The Holy Quran is replete with examples of men who stood for the truth and those who opposed it. The former sacrificed everything they had to defend the truth and the latter was ready to destroy everything around them to satiate their greed and selfishness.
The Book of Allah invites us to reflect upon personalities, nations, and events of the past. Whether it is pure men like Prophet Ibrahim (AS), Prophet Musa (AS) and Prophet Isa (AS) or evil men who opposed them and their mission like Nimrood, Firon (Pharoah), or Bani Israil, all of them have a lesson for us. These are not just stories to read and move on, they contain messages for our lives. And rightly so, we read in the Holy Quran:
"There is certainly a moral in their accounts for those who possess intellect. This [Quran] is not a fabricated discourse; rather, it is a confirmation of what was [revealed] before it, and an elaboration of all things, and a guidance and mercy for a people who have faith. (12:111)
Similarly, Imam Ali (AS) says: Learn lessons from past events for future events, because they are similar to one another. (Nahjul Balagha Letter 69)
One such incident of the past that changed the history of Islam forever, is the event of Karbala. No mention of Karbala is complete without Hurr ibn Yazid Ar-Riyahi. He is an example for those who reflect upon his journey, his actions and his martyrdom. He encourages, inspires and motivates the believers through his actions in Karbala.
Hurr literally means a freeman in Arabic, and truly so he lived up to his name.
Hurr Ibn Yazid Ar-Riyahi was the general of the Ummayad army dispatched from Kufa, (Iraq) to intercept Imam Al-Hussain (AS), the third infallible Imam. Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, the newly appointed governor of Kufa issued the command to guard all entrances and exits to Kufa in order to intercept al-Hussain for an oath of allegiance to Yazid. Hurr was ordered along with his 1,000 soldiers to intercept Imam Hussain(AS) and his followers before they reached Kufa.
When he intercepted Imam Hussain (AS) at Dhu Hussam, Hurr and his men had ran out of water. The Imam(AS) ordered his companions to satiate Hurr and his army, including the cavalry. Hurr and his men offered their prayers with the Imam and listened to his sermons. However, on subsequent orders from the tyrant governor of Kufa, Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad, Imam Hussain and his family were forced to encamp in Karbala. Hurr was of the notion that the Imam (AS) will not be killed in Karbala, he would somehow persuade him to go elsewhere. But he was perturbed when he realized that Umar Ibn Sa'ad who was sent by Ubaidullah had come with orders to kill Imam Hussain. On one hand was his position, family and wealth and on the other hand was the grandson of the Holy Prophet(PBUH&HP) and the son of Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatima (SA), supporting whom meant a certain death. These were the two options left for Hurr, just as the Holy Quran says:
"Indeed We have guided him to the way, be he grateful or ungrateful." (76:3).
Despite all odds, Hurr left the Army of Yazid, joined Imam Hussain (AS) and won the honor of being the first martyr of Karbala. All the glitter of the world, his power, rank, wealth and children did not stop him from joining his master Hussain(AS).
Ashura and Karbala were not be bound by time or geographical location. Almost 14 centuries have passes by but human beings from different parts of the world, belonging to different races and religions continue to mourn for Imam Hussain(AS) and take inspiration from him and his mission.
Just as Karbala continues to inspire us, the magnanimous personality of Hurr continues to inspire and guide us. Hurr chose good over bad, truth over falsehood, hereafter over the transient world. If we claim to be followers and lovers of Imam Hussain(AS) we need to turn towards the Hussain of our time and follow the teachings of Imam Hussain(AS). Imam Hussain(AS) gave everything he had to protect and preserve the teachings of Islam and by helping Hussain(AS) in his cause, Hurr achieved this lofty position of being Imam Hussain's(AS) helper. Thus, if Hurr truly motivates us, we need to mend our ways and make ourselves capable of helping Imam Mahdi (AJ) the true inheritor of Imam Hussain's (AS) legacy.
