The representative of His Eminence Al-Sayyid Ali Al-Husseini Al-Sistani in Europe states:
• Imam al-Redha (a.s.) amazed religious scholars and speakers of the Islamic sects with his debates until everyone recognized him as being the most knowledgeable and the pre-eminence of the Islamic religion.
16 Safar 1440
This was at the Friday prayers sermon at the al-Abbas Centre in Birmingham on the occasion of the martyrdom of Imam Al-Redha (a.s.), on the 17th of Safar - opening his speech with the words of Ja’afar ibn Muhammad to his son al-Kadhim (a.s.), when he said more than once, “the erudite of Ale-Mohammed is in your backbone, I wish I knew him; he has the same name of Amirul-Momineen - Ali.”
He said: "We are living the sorrowful anniversary of his martyrdom. We have to talk about him and his position and the scholarly status of the Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.), which Muslims and their youth must get to know and benefit from; because their biography represents the real path of Islam after the era of the Prophet (s.a.w.w.). Studying their scholarly and other aspects of their lives in a comprehensible way reveals to us the authentic movement of Islam, which made its way through the depths of the Ummah and its conscience after its momentum began to fade after the demise of the Messenger (s.a.w.w.)
The immaculate Imams (a.s.) began working to raise the nation’s awareness, invigorating it and increasing perception of the Prophet’s Shari’a, his movement and his blessed revolution - so that they open up and interact with them because they are banners of guidance and the light of the path for those who believe in their leadership. They were the ones leading to Allah, to achieve his satisfactions and misfortunes in longing for Him, and the forerunners to ascend the peaks of human perfection.
Their lives were characterized by various methods of jihad and patience to obey Allah and bear the unfairness of the treacherous ones towards them until they set ultimate examples of steadfastness and sacrifice in order to implement the laws of Allah (s.w.t.). Then, with splendor, chose martyrdom against a life of humiliation, until meeting Allah Almighty victoriously following a great struggle and great jihad.
Historians, researchers and speakers cannot fully fathom all the angles of their lives. What they mention or remind us of are parts of their lives and divine stances so that our young people and families, who are impressed with the civilization of the West, can benefit from today – as they have not seen the diverse sciences of the Imams (a.s.) covering various fields. They (a.s.) stressed on following them by saying to talk to people about our sciences (if people know the advantages of our words they would love and follow us).
Imam al-Ridha (a.s.) was one of the branches of that virtuous tree, whose root is fixed and its branch in heaven. Historians unanimously agreed that he had learned his knowledge from his father Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.). All Muslim sects agreed that he (a.s.) is the leading Muslim Imam and that he had accumulated the knowledge of Ale-Muhammad – as described by his grandfather
It is sufficient for us to know his place (a.s.) as mentioned by al-Sibt ibn al-Jozy in Tathkiratul-Khawass and others; he (a.s.) used to sit in the mosque of the holy prophet (s.a.w.w.) and answer questions when he was only in his early twenties. All his answers were taken from the holy Qur’an. He was well known for this not only among scholars of jurisprudence and Hadith in Medina but in seats of learning all over the Islamic world - as its been related by al-Hafiz ibn Hajr al-Hitami in his book ‘History of Nishapur’: that when Imam al-Ridha (a.s.) reached this town (Nishapur) on his way to Maro in the year 200 and went through the market under and an obscure parasol. His two guards Abu Zar’a al-Razi and Muhammad ibn Aslam al-Toosi accompanied by students, asked him to show his face and relate to them a Hadith from his fathers. He ordered his men to shack the parasol and the scholars shouted out O people listen. Then the guards noted the well-known Hadith of Salsatul-Thahab: “Lalillaha Illa-Allah is my fortress, whoever enters my fortress will be saved from my punishment.”
Also proving to us his scholarly status were his debates and discussions with scholars of other religions and Islamic speakers - confirming that he was an expert in jurisprudence and a master of knowledge in the Islamic world at the time, and that he was the leading authority in knowledge and in clarifying the ambiguities of concepts and rulings. For this reason, the Mamoon al- Abbassi gathered all the scholars to debate and have dialogue with him (a.s.). He (a.s.) outmatched them all with his arguments and superiority of knowledge making his personality sparkle.
Dispute books (Kutub al-Ihtijaj) have included a number of these dialogues, and we find them in the book of Ihtijaj by al-Tabarsi and Bihar al-Anwar by al-Majlissi and O’youn Akhbar al-Ridha. These dialogues have produced the following – as related by the writer of A’lam al-Hidaya:
1 - Challenge the heads of religions and doctrines and prove the scientific superiority of the School of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s).
2 - Open the door to the spread of the culture of the Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.) among the Islamic community.
3 - Guide Muslims to the path of Ahlul-Bayt’s (a.s.) message and peacefully call them to cling to their message like no other.
4 - Support the Islamic state because it provided humanity with the required knowledge of the Islamic civilization.
5 – One cannot rule out these great conquests as being one of the reasons hastening the elimination of the Imam (a.s.), because his superiority and brilliance result in negative consequences for the Mamoon personally and his existence would be a rival for him – holding great hopes of control of the Islamic world
The various fields of dialogue included Tawheed, Prophethood, Prophets, Imamas, Imams, Islamic doctrines, Caliphate, Sahaba and other issues of disagreement among Muslims.
In addition to the efforts made by the Imam in educating the students and followers around him, whose number of narrators and first-hand students of his knowledge reached three hundred and sixty-seven. This number is included in the total of four thousand (4000) who graduated in various fields from the school of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.).
In conclusion, the period of Imam al-Redha (a.s.) was one of the most enriching and fertile periods in which the nation benefited from the knowledge of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.). The opportunity of openness had been invested in informing the principles of religion, defending the curricula of the message and raising the morale and confidence of the nation in their religion and clarify their doubts because of ignorance or internal distortion, and protecting them from the influence of cultures and ideas contrary to Islam, which spread at that time.
Therefore, he (a.s.) sent a message to scholars and scientists of all generations that they should not be interested in positions and ranks for their own sake, but use them in order to spread religion and serve the Ummah.
Samahat al-Sayyid concluded by praying to Allah to allow the workers to spread the knowledge and awareness of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s) everywhere, especially in the western world.
((And say: "Work (righteousness): Soon will Allah observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers:……………….)) Holy Quran 9:105