Ma’mun set various trials for Imam Reza (PBUH), so that he would overpower the Imam (PBUH) by defeating him in those trials. One of the most important among those trials was technical debates with scholars of other religions. Ma’mun ordered his minister, Fadl ibn Sahl, to gather prominent scholars, among whom were religious scholars such as Jathaliq (the great Christian Cardinal), Ra’s al-Jalut (the great Jewish Rabbi), Herbez (great Zoroastrian scholar), the Roman Nastas, some other scientists, etc. Then he ordered Yasir the servant to call upon the Imam (PBUH) for the debate.

The next day, Ma’mun prepared the stage and confronted Imam Reza (PBUH) with the scholars, and ordered everyone of them to have a debate with the Imam (PBUH). So he turned to Jathaliq and said,” O Jathaliq! This is my cousin, Ali ibn Musa ibn Ja’far, a grandson of Lady Fatimah, daughter of our Prophet, and Ali ibn Abi Talib. I would like you to have a debate with him on theological beliefs, and I want you to be fair in your debate”.

Jathaliq asked Ma’mun with arrogance,” How can I have a debate with a person who would refer to a book which I deny, or a Prophet in whom I do not believe?…”

Then Jatahliq turned to Imam Reza (PBUH) and asked,” How many were the disciples of Jesus son of Mary? How many were the scholars of the Gospel?”

Imam Reza (PBUH) replied,” You asked the right person! The disciples were 12 people(1), the most knowledgeable of whom was “Luke”. The Christian scholars were three: John the Great, John in “Qirqisia”, and John Daylami in “Zakhar”, who (is the one who) introduced the Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP) and his family. He is the one who gave glad tidings of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP) to the nation of Jesus and the sons of Israel (2).

The Imam (PBUH) added,” I swear to God that we believe in the Jesus who believed Muhammad (PBUH&HP). We have nothing against Jesus but his weakness and the paucity of his fasting and prayers”.

When Jathaliq heard the last words of the Imam (PBUH), he screamed,” By God you corrupted your knowledge, and your argument has become weak. We thought you were the most knowledgeable one among Muslims!”

Imam (PBUH) calmly replied to him by saying,” Why?”

Jathaliq said,” Because you said that “Jesus used to have little fasting and prayer”, while he never broke his fast during the day and never slept at nights. He constantly fasted during the days and prayed at nights” (3).

At this moment, Imam Reza (PBUH) referred to the belief of the Christians that “Jesus was a God other than the Lord and was served” by saying,” For who did he fast and pray?”

Jathaliq did not respond, because he did not know what to say…

So Imam Reza (PBUH) turned to him and said,” (Now) I want to ask you a question”.

Jathaliq said,” Go ahead. I will respond if I know the answer”.

Imam Reza (PBUH) asked,” Do you deny that Jesus used to revive the dead with the permission of God?”

Jathaliq replied,” I used to deny this; because whoever brings the dead to life, cures the blind, and heals leprous (4) is a God worthy of being worshipped”.

Imam Reza (PBUH) rejected his claim by saying,” Indeed Elisha did exactly what Jesus (PBUH) did. He used to walk on water, revive the dead, and heal the blind and the leprous. So why do his nation not adopt him as a Lord and worship him? Ezekiel also brought thirty five thousand dead men back to life sixty years after their death.”

Then the eight Imam (PBUH) turned to the Jew Rabbi and said,” O Ra’s al-Jalut! Have you found (the story of) those young men of children of Israel in the Torah? When Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem, he enslaved them and exiled them to Babylon. Then Allah (SWT) sent Ezekiel to them who brought them back to life. These statements are in the Torah (6) (7), and no one can deny them but a disbeliever”.

Ra’s al-Jalut acknowledged the knowledge of the Imam (PBUH) about the Torah and said,” We have heard that and know it”. 

Imam Reza (PBUH) said,” You are right”.

Then, the Imam (PBUH) turned to a Jewish person there and asked him to recited some verses of the Torah which referred to several Prophets. The Jewish man recited those verses for the audience.

Then, Imam Reza (PBUH) turned to Jathaliq and said,” Were these Prophets before Jesus or was Jesus before them?”

Jathaliq replied,” They were all before Jesus”.

Imam Reza (PBUH) then said,”…We do not reject the love of any of the Prophets. If you accept Jesus as a Lord, then you can accept Elisha and Ezekiel as two Lords too; because they did the exact same things as Jesus did, such as reviving the dead…

You cannot deny the facts I have told you, for the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms of David, and the Holy Quran have mentioned them. If anyone who revives the dead or heals the blind, the leprous, and the mad is a Lord, then you have to consider those Prophets as Lords too. Now what do you day O Christian?”

In fact, Imam Reza (PBUH) criticized the Christians for adopting a Lord other than Allah (SWT); because if Jesus used to revive the dead and heal the blind and the leprous, such miracles were performed by other Prophets as well according to the Bible; however, those Prophets were never adopted as Lords.

When Jathaliq heard these precious words from Imam Reza (PBUH), he addressed the Imam (PBUH) and said,” I agree with you, and I testify that there is no God but Allah”.

(The above is a section taken from “A Detailed Research on the Life of Imam Reza (PBUH)”, by late Hujjat al-Islam Shaykh Baqir Sharif Qurashi)

The Roshd Website congratulates all Muslims, especially you dear friend, upon 11th of Dhul Qa’dah, the birthday anniversary of the Imam of kindness and the leader of knowledge, the eighth Imam of the Shiites, Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Reza (PBUH).

Footnotes:

1. “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him”. (The Bible, Matthew 10: 2-4)

2. Refer to the Bible, John 14: 16-17; John 15: 26; John 16: 7-14.

3. Refer to the Bible, Matthew 4:2; Luke 11:1; Mark 1:35.

4. Examples of these miracles of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) are mentioned in the Bible; such as curing the ill (Matthew 4: 23-24), reviving the dead (Luke 7: 11-16), and healing the blind (Mark 10: 46-52).

5. For examples of the miracles of Elisha, refer to the Old Testament, Book of Kings II 2: 12-14; 2:19-22; 5: 26-27; 6: 1-7; 6: 20-23. Also, in the book of Kings II 4:32-37, the event of revival of a dead person by Elisha is described as “When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord…; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes”.

6. “The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude”. (The Bible, book of Ezekiel 37: 1-10)

7. Although the current version of the Bible describes this event as an ecstatic vision rather than a historical occurrence, some interpreters have considered it as an actual event that took place. They speculated as to the fate of these men, both before and after their revitalization by Ezekiel. Some say that they were godless people, who in their lifetime had denied the resurrection, and committed other sins; others think that they were a group of youth exiled to Babylon and execute there by Nebuchadnezzar. This miracle of Ezekiel is said to have been performed on the day of Yum Kippur in a valley called Dura. For further information, refer to Judah Hadasi’s “Eshkol ha-Kofer”, and “The Legend of Jews” by Rabbi Louis Ginzberg, vol. 4, p. 152; vol. 3, p. 512.