Imam Reza’s Virtues and Character
Studying Imam Reza’s spiritual character and social behavior is very significant, because it would pave the way for a better understanding of His Holiness and for learning life lessons from him.
Prayer: Imam Reza (AS) considered prayer a gift from Allah, which is the most valuable thing in the spiritual life of every individual after recognition of God. He was very serious in performing obligatory and recommended prayers at due time.
Fasting: In addition to obligatory fasting, Imam Reza (AS) emphasized on recommended fasting; therefore, he never ever missed fasting on the beginning, middle and the final days of each month. In showing the importance of this fasting, he remarked, “The fasting of these three days is equal to the fasting of the whole year”.
Attention to Quran: Like the other Imams, Imam Reza (AS) in his speech and practice has reminded the magnificence of the Quran to his disciples; thus he always recited the Quran in the morning and at night. In underscoring the significance of reciting the Quran to his disciples, Imam Reza (AS) declared, “Appoint a share for the Quran in your house, because whenever the Quran is recited at home, the troubles would be resolved and welfare and blessing would descend to the members of the household. On the opposite, if the Quran is not recited in a house, the members would get into trouble and God’s favor would not reach that household”.
Manners of dressing: In public, His Holiness used to wear neat and appropriate clothes. In private, he used to wear coarse and inexpensive clothes.
Personal hygiene: Imam Reza (AS) specially paid attention to hygiene. He used to brush his teeth and by chewing frankincense he made his mouth good-smelling. After eating, he made his mouth fragrant by drinking water mixed with a plant called ushnan (the herb alkali used to wash hands after eating).
Vigor and mirth: Spiritual and physical vigor is one of the human needs that are ignored due to their cares and concerns. Imam Reza (AS) has an important advice about proper time management and optimal use of the moments of life: “Divide your time into four parts, dedicate a portion of your time to supplication and privacy with God, another portion to earning livelihood and providing for life expenses, the third part for spending your time in the company of your pious brothers and the last part to having appropriate entertainments and lawful and permissible pleasures.” Permissible laughing and joking are instances of the last part. On the importance of vigor and mirth, Imam Reza (AS) says, “Jesus Christ both cried and laughed, John the Baptist (Yahya) only cried and did not laugh, Christ’s manner was better.”
Tidiness: Tidiness and beauty are admirable qualities and are the behavior of the prophets. His Holiness points out that “Tidiness is the morality of prophets.” Therefore, tidiness and elegance have been emphasized in our Islamic teachings. Imam Reza (AS) remarks, “The Almighty God loves beauty and tidiness and hates poverty and pretending to be poor.”
Social behavior: “Imam Reza (AS) was very humble and very affectionate toward people. He socialized with them in a favorable way. Sheikh Ṣaduq quotes Ibrahim b. Abbas as saying: “I never saw Imam Reza (AS) speak harshly to others. Never did he interrupt the speaking of others. He never rejected the request of others if he was able to fulfill. He did not stretch his leg at the presence of others. He never leaned at the presence of others. I never saw him talking angrily to his servants. Never did he spit. I never saw him to burst into laughter. He always smiled.
Respect for parents: Imam Reza (AS) has considered benefaction and goodness to parents mandatory. He said: “Benefaction and goodness to parents is mandatory, even if they are polytheists.” His Holiness added, “In this world, obey your fathers and pray for them after their death. If someone is good to his father when he is alive but does not pray for him after his death, that man is considered disinherited. You must know that a mother’s right is the most essential thing. Because when she carried you in herself, no one carried you. Those hardships that she tolerated, no other one was interested in doing so. Even if you cannot pay tribute to her, you must be kind and soft to her as much as you can, and be grateful her.”
Respecting the family: According to Imam Reza (AS) “A person whose demeanor is better and is kinder to his family is a true believer, and I am the kindest to my family.” On the necessity of providing welfare for family, Imam Reza (AS) says, “It is obligatory to prepare welfare and convenience for your family if you have financial capability.”
Observing the rights of relatives: In addition to having great spiritual, mental and social effects, connection with relatives has situational effects. Reconstruction and prosperity of cities, excess of providence and long age are among these impacts. It is quoted from Imam Reza (AS), “Whoever likes to live a long life and excess of providence should connect with their relatives.”
Hospitality: Ahmad b. Abi Nasr Bazanti says, “The day that Imam Reza (AS) invited me to his house, he send a steed for me. I rode the horse and went to his presence. Since it was late, the Imam (AS) told me to stay there overnight. His Holiness told me, “Stay with us tonight and go back home tomorrow.” I stayed there. At the time of sleeping, Imam (AS) ordered to spread his special bed for me.” On the necessity of hospitality, Imam Reza (AS) said: “One of the rights of the guest is to accompany him to the door.”
Helping the needy: One of the fundamental features of our Imams is accompaniment with the deprived. Although Imam Reza (AS) had the status of crown prince position to the Ma’mun’s throne, he acted like his ancestors. With this behavior, he taught the Muslims the way of life and disapproved the aristocratic life of Ma’mun. His Holiness said concerning the necessity of behaving humanly to the poor, “Whoever confronts with a destitute person, and does not say greet him with the way he greets a wealthy person, he would make God angry toward himself.” His Holiness, on the necessity of assisting the poor, has considered helping them, the best charity.
Respecting the servants and their rights: In spite of the fact that Imam Reza (AS) had a high-ranking status in government, he behaved benevolently with the servants. Yasir Khadim quotes Imam Reza (AS), “If I come and you are eating, do not get up.” Accordingly, when Imam (AS) called a houseman and it was said to Imam (AS) he was eating, Imam expressed, “Let him eat his food.”
Imam’s attitude against the despots: Although Imam Reza (AS) was the successor to Ma’mun, without any forbearance and expediency, he always made Ma’mun aware of his faults and strongly objected to some of his acts.
Observing the rights of minorities: Yasir Khadim says, “A letter was received by Ma’mun from Neishabour with the subject that a Zoroastrian has willed to have his properties shared among the needy. The Judge of Neishabour has shared his property among the poor Muslims. Ma’mun wanted Imam’s opinion about this. His Holiness stated, “Zoroastrians never will for Muslims. Send a letter to the Judge of Neishabour and order him to take the same amount of his property from the Muslim public treasury and share it among the poor Zoroastrians.”
Getting benefit from nature and environment: Man’s responsibility toward nature is in such a way that not only he should consider it a sign from among the signs of God, but should not be wasteful in benefitting from it. One must be serious in making the nature prosperous. Imam Reza (AS) was very attentive to nature and the necessity of improving the environment’s condition. Therefore, in the journey to Merv, he sometimes dug a well and spring and dredged them, and with his blessed hand, planted almond seedlings.