Chapter 2: Distinctive Features Of Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘A) Time

Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) lived in a most dangerous and painful period, a time of which the holy Household (‘a) faced the most terrible difficulties of their lives. This was because Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) lived during the time that followed the passing of the Holy Prophet (saw), an era which was full of chaos, disorder and deviation.

The deviation, which was hidden during the time of the Holy Prophet (S), became evident in the time of Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin (‘a). People were able to see the real faces of the caliphs of that period, after Imam Husayn (‘a) was martyred by one of them. The evil reality of the period became clear to the people at this time and they had no way to hide themselves and their governments any longer.

As Imam Al-Sajjad was born before Imam ‘Ali’s (‘a) martyrdom; he was contemporary to all the troubles and problems which came into being in the time of his grandfather Imam ‘Ali (‘a). Imam Al-Sajjad was born while his grandfather Amir Al-Mu’minin (‘a) battled against (Nakithin) those who had ignored their allegiance, (Qasitin) those who were transgressors and (Mariqin) those who had abandoned the faith and were apostate-like.

He also observed the difficulties faced by his Uncle Imam Hasan (‘a) as regards a multitude of problems with Mu’awiyah and his acolytes. Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) also shared many of the difficulties experienced by the holy Household (‘a), especially those of Imam Husayn (‘a), by way of Yazid, the caliph of his time.

After his father, Imam Husayn (‘a), was martyred, Imam Zayn Al-‘Abidin (‘a) also became a direct victim of Yazid’s anger. The peak of these difficulties were felt when the Imam (‘a) saw the Ummayyad Army had entered the Prophet’s (S) mosque in Madinah and tied their horses in the sacred mosque, which was the birthplace of many great Islamic ideas of the Holy Prophet (S).

The Ummayyad Army, who had made Madinah and everything in it legal for themselves, entered the mosque and destroyed everything they found there. All of these sad calamities occurred during the time of Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a). Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) lived in an era where mutilating dead bodies, hanging their corpses on trees for days, cutting off their hands, feet and other body parts, and other abhorrent punishments were commonplace. In those days, killing was the chosen cure to every kind of enmity.

The Ummayads were living extremely luxurious lives. There are many strange stories told by historians about how they used Muslims’ wealth for their personal interests.1 They rewarded poets and singers with booty exaggerating their real value.2 During the Ummayyad dynasty, amusement, mockery, and profligacy were the only things observed among the Muslims of Makkah and Madinah.

Desiring to put an end to the respect for the two mentioned cities among the Muslims, they spread every kind of corruption in both cities. Music was given so much importance that Makkah became the centre for singing, and music, and the situation was tolerated even by every person who had a firm belief in Allah and his Holy Prophet (S).

Abul- Faraj says: Even pious people did not prevent music from spreading among the Muslims of the mentioned two cities.3

Abu Yusuf said to one of the persons in Madinah: "O, people of Madinah, I am surprised to see how very fond you are of music and to see that both your upper and lower classes want it."4

"It is said that whenever the singers sang songs, nobody remained in their homes but ran outside to enjoy the music."5

No doubt the city of Madinah, which was called the city of the Holy Prophet (S), was completely changed to one of the centres for music, where slave women were given music lessons,6 although Islam is completely against music and encourages Muslims to try to improve their lives both in this world and the Hereafter with good actions, charity, perfection, appropriate usage of every moment of life to prevent destruction.

Eagerness for learning was practically nonexistent in Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) time, because the Ummayyads always tried to entice potentially enthusiastic Muslim students away from various forms of cultural awareness in order to cause them to plummet to the depths of ignorance. This was because they were afraid that the Muslims would gain great awareness if they acquired knowledge, to the point that they would also become conscious of all governmental evils and become a threat to their interests.

This, in turn, could cause them to turn their backs on the government; a government which was benefiting from the ignorance of the people from the very time they had occupied the seat of caliphate, after the demise of the Holy Prophet (S).

The literary portion of that era also illustrates the ignorance of the people of the time. Poems written did not comment on any of the serious problems of the period, nor did they highlight any rational difficulties. All the poems were about the supremacy of the poets’ individual tribes and qualities, such as hospitality, wealth and manpower. A large group of the poets were also known to abuse each other in their verses, carefully selecting insulting titles for one another.7

  • 1. Ayat Al-Imam Zayn Al-'Abidin. Dirasat wa Tahlil p. 665.
  • 2. Al-Aghani 1/55 and 4/400 and 5/111.
  • 3. Al-Aghani 8/224.
  • 4. Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih Al-Andalusi, Al-‘Iqd Al-Farid 3/233.
  • 5. Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih Al-Andalusi, Al-‘Iqd Al-Farid 3/245.
  • 6. Al-Aghani 2/226, 3/307, 4/222, 6/21, 7/316, 332, 8/227, 10/57; Al-Shair wa Al-ghina fi Al-Madinah wa Makkah p. 250.
  • 7. Ayat Al-Imam Zayn Al-'Abidin dirasat wa Tahlil pp. 672-673.