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Embodying Faith and Certainty: Imam Hussein’s Actions on Ashura

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Belief in Allah and monotheism are not confined to the mind of a Muslim believer alone, but their influence extends to all aspects of their life. The questions, who is Allah, what is He, and what impact does this knowledge have on a Muslim’s practical life and social stances, reveal the significance and influence of this belief system.

Believing in Allah, affirming that He is the truth, that He only speaks the truth, that He fulfills His promises, that obedience to Him is a duty, that His wrath leads to hellfire, and that He is omnipresent, with every detail hidden or apparent known to Him. His knowledge encompasses all minor and major human actions; in fact, it encompasses all things. A collection of such beliefs, when elevated to the level of “certainty,” becomes the strongest motivator for good and deterrent against evil in a person’s life.

The concept of monotheism is not limited to theoretical thinking and affirmation; it practically transforms into “monotheism in obedience” and “monotheism in worship.”

Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, knew of his martyrdom in advance, he even knew the details of the circumstances of his martyrdom. The Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, had repeatedly mentioned this tragedy. However, this knowledge did not weaken his resolve to continue his path and enter the battlefield of struggle and martyrdom. Instead, it enhanced his love for martyrdom and his eagerness for it.

Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, entered the battlefield of Karbala with this faith and certainty.

He struggled like a lover yearning to meet Allah, exactly as described in the poem that reflects his state of mind:

“I left the creation in Your love, and made my children orphans just to see You.”

Thus, the Imam’s certainty, peace be upon him, was high and steadfast in all matters, especially regarding his resolve for martyrdom. His opinion never wavered due to weakness, nor was his certainty shaken by doubt, even amidst numerous attempts by some of his family, kin, and tribal elders to dissuade him from rising or heading to Iraq, out of concern for his life and fearing persecution. They warned him against heading to Kufa, regarding its people’s treachery and their lack of commitment, reminding him of the injustice his father and brother Hassan had suffered from the people of Iraq.

One of these pieces of advice and pleas would have been enough to cause doubt and weaken the certainty in an ordinary person’s heart. Yet, the Imam’s clear belief, his divine knowledge, and his sincere certainty, devoid of any doubt, in choosing this path and noble destiny, were the reasons for his steadfastness against all attempts to sow doubt, despair, and hesitation, prioritizing submission to Allahs’s command, decree, and will above all else.

When Ibn Abbas advised him to choose any other path than that of Iraq and not to confront the Umayyads, Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, discussing the Umayyads’ intentions, responded: “I am following the command of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his family, wherever he has ordered me, indeed we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.”[1] Here, the Imam linked his decision to the command of the Messenger of God and then recalled it, due to his certainty in the righteousness of his path and his end, and in the truth of God’s promise.

“Certainty” is a clear indicator of faith in the religion, in Allah’s command, and in the ruling of the Sharia. The essence of certainty, wherever it resides, creates a brave and resolute heart that knows no fear. This certainty manifested in the battlefield of Karbala on the Day of Ashura, it fully unfolded in the horizon of Imam Hussain’s camp and his followers; certainty in the righteousness of their path, certainty in the misguidance of their enemies, certainty in the inevitability of the afterlife, judgment, death, and meeting Allah. This certainty directed and propelled resistance, confrontation, struggle, and steadfastness on the chosen path.

The phrase “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un”, which translates as “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return”, also known as “Istirja”, is often uttered upon hearing news of someone’s death or martyrdom, and during every calamity. For Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, this phrase, apart from its known implications, served as a reminder of the higher wisdom of existence, life, and destiny: “from Him and to Him”. Frequently, the Imam would recite this during his journey from the moment he departed from Medina until the hour of his martyrdom, so that this belief would guide every decision and action.

The Imam recited the Istirja repeatedly at the station of Tha’labiya after hearing the news of the martyrdom of Muslim and Hani[2]. It was also in this station that, during noon, the Imam laid his head to sleep and awoke saying: “I have seen a herald saying, ‘You are hastening, and the Fates are hastening you towards Paradise’.”

His son Ali asked him, “Father, are we not on the path of truth?”

The Imam replied, “Indeed, my son, by He to whom all servants return.”

Then Ali said, “Father, then we do not care about death!”

To which Imam Hussain replied, “May God reward you, my son, with the best reward a child can receive from his father…”[3].

His continuous reminders of the fundamental link to Allah, and the inevitable return to Him, were to spiritually prepare his companions for the grand sacrifice for the sake of faith. This is because a fighter, without clear and pure beliefs, cannot remain steadfast till the end, tirelessly defending the truth.

