Hassan and Hussain ibn Ali رضي الله عنهم were the beloved grandsons of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and the sons of Ali ibn Abi Talib رضي الله عنه. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Hasan and Hussain are the leaders of the youths of the people of Paradise.’ [Tirmidhi]
All the worlds libraries and all the worlds ink will fall short if we were to start praising the beloved grandsons of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, Hasan and Hussain رضي الله عنهم. What happened on the plains of Karbala continues to have an effect even today across the Muslim Ummah. It is thus very important to know the unadulterated truth from authentic sources and sift the muddled fiction that is spread by the Shia. One of the leading sources of the battle of Karbala is the historian Abu Mikhnaf, Lut ibn Yahya who was declared to be a major liar by the scholars of hadith. His narrations are severely exaggerated and filled with many fabrications. Despite coming a hundred years after Karbala, Abu Mikhnaf claimed to have many secret letters that were sent by Hussain, Muslim, Yazid, Ibn Ziyad and others. Any mention of him as a reference needs to raise an immediate red flag for the reader. Around 800 years later, another work under the same title and name of Abu Mikhnaf surfaces and the content is now even more exaggerated and fabricated. This is then relied upon by Shia and also some Sunni sources. This point is highlighted to show us the importance of checking our sources and making sure we take knowledge from authentic sources.
Another important point to be mentioned is that Karbala has a very important historical significance no doubt, but holds no weight from the perspective of the Shariah. The land of Karbala holds no virtue but the ones who got betrayed and martyred at Karbala hold the highest virtue and honour. It is upon us to learn the lives of those martyred at Karbala and follow the path of tawheed just as they did.
There are two prophecies that we should take note of here. One is with regard to al-Hassan and the other is with regard to al-Hussain رضي الله عنهم.
First - There was a conflict of leadership between Hassan and Mu’awiyah رضي الله عنهم. Seeing the treacherous past of the Kufans, how they had troubled his father, and who were now supposedly supporting him, Hasan went ahead and concluded a peace treaty between himself and Mu'awiyah in 41 AH. Both Hasan and Hussain رضي الله عنهم pledged allegiance to Mu'awiyah who would go one to rule for two decades. This year was called the year of unity (Aam al-Jama’ah) because the people united under Mu’awiyah in that year. All the sahabah who had stayed away from the conflict between the two groups also swore allegiance to Mu‘awiyah at this point. Hasan رضي الله عنه would pass away in 49 AH at the age of 47 years.
Imam Hasan al-Basri said رحمه الله, “I heard Abu Bakrah saying, ‘I saw Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) on the pulpit and al-Hasan bin Ali was by his side. The Prophet (ﷺ) was looking once at the people and once at al-Hasan bin Ali saying, 'This son of mine is a Sayyid (i.e. a noble) and may Allah make peace between two big groups of Muslims through him." [Bukhari]
An interesting conversation is recorded by Imam Ibn Abdil Barr رحمه الله. When Hasan رضي الله عنه was dying, he said to his brother Hussain رضي الله عنه, "O my dear brother, when the Prophet (ﷺ) left this world, our father (Ali) desired to have this matter (khilafah), but Allah turned him away from it and Abu Bakr became the Khalifah. When Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) died, he wanted to have it again, but it was turned to Umar (رضي الله عنه). When Umar was dying, he made it a consultation between six and he (Ali) was one of them and he was sure that it would not miss him this time! but it was turned from him to Uthman. And when Uthman (رضي الله عنه) died, he became the Khalifah but there was disagreement and he fought for it with the sword, so the Khilafah didn't come to him pure and he had to face a lot of hardship. So, by Allah, I don't think that Allah will combine for us (Ahl al-Bayt) between the Prophethood and the Khilafah...". [al-Isti‘ab fi Ma‘rifah al-Ashab]
Second - There are multiple narrations that mention how the Prophet ﷺ was divinely informed that Hussain رضي الله عنه would be martyred.
Imam Ahmad رحمه الله records on the authority of Anas ibn Malik رضي الله عنه that - the Angel of Rain took permission from his lord to visit the Prophet ﷺ so He gave him permission. The Prophet ﷺ told Umm Salamah رضي الله عنها to watch the door so no one could come in. al-Hussain رضي الله عنه came wanting to enter and I stopped him. But he jumped, entered, and started sitting on the back of the Prophet ﷺ (al-Hussain was a young child at the time), and on his shoulders. Then the angel asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Do you love him?”. He said, “Yes”. The angel said, “Indeed your Ummah will kill him, and if you wish, I can show you the place where he will be killed”. Then, he struck with his hand and came up with red clay. So Umm Salamah رضي الله عنها took it and tied on it in her veil. Thabit (the sub-narrator) said, “It has reached us that it’s Karbala”. [Musnad Ahmad]
Narrated Wakee’, narrated Abdullah bin Sa’eed, from his father from Aisha or Umm Salamah that the Prophet ﷺ said to one of them (either Aisha or Umm Salamah), “An angel entered the house on me, he never entered on me before, and he said to me, ‘this son of yours, al-Hussain, will be killed, and if you wish I can show you the soil from the earth where he will be killed’. Then he took out some red soil”. [Musnad Ahmad]
All these narrations have some element of weakness in them but the scholars of hadith note that by putting them all together, it allows us to reach the conclusion that the Prophet ﷺ was informed of the martyrdom of Hussain.
Matters Leading Up To Karbala
At the death of Mu’awiyah رضي الله عنه in 60-61 AH, his son Yazid took over the rule of the Muslim lands at the decision of his father. Mu’awiyah could have made this decision of appointing his son solely for the sake of not having further strife, division, and disunity in the Ummah. al-Hafiz Abdul Ghani al-Maqdisi رحمه الله said regarding Yazid, “His caliphate was valid; sixty of the companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ including Ibn Umar, swore allegiance to him.” This is mentioned here just to highlight a technical point. Just because the caliphate is valid doesn’t automatically mean that the ruler was good and just. In reality, Yazid has gone down as one of the most evil and unjust rulers in our history. Imam Salih ibn Ahmad said, "I said to my father, 'Some people say that they love Yazid.' He said, 'O my son, does anyone love Yazid who believes in Allah and the Last Day?' I said, 'O my father, why do you not curse him?' He said, 'O my son, when did you ever see your father curse anybody?'
To say that Yazid was an open drunkard and fornicator is a fabrication that has been inauthentically attributed to him. If that was the case, the bulk of the sahaba would not have silently pledged allegiance to him. Hafiz Ibn Kathir رحمه الله wrote, that Muhammad bin Muti’i and his companions came to Muhammad bin Ali bin Abi Talib, known as Ibn al-Hanafiyyah and desired that he removes Yazid (from the post of a leader). Ibn al-Hanafiyyah blatantly refused. Ibn Muti’i remarked: “Verily Yazid consumes wine, omits prayers and trespasses the laws of the Qur’an.” Ibn al-Hanafiyyah responded: “I never found him to be how you mention. Instead I stayed by him and found him punctual on prayers, pursuing good, asking matters of din and steadfast on the Sunnah.” [al-Bidayah wal Nihayah]
Initially, Abdur Rahman ibn Abi Bakr, Abdullah Ibn Umar, Hussain ibn Ali, and Abdullah ibn Zubair رضي الله عنهم from the sahaba refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid at the request of Mu'awiyah. In the meantime, Abdur Rahman and Mu'awiyah had both passed away. After assuming authority, Yazid asked everyone via his governors to pledge allegiance to him. The governor of Madinah was Waleed ibn Utbah, a person who had had a property dispute with Hussain رضي الله عنه just months ago. This governor was further incited by Marwan ibn al-Hakam against Hussain رضي الله عنه. He was a person who used to curse Ali رضي الله عنه from the minbar. Hussain and Ibn Zubair رضي الله عنهم were both called upon to pledge allegiance to Yazid immediately. Marwan pushed Waleed to get them to pledge allegiance there and if not, then kill them for dissent. Eventually, both Hussain and Ibn Zubair got away and found their way to Makkah. It is reported that Ibn Zubair told him that if he had enjoyed the support as Hussain did in Kufa, he would have gone out to be with them. It was during this period that groups in Kufa (in present-day Iraq) sent over 500 letters to Hussain, inviting him to come to Kufa such that people could pledge allegiance to him instead.
Sahabah like Abdullah ibn Abbas, Abdullah Ibn Umar, and Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah رضي الله عنهم tried to dissuade Hussain from proceeding to Kufa. They warned him that the situation in Kufa was not as supportive as it seemed and that the people who had sent invitations might not remain loyal to their cause when faced with the might of the Umayyad forces and also how they had deceived his father and brother. He was also cautioned by many in Makkah not to proceed. Ibn Abbas on seeing Hussain's resolve to leave, suggested him to go to Yemen instead where there were many supporters of Ali and if not, then at least proceed without the women and children to Kufa.
Hussain رضي الله عنه decided to assess the situation in Kufa personally. Before departing for Kufa in 61 AH, he sent Muslim ibn Aqeel ibn Abi Talib, his cousin, and a trusted companion, ahead to gather information about the situation and the sincerity of the people's support. Muslim ibn Aqeel arrived in Kufa and was initially welcomed by a significant number of people who pledged their allegiance to Hussain. He was first hosted at the house of Mukhtar ibn Abu Ubayd al-Thaqafi which he eventually left for Hani bin Urwah’s house. He met many of the Kufans here who came and promised their support for Hussain.
However, as the news of Muslim ibn Aqeel's presence reached Yazid, he switched the governor of Kufa from Nu'man ibn Basheer رضي الله عنه and appointed a ruthless 26-year-old man man named Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad who was the ruler of Basrah at the time in order to gain control of the situation, who started a campaign of intimidation and fear. The situation quickly changed, and the supporters of Hussain became hesitant due to the threats from Ibn Ziyad and they flipped. Muslim had written and dispatched a second letter to Hussain updating and warning him of the turn of events. Via a network of treachery and spies, Ibn Ziyad was able to find out that Muslim was hiding at the house of Hani. On hearing of the capture of Hani, Muslim went out with the supporters to the house of Ibn Ziyad. These so-called supporters numbered over 40,000. Ibn Ziyad threatened the people of a severe retaliation if they proceeded in their support and within a little time, only five thousand or so were left. With these drastically shrinking numbers, Muslim continued to proceed towards the house of Ibn Ziyad. Ibn Ziyad to gibe them a taste of his cruelty, took the captured Hani to the top of his house and threw him down to his death. Seeing this, many of the Kufans abandoned Muslim till he was left with less than 500 people around him. Ibn Ziyad again threatened the supporters and told them that they were so few in number now that he could easily count them. Not just that, but that he would wipe them as well as their families and houses out completely. Hearing this, more people abandoned Muslim till he was left with less than 50 supporters. They took refuge in Masjid al-Ansar. Ibn Ziyad had the roof of the masjid ripped open and the people were attacked.
Muslim was injured as he fled from the masjid. He sought refuge in the house of a lady from the Kinda tribe. He was eventually betrayed and handed over to the authorities by the same Kufan people. Muslim ibn Aqeel was brutally executed publically in Kufa and his body thrown off the top of the building just like Hani ibn Urwah at the command of Ibn Ziyad. This marked the beginning of a series of betrayals and tragic events leading to the Battle of Karbala.
