The Debate of Imam Bāqir (‘a) with the Arch Bishop of the Christians

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The Debate of Imam Bāqir (‘a) with the Arch Bishop of the Christians

Question: What happened during the debate of Imam Bāqir (‘a) with the Arch Bishop of the Christians?
Concise answer:
Detailed answer: Although the palace of Hishām was not a favorable place for manifesting the greatness of the knowledge and learning of the fifth Imam (‘a), still, many opportunities ended up presenting themselves. Before Imam Bāqir (‘a) left the city of Damascus, a particularly amazing opportunity presented itself to awaken the minds of the masses. Through this opportunity, the people were also allowed to see a manifestation of the Imam’s (‘a) learning and knowledge.

What ended up taking place was that Hishām did not have any means or pretext to hurt the Imam’s position, and therefore, he was left without a choice but to assent to the Imam’s (‘a) return to the city of Medina. At the time that Imam Bāqir (‘a) and his son (‘a) were exiting the palace of the caliph, they saw a large gathering at the far ends of an arena, opposite to the palace, in which the people were all sitting down. Imam Bāqir (‘a) inquired about them and the reason behind their gathering. They replied: These are Christian priests and monks who gather in these large numbers every year, and according to years previous, they are awaiting the arrival of their great Arch Bishop, in order that that they can ask the solution to their questions and problems from him. Imam Bāqir (‘a) entered in to their gathering in a manner where the people did not recognize him. The news of this was relayed to Hishām immediately. Hishām commissioned some individuals to go in to this gathering and see what would take place from up close.

It wasn’t long until the Arch Bishop arrived. With much admiration and veneration, the people welcomed him, and he took his seat in front of the gathering. He looked in to the crowd, and his eye was drawn to the visage of Imam Bāqir (‘a); he faced the Imam (‘a) and asked: Are you a Christian or are you from the Muslims? The Imam (‘a) replied: From the Muslims. The Arch Bishop asked: Are you from their scholars or from their ignorant ones? The Imam (‘a) replied: I am not from the ignorant ones! The Arch Bishop then asked: Should I ask a question first or will you? The Imam (‘a) replied: If you wish, you can ask.

The Arch Bishop asked: What is the reason that you Muslims claim that the people of paradise drink and eat food, but they have no need for using the restroom? Do you have any examples in this world for this matter, so that it can be made clear? The Imam (‘a) responded: Yes, a clear example in this world is that in the womb of the mother (a child) feeds, but it does not go to the bathroom!

The Arch Bishop replied: How wonderful, but you said you were not from the scholars? The Imam (‘a) said: I did not say this; rather I said that I was not from the ignorant ones. The Arch Bishop then said: I have another question. The Imam (‘a) replied: Please go ahead.

The Arch Bishop asked: Based on what reason do you believe that the fruits and blessings of paradise never decrease, and however much they are consumed, still they remain and do not decrease? Can you show a clear example of this, from the phenomenon of this world?

The Imam (‘a) replied: Yes, the clear example of this is found in (the perceptible phenomena of) fire. If you light another flame (from an existing flame), and repeat this one hundred times, the first flame will remain as it was and nothing will have been decreased from it.

The Arch Bishop asked every difficult question that came to mind and all of them were answered clearly and completely. He was soon left looking extremely incompetent and weak, and he became severely discomfited and angry. He said: Oh people, have you brought a great scholar, whose knowledge and religious scholarship is higher than mine, in order to disgrace me and to show the Muslims that their leader is superior and more learned than ours? I swear by God that I will never speak to you again, and if I remain alive until next year, you will not see me in your midst! He said these words, rose out of his seat, and left the gathering.[1]


Footnote: [1] Taken from the text: Sīrah Pīshvāyān, Mahdī Pīshvāī, p. 341.
Published on: « 1393/01/19 »
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