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Chapter 2: Others’ Impressions Of Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘A) Personality

All Muslims had great respect for Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) and shared the belief that no one else was capable of reaching the rank of piety and knowledge that he was blessed with; an Imam (‘a) who epitomized piety and knowledge.

This was recognized by the actions of those who came to visit the Imam (‘a), as they kissed him on the back of his hands, placing his hands on their eyes to show their great respect1 .

He was not only respected among his own followers but among those who were on the opposition party, with regard to posts. When praising the Imam (‘a), they admired him with astonishment and used honourable titles and salutations for him.

1. The Views Of The Imam’s (‘A) Contemporaries Regarding His Personality

Contemporary historians, jurisprudents and intellectuals of the Imam (‘a) have all praised him. In this regard, there is no difference between his friends, companions, enemies or those who feigned friendship, but were in fact his enemies. Here we present the ideas of some of them:

1.) A great companion of the Prophet (S), Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari, says: "There has not been a person among the sons of the prophets (‘a) comparable to ‘Ali Ibn Al-Husayn (‘a)."2

2.) Abdullah Ibn Abbas, who was older than Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), bowed with respect in front of him whenever he saw him. After doing so, he would say: "Welcome, oh, he who I am devoted to and welcome, oh, son of whom I adore!"3

3.) Muhammad Ibn Muslim Qarshi, who was known as a leading jurisprudent of his time and a famous religious leader of Sham4 and Hejaz, and who was not amongst the shi’ah believers still had a great respect for Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), which could be clearly seen in the words he expressed for Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), such as:

a.) "I never saw anyone from amongst the Hashimis like ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a)."5

b.) "I never met a person more gracious than ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a) among the members of the holy Household (‘a)."6

c.) "I meet no one who is more of a jurisprudent than him (‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a)."7

4.) Sa’id Ibn Musayyab who was from amongst the popular Jurisprudents of Madinah, and about whom it was said that: "No one amongst the followers [(Tabeen), i.e the individuals who were born after the era of the Prophet (S) and his companions] could reach the level of his knowledge."8

He was very proud to be with the Imam (‘a) and praised his piety in the following words:

a.) "I never met anyone greater than ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a) and whenever I saw him, I thought of myself as a very small entity in front of him." 9

b.) "I never meet anyone more pious than him (Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a)."10

c.) One day a young man from Quraish was sitting when Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) entered. The person asked Sa’id who the newcomer was. Sa’id replied: "He is the leader of all the pious people."11

5.) Zaid Ibn Aslam, who was known as the leader of the Jurisprudents of Madinah and was an interpreter of the holy Qur’an, also said about the Imam (‘a): 12

a.) “I sit with no other one greater than him (Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a)”, among the people of the Qiblah, (Muslims).13

b.) "Among the people of the Household (‘a) I saw no one like him." 14

c.) "I saw no one who was so knowledgeable and who had memorized so many of the Hadiths than ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a)”. 15

6.) Ammad Ibn Zaid who was from amongst the Jurisprudents of Basrah and was known as the leader of Muslims16 said about the Imam (‘a):

"Husayn Ibn ‘Ali (‘a) was the most pious person from amongst the Hashimis whom I know of."17

7.) Yahya Ibn Sa’id, who was from the great followers (Tabeen) and knowledgeable jurisprudents and intellectuals18 said:

"I have heard some traditions from ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a) and no doubt he is the most learned person from the Hashimis whom I have seen in my whole life."19

8.) Not only did the people who were from amongst the Imam’s (‘a) friends and followers praise him, but the Imam (‘a) and his family’s enemies also acclaimed him for his greatness and knowledge. When the Imam was taken to the Damascus mosque as a prisoner, the people of Damascus pressurized Yazid to let the Imam (‘a) come to the pulpit and speak to them. But Yazid was afraid as he said: "They belong to a family where the babies suckle the breast of knowledge; if he goes on the pulpit, he will expose and shame me and all of Abu Sufyan’s family."20

9.) Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, another enemy of Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), also acclaimed him saying: "Indeed, you are the most superior person in your family, and no one else but your own forefathers can compete with you in religious knowledge."21

10) Mansoor Dawaaniqi was a famous enemy of the holy Household (‘a). When he wrote a letter to Muhammad Nafsuz Zakiyeh (the son of Abdullah and the grandson of Imam Hassain (‘a), he mentioned the greatness of Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin (‘a) saying: "After the demise of the Holy Prophet (S), no one but he (Zayn Al-‘Abidin (‘a) was born among you (Alawis)."22

2. The Views Of The Intellectuals And Historians On Imam Al-Sajjad (‘A)

1.) Yaq’ubi says: "He was amongst the best people and the most conscientious ones with regard to prayers. That is why he was called ‘Zayn Al-’Abidin’ (the beauty of all worshippers). He prostrated so many times that he was called "Thul- thafnat." (A person with indurate forehead)23

2.) Hafiz Abul Qasim ‘Ali Ibn assan Shafi’, known as Ibn Asakir, has written a detail about Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) life: "‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a) was truthful and reliable. He quoted many Hadiths and had a great religious post."24

3.) Thahbi, the writer of Sair A’alam Al-Nubala, has written: "He had great dignity which, by Allah, suited only him. His honour, generosity, knowledge, piety and complete intellect made him a perfect person for the great post of Imamah."25

4.) Hafiz Abu N’aeem writes: "‘Ali Ibn Husayn Ibn Ali Abi- Talib (‘a) was the beauty of all worshippers who enlightened the group of the followers. He was a truthful, pious, faithful, generous and pure person."26

5.) Safi Al-Din says: "Zayn Al-’Abidin (‘a) was not only a great leader, but rather he, himself, was a great guidance for the pious."27

6.) Al-Nawawi says: "All the people are consentaneous on the issue of his greatness."28

7.) ‘Ammad Al-Din Idrees Qarshi has written: "After Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn (‘a), Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin (‘a) was the most gracious and most learned son of the Prophet (S) and he was superior to others in his worshipping and piety."29

8.) Ibn ‘Anbah, a famous genealogist, says about the Imam (‘a): "He has so many good qualities that no one can count them."30

9.) Shaykh Mufid says: "After his great father (Imam Husayn (‘a), he was the most knowledgeable person of his time."He then adds: "The jurisprudents have mentioned his different branches of knowledge, and Hadiths which they memorized during his preaching, prayers, commentaries of the virtues of the holy Book, commands regarding Halal and Haram, rules of war- fare and history: all were acceptable by all the intellectuals."31

10) Ibn Taymieh says: "However, ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a) was among the greatest followers (Tabeen) with regard to his knowledge and religious sciences. His qualities, such as courtesy and hidden charity, are well known."32

11) Shaykhani Qadiri says: "The good qualities and kindness of our master Zayn Al-’Abidin ‘Ali Ibn Husayn Ibn Abi Talib (‘a) are well- known. The fame of his generosity and mercy has spread everywhere. He had a noble post with a very big heart filled with kindness for everyone. Moreover, his miracles were able to be seen with naked eyes and the traditions have mentioned them on many occasions."33

12) Muhammad Ibn Talha Qurashi Shaf’i says: "He was the beauty of the worshippers, a perfect example for devoted ones, the leader of the pious people and believers of the world. All these qualities show that he gained his post and such favourite qualities from his forefathers (‘a). The callous on his forehead showed the extreme number of his prayers, wakefulness for Allah and leaving the world and mundane desires.

He was a good model of perfect ethics. He was successful in gaining the happiness of Allah. Indeed, he was guided to the right path by the Divine Light. He was very fond of prayers. He was very good at performing his religious necessities. He prepared a medium to reach the next world from the darkness of the night. His good qualities were easily seen by the naked eye. And there are many traditions in which these good qualities have been written down. Thus, from all these, everyone comes to understand that he is among the kings of the Hereafter."34

13) Imam Shaf’ai says: "Ali Ibn Al-Husayn (‘a) was the most learned person in Madinah."35

14) Jahidh says: "As I have seen that the Khawarijis, Shi’ahs, Motazilahs and the common people of Madinah all have the same comments about ‘Ali Ibn Husayn (‘a), and I have seen no one who could doubt his supremacy over all the other men of his time…"36

15) Sibt Ibn Jauzi writes in Tazkiratul Khawas: "He is the father of Imams. His nickname was Abul Hasan, he was called "Zayn Al-‘Abidin" and the Holy Prophet (S) called him ‘Sayid Al-Abidin’ which means ‘the leader of worshippers’… his other nicknames were Sajjad, Zaki, Ameen and Thu- Al Safnaat (which refers to those parts of a camel’s body which touch the ground when it sits down, and form calluses at places like their knees, for instance). Since Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) did so many prostrations, a callus formed on his forehead and he was, therefore, called Thulthafnaat."37

  • 1. Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih Al-Andalusi, Al-‘Iqd Al-Farid 2/251.
  • 2. Ayat Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin 1/126; Amali Al-Tusi, p. 637; Ibn Shahrashub, Manaqib Ali Abi Talib 3/290.
  • 3. Ibn ‛Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq 36/147; Tathkirat Al-Khawas p. 324, Ibn Sa‛d, Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra 5/213; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa’l-Nihayah 9/124
  • 4. Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib 9/445.
  • 5. M’arifat Al-Tahuqat 2/153; Tarikh Asmaa Al-Tahuqat 141; Al-Jarah wa Ta'adil 6/179.
  • 6. Shathrat Al-Thahb 1/105; Ibn ‛Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq 41/388.
  • 7. Shathrat Al-Thahb 1/105; Ibn ‛Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq 41/388.
  • 8. Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib 4/85.
  • 9. Tarikh Al-Ya’qubi 2/303; Mu’assissat Al-Mustafa wa Al-‘Itrah 8/233.
  • 10. Tahdhib Al-Kamal 20/389; Tadhkirat Al-Huffaz 1/75; Sirat A‘alam Al-Nubala’ 4/391; Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib 7/269; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa’l-Nihayah 9/134.
  • 11. Ibn Al-Sabbagh, Al-Fusul Al-Muhimmah 2/268; Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad 2/145.
  • 12. Ibn ‛Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq 4/373; Sahreh Ihqaq Al-Haq 28/160.
  • 13. Ayat Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin 1/129, from Ibn ‛Asakir; Tarikh Madinat Dimashq 12/1 p19.
  • 14. Ayat Imam Zayn Al-’Abidin 1/129, from Ibn ‛Asakir; Tarikh Madinat Dimashq 12/1 p.19.
  • 15. Tabaqat Al-Fuqaha 2/34.
  • 16. Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib 9/3.
  • 17. Tahdhib Al-Lughat wa Al-Asma the first section, p.343.
  • 18. Ayat Al-Imam Zayn Al-'Abidin (‘a) Dirasa wa Tahlil 1/130, from Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib.
  • 19. Ibid, vol. 7, q. 2, p. 336
  • 20. Nafs Al-Mahmoom 448 to 452; published in Qom, taken from Manaqib Al Abi Talib 4/181, from Ahmed Al-Awza'i. He has mentioned the sermon without its preface and has taken it from Kamil, Al-Baha'i 2/299-302. You can read the complete sermon in ayat Imam Zayn Al 'Abidin for
    Qurashi, 1/175, Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar 45/138; M’alim Al-Madrasatain 3/165.
  • 21. Mustadrak Al-Wasa’il 1/125; Jami’ Ahadith Al-Shi’ah 1/403.
  • 22. Al-Kamil for Mubrad, 2/467; Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih Al-Andalusi, Al-‘Iqd Al-Farid 5/310.
  • 23. Tarikh Al-Ya’qubi 3/46.
  • 24. Ibn Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq 41/263.
  • 25. Sirah A’alam Al-Nubala’ 4/398.
  • 26. Abu Nu‛aym's Hilyat Al-Awliya' 3/133.
  • 27. Wasilat Al-Mal fi Hadd Manaqib Al-'Al p. 280.
  • 28. Tahdhib Al-Lugghat wa Al-Asma' 1/343; Sharh Ihqaq Al-Haqq 12/8;
    Yanabi' Al-Mawaddah 3/156.
  • 29. ‘Uyun Al-Akhbar wa Funun Al-Athar p. 144.
  • 30. Ummdat Al-Talib p. 193.
  • 31. Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad 2/138 and 153.
  • 32. Minhaj Al-Sunnah 2/123.
  • 33. Al-Sirat Al-Sawai p. 19.
  • 34. Matalib Al-Su'ul 408.
  • 35. Ibn Abi Al-hadid, Sharh Nahj Al-Balaghah 15/274; Al-Khawarizmi, Al-Manaqib p.258.
  • 36. Ummdat Al-Talib, pp. 193 and 194.
  • 37. Tathkirat Al-Khawas p.324.