Martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali
The battle of truth and falsehood has been going on from the beginning and will keep going till the end. At times, this battle superimposed good by destroying the idols of pride through Prophet Abraham. And sometimes it drowned Pharaoh’s claim to divinity through Prophet Moses. The revered son of Prophet Mohammad, Husayn ibn Ali and his 72 followers sacrificed their blood for the safety and prosperity of Islam and destroyed evil. Husayn ibn Ali was the flag bearer of good. He is not only the leader of Muslims but all of humanity and the world is thankful to him. Husayn ibn Ali performed a great duty for the disgrace of evil and the exaltation of good and forged an eternal tale of love, forgiveness and sacrifice.
Husayn ibn Ali: The one who gave new life to Islam by sacrificing his family in the field of Karbala. He is the emperor of the righteous, leader of those who give their life on the path of truth. Therefore he is alive today and will stay alive forever even after martyrdom in the path of Islam.
قتلِ حسینؓ اصل میں مرگِ یزید ہے
اسلام زندہ ہوتا ہے ہر کربلا کے بعد
Martyrdom means to die on Divine command, innocent and without fault, while fighting for the righteous path, sacrificing own life in the righteous path. Likewise, martyred means the one sacrificed their life in the righteous path, who is an honest witness, the one who is aware.
The Arabic word for ‘martyr’ is shaheed which is from the Arabic word shahidah and its literal meaning is ‘be present’ or ‘keep someone (or something) in view’. Martyrdom is one of the blessings of Allah. So Allah mentions the fortunate people who martyred in His way as:
- And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) are the people who will be in the company of those whom Allah has blessed with His (special) favour: the Prophets, the truthful, the martyrs and the most pious. (4:69)
Prophet Mohammad’s Wish for Martyrdom
- The Prophet said, “By Him in Whose Hands my life is! If some believers did not feel sorrowful that I leave them behind because I could not provide them conveyance, certainly I would have joined every group that fights for the cause of Allah. By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred for Allah’s cause again and again. (Bukhari Vol. 4, Kitab al-Jihad, Hadith no. 54)
But Allah promised:
وَ اللّٰہُ یَعۡصِمُکَ مِنَ النَّاسِ
Meaning: And Allah will (Himself) protect your (life) from the (hostile) people. (5:67)
Allah had prohibited the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad (because Allah allowed no one to martyr him). But it was also necessary for his wish to come true. Therefore, Allah fulfilled his wish by making his grandson Husayn ibn Ali (whom he called his son) the manifestation of his wish. Thus, the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali became a part of Seerah of Prophet Mohammad.
Parts of Martyrdom
Every process has two parts:
- The essence and spirit of the process.
- The Physical shape and manifestation of the process.
Similarly, martyrdom is also a process and has two parts:
- The spirit.
- The manifestation.
The essence of martyrdom is the desire to sacrifice one’s life in the way of Allah. And to die in this state is martyrdom. Prophet Mohammad had very strong desire for martyrdom.
To physically die in the way of Allah is the manifestation of martyrdom. It has two cases:
This is secret or false martyrdom. Like someone drowning in water or dying from poison.
This is apparent or big martyrdom. Like a Muslim dies to the hands of an enemy in war.
How the essence and manifestation of martyrdom are present in the life of Prophet Mohammad? We can find hidden martyrdom in Prophet Mohammad’s life through this instance. During the Conquest of Khaybar, a Jew woman Zaynab bint Al-Harith presented poisoned roasted sheep to Prophet Mohammad. He ate some of it and then the meat informed him that it is poisonous. Prophet Mohammad stopped eating straight away. Bishar ibn Al-Bara, a companion, also ate some of the poisoned meat and faced martyrdom due to the poison. Allah Almighty has himself taken the responsibility of protecting His beloved Prophet Mohammad.
Which is why he did not face martyrdom by eating the poisoned meat. But the effect of this poison remained in his veins till his passing.
We can find obvious martyrdom in Prophet Mohammad’s life through this instance. In the Battle of Uhud, non-believers attacked the Prophet with stones and spears. A stone hit part of Prophet Mohammad’s tooth and started bleeding.
There are four terms for obvious martyrdom:
- Attack of a non-believer with a weapon in the battlefield.
- Struck by the weapon.
- Bleeding from the cutting of an organ etc.
We can find the first three conditions of obvious martyrdom in Prophet Mohammad’s life. But the last condition was impossible to fulfil as Allah took upon Himself the protection of Prophet Mohammad. So we can find the beginnings of hidden and obvious martyrdom in his life but not the end. Because his death was physical. (Shahadat-e-Imam Hussain)
Complete Manifestation of Both Martyrdoms
Allah Almighty chose two people to complete the chapter of martyrdom in Prophet Mohammad’s life. So that one manifests hidden martyrdom and the other manifests obvious martyrdom. It was important that those two people are from Prophet Mohammad’s lineage. And that they should be similar to him in appearance and inward. Therefore, Allah chose Hassan ibn Ali for hidden martyrdom and Husayn ibn Ali for obvious martyrdom for the manifestation of the completion of both martyrdoms which began in Prophet Mohammad’s physical life.
Individuality of Martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali
Individuality in terms of popularity
It was necessary that this martyrdom should get so much popularity that no other martyrdom would get that place in comparison because it was an uncompleted chapter in Prophet Mohammad’s lifespan. This is why other people’s martyrdom gains popularity after the martyrdom but people knew about Husayn ibn Ali’s martyrdom during his life.
Giving of the Soil of Karbala to Umm Salama
Prophet Mohammad had mentioned the martyrdom in Husayn ibn Ali’s childhood. Aisha bint Abu Bakr, Umm Salama, and Umm Fadl who was the wife of Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib and was the aunt of Prophet Mohammad, all relate that Prophet Mohammad said, “Gabriel has informed me about the martyrdom of my son, Husayn ibn Ali, after me on the land of Taff (Karbala).” Gabriel gave some soil of Karbala to Prophet Mohammad and he held it against his chest and wept.
Then he said “Umm Salama when this soil turns into blood then you will know about the martyrdom of this son of mine.” Umm Salama put this soil inside a bottle and looked at it daily. When the Battle of Karbala took place, Umm Salama looked at the bottle and the soil had turned into blood. She knew that today is the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali. (Imam Hussain and Yazid)
Identification of the place of martyrdom
Prophet Mohammad had already pointed out the place of martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali. Aisha bint Abu Bakr relates that Prophet Mohammad said:
- Gabriel has informed me about the martyrdom of my son, Husayn ibn Ali, after me on the land of Taff (Karbala). Gabriel has also brought the soil (of that land) and told me that this soil is from the burial place of Hussain. (Imam Hussain and Yazid)
Identification of Day of Martyrdom
Prophet Mohammad not only pointed out the place of Husayn ibn Ali’s martyrdom but he also pointed out the day.
Abu Hurairah relates that Prophet Mohammad said:
“Beware of 60H and its government” (al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah by ibn Kathir 8:132)
Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah relates that Prophet Mohammad said:
“The rule of my ummah will remain righteous until the first person to destroy it will be from among the Umayyads, whose name will be Yazid.” (al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah by ibn Kathir 8:132)
All Trials Combined in Martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali
All the cases that Allah has mentioned in the Quran where He tests His believers, for example, banishment from country, to be in worries and to sacrifice life in the way of Allah, etc. All these trials appear in the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali and the battle of Karbala. Reason is that the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali is the manifestation of martyrdom of the Holy Prophet. If any trial had been left out then the manifestation would not be complete.
Martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali seen by Prophet Mohammad
Husayn ibn Ali’s martyrdom has privilege over other martyrdoms because other martyrdoms are seen by angels whereas Husayn ibn Ali’s martyrdom was seen by Prophet Mohammad. Angels are present in other martyrdoms but Husayn ibn Ali is the lucky person during whose martyrdom angels as well as Prophet Mohammad himself was present when the soul of his grandson was ceased.
Ibn Abbas relates that “One afternoon I saw Prophet Mohammad like someone sees in a dream. I observed that his hair was ruffled and dusty and he had a bottle full of blood in his hand. I said, ‘May my parents be sacrificed upon you! What is this in your hand?’, Prophet Mohammad answered: It is the blood of Husayn ibn Ali and his companions which I have been collecting all day today. (Ibn Abbas replies) I remembered the time of this dream and so I found out that Husayn ibn Ali was martyred at the same time.” (Imam Hussain and Yazid)
Witness of Severed Head of Husayn ibn Ali
The fact that the severed head of Husayn ibn Ali spoke while on a spear is a clear and irrefutable proof that martyrs are not dead. Minhal bin Amr al-Asadi relates that “I swear to Allah! When the head of Husayn ibn Ali was up on the spear and being taken around the streets, I was in Damascus. I saw with my own eyes that someone was reciting Al-Kahf. When he reached the verse:
- Have you thought of it (how) wondrous a sign of the signs (of Our might) were the people of the kahf and the raqim (i.e., the people of the cave and the cave tablet or the raqim valley)? (18:9)
Allah Almighty gave the ability of speech to the head and it clearly said, “Killing me and taking around my head is more strange than the story of the Companions of the Cave.” (Sirr-ush-Shahadatain)
The End of Killers of Husayn ibn Ali and Divine Punishment
- Imam Zuhri relates that when Husayn ibn Ali was martyred, fresh blood was found under every rock lifted in Beit-ol-Moqaddas. (Imam Tabrani, ibn e saeed, baheeqi)
- Umm Hakim relates that when Husayn ibn Ali was martyred she was just a child. The sky stayed as red as a coagulated blood clot many days after martyrdom. (Imam Tabrani, baheeqi)
- Abu Qabil relates that when Husayn ibn Ali was martyred the sun was so eclipse that the stars appeared at afternoon, so much so that we thought it was night. (Imam Tabrani)
- Zaveed Ja’fi relates from his father that when Husayn ibn Ali was martyred camels in their army were slaughtered and then cooked, they turned into blood. So they knocked over the cooking pot. (Imam Tabrani)
Husayn ibn Ali and Submission to the Will of Allah
Sultan Bahoo says in his Punjabi abstract while describing the glory of Husayn ibn Ali:
عاشق سوئی حقیقی جیہڑا ، قتل معشوق دے منّے ھُو
عشق نہ چھوڑے مُکھ نہ موڑے، توڑے سَے تلواراں کَھنّے ھُو
جِت وَل ویکھے راز ماہی دے ، لگّے اُوسے بَنّھے ھُو
سچا عشق حسینؓ ابن ِ علیؓ دا باھُوؒ، سر دیوے راز نہ بھنے ھُو
- Explanation: Husayn ibn Ali was at the peak of Divine love. He is the Universal Divine Man, leader of his era, vicegerent and representative of the Holy Prophet. The Universal Divine Man does not take oath of allegiance to anyone, rather Muslims and seekers of Allah take oath at his hand. His tongue holds the power of Divine command (Be). Had Husayn ordered the water of river Euphrates it would have drifted towards the camps of the People of the Cloak to quench their thirst, the rain would have started on his one gesture to the sky, the sand of battlefield of Karbala would have turned into sandstorm on his command and had destroyed the army of Yazid. Husayn had to choose between using his Divine powers and submitting to the will of Allah. He bowed before the will of Allah.
The true lovers of Allah are those who surrender to their Beloved even when He decides upon their martyrdom. Neither they retreat from the path of Divine love due to its troubles nor go against the will of Beloved rather boldly face all the trials and keep progressing on this path steadfastly. The basic rule of Divine love is to bow to the will of Allah. In the battlefield of Divine love and submission to Allah’s will there is no one like Husayn who sacrificed himself and his family but did not disclose the Divine secret. (Abyat-e-Bahoo Kamil)
Husayn ibn Ali’s Perseverance
Husayn ibn Ali was stationed at the greatest level of submission to the will of Allah. He was at such a high level of submission to the will of Allah who knows what would have happened if he lifted his gaze. If he wanted, the army of Husayn would have survived and that of Yazid destroyed. But this was against the will of Allah. He, following the Faqr of Prophet Mohammad, submitted to the will of Allah. And taught a great lesson of Divine love, patience, loyalty and sacrifice and submission to the will of Allah to all the seekers of Divine path to come till judgement day.
Sultan Bahoo says:
- If you want to know the reality of Divine love, look at the character of Husayn ibn Ali during the battle of Karbala. If a spring can start when Ishmael rubbed his heels, it was not difficult for Husayn ibn Ali to start fountains in Karbala with a single signal. Euphrates could have changed direction and come into his control. Yazid’s army could have been buried in the sand. But he did not wish to avoid this fate. Rather, he surrendered and submitte to the will of Allah and sacrificed all of his family in the way of Allah.
This is called سرِ تسلیم خم ہے جو مزاجِ یار میں آے meaning: “I surrender to my Beloved’s wish”. Such a level of Divine love and submission to the will of Allah is a specialty of only the People of the Cloak. And Husayn ibn Ali proved this practically by succeeding in this trial. Whenever a seeker of Allah starts stumbling in the path of Divine love, he should observe the character of offspring of Prophet Mohammad in the battle of Karbala. It would prove to be an inspiration and a beacon for him in his journey. (Mujtaba Akhir Zamani)
Husayn ibn Ali knew since childhood that his martyrdom had been decided at Karbala. If he wanted, he could have pledged allegiance to Yazid and be free of this fate. Or could have gotten rid of this fate by pleading to Allah. But he did not do any of this because he is a true lover of Allah. He spent many years on in hard mystic endeavours just so he could see Allah without any veil at Karbala.
Husayn ibn Ali’s Contribution to the Future of Islam
Had he not made such a great sacrifice for truth and fought against falsehood, then today seekers of Allah would not have been able to follow the right path with courage and perseverance.
Husayn ibn Ali was the true seeker of Allah who submitted to His will. He was passionate for Divine vision and union. Only such seekers sacrifice their life for Allah as they are true to their love and loyalty for Him. They are submissive to the will of their Beloved and fulfil their promise of loyalty to Him.
اس نواسے پر محمد مصطفیؐ کو ناز ہے
اس کی ہمت پر علی شیرِ خدا کو نار ہے
سجدے اوروں نے کیے اس کا نیا انداز ہے
اس نے وہ سجدہ کیا جس پر خدا کو ناز ہو
The perfect spiritual guide of this era, Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen, has written a book “Imam Hussain and Yazid” about the great story of Divine love and loyalty that Husayn ibn Ali inscribed at Karbala. This book holds the status of great leader for the seekers of Allah. You must read this book to know the reality of battle of Karbala.
What is the martyrdom of Husayn?
It is the greatest martyrdom in history. It is the manifestation of Prophet Mohammad’s wish for martyrdom. It revived the soul of Islam and encouraged the Muslims to fight against the falsehood bravely. It is the greatest lesson of submission to the will of Allah.
How many followers of Husayn were martyred in the battle of Karbala?
Seventy or seventy-two followers of Husayn ibn Ali were martyred, of whom about twenty were descendants of Abu Talib, the father of Ali. This included two of Husayn ibn Ali’s sons, six of his paternal brothers, three sons of Hasan ibn Ali, three sons of Jafar ibn Abi Talib and three sons and three grandsons of Aqil ibn Abi Talib.
What is the story of Karbala?
The battle of Karbala is one of the greatest battles between truth and falsehood. In this battle, Husayn ibn Ali showed great sacrifice and submission to the will of Allah. His small but courageous army fought the brutal army of the monarch known as Yazid. Yazid wanted Husayn ibn Ali to pledge allegiance to him. However, Husayn ibn Ali and his followers refused to accept such a debauched and incapable individual.
This blog is English translation of an Urdu article of the magazine “Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore” for the month of August, 2021. The title of the Urdu article is:
Shahadat e Hazrat Imam Hussain (شہادت حضرت امام حسین).
Originally penned by Noreen Sarwari Qadri from Lahore is presently in English by Mohammad Bin Moghees Sarwari Qadri, exclusively for websites.