THE LIFE OF IMAM MUHAMMAD Al-JAWAD (a.s)

THE LIFE OF IMAM MUHAMMAD Al-JAWAD (a.s)0%

THE LIFE OF IMAM MUHAMMAD Al-JAWAD (a.s) Author:
Translator: The Islamic Ahl Al-Bayt ('a) Foundation
Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center
Category: Imam al-Jawad
ISBN: 978-964- 529- 789-1

THE LIFE OF IMAM MUHAMMAD Al-JAWAD (a.s)

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Translator: The Islamic Ahl Al-Bayt ('a) Foundation
Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center
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ISBN: 978-964- 529- 789-1
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THE LIFE OF IMAM MUHAMMAD Al-JAWAD (a.s)

THE LIFE OF IMAM MUHAMMAD Al-JAWAD (a.s)

Author:
Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center
ISBN: 978-964- 529- 789-1
English

CHAPTER THREE: IMAM JAWAD (AS) UNDER THE WING OF HIS FATHER (AS)

At first, the Abbasid government only propagated in favour of the Alawis but later they started calling the people towards the people of the Household of the Prophet (sawas). After that, they invited the people towards ‘the satisfactory person from the progeny of Muhammad (sawas).’ This became the reason for the establishment of their government. Moreover, they considered they deserved the caliphate because they were the cousins of the Prophet (sawas). In fact, they used their relationship to the Prophet (sawas) as a tool and built their government on it.

Certainly, the only threat for the Abbasids came in the form of their Alawi cousins, because they had stronger reasons and were closer in relation to the Prophet (sawas). Among the Alawis, there were more people who had the ability of caliphate among Abbasids. They were the people with the necessary standards for the post of caliphate such as wisdom, knowledge and foresight in the fields of religion and politics. In addition to that, the people had a great respect for the Alawis which was not because they feared them as they did the Abbasids but was because of their pure love for them.

On the other hand, the heroes of Islam were all from the progeny of Abu Talib. Abu Talib had been the guardian of the Prophet (sawas), Imam Ali (as) was the Prophet's (sawas) successor, his sons Imam Hasan (as) and Imam Husayn (as) and each of the Imams (as) coming after them had been the administrators and successors of the Prophet (sawas) in their period of Imamah. Therefore, the claim of the Alawis for the post of the caliphate was completely acceptable.

From the very first moment of their caliphate, the Abbasid caliphs were aware of the increasing influence of the Alawis. The following event shows their fear of the Alawis more clearly: When Saffah came to power, he hired some men and sent them among the sons and grandsons of Imam Hassan (as) as spies so that they would report to him about each and every activity performed by the sons and grandsons of Imam Hasan (as). When a panel of Imam Hasan's (as) sons and grandsons went out after meeting him, Saffah said to one of his reliable men: Stand up and give them a place to sit. Try to be good to them. Whenever you are with them in secret, make them believe that your inclination is to be on their side. Say bad things about us and our ruling system. Make them believe that they are more suitable and appropriate for the post of caliphate. Then see what they do and what they say; and inform us about their moves.[109]

They had seriously felt the threat from the Alawis which was making them and their government afraid. They observed how the people were showing their inclination towards them and how they were joining their side. Therefore, the Abbasid caliphs considered it essential to rise up against this threat which was increasing by the day.

The Behaviour of Abbasids towards the People

In this short work we shall not attempt to count the number of oppressions which the Abbasid government imposed on the people, because it would be too time-consuming. Here we would just like to point out some examples of cruelty by Bani Abbas toward the people such as bad manners, pressure and oppression. These were the things which they feared would become publicly known. Abu al-Ata Sindi who died in 180 A.H sketched the oppression of Bani Abbas in the following verse: would that the oppression of Bani Marwan were gone forever from us; and would that the justice of Bani Abbas were burned in the fire.[110]

The hopes of Muslims were dashed when the Abbasids assumed leadership of the nation. The violence of al-Mansur and al-Rashid and their greed, and the oppression from the sons of Ali bin Isa and their playing with the wealth of the Muslims reminds us of al-Hajjaj, Hisham, and Yusuf bin Umar al-Thaqafi. Resentment spread among all people after Abdullah al-Saffah and also al-Mansur had begun their rule by shedding Muslims' blood so excessively in a way that had not been seen before.[111]

According to the historians, Abu al-Abbas Fattah ordered the death penalty for the people without further thought. His officials all over the country and during the period of his rule followed his methods. Muhammad bin Ash'as (the governor of western part of the country), Salih bin Ali (the governor of Egypt), Khazim bin Khuzayma and Hamid bin Qahtaba can be named in this regard.[112]

Abu Ja’far al-Mansur would hang the people head downwards unless they agreed to pay their taxes or the dues which had been fixed for them.[113] According to some historians he was treacherous and cunning. He shed the blood of the people without any hesitation. He was very cruel. His cruel behaviour towards the sons of Ali (as) is the worst behaviour ever in the history of Abbasid rulers.[114]

Hadi was another Abbasid caliph. He drank wine, loved entertainment and singing gatherings, and was cruel, very rude and a gambler.[115]

According to historians, Harun Rashid was just like Mansur, except that Mansur was a miser but he gave money freely to the people he chose. The other Abbasid caliphs were the same and nothing new or positive could be seen under their rule either.[116]

We can understand the specialties and ethical qualities of Bani Abbas in a better manner after we read the letter written by al-Mamun to his brothers in Baghdad. When he was in Marv, he wrote to his brothers saying:

“You all amuse yourselves (and deceive yourselves). Ignorance and foolishness have captured your minds. Each of you is a singer or a drumbeater. I swear by Allah, that if Bani Ummayah were to return to life those killed in the recent past, and they were asked to do whatever shameful thing they could think of, certainly they would not be able to do more than what you are doing right now.

Each of you becomes anxious when you become hungry. When something good comes to you, you reject it. You do not despise any bad and unpleasant deed. If you refuse to perform some action, it is only because you fear performing it. As for a person who passes his nights becoming a ride for another person and when the day appears becomes as happy as if he has earned some virtues and good qualities, how can he stop and become ashamed of performing any worse action? [And you are the symbol of such a person]. Your only target is to fill up your stomachs and fulfil your sensual and sexual desires. You would not fear or feel ashamed of killing one thousand prophets or angels if you find it necessary for the satisfaction of your sexual desires. The most favoured person in your eyes is one who presents your sins beautifully before your eyes and assists you in your hateful activities.” [117]

The Political Conditions

When we see the role and activities of the Imams (as) and when we observe their motives, we will find that there was no change in their mission and all of them had the same things to do. It is necessary for us to understand the political situation in Imam Jawad's (as) time, if we wish to understand the role which he played in bringing conditions on the right path of Islam and for the betterment of the Muslims. Therefore, it is essential to familiarize ourselves with the political conditions of Imam Jawad (as) and we must collect as much information as possible about him when he was under wings of his father.

As we have already mentioned, Imam Jawad (as) was a contemporary of the two caliphs: al-Mamun and Mu'tasim. Each of the two caliphs had his own style and method of ruling. However, both of them continued the way of their forefathers in snatching the leadership of the Muslims and they were the same in conspiring against the Muslims (as) and Imams.

