When we hear the words “qatalat al-Husayn” (the killers of Imam al-Husayn), most of us think about those criminals who actively participated in the battle of Karbala against Imam Husayn (as), those who raised a sword, dagger, spear, or arrow against him and led directly to his killing. However, there is an interesting story, narrated in the books of Ahl Sunnah as well as the Jafari school of thought which redefines to us the meaning and interpretation of the above words:
It is narrated in Maqtal Al-Husayn. Lil Khwarizmi that Ibn Ramah narrates: “I met a blind man who witnessed the killing of Imam al-Husayn (as). The people used to come and ask him about the reason of his blindness. So he told his story, ‘I had witnessed the killing of Husayn, however I did not strike the sword, nor did I stab or throw an arrow. After Husayn was killed, I returned home and prayed the night prayer and then slept. In my dream I saw someone saying to me, ‘Go answer the Prophet!’ Then I saw in front of me the Prophet sitting in the desert, with his sleeves rolled up, holding a weapon, a rug spread in front of him, an angel before him holding a sword and killing those who were around me fighting on Ashura. Whenever he struck one of them, fire consumed his whole body. I approached the Prophet and kneeled down before him and I said to him ‘Salam alaikum, Oh Messenger of Allah.’ But he didn’t respond back to me and stayed quiet for a while. Then he turned his head up and said to me: ‘Oh Abdullah! You violated my sanctity and did not respect my right, and you committed what you committed!’ So I said to him, ‘Oh Messenger of Allah! I swear by Allah that I didn’t strike the sword nor did I stab with a spear nor did I throw an arrow.’ The Prophet (sa) then replied, ‘That is true. However, by your presence among the ranks of the army, you increased them in number. Hence, come forward!’ I then saw a tub filled with blood. The Prophet (sa) said, ‘This is the blood of my son, Husayn.’ He then took some of that blood and spread it on my eyes. I woke up from my dream and all of a sudden I turned blind and couldn’t see anything till this moment.’”
From this story, it is crystal clear to us that it is not only the actual and physical killers of Imam al-Husayn (as) and those who fought him in the battlefield who will be punished and accounted on the day of Judgment for their evil actions. Even those who did not pick up a sword or actually fight Imam al-Husayn (as) and his companions and family members, they also fall under the category of “killers of Husayn” and will get punished for standing alongside the ranks of Yazid (la) and supporting evil by their physical and moral presence among the crowd. The man in this story did nothing physically to express animosity or hurt someone from Imam al-Husayn’s side, but as the Prophet (sa) said, he increased the number of Yazid’s army by being with them. By standing alongside the enemy, he encouraged the enemy fighters beside him consciously and psychologically making them feel that they are bigger and greater in number. He gave them moral support even in his silence. This was enough in Allah’s (swt) eyes to incriminate such person who stood in a negatively polarized seemingly neutral position which was equivalent to standing up against Imam al-Husayn (as).
We learn that the killers of Imam al-Husayn (as) are of different types, each one committing a different crime with different levels, however all these crimes incriminate them to fall under the label that we mentioned, amongst the killers of al-Husayn (as). What a grave felony and charge in the eyes of Allah (swt)! What is even more surprising is that this same person who failed to support Imam al-Husayn in Karbala is going home and praying the obligatory prayer thinking that he is indeed performing salah, when he has killed the manifestation and walking symbol of salah, represented in Imam al-Husayn! He may have performed the physical salah of rukoo (bowing) and sujood (prostration), but he failed to observe the essential salah by recognizing the Imam of his time and submitting to his guardianship. In our contemporary day, we observe similar phenomena where so-called Muslims with long beards cry out the call of “Allahu Akbar” and memorizing the whole Quran while shedding the blood of innocent Muslims in cold-blood!
In Ziyarat Ashura, we recite, “O Allah, pour curses upon the gang that struggled against al-Husayn, and who supported each other against him, paid homage to his enemies, and participated in slaying him. O Allah, pour curses upon all of them.” We invoke the curse and removal of mercy among different categories of transgressors who hurt Imam al-Husayn (as). One way or another, whether they slayed him or set the stage for his slaughtering, or looked forward to that or supported the enemies, even if watching the enemy execute their evil deed while doing nothing.
And in the well-known Ziyaratul Arbaeen, we invoke “May Allah curse the people who persecuted you. May Allah curse the people who were pleased when they had heard of that.” Even those who hear about the tragedy of Karbala after what happened on Ashura, during that time and in the ages to come, they are also tested in their position whether they support the stance of Imam al-Husayn (as) or the position of Yazid (la). Today, we are tested and questioned which position are we going to take and how will we support our stance by actions and behavior? Furthermore, we recite in Ziyarat Waritha, “May Allah curse the people who saddled up, gave rein to their horses, and prepared themselves to kill you.” All the details which a criminal carries before carrying out their crime or helping others perform their evil deed is enough to earn them eternal damnation.
After the events of Ashura, Sayyida Zainab (as) delivered an eloquent speech addressing the people of Kufa, those who failed to support Imam al-Husayn (as) and betrayed his trust after they invited him. They did not fight Imam al-Husayn, however their crime was that they failed to support him when they are the ones who called him and promised to their allegiance and support. She addressed them, “Beware, for you have sponsored a very wrongful act for which Allah (swt) is totally displeased with you. Without doubt, His wrath shall soon descend upon you. Are you now crying? Yes, by Allah (swt) you must weep because you deserve the tears. Cry immensely and laugh less, for you are contaminated with such shame and disgrace, that you will never be able to wash it off.”
We learn from this story that neutrality when it comes to the position of truth is unacceptable and is equal to standing with falsehood and the silent murder of Imam al-Husayn (as). This is the case not only when it comes to Imam Husayn and the tragedy of Karbala where such an important divine personality, namely the holy grandson of the seal of prophets (sawa), was desecrated and brutally slaughtered along with his family members and companions. It applies to all other cases of injustice and oppression in our world today and in the future. We cannot and should not adopt a neutral position or keep silent because our silence and our presence alongside the oppressors and those supporting falsehood translates into support for them. We must vindicate and disavow ourselves (exercise bara’at) from every case of injustice and oppression that we encounter. Furthermore, we should make every effort to support the oppressed and do what we can to give them aid to the best of our ability. Standing in an idle position watching among the ranks of the oppressors is not permissible. The human conscience and morality begs us to move to supporting the good and oppose the evil.
This issue is of such importance of helping the oppressed that in a Hadith al-Qudsi, Allah the al-Mighty says, “I shall take revenge on the oppressor in this world and the next. I shall take revenge on someone who saw the person being oppressed and was able to help him but did not.” (Tabarani) Allah (swt) also says in the Holy Qu’ran, “…and do not help one another in sin and oppression; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in punishment.” [5:2] Our beloved Imam al-Baqir (as) further explains the type of oppression that one can fall into, “A tyrant and the one who helps an oppressor as well as the one who is pleased with such injustice; all the three are accomplices in the sin.” May Allah (swt) enable us to follow the example of Imam al-Husayn (as) and stand up against every case of oppression with our minds, hearts, tongues, and offer physical support to the best of our ability.