The dignity and sanctity of Kaabah is perfectly well known by every Muslim since many verses and narrations have elegantly described this sacred place and the Land of Revelation (Mecca); furthermore, the tombs and the shrines of the Holy Household of prophet (P.B.U.T.) are also of special prominence and ever welcome thousands of devoted and enthusiastic pilgrims and act as laudable sanctuaries for people and pilgrims; hence, both of these divine and heavenly shrines have been specially important.
Pilgrimage of the Infallible Holy Imams (P.B.U.T.) has great virtues and spiritual rewards and these rewards are not specific to going on pilgrimage of a special Imam. These pilgrimages are indeed signs of our devotion to them and lead to the increase of their remembrance and reminiscence in the society, which is of high value. Studies and Doubts Removal Center of Qom Seminary, with respect to the narrations concerning the rewards of going on pilgrimage of Imam Reza (A.S.) says:
"In some narrations, the spiritual rewards for performing the pilgrimage of Samen-Al-Hojaj (A.S.) have been considered equal to those of a thousand Hajj pilgrimages; we mention two such rewards here:
1- "Imam Kazim (A.S.) said, "Whoever will perform the pilgrimage of my son Ali, will get the rewards of seventy Hajj Pilgrimages from Allah!" I inquired, "The rewards of seventy Hajj Pilgrimages?!" He said, “Yes; rather, the rewards of seven hundred Hajj." I further inquired, "Seven hundred Hajj Pilgrimages!?" He said, "Yes; rather, the rewards of seventy thousand Hajj Pilgrimages" I asked, "Seventy thousand Hajj Pilgrimages?!" He said, "Yes, there are Hajj Pilgrimages that are not accepted by Allah but the Hajj mentioned by me is one which is surely accepted…"" says the narrator. (1)
Due to the anonymity of its narrators, what has been provided in the valuable book of Al-Kafi and consequently in most other books is not hard evidence. In the books by the late Sheikh Saduq, such as "Amali" and “Oyun”, another piece of evidence has been offered which is also not authoritative owing to the last narrator which is anonymous.
2-Abi Nasr Bezanti narrated, "I read the letter of Imam Reza (A.S.) by his hand writing which read ‘Tell my Shiite followers that my pilgrimage is equal to a thousand Hajj, all of them accepted to Allah". When I visited Imam Javad (A.S.), I inquired, "A thousand Hajj?!" He said, "Yes, By Allah that is correct; and a million Hajj Pilgrimages to those who have known him well (i.e., his high status)". (2)
The evidence of this narration has been fully presented in Kamil Al-Ziyarat and is authentic.
Further implications of the narrations
Performing pilgrimage of Imam Reza (A.S.) is equal to seventy thousand Hajj Pilgrimages and even, at times, a million; one of the ways to discover the grandeur and truth behind this meaning is paying attention to the meaning of Hajj and the remembrances that emerge in the Hajj rituals:
Hajj is a depiction of the humans' movement toward God; it is indeed the spiritual progress in the path toward God; a deep journey throughout which humans seem to be traveling in the Hereafter from the very beginning, as in the journey of death. In the teachings that are provided regarding Hajj, in books such as "Mi'raj al-Sa'dah", the Pilgrims of Baitullah al-Haram are recommended as such: "When leaving your houses to visit God's House, move as though you were going toward the Hereafter! When in Miqat, you put on Ihram- the pilgrim's garment- feel as if you had been stripped of all garments and were wearing the shroud".
Exploration and contemplation of the mysteries of Hajj is the key to unravel the secrets of the Infallible Imams (A.S.) and the pilgrimage of Imam Reza (A.S.) which, in the narrations, has been sometimes considered equal to thousands of Hajj Pilgrimages. If humans try to explore what the mystery behind "Miqat", "Ihram", "Talbiyah", "Tawaf", "Saey", "Taqsir", "Rameiy" and "Wuquf in Arafat" is, when they leave their houses so as to go on the pilgrimage of Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Reza (A.S.), they will be gradually led to the pilgrimage recommended by the Infallible Imams (A.S.) and will be blessed with the pilgrimage of the shrine of the Immaculate Holy Imam (A.S.) by "knowing him fully".
Pilgrimage of the Immaculate Holy Imam (A.S.) is a thoroughly spiritual journey and has the capacity to fully nurture humans step by step. Nevertheless, this does not mean that any person who goes on pilgrimage will necessarily reach such a high-standing position! Rather, it is noteworthy to mention that performing the pilgrimage of the gracious Infallible Imam (A.S.) has such a great capacity, so much so that he who visits the shrine of the Infallible Imam (A.S.), according to specific conditions cited for the pilgrimage acts, will be granted by God a growth equal to that of one Hajj, for every single step he takes.
Although our ultimate journey is toward God, on this journey, we must pass through the abode of Imam Reza (A.S.); as the Immaculate Holy Imam (A.S.) is the gate to God, he who intends to abide in the house of Towhid (Oneness of God), ought to traverse the path of the Infallible Imam (A.S.); otherwise, through no other gates could one reach the high-standing position of Towhid. If the perception of the levels of Towhid is possible for humans, this possibility can be achieved only through this gate and no other gates; the other paths are dead-ends, leading humans nowhere, and at times, to dangerous abysses.
Some further points
1-It should be noted that Imam’s pilgrimage and Hajj each has its own specific status since in several verses of the Holy Qur'an, God has referred to Kaabah and the Manasik of Hajj (the prescribed duties of Hajj) and its historical-political and social position, and has revealed Surat Al-Ĥaj (The Pilgrimage Chapter) to posit its importance; and for instance, in Surat 'Āli `Imrān (Family of Imran), He has said, "Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Mecca - blessed and a guidance for the worlds" (Surat 'Āli `Imrān (Family of Imran), Verse 96)
And with respect to the status of Kabaah, it has been stated in Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow): "And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security. And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place for prayer. And We ordered Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], "Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer]." (Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Verse 125).
2-And also it should be taken into account that even though we fully express the graces and benefits of going on pilgrimage of Imam Reza (A.S.), it is still considered a recommended act; however, as stated by the Foqaha (qualified Islamic scholars), it is obligatory for an able person to perform the Hajj acts once in his/her life; and no recommended act can replace an obligatory one.
3-Another possible reading that is proposed here is that the narrations introduced with respect to going on pilgrimage of Imam Reza (A.S.) have an encouraging aspect since in those days, performing pilgrimage of the gracious Imam, compared with the pilgrimage of the other Infallible Imams (A.S.), was highly challenging due to the far distance it required; and furthermore, since pilgrimage of Imam Reza (A.S.) is an evidence of the pilgrim’s being one a Twelve Imams Shia; thus, in order to encourage people to perform this pilgrimage, such narrations have been set forth. And it does not mean that going on pilgrimage of Imam Reza (A.S.) does not lead to such spiritual rewards; rather, the gracious Imam is, at all times, an intermediary between the Creator and His creation; be his pilgrimage challenging or not.
Ali ibn Mahzyar says, "I inquired Imam al-Hadi (A.S.), "What are the rewards of he who visits the tomb of Imam Reza (A.S.)?" Imam said, "By Allah, it is heaven".