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The Third Imam, ‘Hussain (a.s.) Ibn Ali (a.s.)


Imam Husain (a.s.)
Father’s name
Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.)
Mother’s name
Janabe Fatema Zahra (a.s.)
Date of Birth
3rd Shabaan, 4 A. H.
Place of Birth
Abu Abdillah
57 years
10th Moharram, 61 A.H.
Karbala, Iraq


And I have made Husain the treasurer of My revelation, honored him with martyrdom and completed for him (his work) with success and prosperity.

Imam Husain (a.s.) was born on 3rd Shabaan, 4 A.H. He was the second son of Imam Ali (a.s.) and Janabe Fatema (s.a.). Like his elder brother, even he was cherished by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The following tradition aptly expresses the high position and the love which the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had for Imam Husain (a.s.): Husain is from me and I am from Husain. O, Allah! Love him who loves Husain.

The Prophet’s Love

As mentioned previously, on this occasion Allah sent a green tablet to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who in turn gifted it to Janabe Fatema (s.a.) on the birth of Imam Husain (a.s.).

Allah, the Almighty, has introduced Imam Husain (a.s.) in Hadithe- Lauh, a part of which we have narrated at the beginning of the lesson:

The Leader of the Martyrs

He is superior to all the martyrs and he is ranked above all the martyrs. I have kept with him, My complete word (of divine recognition) and My explicit proof (of Imamat) I would reward and punish on the basis of (affection for) his children.

Like his brother, Imam Husain (a.s.) also passed his childhood with his grandfather and mother and his adolescence under the guidance of his illustrious father. After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan (a.s.) as per his will and also as per divine nomination, Imam Husain (a.s.) assumed the office of Islamic Caliphate. Like his brother, Imam Husain (a.s.) also performed Hajj on 25 occasions, and on numerous other occasions, he set foot in the sanctity of the Holy Kaaba with the intention of Umrah.

Adhering to the Peace Treaty

As per the clause of the peace treaty signed between Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Moaviyah, Imam Husain (a.s.) also did not rise against Moaviyah. Even when the Kufans showed their readiness to dismiss Moaviyah and to give the oath of allegiance to him, he (a.s.) refused to say: Between me and Moaviyah is a truce which my conscience does not permit to abrogate. Therefore until Moaviyah is alive, I will remain steadfast and firm on my promise. And if he dishonors it, I will review and reconsider my decision.

In his correspondence with Moaviyah, Imam Husain (a.s.) on numerous occasions pointed out to him his mistakes and instances of the dishonor of the terms of the treaty. However, being the divine representative and the son of Imam Ali (a.s.), not on a single occasion did Imam Husain (a.s.) breach even a single term of the treaty.

Those who break their promises are unaware of the fundamental Islamic teachings.

Letter to Moaviyah

In the year 53 A.H., three years after the commencement of the Imamat of Imam Husain (a.s.), when Moaviyah tried to seek oath of allegiance of Muslims for his accursed son, Yazid, Imam (a.s.) opposed it severely and refused to give his oath of allegiance. Moaviyah, who was well aware of the approach of an Imam, thought it prudent to give up his idea of seeking allegiance from Imam Husain (a.s.). In a letter to Moaviyah, Imam Husain (a.s.) wrote: Surely, I am not aware of any conspiracy greater and bigger than your mastership upon the nation.

In another place, where Moaviyah had written that Imam Husain (a.s.) intended to oppose him and wage a war against him, Imam Husain (a.s.) replied to him: By Allah! I fear Allah if I desist from it (war against you) and I believe that Allah too is not content to desist from it (the fight against you) and your oppressive and irreligious followers and the friends of Satan.

These words of Imam Husain amply clear that the silence of Imam Husain (a.s.) was not due to any weakness but due to putting the interest of the people before everything. The tone of Imam Husain’s (a.s.) reply speaks volumes about his courage and bravery.

Nomination of Yazid (l.a.)

In the month of Rajab, 60 A.H., Moaviyah expired and in clear contravention of the terms of the peace treaty his son, Yazid took over the reins of the government in his filthy hands. He was a coarse and licentious person with a childish and immature mentality. Despite his loose character, he usurped the Caliphate and confronted Imam Husain (a.s.) by seeking the oath of allegiance from him (a.s.). The first order issued by Yazid (l.a.) was to Walid Ibn Ataba, Governor of Madinah to get the allegiance of Imam (a.s.) or to send the head of Imam (a.s.) to Syria.

Towards Makkah

As soon as he received Yazid’s order, Walid Ibn Ataba raised the matter with Imam (a.s.) but he (a.s.) demanded that such important decisions be taken in front of the Muslims during the daytime and not in the darkness of the night. Walid agreed but his close companion, Marwan Ibn Hakam, rebuked him and advised him to behead Imam (a.s.) immediately on his (a.s.) refusal to pay allegiance. On hearing this suggestion, Imam (a.s.) slammed Marwan in the following words,

“Are you threatening me with death, O son of the blue-eyed woman?”

Imam (a.s.) refused to pay allegiance to Yazid. In the night, Imam Husain (a.s.) went to the grave of his grandfather the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) and narrated the entire situation to him. He (a.s.) left Madinah for Makkah during the day along with his family members. While leaving Madinah, Imam Husain (a.s.) wrote a letter to his brother Muhammad bin Hanafiyya in which he clearly spelled out the aim of his uprising in the following words:

The Aim of his Uprising:

…I have not set out due to stubbornness, obstinacy, corruption or oppression. I have set out to reform the nation of my grandfather. I wish to invite towards goodness and piety and refrain from sins and wrongdoings and tread on the path of my father, Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s)

Evidently, the most appropriate interpretation of the rising of Imam Husain (a.s.) is under the title of inviting towards goodness and refraining from evil. Also, we can find the same aim mentioned in Ziyarat-e-Arbaeen wherein we read,

And he [Imam Husain (a.s.)] sacrificed himself in Your presence in order to save your servants from ignorance and wanderings of deviation.

In short, these two expressions clearly speak about the aim and the outcome of the work of Imam Husain (a.s.). This analysis is based on the sayings and actions of the Infallible Imams (a.s.).

The Stay in Makkah:

After some days the caravan of Imam Husain (a.s.) entered Makkah. His relatives and companions performed the Umrah under his leadership. Taking advantage of the sanctuary provided by the sacred precincts wherein any sort of killing was prohibited, he (a.s.) made arrangements for staying in Makkah.

The Invitations

By this time, people became aware of his taking sanctuary in Makkah and wrote letters to him (a.s.) expressing their readiness to cooperate with him and help him. Majority of letters –in various forms – came from Kufa. They invited Imam (a.s.) to take over the reins of the government. Historians have estimated the number of letters and scrolls at around 12,000 to 18,000. At the beginning of the month of Shawwal, Imam (a.s.) sent his cousin brother, Muslim Ibn Aqeel, a great warrior, as his representative to Kufa along with a letter wherein he wrote:

I am sending you my brother, Muslim Ibn Aqeel, who is my cousin and a trustworthy family member. If he writes to me that the opinion of your leaders and the men of wisdom and merit among you are 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 soon.

Imam Husain (a.s.) further added: “I swear by my life! An Imam is not except one who judges by the Book, upholds justice, practices the religion of truth and dedicates himself for Allah. Wassalaam”

With these expressions, Imam (a.s.) clearly reminded the people about the policy of his government.

On the other hand, Yazid (l.a.) was uttering sentences that proved his disbelief in Islam: “(Bani) Hashim played with the kingdom, surely, no news had come neither there was any revelation revealed”

The journey of Muslim Ibn Aqeel (a.r.)

In meantime, Muslim Ibn Aqeel entered Kufa amidst a tumultuous welcome from the Kufans. After several meetings and on being convinced of the readiness of the Kufans to assist Imam (a.s.), he wrote a letter to Imam (a.s.) inviting him to Kufa. After receiving the letter, Imam (a.s.) wrote another letter to Kufans and sent it through his emissary Qays Ibn Musahhar-e-Saydaawi.

Yazid sent his mercenaries in the guise of Hajis to assassinate Imam Husain (a.s.) so that the identity of the killers may not be known. On the 8th of Zil Hajj, when all had gathered in Makkah for performing the Haj, Imam Husain (a.s.) converted his Haj into Umra and left Makkah, thereby thwarting plans of his assassination.

