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Jihad: Struggle Against One's Self or Holy War?

When most people hear the word jihad the first thing that comes to mind is Holy War by Muslims against all non-Muslims. Is this the actual meaning of jihad, or has this term been misused? How was jihad defined by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)1, the prophet of Islam? How has jihad been used by Muslims after the death of Muhammad (pbuh)? Has the media presented the Islamic or an alternative meaning of jihad to the public? Is jihad the struggle against one’’s self or is it holy war? One fifth of the human population2 has taken Islam as their way of life and it is very important that the real concept of jihad in Islam is presented in its truest form. Jihad means struggle and the greatest struggle is against the self.


The term jihad is taken from the origin of the word from the Arabic verb "jahada" which means to struggle or fight. When discussed in an Islamic context it is mans struggle against nature, man and himself. Man struggles against nature to protect himself from the weather, disease, natural disasters, and from animals that may do him harm. This struggle against nature is not the same as it was 1400 years ago because of advances in technology. We have better housing, living conditions, climate control, vaccinations and technologies that warn us when there is the threat of inclement weather. With all these advances the struggle continues because there are new viruses, no absolute defense against natural disasters, and many people are still getting attacked by wild animals every year. The struggles against nature will always exist. Man throughout history has struggled against one another in matters of land, ideology, wealth and religion. Some of these struggles have been resolved peacefully like the United States and Russia did during the cold war or not so peacefully like the United States and Iraq during this present war.’ ‘  Man’s struggle against man can be traced back Biblically to Cain verses Abel Genesis 4:8, ‘’¦So it came about that while they were in the field Cain proceeded to assault his brother and kill him’. This shows one person against another, and there are also wars where communities are against communities, and nations are against nations. This is nothing new and as long as men continue not to disagree agreeably this will continue to exist. Man verses himself is so universal that it effects all men in every society and in all times. There is never a time when man is not with himself. Man struggles constantly with his emotions, morality, mortality, sexuality, and religious beliefs. He struggles to do what’’s right in his home in the work place and society at large. These struggles are inescapable. This is why the jihad of the self is called great because it has to be waged at all times and in all places.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) like all prophets before him came to teach men how to be moral and upright. He was not an advocate of war nor did he take part in many. In her book "Muhammed," author Karen Armstrong writes:

Fighting and warfare might sometimes be necessary, but it was only a minor part of the whole jihad or struggle. A well-known tradition (hadith) has Muhammad saying on returning from a battle, ' We return from the little jihad to the greater jihad,' the more difficult and crucial effort to conquer the forces of evil in oneself and in one's own society in all the details of daily life.

Muhammad exhorted his companions to the worship of God alone and to self purification (jihad). While being oppressed in Mecca Muhammad never lifted a finger in his or his followers’’ defense. ‘The opposition began with ridicule and harassment and rapidly accelerated into an economic boycott and a threat to his personal life (Dr. Bashir Datoo 49). Muhammad and his followers were constantly beaten, spat on and two of them Samayya and her husband Yasser were murdered. Their murders and the continued persecution of the early Muslims caused the first migration of the Muslims from Mecca to Abyssinia and a later migration to Yathrib later named Medina. In Medina the first Islamic state was established 623 AD. There were Jews and Christians and pagans living there among each other in peace. There neither was any holy war (jihad) used to establish the Islamic State of Medina nor was there any compulsion used in trying to convert the non-Muslims. In Islam God has said ‘There is no compulsion in religion,’ (Holy Qur’an 2:256).’ ‘  When Muhammad and his followers returned victoriously to Mecca not one drop of blood was shed, and all that were there were forgiven. If jihad ‘holy war’ was to be waged against all non-Muslims all the pagans of Mecca and Jews and Christians in Medina would have been killed. Islamic historian Jafar Subhani writes in his book the Message,

Buoyed by the quickening pace of his revolution, the Prophet wrote letters and sent emissaries to neighboring rulers and heads of other religions to invite them to the fold of Islam. He set the stage for what unfolded, diffusion of Islam through vast areas of the Old World in the succeeding centuries. This was not achieved, as historians had previously alleged, by the force of the ‘sword,’ rather, as they themselves now readily acknowledge, by the intrinsic ‘appeal’ of the message itself. This appeal had to do with the emphasis that Islam laid on the moral and ethical development of a just and equitable society.

Muhammad led by example and his example was one of love, forgiveness and admonishing people to do good deeds and purify themselves through prayer, fasting and charity truly the great jihad.

After the death of Prophet Muhammad, Islam continued to expand at an unprecedented rate. However the Muslims were divided after the Prophet’s death into two main groups the Sunnis and the Shiites. The divide came because one group the Sunnis believed that the Prophet never named a successor to follow him so one needed to be elected and the other ‘Shiites’ believed that any successor to any Prophet had to be divinely chosen. This split did not lead to any wars directly following the death of the Prophet and the leaders that followed him were careful not to use compulsion in converting the people to Islam. This may seem contradictory and controversial in view of the state of Islam today in a place like Iraq where civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites is taking place. Some leaders from among the Islamic sects do see this type of fighting as Jihad, holy war, against other Muslims that don’t exactly believe the same way they do, they refer to them as Kufars ‘non-believers’ and they feel like it is their duty to purify the Muslim ranks of these non-believers. These groups misinterpret passages and verses from the Qur’an and traditions to try to justify their actions. Craig Branch agrees when writes, ‘A small percentage of Muslims who are from the extreme, radical and violent wing of Islamic Fundamentalism, and who are "...passionate, [deeply] religious and anti-Western...’ might dwell on passages or verses dealing with conflict, war, and resistance to oppression.’ The majority of Muslims adhere to the advice that was given by Ali ibn Abi Taleb3 to his governor in Egypt, ‘Oh Malik always remember that if a man is not your brother in faith he is your brother in humanity’ (Ordak 86). So despite the few renegades the majority of the Muslims view the greater jihad as, ‘the intimate struggle to purify one's soul of evil influences -- both subtle and overt. It is the struggle to cleanse one's spirit of sin’ (Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid).

In recent years Islam has come under attack in the media some justified some not. The biggest buzz words used by the media are Islamic Jihad, terrorism and fundamentalism. All have become terms that non-Muslims view as calls for all Muslims to unite against them. The majority of the conflicts that involves Muslims take place in the Middle East where there are mostly Arabs involved. This is ironic because the vast majority of Muslims are non-Arabs and according to Abdulrahman Al-Motrif, ‘Arabs only make up ten percent of the world wide population of Muslims’, and it seems like the call for holy war comes from that part of the world according to the media. Osama bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia and it has been reported that the majority of the hijackers in the 911 tragedy were also from Saudi Arabia. Some Muslims have begun to adopt the westernized view of jihad that has been reported from the Middle East by the media, that they should fight non-Muslims. This goes against the thinking of the majority of the Muslims and against what God says in the Qur’an, ‘Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance’. (H.Q. 16:125). It would be unfair to say that all media on Islam has been negative, many in the media have tried to explain the Islamic view of jihad most notably, PBS video "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet" (Dec. 18, 2002), The PBS video "Islam: Empire of Faith" (2001) and History Channel/A & E's (summer 2002) "Inside Islam". The media it seems has been reflective of society, some view Islam as a terrorist religion bent on ruling the world through holy war and others see the few renegades as derelicts misrepresenting what Islam and jihad are ultimately about. Although the overwhelming reports given by the media has shown jihad to mean holy war there are those that have championed jihad as the struggle against the self.

The question still remains, is jihad the struggle against the self or holy war? The answer is, it is both.’  Jihad means struggle and struggles exist internally and externally. Jihad of self on a personal level involves as stated by Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid:

Putting "Allah ahead of our loved ones, our wealth, our worldly ambitions and our own lives."
Resisting pressure of parents, peers and society; strive against "the rejecters of faith..." (Quran 25:52)
"...strive and struggle to live as true Muslims..."
"Striving for righteous deeds."
Spreading the message of Islam. "The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and his messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their selves for the cause of Allah. Such are the truthful." (Quran, 49:15)

He further stated jihad has a verbal level:

To strive for justice through words and non-violent actions. Muhammad encouraged Muslims to demand justice in the name of Allah. When asked: "'What kind of jihad is better?' Muhammad replied, 'A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler!'"‘  According to the Institute of Islamic Information and Education: "The life of the Prophet Muhammad was full of striving to gain the freedom to inform and convey the message of Islam. During his stay in Makkah [Mecca] he used non-violent methods and after the establishment of his government in Madinah [Medina], by the permission of Allah, he used armed struggle against his enemies whenever he found it inevitable."

He final says jihad has a physical level:

This relates to the use of physical force in defense of Muslims against oppression and transgression by the enemies of Allah, Islam and Muslims. Allah commands that Muslims lead peaceful lives and not transgress against anyone. If they are persecuted and oppressed, the Qur'an recommends that they migrate to a more peaceful and tolerant land: "Lo! Those who believe and those who emigrate (to escape persecution) and strive (Jahadu) in the way of Allah, these have hope of Allah's mercy..." (Quran, 2:218). If relocation is not possible, then Allah also requires Muslims to defend themselves against oppression by "fighting against those who fight against us." The Qur'an states: "To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to defend themselves], because they are wronged - and verily, Allah is Most Powerful to give them victory." (Quran 22:39)

The above references show that both views of jihad are used in Islam. It can also be said from the above references that violence is looked at as the final alternative to resolving issues. It shows that problems should be talked out and if that isn’’t working that one should leave the place where the conflicts are taking place to avoid physical fighting. Then when all else has failed permission has been given to fight in order to protect oneself. Nowhere in the Qur’an or tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is there to be found any passage that makes it okay for a Muslim to be aggressive against any other human being. The Qur’an urges Muslims to fight against the oppressions and transgressions from the enemies of Islam and it warns the Muslims not to transgress the limits of others, ‘And fight in the way of Allah those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits’. (Quran 2:190)

Ayatollah Aga Pooya in his commentary of this verse says:

. Islam promotes peace, order and harmony in the human society and keeps man on the right path. When the enemies of Islam found that the light of this message was sweeping darkness from every corner, the disbelievers vowed to annihilate it. It was only then that, no recourse being left for the believers, they had to resolutely take up the sword in defense. Verses 39 and 40 of al Hajj also give permission to fight when any people is wronged, oppressed and persecuted.

If Numbers 25: 1 to 3 and 31: 7 to 18 in the Old Testament are read carefully one comes to the conclusion that when the Israelites, in Shitim, began to worship the gods of Moab the Lord God asked Moses to "take all the leaders of the people and hurl them down to their death before the Lord."

And they made war on Midians as the Lord has commanded Moses, and slew all the men. The Israelites took captive the Madianite women and children, and carried off all their cattle, their flocks and their property. They burnt all their cities. Moses asked them to kill every male child and every women who has had intercourse with a man.

So in the way of Allah, the prophets were commanded to put an end to the activities of the disbelievers who wanted to destroy the true devotees of Allah in order to stop the advancement and progress of the religion of Allah. The Quran commands the Muslims not to exceed the limits but to fight evil until its power base is dislodged, and if the kafirs (non believers) desist then to show mercy. Compared to what the other prophets did, as commanded by Allah, to destroy the unbelievers, the role assigned to the Holy Prophet as the "mercy unto the worlds" was the most benign of all the campaigns undertaken by His messengers to liberate mankind from the clutches of the enemies of Allah. He fought and killed the enemy whenever war was imposed on him.

