Karbala Tragedy


As a follow up to Mr. Rashid’s intriguing contribution The Mind of Yazid, the Faith of Hussain we are compelled to provide a brief summary of the tragic events at Karbala. We have excluded some sensitive depictions and narratives which can be found on many Web sites dedicated to Imam Hussein and Karbala. The excerpts produced below are primariIy from Saving Monotheism in the Sands of Karbala, by Mir Ahmed Ali, ed. by Nate Goldesberry. The book is available at Amazon.

Ibn-e-Sa’d: If you pay homage to Yazid, everything will go well for you and whatever worldly comforts and priviliges you desire will be at your disposal

Imam Hussain: Tell Yazid to tempt with the worldly comforts those who are after this world. I am the Imam, the representative of the Apostle of God. Hussein will cheerfully meet any catastrophe but never surrender Truth to falsehood


No Refuge for the Imam in the Sanctuary of the Kaba

The Imam decided to leave Mecca a day ahead of performing the full pilgrimage, the Hajj, upon learning that Yazid had dispatched disguised pilgrims carrying daggers to murder him even while he was performing the pilgrimage rites. The Imam thus performed the shorter pilgrimage, Umra, and left Mecca. The town of Kufa might have been the choice had one of his deputies, Muslim, not met his fate under one of Yazid’s executioners.

Where should the Imam go next? He moved towards an unknown destination.

Map of the Arabian Peninsula. Adapted from “The Ismailis: An Illlustrated History”. Please click for enlargement.

Imam arrives at Karbala and Yazid demands Bayah

Yazid’s forces were to make sure that the Imam did not leave the Muslim dominion and go to a foreign country, thus escaping their grip. Military contingents were dispatched in all directions to locate the whereabouts of the Imam. In the meantime, the Imam ended up near banks of the Euphrates River, at the plains known as Karbala. He gave orders for the caravan to stop here.

Ibn-e-Ziad, based in Kufa, heard that the Imam had camped near the Euphrates. Regiment after regiment poured into Kerbala. When a group from the enemy charged towards the Imam’s camp, his brother, Hazrat Abbas, at once drew his sword and threatened to confront them. Imam Hussein called out to his brother saying:

“Let not bloodshed be initiated from our side. Let them occupy any place they like. They call themselves my grandfather’s [Prophet Muhammad’s] followers. Let them enjoy every comfort they want.”

With these words, the Imam was compelled to shift his camp into the heat of the desert.

According to reliable sources, Yazid’s army in Karbala numbered 80,000 Kufans alone. There were more soldiers from other cities and towns.

Once Yazid’s full regiment had arrived at Karbala, Ibn-e-Sa’d met Imam Hussein, and demanded bayah on behalf of Yazid saying:

“If you pay homage to Yazid, everything will go well for you and whatever worldly comforts and priviliges you desire will be at your disposal.” Otherwise, he said, the Imam knew the fate that awaited him.

Imam Hussein refused to give the bayah saying:

Tell Yazid to tempt with the worldly comforts those who are after this world. I am the Imam, the representative of the Apostle of God. I shall never yield to the one who does not believe in God and who defies the word of the Lord, in both word and deed. Let any calamity befall me and my dear ones, the will of the Lord shall be done. Hussein will cheerfully meet any catastrophe but never surrender Truth to falsehood.”

7th of Muharram – Water Supply to the Imam’s Camp Cut Off.

Yazid’s forces received orders to cut off water supplies to the Imam’s camp. The torture of thirst thus began on the 7th of Muharram. This was to persuade the Imam to yield to Yazid. The Imam sent for Ibn-e-Sa’d and proposed three honourable conditions:

1. “Leave me and I shall quit the Muslim empire with my whole family and children, and live in some non-Muslim lands.”

(Some scholars dispute whether the Imam volunteered to leave the Muslim land — Ed.)

The reply was:

“It can never be so.”

2. “Will you allow us to have some water for the people who are dying of thirst in my camp?”

The reply was:

“First pay bayah (allegiance) to Yazid and then take the water from the river.”

Imam Hussein at last said:

3. “Ibn-e-Sa’d, why do you destroy the house of the prophet? If the whole world were to be given to me to rule over, I shall never submit to Yazid.”

Imam Hussein had done his best to avoid bloodshed, but every offer for a peaceful settlement was rejected and a surrender to Yazid was always insisted upon. It was then that Imam Hussein decided to fight the might of Yazid’s army.

