Friday, December 19, 2008


Karbala is a city in Iraq, located about 100 km (60 mi) southwest of Baghdad at 32.61°N, 44.08°E. In the time of Husayn ibn Alī's life, the place was also known as al-Ghadiriyah, Naynawa, and Shathi'ul-Furaat. The estimated population in 2003 was 572,300 people. It is the capital of Karbala Province. Shi'a Muslims consider Karbala to be one of their holiest cities after Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Najaf. The city is best known as the location of the Battle of Karbala.

There are many theories as to the meaning of the name Karbala; most are highly speculative. One reasonable traditional hypothesis is geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi's belief that the name is an alternate Arabic feminine version of karbalah "soft earth"

About the city

The city is one of Iraq's wealthiest, profiting both from religious visitors and agricultural produce, especially dates. It is made up of two districts, "Old Karbala," the religious centre, and "New Karbala," the residential district containing Islamic schools and government buildings.
At the centre of the old city is the Masjid Al-Husayn, the tomb of Husayn ibn ˤAlī, grandson of the Prophet Muħammad by his daughter Fatimah az-Zahra and ˤAlī ibn Abu-Taalib. Husayn's tomb is a place of pilgrimage for many Shīˤa Muslims, especially on the anniversary of the battle, the Day of Āshūrā. Many elderly pilgrims travel there to await death, as they believe the tomb to be one of the gates to paradise. On April 14, 2007, a car bomb exploded about 600 ft (200 m) from the shrine, killing 47[2] and wounding over 150. Another focal point of the Shīˤa pilgrimage to Karbala is al-Makhayam, traditionally believed to be the location of Husayn's camp, where the martyrdom of Husayn and his followers is publicly commemorated. On April 28th a bomb exploded killing 55 people from which three of them were Mumineen Men.

The city's association with Shīˤa Islām have made it a centre of religious instruction as well as worship; it has more than 100 mosques and 23 religious schools, of which possibly the most famous is that of Ibn Fahid, constructed some 440 years ago.


Karbala's prominence in Shīa is the result of the Battle of Karbala, fought on the site of the modern city on October 10, 680. Both Husayn and his brother Abbās ibn Alī were buried by the local Banī Asad tribe at what later became known as the Mashhad Al-Husayn. The city grew up around the tombs, though the date of construction of the first sanctuary is not known.

The city and tombs were greatly expanded by successive Muslim rulers, but suffered repeated destruction from attacking armies. The original shrine was destroyed by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil in 850 but was rebuilt in its present form around 979, only to be partly destroyed by fire in 1086 and rebuilt yet again.

Like Najaf, the city suffered from severe water shortages that were only resolved in the early 18th century by building a dam at the head of the Hussayniyya Canal. In 1737, the city replaced Isfahan in Iran as the main centre of Shī'a scholarship. In the mid-eighteenth century it was dominated by the dean of scholarship, Yusuf Al Bahrani, a key proponent of the Akhbari tradition of Shī'a thought, until his death in 1772, after which the more state-centric Usuli school became more influential. It suffered severe damage in 1802 when an invading Wahhabi army sacked the city. Following the Wahhabi invasion, the city's sheikhs established a self-governing republic which was ended by a reimposition of Ottoman rule in 1843. This prompted many students and scholars to move to Najaf, which became the main Shī'a religious centre.

Mosque in Karbala (1932)Karbala's development was strongly influenced by the Persians, who were the dominant community for many years (making up 75%[citation needed]of the city's population by the early 20th century). The Kammouna family (Arab) were custodians of the shrines for many years and effectively ran the city until it fell under the control of the British Empire in 1915. The Persian influence was deliberately reduced under British rule, with a series of nationality laws (such as a prohibition on foreigners occupying government posts) being introduced to squeeze out the Persian community. By 1957, they accounted for only 12% of the city's population. They were subsequently assimilated into the Iraqi population, accepting Iraqi nationality.

The association of the city with Shīˤa religious traditions led to it being treated with suspicion by Iraq's Sunni rulers. Under Saddam Hussein's rule, Shīˤa religious observances in the city were greatly restricted and many non-Iraqi Shīˤa were not permitted to travel there at all.
In 1991, the city was badly damaged and many killed when a rebellion by local Shīˤa was put down with great brutality by Saddam's regime. The 2004 pilgrimage was the largest for decades, with over a million people attending. It was marred by bomb attacks on March 2, 2004, now known as the Ashoura massacre, which killed and wounded hundreds despite tight security in the city.

A big Shia festival passed off peacefully amid fears of possible violence that brought thousands of troops and police into the city. Hundreds of thousands of Shia pilgrims who had come together to celebrate the Shaabaniya ritual began leaving the southern city after September 9, 2006 climax ended days of chanting, praying and feasting. Heavy presence by police and Iraqi troops seemed to have kept out Sunni Al-Qaeda suicide bombers who have disrupted previous rituals. Three million people attended. Worshippers heard SCIRI leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim repeat demands for legislation to let mainly Shia regions of the oil-rich south merge into an autonomous federal region that would neighbour Iran.

