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A Brief Biography of Hadrat Muslim ibn Aqeel (PBUH)

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Hadrat Muslim ibn Aqeel ibn Abi Talib ibn Abdul Muttalib ibn Hashim was a cousin of Imam Ali (PBUH). Muslim was married to Ruqayyah, the daughter of Imam Ali (PBUH), whose mother was Kelabiya. He met his martyrdom in the year 60 AH and was one of the nobles of the Banu Hashim. The Master of Martyrs, Imam Hussain (PBUH), often referred to him as “Thiqah” (the Trustworthy). Muslim was a man of intellect, wisdom, and bravery who resided in Mecca.

When the people of Kufa pledged their loyalty to Imam Hussain (PBUH), Hussain sent Muslim to Kufa to accept their allegiance on his behalf. However, Yazid dispatched Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad to govern Kufa. Ubaydullah forbade the people from pledging allegiance to Imam Hussain (PBUH), scattered them, and ultimately led Muslim to his martyrdom. He was martyred on Dhu l-Hijja 9th 60 in Kufa (September 10680).

Lineage and Family

Muslim’s father, Aqeel, was the son of Abu Talib and was renowned for his knowledge of the Quraysh lineage and his eloquence in Arabic. His mother, according to one narration, was of the Nabatean lineage from the ‘Farzanda’ family, and according to other narrations, was a slave named Aliyah (or Halieh in some accounts) whom Aqeel had purchased from Syria. Muslim’s countenance bore a striking resemblance to the Prophet. Some sources have referred to him as the bravest and most powerful of Aqeel’s sons.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) had a deep affection for Aqeel and always respected him. Whenever Aqeel would visit the Prophet (PBUH), he would express his respect, saying: “Bless you, Abayzid! How are you?” Aqeel would respond, “May Allah keep you well, O Abul Qasim! I am well.” One day, Imam Ali (PBUH) asked the Prophet (PBUH), “O Messenger of God, do you love Aqeel?” The Prophet (PBUH) replied, “Yes, by God! I love him for two reasons: one for himself and the other because of Abu Talib’s friendship with him.” He then looked at Aqeel’s honorable son Muslim and said, “As for his son, he will be killed in the path of love and friendship for your son, and the tears of the believers will fall for him, and the angels close to God’s court will pray for him.” Tears welled up in his blessed eyes and ran down his chest. He then raised his hand towards the sky and said, “I complain to Allah about what will happen to my family after me.”

Imam Zayn al-Abidin (PBUH) also held a deep affection for Aqeel’s family. One day, someone asked him, “Why do you show more affection to Aqeel’s children among your cousins, more than Ja’far’s children?” He replied, “Whenever I remember their sacrifice in the path of Hussain ibn Ali (PBUH), my heart aches and I envy their status.” (Message of Woman, Azar 1388 – No. 213)

Wife and Children

Muslim was married to Ruqayyah, the daughter of Imam Ali (PBUH), and thus, he was Imam Ali’s son-in-law. Some sources also mention a woman from the Bani Amir ibn Sa’sa’a tribe as his wife.

In the event of Karbala, there are several references to Muslim’s children. For instance, when the news of Muslim’s martyrdom reached Imam Hussein (PBUH) between Mecca and Kufa, Ali Akbar (PBUH) suggested that they should return, reminding them of the treachery of the Kufans. Muslim’s children disagreed with this opinion and encouraged the Imam to continue the journey. Additionally, the names of some of his children are mentioned among the martyrs of Karbala. Among them, the martyrdom of Abdullah bin Muslim and Muhammad bin Muslim in Karbala is recorded in ancient sources.

