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The Fourth Imam, ‘Ali (a.s.) Ibn al-Husain (a.s.)

 

Name
Imam Ali Ibn al-Husain (a.s.)
Father’s name
Imam Husain Ibn Ali (a.s.)
Mother’s name
The daughter of Persian Emperor Yazdjeer, Janabe Shahrbano (S.A.)
Date of Birth
15th Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 38 A. H.
Place of Birth
Madinah Munawwarah
Kuniyyat
Abu Mohammad, Abul Hasan, Abu Abdillah
Titles
Sajjad, Zainul Aabedeen
Age
57 years
Martyrdom
25th Moharram, 95 A.H
Buried
Jannatul Baqi, Madinah Munawwarah

 

“The first of them (after Imam Husain (a.s.)) is Ali, the Master of worshippers and the ornament of My previous slaves.”

Birth

Imam Zainul Aabedeen (a.s.) was born on 15th Jamadiul-Awwal, 38 A.H. His (a.s.) mother was a Persian princess Janabe Shahrbano who is also referred to as Shahe’ Zanaan (leader of women). Imam Husain (a.s.) named him “Ali” after his respected father. At the tender age of two, he was deprived of the loving care of his grandfather Imam Ali (a.s.). At the age of 23, he (a.s.) faced the greatest tragedy of his life i.e. the event of Karbala. Since he was his father’s successor and the divine leader entrusted with the continuation of the mission of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), by the will of Allah, Imam Sajjad (a.s.) was seriously ill on the day of Aashoora. We are aware that helping the Imam of the time is such an obligatory action that which even ordinary believers are not permitted to forsake – especially if the person is from the family of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Thus, divine will decree sickness for Imam Sajjad (a.s.) so that divine progeny of Imams (a.s.) may be protected. It is a wrong notion that Imam (a.s.) was always sick.

The Land of Karbala

Preserving the message of martyrdom was of utmost importance after the sacrifice of Imam Husain (a.s.). Allah decreed this responsibility be carried out by Imam Sajjad (a.s.). Imam’s (a.s.) effectiveness in carrying out this task is witnessed by the popularity of this message even today. Apart from this, after Imam Husain (a.s.), since he was the only surviving male member, he (a.s.) was also entrusted with the leadership of his caravan.

The Imamate of Imam Sajjad (a.s.) commenced from the noon of Aashoora, 61 A.H. in the most difficult of situations At that time he (a.s.) was suffering from high fever and had witnessed the tragic events that occurred from morning to evening of 10th Moharram. His heart was burning on seeing the merciless killings of his family members and friends one after another. At that time, the army of Yazid set to fire the tents of Imam Husain’s (a.s.) camp. Being taken as prisoners, on the 11th Moharram, 61 A.H. the caravan of Imam (a.s.) started its journey. Along with the women and children, he began this journey so that he could expose the tyrannical government of Yazid. This was the most important task of Imam (a.s.) which he continued during the remaining 34 years of his Imamate. He (a.s.) kept alive and fresh, the memories of the brave martyrs of Karbala. Had it not been for this effort of Imam (a.s.), the vile government of Bani Umayyah which ruled for about 70 years after the incident of Karbala would have, through its propaganda machinery and transmission, suppressed and wiped out this event from history.

In the Court of Syria

With his extraordinary efforts, Imam (a.s.) gave everlasting life to this event. Imam’s (a.s.) speech in the court of Yazid in Syria manifested his exalted character and spiritual superiority. Despite the fact that he had to bear mental and physical tortures and hardships, his orations shook the very foundations of the government of Yazid. In a place like Syria (where Imam Husain (a.s.) was considered a renegade and out of the boundaries of Islam (God forbid!) due to the poisonous propaganda of Moaviyah and Yazid) such a transformation and revolution occurred that Yazid was left with no alternative but to blame the tragic event of Karbala upon the shoulders of Ibn Ziyad, his governor in Kufa.