Under these conditions, Imam Jawad (as) was a contemporary of al-Amin and al-Mamun in the days before his caliphate; while he passed his days of Imamah in the reign of al-Mamun and Mu'tasim: the two Abbasid caliphs and the two sons of Harun al-Rashid.

To become aware of the specialties of the first stage of Imam Jawad's (as) life, we must first study the main political events of his time. It is necessary for us to collect information about these events and their negative social, religious and economical influences on the Islamic Ummah in general and on the Islamic Government in particular. These events can be studied under three categories as follows:

• The sedition between al-Amin and al-Mamun;

• Inclinations, positioning and politics of al-Amin;

• Inclinations, positioning and politics of al-Mamun.

Perhaps one of the most prominent events at the age of Imam al-Jawad (as) was the great sedition that had taken place between al-Amin and al-Mamun. We will discuss about it and its branches first. This sedition caused a war between them and cost the Muslims too much blood and property loss just because each of them wanted to be caliph.

Before we discuss these events, we refer, in brief, to some aspects of al-Amin, and al-Mamun and then we will look at how al-Harun provided the ground for this sedition. He pronounced his sons; al-Amin, al-Mamun and al-Mu'tamin[118] to be successors one by one. On the other hand, he left an inheritance of a great amount of money and wealth for them, which provided them with the opportunity to compete with each other for the post of caliphate. Each of the brothers attempted to kill his brothers and take the charge of the post of caliphate for his own.

The Inclinations, Positioning and Politics of al-Amin

Al-Amin had no good quality that might make him suited to this important position in Islam, the caliphate. Historians were unanimous that he had no virtues. Al-Rashid, his father, had entrusted him with the caliphate due to the influence of his wife, Lady Zubayda. We shall now consider his character:

1. Al-Amin disliked knowledge and despised the ulama. He was illiterate, unable to read or write.[119] Since this was his condition, he tried to insult the ulama.

2. He was weak-willed. He had been entrusted with rule over the vast state and could not manage his affairs or become successful in his policies. Al-Mas'udi, the historian, says of him:“He was of bad morals, and unintelligent. He followed his fancies, ignored his serious affairs, relied on others in important matters, and trusted disloyal persons.” [120]

He was also described thus:“Vice was so easy to him that he followed his fancy and desires and did not think of his end. He was very stingy with food and did not care when he would sit or with whom he would drink.” [121]

There is no doubt that good thinking and intelligence are essential qualities for one who rules over the Muslims.

3. He hid himself from the public, from his family, his emirs and officials and despised them. He turned to amusement and singing and entrusted the affairs of his state to his vizier al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi' who acted according to his desires and tendencies.[122]

Isma'il bin Subayh, was a favourite of al-Amin and on seeing the behaviour of al-Fadhl went to al-Amin and said to him:“O Amir al-Muminin, your leaders, soldiers and your subjects have begun to mistrust and doubt you. You may sit for some time in a meeting and let them come to you because this will calm them down and make them give up their illusions.”

Al-Amin responded to him and sat in his royal court. Poets came and recited their poems. Then he went to al-Khuraqah and left to al-Shamasia. Knights on their horses stopped in rows at the banks of the Tigris. Foods and treasures were carried with him.

Certainly, this story shows the extent of al-Amin's spending his time in pleasures and fulfilment of lust and paying no attention to the affairs of the Islamic state.

4. Love of coming into power was another quality of al-Amin who assumed the caliphate on the day when his father al-Rashid died. When everything became stable, he deposed his brother al-Mamun and made his son, who was a baby in the cradle, his heir apparent and called him al-Natiq bil Haqq. He sent to the Ka'ba a messenger to fetch him the book of the covenant which his father had hung in the Ka'ba and in which he had written that the position of the heir apparent would be for al-Mamun after al-Amin. When the covenant was brought to him, he tore it up.[123]

Destructive Wars

When al-Amin deposed his brother al-Mamun from the position of heir apparent and informed him officially of that, he appointed Ali bin Isa to lead an army against al-Mamun. He gave him bands of gold and said to him:“Tie al-Mamun and do not kill him until you bring him alive to me.” He gave him two million dinars. When al-Mamun came to know of this, he pronounced himself to be Amir al-Mu'minin. He stopped sending the land tax to al-Amin, removed his name from the flag and from the dirhams and dinars, and announced his disobedience. He appointed Tahir bin al-Husayn and Harthamah bin A'yun at the head of an army to fight against al-Amin. The two armies met in al-Ray in a violent war where rivers of bloods were shed. Finally, the army of al-Mamun won the battle and the leader of al-Amin's army was killed and all their baggage and weapons were taken. Tahir bin al-Husayn wrote to al-Fadhl bin Sahl, the vizier of al-Mamun, informing him of this victory. He said in his letter:“I write to you while the head of Ali bin Isa is in my lap and his ring is in my hand, and praise be to Allah the Lord of the world.”

Al-Fadhl bin Sahl came to al-Mamun, greeted him and pronounced him the caliph. He told him about the victory of his army. When al-Mamun was certain of victory, he sent gifts and money to Tahir, the general leader of his army, thanked him repeatedly, and called him ‘Dha al-yaminayn’ and ‘Sahib Khayr al-yadayn’. Then he ordered him to march to occupy Iraq and do away with his brother al-Amin.[124]

The armies of al-Mamun moved to occupy Baghdad under the leadership of Tahir bin al-Husayn. They blockaded Baghdad and the blockade lasted for a long time until the signs of civilization in Baghdad were destroyed, poverty and wretchedness prevailed, and criminals and wicked people assassinated good people, plundered the properties and violated women. Then a group of good people gathered under the leadership of a man called Sahl bin Salama and opposed the wicked people and with weapons drove them out of Baghdad.[125]

Baghdad now faced great losses and destruction because of this great sedition. It lost many of its citizens. The armies of al-Mamun marched to surround the palace of al-Amin and defeat his forces. Al-Amin's army was unable to stand against the armies of al-Mamun that had high morale in addition to their weapons and equipment.

The Murder of al-Amin

In the middle of the ordeal al-Amin was busy with amusement and play. Historians said that he was fishing with some of his servants among whom was Kawthar, a favourite of al-Amin. The news of the defeat of his army and the blockade of his palace came to him but he was indifferent. He said: Kawthar has fished three fishes but I have fished just two. The vanguard of al-Mamun's army attacked al-Amin and killed him. His head was taken to Tahir bin al-Husayn who set it on a spear and recited the Qur'anic verse“O Allah, master of the kingdom! Thou givest the kingdom to whomsoever Thou pleasest and takest away the kingdom from whomsoever Thou pleasest.” [126]

قُلِ اللَّـهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتَنزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَاءُ

[127]

The disagreement between al-Amin and al-Mamun was the most important political event in that era. [128]

The Caliphate of Ibrahim the Dissolute

Among the political events of that time was the caliphate of Ibrahim al-Khali' (the dissolute) who left no kind of debauchery alone unless he committed it. He was drunk most of the time.[129] The Abbasids had appointed him as their caliph out of spite and hate towards al-Mamun. Evil people and those preoccupied with leisure and singing had paid homage to him, expecting money from him, but he procrastinated in giving this and when it took too long they surrounded his palace. Then, one of his men came out telling the mob that the caliph had no money. One of the amusing people got up and said: Let our caliph come out to us to sing three songs for the people on this side and three songs for the people on that side, and this will be his gift.[130]

Al-Mamun marched with his armies towards Baghdad to deal with the rebellion of Ibrahim. When Ibrahim heard this, he fled together with all his followers. He remained hidden in Baghdad from fear and fright. When al-Mamun arrested him, he forgave him and set him free because he had no political weight to be feared.

