While in Makkah, Imam Husayn received the news that Yazid had sent ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d Ibn al-As as delegate of the caliph to the Hajj pilgrims and that among his duties was to kill Imam Husayn, on the spot, wherever he finds him. Because of this, the Imam decided to leave Makkah before the pilgrimage season. Before he left, he gave a sermon:
“In the name of God. All Praises to God… Death is written on the children of Adam as a necklace is designed for the neck of a girl. I see myself to be torn by beasts between Karbala’ and Nawawis. Whatever Cod likes, we will do. We are patient with His test. We are not going to deviate from the teachings of the Messenger of God. Whoever wishes to come with us, he may. I am going to leave tomorrow morning.”
He left Makkah on the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah, 60 of Hijrah (680 CE). With him were his family, his followers from the Hijaz area, Basrah, and Kufah. Many dignitaries of Makkah tried to change his mind. His cousin ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas asked him to wait, and warned him, “You might be killed, and the people of Iraq are not reliable. At least go some other place, such as Yemen, where your father had followers.”
The Imam replied, “O my cousin! I know that you are sincere, but I have decided on this journey.”
Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Then, do not take your children and your family, I am afraid if you take them, they may see you die.”
Imam Husayn replied, “By God, they are not going to leave me. If they leave me, they are going to be victims of someone who would not have mercy on them.”
Then, the Imam mentioned that he did not want any blood spilled in Makkah and he wanted the family to be united, and whatever happens would happen to them together. And, if he leaves them, they would not be under anyone’s protection.
STOPS ON THE IMAM’S JOURNEY
The Imam left Makkah, and at Tan’im he met a caravan which carried luxury goods and royal robes and gowns. It was a delivery for the “king”, Yazid Ibn Mu’awiyah from his governor at Yemen. The Imam ordered that all the cargo of the caravan be taken and given to poor people.
He said, “Who is to have this luxury while poor people starve?” Then, he announced to the people and to the workers on the caravan, “Whoever wants to come with us, is welcome, and whoever wants his wages, we will give him his pay, and whoever wants to leave is free to leave.”
The Imam and his followers took none of the silk robes and royal gowns woven with gold thread. Those who wanted their pay received their portion and the rest was immediately given to poor people.
Here, a man was on his way to Makkah for the Hajj pilgrimage. The man came closer and asked someone, “Whose caravan is this?” And he was informed that it was the camp of Imam Husayn. To himself, he thought that he should pay his greeting of peace to the grandson of the Messenger of God.
The Imam asked him, “Who are you?” He replied, “I am al-Farazdaq, son of Ghalib.”
The Imam greeted the famous poet kindly, then after some time, he asked him, “What do you know about the attitude of the people?”
Al-Farazdaq answered, “Their hearts are with you, but their swords are with the Umayyads, and the destination comes from heaven.”
Imam said, “You spoke the truth, and everything is up to God. He does what He wishes, and we ask help only from Him.” Then, al-Farazdaq asked him some religious questions.
The Imam set camp here, and met Bishr Ibn Ghalib. When Bishr met the Imam, he saw him leaning on something, reading a book. Bishr asked him, “O grandson of the Messenger of God! What made you come to this desert?”
The Imam replied, “These people have threatened me and these letters arrived from the people of Kufah whom I know are going to turn against me. If they do so, God will send someone to humiliate them.”
The Imam asked him about the people of Kufah and he replied, “Their swords are with the Umayyads and their hearts are with you.”
The Imam said, “You are speaking the truth.”
Here, the Imam set camp. He wrote a letter to Muslim Ibn ‘Aqil and gave it to Qays Ibn Mashar al-Saydawi to take to Kufah. In it he wrote, “O people of Kufah! I have received the letter of Muslim Ibn ‘Aqil stating that you have gathered to help us and ask for our rights. I ask Almighty God to reward you for this action. For this reason, I left Makkah on Thursday the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah. When my messenger arrives, be united until I reach Kufah in a few days.”
Meanwhile, the spies of Yazid were following him. For some time, the Imam stayed at the water of ‘Abdullah Ibn Muti? who tried to convince the Imam not to go to Iraq, but the Imam refused.
When Qays Ibn Mashar al-Saydawi reached al-Q-disiyyah, Ibn Ziyad’s army captured him. When they tried to search him, he tore the letter apart. He was brought to the governor’s castle in Kufah, and Ibn Ziyad asked him, “Why did you tear the letter?”
Qays replied, “So you will not know what was in it.”
Ibn Ziyad said, “You have to tell me what was in it!”
Qays refused. Then Ibn Ziyad said, “You have to go on the pulpit and curse Husayn, his brother, and his father. Otherwise, I am going to cut you into pieces!”
Qays went on the pulpit and blessed Amir al-Mu’minin Imam ‘Ali and Hasan and Husayn, and cursed Ibn Ziyad and his father and the Ummayads. Then he said, “O people! I am the messenger of Husayn to you!” He told them where he left the Imam and said, “Go help him!”
Ibn Ziyad ordered for him to be thrown from the top of the castle. He fell and died.
The Imam set camp and stayed in Khuzamiyyah one day and one night. In the morning, his sister Zaynab came to him and told him that she heard someone reciting this poem:
“O, the eyes try to be firm!
Who would cry after me, on these martyrs?
Cry on those people who are led
By death to the final destination.”
The Imam said to his sister, “Whatever God wishes will happen.”
Here, the Imam set camp. Zuhayr Ibn al-Qayn al-Bajali was in the area and set camp near him. Zuhayr did not like the Imam and did not want to set camp near him, but, because there was water at Zarud, he had no other choice. At mealtime, a messenger of the Imam came to him and said that the Imam wanted to meet him. Zuhayr hesitated to reply but his wife, Dilham, told him to go to the Imam and see what he wants. Zuhayr went to him and immediately came back to his people with a happy face. He ordered to take his camp closer to the Imam’s camp and told his wife, “Go join your family, I do not want any of you to be harmed in any way because of me.”
Then, he faced his people again and said, “Whoever wants to help the grandson of the Messenger of God should come with me. Otherwise, Goodbye!”
He revealed a conversation he had with Salman al-Farsi long ago. He said, “We went with Salman in Balanjar. Salman told me ‘When you reach Imam Husayn and are able to help him and fight on his side, you should be more than happy to.”‘
His wife said, “Whatever you decide, I go with your decision. Please remember me on the Day of Judgment with Imam Husayn’s grandfather.”
Also at this stop, the news of the murder of Muslim and Hani Ibn Urwah reached the Imam. The Imam was deeply upset and many times said, “God bless them.” He and other people cried with the sad news, the ladies wailed, and the whole camp was in mourning.
Then, two of his companions stood and said, “O grandson of the Prophet of God! Please change your decision and do not go to Kufah.”
Others disagreed and said, “We have to continue and die the same way as Muslim and Hani died for the cause.”
The Imam listened to each conversation and looked deeply into their faces and then said, “Thereis no goodness in life after these two.” (Muslim and Hani)
Here, someone came and asked Imam Husayn, “What is the Verse of Qur’an ‘The day when we shall call all people by their leader.’ about?”
The Imam replied, “A leader who calls to guidance and people obey his call and a leader who calls to misguidance and others follow him. One leads to heaven and the other leads to hell.”
Also at this stop a man from Kufah met with the Imam and the Imam told him, “If I had met you in Madinah, I would have shown you the place of Gabriel in our house. (The window, in the house of the Prophet Muhammad, which was used as an entrance by the angel Gabriel, whenever he came to visit the Prophet) Do you think we do not know what we are doing?”
Another came and said, “O son of the Messenger of God! I see you with only a few followers.”
The Imam pointed to a sack of letters and said, “This is filled with letters.”
Here, the Imam saw a man coming from Kufah and asked him about the people there. The man said, “All of them are against you.”
The Imam said, “Whatever God wishes will happen.”
There was still no reply from his third messenger to Kufah, Qays Ibn Mashar al-Saydawi, but here, at Zubalah, the news reached the Imam that ‘Abdullah Ibn Yaqtar, his second messenger to Kufah, was killed.
When he was captured he was sent to Ibn Ziyad, and Ibn Ziyad ordered him to go to the pulpit and curse the liar son of liars. ‘Abdullah showed his willingness to do so, but when he went up he said, “O, people! I am the messenger of Husayn son of Fatimah, to help him against son of Marjanah! (Ibn Ziyad)”
Ibn Ziyad ordered him to be toppled from the top of the castle. He fell and broke most of his bones, but he was still able to talk. A man named Lakhmi, one of Ibn Ziyad’s soldiers, came and cut off his head. When the people in the street asked him why he did that, he said, “To put him out of his misery.”
After this news, the Imam announced, “Anyone who has joined this caravan for any purpose other than dying for this cause should leave now.” And people left him except for those who chose to stay, his family, and his companions.
Here the Imam announced, “I am going to be killed and I saw in a dream that dogs are going to eat my flesh and the worst of those dogs will be an albino dog.”
At this point, ‘Amr Ibn Luthan asked the Imam to return to Madinah. The Imam replied, “I know your opinion but I do not do but what God wishes. Indeed, they are not going to leave me alone until they take out my insides and if they do that, they will be the most humiliated nation in the world.”
Here, the Imam set camp and asked his children to re-supply with water and carry more water than they needed. When he heard one of his followers saying “Allahu Akbar,” the Imam asked him, “Why did you say that?”
He answered, “I see palm trees in the far distance.”
All the people around him said, “There are no palm trees around here in this desert?”
When they looked carefully, they saw spears and horses.
The Imam agreed and said, “That must be it.” Then he asked, “Is there any shelter here?”
They told him there is a place called Dhu-Hasm on the left and that is the best place to take shelter. The Imam went there and set his camp.
Then, at noon, Hurr al-Riyahi, with 1,000 soldiers, appeared in front of the Imam, carrying a message from Ibn Ziyad ordering him to prevent the Imam from returning to Madinah or capture him and bring him to Kufah.
When the Imam saw that the army of Hurr was thirsty, he asked his followers to give them and their horses water. They gave all of them and all of their horses water except for the last animal. The inexperienced rider of this last camel came to the Imam, not knowing how to water his animal, and Imam Husayn told him, “Anikh al-Rawiyah.”
In the Hijazi Arabic dialect, it means “loosen the ropes around the camel’s neck” (so it can drink), but in the Kufi Arabic dialect it means “loosen the neck of the water bag.” So, the soldier loosened the knot around the water bag and the water spilled out.
Then, Imam Husayn did it himself and showed the soldier how to loosen the ropes and let the camel drink. Then, after all of the army and their animals were finished drinking, the Imam stood and said, “I did not come here until all of your letters came to me, and the letters say that you do not have any leader and that you need me to help teach you guidance. If that is still your demand, give me something that shows that you are truthful in your promises, and if you do not like me, I will return to where I came from.”
The soldiers were silent. No one spoke a word. Then, Hajjaj Ibn Masraq made the call to prayer for the Dhuhr -Noon- Prayer. The Imam said to Hurr, “You are the chief of your army. You go and pray with your own people.”
Hurr replied, “No. We pray with your prayer.” and Hurr, with all of his troops, prayed with the Imam.
When the Imam finished the prayer, he stood and said, “O people! Fear God and find the truth and follow it. We are the members of the House of the Prophet. We deserve trust more than those who do injustice. If you do not like us or you ignore our rights or you have changed your minds from whatever you have written to us before, then I will leave you.”
Hurr said, “Written? I do not know what letters you are talking about!” The Imam asked one of his followers to bring two sacks of letters.
Hurr said, “I am not one of these people. I have been ordered not to leave you alone until I bring you back to Kufah to Ibn Ziyad.
The Imam said, “Death is before that.” He turned and told his followers to get ready to ride their horses, but Hurr stopped them from going.
Then, for the first time in his life, the Imam spoke an insult, “Your mother sits mourning you.” Then he said, “What do you want from us?”
Hurr replied, “If anyone beside you had said those words to me, l would have replied the same to him, but I cannot do that to you. However, take a road between you and Kufah, which does not reach Kufah nor goes to Madinah, until I write to Ibn Ziyad and see what his orders are. May God relieve me from this catastrophe.”
Then he said to the Imam, “I bear witness that if you fight, you will be killed.”
The Imam said, “Are you threatening me with death? Are you going to kill me? Are you helping the Messenger of God?”
When Hurr heard this, he turned around and left the Imam. He did not want a confrontation with the Imam.
The Imam’s caravan continued in an unknown direction, and Hurr’s army followed behind.
