Title : Sayyid ush-Shuhada (Chief of the Martyrs)
Kuniyat : Abu Abdillah
Father : Imam Ali (A)
Mother : Bibi Fatima Zahra (A)
Birthdate : 3rd Shabaan 4 A.H. in Madina
Imamat : From 50 A.H. to 61 A.H.
Martyrdom : 10th Muharram 61 A.H.
Buried : Karbala, Iraq.
The Holy Imam (A) was the second son of Imam Ali (A) and Bibi Fatima (A). He is the third of our Holy Imams (A). His birth was an occasion of great joy for the Ahlul Bayt (A) and was celebrated on earth and in the heavens. When he received the news, the Holy Prophet (S) came and recited Adhaan and Iqamah in the new born child's right and left ears respectively. On the seventh day of his birth the ceremony of Aqeeqa was performed and he was named Husain.
The Holy Prophet (S) had kept the names of his grandsons as commanded by Allah. Prophet Musa's (A) brother Prophet Haroon (A) had also had two sons, Shabbar and Shabbir. The names of the sons of Imam Ali (A) were Arabic equivalents of the Jewish words Shabbar and Shabbir. The significance was to emphasise the relationship of Imam Ali (A) to the Holy Prophet (S), who has said, "O Ali, you are the same to me as Haroon was to Musa, except that there is no Prophet after me." These words show that Imam Ali (A) had the same position as Prophet Haroon (A), who was the brother and the successor after Prophet Musa (A).
On the day when the Holy Imam (A) was born, Allah ordered the angel Jibraeel (A) to descend and congratulate the Holy Prophet (S) on His behalf.
While descending, Jibraeel (A) passed over an island where the angel Fitrus had been banished due to his delay in executing a command of Allah. He had been deprived of his wings and expelled to the island, where he had remained for several years praying and asking for Allah's forgiveness.
When Fitrus saw Jibraeel (A), he asked where he was going. Jibraeel told him that he was going to the house of Imam Ali (A) to congratulate him on the birth of the Holy Imam (A). When he heard this, Fitrus said, "Can you carry me also along with you? Perhaps Muhammad (S) will recommend my case to Allah"
When the angels arrived at the house of Imam Ali (A), Jibraeel (A) delivered Allah's message and then stated the matter of Fitrus. The Holy Prophet (S) said, "Ask the angel to touch the craddle of the newly born child and return to his place in Heaven."
On doing this, Fitrus instantly got his wings back and ascended to Heaven, promising the Holy Imam (A), "O Husain, from this day onwards, whenever anyone sends their Salaams to you, I will always deliver it to you."
For the first seven years of his life, the Holy Imam (A) grew up under the guidance of his grandfather who loved him very much. He used to say, "Husain is from me and I am from Husain." Once he said, "Hasan and Husain are the leaders of the youth of Paradise." At the time of Mubahila, the Holy Prophet (S) took Imam Hasan (A) and the Holy Imam (A) along with him as his children.
The Holy Prophet (S) has also said, "Hasan and Husain are Imams whether they are sitting or standing." This statement meant that his grandsons were always to be obeyed, whether they sat in peace or came out to war.
The Holy Imam (A) inherited his excellent qualities from his parents. He was a generous and gentle person but would not tolerate anyone violating the principles of Islam.
His generosity was well known. He would always prefer to fulfil the needs of those who came to ask him for money from behind a curtain. This was because he did not want the man to feel embarrassed by facing the person who was giving him charity.
The Holy Imam (A) looked after many widows and orphans personally. At nights he would carry baskets of food on his shoulders and distribute them amongst the needy. The marks of these burdens were seen across his shoulders after his death.
The Holy Imam (A) enjoyed the presence and guidance of his father till he was 36 years old and for the next 10 years he served his brother Imam Hasan (A) faithfully. At the time of his death, Imam Hasan (A) appointed the Holy Imam (A) as his trustee and transferred the duty of Imamat to him.
In 50 A.H., when his brother Imam Hasan (A) passed away, the Holy Imam (A) took over the responsibility of Imamat. The last wishes of Imam Hasan (A) had been to bury him in Jannatul Baqee after taking his body to the grave of the Holy Prophet (S) for a last farewell. When the Holy Imam (A) tried to carry out this last wish, his way was blocked by the Bani Umayyah. One of them, Marwan, who had been the secretary of Uthman, said, "How can Uthman be buried outside Madina while Hasan is buried next to the Prophet of Allah." Ayesha, a widow of the Holy Prophet (S), came out on a mule to insist that the body of Imam Hasan (A) be turned away. Abdullah bin Abbas said to her, "What mischief you bring about, one day on a mule and one day on a camel!" The Holy Imam (A) said to the Bani Umayyah, "By Allah! If my brother had not told me to avoid bloodshed, you would have known how our swords would have taken their toll from you." He then took the body of Imam Hasan (A) to Jannatul Baqee.
The Holy Imam (A) began his Imamat at a very difficult time for the Muslims, especially the Shia. Muawiya was busy stirring up trouble in every way he could. The Shia of Iraq approached the Holy Imam (A) and wanted to pledge their allegiance to him, but he reminded them that they were bound by the agreement between Imam Hasan (A) and Muawiya, and the whole matter should be reviewed after Muawiya's death. From his side, Muawiya had violated every condition of the agreement and the only thing he had left to do was to nominate his son Yazid as his successor. The problem was that Yazid was totally unsuitable to assume power and Muawiya and his supporters knew this very well. Thus Muawiya devoted the rest of his life to securing the Caliphate for his unworthy son. Slowly, by bribing, threatening and killing any opposition, he began to achieve his objective. Meanwhile, the Holy Imam (A) continued his life on the path of peace and devoted himself to guiding the people in matters of religion.
The Holy Imam (A) was well known for his generosity. Once a Bedouin Arab came to him saying that he had heard the Holy Prophet (S) say that, when in need, one should ask help from a noble and generous man. He had come to the Holy Imam (A) for help because he found these qualities in him. The Holy Imam (A) told him that he would ask him three questions, and for each correct answer, he would give the man one-third of the money he had in his purse. The conversation was as follows:
Holy Imam (A): What is the best thing to do?
Bedouin: To believe in Allah.
Holy Imam (A): What is the best means for man to be safe from destruction (in the hereafter)?
Bedouin: To trust in Allah.
Holy Imam (A): What is the best quality a man can have?
Bedouin: Knowledge associated with intelligence.
Holy Imam (A): If this is not available, what then?
Bedouin: Wealth accompanied by generosity.
Holy Imam (A): What if this is out of reach?
Bedouin: Poverty allied with patience.
Holy Imam (A): What if this too is not practicable?
Bedouin: Then let lightning consume the man to ashes.
The Holy Imam (A) smilingly gave his whole purse to the Bedouin.
A man once came to the Holy Imam (A) for advice, saying that he could not stop himself from committing sins. The Holy Imam (A) asked him to do any of the following five things and then he could sin as he wished:
- Do not eat from the sustenance (Rizk) of Allah and then sin as you like.
- Go out of the kingdom of Allah and then sin as you like.
- Find a place where Allah does not see you and then sin as you like.
- When the Angel of Death approaches you to remove your soul, stop him from doing so.
- When you are dragged into the hell-fire at the command of Allah, refuse to enter.
Muawiya died in 60 A.H., having secured Yazid as the next Caliph. He had committed the worst possible crimes to make this possible and had killed many pious people, notably Hujr bin Adi. Before his death, Muawiya had left strict instructions to his son not to interfere with the Holy Imam (A), because he was the only man who could affect their power. However, Yazid was too arrogant to listen to such advice and one of the first things he did was to write to his governor in Madina demanding the oath of allegiance from the Holy Imam (A).
The Holy Imam (A) flatly refused this demand but he had to leave Madina, because his presence would mean danger for the Muslims of that city. Thus began the series of events that ended in the tragedy of Karbala. The Holy Imam (A) told his brother Muhammad al-Hanafiyyah, that he was leaving Madina only to reform the religion of his grandfather, the Holy Prophet (S).
The Holy Imam (A) left with his family for Makka and then for Kufa, whose citizens had sent numerous letters for him to come to their city to serve their needs. On his way he was diverted to Karbala by a unit of Yazid's army led by Hur.
After three days hunger and thirst the Holy Imam (A) and his small group of faithful companions were martyred in Karbala. He left this world on the 10th of Muharram, 61 A.H. when he was 57 years old.