The fifth Imam Muhammed Ibn Ali el-Baqir (AS)
- :S.M.R. Shabbar
Adopted from the book : "Story of the Holy Ka’aba And its People" by : "S.M.R. Shabbar"
Born in Madina on Ist Rajab 57 Hijri, died in Madina on 7th Zilhijja 114 Hijri (31.1.733AD) at the age of 57 years. Period of Imamat 19 years.
On the evidence of the most authentic Hadith narrated by Sunni and Shia historians, one of the companions of the Holy Prophet Jabir Ibn Abdallah Ansari was in the presence of the Holy Prophet. He asked the Prophet about the names of descendants from his daughter Hazrat Fatima and Ali (AS). The Prophet told him,
“O Jabir, you will have a long life, and although you will go blind, but you will meet the 5th in line of my descendants whose name will be my name, who will walk like me and who will be the 5th Imam of the time. When you will meet him, give my salaams to him”.
As predicted by the Holy Prophet Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari had a long life and became blind in his old age. But he devoutly waited for the time when he would meet the 5th Imam. Each morning he would come out from his house, sit by the road side and wait for the sound of the footsteps to recognise the 5th Imam. One such day while he was waiting in the street of Madina, he heard someone walking towards him, the sound of footsteps reminded him of the way Holy Prophet used to walk. Jabir stood up, stopped the man and asked his name. He replied,”Muhammad”, Jabir asked, whose son?, he replied “Ali Ibnul Hussain”. Jabir immediately recognised the man he was talking to was the 5th Imam. He kissed his and told him the message from the Holy Prophet and that the Prophet sent his salaams to him. Imam took him to his home, asked his friends to gather as many people as they can. When they all assembled in his house, the Imam asked Jabir to tell the whole story again. Jabir narrated the story, they all cried and attested in unison of the Imamat of the Fifth Imam and also the names of the other Seven Imams in his line up to the Twelvth Imam.
After the death of the 4th Imam in 95 Hijri, the caliphs in Damascus were so preoccupied with their conquests of foreign lands that they did not have time to worry about the people in Madina, their loyalties or their hostilities. They were also satisfied that the Imams of the Ahlulbayt would not divulge in any rebellion against them due to the most peaceful and quite life of the 4th Imam Zainul Abedeen (AS). They left the people of Madina to their activities in some peace. This was the time Imams of Ahlulbayt were waiting for. Our 5th Imam opened a school to teach Qor’an and Hadith as it was taught by the Holy Prophet and Imam Ali AS).
Imam Muhammad el Baqir was said to have been higesteemed for his learning and eloquence as well as on account of his noble birth. According to Ibn Khalikan, the Imam received the title of Baqir (Splitter of knowledge) due to his ample knowledge of Deen and his enthusiasm to teach to other people. Many historians like Yakubi asserts that the Imam split open knowledge, that is scrutinized it and examined the depths of it so that it can be spread to all people truly and correctly.
In his life of respectable and scholarly retirement at Madina, the Imam was frequently called upon to explain particular teachings in regard to Imamat. A synopsis of his teaching in the Ma’athirul-Baqir is given in Cannon Sell’s Ithna Ashariya, an interesting part of which may well be quoted, as it shows the emphasis at this early period on the intellectual and spiritual character of the Imamat.
A man one day said to the Imam,”Was the Prophet heir to all the knowledge of the Prophets?" He replied,”Yes” then he was asked whether he had inherited it. He said he had. He was then asked if he could raise the dead to life, restore sight to the blind, and cleanse the leper. He said yes, by valour of God, the most high. He therefore put his hand on the blind eyes of a man sitting next to him and prayed. The next moment the blind man’s eyesight was restored. Many more such stories were told by various historians of the time.
The Imam discoursed fully on many topics such as the nature of the soul and Nafs, the nature and attributes of God, the qualities of the Ulemas. He discouraged arguments about the divine nature, saying that it was not possible for men to understand it.
