“As for the brain, it is the greatest of all Allah's creatures; it dominates the whole body, controls all movements of it; and drives it to wherever it desires; and by it man is distinguished from the rest of animals. Allah has singled out the brain for man, and through it He has ennobled man over all His creatures.
“Surely, the brain is a world of wonders. No creature can match it in greatness, for it contains stores which never are full and it preserves whatever knowledge is deposited in it. If we want to mention the wonders of the brain, then we have to write a full book about them. Glory belongs to Him Who has originated and created the brain!”
The passages that we presented to you on the brilliant description of the brain are not by any philosopher, neither by any neurologist, nor by any religious scholar. These are the expressions of a person who was one of the repositories of divine knowledge, whom God Almighty collectively calls “Rasekhouna fi ilm” in the holy Qur’an. He was none other than Imam Reza (AS), the 8th Infallible Heir of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger, Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). He lived in a crucial era of history when the sciences of neighbouring cultures were pouring in unfiltered into the Islamic heartland, confusing scholars and laymen alike. As the divinely-designated leader of mankind, he felt it his duty to enlighten people’s minds. At every opportunity, he imparted to the people of his age the bezels of God-given wisdom. Those who properly used the power of the intellect benefitted from him, while the retarded brains failed to comprehend his words, and the ones who had allowed their minds to become the devil’s workshop in exchange for craftiness, turned hostile toward him and eventually martyred him. Today is the 30th of Safar on which this Immaculate Person was martyred in 203 AH by the cowardly Abbasid caliph, Mamoun, who had forced the Prophet’s Heir to leave his hometown Medina and come to distant Marv, the capital of the crafty Abbasid caliph whose lust for power had turned his mind into a devil’s workshop.
Earlier, Mamoun, after killing his eccentric brother Amin in Baghdad, had become the sole caliph of a realm spreading from North Africa to Central Asia. He, however, was apprehensive of his legitimacy to rule. He knew that as long as Imam Reza (PuH) was in Hijaz, the Muslim masses would never acknowledge his claim to be the political heir of the Prophet. Mamoun thus devised a devilish plot to force the Prophet’s righteous heir to come to his court and be declared heir- apparent despite the fact that the Imam was twenty years his senior. In this way, he thought of achieving two goals with one move – assume legitimacy in the eyes of the ordinary simple-minded people, and tarnish the image of the Imamate in the eyes of the followers of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt.
Imam Reza (PuH) neither refused the request of the Abbasid officials sent to escort him in honour to Khorasan, nor did he instruct his followers to organize resistance against the regime. He, however, left his hometown with a heavy heart and tearful eyes, especially while taking leave from the Prophet’s shrine and bidding farewell to his only surviving son, Imam Mohammad at-Taqi (PuH), who was around six-years old. As the person possessing divine authority, which no caliph could seize from him, the 8th Imam’s vision was piercing the future through the veils of the centuries that would follow. He clearly foresaw that the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt will be the real victor, ruling not just the hearts and minds of the people of the lands that lay on his route from Medina to Marv, but also beyond, in the farthest parts of the world, long after Mamoun and the Abbasids have vanished into oblivion. This is proven by the fact that today all roads in Iran lead to Mashhad. People have converged in millions on the sprawling holy shrine – some of them having trekked on foot for hundreds of kilometers through mountainous terrain amid snows and the freezing temperatures.
During his over two-year stay in Khorasan, the Prophet’s 8th Infallible Heir turned the challenge of the journey and his forced designation as the crafty caliph’s heir- apparent that would end in his martyrdom, into a golden opportunity. He sowed the seeds of the love for the Ahl al-Bayt in the hearts of the people of Iran and the adjoining lands At every halting place – in Arabia, in Iraq, and in Iran – he warmly greeted the masses that turned up to see him – whether with reverence for him or out of curiosity – and conveyed to them part of the genuine teachings of his ancestor, the Prophet. The famous “Hadith Silsalat-az-Zahab” or Narration of the Golden Chain of Authority, which the Imam recited to a huge gathering in Naishapur, need not be repeated. Here we will focus on a lively debate between the Imam and an atheist. The atheist asked the Imam: Let me know how Allah is and where is He? The Imam smiled and answered: “Surely the opinion you have adopted is mistaken. It is Allah Who determined the 'where' and He was, when there was nowhere. He fashioned the 'how' and He was when there was no 'how'. So He is not known through 'howness' or 'whereness' or through any form of sense perception. Allah, the Glorified, He is not perceived by the senses; nor is He gauged by anything.”
The atheist said: That means He is nothing if He cannot be perceived by any of the senses?
The Imam answered: "Woe unto you! Do you deny His Lordship when your senses fail to perceive Him? The perception of the senses is limited in quantity and quality. The senses also do not perceive many possible beings. For example, they do not perceive the reality of soul, then how do they perceive the Necessary Being, the Exalted, the Holy?”
The atheist said: Tell me, when He was?
The Imam said: "Tell me when He was not, and then I will tell you when He was."
The atheist said: Then what is the proof of Him?
Imam Reza (PuH) answered: “Surely when I contemplate upon my body and it is impossible for me to increase or decrease its breadth and height, or to keep unpleasant things away from it or draw benefits to it, then I know that this structure has a maker and I acknowledge Him. The rotation of the celestial sphere through His power, the producing of clouds; the turning about of the winds; the procession of the sun, the moon and the stars; and others of his wondrous and perfectly created signs, had already made me know that (all) this has a Determiner and Producer. Surely, every atom of this world is a proof of the existence of the Almighty Creator, Who has made them. If man carefully considers his own body and the wonderful systems and cells wherein, he will certainly believe in Allah, the Most High, just as it has been mentioned in the hadith: He who knows his own body knows his Lord. Allah, the Exalted, created man in the best manner. It is well known that this surprisingly accurate creation of man is evidence for the existence of Allah, for effect is proof of cause as logicians say. Glory belongs to Allah! Many signs are evidence for His existence.
The atheist was dumfounded at the Imam’s unraveling of realities, and asked: Then why does the sense of sight not perceive Him?
The Imam replied: "Because of the difference between Him and His creatures, who are perceived by the vision of the eyes, whether their own or others. Then He is greater than the sight to be perceived; neither imagination can encompass Him, nor could the power of reason delineate Him. The sense of sight and the rest of man's senses are limited, then how can they perceive, see, and encompass the Almighty Creator? Rather they perceive and comprehend some possible beings.
The flabbergasted atheist asked Imam Reza (PuH) to define the limits of God.
The Imam answered: "He has no limits. Limitation belongs to possible beings. As for the Necessary Being, it is impossible for Him to be limited, since every limited thing ends at a limit. If limitation is possible, then increase is possible. If increase is possible, then decrease is possible. So He is unlimited. He neither increases nor decreases. Nor is He capable of being divided or imagined.
The atheist asked: Tell me about your saying that He is Subtle, Hearing, Seeing, Knowing, and Wise. Can He be the Hearing without ears, the Seeing without eyes, the Subtle without working with the hands and the Wise without workmanship?
Imam Reza (PuH) replied: "Surely a person among us is subtle in accordance with (his) skill in workmanship. Have you not seen the man who undertakes a task and is subtle in his handling of it, so that it is said: How subtle is so and so! Then how should it not be said of the Majestic Creator that He is subtle, when He creates a subtle and majestic creation, places in its living creatures their souls, creates every kind different in form from its own kind, and none resembles another? Each possesses in the composition of its form a subtlety from the Subtle and Aware Creator. Then we look upon the trees and their bearing of delicate things, whether edible or inedible, and we say: 'Surely our Creator is Subtle, (but) not like the subtlety of His creatures in their workmanship.' And we also say: 'Surely He is Hearing, for the sounds of His creatures cannot be hidden from Him, anywhere in the land, the sea and the air. And for Him their words are not confused. In view of this, we say: 'Surely He is Hearing, but not through ears. Then we say: 'Surely He is Seeing, but not through eyes, for He sees the trace of a black speck on a dark night on a black stone. He sees the tracks of an ant on a pitch-black night. He sees what is harmful for it and what beneficial, and the result of its cohabitation, and its young and descendants.' And at that we say: 'Surely He is Seeing, but not like the sight of His creatures. "
The atheist, amazed at this expounding of truth, became a Muslim. But the cruel and crafty caliph became more and more scared of the spiritual and other powers of the Prophet’s direct descendant. He thus devised a plan to poison the Imam. He carried out this sordid deed in Tous, and being scared of a funeral procession at day time, Mamoun contrived to have the burial ceremony done in the dark of night. He ordered his men to dig a grave at the feet of his accursed father Harun Rasheed, but could not, since on all three sides hard rock was found and the only place possible for burial was the spot above Harun's grave. Thus, Imam Reza (PuH) was laid to rest at the same place which he had prophesied during his first visit to the garden of Sanabad. Hearing the sad news of the 8th Imam’s martyrdom, De'bel Khazaee, the celebrated poet wrote an elegy in praise and commemoration. The fact that his magnificent golden-domed shrine today is the rendezvous of the faithful from all over the world, saluting him with reverence as they enter its sprawling courtyards, is proof of the reality that it is only proper use of the great gift of the brain that guarantees salvation of the human race.