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Newsletter for December 2010
THE LIFE OF IMAM
HUSAIN IBNE ALI (as)
by the late Dr. Syed Haider Hussain Shamsi
(An excerpt from his book, " The Message Continues-the lives of the Twelve Imams)
DURING THE TIMES OF THE PROPHET
The birth of second grandchild made the Prophet very happy. He came to the house of Imam Ali and his beloved daughter Fatima and named the newborn Husain.
It is quoted by many narrators that the Prophet often used to carry his two grandsons on his shoulders. When people remarked on how much he loved his grandsons, he used to say, "Hasan and Husain are the two princes of the youth
of paradise." People also quote from him as praying to Allah by saying "O Allah, befriend those who befriend them and be the foe to whoever designs to hurt them."
Regarding Imam Husain, it is quoted from him saying, "Husain is from me and I am from Husain." It can only be inferred that this was the utterance of no
ordinary man, out of love with the progeny of his daughter, but that of the Prophet of Islam about whom Allah says "Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed...... 111:3.
For about six years, his grandfather, the Prophet of Islam, nurtured Husain just as his father had done before him. He was one of the five included in the Qur'anic verse of Tat-heer. He was the youngest of the representatives the Prophet of Islam took with him at the Mubahala with the Christians of Najran. The significance of this nurture and representation must not be
underestimated. When the time came, he laid down his life and the lives of his family members, as well as his friends to defend the Message of Islam.
THE LIFE OF IMAM HUSAIN (as) DURING THE TIMES OF IMAM ALI (as) AND IMAM HASAN (as)
After the death of his grandfather, Imam Husain (as) grew up during the times of the first dm caliphs and saw the way his father, hnam Ali, conducted his affairs. When he was elected the Caliph to succeed Uthman, Imam Husain (as) actively participated in all assignments given to him by his father, whether in the mosque or in the battlefield.
Imam Husain (as) manifested the acme of obedience towards Imam Hasan (as) during his brief caliphate, and helped him actively on whatever was required of him. He concurred with him in the matter of the truce with Muawiyah. He never raised
his voice in the presence of Imam Hasan (as), and would not intedect him when he was preaching or was replying to questions.
When Imam Hasan (as) was dying from poison, given to him according to Muawiyah's plot, he called his brother Husain to his bedside and passed the leadership of the faithful to him. Muawiyah, who had taken his Treaty with Imam Hasan lightly, and had ignored it, made another violation, and a fateful one which was to change for ever the course of Muslim history, Muslim Ummah in the future. In total disregard of his explicit understanding with Imam Hasan that he (Muawiyah) was not to appoint his successor, he decided arbitrarily to appoint his son Yazid to succeed him as the ruler of the Muslim world.
Yazid was known for his open display of a vicious life. Even though some of his courtiers had cautioned Muawlyah against it, he started the campaign to recruit fealty for his son Yazid from all tribal chiefs and the prominent companions of the Prophet who were alive at the time. The Hashimite clan, led by Imam Husain refused to give their pledge of fealty to Yazid.
Muawiyah lived for ten more years after the martyrdom of Imam Hasan, but the Hashimite clan was not forced into submission or subjugation. However, the verbal abuse and other tactics used to reduce their influence continued.
Imam Husain continued his mission of peace and religious education to all those who sought it from him.
THE CONFRONTATION WITH YAZID BIN MUAWIYAH AND THE TRAGEDY OF KARBALA
Yazid had been raised in a life of luxury, and the principles or the practices of Islam were remote to him. He had seen the success in his father's cunning maneuvers against Imam Ali, and witnessed the insults slung at the Imam and the Ahle Bait of the Prophet in the Friday congregational prayers. He must have been made aware of Imam Ali's contributions towards
establishing the Islamic State under the Prophet of Islam, and during which his pagan ancestors perished under the sweep of Imam Ali's sword. History has accounted that eighteen of the clan of Umayyah were slain in the Battle of Badr. Thus Yazid could harbor no love for Imam Ali or his progeny. Now that he himself controlled the vast Islamic empire, and that he himself
wielded absolute power, he had the best opportunity of avenging the blood of his ancestors.
