Story No. 330 – Imam Zainul Abideen (as): The Secret Helper of the Poor and Needy

The view common people have towards one who isolates himself from society and devotes his life solely to performing his religious rituals, such as ablution (Wudu), praying, supplicating, pilgrimage (Hajj), etc, is a stranger to the society. Such a person cares nothing about his materialistic and social life, and spends his life in worship. The life of Imam Zainul Abideen (as) however, contradicts this view.


Despite his long unique prayers and supplications, our 4th Imam, Imam Zainul Abideen (as) was never ignorant of his society, its needs, and the realities of the time. In fact, in regards to interactions with society, he was a role model in the social and moral duties.


Imam Zainul Abideen (as) always remembered the saying of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh): that if a Muslim did not think of the needs of his Muslim brothers then he was not a Muslim.


Noble Qur’an has repeatedly reminded us about helping the poor and it has taught us that our help should be only for the sake of Allah (SWT). Muslims are told that when giving in charity, they must not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, since this act voids their charity. In this regards verse 264 of Surah Baqarah says, “O you who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqah (charity) by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he does not believe in Allah, nor in the Last Day.” So how should we help the poor? Allah (SWT) answers this in verse 271 of Surah Baqarah, “If you give alms openly, it is good, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you.”


This is why when it was dark in the night and all the people were sleeping, Imam Zainul Abideen (as) would get up, put some food in a sack and carry it on his shoulders to the houses of the poor people.


When Imam Zainul Abideen (as) went out at night it was dark and everyone will be sleeping but Imam Zainul Abideen (as) would cover his face just in case anyone was up, so that no one could recognize him.


Imam Zainul Abideen (as): The Secret Helper of the Poor and NeedyImam Zainul Abideen (as) looked after about 100 families like this without them even knowing who it was that was helping them.


Imam Zainul Abideen (as) had a poor cousin. Imam Zainul Abideen (as) used to go to visit him every night and give him some money while he could not see Imam’s face. That man used to say, “Imam Zainul Abideen (as) does not consider his poor family members; may Allah (SWT) punish him.” Imam Zainul Abideen (as) heard these words many times and never said anything; he continued to be anonymous with his patience. After Imam’s martyrdom, his cousin did not receive any charity and then realized that the generous man who used to help him was Imam Zainul Abideen (as). Thus, he went to Imam’s cemetery and cried there.


Muhammad Is’haq narrates: Many of the poor citizens of Madinah had experienced the generosity and kindness of Imam Zainul Abideen (as). Yet, they never found out it was the Imam Zainul Abideen (as) as he would visit them during the nights, until Imam Zainul Abideen (as) passed away, and that anonymous man never came to them any more. It was then that they found out that that anonymous helper was Imam Zainul Abideen (as).


Abu Hamzah al-Thomali also narrates: During the night, Imam Zainul Abideen (as) would carry food on his shoulders for the poor and needy people. He would say, “Giving charity in secret will subside the anger of Allah (SWT).”


Ibn Sa’ad who died around 200 A.H. has narrated: There were many poor people who would come to the Imam Zainul Abideen (as) for help, and before they even asked for anything, the Imam Zainul Abideen (as) would give them what they wanted. Imam Zainul Abideen (as) would then say, “Giving charity is received by Allah (SWT) before it is received by the poor.”


It was from the examples mentioned above that when the Imam Zainul Abideen (as) was martyred, and some were helping in washing his body (giving him Ghusl), they noticed the wounds on his shoulder and back. They asked about it, and found out that the wounds were the result of carrying the food for the poor.


Moral: When you do something good you should not tell everyone because Allah (SWT) can see and HE is the one who will give you reward (Thawab) for what you have done. In fact Allah (SWT) says that HE will give you more Thawab if you do good and do not tell anyone.