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Imam Husayn's Refusal to Pay Allegiance to Yazid

Yazid, in order to assure his kingship, needed the submission of his political rivals. He ordered the governor of Medinah to take the allegiances of Imam Husayn (grandson of Prophet Muhammad and spiritual leader of the community) and Ibn az-Zubayr 1 (a political rival of Yazid) right away, and if they refuse, to kill them. It was late in the night, but the governor immediately sent a deputy to call them. He found them in Masjid al-Nabi, the masjid of the Prophet and the center of the city. Ibn az-Zubayr became suspicious of the governor's messenger coming at such a time.

Imam Husayn immediately said, "This must have to do with the death of Mu'awiyah, and the governor must want us to pay allegiance to his son Yazid before anyone knows about it."

This became apparent to Ibn az-Zubayr when he went to meet the governor. But, when Imam Husayn went, he went well armed, with thirty of his best followers, on horseback. Imam Husayn told them to wait at the door, and when they hear an argument, come in, otherwise, stay outside the door. As soon as he came inside, the governor told him straight out, "You have to pay allegiance to Yazid.''
Imam Husayn replied, "A person like me should not pay allegiance secretly. If you want, you can call all the people, in public, and ask everyone, and us with them, to have one voice."

The governor accepted, but his secretary Marwan warned him, "If he leaves you and does not pay allegiance now, you will not have power over him again. Put him in prison until he pays allegiance, or kill him."

Imam Husayn said, "Whoever of you kills me will be sinful and untruthful." Then, to the governor, he said, "O governor! We are the People of the Prophet's House, and we are descendants of the Prophet. Yazid is a drunkard who kills people without reason, and a person like me does not pay allegiance to a person like him. However, let us meet in the morning and let us see, you and us, who is most eligible for leadership."

Then, the governor said some harsh words, in a loud voice, and when the thirty guards heard the noise, nineteen of them broke the door, came in, took Imam Husayn, and all thirty of the Imam's guards rode off together with the Imam.

Marwan turned to the governor and said, "You did not obey me, and you will not have power over the Imam again."

Governor Walid said, "Go and blame someone else, Marwan. You want me to kill Imam Husayn because he refuses to pay allegiance' And you think this is an easy thing to do, to get away with the blood of Husayn'"

The Imam immediately went to visit the grave of his grandfather and continued praying until morning. During the night, governor Walid sent deputies to Imam Husayn's house. They could not find him, and they thought that he left the city. In the morning, the governor's deputy found the Imam at the grave of his grandfather. He came to Imam Husayn, advising him to pay allegiance because it was better for his life.

Imam Husayn said, "If Muslims pay allegiance to Yazid, say goodbye to Islam."

The next night, Imam Husayn went to the grave of his grandfather again and recited a few chapters of the Holy Qur'an. Then he said, "O Lord! This is the grave of Your Prophet Muhammad, and I am the son of his daughter, and You know best what is happening to me. I do not want anything but to promote the right and prevent the wrong. I ask You by the right of this grave, that you choose for me what pleases You."

Then he cried and fell asleep. He had a dream that his grandfather Prophet Muhammad foretold what is going to happen in the future. When he woke up in the morning, he went to his family, his brothers, al-Atraf and Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah, as well as Umm Salamah, and other lady members of his family. They were upset about his refusal to pay allegiance to Yazid and his decision to leave Medinah for Mecca.

His argument to Umm Salamah was, "If I do not leave now, eventually they are going to kill me. I should not give them excuses at this time."

He bade farewell to all the family and asked them to be brave. When he left, he left his will with his half-brother, Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah. On the will he wrote:

"In the Name of God, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful. This is the will that Husayn Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Talib leaves to his brother Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah, that Husayn has witnessed that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger. He brought the truth from God that heaven is true, that hell is true, and the Time will come without any doubt, and God will resurrect everyone from his or her graves.

Indeed, my movement is not evil, reckless, mischievous, or unjust. I do support correcting what is wrong in the nation of my father, I do want to encourage the right, and prevent the wrong, and follow the tradition of my grandfather, and my father, Ali Ibn Abu Talib. Whoever accepts me by truth, God is the protector of the truth, and whoever refuses this, I will be patient while God decides between me and them, and He is the best Judge. This is my will to my brother and all success depends on God, and only on Him I rely."

Imam Husayn sealed the will and gave it to his brother Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah. He left Medinah on Sunday night, two days before the end of Rajab, along with his brother Abbas, the children of his brother Hasan, and other family members. While leaving he recited the Verse from the Qur'an: "So, he [Prophet Moses] left it [the city] in fear, hoping. He said, 'O Lord! Save me from the unjust people!" 1

He chose to take the main route to Mecca. Some tried to convince him to take a less-traveled route, so it would not be so easy for the governor to find him.
Imam Husayn refused, saying, "I am not going to deviate from the common road, and God does whatever He decides."


Imam Husayn settled at the house of Abbas Ibn Abdul Muttalib. The people of Mecca visited him and pilgrims visiting the city for the upcoming Hajj season also visited him. Ibn az-Zubayr also visited the Imam, but he was jealous that the Imam was attracting all the attention. Occasionally, Imam Husayn went to visit the grave of his grandmother Khadijah, and prayed there. Before he left Mecca, he sent messages to the leaders of the city of Basrah, Malik Ibn Musma' al-Bakri, al-Ahnaf Ibn Qays, al-Mundhir Ibn Jarud, Mas'ud Ibn 'Amr, Qays Ibn al-Haytham, and 'Amr ibn 'Ubayd Ibn Mu'ammar.
Imam Husayn's letter read "Indeed, God has chosen Muhammad from among His creation for His prophethood, then He took him to Himself. God has advised His Creatures through His Prophet. We are his family, his followers, and heirs, and we deserve his succession more than anyone else. People chose me for this and I have accepted that, and I have sent my deputy to you with this book, and I call you to observe the book of God and the tradition of His Prophet, because his tradition has been denied and innovation has been revived. If you listen, I will guide you to the right path."

Al-Mundhir Ibn Jarud immediately turned in the messenger to the authorities because he thought the messenger was a spy of Ibn Ziyad, posing as the Imam's messenger in order to trap Imam Husayn's followers. When the messenger was turned in, al-Mundhir realized that he was truly the Imam's messenger but it was too late, and Ibn Ziyad ordered him to be hung that same night. Al-Ahnaf Ibn Qays replied to the Imam, saying, "Be patient. Indeed, the promise of God is truth," and hinted that now is not the right time to stand up to Yazid. Mas'ud Ibn 'Amr gathered the tribes of Tamim, Hamdarah, and Sa'd and asked Bani Tamim, "What do you think of me'"

They answered, "You are the backbone of our tribe, you are the head, and the honorable one."
He said, "I have gathered you for consultation on an important matter."

They asked, "What can we do'"

He said, "Mu'awiyah is dead, and you know what Mu'awiyah has done and he appointed his son Yazid as his successor. He is a drunkard and a womanizer, and has been appointed as the leader for Muslims without the consent or knowledge of the people. I swear by the name of God that I wish to fight in Jihad against him. And, this is Husayn, son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet of God, with a clear lineage, and firm knowledge, and excellent character, and he is most fit for this matter.

I am going to go and get my armor and battle gear, and whoever wants to do whatever he wants, it is up to him." Banu Hamdarah replied, "We do what you do, we help you by our swords, and protect you by our bodies!"

Banu Amir also said similar things, but the tribe of Bani Sa'd replied, "Let us think about it, and we will get back to you with a response."

So, Mas'ud Ibn 'Amr wrote to Imam Husayn saying, "You come and I am going to be your helper. All of our necks are in your obedience."

When Imam Husayn read the reply, he said, "May God protect you on the Day of Judgment."
Later, Mas'ud gathered his army but, as they were on their way to meet the Imam at Karbala', the news reached them that Imam Husayn was killed. Mas'ud was very upset that he was not able to help the Imam in time.

One man in the city had ten children, and when the Imam's messenger came with the message, he gathered his children and said, "I am going to help Imam Husayn. Whoever wants to help me is welcome." Two of his sons, Abdullah and 'Ubaydullah, accepted. The three of them joined the Imam in Mecca and stayed with him until they were killed with him at Karbala'.

While the Imam was in Mecca, the people of Kufah sent letters inviting him, individually and in groups, all asking the Imam to come to Kufah. They stated that they were rejecting the governor of Kufah, an-Nu'man Ibn Bashir. The letters of invitation continued. In one day, he received six hundred letters.

They insisted, but he never replied to any of them. The last letter that came to him was from Shibth Ibn Rab'i, Hajjaj Ibn Abjar, Yazid Ibn al-Harith, Azra Ibn Qays, 'Amr Ibn al-Hajjaj, and Muhammad Ibn 'Umayr Ibn 'Utarib. Their letter said, "Indeed, people are waiting for you. They have no choice but you, O son of the Messenger of God! Hurry! Hurry! The land is green, the fruits are ripe, and if you arrive, you arrive to an army totally loyal to you."

The Imam received two sacs of letters, 12,000 in all, and wrote one letter in response to all of them. He gave replies to the last two messengers of Kufah, saying: "In the name of God, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful. From Husayn Ibn 'Ali, to the group of Muslims and believers: Indeed, Hani and Sa'id came to me carrying your letters and they are the last messengers that came from you. I understand every episode you have mentioned, and the arguments of most of you, 'We have no leader, come to us, and may God guide us through you to the truth.' Therefore, I send to you my brother and cousin; a trustworthy one from my family, and I commanded him to write to me about your situation and your decision. If he writes to me the decision of most of the people and the intelligent ones among you, as you have written to me and I have read your letters, then I will come to you as soon as possible. Indeed, a leader should follow the Qur'an and be just to the people. He should believe in truth and strain himself for the sake of God. Peace."

Then, he gave the letter to Muslim Ibn 'Aqil and said, "Go to Kufah. Whatever God wishes will happen, and I wish that you and I will be in the ranks of the martyrs. When you arrive in Kufah, reside with the reliable people."

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