Imam Musa b. Ja'far al-Kazim (a)

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Musa b. Ja'far al-Kazim (a)
7th Shi'a Imam
Kadhimiya, Iraq, the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Kazim (a) and Imam al-Jawad (a)
Born (745-11-12)12 November 745 CE
(Safar 7, 128)
Birthplace Abwa'
Beginning of Imamate Shawwal 25, 148/18 December, 765
Duration of Imamate 35 years
Martyrdom c. 5 September 799(799-09-05) (aged 53)
(Rajab 25, 183)
Deathplace Baghdad, Iraq
Cause of Death Death by Poisoning
Place of Burial

Kadhimiya, Iraq,

33°22′48″N 44°20′17.3″E / 33.38000°N 44.338139°E / 33.38000; 44.338139
Predecessor Ja'far b. Muhammad (a)
Successor Ali b. Musa (a)
Father Ja'far b. Muhammad (a)
Mother Hamida al-Barbariyya
Spouse(s) Najma, ...
Son(s) 'Ali (a), Ahmad, Hamza, Muhammad, Ishaq, Ibrahim, ...
Daughter(s) Fatima al-Kubra, ...
Other Titles Al-Kazim (the suppressor [of his rage]), al-'Abd al-Salih (the righteous servant), Bab al-Hawa'ij (gate to the wishes)
The Twelve Imams
'Ali, al-Hasan, al-Husayn, al-Sajjad, al-Baqir, al-Sadiq, al-Kazim, al-Rida, al-Jawad, al-Hadi, al-Askari, al-Mahdi

Mūsā b. Jaʿfar (a) (Arabic: موسی بن جعفر) titled as al-Kāẓim (الکاظم) was the seventh Imam of Shi'a, born in 128/745 in the village of Abwa' (between Mecca and Medina). After his father Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a) was martyred he (a) became the Imam of Shi'a. The 35 years of his imamate coincided with the caliphate of al-Mansur, al-Hadi, al-Mahdi, and Harun al-Rashid. He was repeatedly imprisoned by al-Mahdi and Harun, and was finally martyred in 183/799 in al-Sindi b. al-Shahik's prison. After his martyrdom, he was succeeded by his son, 'Ali b. Musa (a), as the next Imam.

Imam al-Kazim's (a) life coincided the peak of the Abbasid power. He practiced taqiyya (dissimulation) with regard to the government and recommended the Shi'as to do the same. Thus, there is no report of him taking explicit positions against the Abbasid caliphs or with regard to Alawite uprisings, such as the Uprising of Fakhkh. However, in his debates and dialogues with Abbasid caliphs and others, he tried to question the legitimacy of the Abbasid caliphate.

Some debates and dialogues between Musa b. Ja'far (a) and some Jewish and Christian scholars have been reported in sources of history and hadiths. His dialogues with the scholars of other religions have been collected in Musnad al-Imam al-Kazim, some of which have been transmitted by People of Consensus. He also expanded the organization of his representatives, appointing people as his representatives or deputies in different areas. His life also coincided with some divisions within Shiism as well. At the beginning of his imamate, Isma'iliyya, Fathiyya, and Nawusiyya were formed, and after his martyrdom, the Waqifiyya came to existence.

Shiite and Sunni sources have praised his practice of worships, patience, and generosity, referring to him as "al-Kazim" and "al-'Abd al-Salih". Prominent Sunni figures honored the Seventh Shiite Imam as a religious scholar and visited his grave along with the Shi'as. Imam al-Kazim's (a) resting place and the mausoleum of his grandson, Imam al-Jawad (a), are located near Baghdad and is known as the Shrine of Kazimayn. It is visited by Muslims, and in particular, the Shi'as.

Lineage, Kunyas, and Titles

His lineage was, Musa b. Ja'far b. Muhammad b. Ali b. Husayn b. Ali b. Abi Talib (a). His mother was Hamida al-Barbariyya and his Kunyas were Abu Ibrahim, Abu l-Hasan al-Awwal, Abu l-Hasan al-Madi, and also Abu Ali.

He (a) was known as al-'Abd al-Salih due to his great piety and worshiping, and known as al-Kazim since he (a) forbore against maltreatment of others. His other titles were Bab al-Hawa'ij.

Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
Lady Fatima
Imam Ali
Umm al-Banin
Imam al-Husayn
Imam al-Hasan
Lady Zaynab
Umm Kulthum
Abd Allah
Umm Kulthum
'Abd Allah
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Sajjad
'Ali al-Akbar
'Ali al-Asghar
Imam al-Baqir
Imam al-Sadiq
'Abd Allah
'Ubayd Allah
Imam al-Kazim
Umm Farwa
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Rida
Imam al-Jawad
Imam al-Hadi
Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari
Imam al-Mahdi


Imam al-Kazim (a) was born on Sunday, Safar 7, 128/November 12, 745 or Safar 7, 129/November 1, 746 in the village of Abwa', between Mecca and Medina, when his parents, Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Hamida al-Barbariyya, were returning from Hajj. Some have mentioned his place of birth in Medina.

There is a disagreement over the date of Imam al-Kazim's (a) birth. Al-Tabari takes it to be in Dhu l-Hijja, and al-Tabrisi takes it to on Safar 7th. According to some sources, Imam al-Sadiq (a) strongly loved him. According to a hadith transmitted by Ahmad al-Barqi, Imam al-Sadiq (a) gave food to people for three days after the birth of his son, Musa.

Musa b. Ja'far (a) was born in the period of the transfer of the power from the Umayyads to the Abbasids. When he was 4 years old, the first Abbasid caliph took over the power. There is no information in historical sources about Imam al-Kazim's (a) life before his imamate, except for a few scholarly dialogues during his childhood, such as his dialogue with Abu Hanifa and scholars of other religions in Medina.

According to a hadith cited in Manaqib, he anonymously entered a village in Syria and had a dialogue with a priest there. The dialogue led to the conversion of the priest and his companions to Islam. There are reports of the Imam's (a) trips to Mecca for hajj or 'Umra pilgrimages. The Imam (a) was repeatedly summoned by the Abbasid caliphs to Baghdad. Other than these occasions, he spent most of his life in Medina.

Wives and Children

Usul al-Din (Beliefs)
Main Beliefs TawhidProphethoodResurrection'AdlImamate
Other Beliefs 'IsmaWilayaMahdawiyya: Occultation (Minor Occultation, Major Occultation), Intizar, Zuhur, and Raj'aBada'
Furu' al-Din (Practical Orders)
'Ibadi Orders PrayerFastingKhumsZakatHajjJihad
Non-'Ibadi Orders Forbidding the EvilEnjoining the GoodTawalliTabarri
Sources of Ijtihad Qur'anSunnaReasonIjma'
Virtues ForgivenessGenerosityGenerous help
Vices Greater SinsKibr'UjbGhururJealousy
Sources Nahj al-BalaghaAl-Sahifa al-SajjadiyyaLetter of Imam 'Ali to Imam al-Hasan
Challenging Issues
Succession of the Prophet (s)Shafa'aTawassulTaqiyyaMourningMut'aCompanions
Shi'a Imams Imam 'Ali (a)Imam al-Hasan (a)Imam al-Husayn (a)Imam al-Sajjad (a)Imam al-Baqir (a)Imam al-Sadiq (a)Imam al-Kazim (a)Imam al-Rida (a)Imam al-Jawad (a)Imam al-Hadi (a)Imam al-'Askari (a)Imam al-Mahdi (a)

Men: HamzaJa'far b. Abi TalibSalman al-FarsiMiqdad b. AswadAbudhar al-Ghifari'Ammar YasirMalik al-AshtarMuhammad b. Abi Bakr'Aqil'Uthman b. HunayfAbu Ayyub al-AnsariJabir b. 'Abd Allah al-AnsariIbn 'Abbas'Abd Allah b. Ja'farKhuzayma b. ThabitBilalYasir

