His name was Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. His ancestry could be traced back to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) through the Seventh Imam, Imam Musa al-Kadhim (peace be upon him). He was born on the 25th of Thil Hijjah, 1353 AH (March 1, 1935 CE) in the city of Kadhmiyya, Iraq.
Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr learned reading and writing at the Muntada al-Nashr elementary school in the city of Kadhmiyya. Even at a young age, his teachers and peers were amazed at his brilliance and ability to grasp advanced material. His ability was such that he studied most of the Sutooh-level books without a teacher.
When Sayyid al-Sadr turned 12, he started studying the book Ma’aalim al-Usool under his brother Sayyid Ismail al-Sadr. It is said that when Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr would object to some aspects of the book, his brother would say, “These are the same objections that the author of Kifaayat al-Usool (which is among the highest, if not the highest, level books in seminary studies) had against the author ofMa’aalim.” Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr then traveled to the holy city of Najaf to complete his Islamic studies.
While the entire duration of his studies, from beginning to end, did not exceed about 18 years, this period was lengthy in its quality. The Sayyid was always concerned with his studies, committing all his time to seeking knowledge. Some of Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr’s teachers were Ayatollah Sayyid Abul Qasim al-Khoei, Ayatollah Sayyid Muhsin Tabatabai al-Hakim, and others.
Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr began giving lessons by the young age of 25, teaching the first round of Ilm al-Usool in Jamadi al-Thani, 1378 AH, and ending it in Rabee al-Awwal, 1391 AH. He started teaching Bahth al-Khaarij (external research in Islamic jurisprudence) in 1381 AH. A few of his students were the Martyr Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the Martyr Sayyid Muhammad al-Sadr, and Sayyid Kamal al-Haidari.
Sayyid Baqir al-Sadr believed in the importance and necessity of establishing a mature Islamic government which would govern by the Divine message of Islam and reflect all the enlightening aspects of Islam. He believed that the leadership in Islamic work must be an aware Marjaiyyat – one which is fully aware of the circumstances, hopes and goals of the Muslim community. He was also concerned about the situation of the Islamic seminary, emphasizing the need to attract the youth to strengthen the seminary.
The Sayyid worked to change the curriculum in the Islamic Seminary to better suit the needs of society, because the old curriculums were not producing enough scholars in the appropriate time frame. To help solve this problem, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr wrote the revolutionary three Halaqaat (lessons in Ilm al-Usool).
Sayyid Kathem al-Husaini al-Haa’iri has described Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr as, “…the pride of his time…the genius of this age, the miracle of this century…a principled jurist, a Muslim philosopher…he was a Marja’ among the Maraja’ of the Muslims in Najaf…he started the Islamic revolution in Iraq and led it until he was martyred….”
In addition to his works on jurisprudence, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr penned many other books, including Falsafatuna andIqtisaduna, ground-breaking works on Islamic philosophy and economics.
As the Ba’athists went about attacking the religious and cultural fabric of Iraq, the scholars of Najaf responded. At the forefront were Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister Bintul Huda. Along with several notable scholars, including Martyr Sayyid Baqir al-Hakim and Allama Murtadha Askari, Baqir al-Sadr founded Hizbul Dawatul Islamiya, or the Islamic Call Party, in order to promote Islamic values and combat the socialist and secularist influences of the government. The party actively campaigned against the Ba’athists’ reign of terror that shortly overtook the entire Iraqi nation. Meanwhile, his sister Amina Bintul Huda, a Mujtahida herself, conducted a literary and academic struggle against the Ba’athists. She established schools for women, and she wrote numerous books and articles aimed at the women of Iraq in order to promote Islamic values.
After ten months of house-arrest, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Bintul Huda were arrested on the 19th of Jamaadi al-Awwal, 1400 AH (April 1980).
On the night of April 9, 1980, the Ba’athist regime cut off the electricity from the holy city of Najaf and sent a security force to the home of their cousin Sayyid Muhammad al-Sadr. Sayyid Muhammad al-Sadr went with security force back to their headquarters, where they showed him the bodies of Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Bintul Huda. Bathed in blood, the signs of torture were all over their bodies. Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Bintul Huda were buried in the Wadi as-Salam graveyard in the holy city of Najaf that same night.
Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Bintul Huda saw oppression and injustice around them, and they spoke up against it. In that sense, they were true followers of Imam Hussain and Lady Zainab (peace be upon them). Indeed, when Saddam was asked to spare Bintul Huda’s life, he instantly remarked, “Kill the brother and spare the sister? You want me to make the same mistake as Yazid?!”
And yet, Saddam failed to learn from the mistakes of his predecessor. By assassinating Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Bintul Huda, he actually helped give fresh blood to the Islamic revolutionary movements in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, and around the Muslim world. In their martyrdom, the two have become icons of the Shia revolutionary spirit. Leaked video footage of Saddam’s execution shows witnesses shouting “Long Live Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr!” And plastered on walls and billboards all over Iraq today, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr’s ubiquitous image continues to echo the words of Iqbal: “The murder of Hussain is actually the death of Yazid. After each Karbala, Islam is reborn.”
Martyr Sadr’s Excellences
It has become a trend that you will find experts only in Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and the Principles of Jurisprudence (Usool e Fiqh) in the Hawzas (Seminaries) today. This only covers a twelfth portion of religion. Martyr Sadr was not only a Faqih (expert) in Jurisdiction, but he was an expert in the complete comprehensive religion. He used to say that “Our Islamic System and Seminaries have turned into a Jurisdiction Institute!” He comprehended religion as an ideology which is quite rare today. (Ideology is an organized constitution of life which covers all aspects of life.) It has rules, regulations and laws which are all presented as a system.
None before him took the step which he initiated and this proves his excellence. He studied religion with innovativeness in such a way that he had no role models to follow.
The System of Religion was buried at the time of Martyr Sadr. He was the one who excavated it from deep inside the ground and blew life to it by reviving its values and rejuvenating the constitution. He was the person who had the most “Organized System of Insight”. Just like the Solar System, all the planets circulate around the Sun with discipline considering the sun to be their Axis, in the same way, for thoughts, visions and insights; Martyr Sadr was like the Sun around whom all intellectuals circulate. Information about knowledge is held by many, but there are only a very few who become such that they could be regarded as the Centre of Visions! He first understood the world with all its minute exegesis, he completely knew the System of Existence. He totally understood the Reality of Man and was aware of the role of man appointed by his religion. He had a totally organized system in which he could guide people how to think and ponder in order to understand all the realities of this world. He did not have a bundle of information related to knowledge; in fact he was the Origin of Thoughts and Wisdom. What makes him extremely valuable is that his background which was the city of Najaf, Iraq did not have the potential to shape such valuable assets.
Misrepresentations of Martyr Sadr’s Ideologies
One big problem which has turned us away from his true recognition is due to those people who carried efforts to present them in front of the society as they were extremely short sighted and narrow minded. They considered the exegesis of religion presented by him to be his personal opinion and in support to their claim, they gave references of senior scholars having a different prospective from what martyr Sadr had. This was a very big attack and painful strike on the ideology of Religion presented by him. These kind of statements do the work of a sharp knife. This results in cutting people from such personalities and diverting their attention elsewhere. It is the same case that today, people consider the concept of Wilayat e Faqeeh to be something controversial and hence they regard those promoting this concept to be people enforcing their personal views on the public. This concept of Wilayate Faqeeh was considered the personal view of Imam Khomeini (R.A) and hence no one paid any heed to it.
Martyr Sadr is an extremely oppressed personality. His life resembles so much to the life of the Imams (A.S). He was born in Kadhmain (Iraq). It seems that probably he considered Imam Musa Al Kadhim his role model and there is a lot of resemblance found in his life. The last moments of martyr Sadr were extremely painful just like Imam Al Kadhim (A.S) especially the way he was tortured. Martyr Sadr’s body was burnt by iron rods. His face and beard was burnt. Driller machines were squeezed into his body. Then after many other mental and physical tortures, he was buried in a place where none was aware of. His assassinators later informed others of his burial place. Not only Saddam was this great martyr’s enemy but anti groups within the Seminary of Najaf hurt him even more. The biggest of pains which he had to endure was that the Islamic Ideology which he presented was considered his personal opinion whereas on the other hand, Imam Khomeini (R.A) used to say about Martyr Sadr and Martyr Mutahhari that: “Whatever they have said, whatever exegesis they have done is the exact and complete reality of Islam”
A jurist in religion cannot impose his personal opinions as he has no rights. A scholar is ordained to present the views of Islam. Martyr Mutahhari was very lucky as compared to martyr Sadr because he was blessed with teachers like Allama Taba Tabai and Imam Khomeini (R.A) but martyr Sadr was deprived of such blessings. Scholars, preachers, philosophers and personalities are not born in every corner of the world. Personalities are formed by nations and not in the laps of mothers! Nations who know how to value knowledge and scholars are bestowed with such blessings.
Martyr Sadr and Martyr Mutahhari – the Yardstick of Islam
The first and foremost thing is that the thoughts and visions of Martyr Sadr and Mutahhari (R.A) should be ranked as the reality of Islam whereas on the other hand, all other thoughts should be considered doubtful till the time they are aligned with the ideology of the Islam. These two personalities should be considered the “yardstick” on which all thoughts and visions should be measured. Today, if you undertake a research, you will see that all the great scholars and philosophers – be it of amongst the Shiites or the Sunnis, are all Iranians. The reason for this is that the temperament of the Iranian nation is such that intellectuals are given the standard respect and deserving status in the country. But unfortunately, the Pakistani nation has never valued people of high caliber and this is the reason we do not see the greatest of personalities emerging from this nation. We have an example of Qadeer Khan in front of us. He was a scientist but just because he was not getting the deserving respect, he became a politician so that he becomes the center of attraction. In Iran the public along with the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Syed Ali Khamenei value all the qualified people be it in the field of sciences or religion. The Supreme Leader visits the graves of big scientists in the same way he visits the graveyard of the Martyrs. This shows how knowledge-oriented this nation is that it does not let any of its assets go unrecognized.
On the Martyrdom of Martyr Mutahhari, Imam Khomeini (RA) said with tears flowing from his eyes: “Mutahhari was a part of my body, I brought him up”. Imam instructed the youth to study him deeply and regarded him the manifestation of the reality of Islam!
Though Martyr Sadr had an exceptional caliber, his case was totally the opposite as compared to Martyr Mutahhari. When he reached the rank of Ijtehad (Jurist), many scholars dedicated efforts in order to stop people from attending his classes and lectures and they tried their level best that no one would consider this great Scholar a Mujtahid. If you analyze Imam Khomeini (R.A), though he was giving Dars e Kharij in the Seminary of Qum, he used to attend the classes of Ayatollah Burujardi (R.A) along with his students. People asked him as to why he was attending extra classes which were not required by him? In reply to this he used to say, ‘If people like me attend the classes of Agha Burujardi, it will increase the strength of Marjaiyyat in the Muslim world as it is extremely important to value this pillar of religion.”
How unfortunate was Martyr Sadr?
All those who would support Martyr Sadr would have to get their Shahriya (amount given by the seminary) canceled. The situation of Iraq was such that simply reading newspapers was not allowed, and in this environment, Martyr Sadr used to order magazines and wrote articles for a few of them. He was totally updated with the current affairs of the world at his time. He never stayed outdated nor was he ignorant of the current crisis in every corner of the world. He was the most aware and cautious scholar of Najaf. He analyzed all problems and then he presented his uniformed system of thoughts as the solution to these problems. He was totally displeased with the situation around him. There were many big issues and areas of concern for him. One thing which was extremely dangerous but was prevalent at his time and even today was that “Unlawful things were given an Islamic Outlook”. There were many tricks being used in order to portray Haram (Unlawful) as Halal (Lawful). A picturesque was made as such that “Forbidden” things within Religion were presented as “Allowed” with an Islamic coating. Just by changing a few titles, doing some paper work, changing a few formalities and making some amendments, they used to present unlawful as lawful in religion.
We have the most vibrant of examples to prove this. The concept of Islamic banking introduced to us by the world is not at all on the basis of Islam! Just by making some changes to the titles does not make the system Islamic! All efforts dedicated by the scholars of that era and even today were to present tricks to the public, so that they have a justification for every unlawful act they do.
Comparison to his Seniors
Another big tragedy with him was that “His Thoughts were always compared to his seniors!”
As the seniors are always respected in every society, people never pay heed to what the juniors say and especially when there is a conflict of visions, they totally disregard the opinion of juniors. At his time, whenever he presented a vision, people used to say that “What is Baqir saying (with disrespect)? This has never been said by Ayatollah Mohsin al Hakim (The Marja of the time)!” We know that the Fatawa (laws) of Marjas differ and there is no big deal with it if not made an issue. The problem was that these little differences were raised and popped up in order to assassinate the character of Martyr Sadr! This was the satanic strategy being used against this personality. Nevertheless he had to bear all this oppression but he always defended himself with bravery.
