Zayd ibn Ali

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Zayd ash-Shaheed
زيد بن علي
Other names Kunya: Abu al-Hasan
Imam of Mosque
Born 76 AH
695 C.E.
Died 1st Safar 122 AH
740 C.E.
Resting place Kufa
Children Hasan, Yahya, Husayn, Isa Mawtamul Ishball
Senior posting
  • Zayd ash-Shaheed
    (Arabic for Zayd the Martyr)
  • Halif al-Qur'an
    (Arabic for Ally of the Qur'an)
Period in office Imamate: 28 years
(95 AH – 122 AH)

Zayd ibn ‘Alī (Arabic: زيد بن علي‎‎, also spelled Zaid, Zayyed; 695–740) was the grandson of Husayn ibn Ali, and great-grandson of Ali. Zayd was born in Medina in 695. He was the son of Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin.[1] Ibn Qutaybah in his book “al-Ma‘ārif”, republished in 1934 in Egypt, writes (at page 73) that one of the wives of the 4th Shia Imam was from Sindh and that she was the mother of Zayd ibn Ali. A similar claim has also been made in the book “Zayd Shaheed” by Abd al-Razzaq al-Hasani, published in Najaf[2]

Hadith Prophesying his Birth

The prophet once looked at Zayd ibn Harithah, cried, and said "The martyr in the sake of Allah, The crucified of my people, The oppressed from my progeny, his name is thus." Then the prophet pointed at Zayd ibn Harithah and said "Come closer to me, your name became more dear to me because it is the same as my dear child (Zaid.)"[3]

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir narrated: "The Holy Prophet put his sacred hand on Husayn bin Ali's back and said: 'O Husayn, it will not be long until a man will be born among your descendants. He will be called Zaid; he will be killed as a martyr. On the day of resurrection, he and his companions will enter heaven, setting their feet on the necks of the people.'"[3]

Contemporary opinions of Zayd ibn Ali

Zayd was a revered and respected member of the Ahl ul Bayt, the family bloodline of the prophet Muhammad. Scholars, Saints, Sufis and Imams alike, all spoke of him in respectable terms.

Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid the writer of the famous Shi'ah book Kitab al Irshad described him as, "...a devout worshipper, pious, a jurist, God-fearing and brave."[4]

When describing Zayd, Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq said: "Among us he was the best read in the Holy Qur'an, and the most knowledgeable about religion, and the most caring towards family and relatives."[5] Hence his title "Ally of the Quran" (Halef Al-Quran)

Zayd's brother Imam Muhammad al-Baqir spoke of him reverentially, "No one of us was born to resemble ‘Ali ibn Abi Taleb more than he did"[6]

Imam Ali ar-Ridha spoke of him respectfully:

Imam Jafar Sadiq's love for his uncle Zayd ibn Ali was immense. Upon receiving and reading the letter of Zayd ibn Ali's death he broke down and cried uncontrollably, and proclaimed aloud:

Abu Hanifah once said about Imam Zayd, "I met with Zayd and I never saw in his generation a person more knowledgeable, as quick a thinker, or more eloquent than he was."[9]

The Sufi scholar, Mujtahid and mystic, Sufyan al-Thawri respected Imam Zayd's knowledge and character, saying "Zayd took the place of Imam Al-Hussain. He was the most versed human concerning Allah’s holy book. I affirm: women have not given birth to the likes of Zayd..."[10]

The famous ascetic Caliph Umar ibn Abdul Aziz was the then Governor of Madinah during the reign of al-Walid and Suleiman and was also an associate of Zayd ibn Ali. Zayd continued to correspond and advise him when he became khalifah.[11]

It is worth mentioning that he is also the first narrator of the famous as-Sahifah as-Sajjãdiyya of Imam Zainul 'Abidin.

Several works of hadith, theology, and Qur'anic exegesis are attributed to him. The first work of Islamic jurisprudence Mujmu'-al-Fiqh is attributed to him. The only surviving hand-written manuscript of this work dating back to at least a thousand years is preserved in the pope's library, Bibliotheca Vaticana in Vatican City under "Vaticani arabi". Photocopies of this rare work are available in several libraries including the Library of the University of Birmingham, UK. In 2007, Sayyid Nafis Shah al-Husayni obtained a copy of this work and re-issued it from Lahore.

He was an excellent orator and spent much of his life learning and educating others. It is said of his brother Imam Muhammad al-Baqir wanted to test his brother on the Quranic knowledge, asking him various questions for which he received answers beyond his expectation, causing to him to remark, "For our father and mother’s life! You are one of a kind. God grace your mother who gave you birth, she gave birth to a replica of your forefathers!"[12]

Hadith prophesying his Death

The prophet Muhammad prophesied his death, as narrated by Imam Husayn:


In AH 122 (AD 740), Zayd led an uprising against the Umayyad rule of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in the city of Kufa. Zayd, like his predessors Hussain and Ali was badly let down by many of the city's inhabitants, who had always been disloyal to Muhammad's bloodline. Yusuf ibn Umar al-Thaqafi, the Umayyad governor of Iraq, managed to bribe the inhabitants of Kufa which allowed him to break the insurgence, killing Zayd in the process.[14]


There are two shrines for Zayd, One is in Kufa, Iraq, the other is in Karak, Jordan. The shrine in Jordan is believed to be the final resting place of the head of Zayd ibn ‘Ali ibn Al-Husayn.[15]


All schools of Islam, Sunnis and Shias, regard Zayd Ibn Ali as a righteous martyr (Shaheed) against what was regarded as the corrupt leadership of an unjust Caliph. It is even reported that Mujtahid Imam Abu Hanifa, founder of the largest school of Sunni jurisprudence, gave financial support to Zayd's revolt and called on others to join Zayd's rebellion. Zayd's rebellion inspired other revolts by members of his clan, especially in the Hejaz, the most famous among these being the revolt of Imam Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya al-Mahdi against the Abbasids in 762.

Zaydis believe that he was a rightful Caliph and their sect is named after him.

It is believed that from him originated the derogatory word for Imami Shi'ites, Rafida.[citation needed]


Early Islam scholars

See also


  1. Madelung, W. "Zayd b. Alī b. al-Husayn." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. Brill Online. 13 September 2007 [1]
  2. Kararvi, Syed Najmul Hassan. Fourteen Stars (in Urdu). Lahore, Pakistan: Imamia Kutab Khana. pp. 169–170. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Alsayd Ibrahim Aldarsee Alhamzee, Preface of Musnad Al-Imam Zaid bin Ali, Referencing:Biography of Imam Zaid bin Ali
  4. Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, A short History of the Yemenite Shi‘ites (2005) Referencing: al-Irshad, p. 403
  5. Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, A short History of the Yemenite Shi‘ites (2005) Referencing: Religion & Faith
  6. Al-Anwar
  7. UYUN AKHBAR AL-REZA -The Source of Traditions on Imam Reza Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Hussein ibn Musa ibn Babawayh al-Qummi (Sheikh Sadooq), p466
  8. UYUN AKHBAR AL-REZA -The Source of Traditions on Imam Reza Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Hussein ibn Musa ibn Babawayh al-Qummi (Sheikh Sadooq), p472
  9. Al-Tuhaf Sharh al-Zulaf, p28
  10. Hidayat al-Raghibeen
  11. Amali al-Murshid bi-Illah al-Ithnyniyah
  12. Narrated by Imam Abu Taleb in al-Amali, p 77 on the authority of Abu Hashem al-Rummani. This was also narrated by Imam al-Mansur billah ‘Abdullah ibn Hamzah in al-‘Aqd al-Thamin
  13. Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, A short History of the Yemenite Shi‘ites (2005) Referencing: Peshawar Nights by Sultanu'l-Wa'izin Shirazi
  14. Blankinship, Khalid Yahya (1994). "Khārijī and Shī‘ī Revolts in Iraq and the East". The End of the Jihād State. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 190–191. 
  15. Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, A short History of the Yemenite Shi‘ites (2005)