The Journey to Karbala: Preserving Makka’s Sanctity (Part 2)

Having vowed to defend Islam and Nabi Mohammed’s SA shariat from the contempt and mockery of Yazeed, Maulana al-Imam al-Husain AS left his home in Madina rejecting any type of allegiance to the newly appointed sinister caliph. Imam Husain AS arrived in Makka al-Mukarrama at the beginning of Shaʿban 60/680 and was welcomed by the holy city’s residents. In the three-part article on Imam Husain’s AS journey to Karbala al-Muʿalla, which is based off of the account provided by al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA in his risala shareefa Barakato Sibghat Allah (1390), this part is dedicated to Imam’s four-month stay in Makka al-Mukarrama and the reasons that ultimately lead to his decision to leave.

Imam Husain AS observed the holy month of Share Ramadan al-Muʿazzam in Makka. During these sacred days, Imam Husain AS spent much of his time in prayer and supplication at the Holy Kaʿba blessing Mumineen with his duʿa mubarak. Throughout this period, Imam Husain AS  received multiple letters and pleas from Kufan leaders urging him to make haste and assume command of the city. Written by the high-ranking members of the Kufan aristocracy and former supporters of Ameer al-Mumineen AS, Imam Husain AS received over 150 letters. The contents of these messages tell of the political climate in Kufa and the supposed support that had gathered there for Imam Husain AS. One of the final letters read: 

To Husain bin Ali AS  from his Shiʿa and the Shiʿa of his father. 

Indeed, people await you and do not recognize any Imam other than you. So make haste and do not delay, O son of Rasul Allah SA.

In response to their requests, Imam Husain AS  dispatched his cousin Muslim bin ʿAqeel AS  as his emissary to take an oath of allegiance (baiʿa) from the people of Kufa.

Alongside the mounting pressure from Kufa, preserving the sanctity of the haram was a major factor in Imam’s Husain’s AS decision to leave Makka al-Mukarrama. Rasul Allah AS had foretold of an individual whose actions would result in bloodshed within the very sacred precincts of the Kaʿba, the holiest site in Islam. With knowledge that his enemies were actively seeking to capture him in Makka, Imam Husain AS was concerned with what might transpire in the city. A significant figure at this junction in Islamic history is ʿAbd Allah bin Zubayr, who at the time, was also present in Makka. His father Zubayr bin ʿAwaam’s political ambitions had led him to join the forces opposing Ameer al-Mumineen AS  at the Battle of the Camel (Jamal). ʿAbd Allah, like his father, bore similar nefarious aspirations. Aware that while Imam Husain AS  remained in Makka, people would be reluctant to support his cause, ʿAbd Allah secretly hoped that Imam would leave. Later, when news spread of Imam Husain’s AS decision to leave, ʿAbd Allah feigned concern masquerading his true intent and suggested that Imam Husain AS  should stay in Makka. Imam AS , privy to ʿAbd Allah’s intent, responded, ‘I swear by Allah I do not wish to be the one who violates the sanctity of this sanctuary’. After Imam Husain’s AS shahaadat, ʿAbd Allah revolted against the Umayyads and his actions resulted in the violation of Allah’s sanctuary. Umayyad forces laid siege to Makka for 6 months resulting in the bombardment of and damage to the Kaʿba and bloodshed in its sacred precincts.  

Makka’s sanctity and the invitations from Kufa are two of the more apparent reasons which led Imam Husain AS in his divine wisdom to travel to Iraq. Upon learning about Imam’s AS  intent to leave Makka, ʿAbd Allah bin ʿAbbas RA, who was wary of the fickle nature of the Kufans, vehemently advised him against travelling. “The People of Kufa betrayed your father and abandoned your brother”, he pleaded. Instead, he suggested Imam to go to Yemen where he had a large following. Upon seeing Imam Husain’s AS  unwavering conviction, he implored, “If you must go, then leave your Ahl al-Bayt and children behind here in Makka, for I am concerned for their safety.” 

Imam Husain AS  replied, “I know what will befall me and what lies ahead.” 

Mohammed ibne Hanafiyya RH, Maulana al-Imam al-Husain’s AS half-brother, wept and tried to persuade Imam Husain AS  against his journey. Imam AS  declined his request and recited the following verses which capture his undeterred resolve:

I will continue upon my chosen path; there is no shame in death so long as a man intends to do good and strives to be a true Muslim .

Thereafter, Imam Husain AS  entrusted him with affairs of the Daʿwat and appointed him a deputy on behalf of Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen AS to whom he was instructed to return what he had been entrusted with.

When the time for hajj arrived at the onset of Zil Hijja 60/680, Imam Husain AS decided to embark upon the annual pilgrimage. However, when he learnt of a plot to capture and assassinate him on Mount ʿArafa, he determined that completing the hajj would not be possible and substituted it for an umrah instead. While Muslims throughout the lands had gathered in Makka and were completing their hajj rites, Husain Imam AS withdrew from the sacred city.

The very day Husain Imam AS departed Makka, his emissary Muslim bin ʿAqeel RH was betrayed by individuals loyal to the Umayyads while in Kufa and killed. The cursed ʿUbayd Allah bin Ziyaad, Yazeed’s governor in nearby Basara was given charge of Kufa where he captured Muslim RH as well as his host Haani bin ʿUrwaRH, executing them and displaying their beheaded bodies in the Kanasa Bazar. Muslim and Haani were the first to gain the honour of shahaadat in Imam Husain’s AS cause. 

Imam Husain’s AS destination was and had always been Karbala. Although various social and political reasons would seem to have required his departure from Madina and Makka and suggested his aim to reach Kufa, ultimately, it was Karbala where he knew his shahaadat would take place. It is this sacred parcel of heavenly land where he was determined to go in order to fulfill his promise to his beloved grandfather, Nabi Mohammed SAW. With his departure from Makka al-Mukarrama, so began Imam Husain’s AS final earthly journey, a journey that he knew was destined to lead him to Karbala al-Muʿalla and to shahaadat.