On January 19, 2008, 2 million Iraqi Shia pilgrims marched through Karbala city, Iraq to mourn event of Ashura. 20,000 Iraqi troops and police guarded the event amid tensions due to clashes between between Iraqi troops and Shia Muslims which left 263 people dead (in Basra and Nasiriya).
Battle of Karbala
The Battle of Karbala took place on Muharram 10, 61 AH (October 9 or 10, 680 CE) in Karbala, in present day Iraq. On one side were supporters and relatives of Muhammad's grandson Husayn ibn Ali; on the other side was a military detachment from the forces of Yazid I, the Sunni Umayyad caliph.

Husayn ibn Ali's group consisted of notable members of Muhammad's close relatives, around 72 men and women, of which some were either very old or very young. Husayn and some members of his group were accompanied by some of the women and children from their families. On the opposite side, the armed forces of Yazid I were led by Umar ibn Sa'ad.

The battle field was a desert region located beside one of the branches of the Euphrates River. The battle resulted in the military defeat of Husayn ibn Ali's group, the death of almost all of his men, and the captivity of all women and children. This battle also had significant effects on formation of subsequent revolts against the Umayyad dynasty.

The battle of Husayn ibn Ali is commemorated during an annual 10-day period held every Muharram by Shiites, culminating on its tenth day, Ashura.
Political background

The rule of the third Caliph Uthman concluded with a violent uprising. This uprising ended with the martyrdom of Uthman and for many days rebels seized and occupied the city of Medina. Under the overwhelming pressure of the ummah, Ali ibn Abi Talib was elected as the fourth Caliph with massive numbers of people swearing their allegiance to him. His immediate steps were to ensure the unity of Muslims. He issued the orders of not attacking the rebels until order was restored. The governor of Syria, Muawiya, refused allegiance to Ali before the rebels were chastised. This split resulted in the battle of Seffin. The Kharijites agreed among themselves that the whole issue can be solved if they managed to eliminate the three big movers among the fighting parties, namely: Muawiya, Amr Ibn Al-As (Egypt's ruler at that time), and Ali ibn Abi Talib. As it happened, Muawiya and Amr escaped their assassination attempts, while Ali did not.
Umayyad dynasty appears

Hasan ibn Ali succeeded his father Ali ibn Abi Talib. He proceeded to sign a conditional truce with Muawiya. Following were the key conditions: THE PEACE TREATY
  1. "Handing over authority to Muawiyah provided that he should act according to the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of His Apostle, and the Sira (the conduct of life) of the righteous Caliphs."
  2. "The authority should be for al-Hassan after him (Muawiyah).If an accident happened to him (al-Hassan), the authority should be for his brother al-Husain. Muawiyah has no right to entrust anybody (else) to it."
  3. "He (Muawiyah) should abandon cursing the Commander of the faithful (Ali) as well as the practice of using personal prayer (Qunut) against him (al-Hassan) in Salat (the prescribed ritual prayers), and that he should not mention the name of All except in good manner."
  4. "He (Muawiyah) should keep excluded what is 'in the treasury of Kufa, that is five million (dirhwns). So, handing over the authority does not include it (the sum of this money). Muawiyah should send al-Hassan one million dirham per year, he should prefer banu Hashirn in giving and gifts to banu Abd ash-Shams, and should divide one million (dirham) among the sons of those who were killed helping the Commander of the faithful (Ali) in the Battle of the Camel and the Battle of Siffin and should spend that from the taxes of Dar Abjard."
  5. "The people should be safe wherever they are in the earth of Allah; in Sham (Syria), Iraq, Hijaz, Yemen, etc. He should give security to the black and the red alike. He (Muawiyah) should bear their slips, should not follow some of them for the bygone, nor should he punish the Iraqis foe hostility."
  6. "The companions of Ali should be given security wherever they are; that he (Muawiyah) should not expose them to any evil; that they should be given security over their lives, their properties and women and children; and that he should give them their rights.
    "He (Muawiyah) should not seek a calamity secretly or openly for al­Hassan or his brother al-Husain, nor for anyone from the progeny of Ahle Bait of the'Apostle of Allah, nor should he frighten them in any country or territories." (ref; Tibri, Ibn-Katheer, etc.)

Kufa's opposition to Damascus

Kufa, a garrison town in what is now Iraq, had been Ali's capital, and there were still many people in Kufa claiming they are still supporters of Ali. Husayn ibn Ali received many letters from the Kufans expressing their offer of support if he claimed the caliphate. They were also trying to restore Kufa's power against Damascus, the Umayyad capital.

Particulars of the event

The route of Husayn ibn Ali from Medina to Karbala is mentioned in various history books.


Yazid, the new ruler, who was nominated by his father on the advice of Moghira Ibn Sho'ba who had been a Companion of Mohammad. According to authentic historical records, Yazid was nominated based on a view in case of death of Emir Muawiya, the issue of succession might arise plunging the entire Ummah in to a war that happened in pre-Muawiya period.

