The Arrival in Karbala
When Imam Husain (A) left Makka for Kufa, a large group of people accompanied him. Many of these people thought that if the grandson of the Holy Prophet (S) was making a stand against Yazid, the whole Muslim world would support him and Yazid would surely be toppled. They thought that they would be able to share in the glory and war booty that would follow. Although Imam Husain (A) repeatedly warned them that they were mistaken in their thinking, the crowd persisted in travelling with him.
Imam Husain (A) continued on his journey towards Iraq until he neared Kufa. From there he wrote a letter to the people of Kufa and sent it through Qays bin Mashar Saidaawi. In the letter he informed the people of Kufa that he had received Muslim’s letter and that he was on his way to Kufa and would arrive soon. Qays took the letter to Kufa but was arrested outside the city and taken to the governor, Ubaidullah ibne Ziyad.
As he was led to the governor, Qays managed to tell some people where Imam Husain (A) was, and the word spread secretly amongst the loyal Kufans, many of whom managed to reach Imam (A) in Karbala.
The governor told Qays that the only hope he had to save himself was to mount the pulpit and publicly abuse Imam Husain (A). Qays addressed the people by first praising All?h and then said, “O People, Husain (A) is the best of men living at present and is the son of Fatima (A) the daughter of your Prophet (S). I have been sent by him. All of you should rise and assist him.” He then cursed Ubaidullah and his father and praised Imam Ali (A). By this time, the governor had heard enough and ordered that Qays be thrown down from a high roof. Qays did not survive this brutal treatment and was martyred. His broken body was left on the ground where it fell.
Meanwhile, Imam Husain (A) continued his journey towards Kufa until he reached a place called Zurud. There, he learnt about the martyrdom of Muslim and Hani and said: “We are from Allah and to Him we all will return.” He prayed to Allah to bless them.
At the stopping place of Uzaybul Hajanaat, Imam Husain (A) received news about Qays. When the caravan stopped at Zabala, he informed his companions of the deaths of Muslim, Hani and Qays and the state of affairs in Kufa. Thereafter, he said, “Our supporters have withdrawn their support from us. Whoever wishes to leave us and go his own way should do so.” At this time most of his companions left and very few remained.
In response to the news of Imam Husain’s (A) approach, several military parties had been sent out to search the desert and stop his advance. One such party, led by a famous commander, Hur ibne Yazid ar-Riyahi, met the caravan of Imam Husain (A) on the 1st of Muharram 61 A.H.
When they met, Hur’s army was exhausted and desperately thirsty. Imam Husain (A) instructed that water from their stores be provided to Hur’s men and horses.
It was time for noon prayers. Imam Husain (A) led the Jamaat prayers and Hur’s army also prayed behind him. After the prayers were over, Imam Husain (A) addressed Hur and his companions. He reminded them that he was only there in response to their written invitations. He also explained that he was the rightful Imam and that he was one of the people mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in the verses relating to Mubahila (3:61) and Purification (33:33). He warned them of the consequences of obeying a man like Yazid, and urged them to refrain from staining their hands with the innocent blood of the family of the Holy Prophet (S).
Hur did not accept these words of advice, and although there was no fighting, he diverted the path of Imam Husain (A) away from Kufa and led him into the desert. On Thursday, 2nd of Muharram 61 A.H., they reached a place where the horse of Imam Husain (A) stopped. Although he changed horses several times, the animals would not carry him further.
Gathering the people who lived there, Imam Husain (A) asked the name of the place. Some said that it was called Naynava, others said it was also called Mariya. Imam Husain (A) asked if there was any other name. Someone said it was also known as Shattul Furaat. Then one old man came forward and said that he had heard his ancestors say that one name for this area was Karbala.
When Imam Husain (A) heard this, he smiled and thanked Allah and then said, “Surely this is the plain where my Holy Grandfather has prophesied that I, with my faithful companions shall lay slain after suffering three days of hunger and thirst. We will not move from here – we have reached our destination.”
Imam Husain (A) then ordered for his caravan to stop and tents were pitched next to the banks of the river Euphrates.
Events of the First Days in Karbala
The caravan of Imam Husain (A) had arrived in Karbala and their tents were pitched next to the river Euphrates. As his companions settled down, Imam Husain (A) took his brother Abbas (A) around the barren desert and pointed out the various places where each of his comrades would fall and be slain on the Day of Ashura.
The people living in the area were from the tribe of Bani Asad. Imam Husain (A) purchased the land of Karbala from them and then gifted it back to them. He then addressed the men of Bani Asad saying, ” when our devotees come to visit our graves, treat them with honour and point out to them the places of our burial.”
When Ubaidullah ibne Ziyad, Yazid’s governor in Kufa, learnt that Hur had brought Imam Husain (A) and his companions to Karbala, he sent his troops to surround them. The first man to arrive in Karbala on behalf of Yazid was Umar ibne Sa’ad, who was the commander-in-chief of all the forces. He brought with him 6,000 men. After that, regiment after regiment began to pour in onto the plains of Karbala. Historians all agree that at least 33,000 of Yazid’s men gathered to fight Imam Husain (A), while some state that the figure was closer to 80,000 men. This large army was bent on the massacre of Imam Husain (A) and his companions for the sake of the rewards that Yazid had promised them. Many amongst them were the same people of Kufa who had invited Imam Husain (A) to come there in the first place.
In the days that followed there were several meetings between Imam Husain (A) and Umar ibne Sa’ad. Umar kept on insisting that the only way to stop war was for Imam Husain (A) to give the oath of allegiance to Yazid. He said that once the allegiance was given, all worldly comforts would be at the disposal of Imam (A). However, Imam (A) remained firm on his stand and replied: “I shall never yield to the one who does not believe in Allah and one who defies Him, both by words and actions. I am willing to meet any calamity but will never surrender Truth to falsehood.”
On the 7th of Muharram, Umar ibne Sa’ad received orders to block all sources of supply of water to Imam Husain (A). From that day onwards, not a single drop of water was allowed to reach the camp of Imam (A). The scorching desert sent heat waves everywhere and the little children began to cry with intense thirst. Even little babies could not receive milk, because their poor mothers were themselves suffering from thirst.
The brave group of Imam Husain (A) suffered these tortures with patience as they watched the enormous army that faced them prepare for war.
The Night of Ashura
On the 9th of Muharram, Shimr arrived in Karbala with orders from Ubaidullah ibne Ziyad for Amr ibne Sa’ad. The orders stated that if Imam Husain (A) did not surrender and give the oath of allegiance at once, he must be fought and killed immediately.
On receipt of these orders, Umar rallied a part of his army and marched towards the camp of Imam Husain (A). Abbas (A) advanced towards the enemy with 20 horsemen and enquired from them the reason for their sudden approach. When he was told of the ultimatum, he said that he would inform Imam Husain (A) of the position and bring back the reply.
When Abbas (A) briefed Imam Husain (A) of the situation, Imam (A) said to his brother, “Go back to them, and if possible, ask for an extension of time till tomorrow morning, so that tonight we may offer prayers toAllah, make Du’as and ask for His forgiveness”.
Umar gave them respite till the next morning with great reluctance. Now that they knew that death was inevitable the next morning, the whole camp of Imam Husain (A) readied themselves for martyrdom.
Imam Husain (A) gave a speech on the night of Ashura saying in part,”there is nothing ahead but martyrdom. Anyone who wishes, can escape and save his life.” Then he ordered the light to be turned out and those who had joined him for their own advantages, dispersed. Only a handful of those who loved the truth remained. These few were his sincere followers and had not come with him for material gains. Then Imam(A) continued “O Lord! I thank You, because You have honoured us by means of Prophethood and taught us the Qur’an, made us understand the religion and its commandments, granted us eyes, ears and hearts, kept us free from the evils of idol-worship and then enabled us to thank You for Your blessings. I am not aware of any companions more faithful and honest than my companions, and any relatives more righteous and kind than my relatives. May Allah grant you all a good reward. I think the day of our fighting with this army has arrived. I permit you all to go away, because the enemies are after me only. You are free to depart without any restriction and can take advantage of the darkness of night”.
The people who had come with the wrong intentions had already left before, and the ones who remained were perfect in their faith and loyalty. The listeners all rejected the option of abandoning Imam (A). One said, “Should we go away to live after you? We pray to Allah that the time may not come when you may be killed while we remain alive”.
Thereafter the whole camp busied itself in preparation for the events of the next day. The sound of prayers and supplications filled the air like the buzz of hundreds of bees. Some soldiers checked their weapons, while others discussed tactics of warfare that would allow them to cause the most damage to Yazid’s army. Mothers prepared their sons to lay down their lives with Imam Husain (A) in the cause of Islam.
Imam Husain (A) went around the camp talking to his men as well as his family and giving encouragement and last minute instructions. He consoled his sister Bibi Zainab (A) and urged her to remain patient in the face of the hardship that was to follow his martyrdom.
The night eventually came to an end and the morning of the day of great sacrifices arrived. After reciting the dawn prayers, Imam Husain (A) arranged his small army in readiness for the battle. Just about one hundred brave men readied themselves to face the onslaught of thousands.
The Day of Ashura
The 10th of Muharram 61 A.H. is known as the day of Ashura. On this day in Karbala, the army of Yazid fought the army of Imam Husain (A). On this day the household of the Holy Prophet (S) was killed, alongside the faithful companions of Imam (A).
Imam Husain (A) and his companions had spent the entire night in prayer. In the morning Ali Akbar gave the Adhan. He resembled the Holy Prophet (S) greatly and his recital reminded the people of the early days of Islam.
After the morning prayer, Imam’s (A) followers took it in turns to come forward to address Yazid’s army. Many had relatives and friends in the enemy camp and they tried to convince them of the terrible crime they were about to commit.
Finally, Imam Husain (A) came forward himself and addressed the enemy. He introduced himself and informed them that he was a peaceful man, living quietly in Madina and not harming anyone. He asked them why they were so bent on killing the grandson of the Holy Prophet (S), in whom they all believed.
Seeing the result of the words of Imam Husain, Umar ibne Sa’ad, the commander of Yazid’s army, was concerned that the morale of his troops would be affected. He therefore declared that all should witness that he was casting the first arrow in battle and he shot an arrow towards Imam (A).
This was the beginning of the battle. Imam (A) had only 32 horsemen and about 110 soldiers in all. He had fortified his camp by locating it so that it was enclosed by a chain of hills on three sides. This area is known as “Haa-yer” and can be seen even today.
He pitched his tents close together and dug a ditch at the exposed rear. The ditch was filled with firewood which was set alight when the enemy attacked the camp.
After a few single combats, there was a general attack in the mid-morning. Although the enemy was repulsed. Most of the army of Imam (A) was killed. By now it was time for the Zuhr prayer. Imam (A) prayed Salatul Khawf (prayers under attack) while the battle continued.
In the afternoon, it was the turn of the family of the Holy Prophet (S), the Banu Hashim, to sacrifice themselves. Ali Akbar was the first to go and within an hour, no adult male remained alive in Imam’s (A) camp except his ill son Ali Zainul Abideen (A) and himself.
It was on the afternoon when Imam Husain (A) bid the ladies and children farewell and entered the battle-field. He gave his last speech, once more urging the enemy to consider their actions. When he did not receive any reply, he attacked them bravely, scattering them wherever he turned. The enemy could not stop him.
Finally, Imam (A) paused. He was dizzy with the loss of blood. He slid off his horse in a little hollow. Here the enemy found him with his head in Sajdah. The accursed Shimr committed the most terrible of crimes when he beheaded Imam (A).
Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Raji’oon
To be continued…
DUA: Allah please accept this from us. You are All-Hearing and All-Knowing. You are The Most Forgiving.You are The Most Relenting and repeatedly Merciful. Allah grant us The Taufiq to read all the 5 prayers with sincerity.
(Taken from: To Be Earnest In Prayers By Amina Elahi)
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