Zayn al-‘Ābidīn

Zayn al-‘Ābidīn

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
‘Alī Zayn al-‘Ābidīn
Imams of Shi'a Islam

Rank Fourth Twelver/Zaydi/Musta‘lī Imām, Third Nizārī Imām
Name `Alī ibn Husayn
Kunya Abu al-Hasan
Birth 5th Sha‘bān 38 AH[1]
659 C.E.
Death 12th or 25th Muharram 95 AH
'≈ 712 C.E.
Birthplace Madīnah[2][3] or Kūfah[4]
Buried Jannatul Baqī‘, Madīnah
Life Duration

Before Imamate: 23 years
(38 – 61 AH)
- 2 years with his grandfather ‘Alī
– 12 years with his uncle Hasan ibn `Alī
– 23 years with his father Husayn ibn ‘Alī

Imamate: 34 years
(61 – 95 AH)
Father Husayn ibn ‘Alī
Mother Shahr Bānū[3][6][10]

Ali · Hasan · Husayn
al-Sajjad · al-Baqir · al-Sadiq
Musa (Twelver) · Ismail (Ismaili)

‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn (Arabic: علي بن حسين زين العابدين‎) (approximately 6 January 659 – 20 October 712)[2] known as Zayn al-‘Ābidīn ("Beauty/Best of the Worshippers") was a great-grandson of Muhammad, as well as the fourth Shī‘ah Imām (the third Imām according to Ismā‘ilī Islam). His mother was Shahrbānū and his father was Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī. His brothers include ‘Alī al-Aṣghar ibn Ḥusayn and ‘Alī al-Akbar ibn Ḥusayn. He is also referred to as Imām al-Sajjad "the Prostrating Imām" and Sayyid as-Sājjadīna wa r-Rāki‘īn "Leader of Those who Prostrate and Bow".

Quotations related to ‘Alī ibn Husayn Zaynul ‘Ābidīn at Wikiquote


Birth and family life

‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn was born on 15th Jamadiulawwal or 5th Shabaan 38 AH (654) in Medina. His father, Husayn ibn ‘Alī, was a grandson of Prophet Muhammad. His brothers were Ali Akbar ibn Hussain and Ali Asghar ibn Hussain. His sisters were Sakinah(Fatema Kubra) bint Husayn and Fatema Sugra bint Husayn and Ruqayyah(Sakina 4 years old).


He dedicated his life to learning and became an authority on prophetic traditions and Sharia. He is regarded as the source of the third holiest book in Shī‘ah Islam after the Qur'an and the Nahj al Balagha: the Saḥīfa al-Sadjadiyya, commonly referred to as the Psalms of the Household of Muhammad. ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn had many supporters such as Sa‘īd ibn Jubayr.

He was beside his father right from the moment of his migration towards Karbala and followed his father. Hussain ibn Ali step by step so that, when his father asked for help on ‘Āshūrā got up to extend help to his father. Zaynab bint ‘Alī stopped him and said,

You are the only memorial remnant of this family and the Imam after Hussain ibn Ali and you are the guardian of all of us. Your divine mission is to convey the message of the martyrs to the people. Although a segment of the people who are unaware consider Ali ibn Hussain to be a sick, invalid, handicapped, and a weak person. But they are seriously mistaken because the illness of Ali ibn Hussain was an expedience and policy of Allah, so that he may remain safe from the harm of the enemy's sword, and become the living history of Karbala. Therefore, after the death of Hussain ibn Ali and his companions, Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawsha came into the encampment of the Ahl Al-Bayt along with a group of his soldiers so that he may kill the remaining ones of the camp of Hussain ibn Ali. Since he was ill, Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawsha's companions objected upon him and Umar ibn Sa'ad came after them and reprimanded Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawsha regarding this decision and turned him out of the encampment and said, "Ali ibn Hussain is an ill man and because of that he cannot do a thing, leave him alone."[citation needed]

One of his sons' name was Umer (Nasab-e-Quresh by Musaab Zuberi P-61)

His contribution to Islam


Yazid I had given the Imam his freedom to return to his home in Medina out of love. The Imam, therefore, was still not out of danger. The Imam, therefore, had to find out a way to preach the true message of Allah without appearing to be working against the government.

To save his crown, Yazid I turned to using force. He decided to kill anyone who opposed him. The Imam had to place himself in such a position that no one could say that he was also amongst those plotting to overthrow Yezid. Otherwise, the Imam would not be able to complete the mission of saving Islam from its enemies. He would either be imprisoned again or even be killed. Who would then be there to serve Islam the way Allah wished it to be served?

When martyrdom was necessary to keep Islam alive, Imam Husain publicly opposed Yazid I and was killed as a result.

He held regular mourning session in his house. Those who attended these sessions would then be served with food in the name of his father, Imam Husain Imam Zainul Abidin through such mourning sessions let the world know the reason why it was necessary for Imam Husain to sacrifice his life but not accept Yezid as the rightful ruler of the Muslims.

The one most important thing that the Imam did after returning from Damascus was to spend a lot of his time praying to Allah. His prayers were not only in the form of "Namaz" but also in the way of "Duas" or supplications.With the help of these 'Duas', Imam Zainul Abidin taught Muslims not only how to pray to Allah but also what is the essence of Islam.These ideas, if preached in any other form, would without and doubt, invite the government of Bani Umayyah to put the Imam in trouble. But who would complain if the Imam addressed his creator, Allah using "Duas"?

The plot of Yezid and his family of Bani Umayyah to rule the Muslim areas.

In this way through mourning for his father and praying to Allah.

The greatest result of the Imam's decision to lead a quiet life was: the government became sure that he was not going to be dangerous to them. They, therefore, left him alone.

What the government failed to understand was that Imam Zainul Abidin opposed them.

By being left on his own, not only did the Imam widen the horizons of Islam, but also found a place for himself to let the Muslims community see for themselves who truly was the representative of the Prophet. This was a very important job to be done by the Imam.

The effect of the teaching and the pure life-style of the Imam was such that he came to be regarded as an excellent person and an authority of the religion of Islam.

By the time the Bani Umayyah realised the wisdom of Imam Zainul Abidin's approach to establish Islam through the memory of his father and prayers of Allah, it was too late. Without the knowledge of the government the Imam had raised his position in the Muslims community so high that none of the rulers could reach, with all their wealth and power.


One of the special features of Ali ibn Hussain character was his piety and abstinence. The Shī‘ah Imām Ja‘far aṣ-Ṣādiq said,

Ali ibn Hussain resembled most of all the sons of Bani Hashim, with Ali ibn Abi Talib.[citation needed]

Muhammad al-Baqir, the son of Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn) and the fifth Shi’ah Imam, said

One day I happened to see my father, I saw him (completely) immersed and (thoroughly pre occupied) in the prayers and with all the attention towards Allah. His color was faded and his eyes were sore and red due to weeping, his feet were swollen by (prostration) and legs, and knees had developed corns. I said humbly "Oh father, why do you lose your self control during the prayers and put yourself in such an inconvenience and discomfort. My father wept and said, "Oh son however and whatsoever amount of prayers I perform even then it is meager and very little as compared to the prayers of your grandfather, Ali ibn Abi Talib. Taous Yamni says, I saw Ali ibn Hussain lying in prostration saying, "Oh God your servant, needy towards you, is in your house waiting for your blessing, forgiveness and favor".[citation needed]

Attention to the life and training of people

‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn, like his grandfather, cultivated land and palm date orchards. All the human qualities and attributes were collectively present in his personality. He was the complete specimen of tolerance, forgiveness and self-sacrifice. During the prayers he would get himself so absorbed that he did not have any attention towards anything except God. He traveled to Mecca, on foot, twenty times and continuously guided and conducted people through the attractive melody of the Qur'anic verses.

As the son of Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī, he was under great scrutiny and could not directly guide those who secretly followed the household of Muhammad. But he conveyed his understanding of the relationship between human and God by the prayers and supplications that he offered God during his extensive nighttime vigils in the mosque of the Prophet in Medina. These prayers and supplications were written down and then disseminated by his sons and the subsequent generations. Among them is the Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, which is known as the Psalms of Islam.

He looked after and administrated hundreds of houses of the poor and hunger stricken. Daily a number of goats were slaughtered in his house and he distributed all their meat among the afflicted. He dressed the naked and the destitute ones and paid their debts and loans. But he himself took simple meals and put on simple dress.

When the nights would become dark and all the people went to sleep, ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn would get up put the food in a sack and on his shoulder. He covered his face so that he is not recognized. Then he took that food to the houses of the inflicted and have-nots and gave it to them.

He administrated and looked after nearly a hundred guardians-less family in Medina; most of them comprised indigent, helpless and crippled, handicapped and paralytic ones. None of these families knew that ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn was the one who managed and run their lives. But after his death, when the aids were discontinued they came to know that Ali ibn Husayn was their helper and friend.

A person came to ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn and started addressing him with filthy and abusive language. ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn turned his face towards him without the slightest anger and quarrel or strife and said,

Oh brother, if what you say is right and correct and these vices are present in me then Allah may pardon and forgive my sin. And if you are telling a lie then Allah may forgive you and pardon your sin.[citation needed]

The man was very much ashamed and asked ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn to pardon him.

