Husayn ibn Ali

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This article is about Husayn ibn Ali (626–680). For the modern political figure (1854–1931), see Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca.
Husayn ibn Ali
حسين بن علي  (Arabic)

2nd Imam of Nizari-Ismaili and Taiyabi-Mustaali
3rd Imam of Sevener, Twelver, and Zaydi Shia
Kerbela Hussein Moschee.jpg
The shrine of Husayn, as seen from the shrine of Abbas in Karbala, Karbala Governorate, Iraq
Born c. (626-01-08)8 January 626CE
(3Sha'aban 04 AH)[1]
Medina, Hejaz
Died c. 10 October 680(680-10-10) (aged 54)
(10 Muharram 61 AH)
Karbala, Umayyad Empire (now in Iraq)
Cause of death Beheaded at the Battle of Karbala
Resting place Shrine of Imam Hussein, Karbala, Iraq
32°36′59″N 44°1′56.29″E / 32.61639°N 44.0323028°E / 32.61639; 44.0323028
Residence Medina, Hejaz
Ethnicity Hejazi Arab, Quraysh tribe
Known for Battle of Karbala
Term 670–680 AD
Predecessor Hasan ibn Ali
Successor Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin
Religion Islam
Spouse(s) Shahr Banu
Umme Rubāb
Umme Laylā
Umm Ishāq.
Parent(s) Ali
Relatives Muhammad
Calligraphic representation of Husayn ibn Ali in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.
Entry gate of the shrine of Husayn in Karbala, Iraq

Husayn ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (Arabic: الحسين بن علي بن أبي طالب‎‎; 8 January 626 – 10 October 680) (3rd/4th Sha'aban 4 AH – 10th Muharram 61 AH), also spelled as Husain, Hussain or Hussein, was the son of Ali ibn Abi Ṭalib (fourth Rashidun Caliph of Sunni Islam, and first Imam of Shia Islam) and Fatimah Zahra (daughter of Muhammad) and the younger brother of Hasan ibn Ali. Husayn is an important figure in Islam, as he is a member of the Ahl al-Bayt (the household of Muhammad) and Ahl al-Kisa, as well as being the third Shia Imam.

Hussain became the Shia Imam and the head of Banu Hashim after death of his older brother, Hasan ibn Ali, in 670 (50 AH). His father's supporters (Shi'a Ali) in Kufa gave their allegiance to him. However, he told he still bound to the peace treaty between Hasan and Muawiyah I and they should wait until Muawiyah was alive. Later, Hussain did not accept the request of Muawiyah for the succession of his son, Yazid I, and considered this action as the breach of the Hasan–Muawiya treaty.[6] When Muawiyah I died in 680, Husayn refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid I, who had just appointed as Umayyad caliph by Muawiyah, because he considered Umayyads as oppressive and religiously misguided regime. He insisted on his legitimacy based on his own special position as a direct descendant of Muhammad and his legitimate legatees. As a consequence, he left Medina, his home town, to take refuge in Mecca in 60 AH.[6][7] There, the people of Kufa sent letters to him, asking his help and pledging their allegiance to him. So he traveled towards Kufa.[6] At a place near Kufa, known as Karbala, his caravan was intercepted by Yazid I's army. He was killed and beheaded in the Battle of Karbala on 10 October 680 (10 Moḥarram 61) by Shimr Ibn Thil-Jawshan, along with most of his family and companions.[8]

Anger at Husayn's death was turned into a rallying cry that helped undermine the Umayyad Caliphate legitimacy and ultimately overthrow the Umayyad Caliphate by Abbasid Revolution.[9][10]

Husayn is highly regarded by Shia Muslims because he refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid I,[11] the Umayyad caliph, because he considered the rule of the Umayyads unjust.[11] The annual memorial for him, his family, his children and his companions is called Ashura (tenth day of Muharram) and is a day of mourning for Shiite Muslims. His action at Karbala fueled the later Shiite movements.[10]

Early life[edit]

The painting by commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husayn at the Battle of Karbala, its focus is his half brother Abbas ibn Ali on a white horse [12]
A Quran written by Imam Hussain ibn Ali, from over 1300 years ago

According to most reports, Husayn was born on 8 January 626 CE (3 / 5 Sha'aban 4 AH).[6] Husayn and his brother Hasan were the last descendants of Muhammad living during his lifetime and remaining after his death. There are many accounts of his love for them which refer to them together.[6]

Muhammad is reported to have said that "He who loves me and loves these two, their father and their mother, will be with me at my place on the Day of Resurrection."[13] and that "Hussain is of me and I am his. Allah loves those who love Hussain. Hussain is a grandson among grandsons."[13] A narration declares them the "Masters of the Youth of Paradise"; this has been particularly important for the Shia who have used it in support of the right of Muhammad's descendants to succeed him. Other traditions record Muhammad with his grandsons on his knees, on his shoulders, and even on his back during prayer at the moment of prostrating himself, when they were young.[14]

According to Wilferd Madelung, Muhammad loved them and declared them as his Ahl al-Bayt very frequently.[15] According to popular Sunni belief, it refers to the household of Muhammad. Shia popular view is the members of Muhammad's family that were present at the incident of Mubahala. According to Muhammad Baqir Majlisi who compiled Bihar al-Anwar, a collection of ahadith, Chapter 46 Verse 15 (Al-Ahqaf) and Chapter 89 Verses 27-30 (Al-Fajr) of the Quran are regarding Husayn ibn-Ali.

The incident of Mubahala[edit]

Main article: Event of Mubahala

In the year 10 AH (631/32 CE) a Christian envoy from Najran (now in northern Yemen) came to Muhammad to argue which of the two parties erred in its doctrine concerning Isa (Jesus). After likening Jesus' miraculous birth to Adam's (Adem) creation,[a]—who was born to neither a mother nor a father — and when the Christians did not accept the Islamic doctrine about Jesus, Muhammad was instructed to call them to Mubahala where each party should ask God to destroy the false party and their families.[16][17] If anyone dispute with you in this matter [concerning Jesus] after the knowledge which has come to you, say: Come let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then let us swear an oath and place the curse of God on those who lie.[b][16][18] Sunnite historians, except Tabari who do not name the participants, mention Muhammad, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn, and some agree with the Shia tradition that Ali was also among the participants in this event on the side of Muhammad. Accordingly, in the verse of Mubahala the words "Our sons" is representative of Hasan and Husayn; "our women" would refer to Fatimah; and "ourselves" would be "Ali".[16][18]

Husayn and caliphate[edit]

Muawiyah, the governor of Levant, who had refused Ali's demands for allegiance, has long been in fight with him.[19] However, when Ali was assassinated and people gave allegiance to Hasan, Muawiyah prepared to fight with him. The battle led to inconclusive skirmishes between the armies of Hasan and Muawiyah. To avoid the agonies of another civil war, Hasan signed the Hasan–Muawiya treaty with Muawiyah, according to which Muawiyah wouldn't name a successor during his reign and let the Islamic world choose their successor after the latter.[20]

Muawiyah's era[edit]

See also: Muawiyah I and Umayyad

According to the Shia, Husayn was the third Imam for a period of ten years after the death of his brother Hasan in 669. All of this time but the last six months coinciding with the caliphate of Muawiyah.[21] After the peace treaty with Hasan, Muawiyah set out with his troops to Kufa, where at a public surrender ceremony Hasan rose and reminded the people that he and Husayn were the only grandsons of Muhammad. And that he had surrendered the reign to Muawiyah in the best interest of the community: "0 people, surely it was God who led you by the first of us and Who has spared you bloodshed by the last of us. I have made peace with Mu'awiyah, and I know not whether haply this be not for your trial, and that ye may enjoy yourselves for a time.[c][22] declared Hasan.[20]

In the nine-year period between Hasan's abdication in 41/660 and his death in 49/669, Hasan and Husayn retired in Medina trying to keep aloof from political involvement for or against Muawiyah.[20][23]

Shiite feelings, however, though not visible above the surface, occasionally emerged in the form of small groups, mostly from Kufa, visiting Hasan and Husayn asking them to be their leaders - a request to which they declined to respond.[16] Even ten years later, after the death of Hasan, when Iraqis turned to his younger brother, Husayn, concerning an uprising, Husayn instructed them to wait as long as Muawiyah was alive due to Hasan's peace treaty with him.[20] Later on, however, and before his death, Muawiyah named his son Yazid as his successor.[6]

