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IMAM MUHAMMAD AL-BAQIR (A.S.)

IMAM MUHAMMAD AL-BAQIR (A.S.)

Publisher: www.alhassanain.org/english
ISBN: 81-87793-25-2
English

This book is corrected and edited by Al-Hassanain (p) Institue for Islamic Heritage and Thought

IMAM AL-BAQIR (a.s)

1st Edition 1998

2nd Edition 2005

ISBN: 81-87793-25-2

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Reprinted with kind consent and permission

From Al-Balagh Foundation

The original publisher distributed free of charge seeking Allah’s pleasure

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION. 5

Birth of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (a.s.) 6

Status of the Imam. 7

IMAM'S CHARACTER. 10

Firstly- his Spirituality: 10

Secondly - Social Aspects of his Character: 12

Thirdly - his Thoughts: 13

THE REFORM MARCH. 17

1. School of Diverse Sciences: 17

2. Comprehensiveness of Imam Al-Baqir's School 20

A. His Attendant Students: 21

B. His Other Narrators: 21

UMAYYAD POLICY DURING AL-BAQIR'S TIME  23

ENDNOTES. 27

“…say: (Muhammad) : I demand not of you any recompense for it save the love of (my) relatives; and whosoever earns good. We increase for him good therein…”

(Holy Qur’an (42: 23)

This book is dedicated for the Isale Sawaab of

Adam Ali Mulla Ibrahim Jee

Fatima Bint Ali Bader

Batul Bint Shaikh Mohammed Ali

Alibhai Adam Ali

Sugra Bint Adam Ali

Please recite Surah Fateha for the Departed Soul

INTRODUCTION

Praise be to Allah, the First Who has no beginning and the Last, Who has no end. Peace and the blessings of Allah be on the Seal of His prophets and messengers, Muhammad, his pure family, loyal companions, and the faithful Muslims who follow him without seeing him till the Day of Judgement.

The House of Prophethood, where the message was communicated to the Prophet, the gathering place of the angels, the place of the divine revelation, the spot from which the Message shone, and the fountainhead of guidance ...Imagine what great men this glorious house could raise! What excellent capabilities could it nourish! What great leadership could it offered to mankind!

This sublime and lofty House shines with faith, gives the scent of wisdom, surges with Islamic thought, swells with glorious heroic acts, without which the true faithful would never have had a good example to follow in fighting the forces of the deviators from Islam (neo-Jahiliyyah), challenging the injustices of the rulers, foiling the schemes of global arrogance, and saving the down-trodden from tyrants both great and small.

Whoever antagonised this chaste, pure house renounced Islam. No ruler challenged it without being defeated.

This House was guaranteed as the source of purity by Allah.

The Seal of Prophets founded its pillars. From it the light of eternal Islam poured forth. It produced practical examples of human perfections; men who walked like other men, ate and drink exactly the way we do, but they set the most excellent of examples, one generation after another, and one era after another, of firm faith, faithfulness of jihad, steely determination, steadfastness to the divine message, love of martyrdom, and the laying down of their lives for the sake of Islam. Humanity never witnessed the like of them.

And so they won the high position of being the saints and pious men endeared to Allah, who were chosen to preach His Word.

The Foundation, in presenting to its dear readers a concise precis the life of a member of this house, the grandson of the Great Messenger of Allah (s.a. w.), Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.), hopes that the life of this Muslim leader, brimful with Islamic values and concepts, will be a beacon for Muslim standard-bearers, by whose light they can go on fighting the forces of deviation, striking hard all vicious attempts which aim at confusing the ranks of our ummah, disintegrating it and blocking its march towards enlightenment. We cherish the hope that they will march along to achieve the great objective of setting up an Islamic state throughout our great Muslim homeland...

And Allah is certainly the best Helper and Supporter...

Al-Balagh Foundation

Birth of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (a.s.)

On the first day of the lunar month of Rajab, 57 A. H. the pure Prophetic house (a.s.) was swept with a tidal wave of joy and delight at the birth of Imam Muhammad bin Ali ibn Hussein (a.s.).

Unlike his predecessors from this great house, he was the first Imam who descended from Ali (a.s.)[1] , through his father, Imam Ali al-Sajjad (a.s.), and his mother, Fatimah, daughter of Imam Hassan (a.s.) who was praised by Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) as being a faithful woman the like of whom was not found in the family of Imam Hassan (a.s.)[2] . He was a Hashimite whose parents were Hashimites, and an Alawi whose parents were Alawis.

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) lived no more than three years under the care of Imam Hussein (a.s.), his grandfather. He witnessed, whilst a child, the tragedy of Taff during which Imam Hussein (a.s.), most of his family, and his followers were killed at Karbala. Throughout the years of his father’s Imamate, he was imbued with the essence of the Message and the Imamate. During that period, he imbibed Islamic doctrine and the knowledge of the prophets (a.s.).

He was brought up in the fold of Islam. Imam al-Sajjad (a.s.), his father, educated him and prepared him in such a way that he would be able to shoulder the responsibility of the office of Imamate in accordance with the divine Will.

So Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) was the zenith, in his lineage, thought, and morals, which qualified him to be the ideological and social authority after his father.

The name and nickname of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) were given in advance by his great, great grandfather, the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.). The revered companion of the Prophet Jabir bin Abdullah al-Ansari, is reported to have said, “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said to me, ‘You may live long enough to see a son of mine from the loins of Hussein (a.s.), called Muhammad. He will certainly ‘cut through’ the sciences of religion. Should you see him, convey my greetings to him.”[3]

That is why Imam Muhammad ibn Ali (a.s.) was called al-Baqir, which means ‘the man who is deeply knowledgeable and sharply wise, who discovers knowledge’s innermost mysteries and essence, and who is well-versed in its arts’, as weighty Arabic dictionaries explain.

The unbiased reader will undoubtedly realize the greatness of the Imam (a.s.), and his high status in the world of Islam, through observing the special attention the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) lavished on him. He cherished him, chose his name and nickname, and sent his greetings to him through one of his great disciples, in spite of the time gap that separated the Prophet (s.a.w.) from his great grandson (a.s.).

Status of the Imam

The exalted position in thought and action of the Imam (a.s.), combined with the leadership qualifications he possessed as a direct outcome of the carefully planned education given him by Imam Ali al-Sajjad (a.s.), his father, made friend and foe alike agree that he was no ordinary person, but one who enjoyed a unique stature among the people. The following statements concerning the Imam (a.s.) were made by various prominent Muslim personalities belonging to different schools of thought:

1. Abdullah bin Ata’ al-Makki is reported to have said, “Never have I seen scholars so limited in knowledge in the presence of a scholar other than Muhammad bin Ali al-Baqir.”[4]

2. Muhyil-Deen bin Sharafah Al-Nawawi said, “…He is a venerable man of the second Muslim generation. He is a knowledgeable Imam unanimously agreed to be a man of dignity. He is adjudged as one of the religious affairs authorities (fuqaha’) and Imams of the city of Madinah. From Jabir and Anas he communicated Prophetic traditions. Abu-Ishaq, Ata’ bin Abi-Rabah, Amru bin Dinar al-A’raji (who was older than Al-Baqir), al-Zuhri, Rabi’ah and many more of the second generation and the great Imams of religious affairs (fiqh) reported Islamic Prophetic traditions from him. Both Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported from him…”[5]

3. Ibn al-Imad al-Hanbali said, “Abu-Jafar Muhammad al-Baqir was one of the fuqaha’ of Madinah. He was given the title of al-Baqir because he ripped open knowledge, knew its fine subtleties and expanded it…”[6]

4. Muhammad bin Talhah al-Shafi’ is reported to have said that, “Muhammad bin Ali al-Baqir was the one who cut through knowledge, collected and disseminated it. He raised it many degrees, outwitted others in exploiting it, imbibed it and decorated it with gems of thought. His heart was serene, his good deeds ever-growing, his soul chaste, and his morals noble. He would fill his time with deeds in obedience to Allah. His piety was unshakably firm. One could clearly see in him the signs of closeness to Allah, and the purity of the divine choice. Virtues hastened to him, and good qualities were honored by him.”[7]

5. Imadul-Deen Abul Fida’ Isma’il bin Umar bin Kuthayr testified that, “Abu-Jafar al-Baqir was a venerable man of the second Muslim generation who enjoyed great religious status. He was one of the foremost people of this ummah in knowledge, deeds, lordship and nobility. He was called al-Baqir ‘for he ripped open knowledge and inferred judgment.’ He was a religious man, a praiser of Allah, submissive and patient in worship. He descended from the family of the Prophet. Of what noble descent was! Spiritually lofty, he would weep profusely in fear of Allah. He shied from futile arguments and animosities.”[8]

6. When reporting from him, Jabir bin Yazid al-Ju’fi would say, “The trustee of trustees, the inheritor of the knowledge of the prophets, Muhammad bin Ali bin Hussein (a.s.), told me…”[9]

Through the Imam (a.s.) reached the uppermost peak in his thought, morals and his closeness to the Muslim community (ummah), which made people from different schools of thought acknowledge his outstanding virtues and his high status, the revealed Islamic code of behavior (shari’ah) did not leave the ummah on its own with regard to his Imamate. It officially introduced the Imam to the ummah, a practice adopted by the Shari’ah to identify any one who was assigned to such a great mission.

The statement identifying the Imam was usually delivered by a representative who was qualified to talk on behalf of the faith, such as the Prophet (s.a.w.), or an Imam the obeying of whom Allah made an obligation on the part of the ummah.

Al-Baqir was no exception. The Shari'ah didn't delay in announcing his Imamate. Following are some statements in this respect:

1. Jabir bin Abdullah al-Ansari asked the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.), “Who are the Imams from the progeny of Ali bin Abi-Talib, O Messenger of Allah?”. “Hassan and Hussein the two lords of the youths of paradise,” replied the Prophet. “Then, the master of those who were most patients of his time, Ali bin Hussein, then al-Baqir Muhammad bin Ali, whom you shall see, O Jabir. Should you see him, convey my greeting to him.”[10]

2. Jabir bin Yazid al-Ju'fi said, “I heard Jabir bin Abdullah al-Ansari saying, 'When Allah, the Most Exalted, revealed to his Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) this verse: “O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you...” ‘I asked, O Apostle of Allah! We know Allah and His Messenger, but who are those in authority among us to whom Allah has linked obeying them like obeying Him?'. 'They are my successors,' said the Prophet (s.a.w.), 'and they are the Imams of the Muslims after me. The first of them is Ali bin Abi-Talib, then Hassan and Hussein, then Ali bin Hussein, then Muhammad bin Ali…”[11]

3. Imam al-Sadiq quoted his father (a.s.) as saying, 'I called on Jabir bin Abdullah and greeted him. He returned my greetings. This was after he had lost his eyesight.

“Who are you?” demanded he.

“Muhammad bin Ali bin Hussein,” I told him.

“My little son”, said he. “Come near me”. I did that and he took my hand and kissed it. Then he said to me, “The Messenger of Allah sends his greetings to you.”

“And peace and mercy and the blessings of Allah be upon the Messenger of Allah. How can that be, O Jabir?” asked I. “One day”, said he, “I was with him. He said to me, Jabir, your life will be long enough to see a descendant of mine, called Muhammad bin Ali bin Hussein. Allah will endow him with enlightenment and wisdom. Convey my greetings to him.”[12]

4. Uthman bin Khalid quoted his father as saying, “Ali bin Hussein bin Abi-Talib fell mortally ill. On his deathbed he gathered his sons Muhammad, Hassan, Abdullah, Umar, Zaid and Hussein. He delivered his last will to Muhammad bin Ali and called him al-Baqir, and ordered them to obey him in everything.”[13]

5. Malik bin A'yun al-Juhani is reported to have said, “Saying his last will, Ali bin Hussein (a.s.) said the following words to Muhammad bin Ali (a.s.), his son; “My little son, I have made you my successor. Whoever claims Imamate other than you, Allah will punish on the Day of Judgement, by encircling his neck with a collar of fire. Praise Allah for that and thank Him... His grace does not fade away if one thanks Him for it, but it certainly vanishes if one shows ingratitude for it. The person who thanks Allah for His Grace certainly feels happier so doing than his feeling towards the Grace itself.” “...If you be grateful I will increase (My favour) unto you, and if you be ungrateful, surely my torment is severe.” Holy Qur'an (14:7)[14]

6. On his deathbed, the last will of Imam Ali bin Abi-Talib (a.s.) to Imam Hassan (a.s.), was as follows: “...My little son! The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) certainly ordered me to make my will to you, and give you my books and weapons, as he made his will to me and gave me his books and weapons. He, furthermore, ordered me to order you that when death comes to you, you should hand them over to your brother Hussein.' Then he turned to his son Hussein (a.s.) and said, The Apostle of Allah had, likewise, ordered you to hand them over to your son Ali bin Hussein.' Then he turned to Ali bin Hussein (a.s.) and said, and the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.) ordered you to give them to your son Muhammad bin Ali. So convey the greeting of the Messenger of Allah and mine to him.”[15]

These are only a few texts[16] which testify the fact that Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.), and no one else, assume the office of Imamate and the ideological and social authority after his father's death.

IMAM'S CHARACTER

We usually refer, in a definite way, to the fact that the Imams (a.s.) are of the same ideological fabric. Their daily conduct with people and their life-style were the same. But there were differences in practice that can be attributed to the diversity of the social problems, and the different psychological, ideological and political conditions prevailing in their times.

This phenomenon, the similarity between the characters of the Imams, is the exact result of the one ideological basis which defined their concepts, behaviour and activities. And that is a fact explicitly expressed by the Apostle of Allah (a.s.) when he said to his grandson, Hussein (a.s.): “Allah has certainly chosen nine Imams from your loins, O Hussein. All of them are equal in their outstanding merits and position in the sight of Allah.”[17]

And as we have done before, we shed light on some aspects of the character of the Imam (a.s.). We will cite some practical examples from the life of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) that we may ponder over it, in order to find our way on the road trodden by those great men who raised the standard of guidance high on earth.

Firstly- his Spirituality:

If Ahlul-Bait suffered from the different tribulations poured on them by deviant rulers, such trials were targeted at their faith first and foremost. They were physically exterminated because of the mission they carried. Their foes wanted to obliterate their thought, jurisprudence and all trace of them. Even their tombs were not spared, many attempts being made to raze them to the ground.

It is no exaggeration to say that what information we now possess about Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) is only scanty fragments that reflect a little of their glory.

They were persecuted. Their followers were also persecuted for hundreds of years after them. The cultural institutions dedicated to preserve their legacy, were dealt hard blows throughout both our past and present history.

As a result, the researcher will find difficulty in forming an opinion about any single Imam. The books that deal with their lives are scarce, but the scattered narratives and traditions that exist are a reliable basis for a vivid picture, though not complete, of their lives.

Following are some texts about his way of worship and his spiritual life which help us to realize the depth of the relationship between Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) and his Exalted Lord:

1. His son Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) is reported to have said, “My father used to praise Allah much. When I walked with him, he would remember Allah; when I ate with him, he would remember Allah. Even when talking to people, he would remember Allah. I heard him always praising Allah and saying repeatedly: 'There is no god but Allah'. He would gather us together and order us to praise Allah till sunrise. Whoever was able from among us, my father would order him to recite the Qur'an, but he would order the one who could not read to praise Allah.”[18]

2. Aflah, his manservant, said, “I went to perform hajj with Muhammad bin Ali. Upon entering the mosque, he looked at the House of Allah and started weeping aloud till all could hear him. 'May my father and mother be your ransom,' I said to him, 'People are looking at you... if you lower your voice a little...' 'May Allah have mercy on you,' explained he. 'Why should I not cry? Maybe Allah favours me with His mercy, and I may win His pleasure on the Day of Judgement.' Then he circumambulated the House. Near the maqam (a stone bearing the footprints of the Prophet Abraham a.s.) he went down in prostration. When he raised his head, (I saw that) the place where he had touched his forehead to the ground was wet due to the profusion of his tears.”

3. Concerning his supplication at night, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) said, “My father would say, in his prayer, at night, “You ordered me to do good, but I did not heed. You forbade me to do evil, but I did not listen. Here I am, Your servant in Your presence. I ask your forgiveness.”[19]

4. And in his supplication which he used to say when he went to bed, he said, “In the Name of Allah. My Lord, I have submitted myself to You, turned my face towards You, and to You I commended myself. I have put my trust in You out of my fear from You and my desire to win Your satisfaction. There is no escape, neither there is refuge in anyone except You. I believe in Your Book which You revealed, and in Your Messenger whom You sent...

...Then he would recite the praise of al-Zahra.[20]

These selected texts reveal a soul infused with the love of Allah, and the seeking of His nearness, feeling His hovering mercy everywhere and always, and praying to Allah with all his soul, heart and senses. Such a state of spirituality can be achieved hardly by anyone. Only the saints can feel the closeness of Allah in such an intimate way.

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir was so close to Allah, the Exalted, that the hereafter and the meeting of Allah were his only concern. He was totally obsessed with them. One day he reportedly said to Jabir bin Yazid al-Ju'fi, may Allah be pleased with him, “By Allah! O Jabir, I am sad and worried”.

May I be your ransom, Jabir said. What is this sadness and worry for?

O Jabir, said the Imam (a.s.), “It is the sadness and worry of the hereafter. O Jabir, whoever’s heart the essence of true faith enters into, will be busy away from this life and its ornamentation. The ornamentation of this life is only a sport and a pastime. The life to come (the hereafter) is the true life. The faithful should never rely on this earthly life. Rest assured that the seekers of this life are unaware, conceited and ignorant. But the seekers of the hereafter are active, ascetic, well-versed in knowledge and jurisprudence, deep in thought over their life. They never tire of praising Allah.

Rest assured, Jabir, that the pious people are rich. A little from this world satisfies them. Their burden is light. If you forget to do good they will remind you of it, and if you do good they will help you in it. They overcame their pleasures and lusts, and pushed obedience to their Lord before them. They looked at the straight path and sought the love of the beloved of Allah. They loved, followed them, and walked in their footsteps...”[21]

Such high spirituality cannot be found in anyone except the prophets and their trustees. The Imam translated his relationship with Allah into guidelines for Jabir, his disciple, and those who would follow his example.

Secondly - Social Aspects of his Character:

Following are quotations which shed light on the Imam's daily life, his relationship with the people and the scope of his social activities.

1. His son Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) is quoted to have said, “One day, I called on my father and found him busy handing out eight thousand dinars to the poor people of Madinah. He set free a family of eleven slaves.”[22]

2. Al-Hassan bin Kuthayr said, “I once complained to Abu Ja'far Muhammad bin Ali (a.s.) about my poverty and how my friends had abandoned me. 'How bad is the brother who cares for you when you are wealthy and abandons you when you are poor,' commented he. Then he beckoned to his servant who brought a bag in which there were seven hundred dirhams. 'Spend this', he said to me,' and when it runs out, notify me.”[23]

3. Amru bin Dunya and Abdullah bin 'Ubayd were reported to have said, “Whenever we met Abu Ja'far Muhammad bin Ali (a.s.), he would give us money for our families, and money, presents and clothes for ourselves. He would say, “These were put aside for you before you met me.”[24]

4. Sulaiman bin Qarm said, “Abu-Ja'far Muhammad bin Ali (a.s.) would reward us with five hundred, six hundred and upto one thousand dirhams. He never tired of helping his brethren, those who came from distant places to see him, and those who hoped he would help them.[25]

5. Salma, Imam al-Baqir's woman servant, said, “He used to receive his brothers at his house. He would not allow them to leave without feeding them the best food, clothing them in the best clothes, and giving them money. I would argue with him to cut down but he would reply, 'O Salma, what is the best deed of this life if it is not helping brothers and acquaintances?' He gave rewards of five hundred, six hundred and up to one thousand dirhams.”

His brothers in Islam who called on him never felt bored in his presence. He loved to receive people and would say, “You can know the depth of the love your brother feels in his heart for you by examining the love you have for him in your own heart”. Never was he heard saying, “Beggar, may Allah bless you!”, or “Take this, O beggar!”. He would say, “Call them by the best of their names”.[26]

One may not appreciate the Imam's generosity in the way it should be appreciated without knowing that the Imam (a.s.) was not well-off. He was as his son Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) described him, “My father had the least amount of money at his disposal compared with the rest of the members of his family, but his financial burden was the heaviest.”[27]

Though his financial resources were limited he shouldered his social responsibility adequately. He helped the people and alleviated their pains which were caused by the injustices done to them by the rulers at the time. The followers of Ahlul-Bait, as we know, bore the brunt of that discriminatory policy.

How great is the slogan which he raised, quoting his great, great grandfather, the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.), “Three acts are the hardest: Consoling one's brothers with one's money, being fair with people, especially with matters related to one's interests, and praising Allah in both times of prosperity and adversity.”[28]

He took pains to instruct his followers in the norms of good conduct. Following are some of his concepts in this respect:

“Three of the noblest deeds of this life and the hereafter are: Forgiving one who has wronged you, keeping your relations with one who has cut them off; and showing tolerance towards one who has shown ignorance towards you”.[29]

“Any servant of Allah who refrains from helping his Muslim brother and trying to meet his needs, whether they are met or not, will be afflicted with trying to secure things for which he will bring Allah's wrath upon himself instead of His rewards. And any servant of Allah who avoids spending money on things which earn him the pleasure of Allah, will be afflicted with giving out money manifolds on what brings the wrath of Allah on himself.[30]

Once a Christian reviled him brazenly, and called him “a cow”![31]

“I am Baqir”, said the Imam.

“You are the son of the cook”, said the man.

“Yes, that is her profession”, replied the Imam.

“You are the son of the black woman, the Negress, and the foul-mouthed”, persisted the Christian.

“If you have said the truth, may Allah forgive her, but if you have lied, may Allah forgive you”, said the Imam.

At that point, the Christian realized the greatness of the man he was insulting. He immediately regretted what he had said and embraced Islam in the presence of the Imam.[32]

Thirdly - his Thoughts:

Due to their special education and upbringing, all the Imams achieved the highest levels in all fields. In thought and in practice, they were the true bearers of the Message to which they remained faithful.

Even though their thoughts were in fact inherited from the Prophet (s.a.w.), and his son-in-law Ali bin Abi-Talib (a.s.), the trustee of the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.), their success in settling the problems they faced and the people faced, and the wisdom they showed in dealing with the different events during their lives, reflect a reservoir of inexhaustible knowledge and skill.

A number of traditions refer to this fact. Practically, the Imams found no difficulty whatsoever in answering any question put to them. Nor were they ever confronted with a problem which remained unresolved, whether it was ideological, religious or scientific. Throughout their lives the Imams never erred in explaining a concept or an opinion.

As for Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.), his deep thought, and his superiority over other scholars at that time in the fields of jurisprudence, Qur'anic exegesis, traditions, and the other Islamic sciences, made his contemporaries hold him in high esteem and admiration.

