Historical Analysis of Its Attribution to al-Fadl
If we observe the Imam's conduct towards al-Fadl, his view about the Imam (A.S.), and his warning to al-Mamoon against giving him the reins of leadership of his government, we cannot help endorsing the view which says that the choice of regent was something al-Mamoon thought about and politically calculated. Al-Fadl was not ignorant of the status of the Imam (A.S.) and the power of his influence should he side with al-Mamoon, and he was not naive to the extent that he would jeopardize his powerful influence by getting involved in al-Mamoon's apparatus in a confrontation with a more powerful influence.
As regarding what others have stated that it was he who suggested to al-Mamoon to do so, this may be attributed to the fact that if any event happened to the ruling apparatus, its credit was often given to the person with the strongest influence in that apparatus, the one who was strong enough to face the public opinion bearing full responsibility for any action taken by the government. Abul-Fadl, according to public opinion of the time, enjoyed the widest influence and the strongest word with the caliph al-Mamoon, and when al-Mamoon was about to make a decision regarding the appointment of the Imam (A.S.) as his successor, people would think that al-Fadl must have been inspired the idea. It was held that he must have been the one who subjected al-Mamoon to his views in all his political measures, enforcing a complete control over them. For this reason, we see that when the letter of al-Hassan ibn Sahl reached Isa ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid, in which he was informing him that al-Mamoon was getting ready to nominate al-Rida (A.S.) as his successor and that he had already ordered him to remove the official black government uniforms and substitute them with green ones and ordered the army and its commanders as well as Banu Hashim to swear the oath of allegiance to him as such and to require all the residents of Baghdad to do likewise, some people said they would swear allegiance but would not wear green while others said that they would do neither and that they would not let the descendants of the Abbasides lose their grip over the government, adding that it was a "conspiracy" inspired by al-Fadl ibn Sahl.114
The accusation of the people of Baghdad of al-Fadl was inspired only because of his having the strongest influence over the government, and we think it is not too far to believe that the publicity of the rumour that the idea was suggested to al-Mamoon by al-Fadl was actually the doing of al-Fadl himself in order to safeguard his own status in public opinion since he did, indeed, have the strongest influence over the caliph's actions. When al-Mamoon asks one of his close friends about his own opinion regarding the comparison between what he did and what Abu Muslim had done, he brags about transferring the caliphate from one tribe to another just as Abu Muslim had done in order to boast to his listeners of having the ability to do with the caliphate whatever he pleased, and that the arrangement of the regency issue was done according to his own instructions rather than those of anyone else.
114 Tabari, Vol. 8, p. 555, under the heading "Events of the Year 201."
Adapted from: "Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research" by: "Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah"
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