This text has been written primarily to bring forth awareness in youths to understand the University of Imam Husayn (a.s.) from a broader perspective. It also provides a detailed account of Imam Husayn (a.s.)'s journey.
This book has been dedicated to the memories of Haji Rajabali Gulamhussein Datoo, Late Mullah Bashir Hassanali Rahim, Late Soghrabai Bashir Rashim, Late Aziz Anwarali Datoo & Late Qais Mahmood Nurmohamad.
All readers are requested to recite Al-Fateha for the Isale Sawaab of the above Marhumeen.
Please remember these deceased individuals with the recitation of a Suratul Fateha for their reward.
In 1989 my grand-father, the Late Mullah Bashir Hassanali Rahim decided to create awareness amongst the youngsters of the tragedy of Karbala’, its pathos, impact and message. The intention for this was since due to the fact that the majaalis were in the language of Urdu, the youth and younger generation were not fully aware of the purpose of the month of Muharram.
Once the book was distributed among the communiy to this era, they began to have children's majaalis during the twelve days. They were encouraged to host the majlis turn by turn, recite, and take charge of nawha and tabarrukaat, etc. My grand-father would prepare the material for them. Alhamdulillah the tradition continues to this day.
The past has now come to repeat itself, and not only has it affected Europe, but the Muslim Shi'a community all over the world, especially where I live in London, Ontario, Canada. At the mosque, I observe the surrounding of the youth and younger generation and what I see is unexplainable. The youth and younger generation not only do not know who our Imam is, but how he and his family sacrificed their life for us, which is why I have tackled on the responsibility to take great care of this matter.
Through my dearest friends and uncles (Shaikh Shafiq Hudda & Shaikh Saleem Bhimji) they had taken on the responsibility to not only assist, but also publish this book.
Please remember me and for all of those that took part in the project in your prayers.
With salaams and dua's,
Kabir Arifali Datoo
Over one thousand three hundred and fifty years ago, on the 10th of Muharram, just before 'asr, a man stood on a sand-dune at Karbala’. He was bleeding from several wounds on his body. He had lost everything. Since early morning he had carried several dead bodies into his camp. He had even buried his infant child.
He looked at the bodies of his loved ones. Tears flowed out of his eyes. He looked at the sky and seemed to draw some strength from an unseen source. Then, like a muezzin from a minaret, he raised a call: “Is there anyone who will come to assist us? Is there anyone who will respond to our call for aid?”
He turned direction and repeated the call. He did this four times.
Whom was he calling out to? Surely he was not expecting anyone to come to his aid. Those who wanted to help him had already crossed the lines and laid down their lives for the cause. He knew there was no one left. He knew that there was no other Hurr. And yet, meticulously and laboriously, he made sure that his call reverberated in all directions.
Of course that call was a call to Muslims of every generation in every land. It was a call to us where ever we may be. It was a call for help. Help against Yezeedism which in every age rears its ugly head to oppress justice, truth and morality. Our Imam was calling out to every Muslim of every age and time to combat Yezeedism, both within himself and as an external force.
This was his battle cry for jihad-ul-akbar. He had already demonstrated that his objective had always been to create a spiritual awakening through amr bil ma'ruf and nahyi anil munkar. Now he was calling out for the continuation of this jihad at the individual, social and political levels.
Muslims, and more particularly the Shiahs, have answered this call with the unique institution of Aza’ al-Husayn. With every tear that we shed for him we pledge to resist the oppression of injustice, immorality, inequity and falsehood. Every time we raise our hand and bring it down on our chest in matam, we are saying: “Labbaik, Labbaik Ya Mawla!” to our Imam Husayn Ibn Ali, the grandson of the Holy Prophet (SAWA).
For long the word Aza’ al-Husayn has been exclusively used in connection with the remembrance ceremonies for the martyrdom of Imam Husayn. Aza’ al-Husayn includes mourning congregations, lamentations, matam and all such actions which express the emotions of grief, anger and, above all, repulsion against what Yazid stood for. These emotions, however, remain futile and hypocritical unless accompanied by a will to reform both at the individual level and the community level.
The term majlis has both a grammatical meaning and a meaning which relates to Aza’ al-Husayn. In its technical sense, a majlis is a meeting, a session or a gathering. In reference to Aza’ al-Husayn, it means a gathering to mourn Imam Husayn. In this sense it was first used by our sixth Imam, Ja'far Sadiq (A.S.) It is reported that his companion al-Fudhayl Ibn Yasaar came to pay his respects to the Holy Imam.
After the exchange of usual courtesies, Imam asked al-Fudhayl: “Do you people ever organise majaalis to recall the martyrdom of Imam Husayn?” Al-Fudhayl, with tears pouring down his eyes, replied: “Yabna Rasulillah, indeed we do.” The Imam said: “May Allah bless you. I highly approve of such majaalis.”
On another occasion, the poet Ja'far ibn Iffaan recited to our Imam al-Sadiq a poem on the tragedy of Karbala’. The Imam began to weep uncontrollably. He then addressed the poet in the following terms: “O Iffaan, do not think that it is only those whom you can see here are listening to your poetry. In fact Allah's closest angels are present here at this majlis and they are all listening to your recitation and they too lament and weep. May Allah bless you for what you have recited. He will, inshallah, reward you with paradise for your efforts on our behalf.”
Aza’ al-Husayn was a phenomenon which gripped Muslim conscience immediately after the tragedy of Karbala’.
The first majlis al-Husayn was recited in the market-place of Kufa by a lady from whose head her veil had been ripped off, whose hopes and aspirations had been destroyed on the blood-drenched sands of Karbala’ but whose indomitable spirit stepped forward to free the Islamic values from the yoke of tyranny and oppression. She was the first one to answer the call of Imam Husayn. Standing on her unsaddled camel, she looked at the multitude rejoicing the victory of Yazid. As soon as people saw her, they were quiet.
They knew that a historic moment for Kufa had arrived. Looking straight at them, the daughter of Ali said: “Woe upon you O people of Kufa. Do you realise which piece of Muhammad's heart you have severed! Which pledge you have broken! Whose blood you have shed! Whose honour you have desecrated! It is not just Imam Husayn whose headless body lies unburied on the sands of Karbala’. It is the heart of the Holy Prophet. It is the very soul of Islam!”
The first majlis touched and moved the people of Kufa so deeply as to give rise to both the Tawwabun movement and al-Mukhtar's quest for vengeance.
Ten days after Ashura, a messenger from Yazid arrived in Madina. His name was Abd al-Malik ibn Abi al Harith al-Sulamee. He came to tell the Governor, Amr bin Said al-Aas that Husayn ibn Ali had been killed in Karbala’.
The Governor, more conscious of the mood of the people, said that he himself could not make the news public but Abd al-Malik, if he so wished, could make the public announcement. Abd al-Malik announced the news after the morning prayers.
There was such intense weeping and wailing from the homes of Banu Hashim that the very walls of masjidun-nabawi began to tremble. Zainab, Umme Luqman, the daughter of Aqeel ibn Abi Talib came out screaming: “What will you say when the Prophet asks you: “What have you, the last ummah, done with my offspring and my family after I left them? Some of them are prisoners and some of them lie killed, stained with blood. What sort of ajr al-risaalah is this that you disobey me by oppressing my children?”
Fatimah Bint Huzaam, also known as Ummul Baneen, carried her young grandson Ubaidullah ibn Abbas and prepared to go out. When asked where she was going, she said that she was taking the orphan of Abbas to offer condolences to the mother of Husayn.
Marwan ibn Hakam reports that every afternoon men and women would gather at Jannat-ul-Baqee and there would be remembrance of the tragedy of Karbala’ and the weeping and wailing could be heard miles away.
When the prisoners were finally freed by Yazid, they asked for an opportunity to have rites of remembrance in Damascus. A house was made available to them and Aza’ al-Husayn went on for over a week. Just as Hadhrat Musa Kalimullah had been raised in the palace of the enemy of Allah, Firaun, Bibi Zainab laid the foundation of Aza’ al-Husayn in the very capital of his murderer!
On their return to Madina, Bibi Zainab took over the leadership of Aza’ al-Husayn in the city of the Holy Prophet. This aroused such strong emotions in the people and such revulsion against the oppressor that Amr ibn Said ibn al-Aas wrote to Yazid to have Bibi Zainab exiled from Madina. This was done in the beginning of 62 A.H. Bibi Zainab died shortly afterwards.
Both the 4th and 5th Imams greatly encouraged Aza’ al-Husayn. In their times Aza’ al-Husayn had to be performed in utmost secrecy as the regime was opposed to any remembrance of Karbala’. The poets who composed elegies and the devout Shiahs who attended the gatherings at which these elegies were recited did so at the risk of their lives. Nonetheless, the poets continued to pour out their emotions in their poetry.
Some of these poetry are extant today and one can see the intensity of faith and sadness enshrined in the words of the poets.
Gradually, the institution of ziyarah came into being. People would visit the graves of the martyrs and there perform Aza’ al-Husayn. Our Imams wrote for them ziyarahs to be recited. One of these ziyarahs is recited today by us and is known as Ziyarat al-Warith.
When we examine Ziyarat al-Warith, we can see not only a testimony of the greatness of Imam Husayn and the moving sentiments describing his sacrifice for the cause of Allah, but also a solemn pledge and a commitment by the reciter: “And I make Allah, His angels, His prophets, and His messengers, witnesses to the fact that I believe in Imam Husayn and in my return to Allah. I also believe in the laws of Allah and in the consequences of human actions. I have subordinated the desires of my heart to his (Imam Husayn's) heart and I sincerely submit to him and (promise to follow his commands)”
Clearly, this undertaking was never meant by our Imams to be an empty ritual. Recitation of Ziyarat al-Warith is a commitment to Imam Husayn's cause made in the presence of Allah and the angels and the prophets and the messengers and in full awareness of the final accountability of human action. One must always reflect upon the seriousness and solemnity of this pledge.
Until the time of ghaibat al-kubra, we find that our Imams always encouraged Aza’ al-Husayn. They saw in Aza’ al-Husayn not only a demonstration of grief for Imam Husayn and the martyrs of Karbala’ but also a renewal of one's commitment to Allah and His laws as expounded in the Holy Qur'an and the ahadeeth.
We have records of the sayings of the representatives (Naibs) during ghaibat al-Sughra explaining and encouraging Aza’ al-Husayn. From 329 AH onwards the fuqaha and the 'ulemas took it upon themselves to perpetuate the message of Karbala’.
Shaykh Ibn Babawayh-al-Qummi better known as Shaykh as-Saduq who died in 381 AH was the first scholar to have introduced prose as medium of conveying the message of Imam Husayn. He would sit on a pulpit and speak extempore while many of his students sat by the side of the pulpit and recorded the speech. His speeches have been preserved and to this day are known as the Amali (dictations) of Shaykh Saduq.
Public demonstration of grief first occurred in 351 A.H. On the 10th of Muharram, there was a spontaneous procession in the street of Baghdad and thousands of men, women and children came out chanting “Ya Husayn! Ya Husayn!” beating their breast and reciting elegies. In the same year, a similar procession took place in Egypt. The regime tried its best to stem the tide of Aza’ al-Husayn but failed. Very soon Aza’ al-Husayn became an institution with deep roots in the hearts of Muslims. Majlis evolved into an institution for amr bil ma'ruf and nahya anal munkar as well as reminder of the tragic events.
As Islam spread, different cultures adopted different modes of Aza’ al-Husayn. Taimur Lang introduced the institution of tabut and alam in India. As Islam spread southwards on the sub-Continent, the form underwent changes to take into account local cultural influences so as to portray the message of Karbala’ in the medium best understood by the local people, both Muslims and non-Muslims.
By the beginning of the 19th Century, there was not a corner of the world, from Spain to Indo-China, which did not have some form of demonstration on the 10th of Muharram.
The form varied from country to country. In Iran, the most popular form has been passion plays as a medium transmit the message of Karbala’ in addition to the majaalis from the minabir.
In India, the Ashura processions became part of the Indian Muslim culture. Even the Hindus participated in these processions. The Maharajah of Gwalior was always seen walking behind the 'alam of Hadhrat Abbas barefooted and without any insignia of his exalted office. Marthiyas and majaalis were such strong influences on the Muslim population that they helped strengthen not only their Islamic beliefs but also their political resolve.
History reports that even Gandhi on his famous salt march to protest against the oppression of the British Raj took 72 people with him in emulation of Imam Husayn protest against Yazid's oppression.
The following excerpt from the last will and testament of the Late Ayatullah Ruhullah Khumayni (A.R.) is most touching and relevant: “The memory of this great epic event (Ashura) must be kept alive. Remember, the cries of damnation and all the curses that are rightfully raised against the cruelty of the Bani Umayyayah caliphs towards the Holy Imams, are reflected in the heroic protests against cruel despots by the nations through the centuries.
It is the perpetuation of such protests that shatter oppression and cruelty. It is necessary that the crimes of the tyrants in each age and era be indicated in the cries of lamentation and in the recitals of elegies held for the Holy Imams”
Where ever the Shiahs have gone they have taken with them the cultural forms of Aza’ al-Husayn as practised in their country of origin. Today, Aza’ al-Husayn in one form or another, can be seen throughout the world.
Aza’ al-Husayn is an important institution and we have to ensure that it is kept alive so as to cultivate and nurture Islamic conscience in each one of us and that our children and their descendants remain committed to the cause of Imam Husayn.
We must never lose sight of the fact that while the form of Aza’ al-Husayn may reflect the local indigenous culture, the essence of Aza’ al-Husayn must always be remembrance of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn and our re-dedication to his cause.
There is always the danger that if the form appears to be incongruent to the local norms and consequently incomprehensible to the young generation or to the indigenous population upon whom we wish to impress the message of Karbala’, the substance might gradually lose its significance. The fabric of the substance invariably depends upon the acceptability of the form.
Throughout history the form of Aza’ al-Husayn has always undergone changes to accommodate local norms. It is for us, therefore, to seriously re-evaluate the form in order to ensure that we can pass on to our children the substance of Aza’ al-Husayn in its pristine state and also make Aza’ al-Husayn an irresistible instrument of tableegh! We are duty bound to Allah and His Prophet to ensure that our children grow up to accept Aza’ al-Husayn not as a ritualistic activity nor as means for atonement, but as a serious commitment to the basic values of Islam.”
Dr. Liyakat Takim in his speech in Toronto on the occasion of the last Husayn Day made this very profound statement: “The message of Imam Husayn can only be properly comprehended when we bear in mind the Qur'anic principle of tawheed which demands our undivided commitment to Allah only.”
I accept that not all of us can suddenly make or honour such a commitment. But supposing on the day of 'Ashura, after performing our a'amaals or when the Ziyarah is recited after the aza, each one of us promises, in the name of Imam Husayn ibn Ali, to give up one such activity as is contrary to the doctrines of Islam what a strong community we would be and what an excellent legacy we would leave for our children!! This in my opinion would be Aza’ al-Husayn par excellence!
It is our duty to deliver Imam Husayn's message to the indigenous population of the country we live in. We can succeed in this only if we ourselves appear to be true followers of Imam in all our interaction with the community at large. We must reflect the maximum integrity, Islamic values and our sincere commitment to Imam's cause. We can not possibly be making the commitment enshrined in Ziyarat al-Warith without the least intention of honouring that commitment.
Processions are of course the institution effectively used in the countries of the East and in Africa. We have to convince ourselves that this institution can be equally effective in the West. If not, we must explore other means of taking Imam's message to the people. We have to examine such activities as:
1. Blood donation through Hussaini Blood Banks;
2. Distribution of food to the needy;
3. Maximum usage of media to explain the event and the fact the Holy Imam died to save the basic values cherished by all the communities;
4. Publication and distribution of leaflets;
5. Distribution of cold drinks in schools and colleges;
6. Visiting the patients in hospitals with floral gifts. You may find that when you take a small gift to a patient in hospital you will have carried the message of Imam Husayn to the entire family of that patient.
All these suggestions are based on the institution of the public “sabeels” which we still have in the East and in Africa. While mourning is important, perhaps we should limit that within the confines of our Imambargahs, and demonstrate the true spirit of Imam Husayn's generosity when he ordered Hadhrat Abbas to provide water to Hurr and his army. Perhaps we too may see a large number moving towards Islam and Imam Husayn.
I seek, with utmost respect, to offer word of caution to all my zakir colleagues.
Exaggeration can only discredit us and the cause of Imam Husayn. The historical accounts must be adhered to although at times, in our anxiety to arouse emotion, we resort to exaggeration. We should have the recorded history as our guide and reason and logic as our limitations as do most of our 'ulema and fuqaha.
Abu Mikhnaf was the earliest historian who took testimonies from eye witnesses and compiled his maqtal. There is in existence today an book in Arabic called Maqtal Abi Mikhnaf. It is doubtful whether this is the original text. However we do have the excerpts quoted by Tabari and other historians. We zakireen have relied on various sources principally Allamah Majlisi's Biharul Anwar and others. Several very good books in English exist on this subject. Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi is the compiler of a book containing several very interesting articles relating to the history of the tragedy of Karbala’. Then there is Shaykh Mufid (A.R.)'s al Irshad.
Extrapolations of certain inferences from known facts are not, in my opinion or in the opinion of the 'ulema, objectionable. For example description of natural human emotions, though not chronicled in vivid detail may be extrapolated if the description is within the bounds of reason and does not detract from the character of the personalities involved.
Some of the maqaatil can be faulted in respect of certain statements For example Tabari records that the age of Imam Zain-ul-'Abideen (A.S.) was questioned at Kufa and he was examined to determine whether he had attained buloogh. (See the History of al Tabari, Vol. XIX page 166). Shaykh Mufid gives the fourth Imam's age at the time as 23 years. It is well known the Imam was married and had a son.
Many such contradictions exist in the maqaatil but this does not mean that we have to reject any account in total. Detailed events, and often the names of those involved, are very difficult to record accurately even by an honest and meticulous chronicler recording contemporaneously as the events are taking place. Abu Mikhnaf began to compile his history, mostly through eye witness account at least twenty five years after the tragedy. It is necessary for us to be eclectic for so long as we remain within the confines of reason. To be eclectic we must know what historical material is available and where to find it.
It is not within the scope of this article to deal with all the historical sources I would refer the reader to S. H. M, Jafri's the Origins and Early Development of Shi'a Islam, Chapter 7. I would also refer any reader interested in the subject to the following additional works:
1. The volume of Tabari referred to above.
2. Al-Irshad by Shaykh Mufid.
3. The article by Imam Husayn by Veccia Vaglieri in the Encyclopaedia of Islam which is based mostly Balaadhuri's account.
We have to remember that the 'ashra al-Muharram is a very emotional period and this emotion has to be exploited by the ahle minabir to convey the message of Karbala’, to awaken a hatred against all that Yazid stood for and to rekindle a commitment to Islam as preached by the Ahlul Bayt and for which Imam Husayn laid down his life.
We can not perpetuate the illusion that Aza’ al-Husayn means no more than a few tears, matam and processions. These are the means and not the end. They are important only if they lead each of us becoming a better Shiah than we were in the preceding year.
If we lose sight of the objectives we may find ourselves answerable for forgetting and holding to ridicule the cause for which our Imam sacrificed so much!
Imam Husayn himself advised a muslim who was claiming to be a shiah to fear Allah and not to make a false claim lest on the Day of Judgement he is raised with the liars. “Our shiah,” the Imam added, “is the one whose heart is pure of malice, deception and corruption. His words and deeds are only for the pleasure of Allah.”
We must during this forthcoming 'ashra al-Muharram pose this question to ourselves in all seriousness. Do we intend to make a commitment to Imam Husayn's objectives or do we wish to continue complacently in our current state, paying what can best be described a lip service to his martyrdom with demonstrative mourning only??
While I pray that we begin, as we must, to understand the philosophy of Aza’ al-Husayn and make a serious commitment to the objectives of the King of Martyrs, I sincerely hope that there never comes a day when majaalis are replaced by clinical lectures devoid of all emotion! Reason when supported by emotion has a more enduring effect, and it is for this very end that as a recompense of the rationality of the message of the Holy Prophet he is told by Allah to ask for no recompense save the love of Ahlul Bayt. Love, while being an emotional force, becomes hypocrisy if one fails to identify and follow the wishes of the loved one.
May all our Muharrams be true demonstration of our love for, and a confluence of emotion, reason and commitment to, Imam Husayn.
1. Kitab al-Irshad by Shaykh al Mufid
2. The History of Tabari, the English translation, Vol. XIX
3. The Rising of al-Husayn by Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Deen
4. Imam Husayn, the Saviour of Islam by Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
5. Al-Serat the Imam Husayn Conference Number, published by the Muhammadi Trust, July 1984
6. The origins and Early Development of Shi'a Islam, by S. H. M. Jafri
7. Al-Tawhid, Vol. II No. 1, the Editorial.
8. Al Tawhid, Vol. XIII, No. 3, Pages 41 to 74, reproducing the article by Martyr Murtadha Mutaharri entitled “Ashura : History and Popular Legend”
9. The History of Azadari published by Peermahomed Trust
10. The last issue of Jafferi News
On 20th Rajab in 60 Hijra, Muawiya died. For more than twenty years the tyrant had ruled over Muslims. He was the son of Abu Sufyan and Hinda who had left no stone unturned in persecuting the Holy Prophet. Abu Sufyan became a Muslim only after he was convinced that Mecca would surrender to the Prophet. His son Muawiya, however, refused to accept Islam and went into exile in Yemen. It was only when he saw the whole of Arabia become Muslim that Muawiya was left with no alternative but to accept Islam.
After the death of the Holy Prophet Muawiya and his elder brother sided with the enemies of Hazrat Ali. He played an important part in usurping leadership from Hazrat Ali. For this, first the elder brother and after his death Muwaiya, were rewarded by the ruler of the time with the governorship of Syria.
When Hazrat Ali became Khalifa, he dismissed Muawiyaa for his corruption and anti Islamic behaviour. Muawiya refused to give up his position. This led to the battle of Siffeen. When Muawiya was about to lose the battle he managed to trick and bribe the majority of Hazrat Ali's army to insist upon referring the dispute to arbitration. Using the same methods he got the arbitrators to give a decision in his favour.
Muawiya then set himself up as an independent Emeer al-Shaam, (the Ruler of Damascus) while Hazrat Ali was the khalifa. Soon after the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali, Muawiya, making full use of his methods of bribery, treachery, tyranny and oppression succeeded in becoming the Khalifa.
Muawiya was not interested in Islam. He only used Islam for his power and glory. He never hesitated to trample over the laws of Islam. When any saying of the Holy Prophet did not suit him he ordered it to be struck off all records. He set up a special department under Abu Huraira to manufacture ahaadees which would favour him and his policies.
Muawiyah hated Hazrat Ali and all the members of Ahlul Bayt. The Shiahs were mercilessly persecuted. Any one who dared to say anything on favour of any member of Ahlul Bayt was put to death or thrown into a dungeon.
Now Muawiya was dead and his son Yazid made himself the Khalifa. Yazid was worse than his father. In addition to all the evil qualities of his father, he openly mocked Islam. He was often found drunk, singing songs which made jokes of namaaz, the holy Prophet and his progeny.
The difference between the father and the son was this. Muawiya used Islam. Yazid was determined to destroy Islam.
As soon as he became Khalifa, Yazid sent a letter to his Governor of Madina, Waleed bin Utba, asking him to get Bai'at from Imam Husayn. Bai'at means an oath of allegiance. Yazid felt that if Imam Husayn declared bai'at to him, no one could then accuse him of having taken over khilafat illegally.
Waleed received the letter on 27th Rajab. He sent a message to Imam Husayn to go to the palace that evening. Accompanied by his brothers, sons and nephews Imam Husayn went to the palace.
Imam asked all who had come with him to wait outside while he went in alone. Waleed showed Imam no respect and rather arrogantly asked him to declare bai'at to Yazid. Imam replied that the question of Bai'at was a serious matter and should be discussed openly in day light.
Imam came out looking sad. He asked all his companions to go home and prepare for a journey at dawn the following morning. He requested Hazrat Abbas to take charge of the preparations adding, “Abbas, Faatimah Sughra is ill. She will not be able to stand a long journey. She will have to stay in Madina.”
Imam began to walk slowly towards the mosque, deep in thought. Imam Husayn could not even consider bai'at to Yazid. It was not a matter of his pride or his right to khilafat. Bai'at to Yazid would mean Imam's approval of Yazid's way of life and this would decidedly lead to a total destruction of Islam. It was Imam's duty to uphold and defend Islam. If he stayed on in Madina while he refused to give bai'at, then Yazid would surely attack him in Madina. Imam would have the advantage of having all his own relatives as well as the people of Madina fighting on his side.
But this would have two serious disadvantages. Firstly, it would put all his friends in Madina in danger. Secondly, although Yazid might be defeated, history would look upon the battle as a battle of khilafat.
Even if Yazid were to be killed, the injustice, the oppression and the immoral way of life which Muawiya and Yazid had promoted would not die.
Imam Husayn's mission was to destroy the evil that these two men had let lose. For this he needed to awaken the spirit of Islam amongst the Muslims.
Imam arrived at the mosque. He lit a candle and walked towards the grave of the Holy Prophet. The thought that this might be the last time he would see the grave filled him with sorrow. He sat by the grave, put his cheek on it and began to sob. “I have come to say good-bye to you O grand-father. I have to leave Madina to save Islam. Pray that Allah grant me patience!!”
Imam then went to the grave of his mother, Bibi Fatimaah Zahra. He was unable to speak. He kissed the grave and said a silent farewell. Some Zaakirs say that as the Imam began to walk away, Bibi Fatimaah's voice was heard from the grave: “Khuda Haafiz, my son. Go! I too will be with you.”
fter saying good-bye to the graves of his grand-father and his mother, Imam Husayn went to Bibi Zainab's house. Bibi Zainab was Imam's sister and was married to their cousin Hazrat Abdullah ibn Ja’far ibn Abu Taalib. After exchanging greetings with Hazrat Abdullah, Imam Husayn advised his cousin of what had happened and what he had decided. Hazrat Abdullah tried to persuade Imam not to leave Madina but Imam insisted that it was the only way to save Islam. He then requested Hazrat Abdullah to permit Bibi Zainab to accompany him. Hazrat Abdullah looked at his wife and said, “Bismillah!” Bibi Zainab said farewell to her husband and her sons Aun and Muhammad. The brother and sister walked to Imam's house.
When all the men who had accompanied Imam Husayn to the Governor's palace got back, the ladies came to know about the journey. Hazrat Abbas, Hazrat Ali Akbar, Hazrat Qasim and all the young men got busy with the preparations. Bibi Fatimah Soghra watched. She was lying in bed, too ill even to get up. No one was saying anything about her going. She decided to wait till her father's return.
Bibi Fatimah Soghra was Imam Husayn's daughter. She was about eight years old. She lay on bed praying that her father would agree to take her. How could she possibly live alone? How could she survive without Asghar? Ever since he was born she spent all her time next to Asghar's little bed playing with him. Now he had begun to recognize faces and smiled whenever he saw Soghra. Soon he would be talking and she was anxious to hear him call out her name. “Ya Allah!”, Soghra murmured, “I hope I would not be left alone in Madina!”
Just then she heard her father's foot-steps. She quickly wiped away the tears from her eyes, propped herself into a sitting position and put on a brave smile to convince her father that she was well enough to travel.
Imam Husayn sat on the bed, put his hand on Soghra'a head and said, “When you were born, my dear. I named you after my mother Fatimah Zahra. You look know that your grand mother was also known as Saabira, which means the patient one. I want you also to be a saabira and agree to stay in Madina with Ummul Baneen and Umme Salmah. Will you do that?”
What could Soghra say? She nodded her head fighting back her tears. Imam kissed her and left the room.
Whenever the children of the Ahlul Bait were troubled by any thing, they took their problem to Hazrat Abbas. Soghra thought of her dear uncle, smiled hopefully, and sent for Abbas. Surely, he would find a way to solve her problem?
Abbas came in. He was accompanied by Hazrat Ali Akbar.
Soghra looked at them and said, “I know how much you two love me. How can you then leave me and go away? If I die who will bury me?” They explained her that she was too ill to travel and promised her that they would come and fetch her as soon as they had settled some where.
Bibi Fatimah Soghra said, “I will accept that as I do not wish to disobey my father. I will be brave and stay here.” She looked lovingly at her brother and added, “Ali Akbar, promise me one thing though. When after you get married and return to Madina, and find Soghra gone, promise that you and your bride will visit my grave and recite Fatiha.”
Akbar and Abbas could not control their tears as they said good bye.
At dawn the caravan departed. Supported by Umme Salmah on one side and Ummul Baneen on the other, Soghra waved good-bye. It was difficult to part with Asghar and both Imam Husayn and Bibi Rubaab had to hold and console Soghra as she kissed her little brother good-bye.
The story of Karbala’ is a tale of five journeys of tears. This was the first journey. From Madina to Mecca. Each journey had its hero and heroine. The hero of this first journey was Imam Husayn and the heroine was the memory of Bibi Fatimah Soghra, his beloved daughter whom he had left behind. Until they turned the corner, Imam kept looking back. He would bravely smile and wave to his daughter. Hazrat Ali Akbar of course could not even do that because he was unable to control his tears.
As soon as they were out of sight, Imam Husayn stopped his horse and began to sob! It is always so very difficult and so very sad for a parent and child to part!
Days passed into months. Soghra would spend her days in the mosque or visiting Ummul Baneen, Hazrat Abbas's mother.
Ramadhan passed. Eid was a difficult day for Soghra. She kept on thinking of Asghar, and Akbar and her darling sister Bibi Sakina. Then came Muharram. For some reason Soghra's restlessness increased. One night she got up. She felt a little thirsty. She filled a cup with water. As she brought the cup to her lips, Soghra stared at the water, and screamed. The cup fell out of her hands. Umme Salmah came running.”What is it, Soghra?” Soghra was shaking with fear. She ran into the arms of Umme Salmah.”O grand-mother!” she cried, pointing at the cup, “As I lifted the cup to my mouth, I saw Ali Asghar's reflection in the water. I saw him spread out his little arms towards me. And then I heard him speak. He was saying, 'Al atash, Ya Ukhti Fatimah.” (I am thirsty, O my sister Fatimaah!!) This was the night of 9th Muharram, Shab al-Ashura!!
Imam Husayn's caravan left Madina on 28th Rajab, 60 A.H. and reached Mecca on the fourth of Shabaan. Imam had not yet made up his mind on where to go. For the time being he decided to stay in Mecca at least until the month of Dhul-Hajj and perform the pilgrimage.
The people of Kufa in Iraq heard of what had happened in Madina. Kufa was an important Shiah centre. The Shiahs there had long suffered under Muawiya. They feared even greater sufferings under Yazid. They felt that slowly Islam would be totally destroyed by the greed for power and glory of these two men. They were anxious to preserve the teachings of the Holy Prophet. They needed an Imam who would teach the tafseer of the Holy quraan and relate to them the true sayings, ahaadees, of the Holy Prophet. They a held a meeting in the house of Sulayman bin Surad and decided to write a letter to Imam Husayn inviting him. In this letter they wrote: “We invite you to come to Kufa as we have no Imam to guide us. Through you Allah will unite us on the path of truth.”
A messenger took the letter to Mecca and gave it to Imam Husayn. A few days later the people of Kufa sent an emissary, a special messenger, to Imam to persuade him to go to Kufa. His name was Qais ibn Musheer as-Saydawi.
There followed hundreds of other letters and many special emissaries from the people of Kufa to Imam Husayn. The Governor in Kufa was a man called Nu'amaan bin Basheer. Although he was a follower of Muawiya and Yazid, he was not by nature a cruel man. The people of Kufa believed that Imam would be safe in Kufa.
When Imam Husayn received so many petitions and messages from Kufa he decided to send Hazrat Muslim as his emissary to Kufa to study the situation there and report to Imam. Imam would go only if there would be no danger to the people of Kufa or to Imam or any of his companions or family.
He wrote a letter to the people of Kufa and gave it to Hazrat Muslim. In this letter Imam said, “I am sending my cousin and one of the most trusted ones from my family, Muslim ibn Aqeel, to report to me about your affairs. If his report agrees with what you have writ_ten I will soon be with you. You must be clear of the fact that the Imam is only one who follows the book of Allah, and serves Allah in all matters and affairs with justice, honesty and truth.”
Who was Muslim ibn Aqeel? He was the son of Aqeel ibn Abu Taalib. He was a famous warrior. He married Ruqayya binti Ali, Imam's sister through another mother. We know of his four children. Abdullah aged about 15 years, Muhammad who was about ten years old, Ibraheem who was eight and young Ruqayya who was just five or six. All these children had travelled with their parents and were in Mecca.
As Hazrat Muslim was preparing for the journey, Imam Husayn went to him and said: “Muslim, the whole world knows that you are one of the bravest warriors. It is just possible that seeing you in Kufa some people may think that our intention is to fight Yazid. Take your two sons Muhammad and Ibraheem with you. When they see you with such young children, they will know that our intentions are peaceful.”
Hazrat Muslim and his two sons said good-bye to all and left Mecca. Their journey through the desert in the heat of summer was very difficult.
They arrived in Kufa towards the end of Dhul Qaad. They were received extremely well by the people of Kufa. Very soon more than eighteen thousand people appeared before Hazrat Muslim and pledged their allegiance to Imam Husayn as their Imam.
Hazrat Muslim reported to Imam Husayn that most of the people in Kufa were ready to receive him as their Imam and advised that Imam should proceed to Kufa. Amongst the people of Kufa there were many spies employed by Yazid to report to him direct. When Yazid heard from them of the invitations to Imam Husayn and the arrival in Kufa of Hazrat Muslim he was filled with fury. He sent a message to his Governor in Basrah, Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, to go to Kufa and take over the position of Nu'amaan ibn Basheer. Ibn Ziyad was also told to arrest Muslim and kill him and do all that was necessary to suppress the Shiahs in Kufa.
Ibn Ziyad was a cruel and unjust man. He arrived in Kufa on the evening of 2nd Dhul Hajj. On the following day he went to the mosque and addressed the people of Kufa. He first announced his appointment as Yazid's governor. He then threatened any one who was engaged in any activity against the government with immediate death, and ordered them to surrender Hazrat Muslim to him.
Ibn Ziyad sealed Kufa in such a way that no one could go in or out of the city without the governor's permission.
At this time Hazrat Muslim was staying with Al Mukhtar. At the invitation of Hani bin Urwah, another leading member of the Shiah community, he moved to Hani's house. This was done secretly and except for a few people no one knew where Hazrat Muslim was. Through a spy who pretended to be a Shiah, Ibn Ziyad found out where Hazrat Muslim was. Hani was arrested and thrown into prison. Not wishing to endanger the lives of his friends, Hazrat Muslim and his two sons left Hani's house. He left the children with Qadhi Shurayb, a judge, and went into the desert to try and get back to Imam Husayn to warn him not to go to Kufa. This was the seventh of Dhul Hajj. That whole day and the following day Hazrat Muslim tried to get out of the city. He found all the exits sealed and guarded by Ibn Ziyad Soldiers.
On the eighth, late in the evening, tired, hungry and exhausted, Hazrat Muslim knocked at the door of a house on the outskirts of the city. A lady opened the door. Hazrat Muslim requested for a little water to quench his thirst. The lady gave him water. When she learnt who he was, she invited him in and offered him shelter for the night. This lady was called Tau'aa. She gave Hazrat Muslim some food and water and took him to a room where he might spend the night.
Late that night Tau'aa's son came home. When he learnt that the man Ibn Ziyad was looking for was in his mother's house, he felt that he would be rewarded by the governor if he got Hazrat Muslim arrested. Unknown to his mother he slipped out in the darkness of the night and gave the information to a captain in ibn Ziyad army. Early the next morning, five hundred soldiers surrounded the house of Tau'aa and demanded Hazrat Muslim's surrender. Hazrat Muslim came out holding his sword. Three times he drove the enemy away. Twice Ibn Ziyad had to send in reinforcements.
While Hazrat Muslim was fighting, some soldiers went up the rooftops and began throwing stones and lighted torches at him. Others dug a trench in the path of Hazrat Muslim and covered it with grass. Although badly wounded and totally exhausted, Hazrat Muslim kept on fighting. Then he fell into the trench. More than fifty soldiers pounced upon him and chained him. He was dragged to the court of Ibn Ziyad.
Ibn Ziyad told Hazrat Muslim that he would be killed and asked him if he had any last wishes. Hazrat Muslim said: “I owe a debt which should be discharged by selling off my sword and armour. Secondly I want my body to be given a proper burial. Thirdly I want a message sent to Imam Husayn advising him not to come to Kufa.” Ibn Ziyad agreed to the first request but refused to do anything about the second and third requests. He then ordered Hazrat Muslim to be taken to the roof of the palace to be executed and his body thrown to the ground.
Hazrat Muslim was calm and composed as he was dragged up the steps. He was reciting “Allahu Akbar” until the last moment. Then there was an absolute silence followed by a thud as Hazrat Muslim's body fell to the ground.
This was on 9th Dhul Hajj. Immediately after Hazrat Muslim was killed Hani bin Urwah was dragged to the roof top and executed.
At the same time as Yazid sent Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad as his governor to Kufa to kill Hazrat Muslim and establish a reign of terror there, he sent his agents to Mecca to murder Imam Husayn during the Hajj season in such a way that no one would suspect him of having got the Imam killed.
As the pilgrimage season grew nearer Hazrat Abdullah ibn Ja’far Tayyar came to Mecca with his two sons, Aun and Muhammad. Imam had by this time received the message sent by Hazrat Muslim with Qais ibn Musheer, and made up his mind to go to Kufa after performing pilgrimage. Hazrat Abdullah tried to persuade Imam not to go to Kufa as he felt that Yazid would never let Imam settle there. Imam responded that as the people of Kufa had invited him to go to them as their Imam it was his duty to go.
When Hazrat Abdullah saw that the Imam was adamant, he gave the hands of his two sons into the hand of Imam saying, “Accept my sons in your service. One will serve you as Zainab's representative and the other as mine.”
Thousands of people from everywhere poured into Mecca for Hajj. Amongst them were the assassins sent by Yazid. Imam Husayn came to learn about Yazid's plot. He did not wish the House of Allah to be turned into a battlefield. Imam decided to leave Mecca without performing pilgrimage.
On the eighth of Dhul-Hajj, the very day on which Hazrat Muslim was murdered in Kufa, Imam Husayn's caravan left Mecca. Our Imam's heart was filled with mixed feelings. He was sad at being forced to leave Kaaba without performing Hajj. At the same time Hazrat Muslim had favourably reported on the situation in Kufa. So at least there would be a sanctuary for Imam there.
So began the second journey of tears. The hero of this journey was Hazrat Abbas and the heroine was Bibi Sakina.
Let us look at this caravan as it travels towards Iraq. At the head of the caravan is Hazrat Abbas carrying the 'alam. Next is Imam Husayn surrounded by all his companions. In this group we find Qais ibn Musheer. He is accompanying Imam to his home town. How proud he would feel entering Kufa with the grand-son of the Holy Prophet! He smiles at the thought. Then come the camels carrying the mehmils (palanquins or litters) in which all the ladies are. Behind the mehmils, forming, the a rear guard, are Hazrat Ali Akbar, Hazrat Qasim, Aun, Muhammad and the other young men of Banu Hashim.
Hazrat Abbas can be seen riding up and down the caravan to make sure that every one is comfortable. He often stops by the Mehmil carrying Bibi Sakina to make sure that she had enough water and food. He inquires of her how Asghar is. If there is anything anyone wants, Hazrat Abbas rushes to fetch it. Bibi Sakina is so very proud of her uncle Abbas. Every one knew that Bibi Sakina was the apple of the eye of Hazrat Abbas. When any child in the caravan needed anything he or she would tell Bibi Sakina. Bibi Sakina would speak to Hazrat Abbas and the wish of that child would be fulfilled immediately. There were about fifty children in the caravan and the four year old Bibi Sakina was an important link between them and Hazrat Abbas.
The caravan came to a small oasis called al-Thalabiya. It was decided to stop there for the night. This was the sixth stop of the journey. Qais ibn Musheer was no longer with Imam Husayn as he had already left for Kufa carrying Imam's letter announcing his imminent arrival.
Tents were pitched. Imam led maghrib prayers. As the evening meal was being prepared, he heard that two travellers from Kufa were in the settlement. He invited them over. He questioned them about the conditions in Kufa. The travellers described how the city had been placed under a total blockade. Imam asked his two guests about Hazrat Muslim.
The travellers remained quiet, their faces reflecting their sadness. Imam asked them again. With tears flowing down their beards the travellers reported of the death of Hazrat Muslim and the brutal way he had been killed. Imam summoned Hazrat Abbas and asked him to look after the guests. Slowly he made his way to Bibi Zainab's camp. Putting his hand on her shoulder, he said, “Dear sister, your mission has begun. Go and console our sister Ruqayya. She is now a widow! But first send Muslim's daughter to me.”
Young Ruqayya binti Muslim entered the tent. She was accompanied by Bibi Sakina. Imam took the orphan girl into his arms. Kissed her on her cheeks, Then he put his hand on her head and kissed her again. The young girl looked at Imam Husayn fearfully and said, “Uncle you are treating me as an orphan should be treated in Islam. Tell me, what has happened. Is my father well?” Imam could not speak. Tears rolled down his eyes. Bibi Sakina stepped forward. Yes, Bibi Sakina! The heroine of this journey! She stepped forward and embraced her cousin and lovingly offered her condolences!!!
Qais ibn Musheer was a leading member of the Shiah community in Kufa. He had been sent by the people of Kufa to persuade Imam Husayn to accept the invitation to go to Kufa as their Imam.
It was upon his arrival in Mecca that Imam began to seriously consider going to Kufa and sent Hazrat Muslim as his envoy to study the situation there and report to Imam. He rode to Kufa with Hazrat Muslim and brought back to the Imam Hazrat Muslim's message of the sincerety of the people of Kufa.
Qais ibn Musheer decided to stay on with Imam so that he could proudly ride into Kufa with the grand son of the Holy Prophet. Imam Husayn was, however, forced to leave Mecca before he could perform Hajj. The caravan left Mecca on the eighth Dhul Hajj. When they reached the fourth stop of the journey, a settlement called al-Haajir, Imam Husayn decided to send a letter to the people of Kufa telling them of his departure from Mecca and that he would shortly arrive in Kufa. He gave this letter to Qais and asked him to take it to Kufa. This was before Imam had heard of the death of Hazrat Muslim.
Qais was proud to be Imam's messenger. Indeed he is known in history as Safeeratul Husayn Ibn Ali, the ambassador of Imam Husayn. He galloped towards Kufa. When he reached al-Qadassiya, on the outskirts of Kufa he was astonished to see a large garrison of soldiers guarding the borders of the city. He suspected some thing was wrong. He hid behind the bushes. At night he visited some bedouins who were camping around. From them he learnt of the arrival of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad as the new Governor, and of the efforts being made by him to capture Hazrat Muslim.
Qais was in a dilemma. Should he rush back to Imam Husayn to advise him of the danger or should he try to get into Kufa and help Hazrat Muslim? He spent the night trying to gather more information from the bedouins. Qais learnt of how ibn Ziyad had spread terror in the city and how he had isolated Hazrat Muslim. He also learnt that the blockade was being strictly enforced and it was virtually impossible to get into Kufa without being caught. Qais was anxious to learn of how Hazrat Muslim was but the bedouins did not know much about him. In fact it was on that very morning that Hazrat Muslim had been killed.
Thinking that he might be some help to Hazrat Muslim, Qais decided to get into Kufa. He waited until sunset. Carefully, hiding himself from the soldiers posted to guard the borders, Qais tried to make his way into Kufa. He was spotted by some soldiers. Qais fought them bravely. Soon, however, ibn al-Numayr, the commander of al-Qadassiya came to the scene with a large number of soldiers. Qais was captured and chained. In the morning he was taken before ibn Ziyad.
Ibn Ziyad promised Qais to spare his life if he would mount the minbar and curse Imam Husayn. Qais mounted the minbar and in a loud voice said: “O people of Kufa I am the messenger of Imam Husayn ibn Ali. I declare before you that Husayn, the grand-son of our Holy Prophet is the best man alive today.”
Saying this Qais looked at ibn Ziyad defiantly. He then called for the curse of Allah upon ibn Ziyad and Yazid, and called for Allah's blessings upon Hazrat Ali and Imam Husayn. Ibn Ziyad was beside himself with anger. He ordered Qais to be taken to the roof of the palace and thrown to the ground. As he mounted the steps, there was a smile on the lips of Qais. As he was being pushed off the roof Qais cried out: “My salaams to you O my master Husayn ibn Ali!”
Hazrat Muslim had taken with him his two sons Muhammad and Ibraheem. After Hazrat Muslim was killed, Muhammad and Ibraheem were also arrested and put into a dungeon. It is said that Muhammad was just eight years old and Ibraheem was ten years old.
On the 20th of Dhul-Hajj in 60 Hijrah, when the jailer came to give the children their evening meal, he saw them saying their prayers. The jailer waited. When the boys had finished their prayers, he asked them who they were. When the jailer learnt that they were the sons of Muslim Ibn Aqeel and the grandsons of Hazrat Ali, he let them escape. The children came out of the prison.
It was a dark night. Their first thought was to go to Imam Husayn and warn him not to go to Kufa. Everywhere they went, they found the roads blocked by Ibn Ziyad soldiers. It was impossible to get out of Kufa. Now it was almost day-break. Where could these two young boys go?
They found themselves by the side of the river Euphrates. They drank some water from the river and then went up a tree to hide for the day. Just then a woman came to the river to get water. She saw the two young boys and asked them who they were. Ibraheem said, “We are two orphans, could you please leave us alone and not tell any one that you have seen us?” The woman asked them to accompany her to her mistress who would help them.
The woman's mistress was a kind lady. After talking to the boys for a while she realized who they were. She gave them food and said to them, “You can spend the day here and I will try to help you. Unfortunately my husband Harith is working for Ibn Ziyad. He is out at the moment. You can rest in the spare room but make no noise otherwise when he comes back, he will find out you are here.”
The children said their prayers and went to sleep. In the evening Muhammad woke up and started crying. Ibraheem asked him why he was crying. Muhammad said “I saw our father in a dream.
He was calling out for us.” Ibraheem said, “Brother, be patient. I also saw our father in a dream beckoning us to him.” They both started weeping. Harith, who had come back heard the children crying. He opened the door and asked the children who they were. On learning they were the sons of Muslim Ibn Aqeel, he tied both the boys to a pillar. Harith's wife tried to stop him, but he beat her up. Harith wanted to collect the reward which Ibn Ziyad had offered to anyone capturing the children.
The children spent the whole night tied to the pillar. In the morning Harith dragged them to the river-bank. He took out his sword. Ibraheem asked him, “Harith, are you going to kill us?” Harith said “Yes!” Ibraheem said, “In that case give us time to finish our morning prayers.” The two boys said their prayers. They raised their hands and cried out “Inna Lillaah wa Inna IIay-hi Rajeeoon! O Allah we are coming to you. Give our mother courage when she hears of our death and judge between us and our killers!!” The sword came down! There were splashes in the water. Two young bodies were seen floating away in the waters of the river Furaat.
Hazrat Hurr bin Yazid at-Tamimi al-Yarbu'i was a career officer in the Kufa army. When Husayn bin Numayr, the commander at al-Qadisiya, learnt that Imam Husayn and his entourage were getting very close to Kufa he dispatched Hurr with a detachment of 1,000 men to intercept Imam.
Hurr believed that Imam was being prevented from entering Kufa because his presence might jeopardize the stability of the city. As a professional soldier he did not very much concern himself with what he considered to be political issues. His duty, he felt, was to execute the order of his superiors. However, lurking somewhere in that stout military heart was an Islamic conscience.
Hazrat Hurr and his soldiers met Imam Husayn and his companions at a place a few miles outside Kufa.
It was midday when the two parties met.
Hurr and his people had been travelling since morning and were very thirsty. He requested Imam Husayn for water for his army. Imam Husayn asked Hazrat Abbas, Hazrat Ali Akbar, Hazrat Qasim and the others to give Hurr and his men water and also to give water to their horses. This must have been a poignant scene. Water bottles being brought out of the saddle bags and the youths pouring water for Yazid's army to quench their thirst.
Zuhr prayers were led by Imam and Hurr and his soldiers joined in. After the prayers Hurr told Imam Husayn that his orders were to stop Imam Husayn from going to Kufa unless he agreed to give “Bai'at”-swear allegiance- to Yazid. Imam Husayn said that he would never give Bai'at to Yazid. Yazid was an unjust ruler who wanted to destroy Islam. In any case he was going to Kufa because he had been invited by the people there.
Imam produced two sacks of letters and petitions from the people of Kufa begging him to go there. Hurr said that as his orders were not to let Imam go to Kufa there was nothing that he could do save carry out his orders.
Imam Husayn could have fought Hurr and his soldiers and forced his way into Kufa, but he did not wish to start any battle.
He told Hurr that he would take another route and go away from Kufa. Hurr said that his orders were to follow Imam Husayn. And so, followed by Hurr and his 1000 soldiers, Imam Husayn and his companion rode in the direction away from Kufa.
On the 2nd Muharram, they reached Karbala’. Imam Husayn bought land there and put up his tents. Hurr and his men pitched their camps some distance away.
The following day, Umar bin Sa'ad came to Karbala’ with 4000 soldiers. Umar Sa'ad was the commander of the Yazid's Army. He had several meetings with Imam Husayn and was so impressed by Imam that he began to join Imam for prayers.
When Ibn Ziyad heard this, he was furious. He sent Shimr with 10,000 men and wrote a letter to Umar bin Sa'ad, ordering him to get “Bai'at” from Imam Husayn or kill him. Umar bin Sa'ad immediately changed his attitude towards Imam Husayn. Following his instructions he imposed restrictions on Imam Husayn and his followers from getting water from “Furaat”, and from 7th Muharram, no one from Imam Husayn's camp was allowed near the river.
On the night of Ashura, Hurr was very restless. He could hear the children in Imam Husayn's camp cry because of thirst. He began to think “What have I done? Why did I put the son of Fatimah in this position? Will Allah ever forgive me?” He could not sleep the whole night. Within him there was a struggle between his duty as a soldier and his Islamic conscience. Just before dawn he made up his mind.
Hurr, his son and his slave rode over to Imam Husayn's camp. Hurr threw himself at Imam Husayn's feet, pleading for his forgiveness. Imam Husayn took Hurr in his arms and said, “Hurr, I forgive you. I assure you that my grandfather, the Holy Prophet also forgives you.”
Hurr then asked Imam Husayn for permission to go and fight the enemies of Islam. Imam Husayn said “Hurr, you are my guest. How can I let you die for me?” Hurr insisted. Hurr went to the battlefield, and after a valiant fight, he fell and was killed. His son and the slave were also killed.