Here Pooya shows how other Prophets (pbut) killed their enemies and how Muhammad was told to desist killing the enemy if they stopped fighting.

In conclusion Islam is growing about 2.9% per year which is faster than the total world population which increases at about 2.3% annually. It is thus attracting a progressively larger percentage of the world's population4. This is happening despite the overwhelming negative reports given by the media. According to aimpress.com, ‘6.4% of the world's population is converting to Moslem every year.’ They aren’’t converting to Moslem they are converting to Islam. The Middle East Media Research Institute reported that after 9/11, 34,000 Americans converted to Islam. In an article written in the New York Times October 2001 says, ‘One expert estimates that 25,000 people a year become Muslims in this country; some clerics say they have seen conversion rates quadruple since Sept. 11. With people entering the religion of Islam in such great numbers, reason must dictate that the Holy war that is being waged has to be one of the intellect and not of weapons. More people are asking about Islam and the answers they are finding are that Islam appeals to them and they are converting. Most people want peace and statistics show that more people are moving toward Islam which incidentally means peace. This shows that although jihad means Holy war more people believe that it is the struggle of each individual to please his maker. Again both views of jihad are present in Islam but as the Prophet Muhammad has said,’ The best jihad [struggle] is (by) the one who strives against his own self for Allah, The Mighty and Majestic."

Works Cited

Growth of Islam; https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html

Holy Bible: New World Translation

Karen Armstrong, "Muhammed: A biography of the Prophet," Harper San Francisco, (1993).

Mir Ahmed Ali, Translation of the Holy Qur’an

Dr. Bashir Datoo, ‘Perspectives on Islamic Faith and History’ (2007) Page 49

Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani, ‘The Message’ Islamic Seminary Publications Karachi, Pakistan Chapter 2 Arabia before Islam

George Jordac, ‘Voice of Human Justice’ Lebanon (1956). Online http://www.geocities.com/ahlulbayt14/ali4.html excerpts from ‘Voice of Human Justice’

"Save a Life, Save All Humanity--Take a Life, Kill All Humanity: What the Islamic scriptures really say about jihad and violence," Beliefnet, at: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/

Multi-lingual Qur’an, http://al-islam.org/quran/ Pooya Commentary on 2:190

Muslim population, http://muslim-canada.org/muslimstats.html

What America needs to know about Islam, aimpress.com

Islam in America Post 911, Middle East Media Research Institute (2001)

The rise of Islam in America, New York Times October 2001

Source: http://www.almujtaba.com


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The Events After Ashura


Islamic Articles - Imam Hussain Al-Shaheed (A.S.)

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One of them asked, "What kind of revenge do you think God will take?" The Imam said, "Some of you will kill others and the punishment of God will come pouring down on you."That night, the sky was red like blood. It was the hardest night for the family of the Prophet. In the emptiness of the desert, they faced the darkness and loneliness of night. During the night, they could hear a voice coining from the darkness. The disguised person recited the following lines of poetry:


