Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) was born on the 3rd Sha’ban in 4 AH/626 AD, in Medina and was the second fruit of the blessed marriage of Imam Ali (‘a) and Fatimah az-Zahra’ (‘a).
When Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) was born, he, like his brother Imam Al-Hasan (‘a), was named by his grandfather the Prophet (S) with the name God chose for him and sent to the Prophet (S) via the angel Jibrail (‘a) [Gabril].1
Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) was known by the people for his greatness, generosity, knowledge, wisdom and for his love for helping his fellow human beings. Although this applied to the Prophet (S) and all the Imams (‘a), Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) held an extra special status with the people, not least from the Prophet’s (S) special and incredible love for him and the Imam’s (‘a) status with God. In addition, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) has been described in historical accounts as humble and loving (especially towards the poor, orphans, the sick and the needy). He is described as a generally beloved personality.
As for Imam Al-Hasan (‘a), the Prophet (S) expressed his deep love for Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) on many occasions and therefore also highlighted Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) status. Among these, the Prophet (S) has said:
“Husayn is from me, and I am from Husayn; O God loved the one that loves Husayn!”2
It has also been reported from Salman (r.a.) that the Prophet (S) put Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) on his knee, kissed him and said:
“You are noble, the son of a noble person and [will be] the father of the noble, you are the Imam and the son of the Imam and the father of the Imams, you are the proof of God and the son of the proof of God and the father of the proof of God which are nine and the last of them is their Al-Qa’im. “
Furthermore, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) as the fifth of Ashab Al-Kisa and the Prophet’s (S) Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) was included in the Tathi, Abrar and Mawadda verses as well as events like Mubahala.3
Prior to his martyrdom, Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) handed the banner of Imamah to his brother Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), as the Prophet (S) had commanded.
With Mu’awiyas upper-hand and initiation of the Ummayyad dynasty’s official era in power, the state’s governance transformed into an officially hereditary caliphate. Consequently, the following names governed during Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) time:
- Mu’awiya Ibn Aby Sufyan (41 AH/661 AD– 60 AH/680 AD.)
- Yazid Ibn Mu’awiya (60 AH/680 AD – 64 AH/684 AD.)
When Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) became Imam officially, that after the martyrdom of Imam Al-Hasan (‘a), he held to Imam Al-Hasan’s (‘a) peace treaty.4 Mu’awiya violated the treaty multiple times and so slowly, but surely people started realizing truths behind Mu’awiya’s intentions. Many were displeased and expressed so to Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), urging his uprising. On a number of occasions, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) objected to the doings of Mu’awiya, albeit while Mu’awiya murdered some of Imam Ali’s (‘a) companions, among them Hijr Ibn ‘Adi (r.a.), and while collecting oaths of allegiance to his son Yazid.5 Only, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), acquainted with the people as well as with his enemies, was well-aware of an uprising to be unfavourable in the prevailing circumstances. Such raising would not only end like during Imam Ali’s (‘a) and Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) time but also advantage Mu’awiya’s propaganda to confuse people, eventually ending the Prophet’s (‘a) Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a).
Mu’awiya decided to pass down his power and influence to his son, Yazid. Yazid, well-known to be loose and unethical, wasting his days in slumber. He used to play with his ape, drink alcohol and watchdog and cockfights. 6 In such a way, Mu’awiya’s earlier intentions were exposed before all and people could no longer accept Yazid’s caliphate while he consciously overstepped simple religious laws. The decision to make Yazid, a successor, exposed Mu’awiya’s hypocrisy more clearly and so the danger of his continuous governance was seen. Many started protesting, especially in Kufa.
Before his death, Mu’awiya had warned Yazid of a number of personalities posing a possible threat to his governance and so instructed him on the way to handle each one of them. When Yazid rose to power, he sent commands to the governor of Medina, Walid Ibn Utba, to make Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) pledge an oath of allegiance to Yazid. Would Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) refuse, he would be instantly murdered?7
This fight was no longer against a hypocrite like Mu’awiya, pretending to follow religious laws, but against a visible sinner. Instead, the fight was between the evident truth and the evident unrighteousness. If Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), highly positioned in society, had sworn an oath of allegiance to Yazid, it would have been an acceptance of his corruption and the end to the prophetic message.
Thereby, an oath of allegiance to Yazid was not on the map for someone like Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) witnessed the critical state of things and did not want his blood spilled in the city of the Holy Prophet (S). He gathered his family and closest relations and headed towards Mecca, to the protection of the Ka’ba, along with women and children. However, Yazid would not give in and sent commands to the governor of Mecca to again require an oath of allegiance by Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) or otherwise spill his blood, albeit near the Ka’ba and on the holy and sacred land of God. This further proved Yazid’s disbelief in divine instructions, and also his disrespect to holy sanctuaries. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) willed not for the holiness of Mecca to be violated in bloodshed.8
Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), along with his caravan of eighty people, left Medina heading towards Mecca. The majority of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) accompaniers were from Bani Hashim, as in the closest family to the Imam, half of which were women and children. The number of companions not of the Bani Hashim is said to be around twenty.9
Before departing Medina, and even Mecca, there were those who discouraged the Imam (‘a) from leaving to Kufa, as the kufans were considered unpredictable and fighting Bani Umayya useless. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) saw another horizon and had another vision. He made it clear in his statements that an oath to someone like Yazid was an impossibility for an Imam. So, when the Imam (‘a) signalled the departure, those same people did not follow. Despite their love and stance with Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), they took their own personal standpoint, independent of the Imam (‘a).10
Likewise, on the journey towards Kufa, some joined the caravan11 whilst others separated themselves from it and left the Imam (‘a), or refrained from joining him concurrently with the incoming news of Ibn Ziyad’s mobilization, troubled conditions in Kufa and eventually the martyrdom of Muslim (‘a). 12
Among the kufans calling for the Imam (‘a), the majority left his representative Muslim Ibn Aqil (r.a.) alone after the intervention of Ibn Ziyad. Of whom many stayed in Kufa. They never joined the Imam (‘a) and did not realize what had happened until after Ashura.13
There were also those who had separated from the Imam (‘a) joined him after his caravan was stopped by Yazid’s army, heading towards Kufa. Some of those were kufans, who fled Kufa’s siege with great difficulty to join the Imam (‘a)14 whilst others were imprisoned15 or killed by Ibn Ziyad in Kufa.16
There were also those who arrived in Karbala late, after the martyrdom of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), but followed his footsteps and reached martyrdom19 or became those who spread the news of that which took place in Ashura.
Already during the first days of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) visit in Mecca, a stream of messengers with invitation letters followed. The kufans had sent them, asking Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) to head towards Kufa and end Yazid’s oppression, and lead an uprising against the Umayyad dynasty, that had corrupted the Islamic state enough. The kufans were a part of the same people to betray Imam Ali (‘a) and Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) earlier, but now there were many prominent followers of Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) gathered and promised to support him. They sent letters upon letters, filled with signatures, insisting on standing with Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) in an uprising against Yazid.
Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) sent his representative and cousin, Muslim Ibn Aqil (‘a) to Kufa in order to look at the conditions and be assured the kufans loyalty, so to call the Imam (‘a) to Kufa. While in Kufa, the kufans’ representatives gathered around Muslim (‘a) and swore an oath of allegiance to Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), through him. When Muslim (‘a) saw this, he sent for Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and informed him about the kufans bay’a (oath of allegiance). Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), spending his days in Mecca and fearing bloodshed, gathered his caravan and left for Kufa.
Meanwhile, the news of Kufa’s moves was reported to Yazid, and so he sent his governor Ibn Ziyad to Kufa. Ibn Ziyad, known for his shrewdness and who had also just succeeded in turning the people of Basra against each other with his tricks and subdued the whole city with barely any means. Instead of heading to Kufa with his whole force, as any other person in power would have done, Ibn Ziyad headed towards Kufa with only a few horsemen and entered Kufa disguised as Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). In such a way, Ibn Ziyad avoided the opposition and reached the palace. There he gathered remaining Umayyad supporters and those who supported due to personal interests. First, he bribed this inner circle with riches and promises of fortune and advantages by Yazid. He was simultaneously threatening all opponents with executions. In this way, Ibn Ziyad made sure they were kept in check and acted as his long arms. Ibn Ziyad divided them into groups, ordered them to spread among people and execute his instructions in various missions. The aim was to, above all, strike terror into people to remove any support to Imam Al-Husayn (‘a).
Thereafter, Ibn Ziyad held a speech in Kufa’s mosque and with its niceties and fabricated ahadith, he advertised Yazid as the rightful caliph while the opposition was accused as defectors from religion.20 Then Ibn Ziyad threatened to attack Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) sympathizers, all whilst those who left the opposition would be spared.21 Tribe leaders who had family members among Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) companions, were ordered to bring them back, by all means necessary, to not risk punishment upon their tribes or themselves. Ibn Ziyad threatened that were any tribe member to support Muslim (r.a.), their tribe leaders would be paying. So, they were threatened to surrender themselves.
Ibn Ziyad, after his arrival at Kufa, made sure to identify the leaders of the opposition, attacked. Hani Ibn Urwa (r.a.), one of the foremost leaders among Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) Shi’a, was arrested in his home and brought to Ibn Ziyad’s palace. Even though Hani (r.a.) was a great tribe leader and that his tribe demanded his release by gathering on the outskirts of the palace, Ibn Ziyad still convinced them that Hani (r.a.) was no prisoner, but a guest and so dispersed them.22 Muslim (r.a.), believing Hani’s (r.a.) release to be a duty, gathered all prominent leaders who had given an oath of allegiance and clarified a need of an uprising for Hani’s (r.a.) release and to recover Kufa from Ibn Ziyad, while Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) was approaching. However, some of them doubted whether an uprising before the Imam’s (‘a) arrival was right, and without his direct orders and so they refrained. Despite their refusal, thousands of people came out on the streets of Kufa in support of Muslim (r.a.) and Ibn Ziyad’s palace was sieged.
Now, Ibn Ziyad would try to bribe the opponents. He ordered that all gold and silver in Bayt Al-Mal’s (public treasury) safe would be brought forth. He distributed some to the weaker front figures, which could influence others and spread rumours that whoever left the opposition and joined him would be rewarded. Only Ibn Ziyad’s foremost trick was to spread rumors in the city that Sham’s army was headed to Kufa and that they would not spare anyone who had opposed Yazid’s caliphate. To conform to those rumours and make the public believe them, secret spies lied to people that they had seen that great army marching towards them. Fright spread among the credulous and naïve when there was, in fact, no army on the way or any truth in those exaggerated stories. Consequently, panic and despair spread and people, in their worry, started to get cold feet.23 Ibn Ziyad went as far as to command his troops to raid near the homes of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) followers. This caused more fright among the women, who hurried to withdraw their husbands and sons from supporting Muslim (r.a.).
Promised riches, threats to punish and rumours on Sham’s army being on their way worked. Wordily temptations, hard to leave, like riches, together with fearing for their own lives, was the decisive hit to cause the kufans’ downfall. Those whose support to Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) was based on false reasons and who saw the Imam’s (‘a) governance as a means to reach their own motives, staggered and gave in. They had not understood the position of Imamah and considered themselves to know better than his representative, Muslim (‘a). Muslim Ibn Aqil (‘a) who prayed dhohr-prayers with thousands24 of followers, all who had sworn an oath to Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) through him, stood alone with barely ten people at maghrib-prayers. The siege was broken, and the Muslim’s (r.a.) army was dispersed and dissolved.
Muslim Ibn Aqil (r.a.) was now alone and abandoned in Kufa without any possibility to warn Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). The few supporters who stayed with him left him in the darkness of the night. Some faithful companions, who were distanced from Muslim (‘a) in this chaos, found hard ways to sneak out of the highly guarded Kufa, and routed through the Euphrates. Habib Ibn Madhahir (r.a.), Muslim Ibn ‘Awsaja (r.a.) and Abdullah Ibn Umayr, with his wife, eventually reached Imam Al-Husayn (‘a); however, Muslim’s (r.a.) journey was to end in Kufa.
In the darkness of the night, Muslim Ibn Aqil (r.a.) walked through the foreign alleys of Kufa, with neither followers nor support. Thirsty and tired, he sat down close to a door to catch a breath. An older woman, named Taw’a, lived in that house with her son. When she saw Muslim’s (r.a.) condition, she offered him a bowl of water and asked him to head home, unnoticed by soldiers. But when Muslim (r.a.) did not move and said he was a stranger in Kufa, wanted and abandoned, she came to realize who actually sat next to her door. Even though Taw’a was afraid of what her corrupt son would do, her love for the Prophet’s (S) Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) made her help Muslim (r.a.) by offering him a place to stay the night and be protected. Still and all, her son discovered Muslim’s (r.a.) presence and hurried to inform Ibn Ziyad’s soldiers, in the hope of reward. And so they sieged the house of Taw’a, even so, Muslim (r.a.) fought the army bravely until the leader of the troop, Muhammad Ibn Ash’ath promised security if he would stop fighting. Still, Muslim (r.a.) refused and did he was taken captive to Ibn Ziyad, who ordered Muslim (r.a.) to be thrown down from atop the palace and for his dead body to be cut.25
When the news of Muslim’s (r.a.) death reached Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), he held a speech to his companions, telling those who wished to leave to do so, as he was headed to an assured death.
The second day of the month of Muharram, year 61 AH. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), along with with his women and children, and a small number of his sons, brothers and companions, arrived in a place called Karbala. In the distance from Kufa, Yazid, through his governor Ibn Ziyad, gave orders to place a troop lead by Al-Hurr Riyahi (r.a.) in the way of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) caravan, and so block their path, in order for them to pitch their camp. Al-Hurr had received strict orders not to allow the Imam (‘a) to move from that place. And he would not accept anything Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) suggested, and would neither let the Imam (‘a) continue towards Kufa, return to Mecca or Medina, go to close-by villages nor pitch their camp near the Euphrates. Notwithstanding that the Imam (‘a) made sure to water Al-Hurr’s troops and horses when arriving during the heat of Karbala’s desert. Even the letters sent by kufans did nothing to change Al-Hurr’s mind.
Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and his small caravan pitched their camp in Karbala, besieged by troops, soon followed by an army; an army consisting of the kufans who had sent letters themselves.
As an oath to Yazid would be alike accepting his caliphate, and everything it stood by, and as such an end to religion, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) never doubted the right decision. Between martyrdom for Islam’s survival or living with degradation, the choice was clear to Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). He would never choose to keep his life at the expanse of his duty to God and the people. Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) answer in words, was also what he acted on:
“Surely, I have not risen up to make mischief, neither as an adventurer nor to cause corruption or oppression; surely, I have risen up solely to seek the reform the ummah (nation and people) of my grandfathers (S); I want to command virtue and prevent vice, and (in this) I follow the conduct of my grandfather and my father, Ali Ibn Abi Talib.”
“Indeed, death with dignity is better than a life of abasement [disgrace]”
“How easy death is on the way to honour and reviving haqq (truth and right).”
“Death for the sake of decency is nothing but eternal life, and a life with disgrace is nothing but death, in which there is no life.”26
When it was clear Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) could not leave Karbala, there was no other way to say NO to oppression than by his blood!
The final night before the 10th of Muharram, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) gathered his companions and spoke to them, and he said the enemy was after him and at the end of this path was an assured death. Then he dismissed the duty of their oaths and told them they were no longer bound by it. Thereafter, the Imam (‘a) ordered the torches to be put out so that whoever wished to leave would do so without anyone seeing them.
Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) steadfast followers and family, who had accompanied him the entirety of the trip or joined on the way, and who still stood by the Imam (‘a) through all adversities, took a stand. They were fully aware of the de’Adalahy consequence of following the path of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). Their thirst had not been quenched for three days and they we well aware of far worse was yet to come. The first to rise was the brother of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), Abbas (‘a), who said:
“Should we go away to live after you? We pray to God that the time may not come when you may be killed, and we remain alive!”
More companions followed custom and exclaimed their belief and devotion to Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). Zuhayr Ibn Qain (r.a.), who joined the Imam (‘a) a bit later, nonetheless wholeheartedly, said:
“If I were to be killed, then burned, then brought to life and then again be killed, and burned, and brought back to life again; and so, a thousand times again, and this becomes the means to protect you and your family from dying, I would do it!”
In the end, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) invoked divine blessings for them and said, by God’s witnessing, that there were no better companions on earth than his. The serene group devoted their last loving night in worshipping God, I prayers and by reciting the Holy Qur’an, whilst their peaceful souls were barely left in this world.27
The 10th of Muharram, also called Ashura, was initiated by the battle of Karbala. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), particular about peoples’ happiness and guidance, could not stand to see so many amongst the opposition go astray. They had broken their oaths, caused the death of Muslim (‘a), joined the enemy and turned against him. Nonetheless, the Imam (‘a) was concerned about their destinies. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) did not want to leave the smallest chance to undo a fate to which they were becoming his killers. Hence, he tried to, repeatedly, till the very end, to talk them out of it and awake the from slumber. Among other things, the Imam (‘a) said:
“O people of Iraq! Heed me and do not make haste to kill me so that I may tell you what I must, and appraise you of the reasons for my coming to Iraq. If you accept my explanation, believe in what I say and behave towards being fairly, and you will level for yourselves the path of prosperity, and have no reason to kill me. And even if you do not accept my excuse and deviate from the path of justice, you must ponder over the pros and cons of the matter before you kill me, and should not undertake such a delicate task rashly and without deliberation.
My support is the Almighty God Who has revealed the Qur’an. God guards His deserving servants.28
O, people! Identify me and see who I am. Then you will come to your senses and reproach yourselves. You should reflect carefully on whether it is permissible for you to kill me and to disregard the reverence due to me.
Am I not the son of your Prophet’s (S) daughter? Is the wasi (vicegerent) of your Prophet (S) and his cousin and the first person, who expressed belief in God and confirmed what was brought by His Prophet, not my father [Imam Ali (‘a)]? Is the Doyen of Martyrs Hamza Ibn Abdul Muttalib not the uncle of my father? Is the martyr Jafar Ibn Abu Talib who has two wings and flies with God’s angels, not my uncle?
Have you not heard that the Holy Prophet (S) has said about my brother and me: ‘These two sons of mine are the chiefs of the young men of Paradise.’?
If you think that whatever I am saying is true so much the better. I pledge by God that I know God hates the liars, and I have never told a lie. And even if you do not believe in my words and refute me, there are still some companions of the Holy Prophet (S) amongst you who, when asked, will apprise you of the facts.
Ask Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari, Abu Sa’id Khudari, Nahl Ibn Sadi, Zayd Ibn Arqam or Anas Ibn Malik, so that they may tell you that they have heard these words from the Holy Prophet (S) about my brother and me. Is this tradition itself not sufficient to restrain you from killing me? If you are doubtful about this tradition, can you doubt even this that I am the son of your Prophet’s (S) daughter? I pledge by God that between East and West, there is no son of the daughter of a Prophet (S) except me either amongst you or amongst others.
You should tell honestly whether I have killed anyone from amongst you so that you may take revenge! Is it that I have appropriated your wealth and you are claiming it? Have I injured you for which you have risen to compensate?”
None of them came forward to answer, and so Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) called some of them by name:
“O Shabath Ibn Rabie, Hajjar Ibn Abjar, Qays Ibn Ashath and Yazid Ibn Harith! Did you yourselves not write letters to me saying that the fruits have become ripe and the lands are green and fresh, and the soldiers of Iraq are ready to sacrifice their lives for you, and therefore, you should proceed to Iraq as early as possible?”
The Imam (‘a) was speaking to deaf ears.
Nonetheless, the Imam (‘a) kept trying to speak to the people on multiple occasions, and with various amounts of arguments, he tried reasoning with them so that they be reminded, awakened and refrain from causing unjust bloodshed. Even though all knew the Imam (‘a) and his kinship to the Holy Prophet (S), who ordered this grandson to be respected and revered by the people, the Imam (‘a) still announced himself and his origin. The Imam (‘a) reminded them of that which they already knew, of his position and personality, all in detail. However, the opposition drowned his voice by attacks.
The opposition consisted of tens of thousands of soldiers. They started the battle against Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) small company, including the Hashemites (from Bani Hashim), of only 72 people. Nonetheless, Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) soldiers fought bravely and became martyrs, one after the other. And still, the enemy showed no honour, overpowering each warrior with many soldiers attacking from all angles and with swords and spears.
As the time for prayers came, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) asked the fighting to stop so that they might pray. But even then, the enemy would not withdraw their attacks and shot spears on Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), and his companions whilst they were praying. Some companions of the Imam (‘a), stood bravely to receive spears whilst protecting the gathering with their bodies. Soon, they also became martyrs.
After the resumption of the fighting, the companions of the Imam (‘a) continued to speak to the people, but their voices were drowned and they attacked by troops. Al-Hurr (r.a.), Habib (r.a.) and forty-numbered others became martyrs, one after the other. The companions had asked the Imam (‘a) not to allow the Hashemites to join the battle, so long they lived. And as such, when all had become martyrs, the Hashemites were the only ones left to fight for the Imam (‘a). They asked for permission, and so joined the battleground, one after the other. Ali Akbar (‘a), Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) eldest son, joined first. He fought bravely until the enemy’s hate overpowered him and left him in pieces. One after the other, longing souls of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) household painted great scenes and rose to heaven; that until Qasim (‘a), the young son of Imam Al-Hasan (‘a), and eventually the beloved brother and biggest support of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), Abbas (‘a).
In the end, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) stood alone against tens of thousands of soldiers; however, his determination never faltered. He had now seen his companions, sons and brothers murdered, cold-bloodedly, and knew no hope remained for the evil enemies.
The Imam (‘a) started bidding farewell to his sister, Sayyida Zaynab (‘a), and left the women and children in her care. As the Imam (‘a) held Ali Asghar (‘a), his youngest son of six months, to his chest, the infant was nearly lifeless out of thirst. A last attempt to save someone from committing the unforgivable, the Imam (‘a) spoke to their humanity and asked to quench the infant’s thirst, saying:
“If you consider the adults to be liable, what is the fault of the child? If you do not believe in the punishment of God and the hereafter, be at least honourable in this life.”29
Seeing the infant, and the echo of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) call, caused noise among the opposition, between those who felt sorry for the child and called to quench his thirst, and those who considered the child to be from the same lineage as the adults and ought to be punished as well. When Omar Ibn Sa’d saw this commotion, he signalled Harmala to silence the disagreement. Harmala, the known archer, shot Ali Asghar’s (‘a) throat with a three-edged spear. And so, Ali Asghar (‘a) died in his father’s arms.
Now, nothing was left of the caravan except women and children, and the Imam’s (‘a) son Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), confined to his bed, unable to move. All companions, men from Bani Hashim and some women and children had been killed.
Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) stood facing thousands upon thousands of soldiers, alone. He was tired, thirsty and b’Adalahy injured. Still, he was determined to stand firm against injustice. He called out a phrase for everyone there to heed, but also for all coming generation:
“Is there not any helper to help me? Is there not anyone who can protect the household of the Prophet (S)?”
With this last call, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) fulfilled the argument and left no room for anyone not to see and rise against the clear, brutal oppression carried out. The last attempt to awake people, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) demonstrated yet another contradiction in killing the son of the Prophet (S), they claimed to follow and spilling an innocent’s blood who had journeyed to them in their own request. They brutally murdered the Prophet’s (S) household and refused to quench the children. They slaughtered and desecrated bodies and imprisoned the women and children.
In the end, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) became a martyr on the 10th of Muharram, year 61AH/680AD. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) fell to the ground, all while his call rose to the heavens and so echoes forever. This was the battle of a few steadfast followers. They fought bravely, till the last man and breath. This was a fight in which innocent blood defeated the sword.
The rise of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) was the start of upcoming revolutions causing the end of the Umayyad dynasty. The fight and revolutionary spirit became inspirational in fighting every oppressor throughout history, as Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) remembrance prepares for his descendant Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj)!
The worst consequence of leaving Imam Ali (‘a) had shown itself in Karbala. It was not enough that the Prophet (S) was refused to write down his last will, or attacking Fatimah az-Zahra’ (‘a) in her own home, or the isolation and fighting against Imam Ali (‘a), or the abandonment and poising of Imam Al-Hasan (‘a). The brutal massacre in Karbala had reached the ultimate level of oppression.
Alongside Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom, the Umayyads’ hypocrisy fell, and people realized that the Islamic state was run by those who actually fought Islam. The sacrifice of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) confirmed and marked the awakening and rise of the people. The slogan, “The avenging of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a)”, was used by the following revolutions, and so a consequence of the Imam’s (‘a) revolution. Ashura sparked embers within the Muslims’ hearts, leading to the fall of the Umayyad dynasty year 750 AD. A dynasty meant to last hundreds of years, a dynasty that corrupted religion thoroughly during its active years. The Umayyads could not govern peacefully as the revolutions following the martyrdom of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), was one after the other, so until the dynasty crumbled.
Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) lived the words, “rather die free than live in tyranny” in Karbala and became a historical freedom figure, inspiring every freedom fighter.30
What makes Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) movement alive and burning till this day, is that he showed that even a small numbered group can stand against the most powerful oppressors and still achieve victory. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) held the banner of truth and justice and with his and his companions’ blood exposed an earlier disguised line of lies and tyranny. It is a timeless message to all mankind.
When Yazid realized his governorship would not be accepted and legitimatized by Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), he decided on killing him and his followers. Yazid, alongside his subjects, among them Ibn Ziyad, thought they could silence Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and his call for haqq (justice and truth) with this massacre. By branding the Imam (‘a) as a rebel, desecrating corpses and treating his women and children as captives, they tried to firstly win over the public opinion so that the whole event would be forgotten. Little did they know that the remaining caravan, of women and children, would be the greatest witness to this gruesome crime and the frontrunner voices to retell the event of Karbala and so eternalize Ashura.
Yazid thought he had shaken off any possible threat and so could silence the event, which instead turned to a high echo, never to be silenced. At that time, whoever was in power could easily rouse public opinion to their own favour and steer people’s thoughts and opinions whichever direction they liked; not least through the propaganda machinery of Mu’awiya’s creation. Yazid’s government was in control of news and everything the public could know. However, they could not silence the massacre. Parading through cities with the remaining caravan of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), in order to humiliate the household of the Prophet (S) and condemn the Imam’s (‘a) movement, turned out to be the greatest proof against Yazid himself and the Umayyads.
Thanks to Sayyida Zaynab (‘a), Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) sister, the daughter of Imam Ali (‘a) and Fatimah az-Zahra’ (‘a), and her veracious speech that spread Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) message. She was taken captive alongside other women and children.
Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) was the only remaining adult male to survive the battle, due to his serious sickness, immobilizing him and preventing him from joining the battle. This caravan was led from one city to another until Sham. They were chained, and the heads of the martyrs were held up on spears. In every village and city, they were presented as faithless rebels. In the beginning, they were received by cheers, and people were celebrating the caliphate defeating rebels. However, every speech Sayyida Zaynab (‘a) gave, people came to realize the truth of their tragedy. Acknowledging that the caravan included the household of the Prophet (S), shook the people.
Lastly, when the caravan arrived in Sham, Damascus, Sayyida Zaynab (‘a) held a speech in the palace of Yazid, trembling a whole lot of the palace. Even Yazid’s court was startled and paralyzed in her great presence. Her courage and eloquence echoed truth as if her father Imam Ali (‘a) himself had emerged. As Yazid tried to kill Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), he was met by Sayyida Zaynab’s (‘a) fearless protection of him. Her strong stand made Yazid refrain from killing the Imam (‘a). The news of this spread fast, and people were astonished as they had thought that Yazid won a war against faithless rebels. Hence when the truth was revealed, people started worrying. And so, Yazid found himself trapped, unable to deny what had happened or kill the Imam (‘a) and so regain control. Fearing people would make a commotion, Yazid had to eventually release them and have them brought back to Medina, through Karbala, with Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) request.
The caravan of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) continued to spread the truth of what had happened in Karbala, and so Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) voice echoes forever in every corner of the world. The stand of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and his sacrifice in Ashura, have birthed the greatest revolutionary movement in the world, which millions of people remember and commemorate every year. Until this day, millions gather to be inspired and collect strength from Ashura and renew their oath to Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). The fact that we know of Islam and Ahl Al-Bayt’s (‘a) true line, is enough proof that Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) was victorious in Karbala!
Why are there yearly commemorations during Muharram? Why is Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) fight remembered? To get a clear idea of why Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) has such a prominent role in Islam, his role in saving the religion must be given attention.
To begin with, the era in which Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) lived, with its circumstances, is central. As the question of why Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) took a stand whilst other Imams (‘a) did not come up. All Imams (‘a) follow the same line and path and are all the same light. In other words, any other Imam (‘a) who would find himself in the same situation as that of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a), would have gone about things just the same. However, every era requires its special treatment and the requirements for an uprising were fulfilled with the conditions of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) time. While other Imams (‘a), living in other conditions, followed the same path and fulfilled their duties during that time’s state of things. To look closely at historical events is of importance in order to understand the ways in which the Imam’s acted. The time of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) required a special kind of sacrifice to save religion, its core and respect. This includes the key points of the brutal transgressions against the Prophet’s (S) grandson, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), is the result of the wrong path made when the first distortion and attack after the departure of the Holy Prophet (S). With his martyrdom, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) blocked this course changing into the main path, and so redirected people to the right path; which all Imams (‘a) strived for with their stands.
In actuality, the Imam’s (‘a) uprising and martyrdom happened in one of the most critical times in Islamic history. As earlier explained, Yazid no longer hid behind a religious façade, unlike his father Mu’awiya, but he committed unmoral acts and broke religious laws, openly. All while he was in a position and title of a Muslim caliph. In that high appointment, he ruled over the military and cultural forces and also controlled the Muslim state’s resources. With those means in the hands of such a person in power, society can be entirely led astray. However, the hypocrisy in which Mu’awiya governed was exposed, and the Umayyad’s hidden agenda had surfaced. Now, it was a question of Islam’s and the Muslim community’s survival. In other words, it was a fight about a line; manifested in Yazid, who openly violated Islam and at the same time ruled the Islamic state and pronounced himself the caliph. Whoever led this fight needed to once more manifest Islam and again reveal the path of truth, piety and justice. The leader to this resistance was no other than the grandson of the Prophet (S), himself a manifestation is the true spirit of Islam.
Furthermore, Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) stand was completely decisive in the question of the legitimacy of Yazid’s caliphate. The Imam (‘a) had a crucial role in society, that would he accept Yazid’s caliphate it would be as if accepting a tyrannical leader. This would mean that the Islamic state would, maybe forever, be deprived of the right to object and rise against oppressors and tyrants acting against Islam. Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) refusal to accept oppression initiated a movement in which Islam’s spirit fought a distorted Islam. This movement revealed the hypocrites. In this way, Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) revolution turned the tide, saving Islam and rendered its survival. Mu’awiya had destroyed so much that merely an empty shell of Islam remained if not Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) had revolutionized it. His revolution differed the Islam of Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) from other versions.
In such a way, Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) movement became a fight of its own time but also one to remain forever. The distorted path, violating Islam’s spirit throughout the years, and that would have eventually wiped it out, was fought. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) fulfilled with this fight an Imam’s purpose to guide people to God by shedding an eternal light on the reality of the Prophet’s (S) message and path, and manifest in wholly. With the Imam’s (‘a) revolution, the line of the Prophet (S), already under attack but slowly reducing, was brought back to its original track. If the distortion had continued, people would not have had any frame of reference for Islam, other than that which the people in power had presented. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) sacrificed everything to restore Islam’s image, as the Prophet (S) originally presented it, as left behind a practical manifestation of it. The Imam (‘a) did this for his people and for all generations to follow. The effects of Karbala have influenced people, throughout generations, and is nothing short of a miracle. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and his companions might have in appearance been brutally killed, lost their lives and suffered defeat on the battleground, but with their devoted sacrifices and their martyrdom they are immortalized and eternalized the fight for justice. Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) Ashura became the clearest form of fight between haqq and batil, at the same time concluding the future of the Prophet’s (S) guiding message so that you and I would be able to grow as people and reach the highest spiritual and human levels.
Another important aspect is that when the final Imam, Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj), returns he will introduce himself to the world by saying he is the grandson of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). In other words, it is above all through Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) will be known and accepted; by the banner, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) had raised and the spirit and path which he has illuminated and lived by. This whilst Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) is the final Imam to mainly fill the earth with justice and remove oppression, to make a path in which mankind prospers and evolves. The final Imam (‘aj) will fulfil that which all prophets (‘a) and their successors (‘a) path and missions, accomplished the purpose of the divine message and lead it to its finish line. Even here, the movement Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) led provides a driving force and source of inspiration in the fight against oppression and injustice and so preparation for Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) final victory.
With all this being said, the intellectual aspect of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) revolution varies gradually from one person to another and so develops over time. Accordingly, the depths of his eternalized revolution are revealed concurrently with mankind’s maturity. With the yearly commemorations of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), by retelling his story and reflecting on Ashura, this understanding is developed and matured. The spiritual aspect and connecting to the Imam (‘a), is included and also strengthened concurrently with deeper insights and knowledge.
A prominent indescribable aspect is grief itself and love for Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and the attraction force crossing all boundaries. This work of art, named Ashura, painted by Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and his followers, makes a compilation of the fairest human virtues and relations. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) is a burning, loving force touching hearts and making Ashura a meeting-point for all people to find themselves in. Consequently, Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) speaks directly do every human heart through Ashura, irrespective of era, age and nationality and beyond cultural and religious beliefs; a fact manifesting itself more and more throughout the years in Arbain.
Arbain is the human ocean flooded with people from every corner of the world and from every nationality, with various thoughts and beliefs, all united in answering Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) call.
The yearly occurrence of Arbain, literal meaning is “forty” and marks the fortieth day of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom, which is the yearly commemoration forty days after Ashura. People go, often in groups, from far and near, to Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) shrine in Karbala. The roads leading to Karbala, mainly the one starting in Najaf near Imam Ali’s (‘a) shrine, are packed with people. People journey by foot and along the way tents with food, drinks, berths and medical necessities, are found. The locals offer all of this free of charge and out of their generosity and hospitality, without state or organizational interference, but of their own will. People want to join this stream out of their love of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). The spirit of Arbain and its spiritual impression on people is indescribable and is a must-have experience. People’s sacrifice and love during this period make them offer all their belongings to the pilgrims. This conveys a human brotherhood of the highest level and is said to mirror the companions of the final Imam, Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj).
Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) paved the way for Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) revolution. Arbain gives a glimpse of this revolution; what it stands for, how it is led, and what it is meant to accomplish. As a matter of fact, Arbain represents a movement in which Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) spirit manifests more evidently for those who wish to walk on this path and promote the spirit of haqq (truth), all needed in order to be prepared for the awaited Imam’s (‘aj) arrival.
Am I Prepared For A Time Of Justice Actualized By A Leader – Will I Let Something Stand Between The Imam (‘Aj) And I?
The known quote by Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a), “every day is Ashura and every land is Karbala”, illuminate the necessity to a continued fight against injustice and oppression at all times. This fight ought to be on the path of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) revolution, continuing to each day inspire people. The struggle of the self, and also in society, will eventually lead to the revolution of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj). Every human, in every time and era, has special roles that ought to be rightly acted on in regard to time and place. This will eventually lead to the maturity and evolvement of mankind.
In such a way, the uprising of Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and the devotion of his companions are filled with lessons preparing us for the arrival of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj), mainly teaching a true companions way of being.
The fate of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) companions – their deviation or connection with the Imam’s (‘a) journey, bear lots of revelations in itself. History accounts that Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) was joined by many when leaving Medina, and left with a small number in Karbala. Some followed along with the hope of overtaking Kufa and without mention of death or defeat, whilst others stood by the Imam (‘a) till death. Some advised him, with no regard to his complete knowledge of all things, while others aided with their mere belongings, which the Imam (‘a) dismissed. Several others left the Imam (‘a) at the last moment, while others joined him by then. A fraction took their leave to finish their personal matters, to later come back again, however never made it. And a small number stood by until the very last minute. Those were the awake and loving souls, preventing anything from coming between them and their Imam (‘a). Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) urged them to leave him without blame, yet they stuck by refusing to leave him alone. Reflecting on these people’s fates, their backgrounds and earlier life choices, is like holding the answers for a personal action plan and evaluation.
Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj), who is for all people and who shall lead the whole world with justice and truth, will not come until the world is prepared for him and for the realization of mankind’s utopia. There must be a fundamental susceptibility in people at large, as longing for justice must transform from mere words and slogans to inner yearning. Moreover, there must be devout companions to the Imam (‘aj). Those who live by these principles and have prepared themselves to answer to the Imam (‘aj). They will not allow anything standing in the way for their commitment or alter their perception, unlike that which befell the kufans.
- 1. This is narrated, among others. in sources like Kafi by Kulayni volume 6 p.33-34; Ilal ash-Shara’i’ by Sheikh Sadooq volume 1 p.137-138; Misbah Al-Mujtahajjid by Sheikh Al-Tusi p.367; Manaqib Aal Abi Talib by Ibn Shahrashub volume 3 p.397; Kashf Al-Ghumma by Arbili volume 1 p.525 et al.
- 2. This and many other similar ahadith have been narrated in most Sunni and Shi’a sources, including in Ansab Al-Ashraf volume 3 p.142; at-Tabaqat Al-Kubra volume 10 p.385 et al.
- 3. These verses and their related events have been described in detail earlier in the book; see G4.
- 4. This is made clear in the history and is narrated, among other things in sources such as Manaqeb Aal Ali Ibn Abi Talib by Ibn Shahrashub volume 4 p. 87 and Al-Irshad by Sheikh Mufid volume 2 p. 32 et al.
- 5. This is mentioned, in Al-Imama wa as-Siyasa by Ibn Qutayba (published 1410 AD) volume 1 p. 202-204 and 208-211; Al-Akhbar Al-Tiwal by Al-Dinawari p. 224-225; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari volume 5 p. 120–121; Tabaqat Al-Kubra by Ibn Saad volume 10 p. 440; Tarikh Al-Islam by Thahabi (published 1409 AD) volume 5 p. 6; Tarikh Madinat Dameshq by Ibn Asakir (published 1415 AD) volume 14 p. 206 et al.
- 6. Yazid’s personality traits and lifestyle were known to the people and have been narrated in several historical accounts including Tarikh Madinat Dameshq by Ibn Asakir (published 1415 AD) volume 65 p. 397; Al-Kamil fi at Tarikh by Ibn Athir volume 4 p. 127; Tarikh Ya’qoobi volume 2 p. 160; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari (published 1417 AD) volume 5 p. 297; and Bani Umayya dar Tarikh by Faqihi (published 1413 AD) p. 33–34 et al.
- 7. This is narrated, among other, in Tarikh Ya’qoobi volume 2 p. 177; Al-Kamil fi at-Tarikh by Ibn Athir volume 4p.s 14; Maqtal Al-Husayn (‘a) by Azodi p. 3 et al.
- 8. The course of events in connection with Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a), with his family, leaving Medina for Mecca and then towards Kufa and the surrounding events are narrated in the majority of historical accounts including Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari volume 3 p. 160; Al-Fotooh by Ibn A’tham (published 1991 AD) volume 5 p. 27-28; and Al- Irshad volume 2 p. 36–37 et al.
- 9. Although there are some differences in the exact number of people accompanying Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), the number is around eighty in the majority of historical accounts, including Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al-Molook by Tabari (published 1967 AD) volume 5 p. 341; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari volume 3 p. 160; Al-Fotooh by Ibn A’tham volume 5 p. 228; and Al-Irshad by Sheikh Mufid (published 1399 AD) volume 2 p. 34; Amali by Sheikh Sadooq p. 152–153 et al
- 10. The Imam’s (‘a) half-brother Muhammad Al-Hanafiyya and the Imam’s (‘a) cousins Abdullah Ibn Ja’far and Abdullah Ibn Abbas were among those who dissuaded the Imam (‘a) and remained in Medina.
- 11. Zuhayr Ibn Qayn (r.a.) was one of Kufa’s prominent personalities who sympathized with Uthman and was not very kind to Imam Ali (‘a). For a while, his journey with his caravan coincided with Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) caravan. However, Zuhayr (r.a.) stayed away from the Imam (‘a) and initially refrained from meeting Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) when the Imam (‘a) sent after him. But at the urging of his wife, Dulham, Zuhayr (r.a.) finally went to the meet the Imam (‘a). No one knows more about the meeting between Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and Zuhayr (r.a.) but when Zuhayr (r.a.) returned he was determined to accompany Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) even if it cost him his life. He left all his wealth to his wife, who also joined Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) caravan.
- 12. Ubaydullah Ibn Al-Hurr Jo’fi was one of Kufa’s leading personalities and a symphasizer with Uthman, whose path coincided with Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) at a point along the road to Kufa. Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) went to meet Ibn Al-Hurr and offered him to join the Imam (‘a).
- 13. Sulayman Ibn Sorad was one of Kufa’s prominent personalities and one of the leading persons who called Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) to Kufa in the letters sent to the Imam (‘a). However, he became one of those who left Muslim Ibn Aqil (r.a.) alone at the critical stage when Ibn Ziyad took over Kufa. After Ashura, he and many who had followed him came to realize and regret his mistake and started the movement of Tawwabin (the repenters).
- 14. Habib Ibn Madhaher (r.a.), Muslim Ibn ‘Awsaja (r.a.) and Abdullah Ibn Umayr (r.a.) and his wife Umm Wahab bint Abd (r.a.) joined the Imam (‘a) in Karbala after escaping Kufa’s siege. These were among the Prophet’s (S) companions and Habib (r.a.) and Muslim (r.a.) had also fought alongside Imam Ali (‘a).
- 15. Maytham Al-Tammar (r.a.) and Mukhtar Ibn Ubaydullah Al-Thaqafi (r.a.) were among those whom Ibn Ziyad had imprisoned in Kufa. While Maytham (r.a.) was executed and reached martyrdom in connection with the uprising he started in prison when the news of Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom reached him, Mukhtar managed to be released and revenged in the coming years after Ashura. Many of these historical events and the entire course of events surrounding Ashura and Mukhtar’s revenge are narrated in the series Mukhtarnameh, which is subtitled in Swedish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPaBklYyuM0
- 16. Both Muslim Ibn Aqil (r.a.), Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) cousin and emissary to Kufa, and Hani Ibn ‘Urwa (r.a.) were among the Prophet’s (S) companions who were captured and murdered by Ibn Ziyad when he captured Kufa, and reached martyrdom before Ashura.
- 17. Al-Hurr Ibn Yazid Riyahi (r.a.) was the commander of Yazid’s dispatched army and had stopped Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and his caravan from continuing their journey towards Kufa, or in any other direction. On the Day of Ashura, after seeing himself in a fork where one road would lead to paradise and the other to hell, Al-Hurr (r.a.) joined Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) who received him with open arms. Al-Hurr (r.a.) was one of the first to reach martyrdom on the Day of Ashura.
- 18. Dhahhak Ibn Abdullah was a person who joined the Imam (‘a) with the condition to fight alongside him until they reach hope or victory. In the middle of the Day of Ashura when most of the Imam’s (‘a) companions had reached martyrdom and the Imam (‘a) stood alone, Dhahhak left the Imam (‘a) and rode away.
- 19. Haffhaf Ibn Muhannad (r.a.) made his way from Basra to Kufa to join the Imam (‘a) but arrived late on the Day of Ashura after Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom. Nevertheless, this did not stop him from attacking the enemies and fought against them until he reached martyrdom and joined his Imam (‘a).
- 20. Among the arguments that have been used extensively throughout history to subjugate people and prevent them from rising to tyrannical rule are sayings referred to the Prophet (S) where protest and rebellion against the ruler would have been banned and classified as unfaithful.
- 21. Ibn Ziyad was known for his insidiousness and shrewdness and had been appointed regent earlier to knock down any resistance movements and protests in Basra. His entry into Kufa, his tactical divide between the people and the way he played them against each other, and the course of events in Kufa are detailed in history including in Tarikh Tabari (published 1387 AD) volume 7 p. 229; Moqatel at-Talibin by Abu Al-Faraj Al-Isfahani (published 1368 AD) volume 1 p. 97 et al.
- 22. These events are narrated in several historical accounts, including Tarikh Tabari (published 1387 AD) volume 7 p. 229-231 and 270 et al.
- 23. The events surrounding the siege of Kufa’s palace and Ibn Ziyad’s trick to frighten and divide people and disperse them from around Muslim Ibn Aqil are detailed in history including in Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al-Molook by Tabari (published 1387 AD) volume 5 p. 368– 371; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari (published 1974 AD) volume 2 p. 80–81 et al.
- 24. The numbers given in historical accounts regarding the number of people who swore allegiance to Muslim Ibn Aqil (‘a) and therefore Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), vary between 12000, 18000 and 30000; Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al-Molook by Tabari volume 5 p. 348; Al-Akhbar at-Tiwal (published 1330 AD) p. 235; Al-Imama wa as-Siyasa by Ibn Qutayba ad-Daynoori (published 1413 AD) volume 2 p. 8 et al. Since Kufa was originally a military city with over 60000 soldiers, it means that about a third of the city had sworn allegiance and were willing to rise against Bani Umayya. This while the majority of the remaining were neither the opponent of the Imam (‘a) nor the supporters of Bani Umayya and took a “neutral” position which Ibn Ziyad came to exploit later. Those who rose with Muslim Ibn Aqil after Ibn Ziyad imprisoned Hani Ibn Urwa, are said to have been around 4,000; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari (published 1974 AD) volume 2 p. 80; Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al- Molook by Tabari p. 368–371 et al.
- 25. The fate of Muslim Ibn Aqil (‘a) in Kufa is narrated in the majority of historical accounts including Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al- Molook by Tabari volume 5 p. 350 and 374; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari volume 2 p. 81; Morooj ath-Thahab by Mas’oodi volume 3 p. 65; Al-Fotooh by Ibn A’tham Al-Kofi (published 1411 AD) volume 5 p. 62; and Al-Irshad by Sheikh Mufid (published 1414 AD) p. 53–63 et al.
- 26. These and similar statements by Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), which from one aspect summed the Imam’s (‘a) vision and core of his movement, have been portrayed in several sources, including Bihar Al-Anwar volume 44 p. 329; Ihqaq Al-Haqq volume 11 p. 60 et al.
- 27. The course of events during the night to Ashura and Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) statements as well as his companions’ statements of faithfulness have been extensively narrated in many sources with minor word variation but with the same message; Al-Irshad by Sheikh Mufid volume 2 p. 91–94 and volume 3 p. 93–95; A’lam Al-Wara by Tabarsi (published 1390 AD) volume 1 p. 239 et al. While Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) claimed their duty in upholding the pledge of allegiance they swore to him, the Imam’s (‘a) companions declared their faithful persistence to the Imam (‘a) until death; and this may be one of the secrets behind their greatness and perpetuation.
- 28. Reference to The Holy Qur’an 7:196.
- 29. The course of events under Ashura as well as Imam Al-Husayn’s (‘a) statements, including the present one, have been narrated in several sources including Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari volume 3 p. 407; Tarikh Tabari volume 5 p. 450; Tabaqat Al-Kubra by Ibn Saad volume 6 p. 440; Moqatel at-Talibin by Abu Al-Faraj Al-Isfahani p. 118 et al. In the present text, only a summary of some of Ashura’s most important events and key phrases have been narrated in a compilation that will provide the reader with only an overview. For more on the entire course of events, the reader is referred to existing historical depictions where more details can be found. Note that some details in the historical depictions may be partly different or narrated in different order, which is because they have been narrated by a number of eyewitnesses and narrators, but the entirety of all versions is largely the same.
- 30. Gandhi has been among those who cited Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) and his revolution as a source of inspiration for his battle, saying “I learned from Al-Husayn how to be wronged and be a winner, I learnt from Al-Husayn how to attain victory while being oppressed.”