The Noble Virtues of Imam Zayn al-Abidin(a.s.) - Part 1
All the noble virtues and gifts which Allah created to distinguish man were found in the character of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him. No one matched him in his inclinations and his psychological qualities such as sublime manners, high moral standards, and adherence to religion. When someone reads his noble behavior, he bows down in respect and admiration for him. The great Muslim figures from among his contemporaries belittled themselves because of the manifold of the Ima`m's virtues and abilities.
Sa'id b. al-Musayyab, one of the great religious scholars of Medina, said: "I have never seen a person more meritorious than 'Ali b. al-Husayn, and when I see him, I hate myself." His ideals raised him to the summit of honor and glory which were ascended by his grandfathers, who sacrificed their lives for social reform.
As for clemency, it was among the qualities of the prophets and the messengers and is among the greatest and the most distinguished qualities of man, for it means that man controls himself and does not yield to the inclinations of anger and revenge. Al-Ja`hiz defined clemency, saying:
"Clemency means that you leave revenge during intense anger while you are able to do that." Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, was the greatest of all the people in clemency and the best of them in restraining anger. The narrators and the historians mentioned many examples of his clemency, the following are some of them:
1. A maid-servant of 'Ali b. al-Husayn began to pour water for him so that he might perform the ritual ablutions for prayer. The maid-servant became faint and the jug dropped from her hand and struck him. He raised his head towards her and the maid-servant said: "Allah, the Most High, says: Those who restrain from anger."
"I have restrained my anger," he said.
"And those who forgive the people," she went on.
"My Allah forgive you," he said.
"Allah loves those who do good," she said.
"Go, you are a free woman before the face of Allah, the Almighty and High."
(Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 36, vol. 155. Nihayat al-Irab, vol. 21, p. 326).
2. A mean person received the Ima`m by abusing and cursing him, nevertheless the Ima`m treated him kindly, saying: "Boy, there will be an invincible obstacle before us. If I cross it I will pay no attention to what you are saying. If I am perplexed with it, I will be more wicked than what you are saying."(Al-Majlisi, al-Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46. p. 96).
The Ima`m was busy thinking of his sentiments and feelings toward Allah and fear of the terrors of the hereafter from which no one will be safe except the pious, and he was not annoyed by this nonsense, which issued from a person void of morals and manners.
3. When the Ima`m went out of the mosque, a person abused him, so the people hurried to punish the man, but the Ima`m prevented them from doing that, saying: "What Allah has concealed from you is more than (this). Shall I help you with your need?"
The person was ashamed of himself and wished that the earth would swallow him up. When the Ima`m looked at him, he had mercy on him and gave him a black shirt and a thousand dirhams. With that the Ima`m was able to uproot from the man the evil inclination of aggression against the people without any right and showed him the path of truth and guidance, so when the person saw the Ima`m, he said to him: "Surely you are among the children of the prophets."(Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihayay, vol. 9, p. 105).
4. An ignoble person aggressed against the Ima`m and cursed him, but the Ima`m turned his face away from him, so the ignoble person became angry and said to him: "I mean you!" However, the Ima`m said to him: "Still, I will forgive you!" Then the Ima`m left the ignoble person and went away. He did not return the insult, thus the ignoble person burst into anger.(Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihayay, vol. 9, p. 105).
5. A mean person slandered the Ima`m and went too far in cursing him; nevertheless the Ima`m said to him: "If I have what you say, I will ask Allah to forgive me. If I do not have what you say, I will ask Allah to forgive you."
The mean person became ashamed of himself and apologized to the Ima`m for that, saying: "You do not have what I said, so pardon me!" The Ima`m received him with smiles of satisfaction and forgiveness, saying: "May Allah forgive you!" The mean person admired the Ima`m and said: "Allah knows better where to place his message."(Saffwat al-Saffwa, vol. 2, p. 54).
6. A person was aggressive against a member of the family of al-Zubayr and cursed him, but the latter did not return in degree. When the person went away, al-Zubayri stood up and began cursing the Ima`m, but the latter kept silent and did not answer him, so the former asked: "What prevents you from answering me?" "What prevented you from answering the man," the Ima`m answered with kindness.(Al-Mubarrad, al-Kamil, vol. 3, p. 805).
