Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 marks the birth anniversary of Imam Ali al-Hadi (p), 2nd Rajab,…
Visitation to the holy shrines of the Holy Prophet and his family (pbut) is among the most important actions that show love and loyalty to God’s chosen ones. When making a journey to send our salutations to them, we begin to build a relationship with the immaculate family and to aspire to attain their intercession. God states in the Holy Quran, “Believers, have fear of God. Find the means to reach Him and strive hard for His cause so that you may have everlasting happiness.”1 The most powerful means to reach God is through the intercession of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) and the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut).
Our hadith collections emphasize specific visitations on certain days and times of the year. Numerous traditions identify the unique significance of visiting our eighth Imam, Ali ibn Musa al-Rida (p). The Holy Prophet states, “A part of me will be buried in Khorasan. The believer who visits [him], God will deem him qualified to enter paradise, and will forbid his body from entering into the fire.”2
Alone in Khorasan
Imam al-Rida (p) was born on eleventh of Dhu al-Qidah, 148 AH in Medina, the city of his great grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp). He grew up learning divine knowledge from his father, Imam Musa al-Kadhim (p). After the martyrdom of his father (p), Imam al-Rida (p) became the imam, took the reins of divine guardianship, and began to preach the message in the city of Medina. As his influence grew, and the Abbasid ruler at the time, Mamun, took control of the political caliphate while establishing himself in Khorasan (modern-day Turkmenistan and Iran), He invited Imam al-Rida (p) to reside in his palace. Recognizing the plot of Mamun, the Imam refused the invitation but was eventually forced to not only settle in Khorasan but also assume the position of successor and crown prince. If he had not done so, his blessed life would have been in danger. In this way, Mamun tried to influence the Shia and legitimize his authority.
Imam al-Rida (p) continued preaching the religion of Islam in Khorasan. Mamun began to feel threatened by the popularity the Imam was gaining. He decided to poison the Imam and he was martyred in the month of Safar at the age of fifty-five years. Imam al-Rida (p) was buried far from the city of Medina, where his honorable forefathers were buried and where the support for the Prophet’s family remained strong. Due to the distance between him and the other holy personalities, we see a special emphasis on performing visitation to his blessed mausoleum.
Merits of the Visitation of the Imam
As mentioned earlier, visiting the shrines of the holy infallibles is of particular importance in the school of Ahl al-Bayt (pbut). An abundance of reports from the Imams speak about the visitation of Imam al-Rida (p). His father, Imam al-Kadhim demonstrates the reward of the visitation of his son. He states, “Whoever visits my son Ali, God will reward him the reward of seventy accepted Hajj.”3
Furthermore, Imam al-Jawad (p) encouraged his community to take a stand by emphasizing the visitation of his beloved father. The significance of the visitation of Imam al-Rida (p) is illuminated through his (Imam al-Jawad) pure words. When the Imam was poisoned, few of his supporters were present. Yet today, due to the advice of the imams, we see millions making their best effort to visit Imam al-Rida (p) annually. He states, “I guarantee that the one who visits my father in Tus (modern day Mashhad, Iran), knowing his station, will be granted paradise.”4 In another narration, a man once asked Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (p), “Is the visiting of [Imam] al-Rida (p) more virtuous or is visiting of [Imam] al-Hussain (p) more virtuous?” The ninth Imam (p) replied, “Visiting my father is more virtuous; all people visit [Imam] al-Hussain, but only special people of our followers visit my father.”5 From these powerful traditions, we can see the incredible merit of visiting our eighth imam.
Bits of Advice
1. Go for the visitation of Imam al-Rida. If we have the financial means and time off from work or school, we should do our best to go and visit the holy shrine of the Imam. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) states, “One of my grandchildren will be killed in Khorasan in a city known as Tus. Whoever visits him knowing his right, I will make him enter paradise with my own hands.”6 Making our best effort to visit his shrine will allow us to attain his intercession on the day we will need it the most (the Day of Judgment).
2. Spread the legacy of the Imam: We have a wealth of knowledge from the family of the Prophet (pbut) and it is not only important to implement those teachings ourselves but also to share them with those around us. Imam al-Rida (p) tells his companion, “May God have mercy upon those who enliven our affairs…those who learn our teachings and those who teach others. For surely if people knew the beauty of our words, they would follow us.”7 Today, we have the opportunity at our fingertips to access the traditions of the Imams, and at the same time, the opportunity to share it so others can benefit.
3. Strive to be a true follower of the Imam: The Imams of Ahl al-Bayt (p) gave so much of themselves so they could create a roadmap for us to seek God. The sacrifice of the eighth Imam, in terms of leaving his family and being under the watchful eye of the authorities, must have been incredibly challenging. Yet he still was able to train students and scholars and transmit the teachings of his grandfathers. In an important tradition, Imam al-Rida (p) states, “Our followers are those who submit to our commands, who take [and apply] our words, who oppose our enemies [oppressors of the Ahl al-Bayt], and those who do not, are not from us.”8 Thus, to repay our debt to the Imam, we should put forth our best effort and follow his advice to become the best of his followers.
1. Quran 5:35.
2. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 49, p.284.
3. Al-kafi, vol. 4, p. 585.
4. Shaykh Azizallah Attari, Masnad Imam al-Rida, vol. 1, pg 147.
5. Al-kafi, vol.4, 584.
6. Uyun akhbar al-Rida, vol. 1 p. 290.
7. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 2, p. 30.
8. Shaykh al-Saduq, Sifat al-Shia, p. 3.