“O Amir! We are members of the household of the Prophet, the substance of the [Divine] Message, and the ones visited by the angels. Allah initiates by us, and so does he conclude. Yazid is a wine drinker, a killer of the prohibitive soul, a man who commits sins in the open. A man like me does not swear the oath of allegiance to a man like him, but we will see the morning, and so will you; we shall see and so will you as to who among us is more worthy of the caliphate.”18The governor of Madinah was infuriated by his excessive pride and straightforward answer. He wanted to kill him because of his disobedience. When Yazid sent a letter to his governor, he specifically named Hussain as one of the people that should swear allegiance to him. However, Hussain was prepared for such a challenge, and had men of Bani Hashim ready for a plot to resist a possible attempt of assassination by the governor. The Governor of Madinah did not have enough manpower nor the willingness to be involved in the killing of the grandson of the Prophet. For Hussain, he did not want to disrupt the peace of Madinah, as it is a location of sanctuary from war and bloodshed. Also, the timing of political dispute was coinciding with the month of Thul Hija, which is the month were the Muslims perform the ritual of Hajj. Thus, neither the location, nor the timing was suitable for war in the holy land and during the holy month. Hussain gathered his family members and his supporters and left Madinah, saying the last goodbyes to his grandfather’s tomb and to his place of origin. He left Madinah to face his destiny with very little support from the Islamic figures of that time.18 Before departing from Madinah to Mecca, four influential figures tried to persuade Hussain not to go to Iraq. Two of them were his brother Omar Al-Atraf and Muhammed Ibn Al-Hanafiyya, one of prophet Muhammed’s wives Um Salmah, and the son of the second Caliph Abdullah, the son of Omar the son of Khatab. For Al-Atraf, he assured Husssain that he was marching to his death, and that it would be better for him to give allegiance to Yazid to protect his life. For Ibn-Hanafiyya, he suggested that Hussain should flea Madinah, and travel from a state to another looking for more supporters and to avoid any conflict with Yazid’s statesmen. He also added, if Hussain could gather more supporters, then he could continue his opposition against Yazid. If not, he should accept the situation and accept Yazid as the Caliph of the Islamic world. For Umm- Salamah, she shared a narration from Prophet Muhammed, reassuring that Hussain would die in Iraq, in a land called Karbala. For that, she was trying to keep Hussain from going to Iraq. For the son of Omar, he advised him not to leave Madinah, but to stay in it to seek refugee. For Hussain, he declined all these recommendations, and although he might be marching to his death, for him what matter was defending the religion of Islam from deviations from its core values. Before leaving Madinah, in his will, he said:
“I did not march out exultingly, nor recklessly, nor seeking to make corruption in the land, nor to oppress anyone. Rather, I marched out seeking to reform my grandfather’s nation. I desire to enjoin what is right and to forbid what is wrong and to follow the Sunnah of my grandfather and of my father ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib. So, whoever accepts me an acceptance of righteousness, Allah is the Master of what is right, and whoever refuses, I shall persevere till Allah judges between me and the people; surely He is the best of judges.”20After uttering his last words in Madinah, Hussain left to Mecca to perform Umrah. In Mecca, a couple of people tried to have him change his mind from going to Kufah, Iraq. However, one person encouraged him to leave Mecca and fight in Iraq, Abdullah the son of Zubair. For Ibn Zubair, he urged Hussain to fight Yazid and leave Mecca to accomplish his mission. Ibn Al Zubair did not feel comfortable with Hussain in Mecca. He wanted Mecca for himself. However, if Hussain stayed in Mecca, Ibn Al- Zubair would not stand a chance in being the governor of Mecca. Thus, he did all that he could to push Hussain out. Hussain did not pay much attention to Al-Zubair’s political ambitions, as he was determined to go and face his destiny.21 On September 22, 680 CE, Hussain (62 years old) left Mecca with his sons, daughter, wives, sister Zainab (55 years old), his brother and closest ally Abbas (34 years old) and his other three brothers, the son of his brother, Al- Qasim son of Hassan (15 years old), and the infant of Hussain, Abdullah, with a few of Prophet Muhammed’s companions, Ali’s companions, and Hassan companions. Also, there were sixteen free slaves who joined the cause of Imam Hussain. Some men and women joined Hussain from Mecca, and some joined him on his way to Iraq. One of those who joined Hussain before reaching Iraq was Wahab Bin Abdullah Al-Kalabi, his mother, and his newly married wife. Wahab was a Christian man who converted to Islam after meeting with Imam Hussain. His mother urged him to join the cause of Imam Hussain, and advised him not to leave the son of the Prophet alone. When they met with Yazid’s army, Wahab was one of the first people to lose their life. His head was cut off and thrown back at the army of Hussain. This had infuriated his mother, which led her to hold a wooden log and fight back. She was able to kill two soldiers from Yazid’s army before Hussain had her returned to her tent, as she was told that as a woman she was not allowed to fight. For Wahab’s wife, while she was wiping the blood of Wahab’s beard, she continued forward to the battlefield. She was able to kill two soldiers before she was killed. She was the first woman to be killed in Hussain’s camp.22 When Hussain reached the land called Karbala, he was met with the army of Omar bin Saad, which was to stop Hussain’s advancement toward Kuffah, which was about 57 miles away from Karbala. On the other hand, Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, the governer of Kufah, jailed, killed, and spread threats and fears to everybody who wanted to Join Hussain’s camp. Also, he besieged the city where it was difficult for Hussain’s allies to leave Kufah. And if they were successful in breaking the siege, they were followed and killed before reaching to Karbala. Thus, Hussain’s camp’s numbers did not grow much. Also, financial incentives were offered to tribes who would switch sides from Hussain to become Yazid’s supporters. The army leaders, such as Omar Bin Saad, were promised a governor’s position in different areas in the Islamic world. Thus, there was little to no materialistic gain to be had on Hussain’s side. Additionally, before starting the battle, Hussain informed his companions that they would probably all die, and that all of them were free to leave his army if they saw fit. Thus, any person who was expecting a political and financial gain left Hussain’s camp. The numbers of Hussain’s camp continued to decline. Only few people who had faith in him and in his path remained in his camp.23 In response to that, Hussain said: “People are the slaves of the world and their religion is superficial, only on their tongues. They are attentive to it as long as their material benefits are provided, but when they are tested, the number of true devotees dwindles.”24 Before Omar Ibn Saad came to Karbala, Ibn Ziyad sent a letter to Hussain asking him to swear allegiance to Yazid. However, Hussain ignored the message and left the messenger unanswered. This action infuriated Ibn Ziyad, which led him to tell Ibn Saad to march to Karbala with 4,000 soldiers. From the 2nd to the 7th of Muharram, Ibn Saad continued negotiating with Hussain.25 Ibn Saad wanted to avoid a confrontation with Hussain, to avoid being labeled as the killer of the Prophet’s grandson. After reaching a dead-end in the negotiations, Ibn Ziyad commanded Ibn Saad to prohibit Hussain from drinking water. Ibn Saad placed 5,000 soldiers in the Euphrates river shoreline. On Muharram 7, three days before the battle, Hussain’s camp ran out of water. Children and women were screaming out of thirst. This led Hussain’s brother Abbas to ask permission to break the siege. Thus, he asked permission from Hussain to bring water and his request was granted. Abbas was a very skilled warrior, and he was able to break the siege and fill some water and head back to the camp. However, when he served the water to the children, they were all rushing to get water. For that they could not control themselves and the water was spelled on the ground and nobody was able to drink any water.26 Before running out of water, Hussain had an abundant water supply to sustain him and his whole camp for days after the battle. However, he met with a group of soldiers who belonged to Yazid. They were led by Al-Hur ibn Yazid Al-Riyahi. He ran into Hussain in the middle of the desert with his soldiers. Al-Hur and his soldiers were in extreme thirst. However, the only person who had water was Hussain. Al-Hur’s mission was to halt Hussain and stop him from advancing until Ibn Saad had come. Hussain saw the situation of Al Hur and his soldiers and decided to provide water for them and their horses. This tremendously exhausted Hussain’s water supply. Hur’s army was estimated to be about a 1,000 soldiers. After Hur and his soldiers satisfied their thirst, they continued their mission and halted Hussain in the land of Karbala. When the battle started and Hussain called for support, Hur regretted what he had done. He regretted halting Hussain at Karbala. He fled to Hussain’s camp and asked for forgiveness. Hussain accepted him and never blamed him for what he did. After that, he participated in the battle as Hussain’s companion. He fought honorably and died with honor in the land of Karbala.27 After the thirsty children of Hussain camp spilled the water, Abbas asked to go for another campaign to bring water. Hussain granted his request. Abbas went again to break the siege. He was able to break it. Abbas himself was thirsty too. When he was on the river, he cooled his hands in the water. He grabbed some water, and he was about to drink it. Then, it was reported that Abbas dropped the water and did not drink any. Abbas refusal to drink water was an act of loyalty to his brother Hussain, as he refused to drink water while his brother was thirsty. Abbas rode back to Hussain’s camp to quench the crying children’s and women’s thirst. However, on his way back, he faced a massive resistance. They cut his right arm, and he kept moving forward. They cut his left arm, and he kept moving forward. When he lost both arms, he clinched the water bag by his mouth and continued moving forward. The enemy then realized that Abbas only cared about the water bag. Thus, they start shooting arrows at the bag until it was penetrated. The water start pouring out of the bag. Abbas tried to contain the water that was pouring on the ground. However, he had no hand to preserve the water. After that, a man shot him in his eye. He tried grip the arrow in between his legs to remove it. While he was doing that, another man hit him on the back of his head with a steel pipe. After that, Hussain was able to go through the enemy to mourn his brother. When he reached Abbas, he uttered these words “Now my spine has been split and my endeavour is further weakened.”28 After that, he went back to his camp to protect those left of the women and children. Abbas was the last soldier of Hussain to be killed before him. Before that, all his companions, sons, nephews, free slaves, and some women were killed in the battle field. Some died while standing during Noon Prayer time. Even though Hussain was in a very hostile environment, he continued practicing his religious practice at the most difficult time. As a result of that, a number of his companions were shot while protecting the worshipers. After that, one group after another starting heading to the battlefield to face their imminent destiny, death. When Hussain reached the tent, his infant son, Abdullah, was crying loudly. He was thirsty. His mother, Al- al-Rubab and his sister Zainab brought Abdullah to Hussain. He kept kissing the baby to say his last goodbyes. Then, he went to Ibn Saad’s army and start asking for water for the infant. This incident created a dispute among Ibn Saad’s camp. Some asked to give the infant some water, and some rejected. While they were arguing, an arrow was shot. It settled on the neck of Abdullah the infant. Harmalah Ibn Kahil al-Asadi decided to shoot the child to end the camp’s dispute. Instead of receiving water, the infant was soaked in his own blood. This tragedy broke Hussain’s heart and all who were left, of the females and children in the camp. After that, Hussain started heading to the battlefield for his final fight. First, he challenged the enemy warriors in one-on-one fight. After killing a number of them, Ibn Saad was furious and he shouted at his army that Hussain was no ordinary fighter. Thus, he ordered his army to attack from all directions. They shot at him approximately four- thousands arrows to force him off his horse. Ibn Saad’s soldiers started attacking the women and children in the camp, to disturb Hussain while fighting. As he was fighting, his thirst continued to increase. He was able to break into the river. He offered his horse some water. When he was about to drink some, men from Ibn Saad’s army shouted “Do you enjoy water while the sanctity of your women has been violated?”29 Hussain dropped the water and rushed to his women’s tents. When he reached to the tents, Zainab and the rest of the females gathered around to say their last goodbyes. Hussain advised them to be patient and be ready for the trouble they were going to face after his death. Then, he left to the battlefield. The children were mourning, holding his clothes, and begging him not to leave. His daughter, Sukayna (14 years old), was very attached to her father. She was crying loudly in tears for her father not to leave. Hussain tried to calm her down. While he was doing that, Ibn Saad commanded his bowmen to shoot their arrows at Hussain, since he was busy with his family. They shot their arrows. Some of the arrows hit some of the women near Hussain. After that, the women rushed into their tents. Hussain moved forward for his fight. He attacked them fiercely. While he was fighting, the men of Ibn Saad kept provoking Hussain about the water, telling him that he would never taste a drop of water. After that, Hussain shouted and said, “O nation of evil! It is, indeed, evil the way how you succeeded Muhammad (S) in faring with his ‘progeny! You shall not kill anyone after me and contemplate on the consequences of killing him; rather, you will think very lightly of it once you have killed me. By Allah! I hope that Allah will grant me the honour of martyrdom then will He seek revenge on my behalf from whence you know not.” Al Husayn Ibn Numair ,who was a commander in Ibn Saad camp, replied to this and said “And how will He seek revenge on our behalf on you, O son of Fatima?” and Hussain answered back “He will cause you all to kill one another and thus get your blood spilled, then shall He pour His torment upon you in the most painful manner.”30 Then, the army of Ibn Saad continued to finish their job, with one person throwing stones on Hussain’s forehead, another shooting an arrow, and another poking Hussain with a spear. At the end, Hussain had fallen to the ground. However, nobody was sure of his death. While he was falling, Hussain said “Lord! You know that they are killing a man besides whom there is no other son of Your Prophet’s daughter!”29 It was mentioned that Hussain had 360 wounds, 30 hit, and the arrows on his shield were like hedgehog hair. After that, Ibn Saad soldiers kept causing different injuries to make him suffer more in his death. One man shot an arrow to his throat, another injured his shoulder, and another hit him with his sword at the back of his head. Then, Ibn Saad shouted at his men to end Hussain and separate his head from his torso. Two men advanced; their names were Sinan bin Anas Al- Nakah’i and Shamir Ibn Al-Jawshan; they moved forward and stepped over his chest. Sinan said, “I will decapitate your head, and I know that you are the son of the Prophet and the best of people father and mother. “32 Then Shamir said, “I am killing you today with certain knowledge, there being no doubt in it, nor any chance, nor discretion, that your father is best of the ones who spoke.”33 After that, Shamir commanded Sinan to cut his head, but he did not want to do it. Shamir got angry and he hit Hussain twenty times on his head, he grabbed Hussain from his beard, and decapitated Hussain’s head.33 While Hussain was being killed, his sister Zainab was observing from the top of the hill. When Zainab saw that her brother had been killed, she rushed to her brother’s body, bursting into tears, and complaining to Allah for what the Islamic nation had done to her brother. They killed him in the worst way possible. Even after his death, they brought the horses to step over his body to break his bones. And then, they kept looting his belonging, such as his ring or anything they thought valuable. They were all competing on who would tell Yazid that they hurt Hussain the most. One was bragging about shooting him with an arrow, another breaking his bones, another cutting his head off, and another about burning the women’s tents. It was all to get Yazid’s highest rewards.35 Hussain’s story is still remembered around the world. His memorial is celebrated in almost every country. It is celebrated to remember the person who refused to give in to his oppressor. He refused to give up his values, his faith, and his prayers in the most difficult time. People usually find some excuses to justify their wrong doing. However, for Hussain, even losing his infant in the most horrific way did not compromise who he was. In his story, we learn that the end does not justify the means. He chose to lose his children, home, and companions. But, he did not accept to lose who he was and what he stood for, despite the grave and painful loses.
Battle of Karbala
Hussain son of Ali
My name is Nooraldeen Aldrees, and I am an International and Global Studies major with a minor in Military Science. My graduation class is in Fall 2022. I enjoy learning about the human experience based on a different cultural input. This is because I grew up in country where diversity is limited to religious views. After living in the United States for more than ten years, I became to be more aware and understanding to our diversity as humans. I look at the world with consideration and appreciation to our ethnic, national, religious, gender, and ideological diversities because I believe that they enrich us as humans and add to our human experience. For this reason, as I like to add my intellectual footprint, I also like to read, learn, and understand others intellectual inputs with an open mind that is free from prejudice and subjectivity.Author Portfolio Page