In the Name of God the All-Merciful the All-Compassionate, congratulations to our dear readers on a very special day. Today the 1st of the Rajab, the month of striving for the proximity of God, through special prayers, supplications, fasting, and other virtuous deeds including social charities, happens to be the birthday of the 5th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny).
He was the namesake of the Prophet, and his epithet Baqer al- Oloum, which means the Splitter and Spreader of Sciences, was prophesied by the Prophet over 5 decades before his birth at a time when mankind had no idea of an atom, let alone splitting it to produce a tremendous force of energy for the peaceful development of human societies. Please stay tuned to listen to a special feature on the life and times of Imam Mohammad al-Baqer (PBUH).
The first ever namesake of the Prophet among the Ahl al-Bayt or the Blessed Household, and the only Infallible Imam to be descended on both sides from the Almighty's Last Messenger to mankind, the 5th Imam was knowledge incarnate. If his father, Imam Imam Zain al-Abedin (PBUH) was the son and successor of the Prophet's younger grandson, the Martyr of Karbala Imam Husain (PBUH), his mother Hazrat Fatema (peace upon her), was the daughter of the Prophet's elder grandson Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (PBUH). He was not just light personified, but like all other spotlessly pure members of the blessed Ahl al-Bayt, he was embodiment of knowledge as well – so necessary for bringing humanity out of darkness and guiding it towards the path of salvation. Imam Baqer (PBUH), who as a boy of hardly four years witnessed the heartrending tragedy of Karbala and suffered imprisonment in its aftermath along with his parents and other members of the Prophet's household, lived at a very crucial juncture of history. Those were the days when the Omayyad usurpers masqueraded as caliphs and trampled the Islamic shari'a, to the bewilderment of the ummah.
Imagine the bloodcurdling scene on Ashura or Muharram 10 when the 4-year old boy had to witness the merciless martyrdom of 72 loyal companions of his grandfather, including 18 members of the Prophet's clan, among them three of his maternal uncles and two of his paternal uncles – the elder, Ali Akbar (PBUH), who bore striking resemblance to the Prophet and the younger, Ali Asghar (PBUH), a mere babe of 6 months. He then, despite his tender age, found himself a prisoner bound by ropes and taken to the courts of the tyrants in Kufa and Damascus, along with his parents and other survivors of the Prophet's family. On release from imprisonment the Blessed Household returned to Medina, where for 34 years Imam Zain al-Abedin (PBUH) strove to nurture back to life the tree of Islam so savagely severed of its leaves and branches by the tyrant Yazid. For three decades Imam Baqer (PBUH) was beside his father in reviving in society the Prophet's genuine "sunnah" or practice and "seerah" or behaviour.
Following his father's martyrdom the divine mantle of imamate came to rest on his 38-year old shoulders. During the next 19 years, as the 5th Imam of mankind, Imam Baqer (PBUH) laid the foundations of the famous academy of Medina that was to flower under his son and successor, Imam Ja'far as-Sadeq (PBUH). As the Prophet's Heir the 5th Imam set many a practical example on how to earn lawful sustenance, including toiling and sweating under the sun to plough the fields, as a form of worship. At the same time, he taught Muslims the correct understanding and interpretation of the verses of God's Revealed Word to mankind, the Holy Qur'an. It was on his authority that people recorded the events of Prophet's lifetime and campaigns and sacrifices to enlighten humanity with the message of Islam.
He also elaborated on accounts of the previous prophets. It is not enough to do justice to the life and times of the 5th Imam, on whose initiative the first ever mint was set up in Islamic history to prevent the drain of the bullion to the Byzantine Empire as well as to safeguard the faith of Muslims, since coins supplied by the Christians were stamped by the emblem of trinity.
These dynamic efforts were anathema to the Omayyad regime. Hesham bin Abdul-Malik, who had usurped the caliphate, had Imam Baqer (PBUH) brought to Damascus and imprisoned him. In prison, to the horror of the caliph, the Imam enlightened and reformed the inmates. The caliph, who did not want people to be good, God-fearing Muslims, released the Imam but did not allow him to return to Medina. The Imam used the opportunity to hold a debate with Syria's leading Christian Monk, and after a lively discussion, convinced him of the truth of Islam. The tyrannical caliph was horrified at the idea of Christians turning into devout Muslims and followers of the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt. He had Imam Baqer (PBUH) immediately sent back to Medina with orders to the escort that people in towns and cities on the route should not be allowed to come into contact with the Prophet's successor. This is another proof of the undeniable truth of Islam and the dynamism of the mission of the Prophet, as well as the falsity of the claims to caliphate by the Omayyad rulers, who were infidels at hearts despite their lip service to Islam that did not made them hesitate in trampling Islamic laws.
A brief radio programme may not do justice to the life, times, merits, and virtues of Imam Mohammad al-Baqer (PBUH), to whom the believers and seekers of knowledge and truth, continue to remain indebted. Before bidding you goodbye, here is a short but beautiful saying of the 5th Imam to one of his disciples called Jaber al-Juhfi on the source of knowledge and the Wilayat al-Mutlaqa or Divine Authority over mankind of the Prophet and the Infallible Imams:
“O Jaber! The first beings that God created were Muhammad and His family, the rightly guided ones and the guides. (These were) shadows of light, luminous bodies without spirits; they were strengthened by Ruh al-Qudus (Holy Spirit), through which Mohammad and his family worshipped God. For that reason He created them forbearing, learned, endowed with filial piety and pure; they worshipped God through prayer, fasting, prostrating themselves, enumerating His Names, and pronouncing Allah-o Akbar (God is Greatest).”