ʿAlī b. Mūsā (a) (Arabic: علي بن موسی) (b. 148/765 – d. 203/818) is the eighth Imam of Twelver Shia. His Kunya was Abū l-Ḥasan (Arabic: أبو الحسن) and his most famous title was al-Riḍā (Arabic: الرضا). He (a) was Imam for 20 years. Imam al-Rida (a) was born in Medina and was martyred in Tus.
Al-Ma'mun al-'Abbasi brought Imam al-Rida (a) to Khorasan by force and despite Imam's will made him crown prince. The debate sessions al-Ma'mun al-Abbasi held between Imam al-Rida (a) and personalities of other religions and schools of thought are famous.
His lineage is mentioned as 'Ali son of Musa son of Ja'far son of Muhammad son of 'Ali son of Husayn son of 'Ali b. Abi Talib. His kunya was Abu l-Hasan (أبوالحسن). His most famous title was al-Rida (الرضا). Some sources said al-Ma'mun gave him this title but Imam al-Jawad (a), in a hadith, said Allah gave his father this title (al-Rida). Al-Sabir (الصابر), al-Radi (الرضي), and al-Wafi (الوافي) are among his titles. He is also known as "the knowledgeable among the progeny of the Prophet (s)". It is reported that Imam al-Kazim (a) would address his children saying: "Your brother, Ali b. Musa, is the the knowledgeable among the progeny of the Prophet (s)."
Imam al-Rida's (a) birthday has been reported to be on Thursday or Friday, Dhu l-Qa'da 11, Dhu l-Hijja, or Rabi' I of 148/765-66 or 153/770. Al-Kulayni reported Imam's (a) birthday in 148/765, which is agreed by most historians.
Al-Shaykh al-Saduq wrote about Imam's (a) mother that, "she was a concubine called Tuktam when Imam al-Kazim (a) owned her. When Imam al-Rida (a) was born, Imam al-Kazim (a) named her Tahirah." Al-Saduq says, "Some have said that the name of Imam al-Rida's (a) mother was Sakan al-Nawbiyya. She was also called al-Arwi, Najma, and Samana; and her Kunya was Umm al-Banin.
In another account it is mentioned that Imam's (a) mother was a pious concubine called Najma who was bought by Hamida, Imam al-Kazim's (a) mother, and gifted to Imam al-Kazim (a) who called her Tahira after she gave birth to Imam al-Rida (a). It has been said that Imam al-Rida's (a) mother was from Nawba.
|[Expand]Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)|
In some historical sources, it is reported that Imam al-Rida (a) had another wife beside Sabika; that al-Ma'mun suggested to Imam al-Rida (a) to marry Umm Habib, al-Ma'mun's daughter, and Imam (a) accepted. Al-Tabari mentioned this marriage in the events of 202/817-818. They say that al-Ma'mun's goal from this action was further closeness to Imam al-Rida (a) and having reports about his plans from inside his house. Al-Suyuti has also mentioned the marriage of al-Ma'mun's daughter with Imam al-Rida (a), but he did not mention the name of al-Ma'mun's daughter.
There is a disagreement about the numbers and names of the children of Imam al-Rida (a). Some have reported them as five sons and one daughter with the names of Muhammad al-Qani', al-Hasan, Ja'far, Ibrahim, al-Husayn, and 'A'isha. Sibt b. al-Jawzi said that Imam (a) had four sons with the names of Muhammad (Abu Ja'far al-Thani), Ja'far, Abu Muhammad al-Hasan, Ibrahim, and one daughter he did not mention her name. It has been said that one of the children of Imam al-Rida (a) who was 2 years old or less is now buried in Qazvin known as Imamzada Husayn (a) and Imam al-Rida (a) had been to that city in 193/808-809. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid did not mention any children for Imam al-Rida (a) other than Muhammad (a). Also, Ibn Shahrashub and al-Tabrisi have the same idea. Some have mentioned a daughter for Imam (a) called Fatima.
