5) Imam al-Ḥusayn

Al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAli b. Abi Ṭālib (b. Sha’ban 3, 4/January 8, 626 – d. Muharram 10, 61/October 10, 680) also known as Abu ‘Abd Allah and Sayyid al-Shuhada’. The third Shi’a Imam was martyred in the Battle of Karbala after ten years of Imamate. He was the second son of Imam ‘Ali (a) and Lady Fatima (a), and the grandson of the Prophet (s).

At his birth, the Prophet (s) foretold the story of his martyrdom and named him al-Husayn. The Prophet (s) introduced him and his older brother, Imam al-Hasan (a), as the Masters of the Youth of Paradise. The last messenger of Allah loved (al-Hasanayn) and instructed people to love them as well. Al-Husayn (a) is one of the Ashab al-Kisa’, one of the participants of the Mubahala, and one of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) about whom al-Tathir Verse is revealed. A large number of hadiths narrated directly from the Prophet Muhammad (s) add more to the distinctive status of al-Husayn (a).

There are few reports about his life in the three decades after the demise of the Prophet (s). During the caliphate of Imam ‘Ali (a), he accompanied his father and fought alongside him in the battles of Siffin, Jamal, and Nahrawan. After the martyrdom of Imam ‘Ali (a), he followed and supported Imam al-Hasan (a). Imam al-Husayn stood by the treaty between Imam al-Hasan (a) and Mu’awiya even after Imam al-Hasan’s martyrdom until Mu’awiya’s death. In response to numerous letters from Kufa inviting him to lead an uprising against Mu’awiya, he recommended remaining patient until Mu’awiya’s end.

The imamate of Imam al-Husayn (a) coincided with the autocracy of Mu’awiya, who superficially respected the Imam (a) but, at the same time, took pleasure in weakening and overpowering the Shi’a. Imam al-Husayn (a) rebuked Mu’awiya in several cases. He wrote Mu’awiya a letter condemning him for the murder of Hujr b. Adi. On another occasion, when Mu’awiya introduced Yazid as his successor, Imam al-Husayn (a) refused to pledge allegiance to him, calling him unfit for leadership, and proclaimed himself the rightful leader of the ummah. The sermon of the Imam (a) in Mina can also be regarded as a political lecture against the Umayyads.

After Mu’awiya died, Imam al-Husayn (a) refused to give allegiance to Yazid and considered his rise to caliphate as illegitimate. When al-Walid b. ‘Utba, the governor of Medina, was sent to order Imam al-Husayn (a) to either pledge allegiance to Yazid or be killed. Imam al-Husayn (a) made his way from Medina towards Mecca on Rajab 28, 60/May 4, 680. In the four months he stayed in Mecca, he received many letters that urged him to assume the leadership of ummah. As Imam (a) and his companions approached Kufa, the army of ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad intercepted Imam’s caravan on Yazid’s order.

For fear of revenge from Yazid’s army, the people of Kufa reneged on their promises to support the Imam (a). As a result, the Battle of Karbala took place on the Day of ‘Ashura’. Imam (a) along with a handful of his companions (around seventy-two) were martyred and the remaining companions were taken as captives to Kufa and Syria.