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Forcing Imam ar-Ridha (a.s.) to Accept the Regency

Having failed to convince the Imam that he, al-Mamoon, would abdicate the throne for him, al-Mamoon requested him to accept to be the regent and to name him the succeeding caliph after him, but the Imam again insisted on refusing, so much so that al-Mamoon had to seek the assistance of some of his best aides despite the fact that they themselves were not convinced that it was such a good idea, thinking that al-Mamoon was serious. Al-Irshad states:

"A group of historians and court biographers who were contemporary to the caliphs say that when al-Mamoon wanted to name Ali ibn Mousa (A.S.) as his successor, and having thought seriously about the matter, he ordered al-Fadl ibn Sahl97 to come to him and he informed him of his intention, ordering him to seek the assistance of his brother al-Hassan ibn Sahl in this regard, and he did just that. So they met with him, and al-Hassan kept pointing out the magnanimity of the consequences of his idea, acquainting him with the outcomes resulting out of taking his family out of it and affecting his own life. Al-Mamoon, thereupon, said to him: `I pledged to God that if I lay my hand on the person who deposed me, I would hand the caliphate over to the best person among the progeny of Abu Talib, and I do not know anyone better than this man on the face of earth.' So, when both al-Fadl and al-Hassan saw his determination to carry out this matter, they stopped opposing him and he sent them to al-Rida (A.S.). They offered him caliphate, but he refused, and they continued pressing him till he finally agreed, so they went back to al-Mamoon and told him about his approval whereupon he was very pleased."98

Abul-Faraj al-Asbahani stated something similar to the above with this variation: "He dispatched them to Ali ibn Mousa al-Rida (A.S.) and they offered it to him, and they continued pressing him while he was refusing till one of them said to him, `If you agree, let it be so, but if you do not, we shall surely harm you,' and he threatened to kill him. Then one of them said, `By God he ordered me to strike your neck with my sword if you go against his wish.'"99


97 It appears that al-Hassan ibn Sahl was al-Mamoon's ruler over Iraq at that time, and we cannot explain why the name of al-Hassan is mentioned in this story except in the case al-Mamoon had called him to meet with him to consult him regarding the issue of selecting Imam al-Rida (A.S.) as the regent as presumes Sayyid al-Amin in his work A'yaan al-Shi'a, But al-Fadl's letter to his brother al-Hassan regarding regency, as Ibn al-Athir and Tabari and other historians indicate, negates all that, and the addition may have been the action of the narrator who was ignorant of all of that which constitutes a major problem inflicting narratives.

98 Al-Irshad, p. 291

99 Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, p. 375

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

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