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The Eve of the Revolution of Imam Husayn (a.s.)

When people learnt of al-Husayn's determination to revolt, they took up three different attitudes towards it.

The first attitude was the attitude of the Shi'a of the Holy Family. It was to urge the revolution, to offer it promises of help and support and to undertake some actual tasks for its sake.

We find evidence for that in the event of al-Husayn's revolution when he refused to give the pledge of allegiance to Yazid ibn Mu'awiya and left Medina for Mecca. Indeed we find evidence for it even before the death of Mu'awiya, in the efforts of the Kufans to get al-Husayn to revolt and to rectify the situation-as they claimed-which had arisen as a result of the ratification of the peace treaty between Mu'awiya and Imam al-Hasan ibn 'Ali.

After the death of Mu'awiya, the assumption of office by Yazid and al-Husayn's departure for Mecca, letters from the leaders of the Shi'a came continually to him. Other leaders also participated in this call and this urging, and their letters came in abundance to him. They dissociated themselves from the Umayyad governor, al-Numan ibn Bashir al-Ansan, and then they gave a positive response to al-Husayn's messenger to them, Muslim ibn Aqil. Eighteen thousand of them pledged allegiance to him.

Many of them remained faithful to their attitude after the Umayyad regime had regained control over affairs in Kufa when the new governor, 'Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, arrived there and took over from al-Nu'man ibn Bashir. He exercised absolute authority over Kufa with ferocity and speed. Some of them were paralysed by fear; some of them were imprisoned after the abortive movement of Muslim ibn 'Aqil in Kufa; some of them were prevented from joining al-Husayn by the blockade which 'Ubayd Allah set up around Kufa; while others, who were able to slip through the cordon which had been positioned around Kufa, joined al-Husayn at Karbala', fought with him and were martyred in his presence.

The second attitude is the attitude of members of the clan of the Hashimites and the attitude of some of the tribal leaders. As for the attitude of members of the clan of the Hashimites, it is portrayed by the words of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya and 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas.

On the eve of Imam al-Husayn's departure from Medina, Muhammad ibn al-Hanifiyya gave him the following advice: 'You should go to Mecca. If staying there provides you with security, that is what we want. If it should be otherwise, you should go to the land of Yemen. They are supporters of your grandfather, your father and your brother. They are better-natured and have kinder hearts ...'

He received similar advice from 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas when 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas said in a conversation which took place between him and the Imam: 'I have learnt that you are setting out for Iraq. They are treacherous people and are only calling you to war. Do not hurry. If you refuse any other course but to fight against this tyrant and yet are unwilling to stay in Mecca, then go to Yemen. Write to the people of Kufa and your supporters in Iraq that they should drive out their governor. If they do not do that, you should remain there until God sends His commandment, for there, there are fortresses and mountain paths.'

As for the attitude of those who were not members of the clan of Hashim, it is portrayed by the words of 'Abd Allah ibn Muti al-'Adawi: 'O son of the Apostle of God, I remind you of God and of the sanctity of Islam lest it be defiled. I adjure you before God concerning the sanctity of the Apostle of God and the sanctity of the Arabs. By God, if you seek what the Umayyad clan has in their hands, it will kill you. If they kill you, they will never fear anyone after you. By God, it is the sanctity of Islam which will be defiled, the sanctity of Quraysh and the sanctity of the Arabs. Do not do it. Do not go to Kufa. Do not expose yourself to the Umayyad clan.'

In principle, these men agree with the revolution but they are concerned about its results. Some of them-like 'Abd Allah ibn Muti-are absolutely certain of its failure and express their feelings of consternation and alarm at the Umayyad audacity against everything sacred which will follow this failure.

Others are doubtful about its result and advise him to take refuge in places and among groups which will make the possibilities of success greater than the possibilities of failure.

The third attitude is represented by 'Abd Allah ibn ' Umar and other such men of piety who have withdrawn from politics since the killing of 'Uthman under the slogan of keeping away from discord, even though, by this attitude of theirs, they have rendered a great service to the existing regime when they made themselves into a party which was impeding the progress of revolutionary forces in society under the slogan of piety and keeping away from discord.

'Abd Allah ibn ' Umar said to Imam al-Husayn: 'Abu 'Abd Allah, you know the hostility of this clan towards you and their injustice to you. The people have given authority to this man, Yazid ibn Mu'awiya. I cannot be sure that the people would not favour him because of gold and silver (which he has given them) so that they would fight against you and thus many men would be destroyed through you. I advise you to enter into the agreement which the people entered into and to be patient as you were patient before.'

'Abd Allah ibn ' Umar and other such holders of this view were not from the Shi'a of the Holy Family. Nor were they members of that second group which believed in the justice of the revolution as a principle. In outward appearance at least, they were not supporters of the regime. They were only looking hostility at the revolution by starting out with a basic attitude in their public and private lives, which was the maintenance and acceptance of the status quo, not because it was just, but only because it existed, and because any change would not agree with their temperaments and interests.

Adapted from the book: "The Revolution of al-Husayn (a.s.)" by: "Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din"

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