The Noble Virtues of Imam Zayn al-Abidin(A.S.)
All the noble virtues and gifts which Allah created to distinguish man were found in the character of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him. No one matched him in his inclinations and his psychological qualities such as sublime manners, high moral standards, and adherence to religion. When someone reads his noble behavior, he bows down in respect and admiration for him. The great Muslim figures from among his contemporaries belittled themselves because of the manifold of the Ima`m's virtues and abilities.
Sa'id b. al-Musayyab, one of the great religious scholars of Medina, said: "I have never seen a person more meritorious than 'Ali b. al-Husayn, and when I see him, I hate myself." His ideals raised him to the summit of honor and glory which were ascended by his grandfathers, who sacrificed their lives for social reform.
As for clemency, it was among the qualities of the prophets and the messengers and is among the greatest and the most distinguished qualities of man, for it means that man controls himself and does not yield to the inclinations of anger and revenge. Al-Ja`hiz defined clemency, saying:
"Clemency means that you leave revenge during intense anger while you are able to do that." Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, was the greatest of all the people in clemency and the best of them in restraining anger. The narrators and the historians mentioned many examples of his clemency, the following are some of them:
1. A maid-servant of 'Ali b. al-Husayn began to pour water for him so that he might perform the ritual ablutions for prayer. The maid-servant became faint and the jug dropped from her hand and struck him. He raised his head towards her and the maid-servant said: "Allah, the Most High, says: Those who restrain from anger."
"I have restrained my anger," he said.
"And those who forgive the people," she went on.
"My Allah forgive you," he said.
"Allah loves those who do good," she said.
"Go, you are a free woman before the face of Allah, the Almighty and High."
(Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 36, vol. 155. Nihayat al-Irab, vol. 21, p. 326).
2. A mean person received the Ima`m by abusing and cursing him, nevertheless the Ima`m treated him kindly, saying: "Boy, there will be an invincible obstacle before us. If I cross it I will pay no attention to what you are saying. If I am perplexed with it, I will be more wicked than what you are saying."(Al-Majlisi, al-Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46. p. 96).
The Ima`m was busy thinking of his sentiments and feelings toward Allah and fear of the terrors of the hereafter from which no one will be safe except the pious, and he was not annoyed by this nonsense, which issued from a person void of morals and manners.
3. When the Ima`m went out of the mosque, a person abused him, so the people hurried to punish the man, but the Ima`m prevented them from doing that, saying: "What Allah has concealed from you is more than (this). Shall I help you with your need?"
The person was ashamed of himself and wished that the earth would swallow him up. When the Ima`m looked at him, he had mercy on him and gave him a black shirt and a thousand dirhams. With that the Ima`m was able to uproot from the man the evil inclination of aggression against the people without any right and showed him the path of truth and guidance, so when the person saw the Ima`m, he said to him: "Surely you are among the children of the prophets."(Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihayay, vol. 9, p. 105).
4. An ignoble person aggressed against the Ima`m and cursed him, but the Ima`m turned his face away from him, so the ignoble person became angry and said to him: "I mean you!" However, the Ima`m said to him: "Still, I will forgive you!" Then the Ima`m left the ignoble person and went away. He did not return the insult, thus the ignoble person burst into anger.(Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihayay, vol. 9, p. 105).
5. A mean person slandered the Ima`m and went too far in cursing him; nevertheless the Ima`m said to him: "If I have what you say, I will ask Allah to forgive me. If I do not have what you say, I will ask Allah to forgive you."
The mean person became ashamed of himself and apologized to the Ima`m for that, saying: "You do not have what I said, so pardon me!" The Ima`m received him with smiles of satisfaction and forgiveness, saying: "May Allah forgive you!" The mean person admired the Ima`m and said: "Allah knows better where to place his message."(Saffwat al-Saffwa, vol. 2, p. 54).
