The Everlasting Light: A Brief Account of the Events that Followed the Shahaadat of Imam Husain AS

The tragedies of Karbala can be described as multiple futile attempts to extinguish Allah’s light by terminating the imamat and eliminating all of Rasul Allah’s SAW progeny. Indeed, the very fact that the imamat would persevere through unimaginable calamities is a clear indication of the divine protection surrounding the imamat and the imam. The events that follow Imam Husain’s AS shahadat depict Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin’s AS (d.94/712) perseverance in the face of execution and Allah’s divine protection through Maulatuna Zainab’s AS (d.62/682) indelible guardianship.

This article will narrate a monumental moment from these post-shahadat events based on the reports of the Fatimid polymath al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Qadi al-Nuʿman RA (d.363/974). From his wide literary corpus, it will draw on two of his authoritative historical works; Kitaab Sharh al-Akhbaar (Exposition of History) and Kitaab al-Manaaqib wa al-Mathaalib (Virtues and Iniquities). He reports that after Imam Husain’s AS shahadat in the year 61/680 the wretched Shimr bin Zi al-Jawshan (d.66/685) and his ilk mercilessly ransacked Imam Husain’s AS camp reducing everything to ash, they marched the caravan of innocent women and children through the burning desert headed by a severely ill Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen AS.

Recounting what he remembers of his experience, Imam Ali AS tells us that he was presented to ʿUmar bin Saʿd (d.60/680) (in Kufa). However, he turned him away upon seeing his ill state.

I remained casted away until a man from Shaam approached me. He cried as he inspected my condition and said: ‘O son of Rasul Allah, I fear for you. Stay with me.’ He sheltered me and took care of me. He would cry whenever he saw me. I thought to myself, if there is good (khayr) in any one of these people [of Shaam] then it is with this man. When we travelled to ʿUbayd Allah b. Ziyad (d.67/686) , he was told that I was nowhere to be found. ʿUbayd Allah offered 300,000 dirhams for whoever turned me over to him. The Shami man entered and approached me. He cried as he began to tie my hands to my neck and he said: ‘I fear for myself O son of Rasul Allah. If I hide you from them, they will kill me.’ He then forfeited me over to them and claimed his reward as I continued to look at him.

Imam Ali AS is now in front of ʿUbayd Allah. He asks the Imam: ‘Who are you?’

‘I am Ali son of Husain’ Imam Ali AS replies.

ʿUbayd Allah scoffs, ‘Didn’t Allah already kill (qatl) Ali bin Husain?’

‘He was my brother and he was killed by people’ Imam Ali AS replies.

ʿUbayd Allah retorts, ‘actually, Allah killed him.’

Imam Ali AS rebukes him with the Quranic verse: ‘Allah takes the soul (wafaat) when it is time for its death’ (Q-39:42).

Enraged, ʿUbayd Allah ordered for Imam Ali AS to be killed. At this crucial moment, Maulatuna ZainabAS cries out: ‘Have you not had enough of our blood Ibn Ziyad! I swear by Allah that you will not kill him, but you will have to kill me as well.’

Upon hearing these poignant words, ʿUbayd Allah seized his order and directed the caravan to Yazeed.

In his departing words to his beloved family, Maulana al-Imam al-Husain AS instructed his sister, Maulatuna Zainab AS, to remain by Imam Ali’s AS side at all times and to protect him at all costs. Those words must have rung clear in Maulatuna Zainab’s AS ears as she laid her life down in front of Imam Ali AS.