Imam ar-Ridha's (a.s) Motives for Causing the Elimination of al-Fadl
The reason which caused the Imam (A.S.) to involve himself in the horribly violent struggle which was raging between al-Fadl and the army commanders was the desire to safeguard the strength of the then Islamic entity and to distance it from the elements of disintegration and collapse which might cause its outside enemy to consider assaulting it and might push him to conduct hot adventures whose dear price would be paid by the Muslims.
Through his far sight, the Imam (A.S.) saw that al-Fadl's unloyal policy would certainly cause something like that in addition to what was being committed of iniquities, oppression and transgression from whose perils the Muslims were suffering, while the Imam (A.S.) viewed himself as being responsible to do something in the face of such an irresponsible behaviour. There was no method whereby the Imam (A.S.) could have limited such conduct except by acquainting al-Mamoon with the situation as it actually was and to uncover for him al-Fadl's cheating card.
The Imam (A.S.) had made that clear for us in a discussion he made with al-Mamoon in which he said, "O commander of the faithful! Fear God in your treatment of Muhammad's nation. God did not grant you such government and preferred you over others for it so that you might ignore the rights of the Muslims and hand such a responsibility over to someone else who would rule them contrary to what God has ordained..."132
The Imam (A.S.) was not concerned about a status or a post as much as he was concerned about maintaining the unity of the Muslims, about their strength and their collective power before the enemy which watched them within or without their ranks, as much as he was concerned about promoting social justice among the circles of the Muslims and lifting the nightmare of oppression from them. For these reasons, we find him suggesting to al-Mamoon that it was necessary to contain and put an end to dissensions, and that that would be possible only by dealing with their causes among which his own regency which was not in the best interest of the government, or that the causes which had necessitated them may have served their purpose already, for the post did not mean anything to the Imam (A.S.) as long as it collided with the supreme Islamic interest.
From here, we can see the Imam (A.S.) refusing the principle of sharing the responsibilities of the government upon becoming the regent, but he did not refuse to be an advisor counselling from a distance. That was only because he did not want to have a share in bearing the burdens of the oppression and the sins which he was not going to accept to be committed in his name as a member of the ruling system. But he was not unable of carrying the responsibility of offering advice and counsel when doing so would result in removing oppression and eliminating the danger of weakening the Muslims or disuniting them.
All of this did not contradict the Imam's attitude regarding the illegitimacy of the government because of its being based on the usurpation of authority from its rightful owners, for the issue in the eyes of the Imam (A.S.) was not an issue of government but of the interest of Islam and the safeguarding of the unity of the Muslims in the face of the evils of adventurers and grudging people. This is what distinguishes the Imam (A.S.) from others. He could not possibly sacrifice the interest of Islam in order to maintain a post of influence. During various epochs, the Imams (A.S.) put up with their contemporary governments despite their belief in their illegitimacy only for the sake of looking after and maintaining the interests of the Muslims.
132 'Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 6, p. 159
Adapted from: "Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research" by: "Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah"
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