Departure to Kufah

Imam (a.s.) left Makkah and proceeded towards Kufa. As Imam (a.s.) was nearing Iraq, he (a.s.) received the news of a turnaround in the situation of Kufa and the martyrdom of Muslim Ibn Aqeel (a.r.) by the oppressive government in Kufa. This news disheartened him and the same caused the departure of some of the people who had accompanied him for various reasons. Finally, when Imam (a.s.) reached the junction of Kufa and Karbala, he was confronted with an army of 50,000 soldiers under the command of Hurr Ibn Yazid al-Riyaahi. He had been assigned by Ibn Ziyad, the newly appointed governor of Kufa to arrest Imam Husain (a.s.). Imam (a.s.) offered to reach Kufa with peace and amity or return to Madinah but he was forced to take the path to Karbala.

Karbala was the same place through which Imam (a.s.) had passed 27 years ago while proceeding to fight the Battle of Siffin and had expressed extreme sadness and lamentation at that time. Imam Husain (a.s.) descended on this place and said: Here will be their halting place, their stopover and the place where their blood will be shed. On this ground, youths from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) will be martyred. The heavens and the earth will cry for them.

Arriving in Karbala

Imam Husain (a.s.) reached the plains of Karbala at the beginning of the month of Moharram and pitched his camp. Groups of soldiers started coming towards Karbala from Kufa and Syria. The encounter between Imam Husain (a.s.) and the army of Yazid became inevitable with the arrival of Umar Ibn Saad, the commander of the Syrian force.

On the ninth Moharram, the message of Umar Ibn Saad was proclaimed to Imam (a.s.) either to accept the oath of allegiance for Yazid or be prepared for the battle. Imam (a.s.) had already made it clear that allegiance was out of the question. Yazid’s representatives also rejected the proposal to send away Imam (a.s.) in exile. Imam (a.s.) selected the option to battle it out and requested them to give a respite for a night, for worshipping and entreating to his Lord. His companions were all well disciplined and organized and they were far from any sort of hypocrisy and indiscipline.

The Night Preceding Aashooraa

In the camp of Imam Husain (a.s.), a strange enthusiasm was evident. Imam (a.s.) collected his companions and gave the news of impending martyrdom. He freed them of their allegiance to him and requested them to leave Karbala taking advantage of the dark night if they so desired. By now, the fervor of his companions had reached its pinnacle and every one of them with their fiery speeches proclaimed their steadfastness and loyalty. They showed such valor on that day that their names are to be found heading the list of martyrs throughout history.

After seeing this love and affection Imam (a.s.) addressed them saying: I know of no followers more loyal and virtuous than my followers nor of any house more pious and close-knit than my house.

The Morning of Aashooraa

The night passed in the recitation of the Holy Quran, supplications and worship of Allah and this continued till the morning prayers.

Hazrat Abul Fazl Abbas (a.s.) was the commander of the army of Imam (a.s.). He (a.s.) scaled the highest standards of love and loyalty in the battlefield on the day of Aashooraa. He bravely and steadfastly sacrificed himself in the way of Islam and Imam (a.s.)

During the night, the relatives of Imam (a.s.) were heard whispering that they wished to attain martyrdom before the companions. On the other hand, the companions too were whispering that they would not allow any relative of Imam (a.s.) or anyone from the Bani Hashim to be martyred before them.

In short, history does not bear evidence to the existence of such a camp whose inhabitants were desirous of obtaining martyrdom before each other. The following words of Imam Husain (a.s.) were ringing in their ears: Behold! Do you not see that the truth has been trampled and the falsehood has been set free?

Surely, I do not see in death but prosperity and happiness; and living with oppressor and tyrants but disgrace.

These words motivated and encouraged them to sacrifice themselves in the way of Imam (a.s.), for enlivening the truth and destroying falsehood. The penetrating and impressive personality of Imam (a.s.) which was reflected in sentences like Beware that the illegitimate one – the son of an illegitimate one –has given me two options: death and degradation but degradation is far away from us.

