Statistics of the Battle of Ashura'

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The Battle of Karbala between Imam al-Husayn (a) and Yazid's army led by 'Umar b. Sa'd in Muharram 10, 61/ October 10, 680 in Karbala ended by martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a), his family, and companions. Survivors, including women and children were captured and taken to Kufa and then to Damascus. This event is significant for Shi'a. They mark it every year in different cities around the world. They mourn Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions and speak about their virtues.

Number of Letters Imam al-Husayn (a) Received from Kufa

Historians reported the number of letters differently.

  • Some said there were 150 letters, each written by one, two, or four people.
  • Al-Tabari said there were about fifty-three letters.
  • Al-Baladhuri reported there were 50 letters
  • Ibn Sa'd said that eighteen thousand people wrote letter to Imam al-Husayn (a).

The report of 150 letters seems more authentic because it was mentioned in earlier sources and was more frequently reported.

In Kufa

Number of Who Pledged Allegiance to Muslim b. 'Aqil

The number of those who pledged allegiance to Muslim b. 'Aqil varies in historical sources.

It has also been reported that Zayd b. Ali said in his answer to Salama b. Kuhayl that 80 thousand people swore allegiance to Imam al-Husayn (a). However, it is near to the number of people who said they were ready to fight Yazid's Army.

Al-Tabari's quotation from Abu Mikhnaf, which says they were 18 thousand, is more authentic and mentioned in earlier sources.

People of Kufa Who prepared for the Battle

It has been mentioned in some reports that 100 thousand people from Kufa were ready to fight Yazid's army.

People Participated in Muslim b. 'Aqil's Uprising

Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani writes: "When Muslim rose, people of Kufa gathered around him so that the Mosque of Kufa and its Bazaar filled up with people."

Al-Tabari's quotation from Abu Mikhnaf and al-Shaykh al-Mufid -four thousand people- is the more authentic report.

People Surrounded Muslim b. 'Aqil

When security forces of Kufa wanted to arrest Muslim, there were 60 or 70 and in another report 100 or 300 people surrounded Muslim.

Duration of Imam al-Husayn's (a) Journey to Karbala

Imam al-Husayn (a) lived for 175 days after he refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid. He spent 12 days in Medina, 4 months and 10 days in Mecca, 23 days on his way from Mecca to Karbala and 8 days (from 2nd to 10th of Muharram) in Karbala.

Number of Stops on His Way to Karbala

Imam al-Husayn (a) passed 18 stops (manzil) on his way toward Kufa. The distance between each stop was three Farsakh.

Statistics for Imam al-Husayn's (a) Companions

Unfortunately, there is no way to find out the exact number of Imam al-Husayn's (a) companions. Even the eyewitnesses of the Battle of Karbala have reported different numbers. Also, there was no specific way for reporting the companions' names in earlier sources. For example, one person could have been addressed as his name or his kunya or his title or his father's or his mother's or even his tribe and clan. On the other hand, the number of Imam al-Husayn's (a) companions varied in each stage has aggravated the problem.

Thus, to have a clear view of their number, statistics are given for four stages:

Leaving Medina

Many sources did not mention the number of Imam's companions in this stage. The only report is a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a) narrated by al-Shaykh al-Saduq which says 21 people, including his progeny and companions accompanied him.

Leaving Mecca

There are different reports about the number of Imam al-Husayn's (a) companions when he left Mecca:

In Karbala (Before 'Ashura)

  • 'Ammar al-Duhni narrated from Imam al-Baqir (a) that Imam al-Husayn (a) entered Karbala along with 145 of his companions (45 cavalries and 100 infantry)
  • Some historians reported that there were 89 people consisted of fifty companions, twenty people from the enemy army who later joined the Imam and nineteen people from his family.
  • Al-Ya'qubi reported that Imam's family and companions were sixty-two or seventy-two people.
  • Al-Mas'udi is the only historian who reported Imam's companions, on his way to Karbala, 500 cavalries, and 100 infantry.
  • Ibn Shahr Ashub said that the number of Imam's companions was eighty-two people (before 'Ashura).
  • Ibn Anbar al-Balansi (d. 658/1260) has reported more than seventy cavalries and infantry.

According to the aforementioned and other reports, one can conclude that Imam al-Husayn's (a) companions were between 70 to 90 people at this stage.

The Day of 'Ashura

The followings are different reports about the number of Imam al-Husayn's (a) companion on the day of 'Ashura:

However, the 72-people report is more reliable because it is reported by many historians in early, reliable sources.

Statistics for 'Umar b. Sa'd's Army

Number of Soldiers

There are different reports about the number of soldiers in 'Umar b. Sa'd's army:

  • Some sources listed the commanders and their soldiers, which became 22 thousand people.
  • According to 2 narrations from Imam al-Sajjad (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a), al-Shaykh al-Saduq says they were 30 thousand people.
  • Al-Mas'udi (the author of Ithbat al-wasiyya): 28 thousand people
  • Al-Tabari: 14 thousand people
  • Ibn Shahr Ashub: 35 thousand people (however, in his detailed lists of commanders and soldiers, he counted 25 thousand people)
  • Sibt b. al-Jawzi: 6 thousand people
  • Ibn 'Inaba: 31 thousand people
  • Mulla Husayn al-Kashifi reported 32 thousand and also 17 thousand people
  • Anonymous report that counted the enemy's number 20 thousand by Muharram 6.

It seems that al-Shaykh al-Saduq's narration from Imam al-Sajjad (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a) (30 thousand people) is the most reliable report.

Fatality Rate

Al-Shaykh al-Saduq (d. 381/991-2) followed by Muhammad b. Fattal al-Nisaburi (d. 508/1114-5) has listed the number of soldiers killed by Imam's companions as following:

According to this report, 225 or 226 people were killed by these companions.

Ibn Shahr Ashub , however, reported a higher rate of fatalities. He reported the following numbers:

Number of Martyrs

Some historians tried hard to present a detailed list of martyrs of Karbala, but due to some lack of early sources, they could not.

Total Number of Martyrs

  • The most famous report is 72 martyrs.
  • Fudayl b. Zubayr -one of the companions of Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a)- has reported the number of martyrs from the beginning of Imam al-Husayn (a) movement to the end (including the injured who were martyred later) 106 people -consists of 20 people from Banu Hashim and 86 people as Imam's companions.
  • A various narration from Zahr b. Qays reports the number of the martyrs including 78, 32, 70, 77, 82, and 88 people.
  • Al-Balkhi (d. 322/933-4) and al-Mas'udi reported 87 people.
  • Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin counted the number of martyrs in the movement of Imam al-Husayn (a) (from the beginning to the end) 139 people.
  • After an analytic discussion, Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din believed that they were more than 100 people.
  • In another source, the number of martyrs (from the beginning of the movement to the end) is counted 182 people.

It seems that the 72-people report is more acceptable as it was reported in earlier sources and also by many historians.

Banu Hashim

Reports about the number of martyrs from Banu Hashim varied between 9 to 30. Some of these reports have been narrated from Imams (a). The most commonly accepted account is 17 people, which also has been written in many books.

In the earliest historical source, the number of martyrs from Banu Hashim has been counted as 20, including Muslim b. 'Aqil and Imam al-Husayn (a).

Aside from being commonly reported in many sources, the account of 17-people which has been narrated from Imams (a), is mentioned in earlier sources and is considered the most authentic report.

Martyrs' Mothers

Mothers of 8 martyrs were present in Karbala and witnessed their son's martyrdom:

According to some hadiths Layla, the mother of Ali al-Akbar (a) was present in Karbala. However, these hadiths have not been proven.

Martyrs Who Had not Reached Puberty

Although Islamic laws, including fighting, are not applied to adolescents, some companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) had not reached puberty when they were martyred.

Captives from Imam's Companions

Two companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) were first captured then martyred:

Companions Who were Martyred After Imam al-Husayn (a)

Four companions were martyred after Imam al-Husayn (a).

Companions Who were Martyred in the presence of Their Fathers

Their fathers witnessed the martyrdom of six martyrs of Karbala.

