IMAM AL-HUSAIN IBN  ALI  (A.S.)- PART #4

Source: “Shia Islam AT A Glance” BY: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee; and Shia Youth Inc. Website: www.Shia-youth.org.
Early Life:
Imam Ḥusain ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (a.s.) , born on 10 October 625  (3 Sha’aban AH 4 ), also spelled as HusaynHussain or Hussein, was the son of Imam Ali ibn Abi Ṭalib (a.s.), the first Imam of Shia Islam , and  Fatimah Zahra (s.a.), the daughter of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  He was the younger brother of the second Shia ImamHasan ibn Ali (a.s.). Imam Husain (a.s.) is an important figure in Islam, as he is a member of the Ahlul Bayt (the household of Muhammad) and Ahl al-Kisa, as well as being the third Shia Imam. According to most reports, Imam Husain (a.s.) and his brother Imam Hasan (a.s.) were the last descendants of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) living during his lifetime and surviving after his death. There are many accounts of his love for them which refer to them together. Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said that “He who loves me and loves these two, their father and their mother, will be with me at my place on the Day of Resurrection,” and that “Husain is of me and I am his. Allah loves those who love Husain”. Husain is a grandson among grandsons. One narration declares them the “Masters of the Youth of Paradise”. This statement has been particularly important for the Shia who have used it in support of the right of Prophet Muhammad’s (a.s.) descendants to succeed him. The Shias maintain that the infallibility of the Imam is a basic rule in the Imamate. “The theologians have defined the Imamate, saying: “Surely the Imamate is a grace from Allah, Who grants it to the most perfect and best of His servants to Him”. Other traditions record Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with his grandsons on his knees, on his shoulders, and even on his back during prayer at the moment of prostrating himself, when they were young.   Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) loved them and frequently declared them as his Ahlul Bayt. He has also said: “Every mother’s children are associated with their father (for lineage) except for the children of Fatima (s.a..) for I am their father and lineage”. Thus only the descendants of Fatima (s.a.) are the descendants and progeny of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his Ahlul Bayt (see Holy Qur’an 33:33)

Imam Husain (a.s.) Assumes As 3rd Imam:

According to the Shia muslims,Imam Husain (a.s.) became the third Imam soon after the death of Imam Hasan (a.s.) in 50 AH. At that time he was 46 years old. He spent most of his time in his mission of teaching Islam. A large number of people kept coming to see him and to learn from him. This process continued for a period of about  ten years when people began to hear an ugly rumor that Mu’wiya wanted to designate his son, Yazid to succeed him.

Mu’awiya Commits Breach of Treaty:

Imam Hussain (a.s.) became the head of Shia Islam and the head of Banu Hashim after his older brother, Imam Hasan ibn Ali (a.s.), was poisoned to death by Mu’awiya in 670 (AH 50). Imam Hussain (a.s.)’s father’s supporters in Kufa accepted him to be his leader and gave their allegiance. However, he told them he was still bound by the peace treaty between Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Mu’awiya and they should wait until Mu’ awiya was dead. Mu’awiya began a campaign to introduce Monarchy into the structure of Islam. He sent his agents to prominent tribal Chiefs to obtain their loyalty to his son as his successor. A majority of public knew that Yazid was not fit to be Khalifa, so they protested vigorously. There was anger and protest every where. To control the situation temporarily, Mu’awiya decided to send his son to Mecca for the pilgrimage. Yazid went to Mecca taking with him alcohol as well as a chorus of girls to entertain him.

Imam Husain Refuses Allegiance To Yazid:

Upon Mu’wiya’s death, Yazid managed to impose himself upon the people and became Khalifa. Imam Husain (a.s.) did not accept the succession of Yazid, and considered this action a breach of the Imam Hasan–Mu’awiya treatyImam Husain (a.s.) refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid. He insisted on his legitimacy to be the Khalifa based on his own special position as a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his legitimate legatee. Yazid ordered Waleed Ibn Ut’ba, his Governor over Medina, to ask for Imam Husain’s allegiance of Loyalty or else upon refusal, his head.  Imam Husain (a.s.) refrained from  giving his allegiance.  He strongly believed that Yazid was openly going against the teachings of Islam in public and changing the sunnah of prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In his view, the integrity and survival of the Islamic community depended on re-establishment of the correct guidance for Ummah. He, therefore, accompanied by his household, his sons, brothers, nephews, and the companions left Medina to seek asylum in Mecca.

While in Mecca Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, Abdullah ibn Umar and Abdullah ibn Abbas advised Imam Husain Ibn Ali (a.s.) to make Mecca his base and fight against Yazid from Mecca. On the other hand, the people in Kufa who were informed about Mu’awiya’s death and his breaching of the Treaty that he had signed with Imam Hasan (a.s.), by appointing Yazid as his successor, sent letters urging Imam Husain ibn Ali (a.s.) to join them and pledged to support him against Umayyads. Imam Husain (a.s.) wrote back to them saying that he would send his cousin, Muslim ibn Aqeel, to report to him on the situation. If he found them united, as their letters indicated, he would speedily join them, because Imam should act in accordance with the Quran, uphold justice, proclaim the truth, and dedicate himself to the cause of God. The mission of Muslim ibn Aqeel was initially successful and according to reports 18,000 men pledged their allegiance to Imam Husain (a.s.). But situation changed radically when Yazid appointed Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad as the new governor of Kufa, ordering him to deal severely with Muslim Ibn Aqeel. Imam Husain (a.s.) while waiting in Mecca for any reply from Muslim, sensed some danger on his life, so he immediately decided to leave for Kufa without doing the pilgrimage. He assembled his caravan and set out for Kufa.

 Imam Husain(a.s.)’s Caravan Leaves For Kufa:

On the way, Imam Husain (a.s.) found that his messenger, Muslim ibn Aqeel, was killed in Kufa. He broke the news to his supporters and informed them that people in Kufa had deserted him. Then, he encouraged anyone among companions, who so wished, to leave him freely without guilt. Most of those who had joined him at various stages on the way from Mecca now left him.  On his journey towards Kufa, Imam Husain (a.s.) encountered the army of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad.  Imam Husain (a.s.) sent a message to the Kufans, reminding them that they had invited him to come because they were without an Imam. He informed them that he had intended to proceed to Kufa with their support, but if they were now opposed to his coming, he would return to where he had come from. However, the Ziyad’s army urged him to choose another way. Thus, he turned to left and reached a place called Karbala, where the army forced his caravan to stop at a location that was near the bank of river Euphrates.

Battle Of Karbala:

 Umar ibn Sa’ad, the head of Ziyad’s army, sent a messenger to Imam Husain (a.s.) to inquire about the purpose of his coming to Iraq. Imam Husain (a.s.) answered again that he had responded to the invitation of the people of Kufa but was ready to go back if they now disliked his presence. When Umar ibn Sa’ad reported it back to Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, the governor, who instructed him to offer Ḥusain and his supporters the opportunity to swear allegiance to Yazid. He also ordered Umar ibn Sa’ad to cut off Husain and his followers from access to the water of the river Euphrates.

On the next morning, as Umar ibn Sa’d arranged the Kufan army consisting of over 30,000 soldiers in a battle order. Before the actual engagement was to take place, Al-Hurr ibn Yazid al Tamimi the previous commander of Yazid army enemy, felt his conscience violently stirring. He was in turmoil. Upon realizing the gravity of the situation, he suddenly challenged Umar ibn Sa’ad of his action, and broke away from Umar Sa’ad’s camp and went over to Imam Ḥusain (a.s.) to pledge his allegiance. He vainly addressed the Kufans, rebuking them for their treachery to the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). For three days Umar Sa’ad cut off Imam‘s family and companions access to river Euphrates from which they they were to get water. Women, children, and all supporters spent three days without water. On the day of Ashura, Umar Sa’ad ordered his army to start the battle against Imam Husain (a.s.) and his companions. The Battle of Karbala lasted from morning till sunset of Muharram 10, AH 61. Hurr was the first  person to fight the battle and got martyred. All of Imam Husain’s small group of companions and family members bravely fought and were brutally killed by Umar Sa’ad’s army. Imam Husain’s supporters insisted on being first to fight. Therefore, they took the brunt of the enemy attack. The battle was ferocious. Within a short time Imam‘s supporters slay a large number of the enemy fighters. They were on the offensive and enemy on the defensive. This caused apprehension and confusion in the enemy military. Worried and nervous, the enemy commander reinforced his fighters with more troops. The heroes began to fall. They were men of valor welcoming martyrdom, they fell one after another, for the enemy was overwhelming in number. Ali Akbar, Imam Husain’s son obtained permission to fight and dashed toward the enemy. He engaged them in fierce fighting, jumping on them like a thunder slaying numerous fighters. He continued to move forward, deep inside the enemy. The enemy surrounded him and threw swords and spears at him. His body became full of wounds all over gushing blood, until he embraced the martyrdom. Imam Husain (a.s.) rushed to the area and picked up the wounded body and brought it to the appalled camp. His sister Sayyedah Zainab (s.a) and other women were horrified and shocked at the scene. Hadhrat Abbas and four other brothers of Imam Husain (a.s.) went to fight. They all fought bravely and engaged the enemy in a fierce confrontation. Hadhrat Abbas went toward the river to bring some water for the thirsty children. While he was returning on his horse with the water, he was attacked by a large horde of the enemy throwing arrows at him, cutting off his one shoulder and wounding him severely. As much as he tried, Hadhrat Abbas could not save the water. He fell from his horse and breathed his last. There after three nephews, Qasim the son of Imam Hasan (a.s.) and two sons of Sayyedah Zainab (s.a) went to the battle field. They were all in their teens but each stood bravely and showed no less enthusiasm in their quest to embrace martyrdom.

