When al-’Abbas was killed, al-Husayn (‘a) turned to see none to help him against his foes. He looked and saw how his family members and companions lied slaughtered on the ground.
He heard the wailing of the orphans and the cries of the children. As loud as he could, he called out, “Is there anyone who defends the sanctity of the Messenger of Allah?
Is there anyone who believes in the Unity of Allah and who fears Allah in our regard? Is there anyone who comes to our rescue and who wishes by doing so to please Allah?” The women's voices now grew even louder as they cried.1
Al-Sajjad (‘a) stood up. He was leaning on a cane and dragging a sword. He was sick and could hardly move, but al-Husayn (‘a) called on his daughter Umm Kulthum saying, “Confine him so that the world may not run out of the progeny of Muhammad (S),” so she took him back to his bed.2
Al-Husayn (‘a) now ordered his dependents to be silent, and he bade them farewell. He was wearing a dark silk jubba (long robe)3 and a florid turban with two tresses let loose on the sides and wrapped himself with the same burda (gown) which the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny, used to wear, and was carrying his [Prophet’s] sword.4
He asked for a thawb (garment) which nobody wanted and which he put underneath his clothes so that nobody would be interested in it and, hence, in removing it from his body, since he knew that he was going to be killed soon.
They brought him small trousers but he was not interested in them since they were the outfits of ignominy,5 so he took a worn out garment which he ripped, placing its pieces underneath his clothes.6 Then he asked for wrapping trousers which he also tore then put on so that nobody would take them away from his corpse.7
He then ordered his infant son [‘Abdullah] to be brought to him so that he would say good-bye to him. Zainab brought him his baby son ‘Abdullah8 as well as the latter’s mother al-Rubab. He placed him in his lap and kept kissing him9 and repeating this statement: “Away with these people when your grandfather the chosen one (S) is their opponent.”10
Then he brought him to those folks and asked for some water for him. Harmalah Ibn Kahil al-Asadi shot the infant with an arrow that slaughtered him. Al-Husayn (‘a) received his blood in his hand then threw it up towards the heavens.
Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (‘a) has said, “Not a drop of it fell.”11 In this regard, the Hujjah of the Progeny of Muhammad (S), may Allah hasten his reappearance, says, “Peace be unto ‘Abdullah, the slaughtered infant, the one shot with an arrow, the one whose blood was shed in a most cruel manner and whose blood ascended to the heavens, the one slaughtered with an arrow in his father's lap! The curse of Allah be upon the person who shot him, Harmalah Ibn Kahil al-Asadi, and upon his kinsfolk.”12
Al-Husayn (‘a) said, “What decreases my affliction is the fact that it is witnessed by Allah Almighty.14
O Allah! It is not less in Your esteem than the life of a son! Lord! If You have kept victory away from us, then let it be so for something even better, and seek revenge on our behalf from the oppressors,15 and let what has happened to us in this life be a treasure for us in the hereafter.16
O Allah! You are the Witness against people who killed the one who looked most like Your Messenger Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny.”17
He (‘a), then heard a voice saying, “Leave him, O Husayn, for there is a nurse for him in Paradise.!”18
Then he (‘a), alighted from his horse and with his sword dug a grave for him and buried him; his blood was mixed with the sands, then he offered the funeral prayers for him.19 Some accounts say that he placed him together with those of his family who had already been killed.20
Al-Husayn (‘a) advanced towards the enemy raising his sword, losing all hope of survival, challenging them to a duel. He killed all those who accepted his challenge, and their number was quite high.22 Then he charged on the army's east flank as he recited these verses:
Death is better than accepting ignominy,
While ignominy is better than the Fire!23
and on the left flank as he recited:
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Ammar Ibn Yaghuth said, “Never have I seen someone surrounded by a huge number of enemies and whose son is slaughtered, and so are his family and companions, and who still maintained his composure, remained relentless, and stayed courageous more than al-Husayn (‘a). Men kept fleeing in front of him whenever he charged at them, and none kept his ground.”25
‘Umar Ibn Sa’d shouted to everyone saying, “This is the son of the quarrelsome one, the one with the stomach! This is the son of the killer of the Arabs! Attack him from all directions!” Four thousand arrows26 were at once shot at him, and he was forced to alight from his horse.
Al-Husayn (‘a) shouted at them, “O followers of Abu Sufyan! If you have no religion at all, and yet you fear the returning to your Maker, then at least you should remain free in your life, and you should go back to your lineage, if you are Arabs as you claim!”
Al-Shimr addressed him saying, “What are you, son of Fatima (‘a), saying?” He (‘a) said, “I am the one who is fighting you, and women are not held accountable; so, keep your rogues away from them and stop them from harming my women as long as I am alive.”
He became the target of the fighters, and the fighting intensified. His thirst intensified, too.27 From the direction of the Euphrates, he attacked ‘Amr Ibn al-Hajjaj who was surrounded by four thousand men, clearing them from the water and forcing his horse into the river.
When his horse was about to drink, al-Husayn (‘a) said to it, “You are thirsty, and so am I, yet I shall not drink before you.” The horse raised his head as if he understood what the Imam (‘a) had said to him.
When al-Husayn (‘a) stretched his hand to drink, a man asked him, “Do you enjoy water while the sanctity of your women has been violated?”
He, therefore, spilled the water and did not drink then went in the direction of the tent.28
Then he (‘a), bade his family farewell for the second time, ordering them to be patient. He put on the outer mantles as he said, “Get ready for the affliction, and be advised that Allah Almighty shall protect and safeguard you, and He shall save you from the evil of the enemies and make the ultimate end of your affair good.
He shall torment your enemy with various types of torture, and He shall compensate you for this trial with many sorts of bliss and honour; so, do not complain, nor should you say anything that may demean your status.”30
Indeed, anyone may say that that was the most critical situation the Master of Martyrs had to face that day.31
The ladies who were raised in the lap of Prophethood saw then the pillar of their security, the bulwark of their protection, the defender of their prestige, and the symbol of their honour telling them of a departure from which he would never return, so they did not know who would after him protect them from the oppression of the foes or who would be their solace once he is gone.
No wonder, then, that they all assembled and surrounded him, holding to his clothes as the children were moaning, being stunned by the situation, and little girls kept begging for security against their fear while others kept begging for water.
How, then, would have been the condition of the master of those endowed with a conscience and the example of affection as he saw, through his vast knowledge, the trustees of the Message and the ladies who descended from the Infallible Ones, who had never known before anything but honour and prestige, now running in this empty desert wailing, crying in a way that splits the most solid of stones, sighing most depressingly...?
They were in a constant danger of being plundered and beaten, having none to protect them besides the Imam (‘a) whom fatigue had exhausted.
As for the wise lady of Banu Hashim, namely Zainab al-Kubra, she saw all of that. We see how the secure niche of the religion was about to be dislocated, the rope of Prophethood to be cut off, the lantern of the Shari’a to be put out, and the tree of Imamate to wither.
Al-Husayn (‘a) turned to his daughter Sukayna who was described by al-Hasan II as one “who was always overcome by a deep meditation upon Allah,” finding her staying aloof from the other women, crying, wailing. He stood to ask her to be patient and to solace her. His condition could best be described in these verses:
It was then that ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d said to his men, “Woe unto you! Attack him, since he is distracted and surrounded by his women! By Allah! Should he direct his full attention to you, your right wing will not be separated from the left!”
They, therefore, assailed him with their arrows till the arrows reached his camp and some of them pierced through the clothes of some of the women, causing them to be stunned and frightened.
They screamed and entered the tent as they looked at al-Husayn (‘a) to see what he would do. Al-Husayn (‘a) attacked the enemy like an angry lion. Anyone who could catch up with him he stabbed with his sword and killed as he was receiving the arrows from all directions, bracing them with his chest and neck.34
He went back to his quarters profusely repeating this statement: La hawla wala quwwata illa billah al-’aliyy al-aďim (There is no might nor power except in Allah, the Sublime, the Great.”35 In such a condition, he asked for some water.
Al-Shimr said to him, “You shall not have a taste of it till you reach the Fire.” A man shouted at him saying: “O Husayn! Do not you see how the Euphrates water is as clear as the snakes' bellies? You shall not taste of it till you die of thirst.” Al-Husayn (‘a) said, “O Allah! Do cause him to die of thirst.”
That particular man, to be sure, kept asking for water ever since, and water was always brought to him, yet it would come out of his mouth and never goes down, and he kept doing so till he died of thirst.36
Abul-Hutuf al-Ju’fi shot al-Husayn (‘a) with an arrow in his forehead that he pulled out, causing blood to run on his face. The Imam (‘a) said, “O Allah! You see in what condition I am with regard to Your servants, these disobedient ones!
O Allah! Decrease their number, kill them and leave none of them on the face of earth, and do not ever forgive them.”
In a loud voice did al-Husayn (‘a) shout, “O nation of evil! It is, indeed, evil the way how you succeeded Muhammad (S) in faring with his ‘Itrat! You shall not kill anyone after me and contemplate on the consequences of killing him; rather, you will think very lightly of it once you have killed me.
By Allah! I hope that Allah will grant me the honour of martyrdom then will He seek revenge on my behalf from whence you know not.”
Al-Hasin said to the Imam (‘a), “And how will He seek revenge on our behalf on you, O son of Fatima?!” The Imam (‘a) answered, “He will cause you all to kill one another and thus get your blood spilled, then shall He pour His torment upon you in the most painful manner.”37
Having become too feeble to fight, he stood to rest. It was then that a man threw a stone at him, hitting his forehead and causing his blood to run down his face.
He took his shirt to wipe his blood from his eyes just as another man shot him with a three-pronged arrow that pierced his chest and settled in his heart.
He instantly said, “In the Name of Allah, through Allah, and on the creed of the Messenger of Allah [do I die].” Raising his head to the heavens, he said, “Lord! You know that they are killing a man besides whom there is no other son of Your Prophet's daughter!”
As soon as he took the arrow out of his back, blood gushed forth like a drain pipe.38 He placed his hand on his wound and once his hand was filled with blood, he threw it above saying, “Make what has happened to me easy for me; it is being witnessed by Allah” Not a single drop of that blood fell on the ground.39
Then he put it back a second time and it was again filled with blood. This time he rubbed it on his face and beard as he said, “Thus shall I appear when I meet my Lord and my grandfather the Messenger of Allah (S), drenched in my blood. It is then that I shall say: ‘O grandfather! So-and-so killed me.'”40
Bleeding soon sapped his strength, so he sat down on the ground, feeling his head being too heavy. Malik Ibn al-Nisr noticed his condition, so he taunted him then dealt him a stroke with his sword on the head. Al-Husayn (‘a) was wearing a burnoose that soon became full of blood. Al-Husayn (‘a) said,
“May you never be able to eat nor drink with your right hand, and may Allah gather you among the oppressors.” Having said so, the dying Imam (‘a) threw his burnoose away and put on a turban on top of his capuche cap.42
Hani Ibn Thabit al-Hadrami has said, “I was standing with nine other men when al-Husayn (‘a) was killed. It was then that I looked and saw one of the children from al-Husayn's family wearing a robe and a shirt, and in his ears there were two rings. He held a post from those buildings and stood startled looking right and left.
A man came running. Having come close to that child, the man leaned from his horse and killed that child with his horse. When he was shamed for thus killing a helpless child, he revealed his last name...”43
That child was Muhammad Ibn Abu Sa’id Ibn ‘Aqil Ibn Abu Talib.44 His mother, dazed and stunned, kept looking at him as the incident unfolded before her very eyes.45
The enemies of Allah waited for a short while then returned to al-Husayn (‘a) whom they surrounded as he sat on the ground unable to stand. ‘Abdullah son of Imam al-Hasan (‘a), grandson of the Prophet (S), who was then eleven years old, looked and saw how his uncle was being surrounded by those people, so he came running towards him.
Zainab wanted to restrain him but he managed to evade her and to reach his uncle. Bahr Ibn Ka’b lowered his head to strike al-Husayn (‘a), so the child shouted, “O son of the corrupt woman, are you going to strike my uncle?”
The man dealt a blow from his sword that the child received with his hand, cutting it off. The child cried in agony, “O uncle!”
Then he fell in the lap of al-Husayn (‘a) who hugged him and said, “O son of my brother! Be patient with regard to what has befallen us, and consider it as goodness, for Allah, the most Exalted, will make you join your righteous ancestors.”
Then he (‘a) raised his hands and supplicated saying, “O Allah! Let them enjoy themselves for some time then divide them and make them into parties, and do not let their rulers ever be pleased with them, for they invited us to support us, then they turned their backs to us and fought us.”46
Harmalah Ibn Kahil shot the child with an arrow, killing him as he sat in his uncle's lap.47
Al-Husayn (‘a) remained lying on the ground for some time. Had those rogues wished to kill him, they could have done so, but each tribe relied on the other to do what it hated to do itself.48
Al-Shimr shouted, “What are you standing like that for?! What do you expect the man to do since your arrows and spears have wounded him so heavily? Attack him!”50
Zar’ah Ibn Sharik struck him on his left shoulder with his sword while al-Hasin shot him with an arrow that penetrated his mouth;52 another man struck him on the shoulder. Sinan Ibn Anas stabbed him in his collarbone area of the chest then shot him with an arrow in the neck.53
‘Salih Ibn Wahab stabbed him in the side...54
Hilal Ibn Nafi’ has said, “I was standing in front of al-Husayn (‘a) as he was drawing his last breath Never did I ever see anyone whose face looked better than him or more glowing as he was stained with his own blood!
In fact, the light emanating from his face distracted me altogether from the thought of killing him! As he was in such a condition, he asked for some water to drink, but they refused to give him any.”
A man said to him, “You shall not taste of water till you reach hell from whose hot boiling water shall you drink.” He (‘a) said, “Am I the one who will reach it?
Rather, I will reach my grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, and will reside with him in his abode of truth near an Omnipotent King, and I shall complain to him about what crimes you committed against me and what you have done to me.” They all became very angry. It is as if Allah did not leave one iota of compassion in their hearts.55
When his condition worsened, al-Husayn (‘a) raised his eyes to the heavens and said,
“O Allah! Sublime You are, Great of Might, Omnipotent, Independent of all creation, greatly Proud, Capable of doing whatever You please, Forthcoming in mercy, True of Promise, Inclusive of Blessings, Clement, Near to those who invoke Him, Subduing His creation, Receptive to Repentance, Able, Overpowering, Appreciative when thanked, Remembering those who remember Him! You do I call upon out of my want, and You do I seek out of need!
From You do I seek help when in fear and cry when depressed! Your help do I seek in my weakness, and upon You do I rely! O Allah! Judge between us and our people, for they deceived and betrayed us!
They were treacherous to us, and they killed us though we are the ‘Itrat of Your Prophet and the offspring of the one You love: Muhammad (S) whom You chose for Your Message and entrusted with the revelation! Do find an ease for our affair and an exit, O most Merciful of all merciful ones!57
Grant me patience to bear Your destiny, O Lord! There is no god but You! O Helper of those who seek help!58
I have no god besides You, nor do I adore anyone but You! Grant me to persevere as I face Your decree, O Helper of the helpless, O Eternal One Who knows no end, O One Who brings the dead back to life, O One Who rewards every soul as it earned, do judge between me and them; surely You are the best of judges.”59
His horse came circling around him, rubbing his head on his blood.61 It was then that Ibn Sa’d shouted, “The horse! Get the horse, for it is one of the horses of the Messenger of Allah (S)!”
Horsemen surrounded that horse which kept kicking with its front legs, killing forty riders and ten horses. Ibn Sa’d then said, “Leave him and let us see what he does.”
Once he felt secure, the horse went back to al-Husayn (‘a) to rub his head on the Imam's blood as he sniffed him. He was neighing very loudly.62
Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (‘a) used to say that that horse was repeating these words: “Retribution! Retribution against a nation that killed the son of its Prophet's daughter!”
