Today is the 11th of Zil-Qa’dah, the day when the holy city of Medina became illuminated in the year 148 AH with the birth of Imam Reza (AS), the 8th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). No we have a special feature on the Imam who reposes in peace in the northeastern Iranian city of Tous, which has ever since become famous as Mashhad ar-Reza, and is the most blessed spot in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The city of Mashhad is bedecked like a bride these days, as people from all over Iran and from other parts of the world are streaming in to pay homage to the Prophet’s 8th Infallible Heir. Imam Reza (AS) needs no introduction. He was the son of Imam Musa al-Kazem, while his mother was the pious lady, Hazrat Najma (peace upon her). In his youth, Imam al-Reza (AS) enjoyed such an outstanding virtue and scholarship that people referred to him as a religious authority. Imam Kazem (AS) referred people to him, saying:
“My son’s writing is as my writing; his words are as my words, and his envoy is as my envoy; whatever he says is the very truth.”
The Sunni scholar, Ibn Ḥajar, has written that Imam Reza (AS), when only twenty and some years old, would give fatwas or legal judgments in the Mosque of the Prophet during the lifetime of his father. This is proof of his God-given knowledge. At the age of 35 years, the mantle of Divine Trust came to rest on his shoulders, following the martyrdom through poisoning of his illustrious father in the dungeon of the tyrant Haroun Rashid in Baghdad. For the next 17 years, the 8th Imam lived in his hometown Medina, grooming scholars and imparting to the seekers of truth, the genuine teachings of Islam and the Seerah and Sunnah of his ancestor the Prophet. As a result his popularity spread throughout the Muslim realm and beyond, alarming the usurper Abbasid regime.
In 200 AH, Mamun, the self-styled caliph, who was based in Khorasan in the city of Merv (which is currently in Turkmenistan), felt nervous about the position of the Imam, and in a bid to isolate him from the ummah, forced him to leave Medina, and come to his capital. Here in Merv, Mamun pretended to respect the Imam, and offered him the caliphate, an offer which the Imam refused. Next he deceitfully, against the Imam’s will, declared him as heir apparent, and to fool the people, even had coins minted in the Imam’s name. The plot was to keep Imam Reza (AS) under strict surveillance, and if possible to humiliate him by arranging debates with the scholars of various religions and philosophical schools. To the surprise of the caliph, however, the Imam as the rightful successor of the Prophet, triumphed in all such debates, making his opponents admit the truth of Islam, and the creed of the Ahl al-Bayt. Books of history and hadith are full of the details of such debates and discourses, which are outside the scope of a brief radio programme. Here we present our listeners with an interesting debate mentioned in the book Tuhaf al-Oqoul between Imam Reza (AS) and a Sabean scholar, named Imran as-Sabi.
Imran as-Sabi said to Imam Reza (AS): Do we declare the oneness of God by reality or by description?
Certainly, God the Light, the Initiator of this cosmos, and the Foremost is One without any associate or any accompanying thing. He is Unique without a second. The Initiator has been Self-Existent and the Light that is dispending with everything. He did not exist in a definite time and will not last for a definite time. He has not existed in anything, has not hidden Himself in anything… No sayer can invent a statement describing Him even if he thinks of light, example, apparition, or shadow. All that was before the creation and in the situation where there was nothing but Him. The same situation is in this position. There are only imaginary attributes and a translation of a picture in the mind purposed for making others understand. Did you understand, Imran?”
Imran as-Sabi who was not a monotheist, and lacked proper cognition of God, the One and Only, had no choice but to admit the truth of Islam, after this lively discourse on the Almighty Creator, of which we have only presented excerpts.
Imam Reza (AS) held similar debates with Jewish and Christian scholars as well and proved to them the truth and righteousness of Islam. Among the In a debate with the Jewish scholar Ra's al-Jaloot, Imam Reza (AS) asked about the Prophethood of Moses (AS), and the Jewish scholar said: like the miraculous parting of the sea waters and the turning of the staff into a giant snake. Imam Reza (AS) said; so you believe in Moses since he did what others could not do. Therefore whoever claims prophethood and then does something which others are not able to do, you would believe him?
Ras al-Jaloot replied: no, I believe in Moses because he has a high status in the sight of God and we cannot believe whoever claims to be prophet unless he brings miracles such as those of Moses. Imam Reza (AS) said: how you believe in the Prophets before Moses whereas they could not bring miracles such as those of Moses? The Jewish scholar replied: I said that I believe those who perform some miracles for proving their prophethood. Imam Reza (AS) said: Why do you not have faith in Jesus? Did he not revive the dead and healed the blind, leprous and mad and built birds from clay and made them alive on the command of God?
The Jewish scholar replied: It is said that he did these but we did not see them. Imam Reza (AS) then said: Have you seen the miracles of Prophet Moses or you have just heard them from reliable persons? The Jewish scholar acknowledged the words of the Imam, who then went on to say that Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), as the last and greatest Messenger of God, was an orphan and worked as a shepherd, but it was God Who gave him the Eternal Miracle of the holy Qur’an, which will remain forever, while the miracles performed by the other prophets, including Moses, were time-bound. The Imam thus proved that the miracle of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), that is the holy Qur’an is eternal and alive, and can be seen and acknowledged by all, while the miracles of the past prophets are events of the past.