Refutations of a Distorted View of the Tragedy of Kerbala
by Hyder Khoja
Recently, I watched a video entitled “A Historical Analysis of the Events of Kerbala” on Youtube, by Dr. Yasir Qadhi. It was presented as a majority Sunni View. Unfortunately, I was greatly disappointed by the speaker’s presentation. I soon found that this “analysis” was not really an academic, historical analysis at all; more accurately put it was a presentation of the events of Kerbala, from a specific and narrow worldview, that happened to be presented by someone with academic credentials. I watched the entire presentation, and as I did, it was glaringly obvious that there were some fundamental contradictions in methodology, as well as distortions of facts, assumptions, and omissions revealing a great degree of bias. What was even more troubling to me was the fact that given this individual’s credentials, an unsuspecting audience would be inclined to take his account as wholly accurate, without knowing the full picture of the events of Kerbala. It is for this reason I decided to write this paper; I felt an obligation to defend the honour and nobility of Syedna Hussain (RA), and his immense sacrifice.
This paper, then, is ultimately a sincere attempt to point out that the views expressed by Dr. Yasir Qadhi, is in fact NOT a view that is representative of the majority of Sunni Muslims. In doing so, some of the assumptions, contradictions, inconsistencies and discrepancies in the speaker’s version of the events of Kerbala will be exposed, and historical facts will be presented from a more accurate frame of reference, in accordance with the worldview of mainstream Sunni Scholars.
Let us first begin by stating the points of Agreements and Disagreements:
Points of Agreements:
Dr. Qadhi accepts the following three Hadiths of the Holy prophet as authentic and presents them as Proof of his own love for Ahlul-Bait.
1. Hadith of Muslim of Kisa (The Tradition of the Cloak)
2. The Hadith of Muslim of the High Status of the Ahlul Bayt
3. The Hadith of the Leaders of the Youth in Paradise
Generally speaking, these 3 Hadiths are undisputed and accepted by all Muslim sects as authentic and true . The author of this paper also unconditionally accepts these 3 Hadiths as authentic and true. Dr. Qadhi himself not only echoes this point, but illustrates that they form part of his own belief. However, he qualifies his love for Ahlul-Bait by stating that he loves only those members of the Ahlul-Bait who are righteous.
Points of Disagreements:
1) General methodological issues regarding the derivation of his analysis.
2) The claim that “We love Ahlul-Bait but only those who are righteous” put forth by Dr. Qadhi in his lecture.
3) The statements that:
a. Syedna Hussain (RA) was going to Kufa to lead an uprising against Yazid because of his desire for power and love for this world.
b. Syedna Hussain (RA) did not know that he will be killed when he took the fateful journey to Kufa in response to thousands of letters from Kufans, and
c. The implication that Syedna Hussain (RA) was partly responsible for what happened in Kerbala because of his Khilafat aspirations.
4) The statement that the people of Kufa who betrayed Syedna Hussain (RA) are primarily to be blamed for the tragedy of Kerbala, and:
a. The statement that, from the “establishment’s” side, Ibn Ziyad takes the major share of the blame for the massacre in Kerbala.
b. The statement that while Yazeed deserves some blame for the events of Kerbala, he did not order the killings of the family of the Holy Prophet (SAS), therefore implicitly diminishing his responsibility in their murder.
5) The statement that one should not curse Yazeed by name.
6) And finally, the statement that Shias of today mourn, lament and beat their chests out of guilt for the murder of Syedna Hussain (RA) and his family, implying somehow they are responsible for the betrayal of Hussain (RA) by Kufans 1400 years ago.
Let us examine each of these points, in turn.
1.) Methodological Issues:
Dr. Qadhi claims in the lecture that his analysis of the events of Kerbala is a majority Sunni view, but ONLY uses a few Sunni sources of specific mindset, while ignoring a majority of Sunni sources, impartial western sources and Shia sources. That, by definition, would be a biased view. An objective and fair analysis would consider all available sources and then come to a conclusion. This is the proper academic and scholarly method of judging historical events.
If a Christian presented an argument against the Holy Quran using only Christian sources, one would reject it as a biased view. Similarly, if a Jew or a Hindu presented an argument only on the basis of Jewish or Hindu sources, one would reject that too as biased. Even if a Shia presented an analysis of the events of Kerbala based only on Shia Sources, that will also constitute a bias and will be rejected in any scholarly discourse.
Dr. Qadhi at the very outset states that he has only used a couple of Sunni Sources in his analysis. If you look at the resources he quotes, you’ll find that he primarily relies on Ibn Taymiyya, and Ibne Hajar, and both Ibne Taymiyya and Ibne Hajar are well known for their bias. He completely ignores a majority of standard mainstream Sunni Sources such as Tabari, Ibne Kathir, Ibne Athir, Abul-Fida, Tarikhul-Khulafa, as well as Tafaseer such as that of Razi and Sayuti and the views of the independent Western scholars.