Historical sources vary in the naming and number of Muslim’s children. In less reliable accounts recorded in later sources, the names of several other children of Muslim bin Aqeel, including Aun, Muslim, Ubaidullah, Ja’far, and Ahmad, are listed among the martyrs of Karbala. Some sources also mention two children of Muslim (Muhammad and Ibrahim) who were taken prisoner after the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and were imprisoned by Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad in Kufa. They were martyred after escaping from prison; however, some sources consider them the children of other individuals. Some sources mention other names for some of Muslim’s children; such as Ibrahim, Abdul Aziz, Ali, Muslim, and a daughter named Hamidah or Umm Hamidah.

It is stated that Abdullah bin Muslim, and according to some other narratives, Abdullah and Ali, were the children of Ruqayyah, the daughter of Imam Ali (PBUH).

Muslim bin Aqeel Before the Event of Ashura

Among the prominent moments in the life of Muslim bin Aqeel (PBUH) during the caliphate of Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH), was his participation in the Battle of Siffin in 37 AH.

In this battle, the Imam entrusted the command of the right wing of his army to Imam Hassan (PBUH), Imam Hussain (PBUH), Abdullah ibn Ja’far, and Muslim bin Aqeel (PBUH), and in the left wing, he placed Muhammad bin Hanafiyyah, Muhammad bin Abi Bakr, and Hashim bin Utbah (Hashim Marqal). The heart of the army was led by Abdullah ibn Abbas, Abbas ibn Rabi’a, Malik al-Ashtar, Rafa’ah ibn Shaddad Bajali, Sa’id ibn Qais, and Adi ibn Hatim. He also placed Ammar Yasir, Amr ibn Hamq, Amir ibn Waathilah Kanani, and Qabisah ibn Jabir Asadi in ambush.

His participation in this battle and his placement in the ranks of Imam Hassan (PBUH), Imam Hussain (PBUH), and Abdullah ibn Ja’far clearly indicate that his age was roughly equal to these great individuals and that his name is mentioned among the commanders of the army of Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH). In 37 AH, he was a full-fledged warrior, comparable to those mentioned on the right and left wings and the heart of the army, and was worthy of being chosen by the Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) for this position.

Various biographical books mention Muslim bin Aqeel (PBUH) as the most distinguished companion and associate of Imam al-Mujtaba (PBUH), and historical sources confirm this. Ibn Shahr Ashub writes: “Among the special companions and friends of Hassan bin Ali (PBUH), were Abdullah bin Ja’far, Muslim bin Aqeel (PBUH), Hababa Walibiyya, Hudhayfah ibn Asid, Jarud ibn Abi Bashir, Jarud ibn Mundhir, Abu Makhnaf, Lut bin Yahya, and Sufyan bin Abi Layla.”

Letters of Kufans to Imam Hussain (PBUH)

When the people of Kufa learned about the death of Muawiyah and found out that Imam Hussein (PBUH) had not pledged allegiance to Yazid, they immediately started to investigate Yazid. They then gathered at the house of Sulayman bin Surad Khuzai. As soon as their assembly was complete, Sulayman stood up and began to speak. At the end of his speech, he said: “You have learned that Muawiyah has perished and has gone to his Lord to meet the consequences of his actions. His son Yazid has ascended to power in his place. Hussain ibn Ali, in opposition to him and in order to escape from the tyrannical clutches of the Umayyads, the descendants of Abu Sufyan, set off for Mecca. You, who are his followers and were previously followers of his father, need your support today. If you are willing and ready to support him and fight his enemies, write to him and declare your readiness to invite him to Kufa. But if you are afraid of scattering and weakening in supporting him, do not deceive him.” All in unison said: “We will fight his enemy and we will sacrifice our lives for him.” Thus, the people of Kufa wrote a letter to Hussain bin Ali (PBUH) and sent it with a group along with Abu Abdullah Jadli.

When twelve thousand letters with more than twenty-two thousand signatures from the Kufans reached Imam Hussain (PBUH), he decided to respond to their letters. Therefore, he sent a representative to investigate the situation and gauge the spirit of the people in Kufa. To this end, he wrote a letter for them and sent Muslim bin Aqeel, his cousin and brother-in-law, as his ambassador and representative to Kufa.

