40 days after Ashura (20th safar)
Imam Sajjad(a.s.) was about 22 or 23 years old when the sad event of Karbala occured. Since Allah(swt) mentions in his holy Book that this world cannot survive for a moment if there is no Masoom “Imam” present at all times, Allah(swt) arranged it such that Imam Sajjad(a.s.) became severly ill during that battle and could not participate as a warrior. He asked the permission to fight in the battle but Imam Hussain(a.s.) told him that he had been assigned a different type of “Jihad” that was to start after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain(a.s.) - namely leading the women and children of the household of Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf) into the bazars and courts of Kufa and Damascus. Imam Sajjad(a.s.) was made a prisoner of war together with the whole family of the Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf). It was at this time that he was given the responsibility of Imamate and his was one of the most difficult times when any Imam was given this responsibility. Truly speaking, for him, it would have been very easy to die on the battle field as a martyr than to be taken as prisoner of war and see all the insult and humiliations thrown on him and on the womenfolk of the house of the Prophet. However, he did what Allah wished him to do.
After the martyrdom of Imam Hussain(a.s.), the survival of Islam depended on Imam Zainul Abideen(a.s.), and that also at a tender age of 22. He had a very hard job of letting the world know the mission of Imam Hussain(a.s.) and exposing the evil intentions of Yazid and the Bani Umayyah.
The army of Yazid treated him very badly by putting him in heavy chains. As a prisoner of war, he was made to travel on the open back of a camel in burning sunshine from Kerbala to Kufa and then from Kufa to Shaam (Damascus) - a distance of about 750 kilometres. Sometimes, he would be made to walk on the burning sands of the desert. This was not all. Women and children of the family of the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh&hf), too, were hand-cuffed and treated like they were slaves. The daughters of Imam Ali(a.s.) and Bibi Fatima(s.a.) were treated worse than criminals, their Hijabs were taken away from them.
In the courts of Ibn-e-Ziyad and Yazid, Imam Sajjad(a.s.) gave lion-hearted lectures and presented the true Islam to the listeners and introduced himself and his accompanying members as the descendents of the Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf) and the leaders appointed by Allah(swt). His lectures had such an impact on the listeners that despite several attempts to kill him inside the court of both Yazid and Ibn-e-Ziyad could not materialize. Bibi Zainab(s.a.) and other women of the household of Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf) became the frontline protectors and were backed by the people in the court of Yazid who had still left some shame in them.
The effect of the speech was so powerful that everybody in the Mosque began to weep and to blame Yazid. Yazid was afraid that if the Imam continued his speech, there would be a revolution and revolt. At the same time Yazid could not stop the Imam and get him down from the Mimber. He therefore ordered a “Muazzin” to give Azan, knowing that this would automatically cut the Imam’s speech. But he underestimated the Imam’s bravery and intelligence. The Imam stopped his speech but did not get down from the Mimber. When the Muazzin said “ Allahu Akber” the Imam testified Allah’s greatness. When the Muazzin said, “Ash hadu anna Muhammaddan Rasulullah”, the Imam stopped the Muazzin from going any further. He then turned to Yezid and asked him.
“Tell me o Yazid, was Muhammad(pbuh&hf) your grandfather or mine? If you say he was your grandfather it will be an open lie and if you say he was my grandfather then why have you killed his son and imprisoned his family? Why have you killed my father and brought his women and children to this city as prisoners?” Yazid had no reply to give.
Yazid had to free the Imam(a.s.) out of fear of his own rulership, therefore, Imam(a.s.) was still not completely safe from his evil designs even upon reaching back to Madina. Once in Madina, Imam(a.s.) gathered the people and told them the horrifying stories of Karbala and informed them that his father Imam Hussain(a.s.) and his companions were martyred and his family members were made prisoners and were taken from one city to another and branded as traitors.
…. One of the most heart breaking stories I remember every Muharam & Safar is the story of imam al Sajjad (as) when he returned to Karbala. He had to bury the corpses of his father, his brothers (including his baby brother Ali al Asghar), his uncle, his cousins, his friends and his father’s friends… all on his own. As he was gathering the body parts of his beloved father imam Al Hussain (as), he saw a finger was cut off from him. This was done so they could steal his father’s ring! How inhuman and barbaric could one be?
I remember our Imam (as) lying next to the headless body of his beloved father… hugging him and crying out to him. I remember his pain and his sorrow…
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.
I also want to add: our imam unfortunately doesn’t have a shrine… but one can always dream of one