THE LIFE AND TIMES OF IMAM MUSA AL-KAZIM
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 stcm 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 , interspersed with only brief periods of reprieve in his native Madinah. Because of the hannless 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. Baghdad
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 leaming, 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
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. Baghdad
Haroon ar-Rashid became increasingly impatient, and became determined either to have unconditional submission from the Imam, or have him killed. As the huam 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
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 hnam away and buried it in Kaziznain, near Baghdad . Baghdad
At his last summons to
, 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. Baghdad
REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND CONDUCT OFIMAM MUSA BIN JA'FAR
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 intemed injails, 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.