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Imam Musa al-Kazem (as) Passed Twenty Years Of His Sacred Life Under The Gracious

Patronage of his holy father . His inherent genius and gifted virtues combined with

the enlightened guidance and education from Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (as), showed in the

manifestation of his future personality . He was fully versed with the Divine

Knowledge even in his childhood. al-`Allamah al-Majlisi(a.r.) relates that once Abu

Hanifah happened to call upon the holy abode of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (as) to ask him

about some religious matters ( masa'il ) . The Imam (as) was asleep and so he kept

waiting outside till the Imam's (as) awakening . Meanwhile , Imam Musa

al-Kazem (as) , who was then five years old , came out of his house . Abu Hanifah ,

after offering him his best compliment , enquired: ``O the son of the Holy Prophet !

what is your opinion about the deeds of a man ? Does he do them by himself or does

God make him do them ?'' ``O Abu Hanifah'' , the five years old Imam (as) replied

at once , in the typical tone of his ancestors , ``the doings of a man are confined

to three possibilities . First , that God alone does them while the man is quite

helpless . Second , that both God and the man do equally share the commitment .

Third , that man does them alone . Now , if the first assumption is true , it

obviously proves the unjustness of God who punishes His creatures for sins which

they have not committed . And if the second condition be acceptable , even then God

becomes unjust if He punishes the man for the crimes in which He is equally a

partner . But the undesirability of both these conditions is evident in the case of

God . Thus , we are naturally left with the third alternative to the problem that

men are absolutely responsible for their own doing .''


The Holy Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (as) breathed his last on 25th Shawwal 148 AH , and

with effect from the same date Imam Musa al-Kazem (as) succeeded the holy office of

Immamate as the Seventh Imam . The priod of his Imamate continued for thirty - five

years . In the first decade of his Imamate , Imam Musa al-Kazem (as) could afford a

peaceful execution of the responsibilities of his sacred office and carried on the

propagation of the teachings of the Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) . But soon after , he

fell a victim to the ruling kings and a greater part of his life passed in prison.

Political Condition

Imam Musa al-Kazem (as) lived under the most crucial times in the regimes of the

despotic `Abbasid kings who were marked for their tyrannical and cruel

administration . He witnessed the reings of al-Mansur ad-Dawaniqi , al-Mahdi and

Harun ar-Rashid . Al-Mansur and Harun ar-Rashid were the despotic kings who put a

multitude of innocent descendants of the Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) to the sword .

Thousands of these martyrs were buried alive inside walls or put into horrible dark

prisons during their lifetime . These depraved caliphs knew no pity or justice and

they killed and tortured for the plessure they derived from human sufferings.The

Holy Imam (as) was saved from the tyranny of al-Mansur because the king , being

occupied with his project of constructing the new city of Baghdad , could not get

time to turn towards victimizing the Imam. By 157 AH the city of Baghded was built .

This was soon followed by the death of its founder a year later . After al-Mansur ,

his son al-Mahdi ascended the throne . For a few years he remained indifferent

towards the Imam (as) . When in 164 AH he came to Medina and heard about the great

reputation of the Imam , he could not resist his jealousy and the spark of his

ancestral malice against the Ahl-al-bayt (as) was rekindled . He somehow managed to

take the Imam (as) along with him to Baghdad and got him imprisoned there . But

after a year he realized his mistake and released the Imam (as) from jail .

al-Mahdi was succeeded by al-Hadi who lived only for a yaer . Now , in 170 AH , the

most cruel and tyrannical king Harun ar-Rashid appeared at the head of the `Abbasid

Empire . It was during his reign that the Holy Imam (as) passed the greater part of

his life in a miserable prison till he was poisoned. Harun had the Imam (as)

arrested in the Prophet's)pbuh&hf) mosque whilst Imam was praying. He was

handcuffed and shackled and sent to Basra. Imam (as) was put into prison under the

custody of Isa bin Ja'fer. After a year Isa wrote to Harun saying he could no longer

imprison Imam (as) as he could find only piety and righteousness in him.

