Husayn ibn Ali

This article is about Husayn ibn Ali (626–680). For the modern political figure (1854–1931), see Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca. For the founder of the Husainid Dynasty, see Al-Husayn I ibn Ali.
Al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Ali
الحسين ابن علي  (Arabic)

2nd Imam of Nizari-Ismaili and Taiyabi-Mustaali
3rd Imam of Sevener, Twelver, and Zaydi Shia

Calligraphic representation of the name of Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Born (626-01-10)10 January 626
(3 Sha'aban AH 4)[1]
Al-Medinah, Al-Hijaz
Died 10 October 680(680-10-10) (aged 54)
(10 Muharram AH 61)
Karbala’, Umayyad Empire (now in Al-‘Iraq)
Cause of death Martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala
Resting place His Shrine at Karbala’, Karbala Governorate, Iraq
32°36′59″N 44°1′56.29″E / 32.61639°N 44.0323028°E / 32.61639; 44.0323028
Residence Al-Medinah, Al-Hejaz
Known for The Battle of Karbala’, being a grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, Shi‘ite Imam
Term AD 670–680
Predecessor (As Shi‘ite Imam) Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali
Successor (As Shi‘ite Imam) ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin
Opponent(s) Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah
Religion Islam
Spouse(s) Shahr Banu bint Yazdegerd III (last Sassanid Emperor of Persia)
Umme Rubāb
Umme Laylā
Umm Ishaq bint Talhah


Relatives Muhammad (maternal grandfather)

Al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (Arabic: الحسين ابن علي ابن أبي طالب; 10 January 626 – 10 October 680) (5 Sha'aban AH 4 (in the ancient (intercalated) Arabic calendar) – 10 Muharram AH 61) (His name also spelled as "Husain", "Hussain" or "Hussein"), was the grandson of the Islamic Nabi (Arabic: نَـبِي, Prophet) Muhammad, and the son of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (the fourth Rashid caliph of Sunni Islam, and first Shi‘ite Imam) and Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad. He is an important figure in Islam, as he was a member of the Bayt (Arabic: بـيـت, Household) of Muhammad and Ahl al-Kisa (Arabic: أهـل الـكـسـاء, People of the Cloak), as well as being the third Shi‘ite Imam.

Al-Husayn became the head of Shi‘ite Islam and Banu Hashim after the death of his older brother, Al-Hasan, in 670 ACE (50 AH). His father's supporters (Arabic: شـيـعـة عـلي, Shi‘at ‘Ali) in Al-Kufah gave their allegiance to him. However, he told them he was still bound to the peace treaty between Al-Hasan and Muawiyah I and they should wait until Mu‘awiyah was dead. Later, Al-Husain did not accept the request of Mu‘awiyah for the succession of his son, Yazid I, and considered this action a breach of the Hasan–Muawiya treaty.[1]

When Mu‘awiyah died in 680 ACE, Al-Husayn refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid, who had just been appointed as Umayyad caliph by Mu‘awiyah, because the Umayyads were reportedly an 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.[1][8] There, the people of Al-Kufah sent letters to him, asking his help and pledging their allegiance to him. So he travelled towards Al-Kufah,[1] but, at a place near it known as Karbala’, his caravan was intercepted by Yazid's army. He was killed and beheaded in the Battle of Karbala’ on 10 October 680 (10 Muḥarram 61) by Shimr Ibn Thil-Jawshan, along with most of his family and companions.[9] Anger at Al-Husayn's death was turned into a rallying cry that helped undermine the Umayyad caliphate's legitimacy, and ultimately overthrow it by the ‘Abbasid Revolution.[10][11]

Al-Husayn is highly regarded by Shi‘ite Muslims for refusing to pledge allegiance to Yazid,[12] the Umayyad caliph, because he considered the rule of the Umayyads unjust.[12] The annual memorial for him, his family, his children and his companions is the first month in the Islamic calendar, Muharram and the day he was martyred is the Ashura (tenth day of Muharram) and is a day of mourning for Shia Muslims. His action at Karbala fuelled the later Shia movements.[11]


Al-Husayn was the son of ‘Ali ibn Abi Ṭalib, and his wife Fatimah. His maternal grandparents were the Muhammad and Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, and his paternal grandparents were Abu Talib and Fatimah bint Asad. Al-Husayn and Al-Hasan 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. He said "Every mothers children are associated with their father except for the children of Fatima for I am their father and lineage" Thus descendants of Fatimah are descendants of Muhammad, and part of his Bayt.


