“The scholar who derives benefit from his knowledge is better than 70,000 devotees.”
The above sentence is one of the bezels of wisdom scattered for the benefit of humanity by a person, who was the most knowledgeable of his age, and who according to a narration was born today on the 3rd of Safar in the Prophet’s city Medina in the year 57 AH.
We do not mark his birthday with festivities, out of respect for the heartrending tragedy of Karbala and its equally tragic aftermath, during which these days in the year 61 AH, as a 4-year old boy, he was dragged in chains and fetters, along with his parents and children and womenfolk of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAWA) Household, to the court of the tyrant, Yazid, in Damascus.
At such a tender age, he had suffered imprisonment despite being a venerable descendent of the Prophet, and in spite of the fact that his grandfathers – maternal and paternal – were the Prophet’s grandsons, Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS), the Twin Leaders of the Youths of Paradise.
His own father was acclaimed as the most pious person of his times, and is known till this day as “Zain al-Abedin” (Ornament of the Pious), while his mother Fatema (SA) was known to be the most truthful lady of her era.
If his grandmother, Shahrbano, was the virtuous Princess of Persia, his great grandmother was the Pride of the Virgin Mary, and the Most Noblest Lady of all times from the creation of the world to its end (Seyyedat-an-Nisa al-Alamin min-al-Awwalin wa’l-Akherin).
No doubt, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA), the daughter of the Impeccable (Mother of all True Believers (Omm al-Momineen), Hazrat Khadija (SA), has been hailed by God Almighty in the holy Qur’an as “Kowthar” (the Blessed Fountain of Perpetual Abundance).
Such is the flawless pedigree of the great-grandson of the One and Only Commander of the Faithful, the City of Knowledge and Wisdom, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS).
Named Muhammad (AS), in honour of his ancestor, the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger to mankind (SAWA), he was recipient of the title “Baqer al-Uloum” (Splitter and Spreader of Sciences) given in advance to him, over half-a-century before his birth, by none else than the Seal of Prophets and conveyed to him dutifully by the faithful Sahabi, Jaber ibn Abdullah al-Ansari.
It will be needless to say that he was the father of the Reviver of the Prophet’s Genuine Jurisprudent, Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS) and the ancestor in turn of six more Infallible Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt – the last of whom being the Redeemer of mankind, Imam Mahdi (AS), who will rise as “al-Qa’em” in the end times to establish the global government of peace and justice by cleansing the earth of all vestiges of corruption and oppression.
Now we understand why the forces of darkness sought to persecute, imprison, and martyr the spotlessly pure progeny of the Prophet, because they knew that as long as the Ahl al-Bayt were in the midst of the society, their claim to be caliphs (political heads) of the Muslims was open to doubt.
During the 19 years of his imamate, which ended in 114 AH at the age of 57, as a result of a poisoned saddle sent to him by the tyrannical Omayyad caliph, Hesham Ibn Abdul-Malik, he spared no efforts to uplift the minds and hearts of the ummah.
Imam Muhammad Baqer (AS) enlightened them with the correct meaning and interpretation of the Revealed Word of God Almighty – the holy Qur’an. Accounts of the life of the Prophet were written on his authority, and he even made Muslims familiar with incidents in the life of the Prophets of yore.
No wonder, his name, as the authentic narrator of hadith, is found in books of all denominations of Islam, including the Sunnis and Shi’ites – which means loyal adherents of the path of the Prophet and the Ahl al-Bayt.
Here, in order to remove any misconceptions regarding the word “Shi’ite”, I refer to one of the famous statements of the 5th Imam to his disciple, Jaber al-Ju’fi:
"O Jaber! It is not enough that a person says; I am a Shi'ite and I love the Prophet (SAWA) and the Prophet's family and the Imams. By Allah, a Shi’ite is the one who is perfectly pious and obedient to Allah's commandments. Anyone else is not a Shi’ite, no matter how much they say they love Imam Ali (AS) and no matter what they call themselves. O Jaber Our Shi'ites are known by these signs:
a) They are truthful, trustworthy and loyal;
b) They always remember Allah;
c) They offer their prayers, observe fasts, and (regularly) recite the Qur'an;
d) They help their neighbours, take care of orphans, and say nothing but good of people;
e) They act nicely towards their parents;
f) They are worthy of peoples trust and confidence.
Let us examine ourselves in the light of the above statement of the Prophet’s 5th Infallible Heir, especially in view of the fact that during the lifetime of the Prophet certain outstanding Sahaba (e.g. Salman, Abu Zar, Meqdad, Ammar) were known to be the “Shi’ites” of Imam Ali (AS), and moreover, there are many hadiths in the books of our Sunni brethren, testifying that on the Day of Judgement, “Imam Ali (AS) and his Shi’ites will seated atop pulpits of dazzling light.”