ʿAli b. al-HHusayn b. ʿAli b. ʾAbi TTalib (Arabic: عَليّ بن الحُسَین بن علي بن أبي طالب) (b. 38/659 – d. 95/713) known as Imam al-Sajjad (امام السجاد) and Zayn al-ʿAbidin (زين العابدين) is the fourth Imam of Shi'a. The period of his imamate was 34 years. He (a) was present in the Battle of Karbala but did not participate in the battle because of sickness and was not martyred. He (a) was taken captive to Kufa and Damascus together with other captives of Karbala. His speech at the presence of Umayyad caliphs created awareness among people about the position of the Ahl al-Bayt (a). After being released, he (a) stayed in Medina until the end of his life. The event of Harra, Tawwabun movement and the uprising of al-Mukhtar happened at his time, however there is no reliable report of his opinions about them.
Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is a compilation of his supplications which reflect the picture of the society that day and the true path of life through the education of the religion and the Qur'an and purification of souls and connecting souls to God. Risalat al-huquq (Treatise on Rights) is his another work which is a short treatise containing duties a human being have.
Among disagreements about Imam al-Sajjad (a) was the name and lineage of his mother, different names have been mentioned for her including Shahrbanu, Shahrbanuyeh, Shah-i Zanan, Jahanshah, Khawla, Salafa, Ghazzala, Salama, Harrar, Maryam, Fatima. Accordingly, Sayyid Ja’far Shahidi wrote that, “among the names mentioned for her, Shahrbanu is more famous. Her father is said to be Yazdgerd, the last Sassanid emperor; or Nushjan from Khurasan, or Shiruyih, son of Parviz, among which Yazdgerd is more famous.” He does not believe that the mother of Imam al-Sajjad (a) would be a person having such a description mentioning some reasons and evidences. He says, “If we ignore this myth about her and check authentic books, we reach a clearer point: Ibn Sa’d wrote that after martyrdom of al-Husayn (a), Zuyayd, his freed servant married the mother of ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a) and ‘Abd Allah b. Zuyayd was born, thus ‘Abd Allah was ‘Ali b. al-Husayn’s (a) brother from his mother. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq wrote, “Mother of ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a) was the daughter of Yazdgerd son of Shahriyar, the king of Persians, passed away while giving birth to him.”
Imam al-Sajjad’s (a) kunyas were Abu l-Hasan, Abu l-Husayn, Abu Muhammad, and Abu ‘Abd Allah.
His titles are Zayn al-‘Abidin (adornment of the worshipers), Sayyid al-Sajidin (master of the prostrators), al-Sajjad (the frequently prostrating one), al-Hashimi, al-‘Alawi, al-Madani, al-Qurashi, and ‘Ali al-Akbar. Dhu l-Thafanat is another title of Imam al-Sajjad (a), since the skin of his prostration points of his body [knees, palms and forehead] had become hardened and there were calluses on them like the knees of camels due to praying a lot.
Imam al-Sajjad (a) was also known by other names at his time such as ‘Ali al-Khayr, ‘Ali al-Asghar and ‘Ali al-‘Abid.
According to the famous opinion, Imam al-Sajjad (a) was born in 38/659; thus, he (a) has seen a part of Imam ‘Ali’s (a) life, the imamate of Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) and Mu’awiya‘s attempt in suppressing Shi’a in Iraq and elsewhere. However, in some reports, the age of Imam (a) is mentioned less than what is famous and have mentioned his time of birth about 48/668. Although such reports have been mentioned in different sources, but there are evidences which do not let one believe them; such as the fact that famously historians and biographers have mentioned the birth time of Imam al-Sajjad (a) 38/659, which implies that his age in the Battle of Karbala was 23 years old.
After narrating from Imam al-Sadiq (a) saying, “‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a) passed away at the age of 58”, the Sunni narrator of historical reports, Muhammad b. ‘Umar al-Waqidi wrote that, “this report suggests that Imam al-Sajjad (a) was with his father in Karbala while he (a) was 23 or 24 years old.” Also al-Zahri said that ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a) was with his father while he was 23 years old.
Imam al-Sajjad (a) was martyred in 94/713 (or 95/714) with a poison given by the order of al-Walid b. ‘Abd al-Malik. He (a) was buried in al-Baqi’ cemetery beside his uncle, Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a).
In historical sources, the number of Imam al-Sajjad’s (a) children have been counted as fifteen, eleven of whom were boys and four of whom were girls. According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, the names of his wives and children were:
Proofs for Imamate
Based on clear hadiths narrated in Shi’a sources, Imam al-Sajjad (a) was the successor of his father al-Husayn b. ‘Ali (a). Al-Shaykh al-Mufid mentioned his superiority in knowledge and practice over others after his father as the proof for his imamate.
Moreover, according to Shi’a references, there was a tradition that belongings of the Prophet (s) such as his sword and armor would be with the rightful Imam (a) of the time, and it is even mentioned in Sunni references that Imam al-Sajjad (a) kept them with himself.
In the Battle of Karbala and on the day Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions were martyred, Imam al-Sajjad (a) was severely sick so that in some cases when they wanted to kill him, some said, “This sickness is enough for him.”
After the tragedy of Karbala, they captured the family of Imam al-Husayn (a) and took them to Kufa and Damascus. Upon taking them from Karbala to Kufa, they put Jami’a [hand-to-neck chains] on him and since he was sick and could not keep sitting on the back of the camel, they fastened his feet under the belly of the camel.
Some accounts say that Imam al-Sajjad (a) gave a speech in Kufa, but it is hard to accept that due to restricted situation in Kufa, cruelty of government agents, the fear of the people of Kufa from them and their unsupportive manner. Moreover, the sentences narrated from him in his speech in Kufa are similar to those he (a) said in his speech in the mosque of Damascus and it is possible that some narrators have mixed them up. 
In any case, ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad kept Imam al-Sajjad (a) and other captives of Karbala in prison and wrote a letter to Damascus and asked Yazid what to do with them. Yazid replied and ordered him to send captives and the heads of the martyrs of Karbala to Damascus. ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad put shackles on Imam’s (a) neck and sent him and other captives with Muhaffar b. Tha’laba to Damascus.
Main article: Imam al-Sajjad’s (a) Sermon in Syria
Imam al-Sajjad (a) gave a speech in the mosque of Damascus and introduced himself, his father, and his grandfather to people and told the people of Damascus that what Yazid and his agents have propagated are not true. His father was not a rebel and did not want to disturb Muslim community and make mischief in Islamic lands. He (a) rose for truth and by invitation of Muslims to remove heresies brought up in religion and bring the simplicity and purity it had at the time of his grandfather.
Return to Medina
Whenever he (a) drank water, he remembered his father and wept on the hardships of Imam al-Husayn (a). It is mentioned in a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that, “Imam al-Sajjad (a) wept forty years upon his honorable father, while he (a) was fasting the days and praying the nights. At the time of breaking his fasting when his servant took food and water for him, he (a) said, ‘[grand]son of the Prophet (s) was martyred hungry! [grand]son of the Prophet (s) was martyred thirsty!’ He (a) frequently repeated this and wept so that his tears were mixed with his food and drink. He (a) was in such a state until when he (a) passed away.”
At the time of Imam al-Sajjad (a) after the Battle of Karbala, different movements were made, most important ones of which were:
Event of Harra
Main article: Event of Harra
Some years after the Battle of Karbala, people of Medina organized the uprising of Harra against Umayyads in 63/683. People of the city pledged allegiance with ‘Abd Allah b. Hanzala whose father was known as Ghasil al-Mala’ika (the one washed by angels) and first besieged Umayyads who were about 1,000 people in the house of Marwan b. Hakam and then pushed them out of the city. Imam al-Sajjad (a) stepped away from the uprising since its beginning because he (a) knew its destiny.
In the heat of the uprising of Harra, Marwan b. Hakam who was an enemy of the Ahl al-Bayt (s) went to ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar and asked him to guard his family with his, but ‘Abd Allah did not accept. When Marwan became disappointed with his support, he resorted to Imam al-Sajjad (a). Imam (a) accepted his request with great benevolence and sent Marwan’s family together with his own family to Yanbu’ (a spring near Medina on the right side of Radwa mountain).
In this event, Imam (a) accepted the responsibility of guarding 400 families and paid all their expenses while the army of Muslim b. ‘Aqaba (the commander of Yazid’s army in the event of Harra) was in Medina.
Main article: Tawwabun Uprising
Tawwabun movement was another movement after the Battle of Karbala, the leader of which was Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza’i together with some other distinguished Shi’a personalities of Kufa. In general, Tawwabun were about to hand the leadership of the society to the Ahl al-Bayt (a) in case they could win and obviously there was no one from the progeny of Fatima (a) except Imam al-Sajjad (a). However, there was no political relationship between Imam al-Sajjad (a) and Tawwabun.
Main article: Mukhtar’s Uprising
Mukhtar’s uprising was the third important movement after the Battle of Karbala, about the relation of Imam al-Sajjad (a) and this movement there are some doubts. This relation not only has some political problems, but it also has some problems regarding ideological aspects (following Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya by al-Mukhtar). It is said that after Mukhtar succeeded to attract Shi’a to himself in Kufa, he asked Imam al-Sajjad (a) for help but Imam (a) did not face him with open arms.
Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih wrote, “When ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a) became ready for prayer, he (a) would strangely tremble. He (a) was asked about it and said, ‘woe betide you! Do you know whom I am going to stand in front of and before whom I am going to pray?'”
Helping the Poor
Abu Hamza al-Thumali said, “Every night ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a) secretly carried some food on his shoulder to the poor and said, ‘the charity made at the darkness of the night appeases the wrath of God.'”
At night, he (a) put baskets of bread on his shoulder and went to the houses of the poor and said, “The charity made secretly appeases the wrath of God.” Those baskets had left marks on his shoulders and when they were washing his body after he (a) passed away, they saw those marks. Ibn Sa’d wrote, “When a poor person came to him, he (a) went and gave the poor what he wanted and said, ‘before charity reaches the asking one, it reaches God’s hand.'”
One year he (a) wanted to go for hajj. His sister Sukayna prepared a provision pack for his travel worth a thousand dirham. When he (a) arrived in Harra, they took that provision to him and Imam (a) distributed it among all the poor.
Imam al-Sajjad (a) has a poor cousin. He (a) went to him at night in a way he did not recognize him and gave him some dinars. His cousin said, ” ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a) does not care about his relatives, May God punish him.” Imam (a) heard this and forbore and did not show his face to his cousin. When Imam (a) passed away and nightly donation of that man was stopped, he realized the donator was actually ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (a), so he went to Imam’s (a) grave and cried.
Abu Na’im wrote, “Imam al-Sajjad (a) distributed all his property among the poor twice and said, ‘God loves a repenting faithful servant.'” Elsewhere, he wrote, “People regarded him ungenerous and when he (a) passed away, they learned that he (a) provided the expenses of a hundred families. When a beggar came to him, he (a) said, ‘blessed be the one who carries my provision to the hereafter.'”
Behavior towards Slaves
One of the efforts of Imam al-Sajjad (a) which was religious and also political was paying attention to slaves; people who were under greatest social pressures especially after the time of the second caliph (‘Umar b. al-Khattab) and especially at the time of Umayyads and they were among the most deprived people in the Islamic society in first centuries.
Sayyid al-Ahl wrote, “Imam al-Sajjad (a) bought slaves even though he (a) did not need them. He (a) bought them only to free them. Slaves who saw this intention of Imam (a), they wanted him to buy them. Imam al-Sajjad (a) released them at any time or situation, so that many people, like an army of released servants, men and women were seen in Medina who were all the freed servants of Imam (a).”
Al-Shaykh al-Mufid wrote, “Sunni scholars narrated many sciences from Imam al-Sajjad (a) and many supplications, pieces of advice, [hadiths] in the merit of the Qur’an, halal [the permissible] and haram [the forbidden], wars and days [of history] are left from him which are known to scholars.” Up to 300 hadiths have been narrated from Imam al-Sajjad (a) in the Four Books of the Shi’a.
Main article: Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya
Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is the collection of Imam al-Sajjad’s (a) supplications and a mirror in which the picture of the society at that time, especially Medina, can be seen: his aversion to bad behaviors and speech of people at that time and taking refuge to God from what he (a) saw and heard, and clarifying the right path under the guidance of religion and the Qur’an and purification of souls from pollutions; as if Imam (a) wanted as much as possible to disconnect people from Satan and connect them to God. Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya has been translated into several languages.
Main article: Risalat al-huquq (Treatise on Rights)
Risalat al-huquq is one of the works attributed to Imam al-Sajjad (a). In this treatise, 51 different rights (or 50 according to some versions) are listed. This treatise has been translated into English and other languages.
Some of the rights listed in this treatise are:
Supplication of Abu Hamza al-Thumali
Main article: Supplication of Abu Hamza
Ziyarah Amin Allah
Main article: Ziyarah Amin Allah
Ziyarah Amin Allah is a ziyarah that Imam al-Sajjad (a) has recited it when visiting the grave of Imam ‘Ali (a).
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