Harun had the Imam (as) moved to Baghdad under the custody of Fadhl bin Rabi who

too became a follower of Imam (as). The prisons were so small that there was no

room to stand and the food was a cup of water and two pieces of dry bread a day.

Imam (as) remained patient. Harun finally moved Imam in the care of Sindi bin

Shahak (a very cruel man). Imam remained in prison for the last 19 years of his


The 19 years of imprisonment gave the Shia population a little relief as the rulers

concentrated on Imam. It enabled the Shias to disperse from Arabia to Iran, India

etc. thus spreading Islam and it was one of the factors towards the popularity of

the 8th Imam.

Moral and Ethical Excellence

As regards his morality and ethical excellence , Ibn Hajar al-Haytami remarks :

``The patience and forbearance of Imam Musa al-Kazem (as) was such .hat he was

given the title of al-Kazem ( one who swallows down his anger ) . He was the

embodiment of virtue and generosity . He devoted his nights to the prayers of God

and his days to fasting . He always forgave those who did wrong to him , His kind

and generous attitude towards the people was such that he used to patronize and help

the poor and destitutes of Medina and provide for them cash , food , clothes and

other necessitities of sustenance secretly . It continued to be a riddle for the

receivers of gifts throughout the Imam's (as) lifetime as to who their benefactor

was , but the secret was not revealed until after his death.

Literary Attainments

Time and circumstances did not premit Imam Musa al-Kazem (as) to establish

institutions to impart religious knowledge to his followers as his father , Imam

Jafar as-Sadiq (as) and his grandfather , Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (as) had done .

He was never allowed to address a congregation . He carried on his mission of

preaching and guiding people quietly.


In 179 AH , Harun ar-Rashid visited Medina . The fire of malice and jealousy against

the Ahl-al-bayt (as) was kindled in his heart when he saw the great influence and

popularity which the Holy Imam (as) enjoyed amongst the people there . He got the

Imam (as) arrested while he was busy in prayer at the tomb of the Holy

Prophet(pbuh&hf) and kept him in prison in Baghded for a period of about four

years . On the 25th Rajab 183 AH , he got the Imam (as) martyred by poison . Even

his corpse was not spared humiliation and was taken out of the prison and left on

the Bridge of Baghdad . When Harun Rashid's brother Sulayman heard of this he was

furious and arranged for his burial in a Quraysh cemetery outside Baghdad (the 8th

Imam gave ghusl and kafan). A town grew around the tomb of Imam called Kadhmain

(meaning the two Kazems) since the 9th Imam is also buried there.

Imam Al-Kazem (as) - Picture of Patience and Steadfastness

He was always engrossed in prayer and worship in addition to efforts to uplift the

spiritual and intellectual standing of Muslims. It was his habit to frequent the

Prophet’s mosque in Medina and supplicate beside the shrine of his ancestor Prophet

Mohammad (blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny). He was deeply concerned

about the social conditions of the people and strove to make them better human

beings. The people in turn loved and respected him, a factor which made the Abbasid

regime afraid of the influence of the Prophet’s rightful heir. Once the oppressive

caliph, Haroun Rashid, came to Medina from Baghdad. In a bid to impress the people

he visited the Prophet’s Mosque and saluted the shrine of the Prophet with the

words: (Peace upon you O’ cousin). Soon afterwards, Imam Musa Kazem (pbuh) entered

the mosque as usual, and approaching the Prophet’s shrine saluted with the words:

Peace be upon you O Grandfather, Peace be upon you O’ Messenger of God. The caliph

was enraged and stormed out since he was afraid that the people’s sentiments were

with the Imam and not with him. Haroun knew that Imam Musa Kazem (pbuh), as the son

of Imam Ja’far Sadeq (pbuh) had impeccable credentials and was above all the 7th

infallible successor of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of Allah be upon and his


The wicked caliph, Haroun Rashid, was waiting for an opportunity to cause harm to