It is intellectually dishonest for him to say that what he is presenting is a majority Sunni View while using only a few Sunni Sources of specific mindset. Therefore his analysis can neither be considered reliable or credible nor a majority Sunni View.
2) The Claim That “We love Ahlul-Bait and Respect Them but only Those Among Them Who are Righteous
Dr. Qadhi makes the claim that he (and in fact all Sunni Muslims) love the Ahlul-Bayt, which includes Syedna Hussain (RA), and not with a mere single love, but a “double love”, because not only were they “Sahabas”, but also the family of the Holy Prophet (SAS). Not only does he make this statement, Dr. Qadhi goes on to quote 3 Hadith, whose validity, accuracy and correctness he attests to, justifying his love for the Ahlul-Bayt. However, immediately after quoting these Hadiths, he qualifies his love for Ahlul-Bayt by saying:
“ We love the Ahlul-Bayt and respect their high status only if they are righteous”
Let us examine these 3 Hadiths in greater details. These 3 Hadiths are well documented in many authentic Hadith books such as Muslim and others. Muhammad Ayub gives all relevant references in his paper “ Excellences of Imam Hussain in Sunni Hadith Traditions”.
The Hadith –e-Kissa(the Hadith of Cloak) describes the occasion of revelation of the verse of Purification(33:33;QURAN). In this Hadith Ummul-Momineen Umme Salama states that when the verse of purification was revealed, the Holy prophet covered himself, His daughter Fatima, Fatima’s husband Ali and her 2 children Hasan and Hussain under a Cloak (Chadar) and said that these are my Ahlul-Bait and prayed to ALLAH SWT to keep his Ahlul-Bait pure and free from sin.
The hadith of High Status states that Prophet declared publicly to Ummah, that his Ahlul-Bait are people of High Status in the eyes of ALLAH SWT.
The Hadith of the Leader of the Youth of the Paradise States that Prophet declared before the UMMAH publicly that HASAN (R.A) and HUSSAIN (R.A) are the leaders of the youth of the Paradise.
Let us consider Dr. Qadhi’s statement now, in the context of the above Hadiths that he quoted. Doesn’t there appear to be an inherent flaw in his qualifying statement? How can one accept the purified status of these 5 members of the Ahlul-Bayt, described in Hadith-e-Kissa and attested to by the Verse of Tatheer on the one hand, and not consider any one of these 5 as righteous? If someone is purified from sin, wouldn’t he be righteous also? How can someone believe in the High Status of Hussain(R.A) and not consider him as righteous? How can someone call into question the righteousness of Syedna Hussain (RA), if he believe that Syedna Hussain (R.A) will be one of the (two) leaders of the youth of Paradise? If he believes in the aforementioned Hadiths as true, valid, and accurate, as he proclaimed, then by virtue of belief in them, it is a foregone conclusion that any and all members of the Ahlul-Bayt, including Syedna Hussain (RA), are by definition, righteous. This is a direct attack on the integrity of the Holy prophet (S.A.S) and the Holy QURAN, and also Hadith books that narrate these Hadith. These two statements: 1.) I believe in the aforementioned Hadith and 2.) I love the Ahlul-Bayt only if they are righteous, are philosophically, logically and factually incompatible and contradictory.
The question arises, why would Dr. Qadhi even make reference to these Hadiths, which makes his following argument problematic? The answer is that Dr. Qadhi wants you (his unsuspecting audience) to beleive that he has true love , as the majority of Sunnis do, for Syedna Hussain (RA) and the Ahlul-Bayt, when in fact, it is lip service at best. He prefaces his lecture with the well-known, sahih Hadiths that most if not all Sunnis know, to show that he shares the same views as those of the Sunni majority, when in fact, he does not. He is only deceiving his unsuspecting audience. How can he share true love and respect for the Ahlul-Bayt, when he is ignoring the very contents and spirit of the sahih Hadiths he quoted?
3.The Majority Sunni View: we shall now present the Majority Sunni View as well as refute Dr. Qadhi’s claim that Syedna Hussain (R.A) was motivated by his desire for power and Khilafat.