Timeline of Hadrat Muslim’s Journey to Kufa Until His Martyrdom

15th Ramadan 60 AH: Thousands of invitation letters reached the Imam, then Muslim bin Aqeel was sent to Kufa to investigate the situation.

5th Shawwal 60 AH: Muslim bin Aqeel entered Kufa, and people welcomed him and started to pledge allegiance to him.

11th Dhu al-Qi’dah 60 AH: Muslim bin Aqeel wrote a letter from Kufa to Imam Hussain, calling him to come to Kufa.

8th Dhu al-Hijjah 60 AH: Muslim bin Aqeel emerged in Kufa with four thousand people, then they scattered around Muslim and he was left alone and hid in the house of Taw’a. Imam Hussain transformed his Hajj into Umrah in Mecca, delivered a sermon to the people, and left Mecca with 82 members of his family and companions towards Kufa.

9th Dhu al-Hijjah 60 AH: Muslim clashed with the Kufans, was then arrested and martyred on the rooftop of Dar al-Imarah in Kufa.

Muslim in Kufa

When Muslim bin Aqeel entered Kufa, he arrived at the house of “Mukhtar bin Abi Ubaidah Thaqafi”, who was a prominent Shia and son-in-law of Nu’man bin Bashir, the governor of Kufa. The Shia who became aware of Muslim’s arrival in Kufa were joyfully going to him and pledging allegiance. On one of the first days when many people had circled Muslim for allegiance, “Abbas bin Shabib Shakiri Hamedani”, who was renowned for his commitment to Shiism, bravery, and eloquence, rose and began to speak, saying:

“Praise be to the exalted Allah who deserves all praise and glory. After that: I will not tell you anything from the people, I do not know what they have in their hearts and how they have attracted your attention. But I swear to Allah that I will inform you of what I have in my heart and I will speak from my hidden conscience. I swear to God! Whenever you call me, I will answer. I will fight with the enemy alongside you. I will wield my sword in defending you until I meet my Lord, and I only seek a reward from the Lord in this endeavor”.

Then Habib bin Muzahir rose, turned to Abbas, and said:

“May Allah grant you the best reward, which is His vast mercy. You have beautifully and wisely expressed what you had in your heart. Then he turned to “Muslim bin Aqeel, peace be upon him” and said: I also swear to Allah that I am on the same decision and thought as Abbas.”

Muslim’s dangerous mission on his journey to Kufa was to investigate whether the city’s great and wise men were ready to support Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, and act according to the letters they had written or not. The news of Muslim’s arrival in the city echoed and the Shia were coming and going to him and pledging allegiance to Imam Hussain, peace be upon him. A large number of Kufan combatants pledged allegiance to Muslim bin Aqeel and gave him hope to continue this divine uprising; until their number reached eighteen thousand. At this time, Muslim wrote a letter to Imam Hussain, reporting on the readiness of the people of Kufa, and invited his Eminence.

The Entry of Ibn Ziyad Into Kufa

The ruler of Kufa, Nu’aman bin Bashir, unlike other governors of Yazid, did not crave to murder and plunder people. Upon hearing about the arrival of Muslim bin Aqeel in Kufa, he cautioned people against defiance and disorder in Kufa’s Grand Mosque. However, Yazid, following consultation with his father’s slave, Serjun, dismissed him from his position and sent Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad to replace him.

Ibn Ziyad, accompanied by five hundred people from Basra, entered Kufa in disguise with his face covered. The people, who had heard that Imam Hussain was moving towards them, upon seeing Ubaidullah, presumed that the Imam had arrived in Kufa. They gathered around his conveyance, warmly and abundantly welcoming him. Ziyad’s son did not respond and continued towards the governor’s palace until he reached it. Nu’aman bin Bashir, who assumed he was Imam Hussain, ordered to close the palace doors and shouted from the top of the palace: “Stay away. I will not hand over the government to you, and I have no intention to wage war against you.” Ibn Ziyad replied: “Open the door.” At this moment, a man who was behind him recognized his voice and informed the people: “He is not Hussain, he is the son of Marjana.” Nu’aman opened the door, Ubaidullah easily entered the governor’s palace of Kufa, and the people dispersed.

At Hani bin Urwa’s House

Muslim knew that sooner or later, Ubaidullah would search every alley and house to arrest and kill him. Therefore, he decided to change his location and go to the house of someone with more power in Kufa, to leverage their influence and power to continue his mission and fight against the oppressive regime. For this purpose, he chose Hani bin Urwa’s house, and Hani, as was the custom of brave young men, provided him sanctuary. Hani bin Urwa was one of Kufa’s prominent figures and Shia notables, considered a companion of the Prophet. According to Masudi, he was a major figure in the Murad tribe, and whenever a conflict erupted, four thousand armored men and eight thousand infantry would rush to his aid, with up to thirty thousand more from other tribes. Hani was present at the battles of Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan alongside Imam Ali (PBUH). In the ideological and belief-based battle of Siffin, he stood by Imam Ali, addressing the misguidance of the misled. Later, according to his combat tactics, he opened his house to the public to provide a safe haven for those aggrieved by the Umayyads’ tyranny.

The Arrest of Hani

After Ibn Ziyad gained control over affairs and somewhat reassured himself about the tranquillity of Kufa, he contemplated capturing Muslim. Therefore, he summoned his special slave, ‘Ma’qil’, and gave him three thousand dirhams to find out Muslim’s location under the pretext of aiding him. Ma’qil took the money and sat in the Kufa mosque with Muslim bin Awsaja. He had heard people say that this man was taking oaths of allegiance to Imam Hussain. Drawing closer, he told him, “I am from Sham and a supporter of the Prophet’s household. I want to send these three thousand dirhams to Imam Hussain, but I can’t find anyone to guide me to him.” Muslim bin Awsaja fell for Ma’qil’s deceptive words and crocodile tears and took him to Muslim bin Aqeel. Ma’qil came and went from Muslim’s presence until he was the first to arrive and the last to leave.

After Ibn Ziyad learned about Muslim’s hideout from his slave, he planned to arrest Muslim’s host, Hani, using money, force, and deception, thereby laying the groundwork for capturing Muslim and other leaders. Hani, who was hosting Muslim, knew that Ubaidullah intended to arrest him. Therefore, he feigned illness and refrained from attending Ubaidullah’s assembly. Ibn Ziyad summoned several men and sent them to Hani. They eventually took Hani to Ibn Ziyad. Upon seeing Hani, Ibn Ziyad told him that he had come to his death of his own accord and asked about Muslim. Hani denied harboring Muslim. At this point, Ubaidullah called his slave, Ma’qil, and upon seeing him, Hani realized that denial was futile. Ubaidullah beat Hani’s face and head with a cane, staining his face and features with his blood. He then ordered Hani to be imprisoned.

Muslim’s Uprising in Kufa

Unaware of Hani’s situation, Muslim sent one of his companions to Dar al-Imara. Upon learning that Hani had been beaten and imprisoned, he asked his herald to raise the rallying cry, ‘Ya Mansoor Amt’ (O the one people rush to aid) among the people. This was a war cry typically used during battle. Soon, four thousand people gathered around Hani’s house. Al-Masudi writes in ‘Muruj al-Dhahab’ that within an hour, eighteen thousand men had rallied around Muslim. He then moved towards Ibn Ziyad’s palace. As Ubaidullah returned from the mosque, he was informed that Muslim had revolted. Immediately, he retreated into the palace, closing its doors and hiding in a corner.

Muslim’s first task was to assemble the people and arrange them as a regular army, organizing them on his left and right and positioning himself at the center. He continued his march towards the palace, urging the people to come to his aid. Before long, a large crowd gathered in the market and mosque. Ibn Ziyad found himself cornered and had no choice but to send someone to summon the elders of Kufa. However, no more than fifty people came to him. Thirty were his guards, and the remaining twenty were prominent people from Kufa and his close associates.

