CONTINUE PART THREE
CHAPTER 3 THE JOURNEY FROM MECCA TO KARBALA’
IMAM AL-HUSAYN’S DEPARTURE FROM MECCA
As mentioned earlier, Imam al-Husayn and his faithful supporters left Medina on 28th Rajab, 60 A.H. and arrived in Mecca on 3rd Sha’ban in the same year. The Imam and his followers were constantly meeting people in Mecca and informing them of their resistance to the oppressive regime of Yazid. After the Imam perceived the danger of being assassinated or being captured by the spies sent by Yazid as pilgrims to the House of Allah, he changed his intention of performing the major pilgrimage (hajj) to the minor pilgrimage (‘umrah) and decided to leave Mecca for Kufah with his family and followers. The Imam left for Iraq on 8th Dhu -Hijjah 60 A.H., the Day of Tarwiyyah, the same day on which Muslim ibn ‘Aqil was brutally slain by Ibn Ziyad. Thus the Imam had spent approximately 95 days in Mecca.
On his departure from Mecca the Imam asked for some paper on which he wrote the following message for the Hashimites: “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. From al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali, to the descendants of Hashim, know that whoever joins with me will be killed, while whoever refrains from coming to my aid will not achieve success! May peace be with you.”
THE WILL OF THE IMAM ON HIS DEPARTURE FROM MECCA
On his departure from Mecca, the Imam wrote a will and handed it over to his brother Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah. The will read: “I have not risen against Yazid in order to create corruption or discord, nor to elevate myself in the eyes of the people, nor to oppress. I have only risen to rectify the affairs of the Ummah of my grandfather and the affairs of the Shi’ah of my father ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. I wish to exhort to good and reprimand evil. Whosoever accepts my position will be on the side of Allah and the side of righteousness. Whosoever rejects me, may Allah be the final judge between them and me. He is the best judge. O my brother! Indeed success is from Allah. Upon Him do I rely and unto Him do I return.” The Imam folded the letter and sealed it with his ring. Then he handed it to his brother Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah.
THE SERMON OF IMAM AL-HUSAYN AT HIS DEPARTURE FROM MECCA
Before his departure, the Imam delivered a wonderful sermon, both in its eloquence and its content. This sermon is known as the line of death (khatt al-mawt). From it we will cite his final statement because of its significance which has led to frequent references being made to it by one and all, historians, orators, revolutionaries and those who love him: “Let he who wishes his blood to be shed for our sake and has resolved to meet Allah, leave with us tomorrow, for I intend to depart tomorrow morning by the will of Allah.”
THE HEARTS AND THE SWORDS OF THE PEOPLE OF KUFAH
The Imam and his party steadily advanced towards Iraq passing through the places and areas that lay between Mecca and Iraq. The places they passed from Mecca onwards were Tan’im, Sifah, Dhat ‘Irq, Khazimah, Zarud, Hajiz, Dhu Husum, Tha’libiyyah, Shuquq, Zubalah, Batn al-‘Aqabah, Sharaf, Bidah, Rahimah, Qadasiyyah, ‘Udhayb, Qasr Banu Muqatil, the villages leading to Karbala’ and finally Karbala’ itself. Many people met the Imam on his journey to Iraq and on each occasion the Imam explained the nature of the movement and invited the people to join his ranks against the oppressive regime of the Umayyads.
A few kilometres from Mecca at a place known as Sifah the Imam met with Farazdaq, the famous poet and devotee of the Imam. Farazdaq had just arrived from Kufah. The Imam asked of him the state of Kufah and the sentiments of the people there. To this Farazdaq replied, “Their hearts are with you but their swords are with the Umayyads. The ultimate decree will descend from Heaven.” The Imam replied, “You have spoken the truth. Everything is from Allah. Indeed He is in a state of glory at every instance. If the decree of Allah has come to pass, we glorify and praise Him. If not, then a person whose intention is pure and whose heart is pious will not be overpowered”
(Al-Kamil by Ibn Athir)
The same answer was given to the Imam by Bushayr ibn Ghalib at Dhat al-‘Irq.
