Below is a timeline of the events preceding and surrounding the death of Hussain RA, based on a recent talk by Sh.Yasir Qadhi from the Memphis Islamic Centre. I would encourage all of you to listen to it and benefit from it. Following the timeline is some commentary and analysis from the talk abridged and edited for easier reading.
At the outset the Shaik warned that this is a grave and contentious issue that has plagued the Ummah for a long time. This is not an effort to demean anyone but to inform Muslims of the issue surrounding the death of Hussain RA. This presentation is based on the classical historians of Islam such as ibn Hajar and Ibn Kathir. This is a summarised version and not a detailed exposition of the same and should be understood in the same spirit.
I have attempted to put the talk into written form to aid those who listen to the lecture and to ensure those who do not, at least know it in summary. Where information, only in terms of specific dates, was not mentioned in the talk, I have added them based on my own research.
In preparing this I do realise and thus hope to remedy my own ignorance of the History of Islam. By putting this document together, I hope personally that I continue studying the History of Islam and the various issues that shaped our Muslim Ummah. I do hope that this document is not an end but the beginning of such a study. May Allah SWT grant us Tawfeeq for the same. Ameen
In presenting this information in this format, if there are any mistakes in recording the speech or in any additions, then they are from me and Shaithan. May Allah SWT forgive us and unite us on the Straight Path. Ameen
The article is divided into three parts – Timeline, Commentary on Karbala and Commentary on Ahlul Bayth
3H Ramadan – Hassan ibn Ali RA born
4H Shaban – Hussain ibn Ali RA born
26H – Yazid son of Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan RA born
35H – Ali RA becomes Khalifa after martyrdom of Uthman ibn Affan RA
35H – Battle of Jamal (Ali RA fights Aisha RA over the issues surrounding martyrdom of Uthman RA)
36H – Battle of Siffin (Ali RA fought Muawiyah). It is said that in the Battles of Jamal and Siffin more Sahaba died than all of those who died in battles during the lifetime of Rasool SAW. These battles are together known as the first Fitna and are an extremely sad period of Islamic History.
37H – Ali RA moves capital to Kufa. Shia of Ali or the Party of Ali formed here. (Purely political supporters of Ali with no separate theology)
40H – Ali RA dies
40H – Struggle between Muawiya and Hassan RA. Hassan RA makes peace 6 months later by giving up seat to Muawiya. Muawiya begins rule from Damascus.
40H – Hassan RA leaves Kufa and returns to Medina along with Hussain and Family
~45-46H – Yazid leads Muawiyah’s army into Constantinople. Hasan RA fights along with Yazid in this battle.
50H – Hasan RA dies in Medina
60H – Muawiya RA dies in Damascus. Before dying he nominates his son Yazid as the Khalifah after him. Many of Sahaba pledge allegiance to him. But they leave active politics after the pledge. Hussain and Abdullah ibn Zubair do not pledge.
60H Ramadan – Governor of Medina calls Hussain RA home and asks him to pledge allegiance to Yazid. Hussain RA avoids this and goes to Mecca.
60H Ramadan – When people in Kufa hear about Hussain not giving allegiance to Yazid, they become overjoyed and start sending letters of support to Hussain and ask him to lead them in revolt
60H Dhul Qadah – Husain RA sends his nephew Muslim ibn Aqeel with couple of others to assess situation in Kufa and determine if he has support
60H Dhul Qadah – Neary 40,000 people of Kufa pledge support through their tribe leaders to Muslim ibn Aqeel promising Hussain support against Yazid. Muslim ibn Aqeel asks Hussain to come to Kufa.
60H Dhul Qadah – Rumours of revolt reach Yazid. He deputes 28 year old Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad without an army (only 17 people accompanied him) as governor of Kufa to take charge of situation.
60H Dhul Qadah – ibn Ziyad confirms the possibility of revolt and sends spies to find the heads of Hussain’s support.
60H Dhul Qadah/Dhul Hijja – Hussain gets the message and prepares to leave for Kufa.
60H Dhul Qadah/Dhul Hijja – Host of Muslim ibn Aqeel, Hani bin Urwah caught by ibn Ziyad. When Muslim hears this, prepares an army of 4000 Kufan men and heads to the gates of ibn Ziyaad’s fortress.
60H Dhul Qadah/Dhul Hijja – On the same day between Fajr and Isha, ibn Ziyaad, a master tactician, bribes or scares Muslim’s men away such that by nightfall, not a single man supports him
60H Dhul Qadah/Dhul Hijja – Muslim is caught by ibn Asha’as, a lieutenant of ibn Ziyaad. Muslim makes him promise to send a message to Hussain warning against coming to Kufa.
60H 9th of Dhul Hijja – Muslim martyred publicly. Over next few days chief supporters of revolt arrested and publicly killed. Kufans no more support Hussain RA
60H Dhul Hijja – The Sahaba in Mecca and Medina, ibn Abbas, ibn Umar, Abu Saeed al Khudree, Jaabir ibn Ubaidillah RA along with Hussain’s brother from another of Ali’s RA wives, Mohammed ibn Hanafiyya dissuade him from going to Kufa.
60H Dhul Hijja – Hussain RA leaves for Kufa with the letters of support from Kufa in spite of all the warnings from people of Hijaz, with 70-80 people of his family. Hussain still doesn’t know that Kufa has given up the revolt.
