Facts about Imam Hussain (AS): A Biography

Throughout the history of humankind, there are not many figures who stood up for all the people whose voice have not been heard, whose rights have been taken away and lives stolen. And there are not many men or women whose apparent defeat turn out to be their ultimate success, immortalizing their message and their actions. Imam Hussain (AS) was one of these rare kinds whose voice is still heard from beneath the ashes of history. A figure whose sacrifices have kindled a light for anyone willing to follow his lead and make this world a better place to live. In what follows, we will have a glance at the life of this eminent Islamic personality.


Imam Hussain's (AS) Birth

Hussain ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib known as Abu 'Abd Allah and Sayyid al-Shuhada' (Lord of martyrs), the third leader (Imam) of Shias, was born on January the 8th on 626 A.D ( 3rd of Shaban, 4th Lunar year (Hijri Ghamari)) [1] in Medina as the second grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) . His father was Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS), the first chosen leader by Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his cousin, and his mother was Lady Fatima (AS), the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) [2]. He was only seven years old when the dear Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP) passed away [3]. 


Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) loved him dearly, and there has remained many accounts in which Prophet(PBUH&HP)  directly admits his love and affection for his grandson, Hussain (AS). For instance, he said: “Hussain is of me, and I am of Hussain, God loves those who love him” [4]. It is also narrated that "When the Prophet (PBUH&HP) was asked whom he loved more among his family, he replied, 'Hasan and Hussain.'" [5] He also used to put him on his lap, kiss him and said, “You are noble, son of a noble person and [will be] the father of noble ones; you are a leader (Imam) and son of a leader (Imam) and the father of leaders” [6].


His Children 


There is disagreement about the number of Imam Hussain’s (AS) children. Some believe he had six children, four boys, and two girls [7]. While others believe it to be nine, six boys, and three girls [8]. Some of the most notable ones who were present in the event of Karbala include Ali ibn al-Hussain (Imam Sajjad (AS)) who becomes the leader after his father’s martyrdom, Ali al-Akbar, the six-month-old Ali al-Asghar, and his daughters Sukayna, Fatima and Ruqayya [i].


Imam Hussain

Some of His Prominent Characteristics 


  • His Regard for The Poor 


Imam Hussain (AS), like his father and grandfather, Imam Ali (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), was never ignorant toward the ones in need and those who struggled for their livelihood. Aside from helping them financially wherever and whenever he could, he always treated them with respect and equal to other people. Once he was passing somewhere when he saw a group of impoverished people who were sitting on their cloaks and eating some dry bread crumbs. They invited him to join them. He kindly accepted and sat down with them, eating whatever they ate. Then he invited them to his house and offered them whatever he had of food [9]. 

Even while praying, he couldn’t turn a blind eye to the request of a needy person. He tried to recite the remainder of his prayer faster so that he could help that person and fulfill his need [10]. He would also pay the debts of those who were struggling with financial problems. For instance, he paid the debt of a dying man to relieve him of the burden of owing another person before his death [11]. After his martyrdom, some old scratches were found on his back, which turned out to be the marks of the heavy bags containing food. He used to carry them on his back every night to give them to the poor without being noticed [12].  



  • His Patience

Imam Hussain (AS) is widely known for his patience in the real sense of the word. First of all, he would not get angry quickly. Even when a Syrian man insulted him and his father, Imam Hussain (AS) didn’t lose his temper. Instead, he forgave him and treated him kindly and with generosity [13]. 

Furthermore, considering the event of Karbala and the many unbearable hardships he and his family went through, such as seeing his children suffering from thirst, martyrdom of his brother, sons and his dear companions and the thought of his family to be taken as a captive, we never see him complaining to Allah or surrendering to this deep pain. This patience, for sure, was the result of his deep faith in Allah and having no doubt in whatever He chooses for him.  


Imam Hussain


Imam Hussain (AS), saw the injustice that was imposed upon the society of his time and realized how what the rulers called Islam was far from the true teachings of Islam. Oppression, tyranny, unjust use of public property, etc. made life miserable for people. Therefore, he stood up against what was wrong. But he never gave up his human virtues for the sake of furthering his purpose. He was courageous for the right cause. Neither was he after usurping the throne, nor manipulating people for his own sake. In that case, He would have been selfish rather than courageous.



  • His Love for Allah and Devotion to Him

Imam Hussain (AS) was known among the people of his time for his sincere and constant prayers and devotions to Allah. He traveled the distance between Medina to Mecca to participate in Hajj rituals twenty-five times in his lifetime on foot. He had a deep affection for the prayer (Salat). It has been narrated that on the night before the battle of Karbala, Imam Hussain (AS) told his brother, Abbas ibn Ali (AS): “Ask the enemy to let us spend this night praying and supplicating to Allah and reciting the Quran. My Merciful Lord knows how much I love praying, reciting the Quran, supplicating and repenting”. Also, in the midst of battle, while the enemy was attacking him and his companions on every side, he stood to perform the midday prayer (Salat al-Dhuhr) in the congregation [14]. 



  • His Exemplary Knowledge 

Imam Hussain (AS) was the inheritor of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH&HP) vast knowledge and foresight. Everyone, whether friends or enemies, admitted this characteristic in him and found no one to be even close to him on this matter. He would answer people’s questions on different issues so wisely and with such command that impressed every person who had heard of it. There remain many sayings and quotes from him, each containing a moral teaching and a lesson that would help us lead a better and more productive life [15].   



The Events Leading to His Uprising

After the death of Muawiah, the caliph of Muslims at the time of Imam Hassan (AS), his son, Yazid usurped the throne. He was the first caliph who was chosen monarchically after Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH&HP) death, and he was far from a suitable choice for the leadership of Muslims. He was an indecent tyrant who did not even follow an Islamic lifestyle in appearance. For instance, he would drink alcohol manifestly; which is a strictly forbidden act in Islam. Thus, Imam Hussain (AS) who lived in Medina at that time refused to accept Yazid’s oath of allegiance, despite Yazid’s threat to behead anyone who refuses to do so [16]. When the governor of Medina came to Imam Hussain (AS) to take his oath of allegiance, he asked for a few days to think and decide. Afterward, he left Medina to Mecca, where still remained some people who did not bend down under Yazid’s forceful allegiance [17]. 

In Mecca, many people were attracted to the intellectual, spiritual, and religious characteristics of Imam Hussain (AS). Also, the notable people in Iraq and especially Kufa who had received the news of Muawiah’s death wrote many letters to Imam Hussain (AS). They asked Imam Hussain (AS) to come to Kufa and accept their political leadership along with their intellectual and religious guidance [17]. Imam Hussain (AS) did not care much about these letters, at first. But when he saw the increasing number of letters sent from Kufa to him, he decided to send one of his relatives, called Muslim ibn Aqil, as a representative, with a letter to the heads of Kufa tribes to validate their invitation. 

Over ten thousands of people of Kufa took the oath of allegiance with Muslim as Imam Hussain’s (AS) representative. So, Muslim wrote a letter to Imam Hussain (AS) and ensured him that Kufa was the right place for Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions to move to [18]. Thus, Imam Hussain (AS) along with his family and some of his companions left Mecca to Kufa. Also, he sent another representative, called Gheis, to Kufa, to inform them of his journey. However, people of Kufa were soon terrified and scattered from Muslim’s side. They even threw Muslim out of the resting place that they had given him before. The new governor captured Muslim and beheaded him [19]. Gheis (the second representative of Imam Hussain (AS)) also reached Kufa and declared Imam Hussain (AS)’s message to people of Kufa. However, the forces captured him and dropped him down from the top of a castle in Kufa [20].

Before his martyrdom, Muslim covertly sent one of his companions to Imam Hussain (AS), to inform him of people’s disloyalty and dishonesty and to stop him from coming to Kufa. But his message and the news of Kufa people’s infidelity, reached Imam Hussain (AS) when he had already left Mecca behind and was on his way to Iraq, near Kufa and Muslim had already been martyred. Imam Hussain (AS) decided to continue his journey toward Iraq and Kufa.

