Salaam, and heartfelt condolences to you all on a doleful day. Today on the 7th of the month of Zilhijja in the year 114 AH, while pilgrims to the House of God were preparing for the annual Hajj, the 5th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), was leaving the world in a state of agony in Medina, a martyr, at the age of 57. He was a victim of a fatal dose of poisoning by the tyrannical Omayyad caliph, Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik, for his guiding the ummah on the straight and unwavering path of God, and cautioning them against the corruption being spread in society by the oppressive regime.
In the holy Qur’an in Surah Houd, ayahs 84 to 86 God Almighty says:
“And to Midian (We sent), Shu’aib, their brother. He said: O’ my people! Serve Allah. You have no god other than Him. Do not give short measure and weight. Indeed I see that you are fairing well, but I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing day.
“O my people! Observe fully the measure and the balance, with justice, and defraud not people of their things, and do not act wickedly on the earth, causing corruption:
“Baqiatollah (what remains of Allah’s provision) is better for you if you are believers…”
As could be clear from the words of the heavenly scripture, the Almighty Creator, reminding mankind of the fate that befell the proud people of the once flourishing city of Midian in the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula in antiquity for violating the commandments of God and cheating people, draws attention in the last mentioned ayah towards “Baqiatollah”, which is the refuge of all believers. Unfortunately, the Midianites disobeyed God and spread mischief and corruption in the lands for which divine wrath swiftly overtook them. At least twice they were the targets of great catastrophes that wiped out their civilizations for having deviated from the path of “Baqiatollah”; once during the days of Prophet Shu’aib (or Jethro of the era of Prophet Moses), and once during the time of Prophet Saleh.
In the early years of the 2nd century AH, Midian (or Mada’en Saleh as it is known today), although a mere shadow of its ancient glory, was spared another catastrophe thanks to a timely reminder of one of its senior citizens of the folly of wronging “Baqiatollah” by obeying the tyrannical caliph in Damascus. The martyrdom anniversary today of Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS), the 5th Infallible Successor of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), affords us an opportunity to go into details. It happened that the 5th Imam was returning to Medina from Damascus after release from imprisonment – not the imprisonment he had suffered as a four-year old boy along with his father Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) and the noble ladies of the Prophet’s household such as his grand aunt Hazrat Zainab (SA) in the aftermath of the heart-rending tragedy of Karbala where he witnessed the ghastly sight of the severance of the head of his grandfather Imam Husain (AS). Fifty years after Karbala, he suffered another bout of imprisonment in Damascus along with his son Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS) during the days of his eventual assassin, Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik. When Imam Baqer (AS) reformed inmates and made them devout Muslims, the horrified caliph released him but still kept him interned in the Syrian capital. When the 5th Imam convinced the chief Christian hermit of Syria of the truth of Islam resulting in the mass conversion of a sizeable number of Christians, Hisham was further bewildered and sent him back to Medina but with orders that no town or city on the way should allow entry to the Prophet’s successor.
Thus, when the Imam’s entourage neared Midian, they found they had run out of provisions and it was impossible to continue the journey without replenishing the necessary stocks. But the people of Midian, as instructed by the caliph and his agents, shut the gates, and refused entry to the Prophet’s rightful heir. At this Imam Baqer (AS) climbed the nearby mountain that overlooked the city and recited the ayahs which we mentioned earlier in this programme. He then emphasized in a loud voice that reverberated throughout the city: Ana wallahi Baqiatollah, which means: By God, I am Baqiatollah. The people were perplexed. They were at their wit’s end. On one hand, it was the caliph’s orders to have no contact with the Prophet’s successor, and on the other hand, the wrath of God was sure to strike them if the Imam decided to curse. At this moment a very old person emerged from his house and seeing the Imam atop the mountain told the terrified citizens that the Prophet’s Heir was standing on the same spot on which that Prophet Saleh had stood in antiquity while warning the Midianites of divine punishment. He said disobeying the caliph’s order maybe considered an act of lawlessness by a regime that in the first place has no authority to rule, but disobeying the “Baqiatollah” is a sure sign of impending doom and ending in the bowels of hell. The people opened the gates and allowed the 5th Imam’s entourage to buy whatever he needed for the journey ahead.
It should be said that we are as much indebted to Imam Baqer (AS) as to his father Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) for holding spreading of Imam Husain’s (AS) mission, after the heartrending tragedy of Karbala, where he was a boy of less than four years. He was born in 57 AH. He was named after the Prophet. Both his parents were the great grandchildren of the Prophet. If his father, was the son of Imam Husain (AS), his mother Hazrat Fatema (SA) was the daughter of Imam Hasan Mojtaba (AS), the elder grandson of the Prophet. As a matter of fact, he was the fruit of the first ever marriage between two direct descendants of the Prophet. Even his epithet Baqer al-Uloum, which means Splitter and Spreader of Sciences, was bestowed upon him by the Prophet decades before his birth. However, despite such impeccable credentials he had to go through ordeals and emerge unscathed like his great forbear, Prophet Abraham (AS), in order to serve as an immortal exemplar for all true believers. The Tragedy of Karbala and its equally tragic aftermath was his first trial. He had to witness the gory scene of the martyrdom of his grandfather, Imam Husain (AS) and 18 male members of the Prophet’s family including his 6-month old uncle, Ali Asghar (AS). He was taken prisoner, along with his sick and bed-ridden father and the womenfolk and children of the noble household, to be dragged in chains to the courts of the tyrants in Kufa and Damascus. He had to bear the bloodcurdling spectacle of the severed heads of his grandfather and the other martyrs mounted on lances by the murderers. Yet, he and his father emerged victorious from such tribulations to pick up from shreds the tattered fabric of Mohammadan Islam and restore it to its original form in those days of Omayyad tyranny.
For 34 years after Karbala, he assisted his father, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), who magnanimously sent him to Damascus, the seat of tormentors, in order to establish the first ever mint and system of coinage in Islam, when the inefficiency of the Omayyad regime was not just draining the bullion of the Muslim world, but also endangering the belief of Muslims, because of the coins inscribed with Christian faith that were being imported from the Byzantine Empire for circulation by the good-for-nothing caliphs. His own mission as the 5th Infallible Successor of the Prophet was 19 years before it was cut short this day in 114 AH by that despicable tyrant, Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik, through deadly poison smeared on his saddle. Hisham’s animosity towards the Prophet and the Ahl al-Bayt was no secret. The wretch was enraged with the unraveling of facts by Imam Muhammad Baqer (AS), who not only expounded to Muslims the true meaning and purport of God’s Revealed Word, the Holy Qur’an as well as the correct practice and behaviour of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), but also exposed as false the so-called hadith fabricated in favour of some dubious persons by Mu’awiyah, the founder of the ungodly Omayyad caliphate, in a bid to mislead unsuspecting people away from Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), the divinely-decreed vicegerent of the Prophet. Imam Baqer (AS), who was martyred in Medina at the start of the Hajj season so that he could not perform the pilgrimage for that year, has left us a lasting legacy to enable us to shine as gold. And among his bequeathal were the instructions to hold discourses on the Tragedy of Karbala in Mecca during the Hajj so that pilgrims coming from all over the Muslim world become cognizant of true faith and utter falsehood