The Holy Imam 'Ali Zaynu-l-Abidin is the fourth Apostolic Imam. His epithet was Abu Muhammad and was popularly titled as "Zainul'l-Abidin. Imam Zaynu'l' Abidin spent the first two years of his infancy in the lap of his grnadfather 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and then for twelve years he had the gracious patronage of his uncle, the second Holy Imam al-Hasan ibn 'Ali. In 61 AH, he was present in Karbala', at the time of the gruesome tragedy of the wholesale massacre of his father, his uncles, his brothers, his cousins and all the godly comrades of his father; and suffered a heartless captivity and imprisonment at the hands of the devilish forces of Yazid.
The Holy Imam Zaynu'l-Abidin lived for about thirty four years after his father and all his life he passed in prayers and supplication to Allah and in remembrance of his martyred father. It is for his ever being in prayers to Allah, mostly lying in prayful prostration, that this Holy Imam was popularly called "Sajjad". His collections of prayers to God, SAHIFA-E-SAJJADIA or SAHIFA-E-KAMELA are available in Arabic with English translation and reciting of any of the prayers takes one closer to the Almighty the creator. Through these prayers the Imam gave all the necessary guidance to the faithful during his seclusion.
When the brutal forces of Yazid's army had taken the ladies and children as captives, carrying them seated on the bare back of camels, tied in ropes; this Holy Imam, though sick, was put in heavy chains with iron rings round his neck and his ankles, and was made to walk barefooted on the thorny plains from Karbala to Kufah and to Damascuss; and even then this godly Soul never was unmindful of his prayers to the Lord and was always thankful and supplicative to Him.
On 25th of Muharram, 95 A.H. when he was in Medina, al-Walid ibn 'Abdi'l-Malik ibn Marwan, the then ruler got this holy Imam martyred by poison. The funeral prayers of this Holy
Imam were conducted by his son the Fifth Imam, Mohammad al-Baqar and his body was laid to rest in the cemetry of Janntu''l-Baqi Medina.
(The brief History of 14 Infallibles; Insarian Publications P.O. Box 37185/187 Qum.IR.Iran.
"His Imamt was confirmed in several ways.One of these was that he was most meritorious (afdal) of the creatures of God, the Most High, after his father in traditional
knowledge ('ilm ) and practice ('amal). The imamat belongs to the most meritorious (afdal) to the exclusion of less meritorious (mafdul) by rational proof. Among these there was the fact that he was more appropriate for
authority by virtue of his father, al-Husayn, peace be on him, and more entitled to his position after him through the merit and lineage. The one who was entitled through the last imam has more right to his position than
any one else through evidence of the verse of next of kin (Dhu al-arham) and the (Quranic) story of Zacharia, peace be upon him".
"Another of (the facts which confirm his Imamat) is the necessity according to reason of the Imamat existing in every age. The claim of every (other) claimant to the Imamae
during the time of Ali b. al Husayn, peace be upon them, was invalid and impossibility of there being any time without an Imam is confirmed by him (being the Imam). Another (of the fact which confirms his Imamat) is the
fact that the Imamat is established in the offspring (itra) (of the family of Ali) exclusively by rational deduction and by a report on the authority of the Prophet, may God bless him and his family. Invalidity of the argument
of those who claim it for Muhammad b. al- Hanafiyya, may God be pleased with him, through him (also) belonging to the offspring is established by the absence of the designation of it to him. Therefore it is established that it
belongs to Ali b. al Husayn, peace be on them, since there was no claim for it for any other member of the offspring (of the family) except Muhammad, may God be pleased with him, his exclusion from it was on account of what we
have already mentioned".
"Another (of the facts which confirmed his Imamat) was the designation of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, of him for the Imamat, in the tradition which is related concerning the table (Lawh) which Jabir reported on the authority of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family. Muhammad b. Ali al baqir, peace be on them, (also) related it on the authority of his father, on the authority of his grandfather, on the authority of Fatima, daughter of the Apostle of God, may God bless his and his family".
His grandfather, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, designated him during the life-time of his father, al-Husayn, peace be on him, according to the reports which
include that. The testamentary bequests (wasiya) (were made) by his father, al' Husayn b. Ali, peace be on him, and they were deposited with Umm Salma for him. He received them when his father died".
The intensified education furnished by the household of the Prophet (S.A.W.) elevated the Imam to such a high level of spirituality never achieved by any one, with the exception of the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.) and the infallible Imams, before or after him. What he received was derived from the nature of his relationship with Allah. And so he was given such title as Zainal al-Abideen.
He came to be known as Zain al-Abideen,history books note ,as a result of his worship, by the Prophet (S.A.W.). Al-Zahiri reported on the authority of Sa'id bin al-Mussayab, on the authority of Ibn Abbas, that the messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) had said" On the day of Judgement, a voice would call, addressing us, "And where is Zain al Abideen?' It is as if I am now looking at my son, Ali bin Husayn, string between the rows of people".
As for the tile of al-Sajjad, Imam Mohammad al-Baqir (A.S.) explains the reason why the Imam had one it. He says, "Never did he recite a verse from the book of Allah,
referring to prostration without making prostration. Never did he finish an obligatory prayer without making prostration. Never id he succeed in bringing about a reconciliation between two persons without making prostration.
The mark of prostration was clearly seen on the parts of his body which touch ground during prostration. For these reasons he was called al-Sajjad".
"Ali bin Hussein was a keen and diligent worshipper. He would fast during the day and stand in prayer during the night. That harmed his body, and so I asked him, " Why this perseverance, father?. ' I endear myself to my Lord,' replied he; seeking his closeness. Ibid p.20.
2. His Morals
Imam al-Sajjad (A.S.) was not different from any one of the other infallible members of the Prophet's household. They were all of the same fabric.
3. His Concern For The Ummah
Ibn Ishaq is reported to have said, "in the city of Madinah were such and such houses, whose inhabitants received their sustenance and their needs regularly. They did not know how they got them. When Ali bin Hussein died, they lost all that ".
Abu-Jaffar (A.S.) is reported to have said , "He would go out in the darkness of the night carrying a bag on his back. He would come to a door and knock on it. He delivered food from his bag to anyone who would open the door. He used to keep his face covered when helping the poor, lest they recognize him".
Amru bin Thabit reported, "When Ali bin Hussein and they started ritually washing them, they examined dark marks on his back. 'What are these? Inquired they." He use to carry a bag of flour on his back, during the night, to distribute it to the poor among the people of Madinah,' came the answer"
He paid special attention to the down trodden. He set free hundreds of Slaves. He used to buy every year, and particularly on the two major Islamic festivals, a large number of slaves from their masters so as to emancipate them.
4. His Gentleness Aand Modesty
A man reviled Zain al - Abideen (A.S.). His servants lunged at the man with the intention of beating him. "Do not touch him' said Zain al-Abideen (A.S.) to his men. Then he turned to the man and asked him, "Are you in need of anything?” The man blushed and could not manage to answer. Then he favored the man with a new garment and 1000 dirhams. The man left saying loudly, 'I bear witness that you are the son of the Messenger of Allah (s.aw)'.
A man once approached Ali bin Hussein (A.S.) and reviled him. The Imam (A.S.) said nothing to him. When the man left, Imam Zain al Abideen (A.S.) turned to those who were in his
presence and said "You have heard what the man said. I 'd love you to come with me to hear what I would say to him. "We certainly will" said they, " though we wish you had answered him and we had said
something to him." "We certainly will," said they, "though we wish you had answered him and we had said something to him." Then he set off repeating these Quranic words, "And those curb their
anger, and who forgive their fellow men, and Allah loves the Charitable." Imam Zainul-Abideen,
Fiftenn children were born to Ali b. al-Husayn,peace be on them.