I would like to say a few things about our great Imam and knowledgeable member of the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household, Imam Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha (thousands of greetings and praise be upon him). In fact, we cannot understand the spiritual position of these holy personalities, let alone describe them in words. However, before our eyes and before the eyes of history, the lives of these great personalities are a practical, eternal, and undeniable lesson. If, in certain cases, we take a look at the lives of the Imams (pbut), and if we put great emphasis on their policies, the measures they took and their biographies, this does not mean that these are the most important parts of their lives. This is not the case. Their spiritual world, their effort to get close to God, and the wisdom and love which radiated from their peerless hearts are other important parts of their lives. However, what is before our eyes are the lives of these great personalities and we should learn from them.
Imam Ridha (as) lived for almost 55 years. That is to say, he was born in the year 148–the year when Imam Sadiq (a.s.) was martyred–and he was martyred in the year 203 on the Hijri calendar. The entire life of this great personality, with all his greatness, depth, and dimensions, took place in this fairly short era. Nineteen to twenty years out of his fifty-five years constituted the era of Imamate for this great personality. But if you take a look at this short era, you will see that it exerted a considerable amount of influence on the world of Islam, it gave great depth to the true meaning of Islam, and it helped people follow the Holy Prophet’s (s.w.a.) household and get familiar with their teachings. This extraordinary phenomenon is like a vast deep ocean.
When that Imam (as) achieved Imamate, his close friends and his followers said, “What can Ali ibn Musa do in such an environment which is filled with Harun’s oppression?” There is a narration which says, “Blood trickles from Harun’s sword.” These friends and followers used to say, “In such conditions, what can this young Imam do to continue the jihad of Shia Imams and to carry out the great responsibility which falls upon his shoulders?” This is the beginning of the Imamate of Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha (as). When you observe, you will see that after the passing of 19, 20 years–when Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha (as) was martyred and his Imamate ended–the ideas and thoughts of the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household and the matter of commitment to the Imams were established, in the world of Islam, so firmly that the oppressive and dictatorial Abbasid regime could not confront it. Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha (as) managed to do this.
You have heard that De’bel-e Khozayee went to Merv in Khorasan and composed and recited a number of well-known poems in praise of Imam Ridha (as), for which he was rewarded. He stayed in Merv and other cities of Khorasan, for a few days, and then he went towards Baghdad, Kufa, and other cities that he wanted to visit. Midway, some bandits attacked and looted the caravan on which De’bel was travelling. The travellers sat and watched the looting of their property. The ringleader of the bandits was sitting on a rock, proudly watching the prisoners and captives of this caravan, and proud of the things which they had stolen and collected.
De’bel heard that the chief was whispering a poem. He listened, and he realized that it was his own poem. It was one of the couplets of the qasida (ode) that he had recited a month to a month and a half ago in Merv: “I see that their property has been looted and divided among outsiders and wicked people.” [Speaking in Arabic] Midway to Rey and Iraq, the ringleader of the bandits was reciting this poem by heart. De’bel became happy. He stood up and said, “Who has composed the poem that you are reciting?” The ringleader said, “It belongs to De’bel-e Khozayee.” De’bel said, “Well, I am De’bel-e Khozayee.” When the chief saw that this person was De’bel-e Khozayee, he stood up, held De’bel in his arms, kissed him and said, “Because of the presence of this person in the caravan, give them back all their property.” They gave them back all their property, respected them, and helped them get towards their destination.
Well, this may be a small historical event, but it has great significance. The poem which was composed in praise of Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha (as) was recited and memorized, in Rey and Iraq, by a bandit after the passage of a month to a month and a half since the poem was composed. What does this indicate? It indicates that the ground for promoting the position of the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household and the auspicious name of Imam Ridha (as) was so prepared that, in a short time, this poem–at that time, poetry was one of the most effective means of communication–spread rapidly by word of mouth, until it was picked up by a bandit in the middle of a desert. This was indicative of the great movement, which was launched during the Imamate of Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha (as), in order to promote the school of thought of the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household. During this time, the love of the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household was shared by all individuals, and the hearts of all people felt the presence and existence of the Imams (pbut) in the Islamic community.
The migration of the honorable children of the Imams’ (pbut), towards Iran, has a positive and meaningful dimension as well as a tragic dimension, because of their martyrdom midway to Iran. The reason for their migration towards Iran was due to the request of the people and their acceptance of the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household. As you know, when we speak about the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household we mean the school of thought which was established by the Imams and the Islamic concepts that they introduced. It indicates a deeply cultural and spiritual achievement and a great ideological feat.
This describes the migration of Imam Ridha (as). According to the events that you know and have heard about, Ma’mun finally feels that he has to kill Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha (as)–he had forced that great Imam to leave Medina in order to get closer to him, and he did not plan to kill Imam Ridha (as) at first. Contrary to what he had initially planned, the divine will and plan to bury a member of the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household in this place, which was faraway from Medina, was exercised by the enemies of the Holy Prophet’s (swa) household. This is divine wisdom and engineering.
Ayatollah Khamenei, September 17, 2013