The Mind of Yazid, the Faith of Hussein

“I Wish I’d Been There”

By Hussein Rashid 

Hussein Rashid: Writer teaches in Hempstead, NY

There are so many moments in history that I would love to be a part of. To be near the Prophet (SAWS) when he received the first revelation; at Ghadir-e Khumm; at the battle of Siffin; at Karbala; when Imam Jafar (AS) refused to be an Abbasid figurehead; with Hasan-i Sabbah at Alamut; to witness Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah’s (AS) move to consolidate the community again. I think that eventually these stories will be told better. That is the job of the historian.

I still want to be at some of these moments, but with a different focus. I want to be the close companion of Yazid. What possesses Yazid to kill the Prophet’s favorite grandson after torturing the Prophet’s family? This thought is something I absolutely cannot understand. I want Yazid to explain to me what evil is in his heart to call himself a Muslim while denying and slaughtering the blessed family of the Prophet.

I want to know how, after God says the Prophet is a beautiful role-model (33:21), that so many of the earliest Muslims turned against his family. To kill the family of the Prophet became a sport from within the community. I wish I had been there to understand that, because no historian will be able to answer the question.



About the author: Hussein Rashid is Professor of Religious Studies at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, where he gives courses on a wide range of subjects including Law and Politics, Sufism, and Musics of the Muslim World. He is a regular contributor to, which is one of the largest internet publications dealing with religion and culture. His education includes an MA in Theological Study from Harvard’s Divinity School. He is presently a Doctoral Candidate in the Study of Indo-Muslim Culture at Harvard’s Near Eastern Studies . The title of his dissertaion is “A Handful of Dust: Reading South Asian (Im)migrant Identity in Islamicate Literatures.” His complete profile is available on his website,


Editor’s Notes:

1. We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears at the bottom of this page, or email it to Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

2. Please see Simerg’s brief compilation, The Karbala Tragedy.

 3. For other readings in this series please click  » I Wish I’d Been There

9 thoughts on “The Mind of Yazid, the Faith of Hussein

  1. May mowla always keep us in good company.I am personally not very courageous like Hussein Rashid to be a close companion to Yazid to understand his mind, just like darkness where you cannot see anything. I would expect the same with Yazid who is the symbol of darkness for people like when Allah mentions in Sura Fatiha that to pray for the (path) company of people who he has bestowed his blessings, not the ones who have gone astray and has been condemned and sought the wrath of Allah.

  2. I echo your thoughts Hussein, for this very question you have imposed is one that has always remained within me.
    May you be blessed with zahir-batin deedar, ameen.

  3. According to the poetry recited by Farazdaq, a respected Arabic poet and scholar: the reason that Imam
    Zain ul Abidin was spared while other 27 members of Imam Husien’s family were massacered was because of the 3rd Imam’s handicap. Our 3rd Imam (SAS) was a sick person.The etiquette of the battlefield required that anyone who was unable to defend himself or fight for himself was spared and thus Imam Zain ul Abidin was saved.
    Farazdaq says in his poetry that when Imam Zain ul Abidin walked out of the compound limping and blood from the battle all over his clothings, Yazid’s men made a pathway for Him. Seeing this, Yazid inquired in aloud voice as to why such respect was given to this person and asked who this person was? The answer came from a very unlikely source. A young boy at the time named Abdul Malik Marwan (Yazids son and Mahwia’s grandson) answered loudly so that the crowed as well as his father could hear and said that “without this man’s blessings, the sun and the moon won’t rise!” This is the Arabic way of verbalizing the level of power and respect a person has. In this case “absolute power” (SAS)

    1) Farazdaq informs us that at this battle Imam Hussien(SAS) killed 900 of Yazids men before being overcome by them. This may be a figurative speech, I am not sure. Please note that they fighting occured while Imam Hussien’s family were thirsty for the lack of water that was block by Yazid.
    2) In the Middle East traditions information and history has been passed down via poetry and story telling OR verbally
    3) Abdul Malik Marwa, it is said the he built the Dome of the Rock in Juresalem (The Golden Dome)
    (Please excuse my spellings & Grammer)

  4. We must not forget that these states of being, or Shaytan, have occurred in history, and continue to occur. We have seen it in the minds of Judas Iscariot when he betrayed Jesus, when the angel Azazil betrayed Allah. I am not further educated to know about other religious figures but certainly greed, need for power and status, or mistrust of the other leads to such extremes of being.

