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The heroes of Karbala

The heroes of Karbala - their stories and personalities

Mrs. Zainab daughter of Imam Ali

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Imam Hussain's sister is undoubtedly Karbala's most famous personality after Imam Hussain.

Mrs Zainab was the ideal person to take over the leadership of the rebellion after her brother's martyrdom as this position was earmarked for her from the day she was born.

Most of the accounts point to the fact that Mrs. Zainab had been prepared to take on this role all her life even though she witnessed all the horrific incidents that she experienced from the loss of her brothers, family members and companions.

She witnessed all the sad deaths of, among others, her grandfather; the Prophet Muhammad, and her parents Mrs. Fatima Al-Zahra and Imam Ali. Not least this deep sorrow was confirmed in Karbala with the martyrdom and murder of both Imam Hussain and Abbas before her eyes.

However, these abominations and monstrosities did not stop her from carrying on the message of protecting justice and dignity.

May God raise the stage of Mrs. Zainab for the sufferings she has had to endure after the martyrdom of her brothers and children in the plain of Karbala.


Abbas son of Imam Ali

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Since childhood, Abbas has been a true brother to Imam Hussain, despite not having the same biological mother.

Abbas' mother made sure to always remind her son Abbas of his duty to protect Hussain, not only because they had the same father; Imam Ali, but also because Imam Hussain was the chosen "imam" as a term for a religious leader.

Imam who had to be obeyed according to the religious obligation. Abbas always showed special respect to Imam Hussain and to the household of the Prophet, and with his sacrifice showed the best example of brotherhood and loyalty.

Karbala's most remembered incident and heartbreaking moment was when Abbas, as the last soldier in Hussain's min army, had to fight the countless hundreds to bring water back to the thirsty camp. Abbas stood in front of the water in the hot heat and wanted to enjoy the cold water before his return with the can, however he remembered his brother Hussain and the thirst of the women and children throwing the water away and saying:

"O ego come next to Hussain, for after him you will not be able to remain. Hussain is approaching death and you are drinking the cold water. By God, this is not my religious course, nor the course of a destiny-conscious believer".


Imam Hussain son of Imam Ali

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Throughout his upbringing and life, peace be upon him, Imam Hussain has been surrounded by and raised with love and care, both spiritual and familial as well as human.

Loved so much by his grandfather, the Prophet Muhammad pbuh, he was able to express himself freely and open his eyes to a world of grace and mercy in the way of carrying on Islam and the word of God since childhood. Both himself and his brother Imam Hassan were known for their ethics and morals that reflected the Prophet peace be upon him.

With a father like Imam Ali, Hussain learned that with strength comes responsibility, and that there was no giving in to oppression. Imam Hussain learned from his father and grandfather how justice could be enjoyed in a society averse to poverty and inequality.

Besides the nights when the Imam learned to starve in order to sacrifice his food for the benefit of those in need, the Imam could realize his mother's patience and spirit of care and love. Lady Fatima showed Imam Hussain and his siblings how to enjoy donation and alms, yet live in dignity.

Few words cannot describe the Imam's long life, so delve more into the literature and gain insight into the main character of Karbala and Ashura.

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Habib ibn Mudhahir (al-)Asadi

Habib was one of the Prophet Muhammad's companions and he participated in wars during the Prophet's lifetime and Imam Ali's. He was known to have lived a life of dedication and was a pious man. He practiced Islam by doing good and abstaining from sins as well as by following the instructions and guidelines of the Qur'an carefully.

According to accounts of Imam Hussain, Habib recited the Qur'an every night.

Despite his age of 75, Habib chose to go to Karbala to care for the Prophet's grandson. Observing the large number of soldiers in Yazid's army, he asked permission of Imam Hussain to ask for help and support from the neighboring clan of Banu Asad. When Habib preached the Imam's cause and informed Banu Asad of their duty to protect about Islam and justice, they agreed to send an army.

However, Banu Asad's participation was stopped by Umar ibn Sa'ad at the last moment.

Habib is the only one among the Karbala martyrs who has his own grave, as his clan buried him after the Ashura tragedy.


Qasim son of Imam Hassan

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Al-Qasim was one of Imam Hassan's sons who joined his uncle's caravan.

There are no accounts surrounding al-Qasim's birth, however, the historical Ashura accounts (Maqtal) indicate that he had not even reached puberty.

On the night of Ashura (9th Muharram), Imam Hussain gathers the companions and gives a speech in which, among other things, he informs them that they will all be martyrs the next day.

Qasim asks his uncle whether he is going to become a martyr on Ashura day. His uncle Imam Hussain replies that he will be and asks him what he thought of death. Qasim does not hold back and gives the familiar answer: "It is sweeter than honey".


On the battlefield Qasim, according to the recounting accounts, recounts the following as he enters the Karbala battlefield:​

"If you reject my participation then I am the lion cub of al-Hassan. (I am) the grandson of the chosen and trusted prophet (Muhammad). This is Hussain as a prisoner and hostage, among a crowd that will not drink from the pure water (of paradise).


Ali (al-)Akbar son of Hussain

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Imam Hussain named all his sons Ali to stand against the repeated attempt to eliminate and eradicate Imam Ali's name, ethics and morals from the people's memory and daily life.

However, what was special about the eldest son of Imam Hussain; Ali al-Akbar was that, according to the accounts, he was the one who was introduced by his father to be the one who resembled the Prophet Muhammad in appearance, manner and characteristics among people.

Among his many attributes was that he was knowledgeable in narrations and its science (Muhadath).

On the day of Ashura, Ali Akbar was the first martyr from the Banu Hashim clan and is mentioned in the peace greeting of the martyrs (Ziyarat al-Shuhada).

Despite Ali Akbar's strength in battle, and after fighting against 120 knights, he returned to his father's camp asking for water.

Without water in the extreme heat, Ali was able to beat another 200 foot soldiers before returning to camp for a second time.

Since he lost energy, Ali Akbar was surrounded by the enemy and attacked from all sides until his martyrdom.


Aslam ibn Amru (al-)Turki

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Burair (al-)Hamadani

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John ibn Hawi

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Originally, Aslam was of Turkish descent with Dylamitic roots near the border of the Iranian city of Qazwin.

Bought free from slavery by Imam Hussain to later become the servant of his son Ali (al-)Sajjad.

Most accounts mention that Aslam was an educated individual who chose to accompany Imam Hussain on his journey to Kufa.

Like all the martyrs of Karbala, Aslam was approached by Imam Hussein at Karbala on the 10th and was embraced and hugged and was bid farewell by the Imam putting his face on Aslam's.

Aslam's famous poem on the day of Ashura was "The sea will feel the heat of my daggers and daggers, and the air will be filled with my bow and arrow when my sword is no longer in my right (hand). The heart of the envious will be split".

Burair was a well-known family member of the Hamadani clan as one of the oldest households in Kufa with its Yemenite roots.


He was both a Koran reciter and teacher who often recited in the Kufa mosque. As part of his continuous help and support to the poor, he was called to be the supporter of the poor and he had a very exalted stage among his large family.

​When Burair heard about Imam Hussein's caravan, he chose to join the Imam until his arrival in Karbala.


Reports mention that Burair gave a very famous speech when the enemy blocked the way of Imam Hussain in his direction towards Kufa, in which Burair said: "O grandson of the Prophet. God has blessed us to fight by your side where our bodies will be amputated. This will result in the day of judgment that your best father (the prophet) will vouche for us. For there is no use in a society that deviates from their prophet's grandson and what excuses will they give to their God for this deed who call for regret while they are in the fire of hell".

John was bought free from slavery by Imam Ali and chose to be the servant of the Prophet's companion Abu Thar (al-)Ghifari.

After Abu Thar's demise, John chose to join Imam Hussein's family to minister to them as well as joining the caravan on its way to Kufa where he insisted on sacrificing his life for the Prophet's grandson and family as part of his rendering of liberation from slavery and enjoyment of acquaintance and association with the Prophet's household.

Despite his African descent and the racism and discrimination of the Arabs, John realized that neither his ethnicity nor his race diminished his respect or dignity among the Prophet's household and chosen companions.

John's most famous quote during the day of Ashura was: "how can I allow myself to eat of your food in prosperity and leave you when you are in need and outnumbered. By God I will not leave you for my dark blood to mix with yours".


Om Wahab

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Ali (al-)Asghar; the infant

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Hurray (al-)Riyahi

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Wife of Abdullah ibn Umair (al-)Kalbi and she was the first female martyr in Karbala.

Um Wahab's husband and partner Abdullah was the second among Imam Hussein's companions to die on the day of Ashura.


Um Wahab and her husband lived in Kufa and chose to join Imam Hussain's caravan in Karbala when they saw that those paid and bribed in Kufa started preparations to fight the Imam.

When Abdullah was killed by Yazid's army on the battlefield, Um Wahab ran to bid farewell to her husband and wished him Paradise.


Shimr ordered his soldier Rustum to impale her on the head with a metal pole, whereupon she died instantly from wounds from a broken skull.

Also called Abdullah (al-)Radi (nursing).

Yazid's army could not be content with cutting off the camp from water, and rather not have a problem with denying the water to women and children. Their ethics and morals could not reach a lower level as even when Imam Hussain came out with his infant to ask for water, they showed no pity and failed to show mercy to the children.

The Imam said: "O people! You murdered my household and all my companions except this thirsty newborn child who is dying! Give him some water!".

The imam's words created a rift in the enemy camp and divided the soldiers between those who want to give the child water and those who do not.

The head of the army, Omar ibn Sa'ad, ordered the soldier Harmala to kill the child with an arrow, thus ending the discord and the argument.

Although (al-)Hurr (al-)Riyahi was known for being the most strict general and individual when it came to carrying out orders and respecting one's work and profession, he was the enemy who switched from being a general for the undoubtedly victorious team on the battlefield of Karbala, to be a private soldier among the ranks of the few 72 companions of Imam Hussain.

As the head of one of the most recognized tribes of the Bani Tamim, Al-Hurr was not compelled to end his life with Hussein, yet the Imam's message made so much sense to Al-Hurr and made a deep enough impression that he sacrificed his life in this battle against the clock.

Hurr was one of the individuals in Kufa who joined Imam Hussein's caravan and sacrificed himself in Karbala for the righteous cause.

The most famous quote in Hurr's journey is when he sought forgiveness from Imam Hussain before joining the Imam's caravan, where Imam said: "Truly you are a Hurr (free) in this world and in the next".

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