Story 102: Grocer’s Words

When 'Ali Ibn Musa al-Reza ('a) was summoned to Khorassan by Ma'mun, and was made to accept by force and pressure, the position of the Crown Prince under constraint and with particular condition, Imam Reza's ('a) brother, Zaid ul-Nar, was also in Khorassan.

Zaid had the desire to be a Caliph and provoked a revolt in Madinah, which made Ma'mun angry and furious against him. But Ma'mun's political policy in those days required to preserve the dignity and honour of Imam Reza ('a), so he renounced to imprison or kill his brother.

Once while Imam Reza ('a) was delivering a lecture in a public assembly where a great deal of people were attending, Zaid had drawn the attention of certain number of people of the assembly towards himself by expressing beautifully and eloquently about the virtues of the descendants of the Holy Prophet (S) regarding their exceptional conditions and repeated continually: "We are from such a family..., we belong to so and so family...."

The Imam ('a) heard what Zaid had said. Suddenly, he made an acute look and angrily shouted "O Zaid!" which held the attention of his brother and the members of the assembly; "O Zaid! The grocer's sayings of Kufah deluded you into believing that you do not stop talking about them to the people. How can you utter such words? What you heard about the progeny of Fatimah ('a), that Allah has preserved them from the Fire of Hell, concerns the direct children of Fatimah ('a), that is, Hasan ('a), Husayn ('a) and their two sisters. If such is the case what you say that the descendants of Fatimah ('a) have an exceptional situation and are prosperous and will be saved, so then you are more respectful and dearer than your father, Musa Ibn Ja'far ('a) near Allah; because he ('a) obeyed Allah's commandments in this world, used to fast in the days and pray in the nights, while you are disobeying His Commands. Therefore, according to your sayings, you and your father ('a) are both alike and both of you are prosperous and will be saved. Then you have taken more advantage than him ('a) that is because Musa Ibn Ja'far (‘a) became fortunate by his action and you also treasure without toil and any action. 'Ali Ibn al-Husayn Zain ul-'Abidin ('a) said: "The benefactor among us, the Prophet's household, will be rewarded twice, and the male factor among us will be recompensed double chastisement just as the Holy Qur'an has stipulated about the Holy Prophet’s (S) wives. Because the one among our family who engages in good action in fact is engaged in two actions: He does one good action like the others on one hand and preserves the prestige and honour of the Holy Prophet (S) on the other hand. With regard to the one who commits a sin, he also commits two sins: on one side he commits a bad action like the others, and on the other side he disgraces the honour and prestige of the Holy Prophet (S).''

Immediately he (‘a) turned towards Hasan Ibn Musa Washa al-Baghdadi originated from Iraq, who was present in the assembly, and said: “How do the Iraqi people read this Qur'anic verse? Innahu Laysa min ahlik innahu 'amalun ghayr us-salihin”

إِنَّهُۥ لَيْسَ مِنْ أَهْلِكَ إِنَّهُۥ عَمَلٌ غَيْرُ صَـٰلِحٍ

Surely he is not of your family; surely he is (the doer of) other than good deeds (Surah Hud, 11:46).

He replied: "O descendant of the Holy Prophet! As usual some people recite it: “Innahu 'amalun ghayr us-salihin”1 Some others, not believing that Allah may subject the Holy Prophet's (S) son to His wrath and rage, recite the verse: “Innahu 'amalu ghayri as-salihin”2 They pretend that he, the son of Nuh, was not the real descendant of Nuh, and that Allah said to Nuh: "Nuh! He is not of your descendance; if he were, I would save him for your sake.""

The Imam ('a) said: "It is not so at all; he was the real son of Nuh and of Nuh's descendance. But, since he disobeyed Allah's Commands, his spiritual tie was broken off. Nuh was said: "This child of yours is not virtuous; therefore, he cannot be situated in the rank of the pious men." Now, it concerns to our family. The essence of affairs is the spiritual tie, excellence of action and the obedience of Allah's commandments. Whoever obeys Allah is ours, from the Holy Prophet's (S) family, even if he has no blood or physical tie with us, and whoever is a sinner is not of ours, even if he is the real offspring of Fatimah Zahra ('a). You who have no blood relationship with us, are of ours if you are benefactor and submitted to Allah's commands."3

  • 1. Means: "This son of yours, is an unbeliever."
  • 2. Means: "He is a son of a bad man, but not your son."
  • 3. Bihar ul-Anwar, vol 10, p. 65.