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THE LIFE OF IMAM HUSAIN IBNE ALI (a)
(Excerpt from Dr. Haider Hussain Shamsi's book: " And The Message Continues: The Lives of The Imams of The Ahlul Bait".)
DURING THE TIMES OF THE PROPHET
It is quoted by many narrators that the Prophet often used to carry his two grandsons on his shoulders. When people remarked on how much he loved his grandsons, he used to say, "Hasan and Husain are the two princes of the youth of paradise." People also quote from him as praying to Allah by saying "O Allah, befriend those who befriend them and be the foe to whoever designs to hurt them."
Regarding Imam Husain, it is quoted from him saying, "Husain is from me and I am from Husain." It can only be inferred that this was the utterance of no ordinary man, out of love with the progeny of his daughter, but that of the Prophet of Islam about whom Allah says "Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed...... 111:3.
For about six years, his grandfather, the Prophet of Islam, nurtured Husain just as his father had done before him. He was one of the five included in the Qur'anic verse of Tat-heer. He was the youngest of the representatives the Prophet of Islam took with him at the Mubahala with the Christians of Najran. The significance of this nurture and representation must not be underestimated. When the time came, he laid down his life and the lives of his family members, as well as his friends to defend the Message of Islam.
THE LIFE OF HUSAIN
DURING THE TIMES OF IMAM ALI AND IMAM HASAN
Imam Husain manifested the acme of obedience towards Imam Hasan during his brief caliphate, and helped him actively on whatever was required of him. He concurred with him in the matter of the truce with Muawiyah. He never raised his voice in the presence of Imam Hasan, and would not intedect him when he was preaching or was replying to questions.
When Imam Hasan was dying from poison, given to him according to Muawiyah's plot, he called his brother Husain to his bedside and passed the leadership of the faithful to him. Muawiyah, who had taken his Treaty with Imam Hasan lightly, and had ignored it, made another violation, and a fateful one which was to change for ever the course of Muslim history, Muslim Ummah in the future. In total disregard of his explicit understanding with Imam Hasan that he (Muawiyah) was not to appoint his successor, he decided arbitrarily to appoint his son Yazid to succeed him as the ruler of the Muslim world. Yazid was known for his open display of a vicious life. Even though some of his courtiers had cautioned Muawlyah against it, he started the campaign to recruit fealty for his son Yazid from all tribal chiefs and the prominent companions of the Prophet who were alive at the time. The Hashimite clan, led by Imam Husain refused to give their pledge of fealty to Yazid.
Muawiyah lived for ten more years after the martyrdom of Imam Hasan, but the Hashimite clan was not forced into submission or subjugation. However, the verbal abuse and other tactics used to reduce their influence continued. Imam Husain continued his mission of peace and religious education to all those who sought it from him.
THE CONFRONTATION WITH YAZID BIN MUAWIYAH AND
THE TRAGEDY OF KARBALA
Yazid had been raised in a life of luxury, and the principles or the practices of Islam were remote to him. He had seen the success in his father's cunning maneuvers against Imam Ali, and witnessed the insults slung at the Imam and the Ahle Bait of the Prophet in the Friday congregational prayers. He must have been made aware of Imam Ali's contributions towards establishing the Islamic State under the Prophet of Islam, and during which his pagan ancestors perished under the sweep of Imam Ali's sword. History has accounted that eighteen of the clan of Umayyah were slain in the Battle of Badr. Thus Yazid could harbor no love for Imam Ali or his progeny. Now that he himself controlled the vast Islamic empire, and that he himself wielded absolute power, he had the best opportunity of avenging the blood of his ancestors.
As soon as he assumed the reins of the empire, Yazid decided to either obtain the pledge of unconditional submission from the Imam or to have him executed. His father had warned him about the steadfast nature of the Imam. It was not possible for the Imam to accept the wicked ruler as his religious leader; and he was also aware that Yazid would have him killed for this. In fact, Yazid had given specific orders to his cousin, Walid bin Uqba bin Abu Sufyan, the governor of Madinah that if the Imam did not submit to his orders, he should be killed and his head be sent to him (Yazid) for confirmation.
The Imam did not wish to be killed by a political plot in Madinah. He decided to leave the relative comfort of his home in Madinah and marched towards Makkah on Rajab 28,60AH. He care fully selected those who would accompany him in his fateful journey.
Upon arrival of the Imam's group in Makkah, Sa'id bin As, the governor of Makkah vacated his seat and rushed to Madinah to send first hand information to Yazid. Yazid appointed Umar bin Sad as governor of Makkah, again with the same specific orders against the Imam.
Yazid had realized that it was extremely difficult to have the Imam assassinated in Madinah or Makkah, and that it would be relatively easy to carry out his wicked plot elsewhere. Twelve thousand letters were sent to the Imam, inviting him to come to Kufa and establish the righteous rule of true lslam. Some of these letters were signed by the respected companions of the Prophet. Imam Husain was duty bound to respond to the call from the faithful.
The Imam sent his cousin Muslim bin Aqeel to Kufa to size up the apparent support for him. Muslim hurried to Madinah to pack for his long trip to Kufa, and took with him two of his young sons, Muhammad and Ibrahim aged 7 and 8 year respectively. As Muslim arrived in Kufa, he was greeted by thousands of apparent supporters. He sent a letter to the Imam saying that indeed there was a large enough support and that the people wanted the Imam to come and lead them on the path of Righteousness.
Yazid was waiting for his plan to mature. He sent Ubaidullah bin Ziyad to take charge from Nu'man bin Bashir, kill Muslim and send his head to him Damascus.
In the large mosque of Kufa, Muslim led the prayers with a huge number of apparent supporters. When Muslim turned to face the congregation at the end of his prayers, he found just a handful of believers staying behind him. Alas! It was too late to inform the Imam of the treachery of the Kufans. Muslim was unable to fight his way out of Kufa and was killed. This was followed by the slaughter of both of his young sons.
The Imam was in Makkah for about four months. He found that he could not perform his Haj with safety. Yazid had sent his men disguised as pilgrims, with orders to kill Imam Husain. He decided that he would not have his blood spilled in the Holy Sanctuary. He only performed the Umrah instead of the full rituals of Haj, and started his fateful march towards Kufa. His long supplication in Arafat is the epitome of the sincerity in prayers and exhibition of devout faith in the Will of Allah.
Umar bin Sa'd knew the price of failure. His counter part in Madinah had failed to kill the Imam or to prevent him from leaving. He sent Yahya bin Sa'id to stop the Imam from leaving Makkah. However, he was unable to stall or stop the Imam who continued his journey towards his destination.
While he was well on his way, he leant of the martyrdom of his cousin Muslim bin Aqeel. At that point, there was no turning back for the Imam. He decided to continue his march to face his destiny. On the way, he was intercepted by the army of Hurr, which forced the Imam's caravan away from Kula on to a different direction, till it arrived in Karbala, a dreaded waterless desert.
It was in this wilderness that the small caravan of the righteous Imam was deprived of their basic necessities of food and water in the desert heat, and of their right to a safe passage out of the oppressive regime of Yazid. They were denied access to any support from their well wishers, and were instead encircled by a massive army of professional soldiers and were ruthlessly killed in the desert of Karbala on Muharram 10, 61 AH. In this massacre, eighteen Hashimites lost their lives. They were sons and grand sons of Ali, Ja'fare Tayyar and Aqeel, from the progeny of Abu Tallb, the protecting guardian of the Prophet of Islam.
After the bloody battle, the martyrs were beheaded and their bodies were run over by the mounted soldiers. The tents were put to flame and the belongings of the survivors were looted. The survivors were first led to Kufa and then onwards to Damascus via a less frequented route, lest there be reprisals from the believers for the massacre of the family of the Prophet.
Despite the extreme odds the Imam had faced in this confrontation, his strategy did not let this event emerge in the history as merely quelling of an insurgence from a dissident group against the power of the ruler of the time. Instead, he laid down his life and the lives of his family and friends as sacrificial offerings whose blood was spilled on the hot desert sand for no political ambition.
The survivors after the blood bath consisted of Ali ibn al-Husain, the sick young son of Imam Husain, who was unable to go out in the battle-field, but now had to assume the role of leadership, bound in shackles and hand-tied; Zainab binte Ali, the sister of the Imam; the widowed ladies and a bunch of children. The courageous captives could neither be silenced by the force of the army nor by the pain of the massacre of their loved ones they had just witnessed. They continued to introduce themselves at every stop made by the caravan, and in the court of Yazid the tyrant in Damascus. Whereas some members of this little 'army' of the righteous had fought in the battlefield with sermons and sword, the captives continued their mission by eloquent sermons to the masses who gathered along the route. This not only told people on what had happened to the family of the Prophet, but also served to rekindle life of faith in the dead conscience of the Muslims of the time.
Whereas the kingdom of the tyrant is long gone, the candles of Faith left burning by the Imam and his companions enlighten the conscience of Islain each time this story is told and retold. The annual commemoration of this event with energy and commitment by the devout believers that has survived through centuries despite the forces of oppression, is nothing less than a miracle. The believers continue to take out processions to demonstrate against tyranny, injustice and oppression against the bearer of the Truth. They congregate in gathering places and retell the painful story of the struggle between vice and virtue. They deny themselves comfort, food and water to relive the pain and suffering of their beloved Imam, his innocent family and his companions.
CHRONOLOGY OF IMPORTANT EVENTS
Rajab, 60 AH
Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan died at the age of 75 years. Yazid wrote to the governor of Madinah, Walid bin Uqba to obtain the oath of fealty from Imam Husain. The Imam refused to relinquish his religious obligation to those who were steadfast in their practice of the Truth, and did not submit to the demands of Yazid.
Rajab 28,60 AH
The Imam gathered his select group of family and friends and left Madinah for Makkah.
Sha'ban 3,60 AH
The Imam arrived at Makkah. Sa'id bin As vacated his seat in Makkah, and arriving at Madinah, reported the popularity of the Imam among the Makkans. Yazid appointed Umar bin Sa'id as governor of Makkah and gave the same orders to him regarding the Imam. Imam Husain stayed in Makkah for approximately four months. It was here that the Imam received some twelve thousand letters petitioning him to come to Kufa and take charge of their religious needs.
Bound by his obligation to uphold the Truth and to serve Islam, the Imam had to respond to this apparently massive appeal by the people. He despatched his beloved cousin Muslim bin Aqeel to Kufa to reassure the petitioners that he was prepared to come and live among them as they had wished. Thousands of Kufans apparently rallied behind Muslim. Encouraged by such response, Muslim wrote a letter to the Imam and appraised him of the situation in Kufa.
As the dates for Haj neared, Yazid sent Umar bin Sa’id with thirty Khawarij assassins and three hundred additional trained Syrian soldiers disguised as pilgrims to kill the Imam during the Haj.
Zil Haj 8,60 AH
The Imam received the letter written by Muslim calling him to come to Kufa. Realizing the gravity of the plot to assassinate him in Makkah during Haj, the Imam performed Umrah (the lesser Haj) and left for Kufa.
Zil Hajj 9,60 AH
Muslim bin Aqeel and his two young sons were killed and beheaded in Kula. The Imam leamt of the martyrdom of Muslim and his children when he had already covered his journey half way to Kula.
Muharram 1, 61 AH
The caravan of the Imam saw the crescent of Muharrmn at the caravan stop known as Sharaf, at the out-skirts of Kufa. Hurr bin Riyahi, with his detachment of over one thousand soldiers stopped the Imam and diverted him towards the wilderness of Karbala.
The Imam pitched his tents near the bank of Euphrates River. Now that he had fulfilled his obligation to the petitioners and, having written replies to as many of the letters as he could, he called upon them to come forward to fulfill their obligation towards him. On order from his commander-in-chief, Hur had the Imam remove his tents away from the waters of the Euphrates River.
Umar bin Sa'id arrived with an army of twenty two thousand soldiers. Habib ibne Mazaahir was able to recruit ninety committed believers from the tribe of Bani Asad to come out 'in support of the Imam, but Ibne Ziad sent an army of four hundred soldiers to prevent them from reinforcing the Imam.
Ibne Ziad addressed a large congregation of worshippers in Kufa and urged ail those who had pledged fealty to Yazid, to come out and join his forces to eliminate the (little) army of the Imam.
Shimr came out, and he was dispatched with an army of thousand strong. Ibne Rikab was sent out with two thousand men; Ibne Numair was given an army of four thousand soldiers. Ibne Rabina was given three thousand men; and Ibne Kharsha' two thousand armed soldiers.
Sha'bath was despatched to Karbala with additional four thousand men. Urwah bin Qais was sent to join the others with four thousand soldiers. Ibne Anas was armed with ten thousand soldiers, Muhammad bin al-Ash'ath had one thousand men and Abdallah bin Hasein was given one thousand soldiers.
Yazid's forces were further augmented with ten thousand soldiers under Khuli bin Yazid Asbahi; three thousand men under Ka'b bin Hurr; one thousand men under Hujaj bin Hurr. Additional men and supplies were sent over to support the enormous gathering of forces against the tiny caravan of the Imam. Ibne Ziad wrote to Umar bin Sa'd that he had been given enough supplies and man power to carry out his assignment, and that he must not delay or fail in it.
