The command to adopt patience and the prohibition of wailing
We have discussed this topic in detail in our book Sirat Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada . Here we will just mention it briefly.
The Islamic ruling is quite clear that at the time of difficulties a person should adopt patience and abstain from all types of complaints and despair.
There are many ayat of the glorious Qur’an and the ahadith concerning this. Here we will mention a few.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِيْنُوْا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِيْنَ
O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.
مَا أَصَابَ مِنْ مُّصِيْبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِيْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِيْ كِتَابٍ مِّنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَّبْرَأَهَا إِنَّ ذٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيْرٌ لِّكَيْلَا تَأْسَوْا عَلىٰ مَا فَاتَكُمْ وَلَا تَفْرَحُوْا بِمَا آتَاكُمْ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُوْرٍ
No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being – indeed that, for Allah, is easy. In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exult [in pride] over what He has given you. And Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.
عن ابن مسعود قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ليس منا من ضرب الخدود و شق الجيوب و دعى بدعوى الجاهلية متفق عليه
‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
He who slaps his cheeks, rips his clothes, and wails like was done in the days of jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic era), is not from our Ummah.
عن ابي بردة ان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال انا بريء ممن حلق و صلق و خرق متفق عليه
Abu Burdah radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
I am absolved of any responsibility to the one who shaves his head (at the time of a difficulty or calamity), wails loudly, and rips his collar. 
Based upon these clear cut teachings of Islam, Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu, before being martyred, advised his sister, Zainab rahimahu Llah, together with other advises:
اتقي الله و اصبري و تعزي بعزاء الله و اعلمي ان اهل الارض يموتون و ان اهل السماء لا يبقون و ان كل شيء هالك الا وجه الله الذي خلق الخلق بقدرته و اعلمي ان ابي خير مني و امي خير مني و اخي خير مني و لي و لهم و لكل مسلم برسول الله اسوة حسنة ، ثم حرج عليها ان لا تفعل شيئا من هذا بعد مهلكه
Fear Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and exercise patience. Take solace and comfort from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Understand well that the inhabitants of the earth will die, and the inhabitants of the sky will also not remain. Besides the being of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, everything else will be destroyed.
Remember, my father was better than me; my mother was better than me; and my brother was better than me. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the perfect example for me, for them and for every Muslim.
He then advised his sister not to wail over him after he dies.
Corroboration from Shia books
The famous Shia historian, al Ya’qubi, has also narrated these advises of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu to his sister, Zainab, in the following words:
و قال لها يا اختاه تعزي بعزاء الله فان لي و لكل مسلم اسوة برسول الله ثم قال اني اقسم عليك فابري قسمي لا تشقي علي جيبا و لا تخمشي علي وجها و لا تدعي علي بالويل والثبور
O my sister! Find comfort and solace from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the perfect example for me and for every Muslim. I ask you on oath, and make sure that you fulfill it! Do not tear your clothes upon my death, nor dig your fingers in your face, nor mourn by wailing and screaming. 
Another Shia scholar, Mulla Baqir Majlisi, has also quoted in Jala’ al ‘Uyun similar advises of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu to his sister.
This also appears in Nasikh al Tawarikh of Mirza Muhammad Taqi Lisan al Mulk.
NB: Some people, in trying to prove the permissibility of mourning and wailing over the death of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu, quote an addition at the end of the narrations
الا عزاء الحسين
Which means that mourning and wailing is not permissible “except for Hussain”.
This addition is baseless. It is not found in his last advises before his demise. Instead he clearly prohibited it.
We had seen in the parting advises quoted above how Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu advised his close ones to exercise patience at the time of difficulties, and how he forbade them from wailing and moaning. Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu had done this in line with the clear cut teachings of Islam.
Now, after understanding these clear instructions of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu, if anyone still regards wailing and mourning over him permissible, then he is openly disobeying the teachings of such a great imam. He is grossly ignoring his advises and is actually, so to say, dumping and rejecting his highly emphasized commands.
The History of Mourning and Wailing
Here we will present before the readers the history of such wailing and mourning, by which one will gauge: When exactly did it begin? Who introduced it? Which people introduced it? And in whose era was it introduced?
Ibn Kathir has written in al Bidayah wan Nihayah (11/243):
في عاشر المحرم من هذه السنة ،اي ٣٥٢ امر معز الدولة بن بوية قبحه الله ان تغلق الاسواق و ان تلبس النساء المسوح من الشعر و ان يخرجن في الاسواق حاسرات وجوههن ناشرات شعورهن يلطمن وجوههن ينحن على الحسين بن علي بن ابي طالب و لم يمكن اهل السنة منع ذلك لكثرة الشيعة و ظهورهم و كون السلطان معهم
On the 10th of Muharram in the year 352 A.H. (963), Mu’izz al Dawlah ibn Buyah (Daylami, a Shia), instructed the people of Baghdad to close the markets and businesses; the women to wear sack-type woolen clothes and to walk through the market places bare headed, unveiled, with their hair loose, slapping their faces, and wailing over the death of Hussain ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. The Ahlus Sunnah were not able to prevent this due to the Shia’s majority, authority, and the Sultan being from them.
و في ثامن عشر ذي الحجة منها امر معز الدولة بن بوية باظهار الزينة في بغداد و ان تفتح الاسواق بالليل كما في الاعياد و ان تضرب الدبادب و البوقات و ان تشعل النيران في ابواب الامراء و عند الشرط فرحا بعيد الغدير غدير خم فكان وقتا عجيبا مشهورا او بدعة شنيعة ظاهرة منكرة
In that very year, on the 18th of Dhu al Hijjah, Mu’izz al Dawlah ibn Buyah instructed that Baghdad be beautified; the markets and shops be opened at night just as they are opened on the nights of ‘Id; drums be beaten and horns blown; and that fires should be lit at the entrances of the houses of the elite and senior people. This was all in celebration of Eid al Ghadir, Ghadir Khum. It was an amazing famous time or an evil public wicked innovation.
The above quotations were from Ibn Kathir. Now we will present the same from al ‘Ibar of Hafiz al Dhahabi.
فيها يوم عاشوراء الزم معز الدولة اهل بغداد بالنوح و الماتم على الحسين بن علي و امر بغلق الاسواق و علقت عليها المسوح و منع الطباخين من عمل الاطعمة و خرجت النساء الرافضة منشرات الشعور مضمخات الوجوه يلطمن و يفتن الناس و هذا اول ما نيح عليه
In the year 352 A.H. (963) on the day of ‘Ashura’ (10 Muharram), Mu’izz al Dawlah made it compulsory on the people to mourn over Hussain ibn ‘Ali. He instructed that the businesses and markets be shut and that sack like fabric should be hung on the doors. He forbade delicious foods from being prepared. The women came out into the streets with their hair exposed and hanging loose, their faces painted black, slapping their cheeks and causing fitnah. This was the first time that mourning over Hussain took place. 
Hafiz al Dhahabi also writes about the Eid al Ghadir Khum which he introduced:
و فيها يوم ثامن عشر ذي الحجة عملت الرافضة عيد الغدير غدير خم و دقت الكوسات و صلوا بالصحراء صلاة العيد
On 18 Dhu al Hijjah of the same year, the Rawafid (on the instructions of Mu’izz al Dawlah) celebrated Eid al Ghadir Ghadir Khum. Drums were beaten and horns were blown. They went out in the desert and performed salat al Eid (Eid Khum salah). 
NB: It should be remembered that Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the third Khalifah of Islam, was martyred on the 18th of Dhu al Hijjah 35 A.H. What is worth pondering over is the fact that perhaps this Eid Khum was introduced to celebrate the murder of Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This is something which, after pondering and giving thought to, will have to be decided.
Support from Shia sources
The above has been clearly mentioned by the senior Shia scholars and historians in their reliable books.
Sheikh ‘Abbas Qummi has written:
All the historians have recorded that on ‘Ashura’ of 352 A.H., Mu’izz al Dawlah instructed the people of Baghdad to mourn over Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and to slap their faces. The women were told to let their hair hang loose and blacken their faces. The markets and shops were closed and sack like material was hung over the doors. The restaurants were also closed. The Shia women came out in the streets with their faces painted black, with their chests out, crying and wailing. This continued for a few years, and the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah were unable to stop this practice, since the Shia had the support of the ruler of the time.
NB: The Khalifah at that time (352 A.H.) was al Muti’ li Allah ‘Abdul Qasim, an Abbasid Khalifah. Mu’izz al Dawlah was his grand minister, who was a Shia.
Sheikh ‘Abbas al Qummi has written the same in his other book, Tatimmat al Muntaha.
From the above quotations, two facts come to light.
- The customary mourning ceremonies and practices, as is carried out today, was introduced in Baghdad in the year 352 by Mu’izz al Dawlah, a Shia. Before that, there were no mourning ceremonies held anywhere else.
- Eid Ghadir Khum was also introduced by the same person in the same year. There was no such Eid celebrated before.
The readers might be aware that the last of the 11 Imams was Hassan al ‘Askari, who passed away in 260 A.H. This means that the above two ceremonies were not found during the eras of all the imams. Rather it was introduced many years after they passed away.
People of understanding know that a practice which is not found in the khayr al qurun (the blessed eras) and in the time of the imams, and which was introduced many years after them, can in no way be part and parcel of this blessed Din.
The martyrs of Karbala’
Here we will mention some other details regarding the incident of Karbala’.
و قتل من اصحاب الحسين اثنان و سبعون نفسا فدفنهم اهل الغاضرية من بني اسد بعد ما قتلوا بيوم واحد و قتل من اصحاب عمر بن سعد ثمانية و ثمانون نفسا
72 of Hussain’s companions were martyred. The people of Ghadiriyyah of the Banu Asad tribe buried all of them on the same day after they were killed. 88 of the companions of ‘Umar ibn Sa’d were killed.
Many Hashimites were also martyred. Ibn Kathir has given the following list:
فمن اولاد علي جعفر و الحسين و العباس و محمد و عثمان و ابو بكر و من اولاد الحسين علي الاكبر و عبد الله و من اولاد الحسن ثلاثة عبد الله و القاسم و ابو بكر بنو الحسن بن علي بن ابي طالب و من اولاد عبد الله بن جعفر اثنان عون و محمد و من اولاد عقيل جعفر و عبد الله و عبد الرحمن و مسلم قتل قبل ذلك كما قدمناه
- 6 of ‘Ali’s children were martyred: Hussain, Jafar, ‘Abbas (the flag-bearer), Muhammad, ‘Uthman, and Abu
- 2 of Hussain’s children were martyred: ‘Ali Akbar and ‘
- 3 of Hassan’s children were martyred: ‘Abdullah, Qasim, and Abu
- 2 of ‘Abdullah ibn Jafar’s children were martyred: ‘Awn and Muhammad.
- 4 of ‘Aqil ibn Abi Talib’s children were martyred: Jafar, ‘Abdullah, ‘Abdul Rahman and Muslim. Muslim was martyred before the incident of Karbala’.
We have written the above details as given by Ibn Kathir in al Bidayah wa al Nihayah. Other historians have recorded a few more or a few less names.
The Date of Martyrdom
The historian, Khalifah ibn Khayyat has recorded the day of Sayyidina Hussain’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu martyrdom as Wednesday, 10 Muharram 61 A.H. Ibn Kathir recorded the same date, but mentioned the day as being Friday.
Such variations in historical reports are not uncommon.
و فيها قتل الحسين بن علي بن ابي طالب رحمة الله عليه يوم الاربعاء لعشر خلون من المحرم يوم عاشوراء سنة احدى و ستين
On that day was Hussain ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib killed, may Allah’s mercy be upon him, on Wednesday, 10th of Muharram, the day of ‘Ashura’ 61 A.H.
و كان مقتل الحسين يوم الجمعة يوم عاشوراء من المحرم سنة احدى و ستين
Hussain was martyred on Friday, the day of ‘Ashura’ of Muharram 61 A.H.
Sayyidina Hussain’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu age at the time of his martyrdom was 56 years. This is the correct view, although there exists other views as well.
Burying of Hussain’s Blessed Head
It is famous amongst the historians that the blessed head of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu was first taken to Ibn Ziyad in Kufah, and from there it was sent to Yazid in Damascus.
Ibn Sa’d has recorded:
قالوا و كان عمرو بن سعيد من رجال قريش و كان يزيد بن معاوية قد ولاه المدينة فقتل الحسين و هو على المدينة فبعث اليه براس الحسين فكفنه و دفنه بالبقيع الى جنب قبر امه فاطمة بنت رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم
They say: ‘Amr ibn Sa’id, who was from the Quraysh tribe was appointed as governor over Madinah by Yazid ibn Muawiyah. Hussain was killed while he was governor. Thus, Yazid sent him Hussain’s head. ‘Amr wrapped the blessed head in a kafan (shroud) and buried it next to the grave of his mother, Fatimah bint Rasulillah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (in the cemetery of Madinah Munawwarah, Jannat al Baqi’).
Ibn Kathir has quoted the same from Ibn Sa’d.
The following persons have being specially named amongst the ones who actually killed Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
- Sinan ibn Anas Nakha’i
- Shamar Dhi al Jawshan (Abu Sabighah)
- Khawla ibn Yazid Asbahi
The evil end of the murderers of Hussain
In the end, we would like to mention what happened to those tyrants and oppressors who took part in the killing of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu. How they were punished in this world, even before their punishment in the next world.
What happened was that in the year 66 A.H. a person by the name of Mukhtar ibn Abi ‘Ubaidullah al Thaqafi rose, claiming to avenge the blood of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He, with his group of followers, overcame the opposition. He then searched for, and killed the murderers of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu, one by one.
‘Umar ibn Sa’d
‘Umar ibn Sa’d was the leader of the army at Karbala’. Mukhtar al Thaqafi killed ‘Umar ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, his son Hafs ibn Sa’d, and his other comrades.
The details of how they were killed has been mentioned by Ibn Kathir in al Bidayah wa al Nihayah
Shamar ibn Dhi al Jawshan
He was the head of the battalion which actually carried out the killing of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Mukhtar al Thaqafi hunted him down and killed him as well.
Khawla ibn Yazid
He was responsible for severing the blessed head of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Mukhtar al Thaqafi sent his army after him. They eventually tracked him down and killed him outside his own family house.
‘Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad
In 67 A.H. Mukhtar ibn Abi ‘Ubaidullah al Thaqafi prepared an army, 8000 strong, and dispatched them under the leadership of Ibrahim ibn Ashtar Nakha’i. They came face to face with ‘Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad at Mosul. A major battle ensued, known as Waq’at al Khazir, in which Ibn Ziyad and others were killed.
Hafiz al Dhahabi writes in al ‘Ibar:
و توثب على الكوفة عام اول المختار بن ابي عبيد و تتبع قتلة الحسين فقتل عمر بن سعد بن ابي وقاص و اضرابه و جهز جيشا ضخما مع ابراهيم بن الاشتر النخعي فكانوا ثمانية آلاف لحرب عبيد الله بن زياد فكانت وقعة الخازر بارض الموصل و قيل كانت في سنة سبع و ستين و هو اصح و كانت ملحمة عظيمة
Mukhtar ibn Abi ‘Ubaid launched an attack on Kufah in the first year and searched for the killers of Hussain. He thus killed ‘Umar ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas and his comrades. He then prepared a large army under Ibrahim ibn al Ashtar al Nakha’i who were 8000 strong to fight ‘Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad. This was the Battle of al Khazir which took place in the land of Mosul. It is said that this happened in the year 67 A.H. and this is most accurate. It was a great battle.
He writes further:
في المحرم ٦٧ ه كانت وقعة الخازر اصطلم فيها اهل الشام و كانوا اربعين الفا ظفر بهم ابراهيم بن الاشتر و قتلت امراءهم عبيد الله بن زياد بن ابيه و حصين بن نمير السكوني الذي حاصر ابن الزبير الخ
In Muharram 67 A.H., the Battle of al Khazir took place. They battled with the people of Sham who were 40 000 in number. Ibrahim ibn al Ashtar was successful in defeating them and their leaders were killed inter alia ‘Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad ibn Abihi and Hussain ibn Numair al Sakuni who besieged Ibn al Zubair.
Khalifah ibn Khayyat has recorded this briefly in his Tarikh under the events of the year 67 A.H.
Hafiz Ibn Hajar has recorded the same incident in detail in Tahdhib al Tahdhib.
From the above incidents we see how these oppressors met their evil ends within the space of five to six years after Karbala’.
Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has declared:
إِنَّا مِنَ الْمُجْرِمِيْنَ مُنتَقِمُوْنَ
Indeed We, from the criminals, will take retribution.
وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا
And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it.
Wives and children
The wives of Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu are as follows:
- Layla bint Abi Murrah ibn ‘Urwah ibn Mas’ud al Thaqafi (some have recorded her name as Aminah)
- A slave girl, who was the mother of ‘Ali al Asghar (Zayn al ‘Abidin)
- Rabab bint Imra’ al Qais ibn ‘Adi
- Umm Ishaq bint Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah
NB: According to Shia sources, Sayyidina Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu had a wife by the name of Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdegerd, who bore him the son Zayn al ‘Abidin, ‘Ali ibn Hussain.
The full details regarding this has been given in our book Ruhama’ Baynahum in the section dealing with Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. At that juncture, we also quoted the Shia scholar ‘Abdullah Mamaqani’s Tanqih al Maqal.
- ‘Ali al Akbar, who was martyred at Karbala’
- ‘Ali al Asghar (Zayn al ‘Abidin)
- Jafar, who had no offspring
- ‘Abdullah, who was martyred at Karbala’
A brief glimpse into the life of Zayn al ‘Abidin
Name: ‘Ali ibn al Hussain ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib
Titles: Zayn al ‘Abidin and Sajjad
Agnomen: Abu al Hussain. Some have written Abu Muhammad as well.
Mother: A slave girl by the name of Ghazalah. Some have recorded her name as Sulafah.
The Shia maintain that his mother was Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdegerd.
Date of birth: According to the famous view, it was in 37 or 38 A.H.
Demise: Rabi’ al Awwal 94 or 95 A.H. in Madinah Munawwarah.
He was present at Karbala’, but was ill, due to which he did not take part in the fight. At that time his age was approximately 22 or 23.
The commander of the opposite side, ‘Umar ibn Sa’d instructed that he and the women be left alone. Therefore they were not harmed.
Hussain’s Family by Ibn Ziyad and then by Yazid
After the tragedy of Karbala’, Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah and the remaining of the group were taken to Ibn Ziyad. The historians have mentioned great detail regarding this, but we will just mention it in brief.
‘Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad sent Zayn al ‘Abidin and the others to Yazid in Damascus. For a few days they stayed by Yazid, after which he summoned for Zayn al ‘Abidin and proposed to him:
و قال لعلي بن حسين ان احببت ان تقيم عندنا فنصل رحمك و نعرف حقك فعلت و ان احببت ان اردك الى بلادك و اصلك قال بل تردني الى بلادي فرده الى بلاده و وصله
He said to ‘Ali ibn Hussain: “If you wish to stay by me, you are free to do so. I will maintain family ties and fulfill your rights. If you so wish, you may return to your land (Madinah Munawwarah) and will make arrangements for that.”
Zayn al ‘Abidin replied, “Rather send me back to my land.”
Accordingly, he arranged for their return to their land and maintained ties with them.
Hafiz Ibn Kathir has recorded the conversation between Yazid and Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah as he was departing for Madinah Munawwarah as follows:
و لما ودعهم يزيد قال لعلي بن الحسين قبح الله ابن سمية اما والله لو اني صاحب ابيك ما سالني خصلة الا اعطيته اياها و لدفعت الحتف عنه بكل ما استطعت و لو بهلاك ولدي و لكن الله قضى ما رايت ثم جهزه و اعطاه مالا كثيرا و كساهم و اوصى بهم ذلك الرسول و قال له كاتبني بكل حاجة تكون لك الخ
When Yazid bid them farewell, he said to ‘Ali ibn al Hussain, “May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala disgrace Ibn Sumayyah (Ibn Ziyad)! By Allah, had I been present by your father, I would have accepted from him whichever proposal he put forward. I would spare his life at every cost, even though it meant sacrificing my own children. But the decree of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has come to pass, as you can see.”
Yazid then gave them what was needed to travel, a large sum of money, and clothes. He charged the person escorting them to look after them and be good to them. He even told Zayn al ‘Abidin, “Feel free to write to me your every need.”
Return to Madinah Munawwarah
Here the Shia have written a lot of what transpired. We will suffice on quoting from al Ihtijaj of Tabarsi:
فقال له يزيد لا يوديهن غيرك لعن الله ابن مرجانة فو الله ما امرته بقتل ابيك و لو كنت متوليا لقتاله ما قتلته ثم احسن جائزته و حمله و النساء الى المدينة
Yazid told Zayn al ‘Abidin, “You will accompany the women folk to Madinah, and no one else. May Allah’s subhanahu wa ta ‘ala curse be upon Ibn Marjanah (Ibn Ziyad)! I take an oath in the name of Allah! I did not order him to kill your father. If I was charged with fighting him, I would not have killed him.”
Yazid then gave Zayn al ‘Abidin handsome gifts and arranged for his and the womenfolk’s transport to Madinah.
Residing in Madinah Munawwarah
After this, Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah remained in Madinah Munawwarah. He did not get involved in any of the political issues of the time. He engrossed himself in the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. He did not oppose the rulers of the time, but like everyone else, accepted them as the rulers. This was his view which he remained firm upon.
Excessive worship of Allah
Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah was naturally a pious and Allah-fearing person. He used to worship in abundance. He spent his life in the obedience and ‘ibadah of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.
The ‘Ulama’ have given some glimpses of his excessive ‘ibadah.
قال مالك بلغني انه كان يصلي في اليوم و الليلة الف ركعة الى ان مات
Imam Malik says: “I was informed that Zayn al ‘Abidin would perform 1000 rak’at of nafl salah daily. This practice of his continued till he passed away.”
Because of his excessive ‘Ibadah, he was given the title Zayn al ‘Abidin which means the beauty of the worshippers and also Sajjad which means one who performs excessive sajdah (prostration).
Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah used to love to give charity and alms secretly.
و يقول ان الصدقة تقع في يد الله تعالى قبل ان تقع في يد السائل قال و اوما بكفيه
He used to say: “Before the charity even falls into the hands of the beggar, it reaches Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.” While saying this, he used to make a gesture with his hands.
عن ابي جعفر ان اباه علي بن الحسين قاسم الله ماله مرتين و قال ان الله يحب المومن المذنب التواب
Abu Jafar (his son, Muhammad Baqir rahimahu Llah), says about him: “My father, Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah, gave all his wealth in charity twice. He also used to say: ‘Indeed, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala loves the sinner who repents.’”
Fear of Allah
The ‘Ulama’ have mentioned a lot about Zayn al ‘Abidin’s rahimahu Llah taqwa and fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.
كان علي بن حسين يخرج على راحلته الى مكة و يرجع لا يقرعها
He used to go to Makkah Mukarramah and return on his animal, without beating it.
This points to his fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and his kindness to the creation.
The ‘Ulama’ have described his humility in the following manner:
اذا مشى لا يجاوز يده فخذه
When he used to walk, his hands never used to go beyond his thighs.
This describes his humble manner of walking.
Reforming the Society
Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah had narrated the ahadith of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam concerning reforming the ills and wrong practices of society.
In those days, people used to go quietly at night to harvest and pluck the dates of their orchards, so that they would not have to give a share of it as charity to the poor who normally arrive when they see the fruit being plucked. Similarly, others used to mix water into the milk and then sell it as pure milk.
Jafar ibn Muhammad reports from his father from ‘Ali ibn al Hussain that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in order to correct these wrongs, mentioned:
لا يصرنن نخل بليل و لا يشابن لبن بماء لبيع
Do not pluck the dates at night and do not mix water into milk when selling.
Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah, by narrating this statement of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, wanted to correct the wrong practices of society.
Abstaining from Ghuluw (Extremism)
عن يحيي بن سعيد قال سمعت علي بن الحسين و كان افضل هاشمي ادركته يقول ايها الناس احبونا حب الاسلام فما برح بنا حبكم حتى صار علينا عارا
اخبرنا يحيي بن سعيد قال قال علي بن الحسين احبونا حب الاسلام فوالله ما زال بنا ما تقولون حتى بغضتمونا الى الناس
Yahya ibn Sa’id says: “‘Ali ibn al Hussain (Zayn al ‘Abidin) was the best from amongst the Hashimites in his time. He used to say, “Love us for the sake of Islam. If you exceed the limits in loving us, it will turn into a blemish for us.”
He once said: “O people! Have love for us as per the dictates of Islam. By Allah, by exceeding the limits in your love for us, (you are disgracing us,) and people thereby will begin to hate us.”
 Sirat Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada, pg. 510.
 Surah al Baqarah: 153.
 Surah al Hadid: 22.
 Mishkat, pg. 155, referenced to Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.
 Mishkat, pg. 150, referenced to Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/177.
 Tarikh Ya’qubi, 2/244.
 Jala’ al ‘Uyun, pg. 434.
 Nasikh al Tawarikh, 6/253.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 11/243.
 Al ‘Ibar fi Khabar min Ghabar, 2/294; Duwal al Islam, 1/160.
 Muntaha al Amal, 1/452.
 Tatimmat al Muntaha, pg. 391.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/189.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/189.
 Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyat, 1/224.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/198.
 Al Tabaqat, 5/176.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/204.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/273.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/270.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/272.
 Al ‘Ibar, 1/74.
 Tarikh ibn Khayyat, pg. 259, 260.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, 7/451.
 Surah al Sajdah: 22.
 Surah al Shu’ara’: 40.
 Ruhama’ Baynahum, pg. 157.
 Tanqih al Maqal, 3/80.
 Al Ma’arif, pg. 93 – 94.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 5/109, 114.
 Al Ma’arif, pg. 93, 94; Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 5/109, 114.
 Tadhkirat al Huffaz 1/74; Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 5/108; Nasab Quraysh, pg. 58.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 5/109; Nasab Quraysh, pg. 58.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8/195.
 Tadhkirat al Huffaz, 1/75.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 5/113.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 5/113.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 5/111.
 Musannaf ‘Abdul Razzaq, 4/147.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 5/110.