Karbalah – Another Act of Treason

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ANOTHER ACT OF TREASON

Four years later the Shî‘ah of Kûfah attempted to make amends for their desertion of the family of Rasûlullâh sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa-âlihî wasallam. There emerged a group of Kûfans calling themselves the Tawwâbûn (Penitents) who made it their duty to wreak vengeance upon the killers of Husayn. On their way to Syria in pursuit of Ibn Ziyâd they passed by Karbalâ, the site of Sayyidunâ Husayn’ s grave, where they raised a great hue and cry, and spent the night lamenting the tragedy which they allowed to happen four years earlier. Had they only displayed that same spirit of compassion for Husayn when he was so much in need of it the history of Islâm might have taken a different course.

There have been attempts by certain writers to absolve the Shî‘ah from the crime of deserting Husayn. Some find an excuse for them in Ibn Ziyâd’s blockade of Kûfah. S. H. M. Jafri writes in his book ‘The Origins and Early Developments of Shi’ah Islam’:

…it should be noted again that the blockade of all the roads coming into Kûfa and its vicinity made it almost impossible for the majority of those Shî‘îs of Kûfa who were in hiding, and also for those residing in other cities like Basra.2

This explanation of their desertion does not seem plausible when one considers the large number (18 000) of those who had taken the bay‘ah at the hands of Muslim ibn ‘Aqîl. Ibn Ziyâd, as we have seen, entered Kûfah with only 17 men. Even the force that he dispatched to engage the party of Sayyidunâ Husayn at Karbalâ consisted of only 4000 men.3 Furthermore, that force was not recruited specifically for Karbalâ; it was only passing through Kûfah on its way to fight the Daylamites. It is not at all credible to assume that Ibn Ziyâd was able to cow the Kûfans into submission with forces such as these, whom they outnumbered by far. It was rather their own treacherousness and fickleness that led them to abandon Sayyidunâ Husayn. This can be clearly seen in the manner they deserted Muslim ibn ‘Aqîl.

There is also the tendency of claiming that those who deserted Sayyidunâ Husayn were not of the Shî‘ah. Jafri writes:

… of those who invited Husayn to Kûfa, and then those 18,000 who paid homage to his envoy Muslim b. ‘Aqîl, not all were Shî‘îs in the religious sense of the term, but were rather supporters of the house of ‘Alî for political reasons – a distinction which must be kept clearly in mind in order to understand the early history of Shî‘î Islam.4

Jafri’ s motive in excluding the deserters of Sayyidunâ Husayn from the ranks of the “religious” (as opposed to the “political”) supporters of the house of Sayyidunâ ‘Alî is quite transparent. He is clearly embarrassed by the fact that it was the Shî‘ah themselves who abandoned their Imâm and his family after inviting him to lead them in revolt. What leads us to reject this distinction between “religious” and “political” supporters is the fact that Sayyidunâ Husayn himself, on more than one occasion, referred to the Kûfans as his Shî‘ah. There are also the numerous references to the people of Kûfah as the followers (albeit capricious followers) of his father and brother. And were we to assume that many, or even most of them were not Shî‘ah in the “religious” sense, the question which next presents itself is: Where were the real Shî‘ah when their Imâm required their help? Were they only that handful who emerged from Kûfah? It is strange that while there is so much reluctance on the part of the Shî‘ah to accept the deseof Kûfah as their own, they are quite proud and eager to identify themselves with the movement of the Tawwâbûn. The speeches made at the inception of the movement of the Tawwâbûn very clearly prove that they were the same people who invited Sayyidunâ Husayn and then deserted him.5 Their very name is indicative of their guilt in this regard. The attempt by the Shî‘ah to absolve themselves from the crime of deserting Sayyidunâ Husayn is therefore at best nothing more than pathetic.

Karbalâ was not to be the last act of treason by the Shî‘ah against the Family of Rasûlullâh sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa-âlihî wasallam. Sixty years later the grandson of Sayyidunâ Husayn, namely Zayd ibn ‘ Alî ibn Husayn, led an uprising against the Umayyad ruler Hishâm ibn ‘Abd al-Malik. He received the oaths of allegiance of over 40 000 men, 15 000 of whom were from the very same Kûfah that deserted his grandfather. Just before the battle could start they decided upon a whim to ask his opinion about Abû Bakr and ‘Umar. Zayd answered: “I have never heard any of my family dissociate himself from them, and I have nothing but good to say about them.” Upset with this answer, they deserted him en masse, deciding that the true imâm could only be his nephew Ja‘far as-Sâdiq. Out of 40 000, Zayd was left with only a few hundred men. On the departure of the defectors he remarked: “I am afraid they have done unto me as they did to Husayn.” Zayd and his little army fought bravely and attained martyrdom. Thus, on Wednesday the 1st of Safar 122 AH another member of the Ahl al-Bayt fell victim to the treachery of the Shî‘ah of Kûfah.6 This time there could be no question as to whether those who deserted him were of the Shî‘ah or not.

The fact that the thousands of Shî‘ah who deserted Zayd ibn ‘Alî looked upon Ja‘far as-Sâdiq as their true Imâm shows that by and large they were the same as the Ithnâ ‘Asharî, or alternatively Imâmî or Ja‘farî Shî‘ah of today. Why then, if he had so many devoted followers, did Imâm Ja‘far not rise up in revolt against the Umayyads or the ‘Abbâsids? The answer to this question is provided in a narration documented by Abû Ja‘far al-Kulaynî in his monumental work al-Kâfî, which enjoys unparallelled status amongst the hadîth collections of the Shî‘ah:

Sudayr as-Sayrafî says: I entered the presence of Abû ‘Abdillâh ‘alayhis salâm and said to him: “By Allâh, you may not refrain from taking up arms.” He asked: “Why not?” I answered: “Because you have so many partisans, supporters (Shî‘ah) and helpers. By Allâh, if Amîr al-Mu’minîn (Sayyidunâ ‘Alî) had as many Shî‘ah, helpers, and partisans as you have, Taym (the tribe of Abû Bakr) and ‘Adî (the tribe of ‘Umar) would never have had designs upon him.” He asked: “And how many would they be, Sudayr?” I said: “A hundred thousand.” He asked: “A hundred thousand?” I replied: “Yes, and two hundred thousand.” He asked again: “Two hundred thousand?” I replied: “Yes, and half the world.” He remained silent.

Then he said: “Would you accompany us to Yanbu‘?” I replied in the affirmative. He ordered a mule and a donkey to be saddled. I quickly mounted the donkey, but he said: “Sudayr, will you rather let me ride the donkey?” I said: “The mule is more decorous and more noble as well.” But he said: “The donkey is more comfortable for me.” I dismounted. He mounted the donkey, I got on the mule, and we started riding. The time of salâh arrived and he said: “Dismount, Sudayr. Let us perform salâh.” Then he remarked: “The ground here is overgrown with moss. It is not permissible to make salâh here.” So we carried on riding until we came to a place where the earth was red. He looked at a young boy herding sheep, and remarked: “Sudayr, by Allâh, if I had as many Shî‘ah as there are sheep here, it would not have been acceptable for me to refrain from taking up arms.” We then dismounted and performed salâh. When we were finished I turned back to count the sheep. There were seventeen of them.7

It seems from this narration that the tragedy of Karbalâ taught Imâm Ja‘far as-Sâdiq something about those who claimed to be his followers which the Shî‘ah of today are still refusing to come to terms with: that in the trials and misfortunes of the Family of Rasûlullâh sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa-âlihî wasallam the role of the Shî‘ah was as great, if not greater, than that of their physical enemies. It therefore does not come as a surprise that none of the supposed Imâms after Husayn ever attempted an armed insurrection against the rulers of their times. Karbalâ had taught them the fickleness and treacherousness of those who claimed to be their Shî‘ah. It is about them that Imâm Ja‘far is reported to have said:

No one bears us greater hatred than those who claim to love us.8

Imâm Ja‘far is also reported as having said:

No verse did Allâh reveal in connection with the Munâfiqîn, except that it is to be found in those who profess Shî‘ism.9

Before Sayyidunâ Husayn, his elder brother Sayyidunâ Hasan was the victim of the treacherousness of the Kûfans. In his book al-Ihtijâj the prominent Shî‘î author Abû Mansûr at-Tabarsî has preserved the following remark of Sayyidunâ Hasan:

By Allâh, I think Mu‘âwiyah would be better for me than these people who claim that they are my Shî‘ah.10

When Sayyidunâ Hasan eventually became exasperated at the fickleness of his so-called Shî‘ah, he decided to make peace with Mu‘âwiyah. When someone protested to him that he was bringing humiliation upon the Shî‘ah by concluding peace with Mu‘âwiyah, he responded by saying:

By Allâh, I handed over power to him for no reason other than the fact that I could not find any supporters. Had I found supporters I would have fought him day and night until Allâh decides between us. But I know the people of Kûfah. I have experience of them. The bad ones of them are no good to me. They have no loyalty, nor any integrity in word or deed. They are in disagreement. They claim that their hearts are with us, but their swords are drawn against us.10

Imâm Mûsâ al-Kâzim, the son of Imâm Ja‘far, and the seventh of the supposed Imâms of the Shî‘ah, describes them in the following words:

If I had to truly distinguish my Shî‘ah I would find them nothing other than pretenders. If I had to put them to the test I would only find them to be apostates. If I were to scrutinise them I would be left with only one in a thousand. Were I to sift them thoroughly I would be left with only the handful that is truly mine. They have been sitting on cushions all along, saying: ” We are the Shî‘ah of ‘Alî.” 11

If today ‘Âshûrâ will be commemorated as a day of struggle and sacrifice, let it also be remembered as a day of treachery and desertion. When the names of Yazîd ibn Mu‘âwiyah, ‘Ubaydullâh ibn Ziyâd, ‘Umar ibn Sa‘d and Shamir ibn Dhil Jawshan are mentioned and curses invoked upon their memories, then let us not forget the treachery of the Shî‘ah of Kûfah. The time has long been due for the Shî‘ah to reintroduce into their ‘Âshûrâ ceremonies an aspect that was in fact part of the very first commemoration ceremony of the Tawwâbûn. That lost aspect is the admission of their own guilt, along with that of Ibn Ziyâd, Yazîd and others, in the shedding of the holy blood of Sayyidunâ Husayn ibn ‘Alî radiyallâhu ‘anhumâ.

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