The Fifth Imam Muhammad Al-baqir Son of Zain Al-abidin
He was named after his great grandfather Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, and he was given the title of "AL-BAQIR" which means "splitter of knowledge". His father is IMAM ZAIN AL-ABIDIN (AS) and his mother is Fatima daughter of IMAM HASAN (AS), the Prophet's grandson. His lineage therefore reaches the Prophet of Islam (P) on both parents' sides. IMAM HUSAIN (AS), the younger grandson of the Prophet, is his grandfather. He has the unique attribute of having inherited the qualities of IMAM ALI IBN ABU TALIB (AS) and Fatima daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (p).
He was born on RAJAB, 1, 57 A.H. (May 10, 677 A.D.), seven years after the demise of IMAM HASAN (AS), and he spent more than three years in the company of his grandfather IMAM HUSAIN (AS). He was an eye-witness to the tragedy of TAFF, and he was contemporary to his father IMAM AS-SAJJAD (AS) during the entire period of his Imamate. The tragedy of KARBALA' was a troublesome and tumultuous period of time for the Prophet's offspring and their SHI'ITES, supporters of AHL AL-BATY (AS). Imam Ali's friends were being hunted, arrested, then hanged. His birth during such a stormy epoch paved the way for his presence in the battle of KARBALA'.
According to AL-IRSHAD of AL-MUFID, AL-FUSUL AL-MUHIMMA of IBN AL-SABBAGH AL-MALIKI, vol. 3 of AL-YA'QUBI'S TARIKH (history), and TADHKIRAT AL-KHAWASS of IBN AL-JAWZI, the great SAHABI JABIR IBN ABDALLAH AL-ANSARI narrates saying: "The Messenger of God, peace be upon him and his progeny, said to me: 'You shall live long enough to meet one of the descendants of HUSAIN who shall be named Muhammad and who shall split the core of knowledge: so, convey my SALAM to him".
According to IKMAL AD-DIN WAS ITMAM AN-NI'MA, and on p. 252 of SHAYKH AS-SADUQ'S work, JABIR IBN ABDALLAH AL-ANSARI asked the Messenger of God (p) saying: "O Messenger of God, who are the Imams from the descendants of IMAM ALI IBN ABU TALIB (AS)?" He answered: "AL-HASAN, AL-HUSAIN, masters of the youths of Paradise, then the master of the forbearing of his time ALI IBN AL-HUSAIN, then AL-BAQIR Muhammad IBN ALI, and O JABIR! You shall live to see him! So when you do so, convey my SALAM to him". BIHAR AL-ANWAR, vol. 42, p. 25, and also both A'LAM AL-WARA and KASHF AL-GHUMMA IF MU'RIFT AL-A'IMAM, when IMAM ALI IBN ABU TALIB (AS) was on his death-bed, his will to his oldest son AL-HASAN was: "O son! The Messenger of God (p) ordered me to give you my books and weapons just as he had ordered me to take his books and weapons and to tell you to pass them over to your brother HUSAIN before you die". Then he turned to IMAM HUSAIN (AS) and said: "… and the Messenger of God (p) ordered that you (IMAM HUSAIN (AS) should pass them on to your son MUHAMMAD IBN ALI and to convey to him the SALAM from the Messenger of God and from me".
For three years, IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) enjoyed the cherished love of his grandfather IMAM HUSIAN (AS), and when he had to leave Medina, AL-BAQIR, too, was one of the family members who made the journey across the desert, IMAM HUSAIN (AS) left for KUFA and his journey terminated at KARBALA'. From the 7th of MUHARRAM, when the Prophet's family was denied access to the water of the Euphrates, IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) suffered from the pangs of thirst till the tragedy was over. Providence, however, intended to preserve the Imamate by safeguarding his life while even a baby such as ALI AL-ASGHAR had already been pierced and killed by an enemy arrow. Like his father IMAM ZAIN AL-ABIDIN (AS), IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) could not physically participate in the battle. The 10th of MUHARRAM of 61 A.H. (October 10, 680 A.D.) brought its hideous events with IMAM HUSAIN (AS) gathering the corpses of his slain warriors all day long, the women wailing, the children crying because of being extremely thirsty, startled and bewildered, then came the last farewell bidden by IMAM HUSAIN (AS), the murder of his baby ALI AL-ASGHAR, the return of IMAM HUSAIN'S horse to his master's tent without his master…. Young IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) witnessed all these events. AL-BAQIR witnessed the tents being burnt, the children reeling in panic, the heartless enemy plundering, and the ladies of the Prophet's family being deprived even of their sheets and scarves. Who can possibly imagine how young IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) felt, or what a permanent impression such scenes had left on his mind?
On the next day, IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) witnessed the ladies of the Prophet's family being shackled with chains, hand-cuffed, then transported as captives by the enemy the entire distance from KARBALA' to KUFA, then to Damascus. He witnessed their journey back to Medina, again passing by KARBALA', after being released. The profoundly sad impressions could never have been erased from the memory of young IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS).
After KARBALA', IMAM ZAIN AL-ABIDIN (AS) led a very calm life, staying aloof from the pursuits of this materialistic world. Secluded from the society, he spent his time either in weeping as he reminisced on the agonies of his father IMAM HUSAIN (AS), or in worshipping the Almighty, while the heart of his son IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) was being squeezed painfully as he watched helplessly. In this sad environment, IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) grew up studying the manners of his saintly father and availing himself from his knowledge and noble conduct.
FATHER'S DEATH AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF IMAMATE
IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) was in the full bloom of youth, ascending the heights of physical and spiritual perfection, when his revered father died. On his death-bed, IMAM ZAIN AL-ABIDIN (AS) handed over to IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) a box containing books of religious sciences exclusively known to this illustrious House. Calling together all his offspring, he resigned them to the care of IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS), now named the fifth in the successive series of the successors of the holy Prophet. He was 38 years old then.
The UMAYYAD monarchy was heading towards its decline and decay. The cruelties inflicted on the HASHEMITES, especially the massacre at KARBALA', had produced shock waves throughout the Muslims world. YAZID witnessed the aftermath of KARBALA' and may have regretted his heinous sins. After a brief rule, he died in 64 A.H., and his son MU'AWIYA abdicated.
The later UMAYYAD rulers, therefore, were fully aware of the battles waged by "HARAKAT AT-TAWWABIN", movement of the penitents, led by SULAYMAN IBN SURAD AL-KHUZA'I and later by AL-MUKHTAR, led to a powerful uprising against the UMAYYADS and to the call to avenge the holy blood of IMAM HUSAIN (AS) and those who defended the Prophet's family. That movement ruffled the peace of the ruling despots and shook the foundation of their government. The good result was that IMAM MUHAMMAD AL-BAQIR (AS) had the opportunity to free himself from the clutches of the tyrannical government. He had at that time better chances to peacefully guide the Muslim nation to the Right path.
THE KARBALA' RECITATIONS
IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) had witnessed the tragedy of KARBALA'. He had also studied the occupations of his father who mourned IMAM HUSAIN (AS) continuously. He was agonized by the fact that his father had to freedom to convey his personal feelings about the gruesome event to the others, or to ask them simply to recite the saddening tales of the tragedy. As a result of these feelings, and due to the lack of freedom of speech, the IMAM paid a special attention to such recitations. He used to convene these gatherings, and call AL-KUMAIT IBN ZAID AL-ASADI, a follower of AHL AL-BAYT (AS) and the poet of his time, to compose and recite verses on those occasions. This was the beginning of the "MAJALIS" (mourning assemblies) which flourished a great deal particularly during the days of IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS).
STATUS OF KNOWLEDGE
The torrent of a river can be blocked by a dam, but when the dam breaks, its water gushes forth with full force. The Imams, the Prophet's leading offspring had rivers of knowledge in their bosoms which were blocked by the oppressing government and thus their waters could not moisten the lips of the thirsty. In the days of IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS), when the grip of the oppressive government loosened a little bit, the confined river of knowledge gushed forth. Irrigating the fields of faith-seeking hears. Having displayed his great skill in solving tough religious problems, he was called AL-BAQIR (AS) reached thousands. Many others, belonging to different schools of thought such as IMAM AZ-ZUHRI, IMAM AL-AWZA'I, ATTA IBN JARIH, or HAFIZ IBN GHYATH the judge, who all are considered a outstanding traditionalists of the SUNNI seeks, came to seek knowledge from him and are counted among his students.
Volume 3 of MANAQIB ALI ABI TALIB states that ABDALLAH son of the second caliph UMER IBN AL-KATTAB was asked once for the solution of a complex theological problem, and he could not provide one. "Go to that young boy", son of UMER said to the person who raised the question, pointing to IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS), "Ask him and tell me what his answer will be". The inquirer approached IMAM BAQIR (AS) , obtained the answer, and went back to the son of 'UMER IBN AL-KHATTAB to tell him what treasures of knowledge he had just acquired, and ABDALLAH commented: "They are a family immersed in knowledge".
AL-IRSHAD by AL-MUFID, in a chapter on the Imamate of AL-BAQIR (AS), and in HILYAT AL-AWLIYA' and TADHKIRAT AL-KHAWASS, "ABDALLAH IBN 'ATA' AL-MAKKI says: "I never saw scholars shrink as I saw them in the presence of ABU JA'FAR MUHAMMAD IBN ALI IBN AL-HUSAIN. And I saw AL-HAKAM IBN UYAINHA, despite his greatness, looking like a young boy before his teacher". One of the testimonies to the excellence of his political thought is his advice to the renowned UMAYYAD caliph UMER IBN ABD AL-AZIZ in which he said: "I advise you to regard young Muslims as your sons, the adults as your brothers, and the elderly as your parents; therefore, be kind to your sons, stay in touch with you brothers, and be generous to your parents".
One of his students, MUHAMMAD IBN MUSLIM, is quoted in vol. 46, as saying, "Every time I face a complex (theological problem), I had to seek its solution from ABU JA'FAR, till I asked him about thirty thousand questions". One of his companions, JABIR IBN YAZID AL-JU'IF, may God be pleased with him, said one, as quoted in the same references which also quoted AL-IKHTISAS, saying, "ABU JA'FAR narrated to me as many as seventy thousand traditions". Advising JABIR IBN YAZID AL-JU'IF, he said:
"I admonish you regarding five things: If you are wronged, do not commit wrong-doing to others; if you are betrayed, do not betray anyone; if you are called a liar, do not be furious; if you are praised, do not be jubilant; if you are criticized, do not fret and think of what is said in criticism; if you find in yourself what is criticized about you, then your falling down in the eyes of God when you are furious about the truth is a much greater calamity than your falling down in the eyes of people, and if you are the opposite of what is said (in criticism) about you, then it is a merit you acquired without having to tire yourself in obtaining it".
DISSEMINATING THE KNOWLEDGE OF AHL AL-BAYT
The dissemination of religious and scientific knowledge of AHL AL-BAYT (AS) was achieved by IMAM MUHAMMAD AL-BAQIR (AS). Out of the benefits gained from such a high-ranking mentor, the students wrote several books on various branches of knowledge. Here is a brief description of some of his disciples and their works which reflects the extent of Islamic learning imparted by the Imam:
1- ABAN IBN TAGHLIB. He was the famous lexicographer and reciter of the holy QUR'AN who wrote the work GHARA'IB AL-QURAN, the first book explaining the intricate diction of the holy QUR'AN. He died in 141 A.H (758 A.D.).
2- ABU JA'FAR MUHAMMAD IBN AL-HASAN IBN ABI SARH AL-RAWASI, the famous scholar of recitation, syntax and exegesis, KITAB AL-FAISAL and MA'ANI AL-QUR'AN are two among five books which he authored. He died in 101 A.H. (720 A.D.).
3- ABDALLAH IBN MAIMUN, ABU AL-ASWAD AL-DU'ALI, a biography of the holy Prophet and another book ex-pounding on Paradise and Hell are among his works. He died in 105 A.H. (723 A.D.).
4- 'ATIYYA IBN SA'ID AL-AWFI. He wrote an exegesis of the holy QUR'AN in five volumes. He died in 111 A.H. (729 A.D.).
5- ISMA'IL IBN ABD AR-RAHMAN AS-SADDI AL-KABIR, the well-known author of TAFSIR. He is frequently referred to by all Muslim writers of TAFSIR books as AS-SADDI. He died in 127 A.H. (745 A.D.).
6- JABIR IBN YAZID AL-JU'IF. He committed to memory 50.000 (or 70.000 according to some biographers) traditions which he had heard from IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS). He is quoted in MUSLIM'S SAHIH. He wrote several volumes on tradition, TAFSIR and jurisprudence. He died in 128 A.H. (746 A.D.). 7- 'AMMAR IBN MU'AWIYA AL-WAHNI. A book on jurisprudence is his contribution. He died in 133 A.H. (752 A.D.).
8- SALIM IBN ABI HAFSAH (ABU YOUSUF) AL-KUFI. He is the writer of a book on jurisprudence. He died in 137 A.H. (754 A.D.).
9- ABD AL-MU'MIN IBN AL-QASIM (ABU ABDALLAH) AL-ANSARI. He is the writer of a book on jurisprudence. He died in 147 A.H. (764 A.D.).
10- ABU HAMZA AL-THUMALI. He wrote a book on TAFSIR (exegesis) of the holy QUR'AN. KITAB AN-NAWADIR and KITAB AZ-ZUHD are among his works. He died in 150 A.H. (767 A.D.).
11- ZURARA IBN A'YUN, a high-ranking SHI'AH scholar who wrote several books on tradition, jurisprudence and KALAM. He died in 150 A.H (767 A.D.).
12- MUHAMMAD IBN MUSLIM. He was a great scholar who recorded 30.000 traditions which he learned from IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS). He wrote many books, including the "Four hundred problems of HALAL and HARAM". He died in 150 A.H. (767 A.D.).
13- YAHYA IBN AL-QASIM (ABU BASIR) AL-ASADI. He was a revered scholar who wrote KITAB MANASIK AL-HAJJ and KITAB YAWMUN WA LAILAH. He died in 150 A.H. (767 A.D.).
14- ISHAQ AL-QUMMI. He has a book on jurisprudence.
15- ISMA'IL IBN JABIR AL-KHASHIAMI AL-KUFI. He wrote many volumes on HADITH (tradition) and one on jurisprudence.
16- ISMA'IL IBN ABD AL-KHALIQ. He was a high ranking jurist and had a book to his credit.
17- BARD AL-ASQAF AL-AZDI. He authored a book on jurisprudence.
18- AL-HARITH IBN AL-MUGHIRA. He authored a book on the problems of jurisprudence.
19- HUDHAIFA IBN MANSUR AL-KHUZA'I. He had a book on jurisprudence.
20- HASAN IBN SIRRI AL-KATIB. He authored one book.
21- HUSAIN IBN SAUR IBN ABI FAKHITTA, author of KITAB AN-NAWADIR.
22- HUSAIN IBN MUHAMMAD AL-ABIDI AL-KUFI. He is author of one book.
23- HUSAIN IBN MUS'AB AL-BAJALI. He has a book to his credit.
24- HAMMAD IBN ABI TALHA. He wrote one book.
25- HAMZA IBN HAMRAN IBN A'YUN. He was nephew of ZURARA and was author of one book.