He was a man of bravery. He never left his work or mission. He used to check and balance everything on the yardstick of Islam and if he would see anything going against it, he used to raise his voice and speak against. He was a man of revolution. He wanted to establish a revolution in all aspects of life. For this very cause, he even worked so hard in order to change the traditional syllabus of the Hawza so that it can meet the requirements of the current era. He totally revised the syllabus of the seminary as he was not happy with it. He personally wrote books which could be taught as a syllabus but till date, you will not find his books introduced in the seminary just because of jealousy and personal grudges with the martyr. This martyr was the only one who raised this slogan that “The Oppressive Governance of the Abbasi should vanish!” Many other scholars considered this slogan to be of no use and kept it aside regarding it as a political matter. But he kept his struggle ongoing and he always opposed oppression in which ever form it was! He invested efforts to bring a revolution of knowledge, syllabus, ideology, politics, intellect and every single aspect of life!
Creation and Discontinuation of Hizb al-Da’wa al-Islamiya
He led a movement by the name “Hizb al-Da’wa al-Islamiya” which was and is still Iraq’s ruling Shiite party even today, headed by Nur al Maliki. Al Dawa began as a revivalist Shiite movement in Najaf, Iraq, in 1957, as the political vessel of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr’s Islamic Ideology. It was a very strong party of Shias. After heading it for five years, the respected Martyr ordered to discontinue this party and announced his disassociation towards this party. He also issued an Islamic decree saying it was unlawful to register as a member of this party! We should think and ponder over this. He was the one who formed this party and he himself tried to demolish it from its roots. This was all the result of his association with Imam Khomeini (R.A) as when Imam Khomeni came to Najaf, he had all his sittings with Imam and this influenced the martyr to have a second look towards forming a party in religion. But the temperament of political parties is such that once they are formed, they never finish and this is what happened! That party which Martyr Sadr formed is still active in Iraq today. Today you will find many scholars against him in Qum and Najaf. One writer wrote about this Martyr that: “He was living under all forms of dictatorship. There was religious, political, social and every kind of dictatorship on him but he remained steadfast alongside with his determination!”
That Hizb al-Da’wa al-Islamiya party was so strong and disciplined that only four people would know that they are a member of this party and the fifth person would not be known to anybody. Their network was so strong that Saddam finished all other parties but Hizb al-Da’wa al-Islamiya. Though Martyr Sadr ordered the party to be finished, there was no effect. It is also the temperament of parties that they accept a scholar till the time he is in service to that party and once he leaves, they stand against him as an opposition party. Hence the Hizb al Dawa party started opposing him but he kept going with the insight of revolution. In the last time of his age, when he knew that his opponents have doubled, he left all activities and started working on the foundational subjects. He studied the Holy Qur’an a lot in his last few days as he considered the Holy Qur’an to be the “Book of Revolution”. He used to tell his students that he will not do anything except giving the world “The Principles of Islamic Movement” as his timespan was extremely short. He had a fixed tight schedule and he planned how much to cover in the limited time he had. But unfortunately he was unable to finish even one topic and he was martyred. This reality is confirmed and authenticated that it was Martyr Sadr who provided the skeleton for the constitution of the Islamic Governance of Iran and presented this to Imam Khomeini (R.A) which was later worked upon by Martyr Bahishti for implementation. This shows the talent present in him. Martyr Sadr was a great person regardless of the environment in which he was, where even speaking a word was difficult. People used to accuse him by saying that “He is a Communist! He is the agent of Russia!” and these accusations were not made by some lay man, they were made by the scholars of his time.
He was mentally martyred several times prior to his physical martyrdom at the age of 45. The most important pillar of Islam was killed who kept the potential to become a motivational force in order to run an Islamic movement all over the World.
DO REMEMBER: Till the time you don’t eradicate corrupt and ambiguous role models and introduce good and ideal ones, you can never walk on the right path!
A summary of his contributions:
He wrote books on banking without interest.
He wrote about the economic system of Islam.
He introduced the political system of Islam.
He presented religion in its most comprehensive manner.
If we want to get saved from destruction, we need to turn Martyr Sadr into our practical role model. We need to think like him! We need to be aware like him! We need to study religion like him! We need to learn how to be steadfast like him! We need to study him as a syllabus! We need to look at him as a constitution. He is the practical exegesis of the Holy Qur’an through his personality. He is the biggest of capitals any religion can have! We need to live like him! We need to die like him!
Let us pray to Allah (S.W.T) to grant us the opportunity to recognize such personalities and value them in our lives before it gets too late where we need to bear the pain of deprivation!