Imam Ali ibn Musa Al-Riḍā is the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson by six extensions. Imam Ali Al-Riḍā is the son of Imam Musa al-Kazim and Najjma (although historians are not entirely sure of his mother’s name). Imam Ali Al-Ridha was born on 11th Dhulqa’dah 148AH. Imam Ali Al-Riḍā had no fewer than 36 siblings! Al-Riḍā is a title given to him, which means someone who is always happy and content with the decree of God.
Until Imam Ali Al-Riḍā, most of the Prophet’s direct descendants lived in Medina. By the time Imam Ali Al-Riḍā reached adulthood, the Abbasids had taken the power of the Islamic empire from the Ummayads. The early Abbasid empire was full of strife, with fathers and siblings fighting over the caliphate. The Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid had two sons: Amin and Mamun. Before passing, Harun nominated Amin his successor. Amin’s caliphate only lasted six months as he was killed by Mamun. Although Mamun took the mantle, not everybody was happy about the way he did this. Mamun knew Imam Ali Al-Riḍā was respected by the majority of Muslims. To avoid backlash and further in-fighting, he nominated Imam Ali Al-Riḍā his successor, with nobody really arguing against it.
Imam Ali Al-Riḍā was initially opposed to this, but through pressure from Mamun he later accepted this position, making him uproot and move to Khorasan (present-day Iran). Imam Ali Al-Riḍā spent most of his life in Iran, eventually passing away due to an illness caused by a poison administered by Mamun.
The legacy of an individual is often defined by what others say about them and also what the individual themselves has said that proves their greatness, intelligence and wisdom. Here are 15 hadith that summarise the qualities of Imam Ali Al-Riḍā.
1. Imam Ali Al-Ridha and Charity
Imam Al-Riḍā had a very spiritual understanding of charity. Whilst many of us may be reluctant to give charity, seeing it as a loss of income, the Imam saw it differently and responded in the following way when criticised for giving excessive charity:
“Rather (the charity I gave) it is a profit. ou do no damage when you spend something for reward and generosity.”
2. Imam Ali Al-Ridha Acts of Worship
“Throughout the night he (Al-Riḍā) performed ablutions, prayed, and slept. In this manner he (continued) until the morning came.” [Al-Itha’f bi Hub al-Ashra’f]
3. Imam Ali Al-Ridha’s Knowledge
Caliph Mamun, who ends up poisoning Imam Al-Riḍā couldn’t help but admit to his knowledge:
“I do not know anyone more meritorious (afdal) than this man (i.e. ‘Ali b. Musa’) on the face of earth.” [Ayan]
4. Imam Ali Al-Ridha’s Devotion
A military commander said:
“By Allah, I have never seen anyone more devout to Allah than him, praised Allah throughout his times more than he did, and feared Allah, the Great and Almighty, more than he did.”[Bihar]
5. Imam Ridha’s Modesty
Imam Ali Al-Riḍā would not eat separately from his servants and maids. When asked why he responded:
“We are all created by God, our parents (Adam and Eve) are the same, everyone will be dealt with by God according to their deeds” [al-Kafi]
6. On Giving Due Rights
Once Imam Ali Al-Riḍā was unhappy when he found his servant had employed someone to repair the house without first agreeing on a wage:
“When one works without any contraction, he thinks that you have paid him little, even if you give him three times more. But if you contract and pay him according to the contraction, he will be pleased with receiving his right. Now if you pay more even just a little, he will understand you have paid more and will be thankful.”[al-Kafi]
7. On the Importance of Reflection
In order to ensure that we live in a way that pleases Allah, it is essential to reflect on one’s actions and intentions. This process of self-examination helps Muslims to identify areas in which they can improve and seek forgiveness for any wrongs that they have committed. For Imam Ali Al-Riḍā, reflection was a form of worship.
“Worship is not abundant prayer and fasting; rather it is abundant reflecting on the affair of Allah, the Great and Almighty.” [al-Mizan]
8. On Self-Accountability
Every person is responsible for their own actions and will be held accountable for them on the Day of Judgment. Self-accountability prepares them for this Day.
“He who reckons his own soul is successful; he who is heedless of it is unsuccessful.” [al-Kafi]
9. Imam Ali Al-Ridha Defines Humbleness
When we are humble, we recognise our dependence on God and our need for His guidance. By cultivating humility, we can become closer to God and find true peace and contentment in our lives.
“Humbleness is that you give to men that which you want them to give to you.” [The life of Imam Al-Riḍā, Baqir Qureshi]
10. Imam Ali Al-Ridha’s Description of a True Muslim
“The believer is not believing unless he has three qualities: a quality from his Lord, a quality from his Prophet, and a quality from his ruler. As for the quality from his Lord, it is concealing his secret. Allah, the Great and Almighty has said: The Knower of the unseen, so He does not reveal His secrets to any. As for the quality from his Prophet, it is humoring with men, for Allah, the Great and Almighty ordered His Prophet to humor with men, saying: Take to forgiveness and enjoin good. As for the quality from his ruler, it is patience during prosperity and adversity.” [Wasail al-Shia]
11. On Being Wary of Sins
While some sins may seem minor, they can still have a significant impact on our lives and the lives of those around us.
“When the servants commit sins which they have not known before, affliction which they have not known before befalls them.” [The life of Imam Al-Riḍā, Baqir Qureshi]
12. On the Importance of Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil
One of the key principles of Islam is the importance of enjoining good and forbidding evil, for the health of the individual and the community.
“Either you enjoin (men) to do good and forbid (them) from evil or Allah will employ the wicked from among you over you, hence the righteous from among you supplicate (Him), but (He) does not respond to them.” [Ibid]
13. On the Greatness of Earning a Halal Living
Earning a halal living is one of the sunnah’s of the Noble Prophet (PBUH)
“The reward of him who works to spare his family is greater than that of the struggler in the way of Allah.” [The life of Imam Al-Riḍā, Baqir Qureshi]
14. Treating the Rich and the Poor Equally
Imam Ali Al-Riḍā advised his companions (to spread) equality among the rich and the poor with greetings
“He who meets a poor and greets him in a manner different from greeting the rich meets Allah, the Great and Almighty, and He is angry with him.” [Wasail al-Shia]
15. Smiling at the Believer
Imam Ali Al-Riḍā advised his companions to smile at the believer and not to receive him with anger.
“He who smiles at his believing brother, Allah will write a good deed for him, and Allah will not torture him for whom He writes a good deed.” [Ibid]