Islamic Months · Muharram

The Tragedy of Karbala [Part 5]


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Now let us examine the stand which Hussain Ibn Ali radhiAllahu `anhu took in the situation. As said earlier, he sincerely believed that the nomination of Yazeed to the heirship of the Caliphate would destroy the spirit of democracy and republicanism nurtured and developed so assiduously during the Prophet’s era and afterward, and that it would lead to hereditary kingship which was repugnant to the original political teaching of Islam.

He therefore resolved to oppose this with all the resources at his command. The bag load of communications, sent to him by the people of Kufa, not only approved of his stand but also promised support and loyalty to his cause. Kufa was a military base and a very strategic city situated at the crossroads of Iran and Syria. He thought that if the people of Kufa supported him, as their letters written to him indicated, it would be possible to effectively neutralize the change being brought about in the body politic of the Muslim Ummah. So he argued and resolved to act for that cause. Abdullah Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu `anhu also shared his thoughts but he opposed Hussain’s going to Kufa because he knew the Kufis better and warned him not to repose his confidence in their loyalty.

The Kufis had earlier betrayed Ali radhiAllahu `anhu and his son Hassan radhiAllahu `anhu. Abdullah Ibn Umar and Abdullah Ibn Zubair radhiAllahu `anhu also had similar opinions about the Kufi character and vehemently besought Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu not to depend on their words would be against him; “Under the slightest pressure or pecuniary coercion the Kufis would change their loyalties,” the three Ibad Allah warned Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu. But he appeared to have taken a firm decision. So he brushed aside all their pleadings and warnings, and decided to proceed to Kufa, placing his confidence in Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. For he acted in the true spirit of Allah’s and the Prophet’s command as given in Surah Ale-Imran Ayah 159,

فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ

“So when you have decided (on a course of action) repose your confidence in Allah.”

It may be argued that Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu committed a mistake in the assessment of the situation, but no insinuations about his intentions can be entertained. He had no lust for power or avarice for wealth. This is the common belief of the Ahl Al-Sunnah Wal-Jama´ah. They do not consider him, like all non-Prophets, to be infallible; at the same time they do not doubt his integrity either.

When the nomination issue was deliberated upon in Madeenah, Abdullah Ibn Zubair radhiAllahu `anhu went over to Makkah and so did Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu because some prominent Muslim were of the opinion that Makkah would be the best place as a stronghold or base for launching a campaign for building up public opinion against Yazeed’s heirship. However, before any significant work could be done in this regard, Ameer Mu´awiya radhiAllahu `anhu died and Ameer Yazeed took over the reigns of government. Now Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu received heaps of letters from the Kufis pledging their loyalty and support to him if he mounted an attack against Ameer Yazeed´s forces. He sent his cousin Muslim Ibn Aqeel radhiAllahu `anhu to Kufa to find out facts. Soon he received an affirmation of the loyalty of Kufis from his cousin and he started preparations for a journey to Kufa.

Abdullah Ibn Umar radhiAllahu `anhu and Abdullah Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu `anhu pleaded vigorously against his plan and entreated him to at least leave women and children in Makkah if he was determined to proceed to Kufa. But Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu ignored their suggestions. On the way he received the report of Muslim Ibn Aqeel’s death at the hands of Ameer Yazeed’s men and the apathy and indifference displayed by the people of Kufa at this incident, and also the news that the Kufis had shifted their loyalties to Ameer Yazeed, pledging support to him against Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu and his followers.

Now Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu was in a dilemma: should he continue his journey towards Kufa or return to Makkah? The Arab tradition of avenging the murder of their man, at all costs, was too strong for him to resist. Besides, the close relatives of Muslim Ibn Aqeel radhiAllahu `anhu who were accompanying Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu declared their resolve to punish the assassins and continue their march. For Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu it was below his dignity to abandon them and return to Makkah. So, he decided to continue his march to Kufa.

Meanwhile Auon and Mohammad, the two young sons of Abdullah Ibn Jaffer Tayyar, a cousin of Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu arrived with their father´s message, “For God´s sake, don´t go to Kufa.”

However, Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu continued his journey with these two boys joining his camp and arrived at the desert of Karbala. Ibn Ziad, the governor of Kufa, arrived there with one thousand soldiers under his command and offered one option to Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu in accordance with the instruction from Ameer Yazeed, “You can neither go to Kufa nor return to Makkah, but you can go anywhere else you want.” Obviously, the only course open for Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu was to Damascus, the capital. It is very unfortunate that he turned down the offer and continued his sojourn at Karbala trying to win over the support of Ibn Ziad’s men because in his addresses to the Kufis under Ibn Ziad’s command, he mentioned the persons by name who had written letters to him pledging loyalty and support and pleaded with them to honor their pledges. The Kufis, fearing the possibility of ensuing persecution and punishment, disowned their letters and denied their authorship.

