THE LIFE AND THE TIMES OF IMAM ALI BIN MUSA
Ali bin Musa was bom during the reign of the Abbasid caliph alMansoor Dwaneeqi. He was only two weeks of age when his grand father, Imam Ja'far as-Saadiq was martyred. He was thirty-five years of age when his father was martyred by the caliph Haroon ar-Rashid. He had witnessed the treatment his father had received at the hands of the caliphs for refusing to accept them as his leaders.
The first encounter of the new Imam with the powers of the caliph came swiftly and like lightening. With the false accusation of an armed rising by an uncle of the Imam Muhammad bin Jafar, the caliph Haroon ar-Rashid despatched his captain Issa Jaludi with an army to sack Hijaz and to liquidate the house of the Alkyds. The havoc they rendered to the people and their property in Madinah dwarfed the deeds of the Syrian army sent by Yazid bin Muawiyah after the massacre of
over a hundred years earlier. The Imam stood firmly in front of the dwellings of his clan, and handed the invaders all they had, except the clothing on their bodies at the time. The ruthless general and his soldiers departed with a large booty obtained from the homes of the innocent Muslims. Karbala
To prevent bloody conflict between his two sons Muhammad al-Amin and Mamoon ar-Rashid after him, the caliph Haroon ar-Rashid divided his empire between them. Al-Amin (from an Arab mother) was given the West with the Arab provinces, and Mamoon (from a Persian mother) the East with all of the non-Arab provinces. Due to his sickness, Haroon ar-Rashid retired from his throne and died in 193 AH at the age of forty-five years. He was buried in the city of
. However, the two princes wasted no time in waging war on each other in order to grab the share of the other. The tussle between the divided caliphate went on for about five years till the year 198 AH. Finally, Al-Amin got killed in a battle and the original expanse of the empire was again unified under Mamoon. Although Mammon was victorious in his confrontation with his brother, he had made the Arabs very upset at their defeat and the death of al-Amin at his hands. Meshed
Mamoon knew that the people of Hijaz, and the Shiites elsewhere had already received a heinous treatment from his father. The memory of the events was still quite fresh in their minds. As a result of these events, the Shiites had become rebellious. There were many uprisings among them in various provinces led by prominent Alkyds. Mamoon took an unusual step to redress these ill feelings of his subjects. In the year 201 AH, he called the Imam to Merv (in Khorasan) from Madinah and declared him as his successor, and minted coins in the Imam's name. To further enhance his apparent goodwill among the Alkyds and the Shiites, he gave his daughter, Umm-e Habiba, in marriage to the Imam in 202 AH. The caliph had took wise steps to produce the desired effects. He managed to win the confidence of the Shiites and stabilize his rule.
Mamoon invited learned individuals to participate in religious and multicultural debates in his court. This afforded Imam Ali ar-Reza great opportunity to expound the vastness of his knowledge in these large gatherings. It also increased his visibility and the popularity of the Imam which had previously been denied to all his ancestors. He was now able to preach the Truth about the Faith of Islam according to teachings of the Ahle Bait. The Abbasids in
were already very unhappy at having an Aliyyid among them as a declared successor to the caliph. The growing popularity of the Imam in the eastern provinces naturally posed a grave threat to the rule of the dynasty. They decided to name a new Abbasid caliph to replace Mamoon. They started to rally behind Ibrahim bin Mahdi bin Mansoor as their new caliph. Baghdad
Mamoon had to make a hasty move back to
Iraq from Khorasan to quell the dangerous developments in . It was this time when the Imam was given poisoned grapes that caused his death. Before his death, Imam Ali ar-Reza advised his followers that his only son Muhanunad (Jawad) would be the next Imam, even though he was at a young age of only eight years. After his death, the body of the Imam was buried in Baghdad close to the gravesite of his tormentor, Haroon ar-Rashid. Meshed
REFLECRIONS ON THE LIFE OF IMAM ALI AR-REZA
The Imam had to face an unusual strategy posed by his appointment to the heirship. He had to accept the offer to go to the palace, otherwise the Imam would have to bear the blame of keeping aloof from involvement in governing the people when he was given the opportunity to do so.
His interaction with the literary circles of the Caliph caused a vast variety of written and oral traditions to be gathered from the Imam which later became available to the later generations to benefit from. They consist of his sermons, his debates and contests, his replies to complicated questions posed in the court of the caliph, his letters to his companions and family, as well as his writings and poetry. Much of the collected material is related to the meanings and the interpretations of the Qur'an. Some of it is related to Islamic law, some to the general knowledge of the heavens and the earth, and some to the Medicine of the Imam.
He produced many learned students from many lands in the empire. The Imam was fully conversant with many languages and fluently communicated with people from other lands in their mother tongues. When his students returned to their homes, they spread the Imams message far and wide. It became evident that the vast knowledge exhibited by the Imam was not obtained from any known school or university of the time. His school and his university was located in the "City of the Prophetic Knowledge" whose gateway was through none other than his own ancestor, Imam Ali bin Abi Talib.
The Imam perpetuated the tradition of the ritual majalis that had been initiated by his ancestors to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. He used to sponsor these majalis and patronized them. He considered this to be a great opportunity to reach out to the sensitive souls of the people and propagate every aspect of the true teachings of Islam. Since the people who attended these majalis had come to listen, the Imam used their receptiveness to its greatest advantage. He dispelled many misconceptions about the Faith. He coffected many misquotes from the Prophet as well as those attributed to the preceding Imams. He personally was able to demonstrate the true methodology of the daily ritual practices of the Faith. He taught people how to pray and how to supplicate.
The members of the Abbasid clan had not suddenly developed love for the Alkyds. In fact, their spite had multiplied many-fold by the position the Imam had been placed by Mamoon. His life and conduct was under the stem scrutiny by his opponents. Under the watchful eye of his enemies, the Imam demonstrated the excellence of his personal way of life despite the imposing royal protocol. He never spoke harshly to any one, be it a slave or a master. He only smiled gently on amusing situations and was never seen in bursts of laughter. He was never seen to cut in a conversation.