One day a mu’tazili leader Wasil bin Ata asked the Imam what the anger of God meant. He said, it was simply punishment, but that this anger was not to be compared to the anger of men. God’s nature did not change. He defined a Rasul as a prophet who hears the voice of the angel(of revelation) and sees the angel in a bodily form. A Nabi, he said, is a Prophet who also hears the voice of the angel under the same conditions, but does not see him, and the Imam’s condition is like that of the Nabi but not like that of the Rasul. He said that the Imams were pure and that the Ahlulbayt were free from sin.
The Imam Baqir(AS) in defending his claims to the Imamat before the caliph Hisham quoted this verse,”This day have I perfected your religion unto you and fulfilled my mercy upon you and accepted Islam to be your Deen.” (Qur’an,S.5 V5) He went on to say that the open revelation being thus perfect, the Prophet had made known other secret matters to Ali(AS). From amongst men of the Ahlulbayt Ali(AS) had appointed a special person as his confidant, to whom this heritage of knowledge of secret things came down. Hisham replied that as God allowed no partner in the matter of knowing the secret things, how could Ali(AS) make such claims? In reply the Imam quoted many sayings of the Prophet showing a mutual relationship between himself and the high position accorded to Ali(AS). On hearing all this Hisham was silent and then permitted the Imam and his companions to return home .Neither the pomp nor the power of the caliph influenced the Imam, who boldly and without fear answered all the questions put to him.
As counsellor to the Government of the day, to rule and to administer the muslim world was certainly the right of the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet, but as common people who had no such right succumbed to the temporal power, The Imams had to lead calm and quiet lives. As such, they could have refused to give any advice or counsel to the Government of the day. But the moral height of these noble Imams rose above the standards of commoners. Like Imam Ali (AS) who cooperated with the contemporary caliphs and offered sound advice 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 Baqir (AS) was no exception. The Ummayad Government had till then no currency of its own. The Byzantine currency of the Eastern Roman Empire were valid tender in Damascus as well. But during the reign of Walid Ibn Abdul Malik, there rose a rift between him and the byzantine ruler when the later decided to stamp a new currency with the phrase which was considered derogatory to the Holy Prophet.
This created suspense among the muslim Ummah. Walid convened a committee in which prominent muslim scholars participated. Imam Baqir (AS) expressed his opinion that the Government ought to strike its own currency on one side of which it should stamp the statement “La Ilaha Illallah and on the other side “Muhammad Rasul Allah”. The opinion of the Imam was unanimously approved and for the first time an Islamic coin was minted. Some of these coins were exhibited at the British Museum in 1988 at the event of the Islamic Art exhibition in London and a note shown that these coins were minted at the time of Walid Ibn Abdul Malik on the advice of the 5th Imam of Ahlulbayt.
It was during the caliphate of Umer Ibn Abdul Aziz the Ummayad caliph, that the Prophets’ descendants enjoyed a brief period of peace which lasted for only two years and five months which is the period of his Government. He lifted from them a great deal of atrocities and prohibited the cursing of Imam Ali(AS) on the pulpit on Friday, substituting it with this verse from the Holy Qur’an;
“God commands justice, the doing of good and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition.”
When the Imam met the caliph Umer Ibn Abdul Aziz, he found him weeping for the injustice inflicted by his predecessors upon the Ahlulbayt. The Imam admonished him with pieces of wisdom till the caliph sobbed, knelt down and begged for more. Then the Imam asked Umer Ibn Abdul Aziz what wrong doing he was brought here to rectify? It was none other than fadak which the messenger of God gave to his daughter Fatimah as a gift and to her descendants. As quoted in Biharul Anwar, v.4, “Umer took some writing pad and pen and wrote,’ In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is what Umer Ibn Abdul Aziz had handed back to Muhammad Ibn Ali to rectify the wrong doing with regard to Fadak.” After this event the land of “Fadak” was handed back to the Ahlulbayt. It was from the income from these lands and orchards that Schools were opened in Madina by the Fifth Imam where thousands of students came to learn the Qur’an and its true meanings. Hundreds of narrators of Hadith came out of these schools, experts in the art of Hadith and Islamic Law.
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