- Category: Ahl al-Bayt
- Written by Mouood
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The reason why the Emam abstained from giving the man according to the extent of his own kindness, as the man asked him the first time, is probably due to the fact that he simply did not have as much money as he liked to give. As regarding his own affection towards the poor and the indigent, and his way of looking after them, Mu'ammar ibn Khallad narrates this anecdote:
"Whenever Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.) was about to eat his meal, he would bring a large platter and select the choicest food on the table and put on it, then he would order it to be given away to the poor. After that he would recite the following verse: `But he hath made no haste on the path that is steep.'46 After that he would say: `God, the Exalted and the Sublime, knows that not everyone has the ability to free a slave, nevertheless He found means for them to achieve Paradise (by feeding others).'"47
Thus does the Emam sense the weight of deprivation under which the poor moan and suffer; therefore, he shares his best food with them in response to the call of humanity and kindness and in harmony with the spirit of the message with which God entrusted him.
Al-Bazanti tells the story of a letter Emam al-Rida (A.S.) wrote to his son Emam Abu Ja'fer (A.S.) which personifies the generosity and spirit of giving deeply rooted in the hearts of the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.); he says: "I read the letter of Abul-Hassan Emam al-Rida (A.S.) to Abu Ja'fer which said: `O Abu Ja'fer! I have heard that when you ride, the servants take you out of the city through its small gate. This is due to their being miser so that nobody asks you for something. I plead you by the right I have upon you that every time you enter into or get out of the city, you should do so through its large gate, and when you ride, take gold and silver with you, and every time you are asked, you should give. If any of your uncles asks you for something, you should give him no less than fifty dinars, and you yourself may determine the maximum amount you would like to give; and if any of your aunts asks you for something, do not give her less than twenty-five dinars, and it is up to you to determine the maximum amount. I only desire that God raises your status; therefore, keep giving away and do not fear that the Lord of the Throne will ever throw you into poverty.'"48
The Emam (A.S.) did not have the chance to rule for any period of time so that we may discuss his practical style of government, but we can still be acquainted with that through reviewing his statements to some of his followers who very much desired that the Emam should shoulder the responsibilities of caliphate. Muhammad ibn Abu 'Abada asked him once: "Why did you delay executing the order of the commander of the faithful and why did you refuse to oblige?" He said: "Be careful, O father of Hassan! The matter is not so." He added saying that the Emam noticed that he was crossed, so he said: "What's in it for you anyway? Should I, as you presume, become what you wish me to become, and you are as close to me then as you are right now, you would certainly be responsible for paying your dues and, in my eyes, there would be no difference between you and anyone else."
He, peace be upon him, clarifies the matter, and that there is no use to accept the caliph's offer since government will never actually be under his control. And when he notices the bitterness on the face of the person who asked him why he hesitated to accept the caliph's offer, he reminds him of his method of government should it at all be in his hands, summarizing it thus: Nobody shall have any distinction over other citizens according to the dictates of the equitable government set up by Islamic Shari'a regardless of class or any other distinctions such as favouritism, friendship or support; rather, all subjects are equal in the rights they enjoy without any bias to one in preference over another, or any bias against one in order to please another.
The Emam's way of explaining his method of government is actually an outspoken way of criticizing the ruling methods followed then the foundations of which were not based on justice and equity but on special interests which guarantee for the ruler and his followers the continuity of his government and authority. The wealth, lives, possessions and everything else under the government's control was all subject to the whims and desires of the oppressive ruler and his train, distant from the principles of justice and the norms of equality secured by the Islamic message as embedded within its humanitarian method of legislation.
Reluctance to Cooperate With the Rulers
The Emams (A.S.) did not for even one day admit any legitimacy to their contemporary governments, be it Umayyad or Abbaside, due to the fact that those governments were far away from the pristine Islamic system of government and to their deviation, in spirit and in conduct, from the most simple principles and rules of human justice. Executions, deportations, confiscations of properties, transgressions, according to them, all did not hold them legally accountable, nor did they constitute a departure from the principles of creed and equity as long as they in the end served to strengthen and secure the foundations of their governments.
Anyone who appreciates his divine responsibility would try as hard as possible to stay away from participating in shouldering the responsibilities of such governments or making the latter's job easier, for this would mean his own recognition of their legitimacy and his own admission of their right to exist.
Yes; if the objective of his participation is to alleviate, as much as he can, their injustice and transgression to which innocent believers may be subjected, and to minimize the danger of their ethical and social iniquities which distance the nation from the achievement of an exemplary realization of its mission--if this is the objective, then such participation may be necessitated by one's own persistent faith, and upon this premise did the Emams refrain from encouraging any of their followers from working for such governments for that would mean assisting the aggressor and strengthening his stance. The only exception was the case when the religion's interest dictated it. In the latter case, they used to encourage some of their influential followers to take part in the government and be employed by it as was the case of Ali ibn Yaqteen who tried several times to resign from his post at the court of Harun al-Rashid, but Emam Mousa ibn Ja'fer (A.S.) used to encourage him to stay due to the fact that his stay meant removing injustices from many believers and the fending of some of the corruption committed by others.
We can clearly be acquainted with this negative stance of Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) towards their rulers by examining what al-Hassan ibn al-Husayn al-Anbari tells us about Emam Abul-Hassan al-Rida (A.S.). He says: "I continued writing him for fourteen years asking his permission that I accept a job in the service of the sultan. At the conclusion of the last letter I wrote him I stated the fact that I was fearing for my life because the sultan was accusing me of being a Rafidi and that he did not doubt that the reason why I declined from working for him was due to my being a Rafidi. So Abul-Hassan wrote me saying, `I have comprehended the contents of your letters and what you stated regarding your apprehension about your life's safety. If you know that should you accept the job, you would behave according to the commands of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) and your assistants and clerks would be followers of your faith, and if you use the gain you receive to help needy believers till you become their equal, then one deed will offset another; otherwise, do not.'"52
The Emam (A.S.) preconditions for his permission to work for the government that there should be a religious interest which decreases the damage done by the nature of the job; otherwise, it would mean a psychological and factual separation from the pristine principles of Islam and its precepts and an attachment to the corrupt world in which those rulers were living.
How could the Emam ever approve the principle of cooperating with those who played Muslim caliphs and deliberately watered down the divine content of the Islamic message by their and behavioural transgressions which demolished the psychological and spiritual borders separating the nation from the realization of the sins and pitfalls of such transgressions? Theirs were gatherings in which wine was served, entertainers entertained, singers sang, dancers danced, filling the palaces of Umayyad and Abbaside caliphs with immorality. One of them was insolent enough to invite one of those Emams (A.S.) to participate in his drinking orgy as was the case of al-Mutawakkil with Emam Ali al-Hadi (A.S.) which unveils to us the extent of corruption and the extremity of moral decay of the Abbaside caliphate.
It is quite possible that those rulers were aware of the negative attitude of the Emams towards them and their corrupt government systems. We find them, as the anecdote above proves, doubting the loyalty of the individuals who refused to cooperate with them, charging them with Rafidism due to the negative stance adopted by their Emams towards the conduct of those rulers.
Islamic caliphate suffered the tragedy of a humiliating deviation from Islam and a moral decay during the Umayyad and Abbaside dynasties which helped the wide dissemination of corruption and moral decay among various sectors of the ummah. What sort of Muslim caliphs were those whose eyes could not sleep except after listening to the music played by their male and female singers, whose nightly meetings were not complete without the presence of wine and immorality? What type of Islamic reality is this in which a group like that has the full say? How can anyone expect the Emams (A.S.), who were the careful custodians of rights and whose responsibility was to safeguard such rights, to permit themselves and their followers to bear any responsibility in a government led by individuals whose hands were polluted with sins and accustomed to sinning?