All muslims including many prominent Companions of Mohammad swore allegiance to Yazid's nomination except for five companions, namely, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Abdullah Abdullah Ibn Zubair, Abdullah Ibn Omar, Hussain Ibn Ali and Abdur Rehman Ibn Abu Bakr disapproved of Yazid's nomination and declared it against the spirit of Islam.

As mentioned, Hussain ibn Ali believed nomination of Yazid to the heir-ship of the Caliphate would destroy of the spirit of democracy and republicanism nurtured and developed so assiduously during the Prophet's era and afterward, and that it would lead to hereditary kingship which was repugnant to the original political teachings of Islam. Therefore, he resolved to oppose this with all the resources at his command.

Husayn departed Medina on Sha'ban 3, 60 AH (May 9, 680 CE) to perform the Hajj ritual.[9] More authentic reports tell us that Husayn ibn Ali actually left Medina on the 28th day of Rajab in the 60th year of Hijra.


Husayn ibn Ali stayed in Mecca from the beginnings of the Sha'ban and all of the Ramadan, Shawwal, as well as Dhu al-Qi'dah.
When many letters came from Kufa assuring Husayn ibn Ali of Kufan support in case he mounts an attack on Emir Yazid's forces. He answered their calls and sent Muslim ibn Aqeel, his cousin, to Kufa as his representative in an attempt to consider their last situation and opinions.

Abd-Allah ibn Abbas and Abdullah ibn Zubayr held a meeting with Husayn ibn Ali in Mecca to advise him to refuse to travel to Iraq and to at least leave women and children behind if he is determined to go to Kufa.
In another meeting, Abdullah ibn Umar asked him to reconcile through negotiations and to prevent war but he warned Abdullah ibn Umar not to stop supporting him.

Meanwhile Husayn ibn Ali corresponded with nobles of Basrah and asked them to support him. Major tribes of Basrah gathered and got ready for fight against Yazid I and informed Husayn ibn Ali. At the same time Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, governor of Basrah, executed one of the messengers of Husayn ibn Ali and then addressed people and warned them to avoid insurgency. Ibn Ziyad, governor of Basra and Kufa, left Basra toward Kufa next day, leaving his brother as deputy governor of Basra.

Considerable military units under Umar ibn Sa'ad entered Mecca to confront or attack Husayn ibn Ali on Tarwiyah day.

Hussain ibn Ali gave a speech to people the day before his departure and said:
"... The death is a certainty for mankind, just like the trace of necklace on the neck of young girls. And I am enamoured of my ancestors like eagerness of Jacob to Joseph ... Everyone, who is going to devote his blood for ours sake and is prepared to meet Allah, must depart with us..."
He also willed before his journey his half-brother Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, who tried to convince Hussain ibn Ali from abandoning his plan of going to Kufa knowing hypocrisy and insincerity of its people even with Ali. But Hussain ibn Ali departed toward Kufa to avoid the battle inside the holy city of Mecca.

Husayn ibn Ali left Mecca toward Kufa with his family members plus some supporters on Dhu al-Hijjah 3 or 8, 60AH (September 4 or 9 September 680 CE).
Husayn's representative to Kufa, Muslim ibn Aqeel were welcomed by the people of Kufa, and most of them swore allegiance to him. But he and his host, Hani ibn Urwa were executed by the new governor of the Kufa, Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad on Dhu al-Hijjah 9, 60AH (September 10, 680 CE) without any considerable resistance of the people. This shifted the loyalties of the people of Kufa to Emir Yazid against Hussain ibn Ali.

Toward Kufa

Zuhair ibn Qayn left Mecca toward his town at the same time but was trying to be away from convoy of Husayn ibn Ali due to the political disputes he had with Ali ibn Abi Talib before. After a while and passing away some stations, Zuhayr forced to camp near Husayn's camp caused by some limitations. At this time Husayn sent a messenger toward Zuhayr and called him for a meeting. Zuhayr's wife encouraged him to visit offspring of the Prophet. Zuhayr visited Husayn. After the meeting Zuhayr ordered to move his tent to Husayn's camp and asked his wife to leave him and told her: "I have decided to accompany Husayn in order to sacrifice myself for him and to shield him by my soul."

During his way to Kufa, Hussain ibn Ali received news of execution Muslim ibn Aqeel and intention of the people of Kufa, he was in dilemma of deciding whether to continue his journey to Kufa or return to Makkah? The Arab tradition of avenging the murder of their man, at all costs, was too strong for him to resist besides the close relatives of Muslim ibn Aqeel who accompanied Hussain ibn Ali resolved to continue the journey and punish the assassins of Muslim ibn Aqeel. Therefore, Hussain ibn Ali decided to continue the journey to Kufa as it was below his dignity to abandon his men at this time.

According to Shia historians, word about the death of Muslim ibn Aqeel in Zobalah station. This news caused a great sorrow in the convoy. A group of fellow travelers left Husayn alone after that and only his family members and loyal followers remained with him. Husayn continued to advance toward Kufa even after receiving news of the loss of Kufan support. Now, nowhere is safe for him and for his family. Husayn sent Qais ibn Musahhar al-Saydavi as messenger toward nobles of Kufa, such as Solayman ibn Sorad al-khozaei. He was captured in the vicinity of Kufa but managed to tear the letter to pieces to hide names of its recipients. Ibn Ziyad forced him to reveal the names or publicly curse Husayn and his father and brother upon pain of death. He accepted the latter but cursed ibn Ziyad instead and encouraged people to join Husayn ibn Ali. Ibn Ziyad ordered his execution by dropping him from the top of the palace afterward, just like what he did with Muslim ibn Aqeel.

Clash with vanguards

Hussain was two days' journey away from Kufa when he was intercepted by the vanguard of Yazid's army; about 1000 men led by ibn Ziad which is mentioned from Sunni and Shia perspectives.

According to Sunni historians

Ibn Ziad offered one option to Hussain in accordance with the instruction of Emir Yazid that "You can neither go to Kufa nor Makkah, but you have a choice of going any where else you please."
Hussain ibn Ali turned down the offer and chose to continue his journey trying to win over the support of Ibn Ziad's men who swore their alliance to Hussain in letters written to him but fearing punishment, Kufis disowned their letters and denied authorship of such commitments.
Meanwhile, Ammar ibn Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqar who was a distant relative of Hussain ibn Ali, arrived from Damascus with four thousand soldiers and had sympathies with Hussain. Reconciliation by talks continued for some days, but Kufis fearing reprisal for being a major cause of rebellion in case reconciliation succeeds, forced their leader Ibn Ziad to toughen his attitude. Realizing the situation Hussain placed three options before them:

"Allow me to return to Makkah safely, or allow me to proceed to the frontiers of the Muslim empire so that I may continue my campaign against non-Muslims, or allow me a safe passage to the capital, Damascus, where I may settle the issue with Ameer Yazid in person."
At this point, the conspirators succeeded in sabotaging the talks and forced Ammar ibn Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqar to corner and issue orders asking Hussain Ibn Ali "either surrender unconditionally or get ready for war."

Obviously, surrendering was a tall order and a challenge to honor and dignity of Hussain ibn Ali and he was compelled to fight heavily out-numbered and under-equipped.
At this point Sunnis mention that "the Sabayee" conspirators (referring to Kharjites and Abdullah Ibn Saba), once again succeeded in conspiring against Ummah in same manner as murder of Caliph Usman, conspiring of sabotaging talks of Battle of Jamal and Siffin with an intent to damage and destroy Muslim Empire.

According to Shia historians

Upon interception with vanguards Hussain asked: "With us or against us?" They replied: "Of course against you, oh Aba Abd Allah!" Husayn said: "... So if you are different from what I received from your letters and from your messengers then I will return to where I came from." Their leader, Hurr, refused Husayn's request of his return to Medina and told him: "No, but select a way neither toward Kufa nor Madina enabling me to find a pretense before ibn Ziyad that you would have disagreed with me on the way."

After receiving a threatening letter from ibn Ziad to halt them, Hurr prevented Husayn from moving to any direction and let them know the new order from ibn Ziyad. Then Husayn ibn Ali gave a speech to his companions and said:
"... It has happened from the events what you have seen. And the world has been changed and become abominable and its goodness turns ... Don't you see that the truth is not put into action and the false is not prohibited? The believer has got to be fond of meeting his God justly. So I do not consider the death but blessedness and living with the oppressors other than abjectness."
Some of his followers asserted their loyalty and he started moving. Hurr was continuously preventing them to move further or was making them deviate from their way.

Husayn ibn Ali, his family and his supporters arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61AH (October 2, 680 CE). He was forced to pitch a camp on dry, bare land and Hurr stationed his army nearby.
Ibn Ziyad appointed Umar ibn Sa'ad to command the battle against Husayn ibn Ali. Umar ibn Sa'ad was not a military man but he was famous for being a clergyman. At first he rejected the leadership of the army but he accepted after Ibn Ziyad threatened to depose him from the governorship of Ray city. Umar ibn Sa'ad moved towards the battlefield with a 4,000-men army and arrived at Karbala on Muharram 3, 61AH (October 3, 680 CE). Ibn Ziyad was continuously sending reinforcements to his army such that they became a 20,000 army on Muharram 6, 61AH. It finally reached around 30,000 horsemen and infantrymen.
Ibn Ziyad asked Shabath ibn Reb'ei, also another clergyman of Kufa, to join Umar ibn Sa'ad. At first he feigned illness but finally accepted. He together with 1,000 horseman was dispatched toward Karbala.

Water blockade

Ibn Ziyad sent a brief letter to Umar ibn Sa'd that commanded: "Prevent Husayn and his disciples from accessing water and do not allow them to drink a drop of water; the same as Uthman was treated." In this letter he falsely accused Husayn and his father of being responsible for what rebels did with Uthman before. On Muharram 7 (October 7, 680 CE), ibn Sa'ad ordered 500 horsemen to cut Husayn's camp off from the Euphrates to stop them from accessing water. The camp now had no supply of water and the enemy hoped to force Husayn to surrender on account of thirst.

One of the disciples of Husayn ibn Ali asked Husayn's permission to negotiate with Umar ibn Sa'ad about obtaining access to water and Husayn accepted. He met Umar ibn Sa'ad but ibn Sa'ad refused to allow Husayn access to any water.
Husayn ibn Ali did not allow his brave half brother Abbas ibn Ali fight as he believed that they were not in Karbala to fight but to sacrifice their life for Islam .But Abbas could not bear the outcry from the chidren and finally got the permission to get water keeping in mind that he was not to engage in combat of any sort.Abbas ibn Ali alone marched towards the Euphrates river in broad daylight. He succeeded in filling his water skin but on his way back, he was struck from behind and one of his arm was amputated then he was again struck and his second arm was amputated, he was the water bag in his mouth but an arrow struck the water bag and water poured out of it.
The water blockade continued up to the end of the battle on Muharram 10 night (October 10, 680 CE).

Reconciliation negotiations

Overnight negotiations between Husayn ibn Ali and Umar ibn Sa'ad has been reported. Husayn was trying to cause ibn Sa'ad to change his mind. Finally Umar ibn Sa'ad agreed to Husayn's proposal that the siege be lifted so that Husayn, his family, and his companions could leave Iraq. He sent word to ibn Ziyad, asking him to ratify the offer.

According to Shia historians, Ibn Ziad liked the proposal, but another Umayyad grandee, Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawshan, vetoed it and advised ibn Sa'ad to offer surrender to Husayn. Ibn Ziyad sent letter to Umar ibn Sa'ad and ordered him to destroy Husayn if he do not surrender or be dismissed from all services and Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawshan will lead the army. Shimr delivered the letter to ibn Sa'ad in Karbala. Ibn Sa'ad showed his protest against Shimr's idea since he was sure that Husayn will never surrender. But accepted orders of ibn Ziyad and appointed Shimr as commander of infantrymen.

Choice between life and death

On the 9th of Muharram (October 9, 680 CE) which is called Tasua'a, the Husayn camp was completely besieged and had exhausted its water. Their only choice was between surrender or death.
Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawshan approached the camp of Husayn ibn Ali and yelled: "Where are my nephews Abd-Allah, Ja'far, Abbas and Uthman?" He described the sons of Ali ibn Abi Talib from Fatimah bint Hizam, nicknamed Umm-al-Banin, as his nephews since Umm-al-Banin was from his tribe. They replied and Shimr said: "You nephews of mine; you are in protection and do not be murdered for the sake of Husayn and obey the chief of the believers, Yazid." But all of them refused to leave Husayn ibn Ali and Shimr went away angrily.

Umar ibn Sa'ad received an order from ibn Ziyad to start the battle immediately and not to postpone it further. The army started stealthily advancing toward Husayn's camp on the afternoon of Tasua'a. At this time Husayn sent Abbas ibn Ali to ask ibn Sa'ad for another delay, until the next morning, so that he and his men could spend the night praying. Ibn Sa'ad agreed the respite.

On the night before the battle, Husayn gathered his men and told them that they were all free to leave the camp in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, rather than face certain death if they stayed with him. None of Husayn's men wished to defect. Instead they stated their wish to be killed repeatedly in the name of Husayn if they were brought back to life by Allah.
Husayn and his followers held a vigil to pray all night. Some guards from ibn Sa'ad's army who were patrolling that night joined Husayn's army. They were said to be as many as 32 men.
Husayn ibn Ali ordered his fighters to dig a trench around their tents by night and to fill it with firewood and dried shrubs to prevent the enemy from flanking them or infiltrating the camp. Only one passage was left open. Ibn Sa'ad's army did not notice this activity till next morning.

Day of battle

On Muharram 10 called Ashura, Husayn ibn Ali prayed Morning Prayer with his companions. He appointed Zuhayr ibn Qayn to command the right flank, Habib ibn Muzahir to command the left flank and his half-brother Abbas ibn Ali as standard bearer of his army. Also he ordered to set the trench around their tents on fire.

The companions of Husayn ibn Ali were 32 horsemen and 40 infantrymen. According to another tradition from Muhammad ibn Ali, they were 45 horsemen and 100 infantrymen. Husayn rode on his horse Zuljenah.
On the other side, Umar ibn Sa'ad reorganized his army and nominated various commanders among them were Hurr ibn Yazid as commander of men from Tamim and Hamdan tribes, Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawshan as commander of left flank and Shabath ibn Reb'ei as commander of infantrymen.

Lectures prior to engagement

Burayr ibn Khudhayr, Zuhayr ibn Qayn and Husayn ibn Ali made speeches to the Kufan army immediately before the military engagement. They were trying to exhort the Kufans not to fight Husayn and remind them of their invitations letters as well as Husayn's family tie with Muhammad.

Husayn ibn Ali addressed:
"... Lo and behold; an ignoble (i.e ibn Ziyad), son of other ignoble (i.e. Ziyad ibn Abihi), has entangled me in a bifurcation, between either unsheathing the swords or accepting abjectness. And far be it that we accept abjectness. Allah abominates that for us, plus his proph­et, believers, the chaste pure gentlewomen, those who do not accept oppression as well as the souls who do not submit to meanness abominate it. They disapprove that we prefer obedience of scrooges to the best sites of murder. Beware; I assault you together with this family while they are few and when the helpers deserted. ..."

