The Martyrdom of Imam Reza is observed every year on the 30th day in the Islamic month of Safar. This year, it will be observed from the evening September 15. It is a public holiday in Iran and it commemorates the martyrdom of Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha, who was a descendant of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad as well as the eighth Imam in Twelver Shia Islam. In 818, Imam Ali al-Ridha was murdered by the Abbasid caliph al-Ma’mun and was buried beside the grave of al-Ma’mun’s father.
History of Martyrdom of Imam Reza
After the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, the religion faced a long period of political and religious upheaval due to the split into Sunni and Shia branches. This schism led to power struggles with the Caliphate passing from one dynasty to another over the coming centuries.
The spiritual leader — called an ‘Imam’ — of the Shia was chosen from the descendants of Prophet Muhammad. In 799 Alī ibn Mūsā ar-Riḍā who was born on January 1, 766 became Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam, after his father Imam Musa al-Kadhim died.
Reza was Imam for nearly two decades during which time he had gained a reputation for being a respected, knowledgeable, and highly spiritual leader. Historian Al-Dhahabi praised him and said al-Ridha was the most clement and noblest of the Hashemites of his time.
The Abbasid Caliphate used to rule the Muslim world at the time and the Caliph Al-Ma’mun designated Imam Reza as the successor to the Caliphate to quell Shia revolts.
According to Shia historians, Al-Ma’mun was shocked and threatened on seeing that Imam Reza had become more popular than him. This is when the Caliph conspired to kill Imam Reza by poisoning him in June 818.
The Imam was buried at the Imam Reza shrine in the Iranian northeastern province of Khorasan Razavi — now called Mashhad, which means the place of martyrdom. The shrine is a complex containing the mausoleum of Imam Reza.
Every year on this day, millions of Iranians attend mourning processions to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Reza.
Mourners from different social classes and age groups gather at mosques and religious sites across Iran dressed in black. During these ceremonies, eulogies are given and sermons delivered in honor of the revered Shia Imam.
Martyrdom of Imam Reza timeline
The Twelvers believe that after the death of the Prophet, the leadership is ordained to pass down to his cousin and son-in-law.
On the eleventh of Dhu al-Qa'ida, 148 A.H. or January 1, 766 A.D, Ali al-Ridha is born in the house of Musa al-Kadhim in Medina.
Caliph al-Maʾmūn appoints Imam Reza as successor to the Caliphate to heal the divide between the Sunnis and the Shias.
Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun poisons and kills Imam Reza.
Martyrdom of Imam Reza FAQs
How big is the Imam Reza shrine?
The area of this grand complex is about 331 thousand square meters. It can hold around 100,000 people.
What does Imam Reza’s shrine include?
It includes the Imam’s tomb along with other tombs of revered religious figures of Islam, a mosque, a cemetery, a library and even a museum. The mausoleum is the most famous tourist attraction in Iran and has nearly 20 million visitors every year.
What does Al Rida mean?
Rida (Arabic: رضا, Riḍā) is an Arabic name, ‘riḍā’ literally means ‘approval’. In religious context, this term is interpreted as satisfaction or “perfect contentment with God’s will or decree”.
How to Observe Martyrdom of Imam Reza
Visit the shrine of Imam Reza
Visit the Imam Reza Holy Shrine in Mashhad, Iran to join millions of other mourners and followers. The shrine is one of the largest mosques in the world and contains the mausoleum of Imam Reza.
Travel around Iran
Travel around Iran during this period as Imam Reza, his work, legacy, and even his death have shaped Iran into the important country that it is today. Mashhad is a famous tourist area as well containing the tomb of poet Ferdowsi, the hub of leather production and it is also the home of the “Charm Mashhad” company.
Learn more about Persian culture
Do a deep dive into the history of the Shia branch of Islam and the many important historical events related to it. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about their culture, customs, and practices.
5 Facts About Shiites You May Not Know
They are a minority
Only around 10 to 15% of Muslims identify as Shiite, but they are a part of the second-largest branch of Islam.
They are concentrated in a few places
Most Shiites live in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain.
They have separate practices
Shiite practices revolve around the remembrance of Ali’s youngest son Hussein, who was martyred in Karbala by forces in 680 A.D.
They believe Ali is the successor
They believe ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib — Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law — should have been the designated successor to Muhammad as Islam's spiritual and political leader.
Their doctrine is based on five principles
The five principles are justice, prophethood, leadership, resurrection, and last judgment.
Why Martyrdom of Imam Reza is Important
It has a long history
The day highlights the murder of the revered Shia Imam in 818 A.D. Although it has been centuries since his martyrdom, his believers still come out in droves to pay their respects.
The Imam Reza Shrine is among the largest mosques
Imam Reza’s shrine is among the largest mosques in the world by area. It is a peaceful place with a tranquil ambiance that is also rich in art, carvings, and a beautiful museum.
It is a day to pay respects
It is a good day to reaffirm your faith and beliefs if you are a Shia Muslim and a follower of Imam Reza. If not, it is a great opportunity to acquaint yourself with the second-largest branch of the second-largest religion in the world.
Martyrdom of Imam Reza dates