Imam Baqir (A.S.) was born in Madina on Ist Rajab 57 Hijri, died in Madina on 7th Zilhijja 114 Hijri (31.1.733AD) at the age of 57 years. His period of Imamate was 19 years. On the evidence of the most authentic Hadith narrated by Sunni and Shia historians, one of the companions of the Holy Prophet Jabir Ibn Abdallah Ansari was in the presence of the Holy Prophet. He asked the Prophet about the names of descendants of his daughter Hazrat Fatima and ‘Ali (A.S.). The Prophet told him, “O Jabir, you will have a long life, and although you will go blind, you will meet the 5th in line of my descendants whose name will be my name, who will walk like me and who will be the 5th Imam of the time. When you will meet him, give my salaams to him”.
As predicted by the Holy Prophet Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari had a long life and became blind in his old age. But he devoutly waited for the time when he would meet the 5th Imam. Each morning he would come out from his house, sit by the roadside and wait for the sound of the footsteps to recognize the 5th Imam.
One such day while he was waiting in the street of Madina, he heard someone walking towards him, the sound of footsteps reminded him of the way Holy Prophet used to walk. Jabir stood up, stopped the man and asked his name. He replied, “Muhammad”, Jabir asked, whose son?, he replied, “‘Ali Ibn al-Husayn (A.S.)”.
Jabir immediately recognized the man he was talking to was the 5th Imam (A.S.). He kissed him and told him the message from the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) and that the Prophet (S.A.W.) sent his salaams to him. Imam took him to his home, asked his friends to gather as many people as they can. When they all assembled in his house, the Imam asked Jabir to tell the whole story again.
Jabir narrated the story, they all cried and attested in unison of the Imamate of the Fifth Imam and also the names of the other Seven Imams in his line up to the Twelfth Imam.
After the death of the 4th Imam in 95 Hijri, the caliphs in Damascus were so preoccupied with their conquests of foreign lands that they did not have time to worry about the people in Madina, their loyalties or their hostilities.
They were also satisfied that the Imams of the Ah al-Bayt (A.S.) would not divulge in any rebellion against them due to the most peaceful and quiet life of the 4th Imam Zainul Abedeen (A.S.). They left the people of Madina to their activities in some peace. This was the time Imams of Ah al-Bayt (A.S.) were waiting for. Our 5th Imam opened a school to teach Qur’an and Hadith as it was taught by the Holy Prophet and Imam ‘Ali (AS).
Imam Muhammad al Baqir was said to have been highly esteemed for his learning and eloquence as well as on account of his noble birth. According to Ibn Khalikan, the Imam received the title of Baqir (Splitter of knowledge) due to his ample knowledge of Deen and his enthusiasm to teach to other people.
Many historians like Yakubi asserts that the Imam split open knowledge, that is scrutinized it and examined the depths of it so that it can be spread to all people truly and correctly.
In his life of respectable and scholarly retirement at Madina, the Imam was frequently called upon to explain particular teachings in regard to Imamate. A synopsis of his teaching in the Ma’athirul-Baqir is given in Cannon Sell’s Ithna Ashariya, an interesting part of which may well be quoted, as it shows the emphasis at this early period on the intellectual and spiritual character of the Imamate.
A man one day said to the Imam, “Was the Prophet heir to all the knowledge of the Prophets?” He replied, “Yes” then he was asked whether he had inherited it. He said he had. He was then asked if he could raise the dead to life, restore sight to the blind, and cleanse the leper. He said yes, by the valor of God, the highest. He, therefore, put his hand on the blind eyes of a man sitting next to him and prayed. The next moment the blind man’s eyesight was restored. Many more such stories were told by various historians of the time.
The Imam discoursed fully on many topics such as the nature of the soul and Nafs, nature, and attributes of God, the qualities of the Ulemas. He discouraged arguments about the divine nature, saying that it was not possible for men to understand it.
One day a Mu’tazili leader Wasil bin Ata asked the Imam what the anger of God meant. He said, it was simply punishment, but that this anger was not to be compared to the anger of men. God’s nature did not change. He defined a Rasul as a prophet who hears the voice of the angel(of revelation) and sees the angel in a bodily form. A Nabi, he said, is a Prophet who also hears the voice of the angel under the same conditions, but does not see him, and the Imam’s condition is like that of the Nabi but not like that of the Rasul. He said that the Imams were pure and that the Ahlul Bayt were free from sin.
The Imam Baqir (A.S.) in defending his claims to the Imamate before the caliph Hisham quoted this verse, “This day have I perfected your religion unto you and fulfilled my mercy upon you and accepted Islam to be your Deen.” (Qur’an, S.5 V5) He went on to say that the open revelation being thus perfect, the Prophet had made known other secret matters to ‘Ali (A.S.).
From amongst men of the Ahlul Bayt ‘Ali (as) had appointed a special person as his confidant, to whom this heritage of knowledge of secret things came down. Hisham replied that as God allowed no partner in the matter of knowing the secret things, how could ‘Ali (A.S.) make such claims?
In reply, the Imam (A.S.) quoted many sayings of the Prophet (S.A.W.) shows a mutual relationship between him and the high position accorded to ‘Ali (A.S.). On hearing all this Hisham was silent and then permitted the Imam and his companions to return home. Neither the pomp nor the power of the caliph influenced the Imam, who boldly and without fear answered all the questions put to him.
As counselor to the Government of the day, to rule and to administer the Muslim world was certainly the right of the Ah al-Bayt (A.S.) of the Prophet (S.A.W.), but as common people who had no such right succumbed to the temporal power, The Imams had to lead calm and quiet lives. As such, they could have refused to give any advice or counsel to the Government of the day.
But the moral height of these noble Imams rose above the standards of commoners. Like Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) who cooperated with the contemporary caliphs and offered sound advice concerning the affairs of the Muslims, all the Imams followed the same example and never hesitated to give well-balanced pieces of advice to their contemporary rulers. Imam Baqir (A.S.) was no exception.