Succession to Muhammad (S.A.W)
The rule of the third Caliph Uthman concluded with a violent uprising. This uprising ended with the assassination of Uthman and for many days rebels seized and occupied the city of Medina. Under the overwhelming pressure of the Ummah, Ali ibn Abi Talib was elected as the fourth Caliph with massive numbers of people swearing their allegiance to him. His immediate steps were to ensure the unity of Muslims. He issued the orders of not attacking the rebels until order was restored. The governor of Syria, Muawiya, refused allegiance to Ali and revolted against him. This resulted in armed confrontations between the Islamic Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muawiya. Practically, the Muslim world became divided. At the death of Ali ibn Abi Talib, his elder son Hasan ibn Ali succeeded him but soon signed a treaty with Muawiya to avoid further bloodshed. Muawiya remained the ruler of Syria. Prior to his death, Muawiya was actively plotting a major deviation from Islamic norms. He was establishing his notorious son Yazid as the next ruler hence establishing dynastic rule for the first time in Islam. This was a move which was considered absolutely unacceptable by a number of eminent leaders of the ummah including the younger son of Ali ibn Talib, Husain ibn Ali.
Majority of Muslims were observing the conduct of the leaders of prominent companion families, namely, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Abdullah Ibn Zubair, Abdullah Ibn Omar, Hussain Ibn Ali and Abdur Rehman Ibn Abu Bakr. In his written instructions to Yazid, Muawiya suggested specific strategies for each one of them. Muawiya warned Yazid specifically about Hussain ibn Ali, since he was revered widely as the only blood relative of the Holy Prophet on earth. Yazid was successful in coercing three (Abdullah ibn Abbas, Abdullah Ibn Omar and Abdur Rehman Ibn Abu Bakr). Abdullah Ibn Zubair took refuge in Makkah. Hussain ibn Ali believed nomination of Yazid to the heir-ship of the Caliphate would destroy of the spirit of democracy and republicanism nurtured and developed so assiduously during the Prophet's era and afterward, and that it would lead to hereditary kingship which was repugnant to the original political teachings of Islam. Therefore, he resolved to oppose this with all the resources at his command.
Events Before the Battle
Muawiah died on Rajab 22, 60 AH. Muawiah had already started an empire-wide scheme of coercing Bayat'of his notorious son Yazid before his death. Few notables of the Islamic community were crucial to lending some legitimacy to this conversion of Khlafat into a dynasty. Husayn was by far the most significant personality being the only grandson of the Prophet. Yazid instructed his Governor Walid in Madina to immediately corner Husayn for him to pay allegiance to Yazid's appointment as the king. Husayn in presence of Marwan refused it and uttered his famous words that "anyone akin to me will never accept anyone akin to Yazid as a ruler." Ref: Tabri. Husayn departed Medina on Rajab 28, 60 AH two days after Walid's attempt to force him to succumb to Yazid's rule. He stayed in Mecca from the beginnings of the Sha'ban and all of the Ramadan, Shawwal, as well as Dhu al-Qi'dah.
It is mainly during his stay in Mecca that he received many letters from Kufa assuring him their support and asking him to come over there and guide them. He answered their calls and sent Muslim ibn Aqeel, his cousin, to Kufa as his representative in an attempt to consider the exact situation and public opinion.
Husayn's representative to Kufa, Muslim ibn Aqeel was welcomed by the people of Kufa, and most of them swore allegiance to him. After his initial observation, Ibn Aqeel wrote to Hussain Ibn Ali that situation in Kufa is favorable. However, after the arrival of the new Governor of Kufa, Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, the scenario changed. Ibn Aqeel and his host, Hani ibn Urwa were executed on Dhu al-Hijjah 9, 60AH (September 10, 680 CE) without any considerable resistance of the people. This shifted the loyalties of the people of Kufa to Emir Yazid against Husayn ibn Ali. Hussain ibn Ali also realizing a deep conspiracy to kill him during Hajj left Mecca on 8 Dhu al Hajj 60 AH, just a day before Hajj. He delivered a famous sermon in Kaaba highlighting his reasons to leave that he didn't want the sanctity of Haram to be violated, since his opponents had crossed any norm of decency and were willing to violate all tenants of Islam and Arab traditions.
