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Muhammad al-Baqir

Muhammad al-Baqir
5th Imam of Twelver and 4th Imam of Ismaili Shia
The historical tomb of Al-Baqi' was destroyed in 1925. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir is one of four Shiite Imams buried here.
Native name محمد بن علي الباقر  (Arabic)
Born c. 676 CE[1]
(1 Rajab 57 AH AH)
Medina, Umayyad Empire
Died c. 31 January 733(733-01-31) (aged 57)
(7 Dhul Hijja 114 AH)
Medina, Umayyad Empire
Cause of death Death by poisoning according to most Shi'a Muslims
Resting place Jannatul Baqi, Saudi Arabia
Other names Muhammad ibn ‘Alī ibn Husayn
Ethnicity `Arab (Banu Hashim)
Term 712–733 CE
Predecessor Ali ibn Husayn
Successor Ja'far al-Sadiq
Religion Islam
Spouse(s) Farwah bint al-Qasim
Umm Hakīm bint Usayd ibn al-Mughīrā al-Thaqafī
Parent(s) `Ali ibn Husayn
Fatimah bint Hasan

Muḥammad al-Bāqir (Arabic: محمد الباقر ‎) (676–733 AD),[3] (also called abu Ja'far) (known as al-Baqir (the one who splits open knowledge)) (full name Muhammad bin 'Ali bin al-Husayn bin Ali bin Abi Talib) was the fifth Shiite imam, succeeding his father Zayn al-Abidin and succeeded by his son Ja'far al-Sadiq. He was the first imam descended from both grandsons of Prophet Muhammad, i.e. Imam Hasan ibn Ali and Imam Husayn ibn Ali. Many traditions and abundant wisdom were reported on his authority. He is revered by Shiite Muslims for his religious leadership and highly respected by Sunni Muslims for his knowledge and Islamic scholarship as a leading jurist of Medina.[5][6]


  • Birth and early life 1
  • Al-Baqir 2
  • Imamah 3
    • Division 3.1
  • Under the Umayyad Rulers 4
  • Works 5
    • Ma'athiru'l-Baqir 5.1
    • Umm al-Kitab 5.2
    • Tafsir al-Baqir 5.3
  • Selected Sayings 6
  • Death 7
  • See also 8
  • Footnote 9
  • References 10

Birth and early life

Al-Baqir had a prominent lineage in that both his paternal and maternal grandfathers, Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali, were Muhammad's grandsons. His mother, Fatima Umm Abd Allah, was a daughter of al-Hasan, the son of Ali. Al-Baqir was born in Medina, around 56/676 when Muawiyah I was trying to make safe the pledge of allegiance for his son, Yazid I. While still a child, his family was troubled by the tragedy of Karbala, and he would have been three or four years old when his grandfather Husayn was killed.

According to Ya'qubi, al-Baqir was in fact present at Karbala. In his youth he witnessed the struggle for power among the Umayyads, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and different Shiite parties, while at the same time he saw his father remaining distant to local political activity.[7][8]


Al-Baqir is a reduced form of Baqir al-'ilm, which means "he who splits open knowledge". Imam Muhammad al-Baqir is said therefore to have been famous for his heritage of knowledge. According to Ibn Khallikan, he received the nickname al-Baqir (the Ample) due to the "ample fund of knowledge" he collected. However, Ya'qubi believed that he was called al-Baqir because he "split open knowledge", meaning he examined its depths.[1][8] For the Shiites, however, Baqir al-'ilm was not an ordinary title, for they believe it was given to him by Prophet Muhammad. According to al-Kulayni, Jabir ibn Abd Allah, the only living companion of Prophet Muhammad used to sit in the mosque and call out: Ya baqir al-ilm, Ya baqir al-ilm. Medinans thought that Jabir was insane; however, he assured them that he had heard from Prophet Muhammad who said: "O Jabir! You will meet a man from my family who will have the same name and the same characteristics as mine. He will split open knowledge extensively."[7] As for how Jabir ibn Abd Allah met Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, al-Kulayni relates that once while al-Jabir was passing a Quran school which Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir attended as a child, he saw that the Imam was still a child and examined him to see if he has the features he had heard from Prophet Muhammad. Then Jabir explained: "Characteristics of the Messenger of Allah; by Him in whose hands is my soul, O boy, what is your name".[7] When Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir answered that he was Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn, Jabir "approached him, kissed his head and swore by his father and mother that Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir had recited greeting upon him."[7][8]


During the Imamah of Muhammad al-Baqir, due to the oppressive manner of the Umayyads, riots broke out everywhere in the Islamic world. The disagreements within the Umayyad party kept them occupied among themselves such that they left members of the household undisturbed for some time. On the other hand, the tyranny placed on the members of household in the Battle of Karbala had drawn many people to the Imams. These conditions had permitted people, particularly the Shiite, to travel to Medina in large groups and to go into the Imam's presence freely. The possibilities of spreading Islam, which had not existed for the previous Imams, was thus available to the fifth Imam. Numerous traditions related about the Imam and the numerous scholars who were trained under him obviously show this. [2][6]


After the death of Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin, the fourth Imam, the majority of the Shiites agreed upon his son al-Baqir as the next Imam, while a minority favored another son of the fourth Imam, Zayd ibn Ali, and became known as Zaidiyyah. According to Ibn Khallikan,[3] Zaid, the brother of Muhammad al-Baqir, called for people on his own behalf to back his cause. Al-Masudi, however, says that he first asked the advice of Muhammad al-Baqir who advised him not to rely on the people of Kufa, explaining how they had previously behaved toward the members of household. Zaid, however, did not listen to his brother's advice and led the people of Kufa in a useless riot. Al-Shahrastani[4] states that a dispute had arisen between Muhammad al-Baqir and Zaid because Zaid had been following the lessons of the Mu'tazilite, Wasil ibn Ata. Zaid had also announced that the position of an Imam was conditional on his appearing publicly to claim his rights.In response Muhammad al-Baqir said to Zaid, "Your faith then is merely in your father, as such, for according to your theory he was not an Imam, for he certainly never came forth to assert his claims."[6][8]

Under the Umayyad Rulers

Despite his not being involved in political activitis, the Umayyad rulers harassed Muhammad al-Baqir. For they knew that a large number of Shia individuals and deputations, which were coming from Kufa to Medina, had no other intent but to attend al-Baqir's teaching and to ask him specific questions;[9] among which was the question of who had the right to rule.[10] Moreover, the uprising of his brother Zayd ibn Ali and his other relatives made them distrust him.

it is related that once Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik the caliph made a pilgrimage to Mecca where Imam Mohammed al-Baqir and his son Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq were also present. There was a gathering where Imam Baqir (AS) delivered a sermon saying: "We are the favorite and chosen servants of God, and His vicegerents on the face of the earth. One who obeys us is successful and one who opposes would be evil and wretched."[5] Someone conveyed these statements to Hisham. When he returned to his court in Syria, he wrote to his Governor of Medina instructing him to send Imam al-Baqir and his son Jafar al-Sadiq to Damascus. When they arrived, to humiliate them he kept them waiting for three days without allowing people to meet them. On the fourth day he called them to his court where he was practicing archery with his officials.[5]



In Ma'athiru'l-Baqir, the Imam discussed many topics from the nature of the soul, and the qualities of the Ulama to the attributes of God and the divine nature explaining that it was not possible for men to understand it. To illustrate; one day a man asked him: "Should I think of anything (to understand Allah)?" The Imam replied: "Yes, but you have to imagine a thing which the mind cannot contain and which is without limit. He is unlike whatever comes into your mind. Nothing resembles Him nor can any thought reach Him."[5] It is also among his saying that: "Talk about the creation of Allah, but do not talk about Allah Himself, for that increases the owner of the talk nothing except perplexity."[5] He defines a Rasul as a Prophet who both hears the voice of the angel of revelation and sees the angel in a bodily form or in a dream. As for Nabi, he says, it is a Prophet who hears the voice of the angel, but does not see him; and 'the Imam's condition, he says, is like that of the Nabi. [5]

The Imam was frequently referred to explain particular teachings concerning the Imamate, which is also explained in Ma'athiru'l-Baqir, a summery of which is translated into English in Canon Sell's Ithna ʻAsharíyya or The Twelve Shiʻah Imams. [6][5][8][11]

Umm al-Kitab

Umm al-Kitab or The Archetype of the Book is in the form of a discussion between the Imam and three of his companions. It resembles the Gospel of the Infancy, and shows how Imamology is similar to gnostic Christology. Among major ideas of this work are the numinous science of letters. The central motif of the work is the psychological-philosophical explanation of spiritual symbols, and the believers are instructed to involve themselves in acts of self purification and renovation. A large number of colors are presented to symbolize different theories and the consistent levels of consciousness that one must recognize in himself.[12]

Tafsir al-Baqir

Tafsir al-baqir or Tafsir Abul Jaroud is al-Baqir's exegesis of the Quran. Ibn al-Nadim remarked on this book in his work Kitab al-Fihrist when he named the books written on the exegesis of the Quran. He says:Abul Jaroud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad, the head of the Jarudiyya, reported the book of al-Baqir. According to Sayyd Hasan al-Sadr "A group of the reliable Shiites reported the book from him(Abul Jaroud) from the days of his righteousness", among them was Abu Basïr Yahya b. al-Qasim al-Asadi. Ali b. Ibrahï~m b. Hashim al-Qummi has also mentioned it in his book al-Tafsïr on the authority of Abu Basïr.[5]

Selected Sayings

Imam Baqir's Hadith about humour
  • "The virtue of knowledge is more lovable with Allah than the virtue of worship."[5]
  • "The believer does not spend an expense more lovable with Allah than saying the truth during consent and anger."[5]
  • "Two kinds of my community have no share in Islam. (They are): the extremists and the fatalists."[5]
  • "Whoever has three qualities or one of them will be in the shade of the throne of Allah: He should treat people with justice. He should do nothing unless he knows whether it pleases or angers Allah. He should seek no fault in his Muslim brother until he frees himself from that fault. For when he frees himself from a fault, he finds another fault in him. It is enough for the person that his own self diverts him from the people."[5]
  • "I admonish you regarding five things: If you are wronged, do not commit wrongdoing to others. If you are betrayed, do not betray anyone, if you are called a liar, do not be furious. If you are praised, do not be jubilant. If you are criticized do not fret and think of what is said in criticism. If you find in yourself what is criticized about you, then you are falling down in the eyes of God. When you are furious at truth, it is a much greater calamity than you falling down in the eyes of the people. And if you are opposite of what is said (in criticism) about you, then it is a merit you acquired without having to tire yourself in obtaining it".[5]


