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The Eigth Imam, ‘Ali (a.s.) Ibn Musa(a.s.)


Imam Ali Ibn Musa (a.s.)
Father’s name
Imam Musa Kazim (a.s.)
Mother’s name
Janabe Najmah (S.A.)
Date of Birth
11th Zilqad, 148 A. H.
Place of Birth
Madinah Munawwara
Abul Hasan
Reza, Saabir, Zaki, Waafi, etc.
55 years
17th Safar, 203 A. H.
Mashhad, Iran


Woe unto the false accusers and repudiators of Ali, My friend and My helper (who will take charge) after the period of Musa (a.s.), My servant, My beloved and My chosen one.

On Thursday, the 11th of Zilqad, 148 A.H., a child was born in the house of Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.) by his wife Tahirah, in Madinah. He was named Ali. His childhood and youth were spent under the guardianship of his great and noble father, who was the inheritor of the holy status of Imamat.

He became Imam on the demise of his pious father in the year 183 A.H. and started looking after the affairs of the Shias. Imam Ali Ibn Musa (a.s.) (popularly known by his title Reza) faced the reign of three Abbasid caliphs in his Imamat of 20 years. Ten years of Haroon as caliph, five of Ameen and five years of Mamoon.

The period of his Imamat can be divided into three distinct parts.

First Period

During the Caliphate of Haroon for ten years, the conditions created for Imam (a.s.) after the martyrdom of Imam Musa al- Kazim (a.s.) were similar to those conditions prevailing for Imam Zainul Aabedeen (a.s.) after the event of Aashoora. During this period, the government of Haroon had increased its vigilance on Imam (a.s.). The Shias of Imam (a.s.) were also put under intense surveillance by the ruler.

For instance, Haroon ordered to Humaid Ibn Qahtaba, one of his agents to behead sixty Shias in a single night. It was during this period that Imam Reza’s (a.s.) brother Abdullah Aftas was imprisoned.

Second Period

This period was of eight years, i.e., after the death of Haroon till the acceptance of Imam (a.s.) as Mamoon’s heir apparent. This period is similar to that of the 5th and 6th Imams (a.s.). During this time, there were uprisings in every corner of the Islamic empire, which greatly perturbed the ruling party in addition to the power struggle between Ameen and Mamoon. Imam (a.s.) was provided some freedom. From among the most important revolts of Alawi Sadat, was that of Muhammad-e-Deebaj in Madinah, Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim, and Abul Saraya. They revolted against the tyrannical government of the Abbasids. These reflected the shaky position of the Abbasid rule and the strength of the opposition.

Third Period

The period as heir apparent of Imam Reza (a.s.) lasted for 18 months from the time of the acceptance of Mamoon’s proposal for the post till the martyrdom of Imam (a.s.). This period was full of varied difficulties and we will elaborate on it in due course.

After the period of hardships and restrictions of Haroon, Imam (a.s.) got enough time to further the works done by his predecessors, Imam Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Sadiq (a.s.). He strived to divulge the truths of Islam. Ample traditions on various topics related by Imam (a.s.) are still found in books showing his efforts in this regard. Ultimately, Mamoon killed his brother Ameen and hung the severed head on the door of his palace. He then awarded prizes to his army officers in front of it for killing his own brother. After this incident, Mamoon felt that the worst danger was from the followers of Imam Ali (a.s.).

Iranians who had occupied key positions in the government by the dint of their intellect and skill, even the highest position of chief minister, had hidden love for Ali (a.s.) in their hearts. Since Imam Reza (a.s.) was the successor to Imamat, he obviously was the recipient of all this love and affection.

