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The Noble Virtues of Imam Zayn al-Abidin(a.s.) - Part 2


As for generosity, it was among the qualities of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him. The historians unanimously agreed that the Ima`m was the most generous of all the people and the kindest of them to the poor and the weak. They mentioned many examples of his generosity. The following are some of them:

Mohammed b. Usa`ma became ill, so the Ima`m visited him. When the Ima`m sat down, Mohammed burst into tears, so the Ima`m asked him: "What makes you weep?"

"What makes me weep," answered Mohammed, "is the fact that I owe fifteen thousand dinars and I have nothing left to fulfill the debt for them."

"Do not weep," the Ima`m told him, "they are my debts now and you are free of them." So he paid them for him.(Al-Bidaya wa Nihaya, vol. 9, p. 105. Siyar A'lam al-Nubala', vol. 4, p. 239).


His giving Food to the People

An example of his abundant generosity was that he gave food to those people who came to his house in Medina at noon every day.(Al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 6).

His Maintaining a Hundred Families

The Ima`m was very generous that he secretly maintained a hundred families in Medina, and each family had a group of people.( Tahdhib al-Lugha wa al-Asma', 343; Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46. p. 88).
The generosity of the Ima`m showed that he had a soul free from miserliness, that he had mercy on the people, and that he was grateful to Allah for His giving.


His Kindness to the Poor

Among his qualities was kindness to the poor, the deprived, and the miserable. We shall mention some examples of his kindness to them:

A. His Honoring the Poor

Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, looked after the poor and took care of their feelings and sentiments. When he gave a beggar alms, he kissed him lest he should see the mark of abasement and need on his face.(Hulyat al-Alwiya', vol. 3, p. 137).

He greeted the beggars who came to him and said to them: "Welcome to him who carries my provisions to the hereafter."(Safwat al-Safwa, vol. 2, p. 53).

Honoring the poor in this kind and merciful manner strengthens society and spreads love and friendship among its members.

B. His Kindness to the Poor

The Ima`m, peace be on him, was very kind and affectionate to the poor and the needy. He asked the orphans, the blind, and the needy to eat with him. He gave them food with his handas well as he carried food on his back and took it to their houses.(Al-Majjlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46, p. 62;al-Bustani,Da'irat al-Ma'arif, vol. 9, p. 355).

He took great care of the poor and was so kind to them that he prevented the people from harvesting dates at night lest they should deprive the poor of them. So he said to Qahrama`na, who reaped dates at night:
"Do not do that. Don't you know that Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, prevented (the people) from reaping at night, and he used to say: 'You should give a share to those who ask you for it on the day of harvest.'(Wasa'il al-Shi'a, vol. 6, p. 15).

His Preventing the People from Reproaching Beggars

The Ima`m, peace be on him, prevented the people from reproaching beggars, for that would bring about bad results such as loss of bounties and sudden adversities. In this respect Sa'id b. al-Musayyab reported:
"One day I went to 'Ali b. al-Husayn. After he had finished performing the noon prayer, there was a beggar at the door, so he, peace be on him, said: 'Give to the beggar and do not reproach him."(Al-Kafi, vol. 4, p. 15).

The Ima`m, peace be on him, stressed the importance of this duty in many of his traditions. In this connection, Abu` Hamza al-Thuma`li reported:

"I performed the morning prayer with 'Ali b. al-Husayn in Medina on Friday. After he had finished performing his prayer, he went to his house. I accompanied him. When he reached his house, he called his maid-servant Sukayna and said to her: 'When a beggar passes by the door of my house, give him food, for today is Friday.' So I (i.e., Abu` Hamza) said to him: 'Not all beggars are worthy of being given food.'

He, peace be on him said: 'I am afraid that some of those who beg us are worthy of being given food. If we do not give them food and reproach them, what had befallen Ya'qu`b and his family will befall us, the members of the House. Give the beggars food! Give them food! Ya'qu`b sacrificed a ram every day.
He gave some of its meat to the poor as alms. He and the members of his family ate the rest of its meat. At the time of breaking the fast, on Friday, a believing and fasting beggar whose rank was high with Allah and who was worthy of being given food passed by the door of Ya'qu`b's house and called out: 'Give food from the rest of your food to the strange and hungry beggar!'

Ya'qu`b and his family heard him but they neglected his right and did not believe his words. When the beggar despaired of them and the night overtook him, he went away and spent that night hungry complaining his hunger to Allah, while Ya'qu`b and his family spent that night full and with extra food.

In the morning of that night, Allah revealed to Ya'qu`b, saying: 'You have abased my servant to the extent that you and your children are worthy of my wrath and my punishment. Ya'qu`b, the most lovable of my prophets for Me and the most honorable with Me are those who have mercy on the poor from among my servants, draw them near to Me, give them food, and protect them.

Ya'qu`b, why did you not have mercy on my servant, who has devoted his life to worshipping and is secretly content with that which is beyond this material world? Ya'qu`b, by my might, I will impose my tribulation upon you and make you and your sons a target for misfortunes.'