The Hurr of Karbala teaches us that true love is incomplete without sacrifice.
But, is the Hurr inside us ready to listen?
- A Probe into the History of Ashura, Ibrahim Ayati
At times of hardships over which we have no power, sometimes we find no remedy other than turning our face toward our Creator, the One who is aware of the manifest and the hidden. For sure, not everyone is able to endure difficulties and keep his/her faith; we might break easily and lose our hopes. However, those whose heart is dedicated to a Higher power and trust in His will find peace and hope in every difficult moment of their lives. Imam Sajjad (AS) is the perfect example of such people. His sincere worship to Allah at times when he was most distressed and under pressure, not only gave him the strength to deal with the problems but also left a legacy for generations after him to learn how to survive through putting trust in Allah.
In what follows, we will learn more about the life of this significant Muslim figure and a descendant of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
Ali ibn al-Hussain ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS), known as Imam Sajjad (AS) and Imam Zayn al-Abidin (AS), is the son of Imam Hussain (AS) and Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdgerd, king of Persia . He is the fourth Imam of Shias. He was born on January 6, 659 A.D in Medina. He had many children, the most famous among whom was Muhammad al-Baqir (AS), the fifth Imam of Shias.
After being invited by Kufa people to help them rise against their tyrant ruler, Imam Hussain (AS) and his family, including Imam Sajjad (AS), set on a journey from Mecca toward Kufa, today's Iraq. On their way, Imam Sajjad (AS) was inflicted with high fever and became severely ill. His illness became even worse on the day of the battle of Karbala, to which Imam Hussain (AS) was forced, and couldn't even stand on his feet.
However, he constantly got the news of the events on the battlefield from his aunt, Lady Zaynab (AS), and others. When all of Imam Hussain's (AS) companion got martyred, he tried to guide Yazid's army one last time and called out: "Is there anyone who would defend Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) progeny? Is there anyone who would worship the one and only Allah, who would fear Him and be on our side? And is there anyone who would help us for the sake of Allah?" On hearing this touching words of his father, Imam Sajjad (AS) got up from his sickbed with all his remaining strength, hold out to his walking stick, and started for the battlefield to help his father despite his severe condition. However, when Imam Hussain (AS) saw him, urged Lady Zainab (AS) to take him back to the tents so that he wouldn't get martyred like others and preserve the legacy of Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) progeny.
After Imam Hussain's (AS) martyrdom, Imam Sajjad (AS) along with lady Zaynab (AS) and other children and women from Imam Hussain's (AS) camp were treated utterly disrespectfully by Yazid's army and taken as captives. It's been said that since Imam Sajjad (AS) was ill and unable to sit on the camel, he was tied to it while in the chain. They were then transferred to Kufa.
When they reached Kufa, to belittle them more, Yazid's soldier took them right in the middle of the town and in front of people to witness their pitiful condition. However, Imam Sajjad (AS), despite his bodily weakness, found it the best chance to talk to people and inform them of what had befallen on them. He then stood in front of people and invited them to silence. First, he praised Allah and His Prophet (PBUH&HP). And then gave this moving speech:
"O' people! For the ones who don't know me, I should say that I am Ali, son of Hussain (AS), who was martyred beside the Euphrates, without being guilty of any crime from which he would be taken revenge, I am the son of the one who has been dishonored, whose property has been plundered and whose wife and children were taken as captives, I am the son of the one who has been killed painfully, yet we are honored and proud. O' people! Do you remember the letters you have sent to my father and deceived him, then took an oath of allegiance with him, yet went into war with him and left him alone? Woe to you! What have you stored [for your afterlife]! How would you face Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when he enquires: "Did you kill my progeny and dishonor me? Aren't you my Ummah (followers)?" 
