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Uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a)

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This article is about the analysis of the uprising of Imam al-Husayn and the Battle of Karbala. For the historical chain of events, see Battle of Karbala. For events in the day of 'Ashura, 61 AH, see Day of 'Ashura (events).

The uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a) was Imam al-Husayn (a)'s remonstrative action against the rule of Yazid b. Mu'awiya which finally resulted in the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions on Muharram 10th, 61 AH and the captivity of his family. Imam al-Husayn (a) first publicly expressed his disapproval in Mina after Mu'awiya began to ask people's allegiance to Yazid in 59 AH. However, Imam's (a) uprising practically began after he (a) refused to give allegiance to the governor of Medina as the representative of Yazid and exited Medina in the month of Rajab in 60 AH. The uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a) prepared the grounds for the next uprisings such as the uprising of Tawwabun and the uprising of al-Mukhtar which were made claiming the revenge for Imam al-Husayn (a).

The event of Karbala was among the most important factors in formation of Shi'a identity during the history. Every year, Shi'a hold different ceremonies in the anniversary of this event in different places in the world to commemorate this movement and mourn for Imam al-Husayn (a). During the history, many cultural, artistic and religious works have been made about the event of Karbala.

Grounds

In their analyses of the social grounds of the uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a) and the event of 'Ashura, researchers have considered divergence of the Islamic society from religious and moral teachings of Islam as the main cause. Reappearance of the values of the Age of Ignorance, pre-Islam tribal values for gaining power and returning tribal conflicts especially between the two Hashemite and Umayyad branches, domination of worldliness over the Islamic society and drawing away from Islamic values due to prevalence and propaganda of Umayyads are considered among the causes of the decline of the Islamic society. In this situation which led to the caliphate of a person like Yazid, it was not unexpected to see the objection of al-Husayn b. Ali (a), who was among the noble people of the Islamic society, loved by people of his time and a person who claimed the caliphate following the will of the Prophet (s).

After the martyrdom of Imam Ali (a), most Muslims gave allegiance to his son, al-Hasan (a), the second Imam of Shi'a, but he (a) had to leave the caliphate to Mu'awiya in a peace treaty. After the martyrdom of his brother, Imam al-Husayn (a) respected the treaty with Mu'awiya and even with the invitation of a group of Kufis for uprising against Mu'awiya, did not make an uprising.

Toward the end of his government, Mu'awiya tried to seat his son in his own place and introduce him as the caliph, while it was against the content of the treaty. Imam al-Husayn (a) considered the caliphate of Yazid illegitimate, because he did not reach the caliphate based on any Islamic principle or the common law in the Islamic society, and moreover, he was clearly incompetent for this position. Thus, after the death of Mu'awiya, Imam (a) refused to give allegiance to him. Allegiance of al-Husayn b. Ali (a), the grandson of the Prophet (s), son of Imam Ali (a) and one of the claimants of the caliphate could support the legitimacy 0f Yazid's government, because of this, Yazid insisted on taking Imam's (a) allegiance.

Views about the Goal

Escaping from the Allegiance

According to one view, the movement of Imam al-Husayn (a) from Medina to Mecca and from there toward Kufa was not meant to be an uprising or encounter. Since he (a) refused to give allegiance to Yazid, his life was in danger and exiting Hijaz was the only way to save his life. Thus, Imam's (a) action should not be called an uprising, but rather a defense. Ali Panah Ishtihardi, a contemporary scholar of fiqh in Qom, is an advocate of this view saying that, "basically, Imam al-Husayn's (a) exit from Medina toward Mecca and moving from Mecca to Iraq was to save his life, and not an uprising, nor for fighting the enemy or establishing a government". This view can also be seen among the statements and works of some other contemporary scholars that, "if despots and oppressors of Imam's (a) time left him alone, he (a) would never leave those two spiritual cities and would never prioritize anything over worshiping God".

Establishing a Government

According to this view, Imam al-Husayn (a) wanted to take the caliphate and government from Yazid and establish a government. After al-Sayyid al-Murtada (living in 11th century) up to 20th century, no one among Shi'a scholars ever expressed this view.

View of al-Sayyid al-Murtada

Al-Sayyid al-Murtada who was among Shi'a scholars and theologians believed that when Imam al-Husayn (a) saw the insistence of the people of Kufa, their military competence and weakness of their government, decided to accept their invitation and in fact, deemed it necessary to go to Kufa which had such potentials. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada believed that the possibility of such a treachery to be seen from the people of Kufa was very low and thus, Imam al-Husayn (a) did not think that they would all of a sudden take back their invitation and break their promise. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada reminds historical scenes of Muslim b. 'Aqil's presence in Kufa and tries to show that the grounds for the victory of Imam al-Husayn (a) over the enemies were prepared, but later events changed the situation opposite to what was expected.