These are but a few of the many scholars, traditionalists and jurists who learned the arts of AHL AL-BAYT (AS) from IMAM MUHAMMAD AL-BAQIR (AS) and preserved them in their books. Later, in the days of the Imam's son, IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ, hundreds of volumes were written - the sources from which such valuable collections of HADITH as AL-KAFI, MAN LA YAHDARUHU AL-FAQIH, TAHDHIB AL-KHASA'IL, AL-ISTIBSAR, etc. were compiled which now from the fundamentals of SHI'AH learning. In addition to these, you may read about him, his biography, and the AHADITH he narrated in AT-TABARI'S TARIKH, AL-BALADHIRI, AL-SALAMI, AL-KHATIB, ABU DAWUD'S SUNAN, AL-ASFAHANI, AL-ZAMAKHSHARI, and in others.
CHARACTER AND VIRTUES
His moral excellence was admired even by his foes. A Syrian lived in Medina and used to come to IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) frequently declaring that he was opposed to the Household. Yet, despite his prejudice, he admitted that, "The high morality and eloquence of IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) are too attractive to resist'.
TUHAF AL-UQUL quotes IMAM AS-SADIQ (AS) saying: "I entered the house of my father once and found him doling out eight thousand DINARS as SADAQA to the poor, then he freed eleven slaves who belonged to one of the families'. In a chapter on the merits of IMAM MUHAMMAD AL-BAQIR (AS) in vol. 3 of MANAQIB ALI ABI TALIB, and in vol. 46 of BIHAR AL-ANWAR, SULAYMAN IBN QARAM is quoted saying: "ABU JA'FAR MUHAMMAD IBN IMAM ALI (AS) used to give us as much as five or six hundred or even a thousand DIRHAMS, and he never tired of visiting his brethren".
AS COUNSELOR TO THE GOVERNMENT
To rule and administer the Muslim world was certainly the right of the Prophet's progeny, but as the common people succumbed to the temporal power, the Imams had to lead calm and quiet lives. As such, they could have refused to counsel the government. But the moral height of these noble souls rose above the standard of commoners. Like IMAM ALI IBN ABU TALIB (AS) who cooperated with his contemporary caliphs and offered sound counsel concerning the affairs of the Muslims, all the Imams followed the same example and never hesitated to give well-balanced pieces of advice to their contemporary rulers. IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) was no exception. The UMAYYAD government had till then no currency of its own. The Byzantine currency of the eastern section of the then Roman holy Empire were the valid tender in Damascus as well. But during the reign of AL-WALID IBN ABD AL-MALIK, there rose a rift between him and the Byzantine ruler when the latter decided to stamp a new currency with a phrase which AL-WALID considered to be derogatory to the holy Prophet.
This created suspense among Muslims. AL-WALID convened a committee in which prominent Muslim scholars participated. IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) expressed his opinion that the Muslim government ought to strike its own currency on one side of which it should stamp the statement "LA ILAHA ILLA ALLAH" and on the other the statement "MUHAMMAD RASUL ALLAH", (There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah). The opinion was unanimously approved and new Islamic coins were minted.
It was only during the caliphate of UMER IBN ABD AL-AZIZ the UMAYYAD caliph, that the Prophet's progeny enjoyed a brief period of peace which lasted for only two years and five months which is the period of UMER'S government. He lifted from them a great deal of atrocities and prohibited the cursing of IMAM ALI IBN ABU TALIB (AS) on the pulpits on Friday, substituting is with this verse of the holy QUR'AN: "God commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition". [QUR'AN, 16:90 AN-NAHL]
When the Imam met the caliph UMER IBN ABD AL-AZIZ, he found him weeping for the injustice inflicted by his predecessors upon their subjects. The Imam admonished him with pieces of wisdom till the caliph sobbed, knelt down and begged for more. Then the Imam told UMER what wrong- doing he came to ask him to rectify, and it was none other then FADAK which the Messenger of God (p) had left as inheritance to his daughter Fatima and her descendants. According to vol. 4 of BIHAR AL-ANWAR, UMER took some writing material and wrote: "In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. This is what UMER IBN ABD AL-AZIZ had handed back to MUHAMMAD IBN ALI to rectify the wrong-doing: FADAK".
