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Character Analysis of Imam Hussain (AS)

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Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, the third Imam of Shiites, the martyr of Karbala, is also known as ‘the Avenger of Allah.’ His uprising, known as Ashura, was centered on his self-sacrifice and devotion. Imam Hussain transformed human history with his heroic spirit and selflessness, teaching lessons of freedom and dignity to humanity. By offering his own blood in Karbala, he nurtured the tree of Islam and awakened the Muslim community. Delving into the high and divine character of this hero of the Islamic world, and examining the various aspects of his celestial life, demands a deserving understanding and further exploration. In this article, we will, to the best of our ability, select from the noble moral virtues of that great Imam and his life and words, to provide sustenance for the pilgrims of the path of guardianship.

Life Stages of Imam Hussain:

Childhood

Imam Hussain was the result of the union of Imam Ali and Fatima, the daughter of the great Prophet peace be upon them. He spent six years of his childhood during the time of his noble grandfather, Prophet Muhammad, and was nurtured in his school. He was very humble, submissive, generous, forgiving, kind, and brave.

When Imam Hussain and Imam Hassan were no more than seven years old, the Prophet declared: “These two are the masters of the youth of paradise.”

After the Prophet’s Passing

During this period, his gentle spirit experienced the Prophet’s passing, the heartbreaking martyrdom of his mother, the seclusion of his father, the usurpation of Fadak, and more. Throughout this time, Imam Hussain was always with his father, participating in battles.

In the events of the Nahrawan battle and the other occurrences after the Battle of Siffin, he was everywhere alongside his father, witnessing all the betrayals and weak commitments of people towards his noble father, bearing the bitterness and tragedy of those calamities.

Everyone recognized him for his greatness and nobility. His bravery was the talk of both the masses and the elite. Everyone respected him and revered him.

After the Martyrdom of Imam Ali

During the period of estrangement of the Ahlul Bait after the martyrdom of Imam Ali, Imam Hussain was the leader and guide of the time alongside his brother, Imam Hassan. He was present on the military front and leading the army of Sham when Imam Hassan moved his forces towards Sham. When Muawiya proposed peace to Imam Hassan, Imam Hassan summoned him and Abdullah bin Ja’far and discussed this proposal, and eventually, after the cessation of war and the conclusion of the peace treaty, he returned to Medina with his brother.

During Muawiya’s time and in those challenging conditions where no one dared to object, Imam Hussain stood up to resist and oppose Muawiya’s injustices. Numerous letters were exchanged between him and Muawiya, showing Imam Hussain’s hard and revolutionary stance against Muawiya.

Muawiya, pursuing his widespread activities to establish Yazid as his successor, traveled to Medina to take the oath of allegiance from the people, especially the great figures of the city, among whom Imam Hussain was prominent. However, Imam Hussain gave him a forceful response, which marked the beginning of his opposition to Yazid.

The Noble Character of Imam Hussain (AS)

Courage

Valor and fearlessness in the face of enemies, the daring to confront danger and engage in challenging deeds are amongst the most significant moral traits exemplified by Hussain ibn Ali, peace be upon him, his martyr companions, and the freemen of the Prophet’s household. The martial spirit on the battlefield was deeply rooted in the personal traits and the educational fields of that Imam.

The uprising in Karbala, from its inception to its end, was a manifest demonstration of the Imam’s courage. The firm and decisive stance of Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, in opposing Yazid and refusing to pledge allegiance to him, deciding to move towards Kufa and fight the Yazidians, the unbending morale despite hearing the news from inside Kufa, declaring a readiness to shed blood to revive the religion, fearlessness in the face of the gathered army in Karbala, and the unparalleled martial exploits of Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, and his soldiers and family, the evident warfare of Abbas, Ali Akbar, and Qasim, and hundreds of other heroic scenes, all were manifestations of the courage of Hussain ibn Ali, peace be upon him and his companions, constituting part of the alphabet of the “Ashura culture.”

“The Prophet’s family were exemplars in bravery, strength of heart, and daring. What was absent in their hearts was fear of the enemy.”

Gallantry and Magnanimity

“Special care from Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, the embrace of Zahra, peace be upon her, the upbringing by Ali, peace be upon him, and his personal merits, all converged in Hussain, peace be upon him, creating an exemplar of magnanimity, gallantry, and virtue.

The school of Hussain, peace be upon him, deems the reward for a good deed to be an even superior good deed. Yes, the school of humanity is like this. Those who do not reward goodness will not be human, and those who respond to goodness with evil have not savored humanity.

This is Hussain, peace be upon him, who responds to a fist with a kiss in all situations and narratives, practices kindness with the enemy, owns gallantry and magnanimity, and guides.”

An Example of Imam Hussain’s Gallantry (AS)

While on his way to Kufa, Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, passed through the land of nobility and ordered his companions to collect abundant water and fill all their containers. Obeying the Imam’s command, his companions collected a large amount of water and proceeded. At the next station, named Dhu Husm, they encountered the army of Hurr ibn Yazid Riyahi, who was commissioned to take Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, to Ibn Ziyad. Amidst that severe heat, the cries for water from Hurr’s soldiers, severely thirsty, were loud.

Hussain, peace be upon him, the field champion of gallantry and humanity ordered his companions not only to quench the thirst of the enemy soldiers but also their horses and mounts. Ali ibn Ta’an Muharimi says: “I was the last person from Hurr’s army whom Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, with his own hands, quenched my and my horse’s thirst. As the pressure of water from the waterskin’s mouth was high, His Holiness bent back the edge of the water skin so that the water pressure would decrease, and I could drink water easily.”

Humility

Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, would sit with the poor and needy and say, “Allah does not like the arrogant and the proud.” One day, he came across a few children who were enjoying a piece of bread. The children asked the Imam to join them in their meal. With kindness and affection, the Imam accepted the children’s invitation and dined with them. He then took the children home, fed them until they were full, and provided them with clothes. He then stated:

“Indeed, these children are more generous than me; for they have given everything they could, while I have only given a portion of what I am capable of giving.”

Fear of Allah

The friends of Allah, due to their profound understanding and recognition of His sacred essence, are more fearful than others. This was also the case with Hussain, peace be upon him. It is mentioned in the Ibn Shahr Ashoub’s Manaqib that they asked Hussain, peace be upon him: “How great is your fear of your Lord?” He replied: “No one is safe from Allah’s punishment on Judgment Day, except the one who fears Allah in this world.”

From his supplication on the day of Arafah, we comprehend his profound recognition and fear of Allah. After describing the attributes of the Almighty and the characteristics of the creation of the universe, and his own persona, he recognizes Allah as always present and observant of his actions. As if he could see Him with the eyes of his heart, he states: “May the eye that does not perceive You as its overseer be blind, and woe be to the servant who has not been blessed with a share of Your love!”

The Knowledge of Hussain (AS)

As we know, the knowledge of these nobles is a divine gift. The knowledge of Hussain, peace be upon him, and other Imams, peace be upon them, was due to divine effusion and specific teaching by the great Prophet himself, peace and blessings be upon him. No school in a world filled with ignorance could produce such graduates who were masters in various sciences and fields, and from childhood, were the reference for people and scholars in scientific matters. Even today, their words solve the problems of scholars and philosophers.

The more accurately one observes the states of the Master of Martyrs, the more they realize that an extraordinary insight and divine vision in religious matters guided him. His knowledge is evident from his arguments with the enemies of the Prophet’s household, especially Muawiya, and Marwan, the letters he wrote to Muawiya, the speeches he delivered on various occasions, and from the supplication of Arafah and other supplications reported in both Shiite and Sunni books.

Another point gleaned from the narrations is that Hussain, peace be upon him, was a prolific narrator. Even though there were many companions of the Prophet who transmitted narrations, people left them all and came to the gathering of Hussain, peace be upon him.

The reports narrated by Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, about his knowledge, saturated enthusiasm, strength of instinct, creativity, and logical firmness, are more numerous than can be counted. He was such a decisive and sharp-minded person that he would express his views and issue religious edicts that baffled people to the point that Abdullah bin Umar said about him, “Verily, Hussain, peace be upon him, drinks knowledge.”

The Generosity of Hussain (AS)

Numerous stories have been narrated about the dignity, generosity, and benevolence of Hussain, peace be upon him. We will mention two instances as examples:

  1. Amr bin Dinar narrates that Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, went to visit Usama bin Zaid when he was sick. He saw him in distress and inquired about the reason. Usama said: “I owe sixty thousand dirhams.” The Imam said: “I take responsibility for paying it.” Usama expressed his fear of dying before repaying his debt. Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, said: “You will not die before I pay off your debt.” And before Usama’s demise, the Imam paid his debt.
  2. Anas says: “I was serving Imam Hussain, peace be upon him when his maid brought a flower branch and presented it to the Imam. He said: “I have freed you for the sake of Allah.” Anas says: “I told him: A flower branch is not worth enough to free her for it! Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, said: “God has taught us this etiquette as He says: ‘When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally.’ And freeing the maid was a better response.”

The Asceticism of Imam Hussain (AS)

The best indicator of total asceticism and the belittlement of the worldly life is the sacrifice and self-renunciation of Imam Hussain. He laid down his life along with those of his young men, brothers, companions, and friends, bearing all manner of calamity and disaster.

If one does not deem the world and its wealth and blessings worthless, one cannot persist steadfastly in the path of truth and Allah’s religion. They cannot uphold their noble goals to the extent that they witness their loved ones cut down piece by piece, hear the cries of the bereaved and children, yet remain firm and steadfast in aiding Allah’s religion, showing no weakness against falsehood.

Imam Hussain (PBUH) was not one to neglect the lofty interests of Islam for the pleasures of worldly life. He did not acquiesce to the establishment of an oppressive and infidel regime by taking the vow of silence, nor did he shirk the important responsibility assigned to him by Allah.

Alaaeli states: “Imam Hussain (PBUH) was unique and grand in this regard. He belittled worldly life, feared not death, and was devoted to nothing but Allah’s proof, to which he sacrificed everything.”

The Role of Prayer in Imam Hussain’s (AS) Life

Prayer is one of the highest forms of spiritual connection with Allah and one of the greatest manifestations of His remembrance. This spiritual connection, even in struggle and jihad, gives morale to the mujahid in God’s path, as Imam Ali (PBUH) told one of his companions in the Battle of Siffin: “I fight these people for the sake of prayer.” Likewise, Imam Hussain (PBUH) was a steadfast prayer-goer, as reflected in his visitations:

“I bear witness that you are the one who maintains the prayer and pays zakat.”

In his journey to Karbala alongside Hurr’s army, another heavenly manifestation of Imam Hussain’s (PBUH) devotion to prayer emerged. He stated:

“He knows that I have always loved prayer.”

Imam Hussain (PBUH) and his companions spent the eve of Ashura in prayer, supplication, and prostration, standing and sitting, waiting for dawn.

When noon arrived on Ashura, Abu Thumama Sa’idi reminded the Imam that it was time for prayer. “I wish to meet God having performed this prayer,” he said. The Imam looked up at the sky and replied, “You reminded of prayer; may Allah count you among those who maintain prayer and remembrance. Yes, it’s indeed the beginning of prayer time. Ask them to cease fighting so that we may pray.”

Another glorious facet of Ashura was the martyrdom of Imam Hussain’s companions during prayer. It’s reported that Sa’eed bin Abdullah Hanafi was martyred while praying on the Day of Ashura. He stood before Imam Hussain (PBUH) to shield him from the arrows coming from left and right. By the time the Imam finished his prayer, Sa’eed bin Abdullah Hanafi had been struck by so many arrows that he fell to the ground and ascended to the high station of martyrdom.