Abu Hamza ath-Thumali, who was one of the friends of ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn, asked his servant to briefly define the character and morals of Ali ibn Hussain. He said: "I am at his service for so many years. Whatever I saw was righteousness, piety and purity. My lord helps and assists the people and solves their problems, with all the difficulties worries and preoccupations that he himself faces." Zaid ibn Usama was lying on the deathbed. Ali ibn Hussain visited him, Zaid was weeping. When Ali ibn Husayn asked him the reason of his weeping he said, "I have to pay fifteen thousand Dinars as my loan and debt and my wealth is not so much as to pay off the debt." Ali ibn Husayn said, "Do not weep and be contented, I will pay your entire loan."[citation needed]

The Day of Ashura

At the Battle of Karbala on the day of Ashura, Hussain ibn Ali and most of his family were killed. Zayn al-Abidin survived because he was too sick to fight, and was bedridden. Afterwards, he was taken prisoner by the Umayyad forces and transported to Damascus where he was made a prisoner of the Caliph, Yazid I. After some years, he was freed, and returned to Medina where he lived a quiet life as a scholar and a teacher.

It is said that for forty years, whenever food or water was placed before him, he would weep. One day, a servant said to him, "O son of Allah's Messenger! Is it not time for your sorrow to come to an end?" He replied, "Woe upon you! Jacob the prophet had twelve sons, and God made one of them disappear. His eyes turned white from constant weeping, his head turned grey out of sorrow, and his back became bent in gloom, though his son was alive in this world. But I watched while my father, my brother, my uncle, and seventeen members of my family were slaughtered all around me. How should my sorrow come to an end?"[citation needed]

‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn, along with the left behind families of the fallen, was besieged by the enemy, came out on the morning of 11 Muharram, 61 AH. They had chained his hands and feet with a set of chains called al-Jameaa "الجامعة" and placed the heads of the dead in front of him so that his sorrow and grief was increased, and those chains made big scars and marks on his body; and it was seen by his sons when they were washing him before burial; and they saw these scars and marks – how painful it was and how it was marked.

The family of ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn, as against the concept of a group who think they were defeated, where ever they set foot, they would announce the success of their revolution and the defeat of Yazid. It was Damscus where he buried his youngest sister Sakina bint Hussain.


‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn resided in Medina until his death on 12th or 25th of Muharram, 95 AH (approximately 23 October 712), when he was killed by the Bani Umayyah rulers. By the instructions of Walid Bin Merwan, the governor of Medina, Ali was poisoned by Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. He was buried in Jannatul Baqee', the cemetery in Madinah where other important figures of Islamic history are buried.

Time line

Zayn al-‘Ābidīn
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Clan of the Banu Quraish
Born: 5th Sha‘bān 38 AH 659 CE Died: 25th Muharram 95 AH 712 CE
Shī‘a Islam titles
Preceded by
Husayn ibn Ali
4th Imam of Twelver Shi'a Islam
669 – 680
3rd Imam of Ismaili Shi'a Islam
Succeeded by
Muhammad al-Baqir
Succeeded by
Zayd ibn Ali
Zaidi successor

See also

External links


  1. ^ 1. Kitab Al Irshad, Shaykh Mufid. 2. Ibn al-Sabbagh, al-Fusul al-Muhimma, p. 212.
  2. ^ a b Shaykh al-Mufid. "The Infallibles – Taken from Kitab al Irshad". Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  3. ^ a b c A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 2004. p. 111. 
  4. ^ al-Qurashi, Baqir Shareef. "2". The life of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. p. 14. 
  5. ^ al-Qurashi, Baqir Shareef. The life of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin. Ansariyan Publications. p. 17. 
  6. ^ a b c ibn Khallikan. Ibn Khallikan's biographical dictionary. 2. p. 209. 
  7. ^ A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles. Ansariyan Publications. p. 112. 
  8. ^ a b al-Qurashi, Baqir Shareef. The life of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin. Ansariyan Publications. p. 18. 
  9. ^ a b al-Qurashi, Baqir Shareef. The life of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin. Ansariyan Publications. p. 19. 
  10. ^ Tabataba'i, Muhammad Husayn (1979). Shi'ite Islam. State University of New York Press. p. 201. 
  11. ^ al-Irshaad, by Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, pg.261
  12. ^ Kashf ul-Ghumma, by al-Urbilee, vol.2, pg.105
  13. ^ Muntahul-‘Amal, by Shaykh Abbas al-Qummi, vol.2, pg.43 (printed in An-Nashr-ul-Islamiyyah, Qum, Iran, 1415 AH)
  14. ^ al-Fusool al-Muhimmah fee Ma’rifatul-A’immah, by Ibn as-Sabagh, pg.209
  15. ^ Umdat ut-Taalib, pg.194
  16. ^ Mystics, monarchs, and messiahs: cultural landscapes of early modern Iran, by Kathryn Babayan, pg.284

Shi'a references

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