About Imam Reza (a.s.)
- :Rafed Network
About Imam Reza (a.s.)
Imam Abul-Hassan II, Ali ibn Mousa al-Rida, is the eighth in the series of the Imams from the Household of the Prophet in whose personalities all the standards of greatness have been personified; so, they became its most magnificent example and most genuine fountainhead.
His life was characterized by a somber tragic stamp from its grievous beginning till its painful end. Bitterness seldom parted from his soul during the periods he lived, i.e. the reign of Harun al-Rashid and the beginning of the regime of al-Mamoon, the latter's son.
At the outset of his life, he witnessed the norms of trials and tribulations which filled the life of his father Imam Mousa ibn Ja'fer (A.S.) 1, the patient Imam whose mere existence was the cause of worry for the ruling government and the source of its suspicious doubts despite his peaceful stance, distancing himself from any causes for a direct confrontation therewith.
The Abbaside caliph al-Mehdi III ordered the Imam (A.S.) to go to Baghdad so that the caliph would secure from him promises and pledges that he would not oppose his authority or mobilize a revolution against him to put an end to his regime, and the Imam (A.S.) did not go back home till al-Mehdi joined his Lord and his shoulders bent by the load of the regime's sins and immoral actions to be succeeded by al-Hadi. The latter tried to put an end to the life of the Imam, but he did not live long enough, so al-Rashid acceded to the throne, thus the parching flames of the tragedy started incinerating the existence of the Alawis headed by Imam Mousa ibn Ja'fer (A.S.), and the dungeons of Baghdad, Basrah, Wasit and other cities could not limit the regime's passion for seeking revenge against its opponents. Its antagonistic attitudes caused it to invent norms of revenge worse than what those dungeons could provide, such that humanity shudders from. Instructions issued by the government required the builders to fill the hollow building cylinders and columns with the still alive bodies of the elite among Alawi youths and non-Alawi sympathizers and to cause them to die thus out of suffocation. This ugly method of eliminating the government's opponents was not something invented by al-Rashid, but it was a continuation of a custom started by al-Mansour to seek revenge against some Alawi youths as history tells us. 2
Imam Mousa ibn Ja'fer (A.S.) received the lion's share of the atrocities suffered by the Alawis during that period of time. Al-Rashid imprisoned him due to his being the top Alawi leader, subjecting him to extreme pressures at his horrible dungeons for fourteen years according to some accounts till he became tired of thinking of methods and means of inflicting pain on him; therefore, he ordered al-Sindi ibn Shahik, through his minister Yahya ibn Khalid, who was in charge of the last prison in which the Imam was imprisoned, to poison him and rid him of the presence of one who robbed him of his tranquility and peace of mind. Meanwhile, the Imam (A.S.) was painfully and bitterly watching closely the bloody events which consumed many of his own family and kin.
He was destined to relive the tragedy through which his father had lived from its beginning to the end without being able to decrease its intensity, for he was powerless to do so. Maybe he even awaited the same fate at the hands of the ruling gang, for the dispute was one of a conflict of principles between the rulers on one hand and the Alawis on the other; it was not a personality conflict.
After the martyrdom of his father and the perishing of al-Rashid, then the ending of the days of al-Amin in the way they ended, and al-Mamoon receiving the reins of government, the winds of yet another tragedy of a different type started blowing at the Imam (A.S.). It was a tragedy the Imam (A.S.) lived with extreme bitterness.
Al-Mamoon, due to certain political reasons which we will discuss separately in this research, decided to use the Imam (A.S.) as a bargaining chip between him and the Abbasides in Baghdad on one hand, and between him and the Alawis on the other, and also between him and the Shi'as of Khurasan as well. The ploy of relinquishing the throne was foiled when the Imam (A.S.) refused to accede to it. Then he was forced to play a role in the masquerade of the succession to the throne. We are here concerned about dispelling some of the ambiguity which shrouded it, the ambiguity which dragged many researchers into a helter-skelter situation the results of which became obscured from their superficial sight the scope of which did not exceed the skimming of the surface, nor did they take the trouble to delve deeply into the depths of their research.
It is worth mentioning here that when the Imam (A.S.) refused to accept the caliphate from the abdicating caliph, al-Mamoon, or to take charge of the post of heir to the throne, he had no reason except his own awareness of the real depth of the goal al-Mamoon anticipated to achieve by his plan, and that the desire to abdicate was not genuine enough to be taken seriously; rather, it was a political maneuver whereby al-Mamoon desired to perfect his game during a particular period of time, a game which was dictated by political circumstances posing serious threats to his seat of government. It was a situation on which the very destiny of al-Mamoon depended.
The expected finale was thereafter enacted when al-Mamoon completed his acting part, which he had rehearsed beforehand, perfecting the playing of his intricate role in such dexterity and skill which secured a period of tranquility for his regime, something which he could not have otherwise achieved had he not done so, as we will discuss later in this research.
In addition to the above, we shall attempt to deal with the comprehensive aspects of the life of the Imam (A.S.) so that the picture becomes clear to us when we wish to review the life of a great Imam such as Imam al-Rida (A.S.).
Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah
Our Belief in Ahl al-Bayt [A.S.]
Imam al-Rida is one of the bed-rocks of Islamic thought and one of its main rich sources of knowledge. After the demise of his father Imam Mousa ibn Ja'fer (A.S.), the secrets of the Divine Message and the keys to its treasures became attainable to him, so he quenched his thirst therefrom and derived the source of his intellectual contribution from the same.
He is one of the Twelve Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) who enriched the Islamic thought with various types of knowledge due to the knowledge they instructed their students to write down, or in providing their answers to the questions put forth to them by others, or to what history has narrated to us of their scientific and theological discourses with followers of other Muslim sects.
The distinction which characterized the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) and which attracts our attention when we study their biographies is the fact that they were obligated to others to provide them with knowledge while nobody was obligated to accept it from them. This is a divine bliss with which God endowed them in order to achieve through them the establishment of His Proof against His creation, something with which they were credited even by the rulers among their contemporary opponents and by the most prominent thinkers among their contemporaries.
Supporting this phenomenon is the fact that some sciences and their details were not distinctly clear during their time, nor were their effects obvious, but they became clear and their ambiguities were dispelled by the teaching of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) such as the science of chemistry of which Imam Ja'fer al-Sadiq (A.S.) is considered as the very first pioneer and founder of its principles and rules, and the science of medicine about which Imam al-Rida provides us, in his letter to al-Mamoon, with a glorious system and an innovative approach in the way he explained its particularities and regulations, in addition to various other sciences of which their legacy is full and to which their contribution surpassed that of anyone else in setting their corner-stones and in pointing out their various requirements.
