Battle of Karbala
|Mourning of Muharram|
The Battle of Karbala is the story of the movement of Imam al-Husayn (a) from Medina to Mecca and from there to Kufa, that in the middle of the way, the army of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad led by 'Umar b. Sa'd lined against the caravan of Imam al-Husayn (a) which led to the battle between them and the martyrdom of Imam (a) and his companions and the capture of his family. This tragedy is among the most heart-breaking tragedies to Muslims and especially Shi'a in the Islamic history.
The movement of Imam al-Husayn (a) began from Medina towards Mecca after the death of Mu'awiya on the first days of Rajab 60/679; and it was the first action of Imam al-Husayn (a) to refrain giving allegiance to Yazid b. Mu'awiya. In this journey, the family of Imam (a), some of Banu Hashim and some Shi'a accompanied him.
Imam al-Husayn (a) stayed in Mecca until Dhu l-Hijja 8/September 12; but, following the people of Kufa's request of him to accept governorship and regarding the possibility of being killed in Mecca by the agents of Yazid, Imam (a) moved towards Kufa; however, before arriving in Kufa, he (a) was informed that the people of Kufa had broken their promise to support him. After Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi blocked the way of Imam (a), he (a) went toward Karbala and there he (a) encountered the army of 'Umar b. Sa'd.
- 1 Refraining from Giving Allegiance to Yazid
- 2 Moving from Medina to Mecca
- 3 In Mecca
- 4 Imam's (a) Movement from Mecca to Kufa
- 5 In Karbala
- 5.1 Entering Karbala
- 5.2 Entering of 'Umar b. Sa'd to Karbala
- 5.3 Beginning of the Conversations of Imam (a) with 'Umar b. Sa'd
- 5.4 Ibn Ziyad's Attempt to Send Army to Karbala
- 5.5 Effort of Habib b. Muzahir for Collecting Companions for Imam (a)
- 5.6 Muharram 7 and Blocking Water
- 5.7 Last Conversations of Imam al-Husayn (a) with 'Umar b. Sa'd
- 5.8 On the Day of Tasu'a
- 5.9 Eve of 'Ashura
- 5.10 Day of 'Ashura
- 5.11 Martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a)
- 6 After the Martyrdom of Imam (a)
- 7 See Also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
Refraining from Giving Allegiance to Yazid
|Timeline of the Battle of Karbala|
|Rajab 15||Death of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan|
|Rajab 28||Departure of Imam al-Husayn b. 'Ali (a) from Medina.|
|Sha'ban 3||Arrival of Imam al-Husayn (a) to Mecca.|
|Ramadan 10||Arrival of Kufiyans' first letter to Imam (a)|
|Ramadan 12||Arrival of 150 letters from Kufa|
|Ramadan 14||Arrival of the letter from leaders of Kufa|
|Ramadan 15||Departure of Muslim b. 'Aqil from Mecca toward Kufa.|
|Shawwal 5||Arrival of Muslim b. 'Aqil to Kufa.|
|Dhu l-Hijja 8||Departure of Imam al-Husayn (a) form Mecca|
|Dhu l-Hijja 8||Uprising of Muslim b. 'Aqil in Kufa|
|Dhu l-Hijja 9||Martyrdom of Muslim b. 'Aqil|
|Muharram 1||Asking for help of 'Ubayd Allah b. al-Hurr al-Ju'fi and 'Amr b. Qays in Banu Maqatil|
|Muharram 2||Arrival of Imam (a) to Karbala|
|Muharram 3||Arrival of 'Umar b. Sa'd with 4,000 people to Karbala|
|Muharram 6||Habib b. Muzahir's asking for help of Banu Asad|
|Muharram 7||Banding of water by 'Umar b. Sa'd|
|Muharram 7||Muslim b. 'Awsaja al-Asadi joined Imam (a)|
|Muharram 9||Arrival of Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan to Karbala|
|Muharram 9||Shimr's Safe conduct for Umm al-Banin's children|
|Muharram 9||Announcing of the Battle by 'Umar b. Sa'd and Imam's (a) asking for a delay|
|Muharram 10||Events of Ashura|
|Muharram 11||Moving the captives towards Kufa|
|Muharram 11||Burial of martyrs by Banu Asad|
|Muharram 12||Burial of a few member of martyrs|
|Muharram 13||Arrival of captives to Kufa|
|Muharram 19||Moving the captives from Kufa towards Syria|
|Safar 1||Arrival of the captives to Syria|
|Safar 20||Return of Ahl al-Bayt (a) to Karbala|
|Safar 20||Moving from Karbala toward Medina (in some accounts)|
After Mu'awiya died on Rajab 15, 60/April 24, 680, people gave allegiance to Yazid. He decided to take the allegiance of some of the nobles among Muslims who had previously rejected his father's invitation for giving allegiance to him. Therefore, he wrote a letter to Walid b. 'Utba, the governor of Medina at that time and informed him of the death of Mu'awiya and in a short letter, he wrote to him, "Take allegiance of al-Husayn b. Ali, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr and 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr by force and behead anyone of them who does not accept."
Then, Walid received another letter from Yazid, in which he had insisted, "write the names of those who approved me and objected to me and also send to me the head of al-Husayn b. Ali (a) with the letter." Walid consulted with Marwan b. Hakam and then sent 'Abd Allah b. 'Amr to Imam al-Husayn (a), 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, and 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr.
Imam (a) and 30 people of his close companions went to Dar al-'Imara (residence of emir) of Medina. Walid informed Imam (a) about the death of Mu'awiya and then read the letter of Yazid to him, in which Walid was asked to take allegiance of Imam (a) to Yazid. Imam (a) told Walid, "Will you be happy if I give allegiance to Yazid secretly? I assume you want that I give allegiance in public." Walid said, "I have that idea." Imam (a) said, "so, give me time until tomorrow and I will inform you of my opinion."