When Hussain ibn Ali was making his mind to leave for Kufa, Abd-Allah ibn Abbas and Abdullah ibn Zubayr held a meeting with him and advised him not to move to Iraq, or, if he was determined to move, not to take women and children with him in this dangerous journey. Husain, however, had resolved to go ahead with his plan. He gave a speech to people the day before his departure and said:
"... The death is a certainty for mankind, just like the trace of necklace on the neck of young girls. And I am enamored of my ancestors like eagerness of Jacob to Joseph ... Everyone, who is going to devote his blood for ours sake and is prepared to meet Allah, must depart with us..."
On their way to Kufa, the small caravan received the sad news of execution of Muslim ibn Aqeel and indifference of the people of Kufa. Instead of turning back, Husayn decided to continue the journey and sent Qais ibn Musahhar al-Saydavi as messenger toward nobles of Kufa. The messenger was captured in the vicinity of Kufa but managed to tear the letter to pieces to hide names of its recipients. Just like Muslim ibn Aqeel, Qais ibn Musahhar was executed.
The Events of Battle
Battle of Karbala, Iranian painting, oil on canvas, 19th century from the Tropenmuseum AmsterdamHusayn and his fellows were two days' journey away from Kufa when they were intercepted by the vanguard of Yazid's army; about 1000 men led by Hurr Riahy. Upon interception by vanguards Husayn asked: "With us or against us?" They replied: "Of course against you, oh Aba Abd Allah!" Husain said: "If you are different from what I received from your letters and from your messengers then I will return to where I came from." Their leader, Hurr, refused Husain's request to let him return to Medina. The small caravan of the Family of Prophet arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61AH (October 2, 680 CE). They were forced to pitch a camp on dry, bare land and Hurr stationed his army nearby.
Ibn Ziyad appointed Amar ibn Sa'ad to command the battle against Husain ibn Ali. At first Amar ibn Sa'ad rejected the leadership of the army but he accepted after Ibn Ziyad threatened to depose him from the governorship of Ray city. Amar ibn Sa'ad moved towards the battlefield with a 4000-men army and arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61 AH (October 3, 680 CE).
Ibn Ziyad sent a brief letter to Umar ibn Sa'd that commanded: "Prevent Husayn and his disciples from accessing water and do not allow them to drink a drop of water. Ibn Sa'ad ordered 500 horsemen to cut Husain's camp off from the Euphrates to stop them from accessing water. One of the disciples of Husain ibn Ali met Amar ibn Sa'ad and negotiated to get access to water, which the latter denied. The water blockade continued up to the end of the battle on Muharram 10 night (October 10, 680 CE).
Amar ibn Sa'ad received an order from ibn Ziyad to start the battle immediately and not to postpone it further. The army started stealthily advancing toward Husain's camp on the afternoon of 9th of Muharram. At this time Husain sent Abbas ibn Ali to ask ibn Sa'ad for another delay, until the next morning, so that he and his men could spend the night praying. Ibn Sa'ad agreed the respite.
On the night before the battle, Husain gathered his men and told them that they were all free to leave the camp in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, rather than face certain death if they stayed with him. None of Husain's men wished to defect and remained with him. Husain and his followers held a vigil to pray all night.
Day of the battle
On Muharram 10 called Ashura, Husayn ibn Ali prayed Morning Prayer with his companions. He appointed Zuhayr ibn Qayn to command the right flank, Habib ibn Muzahir to command the left flank and his half-brother Abbas ibn Ali as standard bearer of his army. There is controversy regarding gregorian date for the day of Ashura. October 10, is a calculated date through calculators. But, these calculators are not always correct. According to book Maqtally Hussain Muharram 9 is October 12, 680, so it appears that date was October 13, 680 A.D.
The companions of Husayn ibn Ali were 32 horsemen and 40 infantrymen. Husayn rode on his horse Zuljenah.
On the other side, Yazid had sent Shimir (his chief commander) to replace Amar ibn Saad ibn Yazid as the commander. He reorganized his army and by afternoon, he had come to know that Hurr along with his son had defected to Hussain's army.
Husain ibn Ali called the people around him to join him for the sake of Allah and to defend Muhammed's family. His speech affected Hurr ibn Yazid Al-Riyahi, the commander of the Tamim and Hamdan tribes who had stopped Husain from his journey. He abandoned ibn Sa'ad and galloped his horse to Husain's small force and told them.
