Imam Husain (a.s.) reached Karbala on 2nd Muharram 61 A.H. with his family and a small troop of 72 companions. The month of Muharram, right from the Pre-Islamic era i.e. the period before the advent of Islam, was a month where the Arabs, as a ritual, considered fighting and blood shedding as unlawful. But Yazid had no regard even for this Arabic tradition. He ordered his army to follow Imam Husain (a.s.) to Karbala. He appointed Ibn Ziyad as a governor of Kufa who in turn sent Umar Ibn Saad as the commander in chief of Yazid’s army to Karbala. Following the footsteps of his tyrant father, Yazid Ibn Muaviyah had given clear instructions to either force Imam Husain (a.s.) to pledge allegiance or kill him if he refrains from doing so. Yazid crossed all limits of humanity when he sent an army of over a 100,000 to kill Imam Husain (a.s.) and his companions.

Imam Husain (a.s.) upon reaching Karbala, camped with his entire family and companions alongside the river Euphrates. However, when Yazid’s army arrived there, they forced Imam (a.s.) to move his tents from the river such that they would be prevent Imam (a.s.) from any access to water. Blocking of water for Imam Husain (a.s.) and his kin was the beginning of dreadful atrocities upon them. On 7th of Muharram, water in the tents of Imam Husain (a.s.) was exhausted and there was not a drop remaining with them. Imagine the plight of a man who cannot provide water to his family which included people of all age groups, the smallest of them being a 6-month old son of Imam Husain (a.s.) who was called Ali Asghar. Yazid’s army completely ignored the fact that the person upon whom they were imposing these restrictions was none other than the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.). They called themselves Muslims but did not honour the Prophet’s household.

Finally, it was the dawn of 10th Muharram and Yazid’s army started with the unimaginable. History has never seen an act of terrorism worse than this. Words cannot do justice to what befell upon Imam Husain (a.s.) and his family on this day. As the famous poet Josh Malihabadi pens in Urdu,

Keh doon to dil se khoon ka chashma ubal pade
Jo chup rahoon toh dil se kaleja nikal pade
(If I describe it then my heart shall pour out all the blood If I keep quiet, then my heart itself shall cease to remain in its place)

The battle between Yazid’s massive army and the 72 lions of Imam Husain (a.s.) began. It started with the companions laying down their lives for their beloved Imam. Every companion before taking his last breath used to will to the other companion regarding safeguarding the life of their Imam. This continued till all the companions had attained martyrdom. It was now the turn of the near relatives, brothers, nephews and sons of Imam Husain (a.s.).

We now present a summary of the martyrdom of some of the relatives of and that of Imam Husain (a.s.) himself.

Martyrdom of Janabe Aun Ibn Abdullah and Janabe Muhammad Ibn Abdullah – Both were nephews of Imam Husain (a.s.) i.e. sons of his sister Janabe Zainab (s.a.). They were surrounded from all sides by the enemies and were killed. History recounts that when Muhammad Ibn Abdullah proceeded towards the battlefield saying, “I complain to Allah regarding the enemies, a nation who are blind and who spread devastation, who have changed the characteristics of the Quran, the firm revelation, and its rationality, they have sided in disbelief with despots.”

Martyrdom of Janabe Qasim Ibn Hasan Ibn Ali (a.s.) – He was the son of Imam Hasan (a.s.), the elder brother of Imam Husain (a.s.). He was of a very tender age in Karbala. Initially Imam Husain (a.s.) refused him the permission to go into the battlefield. He continuously kissed the hands and feet of Imam Husain (a.s.) until he gave him the permission. It is reported that Janabe Qasim put to sword 35 men before he was thrown off from his horse on to the ground. When he called his dear uncle for help, Imam Husain (a.s.) leapt onto the battlefield like a lion to save his nephew. But alas, when the enemy saw Imam Husain (a.s.) coming they ran for their lives in such a manner that the body of Qasim was trampled under the hooves of their horses while he was still alive. But it was too late before Imam Husain (a.s.) could reach to the rescue of his beloved nephew.

Martyrdom of Janabe Abbas Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) – He was Imam Husain’s (a.s.) brother as well as the commander in chief and flag bearer of his army. If there was one name which sent down shivers in the spine of the enemies, it was Abbas. He was titled Saqqa (the water carrier). Imam Husain (a.s.) had asked him to go in pursuit of water from the Euphrates for the small children in their tents who were thirsty for the past three days. If there was anyone in his army who could achieve this feat of tearing into the enemy camp and fetching water then it was only Abbas. Hazrat Abbas managed to reach Euphrates. None in the enemy camp dared to approach him for a combat because they very well knew the stature and bravery of Abbas, who had learnt the art of swordsmanship from his father Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) himself. When Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) was returning after gathering water from the river into a water-skin, an enemy who was lying in ambush for him behind a tree struck an arrow and severed his right hand. Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) placed the water-skin upon his left shoulder. The enemy then severed his left hand and he then held the water-skin by his teeth. Then an arrow pierced the water-skin and water flowed from it. Another arrow pierced his heart and he fell off from the horse. It is said that a man attacked him and struck at the crown of his head with an iron club which split up and he fell on to the ground. When Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) was martyred, Imam Husain (a.s.) said: Now my back has bent and my maneuver has lessened.”

