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.
Eid al-Ghadir is one of the most important historical events celebrated by many Muslims on the 18th day of the last Islamic month, Dhu al-Hijjah. Ghadir Khum is the name of a pond near Mecca. It was a place for pilgrims, who had attended the ritual of Hajj, to greet and rest a short while before taking different routes to their homes.
After completing his last pilgrimage, which was the first Muslim’s great gathering -with more than 70 thousand people- in the presence of their leader, the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) arrived at Ghadir Khum on the 18th of Dhu al-Hijjah where he received another revelation from God saying:
“O, Apostle! Deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord, and if you do not, you will not have delivered His message, and Allah shall protect you from the people. Indeed Allah does not guide the faithless lot” (5:67)
Allah in this verse commanded the Prophet (PBUH&HP) to clarify what had been previously revealed regarding Ali (AS) [i] and told him not to worry about the reaction of the people in delivering His message, for He would protect His Messenger from them.
Upon receiving the above verse, the caravan stopped in the valley of Ghadir at Prophet’s command. According to some sources, about 12,000 people from Yemen had come to attend that year’s Hajj, which was known as “The farewell pilgrimage” (Hajj-at-Alvida). Despite the different route that they had to take to their homes, they were asked by prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) to choose the way which passed the place of Ghadir, so that they could be present at the time when the incident of Ghadir was taking place.
Then he sent for all people who had gone ahead to return and waited for those who had fallen behind to arrive and gather. At noon that day, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) performed the prayer in congregation with a great population of people behind him. When the prayer was finished, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) ascended the pulpit his followers had set up from the camel saddles and gave his famous sermon in a loud voice. He started his speech by praising Allah, announced the heart-breaking news of his oncoming death and then stated:
“Verily, I am leaving behind two precious things (thaqalayn) among you: The Book of God (Quran) and my kindred (itrah), my household (Ahl al Bayt), for indeed, the two will never separate until they come back to me by the Pond (of al Kawthar on the Judgement's Day)” .
The Prophet (PBUH&HP), in an attempt to remind Muslims of his own authority over them, asked: “Who has more of a right over the believers than their own selves?” Everyone present proclaimed: “Allah and His Prophet know better.”
The Prophet (PBUH&HP) then said: “Allah is my master and I am the master of all the believers, and I have more right and authority over the believers than they have over their own selves.”
Thereupon, he took Imam Ali (AS)’s hand, raised it up and continued:
“Whomsoever I am his leader (Mawla), Ali (AS) is also his leader (Mawla). O’ Allah! Love those who love him (Ali (AS)) and oppose those who oppose him” .
The Angel of Revelation, Gabriel, once again descended by the order of Allah and revealed the following verse of the Quran:
“Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion” (5:3).
This day has been marked in history as a Grand Eid for many Muslims since then. It is also known as the Day of Leadership (Imamate) and Mastership (Wilayat), which is among the critical beliefs of Islam and the axioms of this holy religion.
A large number of Muslims around the world hold special celebrations, congratulate one another on this day and say:
“All praise belongs to Allah who has made us amongst those who hold firm to the Mastership (Wilayat) of the Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-Muminin) -Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS)- and the Imams” .
[i] According to the narration of Yawm al-Dar (The Day of invitation to his Home), the Prophet(PBUH) was commissioned in the third year of his prophethood to declare his call to Islam openly. This is clearly stated in the Holy Quran:
وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الأَقْرَبِينَ.
“Warn the nearest of your kinsfolk” (26:214).
After this, the Prophet(PBUH), invited his close relatives to his uncle Abu Talib’s house, after having their meal, he started to say: O Children of Abd al-Muttalib. I swear to God I know of no one among the Arabs who could have brought anything better than I have brought for you. I have brought for you prosperity here and your future. God has ordered me to invite you to my religion. Who among you will assist me in being my brother, helper, and successor?
No one showed any interest except for Ali (AS) who was the youngest. He rose up, saying: “O Messenger of God. I will be your assistant in this affair.”
The Prophet (PBUH&HP) put his hand around Ali’s neck and said:
إنَّ هَذا أَخِي وَوَصِيِّي وَخَلِيفَتِي فِيكُمْ فَاسْمَعُوا لَهُ وَأَطِيعُوا.
“This brother of mine is my helper, and successor. Listen to him and obey his commands” .
Feast of Fitr (Eid al-Fitr) is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal [i]. It marks the end of Ramadan, the month in which Muslims practice fasting (Sawm). This Feast (Eid) is considered one of the most prominent occasions in the Islamic calendar and is celebrated by all Muslims around the world. But what is it that makes this feast (Eid) a special day for Muslims?
“Eid” is derived from the verb “عَوَدَ: Avad’ah” in Arabic, which literally means “to go back”. In Islamic culture, days in which people have been relieved of hardships and catastrophes, and go back to good days of prosperity and happiness, are called Eid.
