No One Can Join Hussain
The thirst was taking its toll on Imam Hussain and his family. Water had run out in the tents. The children were longing for an ounce of water. A massive army had besieged the camp of Imam Hussain, such that there was no escape anymore. All the access routes to Imam Hussain’s camp had been blocked, and it was no longer possible for people to join him. The army of Ibn Ziyad was already celebrating–victory in this battle was imminent for them.
Amnesty Thrown Away by Abbas
Shimr Ibn Zil Jawshan approached the camp of Imam Hussain. He shouted, “Where are the sons of our brothers?”
He meant Abbas and his brothers. Shimr belonged to the tribe of Kelab; as such, he was related to Lady Ummul Baneen, the mother of al-Abbas. Abul Fadhl al-Abbas initially refused to answer him, but Imam Hussain asked him to respond.
Upon which, al-Abbas and his brothers said to him, “What do you want?”
Shimr told them: “I have brought you amnesty. If you and your brothers abandon Imam Hussain, you will be safe“.
Abbas was infuriated at this offer. He shouted at Shimr, saying, “May Allah curse you and your amnesty! You grant us amnesty, but the son of the Messenger of Allah has no amnesty?!”
Enemy Draws Nearer
After the Asr prayer, Omar Ibn Saad mobilized his army to descend on the camp of Imam Hussain and begin the battle. Imam Hussain was sitting in front of his tent with a sword in his hand. He had gone to sleep with his head resting on his knees. Suddenly, the uproar of the army marching towards them could be heard — as it grew louder and louder.
Lady Zaynab heard it, and she came running to her brother. In a state of perplexity, she said, “Brother! Do you not hear these noises? The enemy army has reached near.”
The Imam raised his head from his knees and said, “I just saw my grandfather in my dream, and he told me I was coming to him.”
Lady Zaynab said: “How sad it is for me“, and she wailed with pain.
Imam Hussain comforted her: “Sister! Don’t be sad. Be tranquil. Allah will bless you“.
A Night’s Respite
Later, Abul Fadhl al-Abbas came to Imam Hussain. He asked, “My master, the enemy has reached. What is to be done?”
Imam Hussain stood up and said,
“My beloved and dear brother, ride your horse, go meet them and ask them why they have launched an attack at this time and what new development has taken place.”
Abbas met the enemy with twenty men; Zuhair Ibn al-Qayn and Habib ibn Mazahir were also among them. He inquired what they wanted.
They replied, “Our Emir has commanded that either you should surrender immediately or we should fight against you.”
Abbas told them to wait, “Let me consult Aba Abdillah (Imam Hussain) and get back to you.” Abbas then rushed back to Imam Hussain.
Imam Hussain told him,
“My brother, go to them and ask them to postpone the battle till tomorrow instead of this evening. We want to pray to our Lord and seek his forgiveness, for Allah knows how much I love praying to Him, reading His book, supplicating and asking for forgiveness.”
Abbas went back to the enemy and conveyed the message of Imam Hussain. Initially, they hesitated to give respite of another night but reached an agreement later.
Soon after, a messenger came with a message from Omar Ibn Saad. He shouted, “We have postponed the battle till tomorrow. If you surrender, then we’ll take you to Ibn Ziyad. Otherwise, we will not leave you.”
Creating A Protection For Women & Children
Imam Hussain ordered his companions to dig a trench around his tents and to set it on fire. This tactic was meant to force his enemies to launch attacks from one direction only. It also enabled them to protect and defend the tents of women and children. All the companions helped one another to dig the trench. Then they gathered wood and dry brush, cast them in, and set them on fire so the enemies could not cross.
One of the enemies of Imam Hussain by the name of Malek Ibn Hawza came close to the trench.
When he saw the fire burning, he shouted, “Good news, O Hussain! This worldly fire can burn you before the fire of Hell!”