The Majority of Sunnis believe that:
- Syedna Hussain (RA) sacrificed his life and those of his family members to uphold the principle of the Sovereignty of God and to protect the sanctity of the religion of Islam. The majority of Sunnis also believe that Syedna Hussain (RA) fought to uphold the principles of truth and justice and sacrificed his life and his family to fight the oppression and tyranny of Yazeed. (Reference) (ALLAMA IQBAL, Moulana AbulKalam AZAD, BERAILVIES, SUFIES)2,3,8,9
- The majority of Sunnis also believe that Yazid was indeed a Fasiq and Fajir (one who openly commits sin and defied the fundamental principles of Islam), a drunkard, womanizer and unfit to be the successor of the Holy Prophet (SAS) and Commander of the Faithful. (Reference)4,5,10,14 (Quoted below the views of Ibne Kathir, Ibne Atheer, Tabari, Tarikh-ul-Khulafa)
Consider what some prominent Sunni Scholars have had to say about Syedna Hussain (RA) and the events of Kerbala. Dr. Israr Ahmed, an eminent Sunni scholar who represents the majority Sunni view, whom nobody can accuse of being a “Rafidi” or a “Shia sympathizer” wrote:
“Now let us examine the stand which Hussain Ibn Ali (RAA) took in the situation. As said earlier, he sincerely believed that the nomination of Yazeed to the heirship of the Caliphate would destroy the spirit of democracy and republicanism nurtured and developed so assiduously during the Prophet´s era and afterward, and that it would lead to hereditary kingship which was repugnant to the original political teaching of Islam. He therefore resolved to oppose this with all the resources at his command).For he acted in the true spirit of Allah´s and the Prophet´s command: So when you have decided (on a course of action) repose your confidence in Allah (Aal-e-Imran 3:159). It may be argued that Hussain (RA) committed a mistake in the assessment of the situation, but no insinuations about his intentions can be entertained. He had no lust for power or avarice for wealth. This is the common belief of the Ahl Al-Sunnah Wal-Jama´ah (the Sunnis). They do not consider him, like all non-Prophets, to be infallible; at the same time they do not doubt his integrity either.”
Read the underlined paragraph carefully. “He had no lust for power or avarice for wealth”, And that,“ it is the common belief of Ahle Sunnah wal Jammah(majority of Sunnis)” and, “Ahle Sunnah do not doubt his integrity”. How then can Dr. Qadhi or anyone else cast aspersions on the intentions of Syedna Hussain (RA) and present it as a mainstream Sunni view?
Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, a very well-known and widely acclaimed Sunni scholar of the sub-continent, in his book Shahadat-e-Hussain, writes:
“This is absolutely wrong that Hazrat Imam Hussain fought in Kerbala for Imamat and Khilafat of the Ummah……..Thus the event of Hazrat Hussain is not a personal event. It is not just concerning the history of Islam, but rather it (the martyrdom of Hussain) is the true reality of Islam. The reality that began with the incomplete sacrifice of Prophet Ismael and continued to Prophet Jesus. This reality (meaning Zibhe-Azeem, the great sacrifice (mentioned in The Quran, that remained incomplete for centuries through various Prophets), Hazrat Hussain completed with his Matrydom”.
It would appear that Moulana Azad seems to be in agreement with another well-respected Sunni scholar, Allama Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, one of the world’s most highly respected and famous scholars, philosophers, poets and intellectuals of the sub-continent, acknowledged also by the Western world, addressed Muslims of the world and explained the purpose of Syedna Hussain (RA) in one of his famous poems in Bale-Jibrael:
Gareeb –o-sada-o-Rangeen hai dastaane Haram
Nihayat hai uski Hussain ibteda hai Ismael
Referring to the incomplete sacrifice of Prophet Ismael (AS), Allama Iqbal is saying to Muslims that the story of Khane-Ka’aba (the house of God) is simple, colourful (with the blood of Hussain) and deserted. The story of The Ka’aba is the story that began with the incomplete sacrifice of Hazrat Ismael (AS) and was completed with the sacrifice of Syedna Hussain (RA) in Kerbala.
In another Persian verse in “Asrare-Khudi”, he characterizes the sacrifice of Syedna Hussain (RA) as “Zibhe Azim”, “The Great Sacrifice”, referring to the term used in the Holy Qur’an to describe the sacrifice of Hazrat Ishmael (AS) (“incomplete” in the sense that it was replaced with a lamb):
An Imam-e-ashiqan pooray Batool
Sarvay azadi ze bustan-e-Rasul
Now Dr Iqbal opens his praises for the son of Lady Fatima. He was the chief of the lovers of Allah, and an evergreen tree from the garden of the Prophet. Imam Husayn who stood against the forces of evil, refused to acknowledge Yazid as theCaliph of Islam, and upholding the dignity of Islamic principles sacrificed his life along with a small band of 72 of his followers, at the battlefield of Karbala.
Allah Allah Baey Bismillah pidar
Ma'niye zibh-e-azim amad pisar
In a state of supreme bliss Dr Iqbal says, "O' Allah, what an exalted position Imam Husayn possessed, as his illustrious father (Imam Ali) was the first letter of the Qur'an! A tradition says that Imam Ali said, "What is in the Holy Qur'an is in the first chapter (Surah Fatiha); what is in this surah (chapter) is in the first verse (Bismillah); what is in Bismillah is in its first letter (Ba) and I am the dot below ba. Doubtless Imam Ali was acknowledged to be the best expounder of the Holy Qur'a.
