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How Imam ar-Ridha (a.s.) Was Murdered

Stories regarding the method al-Mamoon employed to kill Imam al-Rida (A.S.) are abundant. Abul-Faraj and al-Mufid say that he killed him by poisoned pomegranate juice and poisoned grape juice. In his Al-Irshad, al-Mufid quotes Abdullah ibn Bashir saying: "Al-Mamoon ordered me to let my nails grow as long as they could without letting anyone notice that; so I did, then he ordered to see me and he gave me something which looked like tamarind and said, `Squeeze this with both your hands,' and I did. Then he stood up, left me and went to see al-Rida (A.S.) and said to him, `How are you?' He answered, `I hope I am alright.' He said, `I, too, by the Grace of God, am alright; did any well-wisher visit you today?' He answered in the negative, so al-Mamoon became angry and called upon his servants to come, then he ordered one of them to immediately take the pomegranate juice to him, adding, `... for he cannot do without it.' Then he called me to him and said: `Squeeze it with your own hands,' and so I did. Then al-Mamoon handed the juice to al-Rida (A.S.) in person, and that was the reason for his death for he stayed only two days before he (A.S.) died.'"

Abul-Salt al-Harawi is quoted saying, "I entered the house of al-Rida (A.S.) after al-Mamoon had already left and he said to me, `O Abul-Salt! They have done it...!' and he kept unifying and praising God." Muhammad ibn al-Jahm is quoted saying, "Al-Rida (A.S.) used to love grapes. Some grapes were said to be prepared for him; needles were pierced inside them at their very tips and were kept like that for several days. Then the needles were taken out, and they were brought to him and he ate some of them and fell into the sickness we have mentioned about him. The grapes killed him, and it was said that that was one of the most effective methods of poisoning."137

Regardless of the method of assassination, what seems to be acceptable, having examined all texts and the historical background of the political circumstances at that time, al-Mamoon was indeed the one who killed Imam al-Rida (A.S.), and we do not have the slightest doubt or hesitation about that.

"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."138 "When al-Rida (A.S.) died, al-Mamoon did not disclose it when it happened, leaving him dead for one day and one night, then he called for Muhammad ibn Ja'fer ibn Muhammad and a group of descendants of Abu Talib. When they were present, he showed him to them; his corpse looked alright; then he started weeping and addressed the corpse saying, `O Brother! It is indeed very hard for me to see you in such a condition, and I was hoping to go before you, but God insisted on carrying out His decree,' and he showed a great deal of agony and grief and went out carrying the coffin with others till he reached the place where it is now buried..."139 "... So al-Mamoon was present there before the grave was dug, and he ordered his grave to be dug beside that of his father, then he approached us and said, `The person inside this coffin told me that when his grave is dug, water and fish will appear underneath; so, dig...' They dug. When they finished digging, a spring of water appeared, and fish appeared in it, then the water dissipated, and al-Rida (A.S.), peace be upon him, was then buried."140


137 Al-Irshad, p. 297. A similar narrative is mentioned in Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, pp. 377-378

138 Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 1, p. 18

139 Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, p. 378

140 Ibid., p. 380

Adapted from: "Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research" by: "Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah"

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