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Battle of Karbala

Battle of Karbala Date Location Result 10 Muharram 61, October 10, 680 AD Karbala Apparent victory for the forces of Ubayd-Allah Ibn-e-Ziad Belligerents Umayyads Family of Hazrat Ali Commanders Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad Umar ibn Sa'ad Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali Hazrat Abbas ibn Ali Strength 36000~200,000 72

The Battle of Karbala took place on Muharram 10, in the year 61 of the Islamic calendar (October 9 or 10, 680)[1][2] in Karbala, in present day Iraq. On one side were supporters and relatives of Rasul Allah's (Sallallaahu 'Alaihi Wa Aaleehe Wa Sallam) grandson Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali (A.S); on the other side was a military detachment from the forces of Yazid I, the Umayyad caliph. Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali's group consisted of notable members of Rasul Allah's (Sallallaahu 'Alaihi Wa Aaleehe Wa Sallam) close relatives, around 128, of whom some were

either old (90+ years) or young (6 months). Hazrat Husayn and some members of his group were accompanied by some of the women and children from their families. On the opposing side, the armed forces of Yazid I were led by Umar ibn Sa'ad. The reason for the battle was Yazid's insistence that Hazrat Husayn accepts him (ie Yazid) as the righteous and undisputed ruler. Hazrat Husayn was no ordinary person. Grandson of the prophet, he was widely accepted as the most pious throughout his life. A seal from such a personality would have given a kiss of life to Yazid's unlawful power grab. Both were well aware of this. Yazid chose to use the state power to first deny access to water and food for three days to Hazrat Husayn and his family (including women and children) and when Hazrat Husayn still insisted on his stance of not providing legitimacy to Yazid's rule, told Hazrat Husayn that he would be killed. Hazrat Husayn chose that. He and his followers were killed by the forces of Yazid during the 1 day battle in Karbala. The captured women were tortured, mocked and made an example of. In the end though, these women, through their speeches were able to turn the tables on Yazid. This battle also had significant effects on the formation of revolts against the Umayyad dynasty.[3] The battle of Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali is commemorated during an annual 10-day period held every Muharram by the Shi'ah as well as many Sunnis, culminating on its tenth day, Ashura.[4] In India, Mohyal Brahmins also called Hussaini Brahmins (Brahmins are at the highest layer of caste system in Hindu society) proudly claim that though being non-Muslim, a small number of them fought in the Battle of Karbala on the side of Hussain.[5] Some Mohyal Brahmins migrated eastward and became as some sub-divisions of Bhumihar Brahmins, some of whom are also descendants of Hussaini Brahmins and mourn the death of Imam Hussain. The Bhumihar Brahmins, of whom many, though not all, belong to the Saryupareen Brahmin division of Kanyakubja Brahmins.[7]

Political background The rule of the third Caliph Hazrat Uthman concluded with a violent uprising. This uprising ended with the assassination of Hazrat Uthman and for many days rebels seized and occupied the city of Medina. Under the overwhelming pressure of the Ummah, Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib was elected as the fourth Caliph with massive numbers of people swearing their allegiance to him. His immediate steps were to ensure the unity of Muslims. He issued the orders of not attacking the rebels until order was restored. The governor of Syria, Muawiya, refused allegiance to Hazrat Ali and revolted against him. This resulted in armed confrontations between the Islamic Caliph Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muawiya. Practically, the Muslim world became divided. At the death of Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib, his elder son Hazrat Hasan ibn Ali succeeded him but soon signed a treaty with Muawiya to avoid further bloodshed. Muawiya remained the ruler of Syria. At the death of Muawiya, his son Yazid sought to establish himself as the next caliph, a move which was considered unacceptable by a number of eminent leaders of the ummah including the younger son of Hazrat Ali ibn Talib, Hazrat Husain ibn Ali. In fact, Yazid had been nominated by his father so that the issue of succession might arise plunging the entire Ummah into a war like it happened in pre-Muawiya period.[8]