60H Dhul Hijja – ibn Ziyaad intercepts Yazid’s army of 4000 men, on the way to Turkey, led by Umar ibn Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas. He gets permission to keep them at standby.
60H Dhul Hijja – Hussain sends messengers to Kufa on the way but both killed by ibn Ziyaad.
60H Dhul Hijja – Hussain reaches close to Kufa. Ibn Asha’as’ message reaches him along with information of Muslim and the turn face of Kufa.
60H Dhul Hijja – Hussain confers with his party. They encouraged him to continue to Kufa to avenge Muslim and hoping Kufans will still support Hussain. He still thought he could get the support he required and win. He did not go to Kufa to “sacrifice” himself.
61H Muharram – Hussain reaches Karbala (4 – 6 kms out of Kufa). Umar ibn Sa’ad commanded by ibn Ziyaad to negotiate with Hussain. Hussain gives three options – go back to Mecca, meet Yazid or leave in exile. Ibn Ziyaad refuses and asks Hussain to come to him or face war.
61H Muharram – ibn Ziyaad puts Shimir in charge of force over Umar ibn Sa’ad.
61H 9th Muharram – Shimir gives ultimatum to Hussain to come to ibn Ziyaad and give allegiance. He refuses.
61H 10th Muharram – Hussain and other men martyred by the force, now led by Shimir. Women and children spared. Zain ul Abideen, son of Hussain escapes as he was a baby hidden amongst the women. 15 Ahl ul Bayth die.
~63H – Yazid dies.
~64/65H – ibn Ziyaad murdered in a power struggle in Syria.
65H – A party called Tawabbun (The Repenters) emerge from Kufa, feeling guilty of Kufa’s part in the betrayal of Hussain. They head to Damascus to exact revenge.
65H Muharram – Tawabbun stop at Karbala. They lament publicly and beat themselves over the martyrdom of Hussain. Theological Shi’ism is said to have its roots from this incident.
Karbala: Who is to blame?
It could be argued that Hussain Ra did not take the right step by going to Karbala in spite of the warnings of the other Sahaba. Some others hold the view that he went there to sacrifice himself. But Hussain Ra went there believing that Kufa would support him. In fact the letters of support that reached him is said to have been so numerous that it filled 2 bags used on camels. On top of that Muslim’s message later on also supported this assumption. Thus the real blame falls upon some other individuals
- People of Kufa at that time – The people of Kufa are squarely to be blamed for their treachery in the face of bribes and threats by ibn Ziyaad. Having first supported Hussain, they did not even turn up to Karbala to defend him. Even companions like Umm Salama Ra and ibn Umar Ra held them to blame for the same
- Ubaydullah ibn Ziyaad, Governor of Kufa – Known to be young, ruthless and impetuous, his arrogance is another reason that caused the martyrdom of Hussain. Hussain Ra gave him three options, choosing one of which might have set a different course. But having refused the options, he insisted that Hussain come to him and pledge allegiance. This was something Hussain Ra would not do and thus led him to fight ibn Ziyaad’s army.
- Umar ibn Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Original Commander of the Governor’s Troops – He is not a Companion nor is he completely to blame for Hussain’s Martyrdom. But he did not take a more strong stance and prevent ibn Ziyaad from attacking Hussain Ra
- Shimir and his Henchmen, Stand in Commander of the Governor’s Troops – For delivering the final blow on Hussain Ra, the grandson of the Prophet SAW.
- Yazid, Khalifa – While many positions exist on Yazid’s role in the martyrdom, his decision to appoint ibn Ziyaad as governor and his unwillingness to punish him after, are considered to be his primary failing.
The issue of Hussain’s Ra martyrdom is obviously a black mark on the history of Muslims. He was the grandson of the Prophet SAW, yet he was killed in battle by other muslims. This is no doubt heartbreaking for those who love the Prophet SAW and his family. But that portion of Islamic History saw many deaths of Companions of the Prophet SAW and thus without condoning Hussain Ra death, we cannot single it out.
The Position of Ahl Ul Bayth
# Ali bin Husayn or Zayn ul Abideen was the sole male survivor in Karbala and the Prophet’s SAW lineage continues through him.
‘A’isha reported that Allah’s Apostle (SAW) went out one morning wearing a striped cloak of the black camel’s hair that there came Hasan b. ‘Ali. He wrapped him under it, then came Husain and he wrapped him under it along with the other one (Hasan). Then came Fatima and he took her under it, then came ‘Ali and he also took him under it and then said: Allah only desires to take away any uncleanliness from you, O people of the household, and purify you (thorough purifying) [Sahih Muslim 2424
The Ahl ul Sunnah wal Jama’a take the position between 2 extremes of loving the Family of the Prophet SAW to the point of deifying them or hating them and vilifying them. The Ahl ul Bayth are to be loved as commanded by the Prophet SAW himself and as shown by Sahaba such as Abu Bakr and Umar RA. Moreover, if the Ahl ul bayth are righteous, or from among the Companions or both, then their stature increases even higher in the eyes of the Muslim.
If on the other hand, they are found to be the opposite of righteous, then their deeds are basis of judgement as admonished by the Prophet SAW.