6. A person was aggressive against a member of the family of al-Zubayr and cursed him, but the latter did not return in degree. When the person went away, al-Zubayri stood up and began cursing the Ima`m, but the latter kept silent and did not answer him, so the former asked: "What prevents you from answering me?" "What prevented you from answering the man," the Ima`m answered with kindness.(Al-Mubarrad, al-Kamil, vol. 3, p. 805).
These are some of the examples the historians mentioned of the clemency of the Ima`m, peace be on him. They show an endless ability of outstanding merits which manifested them selves in the Ima`m and raised him to the highest level of the human perfection.
Among the psychological qualities of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him was patience during ordeals and tribulations. It is certain that no one in this world has been afflicted by such ordeals and tribulations as this great Ima`m was afflicted by them; he was liable to events and misfortunes from the beginning of his life to his death, for he suffered the loss of his mother when he was in the first stage of his childhood, so he did not feel her pure affection and kindness. He witnessed in his bloom of youth the sorrow of his family because of the loss of his grandfather Ima`m 'Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, whom 'Abd al-Rahma`n b. Muljim killed.
He witnessed those days when his uncle, the pure Ima`m, al-Hasan, peace be on him, was forced to make peace with Mu'a`wiya b. Abu` Sufya`n, the Umayyad ruler of Syria. It is worth mentioning that Mu'a`wiya brought disgrace on the Arab and Islamic world because of his pre-Islamic inclinations and his malice against Islam and Muslims. When he took the reins of authority, he used all the organs of his government to erase Islam from the map of existence, and took the severest measures against the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt) , peace be on them.
For example, he ordered the people to curse them on the pulpits and the minarets (of the mosques), meanwhile he ordered their followers to be killed everywhere.
When Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, became a young man, he suffered the loss of his uncle Ima`m al-Hasan, the plant of sweet basil of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, whom the Kasra` of the Arabs (i.e., Mu'a`wiya b. Hind). killed with poison. This event saddened the Ima`m and the Prophet's Household very much.
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, was afflicted by the most sorrowful event when he saw sinful swords cut off the heads of the choice from among the members of the family of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, in a tragic way which the history of nations and people had never seen. After the murder of that group from among the supporters of justice and truth, the criminal Kufa`ns surrounded Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, and then they burnt his tent and the tents of the womenfolk of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family.
After that they took the Ima`m as prisoner to the tyrannical governor, b. Marja`na, who received the Ima`m by cursing and abusing him, while the Ima`m was patient and entrusted his affair to Allah. After that, the Ima`m was taken to the tyrannical Caliph, Yazid b. Mu'a`wiya. There the Ima`m suffered from various kinds of ordeals and tribulations but he was patient toward them showing satisfaction with Allah's decree.
Therefore, what a great soul was his soul! What a pure conscience was his conscience! As for his soul, it resorted to the Creator of the world and Giver of life during all those terrible events. As for his conscience, it was purer and stronger than everything.
Patient in the face of ordeals and tribulations was among the psychological qualities of the Ima`m, peace be on him. It was reported on his authority that he said: "Patience is the source of obedience to Allah."(Al-Muqrim, al-Imam Zayn 'al-Abidin, p. 19).
Another example of his patience was that he heard a woman wailing in his house, and there was a group of people with him, so he stood up to see what happened. He was told that one of his children had died, but he returned to his assembly and told his companions about the death of his child and they admired his patience, so he said to them: "We, the members of the House, obey Allah in what we like and praise Him in what we dislike."(Huliyat al-Awliya', vol. 3, p. 138).
He thought that patience was among bounties and impatience was an act of weakness.(Al-Durr al-Nazim, p. 173).
As Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, had a strong character and did not collapse before the terrible events, he is regarded as among the rarest figures throughout history.
Glory and Self-esteem
Among the qualities of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, were glory and self-esteem. He inherited these qualities from his father, the Lord of martyrs, peace be on him, who walked toward death with longing and desire for his glory and self-esteem. That was when the mean people made him choose between death and abasement, so he chose death and addressed them, saying: "By Allah, I will never give you my hand like a man who has been humiliated; nor will I flee like a slave." This noble quality appeared in Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin when he said: "I do not prefer excellent bounties to myself."
Concerning self-esteem, he said: "Whoever feels that he is respectable, the world is easy for him."(Al-Bihar, vol. 78, 135).
When he was taken prisoner to Syria, he did not speak to any of those who guarded him to make them feel that he disdained and belittled them.
The historians said: "One of his uncles took some of his rights illegally. He, peace be on him, was in Mecca. Meanwhile al-Walid, the king, was there to perform the ritual hajj, so it was said to him: 'Ask al-Walid to take you your rights.' So he said to them with these words which are immortal in the world of glory and self-esteem: 'Shall I ask in the House of Allah, the Great and Almighty, other than Allah, Great and Almighty? Indeed, I refuse to ask the Creator of the world for the world, then how shall I ask a creature similar to me for the world?'"(Al-Bihar, vol. 78, 135).
Anther example of his self-esteem was that he did not take even a dirham through his nearness to Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. The historians reported many examples of his glory and self-esteem, which showed that he refused all kinds of abasement and oppression.
Among his psychological qualities was bravery and courage; he was the bravest of all the people, for he was the son of al-Husayn, who was the most courageous of all the children of Adam. An example of his outstanding bravery was when he was taken prisoner and taken to the tyrannical governor, 'Ubayd Allah b. Marja`na, the latter received him with words of glee at his misfortune. So the Ima`m answered him with burning words whose effect on him was stronger than the clashing of swords and the lashing of whips.
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, paid no attention to 'Ubayd Allah's power and invincibility, so b. Marja`na (i.e., 'Ubayd Allah) became so angry that he ordered the Ima`m to be killed. However, the Ima`m was not afraid of death, rather he said to him calmly: "Killing is a custom for us, and our miracle from Allah is martyrdom."
When Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, was taken to Yazid b. Mu'a`wiya, he met him with boldness and reproached him for his great crime and gave him no way to defend himself and to justify his crime.
The Ima`m inherited bravery from his grandfather 'Ali and his father al-Husayn, who were the bravest of all the creatures of Allah. There is no one in the world of Islam similar to them in bravery, strong determination, and firmness in defending the truth.
His Unselfish Nature
Among his prominent qualities was his lack of all kinds of selfishness which had no power over him. The historians mentioned many examples of his lack of selfishness. Such as when he wanted to travel to a certain place, he traveled with people who did not know him, so that he would serve them and rather than they serve him. One day he traveled with some people who did not know him, but one of them looked at him and recognized him and shouted at the people, asking: "Woe unto you! Do you know that man?"
"No, we don't," answered the people.
"That is 'Ali b. al-Husayn," explained the man.
The people hurried toward the Ima`m and began kissing his hands and feet, asking: "Do you want Allah to make us enter the fire of Hell? What made you do that?"
The Ima`m answered gently: "I traveled with some people who knew me and they, because of Allah's Apostle, rendered services for me which I was unworthy of. I was afraid that you would render me the same services, so I preferred concealing my affair to making it public."( 'Uyyun Akhbar al-Reza, vol. 2, p. 145).
Another example of his lack of selfishness was that when he walked in a street and saw the passers-by being harmed by things such as stones and clods of mud, he dismounted his mount and took them away from the street with his holy hand.
When he mounted his mule and walked in the street, he did not say to anyone: "Make room." Moreover, he said: "The street is for all people, and I have no right to push anyone away from it."(Siyar 'Alam al-Nubala', vol. 4. p. 240. Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 36, p. 161).
All the qualities of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, such as high moral standards were embodied in this great soul.
Kindness to People
Another quality of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, was kindness to people; his holy heart overflowed with mercy and kindness toward them. The historians said: "When he knew that someone was in debt and loved him, he paid his debt. He hurried to meet the needs of the people lest someone should meet them before him and he would be deprived of reward.
