EVENTS IN KARBALA’ BEFORE THE DAY OF ‘ASHURA’ CHAPTER 4
EVENTS IN KARBALA’ BEFORE THE DAY OF ‘ASHURA’
HABIB IBN MUZAHIR’S ARRIVAL AT KARBALA’
Habib ibn Muzahir, a white bearded notable of the Shi’ah of Kufah, was among the Kufans who had written to the Imam inviting him to Kufah to lead the people against Yazid. He stayed a loyal devotee of the Imam until his death.
When the Imam was on his way to Iraq and heard of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil’s martyrdom and the treachery of the Kufans, he ordered a group of his followers to take up the standards. A single standard remained. When asked by a companion about who was the bearer of that standard, the Imam replied that the bearer of the standard would eventually arrive.
The Imam then wrote to Habib. The letter read: “From al-Husayn the son of ‘Ali to Habib ibn Muzahir, a scholar and jurist. O Habib! You are aware of my relation to the Messenger of Allah and know me better than others. You are a man of integrity and a free man. Don’t hold yourself back from coming to my assistance. May the Messenger of Allah reward you on the Day of Judgement!”
The letter was secretly smuggled into Kufah and conveyed to Habib. Habib was thinking about how to evade the checkpoints set up around Kufah in order to get himself to Karbala’. He went to Muslim ibn ‘Awsajah. Muslim, as has already been mentioned, was from the same tribe as Habib and of the same age, had bought henna to colour his beard with. Habib said to him, “Are you not aware that our master al-Husayn has arrived in Karbala’ and has been surrounded by the enemy. Hurry so that we get to him before it is too late.” Muslim threw away the henna and said that he would colour his beard with his blood by helping the Imam. That night both men secretly escaped from Kufah and went to the Imam.
According to another report the Imam kept a standard aside. When he was asked about who was to be its bearer, the Imam answered, “The one who will hold it is on his way.” At that moment a cloud of dust was seen in the distance rising from the ground from the hooves of a galloping horse. Seeing this the Imam smiled still holding with the standard in his hand. He said, “The bearer of this standard is the man who rides towards us.” As the rider approached, they saw that he was Habib ibn Muzahir. Habib dismounted and offered his salutations. Then tearfully looking at the Imam, he recited:
Even though I have become old and unable, whenever I look at you, youth begins to flow in my veins once again.”
On hearing the cries of joy coming from the companions, Lady Zaynab enquired, “Who is that?” She was told. “It is Habib ibn Muzahir.” She said, “Offer him my salutations.” When her salutations were offered to Habib, he was shaken with the grief and the sorrow at her impending loss. Habib wept and struck his face with his hands as he lamented, “Ah! The sorrow of loss! Who is Habib for the Lady Zaynab to offer him her salutation?”
It is said that this incident took place before the Imam’s arrival at Karbala’.
One of the outstanding roles played by Habib in the whole of the event of the uprising of the Imam was that he tirelessly sought to mobilise people to support the Imam. He was the most active supporter of the Imam in Kufah in urging the people to pay the oath of allegiance to Muslim ibn ‘Aqil. Habib also sent some of his family and some of the members of his tribe to the aid of the Imam. These were all killed on the Day of ‘Ashura’. Some of the people that Habib ibn Muzahir had sent were:
1. His brother, ‘Ali ibn Muzahir
2. His cousin, Rabi’ah ibn Khawt
3. Sulayman ibn Rabi’ah Asadi
4. Anas ibn Harith
5. Muslim ibn ‘Awsajah
6. ‘Umar ibn Khalid Asadi
7. Sa’d, a freed servant of ‘Umar ibn Khalid
8. Mawqa’ ibn Thumamah
9. Anas ibn Kahil Asadi
10. Habib ibn Muzahir’s servant
‘UMAR IBN SA’D’S ARRIVAL AT KARBALA’
When Ibn Ziyad was informed of the Imam’s position at Karbala’, he wrote a letter to the Imam asking him for the pledge of allegiance to Yazid and threatening him with death if he abstained from pledging allegiance. The Imam read the letter and threw it aside. He told Ibn Ziyad’s messenger that to such a demand there was no reply.
When this reply was conveyed by his messenger to Ibn Ziyad, he was incensed at it. He called for ‘Umar ibn Sa’d, who greedily thirsted for the office of governor of the land of Rayy. He ordered him, “Go and put an end to the endeavours of al-Husayn and then you can claim the governorship of Rayy for the next ten years!” ‘Umar asked for a day’s respite to consider the offer and this was granted.
‘Umar consulted his friends and family about this matter and they all discouraged him. Hamzah ibn Mughirah ‘Umar’s nephew from his sister’s side said to him, “O uncle! I beseech you for the sake of Allah not to advance against al-Husayn. Remember you have a family bond with him. By Allah! Even if the wealth of the whole world were given to you, it would not be worth having a share in the killing al-Husayn. ‘Umar agreed saying,
“What you say is true. I will not do such thing.”
In the night ‘Umar was preoccupied as he thought, “Should I not go against al-Husayn and forgo the governorship of Rayy or should I be party to the killing of al-Husayn and attain Rayy.” That night ‘Umar was heard reciting the following verses:
By Allah! I do not know. I stand in confusion,
Standing at two perilous paths, faced with choosing one.
Should I abandon Rayy while Rayy is the joy of my heart?
Or kill al-Husayn and return with the burdens of sin?
Al-Husayn is the son of my uncle and the calamities are plentiful.
By my soul! Rayy is the apple of my eye
The greed of the worldly power prevailed in his mind. After having determined to stain his hand with the blood of Imam al-Husayn, he concluded his poem by the verses:
They say Allah is the Creator of Paradise and the Fire,
The chastisement and the yoking of hands
If they are right in what they say, then I will repent for my sin
To the Merciful God, for two years after killing al-Husayn.
And if they are false in what they say, then I will succeed
With a grand domain and a grand kingdom fashioned like brides
In the morning ‘Umar went to Ibn Ziyad and informed him of his acceptance of the offer to fight against the Imam. ‘Umar ibn Sa’d, with an army of four to six thousand, reached Karbala’ on 3rd or 4th Muharram.
(Maqtal al-Husayn by Abu Mikhnaf).
THE CONVERSATION OF THE MESSENGER OF THE IMAM WITH ‘UMAR IBN SA’D
‘Umar arrived at Karbala’ with his army. Immediately he imposed all sorts of hardships upon the camp of the Imam, even preventing them from having access to the Euphrates for water.
Burayr ibn Hudayr, a companion of the Imam, sought permission to go and speak with ‘Umar regarding the blockade of water. On being granted permission Burayr walked straight to ‘Umar’s tent and sat down in front of him without offering salutations. ‘Umar was infuriated at this audacity and said, “Am I not a Muslim and yet you did not salute me?” Burayr replied, “If you had been a Muslim, you would not have raised your sword against the family of the Prophet and resolved kill al-Husayn and imprison his family. Even the wild pigs and dogs consume the water of the Euphrates. Yet you prevent the son of Fatimah and his family from having access to it and watch them dying from thirst. What right do you have after this to assume that you are a Muslim?” ‘Umar lowered his head and paused for thought. Then raising his head, he said “O Burayr! I have certainty that he who fights against al-Husayn and his family and is responsible for their deaths will be thrown into the pits of Hell. But how can I abandon the governorship of Rayy? Should I leave Rayy for others to take? By God! My heart will not accept that!”
Burayr returned to the Imam and informed him of what had transpired. On hearing that, the Imam said, “He will not attain the land of Rayy. Most surely he will be assassinated in his own bed.”
THE IMAM’S DISCOURSE WITH ‘UMAR IBN SA’D
In order to overcome the excuses of ‘Umar ibn Sa’d with the argument of Allah, the Imam sent a message inviting him to talk over the situation. ‘Umar accepted the invitation and a meeting took place between the two parties. At that meeting both the Imam and ‘Umar attended, each accompanied by twenty men. Before the talks began, the Imam asked all his companions except his brother ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali and his son ‘Ali al-Akbar to leave. ‘Umar also ordered all his men to leave except Hafs his son and his servant.
The Imam addressed ‘Umar, “May sorrow be your lot! O son of Sa’d! Do you not fear Allah, to Whom we will all return? Will you go to war against us? You know me well. I am the son of the Prophet, of Fatimah and ‘Ali. O son of Sa’d! Leave the camp of Yazid and join us.” ‘Umar replied, “I fear that they will destroy my house.” Al-Husayn answered, “If they destroy your house, I will rebuild it.” ‘Umar pleaded, “They will confiscate my farm.” At this al-Husayn said, “Then I will give you a river at Baghibagha that Mu’awiyah tried to purchase with a thousand dirhams.” Then ‘Umar made the excuse, “I have a family and fear for their safety.” At this the Imam remained silent and he did not reply. But as he left the gathering, he said, “May Allah have you killed on your bed! May He not forgive on the Day of Resurrection! May you not enjoy even a handful of the wheat of Rayy!” ‘Umar mockingly replied, “I will suffice myself with barley.”
Such was the attitude of ‘Umar that although he feared for the safety of his family, he had no concern for the difficulties of the family of the Prophet and of Lady Fatimah. Humayd ibn Muslim reported: I was a friend of ‘Umar ibn Sa’d. After the events of Karbala’, I went to ‘Umar and asked him how he was. He said, “There is no one more wretched than I who return home bearing the burden of great sin, having severed my family ties and killed the son of the Prophet.” – ‘Umar was related to the Imam through his father Sa’d, who was a descendant of ‘Abd Manaf, the father of the Prophet’s great grandfather.
THE LYING LETTER OF ‘UMAR IBN SA’D TO IBN ZIYAD AND HIS REPLY
On 7th Muharram ‘Amr ibn Hajjaj with a troop of five hundred horsemen was guarding the banks of the Euphrates to prevent the Imam and his companions from getting water.
In the meantime ‘Umar ibn Sa’d was hopeful of resolving the situation peacefully. He had written a lying letter to Ibn Ziyad that stated: “Al-Husayn is willing to follow one of three courses: to return to Medina; or to go to one of the border-posts of the Islamic empire; or to meet Yazid and come to some sort of compromise with him. Since this is the issue, the problem is solved and it also will be forl the good of the Ummah.”
This was something falsely attributed to the Imam by ‘Umar ibn Sa’d. This is evident from the words that the Imam often said, “The illegitimate son of an illegitimate father has left me with two alternatives: death or humiliation. May humiliation be something far away from us! Allah does not allow us this, nor does the Prophet, nor do the believers.”
When the letter of ‘Umar ibn Sa’d reached Ibn Ziyad, he praised ‘Umar saying, “This is a letter of one who has the interests of his people at heart.” Ibn Ziyad was intending to respond positively to the letter. However, Shimr ibn Dhi Jawshan deterred him. The latter said, “Will you accept this from Ibn Sa’d after al-Husayn has invaded your land and refused to pledge allegiance to you?” As a result of Shimr’s statement Ibn Ziyad changed his view and wrote the following reply to ‘Umar: “I did not send you to Karbala’ to negotiate a truce or a compromise and to delay the matters unnecessarily. If al-Husayn accepts my conditions of giving the pledge of allegiance to me, send him to me as a captive. Otherwise harass him and engage him in battle. After he has been killed, have his body trampled beneath the hoofs of the horses. If you abide by my instructions, you will be worthy of being a governor. Otherwise hand over the reins of authority to Shimr.” This letter was given to Shimr and he was dispatched with an army of four thousand men to Karbala’.
On his arrival at Karbala’, Shimr handed over the letter to ‘Umar. After he had read it, Shimr said to him, “What have you decided? Will you implement the orders of the governor or will I take over the command of the army in order to execute his orders?” ‘Umar replied, “I will never give over the command of the army to you. Such an honour is reserved for me. You will be.in charge of the foot soldiers.”
(Al-Tarikh by Tabari)
HABIB IBN MUZAHIR TRIES TO GAIN THE SUPPORT OF BANU ASAD
Another loyal action by Habib ibn Muzahir on behalf of the Imam was that on 7th or 8th Muharram when they were at Karbala’, he sought permission from the Imam to go to a neighbouring village and invite the people of his tribe, the Banu Asad, to help the Imam. After being given permission, Habib approached the Banu Asad and explained the situation to them. He said, “If your desire the happiness of this world and the Hereafter, come to the aid of al-Husayn. By Allah! The one who is killed defending him will be placed in the loftiest ranks of Paradise and will acquire a place next to the Messenger of Allah.”
‘Abd Allah ibn Bashshar reported: I was the first from Banu Asad to volunteer. I recited poetry in the praise of aiding al-Husayn. As a result ninety other men stood up and declared their willingness to go to the aid of al-Husayn.