The evening of the next day, the governor of Medina sent his agents to the house of Imam (a) to receive the answer of Imam (a). Imam (a) asked for the time of night as well and Walid accepted. Imam (a) decided to leave Medina.
Moving from Medina to Mecca
Regarding the situation, Imam al-Husayn (a) left Medina towards Mecca together with 82 people of his family and companions in the eve of Sunday, two nights before the end of the month of Rajab and in another report, on Sha'ban 3/May 12 of year 60/679. According to some sources, he (a) went to visit the graves of his mother (a) and his brother (a), prayed there and bid farewell to them and returned home in the morning. In other sources, it is mentioned that Imam (a) camped near the grave of the Prophet (s) for two successive nights.
In this journey, except Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, most of other relatives of Imam al-Husayn (a) including his children, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces accompanied him. Beside Banu Hashim, 21 companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) accompanied Imam (a) in this trip.
After knowing about Imam's (a) journey, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, brother of Imam (a) came to bid farewell to him. Imam (a) wrote a will for him in which it is mentioned,
- "I did not rise up to ingratitude, seeking excess, making mischief or exercising oppression; but, I seek reformation of the Umma of my grandfather (the Prophet (s)). I want to enjoin to the good and forbid evil and treat according to the conduct of my grandfather and my father, Ali b. Abi Talib (a)."
Contrary to the opinion of his relatives, Imam al-Husayn (a) travelled through the main road of Mecca. In the middle of the way, Imam (a) met 'Abd Allah b. Muti' and he asked Imam (a) about his destination. Imam (a) said, "Now, I head for Mecca. When I arrive there, I will ask God the Almighty for the good." 'Abd Allah advised Imam (a) to keep away from the people of Kufa and asked him to stay in Mecca.
After five days, Imam (a) arrived in Mecca on Sha'ban 3, 60/May 12, 680 and received a warm welcome of the people of Mecca and Hajj pilgrims. The path of Imam's (a) movement from Medina to Mecca passed through the following stations: Dhu l-Hulayfa, Milal, Sayyala, 'Irq Taniyya, Zawha', Anaya, 'Araj, Lahr Jamal, Suqya, Abwa', Hasha pass, Rabigh, Juhfa, Qadid, Khalis, 'Asfan, and Marr al-Zahran.
For more than 4 months, from Sha'ban 3 until Dhu l-Hijja 8, Imam (a) stayed in Mecca. The people of Mecca became happy to hear the news of the staying of Imam (a) and they went to meet Imam (a) in the morning and in the evening. It is reported that this made 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr angry, since he hoped that people of Mecca give allegiance to him, but he knew that until Imam (a) is there, no one will give allegiance to him.
Letter of the People of Kufa and their Invitation of Imam (a) for Uprising
- Main article: The Letters of the People of Kufa to Imam al-Husayn (a)
Shortly after coming of Imam (a) to Mecca, Shi'a of Iraq received the news of the death of Mu'awiya and that Imam (a) and 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr refused to give allegiance to Yazid. Therefore, they gathered in the house of Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza'i and wrote a letter to Imam (a), in which they invited him to Kufa. Two days after sending this letter, the people of Kufa sent 150 letters (each of which were signed by one to four people) to Imam (a). The content of all these letters was asking Imam (a) to come to Kufa.
Imam (a) did not answer any of these letters until they became so many; then, Imam (a) sent a letter and he wrote,
- "I am sending my brother, cousin and a trustworthy member of my family. I have told him to inform me of your state, job and belief. If he writes to me that your beliefs are what is mentioned in your letters, I will come to you… Imam is only the one who acts according to the Book of God, performs justice and believes in the true religion and devotes himself to God."
Emissary of Imam (a) in Kufa
Imam al-Husayn (a) wrote a letter to the people of Kufa and gave it to his cousin, Muslim b. 'Aqil to take to Iraq, analyses the situation there and reports to Imam (a). After arriving in Kufa, Muslim b. 'Aqil stayed in the house of al-Mukhtar b. Abu 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi, or according to some reports, in the house of Muslim b. 'Awsaja. Shi'a went to meet Muslim b. 'Aqil and he recited the letter of Imam (a) for them. Muslim b. 'Aqil began to take allegiance for Imam al-Husayn (a). In Kufa, 12,000, 18,000 or more than 30,000 gave allegiance to Imam al-Husayn (a). Muslim b. 'Aqil wrote a letter to Imam (a) and confirmed the multitude of the allegiants and called Imam (a) to Kufa.
When Yazid heard the news for allegiance of the people to Muslim and the leniency of Nu'man b. Bashir (the governor of Kufa at that time) towards them, appointed 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad (who was the governor of Basra) as the governor of Kufa as well. After entering Kufa, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad searched for the connections of Muslim b. 'Aqil and threatened the chiefs of tribes.
Historical reports imply the fear of people following the touting of the companions of 'Ubayd Allah and scattering from around Muslim, so that at night Muslim was left alone and had nowhere to sleep. Finally, after fighting with the soldiers of Ibn Ziyad, Muhammad b. Ash'ath promised him of safe-conduct and he surrendered and was brought to the palace of Ibn Ziyad; but, he rejected the safe-conduct of Ibn Ash'ath and ordered to behead Muslim b. 'Aqil.
