Hussain, Imam

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The Martyrdom of Imam Hussain

During the caliphate of Imam ‘Ali, Mu’awiya declared himself the governor of Syria. After the assassination of ‘Ali by a Kharijite, ‘Ali’s elder son, Imam Hasan, succeeded him, being judged as the most qualified and deserving by the people. By this time, however, Mu’awiya had amassed enough support in and around Syria to unilaterally declare himself caliph of whole Islamic world. In order to avoid bloodshed, preserve unity, and in fact to save the religion of Islam from destruction, Imam Hasan signed a peace treaty with Mu’awiya. The treaty included these terms: (1) Mu’awiya would be the temporal political head of the Muslim empire; (2) Mu’awiya would not appoint his own successor, but would leave the caliphate to the will of the majority (which favored Imam Husain); and, (3) Mu’awiya would allow the Muslims to live in peace, free from oppression, especially those belonging to the Hashimite tribe (the tribe of the Holy Prophet and his family).
Mu’awiya violated the terms of this treaty and, near his death, designated his son Yazid as his successor. Yazid was an immoral and ruthless man with no sense of justice. He employed bribery and coercion to win support. Imam Husain, as the protector and guardian of the religion established by his noble grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.W.), refused to swear allegiance to him. Yazid realized that he could never legitimize and consolidate his rule without the allegiance of Imam Husain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet. Consequently, he decided that he would either force the Imam to submit to his rule, or else he would have him killed.

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In the 61st year after Hijra (680 AD), Imam Husain, while performing the pilgrimage in Mecca, received the news that assassins had been sent by Yazid to kill him. Desiring to protect the sanctity of the Holy City, he interrupted his pilgrimage and headed towards Kufa, in modern-day Iraq on invitation of the people there to come and teach them about Islam. He took with him his family members and close friends, including his six-month-old infant son, Ali Asghar. His journey to Kufa was intercepted by a detachment of Yazid’s army, led by a commander named Hur. Hur had orders to re-direct the Imam to camp in the desert plains of Karbala, on the banks of the River Euphrates. In order to avoid bloodshed, Imam Husain chose not to resist, and followed Hur’s directions. He and his companions were forced to camp at a great distance from the river, which was the only source of water in the area.
On the seventh day of Muharram, Ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa, ordered that food and water supplies were to be blocked from reaching Imam Husain’s camp. In the meantime, the ranks of Yazid’s army were increasing by the thousands. The blistering sun scorched the desert sand, and the thirst was becoming unbearable in Husain’s camp. The children especially were becoming dehydrated and weak, and Imam Husain pleaded with Yazid’s army to supply water at least to those children, but to no avail.
On the tenth day of Muharram, Yazid’s army was ready to attack the small band of defenders in Imam Husain’s camp. One by one, his friends and relatives took permission to go out and fight and each one laid down his life in the defense of Islam. Two of his nephews, who were only ten years old, were among the brave soldiers who died fighting. The commander of Husain’s forces was Abbas, his brother, who had inherited his chivalry from his father ‘Ali, the Lion of Allah. Abbas asked Husain’s permission to go and fight his way through to the river and bring back some water for Sakina, Husain’s four-year-old daughter, and the other children. The Imam reluctantly gave him permission to go and fetch water. Abbas took an empty flask, charged into Yazid’s army, cut through the ranks, and arrived at the river. While he filled the pitcher with water, he himself did not drink a drop, for he reasoned that he could not do so while Imam Husain, Sakina, and the others were still thirsty. Abbas did not make it back to the camp, however. The whole army of Yazid converged upon him. He died defending the precious pitcher of water.

Imam Husain’s six-month-old son, Ali Asghar, was on the verge of death from dehydration. Husain brought him out of the tent to show his pitiful condition to the soldiers in Yazid’s army, pleading for at least enough water to save the infant’s life. The enemy denied his request. A heartless archer from the enemy army shot an arrow that struck the infant, killing him in his father’s own arms.

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Soon, Imam Husain was left alone to face Yazid’s army, since all the able-bodied male members of his camp had died fighting one by one. He made a final plea to the army of Yazid, reminding them of his kinship with the Holy Prophet of Islam, the love and respect which the Holy Prophet had used to show him, and the numerous traditions in which the Holy Prophet had warned the Muslims not to disobey or injure him. He reminded them of his desire to uphold the truth and his status as one of the true protectors of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. He asked to be allowed to leave the Muslim kingdom, so that Yazid would not perceive him as a threat to his power. Finally, he clearly warned them that by shedding his blood, they would be subjected to the wrath of Allah (S.W.T.) and they would lose any hope of the intercession of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.W.). The commanders of the opposing army were unmoved, and reiterated their desire to kill Imam Husain unless he chose to submit to the authority of Yazid. Husain was left with no choice but to take a firm and final stand against falsehood, and to fight for the preservation of Islam. He fought bravely, and in the end he achieved martyrdom.

The Significance of Imam Husain’s Martyrdom
Immediate outcome of Imam Husain’s actions: Muslims and non-Muslims alike have acknowledged that Imam Husain saved Islam from destruction by sacrificing his life. Yazid had been successful in winning over the allegiance of the great majority of Muslims, and the rest of the Muslim world was in a state of moral slumber. The principles of Islam were being plundered, the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet was being tampered with, and phony traditions were being concocted to justify the rule of Yazid. It was the singular sacrifice of Imam Husain and his faithful followers that shook the Islamic world out of its slumber. The Muslims were forced to ask themselves why the beloved grandson of the Holy Prophet had been murdered so brutally. It then dawned upon the people what the true nature of Yazid and his supporters was.

Long term outcome of Imam Husain’s actions: Imam Husain, by challenging Yazid and in the process laying down his life, changed the world and re-shaped human destiny forever. Yazid, and indeed all future despots, were put on notice that they would not be tolerated, and that truth and justice would be upheld and would ultimately succeed, regardless of the costs. The Iranian revolution that uprooted and overthrew an unjust government, and the liberation of Lebanon from foreign occupation are two of the more recent exemplars of these principles laid down by Imam Husain.
Imam Husain’s Philosophy:

Professor Syed Jafar Raza Bilgirami beautifully describes Imam Husain’s philosophy. He states that at Karbala, Imam Husain came to rebuild a system of life. He gave a practical embodiment to the rational concept of justice. He successfully placed the spirit (savage, war-making qualities in man) and the appetite (greed for material things and lust for power) under the command of reason (‘Aql). In Karbala, he formulated a new code of life to safeguard the peace and security of human society for all times to come.

— original source: http://www.irfi.org/ —

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