Last updateD, d M Y ga

Back You are here: Home Islamic Articles History Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) and the Uprising of Zaid (121 A.H.)


Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) and the Uprising of Zaid (121 A.H.)

Zaid bin Ali bin Hussein bin Ali bin Abi-Talib (a.s.), is the paternal uncle of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.). Zaid was a leading man from the household of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and a famous faqih from Ahlul-Bait (a.s.). He was unbearably distressed by the continuing dilemma of the ummah, the terror, oppression and deviation practiced by the Umayyad rulers. Thus, he rushed along with the courage of the revolutionary who saw no alternative to the sword and force in dealing with the rulers. He declared war on the Umayyad authorities. In 121 A.H. He decided to lead the oppressed and downtrodden in a revolt against the Umayyad caliph, Hisham bin Abdul-Malik. That took place during the Imamate of Imam al-Baqir (a.s.), Zaid's brother. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was 38 years old at time. Deteriorating conditions, injustices, poverty corruption and the extravagances of the rulers were so widespread that they were no longer endurable.

Historians present a good description of the deteriorating conditions. Abul-Hassan al-Mas'ood, the well-known historian, depicts Hisham in following word:

"He was cross-eyed, rough, rude, stiff-necked. He was busy amassing wealth ..." 13

Then he adds: "In his days silk and silken garments were made. All of the people in his days followed his example and became stingy. Helpfulness to the needy decreased, and charities were stopped. No hard time were ever seen like those of his." 14

Quoting al-Jahshiyari, Sayyid Hashim Ma'roof al-Hassani writes:

"The Umayyads imposed extra taxes such as those lived on industries and handicrafts and in the people who wanted to marry or write contracts and documents. They restored the Sassanid taxes known as Nowrooz gifts. The first man who imposed them was Mu'awiyah. He levied them on the people of Iraq. The chief of the people of Harat met Asad bin Abdullah al-Qisri, the governor of Harat under Hisham bin Abdu l-Malik, and presented to him the gifts of the great festival.

They amounted to 1000,000, according to Ibn al-Athir, in the fifth volume of his book Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh (The complete Accounts of History)..."

He also says, "Abdul-Malik ordered his governor on al-Jazirah to make a general census of the people, and consider all the people workers devoid of the right to have property. He also instructed him to make everyone collect his whole product during one year, set aside a portion for his maintenance. The governor did so and considered them workers at certain wages. From their annual income, he put aside a sum of money for their daily expenses and clothing for one year. He found that for each one of them remained four Dinars. He obliged them to pay it."

He further says:

"Usamah bin Zaid called on Sulaiman bin Abdul-Malik carrying with him the land tax revenues. Usamah, the governor of Egypt, said:

'O commander of the faithful! I have not come to you until after (I have seen). If you think it better to treat them kindly, comfort them and lessen the amount of land tax which they pay, in order to build and renovate their country, and improve their living, then do it. That would be made up for next year.' 'May your mother be bereaved of you! Milk the milk. If it stop, then milk the blood, was his reply.' "Sometimes, the caliphs would allow their governors to keep all the money. It might amount to millions of Dirhams. The governor of Khurasan gathered 20 million Dirhams. The caliph let him keep them similar offers of money were presented to him." 15

Such was the economic life. The distribution of wealth, which was contrary to Islam's economic principles and fair laws, was further aggravated by the policy of terror, hunting down and killing the political apponents of the rulers. Imam al-Sadiq, like his father and grandfathers, witnessed all this under the Umayyad rule.

That was one reason that prompted Zaid bin Ali to revolt against the Umayyads. He chose Kufah as the base for his uprising and "stayed there nearly a year and sent his messengers to different towns ..." 16

"... the Shi'ites, along with other people, began to contact him and give their pledge of allegiance to him. His office counted fifteen thousand men from Kufah, not to mention those who came from the cities of Mada'in, Basrah, Wasit, Mosul, Khurasan, Ray and Gorgan." 17

This historical document reflects the fury of the ummah at the Umayyads, and the widespread discontent in the majority of the main Muslim cities. One can only have a glimpse at the conduct of the Umayyad rulers, about which we have written elsewhere, and the nature of the uprisings and the men who led them so as to prove the unIslamic, brutal nature of the Umayyad rulers. Zaid, the revolutionary, for example, is described by Abul-Jarood in these words:

"I arrived in Madinah and whenever I asked about Zaid bin Ali it was said to me: 'That is the ally of the Qur'an.'" 18

Al-Tabari described him as being:

"A worshipper, pious, generous and brave," 19

Zaid was supported by Abu-Hanifah al-Nu'man bin Thabit, the founder of the Hanafi school of thought. Abu-Hanifah leaned toward him and issued a religious decree allowing people to give the tax of poot-rates (zakat) in the cause of Zaid. As a result he stood trial and greatly harmed. Many historians and writers emphasized this point. Mr. Muhammad Isma'il Ibrahim, for example, who wrote about the political role and thc view of the faqih of the Hanafi school in the Umayyad rule, Zaid's uprising, and Ahlul-Bait's right to the caliphate, says:

"He (Abu-Hanifah) disapproved of the Umayyads' illegal seizure of the office of caliphate, and their power-taking with the force of the sword and shrewdness. So, deep in his heart, he was leaning to Ali bin Abi-Talib and his sons who fell victim to thc Umayyads' injustice and oppression. Most painful for was thc murdering of Zaid bin Ali Zain al-Abideen, who was, in his view, a just Imam qualified for caliphate for his outstanding merits. Abu-Hanifah remained loyal to Ahlul-Bait and hostile to the Umayyads to the point that he rejected every offer to occupy a post in their government. Occasionally he would make public his leaning towards the Alawites in his lectures, which infuriated Ibn Hubairah, the governor of Kufah. He kept a watchful eye on Abu-Hanifah and tried to find fault with any of his activities so as to punish him. The opportunity arose when he appointed him a judge.

When Abu-Hanifah refused, Ibn Hubairah considered that a sign of disloyality to the state and beat him and threw him in prison. With the help of thc jailer, Abu-Hanifah escaped and took refuge in Mecca, where he settled. He remained there until the foundation of the Abbasid state. When the new rule asserted itself, he returned to Kufah." 20 In these harsh conditions. Zaid decided to declare war on the rulers and hurry to Kufah. All the people attached their hopes to thc uprising of Zaid, urging him to listen to their call and start the revolt.

Zaid did not want to install himself as the caliph and Imam of the people. He merely called for the restoration of power to Ahlul-Bait (a.s.). Zaid knew that his brother, Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) was the legitimate Imam of that era. He talked about thc matter with him and sought his advice. He intended to surrender power to him once the uprising succeeded. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) told him that traditions coming down from his forefathers, quoted from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), specified the duration of the Umayyad rule, and that he would surely be killed if he rose up against Hisham bin Abdul-Malik.

Al-Mas'oodi, writes:

"Zaid bin Ali had consulted his brother, Abu-Ja'far (al-Baqir) bin Ali bin Hussein (a.s.). He advised him not to trust the people of Kufah, as they were deceitful and treacherous: 'In Kufah your grandfather, Ali bin Abi-Talib, was murdered', al-Baqir (a.s.) said to him. 'And in it your uncle Hassan was stabbed, and your father Hussein was slain. In it and its villages we, Ahlul-Bait, were reviled. He told him about the duration of the reign of the sons of Marwan and the foundation of the Abbasid state. Zaid, however, was not convinced and insisted on seeking to restore Ahlul-Bait's right to the caliphate. Finally al-Baqir said to him: 'I fear, brother, that you, yourself, will be crucified tomorrow in the square of Kufah. , Abu-Ja'far took farewell of him, telling him that they would never see each other again." 21

How truthful the words of Imam al-Baqir (a.a.) were! Zaid revolted, was killed in Kufah, and secretly buried by his followers. Hisham bin Abdul-Malik ordered the body of Zaid be taken out of the grave and crucified after being stripped of its clothes. That order was instantly carried out. The murder and crucifixion of Zaid, the Martyr, was a horrible event which shook the conscience of the Muslim ummah, inflamed the sentiments, kindled the spark of the Umayyads remained only 11 years after the killing of Zaid. That period witnessed many uprisings and revolts led by men from the noble Prophet's household.

That tragedy and the likes of it, which deeply saddened Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) and the Muslim ummah did not pass without leaving their marks on the Imam (a.s.) and affecting his political and social activities. He turned his attention to promoting knowledge, protecting the Shari'ah and raising a generation of scholars, well-educated in Islamic sciences, jurisprudence (fiqh) and Prophetic traditions (Hadiths). As his freedom was extremely restricted, he threw his full weight behind those activities.

In spite of all that, Hisham bin Abdul-Malik remained fearful of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) and his father Imam al-Baqir and the sympathy they received from the Alawites. He called them to Syria and cross-examined them. Finding no evidence to harm them, he was forced to let them return to the city of Madinah unscathed.

13. Murooj al-Dhahab (Tracts of gold), al-Mas'oodi, vol. 3, p.205.

14. Ibid.

15. Sirat al-A'immah al-Ithnay Ashar, Hashim Ma'roof al-Hassani, pp. 234-235.

16. Maqatil al-Talibiyyin (martyrdom of al-Talibiyyin), Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani, p.135.

17 Ibid, p. 135.

18. Ibid p.135

19. I'lam al-Wara bi A'lam al-Huda (Acquainting people with the leaders of Guidance), al-Tabari, p. 262, 3rd ed.

20. A'imat al-Madhahib al-Arba'ah (Leaders of the Four schools of Thought), Muhammad Isma'il Ibrahim, p.48, 1978 ed

21. Murooj al-Dhahab, al-Mas'oodi, vol. 3, p.206.

Adapted from the book: "Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.)"