Followers of Aba Abdullah’s (PBUH) movement should prioritize prayer, particularly the mourners of Imam Hussain (PBUH), who should not sacrifice the religious duty of prayer for the recommended rituals of chest-beating and mourning. They must remember that prayer is the key to gaining the intercession of Hussain (PBUH).

Kindness to His family

Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) showed the utmost respect and kindness in his interactions with his family – his wives and children. Historian, ‘Aqqad, writes: “Imam Hussain was among those who held the strongest affection for his children and showed the best feelings towards his wives. It is said that about his faithful wife, Rabab, and his sweet-talking daughter, Sakina, he used to say: ‘By my life, I love a house that hosts Sakina and Rabab. I love these two and spend my wealth for them, and no one can reproach me for this affection and friendship.'”

This love and sincerity are what solidify the foundation of a family, preventing its shaking and collapse. The result of this loyalty and intimacy of the Imam with his wife can be seen in her conduct after his martyrdom.

Rabab was one of the faithful wives of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) who never separated from him until his final moment. She bore the burden of her noble husband’s martyrdom, carried it on her shoulders, and brought it home. Rabab survived for more than a year after Imam Hussain, mourning her husband all this time; she didn’t take shelter from heat or cold until she passed away in the grief of Hussain.

Respect for the Brother

Imam Hussain held his brother, Imam Mujtaba (peace be upon him), in high esteem. He always stood shoulder to shoulder with him, ensuring no rift ever occurred between the two brothers. What one did, the other approved and accepted.

As quoted from Imam Baqir (peace be upon him), Imam Hussain held his brother Imam Mujtaba in such high regard that he would never speak in his presence.

Unity and consensus were always maintained between the two brothers. When Imam Mujtaba made a peace treaty with Muawiyah, Imam Hussain upheld his brother’s pact. Even when his brother was martyred and Iraqis wrote numerous letters to Imam Hussain, inviting him to dethrone Muawiyah and pledge allegiance to him, Imam Hussain, in response to these letters, considered his brother’s peace treaty as his own and rejected their offers.

Golden Leaves from the Words of Imam Hussain

The noble words of our master, Imam Hussain, are like an ocean from which we have taken a mere fingertip of its vastness in this section.

1.”In situations where justice binds you, be patient with what you dislike, and in cases where your desires call you, restrain yourself from what is unjust, and yet you love it.”

Message:

  • Always stand by justice, even if it proves detrimental to you.
  • Show restraint against the whims of your desires!

2. “Those who love you keep you from malice, while those who are your foes flatter you.”

Message:

  • One of the barriers to reaching perfection is having a bad friend.
  • Spare no effort in choosing a good friend!

3. “If one seeks to gain something through disobeying Allah, they will lose what they hope for sooner and confront their fears quicker.

Message:

  • You might seemingly profit from sin, but its repercussions will soon catch up to you.

4. “Know that the ugliness and beauty of the world are like a fleeting dream, and true awakening is on the Day of Judgment. Whoever attains salvation in the hereafter is eternal, and whoever falls into divine punishment on the Day of Judgment will be eternally tormented.

Message:

  • Do not be enchanted by the apparent beauty of the world!
  • The pleasures of the world are transient.
  • “O child of Adam! Your lifespan is not eternal, each passing day shaves off a piece of your existence.”

Message:

  • Pay attention to the passing of your life!
  • Wake up from the slumber of negligence!
  • Utilize your life wisely while you have the chance!

6. “Never be beguiled by the world as it cuts off the hopes of those who rely on it and leaves those who covet it, in failure.”

Message:

  • Do not be captivated by the world.
  • Don’t prefer the world over God’s desires!
  • Let not the deceiving beauties of the world alienate you from spirituality.

