SHAFAQNA – Following the orders of Imam Hussain Muslim ibn Aqil left Mecca for Kufa, where he stayed at the house of Mukhtar ibn Abi Ubayda Thaqafi. Then, Imam Hussain’s supporters very much believed that their cause would be an easy one to assert … after all who could have stood against the grandson of the holy Prophet Muhammad and still retain the support of the Muslim community.
After decades spent under the rule of Mu’awiyah yearning for just guidance and a real sense of religious legitimacy, many expected that Imam Hussain would return to his rightful place, unchallenged and unburdened by tyrants’ ambition. That was of course counting without Yazid’s perfidy.
There are few men in History which can claim to have defiled their soul to the extent Yazid did … From all the tyrants that the world has seen, from all the horrors and heinous crimes tyrants have committed, Yazid has sat over all of them, unmatched in his greed and ignominy, a king over brutal criminals.
A despicable man Yazid is the very tyranny upon which all other tyrannies are measured. His violence however never overpowered the strength which lied within our Imam’s heart. And whatever victory Yazid felt he won by murdering Imam Hussain was not in fact long lived. Victory he should have remembered belongs to God and those who stand in His Truth.
Victory we ought to remember is in our opposition of injustice.
Imam Hussain’s legacy was not left on the plain of Karbala … it lives on with us and the path he carved for us. Justice and piety remain Imam Hussain’s legacy. It was he, who opposed Evil, and like his brother, father and grandfather before him, spoke the Word when all others would have admitted defeat.
There in Kufa, in the house of Mukhtar ibn Abi Ubayda Thaqafi, Imam Hussain’s supporters imagined justice and piety would replace injustice and sin, and that the people would easily forget what Mu’awiya had taught them for forty-two years.
As Muslim read out Imam Hussain’s letter, thousands pledged their allegiance to the House, so determined they were to restore Islam and the tradition of the prophet. According to Sheikh Mufid seventeen thousand persons took the oath of allegiance, where Tabari mentions only twelve thousand.
Yazid soon learnt of the gathering storm against him. As he looked for ways to defeat Imam Hussain and secure his hold on power, he appointed Ubaydullah bin Ziyad, the governor of Basra as the new governor of Kufa, hoping he would quell whatever challenge to his rule.
He wrote to him: “You should go to Kufa, pursue Muslim and capture, kill, or banish him.”
Ubaydullah proceeded to Kufa immediately. As he first set foot into the city his first act as governor was to warn the people against Yazid’s wrath, stressing that any opposition would be met with utmost violence and cruelty. He then summoned all tribal chiefs and notables, and reiterated his threats.
Kufa slowly lost his courage, soon after the city deserted its Imam …
“Do people think that they will not be tested because they say, “We have faith?” We tested those who were before them. Thus Allah knows those, who are truthful, and knows those, who are liars.” (Surah al-Ankabut, 29:2- 3)
Loyalty one can argue is an expression of piety and steadfastness. Loyalty is best expressed in the face of hardship. As the world gathered against Imam Hussain only 72 brave souls stood behind the prophet’s progeny … only 72 stayed when all others deserted … only 72 held on to their faith and in their allegiance never relented.
72 is all it took for History to remember how a handful few rose a tide against Evil.
As soon as Ubaydullah assumed the governorship of Kufa, the people began to fear for their lives … one by one the people withdrew their allegiance, choosing safety over piety.
Keen to evaluate just how much support Imam Hussain had among the people of Kufa, Ubaydullah paid his slave Ma’qal to spy on Muslim. He ordered: “Associate with the friends and supporters of Muslim for a few days and pretend to be one of them. Give them this money also and say that you are interested in their success and the money is meant for being spent on the procurement of implements of war. After gaining their confidence you may find out the place where Muslim is residing and meet him”.
Ma’qal followed his master’s orders to the letter, embedding himself among Imam Hussain’s supporters. He went to Muslim ibn Awsaja and said: “I am a man from Syria and Allah has blessed me with love for the Holy Prophet’s family and their supporters”. Saying this he also shed some crocodile tears and then said: “I have got three thousand dirhams. I wish to present this money to the man who, I understand, has come from the Hijaz to Kufa to take the oath of allegiance for the son of the Holy Prophet.
However, I have to say with much regret that it has not been possible for me to see him and have not yet met anyone, who may guide me to him, and thus enable me to achieve this blessing. I have enquired from various persons and have since come to know that you are acquainted with this Holy household. I have, therefore, to request you to take this petty amount from me and take me to Muslim bin Aqil. I am your Muslim brother and you should trust me. If you so wish I am prepared to take the oath of allegiance to the Imam before I go and see Muslim”.
Muslim replied: “I am glad to meet you, for you may possibly render some assistance to Ahlul Bayt. However, I am worried on account of the fact that the people have come to know before the accomplishment of the task and achievement of the goal that I am associated with this movement. I am apprehensive of the tyrannical Ibn Ziyad in this regard”.
Ma’qal said: “God willing, all will be well. You may please take the allegiance from me”.
Muslim took the oath from him and obtained a promise that he would remain loyal and would not divulge any secret. Ma’qal made all the promises and took all the oaths demanded by Muslim ibn Awsaja without any hesitation.
Then, he stayed at the house of Muslim ibn Awsaja for a few days and eventually had access to Muslim ibn Aqil to whom he gave his oath of allegiance once again. As directed by Muslim ibn Aqil he also presented the three thousand dirhams to Abu Thamama Saidi Hamdani, a staunch supporter and one of the martyrs of Karbala, who was then responsible for the procurement of arms, food and other provisions.
During this time Ma’qal learnt many secrets – each he betrayed, each he reported to his master: the governor of Kufa so that Yazid would be satisfied in his ambitions.
Certain that he could quelled any rebellion against Yazid, Ibn Ziyad decided to crackdown on Muslim’s supporters by targeting the most notables among them. He thought best to target first Hani and then move against Muslim.
With the arrest of Hani the situation in Kufa became absolutely favourable to Ibn Ziyad. Although Hani expressed ignorance about the presence of Muslim bin Aqil in his house the secret was divulged by the arrival of Ma’qal. Hani was, then obliged to confess, he said: “I did not take Muslim to my house. He himself came and asked me to admit him. I felt ashamed to refuse his request and, therefore entertained him. As regards his activities whatever has been reported is correct. Now I can promise you that no harm will come to you from me and I will have nothing to do with him. As an alternative I can go and apologize to him, and ask him to go wherever he likes”.
Ibn Ziyad replied: “By Allah you must surrender him to me”. Hani replied: “By Allah I will not surrender him to you”.
When Hani declined, Ibn Ziyad broke his face, nose and head with a stick, which he had in his hand, and put him under arrest. Then he went to the Masjid, mounted the pulpit and severely threatened the people in a brief speech. He had not yet come down from the pulpit when the spectators rushed into the Masjid and said that Muslim bin Aqil was coming. Ubaydullah then entered his palace hurriedly and shut the gates.
It is very surprising that out of the twelve or seventeen thousand people who had taken the oath of allegiance to Muslim, no more than four thousand answered his call in his hour of need. Still more surprising is that when Muslim came out with four thousand armed men and Ibn Ziyad closed the doors of his palace, not more than fifty people were with him, and out of them thirty were policemen and the remaining twenty were either local dignitaries or members of his family.
But loyalty was not to be found in Kufa. By next morning Muslim was alone … all had left him.
“Allah knows those who are truthful, and knows those who are liars.” (Surah al-Ankabut, 29:3)
Kufa did not rise as many have claimed in support of Imam Hussain against Ibn Ziyad. There was no insurrection against his rule. There was no violent stand-off in between the faithfuls and the cowards … there was only deceit and abandonment.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna