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Al-Mamoon and the Astronomer Nawbakhti

What proves the fact that al-Mamoon was not serious in his offer to the Imam to be the regent is a narration stating that al-Fadl al-Nawbakhti, who was an astronomer thought to be Shi'a, wanted to test al-Mamoon's intentions, so he wrote him saying: "The order of the stars indicates that naming al-Rida (A.S.) as the regent at this time cannot be done; otherwise, the person named will suffer a catastrophe. Therefore, if al-Mamoon's intentions agree with what he proclaims in public, he ought to postpone this matter till a more conducive time." To this, al-Mamoon answered him warning him against discouraging Dhul-Riyasatayn from contracting that agreement at that time, and that if he did not, he would know that the postponement was instigated by al-Nawbakhti. He also ordered him to return his own letter back to him so that nobody else would come to find out about it. He then came to know that al-Fadl was aware of the fact that time was not ripe for contracting the regency because he himself had knowledge of the science of the stars; therefore, al-Nawbakhti feared that the change of mind of al-Fadl ibn Sahl was because of him personally, and he would thus be killed by al-Mamoon, so he rode to him and convinced him through his own knowledge of astronomy that time was indeed ripe for it, contrary to the reality, because he was more knowledgeable than him about astrology, and he kept confusing him till he finally convinced him.95

This leads us to conclude that the offer of regency to the Imam was nothing more than a trap al-Mamoon had set for him to achieve some political gains that would save his government a great deal of trouble, and he certainly was not sincere in his conduct towards the Imam; rather, that was only a transient stage he had to go through with precision in order to achieve his anticipated objectives.

Notes:

95 Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, P. 148

Adapted from: "Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research" by: "Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah"

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