Muharram marks the Islamic New Year and the first month in the Islamic calendar. It is one of the holiest months and is observed by entire Muslim community across the globe. The month commemorates the brutal massacre of Imam Husain Ali, grandson of Prophet Muhammad on the 10th day of Muharram. The death is mourned and grieved by the Shia Muslims worldwide. Sunni Muslims observe the day on a quiet note. The assassination took place at the Battle of Karbala, which resulted in the death of Imam Husain and his followers. The Battle of Karbala took place in the year 61 AH/ 680 CE on the 10th day of Muharram. Read on further to know the major events of the Battle of Karbala.
The Shia Muslims considered Imam Husain as their spiritual leader since he was a direct descendent of Prophet Muhammad (grandson of the Prophet). Hence, Shias felt that Imam Husain should lead the community as Caliph (political and spiritual leader) as per the tradition. However, the present ruling Caliph, Mu’awiyah, son of one of the Prophet’s enemies refused to agree Imam Husain as the next Caliph. On the death of Mu’awiyah, the Caliphate passed on to his son, Yazid who demanded Hassan (Husain’s elder brother) and Husain to pay homage (Bay’at) to him and accept him as their rightful leader.
To Yazid’s surprise, Imam Husain refused to swear allegiance to Yazid and decided to travel to Kufa in Iraq to lead his supporters there against the Caliphate. On this side, Yazid ordered his army to stop Husain from reaching Kufa. Both the forces met at Karbala where Husain, together with his entire family and followers, were surrounded Yazid’s large troops. On being countered in such a situation, Husain still refused to swear allegiance and as a result, 72 armed men, 18 family members and 54 supporters were trapped in the harsh desert without water or any other supplies.
In an attempt to avoid bloodshed, Husain appealed to Yazid’s generals for the next eight days to spare them. However, at the dawn of the 10th day, Ashura, Yazid’s troops finally started firing arrows at the camp and the Battle of Karbala began. Unable to resist the onslaught, all the men fell one after the other, including Husain and his brother. The women and children were spared unveiled and barefooted, left to weep and cry for their slain relatives. Husain’s body was decapitated, and his body mutilated and trampled by horses only to turn his chest and back to ground. Husain’s severed head was sent to Yazid on Ashura afternoon, while the heads of other comrades were sent to Kufa.
After the army left Karbala, local people came and buried the deceased bodies there. On the 11th day of Muharram, the captive women and children were loaded onto camels without saddles and moved to Kufa. People gathered at Kufa to see the captives. Some women in Kufa even brought veils for the captive women after knowing that they are relatives of Prophet Muhammad. The tombs of Hassan and Husain have been converted into shrines at Karbala, which are visited by several Shia Muslims across the world every year.