Imam Ridha's (a.s.) Contempt for the Regency
The Imam (A.S.) expressed his contempt for the regency through statements he made which express his inner bitterness and pain and during times when he was suffering from emotional irritation. He was unable to do anything in the face of the stubborn insistence of the government to accept its designs without enjoying the freedom of choice, of expression, and of movement. Moreover, the Imam (A.S.) knew beforehand that the regency was only a transient step undertaken by the Abbaside government and dictated to it by circumstances of that period.
And when the government achieves its end objective, the beginning starts, and the Imam (A.S.) feels psychologically irritated for such disguised use of his own person, and such irritation is spelled out during times of extreme bitterness. Yasir the servant said: "Whenever al-Rida (A.S.) returned home from the mosque on Friday, his face washed with his sweat, stained with dust, he would raise his hands and supplicates saying, `God! If my deliverance from my suffering is by death, then I plead You to please hasten that hour,' and he remained distressed till he breathed his last, blessings of God be upon him."102
The companions of the Imam (A.S.) could not easily understand why he accepted the post of regent, although inwardly they were satisfied with the soundness of the Imam's stance and at the same time fully aware of the psychological agony the Imam (A.S.) was suffering from. The Imam's answers to their repeated questions were exciting in their way of expressing the political necessity which caused the government to force him to be the regent. Muhammad ibn Arafa narrated saying that he once asked the Imam (A.S.): "O Son of the Messenger of God! What caused you to be involved in the regency issue?" The Imam (A.S.) answered: "It is the same that caused my grandfather the Commander of the Faithful (A.S.) to be involved in the shura."103
A man, who seemed as if he was finding fault with the Imam's action, once asked him, "May God make you godlier, what forced you into this arrangement with al-Mamoon?" Abul-Hassan (A.S.) in turn asked him, "Who is better, man, the Prophet or the wasi?" The man answered, 'Well, of course, it is the Prophet." The Imam (A.S.) asked again, "Who is better, a believer or a disbeliever?" The man answered, "A believer, of course." The Imam (A.S.) then said: "Al-Aziz, Egypt's vizier, was a disbeliever, whereas Yousuf (Joseph) was a prophet; al-Mamoon is a Muslim whereas I am a wasi, and Yousuf asked al-Aziz to appoint him as a governor, saying, `And appoint me to take charge of the wealth of the land, for I am protector, knowledgeable,' whereas I was forced to accept it."104
Yasir, his servant, is quoted saying, "When al-Rida (A.S.) became heir to the throne, I heard him saying after having raised his hands to the sky in supplication, `Lord! You know that I am forced to accept; so, please do not hold me responsible just as You did not hold your Servant and Prophet Yousuf when he took charge in the government of Egypt.'"105
These narratives suffice us to highlight the Imam's viewpoint regarding the issue of regency, for he at times depicts his ordeal to us by invoking the Almighty to remove his distress and anguish from him even by death, and at another time he compares his situation with that of Prophet Yousuf (A.S.) who accepted a post under the government of Egypt's Pharaoh while, at the same time, he reveals to us the difference between the two situation: While Yousuf gladly accepted his post and clearly requested it, he, on the other hand, was forced to accept.
After all this, no doubt remains in our mind about the Imam's conviction that the whole matter was a farce, and that he did not agree to it in principle.
102 Uyoon al-Akhbar, Vol. 3, p. 141
103 Uyoon Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 2, p. 167
104 Al-Ayyashi's Tafsir, Vol. 2, p. 180 of Surat Yousuf, verse 55
105 Al-Sadooq's Amaali, p. 72
Adapted from: "Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research" by: "Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah"
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