• He assumed Imamate at the age of 37 years. He possessed extensive knowledge in religion matters, and because of that, according to Yaqubi, he was nicknamed al-Bakir (split open, or revealer of secret science), as it is said, tabaqqara al-rajulu fi’l aw fi’l mal means the man became abundant in knowledge or he enhanced himself in knowledge.
• But according to Ibn Khallikan, he was so called because he collected an ample treasure or fund (tabaqqar) of knowledge. Thus, he was also called Baqir al-ulum (opener of the knowledge). Many jurists attracted by the fame of his learning, such as Muhammad bin Minkadir, Abu Hanifah an-Noman, Qatada bin Diama, Abdullah bin Muammar al-Laythi, Nafi bin Azraq etc.
• The period of Imam Muhammad al-Bakir is noted for the rule of the Umayyad caliph Suleman (96-99/ 715-717), Umar bin Abdul Aziz (99-101/717-720), Yazid II (101-105/720-724) and Hisham (105-125/724-743). Like his father, Imam Muhammad al-Bakir was politically quiescent and refrained from openly putting forward any claim.
• Zaid, the half-brother of Imam Muhammad al-Bakir had asserted a claim to the Imamate on the basis that the Imam must come forward publicly for his claims for Imamate and Caliphate. He believed that if an Imam wanted to be recognised he had to claim his right with a sword in hand. Thus, the first Alid of the Hussainid line who rose against the Umayyads was Zaid. The popularity of Zaid’s movement overshadowed Imam’s efforts to attacking only the friends and followers of Zaid. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to contest Zaid’s claim. However, the Imam and Zaid quarrelled over this point, for when the latter asserted that an Imam must rise against the oppressors, the former remarked: "So you deny that your own father was an Imam, for he never contested the issue." Zaid’s revolt against the Umayyads took place in Safar, 122/December, 740 when he came forward and summoned the people to espouse his cause. Zaid was warned by his brother, Muhammad bin Ali bin Hussain, not to put any reliance on the people of Kufa, but Zaid did not heed on his brother’s warning and led the Kufans in a vain rebellion. Yousuf bin Umar Thaqafi, the governor of the two Iraks, dispatched Abbas al-Murri with an army against Zaid. He was struck by an arrow, and died of his wound. Zaid’s son Yahya fled to Khorasan and led an uprising after three years. He was killed in 125/743 and met the same fate as his father. Later on, the Zaidiyya recognized no designation for the Imamate, or any strict hereditary principle. Thus the movement of Zaid however ended in failure.
• Imam Muhammad al-Bakir was the first to establish the legal school of Ahl al-Bayt. Kashi records an important tradition in his Rijal (p. 289) that, "Before the Imamate of Muhammad al-Bakir, the Shi’as did not know what was lawful and what was unlawful, except what they learned from the people; until Abu Jafar (al-Bakir) became the Imam, and he taught and explained to them the knowledge (of law), and they began to teach other people from whom they were previously learning." It indicates that until the time of Imam Muhammad al-Bakir, there were hardly any differences in legal practices among the Shi’ites of Medina, Kufa and elsewhere. This was an earliest move in the formation of the Shi’ite jurisprudence.
Caliph Abdul Malik is credited to have regulated monetary system in Islamic states. The Roman gold dinar and the Iranian silver dhiram had been in circulation in the Arabian regions. One dinar weighed 4.25 grams, inscribed with the Christian symbol of cross, while a dhiram weighed 1.40 grams. Abdul Malik was perplexed by the situation and called for a meeting of the grand consultative assembly, in which the Imam was also invited. The proposal for minting Islamic coins had been accepted, but when the question of its inscription arose, Imam Muhammad al- Bakir recommended for the Islamic legends on both sides of the coin, which was also approved. Thus, the first Islamic coin was struck in 76/695 in the mint installed at Damascus. The gold coin wasdinar, the silver coin called dhiram, and the copper coin was named fals. These bore Islamic inscriptions, and were standardized both in weight and metal.
Imam Muhammd al-Bakir articulated an implication of the doctrine the Imamate in Shi’ism. He also imparted the doctrine of taqiya, but it was left to his son to give it a final form and make it an absolute condition of the faith.
Many leading jurists used to visit Imam Muhammad al-Bakir to discuss the legal problems. Among them were Muhammad bin Minkadir, Abu Hanifah an-Noman, Qatada bin Diama, Abdullah bin Mu’ammar and al-Laythi etc. He greatly emphasized also on the importance of knowledge and its promotion.
Imam Muhammad al-Bakir died in 114/733, and was buried in the Baqi cemetery near his father’s grave. He had four wives, the first being Umm Farwa bint Kassim bin Muhammad bin Abu Bakr, who gave birth of Jafar Sadik and Abdullah al-Fatah. The second wife, Umm Hakeem bint Asad bin Mughira Thaqafi had two sons, Ibrahim and Abdullah. The third wife was Layla, who gave birth of Ali and Zainab. While Umm Salama was the daughter being born by the fourth wife.
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