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The Infant

He then ordered his infant son [‘Abdullah] to be brought to him so that he would say good-bye to him. Zainab brought him his baby son ‘Abdullah8 as well as the latter’s mother al-Rubab. He placed him in his lap and kept kissing him9 and repeating this statement: “Away with these people when your grandfather the chosen one (S) is their opponent.”10

Then he brought him to those folks and asked for some water for him. Harmalah Ibn Kahil al-Asadi shot the infant with an arrow that slaughtered him. Al-Husayn (‘a) received his blood in his hand then threw it up towards the heavens.
Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (‘a) has said, “Not a drop of it fell.”11 In this regard, the Hujjah of the Progeny of Muhammad (S), may Allah hasten his reappearance, says, “Peace be unto ‘Abdullah, the slaughtered infant, the one shot with an arrow, the one whose blood was shed in a most cruel manner and whose blood ascended to the heavens, the one slaughtered with an arrow in his father's lap! The curse of Allah be upon the person who shot him, Harmalah Ibn Kahil al-Asadi, and upon his kinsfolk.”12
Hard it is for me how you carried your thirsty babe
And the fire of his thirst could not be quenched.
From the parching of the sun his voice changed,
In a tribulation from which what is solid melts.
You came to the people asking for water,
But how could you reach the watering place?
For the bow surrounded his neck as if
It was a string of the crescent wherein the star rests.
And on the prairie, in the tents, are mourners
Pointing to your babe with agony and repeat;
How many an infant did their arrows suckle
One Fatima would have rather nursed?
So my soul weeps for him since the arrow surrounded him
Just as it was decorated before by amulets.
He yearned smiling for the Prophet's grandson to plant his kiss
To bid him farewell, and what else other than
Such kissing suits him?
My heart goes for the infant's mother when the night descends
Upon her, and when the doves mourn.
In the dark does she come to see her babe
As his mark showed among the victims;
So once she saw the arrow in his neck planted,
She wished she shared his arrow of death
In her hands she places him as she kisses his lips
And kisses a neck before her the arrow had kissed.
She brought him closer to her chest in earnest
So once she sings lullabies for him and once she to him talks:
Son! Wake up from the slumber of death!
My breast should you suck.
Maybe my heart will then calm down...
Son! I have milk for you, and I know your thirst
So maybe I thereby quench your burning thirst.
Son! You used to entertain me in my loneliness
And my solace whenever the oppressors oppress.13

Al-Husayn (‘a) said, “What decreases my affliction is the fact that it is witnessed by Allah Almighty.14

O Allah! It is not less in Your esteem than the life of a son! Lord! If You have kept victory away from us, then let it be so for something even better, and seek revenge on our behalf from the oppressors,15 and let what has happened to us in this life be a treasure for us in the hereafter.16

O Allah! You are the Witness against people who killed the one who looked most like Your Messenger Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny.”17

He (‘a), then heard a voice saying, “Leave him, O Husayn, for there is a nurse for him in Paradise.!”18

Then he (‘a), alighted from his horse and with his sword dug a grave for him and buried him; his blood was mixed with the sands, then he offered the funeral prayers for him.19 Some accounts say that he placed him together with those of his family who had already been killed.20

My heart burns for his father when he saw
How, because of the thirst, his eyes deeply sank.
He could find no water for his babe,
So he found no choice except to beg
Though begging for a father is the greatest calamity.
So how when deprivation follows begging?
Of his pure blood he towards the heavens flung,
How great his kindness, how magnanimous!
Had he not thrown it to the heavens,
The earth would have swallowed everyone.
The heavens was painted red from his blood
Woe upon them from Allah's curse!
And how was his mother's condition when she did see
Her infant going through what had to be?
He left her like a white pearl
And returned like a red sapphire.
She yearned to him as she would her babe,
She mourned him in the morning and at sunset.
My heart goes for her how she mourned her infant,
A mourning that echoed her painful heart:
Says she: O son! O my ultimate hope!
O my desire and my joy!
My milk when no water was there did dry,
No water to drink, nothing to sustain you by;
So your thirst took you to drink of death,
As if your quenching rested in the foe's arrows.
O tears of mine, the life of my heart!
My greatest calamity that you had to depart.
I wished you would be the best to succeed
And a solace for me from their every vile deed.
Never did I think an arrow would wean,
Till my days showed him how one could be so mean.21

