Nur Hosain Majidi :
The uprising of Hazrat Imam Hosain (Ra) grandchild of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa aalih - Allah extends greetings to him and his progenies) is viewed in general from an emotional point of view and sometimes due to influence by some narrations such as that of Bishad Sindhu (Sea of Sadness) by famous Bengali novelist Mir Mosharraf Hosain, he is illustrated as a legendary hero. But here we will try to focus upon the true nature and aims of his uprising based on facts without resorting to emotion.
However, it is fact that Imam Hosain (Ra) was a real revolutionary and a brave hero, because he didn't compromise regarding his ideological principles and resisted against the thirty thousand strong enemy forces till the martyrdom of himself and his 72 companions. But he neither fought for power nor did he resort to an armed revolt. He fought only as the last option to defend his ethical and moral rights and his human honour. Otherwise he was a peace-loving true Islamic leader and so tried his best to avoid armed confrontation till the last moment.
Beyond any controversy, from the point of view of Islamic knowledge and morality Imam Hosain (Ra) was the true Islamic leader of his time having all the qualities necessary for an Islamic ruler, on the other hand, as history says, Yazid was void of both Islamic knowledge and morality, rather he had many habits prohibited in Islam including drinking and playing with monkey.
In this perspective when Yazid had inherited his father as the Khaliph of the Islamic world ordered the Umayyad governor of Madina to take oath of allegiance from Imam Hosain in favour of him (Yazid), or kill Imam if he refuses to swear oath.
The Governor summoned Imam Hosain and asked him for oath of allegiance in favour of Yazid. Imam Hosain sought a respite for that night to think over the matter and the Governor accepted.
Here a point we must inculcate that there may be a non-Muslim or a secular ruler in a country he/ she who has come to power through a legal political process whether electoral or hereditary, undoubtedly he/ she is a politically legal ruler, but when a ruler claims to be Khalifatul Muslimeen (Khaliph of the Muslims) or an Islamic ruler he must have above-mentioned Islamic leadership qualities that Yazid hadn't. So as the true Islamic leader, for Imam Hosain it was not possible to acknowledge Yazid as the Khaliph of the Muslim Ummah. Because, if he would accept Yazid as Khalifatul Muslimeen then it would become a bad example for the Muslims for ever to unconditionally accept any sinner and unjust ruler as an Islamic ruler and that would be equivalent to death of Islam. So, if Imam Hosain's aim was to occupy the power he could resort to armed revolt and fight the Umayyad army and try to capture Madina as 'Abdullah ibn Zubayr did in Makka. But he didn't. Because, only the people who would choice their ruler. So he neither sworn oath of allegiance in favour of Yazid nor resorted to armed revolt to occupy the power ; rather, to avoid armed confrontation he with his family-members and close followers left Madina in the darkness of night for Makka ruled by ibn Zubayr.
In the way to Makka and after reaching there, Imam Hosain in his speeches to the people explained the mission of his uprising. He clearly expressed that his uprising was not for occupation of power, but to correct or reform the then existing situation of the Islamic state of his grandfather i.e. Prophet Muhammad (S.'a.w.a.). He tried to make the people aware and told that he was just doing his duty that has been made obligatory in the Holy Quran as "amr bil-ma'roof wa nahyi 'anil-munkar" (suggesting the good ones and discouraging the bad ones). Even in Makka he didn't take any step to form any armed forces to fight against Yazid.
Here one may claim that because Imam Hosain and his male family-members and companions fought in Karbala with their swords, so he had armed forces, though a smaller one. But we should remember that as per Arab tradition of that era carrying a sword for any male for self-defense used to be considered as civil defense weapon, not as military weapon, otherwise there were other military weapons in those days, even 'stone and fire throwing' canons and Umayyad forces used those when attacked Makka and the Holy House of Ka'bah there.
So it is quite clear that the nature of Imam Hosain's uprising was a peaceful civil movement that is accepted by the present day international community as human right and right to expression.