Martyrdom of Janabe Ali Ibn Husain al-Akbar (a.s.) – He was the son of Imam Husain (a.s.) and according to some reports, he was 18 years old in Karbala. His countenance resembled Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) loved him so much that when Ali Akbar was going into the battlefield, Imam Husain (a.s.) looked towards the heavens and said: “O Allah! Be a witness upon these men, that the youth who resembles Your Prophet the most in character and speech is proceeding towards them. Whenever we desired beholding the face of Your Prophet, we would look at him…” It is reported that although he was thirsty, Ali Akbar killed 120 men. But finally thirst got the better of him. One enemy hurled a lance at him throwing him upon the ground. Seeing this, the army surrounded him from all sides and cut him into pieces with their swords. When his end drew near, he called out to his father. When Imam Husain (a.s.) reached near him, tears started flowing incessantly from his eyes and he said: “Woe be upon this world after you.” It is stated that none had ever seen Imam Husain (a.s.) weep so profusely before.

Martyrdom of the Suckling child, Abdullah Ibn Husain al-Asghar (a.s.) – Imam Husain (a.s.) had a 6 month old suckling child in Karbala who, along with everyone else, was also thirsty since three days. Imam Husain (a.s.) saw his infant weeping due to thirst. He took him in his lap and said: “O people! If you don’t pity me at least pity this young one.” Hurmula Ibn Kahil Asadi shot an arrow at the child, which pierced his neck and severed his head. Imam Husain (a.s.) wept and then said: “O Allah! I complain to You regarding how they have fared with me, my brothers, my sons and my family.”

Martyrdom of our Master, Imam Husain Ibn Ali (a.s.) – Dear readers. Till now, we presented only a few of the dreadful acts committed by Yazid and his army in Karbala. But we do not have the strength to describe what befell upon our Master, the beloved of Allah and His Messenger, Imam Husain (a.s.). What do we say about a man who has carried the corpses of his companions, friends and relatives all by himself since the dawn of 10th Muharram 61 A.H.? What part of his trials should we narrate? Do we narrate his grief when he was trying to gather body parts of his nephew Qasim? Or do we narrate what he went through when he saw the severed hands of his brother Abbas? How did he face his 18 year old son when he reached near the body of Ali al-Akbar? What was the pain like when he saw his infant being slaughtered in his arms? How did he manage to bury the body of his infant in the burning land of Karbala with the help of his sword? All this and much more while he was still thirsty since three days.

The martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.) in unparalleled in history. No one has ever gone through all of these before being martyred. Just ponder over the following points and try to understand the plight of Imam Husain (a.s.):

  • He was thirsty since at least three days and his lips were parched due to thirst
  • He saw his friends and relatives being killed in front of him and had been carrying their corpses since the break of dawn
  • Finally he prepared to enter the battlefield himself
  • He called for the enemy to fight him and who ever came near him was killed
  • He scattered the enemies just like a wolf who enters the rank of sheep
  • He attacked continuously until he killed 1950 men excluding the wounded ones
  • He reached and captured the Euphrates but could not drink from it
  • A man shot an arrow which pierced his forehead and blood started flowing out from it
  • He still attacked them like a ferocious lion
  • He was inflicted with more than 330 wounds of lances, cuts of swords and injuries of sword
  • His body fell on the ground due to the severity of the wounds
  • His body was lying in mid-air and was resting on the arrows which had pierced his entire body
  • Shimr Ibn Ziljaushan finally did the unthinkable – he climbed the chest of Imam Husain (a.s.) and beheaded him and that too in front of his sister Janabe Zainab who was watching all of this from a close distance
  • After the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.), his family which was survived by his only remaining son Ali Ibn Husain Zain al-Abideen (a.s.), who was the divinely appointed Imam after Imam Husain (a.s.) and was not permitted to fight in Karbala since he was bedridden. He was taken as a captive along with all the women folk of Imam Husain’s (a.s.) family viz. his sisters Janabe Zainab and Janabe Umme Kulsum and other members of his family. Their tents were burnt and looted and they were paraded from Karbala to Kufa right up to Syria.


    The tragedy of Imam Husain (a.s.) does raise a plethora of emotions and grief among his lovers and followers viz. the Shias. Hence, every year they observe this as a mourning period and spread the message of Karbala by organizing mourning gatherings, reciting eulogies, beating their chests and also shedding their own blood in remembrance of the heartrending incident of Karbala.

    It is for this reason that we, the Shias, curse Yazid and the killers of Imam Husain (a.s.). As a matter of fact, anyone who bears a humane heart will curse those who were responsible for this act of terrorism. The Shias, till date, are subjected to such acts of terrorism at the hands of the extremist groups. We keep hearing of such acts every now and then. Whatever Imam Husain (a.s.) faced at Karbala was because he stood up to defend the truth and save Islam. What the Shias are facing today is because of their love for Imam Husain (a.s.).

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