According to historical reports, Muslim who was worried about Imam al-Husayn (a) made a will to 'Umar b. Sa'd who was originally from Quraysh. The first will of Muslim b. 'Aqil was that 'Umar sends a person to Imam (a) and stops him from coming to Kufa. In the station of Zubala, the message of Muslim b. 'Aqil upon his martyrdom reached Imam (a).
Imam's (a) Movement from Mecca to Kufa
After 4 months and 5 days staying in Mecca, on Tuesday, Dhu l-Hijja 8 (the Day of Tarwiya, the same day that Muslim 'Aqil was martyred), Imam al-Husayn (a) left Mecca towards Kufa with 82 people, 60 of whom were Shi'a from Kufa. After Imam (a) had performed 'Umra of Hajj, he (a) changed it to al-'Umra al-Mufrada and came out of Mecca.
In the last month Imam (a) was staying in Mecca, when the possibility of his movement to Kufa became stronger, many people objected to him and 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya came to Imam (a) to dissuade him from going to Kufa, but they did not succeed.
After Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions came out of Mecca, Yahya b. Sa'id, the commander of the guards of 'Amr b. Sa'id b. 'As, the governor of Mecca, blocked the way of Imam (a) with a group of his soldiers but Imam (a) did not care and moved on.
Route to Kufa
The stations of the caravan of Imam al-Husayn (a) from Mecca to Kufa were as following:
- Bustan Banu 'Amir,
- Tan'im (Seizing the caravan led by Buhayr b. Raysan al-Himyari, agent of Yazid in Yemen was taking the booties from Safaya to Syria),
- Sifah (meeting of Imam (a) with Farazdaq, the poet),
- Dhat 'Irq (meeting of Imam (a) with Bushr b. al-Ghalib, 'Awn b. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far and some others),
- Wadi al-'Aqiq,
- Umm Khirman,
- Ma'dan al-Fazan,
- Maghitha Mawan,
- Hajiz (sending Qays b. Musahhar to Kufa),
- Ajfur (Imam's (a) meeting with 'Abd Allah b. al-Muti' al-'Adawi and his advice to Imam (a) for returning),
- Zarud (joining of Zuhayr b. al-Qayn to the caravan of Imam (a) and meeting the children of Muslim and receiving the news of the martyrdom of Muslim and Hani),
- Zubala (receiving the news of the martyrdom of Qays and joining of a group of people to Imam (a) including Nafi' b. Hilal),
- Batn al-'Aqaba (meeting of Imam (a) with 'Amr b. Luzan and his advice to Imam (a) to return),
- Birka Abu al-Misk,
- Dhu Husam (Imam's (a) encounter with the army of Hurr b. Yazid Riyahi,
- Bayda (making the famous speech Imam (a) made for Hurr and his companions),
- Umm Qurun,
- 'Udhayb (the route of Kufa was from 'Udhayb to Qadisiyya and Hira, but Imam (a) changed his route and stopped in Karbala),
- Qasr Banu Maqatil (meeting of Imam (a) with 'Ubayd Allah b. Hurr Ju'fi and his rejection for helping Imam (a)),
- Karbala, Wadi al-Taff (Imam (a) entered Karbala on Muharram 2, 61/680.
In every station, Imam (a) tried to clarify the situation for people in order to either attract them or make awareness; as in Dhat 'Irq, a person called Bushr b. Ghalib al-Asadi reached Imam (a) and described the situation in Kufa as chaotic. Imam (a) confirmed his news. Bushr asked Imam (a) about the verse "The day We shall summon every group of people with their Imam" (Quran 17:71)[Note 1]. Imam answered, "imams are in two groups: one group are those who lead people to guidance and a group who lead people to deviation. One who follows the imam of guidance, will go to paradise and one who follows the imam of deviation will go to hell."
Bushr b. Ghalib did not go with Imam (a), but he was seen later crying over the grave of Imam al-Husyan (a) and regretted not helping Imam (a). Also in Tha'labiyya, a person called Abu Harra al-Azdi reached Imam (a) and asked for the reason of his journey. Imam (a) said, "Umayyads took my property and I was patient. They cursed me and I tolerated. They wanted to kill me and I escaped. O Abu Harra! Know that I will be killed by a group of aggressors and God will cover them fully with the clothes of humiliation and will make them dominated by a sharp sword of someone who will humiliate them."
Sending Qays b. Mushir to Kufa
It is reported that when Imam al-Husayn (a) arrived in Batn al-Rumma, wrote a letter to the people of Kufa and informed them of his movement towards Kufa. Imam (a) gave the letter to Qays b. Mushir al-Saydawi to take to Kufa. When he arrived in Qadisiyya, a group of the agents of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad stopped him and questioned him. Inevitably, Qays tore the letter so that they do not find out about its message. When they captured him and took him to Ibn Ziyad, he asked Qays, "By God, I swear I do not release you unless you tell the names of those to whom al-Husayn wrote the letter, or you go on the pulpit and curse al-Husayn (a), his father and his brother! Then, I will release you, otherwise, I will kill you!" Qays accepted, so he went on the pulpit but instead of cursing Imam al-Husayn (a), he said, "I am the messenger of al-Husayn b. Ali (a) to you and I have come to deliver his message. Answer his call!" Ibn Ziyad ordered to take him down the pulpit, so they took him to the roof of Dar al-Imara and threw him down.
Sending 'Abd Allah b. Yaqtar to Kufa
It is reported that before Imam al-Husayn (a) knew about the martyrdom of Muslim b. 'Aqil, he (a) sent his Rida'i brother (brother through milk-feeding), 'Abd Allah b. Yaqtar to Muslim who was captured by Husayn b. Tamim and taken to 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad. 'Ubayd Allah ordered to take him to the roof of Dar al-Imara to curse Imam al-Husayn (a) and his honorable father (a)! When 'Abd Allah went up the roof, he addressed people and said, "O people! I am the messenger of al-Husayn (a), son of the Prophet's (s) daughter; rush to help him and rise up against son of Marjana!"
