CHAPTER 4


IMAM ALI BIN HUSAIN (A.S): HIS CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY


GENERAL REMARKS

The beliefthat our Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W W), his daughter, Hazrat Fatima (A.S), Imam Ali (A.S) and other eleven Imams (whose biographies we are going to study in this course) are all sinless and make no mistakes, is a very important part of our faith. To us these fourteen personalities were perfect.
However, as each of them had a special job to do and most of them lived in different periods of time, each of them had a chance to show only a few sides of his or her character. In the world in which Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) lived, the parts of his character which people could be seen very clearly are described in the following pages of this chapter.


HIS PIETY

He had great love and fear of Allah. These could be seen the way the carried out his daily 'Wajib' prayers and other recommended prayers. Three things can be said about his prayers to Allah:

1) Once he set up his mind to pray to Allah, he forgot about every thing else. He gave himself totally to Allah. Nothing would disturb his prayers. Consider the following incidents.

* Once while he was praying, his house caught fire. To put down the fire and more importantly to save their lives everybody in the house was running here and there. But not the Imam (A.S). He continued his prayers as if nothing had happened. When he finished his prayers, the fire had already been put down. Somebody asked him, no the son Prophet, why didn't you cut-short your "Sajda" when you heard the people shouting that the house was on fire?"

The Imam replied, "When I heard 'fire, fire' I remembered the fire of Hell. I compared that with fire in my house. I found the fire of Hell more severe so I continued praying."

* At another time his son, Hazrat Muhammed Baqir (A.S) had fallen in a well. The child's mother was deeply upset and cried for the Imam's help. The Imam was in the middle of his prayers. He neither broke his prayers nor did he rush to complete his prayers fast. He continued his prayers, at his usual speed. On completing his prayers he went to the well and brought out the child. The child was safe and was not hurt at all.

* It is said that once Shaitan (Devil) decided to disturb the Imam's prayers. The Devil then took the form of a snake and stung the Imam's legs continuously. The Imam felt the pain but he continued praying as if nothing had happened. When he had finished he told the Shaitan to go away. Then came a voice from Heavens saying, "You are Zainul Abidin (A. S) (the decoration of the pious)"; every body who was present heard this and the Imam (A. S) became famous by that name; * It is common with human beings, to shorten their prayers or even to neglect them at the time of difficulties. This was not so with the Imam (A.S). On the evening of Ashura in Kerbala, Imam (A.S) went through a very hard time. He remembered these hard times throughout his life But his prayers remained as pure as ever- He Spent the whole night in "Sajda" praising Allah in these words:

"There is no other God but Allah and that is the truth. There is no other God but Allah in terms. of faith and truth. There is no other God but Allah. I testify this by praying to Him".

Throughout his difficult journey from Kerbala to Kufa and from Kufa to Damascus and all the time he was in prison, his prayers remained the same as they had been during the normal times.

2) He spent a lot of his time in prayers. Beside the daily obligatory prayers like his grandfather Imam Ali (A.S), he prayed 1000 rakats of recommended prayers (Mustahab) daily in the day and at night. If there was any time left that, too, he would spend in "Duas" and "Sujud".

* Taoos Yamani reports that once he went to the House of Allah and there he saw Ali Bin Husain (A.S) near "Hajare Aswad" (Black stone). He first prayed and then bowed down in 'Sajda'. Taus says that he went near the Imam to hear what he was saying and he heard the Imam say in presence of Allah:

"Your humble servant is at your courtyard"
"Your sad one is at your courtyard"
"Your poor one is at your courtyard"
"Your beggar is at your courtyard"

Taoos says since that time whenever I need help from Allah I address Him in this way and I get the help that I need.

* It is reported that the Imam would get out of his bed at midnight daily and go to his prayer carpet saying, "O my creator, the thought that I will have to face you on the Day of Judgement has got me out of my bed and made me sleepless." Having said so, he would bow-down in prayers and put his cheeks on the ground. He would then weep in fear of Allah and weep so much that the ground would become wet with his tears. His family would gather around him but he would not even notice them. He would continue addressing Allah saying, "O my creator, I don't wish for the restful life of this world. I ask for your mercy at that time when I shall be brought in your presence."

* A man by the name of Zurara Bin Ayan once heard at midnight a caller saying, "Where are those people who give away this world for the next world?" another call came as a reply from the graveyard of Baqi saying, "Such a person is Ali Bin Husain (A.S)."

* If any member of his family asked him as to why he was praying like this even though he was sinless, he would reply, "Why shouldn't I try to be nearer to Allah than I am now?"

* It is reported by Sheikh Mufid that once Imam Muhammed Baqir (A.S) saw that his father's face had turned yellow through weeping all night. His forehead was hurt. His legs and feet were swollen from standing long hours in prayers. Imam Baqir started weeping. Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) asked his weeping son to bring to him the book containing the prayers of Imam Ali (A.S). He then read from the book for a while and closing it, he said,." who is strong enough to worship the way Ali Ibne Abi Talib used to do?" the massage from Imam Zainul Abidin was: compared to my grandfather my prayers are too short and too little. So let me do as much as I can.

Fatima Binti Ali, the Imam's aunt called Jabir Bin Abdullah Ansari and requested to talk to the Imam and persuade him not to pray so much that his health could suffer. When Jabir talked to the Imam, the Imam reminded Jabir about the Prophet's long prayers which led to the revelation of those Quranic verses in which Allah tells the Prophet to reduce his night prayers. The Prophet's Allah. In the reason for such long prayers was to thank same way the Imam's long prayer were only to thank Allah.
Whenever he heard of good news, he would bow down in "Sajda" to praise and thank Allah. Whenever his desires were fulfilled he would go in sajda. Whenever his problems were solved he would go in sajda. So much did he spend his time in sajda; praying or praising or thanking Allah that he became known as "Sayyidu Sajidin" or the leader of those who do "Sajda".
Because he bent so much in prayers the skin over his knees and on his forehead was as hard as that of the camel. From time to this skin had to be peeled-off His forehead, too, was wounded because of remaining in the position of "Sajda" for long hours.

3) Both before prayers and during prayers the Imam's behaviour would change in fear of Allah. For example, when he did his "Wudhu" his face would become pale and his body would shake. When he was asked for a reason he would reply , "Don't you know before whom I am preparing to stand?".

Throughout his prayers his face continued to remain pale. After completing his prayers, in his "Duas" and "Sajdas" he would weep so much that his beard would be wet with tears.
Once someone saw him praying in the mountains on a bare rock which had become hot with the sun's ray's. The man asked for the reason. The Imnam explained saying, "This heat from the rock reminds me of the heat of the Hell and gives me a better understanding when I pray for forgiveness from Hell fire."

It was because of his prayers that he became known as "Zainul Abidin" or the decoration of the pious people.
His piety was not just in prayers. He used to spend almost all his days fasting. A maid who spent several years serving Imam reports that throughout her service she never cooked any food for him nor prepared his bedding at night.
By some accounts he fasted everyday except on forbidden days such as on Idd days.
When he went for 'Hajj' he would do so most of the time walking. When he did use a beast of burden, he would never beat to make it move faster It therefore took him twenty days to travel between Medina and Mecca.

Once he was on such a pilgrimage to Mecca. He put on his "Ihram" and was about to say "Labaik Allahumma Labaik" which is required from every person doing "Hajj", his face turned yellow and he could not say "Labaik" loudly. When he was asked why he did not do so, he replied, "Suppose I said Labaik and Allah replied LaLabaik (I don't accept your Labaik) what would happen to me?" It is reported that his whole Hajj was spent in fear of Allah.


HIS PATIENCE ("SABR") AND FORGIVING- NATURE

Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) was similar to his uncle Imam Hassan (A.S) and his grandson Imam Musa Kazim (A.S) (Our 7th Imam) by showing a lot of pat, ience to their enemies.
You will remember that after the events of Kerbala, he went through very bad times in the hands of his enemies, but at no occasion did he show sign of anger or impatience. Whenever necessary, he replied to his enemies bravely but without showing any anger or loss of patience. Consider the following incidents.

* When the Imam was a prisoner of Yezid in Damascus and was being taken to the court, a Syrian came forward and abused the Imam saying, "Tell me who has come out successful you or Yezid?"

Without getting angry the Imam replied, "When you hear the Azan you make your own decision as to who is and who a failure."
In the same way, another old man of Syria addressed the Imam saying "Praise be to Allah who destroyed you, who killed your brought peace in the country by giving victory to the caliph of Muslims."

The Imam first the verse of Qur'an (42:23) meaning: "O Prophet to them "I do not ask to be paid back for my services except they you should love my verses?"
The old man replied that, indeed, he had read those verses but he did not know how these verses had anything to do with the Imam.

The Imam then read two more verses from the Qur'an, meaning:
"Know o you believers'. Whatever of a thing you acquire, a fifth of it is for the Prophet and for the Prophet's family (8:41).

And


"Allah wishes to keep you away from uncleanness, O you the people of the house, and to purify you with complete purification. (33:33)

Then the Imam told the that he prisoners were the family of the Prophet in these verses and they were the ones for whom the Prophet had asked for respect and love.

The old man then felt very sorry and apologized and the Imam forgave him.

* Hisham Bin Ismail, the governor of Medina used to give a lot of trouble to the Imam. As time went by, he was removed from his position by Walid, the king. As his punishment, he was made to stand at a public place. People were given permission to do whatever they wished to him. Imam (A.S) had suffered the most from his hands and the chance to take his revenge. Instead, the Imam now was (A.S) went to him and greeted him with respect and kindness knowing that if he did so then others would follow him and save Hisham from insults and injury.
Together with his patience was his forgiving nature and his kindness. The following incidents from Imam's life show this very clearly.

* Once a slave girl, while serving him, dropped on him a heavy jug full of water and cut his face. She said to him, ," Allah, the most high says: those who control their anger." "Before she could complete this verse of the Qur'an, he said, "I have controlled my anger."
She continued, saying, "And those who forgive the people .." He replied. "'May Allah forgive you." She went on, saying, ", Allah loves those , who do good. "He replied, "'Go, you are a free person in the presence of Allah, The High, The Mighty."

* Once the Imam called his slave but the slave did not reply him. The Imam called him two more times; only then he replied. The Imam asked him if he did not hear being called. The slave replied that he did hear but he ignored to answer because he knew that no harm would come to him from the Imam (A.S).
When the Imam heard this he said, "Praise be to Allah who made my slave safe from me."

During the times of the Imam (A.S) slavery was common. Slaves would come from wars. The Imam used to get them as "Khums" from those who took part in these wars. Also the Imam used to purchase some slaves and then set them free.

He treated his slaves very well and would never beat them for any mistakes. Instead, he would record all their mistakes. At the end of the month of Ramadhan, he would call them and let them know of all their mistakes. He would then tell them to pray to Allah to forgive the Imam the way the Imam forgave them (the slaves). He would then set free all slaves and give them generous gifts.
It is said that one of his such slaves whom the Imam had set free progressed so much that on one occasion he loaned 10,000 dinars to Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S). The Imam (A.S) later repaid this loan.

* A person once spoke very harshly to the Imam and wrongly blamed the Imam for things he had never done. The Imam listened to all these quietly and without answering him. The man got tired and went away.
After he had gone the Imam asked his followers to go with punish the person. They all went with the Imam (A.S). On his way the Imam started reading the following verses of Qur'an:

"'Those who control their anger and forgive the people, Allah loves those who do good." (3'133).

His companions immediately knew that the Imam would forgive the person.
When they arrived at the person's house and when the person saw them all, he was sure, the Imam had come to punish him. However, the Imam addressed him very gently saying, "Brother, you said things about me, if truly I have those faults, then I pray to Allah to forgive me. If, however, I do not have those faults, I pray to Allah to forgive you."
The man was put to shame. He said, "You are free from all those faults. May Allah forgive me for making those false claims against you."

* Once a man abused the Imam (A.S) in his presence. The Imam acted like he did not hear it. Then the man shouted, "I mean you." The Imam (A.S) replied, "And from you I am turning away." By this the Imam (A.S) was acting according to the Qur'an which says "'Go to what is honourable and turn away from the ignorant" (7:199).


HIS GENEROSITY

His acts of piety did not end with only spending his time communicating with Allah. He spent a lot of his time 34 serving human beings also. He regularly visited the poor and the sick and provided for their necessities of life without their knowledge. In the darkness of the night, he would carry on his back bags of bread and food, cover his face so that no one could recognize him and go from door to door of the needy and serve them food. None knew that this person was Imam Zainul Abidin(A.S) until his death

Zuhir says that once when it was raining heavily at night, he saw the Imam carrying a heavy load on his back. He offered to help. The Imam said he was on his way to a journey. The next day Zuhir still saw the Imam in Medina. Had the Imam postponed his journey? No. The Imam explained that he was preparing for the journey of the next world. He was on his way to feed the poor and did not want Zuhir to go with him as this could lead to the poor to recognize who their benefactor was.

Sheikh Mufid records that Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) paid a visit to Zaid Bin Uthama Bin Zaid who was very sick. Zaid was weeping because he had debt of fifteen thousand dinars. The Imam promised Zaid that he would pay the full debt immediately and he did so.
These acts of generosity were not meant for the poor and for the Imam's friends only. It was extended even to - his enemies. As will be illustrated in the following incidents.

You will recall that in A. H 64 the people of Medina removed Yezid's governor from his post of governorship in Medina, Fearing for their lives, the Bani Ummayyah started running away from Medina. Marwan Bin Hakam had a large family of women and children and could not run away for his life unless he could find someone who would agree to house his women and children. Marwan approached several people including Abdullah Bin Omar Bin Khattab but all refused to help him.
Finally Marwan turned to Imam Zainul Abidin for help.

Marwan was enemy number one of the Prophet (S.A.W.W) and his family. As a matter offact, the Prophet (S.A.W W) had ordered Marwan and his father Hakam Bin Aas to leave Medina as unwanted persons. It is the same Merwan who had fought against Imam Ali (A.S) in the Battle of Jamal. Merwan also was one ofthose who prevented Imam Hassan to be buried next to his grandfather's grave. Again, it was Merwan who had told Walid, the Governor of Medina in A.H. 60 to force "Bayah" from Imam Husain (A.S) in the court or to cut-off his head if he refused.
Despite this, the Imam (A.S) agreed to help Marwan. Merwan's family stayed with the Imam in Imam's house for as long as they wished. The Imam then arranged for them to go to where Merwan was.

In fact, Imam's house was open for anyone who came seeking for protection at this time.
To put down the rebellion in Medina, Yezid sent a strong army under the one-eyed general called Muslim Bin Aqaba. Muslim brought back Medina under the control of Yezid but before he could do the same to Mecca he died.

Hasin Bin Namir took-over from Muslim and went to Mecca, to deal with Abdullah Ibne Zubair whohad taken control of Mecca from Yezid. Before Hasin could win back Mecca, he got the news that Yezid had died.
Hasin hurried back to Damascus with whatever that he was left without food was left of his army. On the way and water. He and his army were about to die in the desert out of thirst and hunger. Then he saw a man coming in his direction. The man had a camel loaded with food and water. Hasin begged the man to sell to him the food and water which he had with him for any price. The man replied that his provisions were not for sale. However, as Hasin needed them so badly he could have it all for free.!

In his conversation with the stranger, Hasin recognized the stranger as being no other person than Ali Bin Husain (A.S). Thinking that the Imam had not recognised him, Hasin asked the Imam if he knew to whom the Imam was extending his generosity.

The Imam replied, "I know that you are the murderer of my brother and father and that you denied my father water and food till his martyrdom but that shows who you are and my generosity shows what I am".
Hasin offered to help the Imam take control of Damascus. The Imam refused saying, all that he did for him was because he was a human being needing help. The Imam needed no reward or thanks. Saying so he went away - leaving behind Hasin to bite his figures in disbelief

Such was the generosity of our fourth Imam, Ali Bin Husain, Zainul Abidin (A.S).