Throughout the history of humankind, there are not many figures who stood up for all the people whose voice have not been heard, whose rights have been taken away and lives stolen. And there are not many men or women whose apparent defeat turn out to be their ultimate success, immortalizing their message and their actions. Imam Hussain (AS) was one of these rare kinds whose voice is still heard from beneath the ashes of history. A figure whose sacrifices have kindled a light for anyone willing to follow his lead and make this world a better place to live. In what follows, we will have a glance at the life of this eminent Islamic personality.
Hussain ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib known as Abu 'Abd Allah and Sayyid al-Shuhada' (Lord of martyrs), the third leader (Imam) of Shias, was born on January the 8th on 626 A.D ( 3rd of Shaban, 4th Lunar year (Hijri Ghamari))  in Medina as the second grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) . His father was Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS), the first chosen leader by Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his cousin, and his mother was Lady Fatima (AS), the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) . He was only seven years old when the dear Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP) passed away .
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) loved him dearly, and there has remained many accounts in which Prophet(PBUH&HP) directly admits his love and affection for his grandson, Hussain (AS). For instance, he said: “Hussain is of me, and I am of Hussain, God loves those who love him” . It is also narrated that "When the Prophet (PBUH&HP) was asked whom he loved more among his family, he replied, 'Hasan and Hussain.'"  He also used to put him on his lap, kiss him and said, “You are noble, son of a noble person and [will be] the father of noble ones; you are a leader (Imam) and son of a leader (Imam) and the father of leaders” .
There is disagreement about the number of Imam Hussain’s (AS) children. Some believe he had six children, four boys, and two girls . While others believe it to be nine, six boys, and three girls . Some of the most notable ones who were present in the event of Karbala include Ali ibn al-Hussain (Imam Sajjad (AS)) who becomes the leader after his father’s martyrdom, Ali al-Akbar, the six-month-old Ali al-Asghar, and his daughters Sukayna, Fatima and Ruqayya [i].
Imam Hussain (AS), like his father and grandfather, Imam Ali (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), was never ignorant toward the ones in need and those who struggled for their livelihood. Aside from helping them financially wherever and whenever he could, he always treated them with respect and equal to other people. Once he was passing somewhere when he saw a group of impoverished people who were sitting on their cloaks and eating some dry bread crumbs. They invited him to join them. He kindly accepted and sat down with them, eating whatever they ate. Then he invited them to his house and offered them whatever he had of food .
Even while praying, he couldn’t turn a blind eye to the request of a needy person. He tried to recite the remainder of his prayer faster so that he could help that person and fulfill his need . He would also pay the debts of those who were struggling with financial problems. For instance, he paid the debt of a dying man to relieve him of the burden of owing another person before his death . After his martyrdom, some old scratches were found on his back, which turned out to be the marks of the heavy bags containing food. He used to carry them on his back every night to give them to the poor without being noticed .
Imam Hussain (AS) is widely known for his patience in the real sense of the word. First of all, he would not get angry quickly. Even when a Syrian man insulted him and his father, Imam Hussain (AS) didn’t lose his temper. Instead, he forgave him and treated him kindly and with generosity .
Furthermore, considering the event of Karbala and the many unbearable hardships he and his family went through, such as seeing his children suffering from thirst, martyrdom of his brother, sons and his dear companions and the thought of his family to be taken as a captive, we never see him complaining to Allah or surrendering to this deep pain. This patience, for sure, was the result of his deep faith in Allah and having no doubt in whatever He chooses for him.
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. Therefore, he stood up against what was wrong. But he never gave up his human virtues for the sake of furthering his purpose. 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 have been selfish rather than courageous.
Imam Hussain (AS) was known among the people of his time for his sincere and constant prayers and devotions to Allah. He traveled the distance between Medina to Mecca to participate in Hajj rituals twenty-five times in his lifetime on foot. He had a deep affection for the prayer (Salat). It has been narrated that on the night before the battle of Karbala, Imam Hussain (AS) told his brother, Abbas ibn Ali (AS): “Ask the enemy to let us spend this night praying and supplicating to Allah and reciting the Quran. My Merciful Lord knows how much I love praying, reciting the Quran, supplicating and repenting”. Also, in the midst of battle, while the enemy was attacking him and his companions on every side, he stood to perform the midday prayer (Salat al-Dhuhr) in the congregation .
Imam Hussain (AS) was the inheritor of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH&HP) vast knowledge and foresight. Everyone, whether friends or enemies, admitted this characteristic in him and found no one to be even close to him on this matter. He would answer people’s questions on different issues so wisely and with such command that impressed every person who had heard of it. There remain many sayings and quotes from him, each containing a moral teaching and a lesson that would help us lead a better and more productive life .
After the death of Muawiah, the caliph of Muslims at the time of Imam Hassan (AS), his son, Yazid usurped the throne. He was the first caliph who was chosen monarchically after Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH&HP) death, and he was far from a suitable choice for the leadership of Muslims. He was an indecent tyrant who did not even follow an Islamic lifestyle in appearance. For instance, he would drink alcohol manifestly; which is a strictly forbidden act in Islam. Thus, Imam Hussain (AS) who lived in Medina at that time refused to accept Yazid’s oath of allegiance, despite Yazid’s threat to behead anyone who refuses to do so . When the governor of Medina came to Imam Hussain (AS) to take his oath of allegiance, he asked for a few days to think and decide. Afterward, he left Medina to Mecca, where still remained some people who did not bend down under Yazid’s forceful allegiance .
In Mecca, many people were attracted to the intellectual, spiritual, and religious characteristics of Imam Hussain (AS). Also, the notable people in Iraq and especially Kufa who had received the news of Muawiah’s death wrote many letters to Imam Hussain (AS). They asked Imam Hussain (AS) to come to Kufa and accept their political leadership along with their intellectual and religious guidance . Imam Hussain (AS) did not care much about these letters, at first. But when he saw the increasing number of letters sent from Kufa to him, he decided to send one of his relatives, called Muslim ibn Aqil, as a representative, with a letter to the heads of Kufa tribes to validate their invitation.
Over ten thousands of people of Kufa took the oath of allegiance with Muslim as Imam Hussain’s (AS) representative. So, Muslim wrote a letter to Imam Hussain (AS) and ensured him that Kufa was the right place for Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions to move to . Thus, Imam Hussain (AS) along with his family and some of his companions left Mecca to Kufa. Also, he sent another representative, called Gheis, to Kufa, to inform them of his journey. However, people of Kufa were soon terrified and scattered from Muslim’s side. They even threw Muslim out of the resting place that they had given him before. The new governor captured Muslim and beheaded him . Gheis (the second representative of Imam Hussain (AS)) also reached Kufa and declared Imam Hussain (AS)’s message to people of Kufa. However, the forces captured him and dropped him down from the top of a castle in Kufa .
Before his martyrdom, Muslim covertly sent one of his companions to Imam Hussain (AS), to inform him of people’s disloyalty and dishonesty and to stop him from coming to Kufa. But his message and the news of Kufa people’s infidelity, reached Imam Hussain (AS) when he had already left Mecca behind and was on his way to Iraq, near Kufa and Muslim had already been martyred. Imam Hussain (AS) decided to continue his journey toward Iraq and Kufa.
On the 7th of Muharram (10th of October 680 AD), Ibn Ziyad’s army blocked Imam Hussain (AS)’s and his followers’ access to the Euphrates (Furat river). About five hundred soldiers were ordered not to let Imam Hussain’s (AS) followers reach the river. On this night, a number of Imam Hussain’s (AS) companions managed to take some water from the river, and it was the last time they could do so .
On the 9th of Muharram, called Tasu’a, yet another ruthless and cruel commander, named Shimr, came to help Umar ibn Sa’ad’s army. Umar ibn Sa’ad’s army made many attempts to entice Imam Hussain’s (AS) followers and dissuade them from accompanying Imam Hussain (AS). But they did not succeed. On this day, Imam Hussain (AS) and his followers were besieged completely, and their access to water was entirely blocked. They had no water supply anymore. According to some accounts, except for the women and children, those who could fight along with Imam Hussain (AS), were about 72 people.
Imam Hussain (AS) was the last warrior in the battle of Karbala. His companions were all martyred, and he was now alone. It has been said, that for some time the soldiers from Kufa, did not come to fight with Imam Hussain (AS). Perhaps the people of Kufa were ashamed of themselves. Since they were the ones who invited Imam Hussain (AS) and now they were fighting against him. Despite his exhaustion and his wounded body, Imam Hussain (AS) fought against his enemies courageously and powerfully.
Imam Hussain (AS) was losing his strength. A person threw a stone toward Imam Hussain’s (AS) forehead, which made it full of blood. When he wanted to wipe it with his clothes, another soldier shot a poisoned arrow toward Imam Hussain’s (AS) chest. Another strike caused Imam Hussain (AS) to lose his remaining strength and fall on the ground. Shimr ordered his soldiers to give Imam Hussain (AS) the last strike and kill him, but no one dared to do so. Shimr himself came and beheaded Imam Hussain (AS) .
Imam Hussain’s (AS) revolution and the incident of Karbala carried a message for all humankind, of any religion, belief or nationality. His movement not only gives us the lesson of peacefulness but also teaches us to never be silent in the face of oppression and injustice and stand against it despite any difficulty. Thus, despite the passing of so many centuries, he is still held as a hero who can be the perfect role model for those seeking justice and humanity. Every year, on the tenth of Muharram, called Ashura, the day on which Imam Hussain (AS) was martyred, many people from all over the world gather and commemorate his personality and his exemplary movement. Also, millions of people attend the annual gathering of Arbaeen Walk which is a three-day journey on foot, walking the distance between Najaf to Karbala located in Iraq to honor and revive his lasting message of peace and truthfulness.
[i] There are some disagreements about the presence of a girl called Ruqayya as the daughter of Imam Hussain (AS). Some sources, including Lubab al-ansab, a sixth/twelfth-century source, and Kamil-i Baha'i, from the seventh/thirteenth century, report that he had a four-year-old daughter, who passed away in Damascus.
- Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 2, p. 555.
- Imam Hussain
- Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 10, p. 369.
- Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 3, p. 142.
- Tirmizī, Sunan, vol. 5, p. 323.
- Mawsu'at kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Baqir al-'Ulum Research Institute, p.91.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 135.
- Ṭabarī, Dalāʾil al-imāma, vol. 1, p. 74.
- Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīnat Damascus, vol. 14, p. 181.
- Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīnat Damascus, vol. 14, p. 185.
- Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Shahrashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, vol.4, p.66.
- Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīnat Damascus, vol. 43, p. 224.
- Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 417 & 441.
- Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi, Nafasul Mahmum, Relating to the heart rending tragedy of Karbala, p.21.
- Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 338.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 34, 36-37.
- Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 347 & 395.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 53-63.
- Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 405.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 86.
- Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 453.
“I have not been sent except to elevate the morality”  Morality is such an invaluable asset for humans in this worldly life and the Hereafter that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has introduced it as the only goal of his prophetic mission. It is also noticeable in the following verse of the Quran that Prophets were sent by Allah to improve humanity:
“Allah certainly favored the faithful when He raised up among them an apostle from among themselves to recite to them His signs and to purify them and teach them the Book and wisdom, and earlier they had indeed been in manifest error” (3:164)
Moreover, humans naturally seek and look up to role models who have successfully personified all the perfect qualities. One of the shining examples of such models to follow is undoubtedly the last Messenger of God, Muhammad (PBUH&HP) who possesses all the best personality traits:
“and indeed you possess a great character” (68:4)
“There is certainly a good exemplar for you in the Apostle of Allah (i.e., Muhammad (PBUH&HP))” (33:21)
Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH&HP) truthfulness and honesty were so famous among his most noble attributes, from his tender age and before he was chosen as the Messenger of God, that the people of that time would call him al-Amin (the trustworthy).
This characteristic of his reached the extent that almost everyone in Mecca would put their money, valuables, and savings in the hands of Prophet (PBUH&HP) for safekeeping. Even, after he was called for prophethood, despite all their hostility to him, the Quraysh[i] continued depositing their treasure with him.
In spite of all his responsibilities as a prophet, Muhammad (PBUH&HP) would do all his chores himself as well as helping his family with the household work; he used to patch his clothes, mend his shoes, and milk his goat with his own hands. He would eat simple food, wear simple clothes and travel in a simple manner.
It is not that he could not afford a luxurious lifestyle; there were stages in the prophet’s (PBUH&HP) life when he had a reasonable income from his trading. In fact, he chose to lead a simple life. He preferred to live on what was sufficient and as normally as any other simple Muslim. When he acquired great wealth, he did not hold on to it for himself. Instead, he gave it to the poor and spent it for the good of society.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) showed great orderliness in all aspects of his life, from his personal matters to all social, political, and economic affairs. He paid attention to his appearance, and was much fond of using perfume and spent so much money on that; he also encouraged his followers to do the same and to keep their bodies and houses clean.
One of the high values taught by the prophet (PBUH) was regarding the importance of time. He urged people to choose the right moment for carrying out specific activities; he would divide his day into three parts, one for saying prayers to God, one for his family, and a portion for himself, which he would share with people. He has mentioned in a narration about self-discipline that “God loves it if any of you does a job, he/she does it perfectly” .
In his social life as well as his family life, prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was always kind, affectionate, and respectful to people. He was known to have a pleasant smile on his face which never faded away. He took the lead to extend greetings to those he knew and those he did not know, including children and slaves.
The holy prophet (PBUH&HP) also showed significant love and tenderness to children; he seated them on his lap, put them on his shoulders, and kissed them. He was incredibly kind to his slaves too. He told people that the slaves were their brothers. He took a great interest in the welfare of all people, had great compassion for people in trouble, and would do his best to remove their sufferings .
Women in pre-Islamic Arabia would face nothing but neglect from society; all their personal and societal rights were disregarded to the extent that killing and burying female infants alive was a prevalent practice among them. But Islam, from its very beginning, recognized the importance of women and considered the lives of both men and women to be precious.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) commanded others to fulfill women's rights and to honor their individuality, and he showed a particular form of respect towards women himself while implementing these principles. An example of his respect towards women is his being helpful to his wives. He has said in this regard: “Beware, the best of you is he who is the best towards his women, and I am the best among all of you toward my women” .
Along with these few traits, he possessed so many other significant characteristics that anybody wishes to attain. His life was full of examples of perseverance, modesty, generosity, piety, love, mercy, forbearance, bravery, and many many other ones. Admittedly, that’s why God and His angels bless our Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP):
“Indeed Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke Peace upon him in a worthy manner” (33:56)
[i] A powerful merchant tribe that controlled Mecca and its Kaaba and that according to Islamic tradition descended from Ishmael. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born into the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe.
The one who converts to Islam or someone who has just decided to know more about Islam, you may have come across this dilemma as to which books are better to study and which would give you a fuller and more comprehensive view of Islamic matters.
In what follows we have suggested some of the most significant Islamic books which are essential for anyone who is interested in Islam or is looking for answers to his/her questions. The books in this list include basic pillars of Islam, the most important obligatory practices, as well as ethical, historical and philosophical matters related to the religion of Islam.
The intellectual miracle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Quran is the holy book of Muslims which includes many historical, ethical, spiritual and social matters brought through a unique, cohesive and capturing language. This book offers anyone who is in search of the truth with revealing and thought-provoking information and is a must-read book for converts to Islam.
Nahjul Balagha includes a series of sermons, letters, and sayings by Imam Ali (AS) and compiled by Allamah Sharif Razi which deal with many a wide variety of topics including our existence, our relationship with God, Islamic codes of ethics in all aspects of life whether personal or social. Reading this book helps you realize the deep moral concerns of Islam and the wisdom that lies behind this religion.
Written by an influential German scholar, Annemarie Schimmel provides us with unbiased, simple and introductory information about the religion of Islam. This book approaches Islam with a more historical attitude through which the pre-Islamic time, the emergence of Islam, the figure of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUHHP) as the messenger of this religion and the process of Islam’s expansion are explained. It also includes some information about the Quran, the Islamic law, and tradition, the philosophy of Islam, different Islamic sects, mysticism, etc. It can be a very helpful guide for converts to Islam.
This brief e-book provided by Salam Islam explains the three significant steps before the action of converting to Islam. These include the belief in one God (Monotheism), belief in the prophets (Prophethood) send by God and the belief in the afterlife (Ma’ad).
This book, written in a relatively simple language, presents a summary of the teachings of Islam to provide some information for those who are not able to examine Islamic matters deeply and in a specialized manner. The book starts with a general reflection on the concept of religion and belief, explains the pillars of Islam and finally gives an insight into the practical principles of Islam.
This book is an attempt to bring a clearer understanding of the concepts that are mentioned in the Quran which is very helpful for converts to Islam. It starts with the ways the Quran can be understood, and it comprises of two main parts: Understanding the Quran analytically and Reason in the view of the Quran. Very thorough and interesting work.
Have you ever wondered about your existence? Why have you been created? What is the purpose of your life? This book discusses the goal of life from the viewpoints of the Quran and various schools of thought. The topics discussed throughout this book include the goal of creation, the basis of individual and social ethics, faith, schools of thought and world vision, Islamic faith, and human perfection, and the summary of Islamic monotheism.
This book offers a timely presentation of the core spiritual and social values of Islam: peace, compassion, social justice, and respect for the other. Seizing this unique moment in history to reflect on the essence of his tradition, Seyyed Hossein Nasr seeks to "open a spiritual and intellectual space for mutual understanding." Exploring Islamic values in scripture, traditional sources, and history, he also shows their clear counterparts in the Jewish and Christian traditions, revealing the common ground of the Abrahamic faiths.
Why do we need religion? What is the benefit of believing in a particular religion? This book written by one of the most significant Muslim scholars offers an in-depth discussion on the philosophy behind the concept of religion and how it shapes our lives toward perfection and happiness.
10. What is Hajj (the holy pilgrimage) and Why Do We Perform It? By Salam Islam
The ritual of Hajj or the Islamic holy pilgrimage is one of the most important occasions in the Islamic calendar. During this period Muslims from all around the world gather in the holy city of Mecca to perform certain rituals. In this e-book, you will get familiar with the basic rituals that must be performed during Hajj and know more about the philosophy behind these rituals.
Hijab in Islam is a common term that represents a range of personal and social codes of behavior and addresses women specifically while requiring specific actions on the part of men as well. In this e-book Hijab and modesty in Islam will be explained through six facts that reveal different aspects and reasons regarding this concept.
What are the rules and regulations that Muslims should observe in their eating habits? This e-book provides the converts to Islam with a brief and straightforward guide to the kinds of foods and drinks Muslims are allowed to use and those that are forbidden to them.
Why do Muslims perform the prayer (Salat)? What are the spiritual and mental benefits of this action? What are the secrets that lie behind the disciplines of Salat? This book offers a great insight into one of the most important obligatory practices of Muslims, prayer (Salat), and help new Muslims and converts to Islam to have a better understanding of this action.
Written by one of the converts to Islam, this book illustrates common challenges and issues faced by converts, the reasoning behind the conversion, analysis from a Western view of many controversial or misunderstood topics in Islam, and basic information needed by new converts.
Please note that here we have attempted to name a few most significant books that can give you a better insight into the religion of Islam and help you in your path toward converting to Islam. However, there are many other helpful and great books that approach Islamic matters sophisticatedly many of which you can find in Salam Islam’ s library and other online Islamic libraries.