One of them asked, "What kind of revenge do you think God will take?" 
The Imam said, "Some of you will kill others and the punishment of God will come pouring down on you." 
One of them asked, "What kind of revenge do you think God will take?" 
The Imam said, "Some of you will kill others and the punishment of God will come pouring down on you." 
The Imam said, "Some of you will kill others and the punishment of God will come pouring down on you." 
"O those who killed Imam Husayn! 
Be prepared for the punishment 
You are cursed by every Prophet and every religion. 
This was not the reward for the Messenger of God. 
If he was alive now, he would have cried." 
Also oh this night, Umm Salamah had a dream in which she saw the Prophet. He was upset and dust was on his head. When Umm Salamah asked him why he was so dusty, the Prophet replied, "My son was killed and I was digging a grave for him." 
Then, the army of 'Umar marched towards the women and children and looted whatever was in the tents. When they were done, they set the remainingtents on fire. The soldiers fought over the women, but they resisted, and ran in all different directions. 
The soldiers took their robes, rings, and earrings. One of them ripped Umm Kulthum's earrings out of her ears and they bled. A soldier approached Fatimah, daughter of Husayn, crying as he took her ankle bracelet. 
She asked him, "Why are you crying?" 
He answered, "Because I am stealing this from a daughter of the family of the Prophet." 
She asked, "Then, why are you taking it?" 
He said, "Because if I do not take it, somebody else will!" 
A man came with his spear and herded all the women together. When he looked at Fatimah, he put his eyes on her to snatch her for himself. She ran in the middle of the herd. He went after her and hit her with his spear, knocking her unconscious. Zaynab protected her, drove away the soldier, and then took Fatimah in her lap until she woke up. 
There was a woman with Bakr Ibn Wa'il in 'Umar's army. When she saw what was happening to the women, she yelled, "The children of the Prophet of God in this Situation? What is your answer to the Prophet of God? There is no Law but God's. We must take revenge for the Prophet of God!" 
Her husband hurried and took her away. 
They captured 'Ali al-Sajjad, son of Imam Husayn, while he was lying in bed unable to move. Some of them said, "Kill him. Do not leave anyone of them alive." 
Others said, "No, wait until we hear our orders from 'Umar." 
Shimr took his sword and moved to kill him. 
Hamid Ibn Muslim said to him, "Shame on you! Killing a young boy!" 
Shimr said, "Ibn Ziyad has ordered to kill all of the children of Husayn." 
Hamid sent a messenger to ask 'Umar if it was true, and 'Umar denied. Zaynab put her body on 'Ali and said, "You cannot kill him without killing me!" 
'Umar went to check the aftermath and see the women and the battlefield. When the women saw him they cried in his face and cursed him. 
The army wanted to hurt them but he refused. He ordered them to restrain themselves, and assigned a group to guard them. 
He called and asked his army, "Who would be willing to come forward and run his horses on the chest of Husayn?'' 
Ten of them replied, and they trampled over the bodies of the Imam and his followers. 
'Umar ordered the heads to be cut off, and all of them were cut off. He distributed them among the chiefs of the various tribes. 
The tribe of Hurr saved his head from being cut, and took his body away from the battlefield before the army rode their horses over the bodies. 
Then 'Umar sent the head of Imam Husayn with Khuwali Ibn Yazid and Hamid Ibn Muslim; and the rest of the heads were sent with Shimr. Khuwali took the head and hid it in Kufah away from his wife because he knew that she was a Follower. When she heard women crying for the Imam, she realized that it was the head of Imam Husayn and never put on perfume again. 
In the morning he took the head to Ibn Ziyad, and recited this poem, 
"O governor! You should fill my sacks with gold or silver! 
I have killed the most honorable master. 
The one who is best in genealogy 
And who had the best father and mother." 
Ibn Ziyad said, "If you know he was like that, why did you kill him? By God, I am not going to give you anything!" 
'Umar remained in Karbala' with the rest of his army and the women until noon of the eleventh day. He gathered all of his dead, buried them, and prayed on them. He left the Imam's body and his followers without burial. 
After noon he left towards Kufah carrying all of the women and children. They were twenty women all together. 
'Ali al-Sajjad was twenty-three years old. He was on a camel without saddle. His son, Imam Mohammad Baqir, was two years old. The women begged for the army to let them see the dead bodies on their way. The army agreed and took them. When they saw the scene they fell on the bodies, each one kissing and crying on the bodies. 
Suddenly, Zaynab yelled, "O Muhammad! This is Husayn, stoned by catapults, mixed with blood and sand! His body parts cut off! O, Muhammad! Your children are taken captives and your descendants are killed!" 
Then, she put her hand under the body of Imam Husayn, and said, "O God! Accept this sacrifice from us!" 
When the army saw this, they cried. Sukaynah dropped onto the body of her father and heard someone saying: 
"O my followers! Whenever you drink water, remember me. 
And whenever you hear of a stranger or a martyr, cry for me." 
Suddenly, Zaynab looked at 'Ali, the only surviving male. She saw him very weak and almost about to faint. She went to him and said, "O the memory of my grandfather, my father, and my brothers! This is the covenant of God to your grandfather and your father. The tyrants of this earth do not understand that. Indeed, the followers of the Prophet's House will come and honor these decapitated bodies, and the parts and limbs that were cut off, and raise a flag on this land, a flag which would never be lowered. The tyrants work day and night to eradicate his name, but whatever they do only increases the respect for his name." 
The women and children did not want to leave the bodies. Finally, Zajr Ibn Qays came and whipped them with lashes, and they were forced to leave. 

When the captured prisoners went into Kufah on their way to Ibn Ziyad's castle, people were gathering to look and see whom the prisoners were. A lady came and asked, "Which war are you prisoners of?" 
They said, "We are the prisoners from the House of Prophet Muhammad." They paraded them in the streets to show the people that the army was victorious. People asked questions as they passed and some people gave food. More people gathered giving them food and bread. Zaynab and Umm Kulthum took the food from the kids and gave it back to the people, saying, "Charity given to the Prophet's House is a sin." 
When Zaynab reached a large group of people, she stood and pointed to the people to be silent. When everyone became quiet to hear what she wanted, she said: 
"All praises to God and blessings to our forefather Muhammad! O, people of Kufah; people of treachery and deception! You cry? May you never end your crying!" 
And she quoted: "You are like women who untie what they have woven". "You have no one among you but dirty, stubborn, liars, and you have done what will bring the wrath of God! 
May you never end your crying! And may your laughs be very few! You carry all of the shame that cannot be washed away again! You have killed the descendants of the Prophet, the Lord's Claim (against you) of your time, and the light of your world. Woe onto you, and you will be humiliated forever! 
O, people of Kufah! Do you not know what heart of the Prophet you have cut out? Do you not know what honored women of the Prophet's House you have enslaved and dishonored? Do you not know what blood of the Prophet you have shed? Indeed, you have done so grave an error that nothing will be able to take its place! It will be no wonder if the sky rains blood! And the punishment of the Hereafter is the worst punishment." 
'Ali al-Sajjad noticed some movement among the troops and said to her, "O, my aunt! Please be silent. Indeed you are knowledgeable without being taught." 
Then Fatimah, daughter of Husayn, spoke: 
"Praise God! I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger, and that the children of the Prophet were killed at the Euphrates without any help. O, God! You know that I speak the truth and I do not say anything but what is according to the teaching of 'Ali, son of Abi Talib, who was killed in your house. And his son was killed yesterday. He returned to his Lord without any blame. O, God! You have chosen him for Islam when he was a child, and he helped your Prophet when he was young. O, people of Kufah, people of deceit, treachery and arrogance! We are the People of the House of the Prophet. God has made this a trial for you and for us. God has honored us by our Prophet Muhammad. 
You called us liars and unbelievers. You looted our wealth as if we were the children of Turk or Kabul. Your swords shed our blood -blood of the People of the House of the Prophet. You think you are smart, but God is smarter than you! Whatever reaches us from God is the best." 
Then she quoted: "Allah says, 'so you do not grieve over what has missed you, and you may not be happy with what has come to you. Indeed, God does not like proud, arrogant people." (The Holy Qur'an; Sura of al-Hadid 57: 23). 
"Woe unto you! Wait for the punishment and the curse of God! You have hard hearts and Satan has captured you!" 
When they heard this, the people started crying and yelling. Umm Kulthum said, "Be silent, people of Kufah! Your men kill us and your women cry for us. The judge between you and us is God on the Day of Judgment. O, people of Kufah! Woe unto you! What is the matter with you? You kill Imam Husayn, loot his wealth, capture his women, and then cry for him? Do you know what kind of catastrophe you have brought upon yourselves? You have killed the best person after the Prophet! Indeed, the party of God is the successful and the party of Satan is the losers!" 
People tried to cry and yell more and more. When 'Ali's camel came forward, all the people gathered in the street and saw him in chains bleeding on the unsaddled camel. He pointed to them to be silent, and every one became quiet to hear what he would say. Imam Sajjad began: 
"Praises and thanks to God. Bless the Prophet. O, people! Whoever knows me knows me, and whoever does not know me, I am 'Ali son of Husayn son of 'Ali son of Abi Talib. I am son of the one whose women are taken captives. I am son of the one whose wealth was looted. I am son of the one whose honor was humiliated. I am son of the one who was killed at the Euphrates and that is a great honor for us. 
O, people! I ask you, by God, do you know that you wrote to my father and deceived him? That you gave him a promise and broke it? That you fought against him? Woe unto you! By what eyes can you look at Prophet Muhammad when he tells you: You have killed my family and humiliated my honor. You are not from my nation!" 
The people cried intensely and all of their faces were wet with tears. The Imam said: 
"May God bless the person who listens to me and honors my will." 
The crowd answered: "Yes, O son of the Prophet of God! We hear you and we obey you. We await your order, for war or peace. We reject anyone who dishonors you." 
The Imam said, "Hayhat! Hayhat! (Never again! Never again!)
You, the deceivers! Do you want to do the same to me as you did to my father? The wound has not even healed yet. My father was killed yesterday and we still hear the cries of the People of the House."