Here, the Imam gave a sermon to the people of Hurr:
“O people! The Messenger of God said, ‘Whoever sees an unjust governor who changes the forbidden to allowed and who breaks his promise, who is against the tradition of the Prophets, who acts unjustly and does not do anything against it in action or in words, God will enter him where the unjust person enters.’ Indeed, these people follow Satan and have left the obedience of God. They spread mischief, they abandon all rules, they misuse wealth, and they make the illegal legal and the legal illegal. I deserve this leadership more than anyone else. Your letters came to me and your deputies came to me offering allegiance to me, saying that you will not betray me and that if I lead you, you will succeed. I am Husayn, son of ‘Ali and Fatimah, daughter of the Messenger of God. My soul is with your soul, my family is with your family, and I am one of you. If you do not do so and change your promise and your allegiance to me, that would not be a surprise to me. You have done so before to my father, my brother, and my cousin (Muslim Ibn ‘Aqil). If you do that, you have missed your chance and you have lost your share and whoever breaks his promise he breaks it against himself. Peace be upon you.”
Here, a man met the Imam and asked him, “Why did you leave the house of your grandfather? (meaning Madinah)”
The Imam replied, “Indeed, the Umayyads called our most honorable kin bad names, and I was patient. Then, they took my wealth, and I was patient. And they sought my blood and I ran away. Indeed, by God, they are going to kill me. Then, God will humiliate them, making them the most humiliated nation in the world.”
Here, four people from Kufah met the Imam. The Imam asked them about the situation of the people and they told him, “The dignitaries were bought by bribes. As for the common people, their hearts are with you, but their swords are against you.”
They told him how Qays Ibn Mashar al-Saydawi was killed. Then, the Imam recited, “Among the believers are men who are true to whatever covenant they made with God. Some of then have fulfilled [their covenant], some of them are waiting [to do so], and have not made any changes [in the religion].” (The Holy Qur’an; Sura of al-Ahzab 33:23)
Tarammah Ibn ‘Uday al-Ta’y said to the Imam, “I saw people before leaving Kufah and asked what the commotion was. They said that they were being recruited and sent to fight against the Imam. I urge you, by God, not to go to them. I do not see anyone with you. I request you to come with us to our mountain called Aja. We were able to isolate ourselves from the kings of Ghassan and Himyar. If you stay with us for ten days, I guarantee you that
20,060 of my tribe, the Tays would follow you and do whatever you order.”
The Imam refused and said, “We have a promise between us and these people and we can not leave until we see the result.”
The Imam thanked him, but refused. Then Tarammah asked permission to go by himself to deliver what he has to deliver for his family, and then return to join the Imam’s camp. The Imam allowed him to do so, and he went, but he was too late in his return. On his way, he heard that Imam was killed.
QASR BANI MAQATIL
When the Imam set camp here, he saw another camp already set. He asked about them and they told him it is for ‘Ubaydullah al-Ju’fi. When the Imam sent some of his followers to see him, Ju’fi asked them what they wanted, and the messenger said, “This is a message from Imam Husayn, asking you to help him.”
Ju’fi replied, “I swear by God, I left Kufah only because of what I saw, that people were leaving to fight against him and I knew that he is going to be killed and I am not going to help him. That is why I left Kufah so that I would be safe. I do not want to see him and I do not want him to see me.”
The messengers brought the reply back to Imam Husayn. The Imam got up, and with a group of his followers, went to Ju’fi’s camp. Ju’fi received him well, honored him, and said, “I have not seen anyone of better character or more handsome than Husayn.”
Then, Ju’fi asked the Imam if he used red henna or black dye to dye his beard.
The Imam replied, “O! Aging and gray hair came to me soon.”
When they sat, the Imam said, “Your people have written to me and asked my help and invited me to come to them. Now, it appears that it is not the case. You have sins in your life. Do you wish to erase them by repentance?”
Ju’fi said, “What is that, O son of the Messenger of God!”
The Imam replied, “You help the son of the daughter of the Prophet and fight by his side.”
Ju’fi said, “Indeed, I know that whoever follows you will be happy in the Hereafter, but what can I do to help? I saw no one in Kufah who would help you, and I do not like to die. Therefore, I give you my horses as gifts to you. This horse of mine, which is called Malhaqah, is the best horse to give victory to me, and I was not willing to give it to anybody in my life.”
