The Sacrifice of Husain
By Aamir Raza Husain
Nov 23, 2012
On Ashoor, the tenth of Muharram, Muslims all over the world mourn the tragic martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson who was massacred with his family and friends by Yazid, son of Mu’awiyah, all those years ago in the seventh century BCE.
This day, many people of other faiths unite with Hanafi and Maliki, Shia and Sunni, to mourn the death of Husain. Imam Husain taught us to be prepared to lay down our lives to protect dharma, not to take innocent lives. He came from a lineage where sacrifice was a way of life. He had learnt its significance on his grandfather’s knee.
After the Prophet’s death, he saw his mother being traumatised by votaries of her father. She died of a fatal wound received when her house was attacked and her door burnt down. He witnessed the assassination of his father Imam Ali, while he led the Morning Prayer in the mosque of Kufa. He stood at the bedside of his brother Imam Hasan, while he painfully succumbed to the effects of poison administered to him at the behest of Mu’awiyah. These were the first attacks of terror in Islam.
So, on the tenth of Muharram - 680 BCE when 72 of his family and friends faced the savage hordes of Yazid on the burning sands of Karbala - it seemed the culmination of a long tradition of sacrifice. In acts of extreme cowardice, the forces of Yazid first stopped food and water to the Imam’s camp. Seven days later, they massacred the thirsty Imam and his companions, pillaged their possessions, burnt their tents, and imprisoned their women and children.
Tales of Valour
So, from the first day of Muharram, every year, stories of Husain’s courage and tales of his family’s valour are retold and they bring tears to millions of compassionate eyes. The courage of the Imam’s young son Ali Akbar, the heroism of his nephew Qasim, the gallantry of his sister Zainab’s children Aun and Muhammad and the daring accounts of his companions, Habib, Zohair, Saeed, John et al, follow heart wrenching accounts of the thirst of Ali Asghar, Husain’s six-month-old baby shot by Hurmullah, a soldier of Yazid’s army.
Cry of Thirst
But the most heroic, the boldest and the most daring account must be that of Qamar-i-bani Hashim Abul Fazlil Abbas, Husain’s stepbrother, the commander of his army, the protector of his family, the custodian of his name. Abbas lost both his hands and then his life in an attempt to carry a water bag to the thirsty children of Husain.
Unable to see the suffering of his niece, Husain’s three-year-old daughter Sakina, he singlehandedly managed to gain access to the river that Yazid’s army had captured, filled a water bag and was returning when he lost first his left and then his right arm in an attack. He then clenched the leather water bag between his teeth. But then, an ill-fated arrow hit the bag and the water leaked out, Abbas lost the will to live. He died in Husain’s lap with the parched face of his niece before his eyes.
Husain also died that afternoon, but there was no lap for him to rest his wounded head. His body was desecrated, his head was cut off and his lifeless body was crushed under hooves of horses and left in the desert of Karbala. But his message lived, carried to the world by his sister Zainab.
In the last fourteen hundred years, the sacrifice of Husain has become a symbol for oppressed people all over the world.