Name: Musa
Title: al-Kadhim (The Calm or Restrained); Bab al-Hawa’ij (The Door to Fulfilling One’s Needs)
Kunya: Abu al-Hasan
Father: Ja’far al-Sadiq, peace be upon him
Mother: Hamidah al-Barbariyyah
Born: 7th Safar, 128 AH/745 CE in Madinah, Hejaz region of the Arabian Peninsula
Died: 25th Rajab, 183 AH/7991 CE, after being poisoned by Harun al-Rashid
Age at Martyrdom: 55
Period of Imamate: 33 years
Buried: Kadhimayn, Baghdad, Iraq


Imam Musa al-Kadhim

The Best of the Best

God does not haphazardly choose His representatives. God does not simply choose the oldest son of a prior Imam to be his successor. That would be tantamount to monarchical inheritance, which may or may not elect the most qualified individuals. Rather, God chooses and promotes the best of the best of His creation, in accordance with His comprehensive knowledge of all His creatures.


Granted, it may be that the most righteous humans descended from one family tree, and that may be explained by Divine wisdom. However, the Almighty would only choose His representatives based on the qualities of perfection which He knew of and which manifested through His creation. It has been narrated that the sixth Imam, Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, advised his close companions with the following:


“Treat Musa, this son of mine, well. For indeed, he is the best of my offspring, and the one I leave behind as my successor. After me, he is the one who holds my position and (he is) the proof in support of God – the Glorious and Exalted – (as a witness) upon the entirety of His creation.”[i]


The sixth Imam distinctly noted that his son, Musa, was the most excellent among his children and the rest of creation. This distinguished feature made Musa, the son of Ja’far, the Divine representative on earth after his father. Musa, the son of Ja’far, was the seventh immaculate Imam.


Imam Musa continued the noble mission of safeguarding the Truth, in word and action, as did the preceding Imams. However, the oppression of the Abbasid rulers curtailed the Imam’s mobility, placing him in prison for years. For his exceptional endurance, Imam Musa became known as al-Kadhim (the one who holds back his anger and grief).[ii]

Al-Kadhim: The Seventh Imam

After Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq’s passing, the Ja’fari university continued to prosper under the leadership of the seventh Imam, Imam Musa al-Kadhim. Imam Musa was respected for the light of his brilliance as well as the profundity of his character. Scholars of Islam, across the board, have been humbled before Imam Musa’s moral and spiritual standing.


The well-known Sunni scholar, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, has written the following in describing the Imam:


“Musa al-Kadhim is the inheritor of his father’s knowledge,

awareness, perfection and virtue. He was called al-Kadhim for the multitude of his (granted) pardons and his forbearance. He was known amongst the people of Iraq as the ‘door at which God fulfills needs.’ He was the most devout amongst the people of his time; the most knowledgeable and the most generous amongst them.”[iii]


The Holy Imam used to pray at night until sunrise. He would then prostrate, placing his forehead on the ground out of humility before God – sometimes not lifting his head off the ground until just before noon. This Divine representative used to tremble and cry due to his intense awareness of God, such that his beard would become drenched with his tears.


Imam al-Kadhim was unique in the extent to which he maintained positive relations with his family and relatives. The Imam’s kindness also extended to his neighbors, both near and far. The poor of Madinah used to enjoy the fruits of Imam al-Kadhim’s generosity, not knowing that the Imam had been their secret benefactor. But even in light of these incredible traits, Imam Musa al-Kadhim used to pray, “Immense is the fault of your servant, so beautiful let the pardon be from You.”[iv]

Participation for Preservation

The Abbasid rule of Harun al-Rashid was tainted by the persecution and bloodshed of the innocent. Although Harun used to display the outward appearance of a pious Muslim, he often contradicted that guise when he lavishly spent money from the Muslim treasury to satisfy his personal desires and whims. While he would cry and faint after hearing a religious sermon, he also kept one thousand servant girls, three hundred of whom specialized in singing and dancing for him.[v]


Imam Musa al-Kadhim knew that an important way to help curtail the injustice of Harun’s regime was to have some of his loyal supporters play important roles in the administration. The seventh Imam urged some of his key students to participate in Harun’s government, as long as the participant worked to preserve the lives and protect the rights of the innocent – especially the oppressed Shia. For instance, the Imam’s devout companion, ‘Ali ibn Yaqṭin, sought permission from the Imam to undertake a high-profile position in Harun’s government. Imam al-Kadhim permitted him and explained:


“Indeed, with you we find joy and your brothers gain pride; perhaps through you God will mend that which is broken and through you He will break the hostile (will) of those opposing His allies.”[vi]


When ‘Ali ibn Yaqṭin complained to Imam al-Kadhim about the difficult conditions surrounding his work in Harun’s ministry, the Imam said:


“O ‘Ali, indeed God has allies who are in the company of the allies of the oppressors, in order to push (harm) away from His allies – and you are among them, O ‘Ali.”[vii]

Returning Fadak

One day, Harun tried to gauge Imam al-Kadhim’s thoughts regarding the Abbasid political rule. In his attempt, Harun expressed his willingness to return the land of Fadak – which was usurped from Lady Zahra’, along with the political leadership, after the Prophet’s passing – to its rightful owners. The Holy Imam responded with the following:


“I would not take it unless (it is returned) with its (true) boundaries.”


Harun then inquired, “And what are its boundaries?”


Imam al-Kadhim answered, “If I specify the boundaries, you will not return it.”


When Harun insisted adamantly, Imam Musa al-Kadhim declared the boundaries which expressed the true meaning behind the idea of Fadak:


“As for the first boundary, it is Aden (the southern edge of the nation). The second boundary is Samarqand (the eastern edge of the nation). The third boundary is Africa (the western edge of the nation). As for the fourth boundary, it is at the coast beyond (the land of) the Khazars and Armenia (the northern edge of the nation).”


Harun became more furious as the Imam listed each successive boundary, until he finally exclaimed with a mixture of sadness and anger, “So nothing is left for us!”[viii]


Seizing Fadak meant turning one’s back on God’s commands. Returning Fadak would mean an end to corrupt rule and accepting the political leadership prescribed by Allah (swt). But Harun could not bring himself to give up the usurped throne.

Imprisonment and Martyrdom

Historians are in agreement that Harun imprisoned Imam al-Kadhim for several years because he feared that the Imam would incite people against him. The seventh Imam was transferred from the darkness of one prison to another and subjected to very harsh conditions. Still, the Imam always viewed the situation positively and prayed frequently:


“O God, I always used to ask You to free me (from other duties) in order to worship You; and You have answered me, so thanks be unto You for doing so.”[ix]


Harun ultimately decided to murder the seventh Imam. The corrupt ruler ordered the prison warden to poison Imam al-Kadhim. In order to cover up his heinous act, Harun called upon the scholars of his court, as well as the distinguished personalities of Baghdad, to witness that the Imam was apparently healthy. But Imam al-Kadhim realized this, turned to those present, and said:


“Witness that I have been killed by poison. For three days, witness that I have appeared healthy on the outside, but I have been poisoned…”


The Holy Imam predicted that he would be martyred after three days, and so he was. Imam al-Kadhim was buried in the Quraysh cemetery of Baghdad, which is now known as Kadhimiyyah.iv, [x]


[i] Pg. 20, Vol. 48 of Bihar al-Anwar by Allamah Majlisi

[ii] Pg. 11, Vol. 48 of Bihar al-Anwar by Allamah Majlisi

[iii] Pg. 376 of Sirat al-A’immah by Sh. Ja’far SubHani

[iv] Pg. 88-91 of al-A’immah al-Ithnay ‘Ashar by Sh. Ja’far SubHani

[v] Pg. 393-394 of Sirat al-A’immah by Sh. Ja’far SubHani

[vi] Pg. 408 of Sirat al-A’immah by Sh. Ja’far SubHani

[vii] Pg. 411 of Sirat al-A’immah by Sh. Ja’far SubHani

[viii] Pg. 415 of Sirat al-A’immah by Sh. Ja’far SubHani

[ix] Pg. 240 Vol. 2, Kitab al-Irshad by Sh. Mufid

[x] Pg. 248, Vol. 48 of Bihar al-Anwar by Allamah Majlisi