Ali al-Ridha

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Ali al-Ridha
علي رضا ع  (Arabic)

8th Imam of Twelver Shia Islam
Born c. (766-01-01)1 January 766 CE[1]
(11 Dhul Qa`dah 148 AH)
Medina, Abbasid Empire
Died c. 26 May 819(819-05-26) (aged 53)
(17 Safar 203 AH)
Tus, Abbasid Empire
Cause of death
Death by poisoning
Resting place
Imam Reza shrine, Iran
36°17′13″N 59°36′56″E / 36.28694°N 59.61556°E / 36.28694; 59.61556
Other names Alī 'ibn Mūsā
Term 799–819 CE
Predecessor Musa al-Kadhim
Successor Muhammad al-Jawad
Religion Islam
Spouse(s) Sabīkah aka Khayzurān[2]
Children Muhammad at-Taqi
Parents Musa al-Kadhim
Ummul Banīn Najmah[2]

'Alī ibn Mūsā al-Riḍā (Arabic: علي بن موسى الرضا‎) (commonly known as Ali al-Ridha, Ali Rezā, or Ali Rizā) (c. 29 December 765 – 23 August 818)[2] was the seventh descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the eighth of the Twelve Imams, according to the Twelver Shia sect of Islam as well as an Imam of knowledge according to the Zaydi (Fiver) Shia school and Sufis. His given name was 'Alī ibn Mūsā ibn Ja'far.

Birth and family life[edit]

On the eleventh of Dhu al-Qi'dah, 148 AH (December 29, 765 CE), a son was born in the house of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (the seventh Imam of Twelver Shia 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 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).[4] 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, 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."

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."[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Ali al-Ridha admonishes his brother[edit]

Pilgrims of Imam Ali Riza's Shrine in Mashhad, Khorasan

Once Ali al-Ridha was summoned to Khurasan and reluctantly accepted the role of successor to al-Ma'mun that was forced on him, 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 asked him saying, "O 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."

O 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."

Scientific character[edit]

Ali ibn Mousa al-Ridha was at the top of the scientists of his time in medical science, and his treatise in medicine is regarded as most precious Islamic literature in the science of medicine, hence it has been called the Golden Dissertation.[5][6]

Connection to Sufism?[edit]

It has been commonly held that Maruf Karkhi who was converted to Islam through Ali al-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. However, more recent scholarship has largely placed such a connection into doubt.[7]


Ali al-Ridha did not outlive Ma'mun, having been given poisoned grapes by him while accompanying him in Persia, and died at Tus on May 26, 818. Ali al-Ridha is buried within Imam Ridha Mosque, in Mashhad, Iran.

After the death of Harun al-Rashid in 809, Harun's two sons began fighting for control of the Abbasid 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, Muhammad al-Taqi, and his wife and set out for Merv.

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 prophet Muhammad 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. O 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.[citation needed]

Imam Ridha Mosque[edit]

Main article: Imam Reza Shrine

Today the Imam Reza shrine 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 surrounding it cover an area of 331,578 m2.[8] 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[9] and 400,500 m2 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) surrounding 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shabbar, S.M.R. (1997). Story of the Holy Ka'aba. Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 2004. p. 137. 
  3. ^ al-Qummi, Shaykh Abbas (1998). "2". The Last Journey, Translation of Manazile Akherah. Aejazali Turabhusain Bhujwala. Qum: Imam Ali Foundation. pp. 62–64. 
  4. ^ Slavery in the History of Islam: Slaves' Children – Imams and Caliphs
  5. ^ W. Madelung (1 August 2011). "ALĪ AL-REŻĀ, the eighth Imam of the Emāmī Shiʿites.". Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Staff writer. "The Golden time of scientific bloom during the Time of Imam Reza (A.S) (Part 2)". Retrieved 21 June 2014. 
  7. ^ Nicholson, R.A.; Austin, R.W.J.. " Maʿrūf al-Kark̲h̲ī." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Harvard University. 13 December 2012 <>
  8. ^ "The Glory of the Islamic World". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  9. ^ Great Mosque of al-Haram at ArchNet

External links[edit]

Ali al-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
Shia Islam titles
Preceded by
Musa al-Kazim
8th Imam of Twelver Shi'a Islam
Succeeded by
Muhammad al-Taqi