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THE LIFE OF ALI (Zain al-Abideen) IBN Al-HUSAIN(A-2)

THE LIFE OF ALI (Zain al-Abideen) IBN Al-HUSAIN(A)
                    by the late Dr. Syed Haider Hussain Shamsi

Name: Ali

Title:   Zain al-Abideen

Epithet:          Abu Muhammad

Father:           Husain bin Ali

Mother:          Shabar Bano binte Yazdigard III

Date of Birth:            Jamadiul Awwal, 37 AH (January 6,659 AD)

Place of Birth:           Madinah

Progeny:         from Umm Abd Allah binte al-Hasan

One: Muhammad (al-Baqir)

He had many other children from other wives

Date of Death:  Muharram 25, 95 AH (October 20, 713 AD)

He lived to an age of 54 years

Place of Death  :Madinah

Place of Burial:          Jannatul-Baqi’




 Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen was only two years of age when his grandfather, Imam Ali (the First Imam) was killed during prayers in the month of Ramadhan in the main mosque of Najaf (near Kufa).  He was a youth of fourteen years when he saw the life and the painful death of his uncle Imam Hasan (the Second Imam).  He was about twenty-three years of age when he accompanied his father, Imam Husain (the Third Imam) and witnessed the events of the tragedy of Karbala.  Before he finally left his camp, Imam Husain came to the bedside of his sick son Ali, and bestowed the onerous duty of Imamate on him.

Imam Ali ibn al-Husain survived the massacre only because he was physically unable to go out to the battlefield due to his sickness.  However, on the next day after the blood bath of his family and friends, he was hand tied and put in shackles, and marched on foot from the battlefield, first to Kula and then to Damascus.  On this joumey of painful suffering, his aunt Zaina binte Ali ibne Abi Tallb, the sister of Imam Husain and other surviving widows and children, accompanied him.

After Karbala, he lived for another thirty-four years under the tyrannical rule of several Marwanid caliphs who took personal gratification in inflicting abuse and torture to him and his followers.



        The hand-tied captives were not tongue-tied.  Despite the recent inflections of the loss of loved ones in the battlefield, lack of recuperation from the torturous thirst and starvation of women and children, the rag tag caravan manifested tremendous courage by defying their physical difficulties and continuing to preach the truth to the on-lookers who had gathered to line up the caravan route.

        The apparent victors were pleased with their achievement of the decimation of the Imam's carnp.  During their passage through the streets and bazaars of Kufa, the eloquent speeches made by the captive sister of Imam Husain, and his son Imam All Zain al-Abideen told their painful story to the onlookers who had come to line up the caravan route.  When they learned and realized who the captives were, they cried out aloud and openly rebuked the killers of the family of the Prophet of Islam.  From then on, the caravan was led to Damascus via an unfrequented route to prevent possible reprisals.

        The retelling of the story by the captives continued every inch of the way to the palace of Yazid.  This rendered an extremely valuable service to the cause of Imam Husain and made the victors look aggressors thirsty for the blood of the Imam and his family.  They were then thrown in prison for a period of over one-year.  Many children and the weak succumbed to fatigue and grief throughout the caravan route as well as within the prison.



        When the caravan of the survivors arrived in Madinah, the family and fiiends of the Imam met and told the events of the previous year to each other.  Some devotees were so overwhelmed with grief that they took a trip to Damascus in 63 AH to protest against Yazid and his deeds.  This infuriated the tyrant caliph.  He unleashed his Syrian army on to Madinah under a most ruthless Umayyad connnander named Muslim bin Uqba.  There was a bloody battle at Harrah al-Waqim, a small town just north of Madinah.  Thousands of Madinan Muslims perished along with many learned and respectable elders.  After the battle the soldiers ravaged the city for three full days, burning property, and looting freely homes and businesses.  They drank without any inhibition and thronged the streets throwing obscenities on the surviving residents.  Horrible was the havoc the Syrians played on life and limb and chaste womanhood.  It is said that when they departed, they left many families and the city in utter ruins.

        After the sack of Madinah, Muslim bin Uqba proceeded to Makkah to subdue and arrest the separatist Abd Allah bin Zubayr.  However, on the way Muslim died near the town of Jaffa, and the command passed over to Haseen bin Numayr al-Sakooni.  Approaching Makkah, they occupied the surrounding hills, and laid siege to the city for sixty-four days.  They threw projectiles of fire and rock on the city causing ruinous damage to the holy sanctuary.  It was at this time that the news of the death of Yazid was received and the siege of Makkah was lifted.  The tyrant Umayyad captain withdrew to Damascus.  This gave the much-needed reprieve to the self-proclaimed caliph of Makkah, Abd Allah bin Zubayr.  He started to rebuild the holy mosque and to repair the damages caused by the Umayyad army.

        There was not even a single day in the life of the Imam after Karbala that he was seen without tears in his eyes.  He used to pray to Allah with such intensity and devotion that he earned the names of Syed u's-Sajad, al-Abid and Zain al-Abideen.



        The tragedy of Karbala brought a wave of turmoil in the heartland of the Muslim world as well as to the house of Abu Sufyan.

        After the death of Yazid bin Muawiyah in 64 AH, the succession to the throne came to his son Muawiyah bin Yazid.  However, he declined it.  He considered the Caliphate to have been usurped by his family, and refused to have any thing to do with it.  For forty days, he did not leave his quarters in the palace.  It is said that he died there with the cause of death unknown.  Marwan bin Hakam, who had been managing the govenunent during this period of lull, declared himself the next caliph.  However, the caliphate of Marwan was only short lived.  He died in the year 65 AH and his son Abd al-Malik became the Caliph. 

        After Karbala, there was a faction of the believers who felt penitent over their betrayal of Imam Husain, and having the Umayyads butcher the innocent members of his family.  This is known as the Tawwabun movement.  They mustered a force of 16,000 strong under Sulayman bin Surad and marched towards Syria.  The Umayyad force met them at Ain ul-Wada on the Euphrates.  The Tawwabun charged with desperate passion, but perished at the hands of the superior Syrian army.  Only a few returned to tell the story of the disaster.

        There were others who were confused over why Imam Ali Zain al ‌Abideen was not taking up arms against the tyranny of the Umayyads.  They converged towards Muhammade Hanafia, the pious uncle of the Imam and wanted him to lead them against the tyrants.  However, the question over the rightful successor to Imamate was settled in favor of Imam Ali Zain al ‌Abideen the two met for Haj in Makkah.  The separatists were not satisfied as the Imam refused to take up arms against the ruler or to participate in any political ambition.

        The death of Yazid did bring a new wave of revolution in the province of Hijaz.  Abd Allah bin Zubayr became more active in Makkah in pursuit of his campaign for a separatist  movement which he had started in 64 AH.  He was able to gather support for his claim from Hijaz, as well as the provinces of Iraq and Yemen.  After establishing his rule in these provinces, he started his own campaign of revenge against the friends and the family of Imam Ali on account of the disposition of his father who had joined the army of Ayesha in the battle of The Carnel.  The veterans like the pious Muhammad Hanafia and Ibne Abbas, among others, were arrested for execution.  However, they were salvaged by the short rule of Muk-htar that had just been established in Kufa in 64 AH.

        After the disaster of Ain ul-Wada, the Kufans rose again under Mukhtar bin Abu Ubaid al-Thaqafi.  They sacked the governor of Abd Allah bin Zubayr and installed Muk-htar as their caliph.  Muk-htar approached Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen to endorse his political venture against the Umayyad tyrants, and to lead his followers.  The Imam declined his invitation.  However, Mukhtar then turned to Muhammade Hanafia and was able to enlist him to be his patron.  Thereafter, in the year 66 AH, in a series of successful battles, his forces rounded up the captains of the Umayyad army who were responsible for the massacre of Karbala and the sack of the holy cities of Madinah and Makkah, and had them beheaded for their despicable crimes.

        In 67 AH, Abd Allah bin Zubayr regained control of the province of Iraq and sent his own brother Mus'ab bin Zubayr against Mukhtar.  The city of Kufa was besieged and taken.  Muk-htar was defeated and killed in battle.

        When Abd al-Malik became the caliph, Abd Allah bin Zubayr was fairly established in Hijaz and Iraq.  He decided to reclaim Hijaz and Iraq under the Umayyad rule.  He chose Hujaj bin Yusuf as his right hand commander and despatched him to Iraq to subdue the rebel provinces.  To this end, the caliph and his governor together earned for themselves the title of the most cruel and tyrannical rulers in the history of Islam.  Hujaj achieved his goals by a whole sale massacre of all those who claimed any connection with Imam Ali or his progeny.  The holy city of Makkah was ransacked once again, and slaughtered the separatist Abd Allah bin Zubayr in Makkah in 73 AH.  His head was hung over the main road leading in andout of the city.  Most Aliyyids and their followers ran for their lives and escaped to the relative safety of lands on the outer periphery of the kingdom.  With the elimination of Mukhtar in Iraq, and Abd Allah in Hijaz, the entire Muslim world once again came under the rule of a single Umayyad Caliph.  New conquests started at the Far West and Far East of the Caliphate, and the Caliph was able to attend to the consolidation of the internal affairs as well.

        However, in the same vein as his predecessors regarding the Hashimite clan, the Caliph Abd al-Malik also kept a watchftd eye on the hnarn and his family.  He used to call the Imam periodically to his court in Damascus.  When Abd'al-Malik died in 86 AH, his son Walid succeeded him to the throne.

        Walid was also a tyrant 'in his own ways.  For the next ten years of his rule, he maintained the tradition of his predecessors and did not spare the Imam from his abuse.  When he decreed that the Prophefs mosque at Madinah be enlarged the contiguous grounds were obtained by evicting the Hashimites from their homes without compensation.

        The few devout believers that survived the relentless persecution of the rules of the time were grieved at the amount of abuse thrown at the Imam.  Once some one taunted the Imam while he was heading to Makkah for Haj, and said, "You have chosen the relative ease of the Haj in favor of the difficulty of Jihad." The Imam replied, "Only if I had true believers behind me, I would change my Haj to Jihad."

        Despite the difficult times faced by the hna@ he continued his service to Islam and to all those who sought from him the interpretation of al-Qtwan or the Sunnah of the Prophet.  He managed to convey the lessons of the belief and the practice of Islam by a unique medium.  He did this through prayers and supplications.  These have been collected in the form of a book popularly known as SAHIFAHAS-SAJJADIYYA.  An elegant English translation of this book is now available. 

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