(Persia Digest) - In the year 50 AH, Imam Hassan (AS), the first son of Imam Ali (the first Shiite Imam) was martyred. At that time, Muaaviyeh ruled over Muslims forcefully and deceitfully. He knew well that he had gained power through oppression and so was not eligible to rule; therefore, he was constantly afraid of Ali’s (AS) children and followers. Muaaviyeh wanted his drunken son to ascend to the throne after his rule and considered Ali’s children, who were the most eligible to rule over Muslims, as obstacles. Finally, by masterminding a conspiracy, he martyred Imam Hassan (AS).
After this event, the Shiites launched a movement in Iraq. They wrote a letter to Imam Hossein (AS), the son of Imam Ali (AS) and brother of Imam Hassan (AS), to remove Muaaviyeh from power and appoint himself the Caliph. However, the Imam, who had entered into a peace treaty with Muaaviyeh, rejected the request and refused to break his promise.
Ten years later, in the year 60 AH, Muaaviyeh died. Prior to his death, he violated the peace treaty with Ali’s children and appointed his son, Yazid, as his successor. Immediately after his father’s death, Yazid sat in the seat of the Caliph and called on the administrators in the city of Medina, where Hossein (AS) lived, to ensure people’s loyalty to the new ruler. He ordered them to especially ensure the loyalty of Hossein (AS), the son of Imam Ali (AS) and kill him if he refused to do so.
Yazid was a notorious, incompetent, and indecent man who surpassed his father and ancestors in cruelty and rebellion. He spent all his life in pleasure and debauchery, and was known to all as “Yazid, the gambler.”
This man, known for his heresy, had been appointed as the Caliph of Muslims, which was not tolerated by many people. They understood such an apparent injustice and once again turned their hopes to Imam Hossein (AS).
At that time, the Islamic world had three important centers: Medina, Kufa, and Damascus. Kufa was a newly founded city and was called the “Islamic barracks.” The people of Kufa were informed that Hossein bin Ali (AS) had refused Yazid’s rule, left Medina, and migrated to Mecca, and so they came together and wrote letters to him. They invited the Imam to Kufa and took an oath that they would pledge allegiance to him and support him in order to save Muslims from Yazid’s intrigues.
In response to the invitation extended by the people of Kufa, Imam Hossein (AS) sent them a letter through his emissary, his cousin Muslim, son of Aqeel. Hossein (AS) instructed Muslim to meet with the people of Kufa, find out about their situation, and determine whether all the people were firm in their invitation and pledge of support.
When Muslim arrived in Kufa, Mokhtar Saghafi received him. Kufi Shiites came in groups to meet Hossein’s (AS) envoy and asked him to read the Imam’s letter for them. After hearing Imam Hossein’s remarks, they shed tears and once again insisted on the sincerity of their invitation. Thus, about eighteen thousand people pledged allegiance to Hossein (AS) through Muslim.
Observing such a warm welcome by the Shiites, Muslim immediately wrote a letter to his chief and explained the interest of the people of Kufa in pledging allegiance to the son of Imam Ali (AS). In his letter, he reassured Hossein (AS) that all the residents of the city would be his disciples, adding that the Imam should prepare for the journey to Kufa at his earliest convenience and should no longer keep the people waiting for his arrival.
However, some worldly and materialistic Kufiyans knew that with the arrival of Hossein bin Ali (AS) they would be deprived of further access to pleasure and authority, and that their access to public wealth would be curtailed. Therefore, they sent a letter to Yazid’s court and informed him of the presence of Imam Hossein’s envoy.
When Yazid was informed of this situation, he commissioned one of his executives, Ubaidullah, the son of Ziyad and the then governor of Basra, to proceed to Kufa and take charge of the city. He also urged Ubaidullah to remove Muslim from his way and kill him if necessary.
