THE IMAM (A.S.) AND HAROON AL-RASHEED
A. Concise Account of Al-Rasheed's Policy:
Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.), like the other members of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), their followers and the common people, lived in an atmosphere of oppression, terror, and intimidation. At any moment they could be thrown in jails or made homeless.
During that period of time, the Abbassids got rid of many of their own supporters and followers. The Barmecides, who were staunchly loyal to them, who shed blood, and brutally dealt with people to consolidate the Abbassid rule, weren't spared. Like many others, they were put to the sword.
A glance at what was said by the closest allies of the Abbassids and the events of that era, would reveal to us the scope of fear and terror implanted by the new rulers in the hearts of people, and the importance of Imam's firm attitude of standing up against injustice and terror, and tearing down the wall of fear among the ummah.
Al-Fadhl bin Yahya bin Khalid al-Barmaki, a close assistant of al-Rasheed, was stripped naked, beaten, insulted and cursed publically on the orders of al-Rasheed, because he provided some comfort to Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) while he was in prison.
Al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi', one of the closest Abbassid officials to al-Rasheed, and a pillar of the Abbassid rule, recounts a bitter experience, which portrays the depth of fear and panic which he felt, due to the suffocating political climate created by the Abbassids.
"One night," al-Fadhl says, "I was lying in bed with one of my bonds-maids. At about midnight, I heard the door of the main room rattling. I was panic stricken. 'Maybe it is the wind,' said the maid. But it was not long before the door of the bedroom opened and Masroor, The Big, stepped in. 'The prince wants you.' He said that without greeting me and so I felt an overwhelming despair. 'This is Masroor,' said I to myself. 'He entered my house without my permission. He has not greeted me. Nothing then awaits me but death.' I was unclean but I could not ask Masroor for a delay to go to the bathroom. Realizing how bewildered and awkward I was, the maid urged me, ,Put your trust in Allah, the Mighty and High, and rise up.' I rose up and put on my clothes. I went with Masroor to the caliph's palace. He was lying in his bed. I greeted him, and he returned my greeting. At that point I collapsed. 'Are you scared?', asked he. 'Yes, Commander of the Faithful,' I replied. He left me alone for nearly an hour until I felt calm again."
The reader of this historical document realizes how the Abbassids abused people's liberties. The closest official to the ruler, and the key pillar of al-Rasheed's rule, was obsessed with fear. What about the opponents, and those who had nothing to do with the ruler, especially the common people?
The policy of terror practised by the Abbassids isn't in fact, different from the methods adopted by the spying agencies, intelligence apparatus, and police units employed by the terrorist regimes, imposed on the people. We have seen how al-Rasheed's messenger stormed into al-Fadhl's house, while the latter was sleeping in his bed, with no prior permission. We have read how he was driven by despair to the point of fainting, and how he could not talk with al-Rasheed until one hour had passed and after he came around.
This is what fear does to men's will. It deprives them of their dignity and humanity.
Here is another document handed down to us by the historians. This time the mass scare from the Abbassid authorities is fully described. It is said that when Yahya bin Kahlid al-Barmaki arrived at Baghdad to lay the plans for the assassination of Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.), the people were shocked by his mission. Fear took hold of them. Rumours spread, and stories of an impending evil were heard everywhere. The historical text reads, "Then Yahya bin Khalid, himself, arrived at Baghdad using the services of the post. People were greatly troubled, and they plunged into unbridled rumours."
These words, "People were greatly troubled, and they plunged into unbridled rumours" reflect expressly the nature of the relationship between the ummah and the rulers. They depict a clear picture of how the state affairs were conducted, how the Abbassids and their followers consolidated their grip over the ummah, and how the attitude of the Imam was, in fact, a result of his feeling of the heavy burden of salvaging the ummah and tearing down the wall of terror built around them.
That is the constant policy of Ahlul-Bait Imams (a.s.) toward the successive tyrants. Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.) stayed in prison and refused to go out. He wanted to make it clear to the ummah that the struggle between them and the unjust rulers would go on for years, as long as the legitimate leadership was opposing oppression, while being restricted. On this path treaded the reformers who preferred the darkness of jails to the luxury of palaces. With their swords and the words of right, they faced the tyrants.
Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), their followers, and the descendants of Ali bin Abi-Talib (a.s.), offered, throughout the reigns of Abul-Abbas al-Saffah, al-Mansoor, al-Hadi, al-Mahdi, al-Rasheed, and the rest of the Abbassid dynasty, their blood for the sake of the faith. They filled up the cells and dungeons. On their bodies palaces were built, and in their pillars they were thrown alive. Their heads were carried from one city to another.
