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Journey of Faith: Tracing Imam al-Hussain’s Path from Mecca to Karbala

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Understanding any event is intrinsically linked to knowing its historical details and issues. The journey of Imam al-Hussain’s (AS) caravan towards Karbala and the Ashura event also requires historical examination and understanding of related details.

The Caravan’s Movement from Mecca to Karbala

Destination: The caravan’s destination was Kufa, and the core members of the caravan were fully aware of Imam al-Hussain’s goals, plans, and thoughts. The Imam had provided a clear picture of the path and even its outcome.

Mode of Movement: Quick and hurried, avoiding engagement, moving along the main route, carefully and meticulously, with continuous examination (asking travelers and a thorough inspection of roads and stopping points).

Imam’s Informational Methods: Informing fellow travelers at each stop, especially when new companions joined. Imam Sajjad (AS) says: “My father spoke of his martyrdom at every stop, referring to the story of Prophet Yahya.” Along the way, he gathered necessary information from the travelers of Kufa and the inhabitants of the stopping points.

Road Conditions: The road ahead and behind is insecure. Behind them loomed the threat of Amr ibn Sa’eed ibn Al-‘Aas, the governor of Mecca, and ahead lay the guards and army of the Umayyads. Sheikh Mufid says: “Immediately after hearing the news of Imam al-Hussain’s (AS) movement, from Qadisiyah to Khaffan, Qadisiyah, and Qatqatana, was placed under the strict surveillance of Husayn ibn Numair, the commander of the Kufa guards.”

Enemy Action: Surveillance of main and secondary routes leading in and out of Kufa, full siege of Kufa by approximately four thousand people to prevent the Imam’s caravan from entering, arrest and execution of suspicious travelers by Ubaydullah Ziyad’s intelligence and security patrols.

First Military Encounter: Amr ibn Sa’id, the governor of Mecca, assigned his brother Yahya ibn Sa’id to turn the Imam and his companions back. This group blocked the Imam’s path, saying, “O Hussain, don’t you fear Allah? You’re leaving the community and causing discord!” The Imam continued on his way, and a clash occurred with the Tazianah, during which Yahya’s companions were defeated. In response to Yahya, who condemned the Imam’s uprising, the Imam recited this holy verse: “My deeds are mine and your deeds are yours. You are free of what I do and I am free of what you do!” [10:41]

Yazid’s Action: As soon as Yazid was informed of the Imam’s movement, he wrote to Ubaydullah Ibn Ziyad: “I’ve heard he’s heading towards your land.

  1. Place guards on the roads.
  2. Set spies to report matters.
  3. Write news to me daily.
  4. Anyone who fights against you, fight them.

Notable individuals who did not accompany the Imam:

1. Muhammad Hanafiyya, brother of Aba Abdillah Al-Hussain (AS), whose non-participation has been attributed by some to lack of fortune or disagreement with the martyrs of Karbala. Some have written that he was ill when the Imam left, while others say his fingers were damaged from tightening his armor, and he was unable to wield a sword.

2. Abdullah bin Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib. He endorsed the Imam. At the time of Aba Abdillah’s movement, he was visually impaired or blind. No narration records that the Imam invited him to accompany him, and no infallible person blamed him for not participating in Karbala. Historical evidence explicitly indicates his blindness and his need for a guide during the movement.

3. Abdullah bin Ja’far, the husband of Hazrat Zainab (AS). Like Muhammad Hanafiyya and Ibn Abbas, he was a supporter and advocate of Aba Abdillah, and his sending his two sons to participate in Karbala testifies to his understanding, knowledge, and endorsement. His non-participation has been attributed to blindness or visual impairment.

4. Al-Farazdaq, the poet. He met the Imam at the garden of Bani Amer near Mecca. He and his mother intended to participate in the Hajj pilgrim. After meeting the Imam and explaining the situation in Kufa, the people’s betrayal, and posing several questions about the Hajj rituals, he left the Imam.

