Ali ar-Ridha

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
ʿAlī al-Rizā, [Rizā]
Imam of Twelver Shi'a Islam

A modern depiction by a Shi'a artist
Rank Eighth [Twelve] Imām
Name Ali ibn Musa ibn Jafar
Kunya Abū al-Hasan[1]
Birth 11th Dhul Qi‘dah 153AH
29 December 765 C.E.
Death 23rd Dhul Qi‘dah 203 AH
23 August 818 C.E.
Birthplace Madīnah[1]
Buried Imām Rizā Mosque, Mashhad
Life Duration Before Imamate: 35 years
(148 - 183 AH)
Imamate: 20 years
(183 - 203 AH)
- 17 years in Madīnah
- 3 years in Khorasan
Spouse(s) Sabīkah a.k.a. Khayzurān[1]
Father Mūsā al-Kādhim
Mother Ummul Banīn Najmah[1]
Children Muhammad at-Taqī (successor)
Ali · Hasan · Husayn

al-Sajjad · al-Baqir · al-Sadiq
al-Kadhim · al-Rida · al-Taqi
al-Hadi · al-Askari · al-Mahdi

‘Alī ibn Mūsā al-Rizā (Arabic: علي بن موسى الرضا‎) (commonly known as, ‘Alī ar-Rizā, Ali Ridha, or Ali Ridha) (ca. December 29, 765 - August 23, 818)[1] was the seventh descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the eighth of the Twelve Imams, according to Shia sect of Islam. His given name was ‘Alī ibn Mūsā ibn Ja‘far.

Quotations related to ‘Alī ar-Rizā at Wikiquote


Birth and family life

Shrine of Imam Ali Ridha in Mashhad, Iran

On the eleventh of Dhu al-Qi'dah, 148 AH, a son was born in the house of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (the seventh Imam of Islam) in Medina, who took over the position of the Imamate, after his father. He was named Ali and titled al-Ridha. He was born one month after the death of his grandfather, Ja'far as-Sādiq. Like his father and grandfather, his education came at the hands of his father. The mother of Ali al-Ridha was Bibi Najmah, who was considered to be the most notable and distinguished lady in the realm of wisdom and faith. Najmah was originally a Berber (from the Maghreb i.e. Northwest Africa).[3] She was purchased and freed by Bibi Hamidah Khatun, wife of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, and like Bibi Hamidah was also a notable Islamic scholar.

Right from his childhood, Ali al-Ridha accompanied his father, Hazrat Imam Musa al-Kazim, who repeatedly used to tell his friends, "Ali al-Ridha shall be the Imam after me." As such, Makhzumi says one day Musa al-Kadhim summoned and gathered us and said, "I invited you to be witnesses that this child (Ali al-Ridha) is my executor and successor."[citation needed]

Since an extreme choking atmosphere and pressure prevailed in the period of Musa al-Kazim, he added, "What I said must remain (restricted) up to you and do not reproduce it to anybody unless you know he is one of our friends and companions."

Ali al-Ridha's father was martyred in 799, when Ali al-Ridha was 35, and he was given the responsibility of the Imamate. However, his Imamate was rejected by the Waqifite Shia. Ali al-Ridha was not looked upon favorably by Hārūn Rashīd, and the people of Medina were disallowed from visiting Ali al-Ridha and learning from him. Harun attempted to kill him but was unsuccessful.

His prayers

Ali al-Ridha's morality narrated by Shaykh Saduq

Ali al-Ridha is considered an infallible Imam according to Shia Islam. Below are some historical notes about him.

Shaykh Saduq narrates through the words of Ibrahim ibn Abbas[4] that, "I never saw Ali al-Ridha 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."

Muhammad ibn Abi Ibad says about Ali al-Ridha, "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. Ali al-Ridha made him sit and he set the lamp right, and said, "We do not employ our guests (exploit) upon work."

Yasir, the servant of Ali al-Ridha says, Ali Ridha said to us, "Whenever you are busy taking your meal, if I call you, do not get up till you have finished up eating." Another friend of Ali al-Ridha says, "One day a stranger came Ali al-Ridha's house and said, I am one of your friends and I am also not a poor man but my money has finished up and I do not have the expenses to return. You give me an amount and when I return to my city I will give it out as alms on your behalf." Ali al-Rida got up and went to another room, brought an amount of two hundred dirhams and gave it to him from behind the door and said, "Take this and go and it is not necessary to give it away as alms on my behalf."