Yazid's rule[edit]

One of the important points of the treaty made between Hasan and Muawiyah was that Muawiyah not designate anyone as his successor after his death; the choice was left to the Ummah (the Nation). But after the death of Hasan, Muawiyah, thinking that no one would be courageous enough to object his decision as the Caliph, designated his son, Yazid I, as his successor in 680 CE, breaking the treaty.[24] Robert Payne quotes Muawiyah in History of Islam as telling his son Yazid to defeat Husayn, who was surely preparing an army against him, but to deal with him gently thereafter as Husayn was a descendent of Muhammad; but to deal with Abdullah al-Zubair swiftly, as Muawiyah feared him the most.[25]


In April 680, Yazid I succeeded his father Muawiyah as the new caliph. Yazid immediately instructed the governor of Medina to compel Hussayn and few other prominent figures to pledge their allegiance (Bay'ah).[6] Husain, however, refrained from it believing that Yazid was openly going against the teachings of Islam in public and changing the sunnah of Muhammad.[26][27] In his view the integrity and survival of the Islamic community depended on the re-establishment of the correct guidance.[28] He, therefore, accompanied by his household, his sons, brothers, and the sons of Hasan left Medina to seek asylum in Mecca.[6]

While in Mecca Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, Abdullah ibn Umar and Abdullah ibn Abbas advised Husayn bin Ali to make Mecca his base and fight against Yazid from Mecca.[29] On the other hand, the people in Kufa who were informed about Muawiyah 's death, sent letters urging Husayn to join them and pledge to support him against Umayyads. Husayn wrote back to them saying that he would send his cousin Muslim ibn Aqeel to report to him on the situation. If he found them united as their letters indicated he would speedily join them, because Imam should act in accordance with the Quran, uphold justice, proclaim the truth, and dedicate himself to the cause of God.[6] The mission of Moslem was initially successful and according to reports 18,000 men pledged their allegiance. But situation changed radically when Yazid appointed Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad as the new governor of Kufa, ordering him to deal severely with Ibn Aqeel. Before news of the adverse turn of events arrived in Mecca, Husayn set out for Kufa.[6]

On the way, Husayn found that his messenger, Muslim ibn Aqeel, was killed in Kufa. He broke the news to his supporters and informed them that people had deserted him. Then, he encouraged anyone who so wished, to leave freely without guilt. Most of those who had joined him at various stages on the way from Mecca now left him.[6]

Battle of Karbala[edit]

The painting by commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husayn at the Battle of Karbala, its focus is his half brother Abbas ibn Ali on a white horse [12]
Main article: Battle of Karbala

On his path towards Kufa, Husayn encountered with the army of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad in his path towards Kufa. Husayn addressed the Kufans army, reminding them that they had invited him to come because they were without an Imam. He told them that he intended to proceed to Kufa with their support, but if they were now opposed to his coming, he would return to where he had come from. However, the army urged him to choose another way. Thus, he turned to left and reached Karbala, where the army forced him not to go further and stop at a location that was without water.[6]

Umar ibn Sa'ad, the head of Kufan army, sent a messenger to Husayn to inquire about the purpose of his coming to Iraq. Husayn answered again that he had responded to the invitation of the people of Kufa but was ready to leave if they now disliked his presence. When Umar ibn Sa'ad, the head of Kufan army, reported it back to Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, the governor instructed him to offer Ḥusayn and his supporters the opportunity to swear allegiance to Yazid. He also ordered Umar ibn Sa'ad to cut off Husayn and his followers from access to the water of the Euphrates.[6] On the next morning, as ʿOmar b. Saʿd arranged the Kufan army in battle order, Al-Hurr ibn Yazid al Tamimi challenged him and went over to Ḥusayn. He vainly addressed the Kufans, rebuking them for their treachery to the grandson of Muhammad and was killed in the battle.[6]

