The Story of Imam Hussain (a) and Kerbala and the Day of ASHURA
In the month of October 680 AD, on the 10th day of the first lunar month of Muharram, known as Ashura in the Muslim calendar, a small battle took place on the banks of a tributary of the Euphrates river in Iraq. On one side were about 150 men, women and children, and on the […]
In the month of October 680 AD, on the 10th day of the first lunar month of Muharram, known as Ashura in the Muslim calendar, a small battle took place on the banks of a tributary of the Euphrates river in Iraq. On one side were about 150 men, women and children, and on the other a tyrant’s army about 30,000 strong. The smaller group decided against submitting to the tyrant and refused to surrender. In the clash that ensued, all the men and some children in the small group were killed. The women and remaining children were taken as prisoners of war. This was the year 61 after the migration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUHP) to Madina.
The tyrant thought the battle would be a minor encounter, an easy victory for his army, an ordinary act for his government. Indeed, it took the 30 thousand soldiers only a few hours to finish the job. And the tyrant thought that history would soon bury the memory of this incident. Afterall, hadn’t history already forgotten about many similar events? Isn’t it said that history is written by the winners? He believed everything would go back to normal in a very short time, but he was wrong about this one. What happened afterward is extraordinary. This small encounter changed the course of history for Muslims. The 72 men, far from being forgotten, became Muslim heroes and the event has been commemorated since then in many parts of the Muslim world, even being recounted and honored by many non-Muslim scholars and activists. Ashura became a day of awareness and a source of inspiration for those who stand for justice and fight tyranny.
Who were those heroes? Their leader was Imam Hussain (AS) the son of Ali and Fatima and the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad himself. Half of the men with him were his brothers, sons, cousins and nephews, all family members. The other half were his companions. Hussain was a beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet used to call him and his brother Hasan, “my sons.” In 680 AD, Hussain was 58 and a known religious leader in the Muslim world. Six months prior to this date, Mu’awiyyah the head of the State had died. Before his death he had appointed his corrupt son Yazid as the crown prince. When this appointment was rejected by some Muslim leaders, Mu’awiyyah used force and manipulation to go ahead with his plan. Yazid, a dissolute and arrogant young man became the head of state, and worse someone who satin the Prophet’s seat.Now the burden was on leaders like Hussain to clarify to the community and to history that in no way this transition of power was endorsed by the faith of Islam or by the tradition of the Prophet.
Yazid’s agents pressured people to offer their allegiance to the tyrant. Those who refused were threatenedwith death. People were waiting to see what Hussain would do. Accepting to give allegiance would have meant that Islam did not mind a corrupt individual as a leader. Therefore, Hussein rejected to submit to the new emperor and he also refused to use violence.
When Yazid became the emperor, Hussain left Madina, his home town, to avoid clashes. The journey took him first to Mecca then to Iraq where he and people with him were surrounded by Yazid’s army. The commander of the army asked them to profess their allegiance. Hussain told them that he would not submit to a corrupt, licentious and murdering man. In response the army first cut all water supplies in Hussain’s camp for 3 days despite the presence of small children. Then they brutally massacred and mutilated all men including young boys and Hussein’s six-month old, thirsty son. Then they took the ladies and children as prisoners of war, including the granddaughters of Prophet Muhammad. Details of this horrific massacre have been well documented. Those who are interested may search online to learn more.
Imam Hussain and his men were killed because they said no to injustice, to tyranny and to corruption.
It turns out that throughout Muslim’s history, many tyrants did not like Hussain and what he stood for. They burned and demolished his shrine many times and they persecuted those who have paid him respect. However, the Day of Ashura has become a day when many Muslims and people of other faiths mourn the martyrdom of Hussain and his followers, honor their sacrifices and receive inspiration to stand for justice and righteousness against evil.