It is indeed sad that even Western scholars reached the same conclusion as Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal and Moulana Azad, but alas, Muslims do not. I encourage the readers of this paper to refer to Harvard Scholar Annamarie Shcimmel’s scholarly paper, ”The Tragedy of Kerbala in Persian, Turkish and Urdu Mystic Poetry”.
In her scholarly paper, she discusses the profound influence of the tragedy of kerbala on the Turkish, Persian and Indo-Pak mystic poetry and how the massacre in kerbala inspired their mystic thoughts. Here’s a quote from her paper.
“Sacrifices are a means for reaching higher and loftier stages of life; to give away parts of one's fortune, or to sacrifice members of one's family enhances one's religious standing; the Biblical and Qur'anic story of Abraham who so deeply trusted in God that he, without questioning, was willing to sacrifice his only son, points to the importance of such sacrifice. Iqbal was certainly right when he combined, in a well known poem in Bal-i Jibril (1936), the sacrifice of Ismail and the mrtyrdom of Husayn, both of which make up the beginning and the end of the story of the Ka'ba.”
Allama Iqbal in this poem quoted by Annmarie Shimmel, is trying to show the right path to Muslims like Dr. Qazi, who have drifted away from the true Islam
Andheri Shab Hai, Juda Apne Qafle Se Hai Tu Tere Liye Hai Mera Shaola-e-Nawa, Qandeel From caravan you are adrift, and night has donned a mantle black: For you my song that burns as flame, like a torch, can light the track.
Ghareeb-o-Sada-o-Rangeen Hai Dastan-e-Haram Nahayat Iss Ki Hussain (R.A.), Ibtada Hai Ismaeel (A.S.) The tale of the Holy Shrine, if told, is simple, strange and red in hue: With Ismail (A.S.) the tale begins ends with Husain (R.A.), the martyr true.
“But there was also another way to understand the role of Husayn in the history of the Islamic people, and importantly, the way was shown by Muham-mad Iqbal, who was certainly a Sunni poet and philosopher. We mentioned at the beginning that it was he who saw the history of the Ka'ba defined by the two sacrifices, that of Ismail at the beginning, and that of Husayn b. 'Ali in the end (Bal-i Jibril, p. 92). But almost two decades before he wrote those lines, he had devoted a long chapter to Husayn in his Rumuz-i bekhudi (p. 126ff). Here, Husayn is praised, again in the mystical vocabulary, as the imam of the lovers, the son of the virgin, the cypresso of freedom in the Prophet's garden. While his father, Hazrat 'Ali, was, in mystical interpretation, the b of the bismi'llah, the son became identified with the 'mighty slaughtering', a beautiful mixture of the mystical and Qur'anic interpretations. But Iqbal, like his predecessors, would also allude to the fact that Husayn, the prince of the best nation, used the back of the last prophet as his riding camel, and most beautiful is Iqbal's description of the jealous love that became honoured through his blood, which, through its imagery, again goes back to the account of the martyrdom of Husayn b. Mansur al-Hallaj, who rubbed the bleeding stumps of his hands over his blackened face in order to remain surkh ru, red-faced and honoured, in spite of his suffering.”
For Iqbal, Anna Marie continues, the position of Husayn in the Muslim community is as central as the position of the surat al-ikhlas in the Holy Book, as quoted below.
“Then he turns to his favourite topic, the constant tension between the positive and negative forces, between the prophet and saint on the one hand, and the oppressor and unbeliever on the other. Husayn and Yazid stand in the same line as Moses and Pharaoh. Iqbal then goes on to show how the khilafat was separated from the Qur'anic injunctions and became a worldly kingdom with the appearance of the Umayyads, and it was here that Husayn appeared like a raincloud, again the image of the blessing rain which always contrasts so impressively with the thirst and dryness of the actual scene of Karbala'. It was Husayn's blood that rained upon the desert of Karbala' and left the red tulips there. “ (Annamarie Shcimmel, Kerbala in the Turkish, and Indo-Persian mystic litrary traditions)
From the above quotations the reader can appreciate the fact that Dr.Qadhi is no match for the academic and scholarly credentials of Dr. Iqbal, Moulana Azad, or Anna Marie Shimmel
Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the famous English translator of The Holy Qur’an, has beautifully summed up the whole essence of this epic battle:
There is of course the physical suffering in martyrdom, and all sorrow and suffering claim our sympathy---the dearest, purest, most outflowing sympathy that we can give. But there is a greater suffering than physical suffering. That is when a valiant soul seems to stand against the world; when the noblest motives are reviled and mocked; when truth seems to suffer an eclipse. It may even seem that the martyr has but to say a word of compliance, do a little deed of non-resistance; and much sorrow and suffering would be saved; and the insidious whisper comes: “Truth after all can never die.” That is perfectly true. Abstract truth can never die. It is independent of man’s cognition. But the whole battle is for man’s keeping hold of truth and righteousness. And that can only be done by the highest examples of man’s conduct – spiritual striving and suffering enduring firmness of faith and purpose, patience and courage where ordinary mortals would give in or be cowed down, the sacrifice of ordinary motives to supreme truth in scorn of consequence. The martyr bears witness, and the witness redeems what would otherwise be called failure. It so happened with Husain. For all were touched by the story of his martyrdom, and it gave the deathblow to the politics of Damascus and all it stood for.
