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Companions of Imam al-Hussain (a)

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For a deep authenticity and truthfulness when we send peace and salutations upon Imam al-Hussain and his companions and pray, “We wish we had been with you so we would attain a high success,” we need to acquire more knowledge about those individuals and their qualities.


Historians differ in the number of the companions of Imam al-Hussain peace be upon him. Some report it to have been:

  • 72 men, 32 of whom were on horses and 40 on foot (Tarikh al-Tabari, narrated by Abi Mikhnaf from al-Dhahhak bin Abdullah al-Mashriqi)
  • 62 or 72 men from his family and companions (Tarikh al-Ya’qubi)
  • 82 men (al-Khwarazmi)
  • 87 men (Tarikh al-Mas’udi)
  • 100 men (Tarikh al-Tabari, from an eye witness by the name Sa’d bin Ubaidah)
  • 145 men (Tarikh al-Tabari)
  • 600 men, 500 of whom were on horses and 100 on foot (Tarikh al-Mas’udi)[1]

These differences in numbers are due to multiple reasons, the most important of which is that the reports were from the headcount of the companions at different places. Therefore, those who counted 600 also mention that it was at the time when the army of the Imam met the army of Hurr bin Yazid al-Riyahi. Furthermore, those who reported 145 had done so based on their observation on the 2nd of Muharram when the Imam arrived at Karbala, while the reported 100 men were from the 10th of Muharram before the battle took place.[2]

Consequently, the difference between 100 and 72 men might have been because a number of the soldiers from the army of Umar bin Sa’d joined Imam al-Hussain on the night of Ashura, as mentioned by Ibni Tawous in the book al-Luhuf fi Qatli al-Tufouf.[3]


The companions of Imam al-Hussain and those who were martyred along with him were from different age groups, including:

  • Children below the age of 10, some of whom were even infants, such as Imam al-Hussain’s six-month-old son, Abdullah
  • Youth under the age of 20:
  • Abdullah bin al-Hassan who was 11 years of age and was martyred by getting his arms cut off by a sword as he was trying to shield Imam al-Hussain.
  • Al-Qassim bin al-Hassan who was almost 13 years old.
  • Amr bin Junada al-Ansari who was 11 and went to the Imam on the day of the 10th to seek permission for battle. His eminence refused, saying, “Your father was killed during the first round of battle. Your mother will be upset by this.” The young boy answered, “My mother commanded me to this.”[4]
  • Ja’far bin Ali who was 19
  • Youth above the age of 20:
  • Uthman bin Ali, 20 years of age.
  • Abdullah bin Ali, 25 years of age
  • Other members of the Imam’s army in this age group were Abdullah and Ubaidullah bin Yazid Bin Nabeet al-Abdi, who had come with their father.
  • Abdul Rahman bin Urzah or Urwah bin Harraq al-Ghaffari whose grandfather was the companion of Imam Ali[5]

Youth under the age of 40 such as:

  • Abul Fadhl al-Abbas
  • Ali al-Akbar

Men above the age of 40 such as:

  • Imam al-Hussain, peace be upon him, who was 57 during the events of Karbala[6]

Elderly men above the age of 60:

  • Anas bin al-Harith al-Kahili who was one of the companions of the Noble Prophet during the Battle of Badr. His back was hunched from old age, and his eyebrows drooped over his eyes.
  • Muslim bin Awsajah who was also one of the companions of the Noble Messenger
  • Amr bin al-Hamq al-Khaza’i

Social Rank

Among the companions of the Imam were those who were the sahabi of the Noble Prophet, such as Anas bin al-Harith and Muslim bin Awsajah

Great reciters of the Quran such as Burair bin Khudhair al-Hamdani


  • Hurr bin Yazid al-Riyahi who was the leader of the opposing army but later joined the Imam
  • Al-Hilas bin Umar al-Rasibi who was the head of the police force during the time of Imam Ali in Kufa

Heads of tribes

  • Habib bin Mudhahir
  • Abis bin Shabib al-Shakeri

Renowned figures

  • Nafi’ bin Hilal
  • Umar bin Abdullah “Abi Thammama al-Sa’idi”
  • Suwaid bin Umar
  • Servants: Jawn


Among the companions of Imam al-Hussain, some of them were:


  • Aslam al-Turki, the servant of Hurr
  • Wadhih al-Turki, the servant of al-Harath al-Mudhhiji.[7] It has been reported that when Wadhih fell from his horse, Imam al-Hussian rushed to his side and held Wadhih in his arms. When Wadhih opened his eyes, he saw the Imam and said, “Who else has had the honor of having the son of the Prophet of God place his cheek on theirs like I have?”[8]

Arabs of Hijaz such as:

  • Banu Hashim
  • Companions of the Noble Prophet, such as Abdul Rahman al-Ansari al-Khazraji
  • And Junada bin Ka’b bin al-Harath al-Ansari and his son Amr bin Junada

Kufis such as:

  • Anas bin al-Harith
  • Yazid bin Ziyad al-Kindi
  • Abdul Rahman bin Uzrah or Urwah al-Ghaffari
  • Abdullah bin Umair al-Kalbi

Basris (People of Basrah):

  • Yazid bin Thabit al-Abdi al-Basri and his sons, Abdullah and Ubaidullah
  • Amir bin Muslim al-Abdi al-Basri
  • Arabas of the South/Adnan:
  • Habib bin Mudhahir Jablah ibn Ali al-Shaibani


Among the companions of Imam al-Hussain, peace be upon him, there were those who had light skin and those who had dark skin, such as the Imam’s servant, Jawn. When the Imam arrived at his side moments before his death, he held his servant in his arms and said, “O Allah, illuminate his face, make his scent aromatic, and unite him with the household of Prophet Muhammad.”[9] After which, it has been said that whoever passed the battlefield would smell a scent more aromatic than musk.[10]


The companions of Imam al-Hussain were comprised of both men and women. Some of the women were also martyred, such as the wife of Abdullah bin Umair al-Kalbi, who had walked toward her husband’s body after his martyrdom and wiped the blood off of him. She then said, “Congratulations to you that you have been blessed with heaven. I pray to Allah to grant me with heaven where I may be reunited with you.” Upon hearing this, Shimr said to his servant, “Hit her with a pillar.” Thus, he did, and she died on that very spot. She was the first woman to be martyred from among the companions of Imam al-Hussain.[11]

Past Affiliations

Not all of the companions of the Imam were from the same political and ideological background. Some of those who were not affiliated with the Ahlul Bait before the event of Ashura were:

  • Wahab bin Abdullah Jinab al-Kalbi who was reportedly a Christian who had, later on, embraced Islam[12]
  • Zuhair bin al-Qain, who was known to be an Uthmani
  • al-Hurr bin Yazid al-Riyahi who was the general of the Umawi army
  • Sa’d bin al-Harath al-Ansari al-‘Ajlani and his brother Abu al-Hutouf who were known to be Khawarij[13]

Qualities and Competencies

The companions of Imam al-Hussain displayed a great degree of competency and astounding qualities, some of which were:

  • Outstanding combat and military skills
  • Piety and insight
  • Death-defying courage
  • Worship in its finest and highest manner

So much so that Umar bin al-Hajjaj al-Zubaidi who was pro-Umayyad Kufi, said to the Army of Umar bin Sa’d, “Woe be unto you, you fools! Do you know who you are fighting? You are fighting the most adept riders and the people of insight who defy death.”[14]

Adept Riders

They have been described as extremely skillful and dominant in the military field, which was proven through the high number of deaths from the opposing army. 

People of Insight

A description that has been repeatedly mentioned in Nahj al-Balagha meaning that they were the most conscious and aware group of society.

The level of their awareness was best depicted in Karbala, especially through their evident knowledge regarding their defense of Islam and their sacrifice for the endurance of the pure Islam. This is something that we can observe in their words and actions. Some examples of this matter are as follows:

  • Sa’eed bin Abdullah al-Hanafi stated as he entered the battlefield, “Follow Hussain, and you shall meet the Noble Prophet….”[15] Moreover, when he was on the threshold of martyrdom, he said, “O Allah, send my salutations unto Your Prophet, and inform him of the pains of my injuries. For I long for Your reward for aiding the children of Your Prophet.”[16]
  • Zuhair bin Qain discloses the reason for him assisting Imam al-Hussain to one of the generals of the opposing army by saying, “So I decided to help him, and to be in his party, and to lay my life before his. However, what reason do you have for violating the right of Allah and His Prophet?”[17]
  • When he was inviting his tribe to aid Imam al-Hussain, peace be upon him, Habib bin Mudhahir said, “I swear by Allah if any of you is killed in the path of Allah beside the grandson of the Prophet of God, and they were patient, they will be in the company of the Noble Prophet in the highest level of paradise.”[18]

Death Defiant

This describes the pinnacle of their courage and bravery, which brings them to the very doorstep of death without any fear. These attributes can be derived from the qualities Imam al-Hussain mentioned regarding those who wished to join him upon exiting Mecca, “And know that whoever is willing to spill their blood in our path and has prepared themself for their meeting with Allah, should come with us. I am leaving tomorrow morning by the will of God.”[19]

As for their preparation and readiness to meet Allah, the evidence for it was clear on the night of the 10th of Muharram:

  • Burair bin Khudhair was reported to have been joking with Abdul Rahman al-Ansari in a joyful and jubilant manner. The latter said to him, “This is no time for nonsense.” To which Burair responded, “My people know that I have always disliked nonsense. However, now I am happy for that which we will soon meet. By God, the angels are but a strike of a sword away, and I wish for them to strike us now.”[20]
  • Another instance is when Habib came out of his tent smiling, and Yazid bin al-Haseen al-Tamimi gestured to him that this was no time for laughter. Habib answered, “What time better than now to laugh? By God, all it takes is for these tyrants to turn to us and for us to treat them with our swords for an hour, and then we will be among the angels.”[21]

Furthermore, spilling their blood in the path of the Ahlul Bait could be seen in the following examples:

  • When Bashir bin Umar al-Hadhrami was informed that his son Amr was imprisoned al-Dailam in the city of Rey, Imam al-Hussain told him, “You have been exempted from my allegiance. Go and do what you can for the freedom of your son.” Bashir answered, “May the wild animal eat me alive if I leave you.”
  • It has been reported that Imam al-Hussain stepped out of his tent one night and was followed by Nafi’ bin Hilal. The Imam said to him, “O Nafi’, what has brought you out this hour of the night?” He answered, “My lord, I am worried about you coming out at this late hour toward those aggressors.” The Imam responded, “I have come to inspect these hilltops out of fear of an ambush on our camp when the war breaks out.” The Imam then turned around, grabbed his arm, and said, “O Nafi’, will you not take these two mountains and save yourself.” Nafi’ replied, “My master, may my mother mourn for me! If I had a thousand swords and horses, by the God who has blessed me with you in this place, I will not leave you until my swords and my horses give up on me!”[22]
  • In another instance, Abbas bin Shabib al-Shakiri said to Imam al-Hussain, “There is no one on the face of the earth more beloved and dearer to me than you. If I had anything more valuable than my life to repel death and grievance from you, I would have done so.”[23]  During the battle, the enemies scattered out of fear of his bravery, so Umar bin Sa’d yelled at them to throw stones at Abbas. Once he saw this, he dropped his shield and helmet and attacked the enemies. 
  • Sa’eed bin Abdullah al-Hanafi had also said to Imam al-Hussain on the night of the 10th of Muharram, “By God, we will not leave you until Allah would know that we protected you in the absence of the Noble Prophet. By God, if I knew that I would be killed, then I would be brought back to life, then I would be burned, then my ashes would be scattered, and this would be done to me 70 times over, I would not leave you until I meet my death before you. And how could I not do so when it is only one death that comes with a never-ending honor.”[24]


The companions of Imam al-Hussain were known for their worship, so much so that it has been reported that:

  • Suwaid bin Umar was a noble man who prayed a lot
  • Abis bin Abi Shabib would spend time in solitude and nightly vigils
  • Burair was a devoted worshipper
  • Abi Umar al-Nahshali was known for praying a lot and holding nightly vigils

Their devotion to worship and high spiritual state could be clearly observed on the day and night of the 10th, where it has been narrated that Imam al-Hussain, peace be upon him, sent his brother al-Abbas to demand the battle to be postponed, “Go to them, and if you can, postpone the battle until tomorrow. Let them give us tonight so we may pray to our Lord, beseech Him, and ask for forgiveness. For He knows that I love prayer for Him, recitation of His book, abundant supplications, and seeking forgiveness.”[25]

History records the most sublime exhibit of worship on the 10th of Muharram, the year 61 Hijri stating, “Hussain and his companions spent that night in bowing and prostration, standing and sitting in prayer, while their camps sounded like a beehive from the sounds of their supplications.”[26] Additionally, on the noon of the 10th, Imam al-Hussain and his companions drew the most enchanting depiction of worship in the midst of the battlefield. Abu Thammama al-Sa’edi looked at the skies and turned to Imam al-Hussain, peace be upon him, and said, “O Aba Abdillah, may I be your sacrifice, the time for prayer approaches. By God, you will not be killed until I am killed before you, and I wish to meet my Lord while I have performed this prayer.” The Imam then looked up at the skies and responded, “You reminded me of the time of prayer; may Allah place you among those who pray.”[27]

Akram Barakat


[1] Shams al-Deen, Muhammad Mahdi, Ansar al-Hussain Alayhi al-Salam, Beirut, al-Dar al-Islamiyyah, 1981, pp. 44-49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, p. 55.

[4] Al-Muqarram, Abdul Razzaq, Maqtalal-Hussain, Qom, dar al-Thiqafah, p. 253.

[5] Shams al-Deen, Muhammad Mahdi, Ansar al-Hussain, p. 98.

[6] Al-Kulaini, Muhammad bin Ya’qoub, al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 53.

[7] Al-Muqarram, Abdul Razzaq, Maqtal al-Hussain, p. 249.

[8] Al-Amin, Muhsin, A’yan al-Shi’a, Beirut, Dar al-Ta’aruf, 1403 hijri, vol.3, p. 303.

[9] Ibid. vol.1, p. 605.

[10] Al-Bayati, Ja’far, al-Akhlaq al-Hussainiyyah, first edition Anwar al-Huda, 1418 Hijri, p. 286.

[11] Al-Muqarram, Abdul Razzaq, Maqtalal-Hussain, page 242

[12] Shams al-Deen, Muhammad Mahdi, Ansar al-Hussain, page 111

[13] Al-Tabasi, Muhammad Ja’far, Ashura wa ma Talaahaa (Ashura and What Followed), first edition, Beirut, Dar al-Wila, page 32

[14] Shams al-Deen, Muhammad Mahdi, Ansar al-Hussain, page 186

[15] Al-Amin, Muhsin, A’yan al-Shi’a, vol. 7, p. 241.

[16] Ibid. vol.1, p. 606.

[17] Ibid. vol. 7, p. 71.

[18] Al-Majlisi, Muhammad baqir, Bihar al-Anwar, vol.44, p. 387.

[19] Ibid. vol.44, p. 367.

[20] Al-Muqarram, Abdul Razzaq, Maqtal al-Hussain, p. 216.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Al-Amin, Muhsin, A’yan al-Shi’a, vol.3, p. 575.

[23] Abdul Hussain, al-Majalis al-Fakhirah fi Maatam al-‘Itrah al-Tahirah, researched by Muhammad al-Badri, first edition, Qom, Institute of Islamic Knowledge, 1421 hijri, pp. 230-231.

[24] Al-Tabari, Muhammad bin Jurair, Tarikh al-Tabari, Beirut, al-A’lami Institute, vol. 4, p. 338.

[25] Al-Burujerdi, Hussain, Jami’ Ahadith al-Shi’a, vol. 12, p. 498.

[26] Al-Majlisi, Muhammad baqir, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 44, p. 392.

[27] Ibid. vol. 44, p. 398.

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