Ali ibn Husayn
عَلِيّ ٱبْن ٱلْحُسَيْن
Ali ibn Hussain ibn Ali
c. 4 January 659
(5 Sha'aban 38 AH) Or (15 Jumada al-awwal 36 AH)
|Died||c. 20 October 713 (aged 54)|
(25 Muharram 95 AH)
|Cause of death||Poisoning by Al-Walid I|
|Resting place||Jannat al-Baqi cemetery, Medina, Saudi Arabia|
(Master of the prostraters)
|Predecessor||Husayn ibn Ali|
|Successor||Muhammad al-Baqir according to the Twelver, and Ismaili Shia, Zayd ibn Ali according to the Zaidiyyah Shia.|
|Spouse(s)||Fatimah bint Hasan|
Ali Al Asghar
Umar Al Ashraf
and two Daughters
Umm Kulthoom and Khadija
|Parent(s)||Husayn ibn Ali|
Lady Shāhzanān (aka Shahr Banu)
Fatima al-Kubra bint Husayn
Fatima al-Sughra bint al-Husayn
|Part of a series on Islam|
|Shia Islam portal|
Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (Arabic: عَلِيّ ٱبْن ٱلْحُسَيْن زَيْن ٱلْعَابِدِين), also known as al-Sajjad (Arabic: ٱلسَّجَّاد, "The Consistently Prostrating") or simply Zayn al-Abidin (Arabic: زَيْن ٱلْعَابِدِين, "Adornment of the Worshippers"), (c. 4 January 659 – c. 20 October 713) was the fourth Imam in Shiʻi Islam after his father Husayn ibn Ali, his uncle Hasan ibn Ali, and his grandfather, Ali. He is considered a respected scholar among Sunnis and hadiths reported by him are recorded in all six major Sunni hadith collections. He was born, according to some sources, from Shahrbanu.
Ali was just one of three boys called Ali, in his family. The two others were killed in The Battle of Karbala, one of them just an infant. Zayn al-Abidin survived the Battle, since he was ill, and did not participate in the battle. Later on he was sent to Kufa along with surviving women and children. In Kufa, he was about to be killed by Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, who disdained him by saying that God killed his family. Ali ibn Husayn, condemned ibn Ziad, by quoting a verse of Quran, which says otherwise. Ali, then was sent to Damascus, where he had a Sermon at Yazid I's palace, in presence of people who Yazid expected to take his side. In this sermon, Ali introduced himself and his family as Ahl al-Bayt of the prophet of Islam who were killed by Muslims!
Eventually, he was allowed to return to Medina, where he led a secluded life with a few intimate companions. Ali took part in no political movement for or against Umayyeds. One of this movements was Battle of al-Harra ( Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr's revolt against Umayyad Caliphate which was suppressed), after which Ali was excepted from giving oath of allegiance to Yazid, while others had to do so. Another event was Mukhtar al-Thaqafi's revolt in which all killer of Husayn ibn ali were punished by Mokhtar. According to Shia sources, Mokhtar, first wanted to start his rise in the name of Zayn al-Abidin, however after his refusal, Mokhtar went to Ali's uncle, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah. Thus, for some time, Muhammad ibn Hanafiyya had more followers than Zayn al-abidin. These Shias who wanted to take revenge for Husayn's blood, were gathered around Mokhtar, and were called Kaysanites.
According to Chittick, Ali ibn al-Husayn fathered fifteen children, eleven boys and four girls, from his wife, Umm Abdullah bint Hasan, and some concubines. Zain al-Abidin's life and statements was 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 "The Scripture of Sajjad".
His name was Ali, however he was not the only son of Husayn who named Ali. There were two other Ali who were killed in Karbala. One of them was an infant, referred to as Ali Ali al-Asghar (Younger Ali) in Shia literature; the other one was Ali al-Akbar (Elder Ali). Some Shia historians maintain that Zayn al-Abidin was Ali al-Awsat(the Middle Ali) while his oldest brother was killed along with the infant. Some others reverse the position of the two older brothers.
Some historians including Ibn Sa'd, Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Baladhuri and Al-Tabari refer to Zayn al-Abidin as Ali al-Asghar. Kadi al-Nu'man, however, calls Zayn al-Abidin Ali al-Akbar, hence the oldest brother.
Ali's epithets are Abu'l-Ḥasan, Abu'l-Ḥosayn, Abū Moḥammad, Abū Bakr, and Abū ʿAbdallāh. The honorifics titles given to him were Sajjad(He who constantly prostrate himself), Zayn al-Abidin(Ornament of worshipers), and Zaki(the pure). He was also called Ḏu’l-ṯafenāt because of the calluses formed on his body while touching the ground in prostration.
Ali's father was Husayn ibn Ali, the third Shia Imam, after his brother Hasan ibn Ali, the second Shia Imam, and his father, Ali, the first Shia Imam. Ali's mother is named variously, Barra, Ḡazāla, Solāfa, Salāma, Šāhzanān, Šāhbānūya. According to Ibn Qutaybah she was an slave from Sind. Some Shia traditions maintain that Ali ibn al-Husayn was related through his mother Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdegerd III, to the last Sasanian Emperor.[a] Ali ibn al-Husayn was known as ibn al-Khiyaratayn, the "son of the best two", meaning the Quraysh among the Arabs and the Persians among the non-Arabs". According to some accounts, Shahrbanu was brought as a captive to Medina during the caliphate of Umar (some say during the caliphates of Uthman or Ali), who wanted to sell her. Ali suggested allowing her to choose a husband from among the Muslims and paying her mahr from the public treasury. Umar agreed; she chose Ali's son, Husayn. She is said to have died shortly after giving birth to her only son, Ali.
According to Donaldason, Ali ibn al-Husayn was two years old when his grandfather, Ali, died. Lived ten years during Imamate of his uncle, Hasan ibn Ali, ten years during Imamte of his father, Husayn ibn Ali, and thirty five years as Imam. So he died in 94 or 95 at the age of sixty seven, during Caliphate of Al-Walid I, when Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik was still a young man.111 
Ali ibn al-Husayn was born in Medina in the Hejaz, now in Saudi Arabia, in the year 38/658–9.[b] 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, Muhammad's grandchildren.
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.
Ali ibn al-Husayn, along with women and children were taken to Kufa as captives. According to Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid they were carried on bare camels, chains were placed around Ali's bleeding neck, while he sapped by illness. Kufa women were crying, so Ali said "they are weeping and lamenting over us! so who has killed us?"
Ali presented before Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad as a prisoner. It is said that Ibn Ziad asked him "who are you?"."I am Ali ibn Husayn" said Ali. "Did not Allah killed Ali ibn al-Husayn?" Ibn Ziad said. "I used to have an older brother also named Ali, whom you killed" Ali said. "Allah killed him", shouted ibn Ziad. Ali Quoted a verse of Quran, arguing that God takes the souls at the time of death, meaning God does not kill people. Ibn Ziad burst in furious ordered him to be executed, however he rescued due Zaynab's entreaty.
Ali ibn al-Husayn and the enslaved women were sent to the Yazid I in Damascus afterwards. It is narrated that Yazid, brought the captives in presence of people who gathered in his palace, then asked someone to give an speech against Husayn and his revolt, after which Ali ibn al-Husayn asked Yazid to deliver an speech which would please God and bring good to people presented there. At people's insistence, Yazid accepted. Ali seized the opportunity to introduce himself and his family, Ahl al-Bayt, in an effective way, to people who did not know him properly. Yazid became worried, in order to interrupt him, ordered Muezzin to call people for prayers. While the mu'azzin said: "I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah", Ali ibn Husayn asked:
Yazid, is Mohammed your grandfather or mine? If you say that he is yours, then you are a liar, and if you say that he is mine, then why did you kill his family?
Eventually Ali ibn al-Husayn was allowed to return to Medina. Later on Mashad Ali, as a part of great mosque of Damascus, built in the place where Ali ibn Husayn was captured. During the journey, Ali delivered speeches and informed the people of his father's intentions.
After tragedy of Karbala, Zayn al-Abidin led an Isolated life in Medina, confining himself to a limited circle of his followers, who referred to him for religious questions. He took aloof from political activities, dedicated his time to prayer, which earned him the honorifics Zayn al-Abidin and al-Sajjad. According to William C. Chittick, Zany al-Abidin spent his time in worship and learning, was an authority on law and Hadith, however was most known for his virtue of character and piety.
Several accounts record Zayn al-Abidin's deep sorrow over the massacre. It is said that for thirty-four 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, "Oh person you did not do justice by saying this! Jacob the prophet had twelve sons, and Allah made one of them disappear". His eyes turned white from constant weeping, his head turned grey out of sorrow, and his back became bent in the gloom (Quran, 12:84), 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?"
Zayn al-Abidin kept himself away from both Umayyed and Zubayri authorities, so that in the Battle of al-Harra he did not involve himself in favor of each side. Thus, after defeating the rebel, he was exempted from giving an oath of allegiance to Yazid, while others had to do so. This was because Ali did not engaged himself in the rebel, also because sheltered Marwan ibn Hakam and his family on the occasion. Non Shia sources describe a friendly relation between Zayn al-Abidin and Marwan, as Marwan lent him money to buy a concubine, and consulted him on a message he received form Bayzantine emperor. Shia, on the other hand, reject this claim, arguing that Sajjad's dealing with authorities was on the basis of Taqiya.
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 Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah. Most of Tawwabun, however, did not accept Mokhtar as their leader and led a useless battle in which most of them were killed. Mokhtar, instead, 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 Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah. Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad 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.
After tragedy of Karbala, there were different Shia sects, among them Tawwabin, who felt the Umayyad Caliphate should be overthrown, and it is Imam's duty to lead the rebel. After Zayn al-Abidin's refusal, they gathered around Mokhtar who started his revolt in the name of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah. According to Shia, Mokhtar first wanted to start his revolt in the name of Ali ibn al-Husayn, only after his rejection he turned to Mohammad ibn Hanafia. It was around this time, when 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 whom many considered him as their Imam. Other Shiʻi sects said Zayn al-Abedin had the right to inherit the Imamate, as his father, Husayn, had designated him the next Imam. According to Donaldson, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah said he was more worthy. 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 the Black Stone of the Kaaba to try to determine which one of them was the true successor. They went to the 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 which Muhammad accepted.[d] Abu khalid al-Kabuli, originally a companion of Muhammad ibn Hanafiah, was among those who turned to Zayn al-Abidin afterwards. According to Ismailils, Muhammad ibn Hanafiah was appointed by Husayn as a temporary Imam, as a cover to protect Zayn al-Abidin as a true, constant Imam. After Muhammad's death, his followers joined Zayn al-Abidin.
Kasaniyya is a name given to all sects originated from Mokhtar's revolt. Kaysaniyya, traced Imamate from Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah and his successors. Kaysaniyya itself divided to different sects, however, its common view is that Hasan, Husayn and Muhammad ibn Hanfiyya, are true successors of Ali; though some more extreme sects reject the Imamate Hasan and Husay.
After Muhammad ibn Hanafiyya's death, some of his followers, called Karbiyya, came to believe that Muhammad had not died, but was in concealment at a mountain near Medina; and would reappear again as a Mahdi, to fill the world with justice. Another group, called Hashemiyya, maintained that Muhammad ibn Hanafiyya had died in the mountain and has given the Imamate to his son Abu Hashim. All Keysaniyya sects are distinguished by the love for Ali and his family and hatred for ruling dynasty. According to Abd al-Jabbar ibn Ahmad, after Muhammad ibn Hanafiyya's death, some Kaysanites joined Zayn al-Abidin. It was around this time that the doctrine of Nass, (the Imam's explicit designation of his successor) got its importance in Shia Fiqh.
Ali ibn Husayn has had between eight and fifteen children, of whom four sons were born from Umm Abdullah bint Hasan , the others from concubines. According to Chittick, Zany al-Abidin fathered fifteen children, eleven boys and four girls.
Zayn al-Abidin was poisoned by Umayyad ruler Al-Walid through the instigation of the Umayyad caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in Medina. The date of his death is 95/713-14; 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.
After Zayn al-Abidin's death, an split occurred between his oldest son, Muhammad al-Baqir, who according to Twelvers, had designated by his father as the next Imam, and his half brother, Zayd ibn Ali who revolted against Ummayyeds; thus got support of large number of Shia. Baqir, like his father avoided to get involved in political movements until his death. Zaid however, led a revolt during the Imamte of Baqir's son, Ja'far al-Sadiq, and was killed.
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 traditionalist. 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 worshippers—and narrated many Hadiths from him. Zayn al-Abidin is highly respected by Sunni Muslims for his deep religious knowledge and Islamic scholarship, with the renowned jurist Malik ibn Anas describing him as "a sea full of knowledge".
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 Zayn al-Abidin. 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.[e]
He was a constant worshiper. Approaching the time for prayer, he would go pale, trembling in fear of God. It is repeatedly narrated that at nights, in order not to be recognized, he would cover his face, and would carry loads of food to distribute among the poor. Only after his death, people discovered the identity of their benefactor. About his self control, it is said that when an slave poured a dish of soap, over him, he refrained from punishing him, instead gave him his freedom.
According to Kohlberg, Ali ibn al-Husayn treated with magnanimous even when wronged: Hisham ibn Isma'il al-Makhzumi governed four years in Medina, during which he used to insult Zayn al-Abidin, yet after he dismissed by al-Walid, Zayn al-Abidin ordered his family and friends not to speak ill of him. It is narrated from zayn al-Abidin that when he saw a beggar weeping, said: If the world was in his hands and suddenly it dropped from him, it would not be worth weeping for. Zayn al-Abidin renounced worldly pleasures but did not give way to poverty and feebleness, rather he was "pious with what God prohibited". Zayn al-Abidin was self-denying and turned away from the world.[f] Sufis consider him as Sufi and wrote biographies about him.
While circumambulating the Kaaba, Zayn al-Abidin 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.' "[g]
According to William 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.
It was translated into Persian in Safavid period. An English translation of this book, The Psalms of Islam (As-sahifa Al-kamilah Al-sajjadiyya) with an Introduction and Annotation by William Chittick, with a Foreword by S. H. M. Jafri, is available.
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 Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya. 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.
According to Abu Hamza al-Thumali, during the month of Ramadhan, 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.
Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin
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.
Sahifa fi'l Zuhd is another work attributed to him.
In Sunni books, Ali ibn al-Husayn is considered as a transmitter of Hadiths from his father, Ibn Abbas, his uncle and others. those who transmitted Hadiths through him were some of his sons, Abu Ishak al-Sabi'i, al-Hakam ibn Utayba and Amr ibn Dinar al-Zuhri.
Speaking Black Stone in favor his claim of Imamah against his rival, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah; his speaking to a gazelle in the desert; and restoring a youth to an old woman, was among Sajjad's miracles mentioned in Shi'i books.
In his scholarship, Ali Zain Al-Abideen was a man of high achievement. Imam Malik describes him as “a sea full of knowledge”. All six books of Hadith include traditions reported by him, which suggest that he was considered by all the main scholars as a highly reliable reporter of Hadith. His line of reporting was mainly through his father and grandfather, but he also reported Hadith through the main scholars of the tabieen generation and the Prophet’s companions.
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