Biography of Hadrat Imam Ali Al-Rida (pbuh)

11th of Thou Al-Qeda the birth anniversary of Hadrat Imam Al-Rida (pbuh)

Imam Al-Rida (A.S.): The Greatest Aaleem (Scholar) of Ahlul Bayt (A.S.)

Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Al-Rida (A.S.), the eighth Shi'ite Holy Imam was born on 11th Zee al-Qa'
adah 148 A.H. in the holy city of Madinah. He was divinely entitled 'Al-Al-Rida"(meaning that Allah Almighty and His Holy Messenger (S.A.W.) were deeply pleased with him). The Holy Imam (A.S.) is also considered as the Aalim (the Greatest Learned and Erudite) of the Holy Ahlul Bayt (A.S.). Holy Imam was poisoned by Mamun, the Abbasid caliph in Sanabad in Toos region (Khurasan).The Holy Imam (A.S.) attained martyrdom on the last day of the month of Safar 203 A.H./ 818 A.D. and was buried in Sanabad. After the burial of Imam Al-Rida (A.S.) in this place, Sanabad soon transformed into a metropolis. The holy shrine of Imam Al-Rida (A.S.) in the holy city of Mashhad is also one of the most extensively visited pilgrimage centers in the world and annually more than 25 millions pilgrims and lovers of Holy Ahlul Bayt (A.S.) from all parts of the world visit the holy shrine of Imam Al-Rida (A.S.).

The Birth of the Great Newborn 

Imam Al-Rida (as) was born on the 11th Thou al-Qa'adah 148 A.H. in Madinatul-Munawwarah. He is the son of 7th Imam, Imam Musa ibn Ja’ffar al-Kadhim (as) and Ummul-Baneen, who is also referred to as Bibi Najma (as) or Kheizraan (as). History tells us that the mother of our 8th Imam (as) was a non-Arab and in her days, she was well known as Afdhalun-Nisaa meaning ‘the best of all women’. When Imam Al-Rida, peace be on him, was born, the earth shined; waves of delight and happiness spread through the Household of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his Household. As for Imam al-Kazim, he received with more delight the news of the birth of his blessed baby, so he hurried to his wife and congratulated her on her baby, saying: "I congratulate you, Najma. It is a mark of nobility for you from your Lord!" Imam al-Kazim took his blessed baby, folded it with a white piece of cloth, and performed the religious rites for it. He said the adhan in its right ear, said the iqama in its left ear, called for sweet water and rubbed its lower jaw with it, and then he returned it to its mother and said to her: "Take it, for it is the rest (baqiyat) of Allah on His earth.[1]" It is narrated from his mother that: "When I was pregnant, I didn’t feel overweighed. When I was asleep, I heard the sound of praising Allah and the word of "La Ilaha Illa Allah" from my womb, but when I got up, I heard nothing. When my baby was born, he put his hands on the floor and raised his head up and moved his lips, as he was saying something". Similar happenings have been narrated for other Imams or prophets, such as Jesus(A.S.), who according to the Quran, talked to the people although he was in a cradle. The first picture which the Prophet’s grandson (Imam Al-Rida, peace be on him) saw in the world of existence was that of his father, the Imam of the Allah-fearing and leader of the monotheists; and the first voice which he heard was: "Allah is Great!" "There is no god but Allah!" These brilliant words are the secret of existence and song of the Allah-fearing. Imam al-Kazim, peace be on him, named his blessed baby with the name of his grandfather Imam ‘Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, that he might get blessing seek good omen in this name, which stood for the greatest personality created in the world of Islam and had all good qualities of the world. His grand era of Imamat began from 183 A.H. when he was thirty five years old and he held that divine position for about twenty years. The three Abbasid caliphs were his contemporaries: Haroon al-Rashid for the first ten years, Amin for another five years and finally Ma’mun for the last five years. His Imamate was announced repeatedly by his father, grandfathers, and Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Especially Imam Kazem(A.S.) mentioned him as the Imam after himself several times. For instance, one of his followers narrates, "One day Imam Kazem(A.S.) came to us, holding his son’s (Ali) hand. We were 60 people. He said:" Do you know me?" I said: "You are our leader." He said:" Say my name and title." I said:" You are Mouse bin Jafar bin Muhammad. "He said:" Who is this guy with me?" I said: "Ali bin Mouse bin Jafar."He said: "So profess that he is my representative during my life and my successor after my death." He is further introduced as the eighth Imam in a saying of Prophet (S.A.W.) narrated by Jaber. Also, Imam Sadeq(A.S.) told Imam Kazem( A.S.) that the knowledge of Prophet’s(S.A.W.) progeny is of your sons and he is your successor.

His Nicknames Imam Al-Rida, peace be on him, was given a group of noble nicknames. Each nickname represented one of his noble qualities. The following are some of them:

1. Al-Rida

The historians and narrators have differed over the person who gave this exalted nick-name to the Imam, peace be on him, to the extent that it has prevailed him and become a name through which he is recognized. The following are some of the statements: A group of the historians has maintained that it was al-Ma’mun who gave him this nick-name to him[2], for he was satisfied with him and appointed him as his successor.[3]Imam al-Jawad, peace be on him,refuted this statement before a group of his companions, saying: "Verily Allah, the Blessed and Most High, named him Al-Rida, for he was the pleasure of Allah, the Exalted, the Great, in His heaven, of His Messenger, and of the Imams, the blessings of Allah be upon them, after him." Al-Bizanti asked him: "Weren’t all your past forefathers, peace be on them, the pleasure of Allah (Al-Rida al-Allah), the Exalted, the Great, of His Messenger, and of the Imams after him?" "Yes," replied Imam al-Jawad. "Why has only your father been named Al-Rida?" al-Bizanti asked. "Because both his opposing enemies and obedient supporters were pleased with him, while this did not happen to any of his fathers, so only he was called Al-Rida.[4] " Some narrators believe that it was Imam Musa al-Kazim, peace be on him, who gave this nick-name to his son. Sulayman b. Hafs reported: "Imam Musa b. Ja‘far named his son ‘Ali Al-Rida. He would say: ‘Summon to me my son Al-Rida.’ I asked him: ‘To my son belongs pleasure (Al-Rida).’ He answered: ‘My son is Al-Rida.’ When he addressed him, he said: ‘O Abu al-Hasan.’[5]" These are some statements about giving him this noble nick-name. Ahmed al-Bizanti gave the reason for giving this nick-name to him, saying: "He was given the nick-name of Al-Rida because he is the good pleasure of Allah, the Most Exalted, in His heaven, the pleasure of His Messenger, and of the Imams after him on His earth.[6]"

2. Al-Sabir [7] He was given the nick-name of al-Sabir (the patient) because he was patient toward the troubles and misfortunes caused to him by his opponents and enemies.

3. Al-Zaki [8] Imam ‘Ali b. Musa Al-Rida, peace be on him, was pure, noble, and honorable.

4. Al-Wafi [9] As for loyalty, it was one of the Imam’s qualities, for he was loyal to his community and homeland.

5. Sirajj Allah [10] The Imam was the Siraj of Allah (the Lamp of Allah). He guided the misled and the perplexed (to the right path).

6. Qurrat ‘Ayn al-Mu’minïn [11] Among his noble nick-names is Qurrat ‘Ayn al-Mu’minïn (the delight of the eye of the believers), for he was their ornament, their pride, their cave, and their stronghold.

7. Makkyadat al-Mulhidïn [12] He was given the nickname of Makkyadat al-Mulhidïn (the stratagem of the unbelievers), for nullified their vague errors and refuted their imaginations. This was through his debates which were held in the ‘Abbasid palace, and with which he established the originality of Islamic principles and values.

8. Al-Siddeeq [13] He was given the nick-name of Al-Siddïq (the very truthful one), for he was like Yusuf (Joseph), who ruled Egypt. He led Islamic world and had an absolute leadership over it.

9. Al-Fadeel[14] He was given the nickname of al-Fadil or the most meritorious one, for he was the most meritorious and perfect of all the people of his time. These are some of the noble nicknames which were given to him; they display his exalted character and great importance.

His Kunya
The Imams of the Household (of the Prophet), peace be on them, would give kunya to their children when young, and this is an example of Islamic education aiming at improving personality and making child feel that he or she has position with his family. Imam Al-Rida, peace be on him, was given the following kunya:

Abu al-Hasan

His father Imam Musa al-Kazim, peace be on him, gave him this kunya.[15]He, peace be on him, said to ‘Ali b. Yaqtïn: "O ‘Ali, this son of mine—and he pointed to Imam Al-Rida—is the master of my children, and I have given him my kunya.[16]" Imam Al-Rida was given the kunya of Abu al-Hasan. As this kunya was common between them, Imam al-Kazim was called: Abu al-Hasan the past, and Imam Al-Rida was called Abu al-Hasan the second, that the people might distinguish between the two kunyas.

Imam Al-Rida's Children

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 Taqi al-Jawad, al-Hassan, Ja'fer, Ibrahim, al-Husayn, and Fatima. 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 Taqi 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 Imam Muhammad Taqi 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.

Sources: [1]Kashf al-Ghumma, vol. 3, p. 88. ‘Iyun Akhbar Al-Rida, vol. 1, p. 18. [2]Abu al-Fida’, Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 24. Ibn al-Athïr, Tarikh, vol. 5, p. 183. [3]Al-Majjlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 12, p. 4. [4]‘Ilal al-Sharai‘. A‘lam al-Wara. Al-Majjlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 12, p. 2. [5]Al-Majjlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 12, p. 3. [6]Ibid. [7]Jawharat al-Kalam fi Madh al-Sada al-A‘lam, p. 143. [8]Al-Sirat al-Sawi, p. 199. [9]Tadhkirat al-Khawas, p. 361. Al-Durr al-Nazim, p. 210. [10]Al-Durr al-Nazim, p. 210. [11]Ibid. [12] Al-Majjlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 12, p. 4. [13]Ibid. [14]Ibid. [15] Ibid., p. 3. [16]Ibid.