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The Deserters of Husayn & Zayd

Posted by answersforshiafriend on September 26, 2012

After the tragic incident of Kerbala, the Shî ah of Kûfah attempted to make amends for their desertion of the family of Rasûlullâh . 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 bayah 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.

If we are 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 deserters of Kûfah as their own, however on the other hand, 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 .

Sixty years later the grandson of Sayyidunâ Husayn, namely Zayd ibn Alî ibn Husayn, (See the Zaidi Shias) 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.

One Response to “The Deserters of Husayn & Zayd”

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