In addition to Sunni scholars, several independent Orientalist and Sub-continental scholars, and well-known intellectuals also seem to understand the gravity of Syedna Hussain’s (RA) sacrifice. Charles Dickens, the acclaimed English writer and social critic commented:
“If Hussain fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do not understand why his sisters, wives and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore that he sacrificed purely for Islam.”
The renowned 18th century historian, Edward Gibbon, in his monumental and acclaimed work, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, wrote:
“In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Husain will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.”
Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish philosopher, historian, and important social commentator in the Victorian era, wrote:
“The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is that Hussain and his companions were the rigid believers of God. They illustrated that numerical superiority does not count when it comes to truth and falsehood. The victory of Hussain despite his minority marvels me!”
Mahatma Gandhi, is famously quoted as saying:
“I learned from Hussain how to be wronged and be a winner, I learnt from Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed”
How is it that even non-Muslim scholars, philosophers, and intellectuals around the world when confronted with the events of Kerbala, recognize the magnanimous, noble and tragic nature of Syedna Hussain’s (RA) sacrifice, and yet Muslim scholars such as Dr. Qadhi do not? How is it that these scholars are able to recognize that Syedna Hussain (RA) understood his efforts will result in his brutal and merciless murder, and regard him as a true martyr with a higher purpose, and yet Dr. Qadhi and others like him cannot? The sad reality is that scholars such as Dr. Qadhi, have been influenced by a particular school of thought, who seem to harbor bitterness towards Ahlul-Bait in general and Syedna Hussain’s (RA) stand in Kerbala in particular; they have always supported the reigning dynasties and served the interests of the existing rulers and since they cannot openly chastise Syedna Hussain (RA) due to his well-characterized nobility, and his High stature as the grandson of the Holy Prophet (SAS), so they find whatever means they can to diminish the value of his great sacrifice. What else could it be? A non-muslim quoted above describes how the tragic events of Kerbala will “awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader”, and yet members of a narrow school of thought, essentially criticize Syedna Hussain’s (RA) actions, subvert the nature of his message, and show no signs of sympathy for the tremendous suffering he underwent.
3b.) Syedna Hussain (RA) Did Not Know he was Going to Die when he decided to go to Kufa
Dr. Qadhi maintains that Syedna Hussain (RA) did not go to Kufa to achieve martyrdom; he did not know he would be killed, and as you’ve seen they either explicitly or implicitly state that he had worldly designs. There are numerous Hadith refuting this claim. We shall present one authentic account by Hafiz Ibne Kathir.
“Hafiz Ibn Katheer writes that one day an angel came and sat down by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Umme Salma (the wife of the Prophet and the mother of the believers), “we have a guest, do not let any one enter as we are having a conversation.” In the meantime Imam Husain, who at the time was very young, entered the room, and as children do, Imam Husain climbed on top of our Prophet’s shoulder. The angel said “Do you love him”; Our Prophet replied “Yes”. The angel then said, “Your followers will at a later time martyr him. If you wish I can show you where he will be martyred. Our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said he would like to see where his grandson would be martyred. The angel then waved his hand and brought some red soil and said, “This is the place where he will be martyred.” Our Prophet took some soil from his hand and gave it to Umme Salma. She put the soil in a bottle.”(Ibne Kathir)
Think about this for a moment; this is an authentic hadith, describing an event that occurred during the Holy Prophet’s (SAS) life, well before the events of Kerbala. So ALLAH SWT knew, the Angel knew, and for all this time the Holy Prophet (SAS) knew, Syedna Ali (RA) knew, but Syedna Hussain (RA) was completely in the dark about it his entire life(?) Is this believable?
After this it became known amongst the companions that Syedna Husain (RA) would be martyred in a place called Kerbala. Our Holy Prophet (SAS) told them that if any of them are present at the time, they should support him. Syedna Anas bin Harris was with Imam Husain in Karbala and was martyred.
