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Chapter 1: Imam Al-Sajjad’s Life (‘A) From Karbala To Madinah

After the day of ‘Ashura’, an eye witness account, reported by historians, reveals: "In Muharram the year 61 A.H., I came to Kufah at the same time Ummar Ibn Sa’ad’s army brought ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a) and the women of Ahl Al-Bayt to Kufah. People came out of their houses to see them and when the women saw the Ahl Al-Bayt ladies riding on camels without respect and with insufficient covering, they started crying and slapping their heads and chests." The eye witness said: "I heard ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a) with a very weak and shaken voice, while the illness took all his energy, his neck and hands restrained by chains saying: "These women cry; then how did they kill us."1

1. The Speeches Of Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin And Sayyidah Zaynab (‘A) In Kufah

Before the captives (sabayah) entered Ibn Ziad’s palace, Sayyidah Zaynab stood in the strongest victorious stance and started to waken unaware souls and dead hearts. Shaykh Al-Mufid narrated from Hathlam Ibn Sair, saying that he had seen Zaynab bint ‘Ali (‘a) and hadn’t seen anyone like this. It was as if she spoke with her father, ‘Ali’s (‘a), own tongue. When Zaynab [as] saw some of the men and women weeping and wailing, having realised what had really happened, she bade them to be quiet and spoke to them with piercing eloquence and insight: "Praise be to Allah and blessings be on my grandfather Muhammad and his purified and chosen progeny."

"So now, O people of Kufah, who deceive, forsake and contrive, it is you who weep. May Allah not halt your tears and may your chests burn incessantly with the fire of grief and sorrow. Your example is that of a woman who assiduously prepares a strong rope and then un-twines it herself, wasting her own hard labour."

"You swear such false oaths, which bear no truthfulness at all. Beware that you have nothing except vain talk, false pride, mischief, malice, evil, rancour, falsehood, and sycophancy. Beware that your position is that of slave-maids and purchased girls who are but the meanest beings."

"Your hearts are full of enmity and rancour. You are like the vegetation that grows on filthy soil and is yet green, or like the mortar applied unto graves."

"You should know that you have perpetrated a very morbid deed and this has prepared an evil provision for your next life, because of which, Allah’s anger is against you and His wrath would fall upon you."

"Now you are crying aloud and wailing over my brother! Yes, cry, because it behoves you to cry. Yes, weep profusely and laugh less, because you have earned the shame of killing the Imam of the age. The stain of his blood is now on your clothes and you cannot remove it, nor can you secure acquittal from the charge of killing the son of the last Prophet of Allah, the Chief of the youths in Paradise. You have killed a person who was your support, the knower of the Sunnah and the ultimate arbitrator at the time of your mutual disputations. He was the basis of your talks and actions. He was your place of refuge in the event of hardship."

"Know that you have been guilty of the most heinous crime in the world and have prepared the worst provision for the Day of Judgment. Curses be upon you and may destruction overtake you. Your efforts have gone wasted and you have been ruined. You have transacted a losing trade. You have become the victim of Allah’s wrath and have fallen into ignominy and degradation."

"O people of Kufah, woe upon you. Do you realize which piece of Muhammad’s heart you have severed, which pledge you have broken whose blood you have shed and whose honour you have desecrated? You have certainly committed such a crime because of which the sky may fall down on the earth, the earth may crack and mountains crumble to pieces. By killing your Imam, you have committed a singularly evil act of rebellious behaviour and heedlessness towards dignity.”

“In view of all these acts, would you wonder if blood should rain down from the sky? In any case, you should mind that the chastisement of the Next World will be severe. At that juncture there will be no one to help you. Do not regard the time and opportunity given you by Allah as small and unimportant, and do not be satisfied with it because, if Allah is not quick in acting, it does not imply that He is unable to. For Him there is no fear that the time of vengeance is passing away. Allah is certainly keeping watch over you."

He added that people wept, putting their fingers in their mouths and biting them. Without appealing to sentiments of pity, she exposed to them the reality of their selves and their evil deeds. The eyes that had previously been raised in expectation of celebration were now downcast with shame by the truthful force of her speech.2

Zaynab (‘a) entered the government palace with which she was so familiar. In the great audience hall her father had dispensed justice during his caliphate. Her sons had played there and here, her brothers had been accorded great respect by the people. Although she was shabbily dressed and her head was uncovered, she entered with awe-inspiring dignity and took her place in silence. Ibn Ziad was amazed at her boldness and enquired of her who she was. Zaynab (‘a) did not reply and it was left to one of her slaves to inform him of her identity.

Enraged because of her apparently haughty behaviour, Ibn Ziad addressed her saying: "Allah be praised! Your brother and your kinsmen are dead and their false claims have come to nought." Zaynab (‘a) replied, "It was Allah’s wish that they should be martyred, and they met their deaths bravely. If this was your heart’s desire then you must indeed be content today. But you have killed those whom the Holy Prophet (S) held upon his knee, when they were children and whose play filled him with joy. Soon you will stand with them before Allah and they will demand justice. Beware the day of reckoning."3

2. Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin (‘A) Confronts Ibn Ziad’s Tyranny

And it seemed to all that heard that she spoke with the voice of ‘Ali (‘a), her father. Angrily, Ibn Ziad turned to a young man and enquired who he was. The youth replied, "I am ‘Ali, son of Husayn." Ibn Ziad was amazed that he was still alive, and ordered that he be killed. But Zaynab (‘a) intervened and said that if the boy was to be killed then she should be killed with him. Ibn Ziad was moved by her love and allowed the young Imam to live4.

And when they marched Ibn Ziad asked Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a): "who are you?"

The Imam answered: "I’m ‘Ali Ibn Husayn."

Ibn Ziad asked: "Didn’t Allah kill ‘Ali Ibn Husayn?"

The Imam answered: "I had a brother with the same name; the people killed him."

Bin Ziad insisted: "Rather Allah killed him."

The Imam, in his answer, read this ayah from the holy Qur’an:

اللَّهُ يَتَوَفَّی الْأَنْفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا

“It is Allah Who takes away the souls at the time of their death…” (Surah Al-Zumar, 39:42).

Ibn Ziad said: "You still dare to answer me like this? Take him and behead him”.

At that point, his Aunt Zaynab (‘a) clung on to her nephew saying: "Oh Ibn Ziad, haven’t you had enough of our blood?" Then she threw her arms around Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) neck and said: "By Allah, I will not leave him. If you kill him then kill me with him." Then ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a) said: "Oh Aunty, calm down so I can talk to him."

Then he turned to Ibn Ziad and said: "Oh son of Ziad are you trying to scare me with death? Don’t you know that dying for God is a tradition for us and Martyrdom for them is our family’s honour and dignity!"

Then Ibn Ziad gave orders that the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) be housed in an old building beside the Kufah mosque. The next day he ordered them to place Imam Husayn’s (‘a) head on a spear and walk in the street through Kufah’s tribes with it after which, to return it to ‘dar Al-‘imare’ (ruling place).5

Then Ibn Ziad ordered to put the head of the lord of martyrs and his sons and loyal followers on wooden sticks for everyone to see like he had done to Muslim Ibn ‘Aqil (‘a).6

Ibn Ziad sent the news of Imam Husayn’s death and his family’s captivity in a letter to Yazid.7

And he sent the same news to Aomro Ibn Said, Madinah’s governor who was also from the Bani Ummayyah.

When Ibn Ziad’s letter reached Yazid, he ordered him to send Imam Husayn’s head and those of the rest of the martyrs to him with the women and children, and ‘Ali Ibn Husayn in chains.

So they sent the Ahl Al-Bayt after the heads in a convoy like infidel captives, on weak old camels without litters with Mojfar Ibn tha’alaba Alaidi and Shimr Ibn Thil- Jawshan to Shamand. After a while, the Ahl Al-Bayt reached the head convoy and they went together to Sham. On the way to Sham, Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) spoke not a word to any of the soldiers.8

3. Ahl Al-Bayt’s Captivity In Sham

From the beginning, Sham recognised Islam through people like Khalid Ibn Walid and Mu‛awiyah Ibn Abi- Sufyan who had conquered them. They had never seen the Holy Prophet (S), himself, nor heard any of his hadiths from him, personally or even knew his followers’ characters from close quarters. The followers who moved to live in Sham were few and far between and had no effect on the people.

As a result, the people of Sham thought and accepted the acts of Mu‛awiyah and his entourage, as though they displayed the real ways of Islam, because the Islamic government (even though it was of the Amawi kind), when compared to the previous system, which ruled for many centuries under the Roman Empire in Sham, it was an improvement.

Considering this, it is not strange to hear historical books recount that when the Karbala captives arrived in Sham, an old man came close to Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) and told him: "Praise be to Allah who annihilated you and gifted our Amir with victory!"

Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) in answer to him said: "Old man do you read the Qur’an?"

The old man answered: "Yes I do."

Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) said: "Have you read this verse:

قُلْ لا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْراً إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَی

“…No reward do I ask of you for this [Divine Call] except to be kind to my close relatives.” ….” (Surah Al-Shura, 42:23).

The old man answered: "Yes I have."

The Imam (‘a) said: "Old man, we are ( الْقُرْبَی ) the family."

Then he (‘a) asked: "Did you read this verse:

وَءَاتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَي حَقَّهُ

“And give to the near of kin his due….” (Surah Al-Isra’, 17:26).

The old man answered: "Yes I did."

The Imam (‘a) said: ( الْقُرْبَي ) also means us."

The Imam (‘a) asked: "Did you read this verse:

وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا غَنِمْتُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَأَنَّ لِلَّهِ خُمُسَهُ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ

“And know that whatever thing you gain (of booties), a fifth of it is for Allah and for the Messenger and for the near relatives (Ahlul-Bayt)……” (Surah Al-Anfal, 8:41).

The old man said: "Yes."

The Imam (‘a) said: "We are the family of the Prophet (S)"

And again the Imam (‘a) asked: "Old man did you read this verse:

اِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرّ‌ِجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهّـِرَكُمْ تَطْهِيراً

“...Verily Allah intends but to keep off from you (every kind of) uncleanness, O’ you the people of the House! And purify you (with) a thorough purification.” (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:33).

The man answered by saying, "Yes, I have read all of them."

He (‘a) then said, "We are the Ahl Al-Bayt whom Allah purified."

"I ask you in the Name of Allah," asked the man, "Are you really them?"

Al-Sajjad (‘a), said, "By our grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, I swear that we are, without any doubt."

It was then that the elderly man threw his turban on the ground and held his hand to the sky as he said, "I disassociate myself before Allah from whoever killed you."9

Historians told in their books that after Imam Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom they brought Imam Al-Sajjad to Sham and Ibrahim Ibn Talhe Ibn Ubaidullah came closer to the Imam and started taunting him saying: "Oh ‘Ali Ibn Husayn who was victorious?"

In his answer he said: "If you want to know who was victorious, listen to the Athan and Iqamah at prayer time."

In his answer, Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) highlighted a very sensitive point, that the Ummayyads fight with Bani Hashim wasn’t over leadership, but was over the Athan and Iqamah (Islam) and of testifying to God’s unity and the Martyrdom of Imam Husayn (‘a) and his pure followers. This was the reason of Muhammadi Islam’s survival and the strengthening of it against ignorance, in which Bani Ummayyah and their followers were immersed because they did not taste the sweetness of Islam and Iman.

4. Imam Al-Sajjad (‘A) Challenging Yazid In His Court

The sacred head of Imam Husayn (‘a) and the women of Ahl Al-Bayt were brought to Yazid’s court, tied with ropes. The rope was tied around the neck, hands and legs of Zayn Al-’Abidin (‘a), and around the necks of Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, binding all the daughters of the Messenger of Allah (S). Then they were brought face to face with Yazid who was (from the pride of his selfishness) repeating these verses of Al-Hasin Ibn Al-Hamam:

"We were splitting heads of men held by us as dear.10 But they to unkindness and injustice were more near."

‘Ali Ibn Al-Husayn (‘a) responded by saying:

مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلاَ فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَا إِنَّ ذَلِكَ عَلَی اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ

“No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but it is inscribed in the Tablet before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah.” (Surah Al-Hadid, 57:22).

لِكَيْلَا تَأْسَوْا عَلَی مَا فَاتَكُمْ وَلاَ تَفْرَحُوا بِمَا آتَاكُمْ وَاللَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ

“In order that you may not grieve at the things that you fail to achieve, nor rejoice at what has been given to you. And Allah likes not prideful boasters.” (Surah Al-Hadid, 57:23).

At that time Yazid become very angry and then the Imam quoted this verse:

وَمَا أَصَابَكُمْ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَنْ كَثِيرٍ

“And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons many [of your sins].” (Surah Al-Shura, 42:30).

Historic records from Fatimah, daughter of Imam Husayn (‘a) are as follows: When we sat in Yazid’s court a Shamian looked at me then asked Yazid to give me to him, to serve him. I thought they were allowed to do that so I was terrified and I clung to my Auntie Zaynab who knew this could not happen and she told me: "Do not be concerned."

And she turned her head and said to the Shamian: "I swear to God you are lying; neither you nor your prince is allowed to do this."

Hearing her, Yazid said in anger: "You’re lying - I could if I wanted to!"

She said to him, "I swear God never gave you such permission, not unless you renege from our religion."

He became enraged and said: "You dare to answer me like this; those who reneged from the religion are your father and your brother."

Zaynab said, "By Allah’s religion and the religion of my grandfather, I swear that it was through my father and brother that you and your father received guidance, had you been a Muslim at all."

He didn’t know how to reply so he said, "You liar, you enemy of Allah!"

She (‘a), toned down her language and said to him, "You are an Amir over the destiny of people; you oppressively taunt and subdue others."

Yazid was embarrassed from this talk and became silent, then the same Shamian repeated his plea to Yazid, who now rebuked him and said, "May Allah grant you a fate that will put an end to you!"

It looks like the tone of Yazid’s speech was softer or quieter than Ibn Zaid’s tone in Kufah and perhaps this is because Ibn Zaid wanted to please and satisfy Yazid with his behaviour, while Yazid had no need of that, or maybe because Yazid understood that with him slaughtering Imam Husayn (‘a) and capturing his family, he had made a serious mistake and he wanted to decrease public anger and sentiment.

Yazid ordered the person who usually recited the Friday khutba to ascend the pulpit and insult ‘Ali and Al-Husayn (‘a), which he did. Al-Sajjad (‘a) then shouted at him saying, "You have traded the pleasure of the creature for the Wrath of the Creator, so take your place in the fire [of hell]."

Then he asked Yazid, "Do you permit me to ascend this pulpit to deliver a speech that will please Allah Almighty and bring good rewards for these folks?"

Those present were very surprised by the courage of sick young captive who dared to speak boldly to the caliph and when Yazid refused, people kept pleading with him to yield. Pressured by public sentiment and, since he did not want to anger the people, Yazid agreed.

Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) went on the pulpit (mimbar). This is part of his speech:

“O people! We were granted six things and have been favoured with seven: We were granted knowledge, clemency, leniency, fluency, courage, and love for us in the hearts of the believers.
And we were favoured by the fact that from among us came the Prophet Muhammad (S), the Siddiq, the Tayyar, the Lion of Allah and of His Prophet (S), the lady of both universes Fatimah Al-batool and both Masters of the Youths of Paradise from among this nation.”

“O people! Whoever recognizes me knows me and whoever does not recognize me, let me tell him who I am, and to what family I belong: O people! I am the son of Makka and Mina; I am the son of Zamzam and Al-Safa; I am the son of the one who carried the rukn on his mantle; I am the son of the best man who ever donned clothes and who ever made tawaf and sa’i, of whoever offered the Hajj and pronounced the talbiya.”

“I am the son of the one who was transported on the buraq and who was taken by Gabriel to sidrat Al-muntaha, so he was near his Lord like the throw of a bow or closer still. I am the son of the one who led the angels of the heavens in prayers. I am the son to whom the Mighty One revealed what He revealed. I am the son of the one who defended the Messenger of Allah (S) at Badr and Hunayn and never disbelieved in Allah not even for as much as the twinkling of an eye.”

“I am the son of the best of believers and of the heir of the prophets, of the leader of the Muslims and the light of those who offer jihad and the killer of the renegades and those who deviated from the straight path and who scattered the azab and the most courageous one, the one with the firmest determination: such is the father of the grandsons of the Prophet (S), Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn (‘a), such is ‘Ali Ibn Abu Talib (‘a).”

“I am the son of Fatimah Al-Zahra’ (‘a), the Head of all Women, the son of Khadija Al-Kubra. I am the son of the one with whose blood the sand mixed. I am the son of the one who was slaughtered at Karbala’. I am the son of the one for whom the jinns wept in the dark and for whom the birds in the air cried."

The Imam (‘a) continued telling people about himself and his family and as their cries filled the place Yazid feared dissension and calamities arising, which he felt may all end badly. This was due to the fact that the Imam changed the peoples’ way of thinking by introducing himself and revealing information on the happenings in Karbala.

To avoid this problem Yazid signalled to the mu’aththin to call the athan for prayers and halt the Imam’s speech. The former shouted: (ﺍﷲ ﺍﮐﺒﺮ ) Allah Akbar!

The Imam (‘a) said: "Allah is Greater, more Magnanimous and more Kind than what I fear and of what I avoid."

The prayer caller now shouted: "I bear witness that there is no god, but Allah"!

He (‘a) said, "Yes, I testify with my skin, hair, meat, blood, brain and bones that there is no god besides Him, nor any other Lord."

The caller shouted: I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger!

The Imam (‘a) turned to Yazid and asked him, "Is this Muhammad, the great Messenger of Allah (S), your grandfather or mine? If you say that he is yours, you are a liar and if you say that he is mine, then why did you kill his family?"

Yazid couldn’t answer this question, because everyone now knew that the great Messenger of God (S) was Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) grandfather, while Yazid’s grandfather was Islam’s first enemy, Abu Suffian. The people of Sham drowned in a river of sins and they were tricked by the Ummayyad government. It was clear that Yazid, because of his personal hatred and political immaturity couldn’t understand the depth of Imam Husayn’s (‘a) revolution and did not take its threat (to his government) seriously.

Maybe the best proof of Yazid’s false imaginings was the letter that he sent in the beginning of his caliphate to the Madinan governor telling him to take the oath of alliance from Imam Husayn (‘a) and, if he refused, to kill him and send his head to him in Sham.

Yazid’s false calculations brought about the caravan of the captives from Karbala to Sham via Kufah and his cruel behaviour towards them was illustrative of his criminal tendencies. Yazid’s awareness of the danger his crime had caused began to surface when11 reactions to wrongdoing arose and public sentiment about the murder of the Messenger of Allah’s (S) grandson put him under pressure and questioning.

At that time, he tried to blame his terrible misdeeds on Ibn Ziad and told Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a): "God damn Ibn Marjaneh, I swear to God if it had been me who met your father I would have given him anything he wanted and I would have tried my best to prevent his death, but what you saw was God’s will; send me a letter from Madinah and ask for anything you desire."12

One day, Al-Sajjad (‘a) went out for a walk. Al-Minhal Ibn ‘Ummar met him and asked him, "How have you received the evening, Oh son of the Messenger of Allah (S)?"

"We have received the evening," the Imam (‘a) answered, "like the Al-Israelites among the people of Pharaoh: they kill their sons and take their women captive. The Arabs brag before the non- Arabs saying that Muhammad (S) was one of them, while the Quraish boasts before the rest of the Arabs, that Muhammad (S) belongs to them. We, his Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a), are now homeless; so, to Allah do we belong, and to Him shall we all return."13

Finally, Yazid became so afraid of rumours and trouble that he ordered No’aman Ibn Bashir to take the ladies of the Ahl Al-Bayt and the remainder of the Prophet’s (S) family back to their homes in Madinah and his fear was so great that he ordered him to take them back during the night.14

  • 1. Tusi, Al-Amali p. 91; Al-Mufid, Al-Amali p. 321; Al-Tabarsi, Al-Ihtijaj 2/29.
  • 2. Al-Ihtijaj for Al-Tabarsi 2/109-113; Maqtal Al-Hussain (‘a) for Al-Khawarizmi 2/45-47; Ibn Tawus, Al-Malhuf ‘ala Qatli Al-Tufuf 192-194; Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar 45/108-110.
  • 3. Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad 2/115-117; Al-Kamil fi Al-Tarikh 4/81-84; Maqtal Al-Hussain of Al-Khawarizmi 2/47-48; Ibn Tawus fi Al-Luhuf fi qatli Al-Tuffuf pp. 200-202.
  • 4. Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad for Al-Mufid 2/116; Waq'at Al-Taff for Abi Mikhnaf pp. 262-263; A'yan Al-Shi'ah 1/614.
  • 5. Maqtal Al-Hussain of Al-Khawarizmi, 2/43; Ibn Tawus fi Al-Luhuf fi Qatli Al-Tuffuf p. 95.
  • 6. Tadhkirah Al-Khawass p. 259; Al-Kamil fi Al-Tarikh by Ibn Al-Athir Al-Jazari, 4/83.
  • 7. Ibn Tawus fi Al-lahuf fi qatla Al-Tuffof p. 207.
  • 8. Tabaqat Ibn S'ad, quoted in Ibn ‛Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq p. 131, Ansab Al-Ashraf 214; Tarikh Al-Tabari 5/460-463; Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad 2/119.
  • 9. Maqtal Al-Khawarizmi 2/61; Ibn Tawus fi Al-Luhuf fi Qatli Al-Tufuf p. 100; Maqtal Al-Muqaram p. 449, from Tafsir Ibn Kathir Al-Alusi, Lawa'aj Al-Ashjan p. 219; Kitab Al-Futuh 5/130.
  • 10. Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad 2/119-1; Waq'at Al-Taff by Ibn Mikhnaf, 168 and 271; Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih Al-Andalusi, Al-‘Iqd Al-Farid 5/124; Maqatil Al-Talibain p. 80.
  • 11. Tarikh Al-Tabari 5/462; Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad 2/122; Waq'at Al-Taff by Abi Mikhnaf, p. 272.
  • 12. Tarikh Al-Tabari 5/462; Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad 2/122; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa’l-Nihayah 8/212.
  • 13. Ibn Tawus fi Al-Luhuf fi Qatla Al-Tufuf p. 85; Mother Al-Ahzan p. 84.
  • 14. Tafsir Al-Matalib fi Amali Abi Talib p. 93; Al-Had'aq Al-Wardiyah 1/133.