Imam Musa Kazim (AS) By: Seyyed Mehdi Golpaygani
Name, Epithet and Titles
His name was `Musa’, his epithet, `Abul-Hassan’, and his famous title was `Kazim’. His matchless devotion and worship of Allah has earned him the title of `Abdu-Saleh’ (The Virtuous Slave of Allah).
Generosity was synonymous with his name; no beggar ever returned from his door empty-handed. Even after his death, he continued to be obliging and was generous to his devotees who came to his shrine with prayers and behest, which were invariably granted by Allah. Thus one of his additional titles is `Bab-ul-Qaza-ul-Hawaij’ (The Door to Fulfilling One’s Needs).
Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) was the son of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS), the Sixth Imam of Shi’as. His mother’s name was Hamida, who was the daughter of a nobleman named Saeed.
Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) was born on the 7th of Safar, 128 A.H. (After Hejira), in Abwa, situated between Mecca and Medina.
Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) spent 20 years of his sacred life under the gracious patronage of his father. His inherent genius and gifted virtues, combined with the enlightened guidance and education from his father, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS), manifested in his personality. He was fully versed with Divine Knowledge even in his childhood.
Allama Majlisi relates that once Abu Hanifa happened to call upon the holy abode of Imam as-Sadiq to ask him about some religious matters (Masa’il). The Imam was asleep; so he was kept waiting outside till the Imam’s awakening. Meanwhile, Imam Musa al-Kazim, which was 5 years old, came out of his house. After offering him his best regard, Abu Hanifa enquired, “O son of the Prophet! What is your opinion about the deeds of a man? Does he do them by himself, or does Allah make him do them?”
“O Abu Hanifa!” the 5-year-old Imam replied in the typical tone of his ancestors. The doings of a man are confined to three possibilities: (i) That Allah alone does them while the man is quite helpless; (ii) That both Allah and the man equally share the commitment; (iii) That man does them alone.
Now, if the first assumption is true, it obviously proves the injustice of Allah who punishes His creatures for sins, which they have not committed. If the second condition be accepted, even then Allah is unjust if He punishes a man for sins in which he is equally a partner. But the undesirability of both these conditions is evident in the case of Allah. Thus, we are naturally left with the third alternative to the problem that men are absolutely responsible for their actions!”
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) breathed his last on the 25th of Shawal, 148 A.H. Immediately, Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) succeeded the Holy Office of the Imamate as the Seventh Imam (AS). The period of his Imamat lasted 35 years. In the first decade of his Imamat, Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) could afford a peaceful execution of the responsibilities of his sacred office, propagating the teachings of the Holy Prophet (SAW). But soon after, he fell a victim to the ruling Caliphs and a greater part of his life passed in prison.
Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) lived under the most trying times of the regimes of the despotic Abbaside caliphs who were known for their tyrannical and cruel rule. He witnessed the reigns of Mansure-e Dawaniqi, Mehdi and Harun al-Rashid. Mansur and Harun were the despotic caliphs who put a multitude of innocent descendants of the Holy Prophet to the sword. Thousands of these martyrs were buried alive or put into horrible dark prisons. These depraved caliphs knew no pity or justice; they killed and tortured for the pleasure they derived from human suffering.
The Holy Imam (AS) was saved from the tyranny of Mansur because, being occupied with his project of constructing the new city of Baghdad, the caliph did not have time to turn towards inflicting suffering on the Imam. By the year 15 A.H., the city of Baghdad was built. This was followed by the death of its founder a year later.
After Mansur, his son Mehdi ascended the throne. For a few years he remained indifferent towards the Imam (AS). When in 164 A.H. he came to Medina and heard about the great reputation of the Imam, Mehdi could not resist his jealousy and the spark of his ancestral malice against the Ahlul-Bait (AS) was rekindled. He somehow managed to take the Imam along with him to Baghdad and got him imprisoned there. But after a year he realized his mistake and released the Imam from prison.
Hadi, who lived only for a year, succeeded Caliph Mehdi. In 170 A.H., the most cruel and tyrannical caliph, Harun al-Rashid, appeared at the head of the Abbaside Empire. It was during his reign that the Holy Imam (AS) passed the greater part of his life in a miserable prison, until his death.
Moral and Ethical Excellence
As regards his morality and ethical excellence, Ibn Hajar remarks, “The patience and forbearance of Imam Musa al-Kazim was such that he was given the title of al-Kazim (one who swallows his anger). He was the embodiment of virtue and generosity. He devoted his nights to the prayers of Allah, and his days to fasting. He always forgave those who did him wrong.”
His kind and generous attitude towards the people was such that he used to patronize and help the poor and destitute of Medina, secretly providing cash, food, clothes and other necessities for them. It continued to be a riddle for the receivers of gifts throughout the Imam’s lifetime as to who their benefactor was, but the secret was not revealed until after his death.
Time and circumstances did not permit the Holy Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) to establish institutions to impart religious knowledge to his followers, as his father, Imam Ja’far 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. He also became the author of a few books, the most famous of which is, “Musnand of Imam Musa al-Kazim”.
In 179 A.H., Caliph Harun al-Rashid visited Medina. The fire of malice and jealousy against the Ahlul-Bait (AS) was kindled in his heart when he saw the great influence and popularity, which the Holy Imam enjoyed among the people. He had the Imam arrested while he was busy at prayer at the tomb of the Holy Prophet (SAW) and kept him in prison in Baghdad for four years.
On the 25th of Rajab, 183 A.H., Harun al-Rashid poisoned the Imam. Even his corpse was not spared humiliation; it was taken out of prison and left on the Bridge of Baghdad.
His devotees, however, managed to lay the Imam’s holy body to rest in Kazmain, Iraq.