"I (i.e., Abu` Hamza) asked: May I be ransom for you, when did Yousif saw the vision?1 The Ima`m, peace be on him, replied: 'When Ya'qu`b and his family spent that night full and the poor beggar spent it hungry.'(Al-Nuri, Dar al-Salam, vol. 2, p. 141).

Indeed, depriving the needy and poor person of his right results in the loss of bounties and brings down Allah's wrath. In this respect many traditions were successively reported on the authority of the Ima`ms of guidance, so those who want Allah's blessing to continue should not reproach the poor and deprive them of their rights.


His Alms

Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, did his best throughout his life to give alms to the poor in order to remove poverty from them. In the meantime he urged the people to help them in order that they might get a great reward from Allah, the Glorified. So he said: "If a person gives alms to a poor person, the poor person will supplicated for him at that hour and he will be answered."(Wasa'il al-Shi'a, vol. 6, p. 296).

A. He gave his Garments as Alms

The Ima`m, peace be on him, wore the most luxurious garment. In winter he wore silk-like garments. When summer came, he gave them as alms or sold them and gave their price as alms. In summer he wore two Egyptian garments. When winter came, he gave them as alms2. Thus, he said: "I feel shame before my Lord when I take the price of the garment in which I worship Him.

(Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 36, p. 161; Nasikh al-Tawarikh, vol. 1, p. 89).

B. He gave as Alms what He loved

Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, gave as alms what he loved. The narrators said: "'Ali b. al-Husayn gave almonds and sugar as alms. He was asked about that, and he recited the words of Him, the Exalted: 'By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love.(Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46. p. 89).

The historians reported: "'Ali b. al-Husayn liked eating grapes. One day he was fast, so his maid-servant gave him a bunch of grapes. At the time of breaking fasting, a beggar came to him, and he ordered the bunch of grapes to be given to the beggar. The maid-servant sent someone to buy a bunch of grapes for the Ima`m, another beggar knocked on the door, and the Ima`m ordered the bunch of grapes to be given to the beggar. Again, the maid-servant sent someone to buy a bunch of grapes for the Ima`m. When she offered the bunch of grapes to the Ima`m, another beggar came, and the Ima`m ordered the bunch of grapes to be given to the beggar."(Al-Baqir, al-Mahasin, p. 547. Furu' al-Kafi, vol. 6, p. 350).

In this manner the Ima`m followed the example of his grandfathers, who gave their food for three days to a poor, an orphan, and a captive, so Allah sent down concerning them the Su`ra of Hal Ata, which will exist as a legion of honor for them throughout time till Allah inherits the earth and what is on it.

C. Dividing his Properties

The Ima`m divided his properties into two shares. He took one share and gave the other as alms to the poor.(Khulasat Tahdhib al-Kamil, p. 231. Hulyat al-Awliya', vol. 3, p. 140).

In this manner the Ima`m followed the example of his uncle, Ima`m al-Hasan, the plant of sweet basil of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, who divided his properties into two or three shares.


His Giving Charity in Secret

The most lovable thing for the Ima`m, peace be on him, was giving charity in secret. He did not want anyone to recognize him because he wanted to make close relationships with the poor people he helped in order to seek Allah's good pleasure as well as urged the Muslims to adopt giving charity secretly, so he said: "Giving charity secretly removes the wrath of Allah."(Tahdhkirat al-Huffaz, vol. 1, p. 75. Akhbar al-Diwal, p. 110. Nihayat al-Irab, vol. 21, p. 326).

He went out veiled in the darkness and carried gifts to the poor who stood at the doors of their house waiting for him. When they saw him, they gave good news to each other and said to one another: "The owner of the bag has just come."( Al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 45).

The Ima`m went to his cousin at night and gave him some dinars, but his cousin said to him: "'Ali b. al-Husayn does not give me anything."

Moreover, his cousin invoked Allah against him. The Ima`m, peace be on him, heard that and pardoned his cousin and did not let his cousin recognize him. When the Ima`m, peace be on him, died, his cousin lost those gifts and knew that it was the Ima`m who had brought them to him, so he went to the Ima`m's grave and wept over him and apologized to him for slandering him."

Ibn 'A'isha said: [I heard the people of Medina say:] "When 'Ali b. al-Husayn died, we were deprived of being given charity secretly." The historians reported that a group of the people of Medina lived and did not know the person who brought them their livelihood. When 'Ali b. al-Husayn died, they lost what they were given at night. The Ima`m, peace be on him, was very serious with hiding his alms, to the extent that he covered his face when he gave some alms. Al-Dhahabi said: "'Ali b. al-Husayn gave a lot of secret charity."
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, put food in a bag; he carried the bag on his back and divided the food among the poor. The bag made some calluses on his back.

Al-Ya'qu`bi reported: "When the Ima`m, peace be on him, died, the members of his family washed him and they found on his back calluses similar to those of a camel. They people asked the members of his family about those calluses and they answered: 'They were made by the bag which he carried on his back at night to divide food among the poor."

Any how, the Ima`m's secret charity was among the greatest deeds and the most rewarded by Allah.


His Seeking Allah's Pleasure

From his kindness to the poor, the Ima`m, peace be on him, wanted nothing except Allah's pleasure and the hereafter. He was the most prominent of those whom Allah concerned with these words of His: " (As for) those who spend their property in the way of Allah, then do not follow up what they have spent with reproach or injury, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and shall have no fear nor shall they grieve."

The gifts and alms of the Ima`m were for Allah's pleasure only. They were not mixed with any worldly purposes which would turn into earth sooner or later. Al-Zuhri narrated: "During a cold night, I saw 'Ali b. al-Husayn carrying flour on his back, so I asked him: 'Son of Allah's Apostle, what is that on your back?'"
The Ima`m hurried and said with a faint voice: "I am making preparations for a journey. I am preparing provisions for it and carrying them to a secure place."

"Let this boy of mine carry the flour instead of you," explained al-Zuhri.

The Ima`m did not answer him. Al-Zuhri begged the Ima`m to let him carry the flour in stead of him, but the Ima`m insisted on carrying it and said: " But I do not disdain what will save me during my journey and makes good my going to Whom I will go. I ask you before Allah to go to your need."

So al-Zuhri left the Ima`m and went away. After some days he met him. He did not understand what the Ima`m meant. He thought that the Ima`m would go on a regular journey, so he asked him: "Son of Allah's Apostle, I do not see any mark of that journey which you ended?"

The Ima`m, peace be on him, told him about that journey for which he made preparations: "Zuhri, I think that you did not understand what I meant. I meant death. I made preparations for it through refraining from the prohibited and doing good."

The Ima`m, peace be on him, spent on the poor to seek Allah's pleasure and forgiveness.


Renouncing Worldly Pleasures

Among the qualities of the Ima`m was renouncing worldly pleasures. He did not care for worldly vanities. He clung to asceticism and completely renounced the world. The world did not tempt him nor did it deceive him, for he knew its reality and essence. He knew that man would leave the world no matter what he enjoyed in it, and that he would find nothing before him except his good deeds. The Ima`m was the most ascetic of the people of his time. This was underlined by al-Zuhri when he was asked about the most ascetic of all the people and he answered: "The most ascetic of all the people is 'Ali b. al-Husayn."( Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46, P. 62).

The Ima`m, peace be on him, saw a beggar weeping, so he had mercy on him and said: "If the world was in the hand of this person and then it dropped from it, he had not to weep for it."(Al-Fusul al-Muhimma, p. 192).

The Ima`m, peace be on him renounced worldly pleasures, but this does not mean that he yielded to poverty and feebleness, rather he was pious with what Allah prohibited, so he was similar to his father and grandfather, who divorced the world and did not care for its affairs except truth and virtue.


He Hated Playing

Another quality of the Ima`m was that he hated playing. Throughout his life no one saw him playing or laughing, so he, peace be on him, said: "Whenever a man laughs one time he loses a bit of knowledge."
In Medina there was an unemployed person at whom the people laughed. The unemployed person said: "It is difficult for me to make this man (i.e., Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin) laugh." One day the Ima`m, followed by two retainers, passed by the unemployed person and he took his cloak and ran away. The Ima`m did not turn to him, but the two retainers chased the unemployed person and took the cloak from him and brought it to the Ima`m, who asked them: "Who is this person?" "He is an unemployed person at whom the people of Medina laugh," replied one of the two retainers. So the Ima`m, peace be on him, said: "Say to him: Indeed Allah has a day in which the liars will be losers."(Al-Saduq, al-Amali, p. 220).

His Turning to Allah in Repentance

Among the most prominent qualities of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin was his turning in repentance to Allah and his devotion to Him. This appeared in the Ima`m's whispered prayers, supplications, and words which showed his strong dedication to Allah, the Creator of the world and Giver of life.

The Ima`m dedicated himself to Allah and entrusted all his affairs and tasks to Him, the Exalted. When he faced a certain matter, he rushed to Allah, for he thought that depending on other than Allah would bring about disappointment and loss. The historians reported that the Ima`m passed by a person sitting at the door of a rich person and asked him: "What has made you sit at the door of this rich, tyrannical person?"
"Poverty and misery," replied the person.

"Stand up," ordered the Ima`m, "I will lead you to a door better than his door and a Lord better for you than him."

The person rose and went with the Ima`m till they reached the Mosque of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. There the Ima`m said to the person: "Turn your face to the qibla , perform two ruk'as, raise your hands and supplicate Allah, the Glorified, (to help you). Ask Him to bless His Prophet, recite the last verses of Surat al-Hashr, six verses from the beginning of Surat al-Haddid, and the first two verses of Surat Al 'Umra`n, and then ask Allah, the Glorified, to meet your need. If you ask Allah for a certain thing, He will give it to you. Whoever seeks refuge in Allah seeks refuge in a strong fort. As for seeking refuge in other than Allah, it is useless."

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