Al-Husayn (‘a) advanced towards the enemy raising his sword, losing all hope of survival, challenging them to a duel. He killed all those who accepted his challenge, and their number was quite high.22 Then he charged on the army's east flank as he recited these verses:
Death is better than accepting ignominy,
While ignominy is better than the Fire!23

and on the left flank as he recited:
I am al-Husayn son of ‘Ali
I decided never to bow nor bend,
Protecting my father's family,
Remaining on the Prophet's creed.24

‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Ammar Ibn Yaghuth said, “Never have I seen someone surrounded by a huge number of enemies and whose son is slaughtered, and so are his family and companions, and who still maintained his composure, remained relentless, and stayed courageous more than al-Husayn (‘a). Men kept fleeing in front of him whenever he charged at them, and none kept his ground.”25
‘Umar Ibn Sa’d shouted to everyone saying, “This is the son of the quarrelsome one, the one with the stomach! This is the son of the killer of the Arabs! Attack him from all directions!” Four thousand arrows26 were at once shot at him, and he was forced to alight from his horse.

Al-Husayn (‘a) shouted at them, “O followers of Abu Sufyan! If you have no religion at all, and yet you fear the returning to your Maker, then at least you should remain free in your life, and you should go back to your lineage, if you are Arabs as you claim!”
Al-Shimr addressed him saying, “What are you, son of Fatima (‘a), saying?” He (‘a) said, “I am the one who is fighting you, and women are not held accountable; so, keep your rogues away from them and stop them from harming my women as long as I am alive.”

Said he: “Face me, not my women,
“My time is come, destiny is done.”
Al-Shimr said, “We shall grant you that.”

He became the target of the fighters, and the fighting intensified. His thirst intensified, too.27 From the direction of the Euphrates, he attacked ‘Amr Ibn al-Hajjaj who was surrounded by four thousand men, clearing them from the water and forcing his horse into the river.

When his horse was about to drink, al-Husayn (‘a) said to it, “You are thirsty, and so am I, yet I shall not drink before you.” The horse raised his head as if he understood what the Imam (‘a) had said to him.

When al-Husayn (‘a) stretched his hand to drink, a man asked him, “Do you enjoy water while the sanctity of your women has been violated?”

He, therefore, spilled the water and did not drink then went in the direction of the tent.28
Their blood quenches the earth's thirst
As his insides from thirst were burning.
Had the burning of his heart been made manifest,
The most solid of objects would be melting.
The heavens mourn him with blood.
Had it only wept water for his thirsty heart!
O how my heart burns for you,
O son of Muhammad's daughter!
O how the foes were able to achieve their goals!
They prohibited you from reaching
The Euphrates river all the while,
So, may people after you never enjoy
The Euphrates or the Nile.29


8. On p. 222, Vol. 2, of his book Al-Manaqib, Ibn Shahr Ashub refers to him as ‘Ali Asghar (‘Ali Junior). In his book Al-Iqbal, Ibn Tawus states al-Husayn's ziyara on the day of ‘Ashura. It contains the following: “Peace of Allah be upon you and upon them and upon your son ‘Ali Asghar whose loss grieved you.” Those who say it was ‘Abdullah, whose mother was al-Rubab, are: Shaikh al-Mufid on p. 3 of his book Al-Ikhtisas, Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani on p. 35 of his book Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, and Mis’ab Ibn al-Zubayr on p. 59 of Nasab Quraish. On p. 30 of Sirr al-Silsilah, it is stated that the one who was killed with an arrow as he was in his father's lap was ‘Abdullah, but he does not mention the name of his mother.

9. Ibn Tawus, Al-Luhuf, p. 65. According to p. 218, Vol. 2, of al-Ya’qubi's Tarikh (Najaf's edition), “As al-Husayn (‘a) was standing, his newly born son was brought to him. He called the athan in his [right] ear and applied the hanuk to him. It was then that an arrow penetrated his son's mouth, killing him instantly. Al-Husayn (‘a) pulled the arrow out of his son's mouth and kept staining him with his own blood and saying, ‘By Allah! Your status with Allah is greater even than the she-camel [of prophet Salih] , and the status of Muhammad (S) is greater than that of ‘Salih .' Then he took him and placed him with his other slain offspring and nephews.”

10. al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 10, p. 23. al-Khawarizmi, Maqtal al-Husayn, Vol. 2, p. 22.

11. On p. 222, Vol. 2, of Ibn Shahr Ashub's book Manaqib, it is stated that, “None of it came back.” On p. 36 of Ibn Nama's book Muthir al-Ahzan, on p. 66 of Ibn Tawus’s book Al-Luhuf, where the incident is narrated by Imam al-Baqir (‘a), on p. 186, Vol. 8, of Ibn Kathir's book Al-Bidaya, on p. 108 of al-Qarmani's book Akhbar al-Duwal, and on p. 32, Vol. 2, of al-Khawarizmi's book Maqtal al-Husayn, it is stated in all these books that Imam al-Husayn (‘a) threw it towards the heavens. Ibn Kathir says that the man who had shot that arrow belonged to Banu Asad and was named “Ibn Muqid al-Nar” [son of the fire lighter].