Women: KhadijaLady Fatima (a)ZaynabUmm KulthumAsma' bt. 'UmaysUmm AymanUmm Salama
Scholars LitterateursScholars of UsulPoetsScholars of RijalFaqihsPhilosophersBibliographersExegetes
Mecca: Al-Masjid al-Haram
Medina: Al-Masjid al-NabawiAl-Baqi'
Al-Quds: Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa
Najaf: Shrine of Imam 'Ali (a)Masjid al-Kufa
Karbala: Shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a)
Kadhimiya: Shrine of al-Kazimayn (a)
Samarra: Shrine of al-'Askariyyayn (a)
Mashhad: Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a)
Damascus: Zaynabiyya
Qom: Shrine of Lady Fatima al-Ma'suma
Shiraz: Shah Chiragh
Rey: Shrine of 'Abd al-'Azim al-Hasani
Eid al-FitrEid al-AdhaEid al-GhadirMab'athProphet's birthdayImams' birthdays
FatimiyyaMuharram (Mournings of Muharram), Tasu'a, 'Ashura and Arba'in)
MubahalaEvent of GhadirEvent of Saqifa Bani Sa'idaFadakEvents of Lady Fatima's HouseBattle of JamalBattle of SiffinBattle of NahrawanEvent of KarbalaHadith al-ThaqalaynAshab al-Kisa'Tathir VerseKilling Shi'as
Qur'anNahj al-balaghaal-Sahifa al-SajjadiyyaThe Four Books: (al-Istibsaral-KafiTahdhib al-ahkamKitab man la yahduruh al-faqih) • Mushaf of Fatima (a)Mushaf Imam 'Ali (a)Kitab SulaymWasa'il al-Shi'aBihar al-anwaral-GhadirMafatih al-jinanMajma' al-bayanal-MizanOther Books
Ithna 'AshariyyaIsma'iliyyaZaydiyyaKaysaniyya

The number of Imam al-Kazim's (a) wives is not clear, but it is reported that most of them were concubines he (a) bought and either freed or married them, the first of whom was Najma, mother of Imam al-Rida (a).

About Imam's (a) children, there are different historical reports. According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Imam al-Kazim (a) had thirty seven children. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid listed the names of his eighteen sons and nineteen daughters as below,

  1. Imam al-Rida (a)
  2. Fatima al-Kubra; mother of 'Ali and Fatima was a concubine named Najama,
  3. Ibrahim
  4. 'Abbas
  5. Qasim; whose mothers were concubines
  6. Isma'il
  7. Ja'far
  8. Harun
  9. Husayn; mother of him, Harun, Ja'far, and also Isma'il was a concubine;
  10. Ahmad
  11. Muhammad
  12. Hamza; the mother of his, Muhammad, and Hamza was a concubine
  13. 'Abd Allah
  14. Ishaq
  15. 'Ubayd Allah
  16. Zayd
  17. Al-Hasan
  18. Al-Fadl
  19. Sulayman
  20. Fatima al-Sughra
  21. Ruqayya
  22. Hakima
  23. Umm Abiha
  24. Ruqayya al-Sughra
  25. Kulthum
  26. Umm Ja'far
  27. Lubaba
  28. Zaynab
  29. Khadija
  30. 'Illiyya
  31. Amina
  32. Husna
  33. Burayha
  34. 'A'isha
  35. Umm Salama
  36. Maymuna
  37. Umm Kulthum

In the list above, the two girls with the name of Fatima (Fatima al-Kubra and Fatima al-Sughra) are mentioned among the children of Imam al-Kazim (a). The grave of a daughter of Imam al-Kazim (a) with the name of Fatima in Qom is among the famous pilgrimage sites of Shi'a, who was Fatima al-Kubra. In the works of Shi'a hadith scholars (who lived shortly after the time of the infallibles (a) including al-Shaykh al-Saduq and Ibn Quluwayh al-Qummi), there are several narrations about the reward for visiting her shrine, addressing her as Fatima, daughter of Musa (a). According to some reports, Fatima al-Sughra is buried in Baku, known as Bibi Haybat.