Hurr's example moved nearly thirty other soldiers to defect to Imam Husayn, where the only reward to be had was certain death, but where Allah's pleasure lay.
The story of Hurr is the story of a struggle between right and wrong within the human mind and victory of the Islamic conscience.
When he got to the body of Hurr Imam prayed to Allah: “Oh Allah! I Commend to you this brave man who has given his life for Islam.”
Hazrat Muslim Bin Awsajaa was a 'Sahaabi', a companion, of Hazrat Ali. He was greatly respected by Hazrat Ali, Imam Hassan and Imam Husayn. He was a leading citizen of Kufa and was among those who had written letters to Imam Husayn inviting him to go to Kufa. He was an old man, nearly eighty years old.
When Ibn Ziyad wanted to find out where Hazrat Muslim Ibn Aqeel was hiding in Kufa, he sent his spy to Muslim Bin Awsaja. The spy pretended to be a devout shiah and Hazrat Muslim Bin Awsajaa believed him and took him to Hazrat Muslim. Hazrat Muslim Bin Awsajaa never forgave himself for having accepted the story of the spy so easily.
After the murder of Hazrat Muslim Ibn Aqeel, Hazrat Muslim Bin Awsajaa slipped out of Kufa. He left Kufa by foot and travelled towards Mecca in the hope of meeting Imam Husayn on the way. Some historians record that he met and joined Imam at the place called 'Zuballah' on the same day as Imam Husayn got there. From him Imam learnt details about how Hazrat Muslim bin Aqeel and Hazrat Hani bin Urwah had been murdered. Imam Husayn was grief stricken.
Muslim Bin Awsajaa said to Imam Husayn, “Mawla, I beg you to accept me in your party.” Imam Husayn replied “O Muslim Bin Awsajaa, whenever I see you, I am reminded of my father. You know that these people will not let me live. You are an old man. Go back to your family and give your children and grandchildren the honour of burying you when you die. Your age excuses you from jihad.” When Muslim bin Awsaja insisted, Imam let him join his entourage.
On the day of Ashura, early in the morning, Muslim Bin Awsajaa went to Hazrat Habeeb Ibn Mazahir, removed his turban and asked Habeeb Ibn Mazahir to tie the cloth of the turban tightly around his waist and abdomen saying, “Habeeb, I do not want those dogs of Yazid to see me stooping with old age.” Habeeb Ibn Mazahir said, “But Muslim, you will not then have a turban on your head.”
Muslim replied, “When they kill me, and when I meet our Holy Prophet I want these my white hair to be my witness when I complain to our Prophet against Yazid and his people.”
When Muslim Bin Awsajaa rode out to fight, a soldier from Yazid's army teased him, “O old man! Go back to your bed and lie there!” Hazrat Muslim replied, “O dog! My bed is now the sword of Yazid. Let me show you the spirit of Islam.” Saying so he attacked the soldier and killed him with one stroke.
Umar bin Sa'ad sent twenty strong warriors to fight Muslim Bin Awsajaa. Six were killed and 14 ran away. At last, thirsty and exhausted, Muslim Bin Awsajaa stopped his horse, looked at the sky and appeared to be saying a prayer. Just then they fell upon him like hounds. Muslim Bin Awsajaa fell to the ground with countless wounds on his frail body.
Habeeb Ibn Mazahir and Imam Husayn rushed to him. When they reached Muslim bin Awsajaa, he looked at Imam Husayn and asked, “Mawla, How did I fight?” Imam Husayn replied “You fought like a true follower of Ali Murtaza.” Hazrat Muslim took Imam Husayn's hand in his hand, brought it near his lips, and as he kissed Imam's hand he breathed his last. There was a smile on his lips and pride on his face.
Habeeb Ibn Mazahir was about the same age as Imam Husayn. They were childhood friends. When Hazrat Ali moved the capital to Kufa, Habeeb also moved to Kufa. He stayed on in Kufa and became a prominent citizen. He was a devout Shiah. The first letter which Imam Husayn received inviting him to Kufa was signed by Habeeb Ibn Mazahir. After Hazrat Muslim and Hazrat Hani Bin Urwah were killed by Ibn Ziyaad, Kufa was sealed off. No one could get in or out of the city without the Governor's permission.
Ibn Ziyaad also started spreading the rumour that Imam Husayn had gone to Madina and that he was living there happily under the protection of Yazid. Even Imam Husayn's messenger Qais Bin Musheer who tried to take a letter to the citizens of Kufa was arrested outside Kufa. He was tied and gagged, and thrown from the roof of the palace to the ground three times. Ibn Ziyaad succeeded in spreading terror in Kufa and silencing the people.
Habeeb Ibn Mazahir was heart-broken because he could not join Imam Husayn. He did not even know where Imam Husayn was. There were all sorts of rumours but no one knew anything for certain.
Imam Husayn had reached Karbala’. Everyday Bibi Zainab saw soldiers coming to join the camp of Umar al-Sa'ad, the Commander of Yazid's Army. On 4th Muharram she came to Imam Husayn and said “Ya Akhee, why are all these soldiers coming?” Imam replied “My dear sister, they are gathering to kill me.” Bibi Zainab said, “Brother, you have hardly seventy-two men with you, while they are in thousands.” Bibi Zainab had tears in her eyes as she added, “Do you not have anyone ready to come to your help?” Imam Husayn said “Falsehood can buy you many supporters, truth has few friends.”
That very day Imam Husayn wrote a letter to Habeeb Ibn Mazahir, his childhood friend, telling him how Yazid's vultures were gathering to kill him. The letter was carried by a messenger who entered Kufa in the dark by climbing over the city walls. The messenger reached Habeeb's house as Habeeb, his wife and his young son were sitting down for breakfast. Habeeb read the letter, kissed it and tears began to flow down his cheeks. His wife asked him what was wrong. Habeeb said “Who would ever have thought that people would be so thirsty for the blood of the grandson of the Holy Prophet, whose name they utter in every Adhaan and in every Salaah?”
Habeeb instructed his servant to take his horse to a farm outside the city and wait for him there. If anyone should ask, the servant should say that he was taking the horse for grazing.
At Asr, when most people were in the mosque Habeeb slipped out of Kufa. He mounted his horse and galloped towards Karbala’. Habeeb Ibn Mazahir reached Karbala’ late in the evening. Imam Husayn greeted Habeeb with great affection. When Bibi Zainab heard that Habeeb had come she asked Janaab al-Fizza to convey her greetings to Habeeb. When Habeeb received the message he began to sob saying, “How fortunate are the companions of Imam Husayn that the daughter of Fatimah Zahra should honour them with greetings.”
On the fateful day of Ashura, between zuhr and asr, Habeeb Ibn Mazahir rode into the battlefield. He fought bravely. Finally he was over-powered, He fell to the ground. Imam Husayn rushed to him. Habeeb looked at Imam and said “O the grand-son of the Holy Prophet, please forgive this humble servant for not being able to give more than his unworthy life for you and Islam.” Imam took Habeeb in his arms and cried, “O my friend! O my friend!” Habeeb died resting his head on Imam's shoulder.
This is the story of a young bride and a young bridegroom who were at Karbala’. They had been married only two months. The bridegroom was his mother's only child.
After his marriage the mother decided to go for Hajj and take the son and his bride. They left Kufa for Mecca in the month of Shawwaal.
On their way back, they found Kufa sealed off. At the border the mother asked why Kufa had been placed under such a strict blockade. She was told that a rebel group was camped at Karbala’ and that Kufa was sealed off to protect the city and its inhabitants from an attack by the rebels. She asked who the rebels were. She was told the leader was Husayn Ibn Ali Ibn Abu Taalib.
On hearing the name, the lady almost fainted. This lady was the widow Abdullah Qalbi and her son, the newly wed bridegroom, was Wahab Bin Abdullah Qalbi. His father was a companion of Hazrat Ali. In 40 Hijrah when Abdullah Qalbi's wife was pregnant she became very ill. Abdullah Qalbi went to Hazrat Ali and said “My wife and I have been childless for so long. Now that she is expecting a baby she is so ill that I may lose her. Please Mawla, pray for her.” Hazrat Ali prayed, and Abdullah Qalbi's wife recovered. Same year Hazrat Ali was martyred. A few months later Wahab was born. Two years later his father died. The widow had brought up her son with great love.
Now she heard the son of Ali being accused of wanting to attack Kufa and kill the people there. She refused to believe it. She said to her son, “Wahab, I must go and find out what is happening.” Wahab said, “Mother, I too would like to come.” The three arrived in Karbala’ on the 7th Muharram.
On learning the true situation Wahab decided to stay on with Imam Husayn and fight for him. When he told his mother of his decision, she said “I am the proudest mother in Iraq.”
On the day of Ashura, Wahab fought for Imam Husayn. When he was killed the mother and the bride were standing at the gate of the camp. Their faces were radiant with pride. Umar Sa'ad ordered Wahab's head to be cut off from the body. He threw the head at Wahab's mother. She picked it up, kissed it and threw it back at Umar Sa'ad saying, “What we have sacrificed for our Imam and for Islam we do not take back. I am sorry I have one son only. If I had twenty, they all would have fought Yazid today.” Then she went into the camp, and took the young bride in her arms. Just then, the tent's curtain lifted and Bibi Zainab came in. She embraced them both and offered her condolences saying: “May Allah grant you patience to bear Wahab's loss!!
Among those who were martyred at Karbala’ were sixteen slaves or freed slaves. Most of them were from Abyssinia, the present day Ethiopia. Some of them belonged to Imam Husayn's family and others to the companions of Imam who remained with him.
On the night before Ashura Imam and the companions freed all their slaves and urged them to go away and seek their safety, but these sixteen would not leave. Amongst them was an Abyssinian called John bin Huwai.
Hazrat Ali had given John to Abu Dharr Ghiffari, Abu Dharr freed him, but John stayed on with Abu Dharr as a companion. When Abu Dharr was exiled from Madina John went back to Hazrat Ali who invited him to stay on as his companion. In the company of Hazrat Ali he learnt the tafseer of Quraan and the traditions of the Holy Prophet. He also knew the Holy Quraan by heart. When Hazrat Ali was martyred John stayed with Imam Hassan and after Imam Hassan he moved in with Imam Husayn. When Imam Husayn left Madina John insisted on accompanying him.
At Karbala’ John could always be seen at the side of Imam Husayn. He was an old man, dark with grey curly hair. Because of his profound knowledge and pleasant manners he was greatly respected by all.
John spent the whole night of Ashura sharpening his sword. On the following day he helped in repelling the first two attacks from Yazid's army. At mid-day, after the Zuhr prayers, John came to the Imam, and stood silently with his arms folded. It was his habit never to speak in the presence of Imam until spoken to.
Imam Husayn looked at John and said, “John, I know you have come for my permission to go to the battle-field. You have been a good and trusted friend. I will not deny you martyrdom for Islam. Go, Allah be with you!” John smiled happily. He faced the enemy and recited a poem which said “I am a soul willing to die for Allah and have a sword thirsty of the blood of the enemies of Allah. Before I die I shall fight the enemies of Allah with my sword and my tongue, and thus shall I serve the grand-son of the Holy Prophet.”
John fought courageously, all the time reciting the poem. He received several mortal blows but his recitation of the poem continued. John fell from his horse, he still continued to fight with his tongue by reciting the poem. And then a few horse men moved to where he lay. John, the Abyssinian, was silenced.
In the Holy Qur'an, Allah Ta'ala has time and again emphasized the requirement of every muslim to say his prayers. In Sura al-Ma'oon Allah says “Woe unto those who do not say their prayers regularly, and pray only to be seen by others!”
Let us see how Zuhr prayers were said in Karbala’. When the time for Zuhr prayers came most of the companions of Imam Husayn lay dead. They had been killed in the three battles which had taken place since sunrise. Now there were only about fifteen companions left in addition to the members of the family who numbered about eighteen. These 33 stood up to say Zuhr prayers and Imam Husayn stood in front of them to lead the prayers.
Just then the enemy began to shoot arrows. This made it very difficult for Imam Husayn to lead prayers. Imam told his companions that he would lead “Namaaz al-Khauf”, which meant that some would join in the prayers and half way they would read salaam and terminate their prayers, and then others would come in. This would give everyone a chance to say prayers in jama'at. behind the Imam. The problem, however, was how to protect the Imam from the arrows. Two companions stepped forward and begged Imam to let them stand in front of him and act as a shield. They insisted upon this and the Imam finally agreed.
These two brave men were Zuhair Ibn Qain and Saeed Ibn Abdullah. They performed their prayers first and then when Imam began Jama'at prayers they stood up in front of him. Every time an arrow was shot at Imam they put forward their own bodies and this way stopped the arrows from hitting Imam.
Let us imagine the scene. Imam Husayn is leading the prayers, Zuhair and Saeed are standing in front of him. The natural human instinct is that when a man sees anything flying towards him, he ducks to avoid it. Here are two men who not only do not duck but actually put forward their bodies to intercept the arrows. By the time the prayers had finished, 38 arrows had hit Zuhair Ibn Qain and 52 arrows had hit Saeed Ibn Abdullah. It was by sheer will to serve their Imam and Islam they kept themselves alive. When the Imam recited the last salaam “Assalaamu 'Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahu wa Barakaatuh”, these two great heroes of Karbala’ fell.
When Imam Husayn went up to them and said “My friends, you have given your lives for something most beloved to Allah, the salaah!” Imam then raised his hands and prayed, “O Allah! I am proud to commend to You the souls of my two companions who gave their lives for salaah. Please, Allah, grant them Your Rahmah.” Every one present called out “Aameen!”, and it is said that “Aameen” could be heard from the angels in the sky.
Aun and Muhammad were the sons of Bibi Zainab. They had not accompanied Bibi Zainab when she left Madina with Imam Husayn (A.S.) Just before Imam Husayn started his journey from Mecca, Hazrat Abdullah ibn Ja’far brought his two sons to Mecca and handing them over to Imam Husayn said, “Ya Imam, since you have decided to go and will not allow me to come with you, please take my two sons with you. Aun will represent his maternal grandfather Hazrat Ali (A.S.) and the other will represent his paternal grandfather Hazrat Ja’far al-Tayyaar.”
Aun and Muhammad were quite young. It is reported that Aun was about thirteen and Muhammad was a year or two younger. They had learnt the art of fencing from their uncle, Hazrat Abbas.
On the night before Ashura Bibi Zainab said to them, “My sons, tomorrow there will be a battle. I can not ask you to fight because you are young. But if anything happens to Imam Husayn, while you are still alive, I will be filled with shame.” Both the boys stood up and said “Mother, we have the blood of Ali and Ja’far in our veins. Our grand fathers were warriors whose fame will always be remembered.
Do you think we can possibly shame them? More over we are the pupils of Uncle Abbas. Mother, unless you forbid us and stop us from fighting, we shall go to the battlefield and show the enemies of Islam how bravely the children of Islam can fight. All we want from you is a promise that you will never weep for us. Or souls will never rest in peace if you grieve for us after we are gone.”
Tears of joy and pride flowed down Bibi Zainab's eyes as she embraced her two boys. In the morning during the general attacks from the enemy, Aun and Muhammad fought side by side with Hazrat Ali Akbar, Hazrat Qasim and Hazrat Abbas. Every time either of them succeeded in felling an enemy, he would look proudly at Hazrat Abbas who would smile and nod his approval. Imam Husayn would not, however, give the two boys permission to go for single combat.
They were very disappointed. They came to their mother for help. Bibi Zainab sent someone to request Imam Husayn to come to her tent. When the Imam came Bibi Zainab said, “Husayn, at the battle of Siffeen Hazrat Abbas was only eight years old. When he saw someone trying to attack you, he rushed into the battle field and killed the man. Do you remember how proud our father Ali was? Today I too want to be proud of my sons. I want to see them go out there and defend Islam. Will you not allow me that privilege?” Imam Husayn stood there in silence.
He looked at his sister. He saw the disappointment on her face. He saw tears forming around her eyes. He put his arms around the two boys and led them to their horses. He kissed them and then helped them mount.”Go,” said Imam, “Go, and show the world how those as young as you can fight the injustice and oppression of Yazid!” Then he turned round and lifted the curtain of the tent. The boys raised their hands and said “Fi Amaani-llah, mother!” Bibi Zainab replied, “Bismillah my sons. Allah be with you!”
The two boys rode out into the battlefield. They fought bravely. At one point Umar Sa'ad asked, “Who are these two youngsters? They fight like I have seen Ali ibn Abu Taalib fight.” When he was told who they were he ordered his soldiers to give up single combats and surround and kill the boys. Aun and Muhammad were attacked from all sides. Soon they were over-powered and brutally killed. Imam Husayn and Hazrat Abbas carried the two young bodies to a tent and laid them on the floor. Imam walked to Bibi Zainab's tent. He found her in sijdah praying, “Ya Allah, I thank you for accepting my sacrifice. My heart is filled with pride because my two sons have given their lives for your religion.”
After the death of Uthmaan, people prevailed upon Hazrat Ali to accept Khulafah. Uthmaan died on 24th Muharram in 35 Hijrah and Hazrat Ali became Khalifah in the same month. The first thing he did after becoming the Khalifah was to dismiss all the corrupt governors and other officials. Muawiya, who was the Governor of Syria, did not accept the dismissal and responded by gathering together a Syrian army of fifty thousand soldiers to fight Hazrat Ali. Hazrat Ali marched from Kufa with an army of twenty thousand. The battle took place North of Kufa at a place called Siffeen on the banks of the river Furaat. At one time during the battle, Hazrat Ali's army captured Furaat.
Muawiya and his army were cut off from water. When Hazrat Ali heard that Muawiya soldiers were suffering from thirst, he ordered his army to let Muawiya army come to the river saying, “Every living being is entitled to water.” Immediately Hazrat Ali's army made a way for Muawiya and his soldiers to come to the river and take as much water as they needed, and also to water their horses and camels.
From Asr until sunset Muawiya soldiers were at the river bank drinking water, watering their animals and filling their mashks. When Hazrat Ali's officers complained to him, Hazrat Ali replied, “To deprive any human or animal of water is a sin Allah will never forgive.”
Yazid was at Siffeen, so was Imam Husayn. When the Muharram of 60 Hijrah came, Yazid sent a secret order to ibn Ziyad to force Imam Husayn away from Furaat and then cut off Imam Husayn, his family and his companions from water. Ibn Ziyad gave orders to Umar Sa'ad to do so. On the third of Muharram, Umar Ibn Sa'ad asked Imam Husayn to move his camp away from Furaat. Imam Husayn and his camp were cut off from water, while 25 years earlier, his father had allowed Yazid's father and the army of 50,000 freedom to go to the river and take as much water as they had wanted.
The children in Imam Husayn's camp were soon crying out “Al-atash! al atash!” Burair Hamdani was a companion of Imam Husayn. He was present at Karbala’. On the night before Ashura, he could no longer stand the cries of “Al-atash, Al-atash.” In the dark of the night he made his way to the river. He filled his mashk and secured the cap. He too was very thirsty but did not even think of drinking water when he was at the river bank. How could he when the grand-son of the Holy Prophet and his children were thirsty!
On his way back, he was seen by two of the guards posted to make sure that no water reached Imam Husayn's camp. They tried to stop him. He attacked and killed them both. He brought the mashk to Imam Husayn's camp. He called Bibi Fizza and asked her to take the mashk to the children. They were more than fifty children in Imam Husayn's camp. They were all very thirsty. When they heard that water had come, they rushed. They put their cheeks on the mashk to cool themselves. In this rush the cap flew open and the water spilled.
The children looked with pain and disappointment as the water disappeared into the desert sand. Burair was desolate. He raised his hands to the sky and cried, “Oh Allah! I had hoped that this Your humble servant would tonight earn the du'aas of the children of Imam. Oh how very unfortunate Burair the son of Hamdani is!” Imam consoled Burair, “My friend, you have earned the du'aas of Fatimah's son for your brave effort!”
Hazrat Qasim was the youngest son of Imam Hassan (A.S.). Hazrat Qasim was born in 47 A.H. three years before his father was martyred. When Imam Husayn prepared to leave Madina in the month of Rajab 60 A.H. Hazrat Qasim mother Umme al-Farwa asked Imam Husayn to take her and Hazrat Qasim with him. Imam Husayn agreed.
Hazrat Qasim, although only 13 years old, had, like his cousins Aun and Muhammad, learnt fencing from Hazrat Abbas and Hazrat Ali Akbar. Hazrat Abbas was very fond of Hazrat Qasim.
On the night before Ashura when Imam Husayn was passing by Umm al-Farwa's tent he heard Hazrat Qasim say to his mother, “Mother, tomorrow Uncle Abbas, Ali Akbar and I will defend Imam Husayn. Mother, if I get killed please do not weep for me.” Umm al-Farwa replied, “My son although I dearly love you, I shall not weep for you. Nothing will make me prouder than to see my son give his life for Islam.” When Imam Husayn heard this conversation he prayed to Allah to bless Hazrat Qasim and Umm al-Farwa.
On Ashura day after Aun and Muhammad had fallen in the battlefield, Hazrat Qasim came to Imam Husayn and begged for permission to go and fight. Twice Imam Husayn refused saying “Qasim you are young and your mother's only son.” Hazrat Qasim was very disappointed. He went to his mother. When she saw her son so disappointed she remembered that just before he died, Imam Hassan had written a letter, given it to Umm al-Farwa saying, “If ever you find Qasim in difficulty, give him this letter.” She gave Hazrat Qasim the letter. In the letter it was written, “My son Qasim, a day will come when my brother Husayn will be facing an enemy army of tens of thousands. That will be the day when Islam will need to be saved by sacrifice. You must represent me on that day.”
Hazrat Qasim read the letter. He smiled. He rushed to Imam and gave him the letter. After reading the letter Imam Husayn said, “O my brother's son, how can I stop you from doing what your father wanted you to do. Bismillah, go. Allah be with you.”
Imam Husayn tied Imam Hassan's turban on the head of Hazrat Qasim and helped him mount his horse. As Hazrat Qasim was riding out, Imam Husayn said “Inna Lilla-hi Wa Inna Ilai-hi Raji'oon.” Hazrat Qasim said “O my uncle - Do not be upset. I do not fear death. Death for Islam will be sweeter for me than honey.” Hazrat Qasim came to the battle field. He was a very handsome boy. When the enemy saw him, they began to murmur, “How can we kill someone whose face is shining like moon?”
In a loud and a clear voice Hazrat Qasim introduced himself and cried out a challenge for single combat. He killed several famous warriors who came forward.
Every time he felled an enemy Hazrat Qasim would stand on his stirrups, look behind and wave to Hazrat Abbas, just as a pupil would seek approval of his teacher on any assignment, Hazrat Abbas would proudly wave back. When the enemy saw his bravery and realized that they could not possibly over power him in single combats, they came from behind and one of them hit Hazrat Qasim on the head with a sword.
Hazrat Qasim tried to go on fighting but alas he was so young and he was so very thirsty! He fell from his horse crying out, “ya ammaho, accept my last salaams.” Imam Husayn and Hazrat Abbas rode out. The soldiers tried to stop them, when finally they came to where Hazrat Qasim had fallen they saw a dreadful sight!! Hazrat Qasim's body had been trampled by the horses of the soldiers who had tried to stop Imam Husayn and Hazrat Abbas. Hazrat Abbas was so angry when he saw this that he began to shake with fury. He took out his sword and wanted to attack the enemy. Imam Husayn restrained him saying “Abbas, have patience, dear brother. Do not give them an excuse for saying that we attacked them first.”
Was Hazrat Qasim body carried to the camp to his mother? This is not very clear. It is reported, however, that Imam Husayn took off his abaa, spread it on to the ground, and gathered the pieces from the ground as one gathers flowers from a garden!
Hazrat Ali married Fatimah Binti Huzaam Ibn Khalid in 24 Hijrah. Fatimah gave birth to Hazrat Abbas on the 4th Shabaan, 26th Hijrah. In 27th Hijrah Ja'far was born and in 29th Hijrah Uthmaan was born. Abdullah was born in 32nd Hijrah. Because she had four sons Fatima Binti Huzaam was known as Ummul Baneen.
Ummul Baneen, from the very first day she entered Hazrat Ali's house, treated the children of Bibi Fatimah with utmost respect. She brought up her own sons to look upon Imam Hassan, Imam Husayn, Bibi Zainab and Bibi Kulthoom, not as brothers and sisters but as masters and mistresses.
Imam Husayn was very attached to Hazrat Abbas. When Hazrat Abbas was born, Hazrat Ali asked Imam Husayn to recite the adhaan and the iqamah in the ears of the child. When he was on the arms of Imam Husayn, the infant smiled and raised his arms. There were tears in Imam Husayn's eyes. Was it because he knew that the child was trying to say: “O Mawla I have come and will happily give these my arms and my life for you and Islam?”
In early childhood Hazrat Abbas would follow Imam Husayn like a shadow. If Imam Husayn looked thirsty, Hazrat Abbas would rush to bring him water. If Imam Husayn seemed hot, Hazrat Abbas would fan him with the hem of his cloak. At the battle of Siffeen in the 34th Hijrah, Hazrat Abbas was only eight years old. Imam Husayn was fighting in the battle field.
When Hazrat Abbas saw an enemy soldier approaching Imam Husayn from behind, he took a sword and rushed into the battle field and killed the enemy, at the same time crying out in a loud voice, “How can any one dare attack my Mawla while I am alive.” He continued to fight maintaining his position behind Imam Husayn. Muawiya saw this and asked, “Who is that boy?” When he was told he was Abbas ibn Ali, he said, “By God! No one can fight like that at that age except a son of Ali!”
Hazrat Abbas grew up to be a tall and handsome man. He was so tall, that when he sat on a horse his feet touched the ground. He was so handsome that he was known as Qamar al-Bani Hashim, the Moon of the family of Hashim.
Hazrat Abbas was also a valiant warrior. It was said that Muawiya did not dare invade Madina because of five men who were with Imam Husayn and could, together with their Imam, conquer a whole army. These were Muhammad Hanafia, a brother of Imam Husayn, Hazrat Muslim ibn Aqeel, Abdullah Ibn Ja’far, Hazrat Abbas and Hazrat Ali ibnal Husayn, our fourth Imam, Zainul 'Abideen.
When Imam Husayn decided to leave Madina in the month of Rajab 60 Hijrah, he did not encourage Muhammad Hanafia and Abdullah Ibn Ja’far to accompany him. He wanted to make sure that no one at the time or in the future would suggest that Husayn wanted to fight for the khilafah.
Just before Imam Husayn left Madina, Ummul Baneen summoned all her four sons and said to them, “My sons you must remember that while I love you, Imam Husayn is your Master. If Imam or his sisters or his children get injured or hurt while you are still alive, I will never forgive you.” There were tears in Hazrat Abbas's eyes as he promised his mother that he and his brothers would lay down their lives for Imam Husayn and his children.
The caravan reached Karbala’ on 2nd Muharram. From the day the sad news of Hazrat Muslim's murder had reached the caravan of Imam Husayn, Hazrat Abbas and his brothers increased their vigilance to protect Imam and the others.
Hazrat Abbas was very popular with the children of Imam Husayn especially Bibi Sakina who was only four years old. Whenever the children wanted anything they would cry out “Ya Abbas!” or “Ya Ammahu!”, and Hazrat Abbas would go running. But from the seventh of Muharram Abbas was unable to respond to their cries for water.
Then came the day of Ashura, after Zuhr prayers one by one the brave companions of Imam Husayn fell in the battle field. At last only Imam Husayn, Hazrat Ali Akbar and Hazrat Abbas were left. Imam Zainul 'Abideen lay sick in his tent.
Several times Hazrat Abbas asked Imam Husayn for permission to go and fight. Each time Imam Husayn would reply “Abbas, you are the captain of my army, you are my 'alamdaar - the standard bearer.” Hazrat Abbas would never argue with Imam Husayn. His three brothers were killed in the battle fought after Zuhr. Imam Husayn could see the anger in Hazrat Abbas's eyes, especially when Hazrat Qasim's body was trampled upon by the enemy. Imam Husayn knew that if he let Hazrat Abbas go and fight, there would be a massacre in the enemy rank. Imam Husayn's object was to re-awaken Islam and not to score a victory on the battle field.
Just then Bibi Sakina came out holding a dried up mask. She walked up to Hazrat Abbas and said “al atash, ya ammahu! I am thirsty O my uncle Abbas!” Hazrat Abbas went to Imam Husayn and requested for permission to go and get water for Bibi Sakina. Imam Husayn gave his permission. Hazrat Abbas put Bibi Sakina's mashk on the 'alam, mounted his horse and rode up to Imam Husayn. He said “I have come to say goodbye.”
Imam Husayn said “My brother, come and embrace me.” Hazrat Abbas dismounted his horse. There were tears in Imam's eyes. As Hazrat Abbas prepared to mount his horse, Imam Husayn said, “My brother, I want a gift from you. I want your sword.” Hazrat Abbas, without uttering a word, gave Imam Husayn his sword and rode into the battlefield, armed only with a spear and holding the 'alam.
There were 30,000 enemy soldiers in the battlefield. They had all heard of the valour of Hazrat Abbas. A cry arose, “Abbas is coming!” Yazid's soldiers started hiding behind one another. A few brave ones dared go near Hazrat Abbas but were soon put to death by the spear or by a kick.
Hazrat Abbas reached the river Furaat. He filled the mashk with water. He himself was very thirsty. He took the water in his palms, looked at it and threw it away saying, “O water of Furaat, my lips can welcome you only after Bibi Sakina has quenched her thirst!?” He placed the mashk on his 'alam and started to ride back.
Umar Sa'ad cried out, “Do not let that water reach Husayn's camp, otherwise we shall all be doomed!”
A soldier climbed a tree and as Hazrat Abbas was riding past the tree he struck his sword on the right shoulder The spear and the arm fell on to the ground. Just then someone crept behind Hazrat Abbas and struck him on the left shoulder. The 'alam fell. Hazrat Abbas gripped the mashk with his teeth. His one object was to get the water to Bibi Sakina. Fighting with his feet he urged the horse to get him to Imam's camp as quickly as possible.
Alas! an arrow was shot. It went flying across the desert and hit the mashk. The water began to pour out and with the water all the hopes of Hazrat Abbas poured on to the sands of Karbala’ to be buried forever in the thirsty desert. Hazrat Abbas now did not want to go back and face Bibi Sakina. With his feet, he signalled the horse to turn back. The enemy surrounded him from all sides. Hazrat Abbas fell from the horse!! As he fell, he cried out “My salaams to you Ya Mawla!”
Imam Husayn seemed to lose all his strength when he heard the voice of his dear brother Abbas.
When Hazrat Abbas left to go to fetch water, Imam stood at the gate of the camp watching the 'alam. Bibi Sakina was standing next to Imam Husayn, also with her eyes fixed on the 'alam. When Hazrat Abbas reached the river bank and bent down to fill the mashk, the 'alam disappeared from sight.
Bibi Sakina was frightened and looked at her father. Imam said, 'Sakina, your uncle Hazrat Abbas is at the river bank.' Bibi Sakina smiled and said, 'Alhamdulillah!' and called out all the children to welcome Hazrat Abbas. When Hazrat Abbas lost both arms, the 'alam fell onto the ground. Bibi Sakina could see it no longer! She looked at Imam Husayn, but he turned his face away. Bibi Sakina began to tremble with fear and her eyes filled with tears. She raised her hands and prayed, 'Ya Allah! Do not let them kill my uncle Abbas! I will never ask for water again!' and ran inside to her mother.
Imam Husayn reached where Hazrat Abbas was lying. It was a tragic sight. Hazrat Abbas was lying on the ground. Both arms had been severed! There was an arrow in the right eye and blood blocked the left eye. As soon as Hazrat Abbas sensed the presence of Imam Husayn he said “Mawla, why did you take the trouble to come over? Please go back and look after Sakina.” Imam Husayn said, “My dear brother, all your life you have served me and my children. Is there anything I can do for you at this last moment of you life?”
Hazrat Abbas replied, “Aqaa, please, clean the blood from my eye so that I can see your beloved face before I die!” Imam cleaned the blood. Hazrat Abbas fixed his gaze on Imam. Then he said, “Mawla please do not carry my body to the camp. I do not wish Sakina to see me in this state!” Imam Husayn took Hazrat Abbas in his arms, and kissed his forehead. Just then our Mawla, our Mushkil Kushaa, Hazrat Abbas ibn Ali breathed his last. Imam Husayn placed Bibi Sakina's mashk on the 'alam and carried the 'alam to the camp. He went to Bibi Zainab's tent. Imam Husayn could not say a word. He gave the 'alam to Bibi Zainab and sat down on the floor! The brother sister performed aza al-Abbas.
Hazrat Ali Akbar was the son of Imam Husayn. He was a handsome young man of eighteen. His mothers' name was Umm al-Laila. He was also a brave soldier. He had been taught fencing and archery by Hazrat Abbas. He so much resembled the Holy Prophet that Imam Husayn was often heard to say: “whenever I remember the Holy Prophet I look at Akbar”.
Hazrat Ali Akbar had a loud beautiful voice. It was he who always recited adhaan. On the morning of Ashura day Hazrat Ali Akbar recited adhaan. Every one knew that it was the last time they would hear Hazrat Ali Akbar's adhaan. Imam Husayn began to weep when Hazrat Ali Akbar began his Adhaan. The ladies could also be heard crying in their tents.
After Zuhr prayers Hazrat Ali Akbar stood in front of Imam Husayn. He said, “Father I request for permission to go and fight the enemies of Islam.” Imam looked at his son lovingly. He said, “Akbar, you have my permission. May Allah be with you! But Akbar, you know how much your mother, sisters and aunts love you. Go and say farewell to them.”Ali Akbar went into the tent of his mother. Every time he wanted to come out of the tent the mother, aunts and sisters would pull his cloak and say, “O Akbar, How can we live without you!” Finally Imam Husayn had to go in and plead with all to let Hazrat Ali Akbar go.
Imam helped his youthful son to mount the horse. As Akbar began to the ride towards the battlefield, he heard foot steps behind. He looked back and saw his father. He said, “Father, we have said good-bye. Why are you walking behind him.” Husayn replied, “My son, had you been a father you would surely have understood!!”
Hazrat Ali Akbar fought very bravely. No one dared come close to him in single combat after he had killed many well known warriors. Umar Sa'ad ordered his soldiers to finish off the young man saying, “When he dies, Husayn will not want to live! Ali Akbar is the life of Husayn.” While a few soldiers attacked Hazrat Ali Akbar another slowly crept up to him and threw a spear at his chest with such ferocity that it penetrated Akbar chest and he felt faint. As he was falling from his horse, he cried out.”O Father, my last salaams to you!” As he hit the ground the spear broke but the blade remained lodged in Akbar's chest.
When our Imam heard Akbar's salaam he looked at Furaat where Hazrat Abbas lay and said, 'Abbas! Now that this brother of yours needs you most, where have you gone?' With all his strength sapped by the anguish in Akbar's voice, Husayn began to walk towards the battle-field.
Let us pause briefly to remind ourselves of an incident in the seventh Hijrah. The Jews of Khaibar had revolted against the Holy Prophet. The Prophet and the Muslims of Madina laid a siege on Khaibar. They surrounded the fortress in which the Jews had taken shelter. The Muslims could not get victory unless they entered the fortress. There was a moat surrounding the fortress. Hazrat Ali had been unable to accompany the Muslims due to his illness. Three days passed and the Muslims could not find any solution. Even if they got across the moat they would face the famous gates of the fortress. These were made of steel, and it is said that at least twenty men were needed to push open or close each gate.
On the third day, after the morning prayers, the Prophet summoned Ali. Hazrat Ali immediately responded. He jumped his horse over the moat and with one hand swung open both the gates of the fortress with such force that they broke off their hinges. He carried them and put them across the moat to form a bridge. The Muslims rode into the fortress and conquered Khaibar.
Now let us go back to Karbala’. When Imam Husayn got to where Akbar lay he took him in his arms. Akbar had his right hand on the chest. He placed his left arm over the shoulder of his father. Husayn said “Akbar, why do you embrace me with one arm only?” Akbar would not reply. Husayn tried to move Akbar hand. Akbar resisted. Imam gently moved the hand. Then he saw it! He saw the blade of the spear. Imam Husayn laid Hazrat Ali Akbar on the ground and sitting on his knees he put both his hands on the blade of the spear. He then looked at Najaf, and cried out, “Father, I too have come to my Khaibar!” He pulled out the blade. Jibraeel cried out “Marhaba! Marhaba!” Akbar took a deep sigh and then lay still.
Hazrat Ali Asghar was the youngest child of Imam Husayn. He was born only a few weeks before Imam left Madina. His mother's name was Rubaab daughter of Imra'u'l Qais who was the chief of the tribe of Kinda.
Rubaab had two children, Bibi Sakina and Ali Asghar. She and her two children accompanied Imam to Karbala’. The fact that Imam took with him a newly born baby further demonstrates the his intention was never to engage in any armed rebellion.
At Karbala’ Asghar was only six months old. From the seventh Muharram there was no water in Imam's camp. Asghar was in great pain because of thirst.
On Ashura day, after Hazrat Ali Akbar had been killed, Imam Husayn was standing outside the camp. He was left all alone and he was preparing to go into the battlefield. Just then he heard a child cry. It was Ali Asghar, tormented by the pangs of hunger and thirst.
Imam walked into Bibi Rubaab's tent. He lifted the child from the cradle.”Rubaab,” he said, “I will take him to Yazid's army. Surely they can not possibly deny this little infant a few drops of water?” Rubaab changed Ali Asghar's clothes. She even tied a small turban on his head. Like any other mother she wanted her son to look at his best in front of strangers.
Imam Husayn carried the child to the battle field. Walking up to Yazid's soldiers Imam Husayn said, “This child has done you no harm. He is dying of thirst. I am begging for a few drops of water for him.”There was no response. Imam said, “If you are afraid that when you bring Asghar any water I will drink it, look, I will put him on the ground and you can come yourself and give him water.”
He put the child on the sands of Karbala’ and moved a couple of steps back. You can imagine how hot the desert sand was. Asghar lay there not even wincing. He turned towards the enemy and stared at them. A murmur arose among the soldiers but no one came forward to give water to the baby. Imam took Asghar in his arms and in a clear voice said, “Asghar, my son, show them how thirsty you are!” Asghar turned his head towards the soldiers. He smiled sweetly, opened his mouth, brought out his dry tongue and moved it over his lips. The ultimate sword had been unsheathed!
The soldiers were so moved by this that they could be heard sobbing. Still, they were very afraid of Yazid and none dared come forward to give water to Ali Asghar.
Umar Sa'ad was worried. It seemed that Asghar was emerging victorious in this confrontation against the might of Yazid. He looked at Hurmala, a famous archer, and said, “Silence Husayn!”
Then a terrible thing happened. Hurmala lifted his bow. He aimed an arrow at the child. The arrow flew across the hot desert. There was a hissing sound. Asghar smiled. He lifted his head and arched his neck!! No civilized mind can even imagine what happened next. The hissing sound stopped and Asghar lay still on his father's arms.
Imam Husayn looked down at Asghar's neck, he saw the arrow, he saw the neck, he saw the smile and then he could see no more!!!
Our Imam began to feel faint. For a moment everything went dark. He could not see! There was a total silence over Karbala’, broken only by the sound of the gentle waves of Furaat. Even the enemy appeared stunned.
Slowly Husayn turned round and now looked at the baby in his arms.
The arrow had passed through the tender neck and lodged in Imam Husayn's chest. There was no way Imam Husayn could dislodge the arrow. His two arms were supporting the still child. He looked at the sky, and prayed “Ya Allah, give me courage in this most difficult moment of my life. No Prophet ever was subjected to a test as severe as this.”
It is said that the Imam was so shaken up by what had happened to the infant child that all of a sudden his beard went all grey and he looked an old man. With his teeth he pulled his abaa over Asghar to shield the body from the scorching sun. Then he took a few deep breaths, and began to walk towards his camp.
As he got near he saw Rubaab standing at the entrance to her tent. He saw the anxiety, the hope, the fear and the restlessness in her eyes. Our Imam seemed to lose all strength. He could not walk forward towards Bibi Rubaab. He took seven steps back saying “inna lil-Lahi wa inna ilay-hi raja’uun.”
He stopped and thought that he must take the child to his mother. He again took seven steps forwards saying “inna lil-Lahi wa inna ilay-hi raja’uun.” Once again his eyes met with those of Bibi Rubaab's. Again our Imam seemed to lose his courage and walked backwards repeating “inna lil-Lahi wa inna ilay-hi raja’uun.” Imam Husayn did this seven times. Forward and backward. All the time Bibi Rubaab's eyes remained transfixed on the child. Each time Imam reciting “inna lil-Lahi wa inna ilay-hi raja’uun.”
Finally, somehow, he got the arrow dislodged. He now took the dead infant to Bibi Rubaab. He said, “Rubaab! This is a test from Allah which no mother has ever been asked to go through. Come with me” Bibi Rubaab followed. With their own hands they dug a small grave! The father and the mother together buried Ali Asghar!!
Our Imam is all alone! He looks around him. There lie Habeeb ibn Mazahir, Muslim ibn Awsaja, Zuhair ibn Qain and all his friends and companions. There lie Awn and Muhammad. He looks at Hazrat Qasim's trampled remains. He looks at Hazrat Ali Akbar, his beloved son, with that dreadful wound on his chest. He looks towards Furaat. Gently he whispers, 'Abbas, Abbas, I am alone! So very alone!'
Slowly Imam Husayn moves towards the tent of Imam Zain ul 'Abideen. Zain ul 'Abideen is lying unconscious on his bed. Lovingly Imam shakes his son by the shoulder. The sick Imam opens his eyes, 'Father, Father, why are you alone? Where is my uncle Abbas? Where is Ali Akbar? Where is Qasim? Where are all your companions?' Imam Husayn says, 'Son, no man, save you and I, is left alive. All of them have died for Islam.'
Imam Zain ul 'Abideen tries to get up. 'Where are you going, my son?' asks Imam Husayn. 'To fight Yazid's army!' replies the young man. 'No, my son, you are too sick for Jihad. I have come to say good-bye. Look after the ladies and the children. And, my son, when you get to Madina, give my love to Soghra. Tell her that I always remembered her and that in these last moments of my life, I wish I could give her a hug before I get killed. . And also, my son, give salaams to our friends and tell them to think of me when they drink water!'
Imam Husayn then stands in the centre of the camp and cries out, “O Zainab, O Kulthoom, O Sakina, O Ruqayya, O Rubaab, O Fizza my greetings to you! Farewell to you all!” The ladies and children weep and wail as they say farewell to Imam.
Imam walks towards his horse. There is no one to help him mount. Bibi Zainab steps forward. She holds the reins as Imam mounts the horse. The horse moves a few steps and then it stops. Imam Husayn urges the horse to move, but it stands still looking towards its hind legs. Imam turns his head. He sees Bibi Sakina clinging to the horse's leg, pleading, 'O horse, do not take my father away from me. Do not let them make me yateemah!'
Imam dismounts. He says, 'Sakina, you are the great grand daughter of the Holy Prophet! I love you so much that if you tell me not to go, I will not. But then Islam will be destroyed. How will you or I be able to face the Holy Prophet on the Day of Judgement?' Fighting back her tears the four year old Bibi Sakina can only manage to say, 'Bismillah, father!' The four year old holds the reins as her father mounts for a certain death!!
Husayn rides on. He stands on a hill and cries out, “Who is there who will come to my help?”
Of course our Imam is not expecting any of the enemy soldiers to come to his help! To whom is he addressing this plea for help? Our Imam is addressing the plea to all the Muslims, in every age and everywhere, young and old, men and women, grown ups and children urging us all to always fight Yazidism and refuse to disobey the commands of Allah. Every little effort we make to preserve and act according to our Islamic conscience is a response to our Imam's call with Labbaik! Labbaik!
Imam rides towards the enemy. There is a shower of arrows! Imam ignores the arrows and rides on. He wants to make one last effort to preach true Islam to the enemies of Islam. He stops and turns towards the enemy and begins to speak: “O those of you who do not know me, know that I am the grandson of the Holy Prophet. I am on the path of truth. Yazid personifies falsehood and corruption. He wants to lead you away from Islam.
Do not follow him. Do not kill the grandson of Allah's messenger. Allah will never forgive you! Remember that when you see a ruler who does what has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, who indulges in sins, who oppresses the people he rules, and you do nothing to stop such a ruler, before Allah you are as guilty as he is. You know my ancestry. My parents did not raise me to submit myself to an evil tyrant. I am your Imam. You have surrendered the freedom of your mind to the evil ways of Yazid.
If you do not care for Islam, do, at least, care for the freedom of your spirit!!”
Umar Sa'ad cries out, “Do not fall victims to Husayn's oratory! Kill him!”
From all directions the soldiers advance towards Imam Husayn with their naked swords! Imam says: “You are determined to fight me Then fight you I shall! I do not fear death. Death to me is sweeter than dishonour. Now I shall let you witness the valour of the son of Ali ibn Abu Taalib!”
Imam Husayn takes out his sword and begins to fight. Thirsty, tired, wounded, grieving, our Imam fights as no one had ever seen any one fight! Where ever he turns to, the soldiers flee as rabbits do at the sight of a lion! Umar Sa'ad sends all his best warriors against Imam. They all perish. No one dares come near our Imam! Imam stands on his stirrups. Casts his eyes to where Hazrat Abbas lies, and murmurs, “Abbas did you see the battle of your brother, the thirsty, the broken hearted brother?”
And then Jibra'eel appears and says, 'O Husayn, Allah is pleased with your bravery. The moment has now arrived for you to save Islam with your life!” Husayn looks at the sky! Yes, it is the time of Asr! Husayn returns the sword into the sheath. Lowers himself on the horse-back. Whispers to the horse “Take me to where my mother Fatimah is waiting for me! But, O my faithful horse, go past where my Akbar is lying so that I may see my beloved son just one more time before I die.”
Seeing that Imam has sheathed his sword the enemy come from all sides. Some throw stones at him, some hit him with swords. Arrows are shot at him! Suddenly the horse stops! “My son, my son!” cries out the soul of Fatimah Zahra. Imam Husayn falls from the horse! But his body does not touch the ground. It is resting on the blades of the arrows. He performs his Asr prayers lying on this musallah of arrows! Now he goes in to his last sijdah and says: “O Allah! All praise is to You and You alone!”
Someone is moving towards where our Imam is in sijdah on the arrows. He is holding a dagger in his hand. The earth trembles! The sun goes into eclipse! Jibraeel cries out “oh Husayn has been killed, Husayn has been killed!!!!”
Bibi Sakina falls on to the ground unconscious! Bibi Zainab runs to the tent of our fourth Imam. 'Oh Son! What has happened?” Imam Zain ul 'Abideen staggers towards the curtain of his tent. Lifts it up, and pointing his finger at a head mounted on a lance. He cries out in a trembling voice: “Assalaamu 'alaika, Ya 'aba 'Abdillah!!!”
It was after 'asr on the day of Ashura. Imam Husayn lay dead. The earth had trembled! Furaat had broken its banks! From the camp of the family of the Holy Prophet such lamentation arose as had never been heard before!
Yazid's army had brutally murdered our Imam, his sons, his brothers, his nephews, his companions. No one was spared. Amongst the male adults there remained only our fourth Imam, Imam Zain ul 'Abideen, who lay unconscious in his tent with his young son Muhammad hovering around him, weeping.
One would think that even the devil would halt himself in exhaustion after so much evil. But that was not to be!
Umar Sa'ad received a letter from ibn Ziyad. The governor of Kufa instructed that they should not be satisfied with the death of Husayn. His body must be subjected to the ultimate insult of being trampled by the hooves of horses. And this was done to the grandson of the Holy Prophet!!
As the sun was setting in the horizon, the soldiers rushed to Imam Husayn's camp in search of booty. They looted every tent. Every lady, and every girl was stripped of her veil. Fatimah's daughters were left bare-headed. Bibi Sakina's ear-rings were pulled off her ears, splitting her ear lobes. When the little girl pleaded for her veil to be left untouched, she was slapped.
Surely they would stop now? But they did not. They set fire to all the tents. Humayd Ibn Muslim describes how he saw a little girl with her dress on fire, her ears bleeding, running from the scene of carnage. He says: “I ran after her. I took her by hand. Put out the fire in her dress. I wiped the blood off her ears. She looked at me and said, “You seem like a kind person, are you a Muslim?” I told her I was. She thought a while and then said, “Can you please show me the way to Najaf?” I asked, “Why do you want to go to Najaf at this hour and in this state?” She said, “I want to go and complain to my grandfather Ali ibn Abi Talib about how they killed my father.” Realizing that she was Husayn's daughter, I took her back to her aunt Zainab.”
As the night descended, Bibi Zainab gathered all the ladies and children, in to one small space in between the gutted tents. Imam Zain-ul 'Abideen lay on the ground surrounded by these widows and orphans. There was no fire, no light. Only the moon cast its dull light.
Umar Sa'ad asked Hurr's widow to take some food and water to the ladies and the children. As she neared to where they were resting, Bibi Zainab recognized her. She stood up, went towards Hurr's widow and offered her condolences for the death of Hurr. This gesture on the part of Bibi Zainab, who had suffered so much, lost so many, and carrying so much grief in her heart, is a lesson in Islamic akhlaq which the world should never be allowed to forget.
Bibi Zainab took the jug of water. She went to Bibi Sakina who had fallen into a fretful sleep.
Gently she stroked the girl's dishevelled hair. Bibi Sakina opened her eyes. Bibi Zainab said, “Here is some water, Bibi Sakina. Please drink a little. You have been thirsty for so long!” On hearing the word 'water' Bibi Sakina cried out hopefully, “Has my uncle Abbas come back?” When she was told that Hurr's widow had brought the water, she got up, went to Hurr's widow, thanked her and then asked Bibi Zainab: “Have you all drunk water?”
Bibi Zainab shook her head. Bibi Sakina asked, “Why then do you ask me to drink water?” Bibi Zainab said, “Because, my dear, you are the youngest.” Bibi Sakina replied, “No! no! Asghar is the youngest!” Bibi Sakina took the jug of water, ran towards where Asghar lay buried, crying “Wa Asghara! Wa Asghara!”
This was how the homeless spent their night in Karbala’. This was Shaam al-Gareeba, the night of the homeless. They had lost everything. Their men had died. Their children had been killed. In this desolate desert our fourth Imam, the women and the remaining children are huddled where only a few hours before had stood their camp. Hazrat Abbas, Hazrat Qasim and Hazrat Ali Akbar had taken turns to guard the camp. Now Bibi Zainab and Bibi Kulthoom lay awake to make sure that Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and the children were not attacked.
Suddenly, Bibi Zainab notices that Bibi Sakina has disappeared. She is alarmed. She looks around but Husayn's darling daughter is not to be seen. Bibi Zainab slowly walks to the battle field. She comes to where Hazrat Abbas lay.”Abbas! Abbas! My dear brother, have you seen Sakina?” There is silence! She makes her way to where Husayn's headless body lay. There, hugging her father, she finds Bibi Sakina, deep in sleep!!
Dawn breaks out on the desolate sands of Karbala’. What was the battle field yesterday, is a stretch of desert covered with the bodies of the slain. In the corner where there had stood Imam Husayn's camp the mourning widows and orphans have completed their morning prayers.
Imam Zain ul 'Abideen is in sijdah glorifying Allah. Umar Sa'ad walks over with a few soldiers and orders the women and the children to be tied with ropes as captives. There is a renewed wailing. Our fourth Imam consoles them. He himself is put under heavy chains. Yazid's soldiers spend the day burying their dead. The bodies of the grandson of the Prophet of Islam and the other martyrs are left unattended. Imam Zain ul 'Abideen pleads to be allowed to bury but all his pleas go unheeded.
Another night in Karbala’ followed by another dawn! The prisoners remain tied. Our Imam suffers the discomfort of the chain. His wrists and ankles are bruised. On the morning of the 12th Muharram the enemy brings unsaddled camels upon which the women and children are made to mount. A huge procession is being prepared.
At the head of the procession is Umar Sa'ad followed by the officers. Then a few foot soldiers carrying lances upon which are mounted the heads of the martyrs. In their midst is our fourth Imam, chained and shackled. Then the camels carrying the women and children as prisoners. Shimr and the rest of the infantry bring up the rear. The journey to Kufa begins.
Yes, the tale of Karbala’ is a tale of five sad journeys! Now begins the third journey of tears. We look at the travellers. Some of those who had set out on that first journey, from Mecca to Madina, can be seen but the rest can not. No! They also can be seen if we look around! They are lying slaughtered on the sands of Karbala’.
Who is the hero and who is the heroine of this third journey? We see the hero, hand-cuffed, chained, exhausted with the long illness and the great suffering, our Fourth Imam, Zain ul 'Abideen. And the heroine? Yes we see the lady. She is bare-headed. Her face full of pain and yet reflecting courage and the strength of her spirit! She knows that for the sake of Bibi Sakina and the other ladies she can not possibly give in to her grief and sorrow. Yes, it is Bibi Zainab!
Umar Sa'ad cruelty is not exhausted. He decides to lead the procession past where the bodies of the martyrs lie. As the camel carrying Bibi Zainab goes past the body of Imam Husayn she can no longer contain her pain and anguish, and turning her face to Madina she cries out: “Ya Muhammad, The angels in heaven send their blessings upon you! Look, here lies your beloved Husayn, so humiliated and disgraced, covered with blood and cut into pieces. Here are we your daughters taken captives by Yazid!”
Imam Zain ul 'Abideen walks over to Bibi Zainab.” Dear Aunt, have patience. Your sacrifices for Islam have only just begun.”
Ibn Ziyad, the Governor of Kufa, had declared a holiday. The city was decorated with flags and pennants. People had been told that the rebels who wanted to attack their city and murder them had been defeated at Karbala’ and that their women were being brought into the city as prisoners. Those who believed this, and many did, came out to line the city streets through which the procession was to pass so that they might mock and jeer at the prisoners.
Big crowds had gathered everywhere. There was a holiday mood. The procession slowly entered the city and began to move towards the Governor's palace. People jeered and shouted at the prisoners. There were a few, however, who guessed the truth. When they saw Imam Husayn's head, and saw the misery and grief of the widows and orphans, they began to shed tears. The majority were ignorant. They believed, or found it convenient to believe, the lies which Umar Sa'ad had told them.
As the procession neared the palace, the crowds thickened. Most of the people who gathered around the Governor's palace were those who worked for Yazid or supported him. The jeering and insults grew louder. The face of Bibi Zainab was red with anger. She stood up on the camel, looked at the crowd and in a loud and clear voice said: “Praise be to Allah and blessings upon my grandfather Muhammad, His beloved Prophet!! Woe unto you, O people of Kufa! Do you know whom you have killed? Do you know what pledge you have broken? Do you know whose blood you have shed? Do you know whose honour you have defiled?”
There was a stunned silence. Then a gentle sound of people crying! There was a blind old man in the crowd. He had been a companion of Hazrat Ali. When he heard Bibi Zainab's voice, he cried out, “By Allah, if I had not known that he had died, I could have sworn that what I just heard was the voice of my master Ali ibn Abu Taalib.” Imam Zain ul 'Abideen went up to him and said, “Oh Shaikh! This is not Ali but his daughter Zainab binti Ali! She is the daughter of Fatimah, the beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet.”The sound of weeping from the crowd grew louder. But as Bibi Zainab continued. Immediately there was a hushed silence:
“And well may you weep, O people of Kufa! The crime which you committed against your Prophet was so great that the skies shook, the earth trembled, and mountains crumbled down! You have killed your Imam, and by doing so lost your shelter against hardship, evil and kufr! His blood stains your souls. Nothing can protect you from the anger of Allah for having killed the son of the last of His prophets!”
People could no longer control their wailing. Umar Sa'ad was frightened and quickly led the prisoners into the palace. The prisoners were brought before ibn Ziyad. Shaikh al-Mufid (A.R.) reports that ibn Ziyad sat on his throne and in front of him was the head of Imam Husayn. He frequently poked the face with his cane. An old companion of the Holy Prophet, Zayd bin Arqam, was in the court and when he witnessed this indignity being inflicted on the head of Imam he cried out, “Take your cane away from those lips! By Allah I have seen the lips of the Apostle of Allah on those lips!”
Ibn Ziyad was livid with rage. He retorted, “O old man! How dare you interrupt our celebrations of the victory of our Imam, Yazid ibn Muawiya. Because of your age I spare your life. Leave my court immediately.”
Ibn Ziyad then pointed at Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and asked: “Who is this young man?” “He is Ali ibnal Husayn,” replied Umar Sa'ad.” “Why is he alive?” asked ibn Ziyad. and added, “Kill him straight away!”
Bibi Zainab rushed forward and planted herself in front of Imam Zain ul 'Abideen.”You will have to kill me first!” She said looking at ibn Ziyad with such defiance, determination and anger that ibn Ziyad got up and walked away ordering that the prisoners be locked up.
Bibi Zainab's speeches had stirred Kufa. The people of Kufa were filled with remorse. There was unrest in the city. In the market place they were whispering: 'What have we done? How could we invite the Prophet's grandson and then desert him to be mercilessly butchered at Karbala’? How can we permit the Holy Prophet's grand daughters be paraded in the streets like slaves? What have we done?'
Ibn Ziyad feared that the people of Kufa might rise against him. He ordered that the prison be strictly guarded. No one was allowed to visit them. Only the most trusted guards were allowed in or around the prison. In the mean time messengers ran between Kufa and Damascus. Although at first Yazid had ordered that the captives be detained at Kufa until he had completed all the arrangements for their entry into Shaam (Damascus), because of the mood in Kufa, Ibn Ziyad was anxious to have the prisoners out of Kufa as soon as possible. It was agreed that they be taken to Shaam.
Once again the prisoners were assembled and a procession left Kufa. But this time the departure was kept secret from the people of Kufa and took place at night.
So began the fourth journey of tears! It was a long and difficult journey.
Who was the hero and who was the heroine of this journey through the Iraqi and the Syrian deserts? Was it Bibi Rubaab, who from her unsaddled camel kept on staring at Ali Asghar's cradle loaded on another camel carrying the goods looted from Husayn's camp during the Shaam al-Gareeba? Was it Bibi Sakina who now sat mournfully on her mother's lap staring at the 'alam of Hazrat Abbas and her mashk still tied to the 'alam, and who kept whispering: “I am not thirsty, Uncle, I am not thirsty!” Was the hero Imam Zain ul 'Abideen who was made to walk all the way, the hot chains eating into his flesh?
Some times our Fourth Imam would faint. His captors however knew no pity. They would flog him if he slowed down or fainted. On these occasions Bibi Zainab would intervene to stop the Imam from being flogged to death.
This was the journey of which the hero was the valour of Hazrat Ali which ruled the heart of Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and the heroine was the sabr of Fatimah Zahra which inspired Bibi Zainab.
The journey from Kufa to Shaam was a long one. It took over twenty days. The women and the children were exhausted. Their suffering was great! Quite often the children would faint under the scorching desert heat and fall off the camels.
The mothers would scream. Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and Bibi Zainab would go looking for the children. Sometimes they would find them by the road side barely alive and there were occasions when they were discovered too late. Our fourth Imam would dig a grave to bury the dead child. An historian revisiting this route a few years later discovered a large number of small graves on the way side!
Some Zakirs narrate the following story: Once Bibi Zainab looked at the camel on which Bibi Sakina was riding. Bibi Sakina was not there! She looked at all the other camels, Bibi Sakina was nowhere to be seen. She panicked. Where could Imam Husayn's darling daughter be? She asked Shimr to untie her to that she could go and look for Bibi Sakina. At first Shimr responded with his whip. Unmindful of her own pain she kept on begging.
Shimr untied her with the warning that if she did not return soon he would flog Imam Zain ul 'Abideen to death. Bibi Zainab ran in the direction from which they had travelled. Some distance away she saw an elderly lady holding Bibi Sakina affectionately, kissing her cheeks and wiping away her tears. She could hear Bibi Sakina telling the lady how her uncle Hazrat Abbas had gone to fetch her water and how he had never returned. When Bibi Sakina saw her aunt she explained that she had fallen off the camel but the kind lady had looked after her. Bibi Zainab turned to the lady and said, “May Allah reward you for your kindness to this orphan!” The lady replied, “Zainab, my dear, how can you thank your own mother? Do you not recognize me?” As the lady lifted her face, Bibi Zainab saw that it was Fatimah Zahra!!
When the caravan reached the outskirts of Damascus Omar Sa'ad sent a message to Yazid that they had arrived. Yazid ordered that the caravan remain where it was until the morning. He wanted the people of Shaam to line the streets to look at the captives and witness his victory. In the meantime the streets through which the captives were to be marched were being decorated with flags and pennants.
Bibi Zainab had conquered Kufa. Now Shaam had come and was waiting for her!
When at long last the caravan reached the outskirts of Damascus, a message was received by Umar Sa'ad that the prisoners were not to be brought into the capital until Yazid had completed all the preparations.
Yazid invited all the ambassadors, foreign dignitaries and leading citizens to his court. People were ordered to line up the streets. Musicians were asked to play music and dancers were told to dance in the streets. Such were the festivities organized by the Khalifah for the entry of the grandson and the grand daughters of the Holy Prophet of Islam into what had become the metropolis of the Islamic Empire!!
Surrounded by the dancers, the musicians and the jeering crowds of the citizens of Damascus the prisoners were led toward the palace of Yazid. The ladies who had never stepped outside their homes without their heads and faces being covered, had been forced to travel from Karbala’ to Kufa, and Kufa to Shaam bare headed and with their arms tied with a single rope. If any one of them stumbled, she was whipped. Never in the history of Islam had prisoners been treated with disrespect, let alone the cruelty meted out to the members of the Holy Prophet's household. And now, this ultimate insult of being led into the court of Yazid like a herd of cattle!
Bibi Zainab seemed to be drawing strength from some divine source. She wiped away her tears. Drew her hair over her face so as to hide as much of her face from the staring crowds as she could. Other ladies did the same. Imam Zain ul 'Abideen straightened himself. Exuding dignity and confidence, he maintained his position behind the bearer of the lance upon which was mounted his father's head. Such was the jostle of the multitude thronging the streets that it took them more than twelve hours to traverse the short distance between the city gates and the palace.
They entered the palace and were made to stand in front of Yazid. The tyrant was dressed in his best finery. Imam Husayn's head was formally presented to him by Umar ibn Sa'ad. Yazid, with a cup of wine in one hand, ceremoniously accepted the ultimate symbol of his victory and commanded Umar Sa'ad to call out the names of the prisoners.
And then, in his drunken arrogance, Yazid recited a few couplets which enshrine a diabolical confession, a confession that explains the history of the division in Islam and the motives not only his but of his father and grand father in accepting Islam! He said:
“If my venerable ancestors who fell at Badr fighting Muhammad had witnessed how the supporters of Muhammad's faith were thrown into confusion with thrusts given with my spears, they would be blessing me today. The Banu Hashim played a trick to win power. There was never any wahi to them nor did they receive any revelation. Today the souls of my ancestors and friends killed by Muhammad at Badr will rest in peace!”
The raison d'etre of the Umayyad dynasty was vengeance against Islam, a sanguine continuation of Uhud where Yazid'd grand-mother had been only partially successful in her determination to have Ali and Hamza killed in retaliation for the deaths of her father and brother at Badr!! Yazid never believed in Islam, and yet the system forced upon the people after the death of the Holy Prophet had resulted in this worst of all the hypocrites becoming the Khalifah of the Holy Prophet and the Ameer-ul-Mu'mineen of the ummah!!
Yazid looked at the prisoners lined up in front of him. He said: “It has pleased Allah to grant us victory! Look how He has caused the death of Husayn and humiliated his family!” He then recited an ayah of the Holy Quraan which means 'Allah grants honour to whom He pleases and brings disgrace upon whom He pleases.'
There were over seven hundred dignitaries sitting in the Court. They smiled and nodded approvingly. Bibi Zainab could stand it no more! She was filled with wrath. How dare this unclean man say such things? How dare he with his najis tongue recite from Holy Quraan? How dare he make mockery of the family of the Holy Prophet? In a loud and clear voice Bibi Zainab said: “O Yazid! Do you think that it is Allah who has caused you to commit all these foul deeds?
Do you blame the Rahman and the Rahim for the oppression we have suffered? Do you blame Allah for the death of the beloved grand son of his most beloved Prophet? How dare you make these false accusations against the Almighty? No, Yazid, it was not Allah! It is you, with your insatiable ambition and greed for wealth and power, who are the only cause of the suffering inflicted not only upon the household of the Holy Prophet but on Islam itself!
Do not forget what Allah has said in the Holy Book: Let not the unbelievers take it that the respite We give them would do them any good. We allow them time in order that they might continue to indulge in sin to their hearts' content. Indeed a humiliating punishment has been kept ready for them.
Do you think that by killing the grandson of the Holy Prophet and bringing us to your palace as prisoners, you have scored a victory against Islam? No, Yazid, no! Husayn with his blood has made sure that tyrants like you will not be able to use Islam as a toy to carry out their evil designs. The victory is not yours. The victory is of Husayn! The victory is of Islam!”
Yazid was stunned! The people present there could not but be moved by what this courageous lady had to say. This lady, who had seen and experienced great suffering, dared today defy the very man who had inflicted those sufferings. Who was she? They asked one another. When they learnt that she was the grand daughter of the Holy Prophet, their hearts began to fill with admiration!
In an effort to save the situation Yazid turned towards Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and said: “Well you can tell us who has been victorious. Imam looked at him and replied:
“Yazid, final victory can only belong to those on the right path. Let us look at you and look at Husayn. My father, whom you got killed so mercilessly, was the grandson of the Holy Prophet who had said that “Husayn is from me and I am from Husayn.” He was born a Muslim and all his life he upheld the laws and principles of Islam. You are the grandson of Abu Sufiyan and Hinda, who most of their lives fought Islam and the Holy Prophet!”
Yazid was now greatly embarrassed. To silence the Imam he asked his muezzin to recite the adhaan. When the Muezzin cried out 'ash-hadu anna Muhammadar-Rasuul’ul-Lah' Imam Zain ul 'Abideen, addressing Yazid, said, “Yazid speak the truth! Was Muhammad my grandfather or your grandfather!”
Yazid ordered the prisoners to be moved to a prison. This was not a prison. It was a dungeon! Only a part of it had any sort of ceiling. The rest was open to the sky. An iron grill surrounded the place so that no one could get in or out.
Bibi Zainab reports that the place was so cold at nights that no one could have proper sleep. During the day, it got hot like an oven. It is here that our fourth Imam, still under chains, the ladies and the children spent many days of great agony and discomfort.
Bibi Sakina was the youngest daughter of Imam Husayn. She was a vivacious child, full of love and happiness. Everyone loved Bibi Sakina. She was also a very religious girl. She enjoyed reading the Holy Quraan and never missed her prayers. From the age of two she took great care to make sure that her head and face were properly covered when in public.
Bibi Sakina was Imam Husayn's most beloved child. Our Imam was often heard to say, “A house without Bibi Sakina would not be worth living in!” She always had a sweet and cheerful smile and a very friendly nature. Other children sought her company as much as the grown ups did. She was very generous and always shared whatever she had with others.
There was a special bond between Hazrat Abbas and Bibi Sakina. He loved her more than he did his own children. If Bibi Sakina requested for anything, Hazrat Abbas would not rest until he satisfied her request. There was nothing that Hazrat Abbas would not do to make Bibi Sakina happy.
During the journey from Madina to Mecca and then Mecca to Karbala’, Hazrat Abbas was often seen riding up to the mehmil in which Bibi Sakina sat to make sure that she had everything she wanted. Bibi Sakina loved her uncle just as much. While in Madina she would, several times a day, visit the house in which Hazrat Abbas lived with his family and his mother, Ummul Baneen.
Like any other four-five year old when Bibi Sakina went to bed at night she wanted to spend some time with her father. Imam Husayn would tell her stories of the prophets and of the battles fought by her grand-father Ali. She would rest her head on her father's chest and Husayn would not move from her until she fell asleep. When from the second of Muharram the armies of Yazid began to gather at Karbala’, Husayn said to his sister Zainab, “The time has come for you to get Bibi Sakina used to going to sleep without my being there!” Bibi Sakina would follow her father at night and Imam Husayn had to gently take her to Bibi Zainab or Bibi Rubaab.
At Karbala’ when from the seventh Muharram water became scarce Bibi Sakina shared whatever little water she had with other children. When soon there was no water at all, the thirsty children would look at Bibi Sakina hopefully, and because she could not help them she would have tears in her eyes. Bibi Sakina's lips were parched with thirst.
On the Ashura day, she gave her Mashk to Hazrat Abbas. He went to get water for her. The children gathered round Bibi Sakina with their little cups, knowing that as soon as Hazrat Abbas brought any water, Bibi Sakina would first make sure that they had some before taking any herself. When Bibi Sakina saw Imam Husayn bringing the blood drenched 'alam she knew that her uncle Hazrat Abbas had been killed. From that day on Bibi Sakina never complained of thirst.
Then came the time when the earth shook and Bibi Sakina became an orphan! But even then she always thought of the others first. She would console her mother on the death of Ali Asghar and when she saw any other lady or child weeping Bibi Sakina would put her little arms around her.
Yes Bibi Sakina never again asked anyone for water. Bibi Zainab would persuade her to take a few sips, but she herself would never ask for water or complain of thirst!!!!
From the time when Imam Husayn fell in the battle field, Bibi Sakina forgot to smile! Kufa saw her as a sombre little girl lost in thought. Quite often she would sit up at night. When asked if she wanted anything, she would say, “I just heard a baby cry? Is it Asghar? He must be calling out for me!”
Knowing that her weeping upset her mother, Bibi Sakina would cry silently and quickly wipe away her tears! In the prison in Shaam she would stare at the flock of birds flying to their nests at sunset and innocently ask Bibi Zainab, “Will Sakina be going home like those birds flying to their homes?”
Then one dreadful night Bibi Sakina went to bed on the cold floor of the prison. For a long time she stared into the darkness! The time for the morning prayers came. Bibi Sakina was still lying with her eyes wide open. Her mother called out: “Wake up, Sakina! Wake up, it is time for prayers, my child!” There was only the painful silence! Our fourth Imam walked up to where Bibi Sakina lay. He put his hand on her forehead. It was cold! He put his hand near the mouth and the nose. Bibi Sakina had stopped breathing. In between sobs Imam Zain ul 'Abideen said: “inna lil-Lahi wa inna ilay-hi raja’uun.”
How was Bibi Sakina buried? Bibi Zainab held the still child as Imam Zain ul 'Abideen dug a grave in the cell. As the grave was being filled up after the burial the mother let out a scream! How could anyone console Bibi Rubaab? What could they say? They huddled around her, and the prison walls began to shake with the cry: “ya Sakina, ya madhloomah!!” Bibi Rubaab put her cheek on Bibi Sakina's grave and cried out: “Speak to me, Sakina! Only a word, my child! Speak to me!!”
The tragedy of Karbala’ had begun to arouse great sympathy for the Ahlul Bait in Hejaaz and Iraq. Even in Damascus some people began to ask whether it was necessary to inflict so much sufferings on the members of the family of the Holy Prophet.
When the charming little Bibi Sakina died and the people of Damascus came to learn about the death of the little girl whom they had seen and come to admire, they began to talk openly about Yazid's cruelty. Yazid feared that the people might rise against him. He was now anxious to get rid of the prisoners.
He called Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and told him that he was prepared to free them, and compensate them for the death of the martyrs. He also asked the fourth Imam whether they wanted to remain in Damascus or return to Madina. Imam Zain ul 'Abideen replied that he would consult his aunt Bibi Zainab.
When Imam spoke to Bibi Zainab she was grief stricken at the audacity of Yazid in offering compensation. She said, “Tell Yazid to talk of compensation with the Holy Prophet. We would certainly return to Madina. But first Yazid should provide a house so that we may hold mourning ceremonies for the martyrs in Damascus. We shall then go to Madina via Karbala’ to visit the graves of the martyrs.”
Imam Zain ul 'Abideen conveyed the message to Yazid who after some hesitation agreed. In asking for a house to mourn the martyrs in Damascus, Bibi Zainab scored a major victory over Yazid. When the house was made available the ladies held Aza’ al-Husayn for seven days in the very city which was the capital of Yazid who had murdered Imam Husayn.
The women of Damascus poured in to offer their condolences and Bibi Zainab and the other ladies would tell them of how the martyrs had been killed, how they had been denied water, how young children had been crying al-atash, how Imam had taken Ali Asghar and pleaded for a few drops of water and how the baby had been slain. These tales so moved the ladies of Damascus that they would break into sobs and begin wailing and beating their chests.
Thus in the very house of the murderer Bibi Zainab laid the foundation of Aza’ al-Husayn. This is so much like the story of Hazrat Musa (A.S.). Firaun orders all the male children of Banu Israel to be put to death. Allah's miracle is that his Prophet of wahdaniyyah finds refuge in the palace of the very Firaun who had plotted to kill him!
These majlises have continued to this day. Every Muharram Shiahs all over the world gather together to mourn the tragedy which took place more that 1,350 years ago. These majaalis have a great meaning for us. Firstly, they mean that we love our Imam and grieve for the suffering to which he was subjected.
Secondly they mean that year after year we protest against all that Yazid stood for. We make a solemn promise to Allah never to follow Yazid's foot-steps. In whatever country we may be, we have to remember that taking alcohol or any kind of drugs, is Yazid's way. To keep ourselves ignorant of Quraan or Islamic way of life, is Yazid's way. To oppress anyone, is Yazid's way. To indulge in any un-Islamic activity, is Yazid's way. We can not mourn Husayn and follow Yazid!!
After seven days of majaalis in Damascus, Bibi Zainab asked Imam Zain ul 'Abideen whether they could now proceed to Karbala’. Preparations for the journey began. Mehmils with black curtains were arranged for the ladies.
Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and Bibi Zainab helped the ladies to mount the mehmils. Suddenly Bibi Zainab noticed that Bibi Rubaab was missing. For a moment there was a panic but soon Bibi Zainab said, “I know where Rubaab is!” Accompanied by Imam Zain ul 'Abideen Bibi Zainab went to the prison. There, with her face on Bibi Sakina's grave, was Bibi Rubaab. Bibi Zainab said to her, 'Rubaab, let us go home!' 'Home?' replied Bibi Rubaab, 'My husband lies at Karbala’, my Asghar lies there also. At least he has his father to look after him. Who will look after my Sakina? Khuda Hafiz, Bibi. You go, I will stay here. '
Bibi Rubaab is the lady whose world had been totally shattered. It was after great persuasion she got up to go, She walked slowly to the door supported by Imam Zain ul 'Abideen, all the time looking at the grave. Finally she said “Khuda Hafiz my Sakina!!”
So began the fifth and the last journey of tears. This was to take them first to Karbala’ and then back home to Madina. How different is this journey from that first journey from Madina to Mecca? How many had left Madina and how many are going back? Where are all those children who at every stop would gather around Hazrat Abbas? There were over fifty children in the caravan then. Now barely twenty are returning to Madina. The rest lie in Karbala’ or along the route Karbala’ to Kufa and Kufa to Shaam.
And where is Bibi Sakina with her chatter and smile? She is on everyone's mind. Zain ul 'Abideen tearfully says farewell to the prison were lies buried his darling sister.
Of course, unlike during their journeys from Karbala’ to Kufa and Kufa to Shaam, this time the ladies are not bare headed nor are they mounted on unsaddled camels. They are at last going to Madina but that very thought frightens them. Bibi Zainab thinks: 'What shall I say when they ask where is everyone?' Bibi Rubaab every so often screams out: “Oh Sakina! Oh Asghar! What shall I say to Fatimah Soghra?”
Who then is the hero and who is the heroine of this journey? Yes, this journey has no hero and heroine. It has memories, fears, night-mares and tears. Few words are said. The thoughts which crowd in every mind are too heart rending to be spoken out.
They arrive at Karbala’!You can well imagine of the suffering of Imam Zain ul 'Abideen, Bibi Zainab and all the ladies when they arrived at Karbala’. Every grave had a lady weeping for the one buried there, every grave save two. Bibi Zainab spent all her time on Husayn's grave and it was young Muhammad Baqir who wept on the graves of Aun and Muhammad.
Bibi Zainab took out a tiny bundle. She lovingly opened it and placed Bibi Sakina's earrings on the grave saying: “Brother, do forgive me! This is all that is left of your darling Sakina!!” The ladies were weeping and wailing and Imam Zain ul 'Abideen was consoling them. He knew that a very difficult situation was yet to come! The first meeting with Bibi Fatimah Soghra!
The journey to Madina was slow. When the city came within sight from the hills surrounding Madina, Bibi Kulthum was heard to recite a poem which means:
“Oh the city of our grandfather, the Holy Prophet,
how can you accept us at all?
We were so many when we left you,
only to return having at Karbala’ lost them all!”
Bibi Zainab went up to Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and said, “My son, pray that Allah grant me courage to face Soghra! How shall I answer her questions?” Imam Zain ul 'Abideen replied, “May Allah grant you the patience of Fatimah Zahra and the courage of Ali.”
Imam Zain ul 'Abideen instructed the companions who were with him to go to Madina and erect two huge tents on the outskirts of the city. Very early on the following morning they entered the tents. Imam Zain ul 'Abideen sat in one, and the ladies in the other. Now a messenger was sent to tell the people of Madina that Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and the daughters of Ali had arrived. The people ran from their houses to the two tents.
The people of Madina had, of course, already heard of the tragedy of Karbala’. They did not, however, know of all the details or that young children had also been killed. The men of Madina came to Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and the ladies went to the tent where Bibi Zainab and the other ladies were. There was so much weeping and wailing that it could be heard miles away.
Suddenly someone spotted Bibi Fatimah Soghra coming. She was supported on one side by Umme Salmah and on the other by Ummul Baneen. Bibi Zainab prayed to Allah for courage. she put on her chaadar and went out to meet Soghra. Neither could utter a word. Bibi Zainab put her arms around Bibi Fatimah Soghra and brought her inside the tent. Soghra looked around searching every corner.”Where is my sister Sakina?” she cried, “Sakina come over, let your older sister embrace you and give you condolences!” At this there was renewed weeping and wailing. Who could possible have the courage to tell Soghra where Bibi Sakina was?
Oh God! Soghra now looked at the lap of Bibi Rubaab, She did not find there whom she was looking for! Then she looked at the lap of each of the other ladies. She could not see what she was looking for. Then she looked outside lest the young child she was looking for had crawled out! Frightened of what Soghra might ask, Bibi Zainab asked for Imam Zain ul 'Abideen to come over. Our fourth Imam came. He put his arms around Soghra. In between sobs he said, “Soghra, Oh my dear sister, have patience! Asghar is lying in a grave in Karbala’.”
Bibi Fatimah Soghra stared at her elder brother in absolute disbelief! And then she screamed and fell unconscious!
We have discussed accounts of how each martyr fell, how even young children eagerly gave their lives to save Islam. We have looked at the misery and suffering of the women and the children. We have talked of the five journeys of tears.
We must now revisit the message of Imam Husayn. Unless we undertake this journey and make sure that the message of our Imam for ever remains with us to guide us through our lives, those five journeys of grief and suffering of the martyrs and the captives can not possibly have any meaning for us.
The tears we shed and the maatam we perform will be little more than hypocrisy if we allow ourselves to forget the message of Karbala’ until next 'ashra al-Muharram. If we do so we shall be guilty of having insulted the martyrs in such a manner that our Imam will never forgive us.
We must remember that mourning for the martyrs is not a ritual we have to perform. We do so out of love for them and to keep their memory alive so that people everywhere in every age will remember what our Imam lived and died for.
From the day he left Madina on the 28th Rajab in 60 Hijrah, at every stage, our Imam made his mission clear. He left no doubt as to his intentions. It was not to fight Yazid to get the throne of the empire over which the khalifah ruled. Imam's mission was to reawaken the spirit of Islam and rekindle the Islamic conscience which was nearing extinction by the conduct of Muawiya and Yazid. Justice and morality were gradually being destroyed by the greed for land and power of those who had become rulers. Where Quraan insists that distinction can be accorded by piety alone, aristocracy based on nepotism and blood relationship was reigning the social order.
Let us look at some of the statements by Imam Husayn. Before leaving Madina Imam Husayn made a will and handed it over to his brother Muhammad Hanafiya. In this will Imam wrote: “My mission is to reform the muslim community which I propose to do by amr bil ma'roof and nahya anil munkar, inviting them to the good and advising them against evil. It is not my intention to set myself as an insolent or arrogant tyrant or a mischief maker.”
In Mecca a man came to him and said he was a Shiah of Ahlul Bait. Imam looked at him and said: “My friend, never claim to be one of our Shiahs lest Allah, on the Day of Judgement, raise you with the liars. No one can be our Shiah except a person whose heart is free of deceit, malice or hatred towards others and free of corruption. If you are not such a person you can claim to be our admirer or supporter but never our Shiah.”
Imam Husayn has defined what being a Shiah means. Can we honestly say that we are Shiahs of Ahlul Bait? Being a Shiah means having a pure mind and soul, free of greed, malice, jealousy, deceit. It means keeping away from back biting and other habit of putting down others. It means having a thirst for knowledge. It means living our lives justly, humbly and being true to ourselves and others.
In Mecca Imam addressed a large group of scholars who had come for pilgrimage. He exhorted them to do amr bil ma'roof and nahya anil munkar and not to pander to the philosophies of the rulers who paid them to keep away from truth. This was a long and powerful speech reminding the scholars of their duty to inculcate Islamic concience and not to mislead the masses who trusted them
In a letter which he addressed to the people of Kufa Imam wrote: “An Imam is one who judges by the Holy Quraan, upholds justice, professes the religion of truth and dedicates himself to obeying Allah and His Prophet.”
When Hurr and his army stopped Imam's caravan from going to Kufa, and Hurr told Imam that his order from ibn Ziyad was to ask Imam for Bai'at to Yazid, Imam refused to declare Bai'at to someone who was only serving his own ends and not of Islam. Hurr said that such an attitude would cost Imam his life. Imam replied: “Are you threatening me with death? Death is many thousands of times better than the dishonour of Bai'at to an enemy of Islam. Do you not see that truth is not being practised and falsehood is not being prevented? I see death as a blessing and life with tyrants as the most disgusting state one can be in.”
At Karbala’, facing the army of Yazid, Imam Husayn addressed them as follows:“Remember that when you see a ruler who does what has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, who indulges in sins, who oppresses the people he rules, and you do nothing to stop such a ruler, before Allah you are as guilty as he is.” He went on to add: “My parents did not raise me to submit myself to an evil tyrant. I am your Imam and it is my duty to tell you that you have surrendered the freedom of your mind to the evil ways of Yazid. If you do not care for Islam, and do not fear the day of judgement, at least do care for that precious gift from Allah, the freedom of your spirit!!”
When Umar Sa'ad called upon the army to attack and kill Imam Husayn he said: “Death is better that disgrace and disgrace is better than the fire of hell.”
From all these sayings of Imam Husayn, from the ceremonies of mourning in which we have taken part during the 'ashra al-Muharram, from all the majaalis we have heard and the literature we have read, what are the specific lessons for the youths of the Shiah Ithnasheri Community?
This question has to be answered by the youths themselves. But surely it can not be anything to do with the form of Aza’ al-Husayn. The form will always remain culture bound and any comparison between the form in one country with the form in another country is an exercise in futility. We have to remember that Aza’ al-Husayn has tripartite objectives:
(1) Demonstration of personal grief. This is an issue which has by very definition to remain a matter of personal choice and every community has to ponder over it and decide upon the form acceptable to it having regard to its geographic location and its composition.
(2) The dissemination of Husayn's message to the indigenous population. Where such population is Muslim of other persuasions, processions and public maatam have proved very effective. In the west, there is a need to explore other avenues such as:
a) The Blood Bank;
b) Visiting hospital patients with small gifts in the name of the martyrs,
c) Food drive for the homeless, the poor, the aged and those in the homes,
d) Distribution of literature explaining the message of Karbala’.
(3) Finally, and most important, a personal commitment by each one of us to make every effort to get rid of those evil qualities within us which could prevent us from claiming to be the Shiahs of Husayn ibn Ali. Supposing every Muharram we forswear one evil habit like drug addiction, back-biting, arrogance, mischief making or any other un-Islamic habit, what a strong and powerful community we would be, and how sincere our maatam and tears would seem to us!
“Greetings be upon you, O' Aba Abdillah and upon the souls who were annihilated with you. Upon you, from me, is the (prayers) of peace from Allah for all eternity, as long as the night and day remain. May this visitation of yours not be my last contact with you. Salutations upon Husayn and upon Ali the son of Husayn (Ali al-Akbar) and upon the children of Husayn and upon the virtuous companions of Husayn.”