MUHARRAM SERIES – Merits of Imam Hussain


SHAFAQNA – Since we discussed the character of Yazid it is only fair we look into that of Imam Hussain, the man who inspired a movement after his name, and who offered the world Liberation.

It is not just Revolution Imam Hussain championed but Liberation from those ties which tether us to worldly pleasures. It is often our fears which prevent us from acting righteously, not so much our inability to choose righteously. It is because we fear pain and ultimately death that we allow ourselves to barter morality for peace.

Imam Hussain of course was not one to be fooled by the finality of life –  he understood that our time in the here and now is only fleeting and that death will touch each and every soul. It is what we buy ourselves which matter … everything else is an illusion.

Allow me to refer here to the work of Ibn Athir in his Usudul Ghabah:

“A man asked Abdullah ibn Umar: “What will be the position if the blood of a mosquito touches the dress of a man?” Abdullah ibn Umar said: “Look here! This Iraqi enquires about the blood of a mosquito, although these very Iraqis killed the son of the Prophet of Allah and I myself have heard the Holy Prophet saying: “Hassan and Hussain are my two fragrant flowers in the world”.

The Holy Prophet said: “Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain. Allah loves him who loves Hussain. Hussain is the son of the Prophet and father of the Imams”.


Anas ibn Harth Kahili, and his father who were the companions of the Holy Prophet, says that he heard the Holy Prophet saying: “This very son of mine [Hussain] will be killed at a place in the region of Iraq. Whoever is present at that time and is in a position to assist him should assist him”.

Maybe we ought to understand the words of the prophet Muhammad outside of time and see a universal warning against those who will choose to side with tyranny to serve their own-interest.

If we agree that Imam Hussain’s message sits outside the temporal and that his stand was in fact universal, maybe we should then recognise that his martyrdom still plays out today. How many times have we seen a handful few defy a tyrannical majority? Such are those who have followed in Imam Hussain’s footsteps.

Maybe it is because our Imam’s fight stood beyond the limitation of time and space that his cry has been muffled by self-entitled elite whose bigotry has tainted Islam and perverted its message.

“Allah loves him who loves Hussain.” Can there be another way but that which Hussain led?

For every cry for justice our chest ever let out it is the name of Hussain we have called out. For every tyrant we have condemned it is Hussain’s banner we have carried.

After Walid ibn Utbah, the Governor of Medina, tried to coerce the Imam into pledging his allegiance to Yazid, Imam Hussain requested he’d be given a day of respite.

On the following day Imam Hussain took to the streets of Medina where he was met by Marwan ibn Hakam. Marwan greeted him by saying: “Sir, I am your well-wisher. You should hear me and listen to what I say.”

The Imam replied: “Let me know what you have to say. If it is something good for me I shall surely accept it”. Marwan said: “I suggest that you should take the oath of allegiance to Yazid. This will be beneficial to your world as well as to your faith.”

To which the Imam replied:”We are from Allah and to Him we shall all return.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:156).

In his impudence Marwan suggested that Imam Hussain had deviated from his religious duty by refusing to recognise Yazid as the legitimate authority.

Such an attempt to claim right through might is not surprising of course. It is the fact that a self-identified Muslim could make such demands against AhlulBayt which is troubling.

How many times since have we hear criminals justify and rationalise their stance by arguing Islam? Righteousness is not in one’s ability to exert pressure on the weak, but to do what is just regardless of hardship.

Then the Imam said: “If the affairs of the Muslim ummah have really taken such a turn that a person like Yazid is going to be the protector of Islam and the Muslims and the ruler of the Muslim world and successor of the Holy Prophet, one should say: “May Allah save Islam”, because I have myself heard the Prophet of Allah saying that caliphate is unlawful for the family of Abu Sufyan”.

Thereupon the discussion between the Imam and Marwan got protracted and eventually Marwan parted with the Imam in a state of anger.


Imam Hussain went from Medina to Mecca and on the 8th day of Zil-Haj he proceeded to Iraq.

At the time great many Muslims wondered why the Imam had left without performing Haj.

Farazdaq, a poet whose name is well-known in the history of Islam says: “In 60 A.H. I took my mother to Mecca to perform Haj. When I arrived in the precincts of the sanctuary and was driving my mother’s camel I saw Hussain ibn Ali. He was armed and was going out of Mecca. I asked the people: “To whom do these camels belong?” They replied that they belonged to Hussain ibn Ali. Thereupon I went to the Imam, saluted him, and said: “O son of the Prophet of Allah! May Allah grant your wishes and may my parents be your ransom, why are you leaving Mecca without performing the ceremonies of Haj?”

He replied: “If I had not made haste and not come out of the city I would have been arrested”. Then he asked me: “Who are you?” I replied: “I am an Arab.” I swear by Allah that he did not make any further investigation or inquiry about me. Then he said: “Do you know anything about the people you have left behind [the Iraqis]?” I replied: “You have enquired about it from the right person. I know those people very well. Their hearts are with you and their swords are against you. The Divine decree descends from heaven and Allah does what He likes”.

The Imam said in reply: “You have spoken the truth. Only that thing which Allah wills happens. If the Divine decree is according to our wishes we shall thank Allah for His blessings, and it is also He who can make one succeed in the matter of thanksgiving. And if the Divine decree does not accord with our wishes, and blocks the path of hope, even then one, who has good intentions and a pure heart, does not perish”. Farazdaq said: “May Allah grant your wishes and protect you from all calamities”.

The Imam says: ‘I am not one of those people and whatever the future circumstances and the political conditions of Iraq may be, I shall achieve my object. I have risen only to perform the duty which devolves upon me from Allah in the present circumstances. It is not my object to become a caliph or to rule over the Muslims. If I am successful I shall have performed my duty and it will be quite right, and if my enemy is the winner, even then I shall have performed my duty. There is no other object of my movement’.

While on his way to Iraq, Imam Hussain told Farazdaq: “If we succeed we shall thank Allah, but even if destiny does not favour us we shall not perish, because our intention is good. It is possible that we may be killed but we shall not die, because there is a great difference between being martyred in the path of Allah and for the sake of enjoining to do good and restraining from evil on the one hand and dying and perishing on the other”.


The Imam said exactly the same thing on the day of Ashura in one of his addresses to the people of Kufa:

“O People! Woe be to you! You have deceived us. You cried for help, and we got up quickly to come to your rescue. However, you wielded against us the same sword, which we had given in your hands and kindled for us the same fire, which we had lit to destroy our common enemy. You joined your enemies to fight against your friends and well-wishers, although you have not received justice from them [from the enemies] in the past and cannot also entertain any hope in the future. Woe be to you! Why did you not take a final decision and forsook us when the swords were still sheathed and the people were tranquil and calm? Why did you begin to fly hurriedly like newly-winged locusts, and why did you fall in the fire of mischief like moths? May you never be blessed, O mean people! who have thrown the Qur’an away and tampered with its words.

Oh you supporters of sins and friends of Satan and those who have wiped out and destroyed the traditions of the Prophets! Have you withdrawn your hands from our assistance and are you going to support the oppressors? I swear by Allah that you have always been unfaithful. You are inherently faithless people. You are the filthiest fruit, which is of no use to your friends and well-wishers, and chokes their throats, but is easily swallowed by the enemies. By choking the throats of the friends it is meant that you promise assistance and support and boast of your devotion and manliness, but when you are put to test and when it is time to defend Islam and offer sacrifice, you are not only useless, but your oppression and injustice does not spare even your friend, and threatens his life like a choking morsel!”

It was then that the Imam recited the poetic verses of Farwa ibn Musayk Muradi: “If we have been victorious today it is not something new, because we have always gained victory and even if we are defeated, predominance and victory is ours; and truth is victorious in all circumstances, whether it wins or loses.

We are treading this path with courage and manliness and are not accustomed to fear and cowardice. However, what can be done if it be so destined that we should meet martyrdom and others should attain to rulership.


It is customary in the world that after attacking the people and trampling upon them death goes back and then renews its attack and crushes another group.

Fate is drawing the gentlemen of Bani Hashim towards death in the same manner in which it did in the past ages.

If the kings of the world had been immortal, we, who are the rulers of the Kingdom of heaven, would have lived for ever. And if the virtuous and magnanimous persons had continued to live in the world, we, who are the basis of magnanimity and the essence of virtue, would have continued to live.

Tell those who rejoice at our misfortune and affliction today: “The time of your affliction is also drawing near, and time will bring down a terrible disaster on you”.

As Imam Hussain continued on towards Iraq, many were those who wanted his return to Mecca.  One of such people was Abdullah ibn Ja’far, the nephew and son-in-law of Imam Ali. After the departure of Imam Hussain from Mecca, Abdullah sent him a letter through his sons Awn and Muhammad. In that letter he entreated the Imam in the name of Allah to return. He wrote: “I am afraid that you and your men will be martyred, and if you are killed today light will disappear from the world, because people are guided by you and all faithful persons count on you. You should not, therefore, be in a hurry, because I am coming after this letter”.

Then Abdullah left along with Amr bin Sa’id’s brother, the Governor of Mecca. He was carrying a letter from the Governor to the Imam wherein he assured him safe passage should he agree to return.

The Imam told them in reply: “I have seen my grandfather, the Prophet of Allah, in a dream and he has directed me to continue my mission”.

Certain the Imam would not change his mind, Abdullah ibn Ja’far lost hope. He then ordered his two sons, Awn and Muhammad to join the Imam. They were martyred on the day of Ashura.

The Imam continued his journey towards Iraq till he reached near Kufa. From there, he wrote a letter to the people of Kufa and sent it to them through Qays ibn Mashar Saidawi. He had not yet received the news of the martyrdom of Muslim ibn Aqil. In this letter he wrote: “I have received Muslim’s letter and have come to know about your allegiance, sincerity, and firm determination to assist me in the path of Allah. I pray to Allah that He may not withhold His kindness from us and grant you handsome reward for your sincerity and firm determination. I left Mecca on Tuesday the 8th of Zil-Haj have proceeded towards you. When my messenger reaches Kufa you should reinvigorate your resolve and quicken your efforts. If Allah wills I, too, shall join you soon”.


Qays took the Imam’s letter and proceeded to Kufa, but when he reached near the city he was arrested and taken before Ibn Ziyad. Ibn Ziyad asked him to mount the pulpit and abuse Hussain ibn Ali. Qays mounted the pulpit, praised Allah and then said: “O people! Hussain is the best of all creatures living at present, and is the son of Fatima, the daughter of your Prophet. I have been sent by him. All of you should rise to assist him”. Thereafter he cursed Ubaydullah and his father and invoked blessings for Imam Ali ibn Abutalib. As ordered by Ubaydullah he was hurled down from the roof and consequently all his bones were cracked.

The Imam continued his journey towards Kufa till he reached a place called Zurud. There he learnt about the martyrdom of Muslim and Hani and said: “We are from Allah and to Him we all will return.” He also said repeatedly: “May Allah’s blessings be upon both of them”.

At the halting place called Uzaybul Hajanat he received the news of the martyrdom of Qays ibn Mashar. He invoked blessings for him and prayed that Allah might grant him a place in Paradise. At the halting place called Zabala he informed his companions about the martyrdom of Muslim and Hani and the state of affairs in Kufa, and said: “Our supporters have withdrawn their support from us. Whoever wishes to leave us and go his way should do so”. It was here that most of his companions went away, and only a few of them remained with him.

Muhammad ibn Jarir Tabari, the famous Islamic traditionalist, exegetic, historian and jurist, in his famous history book entitled Tarikh-e Umam Wal Muluk, has stated that “Imam Hussain addressed the people at the halting place called Zi Hasam and delivered a brief speech. In this speech he stated more clearly the motive of his rising and announced his readiness to be martyred. He said: “You can see what turn the matters have taken. The people are becoming disloyal and unkind. Their goodness is disappearing. The world is passing quickly and nothing except something insignificant and a mean and worthless life remains out of it. The world today is just like a pasturage in which nothing grows except harmful grass”.

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna

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