Ibn Ziyad sat on his throne and the head of the Imam was between his hands. He had a stick and he hit the lips of the Imam with it. 
Zayd Ibn Arqam was standing nearby and suddenly said, "O, governor! Take away your stick from those lips! Indeed, I have seen the Prophet kissing those lips!" And he cried. 
Ibn Ziyad said, "Indeed, you are a hallucinating old man. You have no mind. If you were not senile, I would have killed you!" 
Zayd left the meeting saying, "O, people of Arabs! You are slaves after today! You are slaves of the son of Marjanah (Ibn Ziyad)! He is going to kill the best of you, and he is going to humiliate you, and that is the worst possible life!" 
Zaynab was with the women, on the side, but not visible to the public. 
Ibn Ziyad pointed to her and asked, "Who is this woman?" 
Someone replied, "This is Zaynab, daughter of 'Ali, Amir al-Mu'minin, the Leader of the Faithful." 
Ibn Ziyad wanted to humiliate her. He walked towards the group of women, faced her, and said, "Praise God that He has exposed you and killed you and eradicated your cause." 
Zaynab replied, "Praise God Who has honored us by His Prophet Muhammad and purified us from filth. Indeed, only the guilty will be exposed, and the sinners will lie, and they are not we. They are someone else, not us." 
Ibn Ziyad asked, "What do you think of what God did to your family?" 
She said, "I did not see anything but good. These are people on whom martyrdom is written. They went where God wanted them to go. God will gather you and them on the Day of Judgment. Then, you will see what God does to you on the Day of Judgment. Woe unto you, O, son of Marjanah!" 
Ibn Ziyad became very angry and was about to kill her, but 'Amr Ibn Harith stopped him and said, "This is a woman, and a woman is not responsible for her emotions." 
Ibn Ziyad thought for a moment, still staring furiously at Zaynab, then moved away from her and said, "God has made me satisfied with your tyrant and the opposition of your household." 
Zaynab answered, "Indeed you have killed the head of my family! You have exposed the women! You have cut all of the roots! If this is what satisfies you, then yes you are satisfied!" 
Ibn Ziyad ignored her, but turned his face to 'Ali al-Sajjad and said, "What is your name?" 
Imam Sajjad answered, "My name is 'Ali son of Husayn." Ibn Ziyad said, "Did God not kill 'Ali? ('Ali al-Akbar in Karbala')" 
Imam Sajjad replied, "I had another brother older than me named 'Ali. People killed him." 
Ibn Ziyad said, "No! God killed him!" 
Imam Sajjad calmly told him, "God makes people die when it is time for their death." 
Ibn Ziyad became very angry. He could not stand it any longer, and ordered Sajjad to be killed. 
When Zaynab heard this, she ran to where Sajjad was chained and used herself to protect his body, saying, "Is it not enough for you to shed our blood? 
Have you left anyone else of us alive? If you want to kill him, you have to kill me with him!" 
Sajjad said, "Indeed, death is our custom [it has happened to us before], and martyrdom is an honor for us, from God." 
When Ibn Ziyad saw Zaynab attached to Sajjad he said, "What a strong family relationship they have! She is willing to die for him!" And he walked away. 
The people started talking about what happened, and Ibn Ziyad became afraid. He ordered the chief of the guards to imprison Imam Husayn's family in a special house near the castle, and people gathered to see them. 
Because people were trying to get close to the prisoners so they could use them as political pawns, after the governor gave that order, Zaynab announced, "No one should come to see us but slaves, because they are like us." The women and children, and Imam Sajjad were taken to their holding place.

