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6.7 – The 5th And The 6th Imam [Seventh And Eighth Ma’soom] – Imam Al-Baqir (‘A) & Imam Al-Sadiq (‘A)

Birth And Characteristics

Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) was born in Medina in 57 AH/676 AD. He was named Muhammad and was called Baqir, which was the laqab (title) that the Prophet (S) had given him. As with other Imams (‘a), the specific title was referred to as one of the Imam’s (‘a) characteristics that would stand out most and be of great importance to his time. The name Baqir referred to the outstanding knowledge of Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and explained by the Prophet (S) that this Imam (‘a) was “the splitter of the Prophet’s (‘a) knowledge”. Imam Al-Baqir’s s (‘a) father was Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), and his mother was Fatimah, daughter of Imam Al-Hasan (‘a). Like his father, Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) was recognized to be the one with the noblest qualities and most knowledge of his time.

Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) was born in Medina in the year 83 AH/702 AD. He was named Ja’far (‘a) and was called Sadiq for his distinctive truthfulness. Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) was the son of Imam Al-Baqir (‘a), and his mother was Umm Farwa, daughter of Qasim, son of Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr. Like his father and grandfathers, Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) was recognized by contemporary scholars for being the most superior in all knowledge and piety.

Becoming An Imam

Before his martyrdom, Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) handed over the banner of the Imamah to his son Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) in accordance with the command of the Prophet (S). This is also stated in history by one of the Prophet’s (S) companions by the name of Jabir Ibn Abdullah Al-Ansari (r.a.). He was among those whom the Prophet (S) had entrusted with a list of the Imam’s (‘a) name. Jabir (r.a.) had been informed by the Prophet (S) that he would have a long life and live long enough to meet the fifth Imam (‘a).1

Jabir (r.a.) had been commissioned by the Prophet (S) to deliver the Prophet’s (S)peace greeting when he met the fifth Imam (‘a).

When Imam Al-Baqir’s (‘a) martyrdom was near, he handed the banner of Imamah to his son Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) in accordance with the Prophet’s (S) previous preaching and command.

W. The Shift Of Caliphate Power

Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) lived during a delicate period in which the rule of the Umayyads was greatly weakened. After Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) revolution, the Umayyads lost their foothold and gained increasing resistance against them. The uprisings replaced each other, and while those who rose up had different motives, they jointly weakened the rule of the Umayyads. Although Abdullah Ibn Zubayr’s self-proclaimed rule in Mecca did not survive long, the Umayyads could not restore their power. Internal conspiracies within the ruling power, combined with external pressures and public dissatisfaction, made the kingdom unstable. After the Ashura massacre, the days of the Umayyads were counted and their doom a matter of time.

Now they had also acquired a new competing family that considered themselves justified for power. The Abbasids, who came from the Prophet’s (S) uncle Al-Abbas, considered themselves to be more closely related to the Prophet (S) and rose during the slogan that they wanted revenge for what the Prophet’s (S) Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) were exposed for and restore Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) deprived right to govern. Due to the people’s increased attraction to the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a), the Abbasids decided to pretend to support the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a). With this, they wanted to win people’s trust. These circumstances allowed Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) to have more freedom and fewer restrictions than Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) had at his time.

Governed During The Time Of Imam Al-Baqir (‘A)

Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) lived during a time when five different Umayyad caliphs took power one after the other for a period of over twenty years as follows:

1) Walid Ibn Abd Al-Malik (86 AH/705 AD – 96 AH/714 AD)

2) Sulayman Ibn Abd Al-Malik (96 AH/714 AD – 99 AH/717 AD)

3) Omar Ibn Abd Al-Aziz (99 AH/717 AD – 101 AH/719 AD)

4) Yazid Ibn Abd Al-Malik (101 AH/719 AD –105 AH/723 AD)

5) Hisham Ibn Abd Al-Malik (105 AH/723 AD – 125 AH/742 AD)

During the turbulent period that this power play was going on, Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) was given greater freedom to reach people. Even the people could turn more openly to the Imam (‘a) for their questions and affairs with less risk of persecution as the Umayyads could not monitor the Imam (‘a) to the same extent. The Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) were known for their piety and knowledge before, and now that the fear of contact with them was gone, more people began to seek Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) to learn from him. Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) began to set up gathering and lectures that became the basis for outstanding development of knowledge in the Islamic empire and the emergence of scientists whose great work came to form milestones in the scientific development of the world. Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) taught in the sciences which were directly related to religion, including fiqh (jurisprudence) and Qur’anic teachings, as well as natural sciences based on his divine knowledge of The Holy Qur’an, and the environment.

Therefore, as circumstances changed, Imam Al-Baqir’s (‘a) method changed. The prevailing conditions were different in comparison to Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) time since the Umayyads did not have the opportunity to monitor Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) to the same extent. In addition, they were forced to officially downplay their hostility towards the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) due to the wave of revenge requests for Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) blood and popular opinion. During the caliphate of the eighth Umayyad caliph Omar Ibn Abd Al-Aziz, Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) also received back Fadak.2 From its income, schools could be set up in Medina by Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) where students came to learn. Hundreds of scholars and reporters of hadith who came to seek knowledge in the Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) school eventually came to pass on the prophetic teachings. Consequently, Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) devoted plenty of resources to establish the foundations of a continuous education system and public schools in order to convey the reality of God’s message for human guidance.

Imam Al-Baqir’s (‘A) Martyrdom

When the fifth caliph of the Marwani family, Hisham Ibn Abd Al-Malik, came to take over the caliphate, he intended to control the situation and retain power with a hard grip. Although Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) stayed out of the political arena and devoted himself to teaching, the rulers could not tolerate the success and popularity of the Imam (‘a), which now reached the entire Islamic empire. The caliph finally ordered the assassination of Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) through poisoning, and the Imam (‘a) reached martyrdom in 114 AH, 732 AD.

Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘A) Time

The period of Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) Imamah coincided with the height of power shift where the Abbasids took over the caliphate from the remnants of the Umayyad’s, the Marwanites. The following ruled during Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) time:

1) Hisham Ibn Abd Al-Malik (105 AH/723 AD –125 AH/742 AD)

2) Al-Walid Ibn Yazid Ibn Abd Al-Malik (126 AH/743 AD)

3) Ibrahim Ibn Walid (126 AH /743 AD – 127 AH/744 AD)

4) Marwan Ibn Muhammad (127 AH/744 AD – 132 AH/749 AD)

5) AbulAbbas Al-Saffah (132 AH/749 AD – 136 AH/753 AD) [first Abbasid caliph to take over the rule in connection with the change of power]

6) Al-Mansoor Al-Dawaniqi (136 AH/753 AD – 158 AH/774 AD)

Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) Imamah began during a period when the Umayyad caliphs had been interchanging at regular intervals, leaving the empire in a turbulent state. This while the Abbasids had begun to be transformed into a serious competitor at the same time as conspiracies, groupings and rebellions were part of everyday life. Therefore, Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) Imamah coincided with a period in which the Umayyads took their last breath, followed by the Abbasids who needed time to consolidate their power. In addition, the Abbasids had seized power during the slogan of wanting revenge for Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and giving control back to the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a). Therefore, the newly arrived caliphs officially pretended to have a friendly attitude towards Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) to get people on their side. The Abbasids adhered to this tactic under pretty much all their empire. However, history is a testimony to their true intentions as this family was behind the assassination of Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) and the upcoming Imams (‘a).

During the relatively lawless period, at the height of a shift of power where the Abbasids took command, Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) had more space to build on and to develop what Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) had set the foundation for. The earlier divisions among the people led to interpretations that were turning into the shape of new beliefs and schools of thought. As every crowd saw themselves as being on the right path and therefore having the correct interpretation of the message of God, disputes and debates were not uncommon in society. There in between a search for truth started to emerge among the people slowly. The rumour of Imam Al-Baqir’s (‘a) knowledge and wisdom were now attracting disciples, scholars and scientists from near and far to Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a). He received and answered people with all kinds of different thoughts and beliefs; he debated them based on logical arguments taken from The Holy Qur’an, and the prophetic way. His tolerance and thoughtfulness in these debates, even for the most hateful opponents, finally made him receive their respect.

Other religions scholars, even atheists, came seeking the Imam (‘a) and they were all greeted with respect. They were overwhelmed by his extensive knowledge of their own scriptures. No matter the question, the Imam (‘a) gave, from all conceivable angles, excellent and precise answers and this within all subjects and fields of science. But above all, it was the prophetic lifestyle of the Imam (‘a), filled with the fragrance of divine mercy and care for the wellbeing and development of humanity, that left the deepest mark. Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) always listened carefully to the counterpart’s arguments and always let the person finish his sentences, and first after that, answered in a calm manner. Truthfulness, impartiality and justice are what defined the answers of the Imam (‘a) as he firstly confirmed the correct parts of his counterparts’ arguments and then continued with logical evidence and Qur’anic proofs in order to complete the answer. His humility and truthfulness were a light that spoke to every human, no matter their faith or background. In that way, his approach won the heart of his opponents, while his arguments defeated them.

This made more and more seek Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) to gain from his knowledge and wisdom. His classes, discussions and debates with all types of people became a prevailing phenomenon in a society that was followed by experts and the public alike. Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a), as an Imam striving for the guidance of mankind, did not spare a thirsty soul that wished to drink from the fountain of knowledge that was the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a), which flows from the divine source of wisdom. Because of that, the classes of the Imam (‘a) were open for the public and whoever sought him got to take part in the knowledge.

Beyond these public classes and debates, there were those who were thirsty for more and wished to be enlightened by the light of the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a). Consequently, the Imam (‘a), spent special classes fitting their abilities and taught extraordinary disciples, which he eventually could send to debates as his representatives. Based on their individual gifts and personal strengths, the Imam (‘a) had each one of them specialize within a field and to primarily debate within it. That which characterized his students the most was not just their knowledge, but their morals and devotion, which they had been bestowed through the nurture of the Imam (‘a).

The Abbasids did not want to slip behind in this trend of society or to lose control over it. The Abbasid caliphs set up debates where they invited scholars, both from within and from outside the realm. With this step the Abbasids strengthened their position among the people and showed tolerance and care for scientific development, when they were, at the same time, trying to create an antipole, drawing the attention from Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a). The emerge of all possible thoughts which divided people into groups was also a way to control the masses, as every group followed their own school of thought. Meanwhile, they wanted to contribute to the overshadowing of the knowledge of the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) with other thoughts and directions.

Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) continued to stay distant from the official political arena and the uprisings during the time of the Abbasids. The Imam (‘a) explained this by announcing that this time was not his, as well as the lack of truly devoutly companions as one of the reasons for not rebelling himself. Instead, he dedicated the resources to the guiding intellectual and spiritual movement of which the people were thirsty and what the conditions of his time were suitable.

During the time of Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), there were not even twenty households that loved the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a), but now the knowledge of their glory and reputation had been spread to all the corners of the caliphate. Hospitality and love for the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) had spread to the hearts of many, especially new Muslims who were living in distant areas and had barely even known of the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a). Several uprisings where made, even against oppressing governors during the time of Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a). There were occasions when groups of followers of the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) came to Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) and asked the Imam (‘a) to rise with their support. But the response of the Imam (‘a) was that he did not have enough companions. Even though more and more were following the school of Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) the Imam (‘a) showed that they were not yet devoutly enough to be ready for the uprising of an Imam (‘a). Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) era demanded the fight to be on another front, that was equally important in the preparation of future generations and the final Imam (‘aj); namely, to spread knowledge. In order for the reality of God’s message to reach all people and guide them, Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) educated students and above all thinkers.3

Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) had established the foundation of Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) school of thought. Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) continued in his father’s path and expanded the school for over thirty-five years. The school remains standing to the present day and is known as the Ja’fari school.

Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘A) Martyrdom

Abbasid caliph Mansoor Dawaniqi could not withstand the highly regarded rank of Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) among people. He ultimately ordered the assassination of the Imam (‘a). Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) was poisoned and reached martyrdom in 148 AH/765 AD.

W1. Enemies’ Solution: Spreading Confusion Through Invented Religious Branches

Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) had begun the establishment of the system, in which his son Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) built upon for people’s enlightenment and guidance to the truth. As a result, a wave of general education surged in society encompassing all societal circles. Higher education was also provided for those who seek higher and deeper knowledge in all fields, comprising both the field of religion and science. Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) school came to be a popular university where everyone was welcomed. It served people the possibility to learn divine knowledge and wisdom according to their own will and potential. There were a number of devoted disciples taught by Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a). On account of them, the Imam (‘a) could ensure that Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) knowledge, morals and teachings would reach out to all people and be preserved for future generations, even if the Imam of the time would be in occultation.

The enemies viewed the communal movement as a threat to their rule. Due to the fact that it is far more difficult to rule over enlightened people, than over oppressed and ignorant masses. Therefore, all sorts of people and groups who came up with their own interpretations were encouraged to create and disseminate their inventive ideologies and distorted ramifications within religion. By filling society with opinions and baseless or distorted interpretations, haqq was overshadowed by batil, and with this, the situation becomes diffuse and discerning the truth was more difficult.

In addition to organizing lessons, Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) opened space for debates and logical discussions as well as answered questions. Everyone, from knowledge-seeking students to prominent scholars holding differing religious theories, sought themselves to the Imam’s (‘a) classes. Even scholars with other religious affiliations, atheists and idolaters, came to these gatherings to debate. All who came were received by the Imams (‘a) with tolerance and respect. Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) illuminated the right path for people through knowledge based on logic. In addition, these debates did not merely hold the function of answering raised questions on the spot but also became the basis for the presentation and preservation of Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) school. Many sects’ misinterpretations were counteracted through logical arguments.

Through these lessons and debates, Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) displayed clear superiority in all fields of life, from religion and knowledge to their moral way of life and piety. It was elucidated within religious circles, that the true knowledge of The Holy Qur’an, could only be found with Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a). They were the only ones who could clarify the deep meanings of the Qur’anic verses. The Imams (‘a) placed great emphasis on storytelling and encouraging the use and retelling of authentic ahadith to discern false narratives.4 All these aspects and more led to Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and Sadiq (‘a) to hold a prominent position in society. The growing status of the Imams (‘a) among the people frightened the rulers, who were forced to treat Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) more leniently due to public opinion.

Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) continued in his father’s footsteps and worked in the same spirit. He participated in many debates himself but also raised students. To the degree that they themselves became experts and could participate in many debates as the Imam’s (‘a) representatives.

The Abbasid caliph’s attempts to counter the Imam (‘a) never stopped. Attempts were made to confuse the followers of the Imam (‘a) by claiming that Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) two sons, Ismail and Abdullah, were the succeeding Imams. Even though these two sons died before Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a), many fell for the falsehood and created other religious ramifications for themselves. Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) had already informed the people that his son, Musa (‘a), would be the Imam after him.

W2. Preparations For The Final Imam (‘Aj) Knowledge

Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) clarified and presented the Prophet’s (‘a) knowledge in a structured and academic manner that is preserved until this day. They prepared all future generations, and above all the followers of the awaited Imam (‘aj), with the knowledge needed. Most of the narrations we have today come from Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a).

Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) established schools in which important Islamic concepts were taught. The concept of Imamah was for the first time explained in depth. That is to say, the concept of Imamah had been introduced earlier, albeit not as thoroughly. Its theoretical and practical dimensions were studied in detail. Similarly, Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) clarified many other fundamental Islamic concepts, such as tawhid. The Imam (‘a) based his teachings on that of the Qur’an and the Prophet (S). He taught the Qur’an and hadith in the same manner as the Prophet (S) and Imam Ali (‘a) had done before him.