As soon as he assumed the reins of the empire, Yazid decided to either obtain the pledge of unconditional submission from the Imam or to have him executed. His father had warned him about the steadfast nature of the Imam. It was not possible for the Imam to accept the wicked ruler as his religious leader; and he was also aware that Yazid would have him killed for this. In fact, Yazid had given specific orders to his cousin, Walid bin Uqba bin Abu Sufyan, the governor of Madinah that if the Imam did not submit to his orders, he should be killed and his head be sent to him (Yazid) for confirmation.
The Imam did not wish to be killed by a political plot in Madinah. He decided to leave the relative comfort of his home in Madinah and marched towards Makkah on Rajab 28,60AH. He care fully selected those who would accompany him in his fateful journey.
Upon arrival of the Imam's group in Makkah, Sa'id bin As, the governor of Makkah vacated his seat and rushed to Madinah to send first hand information to Yazid. Yazid appointed Umar bin Sad as governor of Makkah, again with the same specific orders against the Imam.
Yazid had realized that it was extremely difficult to have the Imam assassinated in Madinah or Makkah, and that it would be relatively easy to carry out his wicked plot elsewhere. Twelve thousand letters were sent to the Imam, inviting him to come to Kufa and establish the righteous rule of true lslam. Some of these letters were signed by the respected companions of
the Prophet. Imam Husain was duty bound to respond to the call from the faithful.
The Imam sent his cousin Muslim bin Aqeel to Kufa to size up the apparent support for him. Muslim hurried to Madinah to pack for his long trip to Kufa, and took with him two of his young sons, Muhammad and Ibrahim aged 7 and 8 year respectively. As Muslim arrived in Kufa, he was greeted by thousands of apparent supporters. He sent a letter to the Imam saying that
indeed there was a large enough support and that the people wanted the Imam to come and lead them on the path of Righteousness.
Yazid was waiting for his plan to mature. He sent Ubaidullah bin Ziyad to take charge from Nu'man bin Bashir, kill Muslim and send his head to him Damascus.
In the large mosque of Kufa, Muslim led the prayers with a huge number of apparent supporters. When Muslim turned to face the congregation at the end of his prayers, he found just a handful of believers staying behind him. Alas! It was too late to inform the Imam of the treachery of the Kufans. Muslim was unable to fight his way out of Kufa and was killed. This was
followed by the slaughter of both of his young sons.
The Imam was in Makkah for about four months. He found that he could not perform his Haj with safety. Yazid had sent his men disguised as pilgrims, with orders to kill Imam Husain. He decided that he would not have his blood spilled in the Holy Sanctuary. He only performed the Umrah instead of the full rituals of Haj, and started his fateful march towards Kufa. His long
supplication in Arafat is the epitome of the sincerity in prayers and exhibition of devout faith in the Will of Allah.
Umar bin Sa'd knew the price of failure. His counter part in Madinah had failed to kill the Imam or to prevent him from leaving. He sent Yahya bin Sa'id to stop the Imam from leaving Makkah. However, he was unable to stall or stop the Imam who continued his journey towards his destination.
While he was well on his way, he leamt of the martyrdom of his cousin Muslim bin Aqeel. At that point, there was no turning back for the Imam. He decided to continue his march to face his destiny. On the way, he was intercepted by the army of Hurr, which forced the Imam's caravan away from Kula on to a different direction, till it arrived in Karbala, a dreaded
It was in this wilderness that the small caravan of the righteous Imam was deprived of their basic necessities of food and water in the desert heat, and of their right to a safe passage out of the oppressive regime of Yazid. They were denied access to any support from their well wishers, and were instead encircled by a massive army of professional soldiers and were ruthlessly killed in the desert of Karbala on Muharram 10, 61 AH. In this massacre, eighteen Hashimites lost their lives. They were sons and grand sons of Ali, Ja'fare Tayyar and Aqeel, from the progeny of Abu Tallb, the protecting guardian of the Prophet of Islam.
After the bloody battle, the martyrs were beheaded and their bodies were run over by the mounted soldiers. The tents were put to flame and the belongings of the survivors were looted. The survivors were first led to Kufa and then onwards to Damascus via a less frequented route, lest there be reprisals from the believers for the massacre of the family of the Prophet.
Despite the extreme odds the Imam had faced in this confrontation, his strategy did not let this event emerge in the history as merely quelling of an insurgence from a dissident group against the power of the ruler of the time. Instead, he laid down his life and the lives of his family and friends as sacrificial offerings whose blood was spilled on the hot desert sand for no political ambition.
The survivors after the blood bath consisted of Ali ibn al-Husain, the sick young son of Imam Husain, who was unable to go out in the battle-field, but now had to assume the role of leadership, bound in shackles and hand-tied; Zainab binte Ali, the sister of the Imam; the widowed ladies and a bunch of children. The courageous captives could neither be silenced by the force of
the army nor by the pain of the massacre of their loved ones they had just witnessed. They continued to introduce themselves at every stop made by the caravan, and in the court of Yazid the tyrant in Damascus. Whereas some members of this little 'army' of the righteous had fought in the battlefield with sermons and sword, the captives continued their mission by eloquent sermons to the masses who gathered along the route. This not only told people on what had happened to the family of the Prophet, but also served to rekindle life of faith in the dead conscience of the Muslims of the time.
Whereas the kingdom of the tyrant is long gone, the candles of Faith left burning by the Imam and his companions enlighten the conscience of Islam each time this story is told and retold. The annual commemoration of this event with energy and commitment by the devout believers that has survived through centuries despite the forces of oppression, is nothing less than a miracle. The believers continue to take out processions to demonstrate against tyranny, injustice and oppression against the bearer of the Truth. They congregate in gathering places and retell the painful story of the struggle between vice and virtue. They deny themselves comfort, food and water to relive the pain and suffering of their beloved Imam, his innocent
family and his companions.
REFLECTIONS FROM THE LIFE OF IMAM HUSAIN (as)
The Imam had witnessed the life and the conduct of his father and his elder brother, the two preceding Imams, and was now the third in the series himself He had participated actively in the field to fight against falsehood under Imam Ali, and by peaceful means under Imam Hasan. During his own time, he had to take drastic steps in the form of martyrdom to preserve the dignity of the Faith and the Truth. He, for all times, settled who the rightful custodians of Islam were and who the usurpers were. He, more than amply, paid back the Umayyad clan with the precious Hashimite blood from the progeny
of Ali ibne Abi Talib, the champion of Isl@ the victor of all battles led by the Prophet against the infidel clans of Quraish and other tribes of the Arabs. After Karbala, no ruler in Islam could ever claim to be the spiritual Imam of the Muslim Ummah.
Imam Husain set the criteria of faith, piety and sacrifice for all times. He made the struggle for human dignity as top priority against forces of tyranny and oppression. With the blood of his sacrifice, he gave life to Islam. He re-introduced the spirit of true Islam into the Muslims of his time as well as for all times to come.
While he was in Madinah, he lived a life of piety and remained totally involved with the lives of people around him. He answered their questions, interpreted the meanings of Qur'an and educated them in their daily lives.
Once a man said to the Imam that being a fallible human, he was unable to avoid sin. He wanted the Imam to guide him so that he could be reformed. The Imam said to him, "A person would commit sin if he could: avoid benefiting from the benevolence of Allah, escape from the Kingdom of Allah, or from His Grasp, go to a place where Allah cannot see him, control his death and destiny, and avoid the inform of hell on the Day of Judgment!"
Once he told his followers, "Consider this life as your total wealth. As you spend it, this wealth continues to diminish. You should ponder on what you have acquired as you spend this wealth. So be alert. Do not lose it in any further transaction!"
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