Imam ‘Ali b. Musa al-Rida

August 21, 2013

Imam Reza (a.k.a. Ali ar-Rida, Musa Reza) was born in 766 in Medina to Imam Musa al-Kazim and Ummul Baneen, who was of Sudanese descent. Imam Ali Reza grew up in Medina and got his education from his father, who spent most of his later life in prison of Caliph Harun al-Rashid.

Imam Reza became the Imam at the age of 33 upon the death of his father Imam Musa al-Kazim in 799. Harun al-Rashid was still in power and he imposed many restrictions on the new Imam including forbidding the people of Medina to have any contact with him. This continued until he died.​

After Harun al-Rashid’s death the Abbasid Empire was temporarily bifurcated in two resulting in a western empire ruled by al-Amin whose mother Zubaida was an Arab and the eastern empire ruled by Mamoun whose mother was Persian.

During the civil war, which Mamoun won eventually, he tried desperately to win the support of the Persians, who were sympathetic to the Hashemites by first pardoning and appointing al-Deebaj, son of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq who was captured after a failed revolt against Ma’moun, as the member of his court and then declaring Imam Ali Reza as his heir apparent.

Mamoun also changed the color of the Abbasid banner from black to green, which was the color of the standard of Ahlul-Bayt. Imam Ali Reza left his wife and young son at-Taqi in Medina to join Mamoun who was in Khurasan at the time.

Many members of the Mamoun’s inner circle were unhappy with his announcement. While on his way back to Baghdad with Ma’moun near Tus, Imam Ali Reza suddenly died, possibly by poison in 818. Some historians believe Mamoun was behind the murder but the fact that many Abbasids were openly resentful of the Imam, makes him the unlikely suspect.

Unlike many Abbasid Caliphs before and after him, Mamoun treated the surviving family of Imam Ali Reza well, even marrying his daughter to Imam Ali Reza’s son Imam at-Taqi.

Imam Reza was buried in the Holy city of Mashad, Khorasan in the present day Iran.

Quotes of the Imam Reza:

  • True devotion is not limited to prayers and fasting.
  • ​The highest degree of wisdom is Self-awareness.
  • To help the disabled is much better than to give alms.
  • ​Silence is one of the gates to wisdom.
  • Giving alms repels the certain catastrophe.
  • ​Keeping other’s secrets, patience in hardships and tolerance towards others are all signs of faith.
  • To avoid the cold (flu) of the winter, before leaving your house always open the door first for a few moments, let the outside air in, then step outside. To avoid the cold of the summer, always open the door first before entering the house, let the inside air out, and then step inside.



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