The horse then went to the camp neighing likewise.63 When the women saw the horse without its rider and its saddle twisted, they went out, their hair spread out, beating their cheeks, their faces uncovered, screaming and wailing, feeling the humiliation after enjoying prestige, going in the direction of the place where al-Husayn (‘a) had been killed.64
Umm Kulthum, namely Zainab the wise, cried out, “O Muhammad! O father! O ‘Ali ! O Ja’far! O Hamzah! Here is Husayn in the open slain in Karbala’!”66
Then Zainab said, “I wish the heavens had fallen upon the earth!67 I wish the mountains had crushed the valley!”68 She was near al-Husayn (‘a) when ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d came close to her flanked by some of his men.
Al-Husayn (‘a) was drawing his last breath She cried out, “O ‘Umar! Should Abu ‘Abdullah be killed as you look on?!” He turned his face away. His tears were flooding his beard.69 She said, “Woe unto you! Is there any Muslim man among you?” None answered her.70 Then [‘Umar] Ibn Sa’d shouted at people, “Alight and put him to rest!”
Al-Shimr was the first to do so. He kicked the Imam (‘a) with his foot then sat on his chest and took hold of his holy beard. He dealt him twelve sword strokes.71 He then severed his sacred head...
Those folks now took to maurauding the Imam (‘a). Ishaq Ibn Hawayh took his shirt. Al-Akhnas Ibn Murthid Ibn ‘Alqamah al-Hadrami took his turban. Al-Aswad Ibn Khalid took his sandals. Jami’ Ibn al-Khalq al-Awdi, but some say a man from Tamim named al-Aswad Ibn Hanzalah, took his sword.
Bajdal came. He saw the Imam (‘a) wearing a ring covered with his blood. He cut his finger off and took the ring... Qays Ibn al-Ash’ath took his velvet72 on which he since then used to sit, so he came to be called “Qays Qateefa.”73
The Imam (‘a)’s worn out garment was taken by Ja’oonah Ibn Hawiyyah al-Hadrami. His bow and outer garments were taken by al-Rail Ibn Khaythamah al-Ju’fi, Hani Ibn Shabib al-Hadrami and Jarir Ibn Mas’ud al-Hadrami.74
A man from among them wanted to take his underpants after all his other clothes had been taken away by others.
This man said, “I wanted to take it off, but he had put his right hand on it which I could not lift; therefore, I severed his right hand...
He then put his left hand on it which I also could not lift, so I severed it, too, and was about to bare him and take it off. It was then that I heard something like an earthquake, so I became frightened. I left him and fell into a swoon.
While I was unconscious, I saw the Prophet (S), ‘Ali, Fatima, and al-Hasan (‘a). Fatima was saying, ‘O son! They killed you! May Allah kill them!' He said to her, ‘O mother! This sleeping man has severed my right hand!' She then invoked Allah's curse on me saying, ‘May Allah cut your hands and legs, and may He blind you and hurl you into the fire!'
Indeed, I am now blind. My hands and legs have already been amputated, and nothing remains from her curse except the Fire.”75
He was fully aware of the fact that what they said was nothing but a trick. But the attributes of that day with regard to the Master of Martyrs and those in his company remaining thirsty are beyond our knowledge, and we have no choice except to take it for granted that the Imam (‘a), was wise in his actions and speeches, doing exactly what his grandfather (S), who never spoke out of his own inclination, had instructed him.
All issues relevant to the Battle of al-Taff are confined, in their circumstances and sites, to mysteries and reasons which only the Lord of the World, Exalted is He, knows. There is something else which was observed by the Master of Martyrs, something the Arabs used to die for, and that was: protecting the ladies with their lives. Abu ‘Abdullah (‘a) was the master of the Arabs and the son of their master. He was never unaware of such a tribute for which he would sacrifice everything precious. When a man shouted out telling him that the sanctity of the ladies had been violated, he refused to drink water in order to let everyone know his deep concern about his honour.
Had he paid no heed for the call, people would have concluded that he was lacking in his Arabian manliness, something that the Father of the Oppressed would never have done even if he knew that the call was untrue. The action of the master of the men of honour, his having abstained from drinking even a little of water, is a feat for which a man would receive the highest praise.