When the young Ali took the mantle of Imamat, times were hard on the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet. His is the saddest story of all time. On the 10th of Muharram at the time of Asr Prayers, when his father Hussain (AS) was alone in the battlefield ready to do battle, he withdrew to the camp of his ailing son, came beside his bed, woke him and told him that the story of Karbala was over, that he was about to go to sacrifice his own life for the cause of Islam. It was at that time the father transferred the mantle of Imamat, the spiritual guidance, to his son to lead the Muslim Ummah towards the Right Path.
He was born in Madina some 22 years ago, on 5th Shabaan 38 year of Hijra. In some history books his date of birth is shown as 15th Jumada Awwal 38 AH. His mother was Shahr Banu the daughter of Yazdjurd II, the last of the Persian Kings before Islam. She was taken prisoner when Muslim armies conquered Persia. When she was brought in Madina Imam Ali (AS) spoke to her and she embraced Islam and was married to his 2nd son Imam Hussain (AS). She had died after giving birth to her only son. He was only two years old when his grand father Ali (AS) was martyred in the Mosque at Kufa. After that the whole family of the Prophet returned to live in Madina. For the next 10 years under Imam Hasan (AS) as Imam and after his martyrdom, his father Imam Hussain (AS) as the Imam, the young Ali was growing in their shadow and watching the workings of the Imamat without the worldly authority. People knew they were the grand sons of the Holy Prophet and followed them by their hearts but outwardly because of the fear of the Ummayad ruler in Damascus, there was very little following of the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet.
In 60 Hijri when his father Imam Hussain (AS) had to leave Madina for Makka and then for Karbala, he was with him all the time.
In Karbala all male children of Ali (AS) and Hussain (AS) were killed except Ali Ibne Hussain (AS) who with providence became so ill that he was unable to participate in the Jihad with his father and survived the massacre. His life and with that the line of descendents of Hussain (AS) survived because the Imamat had to go on.
He became the 4th Imam on the 10th of Muharram 61 Hijri. He was taken captive and was brought to Kufa and then to Damascus in chains. In spite of his illness and humiliating position in front of Yazid the Ummayad ruler, when Yazid addressed him in an insulting manner saying that his father wasted his life by refusing to give the oath of allegiance to Yazid, Imam replied, it was to save Islam. They were wondering how Islam was saved. When time for Azan came and the Moazzin screamed from the minaret "I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah", Imam shouted to Yazid, this is the way Islam was saved. People would have forgotten the name of Muhammad as the Messenger of Allah if his grand son would not have shown the world that you were a ruler by default. Yazid ordered his swordsman to kill this young man, but by the intervention of his aunt Zainab his life was spared. He remained in prison for one year with the whole family. There was turmoil in all parts of the Islamic empire on this brutal killing.
In the end Yazid was afraid that if he kept the family of the Prophet in prison any longer, he will loose his kingdom. So he sent orders to bring the family before him and told him that he was releasing them. He also asked what they wish to do now. In reply to this His aunt Zainab said that they would wish to hold a gathering in Damascus so that she can tell the people what happened in Karbala. Yazid agreed and the first Majlis was held in Damascus.
In this Majlis most of the women of Damascus took part who were secretly following the path of Ahlulbayt which included Yazid"s wife Hind. Then they all returned to Karbala to pay homage over the graves of their beloved father, uncles and brothers.
It was on the 20th of the month of Safar 62 Hijri that they arrived back in Karbala. The first Majlis of Arbaeen was held in Karbala in which his aunt Zainab and all the surviving family attended. It was at that time that one of the companions of the Prophet Jabir Ibn Abullah Ansari visited the grave of Hussain (AS) who later narrated the whole story of Karbala to many of his listeners in Madina and many other towns he visited. The message of Hussain (AS) was spreading from town to town and from country to country.
The whole family then returned to Madina except the wife of Imam Hussain (AS). Her name was Umm-e-Rabab. She said that she would not return back home, for her home was here where her husband lay buried. She stayed in Karbala until she died a few years later. A small town flourished for the up keeps of pilgrims who began to visit the grave of Hussain (AS) and all the martyrs of Karbala.