Imam-Hussein (a.s.) - Light of Islam

Imam Husayn (A:S)



Husayn (Sayyid al-Shuhada', "the lord among
martyrs"), the second child of Ali and Fatimah, was
born in the year 4 A.H. and after the martyrdom of his
brother, Imam Hasan Mujtaba, became Imam through Divine
Command and his brother's will.

Imam Husayn was Imam for a period of ten years, all
but the last six months coinciding with the caliphate of

Imam Husayn lived under the most difficult outward
conditions of suppression and persecution. This was due
to the fact that first of all, religious laws and
regulations had lost much of their weight and credit, and
the edicts of the Umayyad government had gained complete
authority and power. Secondly, Mu'awiyah and his aides
made use of every possible means to put aside and move
out of the way the Household of the Prophet and the
Shi'ah, and thus obliterate the name of Ali and his
family. And above all, Mu'awiyah wanted to strengthen the
basis of the caliphate of his son, Yazid, who because of
his lack of principles and scruples was opposed by a
large group of Muslims. Therefore, in order to quell all
opposition, Mu'awiyah had undertaken newer and more
severe measures. By force and necessity Imam Husayn had
to endure these days and to tolerate every kind of mental
and spiritual agony and affliction from Mu'awiyah and his
aides-until in the middle of the year A.H. Mu'awiyah died
and his son Yazid took his place.

Paying allegiance (bay'ah) was an old Arab
practice which was carried out in important matters such
as that of kingship and governorship. Those who were
ruled, and especially the well-known among them, would
give their hand in allegiance, agreement and obedience to
their king or prince and in this way would show their
support for his actions.

Disagreement after allegiance was considered as
disgrace and dishonor for a people and, like breaking an
agreement after having signed it officially, it was
considered as a definite crime, Following the example of
the Holy Prophet, people believed that allegiance, when
given by free will and not through force, carried
authority and weight.

Mu'awiyah had asked the well-known among the people to
give their allegiance to Yazid, but had not imposed this
request upon Imam Husayn. He had especially told Yazid in
his last will that if Husayn refused to pay allegiance he
should pass over it in silence and overlook the matter,
for he had understood correctly the disastrous
consequences which would follow if the issue were to be
pressed. But because of his egoism and recklessness,
Yazid neglected his father's advice and immediately after
the death of his father ordered the governor of Medina
either to force a pledge of allegiance from Imam Husayn
or send his head to Damascus.

After the governor of Medina informed Imam Husayn of
this demand the Imam, in order to think over the
question, asked for a delay and overnight started with
his family toward Mecca. He sought refuge in the
sanctuary of God which in Islam is the official place of
refuge and security. This event occurred toward the end
of the month of Rajab and the beginning of Sha'ban of 60

For nearly four months Imam Husayn stayed in Mecca in
refuge. This news spread throughout the Islamic world. On
the one hand many people who were tired of the iniquities
of Mu'awiyah's rule and were even more dissatisfied when
Yazid became caliph, corresponded with Imam Husayn and
expressed their sympathy for him. On the other hand a
flood of letters began to flow, especially from Iraq and
particularly the city of Kufa, inviting the Imam to go to
Iraq and accept the leadership of the populace there with
the aim of beginning an uprising to overcome injustice
and iniquity.

Naturally such a situation was dangerous for Yazid.

The stay of Imam Husayn in Mecca continued until the
season for pilgrimage when Muslims from all over the
world poured in groups into Mecca in order to perform the
rites of the hajj'. The Imam discovered that some of the
followers of Yazid had entered Mecca as pilgrims (hajjis)
with the mission to kill the Imam during the rites of
hajj with the arms they carried under their special
pilgrimage dress (ihrami).

The Imam shortened the pilgrimage rites and decided to

Amidst the vast crowd of people he stood up and in a
short speech announced that he was setting out for Iraq.

In this short speech he also declared that he would be
martyred and asked Muslims to help him in attaining the
goal he had in view and to offer their lives in the path
of God. On the next day he set out with his family and a
group of his companions for Iraq.

Imam Husayn was determined not to give his allegiance
to Yazid and knew full well that he would be killed. He
was aware that his death was inevitable in the face of
the awesome military power of the Umayyads, supported as
it was by corruption in certain sectors, spiritual
decline, and lack of will power among the people,
especially in Iraq. Some of the outstanding people of
Mecca stood in the way of Imam Husayn and warned him of
the danger of the move he was making. But he answered
that he refused to pay allegiance and give his approval
to a government of injustice and tyranny. He added that
he knew that wherever he turned or went he would be
killed. He would leave Mecca in order to preserve the
respect for the house of God and not allow this respect
to be destroyed by having his blood spilled there.

While on the way to Kufa and still a few days' journey
away from the city, he received news that the agent of
Yazid in Kufa had put to death the representative of the
Imam in that city and also one of the Imam' s determined
supporters who was a well-known man in Kufa.

Their feet had been tied and they had been dragged
through the streets.

The city and its surroundings were placed under strict
observation and countless soldiers of the enemy were
awaiting him. There was no way open to him but to march
ahead and to face death. It was here that the Imam
expressed his definitive determination to go ahead and be
martyred: and so he continued on his journey.

Approximately seventy kilometres from Kufa, in a
desert named Karbala, the Imam and his entourage were
surrounded by the army of Yazid. For eight days they
stayed in this spot during which the circle narrowed and
the number of the enemy's army; increased.

Finally the Imam, with his household and a small
number of companions were encircled by an army of thirty
thousand soldiers.

During these days the Imam fortified his position and
made a final selection of his companions. At night he
called his companions and during a short speech stated
that there was nothing ahead but death and martyrdom. He
added that since the enemy was concerned only with his
person he would free them from all obligations so that
anyone who wished could escape in the darkness of the
night and save his life. Then he ordered the lights to be
turned out and most of his companions, who had joined him
for their own advantage, dispersed. Only a handful of
those who loved the truth about forty of his close aides
-and some of the Banu Hashim remained.

Once again the Imam assembled those who were left and
put them to a test. He addressed his companions and
Hashimite relatives, saying again that the enemy was
concerned only with his person. Each could benefit from
the darkness of the night and escape the danger. But this
time the faithful companions of the Imam answered each in
his own way that they would not deviate for a moment from
the path of truth of which the Imam was the leader and
would never leave him alone. They said they would defend
his household to the last drop of their blood and as long
as they could carry a sword.

On the ninth day of the month the last challenge to
choose between "allegiance or war" was made by
the enemy to the Imam.

The Imam asked for a delay in order to worship
overnight and became determined to enter battle on the
next day.

On the tenth day of Muharram of the year 61/680 the
Imam lined up before the enemy with his small band of
followers, less than ninety persons consisting of forty
of his companions thirty some members of the army of the
enemy that joined him during the night and day of war,
and his Hashimite family of children, brothers, nephews,
nieces and cousins. That day they fought from morning
until their final breath, and the Imam, the young
Hashimites and the companions were all martyred. Among
those killed were two children of Imam Hasan, who were
only thirteen and eleven years old; and a five-year-old
child and a suckling baby of Imam Husayn.From Inside the holy shrine in Karbala, Iraq

The army of the enemy, after ending -the war,
plundered the haram of the Imam and burned his tents.
They decapitated the bodies of the martyrs, denuded them
and threw them to the ground without burial. Then they
moved the members of the haram, all of whom were
helpless women and girls, along with the heads of the
martyrs, to Kufa.

Among the prisoners there were three male members: a
twenty-two year old son of Imam Husayn who was very ill
and unable to move, namely Ali ibn Husayn, the fourth
Imam; his four year old son, Muhammad ibn Ali, who became
the fifth Imam; and finally Hasan Muthanna, the son of
the second Imam who was also the son-in-law of Imam
Husayn and who, having been wounded during the war, lay
among the dead. They found him near death and through the
intercession of one of the generals did not cut off his
head. Rather, they took him with the prisoners to Kufa
and from there to Damascus before Yazid.

The event of Karbala, the capture of the women and
children of the Household of the Prophet, their being
taken as prisoners from town to town and the speeches
made by the daughter of Ali, Zaynab, and the fourth Imam
who were among the prisoners, disgraced the Umayyads.
Such abuse of the Household of the Prophet annulled the
propaganda which Mu'awiyah had carried out for years. The
matter reached such proportions that Yazid in public
disowned and condemned the actions of his agents. The
event of Karbala was a major factor in the overthrow Or
Umayyad rule although its effect was delayed. It also
strengthened the roots of Shi'ism. Among its immediate
results were the revolts and' rebellions combined with
bloody wars which continued for twelve years. Among those
who were instrumental in the death of the Imam not one
was able to escape revenge and punishment.

Anyone who studies closely the history of the life of
Imam Husayn and Yazid and the conditions that prevailed
at that time, and analyzes this chapter of Islamic
history, will have no doubt that in those circumstances
there was no choice before Imam Husayn but to be killed.
Swearing allegiance to Yazid would have meant publicly
showing contempt for Islam, something which was not
possible for the Imam, for Yazid not only showed no
respect for Islam and its injunctions but also made a
public demonstration of impudently treading under foot
its basis and its laws. Those before him, even if they
opposed religious injunctions, always did so in the guise
of religion, and at least formally respected religion.Hussein

They took pride in being companions of the Holy
Prophet and the other religious figures in whom people
believed. From this it can be concluded that the claim of
some interpreters of these events is false when they say
that the two brothers, Hasan and Husayn, had two
different tastes and that one Chose the way of peace and
the other the way of war, so that one brother made peace
with Mu'awiyah although he had an army of forty thousand
while the other went to war against Yazid with an army of
forty. For we see that this same Imam Husayn, who refused
to pay allegiance to Yazid for one day lived for ten
years under the rule of Mu'awiyah, in the same manner as
his brother who also had endured for ten years under
Mu'awiyah, without opposing him.

It must be said in truth that if Imam Hasan or Imam
Husayn had fought Mu'awiyah they would have been killed
without there being the least benefit for Islam.

Their deaths would have had no effect before the
righteous-appearing policy of Mu'awiyah, a competent
politician who emphasized his being a companion of the
Holy Prophet, the "scribe of the revelation,"
and "uncle of the faithful" and who used every
stratagem possible to preserve a religious guise for his
rule. Moreover, with his ability to set the stage to
accomplish his desires he could have had them killed by
their own people and then assumed a state of mourning and
sought to revenge their blood, just as he sought to give
the impression that he was avenging the killing of the
third caliph.