The Imamate i’s an important element in forming the civilizational and political thought in Islam. It is an inseparable part of the immortal message of Islam; rather it is the essence and reality of Islam. Without the Imamate, Islam will lose its qualities and activities and will be a lifeless, vague religion. We will briefly talk about the affairs of the Imamate, the Imamate of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, and what was reported on his authority in this respect.
The theologians and others defined the Imamate as follows: “The Imamate is the spiritual and temporal authority of a person who leads the community according to good inclinations and noble qualities such as justice, self-negation, generosity, disobeying one’s passions and all the external effects except that which concerns truth and justice.”
As for the Imamate in Islam, it is necessary for the Islamic life. It is a basic element in establishing social justice and building the best society in which there is no social injustice nor poverty and deprivation.
The Imamate in Islam takes care of dividing the bounties of Allah among His servants, securing equal opportunities for them, and protecting them from exploitation and enslavement. It is a developed human thought in the world of government and politics. It fulfills the objectives which Islam has planned for it when it is undertaken by the Allah-fearing Imams from the family of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, who are the equals of the Qur’an and the life-boats of this community. We will explain that in the following study.
It is certain that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, prepared the succession (to authority) and the Imamate after him. He did not leave the community after him to lead a life of chaos, dangers, and crises, rather he nominated his successors, the twelve Imams from the members of his family. The foremost of them was their lord, Imam ‘Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, whom the Prophet appointed as a signpost and an authority for the community regardless of the traditional sentiments. He, may Allah bless him and his family, designated him to undertake this important office because of his (‘Ali’s) qualifications, talents, genius, and firm clinging to religion.
The Muslim scholars, regardless of their inclinations and doctrines, have unanimously agreed that Imam ‘Ali was the most knowledgeable of the people after the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, in the affairs of the Islamic law, the precepts of religion, the affairs of policy, army, and society. The community embraced Islam for the first time. It was, first of all, in need of explaining the beauties of the precepts of the Islamic law and detailing the social matters such as contracts, inheritances, and punishments.
It is natural that if Imam ‘Ali had not been appointed to undertake the office of the Imamate, the community would have been deprived of his outstanding merits. This is rationally impossible for the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, who took great care of his community and was kind to it, as Allah, the Exalted said: “Certainly an Apostle has come to you from among yourselves, grievous to him is your falling into distress, excessively solicitous respecting you, to the believers (he is) compassionate, merciful.1”
As for the traditions which were reported on the authority of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, concerning the Imamate of Imam ‘Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, they are numerous. The narrators and the historians have unanimously agreed on them. The most important one of them is the hadith of al-Ghadir in which the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, appointed Imam ‘Ali as successor after him and ordered the Muslims to pledge allegiance to him, saying: “Whoever I am the master (mawla) of, this man, ‘Ali, is his master. O Allah, befriend whoever befriends him, be hostile to whoever opposes him, support whoever supports him and desert whoever deserts him.” Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, was asked about the meaning of this tradition and he replied: “Allah’s Apostle told them about the Imam after him.2”
The Shi‘ite religious scholars and other scholars mentioned in their theological books unquestionable scientific proofs for the Imamate of the twelve Imams, peace be on them. They indicated that the twelve Imams were the trustees of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, to authority, that their behavior and laudable deeds indicated their Imamate and their general deputyship on behalf of the Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. Also that they had abundant knowledge, piety, and devotion to religion, so no one before or after them has such outstanding qualities.
As for the high position of the Imams and their great place with Allah, no one knew it except them. Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, talked about it in many places. The following are some of them:
1. He, peace be on him, said: “Allah created from His magnificent light Muhammad, ‘Ali, and eleven (Imams) form his (‘Ali’s) sons. They glorified and sanctified Allah. They were the Imams from among the grandsons of Allah’s Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family.3” Abu al-‘Ala’ al-Ma‘arri, the wise man of al-Ma‘arra, mistrusted the people except the Imams of the Household, peace be on them, and believed in their high position. He said:
And the persons whose high rank shined
before the creation of Mars and Scales
before the heavens were created
and their bodies were ordered to move.
2. He, peace be on him, said: “We are the Imams of the Muslims, the proofs of Allah over mankind, the lords of the believers, the leaders of the luminous ones, and protectors of the believers. We are the safety for the people of the earth as the stars are safety for the people of heaven. With us He (Allah) prevents the heaven from falling on the earth, and with us He prevents the earth from swinging its people (from side to side). The earth has not been void of the proof of Allah publicly acknowledged or secretly since Allah created the earth. The earth will not be void of the proof of Allah till the Hour starts. Were it not for that, Allah would not have been worshipped.”
A person rose and asked the Imam: “How can the people make use of the hidden one?”
The Imam answered the person with a convincing proof, saying: “As they make use of the sun when the clouds cover it.4”
Yes, by Allah, the Imams of the Household were the Imams of the Muslims and the proofs of Allah over all the creatures. Were it not for them, no worshipper would have worshipped Allah, no monotheist would have professed His unity, and no sunna of Islam would have been established. The Imams were the stored sign and the door through which the people were tested. Whoever knew and obeyed them was safe, and whoever denied and disobeyed them went astray.
3. He, peace be on him, said: “My Lord, bless the best of his (the Prophet’s) Household, those whom You have chosen for Your command, appointed the treasurers of Your knowledge, the guardians of Your religion, the vicegerents in Your earth, and the arguments against Your servants, purified from uncleanness and defilement through a purification by Your desire and made the mediation to You and the road to Your Garden!
“My Lord, bless Muhammad and his Household with a blessing which makes plentiful Your gifts and generosity, perfects for them Your bestowals and awards, and fills out their share of Your kindly acts and benefits!
“My Lord, bless him and his Household with a blessing whose first has no term, whose term has no limit, and whose last has no utmost end!
“My Lord, bless them to the weight of Your Throne and below it, the amount that fills the heavens and all above them, the number of Your worlds and all below and between them, a blessing that will bring them near to You in proximity, please You and them, and be joined to its likes forever!5”
Allah chose the Imams of the Household, peace be on them, to carry out His message. He appointed them treasurers of His knowledge, guardians of His religion, vicegerents in His earth, and arguments against His servants. He granted them the highest position with Him and made them the mediation to Him, the road to His Garden, and the doors to His mercy.
4. He, peace be on him, said: “We are the vicegerents in the earth. We are more appropriate for the position with Allah than the people. We are those who are singled out in the Book of Allah, and we are those to whom Allah has legislated His religion when He said: ‘He has made plain to you of the religion what He enjoined upon Noah and that which We have revealed to you and that which We enjoined upon Ibrahim and Musa and ‘Isa.’ We have understood their (the prophet’s) knowledge, stored it, and delivered it. We are the inheritors of the prophets and the progeny of those who had knowledge. Establish the religion through the Household of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his family, and be not divided therein.6”
As for you, the Imams of the Household, you are the vicegerents of Allah in His earth and more appropriate for the position with Allah than men. Allah legislated His religion for you, chose you to spread it and was satisfied with you to deliver His message. No one denies your outstanding merits except those who are unbelievers or deviated from the religion, and no one loves you but those believers whose hearts Allah tested for faith.
It is obligatory to refer to the Imams of the Household, peace be on them, in obtaining the religious rules because they are more knowledgeable than the people in the affairs of the Islamic law and the rules of the religion. Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, underlined this point when he said: “The religion of Allah, the Great and Almighty, is not attained by incomplete intellects, false opinions, and corrupt measures. It is not attained but through submission. Whoever submits to us is safe, and whoever follows us is guided. Whoever puts into effect analogy and opinion is ruined. Whoever is dissatisfied with what we say and decide is unbeliever in Him who sent down the seven verses of (Surat al-Fatiha) (i.e., Allah) and the Holy Qur’an while he does know that.7”
Through their jurisprudential and principle researches, the Imami Shi‘ite religious scholars have established that it is incorrect to conform to analogy and application of discretion in the affairs of the Islamic law, and that jurisprudence depends on religious texts. If there is no text or the text is synopsis or it is opposed by a similar text, it is obligatory to depend on the scientific principles to which the doubter should resort at the time of action. As for resorting to other than that such as analogy, it is insufficient, and the one who resorts to it will be punished.
Islam takes great care of obeying the Imam, this is because the establishment of the social regime in Islam and the Islamic life depend on it. As disobedience leads to chaos and exposes the community to crises and dangers, Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, underlined the importance of obeying the Imam, saying: “O Allah, surely You have confirmed Your religion in all times with an Imam whom You have set up as a guidepost to Your servants and a lighthouse in Your lands, after his cord has been joined to Your cord! You have appointed him the means to Your good pleasure, made obeying him obligatory, cautioned against disobeying him, and commanded following his commands, abandoning his prohibitions, and that none goes ahead of him or none keeps back from him! So he is the preservation of the shelter-seekers, the cave of the faithful, the handhold of the adherents, and the radiance of the worlds!
“O Allah, so inspire Your guardian to give thanks for that in which You have favored him, inspire us with the like concerning him, grant him an authority from You to help him, open for him an easy opening, aid him with Your mightiest pillar, brace his back, strengthen his arm, guard him with Your eye, defend him with Your safeguarding, help him with Your angels, and assist him with Your most victorious troops!
“Through him, establish Your Book, Your bounds, Your laws, and the norms of Your Messenger’s Sunna (Your blessings, O Allah, be upon him and his Household), bring to life the guideposts of Your religion, deadened by the wrongdoers, burnish the rust of injustice from Your way, sift the adversity from Your road, eliminate those who deviate from Your path, and erase those who seek crookedness in Your straightness!
“Make his side mild toward Your friends, stretch forth his hand over Your enemies, give us his hearers and obeyers, strivers toward his good pleasure, assistants in helping him and defending him. Make us seek nearness through that to You and Your Messenger (Your blessings, O Allah, be upon him and his Household).8”
In this masterpiece of his, Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, underlined the obligatory obedience to the Imam, prohibited disobedience to him, and commanded following his commands. He, peace be on him, also stressed the high and important position of the Imam, who is the preservation of the shelter-seekers, the cave of the faithful, the handhold of the adherents, and the radiance of the worlds. Then he supplicated for him when he said: “Guard him with Your eye, defend him with Your safeguarding, help him with Your angels, and assist him with Your most victorious troops! Through him, establish Your Book, Your bounds, Your laws, and the norms of Your Messenger’s Sunna (Your blessings, O Allah, be upon him and his Household), bring to life the guideposts of Your religion, deadened by the wrongdoers.”
The Imam should have qualities; he should be infallible from inward and outward sins and offenses throughout the stages of his life. Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, stressed infallibility of the Imam when he said: “The Imam should be infallible.” He was asked about the meaning of the infallible Imam and he replied: “It is he who clings to the cord of Allah. The cord of Allah and the Qur’an do not separate from each other till the Day of Resurrection.9”
Those who have no piety in religion blames the Shi‘ites for their belief in the infallibility of their Imams. They compare the Imams with other people who submit to their inclinations and desires. This comparison results from either harboring malice against the Imams of the Household or from having no knowledge of them. It is certain that whoever carefully considers the behavior of the pure Imams, peace be on them, will firmly believe that they had firm piety and faith which prevented them from committing any sin.
Didn’t the Lord of the family, Imam ‘Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, say: “By Allah, If I was given the seven regions and what was under their havens to disobey Allah in taking a grain of barely from the mouth of a locust, I would not do that.” Isn’t this infallibility? However, those who criticize the Shi‘ites have put veils over their intellects, so they do not understand infallibility.
As we have talked about what has been reported on the authority of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, concerning the affairs of the Imamate, we will return to talk about his Imamate, which is among the unquestionable maxims, for he was endowed with noble inclinations and outstanding merits which were not found except in those whose hearts Allah tested for faith. We have mentioned some of them when we talked about his behavior and psychological qualities. The following are some proofs for his Imamate:
The Imami Shi‘ites regard text as an important proof of designating the Imam and removing doubt from him. Many texts (traditions) were reported concerning the Imamate of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him. The following are some of them:
1. The greatest Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, appointed his trustees (of authority) and his twelve successors after him, and he mentioned their names.10”
2. Imam ‘Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, designated his grandson Zayn al-‘Abidin as an Imam when he was about to die. He appointed as an Imam his pure son Imam al-Hasan, peace be on him, and gave him the tablets of the prophets, and he asked his sons Imam al-Husayn and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya and all his sons as well as the chiefs of his Shi‘ites to bear witness for that, and then he said to al-Husayn: “You are the one who will undertake the office of the Imamate after your brother al-Hasan, and Allah’s Messenger ordered you to give the tablets (of the prophets) to your son Zayn al-‘Abidin, for he will be the proof after you.” Then he took Zayn al-‘Abidin, who was still a child, by the hand and said to him: “Allah’s Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, ordered you to designate your son, Muhammad al-Baqir, as an Imam after you, and recite to him the greetings of Allah’s Apostle and that of mine11”
3. Imam al-Husayn appointed his son Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, as an Imam and entrusted the Imamate to him. Al-Zuhri reported: “I was with al-Husayn b. ‘Ali when ‘Ali b. al-Husayn al-Asghar (i.e., Zayn al-‘Abidin) came in. So al-Husayn called him, embraced him, and kissed him between his eyes. I (i.e., al-Zuhri) turned to Imam al-Husayn and asked him: ‘Son of Allah’s Apostle, who will be the Imam after you?’ Al-Husayn replied: ‘This son of mine, ‘Ali, will be the Imam. He is the father of the Imams.’12”
A similar tradition to this was narrated by ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Uttba.13 The Shi‘ite narrators said: “When Imam al-Husayn, peace be on him, wanted to go to Iraq, he entrusted the tablets, which he received from his brother al-Hasan, to Umm Salama, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, and ordered her to give them to Zayn al-‘Abidin. When Imam al-Sajjad (Zayn al-‘Abidin) returned to Medina, Umm Salama gave him the tablets, which were among the signs of the Imamate.14” The old Shi‘ite books have mentioned numerous texts (traditions) similar to the above-mentioned text. If there were no texts for his Imamate, his ideals and his outstanding qualities would confirm it.
The ideological frame of the Imamate, according to the Shi‘ite doctrine, did not appear during the lifetime of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, for no one understood or followed it except a few number of the Shi‘ites whose souls the teachings and values of Islam educated. Al-Husayn b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab said: “The Imamate during the time of the Imam was kept a secret. None followed the Imam except his believing followers.15”
A group of fearful factors surrounded the Imam, so he was unable to show everyone the great aspects of the Imamate and its true principles and branches except a few number of his special friends and followers.16” In the biography of Sa‘id b. al-Musayyab, al-Kashi mentioned that al-Fadl b. Shadan said: “During the lifetime of ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin), no one knew or followed the Imamate except five persons, who were: Sa‘id b. Jubayr, Sa‘id b. al-Musayyab, Muhammad b. Jubayr b. Mutt‘im, Yahya b. Umm al-Tawil, and Abu Khalid al-Kabuli.17”
Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin isolated himself form the people for a period of time, as his grandfather, Imam ‘Ali, the Commander of the faithful, did during the days of the Caliphs and sat in his house. He set up for himself a tent made of hair outside Medina and devoted his life to worshipping and spreading knowledge.18 With that he was able to spare his life and that of the rest of the Household. He saved them from that black, evil government which exposed the Muslims to the most difficult tribulation.
In that case, the Islamic society did not understood the aims which the Imamate wanted to achieve as well as it did not understood the qualities of the Imam such as infallibility, abundant knowledge, and perfect awareness of the community in policy, economy, and society. This was because the corrupt Umayyad government officially persecuted the Shi‘ites, killed them, imprisoned them in dark prisons, and prevented them from meeting Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him.
The historians said that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya was knowledgeable, ascetic, worshipful, and bravery. He was among the most meritorious children of Imam ‘Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, after Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn, peace be on them.19 He was a pious person with abundant knowledge.20 So the hearts inclined to him.21 A sect of the Muslims adopted his Imamate and it was called the Kaysaniya, which was among the oldest sects of the Muslims. The Kaysaniya called Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya al-Mahdi (the rightly guided one), of whom the greatest Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, gave good news, who is the Qa’im (the one who will undertake the office of the Imamate) of the Household of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his family, and who will fill the earth with justice and fairness as it was filled with oppression and tyranny. Among those who believed in the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya was Sayyid al-Himyari, a great Muslim poet. He thought that Muhammad was still alive, that he lived in Mount Radawa, and that he had honey and water. In this connection, he composed the following famous lines of poetry:
Indeed the Imams, who are from Quraysh and
are the rulers of right (to authority), are four
(They are) ‘Ali and his three sons, who are the
grandsons (of the Prophet), and are
One grandson is the grandson of faith and good
One grandson whom Karbala’ took away.23
And the grandson24 who will not taste death till
he leads the horses before which there will be a
He has concealed himself, not seen among
them for a time, in (Mount) Radawa; he has
honey and water.25
The poet al-Sayyid al-Himyari withdrew from his doctrine when he understood the truth. He believed in the Imamate of the pure Imams, peace be on them, when he openly supported the greatest Imam, Ja‘far al-Sadiq, peace be on him, In this respect he said:
I have become a Ja‘fari in the name of Allah
and Allah is greater.
I have become sure that Allah will pardon
and forgive (me).26
It is certain that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya adopted the Imamate of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him. He did not want the Imamate for himself, rather the people wanted it for him. It was impossible for him to claim what did not belong to him, for he was the most pious of all the people, the most of them in clinging to religion, and was fully aware that the affair of the Imamate did not belong to anyone, rather its affair belonged to Allah, Who granted it to whomever He wanted of His servants. He was sure that the Imam of his time was Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him. The narrators said: ‘There was a dispute between Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya and Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin over the Imamate, so they agreed on going to the Kaaba to decide (the matter) by the Black Stone. They agreed on that to prepare the public opinion and to return to the truth those who believed in the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya. They traveled to Mecca.
When they reached it, they turned to the Sacred House. As for Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, he stood before the Black Stone and supplicated with this supplication: “O Allah, I ask You by Your name which is written upon the canvas of glory, by Your name which is written upon the canvas of splendor, by Your name which is written upon the canvas of tremendousness, by Your name which is written upon the canvas of majesty, by Your name which is written upon the canvas of might, by Your name which is written upon the canvas of power, by Your name which is written upon the canvas of secrets, (which) is previous, excellent, good, and bright, Oh Lord of the eight angels and of the great Throne, by Your eye which does not sleep, by the biggest, the biggest Name, by the greatest, the greatest, the greatest Name which encompasses the kingdom of heavens and earth, by Your Name through which the sun shines, and through which the moon shines, through which You made the seas subservient, through which You fixed the mountains, by Your Name through which Your Throne and the Chair stood erect, by Your Names (which are) holy, noble, hidden, and stored with You in the world of unseen things, I ask You by all of that to bless Muhammad and his Household.27”
Allah made the Black Stone speak in a miraculous way as He made ‘Isa b. Maryam speak when infancy in the cradle. He made it say that the Imam was Zayn al-‘Abidin, that he was the proof of Allah over His creatures, and that he was His trustee over His religion. With that the truth became clear.28 A group of those who had believed in the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya returned to the Imamate of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin. So the great poet al-Sayyid al-Himyari composed poetry about this event, saying:
‘Ali and what occurred through his uncle
on account of returning the Imamate was like
bending the rein.
and his appointing as arbitrator a black stone
and what occurred through his clear speech
when an uncle handed over (the Imamate),
without doubt, to (his) cousin, pronouncing
(that) with the tongue.
I truthfully bore witness for that as I truthfully
bore witness for the verses of the Qur’an.
I do not doubt that ‘Ali (Zayn al-‘Abidin) is
and I have abandoned my belief in the
Abu’ Khalid al-Kabuli had confessed the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya, but he withdrew from it when the truth manifested itself to him, so he believed in the Imamate of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him. The reason for that is according to what the narrators said: “Al-Kabuli asked Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya: ‘May I be ransom for you, if I have sacredness, love, and devotion to you, I ask you by the sacredness of Allah’s Messenger, may Allah bless him and his family, and that of the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, to tell me: Are you the Imam whose obedience Allah has made incumbent on His creature?’”
Muhammad answered him with the answer of the believer who sought nothing except the truth, saying: “Abu’ Khalid, you made me swear by (Allah), the Almighty, ‘Ali b. al-Husayn is the Imam over me, you, and all the Muslims.”
So Abu’ Khalid hurried to Imam ‘Ali b. al-Husayn ( Zayn al-‘Abidin) and asked permission to meet him. When he was permitted to enter, the Imam received him warmly asking: “Welcome, Kankar! You had not visited us! What was wrong with you?”
Abu’ Khalid replied with submission and respect: “Praise belongs to Allah, Who did not cause me to die until I knew my Imam.”
The Imam asked him: “How did you know your Imam?”
Abu’ Khalid answered: “You called me with my name with which my mother called me. I was blind to see my affairs. I served Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya for a time of my life. I had no doubt that he was the Imam till I asked him by the Sacredness of Allah, the Sacredness of the Messenger, and the Sacredness of the Commander of the faithful, so he guided me to you and said: ‘‘Ali b. al-Husayn is the Imam over me, you, and all the creatures.’30”
Al-Sayyid al-Himyari composed poetry about this event, saying:
I wondered at the return of the changes of time,
the affair of Abu’ Khalid with eloquence, and
his returning the Imamate firmly to the pure
Sayyid, the light of hearts.31
Among the signs of his (Zayn al-‘Abidin’s) Imamate was that he foretold some events in the future and they occurred after tens of years as he foretold. The Imami Shi‘ites regard this phenomenon as one of the signs of the Imamate because such unseen events are part of the knowledge of Allah, and He does not let anyone foretell them except His prophets and their trustees of authority. What indicates this was that Imam ‘Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, predicted many events and they all occurred on the arena of life. For example, he foresaw the murder of the people at the Battle of al-Nahrwan, the murder of Dhi al-Thiddiya, and the collapse of the state of the Umayyads. Thus, he said to his companions: “Question me before you lose me, for by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you questioned me, I would tell you about everything between you and the Hour.”
One time he said to his companions: “If I wished, I would inform you of the future events of your time, the misfortunes of your time, the tribulation of your days, and the adversities of your hours.”
Professor ‘Abd al-Fattah ‘Abd al-Maqsu’d commented on this, saying: “He (Imam ‘Ali) did not depend on opinion, nor did he study the stars, nor did he resort to divination, rather he looked with his own eye at what was behind the known, apparent things to bring them some of the unknown, concealed things.
“Indeed, he spoke out of the truth in which there was no doubt because he informed them of the knowledge of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his family.32”
Allah, the Most High, granted the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt), peace be on them, brilliant abilities of knowledge and singled them out with His unseen things to indicate their spiritual and temporal leadership of this community. Among those whom Allah singled out with this favor was Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, who informed his companions of many events and they occurred after him. The following are some of them:
Among the events about which the Imam, peace be on him, told his companions was that he told them about the martyrdom of his son Zayd, the great martyr. Abu’ Hamza al-Thumali reported: [I visited ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin) at the time of the hajj every year. One year I came to him and there was a boy sitting on his thigh. The boy rose and hit himself against the doorstep and blood came out of him, so the Imam hurried to him, dried his blood and said to him:] “I ask Allah to protect you from crucifying at Kanasa.”
I (Abu’ Hamza al-Thumali) asked him: “May my father and mother be ransom for you, which Kanasa?”
“The Kanasa of Kufa,” he replied.
“May I be ransom for you, will that occur?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered, “by Him Who sent Muhammad with the Truth, it will happen that you will live after me until you see this boy at the district of Kufa. There he will be killed, buried, and dug up. He will be crucified at Kanasa, then he will be brought down, burnt, pounded, and scattered in the land.”
Abu’ Hamza was astonished to hear these words of the Imam, so he asked him about the boy’s name: “May I be ransom for you, what is the name of this boy?”
“Zayd,” replied the Imam.33
All the events about which the Imam told his companions occurred. A few years later and Zayd, the martyr, the most brilliant free revolutionist, revolted against the tyrannical Umayyad government asking it to establish the Islamic justice and to respect human rights, but the oppressive government ordered him to be killed. One of his supporters took him and buried him, but the Umayyad government ordered him to be taken out of his grave and to be crucified at the Kanasa of Kufa, so Zayd remained crucified on the trunk of a date-palm for four years; nevertheless he enlightened for the people the way of freedom, honor, and dignity. Then the Umayyad government ordered him to be brought down, to be burnt, and to be thrown into the water of the Euphrates. In this connection, the Umayyads said: “We scattered some of Zayd’s ashes into the water of the Euphrates to make the people drink them.”
All the details of the event about which the Imam told his companions occurred. Without doubt this event is among the signs and proofs of the Imamate.
Among the events about which the Imam, peace be on him, told his companions was that he told them that ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz would undertake the affairs of the Muslims and that he would die quickly after undertaking the Caliphate.34 This occurred when ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz became caliph for a short time, and then he died quickly.
Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, told his companions about the collapse of the government of the Abbasides. Through the unseen world he knew that the Abbasides would base their government on oppression, tyranny and corruption, that they would take the Muslims away from their religion, that a group of the followers of Imam ‘Ali would revolt against them asking them to establish justice and fairness among the people, and that this group would attain martyrdom at the hands of those tyrannical ‘Abbasides. The following is the text of his tradition: Imam Abu’ Ja‘far al-Baqir, peace be on him, reported on the authority of his father Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, who said: “In his (Ibn ‘Abbas’s) backbone there are descendants who will (enter) the fire of Hell through taking the people away from the religion of Allah and coloring the land with the blood of the children of the family of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his family. Those children will rise sometimes and seek what they will not attain. The believers will take up positions and be patient until Allah decides.35”
A group of those believing followers of Imam ‘Ali revolted against the tyrannical ‘Abbasides. Among them were Muhammad and Ibrahim who raised the standard of the revolt against al-Mansu’r al-Dawaniqi. Among them was al-Husayn b. ‘Ali, the leader of the Battle of Fakh, who revolted against al-Hadi, the ‘Abbaside. Other children of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, revolted against the oppressive ‘Abbasides. They raised the banner of freedom and dignity demanding the ‘Abbasides to respect the rights of the oppressed and persecuted. Moreover they watered with their blood the tree of Islam which the ‘Abbasides wanted to uproot during their abominable rule.
These are some events about which Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, peace be on him, told his companions and they occurred as he foretold.
Allah endowed Zayn al-‘Abidin with limitless knowledge as He endowed his fathers. The Imam, peace be on him, concealed his knowledge and did not make it public among the people lest the ignorant should accuse him of discord. He showed that when he said:
I conceal the jewels of my knowledge lest the
ignorant should see the truth and accuse me of
Many a jewel of knowledge which if I
disclosed, it would be said to me: You
are among those who worship idols, and
my blood would be regarded as lawful
by men who regard as good the
ugliest thing they do.
Abu’ Hasan had already offered this
(knowledge) to al-Husayn and had
entrusted it to al-Hasan.36
- 1. Surat al-Tawba, verse 128.
- 2. Al-Sadu`q, Ma‘ani al-Akhbar, p.65.
- 3. Usu`l al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 530.
- 4. Al-Sadu`q, al-Amali, p. 112. Yanabi‘ al-Mawadda, vol. 3, p. 147. Roudat al-Wa‘izin, p. 170.
- 5. Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, Supplication no. 47.
- 6. Nasikh al-Tawarikh, vol. 2, p.49. Al-Majjlisi, Bihar al-Anwar.
- 7. Nasikh al-Tawarikh, vol. 1, p.141. Quoted from Ikmal al-Din.
- 8. Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, Supplication no. 47.
- 9. Tarikh al-Tarbiya ‘inda al-Imamiya, p. 19.
- 10. Kifayat al-Athar, p. 311. Al-Tu`si, al-Ghayba, p. 105. Mukhtasar al-Basa’ir, p. 39. Saleem b. Qays, p. 94.
- 11. Usu`l al-Kafi, Chapter on the Textual Imamate of al-Hasan.
- 12. Roudat al-Jannat, pp. 247-248.
- 13. Ithbat al-Hudat, vol. 5, p.214.
- 14. Usu`l al-Kafi, Chapter on the Textual Imamate of al-Hasan.
- 15. ‘Uyyu`n al-Mu‘jizat, p. 31.
- 16. Roudat al-Jannat, vol. 4, p. 44.
- 17. Al-Kashi, Rijal.
- 18. Farhat al-Ghari, p. 33.
- 19. ‘Ummdat al-Talib.
- 20. Hulyat al-Awliya’, vol. 3, p. 174.
- 21. Ibid.
- 22. He meant the pure Imam, al-Hasan, peace be on him, the plant of sweet basil of Allah’s Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family.
- 23. He meant Imam al-Husayn, the father of the free and lord of martyrs.
- 24. He meant Mohammed b. al-Hanafiya.
- 25. Abu` al-Farajj al-Asfahani, al-Aghani, vol. 7, p. 245. In al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya, these lines have been attributed to the poet Kuthayr.
- 26. Abu` al-Farajj al-Asfahani, al-Aghani, vol. 7, p. 235.
- 27. Al-Fadil al-Muqdad, Supplications, vol. 18.
- 28. Bahr al-Ansab, p. 42. Ithbat al-Wasiya, p. 119.
- 29. Mohammed b. al-Hanafiya, p. 72. Quoted from al-Himyari’s Divan
- 30. Al-Kashi, Rijal, pp. 79-80.
- 31. Mohammed bin al-Hanafiya, p. 72.
- 32. Al-Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, vol. 8, p. 164.
- 33. Farhat al-Ghari.
- 34. Dala’il al-Imama, p. 88. Basa’ir al-Darajat.
- 35. Ithbat al-Hudat, vol. 5, p. 241.
- 36. Abu` Hamid al-Ghazali, Minhajj al-‘Abidin, p. 2. Al-Ithaf bi Hub al-Ashraf, p. 50. Al-Alu`si, al-Ma‘ani, vol. 6, p. 190. Roudat al-Jinan, vol. 3, p. 133.