The Prisoner Who Perpetually Reigns

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By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz --

“O God! You know that I have always wished that you put me in an ideal place where I can say your prayers and You have granted my wish. I praise You and I am grateful to You.”

These are not the words of a supplicant worshipping God in luxuriant solitude, while the less fortunate toil day and night for a meager livelihood that barely enables them to perform their obligatory prayers.

Nay! These are the words of a person languishing in prison and yet thankful to God for having granted the opportunity to engage in worship in such a calamitous state that at times hardly allowed him to stand because of chains and fetters.

Not days, weeks or months; his imprisonment at times dragged on for years. He suffered intermittent bouts of imprisonment totaling 19 years and spanning the reign of three Abbasid caliphs.

What was his fault? Very serious indeed in the eyes of the authorities, since the man whose epithet “Kazem” means “Restrainer of Anger”, was the most virtuous person of the age, born of the most excellent parents of their time, and a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) in whose favour many a hadith was known to the Muslim masses and whose God-given knowledge was vouchsafed by many a scholar of repute.

He was the son and successor of Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS), the Prophet’s 6th infallible heir who had revived the genuine Muhammadan sunnah (practice) and seerah (behaviour) for the guidance of the society and bequeathed the most rational code of fiqh (jurisprudence).

His mother was Hamida (AS) concerning whom his grandfather Imam Muhammad Baqer (AS) had said: “You are Hamida (the praised) in this world and Mahmuda (the praiseworthy) in the hereafter."

A further proof the excellence of his mother was the habit of his father, Imam Sadeq (AS), when the ladies of Medina would come to him to ask juristic questions, to direct them to his wife Hamida (AS) saying: “Her answers will be those given by me.”

His own virtuous standing in the sight of God Almighty could be gauged from the incident, when the aged Christian monk Burayha came to him towards the end of his almost 50-year quest for the right path. He proved to the monk the truth of Islam by reciting passages from the original version of the Evangel, to the extent that the latter cried out that it seems he was hearing the tone of Prophet Jesus himself, and he thus became a Muslim.

Another of the numerous instances of his demonstration of God-given wisdom was his encounter while still a child with the aged jurist Abu Hanifa, who intending to test him, posed the following question: "O son of the Prophet! What is your opinion about the deeds of man? Does he do them of his own free will or God makes him do them?"

Imam Musa al-Kazem (AS) replied: "The doings of a person can have three possibilities: (1) God compels a man to do them and he is helpless. (2) Both God and man share the commitment. (3) Man does them alone.

If the first case is true than God cannot punish man for sins he did not commit. If the second case is true then too God cannot punish man for He the Almighty is an equal partner. Then, we are naturally left with the third case, that man is absolutely responsible for his own doings.”

Alas, the 7th Imam was martyred on the 25th Rajab at the age of 55 years through a fatal dose of poison ordered by Haroun Rashid, a caliph whose favourite pastime besides persecution of the Prophet’s progeny was to indulge in the debaucheries notorious in the Arabian Nights.

The body was left on the bridge of Baghdad, after the chief Qazi had called in state witnesses to testify that no bodily harm had been done to the venerable prisoner. He was finally laid to rest outside the city, a sight that soon grew into the sprawling golden-domed shrine of Kazemain, where people from all over the world come to pay their respects. As for his assassin, there is no trace of his grave let alone his pleasure dens.

The following is among Imam Kazem’s (AS) finest discourses on the true nature of Allah, the Omnipresent, Who is beyond human imagination:

“Allah never descends. He need not descend. He is the same, whether close or remote. No remote thing is far from Him or any close thing near Him. He needs nobody and nothing, but everybody and everything are in need of Him. He is the Generous and Powerful. There is no god but He, the Mighty and Wise.

“As for those who say He descends; the Blessed and Exalted Allah is far above such a description. Those who say (such) believe that Allah is vulnerable to decrease or increase. Any movable thing needs some outside force that moves it or serves as a medium for its movement. Doomed is he whose faith in Allah is shaken. Beware against attributing to Allah qualities that depict Him as decreasing or increasing, moving or being moved, changing or descending, standing or sitting. Allah, the Almighty and Powerful, is certainly beyond the words of the describers, the depiction of depicters, and the fancy of the fanciful."


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