They asked the Ali al-Ridha, "Why did you do it this way that he may not see you."

He said, "So that he does not catch my sight and get ashamed (embarrassed)."

Sulaiman, one of the friends of Ali al-Ridha says, "I went along with the Ali Ridha to the house. The labors were busy at work. There was a stranger among them whom the Ali al-Ridha did not recognize." He said, "Who is this man?" They said we have brought him from outside, so that he may help us. He said, "Have you concluded an agreement with him and fixed his wages?" They said, "No, he is a good man, whatever we pay him he accepts it and does not utter a word."

Ali al-Ridha was angry and annoyed and said, "I have always told you that when you employ someone for a job first of all fix his wages. Because, when his wages are fixed and you give more than that to him, he will become happy. But if you do not fix his wages and give him three times the amount, he thinks you have not given him the correct wages."

Ali al-Ridha admonishes his brother

Imam Ali Riza's Shrine, Iran

Once Ali al-Ridha was summoned to Khurasan and he forcibly accepted the special conditions of the succession of al-Ma'mun, al-Ma'mun summoned his brother, Zayd, who had revolted and brought about a riot in Medina to his court in Khurasan. Al-Ma'mun kept him free as a regard and honor to Ali al-Ridha and overlooked his punishment.

One day, when Ali al-Ridha was delivering a speech in a grand assembly, he heard Zayd praising himself before the people, saying I am so and so. Ali al-Ridha shouted at him saying, "Oh Zayd, have you trusted upon the words of the grocers of Kufa and are conveying them to the people? What kind of things are you talking about? The sons of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatimah Zahra are worthy and outstanding only when they obey the command of Allah, and keep themselves away from sin and blunder. You think you are like Musa al-Kadhim, Ali ibn Husayn, and other Imams? Whereas, they took pains and bore hardships on the way to Allah and prayed to Allah day and night. Do you think you will gain without pain? Be aware, that if a person out of us the Ahl al-Bayt performs a good deed, he gets twice the reward. Because not only he performed good deeds like others but also that he has maintained the honor of Muhammad. If he practices something bad and does a sin, he has performed two sins. One is that he performed a bad act like the rest of the people and the other one is that he has negated the honor of Muhammad."

Oh brother! The one who obeys Allah is from us the Ahl al-Bayt and the one who is a sinner is not ours. Allah said about the son of Noah who cut the spiritual bondage with his father, "He is not out of your lineage; if he was out of your lineage, I would have (saved) and granted him salvation."

Connection to Sufism

Maruf Karkhi who was converted to Islam through Ali ar-Ridha is one of the foremost figures in the golden chain of most Sufi orders. He was a devoted student of Ali ar-Ridha and is an important figure for Sufism and Shi'ism.


Ali al-Ridha did not outlive al-Ma'mun, and died on May 26, 818, in Persia while accompanying al-Ma'mun at Tus. Shia scholars hold he was poisoned by al-Ma'mun using grapes. Ali al-Ridha is buried within Imam Ridha Mosque, in Mashhad, Iran.

After the death of Hārūn Rashīd, Hārūn's two sons began fighting for control of the Abbāsid Empire. One son, Al-Amin, had an Arab mother and thus had the support of Arabs, while his half-brother Al-Ma'mun had a Persian mother and the support of Persia. Al-Ma'mun believed that Persia was sympathetic to the Hashemites and asked for Ali al-Ridha to meet him in Persia. Ali al-Ridha left his only son, Muħammad at-Taqī, and his wife and set out for Merv.

Imam Riza Mosque, which is visited by 12 to 15 million pilgrims every year.

After defeating his brother, al-Ma'mun named Ali al-Ridha his successor. He hoped to win Shī'a support through this move, but the passage of caliphate would occur only if Ali al-Rida outlived al-Ma'mun (as with all promises of succession). Al-Ma'mun even changed the black Abbāsid flags to green, the traditional color of the house of Alī ibn Abī-Tālib, the first Shī'a imam.

On the night of his death Ali al-Ridha saw his grandfather Muhammad[which?] in the dream saying, "Come to us tomorrow, what we have for you is better than the condition you are in."

Harthama says, Ali al-Ridha got up in the mid of the night and called me so that I be present before him. I put on my dress and went to Ali al-Ridha. He said to me, "al-Ma'mun has decided to poison me through grapes tomorrow. Be aware, after my martyrdom he wishes to give me a bath. Tell him to refrain from it. If you do that Allah will not give you chance and respite (any-longer). At that time my son will arrive from Medina and give me a bath and coffin, without anyone seeing it or getting informed.

Then, they will carry me to the tomb of Hārūn al-Rashīd. Al-Ma'mun wants to bury me behind him. But howsoever they work on the earth the pickaxe; they will fail to dig the soil. At that time tell al-Ma'mun to dig the earth in front of the grave so that a ready-made grave will appear. At that instance a white water boils out of the head-side (grave) and rises up. Small fish appear in that. Then a big fish appears which eats up the small fish. Thereafter, the water will settle down. After that lay me in the grave. Do not put the soil on my grave since; it will be filled up by itself. Oh Harthama, do what I have said and do not allow things to happen against what I told you, otherwise, Allah will torment you (people)."

At last al-Ma'mun poisoned Ali al-Ridha through grapes in Tus, on the way back from Merv to Baghdad. Ali al-Ridha came to the house and said to his old friend Aba Salat, "Collect the carpets of the house and do not allow anyone to enter the house, as this is the time when my soul departs (dying) I want to die on the earth like my grandfather Husayn ibn Ali."

Before the death of Ali ar-Ridha, al-Ma’mun stood next to his pillow (head side). Ali Rida opened his eyes and said to him, "have a good conduct with my son Muhammad al-Taqi for his death and yours are close to each other and do not have much distance in between."

The body of Ali al-Ridha was buried in Mashhad. This occurred when Ali Ridha was 55 years of age.

Following the death of Ali al-Ridha a revolt took place in Khorasan. Al-Ma’mun wept and beat upon his head to show that he was a mourner. Despite this, A wave of despises and noise awn against al-Ma’mun. So that he did not allow the funeral to be carried out for a day and a night. Because, he was afraid that the disturbance may expand and the angry hostile and flared up masses may annihilate all the set ups and organizations. This is the reason why he sent a few men among the people to exhibit and shows the death of Ali al-Ridha as a natural one and tells them that al-Ma’mun did not have a hand in it. But for all he did, he could not get himself acquitted off and prove his innocence. At last, day-by-day he became more and more worthless and despicable in the eyes of the people, until he died in a very bad shape.[5]

Imam Ridha Mosque

Today the Imam Riza Mosque in Mashhad occupies a total area of 598,657 m2 (6,443,890 sq ft) - the shrine area occupies 267,079m2 while the seven courtyards which surround it cover an area of 331,578m2.[6] Thus making it the largest mosque in the world, having an area larger than Masjid al-Haram and Masjid al-Nabawi (which have areas of 356,800 m2[7] and 400,500 m2[citation needed] respectively).

The courtyards also contain a total of 14 minarets, and 3 fountains. From the courtyards, external hallways named after scholars lead to the inner areas of the mosque. They are referred to as Bast (Sanctuary), since they were meant to be a safeguard for the shrine areas.

The Bast hallways lead towards a total of 21 internal halls (Riwaq) which surround the burial chamber of Ali al-Ridha. Adjacent to the burial chamber is also a mosque dating back to the 10th century known as, Bala-e-Sar mosque.


Ali ar-Ridha
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Clan of the Banu Quraish
Born: 11th Dhul Qi‘dah 148 AH 29th December 765 CE Died: 17th Safar 203 AH 23rd August 818 CE
Shī‘a Islam titles
Preceded by
Musa al-Kazim
8th Imam of Twelver Shi'a Islam
799 – 818
Succeeded by
Muhammad at-Taqī

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 2004. pp. 137. 
  2. ^ al-Qummi, Shaykh Abbas (1998). "2". The Last Journey, Translation of Manazile Akherah. Aejazali Turabhusain Bhujwala. Qum: Imam Ali Foundation. pp. 62–64. 
  3. ^ Slavery in the History of Islam: Slaves' Children - Imams and Caliphs
  4. ^ Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha
  5. ^ The Meadows of Gold
  6. ^ "The Glory of the Islamic World". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  7. ^ Great Mosque of al-Haram at ArchNet

External links

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