Each one of them was complete in his recognition and considered martyrdom along with Imam (a.s.) in the way of Allah as a great success and blessing. Every one of them presented perfect models of sacrifice from the noon till the afternoon on the day of Aashooraa. The morning of tenth Moharram saw Janabe Hurr Ibn Yazid al-Riyaahi (a.r.) overcoming his desires and joining the army of Imam (a.s.) along with few others. Imam (a.s.) welcomed him and accepted him.

It is never too late in returning to the right path. One must always be hopeful for acceptance of repentance.

The incident of Karbala is a lesson for all the strata of society as that the martyrs of Karbala were representing every class, group, age, and generation. Perhaps, this may be the reason behind Imam’s (a.s.) decision in having different groups along with him.

Good-Fortune of Martyrdom

Importantly, we do not find great personalities like Ibn Abbas and Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyaah amongst the martyrs of Karbala but at the same time, we find slaves and anonymous people like Gulam e Turk in the list of seventy-two martyrs.

Such opportunity and grace are not gifted to everyone. Allah gifts it to whomsoever He pleases.

With the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.) in the evening of Aashooraaa, apparently, the incident came to an end. The crimes which were committed in battle by the army of Yazid have blackened the face of the Ummayad Dynasty till eternity.

By martyring Imam Husain (a.s.) along with his companions, burning his tents and taking captives the household, the Umayyad thought that they could wipe out the name of Imam Husain (a.s.). But they were not aware that:

They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, though the unbelievers may be averse.

Today, we see the sacred shrine of Imam Husain (a.s.) and the graves of his children, brothers, relatives, and companions has become a place of visitation and circumbulation for thousands of lovers of justice and freedom, while there is no sign of the green palaces of Moaviyah or the grave of Yazid (l.a.).

In this incident, the leading role played by the sisters of Imam Husain (a.s.), Janabe Zainab (a.s.) and Janabe Umme Kulsoom (a.s.), the well-trained daughters of Janabe Zahra (a.s.) should not be ignored. We shall present some of their incidents on the day of Aashooraa in the next lesson while studying the life history of Imam Sajjad (a.s.).

The Mourning

After the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.) and his faithful companions, Janabe Zainab (a.s.) and Janabe Umme Kulsoom (a.s.) have granted such an eternal life to this sacrifice that in spite of all the efforts of the enemies of Ahlul Bait (a.s.) to the contrary, the mourning for Imam Husain (a.s.) is observed all over the world. By the grace of the Almighty, people participating in it are increasing by the day. This mourning is the result of the narration of the events of Karbala. It is the best way of being attached to the Ahlul Bait (a.s.) and protecting the religion. Islam exists only due to this mourning.

It is our duty that we never forget the sacrifices of Imam Husain (a.s.), his co-martyrs and his womenfolk.

Karbala teaches us that we should be ready to sacrifice everything in the way of the Imam of our time, which guarantees an eternal life. The sacrifices of the chivalrous companions of Imam Husain (a.s.) are a living example of this eternal life. May Allah grant us the good fortune of observing the mourning of Imam Husain (a.s.) right till the last moments of our life! “Aameen”


Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) gifted the ‘Hadith-e-Lauh’ to Janabe Zahra (a.s.) on the birth of Imam Husain (a.s.).

Imam Husain (a.s.) passed ten years of Imamat in the reign of Moaviyah and did not rise against him.

The aim Imam Husain’s (a.s.) uprising against Yazid (l.a.) was for reformation of the people.

Imam (a.s.) sent Hazrat Muslim Ibn Aqeel to Kufa to find out the ground reality about the situation in Kufa.

Yazid nominated Amr Ibn Saeed Ibn al Aas to assassinate Imam (a.s.) in the Hajj.

Imam (a.s.) left Makkah without performing the Hajj on 8th Zil Hajj to prevent spilling of blood in the holy precincts of Kaaba

Ibn Ziyad, the newly appointed governor killed Muslim Ibn Aqeel and forced the Kufans to deceive Imam (a.s.).

Janabe Hurr Ibn Yazid al-Riyaahi along with his soldiers forced Imam (a.s.) to move towards Karbala. He later repented of his deeds and gained the honor of being amongst the first martyrs of Karbala along with his son. Peace is on the martyrs of Karbala and curse of Allah be on the killers of Imam al-Husain (a.s.) and his family.