Two features make The First of Shawwal, Eid or as we call it the Feast of Fitr:
On this day, Muslims are again allowed to eat and drink, and the obligation to fast is lifted from them. In fact, the word “Fitr” literally means “beginning to eat and drink”. And “Iftar” means to start eating and drinking after some time. Now consider Eid al-Fitr something like daily Iftar, but on a greater scale. This is Iftar after a whole month of fasting.
Feast of Fitr (Eid al-Fitr) is a special day. A day that is chosen by Allah. After a month of submission to His will and doing what it takes to get nearer to Him, and win His satisfaction, now is the time to enjoy the outcome. Allah pardons our sins, spreads His forgiveness and rains down His blessings.
As He has promised in the Quran, “…forgiveness and a great reward” (35:33) are prepared for those who fast. This is, indeed, a blessing that comes true in this world. A pleasure that Muslims experience in this world, as well as Hereafter.
So why not be happy on this day? This is a new day for Muslims, in which they go back to the time when they had not committed any sins yet. Feast of Fitr (Eid al-Fitr) is a chance for them to start over.
To start fresh, one should put behind old habits, those actions that harmed one’s self or were harmful to others. Now that we are relieved from the burden of our mistakes, sins, and regrets, born again, pure and innocent, we should protect this gift dearly. From this day on, what counts is our future actions [ii].
On the day of Eid, Muslims are required to pay a certain amount of money if they can afford, that is called Zakat al-Fitr. Giving Zakat al-Fitr is obligatory, provided that the person him/herself is not poor. It marks the fulfillment of the act of fasting.
The amount of this kind of charity depends on the type of usual main food consumed by the believer during the year, which may be rice, wheat, barley, dates, etc. . This amount is given to the poor people of the society or those who are underprivileged.
Feast of Fitr (Eid al-Fitr) is the realization of the lessons Muslims have learned during the 30-day fasting of Ramadan. Muslims give away part of what they consume daily of food or drinks to the poor and destitute. And they learn that in this world there are things that are far more important than bodily desires. That is humanity and the love for human beings.
Moreover, Ramadan is a time for Muslims to wash away themselves from the vices of this world. Similarly, Zakat frees the soul from the weakness of depending too much on material matters and thus, is a way to complete the effect of fasting.
Allah has given us the chance to become a new person and mark a turning point in our lives. Shouldn’t we be grateful for this reward? We praise Allah “for He has shown us the Right Path.” And give thanks “to Him for that which He has conferred upon us” [iii]. This is where the prayer of Eid al-Fitr finds its meaning.
One of the recommended acts on this day is to perform a two-unit (Raka’a) prayer. Muslims all around the world, gather together in their mosques and form a great and unified social occasion. In the Qunut [v] of this prayer, we give thanks to Allah for pardoning our previous sins. And we ask for His help in doing what is good and in protecting our newly gifted purity in the future.
Imam Ali (AS) believed that Muslims should be reminded of the Day of Judgment, at the time of standing for the prayer of Eid al-Fitr. As if they are standing in front of Allah [iv].
Eid is a going back, a change to a better self. So whenever one keeps him/herself from committing sins, from lying, backbiting, slandering, offending, etc. he/ she is celebrating an Eid. Similarly, the day of Eid loses its meaning if one goes on to do whatever wrong he/she used to do. As Imam Ali (AS) puts: “Any day that you do not disobey Allah (or commit sins) is your Eid”.
[i] Tenth month of the Islamic Calendar.
[ii] Imam Ali (AS) said: “ O’ servants of Allah! Beware that the least outcome for the fasting men and women is that on the last day of Ramadan, an angel would call upon them that ‘O’ servants of Allah! I bring you the glad tidings of Allah’s pardon of your past sins, so be careful how you act from now on” .
[iii] It is a famous invocation from Imam Reza (AS) remained from Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah:
"اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ لا إِلَهَ إِلا اللَّهُ وَ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ وَ لِلَّهِ الْحَمْدُ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ عَلَى مَا هَدَانَا وَ لَهُ الشُّكْرُ عَلَى مَا أَوْلانَا"
“Allah is Great. Allah is Great. There is no god save Allah. And Allah is Great.Allah is Great. All praise be to Allah. All praise be to Allah for He has shown us the Right Path. All thanks be to Him for that which He has conferred upon us”
[iv] Imam Ali (AS) said: “when you leave your houses to perform Eid’s prayer, remember the time when you are resurrected from your graves and go toward Allah. When you stand to perform the prayer, think of the time you are facing divine justice and are examined for your actions. When you go back to your houses from the prayer, remember the time when you go back to your dwelling places in heaven” .
[v] The action of reciting a supplication while keeping the hands in front of the face, turning the palms facing upwards, and keeping both the hands and the fingers close together in the standing position of prayer (Salat).
- Sheikh al-Saduq, Al-Amali, p.100, hadith no. 10.
- Yasin T. Al-Jibouri, Fast of the Month of Ramadhan: Philosophy and Ahkam, p. 111.
- Eid al Fitr
- Nahj al-Balaghah, wisdom no. 428.