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Imam Hussein Bin Ali (A.S.)

Imam Hussein Bin Ali (A.S.)

Publisher: Al Balagh Foundation


Mu'awiyah entered the city of Kufa after signing the peace treaty with Imam Hassan (a.s.). His army encircled it. He addressed the Kufans in these words: "O people of Kufa! Do you think that I have fought you for the sake of prayer, poor-rate and hajj (pilgrimage), whilst I know you offer your prayers, give the poor-rate and perform hajj? Nay, I fought you so as to be your ruler and seize control of your lives. Allah granted any property plundered or any blood shed in this sedition is irretrievable. Any promise I have given is trampled under these two feet of mine..."(27)

This address of Mu'awiyah amounted to a public revocation of the treaty which was conducted with Imam Hassan (a.s.) as expressed in these words: "Any promise I have given is trampled under these two feet of mine." Not a few days had passed after the signing of the peace document, when Mu'awiyah began implementing a new plan, totally in contrast to the terms of the peace document. The following goals figure in his notorious plan:

1. Unleashing a wave of terror, and embarking on elimination of all opposition forces, particularly the followers of Imam Ali (a.s.). They were bunted down, and every means of oppression and terror was employed to silence every free voice. No better testimony to the danger of this savage and horrifying policy than the following text, which carries the orders of Mu'awiyah to one of his military officers:

" ...And kill any one you come across who does not hold the same views you hold, and attack every town you pass by. And plunder property as plundering property is tantamount to killing, and it is more hurting to the heart..."(28)

If the deviant Ummayyad plot, expressed clearly in this text, is devilish, it was first implemented during the life of Imam Ali (a.s.); it took on more dangerous proportions after the signing of the peace document with Imam Hassan (a.s.). More innocent blood was shed, and opponents, who came from different schools of thought, at the head of which were the followers of Imam Ali (a.s.) and the Ahlul Bait (a.s.), were put to the sword.

Mu'awiyah wrote to his governors in all provinces: "See to it that whoever is proven, by irrefutable evidence, to love Ali and his household, his name is erased from the public register and his pay and food allotment are dropped."(29)

In another letter, he wrote: "Whomever you accuse of being loyal to these people, severely punish him and tear down his house."(30)

In short and expressive words Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) depicts this bloody tragedy. He says: "...Our followers were killed in every city. Hands and legs were cut off at the slightest suspicion. Whoever was reported to love us or had any contact with us would either be imprisoned or robbed of his property or his house destroyed. Oppression increased in volume and became unduly harsh, till the time of Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, the murderer of Hussein (a.s.)."(31)

At the head of the victims of that horrible carnage was a group of pious companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) including Hijr bin Uday and his followers, Rasheed al-Hajari, Amru bin al-Humq al-Khuza'i, Awfa bin Hisn and many others. Books such as al-Tabari, al-Kamil and Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah collected countless stories about Mu'awiyah's hatred for the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s.).

2. Dispersing money for the sake of buying-out men, and weakening their Islamic character, and helping the deviant policy of Mu'awiyah to fulfill its devilish objectives. In reality, two kinds of men were bought out:

A. A number of preachers and traditionists whose role was outrageous in working in favor of Mu'awiyah. They forged traditions and narratives and falsely attributed them to the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) in order to depricate Imam Ali (a.s.) and all the members of his family.

B. Leading social men who might act against the Ummayyad rule. It was a policy practised by Mu'awiyah and the other rulers of the Ummayyad dynasty. This policy became an adopted line of action throughout the Ummayyad rule. No better testimony to this policy than Mu'awiyah's sending 1,000 Dirhams to Malik bin Hubairah al-Sakoon. The latter was enraged to hear of the murder of the great companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.), Hijr bin Uday, and his followers (may Allah be pleased with them). Mu'awiyah sent him the money. Al-Sakooni, upon receiving it, gave up any intention of rising against oppression and corruption.

3. War of starvation. It was the most effective weapon used by the Ummayyads. The Muslim ummah felt humiliated and unable to challenge the rulers.

As this policy was based on fighting the opposition forces with their daily bread and depriving them of the means to earn their living, Mu'awiyah employed the most horrendous way to besiege the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s.) in particular. His recorded directive, which he sent to his governors in this respect said: "...See to it that whoever is proven, by irrefutable evidence, to love Ali and his household, his name is erased from the public register, and his pay and food allotment are dropped."

One can see for himself the repercussions of this inhuman policy, adopted by the Ummayyad house to corrupt people and numb their conscience. It was not a temporary line of action. Mu'awiyah made it a consistent policy throughout the twenty years of his rule (41-60 A.H.).

4. Breaking the bonds holding the Muslim ummah as one entity by stirring up the nationalist, tribal and regional spirit among the different groups. Thus, plunging the Muslims into infighting at the expense of their real opposition to the oppressive rule of the Ummayyads. Mutual spite and hatred between the Arab tribes were awakened and soon differences and violence began to surface. The tribes of Qays and Mudhar fought each other. The people of Yemen and those of Medina jumped at each other's throats. And so was the case among the tribes of Iraq! In the same way sectarianism was revived between the Arabs and non-Arab Muslims who came to be historically known as al-Mawali. This policy of ignorance was expressively reflected in the poetry of many poets like Miskeen al-Darimi, al-Farazdaq, Jareer, al-Akktal and others.(32)

5. Assassination of Imam Hassan bin Ali (a.s.) as he was the legitimate symbol of original Islam.

6. Crowning Yazid as the new king after his father, Mu'awiyah. Such a move was taken in a severe atmosphere of oppression, and in line with the stick-and-carrot policy, which ran counter to the peace treaty which appointed Imam Hassan (a.s.) as the next caliph after the death of Mu'awiyah. If Imam Hassan (a.s.) himself was already dead at the time of Mu'awiyah's death, the document said that Imam Hussein (a.s.) would be the next caliph.

And so Mu'awiyah completed his plot of revoking every term of the treaty he concluded with Imam Hassan (a.s.). Mu'awiyah, thus, went another step in tresspassing the Islamic concept of rule, by adopting the hereditary rule, which implies dictatorship, as a system of rulership in the Muslim world. Islamic principles and the Muslim ummah were exposed to the most violent tragedy in their history. The ummah's movement swerved off the right track it was supposed to tread.

Deviation took a clear shape shortly after the death of Mu'awiyah and the ascension of Yazid to the office of caliphate. Such was the desire of Mu'awiyah who nurtured and kept it alive till it was completely realized.

The mandate given to Yazid to lead the Muslim ummah, plan its future, and define its course of action meant, in reality, the liquidation of the Islamic existence. It was an actual regression from it shrouded in another attire.

Yazid, as history testifies, was overwhelmed by deviation in his thought, practices and feelings. Unbiased researchers would admit that Yazid could not find the chance to consciously open to Islam and its high objectives which models man as an individual and a member in a society in a way that keeps him totally away from the pillars of ignorance. It is the best model of man any ideology can produce.

When Yazid got rid of the atmosphere of good education furnished by Islam for its followers, it is no wonder that our history brims over with stories about Yazid's daily practices which were immersed in deviation, under the noses of the majority of the Muslims in Syria. He plunged himself into debauchery, loose entertainment, alcohol-drinking, womanizing and singing...He was so careless and morally loose that he used to put gold bangles on his dogs!(33)

And so the ummah stood at the threshold of a new stage of its history. Ahead of it, there were two choices:

Either to develop a strong rejection of the type of life being imposed on it, whatever the price; or accept the de facto life, wherein it had to give up its Message, the source of its greatness and symbol of its pride among other nations.

Then, which choice did the ummah prefer?

The Uprising: Why?

If we study the life of Imam Hussein (a.s.), the events he witnessed, and the circumstances which beset him, we will easily detect the fact that he had no chance whatsoever of scoring, materialistically speaking, a victory over the oppressive authorities of the Ummayyads. Even those Kufans who wrote to him, were not trusted by him. He declared his opposition to the rule of Yazid before the arrival of the Kufans' envoys and messages.

He announced his first communiqué in the city of his grandfather, Muhammad (s.a.w.), whereas he heard of the Kufans' committment to his cause while in Mecca, i.e. after his declaration of opposition to the Ummayyads.

On the other hand, the province of Hijazfailed to assist him, if we leave out the sentimental lip service the people there paid him. He soon realized the inability of Mecca to protect him from the Ummayyad authorities which were intent on getting rid of him. So that no drop of blood of the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.) might be shed in the sacred town, he moved towards Iraq.

Though he was quite sure that he would be killed, he was insisting on starting his uprising, and standing his ground till the tragically inevitable end. Why did he insist so? Rather, why was the uprising? In answering this big question, let's take into consideration the following facts; First, Yazid took the office of caliphate, while being a young deviant and inexperienced man. Yazid was obstinate and rash. He was a real threat to the ummah. He had no sound, good Islamic education, as he lived in a house never lightened by the sun of Islamic guidance. So it comes as no surprise that historical annals attest to the fact that Yazid took to alcohol, gambling and every kind of unacceptable anti-Islamic behavior.(34)

Yazid, with all his deviations and the bad life he had led, not to mention his lack of adequate experience in discharging the affairs of the Islamic state, was coronated as the new Muslim caliph..!!

His ascension to the high office of caliphate opened the doors wide to all kinds of corruption, and made it easy to break from the Islamic shari'ah. But the committed Islamic forces, at the head of which was Imam Hussein (a.s.), took advantage of the weak points and the manifest immorality in Yazid's character. Lots of people came to realize, to the point of certainty, the make-up and goals of this un-Islamic character. Rejectors of deviation found in that a good chance to melt the stupor which engulfed the mentality of the Muslims. They moved to awaken and enlighten the ummah towards the Muslims' high interests. Violence was a choice that could not be ruled out.

And so Imam Hussein (a.s.), the immortal hero of Islam, stood before the Ummayyad army, under the leadership of al-Hurr bin Yazid al-Riyahi,(35) addressing them, pointing to the worst aspects of the Ummayyad rule's deviation. The two parties came across each other in Iraq. Imam Hussein (a.s.) said:

"...O people! the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) had said, 'Whoever witnesses an unjust ruler considering the prohibitions of Allah as permissible, breaking the covenant of Allah, opposing the practices of the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.), treating His servants sinfully and cruelly, and had seen all these misdeeds but did not oppose him by words or actions, Allah will surely punish him as He wills. Certainly, these people have come to staunchly obey Satan, and given up obeying the Compassionate. They showed mischief, stopped acting in accordance with the Islamic laws, took Muslims' property to themselves, made the forbidden by Allah lawful, and turned His lawful things to unlawful ones..."

By such addresses and speeches Imam Hussein (a.s.) shed light on the nature of the Ummayyad rule. He awakened peoples' sentiments and steeled their wills to shed off the layer of dust descended on their awareness and totally rejected the unconditional surrender to the illegitimate rule of the Ummayyads.

Secondly, the ultimate level of awareness of the ummah was below the needed one to head off the overwhelming wave of deviation. This is a morabid phenomenon which painfully took shape in the nature of leaning, on the part of the average Muslim, to comfort and ease and coveting private interests. The spirit of jihad had vanished from the social conscience. This dangerous phenomenon had surprisingly crystalised in the form of amassing wealth on the part of the high echelons of the Islamic leadership.(36)

If power-wielding people among the ummah had exploited their influence to win and double their profits, nearly all walks of life in the Islamic society developed this mundane tendency in an outrageous way. It manifested itself in leaning to comfort and luxuries as a substitute to the spirit of jihad which is expressed in the ability to brave hardships. It was a condition arrived at after at least 25 years of life not so much connected with heaven as with the earth.

As a result, it is no wonder that many eminent men among the Muslims advised Imam Hussein (a.s.), shortly after his announcement that he would challenge the Ummayyad authorities, to change his mind and cancel his plans in this respect. They knew full well that the Ummayyad rule was corrupt, and they were aware that Imam Hussein (a.s.) was the one who was most entitled to defy the Ummayyads. But it was the fear that Imam Hussein (a.s.) might attain martyrdom that prompted them to offer their advice. Umar al-Atraf said to him: "Abu Muhammad al-Hassan told me that he had heard his father, the Commander of the Faithful, saying that you would be killed. So it would be better for you, if you gave your pledge of allegiance (to Yazid)."

Abdullah bin Umar bin al-Khattab and Abdullah bin al-Zubair, and a number of his own family urged him not to stand up against the Ummayyads.(37)

The masses, on the other hand, tended to deal passively with politics and in the most horrible way. The people of Kufa, for example, gave their pledge of allegiance to Imam Hussein (a.s.) and made a covenant with him that they would jump to his help when he came to their city. They declared their readiness to support him in the countless letters they sent him. But once the local ruling tyrant, Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, unleashed a wave of terror in the city, and scattered money- bags among the Kufans promising them alluringly the best of rewards, they forgot all their promises and covenants with Imam Hussein (a.s.). What expressive words are those of al-Farazdaq (an illustrious poet) to Imam Hussein (a.s.) when he asked him about the prevailing situation in Iraq. "Their hearts are with you," al- Farazdaq replied, "and their swords are with the Ummayyads."

The pitiful phenomena of lack of responsibility before Allah and the faith on the part of the majority of the people amounted to hypocricy, and was the driving force behind the declaration of the uprising. Imam Hussein (a.s.) wanted to awaken the dead conscience which clung to the earth, and shake the dust of ambivalence from it.

He knew full well that conditions of extreme humility among the ummah at the time could never promote this awakening from the religious point of view. Shari'ah itself presents concepts and laws which make it obligatory on its followers to reject a life never warmed by the sun of justice and freedom, the life wherein sticking mundane comfort, and competing for sensuous pleasures and lusts were the ultimate goal. These are shining facts reflected in more than one place in the Glorious Qur'an.

Shari'ah condemns materialistic lifestyle if it runs counter to the spirit of sacrifice for the sake of the faith:

"O you who believe! What if the matter with you that when it is said to you, "Go you forther (to fight) in the way of Allah," you incline heavily to earth; What! Are you content with the life of this world instead of the hereafter? But the provision of the life of this world compared to the hereafter, is but little. Unless you go forth, He will chatise you with a painful chastisement and He will replace you with a people other than you, and no harm will you do to Him; and verily Allah has power over all things."

Holy Qur'an (9:38-39)

Trusting the unjust rulers is prohibited by Islam:

"And (believers) incline not to those who act unjustly lest you touch the fire of Hell..." Holy Qur'an (11:113)

Elsewhere in the Qur'an there is the fact that the faithful have to be at the beck and call of the faith. They should always be ready to safeguard its interests and spare no effort to defend it:

"Surely Allah has purchased from the faithful their selves and their properties in exchange for paradise. They fight for the cause of Allah, so they slay and are slain; (this is) a true promise binding on Him in the Torah and the Evangel and the Qur'an..." Holy Qur'an (9:111)

Relying on his deep understanding of the Message of Allah, the Exalted, Imam Hussein (a.s.), the pure, and real image of the faith, proclaimed his total rejection of the status quo heedless of the fears and reservations expressed by his fellow men.

It was Imam Hussein's (a.s.) awareness of his responsibilities and the soundness of his attitude of rejection that made him call the advisors and those who were anxious about his life to stand on his side and adopt his position which was defined by Allah for his faithful servants. He did this with Abdullah bin Umar who asked him to abandon his decision to rise against the Ummayyad deviation. Imam Hussein (a.s.) said to him, "O Abdul-Rahman! Be on your guard against Allah and do not shy away from aiding me."

Thirdly, awakening the ummah to the Islamic concept of legitimate caliphate and its dimensions and goals was a necessity. The threat which encircled Islamic concepts did not come from the common people, but from the high ranks of state officials who monopolized the means of social orientation. It is a point worth examining and studying.

As Imam Hussein (a.s.) was aware of this, he began alerting the ummah to the potential threat of the Ummayyad rule, as it was a rule completely contrary to Islam's concept of caliphate, both in its men and institutions. The system of hereditary dictatorship, introduced by Mu'awiyah when he took the pledge of allegiance from the Muslims for his son Yazid, was alien to Islam. Mu'awiyah, by doing this, had placed the corner stone of the most dangerous structure in the history of Islam. Its harmful consequences are still present. These illegitimate rulers serve the foes of Islam beyond their imagination.

In line with Islam's instructions, and the qualifications the Muslim ruler should possess, Imam Hussein (a.s.) set on explaining this point to the Muslim masses by means of the speeches and statements he made whenever the chance offered itself.

He delivered a speech, in Karbala', to the followers of al-Hurr al-Riyah, in which he said: "O people! Should you be on your guard against Allah and recognize the truth, it will be more pleasing to you. We, the household of Muhammad (s.a.w.), are certainly more entitled to this question (caliphate) than these people who claim what is not theirs, and who rule with injustice and aggression."

In a letter he sent to the people of Basra, he wrote:

"Allah, certainly, chose Muhammad (s.a.w.) from among His creatures, honored him with His prophethood, and chose him for His Message. Then He took his life, raising him to His nearness, after he had advised His servants and preached what he was entrusted. We were his family, his pious men, his trustees, his inheritors and the most entitled among people to inherit his status. The people monopolized that to themselves and we assented, disagreeing to discussion, and chose patience. We know that we are more entitled to that legitimate right than those who seized it. I am sending my messenger to you with this letter. I am calling you to the Book of Allah and the sunnah of His Prophet. For certainly the sunnah was weakened and innovation was revived. Should you listen to what I tell you, you will be guided to the righteous path."

By these resounding words, and by similar speeches, Imam Hussein (a.s.) made it plain to the ummah that the Ummayyads were not fit to rule, due to their acting contrary to the defined Islamic law. Likewise, he explained to them the source to which the Muslim ruler should stick and the Islamic qualifications, which he possessed, because of being the sapling of prophethood, the disciple of sacred revelation and the one who lived the faith from birth.

Fourthly, from the Islamic point of view, man is by no means excusible to abandon his duty of preaching the faith. In the spacious field of Islam, he is not an independent individual. Rather, he is a member fused with others, in the faith. He should yield to its demands, do his obligations towards it, and sacrifice for the sake of it. The duty of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, jihad in the way of Allah, and similar obligations are not but a real translation of this spirit shed on Muslims by their faith. But man's progress in this field goes in parellel with his advancement in gaining spirituality.

Imam Hussein (a.s.), the second son of Imam Ali (a.s.), and the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), was a pure page of the book of Islam, and a vivid translation of all its goals and concepts. That is why he was the first one who responded to the call of faith in his time. In order to honor his committments to the Shari' ah, he had no other way before him other than that of uprising. Without it there would be no reforms. The first communiqué of his uprising incarnated this fact with all its positive implications:

"...And I am not taking up arms in order to make merry, or be ecstatic over what I possess. I am not making mischief, nor exercising oppression. But I am ready to fight for the sole goal of seeking reform of the ummah of my grandfather, the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.). I want to enjoin good and forbid evil and guide the affairs of the people as my grandfather, and my father, Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.), were doing..."

These are the basic justifications which gave Imam Hussein (a.s.) and his followers the right to start their uprising. An uprising which still echoes in the minds of the people today. It is the revolution that immortalized Islam and inspired the revolutionaries throughout the ages, to defend Islam and fight recklessly in the battle of sacred jihad.


Shortly after the death of Mu'awiyah, his son, Yazid, took over. He ordered his governors to take the pledge of allegiance to him from the people. He focused on Imam Hussein (a.s.), in particular, due to the Ummayyad conviction that he was the unshakable resisting force among the opposition. Once they subjugated him, all dams before them would collapse. The opposition, minus Imam Hussein (a.s.), would be easily subdued.

Instantly Yazid wrote to the governor of the city of Medina, al-Walid bin Utbah, to take the pledge of allegiance from the people, in general, and from Imam Hussein (a.s.), in particular. The governor wasted no time in carrying out the orders of his superior. He sent one of his retainers for Imam Hussein (a.s.) late in the night. Imam Hussein (a.s.) realized what the governor was up to. He got himself ready. Escorted by thirty men from his family and followers, he went to the house of the governor. He told them that if he called them they had to break into the house.

As soon as they were seated, the governor asked Imam Hussein (a.s.), to give his pledge of allegiance. Imam Hussein (a.s.) suggested the matter be delayed to a more suitable time. It would better if it was with the people of Medina. He said: "...The likes of me do not give their pledge of allegiance secretly. When you call the people to give their pledge, call us with them. So it will be one call."(38)

Imam Hussein (a.s.) wanted the delay to prepare himself for the inevitable conflict. He would not like to raise the anger of the local authorities prematurely. But Marwan bin al-Hakam, who was also present, urged the governor to forcibly take the pledge of allegiance from Imam Hussein (a.s.). Should he refuse to yield, Marwan went on, the governor had to kill him. Otherwise, the matter would get out of al-Walid and his master's hands. But Imam Hussein (a.s.) acted decisively and determinedly. He was tough with Marwan and warned him. A violent skirmish between the two parties ensued. The companions of Imam Hussein (a.s.) broke into the house and returned him to his house.(39)

That was the starting point of the rejection of the policy of treachery and oppression. Imam Hussein (a.s.) made up him mind to shoulder his responsibility, to challenge the oppressors, as he was the legitimate Imam of the ummah, and the righteous leader entrusted with the faith.

He went to the tomb of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), his grandfather and offered prayer beside it. Then he raised his hands in prayer:

"O Allah! This is the grave of your Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), and I am the son of the daughter of your Prophet. You know what I am going through. O Allah! I love good and detest evil. I beseech You, O! The Lord of glory and honor, and adjure You by this grave and its contents, to choose for me whatever pleases You and Your."(40)

And so Imam Hussein (a.s.) made a covenant with Allah that he would defend the faith no matter how high the price was, as long as that would please Allah.

In the prayer he said beside the tomb of the Prophet (s.a.w.), Imam Hussein (a.s.) presents himself as a soldier, whose self was totally molted at the threshold of the faith. He could not separate his self from the faith. His life would only express itself through the faith.

Imam Hussein (a.s.) hastened to gather the members of his family and the loyal among his companions. He told them about his decision to move to Mecca, the sanctuary of Allah.

The objectors increased in number. They pressed him to change his course for fear of being killed. Still others called him to yield. They were helpless and thought he would kill himself in vain.

Imam Hussein (a.s.) was too determined to back down. He announced the first communique of his uprising in the form of a will he wrote to his brother, Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyyah:

"...and I am not taking up arms in order to make merry, or be ecstatic over what I possess. I am ready to fight for the sole goal of seeking reform of the ummah of my grandfather, the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.). I want to enjoin good and forbid evil and guide the affairs of the people as my grandfather, and my father, Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.), were doing. Whoever justly accepts my call, Allah is the Source and Sustainer of justice, but whoever turns my offer down, I will opt for patience, till Allah judges between me and these people, and He is the best of judges."(41)

His first official communique of his uprising pointed to the scope of deviation which had set in, when en joining good vanished and forbidding evil ceased. In the same manner, the statement covered the key goals and motives of the uprising in so few words.

The caravan of Imam Hussein (a.s.) marched towards Mecca. The name of Allah was on his tongue, and his heart was filled with love of Allah. Upon entering Mecca, he recited the glorious verse:

"And when he turned his face towards Madyan, he said: Maybe my Lord will guide me in the right path."

Holy Qur'an (28:22)

He stayed at the house of al-Abdul-Muttalib. Throngs of the faithful gathered to welcome him.(42)

Imam Hussein (a.s.) monitored the reactions of the Muslims throughout the Islamic provinces towards the ascension of Yazid to the office of caliphate. Kufa, the capital of Iraq, was witnessing a revolutionary movement and a remarkable political shake-up. After long periods of terror and suppression the opposition forces stirred seeing it the golden chance to free themselves from the yoke of the tyrants. At the head of these revolutionaries were the followers of the Ahlul-Bait (a.s.). They held an emergency meeting to discuss the mounting tension in Kufa and the responsibility they should take vis-a-vis the change in the government, after Yazid bin Mu'awiyah had taken the affairs of the ummah into his own hands. Sulaiman bin Sird al-Khuza'i, at whose house the meeting was held, delivered a speech. He informed the gathering of Imam Hussein' s (a.s.) announcement of his opposition to Yazid and that he rejected him as a legitimate caliph. He told them that Imam Hussein (a.s.) was in Mecca, and since they were his followers and helpers they had to do something. If they were able to support and back him, sparing no effort in doing that, they had to inform him of their position. But were they unable to live up to their principles, it would be most incorrect to write to him and then fail him when the best comes to the worst.

The Shi'ites who were present at the meeting declared their full support to the Imam. They would defend him by any means available. "We fight his enemy, and kill ourselves defending him,"(43) they vowed.

After reaching a consensus on this point, the leading men of Kufa wrote a letter in which they declared their total and final rejection of the Ummayyad rule and that they knew no substitute for Imam Hussein (a.s.). Then letters poured in from Kufa carrying the urgent call of the Kufans for Imam Hussein (a.s.) to join them, to take office as the caliphate and Imam of the Muslims. The wave of support for Imam Hussein (a.s.) was so massive that a list of the tribes waiting for his arrival, totalling 100,000 fighters, was prepared.(44)

After studying these letters, Imam Hussein (a.s.) concluded that it was necessary to send an envoy to Kufa authorized to take the pledge of allegiance from the people of Iraq, on his behalf, and campaign for the sake of rallying the people around Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), represented at the time by Imam Hussein (a.s.).

Imam Hussein chose his cousin, Muslim bin Aqeel, for this mission. The man was known for his piety, courage, and high qualifications in thought and leadership. He would be able to steer the wave of enthusiasm for the interest of the faith.

With him, Imam Hussein (a.s.) dispatched a special letter to the people there, and particularly their chiefs. He explained the qualifications of his envoy, and the nature of his mission. He was to closely examine the situation and describe precisely what was going on there.

Following is the full text of the letter:

"In the Name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful...

From Hussein bin Ali,

To the leaders of the believers and the Muslims.

Hani and Sa'id have brought me your letters; they are the last two of your messengers who have come to me. I have understood everything which you have described and mentioned.

The essential statement of the majority of you is: 'We have no Imam. Therefore come; through you, may Allah unite us under truth and guidance'. I am sending you my brother, Muslim bin Aqeel, who is my cousin and trustworthy representative from my house. I ordered him to write to me about your conditions, affairs and views. If he writes to me that the opinion of your leaders and of the men of wisdom and merit among you is united in the same way as the messengers who have come to me have described, and as I have read in your letters, I will come to you at once, Allah willing. By my life, what is the Imam except one who professes the religion of truth, and one who dedicates himself to the essence of Allah, and Salam."(45)

Kufa welcomed Muslim as any loyal and dutiful following would. The pledge of allegiance was taken for Imam Hussein (a.s.). Ibn Aqeel, by now, was convinced that the change was on behalf of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) and the Message of Allah, the Exalted. It was by no means something common and could not be ignored. It was a truth, tangible and subjective. They should quickly deal with the situation before something happens and spoils the situation.

And so Muslim, may Allah be pleased with him, saw it fit to dispatch an account to Imam Hussein (a.s.) about the direction of the de facto situation. In his account he called him to come to Kufa. He wrote:

"Certainly, the man sent by a caravan in a desert to explore the way ahead of it will never lie to those who had sent him. All the people of Kufa are with you. Eighteen thousand of them have given their pledge of allegiance to me. So make haste and come to us as soon as you read this letter of mine. And peace and the blessings of Allah be on you."(46)

In the meantime, Imam Hussein (a.s.) thought it would be wise to contact the chiefs of Basra and discuss with them his decision to oppose deviation and in justice. He wrote to them. Yazid bin Mas'ood sent a letter in which people spoke volumes for the loyalty of the tribes of Tamim and Bani-Sa'd to AhlulBait (a.s.). Quite painfully and regrettably, his letter arrived too late.

Al-Nahshali's troops were late to arrive. The man was so shocked at the news of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (a.s.) that he died. He had missed the opportunity to help the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).

Kufans' Regression

At first, the authorities of the Ummayyad party were panic stricken at the great success achieved by the faith and its real representative, Imam Hussein bin Ali (a.s.). They were paralysed in front of the massive wave of loyalty and obedience to the Imam (a.s.). The local Ummayyad administration, headed by al-Nu'man bin Basheer, felt inept and helpless vis-a-vis the changing and unstable situation. The odds, they sensed, were against them.

Al-Nu'man, as if what was going on in Kufa did not concern him, proclaimed a policy of non-interference. He said: "Certainly, I will not fight except the one who fights me. I will not attack anyone except the one who attacks me. Nor will I arrest anyone for the slightest suspicion..."(47)

The top leaders of the Ummayyad party held a meeting, and discussed what would be their next step. They decided to provide Yazid bin Mu'awiyah with the latest news, and the actual situation in the city of Mecca.

Umar bin S'ad, Umarah bin Aqabah al-Umawi, and Abdullah bin Muslim wrote a letter to their master in Syria telling him of all the successive developments in Kufa. Yazid was flustered at the news. His special advisor suggested that Ubaidullah bin Ziyad replace al-Nu'man bin al-Basheer as the governor of Kufa. Ibn Ziyad was murderous, the emptiness of his heart of such human emotions as mercy or compassion and his black hatred of the household of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) made him a prime candidate for the job.

Ibn Ziyad received the decree issued by Yazid appointing him the new governor of Kufa. Installing his brother in his place in Basra, he hurriedly headed for Kufa leading a 500-strong division from the Ummayyad army.

Accompanying him were also certain eminent chiefs of Basra who had influence over the Kufans due to their blood relations. Ibn Ziyad resorted to both military tactics and diplomatic tricks and schemes. Disguised, he preceeded his soldiers in entering Kufa. He went into the governor's palace and informed al-Nu'man bin Basheer that he was relieved of his post.

Then he gathered the people, and addressed them. He promised those who sided with the Ummayyads handsome rewards. He threatened the opponents of the Ummayyad dynasty with harsh punishments, i.e. death. He said:

"Certainly, Yazid the commander of the faithful has appointed me as the governor of your city, (the protector of) your borders, and put me in charge of the treasury. He ordered me to restore the rights of the wronged among you, give out money to the deprived among you, and to be kind to the listening obedient among you, like a doting father. I will use the whip and the sword against those who abandon my commands and oppose my appointment. So, let one guard oneself..."(48)

Under coercion, he ordered the tribal chiefs to present lists of the names of those who overstepped the Ummayyad redline. Otherwise, they would be crucified at the doors of their houses.

An atmosphere of heavy gloom set in on the city. The scales of power tipped in favor of Yazid. The Shi'ite leaders and the loyalists to Imam Hussein (a.s.) were rounded up.

Fear spread its wings, and despair descended on the hearts of the people. Events took so vicious a turn that the tribes began to prevent their chiefs from opposing the Ummayyads in any form. Mothers locked up their children lest they help Muslim bin Aqeel. Those who were after wealth hastened to the governor's mansion, happy with the abundant money Ibn Ziyad lavsished on them. Practically, the society of Kufa was torn into small shreds.

The loyalists to the call of Islam, who were still free, adopted secrecy in their contacts with Muslim. He ordered them so, under the pressure of the new conditions.

Call to pure Islam went underground. From his first headquarters, the house of al- Mukhtar bin Abi-Ubaidah, where he had received the pledge of allegience from the people, Muslim moved to the house of Hani' bin Urwah, as the fittest place, given the changing situation. Hani was faithful to Islam, and he had a long-standing reputation for being loyal to the Ahlul Bait (a.s.) since the time of the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (a.s.). In Kufa, he was an illustrious man, enjoying a high social status, and leading a large tribe with many allies and subtribes.

Ibn Ziyad was obsessed with one thought. He wanted to know the secret place where Muslim hid himself. Fingers of suspicion pointed to Hani's house because of being an established local leader, and due to the fact that he was the invincible fort sheltering the Husseini call in Kufa. Yazid and his agents were aware of this.

The spies of the Ummayyad's local terrorist authorities lost no time in spreading throughout the city. One of them, who went by the name of "Ma'qal" stole into the house of Hani. He pretended to be loyal to Imam Hussein (a.s.) and frequented the house. Being cunningly treacherous, he realized that Muslim was in that very house.

So as to challenge Hani face to face, Ibn Ziyad worked feverishly to discourage the followers of Hani. He left no stone unturned to shatter the great force Hani was relying on. He lavished promises of good jobs on the people along with threats, tricks and lies. The plan paid off. Some eminent men were won over. Finally an attempt was made to arrest Hani through a devilish plan.

The arrest of Hani meant a total paralysis of the Husseini movement, and his killing would lead to the putting down of the revolution in the city of Kufa.

Muslim was well aware of the critical situation. He had to act quickly to save what he could, or he might have the same destiny Hani, the fort and solid basis of the revolution in Kufa, had. He had to create a massive political and social turmoil, whose repercussions would echo throughout history.

Shortly after the news of the arrest of Hani bin Urwah by the local authorities, Muslim began his military preparations. He laid siege to the government building. Ibn Ziyad and his supporters closed the gates of the mansion, finding a good refuge inside it. Battalions took their positions. The Ummayyad rule came to the verge of collapse.

The army led by Muslim, may Allah be pleased with him, historians say, was great both in equipment and number. It was divided into divisions, battalions and detachments.(49) But, Ibn Ziyad had made use of every possible means of trickery to get out of the crisis. He floated rumors, through his spies and followers, that a tremendous Ummayyad army was at the threshold of Kufa. Rumors were soon on every lip. Gossip increased and terror ruled. Women prevented their sons from joining Muslim, and those who already were with him were forced to quit. Men discouraged their sons and brothers from taking part in the military actions.(50)

The situation further deteriorated. Many people left Muslim's army, and panic prevailed. Inducement and discouragement of the opponents succeeded. Muslim, eventually, was left with a few loyalists who engaged the Ummayyads in street fighting. They made the neigborhood of "Kinda" their base. Muslim fought in a rarely seen reckless and courageous way. After all bad deserted him or been killed he fought the Ummayyad police alone. Finally he was overcome and promised safety. When he was brought before Ziyad he refused to honor the promise of safety given by the police and ordered Muslim to be executed. After dictating his last will, Muslim was taken to the torrents of the palace and thrown down. Later he was beheaded. His head, along with the head of Hani were sent to Yazid in Syria.

The two pillars of the Husseini movement in Kufa were torn down. The movement was lost by the martyrdom of Muslim and Hani, two of its greatest field leaders in Iraq. Kufa was humiliated with defeat and the darkness of terror descended on it. The tyrants seized control of the lives of the people.


The Ummayyads were extremely worried at the news of the success of Hussein (a.s.) in Mecca. He had won over nearly the whole city. Fearing the spread of the opposition movement, Yazid dispatched an army from Syria. He appointed Umar bin Sa'id bin al-Aas as its commander-in-chief and ordered him to kill Imam Hussein (a.s.) whenever he found him and at whatever price.

Imam Hussein (a.s.) had got the word that the Ummayyad army was on its way to Mecca. Given the Ummayyads disrespect of the Sacred House of Allah, he had decided to leave the city. It was impossible for him to allow the sacredness of the city to be violated because of him. In advance, he knew of his inevitable fate in Iraq. He expressed it in the speech be delivered in Mecca before he left. He said:

"Praise be to Allah. What Allah desires is certainly done. There is no power but in Allah. Blessings of Allah be on His Messenger. Death had been decreed on man, as the neckless encircles a girl's neck. How great is my desire to see my predecessors. It is as strong as Ya'qoob's (Jacob) desire to see (his son) Yusuf (Joseph).

"It is better for me to face my death. It is as if I am seeing now my members being torn to pieces by the wolves of the desert, in a place between Nawawees and Karbala. They will fill their empty stomachs and their hungry bellies. There is no escape from a day decreed by the divine pen..."(51)

Lots of people could see Imam Hussein (a.s.) leaving, for fear of being killed within the holy precincts of the Ka'ba. While he expressed his final decision to leave, he was assuring them that he would be killed. When Ibn Abbas pleaded with him to change his mind, he said:

"...By Allah, they will not leave me till they tear the very heart from the depths of my chest. When they do that, Allah will give power to someone over them who will humiliate them. They will be more humiliated than even a woman's menstrual cloth."(52)

And to his brother Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyyah, he said:

"After you left me, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) came to me and said, 'O Hussein! Go out (to fight). Allah certainly willed to see you being killed."(53)

And to Abdullah bin Umar, he said:

"...By Allah, even if I go into hiding in a hole of an insect, they will flush me out, till they do with me what they wanted. They would abuse me the way the Jews desecrated the sabbath."(54)

Certain as he was of his own death, Imam Hussein (a.s.) marched on. But he was sure that the faith would be revived after his death and there was no defender of the faith next to him. It is because of these considerations that he went on to achieve the real, historical victory. Only with shedding his blood and sacrificing his soul would Islam be immortalized.

En route to Iraq he would ask the travellers he met about Iraq and the current situation there. The only reply was: "The people were with the Ummayyad, but their hearts were with him!"

He knew and understood that duplicity on the part of the people. Terror was ruling. Anyone there was being torn apart by two faces: His belief in the faith and the right of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) to steer the ship of Muslims' lives on the one hand, and fear from the Ummayyad authorities, the terrorism of the rulers, and the love of life and a comfortable, easy living on the other.