Omar Ibn Saad Encamps Opposite Imam Hussain
By the third day of Muharram, Imam Hussain, his family, and companions had settled in the tents. The children were under the protection of their guardians. But on this day, the first battalion of Yazid under the leadership of Omar Ibn Saad began reaching Karbala. Historians have reported that he had almost 30,000 fighters with him (some have reported an initial lesser number that eventually expanded). Their large number made it appear as if a black wave is approaching the desert horizon.
The tents of Imam Hussain were 600 meters to the west of the river and thus had direct access to the river stream. However, as the army of Ibn Saad arrived in Karbala, they erected their tents by the Euphrates river, directly opposite to the camp of Imam Hussain. So a massive army now stood between the Imam’s camp and the river.
Who Was Omar Ibn Saad
Omar Ibn Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas belonged to Bani Zohra bin Kilab of the tribe of Quraysh and was a near relative of Lady Amina, mother of the Holy Prophet. His father, Saad bin Abi Waqqas, was a much-revered companion of the Holy Prophet who had a crucial role in Islamic conquests.
Even though he was aware of the significance of Imam Hussain, he became a commander of Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad, Yazid’s governor of Kufa, and came to Karbala. Ubaidullah had promised the governorship of Ray (a county in Iran) to him as a reward for this expedition.
Omar Ibn Saad Meets Imam
Omar Ibn Sad sent someone to the Imam enquiring why he had come to Iraq.
The Imam said in reply: “The Iraqis themselves sent letters to me inviting me to come. But now, if you do not want me to come, then I will leave for Hijaz.“
Omar Ibn Saad initially did not prefer to fight Imam Hussain. He was looking for a way to avoid the battle yet at the same time get his reward from Ibn Ziyad and prove his loyalty to him. Omar spent the night thinking about how to prevent the fight. Initially, he agreed to allow Imam Hussain to leave Iraq and return to Medina. But this was an important decision for which he required Ibn Ziyad’s approval.
Omar Ibn Saad Writes to Ibn Ziyad
Around the fourth day of Muharram, Omar Ibn Saad wrote a letter to Ibn Ziyad, whom Yazid had appointed his governor in Kufa. He stated in his letter,
“Allah has extinguished this fire, brought us to unity, and has fixed the affairs of this Ummah. Hussain has promised to return to where he came from”.
Omar Ibn Saad knew very well what a grave crime he would be committing by fighting Imam Hussain. He preferred to evade this war, for he knew it meant eternal damnation for him, but if a choice had to be made between the two courses of action, he was willing to succumb to his greed and fight Imam Hussain. After sending the letter to Ibn Ziyad, he awaited his response impatiently.
Karbala is Bought by The Master of Martyrs
It was reportedly the fourth of Muharram when Imam Hussain purchased the land of Karbala from those who lived around it and owned it. It is said that the price of the land was 60,000 silver coins, and the area purchased was 4 miles by 4 miles.