The only alternative to suppress the diverse movements which posed a danger to Mamoon’s government was to gain the favor of Imam Reza (a.s.). He was well aware that the agitations against his rule would ultimately end in the favor of the Household of Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Thus, he played a trick. He wrote a letter to Imam (a.s.) inviting him to take over the seat of the caliphate. This decision was taken in consultation with his Iranian minister, Fazl Ibn Sahl. Although this was an apparently respectful request the authorities had been strictly ordered to make him accept. He was actually forced to leave Hejaz for Khorasan (though it looked as if he was free to decide). Throughout the route, Mamoon had cunningly arranged the journey in stately splendor. Maybe he wanted to project that Imam (a.s.) had reached an agreement with him, and so degrade Imam’s (a.s.) personality.

Aware of the guile, Imam (a.s.) wanted to make it clear that he had not undertaken the journey willingly but had been forced to do so. So, he did not take his family members along with him. It thus became evident to the wise that if he was going with an intention to rule, he would have taken his near ones with him.

During the course of his long journey, Imam (a.s.) passed through different cities and gave speeches according to the prevailing circumstances. Listening to his sermons, people were attracted to both the Islamic teachings and also his outstanding personality. They saw that words of wisdom flowed from this divine personality. As such, the plan of Mamoon had not only failed but had actually worked against him. In Nishapur, Imam (a.s.) related the tradition (famous as Silsilatus Zahab) before a huge crowd. He narrates from his forefathers (a.s.), from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), from Jibraeel given by Allah.

The words ‘laa ilaha illallah’ (there is no God except Allah) is My fort, then one who enters My fort is safe from My chastisement.

Imam (a.s.) introduced Allah as the only stronghold of refuge, destroying the superficial glory and power of kings and emperors like Mamoon. He further explained this fortification with regard for the divine guides.

But it (the benefit of divine protection) has conditions. And I am (one) of those conditions.

In short, belief in Tauheed has no benefit without accepting the Imam of the time. This struck a second blow on the authority of Mamoon.

Imam (a.s.) reached Marv on 10th Shawwal 201 Hijri. Mamoon and his key people came a good few miles to meet and welcome Imam (a.s.) and brought him to the city in great honor and majesty. After a few days of reception, Mamoon declared his intention to Imam (a.s.). First, he offered the seat of caliphate which Imam strongly refused. One can pose a question, why did Imam refuse? Do Shias not claim that Imamat and Caliphate is the prerogative of the Imams (a.s.)?

A quick glance into history and the motives of this political move will clarify the matter for us. Is it logical for a person like Mamoon who killed his own brother for the post to give it up in favor of the opposition leader? Obviously, every wise person will realize this was a political stunt. Would the caliphate of the Imam (a.s.) not cause an uprising among the officers, governors and the rich who are habituated to oppression, plunder, and suppression of the truth over a very long period of time? They would clearly not remain silent.

What a surprise to see the successor to Mansoor and Haroon trying to accord respect to the successor of the Imams, Imam Baqir (a.s.), Imam Sadiq (a.s.) and Imam Kazim (a.s.), all of whom were poisoned by these evil caliphs.

The truth was far different. He wanted to defame the holy personality of Imam (a.s.). After Imam’s (a.s.) acceptance, he would foment disturbances through his accomplices, then return to the scene as a reformer and overthrow Imam (a.s.), claiming that divine caliphs do not possess the ability to lead the society.

But he was unaware that successor from the Prophet’s Household (a.s.) was aware of his nefarious intentions and was not willing to accept the caliphate.

Since Mamoon had been defeated once more, he called upon Imam (a.s.) to accept the proposal of heir apparent. Imam (a.s.) did not accept this proposal. But, Mamoon insisted to the point of compulsion and distress.

He now planned that giving Imam (a.s.) a place in his court would extinguish the flames of revolution, especially of the Alawi Saadaat. As a matter of fact, on seeing their representative in court, they would fall silent. Another probability would be that a few emotional people would look superficially into the problem without going to its bottom and form a wrong opinion of Shias and their leaders. They would disobey Imam (a.s.) under the excuse that he has compromised with the unjust government. Then, either Imam (a.s.) would lose followers or silence them and it would be very easy to destroy him (a.s.). Mamoon would achieve absolute control over the entire Islamic nation.

