Imam Hussain's Departure from Medina
But then, if Hussain and his family were leaving Medina for Ali Akbar's marriage, they would not be secretive about it. The Holy Prophet's grandson would in that case have given out the good tidings to the public. There was not a living being in that town whose heart would not have been filled with joy to hear about the betrothal of Ali Akbar. And if marriage of Ali Akbar was the purpose, surely Hussain would not choose this season when outside the oasis of Medina, the scorching heat of summer was baking the desert sands!
After long discussions, by a consensus of opinion, it was decided to approach Hussain in a delegation and to dissuade him from undertaking the journey. Some of the venerable companions of the Holy Prophet(S.A.W.) undertook to apprise Hussain of their forebodings and their recollection of his grandfather's prophecy that, if Hussain migrated from Medina with his family, he would not return.
The caravan was almost ready to depart. The horses were neighing with impatience and champing their bits in the oppressive heat of the day. Hussain was standing near his horse intently watching the arrangements being made by Abbas and Ali Akbar. He was reflectively following their movements as they were helping each lady and each child to mount the camels, as they were lending a helping hand to the ladies with tender care and affection; as the ladies were graciously and profusely thanking them for the excellent arrangements they had made for their comfort and for protecting them from the unbearable heat by holding their own gowns over their heads as a canopy. This sight had some inexplicable effect on Hussain, for his eyes were glittering with tears. The solicitude displayed by his brother and son for the ladies and children should have filled him with happiness; but instead, the effect on him was just the opposite. Was he beholding the shadows of some coming events?
At this moment came the representatives of the people of Medina. With one voice they entreated Hussain to abandon the idea of undertaking this journey. Their leader, with supplication in his faltering voice, besought Hussain to tell them why he had decided to leave them and the Prophet's tomb for which he had so much attachment.
O Son of the Prophet, if we have displeased you in any way, please forgive us.
At this display of love and affection Hussain was moved to tears. Suppressing his grief he replied:
My dear brethren, believe me that my heart is bleeding at this parting, parting from you and from the graves of my beloved grandfather, my dearest mother and my brother, whom I held dearer than my life. Had it not been for the call of duty, I assure you I would have abandoned the idea of leaving Medina. It grieves me most that I cannot for once grant you your wishes when you all love me so dearly. But Almighty Allah has so willed it and in His divine dispensation ordained that I should undertake this journey. I know what hardships await me; but the Prophet has groomed me from my childhood to face them.
Seeing that the hand of destiny was snatching away Hussain from them, they conferred amongst themselves and suggested that, if his decision to go from Medina was final, he should take with him all the able-bodied persons of the town so that they could protect him and his people. They reminded him of the treachery that was pervading the atmosphere in the adjoining regions. Hussain, obviously moved by their sincere consideration for his safety, thanked them profusely. But he told them that, in accordance with the wishes of the Prophet, he had to fulfill the mission of his fife only with those who were destined to be associated with him in the task confronting him.
When they received this reply to their entreaties, from Hussain, the representative of the Medinites requested Hussain to grant them one wish to leave Ali Akbar behind him in Medina.
O Hussain," they said, "we cannot bear the thought of parting with your son Ali Akbar, He is the very image of the Holy Prophet(S.A.W.). Whenever we feel overcome by the remembrance of Muhammad(S.A.W.), we go to Ali Akbar to have a look at him and take comfort. We shall look after him better than we look after our own sons. We promise that we shall treat his every wish as a command. In fair weather and foul we shall stand by him. Even if we die, we shall command our children as our dying wish to attend to all his comforts and needs. His exemplary life has been an object lesson for our sons who are devoted to him as if he were their brother.
These pleading, which had a ring of sincerity and earnestness, rendered Hussain quite speechless for a time. How could he tell them what was in store for Ali Akbar who they loved and adored so much? When his sad reflections had subsided, he replied to them in a tone tinged with pathos,
Alas, I only wish I could entrust my Ali Akbar to your care! In my mission he has to play a role, the importance of which time alone will tell. I cannot accede to your request for reasons which I cannot reveal to you; but rest assured that I shall always remember your kindness to me. I shall carry with me vivid memories of this parting and remember you in my prayers.
When the heavens were glowing with the last rays of day, the caravan left on its long-drawn journey to the unknown destination. Soon darkness descended upon Medina as if symbolic of the darkness and gloom which the departure of Hussain had cast on the town, associated with a myriad memories of his childhood.
Meandering through the desert, the caravan had reached its destination, a destination which Allah had willed for it. The march of Hussain and his kinsmen in this world had ended; but it was just the beginning of their march toward their real goal. With the dawn of the 10th day of the month of Muharram the events, for which the Prophet and Ali and Fatima had prepared Hussain, started unfolding themselves. What a day it was and what fateful events it encompassed!