The Journey to Karbala: The Manaazil of Salvation (Part 3)

We weep, while recalling each manzil (stop in his journey).
In which he planned for the salvation of the munzal (the fallen).
For he is the meaning of al-Kitab al-Munzal (the Quran, the Revelation).
The eyes of those who recall his journey and relive these steps are at peace.
The remembrance of Imam Husain AS is the best of provisions for those who remember.

In his marthiya mubaraka Zikr al-Husain Khair Zaad al-Zakireen, al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Aali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS speaks of the manaazil, or waystops, Imam Husain AS passes on his way to Karbala. The recollection of these manaazil, as Mufaddal Maula TUS explains, not only brings tears to our eyes, but peace to our hearts. His journey was a journey undertaken for the salvation of Mumineen, and as such, in retracing his sacred steps, we undertake our journey towards salvation as well.  

While pilgrims in Makka al-Mukarama were busy completing the final rites of hajj and preparing for the celebration of Eid,  Imam Husain AS embarked upon his final journey in order to fulfil the promise he made to his grandfather Nabi Mohammed SA. Knowing well that even the sanctuary of Holy Kaʿba would not provide a refuge for Rasul Allah’s SAW family, Imam Husain AS  left Makka and made his way to Kufa whose population had promised him their support. His Ahl al-Bayt AS accompanied him as well. Among his many divinely-informed reasons to take them with, al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA once explained that Imam Husain AS was reluctant to leave them behind lest any harm befall them during his lifetime and before his eyes. There were others who initially joined Imam Husain AS as well with the hope that fighting with him might lead to the spoils of battle and riches. 

Drawing from, al-Dai al-Ajal al-Muqaddas Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA ‘s risaala shareefa Barakato Sibghatil Allah (1390), this final part of the three-part essay traces Imam Husain’s AS route to Karbala and recounts some of the incidents that took place on the way. 

Bustan Bani ʿAamir (بستان بني عامر) 

Imam Husain’s AS  first manzil was Bustan Bani ʿAamir on the outskirts of Makka. Here he met the famous poet Farazdaq (d. 114/732), a Shiʿa faithful to his cause, who inquired as to why he was leaving Makka while Muslims across the world had gathered there for pilgrimage. Imam Husain AS responded that he was aware of Allah’s wisdom and had he stayed, he would have been captured. He then asked about the conditions prevailing in Kufa to which Farazdaq responded,

Their hearts may be with you, but their swords are against you.

Imam AS  replied, “If destiny decrees in our favour, then praise be to Allah, and if otherwise, then those who are true in their intentions and sincere of heart need not falter.”

Shortly afterwards ʿAbd Allah bin Jaʿfar, Maulatona Zainab’s AS spouse, sent his two young sons, ʿAun and Mohammed to join Imam’s AS retinue carrying a letter on his behalf. In it he pleaded with the Imam AS not to hasten his journey since he was trying to secure immunity from the governor of Makka. Having successfully secured the edict, he set after Imam Husain AS and once he caught up to him, he urged him to return to Makka. Imam Husain AS revealed to him that he had seen the Nabi Mohammed SAW in a dream and that his current course of action was put in motion by his esteemed grandfather.  Upon hearing this, ʿAbd Allah commanded his sons to stay by the Imam’s AS  side and fight for his cause. 

ʿAmeem (العميم, or al- Tanʿeem — التنعيم), Zaat ʿIrq (`ذاتَ عِرق)  &  al-Thʿalaba (الثَعلبة)

Imam Husain AS continued his journey until he reached ʿAmeem (Tanʿeem) from where he proceeded to Zaat ʿIrq. Travelling the entire morning, he arrived at Thʿalabah by midday. Here, in a dream he heard a voice saying, “As you proceed onwards, Death leads you towards jannat”

When Imam Husain AS conveyed this dream to his son, Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen AS, he responded “Beloved father, do we not stand for truth and haqq?”

“Of course, my dear child” said Imam Husain AS.

“Then we heed not death”, Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen AS reassuringly remarked.  

This exchange, though brief, embodies the essence of Karbala and the Imams’ AS commitment to protecting the religion of their forefather Rasul Allah SAW and securing salvation for his true umma. 

Haajir (حاجِر) 

Imam Husain AS  left Thʿalaba for Haajir, from where he sent Qais bin Mushir to Kufa to inquire as to the whereabouts of Muslim bin ʿAqeel RH. Meanwhile, the wretched ʿUbayd Allah bin Ziyaad had taken complete control over Kufa and had enforced a blockade on all major routes between Basra, Kufa, and Syria, thereby preventing access to those who wished to join Imam Husain AS

It happened that a group travelling from Makka with Zuhayr bin Qayn encountered Imam Husain and his Ahl al-Bayt AS as they made their way to Iraq. Both camps were set up adjacent to one another. Imam Husain AS  sent a messenger to Zuhayr seeking his presence. Zuhayr was having lunch when the messenger conveyed Imam’s AS instructions. Mid-meal, he stood up and made his way to the Imam’s AS camp without delay. When he returned, he announced his plans to join Imam Husain AS and bid farewell to his family and companions, knowing that the only path before him now was one that led to shahaadat.

Zubala (زُبالة) 

Imam Husain AS reached Zubala where he received the fateful news of the shahaadat of Muslim bin Aqeel and Haani bin Urwa RH. “To Allah we belong and to Him we will return”, Imam AS declared repeatedly. Heralds relaying this ominous news tried to dissuade Imam AS from proceeding onwards and informed him that not a single supporter or a shiʿa awaited him in Kufa. After consulting with his family members, Husain Imam AS  looked at his informants and said, “There is no good in living after the loss of such men”, and continued onwards unabated. 

A short while later Imam AS also came to know of Qais bin Mushir’s similar fate.  ʿUbayd Allah bin Ziyaad had captured Qais and mercilessly executed him in Kufa as he had as his companions. Imam Husain AS  gathered those who accompanied him and informed them of the fate of his emissaries and that those who claimed to be his shiʿa have betrayed them. Those who wished to leave, were permitted to do so. A great number of people abandoned him and went their own ways, save for those blessed souls who were destined to attain the high station of shahaadat. 

Batn al-ʿAqaba (بطن العَقَبة)

The holy caravan’s next stop was at Batn al-ʿAqaba. Sheikh ʿIkrami presented himself to Imam HusainAS  and implored him to reverse his course. He cautioned him regarding the prevailing political circumstances in Kufa. Imam Husain AS replied, “The circumstances do not escape me, but Allah’s will will not be undone.”

Sharq (شَرق) (also Sharaaf شَراف) 

Upon arriving at Sharq early in the morning, Imam Husain AS  instructed his companions to replenish their water supply knowing that beyond this point the precious resource would become scarce. They left Sharq and proceeded onwards. While travelling, that afternoon an imposing force of approximately one thousand soldiers dispatched to impede and intercept Imam Husain AS, was seen approaching on the horizon. Led by Hur al-Tamimi, they arrived absolutely parched from the scorching heat of the desert. Although Imam Husain AS knew that his kindness would not be reciprocated, the paragon of mercy and benevolence directed his companions to provide water to his foes and their mounts.

During this encounter, Imam Husain AS addressed the opposing Umayyad forces. He said to them that he had made the trip to Iraq only because he had received letters from Kufa imploring him to come. He argued, 

If it is still your desire to have me in your midst, then I am here now; give me your allegiance. If, however, my presence amongst you is unwanted, I will return to whence I have come.

They failed to counter his argument. 

When zuhr prayers drew near, Imam Husain AS conveyed to Hur to lead his forces in prayer whereas he would lead those with him. Hur instead  insisted that Imam Husain AS lead them all. Al-Dai al-Ajal al-Muqaddas Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA remarks that this was a watershed moment for Hur and marked the beginning of his good fortunes that ultimately culminated with the great honour of shahaadat

When prayers were complete, Husain Imam AS reinforced his argument and presented his foes with the letters he had received from Kufa. They did not listen. Although Hur would eventually join Imam Husain AS on the Day of Aashura and seek forgiveness for his transgression, the Ummayad forces he commanded at that time were unsympathetic and under instructions from ʿUbayd Allah bin Ziyad. They replied, “We will not leave you until you accompany us to Ibn Ziyaad in Kufa”. 

Husain Imam AS retorted, “I would sooner welcome death than that”. 

Qasr Bani Muqaatil (قصر بني مقاتل) & Nainawa (نينوى)

Imam Husain’s AS  caravan reached Qasr Bani Muqatil from where it left for Nainawa. Here, orders were received from Ibn Ziyad to halt Imam Husain’s AS  advance immediately and force him to camp in an area without defensive features and without water. It was Thursday, the 2nd of Muharram al-Haram in the year 61/680 when Imam Husain’s AS noble steed suddenly stopped. Imam Husain AS asked nearby dwellers the name of his location. Some replied that it was known as Taff (طف), another declared it was Maariya (مارية), while still others said it was Nainawa (نينوى).

Imam Husain AS put the question to one of their elders, who answered similarly. Drawing his attention to his specific location, Imam Husain AS once more asked, “What is the name of the precise spot where my horse stands?” 

“Karbala” the Shaikh responded.

Karbun wa bala (distress and hardship)!”, Imam Husain AS  declared, adding, “This here is our final stop and where our blood will be spilt.” 

Husain Imam’s AS earthly journey, one that led him from the Prophet’s SAW Madina to Allah’s sanctuary in Makka to various manaazil in the deserts of Hijaz and Iraq, had come to an end. However, his journey to the Hereafter now begins. A journey that has been told since time immemorial, and one that shall be retold for generations to come. A journey that is at the heart of our own journeys of growth, guidance and ultimately, salvation. May Allah Taʿala grant us the honour of always embarking upon this journey with Husain Imam’s AS dai Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS and grant him a life in health and happiness until the Day of Qiyaamat.