A tragic, heartrending story about the savagery and brutality of the Abbassids was recounted by Hamid bin Quhtubah, a senior assistant of al-Rasheed, to one of his closest friends.
The story says that when al-Rasheed was in Toos (Khurasan-Iran), he sent for Hamid bin Qurtubah. Al-Rasheed asked him about his loyalty to him, to which question Hamid answered that he was quite ready to carry out whatever task he might assign him. When al-Rasheed felt Hamid was staunchly loyal to him and that he was capable of doing what he wanted him to do, he ordered his servant to give him a sword and take him to a closed house in whose center there was a well. There were three big rooms in the house. When Hamid opened the door of the first room, he saw twenty men; young, middle-aged and old, from the descendants of Ali bin Abi-Talib and Fatimah (a.s.). They were all in shackles and chains. The servant ordered him to kill them and throw their bodies into the well, which he did.
In the second room there were also twenty men. Hamid killed them all with his sword. And he did the same thing to the fettered men in the third room who were also twenty in number.
This story was kept a guarded secret for a long time, in the cells of the terrorist rulers and murderers. He had murdered for no convincing reasons at all, obsessed by the feeling that he had lost his humanity and was metamorphosed into a blood-thirsty animal, and being desperate from Allah's forgiveness, Hamid bin Quhtubah divulged that horrible secret.
In the holy month of Ramadham, Ubaidullah al-Bazzaz al-Nishapoori, an intimate friend of Hamid called on him. Ubaidullah had just arrived from a long journey. Hamid bin Quhtubah was preparing his lunch. Hamid asked his friend to eat, hut Ubaidullah excused himself by saying that he was fasting. "Maybe the prince has an excuse and a religiously acceptable reason for not fasting. But for me, I am fasting." 'I am not sick,' replied Hamid, 'and I have no excuse at all.' Then tears rolled down his cheeks and he cried. He narrated the dreadful story. 'What kind of forgiveness can I hope to win?', he said hopelessly, 'and what benefit would my fasting be after I have committed this crime and slain sixty innocent men from the descendants of Ali and Fatimah? How could I meet Allah and his Messenger tomorrow?"
Historians recounted numerous tragic stories about the persecution of the Alawites and their followers, especially the companions, students and disciples of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.).
Muhammad bin Abi-Umayr al-Azadi, historians say, was one of the most trustworthy men in the eyes of both Sunnis and Shi'ites. He was known for his asceticism, devoutness and worship. Al-Jahidh, the reputed writer, is reported to have said, "He was unique, among all people, in everything." And added, "He was a leading rejectionist (of the Abbassid rule). In the days of al-Rasheed he was thrown in jail in order to force him to accept the post of the senior judge, or, as some people said, to disclose the names of the Shi'ites and the companions of Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.). For that, he was severely beaten. He was about to confess due to the pain which was beyond his endurance, when he heard Muhammad bin Yonis bin Abdul-Rahman saying to him, 'Fear Allah, Muhammad bin Abi-Umayr.' He held up and Allah relieved him when he was released."
Al-Kashshi said that he was flogged 120 times with a piece of wood, in the days of al-Rasheed. Al-Sindi bin Shahik flogged him. The charge was being a Shi'ite. He was also thrown in jail and not set free until he had paid, from his own wealth, 21,000 Dirhams. It was reported that al-Ma'moon, the Abbassid caliph, had imprisoned him until he accepted the post of the senior judge in one of the provinces. In al-Ikhtisas, Sheikh al-Mufid says that he was locked up for 17 years, during which his sister buried his books. But after four years the books were found to have decayed.
The annals of history recorded many heroic epics of the disciples of Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.). Sheikh al-Mufid mentions in his book, al-Ikhtisas that "Ali bin Hashim bin al-Barid, Abdullah bin Alqamah, and Mukhawwal bin Ibrahim al-Sahdi were close companions of Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.). All of them were thrown in al-Matbiq. There, they remained 12 years."
In such a climate of terror and oppression, it was only natural that Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) would fall victim to the rash policies of al-Rasheed, and to the lies of his enemies who were continuously giving false information about him.