After the martyrdom of his father in 148/765, Imam al-Kazim (a) became the imam of Shi'a for next thirty five years. The period of Imam al-Kazim’s (a) imamate coincided with the periods of four Abbasid caliphs. About 10 years of his imamate occurred in the period of al-Mansur’s caliphate (reign: 136/754-158/775); 11 years of it occurred in the period of the caliphate of al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi (reign: 158/775-169/785); one year of it occurred in the period of the caliphate of al-Hadi al-'Abbasi (reign: 169/785-170/786); and 13 years of it occurred in the period of Harun’s caliphate (reign: 170/786-193/809). Musa b. Ja'far’s (a) imamate lasted for 35 years, and he was succeeded by his son, Imam al-Rida (a), after his martyrdom in 183/799.

Textual Evidence for his Imamate

From a Shiite point of view, an Imam can only be selected through an explicit statement by the previous Imam. That is, every Imam should explicitly select and introduce his successor. On a number of occasions, Imam al-Sadiq (a) announced the imamate of his son, Musa, to his close companions. There are sections about the textual evidence for the imamate of Musa b. Ja'far (a) in al-Kafi, Bihar al-anwar, al-Irshad, and I'lam al-wara which have, respectively, cited 16, 46, 12, and 14 hadiths in this regard. Here are some of such hadiths:

Fayd b. Mukhtar asked Imam al-Sadiq (a) about the next Imam. At that time, his son, Musa, entered and Imam al-Sadiq (a) introduced him as the next Imam.

According to a hadith transmitted by 'Ali b. Ja'far, Imam al-Sadiq (a) said about Musa b. Ja'far (a): “he is my best child, and the one who will succeed me. He is my surrogate. And he is the Exalted God’s Hujja for all the creatures after me”.

According to a report in 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida (a), Harun al-Rashid told his son that Musa b. Ja'far was the right Imam and the most competent person for the succession of the Prophet (s), describing his own caliphate or leadership to be only apparent or based on force.

Contemporary Shi'a Sects

Some Shi'a of the time of Imam al-Sadiq (a) believed in the imamate of Isma'il and although he passed away while Imam al-Sadiq (a) was alive, they did not believe his demise and still believed in his imamate. After martyrdom of Imam al-Sadiq (a), some who were disappointed of the imamate of Isma'il considered his son Muhammad b. Isma'il as Imam and were later known as Isma'ilids.

After the martyrdom of Imam al-Sadiq (a), some others followed 'Abd Allah al-Aftah and were known as Fatahiyya. Among other sects of the time of Imam (a) were Nawusiyya, following a person called Nawus who considered Imam al-Sadiq (a) as the last Imam, and another group who believed in the imamate of Muhammad b. Ja'far, known as Dibaj.

After the martyrdom of Imam al-Kazim (a), some people did not believe in the imamate of Imam al-Rida (a) and stopped following anyone after Imam al-Kazim (a) and believed in him being the al-Mahdi and the Upriser and were called Waqifids. The movement of Mahdism is of course among the essential principles of Shi'a adopted from narrations of the Infallibles (a) which suggests that a person called "al-Qa'im" [Upriser] and "Mahdi" will rise from among the progeny of the Prophet (s) and will spread justice in the world.

The Activities of the Ghalis

The Ghalis (people who exaggerated about the Imams) were active during the imamate of Imam al-Kazim (a). The Bashiriyya sect was formed in this period. The sect is attributed to Muhammad b. Bashir, a companion of Musa b. Ja'far (a). He attributed some falsehoods to the Imam (a) when the Imam (a) was still alive. Imam al-Kazim (a) believed that Muhammad b. Bashir was impure and cursed him.

Scholarly Activities

There are reports about many scholarly activities of Imam al-Kazim (a) have been reported. They were in the forms of hadiths, debates, and dialogues, and are cited in Shiite collections of hadiths.