Imam Musa Kazem (pbuh). Once, during another visit to Medina, the crafty caliph sent

his troops and seized the Imam, while he was in prayer. The crowd protested but the

Imam advised them to be patient and calm. The caliph was afraid of the people’s

sentiments and in order to deceive them, had the Imam secretly taken to Iraq. The

Imam languished in the dungeons of the caliph, sometimes in conditions, which were

quite inhuman with not even enough space to properly stand up for prayers. But the

Imam was the least perturbed and punctually observed his duties to God with the

result that even the jailors felt reverence towards him and asked the caliph why he

had has jailed such a noble soul. The wicked Haroun would reply that it was either

the Imam or him since people would never acknowledge his rule as caliph while Imam

Musa Kazem (pbuh) was present in society as the rightful heir of the Prophet. Once,

from his prison the Imam wrote a letter to the caliph, saying: Every day that passes

for me is more harder than the previous one, while for you it is a day to rejoice.

Soon the day will come when you and me will be assembled in one place and the

imposters will know what evil they did.

A famous hadith from the 7th Imam, says: "Strive to acquire knowledge and awareness

of God’s religion, for understanding divine injunctions are the key to insight,

completion of worship and a means for gaining access to higher religious and worldly


In this beautiful piece of advice, Imam Kazem (pbuh) highlights the fact that Islam

guarantees prosperity in this world and salvation in afterlife, provided that one

has understood it well and practiced what he or she has learned. As part of this

objective, the Imam struggled against intellectual and ideological corruption

promoted by the caliph and the Abbasid court. The seventh Imam lived in a period of

religious suffocation and despite the persecution of the authorities held aloft the

light of guidance. He taught people to stand steadfast in the face of oppression and

to refrain from absurdities. Haroun felt alarmed but there was little he could do

since the devoted followers of the Imam never used to mention the Imam’s name for

fear of Abbasid spies. This enabled the true teachings of the Prophet to spread to

the caliph’s court in Baghdad as well, and even a high ranking official such as Ali

bin Yaqtin who held a sensitive job at Haroun’s court, developed deep spiritual

attachments with the Imam. He was, however, careful not to mention the Imam’s name

although he was in secret correspondence with the Imam for the required guidelines.

Imam Musa Kazem (pbuh), like his infallible ancestors, was the most perfect man of

his age. He was like the ocean of knowledge and benefited all those that came into

contact with him. He used to speak softly but fluently and had a pleasant voice in

reciting the holy Quran. At the same time he was very modest. Once Imam Kazem (pbuh)

came across an ugly looking man from the suburbs. He appeared so ugly that few

people would associate with him. In his first encounter, the Imam greeted the man,

sat beside him and talked with him for an hour. Then the Imam said to him: Tell me

what are your wishes. I am prepared to help you realize them.

When some people who noticed the Imam sitting with such a miserable man, said to

him: “O son of the Messenger of God, do you sit with someone who is shunned by all?"

The Imam replied: "You should know that he is, after all, a creature of God and is

your brother in faith as per the command of the Holy Quran. The best of fathers,

that is Adam, and the best of religions, that is Islam, have established the best

links. May be one day he will be of need to us."

These humanitarian tendencies and the fostering of brotherhood was not in the

interests of the Abbasids, and Haroun in an effort to cut the link between the Imam

and the ummah, had him imprisoned. However, every day that passed was a proof of the

innocence of the Imam and proved to the people the falsity of Haroun’s claim to rule

over the people. One day, the wicked caliph ordered poisoning of the seventh Imam's

food through the cruel jailor Sindi bin Shahak. The dose proved fatal and three days

later on Rajab 25, in the year 183 AH, the seventh Imam left the mortal world at the

age of 55 years.

Some beautiful statements from him are as follows:

He says: "Association with the faithful brings dignity in this world and in the

hereafter, while consultation with the wise brings prosperity and divine blessing."

In an advice to one of his companions, Heshaam bin Hakam, the Imam says, "O Heshaam,

I caution you against pride, for anyone who has a little pride will never enter


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