Father: Jaafar s/o Mohammed Al-Sadiq, the sixth Imam of the Shiite Sect.
Most Famous Title: Al-Kadhim
Nickname: Abul-Hasan & Abu-Ibrahim
Place & Date of Birth: Abwaa on the 7th Safar, 128 A.H., approx. the 6th Nov., 745 A.D.
Lifetime: 55 years.
Duration of Imamate: 35 years.
Date of Martyrdom: 25th Rajab, 183 A.H., approx. 1st Sept., 799 A.D.
Cause of Death: poisoned to death when he was in the prison of Haroon Al-Rasheed.
Place of Burial: Quraish Cemetery (currently, Kadhimiya District), Baghdad, Iraq.
Imam Musa Bin Jaafar [A.S.] was born in a village named Abwaa, located midway between Mecca and Medina. His mother’s name was Hameeda Bint Saaid, from Andalus, originally from tribes in Morocco. She was famous for her title (Al-Musaffat = the purified). She was so titled by her husband Imam Jaafar Al-Sadiq [A.S.] when he described her saying: “Hameeda is purified of all evils like a bar of gold”.
Imam Musa [A.S.] was brought up under the care of his father. His father was the sixth Imam of Ahlul-Bait [A.S.] whose knowledge and Fiqh prevailed worldwide. Imam Al-Saqid was the Imam that Abu Haneefa Al-Nu’man, a prominent scholar and the imam of one of the sects widely followed in the Islamic world in the past and today, referred to saying: “I have never seen a faqeeh so knowledgeable as Jaafar Bin Mohammed”.
Being the imam determined to be the successor of his father, the signs of intelligence were clear during his childhood.
Old references mentioned that Abu Hanifa Al-Nu’man asked him when he was still a child: “To whom should committing a sin be attributed?”
Such a question was an issue of dispute between major philosophers who wrote a lot of studies on. However, the Imam [A.S.] replied offhandedly: “A sin should be either from man, from his Lord, or from both. If it were from Allah, it is evident that Allah is fair enough not to bring man to account for a deed that he did not commit. If it were committed by both, then Allah is a partner; in this case the strongest partner should be fair to the weaker one. (Finally), if it were committed by man alone, then he is responsible for it; to him warning not to do it was addressed, and for his deed, reward or punishment is deserved and the Paradise or the Hell shall be the fate”.
His most famous title was Al-Kadhim (Anger Controller). He was known also as Al-Abd Al-Salih (The Righteous Servant of Allah). In Medinah, he was known as Zain Al-Mutahajjideen (The Greatest Worshipper).
After his death, another title was made for him that superseded other titles. That was Babul-Hawaij (the Gate to fulfilling needs), as he was known for his miracles and that his prayers for people were met with favorable responses.
The old references did not agree on the exact number of his offspring. They were ranging among thirty, thirty seven and forty, including males and females. The most prominent male among them was Ali Al-Ridha [A.S.] who was the eighth Imam that succeeded him in imamate, and was buried in Mash’had City in Iran, while the famous one among the females was Ma’sooma [A.S.] who was buried in Qum City in Iran, as well.
His Life Before His Imamate:
Throughout his life before undertaking the responsibilities of imamate, Imam Al-Kadhim [A.S.], witnessed a lot of injustice practiced by the Abbasid authorities against Bani Hashim, the clan he belonged to and especially the members of Ahlul-Bait. He witnessed how Al-Mansur, the Abbasid Caliph, treated his cousins, the descendents of Al-Hasan and Al-Hussein, and how they were exposed to torture and bodily liquidation. Al-Mansur was known for his cruelty and savage practices against his opponents. In his book “The History of Caliphs”, Al-Suyooti, an Arab historian, said: “He (Al-Mansur) killed multitudes of people in order to maintain his throne”.
A favorable killing method of his was to force his opponent into a building’s hollow column and lock him up alive inside by brick-building.
Eventually, his father, Imam Al-Sadiq [A.S.] became his victim when he poisoned him to death in the year 148 A.H.
Imam Al-Kadhim experienced all those events and faced them with great patience, steadfastness and composure. His grandfather Imam Al-Hussein [A.S.] was the great model that followed.
