Imam Hussain is the second son of Imam Ali and Lady Fatima al-Zahra, the brother of Imam Hassan, and most importantly the grandson of the Noble Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny. He became the Imam of Muslims after the martyrdom of his brother Imam Hassan, however, many of his followers, especially those in Kufa betrayed him and joined his enemy’s forces.
In this article, we will take a look at:
The Birth of Imam Hussain
Imam Hussain was born on Sha‘ban 3, 4 AH (January 11, 626). He was the second son of Ali and Fatimah, and the second grandson of the Noble Prophet. Therefore, he was known as al-Sibṭ al-Asghar [السبط الاصغر] (the smaller grandson) while Imam Hassan was known as al-Sibṭ al-Akbar [السبط الاکبر] (The elder grandson).
Gabriel Informs the Prophet of the Fate of Imam Hussain
Narrations state that when Imam Hussain was born, the archangel Gabriel descended on the Prophet and told him what would ultimately happen to his second grandson. Therefore, he told him the story of Hussain’s sacrifice and his encounter with the tyrant of his time Yazid. Gabriel told the whole story of how Imam Hussain at Karbala and how he was left with only 72 companions and martyred innocently, and how his blood saved Islam. The Prophet wept a lot for Imam Hussain and so did Ali and Fatimah after hearing his story. The Prophet had said:
حسین منی و انا من حسین
Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain. 1
Surah Fajr: The Surah of Imam Hussain
It is a well-known fact among Quranic exegetes and based on narrations that surah Fajr is the surah of Imam Hussain, particularly for its final verses, verses 27-30:
يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ﴿27﴾
[To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured soul,
ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً ﴿28﴾
Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him],
فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي ﴿29﴾
And enter among My [righteous] servants
وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي ﴿30﴾
And enter My Paradise.” 2
Verses of the Quran Revealed in Honor of Imam Hussain
Imam Hussain was a very noble personality. Exegetes of the Quran have mentioned several verses that have been revealed in honor of his holiness. For example, verse 33 of surah Ahzab includes Imam Hussain as one of those whom Allah thoroughly purified:
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّـهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا ﴿33﴾
There is no objection whatsoever among exegetes that this part of the verse of surah Ahzab was revealed in honor of the five holy infallibles:
- Prophet Muhammad
- Imam Ali
- Lady Fatimah
- Imam Hassan
- Imam Hussain
The story is told in Hadith al-Kisā’(حدیث الکساء), which reciting it has great reward.
Imam Hussain is Among the Righteous
God says in surah Nisā’ verse 69:
وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّـهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ ۚ وَحَسُنَ أُولَـٰئِكَ رَفِيقًا ﴿69﴾
Whoever obeys Allah and the Apostle—they are with those whom Allah has blessed, including the prophets and the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous, and excellent companions are they! 4
Based on a narration from the Prophet, his holiness said, “What God means by prophets is me, what He means by the truthful is my brother Ali, by martyrs He means my uncle Hamzah, and by the righteous He means my daughter Fatimah and her sons Hassan and Hussain.” Another narrations says that Imam Hussain is also among the martyrs in this verse.
Imam Hussain and the Verse of Mubāhalah
The event of Mubāhalah took place when a group of Christians had a debate with the Prophet over their beliefs. The Prophet said to them that Jesus cannot be the son of God as God cannot take a son as He is needless of a son and it does not befit Him. That is, He is clear of such attributions. However, they did not accept the Prophet’s words, so the Prophet as per God’s command challenged them to an act known as mubāhalah. It means to gather all your followers, then invoke God to send curse and punishment on the liars. The following verse was revealed commanding the Prophet to challenge them to a mubāhalah:
فَمَنْ حَاجَّكَ فِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ فَقُلْ تَعَالَوْا نَدْعُ أَبْنَاءَنَا وَأَبْنَاءَكُمْ وَنِسَاءَنَا وَنِسَاءَكُمْ وَأَنفُسَنَا وَأَنفُسَكُمْ ثُمَّ نَبْتَهِلْ فَنَجْعَل لَّعْنَتَ اللَّـهِ عَلَى الْكَاذِبِينَ ﴿61﴾
Should anyone argue with you concerning him, after the knowledge that has come to you, say, ‘Come! Let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, our souls and your souls, then let us pray earnestly, and call down Allah’s curse upon the liars.’ 5
According to tafāseer, the people who accompanied the Prophet for mubāhalah were:
- His two grandsons: Hassan and Hussain
- His successor, son-in-law, and cousin: Ali
- His daughter: Fatimah
When those Christians saw the illuminant faces of the five infallibles, they yielded and instead opted for paying the jizyah to live peacefully under the auspices of the Muslims.
Imam Hussain and the First Verse of Surah Maryam
The first verse of surah Maryam reads:
Kāf, Hā, Yā, ‘Ayn, Ṣād. 6
This verse comprises of disjoined letters that must be pronounced individually. There is a secret behind every disjoined letter that only God and the infallibles such as the Prophet and his rightful successors know. For this verse it has been said that:
- Kāf stands for Karbala (کربلا), the place where Imam Hussain was martyred.
- Hā stands for halākah (هلاکة) which means perdition and death, as many pure souls were killed in the event of Ashura.
- Yā stands for Yazīd (یزید) the evil tyrant who martyred Imam Hussain.
- ‘Ayn stands for ‘atash (عَطَش) meaning thirst, as Imam Hussain was martyred while he was thirsty and thirst was one of the greatest grievances at the scene of Karbala.
- Ṣād stands for ṣabr (صَبر) which means patience and steadfastness as Imam Hussain exercised great patience in Karbala and so did his sister Zaynab (زَينَب) before, during, and after his martyrdom.
Imam Hussain and the Verse of Mawaddah
In verse 23 of surah Shura (سورة الشوری), God says:
ذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يُبَشِّرُ اللَّـهُ عِبَادَهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ ۗ قُل لَّا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ ۗ وَمَن يَقْتَرِفْ حَسَنَةً نَّزِدْ لَهُ فِيهَا حُسْنًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ شَكُورٌ ﴿23﴾
Such is the good news that Allah gives to His servants who have faith and do righteous deeds! Say, ‘I do not ask you any reward for it except the love of [my] relatives.’ Whoever performs a good deed, We shall enhance its goodness for him. Indeed Allah is all-forgiving, all-appreciative. 7
Indeed, Imam Hussain is one of the relatives and Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet whom it is incumbent on everyone to love, no matter their sect or denomination.
Imam Hussain and the Verse of Iṭ‘ām
God revealed surah Insan in honor of the five infallibles that were living at the same time. That is:
- Prophet Muhammad
- Imam Ali
- Lady Fatimah
- Imam Hassan
- Imam Hussain
Verses 5-9 of this surah are known as the verses of Iṭ‘ām (اطعام):
إِنَّ الْأَبْرَارَ يَشْرَبُونَ مِن كَأْسٍ كَانَ مِزَاجُهَا كَافُورًا ﴿5﴾
Indeed the pious will drink from a cup seasoned with Kafur,
عَيْنًا يَشْرَبُ بِهَا عِبَادُ اللَّـهِ يُفَجِّرُونَهَا تَفْجِيرًا ﴿6﴾
a spring where Allah’s servants will drink, making it gush forth as they please.
يُوفُونَ بِالنَّذْرِ وَيَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا كَانَ شَرُّهُ مُسْتَطِيرًا ﴿7﴾
They fulfill their vows and fear a day whose ill will be widespread.
وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا ﴿8﴾
For the love of Him, they feed the needy, the orphan and the prisoner,
إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّـهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا ﴿9﴾
[saying,] ‘We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We desire no reward from you, nor thanks. 8
Imam Hussain was one of those who made a vow to fast for three days owing to an illness he and his brother were suffering from, and for three nights, when he and the others were about to break their fast, first a needy, then an orphan, and finally a prisoner came at their door and they gave their food to them and broke their fast with only water.
Finally, after three days of eating no food, they all became very weak. Gabriel descended, greeted the Prophet and congratulated him on having such a patient and selfless family and revealed surah Insan to the Prophet. Then, God brought food from heaven for them from which they ate for seven days. You can read more about the story behind these verses in the surah Insan article.
Imam Hussain and the “Marjān” in Surah Raḥmān
God says in the Quran:
مَرَجَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ يَلْتَقِيَانِ ﴿19﴾
He merged the two seas, meeting each other.
بَيْنَهُمَا بَرْزَخٌ لَّا يَبْغِيَانِ ﴿20﴾
There is a barrier between them, which they do not overstep.
فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ ﴿21﴾
So which of your Lord’s bounties will you both deny?
يَخْرُجُ مِنْهُمَا اللُّؤْلُؤُ وَالْمَرْجَانُ ﴿22﴾
From them emerge the pearl and the coral.
Ibn Abbas, the famous Quranic exegete and companion of the Noble Prophet says the following about the tafseer or exegesis of these verses:
What is meant by the two seas are Imam Ali and Lady Fatimah. The barzakh (بَرزَخ) or barrier between the two seas is the Prophet. That which emerges from these two seas are the pearl, Imam Hassan, and the coral, Imam Hussain. They are the two precious jewels and fruits of the marriage between Ali and Fatimah and sources of blessings for the whole world.
- Ḥākim Nayshābūrī (حاکم نیشابوري), al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Ṣaḥīḥayn (المستدرك علی الصحیحین), vol. 3, p. 194.
- Quran 89:24 (Qara’i).
- Quran 33:33 (Qara’i).
- Quran 4:69 (Qara’i).
- Quran 3:61 (Qara’i).
- Quran 19:1 (Qara’i).
- Quran 42:23 (Qara’i).
- Quran 76:5-9 (Qara’i).