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Map of the journey of Imam al-Sajad ('a) and family ('a) of the caravan of Imam al-Husayn ('a). Map illustration by M.Al-Zahra. Copyright VNM.

Map of the journey
Click here to enlarge
Map Credit to M.Al-Zahra

Imam Ali Zayn al- Abidin and the Ladies of the House ('a) taken prisoner after the battle of Ashura

Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin and the Ladies of the House ('a) taken prisoner after the battle of Ashura
.

Jannat ul Baqee in Medina wherein lays Imam al-Sajjad ('a)

Salawat
O Allah, send blessings on Ali bin Husayn,

The lord among (Thy) adorers,

Whom Thou selected for Thy pure friendship, 

And in his lineage, 
Appointed his offspring as the true guides (Imams) 
Who truthfully guided the mankind,

And for that purpose repeated them,

One after the other, as Thy own preferred choice.

Thou kept off uncleanliness for from him,

Elected him in preference over others,

And appointed him as the rightly guided guide.

O Allah, send blessings on him,

Much and more blessings than on the descendents of the Prophets,

till Thy blessings enthrall him with joy and in the hereafter.

Verily Thou art Almighty,

All-Wise 

"Abbas ('a)  puts out the Candle" by M.Al-Zahra. Copyright VNM.

"After the Holy Imam, Imam al-Husayn (a), had finished his address, he (a) asked his (a) most faithful and strong brother, al-Abbas (a), to put out the candles in order for members of the camp to leave in the darkness without identification or shame. After some time al-Abbas (a) was asked to light the candles again, leaving the remaining chosen family and followers......."M.Al-Zahra
Illustration by M.Al-Zahra.

Zaynab bint Ali ('a)- The Sister of Imam al-Husayn ('a) and Aunt to Imam al-Sajjad ('a)

"Then I will lose (a brother), Zaynab said to him. Would that death deprive me of life today, (for) my mother, Fatimah, is dead, and my father, Ali, and my brother, al-Hasan, peace be on them (all)."...
Lady Zaynab bint Ali

"The Document Sealed with Twelve Seals" Illustration by M.Al-Zahra. Copyright VNM.

.......The Shia also report that God, the Mighty and High, sent down to His Prophet, the blessings and peace be on him, a document sealed with twelve seals. He ordered him to give it to the Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him, and to tell him to break the first seal, and he should act according to what is in (that part of the document). At the time of his death, he should pass it to his son, al-Hasan, peace be on him, and tell him to break the second seal and act according to what is in (that part of) the document. At the time of his death, he should pass it to his brother al-Husayn, peace be on him. He should tell him to break the third seal and act according to what is below it. Then at his death, he should pass it to his son, Ali b. al-Husayn al-Akbar (the elder) and he should instruct him in a similar way."
Illustration by M.Al-Zahra. 

The Rauza of Al-Abbas ('a) in Kerbala

The Rauza of Al-Abbas ('a) in Karbala

Al-Hurr and Imam Husayn ('a). Al-Husayn forgives Hurr before the battle of Ashura.

Al-Hurr and Imam Husayn ('a). Al-Husayn forgives Hurr before the battle of Ashura.

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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Published on 12 Safar 1426/23rd March 2005

Al- Sajjad -The Witness
The Role of Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin ('a) in Ashura

By M. Al-Zahra

Map and Illustrations by M. Al-Zahra 

"The Holy Imam al- Sajad Walks on Thorns". Illustration by M.Al-Zahra. Copyright VNM.

Contents


"Our Holy Imam al-Sajjad (a) was made to walk behind the caravan of the enemy soldiers and the believers and he (a) fell many times due to his illness and weakness. The caravan would not stop for him and he (a) had to stumble to his (a) feet and continue on."  ....M. Al-Zahra

Introduction

.

The pain of the memories and sufferings, during and after the unimaginable events of Ashura, lived on with those who survived to tell the stories and narrate the happenings of those earth shattering days for the people of that time, for the people of today, and for the people of tomorrow. Imam Ali b. Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (a), Lady Zaynab (a), other ladies of the Prophet's Household ('a) and their children were amongst those who had to endure degrading and tormenting treatment after their Imam, Imam Husayn b. Ali b. Abu Talib (a), husbands, sons, uncles, brothers, and children were martyred on the burning sands of Karbala with no water upon their deaths. These events narrated by Imam Ali b. Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (a), also referred to as al-Sajjad (a), and his (a) aunt, Lady Zaynab b. Ali (a), are the most important surviving accounts of the events which have carried the message of Islam, righteousness and honour for which Imam Husayn b. Ali  (a) was martyred.

.

Imam al-Sajjad (a) had to play a very important role as a witness and narrator of the events that took place at Karbala and to inherit the Allah decreed role of the Fourth Imam on his (a) fathers (a) martyrdom as well as the Father to the next Holy Imam.  Even though Allah (swt) decreed that the Imam (a) would have to be very ill at this particular time, Imam al-Sajjad (a) had remarkably clear recollection of events leading up to Ashura, during the Martyrdom of his family (a) and afterwards, as he was able to narrate these in great detail.

.

Imam al-Sajjad (a) then lived for another 34 years after his (a) fathers (a) martyrdom in which he was the guide and role model of the people in his sensitive but powerful demonstration and practice of the pure religion of Islam.

.

Chapter One

 

Ali b. Husayn (a)-Witness on the Day of Ashura

.

Among some of the narrations of Imam al-Sajjad (a) was when he talked about the tragic day, which is immortal in the minds of all true Shias.

 
He said:

.

No day was more difficult for Allahs Messenger than the Day (Battle) of Uhud in which Hamza b. Adb al-Muttalib, the lion of Allah and the true lion of His Messenger, was killed, and after it was the Day (Battle) of Muta in which his cousin Jafar b. Abi Talib was killed. 

.

Then he (al-Sajjad (a) said:

.

"There was no day like the Day of al-Husayn, when thirty thousand men advanced against him (while) they claimed that they belonged to this community, and that they (wanted) to seek proximity to Allah, the Great and Almighty, through (shedding) his blood. He (al-Husayn) reminded them of Allah, but they did not learn from him out of (their) oppression and aggression (Al-Majjlisi cited in al-Qarashi 2000).

.

The journey to this tragic day, although Allah (swt) decreed, consisted of a myriad of historically recorded events and interactions. One of these events, reported by Ali b. at-Taan al-Muharibi, represents the closeness, respect, love and kindness that existed between Imam al-Husayn (a) and his son, Imam al-Sajjad (a). The context of the narration was at the time when Imam al-Husayn (s) and his son were riding on horseback on their journey between Mecca and their eventual destination of Karbala and had arrived at a place called Qasr Bani Muqatil where they were going to rest for part of the night. 

.

In the early morning of the new day while riding, Imam al-Husayn (a) was seen to become weary on his (a) horse and fell asleep momentarily. He awoke reciting:

"We belong to God and to Him we will return. 
Praise be to God the Lord of the worlds."

 

He was heard to have said this two or three times. His son, Imam al-Sajjad (a) asked his father (a) why it was that he was reciting these words. The Imam (a) answered his son (a):

 

"My son, I nodded off and a horseman appeared to me, 
riding a horse and he said, 

Men are travelling and the fates travel towards them., 

Then I knew it was our own souls announcing our deaths to us."

.

Eve of Ashura

.

The time was coming closer for the events that the Aylul Bait (a) of the Prophet (sws) had been prepared for since their childhoods - the arrival on the plains of Karbala, may Allah (swt) reward them all. A selected pious group of Momins from the family of the Prophet (sws) and the companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) were going to meet their destiny as Martyrs on the hot burning sands, arriving at Karbala on the 2nd Muharram 61AH. After several days in their camp, the evening before the 10th Muharram, the day that has burned itself into every true Shias heart, known as Ashura, was witnessed by Imam al-Sajjad (a).

 

Imam al-Sajjad (a) was very ill at that time but narrated, relating to the evening of the 9th of Muharram 61 AH, that his father, Imam al-Husayn (a) gathered his followers around him. Imam al-Sajjad (a) reported that he heard the following from Imam al-Husayn (a):
.

I went near to hear what he would say to then (even though) at that time I was sick. I heard my father say to his followers: I glorify God with the most perfect glorification and I praise Him in happiness and misfortune. O God, I praise You for blessing us with prophethood, teaching us the Quran and making us understand the religion. You have given us hearing, sight and hearts, and have made us among those who give thanks (to You). I know of no followers more loyal and more virtuous than my followers, nor of any House more pious and more close-knit than my House. May God reward you well on my behalf. Indeed, I do not think that there will be (any further) days (left) to us by these men. I permit you to leave me. All (of you) go away with the absolution of your oath (to follow me), for there will be no (further) obligation on you from me. This is a night (whose darkness) will give cover to you. Use it as a camel (i.e. ride away in it) (Al Mufid, 1981, pg 346-347).
.

After the Holy Imam, Imam al-Husayn (a), had finished his address, he (a) asked his (a) most faithful and strong brother, al-Abbas (a), to put out the candles in order for members of the camp to leave in the darkness without identification or shame. After some time al-Abbas (a) was asked to light the candles again, leaving the remaining chosen family and followers.

 

This evening was spent in prayers and the recitation of al-Quran and the seeking of forgiveness and the glorification of Allah (swt). As the evening progressed and the dawn was near, Imam al-Sajjad (a) observed his father (a).

.

He, Imam al-Sajjad (a), reported:
.

I was sitting of that evening (before the morning of the day) in which my father was killed. With me was my aunt, Zaynab, who was nursing me when my father left to go to his tent. With him was Jawayn, the retainer (mawla) of Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari, who was preparing his sword and putting it right.
.

My father recited:
.

Time, shame on you as a friend! At the days dawning and the suns setting,

How many a companion or seeker will be a corpse! 
Time will not be satisfied with any substitute.

The matter will rest with the Mighty One, 
And every living creature will have to journey along my path.

.

He repeated it twice or three times. I understood it and realised what he meant. Tears choked me and I pushed them back. I kept silent and knew that tribulation had come upon us. As for my aunt, she heard what I heard but she is a woman and weakness and grief are part of the qualities of women; she could not control herself, she jumped up, tearing at her clothes and sighing, and went to him.

.

Then I will lose (a brother), Zaynab said to him. Would that death deprive me of life today, (for) my mother, Fatimah, is dead, and my father, Ali, and my brother, al-Hasan, peace be on them (all).

 .

O sister, al-Husayn said to her as he looked at her with his eyes full of tears, dont let Satan take away with your forbearance. (Remember: ) If the sand grouse are left (alone) at night, they will sleep (i.e. let nature take its course).
.

O my grief, your life will be violently wrenched from you and that is more wounding to my heart and harsher to my soul, she lamented, and then she struck at her face. She bent down in a faint.
.

Al-Husayn ('a), got up and bathed her face with water.

 

Then he said to her:

 

Sister, fear God and take comfort in the consolation of God. Know that the people on the earth will die and the inhabitants of heaven will not continue to exist (for ever). For everything will be destroyed except the face of God Who created creation by His power (qudra); He sends forth creatures and He causes them to return; He is unique and alone. My grandfather was better than me, my father was better than me and my mother was better than me. I and every Muslim have an ideal model in the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family.

By this and the like he tried to consol her and he said:

 

Sister, I swear to you and I (always) keep my oaths that you must not tear at your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor cry but with grief and loss when I am destroyed.

 

Then he brought her and made her sit with me. He went to his followers and ordered then to bring their tents (much) closer together so that the tent-pegs came within the area of each others tents, and so that if they remained among their tents, the enemy could only approach (them), from one side (for there would be) tents behind them, and to their right and left. Thus (the tents completely) surrounded them except for the one way, which the enemy could come against them (Al Mufid, 1981, pg 348-349).
.

The granddaughters of the Prophet shared that severe ordeal with Lady Zaynab (a). Among them was Umm Kulthum, who lamented: 

.

"Oh Mohammed! Oh 'Ali! Oh Imam! Oh Husayn! We will be lost after you!"
.

Imam al-Husayn (a) asked them to bear the burdens of this severe ordeal, saying: 

.

"O sister, O Umm Kulthu`m, O Fa`tima, O Raba`b, when I am killed, you must not tear your clothes, nor scratch your faces, nor cry out with grief and loss!  (Hayat al-Imam al-Husayn, cited in al-Qarashi 2000).

.

Day of Ashura Reports of al- Sajjad (a)
.

On the morning of 10th Muharram, Imam al-Husayn (a) and his (a) faithful family and companions performed their last morning prayer together. The enemies shot arrows at the worshipers and several were killed. Imam al-Husayn (a), after performing the prayers mobilised his (a) 32 horseman and 40 foot soldiers. Umar b. Sad also mobilised his cursed followers. He (curse be on him) went out with his army to Imam al-Husayn (a).
.

Imam al-Sajjad (a) reported: