The Historical Narrative of the Tragedy of Karbala

By Abid Qayoom Mir

Amir Muawiyah died at the age of 80 after having ruled as a Governor for 20 years and as a ruler for 20 years. He became ruler of the whole Muslim world after the abdication of Hadrat Hassan(AS). He wisely consolidated and extended the vast area of Islam and brilliantly established peace throughout the empire. Before his death, he nominated his son, Yazid as his successor. He got the oath of allegiance from various parts of empire. There were only few notable persons (Companions of Prophet Mohammad [SAW]) who denied accepting Yazid as the successor of his father includes, Hadrat Hussain(AS), Abdullah b.Umar(AS), Abdur Rahman b. Abu Bakr(AS), and Abdullah b. Zubair(As). Their stand was that the caliphate could not be converted into a hereditary monarchy and also Yazid was not competent candidate to be the Caliph.
Meanwhile, Hadrat Hussain(AS) received many invitations from the people of Kufa to come Kufa as they would support him and would accept his Caliphate. Although, he was advised by many others not to accept the invitation of people of Kufa, for not being trustworthy in the light of their past behavior with his Father Ali and Brother Hassan. Hadrat Hussain(AS) sent his cousin, Muslim b. Aqil to Kufa to see the reality of things on ground.
Muslim b. Aqil reached Kufa and took an oath of allegiance from 12000 persons on behalf of Hadrat Hussain(AS) (History of Islam, Prof. Masudul Hassan pp155-156). Muslim b. Aqil sent the same report to Hadrat Hussain(AS), that he should come to Kufa as the situation was very favorable for him. Hadrat Hussain(AS) decided to travel to Kufa after getting a positive response from his cousin Muslim b. Aqil, with his family including children and ladies. On the way, they received the news that the situation of Kufa has turned unpleasant. Because, the movement that had been launched by the people of Kufa in support of Hadrat Hussain(AS), had been suppressed by the Governor of Kufa Ubaidullah b.Ziyad, who was appointed after the transfer of Noman b. Bashir. Muslim and other leaders of the movement were arrested and killed by Ubaidullah b.Ziyad. The famous poet, Al Farazdaq, expressed the situation of Kufa to Hadrat Hussain(AS) in the following words:
The hearts of the people are with you, but their swords are with Bani Umaya, and the result is in the hands of God” (Professor Masudul Hassan).
This situation confused Hadrat Hussain(AS), whether he should proceed to Kufa or he should return to the Mekkah. He and his entourage reached westward to the plain of Karbala and met an Umayyad force led by Amr b. Sa`d. All three of his conditions were not accepted by the Governor of Kufa Ubaidullah b.Ziyad, which included –that he should be allowed to go back to Mekkah or Medina, he should be allowed to see meet the Yazid directly, he should be allowed to go anywhere else. Instead, Hadrat Hussain(AS) was asked to surrender and accept unconditionally the Caliphate of Yazid. Hadrat Hussain(AS) refused their proposal and on the 10th of Moharram he and his other family members were cordoned and, according to the Professor Masudul Hassan “an unequal contest between Hadrat Hussain(AS) and Yazid’s army on the other hand began in the stony plain of Karbala and achieved their martyrdom.
The next day after the tragedy of Karbala , the Caravan of Ahl-i-Bait (Husain’s family members) along with his head was sent to Ibn Ziyad to Kufa. There are, however, different reports regarding their treatment by Ibn Ziyad. The scholars like Maududi, Najibabadi and several others hold that Ibn Ziyad sat in the government house at Kufa and before him was laid Husain’s(AS) head. These scholars further state that after Husain’s(AS) head was placed before Ibn Ziyad he struck it with the stick, turning it around. Ibn Ziyad’s behavior was quite insulting as he knocked out some teeth with his cane, when he repeated this process of striking, Zaid. the son of Arqam, a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), cried out, “Remove your cane from these lips. By Allah! These two eyes of mine have witnessed that Prophet (SAW) used to kiss them.
Nadvi and Najibabadi on the authority of Tabari, hold that Yazid ordered that the house adjoining the palace be vacated for Husain’s family. He also took steps to compensate for the plunder by his troops. He made inquiries from each lady and gave her double of what she had lost. Najibabadi when Yazid’s wife came to know that Husain had been slain; she felt shocked and started weeping. She , along with other ladies of her household called on Husain’s family and did her best to console them.
According to Nadvi, Yazid was not at all aware of what transpired at Karbala, for he was at Damascus. He had only ordered to take the oath of allegiance from Husain(AS) and did not order to fight and assassinate. Maududi and several other scholars claim that though Yazid sent the family of Husain(AS) back to their home as his honored guests. However, there is nothing to show that he reprimanded or deposed or gave any other punishment to Ibn Ziyad officially. It is difficult to assess either Yazid or Ibn Ziyad, whoever might have been responsible for the event of Karbala, it must be admitted that it is one of the most tragic chapters of Islamic history. It was never expected or even thought that such a harsh treatment would be meted out to the beloved grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

—The author is doing an MA in Islamic Studies from the IUST. He can be reached at: abidmir412@gmail.com

 

 

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