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Imam Hussein’s revolt, the causes - Part 4

Among the mistakes the author of the book, “Ash-Shaheedul Khalid – The Immortal Martyr”? did was that he over-exaggerated the factor of the “Kufans’ invitation”?, so much so that he has given the impression that it was the overriding stimulant for Imam Hussein’s revolt. In fact, this factor was not the most important; rather, it was the least important among the contributory factors that led to the Imam’s revolt.

Even if we assume that it was the principal cause of the revolt, the Imam, after knowing that the Kufans did not keep their word, could have resigned to the fact that there was no point in carrying on with his plans, contemplating swearing allegiance to Yazid and abandoning his bid to uphold the principle of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong”?.

The opposite was precisely what had happened, in that the fieriest sermons by the Imam were those given in the aftermath of the fall of Kufa to the Umayyad’s. In that, there was a clear message that he was acting in accordance with the obligation of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong”?, and that he was under no illusions that that was his prime motive for launching his revolt. For his part, it was an action of a revolutionary against the ruling establishment of that time.

On his way to Iraq, he met by chance two men coming from the direction of Kufa. He asked them to stop in order to have a conversation with them. The moment they knew it was Imam Hussein (A.S), they took a detour and disappeared, to avoid talking to him. Meanwhile, a man among the Imam’s companions, who happened to have met the two men, arrived at the scene. He broke to the Imam the news of the killing of Muslim bin Aqeel and Hani bin Irwah, having received it from the two men he had met earlier. It was through the same men, although indirectly, that the Imam knew of the fall of Kufa to the Umayyad’s.

His companion also informed Imam Hussein that the two men felt ashamed to let the Imam know of the distressing news, especially the report about dragging the headless corpse of Muslim in the streets of Kufa. Upon hearing the news, the Imam’s eyes became filled with tears, reciting this Qur’anic verse,

“Among the Believers are men who have been true to their covenant with God: of them some have completed their vow (to the extreme), and some (still) wait: but they have never changed (their determination) in the least.”? (33/23). The Imam (A.S) wanted to prove to the people that he did not come for Kufa alone. So, if that province fell to the enemy, it would not change anything. He did not launch his movement in response to the Kufans’ appeal per se. That appeal was among the factors that made him march to Iraq. Imam Hussein made it very clear that he saw himself responsible for discharging a more important duty. So, if Muslim bin Aqeel got martyred, he would have honored his covenant and passed away in the line of duty. Thus, the Imam must continue treading the same path he had mapped out for his movement.

Since the Imam had decided to take an attacking position against the Umayyad rule, and marched on that revolutionary path, his rationale for doing so was different from a person who was in a defensive position or that of an acquiescent one. The position of a person who is repelling an attacker, who has, for example, come to rob him of his possessions, would be getting what was stolen from him and protect it.

The person who is intent on taking on his rival is in a different league; he would not accept anything other than annihilating the enemy, and achieving his goal, even if they got killed in the process. Imam Hussein’s drive was that of upholding “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.”? It was the mindset of a martyr and the path he decided to walk on.

He who wants his appeal to reach his community advocates the logic of the martyr. This appeal bears a signature made with his blood. Examples of people who wanted their message to reach others abound. In many a place all over the world, we come across relics of bygone personalities who wanted their exploits to be remembered, so much so that some of them had such accomplishments written as epitaph on their gravestones. Hundreds of years later such relics are excavated and displayed in museums to be kept as heritage for future generations. In contrast, Imam Hussein (A.S) wrote down with his own blood his epic on the airwaves of everlasting frequencies.

His message is stamped on people’s hearts because it was laced with blood, thus leaving an indelible mark there. The hearts of millions of people, be they Arab or non-Arab, who understood the message of the Imam, are conscious of the sincerity of his message, especially when he recited, “I look upon death as felicity and regard life in the shadows of the oppressors as nothing but unhappiness.”? That is, living in indignity in the doldrums of injustice and repression, and barely surviving is not the type of life a free man would want to live. Thus, “better die with honour than live in shame”? was his motto, i.e. that of martyrs.

Imam Hussein (A.S) chose the position from which he would attack the regime; his rationale was that of a person racing to martyrdom. From the inhospitable terrain of Karbala, Iraq, he wanted the whole world to know his rejection of the ruler of his days, [who was not fit to rule]. He did not have the tools to write his call, and yet his message transcended the barriers of time, place, and race to rest in the hearts and minds of people. As is customary each and every year, come Muharram and there the light of Imam Hussein shines on us like beams of light emanating from the sun.

His message is heard loud and clear, “The similitude of the inevitability of man’s death is that of necklace worn by a young woman. I therefore yearn to have reunion with my predecessors in the same way Jacob was yearning to be reunited with [his son] Joseph”?, and this glaring statement, “The bastard and the son of a bastard has left us but two choices, either resorting to the sword or capitulating.

How preposterous! Humiliation is not our cup of tea! Allah shall never let this happen to us; so shall His Messenger, the believers, chaste and pure laps and proud souls. For the sake of these ideals we would rather die in honor and not give in to the ignoble.”? There is a reference in this sermon to Ibn Ziyad, who had offered the Imam one of two choices, either the sword or ignominious surrender.

That was the message the Imam wanted to live on through time and generations. That is, neither God nor His Messenger and the believers would let a pious believer experience the bitter taste of disgrace. The generations and believers would come to know about the resistance of the Imam when no one would accept the notion of the Imam’s surrendering to the enemy.

It was inconceivable that a person, such as the Imam, who was purebred, under the wing of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, could give in to indignity. When he left Medina, armed with his refusal to endorse Yezid’s succession to the caliphate as a reason for his attack on the repressive regime, he wrote a will and left it with his brother Muhammad bin al-Hanfiyah; among its contents was this statement, “I did not set out driven by arrogance, or recklessness, or a desire for spreading corruption, or injustice. All what I am intent on is seeking to reform the community of my grandfather. ”?

This was the rationale behind the Imam’s movement.

In the letter he wrote to his brother, Muhammad bin al-Hanfiyah, the Imam mentioned the incident of the Umayyad’s demanding from him to pledge allegiance to Yazid, but not even a single reference to the call of the Kufans to him [to come over and form a rival caliphate in Kufa.

That unequivocal rejection underlined the Imam’s determination to walk the road of martyrdom to the end. Had his logic stemmed from the love for defending oneself alone, it would have been rational that he would not have given his companions the choice, on the eve of the tenth of Muharram, of either parting his company or sticking it out with him. All along, he was clear in his mind and sincere with them that the army of Ibn Ziyad was after him alone, i.e. he either gave in and endorsed Yazid as caliph or got killed on the battlefield.

In his judgement, his position, on not recognizing Yazid’s rule, was dictated by his sense of religious duty, as he did not think Yazid was fit to rule. Yet, his companions chose, of their own accord, to stay with him to the end, preferring to get martyred rather than part his company. For this noble stance, the Imam turned to his Lord and prayed for his companions, asking Him to reward them on his behalf.

This is reinforced by the fact that on that same night, the Imam requested that Habib bin Mudhahir al-Assadi go and ask for the help of members of his tribe.

Suppose that Habib managed to galvanise some fifty or sixty combatants. What difference would this number make in comparison to some thirty thousand soldiers on the other side? Certainly, it would have made no difference to tilt the impending battle in favour of the Imam’s side. So, what was the reason for this request?

The Imam wanted to win the ‘media’ war in order that the news of his revolt travelled far and wide. This is the rationalization of the revolutionaries and martyrs. That was why he started this move in his own immediate circle by bringing with him all members of his family for he wanted them to be messengers for his revolt.

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