SHAFAQNA – In his history, Yacubi recalled some of the Imam’s journey. He wrote, “From Qum the Imam moved north to the town of al-Ray, the Greek Rhages, which is near the site of the present city of Tehran. From this place the caravan continued its journey until it reached the city of Tus. From Tus they travelled on to the city of Merv, in what is now modern Turkistan.
Upon his arrival in Merv, Mamun welcomed him with great ceremony and pomp. Mamun treated the Imam with great honour.”
What follow would be the treachery of Mamun, the deceitful …
Acutely aware of the power which emanated from Imam Ridha, as the rightful heir to the Islamic nation, the descendent of God’s last prophet (PBUH) and the keeper of tradition, Mamum Rashid devise of a plan, he hoped would permit him to entangle the eighth Imam into a net of deceit and slowly stifle his prestige.
“Although they plan, Allah also plans. And Allah is the best of planners.” Qur’an, Surah Al Imran 3:54
Cunning, Mamun sought to trick Imam Ridha into getting directly involved into the affairs of the state, hoping this way that the eighth Imam would be forced to compromise his righteous character and thus ultimately weaken his position of higher morality.
As Imam Ali (AS) before him, Imam Ridha had no worldly ambitions. His sole purpose, his only desire was to please God and offer some measure of comfort to those who would chose to follow him by offering them his guidance. A simple man, a devout man, Imam Ridha knew only too well what treachery lied in the Dunya (worldly affairs); he understood that for one to truly embrace Islam one would have to distance oneself from the hustle and bustle of men’s affairs – There was no room in his heart for petty desires, as God alone ruled and filled his thoughts.
A testament of grace and selflessness, a sign for those who chose to see, a mercy onto man and a guidance towards the light of God, Imam Ridha, the eighth Imam of Islam, would learn of the cruelty and evil of men.
Mamun was a man of ambitions, a man of the world whose desire for powers and wealth weighted so heavy on his mind and soul that he stood willing to harm the descendent of the prophet of God to achieve his goals.
Keen to fool his subjects into believing that he was a man of faith, a believer, in order to gain their allegiance, he stood before his government and offered Imam Ridha the caliphate.
Mamun knew the Imam would refuse, he understood that the Imam would never willingly put himself and his blessed family in a position where they would lose their moral ground.
Appearing magnanimous before his people, Mamun urged Imam Ridha to take his rightful place as Caliph of the Ummah … time and time again the eighth Imam refused, pained to have been put in such a difficult position only to further the blind ambition of one man.
But Mamun was not done. He then offered to appoint the Imam as his successor. And again, the Imam turned him down. As Mamun became more insistent and threatening, the Imam had no choice but to accept his offer. With great reluctance, Imam Ridha accepted Mamun’s offer, pending that he would not be involved in the running of governmental affairs of the appointment or dismissal of government officers.
It is important to understand that Mamun thought here that he had contained the threat which Ahl al Bayt posed to his rule. He assumed that by making the Imam his successor he would not only prevent the descendants of the Prophet (PBUH) from rebelling against the government since they would be an inherent part of it, but lesser the Imams’ renown by associated their name to politics.
Rather than attempt to fight Ahl al Bait, Mamun sought to sully its name.
How could the Imam maintain his purity if engrossed in the affairs of the state? How could he stand judge of men if embroiled in politics? Mamun knew that if he could crumble the house of the Prophet (PBUH) by turning its legacy into one preoccupied with power, allegiances and compromises than he would have succeeded where his father before him could not.
Annihilating Ahl al Bayt would have been easy after that … but God watched over his Imam, he watched as men planned and whispered in the shadows …
But if Mamun was confident his plan would work, disillusion and anger soon set in as he realised that Imam Ridha was no mere pawn to trifle with.
Before Imam Ridha’s ever growing reputation, Mamun grew uneasy; fearful that his own inadequacies, his failures and shortcomings as a man would become ever more apparent before the light of the Imam.
This is when Mamun tried to fail Imam Ridha on his knowledge of the divine. He had scholarly discourses held in his palace, where he would invite prominent leaders of other religions to debate with the Imam (AS). But again Mamun’s attempt to discredit the Imam backfired and instead Ahl al Bayt’s pull grew stronger among the people and many came to pledge their faith and fate to Imam Ridha, having understood that truth lied with him.
As the heir of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), as the guardian of Islam, the keeper of the scriptures, Imam Ridha’s knowledge was not only pure but whole, perfect in every way as directly transmitted by God.
As people flocked in their thousands toward Imam Ridha, attracted by the wondrous tales of his divine miracles and the wealth of his wisdom, Mamun felt his throne waiver from underneath him. Rather than admit to the error of his ways and submit, he chose evil instead and has the eighth Imam imprisoned in Sarakhs.
A wicked man, a malicious and cowardly man, Mamun had Imam Ridha poisoned. The eighth Imam died in the same fashion of his blessed ancestor, Imam Hassan.
Written by Catherine Shakdam for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies