He is famously known for analyzing and explaining various intellectual issues. He brought about an extensive movement in learning and science, and laid the foundations for an Islamic university, which reached its zenith in the time of his son Imam Sadiq (‘a).
Although he lived in unfavorable and restrictive times, Imam al-Baqir (‘a) engaged in disseminating the reality of Islam. He is famously known for analyzing and explaining various intellectual issues. He brought about an extensive movement in learning and science, and laid the foundations for an Islamic university, which reached its zenith in the time of his son Imam al-Sadiq(‘a).
The scientific works of the 5th Imam (‘a) and the students which his school delivered to the Muslim nation also gave fulfilment to a prediction from the Prophet of Islam (ṣ). The narrator of the following tradition is Jābir ibn ‘Abdullah Anṣārī, the famous personality from the early days of Islam’s revelation.
Jābir, who was one of the great companions of the Prophet of Islam (ṣ), and one who possessed a special affection for the family of the Prophet (ṣ), has written: One day the Prophet of Islam (ṣ) said to me: ‘After me, you will see an individual who is from my family, whose name is (the same as) my name, and whose appearance will be similar to mine. He will open the doors of knowledge to the people.’
The Prophet (ṣ) foretold of this event at a time when Imam al-Baqir (‘a) had not yet been born; years passed from this foretelling, and the era of the 4th Imam (‘a) arrived. One day during this time period, Jābir was passing through the streets of Medina, when his eye fell on Imam al-Baqir (‘a). When he paid careful attention, he noticed all of the signs exactly which the Prophet (ṣ) had mentioned. He asked: What is your name? The Imam (‘a) replied: My name is Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (‘a). Jābir began to kiss his forehead and said: Your grandfather, the Prophet (ṣ), sent you his greetings through me.
From that day on, in respect of the Prophet (ṣ) and as a sign of the greatness of Imam al-Baqir (‘a), he would visit the Imam (‘a) twice a day. In addition, when he was in the mosque of the Prophet (ṣ), he would sit amongst the crowd (and in response to those who would criticize him with impure intentions) he would narrate the prediction of the Prophet of Islam (ṣ).
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) was also superior in his knowledge, asceticism, eminence, and virtue over all of the rest of the Hāshimīs. The eminent status of his knowledge and actions were verified by friend and foe alike. A great many traditions have remained from him in the fields of Islamic rulings, commentary on the Quran, the history of Islam, and various other fields of learning… The distinguished scholars of that day, along with a number of the companions of the Prophet of Islam (ṣ) who were still alive at that time, benefitted greatly from the presence of Imam al-Baqir (‘a).
Jābir ibn Yazīd Ja’farī, Kaysān Sajistānī (from the Tābi’īn) and jurisprudents such as: Ibn Mubārak, Zuhrī, Awzā’ī, Abū Ḥanīfah, Mālik, Shāfi’ī, and Ziyād ibn Mūndhar Nahdī all benefited from his knowledge and narrated his words both through intermediaries and without any intermediaries. The books and compilations of scholars and historians of the Ahl al-Sunnah, such as Ṭabarī, Balādhūrī, Salāmī, Khatīb Baghdādī, Abū Na’īm Iṣfahānī, and books such as Muwaṭṭa’ Mālik, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Masnad Abī Ḥanīfah, Masnad Marwazī, Tafsīr Naqqāshī, Tafsīr Zamakhsharī, as well as tens of others like them (which include some of the most important books of the Ahl al-Sunnah), all contain the words of the 5th Imam (‘a). All throughout these works, the words ‘Qāla Muhammad ibn ‘Ali’ or ‘Qāla Muhammad al-Baqir’ can be seen.
The books of the Shia are also (naturally) full of the words and traditions of Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and these pertain to many various fields and subjects.
Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) According To the Scholars
The reputation of the knowledge and breadth of learning of Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) filled the various corners of the Muslim nation to such an extent, that he was given the title ‘Al-Baqir al-’Ūlūm’ (The opener of the doors of knowledge, and the solver of the problems of science).
Ibn Ḥijr Haytamī has written: ‘Muḥammad al-Baqir opened many hidden treasures of science, learning, and religious law, as well as various wisdoms and subtleties. These are all very apparent, except for someone who is lacking in intelligence or is of bad character. It is for these aspects that he was called the splitter (of knowledge), the compository of learning, and the flag bearer of learning.’
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Aṭā’, who was one of the prominent personalities and scholars during the time of the Imam (‘a), has said: I never saw the scholars of Islam as being so lowly and humbled in terms of their learning, as when they were in the gatherings of Muhammad ibn ‘Ali (‘a). I saw Ḥakam ibn ‘Utaybah, who was known in all corners of the nation for his knowledge and jurisprudence, in the service of Muhammad al-Baqir, like a child in front of his high ranking teacher; he was on his knees, captivated and absorbed by the words and character (of the Imam (‘a)).
In his speeches, Imam al-Baqir (‘a) would predominantly reference the verses of the Holy Quran, and he would bring evidence from the Book of God. He would say: Whatever I say, ask me where the related verse is found in the Quran, so that I may present it to you.
The Students of Imam al-Baqir’s (‘a) School
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) educated many prominent students in the fields of fiqh, tradition, commentary, and various other Islamic sciences; each of these students was counted as a heavyweight in respect to their learning and knowledge. Prominent personalities such as Muhammad ibn Mūslim, Zarārah ibn Ayn, Abū Baṣīr, Burayd ibn Mū’āwīya Ajalī, Jābir ibn Yazīd, Ḥamrān ibn Ayn, and Hishām ibn Salīm were all trained in the school of Imam Al-Baqir (‘a).
The sixth Imam (‘a) has mentioned: ‘Our school and the traditions of my father were kept alive by four individuals. These four are: Zarārah, Abū Baṣīr, Muhammad ibn Mūslim, and Burayd ibn Mū’āwīya ‘Ajalī. If it were not for these four, no one would have benefitted from the teachings of the religion and the school of thought of the Prophet (ṣ). These individuals were the preservers of the religion. From amongst the Shias of our time, these individuals were the first who became acquainted with our teachings, and on the Day of Resurrection, they will be j o i ned with us sooner than the others.’ The students of Imam al-Baqir’s (‘a) school were the heads of jurisprudence and tradition during their time, and they were considered superior to their non-Shia counterparts.
 Shaykh Mufīd, al-’Irshād, Qum, Manshūrāt Maktabah Baṣīratī, p. 261.  Ibn Shahr Āshūb, Manāqib Āli Abī Ṭālib, Qum, Mu’assasah’ Intishārāt ‘Allāmah, vol. 4, p. 195.  Al-Ṣawā’īq al-Muḥriqah, Second Edition, Cairo, Maktabah Cairo, p. 201.  Sibṭ ibn Jawzī, Tadhkirah al-khawāṣ, Najaf, Manshūrāt al-Maṭba’ah al-Ḥaydarīa, 1383 Hijrī Qamarī, p. 337; ‘Alī ibn ‘Īsā ‘Irbilī, Kashf al-ghammah fī marifat al-’a’immah, Tabriz, Maktabah Banī Hāshimī, 1381 Hijrī Qamarī, vol. 2, p. 329; Faḍl ibn Ḥasan Ṭabarsī, ‘I’lām al-warā bi’i’lām al-hudā, Third Edition, Tehran, Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyah, p. 269; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wa al-nihāyah, Second Edition, Beirut, Maktabah Ma’ārif, 1977 A.D., vol. 9, p. 311. In some of the trans c r i p tions, the name Ḥakam ibn ‘Uyaynah has been mentioned but, ‘Utaybah is the correct name. Refer to: Kāẓim Mūdīr Shanechī, ‘Ilm al-ḥadīth wa dirāyat al-ḥadīth, Third Print, Qum, Islamic Publications Office Affliated to the Jama’at al-Mudarisīn Ḥawzat al-’Ilmīyah Qum, 1362 Hijrī Shamshi, p. 67.  Ṭabarsī, Iḥtijāj, Najaf, al-Maṭba’at Murtaḍawīyah, 1350 Hijrī Qamarī, p. 176.  Shaykh Ṭūsī, Ikhtīyār ma’rifat al-rijāl (famously known as Rijāl Kashshī), researched and edited by Ḥasan Muṣṭafāwi, Mashhad, University of Mashhad, p. 136 and 137 (Tradition # 219).  Taken from the text: Sīrah Pīshvāyān, Mahdī Pīshvāī, p. 310.