Why should we read about this war?

In spite of constant brutalizing by hands of Islamic armies, for 1300 years we Hindus have remained oblivious to the true nature of the existential threat we as a people face. Understanding this battle will broaden our knowledge of what drives the hate they bear towards us.

So read on –

1342 years ago in 680 CE, in a desolate corner of Arabia, a battle was waged between two mismatched opponents – 4000 against 72. The result was expectedly one sided but the victors lost and lay forgotten in history and the defeated continue to be remembered and mourned by millions.  But this battle was more than that. It was a battle that caused the GREAT SCHISM in the Islamic world – dividing it into two animus sects that continue to be at war ever since.

The prophet of allah had passed on and the era of the 4 Rashidun Khilafa to had come to an end. A new war for the khilafat (de facto ruler of the newly formed Islamic nation) was threatening to erupt and destroy all that had been built.

All except the first rashidun khalifa (Abu Bakr) were assassinated. Assassination of Usman and Ali had created a very unstable situation in the fledging khilafat of islam.  Muawiya, the nephew of usman the 3rd rashidun khalifa had been at loggerheads with Ali for the seat of the khalifa and Ali’s assassination made it easy for him to ascend the throne. He then went on to make the position of Khalifa heredity by appointing his son Yazid as his successor against the agreed terms. The son of Ali, Imam Hussyn was to be khalifa after Muawiya. But Yazid’s appointment went against the agreed terms.

Yazid was a jealous and petty man. Upon taking the throne, he asked Hussyn to swear allegiance to him. Upon refusal he threatened dire consequences. Imam Hussyn had by then migrated to mecca. Here he was informed that the people of Kufa (in modern day Iraq) had sworn allegiance to the imam. The imam sent his cousin Muslim bin Aquil to Kufa to meet the Kufan leaders. Muslim bin Aquil was greeted and celebrated by the people of Kufa. The Kufans declared their support for the imam. Muslim bin Aquil informed the imam that 18,000 kufa residents had declared to fight and die for Imam Hussyn. Against advice of his followers and supporters, the imam took his family and followers on the journey to Kufa.

But Yazid was informed of this. He immediately appointed Ubaid Allah ibn Ziyad to move to Kufa and supress the possible revolt of the Kufans. In his order to Ziyad, he wrote –

“My followers among the people of Kufa have informed me ……. Muslim bin Aquil is in Kufa. Go there and search for him as if you are searching a bead. When you find him, bind him in chains and kill him or expel him. Peace be with you”

The History of AL Tabari : The Caliphate of Yazid bin Muawiya

On one hand the imam left for Kufa and at the same time Ziyad had reached Kufa and let loose a reign of terror on the Kufans till he found Muslim bin Aquil. Under the brutal campaign of Ziyad as the new governor of Kufa, the Kufans deserted Muslim bin Aquil. He was captured and beheaded by Ziyad. The head was sent to Yazid.

Meanwhile, unaware of the changing circumstances, the imam was making his way to Kufa. On the way he met people running away from Kufa. They informed him of the betrayal of Kufans and the brutal death of Muslim bin Aquil.

NOTE – Here the historians differ on whether, the imam proceeded to Kufa to take revenge for the death of his faithful cousin or if he simply ignored the warnings.

Ziyad had by now come to know that the imam with 72 people was on his way to Kufa. He immediately dispatched an army of 1000 men under Al Hurr bin Yazid, to block his way into the city.

Realizing the peril of his situation imam Hussyn wrote to Al Hurr and the Kufans –

 “I have come here because you wrote letters inviting me here……. if you have changed your mind and dislike my presence here, I am ready to go back.”

From the second to the seventh Muharram, Ziyad ordered more troops to Karbala, where Al-Hurr had stopped the imam. The new men were under the command of Umar bin Sa’ad. He was commanded by Ziyad to prevent the imam and his men from reaching to the water. Sa’ad dispatched 500 men to stop the trapped men from accessing the most precious commodity in the dessert -WATER.

Between the 7th to the 10th Muharram, the small band of men, women and children suffered greatly due to the heat in open ground and without any food or water. They continued to refuse surrender to Ziyad or swear fealty to Yazid.

Ziyad wrote to Sa’ad that after “killing Hussyn, his body should be tramped by horses as he was a rebel” Finally on the 10th Muharram things come to a head and Sa’ad launches the final attack. In the ensuing battle the imam and his followers are killed and the women and children taken captive.



The brutal murder of the imam caused great rift in the muslim world and soon led to the great schism in the fledging empire and its people. Those who held the bloodline of the prophet as inviable and holy, came to be known as Shias while the others as Sunnis.


That battle in the dessert may have ended but the battle between the Shias and Sunnis rages on, in every muslim nation, city or locality. The day of mourning is also the day the new religion divided itself and created a new enemy to hate.