On the fifth of the blessed month of Sh’aban, in the year of 38 A.H., Imam Husayn’s (A.S.) wife gave birth to her son.
Upon hearing the good news, the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abi-Talib (A.S.) prostrated to express his thanks to Allah. He gave the newborn the name of Ali. He was chosen to assume the blessed office of divine leadership (Imamat). He was the fourth Holy Imam from among the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.) after Imam Ali bin Abu Talib(A.S.), Imam Hasan(A.S.) and Imam Husayn (A.S.).The rest of the Holy Imams were his offspring.
We do not state this point randomly. It is the trustee of prophethood, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), who confirmed it. Imam Husayn bin Ali (A.S.) is reported to have said:
“I called on my grandfather, the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.). He sat me on his lap and said: ‘Allah certainly has chosen nine Imams from your loins, O Husayn(A.S.), the ninth of them will revolt against injustice. All of them are equal in their merit and position in the sight of Allah.'”
Ibn Abbas is reported to have said: “I heard the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.) saying: ‘I, Ali(A.S.), Hasan(A.S.), Husayn(A.S.) and nine (men) from (the loins) of Husayn(A.S.) are purified and infallible,'”
Ahmad related, on the authority of Masrooq, the following: ‘We were seated in the presence of Abdullah bin Mas’ood who was teaching us the recitation of the Holy Qur’an. ‘O Abdullah,’ a man asked, ‘did you ever ask the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) how many caliphs this ummah will have?!
‘No one before you,’ replied Abdullah,’ has asked me this question since I came to Iraq’. ‘Yes’, he added after a pause,’ we did ask the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and he said: ‘Twelve, the same number of the children of Israel.'”
Abdullah bin Ja’far Tayyar said: ” I heard the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) saying: ‘I have a greater claim on the faithful than they on each other. Then, my brother Ali(A.S.) has a greater claim on the faithul than they have on each other. Should he become martyred, then, my son, Hasan(A.S.), shall have a greater claim on the faithful then they have on each other. Then my son, Husayn(A.S.), shall have a greater claim on the faithful than they have on each other. Should he be maryred, his son, Ali(A.S.), shall have a greater claim on the faithful than they have on each other…etc.'”
Features of the Imam’s Noble Character:
Muslim writers and intellectuals openly praised the greatness of the Imam (A.S.) because of having a high position in merit, knowledge, and piety. Zuhri is quoted to have said: “I have not chanced to see anyone from this family (the family of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) more meritorious than Ali bin Husayn (A.S.).”
A young man from the tribe of Quraish once asked Sa’d bin Musayyab about the Imam (A.S.). In reponse, he said:
“He is the leader of the worshippers, Ali bin Husayn bin Ali bin-Abu Talib.”
Ibn Hajar, in his book ‘Burning Thunderbolts’ ‘Sawa’iq Muhriqa’ writes: “Zainul-Abideen, is the man who succeeded his father in his knowledge, asceticism and worship.”
Imam Malik is quoted to have said: “He was called Zainul-Abideen on account of his constant worship.”
Let us probe the character of the Holy Imam(A.S.). Different aspects of Imam’s character are presented in the following points:
1. Imam al-Baqir (A.S.) is quoted to have said: “Never did he mention the Almighty Allah’s grace, without making a prostration. Never did he recite a verse from the Book of Allah, referring to prostration, without making a prostration. Never did he succeed in bringing about a reconciliation between two persons without making a prostration. The mark of prostration was clearly seen on the parts of the body which touch the ground during prostration. For these reasons he was called al-Sajjad.”
2. Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) also reported: “Ali bin Husayn (A.S.) stood in prayer in the way a humble servant of Allah would do in the Almighty’s presence, the One and Only, the Great. Parts of his body would tremble in fear of Allah, the Mighty, and Exalted. He used to perform his prayer in the way of a worshipper not certain to be able to perform it once more.”
3. Ibn Ishaq is reported to have said: “In the city of Madinah were such and such houses, whose inhabitants received their sustenance and their needs regularly. They did not know from where they got them. When Ali bin Husayn(A.S.) died, they lost all that.”
4. Abu Ja’far (A.S.) is reported to have said: “He would go out in the darkness of the night carryimg a bag on his back. He would come to a door and knock on it. He delivered food from his bag to anyone who would open the door. He used to keep his face covered whem helping the poor, lest they recognize him.”
5. Once a man insulted him. The Imam (A.S..) said nothing to him. ” I mean you! said the man. ‘And I ignore you!,’ replied the Imam (A.S.).
6. He heard of people who slandered him. He went to them and said: “If you say the truth, may Allah forgive me. And if you lie, may Allah forgive you.”
Imam al-Sajjad(A.S.) Leads the March
By Divine decree, Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) survived the horribly bloody massacre of Karbala’, perpetrated by the Umayyads. In a tragic condition, a fact to which Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) himself referred in his answer to Minhal bin Umar, who asked him: “How are you, O son of the Messenger of Allah?”. The Imam (A.S.) replied: “We have become like the Israelites among the people of Pharoah: they were slaughtering their children, and sparing their women.”
Allah willed that Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) be spared. He was 23 years old, in the prime of life. On the day of the battle of Karbala’ he was sick, and the duty of fighting the Umayyad army was not obligatory on him.
Shortly after the battle of (Taff), Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) embarked on his reforms. Two phenomena stand out in the reform movement which was led by Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.):
First: Continuation of Imam Husayn’s Activities
The Umayyads, and their followers, were fully aware of Imam Husayn’s and Ahlul-Bait’s unmatched status on the sight of the Muslims. For this consideration, they did their best to make a smoke screen around the cause of the Holy Imam(A.S.), so as to absorb any expected reaction from the people, particularly in Syria, their main stronghold. They achieved success in this field to the extent that they made people believe that Imam Husayn (A.S.) had rebelled against the legitimate ruler! Clearly these fallacies could have passed unopposed, if it were not for Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) who had decided to foil the Ummayyad rumors, and present the revolution as plainly as possible.
Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) and the chaste ladies of Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.), like Hadrat Zainab bint Ali(A.S.) and Umm Kulthum bint Ali(A.S.), among others, embraced the policy of unmasking the Umayyad’s ugly policy, and putting the ummah before its historical responsibility.
Upon the arrival of the captives to Syria, an old man approached Imam Ali al-Sajjad (A.S.) and said to him: “Praise be to Allah who killed you all and made the governor victorious over you.”
“O Sheikh!,” said the Holy Imam (A.S.) “Did you read the Quran?”
Certainly,” answered the old man.
“Then,” asked the Holy Imam(A.S.), “did you read this verse, ‘Say: I ask naught in return for it but love for my near relatives’, and this verse, ‘And give to the near of kin his due’, and this one, ‘And know that whatever you acquire in war, a fifth of it is for Allah and for the Messenger and for the near of kin?”
“Yes,” replied the old man, “I did read that.”
“By Allah,” emphasized the Holy Imam (A.S.) “we are the near of kin, mentioned in these verses.”
Then the Imam (A.S.) asked the man, “did you read this verse :,And only Allah desires to keep away uncleanness from you, O people of the household , and to purify you a (thorough) purification.”
“Certainly,” replied the old man.
Then the lmam(A.S.) said: “We are Ahlul-Bayt whom were chosen,from among all people for purification.”The old man , confused, asked, “Tell me,by Allah,are you really those people?”
“Certainly we are, and deyond any doubt, those people,” the Imam (A.S.) assured him.
The old man regretted from the depth of his heart for his judgement ,and repented to Allah ,renouncing the Umayyads and their party.
That is why Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) stood,in the stronghold rule,in the presence of Yazid bin Mu’awiya and all his assistants and chiefs of evil, to deliver his never-forgotten speech, in which he criticized the deviant and devilish Umayyad policy. He talked about the captives and their unique status in the sight of Allah. The speech reads, in part:
“O people! We were granted six privileges and preferred over all people with seven. We were given knowledge, clemency, tolerance, bravery, and the love of the faithful for us. And we were preferred over others by the following: The chosen Prophet, the truthful, Tayyar and the Lion of Allah and the Lion of His Messenger are all from us (Ahlul-Bait). The Chief of the Women of the Worlds, the chaste Fatima(A.S.), and the two grandsons of the Prophet (S.A.W.) are from us.
“O people! Whoever knew me would recognize me. But whoever does not know me, I will tell him about my lineage. I am the son of Makkah and Mina. I am the son of Zamzam and Safa. I am the son of the one who carried the Black Stone with a mantle. I am the son of the best who circumambulated the Ka’ba, walked to and from seven times between Safa and Marwa, and the best who performed pilgrimage and said, ‘Here I am, my Lord, here I am, O You Who has no partner. Certainly praise, favours,and the world,are all Yours, O you Who has no partner.’
I am the son of the man who was carried on Buraq (an animal) and whom Gabriel led to the sidrah-tree (beyond which no creature may pass), and came down within two bows’ length or even closer to Gabriel. I am the son of the one who led the angels of heaven in prayer. I am the son of the one to whom the Almighty had revealed what He has revealed. I am the son of Fatima al-Zahra’, the chief of all women, and I am the son of the Great Khadija. I am the son of the one who was sprinkled with his own blood. I am the son of the one who was slained in Karbala’…
At that point panic swept over the audience. Most of them broke into tears at the terrible truth. This forced Yazid to order the caller of prayer to say Adhan (call to prayer), in an attempt to interrupt the speech of Imam Zainul-Abideen (A.S.). The Imam(A.S.) said nothing until the caller said, ‘I bear witness that Muhammad(S.A.W.) is the Messenger of Allah,’ whereupon he turned to Yazid and asked him, ‘Is this mighty and noble Messenger your grandfather or mine? If you say that he is your grandfather, all the people present here, and all the rest of them will know that you are a liar. And if you say he is my gtandfather, then why did you slaughter my father unjustly and aggressively? Why did you plunder his property and take his womanfolk as captives? Woe to you on the Day of Judgement, when my grandfather will be your rival.”
As for the women of the household of the Prophet (S.A.W.) their achievements were no less than those of al-Sajjad (A.S.). They severely rebuked the Ummayyads and stripped them of their false pride before the umma which they were ruling. This fact can be found in the speech of the great Zainab, which she delivered in the presence of Yazid in Damascus, and in certain sharp arguments which broke out there.
Second: Adoption of New Approach to Reforms
If one examines the dimensions of the Imam’s role, in the life of the Muslims, after his returm to Madinah, one will find that he made use of the experience of his father, Imam Hussein (A.S.), in reforming Muslims’s social life.
Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.), in his capacity as the Imam of the umma, after his father, in whom the idelogical and social authority had converged, had to take the experience of his father into consideration. In its light he had to make his plans for reforms, and this he did.
When the Imam (A.S.) embarked on his reforms, which aimed at beginning a spiritual and cultural revolution among the Muslims, a set of objective conditions were on his side. They helped in advancing his plans futher. These conditions can be summed up in two elements:
First Element: The political and social upheavals which exploded in the most important cities of the Muslim world after the tragedy of Taff.
Second Element: There was a warm response to the mission of Ahlul-Bait (A.S..) from a wide section of the umma and there was a sweeping feeling that Ahlul-Bait (A.S.) were victims of the brutal policies of the rulers. The Imam (A.S.) found the sympathy of the masses towards Ahlul-Bait (A.S.) helpful in his endeavor to further the Islamic goals and bring the Islamic historical mission to fruition.
He set certain broad guidelines according to which he acted. He broadened the popular base to Ahlul-Bait (A.S.), sharpened peoples sentiment towards them and changing it into active and virtual loyality. He (A.S.) also raised the level of Islam awazareness of the umma and encouraged the masses to embrace Islam. Lastly, he (A.S.) created ideologically distinguished leadership which could bear the original Islamic thought and not that thought which served the narrow interests of thr Ummayyad rulers.
The Practical Method of the Imam (A.S.)
A clise look to the Imam’s way of life tells us that the Imam (A.S.) embraced a method having special goals vnd aims. It focused on the following:
The Imam (A.S.) made both the mosque of the Prophet (S.A.W.) amd his home centers for disseminating Islamic knowledge. Through his constructive efforts, he became a magnet attracting pioneers of Islamic thought at defferent levels and fields.
Through his blessed efforts during a long period of time (35 years), the term of his Imamate, he graduated traditionists, jurisprudents, and leading intellectuals who emerged as leading scholars.
Imam al-Sajjsd (A.S.) used to report authentic traditions from his grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), through a pure and reliable chain of transmitters that began with the two young lords of Paradise, namely Imam Hasan(A.S.) and Imam Hussein (A.S.), through the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali bin Abi-Talib (A.S.) and the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), ending with the Divine revelation itself.
2. Practical Embracing of the Problems of the Umma
Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.), like any of other Imams (A.S.), paid increasing attention to the umma. By strengthening his ties with them, he became the merciful father, the wise leader, who made a point of healing their wounds.
Regarding his father (A.S.), his son, Imam al-Baqir (A.S.) is quoted to have said:
“Imam al-Sajjad (A.S..) was supporting 100 poor families in Madinah. He liked the orphans, the needy, the long-time sick, and the poor who had no supporters, to be present at his feasts. He, himself, used to deliver food among them. Those who had wives and children were entitled to receive their share of food from the Imam.”
He (A.S.) used ro bring water to the weak among his neighbours at night and to buy a lot of slaves and freed them in order to save them from servitude.
His care for the people, from all walks of life, was so great that one of them said to him, “You associate with low class people.’ This man thought it was bad to have contact with such people, and the the Imam should leave them. ‘I, “said the Imam (A.S.) ‘am surely associating with whom I benefit for the sake of my faith.'”
3. Reviving the Tragedy of Imam Hussein (A.S.)
He (A.S.) allocated a special place within his house in which the battle of Taff was remembered and his men was revived. The memory of these martyrs was kept fresh, warm, and alive in the conscience and history of the umma. As it remained inside the minds of the people, it was simultaneously heightening their anger and discontent against the Ummayyads.
Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) left us a collection of supplications that are the zenith of perfection and eloquence. His supplications are like two sides of the same coin: the ritual side and the social one. The two sides go hand-in-hand.
These supplications, authorized by Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.), were collected into one eternal book entitled ‘Sahifa Sajjadiyya’ which is still read eagerly by the faithful. Thos book enjoyed increasing care and attention of the Imams of Ahlul-Bait (A.S.)
The Ummayyad’s React
The Ummayyad regime, headed by Abdul-Malik bin Marwan, raised the slogan of doing away with the faithful, and especially most effective forces among them. To carry out that devilish plan, Hajjaj bin Yusuf Thaqafi, the bloodthirsty, notorious Ummayyad leader, was installed as the new governor of Kufa, the capital of Ahlul-Bait (A.S..). Hajjaj ruled with an iron fist, spreading horror and death, killing the faithful on the slighest suspicion.
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.) depicts, precisely, the scope of bloodshed during that time. He says:
“…then came Hajjaj. He killed them ( the followers of Ahlul-Bait (A.S.) in the most horrible ways. He punished them on the slightest suspicion. Things were so bad that a man would like to be called ‘atheist’ or ‘infidel’ rather than ‘follower of Ali’.”
Many historians maintain that “Hajjaj died in 95 A.H. in the city of Wasit in Iraq… He killed more than 120,000 and in his prison 50,000 men and 30,000 women, among them were 16,000 single were found dead. He used to imprison men and women in one place… etc.”
Things deteriorated further after the death of Abdul-Malik. At the time when Walid, his son, assumed office, the opposition was nearly liquidated with the exception of Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) who went on with his social reforms. This upset the Ummayyads and made then anxious about their political future. Terrorizing the Imam (A.S.) would not make him change his mind.
They had only one choice left and that was to physically liquidate the Imam (A.S..) himself. They did it. Sulaiman bin Abdul-Malik assassinated Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) by poisoning him. Thus, during the reign of Walid bin Abdul-Malik, the shining light of the Imam (A.S.) was put out forever.
Though murdered, Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) lived through his thoughts and objectives which remained vividly alive, flowing with good and fertility, animating man’s history and carrying the light of virtue and guidance.
Peace be upon him, and upon the guiding Imams, his fathers, and sons and those who strive hard in their right path.