In this respect he said: 'My enemy sometimes came to me (and ask me) to satisfy his need, so I hasten to satisfy it for fear that someone should satisfy it before me or my enemy should be in no need of it; therefore I would be deprived of the reward for it."( Nasikh al-Tawarikh, vol., p. 13).
Al-Zuhri reported the following concerning the kindness of the Ima`m to the people: "I was with 'Ali b. al-Husayn when a person came and said him: "I owe four hundred dinars and am unable to pay them and have a family. At that time the Ima`m had no money on him to pay the person's debt, so he wept and said: 'It is difficult for a free and believing person to be unable to satisfy the need of his believing brother."
As for generosity, it was among the qualities of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him. The historians unanimously agreed that the Ima`m was the most generous of all the people and the kindest of them to the poor and the weak. They mentioned many examples of his generosity. The following are some of them:
Mohammed b. Usa`ma became ill, so the Ima`m visited him. When the Ima`m sat down, Mohammed burst into tears, so the Ima`m asked him: "What makes you weep?"
"What makes me weep," answered Mohammed, "is the fact that I owe fifteen thousand dinars and I have nothing left to fulfill the debt for them."
"Do not weep," the Ima`m told him, "they are my debts now and you are free of them." So he paid them for him.(Al-Bidaya wa Nihaya, vol. 9, p. 105. Siyar A'lam al-Nubala', vol. 4, p. 239).
His giving Food to the People
An example of his abundant generosity was that he gave food to those people who came to his house in Medina at noon every day.(Al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 6).
His Maintaining a Hundred Families
The Ima`m was very generous that he secretly maintained a hundred families in Medina, and each family had a group of people.( Tahdhib al-Lugha wa al-Asma', 343; Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46. p. 88).
The generosity of the Ima`m showed that he had a soul free from miserliness, that he had mercy on the people, and that he was grateful to Allah for His giving.
His Kindness to the Poor
Among his qualities was kindness to the poor, the deprived, and the miserable. We shall mention some examples of his kindness to them:
A. His Honoring the Poor
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, looked after the poor and took care of their feelings and sentiments. When he gave a beggar alms, he kissed him lest he should see the mark of abasement and need on his face.(Hulyat al-Alwiya', vol. 3, p. 137).
He greeted the beggars who came to him and said to them: "Welcome to him who carries my provisions to the hereafter."(Safwat al-Safwa, vol. 2, p. 53).
Honoring the poor in this kind and merciful manner strengthens society and spreads love and friendship among its members.
B. His Kindness to the Poor
The Ima`m, peace be on him, was very kind and affectionate to the poor and the needy. He asked the orphans, the blind, and the needy to eat with him. He gave them food with his handas well as he carried food on his back and took it to their houses.(Al-Majjlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46, p. 62;al-Bustani,Da'irat al-Ma'arif, vol. 9, p. 355).
He took great care of the poor and was so kind to them that he prevented the people from harvesting dates at night lest they should deprive the poor of them. So he said to Qahrama`na, who reaped dates at night:
"Do not do that. Don't you know that Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, prevented (the people) from reaping at night, and he used to say: 'You should give a share to those who ask you for it on the day of harvest.'(Wasa'il al-Shi'a, vol. 6, p. 15).
His Preventing the People from Reproaching Beggars
The Ima`m, peace be on him, prevented the people from reproaching beggars, for that would bring about bad results such as loss of bounties and sudden adversities. In this respect Sa'id b. al-Musayyab reported:
"One day I went to 'Ali b. al-Husayn. After he had finished performing the noon prayer, there was a beggar at the door, so he, peace be on him, said: 'Give to the beggar and do not reproach him."(Al-Kafi, vol. 4, p. 15).
The Ima`m, peace be on him, stressed the importance of this duty in many of his traditions. In this connection, Abu` Hamza al-Thuma`li reported:
"I performed the morning prayer with 'Ali b. al-Husayn in Medina on Friday. After he had finished performing his prayer, he went to his house. I accompanied him. When he reached his house, he called his maid-servant Sukayna and said to her: 'When a beggar passes by the door of my house, give him food, for today is Friday.' So I (i.e., Abu` Hamza) said to him: 'Not all beggars are worthy of being given food.'
He, peace be on him said: 'I am afraid that some of those who beg us are worthy of being given food. If we do not give them food and reproach them, what had befallen Ya'qu`b and his family will befall us, the members of the House. Give the beggars food! Give them food! Ya'qu`b sacrificed a ram every day.
He gave some of its meat to the poor as alms. He and the members of his family ate the rest of its meat. At the time of breaking the fast, on Friday, a believing and fasting beggar whose rank was high with Allah and who was worthy of being given food passed by the door of Ya'qu`b's house and called out: 'Give food from the rest of your food to the strange and hungry beggar!'
Ya'qu`b and his family heard him but they neglected his right and did not believe his words. When the beggar despaired of them and the night overtook him, he went away and spent that night hungry complaining his hunger to Allah, while Ya'qu`b and his family spent that night full and with extra food.
In the morning of that night, Allah revealed to Ya'qu`b, saying: 'You have abased my servant to the extent that you and your children are worthy of my wrath and my punishment. Ya'qu`b, the most lovable of my prophets for Me and the most honorable with Me are those who have mercy on the poor from among my servants, draw them near to Me, give them food, and protect them.
Ya'qu`b, why did you not have mercy on my servant, who has devoted his life to worshipping and is secretly content with that which is beyond this material world? Ya'qu`b, by my might, I will impose my tribulation upon you and make you and your sons a target for misfortunes.'
"I (i.e., Abu` Hamza) asked: May I be ransom for you, when did Yousif saw the vision?1 The Ima`m, peace be on him, replied: 'When Ya'qu`b and his family spent that night full and the poor beggar spent it hungry.'(Al-Nuri, Dar al-Salam, vol. 2, p. 141).
Indeed, depriving the needy and poor person of his right results in the loss of bounties and brings down Allah's wrath. In this respect many traditions were successively reported on the authority of the Ima`ms of guidance, so those who want Allah's blessing to continue should not reproach the poor and deprive them of their rights.
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, did his best throughout his life to give alms to the poor in order to remove poverty from them. In the meantime he urged the people to help them in order that they might get a great reward from Allah, the Glorified. So he said: "If a person gives alms to a poor person, the poor person will supplicated for him at that hour and he will be answered."(Wasa'il al-Shi'a, vol. 6, p. 296).
A. He gave his Garments as Alms
The Ima`m, peace be on him, wore the most luxurious garment. In winter he wore silk-like garments. When summer came, he gave them as alms or sold them and gave their price as alms. In summer he wore two Egyptian garments. When winter came, he gave them as alms2. Thus, he said: "I feel shame before my Lord when I take the price of the garment in which I worship Him.
(Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 36, p. 161; Nasikh al-Tawarikh, vol. 1, p. 89).
B. He gave as Alms what He loved
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, gave as alms what he loved. The narrators said: "'Ali b. al-Husayn gave almonds and sugar as alms. He was asked about that, and he recited the words of Him, the Exalted: 'By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love.(Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46. p. 89).
The historians reported: "'Ali b. al-Husayn liked eating grapes. One day he was fast, so his maid-servant gave him a bunch of grapes. At the time of breaking fasting, a beggar came to him, and he ordered the bunch of grapes to be given to the beggar. The maid-servant sent someone to buy a bunch of grapes for the Ima`m, another beggar knocked on the door, and the Ima`m ordered the bunch of grapes to be given to the beggar. Again, the maid-servant sent someone to buy a bunch of grapes for the Ima`m. When she offered the bunch of grapes to the Ima`m, another beggar came, and the Ima`m ordered the bunch of grapes to be given to the beggar."(Al-Baqir, al-Mahasin, p. 547. Furu' al-Kafi, vol. 6, p. 350).
In this manner the Ima`m followed the example of his grandfathers, who gave their food for three days to a poor, an orphan, and a captive, so Allah sent down concerning them the Su`ra of Hal Ata, which will exist as a legion of honor for them throughout time till Allah inherits the earth and what is on it.
C. Dividing his Properties
The Ima`m divided his properties into two shares. He took one share and gave the other as alms to the poor.(Khulasat Tahdhib al-Kamil, p. 231. Hulyat al-Awliya', vol. 3, p. 140).
In this manner the Ima`m followed the example of his uncle, Ima`m al-Hasan, the plant of sweet basil of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, who divided his properties into two or three shares.
His Giving Charity in Secret
The most lovable thing for the Ima`m, peace be on him, was giving charity in secret. He did not want anyone to recognize him because he wanted to make close relationships with the poor people he helped in order to seek Allah's good pleasure as well as urged the Muslims to adopt giving charity secretly, so he said: "Giving charity secretly removes the wrath of Allah."(Tahdhkirat al-Huffaz, vol. 1, p. 75. Akhbar al-Diwal, p. 110. Nihayat al-Irab, vol. 21, p. 326).
He went out veiled in the darkness and carried gifts to the poor who stood at the doors of their house waiting for him. When they saw him, they gave good news to each other and said to one another: "The owner of the bag has just come."( Al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 45).
The Ima`m went to his cousin at night and gave him some dinars, but his cousin said to him: "'Ali b. al-Husayn does not give me anything."
Moreover, his cousin invoked Allah against him. The Ima`m, peace be on him, heard that and pardoned his cousin and did not let his cousin recognize him. When the Ima`m, peace be on him, died, his cousin lost those gifts and knew that it was the Ima`m who had brought them to him, so he went to the Ima`m's grave and wept over him and apologized to him for slandering him."
Ibn 'A'isha said: [I heard the people of Medina say:] "When 'Ali b. al-Husayn died, we were deprived of being given charity secretly." The historians reported that a group of the people of Medina lived and did not know the person who brought them their livelihood. When 'Ali b. al-Husayn died, they lost what they were given at night. The Ima`m, peace be on him, was very serious with hiding his alms, to the extent that he covered his face when he gave some alms. Al-Dhahabi said: "'Ali b. al-Husayn gave a lot of secret charity."
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, put food in a bag; he carried the bag on his back and divided the food among the poor. The bag made some calluses on his back.
Al-Ya'qu`bi reported: "When the Ima`m, peace be on him, died, the members of his family washed him and they found on his back calluses similar to those of a camel. They people asked the members of his family about those calluses and they answered: 'They were made by the bag which he carried on his back at night to divide food among the poor."
Any how, the Ima`m's secret charity was among the greatest deeds and the most rewarded by Allah.
His Seeking Allah's Pleasure
From his kindness to the poor, the Ima`m, peace be on him, wanted nothing except Allah's pleasure and the hereafter. He was the most prominent of those whom Allah concerned with these words of His: " (As for) those who spend their property in the way of Allah, then do not follow up what they have spent with reproach or injury, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and shall have no fear nor shall they grieve."
The gifts and alms of the Ima`m were for Allah's pleasure only. They were not mixed with any worldly purposes which would turn into earth sooner or later. Al-Zuhri narrated: "During a cold night, I saw 'Ali b. al-Husayn carrying flour on his back, so I asked him: 'Son of Allah's Apostle, what is that on your back?'"
The Ima`m hurried and said with a faint voice: "I am making preparations for a journey. I am preparing provisions for it and carrying them to a secure place."
"Let this boy of mine carry the flour instead of you," explained al-Zuhri.
