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Zayd ibn Ali

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Zayd ibn Ali
زيد بن علي
6th Zaydi Imam
In office
714/715 CE – 739/740 CE
Preceded byHasan al-Muthana
Succeeded byYahya ibn Zayd
  • Zayd the Martyr
    Arabic: زَيْد ٱلشَّهِيْد, romanizedZayd ash-Shahīd
  • Ally of the Qur'an
    Arabic: حَلِيْف ٱلْقُرْأٓن, romanizedḤalīf Al-Qurʾān
Born80 AH
698 CE
Died2nd Safar 122 AH
740 CE (aged 42)
Resting placeKufa, Iraq
SpouseRayta bint Abd Allah al-Alawiyya
Other namesAbū al-Ḥusayn (Kunya)

Zayd ibn ʿAlī (Arabic: زيد بن علي; 695–740), also spelled Zaid, was the son of Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-Abidin, and great-grandson of Ali ibn Abi Talib. He led an unsuccessful revolt against the Umayyad Caliphate, in which he died.[1] The event gave rise to the Zaydiyya sect of Shia Islam, which holds him as the next Imam after his father Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-Abidin. Zayd ibn Ali is also seen as a major religious figure by many Sunnis and was supported by the prominent Sunni jurist, Abu Hanifa, who issued a fatwa in support of Zayd against the Umayyads.[2]

To Twelver and Isma'ili Shias however, his elder half-brother Muhammad al-Baqir is seen as the next Imam of the Shias. Nevertheless, he is considered an important revolutionary figure by Shias and a martyr (shaheed) by all schools of Islam, Sunnis[2] and Shias. The calling for revenge for his death, and for the brutal display of his body, contributed to the Abbasid Revolution.[3]

Zayd was a learned religious scholar. Various works are ascribed to him, including Musnad al-Imam Zayd (published by E. Grifinni as Corpus Iuris di Zaid b. ʿAlī, also known as Majmuʿ al-Fiqh), possibly the earliest known work of Islamic law. However, the attribution is disputed; these likely represent early Kufan legal tradition.[4][3]



Zayd was born in Medina in 695 CE. He was the son of Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-Abidin.[5] Ibn Qutaybah in his book "al-Ma'ārif", republished in 1934 in Egypt, writes (at page 73) that one of the wives of the 4th Shia Imam was from Sindh (present-day Pakistan) and that she was the mother of Zayd ibn Ali. A similar claim has also been made in the book "Zayd Shaheed" by Abd al-Razzaq al-Hasani, published in Najaf.[6] Zayd's mother Jodha was known by Muslim chroniclers as Jayda al-Sindiyya.

Contemporary opinions


Zayd was a revered member of the Bayt (Household) of Muhammad. Scholars, Saints, Sufis and Imams alike, all spoke of him in respectful terms. When the ascetic Umayyad Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz was the Governor of Madinah during the reign of Al-Walid and Suleiman, he was an associate of Zayd ibn Ali. Zayd continued to correspond and advise him when he became the Khalifah.[7]

Zayd is believed the first narrator of Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya of Imam Zainul-'Abidin. Several works of hadith, theology, and Qur'anic exegesis are attributed to him. The first work of Islamic jurisprudence Mujmu'-al-Fiqh is attributed to him. The only surviving hand-written manuscript of this work dating back to at least a thousand years is preserved in the pope's library, Bibliotheca Vaticana in Vatican City under "Vaticani arabi". Photocopies of this rare work are available in several libraries including the Library of the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. In 2007, Sayyid Nafis Shah Al-Husayni Sayed Nafees al-Hussaini obtained a copy of this work, and re-issued it from Lahore.[citation needed]

He was an excellent orator and spent much of his life learning and educating others. It is said that his half-brother, Imam al-Baqir, wanted to test him on the Quranic knowledge, asking him various questions for which he received answers beyond his expectation, causing to him to remark, "For our father and mother's life! You are one of a kind. God grace your mother who gave you birth, she gave birth to a replica of your forefathers!"[8] Al-Baqir also said: "No one of us was born to resemble 'Ali ibn Abi Talib more than he did."[9]

When describing Zayd, his nephew, Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, said: "Among us he was the best read in the Holy Qur'an, and the most knowledgeable about religion, and the most caring towards family and relatives."[10] Hence his title Ḥalīf Al-Qurʾān (Arabic: حَلِيْف ٱلْقُرْأٓن, romanizedAlly of the Qur'an). Jafar Sadiq's love for his uncle Zayd was immense. Upon receiving and reading the letter of Zayd ibn Ali's death he broke down and cried uncontrollably, and proclaimed aloud:

From God we are and to Him is our return. I ask God for my reward in this calamity. He was a really good uncle. My uncle was a man for our world and for our Hereafter. I swear by God that my uncle is a martyr just like the martyrs who fought along with God's Prophet (s) or Ali (s) or Al-Hassan (s) or Al-Hussein (s) Uyun Akhbar al-Reza – The Source of Traditions on Imam Ali ar-Ridha[11]: 472 

Imam Ali ar-Ridha said:

.. He (Zayd bin Ali) was one of the scholars from the Household of Muhammad and got angry for the sake of the Honorable the Exalted God. He fought with the enemies of God until he got killed in His path. My father Musa ibn Ja'far al-Kazim narrated that he had heard his father Ja'far ibn Muhammad say, "May God bless my uncle Zayd ... He consulted with me about his uprising and I told him, "O my uncle! Do this if you are pleased with being killed and your corpse being hung up from the gallows in Al-Kunasa neighborhood." After Zayd left, As-Sadiq said, "Woe be to those who hear his call but do not help him!"

— Imam Ali ar-Ridha[11]: 466 

In one hadith, the Sunni Imam Abu Hanifa once said about Imam Zayd, "I met with Zayd and I never saw in his generation a person more knowledgeable, as quick a thinker, or more eloquent than he was."[12] However, in another hadith, Abu Hanifa said: "I have not seen anyone with more knowledge than Ja'far ibn Muhammad."[13] Imam Abu Hanifa was reportedly a student of Imam Ja'far, like another great Imam of Sunni Fiqh, that is Malik ibn Anas.[14]

The Sufi scholar, Mujtahid and mystic, Sufyan al-Thawri, respected Imam Zayd's knowledge and character, saying "Zayd took the place of Imam al-Husayn. He was the most versed human concerning Allah's holy book. I affirm: women have not given birth to the likes of Zayd ... "[15]

Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid the writer of the famous Shi'ah book Kitab al Irshad described him as, " ... a devout worshipper, pious, a jurist, God-fearing and brave."[16]

Prophecy of martyrdom


Imam al-Baqir narrated:

The Holy Prophet put his sacred hand on Al-Husayn bin Ali's back and said: "O Husayn, it will not be long until a man will be born among your descendants. He will be called Zaid; he will be killed as a martyr. On the day of resurrection, he and his companions will enter heaven, setting their feet on the necks of the people."[17]

Imam Husayn narrated that his grandfather Muhammad prophesied his death:

The Holy Prophet put his sacred hand on my back and said: "O Husayn, it will not be long until a man will be born among your descendants. He will be called Zaid; he will be killed as a martyr. On the day of resurrection, he and his companions will enter heaven, setting their feet on the necks of the people."

— Imam al Husayn[18]



In AH 122 (AD 740), Zayd led an uprising against the Umayyad rule of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in the city of Kufa. Yusuf ibn Umar al-Thaqafi, the Umayyad governor of Iraq, managed to bribe the inhabitants of Kufa which allowed him to break the insurgence, killing Zayd in the process.[19]


Shrine in Rabba, Jordan (31°16′7″N 35°44′36.67″E / 31.26861°N 35.7435194°E / 31.26861; 35.7435194)

There are two shrines for Zayd, One is in Kafel, Iraq, the other is in Karak, Jordan. The shrine in Jordan is believed to be the final resting place of the head of Zayd ibn 'Ali ibn Al-Husayn.[20]



All schools of Islam, Sunnis and Shias, regard Zayd as a righteous martyr against what was regarded as the corrupt leadership of an unjust king proclaimed to be a caliph. It is even reported that Mujtahid Imam Abu Hanifa, founder of the largest school of Sunni jurisprudence, gave financial support to Zayd's revolt, and called on others to join Zayd's rebellion. Zayd's rebellion inspired other revolts by members of his clan, especially in the Hejaz, the most famous among these being the revolt of Imam Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya al-Mahdi against the Abbasids in 762. [21]

Zaydis believe that he was a rightful Caliph, and their sect is named after him.[22] It is believed that from them originated the word for Shi'ites, Rafida.[23][24][25]


  • Hasan, 1st son
  • Yahya, 2nd son
  • Husayn Dhu al-Dam'a, 3rd son
  • Isa Mu'tam al-Ashbal, 4th son
  • Muhammad, 5th son
  • Yahya ibn Umar – lead an abortive uprising from Kufa in 250 A.H. (864-65 C.E.)

See also



  1. ^ Esposito, John L., ed. (2003). "Zayd ibn Ali". The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-1998-9120-7.
  2. ^ a b Ahkam al-Quran By Abu Bakr al-Jassas al-Razi, volume 1 page 100, published by Dar Al-Fikr Al-Beirutiyya
  3. ^ a b Madelung, Wilferd (2012). "Zayd b. ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn". In P. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-9-0041-6121-4.
  4. ^ Katz, Stanley N., ed. (2009). "Islamic Schools of Sacred Law". Islamic Schools of Sacred Law: Shiʿi Schools: The Zaydi School of Law. The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-1953-3651-1.
  5. ^ Madelung, W. "Zayd b. Alī b. al-Husayn." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. Brill Online. 13 September 2007 [1]
  6. ^ Kararvi, Syed Najmul-Hassan. Fourteen Stars (in Urdu). Lahore, Pakistan: Imamia Kutab Khana. pp. 169–170.
  7. ^ Amali al-Murshid bi-Illah al-Ithnyniyah
  8. ^ Narrated by Imam Abu Taleb in al-Amali, p 77 on the authority of Abu Hashem al-Rummani. This was also narrated by Imam al-Mansur billah 'Abdullah ibn Hamzah in al-'Aqd al-Thamin
  9. ^ Al-Anwar
  10. ^ Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, التاريخ الصغير عن الشيعة اليمنيين (A short History of the Yemenite Shi'ites, 2005) Referencing: Religion & Faith Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Hussein ibn Musa ibn Babawayh al-Qummi (Sheikh Sadooq). ʿUyun Akhbar Al-Ridha The Source of Traditions on Imam Reza (in Arabic). pp. 466–472.
  12. ^ Al-Tuhaf Sharh al-Zulaf (in Arabic). p. 28.
  13. ^ Siyār Aʿlām An-Nubalāʾ (in Arabic). Vol. 6. p. 257.
  14. ^ "Imam Ja'afar as Sadiq". History of Islam. Archived from the original on 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
  15. ^ Hidayat al-Raghibeen
  16. ^ Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, التاريخ الصغير عن الشيعة اليمنيين (A short History of the Yemenite Shi'ites, 2005) Referencing: al-Irshad, p. 403
  17. ^ Alsayd Ibrahim Aldarsee Alhamzee, Preface of Musnad Al-Imam Zaid bin Ali, Referencing: Biography of Imam Zaid bin Ali
  18. ^ Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, التاريخ الصغير عن الشيعة اليمنيين (A short History of the Yemenite Shi'ites, 2005) Referencing: Peshawar Nights by Sultanu'l-Wa'izin Shirazi
  19. ^ Blankinship, Khalid Yahya (1994). "Khārijī and Shī'ī Revolts in Iraq and the East". The End of the Jihād State. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 190–191. ISBN 9780791418277.
  20. ^ Article by Sayyid 'Ali ibn 'Ali Al-Zaidi, التاريخ الصغير عن الشيعة اليمنيين (A short History of the Yemenite Shi'ites, 2005)
  21. ^ "Abu Hanifa", Wikipedia, 2021-07-23, retrieved 2021-07-23
  22. ^ "Zaidiyyah", Wikipedia, 2021-07-21, retrieved 2021-07-23
  23. ^ Ismail, Raihan (2016). Saudi Clerics and Shi'a Islam. Oxford University Press. p. 45. ISBN 9780190233310. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  24. ^ الأمير, أعسم، عبد (2010). Ibn ar-Riwandi's Kitab Fadihat al-Muʻtazilah: analytical study of Ibn ar-Riwandi's method in his criticism of the rational foundation of polemics in Islam. p. 290.
  25. ^ Hassan, Hassan Ibrahim (1967). Islam: a religious, political, social and economic study. Khayats. p. 153.
Muhammad, The final Messenger of God(570–632 the Constitution of Medina, taught the Quran, and advised his companions
Abdullah ibn Masud (died 653) taughtAli (607–661) fourth caliph taughtAisha, Muhammad's wife and Abu Bakr's daughter taughtAbd Allah ibn Abbas (618–687) taughtZayd ibn Thabit (610–660) taughtUmar (579–644) second caliph taughtAbu Hurairah (603–681) taught
Alqama ibn Qays (died 681) taughtHusayn ibn Ali (626–680) taughtQasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr (657–725) taught and raised by AishaUrwah ibn Zubayr (died 713) taught by Aisha, he then taughtSaid ibn al-Musayyib (637–715) taughtAbdullah ibn Umar (614–693) taughtAbd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (624–692) taught by Aisha, he then taught
Ibrahim al-Nakha’i taughtAli ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (659–712) taughtHisham ibn Urwah (667–772) taughtIbn Shihab al-Zuhri (died 741) taughtSalim ibn Abd-Allah ibn Umar taughtUmar ibn Abdul Aziz (682–720) raised and taught by Abdullah ibn Umar
Hammad bin ibi Sulman taughtMuhammad al-Baqir (676–733) taughtFarwah bint al-Qasim Jafar's mother
Abu Hanifa (699–767) wrote Al Fiqh Al Akbar and Kitab Al-Athar, jurisprudence followed by Sunni, Sunni Sufi, Barelvi, Deobandi, Zaidiyyah and originally by the Fatimid and taughtZayd ibn Ali (695–740)Ja'far bin Muhammad Al-Baqir (702–765) Muhammad and Ali's great great grand son, jurisprudence followed by Shia, he taughtMalik ibn Anas (711–795) wrote Muwatta, jurisprudence from early Medina period now mostly followed by Sunni in Africa, Sunni Sufi and taughtAl-Waqidi (748–822) wrote history books like Kitab al-Tarikh wa al-Maghazi, student of Malik ibn AnasAbu Muhammad Abdullah ibn Abdul Hakam (died 829) wrote biographies and history books, student of Malik ibn Anas
Abu Yusuf (729–798) wrote Usul al-fiqhMuhammad al-Shaybani (749–805)al-Shafi‘i (767–820) wrote Al-Risala, jurisprudence followed by Sunni, Sunni sufi and taughtIsmail ibn IbrahimAli ibn al-Madini (778–849) wrote The Book of Knowledge of the CompanionsIbn Hisham (died 833) wrote early history and As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah, Muhammad's biography
Isma'il ibn Ja'far (719–775)Musa al-Kadhim (745–799)Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780–855) wrote Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal jurisprudence followed by Sunni, Sunni sufi and hadith booksMuhammad al-Bukhari (810–870) wrote Sahih al-Bukhari hadith booksMuslim ibn al-Hajjaj (815–875) wrote Sahih Muslim hadith booksDawud al-Zahiri (815–883/4) founded the Zahiri schoolMuhammad ibn Isa at-Tirmidhi (824–892) wrote Jami` at-Tirmidhi hadith booksAl-Baladhuri (died 892) wrote early history Futuh al-Buldan, Genealogies of the Nobles
Ibn Majah (824–887) wrote Sunan ibn Majah hadith bookAbu Dawood (817–889) wrote Sunan Abu Dawood Hadith Book
Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni (864- 941) wrote Kitab al-Kafi hadith book followed by Twelver ShiaMuhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (838–923) wrote History of the Prophets and Kings, Tafsir al-TabariAbu Hasan al-Ash'ari (874–936) wrote Maqālāt al-islāmīyīn, Kitāb al-luma, Kitāb al-ibāna 'an usūl al-diyāna
Ibn Babawayh (923–991) wrote Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih jurisprudence followed by Twelver ShiaSharif Razi (930–977) wrote Nahj al-Balagha followed by Twelver ShiaNasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201–1274) wrote jurisprudence books followed by Ismaili and Twelver ShiaAl-Ghazali (1058–1111) wrote The Niche for Lights, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, The Alchemy of Happiness on SufismRumi (1207–1273) wrote Masnavi, Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi on Sufism
Key: Some of Muhammad's CompanionsKey: Taught in MedinaKey: Taught in IraqKey: Worked in SyriaKey: Travelled extensively collecting the sayings of Muhammad and compiled books of hadithKey: Worked in Persia