Imām ʿAlī Riḍā ʿalaihi as-salām was the eighth Imām in the Golden Chain of twelve Imams. His epithet was Abu’l-Ḥasan and title was Riḍā. He was the son and successor of Imām Mūsā Kāẓim. He was born in Madīnah on Thursday 11 Rabīʿ al-Awwal 153 AH (15 March 770) [Shawāhid an-Nubuwwah].
He was one of the top scholars of Hadīth, and many scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah have narrated Ḥadīths from him. Ḥāfiẓ Ibn-Ḥajar ʿAsqalānī has mentioned the names of the narrators of Ḥadīth who have heard directly from him [Bārā Imām].
Imām Ibn-Mājah narrates a Ḥadīth in his well-known Sunan Ibn Mājah:
I was informed by Sahl ibn Abī-Sahl and Muḥammad ibn Ismāʿīl, who both were informed by Abd as-Salām ibn Ṣāliḥ Abu’ṣ-Ṣalt al-Hirawī, who was informed by ʿAlī ibn Mūsā ar-Riḍā, by his father (Mūsā al-Kazīm), by Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad (Ṣādiq), by his father (Muḥammad Bāqir), by ʿAlī ibn Ḥusayn, by his father (Imām Ḥusayn), by ʿAlī ibn Abī-Ṭālib, who said, the Messenger of Allāh said, may peace be upon him:
“Faith [Īmān] is knowledge in the heart, words on the tongue, and actions with the faculties (limbs of the body).”
(Imām Ibn-Mājah further says) Abu’ṣ-Ṣalt (the narrator who heard this Ḥadīth from Imām ʿAlī Riḍā) said: “If this Isnād (chain of narration from ʿAlī Riḍā to the Prophet) is recited on a mad person, he will recover.”
(Sunan Ibn Mājah, Book of the Sunnah, Ḥadīth 68)
According to Ibn-Kathīr and other historians, in 201 AH, the caliph Maʾmūn ar-Rashīd appointed him as his successor in caliphate and even printed his name on the coins. He also married his daughter Umm-i Ḥabīb with Imām ʿAlī Riḍā in 202 AH [Shawāhid an-Nubuwwah]. However, the Imām died before the caliph’s death.
Numerous miracles were seen from him. One of those is the following:
Abū-Ismāʿīl Sindhī reports that when I went to visit Imām ʿAlī Riḍā, I did not speak Arabic so I greeted him in Sindhi language. He also greeted me in my own tongue. Then I asked him some questions in Sindhi and received replies in the same language (seemingly, the Imām had not formally learned Sindhi and spoke it only as a miracle). When departing, I requested him that as I cannot speak Arabic, pray that God may grant me the knowledge of Arabic. He rubbed his blessed hand over my lips, and I immediately started speaking Arabic. [Shawāhid an-Nubuwwah]
Among his golden sayings are the following:
- Helping the relatives and behaving well with neighbors leads to increase in one’s wealth.
- Honey contains cure. Honey received as a gift should not be returned back.
Imām ʿAlī al-Riḍā had five sons: Ḥasan, Jaʿfar, Ibrāhīm, Ḥusayn and Muḥammad Taqī. His progeny continued from the last one [Bārā Imām].
One of his deputies is the dignified saint Khwāja Maʿrūf Kharkhī.
He lived for about fifty years and died in a town near Ṭūs, Iran in 202 or 203 AH. Now the city is called Mashhad and his tomb is a place of pilgrimage and source of blessings.
He was succeeded by his son Imām Muḥammad Taqī.