The 5th of Sha’ban, we are celebrating the blessed birthday of the great-grandson and 4th Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). He was the person who lived in a very critical period of history when the Islamic realm was torn with sedition and civil wars. Yet he strode with dignity to revive in a novel way the genuine teachings of Islam – through the medium of prayers, supplication, and other acts of devotion. Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) needs no introduction. Born in 38 AH in Medina, he was named Ali in honour of his illustrious grandfather, the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) by his father, Imam Husain (AS). It will be repetitive to say he was 23 years old and bedridden in Karbala on the Day of Ashura when the greatest tragedy of history took place and saw the massacre of the 18 male members of the Prophet’s clan, the Bani Hashem, including his father, brothers, uncles, and cousins. The equally tragic aftermath of the tragedy of Karbala is also evident to all, when he was taken prisoner, along with his wife, son, aunts, sisters, and other womenfolk and children of the Prophet’s Household. In the court of Damascus when the tyrant Yazid tried to justify his brutal killing of the Prophet’s grandson Imam Husain (AS) to the neo-Muslim Syrians, he suffered a fatal blow when Imam Zain al-Abedin on hearing the muezzin’s call to the daily prayer, said:
O Yazid! This Muhammad (SAWA), whose name is being recited in the Azaan, was my (great) grandfather or yours; and if mine, how could you slay the Prophet’s grandson and still call yourself a Muslim?
The effect of these words of Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), which are part of an elaborately eloquent sermon on the rights and merits of the Prophet’s Household, was electrifying. The whole court was shocked and news spread all over the city of the heinous crime committed by Yazid. The tyrant had no other choice but to soon release the noble captives and allow them to return to Medina. It is important to note that during his 34-year imamate, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) left no stone unturned to convey to the faithful the message of the Prophet and emphasize to them the pivotal position of the Divinely-Designated Imam for the Ummah, without whose presence there would be utter chaos. He explained the meanings and purport of the ayahs of the holy Qur’an and expounded on the Hadith Thaqalayn, in which the Prophet has explicitly said that no Muslim will ever go astray if he/she holds steadfastly to the Book of God and the Ahl al-Bayt. To proof that he was the Imam of his age, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), received the miraculous verdict from the sacred black stone of the Ka’ba, when his step-uncle, Mohammad al-Hafaniyya tried to claim the mantle of the Prophet – or actually wanted the people to know that the real Imam was his nephew, the grandson of the Immaculate Lady, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA).
Here are passages from the famous Salawat for the month of Sha’ban, which the 4th Imam taught to the faithful, and as is clear, the prime position of the Progeny of the Prophet has been outlined in this unique supplication:
“O Allah bless Mohammad and the Progeny of Mohammad with a plenteous blessing that would make them pleased; and do justice to the right of Mohammad and the Progeny of Mohammad, with Your power and might, O Lord of all the worlds!
“O Allah, bless Mohammad and the Progeny of Mohammad, the good and the pious, the chosen ones, whose right You have made mandatory to observe, enjoining obedience to them and acknowledgement of their Wilayah (guardianship or authority)!
“O Allah, bless Mohammad and the Progeny of Mohammad and make my heart thrive with obedience to You. Do not put me to humiliation by being guilty of disobedience to You. Enable me to do kindness to those whose provision You have tightened through the plenty You have provided me with Your grace, and what You have apprised me of Your justice, and made me flourish in Your shade!