The Imam replied, “If you are not willing to fight with us, we do not need your horses and we do not need you.” Then, the Imam quoted, “And I am not one who takes the support of people who are astray.” (The Holy Qur’an; Sura of al-Kahf 18:51)
The Imam said to Ju’fi “I do not take those who are astray as helpers. Now I will advise you as you have advised me. If you are able to avoid our call and not watch us die, do so. Indeed, whoever hears us and does not help us will go to hell.”
Also at this stop, the heads of two other Arab tribes met the Imam. The Imam asked them, “Are you coming to help us?”
They said, “We have children and we have been trusted with the wealth of people and we want to keep their trust.”
The Imam said the same to them, “Leave. Do not hear our call for help. Indeed, whoever hears our call for help and does not help us will end up in hell.”
At the end of the night, the Imam ordered his followers to leave Qasr Bani Maqatil
When the Imam’s caravan came near this place, they saw a man on a horse coming towards them. He was carrying a message from Ibn Ziyad to Hurr.
Hurr came and read the letter to Imam Husayn, “Be firm with Husayn. When you read my letter, do not let him camp anywhere but in the desert where there is no water and no fortification.”
The Imam said, “Then, let us go to Nineveh or Ghadariyyah or Shufayyah.”
Hurr replied, “I cannot do that because the messenger is a spy on me.”
Zuhayr Ibn al-Qayn said, “O, grandson of the Messenger of God! To kill these people now is easier than fighting with the reinforcements that will come after them. Let us start fighting and finish them. After these will come people that we will not be able to fight.”
The Imam said, “I am not going to start the fighting.”
Zuhayr said, “There is a village here on the Euphrates and has a fort and the Euphrates crosses it. Let us go there.”
The Imam asked, “What is it called?”
He said, “It’s called Aqr (in Arabic, means ‘the cutting’.”
The Imam said, “I seek refuge with God from Aqr.”
Then, the Imam asked Hurr to let him go a little bit further. Hurr agreed and the Imam’s caravan went with Hurr’s troops following behind until they reached Karbala’.
ARRIVAL IN KARBALA’
At Karbala’, Hurr and his army blocked the caravan of Imam Husayn from going any farther. Hurr said, “This is near the river and you cannot go farther.”
The horses of the Imam’s group stopped, and Imam Husayn asked Zuhayr, “What is the name of this place”
Zuhayr answered, “Taf.”
The Imam asked, “Is there any other name for this place?”
Zuhayr said, “It is also called Karbala’.”
The Imam’s eyes watered and he said, “O, God! I seek refuge with God from Karb (grief) and Bala (tribulation). Here is the place in which we will set our camp; here is the place where our blood will be shed. Here is the place where our graves will be. This is what my grandfather has told me.”
EVENTS OF KARBALA’
On the second day of the holy month of Muharram, sixty-one years after the Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Madinah, his grandson, Imam Husayn, gathered all of his relatives and family and said, “O God! We, the family of the Prophet Muhammad, were chased out of our homes in the city of our Prophet (Madinah). The children of Umayya harmed us. O, Lord! Secure our rights for us and help us against the unjust people.”
Then he faced his followers and said, “People are slaves of this world. The religion is just what they say. They use it as long as it provides them with their living. When they are tested, the true religious people are few.”
Then he said, “All of you know what has happened to us and you know how the world has changed its face towards us. The good is now considered bad and no good remains except for a little. You see that truth is not acted upon and the wrong is not prevented. Indeed, a believer does not wish anything but to meet his Lord. Indeed, I do not see death [for freedom] as but happiness and life with unjust people as nothing but grief.”
When the Imam finished, Zuhayr stood up and said, “O, grandson of the Messenger of God! We heard your sermon. If the whole world was eternal, we would prefer to rise with you than to be in this world.”
Burayr stood and said, “O the son of the Messenger of God! God has honored us to fight with you and may your grandfather be our interceder on the Day of Judgment.”
Nafi’ Ibn Hilal stood and said, “Your grandfather, the Messenger of God, lived among people, some of them were hypocrites, promising to help him, but in reality, they hid themselves to betray him, until he died. Your father ‘Ali was in a similar situation. You are now among us in a similar situation. Whoever betrays you betrays no one but himself. You go wherever you go. We will be with you, whatever you face, East or West. Indeed, by God, we do not hesitate to meet our Lord. We speak from our hearts and from our minds. We follow whoever follows you and we are enemies of whoever is your enemy.”
