The 3rd of Safar, which according to a narration is the birth anniversary of the Prophetâ€™s 5th infallible successor, Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS). Although a blessed occasion we do not celebrate the 5th Imamâ€™s birthday since we are in passing through the period of mourning for his grandfather, the Chief of Martyrs, Imam Husain (AS).
Birthdays are normally occasions to rejoice, but the 5th Imam who witnessed the blood-curdling tragedy of Karbala as a small boy and despite his young age was taken prisoner along with his father Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) and the other children and womenfolk of the Prophetâ€™s Household, had to mark his 4th birthday in captivity. Nonetheless, Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS) was not an ordinary boy to be subdued or feel despondent. Upon the release of the blessed household after a yearâ€™s imprisonment in Damascus, he assisted his father for 34 years in building the base of the Islamic society in those turbulent days of Omayyud tyranny and after his passing away, was entrusted by God with the divine authority of Imamate at the age of 38 years. For the next 19 years, the 5th Imam strove to guide the faithful and never missed an opportunity to highlight the tragic martyrdom of his grandfather. In fact, like his father, he was the carrier of the immortal message of Imam Husain (AS) and made it a point to hold the life-inspiring mourning ceremonies for the Martyrs of Karbala.
His epithet, Baqer al-Uloum, which means the splitter and spreader of knowledge, was prophesied several decades before his birth by his ancestor Prophet Mohammad (blessings of Allah upon him and his progeny). He lived up to his reputation and actually split open the molecules of knowledge, benefiting one and all. He did not do it for curiosityâ€™s sake, neither did was his intention to monopolize the energy of wisdom that was released, nor to direct it for destructive causes, as modern scientists do. The 5th Imam charted a dynamically different part that acts as a catalyst to the intellect, sets in motion an unstoppable and irresistible flow of knowledge and helps human beings to discover the enlightened path towards the higher realms of manifest truth. Thus when we speak of Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS), we become aware of mankindâ€™s immense inner potential, the ability to gaze at the wonderful world of creation, and the insight to recognize God the Almighty Creator. The result of such wisdom is promotion of peace, piety and justice in society and achievement of salvation in afterlife. The 5th Imam left no stone unturned to keep aloft the torch of guidance. He was and continues to be an authority on a myriad of topics although physically he is not amongst us. He was among the select group that showed humanity the correct interpretation of the ayahs of Godâ€™s last and final revelation to mankind. Islamic texts are full of reference to his aphorisms, his expounding of the facts of life and his rational discourses with whomever that came into contact with him.
Once during a visit to Syria, the 5th Imam, visited incognito the leading Christian hermit of that place for a dialogue. The Christian whose knowledge was a byword in Syria soon recognized that he was not dealing with any ordinary person but with a scholar on a higher plane of wisdom than himself. The dialogue and debate turned interesting and to the amazement of the audience, the Hermit pleaded with the Imam to inform him of his true identity. Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS) smiled and said he was a descendant of Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah upon him and his progeny). After further enquiry the Christian priest learned that this was not a mere descendant of the Prophet but the 5th infallible successor and subsequently the repository of divine knowledge entrusted by God Almighty to the prophets of the past including Jesus (peace upon him). At once the Hermit along with his Christian flock embraced the truth of Islam. But this demonstration of truth horrified retarded minds, unable to differentiate between pitch-black darkness and glorious sunlight. The Umayyud caliphate, fearful of its flimsy claims to rule the Islamic world, hastily sent the 5th Imam back to Medina with express instructions to the escort not to let him contact people on the way, despite the fact that it was upon the advice of the Imam that the regime had set up the first mint in the Islamic realm that saved the drain of the bullion from the treasury to the Byzantine Empire and its monopoly on the supply of coins.
Truth and knowledge, however, cannot be enchained. Today nothing is left of the Umayyuds and their blood-curdling tyranny against humanity while Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS) continues to reign supreme. The vistas of wisdom that he opened for humanity is enough cause to celebrate, especially today on his blessed birthday.Â Here are some thought provoking pieces of advice from the 5th Imam to one of his disciples named, Jaber al-Juâ€™fi, please listen:
â€œO Jaber! The faithful believer should not incline and feel secure with the adornment of the world. You should know that the seekers of worldly affairs are persons of inadvertence, deception and ignorance, while the seekers of the life to come are the faithful believers, who work and abstain from the pleasures of this world. They are persons of knowledge, wisdom, thought and probation. They never tire of the remembrance of Allah
Â â€œO Jaber! It is the God-fearing persons who are really rich. They are content with little worldly means. Their burdens are light. They remind you of doing good if you forget and help you do it. They have overcome lusts and desires and prefer acts of obedience to their Lord. They are occupied with the way of benevolence and follow the wilaya or authority of the persons chosen of Allah, by having affection for them, obeying their authority and following them.
â€œConsider this world as a halting place where you got down for a time before leaving, or as wealth you got in your dream and felt overjoyed but when you woke up it was nothingâ€¦
Â â€œRetain O Jaber, these matters of religion and the words of Allahâ€™s wisdom that I am entrusting to you. Do soul-searching and take account of what Allah has given you in your lifeâ€¦â€