The Truth About Al-hussain's Revolt

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In the Name of God, the Compassionate the Merciful

Different phenomena vary as to their realities. Similarly, every uprising or revolt is unique as to the truth/s underlying its eruption [and eventual success or otherwise].

In order to understand a particular matter, or a state of affairs, you should know the deeper reasons underling its existing form and the characteristics that gave it that specific appearance. You should also be conscious of the material causes of that matter, or issue, i.e. its constituents or ingredients. In other words:

  1. The forces/causes that produced the revolt or uprising, which signify its truth are called "the causes at work".
  2. The nature of the revolt and its goals represent "its intents and purposes".
  3. The actual action plan, implementing it, and all what goes with it represent "its material causes".
  4. The end result that the revolt has come to produce represents its "overall picture". [Applying these parameters], was Imam Hussain's uprising a result of an angry outburst?

Islam is different from some other movements for change or reform that took place as a result of certain circumstances that in turn led to eruptions. Dialectics, for example, encourages heightening disagreements, inciting discontent, and showing opposition even for genuine reforms in order to bring things to a head on collision, i.e. an explosive revolution, not a conscious one.

Islam does not subscribe to these types of revolutions. The history of most Islamic revolts or uprisings speaks of the rationale behind such revolts, in that they came as a result of a complete understanding of the status quo they were determined to change.

Thus, Imam Hussain's revolt was not a result of an angry outburst, prompted by the pressures exerted by the Umayyad rule, especially during the reigns of Mu'aawiyah [the founder of the dynastic rule], and his son, Yezid. Rather, it was a very well calculated move. What substantiates the position the Imam (a.s.) took in this regard was the letters he exchanged with both the men; and the sermons he gave on different occasions, especially that one he addressed the Companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) in Mina, [in present day Saudi Arabia] with. All this evidence points in the direction of one conclusion. That is, the Imam was fully aware of what he was intending to do, viz. taking on the ruling establishment. His revolt was free from any angry reaction; rather, it was a purely Islamic uprising.

Looking at Imam Hussain's revolt from another perspective, i.e. the way he was treating his followers, one can only come out with one conclusion. He was determined not to let the feelings of his companions

run high, in a bid to avoid his revolt's earning any description of an explosive one. Of this strategy was his repeated attempts to appeal to his companions to leave his company, with a view to sparing them the fate that was awaiting them all, i.e. him included. He used to remind them every now and then that they should not expect any materialistic gain in their march, other than definite death. After he commended his companions, describing them as among the best of friends, he pleaded with them one last time, i.e. on the eve of the 10th of Muharram, [62 AH, 680 CE], to leave if they so wished, making it clear to them that they would be safe, for the Umayyad's were after his head alone.

You can hardly find a leader who aspires to utilise the dissatisfaction of his people to push them to revolt who talks in the same way Imam Hussain (a.s.) was talking to his companions. It is true that he was responsible for outlining to them their religious duty to rise against the despotic rule, in that resisting injustice and repression is such an obligation they have to discharge, yet he was seeking that his companions would discharge their responsibility of their own accord, i.e. without coercion. That was why he reiterated to them to melt away from the battlefield under the cover of darkness because the enemy was not going to pursue them had they taken flight, nor had he wanted to force them to fight. He further advised them that he would absolve them from their oath of allegiance to him, should they have chosen to forsake him, in that he left it to their own consciences. That is, whichever way they decided, it had to be dictated by siding with the right, i.e. without compulsion, either

from him or from the enemy. It would be their own choice alone. However, their decision to remain with the Imam gave the martyrs of Karbala the high regard they are held with.

To draw a comparison between the position taken by Imam Hussain (a.s.) and Tariq bin Ziyad in the battle of Jabal Tariq [the Rock of Gibraltar], we would say that what Ibn Ziyad resorted to of action is symptomatic of a leader with a politician's mentality, whereas Imam Hussain (a.s) was conscious not to force the fight on his comrades in arms.

What Ibn Ziyad did was to burn all the food supplies save that which could sustain his troops for twenty-four hours. He then addressed them in a sermon to the effect that they had no choice but to win the battle, making it clear that if they did not win, the result would be one of two: They would either be routed by the army of the enemy or got drowned in the sea, should they have chosen to flee. In contrast, Imam Hussain (a.s.) left the choice to the small band of his followers to engage the enemy in combat or turn back, for neither the enemy nor he were coercing them to fight.

Indeed, the Imam's revolt had its roots in the complete understanding, by all parties of his camp, of its inevitability. Thus, it should not be described as though it were brought about by a disgruntled man. This responsible revolt had a multiplicity of factors, in that it was neither a single entity nor a single-aim movement.