By: Mir M.Hosseini
Imam Reza was the seventh descendant of the Islamic Prophet Mohammad and the eighth of the Twelve Imams.
He was born in the house of Imam Musa Kazem in Medina, who took over the position of the Imamate, after his father. He was named Ali and titled Al Reza. He was born one month after the death of his grandfather, Imam Jafar Sadegh. Like his father and grandfather, his education came at the hands of his father. His mother was Bibi Najmah.
Right from his childhood, Imam Reza accompanied his father and was secretly nominated as the successor since an extreme choking atmosphere and pressure prevailed in the period of Imam Musa Kazem against Shia faith.
Imam Musa Kazem's father was martyred in 799, when Al Reza was 35, and he was given the responsibility of the Imamate. However, his Imamate was rejected by authorities and he was not looked upon favorably by Caliph Harunolrashid, and the people of Medina were disallowed from visiting Imam Reza and were banned from attending his classes. Harunolrashid attempted to kill him but was unsuccessful.
According to Shia tradition, the first Imams of Islam were infallible and became the practical example for others during their lives. They taught the lesson of life to the people. They did not segregate and separate themselves from them and did not lead their lives on the style and pattern of tyrants and oppressors. They did not overlook or show heedlessness and disrespect to anyone.
Sheikh Sedoogh narrates through the words of Ibrahim Bin Abbas that, "I never saw Imam Reza committing excess over anyone in talking and interrupting anybody's speech before its coming to the end. He did not stretch his legs in the presence of others. When the meal table was laid he invited the servants to it, and took his meals with them. After taking rest in the nights he got up and made himself busy with the prayers to Allah. Similar to his fore fathers he carried food to the houses of the afflicted ones at the mid of nights."
Mohammad bin Abi Ibad says about Imam Reza, "He used mats of palm date leaves, straws and marsh reed in the summer season, and woolen carpets in the winter."
He led a simple life in his home, but when he went out he used to decorate himself and put on new and clean dress. He respected and honored the guests to the extent that one night a lamp of the house went out of order, the guest got to his feet to put it right. Al Reza made him sit and he set the lamp right, and said, "We do not employ our guests (exploit) upon work."
Once Ali Al Reza was summoned to Khorasan and he forcibly accepted the special conditions of the succession of Al Mamun who summoned his brother, Zeyd, who had revolted and brought about a riot in Medina to his court in Khorasan. Al Mamun kept him free as a regard and honor to Ali Al Reza and overlooked his punishment.
Maroof Karkhi who converted to Islam through Ali Al Reza is one of the foremost figures in the golden chain of most Sufi orders. He was a devoted student of Ali Al Reza and is an important figure for Sufism and Shia faith.
After the death of Harunolrashid, his two sons began fighting for control of the Abbasi Caliphs. One son, Al Amin, had an Arab mother and thus had the support of Arabs, while his half-brother Al Mamun had a Persian mother and the support of Persia. Al Mamun believed that Persia was sympathetic to the Hashemian and asked for Ali Al Reza to meet him in Persia. Ali Al Reza left his only son, Mohammad Al Taghi, and his wife and set out for Marv.
After defeating his brother, Al Mamun named Ali Al Reza his successor hoping to win Shia support through this move, but the passage of Caliphate would occur only if Ali Al Reza outlived Al Mamun (as with all promises of succession). Al Mamun even changed the black Abbasi flags to green, the traditional color of the house of Imam Ali.
Ali Al Reza did not outlive Al Mamun and he was martyred on May 26, 818, at the age of 55 in Persia while accompanying Al Mamun at Toos. Most scholars agree he was poisoned by Al Mamun by grapes.
Following the death of Ali Al Reza a revolt took place in Khorasan. Al Mamun wept and beat upon his head to show that he was a mourner. But a large number of people suspected that Al Mamun himself was the killer of Ali Al Reza. A wave of despises and noise awn against Al Mamun. Therefore he did not allow the funeral ceremonies.
Imam Reza's birth coincides with Al Moghanna uprising in 766 and Ostadsis Uprising in 767.
A magnificent Shrine was built in Mashhad where Imam Reza is buried, making it the most important city of the Greater Khorasan. Mashhad hosts millions of Muslim pilgrims every month.