As reported by the Office for Preservation and Publication of the Supreme Leader’s Works, he had previously called the diplomatic area a “field for heroic flexibility” in 1996, but he first used the term for Imam Hassan’s policy when he made peace with Muawiyah, and called it “the most pompous heroic flexibility in history”.
It seems that such an “artistic maneuver” can be found in other Imams’ lives as well, such as “Imam Reza’s acceptance of Crown Prince Position”. However, certainly and necessarily, one has to take into consideration the “similar aspects”, and avoid comparisons with irrelevant examples while mining history to find samples of the kind to learn lessons.
Having accepted the Crown Prince position (after Ma’mun’s threat), Imam Reza (A.S) had a major goal in mind. Showing such flexibility towards the dictator regime, he eventually achieved the major goals towards the right path, which other Imams (A.S) also followed.
Ma’mun’s Motives behind Suggesting Crown Prince position to Imam Reza (A.S)
After 5 years of bloody collisions between Ma’mun and his brother, Amin, in 198 Hijri, Harun’s other son took the post and became the next Caliph.
Amin’s disciples started protesting and rebelling against the government. On the other hand, Alawids and Shias who also regarded Ma’mun’s regime as an illegitimate monarchy, fought against it all over the vast Islamic territory of the day.
In addition to the internal chaos, external wars and challenges were another threat for Abbassids and Ma’mun’s reign. Non-Muslim governments were always searching for opportunities to eliminate the apparently Muslim government and Islam.
To disseminate Ahlul-Bayt’s thoughts and opinions, Imam Reza (A.S) made extensive use of the 5-year collision between Amin and Ma’mun.Such activities made Ma’mun look for solutions. Like the other caliphs, he could fiercely encounter the situation, but the bitter experiences of Harun’s encounters with Imam Musa Kazim (A.S) and his Shias prevented him from doing so.
Although Harun imprisoned and poisoned Imam Kazim (A.S), he could not stop Shias’ activities:” perhaps Ma’mun was realistic while evaluating Shias’ threats to his reign. It is widely assumed that the 15-year gap between the martyrdom of the seventh Imam and that day, and particularly the 5-year internal wars had helped Shias prepare for raising the flag of Alawid reign.”
Ma’mun’s solution to this problem was of a different kind; he drew Imam Reza (A.S) to Khorasan, forcing him accept the Crown Prince position.
Certainly, Ma’mun’s decision to make Imam Reza (A.S) be his heir to the throne was not due to his love and affection toward Al al-Bayt (A.S); his love and friendship could be proved only when he abdicated, and passed the throne to Imam Reza (A.S).
His 5-year collision with his brother is also another proof of his attachment to the power, which rejects the hypothesis of his friendship with Ahlul-Bayt (A.S).
We can summarize Ma’mun’s motives behind suggesting Crown Prince position to Imam Reza (A.S) as follows:
1. Silencing the revolts
“The first and foremost was to convert the Shias’ revolutionary struggles into peaceful political activities.”
“Ma’mun intended to take away the camouflage from these warriors, and move Imam (A.S) from revolutionary battles to politics arena, hence reducing the efficiency of Shiites which was increasing day by day due to its camouflage.”
2. Legitimizing the government
Another motive was to “reject the Shiites’ claim about the oppression and aggression by Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs, and legitimizing them.”
3. Controlling Imam Reza (A.S)
“Ma’mun could control Imam Reza (A.S) who had always been in center of resistance and struggle, and moreover he could also put all other Alawid leaders and warriors under his dominance.”
4. Separating Imam Reza (A.S) from people
“Imam (A.S) was popular among people, and many people asked their questions from him. Ma’mun could surround him with his soldiers and create a distance between him and the people and between him and people’s affection”
5. Building a reputation for himself
“The 5th aim was to build a spiritual reputation for himself. It was natural during that period that everybody admired him since had selected a holy and spiritual figure and one of the Prophet’s sons as his heir to the throne, and had deprived his sons and brothers of such a privilege. Materialists’ friendship with religious people always ruins the religious people’s reputation and grows that of materialistic.”
6. Representing Imam (A.S) as the justifier of the government’s activities
“Ma’mun thought this would make use of Imam’s status to justify his reign.”
Imam’s Flexibility in Accepting the Crown Prince position
Due to all factors mentioned above, Ma’mun invited Imam Reza (A.S) to Khorasan, and offered him the Crown Prince position. But Imam (A.S) was aware of Ma’mun’s intention, so he rejected the offer. However, Ma’mun threatened to murder him, therefore Imam Reza (A.S) reluctantly accepted the post. It is worth mentioning that Imam (A.S) did not surrender to protect himself, but he did so because he was aware that his murder would bring about chaos, including:
1. There would be revolts and chaos in all sites belonging to Imam’s disciples, and it would be a start for extensive killing of his family and friends.
2. Armed uprising would spark off without any thought, logical process and discipline.
Those were the reasons which made Imam Reza (A.S) accept Ma’mun’s offer. So Imam (A.S) made a great use of the opportunity by showing flexibility to revive the forgotten traditions, eliminate the innovations in Islam, unify the talent, neutralize Ma’mun’s plans for future, and correct the incorrect political thoughts and concepts.