Yazid disgraced

In the court of Yazid, before Imam Sajjad (a.s.) ascended the pulpit, Yazid ordered one of his orators to curse Imam Ali (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) and degrade their personalities. At that time Imam Sajjad (a.s.) sought permission from Yazid to address the gathering. Yazid opposed this move, but his companions insisted that Imam (a.s.) should be allowed to speak to the gathering. Therefore, despite the protests of Yazid, he had to relent on the demands of his companions and allowed Imam (a.s.) to ascend the pulpit. When Imam (a.s.) started his speech, Yazid said to his cronies, “He has gone to the pulpit, now the only thing which will happen is defamation and disgrace for the progeny of Abu Sufyan.”

The Speech of Imam (a.s.)

Imam (a.s.) in his comprehensive speech praised Allah and introduced his holy family. He introduced the personalities of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Imam Ali (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) and the valuable services rendered by them in the way of Islam in a very eloquent manner. His speech had a great effect on the polluted minds of the Syrians. The myths regarding the government of Bani Umayyah were shattered and the true persona of Imam (a.s.) was evident for all. The speech created such an atmosphere that it provoked the people against Yazid. To defuse the tension, Yazid ordered a Muezzin to call out the Azan to silence Imam (a.s.). However, Imam (a.s.) after each and every sentence of Azan gave such a remarkable commentary, which resulted in increased disgrace for Yazid. In short, it was after this event that Yazid was forced to hide his face. As indicated earlier Yazid resorted to compromise and peace and ordered a mourning ceremony for Imam Husain (a.s.). After a few days, he gave the order for Imam (a.s.) and all the prisoners to return to Madinah.

Return to Madinah

At the time of entering Madinah, Imam (a.s.) addressed the people who had come forward to receive the caravan with heart rendering sentences and reminded them of the oppression inflicted by the Bani Umayyah on his family. Here Imam (a.s.) did not complain at all about those sufferings but instead, he praised and thanked Allah and said: “O People! Surely Almighty Allah for whom belongs praise engaged us in a difficulty which is very great in Islam. Imam Husain (a.s.) and his family were martyred….”

Here in this statement he pointed out the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.) as a great calamity for Islam and he ended with the following sentence: “Then with Allah is the great reward of our calamities and He is the best of those who take revenge”

On one side he practically demonstrated his patience and steadfastness and on the other, he reminded about the omnipotence of Allah, who would take revenge.

Imam (a.s.) during 34 years of Imamate passed through the reigns of five caliphs of Bani Umayyah. They were Yazid Ibn Moaviyah, Moaviyah Ibn Yazid, Marwan Ibn Hakam, Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan and Walid Ibn Abdul Malik. All of them tried their best to harm Imam (a.s.) except Moaviyah Ibn Yazid. (As soon as he received the caliphate, he declared the Bani Umayyah as the unlawful usurpers of the Islamic caliphate and considering himself as the wrongful caliph, resigned from the post).

Training the People

After the incident of Karbala, Imam (a.s.) adopted two important and fundamental methods to discharge his duties of leadership (Imamate). The first method was that he focused his attention on the individual and collective training of the people. His eloquent expressions in this regard were presented in the form of supplications. (An exquisite collection of these supplications is present today in the form of Sahifah-e-Sajjadiyah.) He (a.s.) also undertook the training of his slaves. For this purpose, at the start of every year, the representatives of Imam (a.s.) used to purchase a group of slaves. These slaves would remain under the training of Imam (a.s.) for one year and thereafter would be freed to return to their homeland. In this fashion, the principles of Shiite Islam were propagated.

The Treatise of Rights

Another important work of Imam (a.s.) which is present even today is the treatise famous as ‘Resaalatul Huquq’.1 It is a collection of individual and social rights of the Muslims. In the discussion of rights, this book is one of the earliest Islamic references. Even the fifteen whispered prayers (Munajaat-e-Khamsa Ashar) are among the other invocations and prayers which have reached us from him (a.s.).

The second method adopted by Imam (a.s.) was to protect the memory of the revolution of Karbala. As has been pointed earlier, Bani Umayyah tried their best to wash their hands off the blemish and disgrace of the event of Karbala. For this purpose, their speakers started work on the above matter right from the days of the superficial repentance of Yazid. In such a situation it was solely upon Imam (a.s.) that he protects the memory of this great and precious event. That is why we see that during his lifetime, whenever during the year there was a gathering for mourning or when he used to witness the slaughtering of a sheep in any street, he used to cry copiously. The people used to be attentive towards him to listen to his narration and in that emotionally charged atmosphere, he would remind them of the role of the Bani Umayyah in the incident of Karbala and also narrate the virtues of the Household of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Among the characteristics of Imam Sajjad (a.s.), which are reported from his son Imam Mohammad Baqir (a.s.) is that he would cover his face and go out in the city of Madinah to meet the needs of the poor and the needy himself. Whenever he met a needy person on the way who would express his need to him, he (a.s.) would welcome him with these words: “Welcome, O, the one who carries my provisions towards the hereafter.”

His Morals and Worship

In the worship of Allah, he (a.s.) was so attentive that he was given the title of ‘Sajjad’ (one who prostrates a lot) and ‘Zainul Aabedeen’ (the adornment of Worshippers). In terms of dealing with the people, it is famous that he had an extraordinary tolerant and forgiving attitude. Whenever he heard somebody speak ill of him, he would not get angry, but would say, “If whatever you said about me is true, may Allah forgive me and if whatever you said about me is false, then, may Allah forgive you.”

It was due to these characteristics and personality of Imam (a.s.) that when the soldiers of Bani Umayyah attacked Madinah and committed various heinous crimes, they did not have the courage to trouble Imam (a.s.). On the contrary, they declared his holy house as a safe haven. All who took shelter in his house were thus spared. This attack of the army of Yazid is famous as ‘Hurrah’ in the history. This was another disgrace upon Bani Umayyah.

The Greatness of Imam (a.s.)

The popularity and esteem enjoyed by the Imam (a.s.) amongst the people can be gauged from an incident during the Hajj. Hisham Ibn Abdul Malik – the Umayyad King – wanted to kiss the Hajarul Aswad (black stone) but was not successful due to the large crowd. At the same time, the people were moving aside in order to give way to Imam Sajjad (a.s.) who was moving freely towards Hajarul Aswad and calmly kissed it. At that time, someone asked Hisham: “Who is this person?” Though he had recognized Imam (a.s.) he feigned ignorance about the man, he pretended and said he did not know him. At that moment, Farazdaq, a renowned poet, recited a wonderful and lengthy couplet in praise of Imam (a.s.).

Martyrdom

The love and popularity of the Imam (a.s.) amongst the people was unbearable for the Umayyad rulers and became the cause of Imam (a.s.) being poisoned on the order of Walid Ibn Abdul Malik. He (a.s.) was buried in the graveyard of Baqi next to the grave of Imam Hasan (a.s.).

Sahifah-e-Sajjadiyah

It is very essential to note at the end of this lesson that the valuable sayings of Imam (a.s.) on various topics in Sahifah-e-Sajjadiyah should be carefully paid attention to by us. Firstly, all the supplications in this collection commence with the blessings of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his progeny. This opens the doors of divine mercy for the acceptance of the supplications. Imam (a.s.) in the form of supplications has discussed various topics which include, remembering the martyrs who were enjoining goodness and forbidding evil, guarding of Islam, protecting the frontiers of Islam, supporting the truth and crushing the falsehood, helping those who have no support in the society, peace and security in the society, etc. These are springs of guidance for us. The intelligent should, therefore, seek guidance from it. They contain an elaborate and necessary blueprint for the principles of this life. These supplications conceal among them a comprehensive collection of Islamic teachings. Along with seeking forgiveness for sins, these supplications are the best source for purifying the self and Islamic training. A translation of these supplications is available both in Urdu and English.