On the Night Before, and On the Fateful Day of the 10th of Muharram

Right from the arrival at Karbala on the 2nd of Muharram, the Holy Imam would gather all those who had accompanied him and advise them to leave him to his own fate and to return to their homes. Many people left the Imam’s camp. The camp was still mixed with good and those who were simply expecting worldly rewards from the booty. On the night before the 10th, the Imam once again summoned everyone and advised them of the battle the next day. He told them not to worry about the bayah they had given him. They were free to leave. He even asked Hazrat Abbas to put out the lamp so that people might walk away without being seen by the Imam.

At this point, many who had accompanied him from Mecca left in droves, and when the lamp was lit again there were left a godly band of 72 who stood fast by the battle for truth!

Imam Hussein knew the fate that was going to overcome him and his devoted followers. He approached his ill son, Zainul Abideen, and advised him that he would succeed to the Imamat after him.

The small band of the Imam’s followers fought the battle bravely but were heavily outnumbered. After enduring severe injuries the Imam’s head was severed by the hard and cruel hearted Shimr, after every one else had declined to carry out this despicable act.

Yazid in Damascus – Ridiculing the Imam

Yazid was presented with the martyrs’ bodies, including the head of Imam Hussein. He sat on the throne ridiculing the late Holy Imam and his family. Imam Zainul Abidin was held captive for a long period and when he was released he returned to Karbala to bury his father.

Imam Hussein had fought injustice against a heartless and brutal enemy.

Last updated: August 12, 2021.


4 thoughts on “Karbala Tragedy

  1. This is later perhaps but better late then never in correcting. Noordin Versi’s recollection about Imam Zainul Abedin time in captivity. Most historians agree that after the tragedy of Kerbala, after Imam Hussein and 17 of his male relatives and 54 of his companions had been killed by Yezid’s army, the Imam Zainul Abedin and the women and children were taken captives, not allowed to bury their dead, and paraded through th streets of Kufa and Damascus and taken to Yezid’s court (the present day Ummayad mosque). Yezid wanted to put on a show for his people and amabasadeurs and made the captives wait just outside Damascus as he made the preparations. The incident that Noordin bhai mentions occurs in Yezid’s court as the Imam is addressing Yezid. As Yezid sees others in the audience being moved by the Imam’s speech he istructs the muedhin to give azan. When it came to the third line of azan “Ashhado anna Muhammadun Rassullulah” the Imam stopped the muedhin and asked Yezid whose grandfather was the is Muhammad?. Yezid di not release them then. Some historians say they spent one year in the dungeons of Damascus and some say longer. . In any case it was later that the caaptives were released.

  2. Walakum as Salam/ MAM to all.
    As-salaamo ala muhammadin wa aaley hee fil awwaleen, As-salaamo ala muhammadin wa aaley hee fil aakheyreen, As salaamo ala muhammadewn wa aaley hee fid dunya wal aakherah, As-salaamo ala muhammadewn wa aaley hee wa rahmatoollahey wa barakatoh.
    Islam zinda hota hai har karbala ke baad.
    Imam Husein ibn Ali, our Imam, has shown a noble example to the world to stand for the truth and has saved the light of islam. “Ya ukhtha la toon senee fee naa feelatil laili”

  3. This is a very informative compilation of the jung of Karbala and the events that took place after the the sacrifice of Imam Hussein. What I have not seen in these compilation is how and what made Yazid release Imam Hussein’s family from captivity. My recollection of reading some 60 years ago, the Nurum Mubin complied by Jaffferaly Chunara and Amirali Missionary, is that, when Imam Zainul Abedin and his family members were standing in captivity in the court of Yazid where celebrations were going on, Yazid taunted Imam Zainul Abedin describing his greatness compared to Imam’s misfortunes. At that time Azan was heard and all went quiet. The Imam then replied that the Azan was his glory inherited from his grandfather to which Yazid’s court and all bowed. This reply caused a lot of disturbance in Yazid’s court and to avoid any raebellian he released Imam Zainul Abedin and his family. I wonder if there was any other reason.

  4. As salaam ho alaikum wa rahmauttallah he wa brakatahu.

    Hazrat Imam Hussein is the hero on earth, and prince of Paradise. May thousands of flower petals be showered on him, may angel and hur bless him with peace . Hazrat Hussein belongs to whole humanity, his stedfastness is uncomparable, his faith strongest of all, his namaz the best of all namaz. He rules our heart, our eyes weep for him and his family, Ya Husein ibn Ali almadad the saver of Islam from tyrant, bringing peace to entire world and giving lessons to entire humanity. May peace be upon Mohammad and his family.

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