Meanwhile, a reinforcement of four thousand soldiers, under the command of Amar Ibn Sa´d, arrived at Kufa from Damascus. Amar was the son of Sa´d Ibn Abi Waqas radhiAllahu `anhu, the conqueror of Iran, and was also related to Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu for whom he had all the sympathies. Talks of reconciliation continued but the Kufis, fearing reprisals in case of a reconciliation, forced their leader Ibn Zaid to toughen his attitude. Realizing this, Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu placed three options before them, 

“Allow me to return to Makkah safely, or allow me to proceed to the frontiers of the Muslim empire so that I may continue my campaign against non-Muslims, or allow me a safe passage to the capital, Damascus, where I may settle the issue with Ameer Yazeed in person.”

The conspirators, however, succeeded in undermining the reconciliation talks and forced Amar Ibn Sa´d to corner Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu. “Either surrender unconditionally or get ready for war,” they demanded. Obviously an unconditional surrender by Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu was a tall order and a challenge to his honor and dignity. He was constrained to fight the enemy though heavily outnumbered and under-quipped. Thus, the Sabayee conspiracy that sabotaged the peace talks just before the battles of Jamal and Siffeen was successful once again, and Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu and all his camp followers were slained mercilessly on the sands of Karbala. However, all of them displayed unflinching courage and valor on the battle-field.

In apportioning blame for this tragedy, fictitious stories have been fabricated about the disagreements between Ali radhiAllahu `anhu and Uthman radhiAllahu `anhu. In fact, there were no disagreements between the two, who respected and loved each other like brothers. It is again the Sabayee elements who concocted bogus stories and phony events to cover up their own heinous acts of perfidy in this drama of strife and partisan-politics forced on the Muslims. No attempt has ever been made to unmask their ugly faces and instead their version of these episodes has been accepted as authentic, resulting in deep malignity against the highly venerable and illustrious personalities of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad sallAllahu `aalyhi wa sallam.

From the assassination of Uthman radhiAllahu `anhu right up to the tragic event at Karbala, one can easily discern the hidden hand of Sabayee agents who successfully plotted against the solidarity of the Muslim Empire and plunged in into senseless bloodshed. The entire blame must be placed on them, where it rightfully belongs, and the fair names of the Companions of the Prophet sallAllahu `aalyhi wa sallam, who are all adool (scrupulously just), must be exonerated from the calumny and ignominy to which they have been exposed through the malicious propaganda of the Sabayees.

It would be worthwhile to mention here two instances of fair play and God-fearing conduct of Ali radhiAllahu `anhu and Ameer Yazeed. When Ali radhiAllahu `anhu defeated Umm-ul-Momineen A`aisha radhiAllahu `anha at the battle of Jamal, he treated her with the same reverence and decorum to which she was entitled as one of the “Mothers of the Believers.” He conducted her and her retinue of ladies and gentlemen with all the respect and security to Madeenah. This amply demonstrates that there was no personal enmity or malice between the two. Again, when the battle survivors, ladies, and children from Hussain’s camp of Karbala arrived at Damascus, Ameer Yazeed treated them with due regard and respect and expressed his sympathies with them. He also expressed his sincere condolences at the needless bloodshed and said, “Had Ibn Ziad not gone to such an extent, I would have been pleased with him even then.”

The two martyrdoms, that of Uthman radhiAllahu `anhu and of Hussain radhiAllahu `anhu have caused agony in the hearts of the Muslim Ummah and have cast their gloomy shadows over its fourteen hundred year history. They have caused dissension and fighting among the Muslims who have fallen into the trap of those who sowed the seeds of discord and shifted the blame to the most respected persons of the Ummah. It is, in fact, the triumph of those intriguing elements who were jubilant over their accomplishment.

Now, we are at each other’s throat and hurl bad names and odium on the very honorable personalities of Islam. Some people consider names of Yazeed and Shimer symbols of profanity and an anathema while some others use Amar Ibn Sa´d’s and Ameer Mu´awiya’s names as expletives. May Allah guide such people to the right course and protect us from sharing their company or views and give us the wisdom and strength to heed Prophet’s warning,

“Beware of expressing opinions about my Companions and, after I am gone, do not use them for your own ends; for whosoever will love them would do so because of their love for me and whosoever would have rancor against them, would do so because of their rancor against me.” 

Book: The Tragedy of Karbala
Author: Dr. Israr Ahmad
Download PDF in Urdu: Saniha-e-Karbala_Book

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