The Greatest Lesson of Divine Love
It is said exquisitely about the battle of Karbala:
قتلِ حسینؓ اصل میں مرگِ یزید ہے
اسلام زندہ ہوتا ہے ہر کربلا کے بعد
Meaning: The martyrdom of Husayn is in fact the murder of Yazid. Islam is enlivened after every battle of Karbala.
Who is Husayn ibn Ali?
The grandeur of Husayn ibn Ali is that he adorns the exquisiteness of the light of Faqr. He is the bright sun of Holy Prophet’s lineage, darling son of Sultan-ul-Faqr Fatimah bint Mohammad, beloved of the gate of Faqr Ali ibn Abi Talib, chief of the umma, leader of Divine lovers and guide to the knowers of Allah (Arifeen).
Encompassing the grandeur of sacred Husayn is impossible even if narrated till the world exists. Fourteen centuries are coming to end after the battle of Karbala and umma is saluting his grandeur and lauding his sacrifice. But his grandeur and level of sacrifice is so elevated that if fourteen worlds come into being fourteen times and end, even then his dignity will remain ineffable.
Karbala – the biggest trial of Divine love
Words can describe the ferocious incidents of Karbala, but they become insufficient while expressing the calamity that must have befell on hearts of People of the Cloak during that time. The sacrifice of Imam Husayn in battle of Karbala can be narrated but the passion of Divine love behind that sacrifice is ineffable. How could one describe the longing of Divine union that brought sacred Husayn from Madina to Karbala? No words can describe the feelings of hungry and thirsty caravan who witnessed their beloveds quenching the thirst of Karbala with their blood.
Husayn ibn Ali had heard about his horrific martyrom in Karbala from the sacred tongue of Holy Prophet since childhood. He must have spent every day of his life waiting for it. Sometimes passion would have dominated and other times restlessness. What would we know of it and how can we describe?
Birth of Husayn ibn Ali
The entire Madina celebrated the birth of darling son of Fatimah bint Mohammad. The Holy Prophet came to Fatima’s house in extreme joy and adored the newborn by taking him into his lap. He fed his saliva to the baby and chose the sacred name for him. Prophet Mohammad watched him grow in front of his eyes every day and showered affections upon him every moment. This affection was to the point that once he rebuked even his dearest daughter Fatimah bint Mohammad about whom he has said:
- Fatima is a part of my body, whoever hurts her in fact hurts me.
Once on hearing the cry of princes Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali, the Holy Prophet became restless and said to Fatima:
- Don’t you know that the sound of their cry hurts me?
News of brutal martyrdom in Karbala
Allah tests His beloved men by demanding the sacrifice of their dearest belonging. By doing so He sees whether His man chooses Him or other relations.
Angel Gabriel brings news to the Holy Prophet that one day his umma will brutally martyr Husayn ibn Ali in an extremely painful condition. He also presents the soil of that place (Karbala). No words can describe what Holy Prophet must have felt on hearing this news about his grandson. It was the grandson whose cry was even hurtful to Prophet Mohammad. But the way of Holy Prophet is to accept Divine will with patience, surrender and submission. Hence, he accepts the news with patience and submission.
The news then also reaches Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatimah bint Mohammad. But those icons of loyalty also never bring a word of complaint to their sacred tongues. They submit to it without bringing any thought against Divine will.
Darling son was brought up to give his life in Karbala
After that day, the lady of Paradise fed her milk to her darling son to shed his blood in the plain of Karbala. Ali ibn Abi Talib brought up his dearest son with extreme love to toss over on the soil of Karbala.
The Holy Prophet prepared his beloved grandson in his blessed company to get beheaded and present his life bravely in the battle of Karbala. While adoring the darling grandson by taking him into his lap, the imagination of that time must have hurt him and the picture of cruel martyr of dearest son must have rolled in front of his eyes. Ali ibn Abi Talib while hugging his son must have felt the relish of passion in performing the Sunna of Prophet Abraham. When the little baby would have talked lovely with lisping tongue to his mother, how would have her heart endured the scene of blood spurting the throat like a fountain.
Had this son be an ordinary human, even then the news of this brutal martyrdom would have been tormenting. But the reality is that the grandfather of this son was the beloved of Allah. The beloved whose pleasure even Allah seeks.
وَ لَسَوْف یُعطِیْکَ رَبُّکَ فَتَرْضٰی
Meaning: And soon your Lord shall bestow upon you (so much) that you will be well-pleased. (Al-Duha 5)
Were any hands lifted in prayer for the safety of Iman Husayn?
Universe follows the commands of Holy Prophet. Living and non-living things send salutations upon him. Moon follows his indication. He rules the universe on Allah’s command. Despite all that, the sacred eyes though become tearful on hearing the news, but Messenger of Allah does not raise his hands in prayer. He does not pray in Divine court for the safety of sacred Husayn or to protect him from this horrific incident of Karbala. Neither does he pray for the ruination of enemies.
Ali ibn Abi Talib or Fatima bint Mohammad do not request the king of both the worlds to pray in Divine court for the safety or protection of their son in Karbala either. People of the Cloak, the sacred wives of Holy Prophet, the Companions, they all hear the news. Karbala incident becomes renowned. But no one appeals in Holy Prophet’s court to raise his hands in prayer. Even though they all knew that Allah, Who promised to bestow his beloved to the extent that he will be pleased, will not reject his prayer.
Lesson for umma in battle of Karbala
Battle of Karbala teaches umma that surrender and submission to Divine will is an attribute of Mumins (true believers). Perseverance is necessary in time of trials. One cannot gain Divine consent by keeping oneself. Rather blessing of Divine closeness is attained by sacrificing the most precious things willingly. Escaping in the time of trial is not an attribute of brave men.
Hearing the news of battle of Karbala, hands were raised. But only in prayers that may their son whom Allah has chosen for sacrifice remain steadfast till the time comes and during it. May the mountains of sufferings never shake his determination.
Indeed, prayers were answered in Allah’s court and became helpful for Imam throughout his life particularly in the evening of Karbala.
Imam spends perfect life of greatest morals
Imam Husayn spends days and nights of his life waiting for the martyrdom in Karbala written in his destiny. During this time, he spends a perfect life which was the grandeur of the descendants of the greatest man of the universe and leader of the prophets. The life that was an example of Holy Prophet’s greatest morals of knowledge, Divine love, patience and consent, devotion and righteousness, contentment and Faqr. He protects the knowledge of Divine gnosis and the Holy Prophet’s heritage of Faqr with extreme diligence. He also adopts the path of Divine persuasion to transfer knowledge and Divine Trust of Faqr to the next successors in umma in perfect form.
The year of battle of Karbala comes
At last, the year of 60 Hijri comes and such circumstances occur which seem to pave the path of martyrdom of Imam Husayn in Karbala. Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, after ruling Muslims for twenty years, appointed his son Yazid ibn Muawiya as the Caliph. He made people of Kufa swear oath to his son Yazid, while he was still alive. Muawiyah specifically advised his son to remain benevolent towards People of the Cloak.
Reality of wretched Yazid
Yazid was born to Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan from Maysun bint Bajdal al-Kulaibi in the 25th year of Hijri. He was an epicurean, corrupt, depraved, and evil person and cared least about his father’s advice. His interest in governance was only to the extent of luxury and pleasure and not towards the welfare of Muslim umma. How could his oath be acceptable to Imam and his family? Yazid was also aware of the love of Muslim umma for Imam. He knew that if Imam claimed caliphate, majority of the people of Makkah, Madina and Iraq and other Arabic countries would support him. Imam Husayn did not claim caliphate but he did not take oath of this wretched person.
Imam’s migration to Makkah
Yazid wrote a letter to governor of Madina Walid ibn Utbah to take oath from Imam and people of Madina on his behalf. Walid called Imam at night and requested him to take oath. However, Imam returned by saying that a person of his position could not take oath in the darkness of night. In the morning when others will swear oath, he will also join them. He knew that he will be forced to take oath if he stayed in Madina. Hence, he migrated to Makkah along with his family.
This migration was the first step towards the journey of Karbala. The step which when lifted never stopped. Allah also created such circumstances which were taking him towards his future. If on one hand, he was restless to achieve greatest rank of martyrdom and to have union with Allah, then on the other hand Allah also awaited His beloved who spent every moment of his life for this union.
Letters of Kufans
The path to his journey towards Karbala opened in a way that Kufans wrote letters to Imam assuring him of their support. They invited him to Kufa so that they could gain salvation from Yazid’s tyranny. Imam had no interest in caliphate. Had there been any interest, he could have announced it in Makkah. And this announcement could immediately have had more people taking oath on his sacred hands than were the followers of Yazid. Resultantly it would not have been difficult to end his power just through one war.
But his heart was not desirous of anything except for the passion of martyrdom and union with Allah. Hence despite the warnings of Companions, Imam set towards the journey of Kufa in response to the letters of Kufans.
Analyzing Kufa’s situation before setting on journey
The sagacity of true believer is also due to Divine light. Hence even outwardly he did not take any action which could be predicated as unintellectual. Therefore, before setting on the journey towards Kufa he first sent his cousin Muslim ibn Aqil to assess the circumstances of Kufa. Muslim ibn Aqil was welcomed warmly in Kufa. The governor of Kufa Numan ibn Bashir al-Ansari also supported him and people in large groups started to swear oath to him on behalf of grandson of Holy Prophet.
Muslim ibn Aqil informed Imam Husayn of the favorable circumstances of Kufa. If now he had not taken on the journey, it would have meant that he wanted this nation to remain under the control of cruel chief. By not accepting the request of Kufans, he would not have any justification in Divine court for the denial. Kufans would have a reason that they requested help from the grandson of Holy Prophet. However, he did not come. Therefore, they were compelled to swear oath to Yazid. Had he come; they would have sacrificed their lives on him.
It was a situation where only solution was to accept their invitation.
Departure of Imam Husayn to Kufa
The love of Imam Husayn and the fame of his martyrdom in Karbala was creating restlessness among the Companions. There was no reason to deny that it was time for his martyrdom in Karbala. They made every effort to prevent him from going but there was no excuse left to stop him. The sacred grandson of Holy Prophet had no desire of delaying the long-awaited destiny. The Companions who could not live without him also joined in this destined journey of Karbala. Brother Abbas ibn Ali, sister Zainab bint Ali, wives, children, followers, and companions accompanied him. They had no courage to let him take this journey alone. Neither they could bear his separation. No one accepted to save their life by staying behind.
Sudden change in the situation of Kufa
Soon after this small caravan consisting of innocent children, wives and few companions began their journey, the circumstances of Kufa surprisingly turned against their favor.
When Yazid heard about the arrival of Muslim ibn Aqil and the passion of Kufans in his favor, he became angry and appointed Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad as the governor by dismissing Numan ibn Bashir al-Ansari. Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad now began to threaten Kufans. Seeing this situation Muslim ibn Aqil called his supporters and in blink of an eye forty thousand Kufans gathered around him. In this moment if Muslim ibn Aqil had attacked the fort of Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, he could have conquered it. However instead of shedding blood, he offered them treaty.
Betrayal of Kufans
Ubayd Allah gave avarice of properties and governance to the tribal heads present in the fort and convinced them to force the supporters of Muslim ibn Aqil to leave his side. They began giving speeches by climbing on the walls of fort. Some of them threatened Kufans while others presented temptations. As a result, the disloyal and coward Kufans started slipping away and by the evening Muslim ibn Aqil was left alone. These are those people who first destroyed the sanctity of oath.
Muslim ibn Aqil came out of Kufa all alone and somehow managed to inform the sacred Iman through letter that the Kufans had turned against their promise. Hence, he should go back to Makkah. However, the sacred grandson of Holy Prophet had not left the house for returning.
Why did Imam Husayn not return to Makkah on the betrayal of Kufans?
It became clear on people that Imam Husayn did not leave house in confirmation of Kufans neither the intention of his journey was to gain caliphate. If that had been the case, he would have brought military force with him instead of bringing sacred women and children.
He came out for Allah and on the path of Allah. Kufan did no harm sacred grandson by breaking their promise. In fact, they harmed their loyalty and the record of their deeds. Imam Husayn never needed them. He was a traveler of the path of martyrdom. His destiny was Karbala. This caravan was moving towards their eternal destination of Karbala like a moth flies towards candle to sacrifice its life. No one can understand the secret why moth is ever anxious to burn itself in fire. Similarly, the lovers of world would never know the feelings of passion in that brutal martyrdom. The passion that was taking them to Karbala where horrific death was awaiting them.
