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Differences of Conduct of Both Brothers

The vast difference which separates the brothers unveils when we review the biography of each one of them and study its distinctions and attributes. Al-Mamoon was a practical man, strong in his administrative management skills, serious, wise regarding his conduct, far-sighted in his political or academic ambitions, loves knowledge and scholars, so much so that he was nicknamed "scholar of the Banu al-Abbas (the Abbasides)."

Al-Amin was the opposite of all of this in his general conduct. He inclined more towards merry-making and entertainment which is the natural outcome of his spoiled childhood and adolescence. To prove this point, we have to read this interesting incident which spells out the type of general conduct of al-Amin during the moments which preceded his assassination. Ibn al-Athir states the following in his Tarikh (chronicle): 

"Ibrahim ibn al-Mehdi narrated saying that he was with al-Amin when he fell under the political pressure of Tahir. He says that al-Amin came out during one night to cheer himself up and forget about his depression, so he went to a house he had had in the Khuld suburb, then he sent for Ibrahim. When Ibrahim was brought to him, he said, `Do you see how nice this evening is, how beautiful the moon appears in the sky and how its light is reflected on the water of the Tigris? Would you like to have a drink?' He answered that that was up to him, so he drank a rotl of wine, and Ibrahim entertained him with the songs he knew he liked best."83 

It is beyond imagination to conceive how a monarch undergoing a horrible political crisis which was about to uproot his throne could resort to such an extravagant behaviour so far from permitting him to contemplate upon the fate threatening him and jeopardizing his very existence. Some other such extravagant norms of behaviour narrated about al-Amin the caliph since he acceded the throne and till his last moments clearly indicate that he was not a man of government in the wide sense of the word, nor was he a leader.

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

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