Ibn Ziyad then summoned Kathir bin Shahab, instructing him to go out with the Madh’hij tribe under his command, deter people from aiding Muslim bin Aqeel, and intimidate them from engaging in battle. He also tasked Muhammad bin Ash’ath to go among the people with members of the Kindah and Hadhramaut tribes, who were loyal to him, and disperse the crowd gathered around Muslim. He was to set up a flag of amnesty for those seeking refuge. He issued similar orders to some other troublemakers.

The rest of Kufa’s leaders and people were kept with him, as the number of people in the palace with him was small. In intense fear, he urged the notables with him to go out among the people and promise them many privileges and pardons, and intimidate those who resisted his rule with deprivation and punishment. Kathir bin Shahab spoke extensively on this subject, frightening the people with the danger of an army invading from Sham. As soon as people heard these words, they gradually dispersed and started to return to their homes.

The Gallant Stance of Taw’ah, a Brave Woman

The threats, coaxing, and schemes of Ibn Ziyad resulted in the crowd of four thousand people who had besieged the palace with Muslim dwindling to just thirty by the time of the evening (Maghrib) prayers. After the prayers, not a single person remained with him. During the night (Isha) prayer time, Ibn Ziyad’s heralds proclaimed throughout the city that anyone who failed to attend the mosque for the night prayer would have their blood spilled. Consequently, the mosque, which could hold forty thousand people, filled up, and the night prayer was led by Ibn Ziyad.

In such a situation, within a city that, out of fear for life, wealth, and children, had shifted from besieging Ibn Ziyad’s palace to praying behind him in half a day, amidst the unfaithful men who abruptly abandoned Muslim and forgot him, there was only one woman who honorably upheld her loyalty. This woman fearlessly offered her home as a sanctuary to her Imam’s representative, despite the treacherous and bloodthirsty enemy. This virtuous, faithful woman was Taw’ah.

It’s noteworthy that Taw’ah had been the lifelong slave of Ash’ath bin Qais, one of the most infamous hypocrites of Imam Ali’s era. She lived in an environment of deceit and opposition to the Imam’s household. Moreover, her son Bilal, who was living with her at the time, was one of Ibn Ziyad’s supporters. However, none of these realities influenced her pure heart, which had found the path of divine leadership.

In those critical and sensitive circumstances, she welcomed Muslim into her home and concealed him. When her son Bilal betrayed them and revealed Muslim’s hiding place to the officers, Taw’ah rose to defend Muslim. When she saw the officers planning an attack from behind, she warned him. When she saw him thirsty, she provided him with water and quenched his thirst.

The Karbala Uprising within Kufa

Despite being alone, Muslim remained a source of fear for Ubaidullah and his companions, who wouldn’t venture out of the palace. Consequently, Ubeidallah ordered his men to search the mosque to ensure Muslim was not hiding there. After a thorough search, they confirmed that Muslim and his companions were not there. Ubaidullah then entered the mosque, summoned the Kufan elites, and proclaimed, “Anyone who harbors Muslim in their house without reporting it will have their life and wealth declared free for all. Anyone who brings Muslim to us will be paid the equivalent of blood money as a reward.”

Ubaidullah’s threats and promises were effective. Out of fear and the temptation of the reward, Bilal, Taw’ah’s son, entered the palace early in the morning and revealed Muslim’s hiding place. On hearing this news, Ubaidullah ordered Muhammad bin Ash’ath to arrest Muslim with seventy men.

In the ensuing confrontation with Ubaidullah’s soldiers, Muslim managed to eliminate about forty-five of them before a sword strike tore open his face. Despite being wounded, Muslim was still too formidable for anyone to confront directly. The soldiers took to the rooftops, hurling stones and wood at Muslim and setting fire to hay bundles to throw at him. Yet, Muslim did not give up the fight and kept launching attacks.