The Revolt of Abu al-Saraya

One of the greatest public revolts taking place at the time of Imam Abu Ja’far al-Jawad (as) was the revolt of Abu al-Saraya that defended the fate of all the Muslim people. The revolt involved Imam al-Rida (as) of the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (as) who was the hope of the oppressed and the deprived. The revolt was about to do away with the Abbasid state. Most Muslim countries responded. Through his intelligence and experience, Abu al-Saraya could bring some of Imam Musa al-Kadhim's sons and make them leaders in his army which gained the enthusiastic support of many people, who joined this revolt. However, al-Mamun through his political talents was able to defeat this movement. He brought Imam al-Rida (as) to Khurasan and forced him to accept the position of heir apparent. In doing so, he showed the people that he was Alawi in thought. He was kind to the Alawis and instructed all the bodies of his government to denounce Muawiya and to prefer Imam Ali (as) to all of the Prophet's (sawas) companions. Thus people thought al-Mamun was a Shia. In this cunning way he was able to win, and extinguish the flame of revolt.[131]

Imam Jawad (as) spent most of his life in the reign of al-Mamun, which was filled with cunningness. He lived for only a few years after al-Mamun's government. According to some historians, al-Mamun paid special attention towards Imam Jawad (as) and loved him with great sincerity. That is why he married his daughter, Umm al-Fadhl, to the Imam (as). He gave Imam (as) many gifts and kept him safe from any harm. Al-Mamun said that did this purely for the goodwill of Allah. Moreover, he said that he did this to rebuild the relation with the Prophet (sawas) which his father and forefathers had removed.

Obviously the good behaviour of al-Mamun towards Imam Jawad (as) was not because of his sincerity and love for him, but due to political interests. In fact, there was more behind this charming behaviour of his to the Imam (as) which we will study below.

A small amount of research into Mamun's life, his intellectual and doctrinal inclinations, his good behaviour and his high respect for Imam Jawad (as) will suffice; especially after we have understood the behaviour of al-Mamun to Imam Jawad (as) and the political inclinations behind this behaviour.[132]

Abdullah al-Mamun

Abu al-Abbas (al-Mamun) bin Harun bin Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ali bin Abdullah was born on Friday night on the fifteenth of the month of Rabi' al-Awwal in 170 A.H. in Yasiria. His mother was a handmaiden called Marajil. The people swore their allegiance to him as the caliph in Marv. Then he moved towards Baghdad. When he entered the city of Baghdad, he was 29 years, 10 months and 10 days old.[133]

The aspects and tendencies of al-Mamun

The most prominent aspects and tendencies of al-Mamun are as follows:

1. Cunning

Islamic diplomacy in the Abbasid age did not know anyone cleverer than al-Mamun or more aware than him when it came to general political affairs. He was a politician of the first class[134] . With his intelligence and political talents he was able to overcome many terrible events that afflicted him and were about to terminate his rule and finish him off. He managed to do away with his brother al-Amin who was widely supported by the Abbasid family and the central authorities. He defeated the revolution of Abu al-Saraya that was the greatest military movement against him and which grew until it covered many Islamic districts. The aim of this revolution was to advocate Imam al-Rida (as) as the real and legal ruler of the Ummah. Imam al-Rida (as), who was chief of the Alawi family, was carried to Khurasan by the order of al-Mamun who forced him to accept the position of heir apparent. He coined money with the name of Imam al-Rida (as). The courtesy that al-Mamun displayed towards Imam al-Rida (as) made the rebels and all the public movements supporting them believe that he (al-Mamun) was serious in his doings until they were certain that there would be no need to revolt and shed blood after Imam al-Rida (as) had become the heir apparent. In this way, he defeated the revolution and did away with its effects.[135]

This plan was one of the most ingenious political plans ever conceived in history.

2. Brutality

Brutality was one of the prominent characteristics of al-Mamun. He had no mercy or kindness. He killed his brother al-Amin when his army occupied Baghdad; had he possessed a little mercy he would not have done this.

After he killed Imam al-Rida (as), he treated the Alawis with the utmost brutality, and violence. He instructed his men to torture or kill the Alawis whenever they were discovered.[136]

3. Treachery

Another characteristic of al-Mamun was treachery. He had appointed Imam al-Rida (as) as his heir apparent and after achieving his political purposes, he poisoned and killed him.

4. His Tendency for Amusement and Leisure

The tendency for leisure and amusement was an element of his life. Here are some examples:

Playing Chess

Nothing was more beloved to him than playing chess.[137] He was so interested in chess that he had composed some verses of poetry describing it:

A square, red field (made) of skin between two thousand (persons) described by generosity;

They discuss war, so they occupy (places) without striving therein to shed blood;

This attacks this, and that attacks that, and the eye of war does not sleep;

So observe the horses which have surged at battle between two armies without drum nor flag.”[138]

This poetry contains a clear description of chess. It seems that al-Mamun was the first to describe it in detail, and that he learnt this game from his father Harun al-Rashid, who was most skilful at chess. It is worth mentioning that Haroon gave chess pieces to the king of France, and that the pieces can still be seen in French museums.

Love of Music

Al-Mamun was interested in singing and music. He was deeply interested in Abu Ishaq al-Mosuli[139] the minstrel who was one of the best and most famous musicians and singers in the Arab world. Al-Mamun said of this artist:“Whenever he sings, the increasing thoughts which come to me from Satan retreat from me.” [140]

He passed his nights in singing, dancing and playing the lute whereas Allah did not enter his thoughts during that time.

5. Claiming Shiasm

Al-Mamun pretended to be a Shia by carrying out some activities that made many researchers think that he was from the Shia. He did the following:

Giving Fadak Back to the Alawis

[141]

Al-Mamun gave Fadak[142] back to the Alawis after the previous governments had confiscated it intending to impose economical punishments against the Alawis and keep them in poverty and need with the result that the government would be safe from their resistance. By doing this al-Mamun refuelled the Alawis and saved them from the economical problems that had struck them severely. This became a reason for the people to think that al-Mamun was a Shia believer.

Preferring Imam Ali to Other Companions

Al-Mamun had done a dangerous deed. He had officially announced his preference for Imam Ali (as), the pioneer of social justice in the earth, to all the companions and had also announced the defaming and criticizing of Mu'awiah.[143]

These two actions were the most important plans that made people think al-Mamun was Shia because all his predecessors used to curse, criticize, and defame Imam Ali (as) and they preferred the companions to him.

Appointing Imam al-Rida as the Heir Apparent

There was another action due to which people thought that al-Mamun was a Shia. It was his appointing Imam al-Rida (as) as his heir apparent and thus he took the caliphate from the Abbasids to the Alawis.

These were the most important points that those who thought al-Mamun was a Shia based their information on. However, when we ponder on the matter, we find that al-Mamun was neither a Shia nor was he kind to the Shia. He did those actions just to secure his policies and achieve his purpose. Here are some points that confirm this:

Firstly: Al-Mamun had disagreed with the Abbasid family whose tendencies were towards his brother al-Amin because his mother was Zubayda who was very generous and liberal and from an Abbasid family while the mother of al-Mamun, Marajil, was from the servants of the Abbasid palace; therefore the Abbasids despised him because of his mother. Hence, al-Mamun by pretending to be a Shia, wanted to subjugate his family, the Abbasids, who were the bitterest enemies of Ahlul Bait (as) and of their followers.

Secondly: He wanted to uncover the Shia after they had been unknown to the Abbasid governments. He wanted to know their names, groups and activities. Some official documents issued by him proved this.

Thirdly: He wanted to do away with the revolutionary movement that the Shia had established under the leadership of Abu al-Saraya. Al-Mamun saw that the best way to defeat this movement and halt its activities was through being kind to the Shia.[144]

The Inclinations, Positioning and Politics of al-Mamun

Unlike al-Amin who spent all his time in amusements and useless activities, al-Mamun's life, before achieving the post of caliphate, was full of struggles, activities, affectation and piety. Perhaps the reason behind this was that al-Mamun felt that he did not have a mother like al-Amin of long and respected lineage. On the other hand, he did not see a bright and satisfactory future for himself as he knew that he was not liked by most members of the Abbasid family. He was sure that they did not accept him as caliph in their hearts. Therefore, he was compelled to start his activities based on self-confidence. Learning his weaknesses and the qualities of his brother, he started his preparation and future planning.

To reach his targets, al-Mamun benefited from the weaknesses of his brother and learning from them removed his own weakness. On the other hand, Fadhl, who had been observing al-Amin drowning in pleasures, asked al-Mamun to pretend to be pious and religious. Al-Mamun also accepted his offer. In this way, al-Mamun developed a completely different manner and method of governing and rule as compared with al-Amin. Whenever al-Amin made a mistake, al-Mamun tried to rectify his own mistake.

This was evident when al-Mamun wrote a letter addressed to the people of Bani Abbas in which he mentioned himself as a pious person surrounded by himself and feeling no love and inclination towards the world and its mundane things. He introduced himself as a complete follower of the Islamic rules. Actually, by doing all this he wanted the people to find in him a person different and greater than his brother. He was successful in mastering many sciences of that time and became superior not only to his brother but also to all other Abbasid caliphs before him. There was none among the Abbasids more learned than him.”[145]

Historians and others researching al-Mamun's life have also borne witness to his superiority and greatness and have named him“the man” of Abbasid caliphs and the“only one” of this family.[146]

What we shall discuss here is the wisdom, political intelligence and wise schemes of al-Mamun. Despite al-Mamun's superiority over his brother and the good qualities mentioned, al-Harun appointed his son al-Amin as the next caliph saying that Bani Abbas might not accept al-Mamun as their caliph.[147]

On the other hand, some historians believe that the reason for al-Mamun not being readily accepted by Bani Abbas was that his brother al-Amin was an“Abbasid” in the true sense of the word; because, on one hand, he was the son of al-Harun al-Rashid while on the other hand, his mother was Zubayda who was the granddaughter of al-Mansur. Moreover, al-Amin was brought up in the care of the most influential people of Bani Abbas such as Yahya Barmakid who was the foster brother of al-Harun al-Rashid. Also, Fadhl bin Rabi' who was of Arab descent and whose sincerity regarding Bani Abbas could not be doubted, was his guardian. However, al-Mamun's condition was very different. He was brought up under the care of Ja’far bin Yahya, a person who had less influence in the government than his brother Fadhl. Also, he, who had the responsibility of bringing up and teaching al-Mamun, was not highly accepted by the Abbasids either, because he was accused of harbouring an inclination towards the Alawis. Additionally, al-Mamun's mother, Marajil, was from Khurasan and did not have Arab lineage.”[148]

The Challenges of al-Mamun

The government of al-Mamun was facing some very serious challenges. On the other hand, the Abbasid's rule was about to finish. Therefore, it was necessary for al-Mamun to show ingenuity to remain in power and save the Abbasid dynasty. The most important challenges which al-Mamun were facing were as follows:

A. The Shia revolt against him, which was mainly the revolt of Abu Saraya which spread through all the Islamic region;

B. The disagreements of the Abbasids with al-Mamun by taking the side of his brother al-Amin and after him appointing his uncle Ibrahim bin al-Mahdi as caliph;

C. Khawarij and movements of other groups;

D. The external threats and especially the one from the Byzantines who were considered to be a great enemy of the Islamic government and who were waiting for the right time to remove this government.

To meet these challenges, al-Mamun took the following steps:

A. Suppression of his brother al-Amin's revolt and other powerful enemies which were taking part in activities against him;

B. Appointing Imam al-Rida (as) as heir apparent although Imam (as) did not like this. Al-Mamun wanted to make people believe that he, al-Mamun, was also in favour of the divine leadership of the Household (as); and therefore, he gave the government to this holy family. Actually, he merely wanted to silence the Islamic Ummah which was in favour of the Islamic government being handed to the people of the Household (as);

C. He suppressed the Alawid revolt;

D. After having suppressed the revolts and movements, he removed Imam al-Rida (as), too, by martyring him;

E. He went to Baghdad and suppressed the disagreement displayed by the family of Abbas;

F. To strengthen his own government, he removed the other powers which were present at this time;

G. He put forward the problem of“creation of the holy Qur'an” to involve the people in it and stop them from thinking about other more important matters;

H. Removal of rivalry groups such as Khawarijs;

I. War against Byzantines and removing this threat.

The Relation of Imam al-Rida (as) with al-Mamun

Because of the scientific struggles which the Imams before Imam al-Rida (as) had endured, Imam al-Rida's (as) period is characterised as the most successful from the point of view of Islamic development. This development compelled the Abbasid rulers to do what they did not want. One of the steps taken by them was to hand over the caliphate to the Imam al-Rida (as), announcing him successor to the caliphate after al-Mamun. This was only to show the people that their government was in the favour of returning the post of caliphate to the Household (as). To make the view clearer the following points should be mentioned:

A. The legal leadership from the people's point of view

Apparently, the Islamic Ummah had accepted the leadership of the Imams (as). However, we can mention those under three categories:

1. All the Muslim Ummah had accepted the worthiness of the Household's (as) leadership without having direct connection with them.

2. There were people against the governing system who thought the only way to get back the post of caliphate and hand it over to those deserving it [the Imams (as)] was by revolution and war against the government like Abu Saraya;

3. The third group of people comprised of those faithful people amongst the Imam's (as) companions who were completely aware of his legal leadership.

