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
It takes courage to live in this world. Because if you are alive, then you need to take action. And for taking a decisive step, you need to be courageous. The courage to stand up for an oppressed person, the courage to stand up against discrimination, the courage to stop violence against animals, the courage to preserve the earth, or even the courage to listen to the news of genocide and wish to have the strength to do something for it.
But many of us do not take action. Or do not even care. We may be afraid or may wait for someone else to do something. Say a superman or someone beyond us.
Many philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to modern thinkers regard courage as one of the most vital human virtues. For Plato, courage is “what allows reason to rule, both in the individual and in society.” Aristotle also believes that courage is not just about taking risks but thinking wisely in the face of danger . Taking risks is courageous, but knowing why you are risking is even more critical.
Islam, also, values the attribute of courage highly [i]. In Islam courage is the result of many other virtues. Even more, the reason behind your courageous deed is of more importance than having courage in itself. In other words, you are courageous if you are taking action for the right cause. That is, what you have found belief in after in-depth and rational investigation [ii], and do not forget to be moral along the way.
Imam Hussain (AS) Was Courageous in the true Sense of the Word Because He…
Imam Hussain (AS), saw the injustice that was imposed upon the society of his time and realized how what the rulers called Islam was far from the true teachings of Islam. Oppression, tyranny, unjust use of public property, etc. made life miserable for people.
So, instead of remaining silent and doing nothing, he decided to improve the society. He practiced courage in standing up against what was wrong, and in accepting the dangers of his decision.
Surrendering to and accepting the injustice and oppression, is considered a huge sin in Islam for someone who is capable of standing up against it and can improve the situation. That is one of the reasons why enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong (Amr bi-l-maʿruf and Nahy ʿani-l-munkar) are among the practical principles of Islam; to improve the society and bring awareness to people.
Imam Hussain (AS) was courageous and stood up against what was wrong. But he never gave up his human virtues for the sake of furthering his purpose. In other words, for Imam Hussain (AS), “the end does not justify the means.” While his enemy was impatient to start the war, he did his best to prevent it by negotiating and bringing awareness to them .
He was not afraid of fighting, yet, for him starting a war with the enemy was not the end. Instead, leading them to what is right, toward a life of honor and dignity rather than humiliation and oppression, was his ultimate purpose. Imam Hussain (AS), tried to show that being just is far more important than being courageous. If everyone is just, then no right would be taken away, and you do not need to be courageous to stand up against it [iii].
According to Imam Ali (AS), courage is dependent upon three virtues which complement each other. These are self-sacrifice, not bowing down to humiliation and oppression and not being after making a name for yourself . In his movement, Imam Hussain (AS) exhibited all these virtues. He sacrificed his life and family, did not surrender to the injustice his enemies were imposing, and never cared about his fame but was entirely devoted to Allah’s cause [iv].
In Islam, the intention always comes before the action. Imam Hussain (AS) knew well why he was taking action. For him, nothing was more important than Allah’s satisfaction and reviving the true teachings and peaceful message of Islam in the corrupt society of his time [v].
He was courageous for the right cause. Neither was he after usurping the throne, nor manipulating people for his own sake. In that case, he would not be courageous anymore but selfish. As Charles Dickens admitted, “If Husain (as) had fought to quench his worldly desires…then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason, therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam” .
Imam Hussain (AS) did take a risk in furthering his purpose, but he never acted unwisely and on his whim. When people sent thousands of letters from Kufa to Imam Hussain (AS), to ask for his help and declare their devotion to him, he did not accept their invitation immediately.
Instead, he first sent a representative to their city to validate their claim. Also, on the day of Ashura, despite his enemy's insistence on war, and while he was not afraid of fighting with them, he first tried to reason with them. You cannot be called courageous if you let go of your insight and wisdom and act recklessly [vi].
As said earlier, Imam Hussain (AS) was not willing to go to war with his enemy. While he was fully capable of fighting with them, and he courageously did it with only 72 people against thousands, he was never in favor of making war without any good reason. He was a courageous leader and guide, not a ruthless tyrant.
Thus, he first tried to guide his enemy toward the true teachings of Islam through speaking and reasoning, but when he saw their insistence on being ignorant, he was forced into a war.
It takes courage and spiritual strength to endure the pain of losing your beloved ones. Imam Hussain (AS) lost many of his family members and friends in the battle of Karbala, including his brother and two of his sons. However, while he felt a deep pain in his heart, he never lost his control and power of reason.
And he never regretted his action, nor doubted his cause. He was sure that what he did was for the sake of Allah’s satisfaction and his movement will forever inspire those who are seeking what is right.
[i] Imam Ali (AS) said, “Generosity and courage are great attributes that Allah bestows upon whoever He loves most and has examined before”
[ii] “In Islam, faith is nothing beyond human’s reason and understanding; in other words, the axioms of this religion are the fundamental principles that are rational by themselves and can be ascertained by people’s common sense. So stepping onto the stage of this faith depends on the submission that is gained through preliminary investigation of its axioms” .
[iii] Imam Ali (AS) said, “ Justice is better than courage. Since if every person is just toward other people, then they won’t need to be courageous” 
[iv] On the cause of his movement, Imam Hussain (AS) said,“O' God! Surely you know that whatever we did was not a competition to gain worldly positions and not for the worthless physical attractions of the world. But to show the signs of religious ways and to remove corruption from your lands, so that the oppressed feel secured and act according to your traditions and rules.” 
[v] Imam Hussain (AS) said, “My revolution aims to reform the society and revive the true teachings of Islam.” 
[vi] Imam Ali (AS) said, “ negligence and not having foresight, spoils the courage” .
- al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p.253.
- Ibn Shu'ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-'uqul, p.322.
- Ibid. p.239.
- Ibid. p.243.
- The Islamic Axioms
- HUssain (AS)
- Abd al-Wāhid b. Muḥammad al-Āmidī, Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p.375.
- Ali ibn Muhammad Laithi Vaseti, Oyun al-Hikmah va al-Mavaez, p. 182.
- Ibn Abi al-Hadid, The interpretation of Nahj al-Balaghah, vol 20, p.333.
Today, more than anything, people are concerned about what they eat and drink. And that is for a good reason; for you to live a fuller life, you need a healthy body alongside a healthy mind. And you can function better in the society as well. So a useful and practical food diet is the one which can guarantee both of these factors.
This is only one reason why Islam has forbidden drinking alcohol. Let’s regard this matter in depth.
There are many verses in the Quran that directly or indirectly prohibit Muslims from drinking alcohol and emphasize the disadvantages of this action, one of which is as follows:
“O you who have faith! Indeed wine, gambling, idols, and the divining arrows are abominations of Satan’s doing, so avoid them, so that you may be felicitous. Indeed Satan seeks to cast enmity and hatred among you through wine and gambling and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. Will you, then, relinquish?” (5:90-91)
The above verse reveals two destructive effects of drinking alcohol. They are threatening to the society as well as each individual.
Morally speaking, it is evident in many instances that drinking alcohol lowers the brain’s function and makes it unclear  & . Thus the person would lose his/her control over his/her actions and could exhibit any behavior out of the moral boundaries. A simple misunderstanding, then, may cause a serious clash between the members of the society, since they are not in their right mind and cannot reason well.
Moreover, many car accidents in the society are caused by the drivers who have been under the influence of alcohol. According to a study:
Consuming alcohol before driving greatly increases the risk of car accidents, highway injuries, and vehicular deaths. The higher the amount of consumed alcohol, the more likely to be involved in an accident. When alcohol is consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires – such as judgment, concentration, comprehension, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time – become impaired .
The one who consumes alcohol will be occupied with such jubilant feeling caused by alcohol that he/she will forget his/her duty toward Allah. One of the essential teachings of Islam is that a Muslim should be able to feel Allah in his/her heart in every breath and His presence in all his/her actions [i].
Through drinking alcohol, even in small quantities, your mind loses its sharpness and focus to fully attend to your necessary actions as a Muslim, e.g., daily prayer (Salat).
We are born to be free, to choose and to decide for ourselves. That is why we are endowed with the power of reason. The one who drinks alcohol voluntarily drops the guard of his/her reasoning down. He/she deprives him/herself of the ability to choose the right manners and have control over his/her life. With an unclear mind no one can practice his right to choose, thus is not free!
The holy Quran says: “They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say, ‘There is a great sin in both of them and some profits for the people, but their sinfulness outweighs their profit.’…” (2:219).
Almost in all our decisions, we are careful to choose the way that is more profitable for ourselves, be it financially, physically or morally. According to the Quran and many scientific studies, drinking alcohol brings more negative effects than positive. Thus its loss is way more than its profit. So it would be more rational to avoid drinking alcohol than to bear its negative consequences.
On the other hand, a lot of research conducted by scientists from all over the world shows that alcohol consumption has many detrimental effects on human health ,  & .
Brain and nervous system is the first part of the body that would be seriously harmed by drinking alcohol. According to research, “Heavy drinking can cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy, which can produce a painful pins-and-needles feeling or numbness in the extremities as well as muscle weakness, incontinence, constipation, erectile dysfunction, and other problems” . Moreover, some scientists believe that one of the leading causes of depression is alcohol consumption.
According to a study:
1. “If you drink regularly, you increase your risk of developing pancreatitis.
2. Over the long term, drinking alcohol increases your risk of serious illnesses, such as mouth, throat and breast cancer
3. One of the most significant of these was the 2007 European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study which established a clear link between excessive alcohol intake and bowel cancer.
4. Drinking alcohol can contribute to the conditions that cause diabetes.
5. Our brains rely on a delicate balance of chemicals and processes. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt that balance, affecting our thoughts, feelings, and actions – and sometimes our long-term mental health.
6. Drinking alcohol at any stage during pregnancy can cause harm to your baby and the more you drink, the greater the risk. This is why the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) alcohol unit guideline advice to pregnant women is that the safest approach is to not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy.
7. Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of developing liver disease and cause irreparable damage to this significant part of your body. In fact, alcohol is a major cause of the 25% increase in deaths from liver disease in England over the last decade (from 9,231 in 2001 to 11,575 in 2009)”  & 
Finally, you may say that all these health effects of Alcohol are probable. Or a day will come that scientists will find a way to drop these adverse effects. If we have accepted to be Muslim, to surrender to the will of Allah, and believe that He desires the best for us in this world, then we would easily trust Allah’s commands.
So, trust Him in eliminating what He calls disadvantageous for you. And keep in mind that there is always a rationale behind whatever Allah commands; whether this logic has been revealed to us or not.
[i] Quran (33:41-42)