Many hadiths have been transmitted from Imam al-Kazim (a) in Shiite collections of hadiths. They are mostly concerned with theological issues, such as monotheism, bada' and faith, as well as moral issues. Some supplications, such as al-Jawshan al-Kabir, have also been transmitted from him. In the chains of the transmitters of such hadiths, the Imam (a) has been referred to "al-Kazim", "Abu l-Hasan", "Abu l-Hasan al-Awwal", "Abu l-Hasan al-Madi", "al-'Alim", and "al-'Abd al-Salih". 'Aziz Allah 'Atarudi has collected 3,134 hadiths from him in his Musnad al-Imam al-Kazim. Abu 'Imran al-Marwzi, a Sunni scholar, has also collected some of the Imam's (a) hadiths in his Musnad al-Imam Musa b. Ja'far.

Other works have also been transmitted from Musa b. Ja'far (a):

  • An essay concerning the intellect or reason (al-'aql) addressed to Hisham b. Hakam.
  • An essay concerning monotheism in reply to the questions of Fath b. 'Abd Allah.

'Ali b. Yaqtin also collected some of his questions and replies with Musa b. Ja'far (a) in a book under Masa'il 'an Abi l-Hasan Musa b. Ja'far.

Debates and Dialogues

Some debates and dialogues of Imam al-Kazim (a) with some Abbasid caliphs, Jewish and Christian scholars, Abu Hanifa and others have been transmitted. Baqir Sharif al-Qurashi has collected 8 dialogues of Imam al-Kazim (a) under his debates. Imam al-Kazim (a) had debates with al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi with respect to Fadak and the prohibition of wine in the Qur'an. He also had debates with Harun al-'Abbasi. Since Harun considered himself as a relative of the Prophet (s), Imam al-Kazim (a) made it explicit to Harun that he had the closest relation with the Prophet (s). Musa b. Ja'far's (a) dialogues with scholars of other religions were usually in the form of replies to their questions, which led to their conversion to Islam.


Imam al-Kazim's (a) practice in his relation with God was different from his practice in his interactions with people and rulers of his time. His practices in these respects are reported as his practices of worship, ethics, and politics.

Practice in Worship

According to Shiite and Sunni sources, Imam al-Kazim (a) frequently practiced worshipping God. Thus, he came to be known as "al-'Abd al-Salih" (the righteous worshipper or servant of God). According to some reports, Imam al-Kazim (a) worshiped so much that his prisoners were impressed. According to [[al-Shaykh al-Mufid], Musa b. Ja'far (a) was the greatest worshipper of his time and he cried out of the fear of God such that his beard got wet. In his prostrations, he repeated the supplication: "Thy servant's sin is so great, so be the Forgiveness from Thee" ( عَظُمَ الذَّنْبُ مِنْ عَبْدِكَ فَلْيَحْسُنِ الْعَفْوُ مِنْ عِنْدِكَ) and the supplication: "O God! I ask Thee the comfort at the time of death and forgiveness at the time of Judgment" ( اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ الرَّاحَةَ عِنْدَ الْمَوْتِ وَ الْعَفْوَ عِنْدَ الْحِسَابِ). Even when he was imprisoned at the command of Harun, he thanked God for having an opportunity to worship Him: "I always asked Thee an opportunity to worship and Thou Have Provided it for me, so I thank Thee".

Moral Practice

There are reports about Imam al-Kazim's (a) patience and generosity in Shiite and Sunni sources. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid believed that the Imam (a) was the most generous man of his time who secretly took provisions and foods to the poor in Medina overnight. Ibn 'Inaba said about Musa b. Ja'far's (a) generosity: he left home overnight with bags of dirhams and gave them to every person in need who he met. His bags of dirhams were well-known among the people at the time. It is also said that Musa b. Ja'far (a) was also generous to those who bothered him, and whenever he learned that someone was seeking to bother him, he sent gifts to him. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid has also considered Imam al-Kazim (a) as persistent on Silat al-Rahim (family ties).

The Imam (a) came to be known as "Kazim" because he greatly controlled his anger. There are different reports that he controlled his anger against his enemies and people who hurt him. For example, a man from the progeny of 'Umar b. al-Khattab insulted Imam 'Ali (a) at the presence of Imam al-Kazim (a). The Imam's (a) companions wanted to attack him, but the Imam (a) did not allow them to do so. He then went to the man's farm. When the man saw Imam al-Kazim (a), he cried and asked the Imam (a) not to tread on his crops. The Imam (a) approached him and kindly asked: "how much did you spend on the farm?". The man replied: "100 dinars". Then the Imam (a) asked: "how much will you benefit from the farm?" The man said: "I do not have the knowledge of the hidden". Imam al-Kazim (a) asked: "how much do you hope to benefit?" The man replied: "200 dinars". The Imam (a) gave 300 dinars to him and said: "these 300 dinars are yours and you can keep your crops". The Imam (a) went to the mosque then. The man hurried up to the mosque and arrived sooner than the Imam (a). When he saw the Imam (a), he recited the Quranic verse: "Allah best Knows where He places His message".

Al-Bushr al-Hafi was also impressed by the Imam's (a) remarks and moral practice and then repented to God and turned into a Sufi master.

Political Practice

According to some sources, Imam al-Kazim (a) emphasized the illegitimacy of the Abbasid caliphs in different ways, such as having debates and refusing to cooperate with them and thus he tried to undermine people's trust in them. The following are cases of his attempts to question the legitimacy of the Abbasids:

In some cases in which the Abbasid caliphs tried to legitimize their government by their relation to the Prophet (s) by blood, Imam al-Kazim (a) tried to show that he was closer to the Prophet (s) than the Abbasids. For example, in a dialogue with Harun al-'Abbasi, Imam al-Kazim (a) appealed to Quranic verses, such as the Verse of Mubahala, to show that his lineage goes back to the Prophet (s) through his great grandmother, Fatima al-Zahra (a).

When al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi began to return suspicious or usurped property to their owners, Imam al-Kazim (a) asked him to returned the Fadak to him. When al-Mahdi asked him to determine the limits of the Fadak, the Imam (a) gave him the limits equal to those of the Abbasid government.

The 7th Shiite Imam (a) always asked his companions not to cooperate with the Abbasids. For example, he forbade Safwan al-Jammal from renting his camels to Harun. However, he asked his companion, 'Ali b. Yaqtin, who was a minister in Harun al-Rashid's government, to stay in the palace and serve the Shi'as.

However, there is no report about any explicit opposition by Musa b. Ja'far (a) to the Abbasid government. He practiced taqiyya (dissimulation) and recommended the Shi'as to observe it. For example, the Imam (a) wrote a letter to Khayzaran, the mother of al-Hadi al-'Abbasi, to console her about al-Hadi's death. According to a hadith, when he was summoned by Harun, he said: "I will go to Harun because it is an obligation to practice taqiyya with respect to the ruler". He also accepted Harun's gifts for the marriages of Al Abi Talib in order to preserve their generation. He even wrote a letter to 'Ali b. Yaqtin and asked him to perform the wudu' in the way it is performed by Sunni Muslims in order not to fall in danger.

Alawite Uprisings

Musa b. Ja'far's (a) life coincided with the peak of the Abbasid power and a number of Alawite uprisings against them. The Abbasids took over the power with the slogan of supporting the Prophet's (s) Ahl al-Bayt (a), but it did not take long until they turned into ardent enemies of the Alawites, killing or imprisoning many of them. The hostility of the Abbasid rulers to the Alawites led some prominent Alawites to begin uprisings against them. Examples of such uprisings include the Uprising of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, the establishment of the Idrisid government, and the Uprising of al-Fakhkh. The Uprising of al-Fakhkh occurred in 169/785 in the period of Musa b. Ja'far's (a) imamate and al-Hadi al-'Abbasi's caliphate. The Imam (a) did not take part in these uprisings and no explicit position is reportedly taken by him in support or condemnation of such uprisings. Even Yahya b. 'Abd Allah wrote a letter and complained about the Imam's (a) silence about his uprising in Tabaristan. There are two views about the Imam's (a) position with regard to the Uprising of al-Fakhkh which occurred in Medina:

  • Some people believe that the Imam (a) agreed with, and supported, the uprising. They appeal to a remark by the Imam (a) addressed to Shahid al-Fakhkh: "so be serious in what you do since these people express the faith but are polytheists in their hearts".
  • Others believe that the uprisings were not supported by the Imam (a).