Now, majority of Muslims swore allegiance to Yazid's nomination except for five companions, namely, Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Hazrat Abdullah Abdullah Ibn Zubair, Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Omar, Hazrat Hussain Ibn Ali and Hazrat Abdur Rehman Ibn Abu Bakr disapproved of Yazid's nomination and declared it against the spirit of Islam. As mentioned, Hazrat Hussain ibn Ali believed nomination of Yazid to the heir-ship of the Caliphate would destroy of the spirit of democracy and republicanism nurtured and developed so assiduously during the Prophet's era and afterward, and that it would lead to hereditary kingship which was repugnant to the original political teachings of Islam. Therefore, he resolved to oppose this with all the resources at his command. Events before the Battle Muawiah died on Rajab 22, 60 AH. Muawiah had already started an empire-wide scheme of coercing Bayat'of his notorious son Yazid before his death. Few notables of the Islamic community were crucial to lending some legitimacy to this conversion of Khlafat into a dynasty. Hazrat Husayn was by far the most significant personality being the only grandson of the Prophet. Yazid instructed his Governor Walid in Madina to immediately corner Hazrat Husayn for him to pay allegiance to Yazid's appointment as the king. Hazrat Hasayn in presence of Marwan refused it and uttered his famous words that "anyone akin to me will never accept anyone akin to Yazid as a ruler." Ref: Tabri. Hazrat Husayn departed Medina on Rajab 28, 60 AH two days after Walid's attempt to force him to succumb to Yazid's rule. He stayed in Mecca from the beginnings of the Sha'ban and all of the Ramadan, Shawwal, as well as Dhu al-Qi'dah. It is mainly during his stay in Mecca that he received many letters from Kufa assuring him their support and asking him to come over there and guide them. He answered their calls and sent Muslim ibn Aqeel, his cousin, to Kufa as his representative in an attempt to consider the exact situation and public opinion. Hazrat Husayn's representative to Kufa, Hazrat Muslim ibn Aqeel was welcomed by the people of Kufa, and most of them swore allegiance to him. After his initial observation, Ibn Aqeel wrote to Hazrat Hussain (A.S) that situation in Kufa is favorable. However, after the arrival of the new Governor of Kufa,Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, the scenario changed. Hazrat Ibn Aqeel and his host, Hani ibn Urwa were executed on Dhu al-Hijjah 9, 60AH (September 10, 680 CE) without any considerable resistance of the people. This shifted the loyalties of the people of Kufa to Emir Yazid against Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali.[9] Hussain (a.s) ibn Ali also realizing a deep conspiracy to kill him during Hajj left Mecca on 8 Dhu al Hajj 60 AH, just a day before Hajj. He delivered a famous sermon in Kaaba highlighting his reasons to leave that he didn't want the sanctity of Haram to be violated, since his opponents had crossed any norm of decency and were willing to violate all tenants of Islam and Arab traditions. When Hazrat Hussain was making his mind to leave for Kufa, Abd-Allah ibn Abbas and Abdullah ibn Zubayr held a meeting with him and advised him not to move to Iraq, or, if he was determined to move, not to take women and children with him in this dangerous journey. Hazrat Husain, however, had resolved to go ahead with his plan. He gave a speech to people the day before his departure and said: "... The death is a certainty for mankind, just like the trace of necklace on the neck of young girls. And I am enamored of my ancestors like eagerness of Jacob to Joseph ... Everyone, who is going to devote his blood for ours sake and is prepared to meet Allah, must depart with us..."