4(a,b): The Statement That the People of Kufa, Ibne Ziyad, Ibne Saad, and Shimr are Primarily Responsible, and only to Some Extent Yazid Himself is to Blame for the Massacre in Kerbala
It’s quite an interesting ploy on behalf of Dr Qadhi to make the case that the people of Kufa are to blame for the massacre of Kerbala. Of course the people of Kufa share a portion of the blame for what happened in Kerbala! Every Muslim, whether Shia or Sunni will agree to this, as they betrayed Syedna Hussain (RA) and left Syedna Hussain (RA) deserted after promising support. With respect to Ibne Ziyad, Ibne Saad and Shimr, it is again stating the obvious to assert that they share a good portion of the blame, as they are the ones who actually carried out the massacre. However it is completely disingenuous and in fact almost farcical to state that they were more responsible than the head of the state. It is as if to say, that the U.S soldiers are more responsible than President Bush for the killings and massacres in IRAQ. Does this make any logical or credible sense? Would you accept this argument today? If not, then how can anyone even agree to consider this baseless argument pertaining to the events of Kerbala? With respect to the massacre in Kerbala, many historians attribute the lion’s share of the blame on Yazeed. However, there are some who try to defend and exonerate him. Consider the following summary of the arguments of Moulana Maududi, expressed in his book Khilafat-o-Mulukiat:
(a) If Yazid did not order the killings, then what did he do to punish the people who carried out such heinous and inhumane crimes against the family of the Holy Prophet (SAS)? Did he summon them? Did he question any one of them? Did he hold any one of the perpetrators responsible for such shameful, barbaric crimes against humanity? The historical answer is “NO”. He didn’t punish or question any one of these criminals. On the contrary, these brutal people continued to hold their offices in the Empire. They continued to enjoy the privileges and pomp of power and wealth in the kingdom of Yazeed. Some of them were even promoted.
(b) After the massacre, what was the need to trample and desecrate the dead bodies of the members of the Holy Prophet (SAS), why were the tents of the Holy Family of the Holy Prophet (SAS) set on fire, why were the women of the Holy Family humiliated, and paraded from city to city and town to town with their hands tied behind their backs, while riding on the naked backs of camels?
(c) Even if one assumes for a moment that Yazeed considered Syedna Hussain(RA) as a rebel against the State, there are laws in the Islamic Shariya to deal with those who rebel. According to Islamic Law, those who oppose a Rightly Guided Caliph are to be arrested, tried in a lawful court, given a chance to defend themselves, and if found guilty of treason, punished according to Islamic Law. Were these Islamic Laws followed? Was Yazeed even a legitimate Caliph, let alone Rightly Guided? Does anybody even today consider Yazeed as a Rightly Guided Caliph? In effect, Moulana Maududi is saying that neither was Yazeed’s Khilafat legitimate, nor was it Islamic, and therefore Yazeed was personally responsible for the terrible tragedy of Kerbala, and takes the major blame for the massacre of innocent men and children of the family of the Holy Prophet (SAS).
5.The Statement That We Should Refrain From Cursing Yazeed by Name:
Before we discuss the issue of cursing Yazeed, it would be appropriate to understand the character of Yazeed as described in various authentic history books.
So what kind of a person was Yazid? Well, both Ibne Athir and Ibne Kathir have described his attributes, and they are listed below. It is interesting to point out here that while Dr. Qadhi stated that his analysis is based on Ibne Taymiyya, Ibne Hazar and Ibne Kathir, he very conveniently failed to mention Ibne Kathir’s opinion about Yazid:
“Traditions inform us that Yazeed loved worldly vices, would drink, listen to music, kept the company of boys with no facial hair, played drums, kept dogs, making frogs, bears and monkeys fight. Every morning he used be intoxicated and use to bind monkeys with the saddle of a horse and make the horse run.”
Ibne Athir, a renowned historian Allamah Ali bin Abil Karam, more famously known as Ibne Aseer Jazari) has this to say about Yazid:
“Yazid was notorious and well known for his love of numerous musical instruments, passion for hunting and play with young boys, dogs, monkeys, etc. Every morning he rose still drunk. His monkeys and young boys wore gold caps. If a monkey died, he spent a considerable time in mourning it.”
Yazeed assumed the Caliphate as a rightful successor of the Holy Prophet (SAS) and the Commander of the Faithful. To reiterate this point, note the passage from Edward Gibbon describing the nomination of Yazeed and the elevation of Yazeed to the throne of Caliphate:
“but the design of Mouawiyah were conducted with vigour and address (to appoint Yazid as his successor); and his son Yazid, a feeble and dissolute youth, was proclaimed as the Commander of the Faithful and the successor of the Apostle of God “.
These titles were reserved only for Khalifa-e-Rashidoon (The Rightly Guided Caliphs). Giving the Oath of Allegiance to Yazid would be equivalent to accepting him as a rightful successor of the Holy Prophet (SAS) and, a Khalifa-e-Rashid and the Commander of the Faithful in the same vain as Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), and Hazrat Umar (RA), and Syedna Ali (RA). Knowing Yazeed’s character fully, his sinful practices, his total indifference to the religion of his Grandfather, and with the lofty status afforded to him by being the grandson of the Holy Prophet (SAS), how could Syedna Hussain (RA) pledge his Oath of Allegiance to Yazeed?