When 'Ubayd Allah saw that, he ordered to throw him down the roof. After he was thrown down and he was about to die, a man came forth and killed him. Imam (a) received the news of the martyrdom of 'Abd Allah b. Yaqtar, Muslim b. 'Aqil, and Hani b. 'Urwa in the station of Zubala.
Emissary of Imam (a) in Basra
Imam al-Husayn (a) wrote a letter and sent it to the chiefs of five tribes (i.e. 'Aliya, Bakr b. Wa'il, Tamim, 'Abd al-Qays and Azd) in Basra by one of his servants called Sulayman b. Razin. Sulayman submitted one copy of Imam's (a) letter to each of the chiefs called Malik b. Masma' al-Bakri, Ahnaf b. Qays, Mundhir b. Jarud, Mas'ud b. 'Amr, Qays b. Haytham and 'Amr b. 'Ubayd Allah b. Ma'mar. The message of this letter was the same and read, "I call you to the Book of God and the conduct of the Prophet (s). Indeed, his tradition is vanished and innovations have been made. If you accept my word and follow my order, I will guide to the right path."
All of the chiefs hid the copy of the letter of Imam (a) they received except for Mundhir b. Jarud who thought that it is a trick of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad; so, on the eve of the day 'Ubayd Allah wanted to move towards Kufa, told him about the letter and 'Ubayd Allah called the messenger of Imam (a) and beheaded him.
Encountering with the Army of Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi
When 'Ubayd ALlah b. Ziyad was informed of the movement of Imam al-Husayn (a) towards Kufa, sent Husayn b. Tamim, the head of his guards with 4,000 soldiers to accurately monitor any movements in the distance between Qadisiyya and Khaffan and the distance between Qutqutaniyya and La'la'. Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi and 1,000 soldiers under his command were part of those 4,000 army who were sent by Husayn b. Tamim to stop the caravan of Imam al-Husayn (a).
Abu Mikhnaf narrated from two men from Asad tribe who accompanied Imam (a) saying that, "when the caravan of Imam al-Husayn (a) moved from the station of Sharaf, they reached the pioneers of the army of the enemy in the middle of the day." So, Imam (a) moved towards Dhu Husam.
At noon, Hurr b. Yazid and his soldiers stood in front of Imam (a) and his companions. Imam (a) ordered his companions to give water to the army of Hurr and their horses.
When it was the time for Zuhr prayer, Imam (a) ordered his Mu'adhdhin, Hajjaj b. Masruq al-Ju'fi to make the call for prayer. When it was the time to make prayer, Imam al-Husayn (a) praised God and said,
- "O people! This is an excuse before God and you. I did not come to you but just after I received your letters and that your messengers came to me and asked me to come to you; and you mentioned that we do not have an Imam so that God guides you through me; thus, if you respect your promise, I come to your city and if you are not happy with my coming, I will return."
Hurr and his army became silent and said nothing. So, Imam (a) ordered his Mu'adhdhin to call for Zuhr prayer. The congregation for the prayer was made and Hurr and his army followed Imam al-Husayn (a) in his prayer. The evening of that day, Imam al-Husayn (a) told his companions to prepare for moving, then, he (a) came out of his tent and ordered his Mu'adhdhin to call for 'Asr prayer. After performing 'Asr prayer, Imam (a) turned to people, praised God and said,
- "O people! If you observe the fear of God, and respect the rights of the rightful ones, you will gain the consent of God. We, the Ahl al-Bayt (a), are more merited for the Wilaya over you than those who claim the right, which does not belong to them and their behavior is not according to justice, and make injustice to you. If you do not regard such rights for us and do not want to obey us and your letters are not similar to your opinions, I will return from here."
Hurr b. Yazid said, "I do not know about these letters you say! We were not among the writers of those letters. We are missioned to take you to 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad just upon seeing you."
Imam (a) told his companions, "Return!"; But, when they wanted to return, Hurr and his companions prevented them. Hurr said, "I should take you to 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad!" Imam (a) said, "By God, I swear I would not come with you."
Hurr said, "I am not missioned to fight with you, but I am told not to separate from you until I take you to Kufa; so, if you refrain from coming with me, take a path which neither reaches Kufa nor Medina; so that I write a letter to 'Ubayd Allah. You can also write a letter to Yazid, so that this may end in peace and to me this is better than being tainted by fighting with you."
Imam al-Husayn (a) moved to the left of the path from 'Udhayb to Qadisiyya. While their distance to 'Udhayb was 38 mil, Hurr was going along Imam (a).
Coming of the Messenger of 'Ubayd Allah
After dawn, Imam (a) stopped in the station of al-Bayda and made his morning prayer and moved with his companions so that they arrived in the land of Naynawa before noon. The messenger of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad came and delivered a letter to Hurr b. Yazid, which addressed Hurr that, "when my letter reached you and my messenger came to you, make it harsh for al-Husayn and do not allow him stop except in a desert without border or water. I have ordered my messenger not to separate from you until he brings to me the news of your following of the order. The end"
Hurr read the letter of Ibn Ziyad for Imam (a). Imam (a) told him, "Let us stop either in Naynawa or in Ghadisiyya." Hurr said, "it is not possible, since 'Ubayd Allah has made the messenger of the letter a spy to my following of the order."
