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Imam Hussein (a.s.) in Karbala'

Imam Hussein's (a.s.) caravan set off on the eighth day of the month of Dhul-Hijjah, (the day the pilgrims get ready to perform hajj), in the year of 60 A.H.

Many had questioned as to why he would leave without performing the hajj ceremonies. He replied: "By Allah, should I be killed a span's distance away from Mecca, that would be more desirable for me than being killed in it. And should I be killed two spans' distance away from it, that would be more desirable for me than being killed a span's distance from it." 55

On his way, at a place called al-Sifah, Imam Hussein (a.s.) came across al-Farazdaq, a poet known for his love for Ahlul-Bait (a.s.). Imam Hussein (a-s.) asked him about the public opinion and the political conditions in Iraq. "The hearts of the people are with you, but their swords are against you. The decision comes from Heaven and Allah does what He wishes."

"You have spoken truly of the affair belonging to Allah," replied Imam Hussein (a.s.). "Every moment He is in a state of glory. If fate sends down what we like, we praise Allah for His blessings. He is the One from Whom help should be sought. However although fate may frustrate our hopes, yet, It does not destroy the souls of those whose intention is the truth, and whose hearts are pious." 56

The Ummayyad authorities in Kufa were confused. Measures were taken to prevent Imam Hussein (a.s.) from going on with his uprising. The governor of Kufa and chief administrator, Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, ordered the way to Kufa blocked and the traffic into and out of the city closed so that no one could contact Imam Hussein (a.s.) or find the chance to join him. He sent the head of his police, al-Husayn bin Numair al-Tamimi, to carry out his orders. Al-Husayn encamped at al-Qadisiyyah and deployed his troops on the main road to Kufa. The troops were widely positioned in an area extending from al-Qadisyyah to Khaffan, and from al-Qadisiyyah to Qatanah and the mountain of La'la'.

The plan to prevent people from entering and leaving Kufa was a successful for the most part. Only a handful of brave ones managed to reach Imam Hussein (a.s.) during his journey. The messengers whom Imam Hussein (a.s.) had sent to Kufa had all been captured and martyred. Even the deaths of Muslim and Hani were not known to him until these few men had managed to escape from Kufa and inform him. At a place called Zubalah he heard of the martydom of both Muslim bin Aqeel and Hani bin Urwah. He gathered his companions and the members of his family and disclosed to them the news of the Kufans' failing of him.

"Our Shi'ah have deserted us," he told them. "Those of you who prefer to leave us, may do so freely and without guilt."

Some people had joined Imam Hussein (a.s.) in Mecca feeling sure that with the support of the Kufans he would be victorious and become the new caliph. When they heard this news they dispersed from him right and left until there were only left with him those close companions and his family members including the women. 57

Deep inside Iraq, Imam Hussein (a.s.) came face to face with a great army led by al-Hurr bin Yazid al-Riyahi. He chose a good, fortified place and encamped there. The Ummayyad commander encamped, in a military broad line, in front of the camp of Imam Hussein (a.s.). Imam Hussein's (a.s.) army Wag, by then, facing the hostile army, but they were protected, from the rear, by the mountain of Dhi-Hasm. Obviously the enemies could not lay siege to them or surround them.

Tension was already mounting between the two camps facing each other. When it was midday, and the time for midday prayer entered, Imam Hussein (a.s.) ordered one of his companions to recite the call to prayer. He began to address the two sides. He conveyed to them his viewpoints concerning the general situation in the Islamic homeland. He explained to his enemies the motives behind his move, and asked them to honor their promises and the covenants they had made with him, and the pledge of allegiance they had given him. They only listened and said nothing.

Having finished his speech, Imam Hussein (a.s.) led both sides in prayer. All of them offered their prayer behind him.

Once again, after the afternoon prayer, Imam Hussein (a.s.) delivered another speech. In front of them, he emptied two bags full of letters sent by the Kufans to him, calling him to come to Kufa and giving their pledge of allegiance to him. Hurr replied that he and his men were not the writers of those letters. When Imam Hussein (a.s.) had addressed them he told that if they did not like him he was prepared to turn back toward Hijaz, al-Hurr bin Yazid al-Riyahi said:

"We are commissioned to follow you until we take you to Ibn Ziyad."

Imam Hussein (a.s.) replied:

"You will find your death easier than that."

Imam Hussein (a.s.) and his followers left the place with Hurr travelling parallel but at a distance. When Imam Hussein (a.s.) attempted to return to Medina, Hurr blocked his path.

Hurr then said:

"I have not been ordered to fight with you. I have to follow you until you reach Kufa. If you do not want to go to Kufa then I suggest to you to go towards a station which is neither Kufa nor Medina."

Imam Hussein (a.s.) considered this a fair proposal and turned his caravan to the left of the road which ran between Qadsiyyah and Azib.

Hurr marched along parallel to Imam Hussein (a.s.) While marching, the two spoke. Hurr said:

"I appeal to you in the name of Allah to avoid battle because you are bound to be killed."

Imam Hussein (a.s.) retorted:

"Do you think you can frighten me with death? Could a worse disaster befall you than killing me? I can only say to you what the brother of al-Aws said to his cousin when he wanted to help the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.). His cousin feared for him and said: 'Where are you going, you will be killed.' But he replied: 'I will depart, for there is no shame for a young man whenever he intends to do what is right and fight like a Muslim. He who soothes righteous men through the sacrifice of his life, has partied with the cursed and opposed the criminal. If I live, I will not regret what I have done, and if I die, I will not be blamed. Let it be enough for you to live in humiliation and be reviled.'"

Al-Hurr gave up all hope of persuading Imam Hussein (a.s.) to go to Kufa, so he kept a good distance between the two armies. Imam Hussein (a.s.) continued his journey to the target he desired to reach. The Ummayyad army kept the other army under surveillance. The two armies reached a village called Nainawa. At it a messenger sent by Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, arrived and delivered a message to Hurr. The message read:

"When this letter of mine arrives and my messenger comes to you, force Hussein to a halt. But only let him stop in an open place, without vegetation or water. I have ordered my messenger to stay with you and not take his leave until he brings the news of your carrying out my instructions. Wassalam." 58

Having finished reading, al-Hurr conveyed its contents to Imam Hussein (a.s.). Imam Hussein (a.s.) said: "Then let us stop at Nainawa, al-Ghadhiriyah or Shufayyah." Al-Hurr turned down the suggestion, saying that he feared the authorities and the spies in his army.

Imam Hussein (a.s.) thereupon, addressed his followers:

"No doubt you are aware of the gravity of the situation which you are witnessing yourselves here and now. Life has certainly changed disguises, and good has gone forever. This has continued till the remaining good in it amounts to the thin sediment at the bottom of a drinking utensil. Life is a mean food, like a pasture covered with bad grass. Do you not see that the truth is not followed and falsehood not discouraged? The faithful must certainly desire to meet his Lord righteously. I do not deem death other than martyrdom and life among the unjust other than suffering and boredom." 59

Then Imam Hussein's (a.s.) army defiantly resumed its march deep into Iraq. It was not long before the Ummayyad army blocked his way and forced him to encamp at a place called Karbala'. That was the second day of the month of Muharram in the year 61 A.H.

When Imam Hussein (a.s.) learned of the name of the place he dismounted and ordered his camp to be set up. He had reached his destination. The plain of Karbala', the cradle of the uprising, the site of the massacre of the heroes, the beacon of glory, and the symbol of power. When he dismounted he stated that his father, Imam Ali (a.s.), on his way to Siffeen had passed by this desert plain when he himself had been in his company. Imam Ali (a.s) had informed him that he would be forced to camp here and his blood would be shed here.
55. Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh (The Complete Accounts of History), Ibn al Athir, p. 39.

56. Ibid.

57. Ibid., p.40.

58. Ibid., p. 43.

59. Al-Irshad, p.226.

Adapted from the book: "Imam Hussein Bin Ali" Published by: "Al-Balagh Foundation"

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