5 Things to Learn from Imam Ali al-Rida

For many, their understanding of Imam Ali al-Reza is limited to his appoitment as the crown prince of al-Ma’mun al-Abbasi and his resting place in a magnificent shrine. However, his life offers a wealth of wisdom and guidance. Here are five valuable lessons to learn from this remarkable Imam.

1) Interpersonal Skills

Ibrahim bin Al-Abbas, a companion of the Imam, reports that he never saw another person exhibit perfect morals like the ones displayed by Imam Reza. When dealing with people, the Imam was never rude, whether they were his friends or his enemies. He wouldn’t interrupt someone while they were speaking or refuse to do someone a favour if he could.

When he was in a congregation, the Imam wouldn’t spread his legs before the audience; he never spit, burst into laughter, or called his associates and subordinates foul names. Such high morals were the reason for Imam Reza to be known as ‘al-Zaki’, the Virtuous one.

2) Love for Quran

In the hadith of Thaqalayn, the Prophet stated that the Ahlulbayt can never be separated from the Quran. The love Imam Reza had for the Holy Book demonstrates that the Prophet’s words are always true.

According to one of Imam Reza’s contemporaries, whenever the Imam spoke, all of his words, responses, and examples were derived from the Quran. The Imam was so in touch with the Quran that he would finish reciting one Quran every three days.

His commitment to the Quran was not just in its recitation but also in his deep reflection on its verses. He would say:

“لو أردت أن أختمه في أقرب من ثلاثة تختمت ولكني ما مررت بآية قط إلا فكرت فيها وفي أي شئ أنزلت وفي أي وقت؟ فلذلك صرت أختم في كل ثلاثة أيام.”

“If I want, I can complete it in less than 3 days, but I never come across a verse except that I reflect upon its meaning and the circumstances of its revelation.”

3) Ethics of Charity

Once, during Hajj, an otherwise wealthy man from Khurasan visited Imam Reza to seek his assistance. The man expressed that he needed some money to travel back to his homeland and promised to pay it back in charity on the Imam’s behalf.

The Imam sat him and waited until the other guests left the room. After that, the Imam gave him two hundred dinars in such a way that he could not see the Imam nor the Imam could see him. When asked about it, the Imam said,

“انما صنعت ذلك مخافة أن أرى ذل السؤال في وجهه لقضائي حاجته…. “

“I did that lest I should see the embarrassment on his face because of my fulfilling his need.”

4) Political Consciousness

When all other tricks of Mamun to debase and humiliate the Imam failed, he tried using diplomacy to subdue the Imam into accepting the role of regent. However, the Imam refused his advances, leaving Mamun no other choice but to threaten Imam Reza into accepting his offer of becoming the crown prince.

Having no way out of the problem, the Imam agreed, but he acted shrewdly and made it a condition of acceptance that he wouldn’t involve himself in any state affairs. This way, Mamun couldn’t use the Imam for political gains, nor could he sabotage his character.

5) Kindness Towards Subordinates

Once, on a journey towards Khurasan, when it was time for a meal, the Imam requested food to be served to his entire caravan. As was his custom, Imam Reza gathered his black and non-black subordinates to join him in the meal.

When a companion desired to make separate food arrangements for the subordinates, the Imam got upset and said to him:

“مه إن الرب تبارك وتعالى واحد والام واحدة والأب واحد والجزاء بالاعمال”

“The Lord, the Blessed and Exalted, is One, the mother is one, and (everyone will have) the reward according to deeds.”

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