Besides accepting the Crown Prince position, he adopted measures to further his goals and prevent Ma’mun from achieving his goals. We will discuss a few:
1. When Ma’mun invited Imam (A.S) from Medina to Khorasan, Imam Reza (A.S) showed his reluctance, so that everybody around him made sure that Ma’mun is separating Imam (A.S) from his home having ill will.
2. When in Marv, he was offered the Crown Prince position, he rejected until Ma’mun threatened to kill him. The news that Imam Reza (A.S) had not accepted to be the caliph and also rejected the Crown Prince position spread all over. [..] Imam Reza (A.S) himself, in any chance he had, informed everyone of the obligation, and always said that hehad been threatened to murder, so he accepted the offer.”
3. Nonetheless, Ali Ibn Musa al-Reza (A.S) accepted the Crown Prince position on the conditions that he would not interfere in any aspects of government, and he would not involve in war and peace, and removals and installations. […] although Imam (A.S) was officially the regent and could enjoy the facilities of the Caliphate, he behaved as if he was against it; he gave no orders, he did not prohibit anything, he did not take any posts or responsibilities, he did not defend the government, and naturally he did not justify its activities.”
Imam’s Achievements from the Opportunity
Imam Reza (A.S) took advantage of the opportunity which brought about some freedom for him. Following his major goals, he worked in several fields:
1. Implementing religion and reviving tradition:
The opportunity enabled Imam Reza (A.S) and his family and friends to clarify religious concepts for people, revive the prophet’s tradition, and disseminate Ahlul-Bayt’s lifestyle in political and social fields. While Imam (A.S) was in court and could actively involve in activities with Ma’mun’s ministers, leaders and friends, each of Imam’s brothers were leaders of the movements in their own towns, and his friends also pursued revolutionary activities wherever they were.
2. Unifying the talents:
After the failure of the Alawid’s uprising and their military defeat, they were not pursued by the government. So the revolutionaries started unifying the forces and talents, so that, after a period of peace, they would prepare for another revolt in the proper time.
3. Unveiling the claim for Shiites’ Imamate
“But Imam’s main achievements from this event were far more important than the above mentioned issues.”
Having accepted the Crown Prince position, Imam Reza (A.S) did something that was unequal in the history of the noble Imams’ lives after the ending of the Caliphate in 40th Hijri to that day and to the end of the Caliphate period, and that was unveiling the claim to Shiites’ Imamate, tearing the curtain of Taqiyah, and delivering the message of Shia to all Muslims. The great tribune of Caliphate was given to Imam Reza (A.S), and Imam (A.S) could loudly express the wordswhich were uttered in hidings and only to the friends for 150 years. Using the equipment of the time- which was only given to the Caliphs- Imam (A.S) could deliver his words to all people.
4. Ma’mun’s admitting to Imam’s truthfulness:
The Umayyad and Abbasid tried to underestimate Ahlul-Bayt’s virtues, but after Imam Reza (A.S) took the post, everything changed; Ma’mun talked about Ahlul-Bayt’s virtues, their innocence and their oppressionby the formerrulers’.
5. Imam’s free debates with the followers of other religions:
To represent Imam Reza (A.S) as an unscientific figure, Ma’mun invited the scientists of other religions to hold debates with Imam (A.S).
He had assigned Fazl Ibn Sahl to recruit scholars of different ideas and thoughts. Imam Reza (A.S) took advantage of this opportunity and discussed matters with other scholars based on his reliablebooks, and rejected their words. Eventually, they could not oppose the logic of Imam’s words and admitted to histruthfulness.
Of course Ahlul-Bayt’s lifestyle (A.S) in different periods can be a lesson for believers in the various fields.
When Imam Reza (A.S) started fighting, he was asked as to how to resist against Harun’s silencing of others’ words. However, with Imam’s sagacity, after a time, Ahlul-Bayt’s ideas spread all over and the Umayyad was unable to encounter it. Imam Reza’s acceptance to be Ma’mun’s heir to the throne teaches us to follow our major goals, constantpursuitto achieve them, and preserving our principles while showing flexibility.
1. Hakim, Manzar & Shahbadin Hoseini, 2006. The pioneers of guidance (Imam Reza (A.S)), Vol. 10. Qom: Ahlul-BaytWorld Assembly.
2. The Supreme Leader’s message to Imam Reza (A.S) International Scientific Congress. 1984
The main points
Imam Reza (A.S) made use of the 5-year collision between Amin and Ma’mun to disseminate Ahlul-Bayt’s thoughts around Islamic territories
Accepting the Crown Prince position, Imam Reza (A.S) unveils the Shiites’ claim to Imamate and tears the curtain of Tagiyah and delivering his message to all Muslims.
After the failure of Alawid’s revolt and their military defeat, they were not pursued by the government anymore, and therefore they could unify the forces and talents.
This opportunity enabled Imam Reza (A.S) and his family and friends to clarify the religious concepts, revive the Prophet’s tradition, and disseminate Ahlul-Bayt’s lifestyle in political and social area.