The Twelve Imams

Biographies and descriptions of the 12 Imams (S).​

The Third Imam: Husayn - The Chief of Martyrs

Imam Husain ibn 'Ali (peace be upon him)  

  • Name: Husain ibn 'Ali  
  • Titles: Sayyid-as-Shuhadaa (Leader of Martyrs)  
  • Kuniya: Abu Abdullah  
  • Birthdate: Thursday, 3rd Shaban 4 A.H. in Madina  
  • Father: Imam 'Ali Al-Murtaza (peace be upon him), 1st Holy Imam  
  • Mother: Hazrat Fatimah (daughter of the Holy Prophet) (peace be upon them)     Died:
  • (Martyred) Date: Friday, 10th Muharram, 61 A.H. Place: Kerbala, Iraq       Age: 57 years     
  • Cause: Massacred along with some of his family membersand companions by the army of Yazid ibn Mu'awiya   
  • Buried: Kerbala, Iraq

In the House of the Holy Prophet, which presented the best image of both the worlds - the heaven and the earth- a child who benefited humanity as if he was a Divine Impression reflecting the earth, was born on one of the nights of the month of Sha'ban. His father was Imam 'Ali, the best model of kindness towards his friends and the bravest against the enemies of Islam, and his mother was Hadrat Fatimah, the only daughter and child of the Holy Prophet, who had as universally acknowledged, inherited the qualities of her father. Imam Husayn, is the third Apostolic Imam. When the good news of his birth reached the Holy Prophet, he came to his daughter's house, took the newly-born child in his arms, recited adhan and iqamah in his right and left ears respectively, and on the 7th day of his birth, after performing the rites of 'aqlqah, named him al-Husayn, in compliance with Allah's command. 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas relates: "On the very day when Imam Husayn was born, Allah ordered angel Gabriel to descend and congratulate the Holy Prophet on His Behalf and on his own.

While descending, Gabriel passed over an island where the angel Futrus had been banished due to his delay in executing a commission assigned by Allah. He was deprived of his wings and expelled to the island where he remained for several years praying and worshiping Allah and asking for His forgiveness. "When the angel Futrus saw Gabriel, he called out, ' Where are you going, O Gabriel?' To this he replied, ' Husayn, the grandson of Muhammad is born, and for this very reason Allah has commanded me to convey His congratulations to His Apostle.' Thereupon, the angel said, ' Can you carry me also along with you? May Muhammad recommend my case to Allah.' Gabriel took the angel along with him, came to the Holy Prophet, offered congratulations to him on behalf of Allah and himself and referred the case of the angel to him.

The Holy Prophet said to Gabriel, 'Ask the angel to touch the body of the newly-born child and return to his place in Heaven.' On doing this, the angle re-obtained his wings instantly and praising the Holy Prophet and his newly- born grandson, ascended towards the Heaven. Hasan and Husayn, the two sons of the Holy Imam 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and Hadrat Fatimah, our Lady of Light, were respected and revered as the 'Leaders of the Youths of Paradise' as stated by the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be Upon him and his progeny, had openly prophesied that the faith of Islam would be rescued by his second grandson Husayn, when Yazid, son of Mu'awiayh, would endeavour to destroy it. Yazid was known for his devilish character and brutish conduct. He was known as the most licentious of men. The people having known and understood the character of Yazid, formed a covenant by which Mu'awiyah could not appoint Yazid as his successor. This undertaking was given by Mu'awiyah to Imam Hasan from whom Mu`awiyah had snatched power. Mu'awiyah violated this undertaking and nominated Yazid who succeeded his father. Immediately as he came to power, Yazid began acting in full accordance with his known character. He started interfering in the fundamentals of the faith and practiced every vice and wickedness freely with the highest degree of impunity and yet held himself out as the successor of the Holy Prophet, demanding allegiance to himself as the leading guide of the faith.

Paying allegiance to Yazid was nothing short of acknowledging the devil as Cod. If a divine personality like the holy Imam Husayn had agreed to his authority, it would be actually recommending the devil to humanity in place of Cod. Yazid demanded allegiance from the Holy Imam Husayn, who could have never agreed to it at any cost. The people fearing death and destruction at the hands of the tyrant had yielded to him out of fear. Imam Husayn said that come what- ever may, he would never yield to the devil in place of God and undo what his grandfather, the Holy Prophet had established. The refusal of the Holy Imam to pay allegiance to this fiend, marked the start of the persecution of the Holy Imam. As a result he had retired to Medina where he led a secluded life. Even here he was not allowed to live in peace, and was forced to seek refuge in Mecca where also he was badly harassed, and Yazid plotted to murder him in the very precincts of the great sanctuary of Ka'bah.

In order to safeguard the great sanctuary, Imam Husayn decided to leave Mecca for Kufah just a day before tile haj (pilgrimage). When asked the reason for the mysterious departure from Mecca foregoing the pilgrim- age which was only the next day Imam Husayn said that he would perform this year's pilgrimage at Karbala', Offering the sacrifice not of any animals, but of his kith and kin and some faithful friends. He enumerated the names of his kith and kin who would lay down their lives with him in the great sacrifice at Karbala'. The people of Kufah getting tired of the tyrannic and satanic rule of Yazid, had written innumerable letters and sent emissaries to Imam Husayn to come over and give them guidance in faith.

Although Imam Husayn knew the ultimate end of the invitations, he as the divinely chosen Imam could not refuse to give the guidance sought for. When the Holy Imam with his entourage had reached karbala', his horse mysteriously stopped and would not move any further. Upon this the holy Imam declared: "This is the land, the land of sufferings and tortures." He alighted from his horse, and ordered his followers to encamp there saying: Here shall we be martyred and our children be killed. Here shall our tents be burned and our family arrested. This is the land about which my grandfather the Holy Prophet had foretold, and his prophecy will certainly be fulfilled."

On the 7th of Muharram water supply to the lmam's carnp was cut and the torture of thirst and hunger started. the holy Imam's camp consisted of ladies, innocent children including babies and some male members of the Holy prophet's family; along with a small band of some faithful friends of Imam Husayn who had chosen to die with the Holy Imam, fighting against the devil for the cause of Allah.

Imam Husayn sent out from his camp one after another to fight and sacrifice their lives in the way of the Lord. Lastly, when all his men and children had laid down their lives, Imam Husayn brought his six-month old baby son 'Ali al-Asghar, and offering him on his own hands, demanded some water for the baby, dying of thirst. The thirst of the baby was quenched by a deadly poisoned arrow from the brute's forces, which pinned the baby's neck to the arm of the helpless father.

At dawn the Imam glanced over the army of Yazid and saw 'Umar ibn Sa'd ordering his forces to march to- wards him. He gathered his followers and addressed them thus:

"Allah has, this day, permitted us to be engaged in a Holy War and He shall reward us for our martyrdom. So prepare yourselves to fight against the enemies of Islam with patience and resistance. O sons of the noble and self-respecting persons, be patient ! heath is nothing but a bridge which you must cross after facing trials and tribulations so as to reach Heaven and its joys. Which of you do not like to go from this prison (world) to the lofty palaces (Paradise ) ? " Having heard the Imam's address, all his companions were overwhelmed and cried out, "O our Master! We are ail ready to defend you and your Ahlu 'I-hayt, and to sacrifice our lives for the cause of Islam."
At last when the six-month old baby also was killed, Imam Husayn addressed Allah: "O Lord! Thy Husayn has offered in Thy way whatever Thou hath blessed him with. Bless Thy Husayn, O Lord! with the acceptance of this sacrifice. Everything Husayn could do till now was through Thy help and by Thy Grace."

Lastly, Imam Husayn came into the field and was killed, the details of which merciless slaughter are heart rending. The forces of Yazid having killed Imam Husayn, cut and severed his head from his body and raised it on a lance. The severed head of the Holy Imam began glorifying Allah from the point of the lance saying, 'Allahu Akbar'. "All glory be to Allah Who is the Greatest!"

After the wholesale, merciless and most brutal slaughter of the Holy Imam with his faithful band, the help- less ladies and children along with the ailing son of Imam Husayn, Imam 'Ali Zaynu 'l-'Abidin, were taken captives.