Saturday, 24 December 2016
The Sharing Group Discussion: Karbala & the Haramayn
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
Brother Jordan Mikhail Vesci posted this, on The Sharing Group, on the 12th March 2015: “This is a question for our Shi’ah brothers and sisters. I would like to know how you view Karbala in comparison to Makkah and Madina? Is Karbala at the same status of holiness?”
Brother Şahin Farökhzad: Visiting Makkah is obligatory while Karbala is not. But there are ahadits that state Karbala is the holiest place on Earth.
Brother Martin Harrison: Ahadits of whom?
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Even holier than Makkah, where the Ka’bah is? Or Madina, where the Rawdhah of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is? Do Shi’ah actually believe that?
Brother Martin Harrison: This is where I really do not get Shi’ism. How can the martyrdom of Husayn (r.a.) take precedence over so many other matters, such as the death of the Rasul (s.a.w.), the death of ‘Ali (k.w.), or the death of Hasan (r.a.)?
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: This is something new and interesting. I hope Brother Hajj Ahmad or Brother Mansoor Rizvi can clarify this. Certainly, I believe there is some nuance here because this is not the Shi’ism I know of.
Brother Hajj Ahmad: Imam Ibrahim ibn al-Qummi (r.a.) included a hadits in a book of his stating that, “Karbala, where your grandson and his family will be killed, is the most blessed and the most sacred land on Earth and it is one of the valleys of Paradise," but this hadits is apocryphal, in my opinion or at best, emphasises the sacred nature of this place. For the Shi’ah, it is highly recommended to visit Karbala to pay respects to Husayn (r.a.) and his family, and supporters. However, it is wajib to visit the Ka’bah during hajj and highly recommended to visit it again for ‘umrah because it is the house of Allah (s.w.t.). Visiting the Ka’bah, and by extension, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina are more important than visiting Karbala.
Sister Zainab Rizvi: Please do not take one personal statement as absolute truth. It is much deeper than the other person said. Makkah is the most holy place; it has been since the beginning of time and the birth place of Islam. Madina is special to all Muslims and it is very spiritual; there is so much history there, it is amazing. Karbala is the pivotal point of the history of Islam. Whether we are Shi’ah or Sunni. if we read history, we cannot deny the events of Karbala. It is the place where Husayn (r.a.), son of ‘Ali (k.w.), grandson of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.); and his family, and supporters, most of the men and some children who bravely fought, and were killed by the army of Yazid. Their crime was refusing to follow Yazid, who claimed the caliphate but did not follow Islam as taught by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).
The story is so sad, so tragic that we remember it every year. Is it holier than Makkah? By definition, no. But for the significance of these events, it has become a sacred place, for the reason that the courage to stand against a tyrant and falsehood. These events remind us to always follow Islam properly and not be persuaded by the leader of the time. It is the same with ISIS. Most of us know this is not Islam, but it is being perceived to be Islam. It is our duty, as Muslims, to stand against falsehood and corruption. This is the message of Husayn (r.a.); he stood against the ISIS of his time and paid for it in his and his family members’ lives. It is his sacrifice that gives us strength to also stand against falsehood. I hope that clarifies it better.
Brother Zakaria Ali: Hajj is obligatory for those who are able. The ziyarat of Husayn (r.a.) is highly recommended for those who are able but hajj takes precedence. A place being “holier” than others is a different topic - according to some narrations, the qalb of a mu’min is the Sanctuary of Allah (s.w.t.) - so which is holier? Let us not compare apples to oranges.
Brother Muhammad Ladak: Both are holy. Makkah is the birth place of the father, ‘Ali (k.w.), and Karbala is the place of death place of his son, Husayn (r.a.). Both of them fought and saved Islam and both of them were killed by the sword. One was killed in the masjid, the other in desert.
Brother David W Roesler: How can any of these places be holier than Jerusalem?
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: In Islam, Makkah and Madina are the two holiest places, and Jerusalem is third. We also believe that the first place of prayer, where Adam (a.s.) built his altar and where the first Temple as created was Makkah. It is mentioned in the Bible as the Valley of Bakkah, in the Land of Paran.
Brother Muhammad Ladak: Terence, you cannot say “in Islam”; are you speaking on behalf of me? My version is that after Makkah and Madina, it is Karbala.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Makkah, Madina and Jerusalem are Mentioned in the Qur’an; Karbala is not. So, it is “in Islam”. What you have is your own version that you call Islam.
Brother Zakaria Ali: Are they mentioned as being the holiest sites in the Qur’an?
Brother Jak Kilby: Makkah, Madina and Jerusalem are recommended for visiting above all other places in hadits. And Masjid al-Aqswa’ is the core of the land of barakah. There is another issue what resonates and moves people. For me, I found that far more in Masjid al-Aqswa’ than at the Ka’bah in Makkah. But al-Aqswa’ was also similar in feeling and experience to what I felt in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina.
Brother Hajj Ahmad: Though the Shi’ah revere the Prophet (s.a.w.) highly, and have great love for ‘Ali (k.w.) as well as the other a’immah, the fulcrum of devotion is centred upon the life and death of Husayn (r.a.) which has inspired the Azadari rituals that are so important to most Shi’ah. To a great degree, the reverence for Husayn (r.a.), in my opinion, is what distinguishes the Shi’ah from the Sunnis, along with following the fiqh derived from the a’immah and the belief in the primacy of the Imamate of ‘Ali (k.w.) and his right as the heir of the Prophet (s.a.w.) before anyone else.
The practice of Arba’in well illustrates the emotional connection the Shi’ah have to Husayn (r.a.) as the fulcrum of Shi’ah faith and understanding Arba’in may give you insight into how the sayings about Karbala as the most sacred place were created.
20 million people gather in and around Karbala each year, marking the end of 40 days of mourning after his death, in contrast with the 3 or 4 million who perform hajj under strict Saudi control. I know people who have participated in this ziyarah, and have been told by them that the generosity extended by those who live in Karbala and Iraq to the pilgrims is absolutely unimaginable. I have been told that one does not need any funds to buy food or take shelter as the people of the region give all they can to support those making the pilgrimage.
Incidentally, though I consider myself Shi’ah in my fiqh, in my acceptance of the Shi’ah version of history, and in the study of the Imami heritage and knowledge, I personally do not follow the Azadari rituals. Here is an article about Arba’in: World’s Biggest Pilgrimage Now Underway, & Why You’ve Never Heard of It!
Sister Darwinn Girll Rendah: As a Shi’ah woman, I say no there is no comparison. Makkah and Madina, then al-Aqswa’, followed by Karbala. We are obliged to go to hajj but we do not have to go to Karbala. We go to Karbala because it reminds us of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his family and how his family were oppressed and out of respect for the prophet and his loved ones, not because we value Karbala more.
Brother Zakaria Ali: There are many narrations about Karbala found in both the Shi’ah and Sunni books. I recommend that one refers to their own sources about the subject instead of speaking out of mere speculation and assumption. One such hadits from the Shi’ah books can be found in Kamil al-Ziyarat, a comprehensive book on the subject of ziyarat in general.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: For those who do not know what happened at Karbala, the following is an account of it as told by Ustadz Nurjan Mir. The massacre of the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.) occurred on the 10th Muharram. The murderers were the soldiers of Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah, each of them cursed for this heinous act.
The following are the events at Karbala as adapted from an article by Ustadz Nurjan Mir. The massacre of the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.) occurred on the 10th Muharram. The murderers were the soldiers of Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah, each of them Cursed for this heinous act. Yazid sent ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, his cousin, with an army to kill Husayn (r.a.) because he feared that Husayn (r.a.) would take the caliphate from him. But he did not have the courage to admit it after the fact, particularly because he feared the people would revolt. And they did. So, he sent his army to besiege and sack Makkah and Madina, killing hundreds of the swahabah, and raping thousands of their women. The Ka’bah itself was damaged with fire. And mosque of the Prophet (s.a.w.) in Madina, was desecrated with camel droppings.