Then, the Imam asked the residents of the area, Nineveh and Ghadriyyah, to sell their property to him for 60,000 Dirhams.
He said, “All of the property is for you, on one condition, that whoever wants to visit my grave, you lead them to it.”
The area was four miles by four miles. He let them keep the money and he gave the land back to them, then wrote a one-line letter to his brother, Mu¦ammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah, saying, “Indeed, the world seems not to be and the Hereafter is certain.”
Meanwhile, Hurr wrote to Ibn Ziyad telling him of the events. Ibn Ziyad replied in a letter to Imam Husayn saying, “O Husayn, I have heard that you have settled in Karbala’. The leader of the faithful Yazid has written and ordered me not to sleep or be full with drink until I send you to your Lord or you accept my rule and the rule of Yazid.”
The Imam read the letter and let it fall to the ground. After he dropped it he said, “People who want to please anyone but God will not be successful.”
Ibn Ziyad’s messenger asked for a reply and the Imam said, “He has no reply from me because the punishment of God is certain for him.”
When the messenger came back to Ibn Ziyad and told him what happened, he became very angry. He stood up and ordered ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d to march towards Karbala’ with an army of 4,000 troops. He even wrote a promise for ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d to appoint him as governor of Ray in Persia if he goes to Karbala’ and kills Imam Husayn. When Ibn Ziyad finished writing, he extended his arm and mentioned for ‘Umar to take it. ‘Umar was reluctant and Ibn Ziyad took the paper back.
‘Umar left the governor and gathered all of his friends to consult them. All of them warned him not to go. The son of his sister Hamzah Ibn Mughirah Ibn Shu’bah told him, “I ask you by God not to go and not to fight Imam Husayn even if you become governor of the whole world.”
In the morning, he met with Ibn Ziyad and said, “I am not willing to go and fight Imam Husayn. I have brought for you a list of other people to send to fight the Imam.”
Ibn Ziyad said, “I am not asking you to tell me whom to send to fight. If you do not want to go, you will not be the governor of Ray.”
But, ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d did not want to give up his chance to be governor of the rich city of Ray, so he accepted to go and fight Imam Husayn with 4,000 men.
In Karbala’, ‘Umar asked Azra Ibn Qays to go and meet the Imam and ask him why he is in Karbala’. Azra refused, because he was one of those who asked the Imam to come to Kufah.
Kathir Ibn Abdullah al-Shu’bi said, “I am going to meet the Imam and if you want me to kill him right’ away, I will.”
‘Umar said, “No, just go and ask him why he is coming here.”
Kathir went towards the Imam’s camp but Abu Thumamah al-Sa’idi stopped him on his way.
Kathir said, “I have a message for the Imam.”
Sa’idi said to him, “You give up your sword and you can go to see the Imam.”
He refused, and when he tried continuing towards the Imam’s camp, Sa’idi would not let him pass, and Kathir decided to go back. Then ‘Umar sent Qurra Ibn Qays al-Hanbali. When he conveyed the message to the Imam, the Imam said, “Your people have written to me; therefore, I came. If you have changed your mind, I am going to leave.”
Qurra went back to ‘Umar and ‘Umar wrote to Ibn Ziyad telling him what Imam Husayn said. Ibn Ziyad wrote a reply saying, “Tell Husayn and his followers to pay allegiance to Yazid. If he does so, we will think about what to do with him.”
Then, Ibn Ziyad announced a public meeting in the main Masjid of Kufah and made a speech. He said, “O people! You know the people of Abi Sufyan and you know how they have served you, and you know this leader of the faithful Yazid. You know how helpful he is to his people. He serves them and gives them what they need; all of the roads are safe under his leadership as they were during his father’s rule. His son, Yazid, honors people. He makes them rich! He has increased your salaries by a hundred times, and he has ordered me to increase them even more if you go to fight his enemy Husayn. Listen to him and obey him.”
He immediately distributed money among the soldiers and then went to Nukhaylah. He camped there, and ordered Ibn Namr al-Tamimi and Hajjaj Ibn Abjar and Shimr Ibn Dhil-Jawshan and Shibth Ibn Rab’i to go and join ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d. Shibth (one of those who wrote letters inviting the Imam) announced that he was sick.
Ibn Ziyad called him and told him, “You want to play a double trick. If we succeed, you will tell us you were sick and could not help us. To Husayn’s people you will say you helped them. Come here so I can see for myself. My people tell me you are not sick.”
When Ibn Ziyad saw him, he did not see any sign of sickness and ordered him to go immediately. After that, He ordered five hundred troops under the leadership of Zijr Ibn Qays at the gate of Kufah to prevent other people from leaving and helping the Imam.
However some were able to go. One of them was Amir Ibn Abi Salamah al-Dalani who crossed the gateway. When they tried to stop him, he fought with them and was able to reach Karbala’ and fight to protect Imam Husayn.
By this time, Shimr left for Karbala’ with 4,000 troops, Yazid Ibn Rikab with 2,000, Hosayn Ibn Numayr with 4,000, Shibth Ibn Rab’i with 1,000, Kalb Ibn Talha with 3,000, Hajjaj Ibn Abjar with 1,000, Madhair Ibn Rahinah with 3,000, and Nasr Ibn Harshah with 2,000 fighters. By the 6th day of the month of Muharram, there were 20,000 troops under the leadership of ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d, and Ibn Ziyad kept sending more troops until the total was 30,000 soldiers.
On the day of the 6th, Ibn Ziyad wrote to ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d, “I would like to know your news every morning and every night until you finish Husayn.”
‘Umar immediately redistributed his army around the Euphrates to block the Imam’s camp from access to water. The Imam could not bear to hear the children crying. They were not close enough to the river to drink, but the camp was close enough to see and smell the water. The Imam realized that the camp might even be close enough to have water underground. He used one of the tent poles and a hammer to dig a well, hammering the tent pole deeper and deeper until water sprang from the pipe. But, after some time, the water stopped.
Ibn Ziyad wrote to ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d, “I heard that Husayn is digging a well. He and his followers drank from that well. The moment you receive my letter, prevent them from digging any wells and make it as difficult as possible for them!” He sent five hundred of his own troops to deliver the message and to guard the Euphrates.
THE SEVENTH OF MUHARRAM
The Imam and his followers were totally cut off from water and their throats burned from thirst. At this point the Imam asked ‘Abbas to bring some water for the women and children. ‘Abbas and twenty others each took a water skin and, during the night, marched towards the Euphrates. ‘Abbas was in the middle and all twenty around him to protect his water skin and Nafi’ Ibn Hilal al-Bujali took the flag.
The guards at that part of the river asked, “Who is this?”
He said, “We came to drink water.”
The soldiers answered, “Go drink water as much as you like, but do not carry any back for Husayn.”
Nafi’ replied, “By God, I am not going to drink a drop of water while Husayn and his family are thirsty!” He called on his people to go and get water. Some of them filled the water skins and the others fought. They were able to get water back to the camp, but a few bags of water are not much for a whole camp of men, women, and children, as well as horses and other animals.
THE EIGHTH OF MUHARRAM
The Imam sent Ibn Qurdah al-Ansari to ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d to ask for a meeting between the two camps. He agreed and each of them came with twenty guards. The Imam said to his followers to wait behind, except for his brother ‘Abbas and his son ‘Ali. ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d did the same leaving everyone behind except for his son and his slave.
The Imam said to ‘Umar, “Are you going to fight with me? Do you not fear God on the Day of Judgment? You know who I am. Why do you not leave these people and join me?”
‘Umar said, “I am afraid that my house will be demolished.”
The Imam said, “I will rebuild it for you.”
‘Umar said, “I am afraid my village will be confiscated.”
The Imam said, “I will give you a better village from my property in the Hijaz area.”
‘Umar said, “I have children and I am afraid Ibn Ziyad is going to kill them.”
The Imam, knowing that his excuses were fake, said to ‘Umar, “God is going to order someone to kill you in your bed and you will not get even a handful of the wheat of Iraq.”
‘Umar said sarcastically, “Barley is enough for me.”
‘Umar Ibn Sa’d sent a letter to Ibn Ziyad and in it he claimed, “The Imam agrees to return back to the place he came from or any other place in the army camp and be like one of the individual Muslims or come to the leader of the faithful Yazid and put his hand in his hand so they can see what they do to each other.” He added, “That is the best solution for you and for the whole nation.”
Ibn Ziyad gathered his council and said, “This is not a bad idea.”
Shimr interrupted him, “No! This cannot be! If you do not get him now, you will not be able to get him again! He is weak now and you are now strong!”
Ibn Ziyad immediately wrote to ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d “Indeed, I did not send you to Husayn as a mediator nor to give him promises. Look! If Husayn and his followers accept my rule, take them alive and send them to me. If they do not, attack them, kill them, and cut off their hands, feet, noses and other parts.
If Husayn is killed, march the horses on his chest and his back. I do not think that would hurt him after death! If you do so, you have your reward with us. If you do not, you must immediately resign and Shimr Ibn Dhil-Jawshan will be your replacement as the leader of the Army. I have ordered him to do so.”
Shimr brought the letter to ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d who read it and said, “You are responsible for this! We have planned for a solution and you destroyed it! Indeed, by God, Husayn is not going to submit. Indeed, the soul of his father is between his chest.”
Shimr said, “Tell me, are you going to obey your leader or not?”
‘Umar said, “I am going to do it, and I will not let you have that honor. You take leadership of the infantry.”
Shimr had a distant relation to ‘Abbas on his mother’s side. He wanted to divide Imam Husayn’s family. Shimr went near the Imam’s camp and yelled in a loud voice, “Where are the children of our sister?”
‘Abbas and his brothers did not answer when they heard him yelling. The Imam asked, “Why do you not answer him? He is your relative.”
So, ‘Abbas and his brothers went out and said, “What do you want? What is the matter with you?”
He said, “O children of my sister! You have clemency. Do not kill yourselves With Husayn. Come to the obedience of the leader of the faithful Yazid.”
‘Abbas said, “God curse you and your clemency! You give us clemency and you do not give clemency to the grandson of the Prophet of God? And you are asking us to enter the obedience of the cursed people and those who are children of cursed people?”
Then, ‘Abbas left him and came back to the tents.
When ‘Abbas got back, Zuhayr went to him and said, “I would like to tell you a story. When your father wanted to marry, he went to his brother ‘Aqil to choose for him a woman of a brave tribe. He wanted to have a brave child and your father wanted you for this day to help your brother.”
‘Abbas replied, “Are you trying to encourage me? Today, of all days! God knows what I am going to do today! To help my brother! My Imam!”
Then, Habib Ibn Muzahir al-Asadi asked permission from the Imam to go talk to his tribe, Banu Asad. The Imam gave him permission. He went and they recognized him. He asked them to come and help the Imam. Ninety of them went to join him, but one of the other tribes went and told the news to ‘Umar Ibn Sa’d. ‘Umar sent four hundred men to stop the ninety from reaching the Imam’s camp. They fought and struggled to reach the Imam. Some were killed, others returned to their tribe, and only Habib made it back to the Imam’s camp.
THE NIGHT OF THE NINTH
Thursday, the night of the ninth of Muharram, ‘Umar ordered his entire army to attack the Imam’s camp at once. The Imam was sitting, then said to his brother ‘Abbas, “Go to them and see what they are up to.”
‘Abbas went with twenty followers. Among them were Zuhayr and Habib. They asked the army, and the army replied that the order of the governor came that they must obey him and his rule, or fight. ‘Abbas went back to the Imam and told him.
Meanwhile, his people were preaching to the army of ‘Umar. Habib Ibn Muzahir said, “Indeed, by God, you are the worst people. Who are you going to kill? The children of your Prophet? Those who spend all of their time in worshipping God?
The head of the army said, “You just want to show yourself as a good person.”
Zuhayr said, “God has made people different. Do not help the unjust people in killing the righteous people.”
The head of the army said, “But, Zuhayr, you are not a Follower!” Zuhayr said, “Do you not see I am with them now? Is this not enough for you to see that I am a Follower? God knows that I did not invite him and I did not write him a letter and I did not promise him anything, but when I saw him and recognized him and knew who his enemy was, I decided to be on his side.”
‘Abbas came from the Imam with a message, “Leave us alone for one night. Delay the fight for one night so that we can pray to our Lord and recite the Holy Qur’an.”
‘Umar hesitated to do it but some of his army said, “We should let them. Even if they were non-Muslims, we would have let them.”
‘Umar knew that he would not have the support of his army if he ordered to attack immediately, so he answered, “I know that if I give him this, they will be stronger tomorrow. However, I will let them delay the war one night.