None among the contemporary scientists was credited for being the instructor of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) in chemistry, or of Imam al-Rida (A.S.) in medicine. Rather, it was the fountainhead established for them by their grandfather, Bearer of the Message (S.A.W.) 3, while they inherited it son from father. We may notice that the Imams (A.S.), upon being asked about the source of their knowledge of the answers to the questions put forth to them, refer it to their own particular comprehension of the Book (Qur'an), or to what they derived from the book of their mother Fatima (A.S.), or to what they learned from their forefathers who in turn learned it from the Messenger of God (S.A.W.). They did not refer it to the narration of a sahabi of the Prophet or a tabi'i or to any other learned scholar or man of knowledge.
Their familiarity with various branches of knowledge and with all norms of learning in general was a cause for the nation's admiration of and reverence for them. They were granted the final say in their disputes, in solving a problem which may have then risen among their contemporary scholars or men of learning. Every time they were asked about something, they would produce an answer for it in such a most astonishing easily convincing manner which unties the knot of what is complex, turning it into a commonsense knowledge, or in turning the theoretical into a practical necessity, without any ambiguity or confusion.
Such a unique distinction was not shared besides them by anyone from among the scholars of the nation or its wise men despite their various ranks in knowledge and degrees of wisdom and power of reasoning.
Suffices us for a proof a magnificent dialogue which is recorded in the books of history and biography between Imam al-Jawad (A.S.), who was then a child, and Yahya ibn Aktham, the supreme judge (or judge of judges) of the then Abbaside regime in the meeting prepared by al-Mamoon to underscore distinction and superiority of the Imam over all others when al-Mamoon faced opposition to his decision to marry the Imam to his daughter Ummul-Fadl due to his young age. He was presumed to be in need of someone to educate him and teach him theology. The conclusion of the dialogue was a victory for the very young Imam in his stance and the shrinking of the judge and the crowd of learned scholars and pillars of Fiqh and Sunnah and their admission of his distinction and the greatness of his status.
Nobody ever reported that any Imam was slow in providing the answer to any question put forth to him, a question which dealt with various branches of knowledge and with different issues, despite the fact that some of them were actually not old enough to provide such answers.
The Amali of Sayyid al-Murtada narrates the following:
Abu Hanifa said: "I saw once Mousa ibn Ja'fer (A.S.) as a young boy in the corridor of his father's house and I asked him: Where does a stranger among you respond to the call of nature if he has to?' He looked up at me and said: He goes behind a wall, hides from the view of the neighbour, keeps a distance from running rivers, residential sewers, highways, mosques, without facing the Qibla or leaving it behind him; then he turns, raises, and deposits as he pleases.'" Abu Hanifa continues to say: "Having heard this answers, I saw him to be a more noble person than I first thought, and his status grew greater. Then I asked him: May my life be sacrificed for yours; what is the source of renunciation?' He looked up at me and said: Sit down and I tell you about it.' So I sat down, and he said this to me: Renunciation comes either from the servant, or his Lord, or from both. If it were from the Almighty God, He is more just and fair than renouncing or wronging His servant or punishing him for what he did not do. And if it were to come from both of them, He would be his accomplice, and the strong One is more apt to do justice to His weak servant. If it comes from the servant alone, he is to bear its burden, and he should be the one to forbid, and for him is the reward and punishment, and for him were both Paradise and Hell prepared.' I said (citing the Holy Qur'an: ... a progeny, one from another...'" 4
But some Imams, such as Imam al-Jawad, Imam al-Hadi, and Imam al-Askeri (A.S.), were not old enough to be acquainted with various branches of knowledge and fields of arts, had we claimed that their knowledge was the product of the tutoring of tutors or the teaching of teachers, but they were a progeny, one from another, as Abu Hanifa said, that derived knowledge from the substance of the Message and the Fountainhead of Prophethood. That was a distinction for which the Almighty chose them from among His creation in order to make them light-poles of the path of guidance, and to make the word of faith and righteousness through them the uppermost throughout the world.
Al-Tabrani, in his Al-Tarikh al-Kabir, and al-Rafi'i in his Musnad, depending on the authority of Ibn Abbas, quote the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) saying: "Whoever is pleased to live the way I have lived and to die the way I shall die, to live in the Garden of Eden which my Lord planted, let him emulate my Progeny after me and follow the example of my Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) after my demise, for they are my descendants; they were created out of my own mould and were blessed with my own power of comprehension and knowledge; woe unto those who deny their distinction in my nation, those who severe their ties with my loins! May the Almighty deprive them of my intercession." 5 Imam Ali (A.S.) says: "I and the elite among my descendants, and the virtuous among my progeny, are the most clement when young, the most learned when old." 6
Some historians and researchers, having exhausted themselves in the attempt to explain this phenomenon in a way which seems reasonable to them, may try to suppose that some Imams had mentors and instructors to educate them. They claimed that Imam Zainul-Abidin, Imam al-Baqir, and Imam al-Sadiq, peace be upon them, were tutored by some Sahaba and Tabi'in, without relying on any historical document except mere conjecture, going to extremities in their guesswork and presumption.
What proves the fallacy of such presumptions and allegations is that whenever the Imams were questioned about something, they would not base their answers on what any of the Sahaba or Tabi'in had said, but on one of their own ancestors up to the Messenger of God (S.A.W.), or to the books of knowledge with which they were distinguished and which they inherited from their grandfather the Messenger of God (S.A.W.), something which anyone who researches their legacy and is acquainted with their statements comes to know. And it may quite be the case that some of them would state so very clearly which supports our own conclusion.
Yet if we suppose that some Imams did indeed attend the sessions of some of those Sahaba or Tabi'in, their attendance does not by any means indicate that they became their students, or that they took them as their own mentors, for one of the outcomes of tutorship at that time was the narration of hadith, whereas it was never reported that any Imam narrated hadith from any source other than his own forefathers. If they did in fact narrate incidents through other avenues, such as the avenues of the Sahaba or Tabi'in, such narration was not related in any way to the sciences of the Islamic legislative system (Shari'a), or to any other art; rather, it dealt with matters related to the biography of the Prophet (S.A.W.), or in their own process to prove a point against those who did not follow them by citing what the ancestors of such non-followers had themselves narrated.
From such a stand-point, we can refer the reason for some Sunni traditionists who considered the hadith of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) as "weak," thus neglecting to record it, to the same argument, and we can also conclude after reading their statements that Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) was not tutored by any mentor mentioned with reverence by them.
For example, in his Tabaqat, Ibn Sa'd, while discussing Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.), said, "He narrated a great deal of hadith; he is not considered as an authority on hadith and the hadith he narrated is considered weak. The reason for this is that he was once asked whether he had learned the ahadith he narrated from his father, and he answered in the affirmative; on another occasion, he was likewise asked, and his answer was that he had read them in his (father's) books."
Abu Bakr ibn Ayyash was asked once, "Why did you not learn hadith from Ja'fer and you were his contemporary?" He answered, "I asked him once whether he had himself heard the ahadith which he narrated, and he denied that saying that it was a narration heard by his forefathers." 7
What was "wrong" with the hadith narrated by Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) according to Ibn Sa'd is that some of what the Imam narrated had been what he had read in the books of his father, rather than learning it from others, and since it was not known which hadith he had learned was narrated from his forefathers and which was learned from others, he decided to reject all of them on that account.
But this cannot be an acceptable excuse for him, especially since a great deal of what the Imam narrated did indeed give credit to others, and since his father was quoting the hadith his own forefathers had heard from the Prophet (S.W.A.); so, why did Ibn Sa'd reject even such ahadith?
As regarding his excuse for not accepting the Imam's hadith due to its abundance, we cannot understand such an excuse at all; had this been the case, he would not have narrated the abundant hadith of Abu Huraira and his likes who attributed more hadith to the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) than was actually reported by those who kept company with the Messenger for a much longer period of time, and who were much closer to him, than they themselves did. But the presence of the element of bias and prejudice does indeed interfere when someone makes an assessment, causing the person calculating to miscalculate.
Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) is not harmed by Ibn Sa'd considering his hadith as "weak" just as do Abu Bakr ibn Ayyash and Yahya ibn Sa'id. The latter goes further than that by saying: "... and I personally have a great deal of doubt about him," while discussing the Imam's hadith...
Had Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) narrated hadith from Abu Huraira, Mu'awiya ibn Abu Sufyan, or Marwan ibn al-Hakam, he would have been afforded the highest pinnacle of reverence by these persons, but the "fault" of his narrations is that they were narrated by his forefathers and were derived from their books the knowledge of which was derived directly from the Messenger of God (S.A.W.).
The statements of these individuals, anyway, lead us to the conclusion that his narratives were heard from his own forefathers, rather than being quotations from others; otherwise, they would have indicated who those "others" were. All in all, it supports our view that he and the rest of the Imams did not have mentors besides their own fathers.
Our belief in the Imams is not, as some would like to state, due to their knowledge of the unknown, or to their independent right to legislate, but due to their being conveyers on behalf of the Bearer of the Message of what is obscure to the nation of the secrets and implications of the Message, the custodians of the particularities of the legislative system, the ones who are most familiar with the rules and their implementation.
We may grasp all of this from the sacred hadith which was produced and verified by the masters of hadith and Sunnah from both sects. He (S.A.W.), in the wording of Ahmed, has said: "I am about to be called upon and respond, and I am leaving with you the Two Weighty Things: the Book of God, and my Progeny. The Book of God is like a rope extended from heavens to earth, and my Progeny are my Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.), and the Most Knowing has told me that they both shall never part from each other till they meet me by the Pool; so, see how you shall fare with them after me." 8 According to al-Tirmithi and al-Nisai, he has also said, "O people! I have left with you that which, as long as you uphold to, will never suffer you to stray, and that is, the Book of God and my Progeny, members of my Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)."
Tabrani adds the following to the above: "So, do not go ahead of them else you should perish, nor should you teach them, for they are more knowledgeable than you are."
Ibn Hajar has said: "This proves that anyone among them who is qualified for lofty positions and theological offices should be preferred over all others." 9
The clarity of this hadith does not need any detailed explanation, nor does it require precise interpretation and instruction, for the Book is the first source of guidance, and the Progeny, the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) (members of the Prophet's household) are its second source, and the nation is required to uphold to their path in order to secure for itself to stay away from the paths of misguidance.
Put in a clearer way, we say that this hadith implies in its context that Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) enjoy a unique distinction, that they by themselves are independent of the achievements of others, for the Prophet (S.A.W.) made them peers only of the Holy Qur'an in explaining the contents of the Message and the facts related thereto. This cannot be logical if we presume their reliance on others, for those "others" would then be more eligible to be equal to the Book of God than them.
Had it been otherwise, why did not the Prophet (S.A.W.) choose the Sahaba and their followers to be peers of the Book other than the Progeny or in addition to them?
Other narrators have reported this hadith in a different way of wording as in Malik's Mawti where a narrator states saying: "Malik told me that it came to his knowledge that the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) said, I have left for you two Things; as long as you uphold to them, you shall never stray, and these are: the Book of God, and the Sunnah of His Prophet."
In his Al Sawa'iq al-Muhriqa, Ibn Hajar narrates it, taking its narration for granted 10. Al-Tabrani, too, quoted it in his al-Awsat, and so did Ibn Hisham in his Seerat without mentioning his references. All of these authors may have all relied while quoting it on the Mawti which mentioned it without its isnad.
What is quite unusual is that Professor Muhammad Abu Zuhra, in his work Al-Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.), states that the Sunni references which narrated the hadith with the wording of "my Sunnah" are more reliable than those which narrated it with "my Itrat (Progeny)," despite the fact that only Ibn Malik's Mawti narrates the hadith with the word "Sunnati (i.e. my Sunnah)." The other three books which quoted it with the same wording of "Sunnati" also narrated it with the wording "Itrati" as well.
As regarding the books which narrated it in the wording "Itrati," these comprise most books of hadith, exegesis (tafsir), and tradition such as Muslim's Sahih, al-Darmi's Sunan, Abu Dawud's Sunan, Ibn Maja's Sunan, al-Nisai's Khasais, Ahmed's Musnad, al-Hakim's Mustadrak, al-Tabari's Dhakhair and also Hilyat al-Awlia, Kanzul 'Ummal, in addition to the tafsir books of al-Razi, al-Tha'alibi, al-Nishapuri, al-Khazin, Ibn Kathir, and many others.
It was narrated through Sunni authorities in thirty-two ahadith by more than twenty companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.) as Ibn Hajar states. Through Shi'a avenues, it was narrated in eighty-two ahadith. Despite all this, Professor Abu Zuhra does not find in these books and avenues, some of which are held to be the most authentic, and despite this consecutive narration which not too many other ahadith enjoy..., what brings him comfort with and confidence in this hadith! Yet, a narration taken for granted or supported by one documentation, one which is not reported except by one single source, is considered by the professor to be "most authentic," bypassing all the consecutive narration supporting its rival narratives and an almost total consensus agreement regarding their authenticity...
Despite all of this, Professor Abu Zuhra considers himself to be "subjective," and what he writes is inspired only by innocent knowledge rather than dictated by personal bias; therefore, he presumes himself to record only what is dictated by the balances of justice and equity, and we shall have a lengthy discussion of him in our forthcoming book Al-Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) in which we shall examine a degree of his own trespassing beyond these very limits and will shed a light on the bias and fanaticism his views are charged with.
There is a point I would like to tackle in this discourse: it is the deliberate vicious policy of ignoring the Imams of the Prophet's Household followed by the adherents of other sects while discussing views and debating their proofs. While you find them giving ample attention to the narrations reported through the companions of the Prophet and those who followed suit in their footsteps, and to their own, relying on them as proofs and bases of argument, even going to as far as presuming that their own additional contribution is a Sunnah to be emulated, these same individuals, when it comes to the Imams from the Prophet's own family, stop short of discussing their views and the narrations which they had narrated or were narrated about them. This is so despite the fact that the founders of these sects, such as Abu Hanifa, Malik, Sufyan al-Thawri, Abu Ayyub al-Sajistani and others, who are considered as the creative pioneers who inspired the outset of these sects, were actually graduates of the school of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) who was one of the Imams of the Prophet's family. Even Abu Hanifa used to be of the view that the reason why he was in the vanguard of his peers was due to his being a student of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.), and history has recorded his famous statement: "Without those two years, al-Nu'man (Abu Hanifa) would have been annihilated," 11 meaning thereby the period he lived as a student in the Imam's school, and also his other statement when he was asked about the best Faqih he ever saw; he said: "Ja'fer ibn Muhammad (al-Sadiq, A.S.)."
History has preserved a great deal of the statements of Sunni imams and renown personalities giving credit to Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) and other Imams from the Prophet's family which, all in all, lead one to realize their superiority over others and the need of those "others" for their knowledge. Yet, despite all this, we find al-Bukhari in his Sahih abstaining from considering a narration as authentic for no reason other than the fact that its chain of narrators ends up with Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) about whom he has some "doubts."
In Tahtheeb al-Tahtheeb, Ibn Hajar says that the difficulty in distinguishing what is authentic and what is not forced al-Bukhari not to report any of his (al-Sadiq's) hadith 12. Yet Ibn Hajar did not tell us how al-Bukhari was able to distinguish between what was authentic and what was not of the hadith Abu Hurairah and other fabricators and inventors of hadith had reported. He may find for himself the excuse that the companions were all equitable which is a justification worse than the error being justified due to the fact that this is simply a false pretext since the behaviour of some of those companions and their exchanging of charges of deviation and counter-charges undermined such claim of "equitability." We cannot understand an explanation for this odd phenomenon except prejudice and the influence of the standing sectarian environment which was charged with the venom of grudge and bitter animosity towards the Household of the Prophet (S.W.A.), the environment which is but an extension of desperate efforts of Mu'awiya and his agents, the caliphs of iniquity, who succeeded him in widening the gap they created between the masses of the Muslim nation and the members of the family of the Prophetic mission and their practical isolation from general populace whose conduct cannot remain on the Straight Path without that family, according to the declaration of their great grandfather the Greatest Prophet (S.A.W.) as stated in the previously quoted hadith and in other ahadith which fill the books of hadith and Sunnah of both parties.
Other than this, how else can you explain al-Bukhari's odd refusal to quote Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) while he, at the same time, does not hesitate to quote individuals such as Mu'awiya ibn Abu Sufyan, Marwan ibn al-Hakam, Imran ibn Hattan who hailed Ibn Muljim for murdering the Commander of the Faithful (A.S.), Umer ibn Sa'd who instigated the murder of Imam al-Husayn (A.S.) and others who were the social outcasts of the nation and the most immoral among them?
How else can you explain what al-Sayyuti meant when he said that there was nothing wrong with the hadith narrated by Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (A.S.) except that his narration of a virtue of Fatima al-Zahra (A.S.) did not agree with his own "scholarly" taste, and that for this reason the narration was considered a fabrication?! 13
It was destined that the plot to isolate the Imams from among the Prophet's family from public affairs should enjoy a total success during the epochs of the Umayyad and Abbaside ruling dynasties barring brief periods due to certain political factors. During those brief periods, some such Imams (A.S.) were able to quench the scholarly and intellectual thirst of their students. Despite the scarcity of such periods and their short span of time, those Imams were able to benefit the nation in the areas of the secrets of branches of knowledge and intricacies of arts with which they filled numerous books and chronicles. The stronger factor which prompted the regime to take a negative stance towards the Imams of the Prophet's family is that these Imams and their followers were never convinced that such a regime was legitimate or that those who were holding its reins were qualified for leading the nation. According to them, the conduct of these "leaders" did not represent the adequate conduct of message-bearers who rule with a commitment to carry out the responsibilities of such a message so that the nation would follow in their footsteps and correct its path should it at all deviate from the straight path. This lack of conviction caused them a great deal of trouble during their lifetime despite their outward toleration of the government, and those troubles were not confined to them alone but were extended to their Shi'as and followers whose share was the lion's.
It is important to point out here the extent of the impact of this negative stance of the government towards these Imams and their disciples on the writings of the narrators and recorders of hadith, for the pens of the latter were poisoned by the motives and ill intentions of the rulers; therefore, we find them excluding the narrations and ahadith if one of their narrators happens to be a Shi'a reporter or traditionist even if he enjoyed the highest degree of reliability and authenticity. Their only excuse is that he was simply a Shi'a; therefore, they make the false claim that the narration was not authentic because one of its narrators was so and so, i.e. a Shi'a, or one who practiced Shi'aism secretly, or a foul "Rafidi," or apply to him some other bad name, thus revealing their sectarian prejudice which overturns the balances of a conscientious investigation and insight upside down.