The period of imamate of Imam al-Rida (a) after his father was 20 years (183/799 - 203/818) which was contemporary with the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid, Muhammad al-Amin (approx. 5 years) and al-Ma'mun [20 years; of which, the first 5 years was contemporary with Imam al-Rida (a)].
Some of those who have narrated Hadiths from Imam Musa b. Ja'far (a) regarding the imamate of his son, 'Ali (a) are: Dawud b. Kathir al-Raqqi, Muhammad b. Ishaq b. 'Ammar, 'Ali b. Yaqtin, Na'im al-Qabusi, al-Husayn b. al-Mukhtar, Ziyad b. Marwan, al-Makhzumi, Dawud b. Sulayman, Nasr b. Qabus, Dawud b. Zirbi, Yazid b. Salit, and Muhammad b. Sinan. Some of these Hadiths are mentioned below.
Dawud al-Raqqi said that, "I asked Imam al-Kazim (a), 'who is imam after you?' He (a) pointed at his son Abu l-Hasan (a) [Imam al-Rida (a)] and said, 'this is your imam after me.'"
Muhammad b. Ishaq b. 'Ammar said that, "I asked Imam al-Kazim (a), 'Do not you guide me that of whom I should ask about [the issues of] religion?' He (a) answered, 'This, my son, 'Ali (a).'"
In addition to many narrative proofs, Imam al-Rida's (a) popularity among Shi'a and his moral and scientific superiority proved his imamate and although the issue of imamate was very difficult and complicated at the end of the life of Imam al-Kazim (a) but most companions of Imam al-Kazim (a) accepted the imamate of Imam al-Rida (a) after him.
After the martyrdom of Imam al-Kazim (a), most Shia accepted the Imamate of Imam al-Rida (a), son of Imam al-Kazim (a) because of his will and other reasons and evidences. These people including the great companions of Imam al-Kazim (a) are called Qat'iyya (قطعیة). But, another group of the companions of Imam al-Kazim (a) did not accept the Imamate of Imam al-Rida (a) for some reasons. They said that, "Imam al-Kazim (a) was the last Imam and did not mention anyone as Imam or at least we are not aware of it." They were called Waqifids.
Imam al-Rida (a) lived 17 years of his Imamate in Medina (183 – 200/815-816 or 201/816-817) and had a great position among people. In a conversation with Ma'mun about the position of the crown prince, Imam (a) described his life in Medina as follows,
About Imam's (a) scholarly position in Medina, he (a) said,
It is said that the immigration of Imam al-Rida (a) from Medina to Merv occurred in 200/815-816 or 201/816-817. The book Hayat-i fikri wa siyasi-i Imaman-i Shi'a (a) says that "Imam al-Rida (a) was in Medina until 201/816-817 and entered Merv in Ramadan of the same year."
It is mentioned in the Tarikh al-Ya'qubi that al-Ma'mun brought Imam al-Rida (a) from Medina to Khorasan and al-Ma'mun's representative to take Imam to Khorasan was Raja' b. Abi Dahhak, a relative of al-Fadl b. Sahl. Imam (a) was brought to Merv from the the way of Basra. The route, al-Ma'mun chose for bringing Imam al-Rida (a) to Merv was specifically planned so that Imam (a) does not pass from Shi'a cities because al-Ma'mun was afraid of Shi'a gathering around Imam al-Rida (a). He ordered not to pass Imam (a) from Kufa, instead they brought Imam (a) from Basra to Khuzestan and Fars to Neyshabur. The path as reported by Atlas of Shi'a is: Medina, Naqara, Nabaj, Hafr Abu Musa, Basra, Ahvaz, Behbahan, Estakhr, Abarquh, Dah shir (Farashah), Yazd, Kharaneq, Robat Posht Badam, Neyshabur, Qadamgah, Deh Sorkh, Tus, Sarakhs, Merv.
