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History

The Day of Ashura'

Imam Hussein (a.s.), together with his pious companions, passed the night before the tenth of Muharram in prayers, supplications and getting ready for the following day.

That night came to an end. It was as if a long history had elapsed. The tenth of Muharram, the day of blood, jihad and martyrdom, the day of the decisive battle, was already born.

Umar bin Sa'd was arranging his troops in line, and mobilizing his soldiers to fight the fifth member of the purified family of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), whose love was decreed by Allah on the ummah through the explicit words of the Holy Qur'an.

Imam Hussein (a.s.) stared unperturbably and strong-hearted at the great army which was equipped to the teeth. Like a towering mountain, determined and unshakable, Imam Hussein (a.s.) did not show the smallest sign of weakness.

Never did he think of reconsidering his decision. There was no one but Allah to look to. He raised his hands in prayer:

"O Allah! It is You in Whom I trust amid all grief. You are my hope amid all violence. You are my refuge and provision in everything that happens to me. How many grievances that weaken the heart, leaving me with no means to handle them, during which friend deserts me, and the enemy rejoices in it. I lay it before you and complain of it to You, because of my desire in You. You alone. You relieve me of it and remove it from me. You are the Master of all grace, the Possessor of all goodness, and the Ultimate Resort of all desire." 60

Imam Hussein (a.s.) went out of his tent, completely ready to engage the enemy. The battle was unescapable. So he started fortifying his camp where the children and women were waiting for what would happen next. He ordered the digging of a trench at the rear of the camp. This was to prevent the army from attacking the camp from that point. He set the trench ablaze. Secure as the back of the camp was, the battle would be fought in the front only.

Once again, Imam Hussein (a.s.) delivered a speech. He reminded the Kufans of their letters and envoys, combined with their pledge of allegiance, but to no avail. His call fell on deaf ears.

He mounted his horse, and galloped to a place before the hostile army, in his hand he grasped the Qur'an. He opened it, raising it above his head, and said: "O people! Let us have the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of my grandfather, the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.), to arbitrate between us." 61

No one seemed to be influenced by the words of Imam Hussein (a.s.). Rather, Umar bin Sa'd ordered the standard-bearer of his army to advance and gave the go-ahead for the war to start. He, himself, fired the first arrow toward the camp of Imam Hussein (a.s.), shouting, "All of you be witness that I am the first to shoot."

That was the outset of a catastrophe and tragedy which victimized the scion of prophethood and the leader of the Muslims, the grandson of the noble Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), Hussein bin Ali bin Abi-Talib.

The men lunged at one another, first in single battles, then in a full war. It was only natural that strength would help the army of Yazid bin Mu'awiyah massacre this small group of warriors.

The whole tragedy of the Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), and their painful suffering at the hands of their enemies was crystally incarnated in the battle of Karbala'.

History tells us of scenes and tragic sights which are extremely difficult for writers, poets and artists to depict. A baby, for example, was in the arms of Imam Hussein (a.s.). It was his son, Abdullah, sometimes called Ali Asghar. It is after this child that Imam Hussein (a.s.) was given the title "Abu Abdullah" recorded in many books and salutations when referring to Imam Hussein (a.s.). He took Abdullah to the Ummayyad camp asking them to give him some water. Detachments were stationed at the banks of the Euphrates. With no access to the water, the family of Imam Hussein (a.s.) and their followers felt thirsty. Imam (a.s.) wanted to awaken their conscience and stir their human sentiments; but the stone-hearted enemies targeted the six-months old baby with an arrow which struck him in the throat and slaughtered him instantly.

Imam Hussein (a.s.) felt an unbearable wave of pain. The sight of the slaughtered baby was etched forever in his mind.

But his heart did not give way to weakness. He filled his palm with the blood of his little baby, and threw it upwards, complaining to his Lord, "I find consolation in the fact that what I am suffering is witnessed by Allah."

The battle got more horribly ferocious. One after the other, the followers and the members of Imam Hussein's (a.s.) family attained martyrdom. The last one to be martyred in that eternal battle was Imam Hussein (a.s.) himself. He became the sacred offering and the "greater sacrifice" to Allah. A three-pointed arrow hit Imam Hussein (a.s.) in the chest. Deeply embedded, he could not dislodge it. The blood gushed out of his holy chest unhalted. He fell down to the ground swimming in a pool of his blood.

The Ummayyad were not satisfied. Their hatred for Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) was too blazing to be extinguished by this. One criminal from the army of the Ummayyad, Shimr bin Dhil-Jawshan, walked over to Imam Hussein (a.s.), sat on his chest and cut off his head from the back of his neck. Ibn Sa'd ordered the horsemen to trample over the supine body of Imam Hussein (a.s.).

The star of Imam Hussein (a.s.) set. The tragedy set in. The head of Imam Hussein (a.s.), along with the heads of his companions (and even the tiny head of Abdullah) were distributed among the criminals, as gifts, carrying them to the Ummayyad governor of Kufa.

For three days the pure, holy bodies of the martyrs were left lying on the desert of Karbala' before men from the tribe of Bani-Asad who were living not far away from the battlefield buried them. The criminals, not yet satisfied with all this, carried the children and women, in addition to the sick son of Imam Hussein (a.s.), Imam Zain Al-Abideen (a.s.), as prisoners from Kufa to Syria. At the front of the sad procession were the heads of Imam Hussein (a.s.) and his followers.

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60. Maqtal al-Hussein (a.s.), Sayyid Ibn Tawoos, pp. 32-33.

61. Al-Irshad, p. 223.

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