Zuhayr b. Qayn said, "By God I swear that after this, it will become more difficult for us O son of the Prophet (s)! Now, it is easier for us to fight with this group [Hurr and his companions] than fighting with those who will come after them. By my soul I swear that after these, people would come, we would not have the strength to fight with them." Imam (a) said, "You are right O Zuhayr; but I will not be the beginner to war."
Zuhayr said, "In the nearby, there is a place close to Euphrates which has natural stronghold so that Euphrates surrounds it except one side." Imam al-Husayn (a) asked, "what is the name of this place?" Zuhayr said, "'Aqar". Imam (a) said, "I take refuge to God from 'Aqar."
So, they moved together until they arrived in Karbala. Hurr and his companions stood against the caravan of Imam al-Husayn (a) and stopped them from moving forwards.
Most sources have reported Thursday, Muharram 2, 61/October 5, 680 as the day when the Imam (a) and his companions entered Karbala. However, Dinawari has reported it Wednesday, Muharram 1 as the day of Imam's (a) entering to Karbala.
When Hurr told Imam (a), "Stop here, to which Euphrates is close." Imam (a) asked, "what is the name of this place?" They said, "Karbala."
Imam (a) said, "Here is the place of 'Karb' [suffering] and 'Bala' [trial]. In the path towards Siffin, my father (a) passed here and I was with him. He stopped here and asked for its name and when they told him the name of this place, he (a) said, 'Here is the place they get off from their horses and it is where their blood will be shed.' They asked him about whom he (a) was talking and he (a) said, 'a caravan of the family of Muhammad (s) will stop here.'"
Imam al-Husayn (a) continued, "here is the place of our horses, our tents, sacrifice of our men and the place our blood will be shed." He (a) then ordered to unload their packs. It was Thursday, Muharram 2 and according to another report, Wednesday, Muharram 1 of year 61/680.
It is reported that after camping in Karbala, Imam al-Husayn (a) gathered his children, brothers and his family, looked at them and cried and then said, "O God, indeed we are the family of Your prophet Muhammad (s) whom they expelled [out of our cities] and came out from the shrine of our grandfather (s) [the Prophet (s)] and Umayyads confronted us; O God! Take back our rights from them and help us against oppressors."
He (a) then turned to his companions and said,
"People are slaves of this world and religion is only on their tongue. They support religion up to when their lives is safe, so when trial and hardship comes up, followers of religion decease."
Then, Imam al-Husayn (a) bought the land of Karbala which was 4 by 4 mil area from the residents of Neynawa and Ghadiriyya at the price of 60 thousand Dirhams and made it a condition for them to guide people towards his grave and receive and host his visitors for three days.
After camping of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions in Karbala on Muharram 2, 61/680, Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi wrote a letter to 'Ubayd Allah and informed him of the camping of Imam (a) there. Following this letter, 'Ubayd Allah wrote a letter addressing Imam (a) that, "So, O Husayn, I was informed of your camping in Karbala. The commander of the faithful, Yazid b. Mu'awiya has ordered me not to rest the least or eat full until either send you to the All-knowing, the Most Kind God or force you to accept my command and the command of Yazid b. Mu'awiya. The end."
It is reported that after reading this letter, Imam (a) threw it away and said, "People who prioritize their happiness over the consent of God will not reach happiness."
The messenger of Ibn Ziyad said, "O Aba 'Abd Allah, do not you give answer to the letter?" Imam al-Husayn (a) said, "Its answer is the painful punishment of God which will soon surround him."
The messenger came back to Ibn Ziyad and narrated Imam's (a) word to him. 'Ubayd Allah ordered the preparation of the army for fighting Imam (a).
Entering of 'Umar b. Sa'd to Karbala
The day after Imam al-Husayn (a) camped in Karbala, i.e. Muharram 3, 'Umar b. Sa'd entered Karbala with 4,000 soldiers from people of Kufa. On the manner of his entrance to Karbala, it is said that, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad had appointed 'Umar b. Sa'd as the commander of 4,000 soldiers from the people of Kufa and ordered him to take them to Rey and Dastabi and fight with Daylamites who ruled the region. 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad also had written the mandate of the governorship of Rey for 'Uamr and had appointed him as the governor of that city. Ibn Sa'd and his soldiers went out of Kufa and camped in a place called Hamam A'yan. He was preparing to go to Rey that the uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a) came up and when Imam (a) moved toward Kufa, Ibn Ziyad called 'Umar b. Sa'd and ordered him to go and fight Imam al-Husayn (a) first and after that he goes to Rey. Ibn Sa'd did not like to fight with Imam al-Husayn (a), so he asked 'Ubayd Allah to exempt him from doing that, but Ibn Ziyad said that 'Umar's exemption was conditioned to giving back the edict of governorship of Rey.
When 'Umar b. Sa'd saw the insistence of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, said, "I go [to Karbala]." So, he moved with 4,000 soldiers and the day after Imam al-Husayn (a) camped in Karbala, arrived there.
Beginning of the Conversations of Imam (a) with 'Umar b. Sa'd
After 'Umar b. Sa'd came to Karbala, wanted to send a messenger to Imam (a) to ask him why he (a) has come to that land or what does he (a) want? He suggested doing this to 'Uzra ('Urwa) b. Qays al-Ahmasi and other nobles who had written letter to Imam (a), but they refused to do so. However, Kathir b. 'Abd Allah al-Sha'bi accepted and moved towards the camp of Imam al-Husayn (a).
But, as Abu Thumama al-Sa'idi did not let Kathir to go to Imam (a) with his weapon, he returned to 'Umar.
After Kathir b. 'Abd Allah returned to 'Umar, he asked Qurra b. Qays al-Hanzali to go to Imam al-Husayn (a) and he accepted.
In his answer to the message of 'Umar, Imam al-Husayn (a) told Qurra, "the people of your city wrote letter to me to come here. Now, if they do not want me, I will come back." 'Umar b. Sa'd became happy from this answer; so, he wrote a letter to 'Ubayd Allah and informed him of the answer of Imam (a).
Ibn Ziyad's Attempt to Send Army to Karbala
After Imam al-Husayn (a) camped in Karbala, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad gathered people of Kufa and shared Yazid's gifts – up to 4 thousand Dinars and 200 thousand Dirhams – among the elders of Kufa and called them to help 'Umar b. Sa'd in the war with Imam al-Husayn (a).
'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad assigned 'Amr b. Hurayth as his deputy in Kufa and he and his companions went out of Kufa and camped in Nukhayla and forced people to go there; and [to prevent joining of the people of Kufa to Imam al-Husayn (a)] took the control of the bridge of Kufa and did not let anyone cross it.
By the order of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, Husayn b. al-Tamim and his 4,000 soldiers were summoned from Qadisiyya to Nukhayla. Muhammad b. Ash'ath b. Qays al-Kindi, Kathir b. Shihab and Qa'qa' b. Suwayd were missioned by Ibn Ziyad to prepare people for battle with Imam al-Husayn (a). Ibn Ziyad also sent Suwayd b. 'Abd al-Rahman al-Minqari with some horsemen to Kufa and ordered him to search around Kufa and takes anyone who has refrained from going to battle Husayn (a) to Ibn Ziyad. Suwayd searched Kufa, arrested a man who had gone to Kufa to claim his inheritance and sent him to Ibn Ziyad. Ibn Ziyad [to scare people] ordered to kill him. People who saw that, all moved to Nukhayla.
When people gathered in Nukhayla, 'Ubayd Allah ordered Husayn b. Numayr, Hajjar b. Abjar, Shabath b. Rib'i and Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan to join the camp and help 'Umar b. Sa'd. Shimr was the first person who obeyed Ibn Ziyad's order and prepared to move. The next ones were Zayd (Yazid) b. Rakab al-Kalbi with 2,000 soldiers, Husayn b. Numayr with 4,000 soldiers, Musab Mari (Muzayir b. Rahina al-Mazini]]) with 3,000 soldiers, Husayn b. Tamim al-Tahawi with 2,000 soldiers and Nasr b. Harba (Harsh) with 2,000 soldiers form Kufa joined 'Uamr b. Sa'd. Then, Ibn Ziyad sent a man to Shabath b. Rib'i al-Riyahi and asked him to move towards 'Uamr b. Sa'd; so, Shabath joined 'Umar b. Sa'd with 1,000 soldiers. After Shabath, Hajjar b. Ajar with 1,000 soldiers, then Muhammad b. Ash'ath b. Qays al-Kindi with 1,000 soldiers and Harith b. Yazid b. Rawim moved towards Karbala. Every morning and afternoon, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad sent soldiers from Kufa in groups of 20, 30, 50 or 100 to Karbala, so that on Muharram 6, the number of the soldiers in the army of 'Umar b. Sa'd was more than 20,000 soldiers. 'Ubayd Allah appointed 'Umar b. Sa'd as the commander of the whole army.
Effort of Habib b. Muzahir for Collecting Companions for Imam (a)
After gathering of the army of enemy in Karbala, seeing the few companions of Imam (a), Habib b. Muzahir al-Asadi asked Imam (a) for permission and secretly went to Banu Asad tribe and asked them to help the son of the Prophet's (s) daughter.
Banu Asad went with Habib b. Muzahir al-Asadi at night towards the camp of Imam al-Husayn (a), but 400 or 500 horsemen of the army of 'Umar b. Sa'd led by Azraq b. Harb al-Saydawi blocked their way at the bank of Euphrates. They engaged in a battle, Banu Asad returned home and Habib went to Imam (a) alone.
Muharram 7 and Blocking Water
On Muharram 7, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad sent a letter to 'Umar b. Sa'd and asked him to separate Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions and the access to water so that they cannot drink a drop of water. When 'Umar b. Sa'd received this letter, he ordered 'Amr b. Hajjaj al-Zubaydi to go to the bank of Euphrates with 500 horsemen and block Imam (a) and his companions' access to water.
It is reported in some sources that after blocking water and rising thirst in the camp, Imam al-Husayn (a) called 'Abbas (a) and sent him with 30 horsemen and 20 foot soldiers with 20 water bottles to take water. They moved towards Euphrates at night while Nafi' b. Hilal al-Jamali was going in front of them holding the standard and reached Euphrates. 'Amr b. Hajjaj who was guarding Euphrates engaged in fight with companions of Imam (a), some of who had filled their water bottles with water and some others including 'Abbas (a) and Nafi' b. Hilal were fighting and guarding others so that they could take water to the tents. Companions of Imam (a) could eventually take water to the tents.
Last Conversations of Imam al-Husayn (a) with 'Umar b. Sa'd
After different armies came and camped in the camp of 'Umar b. Sa'd in Karbala, Imam al-Husayn (a) sent 'Amr b. Qarza al-Ansari to 'Umar b. Sa'd to tell him that Imam (a) wanted to see him at night between the two armies. At night, Imam (a) and Ibn Sa'd, each came with 20 horsemen. Except his brother 'Abbas (a) and his son Ali Akbar (a), Imam (a) asked his other companions to keep away. Ibn Sa'd also kept his slave and his son Hafs and ordered others to keep away. According to some sources, in this meeting, Imam (a) told Ibn Sa'd, "Leave this wrong decision and choose the path which is appropriate for your religion and your life…" 'Umar did not accept and so Imam (a) said, "May God gets you killed and does not forgive you on the Day of Judgment. I wish you do not eat from the wheat of Rey." He (a) then returned.
Imam (a) and Ibn Sa'd made conversations for several times. According to some sources, at the end of one of these conversations, 'Umar b. Sa'd wrote a letter to 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad,
"Al-Husayn b. Ali made a deal with me that he either returns from here or goes to one of the Muslim borders and he accepts his share of rights and duties like other Muslims and his share in the interests and losses of Muslims or that he goes to Yazid and accepts anything Yazid orders about him and this makes your happiness and it is the good of the Umma."
When 'Ubayd Allah read the letter, said, "Indeed, this man advises his Emir and cares for his Umma." [He wanted to accept that] but Shimr was with him, so he objected. Then, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad told Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan, "take my letter to 'Umar b. Sa'd to tell al-Husayn and his companions to surrender to me. If they accept, bring them to me safely and if they did not, fight them! If 'Umar b. Sa'd accepted to fight, obey him! And if he refused to fight, you fight with al-Husayn for then you will be the commander; so, you behead 'Umar b. Sa'd and send his head to me." Then, 'Ubayd Allah wrote a letter to 'Umar b. Sa'd,
"I did not send you to al-Husayn to make a peace with him and wish him health and intercede for him before me. If al-Husayn and his companions obey my order [and give allegiance to Yazid], send them to me safely; otherwise, attack them, shed their blood and mutilate their bodies for they deserve that. When al-Husayn is killed, trample horses over his chest and back for he is disobedient and I do not think this will damage but I have promised that if I kill him I will do this to him. So, if you act according to this order, we will give you the reward of an obedient man and if you do not accept, abandon our army and leave it to Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan, since we appointed him as the commander for our task. The end."
On the Day of Tasu'a
- Main article: Tasu'a
In the afternoon of Thursday, Muharram 9, 61/October 12, 680, Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan reached 'Umar b. Sa'd with the order 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad had given him and gave him the order. 'Umar b. Sa'd told Shimr, "I will take this myself."
Shimr (who was from the same tribe as Umm al-Banin) and also according to a report, 'Abd Allah b. Abi l-Mahal, the nephew of Umm al-Banin had previously taken a safe-conduct from Ibn Ziyad for the sons of Umm al-Banin. 'Abd Allah b. Abi l-Mahal sent the safe-conduct to Karbala by his servant, Kizman or 'Irfan. After entering Karbala, he read the safe-conduct to the sons of Umm al-Banin, but they rejected it. It is mentioned in another report that Shimr himself brought the safe-conduct to Karbala and took it to 'Abbas (a) and his brothers 'Abd Allah, Ja'far and 'Uthman. But all of them rejected it; as, al-Shaykh al-Mufid reported that their conversation was so that Shimr said, "O you, my nephews are safe." They answered, "May God curse you and your safe-conduct! You give us safe-conduct while the grandson of the Prophet (s) is not safe?!"
In the evening, 'Umar b. Sa'd shouted that, "O the army of God! Get on your horses and give the good news!" So, the horsemen got on their horses and moved towards the camp of Imam (a).
When Imam (a) was informed, told his brother Abbas (a),
Abbas (a) went to the enemy and informed them of the request of Imam (a) and asked them for the night. Ibn Sa'd agreed. On the day of Tasu'a, the tents of Imam al-Husayn (a), his family and companions were besieged.
Eve of 'Ashura
- Main article: Eve of Ashura
Renewing the Promise of the Companions of Imam al-Husayn (a)
Imam al-Husyan (a) gathered his companions in the evening and after praising God, addressed them,
- "I assume this is the last day we have given permission by these people. Behold that I allowed you [to go]. So, you may all go in peace of mind for I lift up my allegiance from you. Now that the darkness of night has covered you, take a horse and go."
At that time, first the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and then each of the companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) spoke and declared his loyalty and insisted on sacrificing his soul for defending Imam (a). Historical sources and Maqtals have reported some of these speeches.
Lady Zaynab's (a) Worry about Loyalty of the Companions
After his speech, Imam al-Husayn (a) returned to his tents and entered the tent of his sister Zaynab (a). Nafi' b. Hilal was waiting for Imam (a) out of the tent and he heard that Lady Zaynab (a) told Imam (a), "Have you tested your companions? I am worried that they also turn their back on us and at the time of battle surrender you to the enemy."
Imam (a) answered, "By God I swear, I have tested them and I have found them men who have stood tall so that they look down upon death and love death on my way like a suckling loves his mother's breasts."
When Nafi' felt that the family of Imam al-Husayn (a) were worried about loyalty and steadfastness of the companions, went to Habib b. Muzahir and consulted with him and they decided with other companions to ensure Imam (a) and his family that they would defend them until the end of their lives.
Habib b. Muzahir called the companions to gather. He then told Banu Hashim, "Return to your tents." Then, he turned to the companions and told them what he had heard from Nafi'. All of them said, "By God who favored us to be here, that if we were not waiting al-Husayn's (a) order, we would attack them now to enlighten our souls and brighten our eyes."
Habib and other companions, having unsheathed swords in hands reached the tents of the family of Imam (a) and loudly said, "O the family of the Prophet (s)! these are the swords of your youths and gentlemen which will not be sheathed until behead your enemies. These are the spears of your sons, who have made a vow to pierce them in the chests of those who rejected your call."
Day of 'Ashura
- Main article: Day of 'Ashura (Events)
After making the morning prayer, Imam al-Husayn (a) organized the lines of his soldiers (32 horsemen and 40 foot soldiers). Then to complete the proofs for the enemy, Imam (a) got on the horse and went towards the army of the enemy with a group of his companions and advised them. After the speech of Imam (a), Zuhayr b. Qayn spoke and talked about the virtues of Imam (a) and gave advice.
