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On the occasion of the birthday of Imam Zayn al-Abideen (Peace be upon him) – I’d like to post this story.
Imam Zayn al-Abideen, the great-grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his family), went to the Mecca to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.
Meanwhile Hisham bin Abd al-Malik (He was nominated Caliph – and also the son of the ruling Caliph of the time) went there for the same purpose. Hisham tried his best to reach the Kaaba but he was unable to do that, for the people were overcrowded around it. Every time he would try pushing and forcing his way through - he would be pushed back by the crowd circumambulating the Holy Kaaba.
He decided to give up and wait till the crowd became less so would be able to go through with ease. A pulpit was installed and he sat on it. He began looking at the circumbulation of the people from above.
Then Imam Zayn al-Abideen came to perform his circumambulation. When the pilgrims saw him, they were astonished at his humble solemnity and the glow of piety on his face, the face was similar to that of his grandfather, The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), may God bless him and his family. The people were shouting: "There is no god but God! God is great!” - With great respect - they parted, made way for him and allowed him to pass through to kiss the Kaaba.
The Syrians were astonished when they saw that situation. The pilgrims saw the people did not received Hisham, the nominated caliph after his father, warmly though the Syrians honored him and the Caliph’s guards surrounded him.
One of Hisham's companions from Syria asked him: "Who is that man whom the people have honored very much?
Hisham was hurt and pretended not to know the Imam and angrily, shouted at the man, saying: "I do not know him!
The great Arab poet Al-Farazdaq was there. He knew that Hisham was lying. He could not control himself at this insult to the great Imam. Thus, he said to the Syrians:
“I know him.”
“Who is he, Abu Firas?” The Syrians asked.
Hisham shouted at al-Farazdaq, “I do not know him!”
“Yes, you know him.” replied al-Farazdaq.
Then he rose and composed the following poem whose effect was stronger than the hitting of the swords and the stabbing of the spears against Hisham.
This is the son of Husayn and the grandson of Fatima the daughter of the Apostle through whom the darkness dispersed.
This is he whose ability the valley (of Mecca) recognizes, He is known by the (Sacred) House and the Holy sanctuary and the lands outside the sanctuary.
This is the son of the best of Allah's servants. This is the pure pious man, the pure eminent man.
When the Quraysh saw him, their spokesman said:
Liberality terminates at the outstanding qualities of this (man).
He belongs to the top of glory which the Arabs of Islam and non-Arabs fall short of reaching.
When he comes to touch the wall of the Kaaba, it almost grasps the palm of his hand.
He takes care to be modest and he is protected from his fears. He only speaks when he smiles.
There is a cane in his hand. Its smell is fragrant from the hand of the most wonderful (of all the people), who is proud.
The prophets yielded to his grandfather's favor. The nations yielded to the favor of his community.
The light of guidance emanates from the light of his forehead. He is like the sun whose shining disperses darkness.
His family tree belongs to the Apostle of Allah. Its elements, its natures, and its qualities are good.
This is the son of Fatima if you do not recognize him. The prophets of Allah were ended by his grandfather.
Allah honored and favored him from antiquity.
Your words ' who is this?’ do not harm him. All the Arabs and non-Arabs recognize him whom you deny.
Both his hands are relief. Their advantage has prevailed. The hands are just. Nonexistence does not befall them.
He is the carrier of the burdens of the people when they are oppressed.
His qualities are good. The ' yes’ is sweet with him.
He does not break a promise. His soul is blessed. His courtyard is wide. He is intelligent when he decides.
He is from the people whose love is religion, whose hate is unbelief, whose approach is refuge and protection.
If the God-fearing are numbered, they are their Imams. If it is said who are the best of the earth, it is said they are.
No generous man can reach their far purpose. No people, though generous, can compete with them (for generosity).
They are rain when a crisis happens. They are lions when fear becomes intense.
Poverty does not decrease the relief from their hands. That is the same, whether they are rich or poor.
Misfortune and tribulation are driven away through their love.
Kindness and the blessings are regained through it.
In every affair their praise is after the praise of Allah. The speech is ended by it.
Abasement refuses to stop at their space. Their natures are noble, and their hands are full of liberality.
None of mankind has within their souls such primacy as he does or such grace as he does.
Whoever knows Allah, knows His friend. Our Religion came from the House of this man.
Hisham burst into anger. He wished the earth would swallow him up. He was displeased to hear this poem as it indicated the high social rank of the great Imam.
Besides it made the Syrians familiar with him, for they did not recognize him nor did they know of his grandfathers.
Hisham was so furious at al-Farazdaq after hearing this poem. He ordered that his share from the public treasure be discontinued, and that he should be imprisoned in Asfan, located between Mecca, and Madina.
But al-Farazdaq wasn't bothered by this nuance which he gained as an outcome of his boldness and honesty. In prison, he continued to write poetry against Hisham.
Imam Zayn al-Abideen sent some money to al-Farazdaq, since he was in the prison and had no means of earning his livelihood. al-Farazdaq didn't accept it, and said that he had said the poem only for God.
The Imam resent him the money saying: “Allah (SWT) is well aware of your intention, and will reward you appropriately. If you accept this money, it shall not reduce your reward from Allah (SWT).” And he urged al-Farazdaq to accept the gift and finally al-Farazdaq accepted it.
The Imam excelled all others in his time in his vast knowledge, worshipping God, spiritual perfections, piety and helping the needy. When he ever saw any orphans and destitute he would invite them and share his meal.
He was known never to say “No” – that a poet once wrote that the only time the Imam utters “No” is when he recites “There is no god but God”.
He gave sanctuary even to his enemies. When one of the people who had killed the Imam’s father approached him and asked for sanctuary for the women and children during an attack on the city – the Imam gave shelter to them. The only place no one would attack was the Imam’s house – The house of Muhammad (SAW).
The jurists, in the matters of the Islamic Sharia, quote him widely and there are many facts of spiritual guidance, prayers and words of profound wisdom that he left behind as his legacy.
Tawus al-Yamani once asked the Imam: “What are the qualities of a believer?”
The Imam replied: "Piety in privacy, alms during paucity, patience toward misfortune, clemency during anger, and truthfulness during fear. These five qualities display the faith of a believer.”
He would always be engaged in prayer and supplications. One of his titles was Al-Sajjad which means “the one who constantly prostrates himself in prayer”.
He composed the “The Psalms of Islam” (Sahifa Sajjadiyah) which is the oldest prayer and supplications manual in Islamic sources and one of the most seminal works of Islamic spirituality of the early period.