The following is an account of the events of Karbala, as told by Sunni scholars, from the books of tarikh. When the army approached closer, Husayn (r.a.) mounted a camel, kept the Holy Qur’an in front and addressed the enemy forces in the following words: “O people! Listen to me. Do not be rash. Let me admonish you. Let me say a few words in my justification and let me explain the reason of my arrival here. If my excuse is reasonable and if you can accept it, do justice in my case. You would be lucky if you desist from taking arms against me. Even after hearing me, if you refuse to accept my excuse, I will be ready for you. Rush upon me all at once. Do not allow a moment's respite. Whatever be the eventual outcome, I repose confidence in Allah Who Supports righteous men.”
When this speech was heard by the female members of the Ahl al-Bayt, there began hue and cry inside the tents. Husayn (r.a.) asked his brother, ‘Abbas (r.a.) and his son, ‘Ali (r.a.), to go and console them for they had yet to weep a lot. Thereafter, he remarked, “May Allah Bless a long life to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas.” This was due to the fact that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.) had suggested to Husayn (r.a.) at Madinah to leave the women at home but the he had paid no heed to it. Now when he heard their hue and cry, it reminded him of the submission of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.).
He resumed his speech: “O people! Remember my lineage. Pause to think for a while who am I. Take stock in your conscience! Is it fair for you to kill me and discard the respect due to me? Am I not the son of your prophet's daughter, and the son of his cousin? Was the leader of shuhadah, Hamzah not my father's uncle? Is Ja’far ath-Thayyar not my uncle? Do you not remember the famous tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w.), ‘Chiefs of the youths of Paradise,’ concerning my brother and I? If my statement is true, it is certainly true, as since the time I am conscious of myself, I have not uttered a lie. Tell me, is it right for you to receive me with unsheathed swords? If you do not believe in my word, there are persons among you who can testify to the correctness of my statement. Ask Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah al-Answari and Abu Sa'id al-Khudri. Inquire from Sahl ibn Sa’d Sa’di and Zayd ibn al-Arqam. They can tell you whether they heard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) saying this about my brother and I or not. Should not this fact prevent you from shedding my blood? By Allah, there is no grandson of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) on the surface of the globe at this time except myself. I am the direct descendant and grandson of your Prophet (s.a.w.). Do you want to kill me, because I have taken the life of any one? Did I shed anyone's blood? Have I usurped the wealth of anyone? Tell me what is the matter? What is my fault?”
Husayn (r.a.) repeatedly asked this question, but nobody answered. At last, he called out, by name, the prominent persons of Kufa and inquired whether they had not written to him: “Fruits are ripe, the soil has become green and the canals are overflowing. If you come, you will come to the great army of your own; come soon.”
Thereupon those persons opened their mouth and said that they had never written to that effect. Husayn (r.a.) expressed surprise at it and cried out, “What a blatant lie!” Then Husayn (r.a.) again called out loudly, “O people! As you dislike me, it is better that I am released, I shall go back.”
At this juncture, one of the Kufans named Qays ibn Ash’ats asked, “Is it not advisable that you should surrender yourself to your cousins? They will mete out the treatment to you worthy of your position. You will receive no harm from them.”
To this, Husayn (r.a.) answered, “All of you are tarred with the same brush. O man! Do you want that Bani Hashim should demand ransom for one more life, in addition to that of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil? No, I shall not surrender myself to them with humiliation.”
Zhahir ibn al-Yaqin (r.a.) advanced towards the enemy on his horse and shouted, “O Kufans, fear from the Wrath of Allah. It is a duty of every Muslim to advise his brother Muslim. Look! We are all Muslims until this time. We believe in the same religion and the same shari’ah. So long as the swords are unsheathed, you deserve our advice and well-wishes. But when the swords are drawn the mutual respect will vanish and shall become two rival groups. Look! Allah has Tested our faithfulness towards the descendants of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). We call you to the love for Ahl al-Bayt and not to the rivalry of ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad. Believe you would gain nothing from these rulers. They would make you blind; they would cut your hands; they would disfigure your faces; they would hang you and would kill the pious men one by one; they have already done this. The incidents of Hajr ibn ‘Adi and Hani ibn ‘Urwah have not become so old that you have forgotten them.”
On hearing this, Kufans began to abuse Zhahir ibn al-Yaqin (r.a.) and offered praise for ibn Ziyad. Their reply was, “By Allah, we shall not go back unless and until we kill Husayn and his companions or produce them before Amir.”
Zhahir ibn al-Yaqin (r.a.) replied, “Well! If the son of Fathimah az-Zahrah is not comparable with the son of Sumiyyah (ibn Ziyad), you should pay this much regard to the progeny of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) that you would not kill him. Let him talk with his cousin Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah and settle the issue. I swear by Allah that it is not necessary to shed the blood of Husayn to please Yazid.”
It is narrated by ‘Adi ibn Harmlah (r.a.) that when ibn Sa’d ordered his army to advance, Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) asked him whether he really wanted to fight against Husayn (r.a.). ibn Sa’d replied, “Yes, a battle would be fought in which heads will be cut and hands will be amputated from shoulders.” Listening to this, Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) left his own place and proceeded slowly towards Husayn’s (r.a.) camp. One of his tribe’s men, Muhajir ibn Aws, inquired whether he wanted to attack Husayn (r.a.). Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) kept quiet. Suspecting him due to his reticence, Muhajir said, “I never found you in such a state during any war. If I was asked to name the bravest man in Kufa, I can point out none except you. But what are you doing now?”
Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) grew serious and replied, “By Allah, I am making a choice between Hell and Paradise. By Allah, I have selected Paradise, no matter if I am cut to pieces.” With those words, he whipped his horse and joined Husayn’s (r.a.) army. He presented himself before Husayn (r.a.) and said, “O Grandson of the Holy Prophet! I am the same unfortunate person who prevented you from going back. I pursued you along the way and compelled you to encamp at this place. I never suspected that these people will not concede your terms and will go to such an extreme in your matter. By Allah, had I known that they will act in this way, I would have never done what I did earlier. I am ashamed of the misdeed I have committed and come to you for repentance. I want to sacrifice myself and I think that would serve the purpose of atonement.”
Husayn (r.a.) very kindly invoked Divine Blessings for him and said, “May Allah Accept your repentance and Forgive you. As your mother has named you Hur, you are a free man and, insha’Allah, you will remain free both in this world and in the Hereafter.”
Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) then addressed the enemies and said that they should have accepted any of the conditions offered by Husayn (r.a.), so that Allah (s.w.t.) might Save them from an ordeal. They said that his question would be answered by their commander, ‘Umar ibn Sa'd. ‘Umar said that he himself wished to accept this offer, but his proposal was rejected. Thereafter, Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) made a passionate speech and put the Kufans to shame for not abiding by their promise. In reply, they started shooting arrows. Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) was forced to return to the camp.
When Husayn’s (r.a.) sincere efforts to bring round the enemy failed, encounter became inevitable. ‘Umar ibn Sa'd strung his bow and shot an arrow towards the camp of Husayn (r.a.) saying, “Be witness! I have shot the first arrow.”
Yasar and Salam, the slaves of Ziyad ibn Umayyah and ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad came forward and challenged for a single combat, as was the ancient custom of warfare in Arab. From the Husayni forces, Habib ibn Mazhahir (r.a.) and Barbar ibn Hasir (r.a.) volunteered themselves to meet this challenge but Husayn (r.a.) did not permit them to fight. Then ‘Abdullah ibn Amir al-Kalbi (r.a.) stood up and sought permission to go out. This man came from Kufa along with his wife to support Husayn (r.a.). He was a dark-complexioned, tall statured man with broad shoulders and strong limbs and looked like a warrior in all respects. Having a look at him, Husayn (r.a.) was pleased to observe that he was a true warrior and gladly permitted him to meet the challenge. In a few brief exchanges, ‘Abdullah killed both his opponents. His wife, Umm Wahab (r.a.), stood close by with a staff in her hand, inciting her husband to fight. Then suddenly she became so passionate that she started advancing towards the battlefield.
