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On the desert of Karbala' Imam Hussein (a.s.) emerged as a symbol for free men, and a slogan for the revolutionaries throughout the ages and generations.

On the other hand, the Ummayyad authorities, at the helm of which stood Ubaidullah bin Ziyad in Kufa, started sending reinforcements and mobolizing more forces for Karbala'. They knew full well that Imam Hussein (a.s.) was not someone unknown or with no weight. They were still obsessed by fear, in spite of the fact that Imam Hussein (a.s.) would be defended by only a few men, and that the Kufans had failed him. Ziyad replaced al-Hurr with Umar bin Sa'd as the new commander who would engage Imam Hussain (a.s.). First, Umar hesitated to accept the command, but finally he gave in to the lures of governorship and imaginary wealth. He agreed to take up the task. At the head of an army of 4,000, he set off to fight Imam Hussein (a.s.). He ordered his army to encamp nearby.

Imam Hussein (a.s.) started talks with Umar bin Sa'd. They sat down many times. At the end, Umar was convinced to lift the siege he had laid to the camp of Imam Hussein (a.s.), and open the way for him to leave Iraq. He sent a message to Ubaidullah bin Ziyad notifying him of the result of their talks. Ubaidullah conceeded and tried to put it into effect, when Shimr bin Dhil-Jawshan, a vowed enemy of Imam Hussein (a.s.) interferred. He warned Ziyad that Imam Hussein (a.s.) would, after the lifting of the siege, act from a position of strength, and it would be extremely difficult to face him. The balance of power would tip in his favor. Persuaded, Ubaidullah wrote a letter to Umar bin Sa'd, in which he threatened him and turned down his offer. He ordered Shimr to deliver the letter in person to Umar. Furthermore, he presented two choices before Umar; he should either go to war with Imam Hussein (a.s.), or he would be relieved of his post as commander of the army. Shimr would occupy his place in this case and dispatch his head, as well, to Kufa. Umar bin Sa'd got the letter. He pondered over it for a length of time. He could either fight Imam Hussein (a.s.) or lose power and his post as commander of the army. Satan, eventually, got the better of him. He chose the loss of this life and the hereafter. He would certainly fight Imam Hussein (a.s.). Accordingly, he moved his troops, on the seventh of the holy month of Muharram, to surround the Husseini army. They cut his camp off from access to the river Euphrates, so as to deprive them of water to force them to surrender. Two days later, on the ninth of Muharram, the treacherous Ummayyad army began closing in on the camp of Imam Hussein (a.s.). Imam Hussein (a.s.) thought of a way to stop the march of the enemies. He asked his brother, Abbas, to call on the army to stop their aggression. Their response was a reply of a weak-willed, helpless army manipulated by the rulers, "Let Hussein accept the judge of the prince, or, otherwise, we will fight him."

Imam Hussein (a.s.) saw that he could not negotiate with this herd of weak-willed men who dedicated themselves to win booty and wealth. He asked his brother, Abbas, once again, to talk to the army and demand a delay of only one night. Umar bin Sa'd and his officers agreed to grant Imam Hussein (a.s.) the delay he asked.

On the morrow, history would turn a new page in the life of Islam. Men would fight one another in a great and glorious battle in Karbala'.

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

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