Seeing that Muslim couldn’t be captured easily, Ibn Ash’ath resorted to deceit, saying, “O Muslim! Why do you bring death upon yourself? We grant you safety, and Ibn Ziyad will not kill you.” Muslim responded, “What trust can be placed in the promise of you oath-breakers?” Ibn Ash’ath repeated his promise of safety, and this time, due to the wounds he had sustained and the resulting weakness, Muslim surrendered. They brought a horse, bound Muslim’s hands, mounted him on it, and took him to Ubaidullah.

The Voice of Truth before the Tyrant Ruler

Muslim bin Aqeel, the vanguard of the Ashura uprising, was arrested in Kufa. This hero was brought, hands bound, before Ibn Ziyad. He was surrounded by his officers, and the hall was crowded. Muslim greeted the people, but he ignored Ibn Ziyad and did not salute him.

One of the officers asked, “Why don’t you greet the emir?”

“Silence, you motherless one! What concern is it of yours that I should speak!? He’s no emir for me to greet him!” Ibn Ziyad, enraged, retorted, “Fine, don’t greet me. After all, you’ll be killed soon.”

“If you kill me, it doesn’t matter. Someone worse than you has killed a better man than me!”

“Shame on you! You’re a seditious troublemaker, you’ve rebelled against your temporal leader, you’re creating dualism in pursuit of sedition!” Muslim responded, “The people did not choose Muawiyah as caliph; rather, he overpowered the Prophet’s (PBUH) successor by deceit and seized the caliphate. His son Yazid did the same. You and your father were the ones who created sedition.

I hope that Allah will have me martyred at the hands of the worst of His creation, while I am in obedience to Hussain bin Ali (PBUH), who is more deserving of the caliphate than Muawiyah, his son, and the Ziyad clan.” Ibn Ziyad, helpless and angry, retorted, “O debauchee! Weren’t you the one drinking wine in Medina?”

Muslim replied, “One who is deserving of being called a drunkard is the one who kills innocents and indulges in frivolous pleasures.”

“May Allah destroy me if I do not kill you!”

“You have always been bloodthirsty and have always been cowardly and wicked.

I swear by Allah, if I had ten trustworthy people and access to drinking water, you would see that it wouldn’t be long before you found me in this very palace. But now…since you want to kill me, choose someone from Quraysh for me so that I can entrust my will to them.”

The Martyrdom of Hazrat Muslim

The execution of Muslim was entrusted to ‘Bakr bin Humran Ahmari,’ who had been wounded in the head and shoulder by Muslim bin Aqeel’s sword during the conflicts. He was ordered to take Muslim to the roof of the ‘Dar al-Amara,’ behead him, and throw his body onto the ground.

As they were taking Muslim to the top of the Dar al-Amara, he was uttering God’s name, saying takbir, praising God, and sending blessings on the Prophet of Allah and the divine angels. He said: “O God! You yourself decide between us and these deceitful manipulators who withdrew their support from us!”

A large crowd was waiting outside the palace for the outcome of this event. Muslim was positioned facing the shoemakers’ market. With a sword stroke, his head was separated from his body, and… The bloody body of this free and brave martyr was thrown down from that height, and the people raised a great uproar and clamor.

He was martyred on Dhu l-Hijja 9th 60 in Kufa (September 10680).

Virtues of Muslim bin Aqeel

In his solitude and alienation, Muslim defended the school of Imam Hussein (AS) and was able to successfully carry out his mission in Kufa. Muslim was aware, brave, sincere, and faithful, and in the last moments before his martyrdom, he sent his greetings to his Master to fully clarify his existential and essential relationship. Muslim showed that in the way of Allah and the divine school, one must be deaf to danger, obedient to the Imam and the perfect divine human, and do whatever he wanted. One must be a trustworthy, mujahid, and insightful representative for his Imam and his will, and all these virtues and realities were combined in him.

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