B. Al-Mamun's Struggles

To overcome the above-mentioned problems, al-Mamun planned some wise political steps which were as follows:

1. Facing the revolutionaries and the friends of the Household (as) and removing their threat. One of the greatest public revolts that had taken place at the time of Mamun was the revolt of Abu al-Saraya who invited the people to someone from the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (sawas). Finally there was a battle between his army and al-Mamun's army commanded by Hassan bin Sahl. Al-Mamun's army became victorious and he was killed.

2. Bringing the inclinations of the people under control.

For this purpose, al-Mamun used a wonderful political trick. By asking the people to swear their allegiance to Imam al-Rida (as) as crown prince and by pretending to have inclination towards the Household (as) he just wanted to overcome the people's inclinations and bring them under his own control. For this purpose it was necessary for him to bring Imam al-Rida (as) from Madinah to Khurasan. Therefore he asked a person named“Jaludi” to bring some of the Alawis from Madinah. This person went and brought the persons according to al-Mamun's orders. Imam al-Rida (as) was also among the people whom he brought to Khurasan. They were brought to al-Mamun from the rout of Basra. The Alawis were kept at one place while Imam (as) was asked to live somewhere else. The Abbasid caliph showed him hospitality and great respect, and then he sent someone to Imam al-Rida (as) and said to him:“I want to rid myself of the caliphate and vest the office in you.”

However Imam al-Rida (as) refused his offer saying:“I seek Allah's shelter for you against your words and against them to be heard by anyone else.”

Then al-Mamun repeated his offer in a letter saying:“If you refuse what I have offered you, then you must accept being the heir after me.”

Once again Imam al-Rida (as) refused his offer vigorously.

Al-Mamun summoned him. He was alone with al-Fadhl bin Sahl, the noble in charge of two offices. There was no one else in their presence. Al-Mamun said to Imam al-Rida (as),“I thought it appropriate to invest authority over the Muslims in you and to relieve myself of the responsibility by giving it to you.” Again Imam al-Rida (as) refused to accept his offer saying:“For God's sake, O commander of the faithful! I cannot afford it.”

Al-Mamun said:“Then I want you to become my heir for the post of caliphate.”

Imam al-Rida (as) answered:“Forgive me for this, O commander of the faithful!”

Al-Mamun spoke to him as if threatening him for his refusal. In his speech he said,“Umar ibn al-Kahttab made a committee of consultation (shura) to appoint a successor. Among them was your forefather, the commander of the faithful: “Ali ibn Abi Talib. (Umar) stipulated that anyone who opposed the decision should be executed. So there is no escape for you from accepting what I want from you. I will ignore your rejection of it.”

In reply, Imam al-Rida (as) said:“I will agree to what you want of me as far as succession is concerned on condition that I do not command, nor order, nor give legal decisions, nor judge, nor appoint, nor dismiss, nor change anything from how it is at present.”

Al-Mamun accepted all that.[149]

We can see that Imam al-Rida (as) had no other option but to accept al-Mamun's offer; otherwise, al-Mamun would kill him.

Al-Raian Bin al-Salt visited Imam al-Rida, (as), and said to him: O son of Allah's apostle, surely the people say:“Verily, you have accepted regency though you show asceticism in the world.”

So the Imam answered him:“Allah was already aware that I hated this. So when I had to choose between that and murder, I preferred acceptance rather than murder. Woe upon them! Surely Yusuf was a prophet and messenger, but when necessity forced him to undertake the treasures of al-Aziz (the Chief of Egypt), he said to him: Place me (in authority) over the treasures of the land; surely I am a good keeper, knowing well. Similarly, necessity forced me to accept that (i.e. regency), as I was forced to and was about to be destroyed. I have accepted this matter and will leave it. So I complain to Allah, and it is He whom we ask for help.” [150]

Abu Salt Harawi has narrated:“Al-Mamun said to Ali bin Musa al-Rida (as): “O son of the prophet of Allah (sawas), I am aware of your grace, wisdom, piety, self-control and worship; and I think you are more deserving for the post of caliphate than I.”

Imam (as) replied:“I thank Allah for being His servant. By remaining pious in this world, I hope to free myself from the curses of the world. By self-control regarding Maharim [those women with whom marrying or having a sexual connection is impermissible in Islam] I am hoping for rewards in the world hereafter and by humility in this world I hope to have a high position before Him.”

Al-Mamun said:“I want to draw back from the post of caliphate and give its responsibility to you, swearing the oath of my allegiance to you, too.”

Imam (as) replied:“If the clothing of caliphate has been made for your body, you cannot take it off and have another wear it; and if the caliphate is not your authority, even so you do not have the right to give anything to anyone which does not belong to you.”

Al-Mamun said:“O the son of the Prophet (sawas), you must accept my offer.”

Imam (as) replied:“I will never accept it willingly.”

Al-Mamun kept insisting on his offer for some days. At last he gave up hope and understood that Imam (as) was not going to accept his offer. Therefore, he said to him:“Now that you have rejected being caliph, at least accept being be my heir and successor for the post of the caliphate.”

Imam said:“By God! My father has narrated from his forefathers and they have narrated it from the commander of the faithful (as) who has narrated it from the Prophet (sawas) that I will be poisoned and die before you die. The angels from heaven will cry and weep for me and I will be buried next to Harun al-Rashid.”

Al-Mamun cried and said:“Who will dare to kill you, as long as I live?” The Imam said:“If it were not unwise I would even tell you the name of my killer.”

When al-Mamun realized that he was not relenting he was infuriated and he said:“By this refusal you aim to become famous for your piety and abstemiousness and thus my helpless and weakness will become obvious.” Imam said,“I have never lied in my life. It does not befit me to pretend austerity for the sake of material gain. But I know what you want.”

Al-Mamun asked:“What do I want?”

Imam (as) said:“Guarantee my life and then I will tell you.”

Al-Mamun said:“Your life is guaranteed.”

Imam (as) said:“Your insistence in this matter shows that you want to prove to the world that Ali bin Musa (as) was not abstemious in the real sense. Material wealth had itself deserted him for some time. And when it came back to him he became involved in it with all desire and fondness.”

Hearing this reply al-Mamun became angry and making a show of his apparent strength and power said:“You always behave in an unpleasant manner and make me angry as if you consider yourself free from my anger and harm. If you do not accept my heir-apparency and continue to refuse it, I will have you killed.”

Imam (as) said:“If the matter has reached this point, I will accept it with the conditions that I will not be involved in administration, I will not refrain from enjoining good and forbidding evil and I will never support you in an unlawful matter.”

