The moment one lifts the pen to write something about the valour of Imam Husain (a.s.), he is reminded of the words of the Principal of Al-Azhar University Janab Shabravi that he had written in his book ‘Al Athaaf be hubbil Ashraaf’. He writes: “The Ahle Bayt (a.s.) were perfect from the aspect of knowledge, forebearance, eloquence and bravery. They had not acquired these merits in their lives. Rather these virtues were divinely bestowed. (Then he makes a grand statement) Those who try to conceal these merits, are in fact trying to conceal the brilliant sun.”
These sentences are filled with a profound meaning. This implies that Imam Husain (a.s.) was valiant not only due to his status as the Imam, but also from his ancestry. His forefathers (a.s.) were valiant, as were his sons – the noble Imams (a.s.). Even a brief scrutiny of Islamic history will reveal how the son of Imam Husain (a.s.) – Sayyid-e-Sajjad displayed exemplary courage and eloquence when he delivered an articulate sermon in the courts of Kufa and Syria. This sermon shook the pillars of Yazid’s government and proved that those who are divinely bestowed by valour can never be subdued by tyranny. Moreover the light of the Ahle Bayt (a.s.) transcends the dungeons and prisons and all forms of suppression in much the same as the sunlight transcends the dark clouds on a cloudy day.
In order to get a fair estimate of Imam’s (a.s.) valour, we must first evaluate the valour of his sister – Janabe Zainab binte Ali (s.a.).
History is witness that none dared to interrupt Janabe Zainab (s.a.) in her sermon. A poet has aptly remarked:
The court of Syria, the speech of Zainab, the antidote of evil
As if it was Ali (a.s.) at Khaiber or the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on his pulpit.
While it is not possible to analyse the bravery of each and ever companion in such a brief treatise, one realises that if such was the courage of Imam’s (a.s.) sister and son, then the valour of Imam (a.s.) can only be imagined. On the eve of Ashoora, Imam (a.s.) declared to his companions, ‘These people are only concerned with me. If they succeed in killing me, they will not trouble anybody else. You can take the advantage of the darkness of the night and escape.’ This statement itself highlights Imam’s (a.s.) valour. At a time when he was being confronted by a huge, well-organised army, while his own did not exceed a 100 warriors, Imam (a.s.) was not concerned about increasing the strength of his army. On the contrary, he was exhorting his companions to leave if they wanted to. Is there anyone in the world who will readily diminish his numbers instead of increasing them, in the face of such adversity?
The first one to speak up to Imam’s (a.s.) call was his brother – Hazrat Abul Fazl Abbas (a.s.) who declared, ‘Master! How is it possible that we abandon you? What is life without you?’ Next to answer Imam (a.s.) was his beloved companion, Muslim b. Awsaja (r.a.), ‘Can we leave you alone? Never! By Allah! I shall continue to fight the treacherous enemy till I sink my dagger into their hearts. If I am killed and my body burnt, and I am revived once again, even then I shall not desert you.’ This underlines the fact that the support garnered on the basis of wealth and power is weak and flawed, but support mobilised under the shade of love of Imamat and Wilayat is indomitable.
Moreover psychologists also admit that man’s preparation in confronting the enemy highlights the strength and power of his enemy. In other words, no one would make elaborate preparations in facing a weak and feeble enemy. Rather he would make elaborate preparations only if he was confronting a strong and powerful enemy. Let us sift through the pages of history and see who was the bravest one at Karbala.
1) Allama Majlisi (r.a.) writes in his Jalaa-ul-Uyoon on the authority of narrators and historians that Umar b. Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas arrived at Karbala on the 3rd of Muharram 61 A.H. leading a cavalry of 4,000 riders.
(2) Shaikh Saduq in his Amali on the discussion of Ibne Ziyad writes that Ibne Ziyad dispatched for Karbala on the 4th of Moharrum, Umar b. Hajjaj with 500 riders, Muhammed bin Ashath with 1,000 riders, Yazid bin Rekab, Nafar Bin Kharsha and Urwa b. Qays with 2,000 riders. Khuli bin Yazid Asbahi, Qatham, Mazaaer bin Rahniya Maazani and Bakr bin Ka’b bin Khursha with 3,000 riders each, were also sent by Ibne Ziyad (l.a.). Ibne Anas Nakhaee and Sheeth bin Rabi were sent with 4000 riders each. Aamir bin Sareema got 6,000 riders whereas Haseen bin Numayr got 8,000. Finally, Abu Qidar Baaheli was appointed at the head of 9,000-strong cavalry.
(3) Maulana Qazwini writes in Riyazush Shahaadah that according to different narrations, a total of 22,000 or 30,000 or 70,000 or 100,000 troops had gathered at Karbala to massacre the son of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
(4) It is mentioned in Bahrul Masaib that such was the magnitude of troops from Kufa, that it covered the pathways and the desert in a kind of enveloping darkness.
(5) According to one report of Bahrul Masaib, 620,000 riders, footmen and servants were collected by Umar Ibne Saad (l.a.) in support of Yazid (l.a.) and Ibne Ziyad (l.a.) at Karbala.
Please spare a thought! The grandson of Allah’s messenger (s.a.w.s.) had left his home without any intention of warfare. He was accompanied by just 72 men, including the aged, children and youth. His own age according to accepted narration was 57 years. The magnitude of troops arranged for confrontation with this personality underlines the fact that he possessed bravery of a very high order. Moreover, Imam Hussein (a.s.) also had the valiant Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) as the commander of his modest army. The enemy feared that they would be devastated by this small army. Water supply was cut off and there was no water from the 7th Moharrum in Imam’s (a.s.) camp. From the morning of Ashoora till Asr, Imam Husain (a.s.) permitted one companion after the other to wage the holy Jehad. The mortal remains of the companions were brought to the camp. Even Janab Ali Asgar (a.s.), who was not capable to ride to the battlefield, was carried in the arms of Imam (a.s.), who sought water for him from the enemies.
The enemies thought that being Hazrat Ali (a.s.)’s grandson if he was allowed a drink of water he would exhibit the courage of his forefathers! According to historical reports this infant of six months was struck with a three-pronged arrow with such velocity that not only did it sever the tender throat of the infant, it even sank into the arm of Imam Hussein (a.s.). The three-pronged arrow shows how much the enemy dreaded this infant’s valour, let alone the valour of his father. When Prophethood takes its son for slaughter, it ties a blindfold, but when Imamat takes its infant to the battlefield, it does not use a blindfold. On the contrary, it pulls out the arrow from the infant’s body with its own hands. May our lives be sacrificed for the infant, who accepted martyrdom with a smile. At last the time arrived for the son of the lion of Allah to exhibit his own courage. What a strange sight it was, worded by Mir Anees in a beautiful verse:
What a terrible loneliness has afflicted Shabbir
The cloud of oppression covers the moon of Zehra
On one side confronts him an enormous military power
There is neither a son nor nephew nor brother
Hunted by the swords and sharp daggers
‘Kill the thirsty one’ is the slogan of the murderers
Injured arms, a broken back, no strength in the body
Due to quiver, the feet slip from the (horse’s) bridle
Extreme thirst, parched lips and eyes watering
He deflects every attack of the enemy with his sword
When he halts for a moment due to weariness
Hundreds of arrows pierce his body
Describing the courageous feats of Imam Husain (a.s.) in the battlefield, a historian writes:
‘I have never seen a wounded man- whose children, friends and relatives had been killed in front of his eyes- fight with such a spirit.’ Apart from this, Imam Husain (a.s.) himself recited many couplets that express his valour. For instance Imam (a.s.) declares:
‘We are not cowards! We are the brave chiefs of the world. If we are to be killed it is not due to our weakness. Rather it is our destiny. And the day of martyrdom had arrived.’
Tabari in Tarikhul Umam Wal Muluk (vol. 4 p. 345) and Ibne Atheer in Al-Kaamil Fi al-Tarikh (vol. 3, p. 295) has recorded in the events of the battle that the oppressive army attacked Imam (a.s.) from both the flanks. So when Imam (a.s.) was attacked from the right he rushed upon them and did not rest till they had fled the battle. After this he launched an attack on the left flank and made them flee in a similar manner. Finally his turban fell down. By Allah! I have never seen a wounded person whose sons, friends and relatives have been massacred before him to fight with such fervour.
According to a tradition of Imam Baqir (a.s.) there were 320 wounds on Imam’s (a.s.) holy body. Shabraavi writes in Al Athaaf be hubbil Ashraaf (p. 16-17) that Imam Husain (a.s.) was fighting a valiant battle till he fell down from his horse. In all he had 31 spear wounds and 43 sword wounds.
In the end it is appropriate that we mention the words of Abbas Aqqaad in his book Abu al-Shohadaa (Father of the Martyrs). He writes,
‘The valour of Imam Husain (a.s.) is such a quality that its reality is not surprising, just as it is not surprising to find jewels in a mine.’
Lastly, we pray to Allah the Almighty to hasten the advent of the last son of Imam Husain (a.s.) so that people may once again get a glimpse of the valour of Ahle Bayt (a.s.). May Allah, for the sake of the companions of Imam Husain (a.s.) include us among the valiant servants of the heir of Imam Husain (a.s.). Ameen.