Imam Musâ ibn Ja‘far al-Kâdhim  (a.s.), also called Abul Hasan, and al-Kadhim (the one who controls his anger), was the seventh Shiite Imam after the death of  his father Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.). He is regarded even by Sunnis as a renowned scholar, and was a contemporary of the Abbasid caliphs Al-MansurAl-HadiAl-Mahdi and Harun al-Rashid.


Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was born in Medina during the conflict between the Abbasids and Umayyads, and was four years old when As-Saffah, the first Abbasid Caliph, took the throne. His mother, Hamidah, was a former slave from either Berbery or Andalusia. Al-Kadhim was brought up in a large family, with several sisters and  brothers. His oldest brother, Ismail predeceased his father, Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.), who held the position of Imam. According to Twelver Shiites, Musa was chosen by divine order and decree of his father as the next Imam.

According to some sources, Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) was religiously minded as a child. Muhammad Baqir Majlisi relates an incident where Abū Ḥanīfa called on Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) to ask his advice. While there, he encountered al-Kadhim, who was then five years old. Abu Hanifa asked al-Kadhim the question meant for his father, saying: “Boy, from who does disobedience (issue)? Does it issue from Allah or from the servant?” Al-Kadhim answered, saying: “Neither it issues from God and nor from the servant at all, so God does not punish the servant for what he does not do; or it issues from the servant and God, and God is a stronger partner. Therefore, the stronger partner has no right to punish the weak for a sin in which they are equal; or it issues from the servant and not from God. So if He wills to pardon (him), (He will pardon him), and if He wills to punish (him), (He will punish him); and God is He whose help is sought.” Upon hearing this, Hanifa left, saying that the answer had been good enough for him. In another incident, Abū Ḥanīfa complained to Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.), saying: “I have seen your son, Musa, pray while the people were passing (walking) before him. He did not prevent them from that.” The Imam ordered his son to be brought before him, and asked him whether it was true. Imam Al-Khadhim (a.s.) replied

             “Yes, father, the One to Whom I pray is nearer to me than them; Allah, the Great and  Almighty, says: We are nearer to him than the jugular vein.

 On hearing this response, the Imam rose, hugged his son, and said; “May my father and mother be your ransom, O he in whom secrets have been deposited!”


Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was said to be a gentle and tolerant man. He was called Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) because he was kind, forgiving and generous toward the people who treated him in a bad manner or were unfriendly towards him. Ibn Khallikan said “that when a man had spoken ill of him he sent him a purse of money.” An example of such an incident concerned a man who cursed Imam al-Kadhim’s (a.s.) grandfather, Imam Ali (a.s.). The Imam’s followers intended to kill the man, but Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) prevented them. He went to the man’s farm in the outskirts of Medina. He approached him, but the man shouted at him not to walk on his plants. The Imam paid no attention and when he reached him, sat beside him and treated him kindly; asking how much had the man paid to sow his land. “One hundred dinars,” said the man. “How much do you hope to acquire from it?” asked the Imam. “I do not know the unknown,” said the man. “I only asked you about what you hope it would bring you,” insisted the Imam. The man answered “two hundred dinars”, and the Imam gave him three hundred dinars, saying, “This three hundred dinars is for you, and your plants are as they are.”

The Imam then headed for the mosque of the holy prophet, where he saw that the man was already sitting there. When he saw the Imam, the man stood up and called out the verse: “Allah knows best where to put his (prophetic) mission.”  His companions were surprised at this change, but the man recited to them the noble deeds of the Imam and invoked Allah for him. Hence, the Imam turned to his companions and said: “Which was better – what you wanted or what I wanted? I have put right his attitude to the extent you have now become acquainted with.” Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was also called Abdu’ al-Salih (the Holy Servant) because his interests lay in religious rather than political matters. He was known to distribute money in the town of Medina despite his family being poor.


The Shiite Imams frequently had to deal with persecution, and sometimes resorted to the practice of taqiyya, a form of religious dissimulation, for protection. When Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (a.s.) was poisoned, the Caliph Al-Mansur wanted to end the imamah, and so he wrote to the governor of Medina to behead the person that Imam al-Sadiq Ibn Baqar (a.s.) had named as his successor in his last testament. When he read the testament, however, the governor of Medina saw that the Imam had chosen four people rather than one: the caliph himself, the governor of Medina, the Imam’s older son Abdullah al-Aftah, and Musa, his younger son. As a result, Mansur was unable to end the imamate. However, unlike his father who had been able to teach freely in Medina, Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) lived with tight restrictions set by Abbasid caliphs, such as al-Mansur and Harun al-Rashid. Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) never accepted Harun’s government, because he believed al- Rashid sought to destroy Islam by erasing the truth and effacing justice. Therefore, he forbade his Shi’ites from cooperating with Harun, excluding those Shia’s who, through their jobs, could help the believers and save them from oppression.


Caliph Harun al-Rashid, an opponent of the Imam, said that Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) had the qualities of a true Imam, and that he was better suited to inherit the Caliphate from Muhammad than al-Rashid. When his son al-Ma’mun asked him why he magnified the Imam, he said that Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was “the Imam of the people, the proof of Allah’s mercy to His creation and His caliph among His servants”. “I am”, Harun said, “outwardly the Imam of the masses by force and through oppression, while Musa ibn Ja’far is the Imam in truth.” However, he said that he would not deliver the Caliphate to the Imam: “by Allah, if you yourself attempt to take such caliphate from me, I shall take it away from you even if that means gouging your eyes, for power is blind.” He advised his son to get true knowledge from the Imam, saying: “This (Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.)) is the inheritor of the knowledge of the Prophets …. If you desire sound knowledge, you will find it with this.” It is interesting to note that afterwards when al-Ma’mun inherited the Caliphate from al-Rashid, he (al Ma’mun) insisted on giving it to Imam Musa al-Kadhim’s (a.s.) son, Imam Ali al-Ridha (a.s.), the eighth Shiite Imam, arguing that he found “no person on the face of earth more learned than this man.”


After the death of Imam al-Kadhim’s (a.s.)father, Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.), the sixth Imam, the majority of Shiites followed Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), while another group followed Isma’il, Imam al-Sadiq’s (a.s.) eldest son, who had pre-deceased the Iman. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) had  tried hard to clarify that his son Isma’il will not have been the next Imam after his death because the Shi’a maintain that the infallibility of the Imam is a basic rule in the Imamate. “The theologians have defined the Imamate, saying: ‘Surely the Imamate is a grace from Allah, Who grants it to the most perfect and best of His servants’. This latter group separated afterwards from the majority of Shiites and became known as Ismailis. Some of them are also called the Seveners because they considered Ismail as their last Imam. Smaller groups accepted either Abdullah al-Aftah or Muhammad, other sons of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.), as the Imam. Finally, another group considered Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.) to be the last Imam, and were called the Sixers because they believed only in the first six imams. After the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), the majority, Shia  Ithna Ashari or the Jaferia Shia, followed his son, Imam Ali al-Ridha (a.s).


One of the stories about Imam Ali al-Ridha (a.s.) concerns an incident where Caliph al-Rashid and the Imam were together before the tomb of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Medina. To show his family ties to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), al-Rashid had said, “Salutation unto thee, O Prophet of God, unto thee who art my cousin!” In response, the Imam said, “Salutation unto thee, o my dear father!” which made al-Rashid furious. “Abul-Hasan, such glory as thine is truly to be vaunted of” said al-Rashid. Later, al-Rashid found the opportunity to question him, asking why he had permitted people to ascribe him to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and to call him: “O Sons of Allah’s Apostle“, while he was actually the son of Ali (a.s.), and that one is ascribed to his father, and that Fatimah, his mother, was a container, and that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was his grandfather on the side of his mother. The Imam replied, asking “If the Prophet (pbuh) was raised from the dead and proposed to your daughter, would you respond to him?” “Rather I would through that pride myself on the Arabs, the non-Arabs, and Quraysh,” answered al-Rashid. “But he would not propose (to my daughter) and I would not marry (her) to him,” said the Imam, “because he begot me and did not beget you.” Al-Rashid, however, was not satisfied with this answer, insisting that “the progeny belongs to the male and not to the female”, and that the Imams were Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) daughter’s children.

The Imam quoted from the Quran, stating that in the Quran, God had said: “and of his descendants, (prophets) David and Solomon, JobJosephMoses and Aaron; and thus do We reward those who do good. And (prophets) Zechariah and John the Baptist, and Jesus and Elias: All in the company of the righteous”  “Who is (Prophet) Jesus’s father, O Commander of the faithful?” asked the Imam. “(Prophet) Jesus had no father,” said al-Rashid. The Imam (a.s.) argued that God had ascribed (Prophet) Jesus to the descendants of the prophets through Mary; “similarly, we have been ascribed to the descendants of the Prophet through our mother Fatimah,” said the Imam (a.s.). Nevertheless, al-Rashid asked the Imam to give him more evidence and proof, so he put forward another quote from the Quran, reciting the verse: “But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come, let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars.” Then he said: “None claims that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) made someone enter under the cloak when he challenged the Christians to a contest of prayer to God (mubahala) except Ali (a.s.), Fatimah (s.a.), al-Hasan (a.s.), and al-Husain (a.s.). Therefore the explanation of the verse is: Our sons are al-Hasan (a.s.) and al-Husain (a.s.); our woman is Fatimah (a.s.); ourselves is Imam Ali (a.s.).


 Another incident concerns Bishr al-Hafi, ( a Muslim saint  popularly known as Bishar The Bare Foot who led a righteous life under the influence of  Ahmed ibn Hanbal). Once in the midst of the noise, music, alcoholic drink and frivolity, Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) happened to pass by his house in Baghdad. Imam Al-Kadhim (a.s.) saw a slave girl coming out of the house carrying some sweepings. He turned to the slave and asked her: “Is the owner of this house free or a servant?” “He is free,” she replied. “You are right,” responded Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), “if he was a servant, he would fear his Lord.” The slave girl came into the house while al-Hafi was still at the wine table: “What delayed you?” asked al-Hafi. She informed him of what had happened between her and the Imam. It is said that al-Hafi rushed to the door barefooted but the Imam had already left, so he left in search of the Imam, and when he found him, asked him to repeat his words. Al-Hafi was so taken aback by the Imam’s words that he fell on the ground and began to cry. “No, I am a slave, I am a slave.” From then on, he would walk without shoes and people would call him Bishr al-Hafi (The barefooted one). When asked why he did not wear shoes, he would say that he was guided while he was barefoot, so he would remain in that condition till death.


A final incident concerned a monk, Al-Abbas, who said to Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) that people admired those who ate simple food, wore coarse clothes, and showed reverence. For that reason, the Imam reminded him of Joseph (Yusuf), who had been a prophet; however, Joseph had worn silk mantles decorated with gold, and sat on the thrones of the Pharaohs. “The people were in no need of his clothes, but they were in need of his justice,” said the Imam. “An Imam is required to be just and fair; when he says something, he says the truth; when he promises something, he fulfills his promise; when he passes a judgement, he judges equitably. Allah has not forbidden wearing a particular type of clothes or eating a particular type of food earned through a lawful way; rather He has forbidden the unlawful, little or much.” Then he recited the verse: “Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah which He has produced for His servants, and the agreeable things of the sustenance.”


Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was imprisoned multiple times during his lifetime. The first time, Caliph al-Mahdi had him arrested and brought to Baghdad. According to Ibn Khallikan, “This Caliph had a dream in which Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s.) appeared to him and said, ‘O Muhammad, were ye ready, therefore, if ye had been put in authority, to commit evil in the earth, and to violate the ties of blood?'”  Al-Fadl ibn al-Rabi’ says: “He sent for me at night and that put me in great dread. I went to him and found him chanting the above verse and no man had a finer voice than he. He said to me, ‘Bring me Musa ibn Ja’far.’ I did so and he embraced him, seated him by his side and said to him, ‘Abul-Hasan, I have just seen in a dream the Commander of the Faithful, Ali ibn Abu Talib, and he has recited to me such and such a verse; give me the assurance that you will not revolt against me or against any of my children.’ He answered, ‘By Allah, I am incapable of revolting.’ ‘You say the truth!’ replied the Caliph, ‘give him three thousand pieces of gold and restore him to his family in Medina.’ I arranged the affair of his departure that very night, lest some obstacle should turn up, and before morning, the man was (free) on his journey.”


Imam Al-Kadhim’s (a.s.) second imprisonment was a result of his argument with al-Rashid over descent from Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  Al-Khuzai, the head of the palace guards, narrated a dream the Caliph supposedly had, which made him release the Imam: “A messenger came to me (Al-Khuzai) from al-Rashid,” he said, “at an hour in which I never before received his visits; he pulled me from the place where I was, and would not even allow me to change my clothes. This put me in great fear. When I arrived at the palace, I found the Caliph sitting up in his bed. I saluted him, but he kept silent for some time; so my mind was much troubled and my fears greatly augmented. At length, he said, ‘Do you know why I sent for you at such an hour?’ I answered, ‘By Allah, I do not, Commander of the Faithful.’ ‘Know,’ said he, ‘that I just had a dream in which it seemed to me as if an Abyssinian came to me with a javelin in his hand and said to me: “Let Imam Musa ibn Ja’far (a.s.) be set at liberty this very hour, otherwise, I shall slay thee with this javelin.” Therefore go and set him free.’ I replied, ‘Commander of the Faithful, shall I then liberate Imam Musa the son of Ja’far (a.s.)?’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘go and set Imam Musa ibn Ja’far (a.s.) at liberty. Give him thirty thousand dirhems and say to him, in my name, if you would like to remain with us you will obtain from me whatever you desire, but if you prefer going to Medina, you have permission to do so.’ I went to the prison and found the Imam waiting for me. ‘Whilst I was asleep,’ he said, ‘behold the Apostle of God came to me and said, “O Musa, thou hast been imprisoned unjustly; so recite the words I am going to repeat to thee, for assuredly thou shalt not pass all this night in prison.'”


Al-Fakhri states the reason for his final imprisonment was that “there were some of the relatives of Imam Musa ibn Ja’far (a.s.) who were envious of him and carried false reports about him to caliph al-Rashid, saying, ‘The people are paying him the Khums, or one-fifth of their property, on accepting the Imamah, and he is about to come forth against you.’ They brought this report to al-Rashid so frequently that it made him anxious and agitated. In that year, al-Rashid went on the pilgrimage, and when he arrived in Medina, he arrested Imam Musa ibn Ja’far (a.s.), and brought him to Baghdad in a litter, and imprisoned him under the care of al-Sindi ibn Sha’hik.

Al-Fakhri adds “Al-Rashid was at Rakka when he sent orders that the Imam should be put to death. They then brought a number of reputable men to Karkh to act as coroners and to testify publicly that he had died a natural death. He, then, was buried in the cemetery of Quraish on the south side of Baghdad.” The implication made by the Shi’a is that he was poisoned. The place he was buried was a cemetery, but soon this place became the focus of pilgrimage to the grave of the Imam (a.s.). A town grew around the graveyard. The name of the town became Kadhimiya (the town of the Imam Kadhim (a.s.)). A reputed school of theology was founded in this town; the school is still a source of learning for many students from all over the world.


  • “Allah has two proofs over men: outward proof and inward one. As for the outward proof, it is the messengers, the prophets, and the Imams. As for the inward proof, it is reason.”
  • “Little work from a scholar is doubly accepted; much work from the men of low desire and ignorance is refused.”
  • “Try hard that your time may be four hours: one hour is for supplicating Allah, one hour for the affairs of the livelihood, one hour for associating with the brothers (friends) and the reliable ones who let you know your defects and who are inwardly loyal to you, and one hour for that you are alone with yourselves (and) for non-forbidden things. Through this hour you have power over the three hours.”
  • “Tell yourselves of neither poverty nor a long lifetime, for whoever tells himself of poverty becomes miserly. Whoever tells himself of a long lifetime becomes greedy.”
  • The generous and polite is under the protection of Allah; He does not leave him until He makes him enter the Garden. Allah sends out none as a prophet except the generous.
  • “Misfortune is one for the patient and two for the impatient.”
  • “Silence is among the doors to wisdom; it brings about love and is a proof of all good things.”
  • “Good neighbor is not refraining from harm, but good neighbor is showing patience toward harm.”
  • When Harun al-Rashid threw him into the dark cells of prisons, he thanked Allah, saying: “O Allah, you know that I used to ask You to give me free time to worship You. O Allah, You have done that. To You be praise.”
  • “How base is the world for people, unless God give them joy; and how great is this life, if God is not angry with them.”


Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) lived 55 years. His birth and death dates are 7th Safar 128 AH and 25th Rajab 183 AH respectively.  He married with Ummul Banin Najmah and three others. He had over 35 children including about 16 daughters. Ali al-Ridha was his eldest son who subsequently became the 8th Shiite Imam. Festival of Imam Musa al Kadhim (a.s.) is a Twelver Shia Muslim festival dedicated to the memory of the Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) . It occurs on the seventh day of the month of Rajab in the Islamic calendar. It is widely celebrated in Iran.

                                                  Next Week, A Brief Life History of The 8th Imam – Part #9, inshaAllah.
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