Heartiest congratulations to you all on a very auspicious occasion. Today is the blessed birth anniversary of Imam Reza (PBUH), the 8th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny), who reposes in eternal peace in Mashhad in Khorasan Province and whose sacred shrine is the most blessed spot in Iran. Please stay tuned to listen to a special programme in this regard.
On the 11th of Zil-Qa’dah in the year 148 AH, less than a month after the martyrdom of the Prophet’s 6th infallible successor, Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (PBUH), when the bewildered assassin Mansour Dawaniqi was still trying to figure out who actually was the heir of his venerable victim, so as to do him harm as well, an enlightened heir was born to the still publicly unannounced heir of the deceased Imam. Little did the Abbasid usurper Mansour – one of the principal hijackers and deviators of the pro-Ahl al-Bayt uprising of the people of Khorasan – realize that the new addition to his victim’s family that year would soon transform not only Khorasan but the whole of Iran and the greater part of his own capital Baghdad in Iraq, into the realm of the devotees of the Prophet’s pure progeny, whom he thought had been totally deprived of their rights. Fifty-three years later in 201 AH, as the rotten bones of Mansour and his four tyrannical successors – Mahdi Abbasi, Hadi Abbasi, Haroun and Amin – rattled in their infernal graves, the son born in 148 AH to Imam Musa al-Kazem (PBUH) – the son and hitherto unannounced successor of Imam Sadeq (PBUH) – would step on the soil of Khorasan to establish a permanent foothold for the followers of the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt.
Although Imam Reza (PBUH), whose birthday we celebrate today, was forced to leave Medina at the age of 53 years and come to Khorasan to the then Abbasid capital Marv (presently in Turkmenistan), as part of an intricate plot by the crafty caliph Mamoun who even declared him as his heir-apparent in a bid to discredit the Ahl al-Bayt in the eyes of the ummah, the Prophet’s 8th infallible successor completely turned the tables on the usurpers of the inalienable rights of his Blessed Household. During his two-year sojourn in Khorasan, so firmly did he manifest the God-given wisdom of the Prophet’s rightful heirs that despite a desperate Mamoun’s resorting to the same old tactics of fatal poisoning of the food to martyr yet another Infallible Imam, all traces of Abbasid rule soon evaporated from Iran. A brief radio programme is not the place to pen the outstanding events of the 8th Imam’s stay in Khorasan, such as the miracle of the rain during a period of extreme drought; the lively debates with different Muslim and non-Muslim scholars that convinced them of the truth of Islam; and the memorable incident of the Eid al-Fetr at the end of Ramadhan 202 AH that badly backfired on Mamoun when after announcing that the Imam was to lead the Special Eid Prayer he stopped him midway to the Mosalla out of fear and jealousy as masses started to turn out with enthusiasm at the sight of the Prophet’s heir performing the Eid ritual – an act that further alienated the people from the Abbasids.
However, in view of the blessed birthday of Imam Reza (PBUH), let us dwell briefly on some aspects of the glorious life of the 8th Imam. The convincing discourses of Imam Reza (PBUH) on a wide variety of topics and his clearing of doubts made the non-Muslim religious leaders as well as the intellectuals priding on the new sciences, realize their own waywardness and the rationality of genuine Islam. His knowledge was God-given and covered every topic under the sun. It ranged from spiritual and cultural issues to the realm of science. There is at book attributed to the 8th Imam in the medical field titled Tibb ar-Reza. It has been translated into several languages and contains important prescriptions and valuable guidelines including cure for different ailments and proper dietary and hygienic habits. Once when a Christian Archbishop insisted that Jesus (PBUH) was the ‘son’ of God, the Imam explained the absurdity of such a belief by saying Jesus (PBUH) was a Prophet, since the Almighty Creator is far glorious to have human characteristics and the need for a son. The latter challenged him to prove this from the Bible. The Imam pointed to the Gospel of St. John where Jesus (PBUH) gives tidings of the Prophet to come after him. The Archbishop was amazed at the Imam’s mastery of the Christian scriptures, but still stuck to his belief by pointing to the miracle of Jesus (PBUH) in reviving the dead. The Imam said such miracles were also performed by the Will of God by other Divine Messengers including the Last and the Greatest of them all, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). The Archbishop felt enlightenment in his heart, acknowledged the truth of Islam and became a Muslim.
Once when the Imam was asked during the debates of the principle of Imamate, the Imam replied:
“Indeed God did not take the soul of His Messenger without explaining everything about the Divine Creed…With its rich contents, the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet. The Imamate is therefore the sign of perfection of religion. Before passing away the Prophet left guides for his companions and his followers. He showed them the straight path. The Prophet managed everything properly so that the Ummah might not suffer lack of anything it needs. If somebody imagines that religion has not been perfected by God, he is actually rejecting the Divine Book (Qur’an). Such a person is but a heathen."
For the information of our listeners this lively discourse does not end here. Those interested can refer to such authoritative books as al-Kafi, Tuhaf al-Oqoul, etc. It is lengthy and cites different ayahs of the Holy Qur’an to prove the dynamism of the Imamate including God’s answer to the request of Prophet Abraham (PBUH) after making him “Imam of mankind” as stated by ayah 124 of surah Baqarah of the Holy Qur’an that this Divine Trust will never be granted to the unjust and the oppressors.
The reaction of a crafty tyrant like Mamoun, whose forbears had usurped the caliphate and were persecuting the Prophet’s rightful successors, was one of anguish and alarm to such a rational presentation of facts by Imam Reza (AS). It was obvious he had miserably miscalculated in bringing the 8th Imam to his court and forcing the honourific position of heir apparent upon him in the belief that this would tarnish the immaculate image of Imamate and drive a wedge between the Imam and the Ummah, by making the people think that the Ahl al-Bait had succumbed to the trappings of worldly pomp. He was mistaken and like all blundering dictators the Abbasid caliph had unwittingly provided a much larger public forum for Imam Reza (AS) to spell out the Divine Authority of Wilaya or succession to Prophethood. We end this programme by referring to the immortal incident at Neishabour where thousands of scholars requested the Prophet’s 8th infallible successor to relate to them a Hadith Qods (which has come to be known as Hadith Silsalat az-Zahab or the Hadith of the Golden Chain of Authority). The Imam obliged and thus proved till eternity the divinely ordained authority of the Ahl al-Bayt that continues to guide Muslims on the straight and unwavering right path in all eras, and prevents the true believers from falling into the pitfalls of the imposters, usurpers and all other deviants. He quoted the Prophet as saying:
God Almighty says La ilaha il-Allah hisni fa man dakhala hisni aamana min azaabi (The testimony of faith ‘There is no deity but God’ is My impregnable fortress and whoever enters my impregnable fortress is immune from My wrath). Imam Reza (AS) then said: But entering this impregnable fortress of God requires certain conditions and stipulations and I am (my wilayah or God-given authority) is among these conditions.”
Those still in doubt are advised to cast a glance at the magnificent mausoleum of Imam Reza (AS) in Holy Mashhad to realize which Household continues to rule the hearts of Muslims all over the globe when all pretenders to the caliphate have vanished without trace from the face of the earth.