Al-Rasheed, obsessed by the idea of keeping his power, believed them. Historians say that "the reason why Musa bin Ja'far came to Baghdad was that Haroon al-Rasheed wanted to appoint his son Muhammad bin Zubaida (al-Amin) as the crown prince. He had 14 sons, from among whom he picked three to succeed him: Muhammad bin Zubaidah whom he made the crown prince, Abdullah al-Ma'moon, whom he appointed as the successor to al-Amin, and al-Qasim al-Mu'taman, who would take over after al-Ma'moon.
Al-Rasheed wanted to settle the matter and make it public so that all people would be aware of it. He went to perform hajj in the year 179 A.H. From Makkah he wrote to all fuqaha', scholars, preachers and governors to attend the season of hajj in Makkah. He, himself, took the route that would lead him to Madinah.
Ali bin Muhammad al-Nawfali said, "My father said that the reason why Yahya bin Khalid spoke evil of Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.) before al-Rasheed was that al-Rasheed had put his son, Muhammad bin Zubaidah, in the care of Ja'far bin Muhammad bin al-Ash'ath, as his tutor, Yahya was extremely infuriated. 'If al-Rasheed dies and Ja'far bin Muhammad al-Asha'th and his sons seize control of the state affairs,' said Yahya to himself, 'that only means that my power and that of my sons will certainly come to an end, while Ja'far bin Muhammad bin al-Asha'th and his sons will enjoy power.' Yahya knew that Ja'far was Shi'ite, so he pretended to be Shi'ite before Ja'far who was greatly delighted by that. As a result, he confided in Yahya, telling him all about his personal affairs and had no doubt that he was loyal to Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.).
When he got quite sure that Ja'far was a follower of Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.), Yahya began to vilify him before al-Rasheed who was kind to him due to the great efforts he and his father had made in supporting the Abbassids in their fight to seize power. Al-Rasheed thus was not ready to take a decisive decision concerning him. Meanwhile, Yahya did not stop accusing Ja'far of fatal charges.
One day Ja'far called on al-Rasheed, who received him warmly. They talked bitterly about Ja'far's loyalty to the Abbassids. Ja'far beseeched al-Rasheed not to look at him with suspicion, reminding him of the sacrifices of he and his father. Al-Rasheed gave him a reward of 20,000 Dinars. Yahya, who was present, said nothing until nightfall. At that time he said to al-Rasheed, 'Commander of the Faithful, I have been talking to you about Ja'far and his religious beliefs, but you will not believe me. Here is something that will settle the matter.' 'And what is that?', enquired al-Rasheed. 'As soon as he receives money from anyone,' explained Yahya, 'he will send one-fifth of it to Musa bin Ja'far. I have no doubt that he has done so with the 20,000 Dinars you have ordered to be given to him.' That will settle the matter,' agreed Haroon.
Al-Rasheed sent for Ja'far at night. Ja'far was well aware that Yahya had been informing al-Rasheed on him. Both of them showed animosity to each other. So when al-Rasheed's envoy knocked on his door at night he feared that al-Rasheed might have listened to Yahya, and that he would be called to face death. He took a bath, perfumed himself with musk and camphor, put a cloak over his clothes and went to see al-Rasheed. When the latter looked at him, smelled the odour of camphor and saw the cloak, he inquired, "Ja'far what is that?" "O Commander of the Faithful," replied Ja'far, "I have known that he had tipped you off about me. When your messenger arrived at this hour, I felt insecure for you might have been influenced by what had been said about me and as a result you have sent to get rid of me." "No," said al-Rasheed, "but I was told that you send a fifth of whatever money you receive to Musa bin Ja'far. And that you have done the same thing with the 20,000 Dinars. I only wanted to know about this." "Allahu-Akbar, O Commander of the Faithful," said Ja'far in protest, "send one of your servants, and he will bring the money to you in their bags with the seals still intact."
Al-Rasheed then, said to a servant of his, "Take the seal of Ja'far, and hurry up until you bring me that money." Ja'far gave him the name of the maid in whose possession the money was. She handed the bags of money, which were still sealed, over to the servant. He brought them to al-Rasheed. "This is the first by which you uncover the lies of those who wanted to pit you against me," said Ja'far. "You are right, Ja'far," conceded al-Rasheed. "Go away secure. I will never approve of anything said by anyone against you."
"But Yahya," went on al-Nawfali, "did not give up his schemes to trap Ja'far."
"Ali bin al-Hassan bin Ali bin Umar bin Ali," added al-Nawfali, "said to me, quoting one of his teachers, during al-Rasheed's hajj, which preceded this last one; Ali bin Isma'il bin Ja'far bin Muhammad saw me and asked, 'Why are you so lazy and crazy? Why do not you deal with the vizier? He has sent after me. I joined him in his camel litter, and asked his help in meeting my needs."
