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Al-Husayn: A Conqueror

 
Al-Husayn (‘a) was convinced that he was a divinely supported conqueror due to the life his martyrdom would provide for the religion of the Messenger of Allah (S) and to the death of the innovations introduced therein. His martyrdom exposed the ugliness of the deeds committed by his foes.

It made the nation realize that Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), more than anyone else, deserved to be the caliphs. It is to this principle that his letter to Banu Hashim refers. In it, he said, “Whoever among you decides to join us will be martyred, and whoever lags behind will miss victory.”1

The victory he referred to in this letter was the outcome of his uprising and sacrifices: these would undermine the foundations of misguidance and remove the thorns of falsehood from the path of the purified Shari’a and the establishment of justice and Tawhid, and that the nation was obligated to resist abominations.
 
This is the same meaning we can derive from reviewing a statement made by Imam Zayn al-’Abidin (‘a) to Ibrahim Ibn Talhah Ibn ‘Ubaydullah who had asked the Imam (‘a) upon his return to Medina, “Who won?” Said the Imam (‘a), “When it is time for the prayers, call the athan and the iqama, and it is then that you will know who the winner is.”2
 
Here, he is referring to achieving the objective for which the Master of Martyrs had sacrificed his sacred life and the failure of Yazid in his attempts to put out the noor of Allah Almighty and the efforts of the Messenger of Allah (S) which his father [Mu’awiyah] had aimed to foil by killing the shahada after it had become mandatory on the nation during the five known times [of prayers], a testimony for the Prophet of Islam.

The Islamic faith undermined the foundations of shirk and put an end to idol worship. It likewise became mandatory on the nation to bless the Prophet (S) and his pure Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) whenever the believers make the tashahhud. Any blessing short of blessing his progeny is curtailed.3
 
Zainab, the wise lady, daughter of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a), too, pointed out to this victory when she said to Yazid, “Plot your plots, exert your effort, and perfect your schemes, for by Allah you shall never be able to wipe our name out, nor will you ever kill our wali, nor will you ever attain our status, nor will you ever be able to wash away the shame and infamy of what you have committed.
 
Anyone who contemplates upon the Taff event will clearly realize that the sacrifices offered in it are greater than those offered during the Battle of Badr even though the latter was the first military victory achieved in Islam.

The reason is that the Muslims had then braved death under the protection of the flag of the Prophet (S) and were supported by angels numbering three thousand strong, while the Prophet (S) kept filling their ears with his calls for victory, urging them to assault their enemy. The Muslims, hence, faced the tyrants from Quraish feeling confident of subduing them.
 
As regarding the Taff event, the suffering undergone during it was much more painful, and the agony was greater. The tides of death clamoured, the war uncovered its fangs, and Banu Umayyah surrounded the grandson of the Prophet (S) [and his tiny band] from all sides.
 

Oppression spurred it to action,
So it came mounting its tyranny;
Throngs that filled the earth,
Overwhelming every ravine and highway.
He trampled upon the beasts when
He found no route to escape.
The birds did not leave their nests.

 
Yet the band that sided with the truth did not lose heart, meeting those dangers without counting on any support or expecting any help. All essential supplies were cut off from them. Even water, the most plentiful of anything, and which was free for all, was denied them. Women and children were terrified on account of the imminent peril. The children's cries because of their thirst filled everyone's ears.

Yet they faced mountains of steel with open arms and relentless determination. All what those pure souls were concerned about was fighting Banu Umayyah. They spilled their pure blood only in defense of their honour, something which was abandoned by others. The government of the descendants of Harb became like a dog licking its nose, so the surface of the earth was in the end cleansed of their shame.
 
One poet belonging to Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) did well when he said:
 

Had not all sublime merits been grouped in us,
The Battle of Taff would have sufficed,
When we rose like lions while our foes
Like beasts of burden came to throng.
They came in seventy thousand strong;
So ask those among them who did survive:
If they met us though we brought only seventy.4

 
The Taff battle, then, is an Islamic victory over the jahiliyya that was revived through the actions of the Umayyads and their fellows who did not seek the shining light of Tawhid and Prophethood.
 
Al-Husayn (‘a) did not aim by his march to attain authority, power, or recognition. Had this been his goal, he would have sought the means that would lead him to it, and he was the most knowledgeable man of such means.

He would not have informed those who were with him from among the natives of Mecca and Medina that he and those with him would be killed, and that his family would surrender to captivity. His army, as a result, abandoned him, and his might diminished. Yet his holy soul, as is the case with all free men, insisted on telling the truth rather than misleading anyone. He even tested them by granting them permission to leave him.

Those whose concern was accumulation, did in fact leave him, while the select few insisted on helping and supporting him; neither cowardice subdued them nor discouragement surfaced among them, for such is the doing of one who has lost hope from attaining his objective.

Those folks were convinced that they would win what they hoped to win as testified by their statements whereby they responded to al-Husayn (‘a) telling them on the eve of ‘Ashura that the situation had reached a critical point, and he even excused them from their oath of allegiance to him and released them.

They said, “Praise is due to Allah Who honours us with being killed on your side! Had this world remained forever, and had we, too, been immortalized, we would still have preferred to rise with you rather than remain therein.”
 
He (‘a), found them ready to sacrifice their lives waging jihad with him and defending the sanctity of the Shari’a. He recited a line from their white tablet when he said, “I find my companions to be the most loyal, and my Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) to be the most kind and the best in staying together.”5

I am surprised at the narrators and historians who transmitted a great deal and who charged those pure souls with what the face of humanity resents and is rejected by a truthful conscience. Some of them said, “Those people were shaken and their complexion kept changing colour whenever fighting intensified with the exception of al-Husayn (‘a) whose face shone like a full moon.”6
 
They said so after finding themselves unable to find fault with the honourable and dignified martyr. Finding no way to belittle him, they charged his companions and his Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). This is only because of the hidden disease residing in the body of those who mixed poison with oil and passed it on to simpletons who regarded it as a fact. They, by so doing, distorted history, but any discreet critic can easily assess the nature and the schemes of such people.
 
More strange than such talk is Zajr Ibn Qays al-Ju’fi’s following statement to Yazid: “We surrounded them as they sought refuge with thickets and holes just as pigeons seek to hide from an eagle.”7

May gravel fill your mouth! As if you never witnessed that terrifying situation when they demonstrated courage and determination to defend the creed, so much so that their stand on that day surpassed the Battle of Siffin wherein they fought on the side of the chosen one (‘a) as well as in other bloody wars which caused the people of Kufa to talk about nothing in their meetings except their courage.
 
Yes, those circumstances stunned you, so you do not know what you are saying, or time separated you from them, so you forgot what actually happened. But did you also forget the cries of the orphans, the wailing of the widows of Kufian families everywhere throughout Kufa on account of what those elite men had done with their swords to the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger (S)?

Your excuse is that you came out unscathed, so you took to distorting their stand, for which they will forever be appreciated, seeking to please Yazid, the product of wines.
 
Their avowed enemy, ‘Amr Ibn al-Hajjaj, had described the truthfulness of their intentions, urging his men saying, “Do you know who you are fighting? You are fighting the land's knights, the people of vision, those who welcome death with open arms. None of you dares to come out to fight them except that they will kill him despite their very small number. By Allah! If you throw stones at them, you will be able to kill all of them.”8
 
A man who had participated in the Taff Battle on the side of Ibn Sa’d was asked once, “Woe unto you! Did you really kill the Progeny of the Messenger of Allah?!” He answered by saying, “May I be stoned to death! Had you seen what we saw, you would have done what we had done.

We were assaulted by a group of men holding their swords and charging like fierce lions, crushing the cavalry right and left, throwing themselves in the jaws of death, accepting no security, desiring no wealth, nothing stopping them except either death or taking control of the government. Had we given them a chance, they would have annihilated our entire army; so, what do you expect us to do, may you lose your mother?”9
 
Ka’b Ibn Jabir, too, testified for them. Having killed Burayr, he was reprimanded by his wife who said to him, “Did you really assist in killing Fatima's son? Did you kill the master of qaris? You have done something monstrous. By Allah! I shall never speak one word to you.” He then composed the following lines in his answer to her statement:
 

Never did my eyes see their likes, in their time,
Nor before, among the people, since my youth;
None strikes with the sword in the battle
Better than one defending honour, protecting it.
Steadfast were they when swords and lances worked,
Even as they were defenseless.
They sought duels, had they only had their way.

 
Which one of them, anyway, was upset to the extent that he shook in fear?! Was it Zuhayr Ibn al-Qayn who put his hand on Husayn's shoulder and said the following lines seeking his permission to fight:

Come forth, may you be guided!
For you are the guide who is rightly guided:
Today shall I meet your grandfather the Prophet...?

 
Or was it Ibn ‘Awsajah who advised Habib Ibn Muzahir to support al-Husayn (‘a) even as he was drawing his last breath, as if he was not satisfied with sacrificing his life and with all the trials and tribulations he underwent?
 
Or was it Abu Thumama al-Sa’idi who, seeking to please his Lord, the most Exalted One, was not concerned about calamities, pain, or anything except the prayers whose time was approaching?
 
Or was it Ibn Shibib al-Shakiri who laid down all his protective gear to entice someone to kill him so that he would win the honour of martyrdom even as courageous heroes well known for their bravery take pains in covering their bodies with all protective coverings so that death may not reach them?
 
Or was it John who was excused [because of his age] by al-Husayn (‘a) from having to fight, so he fell down to kiss the Imam's feet, tearfully begging and pleading to him saying, “My colour is black, my descent is lowly, my smell is bad, so breathe upon me with the breath of Paradise so that my colour will be whitened, and my descent will be honourable, and my smell will be good”?
 
If we think about the statement of Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (‘a) wherein he said, “The companions of my grandfather al-Husayn (‘a) did not feel the pain of iron,”10 the steadfastness of those righteous men will become evident to us, and that they were not mindful of the pain and of the wounds which they received due to their attachment to their goal and to their eagerness to meet the Chosen One (S).
 
Nobody finds this statement unusual except one who does not know how someone in love feels, and how, when such a lover's feelings are directed towards the person he loves, he does not feel any fatigue or exhaustion. Historians tell us that “Kathir ‘Azza,”11 the poet, was once in his tent peeling arrows when ‘Azza entered. The moment he saw her, he was in such awe that he kept peeling his fingers and kept bleeding without feeling any pain.12

Narrators say that a young man from the Ansar came face to face with a woman, and he very much liked her. He watched her as she entered an alley as he chased her. He did not see a piece of glass etched in a wall, so his face was wounded but he did not feel the pain at all. When he could not see that woman any longer, he noticed that blood was running over his clothes and chest, so he went to the Messenger of Allah (S) and narrated to him what had happened to him. It was then that the following verse was revealed:13
 
Tell the believing men that they should cast down their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do.(Qur’an, Sura an-Nur, 24:30)
 
The Messenger of Allah (S) is quoted as saying that a martyr killed for the Divine Cause does not feel the pain of killing except as a pinch. 14
 
Rushayd al-Hajari15 was called to Yazid's court where the latter asked him about what he had been informed by the Commander of the Faithful Imam ‘Ali (‘a). He said, “Yes, I came to visit him one day, and many of his companions were present.

He was in an orchard. He ordered dates to be brought to him from a date tree. ‘Are these dates good, O Commander of the Faithful?,' I asked him. He (‘a), informed me that the adopted bastard (da’iyy), ‘Ubaydullah [Ibn Ziyad], would force me to dissociate myself from him (from ‘Ali ) or cut off my hands, legs and tongue, then he would crucify me on the trunk of this same date tree. I asked him, ‘Will my ultimate destination be Paradise?' He (‘a) said, ‘You are with me in the life of this world as well as in the life hereafter.' I said, ‘Then I shall never, by Allah, dissociate myself from you.'”
 
Rushayd used to go to that date-tree quite often during daytime and water it. He used to say the following to it as he watered it: “For you have I been nourished, and for me have you been grown!” It was not long before [‘Ubaydullah] Ibn Ziyad became the wali of Kufa, so he called him in and asked him about what the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) had informed him. He said, “My friend told me that you would require me to dissociate myself from him, yet I would not do so, and that you would then cut off my hands, legs and tongue.”

