The Most Vivid Portraits of Gallantry and Sacrifice (Part 1)
On the tenth of Muharram (Ashura), the Imam said the last Dhuhr (noon) prayer before he was martyred. Most of his comrades in arms were martyred earlier that day, in the exchanges of volleys of arrows between the combatants. Thus, he was left with the immediate members of his family and a small band of his companions. The fighting force of the Imam totaled some seventy-two warriors. And yet, despite their small number, they were enjoying high morale and showing exemplary gallantry.
Being the commander of this small army, Imam Hussein did not show any sign of weakness or despondency. He planned for the showdown with the enemy by positioning three main groups of his soldiers into a central segment (the heart), right and left flanks, as any other regular army did in those circumstances. Zuhair bin al-Qayn was appointed commander of the right flank, Habib bin Mudhahir was charged with the responsibility of defending the left flank. His brother al-Abbas (A.S) was made the standard-bearer.
The companions of Imam Hussein (A.S) were eager to start the fight. However, the Imam was insistent on not launching the first strike, leaving it to the enemy to do so. That starting shot came at the hands of Omar bin Sa’ad.
Ibn Sa’ad was keen on holding both the spiritual and the materialistic at the same time. He was aspiring to securing Ibn Ziyad’s offer of appointing him the governor of Ray, but without staining his hands with the blood of Imam Hussein. Because of this soul-searching and struggle to subdue his inclinations, he embarked on a string of letters to Imam Hussein with a view to avoiding the bloodshed. When the news reached Ibn Ziyad, he wrote to him a stern letter, ordering him to quickly kill the Imam. He threatened him that he would sack him and appoint someone else in his place, should he choose to ignore his instructions.
Ibn Sa’ad could not rid himself of his bondage to the materialistic world. So, since he was given a choice between this world and the next, he opted for the former, selling his faith in return. Thus, he acquiesced to the order of Ibn Ziyad. In so doing, he demonstrated dishonorable qualities and treachery and committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind. In order to show his loyalty to Ibn Ziyad, especially in the light of the latter’s receiving many reports accusing him of showing reluctance in fighting the Imam, he embarked on a killing spree, massacring the Progeny of the Prophet (A.S). When the two adversarial armies pitched their fighters opposite one another, Ibn Sa’ad took a bow and arrow from one of his bowmen, or archers, placed an arrow in the bow and shot in the direction of Imam Hussein’s camp, remarking, “Bear witness for me with the Prince [Ibn Ziyad] that I was the first one to shoot]”.
Another of the Imam’s companions was Aabis bin Shibeeb ash-Shakiri, who was filled with high spirit and valor. He took the centre stage of the battlefield and issued a challenge to the army of Ibn Ziyad, if there was any one among them who was prepared to fight him in one-to-one combat. No one dared to respond to his challenge. Having repeated his call several times, but to know avail, and realizing that the coat of arms and headgear he was wearing were proving cumbersome, he parted with them. Thus, he mounted attacks on the enemy soldiers who were fleeing before him. They were not able to kill him, only by stoning him and shooting him with torrents of arrows. Thus, he was martyred.
By:Martyr Murtuza Mutahhari
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