Abdullah bin Umar bin al-Khattab was asked about something, but he failed to offer an answer. Instead he advised the questioner to visit Imam al-Baqir (a.s.), “Go to that youth and put your question to him, and tell me afterwards what is his answer”, said he. When the man asked the Imam (a.s.) about it, he answered him directly and immediately. The man then returned to Abdullah with the answer. “That came from a household well-versed in knowledge”,[33] commented Abdullah.

Abdullah bin Ata' al-Makki is reported to have said, “Never have I seen scholars so limited in knowledge in the presence of a scholar other than in the presence of Abu-Ja'far Muhammad bin Ali bin Hussein (a.s.). For all the respect and veneration al-Hakam bin Utaybah commanded among the people, in the presence of Abu-Ja'far he was like a boy in the presence of his teacher”.[34]

Following are some of his answers to questions he was asked. We hope they will help us to shape our minds and reform our communities.

1. Amru bin Ubayd, a leader and intellectual of al-Mu'tazilah[35] (literally schismatics), a school of thought, called on Muhammad bin Ali al-Baqir to test him with a question. “May I be your ransom”, said he, “What is meant by this verse: 'Or see not those who disbelieve that the heavens and the earth were one piece, before We clove them asunder,...' Holy Qur'an (21:30) 'What is this one piece and what is meant by clove them asunder!

“The heavens were one solid mass which rendered no rain”, replied the Imam (a.s.). “And the earth was a solid mass which produced no plants. Allah tore asunder the heavens with the rain, and the earth with the plants”.

Amru kept silent and did not comment.

Once again he returned, asking this question, “May I be your ransom. Tell me what is meant by this verse: “...and those whom My wrath descends do perish indeed!” Holy Qur'an (20:81) What is that wrath1?”

The Imam answered, “O Amru, the wrath is when a creature gets angry when something provokes him, changing him from one condition to another, and whoever claims that wrath and satisfaction change Allah, and that He regains His equanimity, he is describing Allah with the qualities of that creature.”[36]

2. Muhammad bin al-Munkadir, a renowned leading sufi, said, “I did not believe that the like of Ali bin Hussein could have a son who matched him in virtues till I saw his son Muhammad bin Ali. I wanted to admonish him but he advised me”.

“How did he advise you?” asked his followers.

“I went out to a suburb of Madinah when it was unbearably hot. I saw Muhammad bin Ali, who was well-built man, leaning on two of his retainers. It appeared he was unwell. “An old man from the elders of the tribe of Quraish was out seeking worldly gains at this hour and in such difficult circumstances!” “What if death came upon you while you are in this condition?' He let go of his two retainers, managed to stand upright, and said, “Should death come to me in this state it will come to me, by Allah, while I am doing something pleasing to Allah, to spare myself begging from you and other people. I would only fear death if it came upon me while I was sinning against Allah”.

“May Allah have mercy on you”, I said to him. “I wanted to admonish you, but you have advised me”.[37]

We grasp the importance of the words of the Imam (a.s.) when we realise that Ibn al-Munkadir was a sufi who believed in living in isolation, depending on other people to support him for his living, as he claimed to devote himself entirely to worship. Islam rejects this: “Cursed be he who relies on other people for his living.”[38]

Deeming it the best chance to refute sufism, the Imam (a.s.) alerted Ibn al-Munkadir to reality. Death at the time of earning one's bread, the Imam (a.s.) reminded him, is an act which pleases Allah. Al-Munkadir had no other course but to admit that fact. He translated his conviction into these words, “I wanted to admonish you, but you advised me”.

