salaam friends and heartiest felicitations to you all on the auspicious 11th of Sha’ban, which is marked in the Islamic Republic of Iran as the Day of Virtuous Youths. It is a fitting tribute to the person who was born this day and who attained martyrdom in the prime of youth.
Yes, today is the blessed birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali Akbar (AS), the son of the Martyr of Karbala, Imam Husain (AS), and himself an immortal martyr, who reposes in eternal peace at the feet of his father. Let us introduce this valiant youth in his own words, when he stepped on the battlefield of Truth versus Falsehood:
“I am Ali ibn Husain ibn Ali;
“By the House of Allah, we are the Prophet's nearest kin.
“I will keep attacking you with my lance till you mow me down;
“I will strike you with my sword that was bestowed on me by my father,
“With the strokes of a Hashemite youth,
“By Allah, the son of adultery shall not rule over us."
The 11th of Sha’ban makes us recall these versified challenge thrown to the enemies on the battlefield of Truth versus Falsehood on the 10th of Muharram in the year 61 AH, by the youth, so that humanitarian values would always remain alive. As is obvious, these are the words of Imam Husain’s (AS) handsomely virtuous son on the Plain of Karbala. We do not mourn Ali Akbar (AS) today. Rather, we are in the state of rejoicing while celebrating his birth anniversary, which, as we said earlier, is marked in Iran as the Day of the Virtuous Youths. It would be repetitive to say that he was the namesake of his grandfather, the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (AS), or that he bore a striking resemblance to his great-grandfather (that is, father’s maternal grandfather), Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). No wonder, as he says in his versified challenge to the Yazidi hordes of dubious parentage, in his veins gently flowed the unsullied monotheistic blood of Prophet Abraham’s worthy scion, Hashem, after passing through Abdul-Muttaleb, and his sons, Abu Taleb and Abdullah (peace upon them all).
Thus, the youth was neither bragging nor exaggerating his spotlessly pure line of descent over the worthless offspring of the liver-chewing Omayyad idolatress, Hind bint Utbah, who had usurped the caliphate, and ironically, were now demanding allegiance to their Godless rule from its rightful, divinely-decreed heirs. He was simply putting the facts straight to the deceived neo Muslims that had ganged up against his Household in pursuit of transient power, posts, and wealth, despite the fact that the impeccable pedigree of Ali Akbar (AS) included such peerless ladies of Islam, as Amena bint Wahb (SA), Fatema bint Asad (SA), the One and Only Mother of all True Believers Hazrat Khadija bint Khuwailed (SA), and above all the Noblest Lady of all times, his paternal grandmother, Hazrat Fatema az-Zahra (SA). On the maternal side also he had a luminous lineage. If the mother of his brother – his father’s successor, Imam Ali Zain al-Abedin (AS) – was Shahrbano, the noble Princess of Persia, the mother of Ali Akbar (AS) was nonetheless a virtuous lady of Arabia. She was Layla, the daughter of Dawoud Abu Murrah, the son of the Prophet’s loyal companion, Urwah ibn Mas’oud Thaqafi, who was martyred in the Prophet’s lifetime in his hometown Ta’ef while preaching Islam to the polytheist Arabs.
Martyrdom thus flowed in the veins of Ali Akbar (AS). Interestingly, his maternal grandmother Habiba (mother of Layla), was the daughter of Obaidollah ibn Jahsh, a cousin of the Prophet and brother of the Prophet’s wife Zainab bint Jahsh. With such an impeccable pedigree, this youthful son of the Leader of the Youths of Paradise, whose “Azaan” or Call to Prayer on the plain of Karbala reminded many – even in the enemy camp – of the voice of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), carved out immortal fame for himself. No wonder, while sending his son to the field of sacrifice (Zibhin Azim or the Great Sacrifice that had ransomed Abraham’s offering of Ishmael in antiquity), Imam Husain (AS) supplicated to the Lord Most High with the following words:
“O Allah, be Witness, now I am sending in your way, the one who resembled Your Messenger the most, to the extent that whenever we desired to have a view of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), we used to look at the face of this youth.”
We conveyour heartiest felicitations to the Imam of the Age, Mahdi al-Qa’em (may God hasten his reappearance) on the blessed 11th of Sha’ban, and present here the following passage of the Ziyarat-an-Nahiyat-al-Muqaddasa for the Martyrs of Karbala that refers to the martyrdom of his grand uncle, Ali Akbar (AS):
“Peace upon you, O First of the Martyrs from among the scions of the noblest descendants of the Prophet Abraham, the Friend of Allah. May Allah bless you and your father, who at your death lamented, "O my son, what made them so bold against the Merciful Allah as to commit such sacrilege against the Prophet. May Allah slay the people who slew you. After you, the world is worthless."
“I salute you as if I were with you, in your vanguard, whilst you fought against the disbelievers…. Until at last, you fulfilled your promise and went to meet your Lord. I bear witness that you are the most preferable to Allah and His Messenger, and that you are a child of Allah's Proof and Allah's Trustee.
Here is a tribute in verse to Hazrat Ali Akbar (AS) by Iran’s English language poet, Dr. Hassan Najafi:
Today is a festive day
Pleasures in the Prophet’s House sway.
In this youth see beauty’s blaze
Angels in awe as they gaze,
Shady walk in waving greens
Nodding nature with celestial scenes,
The lively cheer of beauty born
In this birth is the approach of Prophetic morn.
Hold your breath, and with sincerity survey
See how Prophet’s resemblance is on display.
Till sinks the fabric of the world
Your name exists as a corn in the beak of a bird.
There are no limits though little your reign
Your empire is of tears and love – a lovely domain.
Your exuberant health of rosy hue
The Prophet’s reflection, it is in you.
You – the Prophet’s picture of youth
Our weary souls soothe.
You – the sunshine of every manly chest
Which if with your love possest,
Your love in heart, years cannot cage
Throughout the slow consuming age,
You resembled closely the Prophet
Thrilled was he, who felt missing the Prophet.
You, a flower plucked before its time,
And withered in its prime,
You represent the firm unaltered truth
And reflect mirror like the Prophet’s youth
Your eulogy never soothe a pensive ear
In your love never dries a nightly tear.
Enemies for dear life ran from the battlefield,
When you manly the sword did wield,
You, the grandson of Kaba’s son, stand
Dauntless on Karbala’s sand,
In glittering arms and glory drest
High your stature as if with a ruby crest,
There the press, there the din
As the thundering strokes you begin.
Banking on the sea of blood on martyrs’ shore
Your sword echoes to the battle’s roar.
Where your glowing eye balls turn
Stampedes the enemy’s army as they flee to run,
Agony pants to breath
Enemy collapses obnoxiously beneath.
In your love so lost, cannot stir my feet
From far dipped in tears I greet.