Muawiyah bin Abu
Sufyan died at the age of 75 years. Yazid wrote
to the governor of Madinah, Walid bin
Uqba to obtain the oath of fealty from Imam
Husain. The Imam refused to relinquish his
religious obligation to those who were steadfast
in their practice of the Truth, and did not
submit to the demands of Yazid.
The Imam gathered
his select group of family and friends and left
Madinah for Makkah.
Sha'ban 3,60 AH
The Imam arrived at
Makkah. Sa'id bin As vacated his seat in
Makkah, and arriving at Madinah, reported the
popularity of the Imam among the Makkans. Yazid
appointed Umar bin Sa'id as governor of Makkah
and gave the same orders to him regarding the
Imam. Imam Husain stayed in Makkah for
approximately four months. It was here that the
Imam received some twelve thousand letters
petitioning him to come to Kufa and take
charge of their religious needs.
Bound by his
obligation to uphold the Truth and to serve
Islam, the Imam had to respond to this
apparently massive appeal by the people. He
despatched his beloved cousin Muslim bin Aqeel
to Kufa to reassure the petitioners that he was
prepared to come and live among them as they had
wished. Thousands of Kufans apparently rallied
behind Muslim. Encouraged by such response,
Muslim wrote a letter to the Imam and appraised
him of the situation in Kufa.
As the dates for Haj
neared, Yazid sent Umar bin Sa’id with thirty
Khawarij assassins and three hundred additional
trained Syrian soldiers disguised as pilgrims to
kill the Imam during the Haj.
Zil Haj 8,60 AH
The Imam received the
letter written by Muslim calling him to come to
Kufa. Realizing the gravity of the plot to
assassinate him in Makkah during Haj, the Imam
performed Umrah (the lesser Haj) and left for
Zil Hajj 9,60 AH
Muslim bin Aqeel and
his two young sons were killed and beheaded in
Kula. The Imam leamt of the martyrdom of Muslim
and his children when he had already covered his
journey half way to Kula.
Muharram 1, 61 AH
The caravan of the
Imam saw the crescent of Muharrmn at the caravan
stop known as Sharaf, at the out-skirts of
Kufa. Hurr bin Riyahi, with his
detachment of over one thousand soldiers stopped
the Imam and diverted him towards the wilderness
The Imam pitched his
tents near the bank of Euphrates River. Now
that he had fulfilled his obligation to the
petitioners and, having written replies to as
many of the letters as he could, he called upon
them to come forward to fulfill their obligation
towards him. On order from his
commander-in-chief, Hur had the Imam remove his
tents away from the waters of the Euphrates
Umar bin Sa'id arrived
with an army of twenty two thousand soldiers.
Habib ibne Mazaahir was able to recruit ninety
committed believers from the tribe of
Bani Asad to come out 'in support of the Imam,
but Ibne Ziad sent an army of four hundred
soldiers to prevent them from reinforcing the
Ibne Ziad addressed a
large congregation of worshippers in Kufa and
urged ail those who had pledged fealty to Yazid,
to come out and join his forces to eliminate the
(little) army of the Imam.
Shimr came out, and he
was despatched with an army of thousand strong.
Ibne Rikab was sent out with two thousand men;
Ibne Numair was given an army of four thousand
soldiers. Ibne Rabina was given three thousand
men; and Ibne Kharsha' two thousand armed
despatched to Karbala with additional four
thousand men. Urwah bin Qais was sent to join
the others with four thousand soldiers. Ibne
Anas was armed with ten thousand soldiers,
Muhammad bin al-Ash'ath had one thousand men and
Abdallah bin Hasein was given one thousand
were further augmented with ten thousand
soldiers under Khuli bin Yazid Asbahi; three
thousand men under Ka'b bin Hurr; one thousand
men under Hujaj bin Hurr. Additional men and
supplies were sent over to support the enormous
gathering of forces against the tiny caravan of
the Imam. Ibne Ziad wrote to Umar bin Sa'd that
he had been given enough supplies and man power
to carry out his assignment, and that he must
not delay or fail in it.
Umar bin Hujaj was
posted with four hundred of the best soldiers to
guard the banks of river Euphrates. Additional
forces were deployed to support the men under
Umar bin Hujaj, four thousand soldiers were sent
under Hajar and one thousand soldiers under
Sha'bath bin Rabei. Having thus secured their
positions around the riverbanks, the opponents
of the Imam started off with verbal
Water supply in the
camp of the Imam was totally depleted. Abbas
bin Ali, brother of the Imam, along with some
companions was sent to get some water. He was
successful in this mission. It was at this
mission that he became known as "Saqqa-e Haram"
(the Water Bearer of the family).
Next morning the Imam
made a formal plea for water for the thirsty
children in the camp, but his plea was denied.
The Imam ordered that a trench be dug between
the camp and the enemy and for digging a well
for water. The companions of the Imam attempted
to a dig a well for water, but in vain.
accompanied by Abbas, again appealed to Ibne
Sa'd for water but it was turned down. Both
returned to the camp without water. Abbas and
other strong members of the camp dug four other
wells for water and saw water at the last
attempt. However, before the thirsty children
could have a sip, the enemy swarmed in and
refilled the wells with the excavated dirt. A
fifth attempt was foiled with brutal force.
The Imam went out
again, re-introduced himself with details about
himself, his illustrious parents and his noble
grandfather, the Holy Prophet of Islam, and
asked the so called 'Muslims' in the opposite
camp to allow him to obtain water for his
companions on humanitarian grounds. His
convincing address melted many hearts and there
was some stir in the ranks. Shimr warned Umar
bin Sa'd that if he wavered in carrying out the
orders to kill Imam Husain without delay or
compromise, he would be relieved of the charge.
the final orders from Ibne Ziad on the ultimate
fate of the Imam, Shimr offered Abbas and All
Akbar safe passage out of Karbala, but these
gallant soldiers of Truth refused to forsake the
flag-bearer of Righteousness. Just prior to
dusk, Shimr instigated an attack on the camp of
the Imam. However, upon the request of the
Imam, Abbas was able to win a reprieve from Ibne
Sa'd on their final onslaught till the next
The Eve of
The Imam addressed his
friends and family and clarified his position to
all of them. He told them that since the enemy
wanted his head for refusal to accept Yazid as
his superior, all others could leave the camp
and save their lives. His devotees were deeply
saddened at this address and reassured him that
they had absolutely no doubt that they were on
the right path, and there was nothing in the
world that would make them forsake him at that
could not bear the painful cries of the thirsty
children. He went out with some companions to
obtain water. The Imam sent Abbas for help.
After a bloody fight in which some of the
valuable companions lost their lives, they were
able to return with only one bag full of water.
On reaching the
camp, over twenty children rushed with their
little cups for water. Unfortunately, this
precious bag of water fell to the ground and its
contents spilled on the desert sand. No one
could get their thirst quenched. After that
event, the Imam ordered every one to return to
their respective tents and spend the remaining
night in prayers, glorifying Allah and the Holy
Muharram 10: Morning
At daybreak, the
army of Ibne Sa'd got organized to run down the
Imam's camp. The Imam got up from his prayers
and hurriedly organized his ranks. He ordered
to light up the ditch he had prepared earlier,
and ordered Abbas to try yet another time to dig
a well for water. A well was dug but there was
no water in it.
encircled the camp of the Imam. The Imam and
his companions tried to avert war and requested
safe passage out of Yazid's dominion but the
bloodthirsty enemy would listen to none of it.
Hurr who had enough time to reflect over his
conduct, became perplexed. His conscience
rebuked him for having forced the Imam to follow
the desert route to Karbala instead of Kufa. He
came to realize the just stand of the Imam, and
walked away from the ranks along with his son,
and joined the Imam's camp.
Hurr was well
received by the Imam. He asked for his
forgiveness, and for his permission to go and
sacrifice his life in defense of the Imam and
his cause. The Imam not only excused him but
also expressed his helplessness to even offer a
cup of water to his guest.
Ibne Sa'd shot his first arrow over the Imam's
camp, which was then followed by a rain of
arrows by his army. Hurr and his son were
amongst the first to lay their lives in Karbala
defending the Truth.
initiation of the battle some of the Imam's
companions fought with such an energy and valor
that Ibne Sad realized that it would cost him a
lot of lives and time before he could carry out
his ultimate goal of killing Imam Husain. He
ordered his best marksmen to use their skills to
eliminate his opponents in Imam Husain's camp.
