In our daily lives, we encounter situations that test the limits of our patience. This can be especially difficult when we are on the side of truth, no matter the issue. What does one do in these circumstances?  How should we conduct ourselves when matters become tense or when a situation becomes seemingly dire? To answer these questions, we need to look no further than the household of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp).

After having suffered the horrific massacre of his father, family members, and companions, on the plains of Karbala, Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain (also called Imam Zayn al-Abidin and al-Sajjad) (p) along with the household of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) had to undergo the humiliation of a forced walk in chains through the marketplaces of Syria. According to the narrations of Shaykh al-Mufid (948-1022) in Kitab al-Irshad and Shaykh al-Majlisi (1627-1699) in Bihar al-Anwar, soldiers brought the 4th Imam (p), along with the women and children of the martyrs of Karbala before the tyrant Yazid (may God keep His mercy away from him). Yazid’s sole intention was to humiliate and destroy the household of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and cement his rule. What he found instead was that when the truthful exercise patience with perseverance, they are always triumphant. This became a lesson for generations to come.

Face to face with the tyrant Yazid

Shaykh al-Majlisi narrates that after soldiers brought the household of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) before Yazid, the evil tyrant ordered a speaker to ascend the pulpit and slander the recently murdered Imam Hussain (p). Yazid instructed him to say abusive and derogatory things about the third Imam (p) and his father Imam Ali (p). Al-Majlisi says that “the speaker then climbed the pulpit and praised God with his glory. He then criticized Ali (p) and al-Hussain (p) a great deal and made his speech very lengthy in praise of Muawiyah and Yazid, may God keep His Mercy away from them.”

Shaykh al-Majlisi narrates that Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) then said to him loudly, “O speaker, woe upon you, you have just bought the pleasure of the creatures in exchange for the anger of God, thus, you have filled up your seat with fire.” The Imam (p) then said to Yazid, “Will you allow me to climb on these pieces of wood and speak such words which God likes and people in this gathering [will gain rewards]?” [The narrator has said that] Yazid refused to allow him but the people said, “please allow him to climb on the pulpit so that we can hear what he says.” Yazid then said, “If he climbs on the pulpit he will not climb down without disgracing me and the family of Abu Sufyan.” One of the people then said, “he is too insignificant to make any good point.” Yazid then said, “He is from a family who are extensively fed with knowledge.” People continued insisting that he allow him to speak until Yazid finally did. Imam Ali ibn Hussain (p) then climbed the pulpit, praised God with His glory, and gave a speech that made the people weep and their hearts become afraid. [1]

Yazid (may God keep His Mercy away from him), became afraid of a revolt. As the Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) was speaking, he ordered the call to prayer (Adhan) be given to cut his (p) speech short.  As the call to prayer began, Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) became silent. When the caller said “God is great beyond description” (Allahu Akbar), the Imam (p) said, “There is nothing greater than God.” When the caller then said, “I testify that only God deserves worship, He is one and has no partners”, Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p), said, “My hairs, skin, flesh, and blood all testify as such.” When the caller said, “And I testify that Muhammad is His servant and the Messenger of God” The Imam (p), from the top of the pulpit turned to Yazid and said, “This Muhammad (pbuh), is he your grandfather or my grandfather, O Yazid? If you say that he is your grandfather, you have spoken a lie and you have become an unbeliever. If you say he is my grandfather, then why have you massacred his family and children?” [2]

To this, Yazid had no response but to pretend that he was going for prayer. He had been sufficiently exposed and had no response to give. Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) had so overwhelmingly proven his righteousness and that of the household of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp), that all Yazid’s cruel plots to humiliate the family of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) had backfired. According to Shaykh al-Majlisi, after this happened, those in Yazid’s own court began to question him and what he had done [in massacring Imam Hussain (p)]. It was becoming clearer to the people that Yazid had committed a great transgression.

A lesson for the ages

Without a doubt, Yazid ibn Muawiyah was among the cruelest rulers in human history. He plotted and schemed in a feeble attempt to humiliate the household of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) after all the suffering they had already endured from Karbala to Kufa and now in Syria. Yet even he could not succeed when facing a person maintaining the truth with perseverance. Yazid brought Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) and members of his family in chains before him. In such a vulnerable condition, the Imam (p) could easily have relented to the will of Yazid. However, he did not. He had no arms or companions to support him, but he knew that he was on the side of that which was right and true. To this he held firmly and it became a supporter far stronger than any worldly ally. It took only a few words of a person of righteousness to expose a corrupt and evil ruler. The Imam (p) exposed Yazid, and, out of fear, Yazid had no choice but to let the Imam and his family go.

Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) was undergoing a tremendous ordeal. Yet, in every action he took and every word he spoke, he was setting an example for the believers. Here, he showed that falsehood can never persist when one holds firmly to the truth and does not back down. Thus, when on the side of truth, falsehood and cruelty fail. So, no matter what the circumstance or situation, whether trivial or severe, believers should always be steadfast when it comes to that which is truthful. We must exercise patience and know that with perseverance, falsehood cannot sustain itself.  Yazid thought he had won by massacring Imam Hussain (p), his family, and companions, and by taking other family members captive. What resulted instead was the exposure of his caliphate as false and the recognition of the truth for many generations to come.



[1] Shaykh al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Chapter 39, pg. 395

[2] Shaykh al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Chapter 39, pg. 395-96

[3] Shaykh al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Chapter 39, pg. 460


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