Looking at Imam Hussain (AS)'s movement and the incidents that took place on Karbala, one might wonder if Imam Hussain (AS) ever had the intention of going to war with Yazid or not. In what follows, we raise some questions that will reveal Imam Hussain (AS)'s real attitude toward war.
He did not wish to take the oath of allegiance of a ruthless and corrupt person as Yazid, so he decided to peacefully migrate from Medina to Mecca in which many people had not accepted Yazid’s oath of allegiance yet. In his will which he wrote before leaving Medina, he says:
“I am not leaving here out of selfishness or with the aim of oppression or corruption, but for the sake of improving Muslims’ condition of life. I want to enjoin the right (Amr bi-l-ma’ruf) and forbid the wrong (Nahy’ ani-l-munkar) and to act according to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)’s and Imam Ali’s (AS) way”.
His first motivation to leave Medina was migration, not war. So he left Medina to Mecca along with his family and companions without making any violent move against Yazid. On the day of Ashura on which Imam Hussain (AS) was martyred, 17 to 19 people of his family and relatives were among his companions, including some women and children. Among the martyrs of Karbala, also, there were five teenagers and children. One might ask, as Charles Dickens once asked if Imam Hussain (AS) were after worldly desires as taking over the throne, why would he take his family and children with him and risk their lives?
Imam Hussain (AS) had no intention of going to Kufa, but he was persuaded to do so by the many letters he received from Kufa people asking him to help them against Yazid’s tyranny. His speech in front of Hur’s army proves this fact:
“O’ people! This is my last word to you so that there would be no excuse in Allah’s presence. I would not come to you if you had not sent your letters and messengers and asked me to come to you. You told me that you didn’t have a leader and wanted Allah to guide you through me. So, if you still keep your words, I will come to your city, and if you don’t want me to come, I will return.”
When surrendered by Hur and his army, Zuhair, one of Imam Hussain’s (AS) companions, suggested fighting them. Since they were not still much in number and Imam Hussain’s (AS) camp had the strength to defeat them. However, Imam Hussain (AS) rejected his view and told him that if there would be a war, he did not wish to be its initiator, though he would defend himself if necessary.
Imam Hussain (AS) wanted to postpone the war as much as possible, not because he was afraid of fighting, but to give the enemy more time to think twice about their wrong decision. So, when on the evening of the 9th of Muharram, Umar ibn Sa’ad gathered his army and got them ready for the war, he sent them a message and asked them to postpone the war until the day after and he spent the night praying to Allah.
Even on the very day of Ashura, Imam Hussain (AS) did his best to dissuade the enemy of choosing the wrong path and losing the God-given blessing of life for a ruthless tyrant as Yazid and his vain intentions. That is because Imam Hussain (AS) who was the spiritual leader of Muslims and cared about their fate more than his own life, found it his responsibility to guide them toward what is right before it was too late [i].
[i] For more information see Salam Islam's ebook: 40 Points about Imam Hussain (AS) and the Event of Karbala
“He turned away from them and said, ‘Alas for Joseph!’ His eyes had turned white with grief, and he choked with suppressed agony.” (12: 84)
Reading the above verse of the Quran, many people may not perceive why prophet Jacob (PBUH) wept so hard on the loss of his son, Josef (AS) until he became blind. And he continued grieving on the loss of Josef so much that his sons told him “By Allah! You will go on remembering Joseph until you wreck your health or perish”. (12: 85) Was his grief merely because of the loss of Josef or the oppression that his brothers had towards him? Or was it because of his disappointment with his other sons who committed such a cruel act toward Josef?
When we read the story of prophets in the Quran, each of them say to their people that I want no reward from you, as “my reward lies only with him who originated me” (11” 51), while among all the prophets of God, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) made an exception as God ordered him to tell people “Say, ‘I do not ask you any reward for it except the love of [my] relatives.” (42:23)
And therefore, it is for this straightforward order of God in the Quran that Muslims love the household of Prophet so dearly. It is narrated from the prophet who said: “Surely, there exists in the hearts of the believers, with respect to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, a heat that never subsides.” 
Therefore, if you visit Muslims who are weeping and mourning on the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), many of them may not be able to explain why they are doing so. They may only tell you that there are a pain and grief that I feel within my heart, and they may speak of their love for the prophet’s household. However, apart from those feelings and emotions, let’s see what the logical reasons behind mourning for Imam Hussain (AS), his family and companions are?
The mourning for Imam Hussain (AS) that is increasingly spreading all over the world after about 1400 years is one of the miraculous aspects of Imam Hussain’s (AS) uprising. However, aside from strong feelings that Muslims have for the household of the Prophet, there are so many narrations from the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that encourages people to weep on the sorrow of Imam Hussain (AS) and his family. For example the narration from Imam Reza that says: “If you weep over the afflictions of Hussain (AS) such that tears flow from your eyes and fall upon your cheeks, Allah will forgive all your sins whether big or small and less or large in number.” 
But why would great Muslim leaders emphasize so hard on spending time and energy on weeping and mourning, while people could spend the same amount of time and energy for doing scientific research or inventing something that helps humanity?
This question is raised by many people, and here I wish to mention a few reasons why reviving the tragedy of Karbala is so important.
“We will recount to you the best of narratives in what We have revealed to you of this Quran, and indeed prior to it you were among those who are unaware [of it].” (12:3)
When you read the Holy Quran, you see it full of stories of the past generations through which God portrays the most important human values in life.
The event of Karbala is full of lessons that are worth being reviewed every day and night, to help the growth of human society; lessons of heroism, standing against cruelty, defending human dignity, and complete obedience of God.
Holding mourning gatherings is a great reason where people of the society, from all different social classes and different ages, sit together and revise the most important humanitarian issues and values which awaken the spirit of chivalry in them and give them the courage to stand against the oppressors of their time.
After the event of Karbala occurred, there were no specific media to convey the message of Karbala and the aim of Imam Hussain (AS) from going to the land of Karbala. From then on, it was only the mourning gatherings that were a place to recite the tragedy of Karbala to others and through it, illuminate the right from wrong. This great event at the time of Imam Hussain (AS) where the rulers of society were trying to hide the way of righteousness was a magnificent move to help the religion of God: “O you who have faith! Be Allah’s helpers, just as Jesus son of Mary said to his disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers for Allah’s sake?’” (61: 14)
In today’s psychology, many believe that if you have a goal to reach, having an image of that goal in mind will help you reach it. In mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussain (AS) we keep repeating the great morals and values of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions and household. We keep revising their kindness, wisdom, courage, their humbleness toward God and good people and chivalry toward the oppressors, etc.
Naming the above characteristics in such ceremonies and trying to be like those great courageous men and women, is more beneficial than any life-coaching sessions that try to help us revive ourselves and our lives, and it is at everyone’s access for free.
If we hate oppression and wish to stand against it, we need a guide to know how to behave in different situations; when to negotiate, when to disagree, when to yell our beliefs, when to make our movement revolutionary and call others to assist us, when to make peace, and finally when is the time to fight against the oppressor?
It is hard to find a true answer to all the above questions when we face the oppressors. But revising the history of Karbala and studying Imam Hussain’s (AS) behavior in a different situation can help us find the choice when we face similar conditions, as he has gone through the same path. Mourning ceremonies are the situation where this history is revised every time, and we can perceive through reading the history that Imam Hussain (AS) did not tend to start a fight from the beginning. At some point he even migrated from his hometown to avoid the war, When he was forced to give allegiance to the corrupt caliph, Yazid, instead of making riots, he left the city, while he had received so many invitation letters from people of Kufah to become their leader. But since the Kufies broke their oath, he had to faith towards Karbala.
However, even in Karbala, he did not tend to fight. But he sent letters and made negotiations. He gave speeches to illustrate the truth for people. He wrote letters to different classes of the society and advised people and invited them to follow the true path. Although his enemies never accepted to change their minds and follow the true path, he still did not start the fight, until he was attacked by the enemy. And he defended himself and his household only when he had no other choice. Therefore, Hussain (AS) and his behavior in different conditions can be a great role model for us, in life.
Hussain (AS) does not belong to Muslims only. His behavior and lifestyle represent a way of life for all humans who wish to live a prosperous life. It is in the nature of all human beings who hate oppression and cruelty and would like to stand against it. Hussain (AS) teaches us to have courage and chivalry in life. That is why he faced the army of the enemy on the tenth day of Muharram and said: “If you do not believe in any religion and do not fear the resurrection day, at least be free men in this world.” This saying clearly shows that Hussain’s teachings are not limited to Muslims only, but his way of life can be a role model for all of those who wish to live a humane life.
- Mustadrak al-wasail, vol. 10, p. 31
- Shaykh Abbas Qummi: Nafasul Mahmum, tradition. 9
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, p. 51
When Western people travel to eastern Islamic countries, they often prefer to eat the folk and favorite local food of the region. But what is it that makes western Muslims starve for a KFC classic chicken–on–the–bone bucket meal, or a McDonalds’ double burger if they don’t eat meat?! Muslims are Muslims, not vegetarians and eating meat in Islam is allowed, But like the followers of other religions who have specific slaughtering rituals, Muslims also have explicit rulings for slaughtering particular animals to make it lawful (Halal).
As it is defined in the Quran, believers are welcomed to enjoy all of the blessings of this world . Therefore, about eating meat, Allah does not mention what to eat, but He excludes what is not lawful to eat and maybe physically or spiritually harmful to the human's body and soul. "You are permitted animals of grazing livestock, except what is [now] announced to you…" (5:1) and what is recited as prohibited is mentioned in the Quran as below:
You have prohibited carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and what has been offered to other than Allah, and the animal strangled or beaten to death, and that which dies by falling or is gored to death, and that which is mangled by a beast of prey— barring that which you may purify —and what is sacrificed on stone altars [to idols], and that you should divide by raffling with arrows...(5:3).
Other than the mentioned meats all other kinds of meat are Halal as described in the Quran: Say, ‘I do not find in what has been revealed to me that anyone is forbidden to eat anything except carrion or spilled blood, or the flesh of swine—for that is indeed unclean—or an impiety offered to other than Allah.’ But should someone be compelled, without being rebellious or aggressive, indeed your Lord is all-forgiving, all-merciful’ (6:145).
Please note that all kinds of lawful (Halal) meat must be slaughtered according to Islamic rulings: “Do not eat [anything] of that over which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned, and that is indeed transgression…” (6:121).
Even the above mentioned prohibited meats are lawful (Halal) while you are living in a problematic situation and following the rules of Islam will put you in extreme difficulty. Please note that difficulty does not mean that you do not have ready food at home and therefore you may eat forbidden (Haram) meat. A difficulty, as written in Islamic jurisprudence, is when one’s life is at risk, and there is no other food available but forbidden (Haram) meat.
A Detailed Description of Lawful (Halal ) and Forbidden (Haram ) meats
To be more precise on which meat is lawful, let’s have a review of the Islamic jurisprudence.
Fish that have scales are the only type of Halal sea creatures. Other sea creatures and fish are Haram .
Among all domestic land creatures; sheep, cow, and camel are Halal, but eating the meat of horse and donkey is detestable (Makruh). The rest of domestic land creatures such as dogs, cats, etc. are forbidden (Haram).
Deer, cow, zebra, mountain goat, and wild donkey are all Halal. However, eating the meat of wild predatory animals that are predatory in essence, have strong and sharp nails, claws, and fangs such as, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wolves, or animals with less sharp fangs such as foxes and hyenas as well as rabbits, while not part of the predatory category, are considered Haram.
Also, insects and reptiles, such as snakes, mice, lizards, hedgehogs, fleas, lice, etc., are all Haram. Animals who have undergone metamorphosis (maskh) [i] such as, elephants, monkeys, bears, etc. are Haram as well .
Birds that flap their wings more than they glide while flying are Halal, but birds that glide and spread their wings more while flying in the air instead of flapping their wings are Haram. Also, birds with gizzards and spurs at the back of their feet are Halal [ii] .
All insects are Haram [iii] .
It is permissible to eat Halal meat cooked or uncooked or even burned (as long as it has no harm to human health) .
Please note that the rules of slaughtering and eating hunted meat are slightly different from all the rulings mentioned above, and we will discuss that in a separate article.
"For every nation, We have appointed a rite so that they might mention Allah’s Name over the livestock He has provided them" (22:34).
Although Jews have their specific rules of slaughtering that have many similarities to the Islamic rulings, as there are minor differences in the slaughtering of Jews and Muslims, therefore kosher meat is not lawful (Halal) for Muslims .
[i] In Arabic, Maskh means for something to change form to an uglier one. In the Quran and Islamic tradition, this term refers to a specific divine punishment that was sent upon the wrongdoers and wrongdoing nations in the past (of course not all wrongdoers, but those who committed certain wrong acts) which can be called metamorphosis .
[ii] Birds with sharp claws such as eagles, hawks, falcons, etc. are Haram.
[iii] If a locust is caught by hand or any other means, it is lawful (Halal) (after dying) .
- “Say, who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which he has produced for his servants and the good (lawful) things of provision?”(7:32)
- Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 137, the book of foods and drinks, issue 2; al-Mukhtasar al-Nafi’, pg. 251; Sharayi’ al-Islam, pg. 169.
- food in Islam
- Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 603.
- Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 593, issue 2622.
- Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 162
- Halal food
- halal food in Islam