Imam Ali ar-Ridha (A)In: Ahlul-Bayt
His name is Ali, his title is Abu al-Hassan, and his most famous honorary name is “Ridha”, meaning “Satisfaction”. According to his son, Imam Muhammad Taqi (A), “The glorious and mighty Lord named him Ridha 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. This ability and superiority in knowledge is a proof for his Imamat.
Usually, the poor who cannot afford to enjoy the pleasures of life are held in contempt or just tolerated by the society. But those who assume a hermits’ simple austerity in spite of wealth and power are the real saints. The Ahlulbayt of the Prophet adopted a peculiar policy. Those whose means were limited dressed nicely because otherwise their adversaries would taunt them as destitutes which would injure the dignity of their piety. But blessed were those who by chance became wealthy, and who assumed simplicity and austerity so their simple life became a source of consolation for the poor and a model for the rich.
This can be illustrated from the life of Imam Ali (A). For nearly five years he ruled the Muslim world as caliph. He ate and dressed himself as a hermit would. Imam Ali al- Ridha (A) too, led a simple life, though he was the heir- apparent of the vast Arab Empire compared to which the Roman Empire or the Persian territories would certainly not be a match. A vast chain of countries whose caliph’s upon watching a passing cloud, would arrogantly assert: “Go and pour your waters anywhere you please; the revenues of that land shall ultimately be brought to us”. The appointment of Imam Ali al-Ridha (A) as heir apparent demonstrated to the world how the saints fare when the treasures of the world are put at their feet. He felt he was morally bound to abandon riches and pomp.
History repeated itself, and the austerity of Ameerul Mu’mineen (A) once more was shown in the calm and content personality of Imam Ali Al-Ridha (A). He did not like to decorate his house with expensive carpets, instead he covered its floor with rough mats during the winter and grass mats during the summer. When food was served, he would call all his servants, including the gatekeeper to sit and eat with him.
Majlisi in Biharul Anwar (V 49 Page 101) writes that our 8th Imam insisted on eating his meals only after the entire members of his family, young and old, servants and grooms were present. One day someone who was fonder of royal formalities than the fraternity of the Ahlulbayt, suggested that it would be better to make separate eating arrangements for the servants. The Imam replied, “All are created by God, Adam is their father and Eve is their mother. Everyone will be dealt with by God according to his deeds. Why should there be any discrimination in this world.”
Imam Ali Al-Ridha’s (A) life contains countless anecdotes of this sort. Once a man said to him, “By God, there is none who is superior to you in the nobleness of your ancestry.” The Imam said to him, “My ancestors are honoured merely for their Godliness, piety and worship.” Another man once declared,” By God, you are the best in the world.” The Imam checked him by saying: “Don’t you declare an oath. Any man who is more pious than me can be better than me.” Imam several times declared the Hadith of the Prophet that a black slave can be better than a person from my own family if his deeds are better.
When Imam Ali ar-Ridha (A) was on his journey to Khorasan he stayed in the city of Qom for a few months and there he established Majalis to commemorate the events of Kerbala. In Tus where he stayed for over a year as heir apparent to the Emperor, Imam re-established these Majalis also. This tradition was initiated by Imam Muhammad al Baqir (A) and than continued by the 6th Imam. But during those times, only those who came to visit the Imams in their homes were narrated these stories. But Imam Ali Al-Ridha (A) was respected both as Imam and heir apparent. Merv, the capital and a central city of Persia of that time, was the meeting place of people from all walks of life and from all corners of the earth.
As soon as the crescent of Muharram was sighted, Majalis of Kerbala began. Everybody was expected to recite the sad events that befell the Prophet’s descendants and maintain a serious atmosphere of sorrow and grief. Imam himself convened these Majalis in which he recited first, than allowed others to read the story of Kerbala. Abdallah ibn Thabit and D’bil al Khuzai were the poets who asked to recite poems narrating the tragic events. At the end of such a majlis the Imam bestowed on the poet a costly shirt. The humble poet refused to accept such a precious gift, requesting that the Imam be gracious to grant him his used shirt instead. The good natured saint insisted on granting him both shirts, the new one and his own old shirt.
What seems to be acceptable by looking at various ahadith regarding the martyrdom of Imam Ali Ar-Ridha (AS) is that it was none other than al-Mamoon who carried out this evil crime by giving poison to Imam.
“His death occurred at Toos in a village called Sanabad, of the Nooqan area, and he was buried at the house of Hameed ibn Tahtaba under the dome where Haroun al-Rashid had been buried, and he was buried beside him facing the qibla.” (as narrated by Uyoon Akhbar al-Reza, Vol. 1, p. 18)
There are many traditions concerning the merit of Imam Ridha’s (A) Ziyarah (pilgrimage) in general, and in some its thawab (spiritual reward) is concerned to be equal to that of the martyrdom of the martyrs of Badr whilst in other traditions its thawab is considered equal to that of a hajj pilgrimage. Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn Qulawayh narrates the following tradition from Hassan ibn Abd Allah, from his father, Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Isa, from Dawud Sarmi, who narrates from Abu Ja’far the Second (Imam Muhammad al-Taqi (A), ninth Holy Imam) saying:
I heard him say, “Whoever visits my father’s tomb shall enter paradise.” (as narrated by Ibn Qulawayh: Kamil al-Ziyarat, bab 101, p.303)
Again, he narrates from his father, from Sa’d, from Ibrahim ibn Rayyan, from Yahya ibn al-Hasan al-Husayni, from Ali ibn Abd Allah ibn Qutrub:
“Ali ibn Abd Allah ibn Qutrub says: “Once when the sons of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (A) were gathered in his presence, Ali, his son, who was very young, passed by; then the Holy Imam said. “This son of mine shall die in a foreign land. So whoever makes a pilgrimage to his shrine, while he submits to his Wilayah and Imamah and knows his right, shall have a reward near Allah Almighty and Glorious, like that of the martyrs of Badr.” (Ibid, bab 101, p. 304)
Story of the Holy Ka’aba and its People; By S.M.R. Shabbar; Published by Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain