Shi'aImam Husayn
How can we respond to people who say the Shi'a are responsible for the death of Imam Hussain (as)?

They base their claims on saying that companions such as Sulayman b. Surad and Rifa'a b. Shaddad wrote to Imam Hussain (as) inviting him to Kufa to be their Imam, but then deserted him at the last minute. They also cite the Tawwabun uprising as "proof" that the Shi'a deserted Imam Hussain (as).

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Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the Islamic College in London and also the Managing Editor of the Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies.

552 Answers
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Mahmood Abu Maryam,

Trying to make sense of it all...

50 Answers
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508 Answers
Zoheir Ali Esmail, Shaykh Zoheir Ali Esmail has a Bsc in Accounting and Finance from the LSE in London, and an MA in Islamic Studies from Middlesex University. He studied Arabic at Damascus University and holds a PhD... Answered 3 years ago

Thank you for your question. I think this kind of question arises from a misunderstanding of the historical circumstances of the people of Kufa and the success of Ibn Ziyad's policies in Kufa before the arrival of Imam Husayn (as). Not everyone in Kufa was a Shia and equating Kufans to Shias is not true or accurate. There were nobles in Kufa who stood to loose from the  establishment of Imam Husayn (as) as the leader of Kufa and they helped Ibn Ziyad enforce tyrannical policies which induced an extreme amount of fear within the Kufan population such that all but the staunchest supporters of the Imam (as) chose silence and compliance over uprise.

For example, if any member of a tribe was seen to support the Imam, the whole tribe would be punished through the cutting off of stipends (which was the income for most people), not just the individual. This meant that before a person took action they had to think about all of their family members and their wider tribe including the women and children. They also had to bear in mind that many were willing to divulge any plans of disruption to Ibn Ziyad in order to protect their own skin and to seek favour with the government. It is in this way that many thousands of Kufans were forced on the battlefield but a much smaller percentage actually took part in the battle. People who wrote letters to the Imam (as) were not able to break out of these policies. It was also not certain for the people participating in the battle that the intention was to actually kill the Imam (as) until much later in the ordeal. I am certainly not justifying their lack of support of the Imam (as) at such a critical time, but am explaining the reason as to why these phenomena occurred and that is by coercion. Coercion does not prove anything other than the responsibility of the person who coerced, who was Ibn Ziyad.

The Tawwabun movement was also comprised of Shia that had been imprisoned and some historians have opined that it was the taking of the women as captives and their journey to Damascus that were significant causes for that movement. As for the blame for the death of the Imam (as), there is no doubt that it is on the immediate killers of the Imam (as) as well as all of those that were happy that he had been killed. There is no true Shia that would claim to be happy with the martyrdom of the Imam (as), whereas the tribe of Bani Umayyah celebrated the killing of the Imam (as) in the most flagrant manner.

May Allah's Mercy be distant from the killers of Imam Husayn (as) and may you always be successful.

Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answer updated 3 years ago

This baseless claim is made by those who try to deny the facts of history admitted by their main scholars, just to run away from the curse on their leaders who caused the killing of Imam Husain (AS).

Let us go briefly through the crime and who committed it to know whether Shia or their opponents killed Imam Husain (AS):

1. Imam Husain (AS) was killed by Yazeed son of Mo’awiyah, who sent a big army to Karbala for this crime. The army was led by Omar Ibn Sa’d. 

Mo’awiyah is praised by many Sunni persons claiming that he was a companion. They overlook his crimes which are clear for every student or researcher.

Shia curse Mo’awiyah because he fought against Ameerul Mo’mineen Ali ( AS), while many Sunnis praise him.

2. Yazeed is cursed by Shia while you find some Sunni books praise him.

3. Omar Ibn Sa’d is cursed by Shia because of his role in killing Imam Husain (AS) while you find big Sunni scholars like Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani praising him and claiming that he was an authentic narrator of  Hadeeth ( Taqreeb al-Tahtheeb, 1:717).تقريب التهذيب لابن حجر 

Another Sunni book by the name of Ma’rifat al-Thiqaat by Al-Ijli معرفة الثقات للعجلي admitted his role is killing Imam Husain, yet praised him 2:166.

Al-Dhahabi is another very prominent Sunni scholar, praise Omar Ibn Sa’d in his book Meezan al-I’tidaal 3:198. ميزان الاعتدال للذهبي 

So, when you see these facts and many similar facts, How can any person with minimum sense accept the false allegation that Shia were behind the killing of Imam Husain ( AS) ?


Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 3 years ago

First, I would question why someone is bringing this up. Are they asking because they have a genuine historical inquiry? Or is it just an attempt to prove "Sunnis are right, Shi'is are wrong" [or vice versa]? If it is the latter, people should be called on this at the outset. 

Assuming it is a genuine question... First, the primary blame for a crime goes on the perpetrators. In this case, that is those who ordered the killing of Imam Husain (A) and those who struck blows. Yes, the people of Kufa had a secondary responsibility for not supporting the Imam, but it is rather revisionist to blame a bystander for a crime. (How often does that happen today!)

Second, the line between "Shi'i" and "Sunni" was not as firm then as it is today. While, early on, the concept of "Shi'a of 'Ali" was known, the concept of "Sunni" took time to develop. Many Muslims - in Kufa and otherwise - were favorable to Imam 'Ali (A) and his descendants because they had had a good experience with him as caliph, or because the Prophet (S) had respected Imam Husain (A), or because of a sort of tribal loyalty to the Prophet (S). However, they can't all be said to have been Shi'is, in the sense of having an unwavering, lifelong dedication to the Imam as the imam, or advocating Shi'i fiqh or theology. They were simply inclined towards him.

Basically, there was a big middle ground between what we would today consider "Shi'i" and "non-Shi'i" or "Sunni". There were some dedicated Shi'is, such as al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, who were genuinely unable to be present in Karbala for reasons such as imprisonment. Conversely, what happened in Karbala upset many Muslims, not just Shi'is. While the people of Kufa at that time, overall, had human failings (and exceptions apply), I don't think there is any text in which the Imams say that "our followers killed us".