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Why Imam ar-Ridha (a.s.) Rejected the Regency

The reason we understand as to why he rejected it is that the Imam realized that al-Mamoon, by selecting him, aimed at using him as a bargaining ticket between him and the Abbasides on one hand, between him and the Alawides on another, and between him and the Shi'as of Khurasan and other areas on yet another hand; otherwise, what is the wisdom in the insistence of al-Mamoon that al-Rida (A.S.) should accede, and why did he even threaten him if he insisted on his rejection?

Al-Irshad narrates that al-Mamoon discussed the subject of regency with al-Rida (A.S.), saying, "I have decided that you should be my successor." The Imam said: "Exempt me from that, O commander of the faithful, for I have neither the ability nor the strength for that." He said: "I have decided that you should be my successor." The Imam said: "Exempt me from that, O commander of the faithful." Al-Mamoon responded with a statement which was more of a threat than anything else; he said to him: "Umer ibn al-Khattab entrusted six persons to consult regarding caliphate, one of them was your grandfather Ali ibn Abu Talib (A.S.), and he preconditioned that anyone who went against their decision should be executed; therefore, you will have to accept what I have decreed for you, for I see no way that I can ever change my mind."91

The Imam, therefore, had to agree.92 It is also narrated that a lengthy discussion went on between both men in which al-Mamoon offered the Imam to be the caliph and the Imam refused to accept, then he offered him the regency and he refused too, so al-Mamoon said to him, "You always say what I hate to hear, and you think that you are safe from my might; therefore, I swear by God that you should either accept the regency willingly or I shall force you to do so; therefore, accept out of your own will; otherwise, I shall certainly strike your neck with the sword."93

Notes:

91 Al-Irshad, p. 290. Also Maqatil al-Talibiyyin by Abul-Faraj al-Asbahani, p. 375

92 Al-Maqatil, p. 375

93 Ilal al-Sharai', p. 266

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

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