Husayn (r.a.) was deeply impressed by her enthusiasm and said, “May Allah Reward you for support of the Ahl al-Bayt, but fighting is not meant for ladies.”
After that, the right wing of the army of ibn Sa'd launched an attack and as they drew nearer, front line of the Husayni forces knelt down and straightened their spears towards the horses. The horses were frightened. The enemy mounted troopers could not advance and were repulsed with heavy losses.
A full-fledged battle ensued then. In the beginning, the chivalrous men from either side came out in response to the challenge and fight with each other. Every challenger of the rival army who came forward was killed by the partisans of Husayn (r.a.). On seeing this discouraging start, ‘Umar bin al-Hajjaj who was in command of the enemy's right wing, shouted, “O fools! First realise to whom you are fighting with. These people are not afraid of death! In this way, you will be killed one by one. They are but a handful of souls. You can kill them even with stones.”
‘Umar ibn Sa’d approved of the suggestion, and disallowing individual duels ordered for a general attack. Both the sides came to grips and then ensued a hand to hand fight. After some time when the fighting was stopped it was found that a Husayni hero, Muslim ibn Awsja (r.a.) was writhing in blood and sand. Husayn (r.a.) ran towards him. He was still breathing. Husayn (r.a.) lamented, “Muslim! May Allah Shower His Choicest Blessings upon you: Some of them have already died and others are awaiting death. But stand firmly on the right path and do not change their minds.” Muslim ibn Awsja (r.a.) was the first martyr from the side of Husayni forces in this battle.
After the right wing, the left wing also joined in attack with Shimr as its commander. The Husayni right wing resisted it manfully. There were only thirty-two horsemen in this wing but wherever they struck, they caused a great loss to the enemy. Soon the enemy realised that with the present strength of forces at their disposal, the Husayni forces could not prevail for long. They sent for reinforcement and soon five hundred archers came to their succour. The archers shot at the horsemen, crippling their horses and forcing them to dismount.
Ayyub ibn Musharrah reported that he had himself injured the horse of Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.), piercing it with his arrows. Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) jumped to the ground. He was holding a sword in his hand and he was looking like a lion. His sword was rampant and he was reciting “It does not matter if you have made my horse useless. I am of noble blood and am braver than a fierce lion.”
The fighting was in its full swing. It was now midday but neither side seemed to have gained the upper hand. The Husayni army had pitched the tents at one place and the enemy could only attack from one side. When ‘Umar ibn Sa’d realised that he could not succeed in this way, he deputed some of his men to uproot the tents. Only four or five men from the Husayni army pushed them back. Failing in this attempt ‘Umar ibn Sa’d ordered his men to set the tents on fire. His soldiers rushed towards tents carrying fire in their hands. The Husayni forces were perturbed due to this grave situation but Husayn (r.a.) said, “No matter, let them burn the tents. It will be better for us because they cannot attack from the rear.”
At this stage, Zhahir ibn al-Yaqin (r.a.) launched a severe attack on Shimr’s forces and put them to rout but this state did not remain for long. In a short time, the enemy gathered their strength. Now the precarious position of the Husayni forces was evident. Several warriors and renowned leaders had been killed. ‘Abdullah ibn Amir al-Kalbi (r.a.) was one of them. His brave wife, Umm Wahab (r.a.), was sitting in the battlefield and was wiping dust from the face of her martyred husband saying repeatedly, “Greetings to you for attaining an abode in the Paradise.” Shimr saw her and killed her.
Abu Tsumamah ‘Amr ibn ‘Abdullah as-Samdi (r.a.) realised his helplessness and said to Husayn (r.a.), “The enemy is approaching fast. By Allah, I shall defend you even at the cost of my life. The enemy will not harm you as long as I live. However, it is my earnest desire to offer my prayers before meeting my Rabb.”
On hearing this, Husayn (r.a.) raised his head and said, “Ask the enemy to give us respite for offering Prayers.” But the enemy did not accede to their requests and the battle continued.
Habib ibn Mazhahir (r.a.), the commander of the right wing of the Husayni forces, was also killed. Next was Hur ibn Yazid (r.a.) who advanced straight into the enemy forces reciting the following verses: “I have sworn no to be killed until I have killed them. I shall die only while I am advancing. I shall inflict heavy casualties with my sword. I shall neither fear no shall I run away.”
The time for zhuhr passed. Husayn (r.a.) offered swalah al-khawf along with his companions. After the swalah, the pressure of the enemy increased. Zhahir ibn al-Yaqin (r.a.), commander of the left wing, took command of the army and attacked the enemy reciting the following verses: “I am Zhahir, son of al-Yaqin. I shall keep them away from Husayn with the point of my sword.”
After dispersing the lines of rival forces, he returned and putting his hand on Husayn’s (r.a.) shoulder and said the following in verse: “Advance, Allah has Guided you to the right path. You will be meeting today with your grandfather, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), and Hasan, and ‘Ali al-Murtadhah, the young martyr, Ja’far ath-Thayyar, and the living martyr, Asadullah Hamzah.” Then he turned towards the enemy and put a number of them to death until he himself was killed.
The companions of Husayn (r.a.) realised that it was quite impossible for them to stop the enemy. Therefore, they all decided to sacrifice themselves one by one. Accordingly, the Ghiffari brothers moved forward and began to fight with the enemy. While fighting, they were reciting the following verses: “Bani Ghaffar and tribes of Nazar have known fully well that we will cut the vicious people into pieces with our glittering swords. O people! Support the pious ones with their spears and their swords.”
Thereafter, the two Jabri brothers came forward weeping bitterly. Husayn (r.a.) said to them, “O sons of my brother, why are you weeping? By Allah, I believe you will be killed in a few minutes.”
They replied that they were not shedding tears due to the danger to their lives, but it made them weep seeing that the enemy had surrounded them and they could do nothing to save him. Then both of them began to fight courageously chanting, “as-Salaamu’alayka, O Son of the Holy Prophet!”
Husayn (r.a.) replied, “Wa 'alaykum as-Salaam wa Rahmatullah.” They were also killed.
After that, Hanzal ibn As’ad (r.a.) stood before the enemy shouting, “O people! I fear for you the same disaster as befell upon the nations of ‘Aad and Tsamud. I fear you may be destroyed. O People! Do not slay Husayn lest Allah should Send calamity upon you.” He fought manfully until he was martyred.
The companions had perished. It was now the turn of the Bani Hashim and the family of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). First, ‘Ali Akbar (r.a.) came into the battlefield and attacked the enemy, reciting the following verses: “I am ‘Ali ibn Husayn ibn ‘Ali. By the Rabb of the Ka’bah, we are more deserving being nearest to the Holy Prophet. By Allah, the son of the man whose father is unknown cannot rule over us.”
He fought heroically but was killed by the sword of Marrah ibn Manqaz al-‘Abadi. Zaynab bint Fathimah az-Zahrah (r.a.) ran from her tent crying, “Ah! My brother! Ah! My nephew.” Husayn (r.a.) caught hold of her hand and took her to her tent. Then, he lifted the body of ‘Ali Akbar (r.a.) and placed it before the tent.
