The Prophesied Desert of Karbala
At a place near the Euphrates, the Holy Imam's steed suddenly stopped and inspite of the unusual spurrings, the animal did not move; but raised its head towards heaven, as if to say that it was helpless and could not step forward any more. Husayn changed six horses one after another but none of the animals moved from the spot. Gathering the people in the neighbourhood, the Holy Imam enquired the name of the place. Some said 'Maria' some said 'Nainawa’ and some said 'Shattul-Furat' but the Holy Imam was not satisfied and continued his enquiry asking if there was any other name for the place. An old man stepped forward and said “O’ Son of the Apostle of God! I have heard from my ancestors this plain being called also as 'Karbala'.” The moment the Holy Imam heard the name of Karbala, he smiled and thanked God and said:
“Surely this is the plain I was in quest of. This is the place where my holy Grandfather had prophesized that I, with all my faithful companions, will lay slain after suffering three days hunger and thirst. Here will the Garden of Fatimah be cut and destroyed. I cannot and I will not move an inch from this place-I have reached the destined destination.”
Saying this, the Holy Imam ordered the Caravan to be stopped and declared that the journey had ended as he had arrived at the desired destination. Tents were ordered to be pitched but Hazrat Zainab, Husayn's sister, hearing of the Imam's decision to camp there, wept and sent for Husayn and requested him saying:
“Brother dear! Do not camp here! Somehow my heart is restless and does not consent. Brother dear! Since our arrival on this plain, I distinctly hear the lamenting voice of our dear mother, wailing somewhere nearby in this desert.”
Husayn, hearing his mother's name, shed tears and said:
“Zainab! We need not fear when God is with us. It is immaterial, Sister, where we camp. This is the place, Sister dear, I was in quest of and thanks to God I am at it, and now Sister dear, I cannot move from here.”
Tents were pitched at the bank of the Euphrates for the Holy Imam's Caravan.
While the men were busy pitching the tents, the Holy Imam went into the surrounding lands stopping at certain spots thoughtfully; and at a certain spot, he laid himself down on the earth and raised his head to look towards his camp. When asked what he meant by the action, he said:
“It is the place where I will at last fall from my horse and will lay to be slain! I wanted to see if my lying there wounded to be slain by Shimr who will be seated on my breast, will be visible to the ladies in my camp, for Zainab, my Sister, and will then be standing at the doorway of her tent, shouting for me.”
The Holy Imam took his brother ‘Abbas around and pointed out the various spots in the plain where each one of his comrades would fall and be slain.
The holy Imam gathered the people of the surrounding places, the owners of the plain of Karbala, and purchasing the land from them gifted the same to the people. Addressing the males among them he said:
“On the Tenth day of this month ye shall see us lying here slain, our bodies lying on the plain with our heads severed and taken away. I request you to kindly bury us, and when our devotees come to visit our graves, hold them in honour as your guests and point out to them the places of our burial?”
He then addressed the ladies:
“O' Virtuous ladies! If your husbands, fearing the wrath of Yazid do not bury us, you kindly encourage them to do it or do it yourselves.”
The Holy Imam then turned to the young children in the gathering and addressing them said:
“O' Innocent ones! If your parents, out of fear of the wrath of the Ruler, do ito: bury us, you may, by way of playing bring some mud in your laps and throw it upon our bodies and hide them.”
The appeal was so touching that the whole gathering wept.
The brute Ibn Ziad at Kufa got the information of Husayn's getting out of the control of Hurr and also learnt that the, helpless Imam had camped near the River Euphrates. Regiment after regiment began to pour in on the plain of Karbala from all sides and ultimately the enemy’s forces compelled Husayn to shift his camp from the bank of the river to the interior of the burning desert. Husayn's brother, the lion-hearted ‘Abbas, objected to this demand from the enemy, claiming priority of occupation and the right of the son of the Holy Prophet, the Holy Imam, to stay where he had first camped. When the enemy wished to march towards the Holy Imam's camp, the brave ‘Abbas at once drew his sword and stood firm and shouted to the men:
“One step forward if ye advance, ye shall lay headless there.”
Knowing the bravery, valour, and prowess of the valiant son of Ali, the Lion of God, none cared to step forward. But Husayn ailed his Brother saying:
“Brother ‘Abbas! Let not bloodshed be initiated from our side. Let them occupy any place they like. They call themselves my Grandfather's followers. Let them enjoy every comfort they want. We shall suffer for them, being away from the water. When God is with us Brother, what if the river is far away from us.”
With these words, the Holy Imam, in order to avoid bloodshed, issued orders to shift this camp into the interior of the burning desert and it was immediately done.
The reported strength of the brutal forces that were sent by Yazid to martyr the Holy Imam at Karbala.
According to Abu-Mikhnaf the total strength of Yazid's army at Karbala was 80,000 of Kufees excluding the Syrians and the Hijazi forces. The first one who left for Karbala with his army on behalf of Yazid was Umar al-Sa'd, with 6,000 men.
Following Umar went Sinan Ibn Anas with 4,000
Orwath Ibn Qais with 4,000
Shees bin Rub'ee with 4,000
Shimre-zil Jaushan with 4,000
Arqam-Ibn Ziad enrolled further 22,000 men
Yazeed Ibn Rikabe Kalbi 2,000
Haseen bin Nameer Ibn Askooni 4,000
Nasre Ma'zani 2,000
This is according to the unanimous report of the Historians.
Biharaul-Anwar, V. 10 p. 182
Abu Mikhnaf p. 32
Tarique-Asame-Kufee p. 269
If the holy Imam had stayed at Madina and got slain there, it would have been said, why did he not migrate to Mecca to take shelter in the Great Sanctuary there? He did go to the Ka'ba and if he had stayed there to be killed by Yazid's agents, it would have been said why did he not leave the holy place to avoid bloodshed in the Great Sanctuary? Husayn left Mecca too, even though it was the very eve of the pilgrimage. And if he had gone to Kufa it would have been said why he went to a place where his Deputy Muslim had been killed, and when he knew the situation there. Husayn avoided going to Kufa. Hurr's offer, if Husayn had rejected, it would have been said why he refused to escape when the enemy's agent himself offered the opportunity to do it. Husayn availed also of the opportunity given by Hurr. Now when the enemy became cruel, heartless and aggressive, he avoided bloodshed by shifting his camp into the interior of the desert, abandoning the bank of the river to the enemy.
When the whole plain of Karbala was full with Yazid's regiments and the Holy Imam's camp was totally surrounded by the enemy's forces, Ibn i-Sa'd the Commander of the Brute's armies met Husayn on the banks of the River and demanded 'Bait' on behalf of the tyrant Yazid and said:
“If you pay homage to Yazid, everything will go well for you and whatever worldly comforts and privileges you desire for, will be at your disposal. Otherwise, it will end in a wholesale massacre of yourself and all your dear ones here.”
Husayn firmly refused to pay the 'Bait' saying:
“Tell Yazid to tempt with the worldly comforts those who are after this World. I am the Imam, the Representative of the Apostle of God. I shall never yield to the one who believeth not in God and who defieth the Word of the Lord, in word and deed, and who spreadeth godlessness on the earth. Let any calamity befall me and my dear ones, the will of the Lord shall be done. Husayn will cheerfully meet any catastrophe but never surrender Truth to falsehood.
At last on the 7th Muharram 61 A.H. (October 680 A.D.) the Commander of Yazid's forces received orders to cut off all sources of supply to the Holy Imam's camp and not to allow even a drop of water to reach any of the inmates therein. It can better be imagined than described what the condition of Husayn's camp would have been under the scorching Arabian sun. The camp was in the midst of the burning desert, with the heat-waves blowing from all sides. The unavailability of water, with nothing to feed even the young children, the wriggling of the babies for milk which the poor mothers, who were themselves suffering from the killing thirst, could not give, caused distress. What a torturous situation it must be, and how did those Holy ones suffer all these unbearable tortures, it is very difficult for any human mind to conceive, but all these are facts which the Holy Imam and his godly companions suffered with wonderful fortitude and patience. Over and above all these tortures, the sight of the enemy's forces preparing all around for the massacre and whosleale destruction was there, before the ladies and the children in the besieged camp.
In short, the torture of thirst which actually began from the 7th Muharram and the sufferings of the Imam with his companions, including the young children and the babies, could not be described here. The sufferings of the Holy ones for the sake of Truth can better be imagined than described.
‘Abbas, the brave, who was next only to the Holy Imam in charge of the Holy Imam's camp, after a very strenuous fight with the enemy at the river, got a sack of water but when the sack filled with water was placed before the thirsty children, the poor innocents not waiting till it was properly opened, and not knowing how to open the sack, rushed to it and fell upon it, one over the other, in the haste to at least cool their burning bodies. But alas! The knot at the mouth of the sack gave way to the pressure and the whole water flowed away on the sand. It can be imagined what the feelings of despair and disappointment of the poor children and the helpless mothers would have been, and how disappointed the brave son of Ali, who got the water, would have felt at the loss of the water which he could get for the poor children and the inmates of the camp after so much of fight with the enemy guarding the banks of the river. Attempts to dig a well were also made but in vain, for instead of water, stones came out. The Holy Imam preached patience and fortitude to every one at each disappointment and torture, saying:
“Be ye all cheerful and always surrender to the will of the All-Merciful Lord, for the end of all these trials is at hand and the water of Paradise awaiteth there to quench your thirst.”
All efforts of the enemy through temptations, promises, persecutions and tortures, to persuade the Holy Imam, to yield to Yazid were in vain. Even the killing heat and the thirst of three continuous days suffered by himself, his faithful companions, the helpless ladies and even the innocent infants and the babies, could not move the Holy Imain to effect the least change in the strength of his will to re-establish the Truth paying any price the task might demand.
On the 9th day of Muharram, the enemy's forces advanced towards the camp of the helpless Imam to affect a wholesale massacre of all the inmates therein. Husayn sent word to the enemy s Commander, Ibna-i-Sa'd through the brave ‘Abbas with the request for a night's time to spend it in his last prayers to the Lord which was at first refused but ultimately with much reluctance granted.
The holy imam sent for the enemy's Commander Ibna-i-Sa'd and proposed three honourable conditions:
“Leave me, and I shall quit the Muslim Empire with my whole family and children, and live in some non-Muslim lands. I shall go away to Yemen or to Iran or to the far off Hind (i.e., India).”
The tyrant answered: “It can never be so.”
“Will you at least allow having some water for the helpless ladies and the innocent babies who are dying of thirst in my camp?”
The tyrant replied: “First pay 'Bait' (allegiance) and then take the waterfront the river.”
Husayn at last said:
“Ibna-i-Sa'd, why dost thou destroy the house of the Holy Prophet? If the whole world were to be given to me to rule over, I shall never yield to the tyrant.”
Husayn had done the best possible to avoid bloodshed, but every offer for a peaceful settlement was rejected and the surrender to Yazid was insisted upon. Husayn then decided to fight the might of the Devil for the truth and to surrender his all in the way of the Lord and to demonstrate to the human race what Bravery, Stead-fastness, Patience and Fortitude, even in the worst of the painful sufferings, those who really love God should put up with to defend the Truth and uphold it.
When all efforts through exhortations to the enemy's forces proved futile and the only alternative left was to fight for the cause of Truth, the Holy Imam decided first to prove the miraculous strength and the matchless prowess the godly ones possessed, and how bravely the huge host of the enemy could be resisted, and then to surrender himselfand his dear ones to drink the cup of martyrdom and to fulfil the Covenant of the Lord to save the Truth for all times Husayn asked Ibna-i-Sa'd: “Will you at least agree to conduct tomorrow's battle in single combats between one from either side?”Ibna-i-Sa'd consented but the treacherous Brute did not keep to his promise.
The night following the ninth day of Muharram presented a unique spectacle which has no parallel in the history of the world. A detailed description of the scene of that night in Karbala requires at least a separate chapter. However, only a few important events of the dreadful night are briefly related here.
Since his arrival at Karbala on the 2nd Muharram, the Holy Imam used to gather all those who had accompanied him from Mecca, and address them after every night prayer, advising them to leave him to his own fate and to return to their homes giving them every assurance that the consequences of his journey would be quite a different one from what had been imagined by them to be. It is reported that hearing the Holy Imam announcing the ultimate end of his journey, the people began deserting him in groups.
Husayn had to offer the sacrifice which had been termed by God Himself as 'Zibhe- Azeem' the Great Sacrifice (37:104 108). The purity of his body and the divinity of his own soul was unquestionable, but those whom he had to offer along with himself in the way of the Lord, had to be of some purity worthy to be blessed with the martyrdom. There were the good and the bad ones, mixed up, in his camp but what he needed was only a pure and clean stuff to be presented to God along with himself.
Many who had accompanied him with selfish intentions, had deserted him, and of those still left, the Holy Imam wanted to effect a final shifting so that only those who desired nothing but the pleasure of the Lord, might remain to accompany him in his resignation to the Divine will, to resist against the onslaught of the falsehood of the Devil. At last on the 9th Muharram, soon after the enemy's consent to wait till the following morning, the Holy Imam, after the 'Isha' or the night prayers summoned the remaining people and addressed them thus:
“Brothers! You are sadly mistaken if you have hoped that tomorrow's battle will bear any fruit for you to fulfil any of your worldly ambitions. I tell you now openly that I will be mercilessly butchered. My Brother ‘Abbas will lose both his hands and die on the banks of the river. My eighteen- year son Ali al-Akbar will die by the lance pierced through his breast. Qasim, my nephew, will he killed and be trample under the hooves of the enemy's cavalry. And similarly, every one of my companions who will remains with me here, be he a relative or a friend of mine, will be rolling in his own blood and ultimately be slain. I tell you, not even my baby son Ali al-Asgher will be spared; he will receive an arrow on his tiny neck in my own arms and pass away. Only my son Ali, who is sick, will survive to suffer the Worst of tortures along with the people of my family. Friends! You need not worry yourself about the 'Bait' or the allegiance you have paid me, I release you from the oath . You leave me to my fate and save yourselves. They are only after my life. The night is dark and you can easily escape.”
At the end of his speech, the Holy Imam asked his brother ‘Abbas to put out the lamp in the tent so that people may walk away in the darkness without being ashamed of being seen by him.
it is reported that as soon as the lamp was put out, all those who had accompanied the Ho]y Imam from Mecca in their vain hopes of making their own fortune, began to desert the Holy Imam in batches and when the lamp was again lit after a while, there were left only a few here and there, and those who remained constituted the goldly band of the Holy Seventy-two who stood fast by the Holy Imam in the battle for Truth to save the human race against its falling into the abyss of falsehood.
This small band of godly souls pure in their spirit and sincere in their desire to fight and fall in the way of the Lord spent the night in prayers reciting audibly the Holy Qur'an and rejoicing in the hope to drink the fast-approaching cup of martyrdom the following morn- ing. Everyone anxiously waited for the break of dawn, to lay down his life in the way of the Lord in supporting the cause of Truth. The ladies were preparing their young children to be sacrificed along with the Holy Imam in upholding the cause of the Lord. The noble mothers of the family of the Holy Prophet were busy advising their young Sons to be steadfast in facing the might of the Devil in defence of the right, and to lay down their lives cheerfully and thus to drink the cup of martyrdom in the cause of the correct guidance of the Human Race.
The camp of the Holy Imam contained the ladies and the children of the House of the Holy Prophet. Apprehending a surprise attack from the enemy's forces which consisted of people who had turned treacherous to the Holy Imam and his family, a ditch was dug around the camp and fire was lighted the whole night and ‘Abbas the Brave, guarded the camp in a vigil the whole night walking around it with his sword in his hand mindful of the safety of the Holy Imam and the inmates of the camp, with a vigilant eye on the ranks of the enemy.
While the hungry and thirsty devotees of God in the Holy Imam's camp spent the night in prayers and the devotional supplicative services to God, the soldiers in the Yazidian ranks in the opposite camp spent the whole night in drinking, feasting and making merry in the hope of the promised rewards from Yazid in return for the destruction of the family of the Holy Prophet. God alone knows how many thousands of bowls of wine were emptied on that night. The Yazidian forces anxiously awaited the break of the dawn of the next day to affect the brutal slaughter of the Holy Imam and the small band of his kith and kin and faithful devotees.
At the break of the dawn of the fateful day, 10th Muharram 61 A.H. (October 680 A.D.), Husayn called his son Ali (Ali al-Akbar) who resembled the Holy Prophet the most, and said:
“Ali, my dear! Let me hear thy 'Azan' (the call for prayer) for the last time in this world!”
When Ali al-Akbar gave the call 'Azan' in the Sahara, reporters say that the voice resembled the voice of the Holy Prophet and Husayn hearing the last 'Azan' of his son in the voice of his Grand-father, remembering the Apostle of God, shed tears, and as the voice of Ali al-Akbar reached the inmates in the camp, Zainab along with Umm Laila, the mother of Ali al-Akbar and the other ladies came out of the tents to hear the call for prayer in the sweet enchanting voice of the beautiful son of Husayn resembling the voice of the Apostle of God, raising their hands to heavens prayed for the safety of their dear Caller to prayers.
It was the third day of the thirst inflicted on the whole camp of the Holy Imam. The Holy Imam and his devotees performed 'Tayammum' instead of 'Wuzu' (Ablution) and the Holy Imam offered the last congregational prayers with his devotees on earth. An Urdu poet has referred to this historic 'Salat' (Prayer) and the 'Salaties', i.e., the supplicants in a beautiful couplet:
“Chand shar' maa'ey
Chah'ray mutajalli aisay
Na Imam aisa howa
Phir na musalli aisay.”
“Ashamed would be the Moon,
Faces so bright,
The Imam of the kind, never did appear
Nor the supplicants like these.
Husayn had not even finished his prayers when a rain of arrows from the Yazidian forces began to shower on the praying Imam and his godly devotees. It is reported that Umar Ibn Sa'd was the first to take the bow in the Yazidian camp and shoot an arrow towards Husayn saying: (addressing the men of his forces):
“Witness ye all that I am the first to shoot an arrow against Husayn.”
Reporters of the event relate that along with Umar 4,000 archers in the Yazidian ranks simultaneously shot towards the Holy Imam's camp, and before the holy souls could conclude their prayers, thirty (30) of the godly ones, who were engaged in the prayer, were shot dead.
Soon after the prayer was over, the Holy Imam ordered all his faithful companions to fall in, and divided his small godly band into three flanks, i.e., the right and the left wings and the central body. Husayn called his brave brother, ‘Abbas, the Faithful and presented to him the Holy Standard of Truth and thus ‘Abbas from that day came to be known as ' ‘Abbas al-Alamdar' or ‘Abbas the Standard Bearer’.
At last when it became sure that the devilish forces were bent upon a wholesale massacre, Husayn spoke out aloud addressing the men of the Yazidian forces in an apostolic tune.
“O' people! Do ye recognise me? By God tell me?”
The reply from the enemy was:
“By God, yes, we do recognise thee; Thou art the Son of the Holy Prophet.”
Husayn again said:
“Do ye know me? Am I not the son of the Apostle of God?”
The reply was:
“Yes, we do know thee, Thou art the son of the Apostle of God.”
“Do ye know that my father is Ali-al-Murtadha son of Abu Talib, and my mother is Fatimah Zahra, the daughter of the Apostle of God and my grandmother is Lady Khadija daughter of Khowailad, who was the first to embrace Islam?”
The reply was:
“Yes. It is so.”
Husayn said: -
“By God, tell me, is not Hamza the Chief of the Martyrs of Islam, one of my uncles?”
The reply was:
“O’ people! Do ye recognise this turban on my head, is it not the turban of the Holy Prophet and this sword at my hand, that of the Apostle of God?”
The reply was:
“Yes we do recognise.”
“Do ye know that my father Ali Ibn Abi Talib was the first among men to join the Holy Prophet in the faith Islam, and he was the most learned, and the most forbearing of all men and was the 'Maula' (or the Master, Lord) of all men and women?”
The reply was:
“Yes! We know that everything thou sayest is truth.”
Then Husayn asked aloud:
“Say ye then, why do ye make lawful the shedding of my blood?”
The reply from the brutal forces was:
“Yes! We shall kill thee in thy thirst.”
The voice of the Holy Imam was heard in the tents in camp. The ladies and the children hearing the last reply from the enemy began to weep for Husayn and Zainab and Umm Kulthoom the two sisters of Husayn, the daughter of Ali and Fatimah were the most effected.
(Zindagani Husayn-Imadzadeh, Tehran)
Hurr, the commander of Yazid's regiment, who had obstructed Husayn's way near Kufa, was also present in the enemy's forces in Karbala. He spent all his time in repenting for having obstructed the way of the son of the Holy Prophet. The enemy's officers and soldiers were only wondering at the mysterious sorrowful silence and the serious pensive mood in which Hurr spent all his time since his arrival on the plain.
While he distributed weapons of defence to his devotees in his camp, the Holy Imam reserved a lance but did not say for who it was. He only announced in a mysterious tone that a faithful one in the enemy's ranks was to join the ranks of the fighters for Truth.
In the meanwhile, there in the ranks of the enemy Hurr called his brother and his son secretly in his tent and said:
“We are doomed-driven towards ‘hell.’ There is yet time. I have decided to dash out of the ranks of Satan and join the side of the Holy Imam and seek pardon of the son of the Apostle of God. Would you like to accompany me or stay where you are?”
The brother and the son of Hurr both readily consented to accompany him and Hurr's slave who was a faithful and trusted one of his master, was present in the tent and implored saying 'Master! take me away from this God's cursed side, along with thee. Pray leave me not for hell' and Hurr agreed.
Hurr, with his son, brother and a slave, dashed out of the enemy's ranks and joined the Holy Imam. Hurr appearing before the Holy Imam begged his pardon for the wrong he had done. The return of Hurr had already been foretold by Husayn in his camp. Hurr was received very warmly by Husayn and his companions and when the fight against the Devil began, Hurr was the first one who went into the field against the enemy and laid down his life.
Thus the battle of Truth against Falsehood began. One after another of the godly ones from the Holy Imam's side went into the field and laid down his life after exhibiting wonderful bravery, courage, valour and prowess. It looked as if the thirst, hunger, heat and the wounds had no affect whatsoever on the patience, the strength and the determination of Husayn's devotees. At last when the deceitful Ibna-i-Sa'd saw the wonderful fight, he was astonished that each one from the Holy Imam's side easily destroyed dozens before he fell, and who proved unconquerable, he ordered a sally in contravention of the solemn agreement entered into, the previous night.
The bravery and the skill displayed by the faithful supporters of the sacred cause, the matchless resignation to the Divine will, and the flawless devotion and the ideal attachment of each one of the hungry and thirsty sufferers of the godly camp, to the Holy Imam and to the sacred cause of Truth, drowned the Devil's army and their officers in wonder and astonishment, and they had become so awe-stricken at the miraculous strength and unparalleled courage of the helpless sufferers that they began to dread the very countenance of each of the godly devotees of the Holy Imam who came alone into the field and fought and fell in the way of God.
Thus, whenever a supporter of the Holy cause went against the Devil's forces and fell, the Holy Imam rushed out and brought his body and laid it in a tent pitched particularly for the martyrs. As the battle for Right against Might proceeded and the supporters of the Truth fell one after another, the tent containing the bodies of the martyrs was turned into a 'Ganje Shaheedan' or the 'Repository of the Martyrs.'
When devotee after devotee fought and fell, in defence of the Holy Family, Husayn's sister, Zainab, called her two sons, Aun and Muhammad aged 10 and 9 years respectively, who were with the Holy Imam, and asked them:
“What! Death has come to so many of the Holy Imam's devotees and you are still alive?”
The children submitted:
“Mother dear! We are only waiting for the Holy Imam's permission; get it for us now, our mother dear! And then see what these two slaves of yours would do.”
Zainab immediately sent for her brother the Holy Imam and implored that her two Sons be permitted to go into the field. Husayn could not say no to his sister. When these two boys went into the field, they got martyred. Husayn and ‘Abbas brought the two bodies of the young martyrs and laid them down in the tent of Zainab. Zainab came to the two bodies of her sons and addressing them said:
“My dear children! Now I am pleased with you for you have proved your worth and Laid down your lives for Truth and pleased God and His Holy Prophet.”
When the young Qasim aged about fourteen years, son of Imam Hasan, sought permission to go, it is reported that Husayn remembered the wish of his late brother Hasan that one of his daughtcrs be wedded to his son Qasim. At the same time Qasim presented to the Holy Imam a closed note, written and given to him by his father, to be opened only when the worst calamity befeIl him, in which was written addressing Qasim:
“My dear Son Qasim when your uncle Husayn is besieged by his enemites from all sides and when every true lover of God and the Holy Prophet, lays down his life, defending the cause of Truth, you sacrifice yourself for the cause on my behalf.”
The Holy Imam kissed his late brother's writing. It is reported that Husayn wedded his daughter Fatimah-Kubra to Qasim and immediately after the wedding, Qasim took his uncle's permission and went into the battlefield and after killing five famous warriors of the Devil's army (Azrag and his four sons) fell from his horse. Alas! Before Husayn could reach Qasim in response to his call for help, the whole cavalry of the Devil moved trampling over Qasim's body.
When ‘Abbas, the Lion-Hearted son of Ali, went into the field, his fight very much resembled the fight of his father Ali, the Lion of God. ‘Abbas' fight can never be described in a line or two. Anis and Dabir, the two famous Urdu Poets, have beautifully given a classical exposition of the marvellous encounter of ‘Abbas with the Devil's forces. ‘Abbas' strength, valour, dexterity, prowess, his devotion to the cause of Truth and his attachment to the Holy Imam, are unique in the history of the world. Against the wonderful dash which the Lion-Hearted son of the Lion of God-made, the Devil's men had to give way. After a terrible fight, ‘Abbas reached the bank of the river and filled the sack with water for the thirsty children in Husayn's camp but never tasted a drop of it saying:
“Ah! When My Lord, the Holy Imam and his innocent children are thirsty, how can ‘Abbas taste this water?”
Alas! While ‘Abbas was returning from the river with the sack of water on his shoulder, he was attacked from all sides and at last he fell near the bank of the river but not until he had lost both his hands which were severed by a treacherous attack from a hiding.
After ‘Abbas, came the turn of Ali al- Akbar, to go to the battlefield. It is reported that this eighteen year old son was so very much loved by one and all in the camp that the account of his taking leave of his mother, aunts, sisters, brothers and other relatives is so pathetic that none can resist shedding at least a few tears over the heart-rending event. At last when the Holy Imam sent Ali al-Akbar, the 'Ahmad-i-thani', i.e., (Muhammad the Second), to the battlefield, he raised his head towards Heaven and said:
“Lord! Here is sent in Thy way, the one who resembles the most with Thy Prophet Muhammad, whenever we did desire to have a view of the Holy Face departed away from us, we used to look at the face of this youth.”
“Lord! Husayn has one Ali al-Akbar and he is sent to be sacrificed for Thy cause, had I many more like him, I would have similarly offered them all in Thy way.”
Is not this offer more acceptable to God than that of Abraham who offered with his eyes blindfolded? Is not this a Greater Sacrifice than that of Ishmael?
When Ali al-Akhar went into the battlefield, it is reported that the Devil's forces were so much amazed at his resemblance with the Holy Prophet that such of those who had seen him before, wondered if the Holy Prophet had reappeared in the world to help his dear grandson Husayn. People were so anxious to have a look at the enchanting beauty of the youth that those in the rear of the enemy's ranks, mounted on the horses and camels, even stood on the backs of the animals to have a look at the matchless and the wonder- striking beauty of this son of the Holy Imam. But lo! There was a treacherous onslaught and Ali al-Akbar fell with a lance pierced through his breast as the Holy Imam had prophesied. God alone knows what a patient heart the Holy Imam had been endowed with, which never gave way against any catastrophe even that of the loss of such a son. The Holy Imam stood looking at his son dying before his eyes and lifting his head towards Heaven said:
“Lord! It will he quite sufficient for Thy Husayn if thou accepteth this sacrifice and if thou art pleased with this humble offer.”
When every one of his devotees was slain and none was left on the Holy Imam's side, he stood all alone in the field with his head resting on a lance and his garments drenched not only in his own blood but also of his martyred son, brothers, nephews and devotees, with the Devil's forces all around him.
When the helpless Imam stood all alone in the field surrounded by the enemies, he was summoned by a call from his sister Zainab in his camp. When he went into the tent, he found his baby son Ali al-Asghar, dying of thirst in his cradle and the poor mother Rubab, whose milk had dried up by the continuous thirst and hunger for the three consecutive days, could not help the baby with even a drop of her milk. Telling the mother that he would show the baby to the enemy and get some water for it if they give it, Husayn took the baby to the field and getting on a camel and raising it up in his arms to enable everyone in the enemy's forces to see it said:
“O' People! If in your opinion, Husayn is guilty of any sin or crime, this innocent baby has done nothing to hurt any one of you. It does not even speak, and has not even uttered anything against you or your Amir at Damascus. He is dying of thirst. He had neither in milk nor water for the last three days. Would you quench his thirst by a few drops of water? If you suspect that I demand water for myself in the name of the baby, then I will leave it here, if you want, and go away and you may return it with his thirst quenched.”
It is reported that the address of the Holy Imam and the scene, with the thirsty innocent baby in his hands, was so touching, so pathetic and so heart-rending that even the men in the Devil's army could not help weeping and cursing the Devil and his Deputy Ibn Ziad, Governor of Kufa, who had gathered them there against such Holy and helpless ones. Ibna-i-Sa'd, fearing a revolt of his forces in sympathy for the Holy Imam, at once ordered a stone- hearted brute named Hurmula to answer Husayn. The tyrant shot a three-pronged arrow from his bow which after piercing through the Imam's arm got stuck into the tiny neck of the innocent baby. Blood flowed from the neck and the baby looking at its father's face smiled and stopped breathing for ever. Husayn collected the little blood that came out of the tiny neck of his baby son in his hand, and it is reported that when he wanted to drop it on the earth, from the earth the Holy Imam heard a voice saying:
“O' Holy Imam! I can not bear this innocent blood.”
And when Husayn wanted to throw the blood towards heaven, he heard a voice saying:
“O' Holy Imam! Throw not the innocent blood towards me for I can not bear it.”
An Urdu poet has vcrsified the event:
“Inkar aasma ko hai, Razi Zami nahi
Asghar Tumhare Koon ka thikana Kahi nahi.”
i.e. The heaven refuses and the earth does not agree,
O' Ali al-Asghar, thy blood has no place in the world.
It is reported that the Holy Imam smeared his face with the blood of the innocent baby.
Husayn could not take the dead baby to be returned to its mother who was waiting anxiously for it, at the door of her tent in the camp. Hence he sat down to bury his baby son in the burning sand of the desert. Does not even this one single sacrifice suffice to touch every human heart? Can we not call this one sacrifice alone greater than the sacrifice offered by Abraham? God alone knows the degree of the patience and the fortitude which He had endowed in the Holy Imam to bear the series of such unbearable calamities.
It is reported that when the Holy Imam was busy digging a tiny grave for the martyred baby, in the burning desert with his sword, a camel rider arrived into the field and wished him. The Holy Imam raised his wounded head and looked at him with wonder if there was any one still left to wish him in that hostile land at that very terrible and testing hour. The Arab was a messenger and had brought a letter from Fatimah Sughra the sickly daughter of the Holy Imam, whom he had left alone in his deserted house at Madina.
She had requested him in the letter either to return home soon from his journey or to send her brother Ali Akbar or her cousin Qasim or her uncle ‘Abbas, (who were already slain) to take her to him. The most pathetic was her request to her father to kiss her baby-brother Ali al-Asghar, whom Husayn was just then burying. The Holy Imarn could not help shedding tears, and kissed the dead baby on behalf of its sister at Madina saying:
“Asghar dear! Your sister sends her kisses to you.”
and then addressed the messenger saying:
“Brother! Bear witness that I have complied with the request and have kissed Asghar before thee.”
Husayn took the letter and read it out to his brothers, his son, and his nephews who lay martyred for whom it contained a wish and then turning to the messenger said:
“Bear thou witness Brother! That I have conveyed the messages also to one and all concerned.”
The messenger stood aghast, stunned and struck with sorrow and wonder. When he demanded a reply to the letter, Husayn was only thinking as to what should he say in reply to it, when, suddenly an arrow from the enemy's ranks struck his forehead and blood began to drop down from the wound. Husayn took a few drops of his blood on the letter and returned it to the messenger saying:
“Brother! Return thou to Madina with this reply and if my daughter asks thee anything more about me, relate what thou hast see; here and tell her on my behalf to be patient.”
“But, Beware, get thou quickly out of the range of thy hearing, away from this plain, for soon I will be issuing my last call, unto all around for help in the way of the Lord, whosoever heareth, it shall be imcumbent on him to respond to it. Lest thou heareth it and get obliged to respond to the heavenly summon and then thou will not be able to return to Madina without becoming an infidel. Go away my brother! God be with thee.”
The messenger in utmost wonder and sorrow left the fatal plain with tears in his eyes for the plight of the Holy Soul.
The details OF the final separation of the Holy Imam from the helpless ladies and children and other inmates of his camp, particularly from his sisters Zainab and Umm Kulthoom, are very heart rending and it is impossible for any one to describe the whole sorrowful scene in a paragraph or two of a brief work like this. The Holy Imam at last bade good bye to all the helpless inmates of his camp foretelling the calamities that were awaiting them following his martyrdom, and preaching patience to one and all. To Zainab, his sister, he exhorted in particular to bear every hardship and torture with extreme patience and never to curse the enemy for her curse would surely invoke the wrath of God upon the people and what he had done with so much of patience and fortitude would be undone.
Ali, the eldest Son of Husayn called Zainul Abideen (i.e., the Grace of the pious), was lying unconscious on his sick bed. Husayn went to him and handed over the charge of the sacred office of Imamat to him. He enumerated the difficulties and the tortures that would befall him immediately following his martyrdom and advised him (who was to succeed as the Fourth Holy Imam) to observe the highest degree of patience and fortitude against every aggression and oppression that would be inflicted on him and his dear ones, and never to get angry or curse the people.
To Zainab and Umm Kulthoom, his two sisters, Husayn said:
“Our camp will be plundered and set on fire. After I am slain, the series of calamities to you all would begin. Your heads will be stripped of your covering cloths veils. Beware O' My Sisters dear; let not patience under any suffering be lost. Bear every calamity in the way of the Lord with patience and fortitude. Sisters dear, let not what I have done be undone by your impatience.”
The Holy Imam at last came into the field bidding goodbye, to all, not to return again to his camp, but to drink the cup of martyrdom to fulfil the covenant with the Lord to save and secure the Truth for all times until the Day of Judgment.
Husayn first preached to his enemies, the love of God, the obedience to the Holy Prophet and abstinence from vice and wickedness, and at last asked the people:
“Why do ye kill me?”
“Did I commit any sin or crime?”
“Did I plunder anybody?”
“Did I interfere with any one's affairs?”
All stood dumb and none answered. Then the Holy Imam continued:
“Then why do ye kill me? What answer have you to give to God, and to the Holy Prophet on the Day of Judgment?”
When no answer from the Devil's forces, the Holy Imam said:
“You have killed all my companions, my children, my brothers and even my little baby; now I tell you leave me, I will migrate to Yemen, to Iran or even to the far off Hind (India), stain not your hands with my blood, which is the blood of the Holy Prophet himself, you will not have salvation. It is for you; I tell you, shed not my blood and save yourselves.”
This last offer of the Holy Imam was superb and matchless and yet the devils did not avail of it. It was in fact the fulfilment of the 'Hujjat' or the argument to give the last chance to the greedy devils to save themselves from the wrath of God.
Lest later any one in the surroundings should say that he was neither called nor given any opportunity to serve the cause of defending the Truth by helping the Holy Imam who was fighting for it, Husayn now standing all alone, bleeding from innumerable wounds from head to foot, having lost one and all of his godly comrades, having offered the last and the greatest of his offerings in the way of the Lord, the six months baby Ali al-Asghar, gave his last call to humanity around him, inviting them to join him in the way of the Lord, saying:
“Hal min Nasirin Yansorona?”
'Is there any helper to help us?'
“Hal min zabbin yazubbo an Harame Rasoolullal?”
'Is there any defender to repulse the enemy from approaching the tents of the family of the Holy Prophet?'
When there was no response from any one of the thousands standing around him, he then said aloud:
“Alam Tasma'o ? Alaisa fikum Muslimu?”
Do ye hear me not? Is there not even a single Muslim among you?
Yet there was no responsc.
When Husayn gave his final call to the world around him inviting the people in the way of the Lord, Husayn's son Ali al-Zainulabideen who was confined to bed with high fever, and who had just a little before received the charge of the Imamat from his father, got up and leaning on a staff, dragged himself out of his tent with his feeble sickly voice, walking towards the Holy Imam saying:
“Labbaik Ya Abata, Labbaik!”
“Yes, Here I am O' Father dear ! Here I am.”
Husayn seeing his ailing Ali coming out tottering in the high fever, bade him saying:
“Get thee back O' son! My progeny is to spring from thee.”
It is rcportcd that in response to the call from the Holy Imam, Some mysterious voices of 'Labbaik! Labbaik!' (Yes we are here O'son of the Holy Prophet) were heard from the spiritual world above, to which the Holy Imam replied 'Thanks to you all, but my concen here today is only with the living in the physical world.' Saying this, the Great Godly soul the Holy Imam himself to be martyred by the Devil's forces surrounding him.
Every awakened mind will surely confess that it is not possible for any mortal to understand the great heavenly personality which enacted the absolute submission to the Lord, which he displayed on the field of Karbala.
Having lost every one of his faithful comrades including his baby son, himself fully wounded from head, to foot with arrows struck in his holy body with his blood flowing from the wounds, his clothes drenched with blood, and that of his comrades, his kith and kin whose dead bodies he removed from the field of the massacre to a tent in his camp to spare them from being trampled under the hoofs of the cavalry of the heartless enemy, hungry with choking thirst for the last three days, Husayn was seen seated on his horse the Zul-Jinah, looking every now and then towards Heaven with prayers for the acceptance of his sacrifices. In the midst of the indeseribable miseries, sorrow and grief, and under the undefinable agony of the worst torturous and the most painful death, the Holy Imam ever remained mindful of the Lord and his submission to Him with the desire not to leave the world defaulting not even a single one of the prayers (Salat) prescribed by him for man in this world.
His condition was such that Husayn now could not of his own efforts get down from the horse. Husayn hinted to his horse saying:
“Wilt thou my dear Zul-Jinah kneel down a little to enable me to roll myself down to the ground? I know thou hast also been hungry and thirsty along with me. Pardon me my dear Zul-Jinah for Husayn is helpless. May the Lord bless thee.”
The faithful animal which was itself hungry, thirsty and wounded, spread its legs in such a way that the godly soul, one of the most brilliant stars of the heaven of divinity, slid himself down.
Now lying with his bleeding wounds on the flaming sand of the burning desert, Husayn, desirous of offering his prayers gathered the sand in front of him and himself engaged in his last prayer (Salat) on earth, resting his wounded forehead on a heap of the burning sand. Thus ultimately the wounded Holy Imam lay in communion with the Lord.
Swords and axes began falling on him and Husayn was bying fully wounded from head to foot, and the sacred blood of the Holy Prophet, Ali and Fatimah was flowing on the earth.
Several men one after another, were deputed by the Commander of the Devil s forces to cut off the head of the Holy Imam but every one that came near the Holy one lying on the burning sand, found his lips moving and heard to say:
“O' All-Merciful Lord of the Universe, accept the humble sacrifice of thy Husayn. Husayn has submitted in Thy way all that thou hast given him. If this son of Thy Holy Prophet had anything more, he would have submitted that also to Thee-But O' Lord forgive the sinners among the faithful, O' All-Merciful One.”
and at the end of the prayers it was heard:
“O Lord! Lord O' Lord! being repeated several times.
Hearing these last prayers of Husayn, none dared to cut off his holy head, even on an offer of thousands of gold coins with promises of highly tempting rewards, but Shimr, the stone-hearted brute committed the heinous crime.
Thus when the head of the Holy Imam was being severed from his body, the helpless ladies and the innocent children in Husayn's camp stood at their tents shouting for help and were weeping aloud. And Husayn's sister, Lady Zainab ran bare-headed out of her tent towards her brother shouting to Ibna-i-Sa'd for mercy but Ibna-i- Sa'd's heart was devoid of mercy.
The moment the Holy Imam's head was severed from his body and raised on the point of a lance, the severed head began glorifying God, aloud in clear words saying:
“Allaho Akbar' (i.e., God the Greatest).”
Thus Husayn won an everlasting victory over the Devil who could not annihilate Truth with the massacre of the Holy Imam, for Husayn continued the glorification of the Lord even after his head was severed, from the point of the very lance in the hand of his enemy.
Thus the Holy Imam by his own example has made it openly known how abhorrent is falsehood and godlessness, how far it should be defied, what value to humanity has Truth and godliness. How dear it must he to every faithful one and at what cost it must be defended and upheld. And how death in the cause of Truth, unfailingly earns the life Real of Eternal Bliss.
With Husayn's martyrdom, only the wielding of the sword by the Devil's forces had stopped, but immediately after the massacre of the Holy Imam and his faithful devotees, the brutes of the Devil's forces got busy in the other horrible deeds. Horses were shod afresh and the enemy's cavalry was ordered to ride over the holy dead bodies of the martyrs trampling them under the hoofs of their horses.
The next move of the brutes was towards the Holy camp which now contained only the helpless wailing ladies, the crying children, and Ali-az-Zainulabideen the ailing son of the Holy Imam lying unconscious with high fever. They plundered the camp, setting the tents on fire. The gentle and noble ladies, who were the unique models of chaste and modest womanhood and the innocent children, ran hither and thither between the burning tents of the camp, and some of the poor children are reported to have perished in the fire. The brutes took the ladies and the children as captives, and the weak and the sick Ali-az-Zainulabideen, now the Fourth Holy Imam, was bound in heavy thorny chains, fettered and was most heartlessly treated as the sharp, piercing edges were almost choking him.
Afterr burning their dead and leaving the bodies of the Holy Imam and his martyred devotees unburied, lying on the plain of the massacre, the Devil's forces left the plain of Karbala for Kufa with the virtuous ladies and the innocent children of Husayn's family as their captives, on bare backs of camels, snatching away their veils, without any purdah with their necks tightly tied in ropes.