Tribal Composition of Imam al-Husayn's (a) Army

A contemporary researcher have provided the list of Martyrs of Karbala categorized by their tribes, as following:

  • Banu Hashim (including Muslim b. 'Aqil) and who were related to them: 26 people
  • Banu Asad: 7 people
  • Hamdan: 14 people
  • Madhhij: 8 people
  • Ansar: 7 people
  • Bajal and Khath'am: 4 people
  • Banu Kilab: 3 people
  • Azd: 7 people
  • 'Abd: 7 people
  • Tiym: 7 people
  • Tayy: 2 people
  • Banu Taghlib: 5 people
  • Juhan: 3 people
  • Tamim: 2 people
  • Others: 3 people

Number of Martyrs in the First Attack

It is said in some sources that in the first attack on Imam's army, more than 50 of his companions were martyred.

Number of Who Rode Horses on Imam's Body

In some sources, it has just been mentioned that the holy body of Imam al-Husayn (a) was overridden by horses after his martyrdom, but there are no reports about the number. However, in many sources, it has been reported that they were 10 people.

Number of Injuries on Imam al-Husayn's Body

Different accounts have been reported about the number of injuries on Imam al-Husayn's (a) pure body.

  • It has been quoted from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that Imam (a) received 33 injuries by spears, 34 injuries by swords. In another hadith 33 injuries by spears, 44 injuries by swords and arrows, and in the third hadith, more than 70 injuries.
  • In a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a), he says that there were more than 320 injuries and in another hadith from him 63 injuries by sword or spear or arrows on Imam al-Husayn's (a) body.
  • It has been narrated from Imam al-Sajjad (a) that there were 40 wound and sword stroke injuries on Imam's body.
  • Some sources reported more than 110 tears on Imam's clothes and body caused by arrows, spears, and swords.
  • Also, some sources reported 120 sword, arrow, and stone strokes.
  • Ibn Sa'd wrote 33 injuries.
  • 'Ali b. Muhammad al-'Amri and Ibn 'Inaba (d. 828/1424-5) reported 70 injuries.
  • Al-Sayyid b. Tawus reported 72 injuries.

It seems that the total number of injuries exceeded 100, which is supported by reports that say arrows covered the Imam al-Husayn's body.


Some contemporary researchers said that three families were present in Karbala.

However, there is no authentic evidence proving that Muslim b. 'Awsaja's family were in Karbala; although it has been reported in some sources that his female servant was present in Karbala.

Martyrs from the Prophet's (s) Companions

Some of the Prophet's (s) companions were martyred in Karbala. Fadl b. Zubayr said they were 6 people, and al-Mas'udi said they were 4. But some contemporary writers named these five people:

  1. Anas b. Harith al-Kahili.
  2. Habib b. Muzahir.
  3. Hani b. 'Urwa al-Muradi.
  4. Muslim b. 'Awsaja al-Asadi.
  5. 'Abd Allah b. Baqtar.

Decapitated Heads of Martyrs

There are different reports about the number of martyrs' heads decapitated by 'Umar b. Sa'd's army.

The first report is more authentic because it was mentioned in earlier sources.

The heads were distributed among tribes as war spoils to receive rewards from Ibn Ziyad for each head. Here is the number of heads given to each tribe:

Servants Who Were Martyred

The Injured

  • According to historians, the only survived injured was Hasan b. Hasan b. 'Ali (a) (Hasan al-Muthanna)
  • The injured who were martyred later are:
  • Suwar b. Himyar al-Jabiri
  • 'Amr b. 'Abd Allah al-Hamdani al-Jundu'i
  • Muraqqa' b. Thumama al-Asadi



A study of earlier sources give us this list of male captives of the Battle of Karbala:

  • Imam al-Sajjad (a)
  • Imam al-Baqir (a)
  • 'Uamr b. Husayn (a)
  • Muhammad b. 'Ali b. al-Husayn (a)
  • Zayd b. Hasan
  • 'Amr b. Hasan
  • Muhammad b. 'Amr b. Hasan
  • Ja'far's two sons
  • 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas b. Ali (a)
  • Qasim b. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far
  • Qasim b. Muhammad b. Ja'far
  • Muhammad b. 'Aqil al-Asghar
  • 'Uqba b. Sam'an (the servant of Rabab)
  • The servant of 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Abd Rabbih al-Ansari
  • Muslim b. Ribah (the servant of Imam Ali (a))
  • 'Ali b. 'Uthman Maghribi


Ibn Sa'd said counted 6, Qadi Nu'man al-Maghribi 4 and Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani 3 women of Ahl al-Bayt (a) who were captured. They are listed as following:

Imam Ali's (a) daughters

Imam al-Husayn's (a) daughters

Women Who Were Involved in Imam al-Husayn's Movement

  1. Mariya (daughter of Sa'd or Munqidh al-'Abdiyya) whose house was a gathering place for a group of Shi'a from Basra.
  2. Taw'a (Ash'ath b. Qays's servent) She gave refuge to Muslim b. 'Aqil, when he was left alone in Kufa.
  3. Diylam or Dulham (Zuhayr b. Qayn's wife) she encouraged her husband to join Imam al-Husayn (a).
  4. A woman from Kufa who provided clothes and veils (headscarf) for women of Ahl al-Bayt (a), when they were brought to Kufa as captives

Objector Women

5 women objected to the actions against Imam al-Husayn and his companions.

  1. Umm 'Abd Allah (bint Hurrbadi al-Kindi, Malik b. Nusayr's wife) objected to her husband when he took Imam al-Husayn's burnus (hooded cloak) as a spoil.
  2. The daughter of 'Abd Allah b. 'Afif al-Kindi. She supported her father when he was surrounded by Ibn Ziyad]'s agents.
  3. A woman from the tribe of Bakr b. Wa'il. She objected to the soldiers of 'Umar b. Sa'd's army when they started to loot the tents of Ahl al-Bayt (a).
  4. Nawar (wife or daughter of Ka'b b. Jabir b. 'Amr al-Azdi). She and her husband objected to the 'Umar b. Sa'd's army on fighting Imam al-Husayn (a) and killing Burayr b. Khudayr.
  5. Nawar (bint Malik b. 'Aqrab al-Hadrami, wife of Khawli). When her husband brought the head of Imam al-Husayn (a) to her house and said that he had brought something that makes them rich, she objected to him and his happiness.

Martyred Woman

Umm Wahb (wife of 'Abd Allah b. 'Umayr al-Kalbi) is the only woman who was martyred in Karbala.

Number of Stops between Kufa and Damascus

Captives of Ahl al-Bayt (a) passed 14 Stops (manzil) from Kufa to Damascus.

Duration of Staying and Mourning in Damascus

  1. Ibn A'tham, al-Shaykh al-Mufid followed by al-Shaykh al-Tusi said that captives of Ahl al-Bayt (a) stayed in Damascus for "some days."
  2. Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabari, al-Khwarazmi (quoting Ibn Mikhnaf), Ibn 'Asakir, Sibt b. al-Jawzi, Ibn Kathir and al-Majlisi reported that Ahl al-Bayt (a) and some Umayyad women mourned Imam al-Husayn (a) for three days.
  3. Qadi Nu'man al-Maghribi (d. 363/973-4) said that Ahl al-Bayt (a) stayed in Damascus for 45 days.
  4. Sayyid b. Tawus (d. 664/1266) accepted the report, which says that Ahl al-Bayt (a) were imprisoned for 1 month in Damascus.
  5. 'Imad al-Din al-Tabari (alive in 701/1301-2) and al-Majlisi (in another place) wrote: "Ahl al-Bayt (a) mourned for 7 days." Al-Majlisi added that in the 8th day, Yazid arranged their return to Medina.

The reports of 1 month and 45 days are not very reliable, especially single-narrated reports. Based on the point that women from Umayyad Dynasty joined Ahl al-Bayt (a) in mourning on the 5th day, when they realized that they (Ahl al-Bayt(a)) were oppressed, one can conclude that Ahl al-Bayt (a) did not stay in Damascus more than 10 days.

See Also