The reason behind that was that Yahya bin Khalid had once said to Yahya bin Abi-Maryam, "Will you guide me to a man from the family ofAbu-Talib who likes mundane luxury so I could satisfy his needs?" "Yes, I will lead you to a man with this quality. He is Ali bin Isma'il bin Ja'far bin Muhammad." Thereupon Yahya sent after the man and demanded, "Tell me about your uncle and his followers and the money which is sent to him." "I know about all this," Ali agreed. He divulged the secrets of his uncle (Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.)) to Yahya. He said, "He has so much money that he bought a farm, named al-Bashariyyah for 30,000 Dinars. When he brought the money the seller said, 'I do not want this money. I want the such and such money.' He gave orders that the money be put back in the money chest. Then he brought out 30,000 Dinars from the quality the farm owner insisted to get, weighed it, and handed it to the seller as a price for the farm.
Al-Nawfali added, quoting his father, "Musa bin Ja'far, peace be upon him, provided Ali bin Isma'il with money. He trusted him to the point that sometimes he would send letters to his followers in Ali's handwriting. But then he started feeling uneasy about him. Then when al-Rasheed made known his intention of travelling to Iraq, Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.) was informed that Ali, his nephew, wanted to join the ruler on his journey. He sent after him and asked, 'Why do you want to go with the ruler?' 'Because I am in debt,' replied Ali. 'I will pay all your debts,' Imam Musa (a.s.) assured him. 'And what about my family?', asked Ali. 'I will support them,' said Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.). But Ali insisted on going on with his plan. Imam Musa (a.s.) sent his brother, Muhammad bin Ja'far, to him with 300 Dinars and 4,000 Dirhams. ,Put this with your belongings, and do not leave my sons bereaved of their father,' Muhammad advised him."
There are other versions handed down by historians.
"Muhammad bin Isma'il bin al-Sadiq, a nephew of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), was the writer of Imam Musa's letters to his followers in different parts of the region, but upon the arrival of al-Rasheed in al-Hijaz, he tipped his uncle off. 'Do not you know that there are two caliphs on earth to whom taxes are given?,' started Muhammad. 'Woe on you! I and who?', the enraged al-Rasheed cried. 'Musa bin Ja'far,' said Muhammad. He told him whatever he knew about him. Al-Rasheed ordered the arrest of Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.), and Muhammad won the favour of al-Rasheed. Imam Musa bin Ja'far al-Kadhim (a.s.) prayed to Allah to punish Muhammad. The prayer was answered, and both Muhammad and his children greatly suffered as a result of it."
Ali bin Ja'far, a brother of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), is reported to have said, "Muhammad bin Isma'il bin Ja'far bin Muhammad called on me and informed me that Muhammad bin Ja'far, a brother of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), when admitted to see Haroon al-Rasheed, greeted him as the caliph of Muslims, and said, 'I would have never thought that there were two caliphs until I have seen my brother, Musa bin Ja'far, greeted as the caliph.'"
Ya'qoob bin Dawood, who embraced the Zaydi beliefs, was one of those who spoke spitefully about Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.) before al-Rasheed."
Ibrahim bin Abil-Bilad is reported to have said, "I visited Ya'qoob bin Dawood at his home in Madinah the night before Musa bin Ja'far was arrested. 'I have already come from the house of the vizier (i.e. Yahya bin Khalid),' Ya'qoob said, 'and he has told me that he had heard al-Rasheed saying near the holy tomb of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) the following, as if addressing him, 'May my father and mother be your ransom, O Messenger of Allah. I am apologizing to you for something I have made up my mind to do. I want to detain Musa bin Ja'far and throw him in prison for I fear otherwise that he might set off a war among your ummah in which their blood will be shed.' I think that he will arrest him tomorrow.' The following day al-Rasheed sent al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi' to Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.), who was standing in prayer on the same spot the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.) used to offer his prayers. Al-Fadhl ordered him to be arrested and thrown in prison."
This is a brief historical view depicting the bitter political struggle that was raging between the leaders of guidance and faith, namely the household of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and the Abbassid rulers, their henchmen, stooges, opportunists, power mongers, wealth seekers and fake reputation gainers. Limited as it is, in terms of time and place, it presents that period with all its psychological, political, and ideological dimensions.
The reader can see how Imam's character was great and impressive, and how boundless was the anxiety and concern of the rulers, along with their followers, about this great man. Despite their power, strength, state and financial resources, the Abbassids found no other way to deal with Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), than prison, terrorism and repression to keep their state and protect their thrones. History presents a good picture of Imam Kadhim's imprisonment, suffering, patience and the brutality of his enemies.
It is reported that, "al-Rasheed went, in that year, to perform hajj, and started with the Prophet's tomb. 'O Apostle of Allah. I am apologizing to you on account of something I want to do. I want to put Musa bin Ja'far in prison. He seeks to drag your ummah into dispersion and let their blood be shed.'
"Then he ordered Musa to be let in. He ordered him to be shackled. From his house two mules with dome-shaped litters were brought out, inside one of them he had put Musa. Both of the mules were escorted by horsemen. The mules were sent in two different directions; one to Basrah and the other to Kufah, so as to mislead the people. Imam Musa (a.s.) was with the caravan that was sent to Basrah. Al-Rasheed had ordered his envoy to hand Imam Musa (a.s.) over to Isa bin Ja'far bin al-Mansoor who was the governor of Basrah. He kept him in jail for one year, then wrote to al-Rasheed asking him to receive Musa and put him in the care of anyone he liked, otherwise, Isa said, he would set him free. He admitted that however hard he tried to find a way to incriminate him, he found none. In his letter, Isa said that he even listened secretly to Musa, that he might hear him invoke evil upon him or al-Rasheed in his prayers, but he only heard him asking the mercy and forgiveness of Allah.
"Al-Rasheed sent a messenger who received Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.). In Baghdad, he ordered al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi' to put him in jail. There, Imam Musa (a.s.) was left for a long time. Al-Rasheed tried to force al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi' to do Imam Musa (a.s.) harm but he did not yield. Al-Rasheed wrote to al-Fadhl bin Yahya to take care of Imam Musa (a.s.). He asked him also to persecute him, but al-Fadhl rejected that, informing him that Imam Musa (a.s.) was provided with comfort and treated kindly in al-Riqah, where the prison was. Al-Rasheed quickly dispatched Masroor to Baghdad taking the route of the state post. He ordered him to see Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), as soon as he arrived, and see if al-Fadhl had said the truth. If the case was so, Masroor should deliver a letter from al-Rasheed to al-Abbas bin Muhammad ordering him to carry out his instructions, and should hand a similar letter to al-Sindi bin Shahik ordering him to obey al-Abbas bin Muhammad. Upon his arrival, Masroor went to the house of al-Fadhl bin Yahya. Of his real intentions no one was aware.
Then he went into the place where Imam Musa (a.s.) was detained, and saw that it was as al-Fadhl had informed al-Rasheed. Instantly, he rushed to al-Abbas bin Muhammad and al-Sindi bin Shahik and handed them the letters from al-Rasheed. It was not long before people saw the messenger running to the house of al-Fadhl bin Yahya. Then al-Fadhl was seen shocked and stunned riding with the messenger to the house of al-Abbas bin Muhammad. The latter ordered whips and two eagles be brought and sent to al-Sindi who ordered al-Fadhl be stripped of his clothes and given 100 lashes. Al-Fadhl came-out-ashen faced. He was haggard and fatigued. Puzzled, he greeted the people on his right and left.
"Masroor wrote to al-Rasheed about all that. In response al-Rasheed ordered Imam Musa (a.s.) be handed over to al-Sindi bin Shahik."
The earth, as a whole, was created, in the eyes of the Imam to be a worshipping place, a concept first presented by the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.). This life was created so that people could serve and glorify Allah, the Most High. It is merely a trip towards Allah, and an attempt to know Him better. The Imam wouldn't feel a change in time or place. All the times and places for him were the same. On the contrary, the more he was persecuted, the closer he got to Allah by means of patience and prayer. He made his prison a mosque, and his loneliness and the dreariness of the jail a pleasant place filled with the remembrance of Allah, the Most High. He fasted during the day, and prayed and recited supplications in the night, staying up until daybreak.
One of those charged with keeping a watchful eye on the Imam in the prison of Isa bin Ja'far related that he had heard the Imam praying,
"O Allah, You know that I had been asking You to free me from any obligation except worshipping You. Now You have done that. So, praise be to You."
On account of that, Isa bin Ja'far wrote to al-Rasheed, after he had kept the Imam in his jail, saying, "Take him, and put him in the care of anyone you like. Otherwise I will set him free. I tried hard to find a way to incriminate him, but found none. I went to the point of eaves-dropping, that he might invoke evil upon me or you, but I heard him only asking Allah's mercy and forgiveness for himself."