Thereafter, other scions of Hashimite blood and members of the Ahl al-Bayt came to the forefront, and sacrificed their lives one by one. A graceful young man appeared on the scene. He was wearing a simple dress and putting sandals on his feet. He was a very beautiful person and his face was shining like a moon. He came out like a roaring lion and attacked the enemy fiercely. Amr ibn Sa’d al-Azdi struck his head with a sword. The young man cried, “O Uncle!” and fell upon the ground. On hearing his cries, Husayn (r.a.) attacked the killer. The assailant raised his hand in his defense but his hand was cut off from the elbow. Wounded, the killer called for help. Horsemen coming to his aid rode over him in the confusion.
Husain (r.a.) stood near the young man who was in the agony of death. Husayn (r.a.) said, “Disaster seize them who killed you. What answer will they give to your grandfather on the Day of Resurrection? By Allah, it is heart-rending for your uncle that you cried for help but he could not save you from the clutches of the enemy. Alas! Enemies of your uncle have increased in number over his friends.” Then he took the body in his lap and pressed it close to his chest. He brought the body to the tent with its feet trailing on the ground and laid it beside the body of ‘Ali Akbar. He was al-Qasim ibn Hasan ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (r.a.).
While Husayn (r.a.) was standing there, he was apprised of the birth of a son. The babe was put in his arms and as he was calling the adzan in his ears, an arrow pierced the throat of the infant. The infant was killed instantly. He pulled out the arrow from the throat of his son. The blood gushed out of the wound. Husayn (r.a.) took a handful of it and smeared the body of the infant. He then said, “By Allah, you are dearer in the Sight of Allah than the she-camel of Swalih (a.s.). And Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) has more prestige in the Sight of Allah than Swalih (a.s.). O Allah! You have Withheld Your Succour to us. Do what You Deem Fit for us.”
Most of the prominent personalities of Bani Hashim and the Ahl al-Bayt were martyred. Historians have recorded the names of the following shuhadah:
1. Muhammad ibn Abi Sa'id ibn ‘Aqil (r.a.)
2. ‘Abdullah ibn Muslim ibn ‘Aqil (r.a.)
3. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Aqil (r.a.)
4. ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn ‘Aqil (r.a.)
5. Ja’far ibn ‘Aqil (r.a.)
6. Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Ja’far (r.a.)
7. ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ali (r.a.)
8. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Ali (r.a.)
9. ‘Utsman ibn ‘Ali (r.a.)
10. Muhammad ibn ‘Ali (r.a.)
11. Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ali (r.a.)
12. Abu Bakr ibn al-Hasan (r.a.)
13. ‘Abdullah ibn al-Hasan (r.a.)
14. Qasim ibn al-Hasan (r.a.)
15. ‘Ali Akbar ibn al-Husayn (r.a.)
16. ‘Abdullah ibn al-Husayn (r.a.)
Now it was the Husayn’s (r.a.) turn to sacrifice himself for the Cause of Allah (s.w.t.). He was standing alone in the battlefield but no one dared attack him. The enemy tried a number of times to kill Husayn (r.a.), but nobody was willing to take the responsibility of killing the grandson of the Prophet (s.a.w.). At last, Shimr started provoking his army men to attack. They encircled Husayn (r.a.). Now there were only women and a few teenagers in the camp of the Ahl al-Bayt. A teenage boy saw Husayn (r.a.) in danger. He picked up a wooden stick and ran out to help him. Zaynab (r.a.) saw him and caught hold of him. Husayn (r.a.) also said to his sister, “Stop him. Do not let him come out.”
The boy forced himself loose from her grip and ran to the side of Husayn (r.a.). When Bahrayn ibn Ka’b drew his sword to strike at Husayn (r.a.), the boy remonstrated, “O wicked one! Will you kill my uncle?” Bahrayn brought down his sword on the boy who took the blow on his arm. His hand was severed. The boy cried out in pain. Husayn (r.a.) clasped him to his bosom and consoled him saying, “Be patient, my child! Let this suffering be the means of Reward from Allah. Allah Ta’ala will Join you with your elders: Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib, Hamzah, Ja’far, and Hasan ibn ‘Ali.”
Eventually, Husayn (r.a.) alone faced his enemies. They now pressed close to the Imam who began to wield his sword right and left and forced them to retreat. ‘Abdullah ibn Amar who was himself taking part in the fight reported that he attacked Husayn (r.a.) with his spear and might have killed him, but he desisted, thinking not to carry the sin on his head. He said, “Husayn was being attacked from all sides but he made the enemy to retreat. He was wearing a shirt and a turban. By Allah, I have not seen such a disheartened man whose family members were killed before his eyes, so valiant, bold, resolute, and steadfast. The position was that the attackers were running right and left like sheep before a lion.” This continued for some time.
Meanwhile, Zaynab (r.a.), the sister of Imam Husayn (r.a.) came out of her tent and cried, “O ‘Umar, would that Abu ‘Abdullah be killed before your eyes.” ‘Umar turned his face but tears began to roll down from his eyes upon his cheeks and beard.
While fighting, Husayn (r.a.) felt very thirsty, and went towards Euphrates to quench his thirst but the enemy did not allow him to drink water. Suddenly his throat was pierced by an arrow. He pulled out the arrow and threw the blood which oozed out of his throat towards the sky saying, “O Allah! I complain only to You. See how the people are treating the grandson of Your Messenger.”
Then Husayn (r.a.) turned towards his camp but he was resisted by Shimr and his companions. Husayn (r.a.) realised that their intent was to plunder the tents. Husayn (r.a.) said, “If you have deserted your religion and are not afraid of the Last Day, at least you should respect the worldly morals. Keep safe my tents from your vagabonds and debauchees.”
Shimr replied, “We shall not harm your tents.”
It was getting late. Had the enemy wished it, they could have killed Husayn (r.a.) earlier but nobody was inclined to take the responsibility of this heinous crime. At last, Shimr the Damned cursed his army men and shouted, “May you meet with ill-fates. What are you waiting for? Why do you not kill Husain?” The enemy surrounded him again.
Husayn (r.a.) said to Shimr, “Why are you inciting your army to kill me. By Allah, Allah would not be displeased on anyone else's murder so much as of mine.”
Zur’ah ibn Sharikh at-Tamimi injured Husayn’s (r.a.) left arm and then struck a blow on his shoulder. Husayn (r.a.) swerved due weakness. People being frightened moved to the rear but Sinan ibn Anas an-Najafi came forward and attacked Husayn (r.a.) with a spear. Husayn (r.a.) fell on the ground. Shimr ordered a savage to sever Husayn’s (r.a.) head from his body but he could not do it. Sinan ibn Anas, in a mood of indignation, cursed him; dismounted from his horse and cut off Husayn’s (r.a.) head. Imam Ja’far asw-Swadiq (q.s.) narrated that after the murder of Husayn (r.a.), thirty-three injuries of swords and thirty-four wounds of arrow and spear were found on his body.
Sinan ibn Anas was in a state of confusion after killing Husayn (r.a.). He did not allow anyone to come near the body. He was running to and fro lest someone else should take the severed head away. The severed head was handed over to Khuli ibn Yazid Asbhi. He then ran to ‘Umar ibn Sa’d’s tent shouting “Load me with gold and silver for I have killed a great king; I have killed him whose parents are most venerable and who is the best among his lineage at present.”
‘Umar ibn Sa’d called him into the tent and showed his indignation. “By Allah, you are insane!” Then striking him with his stick, he said. “O mad man! Do not say so. You are saying a thing which if it comes to the notice of ibn Ziyad, he will definitely have you killed.”
After the murder, the Kufans took off the clothes of the body of Imam Husayn (r.a.) and then rushed to his tents. Imam ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.) was lying sick in the bed. Shimr reached along with some soldiers and asked, “May we not also kill him,” but some of his companions dissuaded him, saying, “Will you kill even the children?” Meanwhile, ‘Umar ibn Sa’d arrived and ordered that no one should enter the ladies’ tents or molest them. If someone had plundered anything, he should return it forthwith.