In the mean time several hundreds of dignitaries of Kufah wrote letters to Imam Hosain inviting him to go there and take their leadership. Undoubtedly the leadership they meant was for a civil movement. Otherwise Imam Hosain wouldn't leave Makka for Kufah without forming armed forces.
'Ubaydullah bin Ziyad, the Umayyad governor of Kufah was informed by his spies that Imam Hosain had been in the way to Kufah and as Imam reached Karbala 'Ubaydullah sent an army of thirty thousand men against him. They blocked the way of Imam to Kufah, also water of Euphrates. 'Umar bin Sa'd, the Commander of the Yazidi forces asked Imam Hosain to swear oath of allegiance in favour of Yazid and be free, or face death.
Imam Hosain saw majority of those who had written him letters among the Yazidi forces that means they had retreated from their commitment to follow him. So for him it was no more necessary to go to Kufah. On the other hand, as we mentioned before, it was not possible for him to swear oath of allegiance in favour of Yazid. So he tried to make peace and placed a proposal to his enemy with two options: to allow him to return to wherefrom he had come or to leave the territory dominated by Yazid and migrate to another country. But the enemy accepted none of the two and insisted upon their demand and Imam Hosain rejected. Then on the tenth day of Muharram 61 Hijrah, the Yazidi forces attacked Imam Hosain. Imam and his male family-members and companions fought only to avoid being captive. Imam faced martyrdom along with 72 others. From among the male-members of his family only his son Imam Zainul 'Abedeen survived who had been suffering from severe illness.
Regarding the peace-proposal of Imam Hosain a third controversial option has been mentioned by some sources that Imam be allowed to go to Damascus and meet Yazid so that he could discuss the matter with him.
If we accept it as true then it means Imam wished to meet Yazid as a free person, not as a captive, but the commander of the Yazidi forces hadn't accepted it. So it doesn't make any difference whether Imam had proposed two options or three.
There is no room for difference of opinion regarding the fact that Imam Hosain and his male family-members and companions were killed unjustly. Yet one can be found to try to justify the tragedy of Karbala. Some say that Imam Hosain violated the oath of allegiance and revolted against the legal ruler. So it was not unjust to fight against a rebel until surrender or death. But it is untrue and the argument is a fallacious one.
Because it is an undisputed historical fact that Imam Hosain never had sworn oath of allegiance in favour of Yazid. So, the question of violation doesn't arise. Secondly, also the proposal of the commander of the Yazidi army in Karbala proves the same. Because, the only option for a rebel is surrender and face trial, not the oath of allegiance.
There are some other people who try to justify the role of Yazid claiming that he didn't order to kill Imam Hosain and his male family-members and companions. Also it is a false claim. Because, for a governor ('Ubaydullah bin Ziyad) it was not possible to send a 30 thousand strong army without the order or permission of his ruler (Yazid), particularly against an un-armed small group like that of Imam Hosain's one that was never a military threat, more particularly when Imam was proceeding to Kufah where 'Ubaydullah could easily face him.
On the other hand, previously Yazid had ordered the Umayyad governor of Madina to take oath of allegiance from Imam Hosain and to kill him if refused, so, it was not possible on behalf of the same (Yazid) to issue a softer order to 'Ubaydullah bin Ziyad. Yet if we accept their claim which is void of any historical evidence as a fact, Yazid could punish at least 'Ubaydullah bin Ziyad, 'Umar bin Sa'd (the Commander) and Shimr (the killer of Imam Hosain), but he didn't. So there is no way to justify Yazid.
However, also they claim that Yazid criticized 'Ubaydullah for killing Imam Hosain and told that he hadn't wanted it and behaved humanly with the family-members of Imam Hosain and sent them with honour back to Madina. We don't know how far this claim (i.e. criticism to 'Ubaydullah and human behaviour with the family-members of Imam Hosain) is true, but even if is it true it doesn't prove that Yazid didn't order the same to 'Ubaydullah what he had ordered to the Governor of Madina., Because for a tyrant and unjust ruler like Yazid, after killing an opponent religious leader like Imam Hosain there was no harm to pretend criticizing 'Ubaydullah and showing human behaviour to Imam's family-members, to deceit the people.