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Salam Ya Hussain, Why salute the great Martyr of the Martyrs

One of the characteristic of Islam is that it has not only just explicated truth, but also provided role models. Imam Hussain (A.S) is a role model of valor, piety, selflessness and sacrifice. Both Shia and Sunni venerate and pay their respects to the family of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), Hussain (AS) and his pious companions. During the last 14 Centuries, an unparalleled amount of literature has been inscribed on Imam Hussain (A.S), in different languages of the World. This extra ordinary inclination of scholars towards Imam Hussain (AS) is due to his indescribable sacrifices at Karbala in 61 A.H. Almost all Muslims have a unanimous opinion that the sacrifices of Imam Hussain (AS) had saved Islam from going into extinction.

Allah blessed the noble couple of Hazrat Ali (AS) and Syeda Fatima (RA) with the birth of Imam Hussain (AS) on 30th December 626 AD (5th Shaban, 3rd AH). He was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Imam Ali’s marriage with Syeda Fatima (RA), took place when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had refused many proposals for her from prominent and wealthy companions, he was delighted when Ali approached him asking for his daughter’s hand, and said that it was a welcome and happy proposal. The Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) also later informed the Muslims that since he had no male heir, Allah (s.w.t.) decreed that his progeny would issue forth from the union of his daughter Fatima with Ali. On the occasion of their marriage, the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) prayed to Allah (s.w.t.) with these words: “O Allah! Bless both of them, sanctify their progeny, and grant them the keys of Thy beneficence, the treasures of Thy wisdom and Thy genius, and let both of them be a source of peace and blessing to my people.”

Addressing Imam Ali, the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) said, “Fortunate are you indeed! Of all the virtuous women of the world, your wife is the queen!” Then turning towards Fatima, he said, “Of all the virtuous men of the world, your husband is the king.” To both of them he said, “May Allah keep you pious and chaste and bless your children. Verily, I am a friend to him who befriends you, and an enemy to him who is your enemy.”

One of the companions of Holy Prophet (PBUH), Ans bin Malik (R.A) narrates that when the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) used to come out for Fajar (dawn) prayer, as he passed the door of Syeda Fatima ( RA ), he used to say, “O people of the house’ , perform your prayer” and then he used to recite the following verse of Sura al-Ahzab 33 from the Holy Quran: “Allah only desires to keep away (all kinds of) impurity from you, and to totally purify you,” O (AHAL-I-BAIT) ‘people of the house’.

Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) also introduced the Divine and elevated status of his grandsons Imam Hassan (AS) and Imam Hussain (AS), sometimes by inviting them under his robe, by carrying them on his shoulders and letting them hold his long hair as rein of a horse, extending his recitations in congressional prostrations if they decided to ride on Prophet’s back, introducing them as ‘Chiefs’ of inhabitant of Paradise.
The martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) at the desert of Karbala was predicted by the Prophet (PBUH) himself. Anas bin Haris (RA) reports that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) once said, ‘This son of mine who is Hussain will be martyred at the Karbala which is located in Iraq. And those amongst you who will join his noble cause will help him’. This is probably the reason why Anas Bin Haris (RA) joined Iman Hussain in Karbala and embraced martyrdom.

Before the Martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (AS) the fourth pious Caliph, he was asked to nominate his son Hassan (AS) as the Caliph. He replied to the people that you should elect a person of your own choice. They elected Hassan bin Ali and gave him their pledge of loyalty. Hassan (AS) had observed the turmoil, internal conflicts and violence for a long time. He also understood the designs of the Kharjites who had martyred two prominent Caliphs and close followers and sons-in-law of the Holy Prophet (Usman and Ali RA). He decided to end all wars for once and all.

He extended a hand of friendship towards Muaawia. Muaawia accepted the invitation and further honored it by signing a blank sheet of paper for Hassan ibn Ali to write any conditions that he wished to impose for ending the dispute.

His famous words in his speech in presence of Muawia ended all the turmoil, “If Caliphat was Muaawia’s right then let it be known that he has received it. If it was my right then all must know I have given him my approval and my right.” Muawia was awed by his generosity and said, “The kind of bravery you have demonstrated today, I have not seen anyone showing it earlier.” Muaawia knew that there were people in the audience who were extremely unhappy over Imam Hassan’s decision and even his close relatives and supporters were against this arrangement. However, this wise decision ended years of internal strife and once again Muslims were united under the leadership of one caliph.

Mughira bin Shuba suggested Muawia to nominate his son Yazid as his successor so that there was no confusion after Muawia’s death. Muawia took this advice and started a campaign asking governors of different areas to pledge their loyalty to his son Yazid. Almost all of them agreed.

There were however few exceptions. Among them four persons were most prominent and influential: Hussain bin Ali, Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah bin Zubair, Abdur Rehamn bin Abi Bakar.

Muawia, on his death bed, advised his son Yazid, “Be generous and forgiving to Hussain ibn Ali even if he brings an army against you. You need not worry about Abdullah bin Umar and Abdur Rehman bin Abe Bakar because they are not interested in political power. However beware of Abdullah bin Zubair and don’t spare him if he ever challenges your authority.”

Hussain (AS) received various letters from Muslims living in southern Iraq asking him to come to their assistance and rid them of the tyrannical rule of the Yazid. Hussain (AS), who at the time lived in Macca after his voyage from Medina, received various letters from Muslims living in Kufa. These letters urged him to lead the Kufians into revolt against Yazid and assured him of their loyalty and allegiance.

Imam Hussain left Macca for Kufa with all his family including his little children counting on the support of the Kufians. According to most sources, he had support of a small group of relatives and followers capable of fighting. His fighting men consisted of thirty-two horsemen and forty-foot soldiers. Hussain (AS) arrived in an empty desert named Karbala, located near the Euphrates River in Southern Iraq on Thursday the second of Muharram in the year of 680 AD. The Governor of Kufa, Ibn Zayad, under the orders of Yazid sent four thousand men to intercept Hussain (AS) and his followers. Ibn Zayd’s men arrived on the third of Muharram under the command of Umar Ibn Saad and prevented Hussain (AS) and his followers from reaching the river.

The decisive battle finally took place on 10th Muharram in which each and every male member of Imam Hussain’s small entourage was martyred fighting in the battlefield with the exception of one of his sons, Ali (Zain ul-Abideen) who was seriously ill and did not take part in the fighting. He was spared when Syeda Zainab (RA), Hazrat Hussain’s sister covered him under her arms and Ibn Saad protected him from Shamir’s sword. Hussain was left alone, one man against thousands. He took them on, fighting them bravely, and kept fighting, receiving many wounds in the process. Thousands of enemy fighters were surrounding him but none dared to move toward him to deliver the final blow.

Finally, it was Shamir who advanced with a small group of soldiers, but even he did not dare to deliver the final blow on him. At last, the son of Ali rose and threw himself on the Armies of Yazid. Attacked from every side, he finally fell face down on the ground just in front of his tent and was beheaded while the women and children watched the dreadful scene. The tragic day has since been known as Ashura, the tenth of the month of Muharram.

After the battle of Karbala, all the supporters of Hazrat Hussain (AS) were beheaded and their heads, including Hazrat Hussain’s, were taken as awards to Yazid in Damascus, while the female members were taken captive. As the women were carried away to Kufa, they passed the corpses of the dead, still lying on the sand. Hazrat Zainab (AS) cried out in lamentation:

O my grandfather Mohammad, on you the angels of heaven prayed. Behold Hussain naked under the sky, soiled with his blood and dismembered. O my grandfather, your daughters are captives, and your male descendants lying dead blown about by the wind.

The martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions at Karbala was one of the defining turning points in Islamic history. The battle of Karbala was much more than the slaughter of a small band of pious loyalists who were faithful to the family of the Prophet by an overwhelming military force; it was also an ideological battle between a group of religiously devoted individuals and a militarily powerful political establishment.

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