Hussain’s great sacrifice
Muharram 08, 1429
the Internet Edition, http://dawn.com
of Imam Husain was a great sacrifice in every sense of the word. Here was a
true servant of Allah laying down not only his own life but also sacrificing
his closest relations and friends in the way of God. This was the true
rendering of “great sacrifice” (zibh-i-Azeem) with which Allah had ‘ransomed’
Ismail (A.S), as mentioned in As-Saffat: 107.
Husain’s sacrifice was also most magnificent. Ibrahim (A.S.) was going to
sacrifice only his one son to Allah. Hussain laid down not only his own life
but also sacrificed 72 others. Among them were his two sons –– one of them just
a six-month old –– his nephews, sons of his deceased brother Hasan and his
sister Zainab besides his loyal followers.
Husain believed that “the Hereafter is better and everlasting.” (Al A’la: 17).
Yezid’s goal was the pleasures of life in this world –– power and pelf and
grandeur. But life here is a sojourn. The immortal soul is given a body for a
certain period of time. When the time allowed is over, it casts off the body
and returns to its Creator. Husain had learnt this Divine Message on the knees
of Allah’s Messenger, at first hand.
He had learnt that those slain in the way of Allah are not ‘dead’ but just
invisible to human eye. ‘They are living and continue to receive provision from
their Lord.’ (Al Baqarah: 154; Al-i-‘Imran: 169) Husain’s focus was therefore
on the Hereafter. Therefore, he died to live forever; Yezid lived to die and
perish. Husain is remembered, Yezid is forgotten; Husain’s shrine is visited by
millions of devotees, Yezid’s grave nobody knows or cares to know.
The gory incident was the consequence of Husain’s refusal to accept Yezid as a
Caliph. But there was no way he could do that, because Yezid’s character and
conduct being in the sharpest contrast to the examples set by the first four
“well guided Caliphs” (Khulafa-i-Rashedeen) did not qualify him for that august
office of Caliph of Islam. His only qualification was that he was Mu’awiyah’s
Judging by today’s standards Husain’s approach was truly democratic. His
father, Ali, before him had the same approach. Thrice after the demise of the
Prophet (S.A.W.) he was sidelined, despite having a very strong claim to
succession. But he submitted to the “will of the people” and reconciled to the
situation instead of crying ‘foul’ and starting an agitation. Even when he
accepted to become Caliph, it was under pressure of “public demand.”
Husain had also the moral duty to lead the Ummah. So, when letters began
pouring in from the people of Iraq, beseeching him to take charge of the flock,
Husain, the son of the fearless Ali and grandson of the Prophet, could not
In a letter to Muhammad bin Al-Hanifiah, he explained himself thus:
“...I did not revolt for the cause of evil, tyranny or corruption, but to
reform my grandfather’s Ummah. I want to enjoin the good and denounce the evil,
and take the course of my father and grandfather.”
Imam Husain, like his father, tried to take all practicable means to avoid
spilling Muslim blood. In the Battle of Siffin, when Mu’awiyah’s troops raised
the Quran on their lances, Ali at once ordered his troops to sheath their swords,
instead of pushing his advantage in the battle to victory. The purpose was to
demonstrate the absolute sanctity of the Holy Book to the Ummah.
Similarly Husain took every measure to avoid bloodshed. He even offered to go
into ‘exile’ because the pomp of Caliphate was not his ambition. He would have
raised an army instead of travelling with his entire family. Husain’s only
condition was that he would not pledge fealty to Yezid. But Yezid demanded it
in order to legitimise his appointment.
It was Yezid who in his arrogance forced the confrontation on Husain. Even if
he had stayed on in Medina or Makkah, Yezid would not let him sit at rest. He
had decided to send an army under Amr bin Saad, to force Husain to offer bai’at
to Yezid or kill him. But any fighting in Makkah would violate the sanctity of
the city. On the other hand there was the invitation from the Kufians. That was
why he decided to proceed to Kufa.
Recalling what happened at Karbala breaks our heart, even today. The horrors
and the barbaric brutalities visited on the Imam and his entourage will remain
unparalleled in the history of mankind. From the seventh of Muharram Yezid’s
forces stood guard on the bank of the Euphrates to prevent even a drop of water
reaching Husain’s camp.
When Abbas tried to force his way to the river, both his arms were severed and
his chest pierced with a lance. Even when Husain carried his baby child in his
arms and pleaded with them for a little water on the ground that the quarrel,
if any, was with him, but the child was innocent, his appeal was greeted with
an arrow that pierced Ali Asghar’s throat.
One by one all the males were slain. Husain was the last. The bodies were
trampled under horses’ hoofs. And their severed heads displayed at the point of
a lance were taken to Damascus with his survivors, his sick son Zainul Abedeen
and the womenfolk, in chains.
Another crucial factor that prompted Husain’s decision to confront Yezid was
perhaps the realisation that his martyrdom was the only way to arrest the drift
that had overtaken the Ummah and revive Islam in its pristine form. Muslims,
who had been taught to fear none but Allah, were now cowering for fear of
death. The conquests and the resultant booties had demoralised the Muslims. He
had noticed the trend when some dignitaries had tried to dissuade him from
embarking on the journey to Kufa.
The fear factor was what made the Kufians break all their pledges, promises and
oaths, once they were subjected to the wave of terror unleashed by Ibn Ziyad.
They feared Governor Ibn Ziyad more than they feared God.
From what he observed around him, Husain had come to the conclusion that the
Ummah needed a great shock to shed its torpor and there could be none greater
than his own martyrdom ,which also gave meaning to the Prophet’s saying that
his martyrdom perpetuated the Message that the Prophet had preached and
immortalised his memory.