Ibn Ziyad said, “In this case, I shall prove him a liar.” He ordered to have his hands and legs cut off and to spare his tongue. Then Rushayd was taken back to his family where people surrounded him. He kept telling them what he had learned from the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) of the knowledge of what fate has in store for men and the trials and tribulations they would have to endure as well as the distinction Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) enjoyed over all other humans. Then he said, “O people! Ask me!

These folks [meaning Ibn Ziyad's people] have one requirement in my regard which they have not yet carried out.” A man hurried to Ibn Ziyad and said, “What have you done?! You cut off his hands and legs yet he tells people many serious matters!” Ibn Ziyad, therefore, ordered Rushayd's tongue to be cut off. The man died the same night. On the next day, his corpse was crucified16 on the door of ‘Amr Ibn Hurayth's house.17

Qanwa, his daughter, says, “I asked my father about the pain he was suffering. He said to me, ‘Daughter! I do not have any pain except like one feeling the pressure of people in a stampede.'”18 Rushayd al-Hajari benefitted from keeping company with the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) who taught him the knowledge of fatal events and of imminent calamities.19 He used to narrate what he was going through, so the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) named him “Rashid,” rightly guided.20
 
Such condition enlightens anyone who carefully discerns it with the conviction that anyone who directs all his feelings towards the Lord, Praise to Him, and once the Divine Attributes are manifested to him, he sees what eternal bliss awaits him as a reward for promoting the creed, and he will not feel the pain of his wounds.

It also underscores what we have stated about a lover becoming unmindful of his pain once he sees the loved one just as the women [referred to in Surat Yousuf] did not feel the pain of cutting their fingers off at merely seeing the beauty of the truthful one, Yousuf (‘a), as the Almighty tells us:

“So when they saw him, they deemed him great and cut their hands and said: Far it is from Allah! This is not a human; this is a glorious angel” (Qur’an, Sura Yusuf, 12:31).
 
Since those women21 did not feel the pain of their wounds, it is not strange to find al-Husayn's companions, who were the world’s cream of the crop, did not feel the pain of iron as a result of their love for the manifestations of divine beauty, and due to the eagerness of their souls to reach the ultimate end of sanctity after being electrified by their loyalty for the Master of Martyrs (‘a).
 

My father do I sacrifice for countenances that
In Karbala’ shook hands with shields,

 

Countenances that light up with hope
Whenever the world frowns and drips of liberality.
They glow under the darkness of clamour
Like lanterns bright, stealing the sight.
They regarded their lives as cheap in defending
The son of the Prophet's daughter,
Lives that eagerly anticipate with Allah a union.
So they were spent while from
Their sides dignity forever emits fragrance.
No water did they taste except
From the heart's blood the wounds choked in pain
Of their blood they would have drunk
Only if it could their thirst quench
Stripped were they, so they, instead of the fabric
Of the earth did they weave shrouds of wind.22
  • 1. Ibn Qawlawayh, Kamil al-Ziyarat, p. 75. Al-Saffar, Basa’ir al-Darajat, Vol. 10, p. 141.
  • 2. Shaikh al-Tusi, Amali, p. 66.
  • 3. Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani, Al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqa, p. 87. Al-Sha’rani, Kashf al-Ghumma, Vol. 1, p. 194. Refer also to p. 371 of the book titled Zayn al-‘abidin by the author of this book [al-Muqarram].
  • 4. Shu’ara’ al-Ghari, Vol. 1, p. 387, attributed to Baqir al-Hindi, may Allah fill his grave with noor.
  • 5. Ibn al-Athir, Vol. 4, p. 24.
  • 6. Shaikh ‘Abbas al-Qummi, Nafs al-Mahmum, p. 135, citing Ma’ani al-Akhbar. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 3, p. 134, in a chapter about death swoons. Al-Majlisi, Ibid., Vol. 10, p. 167, citing Ma’ani al-Akhbar.
  • 7. Sayyid Muhammad Riďa Ibn Abul-Qasim Ibn Fathallah Ibn Nejm ad-Din al-Husayni al-Kamali al-Asterbadi al-Hilli (d. 1346 A.H./1927 A.D.) (Henceforth referred to only as Sayyid Muhammad Riďa al-Asterbadi al-Hilli), Al-’Iqd al-Farid fi Ma’rifat al-Qira’a wal Tajwid (henceforth referred to only as Al-’Iqd al-Farid), Vol. 2, p. 313, where Yazid's reign is discussed.
  • 8. al-Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 6, p. 247.
  • 9. Ibn Abul-Hadid, Shar Nahjul-Balagha, Vol. 1, p. 307, first Egyptian edition
  • 10. al-Rawandi, Al-Khara'ij, p. 138, Indian edition.
  • 11. Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani, Al-Aghani, Vol. 6, p. 37.
  • 12. al-Mirzabani, Al-Muwashshah, p. 144, where Kathir, the poet, is discussed by Abu ‘Obaydah. Muhammad [Ibn al-Hanafiyya] Ibn ‘Ali (‘a) [Imam Husayn's brother from his father's side] said to Kathir once, “You claim that you are one of our Shi’as, yet you praise Marwan's offspring.” He said to him, “I make fun of them, turning them into snakes and scorpions, and I take their money!”
  • 13. as-Saduq, Usul al-Kafi, commenting on Mir'at al-’Uqul, Vol. 3, p. 511, chapter 160 which deals with what is lawful to see of a woman, citing Imam al-Baqir (‘a), who is also quoted on p. 731, Vol. 3, of Tafsir al-Burhan explaining this same verse.
  • 14. Ibn al-Dayba’, Taysir al-Wusul, Vol. 1, p. 129. al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-’Ummal, Vol. 2, p. 278, where the merits of martyrdom are discussed.
  • 15. According to ‘Allama al-Hilli's book Al-Khulasa, his name is Rushayd, and according to Abu Dawud, his last name is pronounced “al-Hajari,” and so is the view of al-Suyuti which is stated on p. 277 of his book Lubb al-Albab. The same is recorded by al-Sam’ani. He is from Hajar, in the distant regions of Yemen. A number of famous men carry this last name and are mentioned by al-Sam’ani. One of them is another Rushayd from Kufa who narrates hadith from his father. On p. 305, Vol. 1, Part Two, of Bukhari's Tarikh, he is said as having narrated hadith from his father from ‘Abdullah.

    On p. 285, Vol. 3, of Ibn al-Athir's book Al-Lubab, it is stated that, “Rushayd al-Hajari is named after a well known region in Yemen. As regarding Hajar, a town near Medina, Ibn al-Qaysarani discusses it on p. 223 of his book Al-Ansab al-Muttafiqa. It is also discussed in Taj al-’Arus. It is also mentioned in Lisan al-’Arab in the discussion of “hajar,” and in Ibn al-Athir's book Al-Nihaya. The list of others who discuss it includes al-Mas’udi who does so on p. 386, Vol. 2, of his book Wafa' al-Wafa', and it is mentioned on p. 280 of Athar al-Bilad by Zakariyya Ibn Mahmud al-Qazwini, among the others.

  • 16. Rijal al-Kashshi, p. 51.
  • 17. al-Thahabi, Mizan al-I’tidal, Vol. 2, p. 339. Ibn Hajar, Lisan al-Mizan, Vol. 2, p. 461.
  • 18. Rijal al-Kashshi, p. 51. On p. 113 of Bisharat al-Mustafa, and on p. 103 of al-Tabarsi's Amali, majlis No. 6, first edition, she is referred to as “Amatullah,” bondmaid of Allah.
  • 19. al-Saffar, Basa’ir al-Darajat, Vol. 6, p. 73, in a chapter about the Imams being acquainted with the conditions of their Shi’as. He is quoted on p. 246, Vol. 11, of Bihar al-Anwar, where Imam Musa Ibn Ja’far (‘a) is discussed.
  • 20. Shaikh al-Tusi, Amali, p. 104, Majlis No. 6, first edition.
  • 21. On p. 39 of Diwan al-Sahaba, in a footnote on decorating markets, it is stated that the number of women who had cut off their hands reached forty, nine of whom did so due to their love and passion [for Prophet Yousuf {Joseph} (‘a)].
  • 22. Shu’ara' al-Hilla, Vol. 3, p. 214, excerpted from a poem eulogizing al-Husayn (‘a) by Sayyid ‘Abdul-Muttalib al-Hilli.

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