Ahmad bin Abdullah is reported to have said, quoting his father, "I called on al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi. He was sitting on the roof of his house. 'Look at this house,' said he, 'What do you see?' 'A discarded garment,' replied I. 'Look well,' he urged. I examined the thing narrowly and said, 'A prostrate man.' 'Do you know him?' he asked. 'He is Musa bin Ja'far. I keep close watch on him, during the day and in the night. Never did I see him anytime in another position. He says his dawn prayer and recites the post-prayer supplications, until sunrise. Then he kneels down in prostration, and remains so until midday. He asked someone to tell him prayer times. When the man tells him about the time of a certain prayer, he jumps performing the prayer without renewing his ablution. That is his habit, saying his sunset prayer, he breaks his fasting. He keeps performing prayer in the dead night until day breaks."
In another version it was added that, "this has been his habit for about one year."
In "Bihar al-Anwar" one reads that "al-Rasheed ordered Imam Musa (a.s.) be given over to al-Fadhl bin Yahya, who received him, locked him in one of his houses and posted guards around the house. Imam Musa (a.s.) got busy in worship. He stayed up all night performing prayer and reciting the Qur'an. During the day he was often fasting. He never averted his face from his worshipping site. Noticing that, al-Fadhl bin Yahya eased his restrictions and treated him kindly."
Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) influenced his jailers. He passed his time in prison reciting supplications, asking Allah's forgiveness. He devoted his time to worship, regarding the trial of imprisonment as a favour and mercy conferred on him by Allah.
What kind of man is this? What force could overcome him? The light of his heart swept away the darkness of the prison. The firmness of his patience shattered the shackles of the jailer and the will of the tyrant. The pleasantness of his prayers filled up the gloomy prison with happiness and brightness. What could the jailer ever do? What could the tyrant do? Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was winning over those who were around him with his good manners, deep spirituality and unique wisdom.
Al-Amiri, in his book "Al-Anwar", reports that "Haroon al-Rasheed sent a maid to Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.) to serve him in prison. She was beautiful, with a bright face and black eyes. Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.) commented on this saying, "Nay, you are exultant because of your gift". 'I have no need of this or to the likes of her.' Hearing that, Haroon got furious. 'Go back to him,' he ordered his servant, 'and tell him that it was not with your consent that we have jailed you. Nor was it with your consent that we have captured you. Leave the maid there and come back'
The servant did what he had been ordered to do. Haroon then left the room where he used to receive guests and visitors and sent the servant back to see the maid and what had become of her. He saw her prostrate saying, 'O Holy One. Glory to You. Glory to You.' 'By Allah, , Haroon commented, 'Musa bin Ja'far has bewitched her with witchcraft..."[92,93]
Maybe Haroon desired to lure Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s.) away from his sacred objectives with the beauty of women, and the pleasures of life, acting out of his own flawed convictions. He didn't know that Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) was totally absorbed in the beauty of right, and dissolved in the love of Allah. He had turned his face away from life and its cheap ornaments. Neither maids could occupy his attention, nor life's pleasures would fascinate him. He was a man with a mission, who dedicated his whole life to his principles, and submitted his whole soul to Allah, the Glorified. As a result, he became a man guiding with his words and actions, and a preacher who showed the right path with both his silence and speech. His action spoke instead of his tongue, and his words declared the path of right. That is why his overcame the maiden's mind and soul. She cried, "O Holy One. O Glorified One," enraptured in her prostration. After basking in the pleasures of entertainment, drinking from the cups of love, passing her time playing musical instruments, singing love poems, and enjoying wearing fine clothes and necklaces, she turned to worship. She went on with her prayers and praises of Allah until she passed away. It is said that her death occurred a few days before the martyrdom of Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.).
Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) braved all difficulties and hardships on the thorny path of faith. He taught the men who came after him, who treaded the same path, how to be firm in their attitudes, and steadfast inside prisons, not frightened by their jailers, or the oppression they practised against them so as to silence them. Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.), on the orders of al-Rasheed, was transferred from one prison to another. He was first sent to Isa bin Ja'far, then to al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi, then to al-Fadhl bin Yahya, and finally to al-Sindi bin Shahik.
Al-Rasheed meant to hide Imam Musa (a.s.), drive him out from the attention of the ummah and kill its spirit of resistance. The result was quite the opposite. The ummah was eager to follow the latest news about Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), especially when he was moved from one prison to another, with the authorities unable to take a decisive action against him. Being in prison was of great value for Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.). He nurtured the revolution, rejection and resistance, conferring legitimacy on them. That is why he turned down all offers to intervene on his behalf with the rulers. He frankly told those who asked him to allow them to send a delegation of prominent people to al-Rasheed to persuade him to set him free, "My father told me on the authority of his father and grandfathers that Allah, the Mighty and Glorified, gave Dawood (David) this piece of advice: 'Dawood, whoever from My servants clings to one of My creatures, turning his face from Me, insisting on that, shall certainly by deprived from heaven's support by Me. I shall make the earth sink under his feet."
When al-Rasheed felt that the silent resistance of Imam Musa (a.s.) in prison began to sneak into people's souls, and that his uncompromising attitude moved the ummah's awareness and feelings, fear took hold of him, for that awareness might grow into a violent revolution. He consulted his vizier, Yahya bin Khalid, who advised him to release Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.).
Allamah al-Majlisi, in his book "Bihar al-Anwar", says that, "When al-Rasheed threw Abu-Ibrahim Musa in prison, and saw some miracles made by him, he was greatly perplexed. He sent for Yahya bin Khalid al-Barmaki. 'Abu-Ali,' he said, 'Do you not see what wonders we are witnessing? Can you manage this man and spare us his troubles?' 'What I see as the best solution, Commander of the Faithful,' said Yahya bin Khalid, 'is that you do him a favour, by being kind to him as he is your relative. He has, by Allah, spoiled the hearts of our followers.' Yahya was a follower of Imam Musa (a.s.) without the knowledge of Haroon. 'Go instantly to him,' ordered Haroon, 'relieve him of his shackles, remember me to him, and say to him, 'Your cousin says to you that Yahya has interceded with me on your behalf, and that I will not release you until you have admitted your wrongdoings and asked my forgiveness for what you have done against me. No shame will be attached to your admittance; nor will it be a flaw on your part to ask my pardon..."
When Yahya conveyed the message of al-Rasheed to Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.), he rejected the offer which would have put him in a humiliating position, as if he were a wrongdoer. He said to Yahya,
"Tomorrow, when we have knelt down before Allah, Who would judge between us, you would know who was the oppressor who had wronged the other. Wassalam."
In this way, Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) defeated all means of injustice and terror, like prison, pressure, chains, distortion of the truth, and deceiving public opinion. Al-Rasheed was left with only one choice, to assassinate Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), and put an end to his blessed life.
He thought he could, by committing such a horrible crime, bring down the curtain on one of the greatest scenes of jihad and resistance against tyranny, extinguish the light of Imamate of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), and get rid of the greatest intellectual and religious figure of his time.
For such considerations, he made up his mind to assassinate him.
By all means, al-Rasheed tried to get rid of Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.). The Imam, being a man of great social, religious and intellectual position, was a nightmare for al-Rasheed. Hearts of people hovered over Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.). They loved Ahlul-Bait (a.s.). No Muslim could ever say that he knew nothing about them. People respected them. Nobody dared ignore their glorious position and their status in the eyes of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), except those who greedily sought spoils of this life and trampled all ideals and values under their feet. Even these worthless people could not make public their enmity toward Ahlul-Bait (a.s.); nor could they fight them without twisting the facts to suit their purposes. That is why Isa bin Ja'far, the governor of Basrah, refused to kill him, asking al-Rasheed to relieve him of this task and transfer Imam Musa (a.s.) to another prison. Being in the prison of al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi, Imam Musa (a.s.) impressed him. Al-Fadhl bin al-Rabi, like Isa, refused to commit the crime. Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was then taken to the prison of al-Fadhl bin Yahya who treated him kindly and made his prison a bit comfortable. When al-Rasheed asked him to slay Imam Musa (a.s.) he declined. When word came that al-Fadhl bin Yahya treated his prisoner well, al-Rasheed was enraged. He ordered him to be punished. Al-Fadhl was stripped naked and given 100 lashes in the assembly hall of al-Abbas bin Muhammad.
Casting around him, al-Rasheed found no one better than the chief of his police in Baghdad, al-Sindi bin Shahik, a man known to be rough, stone-hearted and merciless, like other criminals, to murder the Imam.
As we have seen, al-Sindi bin Shahik received Imam Musa (a.s.) from al-Fadhl bin Yahya, and put him in his prison. He burdened him with heavy chains and fetters, treating him most brutally and inhumanly. Yahya bin Khalid, on the other hand, was agonized by the punishment his son, al-Fadhl, had received from al-Rasheed. He decided to propitiate al-Rasheed and restore his family's position before the Abbassid ruler. The price would be the blood of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) even if that would torture the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).
