Souls Sacrificed for Religion

By: Āyatullah Muḥammad Taqī Miṣbāḥ Yazdī

Translated by: Muhammad Reza Dorudgar & Zaid Alsalami

The Blood of Imām Ḥusain (a.s.); a guarantor for keeping Islam in society

Everything that has been mentions is an overall observation of the conditions Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) had faced. After the martyrdom of his honourable father, Imām ʿAlī (a.s.), and during the imāmate of his brother Imām Ḥasan (a.s.), Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) witnessed all these events, and for the sake of the interest of Islam he was patient and suffered. During his own imamate, he experienced and suffered under these conditions as well. It must not be misunderstood that Imām Ḥasan (a.s.) had faced the same circumstances, which would have necessitated the same treatment and reaction. If any other Imām was in the position of Imām Ḥasan (a.s.), they would have done exactly what Imām Ḥasan (a.s.) did. Imām Ḥasan (a.s.)  lived in a time where every day he would witness the imāms of congregation and Friday prayer curse his father Imām ʿAlī (a.s.), aloud on pulpits, intending this to gain closeness to God!

In such circumstances, Imām Ḥasan (a.s.) had no choice other than to suffer and be patient, as there was nothing else he could do. During these years, Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) was beside his brother, and his reaction towards these problems was the same as whatever his brother did. After Imām Ḥasan (a.s.), Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) continued more or less his brother’s approach, and was not engaging in any resistance against the Umayyad government.

It was not that Imām Husain (a.s.) did absolutely nothing, but what he did was discreet and secret. Imām Husain (a.s.) corresponded with some of the companions of the Prophet (ṣ.a.w.) who were still alive, and he would write letters to other people whom he saw to be competent and worthy. It was during ḥajj season in particular that Imām Husain (a.s.) would seize the opportunity and privately meet with Muslims, to speak and guide them. In these meetings, while expressing the concerns and problems they faced during that era, Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) stressed on the danger threatening Islam.

Details of some of these meetings and issues Imām Husain (a.s.) raised in them have been mentioned in books of history and ḥadīth.

In regards to the circumstances of that time, it was such that Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) was not able to work towards a widespread countering against the satanic Muʿāwiyah propaganda. Eventually the situation reached a level where Muʿāwiyah had established an extremely dangerous innovation, turning caliphate into an inheritable. Until the time of Muʿāwiyah, the caliphate and the ruling of former caliphs had every problem that could exist, but yet it was not inheritable. The first to initiate such an innovation in Islam was Muʿāwiyah. In fact, what we see after Muʿāwiyah in the continuation of his movement is that caliphate in the Islamic society became heritable.

In the last days of Muʿāwiyah’s life, he decided to use his influence and position to pressure tribal chiefs and influential people of that time, before he even died, to pledge their allegiance to his son Yazīd. This of course was the same movement that ultimately resulted in the uprising of Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) and led to his confrontation with the Umayyad government.

The important note here is the answer to the question as to why did Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) rise? Numerous answers and explanations to this have been given here, and some of them we have analysed and critiqued. For example, we mentioned that some believe that the primary and first objective Imām Ḥusain had for his movement was to overthrow the Umayyad and Yazīd government, and to take power of the caliphate and government.

We explained that this viewpoint is certainly not true and completely inconsistent with historical and ḥadīth evidence.  In the confined and secret correspondences Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) had with certain people during the reign of Muʿāwiyah, he realised that what he was saying did not have the required effects on the people, nor were they on a level where they wanted to start a resistance, for him to rely on them and have a military encounter with the Umayyad government. Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) from his father and his brother had firsthand experience, closely witnessing what those people did to Imām ʿAlī (a.s.) and Imām Ḥasan (a.s.). In addition to this, his father and brother were closer to the era of the Prophet (ṣ.a.w.), and many of them were apparently the Prophet’s companions as well, but the general situation of the Muslims during Imām Ḥusain’s time was very different. If those people who during his father and brother’s time who seemingly had stronger belief, faith and piety dealt with the Imāms in the way they did, what could Imām Ḥusain expect from the Muslims of his time?

Therefore, someone with even the least familiarity with history and the issues surrounding the time of Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) would still never mention this immature idea that the Imām was after the caliphate. With all preliminary work that Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) did, firstly by sending his delegate, Muslim ibn ʿAqīl, and all the other groundwork that took place, we see that all the people who joined the Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) resistance did not even reach one thousand people.

As for the number of people ʿUmar ibn Saʿd had in Karbala, it is recorded that there was thirty thousand of them, and other records mention there was over one hundred and twenty thousand. If we accept the least number, being thirty thousand soldiers, would it be rational that someone with one thousand people battle against a thirty thousand strong army, with the intention of removing the ruler and acquiring caliphate?!

Furthermore, many of the one thousand people also deserted Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) before the night of ʿĀshurāʾ, leaving him with just seventy to one hundred people.

Would a sensible person with just seventy-two soldiers want to fight against a thirty thousand soldier army, with the aim of wanting to defeat them, stay alive and then rise to claim the position of caliphate and rule the government?

What was the issue then?

With all these conditions, and with just seventy-two people, why did Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) come to Karbala and fight against thirty thousand? The obvious result for this confrontation would clearly be nothing other than Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) being killed, along with those who were with him, and the rest with the women of the Progeny of the Prophet (ṣ.a.w.) be captives.

If this was the case, why did Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) chose to be killed?

We have addressed and clarified this in detail, explaining how there was a serious danger threatening Islam. There are basically two ways for weakening and removing faith and belief from people in a society:

The first method is to cast doubts and misconceptions regarding people’s beliefs, making them question their beliefs, and continue this way until eventually the doubts turn to certainty.

 The second way is to facilitate the social basis in making sin easily available and prevalent. Turning people to engage in the habit of committing sins will eventually result in faith leaving their hearts and soul, and even direct them towards opposing religion as well. The Quran says:

ثُمَّ كَانَ عَاقِبَةَ الَّذِينَ أَسَاءُوا السُّوءَى أَنْ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَكَانُوا بِهَا يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ

Then the fate of those who committed misdeeds was that they denied the signs of Allah and they used to deride them.[1]

During Muʿāwiyah’s reign, both of these were done. By excessive propaganda and his deceptive sly politics, he was able to weaken the religious beliefs of people, especially in the area of imamate, caliphate and government, deviating people away from it. Among the propaganda techniques he used that was discussed here was him praying Friday prayer on a Wednesday, and everyone followed him in congregation, with absolutely no objection, with nobody questioning what does Friday prayer have to do with Wednesday?!!

On a practical level, with all the expensive bribes Muʿāwiyah gave, along with appointing corrupt and immoral people in government posts, he was also preparing the grounds for sin and moral decadence in society. He gave his agents the freedom to commit any kind of debauchery, crime and oppression.  In today’s catchy terms, he treated them with absolute “tolerance”, allowing them to do as they wish, with a smile, not to become “harsh” or “strict” in his government in these matters. Of course, it was even more tolerated and encouraged if his agents were to exert all kinds of oppression and violence against the followers and supporters of Imām ʿAlī (a.s.). This made it easy to hunt down the sincere companions of Imām ʿAlī (a.s.) wherever they were, and officially arrest and assassinate them.

In these kinds of conditions, it would naturally mean that it is impossible for seventy-two people to win over thirty thousand people.

 Yes, it would be possible if a miracle was used, to give victory to the seventy-two strong army. However, it was not expected for a miracle of such a kind to occur, and it did not occur. If it was planned that a miracle was to happen in order to reform people, Almighty God was able to descend a sign for people to submit and believe, whether people want to or not. The Quran says:

إِنْ نَشَأْ نُنَزِّلْ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ آيَةً فَظَلَّتْ أَعْنَاقُهُمْ لَهَا خَاضِعِينَ

If We wish We will send down to them a sign from the sky before which their heads will remain bowed in humility. [2]

Anyway, in normal conditions where it is expected for people to willingly believe, by their own choice and act according to their duties, there would be no way for seventy-two people to win against thirty thousand. For this very reason, in normal circumstances, Islam has never commanded us to face or confront in this situation. The maximum amount that is put for fighting against an enemy is the ratio of one to ten, and that was exclusively for battles in the beginning and early years of Islam. In later stages in the era of the Prophet (ṣ.a.w.), the ratio drastically reduced to one against two, which meant that the numbers of Muslims must at least be half the number of the enemy, and then jihad would be a duty and military confrontation would be allowed. This was previously mentioned, and certain verses were sent down explaining this as well, like:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ حَرِّضِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلَى الْقِتَالِ إِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ عِشْرُونَ صَابِرُونَ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ وَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ مِائَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفًا مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لا يَفْقَهُونَ. الآنَ خَفَّفَ اللَّهُ عَنْكُمْ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفًا فَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ مِائَةٌ صَابِرَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ وَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ أَلْفٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفَيْنِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ

O Prophet Urge on the faithful to fight: If there be twenty patient men among you, they shall overcome two hundred; and if there be hundred of you, they shall overcome a thousand. Now Allah has lightened your burden, knowing that there is weakness in you. So if there be a hundred patient men among you, they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be a thousand, they shall overcome two thousand, by Allah’s leave; and Allah is with the patient. [3]

What pushed Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) to this battle was that in those circumstances, the only way to save Islam in society and to show the right path for people of that time and for generations to come was what Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) did.

Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) was not killed in return for taking his friends Heaven. Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) sacrified his life to save religion in society for his time and for future generations. There are many arguments to support this view, and one of them is a part of the Ziyārah Arbaʿīn of Abā ʿAbdillah (a.s.), saying:

وَبَذَلَ مُهجَتَهُ فیکَ لِیَستَنقِذَ عِبادَکَ مِنَ الجَهالةِ وَحیرةِ الضَّلالَةِ

He [Imām Ḥusain] sacrificed his soul for You to save Your servants from the yoke of ignorance and perplexity of misguidance.[4]

This statement is similar to statement of the holy Prophet (ṣ.a.w.) in his advice to the Commander of the faithful (a.s.):

والخامسةُ بذلکَ مالَکَ ودمَکَ دونَ دینِکَ.

The fifth advice is that you sacrifice your property and your blood [life] for your religion.[5]

In this part of Ziyārah Arbaʿīn, it says: “he sacrificed his soul for You”. Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) gave his life for the sake of God, but for what? So that he can: “save Your servants from the yoke of ignorance and perplexity of misguidance”.

The widespread propaganda Muʿāwiyah used was so effective that people lost the right path, not knowing what was right and what was wrong.

The movement of ʿĀshurāʾ and what Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) did in Karbala broke all these spells and neutralised all the witchcraft and control the Umayyads had over the people. People came to realise the truth, and found out what was happening in the society. The way the Umayyads treated Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) and the crimes they committed towards this was so disgraceful, shameful and brutal that everyone who heard about it realised that a supposed representative of the Prophet (ṣ.a.w.) could not commit such a heinous act.

There is no case in history similar to the atrocious crime committed in Karbala. People had never heard or seen such acts, even from hostile disbelievers.

This is why the movement of Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) exposed the Umayyads and in less than one day destroyed all the efforts Muʿāwiyah was so preciously planning for many years.  No one could believe that the caliph of the Prophet (ṣ.a.w.) could do such a thing with someone, and that being the Prophet’s own grandson and family members. Everyone realised such a person could in no way be the Prophet’s successor.

The movement of Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) was so effective and successful that despite one thousand four hundred years passing from the event, its memory is still vibrantly alive, and nobody could doubt Yazīd and his allies being on the side of falsehood, and Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) and his allies on the side of the truth.

Yes, they have cast doubt in everything, even in something so obvious like Ghadīr Khumm, where they could not doubt its occurrence, but resorted to doubting what it implies. There are even some Shīʿa who make this claim, insinuating that mawlā in the Ghadīr did not mean leader or imamate, but rather just meant love and respect of Imām ʿAlī (a.s.)!

Nonetheless, no one has doubted the event and occurrence of ʿĀshurāʾ and Karbala, friend or enemy, believer or disbeliever, Muslim or non-Muslim. Everyone acknowledges that the blood that was shed was due to the oppression they were facing and was in defence of faith and belief, to save Islam.

We emphasise again that Imām Ḥusain’s movement was not for gaining power to rule, nor was it to be killed so his followers can enter Heaven. Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) shed his blood and sacrificed himself to save and preserve Islam in the society.

Saving Islam is a general obligation and duty, which of course has different levels. The highest level of this duty was what Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) undertook, resulting in the real meaning of “sacrificing whatever he had” for religion. If this level of duty was to occur in any other time and place, the followers of Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) and the advocators of the School of ʿĀshurāʾ should do what Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) did.

This is precisely the very level Imām Khomeini referred to when he said: today [under the oppression of Shah], taqiyya is forbidden, no matter what happens. [6]






In reality, Imām Khomeini being inspired by the School of ʿĀshurāʾ and the Master of martyrs (a.s.), sensed Islam was in danger, which is why he said: “We have prepared our chests for your bayonets”.

 If at that time Imām Khomeini had not reacted in that particular way, it would not be sure that we would know anything about true Islam or Shīʿism in this country today, or at least we would not dare to publicly declare it.

What happened in Karbala, and also the revolution that Imām Khomeini led was the highest level of facing the duty of saving Islam. There are other levels that could exist that would make it a duty for all Muslims to fulfil their obligation according to what that level would need.

In our final words, we ask Almighty God to make us genuine followers of Imām Ḥusain (a.s.) and the School of ʿĀshurāʾ. May the soul of Imām Khomeini and the souls of our martyrs be resurrected with the noble souls of our Prophets, our Saints, and with the Master of Martyrs (a.s.). Amen!

[1] Quran, 30: 10.

[2] Quran, 26: 4.

[3] Quran, 8: 65–66.

[4] Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 101, p. 177, ḥ. 30

[5] Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 77, p. 70, ḥ. 8.

[6] Ṣaḥife Nūr, vol. 1, p. 40.


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