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The Sacred Head Speaks

My heart goes for your head atop a spear
Outfitted with its own lights with an attire,
Reciting the Book from the top of the spear,
Through him did they raise the Book even higher.38

The martyred grandson of the Prophet (S) remained an ally of the Qur’an since his early childhood. Thus were he and his brother (‘a), for they were the legacy of the Messenger of Allah, his vicegerents over his nation. The greatest Prophet (S) had stated that they and the Holy Qur’an would never part from one another till they meet him at the Pool of Kawthar.

Al-Husayn (‘a), therefore, never ceased reciting the Qur’an all his life as he taught and cultivated others, when he was at home or when travelling. Even during his stand in the Battle of Taff, though surrounded by his foes, he used the Qur’an to argue with them and to explain his point of view to them.

Thus was the son of the Messenger of Allah (S) energetically marching towards his sacred objective, so much so that his sacred head kept reciting the Qur’an even as it stood atop a spear, perhaps someone among the people would be enlightened with the light of the truth But this lamp-post of guidance did not see except people whose comprehension was limited, whose hearts were sealed, and whose ears were deafened:

“Allah sealed their hearts and hearing, and over their vision there is a veil” (Qur’an, 2:7).
This must not surprise anyone who comprehends divine mysteries. The Lord, Praise to Him, mandated upon the Master of Martyrs (‘a) to rise in order to close the gates of misguidance in that particular fashion defined by the circumstances, place, and method.

He did so for the achievement of certain objectives set by the Great One. He had inspired His holiest Prophet (S) to recite this particular page to his son, al-Husayn (‘a); so, there is no way other than its acceptance and the submission to whatever best pleases the Lord of the Worlds:

“He is not asked about what He does, whereas they are asked” (Qur’an, 21:23).
The Omnipotent and the Exalted One wanted such a sacred uprising to make the nation then, as well as the successive generations, to become acquainted with the misguidance of those who deviated from the Straight Path and who played havoc with the Shari’a.

He liked any and all deeds that would firm the foundations of this martyrdom whose epic was recorded by al-Husayn's pure blood, bringing about shining pages narrating the deeds of those who rose against abomination. This became enshrouded with many extra-ordinary events that most minds could not comprehend.

One such strange event was the recitation by the great head of the sacred verses of the Holy Qur’an. The speech of a severed head is a most eloquent means to drive the argument home against those who were blinded by their own desires.

It underscores the fact that his stand was right, a stand which he never undertook except in obedience to the Lord of the Worlds and to the detriment of those who in any way harmed or oppressed al-Husayn (‘a). It drew the nation's attention to the misguidance of those who dared to oppress.
Divine Providence did not do something for the first time when it enabled al-Husayn's head to speak in order to serve the interests the essence of which many fail to comprehend. It had enabled a tree39 to speak to Moses son of Imran [Amram], prophet of Allah (‘a), and how can a tree be compared to a severed head in as far as obedience to the most Merciful One, Praise to Him, is concerned?
Zayd Ibn Arqam has said, “I was sitting in my room when they passed by, and I heard the head reciting this verse:

‘Or do you think that the fellows of the cave and the inscription were of Our amazing Signs?' (Qur’an, 18:9).

My hair stood up, and I said, ‘By Allah, O son of the Messenger of Allah! Your head is much more amazing!”40
When the holiest of severed heads was placed at the money changers' section of the bazaar, there was a great deal of commotion and noise of the dealers and customers. The Master of Martyrs (‘a) wanted to attract the attention to him so that people would listen to his terse admonishment, so his severed head hawked quite loudly, thus turning all faces to it.

Never did people hear a severed head hawking before the martyrdom of al-Husayn (‘a). It then recited Surat al-Kahf from its beginning till it reached the verse saying,

“They are youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased their guidance” (Qur’an, 18:13) , “... and do not (O Lord!) increase the unjust in aught but error” (Qur’an, 71:24).
The head was hung on a tree. People assembled around it looking at the dazzling light that emanated from it as it recited the verse saying,

“And those who oppressed shall come to know what an end they shall meet” (Qur’an, 26:227)41
Hilal Ibn Mu’awiyah said, “I saw a man carrying the head of al-Husayn (‘a) as it [the head] was saying, ‘You separated between my head and my body, so may Allah separate between your flesh and bones, and may He make you a Sign for those who shirk from the Straight Path.' He, therefore, raised his whip and kept whipping the head till it ceased.”42
Salamah Ibn Kahil heard the head reciting the following verse from the top of the spear where it had been placed:

“Allah shall suffice you for them, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing” (Qur’an, 2:137).43
Ibn Wakida says that he heard the head reciting Surat al-Kahf, so he was doubtful whether it was, indeed, the voice of the Imam (‘a), whereupon he (‘a), stopped his recitation and turned to the man to say, “O son of Wakida! Do you not know that we, the Imams, are living with our Lord receiving our sustenance?”

