In the year 60/680, al-‘Imam al-Husayn (RA), the grand-son of the Prophet (SAW), stayed for about three months at Makkah in the course of his movement against the succession of Yazid, the degenerate son of Mu’awiah, to the Caliphate. Yazid had assumed the leadership of the Islamic world on Mu’awiah’s death in Rajab 60/ March 680. his way of life was representative of the common among the youth of the Umayyad aristocracy during ‘Jahiliyyah’. his un-Islamic conduct and practices were well known throughout the Muslim world and had earned for him contempt and disfavour amongst the religious. Nevertheless, Mu’awiyah’s arrangements, ensured the succession of his son.
In order to secure undisputed possession of the Caliphate, the first task undertaken by Yazid was to order al-Walid ibn ‘Utbah, the governor of al-Madinah, to exact allegiance ( bay’ah ) from the refractory, especially from al-Husayn ibn Ali and Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, who were among the few who had refused to recognize Yazid’s heir apparency during Mu’awiyah’s life. In his letter to the governor, Yazid gave strict orders that they should not be allowed to delay, and if they refused al-walid should beheaded them at once.
Al-‘Imam al-Husayn (A) avoided the demand for bay’ah for two days and finally left for Makkah at night with his family and most of the Hashimites. It was at al-Madinah that al-‘Imam al-Husayn (A) received repeated appeals and hundreds of letters sent by the kufans, pledging support to him in his movement against Yazid’s rule. He also received reports that the government had sent some soldiers disguised as pilgrims to assassinate him in the sacred precincts of Makkah during the rituals of hajj, which was drawing near.
On 8 Dhu -al-hijjah/10 september 680, al-‘Imam al-Husayn left Makkah for Kufah, after performing umrah, foregoing hajj in order to safeguard the sanctity of the haram of Makkah and to avoid bloodshed in the holy precincts.
Makkah was at the time full of pilgrims, who were pouring in from all parts of the Muslim world . There, at Mina, he delivered the famous sermon addressing the people, especially the learned in religion. This sermon is recorded in “Tuhaf al ‘uqul “, a collection of sermons and aphorisms of the Imams (A) compiled by al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Subah al Harrani (d. 381/ 991).
Imam Husayn is reported to have given this sermon shortly before his departure to Kufa, Iraq on 8 Dhu’l-Hijjah/10 September 680. His journey culminated in the massacre at Karbala. This excerpt was translated by Hamid Algar.
O scholars, who are celebrated and enjoy good repute on account of your learning! You have achieved a good name in society because of your good will. It is on account of God that men venerate you and stand in awe of you, so that even the powerful fear you and the weak honour you, and those who are not subject to you and over whom you hold no authority grant you favours they deny themselves. When the people do not receive their due, they seek your intercession, and you walk in the street with the majesty of kings and princes. Have you not earned all this respect and prestige because of the people’s hopes that you will implement God’s laws, even though in most instances you have failed to do so?
You have taken lightly your duties as leaders. You have neglected the rights of the oppressed and the lowly, but have assiduously pursued what you regard as your personal rights.
You have not spent your money or risked your life for the sake of the One Who gave you life, nor have you fought against any group or tribe for the sake of God. Nevertheless, you desire – and regard it as your due – that He should grant you paradise, the company of the Prophet, and security from His chastisement in the Hereafter. You have such expectations of God, I fear that the full weight of His wrath will descend upon you, for although it is by His might and glory that you have achieved high rank, you show no respect to those who truly know God, while you yourself enjoy respect among God’s creatures on His account.
(I am also afraid for you for another reason:) you see the covenant enacted with God being violated and trampled underfoot, yet you show no anxiety. When it comes to the covenant enacted with your fathers, you become greatly disturbed and anxious if they are violated in part, but the pledges you have given to the Most Noble Messenger are a matter of complete indifference to you.
The blind, the dumb, and the chronically ill everywhere lack protection in towns and no mercy is shown them. But you neither behave in accordance with your function and rank, nor you support or pay any regard to those who do. You purchase your safety from the oppressive ruling powers with flattery, cajolery, and compromise.
All these activities have been forbidden to you by God, and He has, moreover, commanded you to forbid each other to engage in them, but you pay no attention. The calamity that has befallen you is greater than what has befallen others, for the true rank and degree of ulama has been taken away from you. The administration of the country and the issuing of decrees and ordinances should actually be trusted to religious scholars who are guardians of God’s ordinances concerning what is permitted and what is forbidden. But your position has been usurped from you, for no other reason than that you have abandoned the truth (al-haqq), and have disagreed about the nature of the Sunnah, despite the existence of clear proofs.
Had you the forbearance to endure adversities and hardships for the sake of God, then all proposed regulations (God’s affairs) would be brought to you for your approval and for you to issue; authority would lie in your hands. But you allowed the oppressors to take away your functions and God’s affairs (i.e. government) to fall into their hands, so that they administer them by resorting to ambiguities and make arbitrariness and the satisfaction of lust their consistent practice. What enabled them to gain control of government was your fleeing in panic from (inevitable) death and your love of life, which shall in all certainty depart from you. As a consequence of that mentality, you have delivered the powerless masses into the clutches of the oppressors. While some cringe like slaves under the yoke of the oppressors, and others have been reduced to destitution in regard to their livelihood, the rulers run the affairs of the government in accordance with their whims, earning ignominy and disgrace for themselves with their licentiousness, following evil counselors and showing impudence toward God. One of their appointed spokesmen mounts the pulpit (minbar) in each city. The country is defenseless before them, and their hands grab freely whatever they want of it. The people are their slaves and are powerless to defend themselves. One of the governors is a dictator by nature, malevolent and rancorous; another represses his wretched subjects ruthlessly; and still another refuses in his absolutism to recognize either God or the Day of Resurrection! It is not strange – how can one think it strange – that society is in the clutches of a cunning oppressor whose tax collectors are oppressors and whose governors feel no compassion or mercy toward the believers under their rule.
It is God who will judge concerning what is at dispute among us and deliver a decisive verdict concerning all that occurs among us.
O God! You know that everything we did was not prompted by rivalry for political power, nor for such a search for wealth and abundance; rather it was done to demonstrate to men the shining principles and values of Your religion, to reform the affairs of Your land, to protect and secure the indisputable rights of Your oppressed servants, and to act in accordance with the duties You have established and the norms, laws, and ordinances You have decreed.
So (O scholars of religion!) You are to help us reach this goal, win back our rights from those powers who have considered it acceptable to wrong you and who have attempted to put out the light kindled by your Prophet. God suffices us – upon Him do we rely, to Him do we turn, and to Him shall we return.
Al-Tawhid, Vol VII, No. 4, Shawwal – Dhu al-Hijjah
“Al-Imam al-Husayn’s Everlasting Message to Religious Leaders: Exposition of the Hadith of Mina”
By Imam Ruhullah al-Musawi al-Khumayni,
Translated from the Persian by Dr. Hamid Algar.