About the Tragedy of Karbala

Al-Husain (AS), the second child of Ali and Fatimah, was born in the year4 AH, and after the martyrdom of his elder brother, al-Hasan, became hissuccessor. Husain was Imam for 10 years which was mostly during the reignof Muawiyah, except the last 6 month which coincided with the reign ofYazid. Imam Husain lived under the most difficult conditions of suppressionand persecution. This was due to the fact that, first of all, religiouslaws and regulations had lost much of their weight and credit, and theedicts of the Umayyah government had gained complete authority and power.Secondly, Muawiyah and his fans made use of every possible means to putaside the Household of prophet and to move them out of the way. Above all,Muawiyah wanted to strengthen the basis of future kingdom of his son,Yazid, who because of his lack of principles and scruples was opposed witha large group of Muslims. Therefore, in order to quell all opposition,Muawiyah had undertaken more severe means until he died in 60 AH and hisson Yazid took his place.

Giving the oath of allegiance, was an old Arab practice which was carriedout in important matters like governorship.P Well-known people would givethe oath of allegiance as a sign of agreement and obedience to their kingand showing their support for his future actions. Braking the agreementafter the oath of allegiance, was considered as a definite crime.

Muawiyah during his life time, had asked well-known people to give the oathof allegiance to Yazid, but did not impose this request upon Imam Husain.He particularly told Yazid in his last will that if Imam Husain refused togive the oath of allegiance, he should take it easy because Muawiyah knewthe bad consequences of such enforcement. However because of his egoism andrecklessness, Yazid neglected his father’s advice, and immediately aftertaking over the power, ordered the governor of Medina to either take thepledge of allegiance from Imam Husain, or send his head to Damascus.

After the governor of Medina informed this demand to him, Imam Husainasked for a delay to think about the matter, and moved with his familytoward Mecca overnight. He sought refuge in the sanctuary of God in Meccawhich is official place of refuge in Islam. This happened at the beginningof Shaban 60 AH. Imam Husain stayed in Mecca for nearly four month.

This news spread throughout the Islamic world, and many people who weretired of inequalities during Muawiyah reign and were even more disturbedwhen Yazid took over, corresponded with Imam Husain and expressed theirsympathy for him. On the other hand, a flood of letters began to flow,specially from Iraq and particularly from the city of Kufah, inviting theImam to go there and to build up a government. Naturally such situationwas dangerous for Yazid.

The stay of Imam Husain in Mecca continued until the season of pilgrimagewhen Muslims from all over the Islamic world came to Mecca to perform Hajj.The Imam realized that some of the followers of Yazid had entered Mecca aspilgrims with the mission of killing Imam during the ceremonies of Hajjwith the arms they carried under the special pilgrimage dress.

In order to safeguard the great sanctuary of Mecca, Imam Husain decided toleave for Iraq before completing the ceremony of Hajj. When he was askedthe reason for the mysterious departure, Imam Husain said that he wouldperform this year’s pilgrimage in the desert of Karbala, offering thesacrifice of not any animals, but himself and his family and friends.Giving a short speech in the vast crowd of people, he announced that he wassetting for Iraq, and said he would be martyred. He asked people to joinhim in attaining the goal of offering their lives in the path of God.

Imam Husain was determined not to give his allegiance to Yazid and fullyknew that he would be killed. But it was not the time to save the life.That moment was the right time to water the faded lawn of Islam by hisblood. Some of outstanding people of Mecca stood in the way of Imam Husainand warned him the danger of the move he was making. But he answered thathe refused to pay allegiance and to give his approval to a government ofinjustice and tyranny. He added that wherever he would go, he would bekilled, so he would leave Mecca in order to preserve the respect for theHouse of God, and not to allow this respect be destroyed by letting hisblood spilled there.

While on the way of Kufah, he received the striking news that under thepressure of Yazid’s agents, people of Kufa did not support hisrepresentatives and turned back, and some of them joined the Yazid’s armyto kill Imam’s representatives in Kufah. The feet of those martyrs weretied and they were dragged through the streets of Kufah. The city and itssurroundings were under very strict marshal law by countless soldiers ofenemy who where waiting to face Imam. There was no way for Imam to turninto unless to march ahead and face the death.

Approximately 44 miles from Kufah, in a desert called Karbala, Imam and hisfollowers were surrounded by the army of Yazid. They cut off the watersupply of the Household of Prophet and their companions and their familiesamong them were many women and children. For eight days they stayed in thatplace under the heat of the sun, and the circle among them narrowed and thenumber of enemy’s army increased by a number of 30,000 fully equippedsoldiers of Yazid.

In the following night, Imam gathered his companions and gave the a shortspeech saying that there was nothing ahead but martyrdom. He added thatsince the enemy was concerned only with his person, he would free them fromall obligations so that any one who wished could escape in the darkness ofthe night and save his life. Then he ordered the lights to be turned off,and most of his companions who had joint him for their own advantages,dispersed. Only those whose hearts were tested by Allah remained who wereabout 40 companions and some from Bani Hashim (his relatives).

Once again, Imam gathered those who remained to put them on the test. Headdressed his companions and Hashimite relatives, repeating that enemy wasonly concerned with him and they could escape the danger in the darkness ofnight. But this time the faithful companions answered each in own way thatthey would not deviate from the right path and would never leave him alone.They said that they would defend the Household of Prophet to the last dropof their blood as long as they could carry a sword.

The enemy intended to start the war in the eve of the ninth day of themonth, but Imam asked for a delay till next morning to worship all over thenight for the last time. During the night, some 30 soldiers of enemy jointImam, among them was Hurr who was one of the Generals of the army of enemy.They finally chose their way to be with Imam, and Imam accepted theirrepentance. In this way the number of his followers became close to 90people consisting of 72 companions and 18 male members of his family andrelatives, while enemy was more than 45,000 by then.

On the tenth of Muharram of the year 61 (680) That inequitable war began.That day, they fought from morning till their final breath, and all thecompanions and the relatives were martyred. Among those who were killedwere two children of Imam Hasan, only thirteen and eleven years old, and afive years old child of Imam Husain.

When Imam himself was ready to fight, he saw his six-month-old baby isdying from thirst. Imam brought his infant near to enemy demanded somewater for baby, saying: You want me but not this baby so take him and givehim some water. The words of Imam has not been finished that the thirst ofthe baby was quenched by a deadly poisoned arrow from enemy which pinnedthe baby’s neck to the arm of his father. Imam threw some of his bloodtoward sky saing: “O’ Lord! Your Husain has offered whatever You have givenhim. Bless me by acceptance of this sacrifice.” Finally Imam came to thefield and fought for a long time and was finally martyred. The army ofYazid having killed Imam Husain, cut his head and raised it on a lance.

The army of enemy, after ending the war, burned the tents of women andchildren accompanying Imam and his companions, and plundered those helplesswomen. They decapitated the bodies of the martyrs, denuded them and threwthem to the ground without burial. Then they moved women and children alongwith the heads of the martyrs to Kufah. The bodies of the martyrs wereunder the sunshine for three days till a tribe passing that place foundthem and performed the burial.

The event of Karbala, the capture of women and children of the Household ofProphet, their being taken as prisoners from town to town, and the speechesmade by Zaynab, the daughter of Ali, who was one of the prisons, became ascandal for Umayyah Kingdom. Such abuse of the Household of Prophetnullified the propaganda which Muawiyah had built up for years. The scandalreached to the extent that Yazid denounced the action of his agents inpublic. That was what excactly Imam Husain wanted to do, otherwise he wouldnot bring women and children with him and sacrifice some, and let therest to become captives. That was the only way to make a wave in order toawaken the Muslim nation.

The event of Karbala was a major factor in the overthrow of Umayyah kingdomthough its effect was delayed. Among its immediate results were the revoltsand rebellions combined with bloody wars which continued for twelve years.During those riots non of the important elements in Karbala could escaperevenge and punishment, including Yazid.

Muhammad Iqbal (from Lahore, Pakistan) said:

Imam Husain uprooted despotism forever till the day of Judgment. Hewatered the dry garden of freedom with surging wave of his blood, andindeed he awakened the sleeping Muslim nation. If Imam Husain hadaimed at acquiring a worldly empire, he would not have traveled hedid. Husain weltered in blood and dust for the sake of truth. Verilyhe, therefore, became bed-rock (foundation) of the Muslim creed; Thereis no God but Allah.”

Charles Dickens had said the following about Imam Husain (AS):”

If Husain fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do notunderstand why his sisters, wives and children accompanied him. Itstands to reason therefore that he sacrificed purely for Islam.”

Thomas Carlyle has relayed this about the Tragedy of Karbala:”

The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is thatHusain and his companions were the rigid believers of God. Theyillustrated that numerical superiority does not count when it comes totruth and falsehood. The victory of Husain despite his minoritymarvels me!”

The famous, Dr. K. Sheldrake on Imam Husain (AS) said this:”

Husain marched with his little company not to glory, not to power orwealth, but to a supreme sacrifice and every member of that gallantband, male and female, knew that the foes were implacable, were notonly ready to fight but to kill. Denied even water for the children,they remained parched under a burning sun, amid scorching sands yet noone faltered for a moment and bravely faced the greatest odds withoutflinching.”

World famous Arab historian al-Fakhri has said this about Imam Husain’s sacrifice:”

This is a catastrophe whereof I care not to speak at length, deemingit alike too grievous and too horrible. For verily, it was acatastrophe than that which naught more shameful has happened inIslam…There happened therein such a foul slaughter as to cause man’sflesh to creep with horror. And again I have dispersed with my longdescription because of it’s notoriety, for it is the most lamented ofcatastrophes.”

The previous four quotes have been taken from “The Martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS)” – Yousuf Lalljee”

The above was taken from http://www.al-islam.org/ENCYCLOPEDIA/chapter5b/1.html

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