According to Islamic thought, value is based on deeds. This is the person who builds up his/her own character. Every person is judged, gains superiority, and reaches salvation based on his/her deeds and actions. No one can rely on his/her family ties (even someone related to a Prophet or Imams), social level ethnicity, etc and give up work and effort. Similarly, it is against Islamic thought that one expects a good destiny for himself/herself and considers himself/herself superior to others in this world by relying on the mentioned factors. Islam has taught that the only way towards spiritual progress for a person is through his/her deeds and efforts.
In their teachings, our religious Leaders have always introduced people to this principle; they have even taught their own family members not to rely on family nobleness to assume that they do not have to perform good deeds and not to create myths concerning religious leaders and their families.
Imam Ali bin Musa al-Reza (PBUH) was no exception to this rule. He would judge people based on their piety and good deeds. He never discriminated between white and black, rich and poor, and people from different tribes and races. He recognized piety, belief in Allah (SWT), and good deeds as the criteria for superiority.
Once a man told Imam Reza (PBUH), ”I swear to God that there is no one superior to you in terms of ancestry and lineage.”
Imam (PBUH) replied, ”Piety made them (my ancestors) superior, and obedience to Allah (SWT) made them reach such a high status (1).”
Another time a man told the Imam, “I swear to God that you are the best of the people.”
Imam Reza (PBUH) replied, ”Do not swear! Better than me is the person who is more obedient to Allah (SWT) and more abstinent from His disobedience. By Allah (SWT) this verse has not been voided: ”…and (we have) made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty) (pious)… (2)(3)”.
The example of Imam Reza’s (PBUH) brother is one in which one can see clearly why family ties do not give one an automatic spiritual superiority over others. His brother “Zayd”, due to his greed for position, did not accept Imam Reza’s (PBUH) Imamate and called people to himself.
One day Zayd was brought to Imam Reza (PBUH). Imam Reza (PBUH) said to him, ”O Zayd! It seems that the ignoble people of Kufa have deceived you by saying that Allah (SWT) has saved the children of Fatimah (PBUH) from the fire of Hell because He has purified her womb. What you have heard is only true for Hassan and Hussain (PBUT)… If you believe that you and Musa bin Ja’far (PBUH), who obeyed Allah (SWT), will both enter paradise, you have to be more honorable than him in the eyes of Allah (SWT). By Allah (SWT), no one would reach the Divine awards except by obedience to Allah (SWT); however, you assume that you can gain reward by disobeying Allah (SWT)”.
Zayd said,” I am your brother and the son of your father.”
Imam Reza (PBUH) replied, ”You are my brother as long as you obey the commandments of Allah (SWT). Remember when Noah (PBUH) said (to his Lord), ‘My Lord! Surely my son is of my family, and your promise is surely true, and you are the most just of the judges (4)’, but Allah (SWT) replied, ‘O Noah! He is not of your family, his conduct is unrighteous… (5)’ Therefore, disobedience to Allah (SWT) excluded him from the family of Noah (PBUH) (6).”
In this Hadith we see that Imam Reza (PBUH) considers obedience to Allah (SWT), good deeds, and piety as the criteria for his and the other Imams’ superiority. Furthermore the Imam informs us that the award or punishment from Allah (SWT) is solely based one one’s deeds and actions.
In our day and age how do we judge people, and what do we consider as the criteria for superiority? Wealth? Beauty? Power? Fame? Or do we even have a criterion at all when we judge someone’s superiority?
And most important of all, what do we consider as our virtues? What kind of behavior do we choose for ourselves? What are our criteria in life?
The Roshd website congratulates all the Muslims, especially you dear friend, upon the 11th of Dhi al-Qa’dah, the birthday anniversary of the helper of the weak and the friend of the poor, Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Reza (PBUH).
1. Uyun Akhbar al-Reza, vol. 2, p. 236
2. The Holy Quran, (49:13)
3. Uyun Akhbar al-Reza, vol. 2, p. 236
4. The Holy Quran, (11:45)
5. The Holy Quran, (11:46)
6. Uyun Akhbar al-Reza, vol. 2, p. 234