Contrariwise, Shi'as who followed those Imams applied a different criterion wherein the judgement regarding the authenticity of a narration or the lack thereof according to them was to ascertain the truthfulness or untruthfulness of the narrator regardless of his sect or school of thought. Upon such a premise, the authenticity or the lack thereof was based. There were numerous narrations among whose chain of narrators were non-Shi'as, yet they were accepted and applied by the Shi'as who even based their own jurisdic judgement upon them. There is no room here to elaborate on this topic; those who wish to investigate the extent of accuracy of this fact are referred to the books of their famous dignitaries to see for themselves.
This proves the fact that the attitude of Sunnis towards their Shi'a brethren regarding scholarly borrowing and loaning was not subject, during the time of the Imams (A.S.), to sectarian or political motives for these took place during later periods when arguments about sects appeared, and the science of kalam was discussed in detail, and partisans demonstrated their bias to what they thought to have proved the accuracy of their own sect. All this led to the widening of the gap of dissension which even caused violence to erupt among the followers of various sects. It even led one party to call the other "Kafir" (infidel) and corrupt, justifying the spilling of the blood of its adherents. The sad tales of such bloodshed are bitterly narrated by history. Add to this the deliberate attempt by the rulers to instigate such ugly prejudices and pave the path for those whose objectives were malicious to spew their venom and nurture thereby the elements of dissension in order to keep the nation from questioning the legality of the corrupt government or questioning its iniquities and injustices, and in order to prolong its own enjoyment and pleasure without anyone questioning what it was actually doing.
Yet after all this, why do the Shi'as adhere to the sect of this particular Household rather than any other Islamic sect?
The answer to this question, in our view, is quite clear. It does not require an effort to find it out and simplify its arguments.
Man, by nature, is bent upon selecting the best path when approaching crossroads in order to secure salvation for himself and attain the goal he aspires to achieve. He has to think long enough before making a move in order to know exactly which path he has to take so that he will not be confused while seeking the truth. It is only natural that man, in order to define his safest path, should refer to one who is familiar with his approaches and avenues when, at his outset, he stands confused as to where to start from.
We may not differ while defining the "expert" who should be followed when he defines the path for us in this regard, for such an "expert" is none other than the Bearer of the Message and its Promoter (S.A.W.), and we have to follow his directives and instructions in this regard. When we fail in our attempt to know what we need to know, we have to refer to the complete definitions followed in this regard which would take us to the desired result.
The texts narrated about the Custodian of the Shari'a may suffice for us when we seek such a definition since he himself had outlined for us the best path we have to choose. In addition to his tradition of the Two Weighty Things in which he described the Book and the Progeny as the dividing line between guidance and misguidance, there is another explanatory tradition with a more explicit text in which he (S.A.W.) is quoted as saying: "The similitude of my Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) among you is like the Ark of Noah: whoever boards it is saved, and whoever lags behind it is drowned." 14 Al-Tabrani adds another: "The similitude of my Household among you is like the Gate of Hitta for the Children of Israel: whoever enters is forgiven." 15 The clarity of this tradition in defining the safest path needs no explanation since he made salvation dependant upon following them, making the sinking into the calamities of misguidance an indication of lagging behind them.
Another tradition states: "Stars are protectors of the inhabitants of earth against drowning, and my Progeny (Ahl al-Bayt, (A.S.) are the protectors of my nation against dissension in the creed; therefore, if a tribe among the Arabs differs from them (in religious matters), it would then become the party of the devil." 16
Having quoted these traditions, Ibn Hajar comments thus: "The reason for comparing them with the ark is that whoever loves them and holds them in high esteem as means to thanking God Who granted them such honours, following the guidance of the learned men among them, is saved from dissension, and whoever abstains from doing so is drowned into the seas of ingratitude and annihilated at the crossroads of tyranny." 17 Besides, they were the overflowing fountainhead which produced the leading scholars and founders of schools of thought; so, what stops us from emulating these men by staying away from what they themselves had stayed away from? Add to this the consensus view regarding these men's integrity and immaculate conduct, their superiority over others in knowledge, their being the final arbitrators regarding any difficult problem faced in the legislative system or any other system according to the testimony of the leading scholars and philosophers, nay, of even men of the government, and the endorsement of everyone of their views and the submission wholeheartedly thereto.
For these reasons and for others, we have upheld the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) of the Prophet (S.A.W.) and preferred them over all others, following the path they outlined for us without paying attention to others especially since they enriched us with whatever valuable information and intellectual riches any Muslim needs in his daily life and for which the Message was revealed unto their grandfather the Greatest Prophet (S.A.W.).
Thereupon, it is worthwhile to research the biographies of these great Imams and examine their details and characteristics and highlight the aspects of greatness of their unique personalities in order to correctly emulate them. We have also to compare their conduct with that of others so that their distinctions become manifest to us, the distinctions which raised their status to the very summit of human perfection.
In this study, we shall try our best to examine the biography of one of those Imams who is the eighth in the series of the Twelve Imams. He is Imam Ali son of Mousa al-Rida whose contemporary epoch was full of historical events in whose shaping he played a significant role the effects of which were reflected upon the then contemporary Islamic history. The reason which invited us to prefer to study the biography of Imam al-Rida over those of other Imams (A.S.) is that he, despite the many characteristics of his contemporary time, and despite the magnitude of the events and occurrences which filled his days, has not been independently researched as far as we know. What I sincerely desire is to be honest in my exposition and analysis, free from the psychological complexes of prejudice and sectarian fanaticism, and I also wish the reader will be likewise so that he may be my companion while conducting this research, and God is the Master of success and uprightness.
He is Ali son of Mousa son of Ja'fer son of Muhammad son of Ali son of al-Husayn son of Ali son of Abu Talib (A.S.), eighth in the series of the Emams belonging to the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.). His birthplace is Medina, and his resting place is Toos (Iran).
Birth and Demise
Historians disagree a great deal about the year of his birth and even in determining the month as well, and they also disagree about determining the year and the month of his death. Their disagreements are not confined to the limit of a short span of time but they may be five years apart, and the disagreement is so confusing that it is very difficult to determine clearly such matters; however, we shall point out the statements recorded in this regard without favouring any of them due to the lack of purpose of such favouring which naturally requires research and investigation and a proof for selecting what seems to be the most accurate.
