6 Signs of Courage in Imam Hussain (AS) and His Revolution

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 [1]. Taking risks is courageous, but knowing why you are risking is even more critical. 



What Makes Courage Different in Islam?



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…


1. Stood up against What Was Wrong


Imam Hussain, courage, Karbala, Muharram


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.



2.Took risks, but not at the Expense of Transgressing Human Values


Imam Hussain, courage, Karbala, Muharram

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 [1].



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 [2]. 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].  



3. Insisted on His Right Cause, not any Cause


Imam Hussain, Karbala, Ashura, courage

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” [6].



4. Was Cautious in his Courage  


courage, Imam Hussain, Muharram, Karbala


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].



5. Despite His Strength was not after Making War


Imam Hussain, the battle of Karbala, peace


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.



6. Was Strong and Patient when he was faced with Difficulty


Imam Hussain, patience, courage, Karbala, Muharram


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”[7]

[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” [5].

[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” [9]

[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.” [3]

[v] Imam Hussain (AS) said, “My revolution aims to reform the society and revive the true teachings of Islam.” [4]

[vi] Imam Ali (AS) said, “ negligence and not having foresight, spoils the courage” [8].



[1] al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p.253.

[2] Ibn Shu'ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-'uqul, p.322.

[3] Ibid. p.239.

[4] Ibid. p.243.

[5] The Islamic Axioms, retrieved from https://www.salamislam.com/content/islamic-axioms/1

[6] https://www.goodreads.com

[7] Abd al-Wāhid b. Muḥammad al-Āmidī, Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p.375.

[8] Ali ibn Muhammad Laithi Vaseti, Oyun al-Hikmah va al-Mavaez, p. 182.

[9] Ibn Abi al-Hadid, The interpretation of Nahj al-Balaghah, vol 20, p.333.