Imam Muhammad b. Ali al-Baqir (a)

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Muhammad b. 'Ali
5th Imam of the Shia
Al-Baqi' cemetery
TeknonymAbu Ja'far
BornRajab 1, 57/May 10, 677
ImamateFrom Muharram 25, 95/October 20, 713(for 19 years)
MartyrdomDhu l-Hijja 7, 114/January 28, 733
Cause of MartyrdomBy poisoning
The Twelve Imams
SuccessorJa'far b. Muhammad (a)
Father'Ali b. al-Husayn (a)
MotherFatima bt. al-Hasan
Spouse(s)Umm Farwa, Umm Hakim
Son(s)Ja'far, Ibrahim, 'Ali, 'Abd Allah, 'Ubayd Allah
'Ali, al-Hasan, al-Husayn, al-Sajjad, al-Baqir, al-Sadiq, al-Kazim, al-Rida, al-Jawad, al-Hadi, al-'Askari, al-Mahdi

Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib (Arabic: محمد بن علي بن حسین بن علي بن أبي طالب) (b. 57/677 – d. 114/733) known as Imām al-Bāqir (a) and Bāqir al-'Ulūm, was the fifth Imam of the Shi'a, whose period of Imamate lasted nineteen years.

Imam al-Baqir (a) made a great scientific movement that reached its peak at the time of his son Imam al-Sadiq (a). His narrations in religion, conduct of the Prophet (s), Qur'an sciences, moral conduct, and manner are more than what is remained from the children of Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a). Thus, during his imamate, a great step was taken towards the organization of Shi'i thought in different fields including ethics, jurisprudence, theology, exegesis, etc. According to historical sources he was present at Battle of Karbala as a child.


Muhammad b. 'Ali b. al-Husayn b. 'Ali b. Abi Talib, known as al-Baqir (a) was the fifth Imam of the Shi'a faith, son of Imam al-Sajjad (a), the fourth Imam of the Shi'a faith. His mother was Umm 'Abd Allah, daughter of Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a).[1] Hence he is called Hashimite among Hashimites, 'Alavi among 'Alavis, and Fatimi among Fatimis.[2]

Naming, Teknonym, and Epithets

Many years before Imam al-Baqir (a) was born, the Prophet (s) named him Muhammad and titled him "al-Baqir". Hadith al-Lawh transmitted by Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari and others corroborate this.[3]

His epithets were, al-Baqir, al-Shakir (the thankful to God), and al-Hadi (the guide), the former of which is the most famous. The meaning of "al-Baqir" is "splitter." Al-Ya'qubi wrote that, "He (a) was named al-Baqir since he split knowledge."[4] His famous teknonym is Abu Ja'far.[5] In hadith references, he (a) is mostly referred to as Abu Ja'far al-Awwal.

Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
'Abd Allah
Lady Fatima
Imam Ali
Umm al-Banin
Imam al-Husayn
Imam al-Hasan
Lady Zaynab
Umm Kulthum
Abd Allah
Umm Kulthum
'Abd Allah
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Sajjad
'Ali al-Akbar
'Ali al-Asghar
Imam al-Baqir
Imam al-Sadiq
'Abd Allah
'Ubayd Allah
Imam al-Kazim
Umm Farwa
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Rida
Imam al-Jawad
Imam al-Hadi
Imam al-'Askari
Imam al-Mahdi


Imam al-Baqir (a) was born on Friday Rajab 1, 57/May 10, 677 in Medina.[6] Some have reported his birth to have been on Safar 3/December 16 of the same year (57/676)[7]. He was a small child and present in the Battle of Karbala[8].

Wives and Children

In narrations, Umm Farwa is mentioned as the wife of Imam al-Baqir (a), who was the mother of Imam al-Sadiq (a). Also, narrations mention another woman called Umm Hakim, daughter of Usayd al-Thaqafi as a wife of Imam (a), who was the mother of two of the Imam's (a) children and another wife of Imam (a) who was a concubine and the mother of three other children of Imam (a)[9].