He was born in Medina on Friday, or Thursday, Dhul-Hijja 11, or Dhul-Qi'da, or Rabi'ul-Awwal, of the Hijri year 148 or the year 153. He died on Friday, or Monday, near the end of the month of Safar, or the 17th of Safar, or Ramadan 21, or Jumada I 18, or Dhul-Qi'da 23, or the end of Dhul-Qi'da, of the year 202 or 203 or 206. In his 'Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, al-Saduq states: "What is accurate is that he died on the 13th of Ramadan, on a Friday, in the year 203."
What is most likely is that his death took place in the year 203 as stated by al-Saduq. It is the same year in which al-Mamoon marched towards Iraq. To say that he died in 206 is not to agree with the truth because al-Mamoon marched towards Baghdad in the year 204, and the Emam died while he was heading in the same direction.
There is a great deal of dispute regarding the name of his mother. Some say she was called al-Khayzaran; others say she was Arwi and that her nickname was "the blonde of Nubia," while others say she was Najma and her nickname was "Ummul-Baneen." Others say she was called Sekan the Nubian; still others say she was called Takattam as may be proven from the poetry in his praise which said:
The best in self and parenthood,
In offspring and in ancestry,
Is Ali al-Muaddam,
Eighth in series of the knowledgeable
and the clement,
An Emam descending from the Proof of God,
that is Takattam.
Disputes exist also regarding the number of his offspring and their names. A group of scholars say that they were five sons and one daughter, and that they were: Muhammad al-Qani', al-Hassan, Ja'fer, Ibrahim, al-Husayn, and 'Ayesha.
Sabt ibn al-Jawzi, in his work Tadhkiratul-Khawass, says that the sons were only four, dropping the name of Husayn from the list. Al-Mufid inclines to believe that the Emam did not have any son other than Emam Muhammad al-Jawad (A.S.), and Ibn Shahr Ashoob emphatically states so, and so does al-Tibrisi in his A'lam al-Wara. Al-'Udad al-Qawiyya states that he had two sons, Muhammad and Mousa, and that he did not have any other offspring. In his claim, he is supported by Qurb al-Asnad in which the author says that al-Bazanti asked al-Rida, "For years I have been asking you who your successor is and you keep telling me that it is your son even when you had no son at all, but since God has now blessed you with two sons, which one of them is he?" 'Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida indicates that he had a daughter named Fatima.
We are not in the process of investigating, researching and pinpointing with accuracy the number of his offspring and their names, but what seems to be more reasonable is what al-Mufid states. What is established as a fact with us is that Emam Muhammad al-Jawad (A.S.) was his son; as regarding his other sons, nobody seems to be able to prove any facts regarding them, and God knows best.
Personality and Characteristics
Generally speaking, an Emam enjoys a unique personality and distinctive characteristics, in as far as Shi'a followers of the Emams are concerned; therefore, he is not permitted to do what others are, such as falling into error, or getting confused about a matter. Rather, infallibility is essential in him since he conveys on behalf of the Prophet (S.A.W.) what seems to others to be obscure of the Message and its intricacies. Just as we proved the infallibility of the Prophet (S.A.W.), we, by the same token, prove infallibility for the Emam as well with one exception: the Emam conveys on behalf of the Prophet (S.A.W.), whereas the Prophet conveys on behalf of the Almighty God. The wisdom in this argument is that should falling into error be accepted and expected from the Prophet (S.A.W.) or the Emam, then doubt will result regarding the reliability of what they convey to people of jurisdic rules and regulations and other such matters since they are liable to err in their judgement or get confused about a particular issue. Although the believers are not held accountable for doing what they are not supposed to be doing due to such error of judgement, the assumption of the error of judgement itself collides with the very wisdom behind the reason why prophets were sent to people at all which is to clarify to people, according to the way God Almighty intended them to, without any error or confusion, what His Will is.
The topic of infallibility is a vast one the discussion of which has no room here and which requires a dedicated research I may be able one day to tackle. What I have to same fa here is that Emamate is characterized by certain distinctive aspects such as infallibility which we cannot discuss by itself with others except after both parties agree on the basis from which it emerged; otherwise, our case would be like one who discusses the necessity of performing the ritual prayers (salat) with someone who does not believe in the message of the Prophet (S.A.W.).
The basic point upon which we have first and foremost to agree is the definition of general Emamate, then the distinctions it requires and, finally, the proofs which testify to these distinctions. It is only then that disagreeing parties can conduct a reasonable discussion. Having been convinced by unequivocal proofs of such infallibility, and having seen the Twelve Emams (A.S.) to be fully qualified to be the only ones in whom such infallibility could be observed, we became fully convinced of their unshakable superiority over all others, and that they were the ones adorned with absolute human perfection.
An Emam, according to this viewpoint, has got to be the most learned among people and the most aware of the general needs of people such as knowledge or other necessities of life, and that he has to be the most pious, the most ascetic, the most perfect in personal conduct and norms of behaviour. In other words, in order to be qualified for Emamate, one has to be superior to everyone else in all aspects of perfection and its requirements which all raise him to his position of leadership. On this basis, the character of Emam al-Rida (A.S.), who is one of these Twelve Emams, becomes clearly distinctive due to its merits. But this is not the limit of the scope of this research; rather, we shall attempt to research his personality and the qualities which distinguished him from all others by our sifting into the legacy history has preserved for us of his conduct while still alive, and from the stances taken by the men of knowledge and by contemporary caliphs towards him.
Government's Attitude Towards the Emam
The attitude of the then rulers towards Emam al-Rida (A.S.) and the other Emams may provide us with a clear view of the distinctions which raised their personalities to the zenith. And it is essential to explain the phenomenon of the government's attitude towards them which manifested itself in the surveillance imposed upon them rather than upon other distinguished dignitaries or chiefs of the Alawides, monitoring their movements and counting their steps in all their social and personal encounters. What we can mention here to explain this phenomenon are the following reasons:
1) The belief of a large number of Muslims in their Emamate and in their being the most worthy of the caliphate, and their conviction that all other caliphs are considered usurpers of authority, trespassers upon the rights ordained by God to others. This is why the politicians of the time considered them their competitors whose mere presence increased the dangers surrounding them and jeopardized the security of the very existence of their government structure.
2) Their being the magnet which attracted leading scholars and thinkers who shrank in their presence despite their intellectual advancement and distinction in the fields of the arts and knowledge and despite their genius and intellectual prowess. This caused the caliphs to feel a stronger animosity towards them and be more grudgeful towards them due to the public fascination by them and to their attempts to be close to them and to being emotionally distant from the center of the government.
3) Their being the better alternative from the public's political standpoint to take charge of the responsibilities of government, bear its burdens, carry out its obligations and doing all of that most efficiently. This frightened the rulers and made the obscure future seem to their eyes even more so.