These are some of the examples the historians mentioned of the clemency of the Ima`m, peace be on him. They show an endless ability of outstanding merits which manifested them selves in the Ima`m and raised him to the highest level of the human perfection.
Among the psychological qualities of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him was patience during ordeals and tribulations. It is certain that no one in this world has been afflicted by such ordeals and tribulations as this great Ima`m was afflicted by them; he was liable to events and misfortunes from the beginning of his life to his death, for he suffered the loss of his mother when he was in the first stage of his childhood, so he did not feel her pure affection and kindness. He witnessed in his bloom of youth the sorrow of his family because of the loss of his grandfather Ima`m 'Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, whom 'Abd al-Rahma`n b. Muljim killed.
He witnessed those days when his uncle, the pure Ima`m, al-Hasan, peace be on him, was forced to make peace with Mu'a`wiya b. Abu` Sufya`n, the Umayyad ruler of Syria. It is worth mentioning that Mu'a`wiya brought disgrace on the Arab and Islamic world because of his pre-Islamic inclinations and his malice against Islam and Muslims. When he took the reins of authority, he used all the organs of his government to erase Islam from the map of existence, and took the severest measures against the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt) , peace be on them.
For example, he ordered the people to curse them on the pulpits and the minarets (of the mosques), meanwhile he ordered their followers to be killed everywhere.
When Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, became a young man, he suffered the loss of his uncle Ima`m al-Hasan, the plant of sweet basil of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, whom the Kasra` of the Arabs (i.e., Mu'a`wiya b. Hind). killed with poison. This event saddened the Ima`m and the Prophet's Household very much.
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, was afflicted by the most sorrowful event when he saw sinful swords cut off the heads of the choice from among the members of the family of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, in a tragic way which the history of nations and people had never seen. After the murder of that group from among the supporters of justice and truth, the criminal Kufa`ns surrounded Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, and then they burnt his tent and the tents of the womenfolk of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family.
After that they took the Ima`m as prisoner to the tyrannical governor, b. Marja`na, who received the Ima`m by cursing and abusing him, while the Ima`m was patient and entrusted his affair to Allah. After that, the Ima`m was taken to the tyrannical Caliph, Yazid b. Mu'a`wiya. There the Ima`m suffered from various kinds of ordeals and tribulations but he was patient toward them showing satisfaction with Allah's decree.
Therefore, what a great soul was his soul! What a pure conscience was his conscience! As for his soul, it resorted to the Creator of the world and Giver of life during all those terrible events. As for his conscience, it was purer and stronger than everything.
Patient in the face of ordeals and tribulations was among the psychological qualities of the Ima`m, peace be on him. It was reported on his authority that he said: "Patience is the source of obedience to Allah."(Al-Muqrim, al-Imam Zayn 'al-Abidin, p. 19).
Another example of his patience was that he heard a woman wailing in his house, and there was a group of people with him, so he stood up to see what happened. He was told that one of his children had died, but he returned to his assembly and told his companions about the death of his child and they admired his patience, so he said to them: "We, the members of the House, obey Allah in what we like and praise Him in what we dislike."(Huliyat al-Awliya', vol. 3, p. 138).
He thought that patience was among bounties and impatience was an act of weakness.(Al-Durr al-Nazim, p. 173).
As Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, had a strong character and did not collapse before the terrible events, he is regarded as among the rarest figures throughout history.
Glory and Self-esteem
Among the qualities of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, were glory and self-esteem. He inherited these qualities from his father, the Lord of martyrs, peace be on him, who walked toward death with longing and desire for his glory and self-esteem. That was when the mean people made him choose between death and abasement, so he chose death and addressed them, saying: "By Allah, I will never give you my hand like a man who has been humiliated; nor will I flee like a slave." This noble quality appeared in Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin when he said: "I do not prefer excellent bounties to myself."
Concerning self-esteem, he said: "Whoever feels that he is respectable, the world is easy for him."(Al-Bihar, vol. 78, 135).
When he was taken prisoner to Syria, he did not speak to any of those who guarded him to make them feel that he disdained and belittled them.
