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Biography of Imam al-Rida (a.s)

Lineage

He is Ali son of Mousa son of Jafer 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 Imams 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-Qida, or Rabiul-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-Qida 23, or the end of Dhul-Qida, 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 Imam died while he was heading in the same direction.

His Mother

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 Imam descending from the Proof of God,

that is Takattam.

Offspring

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, Jafer, 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 Imam did not have any son other than Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (A.S.), and Ibn Shahr Ashoob emphatically states so, and so does al-Tibrisi in his Alam 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 Imam 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.

Adapted from the book: "Imam al-Rida (a.s.)"

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