Ubaidullah was a cunning man. He knew well that most of the people of Kufa were against Yazid and were awaiting the arrival of Ali’s son, and so they would receive neither him nor his men. Therefore, he resorted to a trick: he masked his face and, accompanied by only a few people, arrived modestly in the city of Kufa. People mistook him for the Imam, accorded him a warm welcome, and surrounded him joyfully. At this point, Ubaidullah removed his mask and announced to all who he was, adding that he had been appointed by Yazid as the governor of Kufa. As the frustrated people fled, Ubaidullah went to the city’s mosque where he delivered a speech. He warned the people that those who vowed allegiance to the opponents of Yazid should expect severe punishment, and they would not be forgiven.
With the arrival of the new executive in Kufa, Muslim’s life was at risk, and he was obliged to leave Mokhtar Saghafi’s house after midnight and seek refuge in the house of another Shiite. However, using his gold coins and lofty promises, Ubaidullah managed to find spies who showed him Muslim’s hideout. Soon he arrested Muslim and ordered his men to throw Muslim off the top of the building. After that incident, the city of Kufa fell entirely into the hands of Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, and the situation appeared to become calm.
However, Muslim’s letter had reached the Imam prior to these incidents. Although the Imam was doubtful about the Kufiyans’ fidelity, he left Mecca and proceeded toward Kufa, unaware of the fact that Ubaidullah hid in ambush in the suburbs of the desert from Basra up to Qadessiyeh, awaiting the arrival of the Imam and his disciples.
In the middle of the road to Kufa, the Imam, still unaware of the latest events in the city, wrote a letter to Muslim, informing him of his departure from Mecca to Kufa.
Soon, however, the Imam heard about the arrest and martyrdom of Muslim and many other true Shiite Muslims. With the spread of the news, Hossein bin Ali’s (AS) trip took on a different dimension, which created fear in some of his companions. Hossein (AS) gathered his followers and spoke with them about the incident and allowed all who wished to return to do so. They continued the journey until the next day, when suddenly thousands of soldiers, commandeered by Horr bin Yazid Riyahi, stood arrayed in front of the Imam’s (AS) convoy to block its path.
After the noon prayers, Imam Hossein (AS) made some remarks that slightly softened the heart of the other side’s commander. Horr, then, wrote a letter to Ziyad and asked for his permission to open the way for Hossein’s (AS) return to Mecca. Ziyad’s response, however, ordered Horr to arrest Ali’s son and send him to Ziyad’s court.
Imam Hossein (AS) refused to surrender to Ubaidullah and tried to choose a direction that led neither to Mecca nor Kufa. Under Ziyad’s command, Horr continued to bar Hossein from continuing his march and constantly blocked his way. Finally, he made the Imam to set up a camp together with his adherents in a land with no water or any living facilities. Later, the Imam again decided to continue his advance, but Horr’s army continued to either block the way or open the route but accompany the convoy. This procedure continued until Thursday, 2nd of Moharram 61 AH, when the Imam reached Karbala.
Hossein (AS) and his followers set up camps in this land, and Horr’s army also encamped in front of them. Then, the Imam, who was aware of the divine secrets in his heart, gathered his household and disciples. He talked to them and prayed for them all.
Later, Ubaidullah assigned Omar bin Saad to depart for Karbala with a huge army. This prompted a large number of Imam Hossein’s (AS) companions to leave him, and only about 70 stayed with the Imam. Ubaidullah had promised Omar bin Saad that if he killed Hossein bin Ali (AS), he would be appointed governor of Rey, but that never happened.
On the seventh day of Moharram, Omar bin Saad’s army denied the Imam and his companions access to water, and so, till the end of the day of Ashura, the disciples and household of Prophet Mohammad (S), remained thirsty. Finally, the 10th of Moharram, the day of Ashura, arrived.
To prevent the blood shedding of Muslims, Imam Hossein (AS) tried hard to stop the massacre, but the enemy, boasting about its big army against the small number of the Imam’s followers, ignored the suggestions of the grandson of the Prophet (S) and sought only to fight. Imam Hossein (AS) sent some of his companions to the enemy’s army in order to talk to them and advise them not to tread the path of mischief. The Imam himself repeatedly advised the enemy forces with enlightening remarks and invited them to keep calm and avoid fighting. However, except a few, enemy forces maintained their destructive attitude and called for war.
