Who’s Who

The Umayyad dynasty was at its peak of tyrannical rule in the beginning of the second century AH. Hisham ibn e Abdul Malik, the crown prince and heir apparent of the kingdom was trying to reach the Black Stone after circumambulating the K’aaba during the Hajj pilgrimage and failing miserably because of the immense crowds of Hajjis in Masjid al Haram.
The Hajjis were unaware of everything around them except their resolve to perform their rituals with as much devotion as possible. They were all dressed alike, uttering the same phrases, moving in the same direction, i.e. towards Allah. They were totally oblivious of the worldly positions and status of anybody around them. They were performing their duty with purity of heart and soul.
However, the courtiers, accompanying him from Syria, wished to establish his personal identity as the future king of the Islamic Kingdom. The Hajj rituals were of no consequence to them. The pleasure of the ‘heir apparent’ was more important to them than the pleasure of Almighty Allah.
Hisham made a final effort to reach the Hajr e Aswad, to complete the ritualistic act of kissing or touching it, but failed. He returned to his companions, who had placed a chair on a raised mound, to make him visible to all. Hisham sat on the chair and started watching the activities of the Hajjis from afar. All the Syrians, who had come to perform Hajj, flocked around him, gaining importance from close proximity to him. They also started enjoying the spectacle of pure devotion that was obvious in the actions and countenance of the Hajjis performing their rituals.
Suddenly, their eyes caught sight of a handsome person. His piety was evident from his entire appearance. His devotion and submission to the Will of the Almighty was written all over his face. Draped in the two cloths of the Hajjis, he quietly circumambulated the K’aaba and then slowly but steadily moved towards the Black Stone.
The multitude had not decreased, the crowds were still jostling one another as they moved, but the crowds automatically moved aside, as if it was understood, by all and sundry, that they must make way for him. The pious devotee kissed the Black Stone and, stopping for a few moments to offer a prayer retraced his steps calmly and left. The crowds became one huge wave once again with no signs of any passageway at all.
The Syrians, with their Crown Prince in their midst, watched the entire scene with amazement, and certainly not without envy. One of courtiers, spellbound by what he had seen, turned towards Hisham and said, ‘Who is he?’
Hisham knew it was Ali ibn al-Husain Zain ul Abedin (‘a), but pretended to be ignorant and replied, ‘I have no idea.’
The people standing around overheard the conversation but did not have the courage to speak up before Hisham, the cruel tyrant, whose sword was always dripping with blood, the blood of innocent people. Identifying the Imam (‘a) would have meant certain death.
One person among them was the famous and extremely popular poet of the Arab world, Hammam ibn e Ghalib, known by his penname, Farazdaq. He could not restrain his annoyance by the show of ignorance on the part of Hisham. He stepped forward and said, ‘I know him.’ Then, climbing up a mound close to the one Hisham was sitting on; he began to recite adulatory verses, which he had composed impromptu, in his loud attractive voice. Addressing Hisham, he said,
Every pebble of Mecca, the K’aaba, the Mosque,
and the dust outside, know him all
The son of the Prophet (s); the pious, the pure,
most loved and respected by all.
You say you don’t know him? The loss is but yours,
for his greatness abides beyond measure,
All Arabs, non-Arabs, do know him for sure,
in their hearts he resides, and forever.
The fury of Hisham knew no bounds. He ordered the allowance given to Farazdaq from the State treasury to be discontinued with immediate effect. Next, after the Pilgrimage was over, he imprisoned him in Asphan, a place between Mecca and Medina. This was his punishment for declaring his love for the Holy Prophet and his Household (s). Farazdaq remained undeterred. While in prison, he continued to criticize Hisham, through verses deriding his actions.
When Imam Ali ibn al Husain, Zain ul Abedin (‘a) heard about Farazdaq’s imprisonment and the reason behind it, he sent him some money through a messenger. Farazdaq, the honorable, returned it, saying, ‘I composed those verses as an expression of my belief and faith, only for the pleasure of Allah, not to make you feel obliged.’
The Imam (‘a) sent the money again with the message, ‘The Almighty is well aware of your intentions and actions and will surely reward you accordingly. This small gift will, in no way, effect that reward. It will only gladden my heart.’
Farazdaq, despite his urgent need of money, accepted it only because he did not wish to sadden his Imam (‘a).