On the 7th of Muharram (10th of October 680 AD), Ibn Ziyad’s army blocked Imam Hussain (AS)’s and his followers’ access to the Euphrates (Furat river). About five hundred soldiers were ordered not to let Imam Hussain’s (AS) followers reach the river. On this night, a number of Imam Hussain’s (AS) companions managed to take some water from the river, and it was the last time they could do so [21]. 


Imam Hussain

The Battle of Karbala and Imam Hussain’s (AS) Martyrdom

On the 9th of Muharram, called Tasu’a, yet another ruthless and cruel commander, named Shimr, came to help Umar ibn Sa’ad’s army. Umar ibn Sa’ad’s army made many attempts to entice Imam Hussain’s (AS) followers and dissuade them from accompanying Imam Hussain (AS). But they did not succeed. On this day, Imam Hussain (AS) and his followers were besieged completely, and their access to water was entirely blocked. They had no water supply anymore. According to some accounts, except for the women and children, those who could fight along with Imam Hussain (AS), were about 72 people.

Imam Hussain (AS) was the last warrior in the battle of Karbala. His companions were all martyred, and he was now alone. It has been said, that for some time the soldiers from Kufa, did not come to fight with Imam Hussain (AS). Perhaps the people of Kufa were ashamed of themselves. Since they were the ones who invited Imam Hussain (AS) and now they were fighting against him. Despite his exhaustion and his wounded body, Imam Hussain (AS) fought against his enemies courageously and powerfully.

Imam Hussain (AS) was losing his strength. A person threw a stone toward Imam Hussain’s (AS) forehead, which made it full of blood. When he wanted to wipe it with his clothes, another soldier shot a poisoned arrow toward Imam Hussain’s (AS) chest. Another strike caused Imam Hussain (AS) to lose his remaining strength and fall on the ground. Shimr ordered his soldiers to give Imam Hussain (AS) the last strike and kill him, but no one dared to do so. Shimr himself came and beheaded Imam Hussain (AS) [22].



Imam Hussain’s (AS) Universal Status through the Centuries

Imam Hussain’s (AS) revolution and the incident of Karbala carried a message for all humankind, of any religion, belief or nationality. His movement not only gives us the lesson of peacefulness but also teaches us to never be silent in the face of oppression and injustice and stand against it despite any difficulty. Thus, despite the passing of so many centuries, he is still held as a hero who can be the perfect role model for those seeking justice and humanity. Every year, on the tenth of Muharram, called Ashura, the day on which Imam Hussain (AS) was martyred, many people from all over the world gather and commemorate his personality and his exemplary movement. Also, millions of people attend the annual gathering of Arbaeen Walk which is a three-day journey on foot, walking the distance between Najaf to Karbala located in Iraq to honor and revive his lasting message of peace and truthfulness.



[i] There are some disagreements about the presence of a girl called Ruqayya as the daughter of Imam Hussain (AS). Some sources, including Lubab al-ansab, a sixth/twelfth-century source, and Kamil-i Baha'i, from the seventh/thirteenth century, report that he had a four-year-old daughter, who passed away in Damascus.



[1] Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 2, p. 555.
[2] http://en.wikishia.net/view/Imam_al-Husayn_b._%27Ali_(a) 
[3] Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 10, p. 369.
[4] Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 3, p. 142.
[5] Tirmizī, Sunan, vol. 5, p. 323. 
[6] Mawsu'at kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Baqir al-'Ulum Research Institute, p.91. 
[7] Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 135. 
[8] Ṭabarī, Dalāʾil al-imāma, vol. 1, p. 74.
[9] Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīnat Damascus, vol. 14, p. 181.
[10] Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīnat Damascus, vol. 14, p. 185.
[11] Muhaddith Nuri, Mustadrak al-Wasa'il, vo.7, p.193.
[12] Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Shahrashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, vol.4, p.66.
[13] Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīnat Damascus, vol. 43, p. 224.
[14] Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 417 & 441.
[15] Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi, Nafasul Mahmum, Relating to the heart rending tragedy of Karbala, p.21. 
[16] Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 338.
[17] Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 34, 36-37.
[18] Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 347 & 395.
[19] Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 53-63.
[20] Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 405. 
[21] Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 86.
[22] Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 453.