Poet Farazdaq and Hisham

The most instrumental role in boosting the dignity of Zayn al-Abidin was played by a famous poet, Farazdaq (d. 112/730). He composed numerous verses to propagate the cause of Zayn al-Abidin, the most renowned of which was his encomium (qasida) in praise of the Imam. It was the season of pilgrimage when Hisham (d.125/743), the son of the Umayyad caliph Abdul Malik and Zayn al-Abidin were trying to reach the Black Stone in the crowded Kaba. The people gave way to the Imam with respect, but Hisham had to cut a way through the crowds. This deeply offended Hisham, and in a sarcastic manner he inquired who was the person to whom the people gave preference. Poet Farazdaq, present at the scene, upon hearing this remark, spontaneously composed his famous ode, and recited it, addressing to Hisham bin Abdul Malik, which begins as follows:-

This is he whose footprint is known to the valley of Mecca. He whom the Kaba knows and the most frequented sanctuary. This is the son of the best of all the servants of God. This is the pious, the elect, the pure, the eminent. This is Ali, whose father is the Prophet, and it was through the light of his guidance, that the darkened road changed into the straight path. This is the son of Fatima, if you are ignorant of him; and with his great-grandfather the Prophethood came to an end.

Farazdaq, however, had to pay for his praise, and was imprisoned by the order of Hisham. When Zayn al-Abidin heard the misfortune of the poet, he sent him a gift of 12,000 dhirams, but Farazdaq refused to accept it, arguing that he had composed the poem purely from his religious zeal. Zayn al-Abidin, however, urged him to accept it for he could not take back what he had already given away.

Towards the end of his life in Medina, Zayn al-Abidin seems to have succeeded in gathering round himself a small group of his adherents. Among them, apart from Yahya bin Umm at-Tiwal and Muhammad bin Jubayr bin Mutim was also Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari, a famous companion of Muhammad, who took part in the pledge of Aqaba and in the oath of allegiance during the treaty of Hudaibia. Another important figure was the Kufan Sa'id bin Jubayr, a mawla of Banu Asad. The greatest Medinese jurist, Sa'id bin Musayyab regarded the Imam with highest esteem. Another great jurist, Az-Zuhri was also a great admirer and the honorific title Zayn al-Abidin (the ornament of the pious) was invested to the Imam by him.

Zayn al-Abidin died at the age of 57 years in 94/713. He lived 34 years after the event of Karbala. Ibn Hajar (d. 852/1449) in his "Sawaik'l Muhriqah" quotes a tradition from Ibn Ishaq that there were many men in Medina, who knew nothing who provided them rations secretly, but they knew all about after the death of Zayn al-Abidin, who used to say, "Secret alms-giving turns away divine wrath." He used to carry on his back at night time sacks, full of loaves of bread for the poor. The traces of carrying burden were discovered on his back when his dead body was being washed for burial.

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