The historical narrations said that Yazeed (may Allah curse him) ordered one of his orators to get on the pulpit in order to tarnish the image of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) in general and that of Imam Hussayn (peace be upon him) in particular.
As someone in the pay of the imperial court, the orator went on the pulpit and fulfilled his master’s wishes by talking ill about Imam Ali and highly praising Mu‘awiyah and Yazeed.
When Imam Zayn al-’Abideen heard it, he shouted at him: “O the speaker! You have bought the pleasure of a created being by displeasing the Creator, and so have reserved a seat for yourself in the Hell-fire.”
Then the Imam turned to Yazeed and said, “O Yazeed, allow me to get on this ‘piece of wood’ and say something that would please Allah and be a cause of His blessings for the audience.” Yazeed refused.
The people started insisting, “O the leader, let him go on the pulpit so that we can hear what he has to say.” Yazeed replied, “If he goes on the pulpit, he will not get down until he has humiliated me and the family of Abu Sufyan.”
The people said, “What can this person say?” They were looking at his young age and his status as a prisoner.
Yazeed responded, “He is member of a family who is steeped in knowledge.” The people’s insistence increased until he had to give in.
Imam Zayn al-’Abideen got on the pulpit and gave a sermon in which he focused on the family of Imam ‘Ali and the Prophet:
“All praise is due to Allah who has no beginning, and the Eternal who has no end, the one who is the First but not in the sense of numbers and the Last but in the sense of ending, and the one who will last after everything perishes. He created nights and days, and distributed sustenance among the people. So blessed is Allah, the King, the All-Knowing.
O people! We [the family of the Prophet] have been blessed with six [qualities] and have been preferred [over others] by seven [individuals]:
We have been blessed with knowledge, forbearance, generosity, eloquence, courage and love in hearts of the believers.
We have been preferred [over others] through the Chosen Prophet, Mohammad who is from us, the truthful one [i.e., ‘Ali] who is from us, the one who flies [in heaven, Ja’far] is from us, the lion of God and the Prophet [Hamzah] is from us, the chief of the women of the worlds, the pure Fatimah, is from us, and the Prophet’s two grandsons in this community [Hasan & Hussayn] are from us.
Whoever knows me knows me; but one who does not know me, I shall inform him of my status and noble descent.
I am the son of Mecca and Mina, I am the son of Zamzam and Safa. I am son of he who raised the Black Stone in his robe, I am the son of the best one who put on the shirt and robe, I am the son of the best one who put on the shoes and walked, I am the son of the best one who did the circumambulation (tawaf) and sa‘i, I am the son of the best one who did the pilgrimage and responded to Allah’s call, I am the son of the one who was carried on the Buraq on the air, I am the son of one who was taken in the night journey from Masjidul Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa, I am the son of the one who reached with Jibra’il [in his ascension] to the sidratul muntaha (the holiest spot in heaven), I am the son of the one who reached very close to that holy spot, I am the son of the one who prayed with the angels two cycles, I am the son of the one to whom God sent revelation. [In short,] I am the son of Mohammad al-Muṣtafa.
I am the son of Ali al-Murtadha, I am son of the one who subdued the people till they said: la ilaha illa Allah, I am the son of the one who fought in defense of the Prophet with two swords and two spears, did two migrations pledged allegiance to the Prophet twice, prayed towards two qiblahs, courageously fought in Badr and Hunayn, and never ever disbelieved in Allah!
I am the son of ‘the righteous one among the believers, the successor of the prophets, destroyer of the disbelievers, leader of the Muslims, light of the mujahidin, prince of the worshippers, ‘crown’ of those who cry [in their prayers], the most patient of those who exercise patience, the best among those who stand for prayer from the family of Taha and Yaseen, the Messenger of the Lord of the universe.
I am the son of the one who was supported by Jibra’il and Mika’il, I am the son of the one who protected the sanctities of the Muslims, who fought the rebels, the deviants, and the violators, and who confronted his hateful enemies.
I am the son of the one who is most honourable among the Quraysh, and the first among believers to respond to Allah and His Messenger, the first among the foremost ones, the one who crushed the back of the rebels and destroyed the idol-worshippers; the one who was an arrow from the arrows of Allah against the hypocrites; the tongue of the wisdom of the worshippers, the helper of Allah’s religion, the friend of Allah, the garden of Allah’s wisdom, the vessel of Allah’s knowledge… the father of the two grandsons of the Prophet, al-Hasan and al-Hussayn, demonstrator of the extra-ordinary feats, destroyers of the divisions, the shooting star, the lasting light, the victorious lion of Allah – that is my grandfather, ‘Ali bin Abi Tale.
I am the son of Fatimatu ’z-Zahra’, I am the son of the chief of the women, I am the son of the pure Batool, I am the son of ‘the part of the Messenger;’ and I am the son of Khadijatu ’l-Kubra.
I am the son of the person killed unjustly, the son of one whose head was severed from the back of the neck, I am the son of the one who was thirsty till the last moment, I am the son of one who was abandoned in Karbala, I am the son of the one whose blood soaked in the dust – I am the son of the one who was slaughtered in Karbala.
I am the son of the one on whom the angels of the heavens cried, I am the son of the one on whom the jinn in the earth and birds in the sky wailed. I am the son of the one whose head was paraded on the spear; I am the son of the one whose family was made prisoners from Iraq to Sham.
According to the narrations, Imam Zayn al-’Abideen continued to say “I am…” and “I am…” until the people started to cry and Yazeed feared their reaction. Then Yazeed asked the mu’adhdhen to sound the call for prayer so that the Imam would be forced to stop his speech.
The mu’adhdhen started the call for prayer. He said, “Allahu akbar – Allah is the greatest,” and the Imam affirmed the greatness of Allah. Then the mu’adhdhen said, “Ash-hadu an la ilaha il-lal-lah – I bear witness that there is no god but Allah,” and the Imam affirmed the unity of God.
When the mu’adhdhen uttered the third phrase of the adhan, “ash-hadu anna Mohammadan Rasulu ’l-lah – I bear witness that Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah,” the Imam turned towards Yazeed and said:
O Yazeed! This Mohammad is my grandfather or your grandfather? If you say that he is your grandfather, then you are a liar and you are kafir; and if you say that he is my grandfather, then why did you kill his family? Why did you kill my father and made his women captives?
Yazeed ordered the mu’adhdhen to start the iqamah to start the prayer. Imam Zayn al-’Abideen’s speech had such an impact that many people stood up and left without praying behind Yazeed.