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Revisiting Karbala
By Syed Wasi Imam

The events in Karbala leading to the Martyrdom of Imam Husain grandson of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) is a saga of sacrifice for the sake of upholding the tenets of Islam and a fine example of complete submission to Almighty God’s will, so much so that it became synonymous with the sacrifice of humankind against tyranny and falsehood.
On his way to Karbala Imam Husain got the bad news of the death of his cousin Muslim-bin-Aquil. Muslim had gone to Kufa to inquire if the people were really interested in playing host to Hazrat Husain, as their letters reached Madina in thousands, each one asking Imam Husain to visit Kufa and be their guest. When Muslim reached Kufa people warmly welcomed him but gradually all of them refused to give shelter for fear of the ruler, who had ordered severe punishment for anybody who gave him shelter. Muslim and his two young sons, who were with him, were mercilessly killed by Ibn Sa’d army, hunted like an animal, with no one to bother for him.

Even after getting the sad news, Imam Husain proceeded towards Kufa but could not reach there. Imam Husain knew that he was on his final destination, about which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had foretold long ago. On the 4th of Muharram Imam Husain’s caravan reached Karbala. Hurr, a general in the Yazid’s army prevented them from going any further. Hurr’s army was coming after covering a long distance and was very tired and thirsty. Imam Husain, who could not bear anybody’s distress, ordered his younger brother Hazrat Abbas to give water to the enemy camp. Having reached Karbala and being prevented from proceeding any further, Imam Husain decided to pitch his tent near the river but that too was denied to him and he had to pitch his tent far away from the river. Imam Husain and his companions were denied access to drinking water, however, they managed somehow for sometime.

By 7th of Muharram there was no water in their tents. The young and the older people could understand the situation, but children are children and with the desert heat, the thirst was at its climax. The youngest of the lot was a six-month old baby who cried for milk and his mother stood near his cot staring helplessly. A bit grown-up children would look at the faces of their elders with anticipation.

By 9th of Muharram, the tents wore a look of mourning. There were so many people inside it but hardly any sound could be heard. It was thirst that was killing them and a mere mention of the word ‘water’ for a moment would send a flash on their faces. On 9th itself, Ibn Sa’d again repeated Yazid’s proposal before Imam Husain, that in brief meant: If Imam Husain put his seal of approval on every act of Yazid as Islamic, he would not just be set free but may even get a high place in Yazid’s court. But as always Imam Husain rejected his un-Islamic proposal with more firmness. Because Imam Husain’s acceptance of Yazid’s proposal meant the defeat of religion and humanity and the failure of mission of Adam and all Prophets and the defeat of good and the victory of evil.

On the 9th Muharram, Imam Husain and his companions prayed to the Almighty Allah for all of them knew that the coming day would be their last, the day of supreme sacrifice. Mothers spent the night having a last look at their children with the looming fear that they could not behold them anymore, and at the same time exhorting them to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Islam.

The dawn of 10th Muharram was greeted by a rain of arrow from the army. Imam Husain and his companions offered their Fajr namaz. The Azaan of Hazrat Ali Akbar, son of Imam Husain who resembled the Prophet (PBUH) in his physical features, echoed in the desert fields.

Hurr who now understood the evil designs of Yazid and Ibn Sa’d could not stop himself anymore. He knew he was on the wrong side. He left his army and moved towards Imam Husain’s tent, his brother and son came along with him. He begged forgiveness for his sin of stopping Imam Husain near Karbala. He was readily forgiven and was the first to lay down his life and became a martyr. Then one after the other, all went to the field and were martyred.

Those who still have doubts that Imam Husain had not come to fight but to sacrifice his life can understand from the fact that instead of all of them attacking the Yazid’s army at a time they went to the battlefield one by one and laid down their lives.

Imam Husain’s motto was to save Islam whatever the consequences. He was ready for any sacrifice. He was doing what God willed him to do and what he had promised his grandfather, the Prophet of Islam.

Imam Husain laid down his life and his family was taken as prisoners of war and they had to face many hardships and humiliation to save Islam for eternity. The battle of Karbala was not a battle for power but for Islamic values. Hazrat Husain refused to bow down to the dictates of Yazid because he knew what Yazid stood for. Hazrat Husain made it known to Yazid and his commander, and to the world at large that he had no interest in making any worldly gain, nor was he interested in becoming the caliph but he was against distortion of Islam. Yazid was violating the esteemed laws of Islam and there was no way Imam Husain would have accepted him as caliph and put his word of approval for him. The tragedy of Karbala taught humanity triumph of truth is permanent and worldly gains are of transitory nature.

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