Imam Ali Ibn Husain Zainul Abideen (a.s)
Imam ali Zainul-Abideen (A.S.) was born in Medina on Saturday, 11th Jamad al-Awwal, 37 (A.H.). His father was Imam Al-Husain (son of Ali and Fatima Al-Zahraa’, the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH). Zainul-Abideen’s mother was Shar Banu. Zainul Abideen spent his early years learning from men of outstanding knowledge. The first three years of his life were spent in the guidance of his grandfather Imam Ali. For his first twelve years he was very close to and tutored his uncle, Al- Hasan. And he was tutored mainly by his father Al-Husain. Our Imam was famous for his prayers to Allah. This earned him the titles of “Al-Sajjad” meaning with Sujood-intensity; “Al- Aabid” meaning the worship-minded, and “Zainul-Abideen” meaning the one who surpasses all in worship. Zainul Abideen’s knowledge and piety surpassed all in his age. Many said that they could find no one else like him, let alone better than him. Imam Zainul-Abideen was often seen trembling and weeping in Salat, out of his intense feeling toward the Almighty. When asked the reason for this, he replied, “Know ye not before whom I stand in prayers, and with whom I hold discourse?” Also, the Imam’s charity, as frequent and generous as it was, was always hidden and not announced. He helped numerous ones who needed help. He was a friend of the poor, often even carrying food on his back to poor households. He was also known for his generosity and hospitality. Like all our other Imams, Imam Zainul-Abideen had a life of immense hardship and suffering. During the early part of his life, he witnessed the martyrdom of his father, brothers, friends and family members in Karbala. His own life was spared, on account of his grave illness during this tragedy. Despite his condition, he still asked for the permission to fight, but was denied it, as he was the next Imam after Imam Al-Husain (A.S.). The Imam’s survival in the holocaust of Karbala is no less than a miracle in itself. It proves, however, that Allah wanted to save “Imamah” from extinction. The gruesome ordeal of Karbala was extremely difficult if not profoundly arduous. In the immediate period after Karbala Imam Zainul-Abideen was treated in a harsh and unkind manner by the tyrannical powers of the time. After the grotesque manner his father as well as all male members of his family were killed by Yazid’s forces, Zainul Abideen was made a prisoner of the despotic ruler, Yazid. He was even put in shackles while traveling from Kufa to Damascus, a distance of 700 miles on camel back, for such was the cruelty of the rulers! In Damascus, as well as in Kufa beforehand, Zainul Abideen faced the tyrannical rulers with enormous courage and fortitude. Singlehandedly he exposed Yazid’s cover up of the butchery that took place in Karabala, and valiantly brought to mind to those attending the court of Yazid (as well as the crowd at Jumu’a Salat) of who the family of the Prophet (Ahlul Bayt) were, and what atrocities took place in Karbala as well. Once in Medina, the 22 year old Imam preferred seclusion for a period, perhaps of one year. After all, the gruesome experience of the butchery in Karbala was too daunting for anyone, let alone for the very tender-hearted Imam. He wrote, composed and prayed, appealed and beseeched the Almighty. And this proved to continue throughout his life time, which led to a magnificent write up of Du’aas, supplications, and the epistle of rights and obligations of man. The latter preceded the Magna Charta by several centuries, whereby human rights and relationship are chartered and their obligations are mapped. This is in relation to the Almighty, the self, the parents, children, the community then the society. Zainul Abideen was so generous, that his enemy (Marwan son of Hakam of Benu Umayya) requested him to give shelter to his family, to which Zainul Abideen did not hesitate. As it turned out, he became the host to 400 people of Benu Umayya for several weeks, feeding them, tending to them, and making every effort for their comfort (free and without charges). These were from the same Benu Umayya who had killed Zainul Abideen’s father and butchered the rest of the family, and slew 8 Sahaabi of the Prophet (PBUH) and 20 Companions of Imam Ali in Karbala, only one year before!! The collection of his Du’aas is called “Al-Saheefa Al Sajjadiyah”, also known as “Zaboor Aali Muhammad”. These prayers are very compelling and very moving; they helped provide the necessary guidance to later generations to this day. Imam Zainul Abideen passed away at the age of 57 years, exactly the same age of his father Imam Al-Husain. He died in Medina on the 25th of Muharram. His son, the 38 year old Imam Muhammad Al-Baaqir (A.S.) performed the funeral prayers. He was buried in Jannatul Baqi.