Analyzing Imam's Negative Stance Towards Such Responsibility
We have no choice here except to clear some of the ambiguity which encompasses this negative stance of the Imam (A.S.) towards the government, for why should he refuse to cooperate with al-Mamoon in carrying out the state affairs?
Before doing anything, we have to evaluate the Imam's viewpoint towards the government and its "legitimacy" under the leadership of al-Mamoon and the counsels of al-Fadl ibn Sahl and his views regarding its leaders and heads.
Of course, his viewpoint was not positive due to his belief that a government was not legitimate as long as it remained distant from his own leadership in his status as the pristine Imam (A.S.) named so by the Messenger (S.A.W.) himself according to a series of instructions conveyed by one Imam (A.S.) to the next. For this reason, we see how his companions unanimously disagreed that he should accept the post of regent which carried an implied recognition of the then caliphate. We can see the only justification they accepted was that the Imam (A.S.) was forced to accept it, and that that post which was forced on him would not change his stance towards the government one iota, for he did not enter into it except like that who entered to exit117 and that what caused him to agree was the same that caused his grandfather the Commander of the Faithful (A.S.) to agree to be part of the shura committee.118
Had Imam al-Rida (A.S.) wished to share the burdens of government with al-Mamoon, it would have been regarded as his recognition of the legitimacy of the makeup of that government, and an endorsement of all its actions undertaken by its higher authorities, but he preferred to assume the role of an advisor who kept his stances in order to safeguard the interests of Islam the safeguarding of which was his own very mission in life. But the Imam (A.S.) did not want to grant al-Mamoon the status of a custodian over his behaviour and actions, nor would he be the executor of his will and the person to fulfill his every ambition, for he did not have the ambition to achieve a stronger ruling status, or the one who controls the government apparatus, so that he would provide al-Mamoon similarly to what al-Fadl ibn Sahl and others provided. Those individuals used to press to win his favour, flatter him, and carry out his desires whatever they might be so that they would be the first to win a stronger position in the government vehicle.
Let us suppose that the Imam (A.S.) had accepted the principle of taking part in managing the state affairs. That would mean his exposure to an overwhelming and fierce opposition by others who consider Imam al-Rida (A.S.) as an element differing from their systems in conduct, program, framework and context, and he might push them away from the cycle of government especially since he could not accept all their actions most of which may go beyond the limits legislated for them. Or such a confrontation may expose the Imam's stance to dangerous repercussions which may historically affect his being and personality even if through cheap means and methods they plot behind the scenes to accuse him in order to incite the wrath of the government against him and also distort the sacred halo with which others surround him.
Do these persons lack special means to cast a shadow of doubt on the movements of the Imam (A.S.) and misinterpret his behaviour to the caliph al-Mamoon? Take the case of that person who raised al-Mamoon to the throne after turning the tables upside down on the government in Baghdad, removed al-Amin from his throne through whatever political and military means he had, was he then not capable of plotting to eliminate the Imam (A.S.), or hurt his reputation, in order to secure for himself to remain in the center of power?! In fact, despite the generous amount of intelligence al-Mamoon enjoyed by forcing the Imam (A.S.) to accept regency, the Imam (A.S.) was likewise aware of his situation, keen to the consequences when he practically distanced himself from the areas of responsibility.
117 Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, p. 139
118 Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 140
Adapted from: "Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research" by: "Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah"
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