The battle starts
Ibn Sa'ad advanced and fired an arrow at Husain's army, saying: "Give evidence before emir that I was the first thrower." Then his army started showering Husain's army with weapons. Both sides began fighting. Successive assaults resulted in the death of a group of Husain's companions.
The first skirmish was between the right flank of Husain's army with the left of the Syrian army. A couple of dozens men under the command of Zuhayr ibn Qain fought heroically and repulsed the initial infantry attack and in the process destroyed the left flank of the Syrian army which in disarray collided with the middle of the army. The Syrian army quickly retreated and broke the pre-war verbal agreement of not using arrows and lances. This agreement was made in view of the small number (72) of Husain's companions.
In order to prevent random and indiscriminate showering of arrows on Husain's camp which had women and children in it, Husain's followers went out to single combats. Men like Burayr ibn Khudhayr, Muslim ibn Ausaja and Habib ibn Muzahir were slain in the fighting. They were attempting to save Husain's life by shielding him. Every casualty had a considerable effect on their military strength since they were vastly outnumbered to begin with. Husain's companions were coming, one by one, to say goodbye to him, even in the midst of battle. Almost all of Husain's companions were killed by the onslaught of arrows or lances.
After almost all of Husain's companions were killed, his relatives asked his permission to fight. The men of Banu Hashim, the clan of Muhammad and Ali, went out one by one. Ali Akbar ibn Husain, the middle son of Husayn, was the first one who received permission from his father.
Casualties from Banu Hashim were sons of Ali ibn Abi Talib, sons of Hassan ibn Ali, Son of Husain ibn Ali, Son of Abd-Allah ibn Ja'far ibn Abi-Talib and Zainab bint Ali, sons of Aqeel ibn Abi Talib, as well as a son of Muslim ibn Aqeel. There were seventy-two dead in all (including Imam Hussain).
Death of Abbas ibn Ali
Abbas ibn Ali advanced toward Euphrates branch along a dyke. Abbas ibn Ali continued his advance into the heart of ibn Sa'ad's army. He was under heavy shower of arrows but was able to penetrate them and get to the branch leaving heavy casualties from the enemy. He immediately started filling the water skin. In a remarkable and immortal gesture of loyalty to his brother and Muhammad's grandson he didn't drink any water despite being severely thirsty. He put the water skin on his right shoulder and started riding back toward their tents. Amr Saad ordered an outright assault on Abbas ibn Ali saying that if Abbas succeeds in taking water back to his camp, we won't be able to defeat them till the end of time. A massive enemy army blocked his way and surrounded him. He was ambushed from behind a bush and his right hand was cut off. Abbas put the water skin on his left shoulder and continued his way but his left hand also cut off from wrist. Abbas now held the water skin with his teeth. The army of ibn Sa'ad started shooting arrows at him. That is when he started crying; because one arrow hit the water skin and water poured out of it, now he turned his horse back towards the army and charge towards them but someone hit a gurz on his head and he fell off the horse. In his last moments when Imam Hussain was wiping the blood in his eyes to enable him to see Imam Hussain's face, Abbbas said not to take his body back to the camps because he had promised to bring back water but couldn't and so couldn't face Sakina
Death of the infant son of Hussain
When nobody was left in Hussain's camp, Hussain raised an immortal call for help by saying, "Is there anyone who can help me?" Hearing this call, Husain's six-month-old baby dropped himself from the cot. Hussain took Ali al-Asghar towards the enemy camp and cried out, "Is there anyone who can give some water to my thirsty child?". The rival army sent a best archer, Hurmula, who killed Ali al-Asghar, (six-month-old baby), by shooting an arrow which penetrated his neck. After he returned to the tents, Imam Husayn had made a small grave for Ali al-Asghar behind the tents with his sword, Imam Husayn had no water to make the grave wet, but there was enough tears shed by Imam Husayn that the grave became very wet.
Death of Husayn ibn Ali
Husain ibn Ali offered single battle to the enemy. He killed everybody that fought him in single battles. He demonstrated extreme courage and bravery, forced the enemy into retreat frequently and killed a great number of opponents. Husayn and earlier his son Ali Akbar were the two warriors who penetrated and dispersed the core of Ibn-Saad's army (Qalb-e-Lashkar), a sign of extreme chaos in traditional warfare.
Husayn advanced very deep in the back ranks of the Syrian army. When the enemies stood between him and the tents he shouted:
"Woe betide you oh followers of Abu Sufyan's dynasty! If no religion has ever been accepted by you and you have not been fearing the resurrection day then be noble in your world ..."
Then his enemies invaded back toward him.
They continuously attacked each other, Until his numerous injuries caused him to stay a moment. At this time he was hit on his forehead with a stone. He was cleaning blood from his face while he was hit on the heart with arrow and he said: "In the name of Allah, and by Allah, and on the religion of the messenger of Allah." Then he raised his head up and said: "Oh my God! You know that they are killing a man that there is son of daughter of a prophet (Husayn is son of Fatimah bint Muhammad) on the earth except him" Then he grasped the arrow and pulled it out of his chest from behind which caused heavy bleeding.
He became very weak to fight and halted and the soldiers approaching him were giving up confronting him, until a soldier approached him while cursing and hit him on his head with his sword.
The enemies halted for a while and then returned and surrounded him. At this time Abd-Allah ibn Hassan, who was an underage boy, escaped from the tents and ran until arrived beside Husayn. When a soldier intended to hit Husayn with his sword, Abd-Allah ibn Hassan defended his uncle with his arm which caused it to be cut and hanged. Husayn hugged him but the boy was hit on his neck with an arrow.
Husayn became very weak due to his heavy injuries and hits by arrows. Then a voice came from skies "We are satisfied with your deeds and sacrifices." After this Imam Husayn placed his sword in to its holder and tried to get down from the horse but was tremendously injured and so the horse let him down. He then sat against a tree.
Umar ibn Sa'ad ordered a man to dismount and to finish the job. Khowali ibn Yazid al-Asbahiy preceded the man but feared and did not do it. Then Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan dismounted his horse and cut Husayn's throat with his sword whilst Husayn was prostrating to Allah. Just before his throat was about to be cut, Husayn asked Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan, "Have you done your prayers today?" and this shocked Shimr because he did not expect anyone in the position of Husayn to ask about such a question. Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan was saying: "I swear by God that I am raising your head while I know that you are grandson of the messenger of Allah and the best of the people by father and mother" when he raised head of Husayn ibn Ali on a spear. The ibn Sa'ad's men looted all the valuables from Husayn's body.
Another ending of the battle is the following;
While Imam Hussain was taking rest against the tree, Shimr knew that Imam Hussain was unable to fight and sent one of his men to go and kill him. The man went and seeing Imam Hussains Eyes,he got extremely scared and ran back to his camp. When Shimr asked why he hadn't killed Imam Hussain, the man replied that looking into his eyes he saw prophet Mohammad. Angrily, Shimr sent another man. This one was so frightened that he droped his sword and ran back to his camp. This time when Shimr asked him why he hadn't killed him, he said he saw into his eyes and saw the angry look of Ali.Shimr was angry, said that he would have to do it himself and wearing his iron boots, he went to where Imam Hussain was. Using his iron boots he kicked Imam Hussain in the ribs. Imam Hussain fell to the floor, when Shimr disrespected and sat on top of him. Using a blunt knife,he rugged 12 times against Imam Hussain's throat. Imam Hussain said "get up", your blunt knife wont work here, this is the area that was kissed by my grandpa Prophet Mohammad! Let me sujdo (on the ground while praying), and pray for the well being of my people". While his head was down in sujdo, Shimr removed his head from body.
The army of Ibn Sa'ad rushed to loot the tents. The daughters of Mohammad's family were expelled from the tents unveiled and barefooted, while weeping and crying for their slain relatives. The army set all the tents on fire. The women were asking: "By Allah, will you make us pass the site of the murder of Husayn?" And when they saw the martyrs and wailed. Then Sakina bint Husayn (Death, 117 AH) embraced her father's body until some people dragged her away.
Umar ibn Sa'ad called volunteering horsemen to trample Husayn's body. Ten horsemen trampled his body such that his chest and back were ground.
Traditionally, it is believed that Imam Husayn's body was martyred but his 'noor' (light) and Imamat were passed on to his son Ali who became Imam Ali Zainul Abideen (Sahifa-e-Sajjadiya is a collection of his supplications).
Umar ibn Sa'ad sent Husayn's head to ibn Ziyad on Ashura afternoon and ordered to sever heads of his comrades to send them to Kufa. The heads were distributed to various tribes enabling them to gain favor of ibn Ziyad. Ibn Sa'ad remained in Karbala until the next noon.
