“It has become clear – although with great sorrow – that the deceased Ayatollah, the Martyr Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his honorable, oppressed sister – who was among the teachers of knowledge and ethics and among the most prideful in knowledge and literature – have attained the elevated status of martyrdom at the hands of the Iraqi regime. And this was carried out in a terribly horrid way.
“But it is not a surprise that such great ones should be martyred – those who have spent their lives struggling in the way of Islamic goals – and at the hands of murderers who have wasted their lives in oppression and blood-sucking.”
– From an announcement attributed to Imam Khomeini
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 of Ma’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 and Iqtisaduna, 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.”