Will you give information about Zayn al-Abidin? Why was he persecuted?

The Details of the Question

Will you give information about Zayn al-Abidin? Why was he persecuted?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Zayn al-Abidin (ra) (658-713 M) is Hz. Husayn's son and Hz. Ali's grandson. He is the fourth of the twelve imams. He is among the notables of Tabiun and he saw the majority of the notable Companions. It is stated in Risale-i Nur Collection that the descendants of Hz. Husayn are like spiritual mahdis. (Mektubat, p. 100) He is also among those who were martyred. He is called Sayyid as-Sajidin because Hz. Husayn’s descendants came through him. He became famous with the nickname "Zayn al-Abidin", which means Ornament of the Worshippers, due to his piety and worshipping a lot. His full name showing his family is Abu Muhammad (or Abul-Hasan) Ali bin Husayn bin Ali bin Abi Talib.

Zayn al-Abidin, whose real name is Ali, was born in 658 (according to some resources in 655 or 666) in Madinah. His father is Hz. Husayn and his mother is Shahr-Banu Ghazala, the daughter of the Persian sultan. She is one of the three daughters of the sultan, who were enslaved after the conquest of Iran. Hz. Ali married her off to Hz. Husayn; and Zayn al-Abidin was born out of this marriage. Since he lived in a period when mischief was intense, he was affected by the agonies of that period. He witnessed the martyrdom of many believers primarily his father in the Incident of Karbala.

Zayn al-Abidin was there when the Incident of Karbala took place. However, he was too ill to get out of the bed and he could not take part in clashes; therefore, he was not killed. However, a great majority of his family was martyred. He was taken to Yazid first. Yazid treated him well. Then, he left Yazid, went to Madinah and settled there. He tried to keep away from political affairs up to the end of his life. He did not take part in the rebellion against Yazid that occurred there.

The wisdom behind this tragic incident that affected Ahl al-Bayt in terms of qadar is mentioned in Risale-i Nur Collection. It is explained why divine destiny allowed them to be defeated though those blessed people were right and their points of action and purpose were right:

"Hasan and Husain and their family and descendants were destined to hold spiritual rule. It is extremely difficult to bring together worldly rule and spiritual rule. Therefore, divine determining made them feel disgust at the world; it showed them its ugly face so that they should cease to feel any attachment to it in their hearts. They lost a temporary, superficial rule, but were appointed to a splendid, permanent spiritual rule. They became the authorities of the spiritual poles among the saints instead of commonplace governors." (Mektubat, p. 58-59)

An example to Ahl al-Bayt feeling disgust at the world is Zayn al-Abidin. It is clearly seen that despite all of the mistakes of Yazid, his commanders and governors, he acted in a positive way so that Muslims would not be harmed and mischief would not continue. He determined his way by focusing on the service of belief and the Quran rather than political movements.

The love and interest the Prophet (pbuh) showed in his grandsons Hasan and Husayn encompasses their descendants too. Zayn al-Abidin and the others have their share in the Prophet’s loving and caressing them.

"Also, he embraced Husayn (May God be pleased with him) and showed him importance and tenderness on account of the illustrious Imams like Zayn al-‘Abidin and Ja‘far al-Sadiq, and the numerous Mahdi-like luminous persons, the true inheritors of prophethood, who would spring from his effulgent line, and for the sake of the religion of Islam and office of prophethood." (Lem'alar, p. 26)

Zayn al-Abidin devoted his life to service of belief and worshipping in Madinah. He became famous especially with his sensitivity in worshipping. He was given the nickname "Zayn al-Abidin", which means Ornament of the Worshippers, due to his interest in worshipping. Whenever he made wudu, he would virtually travel to another realm and his face color would go pale. When those who saw that his color and his realm changed asked the reason for it, he would say,

"Thinking about the Being into whose presence I will enter changes my world and encompasses my realm of meditation. My connection with this realm is cut off and I assume a different mood."

Zayn al-Abidin and the members of Ahl-al Bayt from his descendants became the most important followers of the sublime Sunnah and practiced it. The soundest and safest way, the criterion determined by the Quran for every age and the most important guide continued with the efforts and guardianship of this blessed chain.

One of the most important services of Zayn al-Abidin is that he is one of the means of transmitting Jawshan al-Kabir. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states the following regarding the issue:

"New Said's private teacher Imam Rabbani, Gavth al-Azam and Imam Ghazali, Zayn al-Abidin; I have learned the supplication of Jawshan al-Kabir from these two imams. With the lesson I took from Hz. Husayn and Imam Ali, I have been in spiritual connection with them especially through Jawshan al-Kabir; I took the truth in the past and the way of current Risale-i Nur from them." (Emirdağ Lahikası, p. 183),

Thus, he shows the means of the transmission of Jawshan al-Kabir and his way based on Hz. Ali.

Zayn al-Abidin, who had great taqwa, made great efforts to help the poor and lonely people. Although he helped many poor people, he did not allow anyone to notice it dues to his principle of sincerity. He carried flour on his back at night to the needy people’s houses. Although he did it all the time, nobody noticed it. When he died and when his dead body was washed, people found out about it due to his callused back. He always gave the poor what he had and tried to find solutions to the problems of the believers.

One of the incidents showing that Zayn al-Abidin was a great philanthropist was the fact that he undertook to pay the debts of Muhammad Bin Usama. When Zayn al-Abidin went to visit him when he was ill, he saw Muhammad crying. The reason for his crying was the fear of entering into the presence of Allah before being able to pay his debt of fifteen thousand dirhams. When Zayn al-Abidin found out about it, he told the people around that he undertook to pay that debt and that he would pay any debts that Muhammed bin Usama had after that. He declared that Muhammed bin Usama had no debt left to pay.

Once, Zayn al-Abidin saw that his servant came late when he called him. He asked him the reason. The servant said he knew that Zayn al-Abidin was a tolerant and lenient person and hence he did not hurry. Zayn al-Abidin thanked Allah as follows when he heard this answer:

"My servant feels safe and is not afraid of me. I want to be a reliable person. Everybody must feel safe in my presence; they must not fear or feel worried."

Thus, he did not get angry with his servant; on the contrary, he expressed his gladness.

"It is very strange that a person avoids the food that will harm him when he is alive but he does not avoid the sins that will harm him when he dies."

Zayn al-Abidin, who uttered the statement above, died in 713 as a righteous slave "who avoided the sins that would harm him when he died". His dead body was buried next to his paternal uncle Hz. Abbas in the Cemetery of Baqi.

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