The historians said: "One of his uncles took some of his rights illegally. He, peace be on him, was in Mecca. Meanwhile al-Walid, the king, was there to perform the ritual hajj, so it was said to him: 'Ask al-Walid to take you your rights.' So he said to them with these words which are immortal in the world of glory and self-esteem: 'Shall I ask in the House of Allah, the Great and Almighty, other than Allah, Great and Almighty? Indeed, I refuse to ask the Creator of the world for the world, then how shall I ask a creature similar to me for the world?'"(Al-Bihar, vol. 78, 135).
Anther example of his self-esteem was that he did not take even a dirham through his nearness to Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. The historians reported many examples of his glory and self-esteem, which showed that he refused all kinds of abasement and oppression.
Among his psychological qualities was bravery and courage; he was the bravest of all the people, for he was the son of al-Husayn, who was the most courageous of all the children of Adam. An example of his outstanding bravery was when he was taken prisoner and taken to the tyrannical governor, 'Ubayd Allah b. Marja`na, the latter received him with words of glee at his misfortune. So the Ima`m answered him with burning words whose effect on him was stronger than the clashing of swords and the lashing of whips.
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, paid no attention to 'Ubayd Allah's power and invincibility, so b. Marja`na (i.e., 'Ubayd Allah) became so angry that he ordered the Ima`m to be killed. However, the Ima`m was not afraid of death, rather he said to him calmly: "Killing is a custom for us, and our miracle from Allah is martyrdom."
When Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, was taken to Yazid b. Mu'a`wiya, he met him with boldness and reproached him for his great crime and gave him no way to defend himself and to justify his crime.
The Ima`m inherited bravery from his grandfather 'Ali and his father al-Husayn, who were the bravest of all the creatures of Allah. There is no one in the world of Islam similar to them in bravery, strong determination, and firmness in defending the truth.
His Unselfish Nature
Among his prominent qualities was his lack of all kinds of selfishness which had no power over him. The historians mentioned many examples of his lack of selfishness. Such as when he wanted to travel to a certain place, he traveled with people who did not know him, so that he would serve them and rather than they serve him. One day he traveled with some people who did not know him, but one of them looked at him and recognized him and shouted at the people, asking: "Woe unto you! Do you know that man?"
"No, we don't," answered the people.
"That is 'Ali b. al-Husayn," explained the man.
The people hurried toward the Ima`m and began kissing his hands and feet, asking: "Do you want Allah to make us enter the fire of Hell? What made you do that?"
The Ima`m answered gently: "I traveled with some people who knew me and they, because of Allah's Apostle, rendered services for me which I was unworthy of. I was afraid that you would render me the same services, so I preferred concealing my affair to making it public."( 'Uyyun Akhbar al-Reza, vol. 2, p. 145).
Another example of his lack of selfishness was that when he walked in a street and saw the passers-by being harmed by things such as stones and clods of mud, he dismounted his mount and took them away from the street with his holy hand.
When he mounted his mule and walked in the street, he did not say to anyone: "Make room." Moreover, he said: "The street is for all people, and I have no right to push anyone away from it."(Siyar 'Alam al-Nubala', vol. 4. p. 240. Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 36, p. 161).
All the qualities of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, such as high moral standards were embodied in this great soul.
Kindness to People
Another quality of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, was kindness to people; his holy heart overflowed with mercy and kindness toward them. The historians said: "When he knew that someone was in debt and loved him, he paid his debt. He hurried to meet the needs of the people lest someone should meet them before him and he would be deprived of reward.
In this respect he said: 'My enemy sometimes came to me (and ask me) to satisfy his need, so I hasten to satisfy it for fear that someone should satisfy it before me or my enemy should be in no need of it; therefore I would be deprived of the reward for it."( Nasikh al-Tawarikh, vol., p. 13).
Al-Zuhri reported the following concerning the kindness of the Ima`m to the people: "I was with 'Ali b. al-Husayn when a person came and said him: "I owe four hundred dinars and am unable to pay them and have a family. At that time the Ima`m had no money on him to pay the person's debt, so he wept and said: 'It is difficult for a free and believing person to be unable to satisfy the need of his believing brother."
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