Question: What was Imam al-Kadhim’s method of dealing with Harun al-Rashid?
Harun was extremely unhappy by the fact that even with all his power and influence, he felt the hearts of the people were still with Imam Musa al-Kadhim. He tried tirelessly and desperately to eradicate this spiritual influence and penetration of the Imam in the people’s hearts.
Harun was extremely unhappy by the fact that even with all his power and influence, he felt the hearts of the people were still with Imam Musa al-al-Kadhim. He tried tirelessly and desperately to eradicate this spiritual influence and penetration of the Imam in the people’s hearts. It was unbearable to him that he was getting daily reports of the people secretly paying their religious dues to the Imam Musa al-Kadhim, and through this action were showing their opposition to the Abbasid government and recognizing the right of the Imam to rule. It was for this reason that when he saw the Imam by the Ka’bah he said to him: “Is it you that the people secretly pay allegiance to and take as their leader?” The Imam replied: “I rule over the hearts of the people, while you rule over their bodies.”
Harun would openly claim a relationship to the Holy Prophet and used every opportunity to express his claims. On one occasion he entered the city of Madinah and went to visit the grave of the Prophet. When he arrived at the shrine of the Prophet, he saw a group of people from amongst the Quraysh and other tribes had gathered there, Harun used this opportunity and turned towards the grave of the Prophet and said “Salutations on you Oh Prophet of God! Salutations on you Oh cousin!”
He had intended to make it known to the people present that he was related to the Holy Prophet as a cousin, and this was a source of pride for him. It so happened that Musa ibn Jaafar happened to be amongst the crowd of people and he understood what Harun was trying to do, so he approached the grave of the Prophet and said loudly “Salutations on you Oh Prophet of God, Salutations on you Oh father!” This infuriated Harun so much so that he became red in the face and without thought said “this is truly something to be proud of.”
By constantly reminding people of his family relation to the prophet, Harun was not only trying to win their hearts but also simultaneously trying to discredit the Imams. Once he said to Imam al-Kadhim: “How can you claim to be from the children of the Prophet when in reality you are from the children of Ali, and every person’s lineage returns back to their paternal grandparents, not their maternal.” Imam al-Kadhim replied using a verse from the Holy Quran ‘...and from his (Ibrahim’s) offspring, David and Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. Thus, do We reward the virtuous. And Zechariah, John, Jesus and Ilyas, each of them among the righteous.”
He went on to explain the verse sighting that in it Jesus had been counted amongst the children of the previous Prophets, even though he was related to them through his mother, not his father. In the same way, he explained, we (the Ahl al-Bayt) are related to and counted as the children of the Prophet through our mother Fatimah.
Harun could say nothing in the face of this Quranic reasoning. In another similar debate where Harun asked the same question, the Imam replied using a different method, he asked Harun “If the Prophet were to come back to life and ask for your daughters hand in marriage, would you accept?” to which Harun replied “Not only would I accept, but I would boast of this honor to all the Arabs and non-Arabs” The Imam stunned him by continuing as such “However, this is not true for us, nor would the Prophet ask for our daughters in marriage, nor would we give them to him”, when asked why? He replied “Because I am from the lineage of the Prophet, so such a marriage would be unlawful, however you are not from his lineage, hence it would be lawful for you.”
In another encounter between the seventh Imam and Harun Rashid took place in one of the caliph’s grand palaces in Baghdad. Harun in trying to show off to the Imam about his palace asked him about the owner of this majestic building, the Imam without showing any attraction or giving any importance to the grandness of the building replied “this is the home of a corrupt person, it is about such people that God speaks about in the Quran saying ‘Soon I shall turn away from My signs those who act arrogantly on the earth: though they should see every sign, they will [still] not believe in it, and if they see the way of righteousness they will not select it as [their] way, and if they see the way of error they will take it as [their] way. That is because they deny Our signs and are oblivious towards them.’”
Harun became so enraged that he almost lost his composure, in spite he asked again who the palace belonged to, the Imam not backing down from his stance said this time “This house belongs to our partisans and followers; however others have forcefully and oppressively taken it from them” Harun replied “if it belongs to your followers than why doesn’t the owner of this building...” to which the Imam quickly replied “This house was snatched from its original owner, and whenever the original owner is able to do so, he will take it back.”