Father: Imam Hussain ibn Ali(AS)
Mother: Shahr Banu – daughter of King Yazdjard II
Kunniyat (Patronymic): Abu Abdullah
Laqab (Title): Zain ul-Abidin
Birth: He was born in Medina on Saturday, 15th of Jamadi-ul-Awwal 37 A.H
Martyrdom: He was poisoned by Waleed bin Adbdul Malik Marwan on the 25th Muharram 95 A.H, and died at the age of 58 in Medina.
Imam Zain ul-Abidin (AS) Birth
The Holy Imam ‘Ali Zain ul-Abidin is the Fourth Apostolic Imam. His epithet was Abu Muhammad and was popularly titled as “Zain ul-Abidin”. The mother of this Holy Imam was the royal personage, Shahr Banu, the daughter of King Yazdgerd who was the last re-Islamic Ruler of Persia.
Imam Zain ul-Abidin (AS) Upbringing
Imam Zain ul-Abidin spent the first two years of his infancy in the lap of his grandfather ‘All ibn Abi Talib and then for twelve years he had the gracious patronage of his uncle, the second Holy Imam al-Hasan ibn ‘All
Imam Zain ul-Abidin (AS) at Karbala
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.
When Imam Hussain had come for the last time to his camp to bid goodbye to his family, ‘Ali Zain ul-Abidin was lying semiconscious in his sickbed and hence he escaped the massacre in Karbala. Imam Hussain could only manage a very brief talk with the inmates of his camp and departed nominating his sick son as Imam.
When the brutal forces of Yazid’s army had taken the ladies and children as captives, carrying them seated on the bare back of the 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 Kufa and to Damascus; and even then this Godly Soul never was unmindful of his prayers to the Lord and was always thankful and supplicative to Him.
Imam Zain ul-Abidin (AS) Rememberance of Allah
The Holy Imam Zain ul-Abidin lived for about 34 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 prayerful prostration, that this Holy Imam was popularly called “Sajjad”.
The knowledge and piety of this Holy Imam was matchless. az-Zuhrl, al-Waqid; and Ibn ‘Uyaynah say that they could not find any one equal to him in piety and godliness. He was so mindful of Allah that whenever he sat for ablution for prayers, the complexion of his face would change and when he stood at prayer his body was seen trembling. When asked why this was, he replied,
“Know ye not before whom I stand in prayer, and with whom I hold discourse?”
Even on the gruesome day of ‘Ashura when Yazid’s forces had massacred his father, his kith and kin and his comrades and had set fire to the camp, this Holy Imam was engrossed in his supplications to the Lord.
Imam Zain ul-Abidin (AS) Charity and Hospitality
His charity was unassuming and hidden. After his passing away, the people said that hidden charity ended with the departure of this Holy Imam. Like his grand-father ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ‘Ali Zain ul-Abidin used to carry on his own back at night bags of flour and bread for the poor and needy families in Medina and he so maintained hundred of poor families in the city.
The Holy Imam was not only hospitable even to his enemies but also used to continually exhort them to the right path.
Imam Zain ul-Abidin (AS) Trials and Imamate
Imam Zain ul-Abidin along with the Ahl-ul-bayt passed through dreadful and very dangerous times, for the aggressions and atrocities of the tyrant rulers of the age had reached a climax. There was plunder, pillage, and murder everywhere. The teachings of Islam were observed more in their breach.
The heartless tyrant al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf ath-Thaqaf; was threatening every one who professed allegiance or devotion to the Ahl-ul-bayt; and those caught were mercilessly put to death. The movement of the Holy Imam was strictly restricted and his meeting with any person was totally banned. Spies were employed to trace out the adherents of the Ahl-ul-bayt.
Practically every house was searched and every family scrutinized.
Imam Zain ul-Abidin was not given the time to offer his prayers peacefully, nor could he deliver any sermons.
This God’s Vicegerent on earth therefore, adopted a third course which proved to be very beneficial to his followers. This was in compiling supplicative prayers for the daily use of man in his endeavour to approach the Almighty Lord. The invaluable collection of his edited prayers are known as Sahifa-e-Kamila or as-Sahifah as-Sajjadiah; it is known also as az-Zabur (Psalm) of Al Muhammad.
The collection is an invaluable treasury of wonderfully effective supplications to the Lord in inimitably beautiful language. Only those who have ever come across those supplications would know the excellence and the beneficial effect of these prayers. Through these prayers the Imam gave all the necessary guidance to the faithful during his seclusion.
Imam Zain ul-Abidin (AS) Wafat / Martyrdom
On the 25th of Muharram 95 A.H, when he was in Medina, al-Walid ibn Abdul Malik Marwan, the then ruler got this Holy Imam martyred by poison.
The funeral prayers for this Holy Imam were conducted by his son the Fifth Imam, Muhammad al-Baqir and his body was laid to rest in the cemetery of Jannat-ul-Baqi’ in Medina.