Baqir means to split open. He is known as Al-Baqir for two reasons.
1. Baqir ul Ulum – One who split open knowledge.
The Prophet had said “God sends a person in every century with the responsibility of revitalising and spreading the religion” (Mujaddid).
In the 1st century it was Imam Mohammed Al-Baqir (A) His Imamate was during a time when several threats faced Islam.
(i)With the conquest of Iran and Rome, philosophy and new ideas came to Arabia. The simple minded Arabs got deviated and started ‘Innovations’-Kiyaas [this means they tried to use their own reasoning when they faced questions or problems (masail).
(ii)The Khalifa’s were occupied in achieving more power, ‘looting’ of new countries but were reluctant at having new converts to Islam as this would stop jizya (tax paid by non-Muslims) to come to the treasuries.
Islamic rule extended from Marrakesh to Mongolia.
iii) Imam lived in a time of rulers who claimed to be the representatives of the Prophet (SAW) but their behaviour was as follows:
WALEED IBN ABDUL MALIK (86 AH)
He poisoned the 4th Imam.
Was drunk most of the time.
Once sent a slave girl dressed in his clothes to lead fajr prayers.
SULAYMAN BIN ABDUL MALIK (96 AH)
Was very fond of eating.
Died of overeating.
UMAR BIN ABDUL AZIZ (99 AH)
Mentioned later on
YAZID BIN ABDUL MALIK (101 AH)
Allowed slave girl Hubaba to judge.
When she died lived with her corpse as normal.
Wouldn’t allow her to be buried.
HISHAM BIN ABDUL-MALIK (105 AH)
Who poisoned 5th Imam.
2. For his worship (ibadat)
Imam used to worship Allah with such devotion that from prostrations his forehead had split. This is another reason for his title Baqir.
HIS LIFE AND WORKS
Imam Mohammed Baqir’s (A) main mission and message was knowledge. He encouraged his followers to acquire a Muslim character and to have excellent morals-akhlaq, and disperse in the world for this was the best form of tableegh. He once told his companion Jabir bin Yazid Al-Jufi :
“There is no Shia who has no taqwa and no obedience to Allah”
ie. One cannot call oneself a Shia without these two qualities.
He also talked of 12 signs of a Shia :
Humility, fear of Allah, trustworthiness, remembrance of Allah, fasts, prays salaa, is good to parents, good to neighbours, is responsible towards widows, orphans & children, fulfils his/her vows, pays back his/her debts, & recites the Qur’an.
When Umar bin Abdul Aziz became Khalifa in 99 A.H. he called Imam and asked him for some advice.
Imam gave him 3 pieces of advice:-
1. Do not ever celebrate any occasion with excessive happiness which makes you forget ‘halal’ & ‘haraam’.
2. Never lose yourself in anger so that you forget ‘halal’ & ‘haraam’.
3 Never take away (usurp) anyone’s property.
On hearing the third piece of advice Umar bin Abdul Aziz returned to Imam Mohammed Al-Baqir (A) the garden of Fadak (it was this garden which Abu Bakr had snatched from Sayyida Fatima Zehra (A). His advisors tried to stop him but he did not listen to them [it was Umar bin Abdul Aziz who stopped the cursing of Imam Ali (A) in the mosques]
SUMMARY OF HIS LIFE WORKS (Imamat)
In an environment where conversion to Islam was discouraged and where the Khalifas were engrossed in the world and had no morals and were unjust; it was the light and character of Imam Mohammed Al-Baqir (A.S.) which kept the message of the true Islam alive.
It was he who collected the saying of the Prophet and ‘Aimma in the form of books establishing the laws of Fiqh as we know them today.
In 114 AH Hisham bin Abdul Malik arranged with Zaid bin Hasan (an uncle of Imam) to deliver a poisoned saddle to Imam as a gift. Imam was thus poisoned and died after 3 days of illness. His son Imam Ja’fer As-Sadiq (A) buried him in Jannatul Baqee near Imam Hasan (A)
Once a Christian asked the Imam about the Muslim belief that the fruits of Paradise are not reduced by eating and asked if such an example was available in the world. Imam replied that it was like a lamp. One may have a hundred thousand lamps lit from one lamp, but it would still not reduce the light of the original lamp.
Before his death he called the people of Madina saying that it would be Imam Ja’fer As-Sadiq (A) who would give him ‘ghusl’ and ‘kafan’, thus informing them of the next Imam.
He had seven children: Ja’fer (6th Imam) (A); Abdullah; Ibrahim; Ubaydulla; Ali; Zaynab and Salma
The Imam gave much importance in having majlis for Imam Husayn (A); encouraging them as much as possible.
Mohammed bin Munkadir; a great ‘Shaykh’ of the time once saw Imam working in the fields under the hot sun. He went up to the Imam and told him if death came to him then (whilst working in the fields) what would he do as he was seeking worldly benefit. Imam answered that if death came to him then it was whilst be was obeying God; he would only fear if death came whilst he was disobeying Allah.
Hujjat Workshop, Course Notes, Imam Muhammad Baqir (A)