Imam Husain AS’ Journey from Madinah to Karbala: Turn of Events at Th’alabiyyah
Muhsin M R Alidina
Imam Husain AS left Madinah on 28th Rajab of 60AH and arrived in Makkah on 3rd Sh’abaan.
On 15th Ramadhan, he sent his emissary Hadhrat Muslim ibni Aqueel to Kufa following the numerous letters he had received from Kufans. During the Hajj season, the Imam AS became aware of the nefarious plot to kill him in Makkah. So, he left Makah on 8th Dhulhijjah as pilgrims were preparing to go to the Plains of Arafah.
The Imam AS decided to go to Kufa on the strength of letters he had received from Hadhrat Muslim indicating support and pledges of the Kufans who were in need of a savior from the tyrannies of Yazid and the Umayyads. The journey from Makkah that eventually ended in Karbala (or Naynawa) took the Imam through 24 stop-overs, one of which was Tha’labiyyah.
Tha’labiyyah falls between Makkah and Kufa, one-third distance away from Kufa. It got its name from Th’alab bin Malik bin Doran bin Asad who had dug a well there, or had discovered a source of water. Th’alabiyyah during the Imam AS’ stop-over was a town in ruins. Here the Imam AS met a person who asked him the interpretation of the verse “Yawma nadu’ kulla unaasin bi Imamihim.” (On the Day when every people will be called with their Imam)1 The Imam AS explained that there are two types of Imam and Caller to faith. Similarly, there are two types of people who accept their call. One type of Imam is the one who calls people towards God and they respond to his call immediately. Then there are Imams who call people towards deviation and ungodly path and some people accept their call. The first group is destined for Paradise whereas the second drifts towards Hell. The Imam AS underpinned this statement with a quote from The Qur’an :” A host of them will be in Paradise and a host of them will be in Hell.”2 . Elaborating upon this, the Imam AS said: “We and Bani Umayyah became enemies in the cause of Allah SWT and this enmity will endure to the end of Time. Jibraeel AS brought a standard and planted it firmly in front of us; similarly, Iblees brought a standard and firmly planted it in front of Bani Umayyah.”3 This person’s name was Nasr ibn Malik and he posed another question to the Imam AS regarding the exegesis of “Hadhani Khasmani” (These two are at odds)4. The Imam AS explained that there was a difference in the perception about ALLAH SWT between The Prophet SAWW’s House and Umayyad House. Thus, the Imam AS made it clear that the quarrel between the two was neither tribal nor for position, nor for zar or zamin (wealth or land) but about ALLAH SWT only. “We have said that”, the Imam AS explained, “whatever ALLAH SWT has said is the Truth, whereas the Umayyad have belied His Word.”
At Tha’labiyyah, Abdullah ibni Salim and Mundhir ibni Mash’al tailgated a man from Kufa who wanted to avoid meeting the Imam AS. These two companions wanted to know what was going in Kufa and did not let him out of sight. It was this man whobrought the devastating news of the murder of Hadhrat Muslim ibni Aqueel AS and Hadhrat Hani ibni Urwah. The two companions wanted to break the news in private to the Imam AS, but the Imam AS told them that he kept no secrets from his companions. The Imam AS expressed his grief in Qur’anic verse (Kalimat istrija’) and called a consultation session with his companions. History does not record such a meeting, but circumstances were such that there was bound to be a difference of opinion among the companions and the Imam AS’ consultation with the sons of Aqueel AS must have necessitated such a meeting to determine the next step; go to Kufa or turn back. The Imam AS’s companions to the last man said they would go the way of Muslim and Hani i.e. embrace martyrdom. However, before the meeting, there were those who voiced the opinion that they had better go back and the Imam AS did not want to stifle their opinion; hence, he gave everyone the choice and that choice would govern the merit of their final destiny.
The Imam AS had left Makkah on 8th Dhulhijjah5 in the midst of the throng of Pilgrims who were preparing to travel to Arafaat. On 9th Dhulhijja, Makkah would be empty and Yezidi secret agents with orders to kill the Imam AS surreptitiously were ready for that chance so that the murder would be concealed and murderers unidentifiable. The Imam AS thwarted that plan by leaving Makkah on 8th Dhulhijjah and leaving the pilgrims askance. The Imam AS intended to go to Kufa to join Hadhrat Muslim AS, but the news of Hadhrat Muslim’s capture and murder required strategic planning for the mission of The Prophet SAWW was at stake and Yezid was eroding the very fabric of Islamic ummah. The Imam AS’ decision to go to Kufa was based on the many letters he received from Kufans as well as Hadhrat Muslim’s reassurance that the people of Kufa would side with the Imam AS when he arrived there. But, at Tha’labiyyah things changed dramatically. The murder of Hadhrat Muslim and Hadhrat Hani AS, the incarceration of people who had implored the Imam AS to come to Kufa and the establishment of Ibn Ziyad in Kufa posed a quandary and a grave threat to the Imam AS and his entourage. It was clear that the Imam AS would be met with swords, lances and stones instead of bouquets of flowers in Kufa. Thus, he did not want to endanger the lives of his kith and kin and companions and take them unawares. He therefore called them to place the situation before them and seek their opinion. The Prophet SAWW had been assured by the Ansaar that they would always help him. Yet, before the Battle of Badr he gathered them again to seek fresh loyalty and willingness to defend Islam. When The Prophet SAWW was reassured that his helpers were there for him did he take up the cudgel at Badr. Similarly, in the footsteps of The Prophet SAWW, The Prophet SAWW’s grandson could not be expected to do otherwise. So, he took his companions into confidence and listened to their biddings before making the ultimate decision.