Khema-gah, Memorial at Imam Husain Camp location, Karbala

The Battle of Karbala lasted from morning till sunset of October 10, 680 (Muharram 10, 61 AH) all Husayn's small group of companions and family members (in total who were around 72 men and few ladies and children)[d][31][32] fought with a large army under the command of Umar ibn Sa'ad. and were killed near the river (Euphrates) where they were not allowed to get any water from. The renowned historian Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī states; "… then fire was set to their camp and the bodies were trampled by the hoofs of the horses; nobody in the history of the human kind has seen such atrocities."[33] Once the Umayyad troops had mass murdered Husayn and his male followers, they looted the tents, stripped the women of their jewelry, and took the skin upon which Zain al-Abidin was prostrate. It is said that Shemr was about to kill him but Husayn’s sister Zaynab was able to make Umar ibn Sa'ad, the Umayyad commander to let him alive. He was taken along with the enslaved women to the caliph in Damascus, and eventually he was allowed to return to Medina.[34][35]


When Husayn was killed in Karbala, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr the grandson of Abu Bakr and the cousin of Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr collected the people of Mecca and made the following speech:

"O people! No other people are worse than Iraqis and among the Iraqis, the people of Kufa are the worst. They repeatedly wrote letters and called Imam Husayn to them and took bay'at (allegiance) for his caliphate. But when Ibn Zeyad arrived in Kufa, they rallied around him and killed Imam Husayn who was pious, observed the fast, read the Quran and deserved the caliphate in all respects" [36]

After his speech, the people of Mecca also joined Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr to take on Yazid. When he heard about this, Yazid had a silver chain made and sent to Mecca with the intention of having Walid ibn Utbah arrest Ibn al-Zubair with it[36]

Eventually Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr consolidated his power by sending a governor to Kufa. Soon, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr established his power in Iraq, southern Arabia and in the greater part of Syria, and parts of Egypt. Yazid tried to end Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr's rebellion by invading the Hejaz, and took Medina after the bloody Battle of al-Harrah followed by the siege of Makkah but his sudden death ended the campaign and threw the Umayyads into disarray with civil war eventually breaking out.

This essentially split the Islamic empire into two spheres with two different caliphs, but soon the Umayyad civil war was ended, and Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr lost Egypt and whatever he had of Syria to Marwan I. This coupled with the Kharijite rebellions in Iraq reduced his domain to only the Hejaz.

In Mecca and Medina Husayn's family had a strong support base the people were willing to stand up for them. Husayn's remaining family moved back to Medina.

Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was the grandson of Abu Bakr and the cousin of Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr. Both Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr were Aisha's nephews. Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr was also the grandfather of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq.

Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was finally defeated by Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who sent Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. Hajjaj defeated and killed Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr on the battlefield in 692, beheading him and crucifying his body, reestablishing Umayyad control over the Empire.

A few years later the people of Kufa called Zayd ibn Ali the grandson of Husayn over to Kufa. Zaydis believe that on the last hour of Zayd ibn Ali, Zayd ibn Ali was also betrayed by the people in Kufa who said to him: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?" Zayd ibn Ali said, "I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them...when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah."[37][38][39][40]

Burial site[edit]

Shia view[edit]

Husayn's body is buried in Karbala, near the site of his death. His head is said to have been returned from Damascus and interred with his body.[41] Shia/Fatimid believe that Husayn's head was first buried in the courtyard of yezid mahal (Umayyad Mosque), then transferred from Damascus to Ashkelon to Cairo.

Husayn's grave became the most visited place of Ziyarat for Shias. The Imam Husayn Shrine was later built over his grave. In 850 Abbasid caliph, al-Mutawakkil, destroyed his shrine in order to stop Shia pilgrimages. However, pilgrimages continued.[42]

Shias have a very important book or letter from God about Husayn ibn Ali which is called Ziyarat Ashura. Most of the Shias believe that Ziyarat Ashura is a Hadith-e-Qudsi (the 'word of Allah')[43][dubious ]

Return of the head of Husayn to his body[edit]

Several Shia and Sunni sources confirm the return of Husayn's head to his body in Karbala. According to Shaykh Saduq, Husayn's son, Ali ibn Husayn, took it back from Shaam and returned it to Karbala.[44] Fetal Neyshabouri and Majlesi have confirmed this in their books, Rouzato-Waisin and Bihar al-Anwar respectively.[45][46] Sharif al-Murtaza also mentions this in his book Rasaael.[47] Ibn shahrashub verifies Sharif al-Murtaza stating the same thing about the head of Husayn. He also narrates Shaykh Tusi that this event, i.e. returning the head to the body, happened forty days after Ashura and it is for this reason, there are specific rituals for this day.[48] This day is recognized by Shias and is known as Arba'een. Similar statements are documented by Shia scholars e.g. Ahmad ibn Tawoos[49] and Muhaqeq Helli.[50]Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī in his book The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries has stated that Husayn's head was returned to his body and was buried altogether on 20th of the lunar month of Safar (Arba'een).[51] There is no certainty about what Islamic sect Biruni believed in. Similar statement is mentioned by Sunni scholar Zakariya al-Qazwini, in his book ʿAjā'ib al-makhlūqāt wa gharā'ib al-mawjūdāt.[52] Qurtobi narrates from Shias on the return of the head to the body on Arba'een.[53]

Transfer of the head of Husayn in Fatimid belief[edit]


The Zarih of Husayn in Imam Husayn Shrine Karbala
The Shrine of Husayn's head in Umayyad Mosque, Damascus
The place where Husayn's head is kept, Umayyad Mosque, Damascus
Muslim pilgrims to the Shrine of Seyid Hussein, Ashkelon, April 1943.
The Mimbar of Imam Husain mashhad of Ashkelon now placed at the Ibrahimi Mosque, Hebron
An Inscription on the Mimbar Ibrahimi Mosque at Hebron
The Zarih of Husayn's head in Al-Hussein Mosque, Cairo
Believed by the Fatimids to be the burial place of Husayn's head in Ashkelon, Israel

On the second day after the battle of Karbala, the forces of Yazid I raised the head of Husayn on a lance. They took it to Kufa to present it to Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa, leaving behind the mutilated body of Husayn. According to a popular belief, the headless body was thus buried there by the tribe of Bani Assad, who were living in the vicinity of Karbala. However, according to the Shia belief that the body of an Imam is only buried by an Imam,[55][56][57] Husayn ibn Ali's body was buried by his son, Ali Ibn Husayn.[58] After the exhibition and display of the head of Husayn, ibn Ziyad dispatched it to Damascus to be presented to Yazid as a trophy.

Yazid celebrated the occasion with great pomp and show by displaying the head of Husayn in his crowded and decorated court. The head was then buried in a niche of one of the internal walls of Jame-Masjid, Damascus, Syria. Afterwards, the head of Husayn remained confiscated and confined in Damascus by the order of the Umayyad monarch, Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik (d.86/705), in this condition for about two hundred twenty years.

When the Abbasids took power from the Umayyads, in the garb of taking revenge of Ahl al-Bayt, they also confiscated the head Husayn and proved to be worse enemies than the Umayyads. It was the Abbasid emperor Al-Muqtadir (d. 295/908), an enemy of the Ahl al-Bayt He attempted many times to stop the pilgrimage to the head, but in vain. He thus tried to completely eliminate the sign of the sacred place of Ziyarat; he transferred the head of Husayn to Ashkelon (located 10 km (6.2 mi) from the Gaza Strip and 58 km (36 mi) south of Tel Aviv, Israel) in secrecy, so that the pilgrims could not find the place.

It was the 15th Fatimid/Ismaili/Dawoodi Bohra Imam Abu Mansoor Nizar al-Aziz Billah (d.386 AH/996) who traced the site of the head of his great-grandfather through the office of his contemporary in Baghdad, in 985. In the city of Ashkelon, Israel, it remained buried at "Baab al Faradis", for a long time (about 250 years up to 1153).

Commander of the Fatimid forces Dai Badrul’jamali (d. 487/1095) conquered Palestine, during the period of 18th Fatimid Imam Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah (d. 487/1094). The Fatimid Imam assigned him to discover the head of Husayn ibn Ali. The Dai, in 448 (A.H) discovered the place of Raas al Imam al Husayn.

Under the instructions of the Fatimid Imam Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah, Badr al-Jamali constructed a mosque and donated several huge properties to meet the expenditure of the 'Trust', so as to maintain the affairs of the Mashhad the place of burial. He also prepared a wooden minbar (pulpit) and placed it in the mosque, where Raas al Imam al Husayn was buried. This minbar bears the historical account which is engraved in Arabi Fatemi Kufic script about the Raas al Imam al Husayn.

The following part of text is a translation of the Arabic inscriptions, which is still preserved on the Fatimid minbar:

".. among the miracles, a major glory with the wishes of Allah, is the recovery of the Head .. Imam.. Husain .. which was at the place of Ashkelon, .. hidden by the tyrants... .. Allah has promised to reveal.. wishes to hide it from the show it to Awliya ... to relieve the heart of ‘Devotees’ of Imam Husain, as Allah knew their pure heartedness in Walayat and Deen.

... May Allah keep for long our Moula .. Al Mustansir’billah.. .The .. Commander of the forces.. the Helper of Imam.. the leader of Do’at .. Badr al Mustansari has discovered Raas al Imam al Husain in Imam Mustansir’s period, and has taken it out from its hidden place. He specially built a Minbar for the Mashhad, at the place where this sacred Head lay buried. ..

He (..Badrul’jamali) constructed this building ..the revenue from which is to be spent only on this Mashhad ... ."[59]

The shrine was described as the most magnificent building in Ashkelon.[60] In the British Mandate period it was a "large maqam on top of a hill" with no tomb but a fragment of a pillar showing the place where the head had been buried.[61]

After the 21st Fatimid Imam At-Tayyib Abi l-Qasim went into seclusion, his uncle, Abd al Majid occupied the throne of the Fatimid Empire. Fearing disrespect and the atrocities of the traitors and enemies, the Majidi-monarch, Al-Zafir, ordered the transfer of the head to Qahera. The W’ali of the city of Ashkelon, Al Amir Sayf al Mamlaka Tamim along with the custodian of the Mashhad, Qazi Mohammad bin Miskin, took out the buried casket of Raas al Imam al Husayn from the Mashhad, and with due respect and great reverence, on Sunday 8 Jumada al-Thani, 548 (31 August 1153) carried the head from the city of Ashkelon to Qahera, Egypt. Syedi Hasan bin Asad (Hir’az, Yemen) discussed this event in his Risalah manuscript as follows: "When the Raas (head) al Imam al Husain was taken out of the casket, in Ashkelon, drops of the fresh blood were visible on the Raas al Imam al Husain and the fragrance of Musk spread all over."

Historians, Al-Maqrizi, Ahmad al-Qalqashandi, and Ibn Muyassar (d.1278) have mentioned that the casket reached Qahera on Tuesday 10 Jumada al-Thani (2 September 1153). Ust’ad Maknun accompanied it in one of the service boats which landed at the Kafuri (Garden). Buried there in the place known "Qubbat al Daylam" or "Turbat al Zafr’an" (currently known as "Al Mashhad al Husain", wherein lie buried underground thirteen Fatimid Imams from 9th Muhammad at-Taqi to 20th Al-Amir bi-Ahkami l-Lah). This place is also known as "B’ab Makhallif’at al Rasul" and located in Al-Hussein Mosque.

During the golden era of the Fatimid Caliphate, on the day of Ashurah, every year the people of Egypt from far and near used to gather and offer sacrifices of camels, cows, goats in the name of Allah, recite Marsiyah-elegies on the Ahl al Bait and the Ans’ar of Husayn and pronounced L’anat (curse) loudly on Yazid, Shimr Ibn Thil-Jawshan, ibn Ziyad and other murderers of Husayn. During the tenure of Saladin, all Marasim al Az’a or mourning commemorations for Husayn were declared officially banned as they were considered Bid‘ah.

The Mamluk historian of Egypt, Mohiyuddin Abd al Zahir (d. 1292) wrote:

"When Salahuddin came to power he seized all the Palaces of the Aimmat Fatemiyeen and looted their properties and treasures. He destroyed the valuable and rare collection of the hundred thousands books, available in libraries, in the river Nile. When he learnt through his intelligence.. that one of the.. custodians of Raas al Imam al Husain.. was highly respected by the people of ..Qahera, he surmised that perhaps he .. be aware of ..treasures of the Aimmat Fatemiyeen. Salahuddin issued orders to present him in his court. He inquired of him ..of the Fatemi..treasures. The nobleman flatly denied ..about the treasures. Salahuddin was angered, and ordered his intelligence .. to ask him through ‘third-degree-torture’, but the nobleman bore ..torture and repeated ..statement. .. Salahuddin ordered his soldiers to put a cap containing Centipedes on the head of the nobleman. ..such type of punishment was so severe and unbearable..none could survive even for a few minutes. Prior to putting the Cap of Centipedes on the head, his hair was shaved, to make it easy for the Centipedes to suck blood, which in turn made holes in skull. But! In spite of that punishment the noble custodian of Husain’s Head..felt no pain at all. Salahuddin ordered for more Centipedes to be put on .. but it could not kill or pain him. Finally Salahuddin Ayyubi ordered for a tight cap full of Centipedes .. to accomplish the result. Even this method could not torture or kill him. The Ayyubid brutes were greatly astounded further when they saw, on removing the cap, the Centipedes were dead. Salahuddin asked the nobleman to reveal the secret of this miracle. The nobleman revealed as follow: “When Raas al Imam al Husain was brought to Qasar, Al Moizziyat al Qahera, he had carried the casket on his head. ‘O Salahuddin! This is the secret of my safety."

The burial place is now also known as Raous (head)-us-Husain, A silver Zarih (Maqsurah) is made on the place by Dawoodi Bohra Dai, and the place is visited regularly by all Shia. The presentation of the Maqsurah is also unique in the history of loyalty and faithfulness. The Maqsurah of Raas al Imam al Husain was originally constructed for the Al Abbas Mosque at Karbala, Iraq. When this Maqsurah reached the mosque of Al-Abbas ibn Ali it would not fit on the place. The size of the Maqsurah and the site of the fitting place differed at the time of fitting, although every technical aspects and measurements of the site were taken into account very precisely. The engineers were astonished, as what had happened, although every minute detail was handled very professionally. The loyalty of Al-Abbas ibn Ali was also witnessed on that day too, as it had been witnessed on the day of Aashurah. There a divine guidance came to the effect by way of intuition that a sincere, faithful, loyal and devoted brother could not tolerate, that the head of Muhammad's grandson, Husayn, buried in Al Qahera, Egypt, should be without a Maqsurah, thus how could he accept this gift for himself. Hence even after Shahadat, Al-Abbas ibn Ali paid his tribute to Husayn and presented his own Maqsurah for Raas (head) al Imam al Husain. When this above-mentioned Maqsurah was brought from Karbala, Iraq to Al Moizziyat al Qahera, Egypt, it fitted upon the original position of the grave known as Mashhad of Raas al Imam al Husain in such a manner, as if it had been fabricated for Raas al Imam al Husain itself.

Arab traveler Ibne Batuta also wrote in his safarname (rihla) that, after the incident of Karbala the head of Husain was in the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. From there it was taken and buried in Ashkelon. During the crusade the Fatimid ruler of Egypt exhumed the head and brought it to Egypt. Thereafter the head of Husain was buried again in the al Qarrafa graveyard in Cairo. The site of the graveyard became the mausoleum called Raasul Husain (inside Al-Hussein Mosque).[62]

During the period of Saladin, and by his order, the minbar made by Dai Badr-ul Jamali was transferred from Ashkelon to the Masjid Khalil al Rahman (Cave of the Patriarchs), Hebron in the West Bank, Palestinian territories. Saladin did not know that this minbar contained an inscription showing the history of Husayn. The 51st al Dai al Fatemi/Dawoodi Bohra, Taher Saifuddin (d.1385/1965) got the honour to visit Masjid Khalil al Rahman, and he discovered the Fatamid minbar, one thousand years after the seclusion of the Fatamid Imams.

The Masjid of the Ashkelon known as "Masjid Al Mashhad al Husain" was blown up deliberately as part of a broader operation of defence force in 1950 at the instructions of Moshe Dayan, but the devotees of Ahl al Bait did not forget it.[63]

A few years ago, the 52nd Fatamid/Ismaili/Mustali/Dawoodi Bohra Dai Mohammed Burhanuddin, built a marble platform, as per traditional Fatimid architectural design, at the site, on the ground behind the Barzilai Hospital, Ashkelon and since then thousands of devotees have come from across the world, year round to pay tribute to Husayn.[64]


Husayn ibn Ali was the son of Ali, Muhammad's cousin, and his wife Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad from his first wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. Husayn ibn Ali and his brother Hasan ibn Ali were regarded by Muhammad as his own sons due to his love for them and as they were the sons of his daughter Fatima and he regarded her children and descendants as his own children and descendants, and he said "Every mothers children are associated with their father except for the children of Fatima for I am their father and lineage" Thus only the descendants of Fatima are the descendants and progeny of Muhammad and his Ahlul Bayt.

Commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali[edit]

Mourning of Muharram in cities and villages of Iran
See also: Arba'een and Hussainia

The Day of Ashura is commemorated by the Shia society as a day of mourning for the death of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala. The commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali has become a national holiday and all ethnic and religious communities participate in it.

Some say that a pilgrimage to Karbala and Husayn's shrine therein has the merit of a thousand pilgrimages to Mecca, of a thousand martyrdoms, and of a thousand days fasting.[65]

Views of Husayn[edit]

The effect of the events in Karbala on Muslims has been deep and is beyond the passion in Shiʿism. While the intent of the major players in the act has often been debated, it is clear that Ḥusayn cannot be viewed as simply a rebel risking his and his family’s lives for his personal ambition. He kept his oath of allegiance to Muawiyah I despite his disapproval of his conduct. He did not pledge allegiance to Yazid, who had been chosen as successor by Muawiyah in violation of his treaty with Hasan ibn Ali. Yet he also did not actively seek martyrdom and offered to leave Iraq once it became clear that he no longer had any support in Kufa. His initial determination to follow the invitation of the Kufan Shiʿites in spite of the numerous warnings he received depicts a religious conviction of a mission that left him no choice, whatever the outcome. He has said:

...Dying with honor is better than living with dishonor[66]

In culture[edit]

Historian Edward Gibbon was touched by Husayn, describing the events at Karbala as "a tragedy".[67][68] According to historian Syed Akbar Hyder, Mahatma Gandhi attributed the historical progress of Islam, to the "sacrifices of Muslim saints like Husayn" rather than military force.[69]

The traditional narration "Every day is Ashura and every land is Karbala!" is used by the Shia as a mantra to live their lives as Husayn did on Ashura, i.e. with complete sacrifice for God and for others. The saying is also intended to signify that what happened on Ashura in Karbala must always be remembered as part of suffering everywhere.


See also[edit]

Quotations related to Imam Husayn at Wikiquote


  1. ^ Quran, 3: 59
  2. ^ Quran, 3: 61
  3. ^ Quran, 21:111
  4. ^ Except his young son, Ali, who was severely ill during that battle.[30]


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  27. ^ Al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah [2]
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  31. ^ "در روز عاشورا چند نفر شهید شدند؟". 
  32. ^ "فهرست اسامي شهداي كربلا". Retrieved 2012-06-30. 
  33. ^ Chelkowski, Peter J. (1979). Ta'ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran. New York. p. 2. 
  34. ^ Madelung, Wilferd. "ʿALĪ B. ḤOSAYN B. ʿALĪ B. ABĪ ṬĀLEB". ENCYCLOPÆDIA IRANICA. Retrieved August 1, 2011. 
  35. ^ Donaldson, Dwight M. (1933). The Shi'ite Religion: A History of Islam in Persia and Irak. BURLEIGH PRESS. pp. 101–111. 
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  40. ^ The Encyclopedia of Religion Vol.16, Mircea Eliade, Charles J. Adams, Macmillan, 1987, p243. "They were called "Rafida by the followers of Zayd"
  41. ^ Halm (2004), pp. 15 and 16
  42. ^ Halm (2004), p. 15
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  44. ^ Amali of Shaykh Sadouq, Majlis 31, p. 232
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  63. ^ Meron Rapoport, History Erased, Haaretz, 5 July 2007. [4]
  64. ^ Sacred Surprise behind Israel Hospital, by; Batsheva Sobelmn, special Los Angeles Times
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External links[edit]

Husayn ibn Ali
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Clan of the Quraish
Born: 3rd Sha‘bān 4 AH 11 January 626 CE Died: 10th Muharram 61 AH 13 October 680 CE
Shia Islam titles
Preceded by
Hasan ibn Ali
Disputed by Nizari
2nd Imam of Ismaili Shia

3rd Imam of Sevener, Twelver, and Zaydi Shia

Succeeded by
‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn
Succeeded by
Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah
Kaysanites successor