The Imam (‘a) had many disciples, and it is said they amounted up to twenty-five thousand. Many of whom studied in all fields of Islamic science and theology. It was during this time that around four-hundred books of ahadith were written by them under the Imam’ (‘a) leadership. These books became valuable sources for later ahadith collections that are currently used as supportive evidence, of which the collection of Al-Kafi by Kulayni, compiled during the twelfth Imam’s (‘aj) era, is a part.

In line with the diminished surveillance and the less frightening social atmosphere, Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) was able to continue his father’s efforts and develop the establishment of the Islamic sciences to an even greater extent. Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) further elaborated on Islamic concepts and remained the Imam from whom most narrations have been narrated – approximately 30,000; amounting to more than the sum total of all the narrations from other Imams (‘a). It is, for this reason, the school which Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) followers adhere to came to be known as the Ja’fari school, named after Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a), whose first name is Jafar.

Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) educational system became like a university where thousands of students were transformed into scholars, scientists and narrators of hadith. These, in turn, were the beginning of the chain of thinkers that Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) had brought up. The Imam’s (‘a) accomplishments and his students’ influence in the teaching of religion and science has left its mark on the world to this day. Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) continued the same trajectory as the previous Imams (‘a). Albeit more freely and away from the control of the authorities on the basis of prevailing conditions in society, and therefore left an invaluable legacy in the preservation of the Prophet’s (S) message and in preparation for the Imam’s (‘aj) era.

Did You Know?

The personalities who founded the largest schools in the Sunni branch have been students of Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a), either directly or indirectly. Abu Hanifa and Malik Ibn Anas who founded the Hanafi and Maliki schools were both among the Imam’s (‘a) students. They have said to have never seen anyone with more knowledge than Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a). Abu Hanifa has also said that if it was not for the two years as Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) student, he would have perished.5 The other two schools, Shafe’i and Hanbali, were founded by Muhammad Ibn Idris and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who in turn were students of Abu Hanifa and Malik Ibn Anas. Therefore, these schools had their basis in knowledge obtained from the same source.

However, despite their great respect for Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a), these personalities lacked the view of the Imam (‘a) as Imam, based on the meaning of Imamah. Instead, they asserted their and other’s differing views alongside the Imam’s (‘a) proclamations and therefore gained followers and eventually own schools of thought. Therefore, they were not followers of Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a) in that sense.6

  • 1. This is narrated, among others, in Kifāyat Al-Athar p. 144-145; Tathkerat Al-Khawas p. 337; Al-Irshad p. 262; Bihar Al-Anwar volume 46 p. 223 et al.
  • 2. The events concerning Fadak and its seizure have been discussed extensively earlier in the book; see Q1 and beyond.
  • 3. Several recognized personalities who are accepted as reliable narrators of hadith both in Sunni and Shi’a, as well as prominent scholars, experts and thinkers in religious as well as other scientific fields are among these; such as Jaber Ibn Hayyan [Gebber], Hisham Ibn Hakam, Abu Basir, Zurara and others. Historical depiction and the debates in which these students participated in at the Imam’s (‘a) command and that the Imam (‘a) referred others to them on specific issues show that the Imam (‘a) educated them both as general scholars and specialists in various fields. Malik Ibn Anas and Abu Hanifa who later came to found the Sunni schools Maliki and Hanafi have been among those who took part in Imam Al-Sadiq’s (‘a) lessons in Medina. They narrated ahadith from the Imam (‘a), testified to the superiority of his piety and knowledge and engaged in debates with his students.
  • 4. This is recounted in Ḥayat Al-Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir av Sharif Al-Qurashi volume 1 p.140-141 online at: https://www.al-islam.org/life-imam-muhammad-ibn-ali-al-baqir-baqir-share... et al.
  • 5. This has been narrated, among others, in Jami’Asanid Abu Hanifa volume 2 p.222; Tahthib at-Tahthib volume 2 p.104; Tathkerat Al-Hufadh by Thahabi (published 1419 AH) volume 1 p.126; at-Tuhfa Al-Ithna Asharyia p.8 et al.
  • 6. This is explained in Sharh Nahjul Balagha by Ibn Abil Hadid (published 1385 AH) volume 1 p.18 et al.