A Glance at the Life of Imam Ridha (A.S.)
Imam Ridha (A.S.), the eight shining star in the sky of Imamat was born in Medina on 11, Zilqadh 148 A.H. / 29 Dec, 765 A.D.
His beloved father Imam Musa-ibn-Jafar (A.S.) named him Ali. He was divinely entitled al-Ridha (meaning that Allah and His messenger were deeply pleased with him) and his agnomen was Abul Hasan.
His grand era of Imamat began from 183 A.H. when he was thirty five years old and he held that divine position for about twenty years.
The three Abbasid caliphs were his contemporaries: Harun al-Rashid for the first ten years, Amin for another five years and finally Ma’amun for the last five years.
When Imam (A.S.) attained the Imamat, the political government was then run by Harun al-Rashid in Baghdad. The style of rule exercised by this Abbasid caliph was nothing but force over the people. They would constantly torment and kill the progeny and Shiites of Fatimah (A.S.)].
Imam Ridha (A.S.) at first, did not make public his Imamat and did not establish contacts with anyone save his special followers and Shiites. However, after a lapse of several years, Harun al-Rashid’s government began to lose strength because of numerous rebellions against him. Taking advantage of this situation, Imam Ridha (A.S.) made public his Imamat in Medina and engaged in solving the people’s social problems as well as problems pertaining to beliefs.
* * *
IMAM'S INVITATION TO MARV:
After Haruna’s death in 193 A.H., conflict took place between his two sons Amin and Ma’amun which led to bloody wars and finally the assassination of Amin in 198 A.H.
Thus, Ma’amun became the caliph.
The Shiites of that period continued to consider the holy Imam (A.S.) as their divine leader and caliph. The Abbasid caliph feared the holy Imam (A.S.) who was publicly recognized as the successor of the messenger of Allah.
Ma’amun thought of finding a new solution for this problem which his Abbasid predecessors had not been able to solve. He decided to invite Imam Ridha (A.S.) to Marv with the evil intention of making a fake freindship with Imam. Thus, he intended to have a direct eye upon the holy Imam. Subsequently, by stationing Imam in his court he wanted to display that his government is approved by Imam Ridha (A.S.).
In the beginning, Imam Ridha (A.S.) did not accept this so-called invitation. Later, when these invitations turned into a threat, Imam forcefully traveled to Khorasan in 200 A.H. This was to avoid any bloodshed among the Shiites. Imam Ridha (A.S.) explicitly displayed his dissatisfaction of such a forceful emigration.
Anyhow, after traveling a very long distance, Imam Ridha (A.S.) reached Naishabour. The most interesting incident during his journey occurred in Naishabour.
Ibne-Sabbagh (855 A.H.) a traditionist and faqih belonging to the Maliki sect writes:
Abu-Zareh and Mohammad-ibn-Aslam Tusi accompanied by countless of scholars and traditionists approached Ali-ibn-Musa Ridha (A.S.) and said: O the generous chief! O the offspring of A’imma ! We swear by the truthfulness of your pure forefathers, show us your blessed face and narrate to us the traditions narrated by your forefathers from your great grandfather Mohammad (S.A.W.A.) so that we remember you by these traditions. Thereafter, Imam stopped his mule and asked his servants to set up a canopy where people could come and see him The people stood on their feet to see their Imam. A few yelled. A few others cried while yet a few others rolled over the ground. A few others were seen kissing the legs of Imam’s mule. This continued until the leaders, scholars and fuqahas cried out:
O people! Listen to that which brings you benefit.
At that moment, Ali-ibn-Musa Ridha (A.S.) said:
My father Musa Kazim narrated to me from his father Jafar Sadiq and he from his father, Mohammad Baqir and he from his father, Ali Zain al-Abideen and he from his father, Husain the martyr of Karbala and he from his father Ali-ibn-Abi Talib who said: My beloved, the messenger of Allah narrated to me and said: Gabriel narrated to me and said: My Lord, Exalted by He and Glory be to Him said: The phrase (Kalimah): There is no god but Allah is My castle. So anyone who recites this phrase (Kalimah) shall enter My castle and anyone who enters My castle shall remain immune from My chastisement.
Narrator says: When his mule moved a little, Imam added these words: But all this depends on some conditions and I am one of those conditions .
The number of those who wrote this golden tradition with pen and ink amounted to more than twenty thousand.
Imam Ridha (A.S.) finally reached Marv, the capital of Marv He was welcomed by Ma’amun himself and some distinguished Abbasid nobles.
Ma’amun at first offered Imam (A.S.) the caliphate. His holiness seriously rejected Ma’amun’s proposal and replied:
If this caliphate is your right and Allah has set this for you it’s not lawful that you remove the clothes which Allah has made you wear and give others to wear.
If the caliphate is not your right, then it’s not lawful for you give me that which does not belong to you
Then, Ma’amun proposed Imam to accept the heir-apparency. The holy Imam (A.S.) turned down this proposal too but he was finally forced to accept it.
However, before that, Imam (A.S.) put forward certain conditions such that he would not interfere in government affairs or in the appointment or dismissal of government agents. Here we see that Imam (A.S.) did not accept any official responsibility in the state affairs as he did not recognize Ma’amun’s government to be lawful.