However, when the Imam (a) saw the head of Shahid al-Fakhkh, he recited al-Istirja' Verse and admired him. Al-Hadi al-'Abbasi believed that Imam al-Kazim (a) ordered the Uprising of al-Fakhkh and thus, he threatened to kill him.


During his imamate, Imam al-Kazim (a) was repeatedly summoned and imprisoned by Abbasid caliphs. For the first time, he was taken from Medina to Baghdad at the command of the Abbasid caliph, al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi. Harun also imprisoned the Imam (a) for two times. The time of their first arrest and the first prison are not mentioned in sources, but the second arrest occurred on Shawwal 20, 179 (January 6, 796) when he was arrested in Medina and was imprisoned in Basra in the house of 'Isa b. Ja'far on Dhu l-Hajja 7 (March 5). According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Harun wrote a letter to 'Isa b. Ja'far in 180/797 and asked him to kill the Imam (a), but he refused to do so. After a while, the Imam (a) was moved to the prison of Fadl b. Rabi'. Imam al-Kazim (a) spent the last years of his life in the prisons of Fadl b. Yahya and al-Sindi b. al-Shahik. In Imam al-Kazim's (a) ziyaratnama (Visitation Supplication), he is greeted as "tortured in the depths of the prisons" ("al-Mu'adhdhab fi qa'r al-sujun": المُعَذَّب فی قَعر السُجون).

There are different accounts of why Imam al-Kazim (a) was arrested and imprisoned by the Abbasid caliphs. According to some accounts, he was arrested by Harun because of Yahya al-Barmaki's jealousy of the Imam (a) and slanders of 'Ali b. Isma'il b. Ja'far. It is said that Harun was suspicious of Imam al-Kazim's (a) relations with the Shi'as and feared that the Shiite belief in his imamate would undermine his government. According to other accounts, the Imam (a) was imprisoned because some Shi'as, such as Hisham b. Hakam, did not practice the taqiyya, despite the Imam's (a) commands. Thus, Hisham b. Hakam's debates contributed to the Imam's (a) imprisonment.


Imam al-Kazim (a) spent the last days of his life in al-Sindi b. al-Shahik's prison. According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Sindi poisoned the Imam (a) at the command of Harun al-Rashid, and three days later, the Imam (a) was martyred. His martyrdom occurred on Rajab 25, 183 (September 1, 799). There are other views about the time and the place of Imam al-Kazim's (a) martyrdom as well.

When Musa b. Ja'far (a) was martyred, his corpse was put on Baghdad's bridge at the order of al-Sindi b. al-Shahik and it was announced that Musa b. Ja'far died of natural causes. There are different accounts of how he was martyred. The majority of historiographers believe that he was poisoned by Yahya b. Khalid and al-Sindi b. al-Shahik. According to another account, the Imam (a) was suffocated by being folded in a carpet. Hamd Allah al-Mustawfi has attributed to the Shi'as the belief that Musa b. Ja'far (a) was martyred by hot lead poured in his throat, but he cited no sources for his claim.

Two reasons have been mentioned for why the Imam's (a) corpse was exhibited in a public place: one of them was to show that the Imam (a) died of natural causes, and the other was to repute the view of those people who believed in the Mahdawiyya of Imam al-Kazim (a).

Musa b. Ja'far's (a) corpse was buried in the Shuniziyya area in the family mausoleum of al-Mansur, known as the graves of the Quraysh. His burial place is known as the Shrine of Kazimayn. It is said that the Abbasids buried the Imam's (a) corpse there so that the Shi'as could not congregate in his burial place.

Burial Place and the Reward for Ziyarah

An old photo of the Holy Shrine of al-Kazimayn (a).Photo is taken by British Air Force in 1335/1917 during World War I.

After finding about Imam's (a) martyrdom, the Shi'a gathered for a funeral and buried his body in the Quraysh cemetery of Kadhimiya. Imam al-Rida (a) said, "anyone who visits my father's grave is like the one who visits the graves of the Prophet (s) and Ali b. Abi Talib (a)." In another narration, he (a) is narrated saying that the reward given for visiting the grave of his father is like the reward given for visiting the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a).

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi's Word Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi quoted from al-Hasan b. Ibrahim Abu Ali al-Khallal, Shaykh of Hanbalis of his time, saying that, "no problem I faced and then went near the grave of Musa b. Ja'far (a) and entreated him, except that God, the Almighty, facilitated towards what I liked it."

Companions and Deputies

There are no precise figures about Imam al-Kazim's (a) companions. The following are the different views about their number:

  • Al-Qurashi rejected al-Barqi's view and mentioned 320 companions of Imam al-Kazim (a).

Companions of Imam al-Kazim (a) include people such as 'Ali b. Yaqtin, Hisham b. Hakam, Hisham b. Salim, Muhammad b. Abi 'Umayr, Hammad b. 'Isa, Yunus b. 'Abd al-Rahman, Safwan b. Yahya, and Safwan al-Jammal, some of whom are among the People of Consensus. After Imam al-Kazim's (a) martyrdom, a number of his companions, such as 'Ali b. Abi Hamza al-Bata'ini, Ziyad b. Marwan and 'Uthman b. 'Isa, did not accept the imamate of 'Ali b. Musa al-Rida (a) and "stopped" at the imamate of Musa b. Ja'far (a). Thus they came to be known as "al-Waqifiyya" (literally: people who stopped). However, after a while, some of them changed their minds and accepted the imamate of Imam al-Rida (a).

Organization of Representatives

Main article: System of Wikala

In order to have wider contacts with the Shi'as and reinforce their economic power, Imam al-Kazim (a) expanded the organization of representatives and deputies which was established in the period of Imam al-Sadiq (a). He sent some of his companions to different areas as his representatives or agents. Some sources have mentioned 13 of his representatives. According to some sources, his representatives included 'Ali b. Yaqtin and Mufaddal b. 'Umar in Kufa, 'Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj in Baghdad, Ziyad b. Marwan in Kandahar, 'Uthman b. 'Isa in Egypt, Ibrahim b. Salam in Nishabur, and 'Abd Allah b. Jundab in Ahvaz.

There are different reports in sources according to which the Shi'as gave the Khums of their money and property to the Imam (a) or his representatives. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi believes that the reason why some of the Imam's (a) representatives believed in Waqifiyya was their infatuation with the money gathered by them. According to the report given by 'Ali b. Isma'il b. Ja'far to Harun, which led to Imam al-Kazim's (a) arrest, "a lot of money is sent to him from the east and the west, and he has a Treasury of his own in which different types of coins in great quantities are found".

The other way in which the Imam (a) contacted the Shi'as was correspondence. Letters were exchanged between him and the Shi'as with respect to jurisprudential issues, beliefs, preaching, praying, and issues related to the representatives. It is said that he even wrote letters to his companions and replied to their questions when he was in the prison.

The Place for Sunni Muslims

Sunni Muslims honor Imam al-Kazim (a) as a religious scholar. Some Sunni figures have admired the Imam's (a) knowledge and moral character and pointed to his patience, generosity, worship and the like. Some cases in which Imam al-Kazim's (a) patience and worship are exhibited have been cited in Sunni sources. Some Sunni scholars, such as al-Sam'ani, visited Imam al-Kazim's (a) grave and took resort (tawassul) to him. Abu 'Ali al-Khilal, a Sunni scholar, said that he visited Musa b. Ja'far's grave and resorted to him whenever he had a problem and then his problem was solved. Al-Shafi'i is also quoted as saying that Musa b. Ja'far's grave is a "healing cure".


Further Reading

Kadhimiya, Iraq, the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Kazim (a) and Imam al-Jawad (a)