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The Third Imam Hazrat Imam Husain a.s. (Hz. Husain ibn. Ali a.s.) --- The Tragedy of Karbala


Yazid had been raised in a life of luxury, and the principles or the practices of Islam were remote to him.  He had seen the success in his father's cunning maneuvers against Imam Ali, and witnessed the insults slung at the Imam and the Ahle Bait of the Prophet in the Friday congregational prayers.  He must have been made aware of Imam Ali's contributions towards establishing the Islamic State under the Prophet of Islam, and during which his pagan ancestors perished under the sweep of Imam Ali's sword.  History has accounted that eighteen of the clan of Umayyah were slain in the Battle of Badr.  Thus Yazid could harbor no love for Imam Ali or his progeny.  Now that he himself controlled the vast Islamic empire, and that he himself wielded absolute power, he had the best opportunity of avenging the blood of his ancestors.

As soon as he assumed the reins of the empire, Yazid decided to either obtain the pledge of unconditional submission from the Imam or to have him executed.  His father had warned him about the steadfast nature of the Imam.  It was not possible for the Imam to accept the wicked ruler as his religious leader; and he was also aware that Yazid would have him killed for this.  In fact, Yazid had given specific orders to his cousin, Walid bin Uqba bin Abu Sufyan, the governor of Madinah that if the Imam did not submit to his orders, he should be killed and his head be sent to him (Yazid) for confirmation.

The Imam did not wish to be killed by a political plot in Madinah.  He decided to leave the relative comfort of his home in Madinah and marched towards Makkah on Rajab 28,60AH.  He care fully selected those who would accompany him in his fateful journey.

Upon arrival of the Imam's group in Makkah, Sa'id bin As, the governor of Makkah vacated his seat and rushed to Madinah to send first hand information to Yazid. Yazid appointed Umar bin Sad as governor of Makkah, again with the same specific orders against the Imam.

Yazid had realized that it was extremely difficult to have the Imam assassinated in Madinah or Makkah, and that it would be relatively easy to carry out his wicked plot elsewhere.  Twelve thousand letters were sent to the Imam, inviting him to come to Kufa and establish the righteous rule of true lslam. Some of these letters were signed by the respected companions of the Prophet. Imam Husain was duty bound to respond to the call from the faithful.

The Imam sent his cousin Muslim bin Aqeel to Kufa to size up the apparent support for him.  Muslim hurried to Madinah to pack for his long trip to Kufa, and took with him two of his young sons, Muhammad and Ibrahim aged 7 and 8 year respectively.  As Muslim arrived in Kufa, he was greeted by thousands of apparent supporters.  He sent a letter to the Imam saying that indeed there was a large enough support and that the people wanted the Imam to come and lead them on the path of Righteousness.

Yazid was waiting for his plan to mature.  He sent Ubaidullah bin Ziyad to take charge from Nu'man bin Bashir, kill Muslim and send his head to him Damascus.

In the large mosque of Kufa, Muslim led the prayers with a huge number of apparent supporters.  When Muslim turned to face the congregation at the end of his prayers, he found just a handful of believers staying behind him.  Alas!  It was too late to inform the Imam of the treachery of the Kufans.  Muslim was unable to fight his way out of Kufa and was killed.  This was followed by the slaughter of both of his young sons.

The Imam was in Makkah for about four months.  He found that he could not perform his Haj with safety.  Yazid had sent his men disguised as pilgrims, with orders to kill Imam Husain.  He decided that he would not have his blood spilled in the Holy Sanctuary.  He only performed the Umrah instead of the full rituals of Haj, and started his fateful march towards Kufa.  His long supplication in Arafat is the epitome of the sincerity in prayers and exhibition of devout faith in the Will of Allah.

Umar bin Sa'd knew the price of failure.  His counter part in Madinah had failed to kill the Imam or to prevent him from leaving.  He sent Yahya bin Sa'id to stop the Imam from leaving Makkah.  However, he was unable to stall or stop the Imam who continued his journey towards his destination.

While he was well on his way, he leamt of the martyrdom of his cousin Muslim bin Aqeel.  At that point, there was no turning back for the Imam.  He decided to continue his march to face his destiny. On the way, he was intercepted by the army of Hurr, which forced the Imam's caravan away from Kula on to a different direction, till it arrived in Karbala, a dreaded waterless desert.

It was in this wilderness that the small caravan of the righteous Imam was deprived of their basic necessities of food and water in the desert heat, and of their right to a safe passage out of the oppressive regime of Yazid.  They were denied access to any support from their well wishers, and were instead encircled by a massive army of professional soldiers and were ruthlessly killed in the desert of Karbala on Muharram 10, 61 AH.  In this massacre, eighteen Hashimites lost their lives.  They were sons and grand sons of Ali, Ja'fare Tayyar and Aqeel, from the progeny of Abu Tallb, the protecting guardian of the Prophet of Islam.

After the bloody battle, the martyrs were beheaded and their bodies were run over by the mounted soldiers.  The tents were put to flame and the belongings of the survivors were looted.  The survivors were first led to Kufa and then onwards to Damascus via a less frequented route, lest there be reprisals from the believers for the massacre of the family of the Prophet.

Despite the extreme odds the Imam had faced in this confrontation, his strategy did not let this event emerge in the history as merely quelling of an insurgence from a dissident group against the power of the ruler of the time.  Instead, he laid down his life and the lives of his family and friends as sacrificial offerings whose blood was spilled on the hot desert sand for no political ambition.

The survivors after the blood bath consisted of Ali ibn al-Husain, the sick young son of Imam Husain, who was unable to go out in the battle-field, but now had to assume the role of leadership, bound in shackles and hand-tied; Zainab binte Ali, the sister of the Imam; the widowed ladies and a bunch of children.  The courageous captives could neither be silenced by the force of the army nor by the pain of the massacre of their loved ones they had just witnessed.  They continued to introduce themselves at every stop made by the caravan, and in the court of Yazid the tyrant in Damascus.  Whereas some members of this little 'army' of the righteous had fought in the battlefield with sermons and sword, the captives continued their mission by eloquent sermons to the masses who gathered along the route.  This not only told people on what had happened to the family of the Prophet, but also served to rekindle life of faith in the dead conscience of the Muslims of the time.

Whereas the kingdom of the tyrant is long gone, the candles of Faith left burning by the Imam and his companions enlighten the conscience of Islain each time this story is told and retold.  The annual commemoration of this event with energy and commitment by the devout believers that has survived through centuries despite the forces of oppression, is nothing less than a miracle.  The believers continue to take out processions to demonstrate against tyranny, injustice and oppression against the bearer of the Truth.  They congregate in gathering places and retell the painful story of the struggle between vice and virtue.  They deny themselves comfort, food and water to relive the pain and suffering of their beloved Imam, his innocent family and his companions.