Here is the English abstract of Othman Yusefi (Imam of Friday Prayer in Rabat, Iran) presentation at the 3nd pre-con meeting of the conference “Imam Reza (PBUH) and Interreligious Dialogue" which was held in Urmia University, Iran on October 28, 2023.
The Position of Imam Reza from the Sunni Point of View and Its Influence on the Unity of Islamic Denominations
In the minds of many, this presupposition prevails that the status and character of the Infallible Imams, especially Imam Reza, are considered significant only for Shia Muslims. However, when confronted with the scholarly and literary works of great Sunni scholars and their lives, this presumption gradually dissolves. Some historically prominent Sunni icons like Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, al-Dhahabi, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, and Ibn Abi l-Hadid al-Mu’tazili have mentioned the scientific, ethical, kinship virtues and superiority of Imam Reza. Furthermore, great hadith scholars such as al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud al-Sijistani, and Ibn Majah, who are counted among the authors of the six authentic collections, have narrated hadiths from Imam Reza on topics such as faith and Zakat, indicating the credibility of the hadiths transmitted from him among Sunni Muslims. Yet, it is not only scholars and hadith narrators of the Sunni community who hold respect for Imam Reza. Figures from the realms of poetry and literature, such as Abu Nuwas, a prominent poet of the second century AH, or Khayr al-Din al-Zirikli in the modern era, have each expressed their admiration through their poems. Moreover, in the practical lives of the Sunni community, this expression of respect is well observed both during their lifetimes and after. The pinnacle of this occurred with the warm reception of the Sunni scholars and ordinary people upon the historic entry of Imam Reza into Nishapur. Even after his martyrdom, these expressions of respect continued explicitly among Sunni scholars from the third and fourth centuries AH to the present day, making his holy shrine a place of pilgrimage and supplication for Sunni Muslims. These facts, some of which date back to eight hundred years before the emergence of the Wahhabi sect, bear witness to the invalidity of the deviant belief that Tawassul, intercession, and visiting holy shrines of Imams are forbidden. All that has been mentioned indicates that the character of Imam Reza can be perceived as a connecting link among Islamic denominations, playing a special role in their unity.
Translator: Mahdi Qasemi