7.“Engaging oneself in frivolous activities is a sign of lack of wisdom and ignorance.”

Message:

  • Be forward-thinking!
  • Consider the worldly and eternal benefits before starting any task.

8. “Live by moral values and strive to acquire the wealth of good fortune. You won’t value what you didn’t rush to obtain.”

Message:

  • Hasten to reach moments of good fortune.

9. “Sitting with the wise and thoughtful is a sign of accepting truth, and speaking with those lacking thought is a sign of ignorance.”

10.“Don’t force yourself to bear what you cannot handle.”

Message:

  • Consider all aspects of a task before accepting it.
  • Choose a job that matches your abilities and talent!

11. “I swear by God! Calamities, poverty, destitution, and slaughter seize our friends very quickly, just as horses in a race or the rapid flow of floods toward lowlands.”

Message:

  • One way to test believers is through trials and tribulations.
  • Hardships sometimes come from God’s grace to His servants.
  • Those closer to God will face more trials.

12. “Whoever wears the clothes of bad people, God will turn His face away from them on the Day of Judgment.”

Message:

  • Clothing should be appropriate to one’s social standing.
  • Wearing unusual attire can make you appear ostentatious.
  • Dress in accordance with your social identity.

Imam Hussain’s Behavioral Charter in the Realm of Management

This discussion examines the behavioral aspects of Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, in the context of managing the incident of Ashura and its alignment with modern management principles.

Imam Hussain, possessing the necessary qualifications for leadership, led the uprising of Ashura impeccably, from beginning to end, and even beyond, considering all managerial skills.

A review of the Ashura uprising reveals that Imam Hussain displayed all the duties of a manager, such as decision-making, planning, organizing, directing, supervising, and coordinating in his leadership. These will be briefly addressed:

1. Decision Making

Imam Hussain, in his pursuit of the principle of enjoining good and forbidding evil, refrained from pledging allegiance to Yazid and categorically rejected it. When Yazid’s forces pressured him, he decided to leave Medina and establish himself in Mecca, the divine sanctuary, to voice his protest to the Muslims. He then responded to the general invitation of the people of Kufa. In other words, by going to the battlefield and sacrificing his and his children’s and companions’ lives, he revived the principle of enjoining good and revealed the embodiment of evil; namely, Yazid’s reign.

Being aware of the ultimate outcome of his decision (uprising), from the beginning and along his journey, he logically rejected any opposition and suggestions to withdraw and alternative solutions, firmly implementing his initial decision; a decision made with awareness and necessary foresight of the consequences.

Now, centuries later, we realize that all other suggestions and solutions such as pledging allegiance to Yazid, uprising in Medina, taking refuge in Mecca, seeking amnesty from the governor of Mecca, fleeing to remote areas, and the like, would not only have lacked the valuable and precious results of the saga but also would have had unpleasant outcomes for the Islamic society. The difference between Imam Hussain’s decision and others lay in the fact that those suggesting other ways were only looking at the surface. They assessed victory and defeat with ordinary calculations and superficial evaluations. They assumed that the aim of the Imam’s uprising was to overthrow Yazid’s rule and establish a government, being unaware of the underlying truth and reality of the matter.

2. Planning

Proper and fundamental planning is rooted in two essential principles.

A) Precision in Goal Setting: On the day Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) departed from Medina, he articulated the objectives of his movement in a will addressed to his brother, Muhammad Hanafiyyah, as follows:

“[Let the people of the world know] that I am not an ambitious individual, a disruptor, a corruptor, or an oppressor (I have no such goals; my uprising is a call for reform). I have risen to reform the Ummah of my grandfather, to enjoin good and forbid evil, and to emulate the path of my grandfather and father.”

In summary, the end of this phase of the uprising is repeatedly symbolized by martyrdom. Among his expressions are, “If the faith of my grandfather is not to be saved but by my death, then, O swords, come and take me.”