One of the events of the morning of 'Ashura was that al-Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi abandoned the army of 'Umar b. Sa'd and joined the camp of Imam (a).
At the beginning of the battle, attacks were made in groups. According to some historical reports, up to 50 of the companions of Imam (a) were martyred in the first attack. Then, companions of Imam (a) went to battle one by one or two by two. Companions of Imam (a) did not let anyone of the army of the enemy approaches Imam (a). After the martyrdom of the companions of Imam (a) other than Banu Hashim in the morning and in the afternoon of 'Ashura, his companions from Banu Hashim came forth and asked to go to the battlefield. The first person from Banu Hashim who asked Imam (a) for permission to go to battle was Ali al-Akbar (a). After him, other relatives of Imam (a) went to battle and were martyred one by one. Abu l-Fadl al-'Abbas (a) the standard-bearer of the army and the guard of the tents was also martyred in the fight with the guards of Euphrates.
After the martyrdom of Banu Hashim, Imam al-Husayn (a) himself went to battle, but for a while no one volunteered to fight him. In the middle of the fight, even though Imam (a) was alone and had severe wounds on his head and body, he (a) fearlessly fought.
Martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a)
Foot soldiers under the command of Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan surrounded Imam (a), but still none of them came forth while Shimr was encouraging them. Shimr ordered the archers to throw arrows at Imam (a) all at once. Imam's (a) body was full of arrows, so, Imam (a) held back and they made a line in front of him. The many wounds and exhaustion of fight had so much weakened Imam (a) and thus rested for a short time when someone threw a stone at his forehead and blood ran down his face. When Imam (a) wanted to clean his face with his shirt, a poisoned triple-tipped arrow was thrown at his heart; then, Malik b. Nusayr hit Imam's (a) head with such a hard blow of sword that Imam's (a) helmet was untied. Then, someone called Zara'a b. Sharik al-Tamimi hit the left shoulder of Imam (a) hard and Sinan b. Anas throw an arrow to the throat of Imam (a) and finally Salih b. Wahb al-Ju'fi (or else reported as Sinan b. Anans) came forth and hit Imam (a) with spear on the left so hard that Imam (a) fell down his horse on his right cheek.
Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan and a group of the soldiers of 'Umar b. Sa'd including Sinan b. Anas al-Nakha'i and Khawli b. Yazid al-Asbahi came toward Imam (a). Shimr encouraged them to finish Imam (a), but they did not go forth. He ordered Khawli b. Yazid to behead Imam (a). When Khawli entered Qatligah (pit of sacrifice), he doubted and shivered and could not do it. Shimr (or in some reports, Sinan b. Anas) got off his horse and beheaded Imam (a) and gave the pure head of Imam (a) to Khawli.
After the Martyrdom of Imam (a)
After Sinan gave the head of Imam (a) to Khawli, the army of 'Umar b. Sa'd looted everything Imam (a) was wearing. Qays b. Ash'ath and Bahr b. Ka'b took the clothes, Aswad b. Khalid Awadi took the shoes, Jami' b. Khalq Awadi took the sword, Akhnas b. Murtha took the turban, Bajdal b. Salim took the ring and 'Umar b. Sa'd took Imam's (a) armor.
Looting the Tents
After the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a), the army of enemy attacked the tents and took anything they could as booties. They competed each other in that. Shimr rushed to the tents of the family of Imam (a) with a group of soldiers to kill Imam al-Sajjad (a), but Lady Zaynab (a) did not let them do so. In another report, some of the soldiers of 'Umar b. Sa'd objected to this. 'Umar b. Sa'd ordered to gather women in a tent and appointed some guards to them.
Trampling over the Body of Imam (a) with Horses
To follow the order of Ibn Ziyad, 'Umar b. Sa'd ordered 10 volunteers from the army of Kufa including Ishaq b. Haywa and Akhnas b. Murthad to trample over the body of Imam al-Husayn (a) with their horses.
Sending the Heads of Martyrs to Kufa
On the same day, 'Umar b. Sa'd sent Khawli b. Yazid al-Asbahi and Humayd b. Muslim al-Azdi with the head of Imam (a) to 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad. He also ordered to behead all the martyrs of Karbala and sent them -which were 72 heads- with Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan, Qays b. Ash'ath, and 'Amr b. Hajjaj to Kufa.
Capturing the Family of Imam (a)
By the order of 'Umar b. Sa'd, the bodies of those who were killed from the army of Kufa were buried but they left the bodies of Imam (a) and his companions unburied. Imam al-Sajjad (a) who was very ill at that time, was captured together with Lady Zaynab (a) and others and sent to the court of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad in Kufa and then to the court of Yazid in Syria.
Burial of the Martyrs
Muharram 11 or 13 has been reported as the time when the martyrs of Karbala were buried. According to some reports, after Ibn Sa'd and his soldiers went, a group of Banu Asad who were living near Karbala entered the battlefield and in some time at night that was safe from enemies, prayed upon the bodies of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions and buried them.
- Muhammad b. Sa'd, al-Tabaqat al-kubra, p. 442; Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol. 3, p. 155; al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, vol. 2, p. 2
- يَوْمَ نَدْعُو كُلَّ أُنَاسٍ بِإِمَامِهِمْ فَمَنْ أُوتِيَ كِتَابَهُ بِيَمِينِهِ فَأُولَئِكَ يَقْرَءُونَ كِتَابَهُمْ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ فَتِيلًا
- The material for this article is mainly taken from واقعه کربلا in Farsi WikiShia.