The story of the martyrdom of Hazrat Syyedana Iman Hussein. R.A., which took place at Karbala within fifty years of the demise of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ u.w.b.p.) is indeed a heart-rending incident and will move the coldest reader to tears. In my humble way, I have tried in this article to write a word or two on so great a soul as Imam Hussein who sacrificed all his personal belongings, his very kith and kin, nay his very precious life for truth and justice at the armed forces of Yazeid the so-called ruler – the usurper.
Hazrat Syyedana Imam Hussein was born on the 3rd of Shabaan, 4 A. H. whilst his elder brother Hazrat Imam Hassan was born on the 15th of Ramadan, 3 A.H.
Prophet’s love for Hassan and Hussein
The Holy Prophet’s love for Hassan and Hussein knew no bounds. Once when Prophet Muhammad p.b.o.h. was engaged in prayer the boys approached him. When he stood up they walked around him, and when he prostrated they climbed over his back and neck. After the Holy Prophet finished the service, a certain man standing by criticized the action of the boys but the Holy Prophet rebuked him saying “Whoever respects not his elders and loves not his youngsters is not one of us!” “I love them” continued the Holy Prophet. “Not because they are my grandchildren, but because they are the beloved of God.” This gives an idea of the high esteem in which Hassan and Hussein were held.
The Holy Prophet was told by the Angel Gabriel that one of his grandsons would be martyred at Karbala. Hazrat Moula Ali, the father of Hassan and Hussein, said that nothing grieved him more than when the Holy Prophet intimated to him that one of his sons would be martyred at Karbala. The Holy Prophet had asked the Angel to bring him a handful of dirt from Karbala that he may see the earth on which his grandson would be martyred. The earth was later ‘given to Umm Salma, wife of the Holy Prophet with the instructions “Place this earth in a clean bottle, and when you see this earth becomes red, it is a clear sign that my grandson is killed.” The prediction came to pass. History bore testimony to that Umm Salma survived the battle Of Karbala and witnessed the prediction.
The history is a long one, but suffice it to say that after the death of Amir Muahwiah, his son Yazied declared himself as the ruler and head of the Muslim World. Yazied was a misfit from many angles. The Syrians acknowledge him, maybe because he lived there at Damascus, but the Muslims outside of Syria had no confidence in him. Yazied himself knew of his many short-comings,
Imam Hussein invited to Iraq
Meanwhile, no less than 150 letters came to Imam Hussein from the citizens of Kufa in Iraq inviting him to lead them spiritually as the Imam of the day. In a short while, the holy family left Medina for Mecca, sending one Hazrat Muslim by name and cousin of the Imam, to Kufa for an on-the-spot investigation. Hazrat Muslim was given a rousing welcome on his arrival and no less than 130,000 Iraqis took Baiyat or the Oath Of allegiance to Imam Hussein. Hazrat Muslim, therefore, wrote the Imam giving him the news and asking him to come along without delay.
Historians are unanimous that Imam Hussein left Mecca on the 8th Zil Haj, reaching Karbala on the 2nd Muharram 61 A.H.; corresponding with the 1st October 680 AD.
The then Governor namely, Obeidullah, son of Ziad, had thirty thousand soldiers under the command of Omar, son of Saad, who guarded the banks of the river Euphrates preventing the Imam and his companions numbering 72, aged from 6 months to 82 years, from proceeding further and demanding that the Imam must acknowledge son of Muahwiah as the ruler and head of the Muslim world. Imam Hussein could never accept a man like Yazied a drunkard, a man of loose morals, a usurper, as head of the Muslim world.
- Negotiations then began between the Imam of the day and Omar, son of Saad. Even a western writer and one of the great historians, namely Edward Gibbons, tells us that Hazrat Imam Hussein, R.A., made three, valuable suggestions:‘You the Iraqis have invited me here’ said Imam Hussein ‘and I have some of those letters in my possession, but if you change now then allow me to go back to Medina and settle there by the tomb of my grandfather. ‘
- ‘There are some disturbances at one of the borders of the Muslim Empire’ the Imam suggested. ‘Let me go there, perchance I may be killed defending the Muslim cause.’
- ‘Or as an alternative, take me alive to the court of Yazied at Damascus and it Will be a matter between him and me.’
My dear readers, all these suggestions were turned down. Finally, on the evening of the 9th Muharram, Omar, son of Saad, Commander in charge of Yazied soldiers, decided to fight.
The Imam said: ‘From childhood, I have been devoted to prayer and supplications. I would like to have the night devoted to same.’ After some reluctance, his request was granted. The Imam spent the night not only in prayers and devotions, for he had certain duties and responsibility discharge. He consoled the ladies, his wife, his sisters and others, and advised them as to their behavior after he is killed on the next day, by the herd and heretics Yazied, as they would be all taken as prisoners to the court of Yazidi at Damascus.
Betrayed and abandoned by his hosts.
Early in the morning of the 10th of Muharram 61 A.H.; corresponding with the 9th October 680 A.D., the battle of Karbala started. The faithful companions of the Imam would not allow him to fight as long as they were alive. They said ‘What face will show Allah and His Prophet on the day of Qayamat to allow you to light in our presence?’ And so they all, one by one were killed after severe fighting.
Hazrat Imam Zainul Abadeen (as); eldest son of Imam Hussein, was sick with high fever. and from the heat or the sun, the beating of drums, and the attitude of Yazeid’s; was in a state of lethargy. The second son Hazrat Imam Muhammad Akbar youth of 18, then got ready to fight, came to his father and sought his permission. It is said that Imam Muhammad Akbar resembled the Holy Prophet so much that the old and pious people of Medina would travel miles and miles to throw a glance at him to refresh their memory of the Holy Prophet. And so the Imam of the day would not allow Akbar to fight, but the lad insisted. The Imam then requested him to get his mother’s permission. This was obtained. Finally, Hazrat Muhammad Akbar was dressed and given a horse and he came out riding up to the enemies. At first, the enemies thought it was the Holy Prophet whom Allah has sent back in his youth as a miracle but there were others who recognized him. He himself did not keep his identity in obscurity but said “Do you know who I am? I am Akbar, son of Hussein, son of Ali.” After addressing them Akbar made a dash on the enemies, went right in the heart of the crowd and returned to his father with several arrow wounds and cuts saying “Father I am thirsty.” Imam Hussein placed his tongue in son’s mouth and thus quenched his son’s thirst, saying “Son! The Hurr and Angels are awaiting you with Aab Kowsar in Jannat.” Imbued anew with inspiration Hazrat Akbar jumped on his horse and dashed on the enemies. He was subsequently thrown off his horse in an unconscious condition; his body was dragged to Imam Hussein’s camp, and whilst the Imam was brushing off the sands from the hero’s face the boy looked up to him and passed away with a smile.
No mercy was shown even to an infant
Hazrat Imam Hussein then got ready, about to leave the tent, when he heard a crying. He rushed in and saw it was his son Muhammad Asghar, a child of 6 months, dying from want of water and milk. There was no food and water for three days, thus there was no milk in the mother’s breast for the babe. Hazrat Imam Hussein took the child in his arms and covered it with a sheet and came riding on a horse. With the full presence of mind, he addressed the enemies saying “Is there any law in the world to condemn a child 6 months old? What wrong can a child of 6 months do? If you think I want water,” continued the Imam “I want none. Here is a child,” He then uncovered the child. “Are you thirsty?” asked the Imam. The child miraculously took out his tongue. “Take this child to the river and give him some water” continued the Imam. Whilst addressing the enemies one of them said. “Don’t listen to him, his father was an orator and he too will speak for hours,’ and fired a poisonous arrow. Imam Hussein saw the arrow coming flying and raised his arms to shield the child, but the arrow pierced through his arm and killed the child in his hand. With full presence of mind, he again addressed the enemies, reminding them of their duty towards God and the Holy Prophet and his position so that on the day of Qayamat they (the enemies) will not say it was done at the heat of the moment.
A small faction joined in his defense
The Imam then called “Is there anyone to help in the cause Of Allah?” Hurr Shaheed who was in charge of one of the Wings in the enemy’s Camp came up riding to the Imam. The enemies thought that Hurr would have a combat with the Imam, but Hurr bowed in reverence to the Imarn and whispered: “O Imam if make Towba now, will it be accepted?” The Imam said “Yes. even now.’ Hurr then dashed to his camp exhorted the soldiers to join Imam Hussein. No less than 30 persons joined the Imam. and thus the battle was prolonged. All thirty were subsequently Shaheed.
Imam Hussein was brutally slain
The enemies then turned on the Imam, and after severe fighting, whilst in communion with his God. his Creator and Maker, a coward named Shamar rushed forward and severed the Imam head from his body. (“From God we are sent and to him, we return.”—Al Quran).
My friends, in this brutal way was the godly soul, whose concern was his unmingled devotion to his Creator, his firmness of faith in God, his sincere desire to support and defend moral and social principles inculcated by God and his Prophet, and his refusal to acknowledge sovereignty of an atheistic rake (in this brutal way) was he ruthlessly butchered by a devil and his satanic forces. Hussein suffered a physical defeat but gained a moral victory. Yazied the monster with all the power at his disposal could not make him yield, nay never.
Imam Hussein’s body was destroyed, cut to pieces and trampled under the hoofs of horses, but his faith in the existence of God and in the truth of his grandfather’s messages and his unwavering conviction of the future life had remained unshaken. There is no rational being that does not praise him his labours in emancipating humanity from the bonds physical supremacy and cunning diplomacy held on learning and virtue, Yazied tried to annihilate Imam Hussein but was himself annihilated, Imam Hussein still lives in the hearts of millions, nay hundreds of millions of his lovers …… and who will not love him?
Imam Hussein lives on with sustenance from God
This is what we read in the Holy Quran 3:169.
“And reckon not those who are killed in Allah’s way as dead: Nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord.”
Yazied is dead in the real sense; for there is none Who does not hate him. Hussein’s progeny has spread with such leaps and bounds that there is not a single village or locality containing Muslim population where there is not a Sayyed or descendant of Hussein through his eldest son Imam Zainul Abadeen (as) (the Ornament Of the Pious) who miraculously survived the Battle of Karbala. Thus Yazied failed miserably in his attempts. Imam Hussein has really won, though penniless, and unsupported before he left this world deprived of food and water for three consecutive days he has proved to the world, not in theory, but by practical form, that man can live without bread and water. He has left a world of lessons by supporting unshrinkingly, the Divine Religion, Truth, Liberty of Thought, Deed and Virtue; in its every shape and form; under the most adverse and pressing circumstances. He upheld the laws of humanity with such zeal, vigour, and self-abnegation that other nations too ought to commemorate his martyrdom in the month of Muharram with as much enthusiasm and piety as Muslims themselves. I hope the whole of humanity will join with me in requesting the Lord Creator to send down upon the soul of the Imam and his valiant and pious supporters unbounded blessings. Ameen.
Originally published in the Islamic Herald, printed and distributed in Trinidad.