Excerpt from "The Lasting Honor of the Family of Muhammad (God bless him and give him peace)" by Yūsuf ibn Ismāʿīl al-Nabahānī (d. 1932); Translated by the late Muhtar Holland (d. 2010). Image from original calligraphy by Turan Sevgili.
Abū ʿAbdi’llāh al-Ḥusain
The Grandson of God’s Messenger,
(Allah bless him and give him peace)
and his progeny
(may Allah be well pleased with him)
Al-Husain was born in the month of Shaʿbān of the year A.H. 4. According to Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad: “Between the birth of al-Ḥasan and the conception of al-Ḥusain there was only one period of pureness from menstrual discharge, and it has been said: ‘Fifty nights.’ When he was born, the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) rubbed his palate with his saliva, pronounced the call to prayer in his ear, spat in his mouth and invoked blessing upon him, and he named him Ḥusain on the seventh day, and sacrificed a sheep or goat on his behalf. He was valiantly courageous from the time when he was a child.” This is mentioned in the Isʿāf, and he cited concerning his excellence a number of Prophetic traditions, including his saying (God bless him and give him peace): “Ḥusain belongs to me and I belong to Ḥusain. O God, love anyone who loves Ḥusain! Ḥusain is a grandson among the grandsons!” -- and his saying (God bless him and give him peace): “If it delights someone to look at a man among the people of the Garden of Paradise (in one version: ‘at a young Chieftain of the people of the Garden of Paradise’), let him look at al-Ḥusain ibn ʿAlī!”
According to Ibn Huraira, the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) sat in the mosque and said: “Where is the infant?” Al-Ḥusain then came walking until he fell into his lap, so he stuck his fingers into the beard of God’s Messenger (God bless him and give him peace), who opened his mouth – i.e. al-Ḥusain’s – and put his mouth into his mouth, then said: “O God, I love him, so love him and love anyone who loves him!” He is also reported as having said: “I saw God’s Messenger (God bless him and give him peace) sucking the saliva of al-Ḥusain as the man sucks the date!”
He is also reported as having said: “Al-Ḥusain was the one of them most similar to God’s Messenger (God bless him and give him peace), and Ibn ʿUmar was sitting in the shade of the Kaʿba when he suddenly saw al-Ḥusain approaching, so he said: ‘This is the dearest of the people of the earth to the people of heaven today!’”
Al-Ḥusain performed the Pilgrimage (may God be well pleased with him) twenty-five times traveling on foot, and he was outstandingly frequent in the performance of fasting, ritual prayer, Pilgrimage and almsgiving, as well as good deeds altogether, according to Ibn al-Athīr and others.
They said: “He was averse to his brother’s action of handing the authority over to Muʿāwiya, so he said to him: ‘I beseech you by God to prove that Muʿāwiya’s speech is true and your father’s speech is false!’ Al-Ḥasan therefore told him: ‘Be silent! I have more knowledge of this matter than you!’”
According to al-Ḥāfiẓ ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī in al-Iṣāba: “Al-Ḥusain’s residence was in Medina until he went out with his father to Kūfa, so with him he witnessed the troops, then two ranks, then the battle of the Khawārij, and he stayed with him until he was killed, then with his brother until he handed the authority over to Muwʿāwiya. He moved with his brother to Medina, and remained there until Muʿāwiya died, then he went out to Mecca. Then he received letters from the people of ʿIrāq, informing him that they pledged allegiance to him after the death of Muʿāwiya, so he sent to them the son of his paternal uncle, Muslim ibn ʿAqīl ibn Abī Ṭālib, who accepted their pledge of allegiance and sent it to him. Then he went on his way, for the matter of his assassination was whatever it was destined to be.”
According to ʿAmmār ibn Muʿāwiya adh-Dhahabī: “I said to Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥusain: ‘Tell me about the murder of al-Ḥusain, so that I seem to be present at its occurrence!’ He said: ‘Muʿāwiya died while al-Walīd ibn ʿUqba ibn Abī Sufyān was at Medina, so he was sent to al-Ḥusain ibn ʿAlī in order for him to receive his pledge of allegiance that night. Al-Ḥusain said: “Grant me delay and treat me kindly,” then he went out to Mecca, so the messengers of the people of Kūfa came to him, saying: “We had devoted ourselves to you, and we would not attend the Friday congregational prayer with the governor, so come to us!” An-Nuʿmān ibn Bashīr al-Anṣārī was at Kūfa, so al-Ḥusain ibn ʿAlī sent Muslim ibn ʿAqīl to them, and he said: “Travel to Kūfa and see what they have written about to me, for if it is true I shall go to them!” Muslim therefore went out until he came to Medina, and from it he took two guides, so they traveled with him in the desert and a thirst afflicted them. One of the guides died, so Muslim proceeded to Kūfa and lodged with a man called ʿAwsaja. Then, when the people of Kūfa were informed of his arrival, they thronged toward him and twelve thousand of them pledged allegiance to him. A man among those fond of Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya approached an-Nuʿmān ibn Bashīr and said: “You are a weakling, or a belittler who has corrupted the country!” so an-Nuʿmān said: “If I am weak in obeying God, that is preferable to me than my being strong in disobeying Him. I would surely not rend a veil!”
“‘The man wrote about that to Yazīd, so Yazīd summoned an agent of his called Sarḥūn and consulted him, so he told him: “Kūfa has no one except ʿUbaidu’llāh ibn Ziyād.” Yazīd was displeased with ʿUbaidu’llāh, and he had been intent on his removal from Baṣra, so he wrote to him about his approval of him, and that he had invited him to Kūfa. He also instructed him to seek Muslim ibn ʿAqīl, for if he overcame him he would murder him. ʿUbaidu’llāh ibn therefore set out toward the people of Baṣra, until he reached Kūfa with his face veiled, so he would not pass by anyone and greet him, unless the people of the meeting said to him: “Upon you be peace, O son of God’s Messenger,” thinking that it was al-Ḥusain ibn ʿAlī who had approached them.
“‘When ʿUbaidu’llāh halted at the castle, he summoned an agent of his, then handed to him three thousand silver coins and said: “Go in order to ask about the man to whom the people of Kūfa are pledging allegiance, for you must enter his presence and inform him that you are from Ḥamṣ, and hand him the money and pledge allegiance to him.” The agent did not cease behaving politely until they conducted him to a Shaykh in charge of the pledge of allegiance, so he mentioned his business to him and he said: “It has delighted me that God has guided you, and it would have offended me if our business was not consolidated!”
“‘Then he introduced him to Muslim ibn ʿAqīl, so he pledged allegiance to him and handed him the money, and he went out until he came to ʿUbaidu’llāh and informed him. Muslim was cautious when ʿUbaidu’llāh moved from that house to another house, so he lodged beside Hāniʾ ibn ʿUrwa al-Murādī, and ʿUbaidu’llāh said to the people of Kūfa: “Why is it that Hāniʾ ibn ʿUrwa has not swaggered?” Muḥammad ibn al-Ashʿab then came out to him among some men from the directions of the people of Kūfa, and he was at the door of his house, so they said to him: “The Emir has mentioned you and he has found you keeping him waiting, so hurry to him!” He therefore rode with them, until he entered the presence of ʿAbdu’llāh ibn Ziyād, and beside him was Shuraiḥ al-Qāḍī, so when he greeted him with the salutation of peace, he said to him: “O Hāniʾ, where is Ibn Muslim ibn ʿAqīl?” He replied: “I have no idea,” so he sent out to him the agent who handed the silver coins to Muslim. When he saw him, he fell down before him and said: “O Emir, by God, I did not invite him to my dwelling, but he has come and flung himself upon me,” so he said: “Bring him to me,” but he hesitated, so he tried to bring him closer. They brought him close to him, so he beat him with the stick and commanded his imprisonment. The news reached his people, so they gathered at the gate of the castle. ʿUbaidu’llāh heard the uproar, so he said to Shuraiḥ al-Qāḍī: “Go out to them and let them know that I have only imprisoned him in order to interrogate him about the news of Muslim, and it will do him no harm!” That reached them, so they dispersed.
“‘When the news reached Muslim ibn ʿAqīl, he called out with his password, so forty thousand of the people of Kūfa rallied to him and he rode. He sent ʿUbaidu’llāh in the directions of the people of Kūfa, so he gathered them beside him in the castle. He commanded each one of them to take charge of his kinsfolk, so he sent them back and they addressed them. Then they began to slip away, so Muslim entered the evening with only a small number of them beside him. When the darkness set in, those few also went away, so when he was left on his own, he went to and fro on the roads in the night. He came to a woman’s door and said to her: “Give me some water to drink!” She quenched his thirst and he stayed standing, so she said: “O servant of God, you are doubtful, so what is your business?” He said: “I am Muslim ibn ʿAqīl, so do you have a shelter?” She said: “Yes! Come in,” so he entered. She had a son among the agents of Muḥammad ibn al-Ashʿab, so he went to Muḥammad ibn al-Ashʿab and informed him, but nothing came unexpectedly to Muslim except the house with which he had been enclosed, so when he saw that, he went out with his sword to defend himself. Muḥammad ibn al-Ashʿab gave him safekeeping, so he was enabled by his help and he brought ʿUbaidu’llāh, so he commanded him and made him ascend to the castle, then he killed him. He also killed Hāniʾ ibn ʿUrwa and crucified them both. Their poet uttered several verses about that, including:
So if you do not know what death is, look
at Hāniʾ in the market and at Ibn ʿAqīl!
“‘That did not reach al-Ḥusain until there were three miles between him and al-Qādisiyya, so al-Ḥurr ibn Yazīd at-Tamīmī encountered him and said to him: “Go back, for I have not left anything good for you behind me!” He told him the news, so he considered going back, but the brethren of Muslim were with him, so they said: “By God, we shall not go back in order to suffer retaliation or be murdered!” They traveled, therefore, and ʿUbaidu’llāh had equipped the army for its encounters, so they came to him in Kabalāʾ, for he had occupied it together with forty-five cavaliers and approximately one hundred pedestrians. He was received by the army and their commander, ʿAmr ibn Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, for ʿUbaidu’llāh had put him in charge, and had written to him with his commission when he returned from the battle of al-Ḥusain, so when they met, al-Ḥusain said to him: “Choose for me one of three alternatives: either that I should adhere to one of the ports, or that I should return to Medina, or that I should put my hand in the hand of Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya.”’
“‘ʿAmr accepted that, and he wrote about it to ʿUbaidu’llāh, so he wrote to him: “I shall not accept from him until he puts his hand in my hand.” Al-Ḥusain refused, so they fought him and he was killed along with his companions, among whom there were seventy youths from the people of his household. Then, in addition to his being killed, his head was brought to ʿUbaidu’llāh, so he sent it and those who were left among the people of his household to Yazīd. Among them was ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥusain, who was an invalid, and among them was his paternal aunt Zainab, so when they came to Yazīd he introduced them to his family, then he delivered them to Medina.’”
Al-Ḥāfiẓ ibn Ḥajar said, after having cited this story: “A group of the ancients had compiled literary works concerning the murder of al-Ḥusain, including the meager and the bulky, and the authentic and the faulty, and Ghanī said about this story that I have cited: ‘According to a valid report, Ibrāhīm an-Nakhaʿī used to say: “If I had been among those who fought al-Ḥusain, then I had entered the Garden of Paradise, I would surely have been ashamed to look at the face of God’s Messenger (God bless him and give him peace)!”
Ḥammād ibn Salama said, on the authority of ʿAmmār ibn Abī ʿAmmār, that Ibn ʿAbbās said: “I saw God’s Messenger (God bless him and give him peace) in what the sleeper sees in the middle of the day, with dusty unkempt hair in his hand, in which he was holding a long-necked bottle containing blood, so I said: ‘My father and my mother be your ransom, O Messenger of God! What is this?’ He said: ‘This is the blood of al-Ḥusain and his companions. I have not ceased to gather it from the day on!’  That was the day when he was murdered.”
According to Umm Salama, she heard the jinn mourning over al-Ḥusain ibn ʿAlī. Az-Zubair ibn Bakār said: “Al-Ḥusain was murdered on the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ in the year (A.H.) 61.” Ibn al-Athīr said: “That day was [Friday] the day of the Congregational Prayer,” and it has been said: “[Saturday] the day of the Sabbath.” He has said in al-Iṣʿāf: “Most of his combatants were those who wrote to him and those who pledged allegiance to him.” It has also been said: “He was fought by Sinān ibn Anas an-Nakhaʿī, or someone else, and when Ibn Ziyād came, he recited to him:
Burden my riding animal with silver and gold!
I have killed the hidden sovereign!
I have killed the best of human beings as a mother and a father,
and the best of them since they are remembered as a lineage!
– so he became angry with him and he struck his neck. He said: ‘In the story of his murder there is confirmation of the Prophet’s saying (God bless him and give him peace): “The People of my Household will surely encounter murder and terror from my Community after me, and terror, and the worst of our people for us in hatred are the Banū Umayya and the Banū Makhzūm.”’” This has been reported by al-Ḥākim.
God (Exalted is He) decreed that the killing of ʿUbaidu’llāh ibn Ziyād and his companions should take place on the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ in the year (A.H.) 67. Al-Mukhtār ibn ʿUbaid dispatched an army to him under the leadership of Ibrāhīm ibn al-Ashtar an-Nakhaʿī, so Ibrahīm killed him by himself in the battle, and he sent his abominable head to al-Mukhtār. Al-Mukhtār then sent it to Ibn az-Zubair, so Ibn az-Zubair sent to to ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥusain. At-Tirmidhī has also related that when his head was brought, and it was installed in the mosque together with the heads of his companions, a serpent came and the heads were mingled until they entered into its nostril, so it stayed for a little while, then it went out. It did that two or three times.
Al-Ḥākim reported, and authenticated it on the authority of Muslim, that Ibn ʿAbbās said: “God inspired to Muḥammad (God bless him and give him peace): ‘I have killed seventy thousand by means of Yaḥyā ibn Zakariyyā, and by means of your daughter’s son I am killing seventy thousand and seventy thousand!’” It is also reported that the Prophet said (God bless him and give him peace): “The killer of al-Ḥusain will be subject in the coffin to a fire that is half of the torment of the people of this world!”
According to the erudite aṣ-Ṣabbān: “Imām Aḥmad accuses Yazīd of unbelief, and how excellent is he in piety and knowledge, which necessitate that he would not say that, unless it was established in his opinion among unambiguous matters that impressed him, and a group agreed with him on that, like Ibn al-Jawzī and others.” As for his sinfulness, they had agreed on it, and some of the scholars cursed it with specific reference to his name. Ibn al-Jawzī was asked: “How can Yazīd be accused of being the murderer of al-Ḥusain, in spite of the fact that he was in Syria when the murder took place in Karbalāʾ?” He replied in poetic verse:
An arrow struck and its shooter at the owner of a thorny tree
was someone in ʿIrāq. You had surely put your target at a distance!
According to Ibn al-Athīr: “Most of the people are his mourners, so what has been said about him includes what has been said by Sulaimān ibn Qubba al-Khuzāʿī:
I passed by the houses of the family of Muḥammad,
so I did not see the likes of them when they were occupied,
for God would not remove the houses and their people,
even if they became vacant of them in spite of me.
They were a hope, then they returned as a disaster.
Those disasters had become colossal and momentous.
Those were people who did not unsheathe their swords,
and they did not wound their enemies when they were drawn.
Those killed in the battle of aṭ-Ṭaff among the family of Hāshim
caused the necks of the Muslims to slip, so they were abased.
You must surely have seen that the earth became sick
because of the loss of Ḥusain, and the countries quaked,
and heaven shed tears because of his loss,
and its stars bewailed and prayed for him!’”
By ImanWire , 28 Sep 2017