After the death of Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (as), Mamun, the abbaside caliph was under constant criticism by his subjects who blamed him for Imam (as)’s death. In order to keep the situation calm and regain the confidence of his people, Mamun invited Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al-Taqi (as) to baghdad. He also sent some people to escort the Imam (as) so as to show the people that he accorded high respect to the Ahlul-Bayt (as). At that time, the age of the Imam (as) was barely 7 to 9 years.
When the Imam (as) arrived in baghdad and prior to his meeting with Mamun, he was once among the children of his age playing on the road when suddenly they all saw Mamun approaching. They quickly dispersed from the place and hid themselves except for Imam al-Taqi (as). Mamun asked him, “Why haven’t you run away like everybody else?” Imam (as) replied, “The path is not narrow that it would become wider by me moving away from it, nor have I committed any crime that I should run away from you. And I don’t think that you are the sort who would punish an innocent person!”
Seeing the handsome and illuminated face of the young boy and listening to his bold reply, Mamun was wonderstruck. So he asked, “What is your name?” The young boy replied, “Muhammad” “Whose son are you?” asked Mamun. “I am the son of Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (as)” replied the young boy. When Mamun heard this, he praised the 8th Imam (as) and went away.
After this brief encounter, Mamun proceeded to the forest. There, he released his eagle which flew and came back with a live fish in its beak. Mamun was surprised by this. As he was returning to his palace, Mamun passed by the same spot where he had met Imam al-Taqi (as) earlier on. He noticed that the boy was still there. Addressing him, Mamun asked, “O MUhammad! tell me what do I have in my hand?”
The Imam (as) replied, “Allah (SWT) has created many vast oceans from which clouds are formed. When clouds are forming, they absorb small live fishes which are sought by the eagles of the kings who then use them to test the Imams of their time”. Hearing this, Mamun admitted, “There is no doubt that you are the son of Ali ibn Musa (as), for such miracles are only possible by his son”. (Ahsan al-Maqaal)
The Imams from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (saww) did not possess apparent kingdoms and never ruled or behaved like other kings but they were always in enviable position because of their God given status. Even the kings and the rulers were jealous of them.
“Or do they envy the people for what Allah has given them of His grace? But indeed We gave Ibrahim’s children the book and the wisdom and We gave them a great kingdom”. (4:54)