Based on the messages and letters from Kufa, a letter of confirmation from Muslim ibn Aqeel, Hussain رضي الله عنه at the age of 56 years, along with his family and a small group of loyal companions, decided to travel to Kufa. He initiated his journey, not knowing of the killing of Muslim ibn Aqeel, or of the people’s changed attitude towards him. He had decided to proceed only because of the invitation of the Kufans and also because he did not want to cause any strife and bloodshed in Madinah. If he was indeed going for war to Kufa, he wouldn't have travelled with the women and children of his family. It was only when he reached close to Kufah that he was informed of the murder of his cousin. He wanted to return but the sons of Muslim ibn Aqeel wanted to proceed and take the rights of their father. Moved by their words and their emotions, Hussain رضي الله عنه decided to move forward. It is also interesting to note that Karbala lies on the way to al-Shaam which is where Yazid was based and not Kufa where Hussain was initially heading towards. This change in direction shows us that he wanted to speak to Yazid and settle the matter directly.
Incidents At Karbala
When Hussain رضي الله عنه along with his family members and a small group of followers, reached the plains of Karbala, located near the Euphrates River in present-day Iraq on the 2nd of Muharram. He continued the journey until reached a place called Qatfiyyah, where there was an army of 1,000 men of Ibn Ziyad present whose commander was Hurr ibn Yazid al-Tamimi. It is interesting to note that Ibn Ziyad had come from Syria with less than 20 men. Where did so many other men come from? Historians on both sides are unanimously agreed that these were the Kufans who had initially claimed to be the Shia of Ali.
As words were exchanged, a 4,000-strong army of Umar ibn Sa'ad joined them, confronted Hussain, and conveyed Yazid's demand for allegiance. Hussain رضي الله عنه showed them the letters that he had received from the people of Kufa inviting him there, mentioned of the murder of Muslim ibn Aqeel, and further mentioned his standing in the Ummah. On seeing the negative response and understanding the gravity of the situation, he offered the army that came to fight him for one of three things:
- To let him return to Makkah.
- To let him go to Yazid in al-Shaam, meet him, and give the pledge hand upon hand personally.
- To let him go to the frontier to fight in jihad for the sake of Allah.
Ibn Sa’ad tried to negotiate these conditions with Ibn Ziyad as they made sense to him. In Kufa, a deputy of Yazid, Shamar or Shimar ibn Dhi’l Jawshan incited Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad to force and capture Hussain رضي الله عنه instead of negotiating with him. At this, Ibn Ziyad explicitly ordered Umar ibn Sa‘ad to pledge allegiance via Ubaydullah or fight al-Hussain without hearing any voices of reason. Umar was the son of Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas رضي الله عنه and initially refused to proceed with such a heinous action. Ibn Ziyad ordered Shimar to take over the leading, be a commander, remove Umar if he caused any issues, and take care of Hussain.
Hussain رضي الله عنه refused to submit to Ibn Ziyad's authority while in Kufa. He did not cry and beg for his life as many of the Shia sources portray him to have done. It is an insult to claim that the grandson of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, the son of Ali رضي الله عنه, the son of Fatimah رضي الله عنها would beg for his life to be spared by a random group of men. The opposing forces of Ibn Ziyad surrounded Hussain's camp, insisted that Hussain surrender and pledge allegiance right then and there instead of proceeding in any direction, and also cut off their access to the Euphrates River.
Seeing the reluctance of Umar ibn Sa’ad to commence the battle Ibn Ziyad sent the ruthless Shimar ibn Dhi’l Jawshan (his chief commander) to replace Umar ibn Sa’ad as the commander. It is interesting to note how during the times of prayer, the two groups stopped any forms of fighting and used to unite behind Hussain رضي الله عنه as their Imam for the prayer as everyone there knew there was no one better than him. The group of Hussain رضي الله عنه spent the night of the 9th of Muharram in worship.
Sheikh Ehsan Elahi Zaheer رحمه الله and other scholars said that if we were to assess the different narrations on Karbala, we can conclude that the entire thing last for about 2-3 hours. The Shia exaggerate and make it look as though this lasted for many days. The tragedy at Karbala began and the initial signs of victory were in the camp of Hussain even though many of his family members were martyred. It started with the martyrdom of Abbas ibn Ali, Hussain's half-brother, and his son Ali ibn Hussain. Abbas was the standard-bearer of Hussain's army and played a crucial role in providing water for the thirsty children and companions. He was martyred while trying to fetch water from the river. Hussain رضي الله عنه himself fought valiantly, displaying unmatched bravery and steadfastness. Hurr, the previous commander of the enemy forces defected and joined the camp of Hussain رضي الله عنه. Despite their small numbers, not more than 100 people, the group of Hussain fought bravely against nearly 5000 men. It was a family and not an army that was fighting an army.
The Kufan army had to bring in archers to break the resistance. In the final moments of the battle on Friday, the 10th of Muharram in 61 AH, Hussain was severely wounded and fell to the ground at 58 years of age. [al-Mu’jam al-Kabir]
The enemies surrounded him, and Zur’a bin Shareek struck a blow on his shoulder. A man named Sinan ibn Abi Amr then advanced and attacked Hussain with a spear and put him to the ground. Upon the order of Shimar, Sinan then dismounted from his horse and killed him. Some reports suggest that Khawli ibn Yazid al-Asbahi was the one who cut off Hussain’s head from his body. The blessed head of al-Hussain رضي الله عنه was brought and placed in front of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, who started poking at the teeth with a stick.
Hands tremble and pens break as we write this. This was the most despicable crime and heinous murder someone could commit. It baffles our minds to even imagine how drunk on the dunya were these men that they even dared to raise a sword against the grandson of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. How they will stand in front of Allah or His Messenger ﷺ in the hereafter. May Allah’s Curse be upon all of them and may they be given the harshest of punishments in the hereafter.
In summary, we can conclude that 3 main groups are responsible for the murder of Hussain رضي الله عنه:
1. Those that invited Hussain رضي الله عنه to Kufa and then abandoned him.
2. Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad and his group that went ahead to kill the Ahl al-Bayt on their own accord without any orders from al-Shaam.
3. Sinan ibn Abi Amr who laid the fatal blow that martyred Hussain رضي الله عنه.
Imam Ali al-Mada'ini's رحمه الله list of the martyrs at Karbala from Ahlul Bayt:
- Al-Hussain bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Ja'far bin Ali bin Ali Talib
- Uthman bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Al-Abbas al-Asghar bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Muhammad al-Asghar bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Ali bin al-Hussain bin Ali
- Ubaydullah bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Abu Bakr bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Al-Qasim bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Ja'far
- Muslim bin Aqeel bin Abi Talib
- Abdul Rahman bin Muslim
- Abdullah bin Muslim
- Muhammad bin Abi Sa'eed bin Aqeel
Imam al-Layth bin Sa'ad’s رحمه الله list of the martyrs at Karbala from Ahlul Bayt:
- Al-Hussain bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Ja'far bin bin Abi Talib
- Abdullah bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Uthman bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Abu Bakr bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Ali bin Al-Hussain bin Ali bin Abi Talib
- Abdullah bin Al-Hasan
- Abu Bakr bin Al-Hussain
- Al-Qassim bin Al-Hasan
- Awn bin Abdullah bin Ja'far bin Abi Talib
- Mohammad bin Abdullah bin Ja'far bin Abi Talib
- Ja'far bin Aqeel bin Abi Talib
- Muslim bin Aqeel bin Abi Talib
- Sulayman the servant of Al-Hussain
- Abdullah bin Al-Hussain (the infant)
May Allah accept them all as martyrs.
Years later, Sinan met Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. A meeting of tyrants and killers. mam al-Tabarani narrated that Aslam al-Manqari said, “After I entered upon al-Hajjaj, Sinan bin Anas, the killer of al-Hussain (رضي الله عنه), entered. He was an elderly dark man, with henna, a long nose, and discolouration on his face. He stood towards al-Hajjaj and al-Hajjaj looked at him. He said: “Are the killer of al-Hussain?" He said: "Yes." He said: "How did you do it?" He said: "I rammed my spear into him and cut him my sword." al-Hajjaj said: "You will not be united with him in one abode (in the afterlife)." you up with " [al-Mu’jam al-Kabir]. This is one of the most authentic narrations we have on this matter.
After the battle, Yazid's forces plundered their camps. Imam al-Tabari narrates from Humayd ibn Muslim the following, “I (Humayd) reached the tent of Hadhrat Ali ibn Hussain (Zainul Aabideen) and found him ill, lying in the bed. I heard Shimar ibn Dhil Jaushan saying to his men, ‘Why have we not yet kill this one?’ I exclaimed SubhanAllah! Do you wish to kill a child? I continued pushing them back until Umar ibn Sa’ad arrived. Seeing the situation, he immediately ordered that none should enter the tent in which the women were present and that the ill youngster be left alone. He also ordered that all the looted possessions be returned, but nothing was brought back. Ali ibn Hussain at that time thanked Umar ibn Sa’ad, saying, may you be rewarded, for verily your words have saved us from great danger!”
After this, the enemy forces took the surviving family members of Hussain, including his sister Zainab and his young son Ali Zain al-Abidin رضي الله عنهم, as captives to Kufa. Ibn Ziyad, may Allah’s Curse be upon him, sent the severed head of Hussain with them also to al-Shaam. Before that, he was making a mockery of the head of Hussain. Anas bin Malik رضي الله عنه reported, "The head of al-Hussain was brought to Ubaydullah bin Ziyad and was put in a tray, and then Ibn Ziyad started playing with a stick at the nose and mouth of al-Hussain's head and saying something about his handsome features." Anas then said (to him), "al-Hussain resembled the Prophet more than the others did." [Bukhari]
Imam Ibn Asakir رحمه الله reports that Ibn Ziyad was just twenty eight years old when he killed Hussain رضي الله عنه. [Tarikh al-Dimashq]
In al-Shaam, Yazid expressed regret and washed his hands off from the actions of his envoys in Kufa. He gave money and provisions to the family of Hussain رضي الله عنه and allowed them to leave for Damascus after which they went back to Madinah. All narrations showcasing Yazid playing or abusing the blessed head of Hussain, or raping and harming the women of the family of Hussain رضي الله عنهم are totally false and fabricated. Even though Yazid did not explicitly order the killing of Hussain, he did issue orders that Hussain be resisted and his efforts to become a leader were to be hindered, even if that meant fighting him. Despite speaking words of regret to the family of Hussain, he did not take any action against the killers to show his disapproval of the murder or to avenge him, when he should have done that.
A man to take note of in all this is Mukhtar ibn Abu Ubayd al-Thaqafi who is one of the biggest liars and dajjals in this Ummah. It was he who pushed the Kufans to call Hussain to Kufa, hosted Muslim ibn Aqeel and then abandoned him to be killed. After the death of Yazid, Mukhtar starts inviting the masses towards Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah, the son of Ali with the claim that he, Muhammad, is the ‘promised Mahdi’. He would then go on to say that it was him who was actually the Mahdi, and then lay claim of being a Prophet himself, and finally to take the step of declaring himself as the Almighty incarnated. He was the embodiment of the warning issued by the Messenger of Allah regarding the emergence of a ‘dajjal’ from the tribe of Thaqeef, and that dajjal was none other but this very Mukhtar. His satanic movement was finally brought to an end after years of harming the Muslims when Abdullah ibn Zubair ordered his brother, Mus'ab ibn Zubair to stop him in his tracks and execute him. The only good this man ever did in his life and that too was driven by a zeal to elevate his own name was to capture, crucify, and hang the bodies of Sinan ibn Abi Amr, Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, and Shimar ibn Dhi’l Jawshan at the gates of Kufah in 67 AH.
Imam al-Tirmidhi رحمه الله narrated in his Sunan: Umara bin Umayr said, “When the heads of Ubaydullah bin Ziyad and his men were brought, they were placed on top of one another in the hall of the mosque. I reached them as they were saying: "It comes! It comes!" A snake then slithered through the heads until it reached the nostrils of Ubaydullah bin Ziyad, where it stayed for a little while before leaving, and it then disappeared. They then said: "It comes! It comes!" It then did the same thing twice or thrice.”
The closest people to Allah are those that are tested the most. Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas رضي الله عنه reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, which people are tested most severely?” The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “They are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man is put to trial according to his religion. If he is firm in his religion, his trials will be more severe. If he is weak in his religion, he is put to trial according to his strength in religion. The servant will continue to be put to trial until he is left walking upon the earth without any sin.” [Tirmidhi]
Allah honoured Hussain رضي الله عنه to be the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, raised him to the rank of martyrdom and in the Hereafter, made him a leader of the youths in Paradise.
10th Muharram: A Day of Mourning?
The Shia dampen the mood of the Blessed Month of Muharram and instead of celebrating the mercy of Allah, they take it as a month of mourning on the martyrdom of Hussain رضي الله عنه.
So many people take it to be a month where marriages etc are impermissible as it is a month of mourning. This is completely baseless and an innovation. A principle needs to be understood here. If the Shariah has not singled out a day to be a day of religious mourning (or evil), no incident in the world can make it into a day of mourning. There is no day of mourning or evil in the Shariah of Muhammad. If the Shariah has not singled out a day to be a day or religious celebration (Eid), no incident in the world can make it into a day of Eid. No death or birth is to bring something new into the religion.
The pages of Islamic History are filled with the blood of the martyrs. Should we begin to mourn the martyrdom of the sahabah alone, every other day would be a day of mourning. Thus, to attribute the significance of Ashura to the martyrdom of Hussain رضي الله عنه is baseless. In fact, it was a blessing of Allah upon him that he was granted martyrdom in this blessed month. Therefore, the host of baseless customs with regard to his martyrdom must be discarded. There are two extremes and both are to be rejected. One side makes it a month of mourning (Shia) and those make it a month of widespread celebration (Nasibi and Khawarij). The Ummah stays in the middle and does not exaggerate in either.
If martyrdom was to be taken as a day of mourning, then so many Prophets of Allah were killed by their people, Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib رضي الله عنه was mutilated and martyred, Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه was stabbed and assassinated (1 Muharram), Uthman Ibn Affan رضي الله عنه was brutally assassinated, Ali Ibn Abi Talib رضي الله عنه was assassinated, and likewise other sahaba who are documented to have a higher rank than that of Hussain رضي الله عنه. We do not see the Prophet ﷺ or his companions mark their martyrdom with days of mourning or anything remotely similar.
Look at the inconsistency of the Shia themselves. Ali bin Abi Talib رضي الله عنه was killed unjustly and his al-Hussain رضي الله عنه survived after him for 21 years, and yet he did not hold any sort of mourning or remembrance events for his father. The Shia themselves have never done for Ali like what they do for al-Hussain even though Ali is better than his son.
Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله comments, "Since Hasan and Hussain are the leaders of the youth of Jannah, and were born after the Hijrah in the period of the domination of Islam, they did not face the difficulties and hardships that the righteous people faced before them. Therefore Allah bestowed favours upon (Hasan and Hussain) as He willed and wished, through trials so that the ranks of both of them may be elevated. And that was out of their honour and respect and not out of their disgrace, just as Allah honoured Hamza, Ali, Jafar, Umar and Uthman and others through martyrdom. [Raas Al Hussain]
Sheikh Tawfique Chowdhury حفظه الله once asked a Shia, “Why do you beat yourself and mourn?” The man replied that they mourn at the death of al-Hussain. The Sheikh further pushed him and said, “Why do you mourn, when without a doubt Hussain is in Jannah? Not only is he in Jannah, but he is of the leaders in Jannah as the Prophet ﷺ described to us. The Shia and the Sunnis agree on this that Hussain is of the People of Jannah.”
We need to remember the teachings of our Prophet ﷺ, who even taught us the Adab of mourning, “It is not lawful for a Muslim woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to mourn for more than three days, except for her husband, for whom she should mourn for four months and ten days.” [Bukhari]
Urs ibn Umayrah al-Kindi رضي الله عنه narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: “If a sin is committed on earth, the one who witnessed it and hated it (i.e. was not pleased with it) is like the one who was absent from it, and the one who was absent from it but he was pleased with it, is like the one who witnessed it (and was pleased with it).” [Abu Dawud] This proves that if someone is pleased with evil, he is sinful even if he is absent from it. Therefore, whoever is pleased with the killing of al-Hussain رضي الله عنه he is sinful regardless of whichever era he lived in.
Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله said, “As regards the one who killed al-Hussain or helped in his killing or was pleased with that, then upon him will be the Curse of Allah and of the angels and of all the people, and Allah will not accept from him either obligatory acts or supererogatory acts.”
Cursing The Sahaba (Tabarra)
These days of Muharram are marked by cursing and spreading lies against the sahaba of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. The prime targets are our mother Aisha, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and Umar al-Faruq رضي الله عنهم. Our mothers' stature is cemented in the Quran and will be recited till the Day of Judgement. Imam Ahmad رحمه الله said that anyone who insults Abu Bakr, Umar or Aishah رضي الله عنهم is not considered a Muslim. How can the accursed Shia curse and blame Aishah رضي الله عنها for Karbala when she had passed away 4 years before the incident of Karbala.
Overall, Allah says in the Quran,
وَالسَّابِقُونَ الأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُواْ عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun and the Ansar, and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success. [Surah Tawbah, 100]
Cursing and speaking ill of the sahaba is speaking ill of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. It indicates that the Prophet ﷺ wasn't intelligent enough to surround himself with the right people, or he was not good enough to give them tarbiyah and rectify them and that Allah Allowed His Messenger ﷺ to be surrounded by such people and Allowed the religion to be preserved and transmitted through them. Ajeeb!
Narrated Abu Saeed al-Khudri رضي الله عنه: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Do not abuse my companions for if any one of you spent gold equal to Uhud (in Allah's Cause) it would not be equal to a Mud or even a half Mud spent by one of them." [Bukhari]
1 Mudd = 2 Handfuls or approximately 510 to 750 grams. Such is the monumental and gigantic status of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ. If this is what the Prophet ﷺ has mentioned about his companions in general, then what about:
- The People of Badr,
- Mu'adh Ibn Jabal: On whose death, the Arsh of Allah shook,
- The 10 Promised Paradise,
- The Wives of the Prophet ﷺ
The esteemed Sheikh, Dr Abdul Kareem al Khudayr حفظه الله said, "The background of this hadith is that there was once an altercation that broke out between Khalid Ibn al-Waleed and Abdur Rahman Ibn Awf and in due course, Khalid reviled Abdur Rahman. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said while addressing Khalid ibn Waleed: "Do not abuse my companions!"
He ﷺ said this statement to Khalid ibn Waleed, and Khalid (as we know) was someone through whom Allah aided Islam! This shows how mighty the station and status of all companions are! If the Prophet ﷺ can get upset and reprimand a companion when abuse occurs between the companions themselves, then how about when a non-sahabi does the same (ie curses the companions) while having no weight in Islam?"
In another narration, Ibn Umar reported: The Prophet ﷺ said, “The curse of Allah is upon the one who insults my companions.” [al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ]
It was narrated that al-Bara’ رضي الله عنه said: I heard the Prophet ﷺsay: “The Ansar: no one loves them but a believer and no one hates them but a hypocrite. Whoever loves them, Allah will love him, and whoever hates them, Allah will hate him.” [Bukhari]
They also try to show - as though the Blessed Family of the Prophet ﷺ hated these two men. Do you want to know the status of these 2 men? See where they are buried today and who is their neighbour.
Imam al-Awza'i رحمه الله said: “Whoever curses Abu Bakr has apostatized from his religion and his blood is halal.” [Ibanah as-Sughra] Why did he make such a strong statement? Because anyone who curses Abu Bakr has rejected the Quran and gone against it.
Imam Abu Zar’ah al-Razi رحمه الله said: "If you see a man criticizing one of the companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, then know that he is a heretic."
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal رحمه الله said: "If you see a man mentioning one of the companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ in a bad way, then call his Islam into question."
Imam Malik رحمه الله said, "Indeed, these people wanted the defamation of the Prophet, peace be upon him, but they were unable to do so, so they defamed his companions." [As-Sarim al-Maslul]
Imam al-Dhahabi رحمه الله writes: "The person who speaks in bad terms or curses the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ, is deemed to have left the fold of Islam. He is cut off from the group of Muslims due to this action. If he seeks to attribute a fault to the Companions of the Prophet, he is considered a Munafiq (hypocrite)’. [Al-Kabair]
Asim al-Ahwal narrates that Abul Aliyyah said explaining the Ayah - اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ - Guide us to the Straight Way - "That it is the Nabi ﷺ and his two Companions, Abu Bakr and Umar. Asim said I mentioned this to Hasan (Al-Basri) and he said: "Abu'l Aliyah spoke & advised with the truth." (Imam al-Marudhi, al-Sunnah] Abul Aliyah رحمه الله was a senior successor who was born during the time of Allah's Messenger ﷺ but accepted Islam during the reign of Abu Bakr. He was considered the most knowledgeable on the Quran after the Sahabah. [Siyar 4:208]
Here's a family tree of the Family of Ali رضي الله عنه showing just how much love they had for Abu Bakr and Umar. If anyone deserves to be called the Shia of Ali or the Shia of Ahlul Bayt, without a doubt it is Ahlus Sunnah.