People were ashamed and wanted to make promises to Imam Sajjad (AS), yet he didn't accept their oaths. Then, they were taken to Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad's [i] palace. He first meant to kill Imam Sajjad (AS); however, with lady Zainab's (AS) strives, he changed his mind. After some days, by order of Ibn Ziyad, they were transferred to Damascus. They had a tough time in this city and were kept in the ruins of Damascus. Once, they attended Yazid's palace, where Imam Sajjad (AS) gave another persuasive speech in defense of Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) progeny. He introduced himself, his father, and his grandfather to people and told the people of Damascus that what Yazid and his agents have propagated are not valid. His father was not a rebel and did not want to disturb the Muslim community and make mischief in Islamic lands. He rose for truth and by invitation of Muslims to remove heresies brought up in religion and bring the simplicity and purity it had at the time of his grandfather. This speech proved the rightfulness of Imam Hussain (AS) and his movement at the face of Yazid's corrupt rule .
The leadership of Imam al-Sajjad (AS) began after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) on the day of Ashura and lasted for 34 or 35 years. During this time, the Islamic society, as the result of the corrupt governing system, was full of injustices and went totally against the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
Being fully aware of the dire social and political conditions of the society, Imam Sajjad (AS) knew very well that he couldn't overtly invite people toward truthfulness and rise against the false strategies of the ruling government. Therefore, he chose to follow a wise and discreet policy in fighting against the oppression in society. Also, he meant to preserve the invaluable legacy left to him by his fathers and pass it safely to the following generations.
To this purpose, he made perfect use of indirect ways of teaching people and informing them of the vices which prevailed in the society. Praying was one of these strategies. Through his famous prayers to which we have access in Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, he not only taught people about how to connect with Allah and trust Him in helping them to overcome their problems but also posed his opposition against the present situation.
Moreover, despite severe pressures of the government of the time, Imam Sajjad (AS) managed to train some Islamic scholars to whom he transferred the knowledge he inherited from his fathers and the words and deeds of his great grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his true teachings.
As his name suggests, Imam Sajjad (AS) was one of the most ardent worshippers of Allah after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). He used to pray thousands of Rak'as of Salat in a matter of a day, which made him prostrate very much; thus, he is called Sajjad, meaning the person who prostrates much . His prayers and supplications recorded in Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya were sincere and straightforward, which made them even more touching and impressive. Through these prayers, he revealed the perfect manner of calling out to Allah and finding our way to Him in every breath and whatever difficulty we are dealing with. Also, he used his prayers to covertly show his opposition against the tyrants of his time and make people aware of the situation.
Imam Sajjad (AS) following his father, Imam Hussain (AS), grandfather, Imam Ali (AS), and great grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), was fully observant of his manner toward people and treated them with his unbound compassion and generosity. Many accounts narrate this singular attitude of Imam Sajjad (AS) in his social and personal life.
For instance, once he was riding on his horse when he saw a group of lepers who were eating breakfast. When they saw Imam Sajjad (AS), they invited him to join them. Imam Sajjad (AS) said: "I would be glad to eat with you if I weren't fasting." As soon as he reached his house, he ordered his servants to cook some good food of the best things they had. Then he invited all those lepers to his house and joined them to eat dinner together .
In another account, it's been said that he used to fast during the day and cooked food himself while fasting. Then he would divide all the food among people and break his fast with some bread and dates .
His forgiving and humble character is recounted in many narrations, which reveals him to be the best role model for all humankind. In one instance, one of Imam Sajjad's (AS) adversaries insulted and cursed Imam in front of other people. Imam's servants came to punish the one who offended him, yet Imam ordered them to leave him alone, saying, "there is something more behind his manner toward us." Then he addressed the man and said, "Is there anything you need?" the man felt ashamed and didn't answer. Imam gave his own clothes to him and ordered to provide him with a hundred Dirhams. The man feeling regretful called out, "I witness that you are the son of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)." The same thing happened again with one of Imam Sajjad's (AS) relatives who met Imam and insulted him. Imam (AS) didn't answer him at the time. Then he went to his relative's house and while the man was expecting to get an angry response from Imam (AS), heard him saying, "My dear brother, a few minutes ago you stood in front of me and told whatever you wanted. Now, if what you said about me is true, then I seek pardon from Allah and ask for His forgiveness, and if what you said is not true about me, then I pray for you to be forgiven by Allah." The man became utterly ashamed and expressed his regret for accusing Imam Sajjad (AS) falsely .
He was also very famous for his secret charities to the people in need, many of whom found out about this unknown helper just after his martyrdom. He used to put a bag full of bread on his back and carry it to give out to the poor at night. It is narrated that he would gather whatever food remained in his own house, covered his face, and gave them all to the destitute of Medina .
Imam Sajjad (AS) was one of the most knowledgeable and learned personalities of his time. Muhammad ibn Muslim al-Zuhri, one of the Islamic scholars, said about him, "I found no Hashemite [ii] greater or more knowledgeable than him in fiqh [iii]." He was an expert in all the matters of his time and had access to the sciences, which wasn't available to the majority of people.
The legacy of Imam Sajjad (AS) had preserved through the centuries by the books compiled by the Islamic scholars from his supplications and prayers. The two most well-known of these books are Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya and Risalat al-huquq (Treatise on Rights).
Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is the collection of Imam Sajjad's (AS) supplications, which also reflects the social status at that time, especially in Medina. The supplications present "his aversion to bad behaviors and speech of people at that time, taking refuge to God from what he saw and heard and clarifying the right path under the guidance of religion and the Quran and purification of souls from pollutions". This book has been translated into several languages.
Risalat al-huquq is the title of a lengthy narration from Imam Sajjad (AS) compiled as a book. "This narration, which contains over 50 duties of any individual toward others, is, in fact, a treatise on moral conduct in both personal and social life. The rights discussed in this treatise address various social relations of any individual, like the duties toward parents, spouse, children, neighbors, teachers, students, believers, the leader of Congregational Prayer, the government, etc. Because of the particular position and the comprehensive content, several translations and commentaries have been written on this treatise" .
Imam Sajjad (AS) was martyred in 713 or 714 A.D. with a poison given by order of al-Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik . He (AS) was buried in al-Baqi cemetery in Medina beside his uncle, Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (AS) .
Finally, looking at the fruitful life of Imam Sajjad (AS), one can find the perfect path toward pure humanity. The path offered to us by Allah, which, despite having its own challenges, leads us to the fullest and most meaningful experience of this short life. The leaders are our guiding lights that shine through the darkness of our confusions and fluctuations, show us the way to prosperity, and grant us the opportunity to find Allah in every moment of our lives.
[i] The famous Umayyad commander, the governor of Kufa at the time of the Tragedy of 'Ashura and one of the key persons in the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions.
[ii] A famous clan in Medina from which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his progeny are descended.
[iii] An Islamic science through which practical laws and religious duties of a person in his life are studied.
- Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, vol. 2 p. 128.
- imam Sajjad (AS)
- Shadidi, Sayyid Ja'far. Zindigani 'Ali b. al-Husayn. p.75.
- Dhahabi, Muhammad b. Ahmad al-. Al-'Ibar fi khabar, vol. 1, p. 83.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, Kitab al-Kafi, vol.2, p.123.
- Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khalid al-Barqi, Al-Mahasin, vol.2, p.396.
- Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, vol.3, p.296.
- Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, vol.2, p.145.
- Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, vol.3, p.292-3.
- Dhahabi, Muhammad al-. Tadhkirat l-huffaz, vol. 1, p.75.
- imam Sajjad
- Mas'udi, 'Ali b. Husayn al-. Muruj al-dhahab wa ma'adin al-jawhar, vol. 3, p. 160.
- Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, vol.3, p.160.
To address this question, we need first to clarify what we mean by ‘human rights’. Does the term refer to the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UDHR? Or does it simply refer to the rights of humans in a general sense?
To start with, Islam does indeed confirm the basic human rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UHDR. That is to say, rights such as the right to life, freedom, equality, etc. are acknowledged by Islam. However, the way Islam looks at these concepts may be different.
That is probably the reason why the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, the CDHR, was composed some years later. The declaration included nearly the same basic human rights mentioned in the UHDR; what distinguishes the two, however, is the special perspective of Islam on the Human Being and the subject of rights.
Before examining human rights from an Islamic perspective, the following points may be considered: Is the concept of human rights a ‘modern’ phenomenon? Are human societies, let’s say human authorities, to define certain rights for human beings? If so, are these established rights all-inclusive? Can they be applied to every human being regardless of time and place or any other particular circumstances?
It seems that Islam has a distinct perspective on human rights; something that has to be elaborated in more detail.
Firstly, Islam views rights as being inherent in human beings. This means that, according to Islam, God has granted humans certain rights since the very beginning of creation. There seems no need for a group of people to establish rights for human beings; whether it be the United Nations or any other international institution.
This can explain, to a great extent, any dissimilarity between Islam and the UDHR. Accordingly, there may be certain rights recognized by Islam that are not found in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and equally, there may be rights stated in the UDHR that are not recognized by Islam.
If we have a closer look at the Islamic traditions, we realize that not only they have addressed human individual and collective rights in some great detail, but also gone beyond our ‘modern’ definition of the rights of humans! They have introduced something much more valuable, that is, ‘human dignity’!
To begin with, the Holy Scripture of Islam, the Quran, looks upon humans as one endowed with dignity. Human beings’ dignity refers to their advantages. This means that God has endowed them with sublime traits .
"Certainly We have honored the Children of Adam ….. and preferred them with a complete preference over many of those We have created" (17:70).
Also, all humans are children of Adam and are created from clay. They are equal regardless of gender differences, ethnicity, color, etc.
"Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another"(49:13).
There are plenty of writings on the subject of rights in Islamic resources, amongst which Imam Sajjad (AS)’s The Treatise on Rights is one of the best. Imam Ali b. al-Hussain (AS), known as Sajjad (the Often in Prostration) , has left a comprehensive account on the issue . Almost 50 rights and duties are introduced and discussed in this momentous document; it includes various social relations of any individual such as rights of parents, spouses, children, neighbors, teachers, students, believers, the leader of Congregational Prayer, the government, etc. It also defines the duties that humans have towards their ‘self’ and even their organs:
“The right of your ‘self’ (nafs) against you is that you employ it in obeying God.”
“The right of the tongue is that you consider it too noble for obscenity, accustom it to good, refrain from any meddling in which there is nothing to be gained, express kindness to the people, and speak well concerning them.” 
The treatise was written centuries ago, yet it addresses not only the issue of rights in an extensive manner, but also illustrates the ethical principles of citizenship in detail:
“The right of your neighbor is that you guard him when he is absent, honor him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged… if you know of any evil from him, you conceal it…You do not forsake him in difficulty, you release him from his stumble, you forgive his sin, and you associate with him generously”.
“The right of the people of your creed is harboring safety for them, compassion toward them…you should love for them what you love for yourself and dislike for them what you dislike for yourself…” .
Our concise examination of the Islamic viewpoint on the subject of human rights implies that Islam does recognize human rights. Nonetheless, a particular Islamic perspective on human beings as the honored creature of God with specific rights and duties has to be taken into consideration.
- "Statement on Human Rights" (PDF), Retrieved 2017,
- Islami, S. H. (2005). Retrieved 2017, from Noormags
- Javadi Amuli, ‘Abdullah. Sources Of Human Rights In Islam. Retrieved 2017, from
- ‘Life of Imam Sajjad (a.s)’. Retrieved 2017, from http://shiastudies.org/article/imam-ali-b-al-husayn-al-sajjad-beginner
- ‘Risalat al-huquq’. Retrieved 2017, from http://en.wikishia.net/view/Risalat_al-huquq_(book)
- TREATISE ON RIGHTS (RISALAT AL-HUQUQ). Retrieved 2017,