Text:Debate of Imam al-Baqir (a) with the Christian scholar

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Imam al-Baqir's (a) debate with a Syrian Christian scholar is a set of questions and replies between Imam al-Baqir (a) and a Syrian Christian scholar. The Christian scholar asked different questions, all of which were answered by the Imam (a).

Imam al-Baqir's (a) Travel to al-Sham

When Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik invited Imam al-Baqir (a) to Syria, he attended people's gatherings and answered their questions. One day the Imam (a) saw Christians going to a mountain in the area. He asked his companions whether it was their celebration day. They told him: "no. Every year on this day, they go to a Nazarite scholar who has met the companions of Jesus's disciples and ask him questions." The Imam (a) covered his head and accompanied the Nazarites to the mountain and sat among them.

The Text of the Debate

The Christian scholar caught a sight of the audience, and when he looked at Imam al-Baqir (a), he asked him: "are you one of us, the Christians, or a Muslim?"

The Imam (a) said: "a Muslim."

The Christian scholar: "a Muslim scholar or an ignorant Muslim?"

The Imam (a): "not an ignorant one."

The Christian scholar: "should I ask questions first or will you ask questions."

The Imam (a): "ask questions if you will."

Residents of the Heaven Not Discharging Excrements

The bishop: "why do you, Muslims, claim that residents of the Heaven eat and drink without discharging excrements? Is there an obvious analogue for this in this world?"

The Imam (a): "Yes, the obvious analogue is the fetus feeding in its mother's womb without discharging any excrements."

The Christian scholar: "wonderful! Did you say that you were not a scholar?!"

The Imam (a): "I did not say so. I just said that I was not ignorant."

Heavenly Blessings Not Being Depleted

The Christian scholar asked another question about Heavenly fruits and blessings as follows:

"Why do you believe that Heavenly fruits and blessings never decrease, and however much they are consumed, they remain as they were? Is there an obvious analogue for this in this world?"

The Imam (a): "Yes. The obvious analogue in the sensible world is the fire. If you light hundreds of candles from the flame of a candle, the first flame will remain as it were without being decreased."

On a Particular Time

"I ask another question. Let me know about a time which is neither part of the night, nor that of the day."

Imam al-Baqir (a): "this is the time between the dawn and the sunrise when people in trouble find peace."

When he heard the answer, the Christian scholar screamed and said: "only one question remains. I swear to God that you can never answer this one."

The Imam (a) said: "you have certainly taken a false oath."

On 'Uzair and 'Azra

The Nazarite scholar: "let me know about two people who were born on the same day and died on the same day, while one of them lived for 50 years and the other lived for 150 years."

Imam al-Baqir (a): "they are 'Uzair (Arabic: عُزَیر) and 'Azra (Arabic: عَزرَة). When they were 25 years old, Uzair was passing the village of Antioch while riding his donkey. He saw that the village was completely destroyed, so he asked: how can God resurrect [the people of] this village after its destruction?

Although God had selected and guided him, He became angry at Uzair and caused him to die for 100 years because of his irrelevant question. Uzair was resurrected by God along with his donkey, foods, and drinks.

Uzair went to 'Azra, but 'Azra did not recognize his brother, though he hosted him. 'Azra's children and grandchildren went to him, while he was still 25 years old. Uzair mentioned some memories of 'Azra and his children and said that they were now very old.

'Azra, who was 125 years old then, said: "I never saw a 25-year-old person who knows the story of me and my brother during our youth so well. Man, are you from the sky or the Earth?

Uzair said: O 'Azra! I am Uzair. God was angered by me and because of my irrelevant question, he caused me to die for one hundred years to both punish me and reinforce my certainty. These are the donkey, the food, and the drink with which I left the house, and God has now resurrected me with the same appearance. 'Azra accepted Uzair's remarks. Uzair lived 25 more years with them, and then they both died on the same day.

The Christian scholar asked all the questions that occurred to him and heard convincing replies. When he failed to embarrass the Imam, he became upset and said: "People! You have brought a high-ranking scholar who has more information than me to embarrass me and to let the Muslims know that their leaders are superior to us! I swear to God that I will never talk to you, and if I live one more year, you will not see me among you!" He then left.

Reactions to the Debate

The story spread around Damascus and delighted the people of Syria. However, Hisham was not delighted by the victory of the Imam (a) over aliens. He feared the increasing spiritual influence of the Imam (a). Thus, he sent a gift to the Imam (a) and sent a message to him to leave Damascus immediately.

References