By Amal Al-Sibai
Regardless of the sect, the school of thought, or the fiqhi madhhab we follow, all Muslims have a deep love and veneration of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his family. We immensely love all whom the Prophet loved: his companions, his wives, his daughters, and especially his youngest daughter whom he called the flower, Fatimah, and her husband Ali bin Abi Talib and their two sons, Hasan and Hussain.
The Prophet’s Love for Hasan and Hussain
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) openly showed his affection for Hasan and Hussain. He (peace be upon him) was often seen with the boys on his lap. He kissed them fondly, hugged them close to his chest, allowed them to climb on his back when he prayed, and he repeatedly expressed his love for them.
He (peace be upon him) held the hands of Hasan and Hussain and said, “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.” (At-Tirmidhi)
How can we not love Hussain when the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Hussain is of me and I am his. Allah loves those who love Hussain. Hussain is a grandson among grandsons.”? (At-Tirmidhi)
Truly, this young Muslim hero, descendent of the Prophet (peace be upon him), is an important figure in our history. Some cultures exaggerate in mourning Hussain’s murder, which fell on the tenth of Muharram. We saw the images of people practicing self-mutilation last week in memory of his death, which makes no sense to the sound mind. However, on the other end, some Muslims have completely forgotten the tragedy, and still others truly lack in knowledge about Hussain, his life, and his death.
Al-Hussain was born in Shabaan in the fourth year after the migration from Makkah to Madinah. He was only a year younger than his brother, Al-Hasan. The boys were called by the Prophet (peace be upon him) as the chiefs of the youth of Paradise. They were raised in a pious family; they spent their childhood learning from the best of creation, their grandfather.
As a young man, when Hussain’s father, Ali bin Abi Talib, became the fourth Rightly Guided Caliph, he moved with his father to Kufa in Iraq. Hussain participated in the battles of Sifeen and Jamal. After Ali bin Abi Talib was assassinated, the people of Kufa gave the oath of allegiance to Hasan as the well-deserved Caliph, but the people of Syria gave their oath of allegiance to Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan. Although he had a right to the Caliphate, due to Hasan’s wisdom and in order to avoid further bloodshed among Muslims, he voluntary resigned from his position; Hasan gave up the Caliphate. Hasan, along with his family and his brother, Hussain, returned to Madinah.
According to reliable Sunni historians such as Ibn Kathir and Ibn Hajar, Hussain may not have agreed with this decision, but out of respect for his brother, he moved to Madinah and lived there a quiet life, spending his time in worship of Allah and helping the needy. Hussain was greatly loved and respected.
Many stories abound of his noble character and humble nature. He once passed by a group of poor men eating, and they invited him to join them. He dismounted his horse, saying, “Surely, Allah does not like the haughty.” He shared the meal with them and said, “I have accepted your invitation, won’t you accept mine?” Hussain took them to his house and asked his wife, Ar-Rabab to bring forth a meal for them.
It was said that Hussain had a mark along his back, and this mark was from the trace of the bag which he carried on his back, bringing food to the houses of the widows, orphans, and the poor.
Events Leading to the Murder of Al-Husayn
After Hasan died in the year 50 after Hijrah, Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan nominated his son, Yazid, as the next Caliph. This came as a shock to the Muslim nation because Yazid was not a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him). There were companions who were older, wiser, more experienced, and more righteous than Yazid.
When Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan died in the year 60 after Hijrah, the bulk of the Muslim nation pledged allegiance to Yazid, but the people of Makkah and Madinah refused to accept Yazid as their Caliph.
The Muslims in Makkah and Madinah looked up to the following three men as rightful leaders: Abdullah bin Umar bin Al Khattab, Abdullah bin Zubayr (son of Asmaa bint Abi Bakr), and of course Hussain, grandson of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The Governor of Madinah, appointed by Yazid’s father, wanted to quell any uprising against the Umayyad Caliphate. He called Hussain to his house and insisted that Hussain proclaim the oath of allegiance to Yazid in public in the mosque. Hussain resisted and he asked for more time to think the matter over.
Sensing pressure from the Governor of Madinah, Hussain went home and told his family to pack; they were leaving to Makkah in two hours. In Makkah, Hussain would find more people who rejected Yazid’s rulership.
The news spread across the Muslim lands that Hussain had fled to Makkah without giving allegiance to Yazid. The news reached the people of Kufa; they rejoiced because they already harbored animosity towards Yazid. They started sending letters to Hussain in Makkah, inviting him to come to Kufa, to rise up, and lead a rebellion against Yazid.
Hussain received message after message from the people of Kufa; most were pleas but some were even threats. They promised Hussain that if he came, they would back him, support him, and help him.
Hussain sent his cousin, Muslim bin Aqeel, to Kufa to investigate the situation. When Muslim bin Aqeel arrived in Kufa, they greeted him warmly. More than 12,000 men gave the oath of allegiance to Muslim bin Aqeel on behalf of Hussain. With what looked like such staunch support and a large number of loyals, Muslim bin Aqeel sent a message to Hussain, telling him that the people were ready and that he should come to Kufa without delay.
Rumors of an uprising spread rapidly, and Yazid in Damascus learned of what was going on. He chose a shrewd, vicious man, known as Ibn Ziyad, to send to Kufa to replace the existing Governor of Kufa.
The first command that Ibn Ziyad gave was that Muslim bin Aqeel must be found and brought. Ibn Ziyad dispatched a spy, who was able to figure out that Muslim bin Aqeel was in Kufa. Hussain’s plot was exposed.
Muslim bin Aqeel cried out to the supporters of Hussain to join him and attack Ibn Ziyad’s fortress. Of the 12,000 men who had earlier promised to support Hussain, only 4,000 joined Muslim bin Aqeel.
Ibn Ziyad was scheming; he used threatening, violence, and bribery to convince even those men to leave Muslim bin Aqeel. Their numbers dwindled gradually and by nightfall, only 10 people stayed with bin Aqeel.
Finally, Muslim bin Aqeel was captured. Before he was dragged to Ibn Ziyad’s palace, he managed to make a man promise to send a final message to Hussain, warning him that he had been betrayed and that the people of Kufa abandoned him. Muslim bin Aqeel was thrown to his death from atop the palace, for all people of Kufa to witness.
In Makkah, Hussain was unaware of the dismaying developments; he had no idea that Muslim bin Aqeel had been betrayed by the people of Kufa, and then killed by Ibn Ziyad. The last message Husayn had received from Muslim bin Aqeel was that the time was right for Hussain to advance to Kufa.
When some of the companions begged Hussain not to go because they were sure that war would ensue, Hussain said, “I would rather die elsewhere than to open up the door for the Grand Mosque to become an area of bloodshed.” Hussain believed that if he remained in Makkah, Yazid would send forces to Makkah to fight him.
Hussain gathered his family members, the children of Hasan, and the children of Muslim bin Aqeel and they set out for Kufa; a party of around 100 people.
During the journey, Hussain sent a messenger to Kufa, but the messenger was intercepted and killed by Ibn Ziyad’s army. A second messenger met the same fate. The third messenger was able to yell out that Hussain was on his way, and then the messenger was killed.
Hussain received the message of what had happened to Muhammad bin Aqeel. Some family members advised Hussain to flee and go back to Makkah, but Hussain courageously marched on. He believed that the people would certainly support him; he was after all the grandson of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Ibn Ziyad re-directed an army of 4,000 troops who had been heading to Turkey to fight a Roman city, but he sent them instead in the direction of Hussain. They stopped Hussain in Karbala, which was only a stone’s throw from Kufa.
Hussain showed the leader of the army two large sacks filled with letters from the people of Kufa; asking him to be their leader. Hussain said that he would not give in to injustice and falsehood, and he would not give allegiance to Yazid. Hussain and his family members were under siege for approximately 6 days, during which Hussain led his party and even the troops of the enemy in prayer.
The army facing Hussain was reluctant to harm him; he was the grandson of the Prophet (peace be upon him). None wanted the blood of Hussain on their hands. Some troops even defected over to Hussain’s side.
None had the audacity to strike Hussain, until a bloodthirsty warrior, Shimr and a handful of archers and fighters with him attacked. Hussain fought bravely, just like the lion his father had been, until his last breath. It was a brutal murder, and Hussain’s head was separated from his body.
We weep for Hussain too. Hussain died a hero; he died a martyr. This part of Islamic history must never be forgotten; nor neglected in our educational institutions. Nor should this tragic event be remembered and honored by men and boys lashing their own flesh and beating themselves. Does self-mutilation honor Hussain? Or would it be better to tell his story, educate our children on the history, and send peace and blessings 1,000 times on Prophet Muhammad and his family and Hasan and Hussain?
Curled from Saudi Gazette