An Innocent Martyr

An Innocent Martyr

After my evening prayers when I saw in front of me, a khajur (date) and a bottle of water to break my fast, my eyes started watering, like I had no control over them whatsoever. The brutal and ghastly incidents that had transpired in Karbala, Iraq in 680 CE, nearly 1400 years ago, came in front of my eyes and all I could think of is the three days of thirst and hunger of Imam Hussain and his companions, who were inhumanely killed, no I stand corrected, slaughtered would be the right word. 

After the nine days of religious sermons that transported me back to Karbala and the tragedy that occurred on the 10th of Moharram, I was only bodily in the present, my soul and heart were transported to the scorching plains of Karbala, where the most one-sided and barbaric battle against humanity took place. The berating cries, the orphaned children, and widowed women, the burning tents, why God why, did the pious and noble Imam have to undergo such a dreadful fate? If he was really your loved one, why did you let him and his Ahl al-Bayt (descendants and family of the Prophet Mohammed) and friends undergo such a tragedy? The fatigue of the entire day’s fast and relentless maatam (beating of the chest) took a toll on me and I dozed off only to awaken and find myself in Karbala, face to face with none other than Imam Hussain himself.

“My Imam! What plight are you and your contingent in? Did you really have to be here knowing what fate awaits you?” I cried and fell at his feet.

“Of course, I had to be here. My fate was written much before my birth. My maternal grandfather, the Prophet himself had prepared me for this day since I was born. My father, Ali ibn Abu Talib, my mother, the daughter of the Prophet, Fatima al Zahra, and my brother Hasan have cried and spent sleepless nights learning about my fate to be and pride themselves on being Shias and spreading the message of the Prophet without succumbing to anyone’s tyranny. This is but a tiny price to pay for the larger good”, explained the Imam calmly.

“But why not accept allegiance to Yazid for now and escape this dreaded land? You can regroup and have a fair fight as per your terms and with your entire army strength instead of being stranded in this desert land with only 72 companions, most of whom are either old, family, or children?”

“When the people of Kufa called upon me to be their Imam and sent me letters to visit them, I knew that they would deceive me. They didn’t even hesitate to assassinate my kind and just father, Ali whilst in prayers in the Kufa mosque, I was surely not going to get any preferential treatment. Their treacherous nature would once again thirst for my blood, but unlike them, I had given a word and was going to keep it. As for my companions, I have all my near and dear ones, who’ve always stood by me, knowing what fate awaits them. Last night, I blew off the tent lamps and asked everyone to leave the camp in the darkness, as the enemy would surely show mercy on those who desert me, but alas these godly souls teared up my eyes, and heart when I found each and every one of them standing tall, and proud, ready to die for me. It’s not the number of my group that bothers me, as after today I will have the whole world on my side. Tell me, aren’t I indeed lucky?”

“Lucky? You and your companions are hungry and thirsty for three days, the owner of Kausar (heavenly water river) who doesn’t even have a drop of water to quench the thirst of your six-month-old son who will die brutally with a three-pointed arrow?”

“Ali Asghar will be handed to me by his mother, Ume Rabab so that the enemy could show some mercy on the remaining of us seeing his parched lips and throat, but my brave son will die an unbecoming death at the hands of them, who are blinded by worldly gains. I know it is a lost cause, but I can’t refuse a mother’s wish. What hurt me most is, that my father’s sword Zulfikar which has won many battles and whose prowess is known far and wide, will dig a small hole to bury my son, so that his tender and frail body would not be stamped upon by enemy horses after my death.”

“My Imam, why don’t you let Abbas, your alamdaar (commander-in-chief), your devoted brother fight against these tyrants? His valour and strength will single-handedly win you this war even if you stand outnumbered five thousand to seventy-two?”

“Abbas, my brother, the bravest of the brave, is a lion against whom no one can survive, should he decide to fight. But our purpose here isn’t to kill, or start a war but to defend our family and friends. Abbas, whom no one could stop, reached the Furat (river in Iraq) and didn’t even take a sip of water, but filled the mashq (water bag) to bring back to the thirsty kids, especially my beloved daughter Sakina, in the process of which both his arms and legs were amputated. My brave brother will give up hope only when the mashq will be hit by an arrow and all the water will drain out.”

“But you are going to be beheaded whilst in sujood (prostate) by that evil Shimr on Yezid’s order, how is that fair O Lord? On a cry from you, all the angels from heaven will descend to help you in your battle, and easily defeat the enemy without any bloodshed, then why do you stand here alone, saying goodbye to your family and children, leaving them and yourself to a fate so cruel?”

“Humanity will be born, only when I die. All they seek is violence and power and all I want is love and peace. I know the enemy doesn’t stand a chance, till I possess Zulfikar (Maula Ali’s sword), but when Angel Gibrael foretold my shahadat (beheading), how can I go against what my Allah has desired for me?

Today, when you and your brother Muslims all bow down to pray to God and remember me and my innocent slain companions, doesn’t it teach you to be on the righteous path and forego the worldly temptations?

When you drink water or consume food, don’t you all offer blessings in my name and my hungry and thirsty family and friends? When my tents were looted and burned and my sisters and children ran to protect themselves, doesn’t it make you value your achievements and blessings, however meager or vast? 

When you hold a wedding ceremony, don’t you all remember the wedding I held here for my Abdulla (Imam Hasan’s son) with my beloved Sakina, even though it lasted only for a day till he was butchered by the heartless enemy? Doesn’t it make you value your family and loved ones?

When I was alone on the battlefield and all I could see were the dead bodies of my companions and family, being trampled upon under the horse’s hooves and their heads being severed and held upon spears for their families to see, I was helped by my beloved sister Zainab upon my horse, that would bring me here to meet my end, doesn’t it make you embrace patience and acceptance like Zainab’s even more?

I am going to sacrifice myself, my family, and my friends, hungry and thirsty so that Islam can live on. The suffering after my death, being paraded in the scorching heat through cities chained, and bound behind our severed heads, will be equally torturous for the survivors, but the tales of the brutality and the injustice we suffered will be remembered for centuries to come. This land where my blood will spill will host my burial ground that will stay upright and erect in spite of the many calamities this land will see in the future. My lovers and devotees will beat their chests and throng the streets calling out on the tyrannies meted out against me and narrating my innocent story for everyone to hear. Today, your presence here is proof itself, that the life I have sacrificed isn’t in vain, and that the hearts of my believers are still hurt by what I endured. If they will spend their lives living righteously remembering my sacrifice, that for me is worth all this pain.

Who remembers Shimr, my killer, or Yazid, who did this to gain the caliphate? My destiny was to die so that the teachings of the Prophet and my father the 1st Imam and my brother the 2nd Imam could forever live on after me through my son Zainul Abedin, the righteous 4th Imam.

My mother Fatima al Zahra, even on her deathbed asked me for this favour that would benefit my fellow Muslim brothers long after I’ve gone and keep the flag of Islam flying high and unblemished.

Don’t stop me, for I am waiting to fulfill my destiny and you, in turn, do yours” said my innocent Imam.


Death with honour is better than a life of degradation.” – Imam Hussain
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Zenobia Merchant
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