The report of this incident was somehow relayed to ‘Umar ibn Sa’d by one of his spies. Ibn Sa’d then sent four hundred men under the command of Azraq to suppress them and prevent them from reaching the Imam. Azraq intercepted the men of Banu Asad on the banks of the Euphrates and a battle broke out between them.
Habib called out to Azraq, “O Azraq! It is not right for us to fight each other. Let someone else take charge of your army and earn the curse of Allah.” Azraq paid no attention to Habib’s request and the fighting continued. The Banu Asad were unable to offer much resistance due to their meagre numbers. As a result some were killed while others saved their lives by fleeing to safety. Habib ibn Muzahir managed to return to the Imam and informed him of what had happened. The Imam said, “There is no strength or might save through Allah, the Grand, the Mighty.”
THE EVENTS OF 9TH MUHARRAM
On the evening of 9th Muharram ‘Umar gave the following instructions to his army, “O soldiers of Allah! Get on your mounts and receive the good tidings of Paradise. Surround the tents of al-Husayn and close in upon them.”
At the same time the Imam was leaning against his spear outside his tent when he momentarily fell asleep. The Imam saw the Prophet saying to him, “O Husayn! The enemy is drawing closer to us!” The Imam immediately awoke and called for his brother ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali. He told him to go out to the enemy and ask them the reason for advancing towards them.
‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali with Zuhayr ibn Qayn, Habib ibn Muzahir and eighteen other companions rode out to the enemy to ask them their motives for advancing towards the tents of the Imam. They replied that they had been ordered either to get al-Husayn to comply with the demands of Ibn Ziyad or to go into battle. ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali returned to the Imam to inform him of the reply while Habib and Zuhayr stood with the enemy admonishing them
During the course of the discussion, Habib ibn Muzahir realized how obstinate their attitudes were and he said, “By Allah! You are evil people. You are the people who on the Day of Resurrection will be raised as the murderers of the Household of the Prophet. You will be known as the killers of these righteous servants of Allah.” A man by the name of ‘Azrah responded by saying, “O Habib! Have you cleansed yourself of blemish and taught yourself high morals?” To this Zuhayr replied, “Allah has purified and guided Habib. O man! Fear the wrath of Allah and acquire piety. I admonish you not to side with falsehood against the truth.”
Meanwhile at the camp of the Imam, the Imam looked at ‘Abbas and said, “May my soul be sacrificed for you! O ‘Abbas! Go to them and ask for a day’s respite for us to worship Allah and make supplications to Him, for He knows how al-Husayn longs to worship Him, recite His Book and engage in secret discourse with Him.”
‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali returned to the enemy and conveyed the request of the Imam to them. The message was taken to Ibn Sa’d who sought the views of his officers. Some of the officers were of the opinion that the battle should be initiated without delay while others such as ‘Amr ibn Hajjaj insisted that a respite should be given saying, “Glory be to Allah! If such a demand had been made by the disbeliveers of Daylam, you would have granted it to them.” It was eventually decided to grant the Imam a night’s respite and a message was conveyed to him that either he should surrender by the morning or he should prepare for battle.
THE REJECTION OF THE OFFER OF SAFE-CONDUCT
On that same day of 9th Muharram, Shimr came close the camp of the Imam and called out, “Where are the sons of my sister?” ‘Abbas, Ja’far, ‘Uthman and ‘Abd Allah, the sons of Imam ‘Ali and Umm al-Banin, came forward and asked Shimr what he wanted. He shouted, “O sons of my sister! I grant you safe-conduct.” The brothers of the Imam shouted back, “May Allah curse you and your safe-conduct! Do you offer us safe-conduct while the son of the Prophet has no refuge?”
According to another report when the offer of safe-conduct was made to ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali, he replied, “May your hands wither away! O enemy of Allah! Are you asking us to abandon our master, the son of Fatimah, and join the cursed sons of the cursed?”
There is yet another report stating that when on the 10th Muharram (the Day of ‘Ashura’), the Imam had mounted his horse and was about to engage in battle, Shimr called out, “O sons of my sister! Do not allow yourselves to be killed with al-Husayn. Come and join us under the standard of the Commander of the Faithful, Yazid.!”
‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali replied, “May you perish! Would we abandon our master and brother to pledge fealty to the cursed and their sons?”
From this it would appear that Shimr made the offer of safe-conduct on both the 9th and 10th of Muharram but was rejected on each occasion by ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali and his brothers.
THE EVENTS ON THE EVE OF ‘ASHURA’
Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-‘Abidin reported: As the night of the ninth of Muharram spread its gown over the horizon, Imam al-Husayn summoned his companions. When the male members of the camp had gathered around him he (peace be with him) praised Allah and invoked His blessings upon the Prophet and his progeny. Then he addressed them saying, “Indeed I have not known of anyone’s companions better and more loyal than mine and neither have I known of a family more worthy and virtuous than mine. May Allah grant you all a great reward on my behalf! O people! Know that I have lost hope of these men [of Kufah]. They are thirsty for my blood. Whether you live or die, I will not be spared. O men! Know therefore I relieve you of the obligations in the pledge of allegiance that you have made to me. Take the darkness of this night as a cover and save yourselves.”
At this ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali together with the Imam’s other brothers, sons and nephews gathered around him. They said that life in which there was no al-Husayn was not worth living. When the Imam saw this reaction from the closest members of his clan, the Banu Hashim, he turned to the sons of the brutally martyred Muslim ibn ‘Aqil and said, “O sons of ‘Aqil! The death of Muslim is a sufficient loss for you. I give you permission to spare your lives!” They replied: “Glory be to Allah! Will we abandon our head, our master and our uncle, the like of whom the world has not seen? Will we not fight with swords, spears and arrows to defend you from these wretched people? Nay! We will give up our lives, our children, our women, our wealth and our property for you. We will fight alongside you and go wherever you go. May Allah make life worth living without you!”
From among the non-Hashimites Muslim ibn ‘Awsajah stood up and said, “Should we leave you alone in the hands of those enemies of God? What excuse would we give to Allah for not defending you? We will defend you to the last so that it will be clear that we defended the honour of the Prophet through you. O al-Husayn! Know that tomorrow I will fight your enemies with my spear. When it breaks, I will attack them with my sword for as long as it remains in my hands. When my sword breaks, I will throw stones at them. O al-Husayn! By Allah! If they cut off my hands and kill me and burn me and then revive me seventy times, I will not stop defending you. O al-Husayn! There is but one death and to taste it for you is the greatest honour.”
After Muslim ibn ‘Awsajah, Zuhayr ibn Qayn stood and said, “I swear by Allah, O al-Husayn, that I want no more than to be killed a thousand times over in order to save you and your family from the hands of those godless people.”
Others also stood in turn and spoke words to the same effect. The Imam thanked them one by one and prayed for them.
How excellent was the youthfulness of men who persevered in patience,
The like of which I have not seen among men.
Those were virtuous noble men like pure milk
Unlike contaminated water turning to urine after drinking
THE IMAM’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COMING OF IMAM AL-MAHDI
There is a report from Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Baqir that after the companions of Imam al-Husayn had displayed their loyalty to him, he said, “By Allah! Receive the glad tidings of Paradise. By Allah! After we have been killed, a time will elapse after which we will be raised once again. That will be the time of the coming of al-Qa’im from among us. He will take revenge on our enemies and we will witness the chastisement being given to them.”
A man asked, “Who is the Qa’im from among you?” The Imam replied, “He will be the seventh offspring from the lineage of Muhammad al-Baqir and he will be al-Hujjah ibn al-Hasan. After a lengthy absence, he will return and will cause peace and justice to prevail in every part of the world just as it was filled with injustice and corruption before him.”
(Maqtal al-Husayn al-Muqarram)
It is also reported that the Imam prayed for his companions on that night and showed them their lofty ranks inside the folds of Paradise. Their surety and contentment were increased by what he showed them. Thus the fear of death was removed from their hearts to the extent that they contended with each other to advance to the battlefield in order to attain martyrdom.
THE ANGUISH OF LADY ZAYNAB ON THE EVE OF ‘ASHURA’
Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-‘Abidin reported: I was resting on the eve of ‘Ashura’ as my aunt Zaynab nursed me. We heard my father, al-Husayn, enter into his tent where Juwayn, a retainer of Abu Dharr, was preparing his sword and mending it. At that time my father recited the following verses about the untrustworthy nature of this world
O Time! Shame on you as a friend!
At the day’s dawning and the sun’s setting,
How many a companion or seeker of yours will be a corpse!
Time will not be satisfied with any substitute.
Indeed the matter will rest with the Mighty One,
And every living creature will journey on my path.”
(The final verse has also been reported in the following manner:
Indeed the promise of departure has approached,
And the matter rests with the Mighty One.)
The Imam repeated these verses twice or three times. I heard these verses and realized what he meant. Tears choked me and I pushed them back. I kept silent and knew that tribulation had come upon us. As for my aunt, she heard what I heard. She could not control herself. She jumped up, tearing at her cloths and sighing, as she ran to the Imam crying out, “Then I will lose a brother! If only death would deprive me of life on this day. I only have you, for my mother, my father and my brother have all passed away.”
The Imam said to her as he looked at her with tears filling his eyes, “O sister! Don’t let Satan take away your forbearance. If the sand grouse are left alone at night, they will sleep.” (i.e. Let nature take its course.) Zaynab lamented as she struck at her face and began to tear at her garments, “O my grief! Your life will be violently wrenched from you and that is too wounding to my heart and harsher to my soul.”
The emotional pressure of this incident overcame her and she fainted. The Imam sprinkled water on to her face and consoled her as he said, “O sister! Fear God and take comfort in the consolation of God. Know that the people on the earth will die and the inhabitants of Heaven will live forever. Everything will come to an end except the face of Allah. My grandfather was better than I; my father, mother and brother were all better than I. Yet Allah took them all. Every Muslim and I must follow the ideal model of the Messenger of Allah. O sister! I implore you for the sake of Allah not to tear your garments in sorrow after my death or scratch your face.”
After this my father brought Zaynab to my tent and returned to his companions.
THE DEVOTIONS OF THE IMAM AND HIS COMPANIONS ON THE EVE OF ‘ASHURA’
It is reported that the Imam and his companions on the eve of ‘Ashura’ were immersed in prayers and devotions. Some were seen standing, some bowing, some were making prostrations to Allah and others were engaged in reciting the Qur’an and secret prayers. The reverberation of their prayers resembled the humming of the bees. It was these moving sounds of worship coming from the hearts of the
devoted lovers of Allah that managed to turn thirty-two people from the army of Yazid to the side of Imam al-Husayn.
THE INCIDENT OF NAFI’ IBN HILAL ON THE EVE OF ‘ASHURA’
Late on the night of the eve of ‘Ashura’, the Imam left his tent to inspect the plains of the wilderness where the battle was to be fought on the following day. Nafi’ ibn Hilal saw the Imam and reported: Seeing that the Imam was alone, I followed him in order to defend him in case the enemy attacked him. The Imam realized that I was following him and he turned to me and said, “Why have you come outside?” I replied, “I was fearful that the enemy might attack you from behind.” He told me, “I have come to inspect the high ground and the ditches in these plains in order to acquaint myself with the places where the enemy might wait in ambush when the battle commences tomorrow.”
Then as the Imam and I returned, he took hold of my arm and said, “What has been decreed will come to pass. The promise of Allah cannot be broken.” He went on, “Do you not wish to escape in the shelter of the night and save your life?” At this I fell at his feet and tearfully answered, “May my mother weep at my death if I were to abandon you! Allah has honoured me by allowing me to be with you. I will not leave you until I am cut to pieces for your sake.”
After this the Imam went to his sister’s tent where Zaynab was waiting for him. I heard her say to the Imam, “Have you tested your companions, for I fear that they will abandon you in your hour of need?” The Imam replied, “By Allah! I have tried their loyalties. They are all as eager to die for me as a baby is for the bosom of its mother.”
When I heard this conversation with Zaynab, I wept. Then I went and told Habib Ibn Muzahir about it. Habib said, “By Allah! If it would not be pre-empting the order of the Imam, I would attack the enemy at this very moment.” I said, “I feel it is the women within the tents that are causing such anxiety and concern to lady Zaynab, it is appropriate that we gather the men and console her by speaking of our loyalty to her brother.”
Habib ibn Muzahir gathered the men and explained the situation to them. They were all eager to show their willingness to engage in combat and demonstrate their unshakable resolve to die for al-Husayn. Habib prayed for all of them.
Then we all went to the tent of the women and called out, “O women of the Household of the Messenger of Allah! These are the swords of your defenders that have sworn not to return their swords to their sheaths without cutting off your enemies! These are their spears that they have sworn will not to fall to the ground but are to be driven into the hearts of your adversaries!” At this the women, weeping and wailing, came rushing out of the tents saying, “O pure soldiers! Defend the honour of the daughters and the women of the Household of the Messenger of Allah and the Commander of the faithful.” We all wept and consoled them.
(Maqtal al-Husayn Al-Muqarram).
THE BRINGING OF WATER
On the eve of ‘Ashura’ when the water in the camp of the Imam was finished, he instructed his son ‘Ali Akbar together with thirty-two of his companions to proceed to the Euphrates and bring back some water. They went in extremely dangerous circumstances and brought back the water. When they returned, the Imam told his companions to drink the water and to perform their ablutions. They should also wash their garments, for they would become their shrouds.
It has also been reported that the Imam sent his brother ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali together with thirty men on horse and twenty on foot to get water. They secretly reached the Euphrates carrying twenty water-skins. As they were filling the water-skins ‘Amr ibn Hajjaj, who was in charge of the soldiers guarding the Euphrates, spotted them. He said, “You may drink as much water as you want but you are not allowed to take any water with you.” ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali and his companions paid no heed to the warning and after filling leather skins headed towards the tents. As they were moving away from the Euphrates, the enemy blocked their path and a battle broke out. Many of the enemy were killed but all in the company of ‘Abbas remained unscathed. The Imam, his family and his companions, all drank from the water brought back by ‘Abbas. It is for this reason that ‘Abbas is known as saqqa’ (the bringer of water).
THE DIGGING OF THE TRENCH
The Imam instructed his companions to draw their tents nearer to his and place them in front of the tents of the women. Then he had a trench dug behind the tents, which was filled with firewood and reed. Then he ordered that to be set alight. This was done to prevent an attack from the rear of the tents.
THE DISCUSSIONS HELD IN THE DEPTH OF THE NIGHT
Lady Zaynab reported: It was midnight on the eve of ‘Ashura’ when I went to the tent of my brother ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali. I heard a low hum of conversation coming from inside his tent. So I lifted the cloth over the opening of the tent and looked inside. I saw my brother in the middle of the tent crouching on his knees polishing his sword while the rest of the Hashimites were in a circle around him. He called out to them, “O my brothers and cousins! Tomorrow when the battle breaks out, you will be the foremost in giving your lives, lest the people should say that the sons of Hashim preferred their lives above those of the other companions of al-Husayn.” The Hashimites replied, “We will do as you command.” I was overwhelmed by this and could not hold back my tears.
After this I decided to return to my tent. On the way back I heard a similar humming noise coming from the tent of Habib ibn Muzahir. I lifted the cloth over the opening of that tent and looked inside. I found Habib as I had seen ‘Abbas with the companions of al-Husayn in a circle around him. Habib called out to them, “O companions of al-Husayn! Tomorrow when the battle commences, you will be the first to advance in order to give your lives before the Hashimites. They are our leaders and masters.” The companions replied, “We will do as you command.” I was overcome with emotions and was satisfied that my brother would not be abandoned.
THE INCIDENT WITH BURAYR IBN HUDAYR
Nearing the dawn on the eve of ‘Ashura’, the Imam applied perfume to his body that had the fragrance of musk. Burayr ibn Hudayr and ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd Rabbih were waiting their turn to perform their ablutions outside the tent. Burayr jested with ‘Abd al-Rahman. The latter told him that it was not a night for joking and playing. Burayr replied, “My people are well aware that I have never been one of those who engage in humour. The joy that you see in me at this moment is due to the knowledge that I will soon be martyred and then wed with heavenly brides and rejoice in Paradise.”
THE DREAM SEEN BY THE IMAM
As the dawn of ‘Ashura’ approached, the Imam slept for a while. Then he awoke and said to those around him, “I have had a dream. A pack of wild dogs were attacking me. Among them was a dog with patches and that was the most savage in attacking me. I fear that my killer from among them is a person afflicted with leprosy. Then I saw the Messenger of Allah with a group of his Companions saying to me, ‘My son! You are the martyr of my Household. The inhabitants of the Heavens and the Lord of the worlds eagerly await you. O son! On this night you will break your fast with me. Don’t delay in coming to me! This angel has been commissioned to gather the blood spilt from your body and to retain it in a green bottle.’ This dream is an indication of my imminent departure to the Eternal Abode.”
CONTINUE CHAPTER 5
THE MARTYRDOM OF THE
COMPANIONS OF THE IMAM