Name: Ali bin Musa.
Popular names: Ar-Redha; Abul Hassan.
Father and mother: Imam Musa bin Ja’far and Umm ul Banin.
Date and place of birth: 11th Dhul Qadah, 148 A.H. in Medina.
Martyrdom and grave location: Poisoned by the order of Ma’mun. Martyred on 30th of Sa’far, 203 A.H. burial place in the holy city of Mashhad (Iran)
Life period divided in three periods:
1) 35 years before Imamate (148 – 183[A.H])
2) 17 years after Imamate
3) 3 years after Imamate in Khorasan, the most sensitive period of His political life.
Imam Ali ibn Musa Ar-Redha (a) and the Abbasid caliph al Ma’mun
When Imam Ar-Redha (a) was in Khorasan, Ma’mun, the contemporary caliph had appointed Mondays and Thursdays for meeting with people. Mohammad bin Sinan says: "Imam Ar-Redha(a) was present in one of those meeting. Ma’mun was sitting on the right side of the Imam. It was reported to Ma’mun that a pious man had committed an act of theft. Ma’mun ordered the man to be presented before him. They went and brought the man. Ma’mun threw a glance at his face; he noticed his forehead borne with a patch of scare dust normally a sign of one’s profuse prayer and prostration.
"Don’t you feel ashamed", Ma’mun said: "You are with such a pious-looking face, stealing?"
The man said: "I had nothing to do but to steal, because you are not giving me my right from the public treasury; poverty and destitution forced me to commit the theft ".
Ma’mun asked: "What is your right in the public treasury?"
The man replied: "Allah has mentioned six places where public treasury can be spent: “Know that, whatever booty you take, the fifth of it is Allah’s, and the Messenger’s, and the near kinsman’s, and the orphans, and for the needy, and the traveller, if you believe in Allah and that We sent down upon Our Servant on the day of salvation, the day the two hosts encountered”. [Quran: chapter 8, verse 41.] Therefore, why don’t you give me my right, despite that I am needy on my journey and helpless to return to my home? Yes, I know everything in the Holy Quran”.
Ma’mun replied: "Be ready for the punishment ordained by Islam for the act of the theft. We cannot take off Allah’s order because of your absurd words.
The man said: "Why don’t you implement Allah’s order of punishment on yourself? Purge your own self first, and then start implementing Allah’s orders on others."
Ma’mun looked at Imam Ar-Redha (a) on his left and said: "What is this man saying?"
Imam Ar-Redha(a) said: "He says that as you stole, he stole too."
Ma’mun got very angry. He turned to the man and said: "By Allah; I will cut your hand off for your act of stealing."
The man replied: "Do you want to cut off my hand in spite of your being my slave?!"
Ma’mun surprised said: "Woe to you! How have I become your slave?!"
The man stated: "Your father has bought your mother (Ma’mun’s mother was a slave girl) from the public treasury, so your mother belongs to the property of all western and eastern Muslims and you born from her is the slave of all the Muslims so long till they free you. But as for the share I have in the public treasury, I will not free you. Besides you have robbed all the people’s rights from the public treasury and you have not given the right of the Household of the Prophet (s) nor have you given my right and to many like me. On the other hand, what is unclean cannot be cleaned on its own. Rather it take a clean thing to clean a dirty one and one who himself has to be punished, cannot carry out punishment on others. He can’t cut off other people’s hands unless he cuts his own first. Haven’t you heard of Allah’s words which say: “Will you bid others to piety, and forget yourselves while you recite the Book? Do you not understand?” [Quran: chapter 2, verse 44.]
Ma’mun became helpless in front of the eloquent and unchallengeable words of the man. Once again, he turned his face towards Imam Ar-Redha (a) and enquired: "What is your opinion about this man?"
Imam Ar-Redha (a) answered: "Allah, the Almighty, said to Mohammad(s): Say, "With Allah is the far-reaching argument”. [Qur’an 2:149]
“There will be no excuse left for anybody. These are the reasons that even an ignorant can understand. The World and the Hereafter are based on wisdom and reason. This (pious) man has also brought reason for himself.”
At this time, Ma’mun issued an order to free the man. He turned his back to the people and started alone to speak to Imam Ar-Radha (a).
Ma’mun would pretend to revere the Imam and his advice but in reality hated his superiority and knowledge. Finally he executed his plan to kill the Imam.
This was an example of how in the court of the tyrant Imam’s stand for righteousness knew no fear. It is precisely this stand and confrontation against tyranny which explains the reasons of his martyrdom.