Birth and early life

Entry gate of the shrine of Husayn in Karbala, Iraq
A Quran written by Imam Al-Hssain ibn Ali, from over 1300 years ago.

Most reports state Husayn was born on 10 January AD 626 (5 Sha'aban AH 4).[1] 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.[1] 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 of him. 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. The Shi'a maintain that the infallibility of the Imam is a basic rule in the Imamate. "The theologians have defined the Imamate, saying: "Surely the Imamate is a grace from Allah, Who grants it to the most perfect and best of His servants to Him"[14] 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.[15]

According to Wilferd Madelung, Muhammad loved them and declared them as people of his Bayt very frequently.[16] He has also said: "Every mother's children are associated with their father except for the children of Fatima for I am their father and lineage." Thus, the descendants of Fatimah were descendants of Muhammad, and part of his Bayt.[17] 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 Mubahalah. According to Muhammad Baqir Majlisi who compiled Bihar al-Anwar, a collection of ahadith (Arabic: أحـاديـث, 'accounts', 'narrations' or 'reports'), Chapter 46 Verse 15 (Al-Ahqaf) and Chapter 89 Verses 27-30 (Al-Fajr) of the Qur’an are regarding Al-Husayn.

The incident of the Mubahalah

Main article: Event of Mubahala

In the year AH 10 (AD 631/32) a Christian envoy from Najran (now in southern Saudi Arabia) 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,[lower-alpha 1]—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 Mubahalah where each party should ask God to destroy the false party and their families.[18][19] "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."[lower-alpha 2][18][20] Sunni historians, except Tabari who do not name the participants, mention Muhammad, Fatimah, Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn as the participants, and some agree with the Shi‘ite tradition that ‘Ali was among them. Accordingly, in the verse of Mubahalah, in the Shi‘ite perspective, the phrase "our sons" would refer to Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn, "our women" would refer to Fatimah, and "ourselves" would refer "‘Ali".[18][20]

Life under the first five Caliphs

Mu‘awiyah, who was the governor of Al-Sham under ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, had refused ‘Ali's demands for allegiance, and had long been in conflict with him.[21] After ‘Ali was assassinated and people gave allegiance to Al-Hasan, Mu‘awiyah prepared to fight with him. The battle led to inconclusive skirmishes between the armies of Al-Hasan and Mu‘awiyah. To avoid the agonies of another civil war, Al-Hasan signed a treaty with Mu‘awiyah, according to which Mu‘awiyah would not name a successor during his reign, and let the Islamic Ummah choose his successor.[22]

Al-Husayn and the Umayyad Caliphate

Reign of Mu‘awiyah

See also: Muawiyah I and Umayyad

According to the Shi‘ah, Al-Husayn was the third Imam for a period of ten years after the death of his brother Al-Hasan in 669 ACE, all of this time but the last six months coinciding with the caliphate of Mu‘awiyah.[23] After the peace treaty with Al-Hasan, Mu‘awiyah set out with his troops to Kufa, where at a public surrender ceremony Hasan rose and reminded the people that he and Al-Husayn were the only grandsons of Muhammad, and that he had surrendered the reign to Mu‘awiyah in the best interest of the community: "O 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."[lower-alpha 3][24] declared Hasan.[22]

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.[22][25]

Shi‘ite 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.[18] 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.[22] Later on, however, and before his death, Muawiyah named his son Yazid as his successor.[1]

Reign of Yazid

One of the important points of the treaty made between Al-Hasan and Mu‘awiyah was that the latter should not designate anyone as his successor after his death. But after the death of Al-Hasan, Mu‘awiyah, thinking that no one would be courageous enough to object to his decision as the caliph, designated his son Yazid as his successor in 680 ACE, breaking the treaty.[26] Robert Payne quotes Mu‘awiyah in History of Islam as telling his son Yazid to defeat Al-Husayn – because Mu‘awiyah thought he was surely preparing an army against him – but to deal with him gently thereafter as Al-Husayn was a descendant of Muhammad, but to deal with ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Zubair swiftly, as Mu‘awiyah feared him the most.[27]

In April 680 ACE, Yazid succeeded his father as Caliph. He immediately instructed the governor of Al-Medinah to compel Al-Husayn and few other prominent figures to give their Bay'ah (Arabic: بـيـعـة, Pledge of allegiance).[1] Al-Husain, however, refrained from it, believing that Yazid was openly going against the teachings of Islam in public, and changing the sunnah (Arabic: سـنـة, deeds, sayings, etc.) of Muhammad.[28][29] In his view the integrity and survival of the Islamic community depended on the re-establishment of the correct guidance.[30] He, therefore, accompanied by his household, his sons, brothers, and the sons of Al-Hasan, left Al-Medinah to seek asylum in Mecca.[1]

While in Mecca, ibn al-Zubayr, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar and ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas advised Al-Husayn to make Mecca his base, and fight against Yazid from there.[31] On the other hand, the people in Al-Kufah who were informed about Mu‘awiyah's death, sent letters urging Husayn to join them and pledge to support him against the Umayyads. Al-Husayn wrote back to them saying that he would send his cousin Muslim ibn ‘Aqil 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 Qur’an, uphold justice, proclaim the truth, and dedicate himself to the cause of God.[1] The mission of Muslim was initially successful, and, according to reports, 18,000 men pledged their allegiance. But the situation changed radically when Yazid appointed ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad as the new governor of Al-Kufah, ordering him to deal severely with ibn ‘Aqil. Before news of the adverse turn of events arrived in Mecca, Al-Husayn set out for Al-Kufah.[1]

On the way, Al-Husayn found that Muslim was killed in Al-Kufah. 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.[1]

Martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala’

The painting by commemorating the death of Imam Husayn at the Battle of Karbala, its focus is his half brother Abbas ibn Ali on a white horse [32]
Main article: Battle of Karbala

On his path towards Al-Kufah, Al-Husayn encountered the army of ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad. Al-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 Al-Kufah 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.[1]

Umar ibn Sa'ad, the head of Kufan army, sent a messenger to Al-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 to cut off Husayn and his followers from access to the water of the Euphrates.[1] 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 Al-Ḥusayn. He addressed the Kufans in vain, rebuking them for their treachery to the grandson of Muhammad, and was killed in the battle.[1]

The Battle of Karbala’ lasted from morning till sunset of 10 October 680 (Muharram 10, AH 61). All of Al-Husayn's small army of companions fought with a large army under the command of Umar ibn Sa'ad, and were killed near the river (Euphrates) from which they were not allowed to get any water. In total, around 72 men, and a few ladies and children, had been on the side of Al-Husayn.[33][34][35] The renowned historian Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī stated "… 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."[36]


People visiting the Masjids of Al-Husayn and Al-‘Abbas in Karbala’, Al-‘Iraq, in the 21st Century.

Once the Umayyad troops had massacred Al-Husayn and his male soldiers, they looted the tents, stripped the women of their jewelery, and took the skin upon which ‘Ali Zainal-‘Abidin was prostrate. ‘Ali had been unable to fight in the battle, due to an illness.[33][34][35] It is said that Shimr was about to kill him, but Al-Husayn's sister Zaynab was able to convince his Commander, ‘Umar, to let him live. ‘Ali Zaynul-‘Abidin and other relatives of Al-Husayn were taken hostage. They were taken to meet Yazid in Damascus, and eventually, they were allowed to return to Al-Medinah.[37][38]

After learning of the martyrdom of Al-Husayn, ibn al-Zubayr 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 Ziyad 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" [39]

After his speech, the people of Mecca joined him 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[39] Eventually ibn al-Zubayr consolidated his power by sending a governor to Al-Kufah. Soon, he established his power in Iraq, Southern Arabia, the greater part of Al-Sham, and parts of Egypt. Yazid tried to end his rebellion by invading the Hijaz, 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 he lost Egypt and whatever he had of Al-Sham to Marwan. This coupled with the Kharijite rebellions in Iraq reduced his domain to only the Hijaz. In Mecca and Al-Medinah, Al-Husayn's family had a strong support base and the people were willing to stand up for them. However, Al-Husayn's remaining family moved back to Al-Medinah. ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was the grandson of Abu Bakr and the cousin of Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr. Both ‘Abdullah and Qasim were ‘A’ishah's nephews. Qasim was also the grandfather of Ja‘far al-Sadiq. Ibn al-Zubayr was finally defeated and killed by Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, who was sent by ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, on the battlefield in 692 ACE. He beheaded him and crucified his body, reestablishing Umayyad control over the Empire.

Yazid reportedly died in Rabi‘al-Awwal, 64 AH (November, 683 ACE), less than 4 years after coming to power.[1][40] As for other opponents of Al-Husayn, such as ibn Ziyad and Shimr, they were killed in a rebellion led by a vengeful contemporary of Al-Husayn known as "Mukhtar al-Thaqafi."[41][42][43][44]

Years later, the people of Al-Kufah called upon Zayd ‘Ali ibn Al-Husayn to come over. Zaydis believe that on the last hour of Zayd, Zayd was also betrayed by the people in Al-Kufah 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 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."[45][46][47][48]


The Zarih of Husayn in the Imam Husayn Shrine, Karbala

Shi‘ite view

Al-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.[49] Shia/Fatimid believe that Al-Husayn's head was first buried in the courtyard of Yazid (in what is now the Umayyad Mosque), then transferred from Damascus to Ashkelon to Cairo.

Return of his head to the body

Several Shi‘ite and Sunni sources confirm the return of Al-Husayn's head to his body in Karbala’. According to Shaykh Saduq, Husayn's son, Ali ibn Husayn, took it back from Al-Sham, and returned it to Karbala’.[50] Fetal Neyshabouri and Majlesi have confirmed this in their books, Rouzato-Waisin and Bihar al-Anwar respectively.[51][52] Sharif al-Murtaza also mentions this in his book Rasaael.[53] 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.[54] This day is recognised by Shias and is known as Arba'een. Similar statements are documented by Shia scholars e.g. Ahmad ibn Tawoos[55] and Muhaqeq Helli.[56] 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).[57] 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.[58] Qurtobi narrates from Shias on the return of the head to the body on Arba'een.[59]

Transfer of his head in Fatimid belief


The Shrine of Husayn's head in Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, the Levant.
The place where Husayn's head is kept, Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Al-Sham.
Muslim pilgrims to the Shrine of Seyid Hussein, Ashkelon, Al-Sham, April 1943.
The Mimbar of Imam Husain mashhad of Ashkelon now placed at the Ibrahimi Mosque, Hebron, Al-Sham.
An Inscription on the Mimbar Ibrahimi Mosque at Hebron
The Zarih of Husayn's head in Al-Hussein Mosque, Cairo, Egypt.
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,[61][62][63] Husayn ibn Ali's body was buried by his son, Ali Ibn Husayn.[64] 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 of 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.

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 ... ."[65]

The shrine was described as the most magnificent building in Ashkelon.[66] 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.[67]

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 'Ashura'. 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 traveller 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).[68]

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.[69]

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.[70]


Khema-gah, Memorial at Imam Husain Camp location, Karbala
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 different ethnic and religious communities participate in it.

Al-Husayn's grave became the most visited place of Ziyarat for Shias. Some said 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.[71] Shi‘ites have an important book about Al-Husayn which is called Ziyarat Ashura. Most of them believe that it is a Hadith-e-Qudsi (the "word of Allah")[72] 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.[73]

Views on Al-Husayn

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 Husayn cannot be viewed as simply a rebel risking his and his family’s lives for his personal ambition. He continued to abide by the treaty with Muawiyah I despite his disapproval of Muawiyah's conduct. He did not pledge allegiance to Yazid, who had been chosen as successor by Muawiyah in violation of the 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 Kufans 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[74]

In culture

Historian Edward Gibbon was touched by the story of Al-Husayn, describing the events at Karbala as "a tragedy".[75][76] 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.[77]

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

Quotations related to Imam Husayn at Wikiquote



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External links

Husayn ibn Ali
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Clan of the Quraish
Born: 5 Sha‘bān AH 4 in the ancient (intercalated) Arabic calendar 10 January AD 626 Died: 10 Muharram AH 61 10 October AD 680
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
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