The personality of Imam Al-Sajjad (A) was a perfect embodiment of love. He was love personified in all aspects. Whenever he saw a newcomer on the way, who was helpless, poor and destitute, he used to comfort him and take him to his house and take care of him.1
One day he saw a group of lepers (normally, people shun them fearing that they too would get that disease),2 and brought them to his house and looked after them well.3 The blessed house of Imam Al-Sajjad (A) was a refuge of the poor, the orphans and the helpless.
He is the son of Allah’s Messenger. However, he did not travel with a caravan, in which people knew him well. He used to wait for a caravan coming from far off place in which no one recognized him and he joined that caravan as a traveler.
Eventually, such a caravan arrived and the Imam was permitted to join it. During those days, it took ten to twelve days traveling on horses or camels to reach the destination. Imam (A) served that caravan for this period and continued to travel for Hajj.
During the journey, a person joined the caravan and he recognized the Imam. When he saw the Imam serving the people of caravan, he asked the people, “Do you know who the person serving you is?”
The people replied that they did not know who he was. They only knew that the youth belonged to Medina and was a nice man. That man said, “You are right that you don’t know him. If you had recognized him you would not have ordered him and let him serve you.” The people asked worriedly, “Do you know him?” The man replied, “Yes, he is son of Allah’s Messenger, Ali, the son of Al-Husayn.”
No sooner did the people come to know that he was Imam Al-Sajjad (A) that they came running and fell at his feet. They said, “O son Allah’s Messenger! Why are you making us sin? If we had dared to disregard you at any point, Divine chastisement would have befallen us. You are our master.
You be seated here. We would serve you. The Imam said, “No, whenever I join a caravan in which people know me, they do not allow me to serve them. They say that they would serve me; but I want to travel with a caravan where people do not recognize me so that I get a chance to serve the pilgrims.”4
Imam Al-Sajjad did not get as much opportunity as his father, Imam Al-Husayn (A) or Imam Ja‘far Al-Sadiq (A) because political conditions were not favorable during his time. However, a person who has desire to serve Islam, the conditions are always favorable for him except that the way is different.
We can estimate this from the fact that Imam Al-Sajjad (A) had left behind a treasure of guidance for Shias in the form of supplications. He performed his duty nicely through these supplications. Some people are of the opinion that for whatever period Imam Al-Sajjad (A) lived after his father, since he did not fight with the sword he ignored most matters related to the movement of Karbala. However, it is not true. Imam Al-Sajjad (A) actually used every moment to enliven the Karbala movement.
Imam Zayn al-Abidin (A) mourned regularly. In whose memory he did thus? Was the Imam’s state like that of a person who starts crying aimlessly when his feelings are hurt? Didn’t this mourning mean that the Imam wanted to keep the memories of the Karbala tragedy alive?
Didn’t he want that people should never forget why Imam Al-Husayn (A) sacrificed his life and who all got martyred alongside him? This was the actual reason why the Imam mourned; and sometimes he used to mourn intensely.
One day a servant asked the Imam, “O master! How long would you keep mourning?” (He used to think that the Imam was mourning for his relatives) Imam (A) said, “What are you saying? Yaqoob was aggrieved only for one Yusuf and the Holy Qur’an narrates his feelings that: “His eyes became white due to grief.” (Surah Yusuf 12:84).While I have seen eighteen Yusufs being martyred before my own eyes who all fell on the land of Karbala one after another.”5
- 1. Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 2, Pg. 15.
- 2. In ancient days, people used to consider leprosy a contagious disease. Imam Al-Sajjad’s (A) grandfather Imam Ali (A) also took care of lepers. This proves that this disease is not contagious. When this fact was mentioned in one of the books of Ustad Mutahhari, he got a call from a leprosy center managed by Christian missionaries. They asked him, “Did Imam Ali and Imam Al-Sajjad really take care of lepers?” He replied them with proofs and they were impressed by the knowledge and helpful, character of our Imams and asked for reference, which was given to them. (Rizwani)
- 3. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 46, Pg. 55; al-Kafi, Vol. 2, Pg. 13.
- 4. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 46, Pg. 69; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 2, Pg. 13.
- 5. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 149; Seeri dar Seerat al-Aimma al-Athaar, Pg. 112-114.