The battle starts

Ibn Sa'ad advanced and fired an arrow at Husayn's army, saying: "Give evidence before emir that I was the first thrower." Then his army started showering Husayn's army with weapons.
Both sides began fighting. Successive assaults resulted in the death of a group of Husayn's companions.

Then Husayn ibn Ali called the people around him to join him for the sake of Allah and to defend Muhammed’s family. His speech affected Hurr ibn Yazid Al-Riyahi, the commander of the Tamim and Hamdan tribes who had stopped Husayn from his journey. He abandoned ibn Sa'ad and galloped his horse to Husayn's small force and told him: "May I be sacrificed in your place! I am the one who prevented you from returning and severely treated you. I swear by Allah, I did not know they were going to do in this way. And now I am returning to Allah. So, do you think if any return can be imagined for me?" Husayn replied: "Yes. Allah will return to you. So, dismount." Then Hurr asked Husayn to let him to fight to the death. Afterwards Husayn cleaned dust from his face when he found his corpse and said: "You are noble in this world and the next, as your mother named you."

The first skirmish was between the right flank of Husayn ibn Ali's army with the left of the Syrian army. Astonishingly 32 men under the command of Zuhayr ibn Qain inflicted a major defeat on at least 4,000 men. They quickly retreated and broke the pre-war pact of not using arrows & lances. This pact was made in view of the small number (72) of Husayn's companions. Thereafter almost all of Husayn ibn Ali's companions were killed (including Husayn's infant boy Ali Asghar) by the onslaught of arrows or lances.

In order to prevent random and indiscriminate showering of arrows on Husayn's camp which had women and children in it, Husayn's followers went out to single combats. Men like Burayr ibn Khudhayr, Muslim ibn Ausaja and Habib ibn Muzahir were slain in the fighting. They were attempting to save Husayn's life by shielding him. Every casualty had a considerable effect on their military strength since they were vastly outnumbered to begin with.

Husayn ibn Ali ordered Zuhayr ibn Qayn and Said ibn Abd-Allah to stand in front of him enabling him to say a Dhuhr prayer on the battlefield. They shielded him with their bodies until Said ibn Abd-Allah was killed by multiple arrows.

Historians say that Husayn's companions were coming, one by one, to say goodbye to him, even in the midst of battle. They reassured him that: "... We are following you" and adding: "And among them (believers) is one who fulfilled his vow, and among them is one who waits (to fulfill their vows). And they did not change (their vows), any change"

Death of the men from Banu Hashim

After almost all of Husayn's companions were killed, his relatives asked his permission to fight. The men of Banu Hashim, the clan of Muhammad and Ali, went out one by one. Ali Akbar ibn Husayn, the youngest son of Husayn, was the first one who received permission from his father.
Casualties from Banu Hashim were sons of Ali ibn Abi Talib, sons of Hassan ibn Ali, Son of Husayn ibn Ali, Son of Abd-Allah ibn Ja'far ibn Abi-Talib and Zainab bint Ali, sons of Aqeel ibn Abi Talib, as well as a son of Muslim ibn Aqeel.

Death of Abbas ibn Ali

Husayn ibn Ali advanced toward Euphrates branch along a dyke and his brother Abbas ibn Ali was moving ahead of him. They had planned to bring some water to tents. But ibn Sa'ad army prevents them and one of them hit Husayn on his chin with an arrow. Husayn pulled out the arrow and stopped further advance enabling him to cover Abbas and protect the tents at the same time. Abbas ibn Ali continued his advance into the heart of ibn Sa'ad's army. He was under heavy shower of arrows but was able to penetrate them and get to the branch leaving heavy casualties from the enemy. He immediately started filling the water skin. In a remarkable and immortal gesture of loyalty to his brother and Muhammad's grandson he didn't drink any water despite being severely thirsty. He put the water skin on his right shoulder and started riding back toward their tents. Amr Saad ordered an outright assault on Abbas ibn Ali saying that if Abbas succeeds in taking water back to his camp, we won't be able to defeat them till the end of time. A massive enemy army blocked his way and surrounded him. He was ambushed from behind a bush and his right hand was cut off. Abbas put the water skin on his left shoulder and continued his way but his left hand also cut off from wrist. Abbas now held the water skin with his teeth. The army of ibn Sa'ad started shooting arrows at him. One arrow hit the water skin and water poured out of it. Abbas ibn Ali turned his horse back in to ibn Sa'ads forces because he does not want to go back without water and arrow's started hitting his chest and Abbas fell off his horse and called his brother just before his death.

Note: Explanation of death of Abbas ibn Ali has been mentioned from Shia historians' point of view. The last paragraph describing water skin and cutting of both arms and then turning horse back in to Sa'ads forces needs citation for being formulaic.

Death of the infant son of Hussain

When nobody was left in Imam Hussain's camp, Imam Hussain cried for help by saying, "Is there anyone who can help me?" Hearing this call, Imam Hussain's six-month-old baby dropped himself from the cot, saying "LABAIK", meaning I am at your service. Imam Hussain only realized and came to know about this when he heard the women crying and wailing. He went to the tent and asked his sister Zainab what was the reason for them to cry and she said that after hearing his call for help Ali Asghar had dropped himself from his cot. He then asked Abdullah Alradea's mother to dress Ali Asghar up in new clothes because he wanted to take him to the battlefield so that he could ask some water for his child, and he was about to meet with Allah so he needed to look his best. Abdullah Alradea's mother handed him over to Imam Hussain. Imam Hussain then took Ali Asghar towards the enemy camp. After getting near the enemy camp he cried out, "Is there anyone who can give some water to my thirsty child?" When no one came forward he again pleaded and said, "OK, if you think that I will drink the water then fine, I will put my son down on the burning sand anyone who wants to give him water can come forward and do so." Imam Hussain put his son down on the burning sand and waited ... but no one came forward. He then picked him up and Imam Hussain told him to open his mouth and show his tongue; even if you just had some nice cold water and if you stuck out your tongue then you would need water right away. Ali Asghar started to roll over his tongue over his lips to convey to Yazeed's army that he really was thirsty. Seeing this, many in Yazeed's army started crying, but the commander of the army, Omar Ibn Saad, was unfazed by it. He sent for his best archer, Hurmula, and ordered him to take aim and shoot an arrow in Ali Asghar's direction. He took aim and launched an arrow, but it missed; he shot again, and it also missed; and then he shot a third time, and that missed as well. Then Omar said, "You are my best archer; why can't you kill the child who is lying still?" Hurmala answered, "His mother is watching from the tent and I can see that if I kill this child then I will go to hell." But with the money in mind, Hurmala shot his 3-pronged arrow, the kind used to kill horses. When Hurmala shot the arrow then Ali Asghar saw that it would hit Imam Hussain, so Ali Asghar jumped and the arrow pierced his throat, killing him instantly. The arrow end came out and attached itself, along with Ali Asghar, to Imam Hussain's arm.

Note: Explanation of death of Ali Asghar has been mentioned from Shia historians' point of view and needs citation for being formulaic.

After the death of Ali Asghar

When Ali Asghar was killed then the Imam had to face the dilemma of getting Ali Asghar to the tent, Imam Hussain throw the blood in the sky and not even a drop of blood came back to the ground. Imam Hussain thought when the sky consumed the blood than the child shouldn't be laid down on the dry and hot land. Imam Hussain took out his ZULFIQUAR and digged up a small KABR and buried ALI ASGAR. and proceeded to the tents, when imam Hussain was going to the tents, he remembered that Ali Asghar's mother was present in the tent, so imam took a few steps back, then he moved a few steps up and then a few steps back, and he continued this for a while, this is why on ziarrat-e-ashura on 10th muharram shias move a few steps forward and than a few steps back, and a few steps forward and a few back, then when Imam hussain had reached the tents then Rubab (Ali Asghar's mother) sees Imam Hussain's face and she knows that Ali Asghar has been killed.

After he returned to the tents, Imam Hussain had made a small grave for Ali Asghar behind the tents with his sword, Imam hussain had no water to make the grave wet, but there was enough tears shed by Imam Hussain that the grave became very wet.
After the battle, when Yazeed's army was looting the tents, they where placing the heads on spears, but then they couldn't find the body of Ali Asghar so he thought that he would probably be buried then so they started jabbing their spears into the ground and eventually the spear went into the stomach of Ali Asghar and then the body came out of the ground, then they severed Ali Asghar's head and placed it onto a spear, then they threw the body.
Note: Explanation of death of Ali Asghar has been mentioned from Shia historians' point of view and needs citation for being formulaic.

Death of Husayn ibn Ali

Husayn ibn Ali offered single battle to the enemy. He killed everybody that fought him in single battles. He demonstrated extreme courage and bravery, forced the enemy into retreat frequently and killed a great number of opponents. Husayn and earlier his son Ali Akbar were the two warriors who penetrated and dispersed the core of Ibn-Saad's army (Qalb-e-Lashkar), a sign of extreme chaos in traditional warfare.
Husayn advanced very deep in the back ranks of the Syrian army. When the enemies stood between him and the tents he shouted:
"Woe betide you oh followers of Abu Sufyan's dynasty! If no religion has ever been accepted by you and you have not been fearing the resurrection day then be noble in your world ..."
Then his enemies invaded back toward him.

He was continuously invading them and they were continuously invading him and. Until his numerous injuries caused him to stay a moment. At this time he was hit on his forehead with a stone. He was cleaning blood from his face while he was hit on the heart with arrow and he said: "In the name of Allah, and by Allah, and on the religion of the messenger of Allah." Then he raised his head up and said: "Oh my God! You know that they are killing a man that there is no son of daughter of a prophet (Husayn is son of Fatimah bint Muhammad) on the earth except him" Then he grasped the arrow and pulled it out of his chest from behind which caused heavy bleeding.

