A Brief Biography of the Holy Prophet of Islam(S.A.W.)
The State of the World before Islam
When Almighty Allah sent His last and greatest Prophet, Muhammad [s], mankind was immersed in a state of degeneration. The messages of the past prophets had been distorted and ignored, civilisation was on the decline and humanity had slumped into an age of darkness, with disbelief, oppression and corruption rife everywhere. The whole world presented the gloomiest picture ever of human history. Hence, the Qur’an’s terming of this chaotic state of affairs as ‘Ignorance’, or to put it exactly in the words the Holy Book has used ‘Jahiliyah’.
Consequently it is incorrect to view ‘Jahiliyah’ as something of the remote past, for it is quite clear from the Qur’an’s terminology that any people rejecting Divine Messengers, turning a deaf ear to the Almighty’s revelations and overcome with carnal desires, can aptly be termed an ignorant lot. Therefore broadly speaking, the term ‘Jahiliyah’ is not limited to any particular era cut can also be applied to all similar societies irrespective of whether they existed in the past or are still found in our contemporary era, the so-called, Space Age.
Accordingly, it is easy to recognise the symptoms of ‘Jahiliyah’, there is oppression and corruption, because the salient features of such a society are disbelief, deviation, breach of divine commandments, spread of injustice and vices such as usury, drinking alcohol, adultery, gambling, bloodshed, moral decadence, etc. Thus any society in which such perversions prevail is without doubt ‘Jahiliyah’.
Such was the sad state of affairs in which mankind lived, before Allah sent them a Prophet, describing him as a ‘Mercy for the creation’. The Arabs among whom Muhammad [s] was born were fragmented into a number of heterogeneous tribes constantly engaged in internecine bloodshed. They had replaced Abraham’s monotheism with the worship of idols, stars, angels and demons, turning the Ka’aba built for the One and Only Creator, into a pantheon of idols. Tribal rivalries and blood feuds, fuelled among them like the burning desert sands of Arabia.
Ignorance was not confined to the Arabs alone, for on the fringes of Arabia where the desert gives way to hospitable lands, met the ever changing borders of ‘World Arrogance’, the two superpowers of the age; the Persian and the Byzantine Empires. Both bidding for hegemony over the known world had bled white with wars, and despite their massive territories, it was obvious they were in their death throes.
The fire-worshipping Persians with their strange concept of dualism were further plagued by the still weirder Mazdakite doctrine which advocated communal ownership and went to such an extent as to rule women to be the common property of all men. Like Mani a few centuries earlier, who had claimed a new religion by combining the teachings of Jesus and Zoroaster, Mazdak’s movement was also a reaction to the corruption of the traditional priestly class. Both creeds had flattered to deceive and died away after the execution of their proponents, who more or less depended on royal patronage. On the other hand the Sassanian aristocracy aligned with the Zoroastrian clergy was steeped in pleasures burdening the downtrodden masses with heavy taxes and oppression.
At the other end was the Byzantine World, which though claiming to profess a divinely revealed religion had in fact polluted the monotheist message of Prophet Jesus [a] with the sediments of ancient Greek and Roman pagan thoughts, resulting in the birth of a strange creed called Christianity. Way back in 381 A.D., the Greco-Roman Church council had declared as heresy, the doctrine of Arius of Alexandria, to which most of the eastern provinces of the empire adhered, and in its place the council had coined the absurd belief that God and Jesus are of one substance and therefore co-existent. Arius and his followers had held the belief in the uniqueness and majesty of God, Who alone, they said has existed since eternity, while Jesus was created in time.
Throughout the 5th and 6th centuries the church continued to be racked by a myriad of controversies over its illogical attempts to define the alleged dual (divine and human) nature of Jesus in the light of Greek mythology and Persian Mithraism, the influence of both of which was quite visible on the Christian church. In addition, weirder beliefs like Holy Ghost, Mother of God (Mary) and Trinity cropped up which caused trouble in Syria, Egypt and North Africa, where the Monophysite Christians held ‘god the father’ to be infinitely superior to ‘god the son’. In short, terror, oppression and sectarian persecution were the order of the day in Christendom.
Scattered here and there across West Asia and North Africa were colonies of Jews, to whom several outstanding Messengers had been sent by the Almighty. But these divine favours had failed to reform the crime hardened Jews, whose very name had become synonymous for treachery. They had long deviated from the commandments of Allah, distorting the laws brought by Prophet Moses [a], tampering with divine scriptures, slaying prophets and in the end coining the chauvinist creed called Judaism. It was more a racial sedition rather than a set of beliefs and the Israelites’ vehement opposition to the last great reformer, Prophet Jesus Christ [a], was still fresh in the minds of the people.
Further to the east lay the once flourishing cultures of China and India which were now groping in the dark. Confucianism had confused the Chinese, robbing their minds of any positive thinking.
The Sui dynasty (581-618) espousing the cause of Buddhism had plunged China into a blood bath. If Buddhism was never intelligible to the masses, Taoism the religion of the former court was even more remote and expensive to practice looking like a huge complex of rites, cults and strange rituals. The victims of these feuds were of course the poor masses, bewildered as ever and seething under oppression.
In the subcontinent, the fabric of the Indian society was in even more shambles. Hinduism and the absurd philosophy of the caste system it preached, had created water-tight compartments between the human race reducing the so-called lower classes to the ranks of mere beasts of burden.
Hinduism had no universal pretensions whatsoever, and had evolved and was peculiar to the geographical confines of India, or more properly Northern India and its Aryan invaders. Conversion of foreigners was difficult because one had to be born in a particular caste and it was the mystery of ‘Karma’ that determined one’s fate.
In addition, India presented a confusion of castes and creeds and a pantheon of idols more weird and in erotic postures than found anywhere else. Tantric rites including demon-worship, sacrifice of humans and possibly cannibalism were the order of the day. No intermarriage, no inter-living, burning of the widows on the dead husband’s pyre, exploitation of the so-called lower class women dedicated to temples as devdasis but whose actual work was to satisfy the carnal desires of the priests, were some of the sordid affairs in practice.
Outside the periphery of the civilised world, beyond the River Jexartes in the endless steppes of Central Asia, dwelt the marauding Turks and other related tribes. They adhered to the magical rites of Shamanism and ancestor worship.
Africa, beyond the Sahara was steeped in animism while in Europe bands of barbarians such as Avars, Bulgars, Germans, Franks etc. wandered around pillaging what remained of the Roman civilisation.
In short, wars, bloodshed, slavery, oppression of women and the deprived held sway everywhere. Might ruled right. The world was in dire distress but no one seemed around to deliver it from darkness. No religion, ideology, creed or cult could offer any hope to the agonies and frustrations of humankind.
None of the religions in currency had any universal outlook or even pretensions and were limited to insurmountable geographical and psychological barriers, preaching discrimination and the narrow-minded superiority of a particular race.
Thus it was in such a chaotic state of depression that Almighty Allah sent His last great Prophet, with the universal Message of Islam to save mankind from disbelief, oppression, corruption, ignorance and moral decadence that was dragging humanity towards self-annihilation.
The Makkan Society
The society at obscure Makkah where Prophet Muhammad [s] opened his eyes, was rife with vices and oppression. It was as barren as the harsh Arabian landscape, with declining morals, rising perversion, ignorance and poverty. Like the rest of Arabia it was polytheist in nature, deeply engrossed in the worship of a multitude of idols.
The Makkan society roughly speaking was divided into three classes as follows:
1.The Arrogant Wealthy:
In their hands was vested the wealth, authority and leadership of Makkah, and it was this class which vehemently opposed the Messenger of Allah and his call to Islam. They terrorised and forbade people from believing him, for fear of losing their unjust hegemony over Makkah. To this class belonged Abu Jahal, Abu Sufyan, Abu Lahab, Walid bin Mughira, Uqba bin Abi Moayyit, Aas bin Wael Sahm and others, who had built up large fortunes by oppression and foul means.
2. The Deprived (slaves and the oppressed):
This class was composed of the downtrodden like Ammar and his parents Yaser and Sumaiyya, Bilal the Abyssinian, Suhaib the Roman, Khabbab bin Arat etc., who all eagerly hastened towards the call of Islam, because they found it to be the truth and a way of deliverance from oppression, slavery and disbelief.
3. The General Public:
These were neither part of the landed oligarchy nor were subjected to slavery. They could well be termed the middle class. Affiliated to their respective tribal chiefs or clan heads they blindly followed the path chosen by their leaders.
Thus since the Islamic Da’wah (call) strives for justice and equality among the human race, removing the artificial barriers of class set up by ‘Jahiliyyah’, the tyrants and oppressors did all they could to stop its eventual spread. Sensing that its Monotheist message, preaching submission to the One and Only Creator and forsaking the worship of idols and man-made images, would bring an end to their domination over Makkah, the pagan Quraish, decided to gang up against Prophet Muhammad [s].
Birth and Ancestry
Muhammad [s] was born at Makkah in the year 570 AC. known in the annals of Arabian history as the ‘Year of the Elephant’ because of a miraculous event. That year Abraha the Christian governor of the Abyssinian King, who had already subdued Yemen, marched upon Makkah with a huge army of elephants. His intention was to destroy the Ka’aba and shift the centre of pilgrimage to San’aa, where he had built an imposing church. But the very moment Abraha’s awesome army was poised for the attack, the Almighty sent a swarm of flying creatures, who blackened the sky pelting the mighty force with pebbles, and within minutes destroyed elephants and warriors alike. Thus Almighty Allah humbled the arrogantly ignorant by means of an obscure creature.
Muhammad [s] was born on the eve of 17th of the lunar month of Rabi-ul-awwal and according to some versions on the 12th of the same month. His father was Abdullah the son of Abdul Muttalib the son of Hashim and his mother, Amina, was the daughter of Wahab. His grandfather Abdul Muttalib had many wives and children, out of whom Abdullah and Abu Talib were from the same mother. Thus Prophet Muhammad [s] was a scion of the noble Bani Hashim clan a sub-division of the large Quraish tribe, descended from Prophet Ishmael [a] the elder son of Prophet Abraham [a].
He was a posthumous child, as his father Abdullah had died three months before his birth, while on a visit to Yathrib (Madina). The birth of the orphan turned the grief of the bereaved family into unbounded joy, and none were more happy than his mother, Amina and grandfather Abdul Muttalib, who were in a state of shock at Abdullah’s untimely death. The family burst into happiness, slaughtering sheep and throwing a grand banquet for the Quraish, to celebrate the auspicious occasion. Makkah overflowed with joy as throngs of people flocked to Abdul Muttalib’s house to congratulate him on the birth of his grandchild.
The Upbringing of the Prophet
As was the custom in those days, babies of noble families were normally entrusted to the care of strong and healthy wet nurses, who not only gave suck but taught their wards manners and etiquette. The young Muhammad [s] was accordingly put under the care of a noble wet-nurse called Halima bint Hareth As-Saadiyah, who brought him up along with her own children; Abdullah, Eisa and daughter Shaima.
After four years Halima brought back the child to his mother and grandfather. Everyone was happy as the toddler started to grow up into a pretty, sober and intelligent boy, marked out from the rest of the children by his suave manners and loved and admired by all.
Mother and Grandfather Die
At the age of six, his mother took him to Yathrib to visit her family. Umm Ayman their maid accompanied them on the journey. At Yathrib, the young boy saw the grave of his father, whom he had never seen in life. What a moving scene it may have been when mother and son, set eyes on Abdullah’s grave!
After a short stay in Yathrib they started back, but on the way Amina became seriously ill. The party stopped to nurse her but her condition became worse and finally she breathed her last and was buried at a place called Abwa, situated between Makkah and Madina. The child was naturally sad at loosing his only surviving parent, at the tender age of 6. Now he was an orphan on both sides and alone in this wide world. But Almighty Allah is Great and Omnipresent and He alone decrees destinies. Umm Ayman escorted Muhammad [s] to Abdul Muttalib, who was shocked on hearing news of his daughter-in-law’s sudden death. The doting grandfather took upon himself the task of bringing up the young orphan, never letting him feel the slightest discomfort. But there was yet another shock in store for Muhammad [s], for when he reached the age of 8, he lost his loving grandfather too.
Abu Talib Assumes Guardianship
Before his death, Abdul Muttalib instructed his son Abu Talib to see his orphaned grandson’s upbringing. Accordingly, Abu Talib gladly assumed guardianship of his nephew and took young Muhammad [s] under his roof. Abu Talib and his wife Fatimah bint Asad raised the orphan as their own child, never making him feel the slightest thought of being a destitute. They loved him dearly and he loved them in turn. In later years he was often heard saying that Fatimah bint Asad, (the mother of Imam Ali) was like a mother to him.
 A deep affinity developed between the Prophet and his foster brothers and sister, and later in life they also accepted Islam.
The Prophet’s Marriage
Muhammad [s] grew up in his loving uncle’s house, blossoming into a handsome youth of exceptionally good character, which marked him out from rest of the young Makkans. He soon began to assist Abu Talib in trade and commerce and once accompanied his uncle’s trading caravan to Syria, ably revealing his talents and integrity. His honesty and reputation preceded him and sometime after his return to Makkah he took up a trading job with one of the wealthiest and noblest Quraishite women, Khadija bint Khuwailid. He accepted to work for Khadija and was entrusted with some money, with which he busied himself in commerce. He again travelled to Syria and made great profits for Khadija during the trip.
Naturally Khadija was pleased and soon came to admire Muhammad’s [s] intelligence and honesty. Eventually she offered her hand in marriage which was accepted by him. Muhammad [s] thus married Khadija and they lived a harmonious life full of love, co-operation and sincerity, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows. They formed a perfect husband and wife pair, the likeness of which is something rare in human history. When finally the Divine Message was revealed to Muhammad [s], the devout Khadija at once believed in her husband without ever expressing the slightest doubt. She was the first among women to accept Islam and subsequently put all her vast wealth and property at the Prophet’s disposal for the spread of truth and justice.
Khadija bint Khuwailid was from the Quraish tribe and was born and bred in Makkah. Even in the days of Jahiliyyah she was known among the Quraish women for her nobleness of character and virtue, that is why she was called by the Makkans as Tahera ‘the pure’. She married Muhammad [s], 15 years before revelation came to him from Allah. As long as she was alive the Prophet never took a second wife and even in later years of his life after numerous marriages, he used to cherish her loving memory and refer to her as the most beloved of his spouses. She endured with him hunger, poverty and calamities inflicted by the Makkan polytheists. She bore Muhammad [s] many children, all of whom except for Fatima [a] died in infancy, including son Qasim from whom the Prophet’s kunya (agnomen) ‘Abul Qasim’ is derived.
Finally in the tenth year of the Prophetic mission, shortly after the small Muslim community quarantined by the heathens in Shaib Abi Talib had come out of the valley, Khadija breathed her last. It was a great tragedy for the Prophet. The year is known as the ‘Year of Grief’ in history because the Prophet suffered a further blow that year losing that other great benefactor, his uncle Abu Talib.
 Khadija bore the Prophet one more son named Taher; who also died in infancy. Later in life Prophet Muhammad [s] had another son named Ibrahim, through his Egyptian wife Maria Qibtia, who also died in infancy. Hence, the Prophet’s progeny survives today through his daughter Fatima and her two sons Hasan and Husayn who are the ancestors of all ‘Seyyids’ (descendants of the Prophet).
Truthful and Honest
Muhammad [s], right from his childhood was known for his virtue and lofty conduct and was far removed from the prevalent vices of the day like idolatry, dishonesty, drinking, gambling, cowardice etc., which were the hallmarks of the Makkan society. His noble character stood him out as the most impeccable one ever, to the point that his people called him ‘as-Sadiq’ (the Truthful) and ‘al-Amin’ (the Honest). They put their complete trust in him and always turned to him as an impartial judge in their frequent disputes.
He was a born believer whose heart was free from the filth of disbelief and polytheism. Never had the boy been near idols let alone worship them. The All-Knowing Allah, Who had singled out the child for the greatest task and blessings that lay ahead, had inspired Muhammad’s [s] young heart with His Greatness, Power and Majesty. His pristine purity was indicative of his future greatness, for how could people believe in him and put their trust in him if they see him prostrating before manmade objects and indulging in vices like any ordinary Arab of the day. Surely, none would have responded to his call to Islam, towards virtue and towards deliverance from oppression, and none would have believed him if they were not sure of vouchsafing his truthfulness and honesty.
Thus Divine providence was at work, right from the beginning in his case, grooming, inspiring and educating the young Muhammad [s] and finally introducing him as a model of emulation and messenger for all of mankind.