Al-Sayyid al-Murtada believed that the encounter of an army of few soldiers with a large fully-armed army does not seem to be rational and is not advised in religion. Thus, it should be concluded that Imam (a) was forced to fight while he (a) was not eager to it. Also, when it was revealed that Kufis scattered and broke their promise, Imam al-Husayn (a) decided to return and avoid encountering the same way Imam al-Hasan (a) acted. In fact, the conditions of the two brothers were similar, but leaving the encounter was not accepted from Imam al-Husayn (a).

View of Salihi Najafabadi

Main article: Shahid-i Jawid

In his critical book titled as Shahid-i Jawid, Salihi Najafabadi mentioned a theory. According to Salihi, after the death of Mu'awiya, the grounds for establishing an Islamic government were prepared. That was when Imam al-Husayn (a) felt a greater responsibility that he (a) needed to take an action for revival of Islam and change the situation by establishing a powerful government to free Islam and Muslims from the domination of oppressors. The main message in the book is that Imam al-Husayn (a) pursued three goals: In the first stage, establishing a government; at a second stage, establishing peace, and at a third level, upholding dignity and accepting the martyrdom. First, Imam (a) tried to establish a government and when the situation changed, sought peace; but finally, he (a) did not accept humiliation and accepted martyrdom. Thus, Imam (a) did not make any efforts for being killed, but it was the agents of the anti-Islam government who murdered him, the son of the Prophet (s), and made such a great harm to the world of Islam.

Critics

According to Sihhati Suhrawardi, al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Sayyid b. Tawus, Sayyid 'Abd al-Wahhab Husayni Astarabadi, Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, 'Abd Allah Bahrani Isfahani, Radi b. Nabi Qazwini and al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin were among the critics of a theory which considered establishing government as the goal of Imam al-Husayn (a). Even through some of these authors did not speak extensively about this issue, but they criticized the view of al-Sayyid al-Murtada.

Pursuit of Martyrdom

Mystical Martyrdom

This is a non-social and non-political and even anti-political interpretation of Imam al-Husayn's (a) uprising proposed by al-Sayyid b. Tawus. At the beginning of his book, al-Sayyid b. Tawus said, "when the friends of God find their life in this world, a veil between them and the blessings of God, forget about staying in this world, earnestly pursue to meet the Lord and readily receive swords and spears". Fadil Darbandi believes that Imam al-Husayn (a) sent the letter to Kufa so that some people receive the blessing of martyrdom together with him. In Zubdat al-asrar, Safi Allah Shah, in Ganjinat al-asrar, 'Umman Samani and in Atashkada, Nayyir Tabrizi have interpreted the uprising with mystical words.

Sacrificial Martyrdom

Advocates of this view believe that Imam al-Husayn (a) was martyred to intercede for the sinners and raise them up in spiritual levels. Sharif Tabataba'i, Mulla Mahdi Naraqi, Mulla 'Abd al-Rahim Isfahani believed in this view. Regarding this view, Mulla Mahdi Naraqi says, "Imam (a) consented to be martyred in order to reach the [position of] great intercession, which requires purification of all lovers and servants; because, removing the darkness of people's sins to receive his intercession requires his blood and his pains".

Political Martyrdom

This interpretation is adopted from political Islam. It is a recent interpretation which is being explained and preached mostly today. Ali Shari'ati, Mirza Khalil Kamara'i, Murteza Motahhari, Sayyid Rida Sadr, Jalal al-Din Farsi are among those who believe in this view. This view expresses a political and revolutionary interpretation of the movement of Imam al-Husayn (a). In this regard, Shari'ati said, "look at Husayn (a) who leaves his life and raises to die; because, he (a) has no other weapons for fighting and humiliating the enemy. He (a) knows that although he (a) cannot break the enemy, he (a) can this way humiliate them".

Other

Some people mentioned dignity and religious zeal as the goal of Imam al-Husayn (a) and argued that the contrast between Imam's (a) personality as the symbol of gentlemanliness and dignity and the personality of Yazid as the symbol of evil and improvidence turned to encounter on the day of 'Ashura. Some others considered a special mission for Imam al-Husayn (a) and introduced 'Ashura a mystical and mythical event which cannot be analyzed by reason and for which, people should only observe imitation and amazement in this regard. Some others recommend mourning; as they believe that Imam (a) was killed so that people cry for him and be thus guided.

Political Effects

The uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a) made some groups find the courage to object to the government, which due to Umayyad suffocation, did not have that courage until then. Immediately after the uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a), revolutionary and remonstrative movements began from Kufa and continued for year. Many of these uprisings, having the slogan of "Ya la-tharat al-Husayn" (O!, avengers of al-Husayn), motivated people to take actions against the government. The slogan "Ya la-tharat al-Husayn" was used politically and religiously by all Shi'a and Iranian uprisers after the event of 'Ashura. Even considering the sensitivity of people about Imam al-Husayn (a) and their repugnance toward Umayyads, Abu Muslim al-Khurasani established his movement with the slogan.

The first objection was the encounter of 'Abd Allah b. 'Afif with Ibn Ziyad. 'Abd Allah objected to Ibn Ziyad who called Imam al-Husayn (a) liar in his speech and called Ibn Ziyad and his father liar. Ibn Ziyad ordered to arrest him, but 'Abd Allah's relatives took him out of the mosque. However, at night, agents besieged his house and arrested him after a fight. By the order of Ibn Ziyad, they beheaded him and hanged his body. It is said that he was the first Shi'a who was killed after the event of 'Ashura.

There is a report in Tarikh Sistan which suggests that as soon as the people of Sistan received the news of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a), revolted against the ruler of Sistan who was the brother of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad and threw him out of the city.

Also, the people of Medina led by 'Abd Allah b. Hanzala b. Abi 'Amir revolted against the government of Yazid b. Mu'awiya in 63/683. The movement of the people of Medina was suppressed by the army of Syria led by Muslim b. 'Aqaba (which is known as incident of Harra); when, many people of Medina including 80 of the companions of the Prophet (s) and 700 of those who had memorized the Qur'an were killed and the properties and their families were looted. Al-Mas'udi considered the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) among the causes of the revolt of the people of Medina.

Uprising of Tawwabun

Main article: Uprising of Tawwabun

It was one of the Shi'a uprisings after the event of 'Ashura which aimed to revenge for the blood of Imam al-Husayn (a) and the martyrs of Karbala. It was led by Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza'i in 65/684. The army of Tawwabun moved from Nukhayla toward Damascus on Rabi' I 5. When the army arrived in Karbala, they got off the horses and rushed to the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) while they were crying and made an emotional gathering. There, Sulayman said, "O God, be witness that we believe in the religion of al-Husayn (a) and are enemies to his murderers". Then, they prayed to God not to deprive them from the opportunity of martyrdom for they could not have the opportunity to be martyred with Imam al-Husayn (a).

Uprising of al-Mukhtar

This uprising began in Kufa in 66/685 and after one year and six months ended in 67/687. In this uprising, many of those who cooperated in the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) including 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, Umar b. Sa'd, Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan and Sinan b. Anas were killed. The uprising of al-Mukhtar was made in the name of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya; however, many Shi'a scholars believe that al-Mukhtar made the uprising by the order of Imam al-Sajjad (a).

Uprising of Zayd b. Ali

Main article: Uprising of Zayd

The uprising of Zayd, son of Imam al-Sajjad (a) was among the uprisings thought to be influenced by the uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a). Observing enjoining the good and forbidding the evil and an all-out uprising against tyrants were the legacy of Imam al-Husayn (a) for his grandson Zayd. Supported by the allegiance of 15 thousand people of Kufis, Zayd made an uprising against the Umayyad caliph, Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik on last Wednesday of Safar, 122/January, 740. Kufis abandoned him like what they did to Imam al-Husayn (a). The battle between him and the army of caliph lasted 3 days and he was martyred on the third day. Many of Shi'a scholars believe that Zayd's uprising was made with the permission of Imam al-Sadiq (a).

Other Uprisings of 'Alids

After the uprising of Zayd, 'Alids, especially al-Hasani 'Alids, also known as "Zaydis" made uprisings against Umayyads. They did not just made uprising during the time of Umayyads, but they also made uprisings during the rule of 'Abbasids. After the uprising of Zayd, his son, Yahya who was the grandson of Imam al-Sajjad (a) and the cousin of Imam al-Sadiq (a) moved from Kufa to Khorasan. Having an attitude similar to his father, Yahya made an uprising against Umayyads and the tyranny in Khorasan. He was finally killed in 126/743. (See: Uprising of Yahya b. Zayd)

After it, the opposition against Umayyads was still very powerful among 'Alids. Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan was also among those to whom people gave allegiance. Banu l-'Abbas too gave allegiance to him and considered him well-deserved for caliphate. But, when Umayyads fell, 'Abbasids broke their allegiance with 'Alids and took the power. They forced all Muslims to give allegiance to the Abbasid caliph and suppressed dissidents. Thus, 'Alids made uprisings against Abbasids. These uprisings began with the uprising of Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah, known as al-Nafs al-Zakiyya in 145/762.

Fall of Umayyads

The Uprising of Karbala directly influenced on the fall of Umayyads in two ways. On the one hand, people, especially the lovers of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), considered Umayyads as perpetrators of the appalling massacre of Karbala and also, Imam al-Husayn (a) had mentioned that his uprising was against the tyrant Umayyad government and Yazid. It was a factor which was clear in the uprising of Zubayrids and the uprising of al-Mukhtar and advanced them to the complete fall of Umayyads, but due to some reasons, their fall was made by 'Abbasids. On the other hand, 'Abbasids had mentioned taking revenge for the blood of Imam al-Husayn (a) as one of the main reasons of their uprising against Umayyads, as it was mentioned in the letter al-Mansur al-'Abbasi wrote to Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan.

Influence on the Shi'a Community

The event of Karbala prepared the grounds for production of many cultural works among Shi'a. Art works, especial constructions, written works such as books of Maqtal, elegies, analyses of the event of Karbala, mourning ceremonies, ta'ziya, chest-beating and zanjirzani which are different forms of mourning rituals.

Mourning Ceremony

Main article: Mourning Ceremony

Mourning for Imam al-Husayn (a) and the martyrs of Karbala is among the most important elements of the formation of Shi'a community. According to historical reports, mourning ceremonies were held among Shi'a soon after the event of Karbala and with the approval and emphasis of Imams (a). But, its transformation from an individual and limited form to a social and public rite was made by Buyids. The Buyids government called people to mourning ceremonies and closed the markets on the day of 'Ashura.

In Egypt, since 396/1005, markets close on the day of 'Ashura every year and mourning people move toward the grand mosque of Cairo. In the mosque, they hold mourning ceremony and elegy reciting.

Throughout India subcontinent, mourning for Imam al-Husayn (a), especially during the first ten days of Muharram, is a common practice and beside Shi'a, Sunnis hold mourning ceremonies as well. The most important source referring to the subcontinent in this regard is Rawdat al-shuhada which is translated to Urdu and Deccani. Mourning rituals, giving food and making nadhr are performed in Quetta, Lahore, Karachi, Parachinar, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Delhi, and Deccan. In India, the day of 'Ashura is an official holiday and even Hindus participate in mourning ceremonies. In some regions of India, there are shrines as the symbols for the graves of the martyrs and the shrines of Imam al-Husayn (a) or al-'Abbas (a) and there, they recite Ziyarah Texts.

'Ashura Literature

Main article: 'Ashura Literature

Putting aside the poems composed on the day of 'Ashura and for the Ahl al-Bayt (a), the first Arab poet who composed poems about the event of 'Ashura was 'Aqabat b. 'Amr al-Sahmi. Since then, a great part of Arabic literature is dedicated to poems about 'Ashura and composing elegies. 'Abd al-Jalil al-Razi considered the number of poems Hanafi and Shafi'i people composed for Imam al-Husayn (a) countless.

Writing Maqtal

Main article: Writing Maqtal

Books of maqtal which describe the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions are regarded among the literary and historical heritage of Shi'a. Accordingly, writing maqtal is a part of Muslim culture which was promoted following the event of 'Ashura. Abu Mikhnaf's Maqtal al-Husayn (a) is known as the first written maqtal. Rawdat al-Shuhada can also be considered the most famous Persian Maqtal. Books of maqtal are mostly used in the gatherings of mourning and reciting elegies. In contemporary period, reciters refer to al-Sayyid b. Tawus's al-Luhuf and Shaykh Abbas Qumi's Nafas al-mahmum more than other books of maqtal.

In the View of Sunnis

Sunni authors did not take only one approach toward the movement of Imam al-Husayn (a). Some of them such as Abu Bakr b. al-'Arabi considered it an illegitimate movement against the government. Ibn Taymiyya mentioned the movement of Imam al-Husayn (a) an example of fitna and against the order of the Prophet (s). The views of Sunni authors toward the event of 'Ashura have changed during the last hundred years, especially after the time of Sayyid Jamal al-Din Asad Abadi and many authors approved of Imam's (a) movement.

References