Abu Ja‘far Muhammad b. ‘Ali was one of the most learned Muslims of his age. He played a pivotal role in the history of early Islam as an authority on the exegesis of the Qur’an, the Traditions of the Prophet (Hadith), and on all matters relating to the rites, rituals, and practices of the faith. Born in 57 AH/677 CE in Medina, Imam al Baqir had an especially prestigious genealogy as the maternal and paternal grandchild of al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the Prophet’s grandsons.
He was popularly known as al-Baqir, which is short for baqir al ‘ilm, meaning “one who splits knowledge open”; this signifies his erudition in bringing knowledge to light, a function that he did indeed perform.
There are considerable variations in reports regarding the year of his death, ranging from 114 AH/732 CE to 126 AH/744 CE. However, the dates given by al-Waqidi (117 AH/735 CE) and Ibn al-Khayyat (118 AH/736 CE) appear to be more realistic, considering reports about his death in al-Tabari during the uprising of his half-brother, Zayd b. ‘Ali.
Nader El-Bizri is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Civilization Studies Program at the American University of Beirut. He has previously taught at the University of Cambridge, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Lincoln. He is also affiliated with The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris.