Mumineen hold the third Faatemi Maulaana Imaam Ali Zainul Aabedeen (as) in high esteem and veneration as he is popularly acclaimed “Saiyed ur-Raake'eena was Saajedeen”, means the master of those who prostrate and bow down in front of Allaah. He was born on 5th Sha'baan 33 AH, Sunday in Madinah Munawwarah to Imaam Husain (as) and Maulaatana Shehr-e-Baanu, the daughter of the King of Kisraa. Imaam Zainul Aabedeen had lived through the times of his grandfather, Maulana Ali, his uncle Imaam Hasan and Imaam Husain. He was 8 yrs of age at the time of the Shahaadat of Maulana Ali (as), 17 yrs. of age at the Shahaadat of Imaam Hasan (as) and he was 28 during the tragedy of Karbala. The heavy responsibility of Imaamat fell on him at a young age after the shahaadat of his father, Imaam Husain (as) in Karbala.
He is revered for his unique piety, devotion and ibaadat. Offering 1000 rakaat of Namaaz throughout the day and night was his daily schedule. The expressions of his face would change during the ruku and sujood. He would shiver and quiver while standing in the namaaz, when Imaam was asked about this condition then he replied with utmost piety that, during namaaz I realize myself standing in front of Great King i.e. Allaah Ta'aala. Due to his extensive sujood, he would often develop swelling-callus in the knees and people called him “Zus-Safanaat” means the person having callus. During namaaz his facial outcome would change due to his reverence towards Allaah and he would be so engrossed in the namaaz that he would be unaware of all happenings around him. To illustrate his devotion in namaaz, there is an incident, when in his infancy, shehzada Imaam Mohammad ul- Baaqir (as) fell into the well while Imaam Zainul Aabedeen was performing namaaz. The worried mother came to tell Imaam, but the Imaam remained unmindful to it, kept on praying and once the prayer was performed he found his wife weeping and asked her why? She said that their Shehzada had fallen into the well, and then Imaam read “Bismillaah Hirrahmaa Nirrahim,” and lowered his hand pulled out the Shehzada unharmed and untouched from the deep well. Imaam Zainul Aabedeen then questioned his wife whether she had lost trust in Allaah and didn't she know that he was engrossed in his ibaadat.
The Imaam was also known for his generosity and sadaqah. He would give away the garments which he had worn just for one season to the needy. He also personally delivered food to 100 poor-masaakeen in Madinah daily. Every night he ordered his ahl-e-bayt for extra food to be cooked and when all were asleep; he would fill mashkee with food and distribute it amongst poor. These poor and their children would always wait eagerly for the arrival of this “Mashkee Wala” saheb without realising that he was the Imaam.
The Imaam is also known to have grieved the most during his lifetime and withstood tremendous difficulties with fortitude and sabar-e-jameel for 34 years continuously. He and the Ahl-e-Bayt underwent torture; but stood resolute to uphold Deen-e-Islaam and truth against the infidel Yazid (la). During the great tragedy at Karbala, Imaam Zainul Aabedeen was with his father and witnessed and then withstood firmly the enemies' zulm (tyranny). He saw his beloved father suffering wounds after wounds as the ashaab and the Ahl-e-Bayt including his uncle, brothers and cousins were slain one by one.
The Imaam was gravely ill, thirsty and hungry like others and he also wanted to acquire shahaadat, but could not do that because Allaah had decreed upon him to live and carry the mettle of Imaamat and through him and his progeny the noor of hidaayat would unceasingly survive on the surface of this earth till qayaamat. Helpless but he bravely endured all the sufferings around him. In a moving event, Imaam Husain visited the khaymah-gaah for the last time to bid farewell to his haram. He embraced Imaam Zainul Aabedeen and told him,”O my beloved son, for me is shahaadat but you will live after me, you are the Imaam and now with you the noor of Allaah will spread on this earth.”
The enemies made many attempts to slay Imaam Zainul Aabedeen. In an incident soon after the shahaadat of his father a kufi saved the Imaam from being slain. However, for a mere 300 dirhams he betrayed the Imaam. The second was when he recited the aayat of Quran to counter the insults heaped on the Ahl-e-Bayt by Ibn Ziyaad (la). The laeen was angry and wanted to slay the Imaam, but Maulatena Zainab stepped forward and the enemy was surprised at her bravery and got back. In Kufa, Maulatena Zainab saved the Imaam again by her hujjats (arguments). All these prove that Allaah had protected him as he was destined to carry on the Imaamat. Imaam Zainul Aabedeen was the living Shohadaa of Karbala who witnessed the painful sight of seeing the bodies of the martyrs being trampled and crushed horribly under the hooves of the enemies' horses. Tents were looted and the bereaved ladies and children were taken captives.
The Ahl-e-Bayt were then mounted on bare backs of camels with Imaam Zainul Aabedeen bound in chains and bare–footed leading the Qaafelah accompanied by the severed heads of the Shohadaa including Raasul-Husain mounted on spears. The ill–fated Ahl-e-Bayt of Rasoolullaah (saws) was paraded from city to city as they jouneyed form Karbala (Iraq) to the court of Yazid in Damascus (Syria), stopping at 25 places. They were kept hungry and thirsty, and whenever Imaam Zainul Aabedeen stopped due to pains, the enemies would slash him with whips. When the tattered and tired Qaafelah arrived in Damascus, Imaam Zainul Aabedeen was bound in chains to a pillar and the Qaafelah were imprisoned. However, the rebellion by the people, at the tragedy of Rasoolullah's family, terrified Yazid who then released them. Imaam Zainul Aabedeen, Maulaatana Zainab and other members of her bereaved family stayed in the captivity for 9 months and 6 days during which grief-stricken Maulaatana Sakinah died then they left for Madinah. Raasul–Husain accompanied with Ahl-e-Haram mounted on spearheads and was finally buried in Misr. During their journey to Madinah the Qaafelah first halted at Karbala on 20th Safar 62 AH where all of them did Ziyaarat of Shohadaa-e-Karbala with H. Jaabir bin Abdillaah al-Ansaari. It is related by Jaabir bin Abdillaah al-Ansaari that Rasoolullaah (saws) said in respect of Ziyaarat-e-Husain that, “Allaah Ta'aala will grant the reward of 100 Hajj to the zaa'ir-visitor at the Qabr-e-Anwar of Maulaana Imaam Husain (as).”
The people of Madinah gathered to welcome the Imaam and his Qaafelah. The brokenhearted Imaam who had still not recovered from the deep wounds of tragedy at Karbala and their subsequent journey to Shaam, was not in proper condition that he could deliver the haqeeqat of Karbala immediately. Imaam Zainul Aabedeen (as) spent the rest of his life in Madinah in ibaadat, du'a and showering rehmat on mumineen. Many of these Du'as have been compiled into a Saheefah known as Sahifah Sajjaadiyah. He had performed 24 Hajj. He used to travel from Madinah to Makkah by camel, and never once did he whip the animal, which shows his haleemi-kareemi. The tragedy of Karbala always remained fresh in his mind. Each time when food and water was brought to him; he would recall the hunger and thirst of Karbala and weep. His intiqaal-e-pur malaal occurred on 18th Moharram 94 AH, in Madinah and he is buried in Jannat ul-Baqi near his Grand Mother Maulaatana Faatemah az-Zahraa (as). May Allaah shower rehmat and barakaat-e-ilaahiyah on his qabr-e-anwar.