The Sermon of Imam Zayn Al-Abidin

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi

(Toronto, Canada)


The historical narrations that have reached to us are somewhat ambiguous as far as the timeline of the sermon of Imam Zayn Al-Abidin is concerned. However, by looking at the circumstances and the impact of Lady Zaynab’s sermon on the audience, it would not be difficult to surmise that Yazid asked one of his orators to get on the pulpit in order to tarnish the image of Imam ‘Ali in general and that of Imam Husayn in particular. This was Yazid’s way of damage control for the impact of Zaynab’s sermon. As someone in the pay of the imperial court, the orator went on the pulpit and fulfilled his master’s wishes by talking ill about Imam ‘Ali and highly praising Mu‘awiyah and Yazid. When Imam Zayn Al-Abidin heard it, he shouted at him: “O the speaker! You have bought the pleasure of a created being by displeasing the Creator, and so have reserved a seat for yourself in the Hell-fire.”Then the Imam turned to Yazid and said, “O Yazid, allow me to get on this ‘piece of wood’ and say something that would please Allah and be a cause of His blessings for the audience.” Yazid refused.

(Comment: It is interesting to see the Imam describing the pulpit as “piece of wood” and not a “mimbar –pulpit” – a seat used for uttering words that would displease Allah is not worthy of being called“mimbar.”) The people started insisting, “O the leader, let him go on the pulpit so that we can hear what he has to say.” Yazid replied, “If he goes on the pulpit, he will not get down until he has humiliated me and the family of Abu Sufyan.”

The people said, “What can this person say?” They were looking at his young age and his status as a prisoner. Yazid responded, “He is member of a family who is steeped in knowledge.” The people’s insistence increased until he had to give in. Imam Zayn Al-Abidin got on the pulpit and gave a sermon in which he focused on the family of Imam ‘Ali and the Prophet.

1) The Preamble

All praise is due to Allah who has no beginning, and the Eternal who has no end, the one who is the First but not in the sense of numbers and the Last but in the sense of ending, and the one who will last after everything perishes. He created nights and days, and distributed sustenance among the people. So blessed is Allah, the King, the All-Knowing.

2) The Status of Prophet’s Family

O people! We [the family of the Prophet] have been blessed with six [qualities] and have been preferred[over others] by seven [individuals]:We have been blessed with [1] knowledge, [2] forbearance, [3] generosity, [4] eloquence, [5] courage and [6] love in hearts of the believers.We have been preferred [over others] through[1] the Chosen Prophet, Muhammad who is from us,[2] the truthful one [i.e., ‘Ali] who is from us,[3] the one who flies [in heaven, Ja’far] is from us,[4] the lion of God and the Prophet [Hamzah] is from us,[5] the chief of the women of the worlds, the pure Fatimah, is from us, and[6-7] the Prophet’s two grandsons in this community [Hasan & Husayn] are from us.

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About the author

He was born in 1957 in a family of ‘ulamã’ in Bihar, India. He comes from a region in Bihar (Siwan District, previously known as Saran) that has produced well-known Shi‘a scholars in the Indian sub-continent. Migrated to Africa with his parents where he received elementary education in English medium school. After that for two years, he studied Arabic and Farsi with his respected father and two other ‘alims in Dar-Es-salaam, Tanzania.

In 1972, at the age of fifteen, he went to the Hawza-e ‘Ilmiya-e Qum, Iran. During his ten years stay in Qum, he studied with various teachers; and moved from the levels of muqaddimãt to sutûh (equal to graduate level in secular universities) and, finally, attended the dars-e kharij (ijtihad lectures equal to post-graduate studies) of Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaikh Wahid Khurãsãni.

In 1982, he returned to India where he stayed at Gopalpur for about a year.

In June 1983, at the invitation of the Shia Muslim Community of British Columbia, he and his wife moved to Vancouver where he stayed till June 1991 and served Shi‘a Islam through his lectures, writings, and teachings. Based on his publications and educational background, in September 1987, the Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) admitted him in the post-graduate program at Masters’ level. This was even though he had no formal degree nor was he asked to sit for any exams. In 1990 he completed his thesis; and after successfully defending the thesis, was awarded the Master of Arts degree in History in 1991.

In July 1991, he moved to Toronto and till 1996 worked as the Director of Islamic Education & Information Center providing a variety of religious services to Shi‘as in North America. During this time, he was also involved in the founding of the As-Sadiq Islamic School, a full time Islamic school from KG to Grade 8 levels. Since July 1996, he has accepted the responsibilities of the Imam-e Jum‘a and Resident ‘Ãlim of the Jaffari Islamic Center / Jaffari Community Center.

He has traveled to most cities in Canada and U.S.A.; as well as to Australia, Guyana, Trinidad, United Kingdom, Dubai, Pakistan, Tanzania and Kenya for lectures.

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