Imam Husain (a.s.) And His Baby:

By the afternoon of the day of Ashura, 70 brave persons had sacrificed their lives in Karbala to save Islam. All had fought under nerve racking conditions, severe thirst, dehydration, exhaustion, and a desperate feeling of what would happen to the family of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) afterwards. Imam Husain (a.s.) endured all that and more, for that he saw all his beloved ones brutally massacred including children. Remaining the only one, Imam Husain (a.s.) was to face the enemy head on. Precisely at that moment Imam Husain (a.s.) heard his baby crying incessantly, agonizing because of thirst. He held this six months old babu, his youngest son (Ali Asghar) in his arms, and appealed to the enemy fighters for some water for the baby. Imam wanted to awaken their conscience and stir their human feelings but the stone hearted enemy, instead of giving water, zoomed an arrow toward the thirsty baby and killed him instantly. Imam Husain (a.s.) was shocked. He felt an unbearable wave of pain. The sight of the martyred baby in his arms was agonizingly painful. He filled his palm with the blood of the baby, and threw it upwards towards the sky, complaining Allah The Almighty:

                      ” O’ Allah, O’ my Lord! My consolation is the fact that Thou in Thine Majesty are witnessing what I am going through.”

Imam Husain By Himself Facing the Enemy:

Imam Husain (a.s.) was alone, one man against a large force of thousands of soldiers. After conferring Imama to his son  Zainul Abedin, and saying goodbye to the family members, Imam Husain(a.s.) proceeded to the battle with the enemy. He fought bravely, and kept fighting, receiving many wounds in the process. Thousands of enemy fighters were surrounding him but none dared to move towards him. The silence was broken when Shimr screamed for attack and a sword fell on Imam‘s left wrist and deeply cut his left hand. The blood gushed like a fountain.Another sword attack hit his upper back. Imam Husain (a.s.) felt numb as he felt to the ground, bleeding profusely.He was near the point of shock, even though staggering he tried to stand by leaning on his sword. Imam decided to say his last prayer. He put his head on the ground for sujood. The prayer was still continuing that Shimr came forward and severed Imam Husain (a.s.)’s noble head from the body. The noble head was kissed often by the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Umar Sa’ad ordered the horsemen to trample upon the severed body of Imam Husain (a.s.) and all others who were killed to disfigure them even further. For three days the holy bodies of the martyrs were left lying in the desert of KarbalaThe people of the tribe of Banu – Asad who were not away from the battle field, helped to bury them into the ground. The survivors included few ladies, children and Imam Husain’s young son, Ali Ibn Husain Zainul Abedin, who was severely ill during that battle. After killing 72 persons, Umar Sa’ad set fire to the camps of women and children’s and the martyrs’ bodies were trampled on by the hoofs of the horses; nobody in the history of the human kind has seen such atrocities.

 Lessons of Karbala:

Many famous and notable personalities of the world like Mahatma Gandhi, Sir William Muir and Edward Gibbon have praised highly Imam Husain (a.s.) for his stand for truth, justice, human dignity, and preservation of rights. The Battle of Karbala is a reflection of a collision of good versus evil, virtuous versus wicked, and a Holy Imam versus a devil Yazid.  Karbala proved to be a clash involving Islamic truths versus falsehood, right versus wrong, oppressed versus oppressor, and faith against a brute forceful force. Karbala’s battle was about standing in the face of oppression, regardless of the cost or sacrifice of one’s own life. Thus in Karbala, Al-Husain (a.s.) the 57 year old grandson of the Holy prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sacrificed himself, his children, his companions, and all he had for one goal. That goal was to let the truth triumph over falsehood eventually, and he did that brilliantly. Undoubtedly, the lessons of Karbala are not meant for any particular group or community, rather are meant for all humanity.

Marriages:

 

Imam Husain (a.s.) married four times and had six children. His wives were Shahr Banu, Umm Layla, Umm Rubab, and Umm Ishaq.  Shahr Banu gave birth to two children,including Ali ibn Husain (who was later designated the fourth Imam by Imam Husain (a.s.). Umm Layla gave birth to Ali Akbar and Fatima Sughra. Umm Rubab also gave birth to two children, Sukayna and Ali Asghar. (Note: Umm Ishaq was a widow of Imam Hasan (a.s.).

Next week’s installment – The Fourth  Imam Zainul Abedin (a.s.) in Part #5.

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