Abul Hasan.
Birth: 11th Dhu Qida.
Mother: Bibi Suttana (or Najma or Ummulbanin).
Father: Imam Musa Al-Kadhim (a.s.)
Death: 29th Safar 203 a.h. (Poisoned by Mamun Rashid).
His Parents & Birth
She was a slave of Umme Hamida (6th Imam's wife). When the 7th Imam had gone to buy her from the slave trader he was told that when he was coming to Medina from Marrakesh a pious Christian lady had told him that Bibi Suttana was a very special slave who would bear a son who would spread the true word from the East to the West.
Umme Hamida saw the Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) in her dream telling her to give Bibi Suttana to Imam Musa Al-Kadhim (a.s.) which she did. The 6th Imam used to tell his companions to await the birth of his grandson who he addressed as Alim e Ale Muhammad. He was one of the three Imams who did Jihad with their knowledge. (The other two were the 5th and 6th Imams). Imam Ali Ar-Rida (a.s.) was born one month after the martyrdom of his grandfather Imam Ja"fer As-Sadiq (a.s.) He was born during the reign of the Harun Al-Rashid who poisoned his father.
Imam Musa Al-Kadhim (a.s.)
Ar-Rida - Angels, Prophets, Aimma, believers and even the enemies of Ahlul-Bayt accepted him. So much so that Mamun Rashid had to offer him to be the heir apparent (to be the leader after him). Imam Zamin-e-Thamin means eight. Zamin means safety and security. One of the incidents attributed to this title is that one day Imam was going through the market place with a few followers when he saw a hunter about to kill a (struggling) female deer. Imam told the hunter to let the deer go as she wanted to feed her two young ones who were in the forest and that she would return to the hunter who could then kill her. The hunter thought that Imam was making a fool out of him. Imam stood in surety and the hunter allowed the deer to go. A little while later the deer returned with her young ones and asked Imam to look after them. We believe that if anyone who is going on a journey goes under the security of Imam he/she will return safely.
Gharibul-Ghurabaa (One who is a stranger i.e. he is away from his hometown). Imam was far away from his home and family and he is the only Imam who is buried out of Iraq and Hejaz (Saudi Arabia). Alim e Aali Mohammed (The learned one from Aale Muhammad). This name was given to him by his grandfather (Imam Ja"fer As-Sadiq (a.s.).
Life and Works
Imam played a significant role in the educating of Muslims. Setting examples of education through one's own conduct.
He saw a short period of the rule of Harun Rashid who had murdered his father. Harun Rashid also attempted to kill Imam Ali Ridha (a.s.) but was unsuccessful. After Harun's death his sons, Amin and Mamun fought for power. Mamun won with Amin being killed.
Immediately after becoming the Khalifa Mamun, according to the tradition started by Muawiya, had to name a successor (heir apparent). Mamun summoned Imam to come to his capital Marw sending a messenger to Medina to bring the Imam to him and specifying a certain route and sending a security force. The route he chose was not the normal route where, a lot of Shia"s lived. On the way they entered a town called Nishapur. There the scholars and people requested Imam to tell them a hadith. Imam related the following hadith which is known as the hadith of the golden chain.
"My father Musa Al-Kadhim narrated to me from his father Ja"fer As-Sadiq from his father Mohammed Al-Baqir from his father Ali Zaynul Abedeen from his father, the martyr of Kerbala from his father Ali ibn Abu Talib saying: "My loved one, and the pleasure of my eyes, the Messenger of God (peace be upon him and his household) told me once, that Jibrail told him from the Lord "The kalima of LA ILAHA ILLALLAH is my fort; whoever said it would enter my fort; and whoever entered my fort was safe from my punishment".
Those who wrote down the hadith numbered twenty thousand. People started reciting the Kalima when Imam put his hand up and continued: "Yes, the kalima is Allah's fort. It will provide you with excellent safety but on one condition only and that is that you obey and follow us - the holy Imams in the progeny of the holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his household). On reaching Marw Mamun forced Imam to accept the heir apparency (To be the leader after him). Imam accepted unwillingly.
Why did Mamun want Imam to be the heir apparent?
1- To please the Shia public opinion in Khurasan and the surrounding areas that would make it easier for Mamun to be accepted by the people there and a victory over his brother Amin.
2- To avoid clashes with those like the Alawids who had always threatened the Abbasids with various uprisings.
Mamun celebrated the occasion of Imam"s acceptance of heir apparency. Imam only gave a short sermon saying after he had praised Allah "We have over you a right appointed by the Prophet, and you have a right over us as well; so if you fulfill your duty towards us, we will be bound to perform our duty towards you".
Mamun ordered a new coin to be minted with Imam Ar-Ridha"s name on it. Imam however knew that this would not last long.
Soon Mamun put Imam under constant watch. Imam used the position to spread the true word of Islam. Mamun's court was visited by thousands and Imam made an impact on their minds. His ahadith were widely recorded. Mamun who was fond of scholarly discussions would arrange for intellectuals from Greece, Italy, India etc. to come to his court and hold discussions with the Imam.
One day a Jewish scholar was brought by Mamun to debate with Imam. The scholar asked: "How can you accept Muhammad to be the prophet of God when he showed no miracles?" Imam replied: "The greatest of miracles of Allah is the human mind. It allows ideas to be thought through and reasoned out. Islam appeals to human reason. Man must accept God through reason and not through miracles".
The scholar did not have much to say after that answer.
Imam also encouraged greatly the remembrance of Imam Husayn (a.s.)
Mamun was never sincere in his behaviour towards Imam. Seeing the Imam's popularity increase disturbed him immensely especially after the occasion when he requested Imam to lead Eid prayers as he was not well. He saw that even before Imam had reached the mosque the people had lined the streets and were reciting takbir and it seemed that even the walls of Marw were doing the same. He had to ask Imam to go back that day.
There are various accounts of how Imam Ali Ar-Ridha (a.s.) was killed by Mamun. One of them is that Imam used to like grapes and Mamun offered Imam poisoned grapes. Imam was ill and died after two days on the 29th Safar 203 a.h.
Imam Ali Al-Rida (a.s.) died in Toos in a village called Sanabad. He had only one son, Imam Muhammad At-Taqi (a.s.), who succeeded him as the 9th Imam.
Mamun ordered Imam's grave to be dug near his father Harun's and when it was being dug he said that Imam had told him that when his grave would be dug water and fish would appear underneath. Just as Imam had said when they finished digging a spring of water appeared with fish in it and then disappeared. Imam is buried there at what is today called Mashhad in IRAN.