The number of the children of Imam al-Baqir (a) was seven, including five sons and two daughters:

  1. Ja'far
  2. 'Abd Allah: the mother of these two was Umm Farwa, daughter of al-Qasim b. Muhammad.
  3. Ibrahim
  4. 'Ubayd Allah: the mother of him and Ibrahim was Umm Hakim, daughter of Usayd al-Thaqafi. No children remained from these two sons.
  5. 'Ali
  6. Zaynab: the mother of these two was a concubine.
  7. Umm Salama: the mother of whom, was a concubine.[10]


Imam al-Baqir (a) became the Imam in 95/713 after his father was martyred and had the responsibility of leading the Shi'a until his martyrdom in 114/733 (or 117/735).

Proofs of Imamate

Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari narrated, in his response to a question about Imams after Imam 'Ali (a), the Prophet (s) said, "al-Hasan (a) and al-Husayn (a), the two Masters of the Youths of Paradise, then the Master of Worshipers of his time 'Ali b. al-Husayn (a), then al-Baqir, Muhammad b. 'Ali (a), whom you will see, O Jabir..."[11]

Also, Imam al-Sajjad (a) frequently attracted attention towards his son, Imam al-Baqir (a). For example, when his other son 'Umar asked him why Imam al-Sajjad (a) paid more attention to Imam al-Baqir (a), Imam (a) answered, "It is because the imamate will remain in his descendants until the day our Upriser rises and will fill the world with justice and equality. So, he [al-Baqir] is both Imam and the father of Imams (a)."[12]

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid said Imam al-Baqir (a) was superior to all his brothers in knowledge, piety, and dignity. He had a higher position in relation to his siblings. Everyone praised him with glory and he was respected by the Suuni and Shi'a scholars. He (a) had knowledge of religion, the Qur'an, ethics, and morals to such a great extent that even these had not been formerly taught by any of the children of al-Hasan (a) and al-Husayn (a). The rest of the companions of the Prophet (s), noble ones among the Followers, and highest ranking of jurisprudence scholars have narrated from him. His position in merits and nobility reached a level of being exemplary among the people of knowledge. They wrote works and composed poems to praise his personality[13].

Contemporary Rulers

His imamate was contemporary with five Umayyad caliphs:

  1. Al-Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik (86/705 – 96/714-5)
  2. Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik (96/714-5 - 99/717-8)
  3. 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz (99/717-8 - 101/719-20)
  4. Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik (101/719-20 -105/723-4)
  5. Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik (105/723-4 - 125/742-3)

It is reported that 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan minted coins with Islamic inscriptions for the first time with the suggestion of Imam al-Baqir (a).[14] Before that Roman coins were used in transactions. Some have attributed the suggestion to Imam al-Sajjad (a) as the story has occurred in the time of Imam al-Sajjad (a), others believe that Imam al-Baqir (s) suggested minting coins by the order of Imam al-Sajjad (a).[15]

Scientific Movement

From 94/712-3 to 114/732-3, there was a period of different schools of jurisprudence emerging and narrating many hadiths about exegesis. This was because of the weakening of the Umayyad government and the conflicts among statesmen over power. Sunni scholars, Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Makhul al-Shami, Hisham b. 'Urwa, etc. were active in narrating hadiths and issuing Fatwa, and other groups tried to spread their own beliefs such as Khawarij, Murji'a, Kaysaniyya, and Ghulat.[citation needed]

Before this time, Shi'a jurisprudential viewpoints were clarified in a few issues like adhan, taqiyya (precautionary dissimulation), funeral prayer, .... By the beginning of Imam al-Baqir's (a) imamate a great scientific movement by him emerged in Shi'a which reached its peak at the time of his son, Imam al-Sadiq (a). He (a) was superior to all nobles of Banu Hashim in knowledge, piety, dignity, and merits. His narrations in religion, the conduct of the Prophet (s), Qur'an sciences, moral conduct, and manners are more than what remained from the children of Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) until then.[16] It was in this period that Shi'a started to establish its culture -including jurisprudence, exegesis, and ethics.[17]

Imam al-Baqir (a) strongly rejected the reasoning of the followers of analogy (qiyas) in jurisprudence[18] and took sharp stances against other Islamic sects and this way tried to separate the authentic ideological domain of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) in different fields from other sects. Regarding Khawarij, he (a) said, "Khawarij suffered out of ignorance; while religion is more lenient and flexible than how they know it."[19]

The scientific fame of Imam al-Baqir (a) was not only known in Hijaz but also had spread in Iraq and Khurasan. There is even a report saying about the Imam (a), "I saw people of Khurasan had circled around him and asked him their scientific questions."[20]


Imam al-Baqir (a) had dedicated a part of his time to explaining exegesis issues, by holding exegesis sessions and answering the questions of scholars and other people. It is said that Imam al-Baqir (a) wrote a book in exegesis of the Qur'an which Ibn Nadim has mentioned in his al-Fihrist.[21]

Imam (a) considered the knowledge of the Qur'an only held by the Ahl al-Bayt (a), since it is only they who can distinguish the clear issues in the Qur'an from unclear ones and the abrogating from the abrogated. Such power is not held by anyone other than the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and thus Imam al-Baqir (a) said, "Nothing is farther than exegesis of the Qur'an from the intellect of people; since, a verse which is a cohesive speech, the beginning of which happens to be about one issue and the end of it about another issue and this cohesive speech is interpreted from different aspects."[22]


Imam al-Baqir (a) paid particular attention to hadiths (or traditions) from the Prophet (s) to the extent that Jabir b. Yazid al-Ju'fi narrated 70,000 traditions from the noble Prophet (s) from him (a). Also, Aban b. Taghlib and other students of Imam al-Baqir (a) narrated a great number of this tremendous legacy from the Imam (a).[citation needed]

Imam al-Baqir (a) not only narrated and spread traditions, but he (a) also encouraged his companions to strive to understand traditions and learn their meanings. In a statement, he (a) said:

"Know the levels of our Shi'a by the number of hadiths from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) they narrate and their knowledge to them, which is the knowledge to hadith (dirayat al-hadith); and it is through understanding of hadiths that the faithful reach highest levels of faith."[23]


At the time of Imam al-Baqir (a), the emerging foundations and expression of different beliefs and thoughts were easier, due to opportunity and the lack of pressure and control by the government which also caused deviant thoughts to spread in the society. Under these circumstances, Imam al-Baqir (a) had to announce authentic Islamic beliefs, denounce and reject false beliefs, and answer related questions. Therefore, he (a) held his theological discussions with the direction towards the mentioned issues. Among such issues was the inability of human intellect to understand the truth of God[24], eternal existence of the Necessary Existent[25], and the necessity to obey Imam[26].

Other legacies left behind by Imam al-Baqir (a) are jurisprudential[27] and historical legacies[28].


Imam al-Baqir's (a) debates with different people over different issues were among his scientific activities. Some of his debates are listed below:

Fighting with Israelites [Beliefs Imported in Islam]

Jews were among the present groups in society at the time of Imam al-Baqir (a) and they had a deep influence over the culture at that time. Some of the Jewish scholars pretended to have converted to Islam and others remained openly Jewish. Their influence spread in the Islamic society and thus, they became the authorities of some simple-minded people. Imam's (a) reaction included fighting with the Jews and their malicious instigation in Islamic culture and renouncing their invented false hadiths about divine prophets (a) or issues which tarnished the true face of the Prophets (a). Below is an example:

Zurara b. A'yan narrated that, "I was sitting before Imam al-Baqir (a) while he (a) was facing Ka'ba, he said, 'Looking at the Ka'ba is an act of worship.' At that time, a man called 'Asim b. 'Umar came to Imam (a) and said Ka'b al-Ahbar says, 'Every morning, Ka'ba prostrates towards Jerusalem.' Imam (a) said, 'What do you think about the opinion of Ka'b al-Ahbar?' The man answered, 'His talk is right.' Imam al-Baqir (a) said, 'You and Ka'b al-Ahbar are both incorrect,' then, while very disappointed, he said, 'God has not created a monument more beloved than Ka'ba on earth".[29]