Imam Musa Al-Kadhim undertook the responsibilities of imamate following his father who was murdered in martyrdom in 148 A.H., during the last part of Al-Mansur’s reign that ended upon his death in 158 A.H. He also lived the reigns of the successors of Al-Mansur: Al-Mahdi, Al-Hadi and Al-Rasheed.
After murdering Imam Al-Sadiq [A.S.], Al-Mansur showed mildness to his son Imam Al-Kadhim [A.S.]. He, however, kept a cautious eye on him, and followed up his movements. The Imam made use of that opportunity in delivering lectures and spreading knowledge in Medinah.
Caliph Al-Mahdi who succeeded Al-Mansur, kept the Imam in prison for period of time then set him free when he once had a dream.
Historians related that one day, he awoke terrified. He sent for his Vizier Al-Rabie and ordered him to let Musa Al-Kadhim appear before him, as narrated by the author of “Baghdad History” and others, through his Vizier Al-Rabie.
When the Imam [A.S.] appeared before him, Al-Mahdi stood for him in respect, embraced him and let him sit. He told him the story of his dream. He told him that he saw Imam Ali Bin Abi-Talib in his dream [A.S.] reciting to him a verse of Quran: “Then, is it to be expected of you, if ye were put in authority, that ye will do mischief in the land, and break your ties of kith and kin?”
He asked the Imam for a promise not to plot against him or his sons. Imam Al-Kadhim assured him that it had always not been his intention to do that. So, he released him and let him go back to his family in Medinah.
The reign of Al-Mahdi was then over. The throne was ascended by his son Al-Hadi who followed, just like his father, the way of cruelty and killing for maintaining his throne. In his time, Fakh Revolution broke, led by Al-Hussein Bin Ali, a descendent of Imam Al-Hasan [A.S.] in 169 A.H. That revolution was tantamount to a scream in the face of the tyranny and injustice practiced by the Abbasid caliphs.
In spite of the invitation of the leader of Fakh Revolution to Imam Musa Al-Kadhim [A.S.] to participate in the revolution, the Imam refused to be involved, since he predicted the results of such a movement. He was sure that such a movement would bring much more suffering and bloodshed to Ahlul-Bait and their followers, and eventually end without fulfilling the noble objectives including overthrowing the Abbasid regime, establishing justice and enforcing the order of Allah on the world.
A consequence of the failure of that revolution was that the Abbasid authority accused Imam Musa Al-Kadhim of being the main instigator and plotter of the revolution; a charge which led to the imprisonment of the Imam and giving suggestions of killing him.
Al-Hadi’s reign did not last long and his brother Haroon Al-Rasheed ascended the throne after him. To Ahlul-Bait in general, and their leader Musa Al-Kadhim, in particular, Al-Rasheed’s reign was very stressful. Sheikh Mohammed Hasan Aal-Yaseen gave a brief account on that period saying: “Anyhow, it was agreed among historians that the days of Al-Rasheed were the worst for the Imam, characterized with terror, horror, arrests and jails. It can be concluded out of their accounts that the Imam, in the time of this caliph, was repeatedly imprisoned and released before he was taken for the last time to the prison where he died. It can be also concluded that he was imprisoned once in Basra and three times in Baghdad. He moved through the prisons of Eisa Bin Jaafar, Al-Fadhl Bin Al-Rabie, Al-Fadhl Al-Barmaki, and eventually Al-Sindi Bin Shahik”.
Sheikh Aal-Yaseen, in his book “Imam Musa Bin Jaafar [A.S.]” which was published among a series called “The Twelve Imams”, then mentioned that the reasons behind the imprisonment of the Imam were different. The first imprisonment was decided for the Imam upon the first pilgrimage of Al-Rasheed after his ascending the throne. When he went to visit the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed [SAWW], he stood before the grave and addressed the soul of the Prophet saying: “Peace be upon you, Messenger of Allah!! Peace be upon you, Cousin!!”, showing pride in the presence of his company that he was a relative of the Prophet Mohammed [SAWW].