Arrival in Karbala
When Kufa was only few miles away, Hur ibn Yazid Riyahi showed up with a force of one thousand to arrest Imam Husayn following the command of Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad. He clarified to Imam Husayn that even though he was ashamed of his dare but was helpless. Imam Husayn responded that he did not come willingly. In fact, Kufans invited him by writing letters. Hur replied that he was unaware of the invitation, but he could not let Husayn ibn Ali enter Kufa freely. Eventually it was decided that Imam Husayn will change the route. Apparently, the enemy was creating such circumstances when in fact Karbala was his destiny from day one. Therefore, he had to reach Karbala at every cost.
By changing the route when caravan reached Karbala and Imam Husayn came to know its name, he ordered to encamp there. There was no reason in continuing the journey. He knew that Karbala was the place of martyrdom.
Warnings of Husayn ibn Ali to the army of Yazid
Imam was well aware of every situation inwardly and his martyrdom in Karbala but outwardly he left no stone unturned to prevent and warn the enemy of the sin of murdering the beloveds of Holy Prophet. It was so that the history would not blame that Imam Husayn forced death upon himself and his family. He gave every chance to the enemy to use intellect and save themselves from Divine torment.
When the army of ibn Ziyad began to organize in Karbala for the battle, Husayn ibn Ali said to the commander of army Umar ibn Sa’ad that even though Kufans invited him but if they were so displeased, he will go back. But probably just as the Imam Husayn was eager to meet his Beloved, the horrific end of cursed Yazid was also waiting for him. That is why they began to insist the sacred grandson for swearing oath instead of letting him go. It was not acceptable for the grandson of Holy Prophet to swear oath to evil and corrupt Yazid.
Sufferings in the plain of Karbala
Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad ordered Umar ibn Sa’ad to force Imam for taking oath of Yazid and in case of resistance cause sufferings. Therefore, initially they cut the supply of water on People of the Cloak. They did it to the family of the Prophet. The Prophet who will quench the thirst of umma on Doomsday with Hawd al-Kawthar (Pond of Abundance). Those cutting the supply of water on this sacred family were apparently the umma of Holy Prophet. Indeed, they had become blind.
In Karbala they were closing the supply of water on the loved ones of Holy Prophet how will they consider themselves deserving of Hawd al-Kawthar to quench their thirst on the day of Resurrection. The thirst of this sacred caravan was to last only a few days till their martyrdom. How will the tormenting thirst of those cursed ones will quench on Doomsday?
Umar ibn Sa’ad utilized this tactic to weaken the strength of sacred caravan. However, the heights of patience, consent, courage and Faqr, which is the grandeur of the family of Holy Prophet, were unexemplary. They came out of their houses to bear sufferings on Divine path by adopting patience to gain Allah’s consent. These sufferings were never going to weaken their strength. Husayn ibn Ali suffered tyranny and oppression but did not surrender before the evil. Eventually there remained no way out except that of war.
Battle between the army of twenty-two thousand and seventy-two individuals
Even naming it a battle seems strange. There is no precedence of such strange battle in the history in which only seventy-two individuals including ladies, children and the elderly were facing twenty-two thousand armed men. The hearts of this huge army either contained the fear of Yazid or avarice of the world. Their inwards were empty of the light of Faith. On the other side the inwards of Imam’s caravan were enlightened with the light of Faith and Divine closeness. The passion of martyrdom was giving strength to every part of their body to fight.
Address of Husayn ibn Ali to his companions
Night before the war in Karbala, Imam Husayn addressed his companions and relatives as:
Tomorrow we will be facing the enemy. I gladly permit you that you all are free to leave. The veil of night has prevailed, you just silently and secretly slip out and save your lives. You all take one camel each, and each one of you hold hand of one of my family members and leave. May Allah grant you the best reward. Disperse in your cities till Allah evade this difficult time. I assure you that these people want to assassinate me only. If they assassinate me, they will not harm you.
His family and companions exclaimed:
Our lives are worthless without you. May Allah never show us the day where we are alive without you.
What will the world say that we left our spiritual guide, chief and the best companion for the luxuries of this world? Just for the sake of this worldly life? Absolutely not! By God! We will give our lives but not leave you alone. In fact, we will sacrifice our lives, wealth, and our families on you. We will fight along side you. Whatever your end is, will be our end. There is no reason of living after you.
On the day of war, these icons of loyalty fulfilled their promise and sacrificed their lives even before Imam Husayn sacrificed his life in Karbala.
The day of martyrdom
The sun of 10th Muharram rose up. It also needed an extreme courage that day as it was about to become a witness of murder of the most elevated family on the face of Earth. It had to witness the whole ferocious incident.
Husayn ibn Ali is the grandson of Holy Prophet and the one whose way is to invite towards the good. The exalted Imam delivered a sermon on entering the battlefield to beware the enemies and prevent them from shedding the innocent blood. He said:
To kill an innocent one is unfair, a sin and it invites Divine wrath. I beware you, do not commit this sin. Why do you intend to take my life and how will you absolve yourselves from the blame of my murder? You will be held accountable for my murder on the Doomsday. Think about your end, review the consequences you will have to face in the Hereafter for this sin.
Hur realized his mistake and joined Imam Husayn
Those wretched people themselves wrote fire of hell in their destiny. So, they did not stop. However, one fortunate man Hur ibn Yazid Riyahi realized his mistake with Divine will and came to Husayn ibn Ali. He asked for forgiveness of his previous behavior and requested to present his life. Husayn ibn Ali gave him the permission. Seeing this the army of Yazid became angry that one of their companions had joined Imam.
Battle of Karbala
Now the war began. The arrogant enemy came forward like hissing snakes but devotees of Husayn began to turn these snakes into ashes like a thunderstorm. When these brave warriors, hungry and thirsty for many days, were entering the rows of enemy by holding swords and urging their horses, even the sun was becoming astonished on witnessing their strength. Single brave devotee was killing several so-called brave men in only one assault. There attacks were causing panic in the rows of enemy. Wherever they turned, routed the enemy. When they were attacking the right and left wings of the enemy army, their rows were turning topsy-turvy. The beheaded soldiers of enemy were falling like the dry leaves fall in autumn.
The hearts of these devotees were filled with passion of martyrdom but none of them accepted to give their life without taking the lives of dozens of enemy soldiers. They were all martyred one after another but with such gratification that even the death was in awe. In evening of Karbala even the ‘life’ with all its colors seemed dry and colorless in front death.
Imam Husayn was bringing the heads and body parts of his brave men to camps. But none of the remaining devotes became hesitant or worried about saving their lives. In fact, they were becoming more passionate by seeing the martyrs.
Martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali
The time came when all devotees left Imam, sacrificing their lives one by one. Now it was time of Imam’s union with Allah. His heart was restless to meet his Lord, beloved grandfather, dearest parents, and older brother. But at the same time, he was also worried about the sacred ladies and children. Imam Husayn left for the battlefield leaving them all in Allah’s supervision and advising them to keep patience and courage.
He entered the battlefield as if the bright sun of truth and honesty appeared on the land of Karbala. The battle between Husayn ibn Ali and the enemy began. The example of this battle cannot be found in the entire human history. It was a strange scene. On one side was the army of thousands of armed men while on the other side stood a single man riding horse and holding sword. If it is was an encounter between fear and courage, then this one man was dominant on the entire army of enemy. They were shivering due to fear of coming closer to him. The heart of this beloved son of Holy Prophet was hurting with sorrows and grieves of the loved ones. But he stood in the plain of Karbala with a grandeur that his eyes were reflecting wrath.
Simultaneous attack of the coward army
Boasting on the strength of their army, they began to come one by one to fight. But Imam beheaded them and bathed their pride into dust. Whoever came forward, became helpless in front of strength of Husayn ibn Haider. At last they decided to attack simultaneously. Now thousands of men were surrounding Imam, but he was beheading enemies like the autumn wind falls dry leaves of trees. Enemy was worried at the situation. They thought that their entire army would be defeated by that furious lion of truth in the single combat. So, they decided to attack him with the rain of arrows from all sides. Then suddenly! A group of archers assaulted him from every direction and started shooting arrows. His horse became too wounded to move. Helplessly, Imam Husayn had to stay at one place. The sacred body was all bleeding.
