Imam Abu al-Hasan 'Ali Zayn al-'Abidin (q.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Imam Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) was born on a Thursday the 5th of Sha’ban, 38 AH in Madina al-Munawwarah according to Masalik as-Salikin.  He was one of the greatest of the ‘arifin of his era.  Imam Zuhri (r.a.) said, “I have not seen any Quraysh more excellent than Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin.”  ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.) used to look at Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (q.s.) and refer to him as the Beloved of the Beloved.

Husayn (r.a.) kept most of his children’s names attached to the name “‘Ali”.  This was due to his love for his father, ‘Ali (k.w.).  Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) was thus also named “‘Ali”.  He was also known as Abu Muhammad, Abu al-Hasan, Abu al-Qasim and Abu Bakr.  His titles included Sajjad, Zayn al-‘Abidin and Sayyid al-‘Abidin.

Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) spent two years with his grandfather, ‘Ali (k.w.), ten years with his uncle, Hasan (r.a.) and eleven years with his father, Husayn (r.a.).  His mother was Umm al-Wulad (r.a.).  He was the image of his grandfather, ‘Ali (k.w.).  He had a tan complexion and was not very tall.  He possessed a full beard on which he used henna.

Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah (r.a.) said, “I was in the Blessed court of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and Husayn was in the blessed arms of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, ‘O Jabir!  A son shall be born to him, whose name shall be ‘Ali.  Then he will have a child, whose name shall be Muhammad.  O Jabir!  If you meet with him, then you should pass my salaam to him.’”

Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) was blessed with beautiful character inherited from his illustrious forefathers.  He was eloquent and very respectful.  He was always willing to assist those in need.  Shaykh ‘Umar Abu Naswr (r.a.) wrote that Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) purchased slaves and then freed them.  He was kind even to those who were his personal enemies.  Once he heard that there was a certain person who always spoke ill of him.  Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) went to him and treated him with such respect and kindness that he repented from his bad behaviour and affiliated himself with the great Imam.  Many great poets wrote numerous qaswa’id in praise of his kindness and generosity.

Imam Abu Hazim (r.a.) said, “I have not seen any jurist more exalted than him.”

Imam Malik (r.a.) said, “He is from the men of excellence.”

Imam ibn Abi Shaybah (r.a.) said, “In ahadits, the most exalted chain of transmission is that which is narrated from Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin where he narrates from his father, Husayn.”

Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) was always prepared to sacrifice everything he had for Islam.  He sacrificed all his wealth twice for Islam.  He was a generous person.  It is written in Tarikh al-Khulafah that he used to discreetly send money to the poor people living in Madina and none of them knew that the money was coming from him.  The only time this became known to them, was after his passing.

He was a person of great patience.  It is written in Khazinat al-Aswfiyah that after the Battle of Karbala, he was marched to Damascus in chains and in the time of ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, he was arrested and chained.  He was then forced to walk from Madina to Syria in chains.  With all this, he never complained or said one word about his condition in the Court of Allah (s.w.t.).  He instead remained patient and made shukr, thanking Allah (s.w.t.) on every step.  Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin’s (q.s.) most loyal student, Imam Zuhri (r.a.) could not bear to see the Imam in this condition, so he went to ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, and had him released.  He then took him back to Madina.

Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) had a very soft heart and always thought of the sacrifice that was given by his father, Imam Husayn (r.a.) and all the martyrs on the plains of Karbala.  Once, he was walking in the blessed streets of Madina when he saw a person placing a goat on the ground, and was sharpening the knife before slaughtering the animal.  On seeing this, he became very saddened and thought of the martyrdom of his father.  He then began to weep bitterly and asked the man, “My dear brother, did you give the goat some food and water?”  The man replied that he had fed and given water to the goat for the past three days and had also fed it water just before laying in down.  On hearing this, Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (q.s.) let out a sigh and said, “It is sad that the people of Kufa did not even care for him like the goat.  They starved him for three days and nights and then martyred him in this state.”

He used to perform one thousand raka’at of nafl swalah every night.  One night, whilst he was performing his nawafil, his house caught on fire.  The people rushed around trying to put of the fire but he continued his swalah oblivious to the fire.  After he had completed his swalah, the people told him that his house had caught on fire.  He replied, “You were trying to extinguish this fire, and I was trying to extinguish the fire of the Hereafter.”

A person once swore at Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) and made slanderous remarks to him.  In response, Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) said to him, “If the attributes, you accuse me of, are found in me then I repent to Allah Azza wa Jal and ask for Forgiveness.  If the attributes are not found in me then, on your behalf, I ask Allah Azza wa Jal for Forgiveness.”

The person saw Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin’s (q.s.) ihsan and was overwhelmed by it.  He stood up, kissed Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (q.s.) on the forehead and said, “May my soul be sacrificed for you!  Whatever I accused you of was wrong.  I seek forgiveness from you and I request you to pray to Allah Azza wa Jal for the Acceptance of my repentance.”

After the martyrdom of his Blessed father, Husayn (r.a.), he completely divorced himself from the materialistic world.  He spent all his time in the remembrance of Allah (s.w.t.).  It is written in Aw’arif al-Ma'arif that when Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) performed wudhu, his face used to become pale, and when he stood in swalah, then his complexion would change to such an extent, that it would be difficult to recognise him.  The people would ask, “O Beloved of the Prophet, what has happened to you?”

And he would reply, O People!  Swalah is a time when you are present in the Court of Allah.  Who is so naive as to smile and look happy, when he is standing before his Creator?”

Imam Ja’far asw-Swadiq (q.s.) said, “When my grandfather, Zayn al-‘Abidin recited the Qur’an, the beauty of his recitation attracted the people towards him and all those listening to him would become so overwhelmed with the fear of Allah, that one did not know the condition of the other.”

When Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) was returning to Madina after the Battle of Karbala, he said a few stanzas:

“O Winds!  If someday you pass by the sacred land, then pass my salaam
Before the Rawdhah al-Aqdas where the most exalted Nabi rests.
The sadness of separation from Madina feels
Like a sword stuck deep into my liver
How fortunate are the people of that city in
Which is the Exalted and Beloved Prophet
O Rahmatan lil ‘Aalamin!  Assist Zayn al-‘Abidin,
Who is standing alone and in difficulty amongst the tyrants.”

Once, a person asked Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) about who will be looked upon as pious and good on the Last Day and he said, “That person, who when he is happy, his happiness does not drive him towards wrong and that person, when he is angry, then his anger does not remove him from what is right.”

Once, some people from Iraq came to visit Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.).  During their visit, they began to say disrespectful words concerning Abu Bakr (r.a.), ‘Umar (r.a.) and Utsman (r.a.).  When they had completed saying what they wished to, he said, “Tell me, are you from amongst the first Muhajirin, concerning whom Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

… those who were expelled from their homes and their property while seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good pleasure, and aiding Allah and His Messenger: such are indeed the sincere ones ― (Surah al-Hashr:8)”

They replied in the negative.  Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) then asked if they were from amongst the Answar, concerning whom Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

And those who before them, had homes (in Madina) and had adopted the faith ― show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves even though poverty was their (own lot) ... (Surah al-Hashr:9)

Again, they answered in the negative.  He then said, “I swear, that you are not even worthy of this verse of the Qur’an, wherein Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

And those who came after them say, “Our Lord!  Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the faith and leave not in our hearts, rancour (or sense of injury) against those who have believed, Our Lord!  Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful." (Surah al-Hashr:10)”

After saying this, he asked them to leave his presence.

There were many signs of his karamah.  During the hajj, two people were making thawaf of the Ka’bah and came to Hajr al-Aswad.  When they touched the Hajr al-Aswad, both their hands became stuck on it.  People tried very hard to release their hands, but it was not possible.  Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) entered the Haram whilst this was happening.  He said the Basmallah and then placed his hands on the Hajr al-Aswad.  Immediately, the two persons’ hands were released.

Once Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (q.s.) went into the wilds with his companions. As they sat to eat, a deer passed by them.  The Imam called to the deer and asked it to partake in the meal with them.  The deer immediately came and partook in the meal provided.

A deer once came to Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) whilst he was in a jungle.  The animal fell to the ground and began to say something.  Those with the Imam asked what had happened.  The Imam said that the deer was complaining about a man who had captured her fawn.  Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) summoned the man.  The man brought with him the fawn.  Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (q.s.) asked him to release the fawn which he did.  The deer took its young, said something and left.  Those present were amazed and asked the Imam what the deer had said.  The Imam said, “She said, ‘Jazakallahu fi Darayn Khayr.’”

Allah (s.w.t.) Blessed Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) with fifteen children.  His sons are Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (q.s.), Zayd, ‘Imran, ‘Abdullah, Hasan, Husayn, Husayn Aswghar, ‘Abd ar-Rahman, Sulayman and ‘Ali.  There is one more son whose name is not known.  His daughters are Khadijah, Fathimah, ‘Aliyah and Umm Kultsum.  Imam Zayn al-'Abidin’s (q.s.) descendants are from Imam al-Baqir (q.s.), Zayd, ‘Abdullah, Husayn Aswhgar, ‘Imran and ‘Ali.  All of them were blessed with numerous children.

Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) was poisoned by Walid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik and died a shahid on the 18th Muharram or, according to some narrations, on the 12th or 22nd of Muharram at the age of 57 or 58.  He passed away in Madina and his qabr is in Jannat al-Baqi’.  A few others have said that his qabr is in Egypt and there is a mosque and maqam of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.) in Cairo, Egypt as well but the majority have accepted it is in Jannat al-Baqi’, Madina al-Munawwarah.  And Allah (s.w.t.) Knows Best.

After his death, his camel placed its head on his tomb and cried.  Imam Baqir (q.s.) tried to move it away but it refused.  In the end, he said, “She will die in this exact place.”  Eventually, the camel did pass away at the tomb.


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