HARASSED BY THE UMAYYAD GOVERNMENT
HISHAM IBN ABD AL-MALIK succeeded UMER IBN ABD AL-AZIZ, and he was a stone-hearted, immoral miser and a racist. His prejudice against non-Arab Muslims caused him to double the taxes they had to pay, and his reign was a replay of the bloody days of YAZID IBN MU'AWIYA and AL-HAJJAJ IBN YOUSUF ATH-THAQAFI. It was then that the revolution of ZAIN IBN ALI broke out as a continuation of the revolution of IMAM HUSAIN IBN ALI BIN ABU TALIB (AS), but HISHAM was swift in putting it out. Dr. HASSAN IBRAHIM HASSAN, in his work TARIKH AL-ISLAM (History of Islam), quotes contemporary historians testifying that HISHAM ordered to crucify ZAID IBN ALI and then burn his corpse and throw the ashes in the Euphrates.
Although IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) never expressed any interest nor participated in political matters except when the rulers invited him, since his peaceful way of living was devoted to people's spiritual guidance, he was not tolerated by the government. HISHAM IBN ABD AL-MALIK wrote to his governor over Medina instructing him to send IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) together with his son JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS) to Damascus, intending to insult them. So when they reached Damascus, he kept them waiting for three days. On the fourth day, he called them in his presence. He sat on a throne surrounded by his nobility, fully armed. In the center of the courtyard, a target was set on which the elite were shooting arrows on bet. Immediately the Imam entered, HISHAM bluntly asked him to shoot arrows with others.
IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) tried to evade HISHAM'S order, but the latter kept insisting and he planned to ridicule the Imam. Since the Imam led a secluded life, HISHAM thought he might not have any connection with martial arts. He did not know that each descendant of the Prophet had inherited the might of IMAM ALI (AS) and the courage of IMAM HUSAIN (AS). He could not realize that their calm and quiet life was lived in fulfillment of the demands of Divine Providence.
Compelled by HISHAM, IMAM AL-BAQIR (AS) took the bow. Hading it skillfully, he shot a few arrows continuously, all sitting straight in the very heart of the center. A shout of praise burst from the throats of the astonished elites standing right and left. HISHAM, thus outwitted, began to discuss the problems of Imamate and the virtues of AHL AL-BAYT (AS). Now he clearly saw that the Imam's stay in Damascus might lead to popular respect of AHL AL-BAYT (AS), so he permitted the Imam to return home to Medina. Inwardly, his enmity of the Prophet's family had increased. HISHAM harassed not only the Prophet's family but also their followers, dignitaries and scholars. He issued an order to execute JABIR IBN YAZID AL-JU'IF, the most distinguished among the Imam's scholars, but the Imam foiled his attempt by advising JABIR to feign madness as the only way to escape execution.
The more the UMAYYAD government learned about the Imam's prestige and popularity, the more intolerable his existence became. At last they resorted to the same soundless weapon, poison, which used to be applied by those cunning monarchs quite often to eliminate their opponents or suspects. A saddle was presented to the Imam in which poison was applied most skillfully. When he mounted on it, poison affected his whole body. After passing a few days in painful ailment, he expired on the seventh of DHU AL-HIJJA, 114 A.H. (January 28, 733 A.D.). According to his will, he was shrouded with three pieces of cloth. These included a YEMENI sheet which he used to put on for Friday prayers and a shirt which he always wore. He was laid to rest underneath the same dome in JANNAT AL-BAQI' where IMAM HASAN (AS) and IMAM ZAIN AL-ABIDIN (AS) already lay.