He became very weak to fight and halted and the soldiers approaching him were giving up confronting him, until a soldier approached him while cursing and hit him on his head with his sword.

The enemies halted for a while and then returned and surrounded him. At this time Abd-Allah ibn Hassan, who was an underage boy, escaped from the tents and ran until arrived beside Husayn. When a soldier intended to hit Husayn with his sword, Abd-Allah ibn Hassan defended his uncle with his arm which caused it to be cut and hanged. Husayn hugged him but the boy was hit on his neck with an arrow.

Husayn became very weak due to his heavy injuries and hits by arrows. Then the voice of god comes from skies "we are satisfied with your deeds and sacrifies"after words imam husayn saved his sword in to its holder and then, Imam Hussain wanted to get down from the horse but was tremendously injured and so Husains horse let him down.

Umar ibn Sa'ad ordered a man to dismount and to finish the job. But Khowali ibn Yazid al-Asbahiy preceded the man but feared and did not do it. Then Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan dismounted his horse and cut Husayn's throat with sword. Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan was saying: "I swear by God that I am raising your head while I know that you are grandson of the messenger of Allah and the best of the people by father and mother" when he raised head of Husayn ibn Ali on a spear. The inb Sa'ad's men looted all the valuables from Husayn's body, leaving it semi-naked.
The army of Ibn Sa'ad rushed to loot the tents. The daughters of Mohammad's family were expelled from the tents unveiled and barefooted, while weeping and crying for their slain relatives. The army set all the tents on fire. The women were asking: "By God if you pass us from beside the site of the murder of Husayn." And when they saw the martyrs and wailed and hit their face. Then Sakina bint Husayn (Death, 117 AH) embraced her father's body until some people dragged her off his body.

Umar ibn Sa'ad called volunteer horsemen to trample Husayn's body. Ten horsemen trampled his body such that his chest and back were ground.
As a matter of fact, the essence in all this story is that, Imam Hussain body was martyred but his NOOR and Imamat was passed on to his son Ali who became Imam Ali Zainul Abideen (Sahifa-e-Sajjadiya is a Collection of His supplications).


Umar ibn Sa'ad sent Husayn's head to ibn Ziyad on Ashura afternoon and ordered to sever heads of his comrades to send them to Kufa. The heads were distributed to various tribes enabling them to gain favor of ibn Ziyad. Ibn Sa'ad remained in Karbala until the next noon.
After ibn Sa'ad's army went out of Karbala, some people from Banu Asad tribe came there and buried the dead bodies in the place where they are now located.

On Muharram 11 (October 11, 680 CE), all captives including all women and children were then loaded onto camels without neither saddle nor sunshade and were moved toward Kufa. And when they approached Kufa, its people gathered to see them. Some women of Kufa gathered veils for them upon knowing that they are relatives of Muhammad. Among the captives were Ali ibn Husayn, who was gravely ill, as well as Hassan ibn Hassan al-Muthanna, who was seriously injured in the battle of Karbala.

Zainab bint Ali pointed at the people to be quiet. Everybody halted and kept silent. Then she addressed the people of Kufa:
"The praise is exclusively attributed to Allah. And greetings to my father (grand father), Muhammad, and to his pure and benevolent family. And then, Oh people of Kufa! Oh deceitful and reneger people! Do you weep? So let tears not be dried and let groans not be finished. ... Beware, such a bad preparation you have made for yourself that Allah became furious of you and you will be at punishment forever. Do you weep and cry? Yeah, by Allah, do weep numerously and do laugh less! Since you brought its shame and fault on yourself and you will not be able to cleanse it forever. ..."

And also Fatima al-Kubra, Sakina, Umm-Kulthoum bint Ali and Ali ibn Husayn delivered speeches to Kufans. All lectures caused a deep sorrow of the people.
During the journey from Karbala to Kufa, and from Kufa to Damascus, Husayn's sister Zaynab bint Ali and Umm-Kulthoom bint Ali, and son Ali ibn Husayn gave various speeches that exposed the truth about Yazid and told the Muslim world of the various atrocities committed in Karbala. After being brought to Yazid's court, Zaynab courageously gave a famous speech in which she denounced Yazid's claim to the caliphate and eulogized Husayn's uprising.

The prisoners were held in Damascus for a year. The people of Damascus began to frequent the prison, and Zaynab and Ali ibn Husayn used that as an opportunity to further propagate the message of Husayn and explain to the people the reason for Husayn's uprising. As public opinion against Yazid began to foment in Syria and parts of Iraq, Yazid ordered their release and return to Medina, where they continued to tell the world of Husayn's cause and Yazid's atrocities.
Account of the battle accepted by western academics
Encyclopædia Britannica narrates the story in the following way: A police force, consisting of a several thousand men, plus 500 archers, surrounded the family and supporters of Husayn ibn Ali. The battle ended with the deaths of Husayn and his entire military force.
John Esposito states that the "brave and charismatic" grandson of Muhammad was trying to regain power and reinstate the true values of Islam.
Many of the details attributed to the event are disputed. For example, the Encyclopædia Britannica states that "the facts gradually acquired a romantic and spiritual coloring."

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