7 Thul-Hujjah: Martyrdom of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him)
A Glimpse into his Life
From Birth until Imamate
Both of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir’s parents were grandchildren of Lady Fatima (peace be upon her). His father was Ali son of Hussein, and his mother was Fatima daughter of Hassan. He lived for four years with his grandfather, Imam Hussein (peace be upon him), and he was present at Karbala and witnessed all of the stages of that tragedy. He also beheld the heroic stands of his father and Lady Zainab (peace be upon her), his father’s aunt.
He spent 35 years in proximity to his father and learned from him until he became an intellectual figure whom everyone acknowledged- even those who were not among his followers. They resorted to him for 19 years which were the duration of his Imamate.
The Relation of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) with the Caliphs
The first phase of the life of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) which he spent with his father Imam Ali Al-Sajjad (peace be upon him) was marked by the Umayyads’ oppression of people.
The Imamate of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) commenced during the reign of Al-Walid Ibn Abdul Malik. This Caliph was succeeded by Omar son of Abdul ‘Aziz whose demeanor was characterized by some fairness toward the Household of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his Household). He prevented the practice of cursing Imam Ali (peace be upon him) on platforms which the Umayyad dynasty had followed by the order of Mu’awiyah. The subsequent Caliph was Yazid Ibn Abdul Malik who occupied himself with living a life of ostentation, levity, and dissipation.
Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) guided and directed the Caliphs. Likewise was the relation of Imam Ali son of Abu Talib (peace be upon him) with the Caliphs during his time. The Imam exchanged many letters with Omar Ibn Abdul ‘Aziz in which he enclosed political guidelines and important instructions.
He advised Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan who consulted him concerning the issue of the circulation of Byzantine currency by Muslims, and which the Byzantines made use of as a means to put pressure on the Caliphate. Abdul Malik had quarreled with the Byzantine ruler who threatened to inscribe phrases of insult to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his Household) on the coins if Abdul Malik did not acquiesce to his orders and consent to fulfill his wishes. Abdul Malik was unable to bear with this issue and did not know what to do. Thus, Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) directed him to produce Islamic coins. This saved the Muslims from dependence on the Byzantines and they ensured their own currency.
The Scholarly Role of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him)
If we want to know the scholarly role of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him), we should refer to his famous title: “Al-Baqir” which was given to him by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his Household). Jaber son of Abdullah Al-Ansari, the venerable companion of Prophet Muhammad, said: “The Messenger of God (peace be upon him and his family) said to me: “It is imminent that you will remain alive until you meet a descendant of mine through Hussein. He will be called Muhammad and he will tear knowledge [open]. When you meet him, give him my salutation [of peace].”
When Jaber grew very old, he feared that he would die before meeting Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him). He would say: “O Baqir, O Baqir! Where are you?” When he finally met him, he fell at his feet kissing the Imam’s hands and feet, saying: “May my father and mother be sacrificed for you. You are similar to the Messenger of God (peace be upon him and his Household)! Your father gives you [his] salutation of peace.”
The Role of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him)
Every Imam strove to preserve Islam, spread the teachings of religion, and expose truths to people as much as the surrounding circumstances allowed. Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) proceeded on this path through following a series of measures:
1-Intellectual and Doctrinal Reform: The Imam (peace be upon him) refuted the concepts which the deviant groups spread in his time such as the Ghulat and the Heretics. This contributed to making some of them repent. He also arranged gatherings for discussion with people of other religions and with Muslim scholars with different viewpoints such as Hassan Al-Basri.
2-Establishment of the Seminary of the Household (peace be upon them): The Imam (peace be upon him) was able to clearly display in front of all people – even those who did not believe in his Imamate- that the Household of Prophet Muhammad were the True Source of knowledge. He established a seminary for teaching Islamic jurisprudence. Thousands of scholars from different Islamic sects and the most prominent of Shiite transmitters of narrations – such as Zurara Ibn A’yan, Muhammad son of Muslim Al-Thakafi, and Jaber son of Yazid Al-Ju’fi among others – graduated from this seminary.
3-Political Activity: The Imam (peace be upon him) pursued an indirect method in opposing the ruling political system. He did this through teaching people to know their roles and duties in their current circumstances. He followed the process of enjoining righteousness and forbidding evil through spreading correct political concepts such as forbidding giving aid to oppressors and revealing the deviation of the authority from the path of Islam.
The Imam did not express his point of view concerning the military revolts against the ruling system because he assessed that those revolts would not succeed in bringing change.
The Martyrdom of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him)
When Hisham Ibn Abdul-Malek assumed command, his rule was a return to terror and oppression. The policy of persecution and torment led to the revolt of the Martyr Zayd son of Imam Ali Al-Sajjad (peace be upon him) who was martyred with his companions and his body was burned.
Hisham also persecuted the students of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him), but those unjust measures did not prevent the increase in Islamic awakening and religious awareness among people. Hisham Ibn Abdul Malik ordered the poisoning of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him). Thus, the Imam was martyred in the path of Allah – a patient man, a struggler, and a martyr.