Imam Ar-Rida (a.s.):A model of spiritual and religious leadership

SHAFAQNA – God says in His Glorious Book: Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, ye members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless… One of these members is the eighth Imam (a.s.), Ali Bin Musa Arl-Rida whose birth anniversary was on the 11th of this month.

Imam Al-Rida filled the era he lived in with his knowledge, wisdom and guidance. People used to visit him to learn the facts of life and Islam. He was such an outstanding and unique scholar that when other religious scholars could not answer a question they would tell the people to go to the Imam and ask him “for he knows what we do not”.

His knowledge was not restricted to a single branch of religious knowledge. It included all aspects such as theology, jurisprudence and all other scientific and religious branches.

A companion of his describes this fact: “I have not seen any one more knowledgeable than Ali bin Musa Ar-Rida”.

Any scholar who saw him came out with the same testimony.

Al Ma’moun gathered a number of the best theologians and jurists to contest him, but he beat all of them. His companions compiled the questions he answered and found them to be over 18 thousand questions. His father, Imam Musa binJaa’far, used to tell his children: This is your brother Ali bin Musa, the scholar of Muhammad’s family. Ask him about your religion, and learn what he tells you.

The Imam used to sit in the Medina Mosque, the Mosque of the Messenger. Other scholars used to sit in the same mosque. Whenever they were unable to answer a question they used to tell the people go to Imam Ar-Rida for he knows what we know not.

As for his more morals, one of his companions said:”I have never seen the Imam rude to anybody. And he never interrupted any body’s talk. And he never refused to offer a favor he knew he was capable of doing… He never cursed any of his slaves. He never laughed in a high voice. His laugh was but smiling.

As for his humbleness and respect of the poor and especially for the servants and slaves, traditions have stated that he used to sit with them at the same table refusing to let them sit at a separate one for we have “the same God, the same father and the same mother. And Allah rewards the people for what they do”… we are all the children of Adam and Eve and the servants of Allah. The only difference between us is in what we do.

He also said to one of his companions, who asked him not to sit with his servant at the dinner table. “I do not think that I am better than this (black slave) because I am related to the Messenger, except by my good deeds”. This gives us a general rule in Islam that the linage no matter how great it is, does not make an individual better than others. Thus, the Imam did not behave, God forbids, in an arrogant way towards those who were socially in a lower rank, since they are his brothers in Islam and humanity.

Imam Ar-Rida used to ask the people to read the Quran in a profound manner to understand its concepts and follow its commands. He described the Quran as, the words, of God which should not be surpassed, “nor should you seek guidance anywhere else lest you will be deviated”.

He used to advise the people to read the Quran and follow it as a guide in all their actions. His own sayings were deduced from the Quran that covered all aspects of life and religion, for he wanted to teach the people that the Quran is the light that illuminates the path of Right and the way to become nearer to Allah.

Sayyed Abdul Aziem Al-Hassani, one of the great scholars who was a contemporary of the Imam, carried the following advice to the Shiites of the Imam “Give my best wishes to my followers, and tell them not to enable Satan to find his way to them. Do not let him seduce you to obey him in what makes you disobey God. And tell them to be truthful in what they say, and to return what they are entrusted with to its owners, and do not involve in debates in what does not concern you. Tell them also to be close to one another and exchange visits.

They ought to visit one another and not to go and pay a visit to the Imam’s shrine while fighting one another. He added: They should not be concerned in breaking up one another”.

Those who do so, the Imam has asked God to punish them in this world and in the Hereafter.

He ends by saying: “Let them know that Allah has rewarded those who had done good deeds among them, and forgiven those who sinned, except those who assumed partners to God or hurt one of Allah’s followers. If they do so, Allah will not forgive them until they cease to do so.

If one does not do so, Allah will remove the spirit of Islam from his heart and he will no longer be one of our followers.

This saying by Imam Ar-Rida was intended for those who believe that such an act is not a part of charity, He meant to explain to the people that charity is not only giving money to the poor, but also giving the weak any kind of strength. This is better than giving them money. Giving some money in charity might solve a limited problem but providing with strength is like giving a new spirit that will allow the week to face his troubles.

He also told some people who entrusted their money with someone who will then betray their trust: “The trustworthy did not betray you it is you who chose a traitor”. Choosing those who are worthy of trust in our responsibility not only in money but also in all aspects of life including choosing the political and religious leadership.

In sum, you have to study the people before you entrust them with anything because Allah will hold you responsible for your choices.

Imam Ar-Rida used to represent the Islamic wise spiritual and jurisprudence leadership who lived a very moving life being the heir-apparent. He laid down a plan for his relationship with Al-Ma’moun and continued to run this relationship until he passed away in Mashhad, where he is buried near his father’s grave.

We have to live the spirit of this Imam, and to follow his guide in his sayings and actions. We have to read the vast heritage he left us, and to constantly revive the memory Members of the Household (a.s.), by studying and publishing their knowledge and ethics.

Peace be on Imam Ali bin Musa Al-Rida, the day he was born, the day he died and the day he will be brought back to life.

* The aforementioned is an edited Friday sermon.

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