The Battle of Kerbala

Two days outside of Kufa Husain’s group were stopped by the vanguard of Yazid’s army – Hurr bin Riyahi, who refused him to continue his journey to Kufa. Husain requested to return to Medina, but that too, was denied. Forced by the army of Hurr, Husain (RA) and his supporters camped in the barren, dry area of Karbala on the 2nd Muharram. The governor of Kufa, `Ubayd-Allah bin Ziyad ordered Umar bin Sa’ad to lead the army of 5’000 strong against Husain with instructions to initiate the battle on the 6th of Muharram. With further instructions to prevent Husain from access to water despite the close proximity of the mighty Euphrates river.

On the afternoon of the 9th the army of ibn Sa`ad began advancing to attack – Husain (RA) requested them to delay for one day. That night he spent in prayer and devotion; at Fajr he gathered his men and informed them that they faced certain death and if anyone wished to leave they were free to do so. All his supporters, 32 horsemen and 40 foot-soldiers, emphatically opted to stay by his side. Hearing Husain’s emotional call to defend the family of the Prophet (s), Hurr Al- Riyahi, the commander of one of the enemy battalions left the ranks of Yazid’s army and joined the small group of Husain.

Fearing that more people may defect to Husain Umar bin Sa`ad, commander of the army started the battle by firing an arrow saying: “Give evidence before the governor that I was the first thrower.” The army attacked with ferocity but were repulsed by the courage of Husain bin `Ali (RA) followers. Despite being charged at by infantrymen these brave soldiers of Allah Ta’ala stood their ground and defended the family of the Prophet (s).

Husain’s (RA) followers came to bid farewell to him as they plunged into the battle, sacrificing their lives in defense of the grandson of the Master, the Prophet (s). `Abbas bin `Ali (RA) the half-brother of Husain (RA) could not tolerate the suffering of the women and children who had been without water for several days. Penetrating the enemy forces he reached the river and began filling water skins. Laden with water skins and hopelessly outnumbered he made his way back to the camp. The enemy surrounded him determined not to let this brave warrior of Islam succeed in getting water to the camp. Before he died, `Abbas called out to his brother Husain (RA) asking forgiveness that he could not bring the water.

As the day drew to a close, only Husain (RA) remained from the men. Few of the enemy dared attack him, some out of the dread of attacking the grandson of the Prophet  (Sallalahu `Alaihi wasallam)  others from the fear of his ferocity. Umar bin Sa`ad, commander of Yazid’s forces ordered his men to murder the noble grandson – most were reluctant then Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan advanced to slit the throat of Husain (RA). He severed the head of this noble leader of Islam and placed it on a spear. History will always mark this day – 10th of Muharram 60AH (680AD) as the day the noble grandson of the Master Muhammad (Sallalahu `Alaihi wasallam) gave his life in defense of the established Path of Islam. He would tolerate no deviation from the Shariah (Islamic legal code) or Sunnah. Leaving this world at the age of 57 he became the” Leader of the Youth of Jannah” (Paradise).

Umar bin Sa`ad ordered his men to gather all the women and children, and to set fire to the tents. The next morning the captives from the family of the Prophet (s) were marched to Kufa and then to Damascus. In the court of Yazid bin Mu`awiyyah the heads were displayed and the prisoners were paraded. Zaynab bint `Ali (RA) fearlessly condemned Yazid for his actions and eulogised Hazrat Husain (RA).

This is a mere recording of events from authentic Sunni sources. Allah is the Best Judge. Allah Ta`ala makes it clear:

“That was a people that hath passed away. They shall reap the fruit of what they did, and ye of what ye do! Of their merits there is no question in your case”(Qur’an-Surat  al-Baqarah 2:141 and 2:134)

But it leaves us with the profound question: How much are we willing to sacrifice in the defense of Faith, Truth and the laws of Islam. If each of us were willing to make the sacrifice of Hazrat Husain (RA) then there would be no deviation from the True Path. The call is not only to give up our lives in preserving our religion, but to give up our desires in fulfilling the Orders of Allah Ta`ala.

Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions

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