Imam Hussain responded, “You have lied, O enemy of Allah! I am heading to a Merciful Lord and an accepted intercessor—my grandfather the Messenger of Allah.”
Imam Tests His Companion
The night had set in. Time to prepare for martyrdom had set in. He tested his companions once again so that anyone ignorant of the result should know that the path before them led nowhere except martyrdom and sacrifice. Imam Hussain gathered his companions, and he gave a speech:
“All praise is due to Allah, in times of goodness and in times of difficulty. I thank you, O Lord, for honouring us through prophethood, teaching us the Quran, and granting us the best understanding of religion. I do not know of any companions more faithful and honest than my companions, Nor do I know of a family more righteous and loyal than my family. May Allah reward you all. Tomorrow, they will fight us. I release you from the obligation of staying by my side. This night is dark, so take advantage of its darkness and flee. They only want me, so if they kill me, they will not pursue any of you.“
Many of his companions all said at once, “No, we swear by Allah this will never happen. We will not leave you.”
Imam said, “But they will kill you all.”
They replied, “We are grateful to Allah for giving us the honour of dying with you. We are not interested in living after you. How miserable is life after you!”
Companions Reaffirm Their Support
Abul Fadhl Al-Abbas was the first to respond individually and firmly state that he would never abandon Imam Hussain.
Muslim Ibn Oseja said:
“Do you think we will abandon you? What excuse do we have before God? I swear by Allah, if I were to be killed, then resurrected, then burned to death, then resurrected again, and if this happens to me seventy times – I would still not leave you! Then why should I not do so when I am going to be killed only once and will thereafter be honoured and exalted forever!“
Zuhair Ibn Al-Qayn and other companions expressed similar sentiments. Their stance was:
“Should we go away to live after you? We pray to Allah that such a time may never come when you are killed, and we remain alive.“
Then Imam Hussain’s nephew, al-Qasem Ibn Hasan, approached him and said, “My beloved uncle, will I also be killed tomorrow?”
Imam Hussain asked him, “My dear, how do you find death?” Qasem said,
“In supporting you, I find it sweeter than honey.“
The Imam told him, “Yes, you will also be killed.”
Heaven Awaits These Companions
When Imam Hussain saw the steadfastness and determination of his companions, he showed them their positions in heaven. Allah enabled them to have a vision of what awaits them in paradise. The Imam then thanked them and prayed for them.
Later, Abbas gathered all members of Bani Hashem and took a firm oath from them to be the foremost defenders of Imam Hussain the following day. They all made a firm commitment to fight valiantly.
Throughout the night, Lady Zaynab was sitting next to Imam Sajjad, who was extremely ill. She helped him with his illness as best as she could. She overheard Imam Hussain talking to John Ibn Huway and reciting lines of poetry that indicate he would be killed soon. Lady Zaynab burst into tears and ran to Imam Hussain.
She cried: “Brother, I wish I would have been dead and not see you in this state! How can I bear this tragedy?!”
Imam Hussain poured water* on her face and made a prayer for her. And she found new patience in her heart.
*In low lying desert areas, ponding occurs, which is non-potable.
Duties Transferred to Imam Al-Sajjad
Later in the night, Imam Hussain gathered all the women and children in the tent of Imam Ali Al-Sajjad. He gave his will to Imam Sajjad and informed his family that Imam Sajjad is the Imam after him, and they all must follow and obey him.
Then he told his family,
“Tell my followers that I was killed thirsty, so they mourn me!“
The Last Night of Hussain
This night depicted a stark contrast between the camp of Imam Hussain and the camp of Omar Ibn Saad. Imam Hussain spent the night worshipping God, reciting the Quran, and supplicating profusely. His companions also spent the night similarly. It is said that their continuous supplicatory voices sounded like the buzzing of bees. It was evident that these men of God were determined to spend their last night doing nothing but ibadah. On the other hand, the enemy’s men were busy sharpening their swords and setting their weapons right.