The time of Asr (afternoon) prayer came and he prostrated before Allah. The merciless and faithless tyrants wanted to sever his sacred head from his celestial body. The moment the darling grandson of Holy Prophet and chief of Faqr prostrated before Allah the so-called followers of Islam segregated the sacred head from the reverend body in prostration. Because when this head was lifted no one dared to come closer!
Sacrifice of Imam Husayn exalted the religion
The grandson of Holy Prophet exalted the religion Islam by giving his head in prostration in Karbala. He granted victory to Allah’s religion by giving his blood to the soil of Karbala.
Husayn ibn Ali showed the generations coming till the end of times that true meaning of religion is to submit to Allah’s will without wrangling. It is to sacrifice even the weapon of prayer (dua) for Allah’s will. Religion is to fight passionately against wrong for the eminence of Truth. It is to trust only on Allah’s power for demolishing the wrong. Religion is ardent Divine love. It is a longing for the union with Allah. It is to sacrifice the luxuries of world for Allah’s love. If world is a battlefield then religion is to behead yourself in this field. Religion is a prostration of love where life can be taken but the prostration must not be omitted. It is to sacrifice one’s own self and the loved ones for building a relation with Allah.
Religion is to sacrifice desires, passions, adorations, and relationships. It is a relationship only with Allah. It is to sacrifice each blessing and strength granted by Allah in the path of Allah for Allah’s will.
Religion is to remain patient and grateful on any suffering or calamity by considering it a gift from Allah. Religion is perseverance. That is to remain steadfast in Allah’s love despite all the inward or outward trials.
Sacrifice of Husayn ibn Ali clarified the reality of religion
Those who have bounded religion within rewards and punishment, are arrogant on their excessive outward worships, and consider the sacrifice of animals as real sacrifice must learn the reality of religion from Imam Husayn.
He gave a true explanation and exegesis of Holy Prophet’s religion through his actions and sacrifice. Imam Husayn explained the reality of religion to umma by sacrificing himself as well as his family. The true side of religion which Imam presented to umma, is the one which in fact gives strength to the followers of Islam to speak truth in front of tyrant rulers. In fact, that is the religion which increases the worth of the life of hereafter in comparison to this mortal worldly life. Secret to salvation from enslavement of inciting innerself, worldly desires and cruel rulers only lies in following this religion. Worldly life becomes heaven and heaven becomes pleasure of Divine closeness by following this religion.
Trials are essential for true believers
Along with teaching us the true reality of religion, the incident of Karbala also teaches us that trials are obligatory for every Momin. Allah says in the Holy Quran:
- And We will most certainly test you somewhat by means of fear and hunger and certain loss of wealth and lives and fruits. (Al-Baqarah 155)
Bitter truth of an ordinary Muslim
When Allah had passed dearest grandson of His beloved from this toughest trial of Karbala then will He grant Jannah to an ordinary Muslim just in exchange of praying five times and fasting? Will He not test their patience, submission, and perseverance?
When Allah tests them through hunger and poverty they become impatient. And when He improves their condition, they believe that they gained Allah’s pleasure just by few prostrations. When they choose something for themselves, they desire for the best. But when it comes to give in Divine path then only have few worthless things? Do they believe that Allah needed their wealth?
Imam found it insufficient to sacrifice his own life, so he took his family along to sacrifice them in Divine path. Even though we are neither at level of Imam nor we have that courage, but we can still aim to do best of our abilities while sacrificing in the path of Allah. Allah may be pleased with us in accordance to our capacity if we adopt even a little part of Imam Husayn’s patience. All our difficulties will become easy if we make his perseverance, passion of Divine love, patience, and his bravery the light of our path. By following him if we renunciate the love of world, death will become beautiful and we may get salvation from all fears. Life here and the life hereafter can become successful by following the path shown by Husayn ibn Ali and acting upon the lesson he taught.
This article originally appeared in the August issue of Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore (the monthly Urdu magazine of Tehreek Dawat-e-Faqr) as
کربلا درسگاہِ دین و عشق
It is written by Ambreen Moghees Sarwari Qadri and Sofia Sultan Sarwari Qadri has translated in English. Translator has used American English vocabulary in the translation of this article. If you wish to read the original article, please visit: