In the Name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful
Why the Recurrence of Recounting the Story of the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as.)?
Perennial conflict between truth and falsehood did not cease for a moment. At times, the conflict resulted in difficult periods with disastrous consequences for humanity. Had it not been for the Providence, it was about to cause a setback to the human procession towards peace, justice and equity.
The advent of Islam with the Prophet, Mohammad (S) and Imam Ah and his eleven descendants (A) at the helm of guidance for humanity was the grace of Allah.
Perhaps, the most glaring manifestation of this bitter conflict at the early days of Islam was the hostile stance adopted by the Umayyads towards the Messenger of Islam and his pure progeny. Readers of history will have noticed that the Ummayad clan, rivals of the Hashimite clan, although belonging to the same tribe - Quraish, did not spare any way or means to show their enmity and grudge against the Hashimite.
At the time of the Prophet (S) Abu Sufian, Sakhr bin Harb bin Umayya was the commander of the infidel armies who fought the Muslims in the battles Badr, Uhud and al-Khandaq. He professed Islam for fear of his life in 81 H., the year of the conquest of Mekkah.
Abu Sufian's grudge against Islam was all apparent. When Othman, an Ummayyad, assumed the mantle of caliph, Abu Sufian hurried to the grave of Hamzah bin Abdul Muttalib, who was martyred in the battle of Uhud. Kicking the grave with his foot, he uttered his now infamous words: "By him whom Abu Sufian take an oath, there is neither heaven nor hell. Snatch it, Oh children of the Umayyads!, as if you were catching a ball; Hold to it (power) with the skin of your teeth".
This hostile stand against Islam was handed down from Abu Sufian to his son, Mu'aawiya. This was clearly manifested when Imam Ali (A) was chosen as caliph. Mu'aawiya waged three devastating wars against the legitimate caliph; these were (al-Jamal), headed by Umul-Mo'mineen (Mother of the believers), A'isha at the pretext of venging the blood of the caliph Othman, (Siffeen), commanded by Mu'aawiya at the same pretext and (al-Nahrawan) at the behest of Mu'aawiya; Mu'aawiya's unrelenting efforts and schemings culminated in assassinating Imam Ali (A), while he was leading congregational prayer.
After the death of Imam Ali (A), his son Imam Hassan (A) inherited the caliphate. Mu'aawiya did not give him a respite. He commissioned a big army and marched from Syria to Iraq to fight Imam Hassan (A). With deceit and carrot and stick he managed to manipulate the military situation in his favour. With many of his military commanders defecting to the enemy side, falling prey to Mu'aawiya's promises, Imam Hassan had no alternative but to sign a (truce) with Mu'aawiya, driven by concern to preserve what was left of the disciples (companions) of the Prophet in his camp, who were tracked down by Mu'aawiya's agents. It was for this and the fact that Imam Hassan wanted to buy time to re-organise his depleted army. Imam Hassan was
forced to sign the cease-fire agreement with Mu'aawiya. However, Mu'aawiya did not keep his part of the agreement. He unilaterally revoked the agreement. For him, extending his power base to include Iraq mattered the most. He made this evidently clear in his address to the Kufans:
"Oh people! I did not wage war against you in order to make you observe prayer, fast, pilgrimage, and pay religious dues. I only did so to be able to be in charge of your affairs".
As the era of Mu'aawiya was drawing to a close with all the calamities inflicted on the followers of Imam Ali (A), especially the elite amongst them, he appointed his son wayward Yazid as heir-apparent. This move inflamed the feelings of the majority of Muslims. In protest they refused to endorse his appointment due to his public debauchery and the fact that he did not meet the most basic of requirements of the Islamic office of Caliph. On top of those who publicly rejected Yazid's appointment at the helm of Muslim's affairs were Imam Hassan and his brother, Imam Hussain (A). Thus, Mu'aawiya decided to get rid of them so that he may have a free hand in his plan for the succession to the Ummayyad rule. He was successful in assassinating Imam Hassan (A) through poisoning by his wife Ju'dah bint al-Ash'ath, having promised her marriage from his son Yazid. After implementing the plan, he did not deliver, accusing her of betrayal and fearing for his own son as she might do the same thing to him.
As for Imam Hussain (A), the circumstance were not right for Mu'aawiya to kill him. He left the task of liquidating him to his son, Yazid. When Yazid rose to power after the death of his father, he ordered the governors of provinces to get the pledge of allegiance for him from the Muslims. Accordingly, the governor of al-Madinah requested the allegiance from Imam Hussain (A). His answer was unequivocal, "The like of me do not swear allegiance to Yazid, the playboy and the killer of respected soul". This statement amounted to a declaration of war against the Umayyads.
In his decision to travel to Iraq, Imam Hussain (A) wanted to spare Mekkah and Madinah the honours of war and blood shed, especially during the sacred months. And the fact that the Iraqis invited him to come to them as they, "have brandished swords for him against their enemy, the Banu Umayyah". Yet, even before his arrival in Kufa they betrayed him. They unveiled their true colours in unprecedented dishonesty and cruelty against the Imam, members of his family and companions at the battle of Karbala - as detailed in this tale; a glaring demonstration of enmity, oppression, ruthlessness, and brutality was meted out by the Ummayyad rule.
The question that lingers in the minds is: Why is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (A) commemorated every year in this public display of outpourings, as if it were an ever-fresh memory?
You will find the answer at the tip of every tongue of those infatuated with the love of Imam Hussain (A): We bring our children up on his memory, teach our youth to follow in his footsteps, remind the elderly of the magnitude of the tragedy so that it remains alive in the hearts and minds; and learn lessons, from his sacrifices and firmness in faith, to be emulated in our lives. At adversity, he never wavered, saying:
"If the religion of Mohammad was not going to live on except with me dead, let the swords tear me to pieces".
I used to listen to the account of Imam Hussain's martyrdom related in commemorative gatherings in Najaf and Karbala at a tender age. As time passes and circumstances change as a results of adverse events engulfing Iraq in general and Najaf and Karbala in particular, we ended up settling in London. And when we inaugurated Ahlul-Bayt Islamic Centre in 1982, we marked this occasion with the mourning assembly in memory of Imam Hussain following the traditional family commemoration of this solemn occasion. On the tenth day of Muharram, the tale of the tragedy of Karbala used to be recounted by the late Ayatullah as-Sayyid Moharnmad Taqi Bahrul Uloom.(1) After his death, I took the responsibility of reciting it. Since I assumed this responsibility, I consulted many a book dealing with the story of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (A). Shorn of sentiments, my aim has always been accuracy of the reports, doing away with exaggerations and half truths. I hope I have been successful. And in order to reach a wider audience, I asked al-Haj Najim al-Khafaji to translate it into English. Also, to ensure veracity of the text, I kindly requested the eloquent orator, al-Haj Mulla Asgharali Jaffer, President of World Federation of K.S.I. Muslim Communities to revise it; he thankfully obliged and contributed to its publication. May their reward from Imam Hussain, in whose memory this publication has been commissioned, be great. From us are due the thanks and from the readers appreciation.
After all this my only hope is that all of us may have contributed, each in his own humble effort, to keeping the memory of Imam Hussain, the lord of martyrs so that the people of Kisa (mantle): Mohammad, Ali, Fatima, Hassan, and Hussain be our intercessors on the day of reckoning, when neither wealth nor offspring would avail. Allah, the Most High is the only Bestower of success.
Dr Mohammad Bahrul Uloom
10th Muharram, 1415
20th June, 1994
(1) The Tale was published by "Dar al-Zahra for printing, publishing, and distribution, 1985,