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imam hossein
“Let not the unbelievers think that our respite to them is good for themselves, we grant them respite that they may grow in their iniquity; but they will have a shameful punishment.” (3:178)

When we are studying history and historical personalities it is always better to do a comparative study. Knowing the positive and noble figures in history without having sufficient knowledge about the devils with whom they have been fighting, may not give us a thorough concept about that particular event and subsequently may not help us in deducing general laws for which we are basically searching, from studying the history.


You may have heard much about the virtues and excellencies of Imam Husain. For example: “

he along with his brother are the masters of the youth of paradise”.


“Husain is the light of guidance and the ark of salvation”

 …and similar Hadiths which are all narrated from the Prophet (s.a.w.w.). However, we may not have spoken enough about the enemies of Imam Husain and their characteristics, a point which is no less important in judging the event.


Moreover, knowing about the dynasty of Bani-Umaya will help us in finding some of the reasons for which Imam Husain fought against Yazid. Once more I would like to mention that in these series of lectures we are seeking the historic as well as ideological roots of the tragedy of Karbala.


By the way, I am going to introduce to you, from the most reliable sources, the dynasty of Bani-Umaya from which Yazid executed the tragedy of Karbala. In order for you to fully know Yazid, I shall introduce his family tree to you also.


The father of Yazid was Moawia, as the father of Imam Husain was Imam Ali, the first man who embraced Islam. The grandfather of Yazid was Abu-Sofyan, as the grandfather of Imam Husain was the Prophet. The grandmother of Yazid was Hend as the grandmother of Imam Husain was Lady Khadija, the first lady who embraced Islam.

imam hossein

Now let’s start from the top.

Who is Hend, the grandmother of Yazid?

She was known as the wife of Abu-Sofyan. Unfortunately, some historians have quoted that she was known in the pre-Islamic era (the era of Jahiliah) as an unchaste woman, to the extent that her son Moawia was related to four fathers!, Abu-Sofyan of course was the legitimate one and the other three were his friends. 8


Bani-umaya which was led by Abu-Sofyan was a leading Jahiliah tribe in the pre-Islamic era, and Abu-Sofyan was considered the Pharaoh of Mecca. With the appearance of Islam his kingdom began to shake, and hence he became the first enemy of Islam.


The first battle between Muslims and the infidels of Mecca was the battle of Badr, which was organised basically by Abu-Sofyan in which the father of Hend (Otbah), her uncle (Shaybah), her son (Handhalah) who were all killed by Imam Ali and the uncle of Prophet, Hamza. Eight people were killed in that battle from the family of Bani-Umaya.


From that time, Bani-Umaya held a very strong animosity against Islam in general and Imam Ali and Hamza in particular. Therefore, after the battle of Badr, Abu-Sofyan made an oath not to wash his head until he took revenge on Prophet Mohammad. As a result, the second major battle was organised, called the battle of Ohod. Hend, the wife of Abu-Sofyan, who had also lost her father, son and uncle, had appointed a black slave just to kill Hamza, the uncle of the prophet, cut open his chest, remove his liver and hand it over to Hend in order for her to chew it so that she might satisfy her anger, and this she did. Historians have narrated that she mutilated the bodies of the martyred from that battle and made a necklace for herself from the cut noses and ears! 9


A few years later, Abu-Sofyan initiated a campaign against Islam. He mobolised all allied groups and parties including the Jews who were against Islam, to fight Islam. The battle of Ahzab (meaning parties) was the result of that plot, though Muslims fortunately won the battle and all the allied groups were scattered.

imam hossein

Two years before the passing away of the Prophet, the city of Mecca was captured by the Muslim troops and the kingdom of Abu-Sofyan collapsed forever.


Both he and his wife were in Mecca and had not a single doubt that they would be amongst the first to be executed. However, the merciful Prophet of Islam, forgave them all and made an announcement “ Go, you are all free”. Thus, he had no other choice but to embrace Islam, although he never seriously believed.


One day he saw the Prophet passing by, and he whispered to himself saying : ‘I wonder how he defeated me’. ‘By the power of Allah’ replied the Prophet after reading his mind.


In the year 10 after the Hejrat, the Holy Prophet of Islam passed away, and the event of Saqifah took place. Abu-Bakr in a political game became the ruler and Imam Ali was ignored. Abu-Sofyan who was now seemingly a Muslim, though never believed in Islam, came to Imam Ali to pledge allegiance to him. Imam Ali, knowing that he had the intention to split the Muslim community and take advantage of this opportunity for his devilish plans, refused and said to him: “I do not need your support”.


On his way back home, Omar Ibn Khattab, an intimate friend of Abu-Bakr who was later appointed by him as Second Caliph, saw Abu-Sofyan coming from the house of Imam Ali. He immediately informed Abu-Bakr and asked him to pay an amount of charity to Abu Sofyan which would silence him. The proposal was accepted and Abu-Sofyan shook the hand of Abu-Bakr as Caliph.


Abu-Bakr, in return, as a reward, appointed his son Yazid, brother of Moawia, as the commander-in-chief of an army which was dispatched for a battle in the then border of Islam, Damascus. The army of Islam won the battle and Yazid was appointed as the governor of Syria. A few years later, during the reign of the second Caliph, Omar Ibn Khattab, a disastrous plague came to Syria and many people died. Yazid, the governor was also affected and hence wrote a letter to the Federal Government asking Omar to appoint Moawia as his successor. Again the proposal was accepted and Moawia became the governor of Syria and the neighboring states. From that time, the pillars of the Bani-Ummaya dynasty started to become re-established.


Before continuing with the story I’d like to mention a Hadith from the Prophet for you:

Tabari, the famous historian has quoted that the Prophet once saw Abu-Sofyan riding a camel and his two sons, Moawia and Yazid were walking, one in front and one behind the camel.

The Prophet said:

‘May God curse the rider and the one in front and in the back.’10

Years passed by and he was still the governor in Damascus until the third Caliph, Uthman came into power. Things were improving, for Uthman was from the same family tree of Bani-Umaya. Abu-Sofyan was still alive and his dreams were becoming reality, i.e. to rule Muslims and destroy Islam under the mask of Islam.


Therefore, during the reign of Uthman, Moawia had more freedom and designed many plots against Islam. It was during this time that his true nature became apparent and he started drinking alcohol. Obadat-ibn-Samet who was one of the distinguished companions of the Prophet was one day walking in Damascus. He was surprised to see a caravan of camels carrying a liquid which looked like wine. Given the fact that it was an Islamic state, and drinking of alcohol is forbidden in Islam, he asked the leader of the caravan if the liquid was olive oil?! The man answered: No, it is wine and I am delivering the order of Amirul-Mo’menin Moawia! Upon hearing that Obadat ripped off all the skins of wine.

imam hossein

The years passed in this manner and Moawia freely ruled for about 19 years until Uthman was killed by Muslims and they asked Imam Ali to accept the leadership. One of the first duties of Imam Ali was to write a letter to Moawia asking him to resign otherwise he would be sacked, since he didn’t deserve the position. The answer of course was negative, and the battle of Seffin was organised by Moawia against Imam Ali.


Unfortunately, the leadership of Imam Ali did not last long, as after almost four years, the Imam was assassinated. Since then, Moawia became the one and only leader of the Islamic Ummah.


In order for him to seek revenge from Imam Ali and his followers, he put the followers of the Imam under the utmost oppression. The story of Bosr’s raid is one of his crimes. Hamdan was a tribe of Muslims who loved Imam Ali. Moawia appointed his cruel commander, Bosr Ibn Artat to attack the tribe. In a barbaric raid all the men of Hamdan were killed, their houses were set on fire and their ladies, including their children, were taken as prisoners of war and sold in the market as slaves! 11 This is the first time in Islamic history that Muslims were taken as prisoners of war by so called Muslims.12

Other parts of this lecture:

Lecture 1: The Son of the Prophet Was Killed-Why?

Lecture 2 Part A: History, a Source of Human Knowledge

Lecture 2 Part B, Karbala, A living School



Lecture 4  Part A:Obeying the Caliphs

Lecture 4  Part B:Obeying the Caliphs



Other related links:

Some Sayings of the Holy Prophet with Reference to Imam Hussein (as)

Imam Hussein (as) Blessing on us by Nazar Al Qatari

Elegies for Imam Hussein’s Martyrdom (as), Audio

Imam Hussein (as) in other Islamic Sectors

Antoine bara: The value of Imam Hussein (as)


Article Author : Sheikh Mansour Leghaei



8 Ibn- Jozi, Tadhkeratul-Khawas p.116

9 Compare and relate it to the evening of Ashoora.

10 Tabari, Tarikh, 11:357

11 Ibn-Athir, Osdol-Ghabah 1: 180

12 Compare and relate it to the captives of Ashoora

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