On hearing these words, Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.) said in his ailing voice, “’Umar ibn Sa’d! May Allah Reward you for this act of kindness. Your orders have saved us from the culprits.”
‘Umar ibn Sa’d ordered that Husayn’s (r.a.) body be trampled over by the horses. He called for volunteers. Ten men came forward and trampled the body. In this battle, seventy-two men of Husayn (r.a.) were martyred, while eighty-eight of the Kufans were slain.
The following day, ‘Umar ibn Sa’d left the battlefield of Kufa taking the women and children of the Ahl al-Bayt with him as prisoners. Qara’ bin Qays, an eye witness, narrated that when these ladies saw the mangled corpses of Husayn (r.a.) and that of their relatives and his companions, they could not restrain their grief and lamentation. Qara’ could not forget the bewailing of Zaynab bint Fathimah (r.a.): “O Muhammad! May the blessings and salutations of the angels in heaven be upon you. Behold! Your Husayn is lying in blood and sand in the desert. His body has been cut to pieces. Your daughters have been made prisoners. Your progeny has been killed and is lying in dust.” Qara’ ibn Qays added further that there was no eye that did not shed tears on hearing this lamentation.
All the Husaynis killed in the battlefield had their heads severed. These heads were seventy-two in number. Shimr, ibn al-Ash'ats, ‘Umar ibn al-Hajjaj and Gharmara ibn Qays took all these heads to ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad. Hamid ibn Muslim who accompanied Khuli ibn Yazid while carrying the head of Imam Husayn (r.a.) to Kufa reported that when Imam Husayn’s (r.a.) head was placed before ibn Ziyad, he repeatedly struck his stick on the lips of the Imam. On seeing this, Zayd ibn al-Arqam stood up and admonished him not to do so, as he had seen the Holy Nabi (s.a.w.) kissing these lips. He then began to weep bitterly. ibn Ziyad got annoyed and said, “May Allah Make you weep! Had you not been decrepit, I would certainly have put you to death.”
Zayd ibn al-Arqam (r.a.) left the meeting, saying, “O Arabs! Henceforth you are slaves. You have killed ibn Fathimah. You have appointed ibn Marjanah (ibn Ziyad) as your ruler. He puts your noble men to death and enslaves your pious persons. You have chosen humiliation. May Allah Destroy them who accept humiliation.”
When the women and children of the Ahl al-Bayt were brought before ibn Ziyad, Zaynab (r.a.) was wearing ordinary clothes and was surrounded by her maids. ibn Ziyad inquired as to whom she was, but no one responded. When he inquired for the third time, a maid servant replied, “She is Zaynab bint Fathimah.”
Thereupon, ibn Ziyad shouted, “Praise be to Allah Who has disgraced and destroyed you and brought dishonour to your name.”
Zaynab (r.a.) replied, “All praise is due to the Almighty Allah Who Honoured us by Raising the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) amongst us and Purified us. Only the wicked and vicious are disgraced.”
ibn Ziyad said, “Do you not see how Allah has Treated your family?”
Zaynab (r.a.) replied, “Death was their fate, so they met with death. Allah will Gather you and them together very soon and then you can cross question each other in His Court.”
ibn Ziyad said, “Allah has rejoiced me with the death of your arrogant leader and the rebels of your family.”
Zaynab (r.a.) tried to restrain herself but could not suppress her tears and said, “By Allah, you have killed my leader, destroyed my family, slashed my branches, and cut off my roots. If this rejoices your heard, you may rejoice over it.”
ibn Ziyad smiled and said: “Bravo! This is heroism. Your father was a poet as well as a hero.”
Zaynab (r.a.) replied, “What a woman has to do with heroism? My misfortune had made me unmindful of heroism. What I say comes out of my mouth with a burning heart.”
ibn Ziyad was enraged. Seeing him in this condition, ‘Umar ibn Harts said, “My Allah ennoble the amir! She is merely a woman. A woman's utterance should be taken lightly.”
After these bitter exchanges, ibn Ziyad glanced at Imam ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin ibn Husayn ibn ‘Ali (r.a.) who was seriously ill at that time. ibn Ziyad inquired with regards his name. He replied, “’Ali ibn Husayn.”
ibn Ziyad asked with astonishment, “Had ‘Ali ibn Husayn not been killed in the fight.”
Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.) did not reply. ibn Ziyad asked, “Why do you not speak?”
Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.) replied, “Another brother of mine was named ‘Ali. People killed him.”
ibn Ziyad said, “People did not murder him, but Allah has killed him.”
On this, Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.) recited the following:
Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s Leave the term being fixed as by writing... (Surah Ali ‘Imran:145)
On hearing this, ibn Ziyad shouted, “May Allah kill you! You are also one of them.”
ibn Ziyad wanted to kill him but Zaynab (r.a.) cried impatiently, “I implore you in the name of Allah not to kill the boy. In case you are bent upon to kill the boy, kill me also along with him.”
Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.) said in a loud voice, “O ibn Ziyad! If you have even the remotest kinship with these ladies, send them after I am killed under the escort of a pious man who should treat them gently in accordance with principles of Islam.”
ibn Ziyad fixed his gaze upon Zaynab (r.a.) for a long time and then said to the people, “Relationship is a very delicate sentiment. By Allah, I am sure she really wants to lay her life along with the lad. All right, leave the lad and allow him to go with the women of his family.”
After this incident, ibn Ziyad instructed the citizens to assemble in the main masjid and delivered a sermon before the assembly as follows: “All praise is due to Allah Who Made the truth manifest and has granted victory to the followers of truth. Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah, the Commander of the Faithful and his party became victorious and defeated Husayn ibn ‘Ali and his companions, the liars.”
On hearing this, ‘Abdullah ibn Afif Azdi, a well-known companion of ‘Ali (k.w.) who had lost his eye-sight in the battles of Jamal and Siffin, stood up and shouted, “By Allah! ibn Marjanah, you are a liar and a son of a liar, and not Husayn ibn ‘Ali.” ibn Ziyad got annoyed and put him to death.
ibn Ziyad fixed the head of Husayn (r.a.) on a pole and sent it to Yazid through Zahr ibn Qays. Ghaz ibn Rabi’ah reported that he was sitting in the court of Yazid when Zhahr ibn Qays arrived. Yazid inquired, “What is the news?”
Qays (r.a.) replied, “I have brought the news of victory. Husayn ibn ‘Ali came to us along with eighteen members of the Ahl al-Bayt and sixty supporters. We stopped them and demanded them to surrender or fight. They preferred to fight than to submit. So, we attacked them at the break of dawn. When swords began to strike their heads, they ran to and fro to save themselves just as pigeon ran away on seeing the eagle. Then we put them all to death. At this moment, their dead bodies are lying naked. Their clothes are stained with blood. Their dead bodies are rotting in the sun and are serving as a food for vultures.”
On hearing this pathetic story, Yazid’s eyes brimmed with tears, and he said, “I could be pleased at your loyalty even without the murder of Husayn. May Allah Curse the son of ibn Sumiyyah (ibn Ziyad)! By Allah, had I been present there, I would certainly have forgiven Husayn. May Allah Shower his blessings upon Husayn.” Yazid did not give any reward to the messenger.
Qasim ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahman, a slave of Yazid, reported that when heads of Husayn (r.a.) and that of the Ahl al-Bayt were placed before Yazid, he recited the following verse: “The swords sever the heads of those whom we love, though they were in fact tyrants who neglected the truth.” Then he said, “By Allah, O Husayn! Had I been there I would not have killed you.”
After sending the head of Husayn (r.a.), ibn Ziyad dispatched the remaining members of the Ahl al-Bayt to Damascus under the escort of Shimr ibn Zil Jawshan and Mahzhar ibn Tsa’labah. Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.) kept quiet throughout the journey. He did not speak even a single word to anybody. On arrival in the court of Yazid, Mazhhar ibn Tsa’labah cried, “O Commander of the Faithful! I have brought sinners before you.”
On hearing this, Yazid (r.a.) got annoyed and said, “No woman had given birth to a more vicious and wicked child than Tsa’labah’s mother.”
Yazid then sent for his Syrian chiefs to his court, and addressing Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.), he said, “O ‘Ali! It was your father who broke off family relationship, forgot my rights, tried to oust me from my rule. You have already seen the results of disobedience committed by your father.”
In response, Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.) recited the following ayah of the Holy Qur'an:
No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is Recorded in a Decree before We Bring it into existence: that is Truly Easy for Allah: In order that ye may not despair over matters that pass you by, nor exult over favours Bestowed upon you. For Allah loveth not any vainglorious boaster ― (Surah al-Hadid:22-23)
Yazid was displeased to hear this. He desired that his son Khalid should give the answer but Khalid did not understand anything. Then Yazid, pointing out to Khalid, said:
Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because of the things your hands have wrought, and for many (of them) He Grants Forgiveness. (Surah ash-Shura’:30)
Then Yazid turned his attention towards other children and women who were made prisoners. Yazid was greatly moved at their sad plight and declared, “May Allah Curse ibn Marjanah (‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad)! Had he been related to you he would not have treated you in such a way, nor sent you to me in this pitiable condition.”
Fathimah bint ‘Ali (r.a.) reported that when they were brought before Yazid, he took pity on them and treated them gently. She said, “While we were sitting in a court, a Syrian lad stood up and pointing to me requested Yazid to deliver me to him. I was in my teens and was very pretty. I began to tremble with fear and caught the hand of my sister, Zaynab, who was older than I. She was very wise and knew that it could never happen. She shouted at the lad, ‘You are a wretched fellow. Neither you nor he (pointing at Yazid) has the power to do so.’”
Yazid got angry at this boldness and said, “You tell a lie. By Allah, this is within my powers if I wish to do so.”
Zaynab (r.a.) retorted, “No, Allah has not given you this power. It is otherwise if you leave our party and become apostate by renouncing our religion.”
Yazid got further annoyed and said, “It was your father and brother who renounced the religion.”
Zaynab (r.a.) promptly replied, “It was Allah’s Religion, my father’s religion, my brother’s religion, my grandfather’s religion from which you, your father, and your grandfather obtained guidance.”
Yazid shouted. “O enemy of Allah! You tell a lie.”
Zaynab (r.a.) replied, “You have become a ruler by force. You are misusing your powers with tyranny and are oppressing the people with your force.”
Fathimah bint ‘Ali (r.a.) added that this turn of conversation made Yazid ashamed because he kept silent then. The Syrian lad, however, stood up again and repeated his request. On this, Yazid scolded him, “Be off, O wretch! May Allah Send death to you!”
Yazid consulted the Syrian courtiers in regard to the treatment of the prisoners. Some suggested harsh treatment while Nu’man ibn Bashir said, “They should be treated in the matter the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) would have treated them on seeing their plight.”
On hearing this, Fathimah (r.a.) said, “O Yazid! They are daughters of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).” This reference moved Yazid and his courtiers to tears and he ordered for their lodging in an independent house.
Meanwhile, the news of the arrival of the prisoners reached Yazid’s household. His wife, Hind bint ‘Abdullah, put on veil on her face and came out. She asked Yazid, “O Commander of the Faithful! Is it the head of Husayn ibn Fathimah, daughter of the Last Messenger of Allah?”
Yazid replied, “Yes, weep as much as you can on the murder of grandson on the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and of the scions of the Hashimi house. The wicked ibn Ziyad made haste in killing him. May Allah Kill him too.”
Thereafter, addressing the courtiers, Yazid said, “Do you know how did it happen? It was the outcome of Husayn’s error in judgment. He remained under the impression that his father is better than Yazid’s father; his mother is better is better than Yazid’s mother; his grandfather is better than Yazid’s grandfather. And he himself is better than Yazid, hence he deserves more to rule over the country than Yazid. His stand that his father was better than my father was wrong. ‘Ali and Mu’awiyah fought with each other and the world saw who emerged successful in the contest. As regards his statement that his mother is better than my mother, is undoubtedly true. Fathimah, daughter of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) is decidedly far more prestigious than my mother. Similarly, his grandfather is certainly better than my grandfather. By Allah, no one who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgement can grade anyone equal to, not to speak of better than the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). Husayn erred in judgment and forgot the following ayat of the Holy Qur'an, which reads as follows:
Say: “O Allah! Lord of Power (and Rule), Thou Givest power to whom Thou Pleasest and Thou Strippest off power from whom Thou Pleasest, Thou Enduest with Honour whom thou Pleasest, and Thou Bringest low, whom Thou Pleasest; in Thy Hand is all Good. Verily, over all things Thou hast Power. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:26)
Then the ladies of the Ahl al-Bayt were sent to Yazid’s palace, where the women of the family of Mu’awiyah began to weep bitterly on seeing their sad plight.
When Yazid came into the palace, Fathimah bint Husayn asked him, “Have the daughters of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) become slave-girls?”
Yazid replied, “O Daughter of my brother! It would never happen.”
Fathimah (r.a.) said, “We have been deprived even of our earrings.”
Yazid promised to compensate their loss and he did repay them two-fold or even more.
Yazid used to take his breakfast and dinner along with ‘Ali ibn Husayn. One day he called Hasan's (r.a.) young child, Amr to him and by way of joking asked him if he would have a duel with his son Khalid who was of his age. Amr ibn Hasan (r.a.) replied in the affirmative, adding that both of them should be given daggers in their hands and then their duel be watched. Yazid laughed and holding Amr in his lap, remarked, “A serpent begets a serpent.”
Yazid entertained the Ahl al-Bayt as his guests for some days. He used to stay in his private meetings that had he been a little circumspect, he would have kept Husayn (r.a.) with him for a few days and considered his terms, though it might have weakened his own position to some extent. This attitude would have discharged himself of his obligations towards the rights and relations of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). He repeatedly cursed ibn Marjanah (ibn Ziyad) who forced Husayn (r.a.) to fight by not agreeing to his terms of participating in jihad on the frontiers or of approaching him for settlement of dispute. Yazid stated ibn Ziyad had thus made him, Yazid, the victim of people’s wrath.
While bidding farewell to the Ahl al-Bayt on their departure to Madinah, Yazid assured Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (r.a.), cursing ibn Ziyad: “Had I been there in the battlefield, and had Husayn offered his terms to me, I would certainly have accepted them. I would have saved his life at all costs, even at the cost of the life of my own son. But what Allah Willed has happened. Keep in touch with me through correspondence and let me know your needs.” Afterwards Sakinah (r.a.), the daughter of Imam Husayn (r.a.), used to say that she had not seen any ungrateful person who was more hospitable than Yazid.
This sad news was the talk of the town before the arrival of the Ahl al-Bayt. When the party arrived in Madinah, the Hashimi ladies hastened to them, lamenting the loss of lives of the near and dear ones. The daughter of ‘Aqil ibn Abi Thalib (r.a.) was in the forefront crying and reciting the following verses: “What excuse will you have to offer to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) when he questions you as the last of his followers: ‘How did you treat my family and my progeny after me?’ Some of them are prisoners and the others are writhing in blood.”
Brother Syed Farid Alatas: I would like to add three points to this discussion. One is that the holiness of a site is given both by Divine Revelation as well as social construction. The holy status of Makkah, Madina and Jerusalem are given by Revelation and corroborated through historical events. The holy status of Karbala is derived from what happened in history to the Ahl al-Bayt, to Husayn (r.a.). That does not make Karbala holier than the other three, but that is not the point. This is not a ranking game.
This leads me to my next point. Both Sunnis and Shi'ites have gone to excesses when it comes to the commemoration of ‘Ashura. Among some Shi’ites, the commemoration had become excessively emotional and involve questionable practices such as self-injury. In such cases, ‘Ashura becomes a kind of narcotic or sedative to distract people from the actually existing Yazids in today’s world. Many Sunnis, on the other hand, have come to ignore ‘Ashura. In many parts of the Sunni world, although there are, of course, many exceptions, particularly among the Sufi thuruq, ‘Ashura comes and goes without Sunnis even reading a du’a for Sayyidina Husayn (r.a.). This, I find offensive.
My third point is that although Makkah is the holiest site in Islam and that this holiness is Divinely Given through the Authority of Revelation, it is becoming desacralised by the actions of humans. I am referring to the destruction of religious heritage such as the removal of graves and homes of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) family, as well other heritage, and the erection in their place of the icons of modern capitalism, such as luxury hotels.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I agree that it is a tragedy that many Sunnis know almost nothing about Karbala and its significance. In the Sufi Orders, we read the du’a of Husayn (r.a.) and the shuhadah of Karbala.
Brother Tim Luckcock: Karbala is all about vicarious sacrifice, I thought?
Brother Şahin Farökhzad: None of you have defined “holiness”. If you mean the place where the most barakah is found, then as I said, there are multiple ahadits from the a’immah of the Ahl al-Bayt that state that place is Karbala. As for Jerusalem, a strong traditional Shi’ah viewpoint is that that place is not especially holy at all and that the Mi’raj was to Heaven and not the Jewish holy site.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The Mi’raj was to the Divine Presence, and it passed through Creation. The Isra’ was to Jerusalem, and that is Mentioned in the Qur’an.
Brother Jak Kilby: Brother Şahin, I cannot say that any place on earth does not have barakah, including Karbala, but the Qur’an States:
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Glory to (Allah) Who did Take His servant for journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose precincts We did Bless ― in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the one Who Heareth and Seeth (all things). (Surah al-Isra’:1)
We Said, “O Fire! Be thou cool, and (a means of)) safety for Abraham!” Then they sought a stratagem against him: but We Made them the ones that lost most! But We Delivered him and (his nephew) Lot (and Directed them) to the land which We have Blessed for the nations. (Surah al-Anbiya’:71)
The journey on al-Buraq was to the site of Masjid al-Aqswa’, in Jerusalem, and the Prophet (s.a.w.) ascended to the heavens from there. If you want a Shi’ah source which also confirms the Sunni view that the ascension was from al-Aqswa’ in Jerusalem, see Ayatullah Sayyid Fadhel Hosseini Milani’s book, “The Source of Islamic Spirituality, Commentary on Surah 17: The Night Journey”, although I personally find it rather disappointing as it ignores the incredibly lengthy and inspiring ahadits concerning this event. Meanwhile, why on earth do you consider Masjid al-Aqswa’ “the Jewish holy Site”? Personally, I have experienced and perceived the wonderful barakah of Masjid al-Aqswa’.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I think we must be cognisant of the fact that just as there is no such thing as a Sunni consensus on everything, there is certainly more than one Shi’ah view on this. According to the books of tafsir, it was always the position that the Farthest Mosque was Masjid al-Aqswa' of Jerusalem. There is no controversy in this at all. It is even agreed such by Shi’ah scholars.
Brother Hajj Ahmad: Interesting discussion. Just a few comments from the peanut gallery. One is the concept of barakah which cannot be ranked as mentioned. Barakah is the spiritual feeling that one receives from a place, but it cannot be separated from the ideas one has in one’s mind about the place and its history. So, if I have a great love for Husayn (r.a.) and I am on the journey of Arba’in. being treated with love and respect by everyone, it is quite probable that the barakah I feel might be greater than at the Masjid al-Haram with the Ka’bah surrounded by Saudi Wahhabis holding sticks to beat me away from drawing close, or worse yet at the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) tomb where I can no longer even get close or stand and make du’a.
And finally, the point made about how most Sunnis know very little about the events of Karbala and the history within which it is situated as well as the effect the event had on the Muslim psyche which produced a seeming revival of Islam and preventing the religion from falling into a bottomless whirlpool of tyrannical nepotism.
One final comment. I am Muslim for the reformation of my heart and soul, not to be right or wrong about ideas.
Brother Mansoor Rizvi: Brother Jordan Mikhail Vesci, Brother Martin Harrison, a few things.
First, in Shi’ah theology, the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is seen as the highest in Creation. No imam is higher than the Prophet (s.a.w.).
Second, in terms of ahadits Brother Hajj Ahmad covered it well. There is a certain context with ahadits. It would not be fair for me to start picking up ahadits in Swahih al-Bukhari or Swahih Muslim and apply to all of Sunni theology, if I did not understand the context. Is Karbala a holy place? Yes, it is. But it is not mandatory to go to Karbala. Only hajj is mandatory, and the mandatory always has higher blessings than the recommended. Now, your underlying question is the remembrance of the death of Husayn (r.a.). The Shi’ah remember the death of all the holy personalities, including the Prophet (s.a.w.). So, why is there a “longer” mourning period and context with the death of Husayn (r.a.)?
First, there is a difference in the situation of death of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the death of Husayn (r.a.). The Prophet’s (s.a.w.) death was not at the hands of Muslims; no armies were involved. The community/ruling elites were not involved, women were not mistreated, and there was no huge type of cover up. The death of Husayn (r.a.) was a wake-up call for the ummah, which, only a few years after the Prophet (s.a.w.) passed away, strayed away from the message of the Prophet (s.a.w.). When a man like Yazid, a drunkard, an oppressor, was allowed to become a ruler, and the Muslims were complacent, and in some cases participating, in the murder of the grandson of the Prophet (s.a.w.), regarded by all Muslims as one of the leaders of the youth of Paradise, where the women of the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.) were marched like cattle, mistreated, had their modesty robbed from them, and a large percentage of the ummah had no idea what was going on. And where an innocent 6-month-old baby, Sayyidina ‘Ali al-Asghar (r.a.), was murdered by the army.
The man who led the army was ‘Umar ibn Sa’ad, whose father was the famous Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqasw (r.a.), so he should have known better. He was the leader of this murderous group, because he was promised governorship. The a’immah after Husayn (r.a.), such as Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (q.s.), Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (q.s.), Imam Ja’far asw-Swadiq (q.s.), Imam Musa al-Kazhim (q.s.), Imam ‘Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha’ (q.s.), all encouraged the remembrance of his death. His death and sacrifice was a message that a Muslim is responsible for standing up against tyranny, and to not help oppressors, even if the oppressors are so called Muslims, and to help the oppressed, even if they are atheists. Husayn (r.a.) was willing to avoid the bloodshed, but they all forced him to give allegiance. None of the Umayyads or Abbasids openly forced the a’immah to give them public allegiance, but Yazid did. Husayn’s (r.a.) message was the message of his grandfather, and that he was trying to keep this message alive after its true meaning was beginning to get lost, thanks to the likes of Yazid. This was what else was unique.
Brother Tim Luckcock: You said “death and sacrifice.” May I ask how and why this tragedy came to be understood as a sacrifice ritually and theologically?
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Our prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.) supersedes all in maqamat through the true sirr of ‘Ashura and complete fana’ at the maqam of Akhfa, the Most Hidden. On ‘Ashura, the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.) attained true fana’ by the ultimate vicarious sacrifice. They took on themselves the burdens of their oppressors and the darkness of their sins. They were Drowned in the Bahr al-Qudrah which appears as its highest manifestation in Akhfa. When the self is absent, the Divine is Present.
Shaykh Muhammad Harun Riedinger also shared his thoughts on it. He said, “It is not my aim, nor does my reading in Muslim history qualify me, to present here a historical portrait, or a socio-political analysis of the forces that were prevalent within the ummah after the fourth and last of the Rightly-Guided caliphs, ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.), had been assassinated, which brought about the situation and developments that led to the confrontation at Karbala in the early second half of the first hijri century. There is also hardly any need for it either, since there is ample material of that sort available, compiled by more learned persons than myself, and, moreover, those aspects of the event, which are relevant for us and ought to have a bearing on our lives today, in the 21st, respectively the 1st hijri century are not a concern of history, but a matter of spiritual grooming: iman and taqwa.
One of the strongest traits in human nature is to give great importance to outward appearances and manifestations at the cost of neglecting the inward qualities and realities, which are their real source and raison d’être, and this is perhaps the reason why the martyrdom of Husayn (r.a.) is commemorated the way it is being done, portraying and emphasising it as a historical tragedy and humanitarian failure, neglecting its underlying reality, being an event of supreme spiritual splendour and glory. Indeed, if this underlying reality was not there, Islam as a creed would have lost a great deal of its credibility.
Having feelings of devotion and love for the illustrious grandson of our Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) and the martyrs of Karbala who laid down their lives in the defense of the Truth and that, which is right, against an onslaught of falsehood and evil in the form of despotism, is not a prerogative of the Shi’ite Muslims. As a matter of fact, any Muslim who does not share such feelings of veneration and adoration for those noble warriors of Haqq must be considered spiritually crippled. It is only human to be temporarily veiled from the glorious reality of their martyrdom by evoking its tragic scenario on the plain of Karbala, and experiencing a feeling of sorrow, to get stuck in such gloom, however, or even intentionally clinging to it and seeking to increase it in a public display of grief and self-castigation, is hardly convincing as a sincere expression of love and devoutness. Love, devotion and adoration are notions of an extremely positive nature, and the response of the Real to the pursuit of goodness is invariably happiness and serenity; this is the established Sunnah of Allah (s.w.t.). Not allowing that veil of sorrow to be lifted by this Sunnah of Allah (s.w.t.), and insisting on focusing on the atrocities of the tyrants and oppressors instead is not only a denial of the Goodness that our Generous Rabb Brought Forth from their very wrongdoing and cruelty, but a denial and denigration of the supreme victory that Husayn (r.a.) and his valiant companions in the Scales of the Real, which they achieved by their sacrifice. One may grieve over something one loses, but one cannot lose something that one does not have! We are talking about the physical presence, respectively the dreadful manner in which the physical life of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) beloved grandson came to its glorious conclusion, martyrdom, because if it were his spirit or his spiritual reality that is at issue, the question of loss, or the grief about the circumstances of his physical death would not be relevant at all.
The only thing, of what transpired on the plain of Karbala on that fateful day, which has relevance for us, in our present-day lives, is the glorious example of taqwa, steadfastness and uncompromising upholding of what is just, right and true, that Husayn (r.a.) and the martyrs of Karbala have left behind for us as a legacy to follow, or at least to aspire to follow, everything else is pathetic self-indulgence. Martyrdom in Islam is the greatest honour that any believing Muslim can wish for, and there are many ahadits to that effect. In one of them, it is stated that, after seeing the reward their Lord Bestows on the martyr for the ultimate sacrifice he has made for Him, the martyr wants to go back, and go through the agony of death again and again, because it is a trifle in comparison to the Reward and Honour he Received for it. The Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) called Husayn (r.a.), “the Prince of the Youth of Paradise”, from which we can conclude that he knew that his noble grandson would die in the prime of youth, and what fate had been ordained for him, and yet, he did not do anything to avert it, although his station with Allah (s.w.t.) was certainly such that his intersession would surely have had some weight but Allah (s.w.t.) Knows Best. Lastly, and most importantly, Allah (s.w.t.) Himself States in the Qur’an, that the people who are slain in the way of Allah (s.w.t.) are not to be considered dead, but they are alive and sustained by their Lord. Would we, who claim to be his lovers and devotees deprive our hero of all this by having the events at Karbala having taken a different turn?
So, what are those people mourning, and why are they not celebrating instead? Celebrating the eternal – and that means ever, even at this very moment present – bliss, which keeps descending upon those noble souls, instead of lamenting their long passed physical suffering, which lasted but an instant in comparison with the eternal bliss they have been enjoying since, and although that suffering might have lived on as an agony of grievous memories with those, who witnessed it, it could not have lasted as a living memory longer than a generation. Is it a lack of faith in the reality of all those glad tidings that have been given about the status and condition of martyrs, or do those people seek to derive some kind of gratification in the sensation of grief and pain? It certainly must appear like that, if one observes those mass gatherings where people listen to passionate speeches by religious demagogues, under the influence of which they work themselves emotionally up into some sort of an ecstasy of ‘religious masochism’.
The last thing, I intend with saying all this, is to stir up sectarian strife. I have Shi’ah friends, and I have prayed with Shi’ah jama’ah in their mosques, and I did not and do not feel a lesser Muslim on account of that, but the ‘Muharram cult’, as it can be observed, particularly in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, appears to be more of a cultural phenomenon than a religious one, like a lot of other traditions that have somehow found their way into the religious observances of the Muslims – Shi’ahs and Sunnis alike – and that have resulted in the emergence of a religious culture, separate from, or additional to the pristine simplicity of the Diyn. If such traditions that are observed by one fraction of the Muslim community, while another fraction is opposed to them, pose a conflict of such dimensions that it has become a security concern for the authorities, so that anti-riot precautions have to be taken, then obviously, something has gone very wrong. It is utterly futile trying to judge, which of the fractions is right, and which is wrong. The Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) has said words to the effect, “The difference of opinion among the men of knowledge of my ummah is a Mercy”. These words of wisdom however must not be taken as a license to neglect or undermine the intended cohesiveness of the teachings of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), which is a very important issue in this context. Allah (s.w.t.) has Ordered us in His Holy Word, to get firm hold of the ‘Rope of Allah’, and not to fall into schism. The metaphor, used here, obviously emphasises the vital necessity of unity within the ranks of the ummah, and what is clearly expressed thereby, is the need to cling to the essentials of the Diyn, on which all Muslims are in agreement, and to refrain from falling into extremes, which do not constitute a common ground, and therefore, of necessity, must create splits, dissent and tension among the Muslims.
The Diyn is primarily an affair between every individual person and his or her Maker, Who is Closer to us than our jugular vein, and Who is the One to Whom we are ultimately answerable for our actions. Nobody, not even our closest companion, is on such intimate terms with us, and this means that everyone else is ‘an outsider’ to this relationship, and we are basically alone with Allah (s.w.t.). Nevertheless, our Generous Rabb has Placed us into a virtually real context with His Creation, and in this context our lives are linked outwardly with our fellow creatures in general, and more particularly and intensely with our brothers and sisters in Islam, and these links impose upon us a share in some collective responsibilities. Hence, if we bring any aspect of this very intimate affair, which we have with our Rabb, out into the open, then we enter it into this common realm, and are responsible for any effects and consequences it may have there. In the privacy of our solitude, we can go to any extremes in our relationship with Allah (s.w.t.), but in public, the general consensus on what is appropriate of religious practices should be respected. This is the conduct that has been enjoined on us by our a’immah, scholars and sages, irrespective of their madzahib, persuasions and schools of thought, and that was adhered to by them as a living example, with but a very few rare exceptions, where they experienced states in which they had no control over their actions.”
Brother Tim Luckcock: Thank you, illuminating. By definition, the tragic involves the nobility of morally and spiritually superior people transcending their earthly defeat and demise. If martyrdom is the highest honour a Muslim can wish for, does that not presuppose nobility of character absent of any violence, vainglory and vengeance? Unlike a lot of wannabe martyrs?