Base people do such things. Controlled by meanness, opportunism and sycophancy, they seek the closeness of the rulers and blood-thirsty tyrants by shedding blood and persecuting innocent people who preached righteousness. They are dazzled by the fake social reputation and passing pleasures. They act out of the inferiority complex which overpowers them and prods them to win other's favour.
Yahya bin Khalid talked the matter over with al-Rasheed. He assured him that al-Fadhl was an inexperienced young man. He offered to go to Baghdad. Al-Rasheed was most delighted at having an offer from an obedient, faithful man. He gave him the green light to perpetrate the crime. Arriving in Baghdad, Yahya instantly held a meeting with al-Sindi bin Shahik, during which he explained to him the plan he had set to get rid of the Imam. The latter accepted it gratefully. According to the plan, poison was given to Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) in a plate of dates, or in some other food, according to another version. Imam Musa (a.s.) partook from that food and felt the poison sneaking through his pure body. For three days, he struggled with death, before breathing his last. On the third day, he died at the prison of al-Sindi bin Shahik, or at the mosque of Haroon, which was called Al-Musayyab Mosque. He won martyrdom on the 25th of Rajab in the year 183 A.H.
Imam Musa al-Kadhim's (a.s.) star set, and his light faded away from the sky of a bereaved Baghdad. Dark descended on the city, whose sky was cloudy with sorrow and anguish. Her blank eyes were swelled with the tears of separation and bereavement. She flung aside the false flag of peace her founder had conferred on her, and put on the clothes of mourning and protest. She cried out, "I am no longer the city of peace, nor a resting place for the free, righteous men." The hangman sat perplexed. Before him the crime was flashing. The horror of such a heinous act filled him with remorse. This terrorist, al-Sindi bin Shahik, felt the graveness of the tragedy. He saw Baghdad seething with anger and tumult. All the criminals who were involved in the conspiracy saw it. The voice of right was loud on every tongue filling all parts of Baghdad, "The Imam died without doing any wrong. He was martyred in the tyrant's prison."
Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) left his prison in glory.
Al-Rasheed and al-Sindi were both stained with the
disgrace of the crime. "Avenge the martyr. The day
when the wronged revenges himself on the oppressor will
certainly come." Al-Sindi scented the danger and the
conspirators saw the noose tightening around their necks.
Bewildered and cornered, they tried to find an excuse to
hide behind. They searched for Yousif's shirt, for the
wild, ravenous wolf to present as a scapegoat. And so
they said, "He died a natural death. He was treated
with kindness and dignity in prison. He simply died.
In spite of all that, the criminals' souls were not purified of their evil and malice. The body of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was left three days in the prison. Then it was taken and laid on the bridge of Karkh in Baghdad with the herald calling out for people, "This is Musa bin Ja'far. He is dead. Come on and look at him."
The body of Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.) remained on the bridge, while members of the police, headed by al-Sindi bin Shahik, were standing around accusing the dead Imam of false charges. People were noisily coming to the bridge and leaving. Sulayman bin Abi-Ja'far al-Mansoor, uncle of al-Rasheed, heard the uproar from his house on the other part of the city across the river Tigris. He asked his servants about it. "It is the body of Musa bin Ja'far, and the police of al-Sindi bin Shahik are announcing to the people that Musa bin Ja'far is dead." That annoyed him because he, along with all the Abbassids, were now in a defenceless position. He gave his orders to his men to go and wait on the eastern bank of the Tigris. They had to pounce on the police of al-Sindi bin Shahik and wrench the coffin from them, once they crossed the bridge. The men did so. They attacked the police, saved the pure body of the Imam and brought it to Sulayman bin Abi-Ja'far al-Mansoor. The body was ritually washed, sprinkled with camphor and wrapped up in a shroud. Then it was taken to the mosque. There people performed "the prayer for the dead" over him, and from there it was taken to be buried.
People of Baghdad, headed by the city's chiefs and leading men, Sulayman bin Abi-Ja'far al-Mansoor included, took to the streets, behind the coffin, in a most sad, dignified and great procession. Baghdad had never witnessed a day like that one, nor had it suffered a tragedy like that. The procession made its way to the cemetery of Quraish where the body of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) was laid to rest Peace be upon the Imam on the day he was born, on the day he was martyred amid the darkness of the prison, and on the day he shall be resurrected as a witness.