Six Moral Traits of the Eighth Infallible Imam (AS)

Imam Reza (AS) is the eighth infallible Shiite Imam and successor of the final holy Prophet (PBUH). His name is Ali, and among all his other names and titles the most famous honorary one is “Reza,” which means ‘satisfaction’. But why was he called this name?



According to his son, Imam Jawad (AS), “The Almighty Allah named him Reza because He was pleased with him in the heavens and the Prophet of Allah (PBUH) and the Imams of guidance (AS) were pleased with him on earth” [1]. In fact, Imam Reza (AS)’s moral qualities and virtues were so high that even his enemies were attracted to and admired him. You might wonder what these traits are!


1. Imam Reza's (AS) Forbearance


Imam Reza (AS) was the exemplar of a patient man. There were times when he was treated disrespectfully, but he would not react and preferred to remain silent. It has been narrated that when Caliph Mamun[i] tried to degrade Imam Reza’s (AS) position through scientific and theological debates with the contemporary scholars of other religions and opponents, Imam would patiently make the best use of those meetings and introduced the true religion of Islam to the world.


Imam Reza, modesty, forbearance, light,

2. Imam Reza's (AS) Modesty


While having a meal alone, Imam Reza (AS) would invite all his slaves, servants, including the Blacks, to have the meal with him at the same place. And when he was told to make separate eating arrangements for the servants, he would refuse and say: “We are all created by God, our parents (Adam and Eve) are the same, everyone will be dealt with by God according to their deeds” [2].



Once a man said to Imam Reza (AS): “By God, you are the best in the world,” but Imam replied: “Do not swear by the name of Allah. Anyone who is more pious than me can be better than me.” Then he recited the following verse of the Quran:


O, humankind! Verily, We created you all From a male and female [Adam and Eve] and appointed for you tribes and Nations to be known to each other [by Specified characteristics] Verily, in Allah's Sight the most honorable of you Is the most pious of you; and Allah is The Informed Owner of Knowledge” (49:13) [3].


3. Imam Reza's (AS) Courtesy


Imam Reza (AS) would never hurt anybody with his words; He treated people as respectfully and kindly as possible; he would never talk badly to anyone or interrupt someone when speaking; he never stretched his legs or lean upon something in front of people. He always smiled instead of laughing loudly [4].



One night while Imam Reza (AS) was talking to his guest, there was a problem with the light. The guest wanted to fix it, but Imam did not let him do so. He started fixing it himself and said: “We are the ones who do not put our guests to work.”



Also, it frequently happened that Imam called a servant for some work, and he was told that the servant was busy having a meal; then Imam would say: “Let him finish his food” [5].


4. Imam Reza's (AS) Generosity


One day a foreign traveler came to visit Imam Reza (AS). After saying hello and expressing his love and affection towards Imam Reza (AS), his fathers and ancestors, he said he had come back from Hajj and had run out of money. He asked Imam to give him some money to go back home and promised to spend the same amount there on charity and giving alms (Sadaqah).


Imam stood up and went to another room. Then he came, stretched his hand from behind the door and said: “Get this 200 Dinar and spend it for your journey, there is no need to pay the same back as alms.” The man got the Dinars and left. Imam later was asked for the reason of his secret help, and he answered: “Because I did not want the man to feel ashamed” [6].



Also, whenever Imam Reza (AS) wanted to have his meal, he would bring a large plate and put the best of the food on it to be given away to the poor. If he afforded to help, he would always give alms to the destitute at nights.


Imam Reza, generosity, kindness, charity

5. Imam Reza's (AS) Insight


In another account, One of Imam’s companions narrated that One day after he arrived home, he saw his servants busy repairing the house. Imam noticed a stranger among them and asked about him. They answered he was there to help them and they would pay him. Imam asked if they had defined the amount of payment.



The answer was no. Imam became disturbed and said: “when one works without any contraction, he thinks that you have paid him little, even if you give him three times more. But if you contract and pay him according to the contraction, he will be pleased with receiving his right. Now if you pay more even just a little, he will understand you have paid more and will be thankful” [7].


6. Imam Reza's (AS) Divine knowledge


Imam Reza (AS) had inherited the divine knowledge from his ancestor, our Holy Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH).



He was the wisest man of his time and all his contemporaries. His knowledge was so rich in all religious matters and other realms of knowledge that the people of various tribes in their language would turn to him when they had questions, and he provided them with best answers. Mamun, the ruling caliph, summoned the knowledgeable scholars in an attempt to defeat Imam Reza (AS) in several scientific debates and to discredit him in public. Nonetheless, Imam succeeded in all of them, and no one was capable of overcoming his power of knowledge.



Whoever dared to challenge Imam Reza (AS) ended up yielding to his unique power of reasoning. It has been confirmed by historians that Mamun, who was himself a celebrated erudite, pointed out the following statement, in his official charter for the appointment of Imam Reza (A.S.) as his immediate successor:


"I do not know any person superior to this man [Imam Reza(AS)] in the whole world" [8].



The life of Imam Reza (AS) and our other infallible Imams (AS) contain countless anecdotes of this sort, which reveals how they teach us the correct way of life both by their sayings and behaviors.



In a famous tradition or saying (Hadith) called the Golden Chain (Selselah al-Zahab), Imam Reza (AS) said that he had heard from dignified ancestors quoting from Gabriel and Almighty Allah that: “The word of La Ilaha Illallah -there is no god but Allah- is My stronghold (then whoever acknowledges this has entered My stronghold) and will be saved from My punishment”. After reciting this saying for his companions, Imam paused for a while and then continued, “Few conditions are entitling this entrance, and I am one of its conditions.”



Through this account, Imam Reza (AS) confirms that the belief in monotheism (Tawhid) will be counted as perfect when it is based on the obedience of the infallible Holy Imams (AS). In fact, Imams’ lifestyle and traditions were so good that if we idolize them and follow in their footsteps, we will certainly be able to move through the stages of spiritual perfection and win Allah’s satisfaction. Insha’Allah! 



[i] The Abbasid caliph in power at Imam Reza’s (AS) time.


[1] Bihar al-Anwar, V.49, P.4.

[2] Osool al-Kafi vol.8 p.230.

[3] Oyoun Akhbar al-Reza, v.2, p.236.

[4] Al-Fadl ibn al-Hasan Tabarsi, Aa’lam al-Vara p.314.

[5] Osool al-Kafi vol.6 p.383 & 298.

[6] Managhib vol.4 p.360.

[7] Osool al-Kafi vol.5 p.288.

[8] Al-Irshad, v.2, p. 261.