Zaid ibn ‘Ali ibn Hussain
Respecting people relative to their stature and revering the noble of history is worship in its own right. The noblest of men to have walked this earth are the Ahlul Bayt, the family of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Our faith dictates we remember their virtue and accomplishments together with honouring their memories. It is unfortunate that we find the average Muslim today knowing more about western celebrities than the stalwarts of the Islamic cause who shed blood ensuring the spread of this divine creed. Correcting this mentality and fulfilling this societal gap was one of the leading reasons in authoring these chapters. Chapters of the august personalities from the Ahlul Bayt. This chapter seeks to take a glimpse in the life of an eminent individual, Zaid ibn ‘Ali ibn Hussain.
Zaid was one of the sons of Zayn al ‘Abidin ‘Ali ibn al Hussain ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This brother of the famed Muhammad al Baqir was born around the eightieth year of the hijrah in the Hashimi family. His father, the inheritor of the knowledge of his grandfather and granduncles, Hussain, Hassan and Muhammad ibn al Hanafiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma saw to his upbringing amid knowledge and sublime character.
He has narrated ahadith from his father, Zayn al ‘Abidin, his brother, Muhammad al Baqir, and ‘Urwah ibn Zubair. Many sat under his tutorship gaining knowledge. Jafar al Sadiq, Shu’bah, Fudayl ibn Marzuq, Muttalib ibn Ziyad, Sa’id ibn Khuthaym, Ibn Abi Zinad and many others sought knowledge from this great sage. He had taken leaps in amassing knowledge. Imam Abu Hanifah attests to his status with the following:
ما رأيت في زمانه أفقه منه ولا أسرع جوابا ولا أبين قولا
I have not seen anyone in his era with deeper understanding, more witty, or vibrant in speech.
An indication to his high pedigree in the sciences by the greatest scholar of Iraq!
In the 94th year of the hijrah his father passed away whilst he was a young lad of fourteen. Zaid then went under the guardianship of his brother, Muhammad al Baqir, who loved him deeply and saw to his needs as a loving father would. As he grew he continued seeking knowledge from the scholars of the Ahlul Bayt in his era. His thirst for knowledge not quenched he began travelling the breadth of the earth in search of the divine sciences. Though Madinah was a centre of learning he travelled beyond, going to Iraq and as such meeting its scholars and benefiting from them. Al Dhahabi writes regarding him, “He was a man of great knowledge and piety. A lapse in judgment resulted in his martyrdom.” The incident of his martyrdom will be discussed shortly, Allah willing.
The celebrated scholar of the Ahlul Bayt and his student, Jafar al Sadiq, says:
كان والله أقرأنا لكتاب الله وأفقهنا في دين الله وأوصلنا للرحم ما تركنا وفينا مثله
By Allah! He was the most well versed amongst us in the sciences of the Qur’an, held deep understanding of the faith, and strove to join family ties. The likes of him have not succeeded him.
He was opinionated in the fields of jurisprudence and politics as he was a master theologian and scholar. A leader holding the torch of guidance. Abu Zuhrah says, “Zaid was the first Imam (leader) from the Ahlul Bayt after Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He would call people towards his opinions and envisioning novel methods of da’wah.”
As I read and researched the life of this great man, what really struck home was his quality of sincerity and truthfulness. His faith, speech, actions, and stances all dripped with sincerity. This inner quality affected his outer appearance as well, as contemporaries would say:
كنت إذا رأيت زيد بن علي رأيت أسارير النور في وجهه
Whenever I cast a glance at Zaid ibn ‘Ali, I would perceive divine light emanating from his features.
He was affixed to the Qur’an, continuously reciting it and pondering over its meanings. The running theme in his life was concern for the ummah at large. His concern was to work towards achieving unity in the ummah together with seeing to the needs of the people in his era.
He would say to those around him, “Remove yourselves from disgrace and rise to honour. Leave your miserable state and attain good fortune. Eradicate feebleness and come unto glory.”
This was the train of thought amongst the Ahlul Bayt. Unifying the ummah, their words and strength. ‘Abdullah ibn Muslim ibn Babak, a companion of his mentions the following:
We travelled to Makkah with Zaid ibn ‘Ali. As the night grew dark and the stars became bright he said to me, “Do you see the bright stars of the Pleiades? Do you think anyone could reach it?” I replied in the negative. He said “By Allah! I wish to grab it and bring it to earth if that’s what it takes to unify the ummah of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam!”
هذا الثناء الذي ما صاغه كلم
و ها هو المجد عند الباب يزدحم
Words cannot justify his praise; this is majesty personified.
Subhan Allah! Hopes and desires of the stuff dreams are made off. These are the lessons left for us by the Ahlul Bayt. Their dreams were of unity and love. O lover of the Ahlul Bayt, this is their path and guidance.
The last and perhaps most challenging part of the life of this great leader was his martyrdom and the events that led to it. Some ungodly men whispered into the ears of Hisham ibn ‘Abdul Malik that Zaid ibn ‘Ali intended starting a rebellion. He was summoned to the court and asked to face these allegations. Zaid said that they were not true, however Hisham refused to believe him.
Zaid said, “Would you like me then to take an oath by Allah on my innocence?”
Hisham replied, “Even if you do take an oath I will not believe you.”
Zaid, “You are not greater than Allah, that you refuse to accept testimony given by his name.”
Hisham became angry and told him to leave. Zaid promised that he would see him again in a manner not pleasing to him. The people of Kufah then came to him pledging their allegiance at his hand. Unfortunately, he accepted their word and prepared for battle. The governor of Iraq faced him with his army. Zaid was martyred in this battle and then crucified for four years!
Al Dhahabi says, “He went to battle on a complication and was martyred. If only he had not done so.”
NEXT⇒Muhammad al Baqir
 Al A’lam li al Zarkali, vol. 3 pg. 59.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 5 pg. 389.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 5 pg. 390.
 Al Imam Zaid, Abu Zuhrah rahimahu Llah.
 This quote is attributed to Khasib al Wabishi. See Maqatil al Talibiyyin, pg. 36.
 Al Murtada li al Nadwi, pg. 229 from Maqatil al Talibiyyin, pg. 129.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 5 pg. 391.