When the Imam was near Qadisiyyah, he met Tirimmah ibn ‘Adi and asked him about the people of Kufah. Tirimmah replied, “The chiefs and the noble men of Kufah have sided with Ibn Ziyad and have given to him control over their wealth. They have made preparations to fight against you. As for the rest of the people, their hearts are with you but their unsheathed swords thirst for your blood.”
THE MARTYDOM OF QAYS IBN MUSHIR AL-SAYDAWI, THE MESSENGER OF IMAM HUSAYN
When the Imam approached an area known as Hajiz, he dispatched Qays ibn Mushir al-Saydawi as his messenger with a letter to the people of Kufah. The letter read as follows: “The letter of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil has reached me. It states that you have organised yourselves and are united in helping me and are of a favourable opinion as regards our cause. I pray to Allah that our meeting is a pleasing one and that you remain firm on the path of righteousness. I have commenced my journey towards you on the Day of Tarwiyyah (8th Dhu -Hijjah). I am dispatching my messenger to you ahead of me in order for you to prepare yourselves. By the leave of Allah, I will soon be with you.”
Qays ibn Mushir set off for Kufah on horse. However, Husayn ibn Numayr and his troops arrested him in Qadisiyyah. Qays was taken under escort to Ibn Ziyad. When he appeared in front of Ibn Ziyad, he put the letter of the Imam in his mouth and chewed it. Ibn Ziyad asked, “Who are you?” Qays replied, “I am from the Shi’ah of ‘Ali, the Commander of the Faithful.” Ibn Ziyad demanded, “Why did you chew that letter?” Qays replied, “So that you may not know what is written in it.” Ibn Ziyad, then, asked him, “Who wrote the letter and for who was it intended?” Qays answered, “The letter was from Imam Husayn for the people of Kufah whose names I do not know.”
Ibn Ziyad was outraged and ordered Qays, “Go up on the pulpit and denounce and curse al-Husayn the lying son of a lying father.” Qays ascended the pulpit. After praising Allah, he said, “O people! Al-Husayn is the best of Allah’s creatures. He is the son of Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet. I have come as his messenger to you. I left him at Hajiz. O people! Answer his call for help and unite with him.” After this Qays cursed Ibn Ziyad, his father and the Umayyads and prayed for Imam ‘Ali, Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn.
Ibn Ziyad became extremely angry with this and commanded the executioners to take Qays to the roof of the palace and to kill him by pushing him to the ground. Qays was executed in this manner. Then his lifeless body was beheaded by one of the guards of Ibn Ziyad called ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Umayr.
A similar account has been given about another messenger of the Imam by the name of ‘Abd Allah ibn Yuqtur.
As Imam al-Husayn’s caravan progressed from Hajiz, it met agroup of horsemen riding from Kufah. The party consisted of Nafi’ ibn Hilal and ‘Umar ibn Khalid. The Imam asked about his messenger Qays ibn Mushir and was informed that Ibn Ziyad had had him killed. The Imam wept at the news of Qays’s execution and said, “To Allah we belong and unto Him do we return! Indeed Allah has granted him a place in Paradise.” Then the Imam implored Allah, “O Allah! Grant our Shi’ah and us a place close to You. Indeed You are above all things, powerful.”
When they reached the resting place at Dhu Husum, the Imam preached a sermon regarding the disloyal nature of this world. Towards the end of the sermon, he indicated the reasons for his uprising and his intention with the following words,
“Do you not see how truth has come to be abandoned and how falsehood has been left unreprimanded? Under such circumstances a true believer should be desirous of meeting Allah, for I do not consider death as anything but a source of happiness and life with these oppressive people as nothing but grief and humiliation.”
‘ALI AL-AKBAR IBN AL-HUSAYN’S CONVERSATION WITH THE IMAM
At noon whilst the Imam was travelling through the plains of Tha’labiyyah, he momentarily fell asleep on the back of his steed. As he awoke, he recited the verse, “Indeed to Allah do we belong and unto Him do we return.” This is a verse normally recited at times of difficulty and adversity. The Imam’s son ‘Ali al-Akbar ibn al-Husayn who was riding next to him asked the Imam for his sudden unease. The Imam Replied, “O son! I slept a while and heard a voice behind us announcing, ‘O people! You are moving swiftly and death is directing you speedily towards the gardens of Paradise.'” Hearing this ‘Ali al-Akbar said, “O father! Are we not on the path of righteousness?” The Imam replied, “Yes! O my son! By the One unto Whom is the return of all creatures, we are on the right course.” To this ‘Ali al-Akbar said, “In that case we are not concerned whether death comes upon us or we approach it”
The Imam looked at ‘Ali al-Akbar and said, “May Allah grant you the best reward that he has given to a son on behalf his father.”
THE IMAM’S REQUESTS FOR SUPPORT
During his journey to Iraq, the Imam invited the people and the chiefs of the various tribes that he met to support him. Here it will suffice us to mention the fate of three such people whom the Imam called for help.
1- ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Hurr al-Ju’fi
As the Imam and his followers reached the resting-place of Qasr Banu Muqatil, they found there that a tent had been erected. There was a horse tied outside it and a spear stuck in the ground. The Imam enquired about the owner of the tent and was informed that it belonged to ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Hurr al-Ju’fi.
The Imam sent Hajjaj ibn Maseru, a distant relative of ‘Ubayd Allah to invite him to the Imam’s camp. Hajjaj said to ‘Ubayd Allah, “If you defend the Imam and his family against their enemies, you will be rewarded. If you are killed in the course of defending them, you will have attained martyrdom.” To this ‘Ubayd Allah replied, “By Allah! I left Kufah because the people of Kufah had abandoned the Shi’ah of al-Husayn and had made preparations to kill him but I do not have the resolve or the strength in my heart to help al-Husayn. I do not wish to see al-Husayn, nor for him to see me.”
Hajjaj returned to the Imam and informed him of what had transpired. The Imam with a group of his family members and close friends went to ‘Ubayd Allah. ‘Ubayd Allah received the Imam and sat him in a prominent place among the gathering in the tent. ‘Ubayd Allah looked at the Imam and said, “Until now I have not seen such beauty and radiance as I see in al-Husayn and my heart has not burnt with such sorrow for anyone as it has for al-Husayn, who has embarked on this journey with women and children.” Then ‘Ubayd Allah noticed the Imam’s black beard and asked if he had dyed it or whether it was naturally black. The Imam replied that old age had overtaken him. ‘Ubayd Allah understood that the Imam had dyed his beard.
After the gathering had settled, the Imam said ‘Ubayd Allah, “O ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Hurr! The people of your town (i.e. Kufah) have written to me informing me of their unanimous support. They have asked me to lead them. By fleeing you have committed a great sin. Do you wish to repent and relieve yourself of the burden of this sin?” ‘Ubayd Allah asked him, “And how is that?” The Imam said, “Your repentance will be brought about by helping the son of the daughter of your Prophet and fighting with him against his enemies.” On hearing this ‘Ubayd Allah said, “By Allah! I know the one who dies defending you will receive Eternal Bliss in the Hereafter. However, I do not have such resolve and courage. The people of Kufah have abandoned you and have sided with your enemy. I am willing to give you my horse who has never failed in overtaking a fleeing enemy or in escaping from a pursuing enemy.”
The Imam expressed his disappointment at ‘Ubayd Allah’s reply and said, “If you are in fear of sacrificing your life for me, then, I have no need of your horse nor you.” And he recited, “I will not take the people who turn away as helpers.” Then the Imam said, “I wish to warn you that it is by your choice you do not pay heed to my plea. However, remember that the one who turns away from me after hearing my call for help will be thrown into the pits of Hell face downwards.”
Due to weakness of resolve ‘Ubayd Allah was unable detach him self from the love of the world at such a crucial moment. He spent the rest of his life regretting his ill fated weakness.
(Maqtal al-Husayn al-Muqarram)
2- Zuhayr ibn Qayn al-Bajali
Zuhayr ibn Qayn with his companions was returning to Kufah from Mecca after performing the pilgrimage. Zuhayr and his companions had learned of the Imam’s purpose and his movement towards Iraq. However, they were not prepared to join the Imam and endeavoured to avoid meeting the caravan of the Imam on their journey. However, it was the decree of Allah that Zuhayr had to stop in the place where the Imam already was.
As the party of Zuhayr was resting and eating, a member of the caravan of Imam al-Husayn approached them and said, “O Zuhayr! Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Husayn has called for you.” Zuhayr and his companions were dumb founded at hearing the name of al-Husayn. Zuhayr was hesitant but Dalham his wife arose and spoke, “Glory be to Allah! Does the son of the Prophet ask for you and do you hesitate to go? Why do you not go to him and hear what he has to say?”
Zuhayr was shaken by this statement and went to the Imam. It was not long before Zuhayr returned joyfully radiant with happiness. He ordered his tents to be taken down and moved with his luggage and animals near those of the Imam. Then he turned to his wife and said, “I have divorced you, go and join your family, for I cannot bear to think of you as a captive after my death.”
Then he turned to his companions and said, “Let those of you who want to come with me do so. Otherwise this will be our final meeting.” He continued, “Listen to what I have to say! We were fighting with the enemy at Balanjar. We vanquished them and gained a lot of the booty. Salman Farsi was with us at the time. He said, ‘Are you pleased with the booty?’ We said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘There will come a time when you will see the lord of the youth of Paradise. Fight alongside him and you will have much more to gain than this booty.’ Therefore I leave you in the protection of Allah.” With that he went and joined Imam al-Husayn.
Wahb, his mother Qamar and his wife Haniyyah whom he had recently married lived in the desert of Tha’labiyyah. Wahb would take his sheep and goats to the pasture in the mountains and would return home at night. All three were Christians and they lived a simple peaceful life although they were very poor.
As Imam al-Husayn’s caravan advanced towards Kufah, he spotted a half burnt-out tent in the desert of Tha’labiyyah. The Imam went to the tent and found an old woman was seemed stricken with poverty. The Imam asked her about her situation in the desert. She explained, “We manage to survive but there is great shortage of water. If only there was water here, our lives would be far more comfortable.” The Imam took the woman to a rock and as he struck it with his spear a cold spring of sweet water gushed forth. The old woman could not contain her joy and repeatedly thanked the Imam.
Before he left her the Imam told the old woman of the reason for his journey and said that he would camp at Karbala’. He asked old woman to tell her son on his return to join him and help him in the way of the truth After the Imam left, the old woman became preoccupied with the honour, magnanimity, generosity and the kindness of the Imam. She wished to follow the Imam immediately but realized that she would have to wait for the return of Wahb and Haniyyah. No sooner had Wahb returned with his newly wed wife that Qamar the old woman told them of the events of that day and conveyed the message of the Imam to him. The hearts of all three were at once captured by the love of Imam al-Husayn. They immediately set off for Karbala’ and joined the family and supporters of Imam al-Husayn. It was at this time that all three embraced the faith of Islam at the hands of the Imam. On the day of ‘Ashura”, 10th Muharram on which Imam al-Husayn was brutally killed, Wahb and Haniyyah had been married for a mere seventeen days.
THE NEWS OF MUSLIM IBN ‘AQIL’S MARTYDOM
‘Abd Allah ibn Sulaym and Madhri ibn Musha’il, who both belonged to the tribe of Asad, had joined Imam al-Husayn after they had finished the pilgrimage narrate the following account: ‘As we arrived the resting place of Zarud with the Imam, we saw travellers approaching from Kufah. No sooner had these people seen the Imam than they changed to avoid the Imam. We rode after the men and asked whom they were. They replied that they were from the tribe of Asad. We said that we belonged to the same tribe and asked of the situation in Kufah.They replied, “We only left Kufah because we saw the bodies of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil and Hani’ ibn ‘Urwah tied and dragged through the streets of Kufah.”
We resumed our journey with the Imam. Upon our arrival at Tha’labiyyah we went to the Imam and said, “We have news of Kufah. Will we inform you of it in the presence of others or should we tell it to you secrecy?” The Imam looked at his companions and said, “I hold no secrets from these men.” Hearing this we told Imam of what we had heard of the deaths of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil and Hani’ and of the treatment of their bodies. The Imam repeatedly the verse, “Indeed we belong to Allah and unto Him do we return.”