Narrated Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه: When (the dead body of) Umar was put on his deathbed, the people gathered around him and invoked (Allah) and prayed for him before the body was taken away, and I was amongst them. Suddenly I felt somebody taking hold of my shoulder and found out that he was Ali bin Abi Talib. Ali invoked Allah's Mercy for `Umar and said, "O `Umar! You have not left behind you a person whose deeds I like to imitate and meet Allah with more than I like your deeds. By Allah! I always thought that Allah would keep you with your two companions, for very often I used to hear the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, 'I, Abu Bakr and `Umar went (somewhere); I, Abu Bakr and `Umar entered (somewhere); and I, Abu Bakr and `Umar went out."' [Bukhari]
Narrated Muhammad bin al-Hanafiya رضي الله عنه: I asked my father (Ali bin Abi Talib), "Who are the best people after Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) ?" He said, "Abu Bakr." I asked, "Who then?" He said, "Then `Umar. " I was afraid he would say "Uthman, so I said, "Then you?" He said, "I am only an ordinary person. [Bukhari]
Muhammad ibn Ali al-Baqir رضي الله عنه said: “Whoever doesn’t know the virtue of Abu Bakr and Umar رضي الله عنهم is surely ignorant of the Sunnah.” [al-Hilyah]
It was narrated from al-Hasan bin Zaid bin Hasan: My father told me, from his father, that Ali said: I was with the Prophet (ﷺ) when Abu Bakr and Umar (رضي الله عنهما) came and he said: `O Ali, these two are the leaders of the middle-aged people of Paradise and its youth, after the Prophet (ﷺ) and Messengers.” [Ahmad]
Our Sheikh, Dr. Ibrahim Nuhu حفظه الله said, "Most of the people who talk and fight are ignorant of their religion. Their religion is based on a very shaky foundation. Try and detach them from their deviated sources. Many a time, when we tell them what their own books teach, they will be shocked. For such people, don't mention any other names. Teach them by referencing everything to the Sunnah and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and you will see good results InshaAllah.
The sahaba are one entity. You cannot separate them where you love a group from them and hate another. Show such people the love and respect that the sahaba had among themselves. Umar married into the house of Ali. Ali named his children after Abu Bakr and Umar. If they were against each other then would they act like this? If a person curses the sahaba and speaks badly of them, then in reality they are accusing Allah of not choosing good companions for His Messenger ﷺ. It is an insult to the Prophet ﷺ himself that he did not keep good company in his life. Even culturally, we know that if you want to know about a person, you look at his friends.
In reality, this is a way such evil people are trying to attack the Sunnah. If the sahaba fall, the Sunnah falls, as the Sunnah has reached us only through the service of the sahaba. It is enough for anyone and everyone to know that Allah, the All-Knowing has mentioned in the Quran that He is Pleased with the sahaba."
Attributing Divinity to Hussain
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Do not exaggerate my status as the Christians have done with the son of Maryam. Verily, I am only a servant, so refer to me as the servant of Allah and His Messenger.” [Bukhari]
People also call upon Hussain رضي الله عنه in dua and set him up in a divine position. How can we call upon Hussain when we cannot even call upon his blessed grandfather. Hussain is free from all this. If anyone deserves to be called the Shia of Ali, Hussain, or the Shia of Ahlul Bayt, without a doubt it is Ahlus Sunnah. (Shia basically refers to - a group)
When he left Madinah, he had tawakkul on Allah alone. When he was in Makkah, he had tawakkul on Allah alone. When he arrived at Kufa, he invoked Allah to help him against the tyrants. When he was in Karbala, standing against the enemies, he was supplicating to Allah alone to grant him power and patience. When his children were martyred, he praised Allah for their sacrifices. When he entered the battlefield, he asked Allah to help him with his blessed sword. He set an example for this Ummah that a Monotheist will prostrate only to Allah whatever the situation is.
He didn't invoke anyone other than Allah to help him in his fight against falsehood. There is no report from any group that Hussain invoked the Prophet ﷺ, his father Ali, his mother Fatima, and his brother Hasan رضي الله عنهم on the battlefield. Salutations to the martyr of Karbala, the grandson of Prophet ﷺ, the chief of the youth of Paradise, and the preacher of Tawheed.
Yahya Ibn Sa'eed reported that Ali (ibn Hussain ibn Ali) رضي الله عنهم said: “O People of Iraq! Love us (Ahl al-Bayt) with the love of Islam, and do not love us with the love of idols, for the way that you love us has become so bad that it is something which we are ashamed of.” [Siyar A'lam al-Nubala]
It is also reported that some of the last words of Hussain were:
صبراً على قضائك يا ربّ ، لا إله سواك يا غياث المستغيثين، مالي ربّ سواك ولا معبود غيرك ، صبراً على حكمك ، يا غياث مَن لا غياث له يا دائماً لا نفاد له ، يا محيي الموتى ، يا قائماً على كلّ نفس بما كسبت ، احكم بيني وبينهم وأنت خير الحاكمين.
“(I accept) Patience upon your decree, O Rabb. There is no deity except You, O Helper (Giyath) of the seekers of help. I have no Rabb besides You, nor there is any other Lord except You. (I accept) Patience upon Your judgment, O Helper of those who have no helper, O Everlasting with no end, O Reviver of the dead, O Upholder of every soul according to what it has earned. Judge between me and them, and You are the best of judges.”
Those that call upon Hussain رضي الله عنه say, “Imam Hussain was helpless and defenceless while he was martyred”, but then in the same breath go on and say, “O Hussain! Aid Me!”. Let that marinate for a minute. If he had no power to help himself and his family when alive, how can he help you when he has passed away?
Allah says and we should internalize this completely,
لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِٱللَّهِ ۚ
‘There is no power except with Allah?’ [Surah al-Kahf, 39]
And what is something that we say tens of times in a day in every raka’at of our prayer?
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
‘You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help.’ [Surah al-Fatiha, 5]
Secondly, cursing and speaking ill of the sahaba is speaking ill of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. It indicates that the Prophet ﷺ wasn't intelligent enough to surround himself with the right people, or he was not good enough to give them tarbiyah and rectify them and that Allah Allowed His Messenger ﷺ to be surrounded by such people and Allowed the religion to be preserved and transmitted through them. Ajeeb!
Carrying Out Processions, Self Flagellations, and Building Domes (Taziya)
Taziya originally means condolence or expression of grief. In Persia, it used to depict and reenact the martyrdom of Hussain and in India it used to refer to mourning processions that carried miniature mausoleums (intended to depict Karbala) across the streets and buried on the 10th. This practice was a gift from India to the Shia.
Another origin story that seems to be more established is that this practice was established by the evil Mongol King Taimur, also called Timur the Lame or Tamerlane as he was paralysed from the right side of the body. Taimur Lang used to visit shrine of Hussain رضي الله عنه in Baghdad every year during Muharram. In 1398-99 A.D. (800-801 AH) he was unable to visit the shrine due to his invasion in India where he eventually overthrew Muhammad Shah Tughlaq in Delhi. He ordered to make a replica of the shrine so that he could perform the rituals. To appease him some mud from Karbala was brought and due to the shortage of time, the replica was made by bamboo and papers in 801 AH. Looking at this, Sultans in the Awadh region and those around Delhi also started imitating this practice. Likewise to appease these rulers, their followers and subjects (Muslims and non-Muslims) also started making a fanfare out of it till this practice spread across the lands. Since then this practice called 'taziadari' came into existence.
This practice was continued in the time of the Mughal rulers as well. Sheikh Maqsood ul Hassan Faizi حفظه الله explained - Starting from the first Mughal Emperor Babur to the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and also the last powerful Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb there was only one Shia Emperor, and his name was Nasir-ud-din Muhammad better known as Humayun. He became a Shia as he sought help from the Persian Empire to regain his kingdom. After gaining victory in India via Persian help, some of Humayun’s family members were married off to Shia women. In Persia or Iran, on the 10th of Ashura, people used to come to mourn at the grave of Hussain. Coming to Iran on a yearly basis was not feasible so they started making taziya and replica graves or domes and mourning similar to the way in Iran to commemorate the Day of Karbala.
As the years went by, many things kept getting added into it. The people were influenced heavily by Hindu ceremonies and aped them. The Hindu festival of Dusshera (a holiday marking the triumph of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu, over the 10-headed demon king Ravana,) was celebrated for 10 days, and so these Muslims also started celebrating and carrying out processions for 10 days in Ashura. Just like there is a fight depicted in Hindu beliefs and stories of Ramlila, they depicted the fight of Karbala here.
Even the Shia in the Arab lands wrote that such was unheard of for them and it originated in India. Seeing the success and the crowds that such things pulled, it was adopted by Shias around the globe as well. Participating in such processions is completely impermissible and a grave sin as these taziya are venerated, worshipped, and called upon. Other than the grave sin of shirk, it is the epitome of imitating and propagating the practices of the disbelievers.
Self-flagellation is another very infamous practice associated with Muharram. Sheikh Ebn Hussein writes in detail on this practice, a few points from which to shed light on this are - It is a form of devotional practice of flogging oneself with whips or other instruments that inflict pain as a sign of remorse or repentance. This is completely impermissible in Islam. Self-flagellation rituals are said to be first found practiced among the members of several Greco- Roman and Egyptian cults and the Sparta Arthemis Orthia. The cult of Isis in Egypt and the Dionysian cult of Greece practiced flagellation. Women were flogged during the Roman Lupercalia to ensure fertility. Self-punishment in the form of self-flagellation known as the mortification of the flesh in Christianity has its origins in fourth-century Europe and was a common practice until the medieval era. Mortification of the flesh is undertaken in order to repent for sins and share in the Passion of Jesus and the imitation of his suffering and death by alleged crucifixion, similar to how self-flagellation is understood in Shi’ism as a means to imitate saint Hussain in bleeding and to share some of his pain. Hindus have a number of self-punishment rituals and festivals such as Garudan Thookkam and Thaipusam.
Although not all Shias practice extreme forms of self-harming and Self-flagellation rituals such as Tatbir/Qameh Zani (the striking of one’s head with blades, swords, knives, etc.) or Zanjeer Zani with blades (repeatedly striking the back with a chain of blades), yet a number of major ‘Ayatollahs’ of Qom, Iran, do sanctify, condone and encourage extreme self-harming rituals, even on infants! And whether it includes bloodletting or not, whipping oneself with chains (as done in many regions of Iran) is a pagan heresy unknown to Islam, brought to Iran by the Safavids who copied it from the Christians and spread it to the rest of the Shia communities from Iraq to the Indian Subcontinent.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “He is not from our group who slaps his checks, tears his clothes, and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah.” [Bukhari] Such a practice is known as 'Noha' or 'Matam' in the subcontinent.
Even Hussain رضي الله عنه , shortly before his martyrdom, had advised his beloved sister, Zainab, not to mourn over his death in this manner. He said, “My dear sister! I swear upon you that in case I die you shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for your death.” [Ibn al-Athir's Al-Kamil]
May Allah elevate the mention of the blessed family of His Messenger ﷺ and his exalted companions رضي الله عنهم. May Allah guide to the truth those who claim to love and stand by the family of His Messenger. May Allah keep firm and steadfast those who live by the words of His Messenger ﷺ, "You must adhere to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the righteous, guided successors. Hold firmly to it as if biting with your molar teeth. Beware of newly invented matters in religion, for every new matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance.” [Abu Dawud]
Imam al-Shafi'i writes:
يا أَهْلَ بَيْتِ رَسولِ اللهِ حُبُّكُمُ
فَرْضٌ مِنَ اللهِ في ٱلْقُرْآنِ أَنْزَلَه
كَفاكُمْ مِنْ عَظيمِ ٱلْقَدْرِ أنَّكُم
مَنْ لَمْ يُصَلِّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَلا صَلٰوةَ لَه
O members of the Household (Ahl al-Bayt) of the Messenger of Allah! Loving you is an obligation, which God has revealed in the Qur’an.
On the greatness and loftiness of your station, it is enough that anyone who does not invoke blessings on you (in invoking blessings on the Prophet ﷺ), it is as if he has not invoked blessings at all.