Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin
|Ali ibn Husayn
علي بن حسين (Arabic)
4th Imam of Twelver and 3rd Imam of Ismaili Shia
4 January 659|
(5 Sha'aban 38 AH) Or (5 Jumada al-awwal 36 AH)
Kufa, Iraq or Medina, Hejaz
|Died||c. 20 October 713
(12 or 25 Muharram 95 AH)
Medina, Umayyad Empire
|Cause of death||Death by poisoning according to most Shi'a Muslims|
|Resting place||Jannatul Baqi, Saudi Arabia
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|Ethnicity||Arab (Quraysh), Persian|
|Predecessor||Husayn ibn Ali|
|Successor||Muhammad al-Baqir according to the Twelver Shia, Zayd bin Ali according to the Zaidiyyah Shia.|
|Spouse(s)||Fatimah bint Hasan
Zayd ibn Ali
|Parent(s)||Husayn ibn Ali
Lady Shāhzanān (aka Shahr Banu)
Sakinah (Fatima al-Kubra) bint Husayn
Fatima al-Sughra bint al-Husayn
|The Fourteen Infallibles|
Ali ibn Husayn (Arabic: علي بن الحسين) known as Zayn al-Abidin (the adornment of the worshippers) and Imam al-Sajjad (The Prostrating Imam), was the fourth Shia imam, after his father Husayn, his uncle Hasan, and his grandfather Ali—Muḥammad’s son-in-law. Ali ibn Husayn survived the Battle of Karbala and was taken, along with enslaved women, to the caliph in Damascus. Eventually, he was allowed to return to Medina, where he led a secluded life with a few intimate companions. Imam Sajjad's life and statements were entirely devoted to asceticism and religious teachings, mostly in the form of invocations and supplications. His famous supplications are known as Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya.
- 1 Birth
- 2 In Karbala
- 3 The aftermath of Karbala and his Imamah
- 4 Social status
- 5 Asceticism
- 6 Selected sayings
- 7 Works
- 8 Death
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 Sources
- 13 External links
According to most sources, Ali ibn al-Husayn was born in Medina, modern-day Saudi Arabia, in the year 38/658–9.[lower-alpha 1] He may have been too young to have remembered his grandfather Ali; he was raised in the presence of his uncle Hasan and his father Husayn, Prophet Muhammad’s grandchildren. It is said that Ali ibn al-Husayn was related through his mother Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdegerd, to the last Sassanian King of Persia.[lower-alpha 2] Ali ibn al-Husayn was said to be Ibn al-Khiyaratayn, the "son of the best two (the Quraysh among the Arabs and the Persians among the non-Arabs)". According to some accounts, Ali ibn al-Husayn's mother was taken as a captive to Medina during the caliphate of Umar, who wanted to sell her. Ali instead suggested allowing her to chose a husband from among the Muslim men and paying her dowery from the public treasury. Umar agreed; she chose Ali’s son Husayn.[lower-alpha 3]
In 61/680, Muhammad's grandson Husayn ibn ali and a small group of supporters and relatives were killed at the Battle of Karbala by the large military forces of the Umayyad caliph Yazid, to whom Husayn had refused to give an oath of allegiance. Zayn al-Abidin accompanied his father on a march toward Kufa; he was present at the Battle of Karbala but survived the battle because he was ill. Once the Umayyad troops had killed Husayn and his male followers, they looted the tents and took the skin upon which he was laying. It is said that Shemr was about to kill Zayn al-Abidin but his aunt Zaynab made Umar ibn Sa'ad, the Umayyad commander, spare his life. Zain al-Abidin and the enslaved women were taken to the caliph; eventually he was allowed to return to Medina. During the journey, he delivered speeches in Kufa and Damascus, and informed the people of his father's intentions.
Several accounts record Zayn al-Abidin's deep sorrow over the massacre. It is said that for twenty years, he would weep when food was placed before him. One day a servant said to him, "O son of Allah’s Messenger! Is it not time for your sorrow to come to an end?" He replied, "Woe upon you! Jacob the prophet had twelve sons, and Allah made one of them disappear".[lower-alpha 6]
The aftermath of Karbala and his Imamah
Kufa's people invited Husayn to go to Kufa and be their Imam, but they did not back him and his family against Kufa's governor, who massacred them in Karbala. Thus they thought themselves responsible for the tragedy of Karbala and tried to compensate for it by throwing themselves into the struggle to obtain vengeance for Husayn's blood. They chose Sulayman b. Surad al Khuza'I as their leader and called themselves Tawwabun (penitents). They were seeking an opportunity for action, until Mukhtar al-Thaqafi came to Kufa and claimed to represent Zayn al-Abedin, who was still in Medina. He soon gained the authority of a leader and took vengeance on those who were involved in Husayn's killing. Umar ibn Sa'ad and Shemr were executed and their heads were sent to Zayn al-Abedin. Ubaid Allah was also killed in the battle on the Zab; his head was taken to the place in Kufa where Ubaid Allah had received the head of Husayn. The governor of Medina did not consider that Zayn al-Abedin was responsible for Mukhtar's action, since he had already left Medina for its outskirts to avoid being involved in political movements. Moreover, there is evidence that he was unmolested and excepted from giving allegiance to Yazid, after the Battle of Harra, where Medinans were sacked and looted by Yazid's army.
Around this time, the question of the right of succession between Ali ibn al-Husayn and Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah gained the most attention. Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah was a pious, brave man who many considered him as their Imam. Other Shia sects said Zayn al-Abedin had the right to inherit the Imamah, for his father Husayn had designated him the next Imam. Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah said he was more worthy because he was the son of Ali. But Zayn al-Abidin replied to his uncle, Fear God and make no such claim. After the death of Ibn Zubayr, the governor of Medina, Zayn al-Abedin and Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah agreed to go to Mecca and appeal to Black Stone to try to determine which one of them was the true successor. They went to Kaaba, where the Black Stone was placed. Muhammad prayed for a sign but no answer came. Afterwards, Zayn al-Abedin prayed and the Black Stone became agitated and nearly fell off the wall; thus came the answer that Zayn-al-Abidin was the true Imam after Husayn, an answer to which Muhammad consented.[lower-alpha 7] After this settlement, Zayn al-Abedin returned to Medina and led a quiet life with a few companions who referred to him for answers to religious questions.[lower-alpha 8]
Ali ibn al-Husayn was respected by his followers, who considered him as the fourth imam, and by the circle of Medinan scholars who considered him as an eminent traditionist. The lawyer Said ibn al-Musayyib and the jurist and traditionist al-Zuhri—though attached to the court of the Umayyad—were among his admirers. Al-Zuhri gave him the honorific Zayn al-Abedin—the ornament of worshipers—and narrated many Hadiths from him. Evidence for his high position among people comes from an ode told by the well-known Arab poet farazdaq. This ode mentions an occasion when the Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik was overshadowed by the respect people showed to the imam. It was the time of Hajj when both of them were trying to reach the Black Stone through the crowd turning around the Kaaba. The people gave way to Zayn al-Abedin while Hisham struggled desperately. This deeply offended the Caliph, who sarcastically asked to whom the people had shown such respect. Farazdaq, who was present there, composed an ode addressing Hisham's question; it is considered a masterpiece of Arabic literature and the most reliable contemporaneous document describing Zayn al-Abidin.[lower-alpha 9]
It is related from the Imam that when he saw a beggar weeping, he said: If the world was in his hands and suddenly it dropped from it, it would not be worth weeping for. The Imam renounced worldly pleasures but did not give way to poverty and feebleness, rather he was "pious with what God prohibited". The Imam was self-denying and turned away from the world,[lower-alpha 10] and Sufis consider him as one of their kind and wrote biographies about him. 
It is narrated from the Imam that while circumambulating the Kaaba, he heard a man asking God for patience, so he turned to him and said: "You are asking (God) for tribulation. Say: O God, I ask You for well-being and gratitude for it." It is also related when asked about asceticism, Zayn al-Abidin replied, "Asceticism is of ten degrees: The highest degree of asceticism is the lowest degree of piety. The highest degree of piety is the lowest degree of certainty. The highest degree of certainty is the lowest degree of satisfaction. Asceticism is in one verse of Allah’s Book: 'Hence that you may not grieve for what has escaped you, nor be exultant at what He has given you.' "[lower-alpha 11]
- Who honors himself dishonors worldly things.
- (The position of) patience in faith is like that of the head in the body, and he who has no patience has no faith. 
- It has been written in the Bible: 'Seek not the knowledge of what you do not do until you do what you come to know. If knowledge is not put into practice, it increases its possessor nothing except unbelief and remoteness from God.
- All good is in man's safeguarding his soul.
- When been slandered by a mean person he said: 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.
- He would secretly carry food on his shoulders for the poor and needy, and when al-Zuhri asked him; what that is on your back, he said: I am making preparations for a journey.[lower-alpha 12] I am preparing provisions for it and carrying them to a secure place.[lower-alpha 13]
- The most lovable ways for Allah are two : Repelling rage with clemency and misfortune with forbearance.
- He has also quoted sayings of his grandfather Ali, the first Shia Imam, which is stated in response to some questions of his companion, Zayd ibn Suhan:
Zayd: "Which authority is the most overcoming and strongest?.
Zayd: “Which lowliness is the most lowly?”
Ali: “Clinging to the world.”
Zayd: “Which poverty is the most intense?”
Ali: “Unbelief after belief.”
Zayd: “Which creed is the most devious?”
Ali: “Unreal creed.”
Zayd: “Which creature is the most miserable?”
Ali: “It is he who sells his world for the world of other than him.”
Zayd: “Which creature is the strongest?”
Ali: “The clement one.”
Zayd: “Which of men is the most clement?”
Ali: “It is he who does not become angry.”
Zayd: “Which of men is the most foolish?”
Ali: “It is he who is deceived by the world, while he sees its changeable conditions.”
Zayd: “ Which catastrophe is the most intense?”
Ali: “The catastrophe in the religion.”
According to Chittick, the Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is the "oldest prayer manual in Islamic sources and one of the most seminal works of Islamic spirituality of the early period". Shia tradition considers this book with great respect, ranking it behind the Quran and Ali’s Nahj al-Balagha. This prayer book deals with Islamic spirituality and provides teachings on levels from the theological to the social. The traditional category of "faith", for example, which forms the basic subject matter of most of Islamic thought as developed in kalaam philosophy and Sufism, has been discussed in this book. Zayn al-Abidin refers frequently to Islamic practices, emphasizing the necessity of following the Quran and the hadith's guidelines, and the necessity of establishing justice in society.
The Fifteen Whispered Prayers
The Fifteen Whispered Prayers also known as The Fifteen Munajat, is a collection of fifteen prayers attributed to Zayn al-Abidin, which some researchers regard as a supplementary part of the latter collection. These prayers enable a person to recite the prayer that is most in accordance with his present mood. The prayers start with repentance, which is the first step towards a genuine communion with God.
Supplication of Abu Hamza al-Thumali
According to Abu Hamza al-Thumali, during the month of Ramadhan, Imam Zayn al-Abidin would spend most of the night in prayer. At the beginning of the fast, he recited a supplication later known as Du'a Abi Hamzah al-Thumali (The supplication of Abi Hamzah al-Thumali). This supplication is recorded in the book Misbah al-Mutahijjid of Shaykh Tusi.
Treatise on Rights
Zain al-Abidin’s "Treatise on Rights" is the only work other than supplications, short sayings and letters, attributed to him. According to Chittick, this treatise is especially important because it deals with many of the same themes as the Sahifa in a different style and language. In this book, Zayn al-Abidin clarifies that a hierarchy of priorities must always be observed: The individual comes before the social, the spiritual before the practical, and knowledge before action. Each human being has a long series of social duties, but these depend upon his more essential duties; faith in Allah, and placing one’s own person into the proper relationship with the Divine Reality.
According to Shia belief, Zayn al-Abidin was poisoned by Umayyad ruler Al-Walid[disambiguation needed] through the instigation of the Umayyad caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in Medina. The date of his death is most often given as 94/712-13 or 95/713-14; other dates mentioned are 92/710-11, 93/711-12, 99/717-18 and 100/718-19. He was buried next to his uncle, Hasan, in the cemetery of Al-Baqi' cemetery in Medina. After his death many people discovered their livelihoods had come from him. He would go out with a sack of food on his back, knocking at the doors of more than 100 families, and gave freely to whoever answered while covering his face to avoid being recognized.
- Ahl Al-Bayt
- Nahj al Balagha
- Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya
- The Fifteen Whispered Prayers
- Al-Risalah al-Huquq
- Other dates mentioned are 33/653–4, 36/656–7, 37/657–8, 50/670
- Her name has also been given as Shah-Zanan, Sulaafa, Ghazaala, and Shahr-Banuya, among others.
- She is said to have died shortly after giving birth to her only son Ali.
- Quran, 12:84
- From Shaykh as-Sadooq, al-Khisal; quoted in al-Ameen, A’yan, IV, 195. The same is quoted from Bin Shahraashoob’s Manaqib in Bih’ar al-Anwar, XLVI, 108; Cf. similar accounts, Ibid, pp. 108-10
- His eyes turned white from constant weeping, his head turned grey out of sorrow, and his back became bent in gloom,[lower-alpha 4] though his son was alive in this world. But I watched while my father, my brother, my uncle, and seventeen members of my family were slaughtered all around me. How should my sorrow come to an end?"[lower-alpha 5]
- Abū Khālid al-Kābuli was among those who confessed the Imamah of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, but turned to Zayn al-Abedin afterwards, saying "I served Mohammed b. al-Hanafiya for a time of my life. I had no doubt that he was the Imām till I asked him by the Sacredness of Allah, the Sacredness of the Messenger, and the Sacredness of the Commander of the faithful, so he guided me to you and said: ‘Ali b. al-Husayn is the Imām over me, you, and all the creatures.’"
- Canon Sell, op. cit., p. II, quoting Sahifat Al-Abidin, p. 184.
- It goes as follows: "It is someone whose footsteps are known by every place / And it is he who is known to the bayt in Mecca,(i.e. the Kaaba) The most frequented sanctuary; / It is he who is the son of the best of all men of Allah;(i.e. the Prophet Muhammad) / and it is he who is the most pious and devout, the purest and most unstained, the chastest and most righteous, a symbol [for Islam]; / This is Ali [b. al-Husain] whose parent is the Prophet; / This is the son of Fatimah, if you do not know who he is; / Whosoever recognizes his Allah knows also the primacy and superiority of this man; / Because the religion has reached the nations through his House..."
- It is said that al-Zuhri when he was asked about the most ascetic one, he answered: “The most ascetic of all the people is Ali b. al-Husayn.
- Quran, 57:23
- i.e. death
- “Let this boy of mine carry the flour instead of you,” asked al-Zuhri . “ But I do not disdain what will save me during my journey and makes good my going to Whom I will go." Said the Imam. After some days al-Zuhri met him and asked him: “Son of Allah’s Apostle, I do not see any mark of that journey which you ended?” And the Imām explained what he had meant by journey
- Quoted from The Fifteen Whispered Prayers (first prayer)
- Quoted from the Fifteen Whispered Prayers(fifth prayer)
- Quoted from the Fifteen Whispered Prayers (ninth prayer)
- Quoted from Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya (12th Supplication)
- Quoted from Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya (13th Supplication)
- Quoted from the Treatise on Rights, Right of Charitty
- Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 14
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Find more about
Ali ibn Husayn
at Wikipedia's sister projects
|Quotations from Wikiquote|
|Source texts from Wikisource|
|Data from Wikidata|
- As-Sahifa Al-Sajjadiyya
- Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)
- Dua'a Abu Hamza Thumali
- Fifteen Whispered Prayers text in Arabic, English, and Urdu
- Fifteen Whispered Prayers-English Audios
- The life of Imam Zayn al-Abidin (as) by Bāqir Sharif al-Qarashi
- Life of Imam az-Zayn al-Abideen as-Sajjad by Dr. Muhammad bin Yahya al-Ninowy .
- Ali ibn Husayn by Wilferd Madelung, an article in Encyclopædia Iranica
Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Clan of the Banu QuraishBorn: 5th Sha‘bān 38 AH ≈ 657 CE Died: 25th Muharram 95 AH ≈ 713 CE
|Shia Islam titles|
Husayn ibn Ali
|4th Imam of Twelver and 3rd Imam of Ismaili Shia
680 – 713
Zayd ibn Ali
| The Twelve Imams of