The Journey to Karbala: Farewell Madina (Part 1)

At the onset of Hijri year 61 (680 CE), not even half a century from the passing of the Nabi Mohammed SA, Imam Husain AS, the last member of the Panjatan Paak AS, along with his family, kin and close companions, was mercilessly slaughtered by forces of the Umayyad tyrant Yazeed b. Muʿawiya in Karbala al-Muʿalla on the banks of the River Euphrates. 

This series of articles briefly examines the events which culminated in that tragic episode. Starting with political and social conditions in Madina, in the first part, it traces the historical circumstances that led to Imam Husain’s AS departure from Madina and his quest for Makkah. The second part looks at his stay in Makkah while the final part considers his journey towards Karbala and some of the incidents that took place along the way. Following the shahaadat of Maulana al-Imam al-Hasan AS in 49/669, Maulana al-Imam al-Husain AS took on the mantle of Imamat. He chose to reside in his home of Madina, while Muʿawiya usurped the seat of power and governed from Damascus. During this time, Imam AS embraced patience and forbearance, like his father Ameer al-Mumineen AS, while Muʿawiya perverted the Islamic faith and indulged in vice and turpitude. Upon his death, as a final act of oppression against Muslims everywhere, Muʿawiya appointed his disreputable and base son Yazeed as his successor.

Yazeed was notorious for his immorality and his contempt for Islam and Rasul Allah SA were well-known. When the Prophet SA was once spoke of in Yazeed’s presence, he recited the following verse aloud:

The Hashimi (i.e. Nabi Mohammed SA) toyed with the people; there was no revelation revealed to him nor was there any book. 

Al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna ʿAali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS and past Duʿat Mutlaqeen RA often narrate a particular encounter between  Imam Husain AS and the wretched Yazeed. Imam Husain AS along with Abd Allah bin Jaʿfar called upon Muʿawiyah. After the meeting, at Abd Allah’s behest, Imam Husain AS accompanied him to meet Yazeed for some errand. There, Imam Husain AS found Yazeed drunk, playing with dogs and being entertained with music. His shamelessness and insolence were so great, that he even had the audacity to suggest to the cupbearer to approach Imam Husain AS.   Upon witnessing his debauchery and his blatant disregard and disdain for Nabi Mohammed’s SA shariat, the Imam AS rebuked him and declared,

If you are to ever assume leadership in my lifetime, I will not give you my allegiance; I will give you only my sword. 

After Muʿawiya’s death in 60/680, Yazeed ascended to the seat of the caliphate and immediately sought to cement his position by demanding allegiance (baiʿat) from all the lands of Islam. Fearing Imam Husain’s AS  staunch opposition and wary of the Imam’s AS authority and standing as the righteous and true Imam, Yazeed schemed to acquire Imam’s allegiance. He instructed his governor in Madina, Waleed, to summon Imam Husain AS at night without informing as to why and take his oath prior to the general public. Imam Husain AS, as he had vowed, declared that he would never give oath to Yazeed. When word of Yazeed’s succession spread, senior figures and tribal leaders of Kufa rejected his claim and sought Imam Husain’s AS assistance knowing that he was the true heir of the Prophet SA and the rightful, divinely-ordained leader of the umma. The Kufans sent letter upon letter to Imam Husain AS urging him to take a stand and assuring him of their support. Knowing that his continued stay in Madina was no longer possible, Imam Husain AS left the Prophet’s SA city prior to the public oath gathering for Yazeed on the 28th of Rajab 60/680.

Before leaving, Imam Husain AS paid his final respects at Rasul Allah’s SA qabr mubarak who had appeared to him in a vision and prompted him to undertake the journey to Karbala and attain shahaadat. While at the Nabi’s SA qabr mubarak, Imam Husain AS was heard quoting a verse by Ibn Mufarrig which spoke to the inevitability of death. His words alluded to the events that were to transpire in Karbala. When narrating this final ziyaarat, al-Dai al-Ajal al-Muqaddas Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA often quoted Rasul Allah’s SA   emotional plea to his dear grandson, “Ae bethaa sidharo, sidharo” (Go, O beloved son, go). Imam Husain AS left Madina, his childhood home, the sacred burial place of his respected grandfather, his beloved mother and his esteemed brother, never to return.