He, therefore, decided to steal and bury the head. It was then that the glorious head spoke again to him saying, “O son of Wakida! There is no way to do that. Their shedding my blood is greater with Allah than placing me on a spear; so, leave them alone, for they shall come to know when the collars are placed around their necks and when they are dragged with chains.”44

Al-Minhal Ibn ‘Amr has said, “I saw al-Husayn's head in Damascus atop a spear and in front of it stood a man; the head was reciting Surat al-Kahf. When the recitation came to the verse saying,

‘Or did you reckon the fellows of the Cave and the Inscription among our amazing Signs?' (Qur’an, 18:9),

the head spoke in an articulate tongue saying, ‘More amazing than the fellows of the cave is killing me and thus transporting me.’”45
When Yazid ordered the killing of a messenger sent by the then Roman [Byzantine] emperor who resented what Yazid had committed, the head loudly articulated these words: La hawla wala quwwata illa billah! (There is no power nor might except in Allah).46
Is it your soul or the soul of Prophethood that does ascend
From the earth to Paradise as the huris prostrate?
Is it your head or the head of the Messenger atop the spear
Repeating the ayat of the fellows of the cave?
Is it your chest or the reservoir of knowledge and wisdom
That crushed a host of the ignorant attempts?
Is it your mother or the Mother of the Book that did sigh
So her sighing heart did indeed melt,
And the earth echoes the heavens in its sighs
So while one wails, the other cries?
The Wahi held a mourning of its own
At his house, and the one solaced is Muhammad,
Seeing the Two Weighty Things: One to pieces torn
With arrows, and the other with the sword to pieces sawn,
So his ‘Itrat some killed by the sword and some by the arrows,
Some martyred and some expelled in the plains full of sorrows.
What a martyr whose body did the sun bake?
Though from its very origin did its own rays take?
And what a slain save one whose body the horses crushed
Though from his mention their riders freeze and are hushed.
Did you know that Muhammad's very soul,
Like his Qur’an, is in his grandson personified?
Had those horses, like their riders, only come to know
That the one under the hooves was in fact Ahmad,
They would have against their riders declared a mutiny
Just as they against him revolted and declared.
Injustice slit a throat the moon's light does envy
And in each of his veins for the truth there is a star
And crushed ribs wherein compassion does reside
And stopped breathing wherein the Truth is Glorified.
Yet the greatest calamity of all
Is the suffering of his free ladies' every soul.
Oppressed they were as their only protector is tied
Some were handcuffed complaining from their pain,
While other ladies were being slapped and in chain,
As if said to his people the Messenger of Oneness:
Seek revenge against my ‘Itrat and with cruelty oppress.47


38. According to p. 36 of Sayyid Musin al-Amin's book Al-Durr al-Nadid, these verses were composed by Sayyid Riďa al-Hindi.

39. al-Suyuti, Al-Durr al-Manthur, Vol. 2, p. 119, in the explanation of the verse saying, “Lord! Grant me to look at You!” al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 5, p. 278, citing Al-Muhaj. al-Tha’alabi, Qisas al-Anbiya’, p. 120, chapter 8, where the exit of Moses (‘a) from Midian is detailed.

40. al-Mufid, Al-Irshad. Al-Khasa’is al-Kubra, Vol. 2, p. 125. On p. 362, Vol. 1, of Sharh Nahj al-Balagha, Ibn Abul-Hadid says, “Zayd Ibn Arqam was one of those who deviated from the line of the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (‘a). He was reluctant to testify that the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) was appointed [by the Prophet] to take charge of the nation after him, so he (‘a) condemned him with blindness. He, indeed, became blind till his death. According to Ibn al-Athir, who indicates so on p. 24, Vol. 4, of his book Al-Kamil, Ibn Ziyad ordered the head of al-Husayn (‘a) to be paraded throughout Kufa. The same is stated by Ibn Kathir on p. 191, Vol. 8, of his book Al-Bidaya, and also by al-Maqrizi on p. 288, Vol. 2, of his Khutat.

41. Ibn Shahr Ashub, Vol. 2, p. 188.

42. Sharh Qasidat Abi Firas, p. 148.

43. Sayyid Kaďim al-Rashti al-Ha’iri, Asrar al-Shahada, p. 488.

44. Sharh Qasidat Abi Firas, p. 148.

45. al-Suyuti, Al-Khasa’is, Vol. 2, p. 127.

46. al-Bahrani, Maqtal al-’Awalim, p. 151.

47. Excerpted from a poem by Sayyid ‘Ali son of the ‘Allama Sayyid Mahdi Bahr al-’Ulum.

Adapted from: "Maqtal al-Husayn; Martyrdom Epic of Imam al-Husayn (a.s.)" by: "Abd al-Razzaq al-Muqarram"