On their way to Kufa, the small caravan received the sad news of execution of Muslim ibn Aqeel and indifference of the people of Kufa. Instead of turning back, Hazrat Husayn decided to continue the journey and sent Hazrat Qais ibn Musahhar al-Saydavi as messenger toward nobles of Kufa. The messenger was captured in the vicinity of Kufa but managed to tear the letter to pieces to hide names of its recipients. Just like Muslim ibn Aqeel, Qais ibn Musahhar was executed. The Events of Battle Hazrat Husayn and his fellows were two days' journey away from Kufa when they were intercepted by the vanguard of Yazid's army; about 1000 men led by Hurr Riahy. Upon interception by vanguards Hazrat Husayn asked: "With us or against us?" They replied: "Of course against you, oh Aba Abd Allah!" Hazrat Husain said: "If you are different from what I received from your letters and from your messengers then I will return to where I came from." Their leader, Hurr, refused Hazrat Husain's request to let him return to Medina. The small caravan of the Family of Prophet (Sallallaahu 'Alaihi Wa Aaleehe Wa Sallam) arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61AH (October 2, 680 CE). They were forced to pitch a camp on dry, bare land and Hurr stationed his army nearby. Ibn Ziyad appointed Umar ibn Sa'ad to command the battle against Hazrat Husain. At first Umar ibn Sa'ad rejected the leadership of the army but he accepted after Ibn Ziyad threatened to depose him from the governorship of Ray city. Umar ibn Sa'ad moved towards the battlefield with a 40,000-men army and arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61 AH (October 3, 680 CE). Ibn Ziyad sent a brief letter to Umar ibn Sa'd that commanded: "Prevent Husayn and his disciples from accessing water and do not allow them to drink a drop of water. Ibn Sa'ad ordered 5000 horsemen to cut Husain's camp off from the Euphrates to stop them from accessing water. One of the disciples of Hazrat Husain ibn Ali met Umar ibn Sa'ad and negotiated to get access to water, which the latter denied. The water blockade continued up to the end of the battle on Muharram 10 night (October 10, 680 CE). Umar ibn Sa'ad received an order from ibn Ziyad to start the battle immediately and not to postpone it further. The army started stealthily advancing toward Hazrat Husain's camp on the afternoon of 9th of Muharram. At this time Hazrat Husain sent Hazrat Abbas ibn Ali to ask ibn Sa'ad for another delay, until the next morning, so that he and his men could spend the night praying. Ibn Sa'ad agreed the respite. On the night before the battle, Hazrat Husain gathered his men and told them that they were all free to leave the camp in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, rather than face certain death if they stayed with him. None of Hazrat Husain's men wished to defect, however, some say that a group of soldiers did indeed leave the Imam and these soldiers late became a part of the 12ers denomination of the Shi'a sect otherwise known as Inthna Ashari. Hazrat Husain and his followers held a vigil to pray all night. Also, they dug a trench around their tents by night and filled it with firewood and dried shrubs to prevent the enemy from flanking them or infiltrating the camp. Only one passage was left open. Ibn Sa'ad's army did not notice this activity till next morning.


Day of the battle On Muharram 10 called Ashura, Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali prayed Morning Prayer with his companions. He appointed Hazrat Zuhayr ibn Qayn to command the right flank, Hazrat Habib ibn Muzahir to command the left flank and his half-brother Hazrat Abbas ibn Ali as standard bearer of his army. Also he ordered to set the trench around their tents on fire. There is controversy regarding gregorian date for the day of Ashura. October 10, is a calculated date through calculators. But, these calculators are not always correct. According to book Maqtaly Hussain Muharram 9 is October 12, 680, so it appears that date was October 13, 680 A.D. The companions of Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali were 32 horsemen and 40 infantrymen. Hazrat Husayn rode on his horse Zuljenah. On the other side,Yazid had sent Shimir(his chief commander)to replace Umar ibn Saad ibn Yazid as the commander.He reorganized his army and by afternoon, he had come to know that Hurr along with his son had defected to Hussain's army.[12] Husain ibn Ali called the people around him to join him for the sake of Allah and to defend Muhammed’s family. His speech affected Hurr ibn Yazid Al-Riyahi, the commander of the Tamim and Hamdan tribes who had stopped Husain from his journey. He abandoned ibn Sa'ad and galloped his horse to Husain's small force and told them. The battle starts Ibn Sa'ad advanced and fired an arrow at Hazrat  Husain's army, saying: "Give evidence before emir that I was the first thrower." Then his army started showering Husain's army with weapons. Both sides began fighting. Successive assaults resulted in the death of a group of Husain's companions. The first skirmish was between the right flank of Hazrat Husain's army with the left of the Syrian army. A couple of dozens men under the command of Zuhayr ibn Qain fought heroically and repulsed the initial infantry attack and in the process destroyed the left flank of the Syrian army which in disarray collided with the middle of the army. The Syrian army quickly retreated and broke the pre-war verbal agreement of not using arrows and lances. This agreement was made in view of the small number (72) of Husain's companions. In order to prevent random and indiscriminate showering of arrows on Hazrat Husain's camp which had women and children in it, Hazrat Husain's followers went out to single combats. Men like Burayr ibn Khudhayr, Muslim ibn Ausaja and Habib ibn Muzahir were slain in the fighting. They were attempting to save Husain's life by shielding him. Every casualty had a considerable effect on their military strength since they were vastly outnumbered to begin with. Husain's companions were coming, one by one, to say goodbye to him, even in the midst of battle. Almost all of Husain's companions were killed by the onslaught of arrows or lances. After almost all of Hazrat Husain's companions were killed, his relatives asked his permission to fight. The men of Banu Hashim, the clan of Muhammad and Ali, went out one by one. Ali Akbar ibn Husain, the middle son of Husayn, was the first one who received permission from his father.


Casualties from Banu Hashim were sons of Ali ibn Abi Talib, sons of Hassan ibn Ali, Son of Husain ibn Ali, Son of Abd-Allah ibn Ja'far ibn Abi-Talib and Zainab bint Ali, sons of Aqeel ibn Abi Talib, as well as a son of Muslim ibn Aqeel. There were seventy-two dead in all (including Imam Hussain). Death of Hazrat Abbas ibn Ali Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali advanced toward Euphrates branch along a dyke and his brother Abbas ibn Ali was moving ahead of him. They had planned to bring some water to tents. But ibn Sa'ad's army prevents them and one of them hit Hazrat Husayn on his chin with an arrow. Hazrat Husayn pulled out the arrow and stopped further advance enabling him to cover Abbas and protect the tents at the same time. Hazrat Abbas ibn Ali continued his advance into the heart of ibn Sa'ad's army. He was under heavy shower of arrows but was able to penetrate them and get to the branch leaving heavy casualties from the enemy. He immediately started filling the water skin. In a remarkable and immortal gesture of loyalty to his brother and Muhammad's grandson he didn't drink any water despite being severely thirsty. He put the water skin on his right shoulder and started riding back toward their tents. Amr Saad ordered an outright assault on Abbas ibn Ali saying that if Abbas succeeds in taking water back to his camp, we won't be able to defeat them till the end of time. A massive enemy army blocked his way and surrounded him. He was ambushed from behind a bush and his right hand was cut off. Abbas put the water skin on his left shoulder and continued his way but his left hand also cut off from wrist. Abbas now held the water skin with his teeth. The army of ibn Sa'ad started shooting arrows at him. That is when he started crying; because one arrow hit the water skin and water poured out of it, now he turned his horse back towards the army and charge towards them but someone hit a gurz on his head and he fell off the horse. In his last moments when Imam Hussain was wiping the blood in his eyes to enable him to see Imam Hussain's face, Hazrat Abbbas said not to take his body back to the camps because he had promised to bring back water but couldn't and so couldn't face Bibi Sakina Death of the infant son of Hazrat Hussain When nobody was left in Imam Hussain's camp, Imam Hussain raised an immortal call for help by saying, "Is there anyone who can help me?" Hearing this call, Imam Husain's sixmonth-old baby dropped himself from the cot. Imam Hussain took Ali al-Asghar towards the enemy camp and cried out, "Is there anyone who can give some water to my thirsty child?". Imam Hussain didn't literally want water for his son, but wanted to show the world the cruelty that lied within the enemies of Islam. The rival army sent a best archer, Hurmula, who killed Ali al-Asghar by shooting an arrow. After he returned to the tents, Imam Husayn had made a small grave for Ali al-Asghar behind the tents with his sword, Imam Husayn had no water to make the grave wet, but there was enough tears shed by Imam Husayn that the grave became very wet. Death of Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali Hazrat Husain ibn Ali offered single battle to the enemy. He killed everybody that fought him in single battles. He demonstrated extreme courage and bravery, forced the enemy into retreat frequently and killed a great number of opponents. Imam Husayn and earlier his son Ali Akbar were the two warriors who penetrated and dispersed the core of Ibn-Saad's army (Qalb-e-Lashkar), a sign of extreme chaos in traditional warfare.


Imam Husayn advanced very deep in the back ranks of the Syrian army. When the enemies stood between him and the tents he shouted: "Woe betide you oh followers of Abu Sufyan's dynasty! If no religion has ever been accepted by you and you have not been fearing the resurrection day then be noble in your world Then his enemies invaded back toward him. They continuously attacked each other, Until his numerous injuries caused him to stay a moment. At this time he was hit on his forehead with a stone. He was cleaning blood from his face while he was hit on the heart with arrow and he said: "In the name of Allah, and by Allah, and on the religion of the messenger of Allah." Then he raised his head up and said: "Oh my God! You know that they are killing a man that there is son of daughter of a prophet (Husayn is son of Hazrat Fatimah bint Muhammad (Sallallaahu 'Alaihi Wa Aaleehe Wa Sallam) on the earth except him" Then he grasped the arrow and pulled it out of his chest from behind which caused heavy bleeding.[18]  He became very weak to fight and halted and the soldiers approaching him were giving up confronting him, until a soldier approached him while cursing and hit him on his head with his sword. The enemies halted for a while and then returned and surrounded him. At this time Abd-Allah ibn Hassan, who was an underage boy, escaped from the tents and ran until arrived beside Imam Husayn. When a soldier intended to hit Imam Husayn with his sword, Abd-Allah ibn Hassan defended his uncle with his arm which caused it to be cut and hanged. Imam Husayn hugged him but the boy was hit on his neck with an arrow. mam Husayn became very weak due to his heavy injuries and hits by arrows. Then a voice came from skies "We are satisfied with your deeds and sacrifices." After this Imam Husayn placed his sword in to its holder and tried to get down from the horse but was tremendously injured and so the horse let him down. He then sat against a tree. Umar ibn Sa'ad ordered a man to dismount and to finish the job. Khowali ibn Yazid al-Asbahiy preceded the man but feared and did not do it. Then Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan dismounted his horse and cut Hazrat Husayn's throat with his sword whilst Husayn was prostrating to Allah. Just before his throat was about to be cut, Hazrat Husayn asked Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan, "Have you done your prayers today?" and this shocked Shimr because he did not expect anyone in the position of Imam Husayn to ask about such a question. Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan was saying: "I swear by God that I am raising your head while I know that you are grandson of the messenger of Allah and the best of the people by father and mother" when he raised head of Imam Husayn ibn Ali on a spear. The inb Sa'ad's men looted all the valuables from Hazrat Husayn's body. Another ending of the battle is the following; While Imam Hussain was taking rest against the tree, Shimr knew that Imam Hussain was unable to fight and sent one of his men to go and kill him. The man went and seeing Imam Hussains Eyes,he got extremely scared and ran back to his camp. When Shimr asked why he hadn't killed Imam Hussain, the man replied that looking into his eyes he saw

Rasul Allah (Sallallaahu 'Alaihi Wa Aaleehe Wa Sallam). Angrily, Shimr sent another man. This one
was so frightened that he droped his sword and ran back to his camp. This time when Shimr asked him why he hadn't killed him, he said he saw into his eyes and saw the angry look of Hazrat Ali. Shimr was angry, said that he would have to do it himself and wearing his iron boots, he went to where Imam Hussain was. Using his iron boots he kicked Imam Hussain in the ribs. Imam Hussain fell to the floor, when Shimr disrespected and sat on top of him. Using a blunt knife,he rugged 12 times against Imam Hussain's throat. Imam Hussain said "get up", your blunt knife wont work here, this is the area that was kissed by my grandpa Prophet Mohammad! Let me sujdo (on the ground while praying), and pray for the well being of my people". While his head was down in sujdo, Shimr removed his head from body.  The army of Ibn Sa'ad rushed to loot the tents. The daughters of Mohammad's (Sallallaahu  'Alaihi Wa Aaleehe Wa Sallam) family were expelled from the tents unveiled and barefooted, while weeping and crying for their slain relatives. The army set all the tents on fire. The women were asking: "By Allah, will you make us pass the site of the murder of Husayn?" And when they saw the martyrs and wailed. Then Sakina bint Husayn (Death, 117 AH) embraced her father's body until some people dragged her away.   Umar ibn Sa'ad called volunteering horsemen to trample Imam Husayn's body. Ten horsemen trampled his body such that his chest and back were ground. Traditionally, it is believed that Imam Husayn's body was martyred but his 'noor' (light) and Imamat were passed on to his son Ali who became Imam Ali Zainul Abideen (Sahifa-eSajjadiya is a collection of his supplications). Aftermath Umar ibn Sa'ad sent Imam Husayn's head to ibn Ziyad on Ashura afternoon and ordered to sever heads of his comrades to send them to Kufa. The heads were distributed to various tribes enabling them to gain favor of ibn Ziyad. Ibn Sa'ad remained in Karbala until the next noon. After ibn Sa'ad's army went out of Karbala, some people from Banu Asad tribe came there and buried their dead. On Muharram 11 (October 11, 680 CE), all captives including all women and children were then loaded onto camels with neither saddle nor shade and were moved toward Kufa. As they approached Kufa, its people gathered to see them. Some women of Kufa gathered veils for them upon knowing that they are relatives of Rasul Allah (Sallallaahu 'Alaihi Wa Aaleehe Wa  Sallam). Among the captives were Ali ibn Husayn, who was gravely ill, as well as Hassan ibn Hassan al-Muthanna, who was seriously injured in the battle of Karbala.  
Hazrat Zainab bint Ali pointed at the people to be quiet. Then she addressed the people of Kufa:

"The praise is exclusively attributed to Allah. And greetings to my father (grand father), Muhammad (Sallallaahu 'Alaihi Wa Aaleehe Wa Sallam), and to his pure and benevolent family.

And then, Oh people of Kufa! Oh deceitful and reneger people! Do you weep? So let tears not be dried and let groans not be finished. ... Beware, such a bad preparation you have made for yourself that Allah became furious of you and you will be at punishment forever. Do you weep and cry? Yeah, by Allah, do weep numerously and do laugh less! Since you brought its shame and fault on yourself and you will not be able to cleanse it forever. ..."   During the journey from Karbala to Kufa, and from Kufa to Damascus, Husayn's sister Zaynab bint Ali and Umm-Kulthoom bint Ali, and son Ali ibn Husayn gave various speeches that exposed the truth about Yazid and told the Muslim world of the various atrocities committed in Karbala. After being brought to Yazid's court, Zaynab courageously gave a famous speech in which she denounced Yazid's claim to the caliphate and eulogized Husayn's uprising. The prisoners were held in Damascus for a year. The people of Damascus began to frequent the prison, and Zaynab and Ali ibn Husayn used that as an opportunity to further propagate the message of Husayn and explain to the people the reason for Husayn's uprising. As public opinion against Yazid began to foment in Syria and parts of Iraq, Yazid ordered their release and return to Medina, where they continued to tell the world of Husayn's cause.