This is exactly what we expect when we read or write about any member of the blessed Ahlul-Bayt or the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Even the term Ahlul-Bayt which literally means; ‘the household’ or ‘the family’ and can thus refer to any family; it has become uniquely referring to them when used in this absolute and general form indicating that they are ‘the family’ or ‘the household’. Just like their leader or father, the Best of Creation is the Prophet, they are the Family. Ahlul-Bayt have always been the guides of this community since the demise of the Prophet (peace be upon him); they are the rope to salvation and the ship that delivers the ummah to safety. Jabir b. ‘Abdillah narrated, “I saw the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) at the back of his camel Al-Qaṣwā’ on the day of ‘Arafah in his Hajj and heard him saying: ‘O People! I will leave after me things which if you attach yourself with, you will never go astray; the Book of Allah and my close family who are my household.”[iii]
[They are] a ship to salvation when,
You are fearful of the floods of evil
So, gain safety by taking it and do not stay behind
And seek the help of God in all affairs
One of the blessed pillars of the household is one of the two grandsons of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him); that is Imam Al-Ḥusayn son of ‘Ali b. Abi Ṭalib and As-Sayyidah Faṭima daughter of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him). Imam Al-Ḥusayn was born in Sha‘bā in the fourth year after the Hijrah and on his seventh day, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) gave an amount of silver equal to the weight of his hair as a charity and asked to see him saying: Show me my son. It was the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who gave him his name and it seems that because of this he was very similar to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in his features. He was of great nobility, immense devotion and worship and remarkable character.
Imam Al-Ḥusayn witnessed in his lifetime his grandfather spreading his light on mankind and guiding them to Allah, standing up for truth and helping the oppressed. He also witnessed his father’s bravery and nobility. It was his father who slept in the bed of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) on the night of Hijrah and stood up to fight ‘Amr b. Wudd the icon of bravery and the exemplary knight of Arabs at that time. He also saw his mother, the mistress of all women of mankind Faṭimah Az-Zahra (peace be upon her)[v] standing beside her husband and serving her family in absolute humbleness while she was the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him). This filled the heart of Imam Al-Ḥusayn with all these noble qualities of bravery, standing up for justice and against oppression and oppressors.
When the days of trouble came later on in his life, Imam Al-Ḥusayn had to bury his father who was assassinated by one of the kharijites and later on had to bury his older brother Imam Al-Ḥasan who poisoned by the enemies of Ahlul-Bayt; by people whose main focus was power and, in their march towards it, they did not care even about the family of their Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Imam Al-Ḥasan was poisoned although he gave up the position of caliphate in order to reunite the ummah that was scattered by political differences. He gave up the position he deserved for a better position that is to protect the ummah and unite the hearts of Muslims; this sense of sacrifice was but a way of following the example of his grandfather and his father.
However, things got worse when Yazid b. Mu‘āwiyyah became the caliph and evil shone on the whole ummah. Imam Al-Ḥusayn who was trying to avoid all the troubles received messages from the people of Kuffa city giving him their pledge of allegiance and asking him to travel to them to become the caliph. Sending his cousin Muslim b. ‘Aqil b. Abi Talib to them, Imam Al-Ḥusayn wanted to make sure that their invitation is genuine and their messages are true. Muslim b. ‘Aqil who left to Kuffa was betrayed by its people and left along with thirty people only who even diminished to no one to be arrested by the newly appointed governor of Kuffa ‘Ubaydillah b. Ziyād. After being promised that he will not be killed and realising that the promise is fake, Muslim cried and said: By Allah, I am not crying for myself; rather, crying for my family who are coming to join me; crying for the family of Al-Ḥasan and Al-Ḥusayn.[vi]
While Muslim b. ‘Aqil was killed in Kuffa, Imam Al-Ḥussayn, who received another group of invitations and assurance to come to Kuffa, was on his way with just above eighty individuals. Upon his arrival to the land of Iraq and meeting some army leaders sent to him by Ibn Ziyād, Imam Al-Ḥusayn offered them three options; either to allow him to go to Yazid and speak to him face to face or to let him go back to where he came from or to let him move to the borders and spend the rest of his life guarding the Muslim lands. ‘Ubaydullah b. Ziyād refused the three offers and insisted on fighting him.
The tragic killing of Imam Al-Ḥusayn (peace be upon him) shows not only the ugly face of his murders, the plots prepared for the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) but also unveils the bravery of the men and the women of Ahlul-Bayt. On the verge of the death which was even seen in a dream by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas who saw the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) carrying a bottle full of blood and saying: I am picking up the blood of Al-Ḥusayn, the Imam (peace be upon him) said:
O life! What an unpleasant friend!
How often at day beginning and at its end,
Many friends and noble men are killed,
And you never accept a substitute for them,
Yet, all affairs belong to the Mighty One.
And every human has to tread this path one day
Seventeen men of the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were killed with Al-Ḥusayn (peace be upon him) amongst whom was his first son ‘Ali. His sister Sayyida Zaynab (peace be upon her) stood up in absolute bravery against Yazid after the death of her brother Imam Al-Ḥusayn and protected her other nephew ‘Ali known as Zayn Al-‘Ābidīn (peace be upon him).
After all these many years which witnessed even many more killings of members of Ahlul-Bayt like Mowlay Idris the founder of Fez and Muḥammad b. ‘Abdillah known as An-Nafs Az-Zakiyyah[vii], Ahlul-Bayt continued to guide the ummah and lead it back to its Lord. They continued the path of knowledge and righteousness bearing in mind that it is their responsibility to look after people whether they are in the position of physical and political leadership or not; spiritual leadership is greater than anything else. The ummah continues to learn and benefit from Ahlul-Bayt who were described by their grandfather (peace and blessings be upon him) as the companions of the Qur’an; they are inseparable from the book of guidance and truth because they are the bearers of guidance and truth. May Allah bless the soul of Imam Al-Ḥusayn and allow us to benefit from his example.
[i] Prophet’s Family
[ii] Al-Itḥāf bi Ḥubbil Ashrāf by Shaykhul-Islam ‘Abdullah Ash-Shabrawi (1091 – 1175 AH)
[iii] At-Tirmidhi; Chapter on the Merits of Ahlul-Bayt
[iv] Collection of poems
[v] Imam Al-Bukhari always mentions the statement ‘peace be upon him/her’ next to the names of Imam ‘Ali, Sayyidah Fatimah, Imam Al-Ḥasan and Imam Al-Ḥusayn
[vi] Maqātil Aṭ-Ṭalibiyyīn by Abil-Faraj Al-Aṣfahāni
[vii] Literally means ‘the pure soul’