12. This is stated in the ziyarat of that sacred place. The text of the poem that follows was composed by the virtuous orator Sayyid Muhammad Jawad Shubbar.

13. From a poem by the ‘Allama Shaikh Muhammad Taqi al-Jawahiri.

14. Ibn Tawus, Al-Luhuf, p. 66.

15. Ibn Nama, Muthir al-Ahzan, p. 26. al-Khawarizmi, Maqtal al-Husayn, Vol. 2, p. 32.

16. al-Qazwini, Tazallum al-Zahra’, p. 122.

17. Al-Muntakhab, p. 313.

18. Ibn al-Jawzi, the grandson, Tathkirat al-Khawass, p. 144. Mirza Farhad, Al-Qamqam, p. 385. In the biography of Ibrahim son of the Messenger of Allah (S), as stated in Al-Isaba (of Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani), and also according to p. 102, Vol. 1, of al-Nawawi's book Tahthib al-Asma’, and on p. 214, Vol. 3, of al-Zarqani's book Sharh al-Mawahib al-Laduniyya, in a chapter dealing with the Imam's sons, it is stated that when Ibrahim son of the Messenger of Allah (S) died, the Prophet (S) said, “There is a nurse for him in Paradise.”

19. al-Khawarizmi, Maqtal al-Husayn, Vol. 2, p. 32. al-Tabarsi, Al-Ihtijaj, p. 163 (Najaf edition).

20. al-Mufid, Al-Irshad. Ibn Nama, Muthir al-Ahzan, p. 36.

21. Excerpted from a rajaz poem by the authority Ayatullah Shaikh Muhammad Husayn al-Isfahani, may Allah sanctify him.

22. Abdullah Nur-Allah al-Bahrani, Maqtal al-’Awalim, p. 97. Ibn Nama, Muthir al-Ahzan, p. 37. al-Khawarizmi, Maqtal al-Husayn, Vol. 2, p. 33.

23. Under the heading “A Discourse in Literature” on p. 171, Vol. 3, of his book Al-Bayan wal Tibyan (second edition), al-Jahiz adds the following after having quoted those poetry lines:
    Allah, from this and that, is the Refuge.

24. Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib, Vol. 2, p. 223.

25. al-Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 6, p. 259. On p. 38, Vol. 2, of his book Maqtal al-Husayn, al-Khawarizmi attributes this statement to some of those who had participated in that battle.

26. Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib, Vol. 2, p. 223.

27. Ibn Tawus, Al-Luhuf, p. 67.

28. al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 10, p. 204. ‘Abdullah Nur-Allah al-Bahrani, Maqtal al-’Awalim, p. 98. Nafs al-Mahmum, p. 188. Al-Khasa’is al-Husayniyya, p. 46, in a chapter dealing with animal characteristics. But I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement alleging the horse's refusal to drink water and al-Husayn (‘a) spilling water from his hand merely on account of what his enemies had said.

He was fully aware of the fact that what they said was nothing but a trick. But the attributes of that day with regard to the Master of Martyrs and those in his company remaining thirsty are beyond our knowledge, and we have no choice except to take it for granted that the Imam (‘a), was wise in his actions and speeches, doing exactly what his grandfather (S), who never spoke out of his own inclination, had instructed him.

All issues relevant to the Battle of al-Taff are confined, in their circumstances and sites, to mysteries and reasons which only the Lord of the World, Exalted is He, knows. There is something else which was observed by the Master of Martyrs, something the Arabs used to die for, and that was: protecting the ladies with their lives. Abu ‘Abdullah (‘a) was the master of the Arabs and the son of their master. He was never unaware of such a tribute for which he would sacrifice everything precious. When a man shouted out telling him that the sanctity of the ladies had been violated, he refused to drink water in order to let everyone know his deep concern about his honour.

Had he paid no heed for the call, people would have concluded that he was lacking in his Arabian manliness, something that the Father of the Oppressed would never have done even if he knew that the call was untrue. The action of the master of the men of honour, his having abstained from drinking even a little of water, is a feat for which a man would receive the highest praise.

29. Excerpted from a poem by Ayatullah Shaikh Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghiťa’, may Allah have mercy on him.

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