Leaving behind the town where one is born and raised is a daring decision, which is often followed by many challenges and difficulties. You enter a new world, have to live with new people, and speak a new language. Yet it becomes even more daring when your mission is to spread a peaceful message, to lead people toward what is right and remind them of human values, which they might have forgotten, or put aside. Imam Rida (AS), the eighth infallible Imam (AS) of Shias, was made to migrate to another country and live among the people whom he didn't know. Nevertheless, his eminent personality and unique characteristics won him such a position among the people of that town that they still honor him centuries after his demise, a person whose fame went beyond any borders and reached every corner of this world.
In what follows, we will have a glance at the life journey of Imam Rida (AS), this honorable figure.
Ali ibn. Musa al-Rida was born on December 29, 765 A.D in Medina. His father was Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS), the seventh infallible Imam of Shias, and his mother was Tuktam . He is a descendant of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the Prophet of Islam. His most famous title was al-Rida, meaning "the satisfied one" and was chosen for him due to his utter devotion and submission to Allah, which also brought him Allah's satisfaction. As Imam Jawad (AS), his son, said, "The Almighty Allah named him Rida because He was pleased with him in the heavens and the Prophet of Allah (PBUH&HP) and the Imams of guidance (AS) were pleased with him on earth" .
According to some sources, Imam Rida (AS) married twice in his lifetime. His first wife was Sabika, who was a descendant of Maria, prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)'s wife &. It is reported that Imam Rida (AS) married his second wife on al-Ma' mun's suggestion, the caliph of the time, to marry his daughter, Umm Habib. This incident happened around 817 A.D. Al-Ma' mun's intention on forming this tie was to get closer to Imam Rida (AS) and to continually have him under his supervision to avoid any action against himself by Imam Rida (AS) &&.
There is a disagreement on the number of his children, yet one thing is definite; he had a son called Muhammad, also known as Imam Jawad (AS), who would follow the leadership after him .
On 799 A.D. and after the demise of Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS), the period of Imam Rida (AS) 's leadership began, in which he followed his ancestors' path in enlightening Muslims and reminding them of the true message of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). In the first 17 years of his leadership, which he spent in Medina, he turned into one of the well-known figures among Muslims praised for his many virtues, including his significant command of Islam and Islamic sciences . The contemporary caliphs during Imam Rida (AS) 's period of leadership include Harun al-Rashid, Muhammad al-Amin, and al-Ma' mun all belonging to the Abbasid dynasty.
After the death of Harun al-Rashid, his two sons, al-Amin and al-Ma' mun, initiated a dispute over succeeding their father's crown. To secure his position and realizing Persians favor over Imam Rida (AS) and the teachings of Ahl-ul-Bayt, al-Ma' mun sent orders to Imam Rida (AS) to leave his town and join him in Khorasan, a province in Iran. If Imam Rida (AS) would side with him, al-Ma' mun thought, his throne would have become stronger, and he could have defeated his brother effortlessly . Therefore, on 817 A.D. Imam Rida (AS) was made to migrate from Medina to Iran. The route which al-Ma' mun's representative chose to take Imam Rida (AS) to Khorasan was intentionally planned not to pass any city in which the adherents of Imam (AS) resided to avoid any possible gathering against al-Ma' mun's throne . Nevertheless, he met many people on his way to Khorasan, which asked him to make a speech for them or tell them a hadith, the most famous of which was the hadith which he narrated in Neyshabur on the request of a Muslim scholar. This hadith, best known as the "Hadith of the Golden Chain (Silsilat al-Dhahab)", whose source goes back to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and is one of the most authentic hadiths in Islamic texts, emphasizes on the importance of adhering to the Imam of the time who are chosen by Allah to continue the path of spreading His message in the absence of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) .
On reaching Merv, the town al-Ma' mun chosen as the center of his caliphate, Imam Rida (AS), was summoned by al-Ma' mun to both welcome him and inform him of an important decision he had made with regard his throne. He first welcomed Imam Rida (AS) warmly and then told him that he had decided to leave the crown to him, yet Imam (AS) firmly refused this idea. He then came with another offer, asking Imam (AS) to be his heir and successor of his throne. But Imam (AS) refused to accept this offer, too, since he knew al-Ma' mun had certainly another plan in mind and only wanted to win Imam Rida's (AS) support to save his own position against possible threats. Nevertheless, al-Ma' mun didn't give up and repeated his offer, this time implying a death threat on Imam Rida (AS) in case of his refusal. Therefore, Imam Rida (AS) was reluctantly made to accept being al-Ma' mun's successor, under certain conditions: "So, I accept if I do not give any command and do not prohibit, I neither give Fatwa (religious creed) nor do I judge, I neither assign anyone to any task nor do I change anything's position." . As a result, al-Ma' mun gave allegiance to Imam Rida (AS) as his crown prince on March 817 A.D. in front of people.
As it was mentioned above, "Imam Rida (AS) knew about al-Ma 'mun's intention and told him, 'you want that people say, 'Ali b. Musa (AS) is not uninterested in the world and leadership, but it is the world that is uninterested in him. Do not you see how he (AS) has accepted to become the crown prince greedy for caliphate?' He answered those who asked him why he accepted to be the prince, "I accepted that unwillingly and under pressure.' The conditions Imam Rida (AS) declared for taking this position were, in fact, his withdrawal from cooperation in the government of al-Ma' mun, because Imam (AS) said that he neither would assign anyone to work nor would depose anyone; he neither would break a custom nor would he change anything in the current situation" . This dubious agreement ended when al-Ma'mun felt his position in danger due to the threats he received from other members of the royal family and decided to remove Imam (AS) by murdering him.
Moreover, Imam (AS) had revealed his hostility toward al-Ma' mun's caliphate through many of his manners. One of the most notable instances is his attendance in Eid-al-Fitr prayer. Despite al-Ma' mun's constant request on Imam Rida (AS) to lead the Eid prayer, Imam (AS) refused due to the conditions he had set on accepting al-Ma' mun's successorship. Yet, upon al-Ma' mun's insistence, he agreed to lead the prayer provided that he would attend it the way Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did. Therefore, despite the people's expectation to see Imam (AS) coming for the prayer in the pompous manner of caliphs, he appeared in modest clothes and barefooted while reciting Takbir (Allah-u-Akbar, e.g., Allah is the Greatest) [i]. When people saw Imam's (AS) manner, they also followed him and took off their shoes and said Takbir. Terrified for this gathering to end in a rebel against his throne, al-Ma' mun ordered one of his handlers to ask Imam (AS) to return and leave off leading the prayer. Therefore, Imam (AS) went back home without performing the prayer .
Despite being a crown prince and having the opportunity to use the pretentious joys of wealth, Imam Rida (AS) led a simple life and treated everyone with honor and respect regardless of their social level or wealth. It is reported that when the food was served in his house, he would call everyone, even the servants, to sit and eat with him. When others saw this manner of Imam (AS), they would recommend him to separate his food from his servants and treat them differently, yet he would say, "All are created by God, Adam is their father and Eve is their mother. Everyone will be dealt with by God according to his deeds. Why should there be any discrimination in this world."
In another account, a man praised Imam (AS) and told him, "By God, there is none who is superior to you in the nobleness of your ancestry." Yet, Imam (AS) replied, "My ancestors are honored merely for their Godliness, piety, and worship." Another man once declared," By God, you are the best in the world." The Imam checked him by saying: "Don't you declare an oath. Any man who is more pious than me can be better than me" .
Following his forefathers' footsteps, Imam Rida (AS) cared deeply for the people in less desirable circumstances and tried to help them by all means. According to an account, Imam Rida (AS) had given all his money away at once on the day of Arafah. One of his companions found Imam's (AS) action to be harmful to him, yet he answered, "It is, in fact, useful. Never regard an action which will be rewarded on the hereafter, as a compensation" .
In another account, a man on his way back from the holy pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) came to Imam Rida (AS) and asked him some money since he had lost all his money on his journey. Imam (AS) went inside his house, returned after some time, and without showing himself passed a significant amount of money to the man from behind the door and told him, "Take this money and make the most of it. Now leave here instantly, so that neither I see you, nor do you see me." When Imam (AS) was asked of the reason for this manner, he replied, "I didn't want him to see him ashamed and feeling belittled because of his request" .
Imam Rida (AS) was famous for his many debates with great scholars of different sects and religions in his time about religious and jurisprudential issues. When he was in Medina, he would sit in the Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) mosque, and people brought their questions and problems to him to solve. Also, when he migrated to Merv, Al-Ma' mun brought many knowledgeable and well-known scholars to engage in a debate with Imam (AS) and, of course, secretly desired to belittle Imam's (AS) position should he defeat in any of these debate sessions. However, all these scholars were amazed by Imam's (AS) vast knowledge and excellent command of religious matters and admitted his superiority over them . When al-Ma' mun saw that these debate sessions are turning into a threat against his seemingly high position, he tried to restrict them and forbid Imam (AS) from holding these gatherings anymore .
Moreover, in the hadiths and narrations left by him, Imam Rida (AS) includes many recommendations regarding health, medicine, proper eating habits, ways to prevent diseases, and personal hygiene. His book called, Tibb al-Rida (AS), also known as Risala al-Dhahabiyya (The Golden Treatise), contains these kinds of information.
The reason for all the significant characteristics that Imam Rida (AS) manifested in his manners was definitely his deep faith in Allah. He was so immersed in his devotion to the One and Only Creator, which didn't even take a step without first considering His satisfaction.
This devotion both appeared in his manners toward people and the way he worshiped his Lord. It is reported that he would instantly interrupt a debate session on hearing the call to prayer (Adhan) to attend his Beloved Lord and perform Salat. Numerous accounts narrate his long and sincere worship at night. Once, Imam Rida (AS) told the man to whom he gave his shirt away, "take care of this shirt with which I have prayed a thousand rak' as every night for a thousand nights and wearing which, I have finished recitation of the Qur'an for a thousand times" .
Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Rida was finally martyred by al-Ma' mun through giving him a poisonous fruit in 818 A.D . After establishing Imam (AS) as his successor, which he did to strengthen his throne and win the favor of Persians by having Imam's (AS) support, al-Ma' mun found that Imam (AS) was not the kind of person to be suppressed and taken benefit from. Imam Rida (AS) implicitly showed his hostility and opposition to al-Ma' mun's crown on many occasions and gatherings. Therefore, in one of their meetings, he gave Imam (AS) a poisoned fruit, which resulted in his death two days later . Imam Rida's (AS) body now rests in a shrine in Mashhad, Iran.
[i] It is a tradition to say Takbir loudly on the Eid al-Fitr before the prayer.
- Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 14.
- Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi, Bihar al-Anwar, V.49, P.4.
- Ṭabrisī, Iʿlām al-warā bi-aʿlām al-hudā, vol. 2, p. 91.
- Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 492.
- Yāfiʿī, Mirʾāt al-jinān, vol. 2, p. 10.
- Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 7, p. 149.
- Qarashī, Ḥayāt al-Imām ʿAlī ibn Mūsā al-Riḍā, vol. 2, p. 408.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 271.
- Ṭabrisī, Iʿlām al-warā bi-aʿlām al-hudā, vol. 2, p. 64.
- S.M.R. Shabbar, Story of the Holy Ka'aba And its People, p.85. Pdf.
- Motahari, Majmūʿih āthār-i ustād shahīd Motahari, vol. 18, p. 124.
- Sadūq, Maʿānī l-akhbār, p. 371.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 259.
- Jaʿfarīyān, Ḥayāt-i fikrī wa sīyāsī-yi Imāmān-i Shīʿa, p. 443-444.
- S.M.R. Shabbar, Story of the Holy Ka'aba And its People, p.90. Pdf.
- Ibn Shahr Āshūb, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī. Manāqib Āl Abī Ṭālib, vol.4, p.360.
- Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol.49, p.101.
- Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 152.
- ibid, vol. 2, p. 172.
- Ṭūsī, al-Amālī, p. 359.
- Āmilī, al-Ḥayāt al-sīyāsīyya li-l-Imām al-Riḍā, p. 169.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 270.