Al-Mamun accepted his conditions and chose him as his heir, although he did not like doing so.[151]

C. With Aware Believers

Al-Mamun always feared Imam al-Rida (as) because he considered Imam (as) a great danger to himself. Therefore he kept looking for an appropriate moment to kill Imam (as). Two years [and some months] after swearing the oath of his allegiance for Imam al-Rida (as) as the heir-apparent, which took place on the first of the holy month of Ramadan in 201 A.H.,[152] al-Mamun got a chance to act upon his ominous plan and compelled his men to poison Imam (as) to death. Finally, Imam al-Rida (as) was poisoned in the month of Safar in 203 A.H. in Khurasan at the age of 55 and left this world.[153]

We shall now study some traditions narrated by Imam al-Rida's (as) companions who will help us understand al-Mamun's motive behind making Imam al-Rida (as) his heir and successor:

Ahmad bin Ali Ansari narrates: I asked Abu Salt Harawi:“How could al-Mamun kill Al-Rida (as) in spite of his honouring and loving him and his having made him his heir apparent?”

Abu Salt replied:“Al-Mamun honoured and loved Imam al-Rida (as) because he was aware of his virtues which were also known to the people, and he appointed him as his heir apparent to make people think that Imam al-Rida (as) wished for this worldly life and its pleasures and would consequently be disrespected by the people, but when his virtue and respect among people grew even more, he (al-Mamun) sent for theologians from different countries hoping that one of them might defeat Imam al-Rida (as) and then he would be disrespected by the scholars and that would spread among the public and they would then turn their backs on him. But every opponent from the Jews, the Christians, the magi, the apostates, the Brahman, the atheists, the Dahriah, and every opponent from the dissenting Muslim sects was defeated by Imam al-Rida (as) due to clear evidence. People began saying: By Allah, he is even worthier of the caliphate than al-Mamun: and the newsmen reported that to him (al-Mamun) and he became very angry and envious.

Spies and informers kept informing al-Mamun about what the people were saying and thinking about Imam al-Rida (as), hearing which al-Mamun became more and more angry and jealous of the Imam (as). On the other hand, Imam (as) never compromised with al-Mamun on matters of truth and justice and answered him in such a manner which apparently made him angry; and his revengefulness towards Imam (as) increased. However, he never let his revengefulness and enmity with Imam (as) be seen on his face. Finally he failed to keep it hidden any more because Imam (as) had become intolerable to him. Therefore he martyred him by poisoning him.”

Ali ibn Ibrahim quoted on the authority of Yasir, the servant:“When there were seven way-stations between us and Tus, Abu al-Hasan al-Rida (as) fell ill. We reached Tus and by then his illness had become worse. We stayed in Tus for several days. Al-Mamun went to visit him twice daily. On the last day - the day on which he died - al-Rida (as) had become much weaker. After saying his noon prayer, al-Rida (as) asked: “O Yasir! Do these people not eat anything?” I asked:“O my master! How can they eat anything seeing the way you are?' Then al-Rida (as) sat up and said: “Spread out the tablecloth.” Al-Rida (as) called in all his workers and had them all sit at the table cloth. Al-Rida asked each one of them about his health. Then after they had all eaten, al-Rida (as) ordered that they take food for the women, too, and feed all of them. When this was done he became very weak and fell unconscious. Everyone present started to weep. All of Al-Mamun's maids and wives rushed in without wearing their veils. Weeping and mourning filled Tus. Al-Mamun himself was barefoot and his head was uncovered, and he was hitting himself on the head and trying to cover his wives' hair with his long beard. He was expressing his sorrow by weeping, and tears were streaming down his face. He went over to al-Rida's (as) side. Then al-Rida (as) regained consciousness. Al-Mamun said:“O my Master! By God! I do not know which calamity is worse for me: losing you and being away from you or the people's accusing me of poisoning and killing you. “

Yasir added: Then the Imam (as) opened his eyes a little, looked at al-Mamun and said, “O commander of the faithful! Treat Abi Ja’far (Imam al-Rida's son) (as) with kindness since your life and his life are like this.” As he said that he (as) brought his forefingers together.

Yasir added:“When night came and some time had passed, al-Rida (as) passed away. Then when the morning came the people gathered there and said: ‘This man (referring to al-Mamun) killed him. This man martyred him.' They meant al-Mamun. They kept on saying: ‘The son of God's Prophet (sawas) has been killed.' There was much turmoil. Muhammad ibn Ja’far ibn Muhammad (Imam al-Rida's uncle) who had sought refuge from al-Mamun and had come from Madinah to Khurasan was there. He was Abu al-Hasan al-Rida's uncle. Then al-Mamun told him: ‘O Aba Ja’far (Muhammad ibn Ja’far ibn Muhammad)! Go out to the people and tell them that they will not bring out Aba al-Hasan al-Rida's (as) corpse today. Tell them to go about their own business.' Al-Mamun did not wish the body to be taken out, fearing that it might result in sedition. Then Muhammad ibn Ja’far went out and told the people: “O people! Disperse! Indeed today Aba al-Hasan al-Rida (as) will not be brought out.' Then the people dispersed. Then they performed the ritual ablution for death on Aba al-Hasan al-Rida (as) at night and buried him.” [154]

The Quality of al-Mamun's Rule

Al-Mamun showed feelings of great anxiety on the death of Imam Al-Rida (as) which deceived many simple and common people; however, the special people understood what was really happening. They understood that al-Mamun was trying to deceive them. We have already seen from Aba Salt's letter that they were completely aware of al-Mamun's cunning.

The letter written by“Abdullah bin Musa,” which we will mention in the following lines, will help us to understand clearly what we have just stated above about al-Mamun's cunning.

The great Sayid Abdullah bin Musa bin Abdullah bin al-Hasan“al-musanna” bin al-Hassan bin Ali bin Abi Talib (as) completely unveiled the qualities of al-Mamun's rule. He also mentioned the quality of the relation between al-Mamun and Imam al-Jawad (as) which shows his sharp understanding regarding al-Mamun's government.

Abdullah bin Musa chose to live a quiet and hidden life without playing any role in politics and the Abbasids' government. Al-Mamun wrote a letter to him in which he guaranteed his life and said that ‘after seeing my behaviour with Imam Al-Rida (as), I don't think that Alawis will fear me any longer.’

Abdullah replied: “I received your letter and understood what you wrote in it. You are deceiving me like a hunter and want to shed my blood. I am surprised to learn about your offer regarding becoming your heir. You think I do not know what you did with Imam al-Rida (as)? What made you believe that I would accept your offer? Is it the sweetness of your rule which has deceived you? Or do you think that I am interested in the poisonous grapes with which you killed Imam al-Rida (as) and do you consider that being hidden has made me hope for power and government?

By God, it is better for me to go to hell than to come into power among the Muslims; or in great thirst, I should drink a haram drop of water. If my religion would allow me to come to your side, I would do so; but Allah has prohibited me from endangering my life. I wish you would kill me and shed my blood before I accept your offer and meet my God as a martyr.

