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Imam Ali bn Musa’s (as) Birthday: An Exemplary Life for the Faithfuls

By Yusuf Abdullshi
In the name of Allah who states “There is, in their stories, instruction for men endued with understanding. It is not an invented tale, but confirmation of what went before it, a detailed exposition of all things and a guide and mercy to any such as believe” Q12:111  Peace and blessings of Allah be upon His noble servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.

et me start with the World International day for justice observed today, 17th day of July. Very significant to Islamic movement with the ongoing global campaign for the freedom of its leader Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky (H), the day is meant to unite justice seekers, promote rights of victims and prevent threats against security and peaceful coexistence across the world. The way world cries in support of the oppressed leader is very encouraging and impressive.
The sacred months of Rajab, Zulqaadah, Zilhijjah and Muharram are very eventful. The piece for this week is on the birthday of Imam Ali al-Ridha, the Eighth Imam, born on 11th Zulqada, 148 AH. Imamate is an aspect of faith linked to prophethood as the Imams carried on the duties of the great prophet. Imams are undoubtedly leaders of the Ummah, although other Muslims view the doctrine from a different angle. Though not prophets, the Imams were heirs that continued with the propagation of his mission to the end of time as clearly indicated by the famous tradition of twelve successors.
Traditionally, the event is held in what is referred to as ten days of honor covering the interval in the birthday celebrations of the Imam and his sister who were born on 1st and 11th respectively. Born to the blessed family of Imam Musa al-Kazem on Thursday, 11th Zulqaadah, 148 AH, Imam Ali was nicknamed Al – Ridha . His mother was Sayyidah Najmah – Ummul Banin. The Imam was brought up through the fatherly and spiritual guidance of his father, Imam Musa for thirty five years. He was uniquely identified with wisdom, knowledge, piety, humbleness and leadership style of his grandfather, the holy prophet. However, on the 25th of Rajab, 183 AH, his father, Imam Musa al-Kazem was martyred through poisoning by the tyrannical Harun-led Abbasid regime after four years of imprisonment. Even his corpse was not spared humiliation, but for his devotees who managed to get it laid down at the popular Kazimiyyah area. Imam Musa declared son, Imam Ali al-Ridha as his heir and successor much earlier before his last breath as witnessed by family and followers. Thus, he assumed leadership of the followers of Ahlul-bait after his martyred father with all qualities of ancestors. Ibn Athir al-Jaza’iry authoritatively penned; the Imam was the greatest saint and scholar of the second century. Coming with the correct interpretation of the holy Qur’an and related aspects were the most significant issues faced by the Imam under the unfavorable government of Harun in which many that belonged to the faith were either imprisoned or afflicted withuntold atrocities. Consequent to his effort and uncompromising stand, the Imam faced great enmity and hostility from the ruling class; Harun to Ma’mun leading to his assassination by poisoning. Finally, he attained martyrdom for refusal to submit to the oppressive regime losing nothing, and remains a respected historic Islamic personality. “And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead; nay they are alive but you do not perceive” Q2:154
His shrine in Masshad, the second largest city in Iran and famous spiritual centre in Iran is an attraction to millions of Muslims and other visitors from all nooks and crannies of the world. In a colorful traditional commemoration in the Ridhawy shrine, lessons in his blessed live and his sister are extolled at Masshad. Simultaneously, strong delegations of the shrine carrying its blessed flag occasionally visit all earthed habitable continents. Few years ago, the event was also used to honor 16 International personalities from scholars, thinkers, writers and poets among the custodians of great Imam! Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky, was among the respected honorees. The martyred sons of the Sheikh were also honoured by Dr. Zahrah Mustafawy, daughter of Imam Khomeini, the architect of the globally observed International Quds day. Other related activities were visits to the Vice-chancellor of Al-Mustapha International University, Ayatollah Arafi, Management and African students of the University at Qom, and the country’s National Assembly where he met the honorable speaker, Ali Larijani.
In Nigeria, the event is organized at different parts of the country with regard to Imam and his sister Sayyida Ma’suma (AS). A glance at her life blessed reveals that she was born in Medina in the year 789 CE. She was generally identified with piety, modesty, knowledge and humility. After her brother was forced to migrate to Iran, she left Medina for Mashhad to see him. In the course of her journey, she fell ill in the city of Saveh and decided to go to Qom, a nearby town known for adoration of prophet’s progeny.
She passed away 17 days later and was accorded an honorable funeral rite and was buried in her present shrine. Her tomb has undergone various developmental processes to its present position built after great capacity expansion fully decorated in 1803. The shrine comprises of various courtyards and the four walled Grand mosque built in 1964 and a great dome. Dated back, the seminary was of the most historic spiritual centers in Islam. Generally speaking, the city drastically developed to its present state receiving millions of visitors from all nooks and corners of the world. In the Imam Khomeini-led Islamic revolution, the city plays significant role with Feyziyyah school in the vicinity, where the Imam taught and received support to its ultimate success. The seminary’s role in educational pursuit cannot be overemphasized in theology, jurisprudence and general Islamic propagation across the world. This year’s commemoration was held in Abuja recently.
Back to international day for justice, I wish to reiterate the urgent need for the freedom of the Sheikh and justice. Taking a brief look at the Islamic movement which started in late 1970’s when its leader was a student at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The movement was greatly influenced by the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, founded in Lagos in 1954. Then, the Sheikh was the society’s Secretary-general of the Ahmadu Bello University Main campus branch and later became the Vice – president in charge of international affairs of the main MSS body. The movement later spread to towns, cities, villages and beyond the country, comprising people from different strata and walks of life.
Obviously, no group that means good for this country and its future than this movement. The contribution of this movement to the development of our nation cannot be overemphasized on humanitarian grounds, community development, educational sector and promotion of peaceful co existence among others. To justify the magnitude of ethno – religious understanding and tolerance, plans have reached advanced stage by Christians to establish a Christian forum in the Islamic movement. Through its fora, the movement has received countless awards in the country and abroad. Such awards came from people and organizations of different backgrounds such as traditional rulers, recognized government agencies, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations, orphanages, and past military administrators. Despite the peaceful nature of the movement from inception, as evidently ascertained by people, some in the ruling class considered it a threat especially in the past military administrations. As such, it suffers series of attacks by the successive Nigerian governments. Allah states “And they ill-treated them For no other reason than That they believed in Allah, Exalted in power, Worthy of all praise. Q85: 8
On this important day, using this medium, I re-echo the need for justice as did Amnesty International and indeed the international community on this cause. While calling for the immediate release of the oppressed Sheikh (H) his wife and other disciples, I pray for Allah’s continuous support and protection for him.
Wassalamu alaikum.By B