When Imam (a.s.) realized that there was no escape from accepting the offer, he put forth a seemingly simple condition. Imam (a.s.) would not interfere with current affairs like appointment and dismissal of governors, political and military affairs. As Mamoon had become impressed by Imam’s (a.s.) acceptance, he readily accepted the condition without realizing that this was indication enough that the acceptance was under duress. It was meaningless that he accepts the heir apparency and stays away from the work of the government.

Anyhow, the agreement written personally by Mamoon was sent to Imam (a.s.). Imam (a.s.) too wrote something behind it and quoted a verse in the third sentence: He knows the stealthy looks and that which the breasts conceal.

Writing of the verse is a clear indication that Imam (a.s.) was aware of Mamoon’s treachery. Finally, the settlement took place and Imam (a.s.) was placed as the heir apparent in Marv.

Not before long, Mamoon realized his defeat. The revolutionary movements had not subsided and Imam (a.s.) was still ruling the hearts of people. The government had not earned any brownie points. He did not keep silent. He entered into a new kind of battle. As Mamoon himself was learned and his court was always hosted to scholars and orators of different religions and fields, he thought that debates of these people with Imam (a.s.) on various scientific and religious subjects would put a blot on the knowledgeable personality of Imam (a.s.). He had already introduced translated foreign ideologies which were new and unfamiliar to Islamic society for confusing the Muslim mind and taking undue advantage of himself. Now, he wanted to use his previous work in crushing the aura of Imam (a.s.). He arranged big gatherings and invited Imam (a.s.) for debates. The gatherings grew pace and Imam (a.s.) presented a new facet every time. He spoke with Christians in their language, the same with Jews, fire worshippers, Sabe’een, etc.

Soon the aides of Mamoon realized that he had failed once again and the divine knowledge of Imam (a.s.) became more evident than before. Another incident of this period served a severe blow to Mamoon. In order to show that he was on good terms with Imam (a.s.), it was suggested to lead Eidul Fitr prayers. Initially, Imam (a.s.) refused. But, when Mamoon insisted, Imam (a.s.) accepted with the condition that he should be allowed to go to the place of prayer as Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to go. Imam (a.s.) came out of the house dressed in white and while reciting takbeer, he proceeded outside the city. On the way, Muslims joined this gathering in groups and the cry ‘Allahu Akbar’ resounded in every nook and corner. The advisers of Mamoon warned him to think of a remedy quickly for it was likely that after the prayers and sermon of Imam (a.s.), there could be public discontent and uprising against his tyrannical government. Mamoon tactfully called Imam (a.s.) back from halfway. This incident took place in the month of Shawwal 202 A.H. Mamoon became insecure and frightened seeing that he was committing harakiri and he gradually came to the conclusion to kill Imam (a.s.). On the 17th day of Safar, 203 Hijri, he poisoned Imam Reza (a.s.) and left a permanent shameful stain of pure blood on his clothes by this cowardly act.

Even in his last hours, Imam (a.s.) looked after his near ones. When he saw that his servants and companions had not eaten food and were lamenting his serious illness (due to the poison), he ordered his servant Yaseer to serve food and with great difficulty, he himself sat beside his companions. Moreover, he ordered that women should also be served with food separately. It was after this serving of food that Imam (a.s.) fainted, fell on one side and expired.

Imam (a.s.) Meets Everyone

Whenever the table was laid, he sat with different groups of people such as slaves, servants and guests and when someone took objection to this, he would say: Surely Our Exalted Lord is One and our mother is one and our father is one and the reward is only connected with the actions of man.

In order to know about the affection of Imam (a.s.) towards worship, it is not out of place to mention this incident. Imam (a.s.) sent a gift to one of the Shia poets of the time, viz, Debel Khuzaai. This gift was a cloak made of fur which he himself had worn. Imam (a.s.) gifted this cloak to him since, in this dress, Imam (a.s.) had prayed for a thousand nights and in each night a thousand rak’at namaz and finished reciting the Qur’an for a thousand times.