O al-Mamun! You must know that I have always sought deliverance and I have always tried for God's willingness. I always have tried to do that which takes me near to Allah; but I did not find anyone who could take me to what I want. Therefore, I took help from the holy Qur'an. I went through each verse and chapter and found what I was looking for. I went through the Book for the second time to find which jihad is greater than other jihads. Suddenly I reached the verse of the holy Book which says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ يَلُونَكُم مِّنَ الْكُفَّارِ وَلْيَجِدُوا فِيكُمْ غِلْظَةًۚ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿١٢٣﴾

“O you who have faith! Fight the faithless who are in your vicinity, and let them find severity in you, and know that Allah is with those wary of God.” [155]

Then I started researching about the pagans and infidels who can harm Islam the most and I found no one more dangerous than you; because the infidels clearly mention their perspective and the people know about them and are ready for their harm; but you have pretended to be a Muslim! You kill anyone when you become angry with him, and punish him when you accuse him of something; you take property illegally and invest it in the wrong manner. You drink wine which has been made haram by Allah. You give the property of Allah to singers and dancers and deprive Muslims of it. You deceive the people. You have taken charge of Islamic society as if it has been ruled by Muslims. Your judgments are in favour of the dualists and you show your revengefulness and enmity against Allah and His Prophet (sawas).

Now if Allah helps me and gives me superiority over you, I will fight you. And if He takes my soul before declaring jihad against you and if He wants you to be punished in the other world, still He knows my intentions which is enough for me. Farewell.”[156]

The Martyrdom of Imam al-Rida (as) and Imamah of Imam Jawad (as)

As every Imam (as) names the Imam to follow him, Imam al-Rida (as) also named his successor; this was Imam Jawad (as), the Imam to follow him. Here we shall give some examples in which Imam al-Rida (as) mentioned Imam Jawad (as) as the next Imam and called the Shi'ah to turn to him as Imam (as).

1. It is said: A man who was present in a meeting (of people) with Abu al-Hasan al-Rida (as) spoke to me of the information herein. When people prepared to leave the meeting the Imam (as) said to them,“Meet Abu Ja’far (as), (before you leave), offer him greeting and renew your covenant with him.” When left alone, he (the Imam) said to me,“May Allah grant well-being to al-Mufaddal, he would have believed (in the succeeding Imam) without it (the command to renew their covenant).” [157]

It is said:“I heard (Abu al-Hasan) al-Rida who said something (leadership with Divine Authority) and then said, “I do not think you need what I just said. This is abu Ja’far (as). I have placed him in my own place to assume my position. We are of the family of Ahl al-Bait whose younger ones inherit from their elders everything exactly in proportion.” [158]

It is said: I heard Ali bin Ja’far speaking to Hasan bin al-Husayn bin Ali bin al-Husayn saying:“Certainly Allah the Exalted helps Abu al- Hasan al-Rida (as) when his cousins and brothers betray him.”

Then after talking for a long time he said: I stood and took the hand of Abu Ja’far (Jawad) Muhammad bin Ali al-Rida (as) and said to him:“I bear witness that you are my Imam (as).”

Imam Al-Rida (as) wept and said: O uncle, my father has narrated from the Messenger of Allah (sawas) that he said:“May my father be ransom for the purified handmaiden of ‘Nawba’ whose son has been banished and who has not yet asked for vengeance for the bloodshed of his father. He is the boy who is the master of a long occultation. It will be said about him: no matter where he has gone, but certainly he has been killed. Have you heard this from my father? He said: May I be ransom for you, you have told the truth.” [159]

A narrator said: Once, I said to Imam al-Rida (as): we often asked you, before Allah granted Abu Ja’far to you, about the imam after you and you would say 'Allah will give me a boy.' Now, Allah has given you a boy and has delighted our eyes. If something happens (to you), to whom shall we refer? He pointed to Abu Ja’far (al-Jawad) who was before him and who was at that time three years old. I said, 'He is a three-year-old child!' He said, ‘It does not matter. Jesus Christ (a.s) was entrusted with prophethood when he was less than three years old.’[160]

A narrator said:“I was with Abu al-Hasan al-Rida (as) when Imam Jawad (as) was brought to him. Imam al-Rida (as) said: “This is a baby so blessed and lucky that no other one has ever been before in our Shia.” [161]

Also it is narrated: When Abu Ja’far (as) was born, I went to visit Imam al-Rida (as). He said:“Allah has granted me someone who will succeed me and inherit the children of Dawud.” [162]

It is narrated: Once I was in the presence of Imam al-Rida (as). He called his son who was a small (boy). The Imam (as) placed him on my lap and said to me.“Move his shirt aside.” When I did so, the Imam (as) said,“Look between his shoulders.” I looked and I found in the skin of one shoulder something like an imprint of a seal.” The Imam (as) then asked,“Do you see this? There was one similar on my father's shoulder.” [163]

It is narrated:“Imam al-Rida (as) would glorify his son Muhammad al-Jawad. He did not mention (his son) Muhammad except by his surname. He often says: Abu Ja’far (Muhammad al-Jawad) wrote to me, or I wrote to Abu Ja’far…and even though he is still a child in Madinah, the letters that come to his father are so eloquent and fluent.”

The narrator said that he heard Imam al-Rida (as) say: Abu Ja’far is my administrator and successor after me among my family.[164]

The narrator said: I heard De'abel Khuza'iy saying: I recited my eulogy for my master Ali bin Musa al-Rida (as)… Imam said:“O De'abel! After me my son Muhammad (Jawad) is the Imam and after Muhammad his son Ali and after Ali his son Hasan (Askari) and after Hasan his son the awaited divine proof will be the Imams.” [165]

Imam Jawad (as) at the Time of his Father's Death

Abu Salt al-Harawi tells us that he said,“I was standing before Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Musa al-Rida (as) when he told me: “O Aba Salt! Go into the mausoleum where Harun's grave is located. Collect a handful of dirt from each corner and bring them to me.' I went and did what al-Rida (as) had asked me to do. Then when I stood before al-Rida (as) once more, he (as) was standing near the door. I handed him the dirt one handful at a time. He smelled each one and threw it away. Then he said: ‘Here they will dig a grave for me. A rock will appear which they cannot remove, even if they bring all the mattocks in Khurasan.’ Then al-Rida (as) said the same thing about the dirt at the head and feet of Harun. Then al-Rida (as) said: “Give me that other handful of dirt.' I handed him the dirt from the front of Harun's grave. al-Rida (as) took it and said: “This is the dirt that will be the soil of my grave.' Then Al-Rida (as) said: They will dig a grave for me in this place. You must order them to dig it seven steps deep. Then you must ask them to extend the grave in one direction and construct a grave. If they refuse to do so and insist that it must be the usual type of grave, you will tell them that the grave must be as wide as two arm lengths plus the span of one wide open hand. Indeed God will extend it as much as He wills. Once they do so, you will notice water there. Recite what I teach you and then the grave will be filled with water. You will see many small fish in it. Then you must feed them with pieces of the bread which I shall give you now. Once they eat it all, a large fish will appear and eat up all the small fish until they all disappear. Then the large fish will disappear too. Then you must put your hand in the water and recite what I shall teach you now. Then the water will drain away and nothing will be left. Do not do this except in the presence of al-Mamun.' Then al-Rida (as) added: “O Aba Salt! Tomorrow I shall go to see this adulterer (referring to Al-Mamun)! If I leave there with a bare head, talk to me and I will respond. However, if when I return my head is covered, then do not talk to me.'“

Aba Salt continued, “When the morning came, al-Rida (as) put on his clothes and sat down, waiting in his prayer niche. Al-Mamun's servant entered after a while and said: “The commander of the faithful (al-Mamun) has summoned you.' Then al-Rida (as) put on his shoes and cloak. He stood up and left. I followed al-Rida (as) to al-Mamun. There was a dish of grapes in front of al-Mamun and several dishes of fruit, too. There was a bunch of partially eaten grapes in his hand. There were still some grapes left on it. Once al-Mamun saw al-Rida (as), he leaped towards him and hugged him. He kissed his forehead and had him sit down next to him. Then he offered al-Rida (as) the bunch of grapes that he was holding in his hands and said: O son of God's prophet! Have you ever seen any better grapes? Then al-Rida (as) told him: It often happens that they are good grapes as if they are from Heaven. Then al-Mamun said: Have some. Then al-Rida (as) told him: Excuse me from eating them. Then he said: You must eat. Why don't you eat? Perhaps you are suspicious of me. Then al-Mamun picked up the bunch of grapes, had a few grapes and then offered the bunch to al-Rida (as). Al-Rida (as) ate three grapes, put down the bunch and stood up. Al-Mamun asked him: Where are you going? He (as) said: I am going to where you sent me. Al-Rida (as) pulled his cloak over his head and left.”

Aba Salt added,“I did not talk to Al-Rida (as) until he entered the house and said: Shut the doors. They shut the doors. Then al-Rida (as) lay in bed. I stayed in the yard for a while in a sad and depressed state. Then I saw a handsome young man, who was the closest-looking person to al-Rida (as) I have ever seen, enter the house. I rushed ahead and asked him: Sir! The doors are closed. How did you get in? He (as) answered: He (God) who passed me through closed doors brought me here from Madinah. I asked: Who are you?' He (as) replied: I am the proof of God for you. O Aba Salt! I am Muhammad ibn Ali (Imam al-Rida's son). Then he (as) went to his father (as). He (as) entered the room and asked me to go in with him. When al-Rida (as) saw him, he leaped towards him. Al-Rida (as) hugged him and put his hands on his shoulders. Then al-Rida (as) kissed him on the forehead and went back to his couch with him. Muhammad ibn Ali (as) went over to him, kissed him and quietly told him things which I could not hear. Al-Rida (as) passed away. Then Abu Ja’far said: O Aba Salt! Stand up. Go and bring me water and the wash basin from the cabinet. I answered: There is no wash basin in the cabinet and there is no water there either. However, Abu Ja’far (as) said: Go and do what I ordered you to do. I went to the cabinet, and saw that both water and the wash basin were indeed there. I fetched them. Then I hitched my robe up to my waist and took off my footwear to prepare to wash Imam al-Rida (as). But Abu Ja’far (as) told me, “O Aba Salt! Move aside. There is someone else here who will assist me.” Then Abu Ja’far (as) performed the ceremonial burial ablutions on al-Rida (as) and told me, ‘Go to the cabinet and bring me the basket in which there is a shroud and embalmment.’ I went to the cabinet. There I saw a basket which I had never seen before. I picked it up and brought it to him. Abu Ja’far (as) shrouded the Imam (as) and prayed for him. Then he (as) told me: Bring me that coffin. Then I asked: Should I go to a carpenter and have him make a coffin? Abu Ja’far (as) said: No. Go to the cabinet. There is a coffin there. I went to the cabinet and found that there was a coffin there which I had never seen before. I picked it up and brought it to him.

Abu Ja’far (as) lifted Imam al-Rida (as) after praying for him and placed him in the coffin. He put Al-Rida's (as) feet side by side and said two units of prayers. Then before finishing his prayers the ceiling of the room was rent asunder and the coffin flew from the room through the ceiling. Then I said: O son of the Prophet of God (Abu Ja’far)! Now al-Mamun will come here and demand al-Rida (as) from us. What should we do? Abu Ja’far (as) said: O Aba Salt! Be quiet! The body will return. God will unite the body and the spirit together of any prophet who dies in the east and any of his trustees who die in the west. Abu Ja’far (as) had not finished talking when the ceiling was again rent asunder, and the coffin and the body descended. Then Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ali (as) stood up, brought the corpse out of the coffin and placed it in bed as if it had neither been washed nor shrouded.

Then Abu Ja’far (as) said to me: O Aba Salt! Stand up and open the door for Al-Mamun. Then I opened the door. Al-Mamun and his servants were standing at the door. He entered while he was in a sad state and weeping. He tore his shirt and hit himself on the head. He said: O descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (as)! O my Master! Your death is a great calamity for me. Then Al-Mamun entered and sat next to Al-Rida's (as) head and said: Start to prepare him. Then al-Mamun ordered that a grave be dug. I (i.e. Aba Salt) dug at the location that Imam al-Rida (as) had previously ordered me to select. Everything happened just as al-Rida (as) had said it would. One of al-Mamun's people asked him: Do you not say and do you not believe that he was a divine leader? Al-Mamun replied: ‘Yes. He would not be a divine leader unless he were superior to all the people.’ Then al-Mamun ordered that a grave be dug for al-Rida (as) facing the direction of the Qibla. Aba Salt added,“Then I said: Al-Rida (as) has ordered me to dig down about seven steps. Then I must extend the grave for his tomb in one direction.' Al-Mamun ordered the workers: “Do as Aba Salt says except for the tomb. Dig a usual type of grave.' However, once Al-Mamun saw that the water appeared, the fish appeared, and the other things happened, Al-Mamun said: “Al-Rida (as) continuously showed us miracles during his lifetime. We even see miracles after his death.' One of the ministers who were there asked: “Do you know what al-Rida (as) is informing you about?' Al-Mamun replied: “No.' The minister said: “Al-Rida (as) is trying to make you understand that your rule - the Abbasids - and your population and the extent of your rule is like these fish, until your time is over and your death arrives. Then you will lose your reign. Then God the Highest will designate a man from the members of the Holy Household of the Prophet (sawas) as the ruler over you who will destroy all of you - from the first to the last one of you.' Al-Mamun replied: “You are right.' Then Al-Mamun turned towards Aba Salt and said: “O Aba Salt! Tell me the words you recited which caused the big fish to swallow the little fish. Teach them to me.' I replied: “By God, I have forgotten them now.' I had said the truth but he ordered that I be thrown into jail. They buried al-Rida (as) and I stayed in jail for one year. I had a very hard time there. One night I could not sleep. I stayed up and prayed to God the Blessed the Highest. I kept mentioning Muhammad (sawas) and his Household (as). I kept asking God for a happy ending. Before I had finished my prayers Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ali (as) entered and said: “O Aba Salt! Is your breast straightened?' Then I said: “By God! Yes.' Then Aba Ja’far (as) said: “Stand up and leave here with me.'

Then Aba Ja’far (as) placed his hands on my chains and they all opened up. He (as) took my hands and brought me out of jail, while the prison guards were watching us but did not have the power to utter a single word. Then Aba Ja’far (as) told me: “Go. I entrust you to God! Know that you will never again encounter al-Mamun. Neither will al-Mamun ever find you.'“Aba Salt added, “al-Mamun has not found me to this day.” [166]