We would be presenting you an interesting series on the start of the mourning month of Moharram, the month in which every year we commemorate history’s most heartrending tragedy that occurred in Karbala in 61 AH, corresponding to 680 AD, where the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny), was cruelly martyred along with his small group of followers made up of his brothers, his nephews, his friends, and his sons, including the 6-month infant, Ali Asghar.
Today we present you the first part of this 10-part series, titled “In the School of Imam Husain (AS)” in order to provide answers to a series of questions. The questions that arise in this regard are: What was the main motive of the uprising of Imam Husain (AS)? Was the main reason behind his movement to take over the political rule of the Islamic state? Was it to reform the Muslim society? Was it not possible for him to achieve his goal through compromise with Yazid the self-styled caliph of the Omayyad regime, so that the Ahl al-Bayt or the Blessed Household of the Prophet would be spared of murder, pillage, and imprisonment? In this series, we respond to these questions, and study the different aspects of the life of the person whose martyrdom saved Islam.
A famous statement from the Seal of Divine Messengers, recorded by both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, hails Imam Husain (AS) as the “Beacon of Guidance and Ark of Salvation”. In view of this, firm adherence to the path and ethical virtues of the Martyr of Karbala undoubtedly grants prosperity to the individual and the community in the transient world and salvation in afterlife. An incident cited by hadith scholars of both the Sunni and Shi’a schools records that one day as the toddler Imam Husain (AS) approached his grandfather, the Prophet took him in his lap, and called him “the adornment of the heavens and the earth”. When asked by a person who was standing nearby whether anyone else besides a prophet could be an adornment of the heavens and the earth, the Prophet replied: “By God, the status of Husain is more exalted in the heavens than on the Earth.”
The first and most important characteristic of Imam Husain (AS) was that despite his unsurpassed merits, he regarded himself as a humble servant of God. This behaviour was evident in all aspects of his life, including his deeds and remarks. He strove to the contentment of the Almighty Creator Alone. During the Godless rule of Mu’awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan, who had seized the caliphate or political rule of the Islamic state from his elder brother, Imam Hasan (AS), Imam Husain (AS) patiently safeguarded the genuine teachings of Islam. When Mu’awiyah, contrary to the treaty he had signed with Imam Hasan (AS), nominated the libertine Yazid as the next caliph, Imam Husain (AS) decided to stage his historic uprising for the sake of God, and in order to protect Islam, he selflessly sacrificed his life, along with that of his dear and near ones. He was the symbol of worship of God, and in fact the “Qur’an an-Nateq” or the Talking Qur’an. He performed the Hajj pilgrimage at least 25 times on foot from his hometown Medina. Every day he would perform a thousand raka’at of the ritual prayer. So staunch was his devotion of God Almighty that on the 9th of Moharram when the cowardly hordes of Yazid intended to start the battle, he sought a night’s respite, in order to spend it in prayer and supplication to God until the break of dawn. On the fateful Day of Ashura, while staging the immortal epic, in spite of acute thirst, sufferings, and growing sorrow, as his near and dear ones were martyred one after another, including two of his sons – the 18 year old Ali Akbar and the six-month infant Ali Asghar – Imam Husain (AS) was the least perturbed and was entirely resigned to the Will of God.
In order to provide a proper picture of the events leading to the tragic martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet, it is essential to refer to the deviations that began after the passing away of the Prophet of Islam and the seizure of the political rule of the Islamic state from his divinely-designated vicegerent, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb. With the passage of time these deviations intensified. In a surprising move, the second caliph Omar ibn Khattab appointed the faithless Omayyad Mu’waiya ibn Abu Sufyan, a very late and reluctant convert to Islam, as governor of the newly conquered large Province of Sham or the Levant that includes today’s countries of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. The next caliph, Othman bin Affan, who was also an Omayyad reinstated Mu’awiya, which enabled the latter to consolidate his power in the Levant for another 12 years. On the murder of Othman when the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (AS) reluctantly took up the caliphate or political rule of the Islamic state as the leaderless masses beseeched him, one of his first acts was to dismiss Mu’waiya from the governorship, an order that the latter disobeyed and came out into open rebellion against the Imam. In 38 AH, the War of Siffeen was fought, in which Mu’awiya through deceit and trickery escaped defeat and death. In 41 AH, some six months after the martyrdom of Imam Ali (AS), he resorted to threats, aggression and bribes against the latter’s divinely designated successor, the Prophet’s elder grandson, Imam Hasan (AS), to mislead the people and seize the caliphate as per a treaty, whose contents he violated. In 50 AH, Mu’awiya had Imam Hasan (AS) martyred through poisoning, and during his 19-year rule as caliph, he undermined the ethereal values of Islam.
This sordid trend continued and escalated with ascension of Yazid to the caliphate. Yazid, on the assumption of cementing his rule, demanded allegiance from Imam Husain (AS), by any means possible. The Imam refused to acknowledge the Godless rule of the libertine Yazid, since an allegiance to a tyrant meant collaboration in the massacre of innocent people, and undermining of Islam. Circumstance forced Imam Husain (AS) to leave Medina for Mecca, from where he had to leave for Iraq on the invitation of the people of that land. In a meeting with poet, Farazdaq, the Imam noted: “The followers of Yazid do not comply with God, are corrupt, drink wine, and seize the belongings of the poor and needy. And I am the most qualified individual for an uprising for the sake of religion, and Jihad for the sake of God.”
The uprising of Imam Husain (AS) thus started and changed the course of history. The Imam sent his cousin Muslim ibn Aqeel as emissary to the people of Iraq in order to assess the situation of Iraq. Muslim was a brave and pious person, and towards the closing days of 60 AH, after having taken oath of allegiance to the Imam from thousands of people who had sent detailed letters to the Imam, he was deserted by the people of Kufa on the arrival in that city of the tyrannical governor of Basra, Obaidullah ibn Ziyad. After a brave fight, Muslim was treacherously martyred, and on hearing the news, Imam Husain (AS) who was on his way to Iraq, was saddened.
That was all for today. Tomorrow we will continue with our discourse of the subsequent events in the second part of In the School of Imam Husain (AS).