BY SYED HASAN AKHTAR, M. D
He successfully placed the spirit (savage, war-making qualities in man) and the appetite (greed for material things and lust for power) under the command of reason (‘Aql).
In Karbala, he formulated a new code of life to safeguard the peace and security of human society for all times to come.
Imam Hussain’s Foresight:
Imam Hussain chose not to flee or hide from Yazid, because that would not have exposed Yazid’s corruption of Islam and would have served to legitimize his unjust rule.
He knew that by rejecting Yazid’s demands, he would most likely be killed. However, he also did not want to die like any other martyr. He wanted his death to serve as a starting point for a revolution that would strengthen justice and oppose tyranny for all times to come.
This type of stance needed planning and wisdom. As pointed out by scholars, Imam Hussain’s planning encompassed three factors:
1. The choice of location;
2. The choice of companions; and,
3. Foolproof arrangements for passing on the event to the annals of history.
The Choice of Location:
Imam Hussain chose not to stay in Mecca because he did not want his blood to desecrate the Holy Precincts. Besides, if he were to be killed by hired assassins, then the killers’ motives would not be clear and his death would fade away on the pages of history.
So he chose to travel to Iraq (the den of the tyrant himself), where his mission would receive the maximum publicity, and where Yazid’s evil would be best exposed. The events of history proved that Imam Hussain was right.
The Choice of Companions:
Hujjatul-Islam Maulana Ali Naqvi has written that in Karbala, the largest number of true Muslims gathered in the entire history of Islam. Imam Hussain was not seeking the best fighters, since his goal was not to fight to win a physical war. He was looking for men of principle, true Muslims, firm and patient, who would go through the utmost hardships successfully.
His companions included men of different tribes, coming from different parts of Arabia and beyond.
They included, among others, an elderly companion of the Holy Prophet, some liberated slaves, and a young newlywed Christian couple. The age of his supporters ranged from six months to a ripe old age of over 90.
The heterogeneity of Imam Hussain’s supporting group indicates that he did not want the confrontation with Yazid to be misrepresented as a struggle between two clans, or a campaign for gaining power.
Preserving His Sacrifice in the Annals of History
Imam Hussain took women, children, and all of his family members with him. This strategy ensured that after his death, his message would be spread through his family members, and that Yazid would not be able to suppress the truth or falsify Imam Hussain’s motives.
History proves that it was a brilliant move. His sister Zainab (A.S.), through her scholarly and bold speeches, and with no fear of the tyrant Yazid, eloquently proclaimed the truth and exposed the falsehood of Yazid in his own court. He was speechless and humiliated before her.
His court was full of dignitaries, both local and from other nation-states, and his own supporters. They were shocked to hear the truth put forth so forcefully, and many were brought to tears.
The same scene was repeated in the bazaars and marketplaces of the country, all along the travel route of the surviving captives. Hussain had laid the foundation of the revolution with his blood.
His sister Zainab stirred the revolution with her oratory. That revolution changed the world forever.
Statements of Historians and World Leaders:
This unique historical sacrifice of Imam Hussain and his small band of 71 male supporters has caught the attention of historians, scholars, and writers throughout the world, in all periods of history. Some of the more notable quotes and insights are given below:
“Of that gallant band, male and female knew that the enemy forces around were implacable, and were not only ready to fight, but to kill. Denied even water for the children, they remained parched under the burning sun and scorching sands, yet not one faltered for a moment. Hussain marched with his little company, not to glory, not to power of wealth, but to a supreme sacrifice, and every member bravely faced the greatest odds without flinching.” - Dr. K. Sheldrake
“If Hussain had fought to quench his worldly desires, as alleged by certain Christian critics, then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam.” - Charles Dickens
“The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Cerebella is that Hussain and his companions were rigid believers in God. They illustrated that the numerical superiority does not count when it comes to the truth and the falsehood. The victory of Hussain, despite his minority, marvels me!” - Thomas Carlyle
“In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Hussain will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.” - Edward Gibbon
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.