Companions and Students

The situation at that time prepared a foundation that Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a) benefitted highly. That opportune situation was the result of the weakness of the Umayyad government. Internal crises in their political system did not allow the rulers to suppress the voices of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and isolate them as previous rulers had done. This situation helped Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a) to give jurisprudential, exegesis-related, ethical opinions in jurisprudence and hadith books.[citation needed]

This enabled personalities such as, Muhammad b. Muslim to narrate 30,000 hadiths[30] and Jabir b. Yazid al-Ju'fi narrated 70,000 hadiths from Imam al-Baqir (a).[31]

From the viewpoint of Shi'a scholars, the most prominent jurists of the beginning centuries of Islam were six people who were all companions of Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a): Zurara b. A'yan, Ma'ruf b. Kharrabudh al-Makki, Abu Basir al-Asadi, Fudayl b. Yasar al-Basri, Muhammad b. Muslim and Burayd b. Mu'awiya al-'Ijli.[32]

In his book about rijal, al-Shaykh al-Tusi counted companions of Imam al-Baqir (a) and people who narrated from him as 462 men and two women.[citation needed]

Some of the companions and students of Imam al-Baqir (a), regarding credit and reliability are approved by both Sunni and Shi'a, a group of them have not been accepted by Sunni rijal scholars due to their deep Shi'a tendencies and have only been accepted by Shi'a scholars.[citation needed]

However, there should be no claim that Imam al-Baqir (a) was free from restrictions that governments imposed on the Ahl al-Bayt (a); rather, undoubtedly the ruling atmosphere of the life of Imam al-Baqir (a) was in a state of Taqiyya. At that point, because of the specific culture that was inflicted upon the society as a result of the ruling of unjust governments, leaving Taqiyya would mean abandoning scientific activities and preaching the principle teachings of religion.[citation needed]


The historical dome of Imams of al-Baqi' which was destroyed by Wahhabis in 1925. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a) is one of the four Imams of the Shia buried here.

Imam al-Baqir (a) passed away on Dhu l-Hijjah 7, 114/January 28, 733[33]. There are other opinions about the year of his demise.

There are different narrations and historical opinions regarding the person who martyred Imam al-Baqir (a). Some sources have mentioned Hisham b. Abd al-Malik as the one who martyred him[34]. Some have accused Ibrahim b. al-Walid as the person who poisoned the Imam (a)[35]. Some narrations have considered Zayd b. al-Hasan as the person who facilitated the plot for martyring the Imam (a). In either case, Imam al-Baqir (a) was martyred during the caliphate of Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik[36], because his caliphate was from 108/726-7 until 125/742-3 and the last year ever mentioned for the martyrdom of Imam al-Baqir (a) is 118/736-7.[citation needed]

Although the reports are seemingly different, it is not impossible that they could all be correct to a certain degree. There lies a possibility that several people cooperated in the martyrdom of Imam al-Baqir (a), as the reports refer to each of them. Regarding the violent behavior of Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik towards Imam al-Baqir (a) and the undeniable enmity of Umayyads with Imam Ali's (a) descendants, there is no doubt that Hisham had a strong motivation to play a role in the martyrdom of Imam al-Baqir (a) even if it was indirectly. Clearly, to have made his plot materialize, Hisham would have used trustworthy people. Therefore, he employed Ibrahim b. al-Walid who was an Umayyad and an enemy of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), could use a person who could easily enter the home of Imam al-Baqir (a). Through him, the scheming plot of Hisham unfolded and Imam (a) was martyred.[citation needed]

Imam al-Baqir (a) was buried beside his father's grave and the grave of al-Hasan b. 'Ali (a), his father's uncle, in Al-Baqi' Cemetery[37].

In the Views of Scholars

Imam al-Baqir's (a) personality was not only outstanding in the views of the Shi'a but in the views of Sunni scholars he (a) was a unique personality too. Below, some examples are mentioned:

Ibn Hajar al-Haytami wrote, "Abu Ja'far Muhammad al-Baqir (a) had disclosed so many hidden treasures of sciences, truth behind rulings, and points of wisdom that are not hidden except to ignorant or ill-wishers and thus they have called him Baqir al-'ilm [splitter of knowledge]. He is a great source and the one who establishes knowledge. He (a) spent his life in worship of God and in the ranks of mystics, he reached a status beyond description. He (a) has many words in the journey towards God and Islamic teachings"[38]

'Abd Allah b. 'Ata' who was a distinguished scholar at the time of Imam (a) said, "I saw scholars not humbled before anyone, more humble than I saw them before Abu Ja'far (a)."[39]

About Imam al-Baqir (a), al-Dhahabi wrote, "He (a) is among those who have gathered knowledge, its observation, dignity, honor, reliability and serenity and he (a) was qualified for caliphate".[40]

See also


  1. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 155
  2. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 158; Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 390.
  3. Qummī al-Rāzī, Kifāyat al-athar, p.144-145.
  4. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 289.
  5. Ṭabarī, Dalāʾil al-Imāma, p. 216
  6. Ṭabarī, Dalāʾil al-Imāma, p. 215; Ṭabrisī, Iʿlām al-wara, vol. 1, p. 498.
  7. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 46, p. 212.
  8. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 289.
  9. Mufīd, Al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 524.
  10. Ṭabrisī, Iʿlām al-wara,Translated by ʿAzīz Allah ʿAṭārudī, p. 375.
  11. Qummī al-Rāzī, Kifāyat al-athar, p.144-145.
  12. Qummī al-Rāzī, Kifāyat al-athar, p. 237
  13. Mufīd, al-Irshād , vol. 2, p. 157.
  14. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol.1, p.654
  15. Ḥusaynī Māzandarānī, al-ʿIqd al-munīr, vol.1, p.75
  16. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 507.
  17. Jaʿfarīyān, Ḥayāt-i fikrī wa sīyāsī-yi imāmān-i Shīʿa, p. 295.
  18. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa , vol. 18, p. 39.
  19. Jaʿfarīyān, Ḥayāt-i fikrī wa sīyāsī-yi imāmān-i Shī'a, p. 299.
  20. Kulaynī,al-Kāfī, vol. 6, p. 357; Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 46, p. 357.
  21. Ibn Nadīm, al-Fihrist, p. 59; Sharīf al-Qurashī, Ḥayāt al-imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir, vol. 1, p. 174.
  22. Pīshwāyān-i hidāyat, p. 320.
  23. Sharīf al-Qurashī,Ḥayāt al-imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir, vol. 1, p. 140-141.
  24. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 82.
  25. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p.88-89.
  26. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 185.
  27. Pīshwāyān-i hidāyat, p. 341-347.
  28. Pīshwāyān-i hidāyat, p. 330-334.
  29. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 46, p. 354.
  30. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 11, p. 83.
  31. Muḥammad ʿAlī Muḥammad al-Dakhīl, Aʾimmatunā , vol. 1, p. 347.
  32. Ibn Shahrāshūb,Manāqib, vol. 4, p. 211.
  33. Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-Shīʿa, p. 61.
  34. Kafʿamī, al-Miṣbāh, p. 691.
  35. Ṭabarī, Dalāʾil al-Imāma, p. 216; Ibn Shahrāshūb, Manāqib, Vol. 4, P. 228.
  36. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 289.
  37. Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-Shīʿa, p. 61; Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 372; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 158; Ṭabarī, Dalāʾil al-Imāma, p. 216; Ṭabrisī, Iʿlām al-wara, p. 259; Sibt Ibn Jawzī, Tadhkirat al-khawāṣṣ, p. 306; Kafʿamī, al-Miṣbāh, p. 691.
  38. Ibn Hajar, al-Ṣawāʿiq al-muḥraqah, p. 201.
  39. Sibt Ibn Jawzī, Tadhkirat al-khawāṣṣ, p. 337.
  40. Dhahabī, Sīyar Aʿlām al-Nubalāʾ, vol. 4, p. 402.


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Further Reading