Ali Akbar (A.S.): Paragon Par Excellence for All Virtuous Youth
By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
The 11th of Sha'ban is another day of celebration in the month that was of special significance to Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) because of its being a prelude to blessed Ramadhan when the Divine Banquet is spread for the fasting believers and all those striving for the proximity of the All-Forgiving God.
It is the day which the Islamic Republic of Iran marks every year as the Day of the Virtuous Youth in remembrance of a youth born on this day in Medina in the Prophet's family.
He bore a striking – almost carbon copy – resemblance to his great grandfather the Prophet, in features, in manner, in speech, in conduct and in demeanour.
He was the namesake of his grandfather, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), and when circumstances compelled him to step into the battlefield for the defence of Islam and humanitarian values, his feats of valour brought memories of the One and Only Commander of the Faithful.
The youth was not destined to flower, and when he achieved martyrdom while fighting against heavy odds in the state of three days of acute thirst, he was of the same age of his martyred grandfather, the Lady of Paradise, Hazrat Fatema az-Zahra (SA).
This was Ali al-Akbar (AS), the son of the Immortal Martyr of Karbala, Imam Husain (AS), and himself a gallant martyr, who reposes to this day in peace at the feet of his father in the hexagonal shrine.
His mother was the virtuous lady Layla bint Abi Murrah bin Urwa bin Mas'oud Thaqafi, who shared certain ties of kinship with Abu Sufyan the ringleader of the Omayyads.
Having spurned the offer of clemency and possible political posts on the condition of deserting his father, this is how he introduced himself to the enemies when he stepped onto the battlefield:
"I am Ali, the son of Husain, the son of Ali,
"By the House of God, we are those with the Prophet righteously,
"By God, the son of a spurious son, will not judge us,
"I will strike with the blow of a Hashemi, a Quraishi."
And the blows he struck were decisive. In his first assault he scattered the cowardly Omayyad forces, and dispatched to the netherworld as many as one hundred of them.
So great was the thirst that he returned to the encampment and finding his father was thirstier than himself, he dashed again to fight the Godless hordes of the tyrant Yazid.
This time after a brave fight he was surrounded on all sides by the dastardly enemies, and finally achieved martyrdom when a spear pierced his chest and cut his liver into pieces.
Ali Akbar (AS) breathed his last in his father's arms with a smile on his face and tidings on his lips that the Prophet was welcoming him to the realm of afterlife with goblets of the waters of the blessed fountain of Kowsar. A heart-broken Imam Husain (AS) remarked: "May God kill the people who killed you my son; how foolhardy they are against the All-Merciful and in violation of the sacredness of the family of the Prophet (SAWA)!"
The epic verses Ali Akbar (AS) recited on the battlefield have remained immortal as the youth himself to this day. Otherwise we would not have been celebrating his birthday today on the 11th of Sha'ban as the Day of the Virtuous Youth.
As is evident from the verses, he was well aware on which side truth and the bliss of paradise lay, and on which side was eternal damnation and the fires of hell.
Ali Akbar (AS), whose recitation of Azan on the morning of Ashura had made the silver-bearded among the enemies recall the Prophet's voice, thus set a lasting example of faith, fidelity, fealty and filial duties.
That is the reason he remains an eternal inspiration for all virtuous youth, who in Iran and other places around the globe, continue to observe his birthday with supplications to God Almighty to make them firm and steadfast in the path of Islam.