There are other verses the superficial meaning of which gives the impression that God has limbs just as humans do which He uses to achieve His purpose, such as His statement addressing Iblis when the latter refused to prostrate to Adam as commanded by God: “What prohibited you from prostrating to what I have created in My own hands?” and also like the verse saying, “When a leg will be uncovered and they are invited to prostrate…”
The Imam (A.S.) explains the meaning of God’s hand to be His might. The meaning of the previous verse would be, “What prohibited you from prostrating to what I have created by My might and potence?” God does not have eyes, legs, hands, or any such things as we may imagine which would put limits to God like those to man, and the revealed texts containing a reference to such things are given meanings which agree with conceiving God to be Exalted above having physical dimensions a great deal of Exaltation.
The “leg” is interpreted by the Imam as a barrier of light which, when removed, will cause the believers to fall prostrating, while the legs of the hypocrites become too stiffened to prostrate.
Thus does Imam al-Rida (A.S.) portray for us an accurate portrait which is honest in interpreting the meanings embedded in the Glorious Book if we wish to honestly and wisely interpret its verses.
One more thing remains to be indicated here. There are some narratives which contain some interpretations of Qur’anic verses attributed to Imam al-Rida (A.S.) the authenticity of which is questioned simply because some of those who reported them are not free of the practice of distortion or fabrication. What we feel comfortable about is that the fact that if such narrations do not contain anything which disagrees with the beliefs of followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) regarding the interpretation of Qur’anic verses, they testify to their authentic reporting. Add to this the fact that we think it is quite unlikely that some narrators would deliberately tell lies about the Imam (A.S.) in cases where telling lies does not benefit the narrator a bit, particularly in the interpretations of the verses we have quoted above. This is why we find scholars of exegesis rely on such narratives and their likes in explaining the Holy Qur’an, and if they contradict one another, they accept the one which seems to have the most sound meaning, or to the ones which agree with the basic principles of the school of thought.
In the case where the interpretation of certain verses becomes the basis of a legislative rule, or in the process of deriving one, then the authenticity of narration or interpretation has to be verified first as one provided by the Prophet (S.A.W.) or by members of his Ahl al-Bayt, peace be upon them, and attempts should be made to make sure that the integrity of their narrators is not questioned.
Adapted from: “Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research” by: “Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah”