Chapter 4 : Imam Ali Bin Husain (a.s): His Character and Personality
The beliefthat our Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W W), his daughter, Hazrat Fatima (A.S), Imam Ali (A.S) and other eleven Imams (whose biographies we are going to study in this course) are all sinless and make no mistakes, is a very important part of our faith. To us these fourteen personalities were perfect.
However, as each of them had a special job to do and most of them lived in different periods of time, each of them had a chance to show only a few sides of his or her character. In the world in which Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) lived, the parts of his character which people could be seen very clearly are described in the following pages of this chapter.
He had great love and fear of Allah. These could be seen the way the carried out his daily 'Wajib' prayers and other recommended prayers. Three things can be said about his prayers to Allah:
1) Once he set up his mind to pray to Allah, he forgot about every thing else. He gave himself totally to Allah. Nothing would disturb his prayers. Consider the following incidents.
* Once while he was praying, his house caught fire. To put down the fire and more importantly to save their lives everybody in the house was running here and there. But not the Imam (A.S). He continued his prayers as if nothing had happened. When he finished his prayers, the fire had already been put down. Somebody asked him, no the son Prophet, why didn't you cut-short your "Sajda" when you heard the people shouting that the house was on fire?"
The Imam replied, "When I heard 'fire, fire' I remembered the fire of Hell. I compared that with fire in my house. I found the fire of Hell more severe so I continued praying."
* At another time his son, Hazrat Muhammed Baqir (A.S) had fallen in a well. The child's mother was deeply upset and cried for the Imam's help. The Imam was in the middle of his prayers. He neither broke his prayers nor did he rush to complete his prayers fast. He continued his prayers, at his usual speed. On completing his prayers he went to the well and brought out the child. The child was safe and was not hurt at all.
* It is said that once Shaitan (Devil) decided to disturb the Imam's prayers. The Devil then took the form of a snake and stung the Imam's legs continuously. The Imam felt the pain but he continued praying as if nothing had happened. When he had finished he told the Shaitan to go away. Then came a voice from Heavens saying, "You are Zainul Abidin (A. S) (the decoration of the pious)"; every body who was present heard this and the Imam (A. S) became famous by that name; * It is common with human beings, to shorten their prayers or even to neglect them at the time of difficulties. This was not so with the Imam (A.S). On the evening of Ashura in Kerbala, Imam (A.S) went through a very hard time.
He remembered these hard times throughout his life But his prayers remained as pure as ever- He Spent the whole night in "Sajda" praising Allah in these words:
"There is no other God but Allah and that is the truth. There is no other God but Allah in terms. of faith and truth. There is no other God but Allah. I testify this by praying to Him".
Throughout his difficult journey from Kerbala to Kufa and from Kufa to Damascus and all the time he was in prison, his prayers remained the same as they had been during the normal times.
2) He spent a lot of his time in prayers. Beside the daily obligatory prayers like his grandfather Imam Ali (A.S), he prayed 1000 rakats of recommended prayers (Mustahab) daily in the day and at night. If there was any time left that, too, he would spend in "Duas" and "Sujud". * Taoos Yamani reports that once he went to the House of Allah and there he saw Ali Bin Husain (A.S) near "Hajare Aswad" (Black stone). He first prayed and then bowed down in 'Sajda'. Taus says that he went near the Imam to hear what he was saying and he heard the Imam say in presence of Allah:
"Your humble servant is at your courtyard" "Your sad one is at your courtyard" "Your poor one is at your courtyard" "Your beggar is at your courtyard"
Taoos says since that time whenever I need help from Allah I address Him in this way and I get the help that I need.
* It is reported that the Imam would get out of his bed at midnight daily and go to his prayer carpet saying, "O my creator, the thought that I will have to face you on the Day of Judgement has got me out of my bed and made me sleepless." Having said so, he would bow-down in prayers and put his cheeks on the ground. He would then weep in fear of Allah and weep so much that the ground would become wet with his tears. His family would gather around him but he would not even notice them. He would continue addressing Allah saying, "O my creator, I don't wish for the restful life of this world. I ask for your mercy at that time when I shall be brought in your presence."
* A man by the name of Zurara Bin Ayan once heard at midnight a caller saying, "Where are those people who give away this world for the next world?" another call came as a reply from the graveyard of Baqi saying, "Such a person is Ali Bin Husain (A.S)."
* If any member of his family asked him as to why he was praying like this even though he was sinless, he would reply, "Why shouldn't I try to be nearer to Allah than I am now?"
* It is reported by Sheikh Mufid that once Imam Muhammed Baqir (A.S) saw that his father's face had turned yellow through weeping all night. His forehead was hurt. His legs and feet were swollen from standing long hours in prayers. Imam Baqir started weeping. Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) asked his weeping son to bring to him the book containing the prayers of Imam Ali (A.S).
He then read from the book for a while and closing it, he said,." who is strong enough to worship the way Ali Ibne Abi Talib used to do?" the massage from Imam Zainul Abidin was: compared to my grandfather my prayers are too short and too little. So let me do as much as I can.
Fatima Binti Ali, the Imam's aunt called Jabir Bin Abdullah Ansari and requested to talk to the Imam and persuade him not to pray so much that his health could suffer. When Jabir talked to the Imam, the Imam reminded Jabir about the Prophet's long prayers which led to the revelation of those Quranic verses in which Allah tells the Prophet to reduce his night prayers. The Prophet's Allah. In the reason for such long prayers was to thank same way the Imam's long prayer were only to thank Allah.
Whenever he heard of good news, he would bow down in "Sajda" to praise and thank Allah. Whenever his desires were fulfilled he would go in sajda. Whenever his problems were solved he would go in sajda. So much did he spend his time in sajda; praying or praising or thanking Allah that he became known as "Sayyidu Sajidin" or the leader of those who do "Sajda".
Because he bent so much in prayers the skin over his knees and on his forehead was as hard as that of the camel. From time to this skin had to be peeled-off His forehead, too, was wounded because of remaining in the position of "Sajda" for long hours.
3) Both before prayers and during prayers the Imam's behaviour would change in fear of Allah. For example, when he did his "Wudhu" his face would become pale and his body would shake. When he was asked for a reason he would reply , "Don't you know before whom I am preparing to stand?". Throughout his prayers his face continued to remain pale. After completing his prayers, in his "Duas" and "Sajdas" he would weep so much that his beard would be wet with tears.
Once someone saw him praying in the mountains on a bare rock which had become hot with the sun's ray's. The man asked for the reason. The Imnam explained saying, "This heat from the rock reminds me of the heat of the Hell and gives me a better understanding when I pray for forgiveness from Hell fire."
It was because of his prayers that he became known as "Zainul Abidin" or the decoration of the pious people.
His piety was not just in prayers. He used to spend almost all his days fasting. A maid who spent several years serving Imam reports that throughout her service she never cooked any food for him nor prepared his bedding at night.
By some accounts he fasted everyday except on forbidden days such as on Idd days.
When he went for 'Hajj' he would do so most of the time walking. When he did use a beast of burden, he would never beat to make it move faster It therefore took him twenty days to travel between Medina and Mecca.
Once he was on such a pilgrimage to Mecca. He put on his "Ihram" and was about to say "Labaik Allahumma Labaik" which is required from every person doing "Hajj", his face turned yellow and he could not say "Labaik" loudly. When he was asked why he did not do so, he replied, "Suppose I said Labaik and Allah replied LaLabaik (I don't accept your Labaik) what would happen to me?" It is reported that his whole Hajj was spent in fear of Allah.