In the Ziarat of Imam Al-Husayn (A) we recite, “O Aba Abdillah! We wish we had been with you in Karbala to confront falsehood and sacrifice our lives like the loyal companions of the Imam had achieved a great success through martyrdom.”1
This sentence has become a mere recital and we don’t pay any attention to its meaning. Think for a while. Is our claim true? Are we such people who can truly make such a claim? (No, absolutely not) Most of us are such that we only read the words of the Ziarat without taking them seriously.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) extolled his companions on Ashura eve saying: “I have not seen companions better and more loyal than mine.”
A senior Shia scholar was once of the view that perhaps Imam Al-Husayn (A) did not issue this statement. According to him, the companions of Imam Al-Husayn (A) did not perform any extraordinary feat. Then why would the Imam say so?
However, his enemies had really displayed the worst cruelty. Imam Al-Husayn (A) was a flower of the garden of Prophethood. He was the Imam of his time and the most beloved of Ali (A) and Batool (Fatimah) (s.a.).
Therefore, any Muslim who would see the Imam surrounded by such calamities would have surely come forward to assist him. Thus, according to that scholar, those people were worst creatures who did not help the Imam but those who helped him did not perform any extraordinary feat.
That great scholar says: Perhaps God wanted me to come out of ignorance. Therefore, I saw the battlefield of Karbala in my dream and I was present there. I was telling the Imam, “O son of the Messenger! I have come to help you.” The Imam said, “Wait”. I waited till it was the time for Prayer.
(I have read in the books of Karbala Tragedy that Saeed Ibn Abdullah Hanafi and other companions became a human-shield in front of the Imam so that he could pray. They were people having true enthusiasm. When the parts of their bodies were getting cut and falling to the ground), they were thinking:
The life I sacrificed was given by him only. The fact is that, we have not the debt we owed.
The scholar says that the Imam told him in his dream:
“I want to offer Prayer. You stand in front of us. When the enemies shoot arrows, stop them and do not let them reach us.” The scholar said: “By all means”. He stood in front of the Imam while the Imam started to pray. He says: “I saw a fierce arrow coming towards the Imam. When the arrow came closer, I bent down involuntarily and the arrow hit the holy Imam.
I said: I seek the forgiveness of Allah and to Him I repent. That was too bad. I will not let that happen again. Now I will stop every arrow at my chest. Suddenly, another arrow came and I again bent down to save my life. This arrow also injured the holy Imam.
Then a third and a fourth arrow came and hit Imam only because every time I was trying to save my life. Then suddenly my eyes fell on the Imam, and I saw that he was smiling and saying: “I have not seen companions better and more loyal than mine.’’2
Sitting at home and reciting “I wish I had been...” does not make one reach that rank. It requires the courage of putting it to practice.3
When the time comes, it would be known who can put his words to practice. The companions of Imam Al-Husayn (A) did not merely make a promise, but they acted upon their words. They used to say:
To die below your feet, is our only heartfelt desire.
My discussion has automatically reached the Zuhr Prayer of Imam Al-Husayn (A) and the time of our Zuhr Prayer is also near. As you know most companions of the Imam were martyred before the Zuhr Prayer itself. Thus, only a few companions and family members were alive till the Zuhr of Ashura.
The first stage of martyrdom of the companions of Al-Husayn was the shooting of arrows by the rows standing on both the sides. Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) side had only seventy-two persons but they were very brave. They were in high spirits and the fact was that there was no match for their spirit and courage.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) did not want to give even the slightest imagination of defeat regarding himself. He divided his army into the left wing, right wing and central wing. Zuhair Ibn Qayn led the right wing, Habib Ibn Mazahir commanded the left and his younger brother, Al-Abbas, headed the heart of the army. He was given the flag of the army and thus, the title Alamdar became a part of his holy name. Companions of the Imam asked for permission to start the battle but the Imam said:
“No, till the enemy does not begin hostilities we will not attack.”
In the beginning, Ibn Saad launched delayed attacks because he wanted to hold onto faith as well as the world. He wanted to get the kingdom of Rayy from Ibn Ziyad as well as avoid smearing his hands with the holy blood of Imam Al-Husayn (A).
Thus, he continuously wrote to Ibn Ziyad proposing a peace treaty with Imam Al-Husayn (A) so that the battle does not start. When Ibn Ziyad realized this, he wrote a letter and strictly ordered him to accomplish the task given to him or surrender the command of the army to one who is given this responsibility in addition to him.
Ibn Saad did not want the world to slip away from his hands. Therefore, when the choice was between faith and the world, he bade farewell to religion saying: “I would fight in order to fulfill the Governor’s command.”
On Ashura day, in the desert of Karbala, Ibn Saad committed a number of immoral acts because he wanted to prove himself a loyal commander of Ibn Ziyad and disprove the reports made to Ibn Ziyad that Umar Ibn Saad was dilly dallying as he was a well-wisher of Al-Husayn. Thus, when the two armies stood opposite each other, Ibn Saad told his shooters to be ready. They all became ready. Then he shot an arrow towards the Imam’s army saying:4
“O people! Be witness to the Amir, Ibn Ziyad that I was the first to shoot an arrow at the army of Al-Husayn.”
Whenever I reach this statement of Ibn Saad, I remember a statement of my friend and a friend of you Narmikis also,5 late Ibrahim Ayati, who was a great scholar and reciter of Majlis and who passed away ten years ago, which I had heard from him and perhaps also read it in his book. He used to say:
“The battle of Karbala started with an arrow and ended with an arrow.”
The battle started because of the arrow shot by Umar Ibn Saad; but do you know which arrow ended it? Arrows were shot from the left and the right and both targeted the Imam. Imam (A) was fighting continuously and killing the ones damned to hell. But he was exhausted due to injuries and fatigue of the battle.
Suddenly, someone hit him on his forehead brutally with a stone; and blood gushed out. Imam (A) picked up the tail of his shirt to wipe the blood when one of two poisonous six branched arrows hit the oppressed Imam in his holy chest and the Imam’s jihad ended.
Now, the tyrants noticed that Al-Husayn was not saying; “Is there anyone...” Instead he was addressing only God and saying:
In the name of Allah and by Allah and on the religion of the Messenger of Allah (S)
Anyhow, I was saying that the first arrow was shot by Ibn Saad. After that, arrows started raining on the companions of Imam Al-Husayn (A). What valour and courage the companions of Imam Al-Husayn (A) had! They kneeled down and shot all the arrows present in their quivers one by one immediately and dispatched a large number of the enemies to hell.
Some soldiers of Imam Al-Husayn’s small army were martyred by the arrows of the enemies. After that, one to one battle started. Whenever a person from Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) side used to go out in the battlefield, some infidels used to confront him. However, the spirit of faith of Imam Al-Husayn (A) triumphed every time. Even an elderly fighter from Imam Al-Husayn’s army used to send five to ten enemies to hell.
A companion of Imam Al-Husayn (A), Abis Ibn Abi Sliabeeb Shakri was such that his soul was full of the ‘Al-Husaynite enthusiasm’. When he entered the battlefield he recited the war poem (Rajaz)6 as was the custom, and challenged the enemy for a single combat. However, no one from the enemy’s side dared to confront this lion-hearted companion of Imam Al-Husayn (A).
When in spite of repeated calls no one dared to come forward to fight Abis, he became angry and returned from the field. He took off his helmet, armor and shoes and went to the battlefield barefoot and called out: “Come out to fight Abis at least now.”7
But not dared to come forward. At last Umar Saad’s army stooped to cowardice and they began to throw stones and pieces of broken swords on Abis and in this way they martyred him.
The courage and sincerity displayed by the loyal companions of Imam Al-Husayn (A) on the Ashura day cannot be equaled. It was not limited to men. Even the ladies had this state. They left behind those marks in the history of humanity, which will remain till the world exists. If such signs were to be found in the history of Europeans we would have seen how they would have benefited from them.8
Abdullah Ibn Umair was present along with his mother and wife in Karbala. He was a very brave and strong man. When he intended to go to the battlefield, his wife asked him: “Whom are you entrusting me to? What will happen to me after you?”
The couple was newly married. When the mother of Abdullah Ibn Umair heard their conversation, she said: “Son! Do not heed what your bride says. Today is the day of your test. If you do not sacrifice yourself today, I would not condone suckling you.”
Abdullah fought a severe battle and was martyred. After that, his mother wielded a tent-pole and attacked the unscrupulous enemies. Seeing the bravery of this woman, Imam Al-Husayn (A) said aloud: “May Allah reward you! Go back to the ladies tent and stay there. Jihad is not obligatory on women.” Hearing the order of her master, she bowed down obediently and returned to her tent.
On the other hand the enemy beheaded Abdullah and threw his severed head towards his mother saying: “Take this, keep your son with you.” The mother lifted the severed head of her young son, pressed it against her chest, kissed it and said:
“Congratulations son, you are very brave. I am pleased with you now and I have condoned your suckling.” Then she threw the severed head back in the direction of the enemy and said: “We do not take back whatever we give in the way of Allah.”9
A time also arrived when Imam Al-Husayn (A) saw that only a few people remained to go to the battlefield and who were seeking permission from him. At that moment, a twelve-year old boy came out from the gathering of the companions with a sword hanging from his waist. He told Imam Al-Husayn (A): “Maula! Please allow me to go to the battlefield.”
The father of this child was martyred sometime before in the battle. The Imam said: “You cannot go. You are too young.”
The child said: “Maula! Please allow me to go.”
Imam (A) said: “No, I fear your widowed mother will be distressed.” Hearing this, the child said: “Maula! My mother has ordered me go and sacrifices myself on you. She said that if I do not sacrifice myself on the Imam she would not be pleased with me.”
This child who was seeking permission from the Imam was so well-mannered; and he got such honour, which no one else could, because every warrior introduced himself upon reaching the field according to Arabian custom, but this child did not introduce himself and it could not be recorded who that child was.10
Writers of Karbala tragedy could not identify this child. They have written only that:
“And out came a young boy whose father had been killed in the attack.”
Didn’t that child recite this war poem?
“O people! Listen, my chief is Al-Husayn and it is enough for my introduction.”
“I am one whose master is Al-Husayn; who is the best master; who is the joy of the heart of the Prophet who gave glad tidings and warned.”11
- 1. The statement Yaa laitanee kuntu ma’akum fa-afooza fauzan a’z’eemaa is present in one of the Ziarats of Imam Husayn (A).
The special Ziarat of the day of Arafah has a statement: Yaa laitanee kuntu ma’akum fa-afooza ma’akum fil h’inaani maa’sh shuhadaa-i was’ s’aalih’eena wa h’asuna oolaa-ika rafeeqaa.
- 2. Imam Husayn (A) said on the eve of Ashura: “I don’t know any companions better and more loyal than mine and any family more virtuous and better than my Ahl al-Bayt.” Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 395.
- 3. As Imam Husayn (A) entered Kerbala he said, “People are slaves of this world and religion is at the tip of their tongues. They work for religion as long as their life has comforts. When time comes for test, very few religious people are left.” Tohafful Uqool, Pg. 245.
- 4. Ibn Saad was the son of a companion of Holy Prophet, Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas and incidentally, he was an expert archer and was very famous in entire Arabia. Thus, Ibn Saad had helped in many battles through his skill. (Ustad Mutahhari)
- 5. The people addressed are of Jame Masjid Narmik (Tehran) where Martyr Mutahhari was reciting this Majlis.
- 6. The Rajaz of Abis was ala rajulun? ala rajulun? i.e. “is there no man among you that can come to combat with me?”
- 7. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 28; Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 251.
- 8. It is a serious thing. The basic element of the formation of communities comes from such things only. Poets, thinkers and political leaders who are builders of communities, make such characters heroes of community and change the entire community.
We know that political and satanic forces have remained in power from the beginning but according to the philosophy of conflicts, consciousness among people goes on becoming solid because of social conflicts.
Thus, people would go on understanding revelation and Islam would encompass the world because it is in accordance with human nature. For instance, a human being naturally loves justice and hates injustice. People love freedom and hate slavery.
They love freedom of gathering, freedom of thinking, freedom of practicing any religion, political freedom, economic and personal freedom. The teachings of Islam are enlightening the minds of people all over the world without taking the name of the Lord of the universe. That is why enemies of Islam are trying in vain to extinguish this lamp.
The Holy Prophet was the first to protest against racism. He held that blacks, whites and all humans are equal. The level of one’s honour is dependent only on his piety and good character. The Holy Prophet had informed the people through Qur’an the reward of freeing slaves. Thus, he awakened that thinking of human beings, which is still under evolution.
Latin America and Europe stood against slavery more than one and half centuries ago. Martin Luther King fought for equal rights of blacks in the United States of America. Nelson Mandela struggled for independence of South Africa.
All these efforts had an unnamed Islamic hand in it because Islam teaches freedom and equity. The teachings of Islam are for every age, race and generation. The Holy Prophet had said, “O people! Women have rights on you In the same way as you have rights on them.” Islam advocates the rights of women and their respect. Following the practice of the Holy Prophet would guarantee “blessings” for the entire humanity.
The character of Imam Ali Murtadha (A) is an ideal one in the vast field of history as regards unveiling hypocrites, fighting the autocracy, supporting the oppressed, considering wealth of community as trust and leading the people who support a republican government.
There is one more character in history; that of Imam Husayn (A) who dared to defy and refused to pay allegiance to an unjust tyrant. He taught freedom-lovers that it is better to die respectfully instead of living with disgrace. When mouths are shut because of oppression, silence spreads everywhere and people bow down in front of injustice.
After the death of Stalin, the new general secretary of communist party, Khuruchev was criticizing Stalin in one of the party meetings. One of the members commented, “Why were you silent in front of Stalin?” Khrushchev said, “Whoever has made this remark should stand up.” However, no one stood up. Seeing this, Khrushchev laughed and said, “As none of you dares to speak in front of me, I did not dare to speak in front of Stalin.”
A Christian padre says that if they would have had Imam Husayn (A) in place of Prophet Isa (A) they would have ruled this earth. Bernard Shaw has predicted, “Europe (and America) would accept Islam in future.” When this happens, these glowing personalities would become the beacon in the way of guidance for Muslims.
- 9. The incident narrated by Ustad Mutahhari is of Wahab Ibn Abdullah Ibn Habbab Kalbi. A similar tradition is narrated about Abdullah Ibn Umair Kalbi who lived in Kufa and had come to Kerbala with his wife Umm Wahab. Late Allamah Sherani has written in the margin of Damaus Sujum, Pg. 147, that this incident is proved true because of its repeated narration by two persons.
Wahab Ibn Abdullah Kalbi was young and newly-married while Abdullah Ibn Umair Kalbi was a companion of the Holy Prophet and was elderly. (Rizwani)
Lohoof, Pg. 105; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 17; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 651; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 435.
- 10. The name of this child is mentioned as Amr Ibn Junada Ansari in Maqtal al- Muqarram. His father, Junada Ansari was martyred in the first attack.
- 11. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 27; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 457.