The Martyrdom Of
Hazrat Syedana Imam Hosein, R.A.
By Al-Haj Moulvi Fateh Dad Khan
The story of the martyrdom of Hazrat Sayedana Imam Hosein, R.A., which took place at Karbala within fifty years of the demise of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (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 Hosein 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.
The Holy Prophet's love for Hassan and Hosein 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 criticised 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 give an idea of the high esteem in which Hassan and Hosein were held.
The Holy Prophet was told by the Angel Gabriel that one of his grandsons would be martyred at Karbala. Hazrat Moula Ali, father of Hassan and Hosein, 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 Umma 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 the fact that Umma 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 Muahyiah, 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.
Meanwhile no less than 150 letters came to Imam Hosein 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 on-the-spot investigation. Hazrat Muslim was given a rousing welcome on his arrival and no less than 130,000 Iraqians took Baiyat or the Oath of allegiance to Imam Hosein. Hazrat Muslim, therefore, wrote the Imam giving him the news and asking him to come along without delay.
Historians are unanimous that Imam Hosein left Mecca on the 8th Zil Hajj, reaching Karbala on the 2nd Muharram 61 A.H., corresponding with the 1st October 680 A.C.
The then Governor namely, Obeidullah, son of Ziad, had thirty thousand soldiers under the command of Omar, son of Sa'ad, 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 Yazied, son of Muahwiah, as the ruler and head of the Muslim world. Imam Hosein 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 the Omar, son of Saad. Even a western writer and one of the great historians, namely Edward Gibbons, tells us that Hazrat Imam Hosein, R.A., made three valuable suggestions:
- 'You the Iraqians have invited me here' said Imam Hosein '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 Sa'ad, Commander in charge of Yazied soldiers, decided to fight.
The Imam said: 'From childhood I have been devoted to prayer and supplication. 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 to discharge. He consoled the ladies, his wife, his sisters and others, and advised them as to their behaviour after he is killed on the next day, by the herd and heretics of Yazied, as they would be all taken as prisoners to the court of Yazied at Damascus.
Early in the morning of the 10th of Muharram 61 A.H., corresponding with the 9th October 680 A.C., 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 we show Allaah and His Prophet on the day of Qayamat to allow you to fight in our presence?' and so they all, one by one, were killed after severe fighting.
Hazrat Imam Zainul Abedeen, eldest son of Imam Hosein, was sick with high fever, and from the heat of the sun, the beating of drums, and the attitude of Yazeid's soldiers he was in a state of lethargy. The second son Hazrat Imam Muhammad Akbar, a 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 insomuch so 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. 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 Allaah has sent back in his youth as a miracle but there were others who recognised him. He himself did not keep his identity in obscurity but said 'Do you know who I am? I am Akbar, son of Hosein, 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 Hosein placed his tongue in his 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 his enemies. He was subsequently thrown off his horse in an unconscious condition, his body was dragged to Imam Hosein's camp, and whilst the Imam was brushing off the sands from the hero's face the boy looked up and passed away with a smile.
Hazrat Imam Hosein then got ready about to leave the tent when he heard a crying. He rushed in and saw it was his own son Muhammad Asgar, a child of six 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 Hosein took the child in his arms and covered it with a sheet and came riding on a horse. With 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 Hosein 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.
The Imam then called 'Is there anyone to help in the cause of Allaah?' 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 Imam and whispered 'O Imam, if I make Towba now, will it be accepted?' The Imam said 'Yes, even now'. Hurr then dashed to his camp and exhorted the soldiers to join Imam Hosein. No less than 30 persons joined the Imam and thus the battle was prolonged.
All thirty were subsequently Shaheed. 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's head from his body. ("From God we are sent and to him we return" - Al-Qur'aan) .
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. Hosein 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 Hosein'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 for his labours in emancipating humanity from the bonds that physical supremacy and cunning diplomacy held on learning and virtue. Yazied tried to annihilate Imam Hosein but was himself annihilated, Imam Hosein still lives in the hearts of millions, nay hundreds of millions of his lovers... and who will not love him?
This is what we read in the Holy Qur'aan 3:168.
"And reckon not those who are killed in Allaah'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. Hosein'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 Saiyid or descendent of Hosein through his eldest son Imam Zainul Abedeen (the Ornament of the Pious) who miraculously survived the Battle of Karbala. Thus Yazied failed miserably in his attempts. Imam Hosein 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.