Rafed English

Establishment of Majalis to commemorate the events of Kerbala by Imam al-Reza (AS)

Adopted from the book : "Story of the Holy Ka’aba And its People" by : "S.M.R. Shabbar"

As mentioned earlier, when Imam Ali Al-Riza was on his journey to Khorasan he stayed in the city of Qom for a few months and there he established these commemorative Majalis. In Tus where he stayed for over a year as heir apparent to the Emperor, Imam re-established these Majalis there too. This tradition was initiated by Imam Muhammad al Baqir (AS) 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-Reza (AS) 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.

This incident proves two things: First, that the speaker in these majalis must not decide or demand any payment for his address, second, that if the convener presents something as a gift or payment, the speaker may accept it.

To get an insight into the lives and activities of the Imam, let me give a few anecdotes from the pages of history to establish his manner and his behaviour with other people.

One day a man approached the Imam and said, “ I am one of your followers and have love for the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet. I am now returning from pilgrimage to Makka and I am now penniless and have no money to return home. If you think it proper, please give me enough money so that I can reach home. After reaching home, I will give the same amount to the poor in your name. I am not poor at home, it is during my travels that I have spent more than I should have and become penniless.

Imam got up, and went inside the house. He then called the man to the door, extended his hand from behind the curtain and handed him the required amount, saying, “Take these two hundred Dinars. These are your travel expenses, and may this bring you the blessings of God. There is no need to give equivalent money to the poor but if you feel you must then you may give it to the orphans and the widows of your town.” The man took the money and left. The Imam came out from behind the curtain and resumed his seat. People asked, “Why did you adopt such a way that the man could not see you while you were giving the money.” Imam replied, “ I did not want to see the shame of supplication on his face.” (Ayoun Akhbar al Riza)

Mohammed ibn Sinan reports that during the caliphat of Haroun, they once warned the Imam about declaring his Imamate as the caliph would try to harm him. The Imam replied, “ What gave me courage are the words of the Prophet when he said, “ If Abu Jehl can harm even a hair of my head, then be witness that I am not the messenger of God.” And I say that “ if Haroun can harm even a hair of my head, then be witness that I am not a true Imam." (Kafi)

Abu Salt Harvi reports that Imam left Nishapure and reached a village called Din-Surkh, it was the time of Zohr prayers. Imam descended from the horse he was travelling and asked for water to perform the Zohr prayers. No water was found. Then the Imam with his holy hands dug some earth and a spring gushed out Imam and all his companions performed the wuzu. This place near Nishapur is now called Qadamgah. It is a small hillock. The spring still gushes and people who visit this place drink from the spring for blessing and for obtaining cures from sickness and skin diseases. The place preserves the Holy foot prints of the Imam on a black stone. (Akhbar al Riza)

One of the famous saying of Imam Ali Al-Riza (AS) is,

“ This world is a prison for a momin and a paradise for the unbeliever.”

This means that a true believer always aspires to leave this prison of his body and his Nafs and Ruh wants to get away to the nearness of God, but those who do not believe have nothing further than their mortal lives and they aspire to make it a paradise. But in the process they create their own hell on earth for their aspirations are never ending desires for accumulating material wealth.

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