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Ali ibn Husayn Zayn ul-Aabideen (A.S.)

Ali ibn Husayn Zayn ul-Aabideen (A.S.)
Adopted from : Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Ali ibn Husayn (Arabic: Úáí Èä ÍÓíä) (Approximately: January 6, 659 AD - October 20, 713 AD)1 is the fourth Shi'a Imam. He is brother to Ali Asghar ibn Hussain and Ali Akbar ibn Husayn, the son of Husayn ibn Ali and Shahrbanu bint Yazdgerd III, and the great-grandson of Muhammad. He is known to both Shi’a and Sunni Muslims as Zainul Abedin (Jewel of the Worshippers) and only to Shi’a as Imam Sajjad (The prostrating Imam).

Birth and family life

Ali ibn Hussain was born in Medina in 659. His father, Hussain ibn Ali; Hussain was the grandson of Muhammad. Shi'ah Muslims believe that Ali ibn Hussain's mother was Shahrbanu, the daughter of the last Sassanid emperor.2

Because of the belief in his royal Sassanid heritage, he is sometimes called Ibn al-Khiyaratayn ("son of the best two"), meaning the Quraish among the Arabs and the Persians among the non-Arabs. In the period of the second Sunni caliph, `Umar ibn al-Khattab, the Muslims conquered Iran. The daughters of Yazdgerd III were brought to Medina. All had gathered in the mosque of Medina to see what the decision of the caliph, about the captives was. He wanted to sell them but Ali ibn Abi Talib ( the fourth Sunni Caliph) stopped him from doing so and said to Umar, "leave the girls free so that they marry whosoever they wish."

One of the girls chose Hussain ibn Ali and the other chose Hassan ibn Ali. Ali ibn Abi Talib said to Hussain, "Look after this woman very well, because, from her an Imam will come into existence who will be the best of the Allah's creations upon the earth and the father of all the Imams (after himself).


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 Shi'a Islam after the Quran and the Nahj al Balagha. The Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, commonly referred to as the Psalms of the Household of Muhammad. Ali ibn Hussain had many supporters such as Sa'id 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 day of Ashura got up to extend help to his father. Zaynab bint Ali 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."


One of the special features of Ali ibn Hussain character was his piety and abstinence. Ja'far al-Sadiq (the sixth Shi’ah Imam) said, "Ali ibn Hussain resembled most of all the sons of Bani Hashim, with Ali ibn Abi Talib". Muhammad al-Baqir (the son of Ali ibn Hussain 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".

Attention to the life and training of people

Ali ibn Hussain, 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 Allah. 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 Hussain ibn Ali, 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, Ali ibn Hussain 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 Ali ibn Hussain 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 Hussain was their helper and friend.

A person came to Ali ibn Hussain and started addressing him with filthy and abusive language. Ali ibn Hussain 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." The man was very much ashamed and asked Ali ibn Hussain to pardon him.

Abu Hamza Somali, who was one of the friends of Ali ibn Hussain, 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 Hussain 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 Hussain said, "Do not weep and be contented, I will pay your entire loan."

The Day of Ashura

At the Battle of Karbala on the day of Ashura, Hussain ibn Ali and most of his family were killed. Ali ibn Hussain 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?"

Ali ibn Hussain, along with the left behind families of the fallen, was besieged by the enemy, came out on the morning of eleventh Muharram, 61 AH. They had chained his hands and feet and placed the heads of the dead in front of him so that his sorrow and grief was increased.

The family of Hussain ibn Ali, as against the concept of a foolish and silly group who think they were defeated, where ever they set foot, they would announce the success of their revolution and the defeat of Yazid. What more and superb conquest could be imagined about, than this that the enemy was highly afraid of them. Where ever they opened their lips to speak people would manifest their feelings and emotions and paid them respect and homage and rebuked, reproached, and cursed their enemies.

Ali ibn Hussain and the Umayyad Caliph

After committing crimes for many long years, Abd al-Malik passed away and his son Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik was enthroned in his father's place. One day, he traveled to Mecca in the Hajj season so as to perform Hajj. He wanted to perform circumambulation but he could not do it, because there was such a big and huge gathering. So he was forced to sit in a corner to wait for the huge crowd and gathering to get thin. All of a sudden Ali ibn Hussain arrived to the Haram and people recited benediction for him, and cleared the way for him. He, after performing circumambulation moved towards the al-Hajar-ul-Aswad (the Black Stone) to rub his hand on it. Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik witnessed this scene and was greatly annoyed and uncomfortable. He said with carelessness and inattentively "who is this man"? "I do not know him?"

Farzdak who was a freedom-loving poet at once turned his face towards Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik and said, "Oh Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, I am surprised why you do not recognize him? If you do not know him, I know him very well. Listen, so that I introduce him to you."

He is someone that the land of Mecca and the House of the Allah know him. "He is the one whose grandfather is the Islamic Prophet Muhammad of Islam. Allah keeps on bestowing his benediction and blessings upon them continuously. He is the son of the best of the servants of Allah. He is that famous and well known pious. When you say you do not know him this thing does not harm him. If you do not know him (so what) the Arab and Ajam (Non Arab World) knows him."

Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik was very enraged and got highly flared up by the words of Farzdak, and ordered him to be imprisoned. Ali ibn Hussain sent him a gift in the prison and appreciated his inconveniences and one day he got freed from the prison.


Ali ibn Hussain resided in Medina until his death on Twenty-fifth of Muharram, 95 AH (Approximately: October 20, 713 AD). Shi’ahs claim that he was poisoned by Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. He was buried in Jannat al-Baqi, the cemetery in Medina where other important figures of Islamic history are buried.

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