By Yusuf M. Abdullahi
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
May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon His noble servant, our master Muhammad (S) and his purified progeny.
On the Imamate, Shaikh Muzaffar said in his book "We believe that the imamate is one of the fundamentals of Islam (Usul al-din), and that man’s faith can never be complete without belief in it. It is wrong to imitate our fathers, family or teachers in this matter, even if we respect them, for it is just as necessary rationally to consider the Imamate as it is to consider Tauhid and Nubuwwah. If a man does not believe in it, and supposes that it is not a fundamental of Islam, he should nevertheless, examine the concept of the Imamate, if only to absolve himself of responsibility in this matter. The reason for this consideration is that, since we do receive commands concerning our religious duties directly from Allah, we must refer in this matter to someone in whom we can trust, by following whom we can trust, by following whom we may be sure that we will not be held responsible by Allah for having committed errors. According to our belief, the members of the Household of the prophet fulfill requirements. We believe that, just as it is necessary for Allah to send someone as a prophet, so, it is also necessary for Him to appoint an Imam. It is necessary that at all times there should be an Imam to represent the prophet and that he should perform the duties of the prophet, such as guiding the people and showing them the way of goodness and prosperity in this world and the next. He also ought to hold the highest position as a public authority in all aspects of peoples’ lives, so that he may cause justice to increase among them and eliminate enmity and oppression between them. The Imamate is therefore a continuation of the prophet hood, and the reasoning which proves the former’s necessity is the same as that which proves the latter’s. It is for this reason that we may say that the appointment of someone as Imam can only be accomplished by will of Allah through the prophet or through the previous Imam. People cannot choose someone as an Imam because they have no authority to do so, and should they seek to depose him; he who dies without knowing the Imam of his time, it is as if he dies in Jahiliyyah (the time of ignorance)" It will be seen from the above that it is impossible for there to be a time without an Imam appointed by Allah, and it makes no difference if human beings deny him or not, help him or not, or if he is absent from people’s sight. Just as the prophet was absent from people in the cave and in the mountain pass, so it is possible for the Imam to be absent. It also makes no difference logically, if the absence is long or short. Allah said "And there is a guide for every people" Q13:7 "There is not a nation but a Warner has passed among them" Q35:24
Imamate, which is somehow a continuation of prophet hood, is one of the fundamentals of Islam. It means the leadership with which Allah is pleased with after that of the messengers, and in the same way Imam is such a leader. He is not a prophet but his successor. And the rationale behind the glance at his blessed life is to highlight the lessons therein with a view to emulating them! Of the memorable and commemorated event in the sacred month of Zulqaadah was the popular birth of the eighth Imam of the Ahlul-bait, Ali al-Ridha, son of Imam Musa al-Kazim and Najmah, nicknamed Ummu-banin (AS). The Imam was popularly addressed as al-Ridha, which means the well pleased with or the generally accepted. Bukhari and Muslim have narrated that the messenger of Allah has said: “I shall be succeeded by twelve religious leaders, all of whom shall be of Qurayshite origin”. In another narration he said all of them shall be from Banu Hashim.
A GLANCE AT HIS BLESSED LIFE
Although there are variations as to the actual date of his birthday, most reliably Thursday, 11th Zulqaadah, 148 after hegira was relatively preferred, in Medina. The Imam was brought up under the spiritual guidance of his father Imam Musa al-Kazim for over three decades. In addition to exceptional insight and unique brilliance, the Imam was exclusively trained morally and educationally by his parents. Thus, he lived embodiment of all sterling qualities rarely possessed by man. For the virtues, he was given, the Imam faced great enmity and hostility from the ruling class who assassinated his father before his eyes. However before martyrdom he was declared as successor in presence of prominent religious personalities and family members. Therefore, his imamate was never questioned or confused. The major challenge, then was coming with proper interpretation of the noble Qur’an under unfavorable atmosphere. Beside mass imprisonment, many of his followers were afflicted with untold hardships. Ibn Athir al-Jaza’ir narrated that Imam al-Ridha was undoubtedly the greatest sage, saint and scholar of the second century after hegira.
SOME OF HIS MEMORABLE SAYINGS
As narrated by Sheikh al-Saduq, Imam Ali al-Ridha said “may the mercy of Allah be upon the servant who keeps live our commandment” I asked him how one could keep your commandment alive? He said he learns our sciences and teach them to people. In fact if people knew the merits and goodness of our speech, surely they would follow us”. In another narration by the same narrator in an answer to a woman who wanted not to marry in order to gain a great virtue, he said “do not do that, because if it was a virtue Fatimah (may Allah bless her and give her peace) would be more competent than you, and, surely, there is none (of women) who can excel her in any virtue.
The above mentioned incident speaks clearly of his great popularity and the love and respect Muslims gave to their beloved leader. Al-Ma’mun could not help holding the Imam in great esteem because of his piety, wisdom, knowledge, modesty, decorum and personality. He therefore decided to nominate the Imam as the rightful heir to the throne only for the fulfillment of his sinister desires being very scared of the Imam’s growing popularity! It was believed that Ma’mun – the Abbasid caliph fed the Imam poisoned grapes which led to his martyrdom on the 17th Safar, 203 AH at the age of 55. He left behind 5 sons and a daughter and was buried in Mashhad – Iran. Allah states “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
The Imam was assassinated for refusal to join the oppressive regime, thereby attaining the great position of martyrdom like his predecessors. Allah says “Deem not that Allah is heedless of what the iniquitous do; He is only deferring them to a day when eyes shall stare” Q14:42.
Ever since millions of Muslims all over the world visit his tomb and seminary in the second largest city in Iran, praying for Allah’s mercy and blessings for him and a befitting recompense for those involved in the atrocity against him and the blessed family of the noble messenger. With regards to the descendents of the noble prophet, Imam Ali said: the descendents of the prophet are his confidants, the shelter of his commands, the trustees of his knowledge, the stronghold of the Qur’an and the mountains of his faith. None of the followers of Muhammad can be compared with the descendents of the prophet. The recipients’ cannot be equal to the bestowers of blessings. ”O people let it be known to you that we are the descendents of the holy prophet. Angels come to us. We are the fountains of learning. We are the spring of wisdom and knowledge of Allah. He who is our friend and helper deserves the mercy of Allah, and he who is our enemy, waits for the punishment of Allah. They speak lies against us and do injustice to us. Allah elevated our position and he has made them inferior to us. He has opened the eyes of the people through us".
While praying for the safe return of our brothers and sisters that embarked on the spiritual trip to the Mausoleum of Imam Husain at Karbala and other relevant sites, I emphasize the need for the unconditional release of the Sheikh el-Zakzaky together with his disciples.