Shimr Ibn Zil Jawshan Enters Karbala
Ibn Saad had written a letter to Ibn Ziyad to inform him what Imam Hussain had said in the previous meeting. From the tone of the letter, Ibn Ziyad perceived Omar Ibn Saad’s leniency towards Imam Hussain; he could see that Ibn Saad was trying to evade war. For this reason, he sent Shimr Ibn Zil Jawshan, a staunch enemy of Imam Ali and his family, to Karbala.
Ibn Ziyad, while sending his letter, had given Shimr special instructions:
“Have Omar ibn Saad give Hussain an ultimatum. Either he accepts my rule and comes to me, or you fight him and his companions. If Omar obeys me, then you follow his command, but if he refuses to fight, then you must take control of the army, behead Hussain and send me his head.“
Hussain’s Allegiance or His Head
In the letter to Ibn Saad, Ibn Ziyad had responded: “Now that he(Hussain Ibn Ali) has been caught in our clutches, he hopes to escape and return to Hijaz. There is now no question of showing leniency, and no way is open for him”.
Ibn Ziyad wrote further: “Tell Hussain Ibn Ali that he and all his companions should take the oath of allegiance to Yazid. Any decision will be taken only after this condition is met”.
Ibn Ziyad rebuked Omar Ibn Saad for his reluctance to fight Imam Hussain. Thus, he commanded him in the letter that if Hussain and his companions do not surrender to Ibn Ziyad, then he must “fight them, dismember them, and after Hussain is killed, have the horses trample his chest.“
At the end of the letter, Ibn Ziyad stressed further on the worldly reward of killing Imam Hussain: “If you obey us we will reward you, and if you don’t, then leave your post and have Shimr Ibn Zil Jawshan lead the army.” Omar Ibn Saad had to make a tough decision now.
O’ Habib, Your Friend Needs You
Imam Hussain had prepared a special banner for one of his companions who was about to arrive. Some companions requested to have the honour of carrying that banner, but the Imam said to them, “I await the owner of this banner to arrive.” One of the greatest companions of Imam Hussain, Habib Ibn Mazahir, had set out to join Imam Hussain in a hurry upon receiving the letter from Imam, which read:
“From Hussain son of Ali to the scholar Habib Ibn Mazahir,
you know our kinship to the Messenger of Allah, and you know us better than others, and you are a man of nobility and honour, so do not fall short in supporting us. My grandfather will reward you on the Day of Judgment.“
On the 6th of Muharram, Habib arrived in Karbala. Imam was pleased to see him. Habib hadn’t come alone; he was accompanied by his cousin Muslim Ibn Oseja. They had collaborated in Kufa to help Muslim Ibn Aqeel secure the allegiance of the Kufans for Imam Hussain. Muslim’s wife and son were also with him in Karbala.
Who Was Habib Ibn Mazahir?
A childhood friend of Imam Hussain, Habib, according to many historians, was honoured to see the Holy Prophet and thus a Sahabi. He was amongst the close companions of Imam Ali and was gifted the knowledge of the future. One of the nobles of Kufa, Habib was known for his piety, in-depth knowledge and love for Quran.
Tribe of Bani Asad Barricaded
Habib Ibn Mazahir approached Imam Hussain and presented a request, “O son of the Messenger of Allah, a branch of the Banu Asad tribe live nearby, do you grant me permission to go to them and invite them to support you?” The Imam granted him permission.
Habib set out to them, and when he met them, he said,
“I have come to you with the best that a visitor can bring to his people. I invite you to support the son of your Prophet’s daughter. Omar ibn Saad has surrounded him. Heed my call; if you support him, you will achieve the honour of this life and the Hereafter. I swear by Allah, all those who are killed for this cause, with patience and faith, will be with Prophet Mohammad in the highest levels of paradise.“
A man named Abdullah ibn Beshr stood up and said, “I am the first to heed your call.” Then 90 other men pledged their support.
However, one spy informed Omar Ibn Saad of Bani Asad’s intent to support Imam Hussain, so he dispatched an army of 400 horsemen to block them from reaching the camp of Imam Hussain. When Imam Hussain heard about this series of events, he said, “La hawla wala qowata illa billah” – there is no power or strength except by Allah.
Ibn Saad Makes up His Mind
Omar Ibn Saad was struggling to make a decision. On the one hand, he knew very well who Imam Hussain is, and that by killing him, he will be eternally damned. On the other hand, he is greedy for the reward Yazid has promised those who’ll fight Imam Hussain – if he fails to make use of this opportunity, Shimr was ready to snatch it away from him. In the end, he succumbed to his evil desires and gave preference to this materialistic world. By the sixth of Muharram, he had decided to collaborate with Shimr Ibn Zil Jawshan to fight Imam Hussain and his companions.