The Agenda of the Meeting
Meetings are held for specific purposes with clearly defined matters to be deliberated upon, the agenda list. So, at this meeting also, which was not for chitchat or mere socializing, the Imam AS must have provided an agenda to focus the attention of his companions. While there is no way to verify that the Imam AS did proffer these matters for discussion, it stands to reason that in view of the prevailing circumstances, following Hadhrat Muslim’s murder, the Imam AS would need to review his next move. So, the agenda list, presumably, would have been:
1. Turn back? If so, go back to Makkah or Madinah?
2. If not Makkah or Madinah, then any other safe Muslim country or a non-Muslim country?
3. Proceed to Kufa regardless of what had happened?
What Were the Imam AS’ Options?
1.Madinah was not an option for the Imam AS as he had left it in fear of his life reciting the verse of fear (28:19) that Nabi Musa AS had recited when he had to leave Egypt of the Pharao. Walid bin Utba6 who refrained from killing the Imam AS on the spot when the Imam AS refused to give bay’ah to Yezid, was replaced by Marwan bin Alhakam who had advised Walid to kill the Imam AS there and then.
2. Makkah was out too for the new bloodthirsty Governor, Amr ibn Sa’eed Ashdaq was sent to kill the Imam AS when no one was looking.
3. Muslim countries were not safe either for the Imam AS as they were either under Yezid’s tyrannical domination or feared reprisals from Yezid for giving safe haven to the Imam AS. If there was any place for the Imam AS, it was Kufa or Basra. Could the Imam AS have gone to the hills away from Yezid’s forces? No. There was possibility of being surrounded and killed there too.
4. Non-Muslim lands were out of the question too for they could not be relied upon not to betray the Imam AS to Yezid with whom they would have to maintain diplomatic relations. So, the only rational and religious option for the Imam AS was Kufa. The Imam AS had given his word to the Kufans that he would go there; so, it was his moral, religious and ethical obligation to go to Kufa and take up the Kufans for their loyalty and promises. The companions who advised turning back were told by the Imam AS that his promise to Kufans could not be compromised. Kufan emissaries assured the Imam AS that if the Kufans were not oppressed and their views heard, then they would swear fealty to none else but the Imam AS. The Kufans despised Yezid and Ibn Ziyad, but were muzzled in fear and needed a liberator like the Imam AS to set them free. Only Abal Ahrar, Imam Hussain AS could set them free from the yoke of the Umayyads. The Kufans deserted Hadhrat Muslim AS, but they would certainly respect and follow the Imam AS himself and this is evidenced in the fact that some from Umr Al-Sa’ad’s army crossed over to the Imam AS’ side. In Kufa, even after the murder of Hadhrat Muslim and Hani, there were still loyal persons like Habib ibni Mazahir, Muslim ibni Awsaja and Sulaiman ibni SurdAl-Khuzai7 whose support the Imam AS could rely upon. In the end, the Imam AS could not reach them, but they made every effort to reach the Imam AS in Karbala and give their life. On the other hand, none in Madinah or Makkah could be counted upon to help the Imam ASfor they did nothing to ameliorate the hostility against the Imam AS when he was still in Madinah and Makkah and he had to leave them both. Eventually, the Imam AS’ was waylaid on his way to Kufa and Karbala happened.
Notes and References:
1. The Qur’an, 17:71.
2. Seyyid Murtadha Mohsin Husayni: Nahju Sshahadah, p. 246.
3. The Qur’an, 42:7. Ibid, p. 388.
4. The Qur’an, 22:19.
5. 8th Dhulhijjah is known as Yaumul Tarwiya i.e. the day when water is taken to Arafahfor the Hujjaj.
6. Walid bin Utba, the Governor of Madinah ,at Mua’wiyah ‘s death, was sacked from his post by Yezid when he refrained from killing the Imam AS on the spot.
7. Sulaiman ibni Surd Al-Khuzai did not join the Imam in Karbala but later on led the Tawwabeen and was martyred in the cause of the Imam AS