1. In general, all Shi‘ahs believe that Imam al-Husayn (as) and all the other Imams had and have prior knowledge of events and knowledge about what would and will happen in the future. They acquire this knowledge from the Holy Prophet’s (S) teachings and divine inspiration. One of the issues they have prior information about is their own martyrdoms. Although this topic has been a subject of exhaustive debate and dispute among Islamic scholars, we have shown the truth of this matter in a separate article entitled, “‘Ilm-e Ghayb-e Imam” (Hidden Knowledge of the Imam).1
2. There are a lot of hadiths (traditions) recounted in books by the various sects of Islam which prove that the Holy Prophet (S) knew everything about the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (as) and the place and manner of the tragic event of Karbala. These traditions have been traced and seen in the words of Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali (as), Imam al-Hasan (as), Imam al-Husayn (as) himself, Umma Salmah, ‘A’ishah, and others. There is no doubt that Imam al-Husayn (as) had heard these traditions and knew about them well.
Asma’ bint ‘Umays says, “I was Fatimah al-Zahra’s attendant after the birth of Imam al-Husayn (as). One day the Holy Prophet (S) came and said, ‘O Asma’! Bring my child to me.’ I wrapped a piece of cloth around al-Husayn (as) and took him to the Noble Prophet (S). The Prophet put him on his lap and started reciting the call to prayer [adhan] in his right ear and the prelude to prayer [iqamah] in his left ear.”
She adds, “Then, the Noble Prophet started crying and said, ‘Verily, soon it must be that a horrible event must come to pass for you. O Lord! Curse his killer!’ Then, the Prophet turned to me and said, ‘Do not inform Fatimah about this’.”
Asma’ recounts, “On the seventh day after the birth of Imam al-Husayn, the Holy Prophet (S) came and sacrificed a sheep for the blessed newborn.
He performed all the Islamic ceremonial acts according to Allah’s laws such as naming the child and reciting supplications that are supposed to be recited for newborns on the seventh day. Then the Noble Prophet (S) put the newborn on his lap and said, ‘O Aba ‘Abd Allah! It is very hard and unbearable for me.’
Then, he cried. I said, ‘My father and mother be your ransom! Why are you crying on this first important day of celebration after the birth of a child?’ He answered, ‘I am crying for this child of mine because a group of oppressors from the tribe of Bani Umayyah and other unbelievers [kuffar] will kill him. Allah will not permit me to intercede for these people on the Day of Resurrection’.”2
Ibn ‘Abbas says, “One day, Imam al-Husayn (as) was on the Prophet’s lap. The Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Do you love him?’ The Noble Prophet (S) said, ‘How can I not love him when he is the fruit of my heart?’ Gabriel said, ‘Verily, your ummah (nation) will kill him. Do you want me to show you the site of his martyrdom and grave?’ Then, Gabriel brought out a fist full of soil full of blood and showed it to the Holy Prophet.”3
3. It has been directly reported in various hadiths that Imam al-Husayn (as) knew about his martyrdom at Karbala. Although the chains of transmission for some of these hadiths have problems, some sections of these chains are authentic.
We will now refer to some of these hadiths:
Imam al-Husayn (as) said, “There is no believer who sheds tears for my martyrdom unless it serves as a lesson.”4
One day, when Imam al-Husayn (as) was leaving the Ka‘bah, ‘Abd Allah ibn Zubayr came to escort Imam al-Husayn (as) and see him off. ‘Abd Allah ibn Zubayr said, “O Aba ‘Abd Allah! It is time for the hajj. Are you abandoning the hajj and going to Iraq?” Imam al-Husayn (as) replied, “O son of Zubayr! It is better for me to be buried next to the River Euphrates than next to the Ka‘bah.”5
In a letter to Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah, Imam al-Husayn (as) wrote, “In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, from al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali to Muhammad ibn ‘Ali and before him Bani Hashim. Verily, whoever does not join me will not attain victory; wa salam.”6
When Imam al-Husayn (as) reached the pass of Batan, he told his companions, “I do not see myself in a situation other than that I should be killed.” They said, “How is that, O Aba ‘Abd Allah?” He answered, “I saw a dream a while ago.” His companions asked, “What did you dream?” He answered, “I saw dogs attacking me viciously…”7
4. When we refer to history, we come to know that some people tried to stop Imam al-Husayn (as) from going to Iraq. They reminded the Imam that if he undertook this journey, he would certainly be killed.
In a letter to Imam al-Husayn (as), ‘Abd Allah ibn Ja‘far said, “I request that you change your mind about going on this journey, because I fear that it will result in your death…”8
Ibn ‘Abbas, Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah and Abu Bakr Makhzumi also tried to prevent Imam al-Husayn (as) from undertaking this dangerous journey, and warned him about the disloyalty of the people of Iraq.
5. Political and military analysis also confirms this issue because events which testify to this subject all prove that the way which Imam al-Husayn followed would end in his martyrdom. After hearing that Muslim ibn ‘Aqil had been martyred, and also after Hurr ibn Yazid Riyahi had informed Imam al-Husayn (as) about ‘Umar ibn Sa‘d’s intention, it was very clear for Imam al-Husayn (as) that his action could have no other conclusion other than martyrdom.
He did not require supernatural powers or inspiration to perceive this—common knowledge was enough for him to understand this issue.
1. ‘Ali Asghar Ridwani, Shi‘ah-shenasi va Pasokh be Shubahat (To Know the Shi‘ahs and Responses to Doubts).
2. Hayat al-Imam al-Husayn (as), vol. 1, p. 98; Al-Hakim al-Neyshaburi, Al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn, vol. 3, p. 176; Ibn ‘Asakir, Mukhtasar Tarikh Damishq, vol. 13, p. 62.
3. Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, vol. 9, p. 62.
4. Saduq, Al-Amali, majlis 28, hadith 7.
5. Kamil al-Ziyarat, section [bab] 23, hadith 5.
6. Ibid., hadith 15.
7. Ibid., hadith 14.
8. Hayat al-Imam al-Husayn (as), vol. 3, p. 24.