Imam Al-Husayn (A) addressed the gathering of pilgrims and visitors of Ka’ba before departing from Mecca and said:
“Only those among you who wish to sacrifice his life for me and meet his Lord should accompany me. God willing, I shall depart tomorrow morning.”1
As if, the holy Imam was informing the people that those who loved wealth and power and those who considered their lives important should not accompany him because their caravan was that of the sacrificing people only.
The close relatives of Imam Al-Husayn (A) were also present among those sacrificing people. If the Imam had left them behind in Medina would anyone have objected to it? Absolutely not. However, consider if Imam Al-Husayn (A) had not taken his relatives along and got martyred alone, would his martyrdom earned the status it has now got? Would the incident of Karbala got that importance, which it has now? Absolutely not.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) performed such an extraordinary feat that he explained the meaning of sacrificing everything in the way of Allah. Imam accomplished this task and made it clear that there was nothing led to be sacrificed.
The relatives of Imam Al-Husayn (A) were not forced to accompany him but they had the same faith and thinking as the Imam had.
Basically, Imam Al-Husayn (A) had decided that in the caravan of self- sacrificing people there should not be anyone who has even a trace of “weakness” in him. That is why the Imam tested his companions two or three times during the journey and sent back a few weak people every time. Before departing from Mecca, Imam (A) had announced aloud:
“Whoever does not have the spirit of sacrificing his life should not accompany us.”
In spite of hearing his frightening announcement, some weak-hearted people thought that it was possible that when they reach Kufa, they would benefit from the act of joining the Imam. They thought that they would also get a good governmental post over there. Therefore some weak-hearted people also accompanied the Imam in his journey. In addition to that, a few nomadic Arabs also joined the Imam’s caravan.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) told his companions during the journey:
“Whoever among you thinks that he would get some official post on reaching there should cut short his expectations and return home.’’
Hearing this, many people went back.2
After that, the Imam tested his companions once again on the Ashura eve. All great historians are of the opinion that there was none among his companions who went back during this night. The Divine hand had already removed cowardly men from the group of Imam Al-Husayn (A).
The author of Nasikhut Tawarikh has made a mistake by writing that when Imam Al-Husayn (A) allowed his companions to go back if they so wished taking the advantage of the darkness of night, some companions left him and went away. However, this report is incorrect because it is not proved by any other book of history.
No historian has made this mistake except for the author of Nasikhut Tawarikh. It is an established fact that none of the helpers of Imam Al-Husayn (A) left him on the Ashura day. This proves that no companion of Imam Al-Husayn (A) lacked the highest level of faith and none of them had any weakness of faith.
If on the Ashura Day even a single companion or child had displayed an iota of cowardice and joined the enemy’s large and strong army in order to save his life it would have been a defect for Imam Al-Husayn (A) and the Al-Husaynite School.
On the contrary, some men of the enemy’s army who were safe from all dangers, joined the Imam, leaving all the luxuries and dared to enter the danger zone while the people surrounded by dangers did not go towards luxury.
If Imam Al-Husayn (A) had not announced the dangers and had not tested his companions before, half of the companions would have left Imam Al-Husayn (A) and would have spoken against Imam Al-Husayn (A).
Because whoever runs away does not accept the weakness of his faith but he presents a number of excuses in order to hide his defect and says, “After proper investigation, I supported whomever I found to be on the right path... if I has found the divine will (in favor of my martyrdom) I would have laid down my life.
However, it was not the case. We thought that the opposite party was right and joined them.” Such persons present a crooked logic. However, such a case was not found in the caravan of Al-Husayn and it is a great achievement and a matter of pride for the Al-Husaynite School.
In Karbala, the movement of Imam Al-Husayn (A) pulled a great general of the enemy’s army, Hurr Ibn Yazid Riyahi towards itself. Hurr was not an ordinary man. After Umar Ibn Saad, he was the most important person of Yazid’s army.
In the beginning, he was made the commander. He was the first to be given the command of a thousand-strong cavalry and dispatched to block the way of Imam Al-Husayn (A). In spite of the fact that he was the first to pull the sword against Imam Al-Husayn (A) on day one, he was full of faith and spirit of performing good deeds.
In the end this same spirit made him bow down in front of Imam (A) and repent for his initial blunder. In this way, Hurr joined the group of ‘the repenters’ about whom there is a verse:
لتَّائِبُونَ الْعَابِدُونَ الْحَامِدُونَ السَّائِحُونَ الرَّاكِعُونَ السَّاجِدُونَ الْآمِرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَالنَّاهُونَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَالْحَافِظُونَ لِحُدُودِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
They who turn (to Allah), who serve (Him), who praise (Him), who fast, who bow down, who prostrate themselves, who enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, and who keep the limits of Allah; and give good news to the believers. (9:112).
He was renowned for his daring and bravery. It is proved by the fact that he was made the commander of a thousand-strong cavalry and dispatched to block Imam Al-Husayn’s way. But Imam Al-Husayn (A) transformed the thinking of this man.
Just as the fire that bums in the center of the samovar boils the water and the steam created by it shakes up the whole container, in the same way the candle of truth, which Imam Al-Husayn (A) had lit in the heart of Hurr, had shaken his entire existence. (Hurr also cared about worldly life like you and me. He also wanted wealth, post and safety but the ‘fire of truth’ was pressurizing him to join Imam Al-Husayn (A)).
The material needs of human beings were inciting Hurr. Hurr was standing at a junction and thinking that if he joined Al-Husayn he would be martyred within the next hour and would not be able to see his wife and children. The government will seize his property. His wife will become a widow. Such thoughts were stopping him from moving towards the Imam.
These two opposing powers were pressurizing him. Suddenly someone saw that Hurr was shivering. He came forward and asked: “What am I seeing? Why is a brave man like you shivering?” Perhaps the questioner thought that Hurr was f
earing for his life. Hurr replied: “No, I do not fear my death. You don’t know what suffering my heart is going through. Currently, I am finding myself standing at the junction of hell and heaven; free to choose one of the paths. I might take Paradise, which is a credit and I can take this world, which is cash but which would lead me to hell.”
Hurr remained in this state of inner tug-of-war for a long time. At last, he paid heed to his conscience in the final moments and became Hurr, as per the saying of Imam Al-Husayn (A). Fearing that the enemy would stop him, he moved away slowly. Then he spurred his horse and moved swiftly towards Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) camp. He waved a truce so that the companions of Imam Al-Husayn (A) do not take him to be an attacker.
It is narrated that Hurr had overturned his shield in order to signal that he was not coming to fight but to take refuge. The first personality to come before Hurr was Imam Al-Husayn (A). He was standing outside the camp of his family members. Hurr came near and said; ‘‘Peace be upon you, O Aba Abdillah!” and then said:
“Maula! I am a sinner. I was the first to commit the crime of blocking your way.” Then Hurr prayed to the Almighty God:
“O Lord! Forgive my sins. I terrorized the hearts of your friends and intimidated them.” (When the Ahl al-Bayt of Imam Al-Husayn (A) saw Hurt on their way for the first time, he was accompanied by one thousand armed soldiers who blocked the Imam’s way. Therefore, it was natural for them to get intimidated.)
“Maula! I have repented for my sins. The blackness of my face cannot be washed off with anything except my blood. I have come to you to repent after seeking your permission. However. Maula! First tell me whether my repentance can be accepted?”
Now look at the character of Imam Al-Husayn (A). The Imam did not care about his personal matter. He knew that even if Hurr repented for his deeds, the current circumstances would not change. However, Imam (A) did not care about himself but only and only about Allah. Thus he replied:
“Indeed your repentance will be accepted. How can your repentance not be accepted? Has the door of divine mercy ever closed for any repentant? Never!”
When Hurr came to know that his repentance was accepted, he praised Allah and said: “Master! Now that my repentance is accepted, I want to sacrifice myself on you. I want to give up my blood in your way.”
Imam Al-Husayn (A) said:
“O Hurr! You are my guest. Dismount from your horse. Sit with me for a while so that we may serve you somewhat.”
(I don’t know what Imam Al-Husayn (A) was going to serve to Hurr). But Hurr continued to seek permission from the Imam so that he does not have to get down from his horse. The Imam insisted a lot but he did not dismount.
Some writers of Karbala tragedy have explained that Hurr wanted to sit with the Imam for some time but he feared that if he sat with him, one of the children of the Imam may come forward and say that ‘he is the same person who blocked our way on the first day.’ He wanted to save himself from that shameful situation by wiping the blackness of his crime with the redness of his blood. Thus, when he insisted a lot, the Imam said, “O Hurr! If you really wish so, you may go”
Since this brave man was also from Kufa he talked to the Kufan army with reference to the letters people of Kufa had sent to the Imam and said:
“O people! Incidentally, I am not of those who called the Imam to Kufa by writing letters to him. However, you and your elders have invited the Imam here after writing to him and you also promised to help him. Hence I ask you people on what basis, principles and religion, are you treating your guest in such an inhuman manner?”
After that, that brave man told something which shows that it was an extremely immoral act and it was against Islam and nature. It was this act which had made the brave man so furious. The history of Islam testifies that it is wrong to treat even an enemy of Islam in this manner.
That it is wrong to harass the opponent by straitening his life through cutting the supply of water. Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (A) was also suggested to cut off water supply to Mu’awiyah and his army but the Imam did not do so.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) had quenched the thirst of Hurr and his companions on the way even though they were enemies. Hurr certainly remembered this incident. He used to think, on whom they had cut off the water supply?
He was the one who found them thirsty and quenched their thirst even before they asked for it. Hurr wondered, ‘How great and majestic a person Al-Husayn was and how mean and lowly we are.’ Hence, he said:
“O Kufis! Aren’t you ashamed that the gushing water of Euphrates should be accessible to every creature including human beings, pets, wild animals but that you cut off its supply to the son of Allah’s Messenger?”
Ultimately, this brave man fought and got martyred after receiving applause for his bravery. Imam Al-Husayn (A) did not let him pass away from his world without awarding him. The Chief of the Martyrs reached him quickly and took his head on his blessed thigh and said:
“How nice this Hurr, Hurr ar-Riyahi is!”3
It means what an extraordinaiy and nice name his mother has selected for him. His mother had called him Hurr (‘free’) on the very first day and Hurr was actually a free man.
How great Imam Al-Husayn (A) is! He expressed his concern for his companions as much as possible and took care of them. This is real ‘Enjoining good’ and ‘Forbidding evil’ (Amr bil Maroof and Nahi Anil Munkar).
Every companion visited during the last moments by Imam Al-Husayn (A) was in a different state. Some of them were alive when Imam Al-Husayn (A) reached them and they even talked to their master while others had passed away even before the Imam could reach them.
None of the companions visited by Imam Al-Husayn (A) was in such a remorseful state as Imam’s younger brother. His Eminence, Ab ul-Fadhl Al-Abbas (A) who was loved dearly by Imam Al-Husayn (A) and who was the inheritor of the bravery of Haider-e-Karrar (Imam Ali (A)). It is mentioned that Imam Al-Husayn (A) told His Eminence, Al-Abbas:
“O Al-Abbas! May I be sacrificed on you!”
This statement is so meaningful.4
His Eminence, Al-Abbas (A) was about 23 years younger to Imam Al-Husayn (A). Imam Al-Husayn (A) was 57 years old and His Eminence, Al-Abbas (A) was 34 years old. Imam Al-Husayn (A) was like a father to His Eminence, Al-Abbas (A) as per his age and yet he said:
“O Al-Abbas! May I be sacrificed on you!”
Imam Al-Husayn (A) was waiting near the tent. Suddenly he heard the roaring voice of His Eminence, Al-Abbas (A). It is recorded that the face of His Eminence, Al-Abbas (A) was so good-looking that he was called the Moon of Bani Hashim.5 His Eminence, Al-Abbas (A) was so tall that it is recorded in some books that he used to mount a sturdy horse and when he inserted his feet inside the stirrups, his toes touched the ground.6
I would like to mention the statement of late Shaykh Muhammad Baqir Birjandi, which although somewhat exaggerated, indicates that His Eminence, Al-Abbas (A) was a tall youth. He was so handsome that Imam Al-Husayn (A) used to feel happy looking at him.
When Imam Al-Husayn (A) reached this youth in his last moments, he found that both his arms were severed. He was hit on his head by a mace and an eye was pierced with an arrow. It is not wrongly said about Imam Al-Husayn (A) that when His Eminence, Al-Abbas (A) was martyred, it was seen that the holy face of Imam Al-Husayn (A) had also withered.7
Imam Al-Husayn (A) had himself said: “Brother Al-Abbas! After your martyrdom my back has broken and my determination has decreased.”8
- 1. Lohoof, Pg. 61; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 366; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 329.
- 2. Irshad, Shaykh Al-Mufid, Pg. 223; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 374; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 348.
- 3. Lohoof, Pg. 103; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 13; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 437; Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 236.
- 4. Irshad, Shaykh Al-Mufid, Pg. 230; Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 210.
- 5. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 39; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Pg. 687.
- 6. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 39; Al-Abbas, Muqarram, Pg. 76.
- 7. Qissa Karbala, Pg. 351; narrated from Zariat al-Najah, Pg. 125.
- 8. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 41.