    Hazrat Ali (as you’ve shared in your previous literary readings) and Imam Hussein, show us to stand by our values and not bow down to what others, nor what the media society, deems as outwardly success.

  5. Thank you for initiating this series I Wish I’d Been There.

    Hussein Rashid asserts that no historian could answer his question, and therefore wishes he had been a close companion of Yazid to understand his motive behind the tragedy of Kerbala and the martyrdom of Hussein. I believe that being around Yazid would have provided him with the truth of the matter and nothing but the truth but a close companionship of Yazid would have resulted in him being offered a bundle of lies and nothing else from a character such as Yazid and as we know him in history. As is said in khayal -ast-O-muhal ast -O-Jannu – It is impossible to get the truth, it is madness

    However, I take this opportunity to elaborate my views in the matter of Islamic history of that period.

    During the life of the prophet, the entire Ummah was united under his banner, but as soon as he died the Ummah was divided, guided by the tribal loyalties and political interests. Thus the prophet’s burial was delayed for three days while the Muslims were debating for the appointment of his successor as a Khalifa-tul-Muslamin. It was a sort of election where the two largest tribes of Arabia, Hashamia and Umayyad, were not even consulted. It is clear that a large majority of the Ummah deserted the family of the prophet, and Ali was left out with a small but significant support.

    During the rule of the first three Caliphs, Ali was denied of any important public office, Civil or Military, and lived a private life in Medina. Then after the assassination of the third caliph Usman, Ali was unanimously elected the fourth Caliph of Islam. However he was not allowed to govern peacefully by the cunning Umayyad leader emir Muawiya who rebelled against Ali, usurped the Caliphate in his favour, and founded the rule of Umayyad Dynasty and appointed his son Yazid as his successor.

    Yazid was a person who had no Islamic virtue in his person; in fact he was embodiment of all the vices against the Islamic teachings. The elite of Islamic public would not tolerate an unjust ruler who did not possess Islamic virtues. The public approached the grand son of the Prophet of Islam, Hussein, to lead them against the rule of such a ruler. If Hussein had submitted to Yazid, there would be no confrontation but Hussein would rather sacrifice his life than to accept an unjust ruler.

    The Islamic history is absolutely clear regarding the tragedy of Kerbala and the role of

    “Sar dad wa na dad dast der dast-i-Yazid
    Haqqa ke bana-i-La-ila ast Hussein”

    He gave his head but not his hand in the hand of Yazid
    Indeed, the foundation of Unity of GOD is HUSSEIN

    Thank you.

    Dr Ali Mohammad Rajput
    Professor Emeritus university of KHOROG

  6. Amazing start to the series. Thank you for your efforts of thought in this 21 century, and this wonderful work.

  7. Mr. Rashid alerts us to a historical fact and sad truth, which encourages one to think about the present state of events in many aspects of life. The reading that follows paints a larger educational picture and reminds us of more of our history from which we must learn, as the Imam advises us.

    Indeed, these tragedies continue to take place in all aspects of life in varying degrees, and one is jolted to think about one’s way of life, the life that goes on around us, what one would ethically stand for, and what one must not be complacent about.

    An intriguing series…which I can’t wait to read and know more.

  8. A brave and solemn reflection by Rashid. One is left to wonder why the Muslims of the time, as has been so often the case, remained indifferent to what was then happening in this atrocious and painful sporting spectacle, allowing the debacle to continue!

    Bravo, Simerg, for initiating this series.

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