The sick Holy Imam Ali-son of Husayn, who could not even sit up owing to his illness, was bound in heavy chains and was made to walk barefooted on the thorny plains and on the burning sand of the desert, from Karbala to Kufa and from Kufa to Damascus.
The history of the tortures of the journey from Karbala to Kufa and from Kufa to Damascus which the sick Imam Ali, the helpless ladies and the young children were put to, is a very pathetic record ofthe worst brutality ever recorded on earth, the narration of which in detail needs a separate volume. The captives of the family of the Holy Imam were first marched on public roads and through the streets of the town of Kufa, to the open court pf Ibna-i-Ziad the Governor of Kufa, and from there they were marched to Syria to be presented in the open court of the brute Yazid who before an audience of hundreds of his courtiers seated on the throne there, were purchased by his wealth and who had signed the death warrant of the Holy Imam supporting the claims of the Brute to be Deputy of the Holy Prophet.
Every soldier who was given the severed head of a martyr; to carry it raising it on his lance was made responsible for its safe custody. Khooli a hard-hearted tyrant was put in charge of the holy head of Husayn. As the Brute's army marched from Karbala after the great massacre, it halted near Kufa where Khooli lived. Khooli left the camp in the night to visit his wife in the town and carried with him the holy head, and to hide it from his wife, he kept it covered under ashes of the hearth in the kitchen of his house.
When Khooli's wife came out of her room in the middle of the night, she found a pillar of light rising out from the hearth in the kitchen. She was stunned and when she saw through a hole in the door, she found some heavenly figures descending from heaven on a severed head in the hearth. She rushed back into her room and waking up Khooli reported the matter to him. Khooli could no more con- ceal the matter and spoke out to her what he had hidden in the hearth. The good lady cried aloud cursing him saying:
“May the wrath of God be on thee O' cursed One! Thou hast brought the holy head of Husayn the Holy Imam in my house.”
Crying aloud, shedding tears, the good lady madly rushed out of her house and out of the town, wandered out into the wilderness and never again entered the house, and ultimately gave up her life crying for the Holy Imam.
The devil's army marched with severed heads of the martyrs raised on their lances. Among the heads, were the head of the baby son of Husayn, Ali al-Asghar. It is now left to the tender hearts of gentle women to imagine in their own places, what would have been the feelings of the mothers, the sisters and the children among the captives who were marched along with the army, looking all the time at the severed heads of their dear ones, on the points of the lances raised before their eyes. Historians, reporting the gruesome events of the great tragedy, say that people noticed the lips of the severed head of the Holy Imam moving, and when people applied their ears carefully, they heard the Holy lips uttering clearly the following verse of the Chapter 'Kahf' of the Holy Qur'an:
Aayaa tina Ajaba. (18:9)
'Thinkest thou that the Fellows of the Cave and the Inscription were of our wonderful signs.’ (18:9)
The one who heard the recital of the sacred words, immediately cried out saying:
“Nay! O' Son of the Holy Prophet! The event of thy wonderful sufferings and patience is more astonishing”.
Since its severance from its body the holy head of Husayn till its burial after about a year of remaining in the custody of the Brute at Damascus, it manifested miracles after miracles proving the Unity of God, the glory of the Lord of the Universe, the bonafide of the apostleship of his grandfather, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and the truthfulness of Islam, as God's prescribed religion for Mankind as a whole.
Even during the most miserable journey, the severed head of the Holy Imam manifested several miracles which guided several good hearted Christians and Jews to embrace Islam, most of whom after embracing the Truth attacked the brutes and were ultimately martyred by the Devil's forces.
When the looted Caravan entered Damascus, at the ordcrs of the Devil Yazid, the whole town was ordered to he full decoratcd and the people to be engaged in rejoicing and making merry at the success of their Ruler.To please the Brute the people dressed in festive robes were extremely jubilant amusing themselves in fanciful plays and merrymaking. When the looted Caravan of the Holy House of the Prophet passed through the public streets and the busy bazaars, people in huge numbers thronged to have a view of the captives whereas the godly ladies of the family of the Holy Imam who were captives, felt mortally ashamed and insulted and covered their holy faces under the hair of their heads.
While the sorrow-stricken ladies were seated on the bare hacks of the camels with the hair of their heads covering their faces, the heads of the martyrs raised on the point of the lances were marching before them. The poor ladies sometimes looked at the heads of their martyred husbands, brothers and children with tears flowing from their eyes. The children seeing the severed heads of their loved ones cried aloud innocently calling them to return to them and to relieve them of their miseries.
After parading through the crowded streets and the busy bazaars thronged with the rejoicing public the ladies and the children tied in ropes and the sick Ali in chains with the severed heads of the martyrs were presented openly in the fully attended court of Yazid surrounded by hundreds of his courtiers. Yazid sat on the throne and kept the severed head of the Holy Imam down in front of him, drank wine, and ridiculed the Holy Iniam and his family standing before him utterly helpless tied in ropes as captives. What all befell the Holy Family in the Devil’s court is also a long history of unbearable sorrow and the worst degradation of the godly ones, which will surely move the coldest heart to tears.
The captives were imprisoned in a very narrow, dark and roofless cell. The members of the Holy Family suffered the hardships and the tortures of imprisonment in the cell for a long time until in the prison expired Sakina the three year old dearly loved daughter of Husayn. She died of wounds caused by the whips and slaps of the tyrants, particularly of the wounds she received from the stone-hearted Shimr.
After a long imprisonment, the sick Imam Ali, with the other captives, was released. They returned to Karbala and after burying the bodies of Husayn and the other martyrs which were lying unburied till then, they returned to Madina. Thus the Holy Imam Husayn offered the Greatest Sacrifice to re-establish the Truth firmly never again to be shaken by any one until the Day of Judgment.
This is the Sacrifice which has been prophesied also in the Old Testament in which God promises to avenge the blood of the Holy Imam Husayn:
“for this is the day of the Lord God of Hosts, a day of Vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood for the Lord God of Hosts hath a Sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.” (Jeremiah. 46:10)
This is the 'Zibhe-Azeem' or the Greatest Sacrifice, the Lord has foretold to take place instead of Abraham's sacrifice:
“Most surely this is a manifest trial, And We ransomed with a Great Sacrifice And We have shifted it among the later generation.”
This happened on 61 A.H. on the Bank of the Euphrates at Karbala in (Iraq).