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What is Muharram?

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar, when Shi'a Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad and spiritual leader of the Shi'a people.

Husayn's martyrdom is a sad day for all Muslims especially the Shi'a, who mourn the massacre of their "Prince of Martyrs" and his family in Karbala in 61AH/680CE.

Husayn, who held the title of Imam, meaning spiritual leader of Islam, refused to swear allegiance to Yazid, the second Umayyad Caliph. He tried to travel from Medina to Kufa but was surrounded by forces loyal to Yazid in the desert at a place now known as Karbala.

Husayn's followers were greatly outnumbered and dying of thirst, indeed his brother 'Abbas was killed trying to bring water back to the camp. On the 10th day of Muharram, Husayn's followers were massacred and their leader beheaded after declaring, "death with dignity is better than life with humiliation".

The commemoration of this brutal massacre begins on the first day of Muharram and continues for 40 days. During the first 10 days of Muharram millions of Shi'a (and Sunni) Muslims remember the massacre at Karbala and strive to feel some of Husayn's pain.

The 10th day of Muharram is known as 'Ahsura' which recalls the day of the massacre in Karbala, a town in modern day Iraq which is second only to Mecca and Najaf as a spiritual beacon to the Shi'a.

Just 100km south of Baghdad, Karbala houses the shrine of Husayn and his brother Al-Abbas. For centuries Shi'a pilgrims flocked here during Muharram, a practice which was severely limited under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

This year for the first time in nearly 30 years Shi'a can openly commemorate Muharram in the streets of Karbala without fear of repercussions. For many pilgrims this will be their first taste of religious freedom in post-war Iraq.

Recite the Begining of the Month Salaat 

Recite the following Dua on the water to be used to take a bath for cure/protection  from illness:-
Subh'anallahi maal-al mizaan  Subh'anallahi muntahal h'ilm Subh'anallahi mublaghar riz'aa Subhanallahi zinatal a'rsh
Glory be to Allah the Supreme balance ,Glory be to Allah the Ultimate in gentleness, Glory be to Allah the Goal of devotedness, Glory be to Allah the splendour of the Arsh

On the First of the Month Recite a 2 Rakat Salaat with Al hamd & 11 times Ikhlass in each Rakat & recite the following Dua:-


My Allah, Thou art the eternal God, this is the beginning of another new year; I, therefore, request Thee, in this hour, to keep off Satan (Shaytan), to give me control over my "self" inclined to sin and deviation, so that it brings me near Thee, O Compassionate! O the Owner of majesty and kindness! O Supporter of him who has no supporter! O Provider of him who has no provision! O He who watches over him who has no protection! O He who comes to help him who has no hope of help! O Reliance for him who has no one to lean upon! O Treasure of him who has nothing in the purse! O He who knows well how to put to test and trial! O the Ultimate Hope! O the Strength of the weak! O the Rescuer of the drowning! O He who saves from destruction! O He who bestows bounties! O He who shows courtesy and treats with benevolence! O he who treats with kindness and generosity! O He who does favours! Thou art he before whom prostrate in adoration the blackness of the night and the brightness of the day, the moonlight of the moon, the sunlight of the sun, the ripple of the water, the trunks of the trees! O Allah, There is no associate with Thee! O Allah make us generous, good and high-minded, more than that which they can imagine or speculate, cover and escort us with that which they know not, and do not (even) associate us with that which they say. Sufficient is Allah (for me), there is no god save He, on Him I rely, and He is the Lord of the Great Arsh. We believe that all is from our Lord, and do not say (this) save those who have sincere hearts and intelligent minds. Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to stray after Thou has guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Thy Presence. Verily Thou art the Bestower.

Allaahumma antal ilaahul qadeem wa haad'ihi sanatun jadeedatun fa-as-aluka feehal i's'mata minash shayt'aan wal quwwata a'laa haad'ihin nafsil ammaarati bis sooo - i wal ishtighaal bimaa yuqarribunee ilayka yaa kareem yaa d'al jalaali wal ikraam yaa i'maada man laa i'maada lahoo yaa d'akheerata man laa d'akheerata lahoo yaa h'irza man laa h'irza lahoo Yaa ghiyaatha man laa ghiyaatha lahoo yaa sanada man laa sanada lahoo yaa kanza man laa kanza lahoo yaa h'asanal balaaa-i yaa a'z'eemar rajaaa-i yaa i'zzaz"z"u-a'faaa-i yaa munqid'al gharqaa yaa munjiyal halkaa yaa mun-i'mu yaa mujmilu yaa mufz"ilu yaa muh'sinu antallad'ee sajada laka sawaadul layliwa noorun nahaar wa z"aw-ul qamar wa shu-a'a-u'sh shams wa dawiyyul maaa-i wa h'afeefush shajar yaa allaahu laa shareeka laka allaahummaj-a'lnaa khayran mimmaa yaz'unnoon Waghfirlanaa ma'a laa yaa'-lamoon wa laa tu-aakhid'naa bimaa yaqooloon h'asbiyallaahu laa ilaaha illaa huw a'layhi tawakkaltu wa huwa rabbul a'rshil a'z'eem aamannaa bihee kullun min i'ndi rabbinaa wa maa yad'd'akkaru illaa ulul albaab rabbanaa laa tuzigh quloobanaa baa'-da id' hadaytanaa wa hab lanaa mil ladunka rah'mah innaka antal wahhaab


Duaa No. 2

There is not a moving creature in the earth but the sustenance thereof depends on Allah. He knows its habitation and its repository. All is in the clear (manifest) Book. If Allah touch you with affliction, there is none that can relieve therefrom save He; and if He desires good for your, there is none who can repel His favour. He satiates whom He wills of His bondmen. He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. Allah will guarantee, after hardship, ease. That which Allah wills (will come to pass)! There is no power save in Allah! Allah is sufficent for us! Most Excellent is He in whom we trust! I confide my cause unto Allah. Verily Allah is Seer of (His) servants. There is no god save Thee. Be Thou glorified. Verily I have been a wrongdoer. My Lord! Whatever good Thou sends down for me, I am needy, My Lord! Leave me not alone (Childless), though Thou art the Best of inheritors.

Wa maa mindaabbatin' filarz"i Illaa a'lallaahi rizquhaa wa yaa'-lamu mustaqarrahaa wa mustawda-a'haa: Kullun fee kitaabim mubeen Wa in'y Yamsas-kallaahu bi-z"urrin falaa kaashifa lahooo illaa huw: wa in'yyuridka bi-khayrin'falaa raaadda li-faz"lih: yus'eebu bihee man'y yashaaa-u min i'baadih: wa huwal ghafoorur rah'eem Sayaj-a'lullaahu baa'-da u'srin'y yusraa maa shaaa-allaah laa quwwata illaa billaah h'asbunallaahu wa nia'-mal wakeel wa ufawwiz"u amree ilallaah: innallaaha bas'eerum bil i'baad laaa ilaaha illaaa anta subh'aanaka innee kun'tu minaz'z'aalimeen rabbi innee limaa anzaltal ilayya min khayrin' faqeer rabbi laa tad'arnee fardan'wwa an'ta khayrul waaritheen


Perform a bath, go under the sky, pray 2 Rak-a't Namaaz, like Fajr Namaaz, and recite the following "Ziyaarat" of Imam Husayn (A.S.), after the Salaam, facing Karbala:

[Imam Muhammad bin Ali Al Baaqir (A.S.) told Alqama ibn
Muhammad to recite this dua'a on the day of Ashooraa
and whoso recites this Ziyaarat enjoys the status of the
Martyrs of Karbala, and gets the recompense like those who
go to Karbala to perform Imam Husayn's Ziyaarat]

Peace be upon you, O Aba Abdullah! Peace be upon you, O son of the Messenger of God!
peace be upon you, O son of the commander of the faithful, the forebearer of the successors!
Peace be upon you, O son of Faatimah, the choicest among the women of the worlds!
Peace be upon you, O the select, surpassing, chosen in preference over all good of God, and son of God's (such) good.
Peace be upon you, who was martyred while fighting heroically in the cause of God, the son of God's fearless warrior, you were isolated and had been attacked with a vengeance!

Peace be upon you and on those souls who had gathered in your camp, and strided along with you, in your journey.

I pray and invoke God to keep all of you tranquil and restful, forever; as long as I am alive, this is my prayer, and till night and day follow each other.

O Abaa Abdullah! Peace and blessings of God be upon you, unbearable is the sorrow, nerve-racking is the agony, you put up with, for us and for all the (true) Muslims, crimes committed against you also shocked and unnerved the dwellers of the heavens, one and all.

May God curse the people who laid the basis and set up the groundwork, to wander astray and turn aside from not only you and your family but to take liberties and bear hard upon you.

May God curse the people who tried to obscure and deny your office and status, wilfully neglected your rank and class God had made known in clear terms.

May God curse the people who killed you. May God condemn and damn the abettors who instigated and had a part in your murder.

I turn to you and God, away from them, their henchmen, their followers and their friends, O Abaa Abdullah, I pray and invoke God to send blessings upon you. I make peace with those who make their peace with you, I make war on those who go to war
against you, til the Day of Judgement.

May God curse the family of Ziyaad and the family of Marwaan; may God curse the tribe of Umiyyah, one and all, altogether; may God curse ibn Marjaanah; may God curse Umar bin Saad; may God curse Shimr; may God the people who celebrate, enjoy, sing and dance on the day of your martyrdom.

I, my father and mother are at your disposal. I pray and invoke God to send blessings upon you; profound is my sorrow for you. I ask God, who honoured you above others, to be generous towards me on account of you, and give me the opportunity to be with the victorious Imam, the descendant of Muhammad (Godís peace and blessing be upon him and his family) at the time of the final and decisive battle war against God's enemies.

O God make me attend to Thy cause, sincerely, in every respect following in Husayn's footsteps, in this world and the Hereafter.

O Abaa Abdullah, I pray and invoke God to send blessings upon you. I come nearer and seek greater intimacy with God, with His Messenger, with the Commander of the faithful, with Faatimah, with Hasan and with you, with the help of your love and patronage, cutting off every connection with those who took up arms against you and killed you.

I sever all links with those who, in the beginning, took the first steps to take liberties with and bear hard upon you, I take refuge with God and His Messenger (blessings of God be upon him and on his children), free from the guilt of associating with those who laid the foundation for (your suffering), devised and carried out their corrupt plan of action, boldly gave currency to reign of terror and cruelty to oppress you and your friends and followers; I detach myself from them and present myself to God and to you, I (first) seek greater intimacy with God and then with you to win your love and patronage, and to make friends with your friends, cut off all links with your enemies, and with those who planted the seeds of hostility against you, and reject and discard their associates, their followers and their friends.

O Abaa Abdullah, I make peace with those who made peace with you, I search out and confront those who waged war against you, I make friends with those who stood by you, I strive against those who came in conflict with you, therefore, I make a request to God to acquaint (me) with the awareness that perceives you and your friends, to set me free from the corrupting influence of your enemies, to make me keep company with you in this world and in the Hereafter, stand firm beside you and follow your footsteps closely in this world and in the next world.

I beseech Him that He helps me to reach your highly praised station, given to you by God, (to meet you), that He provides me the opportunity to fight for justice and fair play along with and under the leadership of the rightly guided guide (from your progeny) who surely will come and speak the truth.

I beseech God in the name of your right and the purpose He assigned to you, that He verwhelms me with grief in memory of your sorrows, more than the personal grief that torments anyone who is in great agony, sorrows which have no parallel and overshadow all calamities that took place in the history of Islam, or for that matter, throughout the whole universe.

O my God, in my on the spot situation, treat me like him (or her) who obtains from Thee (Thy) blessings, mercy and forgiveness. O my God, bring me to life again, after death, in the place Muhammad and his "Aal" (children) are dwelling, and make me depart from this world like Muhammad and his "Aal" (children) had left.

O my God this day is a day of rejoicing for the "Bani Umayyah", the herd of hardened criminals, the eternally damned and accursed group, a fact that had been made public by Thee and by Thy Prophet (blessings of God be on him and on his children), who, in every place and at all occasions, drew attention of people to this truism.

O my God curse Abu Sufyaan, Mu-a'awiyah bin Abu Sufyaan, Yazid bin Mu-a'awiyah and let it be an everlasting curse upon their from Thee. Today the descendants of Ziyaad and Marwan make merry, laugh and dance because on this day they killed Husayn (blessings of God be on him). O my God, therefore, double up the curse Thou bringe upon them and also the punishment Thou decree for them.

O my God, I seek nearness to Thee today in this frame of mind, cutting off all links with them for the rest of my life, denouncing them because of my love for Thy Prophet and his children, peace be on him and them.

O my God curse the first tyrant who unjustly and wrongfully usurped that which rightly belonged to Muhammad and the children of Muhammad, and bring curse upon those who, after him, followed in his footsteps. O my God curse those conspirators who vexed and harassed Husayn, showed eagerness, agreed mutually, and joined hands to kill him. O my God bring curse upon all of them.

Peace be upon you, O Abaa Abdullah, and on those souls who came to your camp to put themselves at your disposal. So far I am alive and the days and nights follow each other. I invoke God to send blessings upon you forever and ever. May God not make my this pledge of close association, physical as well as spiritual, with you the last fulfilment.

Peace be on Husayn,
and on Ali son of Husayn,
and on the children of Husayn,
and on the friends of Husayn.

O God, let the curse I call down on the head of the first tyrant stick like a leech; and stay put forever on the first, then the second, the third and the fourth. O God curse on the fifth Yazid son of Mua'awyah, and bring a curse upon Ubaydullah bin Ziyaad, ibn Marjanah, Umar bin Saad, and Shimr, and on the descendants of Abu Sufyaan, on the descendants of Ziyaad, on the descendants of Marwaan, till the Day of Judgement.

O God! (All) praise is for Thee (alone); praise of the "Ever-thankful to Thee", who glorify Thee whatever come to pass. (All) praise is for God for my deepfelt intense grief. O my God make available for me the recommendations of Husayn on the day I present myself before Thee, let me stand firm in safety before Thee on account of my sincere attachment with Husayn, along with him and his comrades, who sacrificed everything they had (heart, mind, soul and life)for Husayn, peace be upon him.


Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. Instead of joyous celebration, Muslims mark the beginning of the new year by taking up the black attire of sorrow and participate in mourning gatherings in which the sacrifices of Husayn and his companions are commemorated.

Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was brutally massacred in Karbala alongside his family and friends in the year 680 CE/61 AH. Their martyrdom is a sad day for all Muslims, especially the Shi'a, who hold mourning ceremonies to recall the righteous virtues for which the valiant martyrs stood and the grave calamities that they thus had to bear.

Husayn, the third of the twelve Imams (Divinely appointed leaders) according to the Shi'a faith, refused to swear allegiance to Yazid. Yazid was not only an open sinner and transgressor of the teachings of Islam, but he was also a most cruel tyrant who oppressed those over whom his rule prevailed.

Husayn's followers were greatly outnumbered and dying of thirst on the day of their martyrdom, also known as the day of Ashura. The small band of about 72 thirsty companions were confronted by an army in excess of 30,000, yet they faced them with resolute strength and unwavering conviction. Each one of the seventy-two exhorted their killers towards righteousness before and during battle, in the midst of flying spears and arrows.

The commemoration of this brutal massacre begins on the first day of Muharram and continues for 40 days. During the first 10 days of Muharram, millions of Muslims remember the massacre at Karbala and strive to strengthen their individual characters by paying heed to lessons learnt from Husayn in Karbala.

Today the shrines of Husayn and Abbas, Husayn's brother, in Karbala  about 100km south of Baghdad, are flocked by millions of devotees who pay homage to them and renew, through their message, their eternal struggle against humiliation and oppression.


"O God! Here is the place where our blood will be shed. Here is the place where our graves will be." - Imam Husayn

This is a day by day account of Husayn's time in Karbala leading up to the massacre on Ashura.

Day 1 AH 61 (1st October 680)
Husayn and his followers are prevented from reaching Kufa by Caliphate general, al-Hurr, at-Tamini's 1,000-strong army, and are forced to make camp in the desert at Karbala, 75km from Kufa. It is here at this fateful place that Husayn and his followers' torment began.

Day 2
Husayn speaks to his followers at the camp and assures them of their goodness and truth. In return, they pledge their loyalty to him. Then, foreseeing his death, Husayn purchases about four square miles of land to be the site for his and his family's graves from the local residents of the area. 

Day 3
Four thousand additional troops under the command of Umar ibn Sa'd arrive with instructions from Ubaydu'llah ibn Ziyad that they should prevent Husayn from leaving until he signs a pledge to the Caliph, Yazid. Ibn Sa'd's men prepare for battle and surround Husayn's party, cutting them off from the river, their only source of water.

Day 4
Husayn begins negotiations with ibn Sa'd stressing he has no desire to initiate bloodshed and asks to be allowed to withdraw to Arabia but ibn Sa'd refuses to relent. Meanwhile the situation in Husayn's camp is becoming more and more desperate due to the lack of water and fresh supplies.

Day 5
The size of the army facing Husayn's small band of followers swells as even more troops arrive to join their brothers in arms on the banks of the Euphrates River.

Day 6
The lack of water leads to desperate measures. Husayn uses a tent pole to dig a well, but their relief is short-lived as it dries up. Ibn Ziyad sensing their anguish, sends 500 troops to reinforce the cordon around the Euphrates.

Day 7
Fearing for the health of the women and children, Husayn asks his brother 'Abbas to conduct a midnight raid past the Caliphate troops to bring back water from the river. Despite a brief skirmish 'Abbas brings back some precious water to camp earning himself the title, 'Saqqa', or water bearer. The water is a godsend but does little to assuage the thirst of the entire camp.

Day 8
In desperation Husayn sends a message to Sa'd requesting they meet, he questions Sa'd's allegiance to Yazid by asking, "Don't you fear God on the Day of Judgement? You know who I am". Sa'd's loyalty is unshaken; he considers trying to act as a peacemaker between Husayn and Yazid but is dissuaded when his supporters urge him not to compromise.

Day 9
After a long, hot day in the desert filled with the cries of children for water, Husayn's camp prepares for the attack they know is coming and are powerless to stop. Husayn gathers his companions together and pleads with them; "Whoever remains with me will be killed tomorrow; so consider this opportunity as Allah sent and take advantage of the darkness and go home to your villages." He then extinguishes all the lights in the camp to allow those who want to leave to do so. His followers weep and reply, "Oh master do not thus shame us before Allah..were we to desert you, may the wild beasts of the jungle tear us to pieces."

Husayn sends one last message to Sa'd asking to be spared one last night so that they may pray to Allah and recite the Qur'an. Sa'd reluctantly agrees and the Imam gathers his followers together for one last sermon. Again, his followers protest their loyalty and vow to die alongside their master.

Such was the power of their faith that when the enemy saw them praying 32 soldiers switched sides and joined them including Hurr, the commander of the original army that had routed Husayn from Kufa. He became one of the first martyrs to fall.  

Day 10 'Ashura'
Friday 10th Muharram, 61 AH (10th October AD680) On what was to be his last day Husayn and some of his followers implore the ibn Sa'd troops for the final time not to shed the blood of the Prophet's house. Leading by example, ibn Sa'd is the first to shoot an arrow into the pitifully small camp. Despite their lack of numbers, Husayn's followers fight ferociously refusing to give up.

By mid-afternoon Husayn and his relatives face the marauding army, their defence spent. One by one they fall including Husayn's sons aged just 11 and 13. Husayn continues to appeal to the enemy's humanity; he takes his six-month-old baby son and pleads for water. The enemy respond by shooting poisoned arrows which pierce the neck of the baby killing it instantly.

Finally Husayn is the last left standing finally falling on the battlefield next to his dead comrades. Covered in wounds, Husayn is then decapitated and his body is mutilated in order to send souvenirs back to Yazid. His followers suffer a similar fate. Their bodies are trampled by enemy horses and left where they fell denying them a Muslim burial.

Yazid's soldiers then loot and plunder the remains of the camp taking the women and children prisoner including 'Ali, the only surviving son of Husayn.




Find out more about the key people mentioned in the historical events surrounding the Ashura massacre in Karbala.
(NB: Hijri dates are given beforehand followed by Gregorian dates, thus 132AH/750CE)

Ali (Abu'l - Hasan 'Ali ibn Abi Talib)
Though not directly involved at Karbala, 'Ali is a vitally important character in Islamic history. The fourth Caliph and the first Shi'a Imam his place in Shi'a history is guaranteed. The cousin of the Prophet and husband of Fatima, Ali inspired the name Shi'a ( Shi'a at Ali - the party of 'Ali). It was the usurpation of Ali's rights preventing him from succeeding the Prophet Mohammad as leader of the Islamic community which is looked upon by Shi'a as the event that sparked their movement. Shi'a historians emphasise the strong bond that existed between the Prophet and 'Ali. It was 'Ali's father who looked after the Prophet after his parents died and thus Mohammad became very close to his young cousin. Aside from Khadija, the Prophet's wife, 'Ali was the first person to acknowledge the Prophet's mission and convert to Islam. In the eyes of both Shi'a and Sunni Muslims 'Ali has acquired an almost legendary reputation as a paragon of virtue and a veritable fount of knowledge.

Hasan - Imam Hasan ibn Ali
Known as the chosen (al - Mujtaba) Hasan is considered by Shi'a to have become the religious leader (Imam) following the death of 'Ali. Hasan was born in the year 3AH/625CE in Medina and was raised with his younger brother Husayn in the Prophet's household. Mohammad said of his beloved grandchildren, "he who has loved Hasan and Husayn has loved me and he who has hated them has hated me". Hasan was declared Caliph after the assassination of his father but relinquished the Caliphate to his political rival Mu'awiya to prevent a rift in Islamic society. Some have criticised Hasan for relinquishing control but Shi'a historians claim his abdication was realistic, compassionate and avoided bloodshed. Hasan, after his abdication in 41AH/661CE retired to Medina and led a quiet life away from the spotlight. Hasan died in 50AH/670CE aged 47, Shi'a say he was poisoned by his wife at the instigation of Mu'awiya but it can't be proved.

Husayn - Imam Husayn ibn Ali
The 'Master of Martyrs' (Sayyid ash - Shuhada) as many Shi'a call him was born on the '3rd of Sha'ban' in the fourth year of the Hijra (626CE). His grandfather, the Prophet Mohammad named him Husayn, meaning one of beautiful character. Husayn was brought up with his older brother Hasan in the household of the Prophet who referred to the two children as the "chiefs of the youths of paradise". When his brother Hasan died, Husayn became head of the household but did not act against the ruling Caliph at the time, Mu'awiya. Upon Mu'awiya's death the Caliphate was controversially passed to his son Yazid. Husayn could not accept Yazid's rule which led to his murder by Yazid's forces on the 10 Muharram AH61/680CE, a day known as Ashura. His body lies in a holy shrine in Karbala and has become a pilgrimage site for millions of Shi'a.

He became Caliph at the age of 59 after 'Ali's assassination in 661CE. He engineered an agreement with Hasan to relinquish the Caliphate in return for promising peace and not requiring the members of the House of the Prophet to swear allegiance to him. The peace treaty asserted that, "he (Mu'awiya) would harbour no evil or harmful schemes towards Husan..his brother Husayn, or any of the people of the House of the Messenger of God". Some say part of the agreement was that the Caliphate would revert to Hasan on Mu'awiya's death. Instead, prior to Mu'awiya's death in 60AH/680CE, he arranged for his son, Yazid, to succeed him as part of the Umayyad dynasty which ruled until 132AH/750CE.

Son of Mu'awiya, Yazid was born in 21AH/642CE and inherited the Caliphate from his father. He ruled for just three years amidst reports of bribery and threats. Most historians view Yazid as a drunkard who openly flouted the laws of Islam. Despite his father's wishes to respect the agreement that he had made with Imam Hasan, Yazid required the Prophet's grandsons to swear allegiance to him to ensure his credibility. Husayn refused to swear allegiance to Yazid which resulted in the massacre at Karbala on Ashura.

'Ubaydu 'llah ibn Ziyad
Ziyad was the governor of Basrah who was appointed by Yazid to take control of Kufa. Under his tough leadership, Ziyad successfully intimidated the Kufans, who had declared their support for Husayn, into not joining him. It was his orders, relayed to the armies at Karbala that resulted in the Ashura massacre.

Zaynab (Zainab)
The sister of the Imam, Zaynab was taken prisoner after the massacre at Karbala by ibn Ziyad on behalf of Yazid. She reportedly conducted herself with dignity and courage. When there was the possibility of ibn Ziyad killing her nephew, 'Ali, the only surviving son of Husayn, she threw her arms around 'Ali's neck exclaiming, "by God, I will not be parted from him and so if you are going to kill him, then kill me with him". Ibn Ziyad imprisoned the captives and did not kill 'Ali but sent them to Yazid with the head of Husayn. Although ibn Yazid mocked 'Ali and Zaynab he eventually allowed them to return to Medina.

Al-Hurr at Tamimi
He was the young commander of a 1000-strong military detachment who intercepted Husayn's party as it approached Kufa. But on the morning of Ahsura, Hurr was one of the 32 troops once loyal to Yazid who switched sides when faced with the emotive words of Husayn and the enormity of act of violence he was about to commit. He was one of the first martyr to fall fighting to protect Husayn. His shrine now lies in Karbala, Iraq.

Muslim ibn Aqeel
He was Husayn's cousin who was sent ahead as an envoy to Kufa to see if the people could be trusted to be loyal. He sent word back saying that the Kufans were loyal but was murdered by the governor Ziyad who was loyal to ibn Yazid.

Al - Abbas
'Abbas was the half-brother of Husayn who was given the title of water bearer (Saqqa) and was killed at Karbala when he was ambushed whilst trying to get badly needed water to his brother and his followers. His shrine, as with Husayn's, is in Karbala.


The captives were taken to Kufa where Zaynab, Husayn's sister is defiant in the face of ibn Ziyad, one of battlefield commanders. They are forced to travel to Damascus where Yazid gloats over the head of Husayn and insults Ali and Zaynab, the only family who survived the massacre at Karbala. They are later released and allowed to return to Medina after Yazid begins to fear the backlash as news of the massacre spreads.

Karbala was a watershed for Yazid. The bloodbath at Karbala, the imprisonment of the women and children of the Household of the Prophet, their parading in chains from town to town, and the speeches made by Zaynab, Husayn's sister, all contributed to the end of Yazid's rule and the overthrow of the dynasty Muawiyah founded.

Whilst it would seem that the birth of Shi'a can be linked to the assertion that only 'Ali could succeed Mohammad as Caliph, the tragedy of Karbala revitalised the official Shi'a movement. The tragedy played an enormous role in the galvanising of Shi'a identity. The fate of Husayn was destined to become the most important agent in the propagation and comparatively rapid spread of Shi'a Islam.

In giving his life, Husayn ensured the survival of his faith. 

The holy city of Karbala, situated 100 km south of Baghdad, derives its name from the ancient Babylonian meaning "sacred place of God" from the two shrines it houses of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson Husayn and his brother 'Abbas.

The brothers and 72 of their followers were massacred here by troops loyal to Caliph Yazid some 1300 years ago. This event had far-reaching effects for Islam, led to the downfall of the Umayyad dynasty and consolidated the Shi'a identity. Commemoration of this event at Karbala is one the most important events in the Shi'a calendar.

For Shi'a Muslims Karbala is second only to Mecca and possibly Najaf as a sacred site and millions of the faithful throughout history have flocked to the shrines of Husayn and 'Abbas especially during the month of Muharram to commemorate the martyrdom of their "Master of Martyrs".



But Karbala has a long history as a sacred city. On the edge of the Syrian desert, this trading town has a rich history going back to Babylonian times when it was used as a Christian graveyard.

Construction of the present city of Karbala began on 12th Muharram 61AH/680CE when the people from the local Bani Asad tribe buried the bodies of Husayn and his companions on the spot where the massacre had occurred.

Over the years, the burial place became known as a shrine and Muslim rulers constructed a dome, galleries, gardens and a mosque around the tomb. Defensive walls followed to protect the city.

The tombs of Husayn and his doomed supporters with their lofty minarets became a symbol of grace and hope for the destitute. They also transformed Karbala into a thriving oasis town and a focus of Shi'a scholarship in Iraq.

Not everyone shared the Shi'a reverence for the final resting place of Husayn and his followers which have been subjected to numerous acts of vandalism.

The original shrine was destroyed by the 'Abbasid Caliph Mutawakkil in 235AH/850CE and the site ploughed over. After the death of this Caliph, a shrine of some sort was again erected but the bulk of the present shrine probably dates from the time of 'Adudu'd-Dawla, the Buyid prince, 369AH/979CE. The building was subjected to further violations including the dome burning down in the 11th century.

The most serious damage to the shrine was inflicted by the Wahhabis in 1801 and the Ottoman army under Najib Pasha in 1843 when Karbala was sacked and the tombs of Husayn and 'Abbas stripped of all their gold and precious ornaments. This was quickly restored by contributions from Persians and other Shi'a Muslims.

The last important restoration of the shrine occurred at the behest of Nasiru 'd-Din Shah in the 1850s when the dome was gilded and other important structural work carried out. The enclosed area around the shrine is called the Ha'ir and is strictly off limits to non-believers.

In addition to the Shrine of Husayn lies the equally imposing Shrine of 'Abbas, the half brother of Husayn, where he and the other members of the family of 'Ali are said to have been buried.


Muharram commemorates the events that took place in Karbala in 61AH/680CE which culminated in the massacre of Husayn and his followers.

As a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammad Imam Husayn was considered by Shi'a Muslims to be their spiritual leader and their tradition dictated he should lead the Islamic community as Caliph (political and spiritual leader).

But when Husayn was to have assumed the Caliphate his claim was dismissed by the then ruling Caliph, Mu'awiyah, the son of one of the Prophet's enemies. He claimed that his superior military strength, political abilities and age made him a better candidate than either Hasan (Husayn's older brother) or Husayn himself.

On Mu'awiyah's death, the Caliphate passed to his son Yazid who required Hasan and Husayn to pay homage (Bay'at) to him as rightful leader.

Husayn was unwilling to swear allegiance to Yazid and decided to travel to Kufa in Iraq to lead his supporters there against the Caliphate.

Yazid ordered an army to intercept Husayn and stop him from reaching Kufa. The martyr's family and supporters got as far as Karbala before they were surrounded by a large number of Yazid's troops.

Husayn, still refusing to swear allegiance to an authority he did not believe was legitimate, faced a desperate situation. His party of 72 armed men, 18 family members and 54 supporters were stranded in the harsh desert without water or supplies.

Desperate to avoid bloodshed, Husayn put his case to Yazid's generals over eight long days, appealing to their sense of humanity and faith to no avail.

At dawn on the 10th day - Ashura - after Husayn addressed his followers for the last time, Yazid's troops fired arrows at the camp and the battle was underway.

Hopelessly outnumbered Husayn's followers were unable to resist the onslaught, one by one all of the men fell including Husayn, his brother 'Abbas had been killed earlier, only the women and children were spared.

Husayn was decapitated, his body mutilated and trampled by horses. After the troops left, the desert people around what was to become Karbala retrieved Husayn and 'Abbas' bodies and buried them. Pilgrims have come to Karbala ever since and it is now one of the most important Shi'a shrines in the world.



Every year on the 10th of Muharam the Shia Muslims all over the world commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. The commemoration start from the first day and the peak reached on the 10th day. Today is the first day of Muharam.

Food coked and given free.

Imam Hussein is the grand son of Prophet Mohammad from his daughter Fatima and his cousin and son in law Ali Bin Abi Talib. Prophet Mohammad used to call him and his brother Hassan as his beloved sons. He is the one who chose their names after they born. They grow in the environment of Bano Hashem, the tribe of Mohammad and Ali. Unlike Bano Omaiyah, Bano Hashem rejects corruption, oppression and racial discrimination. Bano Omaiyah considers themselves above the others and the Arabs above the non Arabs. This discrimination reached its peak during the reign of Maawiyah Bin Abo Sofiyan and his son Yazid in Damascus in Syria. One of the major causes for Imam Hussein to reject the leadership of Maawiyah and Yazid is because of their corruption, oppression, slavery and injustice.

It is very difficult to elaborate about the history in details but will try to write very briefly about the main points.

After the death of Prophet Mohammad and before his burial a new era of struggle for power started. Al Insars who were the inhabitants of Madinah gathered in a place called Saqefat Bani Saiedah which is their community meeting place and selected among them Saad Bin Uobadah to be the leader. The Mohajreen who migrated with Prophet Mohammad the tribe of Koriesh heard this. They left the body of the Prophet and want to the same place. The two sides clashed and argued about who should be the leader. The scene was chaotic with threats from both sides. Ali and the family of Prophet haven't attended and have been ignored. Ali was adopted by Mohammad when he was a boy to help his uncle Abi Talib during economical crises. He was the son in law of the Prophet, his cousin, and brother by choice and the first one to embrace Islam after the prophet and his deputy at least according to many Muslims at that time. Ali was poor and he was disliked by the rich aristocrats of Qurishis.

The trees here is the site of Alskefa

The meeting resulted in taking allegiance to Abo Baker who was one of the Immigrants to Madenah. Some Muslims rejected and some asked to wait until Ali and the prophet kinsmen finished from his burial but the matter moved forward by some. That was a breakthrough point in the history of division in Islam.
Soon after this many Muslims refused to pay charity to Abo Baker and that was suppressed by force led by Khaled Bin Alwaled who killed the leader of the region Malek Bin Nowerah and married his beautiful wife on the same day!

Ali (the father of Hussein) hasn't submitted his allegiance until the death of Fatima 6 months later. At this time the power established well in the hands of Abo Baker and Omar and have he not doing so he may have been killed. Abo baker and Omar used Ali as a consultant for them. During the reign of Othman who is from Bano Omayiah there were a lot of unrest in Egypt and Iraq and other parts due to the oppressive and unjust behaviours of the local leaders. Othman appointed leaders among his family and some of them are arrogant to the people. The unrest resulted in surrounding Othman house and Ali tried to stop things but was unable so the revolted people killed Othman. This was a major point in the history of Islam. Here the division started to take a different shape.

Now Ali has been selected by the people to lead and he refused initially but the revolted people and others convinced him that they need his leadership now! He accepted but Muawyaih in Damascus who was the cousin of Othman refused that and entered into many wars with Ali. After the death of Ali (killed during prayer in Kuffa mosque), Maawiyah signed agreement with Ali's eldest Son Hassan to stop blood shade and the power will go to Al Hassan after him but Maawiyah killed Al Hassan by putting poison in his honey. He then forced every one to give allegiance to his son Yazid after him. After his death Yazid sent for Madenah to ask the people to recognize him as the leader. He instructed his army if any one refused to give allegiance to be killed and named Al Hussein as one of the most important people to start with.

Yazid was arrogant, oppressive, and unjust man. His messenger to Al Hussein in the governor of Al Madenah HQ asked Al Hussein after summoning him to submit his will to Yazid. Imam Hussein knew if he does so it means the end of the moral aspects in the religion and the acceptance of the slavery dictatorship of Yazid. He refused and asked the messenger to wait for a while. Imam Hussein then decided to leave with his family (wife, children, brothers and some others) to Iraq because he knew Yazid already planned to assassinate him. He took his family because if he leaves them Yazid will take them as captives. The followers of his father and grand father in Iraq have written to him before to go there and provide him with protection. He then made his mind and went from Madenah to Makkah then across the desert towards Kuffa.

AlHussein leaving the city of his grand father to Iraq

To Kuffa

Yazid arranged a huge army of 33,000 men very well equipped and appointed Oubiad Alla Bi Ziad as the governor of Kuffa. Bin Ziad was a known person for his arrogance, un-mercifulness, oppression, and every thing inhuman. He was governor on Basrah. Since his arrival to Kuffa worked in two ways, threat and killing and buying the people with money. He captured the messenger of Imam Hussein and his cousin Muslim Bin Akeel; beating him and throws him from the roof of the palace then crucified him with Hani Bin Urowa his hostess.

Yazid sent his strongest army while Bin Ziad sent an army to surround Imam Hussein and his family and prevent them from changing their direction until Yazid army arrives. Imam Hussein have just over 100 with him most of them among his family.They forced Imam Hussein and his family (the family of Prophet Mohammad) to retreat to Kerbala. Kerbala is two phrases word; ker means anguish and bala means vexation.

Imam Hussein debated with them that they are themselves send for him to come and tried to convince them that they are in actual fact surrounding the women and children of their Prophet but they refused to let him to go. They said that he has to submit completely his will to Bin Ziad and then Yazid or he will face his fate. He showed them more than 500 letters that they sent but they denied it!
After a long journey through the desert his children were thirsty as well as the women and the men. They prevent him from the Euphrates water. He got a 6 months old baby who was crying aggressively for water and he took him to the army asking for water just for this baby, instead they throw the baby with a dart which strike him on his neck and killed him instantly. Imam Hussein then took the blood of his baby in his hand and throw it to heaven asking God to witness what these people done to a baby belong to the family of their prophet.

On the 10th of Muharam around midday Yazid army attacked Imam Hussein camp. Imam Hussein first advised them saying that we are until now one nation but if the sword happened between us then we became two nations; you are one and we are different. From that time the practical division between Shias and Sunni manifest itself very clearly and widely. Shia means the supporters or followers of, and here it means the supporters of Ali and Ahil Al Biat which means the family of the Prophet Mohammad.

The night before the war Imam Hussein gathered his family and followers and told them that the army want him himself and so he told them you are free to go while it is dark but all of them refused. One of those who fought with him was a Christian young man called John.

Last moments before battle

In few hours they killed every one and when Imam Hussein remained alone he asked loudly if there is any one protects the family of the messenger of God! They attacked him and then racked him with the feet of their horses when he tumbled. They then cut his head and the heads of his brothers and followers and raise them on spears.
After this they attacked the women and put the tents in fire. The children escaped in all directions and the women tried to protect them. They beaten the children and women by the whips and ripped off their belonging. Then they took them as captives!!! Children and women!! Among them was Zainab the sister of Imam Hussein who witnessed the massacre of her sons, brothers, nephews and other relatives in the bloodiest way of barbaric killing.

Back without Hussein! Zainab asked; Oh horse, where is Hussein my beloved brother?

They cut the heads and left the bodies unburried!

Yazid army set fire in the camp and terrified women and children.

This is the present site where Imam Hussein killed and slaughtered

Bin Ziad looked to the head of Imam Hussein and start to strike his mouth with a cane, feeling the joy and happiness filling his sadistic inhuman personality. He then turned to humiliate the women of the family of Prophet Mohammad. Zainab then delivered a strong speech describing the magnitude of their crime. Bin Ziad ordered his guards to kill Ali the son of Hussein who was a young boy and haven't joined the battle because he was ill. Zainab throw her self over the boy and said if you want to kill him you have to kill me first before him. Bin Ziad withdraws his devilish wish after Zainab insistence.

The Tomb of the body of Al Hussein. The head buried in Cario!

The tomb of the martyrs who died with Hussein

The army then took the women and children on a camel caravan to Damascus. They passed many cities and villages. They told the people that those women and children are among foreigners who were out law and refused to submit to the Caliph Yazid. Fear and Terror producing strategy exactly like Saddam. They haven't told the truth that they are the prophet's family to prevent revolt.

Captives with chains to Bin Ziad.

Before they arrive to Damascus there was a Priest in his remote chapel he spotted the caravan from a distance and saw a light shining from the head of Hussein up to the sky. The Priest stopped them and asked them who is that head for? They refused to tell him. After he gave them money they told him that the head belongs to Al Hussein the son of Fatima the daughter of Prophet Mohammad. He got some money with him and asked them to take it and let the head with him for a while. They took the money and gave him the head. The Priest washed it and heard recitation of the holly Quran coming from the head!

In Damascus Yazid put them chained in a ruin before depart them to Madenah. Many of the children died from starvation, diseases and beating during this long journey. The little daughter of Imam Hussein while in the abandond ruin in Damascus start to cry and insisted to see her father. Zainab tried to please her but she never stopped crying. Then they brought the head and told her this is your father. She hugged the head and took a deep sigh and passed.

In the palace of the tyrant!

Imam Hussein remembered as a symbol of freedom and dignity against tyrant and slavery. Hussein never bowed to tyrant and oppressive regime of Yazid. This is why the similar tyrant like Saddam prevents the commemoration because of its symbolic state which rejects not only Yazid but every tyrant in history like Saddam. Ghandi the strongman of India said (I learnt from Hussein how I be tyrannized and achieve victory!). A woman who was mourning in Muharam has been asked about it. She said to mourn for a beloved one is a personal thing which will fade with time but to mourn for Imam Hussein is to mourn for the mankind which will never fade as far as there is tyranny and oppression and slavery.
Imam Hussein said; dignified death is better than humiliating life.

Many intellectuals wrote about Imam Hussein. Gerhard Konsilman a German journalist said that Yazid used to despise the people, salving and oppressing them and irresponsible sinful person. Imam Hussein by his realistic personality and death defeated the tyrant. His revolt was the ignition for the end of Umayyad density. Konsilman added that the dead Hussein was more dangerous on Yazid than the live Hussein. The martyrdom of Hussein in Kerbala remained the symbol for freedom, dignity and rejection of the tyrants.

There are some similarities between Jesus Christ and Hussein in that both of them rejected tyrant and wrongful and gave themselves in the way of freedom, salvation, dignity and righteous aspect of life. Their path is one and their salvation is by following their path of peace and justice. Before them Moses and Aaron defied the tyranny of Pharaoh and Aaron was deemed weak by his own people when Moses left to receive the Ten Commandments.

Al Hussein will remain as a revolution against all tyrants and oppressors. He will continue as a symbol for dignity and freedom for all the mankind and not only the Shias Muslims.