Imam Sajjad (PBUH)
Ali ibn Hussain (PBUH) (Arabic: علي بن الحسين) known as Zain al-Abidin (the adornment of the worshippers) and Imam Sajjad (The Prostrating Imam), is the fourth Shia Imam, after his father Imam Hussain (PBUH), his uncle Imam Hassan (PBUH), and his grandfather Imam Ali (PBUH), the Prophet’s son-in-law. He survived the Battle of Karbala and was taken along with the enslaved women to the caliph in Damascus. Eventually, however, he was allowed to return to Medina where he led a secluded life with only 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 well known as “Al-Sahifa Al-Sajjadiya”.
Ali ibn Al-Hussain (PBUH) was born in Medina, according to most sources in the year 38/658-9. He may have been too small to have remembered his grandfather Ali (PBUH), but was brought up in the presence of his uncle Imam Hassan (PBUH) and his father Imam Hussain (PBUH), the Prophet’s grandchildren. He was related through his mother Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdegerd, to the last Sassanian King of Persia (Iran). Thus he 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, his mother was brought as a captive to Medina during the caliphate of Omar, who wanted to sell her. Imam Ali (PBUH) suggested instead that she be offered her choice of the Muslim men as husband and that her dower be paid from the public treasury. Omar agreed and she chose Ali’s son, Hussain (PBUH).
In 61/680, Imam Hussain (PBUH) and nearly all male followers were massacred by the forces of the Umayyad caliph Yazid at the Battle of Karbala. Imam Sajjad (PBUH) accompanied his father on the march toward Kufa and was present at the Battle of Karbala, but survived the battle due to his illness. Once the Umayyad troops had mass murdered Imam Hussain (PBUH) and his male followers, they looted the tents and took the skin upon which Imam Sajjad (PBUH) was laying. It is said that Shemr was about to kill Imam Hussain (PBUH), but his aunt Lady Zaynab (PBUH) was present to make Omar Ibn Sa’ad, the Umayyad commander, let him alive. Imam Sajjad (PBUH) was taken along with the enslaved women to the caliph, and eventually was allowed to return to Medina. During this journey he delivered speeches in the towns of Kufa and Damascus, and informed the people of his father’s intentions.
Several accounts are narrated concerning Ali Ibn Al-Hussain (PBUH) deep sorrow over this tragedy. It is said that for twenty years whenever food was placed before him, he would weep. 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. His eyes turned white from constant weeping, his head turned grey out of sorrow, and his back became bent in gloom, 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?”
After tragedy of Karbala and His Imamate
They were Kufa’s people who invited Imam Hussain (PBUH) to themselves to be their Imam, so they saw themselves responsible for the tragedy of Karbala and tried to compensate for it by throwing themselves into the struggle to obtain vengeance for Imam Hussain’s blood. They chose Sulayman Ibn Surad al Khuzaii as their leader and called themselves Tawwabin (penitents). They were seeking for an opportunity for action, until Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi came to Kufa and soon gained the authority of a leader and took a sudden vengeance on those who were involved in killing of Imam Hussain (PBUH). Omar Ibn Sa’ad and Shemr were executed. Ibn Ziad was also killed in the battle and his head was taken to the very place in Kufa where Ibn Ziad had received the head of Imam Hussain (PBUH).
Imam Sajjad (PBUH) had been designated by his father, Imam Hussain (PBUH), as the next Imam. However, Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyah (Imam Hussain’s half brother) said that he was more worthy as he was the son of Imam Ali (PBUH). But Zayn Al-Abedin (PBUH) replied to his uncle: “Fear Allah and make no such claim”. After the death of Ibn zubayr, the governor of Medina, Imam Zany Al-Abedin (PBUH) and Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyah agreed to go to Mecca and appeal to Black Stone(a stone from hevean that was put in Kaba wall by the prophet Abraham) to see if they could determine which one of them was the true successor. They went to Kaba where black stone was placed. Muhammad prayed for a sign but no answer came. Afterwards Zayn al-Abedin (PBUH) prayed and this time the stone became so agitated that it nearly fell off the wall and came the answer in eloquent Arabic that he was the true Imam after Hussain (PBUH), to which decision Muhammad consented. After this settlement Imam Sajjad (PBUH) returned to Medina with his companions.
Imam Sajjad (PBUH) was held in great respect not only by his followers who considered him as the fourth Imam, but also by the learned circle of Medinan scholars who considered him as an eminent traditionist. The famous lawyer, Ibn Al-Musayyib, and the great jurist and traditionist Al-Zuhri (though attached to the court of the Umayyad), were among his admirers. Perhaps the most famous evidence for his high position among people is the ode that the well-known Arab poet “Farazdaq”. This ode refers to the occasion where 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 Kaba. The people gave way to Imam Sajjad (PBUH) while Hisham struggled desperately. This deeply offended the Caliph, and sarcastically asked who the person had been to whom the people had shown such respect. Farazdaq, who was present there, thereupon composed an ode addressing Hisham’s question; an ode which is a masterpiece of Arabic literature; and that must be considered as the most reliable contemporary document describing Imam Sajjad (PBUH).
It is related to the Imam that when he saw a beggar weeping, said: “If the world was in the hand of this person and then it dropped from it, he had not to weep for it”. The Imam renounced worldly pleasures, but at the same time he did not give way to poverty and feebleness, rather he was “pious with what Allah prohibited.” However, As the Imam was self-denying and turned away from the world, the Sufis considered him as one of their kind and wrote biographies about him. However the Imam led a life different from that of the Sufis as his asceticism was internal and psychological and internal rather than otherwise. It is narrated from the Imam that while circumambulating the Kaba, he heard a man asking Allah for patience, so he turned to him and said: “You are asking (Allah) for tribulation. Say: O Allah, I ask you for well-being and gratitude for it.”It is also related that a person questioned the Imam about asceticism, he replied: “Asceticism is often 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”. As for Imam Ridha (PBUH), the eighth Shia Imam, when he was appointed a successor to Al-Ma’mun, a Sufi objected him: “The Imam should eat rough food and wear coarse garments.” The Imam refuted his view, saying:“Yousif Ibn Ya‘qub (Joseph, son of Jacob) was a prophet; nevertheless he wore silk-like garments embroidered with gold. Allah did not prohibit clothing nor did he prohibit food. However, He wanted the Imam to be fair and just.” Then he recited this verse: “Say: Who has forbidden the adornment which He has brought forth for His creatures.”
The “Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya” is the oldest prayer manual in Islamic sources. Shia traditions esteem/considers this book with great respect, ranking it behind only the Quran and Imam Ali’s Nahj Al-Balagha. This prayer book deals not only with Islamic spirituality, but also provides teachings on different levels, from the theological to the social. The Imam also refers frequently to the domain of Islamic practices emphasizing the necessity of following 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 Imam Sajjad (PBUH) which some researchers regard it as a supplementary part of the latter collection. These Prayers enable a person to recite the prayer which is in most accordance with his present mood and feeling. The prayers start with ‘repentance’, as repentance is the first step towards a genuine communion with Allah.
Supplication of Abu Hamza Al-Thumali
Abu Hamza Al-Thumali has related that during the month of Ramadan, Imam Zayn Al-Abidin (PBUH) used to spend a greater part of the night in prayers and when it used to be the time of beginning of the fast he recited a supplication which later known as “Du’a Abi Hamzah Al-Thumali” (The supplication of Abi Hamzah al-Thumali). This supplication has been recorded in the book Misbah Al-Mutahijjid of Shaykh Tusi.
Treatise on Rights
Imam Zain Al-Abidin’s “Risalah Al-Huquq “(Treatise on Rights) is written by him besides supplications or relatively short sayings and letters. Huquq (Arabic: حقوق) is plural of “Haq” (Arabic: حق) and is best translated as “rights”. However, other words such as justice, truth, obligations, duties, responsibilities have meanings closely related to Haq. This treatise is especially important for the manner in which it deals with many of the same themes as the Al-Sahifa in a different style and language. As the Imam makes eminently clear in this book, 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, which are first, faith in Allah, and second, placing one’s own person into the proper relationship with the Divine Reality.
The introduction section describes the rights briefly and begins with the following paragraph:
“Know -Allah have mercy upon you – that Allah has rights incumbent upon you and that these encompass you in every motion through which you move, every rest which you take, every way station in which you reside, every limb which you employ, and every instrument which you use. Some of these rights are greater than others. And the greatest of Allah’s rights incumbent upon you is what He has made incumbent upon you for Himself – the Blessed and the Exalted – from His rights: that which is the root of all rights from which others branch out. Then there are those that He has made incumbent upon you in yourself, from your crown to your foot, according to the diversity of your organs.”
(To see more and download the book, refer to “Islamic books for download”)
Conclusion by Imam Sajjad (PBUH)
At the end of the treatise, there are the conclusion comments of Imam Sajjad (PBUH) as follows:
“These are the fifty rights that surround you and you cannot evade under any circumstances. It is incumbent upon you to observe them and exert all efforts to fulfill them. You should seek Allah the Majestic’s help in this respect. And there is no power or strength but in Allah. And all praise is due to Allah the Lord of the Worlds.”
Imam Sajjad (PBUH) was the only son of Imam Hussain (PBUH) who survived the Battle of Karbala in 680 when he was twenty three years old. For, he could not take part in the battle due to his illness, and was thus saved from the general massacre. Once again when he was led as a prisoner before Obayd Allah Ibn Ziyad in Kufa, the latter ordered his execution but left him alive at the entreaty of his aunt, Lady Zaynab (PBUH). Later on, however, he was poisoned by Umayyad ruler Walid through the instigation of the Umayyad caliph Hisham Ibn Abd Al-Malik in Medina. He was buried next to his uncle, Imam Hassan (PBUH), in the cemetery of Al-Baqi in Medina. After his Martyrdom many people found out that their livelihood 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 in order not to be recognized.