“Certainty” was manifest in the camp of Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, in the “subject”, meaning the clear understanding of the goal, the path, and the circumstances. It also shone through in the “law”, i.e., the duty of jihad and martyrdom, and the fact that such actions were beneficial to Islam under those circumstances. This certainty was equally apparent in their faith in “Allah” and the “Day of Judgment”, a faith which is the primary motivator for advancing onto the field of sacrifice and redemption. We discern this truth in the lines of poetry recited by Wahb ibn Abdullah in his second approach to the battlefield, where he identified himself as “a believer in the Lord”[4] and “assured in the Lord”[5].

Other manifestations of the role of faith in action included monotheism in seeking help and assistance from Allah, blessed and exalted be He, and relying solely on Him.

Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, placed his reliance and trust in Allah alone, not on the messages from the people of Kufa, not on their purported protection, nor on their slogans.

When Hurr ibn Yazid’s army blocked the Imam’s path, the Imam delivered a speech wherein he informed them that he had only come in response to the letters from the people of Kufa. At the end of this speech, he invited them to fulfill their pledge of allegiance, and warned them against breaking it: “And if you do not, and you break your pact, and you abandon my allegiance… then you have erred in your judgment, and you have lost your share, and whoever breaks a pledge, breaks it against his own self, and Allah will suffice apart from you…”[6].

As he journeyed on, Imam Hussain met Dhu al-Hijjah bin Abdullah al-Mashriqi and his companion who informed him of the conditions in Kufa, and how its people were mobilizing to fight against him. His response to this news was: “Allah is sufficient for me, and He is the best trustee”[7].

On the morning of Ashura, as the Umayyad army encircled the camp of Imam Hussein, peace be upon him, he raised his blessed hands in supplication to Allah Almighty, saying:

“O God, You are my trust in every hardship, my hope in every adversity. You are my trust and reprieve in every predicament that befalls me. How many worries weaken the heart, diminish one’s resolve, make friends helpless and allow enemies to rejoice, I have entrusted to You and complained to You. Seeking refuge in You from anyone but You, You relieve and uncover it. You are the benefactor of every blessing, the source of all good, and the ultimate end of all desires.”[8]

This sublime spiritual state presents a splendid manifestation of heart-felt faith in Allah Almighty, and the deeply ingrained certainty in Allah’s support. It shows a pure belief in unity when asking and requesting from Allah.

The primary aim of religious knowledge is to bring people closer to Allah Almighty. This content is also clear in the texts of the Zyarah to the martyrs of Karbala, especially in the Zyarah to Imam Hussein, peace be upon him, passed down from the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt, peace be upon them. In the same Zyarah culture, we find a step towards drawing closer to Allah, which is pure monotheism.

Let’s read, for example, this blessed text from one of the Zyarah’ s to Imam Hussein, peace be upon him:

“O Allah, whoever prepares and readies and equips for a visit to a creature, hoping for his provisions, rewards, extras, virtues, and gifts, towards You, O Lord, is my preparation, readiness, and travel, and to the grave of Your Wali (guardian), I have come. And with his visit, I have sought nearness to You, hoping for Your provisions, rewards, extras, gifts, and virtues…”[9].

In continuation of this noble supplication, we also read this pure monotheistic passage where the visitor humbly says to Allah Almighty, “… so towards You, I have directed, and what is with You, I have desired…”.[10]

These noble texts clearly reveal the monotheistic dimension in Shiite teachings, which consider the tombs of the infallible Imams, peace be upon them, and the visit to the friends of Allah as passageways to pure monotheism, and as acts of worship directed by the divine commandment to commemorate and perpetuate these rituals.


[1] Encyclopedia of the Words of Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, p.231.

[2] The Martyrdom of Hussein, Peace Be Upon Him, by Al-Khwarizmi, Volume 1, Page 328

[3] Bihar Alanwar, Volume 44, Page 367.

[4] Bihar Alanwar, Volume 25, Page 17.

[5] Almanaqib, Shahr Ashub, Volume 4, Pages 109-110.

[6] Encyclopedia of Sayings of Imam Hussein, Peace Be Upon Him, Page 361.

[7] Same source, Page 378.

[8] Bihar Alanwar, Volume 25, Page 4.

[9] Altahtheeb, Sheikh al-Tusi, Volume 6, Page 62.

[10] Same source.

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