The Ima`m did not answer him. Al-Zuhri begged the Ima`m to let him carry the flour in stead of him, but the Ima`m insisted on carrying it and said: " But I do not disdain what will save me during my journey and makes good my going to Whom I will go. I ask you before Allah to go to your need."
So al-Zuhri left the Ima`m and went away. After some days he met him. He did not understand what the Ima`m meant. He thought that the Ima`m would go on a regular journey, so he asked him: "Son of Allah's Apostle, I do not see any mark of that journey which you ended?"
The Ima`m, peace be on him, told him about that journey for which he made preparations: "Zuhri, I think that you did not understand what I meant. I meant death. I made preparations for it through refraining from the prohibited and doing good."
The Ima`m, peace be on him, spent on the poor to seek Allah's pleasure and forgiveness.
Renouncing Worldly Pleasures
Among the qualities of the Ima`m was renouncing worldly pleasures. He did not care for worldly vanities. He clung to asceticism and completely renounced the world. The world did not tempt him nor did it deceive him, for he knew its reality and essence. He knew that man would leave the world no matter what he enjoyed in it, and that he would find nothing before him except his good deeds. The Ima`m was the most ascetic of the people of his time. This was underlined by al-Zuhri when he was asked about the most ascetic of all the people and he answered: "The most ascetic of all the people is 'Ali b. al-Husayn."( Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46, P. 62).
The Ima`m, peace be on him, saw a beggar weeping, so he had mercy on him and said: "If the world was in the hand of this person and then it dropped from it, he had not to weep for it."(Al-Fusul al-Muhimma, p. 192).
The Ima`m, peace be on him renounced worldly pleasures, but this does not mean that he yielded to poverty and feebleness, rather he was pious with what Allah prohibited, so he was similar to his father and grandfather, who divorced the world and did not care for its affairs except truth and virtue.
He Hated Playing
Another quality of the Ima`m was that he hated playing. Throughout his life no one saw him playing or laughing, so he, peace be on him, said: "Whenever a man laughs one time he loses a bit of knowledge."
In Medina there was an unemployed person at whom the people laughed. The unemployed person said: "It is difficult for me to make this man (i.e., Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin) laugh." One day the Ima`m, followed by two retainers, passed by the unemployed person and he took his cloak and ran away. The Ima`m did not turn to him, but the two retainers chased the unemployed person and took the cloak from him and brought it to the Ima`m, who asked them: "Who is this person?" "He is an unemployed person at whom the people of Medina laugh," replied one of the two retainers. So the Ima`m, peace be on him, said: "Say to him: Indeed Allah has a day in which the liars will be losers."(Al-Saduq, al-Amali, p. 220).
His Turning to Allah in Repentance
Among the most prominent qualities of Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin was his turning in repentance to Allah and his devotion to Him. This appeared in the Ima`m's whispered prayers, supplications, and words which showed his strong dedication to Allah, the Creator of the world and Giver of life.
The Ima`m dedicated himself to Allah and entrusted all his affairs and tasks to Him, the Exalted. When he faced a certain matter, he rushed to Allah, for he thought that depending on other than Allah would bring about disappointment and loss. The historians reported that the Ima`m passed by a person sitting at the door of a rich person and asked him: "What has made you sit at the door of this rich, tyrannical person?"
"Poverty and misery," replied the person.
"Stand up," ordered the Ima`m, "I will lead you to a door better than his door and a Lord better for you than him."
The person rose and went with the Ima`m till they reached the Mosque of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. There the Ima`m said to the person: "Turn your face to the qibla , perform two ruk'as, raise your hands and supplicate Allah, the Glorified, (to help you). Ask Him to bless His Prophet, recite the last verses of Surat al-Hashr, six verses from the beginning of Surat al-Haddid, and the first two verses of Surat Al 'Umra`n, and then ask Allah, the Glorified, to meet your need. If you ask Allah for a certain thing, He will give it to you. Whoever seeks refuge in Allah seeks refuge in a strong fort. As for seeking refuge in other than Allah, it is useless."