After ibn Sa'ad's army went out of Karbala, some people from Banu Asad tribe came there and buried their dead.
On Muharram 11 (October 11, 680 CE), all captives including all women and children were then loaded onto camels with neither saddle nor shade and were moved toward Kufa. As they approached Kufa, its people gathered to see them. Some women of Kufa gathered veils for them upon knowing that they are relatives of Muhammad. Among the captives were Ali ibn Husayn, who was gravely ill, as well as Hassan ibn Hassan al-Muthanna, who was seriously injured in the battle of Karbala.
Zainab bint Ali pointed at the people to be quiet. Then she addressed the people of Kufa:
"The praise is exclusively attributed to Allah. And greetings to my father (grand father), Muhammad, and to his pure and benevolent family. And then, Oh people of Kufa! Oh deceitful and reneger people! Do you weep? So let tears not be dried and let groans not be finished. ... Beware, such a bad preparation you have made for yourself that Allah became furious of you and you will be at punishment forever. Do you weep and cry? Yeah, by Allah, do weep numerously and do laugh less! Since you brought its shame and fault on yourself and you will not be able to cleanse it forever. ..."
During the journey from Karbala to Kufa, and from Kufa to Damascus, Husayn's sister Zaynab bint Ali and Umm-Kulthoom bint Ali, and son Ali ibn Husayn gave various speeches that exposed the truth about Yazid and told the Muslim world of the various atrocities committed in Karbala. After being brought to Yazid's court, Zaynab courageously gave a famous speech in which she denounced Yazid's claim to the caliphate and eulogized Husayn's uprising.
The prisoners were held in Damascus for a year. The people of Damascus began to frequent the prison, and Zaynab and Ali ibn Husayn used that as an opportunity to further propagate the message of Husayn and explain to the people the reason for Husayn's uprising. As public opinion against Yazid began to foment in Syria and parts of Iraq, Yazid ordered their release and return to Medina, where they continued to tell the world of Husayn's cause.
Historiography of the battle of Karbala
The first historian to systematically collect the reports of eyewithnesses of this event was Abi Mikhnaf(died in 157 AH, 774 CE) in a work titled "Ketab Maqtal Al-Husayn". Abi Mikhnaf's original seems to have been lost and that which has reached today has been transmitted through his student Hisham Al-Kalbi (died in 204 AH.) There are four manuscripts of the Maqtal, located at Gotha (No. 1836), Berlin (Sprenger, Nos. 159-160), Leiden (No. 792), and St. Petersburg (Am No. 7libraries.
Rasul Jafarian has counted 5 Primary sources which are now availlable. Among the original works on maqàtil (pl. of maqtal or place of death / martyrdom and hence used for books narrating the incident of Karbalà) the ones that could be relied upon for reviewing the Karbala happenings are five in number. All these five maqtals belong to the period between the 2nd century AH (8th CE) and the early 4th century AH (10th CE). These five sources are the "Maqtal al-Husayn" of Abu Mikhnaf, the "Maqtal al-Husayn" of Ibn Sa'd-Sunni Historian-, the "Maqtal al-Husayn" of Baladhuri -Sunni Historian-, the "Maqtal al-Husayn" of Dinawari, and the "Maqtal al-Husayn" of Ibn A'tham. However, some other historians have recognized some of these as secondary sources. For example Veccia Vaglieri has found that Baladhuri (died 279AH/892-893CE) like Tabari has used Abi Mikhnaf but hasn't mentioned his name. On the basis of the article of "Abi Mikhnaf" in "Great Islamic Encyclopedia" Ibn A'tham has mentioned Abi Mikhnaf in "Al-Futuh" thus he should be recognized as secondary source.
Then latter Muslim historians have written their histories on the basis of the former ones especially Maqtal Al-Husayn of Abi Mikhnaf. However they have added some narrations through their own sources which weren't reported by former historians.
Tabari narrated this story on the basis of Abi Mikhnaf's report through Hisham Al-Kalbi in his history, History of the Prophets and Kings. Also there is fabricated version of Abi Mekhnaf's book in Iran and Iraq. Then other Sunni Muslim historians including Balazari and Ibn Kathir narrated the events of Karbala from Abi Mikhnaf. Also among Shi'a Shaykh al-Mufid used it in Irshad. However, followers of Ali – later to be known as Shia Muslims – attached a much greater importance to the battle and have compiled many accounts known as Maqtal Al-Husayn