Muhammad [s] The Good News of the Prophets
It is now clear that both Judaism and Christianity had completed their historical missions, for the process of abrogation and perfection is a natural matter with respect to the divine laws. It was known that humanity should resort to another divine law in accordance with the divine will. In addition to that, both religions had been distorted and tampered with. So, logically and with respect to following the revealed path, it is irrelevant to adopt them as ways of life. The substitute is Islam, the promised divine faith for all mankind. It is the faith about which the prophets Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus) [a] gave good news.
Should seekers of truth be certain of the fact that Muhammad [s] was the Prophet promised by Musa, and Isa [a], and that he was mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, this would constitute a miracle pertaining to him and be confirmation of his prophethood. It rests as a proof on the Jews and Christians who believe in the Pentateuch, the Bible and Pre-Islamic history.
Humanity was waiting for the advent of a new prophet. The Qur’an argues with the Jews and Christians on this point and reminds them of this fact:
“When there came to them a Book from Allah, confirming what was with them – and aforetimes they prayed for victory over those who disbelieve – When there came to them the truth which they recognised, they disbelieved therein. The curse of Allah is on the disbelievers.”
Holy Qur’an (2:89)
The Pentateuch and the Bible did mention the characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad [s], the place of his appearance and his message. A great number of Jewish and Christian religious scholars, at the time, embraced Islam, and believed in the Prophet [s], because they found his name and attribute in the Pentateuch and the Bible. The Qur’an drew their attention to this fact and called on them to return to the Pentateuch and the Bible:
“…the Prophet, the Ummi, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and Injeel…”
Holy Qur’an (7:157)
Let us, then, read the Old and New Testaments, and the works authored by the researchers and thinkers, particularly the Christian intellectuals like Professor David Benjamin Kildani, concerning the coming of the Prophet Muhammad [s].
When emphasising the character of the promised Prophet, the other prophecy, attributed to Musa (Moses), is, in any case, conducive when it speaks of the ‘the bright light of God which comes from Faran' which is the wilderness of Makkah.
In chapter 33, of the Pentateuch, the second sentence states:
“The Lord came from Sinai, and shined to them from Saer, and gleamed from the mountain of Faran. And ten thousand saints came with him. From his right hand the fire of a law for them appeared. So the brightness of the Lord is likened to the light of the sun, ‘The Lord came from Sinai, and shined to them from Saer.’ He gleamed with glory from Faran. He appeared with ten thousand of his followers, carrying a divine law for them in his right hand. None of the Israelites had anything to do, Christ included, with Faran. Hajar (Hagar) and Isma’il (Ismael), her son, wondered in the wilderness of Beersheba. Then, they settled in the wilderness of Faran.
We read in another text, page 33:
“The other prophecy is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 21, verses 13-17. It says: ‘This is a message about Arabia. You people of Dedan, whose caravans camp in the barren country of Arabia, give water to the thirsty people who come to you. You people of the land of Tema, give food to the refugees. People are fleeing to escape from swords that are ready to kill them, from bows that are ready to shoot, from all the dangers of wars.’ Then the Lord of Kedar will be at an end. The bow-men are the bravest men of Kedar, but few of them will be left.'”
In another text, we openly and self-evidently read about the good news of the coming of the Prophet Muhammad [s]:
“During that rare chance, God sent His servant, the Prophet Haggai to console those sad people. He carried with him this important message:
“I will overthrow all the nations, and Hamada will come to all nations. I will fill this temple with wealth. Such the Lord of the soldiers said. All the silver and gold of the world is mine. And there I will give my people prosperity and peace. The Lord of the soldiers had spoken.”
“I had translated this paragraph from the only copy which was in my possession which was borrowed from a lady who is a cousin of mine. This copy was written in the national language.”
Let us return to the English translation of the Bible, which we believe to have changed the word ‘Hamada’ from the Hebrew origin to ‘Amniya’, and the word ‘Shalom’ to ‘Islam’.
The priest-professor Abdul-Ahad, who later on embraced Islam, said:
“… therefore we should view this prophecy truthful beyond question. It is identified with the character of Ahmad and his message Islam. That is because both the words Hamada and Shalom or Shalama give precisely the same meaning and have the same importance of Ahmad and Islam … in many of Christ’s statements we read the good news of the Prophethood of Muhammad [s] and the mentioning of his name.
Jesus’ Prophecy about Muhammad [s]:
“And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Surely I am the Apostle of Allah to you, verifying that which was (revealed) before me of the Torah, and giving the glad tidings of an Apostle who will come after me, whose name is Ahmad…”
Holy Qur’an (61:6)
“Those who follow the Apostle – Prophet, the Ummi whom they find ordained for them in the Torah and the Evangel, he enjoins them good and forbids them evil…”
Holy Qur’an (7:157)
The Gospel of Jesus [a] brought into sharper focus the identity of the one who would fulfil the promise to make the line of Ishmael [a] a great nation. In the Gospel of John – a New Testament book which is not the Gospel of Jesus [a] and which may be considered as representing only in general terms portions of his teachings. Christ informs his close companions that his work among them was drawing to conclusion, but God would send someone else after a time to carry forward the prophetic movement. This someone, however, would be the last of the prophets.
The following passages of the New Testament lend further proof to the Prophethood of Muhammad [s]:
“And this is the record of John (the Baptist) when the Jews sent priests and levites from Jerusalem to ask him, who art thou?
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed I am not the Christ.
And they asked him, “what then? Art thou Elias?” And he said: “I am not.” “Art thou That Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
And they asked him, and said unto him, “why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither That Prophet.”
John (1: 19-21, 25)
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray to the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
John (14: 15-16-26-30)
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I shall send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement:
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Of judgement because the prince of this world is judged.
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
A careful study of these passages brings to light the following facts:
Jesus Christ [a] prophesies the coming of a Comforter after him.
The coming of the Comforter depends on Christ’s departure.
He is sent by Almighty Allah.
He will teach everything.
He will draw attention towards what the Christ had foretold.
He will testify and glorify Christ.
He will not speak by himself but what he divinely hears.
He will foretell future events.
The world will follow his religion.
He will stay forever.
In view of these glaring facts if we cast a glimpse at the life of Prophet Muhammad [s] we will discover the amazing truth that these points perfectly tally with his mission and confirm beyond doubt that he is the Comforter Promised by Jesus.
 *Father David Benjamin Kildani embraced Islam and changed his name to Professor Abdul Ahad Dawood. He was from the Kildani sect related to the Roman-Catholic Church, holding a bachelor’s degree in Theology. After embracing Islam he wrote a book under the name of ‘Muhammad in the Holy Qur’an’.
 Faran is the wilderness of Makkah. It is a reference to the place where the Prophet Muhammad [s] was chosen to prophethood. He came to Madina at the head of ten thousand warriors to conquer Makkah. This is widely known as recorded by historians.
 Abdul-Ahad Dawood, Muhammad fi al-Kitab al-Muqqaddas
(Muhammad in the Holy Bible), 3rd ed, pp.31-33.
 Ibid, p.33.
 Ibid, p.50.
The Beginning of the Prophetic Mission
Muhammad [s], though endeared and respected by Makkans for his wisdom and virtues, preferred solitude and kept his distance from the polytheist society. Disgusted with the corruption all around, he used to retire to the Cave of Hira, in a mountain a few kilometres from Makkah, meditating Allah’s Majesty and worshipping Him. Initially he used to remain in the cave for a day or two and sometimes even 10 nights or more but the next few years saw him spending a whole month in that cave, praying to Allah and contemplating guidance for the deviated people.
Finally the day dawned which was change the history of the world. When he had reached the age of 40 and was engrossed as usual in praying to Allah at his retreat of cave Hira, suddenly that harbinger of Divine tidings, the Archangel Gabriel, appeared with the first verses of the Holy Qur’an:
“Recite in the name of your Lord Who created. Created man from a clot. Recite and your Lord is most Generous. Who taught (to write) with the pen. Taught man what he knew not.”
Holy Qur’an (96:1-5)
With these verses, Gabriel [a] announced to Muhammad [s] that Almighty Allah had formally chosen him to be His last and final Messenger to humankind.
Muhammad’s [s] heart was filled with joy, and he thanked Almighty Allah for bestowing this great honour upon him. He hurried to his house to tell his wife Khadija about his appointment to Prophethood.
Khadija on hearing the event at once believed in her husband’s Prophethood and so did his young cousin Ali [a]. Consequently Ali and Khadija became the first ever male and female Muslims respectively. Thus started the beginning of a divine mission which was destined not only to cleanse the Arabian Peninsula of the filth of polytheism but whose radiance would eventually dispel darkness from all over the world.
Muhammad’s [s] formal announcement of his Prophethood had a mixed reaction on Makkan society. While the oppressed classes hastened towards the call of Islam, happy that the day of deliverance had finally dawned, the Makkan oligarchy and those who felt a danger to their vested interests and hegemony; ganged up to ridicule the Prophet, in their desperate bid to nip in the bud the final revelation to the human race.
Undeterred by Jahiliyah’s arrogant attempts, Muhammad [s] continued to propagate the great divine mission entrusted to him, and the next 23 years of his lifetime saw the gradual unfolding of the grand miraculous event; the Holy Qur’an, Allah’s own words sent down through the Archangel Gabriel.
 Even today after 14 centuries, Allah’s book the Holy Qur’an stands as a living miracle for humanity. Its revelation was completed a couple of months before the Messenger’s passing away, and besides containing the ‘Shariah’ (canonical laws) for the Muslims, it is a source of knowledge goading man to contemplate and discover the mysteries of science, inspiring high ethical values and morals in its readers and showing the perfect path for mankind’s happiness both in this world and the hereafter.
The Making of Early Muslims
Despite the feverish attempts of the Arab infidels to suppress the call of truth, the young Muslim community began to grow in numbers, as more and more people flocked to the call of Islam.
The Prophet’s mission in Makkah can thus be classified under the following two periods:
The Secret Call
At first the Messenger of Allah called people to Islam secretly. He began with his immediate kinsmen, the Bani Hashim, explaining to them his divine mission. For three consecutive days he discoursed with them, without much success, and only his young cousin Ali [a], stood up every time saying ‘I bear witness Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’ The other members of his clan either mocked at him or remained silent, perhaps needing time to ponder over his words.
Without feeling the least discouraged, Muhammad [s] continued his work, encountering individuals and inviting them to Islam. By and large, the devoted group of Muslims increased around him, and he selected a secret secluded spot, to assemble the faithful and teach them the principles of Islam and the verses of Qur’an as they were gradually revealed. When the number of Muslims had reached 40, Almighty Allah ordered His Messenger to shun the garment of secrecy and make public the invitation to Islam.
The Public Call
As the number of committed Muslims began to grow, Almighty Allah commanded His Prophet to publicly announce the call to Islam. Some of the notable converts at this stage included Muhammad’s [s] kinsmen such as Ja’far bin Abi Talib, Ubaidah bin Hareth bin Abdul Muttalib and etc…
The growing presence of such a strong Muslim community in their midst naturally annoyed the obstinate polytheists, who felt increasing danger to their hegemony. The infidels, who had no logic to defend their worship of manmade objects and stop the awakened masses from flocking toward the light of Islam, resorted to torture and other methods of oppression against the fledgling Muslim society. Bilal the Abyssinian, Suhaib the Roman, Khabab bin Art, and others underwent the most rigorous forms of torture at the hands of arrogant Jahiliyah.
The Mission Continues
Despite the hardships, the infant community of Islam stood steadfast in its beliefs. The Prophet’s wife Khadija bint Khwailid who was blessed with a large fortune, put all her wealth and property at her husband’s disposal, to help the spread of Islam. The personality of Abu Talib, Muhammad’s [s] uncle, who was respected and admired by the Quraish, was instrumental in keeping the polytheist Arabs at a distance, and they were afraid of doing any bodily harm to the Prophet. The Prophet continued to teach the young Muslim community, the divine revelations and the basic tenets of Islam. His most enthusiastic disciple and student was none other than his young cousin, Ali, who was the closest personality to Muhammad [s].
A point to note is that while all the early Muslims were mature people and had experienced the fruits and bitterness of growing up among the idols of Arabia, it was only Ali, who entrusted to his cousin’s guardianship years before the call of Islam, was like Muhammad [s] – of a pristine pure personality and far removed from contemporary corruption. Perhaps it was divine providence that Ali should be groomed personally by the last and greatest Messenger to mankind. Hence, the young Ali imbibed all the knowledge directly from the Prophet himself.
Consequently the Da’wah (Islamic Call) of the Prophet falls into two clearly discernible periods as follows:
1. The period in Makkah, beginning with the age of 40 till his emigration to Madina 13 years later.
2. The period at Madina, beginning with the Prophet’s historical arrival till his sad demise 10 years later at the age of 63.
The Makkah Period
If the Prophet’s emigration to Madina opened new vistas for the message of Islam and its eventual expansion over the Arabian peninsula, nonetheless the Makkah period despite the persecution and hardships, was instrumental in laying the firm foundations of Monotheism, which were to flower in Madina later on.
Briefly speaking, the major landmarks of the Islamic call in this period are explained underneath for our readers:
1. The First Revelation
The coming of the Archangel Gabriel with the tidings of Prophethood and the first revelation, as we have already explained.
2. Da’wat Dhul-Ashira
The invitation to his kinsmen the Bani Hashim to accept Islam. The event known as Da’wat Dhul-Ashira was a formal announcement of Muhammad’s [s] mission and a turning point in the history of the divine message and its spread. Undeterred it set the tone for the making of the first group of dedicated Muslims, who despite severe persecution and hardships gathered around the Prophet to assimilate the teachings and principles of Islam.
The night journey Isra as described by the glorious verses of the Holy Qur’an.
“Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque of which We have blessed the precinct…”
Holy Qur’an (17:1)
What is meant by Isra is the bodily ascension of Prophet Muhammad [s] from the Sacred Mosque (Ka’aba) to the Remote Mosque in Jerusalem and thence to the heavens to the very presence of Almighty Allah, and back to earth in a very short span of the same night. It is related that Gabriel descended one night with the heavenly mount Buraq whose speed as the name suggests is far greater than the speed of light, and took the Prophet to the highest and furthest point of the heavens where no creature has ever set foot, and thence the wonder-struck Muhammad [s] proceeded alone to the very presence of the ‘Magnificent Light’, that only a curtain divided him from the Omnipotent Almighty. Then Allah spoke with his servant and showed him the signs of His Majesty. The event also known as Me’raj confirms that no creature ever, not even the past prophets or any heavenly being either, like the Archangel Gabriel, had been so near to the Almighty’s proximity, as the Habibullah (beloved of Allah) was summoned by Allah that night.
4. The First Martyrs
The idolaters maddened at Bani Hashim and other Makkans for accepting Islam, singled out some Muslims like Bilal the Abyssinian, Ichabab bin Art and Yasir, his wife Sumaiyya and their son Ammar for severe torture. Despite the barbarities inflicted, the new Muslims refused to forego their faith in monotheism and eventually Yasir and his wife Sumaiyya were savagely martyred at the hands of the infidels.
5. The Emigration to Abyssinia
When the Messenger of Allah felt the growing danger threatening the very lives of the infant Muslim community and its helplessness against the infidels, he instructed some of them to migrate to Abyssinia. The immigrants were led by the Prophet’s cousin Ja’far bin Abu Talib, and upon arrival there, were allowed to settle and practice their faith by the Abyssinian ruler Negus.
6. Siege and Social Boycott
Alarmed at the growing number of Muslims and fearing to do bodily harm to the Prophet, because of Abu Talib’s towering personality, the Makkan Jahiliyah devised a plan of social boycott of the whole Bani Hashim clan.
Hence a total boycott was imposed on the Bani Hashim and the new Muslims to such an extent that all links or contacts whether commercial or social, including buying or selling of goods and even matrimonial alliances were severed. But the faithful Abu Talib was determined to protect his nephew the Prophet, and together with all his clan members as well as the other Muslims retired to the valley known as Shi’b Abi Talib on the outskirts of Makkah, where together, they could easily override the difficulties and also protect themselves from any incursions. Steadfastly, the Muslims bore the consequences of the siege, enduring pain, hunger and other difficulties for three long years, and ultimately frustrated the infidel’s efforts, which forced the Makkan Jahiliyah to lift up the social boycott.
