Imam Muhammad al-Baqir is the fifth of the scintillating lights of the AhlulBayt (as). He was known as al-Baqir al-uloom, the one who splits knowledge, meaning to disperse and share the knowledge endowed from past Imams (as) and Prophets (as). He was the splitter of knowledge; unravelling the mysteries of deep oceans of knowledge and solving the riddles of science for the people. His love for knowledge is well known and documented among the historians.

He was born in Medina and lived until about 57 years of age, spending nineteen of those years in a state of Imamate. During his life, the Umayyads and Abbasids were occupied with fighting each other for power. Imam al-Baqir (as) made best use of this reprieve in spreading the divine knowledge and light of which he was the heir to the holy Prophet (s). Many great scholars have acknowledged and praised his great scientific knowledge. Abdullah Ibn ‘Atayi Makki says, “The scholars showed a kind of humility before Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Husayn that (they) showed for no one else. I saw Hakam ibn ‘Atibah, who was so learned and honorable, that behaved like a child before his teacher when facing Muhammad ibn Ali.” [1] Ibn Abil Hadid writes, “Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Husayn was the greatest in jurisprudence in Hijaz. The people learned jurisprudence from him and his son, Ja’far…” [ibid]

Shaykh Mufid writes, “Some traditions are narrated from Imam al-Baqir (as) about the beginning of creation of world, the history of Prophets (s), wars, conducts, traditions, and Hajj rituals from Prophet Muhammad (s), as well as exegesis of the Qu’ran by general and specific narrators…People have narrated various sciences from him…Imam al-Baqir (as) trained notable and knowledgeable students during his lifetime, who are narrators of his traditions…” [2] Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, a famous scholar belonging to the Sunni school of thought said: “Imam Muhammad al-Baqir has disclosed the secrets of knowledge and wisdom and unfolded the principles of spiritual and religious guidance. Nobody can deny his exalted character, his God-given knowledge, his divinely-gifted wisdom and his obligation and gratitude towards spreading of knowledge. He was a sacred and highly talented spiritual leader and for this reason he was popularly titled `al-Baqir’ which means `the expander of knowledge.’ Kind of heart, spotless in character, sacred by soul and noble by nature, the Imam devoted all his time in submission to Allah (and in advocating the teachings of the Holy Prophet and his descendants). It is beyond the power of a man to count the deep impression of knowledge and guidance left by the Imam on the hearts of the faithful. His sayings in devotion and abstinence, in knowledge and wisdom, and in religious exercise and submission to Allah are so great in number that the volume of this book is quite insufficient to cover them all.” [3]

According to a famous tradition, the holy Prophet (s) is said to have conveyed his greetings to Imam al-Baqir through his companion Jabir ibn Abd Allah Ansari. One day, while being in audience with Imam al-Sajjad (as), Jabir heard a child whom he asked ‘Who are you?’ The child answered: ‘I am Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn.’ Jabir called him near, took hold of his hand, kissed it, and said: ‘One day, I had an audience with your grandfather, the Apostle of Allah (s). He told me: ‘You may live so long as to see Muhammad ibn Ali b. al-Husayn, one of my grandsons. Give my greetings to him and tell him: May Allah grant you the light of wisdom, (to) disseminate the faith and knowledge!’” [4]

The above mentioned details are just a small glimpse of the greatness of Imam al-Baqir (as). But what did he want from his Shia? The following tradition from him addressed to Jabir Ja’fari, who was one of his companions, notes one of his important commands for his true followers:

“O Jabir! I swear by God that our follower is one who submits to the command of God and is pious and God-fearing. God is not biased toward anyone and the dearest servants before God are those who are the most righteous and comply with divine edicts better and more often than others. By God, the only way to please God and get closer to Him, is through obedience and submission. We cannot save you from the flames of hell. Anyone who obeys God is our companion and friend and anyone who commits sins and wrongdoings and disobeys God is our enemy. O Jabir! One cannot attain our affection but through piety and good deeds.” [5]

1. As quoted in “Imamate and The Imams” by Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini
2. ibid
3. As quoted in “A Brief History of the Fourteen Infallibles” published by World Organization for Islamic Services
4. As quoted in “The Fourteen Luminaries of Islam” by Ahmad Ahmadi Birjandi
5. As quoted in “Principles of the Shi’ite Creed” by Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini

Source : Islamic Insights