Nowadays, pets are inseparable parts of people’s lives. In the United States, for example, over 60% of families have pets. Some have dogs, cats, while others keep fish, turtles, birds, rabbits, horses, sheep, pigs, or chickens. No one knows for sure when the first animals were domesticated, but according to history, humans have always developed close associations with animals. Although early humans might have first sought to domesticate animals as living tools, other benefits of animals caused humans to keep pets, too. Muslims can also exploit animals taking into account some considerations stated below.
Islam has never been indifferent to animals. The proofs are verses of the Quran, Sunnah, and sayings of the Imams (AS) which strongly exhort Muslims to treat animals and birds with compassion, not to abuse them, and repeatedly blame cruelty towards them.
In a narration, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) enumerates six rights for an animal over its owner, of which are: “he should not burden it with a load that it cannot bear, he should not hit the animal except when it truly deserves”, etc. .
Hence, hitting a dog in the face or body as punishment and making it obedient through fear, putting a heavy load on a camel or a horse, providing little food for a cat, and putting a canary in a small cage are all blamed in Islam. It is also quoted from the Prophet (PBUH&HP) that God forgave a prostitute who saved a thirsty dog from death by drawing up some water from a well using her shoes . Also, According to the Quran, all living and non-living creatures are made by Allah [i], and He loves all animals; so should do humans.
In Islamic teachings, there is nothing wrong with keeping animals and it is even recommended in some cases; except for some animals that Islamic conditions or prohibition on keeping them should be observed. Besides, keeping some animals such as roosters, camels, sheep, horses, cats, and pigeons is highly recommended .
In other words, keeping permissible animals is allowed, and in some cases, it brings blessing to its owner . But, this should be under certain circumstances, such as: treating and feeding pets properly, having enough space to accommodate them, considering the hygienic requirements of both the animal and its owner, and respecting neighbors’ rights.
For accommodating an animal at home, a proper separate shelter must be provided, based on the needs and the nature of the animal. For a bird, for example, a comfortable cage indoors suffices, but a camel or a sheep must be kept outdoors! In this regard, apart from the hygienic points that should be taken into account, the excrement and urine of some birds and animals are impure (Najis), hence, keeping them indoors needs attention .
What is encouraged in Islam is keeping domesticated animals that need humans to protect and feed them, or wild animals which require protection; otherwise it should be avoided, especially if keeping the animal at home causes harm to it .
A review of the Islamic narrations reveals that the emphasis on keeping pets is because of the benefits and the blessings that certain animals bring to their owners and saving them and their families from disasters. Having camels, horses and sheep were advised in the past because of their role in the economy of the family, transportation, and defense. And nowadays, many people around the world consume the products obtained from sheep, and some still use horses and camels for farm work and transport in some areas.
In some sayings keeping a rooster, pigeon, sheep, and cat is named among the ways of drawing sustenance and benefits . Another advantage of having pets is that some animals warn humans in case of danger, they clean up their surroundings from vermin and prevent waste .
It is also essential to know that respecting the animals’ rights is of paramount importance in Islam and is explicitly stated in Islamic teachings. This equally applies to both animals permitted and forbidden to be kept by Muslims. This prevents from treating animals cruelly, neglecting them, over-working or over-loading animals (as stated above), and hunting them for sport.
It was said that keeping animals is recommended in Islam, but not all of them; like dogs and especially pigs. Since dogs are considered impure (Najis) and humans are susceptible to catch a disease from them, Muslims are advised against keeping them . Nevertheless, there is nothing in Islam that states to hate dogs or harm them. On the contrary, feeding dogs (even stray dogs) and watering them are reported in Sunnah and the conduct of the Imams (AS) . It is also permitted to keep dogs where they assist humans and are kept outdoors .
But about pigs, as there is no benefit in keeping them and as they are impure (Najis), Muslims are forbidden to keep them .
[i] (25:59), (2:29), (45:4), etc.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wassail”, vol. 8, p. 258, T. 9393.
- S. A. al-Muttaqi, “Kanz al-Ummal”, T. 43116.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 643.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 16, p. 124.
- Complete Risalah Amaliyah.
- Muhaddith Nuri, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 8, p. 248.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 104, p. 41, T. 52.
Those who do not know Islam very well and those who follow the propaganda of the media, especially in this period of time when several terrorist attacks have been committed by pseudo-Muslim groups, which do not have anything to do with Islam, accuse Islam of encouraging violence and terror. That is absolutely wrong. Islam is the religion of peace and intrinsically promotes peace. The reasons for that will be reviewed next.
The greatest miracle of Islam is the Quran; a Book. Books are among the most efficient and prominent means of connecting thoughts and minds. This means that Islam has chosen a very civilized way of communication with human beings; by having dialogues with them. By the means of the Quran, Islam, in the first place, deals with the thinking power of humans and then their emotions. In other words, Islam tries to communicate with people through common sense, mutual understanding, logic and reasoning which consequently prevents harshness or sudden actions caused by the outpouring of emotions. That is while “Book” and “communicating through words” did not serve like that regarding the previous divine religions [i].
According to Islam, one should truly believe in the Islamic principles and axioms. It means that one should accept these Islamic facts by reasoning and rational search and demonstrate his\her belief in every act and deed; otherwise, if one has not really changed his\her mind to accept Islam or accepts Islam in words but do not practice it, he\she will be a “Muslim” but not a “believer” (Mu'min). This shows that Islam educates the people who are adherent to rational and commonsensical rules and regulations and consequently prevents apostasy and chaos.
Many suppose that Immanuel Kant was the first who formed and introduced the Golden Rule, a rule of ethical conduct, while this ethical code has been among the teachings of Islam since 1400 years ago. Imam Ali (AS) and other Imams (AS) have emphasized this ethical advice by words and acts and encouraged people not to consider themselves superior to others or do not prefer their benefits to others .
Imam Ali (AS) has addressed Imam Hassan (AS) as such: “What you prefer for yourself, prefer for others; what you find objectionable for yourself, treat as such for others. Don’t wrong to anyone, just as you don't like to be wronged; do good to others just as you would like others to do good to you; that which you consider immoral for others, consider immoral for yourself” . There is no sign of injustice or cruelty among these words. On the contrary, this is an invitation to get along with others, to respect their preferences and not to expect too much from them. This is simply an encouragement to peace.
When hearing about Jihad, the first thing that strikes to mind is Al-Qaeda, ISIS and fire, and blood. Many people think that Jihad equals aggression, but that is wrong. Jihad has a clear definition. There exist two types of Jihad in Islam: Defensive and Offensive. Defensive Jihad, as can be guessed from the name, is for the aim of defending the Islamic territory against the assaults and intrusions of outsiders and invaders.
Offensive Jihad aims at liberating people from unjust oppressive regimes and allowing them to search, read and choose the right religion and lifestyle. Many Islamic jurists believe that the Offensive Jihad to invite to Islam is only allowed under certain circumstances; i.e. in the presence of the Imams (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). Otherwise, only Defensive Jihad is permitted which is actually obligatory to all Muslims in whatever condition. No one in the whole wide world would admit that defending oneself is aggression; Neither do the Muslims. Then, it is clear that unlike a widespread thought nowadays, Islam is against war and violence.
There is a theory in Islam: any harm to others or oneself is banned. It explains that a Muslim does not cause any harm to other people or do not misuse rules to cause harm to them . Through this theory, Islam protects the benefits and rights of others. This includes any individual or any group of people. It also covers both Muslim and non-Muslim societies and people, hence, this theory, in fact, reinforces and advertises the peace all around the world.
It was explained above that Islam also bans any harm to oneself. In this regard, suicide is illegal (Haram) in Islam. Some might suppose that they own their physical body while it is a divine trust offered to us to do good deeds (16:97), worship God (51:56) and practice the religion. This is another means by which Islam promotes peace all around the world.
Considering the Islamic approach described above in interaction with the humans, the efforts to establish ethical standards and to form the interrelationship among humans demonstrate the contribution and role of Islam to create a peaceful world.
[i] While Old Testament and New Testament are written by humans, the Quran is the divine revelation to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
[ii] Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated.
- Nahj al-Balaqa, Letter 31.
- peace in islam