7. The Year of Great Grief
Shortly after the Bani Hashim and other Muslims emerged from Shi’b Abi Talib, a double calamity struck the Prophet. Umm al-Mu’mineen (mother of believers) Khadija al-Kubra who had given her husband unflinching support, sacrificing her great wealth and property for the cause of Islam, finally succumbed to the hardships and breathed her last. It was a great blow to the Prophet to lose his faithful beloved companion and the mother of his illustrious progeny. But another calamity was in store for Muhammad [s], and three days later that another great benefactor and sincere guardian, his uncle Abu Talib passed away from this mortal world.
These sad events occurred in the holy month of fasting, Ramadhan, three years before the Prophet’s historic migration to Madina. Accordingly the year is known in the annals of Islamic History as the ‘Year of Grief’.
8. The Retirement to Ta’if
Aggrieved by the double loss of his loving wife and doting uncle, and faced with the prospect of renewed hostility from the Makkan idolaters, who were emboldened by Abu Talib’s death, the Prophet set out for the oasis town of Ta’if. But in Ta’if the call to Islam fell on deaf ears. No one believed in Muhammad’s [s] invitation except an old Christian farmer called ‘Adhasu’ who embraced Islam. The Arabs of Ta’if ridiculed the Prophet, encouraging simpletons and ignorant children to pelt him with stones and obstruct his path, wherever he moved. The Messenger convinced that his divine mission would not make much progress with the stonehearted people of Ta’if, returned back to his birthplace Makkah.
9. Meeting with a Yathrib Delegation
Even though the arrogantly ignorant Quraishites and other tribes of Makkah and Ta’if had scoffed at the message, divine providence was already at work facilitating help and the spread of Islam from hitherto unknown quarters. In the eleventh year of the Prophetic mission, Muhammad [s] started contacts with delegations. He came across a group of people from Yathrib led by As’ad bin Zurara of the Khazraj tribe and invited them to Islam. His words received an attentive response, and the group believing in the truthfulness of this great monotheistic call became very happy. The leader asked the Prophet to send a Muslim with him to Yathrib to preach Islam, and hoped that the divine call would unite his tribe with the rival tribe of Aws, knitting them into a single Muslim people.
10. The First Allegiance of Aqaba
On returning to Yathrib the group started preaching Islam among the local people and made some progress. The next year a 12-member delegation of Yathrib Arabs came to Makkah and met the Messenger of Allah at a place called ‘Aqaba’ and swore allegiance to him as Muslims. On returning to their city they started inviting people towards truth. Thus Islam began to take roots and spread in Yathrib which was destined to be the Prophet’s seat of power and would eventually become famous as Madina – the shortened form of Madinat-an-Nabi (city of the Prophet).
11. The Second Allegiance of Aqaba
During the next year of pilgrimage following the first allegiance, 10 men and 2 women from Yathrib called on the Prophet at the same place of Aqaba and swore allegiance to him, promising to defend and spread Islam. The historic meeting was attended by the Prophet’s uncle Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib as a witness to the allegiance. The event was instrumental in spreading belief among a greater part of Yathrib citizens, who rallied to the cause of Islam as ‘Ansar’ (Helpers). Makkan Muslims to protect their beliefs now gradually started migrating towards Yathrib.
12. Conspiracy to Assassinate the Prophet
The Makkan Jahiliyah alarmed at the growing impact of Islam and their abject helplessness to contain its radiant rays conspired to assassinate the Prophet. Moreover, the death of Abu Talib that devoted guardian of infant Islam had removed an obstacle from their path, emboldening the haughty ignorants to plot Muhammad’s [s] murder. But Makkan arrogance had reckoned the whole thing without taking into account the Omnipotent Creator Who is always watching over peoples’ words and deeds and is even aware of the thoughts they entertain.
The Almighty Allah sent Gabriel to inform the Prophet of the dirty plot. As commanded, the Prophet asked his faithful cousin Ali [a] to sleep in his bed that night, and himself set out for Yathrib taking along one of his companions, the aged Abu Bakr, whom for some reasons he considered it unwise to leave behind at Makkah. That epoch-making night which marked a turning point in the message of Islam, Imam Ali [a] lay on the Prophet’s bed as calm and composed as ever, that even the scores of infidels besieging the house and peeping through the windows, not the least suspected the real identity of the sleeper.
It is related that each Makkan tribe or clan was represented in the gang of conspirators hovering around the abode of divine revelation in their vain bid to extinguish the eternal light, even Muhammad’s [s] own infidel uncle Abu Lahab was there claiming to represent the Bani Hashim.
At last before the break of dawn, the unholy gang burst into the Prophet’s house, full of confidence to accomplish their dirty deed. But their all-night vigil proved as worthless as their stone-made gods, for to their utter surprise, the figure which calmly emerged from the covers and stood facing them was the Lion of Allah, Ali [a], and not whom they were seeking.
Frustrated in their ungodly efforts, the infidels asked Ali the Prophet’s whereabouts, to which they received the crisp and to the point reply: “Did you entrust him to me?” Thus Almighty Allah protected His Prophet from the evil of the idolaters, and escorted him safely away from their very midst, without the blind-hearted Arabs perceiving the least.
The event has another significance, for it brings into sharper focus the personality of Imam Ali [a] and his selfless devotion to the cause of Islam and to his cousin’s life. He dauntlessly agreed to sleep on the Prophet’s bed risking his life and limbs, If the late Abu Talib’s personality had been until recently, a deterring factor for the Makkan polytheists from harming the Prophet, now his son the brave Ali had ably filled up the vacuum, showing readiness to sacrifice his own life for Muhammad’s [s] sake. Almighty Allah rewarded Ali’s selfless spirit of devotion by revealing the following verse of the Qur’an:
“And among people is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah…”
Holy Qur’an (2:207)
Thus the Almighty brought the stratagem of the plotters to nought. By the time the Makkan infidels recovered from their shock, the Prophet was safely out of Makkah and on his way to Yathrib. Cautious, not to be overtaken by the conspirators lest they start the chase, the Prophet along with his companion Abu Bakr, took refuge in a cave of a mountain called Thawr, three miles south of Makkah. The Quraish hastily set out to trace the Prophet, and a party of unbelievers arrived at the very cave of Thawr. Strangely, just as the idolaters neared the place, Abu Bakr, perhaps sensing danger suddenly started crying. His unwarranted cries, had not Almighty Allah descended tranquillity on him that very moment making him tight-lipped, would have been enough to lead the Quraish party to the Prophet’s hide-out, periling the whole brave selfless episode. The polytheists arrived at the cave’s mouth with an expert tracker and looked everywhere around, but by Allah’s command a spider had spun a cobweb over its entrance and a bird had come and laid eggs, presenting the semblance of an undisturbed virgin spot, where no soul had ventured of late.
Satisfied that no one was in the cave, the unbelievers turned back giving up all hope of finding the Prophet. Thus the Prophet safely proceeded to Madina. The Hijra (Migration) to Madina also marks the start of the Muslim Lunar Calendar and according to historians it took place on the 1st of Rabi-al-Awwal.
Yathrib – A Brief Description
It was an old oasis town with plenty of springs and wells and the brush surroundings abounded with date palms, vineyards and orchards of pomegranates and other fruits. Situated 450 kilometres north of Makkah it was inhabited by the idol worshipping Arab tribes of Aws and Khazraj.
Certain Jewish tribes like Bani Quradha, and Bani Mugheer and Bani Qainqa’e also dwelt in Madina and had migrated to the town centuries before, to await the last Messenger of Allah, whom they found foretold in their Scriptures. Deep enmity and a constant state of internecine warfare had sapped the energies of the two idolatrous Arab tribes, who had devastated each others’ wealth and properties, in their blind hatred. In addition there was no love lost between the Arab and Jewish tribes. The Jews flaunting their sacred books used to mock the pagan Arabs, saying that soon a Prophet will emerge in Arabia and come to Yathrib and will put an end to their wicked ways.
But strangely enough when Prophet Muhammad [s] did finally proclaim his Prophethood and emigrate to Yathrib, it were the Arab tribes of Aws and Khazraj who renounced idolatry and accepted Islam, while the chauvinistic Jews, whose forefathers had come to Arabia, for this very occasion, rejected the Prophet. Their pretext was he was an Arab descended from Prophet Abraham’s [a] elder son Ishmael [a], rather than Isaac [a] and therefore unacceptable to the racist Jews.
On the other hand, on Prophet Muhammad’s [s] historic entrance into Yathrib, the Aws and Khazraj recalling the Jews’ prophecy hastened towards him and accepted Islam, burying once and for all the bloody hatchet of tribal rivalry. Almighty Allah filled their hearts with unity, which Arabia had never known before, and gathered them under Islam’s majestic banner. The Jews, treacherous as ever, turned away from Prophet Muhammad [s] as they had rejected and betrayed Prophet Jesus [a] 6 centuries ago.
 Beit-ul-Maqdis or simply Al-Qods in today’s Zionist occupied Jerusalem.
Important Events of Madina
The Prophet’s entry into Madina ushers in a new phase for the divine message. Islam gaining fresh followers began to assert its strength and soon started to spread out over the four corners of the Arabian Peninsula.
In the previous chapters we have already noted that the Prophet was 53 years of age at the time of his auspicious migration. In Madina he spent the remaining 10 years of his life and it was here that other brilliant aspects of his immaculate personality became fully manifest. The divine call now entered a decisive stage and many important events took place in Madina, which eventually laid a firm foundation for the spread of Islam to the furthest reaches of the globe. Here we shall study some of the major landmarks in the life of Prophet Muhammad [s] and Islam at Madina.
1. The Building of the First Mosque
The entry into Madina was followed by the building of the mosque, the first-ever for the Muslims who had just emerged from years of oppression in Makkah. It was one of the most important landmarks for Muslims who now had a centre of their own for open uninhibited gatherings, a school for learning the Qur’an and a headquarters for receiving necessary instructions from their leader. Gone were the days of secret underground meetings in Makkah, where the fear of persecution had always weighed heavily for the faithful. Yathrib which from now onwards was Madinat-an-Nabi (city of the Prophet) or Al-Madina al Munawwara (illuminated city), provided a free open atmosphere for the growth of the true faith.
Makkan immigrants mixed with the local populace, the ‘Ansar’ (Helpers), and cheerfully started giving shape to Islam’s first-ever mosque which would be known as Masjid-an-Nabi (Prophet’s Mosque). The building was soon constructed of clay and tree trunks with palm leaves serving as a thatched roof. The Messenger of Allah himself took part in the construction and the following year he enlarged its precincts to cover an area of 2475 square meters.
All Muslims enthusiastically assembled there for the daily prayers, which were led by the Prophet himself. He used to deliver sermons there, teach the Qur’an and the laws of Islam to the faithful, discourse with his companions, prepare them for ‘Jihad’ (holy struggle) and would look into their problems and other relevant issues. Thus, the Mosque was actually the headquarters of the first-ever Islamic State established by the Messenger. It still stands majestically today, frequently enlarged and beautified throughout the last fourteen centuries. The tomb of Prophet Muhammad [s] is situated within its enclosure, and draws millions of Muslims from all over the world.
The second important step taken by the Prophet in Madina was the fraternising of ‘Muhajireen’ (Makkan Immigrants) with the ‘Ansar’ (Madinite Helpers) in the bonds of Islamic brotherhood. He fraternised each Muhajir with an Ansar, joining them together as brothers in faith. And he himself clasped the hand of his beloved cousin Ali bin Abi Talib [a] as the supreme symbol of brotherhood, fraternity and solidarity in the Islamic society.
Before proceeding further let us say a few words about the Muhajireen and the Ansar, who formed the pillars of the Islamic State. Allah, the Exalted describes them in the Qur’an as follows:
“And as for the first and foremost of the Muhajireen (emigrants) and the Ansar (helpers), and those who followed suit in good deeds; Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him; and He has prepared for them gardens watered by running streams, therein dwelling forever; that is a supreme triumph.”
Holy Qur’an (9:100)
The Muhajireen as the name suggests were the Muslim emigrants from Makkah who had followed the Prophet of Madina to safeguard their faith and to escape persecution from the infidels. They had embraced Islam in its early formative years and most of them had steadfastly endured severe pain and hardship in the way of liberty, truth and justice.
On the other hand, the Ansar were the indigenous inhabitants of Madina, who believed in the Message of Islam and rallied to the help of the Prophet. They welcomed him to their city, and fought alongside him against the pagans of Arabia. It was their faith and selfless devotion which cemented Islamic unity and brought many a glorious victory for Islam.
At the time of the H4ra most of the Muhajireen were poor and possessed nothing, but the Ansar displaying the finest example of Islamic brotherhood, provided them with their needs such as houses, money and food. They lodged them in their own houses, shared their wealth with them and gave their daughters in marriage to the Makkan Muslims.
Such were the Muhajireen and the Ansar – brothers sharing food, clothing and residence, and defending and helping each other as ordered by the Almighty. From them we learn patience, self-sacrifice, fraternity, piety and devoted zeal to spread the call of Islam to less fortunate people around the world.
3. The Islamic State
The other important event after the Hijra was the establishment of the Islamic State and Government by the Prophet, who by applying the gradual unfolding of divine commandments, moulded the hitherto ignorant Arabs into a real Islamic society. Expounding the eternal miracle of the Holy Qur’an and setting his own divinely inspired personality as a practical example, he firmly erected the pillars of justice and virtue. In short, Prophet Muhammad [s] presented to the dark world seething under tyranny and oppression, the most perfect ever constitution – spiritual, social and political and a key to their salvation both in this mortal life and the hereafter.
The next stage was Jihad or holy struggle, a thing not known in Makkah. It was the natural consequence to the setting up of a state. Unbelievers, ever-intent to stamp out the divine call but seeing Islam finely knit unto a secure state, resorted to arms, and the Muslims had to follow suit to defend their faith, and according to Allah’s injunctions went out to do battle with the aggressors.
The first ever battle between Islam and blasphemy occurred in the second year of the Hijra at a place called ‘Badr’ in which the new-found Islamic State, assembling a modest force of only 313 Muslims defeated a vastly outnumbering army of disbelievers. The victory led to many other battles and skirmishes with the Makkan infidels, who each time came out in larger numbers to avenge their previous setbacks, but by Allah’s Grace suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the faithful.
The victories brought strength and courage to the Muslims and helped facilitate the spread of Islam and monotheism to the farthest reaches of polytheist Arabia.
5. End of Jewish Plots and Treacheries
Ever since the Prophet’s entry into Madina, the treacherous Jews had vehemently opposed him and his Islamic call, evoking memories of their hostility to the previous Prophet, Jesus Christ (a), half a millennium ago. The crafty Jews entered into an alliance with the polytheist Quraish in a bid to stamp out Islam. They conspired to kill Prophet Muhammad [s] despite the fact that he was lenient towards them and had treated them kindly, hoping to convince them of Islam’s truth. But eventually as Jewish plots and aggressions increased, he had no choice other than to take up arms against them, in order to protect Islam and the Muslims. At the battle of Khaiber which is famous for Imam Ali’s [a] heroic exploits, the Prophet defeated them ending Jewish intrigues and conspiracies in Arabia.
6. The Treaty of Hudaibiyah
Another important landmark in the Prophet’s life and progress of the Islamic call was the treaty of Hudaibiyah.
One night Prophet Muhammad [s] had a dream in which he saw that he and his companions were entering the precincts of the Holy Ka’aba in Makkah to perform the ‘Tawaf’ (circumambulation), but the infidel Arabs were trying to obstruct their entrance. Following the dream, he decided to go to Makkah with some 1,500 Muslims to perform the pilgrimage. It was in the sixth year of the Hijra, and when the party arrived at a place called Hudaibiyah, the infidels confronted them and blocked all routes to Makkah. After some deliberations the infidels and the Prophet concluded a treaty, stipulating that the Muslim party would for the moment go back to Madina, but would return the next year for performing the pilgrimage. There were some other terms too.
As per the treaty the Messenger and his companions turned back to Madina, but the next year the Prophet along with a group of Muslims entered Makkah – 7 years after his historical migration – to perform the Umrah ritual (the lesser pilgrimage). Thus, his dream came true, and it was another undeniable proof of his Prophethood.
7. The Conquest of Makkah
Next followed the great event in the history of Islam, that was the conquest of Makkah, the then bastion of ignorance and disbelief. With it, idolatry was purged from the greater part of Arabia once and for all, and Allah’s Sacred House the Ka’aba was cleansed of the filth of man-made objects. The event took place during the month of Ramadhan, in the year 8 A.H. and Makkah was liberated without a fight. Almighty Allah instilled the hearts of the idolaters with such fear that when Abu Sufyan, the leader of the infidels, and his men, saw the Muslim forces they were struck with awe and meekly surrendered. Thus the Messenger and his companions entered Makkah triumphantly, smashed the idols, performed the Tawaf, and returned to Madina.