We implored the Imam to stop his journey to Kufah and to retreat to a place of safety, for it had become clear he no longer enjoyed any support in Kufah.
The Imam looked at the sons of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil and said, “Muslim has been killed. What is your view regarding the issue?” They replied, “By Allah! We will not retreat until we have avenged his blood or drunk from the chalice of martyrdom as he did.” They Imam said, “There is no virtue in life after these men.” We understood from this statement the Imam’s resolve to give his life in the way of Allah.’
THE WAILING AND THE TEARS AT THE NEWS OF MUSLIM IBN ‘AQIL’S DEATH
As the news of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil’s death reached the camp of Imam al-Husayn, the cries and wails of loud mourning filled the desert air and floods of tears gushed forth from the eyes of his family and those who loved him.
Upon learning of the death of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil and the Imams firmness for the cause even if it entailed his death and that of the members of his family, the large numbers of people who had been escorting him from Mecca in the hope of receiving the spoils of war were dismayed. They looked at each other in horror and finally dispersed deserting the Imam. The Imam was left with only the members of his family and a handful of his closest followers.
Farazdaq, the poet and devotee of the family of the Prophet, came to the Imam and said, “How can you trust the people of Kufah? They are the very people who have killed your cousin Muslim and his helpers?” The Imam shed tears at hearing the name of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil and said, “O Allah! Bestow Your mercy upon Muslim. He has left for the bliss of Paradise and acquired the pleasure of Allah. What was decreed for him has come to pass. We wait for what has been decreed for us. The decrees that will come to pass.”
Shaykh Abbas Qummi reports in Muntaha al-Amal that Muslim ibn ‘Aqil had a daughter named Hamidah, who was thirteen years old. She was travelling with the Imam’s caravan. When the Imam learnt of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil’s death, he asked for Hamidah. He placed Hamidah on to his lap and caressed her head with great affection. Hamidah could not understand the reason for such tenderness and chokingly asked, “O dear uncle! What has happened to my father?” Al-Husayn wept as replied, “O child! Do not grieve if Muslim is no longer with us. Know that now I am your father, my sister is your mother, my daughters are your sisters and my sons are your brothers.”
Hamidah wailed in lamentation for the brutal murder of her father. The sons of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil removed their turbans and cried aloud for their father. The Imam and the rest of the family of the Prophet were deeply sorrowful and distraught at the incident.
THE IMAM’S INTERCEPTION BY THE ARMY OF HURR IBN YAZID RIYAHI
When the news of the Imam’s advance towards Kufah reached Ibn Ziyad, he became preoccupied with keeping the situation in Kufah under control and arranging his forces in order to crush any uprising against him and to defeat the Imam in battle. He dispatched an army of thirty thousand men fully armed to prevent the Imam with his supporters from entering into Kufah.
The troops sent to intercept the Imam were arranged in ranks and under the command of the following generals:
1- Hurr with a force of a thousand men
2-Mudhar ibn Rahinah with an army of three thousand
3-Shimr ibn Dhi Jawshan with a troop of four thousand
4-Yazid ibn Riqab with a staggering twelve thousand men
5-Husayn ibn Numayr with four housed people
6-Shabath ibn Rib’i with a thousand men
7-Ka’b ibn Talhah with three thousand people
8-Hajjar ibn Abjar with a thousand soldiers
9-Nasr ibn Harshah commanding two thousand men
By the sixth of Muharram twenty thousand soldiers had gathered at Karbala’. Ibn Ziyad sent further contingents that brought the final number to a staggering thirty thousand.
(Maqtal al-Husayn al-Muqarram)
On the orders of the Imam all the water skins and the containers were filled with water when they left a place called Sharaf in the darkness of the night. At noon as they were continuing their journey, a member of the party called out, “Allah is great!” The Imam looked at him and said, “Indeed Allah is great but what is your reason for declaring it at this moment?” He replied, “I see the date palms of Kufah.” The people accompanying the Imam in the party who were aware of the roads and knew their precise location said, “We are at a great distance from Kufah. Those are fully-armed soldiers coming towards us.” The Imam after taking a proper look said, “Indeed it is an army drowned in armour approaching us.” After consulting his men, the Imam decided to camp near the neighbouring village Dhu Husum.
It was not long before an army of a thousand fully armed men reached the camp of the Imam. However, it could be seen from their state that they were not intending to engage in battle immediately. The Imam noticed the signs of thirst and immense fatigue in the faces of the soldiers. He ordered his men to serve water to the men and their animals. Water was given to the very last man and horse.
‘Ali ibn Tan”an narrated: I was the last man to arrive with the army at Dhu Husum. When al-Husayn saw how thirsty my horse and I were, he told me to make my horse kneel and to quench my thirst and to give water to my horse. I did what he said.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
The time for the noon prayers came. As yet no talks had taken place between the Imam and Hurr. After Hajjaj ibn Masruq had given the call for the prayers, the Imam decided to lead the prayer for his supporters. He went forward and stood between the two armies. After praising Allah, he said: “O people! I have not come without being called. You, by your letters and through your messengers, invited me to Kufah and insisted that I should come. You said, ‘Hasten to us We are without a leader. We wish to tread the path of righteousness under your auspices and guidance.’ I will remain with you if you are still firm in your decision. Otherwise allow me to return to my homeland.” Every one fell silent and lowered their heads.
The call for prayer was given once again. Then the Imam turned to Hurr and said, Attend to your prayers and we will attend to ours.” Hurr replied, “We will all perform our prayers behind you.” And so both the groups performed their prayers behind the Imam.
THE IMAM’S CONVERSATION WITH HURR
When the noon prayers finished, the Imam turned to Hurr’s army. After praising Allah and invoking His blessing upon the Prophet and his family said: “O people! If you choose to adhere to the principles of piety and continence and give those who possess truth their rights, indeed you will be sheltered by the mercy of Allah. O people! We are the lineage of the Prophet and have a greater right than others to the leadership and governorship of the Muslims. Your letters have also confirmed this. Reflect carefully and if you want, we will return to our homes.”
Hurr said to the Imam, “We are unaware of these letters of invitation!” On the instructions of the Imam, one of his followers brought out two sacks filled with letters. Hurr looked at the letters and said, “I am not one of those who have written to you and I do not have any concern with you. I have been ordered to remain with you until I take you to Kufah and hand you over to Ibn Ziyad.” The Imam was angered at this and he said, “Death is closer to you than what you have planned.” Hurr did not reply.
The Imam turned to his followers and said, “Rise and prepare for our return.”
When the caravan was about to move, Hurr audaciously grabbed the reins of the Imam’s steed preventing him from advancing. The Imam angrily said to him, “May your mother weep at your death! What cause do you have against us?” Hurr, startled and shocked, looked at the Imam and said, “If any other man in Arabia had uttered the name of my mother, I too would have said the same of his mother. Yet, by Allah, I can only utter the name of your mother with utmost respect.”
Then the Imam asked him, “What is it that you want?” Hurr replied, “I have been commanded to take you to Ibn Ziyad in Kufah.” After an exchange of words, Hurr said to the Imam, “I have no intention of engaging in a battle with you but I have been instructed to not leave you. I will write to Ibn Ziyad and await further instruction. I am hopeful that no bitterness will come between us.” Hurr then said with the intention of admonishing the Imam, “O al-Husayn! I implore you for the sake of Allah to save your life. I have.no doubt that you will be killed if you go to war.” At this the Imam said to Hurr, “Do you seek to frighten me with death? If you kill me, will affairs be resolved?” Finally the Imam said to Hurr, “I will give you the same answer as was given by a person of the tribe of Aws who wished to assist the Prophet and was confronted by his kin and told he would get killed. In the reply, he recited the following verses:
I will advance, for death is not a blemish upon a youth
When he intends the truth and fights as a Muslim
And when he sacrifices his life for the sake of the righteous.
If I live, I will do so without regret and if I die, then without blame.
This indignity is enough for you that you live
And yet your nose is rubbed onto the ground.”
When Hurr heard these verses and understood that the Imam was ready to die for what he believed and would not bow in humiliation to anyone, he went to his soldiers and started to move. The Imam, too, with his followers resumed his journey.
THE SERMON DELIVERED BT THE IMAM AT BIDAH
The two armies continued to move on their path with a distance between them until they reached the land of Bidah. In order to overcome the arguments of his opponents and to explain his motives clearly, the Imam once again delivered a sermon. After praising Allah and invoking His blessing upon the Prophet and his family he addressed the army: “O people! The Prophet of Allah has said that if anyone from among you who sees a tyrannical leader making lawful what Allah has forbidden, breaking the covenant of Allah, opposing the Sunnah of the Prophet of Allah, behaving oppressively and sinfully with the servants of Allah and does not attempt to rectify the situation, then it is the right of Allah to cast such a servant of His into the Fire of Hell together with the tyrant.” In this way the Imam clarified his reasons for advancing towards Kufah.
Both the armies continued their journey until Ibn Ziyad’s reply to the letter sent by Hurr arrived. The letter read: “On receiving my letter direct al-Husayn and his companions to a place deprived of water and pasture and detain them there.”
THE IMAM’S ARRIVAL AT KARBALA’
The Imam had reached the village of Ninawa by the time the letter was received. The Imam realised the contents of the letter. He looked at Hurr and said, “Sorrow be your lot! Allow us to make our way to this village or the other village of Shafayyah.” Hurr replied, “I am unable to do so. The messenger of Ibn Ziyad is keeping a watch on me to report to Ibn Ziyad whether I am obeying his instructions.”
Zuhayr ibn Qayn approached the Imam and said, “It will be in our favour now to engage these people in battle.” The Imam replied, “I do not wish to initiate the fighting.” Zuhayr then suggested, “In that case there is a village near the banks of the Euphrates where it will be appropriate for us to camp.” The Imam asked, “What is the name of the village?” Zuhayr answered, “‘Aqr.” – ‘Aqr means ‘wound.’ – The Imam said, “We seek refuge with Allah from ‘aqr (destruction).”
The Imam turned to Hurr and said, “Do not stop us from going near the banks of the Euphrates.” However, Hurr and his army tried to block the way of the Imam as both the groups moved forward. The impasse continued until the horse that the Imam was riding refused to move. The Imam spurred the horse but it did not move. He asked for another horse but also it would not move. He saddled several horses, one after the other but none of them would advance.
Seeing this strange behaviour, the Imam asked of the name of this place. Zuhayr said, “It is known as Taff.” – Taff means ‘bank of a river.’ – The Imam asked, “Does it have another name?” The reply was, “It is called Sahil al-Furat.” – Sahil al-Furat means ‘the bank of the Euphrates.’ Again the Imam asked, “Is it known by any other name?” Zuhayr answered, “Yes, it is called Karbala’.” On hearing the name of Karbala’, the Imam descended from his mount as he said, “O Allah! We seek refuge with you from karb (sorrow) and bala’ (tribulation).”
Then the Imam embedded a spear that he had in his hand into the sand beneath him and said, “Here will be the resting place of our animals. Here will be the place where our tents are erected. Here is the place where our blood will flow, where our women will become captives, where our children will become orphans and will be scattered across the plains. We will be buried here and from here we will be raised on the Day of Resurrection.”
(Maqtal al-Husayn by Khwarizmi)
Lady Umm Kulthum came to her brother the Imam and said, “Dear brother! This wilderness is frightful. I feel troubled and ill at ease with great fear in my heart.” The Imam looked at her and said “Dear sister! When we advanced with our father to the battleground of Siffin we rested at this very place. Our father placed his head in the lap of our brother al-Hasan and slept for a while. I was present as he awoke and began to weep. Al-Hasan asked, ‘O father! Why do cry?’ Our Father replied, ‘I have seen this desert in a dream as if it had become a sea of blood and al-Husayn was drowning inside it calling for help without anyone responding.’ Then our father turned to me and said, ‘O Husayn! What will you do when faced with such an event?’ I replied that I would persevere with patience.”
The Imam’s arrival at Karbala’ was on 2nd Muharram. There he camped until his martyrdom.
(Maqtal al-Husayn by Khwarizmi)
CONTINUE CHAPTER FOUR
EVENTS IN KARBALA’ BEFORE THE DAY OF ‘ASHURA’