Imam Musa Al-Kadhim, who was present at the venue, started addressing the soul of the Prophet saying: “Peace be upon you, Messenger of Allah!! Peace be upon you, Father!!” Al-Rasheed’s face turned pale at once and looked angry. However, he tried hard to muffle his anger.
“That is the true pride, Abul-Hasan” said the caliph, trying to contain his defeat.
Such a situation was not to be forgotten. In the presence of his attendants and subjects, the caliph’s pride was smashed by the Imam. He strangled the caliph’s hopes to prove to others his eligibility for caliphate and to occupy the position of “the Prince of the Believers” and “the successor of the Messenger of Allah”. By making them hear that he was a cousin of the Prophet [SAWW], he tried to convince them that he was close in blood relation with the Prophet, and hence he was eligible to ascend the throne of caliphate. His attempts, however, failed in establishing such a notion in their minds, when the Imam announced to the same company that he was a son of the Prophet, being his very descendant, and hence he is the closest in blood relation with the Prophet.
This situation and others that followed certainly grew an accumulation of hatred that led to planning to isolate the Imam away from the nation and eventually to murder him.
The imprisonment of the Imam was burdensome even for the followers and the governors of Al-Rasheed. One the one hand, they were mindful of the fact that he was a descendant of the Prophet, and on the other hand, they see him spend his time in worship and reciting Quran. They understood that such activities were not indications of an intention to remove the caliph from position, as they were made understood by the caliph. They dared not to respond to the caliph’s order to murder him, since they realized that they would commit a sin for which they would be severely punished on the Day of Judgment.
As a result, Al-Rasheed was eventually obliged to hand the Imam over to the man who was too willing to bear such a burden, and it was Al-Sindi Bin Shahik who undertook this mission. He planned to murder the Imam and then executed that by serving poisoned dates to him. In that way, the Imam’s soul returned to Allah as a martyr.
The information of poisoning him to death was confirmed by witnesses who visited the Imam when he was dying, as narrated by many historians in the old books: “Al-Kafi”, “Al-Manqib”, and “Bihar Al-Anwar”.
History books referred to some meetings and exchange of letters made between Al-Rasheed and the Imam when he was still in prison. Once, the Imam sent a letter, brief in content and rich in meanings, reading: “With every passing day of oppression I experience, a day of your comfort will elapse. Then, we both will end to a never-ending day when those who stand on falsehood will lose”.
The Imam [A.S.] was buried in Baghdad in the place known today as “Al-Kadhimiya” District, which was named after his title, anciently called “Quraish Cemetry”. His tomb, in the course of time, grew in size and spirituality. It is now a stupendous edifice shining with glory and majesty. It is, in fact, the promise that Allah kept for the believers to grant them victory in this world and in the Hereafter: “We will, without doubt, help Our messengers and those who believe, (both) in this world's life and on the Day when the Witnesses will stand forth” (Ghafir: 51).
It is now a holy place, being visited by believers from all over the world, and a gate through which the sinners can pass to ask Allah for forgiveness, and the help-seekers for the fulfillment of their needs, as they believe that petitions for needs are never declined if they are in the realm of Imam Musa Al-Kadhim. Such a belief made “Babul-Hawaij” (the Gate to fulfilling needs) the prominent title among other titles among the public.
Imam’s Intellectual School:
Everybody knows what the intellectual school of Imam Jaafar Al-Sadiq [A.S.], Imam Al-Kadhim’s father, meant for history and humanity. In fact, it represented a leap forward in the course of history, and a move in quantity and quality in the field of knowledge to broaden the horizons of intellectual abilities in general.
Imam Al-Sadiq established his great school at a time when the regional arena was busy with political conflicts between the Umayyad and the Abbasid wings, and then ended with the collapse of the Umayyad dynasty regime and the rise of the Abbasid era. Even during the early phase of the Abbasid regime, the Abbasid rulers were so busy in eliminating their opponents, and building the new state, an opportunity which was fully invested by Imam Al-Sadiq [A.S.] in establishing his intellectual school.
From that school, about 4000 persons were graduated, each admitting that the source of his knowledge was attributed to Imam Al-Sadiq, as the old books of history honestly passed on. Among the eminent graduates were some of the famous founders of the four Islamic sects that are still followed by Muslims all over the world today. All historians admitted that it was really the intellectual edifice that revived the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Prophet [SAWW].
The belief of the Shia Imamists in Al-Sadiq [A.S.] is not a traditional one. To them, he is not merely a faqeeh, just like other faqeehs who were taught in the conventional way of education. He represents, in their opinions, the true extension of the Message delivered by our Prophet Mohammed [SAWW]. He is an imam to be obeyed and followed, since he was assigned by the Prophet in accordance with the Orders of Allah. Furthermore, he is infallible and the mission entrusted to him after the death of the Prophet was to proceed with the dissemination of Islam. On this basis, we do not find the wealth of his knowledge and the variety of his intellectual abilities peculiar, since we believe that imamate is a Divine designation fully supported by Allah, being a necessity to abolish any plea by people against Allah.
That school gave lessons not only in Fiqh, exegesis of Quran and Hadith, for the lessons also included natural sciences that you call today: Chemistry, Physics, Biology, etc.
Al-Sadiq [A.S.] continued the leadership of his school till he died; a mission which was then entrusted to his son Imam Musa Al-Kadhim [A.S.] who proceeded with giving lessons and lecturing on the Islamic sciences. Sheikh Baqir Al-Qarashi, in his book “Biography of Imam Musa Bin Jaafar”, enlisted the names of more than 300 students who studied under Imam Al-Kadhim.
That was the case in the early phase of his imamate, especially during the reign of Al-Mansur who showed mildness to him, as we indicated at the beginning of this article. In the reigns of the rulers who succeeded Al-Mansur, however, the Imam’s activities shrank due to the restrictions that were imposed by the ruling authorities and the repeated arrests of the Imam.
The intellectual legacy of Imam Al-Kadhim [A.S.] was put in writing by his students who enriched the Shiite books and researches with it in order to be passed to the generations to come. It is now the flourishing source that the religious students and intellects resort to, to broaden their horizons of knowledge.
Some Sayings of Imam Al-Kadhim [A.S.]
He said addressing Hisham Bin Al-Hakam who was his companion and student:
“O Hisham, (The pleasures of) this life are just like water sea. The more a thirsty man drinks from it, the thirstier he becomes”.
“O’ Hisham, Allah has against the people two Hujjas (two evidences that cannot be argued against): One is apparent and the other is concealed. The apparent one is the messengers, prophets and imams (He designated), while the concealed one is represented by the gifts of minds”.
“O’ Hisham, The life of this world was (once) embodied to the Christ [A.S] in the form of a woman of blue complexion. He asked her: How many people have you been married to before?
“So many!” replied she.
“And everybody divorced you?” asked the Christ.
“No, but I killed everybody!”
The Christ [A.S.] said: “Woe to your potential husbands!! Why shouldn’t they take the former husbands as examples”.
He [A.S.] also said:
“A believer holds two scales of a balance; the greater his faith becomes, the greater the test he will be subject to will be.
“Good neighboring is not merely to cease harm against your neighbors, it also implies being patient when harmed by them.
“Helping the weak is better than giving alms”.
1. Abu-Faraj Al-Asfahani, Maqatil Al-Talibiyeen.
2. Ahmed Bin Abi-Ya’qoob, History of Ya’qoobi.
3. Sheik Al-Toosi, Al-Tahtheeb.
4. Ibn Al-Sabbagh, Al-Fusool Al-Muhimma.
5. Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar.
6. Al-Qandoozi, Yanabee’ Al-Mawadda.
7. Al-Thahabi, Tathkirat Al-Huffadh.
8. Al-Kulaini, Al-Kafi.
9. Al-Suyooti, History of Caliphs.
10. Sheikh Mohammed Hasan Al-Yaseen, Imam Musa Bin Jaafar.
11. Baqir Al-Qasrashi, Biography of Musa Bin Jaafar.
12. Ibn Shu’ba Al-Harrani, Tuhaf Al-Uqool An Aal Al-Rasool.