The Life of Imam Al-Rida

Imam Rida (A.S) – the eighth Imam of Shi'it, Muslims-was born on 11th Zee-al Qa`dah, 148 A.H...

Imam Rida (A.S) – the eighth Imam of Shi'it, Muslims-was born on 11th Zee-al Qa`dah, 148 A.H, in the city of Medina. His first name was Ali, and Abu al-Hasan was his nickname. Reza was the holy title of His Holiness. He was brought up and instructed by his affectionate father under whose supervision he passed his boyhood and youth. He availed himself of the instructions of his learned father for thirty one years till the later was taken to Baghdad to suffer the hardship of imprisonment for four years till his death. He was 35 years old when he was appointed as the Holy Imam (religious leader of Muslim community) by order of His honorable father-Imam Musa Ibn Jafar.

He saw a short period of the rule of Harun Rashid who had murdered his father. Harun Rashid also attempted to kill Imam Ali Rida (a.s.) but was unsuccessful. After Harun's death, his sons, Amin and Ma`mun, fought for power. Ma`mun won with Amin being killed.

Immediately after becoming the Khalifa, Ma`mun according to the tradition started by Mu'awiya, had to name a successor (heir apparent). Ma`mun 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 Shi`as 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-Kazim narrated to me from his father Ja'far al-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 e 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, Ma`mun forced Imam to accept the heir apparency (To be the leader after him). Imam accepted unwillingly.

Ma`mun 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 fulfil your duty towards us, we will be bound to perform our duty towards you".

Ma`mun ordered a new coin to be minted with Imam Ar-Riza's name on it. Imam however knew that this would not last long.

Soon Ma`mun put Imam under constant watch. Imam used the position to spread the true word of Islam. Ma`mun's court was visited by thousands and Imam made an impact on their minds. His hadiths were widely recorded. Ma`mun 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 Ma`mun 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.)

Ma`mun was never sincere in his behavior 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 Reza was killed by Ma`mun. One of them is that Imam used to like grapes and Ma`mun offered Imam poisoned grapes. Imam was ill and died after two days on the 29th Safar 203 a.h. He had only one son, Imam Muhammad al-Taqi (a.s.), who succeeded him as the 9th Imam.

Imam`s holy position made his tomb a sacred place for pilgrims to worship. Millions of people pay pilgrimage to the holy shrine, undoubtedly the largest and most magnificent of its kind, every year. There are plenty of priceless objects and unique manuscripts in the shrine's library.

Some maxims of Imam Rida (AS):

Nothing is more worthy than good temper.

Silence is one of the gates to wisdom.

Man's intellect is his friend and his ignorance, his enemy.

He who blames time should spend a long time blaming.

Human intellect is a divine blessing but politeness is acquired through endeavoring.

Humbleness means treating others the same way as you expect them to treat you.

He who tries to keep himself immaculate for forty days, Allah will let the waves of wisdom flow from his heart to his tongue.

A faithful Muslim never exceeds his legitimate right when he is in power.

He who begins his day without being concerned about improving the Muslim's affairs should not be called a Muslim.

Tolerance, knowledge and silence are the signs found in a jurisprudent.

Never become angry with others and do not ask anything from them.

Wish for the people whatever you wish for.

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