This strategy paid him off by shooting down
about fifty percent of the Imam's supporters.
The Imam came
out with about thirty-two of his surviving force
and fought the enemy with great bravery on all
fronts. Ibne Sa'd again ordered his marksmen to
do their precision shooting that reduced the
Imam's ranks to only a handful of men who were
injured and were unmounted.
Muharram 10: Mid-day
Imam Husain and
his remaining companions gathered to offer their
Zuhr prayers. Two of the companions shielding
the Imam died receiving arrows and spears on
their bodies. As the prayer finished, another
companion received his martyrdom. After the
last of his companions had received their
martyrdom, Imam Hussain was left with only the
members of his family.
Abbas was killed
at the bank of the river attempting to secure
water for the remaining family and children.
Imam Husain's son Ali Akbar was killed in
battle. The Imam took his infant son Ali
Asghar, only six months old, to the battlefield
to show his enemies that the infants are
innocent by all laws of humanity and that they
should give water lest the child died of water
deprivation. The throat of the infant was
pinned down over the Imam's shoulder with an
affow from Hurtnala, the best marksman from Ibne
Sa'd's army. .
At the end, the
Imam came out to fight a lonely but brave
battle, cutting down many in the process. He
himself received many wounds, and innumerable
arrows pierced his body. As he fell down from
the back of his horse, he bowed down in sajdah
(prostration to Allah) and reached out to the
Almighty, seeking His Grace and praying for
accepting his service. Shimr slaughtered the
Imam, and separated his head from his body. The
headless body of the Imam and other martyrs was
then run over by the mounted soldiers before
returning to their ranks.
Muharram 10: Evening
The army now
over-ran the camp and snatched every belonging
the bereaved women and children had. The tents
were put to flame, women were beaten and
children teased and slapped. It is said that
later in the evening, Hurr's widow brought food
and water to the smoldering encampment of widows
and beleaguered children.
were marched towards Kufa, women on camels
without seats and the only adult male survivor,
Ali Zain al-Abideen afoot, hand tied and in
shackles. The captives were kept in jail in Kufa
for a few days and then carried to Damascus via
a less frequented route.
Rabi-ul Awwal 16,
The caravan of
the survivors of the Imam's army arrived in
Damascus. The duration their captivity in
Damascus is uncertain. By some accounts, it was
for of about one year, after which they were
then sent back to Madinah via Kufa.
Safar 20, 62 AH
The captives came
back to Karbala with reminiscence of the fateful
events of the previous year.
Rabi-ul Awwal 8,
The caravan of
the survivors returned to Madinah.
BINTE ALI, THE SISTER OF IMAM HUSAIN
binte Ali holds a very high place in the
history of Islam, with special reference to the
bloody massacre of the Ahle Bait of the Prophet
in Karbala and its aftermath. The success of
Imam Husain's mission as well as the education
of the masses is owed to her. Her pains as the
bereaved mother of her own martyred sons, as the
aunt to her slain nephews and to the sufferings
of her little nieces, as sister of the martyred
Imam, and her own individual personality as a
woman, emerged with amazing force and courage in
the face of the worst calamity any family could
have ever faced. Because of the significant
role she had played, it is pertinent to include
a brief biography of this beacon of Faith here.
Zainab was bom
in Madinah on Sha'ban 1, 6 AH. Her mother was
none other than Fatima, the beloved daughter of
Prophet Muhammad. Her father was Ali, the
gallant champion of Islam and the first Imam
after the Prophet. At about the time of her
birth, her father was actively serving the
Prophet in the defense of Islam against its
archenemy, the Umayyad Abu Sufyan. She was too
small to comprehend the significance of her
father's involvement or its far-reaching
consequences years later in her life. However,
it was her good fortune to receive the nurture
from her grandfather, the holy Prophet for the
first five years of her life. The Prophet died
in II AH, and soon after that she lost the
affections of her mother forever. She grew up
under the supervision of her father, Imam Ali.
She was very attached to her father and closely
emulated him in his character and conduct.
Although both of her brothers, Hasan and Husain
were older to her, she was the eldest daughter
of Imam All. She had learnt to assist her mother
at an early age, and had to assume the
management of the household after her death.
She was married
to her cousin Abdullah bin Ja'far-e Tayyar when
she was only eleven years of age. However, she
continued to live with her father for several
years before joining her husband. She had no
luxury item in her home, and like her father,
she lived an extremely simple and disciplined
life. She never missed her prayers, and
worshiped Allah with great devotion.
She was renowned
for her knowledge and was sought after by her
female peers for the teachings and the practice
of Islam as well as for the interpretations of
the meanings of al-Qur’an.
to Kufa with her husband when Imarn Ali made
that city the seat of his caliphate. She was
about 36 years of age when her father was
martyred in the main mosque of Kufa. During
this span of her life, she had witnessed many
significant changes in the land and people of
of her grandfather, the great leader and the
Prophet of Islam occurred when she was at the
impressionable age of five years. She saw the
grief this had brought to her parents, and
especially to her mother. The death of her
mother within a of a few months must have
brought a revolution in her tender life. She
must have witnessed the grief this event had
brought to her father. The inevitable shift of
leadership had brought a clear shift of
popularity by the people from the house of the
Prophet to that of the house of the new Caliph.
This change must have made her very sad.
She must have seen the fervor in connection with
the expansion of Islam to far off lands and the
activity that must have generated in Madinah
during the reign of the Second Caliph. As she
grew up, she must have observed and pondered why
her father was kept away from participating in
the Caliphate, and also why he had chosen not to
use force to establish his rights. When the
controversy occurred over the conduct of the
Third Caliph, she was of mature age, and saw how
the senior compa@ons of the Prophet got involved
with the plot and the assassination of the
Caliph. This was a time of crisis for Islam.
The danger to the integrity of Islam this time
was not from any out side force, but it .vas
from amidst its own core. The Ummah remembered
Ali again. The same Ali, who had been the
foremost soldier of Islam, the savior and the
defender of the Faith from its very inception.
He was elected to the Caliphate by a popular
vote. However, within days of his election,
these very supporters started to brew opposition
to the new caliph, leading to a series of bloody
confrontations among the Muslims.
Muawiyah, son of
Abu Sufyan, the governor of Syria and Palestine,
took the opportunity to fuel the sparks of
dissent and became the major opponent of the
Caliphate of her father. She saw the battles
where "Muslims" led by senior and respectable
companions of the Prophet drew swords against
the Righteous Caliph. It was a time of immense
confusion for the people, and a sad time for her
father who had spent his youth serving the
Prophet against the infidel towards establishing
the very Islamic Community that he now had to
fight against. The people became confused and
his long-standing government, regular army and
financial resources, spared no effort to baffle
the stability of Imam Ali's caliphate. He sent
raids in the Yaman, Hijaz and Basra. He slung
abuses at the Caliph from the pulpit, and had
this carried out in the Friday prayers
throughout his provinces. He did not stop his
negative propaganda against the members of the
Ahle Bait even after the martyrdom of Imam Ali.
Zainab saw the government of Imam Hasan fizzle
away under pressure from Muawiyah, and knew the
circumstances under which he had to hand over
the charge of the Caliphate to Muawiyah.
Muawiyah betrayed the terms of the truce. In
the document of truce, Imam Hasan had stipulated
that the government of the Caliphate was being
transferred to Muawiyah for his lifetime only,
and that he would not appoint his successor to
the Caliphate. This truce lasted for about ten
years. But when the time came, Muawiyah had
Imam Hasan martyred with poison and appointed
his own son Yazid to succeed him. Soon
afterwards he died.
Coming of Yazid to
power brought a relentless pressure to Imam
Husain to accept Yazid as the representative of
the Prophet of Islam, or lose his life for
refusal to do so. The governor of Madinah had
specific orders to obtain unconditional
submission from the Im@ or have him killed.
Knowing the character and the conduct of Yazid,
the hnam could not comply. She knew why Imam
Husain just could not submit to the demands of
Yazid. The entire back ground to these
developments was known to Zainab. Her brother
was the Imam of the time, and had the vested
responsibility to protect and defend the spirit
of the Truth. He decided to quit Madinah.
Zainab accompanied her brother on this fateful
journey. She saw how carefully the Imam
selected members of his clan who would accompany
him. They represented the progeny of Aqeel,
Ja'far and Ali, all from the progeny of Abu
her brother to Makkah, and then onward to
Karbala. By now, she had aged to 57 years, and
had been amidst many grave changes in the
behavior of the Ummah. She dearly loved her
brother and was constantly in consort with him
on all his decisions and moves. She was
convinced that the little caravan of the Imam
had come out to up hold the Tnith at any cost.
On Muharram 10, 61 AH she sacrificed two of her
youngest sons in defense of the Truth and
assisted her brother mount his horse when he
finally left and faced his martyrdom. She
witnessed the deaths of the companions of the
Imam followed by the members of his own clan.
that Zainab exhibited did not begin on the eve
of Muharram I 1, but throughout the journey as
well as during the encampment in the desert of
Karbala. However, when all the adult males had
laid down their lives at the alter of Truth,
except Imam Ali Abid, who was ill with fever,
the manifest leadership of the widows and
children became the responsibility of Zainab.
The heat of the desert, three days of total
thirst for man and beast, the scenes of death
and terror, and torching of their tents towards
the evening complicated the duties of leadership
The Imam had given
his supreme sacrifice and was there no more.
The detached heads from the bodies of the
martyrs had been hoisted atop spears. All
belongings of the survivors had been -snatched,
including the hijabs (body wraps) from the
ladies. Hands tied behind their backs, on
bareback camels, the survivors were taken
through the streets of Kufa, where Zainab had
been before under different circumstances, when
her father was alive, and her brothers were by
her side. These circumstances would be enough
for any self-respecting lady to cry out or
faint. Zainab, with all her background and the
most recent wounds of grief and suffering
displayed great courage and fortitude. She
addressed the killers of her loved ones in the
manner that befitted them. When the caravan was
marched through the streets of Kufa, she told
the story of Karbala to the excited mob that had
gathered to see them.
The masses were
oblivious to the events of Karbala. Among the
mob there were people who were loyal to the
cause of the Truth. The oratory of Zainab
pierced their hearts and stiffed their egos.
The governor of Kufa and his supporters did not
realize that a woman captive of Karbala would
represent the martyred hnam Husain and his
companions with such boldness, and would make
their ill deeds known to people wherever the
caravan was taken.
Zainab had both
courage and strength in her apparent weakness.
The captors had shown no mercy at the bereaved
women and children in Kufa or during their
journey to Damascus. It was the energy of
Zainab that kept their will to live strong and
to endure the hardships thrust at them.
The captives of
Imam Husain's camp were taken to Damascus
through a less frequented northern route. Many
children could not withstand the perpetual
fatigue and grief, and succumbed en-route to
Damascus. As the survivors of the Imam's camp
made stops at various settlements along the
route, the simple and uninformed people brought
food and clothing for the captives out of
sympathy. Zainab took the opportunity of
telling the people that they were the family of
the Prophet and how Yazid had subjected them to
such a tyrannical treatment. She repeated the
story of the martyrs and preached to them the
nature of the conflict as well as the Truth.
The superb Jehad
of Zainab in the court of Yazid brought alive
the Jehad of Imam Husain. The entire experience
of her life long observations was now translated
into the address she gave in the court of
Yazid, and is appended in the section that
follows below. It was through this oratory that
the courtiers of Yazid got their education about
what had transpired in Karbala. The apparent
victory of the tyrant was converted to his
shameful loss. The captives remained in the
Syrian prisons for about one year. Some
children died during this captivity.
When the tyrant
decided to release the captives, Zainab asked
for a large open space where she could
accommodate people who wished to come to them
for homage and condolence. This, in effect was
the first formal majlis (the commemorative
gathering) whose tradition was thus initiated by
Zainab, the sister of Imam Husain. On their way
back to Madinah, the caravan of the captives
came via Karbala. Zainab again took the
opportunity to tell the story of the gruesome
massacre of the family of the Prophet undertaken
by Yazid and his captains.
coming for Zainab was very different from that
of her departure, when she was surrounded by
brothers, nephews and sons. Now they were no
more. Grief, fatigue and suffering had made her
so weak and haggard that many were unable to
reco@ze her. The family and residents of
Madinah came out to meet the survivors of
Karbala. They all shared the grief with each
other and attempted to lower their burden of
sorrow and suffering. However, for Zainab, life
without the loved ones was worth nothing. She
could never stop crying over the calamity of the
family and lived approximately eighty days after
her return visit to Karbala. There is
controversy over the date of her death,
and was most likely on Zilhaj 16, 62 AH.
ZAINAB'S ADDRESS IN THE
COURT OF YAZID
In the Name
of the Beneficent and Merciful.
All praises to
Allah, the Creator of the entire universe.
And salutations to
the Prophet and his Ahle-Bait:
revealed in His Book: "Evil was the end of those
who did evil, because they rejected the
communications ofallah and used to mock them.
Yazid: Having wrought such ill deeds and ill
treatment to us, the family of the Prophet, you
think- that you have managed to reduce our
status, and thus have enhanced your own, and you
feel that you have achieved the ultimate success
in this life?
You think that the
span of your rule and the wealth and power you
weald was of your own making? Just wait a
while, for the Judgement of Allah isn't far.
Just hear this: "And let not those who
disbelieve think that Our granting them respite
is better for their souls; We grant them respite
only that they may add to their sins; and they
shall have a disgraceful chastisement. "
0 You the progeny
of the those who were set free by us: Is this
justice? Is this the way you would repay us?
Your own slaves and maids have their hijabs on,
and we have been deprived this? And we have
been carried from dwelling to dwelling in such a
0 Yazid: You are
responsible for the way we have been treated all
the way to your court. None of your captains
had any mercy on women or children who had lost
their loved ones in the heat of the
desert at their hands and by your orders.
0 You the
offspring of the one who chewed up the
liver of the m@, how could you be merciful?
Yeah, with the hate in your heart for the family
of the Prophet, how could you show mercy on the
captive survivors of the bloody massacre?
0 Yazid: What you
are saying and what you are doing to the lips
and teeth of the head of the martyr was the
very place Prophet himself had kissed often.
You are calling upon your elders to witness how
you have avenged them today. You are forgetting
that they were infidels and had asked for their
own ends. Beware that you have taken the same
path, and your own end would not be any
different from theirs.When you join diem you
will regret what you had been uttering or what
you had done. But alas, that would be too late.
0 Yazid: Verfly
you have ruined your own conduct forever. You
win face Allah and the Prophet and will be
accountable for the blood of the progeny of the
Prophet. Allah has revealed in His Book: “And
reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way
as dead, nay, they are alive (and) are provided
sustenance from their Lord." The Day of
Judgement isn't far. Those who facilitated you
to this position are also accountable for these
sins towards the Faith and the faithful.
0 Yazid: This
certainly is circumstantial that I am here and
have to address you in my present predicament.
Yeah, I cannot stop the tears in my eyes and
pain in my heart. Those who were the chosen of
Allah you have slain for no sin but for
fulfillment of your passion for revenge. You
are worse than your elders. They had refused to
accept the path of righteousness and had come
out to fight the Messenger of Isl@ but you are
supposedly on the Path but have chosen a
perilous reversal from it.
conduct you have adopted has a bitter end.
There is Mercy in the way of Allah. We only
look towards Him for favors, and only trust Him
0 Yazid: You may
carry out all that you have a desire for and
fulfil all your wishes. Beware: Our teachings
and philosophy shall prevail, because we are the
flag carriers of the Truth. You cannot diminish
our status or popularity.
You are the
loser. You will not only lose today but are a
loser for all times. Your days are numbered,
and you will face the doom alone with all your
friends and supporters. Have you read Qur'an,
and did you come across this ayat? If you
haven't, then hear this: "And who is more unjust
than he who forges a lie against Allah? These
shall be brought before their Lord, and the
witnesses shall say: These are they who lied
against their Lord. Now surely the curse of
Allah is on the unjust."
All praises are to
the Supreme One, the Creator of the entire
universe, the One who gave us the illustrious
ancestors before, and loved ones now who laid
down their lives in His way. For us, as
mentioned in the Book, the Grace of
Allah-suffices: "Those to whom the people said:
Surely men have gathered against you, therefore
fear them; but this increased their faith, and
they said: Allah is sufficientfor us and most
excellent is the Protector.