On 25th of Rajab, in the year 183 of the hijra when news of the martyrdom of the 7th Imam spread in Baghdad, an old man started crying incessantly. When asked the reason, he recalled the day when his farmland was afflicted with pest and his entire crop was damaged. The old man said: “I lived honestly and never did I stretch out my hand towards the people, but since I was in debt, I wondered how I could repay my loan. I was in that state of confusion when I saw Imam Kazem (AS) approach and asked how much loss did I incur as a result of destruction of the crop? I said 120 Dinars. The Imam smiled and handed me a purse containing 150 Dinars. The Imam’s kind and affectionate look, which was without any air of pride or superiority, fascinated me. I pressed his kind hands in gratitude.
Although I was very embarrassed, I accepted his financial help and the Imam advised me never to be disappointed of God’s mercy. Now I am crying this day because a great man has left us. The one whose humbleness and kindness was a byword and who always cared about the needy.”
If we cast a glance at history, we will observe the dynamic role of Prophets and Imams in promoting justice and materializing human values. History is full of such examples by these saints who stood steadfast against oppression. The most excellent exemplars of truth and righteousness are Prophet Mohammad (blessings of Allah upon him and his household) and the infallible Imam. Without the least doubt Imam Kazem (AS) was a shining luminary who continues to glow radiantly till this day as Bab al-Hawa’ej or the Gateway of Needs, although it is more than a millennium and two centuries since his passing away. He has certainly left a lasting legacy. He lived at a crucial juncture of history. His Imamate lasted 35 years, and his epithet Kazem meant Restrainer of Anger or Emotions, since he was subjected to very harsh treatment and periods of imprisonment by the tyrannical Abbasid regime. But even under such severe conditions he guided the people and showed them the pure and pristine path of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his household).
The Ummah realized through his simple life and outstanding characteristics that he was the door of guidance compared to the misled ways of the Abbasid caliphs who squandered public treasury and committed every crime against the Muslims.
The 7th Imam in spite of the restrictions upon him spared no effort to enhance people’s awareness and uplift their intellectual status. He was no doubt the son and successor of Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS) whose famous school of Medina contained 4000 scholars including the Father of Chemistry, Jaber ibn Hayyan.
Several Abbasid caliphs, beginning from his father’s assassin Mansour Dawaniqi, tried to find excuses to torment Imam Kazem (AS), but they could not because of his prudence. The tyrant Haroun ar-Rasheed was the worst of the Abbasid caliphs. He was very much afraid of his own flimsy claim to rule the Muslim world and knew that as long as the Prophet’s rightful successor was alive, people would question his caliphate. The more he tried to aggrandize himself through his Arabian Nights debaucheries the more the people became disgusted with his rule. Their sympathies lay with the Prophet’s Household. In view of these facts, he became furious and harassed the Imam under various pretexts.
Imam Musa Kazem (AS) for his part undauntedly continued his campaign against the oppressors and the injustice in society. He forbade his famous companion Safwaan Jammaal, who was a camel owner to lease camel caravans to the Abbasid caliph.
He said: "O’ Safwaan, you are good in every aspect except in one thing that is the lease of camels to Haroun, for in order to collect your dues you are implicitly wishing that a tyrant like Haroun should flourish in society. The one who desires the survival of oppressors is considered one of them."
Safwaan was deeply impressed by the 7th Imam’s words and discontinued leasing camels to the caliph even if that meant he would lose his earnings.
The 7th Imam like his father and ancestors before him also groomed various scholars in different branches of science. One of these disciples was the brilliant rhetorician Hesham bin Hakam.
In part of the advices of Imam Kazem (AS), we read: "O’ Hesham, the one who does not take stock of his deeds every day is not from us. Since the person who has done good will strive to increase his good deeds and if he has done bad, he will seek forgiveness from God for his faults."
Imam Kazem (AS) was the repository of divine wisdom and he encouraged Muslims and all human beings to acquire knowledge in line with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. In one of his statements the Imam says: "Participate in the gathering of thinkers and keep close to them even though you find no place to sit and are forced to stand, for, God revives dead hearts under the blessings of wisdom in the same way that He revives the dead land through rainfall."
The Imam practiced what he preached. His endurance was noteworthy and despite years of imprisonment he never yielded to the demands of the Abbasid caliphs.
Imam Kazem (AS) while praying in the shrine of the Prophet in Medina was seized by soldiers and on the orders of Haroun brought to Iraq, where he was first kept in Basra and then in the dungeons of Baghdad.
The historian Yaqoubi writes: During a long period of imprisonment in Haroun’s jail, a person suggested that the Imam write a letter to one of the officials to procure his release. In response, the Imam gave a clear and decisive answer, saying: "One day God revealed to Prophet David that: “If any servant seeks refuge in other than Me, I will deprive him of My mercy.”
Such steadfastness unnerved the Abbasids, and the cruel caliph, Haroun ar-Rasheed, poisoned the food of the Imam in the jail of Baghdad. The dose proved fatal and the 7th Imam achieved martyrdom on this day in 183 AH. However, the caliph was afraid to admit his crime and he bribed the chief Qazi to testify that no bodily harm had befallen Imam Musa Kazem (AS). His bier was placed on the bridge of Baghdad and people were forced to testify that they were no signs of foul play on the body. The Imam was laid to rest in what has since grown into the town of Kazemayn in honour of the twin golden-domed mausoleum, where the people from not only Iraq but from throughout the world come to pay respects and pray to God to grant them their needs, that are miraculously answered. Isn’t it one of the divine signs that the name of Imam Musa Kazem (AS) has remained alive and immortal while there is not even a tombstone for the tyrant Haroun? We finish with a wise saying from the 7th Imam that is testimony to the balance that Islam maintains between the worldly and spiritual affairs.
The Imam says: "He is not from us one who gives up his material world for his religion or his religion for the life of this world."