Later, while the People of the House were imprisoned, Ibn Ziyad made a speech, saying, "The liar of liars, Husayn, was killed." 
'Abdullah Ibn 'Afif al-Azdi, an old, blind man, interrupted him and said, "You are the liar of liars! You kill the children of the Prophet and you call yourself a Muslim?" 
Ibn Ziyad became angry and ordered the guards to capture him and put him in jail. That night many of the people of his tribe went and forcibly took him out of the jail. When Ibn Ziyad found out what happened, he sent troops to go to 'Abdullah's house and burn it down. 
The troops came to his home and when they set it on fire, he asked his daughter to bring him his sword. She was crying and wailing. She said, "I wish I were a man so I could fight for you!" 
He told her not to worry and ran out of the house with his sword. His daughter was behind him, giving him directions. He was an old, blind man, but she told him where to swing, and 'Abdullah slashed at them with his sword, injuring the guards. 
Finally, when they captured him and brought him to Ibn Ziyad, Ibn Ziyad said, "God has exposed you!" 
'Abdullah asked, "Exposed me of what?" 
Ibn Ziyad did not answer him, and asked him, instead, "What do you think of 'Uthman (The third caliph]?" 
'Abdullah said, "What does that have to do with anything? Good or bad, God is going to be the judge. If you want to ask me questions, ask me about your father and your mother, I can tell you." 
After the insult, the fatherless Ibn Ziyad said, "No, I will not ask you any more, but I will kill you with a unique and original form of death." 
'Abdullah said, "I knew I would be martyred before you were born from your mother. When I became blind, I lost that hope, but it seems that hope still exists. Even if you kill me, I am not better than Imam Husayn." 
Ibn Ziyad ordered him to be killed and hanged.

Mukhtar was imprisoned since the time of Muslim Ibn 'Aqil, but when the prisoners of Imam Husayn's camp in Karbala' arrived in Kufah, Ibn Ziyad ordered the guards to bring Mukhtar from prison and see. When the guards brought him to the governor, Mukhtar was bad mannered and there were harsh words between them. Ibn Ziyad became angry, hit him on his eye with a lash, and ordered him to be returned to prison. 
After Ibn Ziyad killed 'Abdullah Ibn 'Afif al-Azdi, Mukhtar was brought from the prison again. This time, when the guards brought him, Mukhtar said to Ibn Ziyad, "You are the liar, and the Imam is the victorious one in heaven!" 
Ibn Ziyad hit him with a pole, broke his forehead, and returned him to prison. Ibn Ziyad did not kill him because the sister of Mukhtar was the wife of 'Abdullah Ibn 'Umar Ibn Kattab who wrote directly to the "king" Yazid, interceding for Mukhtar. 
While Mukhtar was in prison with two of his friends, one of them said, "We are going to be killed by Ibn Ziyad 
Mukhtar answered him, "Indeed, by God, he cannot kill you nor can he kill me." 
Then, Maytham al-Tammar, who was in jail with them, said, "You, Mukhtar, are going to take revenge for the blood of Imam Husayn, and you are going to kill Ibn Ziyad!"

Ibn Ziyad sent a messenger to Yazid telling him of the events and waiting for his orders. Then he wrote a letter, tied it to a rock, and threw it into the place where the people of the House of the Prophet were imprisoned. It said, "A messenger has been sent to Yazid and he will be back on such and such a day. When he comes back and you hear 'Allahu Akbar, write your will. If you do not hear it, you have your life." The messenger came back with Yazid's reply that Ibn Ziyad should immediately send the prisoners and the heads to Damascus. 
Ibn Ziyad sent the heads with some of his troops, ordering them to put the heads on spears and parade them in front of the caravan, and he ordered them to pass through the cities on the way, and humiliate the family of the Prophet in every city they pass through. On their way they saw some writing painted on a wall, saying, "Is it possible for a nation that killed Husayn to have the intercession of his grandfather on the Day of Judgment?" 
On their way, they stopped and a drop of blood fell from the head of the Imam onto a rock and that place is known as Mashhad al-Nuqtah (Place of the drop of blood) near Hamah. 
Also near Aleppo, there is another place called Mashhad al-Sayrah, because Imam Husayn's wife was pregnant and when they reached that spot, the baby miscarried. He was named Muhsin. 
When they came near Damascus, Shimr was leading the caravan. Umm Kulthum asked him not to go from the main road, so people do not look at them with evil eyes. Shimr did exactly the opposite, ordering the caravan to march through the city from the main road, and for all of the heads to be in the middle of the caravan.

They arrived in Damascus on the first day of the month of Safar. The prisoners were kept in Bab al-Sa'at and people went to see them, dancing and using the drums. 
Somebody asked Sukaynah, "What prisoners are you?" She answered, "We are prisoners of the family of Muhammad." 
Yazid was sitting on his throne in his castle at Jiran when he saw the heads on spears and the prisoners. He recited a poem: 
"When I saw the caravan and the heads near Jiran 
The crow crowed, and I said, 
Whether you crow or not, 
I have gotten even with the Messenger of God." 
Because of this poem and other displays of hatred to the Prophet, some Sunni scholars believe that Yazid was kafir (unbeliever) and deserves to be cursed. 
Sahl Ibn Sa'id came to Sukaynah, daughter of Imam Husayn, and asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?" 
She asked him, "Can you tell the one who carries the head to go farther from the women, so people do not look at the women?" 
Sahl honored his word and granted her request. 
An old man came to Imam Sajjad and said, "Praise God that He perished you and made the leader overcome you!" 
Sajjad replied, "Have you ever read the Qur'an, O, old man?" 
The old man answered, "Yes." 
Sajjad asked, "Have you read the verse: Say: I do not ask you any reward but love for the near in kin?" (The Holy Qur'an; Sura of ash-Shura 42:23 ) 
He said, "Yes." 
Imam Sajjad asked, "Have you read the verse: So, give the near in kin their rights?" (The Holy Qur'an; Sura of ar-Room 30: 38). 
He said, "Yes, of course." 
Sajjad asked, "Have you read the verse: And know that whatever you gain, a fifth of it is for God, and for the Messenger, the near of kin, orphans, the poor, and wayfarers?"( The Holy Qur'an; Sura of al-Anfal 7:59.) 
The old man answered, "Yes, I have read all of these." 
Sajjad said, "Indeed, by God, we are them." Then he asked, "Have you read the verse: Indeed, God wants to take away pollution from you, O, People of the House?"( The Holy Qur'an; Sura of al-Ahzab 33:33)
The old man answered, "Yes." 
Sajjad said to him, "We are the People of the House whom God has purified." 
The old man's eyes opened wide as he asked, "Are you them?" Sajjad said, "Yes, (I swear it) by our grandfather Prophet Muhammad. We are them without any doubt." 
The man fell to the ground, kissed Sajjad's feet, and said, "I repent to God and reject those who killed you." 
When Yazid found out about this, he ordered the man to be killed.