The conquest of Makkah and the purging of idols from Holy Ka’aba proved a great victory for Islam. Following the event which is famous for Muhammad’s [s] magnanimity towards his archenemies, the Makkan pagans, who all accepted Islam, people started embracing the true faith in multitudes.
8. Monarchs, Heads of State and Tribal Chiefs Invited to Islam
Allah bestowed victory upon His Prophet in his many battles, and the Muslims were now strong. Since the light of Islam had expelled ignorance from the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula, the Messenger of Allah now felt it his duty to enlighten neighbouring people about the truth of Islam.
Accordingly he sent envoys to the Emperors of Persia, Byzantine and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and to other heads of state and tribes inviting them towards guidance and reform. Some accepted, some gave polite ‘diplomatic replies’, while some others such as Chosroes of Persia were arrogant enough to betray their ignorance, by haughtily tearing the letters from the ‘Mercy to the Worlds’.
Event of Mubahala
Among the messages which the Prophet [s] sent to kings and heads of state inviting them to Islam, was the one addressed to the Christians of Najran in Yemen. On receiving the letter the Christians refused to accept Islam but however decided to come to Madina to challenge the Prophet and to defend their deviated belief in the divinity and purification of Prophet Jesus [a].
In Madina, the Prophet presented them with proof and facts about Islam’s eternal truth, citing references from the previously revealed Scriptures, but the Christians’ irrational obstinacy prevented them from seeing the manifest truth. In the end the two parties decided to meet at an open place and invoke divine curse and punishment upon the lying side. Allah thereby ordered His Prophet to take along with him his immediate family to the meeting ground for the Mubahala.
“And whosoever disputes with you concerning this after the knowledge that has come to you, say: ‘Come now, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then let us earnestly pray for Allah’s curse upon the ones who lie.'”
Holy Qur’an (3:61)
The Christian elders came to the venue with their whole flock, and the Prophet as ordered by Allah came with his immediate family members, namely: daughter Fatimah, son in-law Ali and their two children, Hasan and Husayn. Never had the Christians seen such enlightened visages before. The moment the Chief Priest beheld Prophet Muhammad [s] and his noble family, he was filled with awe. He realised that without doubt truth was with this blessed group of five and most surely Allah will respond to Muhammad [s] and his family’s invocation if they choose to curse and destroy the Christians of Najran. Thus the Christians backed away from the challenge of Mubahala, and wisely came to terms with the Prophet, pledging to pay an annual tribute to the Muslims.
10. The Farewell Pilgrimage
In the tenth year of the Hijra, the Messenger of Allah [s] performed the Hajj (pilgrimage), with all his wives and a fairly large number of his Companions.
He reached Makkah on the 4th of Dhul Hijja and was soon joined by Ali [a], who hastened back from his successful missionary deputation to Yemen. During the Hajj ceremonies, the Prophet addressed a great multitude from Mount Arafat, in words which are eternal to this day in the hearts of believers. After praising the Almighty, he expounded the laws and tenets of Islam and abolished all existing practices of the days of Jahiliyah, charging the gathering to inform those not present and also to convey to posterity his eternal message.
The famous tradition called ‘Thaqalain’ was part of this sermon and we reproduce it below from ‘Sahih Tirmidhi’ for the benefit of our readers.
“I have been summoned (by Allah) and the moment is near for me to answer (to die). I leave among you the ‘Thaqalain’ (two precious things): the Book of Allah and my progeny; Allah’s Book is like a rope extending from heaven to earth, and my progeny are the Ahlul-Bayt. The Merciful informed me that the two will not part with each other until they meet me at the pool (of Kawther in Paradise). I warn you against deserting them.”
11. Ghadir Khum
After performing the Hajj, he bade farewell to his native Makkah and set out for Madina. When the great procession reached the place from where the routes of the different caravans coming from various points of Arabia normally parted, suddenly the signs of divine revelation appeared and he stopped at a place called al-Juhfa near the spring (ghadir) of Khum. The Archangel Gabriel came with the following verse in order to impress the urgency of the divine command:
“O Prophet proclaim what has been revealed to you from your Lord, for if you do it not, you have not conveyed His message; and Allah will protect you from the (evil designs of) people…”
Holy Qur’an (5: 67)
At once the Prophet ordered the whole party to be assembled, even summoning back those who had already left, for he had an important message to be delivered.
A pulpit made of camel saddles was hastily set-up. Ascending it, he delivered a sermon asking the people to be witness that he had faithfully performed the task of Prophethood entrusted to him by the Almighty.
The multitude cried in one: “We bear witness O Messenger of Allah.”
He asked, who in their opinion was more worthy of obedience than their souls, to which they replied that Allah and His Prophet know better.
Then he said: “O people! Allah is my Maula (Master) and I am the Maula (master) of believers.”
“Verily O Prophet of Allah”, came the unanimous reply.
Prophet Muhammad [s] then bent down and lifting up Ali bin Abi Talib [a] in his hands, showed him to the vast crowd and proclaimed those famous words, which guaranteed the continuation of divine leadership:
“For whomsoever I am Maula (master), this Ali is his Maula (master)…”
Thrice he proclaimed these words before descending the pulpit, relieved by having performed the great task which would save the Ummah from going astray.
The great multitude of Muslims surged towards Ali bin Abi Talib [a], felicitating him on his divine appointment. According to such famous scholars as Zamakhshari and Nasai, the first one to congratulate and swear allegiance (bai’ah) to Imam Ali [a] was Umar bin Khattab, who later became the second Caliph.
Gabriel descended again with another revelation, showing that the Almighty was pleased with His Prophet for having excellently performed the great final mission to mankind.
“…Today have I perfected unto you your religion and completed upon you My blessings and approved for you Islam as your religion…”
Holy Qur’an (5:3)
This most important task ensured the continuity of divine guidance. Since the Prophets were divinely appointed, so should be the successors or trustees of the Prophets, especially so in the case of Islam, which is the final message to the human race.
All scholars and historians have testified that the event of Ghadir Khum did take place, and moreover books of Hadith are witness that on many and occasion, the Prophet had emphasised his cousin’s pre-eminence, over all other Muslims.
12. The Prophet’s Death
Two months after his return to Madina, the Messenger of Allah fell ill, Madina wore a look of gloom, because for a fortnight, the Prophet of Islam was confined in bed. The dawning of 28th of the lunar month of Safar proved to be fateful, for on that day the ‘Mercy to the worlds’ although weak with fever made his way to the mosque to lead the prayers, which also proved to be for the last time. Following a brief speech he returned to the house and after giving necessary instructions to his divinely ordained successor Imam Ali [a], he breathed no more. The sad day marked the end of final Prophethood.
Allah, through His last and greatest Messenger has revealed the perfect and the most comprehensive set of laws for the entire human race, a constitution, which is capable of catering to the needs of all generations till doomsday. Now the need for further revelations will no more arise, for the Almighty in His Eternal Wisdom has embodied each and everything in the Holy Qur’an and taken upon Himself the responsibility of guarding it from interpolation. Moreover the Prophet practically showed the implementation of divine laws. The Qur’an together with the Prophet’s Sunnah (traditions) is to remain a guiding light for all mankind, and to ensure their correct meaning and application, Allah granted the leadership of the Ummah to the Prophet’s infallible household, the Ahlul-Bayt, who are the torch bearers of guidance for all Muslims.
Prophet Muhammad [s] was laid to rest in his mosque, and an aggrieved Imam Ali [a] performed the last rites of his noble cousin and father-in-law. He was survived by his daughter Fatimah and her two sons.
Today the grave of the Prophet is the site of pilgrimage and veneration for Muslims from all over the globe.
 Mubahala means to invoke Allah’s curse upon the lying side when two parties are contesting for truth.
 For more details on the historic event of Ghadir Khum refer to such famous books as: Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Part 1, page 118 & 119, part 4, page 281-370-372-373, part 5, page 347-370. Sunan bin Maja, Chapter ‘Merits of Ali’. Mustadrik al-Hakim, part 3, page 109. Bin Kathir’s History, part 5, page 210.
A Glance at the Life of Imam Hasan Mujtaba (A)
Name : Hasan
Title : al-Mujtaba (The Chosen One)
Kuniyat : Abu Muhammad
Father : Imam Ali (A)
Mother : Bibi Fatima Zahra (A)
Birthdate : 15th Mahe Ramadhan 3 A.H. in Madina
Imamat : From 40 A.H. to 50 A.H.
Martyrdom : 28th Safar 50 A.H.
Buried : Madina, Saudi Arabia.
He was born in Medina on the night of the middle day of the month of Ramadan, in the year 3 A.H. He was the eldest son.
When Al-Hasan was born, the Prophet, may Allah bless Him and his family, took Him. Then the Prophet said the adhan (call to prayer) in Al-Hasan’s right ear, and said the iqama (words similar to the adhan) in his left ear. Then he sacrified a ram for Him (in the ceremony of Aqiqa). Then he shaved his hair. He (i.e, the Prophet) gave silver qual to his hair. So the weight of Al-Hasan’s hair was a the aqiqa and giving alms as equal as the weight of of hair have become Sunna (an act of the Prophet)
The Prophet named Him Hasan. People did not know such a name in the pre-Islamic period. Also he gave Him Kunya (i.e the name by which an Arab is usually referred to and which refers to Him as the father of someone, usually his eldest son) as Abu Mohammad, Al-Hasan had no Kunya other than this (Abu Mohammad).
al-Sibt, al-Sayyid, al-Zaki, al-Mujtaba, al-Taqi.
Al-Hasan married Umm Ishaq bint (the daughter of) Talha b. ‘Ubayd Allah, Hafsa bint (the daughter of) Abd al-Rahman b. Abu Bakr, Hind bint (the daughter of) Suhayl b. Amru, and Juda bint (the daughter of) al-Ash’ath b. Qays, whom Mu’awiya tempted to kill Al-Hasan. So she killed Him with poison.
Al-Hasan had fifteen children, both male and female: Zayd, Al-Hasan, Amru, al-Qasim, Abd Allah, Abd al-Rahman, Al-Hasan al-Athram, and Talha, Umma Al-Hasan, Umma al-Hasayn, Fatima, Umm Salama, Ruqayya, Umm Abd Allah, and Fatima.
No one was more like the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family, than Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali, peace be on Him, in form manner, and nobility.
In this manner the describers have described Al-Hasan and said; “He (Al-Hasan) had a white, reddish face, He had black eyes, smooth cheeks, thick heard, and curly, plentiful hair, His neck was as white as a jug of silver, His body was good. He had large shoulders, and bid fleshy bones. He was of medium height; neither long nor short, He was handsome; the best of all people in face.
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, was as the poet said:
When some handsomeness creeps into the insights of imaginations, He (Al-Hasan) has the special share.
His forehead from under his forelock is like
The full moon that illuminates the dark night
His ambergris and musk is far above the perfume of
The people of the earth, so he is the heavenly perfume.
Ibn Sa’ad siad; “Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn used to dye with black.”
Wasil b. Ata, said “Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali, peace be on them, had the visage of prophets and the glory of kings.
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him. performed the Hajj on foot twenty five times. When he mentioned death, he wept
When he mentioned the grave, he wept, When he mentioned the resurrection, he wept. When he mentioned crossing the sirat (a kind of bridge which only the righteous can cross on the road to Paradise), he wept. When he mentioned the standing before Allah, the Great and Almighty, he fainted. when he mentioned Paradise and Fire, he shock as the sick person did. So he asked Allah to make Him enter Paradise and to protect Him from.
When Al-Hasan performed an ablution for prayers, he shock all over and his face became pale.
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, shared his property with Allah three times, He gave people from his property twice in the way of Allah, the Exalted. He mentioned Allah, the Great and Almighty, in all conditions whether pleasant or otherwise.
They (the historians) said “He (Al-Hasan, peace be on Him) was the best of all people in worshipping Allah and refraining from the life in this world.”
Al-Hasan’s ethics were excellent examples for peoples. So everyoune respected Him. Everyone loved Him when he associated with Him. When his friend or his enemy heard Him taking or delivering a speech, he was sorry that he (Al-Hasan) would end his talking or his speech.
In his book vol.8, p, 37, b. Kuthayr has reported on the authority of b. al-Zubayr, who sadi: “By Allah no woman had born (a boy) like Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali.
Mohammad b. Ishaq said: “After Allah’s Apostle, may Allah bless Him and his family. no one had a high social position as Al-Hasan b.’Ali had. (Mat) were spread out at the door of his house. When he came out and sat, the street was over crowded. So no one of Allah’s creatures could pass to show respect for Him. When he knew that, he stood up and entered his house. So the people could pass.”
Al-Hasan dismounted his camel on the road to Mecca, so all those who saw Him dismounted their camels. Also Sa’ad b. Abu Waqas dismounted his camel and walked beside Him.
Ibn Abbas caught the stirrup for Al-Hasan and al-Husayn, peace be on them, and arranged their clothes. So Mudrik b. Zyyad said to Him: “you are older than them, so why do you catch the stirrup for them? Ibn “Abbas said ” Woe unto you Do you know who they are? They are the greandons of the Apostle of Allah. What a great blessing is that Allah has made me catch the stirrup for them and arrange their clothes”
Although Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, had a high social rank, he was kind to people. One day he passed by poor persons. The poor person were sitting on the ground. There were pieces of bread before them. They were picking up the pieces of bread and eating them. When they saw Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, they said to Him: “Son of the Apostle of Allah, come to lunch” So he dismounted his camel and said: ” Indeed, Allah does not love the proud. “He been eating with them. Then he invited them, so he gave them food and clothes.
The following are some examples about Al-Hasan’s generosity: A man came to Him and asked Him for a need. He (Al-Hasan) said to the man: “Write your need on a piece of paper and submit it to me.” The man submitted his need to Him. He (Al-Hasan) doubled the man’s need. So some of those who were sitting with Al-Hasan said to Him: “Son of the Apostle of Allah, the blessing of the piece of paper was great for the man.” So Al-Hasan said: “Its blessing for us is greater, for Allah has made us appropriate for doing good.
Do you not know that doing good should be optional, namely without request. As for Him whom you give after the request, you give Him after he has lost face. He may spend his night restless and sleepless. He rocks between despair and hope. He does not know whether he will face a sad answer or a glad success. He comes to you while he shakes all over and his heart is afraid (of you). Then if you met his need through losing face, that (losing face) would be greater than what he has obtain from your favour.”
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, gave a poet (some money). So one of those who were sitting with Him said to Him: Glory be to Allah Do you give the poet who disobeys the Merciful (Allah) and tells lies?” Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, said: “Servant of Allah, the best of your money is what you spend to protect your dignity. It is act of kindness to avoid the evil.”
A man asked Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, for a need. So Al-Hasan gave the man one thousand dirhams and five hundred dinars and said to Him: Fetch a carrier to help you.” The man fetched a carrier. So Al-Hasan gave the carrier his cloak and said: This is the wage of the carrier.”
A Bedouin came to a-Hasan, peace be on Him, and asked Him for a need. So Al-Hasan said: “Give Him all the money in the safe.” There were twenty thousand dirhams in the safe. All the money was given to the Bedouin, so he said: ” My master, do you not let me tell you about my need and praise you?” Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, began saying:
Our gifts are many
The hopeful enjoy them.
Our selves give generously before the request
For fear of losing face.
al-Mada’ini said: “Al-Hasayn, and Abd Allah b. Ja’far went out. However, their luggage went before them. So they became hungry and thirsty. They saw an old woman sitting in a tent. They asked the old woman for water. She said to them: “Milk this ewe, They did. Then they asked her for food. She did: ‘I have noting but this ewe, Let one of you slaughter it. So one of them slaughtered and skinned it. Then she grilled some meat of the ewe for them. They ate the meat and took nap at the old women’s tent. When they got up. they said to her: We are a group of people from Quraysh. We want to go through this direction.
When we come back, visit us. For we will do good for you. Then they went away. When the old woman’s husband came, she told Him about her entertainment. Her husband said: Woe unto you! you have sacrificed my ewe for people whom you do not know, then you say that they are from Quraysh. Days passed. the old woman’s condition became worse. So she departed till she passed through Medina. Al-Hasan, peace be on Him. saw her and recognized her. He said to her: Do you know me? No, she answered. He said: I was your guest on the day so and so. The he gave her one thousand ewes and one thousand dinars, and he sent her to al-Husayn, peace be on Him. al-Husayn gave her like that (number) and sent her to Abd Allah b. Ja’far. The latter gave her like that (number)
A Hashimite and and an Umayyad one quarreled with one another (about generosity). The Hashimite man said: ” My people are more generous (than yours). The Umayyad one said: “My people are generous (than yours).”The Hashimite man said to the Umayyad one: “Go and asked ten of his people (for money)” The Umayyad man people gave Him ten thousand dirhams. In the meantime the Hashimite man went to Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali. So Al-Hasan gave Him one hundred and fifty thousand dirhams. Then the Hashimite man went to al-Hasayn So al-Husayn asked Him: ” had you asked anyoune for money before me?” “I had asked Al-Hasan, answered the Hashimite man.
Al-Husayn said: “I cannot give more than what my master (Al-Hasan) has given you.” Then al-Husayn gave the Hashimite man one hundred and fifty thousand dirhams. Then the Umayyad man came back with one hundred thousand dirhams from ten people while the Hashimite man came back with three hundred thousand dirhams from two people, So the Umayyad man became angry and returned the money to its owners who received it. Meanwhile the Hashimite man went to Al-Hasan and al-Husayn to return the money, but they refused to accept it. Then they said: We do not mind whether you take the money or throw it away on the road.”
One day Al-Hasan, peace be on Him. saw a black boy. The black boy was eating a piece of bread and giving a piece of bread to his dog. So Al-Hasan said to Him: “What has you do this? “I feel shame of my dog when I eat and do not feed Him,” answered the black boy. Then Al-Hasan said to Him: “Do not leave your place till I come to you.” At that moment Al-Hasan went to the black boy’s master. He bought the black boy and the wall (the garden)where he lived. He (Al-Hasan) freed the black boy and made Him possess the wall.
The traditions about Al-Hasan’s generosity are numerous, but we do not intend to mention them all
As for Al-Hasan’s clemency, it was as heavy as the mountains, as Marwan and concerning Al-Hasan.
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, renounced worldly pleasures every much. So Mohammed b. ‘Ali b. al-Hasayn. Babawayh, who died in the year 381 A.H. wrote, a book, He called the book Zuhd Al-Hasan. How an outstanding merit was that Al-Hasan renounced all life in this world for the sake of the religion.
His Outstanding Merits
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, is the Lord of the youth of Heaven. He was one of the two persons in whom the progeny of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family, was limited. He was one of the four person through whom the Prophet made the contest of prayer with the Christians of Najran. He was one of the five persons whom the Prophet covered with his cloak. He was one of the twelve Imams whose obedience Allah made incumbent on people. He was among those who were purified from sins as the Koran says. He was among those love Allah made one of the two valuable things (thaqalayn). Thus whoever cleaves to them does not go astray. He was the plant of the sweet basil of the Apostle of Allah may Allah bless Him and his family. The Prophet loved Him and asked Allah to love those who love Him.
Al-Hasan had other outstanding merits. These merits are in need of a long explanation, Still the explanations does not encompass them even if it is long.
The people pledged allegiance to Him after the death of his father. peace be on them. So he assumed the succession in the best manner though the time of his succession was short, Also he made a peace Treaty with Mu’awiaya on the fifteenth of the month of Jamadi al-‘Ula’ in the year 41 A.H., according to the most correct reports. So he was able to protect the religion and to spare the blood of the believers. In the Peace Treaty, he followed the teachings which he reported on the authority of his father on the authority of his grandfather, may Allah bless Him and his family. Apparently, his succession was seven months and twenty days.
After the Peace Treaty had been concluded, Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, came back to Medina to stay there. So his house became as a second haram (a sacred sanctuary) for people to visit.
Through these two sacred places (Al-Hasan’s house and Medina), Al-Hasan peace be on Him, became the rise of guidance. He was the stronghold of knowledge and shelter of Muslim.
Meanwhile there were many knowledgeable people all around Him. Any how such knowledgeable people were the students of Al-Hasan. So they learnt knowledge from Him and reported on his authority. Allah granted Al-Hasan plentiful knowledge and a high social position in the hearts of Muslims. Thus he (Al-Hasan) was able to guide the community, to lead Muslims spiritually, to correct the Islamic beliefs, and to unify the people of monotheism.
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, performed the early morning prayer in the mosque of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family. He sat there praising Allah till the sun rose. In the meantime, he answered the questions of the great Muslims figures. In his book al-Fusul al-Muhimma, p. 159, b. al-Sabbagh said: “The people gathered around Him (Al-Hasan. He (Al-Hasan) answered the questioners perfectly and refuted the proofs of the disputers.”
When Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, performed the hajj or went around the Kaaba, the people were about to destroy Him. For they overcrowded to welcome Him.
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, was given poison several times. We will detail this matter when we discuss the fulfillment of the conditions of the Peace Treaty. When Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, felt the danger in the last attempt, he said to his brothers al-Husayn, peace be on Him: “My brother, I am leaving you and meeting my Lord. I have been given poison to drink, and have spewed my liver into the basin. I am aware of the person who poisoned me and from where I have been made a subject to this deceitful action. I will oppose Him before Allah, the Great and Almighty.” Then he said: ” Bury me with the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family. For I am worthier of Him and his family 1 (than others). If they prevent you from doing that, then
1. Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, was worthier of the Prophet, may Allah Him and his family, than others because he was his grandson and a piece of Him. Rather Al-Hasan was the piece of the Prophet. No one is worthier of the grandfather than the grandson. In other words, the piece is worthier of the entirety than others.
Al-Hasan, peace be on Him was worthier of the Prophet’s family, because he was his legitimate inheritor through his mother the truthful and chaste one, peace be on her. She was the only inheritor of her father, may Allah bless Him and his family. So she (Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter) had right to inherit her father as Solomon inherited David. For there is nothing can specialize the general inheritance.
I make you swear by the relation which Allah has made close to you and by the blood relation to the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family, not to shed even your blood into the cupping-glass in (caring out) my command, till we meet the Appostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family, to oppose the people before Him and tell Him about what we have suffered from them.
Then Al-Hasan peace be on Him, made his testamentary bequests to his family and his children. (He gave al-Husayn) his heirlooms and the things which the Commander of the Faithful (Imam ‘Ali), peace be on Him, had bequeathed to Him when he had made Him his successor, had declared Him worthy to occupy his position, and had indicated to his shi’a that he (Al-Hasan) was his successor.
Then Al-Hasan, peace be on his ,died on the seventh of month of Sufar, in the year 49 A.H.
Abu al-Faraj al-Asfahani said: “Mu’awiya wanted the people to pledge allegiance to his son Yazid. However, the existence of Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali and of Sa’ad b. Abu Waqas troubled Him very much. So he gave them poison to drink, and they died of it.
The abominable disasters of this kind of shook the conscience of the Muslim countries. So there were various revolutions throughout
Here the comparative degree “worthier” concerns the mafdulin (less excellent), namely Abu Bakr and Umar. For they regarded themselves as worthier of burying in the room of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family, than others. However, his grandson (Al-Hasan) was worthier of that then them. That is because they (Abu Bakr and Umar) though that the wife had the right to inherit her husband. Muslims jurists have disagreed on this matter since then. A,isha the daughter of Abu Bakr, and Hafsa, the daughter of Umar, had, according to the correctness of their inheritance as two wives, a share of seventy two shares inherit room where the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family.
For they were two of nine wives. And all the nine wives had one eighth of which they divided among them selves according to this rate. As for the holy room whose wideness we do not know exactly should be wide enough to hold seventy two graves: otherwise the inheritors of the truthful, chaste one (Fatima did not permit Abu Bakr and Umar to be buried in it. So what is other than this (explanation)? Accordingly, we must admit that Al-Hasan, peace be in Him, was worthier of the Apostle of Allah and his house than the others.
history. In this connect Allah, the Exalted, says: “And they who act unjustly shall know to what final place of turning they shall turn back.
Sibt b. al-Jawzi reported on the authority of b. Sa’ad on the authority of al-Waqidi, who said:
“When Al-Hasan was about to die, he said: Bury me beside my father, He meant the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family. However, banu (the sons of) Umayya and Marwan b. al-Hakim and Sa’id b. al-As, who was the governor over Medina, prevented Him.” Ibn Sa’ad said: Among them was A’isha who said: No one is buried beside the Apostle of Allah.”
Abu al-Faraj al-Amawi al-Asfahani reported on the authority of Yahya b. Al-Hasan, who said: ” I heard ‘Ali b. Tahir b. Zayd say: When they wanted to bury Al-Hasan, she (A’isha) mounted a mule and asked the help of banu (the sons of )Umayya, Marwan, those who were there from them (banu Umayya) and from their servants. So someone said: One day (she was) on a camel.”
al-Mas’udi has mentioned that A’isha mounted a gray mule and led the Umayyads to declares a second battle against the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt). He (al-Mas’udi) said: “So al-Qasim b. Mohammad b. Abu Bakr came to her (A’isha) and said: Aunt, we have not washed our heads since the Battle of the Camel. Do you want people to call this day the Battle of the Gray Mule? So she came
1. In his book al-Mas’udi wa al-Masawi, vol 1, p. 35 al-Bayhaqi has reported similar words. words He (al-Bayhaqi) said: On the authority of Al-Hasan al-Basri that al Ahnaf b. Qays said to A’isha at the Battle of the Camel: Mother of the believers has the Apostle of Allah may Allah bless Him and his family authorized you this movement? She said O Allah, no He said: Have you found it (this movement in the Book of Allah, the Exalted? She said: We do not read but what you read, He said: Have you seen that the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless Him and his family asked the help of his wives when he was few in number and the polytheists were many? She said: O Allah, no. al-Ahnat said: Therefore, what is our guilt?
Many people gathered together with Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali and said to Him: “Leave us with the children of Marwan. By Allah, they are, with us nothing but an itching of the head. al-Husayn said By Allah, if there had been no injunction to me from Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, to prevent bloodshed and that I should not even pour blood into a cupping glass in (carrying out) his command, you would have known how the swords of Allah would have taken their toll from you. you have broken the agreement which was made between you and us. you have ignored the conditions which we made with you for ourselves.” Here al-Husayn, peace be on Him, reminded, them of the conditions of the peace Treaty.
Then they went on with (the body of) Al-Hasan, peace be on Him, and they buried Him in (the cemetery of) al-Baqi beside his grandmother, Fatima daughter of Asad b. HasHimb. Abd Manaf, may Allah be pleased with her.
In his book al-Isaba, he (Ahmad Shahab al-Din al-ASqlani) said: Dawud b. Sinan informed us: Tha’laba b. Abu M’alik told us: “I (Tha’laba b. Abu M’alik) saw Al-Hasan on the day when he died and was buried in (the cemetery of) al-Baqi. I saw that if a needle had been thrown away in (the cemetery of) al-Baqi’, it (the needle) would have not fallen but on the head of a person.
A Glance at the Biography of Emam Reza (A)
Imam ar-Reza (as) was born on the 11th of Dhul-Qa’dah in the year 153 AH in Madinatul-Munawwarah. He (as) is the son of our 7th Imam, Imam Musa ibn Ja’ffar al-Kadhim (as) and Ummul-Baneen, who is also referred to as Bibi Najma (as) or Kheizraan (as). History tells us that the mother of our 8th Imam (as) was a non-Arab and in her days, she was well known as Afdhalun-Nisaa meaning ‘the best of all women’. There are two incidents that have been related about this great lady:
Hameeda Khatoon (as), the mother of our 7th Imam (as) purchased a slave girl and named her Taktum. This slave girl was very intelligent, religious and she also possessed highest level of decency and bashfulness in herself. She always used to accord highest degree of respect to her mistress- Bibi Hameeda (as) so much so that she never even sat with her on account of her respect for her. Bibi Hameeda (as) was extremely satisfied with her and proposed her son, our 7th Imam (as), to take her into a relationship because she was confident that she would bear him good offspring. Our 7th Imam (as) accepted her and our 8th Imam (as) was born from her womb. Ahsanul-Muqaal)
Bibi Hameeda Khatoon – the mother of our 7th Imam (as) – saw the Holy Prophet (saww) in her dream who instructed her to marry her son Musa (as) with Bibi Najma (as) and also added that: “She will soon give birth to a son, who will be the best of his time on the face of this earth”. When our 8th Imam (as) was born, Imam al-Kadhim (as) came and congratulated his wife for being chosen as the mother of an Imam…and then recited Adhan and Iqamah in the ears of his child and named him ‘Ali (as).] (Chauda Sitaare)
In history, he (as) is popularly known as Abul-Hasan ar-Reza meaning ‘the father of al-Hasan – one with whom Allah (SWT) is extremely pleased’. It is narrated that our 8th Imam (as) was called ar-Reza because throughout his life, his Muwaafiqeen and Mukhaalifeen (friends & foes) were generally satisfied and pleased with him.
Once during the days of our 9th Imam, Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (as), some people spread the rumour that the title of his father ar-Reza was given to him by Mamun ar-Rasheed. When the Imam (as) heard this, he (as) said,
“This is not true! This title was bestowed upon my father in view of the pleasure of Allah (SWT) and His prophet (saww).My father earned this title because all the people – friends and foes alike- were pleased by his personality”. (Ahsanul-Muqaal)
The other most popular title of our 8th Imam (as) is that of Imam al-Thaamin al-Zamin meaning ‘the 8th Imam – who is the guarantor’. We Shias have this practice that whenever we travel, we tie some money in a band around the right arm and call it the money of Imam Zamin. This is in reference to our 8th Imam (as) whom we consider as our guarantor in safety and success during our travels. Where did this concept come from?
Once a thief was brought to the court of Mamun for Judgement. The king immediately ruled that his hands should be chopped off. But the thief protested and said that the king could not do this due to three reasons:
Firstly, the king was responsible for creating such an economical climate whereby poverty was on increase and that he had no choice but to steal to feed his family. Secondly, the thief claimed that he was a Sayyid (a descendant of the prophet) and he accused the king, rightly so, of stopping ‘Khums’ from reaching him. And thirdly, he said that he was a free man whereas the king was a slave! And as such a slave cannot punish free men.
When the king heard this, he was extremely infuriated and asked the thief about this riddle that he was a slave whereas the thief was a free man. The thief said, “Your father had bought a female slave from public treasury (and not his personal wealth) and you were born from her womb. This means that you remain as a slave and are considered as public property”. All this was too much for the king so he sought the help of Imam ar-Reza (as).
Imam (as) said, “The thief was correct and his hands cannot be cut”. Hence, it was the Zamanat of Imam (as)’s knowledge and wisdom that saved the poor thief’s hands from being cut.
Once Imam (as) was passing by through wilderness when a deer, which was being followed by a hunter came running to Imam (as) and said something to him. Indeed a divine Imam (as) understands and speaks all the languages including that of the birds and animals. Imam al-Baqir (as) has said,
“We have been taught the language of the birds and we have been given of everything”.
As soon as the deer spoke to Imam (as), Imam (as) interrupted the hunter and said, “The deer has requested that it be spared for the time being as it had to go and feed her two kids. She has promised to return to the same spot and then you can killer her and sell her flesh”. The hunter was puzzled and asked, “How can you understand its language and what’s the guarantee that the deer will return?” Imam (as) said, “I will give the guarantee and I will stand at the spot until it returns”. The hunter let the deer go and meanwhile, many people gathered around to see the spectacle. After feeding its two kids, the deer returned and stood at the same spot. It also asked the Imam (as) to take care of her two kids and that she was ready to be killed. People were amazed by this miracle. Even the hunter gave up the idea of killing that deer and this started off the tradition of Imam-e-Zamin, which means ‘the Imam who is Guarantor’.
There is a great deal of dispute regarding the name of his mother. Some say she was called al-Khayzaran; others say she was Arwi and that her nickname was “the blonde of Nubia,” while others say she was Najma and her nickname was “Ummul-Baneen.” Others say she was called Sekan the Nubian; still others say she was called Takattam as may be proven from the poetry in his praise which said:
The best in self and parenthood,
In offspring and in ancestry,
Is Ali al-Muaddam,
Eighth in series of the knowledgeable
and the clement,
An Emam descending from the Proof of God,
that is Takattam.
Disputes exist also regarding the number of his offspring and their names. A group of scholars say that they were five sons and one daughter, and that they were: Muhammad al-Qani’, al-Hassan, Ja’fer, Ibrahim, al-Husayn, and ‘Ayesha.
Sabt ibn al-Jawzi, in his work Tadhkiratul-Khawass, says that the sons were only four, dropping the name of Husayn from the list. Al-Mufid inclines to believe that the Emam did not have any son other than Emam Muhammad al-Jawad (A.S.), and Ibn Shahr Ashoob emphatically states so, and so does al-Tibrisi in his A’lam al-Wara. Al-‘Udad al-Qawiyya states that he had two sons, Muhammad and Mousa, and that he did not have any other offspring. In his claim, he is supported by Qurb al-Asnad in which the author says that al-Bazanti asked al-Rida, “For years I have been asking you who your successor is and you keep telling me that it is your son even when you had no son at all, but since God has now blessed you with two sons, which one of them is he?” ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida indicates that he had a daughter named Fatima.
We are not in the process of investigating, researching and pinpointing with accuracy the number of his offspring and their names, but what seems to be more reasonable is what al-Mufid states. What is established as a fact with us is that Emam Muhammad al-Jawad (A.S.) was his son; as regarding his other sons, nobody seems to be able to prove any facts regarding them, and God knows best.
Personality and Characteristics
Generally speaking, an Emam enjoys a unique personality and distinctive characteristics, in as far as Shi’a followers of the Emams are concerned; therefore, he is not permitted to do what others are, such as falling into error, or getting confused about a matter. Rather, infallibility is essential in him since he conveys on behalf of the Prophet (S.A.W.) what seems to others to be obscure of the Message and its intricacies. Just as we proved the infallibility of the Prophet (S.A.W.), we, by the same token, prove infallibility for the Emam as well with one exception: the Emam conveys on behalf of the Prophet (S.A.W.), whereas the Prophet conveys on behalf of the Almighty God. The wisdom in this argument is that should falling into error be accepted and expected from the Prophet (S.A.W.) or the Emam, then doubt will result regarding the reliability of what they convey to people of jurisdic rules and regulations and other such matters since they are liable to err in their judgement or get confused about a particular issue.
Although the believers are not held accountable for doing what they are not supposed to be doing due to such error of judgement, the assumption of the error of judgement itself collides with the very wisdom behind the reason why prophets were sent to people at all which is to clarify to people, according to the way God Almighty intended them to, without any error or confusion, what His Will is.
The topic of infallibility is a vast one the discussion of which has no room here and which requires a dedicated research I may be able one day to tackle. What I have to same fa here is that Emamate is characterized by certain distinctive aspects such as infallibility which we cannot discuss by itself with others except after both parties agree on the basis from which it emerged; otherwise, our case would be like one who discusses the necessity of performing the ritual prayers (salat) with someone who does not believe in the message of the Prophet (S.A.W.).
The basic point upon which we have first and foremost to agree is the definition of general Emamate, then the distinctions it requires and, finally, the proofs which testify to these distinctions. It is only then that disagreeing parties can conduct a reasonable discussion. Having been convinced by unequivocal proofs of such infallibility, and having seen the Twelve Emams (A.S.) to be fully qualified to be the only ones in whom such infallibility could be observed, we became fully convinced of their unshakable superiority over all others, and that they were the ones adorned with absolute human perfection.
An Emam, according to this viewpoint, has got to be the most learned among people and the most aware of the general needs of people such as knowledge or other necessities of life, and that he has to be the most pious, the most ascetic, the most perfect in personal conduct and norms of behaviour. In other words, in order to be qualified for Emamate, one has to be superior to everyone else in all aspects of perfection and its requirements which all raise him to his position of leadership. On this basis, the character of Emam al-Rida (A.S.), who is one of these Twelve Emams, becomes clearly distinctive due to its merits. But this is not the limit of the scope of this research; rather, we shall attempt to research his personality and the qualities which distinguished him from all others by our sifting into the legacy history has preserved for us of his conduct while still alive, and from the stances taken by the men of knowledge and by contemporary caliphs towards him.
Government’s Attitude Towards the Emam
The attitude of the then rulers towards Emam al-Rida (A.S.) and the other Emams may provide us with a clear view of the distinctions which raised their personalities to the zenith. And it is essential to explain the phenomenon of the government’s attitude towards them which manifested itself in the surveillance imposed upon them rather than upon other distinguished dignitaries or chiefs of the Alawides, monitoring their movements and counting their steps in all their social and personal encounters. What we can mention here to explain this phenomenon are the following reasons:
1) The belief of a large number of Muslims in their Emamate and in their being the most worthy of the caliphate, and their conviction that all other caliphs are considered usurpers of authority, trespassers upon the rights ordained by God to others. This is why the politicians of the time considered them their competitors whose mere presence increased the dangers surrounding them and jeopardized the security of the very existence of their government structure.
2) Their being the magnet which attracted leading scholars and thinkers who shrank in their presence despite their intellectual advancement and distinction in the fields of the arts and knowledge and despite their genius and intellectual prowess. This caused the caliphs to feel a stronger animosity towards them and be more grudgeful towards them due to the public fascination by them and to their attempts to be close to them and to being emotionally distant from the center of the government.
3) Their being the better alternative from the public’s political standpoint to take charge of the responsibilities of government, bear its burdens, carry out its obligations and doing all of that most efficiently. This frightened the rulers and made the obscure future seem to their eyes even more so.
4) The vicious incitements about them by their opponents who bore animosity towards them and who wished thereby their elimination, and the tell-tales of even some of their own kin whose judgement was blinded by jealousy, so they kept fabricating stories and attributing them to those Emams and telling them to the rulers who were pleased to hear them since they became outlets to the grudge they felt towards those Emams and, at the same time, found in them the pretexts for annihilating and harassing them and in the end a justification to put an end to their lives and rid themselves of the complex they were suffering from due to their existence.
By these and by others can we explain the phenomenon of the rulers pursuing them and desperately trying to alienate them from the stage of events affecting the nation in order to secure a distance from the ghost of competition which could haunt them had they permitted the Emams to do as they pleased. Thus can we understand the general characteristics of the significant distinctions the personalities of those Emams enjoyed in all sectors of the society in its various centers of activity and in its various aspirations; otherwise, how do you explain this phenomenon, and why should those rulers pay the Emams so much attention?
He inherited the knowledge of his grandfather the Messenger of God (S.A.W.), thus becoming its pioneering fountainhead that quenched the thirst of those who were thirsty for knowledge. History narrates a great deal of his scholarly stances and intellectual discourses in which he achieved victory over those who opposed the Divine Message, excelling in various branches of scholarship with which he provided the seekers of knowledge and the thinkers of the time.
Emam Mousa a-Kazim (A.S.) is reported to have often said to his sons: “Ali ibn Mousa, your brother, is the learned scholar of the Descendants of Muhammad (S.A.W.); therefore, you may ask him about your religion, and memorize what he tells you for I have heard my father Ja’fer ibn Muhammad more than once saying, `The learned scholar of the family of Muhammad is in your loins. How I wish I had met him, for he is named after the Commander of the Faithful Ali (A.S.).'”
Ibrahim ibn al-Abbas al-Suli is reported to have said: “I never saw al-Rida (A.S.) unable to provide the answer to any question he received, nor have I ever seen any contemporary of his more learned than he was. Al-Mamoon used to put him to test by asking him about almost everything, and he always provided him with the answer, and his answer and example was always derived from the Holy Qur’an.”
Rajaa ibn Abul-Dahhak, who was commissioned by al-Mamoon to escort al-Rida (A.S.) to his court, said: “By God! I never saw anyone more pious than him nor more often remembering God at all times nor more fearful of God, the Exalted. People approached him whenever they knew he was present in their area, asking him questions regarding their faith and its aspects, and he would answer them and narrate a great deal of hadith from his father who quoted his forefathers till Ali (A.S.) who quoted the Messenger of God (S.A.W.). When I arrived at al-Mamoon’s court, the latter asked me about his behaviour during the trip and I told him what I observed about him during the night and during the day, while riding and while halting; so, he said: `Yes, O son of al-Dahhak! This is the best man on the face of earth, the most learned, and the most pious.'”18
Al-Hakim is quoted in Tarikh Nishapur as saying that the Emam (A.S.) used to issue religious verdicts when he was a little more then twenty years old. In Ibn Maja’s Sunan, in the chapter on “Summary Of Cultivating Perfection,” he is described as “the master of Banu Hashim, and al-Mamoon used to hold him in high esteem and surround him with utmost respect, and he even made him his successor and secured the oath of allegiance for him.”
Al-Mamoon said this once in response to Banu Hashim: “As regarding your reaction to the selection by al-Mamoon of Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.) as his successor, be reminded that al-Mamoon did not make such a selection except upon being fully aware of its implications, knowing that there is no one on the face of earth who is more distinguished, more virtuous, more pious, more ascetic, more acceptable to the elite as well as to the commoners, or more God-fearing, than he (al-Rida, A.S.) is.”19
Abul-Salt al-Harawi is quoted saying: “I never saw anyone more knowledgeable than Ali ibn Mousa al-Rida (A.S.).
Every scholar who met him admitted the same. Al-Mamoon gathered once a large number of theologians, jurists and orators and he (al-Rida, A.S.) surpassed each and every one of them in his own respective branch of knowledge, so much so that the loser admitted his loss and the superiority of the winner over him.”20
He is also quoted saying: “I have heard Ali ibn Mousa al-Rida (A.S.) saying, `I used to take my place at the theological center and the number of the learned scholars at Medina was quite large, yet when a question over-taxed the mind of one of those scholars, he and the rest would point at me, and they would send me their queries, and I would answer them all.”21
In his discourse regarding the issue of succession, al-Mamoon said: “I do not know any man on the face of earth who is more suited (to be heir to the throne) than this man.”22
Al-Manaqib records the following: “When people disputed regarding Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.), Muhammad ibn ‘Isa al-Yaqtini said, `I have collected as many as eighteen thousand of his answers to questions put forth to him.’ A group of critics, including Abu Bakr the orator in his Tarikh and al-Tha’labi in his tafsir and al-Sam’ani in his dissertation and in al-Mu’tazz in his work, in addition to others, have all quoted hadith from him.”23
After an intellectual discourse with al-Mamoon, Ali ibn al-Jahm said: “Al-Mamoon stood up to perform the prayers ritual and took Muhammad ibn Ja’fer, who was present there, by the hand, and I followed both of them. He asked him: `What do you think of your nephew?’ He answered, `A learned scholar although we never saw him being tutored by any learned man.’ Al-Mamoon said: `This nephew of yours is a member of the family of the Prophet (S.A.W.) about whom the Prophet (S.A.W.) said: `The virtuous among my descendants and the elite among my progeny are the most thoughtful when young, the most learned when adult; therefore, do not teach them for they are more learned than you are, nor will they ever take you out of guidance, nor lead you into misguidance.'”24
Ibn al-Athir writes: “He (al-Mamoon) discerned the descendants of Banu al-Abbas and Banu Ali and did not find anyone more than him (al-Rida, A.S.) in accomplishments, piety and knowledge.”25
We do not need the testimony of anyone to convince us of the distinction enjoyed by Emam al-Rida (A.S.) due to his knowledge over all others. Suffices us to review the books of hadith which are filled with his statements and dictation in various arts which every individual, regardless of the loftiness of his degree of knowledge, became dwarfed upon meeting him, feeling his inferiority and the superiority of Emam al-Rida (A.S.).
Ethical and Humane Conduct
Good manners constitute a significant part of one’s personality. They unveil the innermost nature of the individual, highlighting the extent of its purity of origin when it translates belief into action. The Emam was characterized by a most noble personality which won him the love of the commoners as well as the elite, by extraordinary humanity derived from the spirit of the Message itself one of whose custodians he himself was, a person who safeguarded it and inherited its innermost secrets.
Ibrahim ibn al-Abbas al-Suli is quoted saying: “I never saw Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.) angering anyone by something he said, nor did I ever see him interrupting anyone, nor refusing to do someone a favour he was able to do, nor did he ever stretch his legs before an audience, nor leaned upon something while his companion did not, nor did he ever call any of his servants or attendants a bad name, nor did I ever see him spit or burst into laughter; rather, his laughter was just a smile. When he was ready to eat and he sat to be served, he seated with him all his attendants, including the doorman and the groom.” He adds, “Do not, therefore, believe anyone who claims that he saw someone else enjoying such accomplishments.”26
A guest once kept entertaining him part of the night when the lamp started fading and the guest stretched his hand to fix it, but Abul-Hassan (A.S.) swiftly checked him and fixed it himself, saying, “We are folks who do not let their guest tend on them.”27
Al-Manaqib states that al-Rida (A.S.) once went to the public bath-house and someone asked him to give him a massage, so he kept giving the man a massage till someone recognized him and told that person who that dignitary was. The man felt extremely embarrassed; he apologized to the Emam (A.S.) and gave him a massage.28
Muhammad ibn al-Fadl narrates the following anecdote regarding the Emam’s simple personality. He says:
“Al-Rida (A.S.), on the occasion of Eidul-Fitr, said to one of his attendants, `May God accept your good deeds and ours,’ then he stood up and left. On the occasion of Eidul-Adha, he said to the same man, `May God accept our good deeds and yours.’ I asked him, `O son of the Messenger of God! You said something to this man on the occasion of Eidul-Fitr and something else on the occasion of Eidul-Adha; why?’ He answered: `I pleaded God to accept his good deeds and ours because his action was similar to mine and I combined it with mine in my plea, whereas I pleaded God to accept our good deeds and his because we are capable of offering the ceremonial sacrifice while he is not; so, our action is different from his.'”29
Thus does Emam al-Rida (A.S.) become in total harmony with his message in the area of ethics, personifying the latter into action derived from the spirit of the message whereby he ascends to the summit of human perfection, rising thereby to the shores of the individual’s own real greatness. It is through this and similar means that the sincerity of faith and loftiness and dignity of the self are recognized.
Emam al-Rida (A.S.) defines for us the Islamic theory as the rules which govern the actual dealings of man with his brother man from which we can achieve the inspiration that Islam abolishes the then class distinctions among individuals and groups in the areas of public rights and the safeguarding of man’s dignity, and that the difference which we must recognize regarding these areas is the difference between one who obeys God and one who does not.
A man once said to the Emam: “By God! There is nobody on the face of earth who is more honourable than your forefathers.” The Emam responded by saying: “Their piety secured their honour, and their obedience of God made them fortunate.”30
Another man said to him: “By God! You are the best of all people!” He said to him: “Do not swear so. Better than me is one who is more obedient to God and more pious. By God! The following verse was never abrogated: `And We have made you nations and tribes so that you may know each other; verily the best of you in God’s sight is the most pious.'”31
Abul-Salt once asked him: “O son of the Messenger of God! What do you say about something people have been criticizing you for?” He asked: “What is it?” He said: “They claim that you call people your slaves.” He said: “God! Creator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the hidden and the manifest! I invoke Thee to testify that I have never said so, nor did I ever hear that any of my forefathers had said so! God! You are the Knower of the many injustices this nation has committed against us, and this is just one of them…” Then he came to Abul-Salt and said: “O Abdul-Salam! If all people, as some claim, are our slaves, who did we buy them from?” Abul-Salt answered: “You are right, O son of the Messenger of God…” Then the Emam said: “O Abdul-Salam! Do you deny the right which God has allotted for us to be charged with the authority as others deny?” He said: “God forbid! I do acknowledge such right.”32
The Emam here denies such an allegation about him and his forefathers and rejects the vicious accusation which their enemies use against him to tarnish his image, considering it one of the many injustices committed against the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.). Rather, he and the Household of the Prophet (S.A.W.) consider people to be equal in their general obligations except in the right of government which God ordained to be theirs solely, for others have no right to claim it for themselves. With the exception of the right to obey God in its most pristine implications which raised their status in the sight of God and man, all are the slaves of God. They share the same parents and worship the same God.
Abdullah ibn al-Salt quotes a man from Balkh saying: “I accompanied al-Rida (A.S.) during his trip to Khurasan. One day he ordered preparations for his meal to which he invited all his attendants, blacks and non-blacks, so I said: `May my life be sacrificed for yours! Maybe these should have a separate eating arrangement.’ He said: `God Almighty is One; the father (Adam) and the mother (Eve) are the same, and people are rewarded according to their deeds.'”33
The Emam does not see any difference between him and his servants and attendants except in the degree of good deeds; other than that, all distinctions are void when the matter is related to common obligations in which all individuals are equal, for each one of them is created by the same God, and each has the same father, Adam, who was created of dust.
When we see the Emam sitting at the table surrounded by his servants, his doorman, and his groom, he is thus teaching the nation a lesson in virtuous humanity which believes in the dignity of man in order to demonstrate the theory of Islam in practice showing the nature of behaviour man should undertake in his conduct towards his brother man. The loftiness of status and the elevation of career must not necessitate that a man of a less status or one whose career is less coveted should be despised or made to feel inferior to his brother man even if he is a servant. This is so in order to eliminate the complex class distinctions which widen the gap between the members of the society whose energies would then be split into opposing parties torn by grudge and consumed by hatred.
Islam enacted the law of equality among the members of the society in the areas of general obligations in order to emancipate man’s dignity from class obligations which dominated the way of life during the pre-Islamic era and were adopted by nations of old. God Almighty has said: “The best of you in the eyes of God is the one who is most pious.”34 The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: “All of you descended from Adam, and Adam was created of dust.” He also said: “No Arab can be held superior to a non-Arab except through superiority of his degree of piety.”
Ibrahim ibn al-Abbas al-Suli is quoted saying: “I heard Ali ibn Mousa al-Rida saying, `I swear by emancipation–and whenever I swore by it, I would emancipate one of my slaves till I emancipated each and every one of them–that I do not see myself as better than that (and he pointed to a black slave of his who remained in his service) on account of my kinship to the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) except if I do a good deed which would render me better.'”35
Thus does the Emam define for us the good Islamic conduct of safeguarding the dignity of man and the elimination of all class distinctions except the distinction of good deeds. He, peace be upon him, does not view his kinship to the Prophet (S.A.W.) as providing him with a distinction over a black slave except if such kinship is combined with good deeds which render the doer distinction and superiority. Yasir, one of his servants, said once: “Abul-Hasan said to us once: `If I leave the table before you do, while you are still eating, do not leave on my account till you are through.’ It may happen that he calls upon some of us to his service and he is told that they are eating, whereupon he says: `Leave them to finish their meal first.'” Nadir, another servant, says: “Abul-Hassan did not require us to do anything for him except if we had finished eating our meal.”36
These are samples of his actual conduct and humanity which he inherited as a fragrant legacy the perfume of which is goodness and mercy from his grandfather the greatest Prophet (S.A.W.) who crowned his message with the banner of good conduct when he said: “I have been sent to perfect the code of good conduct.” Such was that genuine humane legacy from whose spirit nations derive their strength and upon which they build the pillars of their glory and through which they secure the continuation of their very existence.
His Conduct Regarding His Appearance
There is no doubt that, generally speaking, the Emams (A.S.) were more distant than anyone else from the alluring wares of this vanishing world, and most distant from its ornamentations and allurements. But the concept of asceticism according to them was not limited to wearing modest coarse clothes or eating very simple food. Rather, its limits extended beyond that, for the ascetic person is the one who does not allow the pleasures of this world to take control over him without being able to take control of them, one who does not see this world as the ultimate goal he seeks; rather, when it comes towards him, the believer is entitled to enjoy its good things, and when it forsakes him, he contends himself that God’s rewards are more lasting.
Al-Aabi is quoted in Nathr al-Durar as saying:
“A group of sufis visited al-Rida (A.S.) when he was in Khurasan, and they said to him, `The commander of the faithful looked into the authority God Almighty entrusted to him, and he found you, members of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.), to be the most deserving of all people to be the leaders. Then he discerned you, members of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.), and he found yourself the most worthy of leading the people, so he decided to entrust such leadership to you. The nation is in need of one who wears coarse clothes, eats the most simple food, rides the donkey and visits the sick.’ Al-Rida (A.S.) was first leaning, then he adjusted the way he was sitting and said: `Joseph (Yousuf) was a Prophet who used to wear silk mantles brocaded with gold. He sat on the thrones of the Pharaohs and ruled. An Emam is required to be just and fair; when he says something, he says the truth, and when he passes a judgement, he judges equitably, and when he promises something, he fulfills his promise. God did not forbid (an Emam) from wearing a particular type of clothes or eating a particular type of food.’ Then he recited the Qur’anic verse: `Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of God which He has produced for His servants, and the good things, clean and pure (which He has provided) for sustenance?'”37
Emam al-Jawad (A.S.) was asked once about his view regarding musk. He answered: “My father ordered musk to be made for him in a ben tree in the amount of seven hundred dirhams. Al-Fadl ibn Sahl wrote him saying that people criticized him for that. He wrote back: `O Fadl! Have you not come to know that Joseph (Yousuf), who was a Prophet, used to wear silk clothes brocaded with gold, and that he used to sit on gilded thrones, and that all of that did not decrease any of his wisdom?’ Then he ordered a galia moschata (perfume of musk and ambergris) to be made for him in the amount of four thousand dirhams.'”38
Thus does the Emam prove that the outward appearance of asceticism has nothing to do with true asceticism; rather, it may even be a fake whereby someone tries to attract the attention of others. This is why Emam al-Rida (A.S.) and other Emams did not see anything wrong with meeting the public with an appearance of luxury in what they put on or ate as long as it did not collide with the reality of asceticism which is the building of the self from within to renounce the world and its allurement and regard it as a vanishing display with a short span of life. This does not forbid the believer from enjoying its pleasures in the way which God made permissible. God did not create the good things in this world for the disbeliever to enjoy while depriving the believers therefrom. Rather, God considers the believer to be more worthy of such enjoyment when he submits himself to God and expends it in His Path.
Ibn Abbad tells us the following about Emam al-Rida’s ascetic conduct: “Al-Rida used to sit on a leaf mat during the summer and on a straw sack during the winter; he used to put on coarse clothes, but when he went out to meet the public, he put on his very best.”39 So, when he is by himself, away from public life, his soul finds harmony with denying what is fake, that is, the decorations and allurements of this life. But when he goes out to meet people, he puts on his best for them following their own nature of holding the appearances of this world as significant, enjoying its good things. This realistically ascetic conduct of the Emam provides us with a glorious example of the truth regarding the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) and their pure view of life which is free from any disturbing fake or pretense.
His Patience and Perseverance
The patience and perseverance of the Emam manifest themselves clearly when he had to face psychological and emotional crises. When he went to say his farewell at the Ka’ba, Mecca, upon being ordered by al-Mamoon to be present at his court in Khurasan, he was faced with an emotional situation involving his only son Abu Ja’fer Muhammad ibn Ali al-Jawad, but he maintained with an iron will his self-control, solacing himself with a patient heart, submitting to God’s Will and Decree.
Umayya ibn Ali states: “I was sitting with Abul-Hassan (A.S.) at Mecca during the year in which he performed the hajj prior to his trip to Khurasan, and Abu Ja’fer was with him when he was bidding the House (Ka’ba) good-bye. Having finished his tawaf, he went to the maqam and said his prayers there. Abu Ja’fer, accompanied by Muaffaq, was making his tawaf, till he reached the Stone. There he sat and he prolonged his sitting there. Muaffaq said to him: `May my life be sacrificed for yours! It is time you stood up.’ He answered: `I do not wish to leave this place at all except by the Will of God,’ and grief could easily be seen clouding over his face. Muaffaq approached Abul-Hassan and said to him: `May my life be sacrificed for yours! Abu Ja’fer is sitting by the Stone unwilling to leave,’ so Abul-Hassan stood up, came to Abu Ja’fer and said: `Stand up, my loved one.’ But his son said: `I do not wish to leave this place…’ He said: `Do stand up, O my loved one.’ After a while, he said to his father: `How can I stand up seeing that you have already said your farewell at the House never to return again?’ He said: `Do stand up, my loved one.’ He stood up and left with his father.”
The Emam (A.S.) patiently put up with numerous norms of persecution and injustice inflicted upon him during the reign of (Harun) al-Rashid starting with the tragedy of his father, passing by the tragedies to which the Alawides were subjected, and ending with the unfair instigations to al-Rashid by the Emam’s opponents to kill him and eliminate him. The strength of the patience and perseverance of the Emam become manifest when we examine the thinly veiled political persecution from which he suffered during al-Mamoon’s reign especially after the latter appointed him as his heir to the throne, fully knowing that al-Mamoon was not sincere in his intention but rather enacted a political act in which al-Mamoon played the major role solely to provide security to the shaky foundations of his regime due to the storming events the outcome of which was reflected upon the issue of who would succeed him on the throne.
The extent of the suffering of the Emam, the degree of his bitterness and agony, and the amount of grief and sorrow which filled his heart due to the treatment meted to him by the government, can be assessed; yet he buried all of that in the depth of his mind with mute patience and perseverance. Yasir, his servant, said once: “Whenever al-Rida (A.S.) returned home on Friday from the mosque, with his face sweating and stained by blowing dust, he would raise his hands and invoke God saying, `God! If the only way I am relieved from my distress is by death, then I invoke Thee to hasten its hour.'”
Suffices to assess the extent of his patience and perseverance to simply be aware of the fact that although he was God’s Argument over His creation, he was powerless to do anything while seeing right being abandoned and wrong upheld.
In a dialogue with al-Bazanti, the Emam said: “Anyone who receives a boon is in danger: He has to carry out God’s commandments in its regard. By God! Whenever God blesses me with something, I continue to be in extreme apprehension till (and here he made a motion with his hand) I take out some of it and spend it in the way God has ordained in its regard.” Al-Bazanti asked him: “May my life be sacrificed for yours! You, in your status of high esteem, fear that much?” He answered: “Yes, indeed! And I praise my Creator for the blessings He bestowed upon me.”42
The Emam’s generosity and thoughtfulness emanate out of this good aspect of his conviction which depends on the principle of letting others share in the wealth with which God blesses him, and in what blessings and favours He bestows upon him. God’s rights in this context are the shares of the needy and the poor in this world whose ability to earn a decent living was hampered by either severe employment conditions, or disability to work due to old age, or because of being left stranded away from their original home, in addition to others who were forced by the necessities of life to stretch their hands to others for help. To ask others is humiliating, for it shatters the dignity of the person who is stretching his hand asking and by his psychological appeal to the breath of humanity in the person he is asking. In this story, the Emam guides us to realize a magnificent fact about the human psychology, that is, to give is not a favour someone does to someone else begging him for help; rather, it is his way of thanking God for the blessings with which He blessed him. The person who is blessed is in danger until he takes out of it the rights in it which are God’s.
The Emam’s method in giving is derived from such an angle of the human nature. Eleisha ibn Hamza says: “I was once talking to al-Rida (A.S.) when a large crowd of people assembled to ask him about what is permissible in Islam and what is not. A man as tall as Adam came to him and said: `Assalamo Alaikom, O Son of the Messenger of God! I am a man who loves you, your fathers and grandfathers, and I have just been on my way to perform the pilgrimage when I discovered that I had lost everything with me and now I do not have anything enough even for a leg of the trip. If you will, please help me with the expense of going back home, and I am a recipient of God’s blessing (i.e. well to do). As soon as I reach there, I will give to the poor as much as you will give me, for I do not qualify to be a recipient of alms.’
He said to him: `Sit, may God be merciful to you,’ then he kept talking to people till they dispersed except that man, Sulaiman al-Ja’feri, Khuthai’ama and myself. Then he (al-Rida) said: `Do you permit me to enter (the room)?’ Sulaiman said to him: `May God advance your endeavour.’43 So he entered the room and stayed for about an hour after which he came out and closed the door behind him, stretched his hand above the door and said: `Where is the man from Khurasan?’ The man answered: `Here I am!’ He said: `Take these two hundred dinars, use them for your preparations for the trip; may God bring you blessings thereby, and do not spend an equal amount to it on my behalf, and leave the room in a way that I do not see you and you do not see me,’ then he left. Sulaiman then said: `May my life be sacrificed for yours! You have made quite a generous offer, but why did you hide your face?’
He answered: `I did so for fear of seeing the humiliation on the face of the man due to my assistance for him. Have you not heard the hadith of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) in which he said: `The one who hides a good deeds receives rewards equal to performing the pilgrimage seventy times; one who announces his sin is humiliated, while one who hides it is forgiven’? Have you heard the saying of the example of the first case:
Whenever I approach him, one day, with a plea, I return home and my dignity is still with me.
for he hides himself from the person who appeals to him when he gives him something so that he does not see the humiliation on his face, and so that the pleading person retains his dignity when he does not see the face of the benevolent one who is giving him?”
He asks him to leave without seeing him in order to safeguard himself against feeling as having the upper hand over the pleading person, and in order to relieve the pleading person from having to show his gratitude to him.
While in Khurasan, he once distributed his entire wealth to the poor on the day of Arafat, so al-Fadl ibn Sahl said to him: “Now you are bankrupt!” he said: “On the contrary! I am now wealthier than ever. Do not consider trading my wealth for God’s rewards and pleasure as bankruptcy.”44
He does not give others in order to buy their affection or friendship; rather, he considers giving with generosity as a good trait whereby man gets nearer to his Maker by including His servants in the wealth with which He blessed him. This is the difference between his method of giving and the method of others. Ya’qub ibn Ishaq al-Nawbakhti is quoted saying:
“A man passed by Abul-Hassan and begged him to give him according to the extent of his kindness. He said: `I cannot afford that.’ So he said: `Then give me according to mine,’ whereupon he ordered his servant to give the man two hundred dinars.”45
The reason why the Emam abstained from giving the man according to the extent of his own kindness, as the man asked him the first time, is probably due to the fact that he simply did not have as much money as he liked to give. As regarding his own affection towards the poor and the indigent, and his way of looking after them, Mu’ammar ibn Khallad narrates this anecdote:
“Whenever Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.) was about to eat his meal, he would bring a large platter and select the choicest food on the table and put on it, then he would order it to be given away to the poor. After that he would recite the following verse: `But he hath made no haste on the path that is steep.’46 After that he would say: `God, the Exalted and the Sublime, knows that not everyone has the ability to free a slave, nevertheless He found means for them to achieve Paradise (by feeding others).'”47
Thus does the Emam sense the weight of deprivation under which the poor moan and suffer; therefore, he shares his best food with them in response to the call of humanity and kindness and in harmony with the spirit of the message with which God entrusted him.
Al-Bazanti tells the story of a letter Emam al-Rida (A.S.) wrote to his son Emam Abu Ja’fer (A.S.) which personifies the generosity and spirit of giving deeply rooted in the hearts of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.); he says: “I read the letter of Abul-Hassan Emam al-Rida (A.S.) to Abu Ja’fer which said: `O Abu Ja’fer! I have heard that when you ride, the servants take you out of the city through its small gate. This is due to their being miser so that nobody asks you for something. I plead you by the right I have upon you that every time you enter into or get out of the city, you should do so through its large gate, and when you ride, take gold and silver with you, and every time you are asked, you should give. If any of your uncles asks you for something, you should give him no less than fifty dinars, and you yourself may determine the maximum amount you would like to give; and if any of your aunts asks you for something, do not give her less than twenty-five dinars, and it is up to you to determine the maximum amount. I only desire that God raises your status; therefore, keep giving away and do not fear that the Lord of the Throne will ever throw you into poverty.'”48
The Emam (A.S.) did not have the chance to rule for any period of time so that we may discuss his practical style of government, but we can still be acquainted with that through reviewing his statements to some of his followers who very much desired that the Emam should shoulder the responsibilities of caliphate. Muhammad ibn Abu ‘Abada asked him once: “Why did you delay executing the order of the commander of the faithful and why did you refuse to oblige?” He said: “Be careful, O father of Hassan! The matter is not so.” He added saying that the Emam noticed that he was crossed, so he said: “What’s in it for you anyway? Should I, as you presume, become what you wish me to become, and you are as close to me then as you are right now, you would certainly be responsible for paying your dues and, in my eyes, there would be no difference between you and anyone else.”
He, peace be upon him, clarifies the matter, and that there is no use to accept the caliph’s offer since government will never actually be under his control. And when he notices the bitterness on the face of the person who asked him why he hesitated to accept the caliph’s offer, he reminds him of his method of government should it at all be in his hands, summarizing it thus: Nobody shall have any distinction over other citizens according to the dictates of the equitable government set up by Islamic Shari’a regardless of class or any other distinctions such as favouritism, friendship or support; rather, all subjects are equal in the rights they enjoy without any bias to one in preference over another, or any bias against one in order to please another.
The Emam’s way of explaining his method of government is actually an outspoken way of criticizing the ruling methods followed then the foundations of which were not based on justice and equity but on special interests which guarantee for the ruler and his followers the continuity of his government and authority. The wealth, lives, possessions and everything else under the government’s control was all subject to the whims and desires of the oppressive ruler and his train, distant from the principles of justice and the norms of equality secured by the Islamic message as embedded within its humanitarian method of legislation.
