Birth and early life
Musa al-Kadhim was born 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 nine sisters and six brothers. His oldest brother Ismail predeceased his father Ja'far al-Sadiq, 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, al-Kadhim was religiously minded as a child. Muhammad Baqir Majlisi relates an incident where Abū Ḥanīfa called on Ja'far al-Sadiq to ask his advice. While there, he encountered al-Kadhim, who was then five years old. Hanifa asked al-Kadhim the question meant for his father, saying: "Boy, from whom does disobedience (issue)? Does it issue from Allah or from the servant?" Al-Kadhim answered, saying: "Either it issues from God and not 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.[a]
In another incident, Abū Ḥanīfa complained to al-Sadiq, saying: "I have seen your son, Musa, pray while the people were passing (walking) before him. He did not prevent them from that."[b] The Imam ordered his son to be brought before him, and asked him whether it was true. Al-Khadhim replied "Yes, father, the One to Whom I pray is nearer to me than them;[c] Allah, the Great and Almighty, says: We are nearer to him than the jugular vein."[d] 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!"