The prisoners were ordered to go to Yazid's main hall, and they were all tied together with one long rope. While they were marched towards the castle, they were beaten if they did not go fast. 
When they entered the castle and were in Yazid's presence, Sajjad asked Yazid "What do you think the Prophet of God would say if he sees us in this situation?" 
The people started to cry and Yazid ordered the rope to be cut. The head of Imam Husayn was in front of him. He looked at Nu'man Ibn Bashir and said, "Praise God that He killed him." 
Nu'man replied, "Mu'awiyah, your father, did not want to have Husayn killed." 
Yazid answered, "That was before Husayn's movement. If Husayn had started his movement before, my father Mu'awiyah would have killed him." 
Then Yazid faced Sajjad and said, "What do you think of what God has done to your father, Husayn'' 
Sajjad replied, "I saw what God has written." 
Yazid consulted with his advisors about killing Sajjad and most of them agreed to having him killed. 
Sajjad said, "O, Yazid! These people are deceiving you. Unlike the people of Pharaoh did when he asked them about Moses and Aaron. They said, 'Leave Moses and Aaron, because the children of Prophets should not be killed."' 
Yazid thought and pondered, then Sajjad asked him for permission to speak. Yazid said, "You may speak, but do not talk any nonsense." 
Sajjad said, "I am in a position in which I can not talk nonsense. What would you think if the Prophet sees us in this position?" 
Yazid ordered Sajjad's chains to be removed, then faced his royal announcers, and told them to praise Mu'awiyah and humiliate Husayn. When they continued cursing 'Ali and Husayn, Sajjad interrupted them and yelled, "You are trying to please humans against God. You are going to end up in Hell!" 
Then Sajjad said calmly, "O, Yazid! Let me go stand in the same place as this man (the announcer) and say what would please God and what would benefit these people." 
Yazid refused, but the people insisted on allowing him. The people persisted, and Yazid did not want to anger the people, so he allowed it. 
Sajjad said, "Praise God Who has no beginning, Who is eternal. No one was before Him and no one will be after Him. He will remain after the destruction of the whole world. 
O, people! We are given six characteristics and we were honored by seven. We are given knowledge, patience, generosity, eloquence, bravery, and love in the hearts of believers; and we are honored that the Prophet is from our family, the friend, Siddiq Tayyar, the Lion of God and the lion of the Messenger, and the two grandsons of this nation. O, people! Who knows me knows me, and who does not know me, I will tell him who I am in genealogy and character. 
O, people! I am the son of Mecca and Medina. I am the son of Zamzam and Safa. I am the son of the one who carried the Black Stone with his robe. I am the son of the best of those who wear clothes [are civilized]. I am the son of the best of those who made Tawaf [circumambulating the Ka'bah] and Sa'y [walking between Mount Safa and Mount Marwa, as one of the Hajj pilgrimage rite]. I am the son of the man who rode the Buraq [winged horse] to the end of the horizon, and reached his Lord, and was two bow's shots away from Him. I am the son of the one who prayed with the angels. I am the son of the one who received the revelation. I am the son of the one who fought with the Prophet of God at the battles of Badr and Hunayn and he ['Ali] did not disbelieve in God even for the blink of an eye. I am the son of the best of believers and the heir of the Prophets and the leader of Muslims, the knight of fighters, the father of Hasan and Husayn, 'Ali son of Abi Talib. I am the son of Fatimah al-Zahra', the leader of women, and the great Khadijah. I am the son of the one who was killed and covered with blood. I am the son of the one who was killed in Karbala'. I am the son of the one for whom the Jinn cried, and even the birds on the wind." 
When Sajjad said this, people yelled and wailed in an uproar of grief. 
Yazid began to fear that the situation would escalate, so he ordered the Muezzin to recite the azan  even though it was not prayer time. 
The Muezzin yelled, "Allahu Akbar! (God is great)" and Sajjad said, "God is greater and more honored than anything I fear!" 
Then the Muezzin said, "Ashhadu anla ilaha ilallah [I bear witness that there is no god besides Allah]" and Sajjad said, "Yes, I bear witness with everyone who witnesses that there is no god but Him!" 
When the Muezzin said, "Ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasulullah [I bear witness that MuHammad is the Messenger of God]", Sajjad said to the Muezzin, "I ask you by the right of Muhammad to be silent for one minute!" 
He faced Yazid and said, "This Messenger of God, is he your grandfather or my grandfather? If you say he is your grandfather, people who are present and all people will know you are a liar, and if you say he is my grandfather, then why did you kill my father unjustly? Why did you loot his wealth? Why did you capture his women? On the Day of Judgment my grandfather will be against you." 
Yazid interrupted Sajjad and yelled at the Muezzin to start the prayer, even though it was not time. Some left to pray and others simply left the scene. 
Then, he asked for the head of Imam Husayn to be brought to him in a golden washbasin. The women of the family of the Prophet wanted to see what is in the basin, but Yazid did not want them to. When he uncovered it and they saw the head, everyone cried. Yazid ordered others to enter the room. He took his stick, hit the lips of Imam Husayn, and said, 
"Now I am getting even for the battle of Badr!" And then recited some poetry. 
One of his people yelled that 'Al al-Mustafa' (the family of Heavenly Selected-Prophet Muhammad) are cut into pieces. Yazid hit him in his chest, told him to shut up, and cursed him, saying, "You have no mother!" 
Another stood up and asked Yazid to give him Fatimah, daughter of Husayn, as a gift. Fatimah became very scared and clung tightly to Zaynab. 