5. Abu Sa’id Khudri. He was a companion of the Prophet and participated in twelve invasions and died in 64 or 74 AH. All have praised his prominent character. He defended the leadership of the Commander of the Faithful. His absence at Karbala is not precisely known. The Imams endorsed him, and it appears that an excuse such as old age, brokenness, low vision, etc., was the reason for his non-participation.

Number of Stations on the Route:

Various accounts have been written about the number of stations on the path from Mecca to Karbala. The Imam had short pauses in some stations and overnight stays in others. Some stations are mentioned as being in the same valley. In many historical books, stops at some of these stations have been reported. For example, station 6,7,8,9,10,11,12,14,15,27 (ten stations) was not a transit or stopping point for the Imam. He only stopped at stations where he can settle and gather water.

First Station:

Station Name: Ibn Ma’mar’s garden (also known as Ibn ‘Amir) or also known as Nakhlatain (two palm trees).

Reason for naming: This place belonged to Umar bin Abdullah bin Ma’mar.

Time of arrival: The 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, 60 AH.

Duration of stay: The Imam stayed for a short while at this place.

Features and facilities: This area was located between two valleys, known as Yemeni Palm and Shahi Palm.

Events: In this station, the poet Farazdaq, along with his mother, met Imam Hussain. The Imam asked Farazdaq: “What news do you have of (Kufa)?” He answered: “Hearts are with you and swords are with the Bani Umayyad, and destiny is in Allah’s hands.” Farazdaq asked some questions about Hajj rituals from the Imam and after receiving the answer, he left quickly to perform his Hajj. (Some have written this meeting in other houses, but the meeting in this house is more accurate.)

Second Station:

Station Name: Abtah

Reason for Naming: This name refers to a large floodplain filled with pebbles and sand and also to a wide, flat, smooth, and leveled valley.

Time of arrival: It seems that the entrance to this place is on the same day, the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, (Yawm al-Tarwiyah).

Duration of stay: The Imam lingered in this house for about an hour.

Features and facilities:

1. Flat and level ground suitable for spreading tents.

 2. There were several trees and a water well in this area.

Events:

1. The Imam was informed that Yazid bin Thabit al-Basri came to see him. The Imam got up to see Yazid and his sons Abdullah and Ubaydullah sooner. Yazid also eagerly went to see the Imam. When Yazid returned, he saw the Imam sitting in his place and said: “By the grace of Allah and His mercy, let them rejoice.” [Yunus, verse 58]. Yazid was happy and traveled with his two sons with Imam. The Imam prayed for him. Yazid had ten children, only these two sons participated with him in Karbala.

 2. They also mention the joining of another person who was with Yazid bin Thabit at this place. His name was Aamer.

Third Station:

Station Name: Tanaeem

Reason for Naming: This name is derived from a mountain called “Naem” which is on the left side of this area.

Time of arrival: The same day, the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah.

Duration of stay: A few hours.

Features and facilities:

1. Presence of trees and palm groves.

2. Sufficient water availability.

Events:

 1. It is said that in this Station Abdullah bin Umar (the son of the second Caliph) met with the Imam and warned the Imam about going to Kufa and told the Imam: “I entrust you to Allah, you will be killed on this path”, and he kissed the Imam’s navel three times; it is likely that the visitor was Abdullah Muti, not Abdullah Umar. In this meeting, the letters accompanying the Imam were mentioned.

Fourth Station:

Station Name: Safah

 Reason for naming: The side or edge of a mountain. This indicates that this area is situated at the foot of a mountain.

Time of Arrival: Possibly on the day after, the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, the Imam entered this location.

Duration of Stay: The Imam’s stay at this location was brief.

Features and Facilities: It was located by the main road, on the left side for those who entered Mecca from Masha. It had the characteristic features of mountainous regions.

 Events:

1. The Imam was seen at this station with a shield on his shoulder and a cloak on his arm. Farazdaq described: “I met Hussain in the land of Safah, wearing a cloak on his arm and a shield.”

2. Abdullah bin Amr bin A`ss had a private tent in this place. It seems Farazdaq had met Abdullah in this area.

3. Some believe Farazdaq met Aba Abdullah in this region, but this is not certain.

4. The Imam gave a brief speech expressing his submission to Allah’s decree and will.

Fifth Station:

 Station Name Wadi Ateq

Reason for naming: “Wadi” means a stream or a low-lying area between two hills or mountains, and “Ateq” refers to a wide, expansive stream.

Time of Arrival: 10th of Dhul Hijjah.

Duration of Stay: Very brief and transient, which is why many historical texts don’t mention this place as a station.

Features and Facilities:

1. There were several springs and trees in the area, mainly palm trees.

 2. Scattered large and small flat rocks in the surroundings.

 Events: Some attribute the receipt of the letter from Yahya bin Said bin A`ss and Abdullah Ibn Jafar to this station. In this letter, Yahya introduced himself as sympathetic and asked the Imam to return. The Imam replied (in response to Abdullah Jafar and Yahya): “I saw the Prophet in my dream, and he ordered me to follow this path. When asked: What was that dream? The Imam replied: I have not told anyone, and I will not say until I join my Lord.”

Sixth Station:

Station Name: Zaat Irq

Reason for Naming: “Irq” is the name of a mountain on the way to Mecca. According to the Sunnis, Zaat Irq is the Miqat for the Iraqis and Easterners, while the Shiites believe they should assume ihram from Maslakh, which is further from Mecca.

Time of Arrival: Monday or Tuesday, 13th or 14th of Dhul Hijjah.

Duration of Stay: Due to the importance of this stop and the large crowd, the Imam stayed for about two days.

Features and Facilities:

1. It was located near a mountain.

 2. It was a relatively pleasant area with trees and several wells.

3. There was a significant population there.

Events:

1. Meeting with Bushr bin Ghalib Asadi, who had also come from Kufa and gave the same report as Farazdaq.

2. Meeting with Riyash. Riyash said I saw erected tents. I got closer and heard Hussain bin Ali reading the Quran. I entered and asked the Imam about his journey. He said: The Umayyads threatened to kill me. Here are the letters from the people of Kufa. They will be my killers, but they will suffer humiliation afterward.”

3. Some attribute the meeting with Abdullah ibn Jaffar and the joining of his two sons ‘Awn and Muhammad to this stop as well.

Seventh Station:

 Name of the Station: Uyyun

Reason for Naming: Uyyun is the plural of Ain, which means springs. The abundance of springs and water spots in this area led this land to be named Uyyun.

Time of Arrival: Possibly on Wednesday, the 15th of Dhu al-Hijjah.

Duration of stay: The Imam likely just passed by and had a very brief stop.

Features and Facilities:

1. The area is relatively flat.

2. It had many water pools and wells that were replenished by abundant springs.

 3. There were many trees, especially numerous palm trees.

 Events:

1. The Imam’s meeting with Abdullah bin Muti’ Adawi is attributed to this station. He was digging a well and asked the Imam for help to make the water flow from the well for blessing, and the Imam, with his abundant grace, caused his well to overflow. Abdullah Muti’ expressed his concern about the Imam’s movement and the people of Kufa breaking their promise. The meeting with Abdullah Muti’ is also mentioned at the Hajir station and Ibn Muammar’s garden.

2. The Imam had brief conversations with travelers and passers-by at this stop.

Eighth Station:

 Name of the Station: Ghamra

Reason for Naming: Several meanings are mentioned for Ghamra:

1. Crowded with people as many caravans stopped here.

2. It means a lot of water and a whirlpool. Abundant water is called Ghamra.

3. It refers to the abundance and congestion of goods and merchandise.

4. Ghamra also means severity and hardship. The difficulties of reaching this stop were numerous.

Time of Arrival: Wednesday, the 15th of Dhu al-Hijjah.

Duration of stay: They had a brief stop and moved after fetching water from this region.

 Features and Facilities:

1. Plenty of water accompanied by whirlpools

2. Multiple small ponds

3. Trees and plants.

 Events:

 1. The Imam delivered speeches to others.

2. Like other stations, by discussing the purpose of the journey, he kind of tested people so that those who fear and might lose their worldly life would leave.

 3. He gathered information about the road and asked travelers about Kufa.

Ninth Station:

Name of the Station: Ruhaime (Ruheime)

Reason for Naming: Ruhaime or Rafere Ruhamah means light, soft, and constant rain.

Time of Arrival: The Imam and his caravan were likely to be in this area around the 15th of Dhu al-Hijjah.

Duration of stay: Brief and short

Features and Facilities:

1. The region was inhabited.

2. It was close to Kufa.

3. It was a short distance from the mountain.

 Events:

1. He met with Abu Harireh Asadi, also known as Aba-Hurm. Aba-Hurm asked for the reason for the Imam’s departure, to which the Imam told him about the threat of killing from Yazid, the people’s invitation, and the breaking of the treaty that Muawiya had with Imam al-Hassan (AS).

2. The Imam referred to the insult and violation of Bani Umayyah.

 3. Water was fetched again from this place.

Tenth Station:

Name of the Stop: Hajer (Hajir)

Reason for Naming: Hajer means the custodian of water and a place where water accumulates. It was like a valley.

Time of Arrival: The 15th of Dhu al-Hijjah, one week after leaving Mecca.

Duration of stay: A brief stop for a few hours

Features and Facilities:

1. It was a station for the pilgrims and a part of the Batn al-Rumah area.

 2. Water from several streams met at this point.

 3. There were a few trees in the area.

 4. It was like a valley.

 Events:

 1. The Imam received a letter from Muslim bin Aqeel at this point. The letter was delivered by Qais bin Musahar Saydawi. Muslim bin Aqeel had written about the readiness and acceptance of the people of Kufa. The Imam wrote a reply and gave it to Qais bin Musahar Saydawi to deliver to Kufa. The recipients of the letter were great men such as Sulaiman bin Surad, Masib bin Najaba, Rafa’a bin Shaddad, and Abdullah bin Wal.

2. Some have written that the courier and letter bearer of Aba Abdullah to Kufa was Abdullah bin Yaqter.

 3. Some believed the news of the martyrdom of Muslim and Hani was received at this station, which seems a bit unlikely.

 4. The second meeting of Abdullah Muti’ with the Imam is also attributed to this station.

Eleventh Station:

 Station Name: Khuzimiyah (Huzimiyah)

Reason for Naming: Derived from Khuzimah, attributed to Khuzimah bin Hazem.

Time of Arrival: 18th of Dhu al-Hijjah (Friday).

Duration of stay: One day and night, due to a large number of travelers and suitability of the location.

 Features and facilities:

1. It was one of the Hajj stations.

2. There was a 33-mile distance between it and Th’albiyah.

 3. The area was relatively lush and green, with a few houses and green trees.

Events:

1. At this stop, Lady Zainab (peace be upon her) walked under the starry sky and heard a voice reciting: “O eye, shed tears for the martyrs are taken,

And who shall mourn for the martyrs after me?

 Upon a people whom fate is driving,

By a certain measure, to a promised accomplishment.”

This voice was coming from a jinn and also said: “O sister, everything that Allah has decreed will come to pass. What Allah has destined is inevitable.”

Twelfth Station:

Station name: Shuqouq

Reason for Naming: The term translates to ‘regions’. This area included several small sections.

Time of Arrival: Sunday 19th of Dhu al-Hijjah or Monday 20th of Dhu al-Hijjah.

 Duration of stay: Short and brief

 Features and facilities:

1. The grave of ‘Abadi, the tribal leader of Banu Asad, was located in this area.

 2. There were multiple ponds and wells in this area.

3. It was a resting place for the caravans of the Banu Asad and Banu Nahshal tribes.

Events:

1. The most significant event at this stop was the receipt of news regarding the martyrdom of Muslim bin Aqeel and Hani bin Urwa. In mourning for these two martyrs, the Imam murmured verses that stand as testimony to the unreliability and treachery of the world and its people.

2. Some record Farazdaq’s meeting with the Imam at this water station, although this seems unlikely.

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