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The Seventh Imam: Musa Ibna Ja'far  (AS)

by Late Dr. Syed Haider Husain Shamsi 

(From his book  Lives of the twelve Imams (AS) from the Ahle Bait)


Name:      Musa

Title:     al-Kazim

Epithet:   Abu Ibrahim

Father:    Ja'far ibne Muhammad

Mother:    Hamida Khatoon

Date of Birth:  Safar 7th. 128 AH (October 28, 746 AD)

Place of Birth: Abwa near Madinah

Progeny: from Umma hat Awlad

Four sons: Ali, Ibrahim, Abbas, Qassim

He had many other children from other wives

Date of Death    Rajah 25,'183 AH (September 1, 799 AD)

He lived to an age of 53 years

Place of Death:    Baghdad

Place of Burial:    Kazimain, near Baghdad  


 Imam Musa Al-Kazim was born during the waning glow of the Umayyad dynasty.  He was only three years of age when the Abbasids established themselves in a new dynasty.  Before his death, Imam Ja'far as­Saadiq appointed his son Musa as the next Imam.  Musa took up the responsibility of the Imamate at the age of twenty years, and carried it out through a troubled period of thirty-five years.  He endured about ten years of the remaining rule of the Abbasid caliph al-Mansoor Dwaneeqi, about ten years of the caliph al-Mahdi, about one year of al-Hadi and the initial thirteen years of the caliph Haroon ar-Rashid.

The caliphs kept their stem watch over the Aliyyids and their followers for their refusal to accept the caliphs as their religious leaders in addition to being their kings.  Whereas during the Umayyad dynasty, the Aliyyid and their followers had gone underground to safe guard their survival, they were no longer hidden from the Abbasids.  In fact, the Abbasids had achieved their success with assistance from the Aliyyids and their Shiite followers.  The caliphs knew the strength of the Shiites, and took every opportunity to keep them under check in the empire.  They did not grant the Imams any immunity against this policy.

Imam Musa Kazim spent fourteen years of his life in the darkness of several of the Abbasid jails of Basra and Baghdad, interspersed with only brief periods     of reprieve in his native Madinah.  Because of the handless nature of the Imam who spent his time either in payers or preaching other intenis, many of the jail wardens were unable to carry out the caliph's orders to kill the Imam while under in captivity.

As regards the conduct of the leaders of the Muslims, the Abbasid caliphs were no better than their Umayyad predecessors.  The reign of Haroon ar-Rashid is regarded in history as the golden era of the Abbasid dynasty regarding larning, trade and stability, but for the Imam and his followers, the same era was that of darkness and gloom. 

During the brief periods of reprieve that the Imam had from his internships in the jails, he used to be called back to Baghdad from Madinah to the court of the caliphs for debates that were in fact intended to slight his personality.  The scope of this book makes it impossible to describe these debates here, but suffice it to say that the caliphs were unsuccessful in their attempts due to the vast knowledge and the wit of the Imam.

Haroon ar-Rashid became increasingly impatient, and became determined either to have unconditional submission from the Imam, or have him killed.  As the Imam could not submit to the demands of the caliph, he was ultimately given poisoned dates in the jail in 183 AH.  As a result, the Imam died while he was still tied in chains and shackles.  To further show his spite, the caliph ordered the body of the Imam be left on the main bridge leading in and out of Baghdad for all to see.  This was intended to show to the people that the caliph wielded absolute power, and that the Alkyds were just ordinary human beings.  However, some devotees took the body of the Imam away and buried it in Kaziznain, near Baghdad.

At his last summons to Baghdad, the Imam knew that his time had come, and that he would never return to Madinah alive.  He was so certain that the caliph would have him lolled in that trip that he wrote a will appointing his son Ali to succeed him after his death.  In order to make his decision reach wide circulation among his followers, the Imam wrote his will in the presence of seventeen of his chosen companions, and had it witnessed by sixty others.  This is an example of extreme foresight and caution the Imam had exercised in order to prevent confusion among his friends and foes alike. 


While surrounded by wealth of the new Abbasid regime, the Imam spent a life of simplicity and piety.  In his personality, he manifested a living example of tolerance and forbearance.  Even when he was in jails, he never missed his devout worship of Allah.  Many of his supplications were recorded by his devotees and are available to the supplicant today.

There were many instances from his daily life that illustrated his nature and popularity among the people of Hijaz.  The poor and needy of Madinah badly missed the Imam.  Among many other things he did, he used to get involved with the people in their daily lives, and help fulfill their needs in the matter of Faith and in the ritual practice of Islam.  People particularly remembered the little pouches of money he used to hand out to those who asked for monetary assistance or to those whom he felt to be in need.

Many of the letters he wrote to his followers and companions, contained a world of wisdom and advice, which can still guide the seekers of the Truth.  He addressed his sons when giving general advice towards an ideal conduct in life.  There is a large collection of his sayings  which, if followed today, would mold any human being into a picture of virtue.

The contents of his replies to complicated questions and the debates held in the court of the caliphs further provides glimpses of the wisdom and sagacity of Imam Musa bin Ja'far.  He used a sweet and poetical language in his conversation, and his written word had a haunting rhyme in it.

Selected Sayings:

1.  The status of your understanding can be judged from four things:

(i)     recognition of the Beneficent Allah;

(ii)     recognition of the your benefactor;

(iii)     recognition of what is expected of you;

(iv)     recognition of the things that would throw you out of your faith.

2.   Try and divide your time into four portions:

(i)  one portion for prayers and supplications;

(ii) one portion for livelihood;

(iii) one portion for social activities between friends and family;

(iv) one portion for the permissible indulgences while you maintain control over your other portions.

3.   When good deeds seem to be large in number, consider them to be not enough; but when bad deeds seem to be just a few, consider them far too many.  Bad deeds, even if trivial, tend to accumulate fast.

4.   If one who was born poor acquires wealth and plenty, it would tends to make him arrogant and headstrong.

5.     It is not that people throw abuses at the one who rises high by ill begotten means, but that he would also see his downfall.

6.     The pain and suffering of tyranny is felt worst by the one who has been targeted for it.

7.     The one who invalidates three things with three others, has wasted his gift of intelligence:

      (i)  one who has extended his expectations but does not ponder on the ways and means for himself,

      (ii) one who loses sagacity by wile talk;

      (iii) one who loses his salvation by uncontrolled lust.