Zaynab raised her voice and said, "Impossible! You cannot have this!" Yazid replied, "If I want it, I can... 
Zaynab said to him, "If you do not believe in our religion, you can." 
Yazid barked at her, "Your father and your brother were not of our religion!" 
Zaynab said, "It was by the religion of God, my grandfather, and my father, that you and your father became Muslims!" 
Yazid screamed, "You are a liar and an enemy of God!" 
Zaynab said, "You are governor. You curse us unjustly and you govern by force." 
The man repeated his request for the daughter of Husayn as a gift. Yazid yelled at him, cursed him, and then said to everyone: 
"I wish my ancestors were here to see 
How their enemies are in fear. 
They would be happy 
And they would tell me: Yazid, you did a good job! 
We have taken their heads, and gotten even 
For the battle of Badr. 
The Hashim (family of the Prophet Muhammad] played with politics. 
There is no revelation and no Messenger. 
They lied just to get the leadership. 
I am not from my tribe 
If I do not take revenge on the descendants of Ahmad." 
When Zaynab heard Yazid, she said, "Praises to God and the Messenger of God," and quoted: 
"Then, the end result of those who have done evil was evil, because they denied the signs of God, and mocked them."( The Holy Qur'an; Sura of ar-Room 30:10) 
Then she continued, "O, Yazid! You think you have turned the whole world against us, and you have driven us like slaves. You think that you have honor, and you are important. You are holding your nose high, and you are happy, for the world is easy for you, and your kingdom is secure. But, you just wait and see! 
Have you forgotten the saying of God: 'And let not those who disbelieve think that whatever we increase for them is the best for them. Indeed, We increase for them so they increase in sin, and they have a humiliating punishment?'(The Holy Qur'an; Sura of Aal-Imran 3: 178) 
Is it just, O, son of Talaqa, to honor your slaves and drive the children of the Prophet as slaves? You exposed their privacy and exposed their faces. You paraded them from city to city. They had no one to protect them and everyone, near or far, examining their faces! What can we expect from a descendant of those who tried to eat the livers of the righteous people whose flesh grows from the blood of martyrs. What can we expect from someone who grew up with hatred of the Prophet's family?" 
Then, she quoted his poem and said, "While hitting the lips of the son of the Messenger of God, how could you say such a thing? Someone like you has to say such things, while you shed the blood of the descendants of Muhammad and the stars of the family of 'Abdul Muttalib. You call your ancestors. Indeed, you will soon go the same way as them. Indeed, you will wish you were mute and did not say what you said and did not do what you did. 
O, God! Secure our rights and take revenge on those who treated us unjustly who shed our blood and killed our protectors. O, Yazid, you have not cut anything but your own skin. You have not chopped anything but your own flesh. Indeed, you will face Prophet Muhammad by what you have shed, the blood of his descendants and humiliated his honor!" Then she quoted: "Do not think of those who have been killed in the way of God as dead. No. They are alive, with their Lord, and bestowed blessings." (The Holy Qur'an; Sura of Aal -Imran 3: 169 ) 
"And God is the best Judge and Muhammad is the plaintiff and (Archangel) Gabriel is the supporter. And those who made you come to power over Muslims will know what a worse alternative they have chosen and what a weak army they have. 
Though it is hard for me to speak to you, I belittle you. It is hard for me to look in your face, but the eyes are weeping and the chests are tight. 
O! The wonder of wonders is that the party of God, the honored are killed by the party of Satan, those who were given freedom by the Prophet. Their hands are dripping with our blood, their mouths are filled with our flesh, and the bodies of the righteous are scattered on the ground. You took us as prisoners as gains of the war, but soon you will be the loser, when you enter the Judgment of God. We have only Him as our protector. Do whatever you want and plan and scheme whatever you want. 
But, by God you cannot eradicate our memory, and you cannot eradicate the revelation (of God) and the shame of this will not leave you. Your view is in vain, and your days are numbered, and your groups will be scattered, on a day in which a caller will call and announce the curse of God on those who are unjust. Praised be the Lord, the One who gave the first of us forgiveness and the last of us martyrdom. And we ask Almighty God to complete the reward for them, and increase for them, and make us the successful ones. Indeed, He is merciful and kind, and God is sufficient, and the Best Protector.

The historian al-Bayruni says: 
"These actions taken against the Imam were not done to any nation in the world. Using all cheap means possible, such as killing by sword, spearing, catapults, and running the horses on the bodies of the victims." 
After the massacre at Karbala', 'Umar Ibn Sa'd, the leader of the army, asked the governor, Ibn Ziyad, for the written promise to make him governor of the city of Ray. Ibn Ziyad said he lost it. 
One year after the death of Yazid, Mukhtar revolted against Ibn Ziyad and killed all those who participated in killing Imam Husayn, such as Harmalah ibn Kahil, Shimr ibn dhil-Jawshan, and eighteen thousand others who participated in the massacre at Karbala'. Mukhtar ordered them to be killed by cruel and unusual methods of painful torture and death. 
Mukhtar did not kill 'Umar Ibn Sa'd, but he ordered the women of the city to sit by the door of his house and cry and wail every night. They did this, and after some time, he became crazy.


Source: AhlulBayt News Agency (www.abna.ir)


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