4) The vicious incitements about them by their opponents who bore animosity towards them and who wished thereby their elimination, and the tell-tales of even some of their own kin whose judgement was blinded by jealousy, so they kept fabricating stories and attributing them to those Emams and telling them to the rulers who were pleased to hear them since they became outlets to the grudge they felt towards those Emams and, at the same time, found in them the pretexts for annihilating and harassing them and in the end a justification to put an end to their lives and rid themselves of the complex they were suffering from due to their existence.
By these and by others can we explain the phenomenon of the rulers pursuing them and desperately trying to alienate them from the stage of events affecting the nation in order to secure a distance from the ghost of competition which could haunt them had they permitted the Emams to do as they pleased. Thus can we understand the general characteristics of the significant distinctions the personalities of those Emams enjoyed in all sectors of the society in its various centers of activity and in its various aspirations; otherwise, how do you explain this phenomenon, and why should those rulers pay the Emams so much attention?
He inherited the knowledge of his grandfather the Messenger of God (S.A.W.), thus becoming its pioneering fountainhead that quenched the thirst of those who were thirsty for knowledge. History narrates a great deal of his scholarly stances and intellectual discourses in which he achieved victory over those who opposed the Divine Message, excelling in various branches of scholarship with which he provided the seekers of knowledge and the thinkers of the time.
Emam Mousa a-Kazim (A.S.) is reported to have often said to his sons: "Ali ibn Mousa, your brother, is the learned scholar of the Descendants of Muhammad (S.A.W.); therefore, you may ask him about your religion, and memorize what he tells you for I have heard my father Ja'fer ibn Muhammad more than once saying, The learned scholar of the family of Muhammad is in your loins. How I wish I had met him, for he is named after the Commander of the Faithful Ali (A.S.).'"
Ibrahim ibn al-Abbas al-Suli is reported to have said: "I never saw al-Rida (A.S.) unable to provide the answer to any question he received, nor have I ever seen any contemporary of his more learned than he was. Al-Mamoon used to put him to test by asking him about almost everything, and he always provided him with the answer, and his answer and example was always derived from the Holy Qur'an."
Rajaa ibn Abul-Dahhak, who was commissioned by al-Mamoon to escort al-Rida (A.S.) to his court, said: "By God! I never saw anyone more pious than him nor more often remembering God at all times nor more fearful of God, the Exalted. People approached him whenever they knew he was present in their area, asking him questions regarding their faith and its aspects, and he would answer them and narrate a great deal of hadith from his father who quoted his forefathers till Ali (A.S.) who quoted the Messenger of God (S.A.W.). When I arrived at al-Mamoon's court, the latter asked me about his behaviour during the trip and I told him what I observed about him during the night and during the day, while riding and while halting; so, he said: Yes, O son of al-Dahhak! This is the best man on the face of earth, the most learned, and the most pious.'" 18
Al-Hakim is quoted in Tarikh Nishapur as saying that the Emam (A.S.) used to issue religious verdicts when he was a little more then twenty years old. In Ibn Maja's Sunan, in the chapter on "Summary Of Cultivating Perfection," he is described as "the master of Banu Hashim, and al-Mamoon used to hold him in high esteem and surround him with utmost respect, and he even made him his successor and secured the oath of allegiance for him."
Al-Mamoon said this once in response to Banu Hashim: "As regarding your reaction to the selection by al-Mamoon of Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.) as his successor, be reminded that al-Mamoon did not make such a selection except upon being fully aware of its implications, knowing that there is no one on the face of earth who is more distinguished, more virtuous, more pious, more ascetic, more acceptable to the elite as well as to the commoners, or more God-fearing, than he (al-Rida, A.S.) is." 19
Abul-Salt al-Harawi is quoted saying: "I never saw anyone more knowledgeable than Ali ibn Mousa al-Rida (A.S.). Every scholar who met him admitted the same. Al-Mamoon gathered once a large number of theologians, jurists and orators and he (al-Rida, A.S.) surpassed each and every one of them in his own respective branch of knowledge, so much so that the loser admitted his loss and the superiority of the winner over him." 20
He is also quoted saying: "I have heard Ali ibn Mousa al-Rida (A.S.) saying, I used to take my place at the theological center and the number of the learned scholars at Medina was quite large, yet when a question over-taxed the mind of one of those scholars, he and the rest would point at me, and they would send me their queries, and I would answer them all." 21
In his discourse regarding the issue of succession, al-Mamoon said: "I do not know any man on the face of earth who is more suited (to be heir to the throne) than this man." 22
Al-Manaqib records the following: "When people disputed regarding Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.), Muhammad ibn 'Isa al-Yaqtini said, I have collected as many as eighteen thousand of his answers to questions put forth to him.' A group of critics, including Abu Bakr the orator in his Tarikh and al-Tha'labi in his tafsir and al-Sam'ani in his dissertation and in al-Mu'tazz in his work, in addition to others, have all quoted hadith from him." 23
After an intellectual discourse with al-Mamoon, Ali ibn al-Jahm said: "Al-Mamoon stood up to perform the prayers ritual and took Muhammad ibn Ja'fer, who was present there, by the hand, and I followed both of them. He asked him: What do you think of your nephew?' He answered, A learned scholar although we never saw him being tutored by any learned man.' Al-Mamoon said: This nephew of yours is a member of the family of the Prophet (S.A.W.) about whom the Prophet (S.A.W.) said: The virtuous among my descendants and the elite among my progeny are the most thoughtful when young, the most learned when adult; therefore, do not teach them for they are more learned than you are, nor will they ever take you out of guidance, nor lead you into misguidance.'" 24
Ibn al-Athir writes: "He (al-Mamoon) discerned the descendants of Banu al-Abbas and Banu Ali and did not find anyone more than him (al-Rida, A.S.) in accomplishments, piety and knowledge." 25
We do not need the testimony of anyone to convince us of the distinction enjoyed by Emam al-Rida (A.S.) due to his knowledge over all others. Suffices us to review the books of hadith which are filled with his statements and dictation in various arts which every individual, regardless of the loftiness of his degree of knowledge, became dwarfed upon meeting him, feeling his inferiority and the superiority of Emam al-Rida (A.S.).
Ethical and Humane Conduct
Good manners constitute a significant part of one's personality. They unveil the innermost nature of the individual, highlighting the extent of its purity of origin when it translates belief into action. The Emam was characterized by a most noble personality which won him the love of the commoners as well as the elite, by extraordinary humanity derived from the spirit of the Message itself one of whose custodians he himself was, a person who safeguarded it and inherited its innermost secrets.
Ibrahim ibn al-Abbas al-Suli is quoted saying: "I never saw Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.) angering anyone by something he said, nor did I ever see him interrupting anyone, nor refusing to do someone a favour he was able to do, nor did he ever stretch his legs before an audience, nor leaned upon something while his companion did not, nor did he ever call any of his servants or attendants a bad name, nor did I ever see him spit or burst into laughter; rather, his laughter was just a smile. When he was ready to eat and he sat to be served, he seated with him all his attendants, including the doorman and the groom." He adds, "Do not, therefore, believe anyone who claims that he saw someone else enjoying such accomplishments." 26
A guest once kept entertaining him part of the night when the lamp started fading and the guest stretched his hand to fix it, but Abul-Hassan (A.S.) swiftly checked him and fixed it himself, saying, "We are folks who do not let their guest tend on them." 27
Al-Manaqib states that al-Rida (A.S.) once went to the public bath-house and someone asked him to give him a massage, so he kept giving the man a massage till someone recognized him and told that person who that dignitary was. The man felt extremely embarrassed; he apologized to the Emam (A.S.) and gave him a massage. 28
Muhammad ibn al-Fadl narrates the following anecdote regarding the Emam's simple personality. He says: "Al-Rida (A.S.), on the occasion of Eidul-Fitr, said to one of his attendants, May God accept your good deeds and ours,' then he stood up and left. On the occasion of Eidul-Adha, he said to the same man, May God accept our good deeds and yours.' I asked him, O son of the Messenger of God! You said something to this man on the occasion of Eidul-Fitr and something else on the occasion of Eidul-Adha; why?' He answered: I pleaded God to accept his good deeds and ours because his action was similar to mine and I combined it with mine in my plea, whereas I pleaded God to accept our good deeds and his because we are capable of offering the ceremonial sacrifice while he is not; so, our action is different from his.'" 29 Thus does Emam al-Rida (A.S.) become in total harmony with his message in the area of ethics, personifying the latter into action derived from the spirit of the message whereby he ascends to the summit of human perfection, rising thereby to the shores of the individual's own real greatness. It is through this and similar means that the sincerity of faith and loftiness and dignity of the self are recognized.
Emam al-Rida (A.S.) defines for us the Islamic theory as the rules which govern the actual dealings of man with his brother man from which we can achieve the inspiration that Islam abolishes the then class distinctions among individuals and groups in the areas of public rights and the safeguarding of man's dignity, and that the difference which we must recognize regarding these areas is the difference between one who obeys God and one who does not.
A man once said to the Emam: "By God! There is nobody on the face of earth who is more honourable than your forefathers." The Emam responded by saying: "Their piety secured their honour, and their obedience of God made them fortunate." 30
Another man said to him: "By God! You are the best of all people!" He said to him: "Do not swear so. Better than me is one who is more obedient to God and more pious. By God! The following verse was never abrogated: And We have made you nations and tribes so that you may know each other; verily the best of you in God's sight is the most pious.'" 31
Abul-Salt once asked him: "O son of the Messenger of God! What do you say about something people have been criticizing you for?" He asked: "What is it?" He said: "They claim that you call people your slaves." He said: "God! Creator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the hidden and the manifest! I invoke Thee to testify that I have never said so, nor did I ever hear that any of my forefathers had said so! God! You are the Knower of the many injustices this nation has committed against us, and this is just one of them..." Then he came to Abul-Salt and said: "O Abdul-Salam! If all people, as some claim, are our slaves, who did we buy them from?" Abul-Salt answered: "You are right, O son of the Messenger of God..." Then the Emam said: "O Abdul-Salam! Do you deny the right which God has allotted for us to be charged with the authority as others deny?" He said: "God forbid! I do acknowledge such right." 32
The Emam here denies such an allegation about him and his forefathers and rejects the vicious accusation which their enemies use against him to tarnish his image, considering it one of the many injustices committed against the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.). Rather, he and the Household of the Prophet (S.A.W.) consider people to be equal in their general obligations except in the right of government which God ordained to be theirs solely, for others have no right to claim it for themselves. With the exception of the right to obey God in its most pristine implications which raised their status in the sight of God and man, all are the slaves of God. They share the same parents and worship the same God.
Abdullah ibn al-Salt quotes a man from Balkh saying: "I accompanied al-Rida (A.S.) during his trip to Khurasan. One day he ordered preparations for his meal to which he invited all his attendants, blacks and non-blacks, so I said: May my life be sacrificed for yours! Maybe these should have a separate eating arrangement.' He said: God Almighty is One; the father (Adam) and the mother (Eve) are the same, and people are rewarded according to their deeds.'" 33
The Emam does not see any difference between him and his servants and attendants except in the degree of good deeds; other than that, all distinctions are void when the matter is related to common obligations in which all individuals are equal, for each one of them is created by the same God, and each has the same father, Adam, who was created of dust.
When we see the Emam sitting at the table surrounded by his servants, his doorman, and his groom, he is thus teaching the nation a lesson in virtuous humanity which believes in the dignity of man in order to demonstrate the theory of Islam in practice showing the nature of behaviour man should undertake in his conduct towards his brother man. The loftiness of status and the elevation of career must not necessitate that a man of a less status or one whose career is less coveted should be despised or made to feel inferior to his brother man even if he is a servant. This is so in order to eliminate the complex class distinctions which widen the gap between the members of the society whose energies would then be split into opposing parties torn by grudge and consumed by hatred.
Islam enacted the law of equality among the members of the society in the areas of general obligations in order to emancipate man's dignity from class obligations which dominated the way of life during the pre-Islamic era and were adopted by nations of old. God Almighty has said: "The best of you in the eyes of God is the one who is most pious." 3 The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "All of you descended from Adam, and Adam was created of dust." He also said: "No Arab can be held superior to a non-Arab except through superiority of his degree of piety."
Ibrahim ibn al-Abbas al-Suli is quoted saying: "I heard Ali ibn Mousa al-Rida saying, I swear by emancipation--and whenever I swore by it, I would emancipate one of my slaves till I emancipated each and every one of them--that I do not see myself as better than that (and he pointed to a black slave of his who remained in his service) on account of my kinship to the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) except if I do a good deed which would render me bette
Share this article