This, my brothers and sisters, was the root of the conflict between Syedna Hussain (RA) and Yazid. Read the underlined statement in Gibbon’s passage above. Yazid demanded Syedna Hussain (RA) to acknowledge and endorse him as the rightful successor of the Holy Prophet (SAS), a Khalifa-e-Rashid and the Commander of the Faithful. This, Syedna Hussain (RA) could never do.
Now let us turn to the question of cursing Yazeed by name. After all of the historical evidence presented above, can anyone still say that we should not curse Yazeed and the killers of the family of the Holy Prophet (SAS) by name? If so, why not? On what moral grounds can anyone justify this stance? Besides being responsible for the great tragedy of Kerbala, didn’t he commit crimes against humanity, not only in Kerbala but also in Mecca and Medina thereafter? Was he not responsible for the killing of thousands of people of the two holiest cities in Islam? Was he not responsible for the burning down of Khan-e-Kaaba (the House of God)? Did he not allow his ruthless soldiers to do whatever they wanted in Mecca and Medina, including raping and impregnating women and butchering children? The reader can confirm the details of the atrocities and brutalities Yazeed and his army committed in Kerbala, and after Kerbala, in Mecca and Madina in Tabari, Ibne kathir, Ibne Athir, Tarikhul-Khulfa and every other history book as well as in the historical accounts of western scholars. Why then, should we refrain from cursing him by name? Simply because Ibne Taymiyya says so? Whereas the Qur’an curses Abu-Lahab by name: Tabbat Yada abi Lahabev wa tub, on what authority does Ibne Tayymiya have the right to issue a Fatwa against the precedent set by the Holy Quran? Truthfully, the real question shouldn’t be whether it is permissible to curse Yazeed by name, but what kind of person, especially a Muslim, would not curse Yazeed by name?
The fact of the matter is that those who defend Yazeed and Amir Muawiya today, are actually defending Monarchies and personal dynasties, which is totally against the spirit and soul of Islam. They are justifying the kingship and rule of despotic ruling families who have in the past, and even today, infested the Muslim Ummah throughout the world. These despotic rulers, whether kings, monarchs, or in the guise of presidents, are busy simply perpetuating their personal dynasties in their children and families and usurping and abusing the wealth of Muslim Ummah, just like the Umayyads and Abbasids and other dynasties did in the past. Name one Muslim country today where the Fundamental Human Rights of every citizen are guaranteed regardless of caste, color, creed, religion, ethnic background and sectarian affiliation. Just name one Muslim country in the entire world today where all Muslims and non-Muslims regardless of their sects or religion have the fundamental rights of freedom of expression or freedom of practicing their religion without fear of oppression and persecution?. Your Answer would be –None.
I will leave it to the reader to reflect why?
Cursing is essentially an act of disdain and dislike by a morally-obliged and principally-bound person on someone who has committed despicable and barbaric crimes against innocent people. Are you someone who opposes this? The act of cursing will offend only those who either committed those crimes themselves or who support those who carried out these crimes. So where do you think Dr. Qadhi’s and other similar writers’ allegiance lie?
6. The Statement that the Shias of Today Mourn, Lament, Cry and Beat Their Chests Because Somehow They are Responsible for the Betrayal of Syedna Hussain (RA) by the People of Kufa 1400 years ago.
This is simply a malicious, illogical and absurd statement. In fact If we apply this twisted sense of logic to other examples, then the Christians of today throughout the world, including those who converted to Christianity from whatever origin, who mourn, lament and cry for the crucifixion of the Prophet Jesus (AS) up until Good Friday in the modern era, are somehow responsible for the betrayal of the Prophet Jesus (AS) by some of his companions 2000 years ago. And the Shias of today, including those who converted from Christianity, Hinduism or from Sunnis themselves, who cry, lament and mourn the martyrdom of Syedna Hussain (RA) today, are somehow responsible for the massacre in Kerbala 1400 years ago. The Jews who mourn and commemorate the massacre in Holocaust are themselves responsible for what occurred during world war 2 and the relatives of the victims of 9/11 who remember and commemorate the death of their loved ones are to be blamed for the tragedy of 9/11. Does this make any sense? In order to subvert the crimes of Yazeed and his followers, Dr. Qadhi and others make such absurd and faulty analogies and illegitimate comments that it seems to prove that suspension of one’s intellect and reasoning is a prerequisite to adhering to their views.
Many Shias today are actually Sadats (the Syeds), the descendants and children of the sole survivor of the genocide in Kerbala. They are actually the victims of the massacre that occurred in Kerbala. They cry and mourn to commemorate the sufferings and the supreme sacrifice of their loved ones 1400 years ago. It was their family and forefathers who were annihilated in Kerbala. How cruel and malicious it is to blame them today for the killings of their own forefathers and ancestors 1400 years ago?
In the end, I would like to quote a passage from “The Decline and Fall of Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon. In this passage, he describes the character and activities of the sole survivor of the massacre in Kerbala-Ali Bin Hussain and his children after the events of Kerbala. The reader is requested to pay close attention to every word he says and his sharp observation.
“The glory of martyrdom superseded the right of primogeniture; and twelve IMAMS or pontiffs, of the Persian creed are Ali, Hassan, Hosein, and the lineal descendents of Hosein to the ninth generation. Without arms, or treasures, or subjects, they successively enjoyed the veneration of the people, and provoked the jealousy of the ruling Caliphs: their tombs at Mecca or Medina, on the banks of the Euphrates, or in the province of Chorasan, are still visited by the devotion of their sect. Their names were often the pretence of sedition and civil war: but these Royal Saints despised the pomp of the world; submitted to the will of God and the injustice of man; and devoted their innocent lives to the study and practice of religion.”
His choice of words in describing the activities of the Children of Ali bin Hussain deserve special attention like “The glory of martyrdom”, “Royal Saints”, “innocent lives”, and “devoted their lives in the study and practice of religion”. Gibbon was a very sharp historian, brilliant indeed. In fact, his work is widely regarded as the model and gold standard for documenting history for subsequent historians. It should be pointed out that the subject of his epic work was not Kerbala. His main topic of investigation was to document the reasons for the “Decline and Fall of Roman Empire”, and since Islam played a role in it, he described the events in the Islamic world as a supplementary topic. It is also quite important to note that when he wrote this historical chronicle, the only sources he had at his disposal were the Sunni sources; yet his observations, study and ability to analyze events were brilliant and gives the reader a very deep insight into the events that happened in distant past and the character and the nobility of the people involved in the historical events.. Can anyone state (without being literally ridiculed) that Edward Gibbon, an 18th century English historian, was a “shia sympathizer”? One must ask and reflect on the question as to how and why he described Syedna Hussain (RA) and the rest of the Holy Prophet’s (SAS) lineage as he did in his epic work.
We have attempted to present a balanced, impartial and unbiased view of the tragic events of Kerbala. We have quoted some well-known reputed classical mainstrem Muslim History sources such as Tabary, Ibne Kathir, Ibne Athir, Tarikhul-Khulfa, Abul-Fida etc. We have also referred to authentic and SAHIH Hadith books such as Mulim, Bukhari and Mishkat Sharif. We have also consulted some of the highly regarded Tafaseer(Exegesis) of Quran such as Sayuti and Razi. A list of references appear at the end of this paper. We have also quoted some of the internationally acclaimed modern, contemporary Muslim Scholars such as the former President of India and a well-respected Scholar and author Moulana Abul-Kalam Azad, Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Dr. Israr Ahmed, Abdullah Yusuf Ali and others. For a balanced view, we have also presented the views of some of the very famous and highly regarded Western Historians and Scholars as well.
As stated at the beginning of this Paper, when discussing a historical event, one should consider and analyze and evaluate accounts of all available sources in an impartial, fair and just manner before arriving at a final conclusion.
In closing, we sincerely pray that May ALLAH SWT accept our humble and insignificant attempt and Guide us and all Muslims to the RIGHT PATH (AMEEN)
1. The historical background of the Tragedy of Kerbala, by Dr. Israr Ahmed
2. Shahadat-e-Hussain, Moulana Abul Kalam Azad
3. Tafsir-e Quran, by Abdullah Yusuf Ali
4. Tarkhe-Kamil, by Ibne Athir
5. Al Badayah wun Nahayah, by Ibne Kathir
6. Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad, by Barnaby Rogers
7. Mahatama Gandhi
8. Khilafat-o-Mulukiat, by Moulana Moudoodi
9. The Decline and Fall of Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon
10. Bale-Jibrael, by Allama Iqbal
11. Asrare-Khudi wa Ramoze Bekhudi, by Allma Iqbal
12. The Tragedy of Kerbala in the Persian, Trukish and Indo-Pak mystique poetry, by Annamarie Shimmel
13. Excellences of Imam Hussain in Sunni Hadith Traditions, M.Ayub
14. Thomas Carlyle, Heroes and Hero Worship
15. Tarikh-e-Tabari, by Ibne Jarir Tabari
 M. Ayob. Excellences of Husssain in Sunni Hadith Traditions
 Dr. Israr Ahmed. The Historical Background of the Tragedy of Kerbala.
 Moulana Abul Kalam Azad. Shahadat-e-Hussain
 Thomas Carlyle. On Heroes and Hero-Worship.
 Al Bidayah Wal Nihayah, Ibn Kathir
 Ibne Aseer Jazari. Tareekhe Kamil.
 Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of Roman Empire. Page 318, Volume 5
 Edward Gibbon. The History of the Decline and Fall of Roman Empire. Volume 5, Chapter 60, Page 321.