The Seventh Imam Musa Al-kazim (as)


His name is MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) and ABU AL-HASAN are his titles. He is usually called MUSA AL-KAZIM. IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS) was his father whose lineage, by five generations, reaches the holy Prophet (p). His mother HAMIDA KHATUN was a North African Berber.


He was born on SAFAR 7, 128 A.H. (November 8, 754 A.D.). The knowledge of his father, IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS), saturated the Islamic world. Although two elder sons, ISMA'IL and ABDALLAH, had already illuminated the house, the addition of the new-born brought unparalleled happiness to the household, probably because the Providence had decided to maintain the continuity of Imamate through him.


Twenty years of his age passed under the supervision of his father IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS). It may be said that the student or trainee, i.e. MUSA, was a gifted one while the teacher was the Imam who displayed an exalted character which reflected the moral excellence of holy Prophet. It was due to these virtues and to the propagation of the teachings of the Prophet that the SHI'AHS are called "JA'FARIS", taught by IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS). It is clear that the capable son might have fully availed himself of his father's excellent tutoring during his boyhood and youth.

The scholarly achievements of IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) were so conspicuous that the world acknowledged them and IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS) appointed him as his successor. It is proved by this act that Imamate does not, as a rule, go to the eldest son or be inherited. It is the blessing bestowed by the Divine Providence upon the Infallibles who are gifted with celestial learning. The principle is further established by the fact that this enormous responsibility had once before passed from IMAM HASAN to his brother IMAM HUSAIN (AS), and not to HASAN'S descendants. The Imamate of MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS), therefore, illustrates that Imamate is based on personal perfection, not necessarily on direct descent.


In 148 A.H. (765 A.D.), upon the death of IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS), the responsibilities of Imamate devolved on MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS). This was during the reign of AL-MANSUR AL-DAWANIQI, the tyrant who ordered the slaying of countless SAYYIDS. The number of those imprisoned, oppressed thrown into the dark cells of prisons or bricked up in the walls alive was know only to God. IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS) himself had been subjected to harassment, tyranny and intrigues, the last of which was poison which ended his life.

In these circumstance, IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS) on his death-bed foresaw that the life of his successor, too, would be ended in the same way. In order to divert this danger, he nominated, in his will, five trustees to look after his family. AL-MANSUR the ABBASIDE ruler was one of them. The other four were MUHAMMAD IBN SULAYMAN, the then governor of Medina, his own son ABDALLAH AL-AFTAH MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS), and their respected mother HAMIDA KHATUN. IMAM JA'FAR'S prediction was correct. When the news of his death reached AL-MANSUR, the latter made a show of grief by thrice repeating these words: "INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILAIHI RAJI'UN", (that is, "We are God's and unto Him is our return"). He also said: "Who can be JA'FAR'S equal now…?" But secretly he wrote to the governor of Medina saying: "If JA'FAR, by way of a will, appointed any trustee, put him to death immediately". The governor replied: "He had appointed five trustees, the first of whom is your majesty". Having read this reply, AL-MANSUR remained silent, since the sanctity of a will cannot be violated. Then, pondering over the situation, he said: "In this case, these persons cannot be slain".

According, for the next ten years, AL-MASUR did not try to harass MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) who carried out the duties of Imamate peacefully. AL-MANSUR was, moreover, preoccupied with building the new capital of Baghdad which he completed just one year before his death. He had, therefore, little time to think of harassing IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS).


AL-MANSUR AL-DAWANIQI died in 158 A.H.(775 A.D.) and was succeeded by his son AL-MAHDI. In the beginning, AL-MAHDI did nothing to humiliate or dishonor IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS), but later he fostered the old enmity against Imam Ali's descendants. In 164 A.H. (781 A.D), when he performed the HAJJ, he took the Imam with him from Mecca to Baghdad where he imprisoned him. For one year the Imam suffered the hardship of imprisonment. Then the ruler realized that he was mistreating a descendant of the Prophet (p), and he released the pious soul. In 169 A.H., AL-MAHDI died and was succeeded by his brother AL-HADI who ruled for only 13 months. On his death, HARUN AL-RASHID came to the throne. The latter's attitude towards IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) was very antagonistic and it caused AL-KAZIM (AS) to die in imprisonment.


IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) was one of the illustrious Imams whom the Almighty God had set as a paragon of moral excellence. Each member of this illustrious family possessed cardinal virtues. Naturally in some individuals a particular virtue is dominant and more conspicuous. The Seventh Imam excelled in tolerance and forgiveness, so much so that he was tilted AL-KAZIM (AS), the suppressor of fury. Never was he heard speaking roughly or sternly. Even in the most unpleasant situations, he wore a smiling face. This was in accordance with the saying of his ancestor IMAM ALI IBN ABU TALIB (AS) that the faithful keeps his grief confined in his heart with a smile on his face.

One government official of Medina was a persistent source of harassment to IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS). He even used abusive language regarding Imam Ali (as). But the Imam always directed his followers not to abuse him. Hen his malicious conduct became too rude to be tolerated, they sought permission to retaliate against him. The Imam appeased them, promising to decide the matter himself.

Pacifying his followers thus, he went to the fellow on his farm and treated him with such noble benevolence that the man felt ashamed of his conduct and subsequently changed his attitude and altered his conduct. Explaining this policy to his followers, the Imam asked: "Was my behavior better than the methods you suggested?" They admitted that it certainly was. He thus carried out the instruction of his great ancestor Imam Ali (as) which is recorded in NAHJ AL-BALAGHA to subdue the enemy with benevolence since it is more effective than vanquishing him with force. No doubt this requires a correct judgment of the enemy's nature. Imam Ali (as) has, therefore, warned not to use this policy with the vile and the mean, or they will be encouraged to do m ore mischief.

To vanquish foe with goodness certainly requires the foresight the Imam possessed. Strictness is permissible only when the enemy's continuous vile conduct justifies retaliation or the use of force. If not, these dignified souls preferred to deal with him gently, so as to have a valid pretext against the opponent and leave no ground for him to justify his aggression.

This was the noble method usually adopted by this House of Prophet-hood. Imam Ali (as), even on his death-bed, behaved liberally with IBN MULJIM who had dealt him a mortal blow only the day before. IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) showered his generosity on MUHAMMAD IBN ISMA'IL who carried out the orders of the ABBASIDE caliph to put an end to the Imam's life. It was IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) who aided him for his journey with a grant of 400 DINARS and 1,500 DIRHAMS although he undertook this journey to poison the ears of the caliph against him. IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) had to undergo hard times. The academy of learning which his father IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS) established could not longer be maintained. Other means to disseminate knowledge were beyond his reach. It was only his noble personal behavior which was able to introduce the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (p) and his Progeny (AS) to the public.

He used to observe silence at gatherings or seminars, and he never spoke unless somebody put up some scientific problem to him. Nor did he ever initiate a conversation. In spite of this, he was regarded with an awe of respect by friend and foe alike. All acknowledged his knowledge and noble bearing. In view of his excessive worship at night, he was called "AL-ABD AS-SALIH", i.e., the pious worshipper of God. No less famed was his generosity. He used to help the beggars and destitute secretly. After the morning prayers, he used to lower his forehead in prostration and remain in that position till the sun declined. His recitation of the holy QUR'AN was attractive; he wept as he recited, and his audiences were deeply waved.


In 170 A.H. (787 A.D.), HARUN AR-RASHID succeeded as the caliph. His ancestors' traditional cruelty towards the descendants of Imam Ali (as) and Fatima was well in his view. He knew quite well the plans of his father against IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS) as well as his own intentions to do away with the Imam's successor. On one hand, the sagacious and wise will of IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS), whose moral obligations had rendered AL-MANSUR'S designs futile, safeguarded IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM'S life; on the other hand, the building of the new capital of Baghdad totally absorbed the attention of his antagonist. But HARUN had no such obstacles or engagements. The only plan he could think of was to secure his power and abolish the academy of spiritual excellence which stood in the HASHEMITES' center in Medina. However, the calm and cautious policy of IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS), as well as the internal problems of government, did not allow HARUN to harass the Imam openly.

Meanwhile, the revolt of YAHYA IBN ABDALLAH IBN AL-HASAN took place. Violating all agreements and covenants, HARUN first threw YAHYA into the choking dark dungeons and then slew him. IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) was in no way connected with YAHYA'S uprising. He had, instead, advised him against opposing the government. But YAHYA'S action served to intensify the enmity which HARUN bore towards Imam Ali's descendants including, of course, IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS). To make the matters even worse, the Prime Minister YAHYA IBN KHALID AL-BARMAKI poisoned HARUN'S ears by pointing out that JA'FAR IBN AL-ASH'ATH (tutor of HARUN'S son AL-AMIN and a political rival of YAHYA) was a SHI'AH of the Imam who planned to bring the Imam to power. Although YAHYA IBN KHALID intended just to enrage HARUN against JA'FAR IBN AL-ASH'ATH, his plan proved to be fatal to IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS). In the same year, HARUN came to Mecca to perform the HAJJ, and so did IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS). Here HARUN watched with jealous eyes the sublime popularity which numerous Muslim multitudes showed for that sage. It was sufficient to flare up his rage. MUHAMMAD IBN ISMA'IL'S opposition worsened the situation.

To understand these complications, let us ponder on the following: ISMA'IL, Muhammad's father, was the eldest son of IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS), and he was expected to succeed his father as the Imam. But he died during the lifetime of the Imam. The common notion was thus shattered. Yet some simpletons still held the view that IMAM JA'FAR'S successor should be one of ISMA'IL'S offspring. MUHAMMAD IBN ISMA'IL and his followers, therefore, never acknowledged the Imamate of MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS). Since his followers were a small minority, he outwardly expressed his loyalty to the family. To discuss all possible means of annihilating IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS), HARUN consulted YAHYA AL-BARMAKI whom he instructed to collect complete reports about the Imam through one of the descendants of Imam Ali (as). YAHYA, an avowed foe of the Prophet's Progeny, recommended Muhammad IBN ISMA'IL as the person who would supply all the details correctly. Accordingly, he was summoned to Baghdad.

When MUHAMMAD IBN ISMA'IL received the caliphs' letter, he considered it a passport to power and prosperity, and he resolved to go to Baghdad. But he was penniless and unable to prepare for the journey. He was, therefore, obliged to approach the same generous saint who demonstrated benevolence to friend and foe alike. He told the Imam that he intended to go to Baghdad. The Imam knew well the motives behind the journey. He nevertheless inquired about its purpose. Muhammad explained that he was having hard times, being deeply in debt, and that he thought that the journey might bring his prosperity. The Imam said: "You need not go there; I promise to pay off all your debts and provide adequately for your sustenance".

But Muhammad would not change his decision to go to Baghdad. Upon leaving, he paid the Imam a visit and requested a useful piece of advice. IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) remained silent. On his repeated request, the Imam said: "Please see that you do not become a party in slaying me, and please do not be the cause for making my children orphans". Muhammad tried to turn from the point and asked for some appropriate advice. But the Imam refused to say anything more. When he got up to depart, the noble soul granted him 450 gold DINARS and 1,500 silver DIRHAMS for the journey.

The result was exactly what the Imam had foreseen. MUHAMMAD IBN ISMA'IL reached Baghdad and stayed at the house of YAHYA, the Prime Minister who introduced him to HARUN who surrounded him with honors HARUN inquired about the pace of events in Medina. Muhammad stated the circumstances most incorrectly, adding; "I never saw or heard that a country is ruled by two kings". On being asked to explain, he asserted: "As you are ruling here in Baghdad, MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) rules there in Medina. From every town, revenues are delivered to him, and he claims to be your own equal in power". These were the words YAHYA AL-BARMAKI had instructed Muhammad to say to HARUN who felt very much provoked. He sent Muhammad back after granting him ten thousand DINARS. But God wished that Muhammad should not avail of this wealth. On that very night, he suffered pain in his throat, and when the day dawned, the darkness of death closed on him. HARUN heard the news and ordered to retrieve the cash. Muhammad's statement was not erased from HARUN'S memory and he was resolved to put an end to the Imam's life.

When in 179 A.H. (795 A.D) HARUN went to Mecca and Medina, he stayed in the latter city for a day or two after which he sent his men to arrest IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS). The Imam was not at home when the caliph's men came, so they went to the Prophet's tomb where he used to say his prayers. Totally disregarding the sanctity of the Prophet's grave, they arrested his descendant there and brought him before HARUN. It was on the 20th of SHAWWAL of 179 A.H. that the Prophet's pious son was being fettered and taken prisoner while not even one MEDENITE dared to raise a finger against the tyrant. This lethargy of the unfeeling Muslims had also been witnessed on several occasions before that incident.

Being apprehensive of any attempt which might be made to rescue the Imam, HARUN ordered two camel-domes to be prepared in one of which he seated the Imam and sent him to Basra escorted by a sizeable military detachment. The other empty dome was sent to Baghdad with an equal number of soldiers in order to confuse any prospective rescuers and distract the attention of people by keeping the place of imprisonment unknown. Was it not a shocking event that the Imam's family could not even see the Imam or bid him farewell? They only received the news that he had been imprisoned by the government. They were distressed to hear it and the Imam, too, was equally grieved for being separated from his loved ones without being able to bid them farewell. But his power of endurance welcomed his dilemma.

Nobody knows what a zigzag route was followed that the journey to Basra took full 47 days. There the Imam remained in confinement for one year. The city's governor was 'ISA IBN JA'FAR, a cousin of HARUN. In the beginning he carried out HARUN'S orders. But he often wondered about the reasons for the imprisonment of the pious descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (p). He therefore, became curious about the Imam's life, character and attributes. The more he studied them and noticed his forbearance, the more he was impressed by his noble conduct.

He conveyed his views to HARUN In good faith, but the latter only became suspicious of the intentions of his own cousin. He therefore ordered that the imam must be transferred to Baghdad where he put him under the custody of AL-FADL IBN AR-RABI'. Having come to know that FADL was inclined towards SHI'ISM, he put the Imam under the custody of YAHYA AL-BARMAKI, the notorious enemy of AHL AL-BAYT (AS). It seems that the Imam's sacred personality impressed everybody and the tyrant thought it necessary to change his jailers.


The imam was finally imprisoned in the dungeon under the charge of AS-SINDI IBN SHAHIK who was the ruthless and stone-hearted Chief of Police of HARUN AR-RASHID. He died on the 25th of RAJAB 183 A.H. (September 2, 799 A.D.) at the age of 55. No honor was shown at the burial either. Rather, the corpse was borne to the grave-yard by men who were announcing his death in degrading tones. By this time the people felt depressed about the fate of the elevated Imam and they accompanied the coffin with full display of respect. They buried him in a suburb of Baghdad now bearing his name as KAZIMIYYA, city of IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM (AS) where his magnificent mausoleum now houses a reputed school of theology.