Alī ibn Al Ḥusayn [or Imam Zain Al Aabideen] is the great-grandson of Prophet Muhammad [sm] as well as the fourth Imām. His mother was Shahrbānū and his father was Imam Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī. His brothers include ‘Alī al-Aṣghar ibn Ḥusayn and ‘Alī al-Akbar ibn Ḥusayn. He is known as Zayn al-Abidīn “Beauty/Best of the Worshippers”. He is also referred to as Imām al-Sajjad “the Prostrating Imām” and Sayyid as-Sājjadīna wa r-Rāki‘īn “Leader of Those who Prostrate and Bow”.
‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn was born on the 15th of Jamad ul awwal 38 AH (654) in Madina. His father, Husayn ibn ‘Alī, was a grandson of Prophet Muhammad Sall Allahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam.
He was beside his father right from the moment of his migration towards Karbala. When his father asked for help on ‘Āshūrā, he got up to extend his help. Zaynab bint ‘Alī stopped him and said:
“You are the only memorial remnant of this family and the Imam after Hussain ibn Ali and you are the guardian of all of us. Your divine mission is to convey the message of the martyrs to the people.”
One of the special features of Ali ibn Hussain’s character was his piety and abstinence. The sixth Imām, Sayyidina Ja‘far aṣ-Ṣādiq said:
“Ali ibn Hussain resembled most with Ali ibn Abi Talib of all the sons of Bani Hashim, .”
Muhammad al-Baqir, the fifth Imam who was the son of Ali ibn Hussain said:
“One day I happened to see my father, I saw him (completely) immersed and (thoroughly preoccupied) in the prayers and with all the attention towards Allah. His color was faded and his eyes were sore and red due to weeping, his feet were swollen by (prostration) and legs, and knees had developed corns. I said humbly “Oh father, why do you lose your self control during the prayers and put yourself in such an inconvenience and discomfort. My father wept and said, “Oh son however and whatsoever amount of prayers I perform even then it is meager and very little as compared to the prayers of your grandfather, Ali ibn Abi Talib.”
It is said that for forty years, whenever food or water was placed before him, he would weep. One day, a servant said to him:
“O son of Allah’s Messenger! Is it not time for your sorrow to come to an end?” He replied:
“Woe upon you! Jacob the prophet had twelve sons, and God made one of them disappear. His eyes turned white from constant weeping, his head turned grey out of sorrow, and his back became bent in gloom, though his son was alive in this world. But I watched while my father, my brother, my uncle, and seventeen members of my family were slaughtered all around me. How should my sorrow come to an end?”
‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn resided in Madeenah until his death on 25th of Muharram, 95 AH (approximately 23 October 23, 712). He was poisoned by Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. He was buried in Jannatul Baqee’, the cemetery in Madinah where other important figures of Islamic history are buried. The period of his Imaamat is 33 years.