Umar bin Hujaj was posted with four hundred of the best soldiers to guard the banks of river Euphrates. Additional forces were deployed to support the men under Umar bin Hujaj, four thousand soldiers were sent under Hajar and one thousand soldiers under Sha'bath bin Rabei. Having thus secured their positions around the riverbanks, the opponents of the Imam started off with verbal provocations.
Water supply in the camp of the Imam was totally depleted. Abbas bin Ali, brother of the Imam, along with some companions was sent to get some water. He was successful in this mission. It was at this mission that he became known as "Saqqa-e Haram" (the Water Bearer of the family).
Next morning the Imam made a formal plea for water for the thirsty children in the camp, but his plea was denied. The Imam ordered that a trench be dug between the camp and the enemy and for digging a well for water. The companions of the Imam attempted to a dig a well for water, but in vain.
Imam Husain, accompanied by Abbas, again appealed to Ibne Sa'd for water but it was turned down. Both returned to the camp without water. Abbas and other strong members of the camp dug four other wells for water and saw water at the last attempt. However, before the thirsty children could have a sip, the enemy swarmed in and refilled the wells with the excavated dirt. A fifth attempt was foiled with brutal force.
The Imam went out again, re-introduced himself with details about himself, his illustrious parents and his noble grandfather, the Holy Prophet of Islam, and asked the so called 'Muslims' in the opposite camp to allow him to obtain water for his companions on humanitarian grounds. His convincing address melted many hearts and there was some stir in the ranks. Shimr warned Umar bin Sa'd that if he wavered in carrying out the orders to kill Imam Husain without delay or compromise, he would be relieved of the charge.
With the final orders from Ibne Ziad on the ultimate fate of the Imam, Shimr offered Abbas and All Akbar safe passage out of Karbala, but these gallant soldiers of Truth refused to forsake the flag-bearer of Righteousness. Just prior to dusk, Shimr instigated an attack on the camp of the Imam. However, upon the request of the Imam, Abbas was able to win a reprieve from Ibne Sa'd on their final onslaught till the next morning.
The Eve of Muharram 10
The Imam addressed his friends and family and clarified his position to all of them. He told them that since the enemy wanted his head for refusal to accept Yazid as his superior, all others could leave the camp and save their lives. His devotees were deeply saddened at this address and reassured him that they had absolutely no doubt that they were on the right path, and there was nothing in the world that would make them forsake him at that hour.
Burair Hamdani could not bear the painful cries of the thirsty children. He went out with some companions to obtain water. The Imam sent Abbas for help. After a bloody fight in which some of the valuable companions lost their lives, they were able to return with only one bag full of water.
On reaching the camp, over twenty children rushed with their little cups for water. Unfortunately, this precious bag of water fell to the ground and its contents spilled on the desert sand. No one could get their thirst quenched. After that event, the Imam ordered every one to return to their respective tents and spend the remaining night in prayers, glorifying Allah and the Holy Prophet.
Muharram 10: Morning
At daybreak, the army of Ibne Sa'd got organized to run down the Imam's camp. The Imam got up from his prayers and hurriedly organized his ranks. He ordered to light up the ditch he had prepared earlier, and ordered Abbas to try yet another time to dig a well for water. A well was dug but there was no water in it.
The army encircled the camp of the Imam. The Imam and his companions tried to avert war and requested safe passage out of Yazid's dominion but the bloodthirsty enemy would listen to none of it. Hurr who had enough time to reflect over his conduct, became perplexed. His conscience rebuked him for having forced the Imam to follow the desert route to Karbala instead of Kufa. He came to realize the just stand of the Imam, and walked away from the ranks along with his son, and joined the Imam's camp.
Hurr was well received by the Imam. He asked for his forgiveness, and for his permission to go and sacrifice his life in defense of the Imam and his cause. The Imam not only excused him but also expressed his helplessness to even offer a cup of water to his guest.
Ibne Sa'd shot his first arrow over the Imam's camp, which was then followed by a rain of arrows by his army. Hurr and his son were amongst the first to lay their lives in Karbala defending the Truth.
At the initiation of the battle some of the Imam's companions fought with such an energy and valor that Ibne Sad realized that it would cost him a lot of lives and time before he could carry out his ultimate goal of killing Imam Husain. He ordered his best marksmen to use their skills to eliminate his opponents in Imam Husain's camp. This strategy paid him off by shooting down about fifty percent of the Imam's supporters.
The Imam came out with about thirty-two of his surviving force and fought the enemy with great bravery on all fronts. Ibne Sa'd again ordered his marksmen to do their precision shooting that reduced the Imam's ranks to only a handful of men who were injured and were unmounted.
Muharram 10: Mid-day
Imam Husain and his remaining companions gathered to offer their Zuhr prayers. Two of the companions shielding the Imam died receiving arrows and spears on their bodies. As the prayer finished, another companion received his martyrdom. After the last of his companions had received their martyrdom, Imam Hussain was left with only the members of his family.
Abbas was killed at the bank of the river attempting to secure water for the remaining family and children. Imam Husain's son Ali Akbar was killed in battle. The Imam took his infant son Ali Asghar, only six months old, to the battlefield to show his enemies that the infants are innocent by all laws of humanity and that they should give water lest the child died of water deprivation. The throat of the infant was pinned down over the Imam's shoulder with an affow from Hurtnala, the best marksman from Ibne Sa'd's army. .
At the end, the Imam came out to fight a lonely but brave battle, cutting down many in the process. He himself received many wounds, and innumerable arrows pierced his body. As he fell down from the back of his horse, he bowed down in sajdah (prostration to Allah) and reached out to the Almighty, seeking His Grace and praying for accepting his service. Shimr slaughtered the Imam, and separated his head from his body. The headless body of the Imam and other martyrs was then run over by the mounted soldiers before returning to their ranks.
Muharram 10: Evening
The army now over-ran the camp and snatched every belonging the bereaved women and children had. The tents were put to flame, women were beaten and children teased and slapped. It is said that later in the evening, Hurr's widow brought food and water to the smoldering encampment of widows and beleaguered children.
The survivors were marched towards Kufa, women on camels without seats and the only adult male survivor, Ali Zain al-Abideen afoot, hand tied and in shackles. The captives were kept in jail in Kufa for a few days and then carried to Damascus via a less frequented route.
Rabi-ul Awwal 16, 61 AH
The caravan of the survivors of the Imam's army arrived in Damascus. The duration their captivity in Damascus is uncertain. By some accounts, it was for of about one year, after which they were then sent back to Madinah via Kufa.
Safar 20, 62 AH
The captives came back to Karbala with reminiscence of the fateful events of the previous year.
Rabi-ul Awwal 8, 62 AH
The caravan of the survivors returned to Madinah.
ZAINAB BINTE ALI, THE SISTER OF IMAM HUSAIN
Zainab binte Ali holds a very high place in the history of Islam, with special reference to the bloody massacre of the Ahle Bait of the Prophet in Karbala and its aftermath. The success of Imam Husain's mission as well as the education of the masses is owed to her. Her pains as the bereaved mother of her own martyred sons, as the aunt to her slain nephews and to the sufferings of her little nieces, as sister of the martyred Imam, and her own individual personality as a woman, emerged with amazing force and courage in the face of the worst calamity any family could have ever faced. Because of the significant role she had played, it is pertinent to include a brief biography of this beacon of Faith here.
Zainab was bom in Madinah on Sha'ban 1, 6 AH. Her mother was none other than Fatima, the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad. Her father was Ali, the gallant champion of Islam and the first Imam after the Prophet. At about the time of her birth, her father was actively serving the Prophet in the defense of Islam against its archenemy, the Umayyad Abu Sufyan. She was too small to comprehend the significance of her father's involvement or its far-reaching consequences years later in her life. However, it was her good fortune to receive the nurture from her grandfather, the holy Prophet for the first five years of her life. The Prophet died in II AH, and soon after that she lost the affections of her mother forever. She grew up under the supervision of her father, Imam Ali. She was very attached to her father and closely emulated him in his character and conduct. Although both of her brothers, Hasan and Husain were older to her, she was the eldest daughter of Imam All. She had learnt to assist her mother at an early age, and had to assume the management of the household after her death.
She was married to her cousin Abdullah bin Ja'far-e Tayyar when she was only eleven years of age. However, she continued to live with her father for several years before joining her husband. She had no luxury item in her home, and like her father, she lived an extremely simple and disciplined life. She never missed her prayers, and worshiped Allah with great devotion.
She was renowned for her knowledge and was sought after by her female peers for the teachings and the practice of Islam as well as for the interpretations of the meanings of al-Qur’an.
She moved to Kufa with her husband when Imarn Ali made that city the seat of his caliphate. She was about 36 years of age when her father was martyred in the main mosque of Kufa. During this span of her life, she had witnessed many significant changes in the land and people of Arabia.
The death of her grandfather, the great leader and the Prophet of Islam occurred when she was at the impressionable age of five years. She saw the grief this had brought to her parents, and especially to her mother. The death of her mother within a of a few months must have brought a revolution in her tender life. She must have witnessed the grief this event had brought to her father. The inevitable shift of leadership had brought a clear shift of popularity by the people from the house of the Prophet to that of the house of the new Caliph. This change must have made her very sad.
She must have seen the fervor in connection with the expansion of Islam to far off lands and the activity that must have generated in Madinah during the reign of the Second Caliph. As she grew up, she must have observed and pondered why her father was kept away from participating in the Caliphate, and also why he had chosen not to use force to establish his rights. When the controversy occurred over the conduct of the Third Caliph, she was of mature age, and saw how the senior companions of the Prophet got involved with the plot and the assassination of the Caliph. This was a time of crisis for Islam. The danger to the integrity of Islam this time was not from any out side force, but it .vas from amidst its own core. The Ummah remembered Ali again. The same Ali, who had been the foremost soldier of Islam, the savior and the defender of the Faith from its very inception. He was elected to the Caliphate by a popular vote. However, within days of his election, these very supporters started to brew opposition to the new caliph, leading to a series of bloody confrontations among the Muslims.
Muawiyah, son of Abu Sufyan, the governor of Syria and Palestine, took the opportunity to fuel the sparks of dissent and became the major opponent of the Caliphate of her father. She saw the battles where "Muslims" led by senior and respectable companions of the Prophet drew swords against the Righteous Caliph. It was a time of immense confusion for the people, and a sad time for her father who had spent his youth serving the Prophet against the infidel towards establishing the very Islamic Community that he now had to fight against. The people became confused and divided.
Muawiyah, with his long-standing government, regular army and financial resources, spared no effort to baffle the stability of Imam Ali's caliphate. He sent raids in the Yaman, Hijaz and Basra. He slung abuses at the Caliph from the pulpit, and had this carried out in the Friday prayers throughout his provinces. He did not stop his negative propaganda against the members of the Ahle Bait even after the martyrdom of Imam Ali.
Zainab saw the government of Imam Hasan fizzle away under pressure from Muawiyah, and knew the circumstances under which he had to hand over the charge of the Caliphate to Muawiyah. Muawiyah betrayed the terms of the truce. In the document of truce, Imam Hasan had stipulated that the government of the Caliphate was being transferred to Muawiyah for his lifetime only, and that he would not appoint his successor to the Caliphate. This truce lasted for about ten years. But when the time came, Muawiyah had Imam Hasan martyred with poison and appointed his own son Yazid to succeed him. Soon afterwards he died.
Coming of Yazid to power brought a relentless pressure to Imam Husain to accept Yazid as the representative of the Prophet of Islam, or lose his life for refusal to do so. The governor of Madinah had specific orders to obtain unconditional submission from the Im@ or have him killed. Knowing the character and the conduct of Yazid, the hnam could not comply. She knew why Imam Husain just could not submit to the demands of Yazid. The entire back ground to these developments was known to Zainab. Her brother was the Imam of the time, and had the vested responsibility to protect and defend the spirit of the Truth. He decided to quit Madinah. Zainab accompanied her brother on this fateful journey. She saw how carefully the Imam selected members of his clan who would accompany him. They represented the progeny of Aqeel, Ja'far and Ali, all from the progeny of Abu Talib.
She accompanied her brother to Makkah, and then onward to Karbala. By now, she had aged to 57 years, and had been amidst many grave changes in the behavior of the Ummah. She dearly loved her brother and was constantly in consort with him on all his decisions and moves. She was convinced that the little caravan of the Imam had come out to up hold the Tnith at any cost. On Muharram 10, 61 AH she sacrificed two of her youngest sons in defense of the Truth and assisted her brother mount his horse when he finally left and faced his martyrdom. She witnessed the deaths of the companions of the Imam followed by the members of his own clan.
The leadership that Zainab exhibited did not begin on the eve of Muharram I 1, but throughout the journey as well as during the encampment in the desert of Karbala. However, when all the adult males had laid down their lives at the alter of Truth, except Imam Ali Abid, who was ill with fever, the manifest leadership of the widows and children became the responsibility of Zainab. The heat of the desert, three days of total thirst for man and beast, the scenes of death and terror, and torching of their tents towards the evening complicated the duties of leadership of Zainab.
The Imam had given his supreme sacrifice and was there no more. The detached heads from the bodies of the martyrs had been hoisted atop spears. All belongings of the survivors had been -snatched, including the hijabs (body wraps) from the ladies. Hands tied behind their backs, on bareback camels, the survivors were taken through the streets of Kufa, where Zainab had been before under different circumstances, when her father was alive, and her brothers were by her side. These circumstances would be enough for any self-respecting lady to cry out or faint. Zainab, with all her background and the most recent wounds of grief and suffering displayed great courage and fortitude. She addressed the killers of her loved ones in the manner that befitted them. When the caravan was marched through the streets of Kufa, she told the story of Karbala to the excited mob that had gathered to see them.
The masses were oblivious to the events of Karbala. Among the mob there were people who were loyal to the cause of the Truth. The oratory of Zainab pierced their hearts and stiffed their egos. The governor of Kufa and his supporters did not realize that a woman captive of Karbala would represent the martyred hnam Husain and his companions with such boldness, and would make their ill deeds known to people wherever the caravan was taken.
Zainab had both courage and strength in her apparent weakness. The captors had shown no mercy at the bereaved women and children in Kufa or during their journey to Damascus. It was the energy of Zainab that kept their will to live strong and to endure the hardships thrust at them.
The captives of Imam Husain's camp were taken to Damascus through a less frequented northern route. Many children could not withstand the perpetual fatigue and grief, and succumbed en-route to Damascus. As the survivors of the Imam's camp made stops at various settlements along the route, the simple and uninformed people brought food and clothing for the captives out of sympathy. Zainab took the opportunity of telling the people that they were the family of the Prophet and how Yazid had subjected them to such a tyrannical treatment. She repeated the story of the martyrs and preached to them the nature of the conflict as well as the Truth.
The superb Jehad of Zainab in the court of Yazid brought alive the Jehad of Imam Husain. The entire experience of her life long observations was now translated into the address she gave in the court of Yazid, and is appended in the section that follows below. It was through this oratory that the courtiers of Yazid got their education about what had transpired in Karbala. The apparent victory of the tyrant was converted to his shameful loss. The captives remained in the Syrian prisons for about one year. Some children died during this captivity.
When the tyrant decided to release the captives, Zainab asked for a large open space where she could accommodate people who wished to come to them for homage and condolence. This, in effect was the first formal majlis (the commemorative gathering) whose tradition was thus initiated by Zainab, the sister of Imam Husain. On their way back to Madinah, the caravan of the captives came via Karbala. Zainab again took the opportunity to tell the story of the gruesome massacre of the family of the Prophet undertaken by Yazid and his captains.
The home coming for Zainab was very different from that of her departure, when she was surrounded by brothers, nephews and sons. Now they were no more. Grief, fatigue and suffering had made her so weak and haggard that many were unable to reco@ze her. The family and residents of Madinah came out to meet the survivors of Karbala. They all shared the grief with each other and attempted to lower their burden of sorrow and suffering. However, for Zainab, life without the loved ones was worth nothing. She could never stop crying over the calamity of the family and lived approximately eighty days after her return visit to Karbala. There is controversy over the date of her death, and was most likely on Zilhaj 16, 62 AH.
ZAINAB'S ADDRESS IN THE COURT OF YAZID
In the Name of the Beneficent and Merciful.
All praises to Allah, the Creator of the entire universe.
And salutations to the Prophet and his Ahle-Bait:
Allah has revealed in His Book: "Evil was the end of those who did evil, because they rejected the communications of Allah and used to mock them.
0 Yazid: Having wrought such ill deeds and ill treatment to us, the family of the Prophet, you think- that you have managed to reduce our status, and thus have enhanced your own, and you feel that you have achieved the ultimate success in this life?
You think that the span of your rule and the wealth and power you weald was of your own making? Just wait a while, for the Judgment of Allah isn't far. Just hear this: "And let not those who disbelieve think that Our granting them respite is better for their souls; We grant them respite only that they may add to their sins; and they shall have a disgraceful chastisement. "
0 You the progeny of the those who were set free by us: Is this justice? Is this the way you would repay us? Your own slaves and maids have their hijabs on, and we have been deprived this? And we have been carried from dwelling to dwelling in such a demeaning condition?
0 Yazid: You are responsible for the way we have been treated all the way to your court. None of your captains had any mercy on women or children who had lost their loved ones in the heat of the desert at their hands and by your orders.
0 You the offspring of the one who chewed up the liver of the Imam, how could you be merciful? Yeah, with the hate in your heart for the family of the Prophet, how could you show mercy on the captive survivors of the bloody massacre?
0 Yazid: What you are saying and what you are doing to the lips and teeth of the head of the martyr was the very place Prophet himself had kissed often. You are calling upon your elders to witness how you have avenged them today. You are forgetting that they were infidels and had asked for their own ends. Beware that you have taken the same path, and your own end would not be any different from theirs. When you join diem you will regret what you had been uttering or what you had done. But alas, that would be too late.
0 Yazid: Verily you have ruined your own conduct forever. You win face Allah and the Prophet and will be accountable for the blood of the progeny of the Prophet. Allah has revealed in His Book: “And reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way as dead, nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord." The Day of Judgment isn't far. Those who facilitated you to this position are also accountable for these sins towards the Faith and the faithful.
0 Yazid: This certainly is circumstantial that I am here and have to address you in my present predicament. Yeah, I cannot stop the tears in my eyes and pain in my heart. Those who were the chosen of Allah you have slain for no sin but for fulfillment of your passion for revenge. You are worse than your elders. They had refused to accept the path of righteousness and had come out to fight the Messenger of Islam but you are supposedly on the Path but have chosen a perilous reversal from it.
Remember: What conduct you have adopted has a bitter end. There is Mercy in the way of Allah. We only look towards Him for favors, and only trust Him for salvation.
0 Yazid: You may carry out all that you have a desire for and fulfil all your wishes. Beware: Our teachings and philosophy shall prevail, because we are the flag carriers of the Truth. You cannot diminish our status or popularity.
You are the loser. You will not only lose today but are a loser for all times. Your days are numbered, and you will face the doom alone with all your friends and supporters. Have you read Qur'an, and did you come across this ayat? If you haven't, then hear this: "And who is more unjust than he who forges a lie against Allah? These shall be brought before their Lord, and the witnesses shall say: These are they who lied against their Lord. Now surely the curse of Allah is on the unjust."
All praises are to the Supreme One, the Creator of the entire universe, the One who gave us the illustrious ancestors before, and loved ones now who laid down their lives in His way. For us, as mentioned in the Book, the Grace of Allah-suffices: "Those to whom the people said: Surely men have gathered against you, therefore fear them; but this increased their faith, and they said: Allah is sufficient for us and most excellent is the Protector.
REFLECFIONS FROM THE LIFE OF IMAM HUSAIN
The Imam had witnessed the life and the conduct of his father and his elder brother, the two preceding Imams, and was now the third in the series himself He had participated actively in the field to fight against falsehood under Imam Ali, and by peaceful means under Imam Hasan. During his own time, he had to take drastic steps in the form of martyrdom to preserve the dignity of the Faith and the Truth. He, for all times, settled who the rightful custodians of Islam were and who the usurpers were. He, more than amply, paid back the Umayyad clan with the precious Hashimite blood from the progeny of Ali ibne Abi Talib, the champion of Isl@ the victor of all battles led by the Prophet against the infidel clans of Quraish and other tribes of the Arabs. After Karbala, no ruler in Islam could ever claim to be the spiritual Imam of the Muslim Ummah.
Imam Husain set the criteria of faith, piety and sacrifice for all times. He made the struggle for human dignity as top priority against forces of tyranny and oppression. With the blood of his sacrifice, he gave life to Islam. He re-introduced the spirit of true Islam into the Muslims of his time as well as for all times to come.
While he was in Madinah, he lived a life of piety and remained totally involved with the lives of people around him. He answered their questions, interpreted the meanings of Qur'an and educated them in their daily lives.
Once a man said to the Imam that being a fallible human, he was unable to avoid sin. He wanted the Imam to guide him so that he could be reformed. The Imam said to him, "A person would commit sin if he could: avoid benefiting from the benevolence of Allah, escape from the Kingdom of Allah, or from His Grasp, go to a place where Allah cannot see him, control his death and destiny, and avoid the infamy of hell on the Day of Judgment!"
Once he told his followers, "Consider this life as your total wealth. As you spend it, this wealth continues to diminish. You should ponder on what you have acquired as you spend this wealth. So be alert. Do not lose it in any further transaction!"
Once he said, "People are grossly indulged in the worldly matters, and only pay lip service to matters of faidi. When faced with the test of their faidi, the adherents to the Truth are but a few."
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