After the perdition of Muawiyah, the Islamic ummah was pervaded by a violent, terrorist reign, which did not submit to a tradition or law or respond to any humane emotion. Finally, it betook oppression and despotism as its slogan.
This is the very depiction of Yazid ibn Muawiyah’s reign, which persecuted Muslims so harshly.
During this reign, Lady Zaynab suffered the most difficult misfortunes and adversities, and the Prophet’s family had to encounter extreme eradication. They were slain, and the Umayyad soldiers cut their limbs and violated their dead bodies so inhumanely. Lady Zaynab saw these excruciating scenes with her own eyes; therefore, sadness and sorrow cut through her heart and she could not stop her tears and cries of mourning. That was not all. She, together with the Prophet’s harem, then was taken as captive and shown around the provinces of the Umayyad State. They were taken to Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, son of the ill-famed Marjanah, and then to Yazid, grandson of the ill-famed Hind.1
In any case, Lady Zaynab suffered the cruelest adversities during the black reign of Yazid, the sinful tyrant who was an inexperienced, lecherous youth and had known nothing about leadership, policy, or management. He could not even manage or control himself; he submitted completely to his whims and his one and only lust was bloodshed.
When his cursed father died in Damascus, Yazid was away on a journey.2 When he received a message informing about his father’s perdition and his becoming the caliph of the Islamic ummah, he hurried to the capital accompanied by his immoral faction. From that moment itself people began to criticize him for his irresponsible behaviors.3
The first thing he did in Damascus was that he declared his determination to wage a destructive war against people of Iraq. People of Syria, however, welcomed this determination and declared their readiness to plunge themselves into such a war.4
Yazid’s most malicious opposition was in Medina; they were Imam al-Husayn (a) and Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr. He therefore issued the emphatic decision that al-Walid, the governor of Medina, must coerce these two to pledge themselves as submissive to the leadership of Yazid, but if they or any other individual, refused to pay homage to the new caliph, the governor must behead them.5
When he received these resounding instructions, al-Walid panicked because it was not easy to behead such personalities.6 Even Muawiyah who enjoyed terrible diplomatic capabilities could not dare assassinate Imam al-Husayn (S). How was it then possible for an ordinary governor like al-Walid to do it?
Al-Walid then sought the opinion of Marwan ibn al-Hakam, the chief of the Umayyad family, who suggested that these two personalities be compulsorily summoned at that very moment and asked to show compliance with the new leadership of Yazid, otherwise they would be beheaded.7
This opinion did not appeal to al-Walid, but he had to respond to Marwan.8
It was midnight when al-Walid ordered Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Uthman to summon Imam al-Husayn (a) and Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr. The messenger found them both in the Prophet’s Masjid and asked them to attend at the governor’s palace. They answered affirmatively. Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr turned his face to Imam al-Husayn (a) and wondered, “What do you think is the matter for which he has summoned us at this time?9”
The Imam (a) answered, “I think that their tyrant ruler – i.e. Muawiyah – has died, and they have summoned us to pay homage to the new one before the news spread.”10
The Imam (a) then gathered his companions and directed towards the governor’s center. He first asked why he was summoned in such time. He was told that he should pay homage to the leadership of Yazid.
Asking for postponement, the Imam (a) said, “I do not pay homage secretly. You may ask me to do so when you ask all the people to pay homage, then people and I will share the same situation.”
This meant that the Imam (a) intended to declare his refusal of swearing allegiance to the leadership of Yazid openly, but Marwan understood it. He therefore shouted at al-Walid, “If he leaves you at this instant without paying homage, you will never be able to oblige him to pay it at any other time unless numerous victims from both sides will fall. Detain him now. He must pay homage or be beheaded.”
The Imam (a) turned to Marwan and raised his voice to say, “Son of al-Zarqa, is it you or he who will kill me? By Allah I swear, you have meanly lied.”11
The Imam (a) then turned to al-Walid to declare his determination to reject the matter completely:
أَيُّهَا الأَمِيرُ، إِنَّا أَهْلُ بَيْتِ النُّبُوَّةِ وَمَعْدِنُ الرِّسَالَةِ وَمُخْتَلَفُ المَلاَئِكَةِ وَمَحِلُّ الرَّحمَةِ. بِنَا فَتَحَ اللهُ وَبِنَا خَتَمَ. وَيَزِيدُ رَجُلٌ أَيُّهَا الأَمِيرُ، إِنَّا أَهْلُ بَيْتِ النُّبُوَّةِ وَمَعْدِنُ الرِّسَالَةِ وَمُخْتَلَفُ المَلاَئِكَةِ وَمَحِلُّ الرَّحمَةِ. بِنَا فَتَحَ اللهُ وَبِنَا خَتَمَ. وَيَزِيدُ رَجُلٌ فَاسِقٌ شَارِبٌ لِلخَمْرِ وَقَاتِلُ النَّفْسِ المحُتَرَمَةِ مُعْلِنٌ بِالفِسْقِ. وَمِثْلِي لاَ يُبَايِعُ مِثْلَهُ. وَلكِنْ نُصْبِحُ وَتُصْبِحُونَ وَنَنْظُرُ وَتَنْظُرُونَ أَيُّنَا أَحَقُّ بِالخِلافَةِ وَالبَيْعَةِ.
“O Governor, we are the household of prophecy, the core of the (divine) message, frequently visited by the angels, and (we are) the center of mercy. Allah has commenced with us and shall seal with us. Yazid is a lecherous, intoxicated man who kills the respectful soul and promulgates his acts of immorality. My like should never pay homage to him or his likes. Wait for us until next morning and you will see who is the worthiest of leadership (of the Islamic ummah) and being paid homage.”12
That was the first declaration of Imam al-Husayn’s refusal of Yazid’s illegal leadership.
Marwan blamed al-Walid for not acting on his advice. Al-Walid, however, reproached Marwan and declared that he would never kill Imam al-Husayn (a), because his killer would certainly serve as the fuel of Hell.13
The next morning, Imam al-Husayn (a) decided to leave Medina for Mecca. Before so, he visited the tomb of his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (S), and complained to Almighty Allah against the adversities that surrounded him, saying:
O Allah, this is the tomb of Your prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his family, and I am the son of Your Prophet Muhammad’s daughter. I have been inflicted with the matter that You know of. O Allah, I do like all that which is good and I forbid all that which is evil. Hence, I now beseech to You, O Lord of Majesty and Honor, to choose for me that which draws Your pleasure and the pleasure of Your Prophet.14
In the darkest hour of night, Imam al-Husayn (a) directed towards the hidden tomb of his mother, Fatimah al-Zahra (a), and then turned to the tomb of his brother, Imam al-Hasan (a), where he revived the happy moments he spent with them.
When Imam al-Husayn (a) decided to leave for Mecca, he summoned his sister, Lady Zaynab, informed her about what he had decided to do, and asked her to take part in his ordeal. In view of her deep-rooted faith, she did not hesitate to respond to her brother’s call. Moreover, she was determined to participate and complete his revolution. Like Lady Zaynab, Imam al-Husayn’s wives, sons, brothers, and cousins agreed to join his revolution against the oppressors.
The next mornings, everybody was ready to begin the journey. Lady Zaynab was so upset though her brother, al-Abbas, was beside her; taking care of her and regarding her attentively. People of Medina, too, were so dismayed because they watched the Prophet’s family leaving them, perhaps, forever. Throughout the journey, Imam al-Husayn (a) was reciting repeatedly Almighty Allah’s saying:
“My Lord! Deliver me from the unjust people.”
By reciting this Holy Verse, Imam al-Husayn (a) likened his journey to that of Prophet Moses (a) who revolted against the tyrant of his time.15
He took the public way to Mecca declaring his challenge to the ruling authorities and making little of death, which, inevitably, shall inflict man in any land and at any moment.16 He had full confidence in Almighty Allah Who dominates everything thoroughly completely.
This journey away from Medina was the second one for Lady Zaynab; the first was with her father when he left Medina to settle in Kufa when he betook it as the capital of his state. On that journey, she was in a great caravan that contained her father, her brothers, her husband, and her honorable cousins. The journey back to Medina after Imam al-Hasan’s truce with Muawiyah was also comfortable and surrounded with honor and dignity. Yet, the third journey would be so sorrowful and dreary, since it was the enemies who led the caravan.
On Tuesday night,17 Imam al-Husayn (a) arrived in Mecca and resided in the house of Al-Abbas ibn Abd-al-Muttalib.18 People of Mecca visited him so frequently and used to ask him questions about the Islamic laws and others about his opinion of the ruling regime. When the season of the Hajj occurred, Hajjis and Mutamirs surrounded the Imam (a) and listened to his opinions and instructions. From that moment, he began to promulgate his revolution, and the publics began to understand the aim of his being in Mecca.
Due to such activities, the ruling authorities there in Mecca panicked and anticipated that he would betake Mecca as the center of his revolution against the oppressive regime of Yazid. The governor of Mecca came to the Imam (a) and asked the reason beyond his residence there. The Imam answered that he had come for seeking the refuge of Almighty Allah and the Holy House. As a result, the governor sent a missive to Yazid informing him about Imam al-Husayn’s arrival and the public surrounding him, attending his sessions, and listening to him.
This news confused Yazid who, immediately, sent a missive to Abdullah ibn Abbas asking him that he would pardon the Imam (a) provided he paid homage to him – Yazid – otherwise he would be punished. Answering to Yazid’s missive, Abdullah ibn Abbas asked the Imam (a) to leave Medina because the ruling authorities were bothering him. He also promised that he would meet the Imam (a) and see the matter.
At the same time in Iraq, there was a general rebel and refusal of paying homage to Yazid, because they regarded him as the inheritor of mortal enemies of Islam. The Shiite chiefs in Kufa held a meeting in the house of Sulayman ibn Sard al-Khuzai during which they delivered speeches showing the sins of the Umayyad individuals and calling to swear allegiance to Imam al-Husayn (a) as the true leader of the Islamic ummah.19
All the attendees shouted that they would certainly support and defend the Imam and would send him messages asking him to lead their revolution against the Umayyad rulers. So, many delegations met him and thousands of messages were sent to him by ordinary people and chiefs, such as Shibth ibn Rabi, Hajjar ibn Abjur al-Ujali, and Amr ibn al-Hajjaj20. As a result, Imam al-Husayn (a) decided to respond to them and send his cousin, Muslim ibn Aqil, to assess the real situation.21
Muslim left for Kufa and resided there in the house of al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, one of the most celebrated faithful personalities22 - who called everybody to visit Muslim; therefore, everybody came to listen to the message of Imam al-Husayn (a) that Muslim carried. At least, forty thousand individuals from Kufa acknowledged Imam al-Husayn (a) as their leader whom they must defend and support.23
Muslim’s confidence and trust in the success of Imam al-Husayn’s revolution increased because of this huge number of supporters. He therefore sent a message to the Imam (a) asking him to hurry his coming to Kufa,24 and as a result, the Imam (a) prepared to leave.
Yazid’s agents in Kufa reported this news to him, and he, out of fear, sought the advice of Sirjawn, the Roman, who was his father’s best secretary. This cunning man had thought for quite a while before he suggested to Yazid to assign Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad as the new governor of Kufa.25
Although Yazid was angry with Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, he had to appoint him as the new governor of Kufa besides Basra.26 Thus, ibn Ziyad became the ruler of the entire Iraq. In addition, Yazid sent him a message asking him to capture, exile, or even kill Muslim ibn Aqil,27 and then followed it with another order to ask him to hurry - to even fly over to Kufa if he was able to.28
Throughout his way from Basra to Kufa, Ubaydullah, accompanied by five-hundred men, did not stop for fear that Imam al-Husayn (a) would precede him. He disguised himself with black clothe over his face so that people would take him for the Imam. He entered the city and hurried towards the Qasr al-Imarah - Governorate Mansion - in fear and resentment because people welcomed him warmly as they really took him for Imam al-Husayn (a).29
As he reached there and knocked the door, the governor of Kufa, al-Numan ibn Bashir who also thought of him as the Imam (a) shouted from the balcony, “Son of Allah’s Messenger, I will not fulfill my pledge to you and I do not want to fight you…”30
“Open the door,” shouted Ubaydullah, “Or you will suffer a long nighttime!”31
Some of the crowded people who walked behind him came to know his reality; they therefore shouted, “This is indeed son of Marjanah.”
Thus, they ran away with their hearts filled with terror. Ubaydullah went towards the mansion and seized the weapons and fortune. He was gathered around by the agents of the Umayyad dynasty, such as Umar ibn Sad, Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawshan, Muhammad ibn al-Ashath, and other famous names among the hypocrites of Kufa. They began discussing the matters of the expected revolution and its chiefs, and went on plotting to eradicate it.32
Next morning, Ubaydullah gathered the people in the Grand Masjid of Kufa to declare his being the new governor. He promised the obedient with big prizes and threatened the disobedient with persecution and the mutineers with harsh punishment.33 He then showed items of horror by putting to death some individuals before he had interrogated them.34 He also filled the prisons with innocent people. All these means were aimed to control the country completely.
Once he knew about Ubaydullah’s arrival, Muslim changed his residential place. He moved to the house of Hani ibn Urwah, one of the most celebrated personalities of Kufa, who welcomed him hospitably and received his partisans to plan for the revolution.
The success that Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad achieved in the political fields is ascribed to the series of plans that he made. The introductory step was spying on the movements of Muslim to circulate his activities and realize his points of power and weakness. Ubaydullah chose his servant, Miqal, for this mission. He gave him some money and ordered him to make contact with the significant members of the revolution by claiming that he showed loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and that he had come to Kufa because he heard the call of Imam al-Husayn (a).
Miqal could first reach Muslim ibn Awsajah and show him false loyalty and, unfortunately, the latter was deceived; he therefore showed Miqal the residential place of Muslim ibn Aqil. Thus, Miqal frequented about the place and could comprehend everything about the expected revolt and report to his master, son of Marjanah.35
The second and most dangerous process was arresting Hani ibn Urwah who was chief of the tribes of Midhhaj—the great majority of the inhabitants of Kufa. This procedure spread a big wave of horror among people and sent a destructive strike to the expected revolution.
Before Ubaydullah, Hani denied the accusation; hence, they summoned Miqal, the spy, to testify the truth. However, Hani refused to give up his guest to the authorities.36 But the tyrant ordered his servants to draw Hani near him and went on beating him on the face with a bar he had in the hand. He then ordered to detain him in one of the rooms of the mansion.
This procedure shook the feelings of his kinsmen who, under the leadership of the traitors, Amr ibn al-Hajjaj, pushed themselves towards the mansion. Amr shouted, so as to make Ubaydullah hear him, “I am Amr, and these are the celebrities and chiefs of Midhhaj. Yet, we are not denouncing our loyalty to you nor are we mutinying against you.”
Furthermore, Amr said words of surrender and humility for which Ubaydullah did not care. He then asked Shurayh, the judge, to see Hani and then tell his tribe about his state. The judge entered the cell of Hani who shouted: “How strange this is! Have my people all died? If only ten persons from my tribe come to me they will certainly save me.”
When Shurayh left him, he said to his kinsmen, “I have seen your chief. He is alive. He has ordered you to go home.” Amr shouted, “Well, he has not been killed. Thanks to Allah!”
As if they have been granted the one and only opportunity to escape a dark prison, people of Midhhaj turned their faces back and ran away. It seems that there had been a secret agreement between the chiefs of Midhhaj and Ubaydullah on killing Hani, otherwise they would have attacked the mansion and saved their chief.
Muslim ibn Aqil knew about the situation of Hani who was an important member of the expected revolution; therefore, he openly declared the revolution against Ubaydullah. Thus, about four or forty thousand warriors joined him.37
Ubaydullah was delivering a speech when he heard the noise of the rebellion whose numbers were increasing and were directing towards the Governorate Mansion. Like a dirty dog, Ubaydullah hurried towards the mansion.38 He had only thirty policemen; he therefore used the meanest means that would save him — war of nerves.
Because he knew people of Kufa very well, he ordered their traitorous chiefs to slip among the troops of Muslim and spread the rumors that the armies of Syria would soon punish those who joined Muslim’s army, the government would deprive them of their salaries, and that martial laws would be applied against them. These rumors acted as bombs on the heads of the people most of who declared, “We should not engage ourselves in questions of policy!”39
Before long, most of them left Muslim who led the rest to the Masjid for prayer. Even during the prayer, the others left, and Muslim, as he finished the prayer, found himself alone!40 That night, he could not find a house to settle in. He therefore had to wander alone in the streets of Kufa.
Only a noble lady called Tawah had the courage to let Muslim in. As she served him food, Muslim refused to eat or drink because he was thinking about the fate that Imam al-Husayn (a) would face after the betrayal of those people. Son of Tawah came to know the whole story and with the first break of light next morning, he hurried to inform the ruling authorities about the matter, even though he had given his mother a binding oath that he would not tell anybody.
Three hundred horsemen, led by Muhammad ibn al-Ashath, attacked the house of Tawah, but Muslim faced them with such an unprecedented courage that he had inherited from his fathers.41 He alone could defeat those horsemen and kill a great number of them. The mean ones however began to throw stones and fireballs on him, and he was overcome.42
When Muhammad ibn al-Ashath returned to Ubaydullah and asked for more troops and weapons, the latter said with astonishment, “I have sent you to capture one man! But he did this to your troops!” He answered, “Do you think you have sent me to bring an ordinary man from Kufa or the neighboring cities? You have sent me to capture a courageous lion and a hero from the family of the best men in whose hands cutting swords are held fast.”43
Ubaydullah supplied him with more troops and weapons, but Muslim, the hero, kept on fighting against them so bravely. This facing took a long time during which Muslim suffered thirst and the troops of the ruling authorities were increasing around him, though they were too terrified to attack him. Finally, they stabbed him with their lances until they could capture him. After they had let him down, people of Kufa crowded to see how he was taken to the Mansion.
Muslim courageously refused submitting to the tyrant who, as a result, ordered Bukayr ibn Hamran to take him to the surface of the mansion and behead him. He also ordered Hani to be killed before the individuals of his tribe.
The dead bodies of Muslim and Hani were dragged on the ground in the streets of Kufa to demonstrate overturning rebellion in order to scorn its supporters.44
Before she left for Iraq in the company of her brother, Lady Zaynab had asked permission of her husband. And before Imam al-Husayn (a) left for Iraq, Abdullah ibn Abbas, his cousin, had tried to change his mind, but the Imam (a) refused. Hence, ibn Abbas asked him not to accompany his harem and family members, but the Imam (a) answered, “These are the trusts of the Messenger of Allah, and I cannot trust anyone with them.”
Then, Lady Zaynab said to ibn Abbas with tearful eyes, “Son of Abbas, do you suggest to our leader to leave us here and go alone? No, by Allah, we either live with him or die with him. We have nothing left except him.”45
Abdullah ibn Abbas could not control himself when he broke into tears and said, “It is truly difficult for me to leave you, cousin.”
One of the most excellent plans of Imam al-Husayn’s revolution was that his harem and family members were with him, especially Lady Zaynab who had the leading role in the process of the revolution’s perpetuity, accompanied him. As he anticipated the coming events, he planned for his sister an honorable role in perfecting his uprising, showing his sacrifice so that the Umayyad tyrants attempted to cover up were foiled and his own principles and aims were circulated.
As a matter of fact, the Imam’s harem contributed actively in the renaissance of the Muslim society and the overthrowing of the Umayyad regime’s false prestige. Through their enthusiastic speeches, the Imam’s harem commenced the revolutions against the regime that shook the entity of their illegal state.
In this regard, Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita says:
“Does anyone doubt the fact that if those ladies – of the Prophet’s family - had not challenged the ruling regime through their situations and addresses, the blood of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his sons would have gone for nothing and none would have demanded with the punishment of those killers and, accordingly, his revolution would have been useless?
On this account, Imam al-Husayn (a) had already planned for this step. He had full knowledge that none would be able to accomplish this mission so perfectly except for those ladies. As a result, he asked them to accompany him for adding another item to the oppression that they would encounter – when these ladies would be taken as captives.
In addition, the Imam’s purpose behind accompanying them was deep and political. He wanted them to accomplish his revolution and overthrow the illegal regime of the Umayyad rulers before they would eradicate Islam and take people back to the pre-Islamic customs and traditions.”46
Dr. Ahmad Mahmud Subhi says:
“Al-Husayn insisted on accompanying his harem and family members with him in order that people would testify of the inexcusable and inhumane crimes that their enemies would do to them. Thanks to this decision, the issue for which al-Husayn fought and revolted has not been lost in the desert with his blood. Without the existence of his family members and harem, all the incidents that occurred with al-Husayn and his enemies would have been completely forged and distorted, and all true testimonies would have been unavailable.”
Dr. Aishah Bint al-Shati says:
“Zaynab, al-Husayn’s sister, caused Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad and the Umayyad dynasty to lose the elation of victory as she poured drops of deadly poison in their cups. All the events that took place after that, such as the rebellion of al-Mukhtar and the revolution of Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr, resulted in the decline of the Umayyad regime, the Abbasid dynasty’s coming to power and the inveteracy of Shiism - all these events were the result of Zaynab’s formation.”47
To sum it up, without Lady Zaynab, the tragic story of Karbala would have been recorded from the viewpoint of Imam al-Husayn’s enemies only, and the pure blood of the Imam, his relatives, and his companions, which was shed wrongly there, would have been lost in the desert.
At any rate, before he left Mecca, Imam al-Husayn (a) called for a general meeting during which he delivered an address:
الحَمْدُ للهِ، وَمَا شَاءَ اللهُ، وَلا قُوَّةَ إِلاَّ بِاللهِ، وَصَلَّىٰ اللهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ وَسَلَّمَ. خُطَّ المَوْتُ عَلَىٰ وُلْدِ آدَمَ مَخَطَّ القِلاَدَةِ عَلَىٰ جِيدِ الفَتاةِ، وَمَا أَولهَنِي إلىٰ أسْلافي إشْتِياقَ يَعْقُوبَ إلىٰ يُوسُفَ. وَخُيِّرَ لي مَصْرَعٌ أنَا لاَقِيهِ: كَأَنِّي بِأَوْصَالي تُقَطِّعُها عُسْلانُ الفَلَواتِ بَينَ النَّوَاوِيسِ وَكَربَلاءَ، فَيَمْلأَنَّ مِنِّي أَكْراشاً جُوَّفاً وَأَجْرِبَةُ سُغُباً. لاَ محِيصَ عَنْ يَوْمٍ خُطَّ بالقَلَمِ.
رِضَا اللهِ رِضَانَا أَهْلَ البَيْتِ، نَصْبِرُ عَلىٰ بَلائِهِ وَيُوَفِّينَا أَجْرَ الصَّابِرِينَ. لَنْ تَشُذَّ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللهِ (صَلّىٰ اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ) لحْمَتُهُ وَهِيَ مجَمُوعَةٌ لهُ في حَضيرَةِ القُدْسِ، تَقَرُّ بهِمْ عَيْنُهُ وَيُنجِزُ بِهِمْ وَعْدَهُ. مَنْ كَانَ باذِلاً فِينَا مُهْجَتَهُ وَمُوَطِّناً عَلىٰ لِقاءِ اللهِ نَفْسَهُ فَلْيَرحَلْ مَعَنا، فَإنَّني راحِلٌ مُصْبِحاً إنْ شَاءَ اللهُ تَعالىٰ.
All praise is due to Allah, only that which Allah wants will come to pass, there is no strength save in Allah, and mercy and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger. Death is mapped out for every human being in the same way as a necklace leaves a mark on a girl’s neck. For me, my eagerness to join my late fathers, the martyrs, is as same as Prophet Jacob’s eagerness to see (his absent son) Joseph.
I will unavoidably encounter the demise that has been chosen for me: I foresee that my limbs and organs will be severed by the wolves of the desert48 in a place between al-Nawawis and Karbala where they will fill their hungry bellies with me. No one can escape that which has been recorded with the Pen.49
Only that which pleases Allah will please us—the Ahl al-Bayt; we behave steadfastly against His tests (that He presents in forms of misfortunes) and He shall certainly pay us the rewards of the steadfast ones in full. The flesh of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his family, shall not go astray from his way and shall join him in the Sacred Position to delight him and fulfill the promise, which was made to him.
Hence, he who sacrifices his soul for us and determines to meet Allah may accompany me in this journey. Tomorrow morning, I will leave, if Allah, the Exalted, wills it.”50
In his last moments in Mecca, Imam al-Husayn (a) went towards the Holy House (Kaaba) and offered the Zuhr – noon - Prayer there. On the eighth of Dhul-Hijjah, 60 A.H., he left Mecca whose people saw him off with tearful eyes and depressed hearts. Throughout his journey, he used to tell the story of the martyrdom of Prophet John.
In a place called al-Sifah, Imam al-Husayn (a) met al-Farazdaq, the famous poet, and told him that the ruling authorities had plotted to assassinate him in Mecca.51 The Imam (a) asked him about the reality of people of Kufa that he had come from, and al-Farazdaq said, “Their hearts are with you, but their swords are against you.”52 He agreed with this opinion, but continued his journey in such a steadfast manner.
In a place called Dhat - Irq, the Imam (a) met Abu Hirrah who asked him why he had left Mecca. The Imam (a) answered:
“Woe to you, Abu Hirrah! When the Umayyads usurped my properties, I treated it patiently, when they insulted my honor, I also treated it patiently, and when they attempted to shed my blood, I escaped. By Allah I swear that because the oppressive party will kill me, Allah shall dress them with comprehensive humiliation and shall cause cutting swords to severe them. Allah shall also give a free hand to rulers who will humiliate them to the degree that they will be more humble than people of Sheba; a woman ruled them and had full hand on their properties and souls.”
The Imam (a) then left this man who could not understand the meaning of supporting the right and defending Islam.
In a place called al-Khuzaymiyyah, Lady Zaynab approached the Imam (a) and asked about their fate. He answered that she would have to face terrible difficulties and adversities. He said, “Sister, all that which is going to be is going to be.”53
In a place called Zarud, the caravan of the Imam (a) received a very bad news; Muslim ibn Aqil had been martyred in Kufa. The caravan burst into tears, and the Imam (a) turned towards the family of the martyr and asked, “Muslim has been martyred. What do you now see?”
They answered so firmly, “We will not go back unless we revenge for him or join him.” These words showed the determination of those heroes and made the Imam (a) trust his issue more.
That noon, Imam al-Husayn (a) took a siesta and saw a horrible dream. He woke up in terror, and his son, Ali al-Akbar, hurried and asked about this. The Imam (a) told his son that he had seen in sleep a horseman saying, “You are mending your paces while your deaths are taking you hurriedly to Paradise.” Explaining this dream, the Imam (a) told that they would be killed.
The son asked, “Are we not the right party?”
“Of course, we are. I swear it by Him to Whom all creatures shall return,” answered the Imam (a) confidently.
The son concluded, “O father, we shall then never care about death.”
This statement relieved the Imam (a) who expressed his gratitude for such faith.54
As they reached a place called Shuraf, the Imam (a) gave the orders of fetching as much water as possible from the springs there. A few steps after these springs, one of the companions saw something like date-palm trees and shouted to make the others notice. Some of those who had full knowledge of that area realized that it was nothing but arrowheads and ears of horses. Imam al-Husayn, too, realized that these were the vanguards of the Umayyad army. He therefore asked his companions whether they knew a near place to hide in. some referred to Mount Dhu-Husam to the left.
As the Imam’s caravan directed towards that mountain, the massive troops – of about more than one thousand horsemen as some historians have confirmed - under the commandment of al-Hurr ibn Yazid al-Riyahi whom Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad commissioned to wander through the desert until he would meet and capture the caravan of Imam al-Husayn (a), approached. It was midday and al-Hurr’s troops were too thirsty to continue their march. Seeing this, the Imam (a) felt pity for them and ordered his companions to give them from the water they had with them. Even the horses were given water.
After that, the Imam (a) delivered an articulate sermon to the troops of that army:
أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، إِنهَّا مَعْذِرَةٌ إِلىٰ اللهِ وَإِلَيْكُمْ. إِنِّي لم آتِكُم حَتَّى أَتَتْنِي كُتُبُكُمْ وَقَدِمَتْ عَلَيَّ رُسُلُكُمْ أَنْ أَقْدِمْ عَلَيْنَا فَإِنَّهُ لَيْسَ لَنا إِمَامٌ وَلَعَلَّ اللهَ أَنْ يَجْمَعَنَا بِكَ عَلَىٰ الهُدىٰ. فَإِنْ كُنْتُمْ عَلَىٰ ذٰلِكَ فَقَدْ جِئْتُكُمْ، فَأَعْطُونِي مَا أَطْمَئِنُّ بِهِ مِنْ عُهُودِكُمْ وَمَوَاثِيقِكُمْ. وَإِنْ كُنْتُمْ لمَقْدَمِي كَارِهِينَ انْصَرَفْتُ عَنْكُمْ إِلىٰ المَكَانِ الّذِي جِئْتُ مِنْهُ إِلَيْكُمْ.
People: This is only an argument intended to release me from the responsibility that lies on me with regard to Allah and you. I came to you only after I had received your missives and your messengers who asked me to come to you since you had no leader and since you desired to be guided to the right guidance through my leadership to you. If you are still bearing this very tendency, then here I am. Show me pledges and covenants due to which I will be sure of your intentions. But if you dislike my coming to you, I will leave you and return to the place from which I came.55
Because most of the individuals in that army were among those who had sent missives and asked the Imam (a) to come to them and paid homage to him via his representative Muslim ibn Aqil, they could not answer him.
As time of the Zuhr Prayer fell, the Imam (a) ordered the muezzin56 to declare it. He then turned his face to al-Hurr and asked whether he would lead the collective prayer for his companions. “We will follow you in prayer,” answered al-Hurr politely. When they performed the Asr – afternoon - Prayer, the Imam (a) delivered another sermon:
أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ؛ إِنَّكُمْ إِنْ تَتَّقُوا اللهَ وَتَعْرِفُوا الحَقَّ وَأَهْلَهُ يَكُنْ أَرْضَىٰ للهِ. وَنَحْنُ، أَهْلَ البَيْتِ، أَوْلىٰ بهٰذَا الأَمْرِ مِنْ هٰؤُلاءِ المُدَّعِينَ مَا لَيْسَ لهُمْ وَالسَّائِرِينَ فِيكُمْ بِالجَوْرِ والعُدْوانِ. فَإِنْ أَنتُمْ كَرِهْتُمُونَا وَجَهِلْتُمْ حَقَّنَا وَكَانَ رَأيُكُمُ الآنَ عَلَىٰ غَيْرِ مَا أَتَتْني بِهِ كُتُبُكُمُ، انْصَرَفْتُ عَنْكُم.
People: if you fear Allah and recognize the people of the right, this will surely please Him more than anything else. We—the Ahl al-Bayt are more worthy of holding the position of leadership than those who have claimed it by falsehood and governed you by means of wrongdoing and oppression. If you will dislike us and ignore our right and change your minds that you had expressed in your missives you sent to me, I will surely leave you…57
As he knew nothing about these missives, al-Hurr asked the Imam (a), “What are these missives you are mentioning?”
The Imam (a), thus, ordered one of his companions to fetch them and show to al-Hurr who, as soon as saw them, was shocked. He then said, “We are not among those who wrote these missives.”
Afterwards, the Imam (a) wanted to leave that place and return home, but al-Hurr prevented him and said, “I will not leave you until I lead you to Kufa to be present before Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad.”
“Death is nearer to you than doing so,” the Imam (a) answered and ordered his companions to ride and direct towards Medina. But al-Hurr prevented them. The Imam (a) said to him, “What do you want from us?”
“I want to lead you to Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad,” answered al-Hurr.
“I will not follow you,” said the Imam (a).
“And I will not leave you,” answered al-Hurr.
War was about to break out, but al-Hurr could save the situation by saying, “I was not ordered to fight you. I was only ordered not to leave you until I have led you to Kufa. If you refuse, you may take a way that takes you neither to Kufa nor Medina so that I will write a report to Ubaydullah and hope Allah will save me from fighting you.”
Hence, the Imam’s caravan took another way southward, between al-Udhayb and al-Qadisiyyah58 and al-Hurr’s army watched them.
In a place called al-Bayda, the Imam (a) delivered a sermon:
أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّىٰ اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ قَالَ: "مَنْ رَأىٰ سُلْطَاناً جَائِراً مُسْتَحِلاً لحُرَمِ اللهِ نَاكِثاً لِعَهْدِ اللهِ مُخَالِفاً لِسُنَّةِ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّىٰ اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ يَعْمَلُ في عِبَادِ اللهِ بِالإِثمِ وَالعُدْوانِ فَلَمْ يُغَيِّرْ عَلَيْهِ بِفِعْلٍ وَلا قَوْلٍ كَانَ حَقّاً عَلَى اللهِ أَنْ يُدْخِلَهُ مُدْخَلَهُ." أَلاَ وَإِنَّ هٰؤُلاءِ قَدْ لَزِمُوا طَاعَةَ الشَّيْطَانِ، وَتَرَكُوا طَاعَةَ الرَّحْمٰنِ، وَأَظْهَرُوا الفَسَادَ، وَعَطَّلُوا الحُدُودَ، وَاسْتَأْثَرُوا بِالفَيءِ، وَأَحَلُّوا حَرَامَ اللهِ، وَحَرَّمُوا حَلاَلَهُ، وَأَنَا أَحَقُّ مِمَّنْ غَيَّرَ.
People: the Messenger of Allah has said, “For anyone who knows an unjust ruler that is violating Allah’s sanctities, breaking the pledge of Allah, going against the Sunnah of the Prophet, and treating the servants of Allah with means of sin and oppression, and avoids denying so by a deed or a word, it will be incumbent upon Allah to take him to the place he deserves (i.e. Hell).” Those individuals – the Umayyad rulers - have adhered to the obedience to the Shaitan, deserted the obedience to the All-beneficent (Lord), made sins publicly, defied the doctrinal provisions, dedicated the treasuries to themselves, deemed lawful the things that Allah has decided unlawful, and deemed unlawful the things that Allah has decided lawful. I am more worthy of holding this position than those who have distorted (the principles of Islam).
وَقَدْ أَتَتْني كُتُبُكُمْ وَقَدِمَتْ عَلَيَّ رُسُلُكُمْ بِبَيْعَتِكُمْ أَنَّكُمْ لاَ تُسَلِّمُوني وَلاَ تَخْذِلُوني، فَإِنْ أَقَمْتُمْ عَلَىٰ بَيْعَتِكُمْ تُصِيبُوا رُشْدَكُمْ. فَأَنَا الحُسَينُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ وَابْنُ فَاطِمَةَ بِنْتِ رَسُولِ اللهِ، صَلَّىٰ اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ، نَفْسِي مَعَ أَنْفُسِكُمْ وَأَهْلِي مَعَ أَهْلِيكُمْ، فَلَكُمِ فِيَّ أُسْوَةٌ. وَإِنْ لَمْ تَفْعَلُوا وَنَقَضْتُمْ عَهْدَكُمْ وَخَلَعْتُمْ بَيْعَتِي مِنْ أَعْنَاقِكُمْ فَلَعَمْرِي مَا هِيَ لَكُمْ بِنُكْرٍ؛ لَقَدْ فَعَلْتُمُوهَا بِأَبِي وَأَخِي وَابْنِ عَمِّي مُسْلِمٍ. وَالمَغْرُورُ مَنِ اغْتَرَّ بِكُمْ، فَحَظَّكُمْ أَخْطَأْتُمْ وَنَصِيبَكُمْ ضَيَّعْتُمْ. وَمَنْ نَكَثَ فَإِنَّمَا يَنْكُثُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ وَسَيُغْنِي اللهُ عَنْكُمْ. وَالسَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ.
I have received your missives and your messengers who reported to me that you paid homage to me and that you would neither let me down nor disappoint me. If you keep your homage, you will certainly do the right thing. I am al-Husayn son of Ali and Fatimah; daughter of the Messenger of Allah. My soul will be with yours and my harem will be with yours. (They will face the same fate that you will face.) I am the example that should be followed.
However, if you break your homage and pledge, this is in fact not strange from you. You have already done it with my father, brother, and cousin Muslim (ibn Aqil). He who believes you is surely deceived. Anyhow, you have only missed your opportunity of success and neglected your chance of safety. He who breaches is only doing ill to himself. Allah will surely find me a substitution. Peace, Allah’s mercy, and His blessings be upon you.59
After this sermon, al-Hurr said to the Imam (a), “I only want to advise you. I am sure that you will be killed if you fight. I swear it.”
The Imam (a) answered, “Do you threaten me with death? Will misfortunes depart you if you kill me? I really do not know what to say to you. But, I will copy the saying of that man from the (tribe of) Aws whose cousin was threatened with death while he was going to defend the Prophet (S). He expressed in poetry:60
I will go on, and death is not shameful for a hero
Who intends good and fights for his Islam
And sacrifices his soul for the righteous men
And defies the perished ones and departs the wrong ones
If I live, I will not regret, and if I die, I will not be blamed
It is certainly sufficient humility to live in humbleness.
As he heard these words, al-Hurr left the Imam and realized that he had decided to sacrifice his soul for sake of saving the Muslims from the oppression and wrong of the Umayyad rulers.
Lady Zaynab, too, recognized that her brother, by saying these words, had decided to sacrifice himself and attain martyrdom. She therefore felt very sad and supplicated to Almighty Allah to grant him victory.
Al-Tarimmah led the Imam’s caravan because he knew that area better. The caravan however continued.61 The troops of al-Hurr were preventing it from heading towards the desert and trying to push it towards Kufa. Meanwhile, a rider appeared. It was a man carrying a message from Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad to al-Hurr: “As soon as you receive this message, lead al-Husayn to a derelict place in the desert where there is no shelter or water. I have also ordered this messenger to haunt you until you carry out this order.”62
- 1. Hind, daughter of Utbah and wife of Abu-Sufyan, was the mortal enemy of Islam in general and the Hashemites in particular. It was she who tried to eat the liver of al-Hamzah ibn Abd-al-Muttalib after he had been killed during the battle of Uhud. About her ill-fame, listen to the following narration:
After the conquest of Mecca, Hind, as well as her family members, had to pretend they were Muslims so as to save themselves from killing. She came to the Prophet (S) for declaring her conversion to Islam. The Prophet (S), according to a divine instruction, would listen to her pledge openly in the hearing of Muslims. He would dictate some principles and she would agree, otherwise her being Muslim would not be accepted. One of these principles was that the Prophet (S) asked her to pledge herself that she would not commit prostitution. As an answer, she said, “How come that a celebrated lady would commit prostitution?”
As soon as he heard this statement from her, Umar ibn al-Khattab laughed to excess! This is because he knew her very well. This incident is recorded in almost all the reference books of Islamic history. See, for instance, Ibn Kuthayr, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 4 p. 365, Ibn Kuthayr, al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, vol. 3 p. 603, al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk, vol. 2 p.338, al-Qurtubi, al-Tafsir, vol. 18 p. 72, Ibn Abil-Hadid, Sharh(u) Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 18 p. 17, and Shaykh al-Amini, al-Ghadir, vol. 10, p. 170.
- 2. See Ibn Kuthayr, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 8 p. 152
- 3. See al-Dhahabi, Tarikh al-Islam, vol. 1, p. 267, and Ibn al-Athir, al- Tarikh, vol. 3, p.266.
- 4. See al-Baladhiri, Futuh al-Buldan, vol. 5, p. 6.
- 5. See al-Yaqubi, al- Tarikh, vol. 2, p.241.
- 6. See al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk, vol. 4, p.25.
- 7. See Abu-Mikhnaf al-Azdi, Maqtal al-Husayn, p.4.
- 8. See al-Baladhiri, Futuh al-Buldan, vol. 5, p.12-3.
- 9. See Ibn Kuthayr, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 8 p. 160.
- 10. See Ibn al-Athir, al-Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 264.
- 11. See Ibn al-Athir, al-Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 264.
- 12. See Sayyid Ibn Tawus al-Hasani, al-Lahuf fi Qatla al-Tufuf, p. 17, and Sayyid Murtada al-Askari, Maalim al- Madrasatayn, p.46
- 13. See al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk, vol. 5, p. 340.
- 14. See Shaykh al-Shurayfi, Mawsuat Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, p. 287 as quoted from al-Khawarizmi, Maqtal al-Husayn.
- 15. See al-Numan al-Maghribi, Sharh al-Akhbar, vol. 3, p. 144.
- 16. See al-Qanduzi al-Hanafi, Yanabi al-Mawaddah li Dhawi al-Qurba, p. 402.
- 17. See Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk, vol. 6, p. 190.
- 18. See Ibn Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq, vol. 13, p. 68.
- 19. Ibn Nama al-Hilli, Muthir al-Ahzan, p. 15
- 20. See Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani, Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, p. 95, and Ansab al-Ashraf, p. 157.
- 21. See Abu-Hanifah al-Daynuri, al-Akhbar al-Tiwal, p. 210.
- 22. See Hamid ibn Muhammad al-Mahilli, al-Hadaq al-Wardiyyah, vol. 1, p. 125. Other historians have mentioned that Muslim ibn Aqil resided in the house of Muslim ibn Awsajah or Hani ibn Urwah (see Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah fi Marifat al-Sahabah, vol. 1, p. 332, and Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib.)
- 23. See Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 44, p. 337.
- 24. See Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk; vol. 4, p, 224.
- 25. See Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 268.
- 26. See Ibn Kuthayr, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 8, p. 152.
- 27. See Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk; vol. 4, p, 265.
- 28. See al-Dhahabi, Siyar(u) Alam al-Nubala, vol. 3, p. 299.
- 29. See Muhammad ibn al-Fattal al-Nisapuri, Rawdat al-Waizhin, p. 174.
- 30. See Abu-Mikhnaf al-Azdi, Maqtal al-Husayn, p. 28.
- 31. See Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin al-Amili, Lawaij al-Ashjan, p. 44.
- 32. See Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi, al-Abbas ibn Ali, p. 133.
- 33. See al-Fadl ibn Hasan al-Tabarsi, Ilam al-Wara bi Alam al-Huda, vol. 1, p. 438.
- 34. See Ibn al-Sabbagh al-Maliki, al-Fusul al-Muhimmah, p. 197.
- 35. See Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh, vol. 3, p.269.
- 36. See al-Masudi, Muruj al-Dhahab, vol. 3, p. 7.
- 37. See Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, vol. 2, p. 351.
- 38. See Ibn Kuthayr, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 8, p. 154.
- 39. See Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh, vol. 3, p.269.
- 40. See Abul-Fida, al-Mukhtasar fi Akhbar al-Bashar, vol. 1, p. 300.
- 41. See Baha al-Din Ali ibn Abd al-karim, al-Durr al-Nadid fi Taazi al-Imam al-Shahid, p 164
- 42. See Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Bayhaqi, al-Mahasin wa al-Masawi, vol. 1, p. 43.
- 43. See Abdullah al-Bahrani, al-Awalim al-Imam al-Husayn, p. 203.
- 44. See Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Baladhiri, Ansab al-Ashraf, p. 83.
- 45. See Sayyid Hashim al-Bahrani, Madinat al-Maajiz, vol. 3, p. 485.
- 46. See Muhammad al-Husayn Kashif al-Ghita, al-Siyasah al-Husayniyyah, p. 46-7.
- 47. See Aishah Bint al-Shati, Zaynab; the Heroine of Karbala
- 48. This means that those who will fight against me are as savage and wild as wolves.
- 49. This is an indication to the absolute knowledge of Almighty Allah.
- 50. See Ali ibn Abul-Fath al-Arbali, Kashf al-Ghummah fi Marifat al-Aimmah, vol. 2, p. 239.
- 51. See Khalifah ibn Khayyat al - Asfari, Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyat, p. 176.
- 52. See Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Nawadir al-Mujizat, p. 107.
- 53. See Shaykh Ali al-Namazi al-Shahrudi, Mustadrak Safinat al-Bihar, vol. 5, p. 450.
- 54. See Muhamamd ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk; vol. 4 p. 308, and Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani, Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, p. 111.
- 55. See Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 44, p. 376.
- 56. Muezzin is the caller to prayer.
- 57. See Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p. 79.
- 58. See Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh, vol. 3, p.280.
- 59. See Ibn Shubah al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Uqul, p. 505.
- 60. See Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk; 4:305.
- 61. See Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani, Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, p. 111.
- 62. See al-Baladhiri, Ansab al-Ashraf, p. 240.