Also, he declared: “Anyone who is ready to offer his heart’s blood for our cause and prepare himself for martyrdom in meeting the truth should join our journey.”

As can be discerned from Imam Hussain’s (peace be upon him) words, the ultimate goal of the uprising can be summed up in one word: the life and preservation of Islam.

B) Forecasting and Scheduling: In the aftermath of Yazid’s demand for allegiance, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) had a keen foresight of the circumstances. From the start to the end of his movement, he focused on awakening the Islamic community and exposing the actions of the Umayyad rulers, especially Yazid.

Undoubtedly, the journey of the Prophet’s family, women, and children through arduous routes and deserts, from Medina to Mecca, and from there to Karbala, was designed to stir the emotions of the people and raise questions in the public mind, the fruits of which were revealed later. Therefore, on the eve of his journey from Medina to Karbala, the Imam referred to two phases of his struggle; one being martyrdom (the military operation) and the other captivity (the cultural operation). He also referred to his grandfather’s prophecy which said: “Allah desires to see you martyred…and the women (other companions) taken captive.”

Based on this, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), in pursuit of his uprising’s goals, proceeded thoughtfully and strategically. All his plans were measured and carried out with a long-term perspective.


3. Organization

The movement’s process was divided into short-term plans (including actions and predictions of potential incidents, pursued with valuable objectives and results) and long-term plans (in the form of the captivity of the Imam’s children and family). Between these two plans, the main program was the bloody epic of the Day of Ashura.

The short-term plan began with these objectives:

  • Articulating the principles, foundations, and nature of the movement to set it as a model for future generations.
  • Explaining the goals and validity of the movement.
  • Documenting the Ashura movement in history.
  • Gathering intelligence about the enemy and the operational area.
  • Attracting and preparing operational forces for the day of Ashura.

Despite the challenges of women’s and children’s participation, the Imam’s long-term plan to elucidate and expand the Hussaini epic was highly effective. The Imam placed this heavy burden upon the shoulders of his son, Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him), and his esteemed sister, Zainab (peace be upon her), both of whom beautifully accomplished this mission. This revealed the corruption and bloodshed of the Umayyads and Yazid and solidified the Hussaini movement.

4. Coordination

In the Ashura movement, there was harmony between Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his companions. All were aligned in their efforts to achieve unity with truth and to fulfill their duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil alongside Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).

All the companions followed the movement’s leader, performing similar activities. On the day of Ashura, they stood in united ranks, displaying their unity and harmony till their last breath. There was no contradiction observed in their actions.

5. Leadership

The leadership in Imam Hussain’s (peace be upon him) movement was based on religious principles and values. Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him) mentioned some of these principles in his fiery speech in the city of Sham and Yazid’s palace. He not only introduced the infallible family, particularly the movement’s leader, Aba Abdillah al-Hussain (peace be upon him), but also exposed the corrupt and unworthy face of the Umayyads, particularly Yazid.

Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him) referred to certain conditions and characteristics of leadership in a part of his speech, which we discuss below:

“O people! Allah has blessed us with six things: knowledge, patience, youthful bravery, eloquence, courage, and love in the hearts of the faithful.”

God bestows these characteristics only on certain individuals who are tasked with guiding mankind. By studying the life of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his movement, we find that His Holiness possessed all the qualities of a worthy leader.

6. Supervision

On the night of Ashura, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) left the tent area and approached the enemy’s camp. When someone asked why he was approaching the enemy camp at this late hour, the Imam replied, “I have come to examine the hills around the tents, so the enemy may not have any hidden points to use for an attack or to repel yours.”

Another activity of the Imam’s army on the night of Ashura was preparing their weapons for the next day.

In this way, we see that the Imam supervised all stages of the operation. His Holiness led and managed the movement using the most correct managerial principles and implemented detailed and calculated plans to prevent any potential distortions by the Umayyads to extinguish the movement.

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