Imam's desecrated grave at Al-Baqi' in Saudi Arabia

There are doubts about both the reason and the time of the death of the fifth Imam. According to some accounts he was poisoned by the nephew of Hisham, Ibrahim ibn Walid ibn Abdallah, however, according to ordinary account, another Zaid, Imam's cousin (the son of al-Hasan) disputed with the Imam over the question of his lagacy, however they agreed that they should go to the judge. When the judge gave his decision against Zaid, he referred the case to the Caliph Hisham. Provoked by Zaid's false complaint, Hisham sent a present to the Governor of Medina, with instructing him to obtain the Imam's heritage (or the document) and send it to him. It is said that the Imam was ready for such an emergency for he gave the Governor a box containing fake documents. However, when the Caliph received the box, he showed it to Zaid and Zaid recognized that it was spurious. According to the Shiite account, the Caliph gave Zaid a saddle treated with poison, and Zaid arranged matters so that it be given to the Imam, who used it and died from the effects of the poison. He was laid to rest underneath the same dome in Jannatul Baqee where Imam Hasan ibn Ali and Imam Zayn al-Abidin were buried.[6][8]

See also


  1. ^ See Ibn Khallikan, trans. de Slane, Vol. II, p. 579 and Ya'qubi, History, Vol. II, p. 384.
  2. ^ See the books of biographies of famous men in Islam such as Irshad, pp.245-253. See also Kitab rijal al-Kashshi by Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn ’Abd al-’Aziz Kashshi, Bombay, 1317; Kitab rijal al- Tusi by Muhammad ibn Hasan Tusi, Najaf, 1381; Kitab-i fihrist of Tusi, Calcutta, 1281: and other books of biography.
  3. ^ See Ibn Khallikan, trans. de Slane, Vol. III, p. 274.
  4. ^ See Shahrastani, Kjtab al-milal wa'l-nihal(The Book of Religious and Philosophical Sects) edit. Cureton, p. 116 ff.
  5. ^ The Imams, he asserts, are pure and free from the sin; that the world was under their rule, that through them the eye of God mercy falls on men; that if they did not exist, men would perish, and that they should not fear though worthless fellows might deny all this.[8]
  6. ^ An interesting part of which that shows the intellectual and spiritual character of the Imamate goes as follows: A man once asked the Imam, "Was the Prophet heir to all the knowledge of the prophets?" He replied, " Yes"; then he was asked if he had inherited it. He said he had. He was then asked whether he could raise the dead to life, restore sight to the blind, and cleanse the leper. He said, "Yes, by the valour of God Most High." He thus put his hand on the eyes of a man and blinded him, and then brouht back his sight. Many more such stories are told.[8]


  1. ^ Shabbar, S.M.R. (1997). Story of the Holy Ka’aba. Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Shaykh al-Mufid. "The Infallibles - Taken from Kitab al Irshad". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  3. ^ a b A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 2004. p. 117. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f al-Qarashi, Baqir Shareef. "3". The life of Imam Mohammad al-Baqir. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Sharif al-Qarashi, Baqir (1999). The Life of Imam Mohammed al-Baqir; Chapter VI & VIII (PDF). Translated by Jasim al-Rasheed. Qum, Islamic Republic of Iran: Ansariyan Publications.  
  6. ^ a b c d Tabatabai, Muhammad Husayn (1975). Shiite Islam. Translated and Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. State University of New York Press. pp. 68,179.  
  7. ^ a b c d Lalani, Arzina R. (March 9, 2001). Early Shi'i Thought: The Teachings of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir. I. B. Tauris. pp. 37–38.  
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Donaldson, Dwight M. (1933). The Shi'ite Religion: A History of Islam in Persia and Irak. BURLEIGH PRESS. pp. 112–119. 
  9. ^ Dakake, Maria Massi (2007). The Charismatic Community: Shi'ite Identity in Early Islam. USA: State Univ of New York Pr. p. 72.  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ Sell, Edward (1923). Ithna Asharíyya, or The twelve Shi'ah Imams, , pp. 18-19. Publisher:. Madras, India: Christian Literature Society for India. pp. 18–19. 
  12. ^ Corbin, Henry (2001). The History of Islamic Philosophy. Translated by Liadain Sherrard with the assistance of Philip Sherrard. London and New York: Kegan Paul International. pp. 75–76. 
Shia Islam titles
Preceded by
Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn)
5th Imam of Twelver and 4th Imam of Ismaili Shia
Succeeded by
Jaʿfar ibn Muhammad al-Sādiq
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