Reluctance to Cooperate With the Rulers
The Emams (A.S.) did not for even one day admit any legitimacy to their contemporary governments, be it Umayyad or Abbaside, due to the fact that those governments were far away from the pristine Islamic system of government and to their deviation, in spirit and in conduct, from the most simple principles and rules of human justice. Executions, deportations, confiscations of properties, transgressions, according to them, all did not hold them legally accountable, nor did they constitute a departure from the principles of creed and equity as long as they in the end served to strengthen and secure the foundations of their governments.
Anyone who appreciates his divine responsibility would try as hard as possible to stay away from participating in shouldering the responsibilities of such governments or making the latter’s job easier, for this would mean his own recognition of their legitimacy and his own admission of their right to exist.
Yes; if the objective of his participation is to alleviate, as much as he can, their injustice and transgression to which innocent believers may be subjected, and to minimize the danger of their ethical and social iniquities which distance the nation from the achievement of an exemplary realization of its mission–if this is the objective, then such participation may be necessitated by one’s own persistent faith, and upon this premise did the Emams refrain from encouraging any of their followers from working for such governments for that would mean assisting the aggressor and strengthening his stance. The only exception was the case when the religion’s interest dictated it. In the latter case, they used to encourage some of their influential followers to take part in the government and be employed by it as was the case of Ali ibn Yaqteen who tried several times to resign from his post at the court of Harun al-Rashid, but Emam Mousa ibn Ja’fer (A.S.) used to encourage him to stay due to the fact that his stay meant removing injustices from many believers and the fending of some of the corruption committed by others.
We can clearly be acquainted with this negative stance of Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) towards their rulers by examining what al-Hassan ibn al-Husayn al-Anbari tells us about Emam Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.). He says: “I continued writing him for fourteen years asking his permission that I accept a job in the service of the sultan. At the conclusion of the last letter I wrote him I stated the fact that I was fearing for my life because the sultan was accusing me of being a Rafidi and that he did not doubt that the reason why I declined from working for him was due to my being a Rafidi. So Abul-Hassan wrote me saying, `I have comprehended the contents of your letters and what you stated regarding your apprehension about your life’s safety. If you know that should you accept the job, you would behave according to the commands of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) and your assistants and clerks would be followers of your faith, and if you use the gain you receive to help needy believers till you become their equal, then one deed will offset another; otherwise, do not.'”52
The Emam (A.S.) preconditions for his permission to work for the government that there should be a religious interest which decreases the damage done by the nature of the job; otherwise, it would mean a psychological and factual separation from the pristine principles of Islam and its precepts and an attachment to the corrupt world in which those rulers were living.
How could the Emam ever approve the principle of cooperating with those who played Muslim caliphs and deliberately watered down the divine content of the Islamic message by their and behavioural transgressions which demolished the psychological and spiritual borders separating the nation from the realization of the sins and pitfalls of such transgressions? Theirs were gatherings in which wine was served, entertainers entertained, singers sang, dancers danced, filling the palaces of Umayyad and Abbaside caliphs with immorality. One of them was insolent enough to invite one of those Emams (A.S.) to participate in his drinking orgy as was the case of al-Mutawakkil with Emam Ali al-Hadi (A.S.) which unveils to us the extent of corruption and the extremity of moral decay of the Abbaside caliphate.
It is quite possible that those rulers were aware of the negative attitude of the Emams towards them and their corrupt government systems. We find them, as the anecdote above proves, doubting the loyalty of the individuals who refused to cooperate with them, charging them with Rafidism due to the negative stance adopted by their Emams towards the conduct of those rulers.
Islamic caliphate suffered the tragedy of a humiliating deviation from Islam and a moral decay during the Umayyad and Abbaside dynasties which helped the wide dissemination of corruption and moral decay among various sectors of the ummah. What sort of Muslim caliphs were those whose eyes could not sleep except after listening to the music played by their male and female singers, whose nightly meetings were not complete without the presence of wine and immorality? What type of Islamic reality is this in which a group like that has the full say? How can anyone expect the Emams (A.S.), who were the careful custodians of rights and whose responsibility was to safeguard such rights, to permit themselves and their followers to bear any responsibility in a government led by individuals whose hands were polluted with sins and accustomed to sinning?
The negative stance of the Emams was an obvious call for the nation to be aware of its Islamic mission and principles, a loud cry to wake it up from its slumber to witness the corrupt reality lived by such Islamic “caliphs” due to the reckless and corrupt behaviour of those rulers and their followers who were at the helm of leading the nation.
These are some of the characteristics and qualities which provide us with some of the outlines of the portrait of Emam al-Rida (A.S.), and the picture presented here is not complete in its pristine components which represent the actual context for it, for such a task requires the researcher to rise to grasp the Emam’s loftiness which is impossible to attain by any writer, and nobody can ever describe it no matter how hard he tries.
18 ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rata, Vol. 2, pp. 180-183. 19 Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 49, p. 211, as quoted by Ibn Maskawayhi’s book Nadeem al-Tareef.
20 Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 49, p. 100. It is narrated from al-Hakim by Abu Abdullah, the hafiz of Naishapur.
22 Al Irshad by al-Mufid, p. 291.
23 Manaqib Aali Abi Talib, Vol. 4, p. 300.
24 ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 1, p. 203.
25 Ibn al-Athir, Vol. 5, p. 183.
26 ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, p. 184.
27 Al Kafi, Vol. 6, p. 203.
28 Al Manaqib, Vol. 4, p. 362.
29 Al Kafi, Vol. 4, p. 81.
30 ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, p. 226.
31 Al Hujurat:13.
32 Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 174.
33 Al Kafi, Vol. 4, p. 23.
34 Al Hujurat:13.
35 ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, p. 237.
36 Al Kafi, Vol. 6, p. 298.
37 Kashf al-Ghumma, Vol. 3, p. 147; Surat Al A’raaf:32.
38 Al Kafi, Vol. 6, p. 516.
39 ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, p. 178.
40 Al Kafi, Vol. 1, pp. 316-319.
41 Kashf al-Ghumma, Vol. 3, p. 143.
42 Al Kafi, Vol. 3, p. 502.
43 Al Kafi, Vol. 4, p. 24.
44 Al Manaqib, Vol. 4, p. 361.
45 Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 360.
46 Al Balad:11.
47 ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, p. 264.
48 ‘Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, p. 8.
49 Al Kafi, Vol. 6, p. 297.
50 Al Kafi, Vol. 5, p. 288.
51 Qurb al-Isnad, p. 222, and Al Kharaij wal Jaraih, p. 237, with a slight textual variation.
52 Al Kafi, Vol. 5, p. 111.
His life in Madinah
Before traveling to Marv, Imam Reza(A.S.) lived in Madinah; city where the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and his father’s grave exists. He was occupied with guiding people, indicating Islamic educations and Prophet’s (S.A.W.) Sirah (manner and behavior). People of Madinah loved him and assumed him as their father. Although he had spent most of his life in Madinah, he had many followers throughout the Islamic counties. He points out this fact on a discussion about succession: “In fact succession didn’t make a distinction for me. When I was in Madinah, people in east and west obeyed me and nobody was superior to me. They told me their requirements and I granted their requests and they treated me as a magnate.”
His Imamate was announced repeatedly by his father, grandfathers, and Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Especially Imam Kazem(A.S.) mentioned him as the Imam after himself several times. For instance, one of his followers narrates, “One day Imam Kazem(A.S.) came to us, holding his son’s (Ali) hand. We were 60 people. He said:” Do you know me?” I said: “You are our leader.” He said:” Say my name and title.”
I said:” You are Mouse bin Jafar bin Muhammad. ”He said:” Who is this guy with me?”
I said: “Ali bin Mouse bin Jafar.”He said: “So profess that he is my representative during my life and my successor after my death.”4 He is further introduced as the eighth Imam in a saying of Prophet (S.A.W.) narrated by Jaber. Also, Imam Sadegh(A.S.) told Imam Kazem( A.S.) that the knowledge of Prophet’s(S.A.W.) progeny is of your sons and he is your successor.
Imam Reza’s(A.S.) Imamate lasted eight years, which can be divided into three periods:
1-The first ten years was contemporary to Haroon’s caliphate.
2-The next five years was contemporary to Amin’s caliphate.
3-The last five years was contemporary to Ma’moon’s caliphate.
It was during the first period that great disasters, especially the martyrdom of Imam Kazem(A.S.), happened to the Alavi people (the children of Imam Ali(A.S.)). Haroon was instigated to kill Imam Reza(A.S.), but had not found the opportunity. After Haroon, Amin became the caliph. At that period, the government was weakened. Amin was drowned in his corruption and paid no attention to Imam and his followers. This period was peaceful for Imam and his followers.
However, Ma’moon killed his brother, Amin, and became the caliph. He suppressed the objectors and gained the control of all the Islamic countries. He gave the leadership of Iraq to one of his agents and settled in Marv. He then chose Fazl ibn Sahl, who was a great politician, as his minister. But the Alavi people were a threat to his government. After suffering murder, plunder and torture for a century, they had found the opportunity to object the government and to overthrow it. They were successful in gaining people’s support, because they also had suffered great losses from the Abbasid Caliphate. Therefore, Ma’moon decided not to confront them and wanted to bring back peace and security to strengthen his government.
So, after consulting Fazl, he came up with a treacherous plan. He decided to offer the caliphate to Imam Reza(A.S.) and withdraw himself. Because whether the Imam accepted or not, it would still be a victory for Ma’moon. If Imam accepted, and became Caliph allowing Ma’moon to be the vice-caliph, that would guarantee the legitimacy of Ma’moon’s government. Thus, Ma’moon decided to force the position of Caliph on Imam. It was then easier for him to eliminate
Imam Reza(A.S.) and become the legal leader. In this case, the Shiites would consider his government legitimate and would be satisfied with it and accepted him as Imam’s successor. Furthermore, the risings made against his government would lose their attraction and legitimacy.
However, if Imam did not accept the caliphate, he would then oblige Imam to be his successor and guarantee the legitimacy of his government through this to weaken the uprisings. On the other hand, he could make Imam settle near himself to control Imam and suppress his followers. In addition, Imam Reza’s(A.S.) Shiites and followers would criticize him for not accepting the caliphate and he would lose his respect among them.
The journey to the Khurasan
To accomplish his mentioned goals, Ma’moon sent some of his special agents to Imam Reza(A.S.) in Medina to force him to set on a journey to Khurasan. He also ordered to take Imam Reza(A.S.) through a path that has the least number of Shiites. The main roads in those days were the roads to Kufa, Jabal, Kermanshah, and Qom, which were all mainly Shiite cities. It seemed probable to Ma’moon that Shiites may get excited when they see Imam and prevent him to continue his travel to stay with them instead. To prevent these troubles, Ma’moon made Imam Reza(A.S.) travel through the paths of Basreh, Ahvaz, and Fars to Marv. His agents also watched Imam continuously and reported to Ma’moon on all of Imam’s activities.
Succession to Caliphate
When Imam Reza(A.S.) entered Marv, Ma’moon welcomed him royally and publicly through a speech in front of all the key characters of government. He said: “All should know that I do not know anyone better and more deserving on succession than Ali ibn Musi al-Reza in descendants of Abbas or Ali(A.S.)”. After that he turned his face to Imam and said: “I have decided to dethrone myself and announce you as the Caliph”. Imam Reza(A.S.) said: “If Allah has specified Caliphate for you then it is not permitted to give it to another one and if it is not yours then you do not have the authority to give it to another one.”
Ma’moon insisted on what he wanted but Imam said: “Never will I accept that”. When Ma’moon got disappointed, he told Imam: “Then accept to be the Caliph after me, and successor of me”. The insistence of Ma’moon on his wants and Imam Reza’s(A.S.) refusal lasted for two month. He did not accept and said, “I have heard from my fathers that I will die before you and will be martyred with poison and angles of the earth and skies will cry for me and I will be buried in the land of nostalgia beside Haroon al-Rashid”. But Ma’moon insisted on succession of Imam Reza(A.S.) in such way that he threatened Imam to death in a secret and private ceremony. Thus Imam said: “Now, since I am obliged, I accept it but on the condition that I do not appoint or depose anyone and do not change any custom or rule and control affaires imperceptibly”.
Ma’moon had no choice but to accept this condition. After that Imam raised his hands and said: “O, my God, you know that they opposed me under duress and I chose it by force. So please do not take me to task just as your two prophets, Yousef and Danial, when they accepted the leadership position of the kings of their time. O! My God, there is no vow except yours and no Mastership except of yours. So please help me to establish your religion and to follow your prophet’s custom. Indeed, what a good master and a good assistant you are”.
Imam’s manner and behavior
His moral virtues and piety was such that besides his followers and companions his enemies were attracted to him. He treated people as respectfully and kindly as possible and never separated himself from the people.
One of his companions say: “I never remember him, talk badly to anyone and interrupt someone while speaking. If he afforded to help, he would never reject any poor and never stretched his legs in front of people. I never remember him talk badly to his servants. He always smiled instead of laughing loudly. While having a meal, he invited all the servants to have the meal with him. He slept little at nights and was used to staying up and saying prayer during almost all nights. He always performed three fasts in the month. He helped the poor secretly in the dark nights.”6
One of his other companions says: “His carpet was of sackcloth in winter and a mat in summer. He wore rough and coarse clothes at home, but he wore nice clothes in public parties. (He wore nice and common clothes.)”7
One night while Imam was talking to his guest, there was a problem with the light. The guest wanted to correct it, but Imam did not let him to do so. He fixed it himself and said: ‘We are the ones who do not put our guests to work.’”8
A man told Imam: “By Allah I swear that no one on earth equals your ancestors in superiority and nobleness.’ Imam said:” Taqwa gave them nobleness and obedience to Allah gave them superiority.”9
A man from Balkh says:” I was with Imam Reza(A.S.) during the travel to Khurasan. One day while having a meal Imam invited all the servants including the Blacks to have the meal with them. I told Imam:” It is better they (the servants) sit somewhere else. Imam said:” Be quiet! The creator of everyone is the same. The father and mother of all are the same and reward is according to deeds.”10
The servant of Imam -Yaser – says:” Imam Reza(A.S.) had told us that if I was above your head (and ordered you to do something) and you were having a meal, do not stand up till you finish it. Therefore it frequently happened that Imam called us for a work, and he was responded that he (the servant) is busy having a meal; then Imam would say:” Let him finish his food.”11
One day a stranger came to visit Imam Reza(A.S.). He said hello and continued:” I love you and your fathers and ancestors. I have come back form Hajj and have run out of money. If it is possible give me some money so that I could go back to my house. I promise to spend the same amount there as Sadaghah, for, I am not poor in my city. Imam stood up and went to another room. Then he came behind the curtain and said:” Get this 200 Dinar and spend it for your travel, there is no need to pay the same back as Sadaghah. The man got the Dinars and went. Imam was asked for the reason of his secret help, he answered:” I did such, in order not to see the shame of need in his face.”12
Our infallible and great Imams guided their followers both by sayings and behavior. In other words by their behavior, they taught their Shiites the true way of behaving.
One of Imam’s companions said:” One day I was with Imam on the way to his home. At home his servants were busy repairing the house. Imam saw a stranger among them and asked of him. They answered:” He helps us and we pay him.” Imam asked:” Have you defined the amount of payment?” They answered:” No, but he accepts whatever we pay him.” Imam was disturbed and told me:” I have told them many times that before you bring anyone, define the amount of payment and contract. The one, who works without any contraction, thinks that you have paid him little, even if you give him three times more. But if you contract and give him according to the contraction, he will be pleased with receiving his right. Now if you pay more even just a little, he will understand you have paid more and will be thankful to you.”13
Imam’s servant says:” One day his servants were eating fruits. They ate some and through out the rest. Imam Reza(A.S.) told them:” Subhanallah! If you do not need it, give it to someone who needs.”
Ma’moon had told one of his servants not to cut his nails, and ordered him to put some poisons in his nails and prepare a pomegranate and pollute it with the poison. The servant obeyed his master and prepared the pomegranate. Ma’moon offered the poisonous pomegranate to Imam. Imam rejected, Ma’moon insisted and threatened Imam that he would kill him if he didn’t eat. Imam ate some pomegranate under obligation. After a few hours the poison polluted Imam’s body and he became ill. The morning of the next day (29th of Safar of year 203 H.G.) Imam Reza(A.S.) was martyred.
By divine will and power, Imam’s son, Imam Jawad(A.S.) washed his father’s body and said prayer for him. Imam’s body was buried in Mashhad with the accompaniment of many of his Shiites and followers.
Though centuries pass from the life of Imam Reza(A.S.), his holy shrine is the cause of blessing and honor for the Iranians.