Imam Ali ibne Musa Ar-Reza (A.S.), also known as Imam-e-Zamin (A.S.) which means “Surety”, is the eighth infallible descendant of holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (S.W.).
One day when Imam Reza (A.S.) was on his historical journey from Madina to Marw (Khurasan), while in a jungle the Holy Imam (A.S.) came across a hunter who was about to kill a deer. The deer was trying to get away and when she saw Holy Imam (A.S.), she said something to him. Holy Imam (A.S.) asked the hunter to free the deer so that she could go and feed her little baby-deer who were very hungry. Imam Reza (A.S.) also guaranteed the hunter that once the deer had fed her babies she would come back. The hunter allowed the deer to go because Holy Imam (A.S.) had told him to, but he did not think the deer will come back. But Imam Reza (A.S.) waited with the hunter until the deer returned with her young ones. The hunter was amazed on witnessing this miraculous event and he set the deer free as a mark of respect for Imam Reza (A.S.). After this historical event Imam Reza (A.S.) became famous as Imam Zamin (A.S.).
It is written in ‘Dhillul Mateen’ that Meer Mu’inuddin Ashraf who was one of the virtuous attendants of the shrine of Imam Ali-Ar-Reza (A.S.) says that, “Once I dreamed that I was in the shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.) and was coming out to perform ablution (Wuzu). When I came near the mound of Ameer Ali Sher, I saw a group of people entering the shrine. An eminent personality was leading them, and they all carried spades in their hands. As soon as they entered the shrine, the eminent personality pointed towards a particular grave and said, “Dig out the wretched fellow from his grave”. Hearing his command they started digging the grave. I asked one of those men as to who that man was. He replied that He was the Commander of the faithful Imam Ali (A.S.). Suddenly I saw that Imam Ali-Ar-Reza (A.S.) came out of His shrine and greeted Imam Ali (A.S.). Hazrat Ali (A.S.) answered His greeting. Imam Reza (A.S.) said, “O my Respected Grandfather! I request you, and have faith, that you will forgive this person on my behalf who lies buried here under the shelter of my shrine”. Amirul Mo’mineen (A.S.) answered, “O my dear son! Do you know that he was a mischief-creator, an adulterer, and a drunkard”? Imam (A.S.) replied, “I do know, but when his last moment neared he willed to be buried under the shelter of my shrine, so I request you to forgive him on my behalf.” Hazrat Ali (A.S.) forgave him and left. I awoke from my sleep in awe and woke up the other attendants and related to them my dream. We all went to the place which I had seen in my dream, and found a newly constructed grave, whose mud was scattered. After inquiry we learnt that a Turkish man who had died was buried there the day before”.
Haji Ali Baghdadi had the honor of meeting Imam Mahdi (A.S.) and ask him some questions. One of the questions put forward by him was that “Is it true that a person who goes for the pilgrimage (Ziyarah) to the shrine of Imam Hussain (A.S.) on Friday night receives salvation”? Imam (A.S.) replied, “Yes, by Allah”. Haji Ali Baghdadi says that I saw tears in the eyes of Imam (A.S.). Then I asked him another question, “In the year 1269 A.H. when we went for the pilgrimage (Ziyarah) to the shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.), we met a nomadic Arab who was a native of Najaf. We invited him for a meal and asked him his views regarding the reward of the love of Imam Reza (A.S.). He replied, “Paradise”, and said, “Since the past fifteen days I have been the ZAIR(pilgrim) of Imam Reza (A.S.), do Munkir & Nakeer’ have the nerve to come near me. The food which I consumed from the table of Imam Reza (A.S.) has turned into flesh and blood”. I asked Imam Mahdi (A.S.) whether his claim was true. Imam (A.S.) replied, “Yes it is true. Imam Reza (A.S.) himself will come and save him for the questioning in the grave. For verily by Allah! My Grandfather is a Zamin (Surety) Imam”. (Manazile Akherah by Shaykh Abbas bin Muhammad Reza Al-Qummi, pp. 62-64.)
Another perspective on the coin occurred when there was a ban on visiting
the grave of Imam Hussein, issued by Harun al-Rashid. However, this was
brought to an end by Imam Ali al-Ridha. Ma’moun implemented a condition
that for anyone wishing to go to Karbala to pay respects to Imam Hussein,
they would need to obtain Imam Ridha’s personal guarantee. The Imam
gave this guarantee to everyone, establishing his name as Imam Zamin,
the Imam of guaranteeing. Then, Ma’moun ordered the state mint to engrave
the name of Imam Ridha on the state coins. Now the name of the 8th Imam
had come in the coin so during journeys such coins were kept with the
person’s body as a powerful symbol against any sort of calamities.
So the Imam became a symbol of guaranteeing safe journey.
Thus, during the time period of Imam al-Ridha’s life marked the start
of the practice of “Imam Zamin”. It become customary for people
at this time to take the coin that had Imam al -Ridha’s name on it and
wrap it around their arms when traveling. It was believed that when a
person traveled with the Imam’s name, he would also be protected by the
Imam’s blessings on his journey. When a person arrived safely to their
destination they would take the coin and give it away as sadaqa, charity,
in the name of the Imam al-Ridha. The practice of Imam Zamin has this
name (zamin means safety) because it relates to Imam al-Ridha
who is a protector and guarantee of a safe journey.
The act of Imam Zamin is in essence a type of nithr. A nithr is a promise
to Allah that a person will perform some type of religious act if certain
hajaat, or needs they have, are met. In the case of Imam Zamin, Muslims
make a promise to Allah that if they arrive to their destination safely
with the blessing of the holy Imam, they would then give away the coin
they carried on their journey and give as charity. Nithr, however can
be performed in a multiple of ways. For example, some Muslims will make
a promise to Allah to fast a certain amount of days if they are healed
from a bad illness.
In an interview, a woman of Iranian decent in her mid thirties was asked
about nithr and how she performed them. She explained that. “If a
person is ill, or a person desires something, like a material possession,
this person asks God to grant their request. If God assents to the request
(in Farsi the request is called hajaat), this person will offer a nithr.”
This is a form of sadaqah, which means voluntary charity, not be confused
with zakaat, which is mandatory similar to tithe in Christianity. The
nithr can take many forms within Iranian culture; it can be monetary,
it can be in the form of food, or a service rendered. However the nithr
must be given to those in need, sick, or dispossessed and downtrodden.
Sunnis and Shias alike also view Imam Zamin as a form of voluntary charity
(sadaqah) where fortune is expected in return.