Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin

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Ali ibn Husayn
عَلِيّ ٱبْن ٱلْحُسَيْن

4th Imam of Twelver and 3rd Imam of Ismaili
Calligraphic representation of "Al-Sajjad"
Ali ibn Hussain ibn Ali

c. 4 January 659
(5 Sha'aban 38 AH)[1][2] Or (15 Jumada al-awwal 36 AH)
Diedc. 20 October 713(713-10-20) (aged 54)
(25 Muharram 95 AH)
Cause of deathPoisoning by Al-Walid I
Resting placeJannat al-Baqi cemetery, Medina, Saudi Arabia
24°28′1″N 39°36′50.21″E / 24.46694°N 39.6139472°E / 24.46694; 39.6139472
(Master of the prostraters)
Term680–712 CE
PredecessorHusayn ibn Ali
SuccessorMuhammad al-Baqir according to the Twelver, and Ismaili Shia, Zayd ibn Ali according to the Zaidiyyah Shia.
Spouse(s)Fatimah bint Hasan
Jayda al-Sindhi
ChildrenMuhammad al-Baqir
Zayd al-Shahid
Hussain al-Asghar
Abdullah Albahar
Ali Al Asghar
Umar Al Ashraf
and two Daughters
Umm Kulthoom and Khadija
Parent(s)Husayn ibn Ali
Lady Shāhzanān (aka Shahr Banu)[6][9][13]
RelativesAli al-Akbar
Ali al-Asghar
Fatima al-Kubra bint Husayn
Fatima al-Sughra bint al-Husayn

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 a Sunni Muslim scholar, In Shia Islam, He is a Imam after his father Husayn ibn Ali, his uncle Hasan ibn Ali, and his grandfather, Ali.

Ali ibn Husayn survived the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE, after which he and other surviving family members and companions of Husayn were taken to Yazid I in Damascus. Eventually, he was allowed to return to Medina, where he led a secluded life with a few intimate companions. His life and statements were 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".[18]


Ali ibn al-Husayn was born in Medina in the Hejaz, now in Saudi Arabia, in the year 38/658–9.[a] 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. It is said that Ali ibn al-Husayn was related through his mother Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdegerd III, to the last Sasanain Emperor.[b]

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".[1][19] 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.[15][19][20][21] And in other stories this happened during the caliphate of Uthman and Ali.[22]

Ali ibn al-Husayn was related through his Sasanian bloodline to the Byzantine emperors Maurice and Tiberius II Constantine through princess Mariam, known as Shirin, daughter of emperor Maurice.[22]

In Karbala[edit]

In 61/680, Muhammad's grandson Husayn ibn Ali and a small group of supporters and relatives were martyred 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 martyred 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.[19][21] Zain al-Abidin and the enslaved women were taken to the caliph; eventually he was allowed to return to Medina. During the journey, he delivered speeches in Kufa and Damascus, and informed the people of his father's intentions.[17][19][23]

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?"[24][23][25]

The aftermath of Karbala and his Imamate[edit]

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.[26] He 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.[27] 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.[21][28]

Around that time, 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, for his father Husayn had designated him the next Imam. 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 had already known and accepted and he showed to other people.[21][c] After this, Zayn al-Abedin returned to Medina and led a quiet life with a few companions who referred to him for answers to religious questions.[d][21][29]

Social status[edit]

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. 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 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 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][19][30][31]


It is narrated from the Imam that when he saw a beggar weeping, he said: If the world was in his hands and suddenly it dropped from him, it would not be worth weeping for.[32] The Imam renounced worldly pleasures but did not give way to poverty and feebleness, rather he was "pious with what God prohibited".[33] The Imam was self-denying and turned away from the world,[f] and Sufis consider him as Sufi and wrote biographies about him.[34][35]

It is known from the Imam that while circumambulating the Kaaba, he 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."[36] 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]


Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya[edit]

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".[23] 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.[37]

The Fifteen Whispered Prayers[edit]

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 the latter collection.[38] These prayers enable a person to recite the prayer that is most in accordance with his present mood.[39][40] The prayers start with repentance, which is the first step towards a genuine communion with God.[40]

Supplication of Abu Hamza al-Thumali[edit]

According to Abu Hamza al-Thumali, during the month of Ramadhan, Imam 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.[41]

Treatise on Rights[edit]

The right of charity (sadaqa) is that you know it is a storing away with your Lord and a deposit for which you will have no need for witnesses. If you deposit it in secret, you will be more confident of it than if you deposit it in public...[h]

Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin[42]

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.[37]


Imam Zain al-Abidin desecrated grave at Al-Baqi' in Saudi Arabia

Zayn al-Abidin was poisoned by Umayyad ruler Al-Walid through the instigation of the Umayyad caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in Medina.[6][21] 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.[6][43][44] 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.[19][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other dates mentioned are 33/653–4, 36/656–7, 37/657–8, 50/670[15]
  2. ^ Her name has also been given as Shah-Zanan, Sulaafa, Ghazaala, and Shahr-Banuya, among others.[15]
  3. ^ Abū Khālid al-Kābuli was among those who confessed the Imamah of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, but turned to Zayn al-Abedin afterwards, saying "I served Mohammed b. al-Hanafiya for a time of my life. I had no doubt that he was the Imām till I asked him by the Sacredness of Allah, the Sacredness of the Messenger, and the Sacredness of the Commander of the faithful, so he guided me to you and said: 'Ali b. al-Husayn is the Imām over me, you, and all the creatures.'"[29]
  4. ^ Canon Sell, op. cit., p. II, quoting Sahifat Al-Abidin, p. 184.
  5. ^ It goes as follows: "It is someone whose footsteps are known by every place / And it is he who is known to the bayt in Mecca,(i.e. the Kaaba) The most frequented sanctuary; / It is he who is the son of the best of all men of Allah;(i.e. the Prophet Muhammad) / and it is he who is the most pious and devout, the purest and most unstained, the chastest and most righteous, a symbol [for Islam]; / This is Ali [b. al-Husain] whose parent is the Prophet; / This is the son of Fatimah, if you do not know who he is; / Whosoever recognizes his Allah knows also the primacy and superiority of this man; / Because the religion has reached the nations through his House..."[21][30]
  6. ^ It is said that al-Zuhri when he was asked about the most ascetic one, he answered: "The most ascetic of all the people is Ali b. al-Husayn.
  7. ^ Quran, 57:23
  8. ^ Quoted from the Treatise on Rights, Right of Charitty


  1. ^ a b c Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 14
  2. ^ "Imam Ali Ibn al Husayn (as)". Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  3. ^ Shabbar, S.M.R. (1997). Story of the Holy Ka'aba. Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain. Archived from the original on 30 October 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  4. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 15
  5. ^ Shaykh al-Mufid. "The Infallibles – Taken from Kitab al he was born in Syria". Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d e WOFIS (2001). A Brief History of the Fourteen Infallibles (3rd ed.). Tehran: World Organization for Islamic Services.
  7. ^ A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 2004. p. 111.
  8. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 16
  9. ^ a b c ibn Khallikan. Ibn Khallikan's biographical dictionary. 2. p. 209.
  10. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 58
  11. ^ a b c Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 21
  12. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 20
  13. ^ Tabataba'i, Muhammad Husayn (1979). Shi'ite Islam. State University of New York Press. p. 201.
  14. ^ Imam Ali ibn al-Hussein (2001). The Complete Edition of the Treatise on Rights. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. p. 16.
  15. ^ a b c d Imam Ali ubnal Husain 2009, pp. 7–10
  16. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 450
  17. ^ a b Dungersi PhD, M. M. (1 December 2013). A Brief Biography of Ali Bin Hussein (as). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1494328696.
  18. ^ [14][15][16][17]
  19. ^ a b c d e f Madelung, Wilferd. "ʿALĪ B. ḤOSAYN B. ʿALĪ B. ABĪ ṬĀLEB". ENCYCLOPÆDIA IRANICA. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  20. ^ Muh’sin al-Ameen al-A’mili, A’yan as-Sheea’h, Damascus, 1935, IV, 189.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h Donaldson, Dwight M. (1933). The Shi'ite Religion: A History of Islam in Persia and Irak. BURLEIGH PRESS. pp. 101–111.
  22. ^ a b khalil, ahmed. "الإمام علي زين العابدين حياته ونسبه: بحث في الحلقة المشتركة بين الأشراف والساسانيين والبيزنطيين وسبط يهوذا". Archived from the original on 11 July 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. ^ a b c Imam Ali ibn al Husain 2009, p. 10
  24. ^ From Shaykh as-Sadooq, al-Khisal; quoted in al-Ameen, A’yan, IV, 195. The same is quoted from Bin Shahraashoob's Manaqib in Bihar al-Anwar, XLVI, 108; Cf. similar accounts, Ibid, pp. 108–10
  25. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 163
  26. ^ Heli, Ja'far ibn Mohammad ibn Nama (2001). Mosirol ahzan [در سوگ امیر آزادی]. Iran-Qom: Hazeq. p. 399.
  27. ^ Ibn Kathir. Al-Bidāya wa-n-nihāya "the beginning and the end". 8. p. 274.
  28. ^ Lalani, Arzina R. (9 March 2001). Early Shi'i Thought: The Teachings of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir. I. B. Tauris. p. 31,78. ISBN 978-1860644344.
  29. ^ a b Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, pp. 94–96
  30. ^ a b Imam Ali ubnal Husain 2009, pp. 7–8
  31. ^ jafri 1979, pp. 243–46
  32. ^ Shaykh Hurr al-'Amuli. Al- Fuṣūl al-muhimma fī taʼlīf al-umma. Najaf: An-Naǧaf : Dār an-Nuʻmān li'ṭ-Ṭibāʻa wa'n-Našr. p. 192.
  33. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, pp. 67–68
  34. ^ Munūfī, al-Sayyid Maḥmūd Abū al-Fayḍ (1967). Jamharat al-Awliyā', vol. 2. Al-Qāhirah Mu'assasat al-Ḥalabī. p. 71.
  35. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, pp. 68–69
  36. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 229
  37. ^ a b Imam Ali ubnal Husain 2009, p. 28
  38. ^ Chirri, Mohamad Jawad (1986). "Al-Sahifat Al-Sajjadiyya" (Revised ed.). The Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 27 October 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  39. ^ "A glance at three translations and seyyed mehdi shojaee's viewpoint about the Ramadan's prayers" (in Persian). IBNA. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  40. ^ a b Mesbah-Yazdi, Mohammad-Taqi (1390). Sajjadeha-e Soluk (in Persian). The Imam Khomeini Education & Research Institute.
  41. ^ Māmqānī, 'Abd Allāh (2002). Tanqīḥ al-maqāl fī 'ilm al-rijāl (in Arabic). Qum: Mu’assasat Āl al-Bayt li-Iḥyā' al-Turāth.
  42. ^ Sharif al-Qarashi 2000, p. 500
  43. ^ Moosa, Matti (1987). Extremist Shiites: The Ghulat Sects. Syracuse University Press. p. 92. ISBN 9780815624110. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  44. ^ Shaykh al-Mufid. Imam Ali Ibn al Husayn (as). Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.


  • Sharif al-Qarashi, Bāqir (2000). The Life of Imām Zayn al-Abidin (as). Translated by Jāsim al-Rasheed. Iraq: Ansariyan Publications, n.d. Print.
  • Imam Ali ubnal Husain (2009). Al-Saheefah Al-Sajjadiyyah Al-Kaamelah. Translated with an Introduction and annotation by Willian C. Chittick With a foreword by S. H. M. Jafri. Qum, The Islamic Republic of Iran: Ansariyan Publications.
  • Jafri, Syed Husain Mohammad (1979). The Origins and Early Development of Sheea'h Islam. Beirut: Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]

Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Clan of the Banu Quraish
Born: 5th Sha‘bān 38 AH 657 CE Died: 25th Muharram 95 AH 713 CE
Shia Islam titles
Preceded by
Husayn ibn Ali
4th Imam of Twelver and 3rd Imam of Ismaili Shia
680 – 713
Succeeded by
Muhammad al-Baqir
Succeeded by
Zayd ibn Ali
Zaidi successor