3. Abu-Yousif al-Ansari said, “I asked Abu-Hanifah, 'Have you ever seen Muhammad bin Ali al-Baqir (a.s.)?'

“Yes”, replied he. And I asked him one day, 'Does Allah ask for the sins of His servants?' and he asked, 'Do His servants disobey Him forcefully?' Abu-Hanifah said after a moment's pause, I have not found a more refuting reply than this one”.[39]

It is necessary to remind the reader that Abu-Hanifah was the leader of one of the Islamic schools of thought. Abu-Hanifah had every right to describe the Imam's reply as “refuting”. He knew that the Imam (a.s.) had a decisively definite and clear-cut opinion on the conception of “Fatalism and free will” which had split Muslim intellectuals and scholars for a long time. The Imam (a.s.), to the admiration and astonishment of Abu-Hanifah, defined it in a few words.

4. Abu-Hamzah al-Thumali said, “Qutadah bin Du'amah al-Basri called on Abu-Ja'far (a.s.). 'Are you the faqih (jurisprudent) of the people of Basrah?' asked the Imam (a.s.). 'Yes', said the man.

“May Allah have mercy on you, Qutadah”, protested the Imam (a.s.), “Allah, the Exalted and Almighty created 'selected' people and made them signs for all His creatures.

They are pillars on His earth, who are in charge of His affairs. They are, as He knew in advance, pure and chaste.

He chose them from among His creatures before He created them. Like protectors they are on the right-hand of His throne”.

Qutadah was silent for a long time, then said, 'May Allah grant you success. By Allah, I have sat in the presence of fuqaha and before Ibn-Abbas. My heart has not fluttered before any one of them the way it does before you'.

'Do you know where you are?', queried the Imam (a.s). “You are in the presence of houses which Allah has sanctioned to be built for the remembrance of His Name. In them, morning and evening, His praise is recited by men whom neither trade nor profit can divert from remembering Him, from offering prayers, or from giving the poor-rate”. So, this is your position, and that is ours'.

“You have said the truth, by Allah', agreed Qutadah. 'May I be your ransom. They are not houses built of stones or bricks'.[40]

5. Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) is reported to have said, “Beware of sloth and boredom, for they are the key to every evil Should you get lazy you will not do what you are obliged to do. And should you get bored you will not have the perseverance to do what you are obliged to do”.

And he said, “There is nothing more lovable to Allah than to be implored. Nothing other than supplication wards off fate. The greatest punishable evil act is injustice. Sufficient flaw is that one sees in other people what one is blind to see in oneself, enjoins them to do what one cannot bring oneself to do, and annoys one's visitor with what does not concern one”.[41]

6. Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) explains the meaning of Shi'ite in the following words, “Our Shi'ites are simply those who guard themselves against evil and obey Allah. They are known for their modesty, submission to Allah, giving back trusts to their owners, much remembering of Allah, fasting, praying, being kind to their parents, helping their poor neighbours, the destitute, debtors and orphans among them, truthful in speaking, reciting the Qur'an, and avoiding evil talk. They are those whom their people put their trust in”.[42]

7. One of his most excellent advice was given to the famous Umayyad ruler, Umar bin Abdul-Aziz. It reads, “I recommend you to take the Muslim youths for sons, the middle-aged for brothers, and the old ones for fathers. So, have mercy on your son, help your brother, and be kind to your father. Should you do a favour, go on doing it”.[43]

The Imam's reputation as a religious authority was so wide-spread that people from far-flung areas within the Muslim homeland, flocked to see him. Top intellectuals and leaders of the Islamic schools of thought came to see him. We have already quoted some of his arguments with a few of them, such as Ibn al-Munkadir the sufi leader; Amru bin Ubayd, a leader of the Mu'tazilah, Abu-Hanifah, a leader of an Islamic school of thought; Qutadah, the jurisprudent and Qur'anic exegetist of Basrah, and others, whom we cannot quote due to shortage of space, but among them are the following: Al-Hassan al-Basri, Tawoos al-Yamani, Nafi' bin al-Azraq, and Abdullah bin Nafi'.

But the thought of Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) was by no means restricted to the arguments. It was broad, open, covering a wide range of subjects related to this life and the hereafter. He lead the school of thought of Ahlul-Bait immediately after the death of his father. He took wide strides in pushing it along towards perfection.