Martyrdom: He was poisoned in the year 203 A.H. and is buried in the Khurasan district of Iran.
Imam Ali bin Mousa al-reza (PBUH), the eighth Imam of Shiites , is of the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his eighth successor. At age 35 he became the leader of the Islamic union. His life was contemporary to the Abbasid reign and therefore, he suffered great difficulties made by the Abbasids. Finally, he was martyred by Ma”moon (the contemporary Abbasid Caliph) at the age of 55.
His name, title and honorary name
His name is Ali, his title is Abu al-Hassan, and his most famous honorary name is reza, meaning Satisfaction.
According to his son, Imam Muhammad Taqi (PBUH), the ninth Imam, The glorious and mighty Lord named him reza because Allah was pleased with him in the heavens and the Prophet of Allah and the Imams of guidance were pleased with him on earth. Also, his friends and relatives and even his enemies were satisfied with him because of his great moral qualities
One of his famous titles is Alim Al Muhammad (scholar of Prophet”s progeny). His success in the different disputes with the scholars of various religions indicates his high knowledge. We will discuss some incidents in this article. This ability and superiority in knowledge is a proof for his Imamat, as it can be inferred from his sayings.
His father and mother
His father was Imam Mousa al-Kadhim (PBUH), the seventh Imam. He was martyred by Haroon on 138 (AH). His mother was Najmah.
Imam reza (PBUH) was born on in the year 148 on the 11th of Ziqadah in Medina. It is narrated from his mother that:
His life in Medina
Before traveling to Marv, Imam reza (PBUH) lived in Medina; city where the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his fathers grave exists. He was occupied with guiding people, indicating Islamic educations and Prophets (PBUH&HP) Sirah (manner and behavior). People of Medina loved him and assumed him as their father. Although he had spent most of his life in Medina, he had many followers throughout the Islamic counties. He points out this fact on a discussion about succession: In fact succession didnt make a distinction for me. When I was in Medina, people in east and west obeyed me and nobody was superior to me. They told me their requirements and I granted their requests and they treated me as a magnate.
His Imamate was announced repeatedly by his father, grandfathers, and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). Especially Imam Kazem (PBUH) mentioned him as the Imam after himself several times. For instance, one of his followers narrates,
“One day Imam Kazem (PBUH) came to us, holding his sons (Ali) hand. We were 60 people. He said: Do you know me? I said: You are our leader. He said: Say my name and title I said: You are Mosa bin Jafar bin Muhammad He said: Who is this guy with me? I said: Ali bin Mosa bin Jafar. He said: So profess that he is my representative during my life and my successor after my death.”
He is further introduced as the eighth Imam in a saying of Prophet (PBUH&HP) narrated by Jaber. Also, Imam Sadegh (PBUH) told Imam Kazem (PBUH&HP) that the knowledge of Prophet”s (PBUH&HP) progeny is of your sons and he is your successor.
Imam rezas (PBUH) Imamate lasted eight years, which can be divided into three Period:
1-The first ten years was contemporary to Haroons caliphate.
2-The next five years was contemporary to Amins caliphate.
3-The last five years was contemporary to Mamoons caliphate.
It was during the first period that great disasters, especially the martyrdom of Imam Kazem (PBUH), happened to the Alavi people (the children of Imam Ali (PBUH)). Haroon was instigated to kill Imam reza (PBUH), but had not found the opportunity. After Haroon, Amin became the caliph. At that period, the government was weakened. Amin was drowned in his corruption and paid no attention to Imam and his followers. This period was peaceful for Imam and his followers
However, Mamoon killed his brother, Amin, and became the caliph. He suppressed the objectors and gained the control of all the Islamic countries. He gave the leadership of Iraq to one of his agents and settled in Marv. He then chose Fazl ibn Sahl, who was a great politician, as his minister. But the Alavi people were a threat to his government. After suffering murder, plunder and torture for a century, they had found the opportunity to object the government and to overthrow it. They were successful in gaining peoples support, because they also had suffered great losses from the Abbasid Caliphate. Therefore, Mamoon decided not to confront them and wanted to bring back peace and security to strengthen his government.
So, after consulting Fazl, he came up with a treacherous plan. He decided to offer the caliphate to Imam reza (PBUH) and withdraw himself. Because whether the Imam accepted or not, it would still be a victory for Mamoon. If Imam accepted, and became Caliph allowing for Mamoon to be the vice-caliph, that would guarantee the legitimacy of Mamoon”s government. Thus Ma”moon decided to force the position of Caliph on Imam. It was then easier for him to eliminate
Imam reza (PBUH) and become the legal leader. In this case, the Shiites would consider his government to be legitimate and would be satisfied with it and accepted him as Imam”s successor. Furthermore, the risings made against his government would lose their attraction and legitimacy.
However, if Imam didn”t accept the caliphate, he would then oblige Imam to be his successor and guarantee the legitimacy of his government through this to weaken the uprisings. On the other hand, he could make Imam settle near himself to control Imam and suppress his followers. In addition, Imam reza”s (PBUH) Shiites and followers would criticize him for not accepting the caliphate and he would lose his respect among them.
The journey to the Khurasan
To accomplish his mentioned goals, Ma”moon sent some of his special agents to Imam reza (PBUH) in Medina to force him to set on a journey to Khurasan. He also ordered to take Imam reza (PBUH) through a path that has the least number of Shiites. The main roads in those days were the roads to Kufa, Jabal, Kermanshah, and Qom, which were all mainly Shiite cities. It seemed probable to Ma”moon that Shiites may get excited when they see Imam and prevent him to continue his travel to stay with them instead. To prevent these troubles, Ma”moon made Imam reza (PBUH) travel through the paths of Basreh, Ahvaz, and Fars to Marv. His agents also watched Imam continuously and reported to Ma”moon on all of Imam”s activities.
The Selselah al-Zahab (The Golden Chain) tradition
Wherever he stopped, during his journey towards Marv, he caused for many blessings upon the people. At one point on his way, he entered the city of Neishaboor. A large crowd of people gathered to welcome his entrance. Meanwhile two learned men who had recorded many prophetic traditions came with scholars of Hadith, took the halter, and said: You, the great Imam and you, the son of great Imams, for the sake of your innocent fathers and your great grandfathers, show us your shining face and narrate us a tradition from your fathers and your great grandfather, the messenger of Allah, to be as a reminder for us. Imam ordered to stop and the people obeyed. Once they saw his face, they became so happy that some of them start crying and some who were close to him kissed his carriage. A big clamor was made throughout the city so, the elders of the city wanted people to be quiet so they could hear a tradition from Imam reza (PBUH). After a while the crowd got silent and Imam dictated this tradition word by word from his honored father which was narrated from his pure grandfathers and from the messenger of Allah (PBUH & HP) and from Gabriel and from Almighty Allah that: The word of La Ilaha Illa al-Allah5 is my fortress (then whoever says this has entered my fortress) and whoever enters my fortress will be saved from my punishment. Imam paused for a while and then said, But on some conditions and I am one of its conditions.
This tradition indicates that one of the necessities of saying the word of ,La Ilaha Illa al-Allah which is to strengthen the principle of divine unity, is confirming his Imamat, obeying, and accepting his words and deeds that has been specified by the Almighty Allah. In fact Imam believes the Oneness of God (Towhid) as a condition of being safe from Allah”s punishment and the acceptance of leadership and Mastership (Imamat and Wilayat) as the condition of believing in Oneness of Allah.
Succession to Caliphate
When Imam reza (PBUH) entered Marv, Ma”moon welcomed him royally and publicly through a speech in front of all the key characters of government.
He said: All should know that I do not know anyone better and more deserving on succession than Ali ibn Moosi al-reza in descendants of Abbas or Ali (PBUH).
After that he turned his face to Imam and said: I have decided to dethrone myself and announce you as the Caliph. Imam reza (PBUH) said: If Allah has specified Caliphate for you then it is not permitted to give it to another one and if it is not yours then you do not have the authority to give it to another one.
Ma”moon insisted on what he wanted but Imam said: Never will I accept that. When Ma”moon got disappointed, he told Imam: Then accept to be the Caliph after me, and successor of me. The insistence of Ma”moon on his wants and Imam reza”s (PBUH) refusal lasted for two month. He did not accept and said, I have heard from my fathers that I will die before you and will be martyred with poison and angles of the earth and skies will cry for me and I will be buried in the land of nostalgia beside Haroon al-Rashid. But Ma”moon insisted on succession of Imam reza (PBUH) in such way that he threatened Imam to death in a secret and private ceremony.
Thus Imam said: Now, since I am obliged, I accept it but on the condition that I do not appoint or depose anyone and do not change any custom or rule and control affaires imperceptibly. Ma”moon had no choice but to accept this condition.
After that Imam raised his hands and said: O, my God, you know that they opposed me under duress and I chose it by force. So please do not take me to task just as your two prophets, Yousef and Danial, when they accepted the leadership position of the kings of their time. O! My God, there is no vow except yours and no Mastership except of yours. So please help me to establish your religion and to follow your prophet”s custom. Indeed, what a good master and a good assistant you are.
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