Horr, a gallant commander, who in the first encounter had blocked the Imam’s (AS) path and forced him to go to Karbala, had a change of heart. When confronted with the generosity and truthfulness of the Imam on the one hand and the tyranny and evil intentions of Omar bin Saad and the army of Ubaidullah bin Ziyad on the other, Horr awakened from his deep sleep of heedlessness and repented. He immediately withdrew Omar bin Saad’s army and proceeded toward the Imam’s encampment. Horr sought Imam’s forgiveness and expressed regret over his past deeds and behavior. Imam Hossein (AS) kindly welcomed Horr and embraced him. Having attained a heartfelt belief, Horr returned to the enemy’s army and invited them to choose prosperity by joining the army of Ali’s son. The enemy, however, being immensely worried about the incident, stoned him and shot at him, preventing him from approaching other forces.
The enemy’s alarmed army, which had witnessed the loss of its forces, issued the command to attack. Omar bin Saad formally started the war by throwing an arrow at Imam Hossein’s (AS) army and encouraged his troops to fight. Soon the two armies approached each other and began to fight, using the weapons of that era. In this battle, military equations were altered: an army of fewer than a hundred, comprising both young and old, stood fast against that of over several thousand.
The enemy, gaining nothing from the generalized aggression, finally resorted to a one-to-one combat. The first of the Imam’s household who took to the battlefield was Ali Akbar, the Imam’s eldest 19-year-old son. While introducing himself, Ali Akbar attacked the enemy. The Kufiyans refused to kill him until one man blocked his way, aimed a spear at him, and knocked him to the ground. Then, Yazid’s army surrounded Ali Akbar and killed him with swords.
Soon, a man from Omar bin Saad’s army threw an arrow toward Abdullah, son of Muslim bin Aqeel. Abdullah used his hand to protect his forehead, but the arrow pierced his hand and his forehead so that he could not move his hand. Another enemy soldier pierced his heart with a spear, and thus he was martyred as well.
At this time, young Qasim, son of Imam Hassan (AS), went onto the battleground. None of the enemy forces would fight with him except one. He attacked Qasim, striking Qasim’s head so heavily with his sword that he split it. Hearing Qasim’s cry, the Imam rushed onto the battlefield and cut off the killer’s hand. Then he took Qasim’s body from the ground and put it beside the body of his elder son.
The Imam sat in front of the tent and embraced his child Abdullah. A man from Bani Asad shot an arrow toward him, which killed his son.
While enemy troops were attacking the disciples of Imam Hossein (AS), the women and children were suffering from thirst. Imam Hossein (AS) asked his brother Abbas to bring them water from the Euphrates River. Enemy troops surrounded him, but Abbas broke the siege by killing many and reached the river. He did not drink himself as he was concerned about the thirst of the Imam, the women, and the children. He filled the water-skin and was returning to the tents when the enemy cut off first his right hand and then his left hand, and then hit him on the head with an iron bar. As he fell to the ground, the Imam rushed to help his brother and embraced him. In this way, the standard bearer of Hossein’s (AS) army attained martyrdom in the Imam’s arms.
A few hours later, all the Imam’s companions, including the brave youth of Bani Hashim and his children, brothers, nephews, nieces, and cousins, attained martyrdom in the jihad.
When the Imam had lost all his companions, he called on the women and children of his household to exercise patience and then bid them farewell. He then went to his son Imam Zeinalabedin, who was then severely ill, and appointed him as his successor. Then he prepared to fight the enemy. Imam Hossein (AS) alone fought with the enemy for several hours and killed soldiers wherever he turned. He sustained many wounds and finally fell to the ground. The enemy did not leave him alone even then, but attacked his battered body with arrows, spears, swords, and stones. Finally, the Imam lay still on the hot soil of Karbala and prepared himself for God’s reception. At this moment, one of Omar bin Saad’s soldiers named Shemr approached the bloody body of the Imam, brutally beheaded him, and gave the head to Khooli to take to Omar bin Saad. On the day of his martyrdom, Hossein (AS) suffered 33 wounds caused by spears and 33 more caused by swords. It has been told that the Imam’s martyrdom occurred on Friday after the noon prayer.
After the Imam’s (AS) martyrdom, enemy forces did not cease their crimes, but committed more vulgar and inhumane acts. Omar bin Saad’s army, especially those under Shemr’s command, attacked and looted the Imam’s tents and livestock, coffers, clothing, and weapons. They did not even respect the privacy of his household and plundered women’s jewelry and even the animal skin on which Imam Zeinalabedin used to sleep.
After looting the tents and plundering the property of the survivors, they set the tents on fire. At this point, unattended women and children fled from their tents into the surrounding desert.
Upon the orders of Omar bin Saad, ten soldiers, after shoeing their horses, rode over the bodies of the martyrs, including that of Hossein bin Ali (AS) and smashed the wounded and beheaded bodies of the martyrs. On their return, they went to Ubaidullah bin Ziyad to receive their rewards, but only a small amount was paid to them.
The troops of Omar bin Saad buried the bodies of their men and left the bodies of Imam Hossein (AS) and his household and companions lying on the ground. As they traveled from Karbala to Kufa, they passed Imam Hossein’s household, the women, mothers and sisters, abandoned by the massacre site, revealing to them what had happened to those who had been killed. They intended to bring the women to the dead bodies in order to make them weep and cry, and thus see in them signs of helplessness and weakness.
Finally, enemy forces captured the survivors, chained them, and took them to Kufa and later to Damascus. Women and children all walked behind Hazrat Zainab (SA), daughter of Imam Ali (SA) and sister of Imam Hossein (AS). Moving in front of them, Zainab (SA) reached the savaged body of Imam Hossein (AS). The body was so riddled with arrows, swords, spears, and stone wounds that it could barely be seen. She stood close to the body of her brother and removed the arrows and swords. Then she raised her head to the sky and said with a strong voice: “O’ Lord, accept this sacrifice from us.”
Ubaidullah’s troops thought that desert sandstorms would cover the bodies of the martyrs, and so no one would know of the massacre and they would be able to create a fake story and claim that Hossein (AS) and his disciples had abandoned their religion and were killed for that reason. However, Zainab (SA) thwarted the plot. She told the truth to the people wherever she went.
As a result, when Zainab (SA) arrived in Kufa, she told the people what had happened: the story of the murder of Hossein bin Ali (AS) and subsequent events, as well as details of the crimes committed by Omar bin Saad’s troops - everything. Thus Zainab (SA) traveled from one city to another, revealing the truth and exposing the crimes of the followers of Yazid and Ubaidullah bin Ziyad.
After 22 days, the caravan of the captives of Karbala arrived in Damascus on the 2nd of the Hegira month of Safar and was brought to the court of Yazid. After 22 days of continuous suffering, they arrived in Yazid’s Green Palace, a palace built by Muaaviyeh, the splendor of which shocked every newcomer. Yazid was sitting on a jeweled throne, with all the elders of his administration sitting around him. Under such circumstances the caravan of the captives arrived, and Zainab (SA), a tired and suffered captive, delivered a speech so stunning that, for a time, it silenced Yazid with all his rhetoric and infuriated him.
Speeches delivered by the daughter of Imam Ali (AS) in Kufa, in the presence of bin Ziyad, and her powerful words in Damascus at Yazid’s court, as well as her passionate remarks at each quarter, reminded listeners of Ali’s sermons, set the hearts of the oppressors on fire, and revealed clearly the facts about the events of Karbala, and thus attracted people to the true goals and values of Ashura.
On this basis, the uprising of Imam Hossein (AS) had two phases. The first phase was the stage of struggle, jihad, and martyrdom accomplished by the Imam and his companions, and the second phase was Zainab’s (SA) and Imam Zeinalabedin’s delivery of his message. Steps taken by Zainab (SA) and Imam Hossein’s (AS) son after their captivity resulted in saving the uprising of Hossein bin Ali (AS) from deviation through history and helped the cry of Hossein (AS) to be heard in the Muslim world.
*This article was first published on 20 September 2018 in Persia Digest.
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