The most important and most documented event of this path happened in Neyshabur where Imam al-Rida (a) made a speech and said the famous hadith of Silsilat al-Dhahab.
Al-Shaykh al-Mufid said, "al-Ma'mun summoned a group of people from the family of Abu Talib from Medina including Imam al-Rida (a)." Contrary to al-Ya'qubi, he introduced Juludi as al-Ma'mun's representative and said that they were brought to al-Ma'mun from Basra. He accommodated them in a house and Imam al-Rida (a) separately and paid him great respect.
Ishaq b. Rahawiyya said, "when Imam al-Rida (a) arrived in Neyshapur during his travel to Khurasan, some hadith scholars told him, 'O son of the Prophet (s)! Are you going to leave our city without telling us any hadiths?' Then, Imam (a) put his head out of the carriage and said,
Mentioning this hadith in Neyshapur is considered as one of the most important and most documented events of the travel of Imam al-Rida (a).
After Imam (a) settled in Merv, al-Ma'mun sent an agent to his house and told Imam (a) that "I want to depose myself from Caliphate and leave it to you!", and asked Imam (a) about his opinion. Imam (a) seriously opposed his idea. So, al-Ma'mun asked him to accept to be the crown prince after him. Imam (a) again disagreed, then al-Ma'mun summoned Imam (a) to his house and in a session, where there was no one except him, Imam (a) and al-Fadl b. Sahl, and told Imam (a), "I want to leave Muslims' affairs to you and unburden myself from this responsibility and leave it to you."
Imam al-Rida (a) replied, "O Amir al-Mu'minin! For the sake of God! For the sake of God! I neither can tolerate this, nor do I have the capabilities to do it."
Al-Ma'mun said, "I leave princehood to you after myself."
Imam (a) said, "Exempt me from this, O Amir al-Mu'minin!"
At this time, al-Ma'mun said something threatening: "'Umar b. al-Khattab put the council among six people, one of whom was your forefather Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and made this rule that if anyone of them opposed, he would be beheaded. There is no choice except that you accept what we want you and I see no escape from it."
Imam (a) said, "So, I accept only if I do not give command and do not prohibit, I neither give Fatwa, nor do I judge, I neither assign anyone to any task, nor do I change anything's position."
Al-Ma'mun accepted his condition.
This way al-Ma'mun gave allegiance to Imam (a) as his crown prince on Monday, Ramadan 7, 201/March 29, 817 and made people wear green instead of black (which was the color of Abbasids, and the green being the sign of Alawids). Al-Ma'mun also wrote the decree for allegiance to surrounding regions and asked them to give allegiance to Imam (a). They began their sermons on the pulpits with Imam's (a) name and coined Dinar and Dirham in his name and there was no one wearing other than green except Isma'il b. Ja'far b. Sulayman b. 'Ali al-Hashimi.
Al-Ma'mun called lecturers and poets and made celebrated this occasion. Among the poets attended in that ceremony was Di'bil b. 'Ali al-Khuza'i to whom Imam al-Rida (a) gave a gift.
Al-Ma'mun sent the order of allegiance with Imam al-Rida (a) to 'Isa Juludi in Mecca. At that time, Mecca was ruled by Ibrahim b. Musa b. Ja'far and he called people to al-Ma'mun and when Juludi came to him with green flag and the allegiance of Imam al-Rida (a), Ibrahim rushed to welcome him and people of Mecca gave allegiance to Imam al-Rida (a) and wore green.
Al-Ma'mun had given the rule of the state of 'Arab Iraq to al-Hasan b. Sahl and he himself stayed in Merv. Some of Alawis rebelled as they were wishful to win the caliphate and since the people of Iraq were not pleased with al-Hasan b. Sahl, many of them followed and obeyed Alawis. Al-Ma'mun became distressful upon hearing this news and consulted with al-Fadl b. Sahl and as he suggested, al-Ma'mun chose Imam al-Rida (a) the crown prince in order to make other Sayyids obey his government.
The position of being crown prince was among important issues of the political life of Imam al-Rida (a). To analyze this issue, one needs to make research about Islamic history as well as the history of Umayyad caliphs and the way Abbasids acceded to caliphate. The general situation of the lands of Islamic caliphate until 203/818 (Imam al-Rida's (a) martyrdom) is given as following: Umayyad caliphs were generally cruel and did not understand anything from caliphate but ruling. The only exception among them was 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz whose rule did not last long. Following these caliphs' cruelty rebellions and revolts against government emerged from anywhere which mostly had religious backgrounds. Muslims pursued revival of the Islamic tradition and followers of other religions who lived in Islamic lands wished for justice and equity and their only hope was the Ahl al-Bayt (a). Abbasids abused this hope of people in their own favor. At the beginning, they said that they had come to rescue people from Umayyads' evil. But then they made revolts in favor of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) in several steps:
Abbasids broke all their promises when they established caliphate in their own family with deceit and began mistreating people, especially Alawis and persecuted them, imprisoned them and killed them whenever they found anyone of them with any excuse. Finally, their mistreatment of Alawis annoyed people of them and rebellions emerged anew against the government. They grew up more at the time of al-Ma'mun and many uprisings were made in different states and cities in favor of the family of 'Ali (a). Al-Ma'mun learned that he had to do something in order to rescue from those troubles including the following measures:
When al-Ma'mun was criticized by Hamid b. Mihran and some other Abbasids why he gave Imam al-Rida (a) the position of princehood, he answered them, "This man was hidden from our eyes. He calls people to himself. Therefore, I wanted him to become our crown prince so that all the people he (a) attracts to himself would be in our favor."
Imam al-Rida (a) knew about al-Ma'mun's intention and told him, "you want that people say, 'Ali b. Musa (a) is not uninterested in the world and leadership, but it is the world which is uninterested in him. Do not you see how he (a) has accepted to become the crown prince greedy for caliphate?". He (a) answered those who asked him why he (a) accepted to be the prince, "I accepted that unwillingly and under pressure." The conditions Imam al-Rida (a) declared mentioned for accepting this position were in fact his withdrawal from cooperation in the government of al-Ma'mun, because Imam (a) said that he (a) 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. Even with all the conditions, soon Abbasids rose against al-Ma'mun in Baghdad and gave allegiance to Ibrahim al-Mahdi. On the other hand, Alawis knew that al-Ma'mun did not do this out of faith. Rebellion broke out again and al-Ma'mun had no choice to remove Imam (a).
After al-Ma'mun brought Imam al-Rida (a) to Merv, held many scientific meetings with the presence of different scholars. In these sessions, many discussions were made between Imam (a) and others which were mostly about ideological and jurisprudential issues. Al-Tabrisi has brought a part of these discussions in his al-Ihtijaj. Some of these debates [or Ihtijajat] are as follows:
Al-Ma'mun wanted to draw Imam al-Rida (a) into debate and ruin people's belief about Imams (a) having special knowledge including al-'ilm al-ladunni (God-given knowledge). Regarding this issue, al-Shaykh al-Saduq said, "al-Ma'mun brought high level scholars of different schools against Imam (a) in order to devalue Imam's (a) reasoning and this was out of his envy towards Imam (a) and his scientific and social position. However, none of those scholars met Imam al-Rida (a) except they admitted to his scientific superiority and accepted the proofs Imam (a) brought against them."
These sessions gradually made problems for al-Ma'mun. When he noticed that holding such sessions is dangerous for him, he began to restrict Imam (a). 'Abd al-Salam al-Hirawi is quoted reporting that once al-Ma'mun was informed that Imam al-Rida (a) has held theological sessions and this has made people attracted to him. Al-Ma'mun sent Muhammad b. 'Amr al-Tusi to scatter people from Imam al-Rida's (a) session. Then, Imam (a) cursed al-Ma'mun.
After the princehood of Imam al-Rida (a) (on Ramadan 7, 201/March 29, 817), upon the Eid (apparently Eid al-Fitr of the same Ramadan), al-Ma'mun asked Imam (a) to lead the Eid prayer, but Imam (a) declined due to the conditions he (a) had specified for accepting princehood. Al-Ma'mun insisted and Imam (a) accepted inevitably and said, "So, I will go to prayer the way the Prophet (s) did." And al-Ma'mun accepted. People expected that Imam al-Rida (a) to exit his house in the special manner of caliphs, but surprisingly saw that Imam (a) came out bare-footed reciting Takbir. Upon seeing this, commanders who had come to this event with their official uniforms quickly got off their horses and took off their shoes and walked after Imam (a) while they were saying Takbir and crying. Imam (a) said Takbir three times upon every step.
It is reported that al-Fadl told al-Ma'mun, "If Imam al-Rida (a) continues this manner and reaches the gathering place for holding prayer, people will become so attracted to him! It is better you ask him come back." So, al-Ma'mun sent a person to ask Imam (a) come back. Imam (a) asked for his shoes, put them on, got on his horse and returned.
There is a disagreement over the date of Imam al-Rida's (a) martyrdom and it is said to be on Friday or Monday of the last day of Safar, or on Safar 17, or on Ramadan 21, or on Jumada I 18, or on Dhu l-Qa'da 23, or on the last day of Dhu l-Qa'da in 202 or 203 or 206. But according to the majority of scholars and historians, the martyrdom occurred in 203/818. According to al-Kulayni, it was in Safar of 203 at the age of 55. And according to al-Tabrisi, the martyrdom was on the last day of Safar (September 818 CE)..
Given the disagreements over the dates of his birth and martyrdom, there are corresponding disagreements as to his age from forty seven to fifty seven. According to the majority of scholars, Imam al-Rida (a) lived fifty five years.
Different reports in different sources have been mentioned about how the Imam (a) was martyred:
After Imam's (a) martyrdom, al-Ma'mun buried the body in the house of Humayd b. Qahtaba al-Ta'i (Buq'at al-Haruniyya) in the village of Sanabad. Today, the holy shrine of Imam al-Rida (a) is located in Mashhad, Iran.
One of the reasons that al-Ma'mun was convinced to Imam al-Rida (a) was Imam's (a) victory over different scholars in sessions of debate.
Another reason mentioned is going of Imam al-Rida (a) to the prayer of Eid. Regarding people's great reception of Imam (a) upon the prayer of Eid, as mentioned above, al-Ma'mun felt the danger and thought that existence of Imam (a) does not only solve any problems of him but it will inflame the situation so much against him. Therefore, he appointed surveillance agents for Imam (a) to prevent him do anything against al-Ma'mun.
Imam (a) was not afraid of al-Ma'mun and most of the time answered him in a way that annoyed him. This made al-Ma'mun angry and increased his enmity towards Imam (a), even though he did not showed it explicitly. It is narrated that when al-Ma'mun was expressing happiness upon one of his military victories, Imam al-Rida (a) told him, "O Amir al-Mu'minin! Fear God about the people of Muhammad (s) and what God has trusted to you. You have spoiled Muslims' affairs…"
After the martyrdom of Imam al-Rida (a), Ma'mun ordered to bury the body of Imam (a) in the house of Humayd b. Qahtaba al-Ta'i (Haruniyya mausoleum) in the village of Sanabad. Today, the Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a) is located in the holy city of Mashhad in Iran and is visited by millions of Muslims from different countries every year.
Worshiping manner: It is mentioned that in the middle of scientific debates in which great personalities of different religions and denominations participated, Imam al-Rida (a) left the sessions as soon as he (a) heard the call